Tag Archive | mine warfare

Warship Wednesday, June 5, 2019: Overlord’s First Loss, now 75 years on

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, June 5, 2019: Overlord’s First Loss

D-Day Map showing Firing Plan from USS Texas (BB-35) NHHC_1969-232-A_full

NHHC 1969-232-A

Here we see a British Admiralty chart entitled “Iles St Marcouf to Cap Manvieux,” covering a span of the Normandy Coast in France. This chart was used by the venerable New York-class battleship USS Texas (BB-35) during her bombardment operations in support of the Operation Neptune landings, 6 June 1944, the seaside part of Operation Overlord. If you note in the top right-hand quarter of the chart is a set of two parallel lines marked with dan buoys marking a 900-meter-wide channel that was swept of mines immediately prior to and on D-Day.

In short, if it hadn’t had been for those minecraft that cleared the aforementioned path, the whole invasion would have gone a good bit different. With that, today’s Warship Wednesday is on the loss of the Raven-class minesweeper USS Osprey (AM-56), which sunk 75 years ago on 5 June 1944. As noted by military historian and D-Day guru Stephen Ambrose, the six bluejackets killed on Osprey that day were the first Allied casualties of Overlord.

The two ships of the Raven-class were basically all-diesel predecessors of the later Auk-class minesweepers (which had diesel-electric drives) and came in a tad lighter, giving them a draft that was almost two feet shallower.

USS Raven (AM-55), Osprey’s sole sister, off Rockland, Maine, 19 March 1941, while running trials 19-N-24352

Built side-by-side in 1939-40 at the Norfolk Navy Yard as AM-55 and AM-56, the much more prolific (95 hull) Auks followed them with hull numbers that started at AM-57.

Named for the large, hawk-like bird with a dark brown back and a white breast, Osprey was the second such warship for the Navy with that moniker, with the first being the Lapwing-class minesweeper AM-29 which was commissioned in 1919 then soon transferred to the US Coast and Geodetic Survey as USC&GS Pioneer.

USS Osprey (AM-56) soon after her completion. Note her hull numbers. USN Photo 120-15

USS Osprey (AM-56) soon after her completion. Note her hull numbers and two-part scheme. USN Photo 120-15

Commissioned 16 December 1940, by mid-1941 Osprey was detailed with coastal patrol duties off the U.S. Eastern seaboard and, once America got more active in the European war after Pearl Harbor, soon found herself in England.

USS Osprey (AM-56) Underway, circa April 1941, probably while running trials. Note that her bow numbers have been freshly painted out. Photograph was received from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1972. NH 84026

USS Osprey (AM-56) underway with a bone in her teeth, circa April 1941, probably while running trials. Note that her bow numbers have been freshly painted out and she wears an all-over dark scheme. The photograph was received from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1972. NH 84026

Osprey Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 19 April 1941 19-N-23990

Osprey Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 19 April 1941. Note she has been freshly fitted with depth charge racks on her stern. 19-N-23990

By November 1942, she convoyed with the USS Texas and company and later helped direct and protect the waves of landing craft moving shoreward at Port Lyautey, Morocco for the Allies Torch Landings.

North Africa Operation, November 1942 Invasion convoy en route to Morocco, circa early November 1942. Ships include more than twenty transports, with USS TEXAS (BB-35) and USS AUGUSTA (CA-31) in the distance. Photographed from an SBD off one of the invasion force aircraft carriers. Catalog #: 80-G-1032486

North Africa Operation, November 1942 Invasion convoy en route to Morocco, circa early November 1942. Ships include more than twenty transports, with USS TEXAS (BB-35) and USS AUGUSTA (CA-31) in the distance. Photographed from an SBD off one of the invasion force aircraft carriers. Catalog #: 80-G-1032486

After completing anti-submarine patrols off Casablanca, Osprey returned to Norfolk for a year of coastal escort assignments aimed at helping to curb the German U-boat threat off Hampton Roads. With other minesweepers, she escorted convoys from Norfolk and New York to ports in the Caribbean and along the Gulf Coast.

Raven photographed in camouflage paint in 1943 with depth charge rack at stern. Osprey had a similar scheme at the time NH 43519

Raven photographed in camouflage paint in 1943 with filled depth charge rack at the stern and additional AAA weapons. Also, note her false bow-wave and smaller but visible hull numbers. Osprey had a similar scheme at the time. NH 43519

By April 1944, Osprey was back across the pond and assigned to the growing invasion flotilla heading for Normandy. Rommel, who had wanted to sow millions of landmines in France to seal off the beaches from invasion, was also a fan of their seagoing variants.

“The Generalfeldmarschall himself had quickly grasped the value of naval mines in his system of defense. He continually requested an increased use of this weapon,” notes a U.S. Navy history.

Dropping mines from a German mine layer during World War II. The Seemine looks to be an EMC-type contact mine which used a charge of 551-pounds. The Germans were fans of contact (with both Hertz and three horns) and magnetic influence mines in moored and drifting flavors and used them liberally during the war from Greece to Norway, often with anti-sweep obstructors. NH 71333

Dropping mines from a German minelayer during World War II. The Seemine looks to be an EMC-type contact type which used a charge of 551-pounds. The Germans were fans of contact (with both Hertz and switch horns) and magnetic influence mines in moored and drifting flavors and used them liberally during the war from Greece to Norway, often with anti-sweep obstructors. NH 71333

German sea mines in a railroad car, abandoned in the railway station at Cherbourg, France, 3 July 1944. 80-G-254312

German sea mines in a railroad car, abandoned in the railway station at Cherbourg, France, 3 July 1944. 80-G-254312

The German naval minefield facing the Overlord invasion stretched 120 km across the Bay of Normandy and was 16 km deep.

The Allied plan was to use 255 vessels to clear 10 channels through the mine barrage– two channels per beach– in the immediate predawn hours of D-Day, with each sweeper ship, such as Osprey, clearing paths by cutting the moored contact mines. Specially equipped trawlers would follow on the search for magnetic mines while dan-laying launches would mark the swept zone. The channels were to be from 400 to 1,200 yards in width depending on their route.

The danger of mines in inshore waters was to be disregarded during the assault, but the areas were to be searched as soon as sweepers were available.

British Admiral Bertram Ramsay noted that “There is no doubt that the mine is our greatest obstacle to success,” when discussing the Cross-Channel attack. “And if we manage to reach the enemy coast without being disorganized and suffering serious losses, we should be fortunate.”

After months of intensive practice in combined sweeping operations with MinRon 7 off Torbay, England, en route to the Normandy invasion beaches on 5 June, Osprey soon struck an enemy mine. The crew put out the resultant fires but could not save their vessel. She sank that evening.

Early on the 6th, the mine division started sweeping the coast of France in assault and check sweeps to assure safe passage channels for the landing craft and the primary naval gunfire support for the beaches.

The only loss to mines on 5 June, Osprey was soon joined by numerous other craft who could not stay in the same cleared channel as the battleships or were hit by floating contact mines, cut free in the initial sweeping. This was later compounded by the Germans air-dropping mines and sowing them at night from E-boats and coasters.

On 6 June, the landing craft USS LCI(L)-85, LCI(L)-91, LCI(L)-497, LCT-197, LCT-294, LCT-305, LCT-332, LCT-364, LCT-397, LCT-555, LCT-703 and destroyer HMS Wrestler all struck mines just off the beachhead and were lost.

The next day saw the loss of the Army transport ship USAT Francis C. Harrington, Navy transport USS Susan B. Anthony, landing craft LCI(L)-416, LCI(L)-436, LCI(L)-458, LCI(L)-489, LCI(L)-586, and the Auk-class minesweeper USS Tide (AM-125), all to the infernal devices. Meanwhile, the Allen Sumner-class destroyer USS Meredith (DD-726) was damaged by a mine and sunk the next day by a Luftwaffe bombing which split her in two.

Auk-class minesweeper USS Tide (AM-125) sinking off Utah Beach after striking a mine during the Normandy invasion, 7 June 1944. USS PT-509 and USS Pheasant (AM-61) are standing by. Photographed from USS Threat (AM-124). 80-G-651677

Auk-class minesweeper USS Tide (AM-125) sinking off Utah Beach after striking a mine during the Normandy invasion, 7 June 1944. USS PT-509 and USS Pheasant (AM-61) are standing by. Photographed from USS Threat (AM-124). 80-G-651677

On 8 June, the net layer HMS Minster was sunk by a mine off Utah Beach while the Buckley-class destroyer escort USS Rich (DE-695) struck two mines and sank in the English Channel off Normandy.

The U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Rich (DE-695) strikes a mine, amidships, while operating off Normandy, France, on 8 June 1944. She had previously hit another mine, which blew off her stern. NH 44312

The U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Rich (DE-695) strikes a mine, amidships, while operating off Normandy, France, on 8 June 1944. She had previously hit another mine, which blew off her stern. NH 44312

Through the end of the month, mines off Normandy would continue to claim another dozen landing craft and steamers, as well as the British RN destroyers HMS Fury and HMS Swift along with the Dido-class cruiser HMS Scylla, proving just how hazardous the belt laid by the Germans, had been. It is easy to forget, with the scale of Overlord, but mines caused one hell of a butcher’s bill in June 1944 off the French coast.

As for Osprey‘s sister ship, Raven would sweep at least 21 German and Italian naval mines on D-Day alone. She would survive the war and pass into mothballs with three battle stars to her credit.

Raven seen flanked in the 1946-47 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, shown as a single outlier among 63 Auk-class and 106 Admirable-class minesweepers in U.S. service.

Raven seen flanked in the 1946-47 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships, shown as a single outlier among 63 Auk-class and 106 Admirable-class minesweepers in U.S. service.

Struck in 1967, she was sunk as a target in deep water off the coast of southern California.

As noted by DANFS, the name Osprey was assigned to AM-406 on 17 May 1945, but the construction of that ship was canceled just three months later with the end of the war.

Osprey would go on to grace the hulls of two later U.S. Navy minecraft: AMS-28, a small YMS-1-class minesweeper which served in Korea where she prepared a firing base anchorage for the big guns of the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) at the Inchon landings– a true namesake to her predecessor– and MHC-51, the lead ship of late Cold War Osprey-class coastal mine hunters.

Four U.S. Navy minesweepers (AMS) tied up at Yokosuka, Japan, following mine clearance activities off Korea. Original photo is dated 30 November 1950. These four ships, all units of Mine Division 31, are (from left to right): USS Merganser (AMS-26); USS Osprey (AMS-28); USS Chatterer (AMS-40) and USS Mockingbird (AMS-27). Ship in the extreme left background is USS Wantuck (APD-125). Official U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-424597, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Four U.S. Navy minesweepers (AMS) tied up at Yokosuka, Japan, following mine clearance activities off Korea. The original photo is dated 30 November 1950. These four ships, all units of Mine Division 31, are (from left to right): USS Merganser (AMS-26); USS Osprey (AMS-28); USS Chatterer (AMS-40) and USS Mockingbird (AMS-27). Ship in the extreme left background is USS Wantuck (APD-125). Official U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-424597, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Osprey (MHC-51), a coastal minehunter in commission from 1993 to 2006. Of note, one of her sister ships was USS Raven (MHC-61), a familiar name on her family tree. NHHC L45-221.03.01

As for our D-Day Osprey, her bell surfaced some time ago, but I believe is in private hands in the UK.

USS Osprey ships bell Ivan Warren Michelle Mary Fishing & Diving Charters 2007 via wrecksite.eu

USS Osprey ships bell, via Ivan Warren Michelle Mary Fishing & Diving Charters in 2007, via wrecksite.eu

Still, if it had not been for Osprey and those like her, the Longest Day could have proved even longer.

Specs:

USS Osprey (AM-56) Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 19 April 194119-N-23989

USS Osprey (AM-56) Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 19 April 194119-N-23989

Displacement: 810 tons, 1040 tons full load
Length: 220 ft 6 in overall, 215 w.l.
Beam: 32 ft 2 in
Draft: 9 ft 4 in mean
Machinery: Diesel, 2 shafts, 1,800 BHP
Speed: 18 knots
Complement:105 officers and men
Armament:
2 × 3″/50 caliber guns
2 × 40 mm AA guns
8 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons (added 1942)
2 × depth charge tracks (added 1941)

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Warship Wednesday, May 29, 2019: About that new Marker in Times Square

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, May 29, 2019: About that new Marker in Times Square

USS CALIFORNIA (armored cruiser 6) NH 66738

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 66738

Here we see the beautiful Pennsylvania-class heavy cruiser USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6, later CA-6) with a bone her mouth and three pipes belching smoke, sometime between 1907 and 1909. Sadly, although she was likely still on her original coat of lead-based paint in the above image, she was already largely obsolete and would only see 11 years’ service before she met with disaster.

The Pennsylvanias, a class of six armored cruisers named, like battleships, after states, were big 15,000-ton/504-foot long bruisers built immediately after the lessons learned in the summer of sharp fleet actions and naval blockades that made up the Spanish American War. Larger than many of pre-dreadnought battleships of their day (for comparison, the three-ship Illinois-class battlewagons laid down in 1897 were only 12,500-ton/375-ft. vessels) they had lighter armor (4 to 9 inches rather than up to 16 inches on Illinois) and a lighter armament (8-inch guns rather than 13-inchers) but were much faster, with the cruisers capable of 22-knots while the battleships lumbered along at 16 knots. Several European powers of the day– notably England, Germany, and Russia– were also building such very large armored cruisers with an eye to protecting far-flung overseas possessions that did not require a battleship in times of peace and aggressively raiding their enemies’ merchant fleets once war was declared.

The Pennsylvanias‘ main battery consisted of two pairs of 8″/40 cal (203mm) Mark 5 guns in fore and aft turrets, which in turn were more powerful than the older but still very effective 8″/35 Mark 3s such as those used with terrific success against the Spanish at Manila Bay. These were later upgraded to even better 8″/45 Mark 6s after 1907. They could fire a 260-pound shell over 98.5-pounds of propellant out to 22,500 yards.

Admiral William B. Caperton, USN Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (center) With members of his staff on board USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) at San Diego, California, circa 1916-17. The ship's after 8"/45 twin gun turret is behind them. Those present are (from left to right): Lieutenant (Junior Grade) H.M. Lammers, USN; Captain R.M. Cutts, USMC; Medical Inspector E.S. Bogert, USN; Admiral Caperton; Pay Inspector J. Fyffe, USN; Lieutenant A.T. Beauregard, USN; and Paymaster C.S. Baker, USN. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Adm. W.B. Caperton. NH 83793

Admiral William B. Caperton, USN Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (center) With members of his staff on board USS California/San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) at San Diego, California, circa 1916-17. The ship’s after 8″/45 twin gun turret is behind them. Those present are (from left to right): Lieutenant (Junior Grade) H.M. Lammers, USN; Captain R.M. Cutts, USMC; Medical Inspector E.S. Bogert, USN; Admiral Caperton; Pay Inspector J. Fyffe, USN; Lieutenant A.T. Beauregard, USN; and Paymaster C.S. Baker, USN. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Adm. W.B. Caperton. NH 83793

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) Breech of one of her 8"/45 guns, taken circa 1916. Her magazine carried 125 shells for each of the four tubes. These latter guns proved capable enough for the Army to use surplus specimens in the 1920s for Coastal Defense purposes. Courtesy of Chief Watch Officer James B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82995

USS California/San Diego (CA-6) Breech of one of her 8″/45 guns, taken circa 1916. Her magazine carried 125 shells for each of the four tubes. These latter guns proved capable enough for the Army to use surplus examples in the 1920s for Coastal Defense purposes. Courtesy of Chief Watch Officer James B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82995

As a very impressive secondary, these ships carried 14 6 “/50 cal Mark 6 breechloaders in casemated broadside, seven on each side. Add to this were 30 torpedo-boat busting 3″/50s and 47mm 3-pounders.

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Crew exercising one of the ship's 6"/50cal broadside guns, circa 1916. Note: gunsight in use; items posted on the bulkhead in the upper right, including safety orders, pennant bearing the ship's name, and Modern Girl/Stingy Thing poster. Notably, these guns would be stripped from the cruiser in 1917 and used to arm merchant ships. Collection of Chief Warrant Officer J.B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82997

USS California/San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Crew exercising one of the ship’s 6″/50cal broadside guns, circa 1916. Note gunsight in use; items posted on the bulkhead in the upper right, including safety orders, pennant bearing the ship’s name, and Modern Girl/Stingy Thing poster. Notably, these guns would be stripped from the cruiser in 1917 and used to arm merchant ships. Collection of Chief Warrant Officer J.B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82997

Then of course, as with every cruiser, battleship, and destroyer of the time, they also had torpedoes. This amounted to a pair of submerged 18-inch tubes firing Bliss-Leavitt type torpedoes.

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) View in the torpedo tube room, with a torpedo tube at right, and torpedo afterbodies at left, circa 1916. Courtesy of Chief Watch Officer James B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82999

USS California/San Diego (CA-6) View in the torpedo tube room, with a torpedo tube at right, and torpedo afterbodies at left, circa 1916. Courtesy of Chief Watch Officer James B. Dofflemeyer, 1972. NH 82999

Constructed alongside her sister ship USS South Dakota at San Francisco’s Union Iron Works– their four classmates were built on the East Coast– USS California was only the second such ship with that name in the Navy, the first being a post-Civil War wooden steam frigates that proved to be made of improperly treated wood and, condemned, had to be scrapped after just five years of service.

Ordered in 1899, our more modern steel-hulled California commissioned 1 August 1907 at San Francisco’s Mare Island Navy Yard. Ironically, the exhibition of naval battles that made up the bulk of the Russo-Japanese War and the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought, during California‘s gestation period, largely showed that armored cruisers lacked a lot of value in modern warfare with a near-peer adversary. In short, Dreadnought-style battleships were fast enough to catch them and pummel them flat while new cruiser and destroyer designs of 1907 were also fast enough to elude them.

Still, upon commission, California promptly joined the Pacific Fleet where she spent her early life in a series of extended shakedowns and coastal cruises to seaside ports along the West coast “for exhibition purposes.”

USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Photographed circa 1908. NH 55011

USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Photographed circa 1908. NH 55011

The year 1909 saw what we would consider a West Pac cruise today, with stops in the Philippine Islands and China, and Christmas spent in Yokohama, Japan. The same year, the Navy ditched their gleaming white and buff scheme in favor of haze gray, which saw California‘s profile change drastically. Likewise, she landed most of her small 47mm guns, as the age of torpedo boat defense with such popguns had largely come and gone.

USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Underway in San Pablo Bay, California, 1909. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN(MC). NH 55009

USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Underway in San Pablo Bay, California, 1909. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN(MC). NH 55009

The next few years were spent in standardization cruises, target practice, maneuvers and the like, spread out from San Diego to Hawaii and Alaska, interrupted by another West Pac jaunt in 1912 and a bit of gunboat diplomacy off the Pacific coast of Nicaragua where she landed the First Provisional Regiment of Marines – 29 officers, 4 naval officers and 744 enlisted men under the command of Col. Joseph H. Pendleton, augmented by her own naval landing force.

San Diego in San Diego harbor, California, circa about 1910 to 1914. Arcade View Company stereo card. Courtesy of Captain Don Fink, 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94938

California in San Diego harbor, California, circa about 1910 to 1914. Arcade View Company stereo card. Note she has ditched her front pole mast for a lattice mast. Courtesy of Captain Don Fink, 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94938

California was re-named USS San Diego on 1 September 1914 to clear her original name for assignment to Dreadnought-style Battleship No. 44, a similar fate which befell all her five sisters.

As such, she lost her presentation silver service, which had been presented by the state when she was christened. This service went on to live on BB-44 and, removed in 1940 and stored ashore, are part of the U.S. Navy Museum’s Steel Navy exhibit today:

Back to our ship:

Notably, the rechristening of California to San Diego was the first use of the name “San Diego” for a naval vessel. She then became the flagship of the Pacific Fleet and participated in the opening of the Panama-California Exposition on 1 January 1915.

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) Caption: Engraving issued for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, 1915. Courtesy of the US Army Military History Institute Catalog #: NH 91732

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) Caption: Engraving issued for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, 1915. Courtesy of the US Army Military History Institute Catalog #: NH 91732

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy-- after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy– after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Off Guaymas, Mexico, 26 December 1915. Starting in 1913 and continuing through 1915, California was a common sight in Mexico's Pacific waters where was “observing conditions” brought about by the Mexican revolution and civil war. Photographed by Hopkins. Note Christmas tree mounted on her forecastle. Collection of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973. NH 92174

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Off Guaymas, Mexico, 26 December 1915. Starting in 1913 and continuing through 1915, California was a common sight in Mexico’s Pacific waters where was “observing conditions” brought about by the Mexican revolution and civil war. Photographed by Hopkins. Note Christmas tree mounted on her forecastle. Collection of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973. NH 92174

A deadly 1915 boiler room fire sent San Diego to Mare Island for extensive repairs and refit followed by a period in reserve in San Diego during which most of her crew was reassigned. During this time, she was able to squeeze in a rescue of 48 passengers from the sinking SS Fort Bragg.

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Photographed from an airplane in San Diego harbor, California, 28 March 1916. Collection of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973. NH 92175

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Photographed from an airplane in San Diego harbor, California, 28 March 1916. Note her extensive awnings. Collection of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973. NH 92175

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) Display illumination circa 1916. Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer J.B. Dofflemeyer, 1972 NH 83106

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) Display illumination circa 1916. Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer J.B. Dofflemeyer, 1972 NH 83106

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) As seen by Rear Admiral Francis Taylor, USN, from the living room window at 127 Riverside Drive, San Diego, in 1916. Description: Courtesy of Mrs. Francis Taylor. NH 70288

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) As seen by Rear Admiral Francis Taylor, USN, from the living room window at 127 Riverside Drive, San Diego, in 1916. Description: Courtesy of Mrs. Francis Taylor. NH 70288

When the U.S. entered WWI in April 1917, San Diego‘s skeleton crew was fleshed out with a mix of some 400 new recruits straight from NTS San Francisco and Great Lakes as well as more experienced salts from California’s Naval Militia. After workups and training, she stood out on 18 July 1918 for the Atlantic and the Great War.

Arriving in New York in August, by 23 September she was the flagship of St. Nazaire, France-bound Troop Convoy Group Eight then in November did the same for Troop Convoy Group Eleven. February 1918 saw her as part of Britain-bound Convoy HK-26, followed by HX-32 and HX-37 by May, all of which made it across the pond successfully.

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) View taken during the winter of 1917-18, while on patrol in the North Atlantic during World War I. During this period San Diego landed most of her casemated 6-inch guns as they tended to ship water in heavy seas. NH 83727

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) View taken during the winter of 1917-18, while on patrol in the North Atlantic during World War I. During this period San Diego landed most of her casemated 6-inch guns as they tended to ship water in heavy seas. NH 83727

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) View taken in the winter of 1917-18, looking forward from the bridge while on patrol in the North Atlantic during World War I. Note snow on the deck. NH 83728

USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6) View taken in the winter of 1917-18, looking forward from the bridge while on patrol in the North Atlantic during World War I. Note snow on the deck. NH 83728

Then, tragedy struck the mighty cruiser. While zigzagging off Fire Island, New York, she came across a mine sowed by the large German Deutschland-class “U‑Kreuzer” submarine SM U-156, the latter skippered by Kapitänleutnant Richard Feldt.

From DANFS:

At about 11:05 a.m. on 19 July 1918, San Diego hit a mine, the explosion sounding like “a dull heavy thud,” lifting the stern slightly and shaking the ship “moderately fore and aft.” The warship assumed an immediate six to eight-degree list, and she lost headway. The mine had exploded on the port side about frame 78, well below the waterline, rupturing the skin of the ship and deforming the bulkhead at that location, opening watertight door no.142 between the port engine room and no. 8 fireroom. Flooding occurred in the port engine room, adjacent compartments, as well as no. 8 fireroom, and San Diego then took on a 17½ degree list, water entering through an open gun port for 6-inch gun no.10.

At the outset, “the behavior of the ship did not convince me she was in much danger of sinking,” Capt. Harley H. Christy later wrote, but he soon received the report from the engineer officer that the ship had lost power in both engines. Loss of motive power “precluded any maneuvering to combat a submarine.” The list increased. “When I was convinced that there was no hope of her holding and that she would capsize,” Christy gave the order to abandon ship, the gun crews remaining at their stations “until they could no longer fire,” and the depth charges being “secured so that they would be innocuous.” San Diego’s sailors launched life rafts, whaleboats, dinghies and punts by hand, as well as mess tables, benches, hammocks and lumber – “ample material to support the crew” – “an evolution…performed in an orderly manner without confusion,” while the broadside gun crews fired about 30 to 40 rounds “at possible periscopes.”

With San Diego nearly on her beam ends, Capt. Christy, along with his executive officer, Cmdr. Gerard Bradford were the last to leave the ship. Bradford went down the port side, the commanding officer went over the starboard side by a rope, swinging down to the bilge keel then the docking keel before going overboard. Christy then watched his ship turn turtle, “in a symmetrical position with the keel inclined about ten degrees to the horizontal, the forward end elevated” before gradually sinking.

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Painting by Francis Muller, 1920. It depicts the ship sinking off Fire Island, New York, 19 July 1918. The cruiser sank in 28 minutes, the only major warship lost by the United States in World War I. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. NH 55012-KN

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Painting by Francis Muller, 1920. It depicts the ship sinking off Fire Island, New York, 19 July 1918. The cruiser sank in 28 minutes, the only major warship lost by the United States in World War I. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. NH 55012-KN

While almost all her 1,183 crew successfully made it off, six, largely from below deck engineering divisions, were claimed by Neptune and never recovered:

Fireman First Class, Clyde C. Blaine of Lomita, CA
Engineman 2nd Class, Thomas E. Davis of South Mansfield, LA
Seaman 2nd Class, Paul J. Harris, Cincinnati, OH
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class, Andrew Munson, St. Paul, MN
Engineman 2nd Class, James F. Rochet of Blue Lake, CA
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class, Frazier O. Thomas of Charleston, WV

Excerpt from the map "Summary of Enemy Mining Activities on the U.S. Atlantic Coast" showing locations of mines found off the coast of Long Island, New York through 17 February 1919. U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office Map, now housed at the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 37.

Excerpt from the map “Summary of Enemy Mining Activities on the U.S. Atlantic Coast” showing locations of mines found off the coast of Long Island, New York through 17 February 1919. U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office Map, now housed at the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 37.

As for U-156, just two months after San Diego met her end at the hands of one of the submarine’s mines, the German raider was fittingly sunk in the Allied-laid Northern Barrage minefield on 25 September 1918, lost with all hands. She earned a bit of infamy for her attack on the small New England town of Orleans, Massachusetts, and several nearby merchant vessels.

Of San Diego‘s five sisters, all were sold for scrap in 1930–1931 in compliance with the limits of the London Naval Treaty. Speaking of scrap, in 1957 the Navy sold the rights to San Diego‘s wreck to a New York-based salvage company but six years later, after little work was done other than to loot small relics from her interior, the Navy canceled the award and reclaimed rights to the ship.

Located in shallow water, with the expanded use of SCUBA systems San Diego became a target for both skin divers and weekend unlicensed salvage operations. In 1965, her port propeller was removed without approval and subsequently lost. In 1973, her starboard prop was found to be detached.

As noted by the Navy, “Due to a combination of recreational divers going to extremes to secure artifacts (at least six people have died diving on the site) and professional rivalries between dive boat operators, the Navy was prompted to revisit the site and pursue further action to protect San Diego and other Navy wrecks being exploited.”

In 1992, the Coast Guard implemented an exclusion zone around the wreck due to reports of live ordnance being salvaged from the site, making it effectively off-limits. In 1995, the Navy performed the first of several extensive surveys of the wreck and three years later the San Diego was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A 2004 law protected her from desecration as a war grave. In 2017, the USS San Diego Project was kicked off to extensively survey and protect the wreck.

Side scan sonar image of the wreck site of USS San Diego collected by Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 in June 2017 as part of a training operation. The ship rests upside down on the seabed, and the starboard side is shown, with the bow to the right of the image.

Side scan sonar image of the wreck site of USS San Diego collected by Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 in June 2017 as part of a training operation. The ship rests upside down on the seabed, and the starboard side is shown, with the bow to the right of the image.

There are currently some 229 artifacts within the San Diego Collection under the management of NHHC ranging from ceramics, electrical light fixtures and pieces of the ship’s silver service to an M1892 brass bugle, USN-marked brass padlocks, Mameluke sword and even wooden pistol grips for a Colt 1911. Almost all were recovered illegally by recreational– and in some cases commercial divers– going as far back as the 1950s and later surrendered to the Navy. Many are on display at the USS San Diego Exhibit in the National Museum of the US Navy, which opened last year.

Caption: 181108-N-GK939-0049 WASHINGTON (NNS) (Nov. 8, 2018) Guests look at artifacts in the USS San Diego exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. Bugles were used aboard U.S. Navy ships to issue commands intended for the entire ship’s company. The bugle recovered from the wreck may have been used to call San Diego’s crew to General Quarters and then to abandon ship in the last thirty minutes of the cruiser’s life. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lindsay A. Preston/Released)

Caption: 181108-N-GK939-0049 WASHINGTON (NNS) (Nov. 8, 2018) Guests look at artifacts in the USS San Diego exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. Bugles were used aboard U.S. Navy ships to issue commands intended for the entire ship’s company. The bugle recovered from the wreck may have been used to call San Diego’s crew to General Quarters and then to abandon ship in the last thirty minutes of the cruiser’s life. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lindsay A. Preston/Released)

In 2018, it was confirmed that the cruiser was sunk by a mine laid by U-156, putting persistent theories that she had been lost due to a coal bunker explosion or sabotage to rest. The event coincided with the 100th anniversary of San Diego’s sinking.

Retired Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Director, Naval History and Heritage Command, speaks to Sailors aboard the USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) during a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the USS San Diego (ACR 6).

Retired Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Director, Naval History and Heritage Command, speaks to Sailors aboard the USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) during a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the USS San Diego (ACR 6).

Finally, over the recent Memorial Day Weekend, U.S. Navy officials in conjunction with the city of New York and the United War Veterans Council, unveiled the USS San Diego plaque in Times Square in front of Father Duffy’s statue. The plaque features the names of the 6 sailors lost on that fateful day along with a profile of the ship, the largest U.S. Naval vessel lost in the Great War.

Photo: UWVC

Photo: UWVC

Specs:

Jane's 1914 entry on Pennsylvania class armored cruisers, California included

Jane’s 1914 entry on Pennsylvania class armored cruisers, California included

Displacement:
13,680 long tons (13,900 t) (standard)
15,138 long tons (15,381 t) (full load)
Length:
503 ft 11 in oa
502 ft pp
Beam: 69 ft 6 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in (mean) 26 ft. 6 in (max)
Installed power:
16 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
23,000 ihp (17,000 kW)
2075 tons of coal
Propulsion:
2 × vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines
2 × screws
Speed:
22 kn, range 5000(10)
Complement: 80 officers, 745, enlisted, 64 Marines as designed (1,200 in 1918)
Armor: All Krupp and Harvey steel
Belt: 6 in (152 mm) (top & waterline)
5 in (127 mm) (bottom)
Deck: 1 1⁄2 in (38 mm) – 6 in (amidships)
4 in (102 mm) (forward & aft)
Barbettes: 6 in
Turrets: 6 – 6 1⁄2 in (165 mm)
Conning Tower: 9 in (229 mm)
Armament:
(as built)
4 × 8 in (203 mm)/40 caliber Mark 5 breech-loading rifles (BL)(2×2)
14 × 6 in (152 mm)/50 cal Mark 6 BL rifles
18 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal rapid-fire guns
12 × 3-pounder (47 mm (1.9 in)) Driggs-Schroeder guns
2 × 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) Driggs-Schroeder saluting guns
2 × 18 inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (submerged)
(1918)
4 × 8 in/45 cal Mark 6 BL rifles (2×2)
18 × 3 in/50 cal rapid-fire guns
2 x 1 76/52 Mk X AAA

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WWII mines and trawlers don’t mix

French mine clearance divers ensure the proper neutralization of the mine. Photo: Préfecture de la Manche

Off the coast of Normandy last week the French trawler Le Retour hauled in a heck of a full net, to include one Monika-type Luftmine B (G-mine), formerly of German ownership.

UXOs are a common thing along the shores of Europe.

The big minenbombe had an explosive charge somewhere on the order of 860 kilos, which would have wrecked Le Retour for sure ala the spy trawler Saint Georges in the 1980s Bond classic, For Your Eyes Only.

Gratefully, French Navy clearance divers were able to render the big easter egg inert with no casualties.

More here.

Navy tests out a modern Bachstelze

Over the past few years DARPA has been working on their version of the old U-Boat kite.

ICYMI, during WWII, the Kriegsmarine’s U-boat fleet used about 200~ Focke-Achgelis FA 330 Bachstelze (English: Wagtail) aircraft. The FA330 was a type of rotary-wing kite that weighed about 150-pounds and, using an unpowered 24-foot three-bladed rotor for lift, was winched out into the air behind a U-boat on a 500-foot cable, allowing the adventuresome sailor in its single seat to have the best view on the boote.

A simple idea, they were complicated in use as they took a long time (20-30 minutes to assemble) and, if the kiteman saw an enemy warship, slowed the dive of the submarine far too long than was safe.

Well, the ONR and DARPA have teamed up to do the same thing but in an updated (and unmanned) version that swaps out the rotating kite wing for a much safer parafoil.

Observe the Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) below, a low-cost, elevated sensor mast being tested out on USS Zephyr, a 179-foot Cyclone-class patrol coastal. It is the first time it was used aboard a U.S. Navy vessel,  after being trialed on Sea Hunter, DARPA’s ACTUV vessel last year.

“Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could persistently carry intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.”

Sea Hunter takes her TALON out to play

We’ve talked about DARPA’s 132-foot USV robot subchaser, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), dubbed Sea Hunter, a few times already this year.

The ship’s projected $20 million all-up price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive to operate. For comparison, a single Littoral Combat Ship runs $432 million (at least LCS-6 did) to build and run about $220K a day to operate– but of course that is a moving target.

We’ve also talked about their Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) U-boat kite program which is a low-cost, fully automated parafoil system designed to extend maritime vessels’ long-distance communications and improve their domain awareness.

Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could carry intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.

So it makes sense that now video has emerged from DARPA of Sea Hunter taking its para-sail for a drag.

Now if they Navy can just cough up 50-100 of these, with ASW weapons and an automated C-RAM to avoid being splashed by enemy aircraft wholesale, and keep it from running $30 billion– then you have a real sea control ship when it comes to denying an area to the bad guy’s subs.

Warship Wednesday Sept. 28, 2016: From the Lingayen to the FloraBama

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

Warship Wednesday Sept. 28, 2016: From the Lingayen to the FloraBama

NHHC Collection photo # UA 22.02.01

NHHC Collection photo # UA 22.02.01

Here we see the Catskill-class vehicle landing ship (or Terror-class fleet minelayer depending on how you look at it) USS Ozark (CM-7/AP-107/LSV–2/MCS-2) showing off her stern and high helicopter deck with hanger clearance in 1966.

The Navy in its entire history has only had 12 vessels that carried a Cruiser-Minelayer (CM) designation. These started with the old retyped cruisers USS Baltimore and San Francisco (reclassified in 1919), the converted passenger freighters USS Aroostook (CM-3) and USS Oglala (CM-4) who helped sow the North Sea Barrage; the purpose-built fleet minelayer USS Terror (CM-5) commissioned in 1942; and five other WWII-era freighters and passenger ferries converted to the designation around the same time (USS Keokuk, USS Monadnock, USS Miantonomah, USS Salem, and USS Weehawken).

The two I missed? Well that’s USS Catskill and her sister USS Ozark, which were very simple updates to the Terror design.

Terror, Catskill, and Ozark had all been names of Civil War monitors that were recycled.

USS Ozark Photographed on the Western Rivers in 1864-65. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Ozark on the Red River in 1864. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The class of 454-foot long/6,000-ton minelayers were fast enough to keep ahead of submarines (20 knots), sufficiently armed enough (4x 5-inchers and a healthy AAA suite) to not need an escort, and room enough for several hundred of the latest sea mines.

Terror was completed 15 July 1942 and rushed into fleet service in her intended role. However, it turned out that purpose-built minelayers were a waste of resources when other ships could be converted and both Catskill and Ozark were modified while still at the builders from their original roles.

Ozark was authorized by Congress on 19 July 1940 as a Fleet Minelayer, CM-7, and laid down at Willamette Iron and Steel Corporation, Portland, Oregon. Her designation was subsequently changed to a Troop Transport (AP-107) in June 1943 and finally to a Landing Ship, Vehicle (LSV-2, with Catskill being LSV-1) before her commissioning 23 September 1944.

10170204

Now swelled to some 9,000-tons full load, she was designed to transport a reinforced battalion-sized unit of 80 officers and 788 troops and land them using 31 Army DUKWs from her large vehicle (former mine stowage) deck and  a number of LCVPs and 26-foot motor launches.

You know the 31-foot DUK, right? Now that's amphibious!

You know the 31-foot DUK, right? Now that’s amphibious!

By November 1944, Ozark was part of Transport Squadron Thirteen warming up in the Solomons for the big push on Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands.

When the landing started, she was baptized.

From DANFS:

The 7 January 1945 marked the first day in the lives of many aboard the Ozark for experiencing visual contact with the enemy. About 1706 that day an enemy aircraft flew at masthead height across the formation pursued by four U.S. Navy fighters, and was shot down seconds later. Much tension was relieved by witnessing that sight. The next day, the 8th of January 1945, proved to be more exciting. About mid-morning a twin-engine Japanese bomber flew out of the sun over the formation and narrowly missed hitting the ship next ahead with its bombs. About dusk the same day Japanese bombers and suicide planes attacked the formation from all points. Several dive bombers were shot down by the Combat Air Patrol. One suicide plane singled out Transport Squadron Thirteen in particular. He circled out of range of the automatic weapons to the port quarter of the formation. Then he started his death plunge. All guns on the port side of the Ozark opened fire. The Kamikaze was headed for the ship on our port beam. Tension mounted. The amount of flak being put up was uncanny, but still the plane headed for its target apparently unaffected. The Ozark’s 40MM and 5″/38 cal. Were nippin at the tail of the plane all the way in its downward plunge. The climax came when a burst at the tail rocked the plane in its path of flight and sent it to a firey end a few feet from the stern of the vessel it had intended to crash.

The next day, 9 January 1945, the formation approached Lingayen Gulf for the assault. The area was frequented by enemy aircraft, suiciding combatant and transport vessels, in a vain attempt to halt the operation. The Ozark landed her personnel and equipment according to plan. Casualties and survivors from damaged and sunken ships were taken aboard and the Ozark left Lingayen Gulf that night with Transport Squadron Thirteen for Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands.

Then came the invasion of Iwo Jima (Ozark landed three waves of troops there 19 February 1945 and continued logistic support to the beach until 27 February), the Okinawa operation (landing her men on April 1), and more of the same. In mid-August, she took aboard 911 Marines and Sailors from some two dozen ships via breeches buoy in the mid-ocean (!) to be used in upcoming garrison operations in Japan.

She finished the war present in Tokyo Bay during the Surrender Ceremony, 2 September 1945, having landed her troops and received some 970 recovered prisoners-of-war.

Ozark left for Guam and Pearl Harbor directly to take her recovered heroes, many suffering horribly and in need of desperate medical attention, home.

60 busses and ambulances await the arrival of the first 970 POWs returning to the U.S. from Japan aboard USS Ozark, Agana Guarm 13 Sept. 1945

60 buses and ambulances await the arrival of the first 970 POWs returning to the U.S. from Japan aboard USS Ozark, Agana, Guam 13 Sept. 1945

Ozark earned three WWII battle stars in less than 10 months deployed to the war zone.

After the war the remaining minelayers (Miantonomah was sunk by a mine off the coast of France in 1944), were decommissioned and disposed of with only purpose-built Terror, Catskill and Ozark retained– and then only in mothballs.

Ozark was on red lead row in Texas from 29 June 1946 and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 1 September 1961. However, in a rarity, she was reacquired from the Maritime Administration in 1963 for conversion to a mine countermeasures support ship (MCS) — or mother ship to small minesweeping craft and RH-3A helicopters.

Recommissioned 24 June 1966 with the old monitor USS Ozark ship’s bell, the revamped ship was different. Gone were the DUKWs and the WWII batteries of 20mm and 40mm guns. In their place were added the capability to carry up to 20 36-foot Mine Sweep Launches MSL’s, two minesweeping equipment-carrying LCM’s, and two big Sea King minesweeping helicopters.

The 36 ft MSL, Ozark/Catskill's primary weapon against mines in the 1960s. Each ship could carry 20 of these little wooden vessels

The 36 ft MSL, Ozark/Catskill’s primary weapon against mines in the 1960s. Each ship could carry 20 of these little wooden vessels

Each MSL could carry their own paravanes and sweep gear as shown in this 1953 National Geographic shot of a Korean War-era MSB

Each MSL could carry their own paravanes and sweep gear as shown in this 1953 National Geographic shot of a Korean War-era MSB

USS OZARK (MCS-2) Underway off Norfolk, Virginia, on 31 August 1966. Along minesweeping launches embarked are: MSL-33, 31, 40, 48, 47, and 42. Catalog #: USN 1117513, Copyright Owner: National Archives

USS OZARK (MCS-2) Underway off Norfolk, Virginia, on 31 August 1966. Along minesweeping launches embarked are: MSL-33, 31, 40, 48, 47, and 42. Catalog #: USN 1117513, Copyright Owner: National Archives

Sister USS Catskill as similarly converted MCS-1 with MSL’s and one HC-7 R-3D Helicopter aboard

Sister USS Catskill as similarly converted MCS-1 with MSL’s and one HC-7 RH-3 Helicopter aboard

An RH-3A mine busting Sea King at play. Note the sweep gear. Catskill and Ozark could carry two of these aircraft while the other former LSDs converted to MCS configuration could carry as many as four

An RH-3A mine busting Sea King at play. Note the sweep gear. Catskill and Ozark could carry two of these aircraft while the other former LSDs converted to MCS configuration could carry as many as four

As noted by Ed Sinclair, the ships were a sight:

In Long Beach, sailors nicknamed the Catskill “The Mail Ship”. She evidently had so many steadying lines for the MSL’s housed in their davits, which were rolled up and stored in white canvas bags while underway, sailors thought she looked like she was carrying the US Mail.

After recommissioning and shakedown, Catskill became MineFlot1 Flagship and Mine Countermeasures Support vessel for COMinRon 3 vessels homeported in Sasebo, Japan. She deployed to Vietnam 1969-70.

Five other WWII landing ships, the USS Osage (LSV-3), USS Saugus (LSV-4), USS Monitor (LSV-5), USS Orleans Parish (LST-1069), and USS Epping Forest (LSD-4), were given similar conversions to mine countermeasures support ships and designated MCS-3 through MCS-7 respectively.

The thing is, with Vietnam drawing down and mines being seen at the time as a dated weapon not to be used again, the Navy seemingly moved to do away with all things mine related. The grand old USS Terror, decommissioned since 1956 and still comparatively low-milegae, was sold for scrap in November 1971 to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp. of New York, NY.

Catskill was decommissioned December 1970 and, though she received three battle stars for World War II service and five campaign stars for Vietnam, was quickly disposed of.

Ozark was based in Charleston and spent a quiet seven years on a series of cruises to the Med and South Atlantic.

In 1969, she was part of Task Force 140 that plucked Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins from the drink in the Atlantic after their moon landing. She had previously been used to help recover Apollo 10.

10170208

The U.S. Navy mine countermeasures support ship USS Ozark (MCS-2) with an Sikorsky RH-3A Sea King helicopter aft, and her crew manning the rails in summer whites, circa 1968-1970. Source: U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News March 1982

Decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register, 1 April 1974, Ozark was towed to Destin, Florida the next year and anchored there to be used as a target by the Air Force from nearby Eglin and Tyndal.

The other converted landing ship MCS’s 3-7 would all be stricken and disposed of by 1974.

The plucky little MSL’s were sold from the boat lot mole pier in Long Beach, CA in April 1975.

The MCS designation would lie dormant in the Navy until the old helicopter assault ship USS Inchon (LPH-12) would be converted to MCS-12 in 1995 and would be retired in 2004. Today the former landing ship ex-USS Ponce serves much the same role as a laser-equipped floating MCS in all but name in the Persian Gulf.

As for Ozark, she had a few more tricks up her sleeve.

When Hurricane Frederic came barreling into the Gulf of Mexico in September 1979, the old minelayer/LSV, last of either type still in the Navy’s possession, drug her mooring and took to the sea once more, washing up some 30 miles to the East near the Florida-Alabama state line at Perdido Key close to where the current FloraBama bar is located.

10170212 ozark-perdido-key

She was salvaged by Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU-2) in October.

ex-USS Ozark aground on Perdido Key, Florida.

ex-USS Ozark aground on Perdido Key, Florida. Note the Army Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe flying crane lifting gear

Taken back to Destin against her will, she was lost in 1981 during a live fire event.

Per Mike Green at Navsource:

The ship was unintentionally sunk with a Maverick missile launched from an F-4 “Phantom” from Eglin AFB in 1981. The missile’s warhead entered on her starboard side approximately 13 feet above the waterline, went through 2 decks and exploded above the hull leaving a hole approximately 3 feet in diameter in her hull. The hole in the bottom of the ship wasn’t noticed until the next day when Air Force personnel and Hughes Missile Systems Co. engineers entered the ship for damage assessment. By this time, she was listing at 16 degrees and all personnel were ordered off the ship.

This photo shows Ozark listing at 16 degrees to starboard 12 hours before she sank. Wikemedia Commons, Gordon Starr, photographer,

This photo shows Ozark listing at 16 degrees to starboard 12 hours before she sank. Wikemedia Commons, Gordon Starr, photographer

Today the wreck currently lies upright and intact in approximately 330 feet of water,  about 30 miles due south of Destin. She is a popular wreck for experienced technical divers.

ozark-wreck

The Navy has not reused the names Terror, Catskill, or Ozark since the class of minelayers.

Ozark‘s name, as well as all those involved in mine warfare, is kept alive by the Naval Minewarfare Association and Association of Minemen.

For a good in-depth look at these LSVs and small minesweeping craft, check out Ed Sinclair’s archived “Iron Men In Wooden Boats” over at Navsource here (pdf) and for more information about the Terror there is a 62-page album online with snapshots and stories as well as a dedicated website of her own including this great piece of maritime art:

High level bombing attack on USS Terror in Oceania: a true incident related by ship's personnel, by LR Lloyd

“High level bombing attack on USS Terror in Oceania: a true incident related by ship’s personnel,” by LR Lloyd

Specs:
Displacement: 5,875 long tons (5,969 t), 9,000 tons FL
Length:     454 ft. 10 in (138.63 m)
Beam:     60 ft. 2 in (18.34 m)
Draft:     19 ft. 7 in (5.97 m)
Propulsion:     2 × General Electric double-reduction geared steam turbines, 2 shafts, 22,000 shp (16,405 kW)
four turbo-drive 500Kw 450V A.C. Ship’s Service Generators
four Combustion Engineering D-type boilers, 400psi 700°
Speed:     20.3 knots (37.6 km/h; 23.4 mph)
Complement: 481 as commissioned along with space for 850+ embarked troops
Boats:
LSV Configuration – 31 DUKWS plus LCVPs
MCS Configuration – 20 36′ MSLs plus 2 LCMs
Aircraft two helicopters (MCS Configuration)
Armament:     (designed as CM)
4 × 5″/38 caliber guns
4 × quad 1.1 in (28 mm) guns
14 × 20 mm guns singles
(LSV Configuration)
4 single 5″/38 cal DP gun mounts
4 twin 40mm AA gun mounts
20 single 20mm AA gun mounts
(MCS)
two single 5″/38 cal DP gun mounts

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

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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.

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

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Warship Wednesday March 30, 2016: Of Mines and Khartoum

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

Warship Wednesday, March 30, 2016: Of Mines and Khartoum

IWM Q 38999

IWM Q 38999

Here we see the Royal Navy Devonshire-class armored cruiser HMS Hampshire during her brief life. Although a warship in the RN during the toughest period of the Great War at sea, Hampshire is remembered more for whom she carried rather than where she fought.

The Devonshires were a six-pack of mixed armament (4×7.5-inch; 6×6-inch) cruisers that were popular around the 1900s. These 11,000-ton ships were designed to act independent of the main battle fleet and could cruise worldwide and protect sea-lanes from enemy surface raiders, or in turn become a surface raider themselves.

The concept was invalidated in the Russo-Japanese War when Russian armored cruisers failed to make much impact on the extensive Japanese maru fleet, while they were sent to the bottom wholesale in warship v. warship ops. In turn, the armored cruiser concept was replaced by the more traditional all-big-gun fast heavy cruiser, and their flawed cousin the battlecruiser, both of which reigned for some time through WWII.

Still, the Devonshires, though obsolete almost as soon as they were commissioned, gave yeoman service while they were around.

The subject of our tale, Hampshire, was laid down at Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, 1 September 1902. She was the fourth such warship to carry that name on the fleet list, dating back to a 46-gun ship built in 1653 for Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

Ironically, Hampshire was completed 15 July 1905, just six weeks after the Battle of Tsushima that largely invalidated her existence. Her cost, £833,817.

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After cutting her teeth with the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet for a few years as a shiny new warship for HM, Hampshire had her hull scraped and boilers reworked before being transferred to Hong Kong to sit the China Station in 1912.

1912

1912, note the awnings for service in the tropics.
See https://deceptico.deviantart.com/art/H-M-S-Hampshire-1912-372335568

There, she waved the flag while keeping an eye on the German armored cruisers of Adm. Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, preparing for Der Tag.

IWM Q 38999

IWM Q 38999

When the balloon went up, Hampshire sortied for the German colony of Yap to destroy the wireless station there, on the way sinking the German collier SS Elspeth just seven days after the England joined the war. The lack of coal for Spee’s ships would be an albatross that ultimately ended his squadron. (Note: Hampshire’s sister, HMS Carnarvon, was present at the Battle of the Falklands and got licks in on both Spee’s SMS Gneisenau and Scharnhorst).

While in the Pacific, Hampshire just barely missed an opportunity to sink the much smaller cruiser SMS Emden (4200-tons; 10x105mm guns), however, she did carry that stricken raider’s skipper, Kvtkpn. Karl von Müller, to POW camp in England, while escorting an ANZAC troop convoy through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to Egypt.

At Malta

At Malta

Arriving back in home waters in January 1915, Hampshire landed Müller, who was sent on to captivity at the University of Nottingham, then joined the Grand Fleet.

Fighting at Jutland with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, her 7.5-inchers tried but failed to hit any German ships during that epic surface battle. Likewise, Hampshire herself came away unscathed.

Hms_Hampshire1_krp_net

In July, she was chosen to carry Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, PC, “Baron Kitchener of Khartoum” to Imperial Russia via the White Sea. Kitchener and his staff were to help revitalize the Tsar’s war machine; after all, he was literally the face of the mighty BEF, which had swollen from a small volunteer force of just six infantry divisions to a modern army capable of holding the Kaiser in place on the Western Front.

Kitchener poster LORD KITCHENER SAYS

Lord Kitchener on board HMS Iron Duke at Scapa Flow, about one hour before he sailed on Hampshire

Lord Kitchener aboard HMS Iron Duke at Scapa Flow, about one hour before he sailed on Hampshire. This is believed to be the last image of the legendary soldier.

Leaving Scapa Flow for Archangelsk, Hampshire and her two destroyer escorts ran afoul of a minefield laid by U-75 in May.

There, on 5 June off the mainland of Orkney between Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head, Hampshire struck a single mine and was holed, sinking rapidly in just 15 minutes by the bow, taking 737 members of her crew and passengers to the bottom with her. Only 12 crewmen survived and made it to shore.

Able Seaman (Signalman) William George Waterman Tyneside Z/4464. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, one of the 737 men lost on HMS Hampshire. IWM image

Able Seaman (Signalman) William George Waterman Tyneside Z/4464. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, one of the 737 men lost on HMS Hampshire. IWM image

One other purported survivor, Boer spy Frederick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne, known to history as “The man who killed Kitchener” claimed to have guided a German U-boat to sink the HMS Hampshire via torpedo from shore, though nothing supports that claim.

Duquesne

Duquesne

Attaching himself to Kitchener’s staff, he claimed to have escaped Hampshire alone to be picked up by a waiting U-boat. But anyway…

The news of Kitchener’s loss, coming after the carnage of the Somme, was a blow to the Allied war effort.

_71879567_low_res_10527504_mary_evans

The Wreck of the Hampshire by Geoffrey Stephen Allfree, IWM ART 5252

The Wreck of the Hampshire by Geoffrey Stephen Allfree, IWM ART 5252

Further, without a shot in the arm, the Tsar’s army largely walked away from the war the next year, though not even the hero of Khartoum would likely have changed that.

Remnants of Hampshire are considered relics in the IWM collection.

Fragment of boat belonging to HMS HAMPSHIRE in IWM collection

Fragment of boat belonging to HMS HAMPSHIRE in IWM collection

Royal Navy cap tally found among the effects of Midshipman E E Fellowes. Image via IWM

Royal Navy cap tally found among the effects of Midshipman E E Fellowes. Image via IWM

Fragment of a pinnace, or ship's boat, from the wreckage of the armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire, washed up in Hoy Sound, June 1916. Image via IWM

Fragment of a pinnace, or ship’s boat, from the wreckage of the armored cruiser HMS Hampshire, washed up in Hoy Sound, June 1916. Image via IWM

Located in 180 feet of water, a small gun, some other minor wreckage, and one of her props were illegally salvaged in 1983 but have been recovered and preserved in museums.

HMS Hampshire gun at Marwick Head

HMS Hampshire gun at Marwick Head

hampshire prop

As for her sisters, the five other Devonshires were luckier, with the exception of HMS Argyll, which wrecked on the Bell Rock, 28 October 1915. The four surviving ships were paid off soon after the war and sold for scrap.

Hampshire‘s name, though currently not in use, was bestowed to a County-class guided missile destroyer (D06) in 1963 and scrapped in 1979 after just 16 years service as part of the Labour Government’s severe defense cuts pre-Thatcher.

A memorial, planned by the Orkney Heritage Society is trying to raise £200,000 to more extensively commemorate the ship.

Image via Orkney Heritage Society

Image via Orkney Heritage Society

Some 737 names will be inscribed in panels on the wall, which will arc around the tower, with a separate panel for the staff of Lord Kitchener – and another one bearing the names of nine men killed on the drifter Laurel Crown, which was blown up in June 1916 while trying to clear the minefield.

Specs:

BR hampshire 1
Displacement: 10,850 long tons (11,020 t) (normal)
Length: 473 ft. 6 in (144.3 m) (o/a)
Beam: 68 ft. 6 in (20.9 m)
Draught: 24 ft. (7.3 m)
Installed power:
21,000 ihp (16,000 kW)
17 Yarrow boilers; 6 cylindrical boilers
Propulsion:
2 × Shafts
2 × 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Complement: 610
Armament:
4 × single BL 7.5-inch (191 mm) Mk I guns
6 × single BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk VII guns
2 × single 12-pounder (3-inch, 76 mm) 8 cwt guns
18 × single QF 3-pounder (47 mm) Hotchkiss guns
2 × single 18-inch (45 cm) torpedo tubes
Armour:
Belt: 2–6 in (51–152 mm)
Decks: .75–2 in (19–51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (152 mm)
Turrets: 5 in (130 mm)
Conning tower: 12 in (305 mm)
Bulkheads: 5 in (127 mm)

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