Tag Archives: operation torch

Warship Wednesday, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

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, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

Library and Archives Canada 4951041

Here we see a beautiful original color photo of the Improved Fiji-class (alternatively described as Colony-class, Mauritius-class, or Ceylon-class) cruiser HMCS Quebec (31) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, 21 April 1954– some 67 years ago today. She battled the Germans, Italians, and Japanese withstood the divine wind and “Fritz X” only to have her reputation mired in undeserved controversy.

A borderline “treaty” cruiser of interwar design, the Fijis amounted to a class that was one short of a dozen with an 8,500-ton standard displacement. In WWII service, this would balloon to a very top-heavy weight of over 11,000. Some 15 percent of the standard displacement was armor. As described by Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, the design was much better off than the previous Leander-class cruisers, and essentially “the Admiralty resolved to squeeze a Town [the immediately preceding 9,100-ton light cruiser class] into 8,000-tons.”

With a fine transom stern, they were able to achieve over 32 knots on a plant that included four Admiralty 3-drum boilers driving four Parsons steam turbines, their main armament amounted to nine 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in three triple Mark XXI mountings in the case of our cruiser and her two immediate full sisters (HMS Ceylon and HMS Newfoundland).

The standard Fiji/Colony-class cruiser had four Mark XXI turrets, as shown in the top layout, while the “Improved Fijis/Ceylon-variants of the class mounted three, as in the bottom layout. Not originally designed to carry torpedo tubes, two triple sets were quickly added, along with more AAA guns, once the treaty gloves came off. (Jane’s 1946)

Ordered from Vickers-Armstrong’s, Walker in March 1939, just six months before Hitler sent his legions into Poland, Quebec, our subject vessel was originally named HMS Uganda (66) after that African protectorate. A war baby, she commissioned 3 January 1943.

HMS Uganda sliding down the slipway at the Walker Naval Yard, 7 August 1941. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM ref. DS.VA/9/PH/12/17).

HMS UGANDA, MAURITIUS CLASS CRUISER. JANUARY 1943, SCAPA FLOW. (A 22963) Broadside view. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205155098

After workups and interception patrols on the lookout for German blockade runners, in May she escorted the RMS Queen Mary (with Churchill aboard) across the Atlantic for a meeting with President Roosevelt at what later became known to history as the Washington Conference.

Transferred to the Mediterranean for service with the 15th Cruiser Squadron, she helped escort convoy WS31/KMF17 on the way before arriving in Malta with Admiral Cunningham aboard on 4 July. Then came the Husky landings in Sicily, where she was very busy covering the landings of the British 1st Airborne Division near Syracuse, rescuing 36 survivors from the hospital ship Talamba, and delivering naval gunfire support.

Cruisers HMS Orion and HMS Uganda on patrol with Mount Etna towering in the distance, some 40 miles away. Taken from HMS Nubian, 12th July 1943. The ships had bombarded Augusta the previous day.

A pom-pom crew of HMCS Uganda examining Kodak pictures. Note the “tropical kit” to include sun helmets and shorts. NAC, PA 140833

Then came the Avalanche landings at Salerno in September, where she provided NGFS for the British X Corps. Four days after reaching the beachhead, she was hit by a 3,000-pound German Fritz X precision-guided, armor-piercing bomb at 1440 on 13 September. Passing through seven decks and through her keel, it exploded under her hull, crippling but not quite killing the ship. When the smoke cleared, amazingly just 16 men of Uganda’s complement were dead.

The damage was very similar, albeit much less costly in lives, to the hit that the same-sized treaty cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) suffered off Salerno two days prior. In the Fritz attack on that Brooklyn-class light cruiser, the early smart bomb hit the top of the ship’s number three 6/47-gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before its 710-pound amatol warhead exploded. The damage was crippling, blowing out the bottom of the ship’s hull, immediately flooding her magazines– which may have ironically saved the ship as it prevented them from detonating– and killed 197 of her crew. In all, she would spend eight months being rebuilt.

As for Uganda, she was moved to Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina for extensive repairs– just in time to become the most capable warship in another navy.

Oh, Canada!

By 1944, the Royal Canadian Navy could rightfully claim to be about the third strongest in the world when it came to warship tonnage. However, it was almost all in small escorts such as sloops, corvettes, frigates, and destroyers as well as armed yachts, trawlers, and torpedo boats. The RCN did have three armed merchant cruisers– the “Prince” class Canadian National Steamships passenger liners, which, at 6,000 tons, carried a dozen 6-, 4- and 3-inch guns, as well as depth charges and assorted Bofors/Oerlikons– but Ottawa had no proper cruisers on its naval list.

To rectify this, the brand-new light cruiser HMS Minotaur (53), transferred to Royal Canadian Navy in July 1944, and became HMCS Ontario (C53), although she did not finish working up in time to contribute much to the war effort. She was soon joined by Uganda, who kept her name when she was recommissioned 21 October 1944– Trafalgar Day– but replaced HMS with HMCS.

Uganda’s new crew, drawn from throughout the Canadian fleet, was assembled in 80-man teams and shipped out on a range of British 6-inch cruisers to train on their vessel while it was being repaired. These included a team that, while on HMS Sheffield, braved the Murmansk run and the Boxing Day 1943 fight against Scharnhorst. Curiously, and a bone of contention with the crew, she carried an RN duster rather than a Canadian ensign.

The Canadian cruiser would be commanded by Capt. Edmond Rollo Mainguy, who had previously served on several large RN warships including the battleship HMS Barham in the Great War.

Dispatched for service with the British Pacific Fleet, which was preparing for the final push against Japan, she stopped in the UK for sensor upgrades on the way, swapping Type 284 and 272 radars for newer Type 274 for fire control and Types 277 and 293 for surface warning and height finding. Nonetheless, the choice of the ship for tropical service, as it at the time lacked both onboard exhaust fans for air circulation and a water distillation plant capable of supporting the crew, was questionable. Belowdecks, when not on duty, many men simply wore “a towel and a pair of shoes.”

Regardless, she was a beautiful ship and her crew, most of whom were Battle of the Atlantic vets, were ready to fight.

A great shot of HMCS Uganda with a bone in her teeth. H.F. Pullen Nova Scotia Archives 1984-573 Box 1 F/24

British light cruiser HMS UGANDA underway. 14 October 1944. IWM FL 17797

HMS UGANDA, BRITISH CRUISER. 1944, AT SEA. (A 27728) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205159166

HMCS Uganda in 1945 while in the British Pacific Fleet. IWM ABS 698

She joined the BPF on 9 March, arriving that day in Sydney via the Suez and the Indian Ocean. Joining British TF 57 as part of the U.S. 5th Fleet, Uganda soon became a close escort for the fleet’s carriers, particularly HMS Formidable and HMS Indomitable. This included fighting off kamikaze raids, delivering NGFS, and acting as a lifeguard for downed aviators as the fleet pushed past Formosa, through the Philippines, and on to Okinawa.

Task Force 57 at anchor, HMS Formidable (foreground) and HMS Indomitable w 4th Cruiser Squadron- (L to R) Gambia, Uganda, and Euryalus-San Pedro Bay, Leyte April 1945

Japanese aircraft attacking H.M.C.S. UGANDA. Ryukyu Islands, Japan, 4 April 1945. LAC 3191649

Bombardment by H.M.C.S. UGANDA of Sukuma Airfield on Miyoko Jima, 4 May 1945, the ship’s QF 4 in (102 mm) Mark XVI guns in action. LAC 3191651

Decks of HMCS Uganda after her bombardment of the Sakishima Island airstrip of Sukama, south of Okinawa, 12 May 1945, with her 6-inch guns swamped with powder tubes. The ship in the distance is her Kiwi-flagged sistership, HMNZS Gambia (48). (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.1)

Ratings sleep amidst 4-inch shells on HMCS Uganda, 1945 (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.26)

HMCS UGANDA and HMS FORMIDABLE, the latter burning after a Kamikaze airstrike, May 9, 1945, Royal Canadian Naval photograph. (CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum /Photo Catalogue VR2014. 1.24 from the museum collection.)

Life aboard the ship continued to decline for the crew. Compounding the uncomfortable heat aboard– which led to rounds of tropical bacteria, viruses, and fungus infections among the crew– the BPF had logistical issues trying to supply its ships. This led to mechanical issues as spare parts were not available and poor food.

As noted by Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63, one firsthand report of the time detailed:

In the tropics everything multiplied — of a crew of 900, two men were detailed for spraying cockroach powder through the mess decks to at least try to control them. It was not out of the ordinary to be munching on your de-hydrated peas and carrots to feel a sharp “crunch.” That was another roach being broken up. Flour deteriorated into a life form — a tiny worm with a white body and a little black head. It would be found in the bread which was baked aboard ship. At first, we would pick the worms out, but as we were told, and came to realize, they would not hurt us, we just ate them with the bread and called it our meat ration for the day.

This set the stage for what became known as the “Uganda Episode.”

As explained by the Naval and Marine Museum at CFB Esquimalt:

Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced on 4 April 1945 that the Canadian Government no longer intended to deploy personnel, other than volunteers, to the Pacific Theatre. The “Volunteers Only” policy, as it was called, required that all naval personnel specifically re-volunteer for service in the Pacific Theatre before they would be dispatched to participate in hostilities.

On the eve of the vote, in which it seemed many of Uganda’s crew were on the fence about going home, Capt. Mainguy reportedly gave a tone-deaf speech that went as high as a lead balloon with one crew member’s recalling that he, “Called us four flushers and quitters. Those who were in doubt soon made up their minds at a statement like that.”

The June 22 crew vote found that 556 of Uganda’s men preferred to head home, while just 344 re-volunteered to stay in the Pacific despite the daunting risk of kamikaze attack and a war that, at the time, was expected to drag out at least another year. With the prospect of swapping out so many of the cruiser’s complement while still deployed a non-starter, the plan was to send her back to Esquimalt, update her for continued service, and sail back to the war with a reformed crew in time to join Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyūshū which was slated for November.

Relieved on station by the British cruiser HMS Argonaut on 27 July, ironically the Japanese signaled they were ready to quit the war just two weeks later, making the Uganda vote– which left a bitter pill with the RN– almost a moot subject. Uganda arrived at Esquimalt on 10 August, the day the Japanese officially threw in the towel.

While labels of mutiny and cowardice were unjustly lobbed at her crew by historians, her skipper would go on to become a Vice Admiral.

Better years

Postwar, Uganda would spend the next two years in a training role.

Cruiser HMCS Uganda photographed on 31 November 1945.

A color shot of HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Transferred to the reserves in August 1947, her slumber was brief.

Recommissioned as a result of the Korean War on 14 January 1952 as HMCS Quebec (C31), she soon sailed for Halifax to continue her service, notably under a Canadian flag and with belowdecks habitability improvements.

Guard of Honor and Band at the recommissioning of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC, Esquimalt, British Columbia, 14 January 1952 LAC 3524549

For the next four years, she was a global traveler, heavily involved in NATO exercises.

HMCS QUEBEC coming alongside for a ship-to-ship transfer receiving supplies from HMCS Magnificent, during  Exercise Mainbrace in 1952. LAC 4951392

A closer view, from HMCS Magnificent. Note the carrier’s 40mm mount and the folded wing of a fighter, likely a Hawker Sea Fury judging from the pair of wing-root 20mm cannons. LAC 4951382

H.M.C.S. QUEBEC heeling in rough seas during exercises. 18 Sept 1952 LAC 3524551

HMCS Quebec (C-31) leads HMCS Magnificent (CVL-21), HMAS Sydney (R-17), and multiple destroyers as they return from the Queen’s coronation, July 1953

Sperry radar scan of Gaspé Bay anchorage, HMCS Quebec 12 July 1953 LAC 3206158

HMCS QUEBEC Parading the White Ensign in Rio-South America cruise, 1954. Note the Enfield rifles, with the rating to the right complete with a chromed bayonet. Also, note the local boy to the left giving a salute to the RCN duster. LAC 4950735

Port broadside view of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC after having been freshly painted by ships’ company, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 29 June 1955 LAC 3524552

She also became the first Canadian naval ship to circumnavigate Africa, during her 1955 cruise. In 1946, she had claimed the first such Canadian warship to “Round the Horn” of South America.  

King Neptune and the pollywogs! Original color photo of HMCS QUEBEC’s crossing the line equator ceremony during her fall cruise to South America, 1956. LAC 4950734

HMCS Quebec (C-31) and USS Newport News (CA-148) at Villefranche.

With all-gun cruisers that required a 900-man crew increasingly obsolete in the Atomic era, Quebec was paid off 13 June 1956 and laid up in Nova Scotia. Four years later, she was sold for her value in scrap metal to a Japanese concern.

She is remembered in period maritime art, specifically in a piece by official war artist Harold Beament, who was on the RCNVR list and later president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

HMCS Uganda in Drydock, Esquimalt, during a post-war refit. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-1030

Today, the RCN remembers Quebec fondly. Narrated by R.H. Thomson, the script in the below tribute video is based on a memoir by LCDR Roland Leduc, RCN (Ret’d) who served on the post-war cruiser. 

An exceptional veterans’ site is also online, with numerous photos and remembrances. 

For a great deep dive into HMS Uganda, especially her 1945 service, check out Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63.

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Big Water Flattop

Continuing in the same vein of pre-WWII American carriers that made it to the post-war (see yesterday’s post on Enterprise), flashing back some 75 years ago today, I give you the USS Ranger CV-4 in the Mississippi River, coming into view of New Orleans. 

Ranger, who we have talked about extensively on a past Warship Wednesday, only earned two battle stars for her wartime service, which was spent in the Atlantic as she was deemed too slight to fight it out with the Empire of Japan, only finally being sent to the Pacific in July 1945. Nonetheless, she struck blows against the Vichy French and Germans spread out from Morocco to Norway.

As detailed by DANFS, the end of her career was a postscript.

Departing San Diego 30 September 1945, Ranger embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa and then steamed for New Orleans, arriving 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola [it was thought she would be a training carrier there but was found to be in poor condition and the job was instead handed over to USS Saipan (CVL-28) then later USS Monterey (CVL-26)].

After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 18 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard 18 October 1946. Struck from the Navy list 29 October 1946, she was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Chester, Pa., 28 January 1947.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020: Avalanche, Darby, Husky & Fritz

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020: Avalanche, Darby, Husky & Fritz

NH 108686

Here we see a great bow-on view of the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) in 1938, likely on her visit to her namesake East Coast Georgia city.

The nine Brooklyns, all ordered in 1933, was an improvement on the preceding New Orleans class with a London Naval Treaty-compliant 10,000-ton (listed) displacement. In true cruise fashion, while the armor was thin (just 2-inches on most of the belt), they were fast at 32+ knots and had one of the strongest gun armament of their type in the world. This was centered around fifteen (15) 6″/47 (15.2 cm) Mark 16 guns in five three-gun turrets capable of a 60-degree elevation.

Empty shell cases litter the deck near the forward 6-inch/47-caliber gun turrets of USS Brooklyn (CL-40) after she had bombarded Licata, Sicily, during the early hours of the invasion, 10 July 1943. (80-G-42522).

Each of these could lift a 130-pound super heavy AP shell or a 105 HC shell to a maximum of 26,000 yards. Further, they could be loaded extremely fast, an average of 8-to-10 shells a minute per gun. During gunnery trials in March 1939, USS Savannah (CL-42) fired 138 6-inch rounds in one furious minute.

As with the rest of her class, she had extensive aviation facilities, actually greater than that of a small seaplane tender. This included a large hangar, two stern catapults, and the ability to carry as many as six single-engine floatplanes with two more stored on deck. Larger flying boats, while they could not be accommodated onboard, could be fueled alongside.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of light cruiser Savannah, 1938; note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

A stern shot of Savannah in 1938, showing her cats and two Seagulls on deck. NH 108693

Laid down 31 May 1934 at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey, Savannah was the fourth on the Naval List since 1799, the most important of which was the Brandywine-class frigate that helped captured California from Mexico and go on to bag several Rebel blockade runners in the Civil War. She was commissioned 10 March 1938.

Her peacetime service was spent in a series of memory-making cruises including visiting her hometown, ranging to England, visiting the Caribbean, and clocking in with the Pacific Fleet, taking part in Fleet Problems XX and XXI.

Savannah in Savannah, 1938, passing City Hall. NH 108687

At Savannah Georgia passing to turning slip April 14, 1939. NH 108694

USS Savannah (CL-42) entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, during her shakedown cruise, 20 May 1938. Note her signal flags, displaying the call letters NAQL. Courtesy of Louis A. Davidson, 1977. NH 85625

As part of the Atlantic Fleet, once the balloon went up in Europe, Savannah was detailed to FDR’s Neutrality Patrol as CruDiv 8’s flagship.

Then came war

On December 7, 1941, she was at anchor in New York Harbor and quickly made ready for a real-life shooting war.

Spending most of 1942 screening the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in the Atlantic, she ranged as far south as Brazil and as far north as iceberg alley, cruising through U-boat infested waters. That October, she joined Adm. Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force, part of the Operation Torch landings in Vichy French Morocco.

U.S. troops aboard a landing craft head for the beaches during Operation Torch of the North African Campaign Oran, Algeria. 8 November 1942. Imperial War Museum photo. Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer

On 8 November 1942, she covered the landing beaches for elements of Lucian K. Truscott’s 9th Infantry across Red, Red 1, Green, Blue, and Yellow Beaches while the planes of her old companion, Ranger, flew top cover. Her guns fired for the first time in anger, silencing several Vichy batteries near the old masonry fortress at Kasba, the latter of which was held by French Foreign Legionnaires.

In all, Savannah fired 1,196 6-inch and 406 5-inch shells by nightfall. The next day, she added another 892 6- and 236 5-inchers to that tally, helping to stop a column of Renault R35 light tanks and work over additional French batteries in support of Truscott’s move inland.

Her humble Seagulls also got in some kills– with the unusual tactic of dropping depth charges on land targets.

Per DANFS:

During that same day, Savannah’s scout planes set a new style in warfare by successfully bombing tank columns with depth charges, whose fuses had been altered to detonate on impact. The scout planes, maintaining eight hours of flying time daily, struck at other shore targets, and also kept up antisubmarine patrol. One of Savannah’s planes located an enemy 75-millimeter battery which had been firing on Dallas and eliminated it with two well-placed depth charges. The cruiser added to the carnage when one of her 5-inch salvoes touched off a nearby ammunition dump.

Over the course of a five day period between 7 and 11 November, Savannah’s five SOC-3s clocked over 40 hours aloft, dropping no less than 14 325-pound and 35 100-pound depth charges on a mixture of targets both ashore and at sea.

Following the French capitulation, she returned to Norfolk, in the same train as the battleship Texas and other cruisers, at the end of November. She was soon assigned to Task Group 23.1 (Cruiser Division Two), with a duty to prowl South American waters for German blockade runners and commerce raiders.

On 10 March 1943, while on patrol with the destroyer USS Eberle (DD-430), she came across the armed Dutch freighter Kota Tjandi, which had been captured by the German Hilfskreuzer (auxiliary cruiser) Komet manned by a prize crew who had hopes of sailing her past the blockade to the Fatherland with her valuable cargo of 4,000 tons of tin and rubber. After firing shots across her bow and one of her Seagulls stitched up the sea in front of the blockade runner with a machine gun blast, a boarding crew moved to take control of the vessel but the Germans were too quick and sank her with scuttling charges.

German blockade runner MV Karin (Dutch freighter Kota Tjandi) aflame from fires, set by her crew before they abandoned ship, after being stopped in the South Atlantic by two units of the United States Fourth Fleet—the light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) and the destroyer Eberle (DD-430). A short time later, delayed-detonation scuttling charges exploded, killing all but three members of a boarding party from the Eberle attempting to salvage the vessel. The painting is by Richard DE Rosset via http://www.davidbruhn.com/

Savannah took on board the 75 German survivors, a mix of navy and merchant mariners, and their captors searched and placed the POWs under guard below decks, landing them in the U.S. on 28 March. She also reportedly picked up floating stores to include “Japanese rice beer, French champagne, canned salmon and sardines, oranges, bread still warm from the oven, and women’s shoes with Hong Kong labels.” Brazilian fishermen also recovered tons of rubber bales from the sea.

In May, she departed New York for Oran, escorting a troop convoy of Patton’s 7th Army to the Med. There was more work to be done.

USS Savannah (CL-42) off New York City, with a barge and tug alongside, 1 May 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-44025

Then came a trip to Sicily.

Operation Husky

The invasion of Sicily, code-named Operation Husky kicked off on the night of 9 July and Savannah played a pivotal role in the landings.

Lt. Col. William Orlando Darby, head and founder of the 1st Ranger Battalion, led his men ashore at Gela, fighting across the beach, through Italian coast defenses and withstood two days of counterattacks against German armor in the streets of the sea town, then captured the incredibly tough strategic nut that was the fortress town of Butera in a night attack at the top of a 4,000-foot hill. The very definition of light infantry, the largest ordnance Darby stormed ashore with was a single 37mm anti-tank gun, this meant that his fire support depended on the Navy, which had detailed Savannah to back him up.

In the official Army history of the Rangers in Italy, the CMH notes dryly that, “For all the courage of individual Rangers, naval gunfire support proved decisive in holding the town.”

As detailed in an interesting 185-page paper at the Joint Forces Staff College on the subject of Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) capabilities, past, present and future– penned by an Army colonel– Darby’s experiences ashore under Savannah’s 15 6-inch guns is detailed in the Ranger daddy’s own words:

We were in a very desperate situation…we just couldn’t move. They had a tremendous amount of small arms fire and they had a very well dug-in and well-built position –concrete emplacements, pillboxes, and all. I had this little lieutenant of Artillery with me, who had all the naval gunfire of the Savannah at his control, and I decided to put him to use. I had one of my men who was in position on top of the hill up here and who could see the gun batteries that were firing on us, some five 149 and 150 howitzer batteries that were blazing away. I never realized naval gunfire could be so accurate. We started firing with Savannah and before we finished… forced five batteries to stop shooting. We examined those gun positions and in every battery position, we found at least one gun with a direct hit and at least one stack of ammunition blown in each place…

Before I took Butera she was giving fire support to me – and accurate fire support – at a range of 22,000 yards, which I think is something for people to remember. Naval gunfire support with ground observation and good communications is just like anybody else’s artillery: It is good. As a matter of fact, it is awfully fine artillery because when you say, “fire for effect”, you have 45 rounds of 6-inch shells in one minute. They have 15 guns and fire about three rounds a minute.

According to Savannah’s logs, she fired about 1,890 rounds of 6″/47 HC Mk.34 projectiles in 97 hours supporting the Rangers and other troops ashore, about two-thirds of her magazines.

In an attempt to coordinate the fire ashore, her AV det suffered greatly at the hands of German fighters, her lumbering Seagull observation biplanes– with a top speed of 143 knots and a self-defense armament of just two .30-caliber guns– were no match for pairs of Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Three of four were splashed on their first sortie.

Via NARA

Heading back to Algiers to replenish her magazines, it was there that she found herself amid a maritime disaster.

DANFS-

While Norwegian cargo ship Bjørkhaug loaded Italian landmines in the harbor of Algiers on 16 July 1943, one of the mines exploded. The blast effectively destroyed the ship, and inflicted hundreds of casualties on people in the area. The flames threatened British cargo ship Fort Confidence, which carried a load of oil, and Dutch tug Hudson bravely took her in tow out to sea, where the crew beached her to prevent further loss. Savannah stood by to render assistance during the fiery ordeal.

Savannah stands by to render assistance as vessels burn after Norwegian cargo ship Bjørkhaug explodes in Algiers harbor, 16 July 1943. 80-G-K-3965

After rearming, it was off to Italy itself.

Operation Avalanche

Operation Avalanche, the Allied landings near the key port of Salerno on Italy’s boot, kicked off on 9 September 1943. Savannah was the first ship to open fire against the German shore defenses in Salerno Bay, providing fire support for the U.S. 5th Army until the 11th, when her world was rocked.

That morning at about 10:00 local, a Dornier Do 217K-2 bomber of III./KG 100 landed a 3,000-pound Ruhrstahl X-1 precision-guided, armor-piercing bomb on Savannah. The early smart bomb, known to the Allies as the Fritz X, hit the top of the ship’s number three 6/47 gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before its 710-pound amatol warhead exploded.

USS Savannah (CL-42) is hit by a German radio-controlled bomb, while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. The photograph shows the explosion venting through the top of the turret and also through Savannah’s hull below the waterline. A motor torpedo boat (PT) is passing by in the foreground. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral H. Kent Hewett, USN. NH 95562

USS Savannah (CL-42) afire immediately after she was hit by a German guided bomb during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. Smoke is pouring from the bomb’s impact hole atop the ship’s number three 6/47 gun turret. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. SC 243636

The damage was crippling, blowing out the bottom of the ship’s hull, immediately flooding her magazines– which may have ironically saved the ship as it prevented them from detonating– and killed 197 of her crew. In respect to the flooding, Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, observed that the lightweight “treaty cruiser” armor plan of the Brooklyns may have helped saying, “it sometimes seemed their flimsiness was a blessing.”

The detail from the ship’s war diary:

USS Savannah (CL-42) corpsmen attend casualties on the ship’s forecastle, after a German radio-controlled bomb hit her # 3 six-inch gun turret during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. National Archives. 80-G-54355

USS Savannah (CL 42), Struck by a German bomb, men take care of the casualties and make hasty repairs to continues to bombard shore installations of Salerno, Italy. While wounded men were given treatment, a crewman aims a stream of water down the smoking hole made by the bomb. 80-G-54357

USS Savannah (CL-42) bomb penetration hole atop her number three 6/47-gun turret, while the ship was undergoing initial repairs off Salerno, Italy. Note life rafts atop the turret, one of which has been cut in two by the bomb. Also, note the turret’s armored faceplate. The view looks forward, with number two 6/47 gun turret in the immediate background. The original photo caption, released on 2 November 1943, reads (in part): A round, clean hole marks the point of entry of a Nazi bomb on the cruiser Savannah. Inside, all was chaos, smoke, blood, and death. NH 97959

After eight hours dead in the water, Savannah was able to reignite her boilers and get up enough steam to make it to Malta under her own power, an impressive feat for a ship of any size that just took a major hit and had water inside one-sixth of her hull. Of note, German Fritz bombs on the same day sank the Italian battleship Roma, the flagship of the surrendering Italian fleet and on the16th hit the storied British battleship HMS Warspite, which had to be towed to Malta and was never fully repaired.

Over the next eight months, Savannah was extensively repaired to the point of being almost rebuilt, with new side bulges fitted and an updated 5-inch gun battery with modern fire control directors.

The USS Savannah during a day firing, May 1944. Note her newly-installed 5″/38DP mount. Truman Library 63-1398-148

5 September 1944 photo as rebuilt after FX-1400 guided bomb damage off Salerno. Hull is blistered up to the main deck and her former single 5″/25 guns have been replaced with twin 5″/38s. She is also fitted with a new bridge and new lightweight antiaircraft guns and the arrangement of those guns. The entire Brooklyn class was planned to be so modified but this was canceled at the end of the war. Via Navsource https://www.navsource.org/archives/04/042/04042.htm

Post-reconstructed USS Savannah (CL-42) photographed from a blimp of squadron ZP-11, while underway off the New England coast on 30 October 1944. NH 97956

The rest of her war was much less active, although the reconstructed cruiser to part in the escort of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Mediterranean in January and February 1945 on his way to the Yalta conference. She finished WWII as a school ship in the Chesapeake, carrying out weekly training cruises. After VE-Day, she was used on two Magic Carpet cruises returning GIs from France.

She also made one last stop in her “hometown.”

Starboard-bow view while steaming in the Savannah River, Savannah Georgia while attending Navy Day celebrations on or about 27 October 1945.

Entering an inactivation overhaul at the end of 1945, Savannah was placed in reserve the next year and decommissioned on 3 February 1947. She earned three battle stars for her wartime service and would never sail under her own power again. Her service lasted just shy of nine years.

Epilogue 

Some of her sisters never made it to the end of the war, with Helena (CL-50) hit by three Japanese Long Lance torpedoes in 1943 during the confused night action at the Kula Gulf. Of the eight Brooklyns that passed into mothballs after the war, six were transferred to the navies of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil in 1951 to include the class leader who, as ARA General Belgrano, was sunk by a British submarine in the Falklands in 1982.

In the end, Savannah was the last of her class the U.S. fleet, with fellow sister Honolulu (CL-48) disposed of in 1959. In the end, she was sold for $172,090 to Bethlehem Steel Co., of Bethlehem, Pa., for scrapping on 6 January 1960, and on the 25th of that month, she was removed from Navy custody.

Her 21-page war diary as well as dozens of monthly diaries and logs are digitized in the National Archives.

USS Savannah CL-42 model, data plats, and ship’s bell at her namesake city’s Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah is well-remembered in her namesake city and many artifacts and relics are dotted around town, as are markers.

There is also an array of contemporary maritime art in circulation including paintings and postcards.

The fifth Savannah, a name surely fit for a warship, was instead issued to a fleet replenishment oiler (AOR-4) in 1970 that served for 25 years.

The sixth Savannah, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, (LCS-28) is under construction in Mobile and was recently launched. Yes, she is an LCS, but at least she is a fighting ship.

Specs:

NH 67861

NH 108696

Displacement 9,475 (designed) 12,207-tons full load 1945
Length 608
Beam 69′
Draft 19’2″
Machinery:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 shafts 100,000shp
Speed: 32 knots
Complement 868
Armor:
Main Belt
At Machinery: 5 in
At Magazines: 2 in
Deck: 2 in
Barbettes: 6 in
Gun turret
Turret roofs: 2 in
Turret sides: 1.25 in
Turret face: 6.5 in
Conning tower: 5 in
Armament:
(1938)
15 6″/47 DP
8 5-inch/25 cal singles
8 .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
(1945)
15 6″/47 DP
8 5″/38 caliber anti-aircraft guns in four dual mounts
28 40mm/60 Bofors in 4 quads and 6 twin mounts
12 20 mm Oerlikon singles
Aircraft: Up to 8 seaplanes, typically 4 carried. Usually Curtiss SOC Seagulls but by 1945 SC-1 Seahawks.

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SBD of Morocco

Yes, a Navy dive bomber on a dirt road in North Africa. It happened.

Below we have a U.S. Navy SBD (Scout Bomber, Douglas) Dauntless dive bomber, likely of Carrier Air Group 4’s VS-41 “Tophatters,” using a road as a makeshift runway, near Safi, Morocco, in November 1942. The historic port, about 140 nautical miles south of Casablanca, had been captured just hours before by three WWI-era U.S. Navy destroyers carrying a raiding force of light infantry in the opening moves of Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa.

NHHC 208-N-6070

Note special insignia used during this operation, with a wide white circle around the regular star & circle emblem, predating the Invasion Stripes of D-Day.

Developed by the famous ‎Ed Heinemann (father of the A-20 Havoc, A-26 Invader, A-1 Skyraider, A-4 Skyhawk, et al), the SBD was perhaps the most iconic carrier-borne strike plane of the war, with four squadrons of them responsible for scratching all four Japanese flattops at Midway, disabling three of them in the span of just six minutes. They also proved their mettle at the Coral Sea and in the Guadalcanal campaign with many, as evidenced above, operated from shore.

The SBD was probably from USS Ranger (CV-4) who for the Torch Landings had 18 such aircraft in VS-41. Another 18 SBDs were carried, nine each, on *two escort carriers USS Sangamon (ACV-26) and USS Santee (ACV-29). SBDs from Ranger, besides proving their worth plastering land-based targets, had also socked the French battleship Jean Bart on 10 November 1942 in Casablanca harbor with a pair of 1,000-pound bombs, finishing what the battleship USS Massachusetts had started.

VS-41 lost three aviators in North Africa– ARM George E. Biggs, Ens Charles E. Duffy, and ARM Aubra T. Patterson– and had four others shot down and captured (briefly) by the French. Founded in 1919, VS-41’s lineage is today carried by VFA-14, flying F/A-18Es.

*Two other escort carriers took part in the Torch landings but did not carry SBDs: USS Suwanee (ACV-27) with 29 F4F Wildcats and nine TBFs, and USS Chenango (ACV-28) carrying a load of 76 Army P-40Fs on a one-way trip.

More on Torch’s naval actions here.

Bearing the Torch, 76 years ago today

U.S. troops aboard a landing craft head for the beaches during Operation Torch of the North African Campaign Oran, Algeria. 8 November 1942.

Imperial War Museum photo. Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer

Note the man wearing the old school “Brodie” helmet in the back of the boat, probably a Royal Navy man, as the group had spent 22 days aboard the converted ocean liner RMS Orbita on the voyage from Scotland to North Africa. The men aren’t wearing unit patches, but the cased gear to the front right look to be marked “1-19” which could be 1st Bn/19th INF Regt, which at the time was in the States and would later serve in the Pacific. In fact, they are men of the 1st coy, 19th Engineer Battalion, who did take part in the Torch landings.

Less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the Torch landings would be the U.S. Army’s first brush with war in the ETO. Other than a few officers and NCOs with Great War experience or service in the National Guard, most of these men were recent volunteers and draftees, living ordinary lives in George Bailey’s America and had only held a gun when going hunting or at a carnival shooting gallery. It’s a good thing the French didn’t really have the inclination to mix it up. The 19th Engineers went on to serve at the horrors of the Kasserine Pass (where they lost 3/4 of their active strength and it was reported that “the 19th Engineers no longer exist”) and the Rapido River, where the Germans were much more ready to fight.

As noted by the Army “During World War II, The battalion conducted five amphibious landings while accompanying the victorious allied armies through Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. The battalion had suffered 902 combat casualties including 144 killed in action. For their gallantry and service, the battalion was awarded 10 campaign streamers from World War II, and soldiers from the battalion were awarded 7 Silver Stars and 13 Bronze Stars”

Below is a great doc on the 19th, with several interviews with vets, and directly shows the above image as a reference.

The 19th is still on active duty, based at Fort Knox.

Scratching that Unterseeboot itch from the air

While 765 German U-boats were lost by all causes in WWII, one of the leading was due to Allied air attacks, especially after late 1942. Here are a few of the losses that made the photo gallery.

80-G-323977 Operation Torch, November 1942. An aerial attack on a French submarine off the coast of French Morocco. I’m not sure which one of the Vichy subs this is as two were lost during the battle with the Diane-class submarine La Sybille lost at sea on 8 November and the L’Espoire-class submarine Le Tonnant was scuttled off Cadiz 15 November as result of battle damage.

80-G-208592: German U-boat, U-849, attacked and sunk by a U.S. PBY-1 Liberator (navalised B-24) aircraft from VP-107 in the South Atlantic, West of Congo estuary. The pilot shown here is Lieutenant Junior Grade Vance Dawkins, USNR. Incident #5054. U-849, a long-range Type IXD2 U-boat was splashed 25 November 1943, lost with all hands. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

80-G-222832 U-271, a German a Type VIIC, being sunk off Ireland by a Liberator aircraft of VB-103 on 28 January 1944 in the Northwest Atlantic. Incident #5430. While a member of both the Rügen and Hinein Wolfpacks, and a participant in three patrols, U-271 did not achieve any kills.

80-G-222832 U-271, a German a Type VIIC, being sunk off Ireland by a Liberator aircraft of VB-103 on 28 January 1944 in the Northwest Atlantic. Incident #5430. While a member of both the Rügen and Hinein Wolfpacks, and a participant in three patrols, U-271 did not achieve any kills.

80-G-222857: Two PBY’s, from VP-63, piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade T.R. Wooley and Lieutenant R. J. Baker aided by two Royal Navy destroyers HMS Anthony (R-40) and HMS Wishant (I-67) sank German U-boat, U-761, in the Strait of Gibraltar on 24 February 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

80-G-222857: Two PBY’s, from VP-63, piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade T.R. Wooley and Lieutenant R. J. Baker aided by two Royal Navy destroyers HMS Anthony (R-40) and HMS Wishant (I-67) sank German U-boat, U-761, in the Strait of Gibraltar on 24 February 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Warship Wednesday April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

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

Warship Wednesday, April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Here we see the unique aircraft carrier, the first of its kind produced from the keel up for the U.S. Navy, USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 1939.

Although one of just seven carriers in the fleet when World War II broke out, her service was far different from the other six flattops who slugged it out with the Japanese from the Coral Sea to Tokyo Bay.

While the Navy’s “covered wagon” USS Langley (CV-1) was converted from a collier in 1922, and the follow-on Lexington and Saratoga were converted from incomplete battlecruisers in 1927, Ranger was the first carrier for the fleet designed from the onset to be one.

Larger than the Langley and smaller than the Lexingtons, the 769-foot one-off ship could make 29 knots, cruise for 10,000 nautical miles at half that, had three elevators, and carry as many as 86 aircraft as designed. Importantly, she also carried a relatively heavy AAA armament for her day (40 .50-cal machine guns). Best of all, at just 17,000-tons she sipped at the allowable tonnage under the Washington Naval Treaty.

Designed in the late 1920s, Ranger was ordered in 1930 from Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co in Virginia and laid down on 26 September 1931.

There were over a half-dozen prior Rangers in the Navy dating back to John Paul Jones’ 18-gun sloop built in 1777.

RangerVsDrakeIn a rare case of extreme overlap, two different Rangers were active on the Navy List in WWI (SP-237 and SP-369) while two different Lexington-class battlecruisers (irony!) of the same era were at one time or another to carry the moniker.

Commissioned 4 June 1934, the subject of our tale had a very clean look to her, though was very different from John Paul Jones’ vessel.

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

One of the reasons a 17,000-ton ship could carry over 80 aircraft was due to a unique outrigger system that allowed deck parking with a minimum of space. (No folding wings back then).

picture30

Ranger embarked the brand-new Air Group Four consisting of VT-4, VB-4, and VF-4 stood up specifically for the ship. She soon set off for the Pacific and spent almost the entire prewar period in those warm waters.

USS Ranger pictured in Montevideo on visitors day with Vought O3U-3 Corsairs on deck and the British York-class Heavy Cruiser HMS Exeter in the background, on her way to the Pacific in 1934. Note the 5″/25 deck gun and the obsolete 6-pounder behind it, the latter likely just used for salutes. 

Well, not always warm…

In early 1936 Ranger and her aircrew, which included Coast Guard aviators at the time, conducted the first-ever carrier cold-weather test trials in Alaska waters, proving the concept.

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the "Cold weather Test Detachment" that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the “Cold weather Test Detachment” that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

Then followed more normal peacetime service.

Pacific flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936

All of the Navy’s flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936. Langley by this time was being converted to a seaplane tender and Yorktown CV-5, would not commission until 30 September 1937. Also, the Ranger, front, is deceptively large due to perspective. Lex and Sara went well over 40,000 tons

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

Underway at sea during the latter 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

Underway at sea during the later 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

USS Ranger 1939 via Postales Navales

However, with the war drums beating in far-off Europe, and the new Yorktown-class carriers taking her place in the Pac, Ranger chopped to the Atlantic Fleet in 1939. Once the war popped off, she began armed Neutrality Patrol operations in the North Atlantic.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U "Vindicators" of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 "Wildcat" of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U “Vindicators” of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat” of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, the crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

After Pearl Harbor, she was one of the first ships to pick up a borderline experimental RCA CXAM-1 radar, able to detect single aircraft at 50 miles and to detect large ships at 14 miles. Conducting sea patrols in the Atlantic, she also ferried Army P-40 Warhawks to Africa for transshipment to the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers fighting the Japanese in the Far East.

Curtis P-40F Warhawks taking off from the USS Ranger in the North Africa theater. They were not carrier-based but were transported to North Africa on carriers and subsequently took off from the carriers to reach their assigned bases

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while in route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while en route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all, she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1941.

The aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1942.

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Also note that her stacks have been lowered. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Setting sail for North Africa, she was the center of the Allied air fleet covering the Torch Landings in November 1942, accompanied by four new Sangamon-class escort carriers (which were technically heavier than Ranger at over 22,000-tons, though with a much smaller flight deck and hangar).

North Africa Operation, November 1942 - testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

North Africa Operation, November 1942 – testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note: Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger's mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger’s mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

Conducting almost 500 combat sorties in 72 hours, Ranger‘s aircraft destroyed at least 28 Vichy French planes on the ground in strikes on the Rabat and Rabat-Sale aerodromes, wiped out over 100 military vehicles, strafed four French destroyers at Casablanca, plastered the Richelieu-class battleship, Jean Bart, bombed the destroyer Albatross, and severely damaged the Duguay-class light cruiser Primauguet.

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8, 1942

Jean Bart French battleship at Casablanca 1942 via All Hands 1943

Ranger lost 16 planes in the Torch operation and cost the lives of ten airmen.

Her next solid combat was in a raid in occupied Norwegian waters in 1943. Attacking the Bodo roadstead, SBD dive-bombers escorted by Wildcats sank four steamers and logged hits on the 8,000-ton freighter LaPlata and a 10,000-ton oiler.

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

With newer, faster, better armored, and larger fleet carriers joining the fleet, Ranger had by 1944 become more than just somewhat obsolescent and was converted to a training carrier.

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Note the 40mm mount on her bow. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

She picked up a camo scheme, landed her old 5″/25s and puny .50 cals, replaced them with 40mm and 20mm AAA guns, had catapults installed, and got to the business of qualifying naval aviators.

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Note her camouflage paint scheme. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Sailing for the Pacific, she arrived in Hawaiian waters in August 1944 and quickly began carrier qualification cruises, concentrating on Navy and Marine night fighter squadrons, securing 35,784 landings by the end of the war.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45, when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45 when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

Totally obsolete in a fleet of new Essex-class vessels, she was used in Pensacola for a while then was decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. She won two battlestars for her wartime service.

Winging over the water, three Navy Curtiss Helldivers provide speedy and deadly air protection for the USS Ranger (CV-4) sun-gilded as it moves through the Pacific on a war mission. April 12th, 1945

Ranger was sold for $259,000 in scrap metal pricing on 31 January 1947 and subsequently broken up.

She minted brass on an unparalleled scale, with all ten of her skippers between 4 June 1934 and 1 May 1946 going on to become admirals including ADM. John Sidney (“Mac”) McCain Sr. His grandson is the current senator from Arizona.

Ranger had lots of “onlys” in the fact that she was the only pre-war US carrier to have never engaged Japanese forces in battle (even Langley was sunk by the Combined Fleet), the only U.S. carrier to perform flight operations above the Arctic Circle (during Operation Leader off the coast of Norway) during WWII, the only carrier not to receive a Unit Citation for her performance in Operation Torch (the four escort carriers which accomplished less all received one), the only carrier whose air group used green painted tail assemblies, and was the first U.S. fleet carrier to be scrapped.

Her bell is preserved in Pensacola, the cradle of Naval Aviation. For years it sat outside in the pouring sub-tropical rain:

Ship's Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

Ship’s Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos were taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

But has recently been moved inside and given a more prominent place of honor.

 

“After being displayed outdoors in front of the Cubi Bar Cafe for many years, the USS Ranger (CV 4) bell was desperately in need of some TLC. This is the result of the hard work of our staff with assistance from ensigns volunteering at the museum as they await the commencement of flight training.” (Photo: NNAM)

47-040-B

And her builder’s plate is at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

The Forrestal-class supercarrier (CV-61) of the same name ordered in 1954 and sold for scrap in 2014 maintained her legacy.

A vibrant veteran’s group, which celebrates the armada of past Rangers, is very active.

Specs:

020424
Displacement: 14,576 tons standard; 17,577 tons full load
Dimensions (wl): 730′ x 80′ x 22′ 4.875″ (full load)
Dimensions (max.): 769′ x 109.5′
Armor: 2″ (sides and bulkheads)-1″ (top) over steering gear
Power plant: 6 boilers; steam turbines; 2 shafts; 53,500 shp
Speed: 29.25 knots
Endurance (design): 10,000 nautical miles @ 15 knots
Armament: 8 single 5″/25 gun mounts; 40 .50-cal machine guns (1934)
24 40 mm (6x quad mounts); 46 20mm single mounts (1943)
Aircraft: 86
Aviation facilities: 3 elevators; no catapult
Crew: 2,148 (ship’s company + air wing) (1941 figure)

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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.

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!