Tag Archive | guam

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

In this beautiful original color photograph, we see the modified Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS St. Louis, often also seen written as “Saint Louis”, (CL-49) at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, circa 1943. At the time this image was taken, the cruiser had already seen much of the Pacific War and would see much more.

Significantly different from the seven other ships of the Brooklyn-class, St. Louis and her follow-on sister USS Helena (CL-50) was ordered under the 1934 Naval Plan. While they used the same hull, engineering plant, and general layout as the rest of their class– to include 15 6″/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in five triple turrets– there were enough differences for the two sisters to often be considered a distinct class of their own. This included a better secondary battery (eight 5″/38 DP guns in four double enclosed mounts vs. eight low-angle 5″/25 open singles), a different boat stowage scheme and cranes for the same, a smaller secondary tripod mast in a different location, higher boiler pressure, and a different fire control arrangement.

Brooklyn plan, top, St. Louis plan, bottom, both from the 1945 ed of Jane’s

The whole class could also carry as many as six floatplanes in their below-deck hangar as well as spare parts and engines, although typically would only deploy with four.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of St. Louis’s near sister, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938. Note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

USS St. Louis (CL 49) with SOC-3 Seagull biplanes on her catapults while at the Tulagi harbor. Seen from USS O’Bannon (DD 450) after the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55501

Capable of breaking more than 32.5 knots, they also had very long legs, able to make 14,500 nm at 15 knots without refueling.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off Rockland, Maine, while on trials, 28 April 1939. Note that her 5/38 secondary gun battery has not yet been installed. NH 48998

Laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., our cruiser was the fifth U.S. warship vessel to carry the name of the Missouri city and gateway to the West.

Commissioned on 19 May 1939, she was still on her shakedown cruise when Hitler marched into Poland in September, sparking WWII, a move that introduced St. Louis to Neutrality Patrol operations over the next 11 months that took her from the balmy West Indies and British Guiana to the freezing North Atlantic.

However, with tensions ramping up with Imperial Japan over China, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, St. Louis received orders to head for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1940. From there, she ranged from the West Coast to Manila and back on exercises and patrols in 1941, with stops at Wake, Midway, and Guam.

St. Louis off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 June 1941. She is wearing Measure 5 (false bow wave) camouflage. NH 80564

Lucky Lou

On the morning of 7 December 1941, St. Louis was at anchor in Pearl Harbor, moored at Berth B-17 in the Southeast Loch since 28 November with two of her eight boilers offline for maintenance. The ship’s aviation detachment was shore-based at Ford Island and many of her crew and Marine det were ashore on libo.

According to the ship’s log, now in the National Archives:

“At 0756 two of the ship’s officers observed a large number of dark-colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks. At the same time, a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a torpedo…The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.”

By 0800, her skipper was on the bridge and both her .50 caliber and 1.1″ batteries were “already manned and in action delivering a full volume of fire at the attackers,” as steam was ordered up from her six operational boilers.

St. Louis at far right, about 0930 7 December 1941, leaving Pearl. USS California off her starboard side hit and sinking.

At 0931, St. Louis got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel. Just 30 minutes later, she reportedly suffered a near miss from two torpedoes fired from a Japanese midget submarine just inside the channel entrance buoys.

At 1016, St. Louis was the first U.S. Navy ship to clear the channel from Pearl during the attack and she engaged a number of aircraft from the Japanese second wave between then and 1147 with her twin 5″ mounts before joining with the cruisers Montgomery and Minneapolis, along with several destroyers, to proceed “southward with the intention of locating and attacking the [Japanese] carrier.”

Between 1213 and 1234, her guns engaged the Japanese second wave as they withdrew. In all, she fired 207 5″ shells, 3,950 rounds from her 1.1″ battery and a very decent 12,750 .50-cal BMG rounds, claiming at least three probable Japanese planes seen to flame and crash.

Of course, the little force of cruisers and destroyers did not find the Japanese flattops and retired to Pearl Harbor on 10 December. While Battleship Row was the scene of carnage, St. Louis was only very lightly damaged from machine gun rounds and suffered no casualties in the attack.

USS Arizona (BB-39) burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. Ships in the background are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and the hulked minelayer Baltimore (CM-1) at left. NH 63918

Joining the shooting war with a bang, St. Louis was used to escort the steamer SS President Coolidge, carrying Philippine President Quezon to San Francisco, as well as riding shotguns on convoys to reinforce Midway and the Aleutians.

St. Louis at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa May 1942. NH 50796

She was in the Northern Pacific during the Battle of Midway, missing out on the initial carrier clash, but did her first round of naval gunfire support on 3 August when she plastered the newly Japanese-occupied island of Kiska in the Aleutians. On 16 August, she lost an aircraft with four aviators aboard somewhere between Kodiak and Whitehorse.

After staying in Alaskan waters to cover the Allied liberation of Adak, St. Louis caught a refit at Mare Island where she picked up a much better AAA suite of 40mm and 20mm guns.

From there she proceeded to the West Pac where she joined RADM “Pug” Ainsworth’s TF cruiser-destroyer force, dubbed the “Ainsworth Express,” in fighting the Japanese in the near-nightly efforts to prevent the Empire from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and/or wiping out the Marines trying to keep a toe-hold there. The Tokyo Express and Ainsworth Express collided in the high-traffic waterway of New Georgia Sound through the middle of the Solomon Islands, better known as “The Slot,” in a series of pitched battles in the summer of 1943.

At Kula Gulf, Ainsworth’s force of three light cruisers– St. Louis, her sister Helena, and near-sister USS Honolulu (CL-48) — collided with 10 destroyers of RADM Teruo Akiyama’s 3rd Destroyer Squadron off the coast of Kolombangara Island carrying 2,600 Japanese troops. The action, all in pitch darkness, left Akiyama dead, two Japanese destroyers sunk, and Helena lost, a victim of the deadly Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

Night Battery of USS St. Louis (CL 49) during the Battle of Kula Gulf. Photographed by CPU-2, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55522

Covered with oil of their torpedoed ship, USS Helena (CL-50), survivors respond to a roll call aboard the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 450) which picked them up. Three times the destroyer had to leave off its rescue work to do battle with Japanese warships. Catalog #: L45-122.07.01

Less than a week later, the two opposed Expresses crashed into each other again in the same area with RADM Shunji Isaki’s force, consisting of the cruiser Jintsu, along with five destroyers, duking it out in a night action with Honolulu and St. Louis backed up by the Kiwi light cruiser HMNZS Leander. In the wild fight, which was considered a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese that turned into a strategic defeat as they shifted operations away from the vital Slot moving forward, sent Jintu to the bottom– plastered by radar-directed 6-inch guns from the Allied cruisers, killing Isaki.

Battle of Kolombangara, 13 July 1943, firing by USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49) during this battle. #: 80-G-342762

However, in her final act, the Japanese cruiser had gone down illuminating her killers with her searchlights and all three of the Allied cruisers as well as the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), was hit by Long Lances before the action was over. While Gwin ultimately could not be saved, Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander managed to limp away to fight another day.

The bow of USS Saint Louis (CL-49), showing torpedo damage received during the Battle of Kolombangara. Photographed while the ship was under repair at Tulagi on 20 July 1943. USS Vestal (AR-4) is alongside. #: 80-G-259410

Damage to the bow of USS St. Louis (CL 49). Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943 80-G-259411

Note the sign that reads, “Danger / All Boats Slow Down.” Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943. 80-G-259412

St. Louis received a temporary bow at an advanced base in the Pacific. With this bow, the cruiser was able to return to a West Coast navy yard for more permanent repairs. Incredibly, Lucky Lou had come out of both Kula Gulf– where her sister had been sunk– and Kolombangara with no serious casualties.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) has guns removed from her forward 6/47 turrets, during overhaul and battle damage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1943. The upper section of her midships searchlight platform is hanging from a crane in the immediate background. It was removed to reduce the ship’s topside weights. #: 80-G-K-15536

In mid-November, Lou returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered Marines fighting for Bougainville. She would continue to work her way along the Pacific, delivering salvos of accurate 6-inch and 5-inch shells in NGF support.

On 13 January 1944, while operating in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland, she was attacked by five Vals. One managed to make it through flak fire to hit St. Louis in her 40mm clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment, killing 23 and wounding another 20.

Her spell had been broken.

Still, she licked her wounds once more and got back to work, supporting operations on Saipan and Guam, while picking up a new camo pattern.

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 2C drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for USS St. Louis (CL-49). She was painted in this pattern during much of 1944. This plan, showing the ship’s port side, is dated 31 March 1944 and was approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN. #: 80-G-109719

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of cruiser division six bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). Beyond her is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). #: 80-G-K-1774

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Japanese positions on Guam, 21 July 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 80-G-K-16463

USS St Louis, 1944, off Orote Point, Guam

After her 1944 campaigns, she was beaten and broken, in need of an urgent refit. In Late July she headed for the West Coast to get some work done.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off San Pedro, California, on 5 October 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 19-N-72219

Then, refreshed and ready to go again, it was now time to deliver on MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” promise and Lou made a course for the Philippines, where she felt the Divine Wind.

One of the most effective Japanese kamikaze attacks of the war occurred on 27 November in the Leyte Gulf against Task Group 77.2., when a mixed force of 13 Jills, Kates and Vals came in low at 1125 while the ships were fueling. The task group was composed of four battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Corresponding hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569) as well as St. Louis.

Two suicide planes hit St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the cruiser, destroying catapults and seaplanes, and damaging her after turrets. She took a hard list to port for nearly an hour and looked in bad shape.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) crewmen fight fires in the cruiser’s hangar after she was hit by a Kamikaze off Leyte on 27 November 1944. Note wrecked SOC floatplane in the left background, and hangar hatch cover threw atop the port catapult, at right. #: 80-G-361985

Her crews managed to contain the fires, right the ship, and head for San Pedro Bay for repairs. In the twin kamikaze strike, 16 men were killed or missing and another 43 injured.

After another stint in a California shipyard to fix her back up, St. Louis returned to the battle line in March 1945, bombarding Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and UDT teams clearing channels to the assault beaches.

By August, the end of the war found her assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force, and she made Shanghai in October, supporting KMT Chinese forces.

After three Magic Carpet runs across the vast expanse of the Pacific to bring returning Vets back home Lou sailed for the East Coast and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation in February 1946.

In all, from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Home Islands, St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during her war.

Her payment? She was stricken from the U.S. Naval List on 22 January 1951.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. Outboard ship in the left group is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). Ships in background include (in no order): USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), USS MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36), USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32), USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), and USS PORTLAND (CA-33).
“All Hands” magazine Catalog #: NH 92254

However, Lucky Lou would get a reprieve from the rust squadron and go on to live a very long second career

Cruzador Tamandaré

In the 1900s, a Latin American naval race led South America’s major powers to acquire numerous battleships to include a modicum of dreadnoughts, along with a veneer of escorting armored/protected cruisers. While these vessels had grown quite long in the tooth and put on the list for the breakers by the end of the 1940s, the big regional players still needed ships for prestige and to be taken seriously. The logical replacement for those 30-40-year-old coal burners was relatively new Allied WWII-surplus cruisers which could be bought for a song.

This led to the curious phenomenon that, outside of the U.S., Europe and India/Pakistan, all the world’s cruisers from the 1950s to 1970s were operated by Latin American fleets:

Argentina– Two ex-Brooklyn class light cruisers (Phoenix, Boise, recommissioned as Gen. Belgrano and Nueve de Julio in 1951-52) as well as the old Vickers-made training cruiser La Argentina (8,610-tons, 9×6″ guns)

Chile– Two ex-Brooklyns (Brooklyn, Nashville, recommissioned as Prat and O’Higgins in 1951-52) as well as the Swedish-built Latorre (ex-Gota Lejon) bought in 1971.

Peru– Two ex-British Colony-class light cruisers (ex-HMS Ceylon, Newfoundland recommissioned as Almirante Grau and Col. Bolognesi, in 1959-60) replacing a pair of Vickers built scout cruisers commissioned in 1908. The Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter later became Peru’s only cruiser, recycling the Grau name, serving until 2017.

As for Brazil, they got the same sweetheart cruiser deal from Uncle Sam hat Argentina and Chile got on their scratch and dent Brooklyns— pay just 10 percent of the vessels’ original cost plus the expense of reconditioning them after their short stint in mothballs.

With that, Rio plunked down cash for the Brooklyn-class USS Philadelphia (CL-41) as well as our St. Louis in 1951 with the latter being transferred on 29 January and the former on 21 August.

While Philly picked up the moniker of NAeL Barroso (C11), St. Louis became Almirante Tamandaré (C12) after the famed 19th Century Brazilian naval hero Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquês de Tamandaré, the third vessel to bear this name in the Marinha do Brasil.

This guy

In the end, Brazil got a 12-year-old ship that had been hit by Long Lance torpedos, Japanese bombs, and kamikazes, but still looked great.

ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE (Brazilian Cruiser, ex USS ST. Louis) in U.S. waters photographed circa early 1951. Courtesy of Robert Varrill, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85261

TAMANDARE (Brazilian cruiser, ex-USS ST. LOUIS, CL-49) underway, 20 to 30 miles off Fort Story, Virginia, 5 March 1952, shortly after she was commissioned by the Brazilian Navy. #: 80-G-440057

Same day 80-G-440059

Other than adding LORAN, halting the operation of seaplanes and landing their catapults (the Brazilians later used Sikorsky H-34 and Westland Wasp helicopters on their cruisers), and getting rid of their Oerlikons, the vessels remained essentially the same as during their WWII service, to include carrying their 40mm Bofors mounts, SPS-12 (surface search), SPS-6C (air search) and SPS-10 (tactical) radar sets.

Taking further advantage of good deals on certified pre-owned naval warships, Brazil also bought 7 surplus Fletcher-class destroyers, a Sumner-class destroyer, 7 Bostwick-class destroyer escorts, and four GUPPY’d fleet boat style diesel submarines from the U.S. Navy. This gave the country two effective surface action groups well into the early 1970s centered around the cruisers with the tin cans and subs in support– even if they did look a repeat of the Pacific War.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro 20 April 1952 after four months of shakedowns with her new Brazilian crew, Tamandare became the fleet flagship until 1960 when the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais (A11) joined the fleet. This led to a simple life of friendship missions (she carried President Dr. Café Filho and entourage on an official visit to Portugal in 1955 and a revisit in 1960), midshipman cruises, and regular training exercises such as DRAGÃO, UNITAS, and ASPIRANTEX.

The closest she came to combat in her decades under the Brazilian flag was the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état (Golpe de 64), which started with a sailor’s revolt, and the so-called Lobster War with France.

The what?

In the early 1960s, French lobstermen sailing from African waters came increasingly close to Brazil, within about 100 miles of Pernambuco, which became a real issue when Rio kicked their economic exclusion zone out to 200 miles, as is now common. The friction led to the seizure of at least one French fishing boat by the Brazilians and a muscular response from Paris that saw the gunboat Paul Goffeny (A754) sail over from Dakar.

The heated rhetoric saw a French naval task force sail from Toulon in February 1963– officially for a West African cruise– headed by the brand-new aircraft carrier Clemenceau (who was carrying helicopters only as she would not get her first F-8 Crusaders until the next year), the AAA cruiser De Grasse (12,350-tons, 8 x 5-inch guns), the big destroyers Cassard, Jauréguiberry and Tartu; and the corvettes Le Picard, Le Gascon, L’Agenais, Le Béarnais, and Le Vendéen, along with support vessels.

Rio reciprocated by putting Brazilian Air Force RB-17 Flying Fortresses into the air along with shore-based S-2 Trackers on long-range patrol over the disputed fishing grounds– and mobilizing both the cruisers Barroso and Tamandaré along with six Fletcher-class destroyers.

Tamandaré, at sea flanked by a heavy escort of former Fletcher-class tin cans, from top: Pernambuco (D30) ex-USS Hailey, Paraná (D29) ex-USS Cushing, Pará (D27) ex-USS Guest, and Paraíba (D28) ex-USS Bennett. Of note, the Brazilians would keep most of these greyhounds well into the 1980s.

In terms of guns, the Brazilan fleet had a distinct advantage if it came to a naval clash with the French, who would have been handicapped by the fact that the Latin American country could also bird dog the area of operations with land-based aircraft. Still, the French had more bluewater experience, coupled with better sensors, and may have made it count.

In the end, only the French destroyer Tartu entered the disputed area and remained there for 17 days until 10 March while the Brazilians sent air patrols to keep tabs on the interloping French ship. The two fleets never got within several hundred miles of each other, as the French kept close to Africa, in Dakar and Abidjan, while the Brazilians likewise remained in their coastal waters.

Brazilian cruiser ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE C12 former USS ST.LOUIS (CL-49) note H34 helicopters in the air

No shots were fired in the surreal crustacean contest known in Brazil as the “Guerra da Lagosta” and both sides de-escalated, later settling the dispute in 1966 amicably.

In all, Tamandaré steamed over 200,000 nautical miles with the Brazilian Navy and served her adopted country proudly.

NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), da Marinha do Brasil, fevereiro de 1971. Arquivo Nacional. Note her helicopter deck

While Barroso/Philadelphia was scrapped in 1974, Tamandaré endured for another two years and was only decommissioned on 28 June 1976.

Sold for $1.1 million in scrap value to Superwinton Enterprises of Hong Kong, a Philippine-flagged tugboat, Royal, arrived in Brazil to haul the old cruiser to the breakers in Asia in August 1980. However, St. Louis wasn’t feeling another trip to the Pacific via South Africa and, unmanned, on the night of 24 August near -38.8077778°, -001.3997222°, she started to submerge. Unable for Royal to save her, the towline was released, allowing her to settle on the seabed where she remains in deep water.

Today, a WWII St. Louis Veterans’ Association exists, though its ranks are thinning. The U.S. Navy recycled her name for an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-116) and a planned Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-19) set to commission in 2020.

As for Brazil, that country’s Navy has recently reissued the name Tamandaré to the lead ship of a new class of Meko A100 type corvettes scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2028.

Specs:

Scheme from 1973 Janes, as Brazilian NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), redrawn in 1971

Displacement:
Standard: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Full load: 13,327 long tons (13,541 t)
Length: 608 ft 8 in
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft:
19 ft 10 in (6.05 m) (mean)
24 ft (7.3 m) (max)
Propulsion:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox Express steam boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 × screws, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 14,500nm at 15 knots on 2,100 tons fuel oil
Complement:
(As designed) 888 officers and enlisted men
(1944) 1070 men, 58 officers, plus Marine and Aviation detachments
(1973, Brazil) 975
Armor:
Belt: 3 1⁄4–5 in (83–127 mm)
Deck: 2 in (51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 1 1⁄4–6 in (32–152 mm)
Conning Tower: 2 1⁄4–5 in (57–127 mm) (although Jane’s states 8)
Armament:
(As designed)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts
16 x 1.1″ AAA guns in four quad mounts
8 x .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
1 depth charge thrower
(1945)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts,
28 x 40 mm Bofors L60 guns in four Mk 2 quadruple mounts and six Mk 1 doubles
8 x 20 mm Oerlikon submachine guns on single Mk 4 mounts.
Aircraft carried:
(1940s) 4-6 × SOC Seagull floatplanes, 2 catapults
(1958) 2-3 helicopters, first H-34s later Westland Wasps

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Going back to Guam, 75 years ago today

Offical Caption: “5 August 1944. Home Again – Col. Merlin F. Schneider (kneeling, left), Commanding Officer of the Marine unit that recaptured the Marine Barracks on Orote Peninsula, Guam, holds the plaque that was removed by the Japanese when they took possession of the barracks and the island nearly three years earlier.”

NHHC Photograph Collection, from the “All Hands” Collection, September 1944.

The three Marines, who located the plaque and presented it to the Colonel, stand behind it. They are (left to right): Privates First Class John C. Brown; Carmen J. Catania; and Corporal Joseph J. Mannino.

Others also got into the act of posing with the recovered sign.

Col. Merlin Schneider – 22 Marine Rgt., Lt. Col. Alan Shapley – 4th Marine Rgt., Brig. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd- 1st Prov Marines, Lt. Gen. Holland McTyeire “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, 

On 21 July 1944, the 3rd Marine Division launched an amphibious assault to liberate and recapture Guam during World War II as part of Devil Dog-heavy III Amphibious Corps. They faced over 18,000 Japanese defenders during the battle, which lasted until August 10th (although mopping-up operations continued for several months). Of the 7,800 American casualties, some 7,000 were Marines.

Landing craft returning to their transports, after landing Marines near Asan Beach, Guam, on 21 July 1944. National Archives 80-G-248260

Today, the Guam Barracks plaque is in the collection of the U.S. Marines Museum

Pennsy getting it done, 75 years ago today

Here we see Pearl Harbor veteran, USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) firing her 14″/45cal and 5″/38cal guns while bombarding Guam, south of the Orote Peninsula, on the first day of landings, 21 July 1944. On that day, the 3rd Marine Division launched an amphibious assault to liberate and recapture Guam after over two years of Japanese occupation.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 67584

Laid down eight months before Archduke Franz Ferdinand caught a Browning to the chest and the lights started going out over Europe, “Pennsy” commissioned on 12 June 1916, just in time to serve uneventfully in WWI. Her second world war was much more action-packed. Coming out of her meeting with Infamy in 1941 relatively lightly damaged– largely due to her location in drydock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard– she patrolled off California’s coast in 1942 and was back in active combat starting with the Aleutian Campaign.

In all, Pennsylvania picked up eight hard-won battle stars over the course of 146,052 steaming miles in WWII and ended her proud 31-year career sunk off Kwajalein Atoll after atomic bomb testing on 10 February 1948.

Her only sister, Arizona, had a much more tragic involvement in the conflict.

Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C0105

Here we see the three-masted bark-rigged “kleiner geschutzter kreuzer” (small protected cruiser) SMS Geier of the Imperial German Kaiserliche Marine photographed at the beginning of her career around 1895. A well-traveled Teutonic warship named after the German word for “vulture,” she would repeatedly find herself only narrowly avoiding some of the largest naval clashes of her era.

The final installment of the six-ship Bussard-class of colonial cruisers, all of which were named after birds, Geier and her sisters (Falke, Seeadler, Condor, and Comoran) would today be classified either as corvettes or well-armed offshore patrol vessels. With an 1800~ ton displacement (which varied from ship to ship as they had at least three varying generations of subclasses), these pint-sized “cruisers” were about 275-feet long overall and could float in less than three fathoms. While most cruisers are built for speed, the Bussards could only make 15-ish knots when everything was lit. When it came to an armament, they packed eight 10.5 cm (4.1″) SK L/35 low-angle guns and a pair of cute 350mm torpedo tubes, which wasn’t that bad for policing the colonies but was hopeless in a surface action against a real cruiser.

Geier’s sister, SMS Seeadler, in a postcard-worthy setting. The six ships of the class ranged from the West Indies to Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Much more exotic duty than the typical Baltic/North Sea gigs for the High Seas Fleet

Constructed between 1888 and 1895 at four different Northern German yards, the half-dozen Bussards were a very late 19th Century design, complete with a three-masted auxiliary barquentine rig, ram bows, and a wooden-backed copper-sheathed hull. They carried a pair of early electric generators and their composite hull was separated into 10 watertight compartments. Despite the “geschutzter” designation given by the Germans, they carried no armor other than splinter shields.

The only member of the class built at Kaiserliche Werft, Wilhelmshaven, Geier was laid down in 1893 and commissioned 24 October 1895, with Kaiser Wilhelm himself visiting the ship on that day.

SMS “Geier” der kaiserlichen deutschen Marine

SMS “Geier”, Kaiser Wilhelm II. spricht zur Besatzung

SMS “Geier”, Kleiner Kreuzer; Besichtigung des Schiffes durch Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Notably, Geier was the largest and most developed of her sisters, using a slightly different gun arrangement, better engines and 18-inch torpedo tubes rather than the 14s carried by the preceding five ships of the class.

All six Bussards were subsequently deployed overseas in Willy’s far-flung colonies in Africa and the Pacific, a tasking Geier soon adopted. Setting off for the West Indies, she joined the German squadron of old ironclads and school ships that were deployed there in 1897 to protect Berlin’s interests in Venezuela and Haiti.

The next year, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (later Vizeadmiral) Hermann Jacobsen, Geier was permitted by the U.S. fleet during the Spanish-American War to pass in and out of the blockaded Spanish ports in Cuba and Puerto Rico on several occasions, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds to evacuate neutral European civilians.

The unprotected cruiser SMS Geier entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, in 1898, during the SpanAm War

However, Jacobson dutifully kept a log of ships that ran the American blockade and their cargo as well as conducted a detailed analysis of the damage done to the Spanish ships at the Battle of Santiago. These observations were later released then ultimately translated into English and published in the USNI’s Proceedings in 1899.

By 1900, Geier was operating in the Pacific and, operating with the German East Asia Squadron, was in Chinese waters in time to join the international task force bringing the Manchu Dynasty to its knees during the Boxer Rebellion. She remained in the region and observed the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, notably poking around at Chemulpo (Inchon) where the Russian protected cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz were scuttled after a sharp engagement with a superior IJN force under Baron Sotokichi.

GEIER Photographed early in her career, before her 1908-1909 refit that reduced her Barkentine Rig to Brigantine Standard. NH 88631

Returning to Germany in 1909 for repair and refit, her rigging was changed from that of a three-mast barquentine to a two-mast topsail schooner while her bridge was enlarged, and her boilers replaced.

Geier with her late-career schooner rig

Recommissioned in 1911, she was assigned to the Mediterranean where she spent the next couple years exercising gunboat diplomacy in the wake of the Moroccan Crisis while eating popcorn on the sidelines of the Italian-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, all of which involved a smattering of curious naval actions to report back to Berlin. By 1914, although she had never fired a shot in anger, our Vulture had already haunted five significant wars from Tripoli to Korea and Cuba, very much living up to her name.

To catch us up on the rest of the class, by the eve of the Great War, the Bussards was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor in 1914 were converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Meanwhile, in the German Chinese treaty port of Tsingtao (Qingdao), Cormoran was laid up with bad engines.

Speaking of which, when the lamps went out across Europe in August 1914, Geier was already en route from Dar es Salaam in German East Africa (where she had been relieved by the doomed cruiser Konigsberg) to Tsingtao to join Vizeadmiral Count Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron in the Pacific.

Once the balloon went up, she was in a precarious situation as just about any British, French, Russian or Japanese warship she encountered could have sent her quickly to the bottom. Eluding the massive Allied dragnet, which was deployed not only to capture our old cruiser but also Von Spee’s much more serious task force and the downright dangerous SMS Emden (which Geier briefly met with at sea), Geier attempted to become a commerce raider and, taking on coal from two German merchant ships, managed to capture a British freighter, SS Southport, at Kusaie in the Eastern Carolines on 4 September. After disabling Southport’s engines and leaving the British merchantman to eventually recover and report Geier’s last position, our decrepit light cruiser missed her rendezvous with Von Spee’s squadron at Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas and the good Count left her behind.

Alone, short on coal and only a day or so ahead of the Japanese battleship Hizen (former Russian Retvizan) and the armored cruiser Asama, Geier steamed into Honolulu on 17 October, having somehow survived 11 weeks on the run.

After failing to leave port within the limits set by neutral U.S. authorities, she was interned on 8 November and nominally disarmed.

Bussard Class Unprotected Cruiser SMS Geier pictured interned in Hawaii, she arrived in Honolulu on October 17th, 1914 for coaling, repairs and freshwater– and never left

Meanwhile, the Graf Spee’s East Asia Squadron had defeated the British 4th Cruiser Squadron under RADM Christopher Cradock in the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, sinking the old cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth and sending Cradock and 1,600 of his men to the bottom of the South Atlantic Pacific off the coast of Chile. A month later, Spee himself along with his two sons and all but one ship of his squadron was smashed by VADM Doveton Sturdee’s battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Schlacht bei den Falkland-Inseln (8.12.1914) Battle Falklands Islands, German chart

Our Vulture had evaded another meeting with Poseidon.

As for Geier, her war was far from over, reportedly being used as a base for disinformation (alleging a Japanese invasion of Mexico!) and espionage (tracking Allied ship movements) for the next two years.

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

Finally, in February 1917, the events came to a head.

According to the U.S. NHHC:

German reservists and agents surreptitiously utilized the ship for their operations, and the Americans grew increasingly suspicious of their activities. Emotions ran hot during the war and the Germans violated “neutrality,” Lt. (j.g.) Albert J. Porter of the ship’s company, who penned the commemorative War Log of the USS. St. Louis (Cruiser No. 20), observed, “with characteristic Hun disregard for international law and accepted honor codes.” Geier, Korvettenkapitän Curt Graßhoff in command, lay at Pier 3, moored to interned German steamer Pomeran when a column of smoke began to rise from her stack early on the morning of 4 February 1917. The ship’s internment prohibited her from getting steam up, and the Americans suspected the Germans’ intentions.

Lt. Cmdr. Victor S. Houston, St. Louis’ commanding officer, held an urgent conference on board the cruiser at which Cmdr. Thomas C. Hart, Commander SubDiv 3, represented the Commandant. Houston ordered St. Louis to clear for action and sent a boarding party, led by Lt. Roy Le C. Stover, Lt. (j.g.) Robert A. Hall, and Chief Gunner Frank C. Wisker. The sailors disembarked at the head of the Alakea wharf and took up a position in the second story of the pier warehouse. Soldiers from nearby Schofield Barracks meanwhile arrived and deployed a battery of 3-inch field pieces, screened by a coal pile across the street from the pier, from where they could command the decks of the German ship. Smoke poured in great plumes from Geier and her crewmen’s actions persuaded the Americans that the Germans likely intended to escape from the harbor, while some of the boarding party feared that failing to sortie, the Germans might scuttle the ship with charges, and the ensuing blaze could destroy part of the waterfront.

The boarding party, therefore, split into three sections and boarded and seized Pomeran, and Hart and Stover then boarded Geier and informed Graßhoff that they intended to take possession of the cruiser and extinguish her blaze, to protect the harbor. Graßhoff vigorously protested but his “wily” efforts to delay the boarders failed and the rest of the St. Louis sailors swarmed on board. The bluejackets swiftly took stations forward, amidships, and aft, and posted sentries at all the hatches and watertight doors, blocking any of the Germans from passing. Graßhoff surrendered and the Americans rounded-up his unresisting men. 1st Lt. Randolph T. Zane, USMC, arrived with a detachment of marines, and they led the prisoners under guard to Schofield Barracks for internment.

Her crew headed off to Schofield Barracks for the rest of the war, some of the first German POWs in the U.S. (Hawaii State Archives)

Wisker took some men below to the magazines, where they found shrapnel fuzes scattered about, ammunition hoists dismantled, and floodcocks battered into uselessness. The Germans also cunningly hid their wrenches and spans in the hope of forestalling the Americans’ repairs. Stover in the meantime hastened with a third section and they discovered a fire of wood and oil-soaked waste under a dry boiler. The blaze had spread to the deck above and the woodwork of the fire room also caught by the heat thrown off by the “incandescent” boiler, and the woodwork of the magazine bulkheads had begun to catch. The boarders could not douse the flames with water because of the likelihood of exploding the dry boiler, but they led out lines from the bow and stern of the burning ship and skillfully warped her across the slip to the east side of Pier 4. The Honolulu Fire Department rushed chemical engines to the scene, and the firemen and sailors worked furiously cutting holes thru the decks to facilitate dousing the flames with their chemicals. The Americans extinguished the blaze by 5:00 p.m., and then a detachment from SubDiv 3, led by Lt. (j.g.) Norman L. Kirk, who commanded K-3 (Submarine No. 34), relieved the exhausted men.

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

The Germans all but wrecked Geier and their “wanton work” further damaged the engines, steam lines, oil lines, auxiliaries, navigation instruments, and even the wardroom, which Porter described as a “shambles.”

As such, she was the only German Imperial Navy warship captured by the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Coupled with the more than 590,000 tons of German merchant ships seized in U.S. ports April 1917, Geier was reconditioned for American service and eventually commissioned as USS Schurz, a name used in honor of German radical Carl Schurz who fled Prussia in 1849 after the failed revolution there. Schurz had, in turn, joined the Union Army during the Civil War and commanded a division of largely German-speaking immigrants in the XI Corps at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga, rising to the rank of major general.

[Of XI Corps’s 27 infantry regiments, at least 13 were “Dutch” (German) regiments with many German-born/speaking commanders prevalent. Besides Schurz, brigades and divisions of the XI Corps were led by men such as Col. Ludwig Blenker and Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, formerly officers of the Royal Armies Bavaria and the Duchy of Brunswick, respectively.]

Postwar, Schurz was a senator from Missouri, where a large German population had settled, and later served as Interior Secretary in the Hayes Administration.

Don’t let his bookish looks fool you, although Schurz was a journalist who served as editor of the New York Evening Post, he also fought in the German revolution and saw the elephant several times in the Civil War.

Under the command of LCDR Arthur Crenshaw, the new USS Schurz joined the fleet in September 1917 and served as an escort on the East Coast. Her German armament landed; she was equipped with four 5-inch mounts in U.S. service.

USS Schurz off the foot of Market Street, San Diego, California, in November-December 1917. Note the U.S. colors. Courtesy of the San Diego Maritime Museum, 1983 Catalog #: NH 94909

While on a convoy from New York for Key West, Fla., on 0444 on 21 June 1918, she collided with the merchant ship SS Florida southwest of Cape Lookout lightship, North Carolina, about 130 miles east of Wilmington.

As noted by the NHHC, “The collision crumpled the starboard bridge wing, slicing into the well and berth deck nearly 12 feet, and cutting through bunker no. 3 to the forward fire room.” One of Schurz’s crewmen was killed instantly, and 12 others injured. The 216 survivors abandoned ship and Schurz sank about three hours later in 110-feet of water.

A later naval board laid the blame for the collision on Florida, as the steamer was running at full steam in the predawn darkness in the thick fog without any lights or horns and had failed to keep a proper distance.

USS Schurz was stricken from the Navy list on 26 August 1918, and her name has not been reissued. The Kaiserliche Marine confusingly recycled the name “Geier” for an auxiliary cruiser (the former British merchant vessel Saint Theodore, captured by the commerce raider SMS Möwe) as well as an armed trawler during the war even while the original ship was interned in Hawaii with a German crew pulling shenanigans.

Of SMS Geier‘s remaining sisters in German service, Seeadler was destroyed by an accidental explosion on the Jade in April 1917 and never raised, Cormoran had been scuttled in Tsingtao and captured by the Japanese who scrapped her, and Condor was broken up in 1921.

Today, while she has been extensively looted of artifacts over the years the wreck of the Schurz is currently protected as part of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and she is a popular dive site.

NOAA divers swim over the stern of the USS Schurz shipwreck. Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

East Carolina University conducted an extensive survey of her wreckage in 2000 and found her remarkably intact, with her boilers in place as well as brass fasteners and copper hull sheathing with nails still attached.

Specs:

Displacement, full: 1918 tons
Length: 275 ft oal, 261 wl
Beam: 34 ft. 10.6
Draft: 15 feet 4.74 mean 5.22 deep load
Machinery: 2 HTE, 4 cylindrical boilers, 2880 hp, 2 shafts
Coal: 320 tons
Speed: 15.5-knots max
Range: 3610nm at 9kts
Complement: 9 officers, 152 men (German) 197 to 217 (US)
Armor: None
Armament
(1895)
8 x 1 – 4.1″/32cal SK L/35 single mounts
5 x 1-pdr (37mm) revolving cannon (removed in 1909)
2 x 1 – 450mm TT with 5 18-inch torpedoes in magazine
(1917)
4 x 5″/51cal U.S. mounts

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday Feb.22, 2017: The Kaiser’s Cormorants

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Feb.22, 2017: The Kaiser’s Cormorants

Noted as “Received from Office of Naval Intelligence”, Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: NH 64265 (Click to big up 1200x881)

Noted as “Received from Office of Naval Intelligence”, Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: NH 64265 (Click to big up 1200×881)

Here we see the Bussard-class unprotected cruiser SMS (Seiner Majestät Schiff =His Majesty’s Ship) Cormoran of the Kaiserliche Marine as she appeared early in her career (pre-1908) with her three-masted barquentine rig. She floated around the far-flung colonies of Imperial Germany– and even help establish some of them—then went on to serve (in a way) during the Great War.

Germany got into the colonialism thing late in the game and it was only after unification and at the prodding of an anxious Kaiser that the new Empire got took part in the “scramble” by picking up German South-West Africa (current Namibia) and German New Guinea in 1884. The problem with overseas territories is that they are over-seas and Germany had a very small Baltic-centric naval force. This led Prussian Gen. Leo von Caprivi, then head of the Navy, to order two 1,300-ton/13-knot steam “cruisers” (let’s be honest, they were more gunboats than anything else) of the Schwalbe-class in 1886.

Recognizing the shortcomings of these warships, the German Navy upped the ante with the follow-on Bussard-class vessels in 1888.

The six warships of the class could eke out a bit more speed than the Schwalbe‘s (15.5-kts as designed) and, if they packed coal in every nook and cranny, extend their range to 3,610 nm which could further be stretched by their barquentine rig (and were the last German fighting ships to be designed to carry canvas). With a hull of yellow pine, they were sheathed with cupro-lead Muntz metal to prevent fouling.

Armed with eight 4.1-inch 105/32 RK L/35 C/86 rapid-fire singles, they packed a decent punch that was augmented by a pair of 350mm torpedo tubes as well as five 37mm/27cal revolving cannons.

With a full load approaching 1,868-tons, these 271-footers could float in 15 feet of calm water and carried a half-dozen small boats that enabled them to land a company-sized force of armed sailors while keeping enough of a skeleton crew aboard to fire a few guns and keep the boilers warm.

The hero of our tale, SMS Cormoran, was built to a modified design which was capable of 16.9-knots on a quartet of coal-fired boilers and mounted slightly upgraded 105/32 SK L/35 C/91 guns. Laid down at Danzig Kaiserliche Werft in 1890, she commissioned 25 July 1893, Korvettenkapitän Robert Wachenhusen in command.

Following sea trials, Cormoran headed for East Africa, where she remained as a station ship in Portuguese Mozambique for seven months before transferring to East Asian waters in Sept. 1895.

After helping the stranded gunboat SMS Iltis, Cormoran steamed up the Yangtze where her shallow draft made her quite useful. She was still there when, on 1 November 1897, the Big Sword Society slaughtered two German Roman Catholic priests of the Steyler Mission in southern Shandong.

Ordered by Admiral von Diederichs to join his cruisers there for a punitive expedition-turned-land-grab, Cormoran showed up in Kiautschou Bay on 13 November and at 0600 the next morning steamed into the inner harbor of Tsingtao with 717 German sailors in small boats from the larger cruisers SMS Kaiser and Prinzess Wilhelm to land at the dole and proceed into the city.

Schutzgebiet Kiautschou Besitznahme von Kiautschou am 14. Nov. 1897 durch Kaiserl. Marineeinheiten

Schutzgebiet Kiautschou, Besitznahme von Kiautschou am 14. Nov. 1897 durch Kaiserl. Marineeinheiten

Reinforced by a battalion of Marines sent from Germany the next January, the Chinese granted a 99-year lease to the port in April. Germany had her Hong Kong at the point of Cormoran‘s guns.

When the Americans and Spanish began to scrap in the PI during the Span-Am War in 1898, Cormoran was sent to poke around Cavite but was rebuffed by Dewey with the cruiser USS Raliegh closing danger close on the German.

Following this, she became a persistent presence in Samoan waters, adding to the tension there as Britain, Germany and the U.S. hashed out just who owned which rock.

USS ABARENDA, right and SMS CORMORAN saluting the Naval Station. Description: Copied from Amerika Samoa by Capt. J. A. C. Gray, MC, USN, (following page 108); Catalog #: NH 117548

USS ABARENDA, right and SMS CORMORAN saluting the Naval Station. Description: Copied from Amerika Samoa by Capt. J. A. C. Gray, MC, USN, (following page 108); Catalog #: NH 117548

Over the next several years Cormoran continued her colonial work among the islands, landing sailors to disarm locals, enforce German laws, and arrest those breaking them while conducting survey work in the uncharted archipelagos the Kaiser now counted as his own.

It should be remembered the German flag flew at the time over the Solomon Islands (Buka, Bougainville, and several smaller islands), the Carolines, Palau, the Marianas (except for Guam), the Marshall Islands, and Nauru.

German forces being trained in New Guinea via Australian War Memorial

German forces being trained in New Guinea via Australian War Memorial. Cormoran would ship these local police troops all over the colonies.

In 1908, Cormoran returned to Germany and was rebuilt and re-rigged as a topsail schooner, landing her quaint revolving cannon.

Compare to her appearance with three masts above

Compare to her appearance with three masts above

Cormoran (ship) moored opposite the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane after 1909. Note her two-mast rig

Cormoran (ship) moored opposite the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane after 1909. Note her two-mast rig and extensive awnings. SMS Cormoran was well known in Brisbane where she had regular refits and the squadron as a whole had been active in policing the colonies

She returned the Pacific in time to help put down the very messy Sokehs Rebellion of 1910-11 in the Caroline Islands at the hands of Polizei-Soldaten commander Karl Kammerich and his 160~ locally recruited constabulary troops. In early 1913, Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Zuckschwerdt arrived aboard and commanded the ship and her crew in putting down a disturbance on Bougainville.

p011_0_00_1By 1914, the Bussard class was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor were that year converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Only SMS Geier (Vulture), the youngest of the class, was serving actively in East Africa while Cormoran was hobbled in Tsingtao with bad engines.

The SMS Cormoran in the waters of Tsingtao, 1914. Photo from the Herbert T. Ward collection courtesy of the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC).

The SMS Cormoran in the waters of Tsingtao, 1914. Photo from the Herbert T. Ward collection courtesy of the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC).

By this time our elderly cruiser was done for and was looking for a new ride.

Zuckschwerdt had her crew strip everything useful from Cormoran and move it aboard the captured 3,400-ton Russian freighter SS Ryazan— which had been seized at sea by the German raider SMS Emden on the first day of the Great War and brought to Tsingtao on 4 August as a prize. The Ryazan was a fast ship for a merchantman (17 knots) and had been built in Germany at the Schichau shipyard in Elbing just five years before which meant her engineering suite was at least marked in the right language.

Hilfskreuzer S.M.S. CORORAN II im Jahre 1916 im Hafen von Apra, Guam (Fotograf unbekannt, Marineschule Mürwik)

Hilfskreuzer S.M.S. CORORAN II im Jahre 1916 im Hafen von Apra, Guam (Fotograf unbekannt, Marineschule Mürwik)

On 10 August, at the Imperial Dockyard at Tsingtao, with the crew of the (old) SMS Cormoran on board as well as the warship’s 8x105mm guns, 1,200 shells and stores crammed in every room, the (new) hilfskreuzer SMS Cormoran II was commissioned in her place. As she was a much larger vessel, the crews of the scuttled gunboats SMS Vaterland and Iltis were piled aboard to be used as prize crews for captured merchantmen the new raider was sure to take on the high seas.

A comparison of the old Cormoran, right, and new one

A comparison of the old Cormoran, right, and new one, from the 1915/16 New Year card made by the crew.

The former Russian freighter turned auxiliary cruiser left the Chinese coastline the same day she was commissioned, stalked by the still nominally neutral Japanese navy.

On 15 August 1914, two weeks after the outbreak of World War I in Europe, British-allied Japan delivered an ultimatum to Germany demanding that it relinquish control of the disputed territory of Kiaoutschou/Tsingtao and when they didn’t Japan declared war on 23 August.

The stripped and crewless (old) SMS Cormoran was scuttled on the night of 28–29 September 1914 by dockyard workers to prevent her capture and Tsingtao fell to the Japanese on 7 November after a siege and blockade that cost the lives of over 1,000. Her wreck was salvaged by the Japanese in 1917.

A Japanese lithograph, showing the Japanese fighting German troops during the conquest of the German colony Tsingtao (today Qingdao) in China between 13 September and 7 November 1914. Via National Archives.

A Japanese lithograph, showing the Japanese fighting German troops during the conquest of the German colony Tsingtao (today Qingdao) in China between 13 September and 7 November 1914. Via National Archives.

As for the (new) Cormoran, she had left China dangerously low on coal and spent 127 days at sea on the run and only narrowly remained uncaught.

Map of SMS Cormoran travels before reaching Guam on 14 December 1914. Courtesy of Tony “Malia” Ramirez. Guampedia Foundation

Map of SMS Cormoran travels before reaching Guam on 14 December 1914. As you can see, she shuttled between Yap and German New Guinea extensively and poked around the nuetral Dutch East Indies. Courtesy of Tony “Malia” Ramirez. Guampedia Foundation

On 23 September, she came within 200 meters of Warship Wednesday alumni, the Challenger-class protected cruiser HMAS Encounter (5,800-tons/11 × 6-inch guns/21kts) on a moonless night and avoided sure destruction.

In October, Cormoran took on 98 officers and men of the stricken survey ship SMS Planet at Yap, one of the last German-held islands in the Pacific.

The German radio station at Yap Island. Cormoran called here while on the run and left with the crew of the scuttled SMS Planet

The German radio station at Yap Island. Cormoran called here while on the run and left with the crew of the scuttled SMS Planet

For a time, she hid in the lagoon of sparsely populated Lamotrek atoll in the Carolines and Zuckschwerdt considered scuttling her there, ala HMS Bounty-style, and going native but in the end decided against it.

Out of coal, low on rations save for coconuts and without being able to take any prizes, the overfilled (355 men, 22 officers aboard) Cormoran put into the U.S. territory at Guam on 14 December with British, French and Japanese ships combing the waters for her. She was ordered to moor within range of the three 7″/45cal naval guns mounted ashore at Fort San Felipe del Morro.

USS Supply, Guam's station ship, left, with SMS Cormoran in the center

USS Supply, Guam’s station ship, left, with SMS Cormoran in the center. She would stay in place for over two years.

The event made the papers in the States, front page news.

16 December 1914, Sacramento Union:

cormoran-1914

Zuckschwerdt and the Americans eyed each other cautiously over the next 28 months as the ship was disarmed and interned but kept up good spirits.

The re-purposed Russian steamer carried the crews not only from Cormoran but two German gunboats, a survey ship and several colonials

The re-purposed Russian steamer carried the crews not only from Cormoran but two German gunboats, a survey ship and several colonials

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Swim call in Apra harbor

Swim call in Apra harbor

By June 1916 some of the crew were reportedly “driven mad by isolation.”

When the U.S. declared war on Germany on 7 April 1917, American officials attempted to seize the Cormoran and fired at least one warning shot into the air. The hopelessly outgunned station ship at Guam, USS Supply (3,100-tons/6x6pdrs) put a prize crew of 32 men afloat to board the German ship, though the Germans outnumbered them 11:1.

Zuckschwerdt was cordial and told Supply‘s captain, LCDR William P. Cronan, he could surrender his men but not the cruiser and as soon as the bulk of the men orderly jumped ship, blew her hull out at her mooring in the harbor and she sank in 120 feet of water, tragically taking nine of her crew with her.

From an August 1931 Proceedings article:

“The stricken ship settled by the stern, slowly listing heavily to starboard. For a moment the port half of the deck was exposed to view, the ship lying almost horizontally on her starboard beam ends. Then, as one blinked an eye there was nothing but a small column of water hanging suspended, a bubbling seething area of surface disturbance, a bit of flotsam shooting up like a fish jumping and falling back with a splash, two or three laden boats, and heads, hundreds of heads, bobbing here and there.

“Men clinging to bits of wreckage, oars, life preservers, chests, were swimming toward the shore in all directions; pigeons, apparently carriers released from the ship, hovered over the water, circled, and were gone; men clinging to bits of flotsam with one arm, put bottles to their lips and drank from brown bottles, square colorless bottles; the black men of New Guinea, some carrying bundles dry on their heads, some pushing small chests, paddled off businesslike toward the nearest land. And then a voice was lifted, a strong true deep voice singing Deutschland über alles, and the chorus went up from many a throat.

The crew was rescued by USS Supply, with Cronan noting his German counterpart as “a large, well-formed man, with jet black mustache and Vandyke [beard], always spotlessly attired, spoke English with the elegantness of the educated foreigner, was a gifted conversationalist, possessed a rare charm of manner, and, incidentally, must have been an able disciplinarian to have maintained the high morale evident in his personnel during their long sojourn in Guam.”

As noted by the NPS, “U.S. Marine Corporal Michael B. Chockie fired a shot across the bow of the Cormoran‘s supply launch in an attempt to stop the fleeing launch. Chockie’s shot was the first one fired by an American in the Great War–later known as World War I.”

The dead were buried at the naval cemetery at Agana and are remembered today.

19409792_137955832318

“Die Toten von SMS Cormoran“—”the Dead of the SMS Cormoran”—April 7, 1917.

As for Zuckschwerdt and the rest of his crew, they were the first German POWs in America and were only repatriated in 1919 with the non-German individuals from China and German New Guinea separated.

The good Korvettenkapitän returned to post-Versailles Germany where he was given a position in the drastically smaller Reichsmarine. Continuing to serve, he was a Konteradmiral in the Kriegsmarine in WWII where he commanded coastal fortifications along the French coast until his retirement in May 1944– just before D-Day. When the Brits occupied his hometown in April 1945, he was arrested and put into a POW camp again where he died in July 1945 near Hövelhof, aged 71.

The last of her sisters afloat, SMS Geier, was interned at Hawaii in October 1914, seized 7 April 1917 and pressed into service as USS Schurz. She was sunk off the North Carolina coast 21 June 1918 after a collision with the steamer Florida.

SMS Geier's crew under arrest by Army regulars in Hawaii, 7 Aprl 1917.

SMS Geier’s crew under arrest by Army regulars in Hawaii, 7 April 1917.

As for (new) Cormoran, she is still in Agana harbor, with the wreck of the 8,300-ton Japanese freighter Tokai Maru— sank by U.S. submarines in 1944– atop her and is a popular dive spot.

15888574968_c250914e93_b

In July 1974, the SMS Cormoran II was listed on the Guam Register of Historic Places, and a year later, the vessel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In April 2007, Guam commemorated the 90th anniversary of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran II. The festivities included wreath-laying ceremonies at Apra Harbor and the US Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña, and a series of lectures and an exhibit. Surviving descendants of the original crew and other German representatives were invited to participate. The graves continued to be visited and honored.

The Guampedia Foundation has kept the ship and her crew’s memory alive and have compiled crew lists, oral histories and accounts.

They have a great gallery of images of the Cormoran online

SMS Cormoran II

The country of Palau, a former German colony, commemorated both versions of Cormoran with recent postage stamps and German Imperial post cancellations.

palau-navire-allemand palau-sms-cormoran-1914

Specs:

Drawing via Wiki

Drawing via Wiki

Displacement: 1,864 t (1,835 long tons; 2,055 short tons)
Length: 82.6 m (271 ft. 0 in)
Beam: 12.7 m (41 ft. 8 in)
Draft: 4.42 m (14 ft. 6 in)
Propulsion: 2 × 3-cylinder triple expansion engines, 2 screws
Sailing rig: 3-mast bark with 9,440 sq. ft. canvas as built, 2-mast schooner after 1908
Speed: 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph), 16.9 kts
Range: 2,950 nmi (5,460 km) at 9 knots (17 km/h) with standard 315t coal load.
Complement:
9 officers
152 enlisted men
Armament:
8 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 rapid fire guns, 1200 shells
5 × revolver cannon (deleted in 1908)
2 × 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes, five torpedoes
Bronze ram bow

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday: Jan. 27, 2016 The Tragic Tale of the Wake Island Wanderer

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday: Jan. 27, 2016 The Tragic Tale of the Wake Island Wanderer

Fine-screen halftone reproduction of a photograph of the ship in harbor, circa 1891-1901. It was published by the SUB-POST Card Co., of Los Angeles, California. Donation of H.E. (Ed) Coffer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102777

Fine-screen halftone reproduction of a photograph of the ship in harbor, circa 1891-1901. It was published by the SUB-POST Card Co., of Los Angeles, California. Donation of H.E. (Ed) Coffer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102777

Here we see Gunboat #4, the USS Bennington, a Yorktown-class gunboat labeled as a cruiser (third rate) in the post card above, and she acted like one, roaming the coasts of the world far and wide, adding to the territory of the United States on occasion, and suffering a sad fate in the end.

The three ships of the Yorktown class, all named after Revolutionary War battles, were designed in the 1880s in a joint effort between the Navy and William Cramp and Sons shipyard of Philadelphia (though only class leader Yorktown would be built at the yard, follow-on sisters Concord and Bennington— the hero of our tale– would be built at the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Works in Chester, PA).

Humble, steel-hulled ships of just 244 feet in overall length, these 1,900-ton warships were slow at just 16 knots and at half that could voyage for 12,000 nautical miles on 400 tons of coal but, when coupled with their three-masted schooner rig and 6,300 feet of canvas carried as auxiliary propulsion, could roam the world as long as there was wind.

They weren’t built to take a lot of punishment, having just two inches of armor on their conning tower and much, much less (9.5mm) over deck spaces and coal bunkers. However for ships their size, they were able to put out a fair bit of punishment, mounting a half dozen 6″/30 Mark I guns. These guns were the standard armament of the “New Navy” in the 1880s and were used on the “ABCD” squadron (cruisers USS Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and gunboat Dolphin), as well as most of the early cruisers (main guns) and battleships (as secondary armament) of the pre-1898 U.S. Fleet. They could fire a 105-pound shell out to 18,000 yards.

 Stern 6" (15.2 cm) gun on S.S. Mongolia on 19 May 1917, shown for reference. The Yorktown class had six of these including some in both open mounts such as this and barbettes. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 41710.

Stern 6″ (15.2 cm) gun on S.S. Mongolia on 19 May 1917, shown for reference. The Yorktown class had six of these in shielded mounts.  U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 41710.

Bennington, the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, did so to commemorate the decisive American victory of New England militia over a bunch of Hessian mercenaries near Bennington, Vermont on 16 August 1777. She was commissioned 20 June 1891 and was soon off to become a world traveler.

Assigned first to the “White Squadron” or Squadron of Evolution and subsequently to the South Atlantic Squadron of RADM John G. Walker, the squadron toured ports in America, Europe, North Africa, and South America, demonstrating the U.S. Navy’s technological prowess as well as its commitment to protecting the nation’s merchant fleet.

(Gunboat # 4) Photographed circa 1891 by J.S. Johnston, New York City. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63248

(Gunboat # 4) Photographed circa 1891 by J.S. Johnston, New York City. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63248

(Gunboat # 4) In a European harbor, circa 1892-1893, with USS Newark (Cruiser # 1) alongside. Courtesy of Arrigo Barilli, Bologna, Italy. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56381

(Gunboat # 4) In a European harbor, circa 1892-1893, with USS Newark (Cruiser # 1) alongside. Courtesy of Arrigo Barilli, Bologna, Italy. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56381

(Gunboat # 4) Dressed with flags in a harbor, probably while serving with the Squadron of Evolution, circa 1891-1892. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 67551

(Gunboat # 4) Dressed with flags in a harbor, probably while serving with the Squadron of Evolution, circa 1891-1892. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 67551

(Gunboat # 4) In a harbor, 1893. Copied from The New Navy of the United States, by N.L. Stebbins, (New York, 1912). Donation of David Shadell, 1987. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102742

(Gunboat # 4) In a harbor, 1893 likely at the Colombian Exihibition. Copied from The New Navy of the United States, by N.L. Stebbins, (New York, 1912). Donation of David Shadell, 1987. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH102742

In 1894, after cruising to Europe twice and all over South America, she received orders to transfer to the Pacific just after participating in the International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, arriving at Mare Island Navy Yard in San Diego on 30 April of that year.

(Gunboat # 4) Off Valparaiso, Chile, 3 April 1894 on her way to California. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102821

(Gunboat # 4) Off Valparaiso, Chile, 3 April 1894 on her way to California. Note the new pilot house that has been fitted to her bridge. This would be removed in 1902. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102821

USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) In drydock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1894-98. This photograph was published on a -tinted postcard by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, California. Courtesy of H.E. (Ed) Coffer, 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 100931-KN

USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) In drydock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1894-98. This photograph was published on a -tinted postcard by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, California. Courtesy of H.E. (Ed) Coffer, 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 100931-KN

After having her hull scraped, she was soon off to Hawaii where she spent most of the next two years where she rode shotgun in port during the upheaval in the combat between Royalist and republican forces there that led eventually to the ouster of Queen Liliʻuokalani, paving the way to Hawaii’s annexation in 1898.

When the Spanish-American War erupted, she left Hawaii and patrolled the California coast on the off chance Spanish raiders would appear then in September set sail, unescorted, to the Philippines. There, her sister Concord on the Asiatic Station had been a part of Admiral George Dewey’s fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay just four months prior, but the islands were far from conquered.

On the way to the PI, Bennington stopped at the unclaimed and uninhabited atoll of Wake Island halfway between Honolulu and Manila and took control of the strategic location under orders from President McKinley.

Commander (later RADM) Edward D. Taussig of the USS Bennington takes formal possession of Wake Island for the United States with the raising of the flag and a 21-gun salute on January 17, 1899. The only witnesses aside from her crew were seabirds.

Commander (later RADM) Edward D. Taussig of the USS Bennington takes formal possession of Wake Island for the United States with the raising of the flag and a 21-gun salute on January 17, 1899. The only witnesses aside from her crew were seabirds. The depiction incorrectly shows Bennington in the distance with two funnels. Tassuig’s son Joe would later rise to Vice Admiral in WWII and tussle with FDR on several occasions while his grandson would lose a leg on the Nevada at Pearl Harbor.

A subsequent stop at the Spanish possession of Guam on 23 January led to the surrender of that island to the U.S. as well. Taussig inspected the ancient Spanish military positions on the island and found them “condemned.”

Arriving in the Philippines in Feb. 1899, Bennington spent two years heavily involved in the pacification efforts there. With a draft of just 14 feet, she was often called upon to come close to shore and support landings and combat on land with her big six inchers.

She also was involved in the occasional surface fight, sinking the over-matched insurgent vessel Parao on Sept 12, 1899. When things slowed down, she served as a station ship at Cebu before otherwise aiding Army operations throughout the chain.

Leaving for Hong Kong in 1901, she was refitted and soon got back to the business of international flag-waving, visiting Shanghai for an extended period before heading back to the West Coast.

(Gunboat # 4) In the Kowloon, dry dock, Hong Kong, China, in 1901. Collection of Chief Boatswain's Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102766

(Gunboat # 4) In the Kowloon, dry dock, Hong Kong, China, in 1901. Collection of Chief Boatswain’s Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102766

(Gunboat # 4) At Shanghai, China, on 4 July 1901, dressed with flags in honor of Independence Day. Collection of Chief Boatswain's Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102765

(Gunboat # 4) At Shanghai, China, on 4 July 1901, dressed with flags in honor of Independence Day. Collection of Chief Boatswain’s Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102765

There, along with familiar faces in the form of USS Concord, she participated in a Latin American cruise and patrolled Alaskan and Hawaiian territorial waters as needed.

(Gunboat # 4) At anchor, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, circa 1903-1905. This image is printed on a postcard published during the first decade of the Twentieth Century by Frank J. Stumm, Benicia, California. For a view of the reverse of the original postcard, see: Photo # NH 105303-A. Courtesy of Harrell E. (Ed) Coffer, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105303

(Gunboat # 4) At anchor, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, circa 1903-1905. Note her pilothouse has been removed and she has been reduced to two masts as her auxiliary sail rig was jettisoned at this time. This image is printed on a postcard published during the first decade of the Twentieth Century by Frank J. Stumm, Benicia, California. For a view of the reverse of the original postcard, see: Photo # NH 105303-A. Courtesy of Harrell E. (Ed) Coffer, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105303

USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) At anchor, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, circa 1903-1905. This -tinted photograph is printed on a postcard, published during the first decade of the Twentieth Century by Frank J. Stumm, Benicia, California. For a view of the reverse of the original postcard, see: Photo # NH 105302-A-KN. Courtesy of Harrell E. (Ed) Coffer, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105302-KN

USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) At anchor, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, circa 1903-1905. This -tinted photograph is printed on a postcard, published during the first decade of the Twentieth Century by Frank J. Stumm, Benicia, California. For a view of the reverse of the original postcard, see: Photo # NH 105302-A-KN. Courtesy of Harrell E. (Ed) Coffer, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105302-KN

(Gunboat # 4) At anchor while serving with the Pacific Squadron in 1904. Donation of John C. Reilly, Jr., 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102751

(Gunboat # 4) At anchor while serving with the Pacific Squadron in 1904 on laundry day. Donation of John C. Reilly, Jr., 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102751

Ships of the squadron in the moonlight, during a Latin American cruise, circa 1903-1904. USS New York (Armored Cruiser # 2) is in the left center. The other two ships, listed in no particular order, are USS Concord (Gunboat # 3) and USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4). Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85693

Ships of the squadron in the moonlight, during a Latin American cruise, circa 1903-1904. USS New York (Armored Cruiser # 2) is in the left center. The other two ships, listed in no particular order, are USS Concord (Gunboat # 3) and USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4). Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85693

Racing across the Pacific. NH 102747

Racing across the Pacific. She would continue to be a regular fixture from Hawaii to Latin America and Alaska NH 102747

USS Bennington Description: (Gunboat # 4) At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1903. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 83961

USS Bennington Description: (Gunboat # 4) At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1903. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 83961

(Gunboat # 4) Ship's officers and crew posed on deck and in her foremast rigging, at San Diego, California, 3 March 1905. Tragically, within just four months, many of these men in the photo would be dead. Courtesy of the Historical Collection, Union Title Insurance Company, San Diego, California. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56382

(Gunboat # 4) Ship’s officers and crew posed on deck and in her foremast rigging, at San Diego, California, 3 March 1905. Tragically, within just four months, many of these men in the photo would be dead. Courtesy of the Historical Collection, Union Title Insurance Company, San Diego, California. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56382

On 21 July 1905 Bennington was building steam in her four 17-foot long locomotive boilers to leave port when disaster struck.

At about 10:30, excessive steam pressure in the boiler resulted in a boiler explosion that rocked the ship, sending men and equipment flying into the air. The escaping steam sprayed through the living compartments and decks. The explosion opened Bennington’s hull to the sea, and she began to list to starboard. Quick actions by the tug Santa Fe — taking Bennington under tow and beaching her – almost certainly saved the gunboat from sinking in deeper water.

The explosion occurred directly under the ship’s galley just before lunch after a hard morning of coaling and the area was filled with hungry sailors. In all, 66 men were killed and another 46 seriously wounded– more than half her crew.  It was one of the worst accidents in the history of the Navy and resulted in 11 Medal of Honor awards for “extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion.”

These individuals earned the Navy Medal of Honor during the period specified. Their names are followed by their rank and rate, if known, the date of the action and the vessel or unit on which they served.

BOERS, EDWARD WILLIAM, Seaman, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, 21 July 1905
BROCK, GEORGE F., Carpenter’s Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
CLAUSEY, JOHN J., Chief Gunner’s Mate, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, 21 July 1905
CRONAN, WILLIE, Boatswain’s Mate, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, 21 July 1905
FREDERICKSEN, EMIL, Watertender, U.S. Navy, USS Benington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
GRBITCH, RADE, Seaman, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
HILL, FRANK E., Ship’s Cook First Class, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
NELSON, OSCAR FREDERICK, Machinist’s Mate First Class, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
SCHMIDT, OTTO DILLER, Seaman, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905
SHACKLETTE, WILLIAM SIDNEY, Hospital Steward, U.S. Navy., USS Bennington, San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905

(Gunboat # 4) Halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship as her engine room was being pumped out, soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion at San Diego, California. Note her National Ensign flying at half-staff. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56383-B

(Gunboat # 4) Halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship as her engine room was being pumped out, soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion at San Diego, California. Note her National Ensign flying at half-staff. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56383-B

Gunboat # 4) Removing the dead from the ship, following her boiler explosion at San Diego, California, 21 July 1905. Photographed and published on a stereograph card by C.H. Graves, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The inscription published on the reverse of the original card is provided on Photo #: NH 89081 (extended caption). Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC), 1979 U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89081

Gunboat # 4) Removing the dead from the ship, following her boiler explosion at San Diego, California, 21 July 1905. Photographed and published on a stereograph card by C.H. Graves, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The inscription published on the reverse of the original card is provided on Photo #: NH 89081 (extended caption). Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC), 1979 U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89081

(Gunboat # 4) Halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship's starboard side, amidships, as she was beached at San Diego, California, soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. A disabled six-inch gun is in the center of the image. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.Catalog #: NH 56383-A

(Gunboat # 4) Halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship’s starboard side, amidships, as she was beached at San Diego, California, soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. A disabled six-inch gun is in the center of the image. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.Catalog #: NH 56383-A

It was a cause for national mourning and the victims were laid to rest at Fort Rosecrans military cemetery just two days later as local mortuary services were overextended.

(Gunboat # 4) Funeral procession at San Diego, California, for victims of the ship's 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85697

(Gunboat # 4) Funeral procession at San Diego, California, for victims of the ship’s 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85697

(Gunboat # 4) Burial ceremonies, at San Diego, California, for victims of the ship's 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85698

(Gunboat # 4) Burial ceremonies, at San Diego, California, for victims of the ship’s 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85698

At the cemetery, a 60-foot obelisk was erected for the crew in 1908, overlooking their resting place.

USS Bennington Monument, Fort Rosecrans, San Diego

One survivor of the explosion was John Henry (Dick) Turpin who has been a part of history already.

You see, Turpin enlisted in the Navy in 1896 and was a survivor of the explosion on USS Maine in Havanna harbor in 1898. Remaining in the service despite his experiences, he became a Chief Gunner’s Mate in 1917 and served in WWI. Transferred to the Fleet Reserve in 1919, CGM Turpin retired in 1925. Qualified as a Master Diver, he was also employed as a Master Rigger at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, and, during the World War II era, made inspirational visits to Navy Training Centers and defense plants, likely one of the few bluejackets to have served in the Spanish American War and both World Wars.

All the more of an accomplishment due to military segregation at the time of his service.

Photo #: NH 89471 John Henry (Dick) Turpin, Chief Gunner's Mate, USN (retired) (1876-1962) One of the first African-American Chief Petty Officers in the U.S. Navy. This photograph appears to have been taken during or after World War II. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89471

Photo #: NH 89471 John Henry (Dick) Turpin, Chief Gunner’s Mate, USN (retired) (1876-1962) One of the first African-American Chief Petty Officers in the U.S. Navy. This photograph appears to have been taken during or after World War II. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89471

Damaged beyond economical repair, Bennington was decommissioned 31 October 1905 and stripped of her armament and machinery. Her guns were likely re-purposed in World War I for use in arming merchant ships.

(Gunboat # 4) Salvage party at work on the partially sunken ship, in San Diego harbor, California, after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Bennington's National Ensign is flying at half-staff. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85696

(Gunboat # 4) Salvage party at work on the partially sunken ship, in San Diego harbor, California, after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Bennington’s National Ensign is flying at half-staff. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85696

After dry-docking to repair her hull, she was converted to an unpowered barge for use in Honolulu until being struck from the Navy list 10 September 1910 and she was sold for her value in scrap that November.

The Matson Navigation Company acquired the hulk for the ignoble use as a molasses tow barge in 1913, finally scuttling her off Oahu in 1924.

The barge Bennington at Honolulu. U.S. Navy photo Honolulu 1912 - 1924 via Navsource.

The barge Bennington at Honolulu. U.S. Navy photo Honolulu 1912 – 1924 via Navsource.

In 1944, the Navy would commission USS Bennington (CV/CVA/CVS-20), an Essex-class carrier, as the only other ship to bear the name. Decommissioning 15 January 1970, she lived a long an rusty life on red lead row after seeing service in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, being scrapped in 1994.

The old gunboat is commemorated not only in the monument in California but also on Bennington Day in Vermont (Aug 16) which celebrates the battle and the two ships named after it, by the USS Bennington veteran’s group and in a storied painting that hangs in the U.S. Capitol’s Cannon Room 311

Peace (the White Squadron in Boston Harbor), oil on canvas, 1893 Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives. Peace was painted by well-known American marine painter Walter Lofthouse Dean in 1893.

Peace (the White Squadron in Boston Harbor), oil on canvas, 1893. Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives. Peace was painted by well-known American marine painter Walter Lofthouse Dean.

Peace originally hung in the hearing room for the House Committee on Naval Affairs in the Capitol throughout the WWI period and was moved to the Cannon Room in 1919.

index

As for Bennington‘s sisters, Concord remained afloat the longest, being decommissioned in 1910, but enduring as a training and barracks ship for the Washington Naval Militia until 1914, then as a quarantine ship for the Public Health Service in Astoria, Oregon, until 1929 when she was sent to the breakers. Two of her 6-inch guns were brought to the War Garden of Woodland Park, Seattle, WA at “Battery Dewey” where they remain on the property of the Woodland Park Zoo today, aged 130+ years.

6"/30 (15.2 cm) gun formerly on USS Concord PG-3, Photograph copyrighted by Dana Payne via Navweaps.

6″/30 (15.2 cm) gun formerly on USS Concord PG-3, Photograph copyrighted by Dana Payne via Navweaps.

Yorktown, decommissioned and recommissioned no less than four times in her 33 years of service, was involved in the 1891 Baltimore Crisis in Chile, participated in the China Relief Expedition carried out in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion, tested Fiske’s revolutionary telescopic gun sight, and served as a convoy escort in World War I before being broken up in Oakland in 1921.

The Navy has not carried a Bennington on its List since 1989.

Specs:

120900120
Displacement:
1,710 long tons (1,740 t)
1,910 long tons (1,940 t) (fully loaded)
Length:
244 ft 5 in (74.50 m) (oa)
230 ft. (70 m) (wl)
226 feet (69 m) (lpp)
Beam: 36 ft (11 m)
Draft: 14 ft. (4.3 m)
Propulsion:
2 × horizontally mounted triple-expansion steam engines,[1] 3,400 ihp (2,500 kW)
2 × screw propellers
4 × railroad boilers
Sail plan: three-masted schooner rig with a total sail area of 6,300 sq ft. (590 m2), removed 1902
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h)
Endurance: 4,262 nautical miles @ 10 knots (6,376 km @ 19 km/h), 12,000 at 8
Complement: 191 officers and enlisted
Armament: (1891)
6 × 6 in/30 (15.2 cm) BL guns
4 × 6 pdr (2.7 kg) guns
4 × 1 pdr (0.45 kg) guns
2 × .45-70 caliber Gatling guns
Armament: (1902-05)
6 × 6 in/30 (15.2 cm) BL guns
4 × 1 pdr (0.45 kg) Rapid Fire guns
2 × .30 caliber M1895 machine guns
Armor:
deck: 0.375 inches (9.5 mm)
conning tower: 2 inches (51 mm)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Far flung island outpost

guam

On July 21st, 1944, American forces began their assault on the island of Guam against the heavily entrenched Japanese. It would take 20 days of intense fighting for the Americans to reclaim the island.

guam

However, isolated Japanese units and solders continued their own war for months and, in some cases, even years (28 years to be exact)

March 10, 1945: U.S. troops in the Pacific islands continued to find enemy holdouts long after the main Japanese forces had either surrendered or disappeared. Guam was considered cleared by August 12, 1944, but parts of the island were still dangerous half a year later. Here, patrolling Marines pass a dead Japanese sniper. These Marines may belong to the Fifty-second Defense Battalion, one of two black units sent to the Pacific. (Charles P. Gorry, AP Staff/AP Archives)

March 10, 1945: U.S. troops in the Pacific islands continued to find enemy holdouts long after the main Japanese forces had either surrendered or disappeared. Guam was considered cleared by August 12, 1944, but parts of the island were still dangerous half a year later. Here, patrolling Marines pass a dead Japanese sniper. These Marines may belong to the Fifty-second Defense Battalion, one of two black units sent to the Pacific. (Charles P. Gorry, AP Staff/AP Archives)

 

Station HYPO

Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of Navy Cryptology

National Guard Marksmanship Training Center

Official site for National Guard marksmanship training and competitions

tacticalprofessor

Better to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

Yokosuka Sasebo Japan

The U.S. Navy and the Western Pacific

The Writer in Black

News and views from The Writer in Black

Stephen Taylor, WW2 Relic Hunter

World War 2 Historian, Relic Hunter and expert in identification of WW2 relics

USS Gerald R. Ford

Mission Ready, Qualified & Competent, On Time Execution!

The Unwritten Record

Exploring History with the National Archives Special Media Division

Stuff From Hsoi

Writing about whatever interests me, and maybe you.

Louisville Gun

Thoughts and Musings on Gun Control & Crime

CIVILIAN GUNFIGHTER

Identifying the Best Training, Tools, and Tactics for the Armed Civilian!

MountainGuerrilla

Nous Defions!

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913

JULESWINGS

Military wings and things

Western Rifle Shooters Association

Look around your AO. Do you see more than a few people with whom you share values? If not, how do you expect a majoritarian democracy to work there, especially without any effective check against local, state, or Federal power?

%d bloggers like this: