Tag Archives: higgins boat

The eerie quiet before the end, 74 years ago

Pre-Surrender Nocturne Tokyo Bay.”

Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Standish Backus; 1945. Depicting the old forts at Futtsu Saki, a narrow point of land jutting into the eastern side of Uraga Strait at the entrance to Tokyo Bay, a burnt-out Japanese destroyer, and the eeriness of the moonlight:

(NHHC: 88-186-Z)

The artist’s notes:

The forts at Futtsu Saki had to be approached and demobilized early on the morning of 30 August 1945. No landings from the sea had yet occurred and we did not know what sort of reception we would receive from the Japanese. From past experience, it was not expected to be healthy in all respects. Was there a division of troops in those forts waiting to mow us down as we hit the beach? Its very silence, the haunted quantity of the burnt-out Japanese destroyer, and the eeriness of the moonlight gave us all a foreboding.

The forts were, in fact, well-defended, by a full regiment but the artillery on hand was old. One of the first coastal defense forts in the country, the batteries used 15cm Krupp guns in steel cupolas and several emplaced Model 1890 Osaka-made (Armstrong-Whitworth designed) 28cm howitzers that the Japanese had at least twice dismounted and used as siege guns (at both Port Arthur and Tsingtao) back when they were still relevant.

Japan coast defense 280mm L/10 howitzers nicknamed “Osaka Babies” by the Japanese and “Roaring Trains” by the Russians when they were dismounted and used as siege artillery at Port Arthur in 1904. While dated, these beasts could still ruin a ship that came within their reach. 

It was a pucker factor for sure.

As related by Backus in his painting “The First Wave on Japan”

Watercolor on Paper; by Standish Backus; 1945; Unframed Dimensions 16H X 23W. (NHHC: 88-186-B)
“Futtsu Peninsula, Tokyo Bay: Seal-like Higgins boats create their own heavy seas as they carry Marines of the 2nd Battalion 4th Regiment ashore for the first test of whether the Japanese will resist or abide by negotiated surrender terms. It is tense for the next five minutes. The Japanese would logically wait until the Marines were at the shoreline to open a withering fire that could be a massacre. Since there could be no preparatory bombing or bombardment, it had to be done the hard way by head-on assault. The main group of boats landed here at Fort #2 while a small group landed at Fort #1 at the end of the spit beyond the hulk of a burned-out Japanese destroyer. The setting moon, which stood watch over the landing of the boats from the transport, is now relieved by the misty rays of the early sun.”

But the Forts were captured with no bloodshed on either side.

The first landing craft carrying Marines of 2/4 touched the south shore of Futtsu Saki at 0558; two minutes later, the first transport plane rolled to a stop on the runway at Atsugi, and the occupation of Japan was underway. In both areas, the Japanese had followed their instructions to the letter. On Futtsu Saki the coastal guns and mortars had been rendered useless, and only the bare minimum of maintenance personnel, 22 men, remained to make a peaceful turnover of the forts and batteries. By 0845, the battalion had accomplished its mission and was reembarking for the Yokosuka landing, now scheduled for 0930.

Members of the Yokosuka Occupation Force, 2/4 Marines, inspect a Japanese fortification on Futtsu Saki. [USMC 134741]. Besides the Marines, the landing force was accompanied by 10 U.S. Navy gunners mates familiar with large naval pieces to disable the captured guns. 

Filed Under: Other Navy Ships Named for Coasties

With the news earlier this month that SECNAV will be naming one of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers after the late (great) Capt. Quentin Walsh, USCG, I’ve seen several news sources– both mainstream and in the military blogosphere— say this is the first occasion that the U.S. Navy has named a warship after a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Simply not true.

To the best of my knowledge, there are at least three other occasions (and likely more that I can’t think of) that have predated them.

1. USS Newcomb (DD-586), a Fletcher-class destroyer is named for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb of the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard’s predecessor. After Civil War service in the Navy, Newcomb was commissioned as an officer in the USRCS and in 1898 while in command of the plucky little USRC Hudson, came to the assistance of the crippled torpedo boat USS Winslow during the Battle of Cárdenas in the war with Spain.

Cutter HUDSON rescues the USS Winslow from Spanish land batteries off Cardenas Bay, Cuba

He was given a special Congressional Gold Medal for his part in the Spanish–American War– the only one issued by Congress for the conflict. USS Newcomb only made it to the Pacific in 1944, but received 8 battle stars for World War II service, having been present from Saipan to Okinawa. At the former, she sank Japanese submarine I-185, and on 4 July 1944 “her well-directed fire broke up a Japanese banzai attack north of Garapan.”

2. Canadian-born S1C Douglas Albert Munro, USCGR, was 22 when he gave his last full measure at the Second Battle of the Matanikau on Guadalcanal in September 1942 when he was placed in charge of the extrication of a force of the 7th Marines that had been overrun by the Japanese. He was killed while using the boat he was piloting to shield a landing craft filled with Marines from Japanese fire and received the MOH for his “extraordinary heroism,” endorsed by Halsey himself. His dying words before he slumped into the great beyond were, “Did they get off?”

Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal by Bernard D’Andrea.

The Butler-class destroyer escort USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422) was named in his honor in 1944, serving in both WWII and the Korean War. Further, the Coast Guard has named two large sea-going cutters after Munro, who is the service’s only MOH recipient.

3. DDG-133 was named earlier this year for former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. Of course, the fact that he served as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995 likely had more to do with that than his time in the Coast Guard (1959-60) and USCGR (1960-68), but nonetheless, it was mentioned in the calculus of the decision by SECNAV for bestowing his name to a $1 Billion+ cruiser-sized destroyer.

190506-N-DM308-001 WASHINGTON (May 6, 2019) An artist rendering of the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sam Nunn (DDG 133). (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released)

Honorable mention:

Then, of course, there is the case of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who as Secretary of the Treasury founded the Revenue Marine (the Coast Guard’s ancestor) in 1790. While the Revenue Cutter Service/USCG has named at least four ocean-going cutters after the storied Revolutionary War hero and service founder– one of which was lost to a U-boat in WWII– the Navy has also counted a warship with the same name on the Navy List: the ballistic missile submarine USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617), from 1963 to 1993.

Any others that you know of? Please share with me so we all do!

Warship Wednesday, March 27

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  March 27

Restored PT-658 in June 2012

Here we see a one of the very last of hundreds of PT boats built during WWII for the Allied Navies. She is PT-658 and she is wearing her correct 1945-style Measure 31-20L Camouflage. Built in just five months in 1945, she was completed 30 July 1945 by Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA. During WWII there were the Elco boats, Huckings, Vosper and the Higgins boats, all similar designs. Some 620~ of all types were ordered and 199 of these were the 78-foot Higgins boats. While not all were finished, 99 of the 531 PT boats that served during World War II, were lost to various causes.

Higgins Boat under construction in New Orleans while a Coasty looks on to keep everyone honest

Higgins Boat under construction in New Orleans while a Coasty looks on to keep everyone honest

Comparison between the Elco and Higgins boats

Comparison between the Elco and Higgins boats

Finished  too late for the war she was to be assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FORTY FIVE (PTRon 45), but this group was never stood up. If she had been, odds are she would have shipped out to the Pacific and would never have been seen again. You see after WWII the Navy sank, burned, gave away, or just left these boats to rot over there. The lifespan of a plywood boat rushed to completion wasn’t thought to be very long so the Navy wasn’t thrilled about wasting more money on these disposable craft.

The fate of most of the PT boats in WWII. More than 100 were burned in the Philippines alone

The fate of most of the PT boats in WWII. More than 100 were burned in the Philippines alone

She was reclassified as “Small Boat, C105343″, 27 August 1946 and then as “Floating Equipment 3” two years later and kept around as a work boat on the West Coast. For a decade she helped support the DEW station on Santa Rosa Island and chased stray boats out of the Point Mugu missile test range. She was finally sold in 1958 by the Navy to a private owner who used her as the yacht Porpoise. In 1993 a group of PT-boat vets and interested parties found her on the West Coast and tried to save her.

PT-658 was stripped down and then built back up over the course of the past twenty years

PT-658 was stripped down and then built back up over the course of the past twenty years

This group called SAVE THE PT BOAT INC  “was formed by a group of gray-haired ex-PT boaters to take custody of a historic relic, PT 658, a  World-War II motor torpedo boat, and restore it to original operating condition, with full armament and three 1,850 horsepower Packard V-12 engines.” and it seems as if they are well within reach of that goal.

On 'patrol' with a 25-foot USCG Homeland Security Boat
PT-658 is one of just 11 WWII-era PT boats left, and is one of the very few of these boats that are still any type of operational condition. In fact, she is the only 100% authentically restored U.S. Navy PT boat actually operational today. You can check her out in Portland, Oregon at the Swan Island Navy Operational Support Center Pier.

Specifications:

Displacement 56 t.
Length 78′
Beam 20′ 8″
Draft 5′ 3″
Speed 41 kts.
Complement 17
Armament: As a late war Higgins (PT625 class) the PT658 was, for her size, one of the most heavily armed vessels in the US Navy
She carried :

  • one 40mm Bofors M3 cannon aft,
  • one 37mm Oldsmobile M9 autocannon offset to port forward,
  • 2 twin 0.50 cal Browning M2 Machine Guns amidships:
  • 2 M4 20mm Oerlikon cannons;
  • 4 Mk13 Aircraft Torpedoes: (600# warhead) 22.5 inch diameter, 13’ 6″ long, 33.5 knot speed, weight 2216#, range 6300yds (~3.5 miles) filled with 2800 psi air, grain alcohol and water to run a steam turbine turning gear operated counter rotating propellers.
  • 2 M6 300# TNT depth charges: Manual depth setting and manual release
  • plus smallarms and a smoke generator.

Radar : US Navy “SO” Type Radar : This radar was fitted on PT Boats beginning in 1943 and was later replaced towards the end of the war with SJ. Both were 3000 MHz with 50kw pulse, surface search radars made by Raytheon. Approximate range was 25 Nautical Miles.

Propulsion: Three 4,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.

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