Tag Archive | steampunk navy

Warship Wednesday, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

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, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (4)

(All photos: Chris Eger)

Here we see an immense– and operational— vacuum tube of a General Electric Model TAJ-19 radio complete with its original 1942 U.S. Navy Bu Ships data plates. The location? The entry level of the Indiana War Memorial, home to the USS Indy Radio Exhibit which is dedicated not only to the famous heavy cruiser of the same name but also to all WWII U.S. Navy radiomen and radio techs.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2) USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The radio room exhibit, which I stumbled on last Sunday while in town for the NRA Annual Meetings while on the job with Guns.com, was manned by four big-hearted gentlemen who lovingly cared for the very well maintained cabinets. Their ham call sign is WW2IND for you guys looking for QSL cards.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The TAJ-19 is a 500-watt CW and 250-watt MCW transmitter that operated from 175kc up to 600kc and was used on just about everything the Navy had in WWII that was bigger than a destroyer escort. This one is still operational…

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

Over 32 volunteers worked since 2008 to establish the radio room, sourcing some 174 items from across the country to include surplus equipment from the period battleships USS Iowa and USS Alabama.

Bravo Zulu, gentlemen!

As for the War Memorial itself, they have an amazing collection which I will get to more in future posts including extensive space dedicated to the USS Vincennes, to both modern USS Indiana‘s (Battleships No. 1 and 58), as well as the above-mentioned cruiser, and the more modern attack sub that shares her same name.

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!

A link to Kearsarge, up at auction

We’ve talked extensively in passed Warship Wednesdays and other posts about the epic contest off France between the British-built steam privateer CSS Alabama, under the swashbuckling Capt. Raphael Semmes and the Mohican-class screw sloop of war USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet, hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Aboard Kearsarge that day was Acting Master James R. Wheeler, a Massachusetts man who later went on command, as a volunteer lieutenant, the captured blockade runner-turned-Union gunboat USS Preston in the tail end of the war before serving as U.S. consul to Jamaica under President Grant, where he died in 1870. Importantly, Wheeler commanded the crew of the Union vessel’s key 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, which pummeled Alabama into the sea at relatively close range.

This guy:

Well, sometime after Alabama and before Preston, Wheeler was presented a custom Ames Model 1852 Officer’s Sword by popular subscription among Boston gentlemen, complete with acanthus scrollwork, naval battle scenes and the likes of both Amphitrite and Poseidon.

Interestingly, it is well preserved and is coming up at auction in May, after once being part of the esteemed collection of Norm Flayderman.

(Photo: RIA)

More here:

Estimate Price: $75,000 – $125,000.

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019: Putting the Yeoman back into the Einmann-Torpedo

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.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, Mar. 13, 2019: Putting the Yeoman back into the Einmann-Torpedo

Photos: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Poland, unless otherwise noted

Here we see one Walther Gerhold, a smiling young sailor just past his 23rd birthday in August 1944. Note his Marine-Schreiber (yeoman) rate, Matrosenobergefreiter rank (roughly equivalent to E4 or Petty Officer Third Class) Zerstörerkriegsabzeichen (Destroyer War Badge issued 24.12.42 along with his original Iron Cross II. Class) and, around his neck, a newly-awarded Knight’s Cross. Our good Schreibobergefreiter had just been decorated for single-handedly depriving the Allies of one, albeit well-used, light cruiser off the Normandy coast, a feat that led to his Ritterkreuz.

This is his ride:

Gerhold joined the Kriegsmarine on 16 October 1940 and served as a yeoman in administrative tasks in various torpedo boat units, seeing a share of hot action on T 111 and T 20 which resulted in an EAK as well as a bonus fractured collarbone that sidelined him to shore duty in late 1943 at the Baltic seacoast base at Heiligenhafen. Ready to get back into something other than pushing paper, in early 1944 he volunteered for a new force then being assembled from across the German Navy, the Kleinkampfverbänden der Kriegsmarine (Small Combat Units of the Navy). The group was to contain some 794 officers and 16,608 NCOs and men, although throughout 1944-45 fewer than 10,000 passed through the ranks of the organization.

With Germany largely out of the large surface combatant business, these men would take a page from the operations of the Italians and Japanese and become combat divers and operate such desperate weapons as midget submarines (Seehund, Hecht, Biber, Molch); motorboats filled with explosives (Linse), and manned torpedoes.

To inspire the troops, a series of Kampfabzeichen der Kleinkampfmittel badges were created in seven different grades and clasps for service in the unit, all featuring a sawfish.

The first such German-produced manned torpedo was inventor Richard Mohr’s’ idea to take a pair of electrically driven G7e torpedoes and make a stand-alone weapon system from them. The 533mm G7e could run at a speed of 30 knots for 7.5kms on its Siemens AEG-AV 76 9 kW DC electric motor and 52-cell battery. By using one “war shot” torp filled with 616-pounds of Schießwolle 36 high explosive, the top-mounted fish of the pair ditched the warhead for a tiny cockpit for a human operator who could squeeze into the body of the 21-inch-wide torpedo.

Our trusty yeoman being unbolted from inside his manned torpedo. Note the Draeger rebreather and the *tight* fit

With the motor of the top “mother” torpedo adjusted to run at a more economical rate, the battery would last long enough to give the contraption a theoretical 40-ish mile range at 3.2- to 4.5-knots.

The device, branded the Neger (partially a racist take on Mohr’s last name and partially because the craft were painted in a matte black finish), the volunteer pilot would be shoehorned into the driver’s seat of his one-man semi-submersible (the vessel would run awash and could not fully submerge on purpose) and a plexiglass dome bolted closed over his head from the outside.

Note the trolly. These could be launched from a dock, a small vessel, or even a beachfront

21-inches wide, 24-feet long, and 5-feet high, you are looking at 2.7-tons of batteries, sheet metal, man and explosives

Effectively trapped inside their bubble with no way to get out, it was estimated that as much as 80 percent of Negerpiloten were lost in missions, mostly due to suffocation. Navigation instruments were nil other than a compass, and the weapon was aimed by lining up a mark on the tip of the craft with the general direction of the target. Due to their low vantage point in the water, operators could typically see less than two miles.

Note the “aiming” post on the front of the short craft

The concept of their use, owing to their low-speed, poor operator visibility and total lack of protection, was that the weapons were to be used in large flotillas– with several dozen common in one mission– and at night, which further reduced the range of the pilot’s Mark I eyeballs. Once lined up on target, a mechanical lever would (hopefully) release the underslung war shot G7e for its moment and book it for home before the sun came up.

In March 1944, the first trial copy of Mohr’s double-torpedo was ready for trials carried out by veteran U-boat ace Oberleutnant Johann Otto Krieg who was not impressed. Nonetheless, the device was put into rapid production and the first combat unit– to be commanded by the unfortunate Krieg– was stood up as K-Flottille 361. Consisting largely of desk types (see Gerhold) and some rear echelon Army troops, 40 volunteer pilots and some 160 support crew were hastily trained.

On the night of 19/20 April, a group of 37 Neger operating from Nettuno on the Italian coast was released to attack Allied ships at the Anzio beachhead.

It was crap.

None of the Negerpiloten in the sortie released his torpedo. Three of the devices were lost. Worse, a fully-intact model washed up to fall into American hands.

Shifting operations to Favrol Woods (west of Honfleur) in Normandy by train just after the D-Day invasion, on the night of 5/6 July a force of 24 Negers sortied out against the Mulberry Harbors defense line. The result was much better than at Anzio.

The 1,400-ton Captain-class frigate HMS Trollope (K575) has hit near Arromanches at about 0130 on 6 July and later written off. Some sources put this on Gerhold while others attribute the attack to a German E-boat. What is known for sure is that about an hour later the manned torpedoes sank the two Catherine/Auk-class minesweepers HMS Magic (J 400) and HMS Cato (J 16), with Cato stricken while responding to Magic‘s distress.

Not to be outdone, on the clear moonlit night of July 7/8, K-Flottille 361 managed to muster 21 Neger boats for a repeat attack. During the action, the Auk-class minesweeper HMS Pylades (J 401) was sunk and 4,300-ton Free Polish cruiser ORP Dragon (D 46)-– formerly the RN’s Danae-class cruiser HMS Dragon, launched in 1917– so extensively damaged that she was written off and used as a breakwater for Mulberry.

HMS DRAGON (British Cruiser, 1917) NH 60926

While Gerhold was given credit for the destruction of Dragon at the time by the Germans, 19-year-old Midshipman Karl-Heinz Potthast, captured in the aftermath of the attack and placed in a British POW camp, has subsequently been credited by most with the damage inflicted to the aging warship.

On the way back to their base, the Negers, running high in the water without their torpedoes, bumped into a group of well-armed and much more maneuverable British Motor Torpedo Boats. In the light of the cloudless full moon, their plastic bubble cockpits glowed like a beacon on the surface of the sea and it was easy pickings. Although the HMC MTB-463 was lost to what was thought to be a mine during the brawl, just nine manned torpedoes made it back to be recovered by Germans.

Gerhold, tossed around by the explosions and in a leaky craft filled with stale air, sea water, oil slick, toxic battery fumes and human waste (there was no head on board, after all), was picked up from the water near Honfleur by ‘Heer soldiers, his device’s power supply exhausted.

Note the rubber outer suit, wool inner suit, headgear and Draeger rebreather. The later Marder type human torpedo allowed the pilot to open his own canopy from inside. How innovative!

There were a few other, less spectacular victories, chalked up to Herr Krieg’s manned torpedo suicide squad:

-Some sources attribute the sinking of the 1,800-ton I-class destroyer HMS Isis (D87) on 20 July off Normandy to K-Flottille 361 torpedoes, although it was more likely to have come from a mine.

-The 1,300-ton Hunt-class destroyer HMS Quorn (L66), sunk 3 August, succumbed to a human torpedo during a combined attack on the lone British tin can by a determined force of E-boats, Linse explosive motorboats, Einmann-torpedoes, and aircraft.

-On the same night, the 7,000-ton British EC2-S-C1 class Liberty ship SS Samlong was hit by a torpedo purposed to have been fired by KF-361 pilot Oberfernschreibmeister (telegraph operator) Herbert Berrer. German records say “Berrer sank on 3.8.44 in the Seine Bay with a one-man torpedo despite strong enemy security a fully loaded 10,000-ton freighter. Already on 20.4.44 Berrer sunk in front of the landing head in Nettuno another enemy ship [which was false].” Samlong was written off as the victim of a mine.

-Further up the coast, off Ostend, the Isles-class armed trawler HMS Colsay (T 384) met with a Neger on 2 November and was sent to the bottom.

For the survivors, in a Germany faced with the prospect of the Allies just months away from Berlin and no news to report, it was decoration time.

Most of the pilots were given the EAK II, while two– “cruiser killer” Gerhold “freighter buster” Berrer– were given Knights’ Crosses in a ceremony attended by none other than K-Verbande commander VADM Hellmuth Heye and Kriegsmarine boss Adm. Karl Dönitz himself in August. Oberleutnant Johann Krieg, 361’s skipper, was also given a Knights Cross.

The presentation of the Knight’s Cross was made by Konteradmiral Hellmuth Heye.

Adm Karl Donitz 7th in the second row and a glum Adm Hellmuth Heye 1st from the left second row, surrounded by German K-fighters. Note Walther Gerhold to Donitz’s left.

The awards were important in the terms of recognition for the downright insane task the manned torpedo pilots accepted.

Less than 600 Ritterkreuz were issued by the Germans in WWII, many posthumously. Only 318 of these went to the Kriegsmarine, almost all successful U-boat/destroyer/S-boat commanders and senior officers killed in battle. In fact, just three enlisted sailors picked up the decoration besides Berrer and Gerhold– Bootsmannsmaat Karl Jörß who commanded a flak team on a bunch of crazy F-lighter ops in the Med in 1943 and had already received two iron crosses, lead machinist Heinrich Praßdorf who saved submarine U-1203, and Oberbootsmannsmaat Rudolf Mühlbauer who did the same on U-123.

As such, the decorations and deeds of K.361 spread wide across what was left of the Reich.

The covers of The Hanburger Illustrierte – 22.Juli 1944 and The Berliner Illustrierte 8.3 1944

In all, just 200~ Negers were made, and most that got operational did so on one-way trips. An advanced version, the upgraded Marder (Marten), capable of diving to 90 feet, was produced to replace the more beta version of a human torpedo that was the Neger, was fielded. Two Marder-equipped K-Verband units in the Med, K-Flottille 363 and 364, tried to give the Allies grief from August- December 1944 but wound up losing almost all their craft with nothing to show for it.

The Marder’s controls were luxurious compared to the Neger. Still, not even enough room for a sandwich and a dual purpose bottle of schnapps. Good thing a few tabs of Pervitin or “Panzerschokolade” doesn’t take up a lot of space!

A Marten. Note how much longer the vessel was than the Neger. An easy way to tell them apart is to remember that the Negers look like two torpedoes sistered together– because they were. Martens had an actual mini-sub carrier, complete with trim and ballast tanks, attached to a torpedo. NH 85993

K-Verbande attacks got even more desperate in the final months of the war, with victories even slimmer. While midget subs like the Molch and Seehund were built in larger numbers, they never had much luck operationally. Overall, it could be argued that the Einmann boots of K.361 were the most effective fielded by the force. Of the five K-fighters who received Knights Crosses, three were part of Kleinkampf-flottille 361.

In the end, these naval commandos and their all-guts David vs Goliath style operations earned the Kriegsmarine, long the redheaded stepchild to the Luftwaffe, Wehrmacht, and Waffen-SS as seen by the Chancellery, a bit of redemption. In one of the final acts of the war, Hitler ordered Donitz to form a bodyguard for him drawn from K-units due to his distrust of the SS Leibstandarte. The company-sized force never made it to the bunker in Berlin as there was no safe place for them to land. They later surrendered with Donitz, who had inherited the role of President of Germany, at the Naval Academy at Mürwik in May.

Post-war, dozens of the German human torpedoes were captured, but few retained.

Marders and Molch onshore at Lynes, Denmark. Via The Illustrated London News of 11 August 1945

One on display at the Verkehrsmuseum in Speyer, Germany.

Further, the craft have been the subject of numerous scale models.

Of the men behind the devices, K.361 commander Johann Krieg was wounded in the last days of the war and captured by the British. He later joined the West German federal navy (Bundesmarine) in 1956 and retired from the Ministry of Defense in 1975 with the rank of Fregattenkapitän. He died in 1999.

Midshipman Karl-Heinz Potthast, the battered young man who is today usually credited with the hit on ORP/HMS Dragon, made numerous connections in England while a POW and returned to his studies in Germany post-war. Later, he became a noted historian and educational theorist, earning the Bundesverdienstkreuz from the Bonn government in 1985 for special achievements in the spiritual field. He died in 2011.

Gerhold, after he picked up his Knights Cross, managed a transfer to Norway and resumed his life as a yeoman with a promotion to Schreibermaat, having had enough of the torpedo biz. He was repatriated home in June 1945 and later, living in Westphalia, became a police officer. He often autographed a number of period “Einmann-Torpedo!” postcards and magazine articles for collectors and was active in veteran’s groups. As for the debate between whether he crippled Dragon or it was the work of Potthast, camps are divided and Gerhold largely took credit for sinking HMS Trollope. He died in 2013.

As far as a legacy, today Germany’s Minensuchgeschwader/Minentaucher, coastal mine warfare units, still carry the swordfish logo of the K-Verbande units. With the thousands of mines still bobbing around in the Baltic and the North Sea, they are very active. Likewise, Draeger-equipped Kampfschwimmer frogmen of the German Navy’s Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) carry the lineage of the old K-fighters as well—and still get lots of work with mini-subs and the like.

Specs:


Displacement: 2.7-tons FL
Length: 24-feet
Beam: 533mm
Draft: 533mm x 2 plus a bubble
Complement: Einmann
Machinery: AEG-AV 76 Electric motor 9kW, 52-cell battery.
Range: 40~ nm at 4 knots.
Armament: One G7e electric torpedo, aimed via eyeball

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, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

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, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

NH 73392

Here we see the fourth-rate scout patrol vessel USS Elfrida at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1899, just after the Spanish-American War. A steel schooner with fine lines, she looks like a gentleman’s yacht that would be more at home on Lake Champlain if it was not for her mix of 3-pdr and 1-pdr deck guns.

Speaking of which…

Prior to the dustup with the decaying Spanish Empire, Elfrida was the personal pride of one Dr. William Seward Webb, founder of Shelburne Farms and President of the Wagner Palace Car Company of New York (that latter of which later became Pullman).

This guy:

Webb came from the best family.

His father, a Whig, held the rank of general (as did his grandfather) and was minister to Austria, Brazil and other points of interest– importantly brokering a deal with Napoleon III to get French troops out of Mexico. Webb’s older brother was the likewise meticulously groomed and well-dressed Union Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who famously earned the MOH at Gettysburg at the head of the Philadelphia Brigade on Cemetery Ridge.

When your brother has a monument at Gettysburg, your dad got the French out of Mexico, and your granddad picked up a star from Washington himself, you may come from an illustrious family.

Studying medicine in Europe, the younger Webb acquired a love of Mozart and Schutzen target rifle shooting, both of which he brought back to the U.S., usinb the latter as “Inspector General of Rifle Practice” for the Vermont militia with the state rank of colonel.

Built at a cost of $100,000 by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company Wilmington, Delaware (the same firm built yachts for customers such as Charles Morgan, William Astor, and W. K. Vanderbilt) Elfrida was launched at the yard on 13 April 1889.

She was reportedly the “first steam yacht ever built with both a detachable stern and bow” so that Webb could use her on to pass through the narrow canals to Lake Champlain. She went just 117-feet long overall, closer to 102 at the waterline.

Finished in paneled red mahogany, “Colonel” Webb’s double stateroom was aft and three others were set aside for guests– each with its own lavatory. The crew had another trio of staterooms forward but had to share a head.

Electrically lit and steam-heated, the very modern schooner carried telegraph for use when close to line and used a triple expansion engine as an “iron mainsail” complete with a steam plant consisting of a compact Hazelton vertical water tube boiler that generated 160 pounds of steam. Her speed was about 10ish knots.

Photograph of the Webb family steam yacht Elfrida, with the crew, docked at Steam Yacht Elfrida at Quaker Smith Point at Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain. Julie Edwards (Shelburne Farm’s archivist) writes on 06-03-2008 that the image ( depicts Elfrida I, the darker hulled vessel and the image would date c. 1888-1898. UVM photo SF1026

A favorite of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club (which still exists today) Elfrida was the commodore’s ship for the regatta off Plattsburg, New York in August 1897 attended by no less a personage as President William McKinley along with Vice President Garret Hobart in tow.

Webb also apparently packed a fairly loud “yacht gun,” as one did, to celebrate during “the season.”

When the “Splendid little war” came just the very next summer, Webb did his personal duty and sold Elfrida on 18 June 1898 to the Navy for the relatively paltry sum of $50,000. Refitted at New York Navy Yard with a single 3-pounder 47mm gun and a pair of 1-pounder 37mm pieces, she was commissioned less than two weeks later, on 30 June, and immediately put to service on coastal patrols between New York and New London.

As the war was short and the Spanish never made it up to the Northeast, she was placed out of commission 14 September 1898, service in her first war complete.

DANFS says she was used by the Naval Militia in Connecticut and New Jersey to train seagoing militiamen from 1899 to 1908 in the days prior to the establishment of the Navy Reserve. Typical summer cruises would range a week or two and often proved eventful, with the New York Times reporting one such 1903 voyage encountering a “frightful” storm at sea.

In 1908, our 20-year-old armed patrol yacht was decommissioned and her powerplant swapped out for a new 200ihp engine powered by two boilers with an increased speed of 14 knots.

By 20 August 1909, along with the old torpedo boat USS Foote (TB-3), Elfrida was assigned to the North Carolina Naval Militia, a force she belonged to as a drill and school ship until the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917. While there, her armament was upgraded to a single 6-pounder 57mm rapid-fire mount.

USS ELFRIDA at New Bern NC circa 1909-13 as North Carolina naval militia ship. Postcard via Valentine Souvenir Co. NH 94934

North Carolina Naval Militia, Elizabeth City Detachment, 1907. BM2 Leonard K. Rutter, standing on the far left, back row, has his uniform preserved at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

In 1914, the 32 ships allocated to the 19 various Naval Militias were diverse and somewhat motley. These ranged from the old cruiser USS Boston (3,000 tons, 2×8 inch, Oregon Naval Militia) and the shallow draft monitor USS Cheyenne (3,255 tons, 2×12 inch, Washington Naval Militia) to the downright puny yacht USS Huntress (82 tons, 2×3 pdrs, Missouri NM) and everything in between. Notably, several of the ships were on the Great Lakes training reservists in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. Like Elfrida, most had a SpanAm War pedigree.

When Congress declared war on the Kaiser in April 1917, the remobilized Elfrida (SP-988) returned to the active fleet and resumed her 1898 mission of coastal patrol, rated, along with the old 100-ton ex-Spanish Navy gunboat USS Sandoval as, “suitable for harbor defense only.”

On 25 August 1917, she suffered an explosion while making the passage from Norfolk to Yorktown, Virginia, killing one and injuring two others. This likely limited her wartime career and, after a stint assigned to the 5th Naval District to patrol to take charge of a fleet of motorboats tending the submarine nets at York River Upper Barrier, she was demobilized at the end of 1917. Before the war was even out, she was decommissioned 31 March 1918 and sold 11 May 1918.

Her final fate is unknown.

As for the esteemed Dr. Webb, he passed in 1926, aged 75, but his model farm at Shelburne, Vermont, where Elfrida was often docked, is today a National Landmark non-profit institute that does research into sustainable farming techniques.

Elfrida‘s plans and those of 207 other Holling & Hollingsworth built vessels, are in the collection of the Mariners’ Museum Library in Newport News.

Specs:

Her 1914 Jane’s entry, under North Carolina’s Naval Militia

Displacement: 164 to 173 tons
Length (between perps) 101′ 6″
Length (on deck) 117′ 0″
Beam molded 18′ 0″
Depth at side 12′ 6″
Draft: 7′ 9″
Machinery (As built)
Engine triple expansion engine 10½”xl6″x24″/ 16″ 200hp, Hazelton boiler
Dia. of wheel 6′ 4″
Pitch 8′ 6″
Coal: 12 tons, as built (listed as 23 max in Navy service)
Speed: 10.5 knots as built, 14 knots after 1909.
Crew: Unk in civilian service, likely 20-25 in Naval service.
Armor: None
Armament:
(1898)
1 x 47mm 3-pounder
2 x 37mm 1-pounders
*Note, Jane‘s listed this as standard through her career
(1911)
1 x 57mm 6-pounder

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, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

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 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, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

Collection of Francis Holmes Hallett via NHHC NH 93484

Here we see “Sunset on the Pacific,” a colored postcard circulated around 1910 showing the Alert-class gunboat USS Ranger (PG-23) at anchor looking West. The bark-rigged iron-hulled steamer would have an exceptionally long life that would see her serve multiple generations of bluejackets of all stripes.

One of the narrow few new naval ships built after the Civil War, the three-ship class was constructed with funding authorized by the 42nd Congress and listed at the time as being a Sloop of War. Powered by both sail and steam, they were 175 feet long, displaced 541 tons and were designed to carry up to a half-dozen era 9-inch guns split between broadsides. The trio were the last iron warships to be built for the U.S. Navy, with follow-on designs moving to steel.

While under construction, the armament scheme was converted to a single 11-inch smoothbore Dahlgren rifle, two 9-inch Dahlgrens, one 60-pounder Parrott, a single 12-pounder “boat” howitzer that weighed only 300-pounds in its carriage, and one Gatling gun– the latter two of which could be sent ashore by a naval landing party to conduct business with the locals as needed. Speaking of which, she could afford to send her small Marine detachment as well as up to 40 rifle-armed sailors away as needed to make friends and influence people.

Alert, Huron, and Ranger were all completed at the same time, with the middle ship lost tragically on her first overseas deployment off the coast of North Carolina 24 November 1877 near Nag’s Head.

Ranger was constructed at Harlan & Hollingsworth, and, commissioned 27 November 1876, was the 4th such vessel to carry the name.

The preceding two Rangers saw service in the War of 1812 while the original was the 18-gun ship sloop built in 1777 and commanded by no less a figure than John Paul Jones for the Continental Navy. Famously, on 14 February 1778, that inaugural Ranger received a salute to the new American flag given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay.

Poster calling for volunteers for the crew of USS RANGER, Captain John Paul Jones, then fitting at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for her cruise into European waters. It quotes the resolution of Congress of 29 March 1777 establishing pay advances for newly recruited seamen. Description: Courtesy of Essex Institute Salem, Mass., owners of the original poster. NH 52162

Once our new, 4th, Ranger was commissioned, she was assigned to the Atlantic Station briefly before setting sail for the Far East where she would join the Asiatic Station, leaving New York for the three-month voyage to Hong Kong on 21 May 1877 via the Suez.

USS RANGER photographed before 1896. From Bennett, “Steam Navy of the U.S.” NH 44604

The crew of USS RANGER. Historical Collection, Union Title Insurance Company, San Diego NH 108286

Returning to the states in 1880, she was converted for survey work at Mare Island and spent the two decades slow-poking from Central America to the Northern Pacific and back while engaged in hydrographic duties. A ready ship in an area where no other U.S. flags were on the horizon during that period, she often waved the Stars and Stripes as needed in backwater Latin American ports while alternating between getting muscular with trespassers in the Bearing Strait and Alaskan waters.

While laid up between 1895 and 1899, the 20-year-old gunboat was modernized and landed her Civil War-era black powder shell guns and Gatling for a much more up-to-date battery of six 4-inch breechloaders and an M1895 Colt “potato-digger” machine gun.

USS RANGER, now with a gleaming white hull, photographed after she received 6 4-inch breech-loading rifles in 1897. After this refit, she could be distinguished from her sister ALERT by her funnel casin NH 44605

USS RANGER off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1898, with her cutters in the water. NH 71743

USS Ranger Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1900. CDR Wells L. Field was her skipper at the time. The original print is color tinted, lightly. NH 73386

By 1905, with the Russians and Japanese getting all rowdy in the Yellow Sea and adjacent areas– with resulting battered Russian ships increasingly hiding out in the U.S.-controlled Philippines– Ranger received a refit at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and set sail for Cavite for her second stint on the Asiatic Station. However, a cranky propulsion plant kept her largely in ordinary until she was sent back to the U.S. in 1908, arriving in Boston on 12 December via the Suez Canal. She was decommissioned the same day and laid up in Charlestown.

With a perfectly good 30-year-old three-master in the harbor and little regular work she could accomplish, the Navy turned Ranger over to the state of Massachusetts for use as the pier side training ship for the Massachusetts Nautical Training School in Boston on 26 April 1909, a role she would maintain until the Great War.

When the U.S. entered the international beef with the Kaiser in April 1917, Uncle eventually remembered he had the ole Ranger on the Navy List and called her back to active service as a gunboat along the New England coast, renaming her USS Rockport in October. This changed again just four months later to USS Nantucket.

USS Nantucket (PG-23, ex-Ranger) anchored off Naval Air Station Anacostia, District of Columbia, on 7 July 1920. Note her wind sail ventilators. 80-G-424466

In July 1921, she was reclassified from a gunboat to an auxiliary with the hull number IX-18 and loaned back to the Massachusetts Nautical School. Over the next 19 years, she became a regular fixture around Boston and the waters up and down the Eastern seaboard.

USS NANTUCKET (PG-23) then loaned to the State of Massachusetts for use at Massachusetts Nautical School, 1933 Description: Courtesy of Mr. Gershone Bradford Catalog #: NH 500

Leslie Jones the renowned photographer with the Boston Herald-Traveler, must have been taken with the Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket during his tenure with the paper and he captured her on dozens of occasions in the 1920s and 30s.

USS Ranger, later USS Rockport and USS Nantucket (PG-23 IX-18), was a gunboat of the United States Navy seen at Charleston Navy Yard. Photo by Leslie Jones Boston Public Library

Training ship Nantucket with the wind in her sails. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1923, firing a salute. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket leaving Boston Harbor for a cruise around the world 1923-05-17 Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Mass. nautical training ship Nantucket preparing for around the world trip at Charlestown Navy Yard 4.29.1928. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Secretary of the Navy Curtis Dwight Wilbur aboard training ship Nantucket in the late 1920s. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1928 at berth at North End waterfront note battleship in the background. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets hauling line on the deck of the training ship Nantucket off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Bow view of the training ship Nantucket in drydock at Navy Yard. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket: landing force drill with bayonets. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Provincetown Harbor Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Charlestown Navy Yard 1930. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Sailors in the rigging of the training ship Nantucket at the Navy Yard, Jan 1931. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

USS Nantucket, Mass. Training ship, at Navy Yard Jan 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket being reconditioned from a barkentine to a bark at Charlestown Navy Yard April 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets working with sextants on the deck of the training ship Nantucket while off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

When the clouds of war came again in 1940, Nantucket was taken back over by the Maritime Commission on 11 November 1940 for as a school ship at the new Merchant Marine Academy established at Kings Point, NY, after which her name was removed from the Navy Register for good.

Renamed T/V Emery Rice in 1942, the high-mileage bark gave all she could until she was damaged by the unnamed hurricane of September 1944, and after that was relegated to use as a floating museum ship.

At age 82, Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket/Rice was stripped and sold for scrap in 1958 to the Boston Metals Co. of Baltimore.

During her time in the Navy, she had nearly a dozen commanders (four of which would go on to wear stars) in addition to training legions of sailors and young officers for maritime service for two different schools. One of the most significant to do his time on the old girl was none other than later Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, who served on the ship as a newly-minted ensign from 12 August to 12 December 1908, on her trip home from the PI to Boston, before young Chester began instruction in the budding First Submarine Flotilla.

Besides her records maintained in the National Archives Ranger‘s original engine — the only example of its type known to be still in existence—was saved from destruction and is on display at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point as a national landmark.

As noted by the As noted by the AMSE

The horizontal compound engine of the Emery Rice is a unique survivor typical of the period 1840 to 1880. The 61-ton back-acting engine has an unconventional configuration in that its two cranks lie close to their cylinders and two off-center piston rods straddle the crank-shaft in a cramped, but efficient, arrangement.

The cylinder bores are 28.5 and 42.5 inches. The stroke is 42 inches. With saturated steam at 80 pounds per square inch gauge and a condenser having 26-inch mercury vacuum, 560 indicated horsepower were produced at 64 revolutions per minute. The engine was designed by the bureau of steam engineering of the U.S. Navy and built by John Roach & Sons of Chester, Pennsylvania, for the U.S.S. Ranger, as the iron-hulled ship was first known.

Dr. Joshua M. Smith, Ph.D., director of the museum, kindly provided the below for use with this post.

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Interestingly, two subsequent USS Rangers, coastal escorts SP-237 and SP-369, would be in service at the same time during the Great War–while our Ranger was serving as Rockport/Nantucket! The next Ranger was one of the ill-fated Lexington-class battlecruisers and never made it to commission. Finally, her name was recycled for not one but two famous aircraft carriers, CV-4 (1934-47) and CV-61 (1957-2004), the latter of which was only scrapped in 2017. Hopefully, there will be another soon.

As for her sisters, 60 sailors from the wreck of the Huron are buried together in Section Five of the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in well cared for lots while the ship herself is protected by federal mandate in her watery grave. A highway marker near Nag’s Head mentions her loss.

Alert continued to serve in the Navy as a submarine tender until she was decommissioned 9 March 1922 after a very respectable 47 years of service. She was sold three months later for scrap and I can find no trace of her today. During her time in service, Alert had 23 official captains, including future RADM. William Thomas Sampson, known for his later victory in the Battle of Santiago. Our subject outlived her by more than three decades.

As for King’s Point, the institution is still in cranking out USMM officers today and Ranger‘s original school, the Massachusetts Nautical School, is now the Massachusetts Maritime Massachusetts Maritime Academy located in Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod– Ranger‘s old stomping ground.

Specs:
Displacement: 1,202 long tons
Length: 175 ft. (53 m)
Beam: 32 ft. (9.8 m)
Depth of hold: 15 ft. (4.6 m)
Draft: 13 ft. (mean)
Installed power: Five boilers driving 1 × 560 ihp, 64 rpm compound back-acting steam engine
Propulsion: 1 × 12 ft. diameter × 17.5 ft. pitch propeller, auxiliary sails
Speed: 10 knots under steam
Complement: 138 officers and enlisted (typically including a 15 man Marine detachment until 1898).
Armament:
(1875)
1x 11 in (280 mm) Dahlgren gun
2 x 9 in (230 mm) Dahlgren guns
1x 60 pdr (27 kg) Parrott rifle
1x 12 pdr (5.4 kg) boat howitzer
1x Gatling gun for landing party
spar torpedoes for her steam launch (provision deleted after 1889)
(1897)
6x 4-inch breech-loading rifles
4x 6-pounder 57mm guns
1x Colt M1895 potato-digger type machine guns for landing party
(1921)
4x 4″/50 mounts

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019: That time the Japanese (briefly) won a condemned (but free) secondhand battleship

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, Feb. 13, 2019: That time the Japanese (briefly) won a condemned but free battleship

Farenholt Collection. Catalog #: NH 65755

Here we see the Brandenburg-class linienschiff /panzerschiff SMS Weißenburg of the Kaiserliche Marine with a bone in her mouth, likely while on trials in 1893. She would go on to live an interesting life that would leave her one of the last 19th Century battleships still afloat more than a half-century later.

These early German barbette battleships were the Imperial Navy’s first blue water capital ships when they were envisioned in the late 1880s. Stumpy by design, the quartet of Brandenburgers were 379-feet long and weighed 10,000-tons, roughly the same size as a smallish cruiser by the time WWI came around.

The class had an unusual layout for the main armament, mounting two twin 11″/40 cal gun turrets fore and aft with a third twin 11.1″/35 cal turret amidships, which is kinda funky.

The 11-inch guns were good enough to fire a 529-pound shell to 15,000-yards, but the small magazine only carried 60 rounds per gun and the nature of the turret design meant that shells could only be loaded when the gunhouse was trained to 0 degrees. The rate of fire was about 1 shell every 2 minutes. Photo via Navweaps.

However, they could make 17 knots and carried as much as 16-inches of armor, which was decent for their day.

Class leader SMS Brandenburg and our subject Weissenburg were laid down simultaneously at AG Vulcan Stettin in May 1890, followed by SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm at Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven, and SMS Wörth at Germaniawerft, Kiel, which left them all to commission in 1893/94, staggered just months apart.

Differing from their sisters, Weissenburg and Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm carried lighter nickel (Harvey) steel plate rather than tougher Krupp-made plate, as the latter was in short supply (this will be important later).

Imperial German Brandenburg class battleships gunnery practice at sea 1900

The German battleship SMS Weißenburg in 1894. Note her peculiar three turret arrangement

WEISSENBURG (German Battleship, 1891-1938) Photographed in British waters, probably during the late 1890s. NH 88653

WEISSENBURG German Battleship, 1891 note her big Reichskriegsflagge on the stern NH 48568

When they joined the fleet, Kaiser Willy II and company loved the new toys, although they were outclassed by the comparable British and French designs of the day– e.g. the Royal Navy’s nine Majestic-class pre-dreadnoughts went over 17,000-tons and carried 12-inch guns, although they had thinner armor than the Brandenburgers while the French Charlemagne-class was marginally faster and also mounted 12-inch guns.

Still, until the Germans ordered their Nassau-class dreadnoughts in 1906, the Brandenburgers carried the largest guns in the fleet, as subsequent linienschiff only toted 9.4-inch or the same 11-inch guns as they did, and in smaller quantities. This left them popular for a decade. During that time, the class of sisters waved the flag as a quartet, forming the 1st Division under Konteradmiral Richard von Geißler, and sailed as a group for China in 1900 to exercise gunboat diplomacy using the Boxer Rebellion as a pretext.

Think of them as Kaiser Willy’s low-budget version of the Great White Fleet.

“Das Linienschiff Weißenburg” passing through the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal in Hochbrücke Levensau, 1900

German battleships SMS Brandenburg (foreground) and SMS Weißenburg (right) in Port Said on the way to China, 1900

The Germans published and widely circulated many very nice period postcards and lithographs on the class which serve as classic maritime art today.

S.M. Linienschiff Weissenburg postcard. Isn’t that beautiful?

The whole class

Although they were substantially modernized after their return from China (a second conning tower added, some torpedo tubes removed, boilers replaced, fire control upgraded etc.) the writing was on the wall for these dated bruisers, especially after the epic slaughter of pre-dreadnoughts observed during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05. Shifted to the II Squadron and then the III Squadron, by 1910 they were listed as part of the Reserve Division.

Brandenburg and Worth were then relegated to training duties, passing in and out of ordinary, and later would form part of V Battle Squadron for coastal defense during WWI.

Meanwhile, with Berlin courting the Ottoman Empire, Germany made a deal to sell the two sisters with Harvey armor– Weissenburg and Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm— to the Turks in September-October 1910. Payment for the two battleships and four companion German-built destroyers amounted to 25 million marks. As the Germans paid about 10 million marks for each of the Brandenburgers‘ construction when new, they got the better end of the deal.

Fez-equipped crew members of the Ottoman battleship Barbaros Hayreddin or Turgut Reis, sometime between 1910-1914

When compared to the rest of the Sultan’s fleet, whose most impressive vessel was the old (c.1874) 9,000-ton coastal defense battleship Messudiyeh and two Anglo-American protected cruisers– Medjidie (Mecidiye) and Hamidie (Hamidiye) — picked up around the turn of the century, the gently-used German battleships were the best things in the Turkish fleet until German Admiral Wilhelm Souchon showed up in 1914 (more on him later).

Weissenburg /Torgud Reis and Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm/Barbaros Hayreddin in the 1914 version of Janes, listed right after the planned British-built modern dreadnoughts which would be seized by Churchill that year and pressed into the Royal Navy, and right before the ancient Messudiyeh, built in 1874.

As the two German battleships required more than 1,800 sailors to crew them– a figure the Turks simply did not have– they were undermanned and filled with often raw recruits from the Empire’s maritime provinces. Within just a few years the lack of trained NCOs and officers meant the two ships had boilers and pipes that were broken, phones that no longer worked, and rangefinders and ammo hoists that could not be operated effectively.

Renamed Torgud Reis and Barbaros Hayreddin, respectively, after famous Ottoman admirals, they sailed for Constantinople just in time to see service against the Italians (then nominal German allies) and against the combined Greek-Bulgarian-Rumanian-Serbo-Montenegrin forces in the series of Balkan Wars, providing artillery support to Ottoman ground forces in Thrace and throwing shells at Greek ships during the ineffective naval skirmishes at Battle of Elli and Lemnos.

Ottoman battleships Barbaros Hayreddin and Turgut Reis, in Thessaloniki, 1911, just after delivery

Unfortunately for the Turks, both of their new-to-them German battleships got the short end of the stick against the Greek’s Italian-built armored cruiser Georgios Averof and her companions and were peppered with shells in each of their meetings with the Hellenic Navy, leaving them in poor shape just two years after delivery. Due to a low number of 280mm shells available, most of the rounds fired by the ships in their career were from 150mm and 120mm secondary guns. At the Battle of Elli on 16 December 1912, Torgut Rus suffered 8 killed and 20 wounded. At the Battle of Lemnos on 18 January 1913, the Greeks inflicted another 9 killed and 49 wounded on our subject’s crew.

Comparison between the Ottoman (left) and Greek (right) fleets during the First Balkan War, 1912-13 L’Illustration, No. 3652, 22 Février 1913 via Wiki. Torgut Ruis is the second from the bottom left.

With little time to lick their wounds, the Ottomans were sucked into World War I on the German side, largely due to the machinations of the aforementioned Adm. Souchon, who showed up with the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau at Constantinople just after the balloon went up with the British hot on his heels. Donning fez and raising an Ottoman crescent banner, Souchon on his own went on to raid the Russian coast in the Black Sea under the pretext of being in the Sultan’s navy, an act that brought the “Sick Man of Europe” into the hospice care of a conflict it could never hope to survive.

The Ottoman battleship Torgud Reis (ex-SMS Weißenburg) in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign. Note her stubby 11″/35s amidships compared to her 11″/40s in the front and rear.

Nonetheless, both Torgud Reis and Barbaros Hayreddin managed to give a good account of themselves in the Dardanelles Campaign, shelling ANZAC troops along Gallipoli and dodging Allied submarines and battleships. Speaking of which, Barbaros Hayreddin was dispatched by a single torpedo from Royal Navy HMS E11, which had penetrated the Sea of Marmara, in August 1915, taking half her crew with her.

Her biggest contribution to the war would seem to come when she tied to Goeben/Yavuz on a rough day for the Turks in January 1918 during the Battle of Imbros and pull the stranded battlecruiser off Nagara Point before the Allies could kill her, as such preserving a fleet in being for the rest of the conflict.

For more on the Ottoman Navy of that period, click here for an excellent essay.

When the war ended, Torgud Reis was in exceptionally poor condition, lacking parts and shells, still suffering from damages inflicted in her wars with the Balkan states as well as a turret explosion in 1915. Following the Armistice of Mudros in October 1918 and the resulting Allied occupation of Constantinople– the first time the city had changed hands since 1453– the Ottoman fleet was disarmed and interned under British guns.

In the controversial Treaty of Sevres, signed on 10 August 1920, the victorious Allies divided the Ottoman fleet among the victors, with Britain to receive the ripest fruit including Yavuz Sultân Selîm (ex-Goeben), Hamidiye, Mecidiye, Muavenet-i, Millet, Numene, Tasoz, Basra, and Samsun. The French, Greeks and others were to split the destroyers Berk-i Efsan, Pelagni Deria, Zuhaf Peyk-i Sevket, and Nusret.

The Japanese, who never fired a shot at the Turks in anger as far as I can tell, was to get Torgud Reis. In fairness to the Emperor, it should be noted that the Japanese sent two squadrons of cruisers and destroyers to the Med in 1917-18 for escort duties for troop transports and anti-submarine operations, which included the destroyer Sakaki getting damaged by a torpedo from the Austro-Hungarian submarine U 27 off Crete.

Needless to say, the Japanese, who picked up the much nicer Jutland-veteran dreadnoughts SMS Nassau and SMS Oldenburg as well as the cruiser Augsburg and five destroyers from the Germans as reparations in the Treaty of Versailles– only to sell them for scrap– never took over the leaky and busted Torgud Reis.

Regardless, the Sevres pact never took effect, as the Greeks and Turks both balked at it although for different reasons, which in turn led to the milder Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923, that allowed the Turks to keep their ancient fleet. The treaty came into force on 6 August 1924 and soon after, Torguid Reis was refitted at the Gölcük Naval Shipyard through 1925 then returned to service as an armed training ship, still with at least two of her 11.1-inch guns working while two of her other turrets were removed and mounted ashore in concrete on the Asian coast of the Dardanelles as a coastal artillery battery.

Meanwhile, her two sisters still in Germany, Brandenburg, and Worth, were scrapped in Danzig just after the war.

The 40-year old battleship Torgud Reis in 1930 in poor shape with only her forward turret remaining. Note the destroyer to the left

Torgud Reis remained on active duty until at least 1933 and endured as an accommodations hulk for another two decades past that date, only being broken in the late 1950s. With that, I believe she was one of the final 19th Century pre-dreadnoughts left, as the USS Kearsarge (BB-5) which was converted to a heavy-crane ship in 1920, had been scrapped in 1955; and the hulk of the ex-USS Oregon (BB-3), which had been used as an ammunition barge at Guam until 1948, was scrapped in 1956. An honorable mention goes to the USS Illinois (BB-7), who was commissioned in 1901, disarmed in 1923, and ultimately sold for scrap in 1956. Only Togo’s Mikasa, which has been preserved as a museum ship at Yokosuka since 1923, remains of the era. Dewey’s 1898-era protected cruiser Olympia, remains as an honorable mention.

Nonetheless, the two turrets removed from Torgud Reis in 1925 and repurposed into coastal artillery, still endure, which counts for something.

Further, the Internationales Maritimes Museum in Hamburg has a set of very well done 1:100/1:250 scale models of the Brandenburgers by master model maker Thomas Klünemann on public display, keeping the memory of the class alive in their former homeland.

Specs:
Displacement:10,670 t (10,500 long tons)
Length: 379 ft 7 in
Beam: 64 ft 0 in
Draft: 24 ft 11 in
Installed power: 10,000 ihp (7,500 kW)
Propulsion: 2-shaft triple expansion engines
Speed: 16.9 knots
Range: 4,300 nautical miles at 10 knots on 1050 tons coal
Complement:
38 officers
530 enlisted men
Armament:
4 × 28 cm (11 in) MRK L/40 caliber guns (two removed 1925)
2 × 28 cm (11 in) MRK L/35 caliber guns (removed 1925)
8 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 guns
8 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/30 guns
5 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes (1 bow, 4 beam) (removed 1910)
Armor:
Belt: 400 mm (15.7 in)
Barbettes: 300 millimeters (11.8 in)
Deck: 60 millimeters (2.4 in)

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, Jan. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

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. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

NH 108456 (2000×1043)

Here we see the S-class submarine USS S-49 (SS-160), one of the last class of “pig boats” commissioned with letters rather than names, in heavy seas during her brief time in the Navy. Somehow, after a short and unlucky naval career, S-49 was sold to a huckster who turned her into a (sometimes) floating tourist trap that wound up taking his case to the Supreme Court.

True story.

The S-class, or “Sugar” boats, were actually three different variants designed by Simon Lake Co, Electric Boat, and the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) in the last days of the Great War in which U.S.-made submarines had a poor record. Looking for a better showing in these new boats, of which 65 were planned, and 51 completed in several subgroups. These small 1,000~ ton diesel-electrics took to the sea in the 1920s and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online.

The hero of our tale, USS S-49, was 231-feet oal, could dive to 200 feet and travel at a blistering 14.5-knots on the surface on her two 900hp diesel engines and two Westinghouse electric motors for 11-knots submerged. Armament was a quartet of 21-inch bow tubes with a dozen fish and a 4″/50 cal popgun on deck for those special moments. Crew? Just 42 officers and men.

Laid down on 22 October 1920 by the Lake Torpedo Boat Co., Bridgeport, Conn., she commissioned on 5 June 1922 and soon joined New London’s experimental unit, Submarine Division Zero, operating in that role in a series of tests and evaluations into 1926.

U.S. Submarine S-49, during launching NH 108460

This made her one of the most well-photographed of these early submarines.

USS S-49 (SS-160), 1922-1931. NH 108464

USS S-49 (SS-160) NH 108465, on the surface, note her 4″ gun

NH 108462 USS S-49 (SS-160), at periscope depth

NH 108463 USS S-49 (SS-160), with decks awash

NH 108455 USS S-49 (SS-160), looking like she could beat her 14.5-kn max speed

NH 1374 USS S-49 (SS-160). What is the bluejacket on her bow doing?

Then, in early 1926, all hell broke loose.

Per DANFS:

At about 0750 on Tuesday, 20 April, S-49’s engines were started. Seven minutes later, just as a pilot cell cover was removed to test the specific gravity of the electrolyte, the forward battery exploded. The hydrogen gas explosion destroyed the cells in the forward half of the battery and forced up the battery deck. Ten men were injured. Two others were gassed during rescue operations. Four of the twelve died of their injuries.

The battery compartment was sealed and kept shut until mid-afternoon when the outboard battery vent was opened. During the night, the submarine took on a slight list to port and air pressure was used to keep ballast. At about 0515 on the 21st, a second explosion occurred in the battery room when wash from vessels departing for torpedo practice rocked S-49. The compartment was resealed for another few hours, after which the work of clearing the wreckage was begun.

Repaired and operational again by early 1927, S-49 made a cruise to the Florida Keys that Spring for exercises and then, on return to New London, was sent with her twin sister S-50 to red lead row in Philly in March to be placed in mothballs. Decommissioned 2 August 1927, she was stricken in 1931 to help bring down the Navy’s tonnage after the London Naval Conference.

S-49 was subsequently sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., Baltimore, Md., on 25 May 1931– but she was not to be scrapped.

You see, a Florida man by the name of “Capt. F.J. Christensen” purchased the gently-used boat as a hulk for a cost of $25,000 (about $400K in today’s dollars) in 1936 and soon put her to work as a privately-owned tourist attraction in the Great Lakes and East Coast, shuffling her between Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, and New York, among others.

For this purpose, she was disarmed, her engines disabled, most of her bunks pulled out (the class was notoriously cramped), registered as a “yacht” to comply with Canadian regulations on warships on the Lakes, and billed as “The $2,000,000 Fighting Monster.”

(Archives of the Supreme Court)

Admission to, “See how men live in a Hell Diver!” was 25-cents for adults, 15 for kiddies, with a souvenir book and other trinkets for sale on board for an added fee.

Privately owned sub S-49, open to the public at Point-o-Pines in Revere, near Boston, Aug 1931. Via Leslie Jones: The Cameraman

Ashore at Revere by Leslie Jones. Note that her torpedo door is open

U.S. Submarine S-49, at Great Lakes Exposition- Cleveland. NH 108461

From her souvenir keepsake book:

USS S-49 was only the second U.S. Navy submarine to be privately owned after naval service– with the first being former Warship Wednesday alum, the O-class diesel-electric submarine USS O-12 (SS-73), which was stricken on 29 July 1930 and leased for $1 per year (with a maximum of five years in options) to Simon Lake’s company for use as a private research submarine. Dubbed the Nautilus, O-12 was to explore the Arctic but instead only made it as far as Norway before the venture tanked and she was sunk in deep water on the Navy’s insistence.

As for Christensen, he flew under the radar and continued in his operation for almost four years until he crossed paths with NYPD Police Commissioner Lewis “Nightstick” Valentine who, appointed in 1934 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, ran the agency for over a decade before heading to Post-War Tokyo to take over the Metropolitan Police Department there with MacArthur’s blessing. The fuzz brought the submarine owner’s “sandwich men” on charges in 1940 of distributing illegal handbills (the above advert) in a case that went all the way to the nation’s high court in 1942– with the Supremes backing Valentine.

With a war on and Christensen facing mounting legal bills, after all, you can’t fight city hall, he sold the immobile submarine back to the Navy who dubbed it floating equipment and intended to use it for experimental work at the Naval Mine Warfare Proving Ground, Solomons, Md.

However, she sank on the way in 132-feet of water while under tow off Port Patience in the Patuxent River.

She is an active, though advanced, dive site today.

As for her sisters, though obsolete, several S-boats remained on the Navy List and served the Navy well in both the Atlantic and Pacific (including several lost to accidents) during WWII. A half-dozen were even transferred to the Royal Navy as Lend-Lease including class leader and the former submersible aircraft carrier, USS S-1.

None of these hardy, if somewhat unlucky, craft endure though Pigboats.com keeps their memory alive.

Specs:


Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
Length: 231 feet
Beam: 21 feet 9 inches
Draft: 13 feet 4 inches
Propulsion: 2 × MAN diesels, 900 hp each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 447 kW each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 14.5 knots surfaced; 11 knots submerged
Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
Range: 5,000 nautical miles at 10 knots surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft. (61 m)
Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes)
1 × 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 “wet mount” deck gun
Crew: 42 officers and men

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!

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