Tag Archives: NGFS

70 Years Ago Today: Black Dragon Pays a Visit to the 38th Parallel

A break from Warship Wednesday to celebrate both the USMC’s birthday and the below event.

Here we see the Iowa-class battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) firing a full broadside salvo of nine 16″/50cal guns during naval gunfire support against enemy targets in Korea, purportedly adjacent to the 38th Parallel. Smoke from shell explosions is visible ashore, in the upper left. The photo is dated 10 November 1951.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-435681

New Jersey, which like the rest of her class except for Missouri, had been placed into reserve in the late 1940s as a money-saving measure, was the first battleship reactivated for the Korean War. She arrived in Japan on 12 May 1951 and became the flagship of the Seventh Fleet under ADM Harold Martin, and reached the east coast of Korea five days later to start the first of her two tours of duty during that conflict.

During this first tour, New Jersey fired three times the number of 16-inch shells than she had in all of World War II. Let that one sink in.

For a deeper dive, including period footage of battlewagons at play off the Korean peninsula, check out this 1952 Navy film. 

She would end her first Korean tour on 22 November 1951, relieved by her sister ship Wisconsin, fresh from mothballs.

Operation Tornado ’82

The naval combat in the Falklands War of 1982 was hugely influential for today’s fleets as it reinforced just how hard modern ASW is, underlined the relevance of light aircraft carriers (England was set to dispose of them before the conflict), pointed out the danger of aluminum superstructures (although this is now falling on deaf ears it seems), and highlighted the nightmare of fighting even laughable quantities of anti-ship missiles.

Another thing it did was point out that naval gunfire support for ground combat troops operating in the littoral was still very relevant.

With the British deploying two light brigades (3 Commando and 5 Guards including three Royal Marine Commando battalions, two Para battalions, and a battalion of the Scots Guards, another of the Welsh Guards, and a Gurkha battalion) to retake the islands from upwards of 10,000 Argentines, the Brits had very little in the way of organic artillery the task force was able to bring with them 8,000 miles south.

While the Argies had access to modern 155mm guns, the Brits were handicapped with only five batteries of 105mm light howitzers (three from 29 Commando and two from 4th Field Artillery) which, with a precious handful of helicopters on hand, were slow to move forward to support the front line.

For instance, in one operation against Goose Green, where the Argentines had 30 guns emplaced and well-supplied, just 12 RN Sea King sorties were allocated to move artillery forward enabling 28 British artillerymen, three guns, and 1,000 shells to stage for the battle.

Likewise, the 40 or so Harriers flying from two carriers offshore had their hands full with attempting to secure local air superiority and could divert precious few sorties to support the Marines, Paras, and Guards ashore.

That’s where the assorted 4.5-inch Mark 8 and QF Mark VI naval guns of the British task force’s eight gun-armed destroyers and nine gun-armed frigates came in.

Chilean Frigate Almirante Condell (PFG-06) working her 4.5″/45 (11.4 cm) QF Mark VI in 1999. Two Leander frigates were built by Yarrows in Scotland for the Chilean Navy during the 1970s. The twin 4.5 is of the same type mounted on two RN frigates— HMS Yarmouth and HMS Plymouth– during the Falklands, each firing about 1K rounds during the short war. U.S. Navy Photograph No. 990705-N-5862D-001.

4.5″/55 (11.4 cm) Mark 8 Mod 0 on HMS St. Albans F83. Royal Navy Photograph. The Mark 8 was fitted to most of the gun-armed British frigates and destroyers in the Falklands.

Capable of delivering a 55-pound HE shell to targets up to 18,000 yards away (24,000 for the longer Mark 8), they also had a very high rate of fire, with even the older guns capable of 12-14 rounds per minute. With these small warships (most of the frigates hit 2,500-3,250 tons while the destroyers only went about 5,000) often still able to carry 800 to 1,000 shells in their magazines and able to operate in as little as five fathoms of seawater, they were called inshore to deliver the goods.

At Goose Green, HMS Arrow (F173) fired 22 pre-dawn Mk 8 star shells and 135 rounds of 4.5-inch HE in the course of a 90-minute bombardment. She would have fired more had her gun not jammed and put her out of action.

Dubbed Operation Tornado by the Royal Navy, individual frigates and destroyers were soon dispatched on nightly gun runs to plaster Argentine positions with harassment and interdiction fire (H&I) then fall back to the relative safety of deep water during the day. In their mission, they received shot correction from buried and heavily camouflaged commando patrols from SAS and SBS as well as ANGLICO teams from 148 Battery. Slated for disbandment just before the Falklands, the 30 or so gunners and observers of 148 (Meiktila) Battery Royal Artillery proved invaluable, calling very accurate fire down on Argentine bunkers, trenches, and guns.

At first, the “strafe” would only send less than 200 rounds downrange but this would soon double and even triple, with as many as 750 shells being the norm three weeks into the campaign.

One Argentine remembered after the war:

We were very demoralized at that time because we felt so helpless. We couldn’t do anything. The English were firing at us from their frigates and we couldn’t respond.

HMS Yarmouth (F101), an older modified Type 12 frigate laid down in 1957, fired over 1,000 shells from her main guns (twin 4.5s), mostly during shore bombardment that included supporting the Scots Guards during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.

The Royal Navy Rothesay-class frigate HMS Yarmouth (F101) underway during the Falklands War on 5 June 1982. Yarmouth´s unofficial nickname was “The Crazy Y”. CC via Wikipedia

Her sister ship, the circa-1958 HMS Plymouth (F126) fired 909 4.5 inch shells and was the first British warship to enter liberated Port Stanley harbor.

In one harassment mission of Port Stanley’s airport, the destroyer HMS Cardiff (D108) fired 277 shells.

Besides shore bombardment runs, the frigate HMS Alacrity (F174) used her 4.5-inch gun to engage and sink the 3,000-ton Argentine supply ship ARA Isla de los Estados, which blew up after a hit ignited her cargo of jet fuel and ammunition. Likewise, Yarmouth intercepted and engaged the Argentine coaster ARA Monsunen with her twin 4.5 guns west of Lively Island, driving her aground.

These offshore bombardment missions also enabled the RN to set up Mirage/Skyhawk traps by taking a Type 42 destroyer delivering NGFS ashore and adding a Type 22 frigate to it which stood a further 10-20 miles out to sea. The idea was that the Type 42’s 4.5-incher would bring out an Argentine airstrike the next morning, which would be downed by the combined Sea Dart/Sea Wolf missiles of the two warships. This was known as a Type 64 group and was credited with bagging at least two Argentine Sky Hawks.

The missions, close to shore, proved dangerous. On 12 June 1982, the destroyer HMS Glamorgan (D19) was attacked with an MM38 Exocet missile, fired from an improvised shore-based launcher just after she supported the Royal Marines’ capture of the Two Sisters hill outside of Stanley. The Exocet claimed 14 of Glamorgan’s crew.

Nonetheless, the mission continued.

The frigate HMS Ambuscade (F172), according to her war diary, fired 58 rounds in the area of Port Stanley airfield on 30 May, went back for a second run on the night of 7/8 June during which she fired 104 shells. On the night of 13 June, the frigate fired 228 4.5-inch shells in support of 2 Para’s assault of Wireless Ridge in company with fellow tin cans HMS Active (220 rounds fired) and HMS Avenger (100 rounds fired). Not bad considering Ambuscade suffered from a cracked hull and broken stabilizers throughout the war.

Sadly, the only British civilian casualties of the Falklands War came from naval bombardment, with the frigate HMS Avenger (F185) landing shells on a residence just outside Argentine-occupied Port Stanley, killing three locals and wounding several others. The forward observer had not been aware of their presence in the area and, in post-war analysis, it was found that the ships’ gun beacon MIP radar malfunctioned and was set on the wrong datum.

4.5″/55 (11.4 cm) Mark 8 Mod 0 on HMS Avenger F185 in January 1992. U.S. Navy Photograph No. DN-SC-92-04971.

In all, some 8,000 4.5-inch shells were fired by Royal Navy escorts during the two-month Falklands Islands conflict, compared to some 17,000 105mm shells lit off by the Army’s gunners. In many cases, the larger naval shells, fitted with proximity fuses that detonated them 10 yards off the deck rather than after they were buried in the soggy sub-polar moss of the Falklands landscape, were considered more effective. 

Still, the lesson was learned and the Batch 3 Type 22 frigates, constructed after the Falklands, were designed to carry 4.5-inch guns whereas their preceding classmates were missile-only. Further, instead of disbanding, the elite forward observers of 148 Battery are still very much active as part of the Commando Gunners of 29 Commando.

Importantly, the Royal Navy today still mounts 4.5s on all of their frigates and destroyers– a factor the U.S. Navy, with its preference for a 57mm main gun on everything smaller than an Aegis destroyer, could probably learn from.

For more information on artillery used in the Falklands, see the relevant section in Firepower in Limited War by Robert Scales and the 27-page scholarly paper Under Fire: The Falklands War and the Revival of Naval Gunfire Support by Steven Paget.

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.