Tag Archives: NGFS

The 175mm God of War, or at least Southeast Asia

Official Caption: Ready for Firing – The 30-foot tube of the 175mm gun points the direction. Its 150-pound projectile will travel up to 20 miles. Date: 1969.

That year, the Marine Corps retired the aging M53 gun and converted all the 155mm Fires batteries to 175mm Gun Batteries after the 12th Marines had enjoyed the support of Army 175s in Vietnam in 1967-68.

Note the flak vests and M1 helmets without blouses, and the on-gun rack for the M16A1s. Source: 1stMarDiv [1st Marine Division] Photog: LCpl A. C. Prentiss Defense Dept. Photo (Marine Corps)

The M107 175 mm self-propelled gun was a 28-ton beast that could move over roads at up to 50mph (in theory) and was able to hurtle 147-pound shells to 25 miles, far outclassing 155mm and 105mm pieces and rivaling the impractically large 203mm guns and naval gunfire support from 6- and 8-inch guns on cruisers and 5-inch guns from destroyers/frigates.

SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires an M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, January 1968. (U.S. Army photo)

The guns could lay lots of warheads on foreheads so to speak. In 1968’s six-day Operation Thor, Marine artillery averaged 4,000 rounds per day into the target area from 155, 175, and 203mm guns, in addition to 3,300 daily naval gunfire support shells and 2,400 tons of ordnance dropped by aircraft every 24 hours.

Post-Vietnam, the Army updated their remaining M107s to 8-inch guns for use in Europe for another decade along the Fulda Gap, dubbing the new vehicle M110A2s, while the Marines went back to lighter, towed 155mm guns.

Other than use by the IDF against various neighbors and by the Iranians against the Iraqis in the 1980s, the only combat saw by the M107 was by the Army and Marines in Vietnam– where several captured in 1975 are still in arsenal storage.

Cruising the Beach

Allied warships of Bombarding Force ‘C’, which supported the landings in the Omaha Beach area on June 6, 1944, as part of Operation Neptune/Overlord.

The picture was taken from the frigate HMS Holmes (K581). IWM photo A 23923. McNeill, M H A (Lt) Photographer

The column is led by the battlewagon USS Texas (BB-35) (far left, with Flag, RADM Carleton F. Bryant, aboard), with the Town-class light cruiser HMS Glasgow (C21), the battleship USS Arkansas (BB-33), Free French La Galissonnière-class cruisers George Leygues and Montcalm (Flag French RADM Jacques Jaujard aboard) following. The destroyers/escorts Frankford, McCook, Carmick, Doyle, Endicott, Baldwin, Harding, Satterlee, Thomson, Tanaside, Talybont, and Melbreak, also part of Force C, are nearby and some would move dangerously close to the beach that day.

In all, Group C alone would hammer the Germans at Omaha Beach with over 13,000 shells of 3-inch bore or higher inside of 11-hours, even being criticized after the fact:

Fire Support by individual units was generally satisfactory. MONTCALM, GEORGES LEYGUES, and GLASGOW in particular rendered quick and accurate support. TEXAS contributed valuable 14-inch fire, though in some instances cruiser fire might have been used instead. In one case an inexperienced spotter called for but did not receive, battleship main battery fire on a machine gun nest. It is possible that the fire support ships, in general, delivered call fire in too great a volume and too quickly with regard to available ammunition. It is believed that equivalent results would usually have been attained by more deliberate fire. The problem is often a difficult one, as calls for fire are usually urgent and the natural procedure is to deliver the quickest support. The solution appears to lie in the indoctrination of Shore Fire Control Parties in the proper use of the “deliberate fire” and “fire slower” groups (AEF Assault Signal Code), and, possibly, the introduction of code groups, similar to the “duration of fire” code groups, indicating the rate of fire.

Queen City Slammer

Here we see, 70 years ago today, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83) alongside the ammunition ship USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) at Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on 3 May 1951. To save time the re-arming took place within sight of enemy-held Wonsan. Rows of propellent canisters can be seen on the deck of Mount Katmai, projectiles, and canisters on the deck of Manchester.

NARA 80-G-428168.

USS Manchester (CL-83) replenishing ammunition while alongside USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) in Wonsan harbor, North Korea, within sight of enemy gun batteries, circa early 1951. Note projectiles on deck on both ships, powder tanks stacked on Mount Katmai, and wooden planks laid on Mount Katmai’s decks. It appears that projectiles are being brought on board Manchester, while empty powder tanks are being carried off of her. Projectiles are being hoisted into Manchester’s turret number two (in the lower left). NH 97184

Completed too late for use in WWII, Manchester was commissioned on 29 October 1946. All of her 26 sisters were decommissioned before the Korean War with Manchester being the only active Cleveland during the conflict.

And she was very active.

Operating with TF 77, she provided support for the Inchon landings in September 1950, go on to bombard North Korean troop concentrations on Tungsan Got, supported the invasion at Wonsan, stood by for the evac of Hungnam then switched back to the Wonson area to lend her guns to the blockade there.

In her second tour in Korea, the cruiser covered the grounded Thai corvette Prasae where she prevented the vessel from being swarmed by Norks. In addition, “Manchester patrolled along the Korean peninsula shelling military targets in areas such as Chinampo, Chongjin, Tong-Cho‑Ri as well as regularly returning to Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan to add to the destruction of those tightly held enemy positions,” notes DANFS.

Although completed with catapults for seaplanes, they had been removed by Korea and replaced with a wooden deck for a whirlybird.

Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, of squadron HU-1, lands on the cruiser’s after deck after a gunfire spotting mission off the Korean coast, March 1953. Note Manchester’s wooden decking with aircraft tie-down strips and hangar cover tracks; 6/47 triple gun turrets; 5/38 and 3/50 twin mounts in place of WWII-era 40mm Bofors– the only such Cleveland to receive this conversion. NH 92578

Speaking of which, one of Manchester’s choppers, an H03S1, flown by enlisted pilot Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic ADC(AP) Duane “Wilbur” Thorin of HU-1, became a lifesaver of international renown. Besides earning a DFC in saving 126 Thai sailors from Prasae over the course of 40 sorties, the NHHC elaborates that he:

[M]ade over 130 rescues in hostile territory before his helicopter crashed under fire during an attempted rescue in February 1952 and he was captured. He escaped from a POW camp in July 1952 but was recaptured. He was awarded a Silver Star and two more DFCs for his rescues. With his trademark green scarf, he was the inspiration for the fictitious Chief Petty Officer (NAP) Mike Forney in James Michener’s book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, played by Mickey Rooney in the movie adaptation. Thorin was commissioned after the war and served as an analyst at the National Security Agency.

On Manchester’s third Korean war tour, she was again a regular sight on the gunline, often dueling with enemy shore batteries.

USS Manchester (CL-83) returns enemy counter-battery fire with her forward turret’s 6/47 guns, while operating off the North Korean east coast, March 1953. Note life rafts and floater nets stowed atop turret two. NH 97186

USS Manchester (CL-83) fires the left 6/47 gun of turret three at enemy shore batteries while operating off Wonsan, North Korea. NH 97185

USS Manchester (CL-83) engaging shore batteries off Wonsan, North Korea. Note splash from an enemy shell that has hit over. The small island on right is Hwangto-Do. 80-G-483203

She wrapped up her last tour just a week before the truce at Panmunjom.

A lone sailor observes the enemy coastline as the cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83), her shore bombardment completed, steams away from Wonsan Harbor. Photo and caption released by Commander Naval Forces Far East, under date of 7 July 1953. NH 97187

In all, she earned nine battlestars for the conflict and suffered no major battle damage. It would be her only war, being decommissioned 27 June 1956 after just 10 years of service and was scrapped four years later.

Of the rest of the Clevelands, most never left 1940s mothballs and were sent to the razor blade factory by 1960. Five were given a new lease on life and modified post-Korea as Galveston- and Providence-class guided missile cruisers, going on to see duty in the Vietnam era– with some receiving shells from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) ironically. Just one of the class, the converted USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), is preserved, serving since 1977 as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Referred to as the “Queen City” reportedly due to being the most populous city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire’s name is currently carried by an Independence-class littoral combat ship, LCS-14, commissioned in 2018.

Christmas Eve Fireworks Show

Somewhere off the DPRK on this day in 1950…

USS Missouri (BB-63) Forward turret fires a 16-inch shell at enemy forces attacking Hungnam, North Korea, during a night bombardment in December 1950 LSMR NH 96811

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 96811

USS Missouri (BB-63): Forward turret fires a 16-inch shell at enemy forces attacking Hungnam, North Korea, during a night bombardment in December 1950. In the background, LSMRs are firing rockets, with both ends of the trajectory visible. This is a composite image, made with two negatives taken only a few minutes apart. The photograph is dated 28 December 1950 but was probably taken on 23-24 December.

Boom!

Cape Wrath, Scotland (April 10, 2019) The Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) fires her beautiful red-white-and-blue embellished 5″/62cal Mk45 Mod 4 gun during a live-fire exercise as part of Joint Warrior 19-1. Dig that 70-pound shell just forward of the bow.

Gravely

Gravely is deployed as the flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 to conduct maritime operations and provide a continuous maritime capability for NATO in the northern Atlantic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Andrew Hays/Released)

The first Navy ship named for VADM Samuel L. Gravely Jr., it is an appropriate photo for that esteemed warfighter and surface warfare officer who had three wars under his belt.

Commissioned in 1942, he just missed being one of the “Golden 13” of initial African-American officers in the Navy. He went on to be the only black officer on the submarine chaser USS PC-1264, conducting anti-sub patrols up and down the Eastern Seaboard in WWII. During Korea, he was a communications officer on the battleship USS Iowa, a vessel who got in lots of NGFS missions during that conflict.

Iowa fired at targets off North Korea 1952 80-G-626016

USS Iowa (BB-61) Fires her 16″/50 cal guns at targets in North Korea, circa April-October 1952. The photo is dated 17 December 1952, some two months after Iowa left the Far East at the end of her only Korean War combat tour. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-626016

Going on to skipper the tin cans USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717), USS Falgout (DE-324), and USS Taussig (DD-746) during the 1960s, Gravely oversaw NGFS missions off Vietnam in the latter before commanding the guided missile “frigate” (later cruiser) USS Jouett (DLG-29).

Gravely went on to break out his flag over the Third Fleet and retired from the Navy as head of the DCA. He died in 2004 and, as reflected in his 38 years of active and reserve service, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.