Tag Archives: seaplane tender

Warship Wednesday Jan 8, 2020: Maru Floatplane Carriers

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, Jan 8, 2020: Maru Floatplane Carriers

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Here we see the Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship, Kimikawa Maru, converted to a Tokusetsu Suijokibokan (special seaplane carrier) of the Imperial Japanese Navy, at Oominato in northern Honshu, in late 1942. As you can tell, this interesting ship and her sisters could carry a serious load of armed, and often very effective, floatplanes.

Constructed in the late 1930s through a joint endeavor of the Japanese shipping firm Ōsaka Mercantile and Kawasaki Kisen in the latter’s Kobe-based shipyard, the five 6,800-ton ships of the class were intended for the Japan-New York route, a trip of some 15,000 nautical miles. This was no sweat as, using a single efficient MAN-designed Kawasaki-made diesel, they had an incredible 35,000nm range at 17 knots.

However, these ships were also ready to chip in should the Empire require it.

As noted in ONI 208-J, the U.S. Navy’s 400+ page WWII intelligence book on the 1,300 assorted Japanese merchant ships over 1,000-tons:

Modern Japanese merchant ship design provides for deck-gun positions up to 5-inch or 6-inch caliber, the largest pieces being hand-loaded under service conditions. Heavier framing and plating and large diameter stanchions (extending down through two decks) are built in integral parts of the hull to support these positions. Ventilator trunks are conveniently arraigned close by for rapid conversion to ammunition hoists. These trunks always lead to specially prepared watertight compartments suitable for use as magazines. Dual-purpose 3-inch guns and anti-aircraft machine guns are often mounted in rows on lateral platforms.

As such, the U.S. Navy was very interested in these ships on the lead-up to the war, with several high-res images of these vessels taken in the 1930s as they transited the Panama Canal, still located in the ONI’s files.

KAMIKAWA MARU Japanese Merchant Ship Port bow view taken off Panama on 23 July 1937 NH 45577

KAMIKAWA MARU Japanese Merchant Ship overhead taken off Panama on 23 July 1937 NH 45576

KUNIKAWA MARU in Gatun Lake, Panama Canal. Altitude 1000 feet, Lens 10 inches. December 22, 1937, NH 111574

Japanese Ship KUNIKAWA MARU. Panama Canal. Altitude 1000 feet, Lens 10 inches. March 11, 1938. NH 111576

Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship as AP AV, via ONI 208-J 1942

Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship, via ONI 208-J 1942

With Japan increasingly embroiled in the conflict in China, the Kimikawa Maru-class vessels were soon called up for service, many years before Pearl Harbor.

Notably, four out of the five– Kamikawa Maru, Kiyokawa Maru, Kimikawa Maru, and Kunikawa Maru (nothing confusing about that) were converted to armed seaplane carriers, capable of carrying more than a dozen such single-engine floatplanes aft, for which they had two catapults installed to launch them and large boom cranes for recovery. They would also be equipped with as many as six 4.7- or 5.9-inch guns as well as several smaller AAA mounts and machine guns.

Kawanishi E17K “Alf ” (Japanese floatplane) Being hoisted aboard a Japanese seaplane tender, circa 1939. Note details of the aircraft handling crane NH 82463

Alternatively, twice that many aircraft could be carried stowed below, to be assembled and deployed at some far-off port or atoll if need be. Four similar Mitsubishi-built freighters– Noshiro Maru, Sagara Maru, Sanuki Maru, and Sanyo Maru— were also converted but could only carry about eight seaplanes each. Subsequently, these less successful vessels would be re-rated to transports by 1942.

Notably, many of the IJN’s carrier commanders and admirals learned their trade on these special seaplane carriers to include RADMs Ando Shigeaki, Hattori Katsugi, Shinoda Tarohachi, Matsuda Takatomo, Hara Seitaro, and Yokokawa Ichihei; VADMs Arima Masafumi, Yamada Michiyuki, and Omori Sentaro.

In the late 1930s, their airwing would include Kawanishi E17K (Alf) and Nakajima E8N Type 95 (Dave) scout aircraft, primitive single-float biplanes that couldn’t break 175 knots and carried just a few small bombs and a couple machine guns for self-defense. These would later be augmented by planes like the Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete.

KAMIKAWA MARU (Japanese seaplane tender, 1936) Anchored off Amoy, China, 16 July 1939, with a deck load of KAWANISHI E17K-2 and NAKAJIMA E8N floatplanes both forward and aft. I can count at least 14 aircraft. This vessel, the first of the class converted to a seaplane carrier, saw extensive service in Chinese waters in 1938 to 1940, with her planes often bombing and strafing key Chinese positions. NH 82154

F1M Japanese Pete Kamikawa Maru’s ZII tail code 1940-41

Another view of the same

By 1942, this airwing would grow to as many as 14 much more capable Aichi E13A Type Zero (Jake) armed reconnaissance planes and four Daves– the airwing Kamikawa Maru took to Alaska during the Midway operation. Later types like the Nakajima A6M2-N (Rufe) Type 2 Sui-Sen (‘Rufe’) floatplane version of the Zero fighter soon joined them.

At least four Japanese navy pilots chalked up at least three kills while at the controls of floatplanes, most in the A6M-2N: CPO Shigeji Kawai, WO Kiyomi Katsuki, CPO Keizo Yamaza, and CPO Maruyama, although it should be noted that Katuski downed his first aircraft, a Dutch KNIL PBY, while flying an F1M2 Pete. Katsuki, who had 16 kills, spent at least some of his time flying from Kamikawa Maru.

IJN Seaplane Tender Kamikawa Maru in 1942, likely taken from Kimikawa Maru as her X tail code is on the Jake

E13A-34 Aichi with Kimikawa Maru’s X tail code

Their tail codes:

  • Kamikawa Maru– ZII (15 November 1940) ZI (September 1941) Z (May 1942) YI (14 July 1942)
    L-1 (1943)
  • Kunikawa Maru– YII tail code (November 1942) L-2 (January 1943)
  • Kiyokawa Maru– R (1941) RI (14 July 1942–November 1942)
  • Kimikawa Maru– X (December 1941) C21 (1943)

Once the big balloon went up in December 1941, these four freighters-turned-carriers were used extensively across the Pacific.

Kamikawa Maru would participate in the Malaya campaign and the Battle of the Coral Sea then sail with the fleet for Midway, going on to play a big part in the Aleutians campaign. She would then switch to the Guadalcanal Campaign, and be sent to the bottom by torpedoes from USS Scamp (SS-277) northwest of Kavieng, New Ireland in May 1943.

Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete reconnaissance floatplane on the catapult of the seaplane carrier Kamikawa Maru, 1942

A6M2-N Type 2 floatplane fighter, Sep-Oct 1942, on seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru

Japanese Navy Aichi E13A seaplane, most likely from the seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru. The location of the photo is unknown but may be at Deboyne Islands in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Kamikawa Maru, with a deck chock full of planes

A6M2-N ‘Rufe’ seaplane pilots deployed from the Kamikawa Maru under the command of ace Kiyomi Katsuki, in middle, digging a trench in the Aleutians, 1943.

Kiyokawa Maru helped capture Guam and Wake Island in December 1941, then was later rerated as a transport. She was ultimately sunk in an air raid at Kaminoseki in 1945 but was later raised and returned to a brief merchant career.

A6M2 Rufe hydro fighters with the R tail code of Kiyokawa Maru

Lae-Salamaua Strike, 10 March 1942 Enlargement of the picture of KIYOKAWA MARU (Japanese seaplane tender, 1937-1945), showing what appears to be a bomb hole aft. Note planes on deck-three Mitsubishi F1M2 (“Pete”) and one E8N2 (“Dave”). Taken by a VT-5 TBD-1, from the USS YORKTOWN (CV-5) air group. NH 95446

Kimikawa Maru, like her sister Kamikawa Maru, would take part in the Midway and Aleutian campaign in 1942-43. A line would be drawn through her name on Poseidon’s ledger in October 1944 after an encounter with the submarine USS Sawfish (SS-276) off Luzon’s Cape Bojeador.

KIMIKAWA MARU (Japanese Seaplane Tender) Photographed in April 1943, at Ominato Bay, Japan, with a load of “PETE” seaplanes aft. NH 73056

Kunikawa Maru would go on to live through a myriad of actions in the Solomons, including the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, and assorted convoy duties until she hit a mine off Balikpapan in March 1944 and was never the same again. She would be finished for good by an airstrike in May 1945 in that Borneo port.

Petes & Rufes on the beach somewhere in the South Pacific, possibly Tulagi Harbor in the Solomons, although I have seen this captioned elsewhere as being in the Marshall Islands. The foreground F1M2 has tail code “L2” of Kunikawa Maru

Another view of the same

By the end of the war, all of the K-Marus had been sunk and their planes either shot down, abandoned or otherwise captured.

Japanese Navy Type 0 Reconnaissance E13A ‘Jake’ at Imajuku, Kyushu Island 1945 

In all, the K-Maru carriers were an interesting concept, a quick and easy way to send a small expeditionary airwing to sea short of converting the ships to more proper escort carriers such as done by the Allies.

A very interesting postwar interrogation of CDR Kintaro Miura, Kamikawa Maru‘s senior air officer from the outbreak of war until December 1942, is in the NHHC archives.

Several scale models of these vessels and their aircraft are in circulation, as is their accompanying artwork, and they have sparked the imagination of warship fans the world over.

Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete floatplane by Robert Taylor. L2 Tail code indicates the plane belongs to the Kunikawa Maru a cargo ship converted to a seaplane tender

Specs:


Displacement: 6,863 tons standard
Length: 479 feet
Beam: 62 feet
Draft: 30 feet
Installed power: 7,600 shp
Propulsion: 1 Kawasaki-M. A. N. diesel, 1 shaft
Speed: 19.5 knots, 17 in military service
Armament: 2 x 5.9-inch, 2 x Type 96 25 mm (0.98 in) AA, 2 x 13.2 mm (0.52 in) MG
Aircraft carried: 12-18 seaplanes (24 stored)
Aviation facilities: Two catapults, cranes

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Motortorpedbåt T 28 i full fart i skärgården 1943 Fo196168

All photos, Swedish Sjöhistoriska Museet maritime museum unless noted. This one is file no. Fo196168

Here we see HSwMS T 28, a T 21-class motortorpedbåt (motor torpedo boat) of the Svenska Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) in 1943 as she planes on her stern, her bow completely above the waves. If she looks fast, that’s because she was– like 50 knots fast.

The Swedes in the 1930s had the misfortune of being sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and a newly ambitious Soviet Union, both having come up on the losing side of the Great War and suffered much during the generation immediately following. This fear went into overdrive as World War II began.

With a lot of valuable coast to protect, the Flottan’s plan to do so was the new Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)-class of three fast cruisers (kryssaren) who were to each serve as a flotilla flagship of a squadron of four destroyers and six motor torpedo boats while three  pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”) bathtub battleships would form a strategic reserve.

For the above-mentioned MTBs, Stockholm turned south, shopping with the Baglietto Varazze shipyard in Italy– which is still around as a luxury yacht maker). Baglietto’s “velocissimo” type torpedo boat, MAS 431, had premiered in 1932 and was lighting quick but still packed a punch.

MAS 431, via Baglietto

Just 52.5-feet long overall, MAS 431 was powered by a pair of Fiat gasoline engines, packing 1,500hp in a hull that weighed but 12-tons. The 41-knot vessel carried a pair of forward-oriented 18-inch torpedoes, a couple of light machine guns, six 110-pound depth charges for submarines (she had a hydrophone aboard) and was manned by a crew of seven.

MAS 431 craft proved the basis for the very successful MAS 500 series boats, with more than two dozen completed. These boats used larger Isotta-Fraschini engines which coughed up 2,000hp while they could putter along on a pair of smaller 70hp Alpha Romero cruising motors. The Swedes directly purchased four of these (MAS 506, 508, 511, and 524) which became T 1114 in 1939. These 55-foot MTBs could make 47 knots.

MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina

However, the Swedes weren’t in love with the wooden hulls of the Italian boats and went to design their own follow-up class of MTBs in 1941. The resulting T 15 class, built locally by Kockums with some support from Italy, went 22-tons in weight due to their welded steel hulls. However, by installing larger Isotta-Fraschini IF 183 series engines, they could still make 40+ knots.

Swedish Motortorpedbåt T 15. 5 Just four of these craft would be built by Kockums. The camo scheme and white “neutral” racing stripe were standard for Sweden’s wartime fleet. Fo101806

Nonetheless, there was still room for improvement. Upgrading to larger 21-inch torpedo tubes and stretching the hull to 65-feet, the T 21 class carried 3,450hp of supercharged 18-cylinder IF 184 engines which allowed a speed listed as high as 50 knots in Swedish journals. They certainly were a seagoing mash-up of Volvo and Ferrari.

T 28 MTB Fo200188

Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A

T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB

Besides the torpedoes, the craft was given a 20mm AAA gun in a semi-enclosed mount behind the pilothouse while weight and space for two pintle-mounted 6.5mm machine guns on either side of the house and one forward was reserved. As many as six depth charges were also carried.

Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21

The T 21s proved more numerous than the past Swedish MTB attempts, with a total of 11 boats produced by 1943. They proved invaluable in what was termed the Neutralitetsvakten (neutrality patrol) during the rest of WWII.

Assorted Swedish splinter boats clustered at Galo Island in Stockholm, 1943. (Motortorpedbåtar vid Gålö år 1943 Fo88679A)

Hkn Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, who in the 1970s served as heir to his nephew King Carl XVI Gustaf, clocked in on Swedish torpedo boats during the first part of WWII before he was reassigned in 1943 as a naval attaché to London.

HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden aboard a torpedo boat, holding a pair of binoculars Nordiska Museet NMA.0028790

Due to their steel hulls, the craft proved much more durable than comparable plywood American PT-boats or the Italian MAS boats and, while the latter’s days were numbered immediately after WWII, the Swedish T 21s endured until 1959, still keeping the peace on the front yard of the Cold War.

In late 1940s service and throughout the 1950s they carried a more sedate grey scheme.

1947 Janes entry

Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A

T24, note another of her class forward, with the M40 20mm cannon showing

Swedish torpedo boat Motortorpedbåten T29, 1950 Gota Canal. Note the 20mm cannon, which is now better protected, and the depth charges with two empty racks. The Swedes, then as now, were not squeamish when it came to dropping cans on suspect sonar contacts in their home waters. 

The T 21s were later augmented by the similar although up-gunned (40mm Bofors) T 38 class and finally replaced by the much-improved Spica-class, which remained in use through the 1980s with the same sort of tasking as the craft that preceded them.

At 139-feet oal, the Spicas were more than twice as long as the T 21s and carried a half-dozen torpedoes in addition to a 57mm Bofors gun.

However, that welded steel hull and the mild salinity of the Baltic has meant that at least one of the old T 21s, T 26 to be clear, has been preserved as a working museum ship in her Cold War colors and is still poking around, although she probably could not make her original designed speed at this point.

Fo196168

Update 9/2/2020: Motortorpedbåten T28, which has been in private hands since 1970 and stored ashore, is now undergoing further preservation as a running museum ship in Sweden. 

Specs:

Displacement: 28 tons
Length: 65.66-feet
Beam: 15.75-feet
Draft: Puddle
Engines: 2 Isotta-Fraschini IF184 supercharged gas engines, 3450hp
Speed: 50 knots max
Range:
Crew: 7 to 11
Armament:
2 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
1 20 mm LuftVärnskanon M.40 AAA gun, rear
up to 6 6.5mm machine guns (if using dual mounts on three pintles)
6 depth charges

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

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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

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, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

(Photos: Karlskronavarvet/Marinmuseum)

Here we see a colorized photo of the Swedish pansarskepp HSvMS Dristigheten (Swedish= “The Boldness”) passing under the iconic Levensau High Bridge in Germany’s Kiel Canal during a visit to that country, between 1912 and 1927.

Pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”), or pansarbats, were a peculiar design that was popular in the Baltic from about 1900-45. These short, shallow-draft ships could hug the coastline and hide from larger capital ships while carrying big enough guns to be able to brutally bring the pain to any landing ship escorted by a shallow draft light cruiser or destroyer approaching from offshore. Sweden had kept out of wars since Napoleon was around, but she was still very wary of not only Russian and German but also British designs on the Baltic. With her neutrality only as good as the ships that could protect it, the country built a series of 15 coastal defense vessels, or pansarskepps, from 1886-1918.

Sometimes referred to as battleships, or cruisers, these warships were really neither. Nor were they destroyers.

They were pansarskepps.

Sandwiched roughly in the middle of these vessels was Dristigheten, preceded by the trio of Svea-class vessels (3,200-tons, 2×10-inch guns) and a matching threesome of Oden-class ships (3,445-tons, 2×10-inch guns), while she was followed by eight more advanced Aran, Oscar II, and Sverige-class ships.

A standalone vessel, Dristigheten was laid down at Lindholmen, Goteborg in October 1898 just after the world was amazed by the recent steel navy combat that was the Spanish-American War. While most of Sweden’s pocket battleships carried names drawn from Norse mythology or the country’s royal family, Dristigheten is a traditional Swedish warship name going back to the 18th Century where it was carried by a 64-gun ship whose figurehead is preserved to this day.

Some 3,600-tons, she was just 292-feet overall or about the size of small frigate these days. However, she had as much as 247mm (that’s pushing 10-inches) of good (for the time) Harvey nickel-steel armor and a pair of domestically-produced 209mm/43cal M1898 naval rifles.

One of those pretty 209mm/43s. Dristigheten, the first to mount such guns in the Swedish Navy, carried one forward and one aft. She was also the first Swedish naval ship to use water tube boilers.

These 8.3-inch guns, as noted by the 1914 Janes, could fire a 275-pound AP shell on a blend of special Bofors-made nitro-compound that was capable of penetrating 9.5-inches of armor at 3,000 yards. A half-dozen smaller 152mm guns were the secondary battery. A dozen 6-pdr and 1-pdr popguns would ward off torpedo boats. As such, she was the first Swedish capital ship with only quick-fire artillery. A pair of submerged torpedo tubes added to the party favors.

Commissioning 5 September 1901, Dristigheten was a happy ship and was inspected on several occasions by King Oscar II of Sweden, a septuagenarian who had joined his country’s navy at age 11.

The picture shows four Swedish armored ships Göta, Wasa, Äran, Dristigheten (without her later tripod foremast which was fitted in 1912) and collier Stockholm, which anchors during the winter season in Karlskrona’s naval harbor. Ships are flagged for King Oscar II’s birthday on January 21, 1903. The boats frozen solid in the ice and people can be seen moving around on the pack. (2289×1213)

1899 impression of the Swedish fleet with several Swedish pansarbats featured including #2. ODEN (1896) #3. THOR (1898) #4. NIORD (1898) and #5. DRISTIGHETEN (1900), then under construction. Via Karlskronavarvet 11788 (2778×728)

For a quarter-century, Dristigheten steamed around European waters, showing the flag, training naval cadets and visiting friends (Sweden knew nothing but friends, although some were friendlier than others).

Swedish coast defense ship DRISTIGHETEN, note the early single foremast she carried from 1900-1912

Postcard of the Swedish battleship HMS Dristigheten in Algiers, 1906

Dristigheten, 1920, Bordeaux. Note the tripod foremast, added in 1912.

The non-colorised version of the Kiel photo (Marinmuseum Fo113541A)

While the Baltic would freeze over, she would traditionally voyage on a long-haul winter cruise (in times of peace) to the Mediterranean, visiting Southern Europe and North Africa. Malta, Tangier, Vigo, Salonika, Suda Bay, Toulon, Bizerte, and Smyrna all saw the big Swede on a semi-regular basis.

Janes listed her as a “battleship” in 1902, 1914, and 1919. A 3,600-ton battleship.

During WWI, she, along with the rest of the pansarbats, kept a cautious neutrality in Swedish waters between the warring Allies (composed of the Tsar’s Baltic fleet and the occasional British submarine) and German surface and untersee units.

Once the war ended, the days of these plucky ships were numbered, with the goal of bringing more modern cruisers and destroyers online while keeping a few of the newer pansarbats around as a strategic reserve.

As such, in 1927 Dristigheten was refitted as a seaplane carrier (flygmoderfaryget.) With this conversion, she lost her big guns and torpedo tubes, trading them in for a few smaller caliber AAAs and the capability to handle a few floatplanes as well as tend small craft such as patrol boats and coastal gunboats. Also gone was her aft mast. Her magazine space was largely converted to avgas bunkerage.

The Swedish Navy’s Marinens Flygväsende (MFV) at the time flew a host of early Friedrichshafen and Hansa models with Dristigheten lifting these recon seaplanes from her deck to take off on the water and retrieving them from the drink on their return. In her later years, she carried Heinkel HD 16/19s

She continued her service as a seaplane tender through WWII, during which she was augmented with a dozen additional AAAs and served as a key mothership for coastal patrol/artillery units.

Dristigheten in Karlskrona WWII note camo. Note the 40mm Bofors mounts under weather protection.

Decommissioning 13 June 1947 after a solid half-century on the King’s naval list, Dristigheten was converted to a training hulk and target ship, continuing to serve for another 13 years, testing Sweden’s new weapons, keeping the fleet’s existing guns in action, and teaching fresh classes of sailors in damage control.

In 1960, the testing reached a tipping point and she sank.

Raised, she was scrapped in 1961, outliving most of her contemporaries.

Shown in the Oscarsdockan in Karlskrona

As for her contemporaries, she outlived almost all of them. For the record, the last of the pansarskepp-era mini-battleships, HSvMS Gustav V, was used as a training hulk and pier side until 1970 when she was scrapped.

Dristigheten is remembered extensively in maritime art.

Herman Gustav af Sillen Swedish, (1857–1908) “Dristigheten under stridsskjutning 1903.”

Pansarbat Dristigheten by Axel A. Fahlkrantz

Specs:

Displacement: 3,600 tons
Length: 292 ft overall
Beam: 48 ft 6 in
Draught: 16 ft 0
Propulsion: Steam triple-expansion engines, 2 screws, 8 Yarrow boilers, 5,570 shp
Speed: 16.8 kn
Range: 2,040 nmi at 10 kn on 310 tons coal. 400 tons maximum coal would allow for “6 days at full speed.”
Complement: 262 (1901) up to 400 as tender
Armament:
(1900)
2 x 209 mm/44cal. Bofors 21 cm M/98
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
10 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs (Janes also lists a pair of 1-pdrs)
2 × 457 mm submerged torpedo tubes. Whitehead torpedoes (1901-1917) Karlskrona torpedoes (1917-22)
(1922)
2 x 210 mm/44cal. Bofors M/1898
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
8 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/16
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/19
(1927)
4 x 75mm/60cal. Bofors lvk M/26-28 AAA
2 x 40mm/56cal. Bofors lvk M/36 AAA
4 x 8 mm/75,8cal. lvksp M/36 MGs
Armor: Harvey Nickel: 247mm in the conning tower, 6-8 inches main belt, barbettes, and turrets; 4-inches casemates, 2-inches deck.
Aircraft carried (1927-47) : 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

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, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

(1500×1000)

Here we see the Regia Marina’s very proud seaplane carrier, Giuseppe Miraglia, at anchor in the 1930s. A true-life example of what today would be seen as a dieselpunk aesthetic, the Italian navy views her as an important predecessor of their modern pocket carriers– Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi— today.

Italy got into the seaplane tender biz in February 1915 when they bought the aging 392-ft./7,100-ton Spanish-built freighter Quarto and, as Europa, converted the vessel to operate a half-dozen or so FBA flying boats. Taking part in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto against the bottled-up Austro-Hungarian fleet in 1917, she was discarded after the war.

Italian seaplane carrier Europa, in service 1915-1920. Note her method of flying boat storage

Fast forward to the mid-1920s, and Italian rivals Britain and France had newer and more modern seaplane carriers (such as HMAS/HMS Albatross and Commandant Teste, the latter carrying 26 aircraft) on the drawing board. This left the Italian Navy with a need for a warship that could pack a lot of (sea)planes once again.

In 1925, Rome bought the incomplete passenger/mail steamer Citta di Messina and, sending her to the Regio Arsenale Della Spezia for completion, produced Giuseppe Miraglia.

The vessel was renamed in honor of Tenente di vascello Giuseppe Miraglia, an early Italian naval aviator killed in an accident in 1915 at age 27.

This guy

Early in the war, he made headlines in the country by leading his seaplane squadron over Austrian-held Trieste in a raid that was widely celebrated.

She wasn’t a giant ship, just under 400-feet long with a light draft of 4,500-tons. But Miraglia was fast enough for naval use (21 knots) and with enough room for as many as 20 seaplanes of assorted sizes.

For this, she was well-equipped with two below-deck hangars in what was to be the steamship’s holds, each equipped with catapults and cranes for launching and recovery, respectively. Inside the hangars were room for spare parts including fresh engines, a few spare aircraft in “knocked down” crated condition, tools, and handling equipment.

Note her hangar arrangement fore and aft of her stack

Many of the planned staterooms which originally were meant for 1st and 2nd class passengers were completed for aircrew instead. A central ordnance magazine and avfuel storage were accessible from each hangar.

All those Macchis…

The twin hangars could each hold 5-6 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes with their wings folded while additional aircraft “parking” was available topside for a couple extra boats.

A pusher-style biplane flying boat, the M.18AR was one of the more successful “combat” seaplanes of the 1920s and 30s, serving not only with the Italians but with the Spanish Navy‘s early seaplane carrier Dédalo (Dedalus) during the Civil War in that country as well as against Moroccan rebels, but also with the Paraguayan Navy during the Chaco War.

The open cockpit three-seat scout bombers were the staple of the Aviazione per la Regina Marina for much of the interwar period, capable of toting a few small bombs and a 7.7mm machine gun aloft with a 300~ mile combat radius.

A flight of Macchi 18ARs with the Aeronáutica Naval Española, impressive airpower for the roaring 20s.

By 1930, the Macchi aircraft were replaced largely with Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes and, after 1937, with the smaller but more modern IMAM Ro.43, which at least had a closed cockpit and two machine guns rather than just one– although carried no bombs.

Recovering an IMAM Ro.43 seaplane, the standard Italian Navy’s floatplane that flew from not only Miraglia but also all her cruisers and battleships from 1937 onward

Miraglia’s topside deck was protected by 50mm of armor to stave off air attacks not scared off by her AAA suite of a dozen Breda machine guns while a quartet of 4-inch guns could take shots at closing destroyers or torpedo boats. She had a side belt of between 70 and 80mm (sources vary).

Miraglia entered service 1 November 1927 and was used in the disgrace that was the Italo-Ethiopian War in the late 1930s to transport aircraft to the theatre.

With six Macchi seaplanes on deck, underway

Note the Macchi ready to cat. The ship carried one Gagnotto-made catapult forward…

…And another aft. Also, note the 4-inch gun under the cat on the aft stdb quarter

Italian ship GIUSEPPE MIRAGLIA. Italy – CVAN. Circa 1935. Note the seaplanes on her hangar decks. NH 111421

When WWII came, she somehow managed to not catch a British torpedo or American bomb while serving in the Mediterranean although she was present in the harbor for the raid on Taranto in 1940. She spent most of the war as a transport and testbed, rather than in operations.

Later in the conflict, the zippy little Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I “Catapultabile” monoplane, which could be catapulted off by not recovered by the vessel, made an appearance on the ship.

The Re.2000 Catapultabile (MM.8281) on a topside catapult of Giuseppe Miraglia ready for take-off, May 1942. Less than a dozen of these variants were used during WWII. The planes were planned for the unfinished 27,000-ton Italian aircraft carrier L’ Aquila but cut their teeth on Miraglia.

Following the shit-canning of Mussolini, Miraglia sailed to Malta in 1943 to be interned under British guns and served the rest of the war as a receiving ship for Italian sailors from smaller vessels.

Meanwhile, Italy’s first planned aircraft carrier– a respectable 772-foot leviathan by the name of L’Aquila (Eagle) converted from an unfinished ocean liner– was left under construction at Genoa. Although it was envisioned she would carry up to 56 aircraft, the Italian eagle was never completed and finally scrapped at La Spezia in 1952. A sistership, Sparviero, never even got that far, making Miraglia the sole Italian aviation ship fielded in WWII.

The unfinished Italian aircraft carrier “Aquila” tied up at La Spezia sometime following Italy’s surrender in WWII.

Italian aircraft carrier Aquila in 1950, pending her conversion to razor blades

Following the end of the war, with the general disfavor of seaplanes and seaplane carriers of the time, Miraglia was retained at Taranto as a PT boat tender until 1950 when she was disposed of. Jane’s, in their often confusing 1946-47 volume, noted that she was to be refitted as a supply ship.

Giuseppe Miraglia 1946-47 Janes listing

Giuseppe Miraglia, 1946-47 Janes listing, where she was one of the few Italian ships left from WWII

The spark rekindled

Italian Naval Aviation languished for a full decade following VE-Day, only restarting on a limited scale when a few Bell-Augusta AB-47G helicopters were handed over to the Navy for shipboard service in 1956.

By 1969, Vittorio Veneto, a so-called “helicopter cruiser,” was in service, capable of carrying six SH-3D Sea Kings or larger numbers of smaller whirlybirds.

Vittorio Veneto was all cruiser in the front…

But a party in the back…ITS Vittorio Veneto (C550) view from the stern with raised deck and hangar beneath.

Finally, in 1990 the Italian government placed an order for several AV-8B Harriers for use on the newly completed light aircraft carrier Garibaldi, returning the country’s fleet to a fixed-wing capability that it hadn’t seen since Miraglia steamed for exile in Malta in 1943.

Today, it is thought that the carrier Cavour will carry a squadron of operational Italian F-35Bs by 2023, almost a century after Miraglia was conceived.

Italian aircraft carrier Cavour

Specs:


Displacement, full load: 5.913 t
Length: 397.72 ft.
Beam: 49.18 ft.
Draft: 19 ft.
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow water tube boilers, 2 groups of steam turbines with Parsons type reducer, 2 propellers with three blades, 16,700 HP, 430 tons oil.
Speed: 21 knots
Crew: (196) not counting airwing, as follows:
16 officers
40 NCOs
140 enlisted
Armament:
4 x 102/35 Schneider-Armstrong naval rifles
12 x 13.2 mm Breda machine guns
Airwing:
2 Gagnotto steam catapults in bow and stern
2 aircraft hangars for 5-6 planes with folded wings (total of 11 seaplanes)
2 depots for 3 dismantled aircraft, each
17 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes (1927-30), 20 Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes (1931-36) up to 20 IMAM Ro.43s (1937-43)

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Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

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 their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97629

Here we see the Barnegat-class seaplane tender, converted to a floating command ship, USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), illuminated at night during a two-day visit to Basra, Iraq, as Middle East Force flagship in December 1960. You start life wanting to refuel PBYs and end up bobbing around the Persian Gulf for years…

The 41 Barnegats were 2,500-ton, 311-foot long armed auxiliaries capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs.

All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

The subject of our story, USS Duxbury Bay, is named for a popular 3-mile long bay on the coast of Massachusetts between Duxbury Beach on the east, Saquish Neck on the southeast, and the mainland on the west. The bay is also home to a maritime school that currently cycles through some 2,000 young mariners per year, so there’s that.

Laid down at the Lake Washington Shipyards, in Houghton, Washington, she was a fine craft easily mistaken for a destroyer escort or patrol frigate, as exhibited by these pre-commissioning builder’s photos:

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed off the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, on 28 December 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 33 Design 1F. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-82815

19-N-82816

19-N-82817

Commissioned on New Year’s Eve, 1944, she sailed for the war in the Pacific, arriving to support the 3rd Fleet at Kerama Retto off Okinawa, 26 April 1945 and fought in the campaign for that island through June, tending both seaplanes and small craft/PT-boats when needed while dodging kamikazes.

In July, Duxbury Bay shifted to Japanese home waters before ending the war off China. She served on occupation duty in the Far East through 13 July 1948, with two short breaks stateside, supporting patrol squadrons at Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan; Jinsen, Korea; Shanghai and Tsingtao, China; before the victory of the Communists under Mao brought a general evacuation from the latter area.

In all, Duxbury earned two battle stars for World War II service and suffered no damage, the latter an accomplishment for any ship.

Starting 17 March 1949, she left Long Beach, California on a five-month circumnavigation sailing through the Pacific and Med to Norfolk, where she arrived in time for the Independence Day holiday.

While on this trip, she tagged in as the flagship of Task Force 126, the small body of U.S. warships and auxiliaries in the Middle East, primarily in the Persian Gulf.

During WWII, the so-called “Persian Corridor” was a vital route through Iran into Soviet Azerbaijan that the Allies used to pump over 4 million tons of Lend-Lease supplies through to the East Front– and turn Tehran away from Axis influence. While the Persian Gulf Command sunsetted in late 1945, TF 126 kept the lights on for the Navy in the increasingly important part of the globe.

Duxbury Bay would see much more of the region.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed during the decade following World War II in haze gray. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97626

Beginning in 1950, the Navy disestablished TF 126 and replaced it with the Middle East Force, which would be made up of two rotating destroyers and a dedicated flagship, which would also rotate. The three command ships for the MEF were all converted Barnegat-class ships: USS Valcour (AVP-55), USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41) and our very own Duxbury— the oldest of the lot and the only one of the trio that had seen overseas WWII service.

Among the conversions done to the vessels were the installation of air conditioning and extensive canvas awnings over the decks, a white paint job to help reflect heat and show their status as “peace boats” (which earned them the title of the “Little White Fleet” a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet”), more commo gear, and a reduction in armament.

In general, the three flagships would swap out every four months and conduct leisurely cruises back and forth through the Med, waving the flag everywhere they went. As time went by, they became very active in President Eisenhower’s People-to-People program, delivering humanitarian aid ranging from food to coloring books and sewing machines in small backwater ports throughout the region– remember, as long as the harbor was at least 12 feet deep, they were good-to-go, and they went!

They served not only as a task group commander, interacting with Western allies (they were familiar sights at HMS Jufair, the Royal Navy base in Bahrain and its counterpart, HMS Sheba in Aden) but as a growing diplomatic tool for the State Department and U.S. companies (think=oil) looking to do business in the region, hosting state visits from local leaders and royalty (Duxford herself carried Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to Somaliland in 1953).

The ships performed search-and-rescue missions for lost aviators and overdue boats, helped evac Western civilians in times of tension, served on the periphery of the 1956 Suez Crisis (which sent rotating MEF ships around the Cape of Good Hope rather than through the Med), and just generally served as modern station ships, a throw back to the old 19th century practise of gun boat diplomacy.

Now gleaming white, photographed in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 3 October 1957. Note her lack of 5-inch mounts. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed during the late 1950s. Note the extensive awnings fitted. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95370

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed in the Shatt-al-Arab off Basra, Iraq, during her visit there on 12-14 December 1961 as Middle East Force flagship. Note she has the old-school Navy seaplane tender marking complete with pre-WWII “meatball” by her hull number. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102678

In all, Duxbury Bay served 15 tours of duty in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean as flagship for ComMidEastFor between 1950 and 1966, plus her original stint with TF 126.

While on stateside “down time” at Norfolk, she participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, refueed the occasional seaplane, helped run UDTs and amphibious training out of Little Creek, and was on the USS Kearsarge battle group that plucked Maj. Gordon Cooper’s “Faith 7,” the last Mercury space mission, out of the Atlantic on 16 May 1963 after 22 orbits.

Navy frogmen deploy from a hovering helicopter to begin the recovery process of the Mercury-Atlas 9 “Faith 7” Capsule, with astronaut Gordon Cooper on board. Accession #: UA 343.01 Catalog #: UA 343.01.02

After 15 rotations, it was decided to move to a more permanent forward-deployed flag and two of the three members of the LWF was pulled from service.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed ca. 1965 as Middle East Force flagship in her final configuration. She received a new mast and air search radar and a deck house extension during her last shipyard overhaul in the summer of 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 69826

Duxbury Bay was decommissioned on 30 April 1966, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the next day. Both Duxberry and Greenwich Bay were sold for scrapping in July 1967, with just over 20~ years of service on their hulls.

Of their sisters, many endured for a good while longer than Duxbury.

These hardy seaplane tenders gave yeoman service to the Coast Guard and Navy through the Vietnam conflict. The last member of the LWF, Valcour, remained as the standalone forward deployed flag for the Middle East Force, dubbed AGF-1, until she was relieved by USS La Salle (AGF-3) in 1972. Valcour went to the scrappers herself in 1977.

The last of the Barnegat afloat was the USS Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacto, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, South Vietnamese, and Philippine navies that was finally withdrawn from frontline service with the later in 1993. She endured another decade as a pierside hulk used for the occasional training until she was sent to the breakers in 2003.

The closest thing to a monument for these vessels is the USS/USCGC Unimak (AVP-31/WAVP/WHEC/WTR-379), the last of the class in U.S. service, which was sunk in 1988 as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast in 150 feet of water after three years with the Navy and 40 with the Coaties. .

For their part, veterans from our ship visit Duxbury Bay in Mass often and hold ceremonies to remember their vessel.

As for the Middle East Force, it grew into CENTCOM in 1983, with the Navy contingent labeled United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) of course, and it is quite a bit larger than three little white seaplane tenders.

Also, if you are in Texas, Faith 7 is currently displayed at Space Center Houston.

Specs:

Barnegat type AVPs, WWII configuration, via Shipbucket

Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 311′ 6″
Beam 41′ 1″
Draft 12′ 5″
Speed 18.2 knots (trial)
Fuel Capacities
Diesel 2,055 Bbls
Gasoline 84,340 Gals
Propulsion
Fairbanks-Morse, 38D8 1/2 Diesel engines
single Fairbanks-Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C.
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
two propellers, 6,400shp
8,000 miles at 15.6 knots
Complement (as designed)
USN
Officers 14
Enlisted 201
USN Aviation Squadrons
Officers 59
Enlisted 93
Armament:
(1945)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
four twin 20mm AA gun mounts
depth charge racks
(1950)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
one Mk 52 Mod 3 director
one Mk 26 fire control radar
(1957)
one quad 40mm AA gun mount (deleted 1962)
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts (deleted 1962)
Assorted .50 cal M2 machine guns, small arms

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday Dec. 7, 2016: The eclipsing old bird of Battleship Row

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 Dec. 7, 2016: The eclipsing old bird of Battleship Row

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-32445

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-32445

Here we see the Lapwing (“old bird”)-class minesweeper-turned-seaplane tender USS Avocet (AVP-4) from atop a building at Naval Air Station Ford Island, looking toward the Navy Yard. USS Nevada (BB-36) is at right, with her bow afire. Beyond her is the burning USS Shaw (DD-373). Smoke at left comes from the destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375), ablaze in Drydock Number One. The day, of course, is December 7, 1941 and you can see the gunners aboard Avocet looking for more Japanese planes (they had already smoked one) at about the time the air raid ended.

Inspired by large seagoing New England fishing trawlers, the Lapwings were 187-foot long ships that were large enough, at 965-tons full, to carry a pair of economical reciprocating diesel engines (or two boilers and one VTE engine) with a decent enough range to make it across the Atlantic on their own (though with a blisteringly slow speed of just 14 knots when wide open on trials.)

Not intended to do much more than clear mines, they were given a couple 3″/23 pop guns to discourage small enemy surface combatants intent to keep minesweepers from clearing said mines. The class leader, Lapwing, designated Auxiliary Minesweeper #1 (AM-1), was laid down at Todd in New York in October 1917 and another 53 soon followed. While five were canceled in November 1918, the other 48 were eventually finished– even if they came to the war a little late.

Which leads us to the hero of our tale, USS Avocet, named after a long-legged, web-footed shore bird found in western and southern states– the first such naval vessel to carry the moniker. Laid down as Minesweeper No. 19 on 13 September 1917 at Baltimore, Maryland by the Baltimore Drydock & Shipbuilding Co, she was commissioned just over a year later on 17 September 1918– some seven weeks before the end of the Great War.

USS AVOCET (AM-19) at Baltimore, Maryland, 28 September 1918. Catalog #: NH 57468

USS AVOCET (AM-19) at Baltimore, Maryland, 28 September 1918. Catalog #: NH 57468. Note the large searchlight on her fwd mast.

After spending eight months assigned to the Fifth Naval District, where she drug for possible German mines up and down the Eastern seaboard, she landed her 3-inchers and prepared to ship for the North Sea where she would pitch in to clear the great barrage of mines sown there to shut off the Kaiser’s U-boats from the Atlantic. Setting out with sisterships Quail (Minesweeper No. 15) and Lark (Minesweeper No. 21), the three sweeps made it to the Orkney Islands by 14 July 1919 where they joined Whippoorwill (Minesweeper No. 35) and Avocet was made flag of the four-ship division.

Spending the summer sweeping (and almost being blown sky high by a British contact mine that bumped up against her hull) Avocet sailed back home in October, rescuing the crew of the sinking Spanish schooner Marie Geresee on the way.

It would not be her last rescue.

After being welcomed by the SECNAV and inspected at Hampton Roads, Avocet would transfer to the Pacific for the rest of her career. Assigned to the Asiatic Fleet’s Minesweeping Detachment in 1921, she would become a familiar sight at Cavite in the Philippines where she was decommissioned 3 April 1922 and laid up.

Reactivated in 1925, she was converted to an auxiliary aircraft tender taking care of the seaplanes of VT-20 and VT-5A (with men from that squadron living on board a former coal barge, YC-147, moored alongside) as well as visiting British flying boats and Army amphibian aircraft at Bolinao Harbor while putting to sea on occasion to tow battle raft targets for fleet gunnery practice.

Tending the flock: Avocet with two T4M floatplanes of VT-5 in Manila Bay circa early 1932. One aircraft is afloat under the ship's aircraft handling boom aft while the other is on a wooden Navy open lighter (YC-147) amidships. Men from the aircraft squadron also lived in the tents on the barge. Luxury, you are the Asiatic Fleet! The T4M, the ultimate evolution of the Martin SC-1 series, was a hearty torpedo bomber scout with a range pushing 700 nms. The Navy ordered 102 of the planes and they remained in service until the late 1930s.

Tending the flock: Avocet with two T4M floatplanes of VT-5 in Manila Bay circa early 1932. One aircraft is afloat under the ship’s aircraft handling boom aft while the other is on a wooden Navy open lighter (YC-147) amidships. Men from the aircraft squadron also lived in the tents on the barge. Luxury, you are the Asiatic Fleet! The T4M, the ultimate evolution of the Martin SC-1 series, was a hearty torpedo bomber scout with a range pushing 700 nms. The Navy ordered 102 of the planes and they remained in service until the late 1930s. As for VT-5, they later flew carrier-based TBD Devastators from Yorktown (CV-5) and Saratoga until the type was retired in favor of the TBF-1 Avenger, at which point VT-5 was resurrected for the new Yorktown (CV-10)

In 1928, she got her teeth back when she was rearmed with a single more modern 3” /50 gun, and survived being grounded during a typhoon in Force 8 winds.

By 1932, Avocet was transferred to Hawaii to support Pearl Harbor-based flying boats. There, she was the first to support seaplanes at the remote French Frigate Shoals and outlying lagoons at Laysan and Nihoa as well as Midway.

Heavy cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31) steaming past the Fleet Air Base at Pearl Harbor, T.H., January 1933. USS AVOCET (AM-19), serving as an aircraft tender, is at the dock. Note cane fields being burned at upper right. Catalog #: 80-CF-21338-4

Heavy cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31) steaming past the Fleet Air Base at Pearl Harbor, T.H., January 1933. USS AVOCET (AM-19), serving as an aircraft tender, is at the dock. Note cane fields being burned at upper right. Catalog #: 80-CF-21338-4

In 1934, the aging tender served as flagship for Rear Adm. Alfred W. Johnson and was used in expeditionary missions in Nicaragua, crossing into the Caribbean to Haiti, then back to the Pacific. Talk about diverse!

In August 1934, Avocet supported VP-7F and VP- 9F in Alaskan waters with early Douglas PD-1 floatplanes to test the ability of tenders to provide advance base support in cold weather conditions.

Image of Avocet as a seaplane tender likely in the late 1920s with what looks like a Martin T3M-2 torpedo bomber from the Pearl Harbor-based Torpedo Squadron 3 (VT-3) on her stern. The Navy ordered an even 100 of the planes in 1926 and they served in both torpedo patrol squadrons and carrier-based scouting squadrons (on Lexington and Saratoga) into the early 1930s.

Image of Avocet as a seaplane tender likely in the late 1920s with what looks like a Martin T3M-2 torpedo bomber from the then-Pearl Harbor-based Torpedo Squadron 3 (VT-3) on her stern. The Navy ordered an even 100 of the planes in 1926 and they served in both torpedo patrol squadrons and carrier-based scouting squadrons (on Lexington and Saratoga) into the early 1930s. VT-3 itself, later flying TBD Devastators from the USS Yorktown, was annihilated at Midway.

As Trans-Pacific clippers came into their own, Avocet increasingly found herself in remote uninhabited tropical atolls, exploring their use for seaplane operations. This led her to bringing some 2-tons of high explosive to Johnson Atoll in 1936 to help blast away coral for a land base there.

On 6 May 1937, Avocet embarked the official 16-member National Geographic-U.S. Navy Eclipse Expedition under Capt. Julius F. Hellweg, USN (Ret.), the superintendent of the Naval Observatory to observe the total solar eclipse set to occur on June 8, 1937 with its peak somewhere over Micronesia.

The expedition took aboard 150 cases of instruments, 10,000 ft. of lumber and 60 bags of cement, remaining at sea for 42 days. In the end, they would watch the eclipse from Canton Island in the Phoenix chain, midway between British Fiji and Hawaii.

canton

According to DANFS, the event went down like this:

While returning to Enderbury to land observers on 24 May, the ship remained at Canton for the eclipse expedition through 8 June. Joined by the British sloop HMS Wellington on 26 May, with men from a New Zealand expedition embarked, Avocet observed the total eclipse of the sun at 0836 on 8 June 1937. Sailing for Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 9 June, the ship arrived at her destination on the 16th, disembarking her distinguished passengers upon arrival.

According to others, when HMS Wellington arrived at Canton Island– whose ownership was disputed at the time between the U.S. and HMs government– she fired a shot over Avocet‘s bow when the latter refused to cede the choicest anchorage spot to the British vessel after which both captains agreed to “cease fire” until instructions could be received from their respective governments.

The Grimsby-class sloop HMS Wellington (U65), some 1,500-tons with a battery of 4.7-inch MkIX guns was more than a match for the humble Avocet.

The Grimsby-class sloop HMS Wellington (U65), some 1,500-tons with a battery of 4.7-inch Mk IX guns was more than a match for the humble Avocet.

While this may or may not have happened, what is for  sure is there was an exchange of official diplomatic cables about the interaction on Canton that in the end led to a British reoccupation of the island in August 1937.

Where was Avocet by then? She was supporting the huge flattop USS Lexington (CV-2) by transferring avgas to her at Lahaina Roads for her aviators to use in searching the Pacific for the lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart, that’s where.

Then came more seaplane operations, supporting in turn the early Douglas T2D twin-engine torpedo bombers, Consolodated P2Y, and Martin PM2s of VP-4F, 6, 8 and 10 at varying times as well as the smaller single-engined T3/T4Ms of several VT squadrons while searching for lost flying boats including the famed Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B “Samoan Clipper.”

Avocet was in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 moored port side to the NAS dock where she had a view of Battleship Row.

From DANFS:

At about 0745 on Sunday, 7 December 1941, Avocet‘s security watch reported Japanese planes bombing the seaplane hangars at the south end of Ford Island, and sounded general quarters. Her crew promptly brought up ammunition to her guns, and the ship opened fire soon thereafter. The first shot from Avocet‘s starboard 3-inch gun scored a direct hit on a Nakajima B5N2 carrier attack plane that had just scored a torpedo hit on the battleship California (BB-44), moored nearby. The Nakajima, from the aircraft carrier Kaga‘s air group, caught fire, slanted down from the sky, and crashed on the grounds of the naval hospital, one of five such planes lost by Kaga that morning.

Initially firing at torpedo planes, Avocet‘s gunners shifted their fire to dive bombers attacking ships in the drydock area at the start of the forenoon watch. Then, sighting high altitude bombers overhead, they shifted their fire again. Soon thereafter, five bombs splashed in a nearby berth, but none exploded.

USS Avocet (AVP-4) at Berth Fox-1A, at Ford Island, prior to 1045 hrs. on 7 December, when she moved to avoid oil fires drifting southward along the shore of Ford Island. She is wearing Measure 1 camouflage (dark gray/light gray). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-32669

USS Avocet (AVP-4) at Berth Fox-1A, at Ford Island, prior to 1045 hrs. on 7 December, when she moved to avoid oil fires drifting southward along the shore of Ford Island. She is wearing Measure 1 camouflage (dark gray/light gray). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-32669

From her veritable ringside seat, Avocet then witnessed the inspiring sortie of the battleship Nevada (BB-36), the only ship of her type to get underway during the attack. Seeing the dreadnought underway, after clearing her berth astern of the burning battleship Arizona (BB-39), dive-bomber pilots from Kaga singled her out for destruction, 21 planes attacking her from all points of the compass. Avocet‘s captain, Lt. William C. Jonson, Jr., marveled at the Japanese precision, writing later that he had never seen “a more perfectly executed attack.” Avocet‘s gunners added to the barrage to cover the gallant battleship’s passage down the harbor.

USS Nevada (BB-36) headed down channel past the Navy Yard's 1010 Dock, under Japanese air attack during her sortie from Battleship Row. A camouflage Measure 5 false bow wave is faintly visible painted on the battleship's forward hull. Photographed from Ford Island. Small ship in the lower right is USS Avocet (AVP-4). Note fuel tank farm in the left center distance, beyond the Submarine Base. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97397

USS Nevada (BB-36) headed down channel past the Navy Yard’s 1010 Dock, under Japanese air attack during her sortie from Battleship Row. A camouflage Measure 5 false bow wave is faintly visible painted on the battleship’s forward hull. Photographed from Ford Island. Small ship in the lower right is USS Avocet (AVP-4). Note fuel tank farm in the left center distance, beyond the Submarine Base. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97397

Although the ship ceased fire at 1000, much work remained to be done in the wake of the devastating surprise attack. She had expended 144 rounds of 3-inch and 1,750 of .30 caliber [that’s a lot of 47-round Lewis machine gun drums!] in the battle against the attacking planes, and had suffered only two casualties: a box of ammunition coming up from the magazines had fallen on the foot of one man, and a piece of flying shrapnel had wounded another. Also during the course of the action, a sailor from the small seaplane tender Swan (AVP-7), unable to return to his own ship, had reported on board for duty, and was immediately assigned a station on a .30-caliber machine gun.

Fires on those ships had set oil from ruptured battleship fuel tanks afire, and the wind, from the northeast, was slowly pushing it toward Avocet‘s berth. Accordingly, the seaplane tender got underway at 1045, and moored temporarily to the magazine island dock at 1110, awaiting further orders, which were not long in coming. At 1115, she was ordered to help quell the fires still blazing on board California. Underway soon thereafter, she spent 20 minutes in company with the submarine rescue ship Widgeon (ASR-1) in fighting fires on board the battleship before Avocet was directed to proceed elsewhere.

Underway from alongside California at 1215, she reached the side of the gallant Nevada 25 minutes later, ordered to assist in beaching the battleship and fighting her fires. Mooring to Nevada‘s port bow at 1240, Avocet went slowly ahead, pushing her aground at channel buoy no. 19, with fire hoses led out to her forward spaces and her signal bridge. For two hours, Avocet fought Nevada‘s fires, and succeeded in quelling them.

USS Nevada (BB-36) aground and burning off Waipio Point, after the end of the Japanese air raid. Ships assisting her, at right, are the harbor tug Hoga (YT-146) and USS Avocet (AVP-4). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-33020

USS Nevada (BB-36) aground and burning off Waipio Point, after the end of the Japanese air raid. Ships assisting her, at right, are the harbor tug Hoga (YT-146) and USS Avocet (AVP-4). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-33020

No sooner had she completed that task than more work awaited her. At 1445, she got underway and steamed to the assistance of the light cruiser Raleigh (CL-7), which had been torpedoed alongside Ford Island early in the attack and was fighting doggedly to remain on an even keel. Avocet reached the stricken cruiser’s side at 1547, and remained there throughout the night, providing steam and electricity.

That night, at 2105, Avocet again went to general quarters as jittery gunners throughout the area fired on aircraft overhead. Tragically, these proved to be American, a flight of six fighters from the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6). Four were shot down; three pilots died.

Avocet was awarded one battlestar for her actions at Pearl Harbor.

However, her war was not over.

Augmented with 20mm guns, she was assigned to support the PBY flying boats of Fleet Air Wing 4, she arrived in Alaskan waters in July 1942. Despite the often bad flying weather, the Catalina-equipped squadrons tended by Avocet carried out extensive patrols, as well as bombing and photo missions over Japanese-held Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutians.

USS Avocet (AVP-4) In Elliott Bay, Seattle, Wash., on 1 March 1944. Her single 3"/50 (circled) gun is mounted in the original large tub that previously held two of these weapons. Photo No. 19-N-63708 Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

USS Avocet (AVP-4) In Elliott Bay, Seattle, Wash., on 1 March 1944. Her single 3″/50 (circled) gun is mounted in the original large tub that previously held two of 3″/23s when she was commissioned for the First World War. Also note her original foremast is gone, replaced by a lighter aerial between the wheelhouse and stack. Photo No. 19-N-63708 Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM

She came to the rescue of the torpedoed USS Casco (AVP-12), landed Navy Seebees and Army combat engineers on barren Alaska coastline, and served as a guard and rescue ship station throughout the Aleutians Campaign where she helped feed and care for Patrol Squadrons VP-41, 43, 51, and 62 (totaling some 11 PBY and 20 PBY-5A amphibious flying boats) which provided support for the cruisers and destroyers of Task Force Tare.

Avocet would meet the Japanese in combat at least one more time when on 19 May 1944, she sighted what she identified as a twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 “Betty” land attack plane west of Attu. The plane strafed the tiny ship and Avocet opened up with all she had, but both sides managed to retire from the field of battle without casualties.

She only left Alaskan waters in October, a month after the end of hostilities. When inspected on 20 November 1945 she was found beyond repair and soon decommissioned and struck from the Navy List.

Avocet was sold to a shipping company who used her as a hulk until at least 1950, and she is presumed scrapped sometime after.

As for the rest of her class, others also served heroically in the war with one, USS Vireo, picking up seven battle stars for her service as a fleet tug from Pearl Harbor to Midway to Guadalcanal and Okinawa. The Germans sank USS Partridge at Normandy and both Gannet and Redwing via torpedoes in the Atlantic. Most of the old birds remaining in U.S. service were scrapped in 1946-48 with the last on Uncle Sam’s list, Flamingo, sold for scrap in July 1953.

Some lived on as trawlers and one, USS Auk (AM-38)/USC&GS Discoverer was sold to Venezuela in 1948, where she lasted until 1962 as the gunboat Felipe Larrazabal. After her decommissioning she was not immediately scrapped, and was reported afloat in a backwater channel as late as 1968. Her fate after that is not recorded but she was likely the last of the Lapwings (Update, she is still apparently in the channel, in pretty bad shape)

As for Avocet‘s name, it was given in 1953 to the converted USS LCI(L)-653, which was pressed into service as a minehunter and sonar training ship for the Naval Electronics Laboratory out of San Fran. She was disposed of in 1960 and there has not been an “Avocet” on the Navy List since.

About the only tangible reminder of Avocet is the series of postal cancellations issued aboard her during the 1934 flying boat inaugural in Hawaii and the 1937 solar eclipse at Canton Island.

vp-10-related-mass-hawaii-flight-uss-avocet

This 1934 cancellation, for which Avocet served as plane guard, was for 6 P2Y-1 aircraft of VP-10F (pictured), Lieutenant Commander Knefler McGinnis commanding, that made a historic nonstop formation flight from San Francisco, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 24 hours 35 minutes. The flight bettered the best previous time for the crossing; exceeded the best distance of previous mass flights; and broke a nine-day-old world record for distance in a straight line for Class C seaplanes with a new mark of 2,399 miles (3,861 km).

n3838

For the “Battle of Canton Island”

enderbury1937eclipse-cover-cantonisland

Ditto

Her old “foe” at Canton, HMS Wellington, survived WWII and since 1947 has been preserved as the floating headquarters ship on the River Thames in London for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

Still, we can remember Avocet when we see the sun, or when the calendar hits December 7 each year, as the little unsung tender likely saved the lives of many grateful bluejackets and Marines in the inferno that was Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today.

Her dock at Ford Island, as seen today. U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan

Her dock at Ford Island, as seen today. U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan

Specs:

Displacement: 950 tons FL (1918) 1,350 tons (1936)
Length: 187 feet 10 inches
Beam: 35 feet 6 inches
Draft: 9 feet 9 in
Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Harlan and Hollingsworth, vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft.
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph); 12~ by 1936.
Complement: 78 Officers and Enlisted as completed; Upton 85 by 1936
Armament: 2 × 3-inch/23 single mounts as commissioned
(1928)
1 x 3″/50 DP single
4 Lewis guns
(1944)
1 x 3″/50 DP single
Several 20mm Oerlikons and M2 12.7mm mounts

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