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Warship Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

Commonwealth of Australia/Royal Australian Navy image.

Above we see the Tribal (Arunta)-class destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) of the Royal Australian Navy conducting a replenishment at sea in 1951 while dressed in her distinctive “Chicago Blue” scheme. A witness to the Japanese surrender in 1945, “Bats’” Korean War service was extensive, and she set out for home from her second stint off the coast of that peninsula some 70 years ago this week– only to be rewarded with early retirement.

Background on the Tribals

The Tribals were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s to experience gained in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Tribals were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

We have discussed the very successful class in prior Warship Wednesdays (e.g., HMS Cossack and HMCS Haida) but relax, they are great ships with amazing histories.

Of the eight Tribals planned for Australia, only three– HMAS Arunta, HMAS Warramunga, and Bataan— were ever completed. All constructed at the Cockatoo (Island) Docks and Engineering Company near Sydney, Arunta and Warramunga joined the war in 1942 while Bataan would follow three years later, and the five others ultimately canceled.

HMAS Bataan was laid down on 18 February 1942 as the last Australian Tribal-class destroyer and was originally going to be named either HMAS Chingilli or HMAS Kurnai, but was renamed in response to the U.S. Navy’s christening in 1943 of the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Canberra (CA-70) in honor of the sunken County-class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, the latter lost to the Japanese alongside two American cruisers in the disaster at Savo Island the year prior. As such, she was the only Tribal not to be named after a people or nation of the British Empire (RAN Tribals were named for Aboriginal tribes.)

Mrs. Jean Marie MacArthur, the wife of General Douglas MacArthur, was invited to launch her.

Since she was completed three years after Arunta and Warramunga, Bataan was an updated version of her older sisters including a lattice foremast with an American SC pattern radar, and six single 40mm Bofors as close-range armament.

WWII

Following shakedown, Bataan put on a British destroyer pennant and sailed for the Philippines in July 1945 to join Task Force 74 in Subic Bay, then in company with sister Warramunga, made for Okinawa and the Japanese Home Islands with an eye to the sky, wary of kamikaze.

The Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) anchored off Manila, Philippines, circn August 1945. She wears the British Pacific Fleet pennant number “D09”. Note her American SC radar fit on the foremast, different from most RN Tribals of the time which usually carried a British Type 268 Cheese antenna” set. Photo by Pte. M.V. Gulliver, AWM 134521.

On the morning of 31 August 1945, Bataan and Warramunga were part of the British Pacific Fleet ships that entered Tokyo Bay, screening the cruisers HMS Newfoundland, HMNZS Gambia, HMAS Shropshire, and HMAS Hobart. At 0930 on 2 September, they stood by for the formal surrender ceremony that took place on the battleship USS Missouri, which MacArthur, among others, attended.

Bataan soon got into the business of coming to the rescue of Allied POWs liberated post VJ-Day in addition to occupation and disarmament duties which kept her in Japanese waters until November. Then came a much less tense cruise home.

Crossing the line ceremony, 1945, via the AWM.

Korea

Returning to Japan on occupation duties in September 1946, Bataan would spend 17 months there in four different tours through 1949 and then would return in June 1950 for her fifth post-war cruise to the rebuilding country. As the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea on 25 June, Australia, under UN mandate, was soon in another war.

On 29 June 1950, Bataan, along with the River-class frigate HMAS Shoalhaven (K535) and the cruiser HMS Belfast as Task Group 96.8, was placed at the disposal of the British Far East Fleet commanded by RADM William Andrewes. The ships, joined by the RAAF’s No.77 Squadron– a P-51 Mustang squadron based in Japan– were Australia’s first contribution to the conflict.

Following duty escorting troop convoys from Japan to Korea, Bataan was carved off from the British fleet and joined TG 96.5 for the Pohang amphibious operation, screening the cruiser USS Juneau (CL-119), and clocking in with three American tin cans (Coller, Higbee, and Kyes) for NGFS.

On 1 August, Admiral Andrewes took Belfast and Bataan into the Haeju Man approaches to bombard the shore batteries guarding this potential source of enemy seaborne supply.

HMAS Bataan’s 4.7s in action

She would continue to lend her guns to the fight, supporting mine sweeping and counter-battery fire in the Kunsan approaches in September and covering the amphibious landings at Wonsan in October.

By the end of the year, she was operating in the freezing seas just 12 miles from the entrance of the Yalu under arctic conditions.

British Commonwealth destroyers moored off Yokosuka, Japan, after returning from combat patrols in Korean WatersThe phototo is dated 26 January 1951. The ships are (from left to right): HMAS Warramunga HMAS Charity, and HMAS Bataan. NH 90625

Supporting the fighting withdrawal from the Yalu after the New Year, operating in direct support of the U.S. 8th Army, her first Korean war tour ended on 18 May. During her 11-month deployment, Bataan was underway for more than 4,000 hours on active operations and steamed some 63,292 miles.

Following a seven-month refit and shakedown, Bataan deployed from Sydney in January 1952 for a second Korean tour, relieving HMAS Murchison at Kure the next month.

As noted by the RAN:

It was the familiar pattern on the west coast of Korea, blockade enforcement, shore bombardment and escort duty. The weather, true to the forebodings of old hands in the ship, was bleak and squally with temperatures down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. On the night of her arrival Bataan was allocated a patrol between Sokto and Chodo, three miles from the enemy held mainland, for harassing fire support.

The patrolling was constant and enemy forces active. On 13 February the destroyer carried out her first air spot bombardment using spotters from HMS Glory to shell enemy troops encamped outside the village of Pungchon. Later the same day as dusk was falling a brief duel began between the ship and 75mm shore batteries, ending with silence from the enemy and a single hit on the captain’s day cabin after 78 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition had started two fires on the battery positions. The patrol ended on 24 February with a heavy bombardment of enemy positions on the mainland opposite Hodo Island. 543 rounds of 4.7-inch and 75 rounds of 4-inch ammunition had been expended when the ship finally withdrew en route for Sasebo.

Curiously, the U.S. Navy was operating USS Bataan (CVL-29) off Korea while our HMAS Bataan was in the region.

USS Bataan (CVL-29), shown here underway in January 1952 with “Black Sheep” F4U-4B Corsair fighter-bombers of VMF-314 on board, was planned as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Buffalo (CL-99), she was one of the Clevelands chosen for conversion into Independence-class light carriers and was therefore renamed from her traditional cruiser “city” moniker in honor of the Battle of Bataan. Commissioned on 17 November 1943, the flattop earned six battle stars for WWII and another seven for Korea. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-633888

And, in true naval history fashion, the two even worked together at least twice, in January 1951 and again in March-April 1952.

HMAS Bataan (I91) escorting USS Bataan (CVL-29) off the coast of Korea, April 17th, 1951. NHHC image.

In May 1952, Bataan served as a mothership for inshore daylight guerrilla raids by Wolfpack and Donkey partisan groups while firing 400 4.7-inch shells in close support, bombarding the enemy on eight occasions, leaving her skipper to note that the month was “never a dull moment.” Then came an extended period operating on the screen of the British carrier HMS Ocean.

Korea. Elevated port side view showing detail of the forward part of the destroyer HMAS Bataan (ex-HMAS Kurnai) (D191) as she receives personnel by highline from the aircraft carrier HMS ocean. Note forward twin 4.7-inch Mk XII guns in cp xix mountings, with the breeches of B mounting prominent and the 40 mm Bofors aa gun in the port bridge wing. Behind the bridge are the director control tower and rangefinder tower MK II with a Type 285 fire control radar mounted upon the latter. Note rope stowage in the blast screen forward of B mounting and Carley floats by the forward superstructure with paddles neatly arrayed. The screening destroyer in the background is HMS Consort. (Naval Historical Collection) AWM.

August saw her flirting with Typhoon Karen as she prepared to end her 2nd Korean deployment. On the books were 40,277 steaming miles fothese nine monthsod and arrived back at Sydney on 3 October. In all, she fired 3,462 rounds of 4.7-inch, 549 rounds of 4-inch, 8,891 rounds of 40mm, and 3,240 rounds of 2-pounder pom-pom ammunition in anger in 1950-52. This was only bettered in the war by her sister ship Warramunga.

Operating off the Korean coast, members of HMAS Bataan, load a 4.7 gun for firingin , August 1952. Note the soup bowl helmets but lack of flash gear. Pictured, left to right; Able Seaman A. P. ‘Jock’ Harley, Leading Seaman R. J. ‘Bob’ McArthur, Leading Seaman Hugh M. Currie (rear), and Able Seaman N. B. Cregan. AWM HOBJ3429.

Combat artist Frank Norton was aboard her in Korea and several of his works in which Bataan is at the center are in the AWM collection. On 7 August 1952, Norton was transferred at sea to HMAS Bataan (via helicopter from Ocean to HMS Newcastle than at sea to the destroyer by jackstay) to ride out the rest of the tin can’s last Korean patrol, including Typhoon Karen.

View from the deck of destroyer HMAS Bataan towards unidentified ships at anchor, small craft transferring men to USS Strong (DD-758), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer of Task Force (TF) 77. Strong deployed to Korea from June to October 1952 and served with the United Nations Blockade and Escort Group on the west coast and was at Pusan, Songjin, and Wonsan.

Norton depicts part of RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan, with motor and sail junks manned by members of the Wolfpack irregular forces alongside. The RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan is not to be confused with the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Bataan.

A view of typhoon ‘Karen’ from the deck of the Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan on the high seas, with unidentified ships on the horizon. In a letter to the Director of the Memorial in September 1952, Norton recalled ‘The day after joining “Bataan”, all ships on the coast were forced out to sea by Typhoon “Karen” – and rode out – the backlash of the storm. Norton strove to convey a sense of the Korean coastal landscape and weather during patrols. In his letter, he comments on the unpleasant conditions at sea caused by cramped living quarters and tropical weather.

Final hurrah!

Arriving back home from two lengthy Korean deployments, Bataan was selected for conversion to an anti-submarine escort destroyer in late 1952. This saw the deletion of her WWII anti-air suite, the fit of a Squid anti-submarine mortar, and the replacement of the foremast with a lattice structure. She would sail on exercises with RNZN ships and those of other SEATO members in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, roaming as far as Singapore.

In October 1953, sailing in conjunction with the carrier HMS Vengeance, Bataan would suffer an “intense cyclonic depression” that damaged the destroyer.

Patched up but with a wonky bow, six months later she would be part of the Royal escort for Queen Elizabeth II’s state visit to Australia.

HMS Ceylon escorts the Royal yacht SS Gothic along with HMAS Bataan (I91), HMAS Anzac (D59), and HMS Vengeance (R71), in April 1954.

Vengeance made the occasion unique.

As noted by the RAN, “On seeing the image taken of Vengeance, HM is reported to have commented that it was a most original forgery.'” Photo via the Robert Elliston Glasgow Collection – State Library of Western Australia.

Following that handover of Gothic to the cruisers HM Ships Colombo and Newfoundland in the Indian Ocean, on 5 April, during a replenishment at sea between Vengeance and Bataan off Cocos Island, the destroyer became entangled and cracked up in rough seas against the hull of the much larger carrier.

HMAS BATAAN in a terrifying jam – L.M. Hair, HMAS CERBERUS Museum.

HMAS CERBERUS MUSEUM COLLECTION 156 HMAS BATAAN and VENGEANCE photo L.M. Hair.

As detailed by the Naval Historical Society of Australia:

Former Chief Radio Electrician Bill Robertson, who was on board Bataan at the time, believes the collision was caused by a rogue wave which lifted Bataan’s bow and turned the ship towards Vengeance, when there were less than 10 tons of fuel left to transfer.

“The change in heading couldn’t be controlled by the quartermaster in time to avoid a collision,” he said. “The Venturi effect, so dreaded when two moving vessels are so close together, held Bataan’s port side in contact with Vengeance’s starboard side. “There was an imminent danger Bataan would roll over and be sucked under Vengeance.” Mr. Robertson said, as Bataan slowly slid aft, each time Vengeance rolled to starboard, her AA platforms came down on Bataan’s port superstructure. “Then the port side of the PO’s Mess, the ‘B’ gun deck, and the Bofors platform on the port side of the bridge were all crushed,” he said. “I remember thinking the noise sounded like the damage was going to be expensive.”

According to Mr. Robertson, only the quick thinking of CO Bataan CMDR Glenn Fowle saved the ship. “He ordered, ‘hard a’ port, full ahead together’,” he said. “This forced our bow into Vengeance while kicking the stern out. “When Bataan had pushed itself out to about 45 degrees, the CO ordered full astern together, which separated the ships but didn’t do the bow any favors. “At the time of the action I was on the starboard side of the bridge with a lifejacket in one hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other, somewhat unsure which had priority.”

Her bow banged up even further, Bataan paid off at Sydney on 18 October 1954, having steamed 279,395 miles since commissioning. Placed on the Disposal List, she was soon sold to a Japanese shipbreaker for demolition.

Epilogue

Several relics from the destroyer are in the Australian War Memorial collection including a Hinomaru signed by 55 of her crew in indelible purple ink on the occasion of the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Harbor on 2 September 1945.

The AWM also has her RAN Reports of Proceedings on file as well and the Memorial has digitized them. For reference, the Jan. 1950-Jan. 1952 file for Bataan is 231 pages alone.

Meanwhile, there are several markers to Bataan dedicated around Australia.

In 2021, a 1/72 scale model of Bataan, crafted from brass, copper, and aluminum over two years by one of her WWII vets, was put on display at the entrance to the Sea Power Centre – Australia’s Naval History Section in Canberra. 

Said her 95-year-old maker and former destroyerman, “I’m upset, looking at warships today. They are just steel boxes with a sharp end on them. There’s no shape to them, no flares, they’re not romantic, unlike Bataan,” and I cannot agree more.

As for Bataan’s sisters, both Arunta and Warramunga earned honors for WWII and Korea, then were paid off in the 1960s, experiencing a longer life than that seen by Bats. It is no surprise that these two ships topped 357,273 miles as steamed by Arunta and a half million miles steamed by Warramunga.

When it comes to her expanded Tribal-class family, no less than 12 of the 16 members in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969 save for Haida who is the only member preserved as a museum ship, all others turned to razor blades.

Known as “Canada’s most-fightingest ship” Haida (DDE 215) is open to the public in Hamilton, Ontario. Like Bataan, she saw combat in both WWII and Korea, decommissioned in October 1963 after 20 years of hard service. (Parks Canada)

Specs:
Displacement:1,959 long tons (1,990 t) tons standard, 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) deep load
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
Draught: 13 ft (4.0 m)
Propulsion:
2 shafts; 3-Admiralty 3 drum type boilers
2 × Parsons Marine geared steam turbines, 44,000 shp
Speed: 36.5 knots (maximum), 32 knots (service)
Complement: 259 (14 officers, 245 ratings)

Armament:

3 x 2 4.7-inch (119 mm)/45 QF Mark XII guns in twin Mark XIX mounts
1 x 2 4-inch (102 mm)/45 Mark XVI QF in twin mount
6 x 40mm Bofors
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
1 rail + 2 Mk.IV throwers (Mk.VII depth charges)


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Well that’s something you don’t see everyday

Looks like the “Mighty T” made it to Galveston, where she is undergoing repairs in dry dock for the first time in 32 years.

Early Wednesday morning, USS Texas (Battleship No. 35) was pulled out of her traditional berth into the Houston Ship Channel and was guided by the tugs Cecile M, Wesley A, Dolphin, and Audrey while the 87-foot patrol boat USCGC Hawk (WPB-87355) stood guard. She completed her stately 10-hour transit at 15:57– America’s oldest (and only) sea-going battleship!

Law enforcement boat crews protect the battleship USS Texas as pilot boat crews tow the historic ship down the Houston Ship Channel near Baytown, Texas, Aug. 31, 2022. The USS Texas moved from the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas, to a dry dock in Galveston, Texas, where it will undergo extensive hull repairs. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)

Pilot boat crews tow the battleship USS Texas down the Houston Ship Channel near Baytown, Texas, on Aug. 31, 2022. The USS Texas moved from the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas, to a dry dock in Galveston, Texas, where it will undergo extensive hull repairs. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)

“Today’s successful transit of the battleship Texas was a historic, monumental event only possible with planning and partnerships throughout the port community,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jason Smith, captain of the port and commander of Sector Houston-Galveston. “Long before today’s event, the Battleship Texas Foundation and Valkor worked closely with naval architects from Resolve Marine and the Coast Guard’s Salvage Engineering Response Team to ensure a sound transit plan. Coast Guard crews partnered with local pilot associations and various other maritime law enforcement agencies to protect both the battleship and our waterways throughout the transit. As we say in the maritime community for a job well done, Bravo Zulu to all involved!”

Video of the move via the Battleship Texas Foundation:

Out of the water! USS Texas at Gulf Copper 31 Aug 2022. Note the paravane skeg at the foot of the bow, her 1920s torpedo bulge love handles, and the stabilizer skeg on the latter. Photo by Sam Rossiello Battleship Texas Foundation

Her last yard period was at Todd’s Shipyard, Galveston, from 13 December 1988 to 23 February 1990, where she was extensively reworked in a $14 million effort topside and hull-wise including 235,000 pounds of outer hull plate replaced and 460,000 gallons of additional oil/oily water pumped out. She also had a concrete deck at the time, installed in 1968, that was removed and replaced with 26,660 square feet of 4inch x 4inch x 16foot yellow pine.

USS Texas at the beginning of the 1988-89 yard period

And in a great piece of digital maritime art, Andy Poulastides reworked the Texas image from PO1 Zilnicki into a tribute to Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, circa, 1838.

Welcome back, HMS Anson

Yesterday’s Warship Wednesday profiled the final KGV-class battleship to join the Royal Navy, the sixth HMS Howe (32), and her WWII career which included a stint as the flagship of ADM Bruce Fraser’s British Pacific Fleet in 1944-45. We also touched on her sister, the seventh HMS Anson (79) which joined the fleet the same summer of 1942 as Howe.

HMS Anson dressed in Sydney Harbor for the Australia Day sailing regatta, 1946. The KGV-class fast battleship was commissioned in April 1942 but didn’t become operational until September, joining Convoy QP 14 on the Murmansk run. In all, she would watch over nine such convoys, support the Husky landings against Sicily, tag along on the Tungsten operation to sink Tirpitz and host RADM Cecil Harcourt’s liberation of Hong Kong in August 1945.

Like her four sisters that survived WWII, the battlewagon Anson would remain in mothballs until 1957 and was unceremoniously disposed of shortly after.

Well, the name Anson returned to the Admiralty’s list as the fifth of seven Astute-class hunter-killer submarines, commissioned yesterday into the Royal Navy at a ceremony at BAE Systems’ Barrow-In-Furness site. She had been christened in 2020 via a bottle of cider smashed against the hull– the drink favored by her namesake, 18th-Century Admiral George Anson, as a cure for scurvy.

Of interest, while both battleships Anson and Howe visited Australia in 1945 during the war, Royal Australian Navy submariners, as part of the AUKUS initiative to send SSNs down under, will join British crews to train on newly commissioned HMS Anson as announced yesterday by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. In reflecting this, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and a delegation of RAN officers attended Anson’s commissioning this week.

HMS Anson will join four other Astute class submarines in service with the Royal Navy –HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, HMS Artful, and HMS Audacious– all proud names carried by former vessels. Two further boats that echo historic battleship names – Agamemnon and Agincourt – are in various stages of construction at Barrow.

Vale, Almirante

BAP Almirante Grau of the Peruvian Navy was decommissioned on 26 September 2017. She had been laid down in Holland on 5 September 1939, the same week Hitler marched into Poland, giving her an amazing 78-year career. 

The beautiful De Zeven Provinciën-class light cruiser Hr.Ms. De Ruyter (C 801), who went on to serve the Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81) until she was retired in 2017, was to be saved as a floating museum, perhaps at the Naval Museum in Callao, but lack of funding and interest derailed that.

The Peruvians put the last all-gun cruiser on active service up for sale for around $1 million back in March, but concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint made that a non-starter as it would likely cost more to safely dispose of all the bad stuff than her value in recycled materials.

A last-ditch effort by a group of Navy vets in Holland likewise fell through.

This led to a quiet ceremony, attended by a naval band, of the old girl being towed from Lima to undisclosed shipbreakers, likely in India,  for scrapping in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a final price undisclosed.

The ship last departed from Callao Naval Port in Lima on 8 July. (Photo: Juan Carlos Iglesias Caminati)

She deserved better.

Update: Oryx reported Saturday that Almirante Grau/De Ruyter docked over the weekend in India, completing her final voyage. 

Vandy Aglow

70 years ago: HMS Vanguard (23), the last British dreadnought, floodlit on a visit to Rotterdam, Holland, in early July 1952. 

IWM A 32246

The ship was lit for the occasion of a reception aboard the battlewagon by Commander in Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir George Creasy, for HM Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, and after dinner, the Queen– who was no stranger to British warships— went afloat in the C in C’s barge to see the illumination. 

The building in the background is Hotel New York, former headquarters of the Holland-America Lines.

Vanguard, commissioned in 1946– with a somewhat antiquated main battery left over from the 1920s– visited Rotterdam for a week after exercises with NATO warships.

At the time this photo was taken, she was still assigned to the Heavy Squadron of the Home Fleet. Minimally manned at the time, she operated with many of her turrets sealed off and with shells loaded in the magazines of just two of her 15-inch turrets while only star shells were carried for her secondary battery of 5.25-inch guns.

“HMS Vanguard entering Rotterdam during her visit to the Netherlands, 28 June 1952. She is the largest ship to enter the port.” Nationaal Archief Materiaalsoort.

Laid up in 1955 at Portsmouth after less than a decade of service– where she appropriately became Flagship of Reserve Fleet– Vanguard was decommissioned on 7 June 1960 and scrapped soon after, still in her teens.

Warship Wednesday, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Nordisk Pressefoto via the M/S Museet for Søfart- Danish maritime museum. Photo: 2012:0397

Above we see a beautiful period photo of the Danish skoleskibet Danmark with a bone in her teeth, the tall ship’s canvas fully rigged and speeding her along, 18 white clouds mastering the sea. Just seven years old when she was caught up in WWII, she would find a new home and wartime use in Allied waters while the Germans occupied her country.

A tremastet fuldrigger in Danish parlance, the big three-master went 212-feet overall from her stern to the tip of her bowsprit and 188 feet at the waterline, with a displacement of 790 BT. Her mainmast towered 127 feet high. Constructed of riveted steel with 10 watertight bulkheads, she was designed in the late 1920s to be a more modern replacement for the lost schoolship København, whose saga we have covered in the past.

Laid down at Nakskov Skibsværft, part of the Danish East Asian Company (Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or just ØK), a giant shipping and trade concern that at one point was Scandinavia’s largest commercial enterprise, while Danmark was a civil vessel, many of her officers and crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list and many of her cadets would serve in the fleet as well.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under konstruktion på Nakskov Skibsværft.

She was christened on 17 December 1932 by one Ms. Hannah Lock.

Young Ms. Lock was striking, and likely the daughter of a company official. The company’s bread and butter were both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok, and the far east, so it was no doubt an exotic and glitzy affair.

Due to low tide, she was not officially launched until two days later.

Skoleskibet DANMARK søsættes 19. december 1932. På grund af lavvande blev skibet først søsat to dage efter dåben.

On her maiden voyage, photographed from the schoolship Georg Stages.

Picture from Danmark’s Capt. Svend Aage Saugmann’s photo album shows Danmark at Ponta Delgada in the Azores on 27 February 1936. 2013:0126

The Drumbeat of War

In the summer of 1939, with Europe a tinderbox, the Danish government had pledged to send the country’s largest naval warship, the 295-foot coast defense cruiser Niels Juel, to participate in the World’s Fair in New York. However, as misgivings set in, it was agreed that Danmark would make the trip instead, complete with a mixed group of naval and mariner cadets.

Arriving in New York in August, Danmark’s cadets were hosted by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to a Yankees baseball game as part of the general festivities. Once Germany invaded Poland, followed by the Soviets, then Britain and France joined a growing world war, Danmark was ordered to remain in U.S. waters until things cooled down. With that, she cruised to Annapolis, spent the Christmas 1939 holiday in Puerto Rico, then arrived in Jacksonville, Florida in early April 1940. There, they met with Danish Ambassador Henrik Kauffmann, who announced the ship was returning home after her nine-month American exile.

The school ship Danmark lying in St. John’s River near Jacksonville, Florida, during early World War II. Note her neutrality markings. 723:63

With Poland long since occupied and divvied between Berlin and Moscow, and the latter ceasing hostilities with Finland, coupled with the quiet “Phony War” between Britain/France and Germany, things were expected to calm down.

Well, you know what happened next.

WAR!

On 9 April 1940, the Germans rolled into Denmark without a declaration of war, ostensibly a peaceful occupation to keep the British from invading. The German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, was a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen. Of course, the Danes would stand up a serious resistance organization later in the occupation, as well as field viable “Free Danish” forces operating from Britain, but for the time being, the country was a German puppet state.

Ambassador Kauffmann, however, decided to cancel Danmark’s return home and kept the ship in Florida.

Via the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Anchored off the Coast Guard station in Jacksonville, Danmark became a ship without a country. The Danish Embassy in Washington arranged for a monthly stipend of $10 for the crew, but Danmark had no other support. On the morning of April 10, Capt. Knud Hansen was greeted on the pier by a group of Jacksonville citizens and two large trucks. They brought 17 tons of food and supplies. Hansen did not turn them away, although there was no space on board for all of it. Each morning thereafter, women brought cookies, pies, and men brought tobacco and other items. Even an anonymous shipment of summer uniforms arrived, much to the crew’s delight.

The Danmark had become a foreign vessel lying idle in American waters. It had remained in Jacksonville from early April 1940 until late 1941, or nearly 20 months. Many of the ship’s Danish cadets decided to transfer to the Merchant Marine and 14 of them would die serving Allied forces. Ten of Danmark’s original crew remained aboard, including Hansen and First Mate Knud Langevad.

With a long history of using tall ships to train new sailors, VADM Russell Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard, visited occupied Denmark in the summer of 1940 and began talks with the Danes to purchase the vessel as a training ship. The negotiations dragged on throughout the next year, with the U.S. government offering about half what the ship was worth, and the White House balking at even that amount.

Then, the morning after Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. firmly in the fight and no longer “The Great Neutral,” Hansen fired off a telegram to Waesche’s office.

In view of the latest days’ developments, the cadets, officers, and captain of the Danish Government Training Vessel Danmark unanimously place themselves and the ship at the disposal of the United States government, to serve in any capacity the United States government sees fit in our joint fight for victory and liberty.

With the offer accepted, she was rented for $1 per year, paid via silver coin to the Danish Embassy, then was escorted to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, still with her crew under control, and commissioned on 12 May 1942– 80 years ago this week– as USCGC Danmark (WIX-283). Her remaining professional crew would be in USCG service for the duration, accepting ranks in the USCGR.

In a nod to her “rented” status, she flew the Dannebrog and U.S. ensigns simultaneously.

The Red White and Blue on her mast

Under sail while in USCG service, with a U.S. ensign flapping above her mast. Note the bluejackets in cracker jacks on deck. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0214

Danmark in USCG service, USCG photo

Danmark in U.S. Port WWII. Note her Neptune figurehead. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0209

From the USCG H’s O:

Each month, new Coast Guard cadets embarked Danmark for training. The Danish officers had many challenges before them–everything that a Danish cadet learned in six years, plus what he learned to qualify as a Danish navy officer, had to be taught the American cadets in four months. No American officers served aboard and, to avoid attack by U-boats, the tall ship never sailed beyond Martha’s Vineyard or the southern tip of Manhattan.

Dubbed the “Dirty D,” cadets scrubbed the Danmark at least three times a day with rainy days devoted to cleaning out lifeboats and sanding oars. The wheelhouse was varnished frequently. It was lights out at midnight when the ship’s generator shut off. If the last liberty boat returned late to the Danmark, the cadets had to undress, sling out hammocks and climb into the hammocks in total darkness.

USCG Furling Sail, 4.11.1942 Ellis Island. Danmark possibly 026-g-056-040-001

Cadets in Rigging, 3.24.1943 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-001-036-001

Going Aloft, 4.15.1942 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-056-041-001

CG Cadets on DANMARK

An immigrant of sorts helping her adopted country, appropriately enough She often called at Ellis Island. During the war, the station was a USCG training base, schooling new Coasties who would go on to man Navy ships around the globe.

Via the NPS:

From 1939 to 1946, the United States Coast Guard occupied Ellis Island and established a training station that served 60,000 enlisted men and 3,000 officers. They utilized many buildings on the island. For example, the Baggage and Dormitory Building served as a drill room, armory, boatsman storeroom, carpenter’s shop, and machine shop. The Kitchen and Laundry Building was utilized as a kitchen and bakeshop. Lastly, the New Immigration Building provided dormitories for the men. After their time at Ellis, the enlisted men and officers were largely responsible for manning transports, destroyer escorts, cutters, and submarine chasers during World War II.

In all, over 5,000 Americans were trained directly on Danmark during the war, including 2,800 who would go on to receive their butter bars in assorted U.S. maritime services.

Finally, with the world at peace again, on the birthday of Danish King Christian X, 26 September 1945, the Stars and Stripes were hauled down and the Dannebrog shifted to the top again.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Danmark (WIX-283) USCGC Danmark in September 1945 just before her return to the Danes 

On 13 November, Danmark finally headed home again.

Besides the Danmark, over 5,000 Danish merchant sailors manned over 800,000 tons of shipping for the Allies, many never to be seen again. 

Epilogue

Since returning home, Danmark has continued her service over the past 75 years.

Post-war, probably 1946 during her Pacific cruise, looks like the Marin highlands in the distance under the Golden Gate (thanks Alex! & Steve) Note she has a U.S. flag on top and is trailing her Dannebrog. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0216

Photograph from 1947 by Kronborg, photographed from the north, with the school ship Danmark and Georg Stage. The photo was taken in connection with the saga film “The White Sail.” Donated by Carl-Johan Nienstædt. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2016:0050

1947 linjedåb Line Crossing ceremony on Danmark

Ivar’s with Danmark Sailing Vessel via SPHS 1946 Seattle

School ship Danmark is at sway and a scheduled boat is passed from Centrumlinjen M / S SUNDPILEN. By Karl Johan Gustav Jensen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2003:0119

Kiel Tall Ships event: Segelschulschiff DAR POMORZA (poln.), davor Segelschulschiff EAGLE (amerik.). Jenseits der Brücke mit Lichterkette über die Toppen Segelschulschiff GLORIA (kolumbian.), davor im Dunklen Segelschulschiff DANMARK (dän.), ganz vorn Segelschulschiff GORCH FOCK.

HMS Eagle (R05) passes a sailing ship Danmark in Plymouth Sound, 1970

Danish Air Force SAAB RF-35 Draken overflies the schoolship Danmark, summer 1991. The aircraft “Lisbon 725” (named after the Royal Danish Air Force’s ESK 725 radio callsign), had been painted in that stunning color without official permission to celebrate the unit’s 40th anniversary. Command allowed ESK 725 to retain the livery, with some code and national insignia modification, for the rest of the year as the unit was retiring its Drakens anyway and would be disbanded in December 1992. 

Danmark is, naturally, remembered in maritime art.

“Coast Guard’s Seagoing School, 9.29.1943 Danmark” by Hunter Wood 026-g-022-040-001

Painting by James E. Mitchell, showing the ship during the Bicentennial “The Tall Ships Race” on the Hudson River on July 4, 1976.

She still carries the same Neptune figurehead.

Danmark’s Neptune figurehead, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0283

As well as a marker celebrating her service abroad with the USCG.

Memorial plaque with thanks from U.S. Coast Guard January 1942- September 1946, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart.

She has returned to her home-away-from-home numerous times, a regular fixture in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and New London over the decades.

The barque USCGC Eagle (ex SSS Horst Wessel) in service with the USCG in 1954, sailing along Danmark off the East Coast.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under bugsering i New York Havn, 1974. 

Today, as part of Besøg MARTEC, the Danish Maritime and Polytechnic University College in Frederikshavn, Danmark is still busy.

She just completed her regular 5-year inspection and certification and looks great for having 90 years on her hull. 

Skoleskibet Danmark drydock May 2022

Every summer she takes aboard 80 new cadets along with a 16-strong cadre of professional crew and instructors, and they head out, covering subjects both new and old in the familiar ways that WWII Coasties would recognize.

Specs:

Tonnage- 1,700 gross (1942)
Length- 188′ 6″
Beam- 33′ mb
Draft- 14′ 9″ (1942)
Machinery
Main Engines- 1 diesel
Propellers- Single
Armament- N/A

***

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Warship Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 72318

Above we see the Balao-class fleet submarine USS Kraken (SS-370) tipping on the way during launching at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on 30 April 1944.

And splash…NH 72319

During World War II, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built 28 submarines for the U.S. Navy and had contracts to build two more that were canceled.

Sponsored by Ms. Frances (Giffen) Anderson, wife of influential and rabidly anti-Japanese GOP Congressmen John Zuinglius “Jack” Anderson of California, Kraken’s side launched into the Manitowoc, as shown above, in April 1944 then commissioned on 8 September of the same year.

Kraken on trials in Lake Michigan circa 1944. Note she only had one 5″/25, aft, and two 20mm Oerlikons on her sail. Description: Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1978. NH 86955

This picture is of the crowd gathered for the commissioning ceremony of the submarine USS Kraken (SS 370) at the Manitowoc on 8 September 1944. Huge scrap piles of material for unfinished submarines can be seen in the background. The large cylindrical sections labeled “SS-379” would have formed hull portions of the USS Needlefish (SS 379). Other parts would have gone into the Needlefish or the USS Nerka (SS 380). In July 1944, with the war winding down, those contracts had been canceled and the parts for those two unbuilt boats were scrapped, as shown here. (Manitowoc Library photo P70-7-505)

USS Kraken (SS-370) running surfaced in Lake Michigan, Michigan. September 1944. NH 72321

Incidentally, Ray Young, a Manitowoc artist who was employed as a designer at the shipyard, would create Kraken’s insignia, that of a binocular-eyed sea dragon. He would do the same for the last nine subs completed by Manitowoc as well as for a quartet of boats built by Electric Boat.

Some of Young’s amazing insignia, with Kraken’s being in the top left corner.

Off to war!

Immediately following her commissioning, Kraken steamed via Chicago to Lockport, Illinois, then was towed in a floating dry dock down the Mississippi River arriving at Algiers Naval Station, across the river from New Orleans, on 4 October.

Kraken, with crew on deck, passed inbound up the Manitowoc River through the open Eighth Street drawbridge in Manitowoc, September 1944. NH 72323

Setting out for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, Kraken was assigned to Submarine Division 301, SUBRON 30, part of the 7th Fleet. She arrived in Hawaii on 21 November, just in time for Thanksgiving, then made ready for her inaugural war patrol.

Leaving Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1944, she made for the South China Sea for anti-shipping work. Pulling lifeguard duty for carrier airstrikes off Hong Kong on the morning of 16 January 1945, she rescued one Ensign R. W. Bertschi, USNR, an F6F-5 Hellcat pilot (BuNo 70524) of the “Jokers” of VF-20 from USS Lexington (CV-16).

A week later, on 22 January, Kraken encounter a 5,000-ton oiler and made a submerged daylight attack with three fish that resulted in no hits. A nighttime surfaced attack two days later, firing a spread of four torpedoes against a Japanese destroyer, also resulted in no damage. She ended her 1st Patrol at Fremantle on Valentine’s Day 1945, and Bertschi, in addition to his wings of gold, finally made it to shore, just falling short of earning a set of dolphins.

Her next sortie was lackluster. Kraken arrived at Subic Bay, the old U.S. Navy base that had just been liberated, on 26 April, concluding her 2nd Patrol.

Her 3rd War Patrol was conducted in the Gulf of Siam, the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and the Eastern Indian Ocean between 19 May and 3 July. She was part of a “Yankee Wolfpack” consisting of USS Bergill (Comwolf), Cobia, Hawkbill, and Bullhead patrolling the Pulo Wai-Koh Krah Line, then near the British T-class subs HMS/m Taciturn and HMS/m Thorough. By that time of the war, the seas were undoubted target poor.

In the predawn hours of 20 June, Kraken surfaced alone off Japanese occupied Java to shell the Merak roadstead, following up on a report from Bullhead. This resulted in a surface gun action with two anchored “Sugar Charlie” type coasters, reportedly sinking one (later confirmed to be the 700-ton Tachibana Maru No.58) and damaging the other.

Two days later, Kraken shelled the Anjer Point Lighthouse just after midnight and got into an artillery duel with a Japanese coastal battery for her trouble.

However, she did stalk a small coastal convoy of five Marus and three escorts, then followed it through ought the next day before taking a run at it during the bright moonlight on the morning of the 23rd in a combined torpedo and gun attack.

In the swirling four-hour engagement, Kraken expended five MK XIV-3A and four MK XVIII-1 torpedoes at ranges just over 2,000 yards along with 54 rounds of 5-inch HC, 116 rounds of 40mm, and 474 rounds of 20mm at ranges as close as 1,500 yards. The Japanese escorts, small subchasers, fired back and bracketed Kraken but caused no damage.

Kraken was credited at the time with sinking a 1,600-ton transport oiler and a 700-ton coastal steamer, as well as damaging two ~400-ton escorts, although this was not borne out by postwar boards.

She ended her 3rd, and most successful, Patrol at Freemantle, steaming some 11,926 miles in 45 days.

Kraken (SS-370) with Ray Young’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com via Navsource.

Further detail of the Kraken’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. Note three Maru sinkings, three ships damaged including two Japanese naval vessels, two shore bombardments, and Ensign Bertschi’s rescue. Courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org via Navsource.

It was in Australia that she was given a quick overhaul that included doubling her armament to make her one of the late war “gunboat submarines.”

However, her following 4th War Patrol did not gain any kills, although Kraken suffered one of the last active Japanese air-and-naval pursuits of the war, logged on 13 August. The Patrol ended after just 23 days when Kraken was signaled to halt hostilities on 15 August due to the Japanese surrender and proceeded to Subic Bay.

She would linger there for a few days before being ordered stateside as her crew was made up of several very experienced officers and men that had been drawn from other boats, some having as many as 15 war patrols under their belts.

Setting out for California, Kraken would be one of the escorts for the famed battleship USS South Dakota (BB-56), as she carried Admiral Halsey under the Golden Gate Bridge in October.

The crew of USS Kraken (SS 370) unloads their torpedo stores at the end of World War II in San Francisco. An MK18 is shown. Note the camo on her 5″/25.

Kraken received just one battle star (Okinawa) for World War II service. She was initially credited with sinking three ships, totaling 6,881 tons.

Kraken is listed as one of 15 Manitowoc Balaos in Jane’s 1946 entry.

Peacetime

Placed out of commission 4 May 1946, Kraken languished in mothballs with the Pacific Reserve Fleet until August 1958, when she was ordered partially manned and towed to Pearl Harbor NSY for snorkel conversion.

She emerged much changed, with a streamlined profile, no deck guns, and a very modern appearance.

Kraken remained at Pearl for the next 14 months, heading to sea for brief exercise periods.

Her final deck log was dated 24 October 1959 and closed quietly.

El Inolvidable Treinta y único

The reason for her USN deck log ending was because Kraken had been transferred on loan to the Spanish Navy as SPS Almirante García de los Reyes (E-1). While Franco, the old fascist buddy of Mussolini and Adolf, was still in power, the 1953 Madrid agreements thawed the chill between the U.S. and the country, opening it to military aid in return for basing.

The Spanish at the time only had two circa 1927 EB-designed pig boats (C1 and C2) that had survived the Civil War but were in poor condition, two small 275-foot/1,050-ton boats (D1 and D2) constructed in 1944 at Cartagena that were both cranky and obsolete, and G-7, the latter a partially refirb’d German Kriegsmarine Type VIIC U-boat, ex-U-573, which had been interned after receiving damage and sold to Franco’s government.

This made Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes the only relatively modern sub in the Spanish Navy in the Atomic era as she had the fleet’s first snorkel, guided torpedoes (Mk37s), and submarine sonar. As such, after her pennant number shifted to the more NATO-compatible S-31 in 1961, the boat was termed “El Treinta y único” or “Thirty-Only One” as she was the sole submarine in the force considered battle-ready.

This would endure for more than a decade.

Visiting New York

Melilla August 1971 El treinta y unico El Mejor Spanish S-31 submarine Admiral Garcia. Note the old light carrier USS Cabot as Dédalo with Sikorsky S-55 Pepos on deck

In July 1971, USS Ronquil (SS-396), a Guppy’d Balao-class smoke boat became SPS Isaac Peral (S-32) and allowed the old Kraken some backup. The next year two more Balao Guppies, ex-USS Picuda (SS-382) and ex-USS Bang (SS-385), would arrive in October 1972, renamed SPS Narciso Monturiol (S-33) and Cosme Garcia (S-34), respectively.

Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes’s 1973 entry in Jane’s.

Sold to Spain and struck from the US Naval Register, on 1 November 1974, Kraken would endure in operation until April 1981, when she was finally removed from service and scrapped.

By that time, Spain had a force of four brand-new French-built Daphné-class submarines in service.

Epilogue

Kraken’s plans and deck logs are in the National Archives but as far as I can tell little else remains of her.

Sadly, her name, possibly the most epic sea creature there is, has not been repeated on the Navy List.

Eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country. None are Manitowoc-built boats.

Nonetheless, please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which will not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is hopefully in the process of being saved and moved to Kentucky)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,525 surfaced; 2,415 submerged.
Length 311′ 9″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Main machinery: 4 x General Motors diesel model 16-278 A, 4 x General Electric electric motors
Speed (knots): 23 surfaced, 11 submerged.
Range (miles): 11.000 at 10 knots (surfaced), 95 at 5 knots (submerged). Patrol endurance was 75 days.
Complement: 70 (10 officers)
Sonar: Passive: AN/BQS-2 B. Active: AN/BQS-4 C.
At the end of his career used an updated BQR-2 taken from stricken SS-382/S-33.
Guns:
1 x 5″/25 (second added in July 1945)
1 x 40mm/60 Bofors (second added in July 1945)
1 x 20mm Oerlikon
All were removed when she entered service in Spain.
Torpedoes:
10 x 533mm tubes: 6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes: 16 forward and 8 aft.
Initially armed with Mk14/18 torpedoes, in the last years of her career changed to Mk37


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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.

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Disappearing Swedish Ships, still a thing

In the past several years, we have often talked about how much the Swedish Navy has appreciated physical camouflage since at least the 1930s.

Thus: 

Swedish coastal defense battleship HSwMS Gustav V, using extensive camouflage, a serious tactic used to great extent by the Swedes, especially for air defense

The Swedish navy has had a long history of camouflaging their ships while hidden next to rocky isolated inlets and islands, even large capital ships.

The above, with the ship highlighted after the fact

After all, in a country whose craggy, rocky, geography gives it a 2,000 mile-long coastline along the Baltic, and whose fleet in modern times has never topped 100 warships, the concept of hiding among said crags and rocks– with the aid of a bit of extra concealment via tarps and vegetation– is an easy sell.

Speaking of which, the Swedes are still at it, with Saab’s Barracuda Camouflage system, which is already used on tanks and vehicles and includes IR blocking, has a Marine Solution that works not only against the MK 1 Mod 0 eyeball, but also defeats “90 percent” of near-infrared (NIR), shortwave infrared (SWIR), thermal infrared (TIR) and broadband radar wavelengths.

Note the below images of a 52-foot Stridsbåt 90 H(alv)/Combat Boat 90 (CB90)– a fast military assault craft developed by Swedish boat maker Dockstavarvet, a part of Saab subsidiary– with Barracuda camouflage panels installed, then against a rocky coastline, and finally with the camouflage net fully deployed.

Via Saab:

Barracuda’s Camouflage Marine Solution has been uniquely designed to offer complete confidence to soldiers operating from the water, whether cutting through waves at breakneck speeds or moored to the coastline. Comprised of interlocking, fully customizable panels and an advanced multispectral camouflage net, this innovative solution delivers unrelenting protection from state-of-the-art enemy sensors in times when uncertainty could mean defeat.

If Saab could make a jungle and reef variant, I could see serious uses for this among the atolls of the Western Pacific.

Happy 100 For U.S. Navy Carrier Air and what it Brings

While the Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation — traditionally recognized as the moment Eugene B. Ely’s Curtiss pusher lifted off from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) in 1910– is a historic milestone that was passed over a decade ago, we are now in the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers.

On 20 March 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (Navy Fleet Collier No. 3) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1). 

1931 Jane’s, showing a plan for the carrier Langley

Named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer, and engineer, “The Covered Wagon” started as an experimental platform but was quickly proven an invaluable weapons system that changed how the U.S. Navy fought at sea.

As noted by the Navy:

In the nearly 100 years since, from CV 1 to CVN 78, aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace. With an unequaled ability to provide warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict, and to adapt in an ever-changing world, aircraft carriers, their air wings, and associated strike groups are the foundation of US maritime strategy.

SECNAV Carlos Del Toro’s official message celebrating 100 years of U.S. Navy Carrier Aviation.

About those big decks…

Today, the U.S. Navy has more big deck flattops than any other fleet in the world– a title it has held since about 1943 or so without exception– including 10 beautiful Nimitz-class supercarriers (all of which have conducted combat operations) plus one Gerald R. Ford-class carrier in commission (and finally nearing her first deployment) and two more Fords building.

It is expected the Fords will replace the Nimitz class on a one-per-one basis. Of the current 10, five are in PIA, DPIA, or RCOH phases of deep maintenance, leaving just five capable of deployment. Still, even with half these big carriers tied down, the five large-deck CVNs on tap are capable of more combat sorties than every other non-U.S. flattop currently afloat combined.

For reference, check out this great series of top-down shots by MC3 Bela Chambers of the eighth Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (C 550) transiting the Ionian Sea during recent NATO tri-carrier operations.

Commissioned in 1998, HST, like her sisters, is over 100,000-tons full load and is capable of carrying 90 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Currently embarked with CVW-1 aboard, you can see her deck filled with over 30 F-18E/Fs from VFA-11 (Red Rippers), VFA-211 (Fighting Checkmates), VFA-34 (Blue Blasters), VFA-81 (Sunliners), and EA-18Gs of VAQ-137 (Rooks) along with MH-60S/Rs of HSC-11 (Dragonslayers) and HMS-72 (Proud Warriors) and E-2D “Advanced” Hawkeyes of VAW-126 (Seahawks). The current wing is deployed with 46 F-18E/F, 5 EA-18G, 5 E-2Ds, 8 MH-60Ss and 11 MH-60Rs. Once an F-35C squadron gets integrated with CVW-1, replacing one of the Rhino units, it makes all sorts of other changes. Add to this MQ-25 Stingray drone refuelers and you see big things on the horizon.

For comparison, Charles de Gaulle, commissioned in 2001, is the only nuclear-powered carrier not operated by the U.S. Navy. At 42,000 tons she is smaller than the conventionally-powered Chinese carriers or the new Royal Navy QE2 class vessels, but the French have been operating her for two decades (off and on), including combat operations, and she is probably at this point the most capable foreign carrier afloat. However, she typically deploys with only around 30 aircraft, including the navalised Dassault Rafale (M model), American-built E-2C Hawkeyes, and a mix of a half-dozen light and medium helicopters. Her current “Clemenceau 22” deployment includes just 20 F3R Rafales of 12F and 17F.

The newest of the three vessels seen here, is the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (C 550), commissioned in 2008. Some 30,000-tons full load, she was built with lessons learned by the Italians after operating their much smaller (14,000-ton) “Harrier Carrier” Giuseppe Garibaldi, which joined the Marina Militare in 1985. Whereas Garibaldi was able to carry up to 18 aircraft, a mix of helicopters and Harriers, Cavour was designed for STOVL fixed-wing use with 10 F-35Bs (which Italy is slowly fielding) and a dozen big Agusta AW101 (Merlins). She is seen above with a quartet of aging Italian AV-8Bs, which explains why Garibaldi, currently in Norway on a NATO exercise there, is there sans Harriers.

It should be noted that, when talking about smaller but capable carriers such as Charles de Gaulle and Cavour, the U.S. Navy also has a fleet of “non-carriers” that can clock in for such power projection as well.

Further, there are seven remaining Wasp-class and two America-class amphibious assault ships, which can be used as a light carrier of sorts, filled with up to 20 AV-8Bs or F-35Bs (after updates), with the latter concept termed a “Lightning Carrier.” A slow vessel, these ‘phibs are not main battle force ships, and they cannot generate triple digits of sorties per day, but they are a powerful force multiplier, especially if they free up a big deck carrier for heavier work. While not as beefy or well-rounded an airwing as a Nimitz or (hopefully) Ford-class supercarrier, these LHD/LHA sea control ships can provide a lot of projection if needed– providing there are enough F-35Bs to fill their decks.

Thirteen U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), are staged aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) as part of routine training in the eastern Pacific, Oct. 8, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

Speaking of which, USS Tripoli (LHA-7), is set to fully test the Lightning Carrier concept next month, drawing 20 F-35Bs from VMX-1, VMFA-211, and VMFA-225. 

Last All-Gun Cruiser Could Get Hail Mary Save

The beautiful De Zeven Provinciën-class light cruiser Hr.Ms. De Ruyter (C 801), who went on to serve the Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81) until she was retired in 2017, was to be saved as a floating museum, perhaps at the Naval Museum in Callao but lack of funding and interest has derailed that.

The Peruvians now have the vessel up for sale with the asking price starting at about $1.07 million. 

Of course, that figure is to scrap the ship but concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint probably make that a non-starter as it would likely cost more to safely dispose of all the bad stuff than her value in recycled materials. This leaves the prospect that she may just be scuttled at sea or, possibly, sent to Alang where such things don’t matter as much.

However, there is a slight possibility the ship could go back “home” with some Dutch groups reportedly making a move to acquire and preserve the old girl. 

Of course, see “concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint ” as well as “lack of funding and interest” to see how that will likely turn out.

Either way, it is a shame.

BAP Almirante Grau of the Peruvian Navy, was decommissioned on Sep 26, 2017

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