Tag Archive | iron navy

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Here at LSOZI, we 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, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives Photo No. 447-2863.1

Here we see the lead ship of her class of “treaty-era” heavy cruisers, HMS York (90) looming out of the fog in Vancouver, British Columbia, 10 August 1938.

Sometimes referred to as the “Cathedral” class cruisers, York and her near-sister HMS Exeter (68) were essentially cheaper versions of the Royal Navy’s baker’s dozen County-class cruisers, the latter of which were already under-protected to keep them beneath the arbitrary 10,000-ton limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Weighing in at 8,250-tons, the Yorks were intended not for fleet action but for the role of sitting on an overseas station and chasing down enemy commerce raiders in the event of war.

York mounted six 8″/50 (20.3 cm) Mark VIII guns in three twin Mark II mounts. Fairly capable guns, they could fire a 256-pound SAP shell out past 30,000 yards at a (theoretical) rate of up to six rounds per gun per minute. Importantly, they carried 172 rounds per gun, up from the 125-150 carried by the preceding County-class, a factor which allowed a slightly longer engagement time before running empty.

Bow turrets of HMS York. Photograph by Mrs. Josephine Burston, via Navweaps

Notably, Exeter was completed with the same main gun but in Mark II* mounts, which allowed for a shallower 50-degree elevation. That vessel also had a slightly different arrangement for her funnels and masts, giving her a distinctive profile.. (A 3553) HMS EXETER. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205137940

Rounding out the cruisers’ offensive armament was a half-dozen deck-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes and a battery of DP 4-inch guns and Vickers machine guns to ward off aircraft, the latter of which was apparently never installed. Built with overseas service in mind, they could cover 10,000nm at 14 knots. Able to achieve 32.3-knots due to having 80,000-shp via Parsons geared steam turbines, they sacrificed armor protection for speed and magazine space, with just 1-inch of steel on their turrets and a belt that was just 3-inches at its thickest.

As noted by Richard Worth in his excellent tome, Fleets of World War II:

In trimming down the County layout, designers managed to retain several features, though sea keeping suffered. Protection also received low priority; the armor scheme (similar in proportion to the County type) included some advances, but all in all, the Yorks seemed even more vulnerable, especially in the machinery spaces.

Ordered 1926 Build Programme, York was the ninth such RN vessel to carry the name since 1654 and was constructed at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow. Commissioned 1 May 1930, she was a striking vessel for her age. A true peacetime cruiser.

British Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS York (90) secured to a buoy 1930 IWM FL 4185

York’s motto was Bon Espoir (“Good Hope”) borrowed from Edmund Langley, First Duke of York, and she exemplified that for her early career.

For the next decade she would embark on a series of “waving the flag” port visits around the globe as she shifted between North America and West Indies Station to the Mediterranean Fleet. A beautiful ship, she was often the subject of amazing period photos and newsreel footage.

She would log 61,000 miles at sea between November 1936 and April 1939 alone, as ably told by Robert John Terry on his website.

A British man of war at Washington, D.C. H.M.S. York, the flagship of the British West Indian Fleet, docks at the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. She brought Vice Admiral, the Hon. Sir Matthew R. Best, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O., R.N., to Washington where he will be the guest of honor at a round of social functions, 30 October 1935. Harris & Ewing photo in LOC collection.

The same day, with bluejackets inspecting the British man-o-war from the Navy Yard docks. Note her Fairey IIIF floatplane, an anemic biplane that dated back to the Great War. LOC Photo.

Same day. This photograph was made from the deck of the USS Sequoia, the yacht used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. LOC Photo.

HMS York in the port of Montreal 20 June 1937 via the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Vieux-Montréal, photo P48S1P01697

“Picking up the Plane at 20 MPH.” Note her 4-inch DP gun in the foreground. The new Supermarine Walrus floatplane was picked up in late 1936. As noted by Leo Marriot, in his book, Catapult Aircraft: Seaplanes That Flew From Ships Without Flight Decks, “By no stretch of the imagination could the Walrus be considered a graceful aircraft and it was universally and affectionally known as the ‘Shagbat.'” Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York Anchored St Lucia, Walrus on deck. Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York entering Havana, Cuba, with the historic Morro Castle in the background, 14 January 1938. Created from personal photograph in the collection of RN CPO(Tel) George A (“Art”) Browness, “Sparks” (Wireless Telegraphist) onboard HMS York, by Ian Browness, his son. Via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 1939, York would receive a new skipper that would see her throughout the war, CAPT Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN, a naval aviator turned surface warfare officer who earned his DSC in 1916, “For conspicuous gallantry during a combat with an enemy aeroplane in the Dardanelles.”

CAPT Reginald Henry Portal by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, January 1943, NPG x164616

Deployed with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the America and West Indies Station when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939, York made for Halifax and by 15 September was escorting convoys going across the Atlantic from Canada to Europe. Before the end of the year, she would be a part of a half-dozen Halifax (HX) convoys, keeping an eye peeled for German raiders.

York with her warpaint on

By February 1940, she was reassigned to 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, and worked with the Northern Patrol looking for Axis blockade runners trying to make it back to the Fatherland. With a degree of success in the latter, she sent the 3,359-ton German freighter Arucas to the bottom of the Atlantic off Iceland on 3 March.

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

April through June saw her extensively involved in the Norway campaign from supporting landings at Andalsnes to the evacuation of Narvik.

Transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in August, she ran the gauntlet from Alexandria to Gibraltar for the next several months, escorting UK-to-Egypt troopship convoys, and often brushing up against the Italian fleet. Once such instance found York stumbling upon the Italian Soldati-class destroyer Artigliere, stopped, and on fire after the Battle of Cape Passero on the morning of 12 October.

Artigliere struck her flag, cleared her crew, and was promptly finished off by a brace of torpedoes from York.

The Italian destroyer Artigliere is finished by torpedoes from HMS York at 9.05 on the morning of October 12th, 1940, after the battle of Cape Passero. The ship’s stern ammunition magazines explode after the torpedo hit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A lucky ship thus far in the war, York screened the carrier HMS Illustrious during the famous Operation Judgement airstrikes on Italian Fleet at Taranto and increasingly became a player in the actions off Crete, as well as keeping the supply lines open to Malta. This saw her in 1941 start to fend off sustained air attacks by German aircraft.

In March, she took part in Operation Lustre, the move of Allied troops from Egypt to Greece, shepherding fast 3-day convoys from Alexandria to Piraeus. This left her in Suda Bay, Crete with the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force, safely behind a triple torpedo net array that left her impervious to attack from the sea.

Enter Xª Flottiglia MAS

On the night of 25/26 March, the old Italian destroyers Francesco Crispi and Quintino Sella hove to some 10 miles out from Suda Bay. Using special cranes, they deployed LT (Tenente di Vascello) Luigi Faggioni of the 10th MAS Flotilla and his five shipmates. Faggioni & Company each helmed an 18-foot Motoscafo da Turismo (Modified Tourism Motorboat).

The MTs, 18-foot long boats powered by a 95-hp Alfa Romeo AR outboard motor, could make 33-knots while floating in just a few inches of water– shallow enough to jump over torpedo nets.

With the single boat operator hanging 10 off the end of the MT, the bow of the vessel was filled with a 660-pound high-explosive warhead that could be rigged to either detonate on impact or detached and allowed to sink alongside a target for a later, timed, explosion.

Not intended to be a suicide craft, akin to the Japanese Shinyo/Maru-ni, the operator ideally would bail out over the back of the boat on the final leg of the attack run, and paddle to safety on their backrest which, predating today’s air travel briefing, doubled as a flotation device.

To make a long story short three MT boats managed to penetrate the harbor and braved the near-freezing water to make the final attack just before dawn. Two boats, piloted by future admiral Angelo Cabrini and petty officer Tullio Tedeschi, hit York’s portside– although it should be noted that numerous wartime reports are that just one boat struck the British cruiser. The third boat, piloted by Emilio Barberi, hit the 8,324-ton Norwegian tanker Pericles. Faggioni’s boat hit a pier.

The 1954 Dino De Laurentiis action film, Siluri umani, released as “Human Torpedoes” in English-speaking markets, highlighted the MTMs of Xª Flottiglia MAS and the Suda Bay raid.

The highly dramatized meat and potatoes of the raid starts at about the 1:16 mark

York, crippled, was beached with two of her crew dead, five men injured, and most of her below deck machinery spaces full of water.

The British continued to use York as a AAA battery for another two months with her hull resting on the bottom of the Bay as her engineering gang tried to pump out and shore up her spaces in the hope of putting to sea for Alexandria and more repairs.

To provide power to her ship’s systems, the submarine HMS Rover tied up alongside and arranged electrical lines enough to work the big ship’s guns and communications. This, however, left her in a fixed position in an increasingly German part of the globe, which left her a target.

Various sources list a range of German air attacks by JU-88 bombers on 12, 21, 22, and 24 April– two of which caused further damage to the ship– with one such raid leaving a pair of divers working over the side on her broken hull dead from a near miss.

At the same time, some of the ship’s company were detailed to provide beach parties for the evacuation of Greece.

On 18 May, the party was over and York was hit and seriously damaged by a German JU-87 dive-bomber attack, ending her usefulness, at the time the largest surface ship chalked up by Stuka pilots (Hans-Ulrich Rudel would later be able to claim a kill on the Great War-era Soviet Battleship Marat/ex- Petropavlovsk in Leningrad in November).

With the endgame in Crete being written and the German airborne invasion starting on the 20th, York was abandoned and blown up in place on the 22nd, her remaining crew withdrawn to Egypt where the understrength Mediterranean Fleet was licking their wounds.

The hype

By June, the Italians outnumbered the British in the Eastern Med four operational battleships to two and with 11 cruisers stacked up against three, nonetheless, this would soon be rectified by coming events after December.

Sir Henry, York’s skipper, would go on to become commander of the battleship Royal Sovereign, serve as an ADC to King George VI, become a member of the Bath in 1946, and retire as an admiral in 1951.

As a result of her damage from the Luftwaffe, the Germans claimed to have destroyed York in battle for the remainder of the war, although the Italian Navy cited their own MTM attack as her principal method of death. Half a dozen of one, six of the other, I suppose.

Both countries circulated images of her smashed hull and deck spaces for their own purposes.

Epilogue

After the war, the rusty hulk of York was raised and towed to Bari, where it was scrapped by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.

Her boat badge is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

She was also remembered in maritime art and several scale model companies over the years have recreated her in plastic.

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Her only sister, Exeter, would famously go toe-to-toe with the “pocket battleship” KMS Adm. Graf Spee in December 1939 and be left nearly crippled after seven 11.1-inch shells found a home in her spaces. Patched up, she would be sunk at the Java Sea by 8-inch Japanese shells in 1942.

York’s name was recycled in 1981 for a new Batch III Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98), the last of her class. She was decommissioned in 2012 after more than three decades of hard service to the Crown and is the 12th in an exceptionally long line of HMS Yorks.

Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98) making a turn on her 2005 Far East deployment. MOD Photo 45145563 by LA(Phot) Kelly Whybrow. She was broken up in Turkey in 2015, and the name “York” has not appeared on the RN List since.

As for the MTM drivers, the six Italian frogmen were picked up floating around Souda Bay by the British, and kept as POWs until after the Italian armistice in 1944 although they would be decorated in absentia with the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, Italy’s highest military honor. Faggioni would become an admiral, working with COMSUBIN commandos after the war, and died in 1991.

Likewise, Cabrini and Tedeschi would later lend their names to a class of high-speed multipurpose patrol boats for the modern Italian Navy, intended to carry frogmen on deeds of daring-do.

Tullio Tedeschi was launched in 2019 by Tullio Tedeschi’s daughter, Rosangela Tedeschi.

The Angelo Cabrini-class patrol boat, Tullio Tedeschi (P421). Some 144-feet oal, they can carry a team of 20 commandos at speeds up to 50 knots

Specs:

1932 Jane’s listing. Both ships of her class would be gone from Janes by 1942

Displacement:
8,250 long tons (8,380 t) (standard)
10,620 long tons (10,790 t) (deep load)
Length: 575 ft
Beam: 57 ft
Draught: 20 ft 3 in
Propulsion: 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 shafts 80,000 shp
Speed: 32.25 knots
Range: 10,000 nmi at 14 knots
Complement:628
Armor:
Belt: 3 in
Decks: 1.5 in
Barbettes: 1 in
Turrets: 1 in
Bulkheads: 3.5 in
Magazines: 3–4.375 in
Aircraft: FIVH style catapult, one Fairey IIIF seaplane (1930-) Walrus flying boat (1936-)
Armament:
3 × twin 8-inch (203 mm) guns
4 × single QF 4-inch (102 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) guns
2 × single 2-pounder (40 mm) AA guns
2 × triple 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

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, May 20, 2020: The Long Pennant

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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

(Shorter than normal due to events beyond my control)

Warship Wednesday, May 20, 2020: The Long Pennant

National Archives photo 80-G-700448

Here we see the deck of the Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS Langley (CVL-27) on this day, 75 years ago, flying her homeward-bound pennant after spending one hell of a tour forward-deployed in the Pacific. As a rule, such pennants are only authorized for cruises lasting more than nine months, and Langley had managed almost twice that.

As noted by the Navy:

By tradition, the Homeward Bound Pennant is flown by ships that are on continuous overseas duty for nine months and returning to a U.S. port. The length of the pennant is one foot for each Sailor on the ship who has served on board while overseas in excess of nine months. It is divided vertically into two sections. Closest to the hoist is a blue field with one white star indicating nine months of service away from the U.S. An additional star is for each additional six months away. The remaining pennant is divided horizontally into halves, the upper being white and the lower being red. Upon the ship’s return to homeport, the blue portion of the pennant with the white star will be presented to the skipper while the remaining white and red half of the pennant will be divided equally among the officers and crew who served on the vessel for the prerequisite 270 days.

Built at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on a converted cruiser hull, our ship was originally to be the Cleaveland-class light cruiser USS Fargo (CL-85) but was converted to a light carrier named in tandem after the aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley, and the Navy’s first flattop, the converted collier “covered wagon” USS Langley (CV-1).

Commissioned 31 August 1943, the 11,000-ton carrier sailed for points west, and by 19 January 1944, she sailed from Pearl Harbor for her first overseas combat operation as part of with then-RADM Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58, bound for the attack on the Marshall Islands.

For the next 16 months, she would be forward deployed across the Pacific, earning nine battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation in the process.

Langley’s aircraft hit Japanese positions on Palau, Yap, Woleai, Caroline Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Peleliu. She would mix it up in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, run amok off Formosa and the Pescadores, then support the liberation of the Philippines.

Task Group 38.3 enters Ulithi anchorage in a column, 12 December 1944 while returning from strikes on targets in the Philippines. Ships are (from front): Langley (CVL-27); Ticonderoga (CV-14); Washington (BB-56); North Carolina (BB-55); South Dakota (BB-57); Santa Fe (CL-60); Biloxi (CL-80); Mobile (CL-63) and Oakland (CL-95). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-301351).

Again she would clash with the remnants of the Japanese surface fleet at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea and the ensuing Battle off Cape Engaño where her planes would help write the final chapter of the carriers Zuihō and Zuikaku, the latter being the only remaining flattop of the six that had participated in the Pearl Harbor attack.

She endured Typhoon Cobra, a week before Christmas 1944.

THE LANGLEY IN THE MIDST OF THE GREAT TYPHOON OF DECEMBER, 1944.
Why are these sailors smiling? Perhaps they are happy not to be in the gun tub under the stacks – or wherever the crazy photographer is standing! M.D. “Pat” Donavan, who was a VT44 pilot, wrote “We called it the Christmas Typhoon and a lot of Christmas mail and packages were lost when the Hull, Spence, and Monahan, three DDs, capsized and were lost with all hands. As I recall, only the ship’s officers knew that the Langley was designed to take a 35-degree roll and actually went to 38. Fortunately, the word didn’t get around to the air group.”
Photo courtesy and copyright of The USS Langley CVL-27 Association 

Still chugging along, Langley went along for the raid on Indochina and occupied China in early 1945, where she caught a Japanese dive bomber’s deadly egg in the process, then turned towards Japan for strikes against the Home Islands to prep for taking Okinawa. Following operations for that scarred island, which included narrowly escaping crippling kamikaze strikes, she was allowed to retire homeward for repairs and modernization at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco– and broke out her homeward bound pennant shown at the top.

Due to the shipyard break, her shooting war ended on May 20 and she only returned to the Western Pacific under a U.S. flag for Magic Carpet voyages to bring the boys back. She would make two trips to the Pacific on such happy sorties and two further ones to Europe before Langley was decommissioned on 11 February 1947 in Philadelphia.

Refurbished and transferred on loan to France in 1951, she would serve De Gaulle for another decade as the French aircraft carrier LaFayette (R96), notably seeing combat off Indochina– a coastline she had already worked over in 1945– as well as in the struggle for Paris to retain her North African colonies.

The French aircraft carrier LAFAYETTE (R 96) former USS LANGLEY (CVL-27) at Mers el Kebir, Algeria North Africa 1962. Note the airwing of F4U Corsairs, TBM Avengers, and Piasecki H-21 Shawnee.

Returned to the U.S. in 1963, she was scrapped, although relics of her remain.

Still, she had an epic 1944-45 deployment that is hard to beat.

CAPT. WALLACE (GOTCH) DILLON, COMMANDING OFFICER. The symbols painted on the side of the island represent 48 enemy aircraft shot down, 22 bombing missions, 3 warships, and 8 merchant ships sunk, and 63 aircraft destroyed on the ground. Photo courtesy and copyright of The USS Langley CVL-27 Association

Specs:
Displacement: 11,000 long tons (11,000 t)
Length: 622 ft 6 in (189.74 m)
Beam: 109 ft 2 in (33.27 m)
Draft: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Speed: 31.6 kn (58.5 km/h; 36.4 mph)
Complement: 1,569 officers and men
Armament: 26 × Bofors 40 mm guns
Aircraft carried: 30-40

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, May 13, 2020: Sisu via dugout canoe

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, May 13, 2020: Sisu via dugout canoe

Photo via the SA-Kuva archives http://sa-kuva.fi/neo#

Here we see the submarine Vesikko of the Finnish Navy surfacing in the Baltic, 1 August 1941, note her 20mm Madsen cannon, twin periscopes, and net cutter. Built as what could best be described as a demo model with help from a shady low-key U-boat concern, she went on to become Helsinki’s last submarine, an honor proudly held for the past seven decades.

Early Finn submarine efforts

Incorporated into the Tsarist Empire in 1809 as the Grand Duchy of Finland after a relatively one-sided war between Russia and Sweden, the region’s ports and inlets proved vital bases for the Imperial Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet for over a century with the Gulf of Finland essentially a Russian bathtub. As such, many of the Tsar’s small core of professional mariners hailed from the land.

The Tsarist Navy, between 1901 and 1917, fielded around 50 submarines, most in the Baltic, across 10 different classes which included not only domestic production centered in St. Petersburg/Petrograd but also American, German and Italian-made boats as well. Many of these operated from Finnish ports during the Great War with mixed results and six of the seven Russian subs lost during the conflict went down in Baltic waters. Added to this were a bag of nine small British submarines of the C- and E-class which likewise operated from Finnish waters from 1915 onward.

These two facts made it clear that the Finns had a measure of early respect for the submarine, a weapon that had great utility in the cramped Baltic if used properly.

In late 1917, as Imperial Russia was falling apart and the Bolshevik government was actively courting the Germans for a separate peace treaty to exit the Great War, Finland broke away and declared independence. Meanwhile, the Germans made a move to ally themselves with newly-free Helsinki, a flip that led the British to scuttle all nine of their Baltic-deployed boats at the outer roads of the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) off Helsinki on 3 April 1918 and evac their crews overland. Three days later, the Russians still in relative possession of four late-model American/Canadian-built Holland 602-type boats (AG-11, AG-12, AG-15, and AG-16) sent their vessels to the bottom of the harbor in Hango, another Finnish port.

This left newly-independent Finland with no less than 13 wrecked submarines in their coastal regions, two of which, AG-12 and AG-16, were deemed to be the least damaged and were raised in 1919 for possible use by the new country. The two boats lingered onshore for a decade while a variety of submarine experts from Britain, Germany, and the U.S. cycled through to evaluate returning them back into service. In the end, the two boats were too far gone and were sent to the breakers by 1929 in favor of new construction.

Guten morgen, Unterseeboot shoppers!

This led to the curious operation from Finland’s Turku-based A/B Crichton-Vulcan Oy shipyard to produce a series of small coastal submarines–the first warships to be built in independent Finland. The boats were designed by the Dutch front company Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw (IvS), which was, in fact, a dummy funded by the German Weimar-era Reichsmarine using design assets from German shipyards AG Vulcan, Krupp-Germaniawerft, and AG Weser to keep Berlin in the sub-making biz while skirting the ban on such activity by the Versailles treaty.

IvS had previously built boats and shared technology to Turkey, Spain, and the Soviet Union before they moved to start making boats in Finland in 1926. Dubbed a “Tarnorganisation” or camouflage organization by German historians, IvS had one of its principal administrators former German Korvettenkapitän Karl Bartenbach, who had been the Kaiser’s submarine training boss during the Great War.

The first three Finnish-built boats, the 500-ton/208-foot Vetehinen (Merman) class subs, were based on the German WWI Type UB III and Type UC III submarines and served as an early prototype for Kreigsmarine’s later Type VII submarines, the most numerous U-boat type of WWII. All three were constructed side-by-side and were operational by 1931, with IvS training their crews. Their names: Vetehinen (builder’s hull CV 702), Vesihiisi (hull CV 703), and Iku-Turso (hull CV 704).

Then came the tiny 115-ton/106-foot submarine minelayer Saukko (Otter), designed to operate on Lake Lagoda– which was shared by the Soviet Union and Finland– built by Hietalahti in Helsinki.

In this period, Bartenbach, still officially furloughed from the German Navy, was serving in the Finnish Navy directly as an advisor.

These early boats had extensive lessons-learned knowledge gleaned by IvS experts who were reserve Reichsmarine officers during trails and shakedown periods.

This brings us to our little Vesikko.

Enter CV 707, err Vesikko.

Originally constructed as IvS hull CV 707, our feature submarine was built slowly between August 1931 and October 1933 in what Jane’s at the time called “private speculation” and “Is actually a German design.” The Finns had first right of refusal on the boat when it came up for sale, open until 1937.

Submarine CV-707 at Crichton-Vulcan shipyard, shortly after sea trial performed by German submarine specialists from IvS, summer 1933. Her unofficial skipper at the time was Werner “Fips” Fürbringer, the Kaiserliche Marine ace who sank 101 ships during the Great War. He was later promoted to the rank of Konteradmiral during World War II.

Some 134-feet long and displacing just 250-tons when surfaced, she only needed a small 16-man crew but carried a trio of 21-inch torpedo tubes with two spare fish stored inside the hull for reloads.

Her trio of torpedo tubes. Finnish caption “Vesikon torpedoa kunnostetaan. Kirkkomaa 1941.07.27” SA-Kuva 29498

While the Germans used her to test their first generation of G-series torpedoes, the Finns would equip their submarines with British T/30 and T/33 type fish.

Capable of floating in 13.5-feet of clear Baltic water, she could submerge in as little as 40 feet. As it wasn’t intended that she would operate outside of the narrow shallow sea, her dive limit of 300 feet wasn’t an issue. Able to make 13 knots on the surface and 7 submerged, her 1,500nm range would enable a war patrol of up to two weeks. Simple, she had an all-welded single hull with no watertight compartments.

A small, somewhat cramped ship, Germans submariners would dub her type as einbaum (dugout canoe).

Submarine Vesikko in Suomenlinna in her Finnish warpaint after 1937, via Submarine Vesikko Museum collections. She started off simply as CV707.

While deadly, her design could also be used in another capacity– training.

CV 707, as a private boat, was at the disposal of IvS submarine crews operating in Finnish waters and, within a year, the updated design was under construction in Germany as the Type IIA coastal submarine, with KMS U-1 officially ordered 2 February 1935 and commissioned four months later.

German submarine U 1 on trials, 1935, the country’s first “official” unterseeboot since 1919. Note the resemblance to CV707, down to the small tower with twin periscopes and serrated net cutter design.

The resemblance to the Finnish boat is striking.

In all, the Germans would construct 50 Type IIs by 1940 and the type would serve a vital training mission for the Kreigsmarine with a half-dozen later broken down and shipped overland to operate against the Soviets in the Black Sea during WWII.

German U-1 type submarines, passing in review in line-ahead (formation) before Grand Admiral Raeder. Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann, 1939. NYPL collection

At the same time, sub expert Bartenbach had been recalled to serve in the newly formed Kriegsmarine in March 1934–after an official 14-year break– and promptly put on the uniform of a Kapitän zur See. Serving in vital submarine development roles, he would retire as a rear admiral in 1938.

With Parliamentary approval, the Finnish Navy purchased the one-off CV707 in January 1936 and dubbed her Vesikko in May, putting her to work as their fifth, and as it would turn out final submarine.

Submarine Vesikko’s entire crew. In Finnish service, she would go to sea with between 16 and 20 men. In German service, the type, filed with trainees, would usually carry 24 to 30

Soon she was involved in a war, the November 1939-March 1940 Winter War with the invading Soviets, during which she patrolled the Gulf of Finland on the lookout for Red warships until iced in by mid-December.

Sukellusvene Vesikko vauhdissa. Sa-kuva 81184

Allowed to be retained after the tense cease-fire with Moscow, Vesikko again became active in what the Finns have called the Continuation War, their limited involvement against the Soviet Union from June 1941 onward. Vesikko sank the 4,100-ton Soviet transport Vyborg on 3 July 1941 with a single torpedo and survived a resulting depth charge attack to boot. It would be her only significant victory.

Finnish submarine Vesikko with Madsen 20mm cannon 19 July 1941 Sa-Kuva 80467

Vedenalaisen konetykkiä korjataan. Hangon lohko 1941.07.29 SA-Kuva 30398

Restricted from operations during the Baltic winter, she would spend the summers of 1942 and 1943 on patrol and reconnaissance duties but, as the Soviet Navy typically did not venture out of Krondstadt or besieged Leningrad, where they were protected by rings of nets and minefields, Vesikko did not chalk up any more kills. In fact, Vyborg was the only surface ship ever sunk by a Finnish submarine (although in 1942 Vesihiisi sank the Soviet submarine S 7, Iku-Turso sank the Soviet sub Shtsh 320, and Vetehinen accounted for Shtsh 305 though a mixture of torpedos and ramming).

By the summer of 1944, with the war turning against the Finns and their German allies on the Eastern Front, Vesikko was used to shepherd evacuation transports in Karelia as the Red Army surged forward.

In September, as Helsinki worked out a second cease-fire with Stalin in four years, the so-called Moscow Armistice, the Finnish Navy was sidelined and restricted to port, but spared destruction– for awhile at least. In January 1945, the Allied Control Commission ordered Finnish submarines to disarm and Vesikko’s ammunition and torpedoes were landed for what turned out to be the final time.

The 1946-47 Jane’s still listed Finland with five submarines, including our Vesikko.

As part of the multilateral Paris Peace Treaties that were signed in February 1947, Finland had to temporarily hand over control of their port at Porkkala and cede the Barents Sea port of Petsamo (now Pechenga) which had been occupied since 1944 anyway. There were also naval limits, which included eliminating her submarine arm as well as her largest surface ship, the 4,000-ton “lighthouse battleship” Väinämöinen.

While Väinämöinen would be towed to Leningrad and remained in Soviet hands, renamed Vyborg, until her scrapping in 1966, the Finns were allowed to dispose of their submarines themselves, a process, true to their nature of Sisu, they quietly slow-walked.

By 1953, the disarmed Vetehinen, Vesihiiden, Iku-Turso, and Sauko were sold abroad for breaking while Vesikko had been hauled out and stored at Valmet Oy’s shipyard in Helsinki, where she would remain until 1963 as the Finns made overtures to put her back into service.

It was finally decided to retain her as a museum and she was moved to the Suomenlinna fortress and restored to her original 1939 appearance, opening to the public on the anniversary of the Finnish Navy on 9 July 1973 and has since hosted a million visitors.

Here is a great video from the Finnish Defense Forces including wartime footage of Vesikko in service.

Not a bad record for a factory demo model.

Specs:

1946 Janes Vesikko profile

Displacement: 250 tons surfaced, 300 submerged
Length: 134.5 feet
Beam: 13 feet
Draft: 13.5 feet
Machinery: 2 × MWM Diesel 700 PS (690 shp) surface, 2 × Siemens SSW Electric 360 PS (260 kW) submerged
Speed: 13 surfaced, 8 submerged
Range: 1,500 @ 7kts surfaced, 40nm at 4kts submerged
Crew: 16
Armament:
3 x 21-inch tubes, forward with up to five British T/30 and T/33 torpedos carried
1 x 20mm Madsen wet mount
1 x 7.62mm machine gun

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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.

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Warship Wednesday, May 6, 2020: A Ship that Can’t be Licked

Here at LSOZI, we 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, May 6, 2020: A Ship That Can’t Be Licked

Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 83213

Here we see the proud new Robert H. Smith-class light minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34), resplendent in fresh Camouflage Measure 32, Design 11a, on 17 November 1944. Less than six months later, she would look vastly different after an engagement that took place some 75 years ago this week.

The dozen RH Smith-class DMs were all laid down in 1943-44 as Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers at three different yards but were converted during their construction into fast, very well armed, minelayers. They retained their strong gun armament to include a half-dozen 5″/38 cal guns in a trio of twin Mk 38 mounts, a full dozen 40mm Bofors, and another dozen 20mm Oerlikon AAA guns. Likewise, they kept their ASW gear to include sonar and listening gear, two stern depth charge racks, and four K-gun projectors.

Where they differed from the rest of the 50+ Sumner-class tin cans was in the respect that they never had their twin 5-tube 21-inch torpedo tubes installed and in their place picked up a series of rails for up to 80 naval mines that ran lengthways down her deck and a modicum of mechanical sweeping gear.

USS Robert H. Smith (DM 23) Overhead c. 1944. Note her three Mk38 5-inch mounts and amidship mine rails along her weatherdeck loaded with mines ready to drop over the fantail. Also note the four K-guns have been relocated to the aft superstructure, another difference from the standard Allen Sumner class destroyers. Bureau of Ships photo via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/11/0823.htm

The subject of our tale was the third U.S. Navy warship to carry the name of RADM Aaron Ward (USNA 1871). Ward made his mark on naval history during the Spanish–American War, where he was placed in command of the ersatz gunboat USS Wasp, formerly the 202-foot steam yacht Columbia. The hardy little vessel fought at Santiago, enforced the blockade of Cuba, helped send the better-armed Spanish sloop Jorge Juan to the bottom of the ocean, and engaged targets ashore. Ward would retire from the Navy in 1913 as second in command of the Atlantic Fleet and pass away in Brooklyn in 1918.

Ward, shown left in 1898 as a lieutenant on the armed yacht USS Wasp during the Spanish-American War and right as a rear admiral in Special Full-Dress uniform in 1913. NHHC photos NH 98489 and NH 42076.

His name was celebrated on the Wickes-class destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-132), which would serve in the U.S. Navy from 1919 to 1940 and then under the White Ensign as HMS Castleton during World War II, transferred as part of the “50 destroyers” deal.

USS Aaron Ward (Destroyer # 132) Off the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, 10 April 1919. NH 57701

The second vessel to carry the name of our hero was the Gleaves-class destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) which was commissioned 4 March 1942 and lost just 13 months later when she was sunk by Japanese aircraft off Guadalcanal, four battle stars for her WWII service.

USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) approaching USS Wasp (CV-7) on 17 August 1942, during operations in the Solomon Islands area. 80-G-12263

Which brings us to USS Aaron Ward (DM-34).

Laid down as DD-773 on 12 December 1943 at Bethlehem Shipbuilding’s West Coast works at San Pedro, California she was commissioned less than a year later on 28 October 1944 as DM-34.

On 9 February 1945, after workups, she departed San Pedro, bound for Pearl Harbor, then by 16 March joined the Mine Flotilla of the 5th Fleet’s Task Force (TF) 52 at Ulithi. Soon enough, she was bound for the Ryukyu Islands and the big push on Okinawa.

She finished March by downing a confirmed three Japanese aircraft and started April with four days of close-in naval gunfire support for Marines hitting the beach on Okinawa. As the month wore on, she had more brushes with enemy aircraft, downing a Japanese plane on the 27th and another on the 28th. By the end of her (very short) service off Okinawa, her gunners would stencil 18 kyokujitsuki flags on her “scoreboard.”

While replenishing at Kerama Retto, she came to the assistance of the sinking transport USS Pinkney (APH-2) after a kamikaze scored a hit on that auxiliary.

On 30 April, the Aaron Ward turned seaward once again and was installed on one of the series of radar pickets, No. 10, which were to provide critical early warning of inbound Japanese kamikaze waves.

Caption: Fifteen radar picket stations are shown. Stations will be occupied as directed by OTC. Radar pickets steam within a radius of 5000 yds. of the center of the station. The station center of each radar picket is indicated in latitude and longitude, range, and bearing from point BOLO. COMPHIBSPAC OP PLAN Ai-45

While working radar picket station number 10, she helped repulse several air attacks but got a respite from the worst of it due to bad weather. However, on the afternoon of 3 May, the weather cleared.

51 Minutes of Hell

With her radar spotting bogies at 27 miles out, her gunners manned their posts, and soon enough a pair of Japanese planes vectored right for her. At 18:13 hours, a group of 18 to 24 aircraft attacked from under cloud cover. Soon, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Little (DD-803) was wracked with no less than five kamikazes that struck that tin can. By 19:55 Little broke up and went down.

After all, what destroyer could survive five kamikazes?

As it turned out, Ward was smothered by six that came close enough to do damage over 51 minutes of hell.

Via Destroyer Report- Gunfire, Bomb and Kamikaze Damage Including Losses in Action 17 October 1941 to 15 August 1945

Line drawing of the ship showing areas of damage via NHHC

1- Near miss crash. Engine and propeller hit Mt. 3.
2- ZEKE hit Mt. 44. 2B Bomb blew out side after engine room.
3- Near miss crash damaged rigging and No. 1 stack.
4- VAL hit the main deck, frame 81.
4B- Near miss bomb blew in side forward fireroom.
5- VAL crashed deckhouse, frame 90.
6- Plane hit after stack.
6B- Bomb detonated in after uptakes.

Aaron Ward was hit as shown in the above diagram by six Kamikazes and three large bombs, estimated to have been 250 Kg GP. All spaces between bulkheads 72 and 170 flooded to the waterline except for the forward engine room and certain starboard water tanks. Free surface extended through five major compartments, 1650 tons of water were shipped, and GM was reduced to approximately 1 foot positive. Severe gasoline and ammunition fires were brought under control after about two hours with the assistance of LCS83 alongside. Firemain pressure and power forward remained available throughout due to the use of the forward emergency Diesel generator.

Forty-two sailors died and nearly 100 were injured, a figure that marked nearly half of her crew as casualties.

Why so many hits?

One Navy after-action report on suicide aircraft notes, “When damaged by AA. or harassed by our planes, suiciders selected targets of opportunity. Once hit, a ship was likely to be attacked by other planes seeking to finish it off.”

As noted in USN Bulletin No. 24 Radar Pickets and Methods of Combating Suicide Attacks Off Okinawa, CDR William Henry Sanders, Jr., (USNA 1930), CO USS Aaron Ward, comments:

1. The entire enemy attack appeared to be exceptionally well coordinated by a pilot, or pilots, who understood the limitations of a destroyer’s firepower and took every advantage of smoke and the crippled condition of the ship. In fact, it appeared that the attacks were directed from a control plane which never took part in the assault.

RECENT INFORMATION CONFIRMS THE FACT THAT THE LEADER USUALLY IS EQUIPPED WITH RADAR AND BRINGS HIS GROUP WITHIN VISUAL RANGE. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT THE MORE EXPERIENCED LEADER COULD ALSO DIRECT AND COORDINATE THE ATTACK. CAP OR SHIP GET THAT LEADER!

The operation was too well-coordinated and executed to have been the individual inspiration of each pilot. Not only did planes come in from different directions at the same time, but on several occasions, the first plane was followed immediately by another approximately 1,000 yards astern of the first. This type of attack was seen to deal the death blow to the U.S.S. Little.

2. It is not understood why the Kamikaze does not strafe the target on the way in, as it appears to be a simple matter to close and lock the firing key to the machine guns. Casualties would have been greater had this been done in the attacks on the Aaron Ward.

3. All planes are believed to have used the bridge and main battery director as a point of aim, but due to the radical maneuvering of the ship and the heavy volume of fire forward, this target was never reached; all planes crashed into the superstructure amidships.

4. Before making his run, each pilot circled the ship at a distance of 5 to 6 miles, apparently seeking the most advantageous position from which to start his dive.

THE CAP HAS DONE A MAGNIFICENT JOB IN THESE OPERATIONS BUT OFTEN TOO FEW PLANES HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE. THE CAP MUST BE LARGE ENOUGH AND CAREFULLY STACKED TO TAKE CARE OF A SITUATION OF THIS TYPE, WHICH OBVIOUSLY WAS NOT THE CASE AT THIS CRITICAL MOMENT.

In each suicide run, planes appeared to take their lead angles at a range of from three to four thousand yards, increasing speed considerably and steadying on the attack course. No attempts at evasion were made on any of the runs after the pilot had finally committed himself.

5. From the results of the bombing, it can be readily determined that the pilots had very little experience in bombing and that the release of bombs may have been accidental, caused by the shock of hits from gunfire of this ship.

Amazingly, Aaron Ward survived the night “against raging fires, exploding ammunition and the flooding of all engineering spaces” and the next day arrived at Kerama Retto under tow from sister ship USS Shannon (DM-25) with no freeboard aft, 18 feet draft forward and a 5-degree starboard list.

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) In the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Kamikazes off Okinawa on 3 May. Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, NH 62572

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) Damage amidships received during Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa on 3 May 1945. The view looks down and aft from Aaron Ward’s foremast, with her greatly distorted forward smokestack in the lower center. Photographed while the ship was in the Kerama Retto on 5 May 1945. A mine is visible at left, on the ship’s starboard mine rails. Catalog #: 80-G-330107

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) In the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Japanese suicide planes off Okinawa on 3 May. Note three-bladed aircraft propeller lodged in her superstructure, just forward of the after 5/38 twin gun mount. NH 62571

A closer look at NH 62571, showing the propeller. Note the unexploded depth charges on the deck above, just inches away

One of the kamikazes’ engines was discovered littering the deck (Photo via USS Aaron Ward.com) http://www.ussaaronward.com/History/photo%20tour%20sm%20.htm

Her dead that could be recovered were buried at the U. S. military cemetery at Zamami Shima on Kerma Retto and later moved to Okinawa in 1948. Some 20 souls that were blown overboard during the attack rest in the deep.

From Aaron Ward’s cruise book, via NARA

Aaron Ward remained at Kerama Retto undergoing emergency repairs until 11 June then, against all odds, proceeded under her own power to Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, using just the starboard shaft.

From there, she continued to New York, arriving in mid-August just as the war was ending.

Her story was celebrated nationwide at the time.

From Aaron Ward’s cruise book, via NARA

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz sent accolades to the battered but not broken destroyer, saying “Congratulations on your magnificent performance. We all admire a ship that can’t be licked. The combat record of the USS Aaron Ward and her return from battle in a seriously damaged condition reflect an unusual measure of courage and skill in her officers and men.”

Nonetheless, beyond any economical repair with peacetime coming, she was decommissioned 28 September and sold in the summer of 1946 for scrap.

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) earned a single battle star as well as the Presidential Unit Citation for her brief wartime service. From the time she entered Ulithi atoll to the time she put in at Kerama Retto for a patch job, she spent just 49 days with the fleet. There has not been a fourth “Aaron Ward” on the Navy List.

Her anchor is on display in Elgin, Illinois, where it was installed as a memorial in 1971 by the parents of SN2 Laverne H. Schroeder, USNR, killed on her decks in the 3 May 1945 attack.

Likewise, her story has been covered in several books on the Pacific War including. perhaps most poignantly, in Brave Ship, Brave Men by Arnold S. Lott, an excerpt of which is on the USS Aaron Ward website.

Her only skipper, CDR Sanders, would receive the Navy Cross for the actions of 3 May 1945 and retire as a rear admiral in 1959 after commanding the destroyer tender USS Dixie in the Korean War. He passed in 1992 at the age of 85 and was warmly remembered as a community leader.

For more information on Aaron Ward‘s kamikaze experience, her skipper’s full 60-page after-action report is online at NARA as is her 49-page War History.

The luckiest unlucky class

Of Aaron Ward‘s 11 sister minelayers, at least five would also prove exceptionally hard to kill in the face of the Divine Wind.

  • USS Gwin (DM-33) was swarmed by six Japanese suicide planes the day after Aaron Ward was attacked. She downed five but the final plane embedded itself into Gwin’s aft gun platform, causing 15 casualties.
  • The same day that Gwin was hit, USS Shea (DM-30) was slammed by an MXY-7 Ohka (cherry blossom) human-piloted rocket bomb while on radar picket duty. She suffered 35 dead but was able to make it to the U.S. under her own power for repairs.
  • In June, USS Harry F. Bauer (DM-26) would suffer a kamikaze attack that hit her boat deck and somehow did not trigger the depth charges stored there. In a further stroke of luck, a 550-pound bomb that the doomed Japanese plane had pickled just before it hit the ship remained intact and armed for 17 days before it was removed.
  • USS J. William Ditter (DM 31) was attacked by a large group of kamikazes off Okinawa on 6 June 1945 and extensively damaged when two made it through. Patched up enough to steam home, she, like Ward, was left unrepaired and sold for scrap in 1946.

View of the Kamikaze-damage suffered by the U.S. Navy destroyer-minelayer USS J. William Ditter (DM-31). She was hit by two Kamikazes off Buckner Bay, 6 June 1945. The first did little damage, but the second hit on the port side just below the main deck blowing open the forward engine room and after fireroom. The explosion of the kamikaze’s bomb devastated both spaces, as can be seen in this photograph taken ten days later. NARA photo

  • Another sister, USS Lindsey (DM-32), was hit by two Aichi D3A Vals on 12 April 1945, killing 57 sailors and wounding 57 more. The explosion from the second Val sheered the front 60 feet off her bow and a quick “all back full” by her skipper avoided catastrophic flooding. Given a temporary bow, like Ward and Ditter she sailed back to the states under her own steam. Decommissioned in 1946 after repairs, she was stricken in 1970 and sunk as a target two years later.

USS Lindsey (DM-32) View of extensive damage to the ship’s forward hull and superstructure, received when she was struck by two Kamikaze planes off Okinawa on 12 April 1945. The photograph was taken at Kerama Retto anchorage on 14 April. NARA photo 80-G-330108

And of course, the famous destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which earned the nickname “The Ship That Would Not Die” after surviving six kamikaze attacks and four bomb hits on 16 April 1945 while off Okinawa, was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, which the Smith-class DMs were conversions of.

In short, radar picket duty off Okinawa in 1945 was hazardous to your health, to say the least.

Postscript

Once the war was over, the remaining ships of the class would endure for a while, with five seeing service during the Korean War period, after which they were reclassified as fast minelayers (MMD).

1946-47 Jane’s entry on the surviving members of the class.

By the 1970s, most were sold for scrap except for the kamikaze-surviving Gwin which was transferred to Turkey.

Serving Istanbul as TCG Muavenet (DM-357) for another two decades, she would sadly take a pair of NATO Sea Sparrow missiles to the bridge during a live-fire exercise that went wrong in 1991, causing 24 casualties.

TCG Muavenet (DM-357), ex-USS Gwin (DM-33), in Turkish service.

She was left ablaze after the incident.

Although heavily damaged, Muavenet, true to her class’s reputation, survived and returned to port under her own steam, and was later disposed of.

The last of the dozen Robert H. Smith-class converted destroyers afloat, USS Tolman (DD-740/DM-28/MMD-28) was expended in an exercise on 25 January 1997. A high-powered explosive test charge was installed in her hull and she was sunk in 12,000 feet of deepwater about 61 miles off Mare Island. Appropriately, she had been stripped of much vintage gear for use in the museum destroyer USS Kidd.

Specs:

A nice profile shot of Aaron Ward sistership USS HARRY F. BAUER (DM-26) Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 11 August 1952. Note, she was fitted with a tripod mast in the early 1950s in place of her original, as were most of her sisters that were still active at the time. NH 91909

Displacement: 2,200 tons
Length: 376’6″
Beam: 40’10”
Draft: 18’10”
Propulsion: Four Babcock and Wilcox boilers, two 60,000shp General Electric geared turbines, two shafts.
Speed: 34.2 knots
Complement: 363
Armament:
6 x 5″/38 3×2 Mk38 mounts
12 x 40mm/60 Bofors in six twin mounts
12 x 20mm/70 singles
2 x .50 cal machine guns
2 Depth Charge rails over the fantail
4 K-guns astern
Up to 80 mines (some sources say 100)

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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.

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Warship Wednesday, April 29, 2020: Faithful Battlewagon of the Three Crowns

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, April 29, 2020: Faithful Battlewagon of the Three Crowns

This photo and almost all of the imagery in this post, courtesy of the Swedish Sjöhistoriska museets, with Swedish captions intact.

Here we see the pansarbarten/pansarskepp HMS Svea, the leader of Sweden’s first class of large armored vessels, chilling in Goteborg around 1890. A tough little steel-hulled and sheathed surface combatant, she was a turning point in Stockholm’s naval policy and went on to live a longer life than most of her period contemporaries.

Just after Swedish-born engineer John Ericsson had introduced the ironclad turret warship in 1862 when he lent his genius to the USS Monitor, his homeland soon ordered two classes of iron-hulled coastal monitors to counter Baltic Sea rival, Imperial Russia, as the Tsar was upgrading his own fleet with American-designed monitors. However, by the 1880s, those aforementioned vessels were almost considered quaint by rapidly evolving naval technology.

To reboot their fleet from the first-generation ironclads to steel warships, the Swedes in 1883 placed an order for the 248-foot Svea for 1.24 million krona.

Built of good Swedish Motala Bessemer steel, the 3,050-ton vessel was outfitted with early compound carbon steel armor, her belt running upwards of 11-inches thick down to 2-inches over the deck. Essentially a slow protected cruiser or coastal battleship of about 3,300-tons, she could make 14-knots on her steam plant (she made 16 on trials) and float in 17 feet of water. American military almanacs of the time classified her as a “first-class ironclad” despite her steel coat.

Sammanställningsritning, profil samt 2 st planritningar på trossdäck KR 2775

Her main armament was a pair of British-made Elswick/Woolwich 10″/32cal m/1885 guns (as carried by the modernized RN ironclad HMS Thunderer) in a forward turret backed up by a quartet of 5.9-inch Armstrong-produced singles, several smaller Nordenfelt/Palmcrantz anti-torpedo boat guns, and a single 15-inch torpedo tube in her bow, described in naval journals of the time as an “appliance for firing mines.” Speaking of the latter, she also carried a pair of steam launches with spar torpedoes, a common tactic for the 1880s.

Electrically-lit in her interior spaces by 132 16-candle Ericson incandescent lamps, she also carried a battery of searchlights topside powered by a 3-cylinder 140-amp steam-driven dynamo. Her hull was divided into 194 watertight cells below deck, lined with cork. Unlike the monitors, she had higher freeboard and greater seaworthiness.

A proper warship.

Pansarbåten Svea by Jacob Haag. OB 530

Laid down at the Lindholmen works in Goteborg, Svea was completed on 20 August 1886 and joined the Swedish fleet. She was equal to or superior, for instance, to the American protected cruiser USS Atlanta (3200 tons, 2×8-inch guns, 2-inches armor, 16.3 knots), German Siegfried-class coastal battleships (3500-tons, 3×9.4-inch guns, 9.4-inches armor, 14-knots) and the Russian cruiser Vladimir Monomakh (5500-tons, 4×8-inch guns, 9-inches armor, 15.2-knots), steel warships completed at around the same time as she was.

Pansarbåten Svea, pre 1905. Fo88709A

Notably, Svea was followed by a pair of somewhat half-sisters, HMS Göta and HMS Thule, who had better armor–steel plate provided both by the French firm of Schneider-Creusot and Germany’s Krupp– as well as upgraded m/1889A series 10-inch guns, more numerous torpedo tubes, and more powerful engines as they weighed some 300-tons heavier.

These were the first installment of a series of similar pansarskepp vessels that Sweden would field by the end of 1918 that would see a total of 15 ships across five evolutionary classes, each slightly more improved than the last. The type would prove the backbone of the Baltic country’s fleet for more than 70 years, with the last pansarskepp only removed from the battleline in the 1950s.

Together, Svea and her sisters, which were completed by 1893, were a powerful trio for the Swedish Navy and would remain the strongest units of the Flottan for a decade. The three follow-on Oden-class pansarskepp-type coastal defense ships (3445-tons, 2-10inch guns, 9.5-inches armor, 16.5-knots) which were completed in 1899 were only complementary, not much superior.

Pansarbåt class at play: Gota, Thule, and Svea. O 08236

By 1900, the Svea-class ships were far from elderly but naval technology had passed them by. But if you think the Swedes were going to toss these low-mileage ships in the scrapyard, you have another thing coming.

Pansarbåten Svea och en kanonbåt TEKA0010987

Over the next four years, the Svea class were taken out of service and completely rebuilt with new engines and electrical systems and newer armament, which changed their profile. Gone were the 1880s BL 10-inch guns, replaced with a single 8.2″/45 m/98 gun made by Bofors Gallspanz, as used by the new four-ship Äran-class pansarskepps. The old guns were recycled as coastal artillery, installed at the inlet to the big naval base at Karlskrona, where they remained in service until the 1930s.

Likewise, the old stubby Armstrong 5.9-inch guns were deleted in place of seven new 6″/45 mounts.

A great shot of her stern post-1900 6-inch mount. Also, note the German-style uniforms and the 57mm 6-pounder in the superstructure over the big gun. (Swedish caption: Gåva av Otto von Fieandt. Pansarbåten Svea 1910. MM11661 85)

Of note, the reconstruction of the three Sveas cost an estimated £275,000, roughly the price of each individual Aran-class ship, a comparative bargain.

For reference, here is the Svea-class entry from the 1914 edition of Janes where they are listed as “coast service battleships.”

During the same period the Sveas were upgrading, Sweden also rebuilt 11 of their remaining 1860s-era ironclad monitors, rearmed them with more modern 4.7-inch guns, and retained even those dinosaurs through the Great War.

Pansarbåten Svea. Aug. 1911. Note her 8-inch Bofors gun forward and 6-inchers rear and sides. Note she also has a pair of military masts rather than her original single main mast. As noted by Alex M:  the two masts for the 1911 refit are for the Telefunken wireless telegraph system that Sweden adopted for its fleet in 1909-10. More on telecom upgrades a century or more ago: https://bit.ly/2WifWB2. UMFA53278 0540

Speaking of the Great War, with the increase in Sweden’s military spending as a result of the country’s Neutralitesvakten armed neutrality– which saw a series of extensive minefields sown on the Oresund and war dead from Jutland wash up on her shores– the old Svea became a barracks and gunnery training ship in 1915. For this task, her armament was augmented by eleven 57mm guns.

By 1921, with the war in the rearview and the Russians, the country’s perceived greatest threat, left with a dysfunctional fleet in the Baltic for the next decade at least, the surplus Svea was converted for use as a submarine tender, a role she would fill for the next two decades.

This conversion reduced her engineering suite and her armament, which changed her profile again as she went down to a single mast and stack after 1929. As with her previously-removed 10-inch guns in 1900, her 6″/45s went to shoreside emplacements on Stockholm’s Galärvarvskyrkogården Island.

Former Swedish coastal battleship Svea, converted to submarine depot ship July 1929. German Bundesarchiv Bild 102-08152

Svea med ubåtar vid Östra brobänken på Skeppsholmen. Valen närmast Svea sedan Springaren, Nordkaparen och Delfinen. Fo112121A

Swedish submarine Valen, torpedo boat Vega, and three Bavern-class submarines alongside the tender Svea. The destroyer Wachmeister is in the distance. NHHC NH 88434

By 1928, both of Svea’s sisterships were taken out of service and hulked, with Thule expended in gunnery tests.

Ouch, so much for 1890s Krupp armor. (Swedish caption) Före detta pansarbåten THULE som skjutmål

Nonetheless, this still left the Swedes with a dozen relatively younger “bathtub battleships” of which some would be modernized to provide floating muscle for the country’s new navy, which would be centered around modern fast cruisers and hyper-fast Italian-designed torpedo boats. But I digress.

In 1932, Svea’s legacy armament was removed altogether and replaced with two 40mm AAA guns, but she continued to plug on.

Logementsfartyget Svea i Kustflottaan late in career

SVEA Swedish submarine tender, ex-battleship photograph dated 1936 NH 88425

Shown in the distinctive Swedish war stripes during WWII. (Swedish caption: Depåfartyget Svea utgår ur Kustflottan den 7 Oct. 1941. Fo88710A)

Still serving in the first part of World War II, she was only decommissioned in late 1941 and scrapped in 1944 after further use as a hulk.

Today, numerous relics of Svea still exist in museums across Sweden and she is remembered in period maritime art.

Svea. pansarbåt Foto Karl Karlsson Karlskrona G Fo195559

Finally, on Galärvarvskyrkogården, her 1900s-era searchlights and 6-inch guns are well preserved.

It probably helped that they were still used and maintained by the Navy’s coastal artillery branch up until the 1980s.

Specs:

Halvmodell av trä förställande pansarbåten SVEA O 11419

Displacement: 3,050 tons (1888)
Length: 248 ft.
Beam: 48 ft.
Draft: 17 ft.
Engineering: 6 boilers, 2 HTE, 2 screws, 3640 ihp
Speed: 14 knots designed, 16 on trials. 830 nm range on 200 tons coal
Crew: 237
Armor:
2-inch deck
4-inch hoists
7-inch forward turret
8 to 11.75-inches Belt
10.5-inches Conning Tower
Armament:
(1888)
1 x 2 Woolwich 254/32 m/1885
4 x 1 Armstrong 152/25 m/1883
1 x 2 Nordenfelt QF 37/34 m/1884
4 x 4 Palmcrantz 25/32 m/1877
1 x 1 Palmcrantz 12/75 m/1875
1 x 381mm Whitehead bow torpedo tube
(1900)
1 x Bofors 8.2″/45
7 x 6″/45
11 x 6-pounders
2 x 1-pounders
1 x 450mm bow torpedo tube
(1921)
4 x 120/45 Bofors
2 x 57/21
(1932)
2 x 40mm AAA

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, April 22, 2020: Freeboard is Overrated, anyway

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, April 22, 2020: Freeboard is Overrated, anyway

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 45707, courtesy of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN MC

Here we see the armored coast defense vessel USS Monterey (Monitor No. 6) as she opens the brand-new Puget Sound dry dock at Port Orchard, Washington– then the largest dry dock in the U.S. and the third-largest in the world– on this day in April 1896. While you mistake her for a pre-dreadnought battleship above deck, below the waterline she is a more of a “cheesebox on a raft.”

While the U.S. Navy fielded upwards of 60 river, coastal and seagoing monitors in the Civil War era, by the 1870s most these craft, for one reason or another, had been discarded or allowed to decay to a near-condemned state– and rightfully so as late 19th Century naval technology was subject to a version of Moore’s Law.

In 1882, as part of the “Great Repairs” the first New Navy monitor, USS Puritan (BM-1) was launched and at 6,000-tons carried four modern (for the time) 12-inch breechloaders and could make 12.4-knots. Puritan was followed by the four Amphitrite-class monitors, 12-knot vessels of 4,000-tons with four 10″/30 cal guns and up to 11.5-inches of iron armor.

Then came our one-of-a-kind vessel, Monitor No. 6, USS Monterey. At 4,084-tons, the 261-foot-long coastal defense vessel had more modern Harvey nickel steel armor, up to 13-inches of it in her barbettes to be exact, than her predecessors. Slightly slower at 11-knots, she wasn’t built for speed.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Builder’s model, photographed in 1893. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1972. Copied from the Union Iron Works scrapbook, vol. 2, page 9 NH 75309

With limited deck space, Monterey’s teeth consisted of a pair of 12″/35 caliber Mark 1 breechloading guns protected by 8-inches of steel armor shield– the same mounts that were on the early battleship Texas— which were capable of firing out to 12,000 yards at about one round per minute.

In the end, Monterey was a decently armored ship that could fight in 15 feet of shallow water and deal out 870-pound AP shells at opponents approaching out to sea. You could argue that it was a solid coast defense concept for the era, especially for the money. Hell, cash-strapped non-aligned European powers such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway relied on a similar naval concept into the 1940s.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6), circa 1914. View of the ship’s forward turret, with two 12″ guns, circa 1914. Collection of C.A. Shively, 1978. NH 88539

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Firing her forward 12-inch guns during target practice off Port Angeles, Washington, during the 1890s. Note shell splash in distance, beyond the target. NH 45701

Bringing up the rear, Monterey mounted a pair of slightly smaller 10″/30 Mark 2 guns as used on the Amphitrites, protected by 7.5-inches of armor, in a turret facing aft. These could fire 510-pound shells out to 20,000 yards, a significant range boost over her forward guns.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6), stern, stereopticon photo published by Strohmeyer & Wyman, 1898 NH 45714

To ward off enemy small boats that worked in close enough to threaten the beast, Monterey carried a half dozen 6-pounders, four 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons, and a pair of 1-pounders in open mounts.

In some ways, Monterey was superior to the follow-on quartet of Arkansas-class monitors which were smaller and less heavily armed, while having the same speed.

The biggest handicap of any monitor is the sea itself, after all, the namesake of the type, USS Monitor, was lost at sea while moving from station to station. While underway, Monterey and the ships of her more modern type suffered from notoriously low freeboard in any seas, making for a series of dramatic photos that have endured over a century.

U.S. Navy monitor, USS Monterey (BM 6), starboard view. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, between 1894-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-D4-20042

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) in a seaway. NH 45711

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) In a seaway off Santa Barbara, California, on 1 March 1896 while in a passage from Seattle to San Francisco. NH 45708

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) At sea, en route from Seattle to San Francisco in 1896. Note coal stowed on deck. NH 45712

The $1,628,950 contract was signed for Monterey on 14 June 1889 after she was authorized under the Naval Act of 1887 and her first frame was bent at San Francisco’s Union Iron Works on 7 October 1889.

Named for the California city and the 1846 Navy-Marine action that captured it from Mexico during the Mexican War, our monitor was the second U.S. Navy vessel to carry the moniker, the first being a Civil War-period steam tug that provided yeoman service to the Mare Island Navy Yard into 1892

Commissioned 13 February 1893, the new Monterey’s inaugural skipper was Civil War vet Capt. Lewis Kempff (USNA 1861), a man who would go on to become a rear admiral.

A great colorized image of Monterey by Diego Mar, showing her white and buff 1892-98 peacetime scheme.

She had a period of workups and calm, idyllic peacetime duty off the West Coast for the first several years of her career, assigned to the Pacific Squadron. This consisted primarily of slow jaunts from Seattle to San Diego and a short four-month coastline-hugging cruise to Peru and back in 1895 to show the flag

USS Monterey (BM-6) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, during the 1890s. Copied from the Journal of Naval Cadet C.R. Miller, USN, page 51. NH 45702

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Dressed in flags on the 4th of July 1896, at Tacoma, Washington. NH 45704

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, during the 1890s. Receiving ship USS INDEPENDENCE is in the right background. Also, note how small her stern lettering has to be to fit. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution NH 45703

When war with Spain erupted, Monterey was the strongest U.S. ship on the West Coast save for the battleship USS Oregon (BB-3), which had been dispatched around Cape Horn on a 14,000-mile mission to join the Fleet in the Caribbean. This prompted a change from her peacetime livery to a dark grey.

“War Paint for the Monitors: Stripped of her brilliant coat of white and disguised under a dull lead color, almost a black, the Monterey is as wicked a looking craft as has ever been in the harbor…” Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside. Photo courtesy of The San Francisco Call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, 23 April 1898, Image 5, via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Archived at Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/monterey.htm

As the conflict wore on, Monterey was ordered to sortie 8,000 miles across the Pacific for the Philippines to provide the Asiatic Squadron with big gun support against possible attack by the powerful Spanish battleship Paleyo (9700-tons, 2×12-inch guns, 2×11-inch guns) as Dewey’s forces consisted solely of cruisers and gunboats.

The fear did have some merit, as Spanish RADM Manuel de la Cámara was dispatched from Cadiz with Paleyo on June 16 along with the brand-new armored cruiser Emperador Carlos V, a force of destroyers and auxiliary cruisers, and 4,000 Spanish Army troops headed for the Philippines to make a fight for the colony.

As Camara was sailing through the Med, bound for the Far East, Monterey had already left San Diego on June 11 in company with collier Brutus for Manila.

Monterey, in her “wicked” scheme, departing Mare Island for the War with Spain, June 1898. Note the coal bags strapped around her turret. Photo via Mare Island Museum

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge wrote to his friend Col. Theodore Roosevelt, the recent Asst. SECNAV, that, “We are not going to lug that monitor across the Pacific for the fun of lugging her back again.”

At the time her skipper was LCDR James W. Carlin (USNA 1868), who as a lieutenant in 1889 was XO of the steam sloop USS Vandalia when the vessel was wrecked in the great Samoan hurricane of that year. During the storm, Carlin had to take command after Vandalia’s skipper was swept away. Mr. Carlin surely had an uneasy sense of dejavu as he shepherded his slow-moving monitor through another Pacific storm on the way to Manila Bay.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Postcard print of the ship in a typhoon published circa 1907, probably during her crossing of the Pacific in August of 1898 to join Dewey’s fleet. NH 85843

Amazingly, the Monterey and Brutus made Cavite on 13 August and participated in the bloodless effort that same day in which American forces captured the city of Manila in a mock battle with the Spanish. In all, she logged an average of just 125 miles or so a day on her trip across the Pacific!

The other West Coast monitor, the Amphitrite-class USS Monadnock (BM-3), reached Manila Bay three days later on 16 August.

While Monterey and Monadnock were wallowing across the mighty Pacific that summer, Camara had met a brick wall at the Suez Canal where he was refused coaling by the British and returned to Spain, arriving at Cartagena on 23 July without firing a shot in the Spanish-American War.

Spanish battleship Paleyo at Port Said, Egypt, 26 June – 11 July 1898, while serving as flagship of Rear Admiral Manuel de la Camara’s squadron, which had been sent to relieve the Philippines. Copied from Office of Naval Intelligence Album of Foreign Warships. NH 88722

Although Monterey did not actually have a chance to go loud against the Spanish, she did see some action in the PI as events unfolded.

On 18 September 1899, she commenced a week of combat operations in Subic Bay against local insurgents and joined with gunboats Charleston and Concord and supply ship Zafiro, helping to destroy a large gun at the head of the bay on the 25th.

She would remain, along with the Monadnock, in the Far East alternating with service on China station where they seemed particularly suited to gunboat diplomacy along the Yangtze river, her landing forces put to frequent use, and waving the flag from Tokyo to Nanking.

USS MONTEREY at anchor in Nagasaki harbor, Japan, ca. 1899, photo via University of Washington, H. Ambrose Kiehl Photograph Collection

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) “Stack arms” during landing party drill on the ship’s foredeck, about 1898. Single frame photo from a stereo card. Photo published by Strohmeyer and Wyman, New York, 1898. Note Lee rifles; special Lee belts; and long leggings. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, 1967. NH 73619

USS MONTEREY (BM -6) “Morning Drill” on the quarterdeck. This appears to show the crew during landing force exercises. Stereo Photo, copyright 1898 by Strohmeyer & Wyman, New York. Note Navy Battalion Flag, deck lights, portable hatch cover, and captain. The monitor could land a 60-70 man force, backed up by two Colt M1895 “potato digger” machine guns and a 3-inch landing howitzer. NH 94259 -A

In 1900, the forward-deployed monitors would be used to help justify increasing port facilities in Cavite, as they had to make frequent trips to Hong Kong to avail themselves of British yards there.

From a Bureau of Navigation report:

It is important that this Government should construct or acquire on this station a dock of its own for the largest vessels. Under other circumstances foreign docks might not have been available for the Oregon, or being available, might not have been offered for use. The lack of a dock in the Philippines makes it necessary to keep full crews on board such vessels as the Monadnock and Monterey. These vessels are of little use in the present state of the insurrection but are needed in the Philippines as a reserve for strengthening the fleet in case of threat or attack from another power. Each six months, though, they need docking and must then have a crew and convoy besides to get them from Cavite to Hongkong, whereas with a dock in the Philippines they could be put in reserve and docked, as necessary.

While in the Philippines, she apparently carried huge deck awnings covering her guns.

Sailors manning the rails of USS Monterey (BM-6) NHF-154

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) crewmen reading on the fore-deck, under awnings, in Philippine waters, circa 1914. Note 12″ guns. NH 88575

Decommissioned at Olongapo in 1903 for four years’ worth of repairs, she was placed back into service in September 1907, spending more time in places ranging from Foochow to Zamboanga for the next decade.

In November 1917, as the world suffered from the Great War, Monterey was finally relieved from her Asiatic posting after 19 years and recalled to Pearl Harbor. This time she was towed by collier USS Ajax (AC-14) in a 36-day cruise, arriving just before Christmas.

Spending the next several years as a submarine tender– a job many old monitors found themselves pressed into in the 1900s– Monterey finished the Great War as a manned vessel, as her Christmas 1918 menu testifies.

U.S.S. Monterey …Menu… Christmas Day, December 25, 1918 – Soup: Cream of tomato; Relishes Celery, Ripe olives, Green onions; Salads: Fruit, Mayonnaise dressing, Combination; Meats: Roast turkey, Tartar sauce, Baked red snapper, Giblet gravy, Roast loin of pork, Apple sauce; Vegetables: Creamed mashed potatoes, French peas, Buttered asparagus tips; Dessert: Fruit cake, Mincemeat Pie, Rainbow ice cream; Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, Grapes; Beverages: Grape juice punch, Iced tea, Lemonade; Cigars, Cigarettes – J.H. Kohli, Acting Commissary Steward.

Decommissioned 27 August 1921, she was sold the next February to A. Bercovich Co., Oakland, Calif., and towed across the Pacific for scrapping. It was her first, and last, trip back to CONUS since she left in 1898 to join Dewey.

After she was scrapped, Monterey’s bell went on to live a life of its own, installed on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, from where it witnessed the attack in 1941.

Rear Admiral John D. McDonald, COM 14, and Comdt NOB Pearl Harbor pose with the bell from USS MONTEREY (BM-6) at Pearl Harbor, circa 1924. NH 91356

For years after WWII it was used to ring 8-bells at the golf course and as far as I know, is still there.

The third Monterey (CVL-26) was an Independence-class light carrier built on a cruiser hull during World War II.

USS Monterey (CVL-26) Catapults an F6F Hellcat fighter during operations in the Marianas area, June 1944. Note flight deck numbers, crewmen with catapult bridles, plexiglass bridge windscreen, and pelorus. 80-G-416686

The carrier was perhaps best known as having a navigation officer by the name of Gerald Ford in her complement during the push towards Tokyo.

Photograph of Navigation Officer Gerald Ford Taking a Sextant Reading aboard the USS Monterey, 1944 National Archives Identifier: 6923713

The fourth Monterey (CG-61) is a VLS-equipped Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser that has been with the fleet since 1990 and is still going strong some 30 years later.

U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (April 14, 2018) The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile in a strike against Syria. (U.S. Navy photo 180414-N-DO281-1123 by Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels/Released)

Specs:

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Unofficial plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70118

Displacement: 4,084 tons
Length: 260 ft 11 in
Beam: 59 ft
Draft: 14 ft
Machinery: VTE engines, 2 single-ended cylindrical and 4 Ward Tubulous boilers, 2 shafts, 5,250 hp
Speed: 11 knots
Complement: 19 Officers and 176 Enlisted as designed, 218 (1898)
Armor, Harvey:
3 inches on deck
5-13 inch belt
11.5-13 inch barbettes
7.5-8 inch turrets
10-inch CT
Armament:
2 x 12/35″ in one dual turret
2 x 10/30″ in one dual turret
6 x 6-pdrs
4 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons
2 x 1-pounders
2 x Colt M1895 machine guns (added 1898)
1 x landing gun

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 am a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, April 15, 2020: The Winged Spinach Can

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, April 15, 2020: The Winged Spinach Can

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 73276

Here we see a beautiful profile shot of the Clemson-class “four-piper” destroyer USS Noa (DD-343) underway in San Diego Harbor, about 1930. Note the wooden cabin cruiser in the foreground, and Clemson-class sister USS Kane (DD-235) moored alongside another destroyer in the background. Despite her modest looks, our little tin can would prove influential in the steppingstones of naval aviation, and her namesake even more so in the evolution of space exploration.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Noa came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

The subject of our story today was the first warship named after one Midshipman Loveman Noa (USNA 1900).

NH 47525

Born in 1878 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, young Loveman secured an appointment to Annapolis and graduated with his 61-person class in June 1900, back in the days when Mids would have to serve some time with the fleet before picking up their first stripe. Ordered to the Asiatic Station in the battleship Kearsarge, he was assigned once he got there to the recycled captured former Spanish 99-foot gunboat, USS Mariveles, under the command of Lt. (future Fleet Adm) William Leahy.

On the morning of 26 October 1901, Noa led a force of six blue jackets in a small boat to interdict waterborne smugglers between Leyte and Samar. However, with their little boat taking on water, they were forced ashore at the latter, while scouting the adjacent jungle, Noa was attacked and stabbed four times by Filipino insurgents then struck in the head and left for dead. SECNAV Josephus Daniels later wrote Noa’s mother during the Great War to inform her that a new destroyer would be named in her son’s honor.

Laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard a week after Armistice Day in Europe, USS Noa was appropriately sponsored by Midshipman Noa’s sister and commissioned 15 February 1921.

Launch of USS Hulbert 342 & USS Noa 343 on June 28, 1919 (Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2273 taken on 6/28/1919

USS Noa (DD-343) at Norfolk Navy Yard, February 11, 1921. From the collection of Lawrence Archambault NHHC Accession #: S-526

Starboard side view of Clemson-class destroyer USS Noa (DD-343) NH 68341

In May 1922, Noa was assigned to her namesake’s old stomping ground, the Asiatic station, which she reached via a flag-waving cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez, to and Aden and across the Indian Ocean to Ceylon then on to Singapore. For the next seven years, the destroyer would see some very active service in the Philippines and China.

Clemson-class destroyers photographed during the early 1920s. USS Noa (DD-343) in the foreground, with USS Peary (DD-226) in the background. NH 44864

While in China service, she would land a force to guard U.S. interests in Shanghai for two weeks between 25 July and 10 Aug 1925, earning an Expeditionary Medal.

In Nanking as part of a reinforced Yangtze Patrol from January through August 1927, Sailors from Noa and sistership USS William B. Preston (DD-344) put a small landing party ashore to protect refugees at the American consulate and later, with British Tars from the cruiser HMS Emerald, assembled a 250-man landing party ashore to protect escaping refugees from marauding Kuomintang regulars, sweeping into the city to seize it from Yangtze warlord Sun Chuan-Feng’s defeated troops.

A good reference to this event is the Yangtze Patrol by Kemp Tolley and “U.S.S. Noa And the Fall of Nanking” by CPT Ronald Pineau in the November 1955 issue of the USNI’s Proceedings.

Pineau interestingly details how Noa dispatched a low-key guard force to the U.S. consulate, saying

Anticipating that an armed party would surely be barred, Noa’s captain called on the Consul to provide private cars for trans­portation. Pistols were concealed under uni­form coats, field packs were stowed under rugs on the floorboards and, without con­sulting local authorities, the party drove through to the Consulate…A machine gun and am­munition were later smuggled into the American Consulate.

At one point, taking sniper fire from the shore and with 102 refugees aboard, Noa’s skipper, LCDR Roy C. Smith, Jr., ordered his No. 1 and No. 2 4-inchers to open fire on a building where the fire was coming from, an act that Preston soon joined her in. In all, the two Clemsons would fire 67 shells and “thousands of rifle and machinegun rounds.” Smith’s 13-year-old son would also be pressed into helping ferry shells, an act that he would later, as a retired Captain, describe as making him the “last powder monkey.”

Notes Pineau:

Captain Smith of the U.S.S. Noa remarked as he opened fire at Nanking, that he would get either a court-martial or a medal for it. That re­mark should be blazoned in every office, workshop, and institution of the land. It is the willingness to accept the obloquy without complaint, should it come, that makes the reward worth having.

USS Noa (DD-343) dressed in flags at Shanghai, China, while celebrating the Fourth of July 1927. NH 90000

Returning Stateside 14 August 1929 for an overhaul at Mare Island, Noa shifted her homeport from Cavite to San Diego where she served on duties as varied over the next half-decade as a plane guard for the new aircraft carriers USS Langley (CV-1) and USS Saratoga (CV-3), helping with the development of early carrier-group tactics. However, with the downturn in the U.S. economy, she was detailed to red lead row in Philadelphia in 1934 and mothballed.

Enter the destroyer-seaplane concept

In the Fall of 1923, while Noa was deployed half-way around the world, one of her sisters, the Clemson-class destroyer USS Charles Ausburn (DD-294), had a seaplane temporarily installed.

Naval Aircraft Factory TS-1 floatplane (BuNo A-6300) the Clemson-class destroyer USS Charles Ausburn (DD-294) circa 1923 NH 98820

The mounting took place in Hampton Roads and involved a TS-1 floatplane from the nearby Naval Air Station. Installed on a static platform on 29 August, Ausburn went to sea for two days for experimental trails with the floatplane aft while aircrew from USS Langley were attached to study how it endured while underway on the 314-foot tin can– although the plane was not launched from the destroyer and Ausburn had no facilities for fuel, recovery, or launching.

Ausburn returned to Norfolk on 3 September and the TS-1 was craned off. The destroyer was later used in 1925 “to provide plane guard service in the round-the-world flight of Army aircraft, maintaining stations off Greenland and Newfoundland for the historic event,” but never embarked an aircraft again.

Fast forward to 1 April 1940 and, with a new World War in Europe, Noa was dusted off and reactivated at Philadelphia. In a further test of concept, she was fitted with a Curtiss XSOC-1 Seagull seaplane just forward of the after deckhouse, replacing her after torpedo tubes. A boom for lifting the aircraft was stepped in place of the mainmast.

As noted by DANFS:

She steamed for the Delaware Capes in May and conducted tests with an XSOC-1 seaplane piloted by Lt. G. L. Heap. The plane was hoisted onto the ocean for takeoff and then recovered by Noa while the ship was underway. Lt. Heap also made an emergency flight 15 May to transfer a sick man to the Naval Hospital at Philadelphia.

Such dramatic demonstrations convinced the Secretary of the Navy that destroyer-based scout planes had value, and 27 May he directed that six new destroyers of the soon-to-be-constructed Fletcher Class (DD-476 to DD-481) be fitted with catapults and handling equipment. Because of mechanical deficiencies in the hoisting gear, the program was canceled early in 1943.

The concept thus failed to mature as a combat technique, but the destroyer-observation seaplane team was to be revived under somewhat modified conditions during later amphibious operations.

XSOC-1 Seagull floatplane aboard USS Noa. Photos from Henri L. Sans via USSNoaDD841.com

USS Noa (DD-343) insignia circa 1940, showing “winged spinach can” with Popeye at the controls, denoting NOA’s affiliation with aviation duties. She carried a Curtiss SOC-1 Seagull beginning April 1940. Note the destroyer underway on a distant Earth in the background. NH 83946-KN

A second variation of the insignia, NH 83945-KN

Six Fletchers would go on to receive Kingfishers, briefly, ordered immediately after Noa’s short trial with her Seagull. To support the floatplane they had space for 1,780 gals of AvGas installed on deck surrounded by a cofferdam of CO2 for safety purposes. The magazine normally used by the 5-inch gun (Mount 53) removed for the catapult installation was repurposed for the Kingfisher’s bombs and depth charges as well as aircraft tools. Berthing was allocated for a pilot, ordie/gunner and aviation mechanic.

Fletcher-class destroyer USS Halford (DD 480) 14 July 1943 with an O2SU seaplane on the catapult.  (National Archives, photo 80-G-276691.)

Lt. Heap, Noa’s sole aviator, went on to command an airwing, Carrier Air Group Eighty-Two aboard USS Bennington (CV-20) during WWII.

Speaking of the war…

Noa would spend the remainder of the next three years in service to train Midshipmen, provide an afloat platform for the Sonar School at Key West, and operate as a plane guard for the East Coast shakedown of the new Yorktown-class carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), between stints in patrol, rescue, and convoy escort duties.

Spring Paint Job, May 2, 1941. From the original caption, “This year the Navy is painting up, but the traditional light war-color that once gleamed so cleanly in the sun is gone. In its place is the new almost, oxford-grey, color [seen in the image below] that so easily escapes detection in northern waters. USS Noah (DD 343) as she goes through her stages of dressing. Note, the old Coast Guard cutter USS Bear (AG 29) before in stark contrast. U.S. Navy Photograph Lot-854-11: Photographed through Mylar sleeve.

USS Noah (DD 343) This image has her after her new paint scheme, which seems quite a bit darker than haze grey. Lot-854-12

In the summer of 1943, Noa was converted at Norfolk to a “Green Dragon,” a high-speed transport and was reclassified as APD-24 on 10 August 1943.

Some 14 Clemson-class destroyers were similarly converted as APDs, a process that saw the forward fireroom converted to short-term accommodations for up to 200 Marines, with the front two boilers and smokestacks removed. Also deleted were the topside torpedo tubes, replaced with davits for a quartet of LCPL or LCVP landing craft. They could still make 26 knots and float in just 10 feet of seawater.

USS BROOKS (APD-10), former Clemson-class destroyer DD-232, showing the typical APD conversion, of which Noa received. Caption: In San Francisco Bay, California, 24 August 1944. Courtesy of A.D. Baker III., 1981 NH 91790

Class leader USS CLEMSON (APD-31), also showing her APD conversion. Off the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, 21 April 1944.Courtesy of A.D. Baker III., 1981 NH 91795

Noa steamed for Pearl Harbor 4 November 1943 and by early December was a landing craft control ship off New Guinea, very much in the middle of the war in the Pacific. On the day after Christmas, she landed 144 officers and men of the First Marine Division on Cape Gloucester.

Early 1944 saw her active in the amphibious landings at Green Island, Emerau Island, and Hollandia before she ran back to Pearl in May to gather units of the Second Marine Division for landings on Saipan.

In September, while steaming to Palau with UDT members aboard for demo work there, Noa was rammed by the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Fullman (DD-474) at 0350, 12 September and immediately began to settle. Despite the heroic efforts of her crew and others, she slipped beneath the waves seven hours later but gratefully carried no Blue Jackets with her.

USS FULLAM (DD-474) recovers NOA’s survivors as USS HONOLULU (CL-48) stands by in the background, in the morning on 12 September 1944. NOA sank after being rammed by USS FULLAM (DD-474) while both were en route to the invasion of Peleliu. The original caption with the photo has Noa being hit by a Japanese mine. National Archives 80-G-287120

Survivors of USS Noa (APD-24) sunk near Peleliu after being rammed by Fullam on September 12– as seen from the ill-fated USS Indianapolis (CA 35), September 15, 1944. At the extreme right, the Executive Officer is interviewing one of the survivors. 80-G-287125

USS Noa received an Expeditionary Medal for her 1925 China service, the Yangtze Service Medal for her 1927 saga in Shanghai, and five battle stars for World War II service.

Noa II

Keen to quickly recycle the names of historic ships lost during the war, the Navy soon re-issued “Noa” to a Gearing-class destroyer (DD-841) then building at Bath Ironworks. Commissioned 2 November 1945, the greyhound would give 28 years of steady Cold War service without firing a shot in anger before her transfer to Spain as Blas de Lezo (D65) for another 13 years.

The second and final USS NOA, Destroyer No. 841, giving her submarine imitation.

Perhaps the best-known entry on the second Noa’s service record is her recovery of the famous Mercury space program capsule FRIENDSHIP 7 and astronaut Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, off the island of Grand Turk after their first human-manned orbit of the globe, 20 February 1962. The Noa picked Glenn up just 21 minutes after impact.

Glenn signing autographs on the Noa after recovery, and FRIENDSHIP 7 being taken aboard the destroyer. Photos: NHHC NHF-016.01 and NASA

The famous photograph of Glenn maxing and relaxing with aviator shades and Chuck Taylors was snapped on Noa’s deck before he was transferred to the carrier USS Randolph (CV-15), which was the primary recovery ship.

Surely channeling the same spirit of the Winged Spinach Can (Photo: NASA) https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_534.html

A Veteran’s organization to both Noa I and Noa II is maintained.

Epilogue

The original Clemson-class Noa is remembered by a 1/400 scale model by Mirage Hobby, depicted with her XSOC-1 embarked.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war.

Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

For more information on the Clemsons and their like, read CDR John Alden’s book, “Flush Decks and Four Pipes” and/or check out the Destroyer History Foundation’s section on Flushdeckers. 

As for the late Loveman Noa, while Uncle does not have a vessel on the current Naval List in his honor, he is remembered by a circa 1910 memorial tablet at Annapolis and is enshrined in Memorial Hall, one of six members of the Class of 1900 so recorded. His descendants apparently also have a memorial of their own to the young Mid who breathed his last on a beach in Samar.

And, of course, aircraft operations are standard on U.S. Navy destroyers today and have been since the FRAM’d Gearing and Sumner-class destroyers of the 1950s/60s, with their dedicated DASH drones, and the full-on helicopter decks of the follow-on Belknap-class destroyer leaders.

Then came the Spru-cans.

Photo taken by Bath Iron Works as USS HAYLER left Portland, ME on sea trials in the Gulf of Maine May 1992 after she had received the vertical launching system, SQQ-89 ASW system with towed array sonar, enlarged hangar and RAST and upgrades SLQ-32 and CIWS. Via Navsource

And today’s Burkes.

200304-N-NK931-1001 PHILIPPINE SEA (Mar. 4 2020) Landing Signalmen Enlisted (LSE), assigned to the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52), directs night flight operations of an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, during the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Advanced Warfighting Training exercise (BAWT). (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Samuel Hardgrove)

Specs:

Noa, April 1940, via Blueprints.com

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4- 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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