Tag Archive | iron navy

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

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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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Warship Wednesday, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Library and Archives, Canada

Here we see a beautiful original Kodachrome, likely snapped from the lookout box on her mast, of the Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) in 1944-45, with an officer looking down towards her bow. Note the D/F antenna forward. You can see a great view of her main gun, a twin 4″/45 (10.2 cm) QF Mk XVI in an Mk XIX open-rear mount, which she would use to good effect in hanging star shells during a nighttime scrap with a convoy-haunting U-boat. Just ahead of the gun is a Hedgehog ASW mortar system, which would also be used that night. Incidentally, scale modelers should note the various colors used on her two rigged 20-man Carley float lifeboats– which would soon see use on a different U-boat.

While today the Royal Canadian Navy is often seen as a supporting actor in the North Atlantic and an occasional cameo performer elsewhere, by the end of World War II the RCN had grown from having about a dozen small tin cans to being the third-largest fleet in the world— and was comprised almost totally of destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and sloops! The force traded 24 of its warships in combat for a butcher’s bill that was balanced by 69 Axis vessels but had proved decisive in the Battle of the Atlantic.

One of the most important of the above Canadian ships were the River-class frigates. Originally some 1,800-tons and 301-feet in length, they could make 20-knots and carry a twin QF 4-inch gun in a single forward mount as well as a modicum of 20mm AAA guns and a wide array of sub-busting weaponry to include as many as 150 depth charges.

In addition to her twin 4″/45 forward, Thetford Mines also carried six 20mm Oerlikons in two twin mounts — one seen here in another LAC Kodachrome– and two singles. Note the wavy lines on the Canadian lieutenant’s sleeve, denoting his status as a reserve officer. The running joke in Commonwealth Navies that used the practice was so that, when asked by an active officer why the braid was wavy, the reservist would answer, “Oh good heavens, so no one would mistake that this is my real job.”

Produced in five mildly different sub-classes, some 50 of the 150ish Rivers planned were to be made in Canada with others produced for the RCN in the UK. This resulted in a shipbuilding boom in the Land of the Great White North, with these frigates produced at four yards: Canadian Vickers in Montreal, Morton in Quebec City, Yarrow at Esquimalt, and Davie at Lauzon.

River-class frigates fitting out at Vickers Canada, 1944

Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Waskesiu (K330) with a bone in her mouth, 1944. Kodachrome via LAC

Thetford Mines, the first Canadian warship named after the small city in south-central Quebec, was of the later Chebogue-type of River-class frigate and was laid down 7 July 1943. Rapid construction ensured she was completed and commissioned 24 May 1944, an elapsed time of just 322 days. Her wartime skipper was LCDR John Alfred Roberts Allan, DSC, RCNVR/RCN(R). 

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459). Note the false bow wave

Coming into WWII late in the Atlantic war, Thetford Mines was assigned to escort group EG 25 out of Halifax then shifted to Derry in Ireland by November 1944. She served in British waters from then until VE-Day, working out of Londonderry and for a time out of Rosyth, Scotland.

A second Kodachrome snapped from K459’s tower. Note the compass and pelorus atop the wheelhouse. You can see the lip of the lookout’s bucket at the bottom of the frame. LAC WO-A037319

In the closing days of the conflict, the hardy frigate– along with Canadian-manned sisterships HMCS La Hulloise and HMCS Strathadam— came across the snorkeling Type VIIC/41 U-boat U-1302 on the night of 7 March 1945 in St George’s Channel. The German submarine, on her first war patrol under command of Kptlt. Wolfgang Herwartz had already sent one Norwegian and two British steamers of Convoy SC-167 to the bottom.

In a joint action between the three frigates, U-1302 was depth charged and Hedgehogged until her hull was crushed and the unterseeboot took Herwartz and his entire 47-man crew to meet Davy Jones. At dawn the next day, the Canadian ships noted an oil slick and debris floating on the water, with collected correspondence verifying the submarine was U-1302.

Thetford Mines would then come to the aid of Strathadam after the latter had a depth charge explode prematurely.

On 23 March, Thetford Mines got a closer look at her enemy when she recovered 33 survivors from the lost German U-boat U-1003, which had been scuttled off the coast of Ireland after she was mortally damaged by HMCS New Glasgow (another Canadian River). The Jacks aboard Thetford Mines would later solemnly bury at sea two of the German submariners who died of injuries.

Finally, on 11 May, our frigate arrived in Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, to serve as an escort to eight surrendered U-boats.

The event was a big deal, as it was the first mass U-boat surrender, and as such was attended by ADM Sir Max Horton along with a single Allied submarine-killer from each major fleet made up the van. Thetford Mines represented Canada. USS Robert I. Paine (DE-578), which had been part of the Block Island hunter-killer group that had scratched several U-boats, represented America. HMS Hesperus (H57), credited with four kills including two by ramming, represented the RN.

A row of surrendered Nazi U-boats at Lisahally in Co. Londonderry on 14th May 1945. I believe Thetford Mines is in the background. Photo by Lieutenant CH Parnall. Imperial War Museum Photo: A 28892 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection).

Thetford Mines, background, escorting surrendered U-boats, May 1945. LAC Kodachrome WO-A037319

Returning to Canada at the end of May 1945, Thetford Mines undoubtedly would have soon picked up more AAA mounts to fight off Japanese kamikaze attacks in the final push against that country’s Home Islands, but it was not to be and was paid off on 18 November at Sydney, Nova Scotia, before being laid up at Shelburne.

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) at anchor in Bermuda. The photo was taken after VE-day while the frigate was returning to Halifax. They were diverted to Bermuda to ease the congestion at Halifax caused by all the ships returning at the same time. From the collection of John (Jack) Davie Lyon. Via FPS 

Her career had lasted a week shy of 18 months, during which she made contact, sometimes violent, with at least 10 German U-boas in varying ways. Her battle honors included “Gulf of St. Lawrence 1944,” “North Sea 1945,” and “Atlantic 1945.”

As for Thetford Mines, as noted by the Canadian Navy, “In 1947, she was sold to a Honduran buyer who proposed converting her into a refrigerated fruit carrier.”

According to Warlow’s Ships of the Royal Navy, she was in fact converted to a banana boat with the name of Thetis. Her fate is unknown.

What of her sisters?

Of the 90 assorted Canadian River-class frigates ordered, a good number were canceled around the end of WWII. Four (HMCS Chebogue, HMCS Magog, HMCS Teme, and HMCS Valleyfield) were effectively lost to German U-boats during the conflict. Once VJ-Day came and went, those still under St George’s White Ensign soon went into reserve.

Graveyard, Sorel, P.Q Canadian corvettes and frigates laid up, 1945 by Tony Law CWM

Several were subsequently sold for peanuts to overseas Allies looking to upgrade or otherwise build their fleets to include Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Israel, Peru, and India.

Others, like our own Thetford Mines, were de-militarized and sold on the commercial market including one, HMCS Stormont, that became Aristotle Onassis’s famous yacht, Christina O. HMCS St. Lambert became a merchant ship under Panamanian and Greek flags before being lost off Rhodes in 1964. Still others became breakwaters, their hulls used to shelter others.

One, HMCS Stone Town, was disarmed and tasked as a weather ship in the North Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

Twenty-one of the best Canadian-owned Rivers still on Ottawa’s naval list was taken from reserve in the early 1950s and converted to what was classified as a Prestonian-class frigate with “FFE” pennant numbers. This conversion included a flush-decked configuration, an enlarged bridge, and a taller funnel. Deleted were the 20mm Oerlikons in favor of some 40mm Bofors. Further, they had their quarterdeck enclosed to accommodate two Squid anti-submarine mortars in place of the myriad of depth charges/Hedgehog. The sensor package was updated as well, to include ECM gear. One, HMCS Buckingham, was even given a helicopter deck.

The Prestonian-class frigate HMCS Swansea (FFE 306) in formation with other ocean escorts, 1964 via The Crow’s Nest

These upgraded Rivers/Prestonians served in the widening Cold War, with three soon transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Most of the remaining Canadian ships were discarded in 1965-66 as the new St. Laurent– and Restigouche-class destroyers joined the fleet.

Two endured in auxiliary roles for a few more years: HMCS St. Catharines as a Canadian Coast Guard ship until 1968 and HMCS Victoriaville/Granby as a diving tender until 1973.

In the end, two Canadian Rivers still exist, HMCS Stormont/yacht Christina O, and HMCS Hallowell/SLNS Gajabahu, with the latter a training ship in the Sri Lankan Navy until about 2016.

Starting life in WWII as a Canadian Vickers-built River-class frigate HMCS Stormont, Christina O was purchased in 1954 by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who transformed her into the most luxurious private yacht of her time. She went on to host a wealth of illustrious guests, ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill.

Canadian River-class frigate, ex-HMCS Strathadam, built 1944 by Yarrow, Esquimalt. Sold 1947 to the Israeli Navy and renamed Misgav. Subsequently sold to the Royal Ceylon Navy as HMCyS Gajabahu. Photo via Shipspotting, 2007.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a second Thetford Mines in the RCN. A series of posterity websites exist to honor the frigate’s crew.

For more information on the RCN in WWII, please check out Marc Milner’s North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys.

Specs: (RCN late-batch Rivers: Antigonish, Glace Bay, Hallowell, Joliette, Kirkland Lake, Kokanee, Lauzon, Longueuil, Orkney, Poundmaker, Sea Cliff, Thetford Mines)

River Class – Booklet of General Plans, 1942, profile

HMCS Poundmaker (K675), port, for reference, via LAC

HMCS St. Lambert (K343). LAC

Displacement:
1,445 long tons, 2,110 long tons deep load
Length: 301.25 ft o/a
Beam: 36.5 ft
Draught: 9 ft; 13 ft (3.96 m) (deep load)
Propulsion:
2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 VTE, twin shafts 5,500 ihp
Speed: 20 knots
Range: 646 tons oil fuel= 7,500 nautical miles at 15 knots
Complement: 140 to 157
Sensors: SU radar, Type 144 sonar
Armament:
2 x QF 4 inch/45cal Mk. XVI on a twin mount
1 x QF 12 pdr (3 inch) 12 cwt /40 Mk. V
4 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on two twin mounts
2 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on singles
1 x Hedgehog 24-spigot ASWRL
8 x Depth Charge throwers
2 x Depth Charge racks
Up to 150 depth charges

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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.

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.

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Warship Wednesday, April 1, 2020: From Red Rover to Comfort

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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

-A special WW this week due to events…

Warship Wednesday, April 1, 2020: From Red Rover to Comfort

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60500

Here we see the side-wheel steamer USS Red Rover, the Navy’s first hospital ship, on the Western Rivers during the Civil War, with two rowing boats alongside.

Built during 1859 at Cape Girardeau, Mo, the riverboat was originally bought by the Confederates on 7 November 1861, and served as CSS Red Rover, a barracks ship for the floating battery New Orleans.

At Island No. 10, near New Madrid, Mo., from 15 March 1862, she was holed during a bombardment of that island sometime before 25 March and abandoned as a quarters ship. Seized by the Union gunboat Mound City the next month, she was repaired, and taken to St. Louis where she was fitted out as a summer hospital boat for the Army’s Western Flotilla “to augment limited Union medical facilities, to minimize the hazards to sick and wounded in fighting ships; and to ease the problems of transportation-delivery of medical supplies to and evacuation of personnel from forward areas.”

As noted by DANFS: 

Steamers, such as City of Memphis, were being used as hospital transports to carry casualties upriver, but they lacked necessary sanitary accommodations and medical staffs, and thus were unable to prevent the spread of disease.

Rapid mobilization at the start of the Civil War had vitiated efforts to prevent the outbreak and epidemic communication of disease on both sides of the conflict. Vaccination was slow; sanitation and hygiene were generally poor. Overworked military medical personnel were assisted by voluntary societies coordinated by the Sanitary Commission founded in June 1861. But by 1865 typhoid fever, typhus, dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, smallpox, measles, and malaria would claim more lives than gunshot.

Red Rover, serving first with the Army, then with the Navy, drew on both military and voluntary medical personnel. Her conversion to a hospital boat, begun at St. Louis and completed at Cairo, Ill., was accomplished with both sanitation and comfort in mind. A separate operating room was installed and equipped. A galley was put below, providing separate kitchen facilities for the patients. The cabin aft was opened for better air circulation. A steam boiler was added for laundry purposes. An elevator, numerous bathrooms, nine water closets, and gauze window blinds “… to keep cinders and smoke from annoying the sick” were also included in the work.

USS Red Rover line engraving after a drawing by Theodore R. Davis, published in Harper’s Weekly, January-June 1863, page 300, depicting a scene in the ward. NH 59651

Line engravings published in Harper’s Weekly, January-June 1863, page 300, depicting scene onboard the U.S. Navy’s Western Rivers hospital ship during the Civil War. The scene at left, entitled The Sister, shows a nurse attending to a patient. That at right shows a convalescent ward. The middle view is of a lonely grave on the river bank. NH 59652

Red Rover provided yeoman service throughout the rest of the conflict, treating over 2,400 patients during her career. She was sold at auction in November 1865.

The Spanish-American War

Fast forward to 1898 and the military, going to war with Spain, quickly moved to create a new hospital ship. The Army took the lead and purchased the three-year-old 3,300-ton steel passenger liner SS John Englis from the Delaware River Ship Building Co. and sent her south to Cuba as the hospital ship Relief.

U.S. Army Hospital Ship Relief NH 92845

U.S. Army Hospital Ship Relief nurses of the ship’s complement, while she was serving in Cuban waters, 1898. NH 92846

U.S. Army Hospital Ship Relief view in one of the ship’s wards, 1898, with a large skylight in the upper right. NH 92844

The Navy also rebooted its hospital ship program in April 1898 when they bought the 5,700-ton steamer SS Creole from the Cromwell Steamship Lines. Converted to the USS Solace, she was the first Navy ship to fly the Geneva Red Cross.

She was converted in just 16 days

“as an ambulance ship, complete with a large operating room, steam disinfecting apparatus, ice machine, steam laundry plant, cold storage rooms, and an elevator. She could accommodate two hundred patients in her berths, swinging cots and staterooms. Her hurricane deck was enclosed with canvas to be used as a contagious disease ward. The vessel’s fresh water tanks held 37,000 gallons of fresh water, and her system of evaporators and distillers maintained the supply. She was given gifts of supplies and equipment from groups such as the Rhode Island Sanitary and Relief Association and the National Society of Colonial Dames, gaining an X-ray machine, a carbonating machine, etc. SOLACE’s crew included a surgeon, three passed assistant surgeons, three hospital stewards (one of which was a skilled embalmer) eight trained nurses, a cook, four messmen and two laundrymen. The ship and her crew had the honor of inaugurating antiseptic surgery at sea. The vessel also had twenty contract nurses who were members of the Graduated Nurses’ Protective association.

As noted by DANFS “The hospital ship was in constant service during the Spanish-American war, returning wounded and ill servicemen from Cuba to Norfolk, New York, and Boston.”

USHS Solace NH 96686

After the war with Spain was over, both Relief, which had been handed over to the Navy, and Solace were mothballed. However, when the Great White Fleet was organized to globetrot the country’s new all-steel Navy, Teddy Roosevelt stressed it needed a hospital ship to accompany it and the former USAHS Relief was updated as USS Relief.

WWI Hospital Ships

By 1910, Relief was a floating hospital at Olongapo while Solace, on the East Coast, was more mobile and would lend her hull to be loaded with wounded veterans returning from France in the Great War.

Two other steamers were taken up from service from the Ward Line– SS Havana and SS Saratoga— and were converted and renamed USS Comfort and USS Mercy.

The Great War’s USS Comfort and USS Mercy

They were the first Navy hospital ships to have female nurses aboard, with a capacity of seven, including a chief nurse. Both ships were outfitted with state-of-the-art operating rooms, X-ray labs, restrooms, and could accommodate 500 patients each.

Operating onboard U.S. Hospital Ship, 1918 NH 115703

It was around this time that the Navy turned to the concept of a purpose-built hospital ship. She would carry the name of the old Relief and, the 10,000-ton ship was the first ship of the U.S. Navy designed and built from the keel up as a hospital ship.

Photo #: S-584-049 Preliminary Design Plan for a Hospital Ship … February 1915 Preliminary design plan prepared for the Navy Department during consideration of a design for a hospital ship to be included in the Fiscal Year 1917 program. The original document was ink on linen (black on white). The original plan is in the 1911-1925 Spring Styles Book. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. Photograph.Catalog #: S-584-049

The above plan was intended to satisfy characteristics issued on 12 April 1913 by the General Board. This design concept was selected for the construction of the Relief (Hospital Ship # 1). This plan provides a total berthing capacity of 674 for patients, no armament, and a speed of 14 knots in a ship 460 feet long on the waterline, about 61 feet in beam, with a normal displacement of somewhat less than 10,000 tons.

USS Relief (AH-1), was laid down 14 June 1917 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard and completed in 1920.

USS RELIEF (AH-1) 1930s NH 108327

U.S. Hospital Ship RELIEF (AH-1) steams through the Panama Canal during the 1930s. NH 62908

WWII hospital ships

Spending a full career in peacetime service before the balloon went up at Pearl Harbor, Relief would “steam the equivalent of nearly four times around the world” during WWII and evacuate “nearly 10,000 fighting men as patients from scenes of combat in nearly every military campaign area of the Pacific Theatre.”

Other Navy hospital ships would join her during the war, such as the converted USS Solace (AH-5), the latter starting life as the 8,900-ton liner SS Iroquois. If the numbering scheme sounds odd, keep in mind the Navy allocated AH-2 to the original SpanAmWar-era Solace and AH-3/4 to the Great War-era Comfort and Mercy, even though none of those three ships were around as Navy hospital ships in WWII.

U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USS SOLACE (AH-5) arrives from Guam, 4 June 1945, bringing casualties from Okinawa. She made three evacuation trips from Iwo Jima to base hospitals at Guam and Saipan, carrying almost 2,000 patients, and seven trips from Okinawa. Photograph by PhoM2c J.G. Mull. 80-G-K-5631

Caption: Okinawa Campaign, 1945. Military ambulances lined up on shore at Guam, awaiting the arrival of U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USS SOLACE (AH-5) with casualties from Okinawa, 4 June 1945. Among ships in the left background is USS LSM-242. Photographer: PhoM2c J.G. Mull. 80-G-K-5629

Sick Bay USS Solace by Joseph Hirsch; C. 1943; Framed Dimension 25H X 31W

Navy Hospital Ship USS Solace by Joseph Hirsch; C. 1943. “The Navy’s hospital ships operate under the laws laid down by the Geneva Convention, being unarmed, fully illuminated at night, and painted white.” 88-159-EW

Other WWII hospital ships were USS Bountiful (AH-9) and USS Samaritan (AH-10), both converted WWI-era troopships as well as USS Refuge (AH-11), with the latter being the former APL line steamer SS President Garfield. Another liner, SS Saint John, became USS Rescue (AH-18). All of these would be disposed of after 1946.

What about AH-6, AH-7, and AH-8? Those were the purpose-built 6,000-ton hospital ships USS Comfort, USS Hope, and USS Mercy, respectively.

The WWII USS Comfort, USS Hope, and USS Mercy,

Completed late in the war (1944) they served in the last days of the conflict in the Pacific then were put in mothballs from which they never emerged in U.S. service again.

A new generation

Speaking of being completed late in the war, the 15,000-ton Haven-class hospital ships were ordered in 1943 and by and large missed the conflict.

Large vessels with a 700-man crew/hospital staff, they could accommodate 800 patients and make 17.5-knots on ocean-crossing trips. The six-ship class held the line for the Navy in Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. They consisted of the USS Haven (AH-12), USS Benevolence (AH-13), USS Tranquillity (AH-14), USS Consolation (AH-15), USS Repose (AH-16), and USS Sanctuary (AH-17).

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Benevolence (AH-13) moored in Bikini Atoll lagoon, during Operation “Crossroads”, mid-July 1946. Several of the operation target ships are visible in the background. U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-17386

A 52-bed ward USS_Repose (AH-16)

The last of the class in service, Repose, was on station off Vietnam during the 1967 USS Forrestal fire that killed 134 sailors and injured 161. By that time, the Haven-class ships were typically supplied with patients via medevac helicopters. Added to this were thousands of Marines who were injured ashore.

Navy Surgeons Perform surgery on a wounded Marine aboard USS REPOSE (AH-16) as the hospital ship steams off The Coast of The Republic of Vietnam, a few miles South of The Seventeeth Parallel, October 1967. USN 1142173

USS REPOSE (AH-16) underway during operations off the South Vietnamese coast, 22 April 1966. “The hospital ship, with heliport astern, advanced medical facilities and well-staffed medical crew, has been credited with saving many lives during the Vietnam War. The ship sails off the coast and can rush to areas of major action where helicopters lift casualties aboard.” Photographer, Chief Journalist Jim F. Falk K-31174

Following Vietnam, the Navy’s hospital ship line consisted of the WWII-era Haven-class ships, which were being disposed of.

With no purpose-built AHs on the Naval List, Big Blue’s go-to plan for hospital ships in the event of a conflict from the late 1970s into the mid-1980s was to convert Tarawa-class LHAs as needed, as these amphibs would be completed with decent medical bays, although nothing like that seen on earlier white hulls.

While each Tarawa could field “17 ICU beds, 4 operating rooms, 300 beds, a 1,000-unit blood bank, full dental facilities, and orthopedics, trauma, general surgery, and x-ray capabilities,” the bottom line was that they were command-and-control ships for amphibious landings stuffed with Marines and their equipment, aircraft and vehicles and could scarcely be taken out of the line to serve as dedicated hospital ships.

Realizing this was a no-go in the event of a mass-casualty event, the Navy cheaply acquired a pair of decade-old San Clemente-class oil tankers, SS Worth and SS Rose City, in the mid-1980s.

Ex-SS Rose City in drydock during conversion to the hospital USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) at National Steel and Shipbuilding, in San Diego, CA. National Steel and Shipbuilding photo from “All Hands” magazine, March 1986 via Navsource.

After a 35-month, $208 million conversions, these 65,000-ton beasts emerged as the MSC-crewed USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), following in the numbering convention started by the 1898-era Relief.

USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) (left) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) tied up at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) piers, December 1986. Also visible is USS Albert David (FF-1050) undergoing overhaul and two Knox-class frigates in the background. US National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6654982 by PHC Kristofferson. A US Navy photo now in the collections of the US National Archives.

The third-largest ships in the Navy by length surpassed only by the nuclear-powered Nimitz– and Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers, they are crewed when on a 5-day standby by a 70-man complement that swells to over 1,200 when fully operational, with one stationed on each coast. They have 1,000 beds and have proved useful in regular peacetime hearts-and-minds style goodwill cruises as well as in the Gulf Wars and in hurricane relief.

The ships are fully equipped on-par with a large metro hospital.

Labs

Blood banks

Nutritionist-managed patient/crew meals

Orthopedic Spaces

ICU

Post-anesthesia care

All backed up by logistics

Both ships are now activated and deployed to help backfill hospital capacity to free up room for COVID-19 cases.

USNS Mercy arrived at Los Angeles on 28 March

While USNS Comfort arrived in New York on 30 March

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, March 25, 2020: Lady Lex off Panama

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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

(This week’s WW abbreviated due to events.)

Warship Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Lady Lex off Panama

Original negative given by Mr. Franklin Moran in 1967. Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 64501

Here we see the U.S. Navy’s second aircraft carrier, the brand-new USS Lexington (CV-2) off Panama City, Panama on 25 March 1928, some 92 years ago today.

The fourth U.S. Naval vessel named for the iconic scrap against Minutemen and a detachment of British troops on 19 April 1776, Lexington had originally been designed and laid down as a battlecruiser, designated CC-1.

Authorized to be converted and completed as an aircraft carrier 1 July 1922 she commissioned 14 December 1927, Capt. Albert W. Marshall in command.

The above photo and the four that follow were taken while the $39 million “Lady Lex” was on her shakedown cruise, deploying from her East Coast builders to her homeport at San Pedro, California, where she would arrive on 7 April 1928 and spend the next 13 years of her life.

NH 64697

NH 64699. At the time, she carried her inaugural air group to include Curtiss F6C fighters and Martin T3M torpedo planes, which can be seen on deck.

Note her twin 8″/55 gun mounts. NH 64698

“‘A close squeeze.’ U.S.S. Lexington. 33,000-ton aeroplane carrier, going through Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal.” Courtesy Jim Ferguson via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/02.htm

Of note, Lex had only received her first aircraft aboard only two months prior to her Panama photoshoot.

First plane on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington– a Martin T3M –at the South Boston Naval Annex January 14, 1928, Leslie Jones Collection Boston Public Library. Note her 8-inch guns

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.

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I’m a member, so should you be!

Abbreviated Warship Wednesday: Mount 43, 60 Years Ago Today

(Shorter WW today due to events-Eg.)

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, March 18, 2020: Mount 43, 60 Years Ago This Week

Here we see the Midway-class carrier USS Coral Sea (CVB/CVA/CV-43) as she sits in Vancouver, Britsh Columbia, her haze gray tower lending its own perspective to the majestic North Shore Mountains overlooking the harbor.

Photo by Leslie F. Sheraton, Courtesy of the Vancouver City Archives https://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/aircraft-carrier-in-vancouver-harbour-coral-sea-9 Item 2009-001.153

Coral Sea called in Vancouver only once from what I can tell, for three days from 18 to 20 March 1960. This was immediately after her 33-month SCB-110AB conversion at Bremerton and before she picked up Carrier Air Group (CVG) 15 for her first post-modification WestPac cruise.

Mar 1960 – Newly recommissioned USS Coral Sea entering Vancouver B.C., Canada. Via USS Coral Sea.net https://www.usscoralsea.net/pics1960s1.php

Her crew spells out CANADA on the flight deck. Via USS Coral Sea.net https://www.usscoralsea.net/pics1960s1.php

She was reportedly the largest ship to pass under the city’s famous Lion’s Gate bridge (later dwarfed by USS Ranger‘s 1992 port call) and drew huge crowds.

As noted from a Vancouver historical blog:

Over 100,000 people lined the shorelines to greet the 63,000-ton aircraft carrier, There were traffic jams into Stanley Park as Vancouverites tried to get the best vantage points to see the huge aircraft carrier. The most spectacular moment was when the aircraft carrier went under the Lions Gate Bridge with a few feet to spare. The crew had to take down the “Lollipop”, the 11-foot section of the navigational aid at the top of the mainmast.

According to newspaper articles, thousands of school children skipped school or were permitted to leave to watch the ship come into port. According to one article, one principal said those that played hookey will pay the price with detentions. There were a lot of social events organized while the ship was in port including a huge dance where over 900 local women were invited to meet the sailors.

While in British Columbia the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, commanded by two world war Veteran Lt.Col Ian Malcolm Bell-Irving, paraded alongside the dock and then, coming aboard, down her new-fangled angled flight deck and into her empty hangar deck.

US Navy photo now in the Seattle Branch of the National Archives. # NS024335, via Navsource.

Seaforth Highlanders on the hangar deck of USS Coral Sea

While the Coral Sea, recipient of a dozen Vietnam Service Medals, decommissioned in 1990 and was scrapped by 2000, the Seaforths are still stationed in Vancouver and are set to celebrate their 110th Anniversary in November.

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, March 11, 2020: Flory’s Battle-scarred Bugle

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, March 11, 2020: Flory’s Battle-scarred Bugle

National Records of Scotland, UCS1/118/Gen 372/2

Here we see a vessel identified as the brand-new light cruiser HMS Castor, at the time the flagship of Royal Navy’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, passing Clydebank, February 1916. A handsome ship, she would very soon sail into harm’s way.

Laid down at Cammell Laird and Co. Birkenhead three months after the war started, Castor was a member of the Cambrian subclass of the 28-strong “C”-class of oil-fired light cruisers. Sturdy 446-foot ships of 4,000~ tons, their eight-pack of Yarrow boilers trunked through two funnels and pushing a pair of Parsons turbines coughed up 40,000 shp– enough to sprint them at 29-knots.

Comparable in size to a smallish frigate today, they packed four single BL 6-inch Mk XII guns along with a more distributed battery of six or eight QF 4-inch Mk IV guns in addition to a pair of bow-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes. With up to 6-inches of steel armor (conning tower), they could hold their own against similar cruisers, slaughter destroyers, and gunboats, and run away from larger warships.

After just 11 months on the builder’s ways, Castor was commissioned in November 1915, the fourth of HMs vessels to carry the name one of the Gemini twins since 1781.

A port quarter view of the Cambrian class light cruiser HMS Castor (1915) underway off Scapa Flow. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (N16682)

Castor at commissioning became the flagship of the Grand Fleet’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, which consisted of 14 Admiralty M (Moon)-class destroyers (HMS Kempenfelt, Magic, Mandate, Manners, Marne, Martial, Michael, Milbrook, Minion, Mons Moon, Morning Star, Mounsey, Mystic, and Ossory) under the overall flag of Castor’s skipper since November 1915, Commodore (F) James Rose Price Hawksley. Hawksley had previously spent much of his 19-year RN career up to then as a destroyerman, so it made sense.

With her paint still fresh and her plankowners just off her shakedown, Castor, along with the rest of the mighty Grand Fleet, crashed into the German High Seas Fleet off Denmark’s North Sea Jutland coast, the largest battleship-cruiser-destroyer surface action in history.

While covering the whole Battle of Jutland goes far beyond the scope of this post, we shall focus on Castor’s role and that of her flotilla on the night of the 31st of May. With the day’s fleet action broken up and the two fleets searching for each other in the darkness, the leading German light cruisers brushed into the British rear-guard starboard wing, that being HMS Castor and her destroyers. The official history states:

“At 20:11 hrs., the 11th Flotilla led by Commodore Hawksley, onboard Castor spotted German Destroyers to his NWN and turned to attack, supported by the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron. They had found not destroyers but the main German battle line.”

Castor’s force was soon spotted by the German ships, who approached in the darkness and mimicked the response to a British challenge signal that they had been confronted with, in turn getting one correct out of three challenges. This meant that they were able to approach much closer than usual.

Then, at a range of just 2,000 yards, the German ships threw on their searchlights and opened fire. Castor returned fire, and she and at least two of her destroyers (Marne and Magic), each snap-shotted one torpedo each at the German ships, with the cruiser aiming at the first German in line and the two lead destroyers on the following. “This was followed by an explosion. It may be taken for certain that it was Magic’s torpedo that struck the second ship in the enemy’s line.”

This confused surface action lasted for about five minutes before both sides heeled away into the safety of the black night. Some of the other destroyers reported that they were unable to see the enemy because of glare from Castor’s guns, while others believed there had been some mistake and the contact was friendly fire. No news of the engagement reached Jellicoe in time for him to react with the main battle line.

While her 14 destroyers came away unscathed, Castor received 10 large caliber shell hits, which set her ablaze, and lost 12 of her Sailors and Marines killed or missing.

A photograph was taken from inside the hull of the light cruiser HMS Castor after the Battle of Jutland showing a large shell hole. IWM photograph Q 61137

The dozen killed included bugler Albert Flory, RMLI, who gave his last full measure at the ripe old age of 16.

Marine Albert Flory, RMLI, Castor’s bugler via Royal Marines Museum

Two others among Castor’s dead carried the rank of “Boy,” one generally reserved for apprentice sailors under the age of 18. At the time, about one in 10 of her complement were such modern powder monkeys.

Her death toll overall:

BAKER, William, Boy 1c, J 39706
BARTRAM, Leslie, Able Seaman, J 14191 (Po)
BROOMHEAD, Alfred, Stoker 1c (RFR B 4446), SS 103448 (Po)
CANDY, William A V, Ordinary Signalman, J 28149 (Po)
CHILD, Frederick T, Stoker Petty Officer, 308828 (Po)
EVANS, Alfred O, Ordinary Signalman, J 27451 (Dev)
FLORY, Albert E, Bugler, RMLI, 18169 (Po)
FOX, John E, Stoker 1c, SS 114531 (Po)
GASSON, Harry, Able Seaman (RFR B 6769), 212007 (Po)
HALLAM, Fred, Boy 1c, J 39695
KILHAMS, Alfred J, Ordinary Telegraphist, J 30359 (Po)
MACGREGOR, Donald N, Chief Yeoman of Signals, 173674 (Po)

Added to the butcher’s bill was 26 seriously and 13 lightly wounded.

“H.M.S. Castor, an operation”

HMS Castor. Wounded Received After the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916 painting by Jan (Godfrey Jervis) Gordon. IWM ART 2781 Note from IWM: This scene of British wounded sailors being tended to during the Battle of Jutland is by the artist Jan Gordon. It was one of four paintings completed by Gordon on behalf of the Imperial War Museum’s Royal Navy Medical Section between 1918 and 1919. Gordon’s painting shows the wounded crew members being brought below deck, each bearing a variety of injuries and corresponding treatments.

Castor would spend most of the rest of 1916 and the first part of 1917 undergoing repairs and, as the High Seas Fleet didn’t sortie again until the surrender at Scapa Flow, the remainder of Castor’s war was relatively uneventfully spent on duty in the Home Islands. The most interesting action of this period was when she responded to the sinking armed trawler USS Rehoboth (SP-384) in October 1917, during which the cruiser took on the stricken vessel’s crew and sent the derelict hull to the bottom with shellfire.

On 23 November 1918, she was tasked with counting and watching surrendering German destroyers.

Royal Navy C-class light cruiser HMS Castor, 1918 IWM SP 2750

Hawkesley, Castor’s first skipper, and 11th Flotilla commodore at Jutland would move on to finish the war in command of the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible. He would go on to retire as a Rear Admiral in 1922 in conjunction with the Washington Naval Treaty drawdown, a rank advanced to Vice-Admiral while on the Retired List four years later. He would be replaced on Castor’s bridge by Commodore (F) Hugh Justin Tweedie, a man who would go on to retire as a full admiral in 1935. Sir Hugh would return to service in the early days of WWII, working with the Convoy Pools in his 60s.

Castor, whose 4-inch secondary battery was replaced by a smaller number of AAA guns, is listed as serving in the Black Sea with the British force deployed there for intervention into the broiling Russian Civil War from 1919-20. Such duty could prove deadly. For example, while none of the 28 C-class light cruisers were lost during the Great War– despite several showing up in U-boat periscopes and being present at Jutland and the Heligoland Bight– Castor’s sister Cassandra was sunk by a mine in the Baltic on 5 December 1918 while acting against the Reds.

Castor followed up her Russian stint service on the Irish Patrol in 1922. Then came a spell as the floating Gunnery School at Portsmouth until 1924 when she passed into a period of refit and reserve.

She was recommissioned at Devonport for China Station June 1928, to relieve her sistership Curlew and saw the globe a bit.

HMS Castor at Devonport, where she was commissioned to relieve the Curlew on China Station. NH 61309

HMS Castor, Malta, note her extensive awnings and reduced armament

HMS Castor off New York

HMS Castor, Stockholm

With the times passing and newer cruisers coming on line eating up valuable treaty-limited tonnage, Castor was paid off in May 1935 and sold two months later to Metal Ind, Rosyth, for her value in scrap metal. There has not been a “Castor” on the British naval list since. Most of her early sisters were likewise disposed of in the same manner during this period.

Just half of the class, 14 vessels, made it out of the Depression still in the fleet and most went on to serve in one form or another in the Second World War, despite their advanced age and outdated nature. Of those, six were lost: Curlew, Calcutta, and Coventry to enemy aircraft; Calypso and Cairo to submarines, as well as Curacoa to a collision with the Queen Mary.

Just one C-class cruiser survived past 1948, Jutland veteran Caroline, a past Warship Wednesday alum. Having served as an RNVR drillship in Alexandra Dock, Belfast until 2011, since 2016 she has been a museum ship. She is the last remaining warship that was at Jutland.

Castor’s sister Caroline in Belfast recently, disarmed, decommed, but still proud

When it comes to Castor, a number of relics remain.

Her White Ensign (Length 183 cm, Width 92 cm) is in the IWM collection, although not on display while her (525x 425x30mm) ship’s badge is at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

One of Castor’s unidentified lost souls was finally discovered in 2016, a full century after Jutland.

Able Seaman Harry Gasson‘s body was blown to sea in the engagement and was recovered about two nautical miles off Grey Deep on 25 September 1916– an amazing four months after the battle. With no identification, he was and buried simply as a “British Seaman of the Great War Known unto God” five days later in the Danish town of Esbjerg.

As noted by the MoD:

The local people of Esbjerg maintained the grave for almost 100 years, but it wasn’t until local historians looked into the church records to find it was recorded that the sailor had the name H. Gossom written in his trousers. After work by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and checking naval records, the MOD was able to agree that the identity of this sailor was H. Gasson, and there had been an error in the transcription.

His anonymous headstone was replaced with his correct name in a ceremony attended by two of his descendants along with the ship’s company of the HMS Tyne.

Relatives and representatives from the Royal Navy attend the service on 31 May 2016, for AB Gasson in Denmark (MoD photo)

As for Marine Albert Flory’s shrapnel-riddled bugle, to mark this year’s Bands of HM Royal Marines Mountbatten Festival of Music 2020, the Royal Marine Museum is giving the public the chance to “adopt” it to support the new Royal Marines Museum Campaign.

Flory’s instrument, no doubt close to him when he was struck at Jutland. Via the Royal Marine Museum

Specs:


Displacement: 3,750 tons (designed); 4,320 fl; 4,799 deep load
Length: 446 ft (o/a)
Beam: 41 ft 6 in
Draught: 14 ft 10 in (with Bunkers full, and complete with Provisions, Stores and Water: 16 feet 3 inches mean)
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow Small tube boilers, 2 Parsons steam turbines, 2 shafts, 30,000 shp natural/40,000 Forced Draught
Speed: 28.5 knots max (some hit 29 on trials)
Number of Tons of Oil Fuel Carried: 841
Quantity of Water carried: For Boilers, 70 tons, For Drinking 49.25 tons
Ship’s Company (typical)
Officers: 31
Seamen: 149
Boys: 31
Marines: 36
Engine-room establishment: 88
Other non-executive ratings: 44
Total: 379
Boats:
One motorboat 30 feet
One sailing cutter 30 feet
Two whalers 27 feet, Montague
One gig 30 feet
Two skiff dinghies 16 feet
One motorboat 30 feet for Commodore’s use
Armor:
Waterline belt: 1.5–3 in
Deck: 1 in
Conning tower: 6 in
Armament:
(1915)
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns on Forecastle, Forward superstructure, Aft Forward superstructure and Quarterdeck
6 x single QF 4″/40 Mk IV guns
1 x single QF 4 in 13 pounder Mk V anti-aircraft gun
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes
(1919)
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns
2 x QF 3-inch 20 cwt IV on Mark IV AAA mounting on foc’sle
2 x QF 2 pole Pom-pom AAA on the aft superstructure
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes

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, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

Here we see the deck of a Kaiser-built Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) filled with some unusual aircraft– USAAF P-47D Thunderbolts– flying off her stubby deck just after a Japanese attack on the ship in June 1944. Her first exposure to combat, the next seven months would be a wild ride for Manila Bay, one that would see her count coup on some of the most iconic Japanese warships.

No matter if you call them “jeep carriers,” “baby flattops,” or “Combustible, Vulnerable, and Expendable,” the escort carrier concept is one we have covered a few times in the past several years on WW. Besides one-off training carriers and prototype ships, four large classes of U.S.-built CVEs (Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca, Commencement Bay) were cranked out during WWII, approaching 150~ hulls planned or completed for Uncle Sam and his Allies.

Manila Bay and her multitude of sisters (CVE-55 through CVE-104) were basically Liberty ships, C-3-S-A1 freighters, whose topsides were sliced away and fitted with flight decks and a small island on the starboard side with a modicum of AAA guns placed in tubs alongside the flight deck for self-protection.

Cranked out by the Kaiser yard in Vancouver, the Casablancas was the most prolific CVEs to see service, with a solid 50 ordered in bulk, to be completed within two years.

Think about that: one yard making 50 carriers in two years. You couldn’t beat that, even though they were not nice, larger fleet carriers. Quantity over quality.

Besides, the CVEs could be used for supporting beachheads during amphibious operations, escorting slow-moving convoys, and easily shuttling aircraft from location to location– all jobs that typically tied down the more valuable large flattops, freeing the big boys up for strategic and decisive fleet actions ala Mahan.

Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, right, presents President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a model of the escort carriers that he was constructing at Vancouver, Washington, on 18 March 1943. Kaiser built 50 of these CASABLANCA class carriers CVE-55-104 in 1943-44. NH 75629

Just 513-feet long overall, the Casablancas could carry a couple dozen aircraft in a composite squadron, typically a mix of upgraded FM‑2 Wildcat fighters and lumbering TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. However, they only had one catapult (most other CVEs had two) which limited their op-tempo a bit.

Manila Bay’s wartime embarked air wings (squadrons):
VC-7, 29 Jan – 28 Feb 44 – Marshall Islands.
VC-7, 19 Mar – 19 Apr 44 – Bismarck Archipelago.
VC-7, 27 Apr – 2 May 44 – Western New Guinea.
VC-80, 12-26 Oct 4 4- Leyte Operation.
VC-80, 12-18 Dec 44 – Luzon Operation.
VC-80, 4-18 Jan 45 – Luzon Operation.
VC-71, 9 Jun – 20 Jun 45 – Okinawa Gunto Operation.

For reference, see the below overhead shot of sister USS Savo Island (CVE-78) with a nice starboard bow aerial view of the Casablanca-class escort carrier underway.

Note disassembled aircraft on the flight deck, and camouflage paint scheme. It is not hard to see these are freighter hulls with a simple flight deck thrown on top and a small offset island to house antenna, a bridge, and an air boss. 80-G-409217

Laid down originally as Bucareli Bay (ACV‑61) on 15 January 1943, our featured carrier was renamed the more warlike Manila Bay (CVE-61) just two months later. Launched 10 July 1943, she was commissioned 5 October 1943 at Astoria, Oregon. In all, she went from first steel laid to joining the fleet in 263 days. Not bad.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), at launching, sliding down the ways at Kaiser Company Inc., Vancouver, Washington, July 10, 1943. 80-G-372761

The Casablancas carried a smaller armament than other CVEs, but they still weren’t helpless, packing a single open 5″/38cal DP mount for use in scaring off a small surface attacker, 16 dual 40mm Bofors, and 20 Oerlikon singles.

Testing the sole 5-inch gun USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 November 1943. Note fuzed ready shells. 80-G-372778

Testing 40 mm anti-aircraft guns onboard USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 October 1943 80-G-372776

She spent the rest of 1943 on shakedown along the west coast, where plane handling was often a new thing for many on both sides of the stick.

Crash of FM1 Wildcat, Bu# 46789, on the flight deck of USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), as she bursts into flames, December 16, 1943. 80-G-372821

And as the fire spreads to other parked aircraft. 80-G-372823

By January 1944, she was forward deployed, with her planes socking it to the Japanese on Kwajalein with Task Force 52, where she carried the flag of RADM Ralph Davidson for CarDiv 24.

Kwajalein Island, 4 February 1944, on the last day of major fighting between Japanese defenders and the U.S. Army invaders. Seen from a USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) plane from the Pacific, looking west, with landing beaches in the upper left distance surrounded by landing craft. Several LVT’s are on the beach in the foreground, moving toward the front lines, off the view to the right. The block-house area is in the right-center, with some buildings still burning. 80-G-373059

From there, she continued operating in the Marshalls including Eniwetok and then to Majuro, before chopping to TF 37 to hit Kavieng and then support operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea.

Relieved of her flag duties, the now-veteran carrier turned for Pearl Harbor for a quick refit and a mission to pick up a load of Army aircraft, 37 P-47-D Thunderbolts, for transshipment to points West. They would be headed to still-hot Saipan in the Marianas, where the “Jugs” would be engaged in combat immediately.

Pilots of the 73rd Fighter squadron, 7th USAAF, receive a briefing on the flight deck of USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) before taking off for Saipan, where they will be based, 20 June 1944. Planes are P-47s. 80-G-238677

There, just East of Saipan, the ship had her literal baptism of fire when she was jumped by a quartet of Mitsubishi A6Ms. Dropping small 100-pound bombs, they just missed the carrier by 400 to 600 yards. In return, her crew fired five 5-inch, 190 40mm and 465 20mm rounds at the planes. Likewise, these also evidently caused no damage.

USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) under bombing attack by four Japanese “Zeke” aircraft, off Saipan, at 1205 on 23 June 1944. Note USAAF P-47 fighters on deck, for delivery to Saipan airfields. 80-G-238680

During the attack, the Army fighter pilots calmly tended their planes while the bluejackets tended their guns. Just after the attack was over, the first four P-47s launched for Aslito Field.

USAAF P-47 fighters of the 73rd fighters SQ., 7th AF, being launched from USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) for delivery to airfields on Saipan, 24 June 1944. 80-G-238689

Catapult USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) P-47D-11-RA of 318th FG, 73rd FS, 42-23038 pilot Eubanks Barnhill in “Sonny Boy”

P-47 Thunderbolt #34 of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group takes off from the USS Manila Bay CVE-61

P-47D “Spittin’ Kitten” 404 of the 318th FG, 73rd FS prepares to launch from USS Manila Bay CVE-61, 23 June 1944

P-47D Thunderbolt #29 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd FS, 318th Fighter Group Cpt John O’Hare

P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback serial 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group

Lt. Joseph J. DeVona in the cockpit of his 73rd Fighter Squadron, P-47N “Empire Express.” Note the squadron’s “Bar Flies” insignia. The 73rd would prove itself on Saipan, ranging on 1,300-mile escorts as far as Iwo Jima, then transfer to Okinawa in April 1945 to finish the war. They would later become a bombing squadron flying B-52s in the Cold War. 

This great video covers the 318th FG and their trip to Saipan.

On Manila Bay‘s return trip to Pearl, she was used as a hospital ship, embarking 207 wounded troops for a return stateside.

Returning to CarDiv24, Manila Bay picked up a new skipper, CAPT. Fitzhugh Lee III (USNA 1926), who was the great-great-grandson of Light Horse Harry Lee of Revolutionary War fame and grandson Virginia cavalry general Fitzhugh Lee of Civil War and SpanAm War fame. Like his forefathers, he would lead his men into harm’s way.

–But first, she had to shlep a load of Navy and Marine bombers to the front.

USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) with a mix of about two dozen PBJ-1D (navalized B-25 Mitchell) and JM-1 (navalized Martin B-26 Marauder) aircraft embarked 24 August 1944. 80-G-243546

North American PBJ-1D Mitchell bomber of U.S. Marine Corps bombing squadron VMB-611 spotted on the deck of the escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61), August 1944. Note the radar nose cone. The squadron made a major contribution with these planes in the Mindanao campaign

Then, as part of Escort Carrier Group (TG 77.4), came the push for the Philippines, where Manila Bay was part of the famed Taffy 2 during the Battle of Samar.

About the last week of October 1944 from DANFS:

Prior to the invasion, her planes pounded enemy ground targets on Leyte, Samar, and Cebu. She launched ground support, spotting, and air cover strikes during the amphibious assaults 20 October; thence, she sent bombers and fighters to support ground forces during the critical first few days at Leyte.

As Manila Bay cruised to the east of Leyte Gulf with other carriers of Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump’s Taffy 2 (TU 77.4.2), powerful Japanese naval forces converged upon the Philippines and launched a three‑pronged offensive to drive the Americans from Leyte. In a series of masterful and coordinated surface attacks, an American battleship, cruiser, and destroyer force met and smashed enemy ships in the Battle of Surigao Strait early 25 October. Surviving Japanese ships retreated into the Mindanao Sea pursued by destroyers, PT boats, and after sunrise by carrier‑based bombers and fighters.

Manila Bay sent an eight‑plane strike against ground targets on Leyte before sunrise; subsequently, these planes bombed and strafed retiring enemy ships southwest of Panaon Island. A second strike about midmorning pounded the disabled heavy cruiser Magami. In the meantime, however, Manila Bay turned her planes against a more immediate threat-the enemy attack against ships of Taffy 3.

The running battle between the escort carriers of Rear Adm. Clifton Sprague’s Taffy 3 and the larger, vastly more powerful surface ships of Admiral Kurita’s Center Force; the brilliant, self‑sacrificing attacks by gallant American destroyers and destroyer escorts, and the prompt, aggressive, and unceasing torpedo, bomb, and strafing strikes by planes from Taffy 2 and Taffy 3, all contributed to the American victory against great odds in the Battle off Samar.

Manila Bay launched two airstrikes during the enemy pursuit of Taffy 3 and two more as the Japanese retreated. At 0830 she sent four torpedo‑laden TBMs and a seven‑plane escort to join the desperate fight. Three launched torpedoes at a battleship, probably Yamato, but she combed the wakes. The fourth plane launched her torpedo at a heavy cruiser, most likely Chikuma. It hit her to starboard near the fantail, forcing her out of control. The second strike an hour later by two TBMs resulted in one torpedo hit on the portside amidships against an unidentified battleship.

As the Japanese ships broke off attack and circled off Samar, the fierce airstrikes continued. At 1120 Manila Bay launched four TBMs, carrying 500‑pound bombs, and four bombers from other carriers. Escorted by FM‑2s and led by Comdr. R. L. Fowler, they soon joined planes from other Taffy carriers. Shortly after 1230, some 70 planes jumped the retiring Center Force, strafing and bombing through intense antiaircraft fire. Manila Bay’s bombers made a hit and two near misses on the lead battleship, probably Kongo or Haruna. Manila Bay launched her final strike at 1245, strafing destroyers and getting two hits on a cruiser.

Later that afternoon, Manila Bay‘s CAP intercepted a Japanese bomber‑fighter strike about 50 miles north of Taffy 2. Her four fighters broke up the enemy formation, and with reinforcements drove off the attackers before they reached the carriers. Her planes continued to pound enemy ships the following day. Laden with rockets and bombs, one of her TBMs scored two hits on light cruiser Kinu and several rocket hits on Uranami, an escorting destroyer. Both ships sank about noon in the Visayan Sea after numerous air attacks.

Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 1944. USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) and USS BOISE (CL-47) operating off Leyte, 28 October 1944. Photographed from NATOMA BAY (CVE-62). 80-G-287558

Some of her downed aircrews managed to be returned quickly.

Ensign Crandell, TBM Pilot of VC-80, and his aircrewman who were brought back on-board USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) by a U.S. Navy PT Boat 523 after they were shot down over Leyte Island beachhead, Philippines, October 22, 1944. Note the PT-boat’s field-expedient 37mm gun forward, salvaged from an AAF P-39 Airacobra. 80-G-372892

Of note, one of her Avenger pilots, LT (j.g.) Horace D. Bryan was presented with the Navy Cross, for landing two 500-pound bombs on the Japanese Nagara-class light cruiser Kinu in the Camotes Sea area on 26 October, which proved key in sending her to the bottom.

With no rest, the flattop was soon active in the Mindoro invasion and operations around Luzon for the rest of the year and going into 1945.

There, she felt the Divine Wind. Sistership USS Ommaney Bay (CVE–79) was sunk after an attack by a kamikaze Yokosuka P1Y Ginga twin-engine bomber on 4 January. The next day, it would be Manila Bay’s turn in the barrel.

From DANFS:

The enemy air attacks intensified 5 January. Patrolling lighters broke up morning and early afternoon strikes, shooting down numerous raiders. At 1650 a third attack sent all hands to general quarters. Vectored CAP bagged several enemy planes and antiaircraft fire splashed still more. Three planes got through to Louisville, Stafford, and HMAS Australia. Just before 1750, two kamikazes dove at Manila Bay from the portside. The first plane [a Mitsubishi A6M Zeke] hit the flight deck to starboard abaft the bridge, causing fires on the flight and hangar decks, destroying radar transmitting spaces, and wiping out all communications. The second plane, aimed for the bridge, missed the island close aboard to starboard and splashed off the fantail.

View from the flight deck of the escort carrier Manila Bay (CVE 61) under attack by Japanese kamikazes off Mindoro in the Philippines Jan 5, 1945

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Japanese kamikaze fighter bomber starting an attack on the carrier escort in the South China Sea during operations in support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273176

Firefighting parties promptly brought the blazes under control including those of two fueled and burning torpedo planes in the hangar deck.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Crew combating fire after Japanese kamikaze crashed into the ship’s flight deck at Luzon, South China Sea, during operations in the support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273184

VC80s 23 on-board planes on Manila Bay when suicide plane hit, via her war diary in National Archives.

Within 24 hours she resumed limited air operations. Most repairs to her damaged electrical and communication circuits were completed by 9 January when the amphibious invasion in Lingayen Gulf got underway.

Manila Bay had 14 men killed and 52 wounded, but by 10 January she resumed full duty in support of the Lingayen Gulf operations,” notes DANFs. “In addition to providing air cover for the task force, her planes flew 104 sorties against targets in western Luzon. They gave effective close support for ground troops at Lingayen and San Fabian and bombed, rocketed, and strafed gun emplacements, buildings, truck convoys, and troop concentrations from Lingayen to Baguio.”

Sent stateside for repairs, Manila Bay was back in action off the coast of Okinawa by 13 June, launching rocket and strafing strikes in the Ryukyus. Then, given a break with a cruise to the Aleutians, she ended the war in support of occupation operations in northern Japan, dropping supplies to POWs.

Switching to Magic Carpet duty, Manila Bay landed her aircraft and made three runs from the Western Pacific to Pearl and San Francisco. By 27 January 1946, she was given orders for the peacetime East Coast and eventual lay up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, being decommissioned at Boston on 31 July.

Manila Bay received eight battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for her wartime service.

While some CVEs, typically late-war Bogue-class escort carriers, found use in Korea and Vietnam, primarily in as aircraft shuttles, the Casablancas remained at anchor growing rusty. Only five of the class saw any significant post-war service past 1946– USS Petrof Bay (CVE–80), Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86), Cape Esperance (CVE-88), Tripoli (CVE-64), and Corregidor (CVE-58)— typically as unarmed MSC-controlled aircraft ferries with a mostly civilian crew. Even this limited role would end by 1959.

Five of the 11 American carriers lost during WWII were sisterships of Manila Bay, earning the class the perhaps unfair nickname of “Kaiser’s Coffins.”

As a class, the remaining Casablancas were retyped as utility carriers (CVU) or aircraft ferry (AKV), which saw Manila Bay designated CVU‑61 on 12 June 1955 while still in mothballs.

USS Manila Bay CVE-61, USS Woolsey DD-437, USS Chenango CVE-28. USS Baldwin DD-624 South Boston Naval Annex Jul 1959. 19590700S-20

Subsequently, her name was struck from the Navy list 27 May 1958 and she was sold for scrap to Hugo New Corp., 2 September 1959, a fate largely shared by the rest of her class.

By 1969, no Casablancas would remain anywhere in the world.

There has not been a second Manila Bay on the Navy List.

I can’t find her bell, but much of her war diaries are available online at the National Archives.

As for her 1944-45 skipper, Fitzhugh Lee III, he was present at the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, aboard Missouri and would go on to retire as a Vice Admiral in 1962. He was a double Navy Cross recipient, both for his command of Manila Bay at the Battle of Samar and on her kamikaze strike. He passed in 1992 and is buried in Northern Virginia, naturally.

Specs:

Inboard and outboard profiles of a U.S. Navy Casablanca-class escort carrier, via Wiki Commons

Displacement: 7,800 long tons (7,900 t)
Length: 512 ft overall
Beam: 65 ft
Draft: 22 ft 6 in
Propulsion:
4 × 285 psi boilers 9,000 shp
2 × 5-cylinder reciprocating Skinner Unaflow engines
2 × screws
Speed: 19 kn
Range: 10,240 nmi at 10 kn
Complement:
Embarked Squadron: 50–56, Ship’s Crew: 860
Armament:
1 × 5 in/38 caliber dual-purpose gun
16 × 40 mm Bofors guns (8×2)
20 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons (20×1)
Aircraft carried: 27

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020: The Everlasting Albrecht Marsch

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, Feb. 26, 2020: The Albrecht Marsch

Here we see the unique early casemate battleship SMS Erzherzog Albrecht of the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy, the K.u.K Kriegsmarine, in Pola (Pula), sometime between 1874 and 1892. Designed as a “kasemattschiff” with a ram bow, she was built to fight at the Battle of Lissa, which predated her by a decade. Nonetheless, the obsolete Austrian would endure for 83 years in one form or another and live through both World Wars.

Lissa– as those who are fans of ram bows on steam warships are aware– was the iconic naval action in 1866 between Austria and Italy in which the tactic of busting below-waterline holes in one’s enemy’s ships proved decisive. Sadly, for a generation of battleships that immediately followed, ramming never really proved effective in combat again, save for its use in the 20th Century by fast warships against very close submarines caught operating on the surface.

Illustration of the Austro-Hungarian ironclad SMS Erzherzog Albrecht under sail published in “Europe in Arms: The Austro-Hungarian Navy”. The Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine. London: W. H. Allen & Co. IV: 384. 1886, via Wiki Commons

Beyond her reinforced ram bow, Erzherzog Albrecht was a decent brawler for her era. Based on the design of her preceding half-sister, SMS Custoza, Kaiser Franz Josef’s newest battleship went 5,980-tons, was 295-feet overall in length and carried a battery of eight 9.25″/20 cal cast iron Krupp guns in a two-tiered casemate protected by up to eight inches of wrought iron armor backed by another 10 of teak wood.

Cast iron 21cm cannon at Krupps Steel Foundry Works Essen, 1868. It was cast from single casing

The twin-funneled SMS Custoza. She differed from Erzherzog Albrecht in the respect that she was slightly larger and carried a battery of eight 10-inch guns. Erzherzog Albrecht was a “budget” follow-on.

Designed by Obersten-Schiffbau-Ingeniuer Josef Ritter von Romako, who also crafted Custoza, the two half-sisters were the country’s first iron ships. Capable of making 12.8-knots on her steam plant, Erzherzog Albrecht had a hybrid sail rig, common for her era, on three masts. Built at Trieste, she was commissioned in the summer of 1874, birthed out into the Adriatic.

She was named for Hapsburg general and war hero, Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, the bespectacled victor in the battle of Custoza in 1866 over the Italians.

This guy.

Unlike most European powers, Austria fought no outright wars from 1866 until 1914, except for a low-key counter-insurgency campaign in the Balkans, a fact that translated to a relatively peaceful half-century for the K.u.K Kriegsmarine. With that, Erzherzog Albrecht spent her front-line career in a series of short cruises around the Mediterranean and its associated seas, with long periods in ordinary, swaying at her moorings.

Pola (Pula), the Navy Yard, Istria, Austro-Hungary, Detroit Publishing Co postcard, the 1890s, via LOC

The only time she fired her guns in anger was to bombard Bokelj rebel bands near Cattaro (Kotor), Dalmatia, in March 1882, a factor of using a hammer to crush a grape. The year before she was used in gunboat diplomacy to protest French expansion in Tunisia, calling at La Goulette (Halq al-Wadi) on the North African coast for several weeks.

Austrian steam ironclad SMS Erzherzog Albrecht with her naval ram before 1892

Modernized on numerous occasions between 1880 and 1893, she received additional small-caliber anti-torpedo boat guns as well as a quartet of 14-inch torpedo tubes while engineering updates swapped out her plant. She picked up watertight bulkheads for safety and an electrical system for lighting and communication, two things that didn’t exist when she was designed in 1868.

SMS Erzherzog Albrecht by Leopold_Wölfling via Austrian Archives

By 1908, the ram-bowed ship, with her then-quaint wood-backed wrought iron armor and stubby 24 cm/20 black powder breechloaders, was as obsolete as can be in the era of Dreadnoughts and she was semi-retired.

Renamed from the regal Erzherzog Albrecht to the more pedestrian Feuerspeier (fire gargoyle), she was tasked with operating as a naval artillery school ship in Pola. For this work, she was demasted and largely disarmed other than for training pieces.

FEUERSPEIER (Austrian schoolship, 1872-1946) former battleship ERZHERZOG ALBRECHT photographed while serving either as a naval artillery school ship from 1908-1915 or as an accommodation ship for crews of German submarines operating from Adriatic ports during 1915-1918. An Erzherzog Karl-class battleship appears in the left background. The stern of the artillery school ship ADRIA (ex-frigate RADETZKY, 1872-1920) appears to the right. The photograph was taken at Pola. Courtesy of Mr. Arrigo Barilli, Bologna, Italy. NH 75917

Erzherzog Albrecht/Feuerspeier was such a non-threat in Western circles that she was not listed in the 1914 edition of Janes, which ranked Austria-Hungary as a 7th rate naval power.

When the lights went out all over Europe in 1914, Erzherzog Albrecht/Feuerspeier continued her use as a school ship until the next summer, when she came to the next chapter of her career.

In June 1915, the Germans established U-Flottille Pola to help their submarine-poor Austrian brothers-in-arms and use the base in the Adriatic to raid the Allies in the Med. Using a mix of U-boats sailing directly from German ports and breaking through the Allied blockade, and small coastal type UB- and UC-boats, which were dissected and moved by rail to Pola for reassembly, the Germans at one time or another ran 45 boats through the port.

It was during this time that Erzherzog Albrecht/Feuerspeier became one of the accommodation ship/submarine tenders (mutterschiff) for this force of visiting sailors.

Austrian submarine loading torpedo (Osterreichisches Staatsarchiv 5.17)

Among the “aces” sailing from Pola was the famed Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière, considered the king of Great War U-boat skippers, who bagged 77 ships totaling 160,000 GRT in four months in 1916 alone.

Of interest, the Austrian martial musical Erzherzog Albrecht Marsch, by Viennese composer Karl Komzak, was used by German submariners in both World Wars as a sailing song to celebrate departures and arrivals of U-boats, a holdover of the Happy Pola times when Feuerspeier’s band would play the tune on such occasions. So much so that the music was used in Das Boot when the fictional U-96 leaves her pens for the Atlantic, then when she returns.

Nonetheless, once the war was over and both the Imperial German and Austrian navies– along with their empires– were consigned to the dustbin of history, and Erzherzog Albrecht/Feuerspeier was captured by the victorious Allies along with several floating relics and more modern U-boats in Pola, then part of the newly-established Yugoslavia.

Ex-Austrian ships at Pola, circa 1919. Surrendered ships photographed by Zimmer. The surface ships are probably the ex-torpedo gun-vessel SEBENICO (1882-1920) and the ex-submarine tender PELIKAN (1891-1920) behind her. The two submarines in the foreground are probably of the U-27 class (German UB-II type) and most of the others are probably of the U-10 (UB-I) class. The conning tower on the right probably belongs to U-5. Catalog #: NH 42825

Pola Harbor, Yugoslavia in the foreground are three ex-Austrian hulks: front to back, LACROMA (ex-TIGER, 1887-1920), CUSTOZZA (1872-1920), and BELLONA (ex-KAISER, 1872-1920). To their right are two US SC boats. In the upper left are four French ALGERIEN class destroyers: bow letters I, H, Q, and R. In the center are three Italian destroyers including one of the ALESSANDRO POERIO class. The photo was taken late 1919-early 1920. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 95006

In 1920, the old Austrian battleship was awarded to Italy as a war trophy under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, aged 44, and was towed to Taranto where she was to be used as a tender under the name of Buttafuoco for the submarines of IV Gruppo.

She would continue in this task for another two decades, losing her name for the more generic designation of GM 64. (Her near-sister, SMS Custoza, was likewise awarded to the Italians but was quickly scrapped and never used.)

As in 1914, the 1945 edition of Janes neglected to list GM64/Buttafuoco under Italy’s entry, although such minor craft as 600-ton water tenders did make the cut.

GM 64 Buttafuoco (ex. Feuerspeier, ex. SMS Erzherzog Albrecht), Taranto, 1940

Italian submarines Giovanni da Procida and Ciro Menotti alongside GM 64, Taranto Mar 1941

An unidentified Italian submarine moored next to GM 64, Taranto 1941

In 1947, still in the Arsenale of Taranto, she was held as a floating hulk until it was decided to scrap the old girl in 1955.

GM 64 Buttafuoco (ex. Feuerspeier, ex. SMS Erzherzog Albrecht), Taranto, 1947 along with cluster of Italian subs

GM 64 Buttafuoco (ex. Feuerspeier, ex. SMS Erzherzog Albrecht), 1949

Her name has never been reissued.

In a hat tip to her Italian legacy, in 1996, a group of 11 winemakers joined to form the Buttafuoco Storico, with an ode to the former RN Buttafuoco of old.

Meanwhile, Chilean and Argentine U-boaters, err, submarinos, still reportedly sortie and arrive to the sound of the Erzherzog Albrecht Marsch.

Specs:

1874, left, 1892-1908, right

Displacement: 5,980 long tons
Length:
288 ft 3 in waterline
294 ft 3 in o/a
Beam: 56 ft 3 in
Draft: 22 ft
Propulsion:
8 boilers, one 2-cylinder Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino steam engine, one screw, 3,969 IHP
Ship rig as designed, schooner rig in practice
Speed: 12.84 knots
Endurance: 2300 @10kts on 500 tons of coal
Crew: 540
Armor:
Belt- Composite 8 inches iron/10-inches teak
Casemate- Composite 7 inches iron/8-inches teak
Armament:
(1874)
8 x 9.4″/20cal C.24 Krupp breechloaders
6 x 3.5″/22 Krupp breechloaders
2 x 2.8-inch Krupp breechloaders
(1892)
8 x 9.4″/20cal C.24 Krupp breechloaders
6 x 3.5″/22 Krupp breechloaders
2 x 2.8-inch Krupp breechloaders
2 x 2.59″/16 L18
9 x 47mm Hotchkiss RF
10 x 25mm Nordenfeldt RF
4 x 350mm torpedo tubes with Whitehead torpedoes

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.

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I’m a member, so should you be!

Oh, Canada…

The Canadian Navy has been heavy into the submarine biz for generations.

The Canucks got into subs in a weird way when in August 1914, Sir Richard McBride, KCMG, the premier of British Columbia, bought a pair of small (144-foot, 300-ton) coastal submarines from Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, an act that your local government normally doesn’t do. The boats had been ordered by Chile who later refused them as not up to snuff.

Sailing for Vancouver in the dark of night as they were technically acquired in violation of a ton of international agreements (and bought for twice the annual budget for the entire Royal Canadian Navy!) they were commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and CC-2. The Dominion Government of Canada later ratified the sale while a subsequent investigation was conducted into how they were acquired.

CC-class

Nonetheless, the two tiny CC boats were the first submarines of the Maple Leaf and continued in service until after the Great War when they were laid up and replaced by a pair of American-made 435-ton H-class submarines from the Royal Navy, HMS H14 and H15, which remained in the Canadian fleet as HMCS CH-14 and CH-15 until broken up in 1927.

H-class

After this, Canada went out of the submarine business for a while until 1945. Then, Ottawa inherited two newly surplus German Type IXC/40 U-boats, sisters U-190 and U-889, both in working condition and constructed in the same builder’s yard. After transferring them on paper to the Royal Navy, they were transferred back (apparently the same day) and both became vessels of the RCN, dubbed HCMS U-190 and U-889, which they kept as working souvenirs for a couple years.

Canadian war artist Tom Wood's watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John's. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat's crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190's crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine's surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Canadian war artist Tom Wood’s watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John’s. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat’s crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190’s crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine’s surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Fast forward a bit and the Canadians began using two U.S. boats, —USS Burrfish (SS-312) and USS Argonaut (SS-475), as HMCS Grilse (SS 71) and Rainbow (SS 75), respectively– from 1961 to 1974.

Then they bought their first new subs since CC-1 & CC-2, a trio of British Oberon-class diesel boats– HMCS Ojibwa (S72), Onondaga (S73) and Okanagan (S74), which served from 1965 to 2000.

Three O-boats (Oberon-class) submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy in Bedford Basin, Halifax, 1995. RCNavy Image 95-0804 10 by Corp CH Roy

Since then, they have been using the quartet of second-hand RN Upholder-class subs, HMCS Victoria (SSK-876), Windsor (SSK-877), Corner Brook (SSK-878) and Chicoutimi (SSK-879) which are expected to remain in service in some form until the 2030s.

HMCS Submarine Chicoutimi.

The thing is, the Canadian Navy managed exactly zero (-0-) days underway with their subs last year– but not without cause.

As reported by CBC:

“The boats were docked last year after an intense sailing schedule for two of the four submarines over 2017 and 2018. HMCS Chicoutimi spent 197 days at sea helping to monitor sanctions enforcement off North Korea and visiting Japan as part of a wider engagement in the western Pacific. HMCS Windsor spent 115 days in the water during the same time period, mostly participating in NATO operations in the Atlantic.”

It is hoped that three of the four may return to sea at some point this year.

Yikes.

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