Tag Archives: navy

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023: A Hectic 133 Days

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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. 1, 2023: A Hectic 133 Days

The photo was taken from USS Fletcher (DD-445). National Archives 80-G-284577

Above we see a rare photograph of the new Fletcher-class destroyer USS DeHaven (DD-469) passing North of Savo Island, which can be seen on the horizon, on 30 January 1943, immediately after the Battle of Rennell Island— the last major naval engagement of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Commissioned just the previous September in Maine, DeHaven would be sunk two days after this image was captured, on 1 February 1943 (80 years ago today) in these same waters by a Japanese air attack, sort of a parting shot to the Empire’s withdrawal from the embattled island.

Fletcher class background

The Fletchers were the WWII equivalent of the Burke class, constructed in a massive 175-strong class from 11 builders that proved the backbone of the fleet for generations. Coming after the interwar “treaty” destroyers such as the Benson- and Gleaves classes, they were good-sized (376 feet oal, 2,500 tons full load, 5×5″ guns, 10 torpedo tubes) and could have passed as unprotected cruisers in 1914. Powered by a quartet of oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers and two Westinghouse or GE steam turbines, they had 60,000 shp on tap– half of what today’s Burkes have on a hull 25 percent as heavy– enabling them to reach 38 knots, a speed that is still fast for destroyers today.

USS John Rodgers (DD 574) at Charleston, 28 April 1943. A great example of the Fletcher class in their wartime configuration. Note the five 5″/38 mounts and twin sets of 5-pack torpedo tubes.

LCDR Fred Edwards, Destroyer Type Desk, Bureau of Ships, famously said of the class, “I always felt it was the Fletcher class that won the war . . .they were the heart and soul of the small-ship Navy.”

Our DeHaven

DD-469 was the first Navy ship named in honor of LT Edwin Jess De Haven. Born in Philadelphia in 1816, he shipped out with the fleet age the ripe old age of 10 as a midshipman and made his name as an early polar explorer, shipping out with the Wilkes Expedition (1839-42), and looking for Sir John Franklin’s lost polar expedition as skipper of the humble 81-foot brigantine USS Advance in 1850 as part of the Grinnell expedition. Placed on the retired list in 1862 due to failing eyesight, he passed in 1865.

His aging granddaughter, Mrs. Helen N. De Haven, made the trip to Bath Iron Works in 1942 to participate in the destroyer’s launching ceremony.

De Haven (DD-469) was launched on 28 June 1942 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; sponsored by Miss H. N. De Haven, granddaughter of Lieutenant De Haven; and commissioned on 21 September 1942, T/CDR Charles Edward Tolman, USN, in command.

Launch of USS De Haven (DD-469) at Bath Iron Works, Maine (USA), on 28 June 1942 (80-G-40563

De Haven spent four weeks on shakedown cruises and post-delivery yard periods then sailed from Norfolk, reaching the Tonga Islands, on 28 November 1942. There, she attached to escort a convoy of troopships filled with soldiers of the Army’s 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division headed to Guadalcanal to relieve the “Old Breed” of the 1st MarDiv who had been there since the invasion landings in August.

De Haven screened the transports off Guadalcanal from 7 to 14 December, then sailed out of Espiritu Santo and Noumea in the continuing Solomon Islands operations.

Then, attached to Capt. Robert Pearce Briscoe’s Tulagi-based Task Group 67.5 (known as the “Cactus Striking Force”) along with the destroyers USS Nicholas, Radford, and O’Bannon, she patrolled the waters of the Southern Solomons to stop the “Tokyo Express,” the nightly effort to supply the beleaguered Japanese troops still fighting on the invaded islands.

Cactus Force took part in two bombardments of Kolombangara Island in late January 1943. During the latter, DeHaven fired 612 5-inch shells, which is some decent NGFS.

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS De Haven (DD-469) off Savo Island, viewed from USS Fletcher, 30 January 1943, two days before she was lost. NARA image 80-G-284578

Cactus Force was then sent on the night of 31 January/1 February to escort a scratch landing team of six small LCTs and the old converted “green dragon” fast transport (formerly a Wickes-class destroyer) USS Stringham (APD-6) to land the 2nd Battalion, 132nd Infantry Regiment and a battery of four 75mm pack howitzers near Kukum via Verahue Beach the other side of Guadalcanal, with the intention to outflank the Japanese who were rapidly evacuating the area.

However, they had the misfortune of being caught –in– Operation Ke-gō Sakusen, the Japanese withdrawal near Cape Esperance, and DeHaven became a victim to incoming waves of enemy aircraft screening that effort.

It was over in minutes. Four bombs– including one that hit the superstructure squarely, killing the commanding officer at once– sent the destroyer directly to the bottom as if on an elevator, taking 167 of her crew with her in the process.

She was the 15th American destroyer lost in the Guadalcanal campaign and had been in commission just four months and 11 days. The post-war analysis determined she was lost due to extreme and rapid flooding, specifically a “loss of buoyancy on relatively even keel” a fate only suffered by one other tin can in the war, sistership USS Aaron Ward (DD 483), also lost at a heavy air attack off Guadalcanal.

DeHaven’s six-page loss report is in the National Archives, submitted just four days after the ship took up her place on Iron Bottom Sound. As 10 of her officers were missing in action and three others seriously wounded on Navy hospital ships headed East, it was penned by her only unwounded officer, Ensign Clem C. Williams, Jr. Heady stuff for a 21-year-old O-1 to have to write.

Epilogue

As with the above-mentioned reports, DeHaven’s engineering drawings are in the National Archives.

She has a memorial at the National Museum of the Pacific War, located in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The man who wrote her loss report and compiled the names of her missing and dead, Ensign Williams, who was the son of a Washington dentist that had served in the Navy in the Great War, would survive his own war, become a physician in Indiana, and pass in 1992, aged 71.

Capt. Briscoe, leader of the Cactus Striking Force, would go on to command the fighting cruiser USS Denver (CL-58), earning a Navy Cross during the Northern Solomon Islands campaign from her bridge, then go on to lead the 7th Fleet during Korea. The Mississippian would conclude 41 years of service and retire in 1959 as a full admiral. He is buried at Arlington and a Spruance class destroyer, USS Briscoe (DD-977)— appropriately built in Pascagoula– was named in his honor.

When it comes to DeHaven’s fellow Fletcher-class destroyers, five of her sisterships– USS Pringle (DD-477), USS Bush (DD-529), USS Luce (DD-522), USS Little (DD-803), and USS Morrison (DD-560)— would go on to be sunk by kamikaze aircraft off Okinawa in a three week period. Life was not easy for Fletchers working the picket line in the Spring of 1945. 

The rest of her surviving sisters were widely discarded in the Cold War era by the Navy, who had long prior replaced them with more modern destroyers and Knox-class escorts. Those that had not been sent overseas as military aid were promptly sent to the breakers or disposed of in weapon tests. The class that had faced off with the last blossom of Japan’s wartime aviators helped prove the use of just about every anti-ship/tactical strike weapon used by NATO in the Cold War including Harpoon, Exocet, Sea Skua, Bullpup, Walleye, submarine-launched Tomahawk, and even at least one Sidewinder used in surface attack mode. In 1997, SEALS sank the ex-USS Stoddard (DD-566) via assorted combat-diver delivered ordnance. The final Fletcher in use around the globe, Mexico’s Cuitlahuacex-USS John Rodgers (DD 574), was laid up in 2001 and dismantled in 2011.

Today, four Fletchers are on public display, three of which in the U.S– USS The Sullivans (DD-537) at Buffalo, USS Kidd (DD-661) at Baton Rouge, and USS Cassin Young (DD-793) at the Boston Navy Yard. Please try to visit them if possible. Kidd, the best preserved of the trio, was used extensively for the filming of the Tom Hanks film, Greyhound.

DeHaven’s name was quickly recycled for a new Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer (DD-727) that was building at Bath Iron Works in Maine– the birthplace of “our” destroyer. Sponsored by Mrs. H. N. De Haven– who also cracked the bottle on the bow of the first De Haven— she commissioned 31 March 1944 and was screening the fast carriers of TF38 striking Luzon in support of the invasion of Leyte by that November. In a much longer 49-year career, this second DeHaven received five battle stars for World War II service and in addition to her Navy Unit Commendation picked up a further six for Korean War service and decorations for 10 tours in off Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

Transferred to the South Korean Navy in 1973, she was renamed ROKS Incheon (DD-98/918) (she was present at the landings there in 1950) and served under the flag of that country until 1993.

The USS DeHaven Sailors Association remembers both tin cans today and is very active on social media.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023: The Kaiser’s Tin Cans do Broadway

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 25, 2023: Kaisers Tin Cans do Broadway

Bain News Service collection, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-50381

Above we see, in the summer of 1920 a trio of once-sunk former torpedoboten of the old Kaiserliche Marine, anchored in New York City, from left to right ex-SMS V43, G102, and S132, with the newly commissioned Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Redwing (AM-48) outboard.

A closer look. Note that all the vessels have Union Jacks on their bows, as they are in possession of the Navy if not in direct commission. LC-DIG-ggbain-31137

Check out the inset, showing a little girl playing on G102’s forward 8.8 cm SK L/45 naval gun and her boater hat-wearing father close by. Besides four such guns, the 1,700-ton vessel carried six 19.7-inch torpedo tubes and could make 34 knots on her steam turbines, a speed that is still fast today. Another boater-clad man is inspecting the view from atop her wheelhouse.

German destroyer S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, showing the mine laying stern. Note the stern of the minesweeper Redwing. LOC

German destroyers G102 and S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, in 1920 in New York with a great view of Manhattan from the Hudson and the ships’ guns and searchlights. LOC

The vessels had been interned at Scapa Flow by the terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, then scuttled by their skeleton crews on 21 June 1919. Saved by the British, who worked quickly to beach these small craft along with a few others, they were turned over to the U.S. as war reparations as part of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1920, along with the German Helgoland class battleship ex-SMS Ostfriesland and the Wiesbaden-class light cruiser ex-SMS Frankfurt.

All five ships saw extensive action with the High Seas Fleet during World War I, including (except for SMS V43) the epic clash at Jutland. That service, while fascinating, is beyond the scope of this post but I encourage you to look into it if curious.

Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow: Tug alongside scuttled German destroyer G 102 at Scapa Flow, June 1919. Of the 74 interned German ships at Scapa, 52 were lost– including all three of G102’s sisters– with the remainder saved by the British and divvied up post-Versailles. IWM SP 1631

Turned over to a scratch American crew, they were shepherded across the Atlantic to New York by the minesweepers Redwing and USS Falcon (AM-28).

The German Imperial Navy destroyer SMS G 102 is escorted to a U.S. port by the U.S. Navy minesweeper USS Falcon (AM-28), circa 1920. Note her six assorted torpedo tubes arranged front, aft, and center. NH 45786

Ostfriesland, Capt. J. F. Hellweg (USNA 1900), USN, in command, became the only German-built battleship commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 7 April 1920 at Rosyth, Scotland, and made New York under her own power, where she was decommissioned on 20 September 1920. Hellweg, who had spent his career in surface warfare including service with the Great White Fleet and in Mexico, went on to command the Naval Observatory and was certainly an interesting figure at parties. 

After their summer as “propaganda ships,” the three tin cans were soon stripped at Norfolk and disposed of off Cape Henry, Virginia, at the infamous hands of Billy Mitchell’s land-based aircraft, followed up with a coup de grace on the humble yet still floating 1,100-ton V43 made by assembled American battleships on 15 July 1921.

Via NYT Archives

Direct hit on G102, July 13, 1921. They were sunk during the Billy Mitchell aircraft bombing tests on German and U.S. Navy ships, showing the vulnerability of ships to aerial bombing, on July 18, 1921. Photograph from the William “Billy” Mitchell Collection, U.S. Navy Museum.

Anti-Ship Bombing Demonstration, 1921. Shown: G-102 showing smoke from a direct hit made by SE-5 with a 25-pound TNT-filled fragmentation bomb, June 21, 1921. From the album entitled, “First Provisional Air Brigade, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, 1921.” Note her tubes and guns have been removed. From the William Mitchell Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

As for Redwing, she went on to be sheep-dipped and serve in the Coast Guard during Prohibition, then would return to Navy service first on the West Coast in 1929 and then on the East by 1941. Converted to a rescue/salvage ship (ARS-4), she was lost to an Axis mine off the old Vichy French navy base at Bizerte, Tunisia, during WWII on 29 June 1943.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023: The Grounded Shrine

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 11, 2023: The Grounded Shrine

Colorized period photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/, original in Naval Historical Command archives, NH 58997

Above we see the lead ship of her class of Italian-made armored cruisers, HIJMS Kasuga, making a temporary stay in Tsukushi on its way from Yokosuka to Kure, circa 1904 (Meiji 37). Sourced from a cash-strapped Latin American navy while still under construction and named in honor of a famous Shinto shrine in Nara, this cruiser would endure until the final days of the Empire. 

Spaghetti cruisers

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, the ship that would become Kasuga was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20 knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Kasuga and her sistership Nisshin were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Roca (#129) and Mitra (Yard #130), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them, respectively, Rivadavia and Mariano Moreno.

At some 8,500 tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364 feet long overall and were roughly the same speed, and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.
Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.

Armstrong 1904 model 20.3 cm 8 inch 45 as installed on Japanese cruisers, including Kasuga

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out, and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/
Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664
Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. The photo is credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

From the same publication as the photo of Nissen, above, NH 58998


Kasuga (Japanese Armored Cruiser, 1902-1945) Photographed at Genoa, Italy, early in 1904 soon after completion by Ansaldo’s yard there. The lighter alongside the ship carries a warning banner reading “Munizioni”– munitions. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101929

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over the sticker shock, leaving Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904.

Kasuga in Italian waters, Source l’Illustration dated 16 January 1904

Japanese Crews embarking at Genoa Italy on Kasuga, Source l’Illustration dated 16 January 1904

The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, including a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Death of the battleship OSLYABYA in the Battle of Tsushima. (by Vasily Katrushenko)

As for Kasuga,, fifth in the line of battle, she would also engage Oslyabya, though not to the extent that her sister did, and would also land hits on the Russian battleships Imperator Nikolai I and Oryol. All told, Kasuga would fire 50 shells from her 10-inch forward mount and twice as many from her stern 8-inchers, in exchange for minor damage from three Russian shells. 

Armoured Cruiser Kasuga pictured post the Battle of Tsushima at Sasebo in May 1905

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Kasuga dressed for peacetime flagwaving. NH 58671

Oct.10,1908 : Armored-cruiser Kasuga at Yokosuka.Colorised period photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Greatly modified in 1914 with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore.

On 11 January 1918, some 105 years ago today, Kasuga ran aground in the Bangka Strait off Java in the Dutch East Indies. After much effort, she was eventually refloated in June, repaired, and returned to service. The event mirrored that of one of the Emperor’s other warships, the armored cruiser Asama that embarrassingly ran aground off the Pacific coast of Mexico in 1915 and took two years to free. 

Kasuga later took part in the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War and would tour the U.S. on a world cruise in 1920, calling in Maine and New York.


Treaty Ship

Disarmed to comply with international naval treaties and largely relegated to training tasks, both Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Armoured Cruiser Kasuga in Japan in the early 1920s graduating cadets

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 and then later raised and scrapped after the war.

Epilogue

Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

ARA Pueyrredon in Dublin in 1951. At this point this pre-SpanAm War vet was pushing her sixth decade at sea.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html
Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

While the Japanese have not recycled the name of Kasuga, one of her 10-inch shells, an anchor, and other relics are preserved in and around Tokyo. 

Meanwhile, a builder’s plate that took shrapnel at the Battle of the Yellow Sea is preserved in the Argentine naval museum. 

For those interested, Combrig makes a 1/350 scale model of the class. 

Specs:

Jane’s 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

 


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

Via Peru’s Dirección de Intereses Marítimos which has a great collection of period images from the submarine’s construction digitized. Image 00631-15

Above we see the early French Creusot-built submarine BAP Teniente Ferré of the Peruvian Navy, nestled inside the transport dock ship Kanguroo in the summer of 1912. The first operational diesel-electric boat in Latin America, she was of an interesting design that just screams “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and, while she never saw overt combat, ushered in a long tradition of submarine operations for Peru– one that has lots of ties to the U.S. Navy.

Peru arguably had one of the first attempts at submarine combat in Latin America. The country started off its involvement with subs back in the 1880s when one Federico Blume y Othon came up with a small hand-cranked Toro Submarino submersible equipped with a cable-laid torpedo (more of a mine) that was neat but not successful, although it was an interesting footnote to the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Fuente: Museo de la Marina de Guerra del Perú, sección de Submarinistas, via Superunda.

Following the wholesale destruction of the Peruvian Navy in the War of the Pacific, the country went into a slow rebuilding process that, by 1904, brought in a French naval mission led by Commander Paul de Marguerye. The Peruvian Naval Academy was stood back up and new, modern warships were ordered from Europe including the scout cruisers BAP Almirante Grau and BAP Coronel Bolognesi (3,100 tons, 24 knots, 2×6″ guns) from Vickers in Britain, the old French armored cruiser Dupuy de Lome (6,300 tons, 20 knots, 2×7.6in, 6×6.4 in guns, launched 1890) which was intended to be brought into service as BAP Comandante Aguirre, and two submarines from Schneider & Cie Le Creusot.

This brings us to Teniente Ferré and her sister, BAP Teniente Palacios, both named for young naval officers killed heroically at the Battle of Angamos in 1879.

Ordered in early 1909, French naval engineer Maxime Laubeuf designed them—the man who had designed France’s first submarines (the Narval and the Aigrette) and was one of the first pioneers to realize that two different propulsion systems (for surfaced running and submerged) were needed for a submarine to be practical.

At 151 feet overall and with a submerged displacement of 440 tons, the Ferres could make 13 knots on the surface with a pair of Schneider-Carels diesels and eight submerged on two electric motors arranged on two shafts. While not huge craft by today’s standards, they were large compared to contemporaries such as the American Holland class (110 tons, 64 feet) and British A-class (200 tons, 105 feet). Further, no country in Latin America at the time had anything comparable.

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, April 1909. DIM 00750

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, Oct 1909. Note her bow and inner hull. DIM 00631-07

BAP Teniente Ferré close to launching, noting flags and her very ship-like bow/hull form. Of interest, the two stacks are a breather and exhaust for her diesels as well as each holding a periscope. The class could therefore snorkel while her decks were awash, albeit dangerously. DIM 00631-06-1

When it came to armament, rather than the confusing Drzewiecki drop collar external trapeze framework favored by the French and the Russians at the time, the Peruvian submarines would carry a brace of four forward 450mm torpedo tubes that, if loaded, could have a further four torpedoes stored for a reload inside the hull. There was no provision for a deck gun.

Capable of diving to 100 feet, they carried enough diesel oil to cruise on the surface for 2,000 nm at 10 knots.

BAP Ferre engine compartment, with César A. Valdivieso and David C. Maurer. DIM 00631-04-1

BAP Teniente Ferré test dives off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer near Toulon, the summer of 1912. Note the French ensign. DIM 00631-10-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-12-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-11-scaled

The two submarines were completed by early 1911 and it had been decided that the best way to deliver them was via an innovative transport dock, dubbed the aptly named Kanguroo.

Built to another of Laubeuf’s designs, the curious 305-foot, 2,500-ton monster was a simple hermaphrodite steamship built around a central 120,000 cubic foot floodable well deck with watertight doors on its bow that allowed it to carry loads up to 185 feet in length and weighing as much as 3,700 tons– just perfect to carry a submarine on globe-trotting excursions.

Plan and drawing of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering.

More on the details of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering. “Besides serving for the transport of submarine boats, the main object for which she was built, the Kanguroo is to be utilized also for carrying heavy and bulky loads such as turbines, boilers, and so forth, which can be lowered into the hold amidships after lifting off the movable deck panels which cover it.

Kanguroo was launched by Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde on 12 April 1912 then began loading Ferre on 28 June at Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer and departed for Callao with the boat aboard on 30 July.

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering a

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering 

Note the cradle to hold Ferre inside Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

The bow of Kanguroo had to be disassembled to load and unload floating cargo, a process that took the better part of a week and needed good weather in a sheltered harbor. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Ferre approaching Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Entering Kanguroo’s flooded well deck. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

A Johan and the whale moment. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

She arrived in Peru on 19 October, via São Vicente, Cape Verde, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, and it took ten full days to disgorge the submarine, as Kanguroo’s bow had to be disassembled for the process.

Freed from her marsupial mothership, Ferre made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1912.

BAP Teniente Ferré, including On deck, the engineer David C. Maurer, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Caballero y Lastres, César A. Valdivieso, and J. Besnard. DIM 00631-03-1

Sobre cubierta el Teniente 2° Daniel Caballero y Lastres y Enrique Mazuré.

Kanguroo would go on to deliver Ferre’s sister ship, Palacios, in 1913, along with the Italian Fiat-built submarine F1 (300 tons, 150 feet oal, 2x450mm TT) to the Brazilian Navy. Ironically, the three Brazilian Fiats were ordered in direct response to the Peruvian boats, which were the first modern submarines operated by a Latin American fleet.

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-01

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-02

Peru BAP Ferre class, 1914 Janes. Note the image is from French trials off Toulon.

Palacios made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1913, the first anniversary of Ferre’s inaugural plunge.

With both of Peru’s new subs delivered and operational in home waters, the Great War caught up to them and the French military mission was recalled to take part in the conflict. Likewise, this cut off the supply of spare parts, batteries, and specialized equipment to keep Ferre and her sister working, greatly reducing their time underway throughout the war.

In related news, the old cruiser Dupuy de Lome/BAP Comandante Aguirre would spend the war in French waters and would never actually make it to Peru. Her planned advance crew sailed home on a freighter. 

The most interesting footnote to Ferre’s service was an October 1915 collision with the interned German four-master cargo ship Omega (ex-Drumcliff). While the submarine would limp home with her scopes ripped nearly horizontal for extensive repairs, and Omega was later taken into service with the Peruvian Navy as a training ship, it was as close as Ferre would come to combat. 

Omega as Drumcliff, circa late 1880s. She would go on to be operated by Reederei Hamburger AG under a German flag until 1918 when the Peruvian Navy seized her to serve as a schoolship. Sold in 1926 to the Compañía Administradora del Guano in Callao, she would operate until 1958 when she was wrecked– at the time, the last tall ship in the guano trade. State Library of Victoria image SLV H99.220-2845

Ferre and Palacios would linger in their limited service until 1921 when they were ordered disarmed and subsequently disposed of. 

Epilogue

Ferre and Palacios would be remembered in a series of maritime art and postage stamps in their home country throughout the years. 

As for Kanguroo, the submarine-carrying dock ship, requisitioned by the French Navy at the outbreak of the Great War, she was torpedoed and sank at Madeira’s Funchal Roads on 3 December 1916 alongside the French gunboat Surprise (680 tons) and the elderly British cable layer SS Dacia (1,850 tons), by the famed U-boat ace Max Valentiner aboard U-38, who then leisurely bombarded the city’s submarine cable station and the electricity generators for two hours.

These exploits earned KptLt Valentiner the Blue Max, only the sixth U-boat commander awarded the Pour le Mérite.

Kanguroo (foreground) sinking, 3 December 1916, via the Museu de Fotografia da Maderia

Meanwhile, Ferre and Palacios would be far from the last Peruvian submarines.

To replace the two cranky French boats, the country ordered a quartet of gently larger U.S.-made vessels, sparking a long run of close U.S-Peruvian submarine partnerships. Those four 187-foot R-class submarines— BAP Islay (R-1), BAP Casma (R-2), BAP Pacocha (R-3), and BAP Arica (R-4)— were ordered from the Electric Boat Company in Connecticut, and delivered in the mid-1920s.

The four Peruvian R-class subs. Built during Prohibition in Connecticut, they remained with the fleet until 1960

Carrying four torpedo tubes, these diesel-electric subs were involved in both the Colombian-Peruvian War and Peruvian-Ecuadorian War before being upgraded back at Groton to extend their life after WWII, at which point they were probably the last 1920s-era diesel boats still in front-line service. 

The crew of the Peruvian submarine R-2 in Newport, Rhode Island on October 26, 1926.

Peruvian submarine R-1 in Newport, RI, United States, in 1926.

Peru R class submarines BAP R-4, BAP R-3, BAP R-2, and BAP R-1. The photograph was taken before 1950 at the Callao Naval Base

Of note, the U.S. Navy used some 27 R-class boats of their own.

R-1 Class (Peruvian Submarine) Caption: Two of four ships, R-1 to R-4, were built in the U.S. in 1926-28 and scrapped in 1960. Probably photographed in the 1950s. Description: Courtesy Dr. R. L. Scheina. Catalog #: NH 87842

To replace these were four more Electric Boat-produced modified U.S. Mackerel-class submarines ordered in 1953. Termed the Abtao-class in service, the quartet– BAP Lobo/Dos de Mayo (SS-41, BAP Tiburon/Abato (SS-42), BAP Atun/Angamos (SS-43), and BAP Merlin/Iquique (SS-44)— remained operational in one form or another into 1998.

Peru then picked up a pair of aging U.S. Balao-class diesel boats in 1974–  BAP Pabellón de Pica/La Pedrera (SS-49), ex-USS Sea Poacher (SS/AGSS-406) and BAP Pacocha (SS-48), ex- USS Atule (SS-403)— which they kept in service as late as 1995.

BAP Dos de Mayo, Peruvian submarine

Peru has since acquired six German-built Type 209 (1100 and 1200 series) boats, commissioned starting in 1974:

BAP Angamos (SS-31)
BAP Antofagasta (SS-32)
BAP Arica (SS-36)
BAP Chipana (SS-34)
BAP Islay (SS-35)
BAP Pisagua (SS-33)

The evolution looks like this, including the domestic design, two French boats, 10 American boats, and six German boats, spanning from 1880:

And have effectively been the U.S. Navy’s designated West Coast SSK OPFOR team for the past twenty years. 

Peruvian Type 209s have deployed to Naval Base Point Loma as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) program no less than 18 times since 2001, typically a 2-3 month deployment that sees the submarino both serve as a “target” for ASW forces and work alongside surface assets to better interoperate in multi-national task forces.

“Each year, Submarine Squadron 11 looks forward to DESI and we are thrilled this year to be working with our Peruvian counterpart,” said Capt. Patrick Friedman, CSS-11 in 2019. “By having an SSK operate and train with us, it allows us to practice on a platform that has a similar signature to our adversaries. Not to mention, there is a great deal of diplomatic goodwill that is fostered through these engagements.”

140923-N-ZF498-067 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sep. 23, 2014) Peruvian submarine BAP Islay (SS-35) pulls alongside the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Islay participated in a maneuvering exercise with Theodore Roosevelt, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), and USS Farragut (DDG 99). Theodore Roosevelt is currently out to sea preparing for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 1, 2019) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the Magicians of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 conducts a hoist exercise with the Peruvian navy submarine BAP Angamos (SS-31) off the coast of San Clemente Island. HSM-35 is conducting antisubmarine warfare training to maintain readiness by utilizing a live submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick W. Menah Jr./Released)


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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, Dec. 28, 2022: Spyron

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 28, 2022: Spyron

Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum Photo.

Above we see the Tambor-class fleet submarine USS Gudgeon (SS-211), her glad rags flying, in the Mare Island Channel after her launching at Mare Island on 25 January 1941. Commissioned just three months later, her peacetime service would soon be over and she would be in the thick of the upcoming war with the Japanese, sinking the first of the Empire’s warships to be claimed by the U.S. Navy. However, the 307-foot boat would also kick off the American equivalent of the Tokyo Express, leaving Freemantle some 80 years ago this week, bound for the Japanese-occupied Philipines with a very important cargo.

As detailed in Edward Dissette’s Guerrilla Submarines:

Two days earlier the sub had taken aboard a ton of special gear for a landing party to be transported under secret orders to Mindanao and Panay, two major islands in the Philipines. All gear, except gasoline in 5-gallon cans, had been stowed under the floor plates in the forward torpedo room. The gasoline was stored in the escape trunk, where it was safely sealed off from the rest of the ship.

The cargo was pecuilar. Besides the obvious radio equipment, small arms, ammo, and medical equipment, there were also supplies of paper matchbooks and bags of wheat flour– the latter to be used to make communion wafers. To this was added three inflatable boats, stowed deflated below deck, and an 18-foot wooden dingy, strapped– to the skipper’s great frustration– to the top of the hull by her aft 3″/50 deck gun.

After an inspection by RADM Charles A. Lockwood (COMSUBSOWESPAC), a group of seven men arrived:

“Filipino mess boys, neatly attired in clean, faded dungarees, white mess jackets, and white hats, filed aboard and saluted smartly. Ashore a kookaburra bird brayed its raucous jackass laugh as if it found seven mess boys boarding a submarine a funny sight, which it would have been under normal circumstances.”

Rather than common Philipino stewards, a familiar sight on the old Asiatic Fleet’s destroyers and cruisers, the seven men were hastily trained commandos returning to their homeland under the command of Maj. Jesús Antonio Villamor, late of the Philippine Army Air Corps and, following his epic escape from the islands after the fall of Manila, now an intelligence officer tasked with contacting the scattered resistance groups in the Philippines and making them a cohesive force that could help retake the islands.

Villamor, 28, was already a bonafide hero, having flown his obsolete P-26 Peashooter against Japanese Zeroes in December 1941, reportedly downing two of the fighters, and making his way to Australia after the Allied collapse. He was decorated by Dugout Dug with the Distinguished Service Cross– right before he donned a mess boy’s uniform and set sail to return back home.

Using Spanish charts last updated in 1829, Gudgeon crept in close enough for Villamor and his commandos to make for shore at Catmon Point on the late night of 14 January 1943, ultimately just taking two rafts and electing to leave behind the dingy and the cranky third raft along with the gear they could not carry.

A second such mission was carried out by sistership USS Tambor (SS 198) on 5 March at Mindanao.

Gudgeon would return in April, landing 6,000 pounds of equipment and a four-man team commanded by 2LT Torribio Crespo, a U.S. Army officer of Philipino descent. The gear and commandos arrived in Panay to support Lt. Col. Peralta’s growing battalion-sized guerilla band.

And so began the long-running submarine resupply effort in the Philipines.

Instead of the airdrops frequently seen in Europe from SOE and OSS, the Navy organized an effort by Tagalog-speaking LCDR Charles “Chick” Parsons, an officer well aware of the PI coastal waters, to supply the insurgents with vital material. Parsons’s “Spy Squadron” of 19 submarines delivered 1,325 tons of supplies in at least 41 missions to the guerrillas between Gudgeon’s initial sortie in December 1942 and when USS Stingray (SS-186) landed 35 tons of supplies off Tongehatan Point on New Years Day 1945, with an emphasis on medicine, weapons, ammunition, and radio gear.

Salmon class subs USS Stingray (SS-186), foreground Operating in formation with other submarines, during Battle Force exercises, circa 1939. The other three submarines are (from left to right): Seal (SS-183); Salmon (SS-182) and Sturgeon (SS-187). Collection of Vice-Admiral George C. Dyer, USN (Retired). NH 77086

The cargo got weirder and weirder, including propaganda items such as cigarettes, chocolates, and gum whose packages were stamped with big “Made in USA” and “I Shall Return” logos, with the concept that they would unnerve the Japanese to find such trash blowing down the streets in front of their barracks.

5-gallon cans of MacArthur swag, ranging from hotel soaps to pencils, matchbooks, and playing cards, all with “I Shall Return” were landed along with the commando training teams

Added to this were clothing and shoes to outfit ragged guerillas. Flashlights, batteries, binoculars, magazines, books, playing cards, typewriter ribbon, sewing needles– just about everything you could think of to win hearts and minds in remote areas under occupations and cut off from consumer goods.

Guerilla Situation Southeast Luzon, as of March 15, 1945, as reported by U.S. Sixth Army. Notes include Philippine-led units and their U.S.-supplied weapons. They detail at least four battalion-sized elements and eight company-sized groups. (“Maj. Barros 400 rifles 30 MGS, Faustino 400 rifles, Sandico 10 rifles 2 mortars 2 bazookas, Monella 80 rifles, Gov Escudero 300 rifles 19 bazookas 10 pistols, et. al”). Note that these are just the ones the HQ was aware of and in contact with, as there were certainly dozens of smaller partisan groups floating around outside of the communication chain.

“Padre kits,” consisting of five-gallon kerosene tins filled with wheat flour and several small bottles of Mass wine with eyedroppers attached– to be delivered to parishes across the islands to help maintain morale– were also smuggled in.

Each bundle had to be sealed in waterproof boxes and cans, no larger than 23 inches at any point so they could fit through the sub’s hatches. Radio kits took up four boxes and included not only the transmitter/receiver but also a 40-foot antenna in sections, batteries, and enough spare parts to keep everything glowing for at least a year.

The Philippine General Radio Net was Developed during the Japanese Occupation, as of 9 October 1944. Most of these radio kits had been brought into the islands via submarines from Australia

They also delivered 331 agents and officers of all sorts– including Parsons who spend most of 1943 in and out of the islands, piecing together the resistance network.

The subs also exfiltrated 472 individuals, including downed aircrews, American civilians trapped in the islands during the 1942 withdrawal, and key personnel. This included at least one German and three Japanese POWs. USS Angler (SS-240), in March 1944, evacuated a record 58 U.S. citizens, including women and children from Panay back to Darwin– talk about cramped for a 311-foot submarine!

While the fleet boats could only carry a few tons of cargo and a 6-7 person team, the two huge V-class cruising subs, USS Nautilus (SS-168) and USS Narwhal (SS-167), stripped to the bone and only armed with the 10 torpedoes in their tubes for self-defense, could carry a whopping 92 tons of cargo and 25 or more men, earning them the nicknames of “Percherons of the deep.” 

To get a feel for how big these subs were, here we see the Nautilus (SS-168) photographed from her sister ship, the Narwhal (SS-167). Photo credit; Navsource.

In all, by the time MacArthur finally “returned” in October 1944, the Philippine insurgency had grown to an estimated 255,000 guerillas in the field, organized in 10 military districts, who controlled 800 of 1,000 municipalities in the country as well as the lion’s share of the countryside. It was an effort every bit as large and complex as that shown by the Partisans in Yugoslavia or the French Resistance.

Shortly after MacArthur started operations in Leyte, the Navy was able to land supplies directly via amphibious assault ships and flying boats while the Army was able to begin airdrops from cargo planes and bombers. 

Nonetheless, it was the submarine delivery service of Chick Parsons and company that got to that point. 

The breakdown of the 41 supply runs by boat:

USS Bowfin (SS-287) (Balao class): 9 runs
USS Narwhal: 9 runs
USS Nautilus: 6 runs
USS Stingray (SS-186) (Salmon class): 5 runs
*USS Trout (SS-202) (Tambor class): 2 runs
USS Redfin (SS-272) (Gato class): 2 runs
USS Gar (SS-206) (Tambor class): 2 runs
USS Gudgeon: 2 runs
*USS Seawolf (SS 197) (Sargo class): 2 runs
One each: USS Angler, USS Crevalle, USS Harder, USS Cero, USS Blackfin, USS Gunnell, USS Hake, USS Ray, USS Grayling, USS Tambor.

These *subs had seen the Philippines in a previous effort, the submerged blockade run into besieged Corregidor between January and May 1942. Carrying 144 tons of antimalarial drugs, small arms and anti-aircraft ammunition, and diesel for the island fortresses generators, they unloaded these under cover of night and then evacuated the Philippines national treasury, 185 key personnel, codes, and vital records that could not fall into Japanese hands– along with 58 torpedos and four tons of submarine spare parts to continue operations from Java and Australia. On both the entry and exit they had to evade destroyer and aerial patrols, weave through minefields and navigate using primitive tools and often inaccurate charts, typically just surfacing at night.

It was hazardous work.

Seawolf did not make her planned 6 October 1944 landing on her second trip under Spyron taskings and was listed overdue as of that date– the only submarine lost during the operations. Likewise, Gudgeon would be lost at sea on or around 18 April 1944 while Trout and Harder would also be lost that year while on patrol. Grayling (SS-209) was lost on patrol off Manila in 1943.

Their names here are inscribed on a memorial at the USS Albacore Museum in New Hampshire. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Epilogue

Today, Bowfin, which conducted no less than nine runs to support the partisan archipelago of the Pacific– tying for first place– is preserved as a museum in Hawaii, and recently just completed a dry dock period to keep her around for future generations.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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, Dec. 21, 2022: A Multinational Effort

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 21, 2022: A Multinational Effort

Photo via the Virginian-Pilot Archives

Above we see the Wickes-class tin can, USS Yarnall (Destroyer No. 143) gently aground in the shallows off Lynnhaven Roads, Virginia on 25 November 1939, while part of FDR’s Neutrality Patrol. Although she was a “war baby,” wholly constructed in 1918, she had joined the fleet too late for the First World War. However, don’t worry, she got in plenty of service under three different Allied flags in the Second.

The Wickes

Yarnall was one of the iconic first flight of “Four Piper” destroyers that were designed in 1915-16 with input from no less an authority as Captain (later Admiral) W.S. Sims. Beamy ships with a flush deck and a quartet of boilers (with a smokestack for each) were coupled to a pair of Parsons geared turbines to provide 35.3 knots designed speed– which is still considered fast today, more than a century later. The teeth of these 314-foot, 1250-ton greyhounds were four 4-inch/50 cal MK 9 guns and a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes.

They reportedly had short legs and were very wet, which made long-range operations a problem, but they gave a good account of themselves. Originally a class of 50 was authorized in 1916, but once the U.S. entered WWI in April 1917, this was soon increased and increased again to some 111 ships built by 1920.

USS Yarnall (DD-143): Booklet of General Plans – Inboard Profile / Outboard Profile, June 10, 1918, NARA NAID: 158704871

USS Yarnall (DD-143): Booklet of General Plans – Main Deck / 1st Platform Deck / S’ch L’t P’f’m, S’ch L’t Control P’f’m, Fire Control P’f’m Bridge, Galley Top, After Dk. House and 2nd Platform Deck. / June 10, 1918, Hold NARA NAID: 158704873

A close-up of her stern top-down view of plans shows the Wickes class’s primary armament– a dozen torpedo tubes in four turnstiles and stern depth charges.

Meet Yarnall

Our vessel was the first named in honor of naval hero John Joliffe Yarnall. Born in Virginia three years after the end of the Revolutionary War, he was appointed midshipman in the Navy on 11 January 1809. His chief claim to fame was as the first lieutenant on board Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship, USS Lawrence during the decisive Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, where he was grievously wounded. Sailing for the Mediterranean with Stephen Decatur in the frigate USS Guerriere in 1815, Mr. Yarnell was again seriously injured in the fight to capture the Barbary corsair flagship Meshuda. Sent back to the States with dispatches, a copy of the new treaty with the Dey of Algiers, and some captured flags aboard the sloop-of-war USS Epervier— itself captured from the British– Yarnall, Epervier, and the 134 sailors and marines aboard her were never heard from again, vanishing somewhere in the Atlantic in August 1815.

Besides our destroyer, Yarnall, a hero of the Battle of Lake Erie who later disappeared mysteriously at sea, was commemorated at Pennsylvania State University’s Yarnall Hall in 1987.

The first Yarnall (Destroyer No. 143) was laid down on 12 February 1918 at William Cramp & Sons at Philadelphia, launched later that spring, and commissioned on 29 November 1918, CDR William F. Halsey, Jr., in command.

Yup, that Halsey.

As noted in Halsey’s Navy biography:

Dispatched to France in 1919, USS Yarnall would soon be transferred to DesRon 4 in the Pacific Fleet and the Asiatic station where she would serve briefly until laid up on 29 May 1922, as part of the great post-WWI drawdown.

USS Yarnall (Destroyer # 143, later DD-143) steaming in column with other destroyers, circa 1919-1922. NH 41902

During the Pacific Fleet’s passage through the Panama Canal, on 24 July 1919. Those present are: USS Wickes (Destroyer # 75) and USS Yarnall (Destroyer # 143), both at left; USS Philip (Destroyer # 76), USS Buchanan (Destroyer # 131), and USS Elliot (Destroyer # 146), left to right in the center group; USS Boggs (Destroyer # 136), USS Dent (Destroyer # 116) and USS Waters (Destroyer # 115), left to right in the right center group. NH 57141

USS Yarnall (DD-143) passing through Gaillard Cut, Panama Canal, 24 July 1919.

Destroyers refitting at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1921-22. Many of these ships are being modified to place the after 4″/50 gun atop an enlarged after deckhouse. Ships present include (listed from the foreground): USS Lamberton (DD-119); unidentified destroyer; USS Breese (DD-122); USS Radford (DD-120); unidentified destroyer; USS Elliot (DD-146); USS Tarbell (DD-142); USS Yarnall (DD-143); USS Delphy (DD-261); USS McFarland (DD-237); USS Litchfield (DD-336); USS Kennison (DD-138); USS Lea (DD-118); and two unidentified destroyers. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (MC). NHHC Photo.

In the 1931 edition of Jane’s, Yarnall was one of 186 “First Line Destroyers” listed in the same entry under the American Navy, spanning the massive Wickes and Clemson-class “flush-deckers”, “four-stackers” or “four-pipers”

Recommissioned at San Diego on 19 April 1930 after eight years of mothballs, Yarnall would bounce back and forth between the Atlantic and Pacific several times, homeported alternatively at Charleston and San Diego.

USS Yarnell close passing, 1930s

USS Tarbell (DD-142), an outboard ship, and USS Yarnall (DD-143), just inboard of Tarbell with two other destroyers, alongside a tender during the 1930s. Donation of BMGC Ralph E. Turpin, USNRF, 1963. NH 41912

USS Yarnall (DD-143) and USS Tarbell (DD-142) Tied up together alongside a pier, during the 1930s. NH 47195

Officers and crew of USS Yarnall (DD-143), circa 1935-1936. During this period, the ship was commanded by LCDR Frederick Sears Conner then LCDR George William Johnson, with at least one of these likely in the photo. CPO Allen L. Eads Collection, with Eads likely in the photo. NHHC S-551

On 30 December 1936, Yarnall was again placed out of commission for a second time and joined the reserve fleet at Philadelphia.

Then came war

Recommissioned at Philadelphia on 4 October 1939– a month after Hitler crossed into Poland– the aging greyhound joined the Atlantic Fleet’s DesRon 11 and would operate out of Norfolk on the Neutrality Patrol for a year. By that time, Britain was holding its own against the Germans and Italians alone and in desperate need of every sort of war material– especially naval escorts to safeguard vital convoys against the U-boat menace.

Trading Ensigns

With Europe again at war, on 2 September 1940, FDR signed the so-called Destroyers for Bases Agreement that saw a mix of 50 (mostly mothballed) Caldwell (3), Wickes (27), and Clemson (20)-class destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for limited basing rights on nine British overseas possessions.

Transfer of U.S. destroyers to the Royal Navy in Halifax, Sept 1940. Wickes-class destroyers USS Buchanan (DD-131), USS Crowninshield (DD-134), and USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193) in the background. The sailors are examining a 4-inch /50 deck gun. Twenty-three Wickes-class destroyers were transferred to the RN, along with four to the RCN, in 1940 under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3199286)

For Yarnell, this meant she would be decommissioned at St. John’s, Newfoundland on 23 October 1940, then taken into service with the Royal Navy as HMS Lincoln (G42) on the same day in a warm transfer.

HMS Lincoln G42 in Arctic convoy duty

Dubbed the “Town class” by the Admiralty even though the 50 vessels spanned three distinct classes, ex-Yarnall had been renamed in honor of the county town of Lincolnshire, England, the second such vessel to carry that name for the Royal Navy, previously only used on a 50-gun fourth rate launched in 1695.

Shipped to Plymouth in November for modifications at HM Devonport to operate with the Brits and to pick up a mostly Australian crew, Lincoln/Yarnall was nominated for service with the 1st Escort Group for convoy defense in Western Approaches, with her first mission involving the hunt for the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer after the attack on convoy HX 84. Over the next nine months, she would participate in no less than 20 convoys.

It was in April 1941 that Lincoln came to the rescue of a converted 15,000-ton passenger steamer, turned auxiliary cruiser, filled with more than 400 souls. The former P. & O. liner Comorin (Capt. John Ignatius Hallett, DSO, RN (retired)) caught fire in heavy weather in the North Atlantic and had to be abandoned. Closing in with two other tin cans, Lincoln helped pull off her passengers and crew, then stood by to sink the blazing steamer with her 4-inch guns.

6 April 1941. HMS Comorin (F49) on fire viewed from the British Destroyer HMS Lincoln. Originally a passenger ship of the P&O Steam Navigation Co Ltd, the Comorin was requisitioned by the Admiralty in September 1939 and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. The vessel was part of the Freetown Escort Force when she caught fire in the North Atlantic. The fire could not be controlled, and survivors were taken off by HMS Glenartney, HMS Lincoln, and HMS Broke. The wreck was shelled and sunk the next day by the Lincoln. Photo by Ordinary Seaman (OS) Raymond Frank Spratt. AWM P06165.019

6 April 1941. Survivors from HM Comorin pull alongside the British Destroyer HMS Lincoln. Photo by Ordinary Seaman (OS) Raymond Frank Spratt. AWM P06165.020

6 April 1941. Lincoln getting close enough to throw a line to the blazing auxiliary cruiser HM Comorin to take aboard survivors. Note one of Comorin’s seven BL 6-inch Mark VII guns, forward. Photo by Ordinary Seaman (OS) Raymond Frank Spratt. AWM P06165.018

Skol!

Under refit in January-February 1942, it was decided to transfer Lincoln on loan to the “Free Norwegian” Navy forces in exile.

The Scandinavian neutral had managed to sit precariously on the fence in the Great War and indeed was a peaceful country that had last seen the elephant during the Napoleonic Wars, skirmishing at first with the British and then the Swedes for independence. With some 130 years of peace behind it, the Norwegian Navy in April 1940 was again an armed neutral, ready to take on all comers to preserve the homeland. Then came the invasion.

German cruiser Blücher in Drøbak Sound, April 1940 outside of the Norwegian capital Oslo

Two months of tough resistance against German invaders while reluctantly accepting Allied intervention left the Norwegian Navy covered in glory (such as when the tiny 200-ton gunboat KNM Pol III stood alone– briefly– against the mighty heavy cruiser Blücher, the heavy cruiser Lützow, the light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo, or when the ancient and nearly condemned coastal monitors KNM Eidsvold and Norge attempted to stop the Germans at Narvik), but was largely left sunk at the bottom of the fjords they defended.

When the endgame came, a dozen or so small ships and 500 officers and men made it to British waters to carry on the war. These included such Edwardian relics as the destroyer Draug (commissioned in 1908!) and the newer Sleipner, as well as fishery patrol ships such as the Nordkapp, which all soon got to work for the Allies, guarding sea lanes, escorting convoys and protecting the UK and Allied-occupied Iceland from potential Axis invasion.

The mighty KNM Draug, with lines that look right out of the Spanish-American War. MMU.945456

With the small core of exiled prewar Norwegian sailors, an influx of Norwegians living abroad, and transfers from the country’s huge merchant fleet, the exiled Free Norwegian Navy was able to rebuild abroad.

“Norway Fights On” USA, 1942

Soon, the old Draug was in full-time use as a training and support vessel while small trawlers and whalers provided yeoman service as the “Shetland Bus” regularly shuttling spies, SOE operatives, and Norwegian resistance agents into occupied Scandinavia and downed Allied aircrew out throughout some 200 trips.

As these operations expanded, the Brits began transferring surplus (five ex-Wickes-class tin cans) and then new-built naval vessels (Flower and Castle-class corvettes, motor torpedo boats, Hunt-class destroyer escorts, and later two S-class destroyers) to the growing Norwegian fleet to perform convoy escort missions.

That’s where Yarnall/Lincoln comes in.

Jaegern Lincoln, Town Klassen, via Forsvarets museer. Note Norwegian pennant

Jaegern Lincoln, Town Klassen, stern 4 inch gun via Forsvarets museer MMU.942842

Jaegeren Lincoln, Town Klassen via Forsvarets museer. Note embarked British admiral flag

With her new Norwegian crew aboard, but under the same British-assigned name and pennant number albeit with a Norwegian royal prefix, the destroyer HNorMS Lincoln (jageren in Norwegian parlance) was nominated for convoy defense in the eastern Atlantic under Royal Canadian Navy control and would set out for Halifax to join the Western Local Escort Force.

Over the next two years, the American-built destroyer, with her Norwegian exile crew, as part of the British fleet under Canadian control, would take part in no less than 58 convoys.

“Free Norwegian” destroyer HNorMS Lincoln (G42), underway off Charleston, South Carolina flying the Norwegian ensign, circa March 1942-Dec 1943. IWM FL 3271

A further refit in Charleston in July 1943– one of her old homeports during her USN years– Lincoln would pick up a new-fangled Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar and an improved radar outfit.

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum have the collection of the old Charleston Naval Shipyard in their archives and they have several “finished” photos, dated 20 March 1943, of HMS/HNorMS Lincoln (USS Yarnall).

Going East

Arriving back at Portsmouth in December 1943, it was decided that the old girl was too worn out even for the Norwegian exiles– who were receiving new British-built S-class destroyers just in time for D-Day— and Lincoln was placed in reserve in the Tyne River and later nominated for transfer to the Soviets, who would take anything they could get. Thus, she became Druzhnyy (“Friendly”) in the Red Banner Fleet, turned over on 26 August 1944 after her new Soviet crew had arrived aboard the laid-up vessel the month prior.

Эскадренный миноносец Дружный (019) in Soviet service

She was joined in this 1944 transfer by four other bases-for-destroyers Wickes-class sisterships: USS Fairfax (HMS Richmond, later Soviet Zhivuchiy: “Tenacious”), USS Twiggs (HMS Leamington, later Soviet Zhguchiy: “Firebrand”), USS Maddox (HMS/HMCS Georgetown, later Soviet Zhyostky: “Rigid”), and USS Crowninshield (HMS Chelsea, later Soviet Derzkiy: “Ardent”) in addition to at least four Clemson class vessels.

Druzhnyy was scheduled for passage to Kola Inlet as part of outbound Russia Convoy JW60 in September 1944 and arrived at her new home on the 23rd. She would end her wartime service by patrolling the Arctic, Barents, and the White Sea.

This meant that Yarnall was one of the final Wickes-class destroyers still in active service, only repatriated to Rosyth and returned to Royal Navy control on 24 August 1952. She was then placed on the Disposal List, and within a month had been towed to Inverkeithing for scrapping.

In all, Yarnall would see some 12 commanders running from Halsey to LCDR John Greeley Winn including future RADM Thomas Ross Cooley– a surface warrior who would head Battleship Division 6 during Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Her HMS Lincoln days would add two Brits, CDR Alan MacGregor Sheffield, and LT Ronald John Hanson, while HNorMS Lincoln would see three Norwegians: Kapt. Aimar Sørensen, Ltn. Helge Øi, and Kapt.ltn. Chr. Monsen, giving her a total of 17 skippers– not counting the Russians!

Of note, Sørensen would go on to do big things with the Cold War NATO Norwegian Navy, retiring as a Viseadmiral in a CNO role in 1967.

Epilogue

Today no Wickes-class tin cans survive. The last one afloat, USS Maddox (DD–168), was scrapped in late 1952 after serving in the US, then RN, then Canadian, then Soviet navies.

However, one of the class, USS Walker (DD-163), has been given new life in the excellent alternate history series Destroyermen written by Taylor Anderson.

Yarnall’s original 1918 plans booklet, printed on linen, is preserved in the National Archives. Odds are, Halsey spent time pouring over them during the vessel’s outfitting.

Yarnall’s name was carried by a second U.S. Navy warship, a Fletcher-class destroyer, DD-541. Laid down some 80 years ago this month at Bethlehem Steel’s San Francisco yard, she was commissioned on 30 December 1943 and was soon off to fight the Empire of Japan. Between then and 1958 when she was laid up, Yarnall (DD-541) earned seven battle stars for her World War II service and two battle stars for her service during the Korean War.

USS Yarnall (DD-541) hauls away to starboard after “topping off” from the oiler USS Manatee (AO-58), during replenishment operations off Korea, circa August 1951. USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852) is approaching from the astern to fill her bunkers next. The Essex-class carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31), her deck filled with dark blue F4U Corsairs, is refueling on the oiler’s opposite side. NH 97348.

Loaned to the Republic of China in 1968 and eventually transferred, the latter Yarnall continued to serve the Taiwanese Navy until at least 1999, one of the last Fletchers still in service anywhere in the world.

The more things change, right?

Specs

Displacement:
1,710 long tons (1,740 t) (standard)
2,530 long tons (2,570 t) (deep load)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (o/a)
Beam: 35 ft 9 in
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (deep)
Installed power:
40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
2 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots
Range: 4,675 nmi at 20 knots
Sensors: (Royal Navy WWII fit)
Radar Type 290 air warning
Radar Type 285 ranging & bearing
Armament:
(1918)

(1940)
4 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII dual-purpose guns
1 × twin Bofors 40 mm AA guns
4 × twin QF 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
4 × throwers and 2 × racks for 70 depth charges


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022: Getting it Coming & Going

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 14, 2022: Getting it Coming & Going

Imperial War Museum Photo A 13759

Above we see the Royal Navy’s Dido-class light cruiser HMS Argonaut (61), pictured 80 years ago this week at Algiers after losing both her bow and stern to two very well-placed Italian torpedoes with roughly a 400-foot spread between them. A new wartime-production ship only four months in the fleet, she would soon be patched up and back in the thick of it, lending her guns to fight the Axis on both sides of the globe.

The Didos

The Didos were very light cruisers indeed, designed in 1936 to weigh just 5,600 tons standard displacement, although this would later swell during wartime service to nearly 8,000. Some 512 feet long, they were smaller than a modern destroyer but, on a powerplant of four Admiralty 3-drum boilers and four Parsons steam turbines, each with their own dedicated shaft, they could break 32.5 knots on 62,000 shp.

They were intended to be armed with 10 5.25″/50 (13.4 cm) QF Mark II DP guns in five twin mounts, three forward and two over the stern, although most of the class failed to carry this layout due to a variety of reasons.

Gunnery booklet laying out the general plan of a Dido-class cruiser

The Dido class had provision for up to 360 rounds for “A”, “B” and “Q” turrets, 320 rounds for the “X” turret and 300 rounds for the “Y” turret and a properly trained crew could rattle them off at 7-8 shots per minute per gun out to a range of 23,400 yards or a ceiling of 46,500 feet when used in the AAA role.

Argonaut showing off her forward 5.25-inch mounts at maximum elevation

The fact that one of these cruisers could burp 70-80 shells within a 60-second mad minute gave them a lot of potential if used properly. However, this didn’t play out in reality, at least when it came to swatting incoming aircraft.

As noted by Richard Worth in his Fleets of World War II, “Often referred to as AA cruisers, the 16 Dido-type ships shot down a grand total of 15 enemy planes. The entirety of British cruiser-dom accounted for only 97 planes, while enemy planes accounted for 11 British cruisers.”

Meet Argonaut

While all the Didos followed the very British practice of using names borrowed from classical history and legend (Charybdis, Scylla, Naiad, et.al) our cruiser was the third HMS Argonaut, following in the footsteps of a Napoleonic War-era 64-gun third-rate and an Edwardian-era Diadem-class armored cruiser.

Diadem-class armored cruiser HMS Argonaut. Obsolete by the time of the Great War, she spent most of it in auxiliary roles

One of three Didos constructed at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, the new Argonaut was ordered under the 1939 War Emergency Program for £1,480,000 and laid down on 21 November 1939, during the “Phony War” in which Britain and France stood on a cautious Western front against Germany. Launched in September 1941– by which time Italy had joined the war, the Lowlands, Balkans, and most of Scandinavia had fallen to the Axis, and the Soviets were hanging by a thread– Argonaut commissioned 8 August 1942, by which time the Americans and Japan had joined a greatly expanded global conflict.

Argonaut was later “paid for” via a subscription drive from the City of Coventry to replace the old C-class light cruiser HMS Coventry (D43) which had been so heavily damaged in the Med by German Junkers Ju 88s during Operation Agreement that she was scuttled.

“HMS Argonaut Fights Back for the City of Coventry. To Replace HMS Coventry, sunk in 1942, the City of Coventry Has Paid for the Dido Class 5450 Ton Cruiser HMS Argonaut, She Has a Speed of 33 Knots, Carries Ten 5.25 Inch Guns and Six Torpedo Tubes.” IWM A 14299.

Her first skipper, who arrived aboard on 21 April 1942, was Capt. Eric Longley-Cook, 41, who saw action in the Great War on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, was a gunnery officer on HMS Hood in the 1930s and began the war as commanding officer of the cruiser HMS Caradoc.

The brand new HMS Argonaut, steaming at high speed during her shakedowns, 1 Aug 1942, her guns at or near maximum elevation

The brand new HMS Argonaut, steaming at high speed during her shakedowns, 1 Aug 1942, her guns at or near maximum elevation

Off to war with you, lad

Just off her shakedown, Argonaut sailed with the destroyers HMS Intrepid and Obdurate for points north on 13 October, dropping off Free Norwegian troops and several 3.7-inch in the frozen wastes of Spitzbergen then delivering an RAF medical unit in Murmansk.

On her return trip, she carried the men from the Operation Orator force of Hampden TB.1 torpedo bombers from No. 144 Squadron RAF and No. 455 Squadron RAAF back to the UK following the end of their mission to Russia.

Argonaut then joined Force H for Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Vichy French-controlled North Africa.

Operation Torch: British light cruiser HMS Argonaut approaching Gibraltar; “The Rock”, during the transport of men to the North African coast, November 1942. IWM A 12795.

Battleships HMS Duke of York, HMS Nelson, HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, and cruiser HMS Argonaut in line ahead, ships of Force H during the occupation of French North Africa. Priest, L C (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer. IWM A 12958

Following the Torch landings, Argonaut was carved off to join four of her sisters at Bone– HMS Aurora, Charybdis, Scylla, and Sirius— and several destroyers as Force Q, which was tasked with ambushing Axis convoys in the Gulf of Tunis.

Argonaut at Bone, late November-early December 1942. Now Annaba Algeria

The first of Force Q’s efforts led to what is known in the West as the Battle of Skerki Bank when, during the pre-dawn hours of 2 December, the much stronger British cruiser-destroyer force duked it out with an Italian convoy of four troopships screened by three destroyers and two torpedo boats.

When the smoke cleared, all four of the troopships (totaling 7,800 tons and loaded with vital supplies and 1,700 troops for Rommel) were on the bottom of the Med. Also deep-sixed was the Italian destroyer Folgore, holed by nine shells from Argonaut.

The Italian cacciatorpediniere RCT Folgore (Eng= Thunderbolt). She was lost in a lop-sided battle off Skerki Bank, with 126 casualties.

The next time Force Q ventured out would end much differently.

Make up your mind

On 14 December 1942, the Italian Marcello-class ocean-going submarine Mocenigo (T.V. Alberto Longhi) encountered one of Force Q’s sweeps and got in a very successful attack.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

At 0556 hours, Mocenigo was on the surface when she sighted four enemy warships in two columns, proceeding on an SSW course at 18 knots at a distance of 2,000 meters. At 0558 hours, four torpedoes (G7e) were fired from the bow tubes at 2-second intervals from a distance of 800 meters, at what appeared to be a TRIBAL class destroyer. The submarine dived upon firing and heard two hits after 59 and 62 seconds. 

According to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Francis Henely, the following exchange took place.

The forward lookout reported: “Ship torpedoed forward. Sir.”

At the same time, the aft lookout reported: “Ship torpedoed aft. Sir.”

To these reports Capt. Longley-Cook replied: “When you two chaps have made up your minds which end has been torpedoed, let me know.”

The torpedoes hit the cruiser’s bow and stern sections nearly simultaneously, killing an officer and two ratings, leaving the ship dead in the water and her after two turrets unusable. HMS Quality remained beside her throughout and HMS Eskimo— who had chased away Mocenigo— rejoined them just before daylight.

After shoring up the open compartments, Argonaut was amazingly able to get underway at 8 knots, heading slowly for Algiers which the force reached at 1700 hours on the 15th.

IWM captions for the below series: “British cruiser which lived to fight again. 14 to 19 December 1942, at sea and at Algiers, the British cruiser HMS Argonaut after she had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean. Despite heavy damage, she got home.”

IWM A 13756

A 13758

IWM A 13754

As for Mocenigo, seen here in the Azores in June 1941, she was lost to a USAAF air raid while tied up at Cagliari, Sardinia, on 13 May 1943.

Patch it up, and go again

After two weeks at Algiers conducting emergency repairs, Argonaut shipped out for HM Dockyard at Gibraltar for more extensive work than what could be offered by the French.

Ultimately, with nearly one-third of the ship needing replacement, it was decided to have the work done in the U.S. where more capacity existed and on 5 April 1943, the cruiser left for Philadelphia by way of Bermuda, escorted by the destroyer HMS Hero— which had to halt at the Azores with engine problems, leaving the shattered Argonaut to limp across the Atlantic for four days unescorted during the height of the U-boat offensive. Met off Bermuda by the destroyer USS Butler and the minesweepers USS Tumult and USS Pioneer, she ultimately reached the City of Brotherly Love on 27 April.

There, she would spend five months in the Naval Yard– the Australian War Memorial has several additional images of this-– and a further two months in post-refit trials.

HMS Argonaut, Philadelphia Navy Yard

HMS Argonaut, Philadelphia Navy Yard

One of the turrets with 5.25-inch guns of Dido-class light cruiser HMS ARGONAUT damaged by an Italian submarine 1942 Philadelphia Navy Yard – USA

Post rebuild HMS Argonaut, 5.25-inch guns pointing towards the camera, 11 February 1943

HMS Argonaut in her War Colors, circa 1943 just after repairs at Philadelphia.

HMS Argonaut at Philadelphia, 4 November 1943 BuShips photo 195343

Arriving back in the Tyne in December 1942, she would undergo a further three-month conversion and modification to fulfill an Escort Flagship role. This refit eliminated her “Q” 5.25-inch mount (her tallest) to cut down topside weight, added aircraft control equipment/IFF, and Types 293 (surface warning) and 277 (height finding) radar sets in addition to fire control radars for her increased AAA suite.

Fresh from her post-refit trails and essentially a new cruiser (again), Argonaut joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet in preparation for “the big show.”

Back in the Fight

Part of RADM Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton’s Bombarding Force K for Operation Neptune, Argonaut would fall in with the fellow British cruisers HMS Orion, Ajax, and Emerald, who, along with the eight Allied destroyers and gunboats (to include the Dutch Hr.Ms. Flores and Polish ORP Krakowiak), was tasked with opening the beaches for the Normandy Assault Force “G” (Gold Beach) on D-Day, the latter consisting of three dozen assorted landing craft of all sorts carrying troops of the British XXX Corps.

Capt. Longley-Cook, rejoining his command after a stint as Captain of the Fleet for the Mediterranean Fleet, instructed his crew that he fully intended to drive Argonaut ashore if she was seriously hit, beach the then nearly 7,000-ton cruiser, and keep fighting her until she ran out of shells.

Light cruiser HMS Argonaut in late 1944. Note her “Q” turret is gone and she is sporting multiple new radars

In all, Argonaut fired 394 5.25-inch shells on D-Day itself, tasked with reducing the German gun batteries at Vaux-sur-Aure, and by the end of July, would run through 4,395 shells in total, earning praise from Gen. Miles Dempsey for her accurate naval gunfire in support of operations around Caen.

It was during this period that she received a hit from a German 150mm battery, which landed on her quarterdeck off Caen on 26 June but failed to explode.

She fired so many shells in June and July that she had to pause midway through and run to Devonport to get her gun barrels– which had just been refurbed in Philadelphia– relined again.

Then came the Dragoon Landings in the South of France, sending Argonaut back to the Med, this time to the French Rivera.

Dido class cruiser HMS Argonaut in Malta, 1944. She has had her ‘Q’ turret removed to reduce top weight

Across 22 fire missions conducted in the three days (8/15-17/44) Argonaut was under U.S. Navy control for Dragoon, she let fly 831 rounds of 80-pound HE and SAP shells at ranges between 3,200 and 21,500 yards. Targets included three emplaced German 155s, armored casemates on the Île Saint-Honorat off Canne, along with infantry and vehicles in the field, with spotting done by aircraft.

She also scattered a flotilla of enemy motor torpedo boats hiding near the coast. All this while dodging repeated potshots from German coastal batteries, which, Longley-Cook dryly noted, “At 1100 I proceeded to the entrance of the Golfe de la Napoule to discover if the enemy guns were still active. They were.”

Argonaut’s skipper, Longley-Cook, observed in his 15-page report to the U.S. Navy, signed off by noting, “The operation was brilliantly successful, but it was a great disappointment that HMS Argonaut was released so soon. My short period of service with the United States Navy was a pleasant, satisfactory, and inspiring experience.”

CruDiv7 commander, RADM Morton Lyndholm Deyo, USN, stated in an addendum to the report that “HMS Argonaut was smartly handled and her fire was effective. She is an excellent ship.”

September saw Argonaut transferred to the British Aegean Force to support Allied forces liberating Greece. There, on 16 October, she caught, engaged, and sank two German-manned caiques who were trying to evacuate Axis troops.

HMS Argonaut leaving Poros in October 1944, participating in the landing of British troops for the liberation of Greece.

Headed to the East

Swapping out the unsinkable Longley-Cook for Capt. William Patrick McCarthy, RN, Argonaut sailed from Alexandria for Trincomalee in late November 1944 to join the massive new British Pacific Fleet.

Assigned to Force 67, a fast-moving carrier strike group built around HMS Indomitable and HMS Illustrious, by mid-December she was providing screening and cover for air attacks against Sumatra in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies (Operation Roberson) followed by a sequel attack on oil refineries at Pangkalan after the New Year (Operation Lentil) and, with TF 63, hitting other oil facilities in the Palembang area of Southeast Sumatra at the end of January 1945 in Operation Meridian.

Argonaut in Sydney, 1945

Making way to Ulithi in March, Argonaut was part of the top-notch British Task Force 57, likely the strongest Royal Navy assemblage of the war, and, integrated with the U.S. 5th Fleet, would take part in the invasion of Okinawa (Operation Iceberg). There, she would serve as a picket ship and screen, enduring the Divine Wind of the kamikaze.

When news of the emperor’s capitulation came in August, Argonaut was in Japanese home waters, still covering her carriers. She then transitioned to British Task Unit 111.3, a force designated to collect Allied POWs from camps on Formosa and the Chinese mainland.

HMS Argonaut in Kiirun (now Keelung) harbor in northern Taiwan, preparing to take on former American prisoners of war, 6 Sep 1945

War artist James Morris— who began the conflict as a Royal Navy signaler and then by 1945 was a full-time member of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee attached to the British Pacific Fleet– sailed aboard Argonaut during this end-of-war mop-up period, entering Formosa and Shanghai on the vessel, the latter on the occasion of the first British warship to sail into the Chinese harbor since 1941.

“HMS Argonaut: Ratings cleaning torpedo tubes.” Ink and paper drawing by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5533 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19678

“Formosa, 6th September 1945, HMS Argonaut preceded by HMS Belfast entering the mined approach to Kiirung.” A view from the bridge of HMS Argonaut showing sailors on the deck below and HMS Belfast sailing up ahead near the coastline. A Japanese pilot launch is rocking in the swell at the side of the ship. In the distance, there are several American aircraft carriers at anchor. Watercolor by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5535 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19680

“HMS Argonaut, the first British ship to enter Shanghai after the Japanese surrender, September 1945.” A scene from the deck of HMS Argonaut as she sails into Shanghai harbor. A ship’s company stands to attention along the rail and behind them, the ship’s band plays. The towering buildings along the dockside of Shanghai stand to the right of the composition. Below the ship, Chinese civilians wave flags from a convoy of sampans. Ink and paper drawing by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5531 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19676

Based in Hong Kong for the rest of 1945, Argonaut returned to Portsmouth in 1946 and was promptly reduced to Reserve status.

HMS Argonaut homeward bound with her paying off pennant in 1946

She was laid up in reserve for nearly ten years, before being sent to the breakers in 1955.

She earned six battle honors: Arctic 1942, North Africa 1942, Mediterranean 1942, Normandy 1944, Aegean 1944, and Okinawa 1945.

Jane’s 1946 entry for the Dido class. Note, the publication separated the ships of the Bellona sub-class into a separate listing as they carried eight 4.5-inch guns rather than the 8-to-10 5.5s of the class standard.

Epilogue

Few relics of Argonaut remain, most notable of which is her 1943-44 builder’s model, preserved at Greenwich. 

As for Argonaut’s inaugural skipper and the man who brought her through sinking the Folgore, almost being sunk by an Italian submarine in return, D-Day, Dragoon, and the Aegean, VADM Eric William Longley-Cook, CB, CBE, DSO, would retire as Director of Naval Intelligence in 1951, capping a 37-year career.

Longley-Cook passed in 1983, just short of his 84th birthday.

Of note, Tenente di Vascello Alberto Longhi, skipper of the Italian boat that torpedoed Argonaut, survived the war– spending the last two years of it in a German stalag after refusing to join the Navy of the RSI, the fascist Italian puppet state set up after Italy dropped out of the Axis. He would outlive Longley-Cook and pass in 1988, aged 74.

Of Argonaut’s sisters, six of the 16 Didos never made it to see peacetime service: HMS Bonaventure (31) was sunk by the Italian submarine Ambra off Crete in 1941. HMS Naiad (93) was likewise sent to the bottom by the German submarine U-565 off the Egyptian coast while another U-boat, U-205, sank HMS Hermione (74) in the summer of 1942. HMS Charybdis (88), meanwhile, was sunk by German torpedo boats Т23 and Т27 during a confused night action in the English Channel in October 1943. HMS Spartan (95) was sunk by a German Hs 293 gliding bomb launched from a Do 217 bomber off Anzio in January 1944. HMS Scylla (98) was badly damaged by a mine in June 1944 and was never repaired.

Others, like Argonaut, were laid up almost immediately after VJ-Day and never sailed again. Just four Didos continued with the Royal Navy past 1948, going on to pick up “C” pennant numbers: HMS Phoebe (C43)HMS Cleopatra (C33), HMS Sirius (C82), and Euryalus (C42). By 1954, all had been stricken from the Admiralty’s list. 

Many went overseas. Smallish cruisers that could still give a lot of prestige to growing Commonwealth navies, several saw a second career well into the Cold War. Improved-Didos HMS Bellona (63) and HMS Black Prince (81) were put at the disposal of the Royal New Zealand Navy for a decade with simplified armament until they were returned and scrapped. HMS Royalist (89) likewise served with the Kiwis until 1966 then promptly sank on her way to the scrappers. HMS Diadem (84) went to Pakistan in 1956 as PNS Babur, after an extensive modernization, and remained in service there into the 1980s, somehow dodging Soviet Styx missiles from Indian Osa-class attack boats in the 1971 war between those two countries.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, to perpetuate her name, the fourth Argonaut was a hard-serving Leander-class ASW frigate, commissioned in 1967.

Frigate HMS Argonaut, of the Leander class, and her Lynx helicopter, in 1979.

That ship, almost 40 years after her WWII namesake was crippled, had her own brush with naval combat that left scars.

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 193) The Leander class frigate HMS ARGONAUT on fire in San Carlos Water after being attacked and badly damaged in Argentine air attacks on 21 May 1982. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205189253

The H.M.S. Argonaut Association keeps the memory of all the past vessels with that name alive.

Speaking of which, in Feb. 2019, four surviving Royal Navy veterans of the Normandy landings– all in the 90s– assembled aboard HMS Belfast in the Thames to receive the Legion d’Honneur from French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Jouyet in recognition of their efforts in liberating the country 75 years prior.

One saw the beaches from Argonaut.

Mr. John Nicholls (right), who received the Légion d’honneur medal

93-year-old John Nicholls from Greenwich served aboard HMS Argonaut which bombarded German positions; he also drove landing craft.

The tumult of battle severely damaged his hearing – he’s been 65 percent deaf ever since, but he remains haunted by the sight of men who lost so much more.

“I looked at some of those troops as they were going in and thought: I wonder how many of them are going to come back,’” he recalled. “I came out of it with just half of my hearing gone, but those poor devils – they lost their lives. I think of them all the time. Not just on Remembrance Day. They’re going through my mind all times of the year.”


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Warship Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022: Crescent City Blues

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Nov. 30, 2022: Crescent City Blues

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives, 80-G-216014.

Above we see the lead ship of her class, the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) camouflaged at Tulagi in the then hotly contested Solomon Islands, shortly after she was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942– some 80 years ago today. Note that her stern is riding high and that her forward end is low in the water as the Japanese Type 93 Long Lance she caught had severed her bow between # 1 and # 2 eight-inch gun turrets, killing 182 men and lopping off almost a fifth of her length.

About the class

Classified as the “Second Generation of Treaty Cruisers” by Friedman who has an entire chapter on the subject in his USNI Press U.S. Cruisers book– a bible on the subject– the seven New Orleans class vessels came after America flirted with the more cramped and often extremely lightly armored Pensacola class (Pensacola and Salt Lake City) Portland class (Portland and Indianapolis), and Northampton-class (Northampton, Chester, Louisville, Chicago, Augusta, and Houston) cruisers. For reference, the P-colas, which carried 518 tons of armor, had just 4-inches of armor at their thickest, with just a maximum of 2.5 inches on their turret face and 1.25 inches on the conning tower, making them vulnerable to 5-inch shells and derided as being “tin clads” or “eggshell” cruisers.

Some 588 feet overall with a 61-foot beam, the New Orleans class carried 1,507 tons of protection (three times as much as Pensacola) and ran a belt and central conning tower that carried up to five inches of plate while the thickest parts of the turret faces went eight, making them capable of withstanding hits from the 8-inch shells of the day– if they were fired from far enough away.

In a further improvement, while carrying nine 8″/55 Mark 9 main guns of the same type as the previous U.S. Treaty heavy cruisers, the New Orleanses carried them in better-designed turrets with more room and would be upgraded during the war to Mark 12, 14, or 15 guns.

8-inch guns of the New Orleans-class cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), Norfolk, VA. December 1940

As noted by Friedman concisely, “The New Orleans class represented a shift in U.S. cruiser priorities toward protection, gained in part because of a determined use of the entire available treaty tonnage.”

Speaking to which, while rated as 10,000 tons on paper– in line with the Washington Naval treaty limits– during WWII they pushed almost 13,000 when fully loaded and carrying scores of AAA guns for which they weren’t designed. By comparison, the standard weight of the 585-foot P-Colas and 600-foot Northamptons were just 9,138 and 8,997 tons, respectively, leaving a lot of treaty weight on the table.

USS New Orleans artist impression by I.R. Lloyd, circa early 1930s NH 664

USS New Orleans (CA-32) builder’s model, photographed circa 1936. NH 45123 and NH 45122.

Earlier heavy cruisers USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) and USS Pensacola (CA-24), left, alongside USS New Orleans (CA-32) to the right, seen nested together at Pearl Harbor, 31 October 1943. Ford Island is at the left, with USS Oklahoma (BB-37) under salvage at the extreme left, just beyond Salt Lake City’s forward superstructure. Note the radar antennas, gun directors, and eight-inch guns on these three heavy cruisers as well as how much different their bridges, turrets, and masts are. The rounded roofs of early Mark 9 twin and triple turrets of USS Salt Lake City and USS Pensacola contrast greatly with the later turrets of USS New Orleans on the right.80-G-264236

They also had extensive floatplane facilities including two catapults and a large hangar, with corresponding avgas bunkerage and aviation magazines. They typically operated up to four Seagulls, though the number of catapults and extremely dangerous gasoline stores were whittled down late in the war and only a pair of floatplanes carried.

New Orleans class mate USS Quincy (CA-39) looking forward over the boat deck from the secondary conn over her hangar, while the ship was at the New York Navy Yard after her last overhaul, 29 May 1942. Crude # 1 in white circle (center) marks the location of the 5″/25cal loading practice machine. Other notable items includeboats and boat cradle in foreground; four Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes atop the catapults; crated food piled by the after smokestack; and USS Marblehead (CL-12) at left. NHHC 19-N-30725

 

Curtiss SOC Seagull scout-observation aircraft leaves the port catapult of a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser, circa 1942

Our subject

The Mississippi River city of New Orleans, the site of two different battles in 1815 and 1862, had previously lent her name to a ship-of-the-line that was begun the same year as the former and sold while still in the stocks over 20 years past the latter.

Then came a protected cruiser — laid down by Armstrong in England as Amazonas for the Brazilian Navy— that was rushed into service in 1898 and would remain in the line through the Great War. 

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

As such, our cruiser is the only the second USS New Orleans to reach the fleet. Laid down on 14 March 1931 at the New York Navy Yard, she was commissioned on 15 February 1934.

A great pre-war shot of the USS New Orleans shows her profile. NH 660

Her brief peacetime period took her as far as Scandinavia, a showboat for the Navy and the country before finding herself increasingly after 1936 in Pacific waters.

May 1934– heavy cruiser USS New Orleans at Stockholm along with the pansarskeppet Gustav V Sverige. Marinemuseet Fo39197

A superb image of USS New Orleans (CA-32) in English waters, in about June 1934. Note her gunnery clock and no less than four Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes on her catapults. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 71787

USS New Orleans (CA-32) in port, circa 1937. Note the broad band painted on her after smokestack, probably a recognition feature. NH 50757

Cruiser USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32) under St John Bridge, Portland

War!

In it from the very first bullet, on 7 December 1941, New Orleans was moored at Berth 16, Navy Yard Pearl Harbor undergoing engine repairs on shore power.

As noted by her report of the attack:

At 0757 sighted enemy planes “dive bombing” Ford Island and went to General Quarters immediately. At 0805 sighted enemy torpedo planes on port quarter flying low across our stern. Rifle fire and Pistol fire was opened from our fantail as the first planes flew by to launch their torpedoes at the battleships. This ship saw several planes launch their torpedoes headed in the direction of the battleships. Our 1.1/75 battery and Machine Guns aft were manned in time to actually fire at three or four enemy planes passing our stern. About 0810 all batteries, except the 8″ battery, were in action engaging such enemy planes a presented themselves as targets.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 9 February 1942, two months after Pearl Harbor. NH 97846

Lightly damaged– her crew found no less than 29 small holes in her above water-line hull and superstructure due to flying fragments but she suffered no casualties– with the Pacific Fleet’s battleships out of service, she was soon expected to fill the gap along with her sisters.

She was soon escorting convoys throughout the South Pacific and screened the carrier USS Yorktown at Coral Sea (taking 580 of Lexington’s survivors off) in May, USS Enterprise at Midway in June, and was standing by USS Saratoga at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August 1942.

USS New Orleans underway during exercises in Hawaiian waters, 8 July 1942. This was just weeks after Midway, where she screened Enterprise. Note the extensive float nets and rafts on her superstructure and turrets. 80-G-10115

When Sara was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, New Orleans spent almost 12 weeks escorting the precious flattop back to Pearl, waiting for her to be repaired (and picking up more AAA guns of her own), then escorting her back to the Solomons.

As the Japanese had fought a string of cruiser/destroyer vs cruiser/destroyer night actions at Savo Island in August (with three of New Orleans’s sisters– Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes— lost in minutes), Cape Esperance in October (Salt Lake City lost) and Guadalcanal in November (Portland and sister San Francisco seriously damaged) in which the U.S. attrition rate when it came to heavy cruisers became untenable, it was inevitable that New Orleans would soon find herself in a scrap. One that would be the last large surface ship clash of the Solomons campaign.

This brings us to…

Tassafaronga!

RADM Carleton H. Wright’s Task Force 67– including the heavy cruisers USS Minneapolis (CA-36), USS New Orleans (CA-32), USS Northampton (CA-24), and USS Pensacola (CA-26), the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL-48) and the destroyers USS Drayton (DD-366), USS Fletcher (DD-445), USS Maury (DD-401), USS Perkins (DD-377), USS Lamson (DD-367), and USS Lardner (DD-487)— had a rendezvous with destiny when it acted against a partially surprised and all-around inferior (on paper) Japanese “Tokyo Express” force of RADM Raizō Tanaka’s eight cargo-burdened destroyers of the IJN’s DesRon2 on the night of November 30, 1942, on the surface of Iron Bottom Sound near Lunga Point.

It went…badly.

As described by the National Museum of the Navy:

U.S. force of five cruisers and six destroyers intercepted eight Japanese destroyers bringing reinforcements to Guadalcanal and were crippled by a brilliantly executed Japanese torpedo counterattack. Heavy cruiser Northampton was sunk, while Pensacola, New Orleans, and Minneapolis were badly damaged. The Japanese only lost the destroyer Takanami. In this action, the last of the Guadalcanal campaign’s five major surface battles, the Japanese once again demonstrated their tactical superiority at night. The Navy was learning though, as would be demonstrated in 1943.

It turned out that, while the New Orleans class had better armor than the first generation of American Treaty Cruisers, they suffered from a lack of below-waterline protection and dramatic bow loss ran in the family, at least at Tassafaronga.

Sister Minneapolis, who scored many of the hits on Takanami, took two torpedo hits from Japanese destroyers, one on the port bow, the other in her number two fireroom, and her bow collapsed.

USS Minneapolis (CA-36). En route to Pearl Harbor for repairs, circa January 1943. She had lost her bow when hit by Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of Tassafaronga, off Guadalcanal on 30 November 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-44544.

New Orleans also took her lumps.

Detailed from DANFS:

When flagship Minneapolis was struck by two torpedoes, New Orleans, next astern, was forced to sheer away to avoid collision, and ran into the track of a torpedo which ripped off her bow. Bumping down the ship’s port side, the severed bow punched several holes in New Orleans’ hull. A fifth of her length gone, slowed to 2 knots, and blazing forward, the ship fought for survival. Individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice along with skillful seamanship kept her afloat, and under her own power she entered Tulagi Harbor near daybreak on 1 December.

For New Orleans, her Battle Damage Report is stark:

  1. During the night of 30 November 1942, NEW ORLEANS was a unit of a task force which engaged a Japanese force in the action subsequently named the Battle of Lunga Point. NEW ORLEANS, firing with her main battery and steaming at 20 knots, had just started to swing to the right to avoid MINNEAPOLIS when a torpedo struck the port bow in way of turret I and detonated.
  2. The torpedo detonation was followed immediately by a second and much heavier detonation. As a result, the bow, including turret I, was severed almost completely between turrets I and II. It swung out to port and tore loose, probably due to the starboard swing of the ship. It then floated aft and banged against the port side. Holes were torn in the shell at frames 53, 130 and 136 and the port inboard propeller was wrecked.

That secondary explosion was later determined to be from one of New Orleans’s aviation bomb and mine magazine, A-502-1/8-M, which “contained the 160-pound demolition charge and forty-nine 100-pound bombs” and that of an adjacent small arms magazine, A-502-M, which contained five 325-pound depth bombs.

From her battle damage report

She limped into Tulagi some eight hours after the battle and remained there shoring up her bow with coconut logs under a camo net for 11 days.

Port bow view as she entered Tulagi harbor about 8 hours after being struck by a torpedo, 1 December 1942

USS New Orleans (CA-32) under camouflage at Tulagi, December 1942

USS New Orleans (CA 32) Cruiser shown soon after the battle. 80-G-44447

Minneapolis did much the same, with the help of Seabees. 

New Orleans then slowly sailed for Sydney, Australia, arriving on Christmas Eve 1942, her crew finally getting some much-needed rest. She would remain there until March, when, after a temporary stub bow was fitted in dry dock, she left for Puget Sound and arrived on the West Coast on 3 April 1943 after stops at Pago Pago and Pearl Harbor

USS New Orleans (CA 32) comes into the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for a new bow after battling with Japanese warships in Southwest Pacific. In this view, she is almost ready for joining to a new bow. The photograph was released 11 January 1944. 80-G-44448

USS New Orleans (CA-32) steams through a tight turn in Elliot Bay, Washington, on 30 July 1943, following battle damage repairs and overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. She is likely “creating a slick” for recovering a sea plane– making a smooth patch of becalmed water for the aircraft to land upon. NH 97847

USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, following battle damage repairs and overhaul, 5 August 1943. NH 97848

Back in the fight

After post-rebuild workups, New Orleans sailed 5-6 October 1943 with RADM Alfred E. Montgomery’s Task Force 14 to shell Japanese-occupied Wake Island.

Wake Island Raid, October 1943. A heavy cruiser’s 8-inch guns bombard Wake, as seen from USS Minneapolis (CA-36), 5 October 1943. The two following ships are (in no particular order): USS San Francisco (CA-38) and USS New Orleans (CA-32). National Archives photograph, 80-G-81973

New Orleans would also help support Allied landings at Hollandia and the invasion of the Marianas.

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of Cruiser Division SIX bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS New Orleans (CA-32). Beyond her is the light cruiser USS St. Louis (CL-49). 80-G-K-1774

She would lend her increased AAA batteries to help swat down Japanese aircraft during the Battle of the Philippine Sea while revisiting her old days of screening carriers. Then came the big shows in the Philippines and at Iwo Jima.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 8 March 1945. The city of Vallejo is in the background. Note the ship’s welded bow structure (forward of her second 8/55 triple gun turret). This replaced her original riveted construction bow, which was lost during the Battle of Tassafaronga at the end of November 1942. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. 19-N-80232

A rare shot at the same time and place as the above that shows her hangar open. Note that her portside catapult has been landed by this time in her career.

After a final wartime refit at Mare Island, she was back at it, hammering Japanese positions at Okinawa and was at Subic Bay when hostilities ceased.

After supporting the post-war occupation of Korea and Manchuria, she made two trips back stateside on Magic Carpet missions returning Pacific War vets to the U.S. Arriving at Philadelphia Navy Yard in March 1946, she spent an 11-month period preparing for mothballs and was decommissioned 10 February 1947.

She had earned 17 battle stars for her war– tying for third most in the theater– and gained a new bow.

From her nine-page War History in the National Archives.

Of her seven-ship class, only four were still in commission on VJ Day and three of those were so grievously damaged in action against the Japanese off Guadalcanal that they had to be extensively rebuilt. Only sister USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), which had “luckily” fought most of her war in the ETO, was never damaged in battle.

The remainder of the New Orleans class in the 1946 edition of Janes.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. The outboard ship in the left group is USS St. Louis (CL-49). Ships in the background include (in no order): USS San Francisco (CA-38), USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), USS Minneapolis (CA-36), USS New Orleans (CA-32), USS Louisville (CA-28), and USS Portland (CA-33). Courtesy of “All Hands” magazine. Catalog NH 92254

After spending 12 years along Philly’s red lead row, the vaunted USS New Orleans had her name struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and was sold for scrapping on 22 September 1959 to the Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md. Similar fates were met by her three remaining sisters at the same time.

Epilogue

Our cruiser was remembered by the (apparently now defunct) USS New Orleans Reunion Association and most of her war diaries along with some architectural and engineering drawings are digitized in the National Archives.

Her ship’s bell– presented to the cruiser by the Louisiana State Museum in 1933– is on display in New Orleans City Hall, just outside the Mayor’s Office.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has other artifacts including a piece of the coconut log shoring from Tulagi.

With the old New Orleans sent to the breakers, the Navy soon recycled her name for a new Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship commissioned in 1968 and would go on to serve three decades.

The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS New Orleans (LPH-11) underway in San Diego Bay, California (USA), on 16 June 1988. AH-1 Cobra, CH-53E Sea Stallion, and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck. In the background is the submarine tender USS McKee (AS-41) and the submarine rescue ship USS Florikan (ASR-9). Date 16 June 1988. NH 107677-KN

Then came the Ingalls-built USS New Orleans (LPD-18), a massive 25,000-ton San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, commissioned in the Crescent City in 2007 and still in service.

The U.S. Navy (Pre-Commissioned Unit) San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock Ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) sails beneath the Huey P. Long Bridge as it moves on the Mississippi River towards New Orleans, La., on March 5, 2007, in preparation for its commissioning ceremony on March 10, 2007. MCS Kurt Eischen, USN.


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Warship Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022: Black Sea David and Goliath

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Nov. 23, 2022: Black Sea David and Goliath

Above we see about half of the crew of the 97-ton Bulgarian torpedo boat Drazki (a name also seen in the West as Druzki, Drzki, and Drsky), some 110 years ago this week after they seriously damaged the fine 4,000-ton British-built Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye at the Battle of Kaliakra during the Balkan Wars, one of the best examples of a humble torpedo-armed fast attack craft landing a confirmed and debilitating hit on a much larger enemy warship. Note the shrapnel hole in Drazki’s aft stack.

The Early Bulgarian Navy

Founded on 13 January 1899 as the first modern maritime arm of what was then the Principality of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Navy was cut from whole cloth with a dash of assistance from German, French, and Russian naval experts. Just a dozen years old at the start of the eight-month First Balkan War with Turkey, in which Bulgaria was allied in the Balkan League with Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro against the “Sick Old Man of Europe,” the Bulgar fleet was tiny by all comparisons.

In fact, it fits on a single page of Jane’s Fighting Ships with lots of white space left over.

Besides a couple of armed coasters, spar-torpedo launches, and river gunboats, the Bulgarian Navy could count just the French Chantier-built “cruiser” Nadezhda (715t, 2×4″ guns, 17 kts) — a craft that held the first Bulgarian wireless telegraph station and doubled as a royal yacht– and six Schneider & Creusot-built Drazki-class torpedo boats (Drazki, Smeli/Smyeli, Hrabri/Khrabri, Shumni, Letyashti, Strogi) and which had been shipped to Varna in sections and assembled there by the Bulgars in 1907-08.

Bulgarian Drazki class boats under assembly via Varna Maritime Museum

The six 124-foot Drazki boats used a pair of Temple/Norman water-tube boilers trunked into two stacks to generate 2,000 shp on their sole VTE engine, capable of making turns for 26 knots on a single screw. Armament was three torpedo tubes– one in the bow, two on a stern turnstile directed to opposing sides, with no reloads– and two 3-pounder (47mm) Schneider M1902 low-angle guns arranged port and starboard behind the closet-sized wheelhouse. capable of floating in just under nine feet of water, they were ideal for littoral combat.

With a normal coal supply of 11 tons, they could steam for 500 miles at 16 knots. However, they could overload with as much as 27 tons of coal, stretching their legs past 1,000.

As it turned out, the Battle of Kaliakra, fought some 30 miles from Varna, would be the first fleet action for the Bulgarian Navy when, on 21/22 November 1912 (Nov. 7/8 Gregorian), the Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye (commanded by Hussein Rauf Bey) and two destroyers were escorting a convoy of two cargo ships from Constantinople to Constanta and, presenting the Bulgarian fleet an ultimatum to surrender the next morning, the Bulgarians came out to play.

The Ottoman cruiser (classified as a battleship by the Turks) Hamidiye and its commander, Captain Hüseyin Rauf Bey, early 1900s

In a running night action with Captain Dimitar Dobrev’s (an officer who has survived the sinking of the Russian cruiser Dmitry Donsky at Tsushima in 1905) torpedo boat squadron consisting of Drazki and three of her sisters– Letyashti, Smeli, and Strogi— the Bulgarians pressed their attacks increasingly closer but failed to make a hit against the big Turk.

Letyashti, leading the charge with Dobrev aboard, fired and missed at 1,500 feet then pulled away.

Smeli closed to within 1,000 feet and missed, earning a shrapnel hit that wounded her executive officer.

Strogi held her fish until she got to within 300 feet, then missed.

Finally, Drazki, the last in line and last to attack and commanded by Midshipman 1st Class (Acting LT) Georgi Petrov Kupov, closed to within 150-200 feet, effectively point-blank range, and landed a torpedo against Hamidiye. The Turkish armored cruiser was hit in her bow, the explosion opening a 10-foot hole and allowing the Black Sea to flood the vessel. Covered by the Turkish destroyers, Hamidiye, bow almost underwater, was able to retire back home carrying eight dead and 30 wounded with her.

According to most accounts, it was only the fact that the Black Sea was exceptionally calm that night that the Turkish cruiser didn’t head for the bottom.

Catching a hit in her stack from the Turkish torpedo boat destroyer screen, Drazki and company would sail back to Varna by dawn and a heroes’ welcome, the Ottoman blockade of the Bulgarian coast effectively broken.

The photograph of the crews of the torpedo boats that attacked the Turkish cruiser “Hamidiye” on November 8, 1912.

It would be the only significant Bulgarian naval action of the Balkan Wars and Hamidiye, after repairs, would transition to the Aegean and fight the Greeks.

Two World Wars, and Beyond

Drazki and her sisters would, somewhat confusingly, not attempt to block the Romanian Danube River landings during the Second Balkan War in 1913, a task left to a force of four smaller gunboats that, when confronted with a larger Romanian force centered around the gunboat Grivița and backed up by several monitors, elected to scuttle instead.

When Bulgaria threw its lot in with the Germans and Austrians in 1915– largely to get at Serbia– the Bulgarian Navy was tasked with a mine/counter-mine war with the Russian Black Sea Fleet during the Great War that was heavy with nighttime mine-dropping in Russian-held areas and daytime sweeping in their own. In this, Shumni and Letyashti would be lost.

In Sept. 1916, Drazki and three of her sisters would conduct a series of battalion-sized amphibious landings against the Romanians, who had just entered the war on the other side– a bit of payback for 1913.

Meanwhile, the small Bulgarian cruiser Nadezhda, sent to occupy Sevastopol along with the Turko-German fleet in April 1918 following Russia’s withdrawal from the war, would be left there in 1920 and seized by the Reds who eventually scuttled her.

With the Bulgarian Navy disbanded as part of the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly, the four remaining Drazki class torpedo boats lost their torpedo tubes and became river gunboats as part of the country’s Danube Flotilla– officially under police control for interior counter-smuggling duties, their crews listed as civilians. In this lightened configuration and with a half-bunker of coal, they were able to float in as little as 4.25 feet of freshwater.

Jane’s 1931 Bulgarian Listing, showing the four remaining Drazki patrol boats.

By World War II, the Drazkis, thoroughly obsolete, still served as patrol boats.

Cadets from the Navy of H.V. school on the decks of the patrol boats Hrabri, Smeli and Drazki, port of Varna, 1941

On 15 October 1942, due to improper storage of powder on board Drazki, she suffered an explosion and sank at the quay in Varna. Nonetheless, she was soon raised and repaired.

Smeli would founder at sea in May 1943 while the other three boats were captured by advancing Soviet Red Army forces at Varna on 9 September 1944. Two, Drazki and Hrabri, were placed into Soviet service (‘temporarily requisitioned’) for the remainder of the war (with Drazki picking up the name Ingul and Hrabri as Vychegda), then would be repatriated in July 1945. To comply with the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, they were again disarmed.

The Bulgarians would keep the three sisters around in one form or another until 1954– an impressive 47-year run for vessels of a type that typically only lasted a decade.

Epilogue

Drazki’s daring young skipper during the attack on Hamidiye, LT Georgi Kupov, after leading the above-mentioned amphibious assaults during the 1916 Romanian campaign, became the Bulgarian Navy’s chief of staff in September 1917, a job he held until the navy was dissolved in 1919. During the interwar period, he served as commander of the Danube Flotilla and then taught Astronomy and Spherical Trigonometry at the country’s Maritime School until 1944 when the Soviets arrested him although he was soon released.

Георги Петров Купов. He passed in 1959, aged 74, and is well-remembered in Bulgaria

Ironically, Hamidiye, which had been seized by the British for seven years as part of the Treaty of Sèvres after the end of the Great War, was returned to Turkish service in 1925 and would solder on as a training cruiser through 1947. 

The Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye. She would only be scrapped in 1966 after a spell as a museum ship.

Speaking of which, in 1957, it was decided by the People’s Republic of Bulgaria to preserve Drazki as a museum ship for her role in 1912 but, as the three ships had largely been dismantled, the current ship that carries the legacy is mostly the hull of Strogi with the topside of Drazki and parts of Hrabri.

Kupov, 72 at the time, was present at her grand opening.

She looks good for all the Frankenstein nature of her current form, maintained by the Varna Maritime Museum.

And, importantly, her Battle of Kaliakra-perforated stack endures.

Druzki and the Battle of Kaliakra have been a favorite subject for Bulgarian illustrators over the years.

The Bulgarian Navy recycled her name at least twice, once in 1950 for a guardship (strazhevik) and then in 2004 for the Wielingen-class frigate Wandelaar, which was acquired that year after the Belgian Navy retired her.

BLACK SEA (May 14, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), background, and the Bulgarian navy frigate Drazki (F41) conduct maneuvers during a passing exercise. Oscar Austin is on a routine deployment supporting U.S. national security interests in Europe and increasing theater security cooperation and forward naval presence in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Spratt/Released) 170514-N-AX546-1037


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Warship Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022: Of Baklava & Inflatable Intruders

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Nov. 16, 2022: Of Baklava & Inflatable Intruders

Archive of the Naval Museum of Greece

Above we see the French-built Protefs-class submarine Υ/Β Τρίτων (Triton) (Υ5) of the Royal Hellenic Navy, part of the “Free Greek” forces in exile in the Second World War, while docked in Port Said in August 1941 following the German occupation of her homeland. Both the Greek Navy and merchant fleet would provide solid service fighting with the Allies during the war and, in this effort, many to the bitter end including the subject of our tale, lost 80 years ago today.

Greek subs, 1886-1940

The Greek Navy began its long love affair with submarines when it bought the Swedish-built Nordenfelt steam-powered submersible in 1886 for £9,000.

Swedish Nordenfelt I normal buoyancy at the Ekenberg shipyard. Tekniska museet submarine

The small 64-foot boat was less than ideal, requiring 12 hours to build up enough steam to sail and without the ability to fully submerge but it was nonetheless equipped with a single 14-inch tube for a Whitehead automobile torpedo (which could only make 10 knots and carried a 40-pound guncotton warhead), sparking the nearby Ottoman Turks to buy their own, larger, 100-foot Nordenfelt. Remaining in service until the 1900s, the Greeks later ordered a pair of more modern subs from France.

In 1910, with their Nordenfelt experiment in the rearview, the Greeks ordered two new subs from the Schneider Shipyards in Toulon– Delfin and Xifias. Some 162 feet overall and 450 tons displacement, they could make 12 knots on the surface and carried five 17.7-inch torpedo tubes.

Loading of torpedo on Greek submarine Xiphias 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Greek submarine Xiphias at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Ordered just before the Balkan Wars, Delfin was rushed into action with a green crew and in December 1912 made an unsuccessful torpedo attack on the Cramp-built Ottoman light cruiser Mecidiye, an incident commonly regarded as the first recorded launch of a self-propelled torpedo by a submarine in battle. The torpedo reportedly broached and sailed past the cruiser without doing any damage.

Fast forward to the Great War and both Delfin and Xifias were seized by the French in 1916. Returned after the war, they were in such poor shape that the Greeks simply scrapped them in 1919.

They would soon be replaced one-for-one with a new class, also ordered in France in 1925. Built to a Schneider-Laubeuf design based on the French Circé 600t class, they were named Y/B Katsonis (Y1) and Papanikolis (Y2). Some 204 feet overall– which is about perfect for a Mediterranean-sized boat (for reference, modern German Type 209s run 211 feet while Type 214s are 213 footers) — they used Schneider-Carels diesels to make 14 knots on the surface and 9.5 submerged (which proved less in practice). Mounting a 4″/40 Schneider deck gun protected in a shielded barbette built into the leading edge of the conning tower, their torpedo armament consisted of four 21-inch bow tubes (2 internal, 2 externals) and two bow tubes (both external) with stowage for 7 torpedoes and 100 shells for their 4-inch gun. They had a dive depth of 240 feet and were capable of two-week patrols.

Via Jane’s, 1931 ed

The Greeks then doubled down with the more advanced four-boat Protefs class, ordered from Ateliers & Chantiers de la Loire and CNF in 1927 (wait for it) France for £119,000 per hull. Built to a Loire-Simonot design, they were rough copies of the French Sirene-class 600 Series boats with minor changes. They would all carry nautical-tied names drawn from Greek mythology: Y/B Protefs (Y3), Nirefs (Y4), Triton (Y5), and Glafkos (Y6). Just shy of 1,000 tons, they were slightly larger than the Katsonis class and ran 225 feet long overall.

Powered by twin Sulzer diesels and electric motors, they could make a stately 14 knots on the surface and 9.5 submerged. With a dive depth of 275 feet, they were armed with eight 21-inch tubes (6 bows, 2 sterns, with space for 8-10 torpedoes) all inside the pressure hull, along with a topside 4″/40 Schneider shielded tower gun and a 40/39 2-pounder mount oriented over the stern.

Via Jane’s, 1931 ed

Triton and Glafkos were delivered and commissioned in France in 1930, the last two Greek submarines that would be completed as new construction until 1972– something we will get to in a minute.

War!

The Greek Navy entered the war with two old (circa 1908) Mississippi-class pre-dreadnought battleships (14,000t, 4×12″ guns, 17 knots), Kilkis (ex-Mississippi) and Lemnos (ex-Idaho) that had been largely disarmed and turned to training/barracks hulks, four minelayers, two old cruisers, 10 assorted destroyers, a few torpedo boats, and 6 submarines.

In a precursor to the Italian invasion, the elderly protected cruiser Helli/Elli was sunk at anchor off the island of Tinos by the Italian submarine Delfino in August 1940. The hulked Kilkis and Lemnos were sunk at their moorings in Salamis by German Stukas in April 1941, sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. Other ships were crippled in Greek waters by Luftwaffe aircraft.

Photo #: NH 77440 Greek battleships Kilkis and Lemnos Sunk in the basin of the Greek naval base at Salamis after they were hit by German air attacks on 23 April 1941. Seen from the harbor pier following the arrival of the German army. Kilkis, the former USS Mississippi (Battleship # 23), is in the foreground. Lemnos, ex-USS Idaho (Battleship # 24), is in the distance, with her guns removed. Franz Selinger, via the U.S. Naval Institute, provided photograph and some caption information. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

One bright spot was the Greek submarine forces’ efforts to attack Axis merchant shipping, especially Italian during the six-month Greco-Italian War before the Germans got involved.

Protefs bagged the Italian troop transport Sardegna (11,452t) in December 1940 off Brindisi, which was carrying part of the 7th “Lupi di Toscana” (“Wolves of Tuscany”) Infantry division to Albania. Sadly, Proteus was sunk immediately after this attack, rammed, and sunk by the Italian torpedo boat Antares. All 48 crew members were lost.

This did not deter Greek dolphins and Papanikolis deep-sixed the freighter Firenze (3945t) and Italian sailing vessel Antonietta before the month was out while Katsonis sank the coaster Quinto (531t) in the Adriatic on New Year’s Eve.

Triton hit the seas hard on six Adriatic/Ionian war patrols from Greek ports, credited by Greek sources as sinking the Italian Adua-class submarine Neghelli on 19 January 1941 (post-war Allied panels credit the British destroyer HMS Greyhound with her fate, however, as noted by Uboat.net, “the results of the attack were inconclusive and there is no absolute certainty of her fate.”)

Triton underway

Triton would also log two unsuccessful torpedo attacks on Italian freighters off the Albanian coast on 20 March 1941 before sinking the transports Carnia (51541t) and Anna Capano (1216t) on 23 March in the Adriatic Sea about 30 nautical miles east of Cape Galo.

The photo shows the commander of the submarine “Triton” LCDR D. Zepos, HN, together with the Commander of Submarines Captain Ath. Xiros at the Salamina Naval Station. Submarine NCOs stand behind. Naval History Service. Zepos would command the boat through March 1941, a period in which she is sometimes credited with sinking an Italian submarine and two tankers.

Nonetheless, Mussolini’s legions were successfully able to send 400,000 men, another 50,000 beasts, and 500,000 tons of supplies to the Greek front– a full 22 divisions– by April 1941, primarily by sea. They only lost 23,000 tons of shipping to the Greek navy’s submarines, amounting to seven merchant vessels and a submarine. It was a losing game that was finished once the Germans entered the contest.

As the country was being overrun, the Greeks under ADM Epaminondas Kavadias were able to sortie their surviving cruiser and default flagship Georgios Averof, six destroyers, and the five remaining submarines to Alexandria and Malta from where they would continue the struggle.

The fight goes on

While the obsolete Averof spent most of the rest of the war safely in harbor, the Greek subs and tin cans were assigned RN pennant numbers by the British and went on to operate in the Mediterranean under Admiralty control. Triton’s first mission was to carry urgently needed medical supplies to trapped British, Australian, and Greek troops on Crete, then, after a refit in Alexandria, Triton went out again in September 1941. The refit was key as the Greek submarines had reportedly all missed their 10-year mid-life overhauls due to peacetime budgetary constraints in the late 1930s and were mechanically suspect because of this.

September 1941. Triton Submarine in Alexandria

In her first six war patrols from Greece (Oct 1940-April 1941) Triton racked up 1,147 hours underway with about half that submerged, and (by Greek sources) had sunk an Italian submarine (Neghelli) and two merchies (Carnia and Capano). In her 7th-15th war patrols, all under British orders between June 1941 and November 1942, she logged another 2,626 hours (with about two-thirds of that submerged) and was credited with just four small coastal vessels off Thera and failed attacks on two large Italian merchies. This was largely because she was tasked with landing agents and commandos behind Axis lines on most of those patrols or running supplies through the German gauntlet around Malta with offensive anti-shipping activities secondary to those missions.

Heraklion

Triton carried a multinational early SAS raiding party as part of Operation Albumen to German-occupied Crete in June 1941, with the goal of the commandos hitting the Luftwaffe field at Heraklion.

The six-man group was led by French-speaking British Army reserve Major George Jellicoe (yes, ADM Jellicoe’s son), a parliamentarian on loan from the Coldstream Guards to L Detachment, Special Air Service at the invitation of David Stirling himself; four Free French commandos –Maj. Georges Bergé, Jacques Mouhot, Pierre Léostic, and CPL Jack Sibard— and Free Greek Army 2LT Kostis Petrakis, the latter a Cretan officer who would serve as a guide.

The Heraklion attack was timed to coincide with similar efforts at three other Crete airfields at Kasteli, Tympaki, and Maleme, to reduce German bombers available on the eve of an important convoy operation through that part of the Med. Of note, the Maleme team was delivered to Crete by the Greek sub, Papanikolis.

They were heavily loaded with satchels of dozens of Lewes bombs, a specialty incendiary device named for British SAS legend Jock Lewes, but lightly armed with just a Colt .45 each and a single sub gun for the whole patrol. The plan was that they would evade capture for a week or more among the locals and then be recovered by small boat.

Jellicoe, who in 1990 recorded an oral history of his WWII service for the Imperial War Museum described the Triton part of the operation as follows:

We sailed on a Greek submarine– the Triton— bought from the French in the ’20s. She was then getting a bit long in the tooth and was quite small. She was about 15 years old. I don’t think I’d recommend anybody wanting comfortable Aegean travel taking passage in a small Greek French-built submarine…Any case, we took passage in the Triton, which was very well commanded by an absolutely first-rate Greek naval officer [LT Epameinóndas Kontogiánnis], to Crete.

I remember my first sight of Greece was through the periscope of the Greek submarine on the northeast coast of Crete. We came in a bit closer to Heraklion– there was a westerly wind blowing…The submarine surfaced, we had our two or three rubber boats which we paddle in in. We thought we were going to be about a mile offshore, but it was actually about two miles, so we had a very long paddle in, indeed. We then landed– there was nobody on the beach, the beach was clear. Mouhot and I, we undressed and swam out with the rubber boats, loaded with shingle and rock, then we sank them.

After rough going inland and the “dis-imbalance” of an overload of equipment, they evaded a German patrol but nonetheless were able to reach the airfield and, in penetrating the wire outside of the field, were busted by another German patrol. Mouhot hit on the idea of rolling over and loudly snoring to give the impression they were drunken Cretan peasants, which the Jerries bought and moved on, allowing them to proceed with their havoc. Using an RAF air raid by a brace of Blenheim bombers as cover, Jellicoe and company placed their charges on a motor pool filled with 20 trucks as well as a staging area with 23 German Ju-88 bombers and then, as he says, “had the pleasure of marching out in what we thought was good German formation out of the main gate” back to their lay-up hide to wait for the devices to explode.

While not of the Crete operation, this artwork gives a good flavor of a similar operation in Egypt, depicting Robert Blair “Colonel Paddy” Mayne, SAS, shown placing a Lewes bomb on an aircraft in one of the desert airfields raids. The Lewes bomb was a blast-incendiary field expedient explosive device, manufactured by mixing diesel oil and Nobel 808 plastic explosive. Created by LT Jock Lewes, one of the original members of L Detachment SAS in 1941. Via Stirling’s Desert Triumph – The SAS Egyptian Airfield Raids 1942 by Osprey Publishing.

As for Jellico’s team, the Germans executed 62 local Cretans as a reprisal– despite the fact the British had taken pains to leave behind tell-tale objects such as helmets and food wrappers to take credit for the attacks. Betrayed by a local villager, the Germans ambushed the commando patrol, resulting in the death of 17-year-old Free French commando Pierre Léostic being killed, and the other three Frenchmen being arrested after trying to shoot their way out of a German sweep. Interrogated by Luftwaffe officers for a week at Heraklion, they would be sent to German POW camps as they were in uniform, with Bergé ending up at Colditz with David Stirling of all people. Meanwhile, Jellicoe and the Greek officer, Petrakis, escaped back to Egypt with the three other (intact) SAS commando patrols after being exfiltrated 10 days after the raid via a caique run by John Campbell and “Paddy” Leigh Fermor’s operation.

Endgame

Returning to the tale of Triton, sailing on her 15th war patrol, her 9th under British control, the boat was tasked with landing five Greek agents and 750 pounds of war material on the southeastern coast of Evia then, once free of her passengers and cargo, proceed to look for targets of opportunity. Spotted while stalking a German convoy at Kafireas on the evening of 16 November 1942 and attempting an attack on the 5,700-ton Romanian freighter Alba Julia, our submarine became locked in a six-hour/49 depth charge nighttime running battle with the German destroyer ZG3/Hermes (former Greek British G-class destroyer, Y/B Vassilefs Georgios) and the auxiliary subchaser (U-Jäger) UJ-2102 (converted ex-yacht Brigitta, owned by Evgenios Evgenidis) that ended with Triton dead in the water and slugging it out on the surface, Kontogiannis reportedly ordering his crew to abandon ship while he fired at the Germans from the fairwater with a revolver.

At least 20 of her crew and two Allied officers (LT. Andrew Carter, from the South African Naval Forces, and an RN LT Cole, likely as commo/liaison officers) were killed in the action, their bodies carried to the bottom after UJ-2102 rammed her.

Among the fallen:

Vice-Captain A. DANIOLOS
Vice-Captain K. ANNINOS
Ensign Eng. I. STARAKIS Kelefstis
Tor. P. BINDERIS Kelefstis
Mech. N. PAVLAKIS
Petty Officer Second Arm. A. KOUSOULAS
Petty Officer Second Fire. T. BAGIOS Under-
Secretary Second Elector S. SCHOINAS
Under-Secretary Second Elector P. PAPATHANASIOU
Under-Secretary Second Elector D. KAKANDRIS
Diopos Arm. H. BAKIRTZIS
Diopos Tor. N. MERETZIS
Diopos Tor. C. CHARITOS
Diopos Note. I. KYVELOS
Diopos Tel. B. PALOURIS
Diopos Mech. E. PATRIARCHEAS
Diopos Mech. A. TSITSAKOS
Sailor Electrician M. GEDEON
Sailor Electrician I. GEDEON
Sailor TH. MASTROGIANNIS

Two men, Nikolaos Maroulas (Chief electrician) and Dimitros Papadimitriou (electrician mate), escaped by swimming three miles to nearby Evia where they found refuge in the village of Thymiani, then to Allied lines in the Middle East.

The Germans captured at least 17 Greek submariners (some sources say 27, some 28), including Kontogiannis and LT Christos Soliotis, and sent them to the Marlag-Milag Nord, a site near Bremen that housed mainly British Merchant Navy and Royal Navy personnel.

Kontogiannis

They were liberated in late April 1945 by the British 11th Armoured Division.

She is remembered by a seaside monument at Karystos.

Epilogue

Of Triton’s two Protefs -class sisters that escaped Greece, Nereus would finish the war with the Italian freighter Fiume (662 GRT) to her credit and was decommissioned on 3 May 1947.

Glavkos, credited with sinking two small vessels in 1941 and damaging the German merchant Norburg (2392 GRT) off Crete, was bombed, and sunk by German Ju-88s of II./KG77 in Malta on 4 April 1942.

Glavkos

As for the older Katsonis and Papanikolis, they would account for at least 15 small vessels including the shifty Spanish/German merchant San Isidro/Labrador (322 GRT) while under British control. Like Triton, they would also land assorted agents and commandos as needed. It was on one such mission that Katsonis was sighted by German submarine chaser UJ 2101 on 14 September 1943 and sent to the bottom, taking down 32 men with her while UJ 2101 rescued 14 survivors, including the British W/T operator. Papanikolis outlived her sister and was decommissioned post-VE Day.

Greek submarine Y1 Katsonis

All told, of the six Greek subs that started WWII in 1940, four would be lost in combat and of her small corps of ~300 prewar professional submariners, fully half would perish.

For those curious, George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe, Baron Jellicoe of Southampton, KBE, DSO, MC, PC, FRS, FRGS, FRSGS, ended the war as commander of the Special Boat Regiment and eventually hung up his uniform as a brigadier. He passed in 2007, aged 88, having served 68 years in Parliament and having an assault boat (“Jellicoe Inflatable Intruder Mark One”) named in his honor.

An informative book on the junior Jellicoe is Windmill’s “A British Achilles” with a foreword by Paddy Fermor no less, the officer who took him off the beach in Crete after the Heraklion operation.

In the Historical Museum of Crete, in the WWII section, there is a special tribute to the Heraklion airfield raid and the “62 martyrs” that followed the op. The portraits of those executed are displayed.

The Greek submarine force 1942-present

The British made up Greek losses after 1942 and by the end of the conflict, the Greek exile Navy consisted of no less than 26 warships and auxiliaries.

This would include seven submarines starting with the captured Italian submarine Perla, which was turned over to the Greeks in 1943 and renamed Y/B Matrozos (Υ-7). The new V-class boat HMS Veldt was transferred to the Greek Navy upon completion on 1 November 1943 and renamed Pipinos (P-71). Sistership HMS Vengeful would become Y/B Delfin in April 1945, while HMS Untiring would become Y/B Xifias and HMS Upstart would switch colors as Y/B Amfitriti in July 1945. Two further V-class boats, HMS Virulent and HMS Volatile, would become Y/B Argonaftis and Y/B Triaina in 1946.

Greek submarine RHS Pipinos at a quay WWII IWM FL17464

The six British boats would make up the post-war Greek submarine program, as shown by this 1946 Jane’s entry.

The current Greek submarine service badge emulates one of these late-war British boats.

Hellenic (Greek) Navy’s current submarine badge

Post-war, the Americans stepped in as the British boats were retroceded and transferred several Gato, Tench and Balao-class GUPPY’d diesel subs, including USS Hardhead (transferred to Greece as Papanikolis 26 July 1972; sold for scrap 1993), USS Jack (transferred to Greece as Amfitriti 21 April 1958; sunk as target 5 September 1967), USS Lapon (transferred to Greece as Poseidon 10 August 1957; retired April 1976), USS Scabbardfish (transferred to Greece as Triaina 26 February 1965; stricken 1980). and USS Remora (transferred to Greece as Katsonis on 29 October 1973; stricken 1993).

Protefs (S-78) (Greek Navy), ex USS Lapon (SS-260) in 1961

Hellenic Navy submarine Y/B Katsonis (S-115) in the Corinth Canal. She is the former Tench-class Guppy III updated USS Remora (SS-487)

In the late 1960s, Greece decided it had enough of the GUPPY life and ordered a series of new Type 209/1100 diesel boats from Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in West Germany. One of these advanced SSKs was named Y/B Triton (S112) and commissioned in 1972.

The current Triton is part of a four-boat class that includes Y/B Glaukos (S110), Nireus (S111), and Protefs (S113), all very familiar names indeed. In addition, the Greeks have purchased the three-boat Poseidon class (Type 209/1200), the one-off Y/B Okeanos (Type 209/1500AIP), and the four Papanikolis class (Type 214) from Germany as well, showing just how important Athens considers a strong submarine force.

And they know how to use them. 

Transport ex-Evros (A-415), sunk by SST-4 torpedo from the Hellenic Navy submarine Y/B Pipinos (S-121) off Karpathos island.

Triton’s WWII colors endure. They had been saved by Oberleutnant zu See (der Reserve) Gero Kleiner, the skipper of the subchaser that sank her. He had been presented with the wrecked banner by a German sailor snatched who them down before the submarine went to the bottom in 1942. Holding on to his trophy for 30 years, he handed it over to Greek naval representatives in a short service in 1972 at the Naval School of Murwik in Kiel when her Type 209 replacement was launched.

They are preserved in a Greek museum at Salamis.

Kleiner, aged 67 at the time, had to make do with just the DKiG he was decorated with for sinking Triton, handing over her flag in 1972 to Greek ADM Ioannis Maniatis with a simple “this belongs to you.” Notably, the Greeks were the first to order the Type 209, picking up four of the original 209/1100s followed by another four 209/1200s.


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