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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021: The Jeep of The Deep

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. 17, 2021: The Jeep of The Deep

U.S. Navy Museum 26-G-4078

Here we see USCG-6, one of the hardy members of the skull-and-crossbones emblazoned Coast Guard “Match Box Fleet” that rode shotgun in the shallows off Normandy during the Neptune/Overlord landings in June 1944. Unlikely– and quite frankly very dangerous– vessels, these 83-foot patrol boats provided unsung service not only during WWII but for generations after.

The Coast Guard’s first modern 20th Century mid-sized offshore vessels, the massive 203-vessel 75-foot “six-bitter” patrol boats, were a child of the Prohibition-era crackdown on rumrunners and bootleggers. However, these cabin cruiser-style all-wooden boats were some of the slowest boats in the sea. Equipped with two 6-cylinder gasoline engines, they could make 15.7 knots– on a calm sea and with a light load.

A 75-foot Coast Guard boat, CG-242, at Boston in 1928, looking like it is wide open. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

By the 1930s and with the rapid expansion in the number of powerboats in consumers’ hands, the Coast Guard ordered 19 so-called “400 series” patrol boats with speed as a requirement. These craft, built by five different yards in four different types, were an important evolutionary step, not only for the USCG but also by the Navy, who about the same time was looking to get into the PT boat game. Shallow-draft wooden-hulled boats with streamlined cabins, they were packed with multiple high-octane engines below deck with the goal of breaking 20+ knots with ease.

CG 441, one of the two experimental “400 series” 72 footers built by the service in the 1930s. “New Coast Guard boat capable of 35 miles an hour. Washington, D.C., May 17, 1937. One of the fastest things afloat, the new U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat #441 was put thru its paces on the Potomac River today for the benefit of treasury officials. The cruiser, which is one of eight to placed in law enforcement and life-saving service of the Coast Guard, is powered with four 1,600 horsepower motors and is capable of doing 35 miles an hour.” This craft, built by Chance Marine Construction in Annapolis, would serve on the sea frontier in WWII and be sold in 1947 for scrap. Photo. LOC LC-DIG-hec-22721

By 1941, the Coast Guard had settled on a new design following lessons learned by the “400 series.”

The original 83 footer plan

Designed to use a pair of large, supped-up gasoline engines, the agency ordered 40 of these new 83-foot crafts on 19 March 1941 from Wheeler Shipyard in Brooklyn. Powered by two 600hp Hall Scott Defenders, it was expected they could make 20.6 knots at delivery. Armament was slight, just a manually loaded 1-pounder (37mm) gun forward, and a pair of .30-06 Lewis guns on the wheelhouse wings.

With a plywood interior separated by three bulkheads sandwiched between a Cedar/Oak hull and a wood deck, the crew spaces on an 83 was described by one former crewman as “a dog kennel almost big enough for 14 men.”

The first boats of the series, as it turned out, were very different from what the class would soon evolve to become. Designed to use a smooth prefabricated Everdur bronze wheelhouse, as wartime material crunches came to play just 135 hulls would have these, the rest making do with a flat and angular plywood affair. In a below-deck change, after the first five hulls, the powerplant changed to a pair of the Sterling Engine Company’s TCG-8 “Viking II” engine, a beast referred to by Engine Labs today as the “World’s Largest Inline Gasoline Engine.”

Via Engine Labs:

The TCG-8 was an inline-eight-cylinder, four-stroke engine, which consumed gasoline… and lots of it. An undersquare design, the engine featured an 8.00-inch bore and 9.00-inch stroke, for a total displacement of 3,619.1 cubic inches, or 59.3 liters, making it one of, if not the largest inline gasoline engine in the world.

The engine itself was relatively compact, at 12 feet, 2-9/16 inches long and only 44-9/16 inches wide, which allowed the two engines to fit comfortably side-by-side in the 83-footer’s hull. Housed in a gray-iron block, the crankshaft was a forged chromoly steel piece, with separately attached counterweights, which were affixed to the crankshaft via a dovetail and bolts. There were nine traditional babbit-style bearings, 4.00 inches in diameter, which measured 2.75 inches in width on eight journals, with the thrust bearing measuring a beefy 3.437 inches wide

The Sterling TCG-8 Viking.

Sterling was known among cabin cruiser builders in the 1930s and the Viking II was sold to power 60- and 70-footers of the day. The USCG’s 83 footers used two such engines, the same setup used in the 95-foot MV Passing Jack in the above ad.

Working on a Viking below the deck of an 83 in 1942. William Vandivert/LIFE

In all, 230 of these boats would be constructed for the Coast Guard and another 12 for overseas allies (19 units originally delivered to the USCG were also transferred). The initial 1941 contract was for $42,450 per hull, a cost that would rise to $62,534 by 1944 due to the increasing sensor and armament load.

By the end of the war, these boats were carrying depth charges aft, Mousetrap ASW projectors forward, and a 20mm Oerlikon as well as a SO-2 radar and QBE sonar when fully equipped. That’s a lot for an officer and a 13-man crew to take care of.

The  general wartime plan, extracted from U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Crafts of World War II by Robert Scheina

All were numbered 83300 through 83529, with corresponding (and confusing) hull numbers CG 450 through CG 634, although boats after 83384 apparently did not get said overly complicated hull numbers.

A great shot of CG 83301 with a lifeboat astern. Note the four twin can depth charge racks. The second 83 completed in 1941, she spent four years as a harbor defense boat in NYC before shipping out for the 7th Fleet in June 1945. She was lost at Buckner Bay, Okinawa 9 October 1945 to a typhoon

Aboard an 83 in 1942 during a coastal convoy, photo by William Vandivert from the archives of Life Magazine. Note the riveted bronze wheelhouse and searchlights

This example has an M1917 water-cooled Browning forward. William Vandivert/LIFE

And two Lewis guns on the bridge wings. Note the smooth lines of the bronze superstructure. William Vandivert/LIFE

Note the older ratings and the loaded Lewis magazine. William Vandivert/LIFE

William Vandivert/LIFE

Note the two can gravity depth charge racks port and starboard. Two more racks were over the stern. William Vandivert/LIFE

Stern racks. William Vandivert/LIFE

William Vandivert/LIFE

Arming Mark VI depth charges. William Vandivert/LIFE

Note the Chief and the Navy blimp. William Vandivert/LIFE

William Vandivert/LIFE

CGC 624 in pristine early war condition. Note the 20mm/80 on her quarterdeck and the depth charge racks off her stern. This craft would later become one of the Matchbox Fleet as USCG 14 and would go on to serve post-war as WPB-83373. Photo released on 29 October 1942, No. 105197F, by Morris Rosenfeld, New York (USCG photo)

Riding A “Jeep of The Deep”. These two SPAR cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut, take a lively interest in their trip aboard a “jeep of the deep”, an 83-foot Coast Guard patrol craft. The two future SPAR officers are Leila Leverett, left, and Helen D. Darland. U.S. Coast Guard Photograph. Of note, over 10,000 women volunteered for the SPARs during WWII, the Coast Guard’s version of the WAVES

“Due to their low silhouette and slight wake, these craft are often mistaken for submarines,” notes the Sept 1943 ONI 56 on the Coast Guard 83 foot cutters as sub busters. 

The most significant combat “kills” attributed to the 83s came from a Cuban-manned boat, Caza Submarino 13 (CS-13). One of 10 delivered to the Cubans at Miami, CS-13 splashed U-176, a Type IXC on 15 May 1943 in the Florida Straits north-east of Havana. 

CS13, the smallest U-boat killer.

Lifesavers

Deployed far and wide, the 83s in USCG service were often the first on the scene to pick up wrecked mariners after a U-boat slipped back under the sea, especially during 1942’s Operation Drumbeat offensive.

83305– Rescued 11 from the freighter City of New York.
83309– Pulled nine survivors of the schooner Cheerio from the water.
83310– Rescued 25 from the tanker C.O Stillman and another 50 from the tanker William Rockefeller.
83322– Rescued 14 from the freighter Santore.

In the lead-up to Overlord/Neptune, a group of 60 83s along with 840 Coasties were assembled on the eastern coast of England, under the suggestion of FDR himself. Dubbed Rescue Flotilla One under the command of LCDR Alexander V. Stewart, Jr., they would accompany the waves of LCIs and other landing craft into the beaches and, using their 5-foot draft, close in with sinking vessels to recover survivors and floaters. To keep things easy, the craft were renumbered USCG 1 through USCG 60 and given a large white star on their wheelhouse for aerial recognition. They landed most of their armament and trained in triage and lifesaving– ready to lower rescue swimmers over the side with a rope if need be.

A superb reference for the “Matchbox Fleet” at Normandy is the 1946 Coast Guard at War: The Landings in France which covers the operation of the flotilla across some 30 pages. Drawn from that is this page on the prep on these “Sea Going Saint Bernards”: 

US Coast Guard Cutter 16 at Poole, England in 1944. Notice USCG 10 to the left. CG 16, under LT (j.g.) R.V. McPhail, achieved the Flotilla’s rescue record, picking up 126 survivors and one cadaver on D-Day from three landing craft stricken within a half-mile of the beach, all handled in less than six hours. UA 555.03

Two U.S. Coast Guard 83-foot patrol boats operating off the Normandy beaches as rescue craft, in June 1944. They are USCG-20 (83401) and USCG-21 (83402). 26-G-3743

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

They earned the nickname “Matchbox Fleet” due to their wooden hulls and two Sterling-Viking gasoline engines — one incendiary shell hitting a cutter could easily turn it into a “fireball.”

They were assigned to each of the invasion areas, with 30 serving off the British and Canadian sectors and 30 serving off the American sectors. During Operation Neptune/Overlord these cutters and their crews carried out the Coast Guard’s time-honored task of saving lives, albeit under enemy fire on a shoreline thousands of miles from home. The cutters of Rescue Flotilla One saved more than 400 men on D-Day alone and by the time the unit was decommissioned in December 1944, they had saved 1,438 souls.

“Normandy Landings, June 1944. Coast Guard Invasion Rescue Flotilla Men on Alert. They wear the Death’s-Head emblem of skull and crossbones on their helmets, these Coast Guard invasion veterans, but theirs is an errand of mercy. Here, members of an 83-foot Coast Guard rescue cutter, part of the famous flotilla which rescued hundreds of men from the cold channel waters off France, keep alert while on patrol.” 26-G-2388

The 83-foot Coast Guard cutter USCG 1 (83300) off Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944, tied up to an LCT and the Samuel Chase. Escorting the first waves into Omaha her crew pulled 28 survivors from a sunken landing craft before 0700 on D-Day. 

Do not get it confused, the Coasties weren’t just there as sort of a seagoing ambulance service, untargeted by enemy bullets. They took fire of all sorts all day. McPhail’s CG 16 for instance “nosed in among the struggling groups of men floundering in diesel oil and debris. Although shells were splashing around it and mines were detonating, the cutter’s crew calmly went about the rescue work. With 90 casualties as its first load, the cutter sped to the Coast Guard transport Dickman.”

“Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Coast Guard Rescue Craft Shelled by Nazis. Twin spouts boil close off the stern of a U.S. Coast Guard invasion rescue craft in the English Channel as Nazi shore batteries pour shellfire into the mighty Allied liberation fleet.” 26-G-2374

The boats of the Matchbox Fleet remained offshore for days, dodging gunfire from marauding E-boat raids, magnesium flares dropped by German planes at night and bumping up against parachute mines.

“Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Towed back from Death. Torn by German shells, the landing barge was sinking. American soldiers aboard appeared lost as the little craft settled in the English Channel waters. Along came a Coast Guard Rescue Cutter poking boldly into the shoal waters. A line was cast and made fast.” 26-G-06-24-44(2)

“Sub Busters in Invasion Role. The U.S. Coast Guard’s famous 83 footers, sub-busters in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to their laurels as rescue craft in the D-Day sweep across the English Channel to the French Coast. These swift, little, intrepid craft are the Coast Guard boats that have been mentioned over and over again in radio and news dispatches for their gallant rescue role during the initial smash on France.”

Coast Guard 83-foot rescue boat CGC-16 unloading wounded troops off Normandy France June 6, 1944, to USS Joseph T. Dickman APA-13 0930 hrs morning of D-Day LIFE Archives Ralph Morse Photographer

Casualties are transferred from a U.S. Coast Guard 83-foot rescue boat to a larger ship, for evacuation from the combat zone, June 1944. Note the name Miss Fury on the boat’s superstructure as well as the large white star for aircraft recognition and the radar on the mast. 26-G-2346

USCG 20 was driven ashore in Normandy during the storm that destroyed the artificial Mulberry harbors in June 1944. She was later repaired and transferred to the Royal Navy.

In the days immediately after the landings, six of these crafts were detailed to operate a rush cross-channel courier service, making four crossings a day carrying mail and urgent Army dispatches to France every six hours. While the Army had originally planned to use planes for the task, it was found that the boats could get there more reliably, even if they had to maneuver around floating mines and unmarked wrecks in the process.

U.S. Navy motor torpedo boats (PT) and U.S. Coast Guard 83-foot patrol boats use the waterfront as a temporary base while operating out of Cherbourg, 30 August 1944. CG 5, with her depth charge racks refitted, is closest to the camera. The PT boat at left is PT-199, a 78-foot Higgins that famously carried ADM Harold R. Stark to Allied invasion beachhead at Normandy. Note the depth charges on the sterns of the USCG patrol boats in the foreground. 80-G-256074

The Pacific

Meanwhile, the 83s were involved in the push towards Tokyo as well. In January 1945, 30 boats were formed into USCG PTC Flotilla One and sent to Manicani Island in the Leyte Gulf, where the U.S. was busy rooting out Japanese holdouts in the quest to liberate the Philippines. Some eight miles west of Guiuan, Manicani would become a major destroyer repair base and a ship repair unit. Another 24 boats were dispatched late in the war to operate with the 7th Fleet at Okinawa, Saipan, Guam, Eniwetok, and elsewhere to serve as harbor defense vessels, on guard against Japanese suicide attacks and frogmen.

Speaking of which, one such vessel, USCGC 83525, was dispatched with Navy RADM M.R. Greer (COMMFLTAIRWING 18) from Tinian to remote Aguijan Island in the Northern Marianas on 4 September 1945 to accept the surrender of the tiny garrison from 2nd LT Kinichi Yamada of the Imperial Army. The Coastie was sent as a larger vessel could not negotiate the shallows of the island.

As detailed by one of the attendees of the event:

When Yamada climbed aboard from a landing craft, his greenish pallor matched the color of his faded uniform. He looked even smaller than he had at our first meeting, encumbered as he was with an outsized dispatch case. The confined deck space on the slender vessel posed a problem: where to place the surrender documents for the signing. Finally, the skipper of the Coast Guard boat suggested using the cover of a ventilator just behind the wheelhouse, and that was where the parties arrayed themselves, the Americans on one side and the three Japanese on the other. Nobody invited me to be part of the U.S. contingent, so I positioned myself directly behind Yamada.

Further, the 83s were influential to the war effort in a quiet way, as they were a big feature on period recruiting posters for the Coast Guard. Of course, less than 3,000 of the service’s 170,000 men at its wartime peak were assigned to these hardy boats at any given time, but you got to get the kids off the farm somehow.

Post-war

Their wartime service largely forgotten, the 83s earned no battlestars and unit citations. Those sent overseas were largely left there, either to rot or to be transferred to overseas allies. Several were lost during the war: 83301 and 83306 to a 1945 typhoon in Okinawa; 83415/CG 27 and 83471/CG 47 sank in a storm off Normandy two weeks after D-Day, their hulls were torn open on submerged wreckage; and 83421 was lost due to a midnight collision with a subchaser while on a blackout convoy. Others were soon disposed of in the inevitable postwar constriction of funds.

These wooden boats, after several years of hard work, were overloaded, stressed, and could typically by 1945 just plod along at about 12 knots, sustained. By 1946, around 100 remained in Coast Guard custody, with many of those laid up. The Navy picked up a handful for such miscellaneous use as range control boats, yard boats, and torpedo retrievers.

Some were upgraded with Cummings diesel engines and all-white peacetime schemes and continued in Coast Guard service through the 1950s. Notably, their armament in peacetime seems to have solidified with a single 20mm Oerlikon over the stern, four abbreviated two-can depth charge racks clustered around the gun, and two mousetraps forward although the latter feature was not always mounted.

CG 83464 in 1949. Delivered in July 1943 from Wheeler, she served out of Charleston before joining the D-Day fleet as CG 43. She was decommissioned in 1961 and sold.

CG 83499 at Biloxi’s annual blessing of the fleet. Note the canvassed 20mm on her stern under an awning. This boat spent WWII as a training ship at Coast Guard HQ and was disposed of in 1959.

CGC 83499 in Pascagoula, MS circa late 1950s

With the service gaining new and improved patrol boats of the Cape and Point classes, the days of the old 83s was fading. In the early 1960s, the remaining 44 hulls still holding on were liquidated, with many being disposed of by fire or scuttling post decommissioning. The last on the USCG’s rolls was CG 83506, disposed of by sinking on 22 March 1966. 

Vessels in overseas service remained around for a few more years. The type was used by Cuba (12), the Dominican Republic (3). Haiti (1) Venezuela (4), Colombia (2), Peru (6), and Mexico (3).

Notably, four transferred to Turkey in 1953 were noted in Janes as late as 1995, still with their mousetraps.

Survivors

Some remaining vessels were converted into yachts, or fishing boats, dive charter vessels, or workboats and ultimately faded into history.

Others had more pedestrian fates.

CGC 83499, the old ghost of the Mississippi Sound shown in the two above photos, was ashore as Pandoras steak house in Destin until 2005. 

Stripped 83s for sale in the Tacoma area in the 1960s, as-is, how-is, where-is

CG-83527, which served on anti-submarine duties in the Gulf of Mexico in WWII, ended her career in Tacoma, Washington in 1962. She was saved in 2003 and restored slowly and extensively over the course of a decade to roughly her 1950 appearance. Its operators have an extensive website with many resources on the class including a full set of plans.

Another of the class, 83366/D-Day CG 11, was purchased by a Seattle couple in terrible condition for $100 and they are in the process of returning her its 1944 arrangement.

Notably, CG 83366 still has her bronze pilothouse.

LT Linwood A. “Tick” Thumm, one of the last of the wartime 83 skippers, passed at age 105 last year.

Speaking of vets, the 83-Footer Sailor portal, long maintained by Al Readdy, seems to be offline but can still be found via archives. Meanwhile, those interested in Coast Guard patrol boat history, in general, should check out HMC James T. Flynn, Jr., USNR(ret)’s excellent 61-page essay.

Today, the USCG Museum has a panel dedicated to the work of the Matchbox Fleet in their D-Day exhibit.

Specs: (extracted from U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Crafts of World War II by Robert Scheina)

A wartime 83 by Jack Read

Displacement: 76 tons fully loaded
Length: 83 ft
Beam: 16 ft
Draft: 5 ft. 4″
Main Engines: 83343 through 83348: 2 Hall Scott Defenders, 1.200 rpm; all others: 2 Sterling Viking II SHP All units: 1,200
2 Propellers: 34″Dia X 27° Pitch (Pitch varied with mission)
2 Kohler Generators 120/240 VAC 60 cycle
Max Speed 15.2 kts, 215 mi radius (1945); 23.5 statute mi (trials,1946)
Max Sustained 12.0 kts. 375 mi radius (1945)
Cruising 10.0 kts, 475 mi radius (1945)
Economic 8.2 kts, 575 mi radius (1945)
Gasoline (95%) 1,900 gal
Complement 1 officer, 13 men (1945)
Electronics (1945)
Detection Radar SO-2 (most units)
Sonar QBE series (none on 83339. 83367-83369, 83427, 83476-83480)
Armament
1941 1 1-pounder. 2 .30cal mg
1945 1 20mm/80,4 dc racks with 8 Mark VI depth charges. 2 Mousetraps; none on 8330
83312, 83335, 83342, 83367, 83387, 83388, 83392, 83427, 83470, 83475. 83491. 83492. 83494,
83501, 83507, 83512, 83515, 83516, 83518-83521, 83529

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About Time, Fusiliers Marins edition

Earlier this month, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy, Admiral Christophe Prazuck announced the that the names of the nine French Marine units, the Fusiliers Marins et Commandos Marins, will moving forward be tied to historic officers of the names of key heroes from the Free French 1er BFM/BFMC (aka Commando Kieffer) and 1er RFM (Régiment de Fusiliers Marins).

Raised from volunteers abroad and members of the French Navy who ended their 1940 war in British ports– many from the old battleships Paris and Courbet— the brand-new Forces Navales Françaises Libres (Free French Naval Forces) forces under Admiral Emile Muselier, allied with then-renegade Maj Gen. Charles de Gaulle formed these commandos along British lines.

Taking part in the Dieppe Raid in August 1942, they landed in force at D-Day and continued on to the Alps, earning more than 200 Croix de Guerre and 32 Légion d’Honneur.

While elite frogmen units such as Commando Hubert have the names of famous (posthumously) officers who have led them, up until this month, the modern French marines had unit names such as the uninspired but descriptive details such as the Groupe des Marines de l’Atlantique (Atlantic Marines Group). Now, the Groupe des Marines de l’Atlantique, for example, is the Amyot d’Inville Marines Battalion, named after French navy CDR Amyot D’Inville who commanded the Free French Marines at Bir Hakeim and was killed on the Continent in 1944.

More here. 

Loading up, 76 years ago today

Note Gorenc’s strapped down M1 Thompson SMG and fighting knife on his boot. Notably, he chose not to use a Griswold jump bag for his Tommy Gun, preferring to have it available immediately when landing (U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo)

“Sgt. Joseph F. Gorenc from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the assistant S3 of HQ/3, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division climbing aboard the lead transport aircraft C-47 Dakota 8Y-S “Stoy Hora” of the 440th Troop Carrier Group at RAF Exeter Airfield, Devon, the UK on the night of 5/6th June 1944 for a drop behind Utah Beach on the Cotentin Peninsula of France near Cherbourg.

Sgt. Gorenc was taken prisoner on June 8th at St. Côme-du-Mont and reported as MIA. He apparently escaped from a Prison train in July and he was in action again at ‘Operation Market Garden’.

He returned home after the war, married, and had two daughters and at the age of 34 was an officer in a new startup manufacturing firm. While he, the owner, and another man were working late in the shop one night, an oil tank exploded. The young man; Joe and the owner were all injured but Joe’s injuries were life-threatening and he died two weeks later. (Taken from an account given by his sister Pat)”

Joseph F. Gorenc, born April 24, 1923 – died October 30, 1957, aged 34.

D-Day at 75: An Epilogue

P-47 with invasion stripes knocked out Sherman M4 Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, France, 1944

As The Greatest Generation ages and increasingly drifts from the present and into memory with each passing day, their footprints on those hallowed beaches on Normandy are washed away. With that, I find tributes tying today’s active military units, to their historical forebearers very important, a sign that those heroic deeds will continue forward.

At Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the almost vertical cliff face to take out (what they were told) was a battery of strategically placed 155mm guns which could control the entire beach.

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. NARA # 80-G-45716

Of the 225 men with the 2nd Rangers at the dawn of D-Day, just 90 were still standing on D+1 when they were relieved.

To salute the Pointe Du Hoc Rangers, active duty Rangers of 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers, some in period dress, reenacted the climb yesterday.

The 101st Airborne and 1st Infantry, meanwhile, had their own representatives on hand to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors that landed on the Cotentin (Cherbourg) Peninsula and on Omaha Beach.

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa (CNE-A), dedicated a Lone Sailor statue on the seawall over Utah Beach, in honor of the bluejackets who cleared the beaches.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

“The Lone Sailor statue stands on a plaza at the Utah Beach Museum overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from where the U.S. invasion force appeared on that historic morning. Although people come and go from this statue, the Lone Sailor will continue to serve as a universal sign of respect towards all Sea Service personnel for generations to come.”

At the same time, down the beach, CNE-A Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters and U.S. Navy SEALS assigned to Special Warfare Unit 2 re-enacted the D-Day mission that Navy Combat Demolition Unit Sailors conducted in the cover of darkness to clear the beaches for the main invading force on Utah Beach, to include blowing up a recreated Czech Hedgehog beach obstacle with a bit of C4, as one does.

Meanwhile, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV-69), read Ike’s famous D-Day Message

Make no mistake, a few precious Veterans of that Longest Day were able to be on hand in Normandy this week, such as 97-year-old 101st Airborne trooper Tom Price who came in just how he did back in 1944– jumping from a C-47.

As men like Mr. Price rejoin their units in the halls of Valhalla, memory is everything. It echos through eternity.

Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

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

Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) MMU.941853

Here we see the British-built S-class destroyer (Jageren in Norwegian parlance) His Norwegian Majesty’s Ship KNM (Kongelige Norske Marine) Svenner (RN Pennant G03) of the Free Norwegian Sjøforsvaret in 1944, fresh from the yard and ready to fight. Svenner is deeply associated with today’s date. However, before we can talk about her service, let us discuss the Royal Norwegian Navy in WWII.

The Scandinavian neutral had managed to sit precariously on the fence in the Great War and indeed was a peaceful country who had last seen the elephant during the Napoleonic Wars, skirmishing at first with the British and then the Swedes for independence. 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 over the course of some 200 trips.

As these operations expanded, the Brits began transferring at first surplus (five ex-Wickes-class tin cans transferred originally to the Brits from the USN under the bases for destroyer deal) 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 Svenner comes in.

The 16 S/T-class destroyers were long ships (363-feet) but thin (just 35-feet) giving them a 10:1 length-to-beam ratio, making them a knife on the water. Tipping the scales at just 2,500~ tons, they were slender stilettos made for stabbing through the waves at nearly 37-knots on a pair of Parsons geared turbines. Armed with a quartet of 4.7-inch guns for surface actions, U-boat busting depth charges and an eight-pack of anti-ship torpedo tubes, they were ready for a fight. Class leader HMS Saumarez (G12) was completed in July 1943, right in time for the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 15 ships that followed her were made ready to go into harm’s way as soon as they could leave the builders’ yards. Of those, one, HMS Success, was transferred on completion to the Free Norwegian forces on 26 August 1943 as KNM Stord (G26), and soon got to chasing the Germans, becoming engaged with the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst just four months after transfer.

Stord, note her Norwegian jack. MMU.945852

One of Success/Stord‘s sisterships, laid down as HMS Shark, transferred to the Norwegians 11 March 1944 on completion and was named KNM Svenner after a Norwegian island. Her skipper, LCDR Tore Holthe, was a prewar Norwegian surface fleet officer and veteran of Stord‘s action against Scharnhorst.

Svenner’s officers, with Holthe center. MMU.945739

Just weeks after her commissioning, Svenner was attached to Bombardment Force S of the Eastern Task Force of the Normandy invasion fleet assembling off Plymouth. Her mission would be to help smother the German beach defenses during the assault on Sword Beach, where British and Canadian forces would land.

Jageren SVENNER (G03) babord bredside MMU.941527

SVENNER (ex SHARK) (FL 22742) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205174978

On the night of the 5th, Svenner, along with the frigates HMS Rowley and Holmes, helped escort the cruisers HMS Arethusa, Danae, and Frobisher, as well as the Free Polish cruiser ORP Dragon, monitor HMS Roberts and the small craft of the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla from Plymouth across the Channel to Sword Beach, where the famous battleships HMS Ramillies, HMS Warspite and ships of Force D stood by for heavy lifting.

At 0500 on 6 June 1944, Jutland veteran Warspite was the first ship in the entire 4,000-strong Allied fleet on any beach to open fire, hitting a German artillery battery at Villerville from some 13 miles offshore.

Hamilton, John Alan; D-Day Naval Bombardment: HMS ‘Ramillies’, HMS ‘Warspite’ and Monitor HMS ‘Roberts’ Bombard the Beaches; IWM (Imperial War Museums); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/d-day-naval-bombardment-hms-ramillies-hms-warspite-and-monitor-hms-roberts-bombard-the-beaches-7683

As the Svenner, Rowley, and Holmes stood by to allow the minesweepers to clear a channel for the bombardment ships to close with the beach while making smoke to obscure the capital ships, three German torpedo boats out of La Havre– Jaguar, Møwe and T28— appeared at 28-knots to conduct a strike against the force, letting lose some 17 torpedoes in all. It was the only effective Kriegsmarine resistance on D-Day.

The torpedo spread came close to ruining Force D, with steel fish passing within feet of both Ramillies and Warspite. The only victim of the German torps: our brave new Norwegian destroyer, who tried in vain to turn from the spread but came up short.

HNoMS Svenner breaking up & sinking after being struck by two torpedoes

Svenner was hit amidships at 0530 by one or possibly two torpedoes and broke in half, sinking quickly after an explosion under her boiler room. Lost were 32 Norwegian and a British signalman out of her crew of 219. Most of the crew, which included some RN ratings, were rescued by nearby ships and returned to the war in days.

Still, the pair of battleships were saved, and they covered the invasion on Sword with heavy naval gunfire. Warspite fired over 300 shells on June 6 alone before heading back to Portsmouth for more rounds and powder and returning to plaster targets on Utah Beach and Gold Beach. Her sidekick Ramillies heaved an impressive 1,002 15-inch shells in that week, hitting not only defensive strongpoints and batteries but also massing German armor well inland and enemy railway marshaling yards near Caen. The work by those two brawlers on D Day and the hours afterward is well-remembered.

The landing at Sword involved the British Army’s I Corps made up of the 3rd Infantry Division and 79nd Armoured Division along with hardlegs of the 1st Special Service Brigade (which also contained Free French and Belgian Commandos) and No. 41 (Royal Marine) Commando against the German 716th Infantry Division and Caen-based 21st Panzer Div (which launched the only major German counterattack of D-Day.) In all, over 680 Allied troops were killed on Sword alone on 6 June.

SWORD beach – 6 Jun 1944. This image is taken from a Royal Air Force Mustang aircraft of II (Army Cooperation) Squadron. IWM

THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 5191) Three Beach Group troops look out from Queen beach,Sword Beach, littered with beached landing craft and wrecked vehicles and equipment, 7 June 1944. A partially submerged D7 armoured bulldozer can be seen on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205835

Besides Svenner, the Norwegians were well-represented at Normandy, with her sistership Stord present elsewhere on Sword on D-Day, hitting a German battery by Riva Bella with no less that 362 of her 4.7-inch shells.

Maleri av invasjonen i Normandie og jageren STORD MMU.943486

The Norwegian-manned Hunt-class destroyer escort KNM Glaisdale was at Juno Beach and fired more than 400 rounds that day at German positions near St. Aubain while the similarly-crewed corvettes Acanthus, Eglantine and Rose were at Utah Beach. The plucky 130-foot fisheries vessel Nordkapp was there too, as an escort and rescue vessel. Seven Norwegian merchant ships were packed with troops and supplies that day, including some 200 men of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division aboard the SS Lysland off Omaha Beach. Another 43 Norwegian merchant ships were in the follow-on wave starting June 7, including three that gave their last as mole ships.

For more on the vital contribution to the war by the 1,081 ships of the Norwegian merchant service (Nortraship) which saw an incredible 570 vessels sunk and some 3734 men taken down to their last across both the Atlantic and Pacific, please check out the excellent site dedicated to these war-sailors.

The Norwegians went on to purchase Stord from the UK government and kept her in service for another decade, only scrapping her in Belgium in 1959. Of note, she returned Vice Adm. Edvard Danielsen, commander of the Norwegian Navy, home from the UK in 1945. On that occasion, the following signal was sent from RN Adm. Sir Henry Moore:

To: H Nor MS Stord
From: C-in-C HF AFLOAT CONFIDENTIAL BASEGRAM
For Admiral Danielsen

On your return to Norway in H Nor MS Stord I should be grateful if you will convey to Lieutenant Commander Øi and to the officers and ships company my keen appreciation of the honour I feel in having had them under my command in the Home Fleet.

Their efficiency and their fine fighting spirit have been the admiration of us all and although we are glad that they now should be reaping the reward of their contribution to the liberation of Europe we shall miss them in the Home Fleet. We hope that some of us may soon have the pleasure to renew our friendship in Norwegian port. To you personally I send my warm regards and sincere thanks for your helpful cooperation with me at the Admiralty: Good luck and happiness to you all.

By the end of the war, the Royal Norwegian Naval Fleet (outside of Norway) consisted of 52 combatant ships and 7,500 officers, petty officers and men. For more on the Free Norwegian Navy in WWII, click here for an English translation compiled by the Norwegian Naval Museum.

As a footnote, the only other S/T-class destroyer lost during the war was also claimed on Sword Beach. HMS Swift (G46) struck and detonated mine off the beachhead and sank after breaking in two on 24 June with the loss of 52 men.

HMS SWIFT ( G 46) MMU.941445

Other than that, all 14 remaining S/T-class sisters survived the conflict and lead a long life with three going on to transfer in 1946 to the rebuilding Dutch Navy. The last of the class afloat, HMS Troubridge (F09), helped sink U-407 during the war and, converted to a Type 15 frigate, was only decommissioned in 1969, going to the breakers the following year.

In 2003, a French Navy minesweeper discovered the wreckage of Svenner off Sword and salvaged her anchor. It is now preserved as a memorial to the ship some 100 yards inland from the beach at Hermanville-sur-Mer.

The Norwegians remember Svenner with fondness, having recycled her name for a Kobben-class submarine commissioned in 1967 which remained in service until after the Cold War.

Svenner has become part of the country’s military lore.

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) http://forsvaretsmuseer.no/Marinemuseet/70-aar-siden-senkningen-av-Svenner

In 2014, King Harald himself helped dedicate the memorial to all Norwegians present at Normandy, accompanied by some of the last of that country’s aging WWII vets.

Today, of course, on the 74th anniversary of Overlord/Neptune and the 156,000 Allied troops that landed across that wide 50-mile front, we remember all the Allies of the Greatest Generation.

Specs:
Displacement:
1,710 long tons (1,740 t) (standard)
2,530 long tons (2,570 t) (deep load)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.6 m) (o/a)
Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.9 m)
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) (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 (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 4,675 nmi (8,658 km; 5,380 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Sensors:
Radar Type 290 air warning
Radar Type 285 ranging & bearing
Armament:
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

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Mosquito Boat flag and log from Normandy hits the auction block

A 48-star 34″x52″ flag, log and pictures from “Coral Queen/Coral Princess,” officially known as PT-520, a PTRon 35 80′ Elco that served in Europe during WWII is up for auction next week at Cowans.

The flag was used by PT-520 until August 25 1944 when the radio mast it was affixed to was shot away by a German shell and was preserved by a coxswain. According to Navsource, PT-50 was transferred to the Russkis in April 1945 and later scuttled in the Barents in 1956– but the flag and log remain.

From Cowans:

Serving in the European Theater of World War Two from June to November 1944, PT-520 participated in numerous actions against German sea and air forces in the English Channel and coast of France. This flag was present during its participation in Operation Overlord, where it was assigned to the “Mason Line”, a net of defensive measures on the western flank of the invasion preventing the attack of German ships. PT-520 was stationed two to three miles from Omaha and Utah areas, sweeping for mines and performing search and rescue operations. After the success of the invasion, PT-520 continued to operate along the French coast, rescuing downed pilots, fending off aerial raids and engaging German minesweepers and fast attack craft. The log states that during its operational career, the vessel sunk two R-Boats, two E-Boats, and one “T.L.C.”

Tommy guns and Fusiliers, 73 years on

French villagers welcome French Naval Commandos (Commandos Marins) of the 1st BFMC (Battalion de Fusiliers Marins Commandos) who arrived in Normandy during the D-Day landings. Near Amfreville, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 17 June 1944. Note the Lend-Lease U.S. M1 Thompson submachine gun, Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife tucked down the leg and British-style commando tabs on the sleeve.

The Naval Commandos were formed by Free French troops in exile in the U.K. and were modeled after the British Commandos, who were founded in 1940. They were formed mainly from Free French Navy Fusiliers-Marins (naval infantry) as well as a smattering of other Free French volunteers and trained at the Commando Basic Training Centre Achnacarry, Scotland.

Besides fighting in France, the 1st BFMC saw service in Holland where they ended the war. Immediatly after VE Day, the unit split, with the bulk heading to Indochina where the French remained very busy for another decade, and a cadre set up the Commando Training School, Siroco Center, Matifou Cape, in Algeria in 1946.

By 1947, the CM were set up in seven units, each named for a fallen WWII commando, and endure today.

Their motto is Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline.

One member who landed on D-Day remained standing tall as late as 2014:

Leon Gautier, 91, former member of Captain Philippe Kieffer’s 1er BFM Commando unit, attends a ceremony in Colleville-Montgomery, France. 4 June 2014. Gautier landed at Sword Beach with 1er BFM Commando on D-Day and was among the first Free French personnel to enter Paris.

For so much, how shall we repay?

Lighting it up, 72 years ago on this day:

(IWM Photo)

(IWM Photo)

Starboard 4-inch (102 mm) Mk XVI dual purpose guns of the Town-class light cruiser HMS BELFAST (C35) open fire on German positions around Ver-sur-Mer on the night of 27 June 1944. Just weeks before on D-Day, she was  flagship of Bombardment Force E, supporting troops landing at Gold and Juno beaches. Her first target was the German gun battery at La Marefontaine and fired some 5,000 shells over the course of the month– the vibration cracking the crew’s toilets.

Commissioned 5 August 1939, Belfast enjoyed just under a month of peacetime service before Britain entered WWII and went on to provide 24 years of hard service to HM’s Royal Navy.

Her honours include:
Arctic 1943
North Cape 1943
Normandy 1944
Korea 1950–52

She has been on exhibit, maintained in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum, at The Queen’s Walk, London, since 1978.

Her motto:  Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus