Tag Archive | steel navy

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

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

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

Motortorpedbåt T 28 i full fart i skärgården 1943 Fo196168

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

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

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

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

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

MAS 431, via Baglietto

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

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

MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina

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

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

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

T 28 MTB Fo200188

Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A

T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB

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

Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

1947 Janes entry

Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A

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

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

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

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

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

Fo196168

Specs:

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

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

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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.

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

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Warship Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

Photo by the Diretoria do Patrimônio Histórico e Documentação da Marinha (DPHDM)

Here we see the “Classe M” contratorpedeiro NAeL Marcílio Dias of the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) in 1944. If at first, you thought this looked like a U.S. destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic, you aren’t wrong.

In the mid-1930s the Brazilian Navy was a formidable force on paper for a Latin American fleet with two Jutland-era dreadnoughts battleships and two companion Armstrong-built light cruisers. What it lacked, however, were submarines and modern destroyers. To solve the first, Rio ordered a series of new submarines from Italy then went big on tin cans with a six-pack of H-class destroyers (planned Jurua class) from Vickers and a further three modified Mahan-class destroyers from the U.S.

The Mahan-class was the quintessential early 1930s American destroyer design, being very fast– 37 knots on steam turbines– and well-armed for the era with a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes and five 5-inch/38 DP guns, all in a ship that could float in just 10 feet of water. A full 18 ships were completed for the USN between 1934 and 1937, which went on to earn over 100 battlestars in WWII.

USS Mahan (DD-364) Running trials, 1936. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 60643

USS MAHAN (DD-364) anchored, with her rails manned, circa the later 1930s. NH 101681

The three Brazilian Mahans would use American equipment and technology transfers but, importantly, would be built in Brazil at the Arsenal de Marinha, on the Isles of Snakes, in Rio de Janeiro, notably making them the largest warships built domestically until then.

Laid down in 1937, they would carry “M” pennant numbers (M-1, 2, 3) and the names of former Brazilian naval heroes — Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh— which had previously been used on a class of 1890s English-built torpedo boats. For instance, Marcílio Dias was a 27-year-old sailor who lost his arm when his ship engaged three Paraguayan warships during the Battle of Riachuelo in 1865 during the War of the Triple Alliance while trying to save the ship’s flag.

However, the vessels took a lengthy time for Brazilians to crank out, as everything was being done for the first time. Whereas the U.S.-made ships typically went from keel laying to breaking out a commissioning pennant after about two years in yards that were accustomed to the work, the Marcílio Dias class only made it to the fleet after an extended six-year gestation period, completing in November 1943.

Brazilian destroyers Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh at their commissioning ceremony, 29 Nov 1943. DPHDM

And it was just in time.

Brazil, along with the bulk of Latin America, was neutral for most of the Great War– only declaring war on the German Empire on 26 October 1917– and had high hopes to remain out of WWII. This was not to be.

Mounting Brazilian merchant ship losses to German U-Boats and Italian submarines in the Atlantic, coupled with British pressure, led President Getulio Vargas to declare war on both Germany and Italy on August 22, 1942. With the stroke of a pen, on 15 September 1942, VADM Jonas Ingram was appointed ComSoLant (which soon became the U.S. 4th Fleet), with the Brazilian Navy folded into his overall command. The force’s mandate was to hunt down Axis blockade runners, submarines and surface raiders prowling about the region.

The Brazilian Navy was ordered to take the gloves off and soon was sending men to the U.S. to train on new weapon systems while American ships increasingly operated from ports in the country.

U.S. Submarine Chaser Training School, Miami, Florida. Shown are officers and enlisted men of the Brazilian Naval Mission at the School. Lieutenant Aristides Pereira Campos, Jr., looks on as Jose Bezarra da Silva loads with a dummy shell. Jose Avelino da Silva receives orders through the earphone as Chief Petty Officer Corintho Jose de Goes directs the crew. At the controls are Joaquim Brasil da Fonesca (foreground) and Josephat Alves Marcondes, above gun, December 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-40162

Eight 170-foot PC-461-class sub chasers were supplied in 1942-43 via Lend Lease (eventually purchased by Brazil) for coastal patrol. Added to this were B-25s, PBY flying boats, Lockheed Hudsons and Venturas sent to join U.S. Navy patrol squadrons operating from Brazil. Notably, several U-boats and an Italian submarine, (U-164, U-128, U-590, U-513, U-662, U-598, U-199, U-591, U-161, and Archimede) wrecked by air-dropped depth charges and machine guns, rest off the coast of Brazil today.

PBYs in flight over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are flown by Brazilian pilots who received training from US Naval Aviators. Far below is Ipanema Beach, and in the center background is the famed Copacabana Beach. NARA 80-G-59581

Anyway, back to our destroyers.

As 1943 was not 1937, once the balloon went up, the Marcílio Dias-class underwent a radical change in armament, shipping to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for installation of 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikons as well as sonar and updated ASW weapons. To compensate for space and weight, they only had four rather than five 5-inchers installed and just one quad torpedo tube launcher rather than three.

This left them with warpaint to boot.

Mariz e Barros (DPHDM)

Coming late into the conflict, the three Brazilian Ms got into the war in a very active sense when they shipped out of Recife to join Task Force 41.1, centered around the cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4), in February 1944 to escort the first contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to Europe, a task that brought them back and forth across the Atlantic from Rio to Gibraltar through January 1945, a convoy mission that was repeated no less than five times successfully.

The Brazilain M-class destroyers spent 1944 and 1945 rotating between 14-day patrols of the South Atlantic and running convoys between South America, Africa the Caribbean and Europe, notably never losing a ship under their care. Photo: Marinha do Brasil

The First Division of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, first South American troops to arrive in the European theatre of war, swing into Naples, Italy, after their crossing of the South Atlantic on USS General W.A. Mann (AP 112). Released July 16, 1944. NARA 80-G-46176

The 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force fought like lions in Italy from late 1944 through 1945 and lost nearly 950 men to combat along the Gothic Line. They also bagged two German Generals including Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico, shown here surrendering his 148. Infanterie-Division to Brazilian FEB General Euclides Zenóbio da Costa. Italy, 1945

Brazilian soldiers celebrate the Brazilian Independence Day in Italy during World War II, September 1944

After escorting a Brazilian task force of marines (Fuzileiros Navais) from Rio to Trinidad in early 1945, where they relieved U.S. Marines for service in the Pacific, the three Brazilian M-class destroyers joined the Allied Northeast Naval Force (South Atlantic) and rode shotgun over JR/RJ convoys between Rio de Janeiro to Recife and BF/FB runs from Bahia to Freetown as well as standing by for weather station/sea rescue for US planes from Africa to America via Ascension Island.

Although late in the war, U-boats were still active in the SouthLant region, with U-977, the final German unit at sea to surrender, only pulling into an Argentine port in August 1945. Sadly, they also searched for the survivors of the lost cruiser Bahia, which was destroyed at sea in July.

Following the end of the conflict and escorting the FEB home from Europe as part of Task Force 27.1.1, the three M boats formed the First Destroyer Flotilla with new pennant numbers (D24, D25, D26) and remained in service for generations. Notably, they rolled out the welcome mat to USS Missouri in August 1947 when that storied battlewagon brought President Harry Truman to Brazil for a state visit.

Over the next 15 years, they took part in a series of UNITAS, VERITAS and SPRINGBOARD exercises with the U.S. Navy and Latin American fleets, worked up with the Portuguese Navy off Africa, and waved the green banner of Brazil from the Cape of Good Hope to the Caribbean. In 1964, Barros even picked up a British Sea Cat missile launcher for use against aircraft, which lived on as a training ship slightly longer than her two sisters.

Contratorpedeiro Marcílio Dias (D25) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Contratorpedeiro Mariz e Barros (D26) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Speaking of which, Marcílio Dias and Greenhalgh were stricken in 1966, with Barros lingering until late 1972. The ships were replaced in service by former FRAM I Gearing-class destroyers (ex-Henry W. Tucker, ex-Brinkley Bass) in 1973 that were given the same names, with these latter tin cans remaining in service until the 1990s.

NAeL Marcílio Dias (D25) (ex-USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875)) during exercise Unitas XIX in 1978

Today, the spirit of these WWII Brazilian Mahans is carried in the Marinha do Brasil by the Type 22 frigate NAeL Greenhalgh (F46) (ex-HMS Broadsword (F88))

Further, they have been memorialized in maritime art which, in turn, was used by Brazil in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the FEB and the country’s efforts in WWII.

Specs:

Marcílio Dias class destroyers, 1945 Jane’s, although the armament listed is incorrect

Displacement:
1,524 t (1,500 long tons) standard
2,235 t (2,200 long tons) full load
Length:
357 ft oa
341 ft pp
Beam: 34 ft 10 in
Draught: 10 ft mean
Propulsion: 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
2-shaft General Electric Company geared turbines, 42800 HP
Speed: 36.5 knots
Range: 6,500 nmi @15 knots on 559 t fuel oil
Complement: 190 to 210 men, maximum of 250 in wartime
Sensors: QCR-1 sonar (1943), by 1950s SPS-4, SPS-6C, Mk 28 (1962) AN-SQS-11A
Armament: (1937 design)
5 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × .50 caliber water-cooled machine guns (4×1)
3 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes with Bliss–Leavitt Mark 8 torpedoes
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1943)
4 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
8 × 20mm/70 Oerlikons (8×1)
2 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Bliss Leavitt MK 8 Mod. 3D fish
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1970)
2 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Hedgehog Mark 15 ASW launcher
Sea Cat GWS-20 SAM system

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, Oct 23, 2019: No Greater Honor

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019: No Greater Honor

Courtesy of the USS Samuel B. Roberts Survivors Association, 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 96011

Here we see the hard-charging John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), photographed from sistership USS Walter C. Wann (DE-412), only a week or two before she was lost in off Samar on 25 October 1944, during the greater Battle of Leyte Gulf, which is 75 years ago this week.

At just 306-feet long overall, the 1,750-ton Butlers were not built to slug it out in surface actions, as they only mounted a pair of 5″/38 DP guns and a trio of 21-inch torpedo tubes, which was about half the anti-ship armament of contemporary U.S. Navy destroyer. Alternatively, they did come to war with an impressive anti-submarine armament for their size in the form of a Hedgehog device, two depth charge racks and eight K-gun projectors, making them popular in convoy escort in the Atlantic. Likewise, they had a serious AAA suite to include a mix of 15 to 20 40mm and 20mm cannons, which would come in handy in smoking attacking Japanese planes at low level.

Using a pair of “D” Express boilers and a matching set of two Westinghouse geared turbines, they had 12,000 shp installed, allowing the Butlers to run up to a theoretical maximum of 24-knots (more on this later). While not fast enough for fleet operations, this was enough for convoy and patrol work. It also allowed them to have a nice, long range of some 6,000 nm when poking along at 12 knots.

Capable of being produced rapidly, some 300 Butlers were on the drawing board at one time or another from no less than four shipyards, with many constructed in fewer than six months apiece. However, “just” 83 were completed, ranging from USS John C. Butler (DE-339), which was laid down 5 October 1943 to USS Vandivier (DER-540) which, although laid down only a month later, languished on the builder’s ways until she was finally commissioned in 1955.

Our spotlight vessel, DE-413, was named in honor of then-recently deceased Samuel Booker Roberts Jr. The double son of a sailor– his mother was a Great War Yeoman (F) and his father was a Machinist’s Mate in the same conflict– he joined the peacetime Navy Reserve in 1939 at age 18 and soon served on the battleship USS California (BB 44) and destroyer tender USS Heywood (AP 12) before being assigned to the combat transport USS Bellatrix (AK 20). In charge of one of the amphibious ship’s Higgins LCVPs, Coxswain Roberts was soon running Marines and precious cargo ashore on Guadalcanal, where he was killed on 27 September 1942, at age 21, after volunteering to use his boat as a decoy to draw Japanese fire during a combat evacuation of a trapped group of Marines (companies A and B of 1/7). His parents were later presented with his Navy Cross. 

USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) was laid down on 6 December 1943, at Houston, Texas, by Brown Shipbuilding Co. and was launched just six weeks later with the sponsor being his mother, Anna.

Samuel B. Roberts leaves the ways at Brown Shipbuilding Company, Houston, Texas, 20 January 1944. NH 82850

The Navy’s newest destroyer escort then commissioned on 28 April 1944, LCDR Robert W. Copeland, USNR, in command. Commissioned as a Naval Reserve officer in 1935, Copeland was a lawyer from Tacoma, Washington who had been called back to the fleet in 1940. Since then, he had commanded the tug Pawtucket (YT-7), patrol craft Black Douglas (PYc-45), and Evarts-class destroyer escort Wyman (DE-38) — seeing action in the Pacific on the latter.

Soon, Roberts was headed to the Far East after workups on the East Coast, via a convoy through the Panama Canal.

Photographed in 1944, probably circa June, while off Boston, Massachusetts. Note she is not camouflaged as of yet. Courtesy of Robert F. Sumrall, 1980. NH 90603

On 21 August 1944, she got underway from Pearl Harbor for Eniwetok and points West. By October, she was part of the armada prepping for the 7th Fleet’s upcoming invasion of the Philippines.

During that campaign, the last huzzah of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Halsey’s 3rd fleet was drawn north by a Japanese carrier task force while Kinkaid’s 7th Fleet was tied up to the south, leaving three escort carrier task forces, Taffy 1, 2, and 3, to cover the Leyte amphibious landings themselves. 

This group of jeep carriers was confronted with a Japanese surface action group under VADM Takeo Kurita including four battleships — including Yamato–, six cruisers, and a dozen destroyers. To this RADM Clifton A. F. Sprague’s Taffy 3 could muster five escort carriers, the destroyers Heermann (DD-532), Hoel (DD-533), and Johnston (DD-557) and the four escorts Dennis (DE-405), John C. Butler (DE-339), Raymond (DE-341) and Roberts.

USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) or USS Dennis (DE-405) on October 25, 1944, at the Battle of Samar. 80-G-288145.

Spotting the massively outgunned ships of Taffy 3 just after dawn on 25 October, Kurita immediately ordered his battleships to open fire, in what could have quickly turned into an absolute slaughter. The jeep carriers, based on merchant freighter hulls, could only make 16 or 17 knots, meaning they had no hope of outrunning the Japanese without a head start.

That’s when the greyhounds of Taffy 3 leaped to the task force’s defense, largely replicating the effort made by Coxswain Roberts on Guadalcanal.

USS HERMAN (DD-532) and a destroyer-escort lay a smokescreen to protect their escort carrier group from attacking Japanese surface ships. During the Battle Off Samar, 25 October 1944. Photographed from WHITE PLAINS (CVE-66). 80-G-288885

As ably told by DANFS: 

At 0655, Samuel B. Roberts went to general quarters. Three minutes later, lookouts reported “splashes from heavy caliber [sic] shells” with both green and purple dye markings falling close aboard, between Samuel B. Roberts and Johnston. At 0700, Samuel B. Roberts and her sister ships laid down heavy black funnel smoke to cover the run-and-gun-style fighting typical of a fierce surface battle.

Over the 1MC, Cmdr. Copeland calmly told his men they would be entering “a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected, during which time we would do what damage we could.” Most of the crew prepared for the worst. RM3c Dick Rohde claimed, “He was telling us we were going to die, but he was telling the others guys that, not me. I kept thinking that somehow I’m going to make it.”

The smokescreen caused a slackening of enemy fire, and at 0716, Samuel B. Roberts entered a rain squall, further hiding her from the Japanese, for the next 11 minutes. After splitting his force into three separate groups to give chase, Adm. Kurita planned to surround Taffy 3 and destroy them. The rain squall provided the concealment Adm. Sprague needed, and intuitively he reversed course, causing the Japanese plan to fail. At 0735, Adm. Sprague hoped to scatter the enemy ships by ordering a torpedo attack, providing the escort carriers time to turn and flee. Ordered to make the first torpedo run against the enemy, the crews of destroyers Johnston, Hoel, and Heermann, prepared for battle. Dennis, Raymond, John C. Butler, and Samuel B. Roberts readied for the second torpedo attack.

Cmdr. Copeland acknowledged the order and later admitted being frightened, claiming, “My hands were ice cold from fear.” Waiting to fall in after the other destroyer escorts, whose skippers were all senior to him, Copeland realized none moved towards the enemy. Deciding to lead the charge himself, the skipper had just finished calculations needed to make a torpedo attack on the nearest enemy ship, a cruiser, when a near collision with destroyer Heermann temporarily threw Samuel B. Roberts off her attack run. Copeland fell in on a course 3,000 yards astern of Heermann and resumed the offensive, the first of the destroyer escorts to begin a torpedo run. Hoel valiantly led the charge, followed by Heermann and Samuel B. Roberts.

After a failed torpedo attack run on heavy cruiser Chōkai, Cmdr. Copeland dodged incoming fire from the enemy cruiser’s 8-inch forward guns. Salvos from several Japanese vessels splashed near the lead American warships, including Samuel B. Roberts. Cmdr. Copeland turned his attention on the enemy cruiser Chikuma, ordering his gunners to open fire on her at 0805. The two 5-inch guns on board Samuel B. Roberts, Mt. 51 and Mt. 52, “beat a regular tattoo on the Jap cruiser’s upper works,” Cmdr. Copeland wrote. The gun captains fired 608 of 650 shells, the entire capacity of the destroyer escorts’ magazine. Firing star shells and anti-aircraft rounds, the Japanese believed the attack came from a much larger force.

The battleship Kongō redirected her guns at Samuel B. Roberts and using high-explosive shells fired three from her 14-inch guns at the hapless destroyer escort. Kongo’s salvo found their mark, with one Samuel B. Roberts crewmember comparing “the impact to that of two trains colliding head-on.” The first shell struck near Samuel B. Roberts’s waterline, in the communications and gyro room. Destroying the radar, the shell extinguished all lights on board (except for the battle lanterns), knocking out communications between the skipper and crew. The second shell tore through the lower handling room of Gun 51, knocking many of the gun crew down or up against the bulkhead. Flooding began almost immediately, and the repair party quickly started moving ammunition topside. The third and final shell entered the main deck, crushing two sailors on its trajectory, before tearing a 4-foot-wide hole just aft of the hatch leading to Fireroom No. 1. The third projectile, failing to detonate until it cut through Samuel B. Roberts, also ruptured the main steam valve in several places. “All but two men…were instantly scalded to death in temperatures that soared to more than 800° or, half baked, begged for death as steam rose from their bodies.” Engine Room Number 2 was demolished while fuel and oil burned on the fantail and several smaller fires broke out below decks. Several other sailors on the 20-millimeter gun died, struck by flying shrapnel. Suddenly dead in the water, Samuel B. Roberts could not outrun her pursuers or mount a proper defense. The Japanese continued firing at her, and several destroyers rushed in for the kill.

The third shell also caused the escort vessel to dip in speed from 28.5 knots down to 17.5. Losing her two greatest assets, speed and maneuverability caused Cmdr. Copeland to realize, “we were then what you might call a ‘sitting duck in a shooting gallery.’” The aft 40-millimeter gun crew to no avail fired upon three torpedoes streaming towards Samuel B. Roberts. As several sailors braced for impact, they were relieved to discover the Type 93 torpedoes had passed harmlessly underneath. The Japanese, assuming the fighting would involve larger American warships, set the torpedoes to run too shallow. Just after breathing a sigh of relief, Cmdr. Copeland suddenly felt the bow of his ship lurch into the air.

The captain later noted Samuel B. Roberts “was simply shot to pieces the last 15 minutes she was in action.” Just after 0900, the second salvo of three 8-inch shells struck, one entering the engine room and exploding (several Japanese vessels switched from armor-piercing rounds to high-explosive shells). The second shell struck one of her 40-millimeter gun mounts, killing the entire gun crew. Shrapnel sprayed across the signal bridge, striking down more men. Only the 5-inch gun captained by GM3c Paul H. Carr remained in action, despite the likelihood of it overheating and exploding from the rapid rate of fire Carr’s crew put out.

While attempting to load the last of her 325 remaining shells, an overheated powder charge sparked a breech explosion destroying Samuel B. Roberts’s only remaining 5-inch gun, killing or mortally wounding every member of the aft gun crew. The only eventual survivor, S1c Sam Blue, was blown overboard and knocked unconscious. He later regained consciousness in the water, saved only by his automatically inflatable life belt. MM2c Chalmer Goheen found Petty Officer Carr grievously wounded, defiantly clutching the last shell. Torn open from the neck down to his groin, the dying gunner begged his shipmate to help him load and fire the final shot. Petty Officer Goheen took the shell from Carr and helped him to the deck before checking on other wounded and dead men lying about them.

Petty Officer Goheen carried a wounded man missing a leg to safety and returned to find Petty Officer Carr again attempting to load the gun with the last round. Once more taking the shell from the determined gunner, Goheen helped bring him from the gun mount, where the 21-year-old gun captain died five minutes later. For his heroic actions during the battle, GM3c Paul Carr received the Silver Star posthumously.

After sending his officers around the dying vessel to conduct damage assessments, Cmdr. Copeland realized Samuel B. Roberts was no longer in any condition to fight. Looking around his battered vessel, the skipper “could see dead and wounded men everywhere. From where I stood it was obvious that she was mortally wounded,” he later wrote. At 0910, Copeland gave the order to abandon ship. After crewmembers destroyed all important equipment and secret documents, they began abandoning the only home they had known for the past six months.

Leaving the sinking destroyer escort proved difficult for many sailors, even those not suffering wounds or burns. The majority of the crew abandoned ship on the less damaged starboard side. The dog Sammy, Samuel B. Roberts’s small mascot, had run terrified around the decks throughout the battle. After the order to abandon ship, she was last spotted leaping into the water, never to be seen again. One of the escort vessels’ human survivors, jumping into the sea without a life vest, later found Sammy’s floating nearby. Unfortunately, it proved too small for him to put on.

At 1007, Samuel B. Roberts sank stern first. Her survivors watched sadly, as she slipped beneath the waves. Several clung to three life rafts (including the one launched out the portside shell hole), and two net tenders for over 50 hours before being rescued.

25 October 1944 American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944. Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) were rescued during the days following the action. Photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof. U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 278010

During her torpedo run at the Japanese Center Force with the destroyers, Roberts made an estimated 28.7 knots by raising pressure on her boilers past the safe limit and diverting steam to the turbines. She earned the reputation that day as a brawler ready to take on battleships.

Copeland, who would receive the Navy Cross, later wrote that there was “no higher honor” than the privilege to lead such a gallant crew. After the war, he resumed his law career in Tacoma while switching back a reservist, eventually making Rear Admiral. He died in 1973 while an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, USS Copeland (FFG-25) was named for him.

The fighting lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland, USNR, receives the Navy Cross from Rear Admiral David M. LeBreton, at Norfolk, Virginia, 16 July 1945. LCdr. Copeland received the Navy Cross for heroism while in command of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) during the Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944. Courtesy of Mrs. Harriet N. Copeland, 1980. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

As for Robert’s memory, she was quickly remembered by the Navy in the Gearing-class destroyer USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), which would remain with the fleet until 1970

(DD-823) Underway at sea, 10 October 1962. Photographer: PH3 Selke, of USS Essex (CVS-9) NH 107127

In 1986, an OHP, FFG-58, was given the name of the storied destroyer escort, which had earned a single battle star as well as a Presidential Unit Citation.

4 February 1986 Bath, Me: A port bow view of the guided-missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts FFG-58 as it departs Bath, Me. on sea trials. DN-SC-89-00167

On her was placed a commemorative plaque of her namesake, the USS Samuel B Roberts (DE-413)

Commemorative plaque of the USS Samuel B Roberts (DE-413). Below in raised lettering is “In Memory of Those Who Have Sailed Before Us/USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)/LCDR R. W. Copeland, Commanding Officer” The remainder of the plaque includes the names of the original crew of the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Accession #: NHHC 2015.034.001

While escorting reflagged tankers during the Iran-Iraq War Operation Earnest Will, FFG-58 was struck by a mine on 14 April 1988 in the Persian Gulf, an incident that led to Operation Preying Mantis. The mine blew a 21-foot hole in the vessel and broke the keel of the ship, which post-incident analysis argued should have sent her to the bottom.

USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) underway after the ship struck a mine on April 14, 1988. A USMC CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter is on the helicopter pad. DN-SC-88-08601

Nonetheless, the battered frigate’s crew leaped to her defense, going far and beyond standard damage control procedures in an epic five-hour battle to save her. Reportedly, men rushing forward into flooding and damaged spaced touched the original Roberts‘ plaque and drew inspiration from it.

From DANFS:

Rear Adm. Anthony A. Less, Commander Joint Task Force Middle East/Middle East Force radioed Rinn several times from his flagship, Coronado (AGF-11), and at one point asked him to evaluate the possibility of losing Samuel B. Roberts. “No higher honor,” the captain replied, a reference to when the Japanese sank the first Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 25 October 1944. That ship’s survivors had pulled Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland, their commanding officer, from the water and Copeland said he could think of “no higher honor than to have served with these men.”

Roberts was saved and eventually returned to the fleet after extensive reconstruction. Sadly, she was decommissioned in 2015 and is slated to be sold for scrap in the coming months.

As for the original 1944 destroyer escort, that vessel, along with fellow torpedo run destroyers USS Hoel and USS Johnston, are remembered at a large granite memorial dedicated in 1995 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, California.

Another memorial to Roberts is located in the Memorial Courtyard at the National Museum of the Pacific War, formerly the Nimitz Museum, in Fredericksburg, Texas. Further, the USS Samuel B. Roberts Survivors Association is very active, although dwindling. A number of books have been written about Taffy 3 and that terrible day off Samar.

The charge of the tin cans that fateful day was remembered in maritime art.

Watercolor by Commander Dwight C. Shepler, USNR, depicting an episode during the torpedo attacks by the TG 77.4.3 (“Taffy 3”) destroyer screen. Ships present are (left to right): Japanese battleships Nagato, Haruna, and Yamato, with salvo (Japanese shells contained dye for spotting purposes) from Yamato landing in left-center, USS Heerman (DD-532), USS Hoel (DD-533) sinking; Japanese cruisers Tone and Chikuma (NH 79033 KN).

In 2013, Roberts‘ 48-star national ensign, hauled down from the sinking ship by Chief Torpedoman Rudy Skau in 1944, was presented back to the Navy by a newly minted ensign who had been given the flag by Copeland before his death. It is housed at the University of Washington’s (UW) Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program in Clark Hall, Copeland’s alma matter.

Ensign, National, USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), Battle of Leyte Gulf Accession #: NHHC 2013.052.001

This month, as the Navy celebrates its 244th birthday and the Fleet remembers the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of the modern era, Roberts was mentioned directly in the Presidential Message.

Aboard USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), the battle and Roberts were also remembered, her action now ethos.

Specs:

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 14D prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for escort ships of the DE-339 (John C. Butler) class. This plan, showing the ship’s starboard side, stern, superstructure ends, and exposed decks, is dated 17 May 1944 and was approved by Commander William C. Latrobe, USN. 80-G-109627

Displacement:1,350 long tons
Length: 306 ft
Beam: 36 ft 8 in
Draft: 9 ft 5 in
Installed power: 12,000 shp
Propulsion:
2 × WGT geared steam turbines
2 × boilers
2 × shafts
Speed: 24 knots, designed
Range: 6,000 nm @ 12 knots
Complement:14 officers, 201 enlisted
Sensors: SF multi-purpose radar
Armament:
2 × single 5″/38 DP (127 mm) guns
2 × twin 40 mm Bofors (1.6 in) AA guns
10 × single 20 mm (0.79 in) AA guns
1 × triple 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
8 × Mk 6 depth charge throwers
1 × Mk 10Hedgehog ASW mortar
2 × Mk 9depth charge racks

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Warship Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

“Photo by Simmonds, Portsmouth,” USN NH 94220

Here we see the coastal defense “battleship” (cruzador-couraçado) Vasco da Gama of the Royal Portuguese Navy, June 1895, at the opening of the Kiel Canal, with a German Sachsen-class pre-dreadnought to the right. Da Gama is the only unit of the Portuguese Navy to be described as a capital ship and she outlasted most of her contemporaries, remaining the most powerful vessel in Lisbon’s fleet for six decades.

While Portugal’s naval needs were primarily colonial in the late 19th Century, which was satisfied by a series of lightly armed frigates and sloops, something more regal was needed for sitting around the capital and spending time showing the flag in European ports. Enter VDG, the third such Portuguese naval ship named for the famous explorer, with the two previous vessels being 18th and 19th-century ships-of-war of 70- and 80-guns, respectively.

Built originally as a central battery casemate ironclad with a barquentine rig by Thames Iron Works, Blackwall, this English-designed warship first hit the waves in 1876– just over a decade removed from the Monitor and Merrimack. Originally mounting a pair of Krupp-made 10.35-inch (26cm RKL/20 C/74) black powder breechloader guns in a central raised battery, the 200-foot steamer carried a whopping 9 to 10 inches of iron plate in her side belt and shields. Her steam plant allowed a 10-knot speed, which was adequate for the era.

1888 Brassey’s layout via Wiki commons

Her 10.35-inch Krupp breechloaders, which could be oriented inside her gun house to fire through four different gun ports forward/aft and port/sbd via turntables and tracks. Image is an 1880 print published in the magazine, “O Occidente”

She was a nice-looking ship for her time and often appeared on goodwill voyages around the Med and even into the Baltic.

Portuguese hermaphrodite ironclad Vasco da Gama, with her canvas aloft, Illustrated London News, July 15, 1876

Couraçado Vasco da Gama, in a print published in the magazine “O Occidente” in 1880

This included being one of the 165 vessels present among the 30 miles of wood, iron, and steel for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Spithead fleet review in 1897. VDG was in good company as the Royal Navy had on hand “53 iron-clads and armoured cruisers, 21 more than the nearest rival, France.”

Vasco da Gama, 1897 Spithead review, from a handout of the event published by The Graphic, which said “”Portugal sent the Vasco da Gama (Captain Bareto de Vascomellos), a small battleship of 2,479 tons, built at Blackwall in 1875. she is armed with two 10.2-inch guns and seven smaller guns.”

The Naval Review at Spithead, 26 June 1897, by Eduardo de Martino via the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 405260

In the mid-1890s, five modern warships– largely paid for by public subscription– were ordered to give VDG some backup. These ships, all smallish cruisers with long legs for colonial service, included the Rainha Dona Amélia (1683-tons, 4×6-inch guns, built domestically), Dom Carlos I (4250-tons, 4×6-inch, ordered from Armstrong Elswick), São Gabriel and São Rafael (1771-tons, 2×6-inch guns, ordered from Normand Le Havre), and Warship Wednesday alum, Adamastor.

In 1902, with the newer ships on hand, VDG was taken offline and sent to Italy to Orlando where she was completely rebuilt in a move that saw her cut in half and lengthened by 32-feet, fitted with new engines, guns, and machinery. The effect was that, in a decade, Portugal had gone from one elderly ironclad to six relatively effective, if light, cruisers of which VDG was still the largest and remained the flagship of the Navy.

She emerged looking very different, having landed her sail rig, picked up a second stack, and been rearmed with a pair of 8″/39.9cal Pattern P EOC-made naval guns in sponsons. She even had her iron armor replaced by new Terni steel plate. Basically a new ship, her speed had increased and she was capable of 6,000 nm sorties, which enabled her to voyage to Africa in service of the crown, if needed.

Nave da battaglia Vasco Da Gama 1903 (AS Livorno, Archivio storico del Cantiere navale Luigi Orlando)

Navios da Marinha de Guerra Portugueza no alto mar 1903 by Alfredo Roque Gamerio, showing ‘cruzadors” Vasco da Gama, Don Carlos I, S Rafael, Amelia and Adamastor to the far right. Note the black hulls and buff stacks

It was envisioned that VGD would be replaced by two planned 20,000-ton modern battleships (!) on the eve of the Great War, however, that balloon never got enough air to get off the ground due to Portugal’s bankrupt state treasury. Therefore, she soldiered on.

Her 1914 Jane’s Listing.

It was after her refit that she saw a period of action, being involved in assorted revolutions and coup attempts in 1910, 1913 and, along with other Portuguese Navy vessels, in 1915 that included bombarding Lisbon and sending revolting sailors ashore.

Vasco da Gama’s crew in the “Revolta de 14 de Maio de 1915” in Portugal

Nonetheless, during World War I, although Portugal was not involved in the fighting in Europe in the early days of the conflict, VDG escorted troop reinforcements to Portugal’s African colonies in Mozambique and Angola, where the country was allied with British and French efforts to rid the continent of German influence.

In February 1916, her crews helped seize 36 German and Austro-Hungarian ships holed up in Lisbon on the eve of Berlin’s declaration of war on the Iberian country. Once that occurred, she served in coastal defense roles, dodging some very active German U-boats in the process.

VASCO DA GAMA Portuguese Battleship 1915-20, probably at Lisbon, note the Douro class destroyer, NH 93621

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa: Commander Leote do Rego and the French naval attaché on Vasco da Gama 1916, posing with a deck gun which looks to be her 6″/45cal EOC

Once her only shooting war had ended without her actually firing a shot in anger, VGD still served as a ship of state and carried the commanding admiral’s flag.

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa Vasco da Gama tour by Spanish King Alfonso XIII 1922

Finally, in 1935, she was retired and scrapped along with the other five 19th century cruisers than remained. These vessels were all replaced en mass by a shipbuilding program that saw 5 Vouga-class destroyers ordered from Vickers along with a trio of small submarines and six sloops. This replacement fleet would serve the country’s seagoing needs well into the 1960s.

While her hull was broken, VDG’s 1902-era British-made guns were removed and reinstalled in 1936 in a series of coastal defense batteries at Monte da Guia, Espalamaca, Horta Bay and Faial Island in the strategically-located Azores, which remained active through WWII, and then kept ready as a wartime reserve until at least 1970. Some of those emplacements are still relatively preserved.

Further, Vasco da Gama is remembered by maritime art.

Cruzador Couraçado Vasco da Gama. Aguarela de Fernando Lemos Gomes. Museu de Marinha RM2572-492

An excellent scale model of her, as originally built, exists in the Maritime Museum, in Lisbon.

Portuguese ironclad Vasco da Gama (1876), Maritime Museum, Lisbon.

Her name was reissued to a British Bay-class frigate, ex-HMS Mounts Bay, in 1961 which went on to serve as F478 into the 1970s and then to a MEKO 200 type frigate (F330) commissioned in 1991.

Specs:
(As built)
Displacement:2,384 t (2,346 long tons; 2,628 short tons)
Length: 200 ft pp
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 19 ft
Installed power: 3,000 ihp
Sail plan: Barquentine rig
Speed: 10.3 knots
Complement: 232 men
Armor:
Belt: 9 in (230 mm), iron plate
Battery: 10 in (250 mm)
Armament:
2 × Krupp 10.35″/18cal 26cm RKL/20 C/74
1 × Krupp 15cm RKL/25 C/75
4 × 9-pounder guns
(1914)
Displacement: 3200 tons, full load
Length: 234 ft.
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 18 ft
Installed power: 2 VTE, Yarrow water tube boilers, 6,000 ihp
Speed: 15 knots
Range: 6,000nm on 468 tons coal
Complement: 260 men
Armor: Terni steel; belt: 250 – 100mm, deck: 75mm, shields: 200mm
Armament:
2 x EOC 8″/39.9 Pattern P guns
1 x EOC 6″/45
1 x QF 12-pounder 12-cwt gun (76mm)
8 x QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss 57mm guns

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, Oct 9, 2019: Queen City Admiral Maker

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019: Queen City Admiral Maker

Photographed by K. Loeffler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see schooner-rigged U.S. Navy Cruiser No. 7, the second USS Cincinnati, around 1896. Note her extensive awning, gleaming white scheme, and red-white-and-blue bow shield. She was a classic 19th-century coal-burning ship crafted of steel and would serve as a floating proving ground for some of the most venerated American admirals of the 20th.

The leader of a two-ship class, along with sister USS Raleigh (C-8), of what were termed “protected cruisers,” they were part of a then-huge 1888 Naval Act which sandwiched the Cincinnatis between the 9,000-ton armored cruiser USS New York, the 7,000-ton protected cruiser USS Olympia and the three 2,000-ton unprotected cruisers of the Montgomery class.

Designed with a single 6″/40 caliber Mk IV gun forward and 10 5″/40s Mk IIs arrayed rear and in casemated broadsides, the 305-foot-long Cincinnatis used a 6-pack of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to gin up 19 knots. They were electrically-lit, constructed with 12 longitudinal watertight compartments, and had all the most modern amenities.

Intended for commerce raiding in the event of war, they had very long legs– with a range of 10,000 nm @ 10 knots when carrying a maximum coal load– and carried enough armor to protect them from small shore batteries and gunboats.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) unofficial plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70107

Built for $1.1 million a pop, Cincinnati was laid down at New York Naval Yard while Raleigh was built simultaneously at Norfolk, both commissioning in the Spring of 1894 within 60 days of each other.

“Our Navy, Its Growth and Achievements” 1897 chromolithograph print by Frederick S. Cozzens showing the protected cruiser USS Raleigh (C-8) in her full schooner sail rig, the gunboat USS Castine (PG-6) and the ill-fated armored cruiser USS Maine.”

Cruiser No. 7 carried the legacy of not only the Ohio city but also the first USS Cincinnati, a City-class ironclad stern-wheel casemate gunboat. One of the “Pook Turtles,” the plucky riverboat was sunk and raised twice along the Mississippi in just 12 months. During the second such incident, under the Confederate guns at Vicksburg, her crew earned four Medals of Honor in the act of saving bluejackets that couldn’t swim. She went down that day with her colors defiantly nailed to the mast.

Artwork by Bacon, published in Deeds of Valor, Volume II, page 47, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. It depicts Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran assisting fellow crewmen of USS Cincinnati as their ship sinks under fire of Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 27 May 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at this time. NH 79917

Commissioned 16 June 1894, our brand new Cincinnati would go on to see some hot service of her own, albeit with much more luck.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS Cincinnati (C-7), starboard view. Note, the crew on deck and her early twin mast schooner auxiliary rig. Detroit Publishing Company, 1896-1899.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS Cincinnati (C-7), bow view. Note, the crew on deck, full-color bow shield, 6″/40 main gun on deck, and bow-mounted torpedo tube hatch. Detroit Publishing Company, 1896-1899. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

After enforcing neutrality laws at Tampa and Key West during the Cuban Revolution and a stint in the Med, she soon found herself on the blockade line off Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. In April 1898, she bombarded Matanzas.

“Bombardment of Matanzas” by the armored cruiser USS New York, the protected cruiser USS Cincinnati and monitor USS Puritan, April 27, 1898, by Henry Reuterdahl NH 71838-KN

“Bombardment of Matanzas” with Cincinnati on right by Walter Russell, 1899 via NYPL Collection,

The next month, Cincinnati scouted throughout the West Indies searching for Almirante Cervera’s squadron known to be approaching Cuba from metropolitan Spain. She then finished the war by convoying troops from Guantanamo Bay to Puerto Rico, patrolling off San Juan, and escorting the captured Spanish flagship Infanta Maria Teresa until that crippled cruiser sank.

As for Raleigh, she sailed with Dewey in the Pacific during the conflict and is often credited with firing the first shot of the Battle of Manila Bay.

The USS Raleigh in action in 1898, Manila Bay. NHHC

Post-war brought a two-year refit that saw Cincinnati much changed.

USS Cincinnati (Cruiser No. 7) at the pier in Key West, Circa 1901. Boston Public Library Collection

Painted-over bow shield, USS CINCINNATI, photographed March 1900. This is the cruiser’s original figurehead, which was replaced during her 1899-1901 refit with one commemorating her Span Am War service. O.N.I. photo, NH 115208

Figurehead: USS CINCINNATI, post-1901. Received from Boston Globe, 1937. NH 115225

Dewey’s Olympia was given a very similar bronze and wood Victory figurehead at about the same time during her respective refit.

Protected Cruiser USS Olympia shows off her exquisitely forged figurehead, Boston Navy Yard circa 1902. This large figurehead was in place from 1902-1917 and was finally removed during the extensive 1918 refit, replaced with a simple painted shield, which she still has today as a museum ship in Philadelphia. The above figurehead is currently at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Besides her new figurehead, Cincinnati landed her big 6-inch gun, to be replaced by a 5″/40, which brought her battery up to 11 such guns of that caliber. Likewise, her mainmast, auxiliary sail rig, and torpedo tubes were deleted as were her smaller 37mm guns.

Between May 1902 and January 1903, Cincinnati exercised some classic gunboat diplomacy and “protected American citizens and property in the Caribbean during political disturbances at Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Panama, and brought relief supplies to Martinique after the devastating eruption of Mount Pelee,” as noted by DANFS.

The landing of a company-sized force of U.S.N. sailors from the protected cruiser USS Cincinnati (Cruiser #7) at Colon, Panama, September 19, 1902. Note the M1895 Colt “potato digger” machine gun on the carriage, Navy M1895 Lee-pattern rifles, and MIll’s belts. NHHC RG-185-R-2

Cincinnati was something of a kingmaker, with no less than six of her 14 commanders going on to earn stars. Her captain during the 1898 conflict was Capt. (later RADM) Colby Mitchell Chester (USNA 1863), the only naval officer to have actively served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War I throughout a 50-year career. Chester’s wartime XO, LCDR Edward Buttevant Barry, likewise rose to rear admiral and command of the Pacific Fleet in 1910. Former skippers Hugo Wilson Osterhaus and Frank Hardeman Brumby ended their careers as fleet commanders. Among her junior officers during the 20th Century was a young Ens. Ernest King and Lt. Ray Spruance.

Group portrait taken aboard USS CINCINNATI (C-7) taken circa 1905 at Chefoo, China. Ensign Ernest J. King, USN, is at left. NH 50032

“USS CINCINNATI (1911-1913)” autographed by Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance who served as her as Senior Engineer Officer during that period. The picture is of the cruiser after her 1901 refit, showing her new figurehead and single foremast. NARA 80-G-1034844

A more unsung member of her crew, Loui the monkey, onboard USS CINCINNATI in 1912. Courtesy of Lieutenant Commander R. Wainwright, USN, 1928 NH 52462

After more overseas service in the Mediterranean and with the Asiatic Squadron in the Philippines, Korea, and China, Cincinnati returned home in 1907 to ordinary. Her stint on red lead row abated in 1911 when she was recommissioned and detailed to the Asiatic Station once again, a role she held until the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) dressed in flags, for Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1915, at Olongapo Naval Station, Philippine Islands. Collection of C.A. Shively. NH 88562

Shipping for the West Coast, she arrived in San Diego 16 December 1917 then convoyed to the East Coast where she served as flagship, American Patrol Detachment, Atlantic Fleet. In that role, she ran shotgun over the Gulf of Mexico, looking out for possible German raiders.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) at New Orleans, Louisiana, April 1919. Note her dazzle camo and rafts. She is likely off Algiers in the Mississippi River. #: NH 27

Interestingly, the 6″/40s removed from Cincinnati and Raleigh were pooled with other guns removed from old battleships and, once the war was unavoidable, were issued and mounted on U.S.-flagged merchant steamers. Three such guns were on the steamer SS Mongolia when she was attacked by German submarine U.B.40 on 19 April 1917 at 0520— the first armed naval clash between the two countries.

U.S. Navy Armed Guard 6″ (15.2 cm) gun crew on S.S. Mongolia in 1917. Officers are identified as Lieutenant Ware and Captain Emory Rice of the U.S. Naval Reserve Force. Note that the shells are painted “TEXAS” and “TEDDY”. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 781

After the war ended, Cincinnati was found to be too outdated for further service in a Navy that was increasingly faster, oil-burning, and more heavily armed/armored. She was decommissioned at New Orleans on 20 April 1919. Raleigh, who had spent WWI patrolling in Brazilian waters and other points south, was decommissioned the next day. Both ships were sold for scrap in 1921.

Cincinnati’s name was swiftly recycled for the Omaha-class light “peace” cruiser (CL-6) which commissioned 1 January 1924 and served through WWII. The fourth Cincinnati was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-693) which served from 1978 to 1996.

The fifth warship named for the Queen City commissioned over the weekend, LCS-20. Ironically, she is almost the same size as the circa-1896 protected cruiser and carries a single main gun forward, although it is a 57mm rather than a big honking 6-inch gun.

Photo: Chris Eger

Specs:

Displacement:
3,183 long tons (3,234 t) (standard)
3,339 long tons (3,393 t) (full load)
Length: 305 ft 10 in
Beam: 42 ft
Draft: 18 ft (mean) 20 ft 2 in (max)
Installed power:
6 × Babcock & Wilcox steam boilers (replaced by 8 boilers in 1901)
2 × vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines 8,000 hp
2 × screws
Auxiliary schooner rig until 1901.
Speed:
19 knots designed (Cincinnati pulled 19.91 on trials, Raleigh did 21.12)
Range: 10,700nm at 10kts with a maximum of 575 tons of coal. Normal coal load 396
Complement: 32 officers 270 enlisted as designed. 313 (1914)
Armor:
Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm) (slope)
1 in (25 mm) (flat)
Conning Tower: 2 in (51 mm)
Gun Sponsons: 4 in (100 mm)
Armament: (as designed)
1 x 6 in (152 mm)/40 caliber MK VI gun
10 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
8 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
2 x 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) Driggs-Schroeder heavy Mk I guns
4 x 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (1 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern)
1 x carriage-mounted Gatling gun
Armament: (1901)
11 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
6 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
1 x M1895 carriage-mounted Colt machine gun

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!

One of the last WWII vets on active duty, stands down

Here we see the beautiful Miguel Malvar-class offshore patrol “corvette” BRP Cebu (PS28) of the Philippine Navy on 3 October 2019, as she gave her last day of military service in a career that began in 1944– giving her a rock-solid 75 years of hard duty under two flags. Not bad for a ship considered at the time of her construction to be disposable.

If she looks familiar, she was originally built as USS PCE-881, a former PCE-842-class Patrol Craft Escort, by the Albina Engine and Machine Works, Portland, Oregon during WWII. She commissioned 31 July 1944 and transferred to the PI in 1948 on loan, only striking from the U.S. Navy Register in 1975.

The “oldest fighting ship of the Philippine Navy,” she gave 71 unbroken years of service to Manila to include a famous SAR operation to save the crew of MV Princess of the Stars of Sulpicio Lines, which capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank in 2008.

Derived from the 180-foot Admirable-class minesweeper as a substitute for the much more numerous 173-foot PC-461-class of submarine chasers that were used for coastal ASW, the PCE-842-class was just eight feet longer but a lot heavier (650-tons vs 450-tons), which gave them much longer endurance, although roughly the same armament. They carried a single 3″/50 dual purpose mount, three 40mm Bofors mounts, five Oerlikon 20 mm mounts, two depth charge tracks, four depth charge projectors, and two depth charge projectors (hedgehogs)– making them pretty deadly to subs while giving them enough punch to take on small gunboats/trawlers and low numbers of incoming aircraft.

While the U.S. got rid of their 842s wholesale by the 1970s– scrapping some and sinking others as targets– several continued to serve in overseas Allied navies for decades.

The Philippines has used no less than 11 of these retired PCEs between craft transferred outright from the U.S. and ships taken up from former Vietnamese service, eventually replacing their Glen Miller-era GM 12-567A diesel with more modern GM 12-278As, as well as a host of improvements to their sensors (they now carry the SPS-64 surface search and commercial nav radars, for instance.) Gone are the ASW weapons and sonar, but they do still pack the old 3-incher, long since retired by just about everyone else, as well as a smattering of Bofors and Oerlikon.

The class is being retired in conjunction with the arrival of more capable Pohang-class vessels donated by South Korea.

The country still has three of the class on their Naval List, expected to retire by 2022.

  • BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), former USS Brattleboro (PCE(R)-852), ex RVN Ngọc Hồi, in PI Navy since 1975.
  • BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), former USS Gayety (AM-239), ex RVN MSF-239, since 1975.
  • BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), former USS PCE-891, transferred from the U.S. in 1948.

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

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

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

Here we see three, in a beautiful original color photograph, a trio of Higgins-type PT-boats belonging to Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, moored alongside the old seaplane tender destroyer, USS Gillis (AVD12, ex-DD260) in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21  June 1943. Note the PBY-5 Catalina flying-boat astern of our aging tin can.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Gillis came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

USS Gillis is the only ship named for Commodore John P. Gillis and RADM James Henry Gillis.

Commodore John P. Gillis was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He fought in the Mexican-American War where he was captured at Tuxpan. Subsequently, between 1853 and 1854, he sailed with Perry to open Japan to the West. Gilles later served in the Civil War by providing support to the Union blockade effort, commanding the warships Seminole, Monticello, and Ossipee, in turn.

RADM James Henry Gillis (USMA 1854), a Pennsylvania native, during the Civil War, commanded Michigan, Franklin, the flagship of the European Squadron, Lackawanna, Minnesota, and Hartford, the flagship of the Pacific Squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1893 “having never lost a man at sea.”

USS Gillis was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass. and commissioned 3 September 1919, LCDR Webb Trammell in command– some 100 years ago this month.

Destroyer USS Gillis (DD-260), 29 May 1919, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Her peacetime service was brief. Gillis sailed from Newport, R.I., 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922.

NH 53731

In all, Gillis spent just under two years with the fleet in her first stint on active duty.

Gillis (DD-260) Laid up at San Diego, California, circa 1929 in rusty and crusty condition. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Don P. Moon, USN. Note the ship’s rusty condition. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. NH 78286

When the drums of war started beating in Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, Gillis was recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, then soon reclassified as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12, a mission that importantly saw her fitted with an early radar set. Following conversion, which included swapping out her torpedo tubes for aviation store space and some extra AAA guns and depth charges, she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) Photograph dated 14 February 1941. The ship appears to be painted in Camouflage Measure One. Catalog #: 80-G-13141

As noted by DANFS:

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just six months later, she was at rest in Dutch Harbor on the morning of 3 June 1942. Almost simultaneously with their attack on Midway, a strong task force under Japanese RADM Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryujo (10,000 tons) and Jun’yo (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

But Gillis had the upper hand.

In the harbor that morning with the two old flush-deck destroyers King and Talbot, the submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and the U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen, Gillis had the advantage of radar and her operator picked up the incoming Japanese airstrike at 0540. With that, she and the other ships weighed anchor and stood out with all hands at battle stations. Likewise, the Army detachment at nearby Fort Mears was alerted.

Had they been sunk at their moorings and Dutch Harbor more badly damaged, the effort to keep/hold/retake the Aleutians would have surely been a tougher task, diverting key U.S. assets from other theaters– such as Guadalcanal.

Further, the Japanese, in turn, got a bloody nose that morning from the old school 3-inch M1918 AAA guns and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes. Meanwhile, a PBY that Gillis was tending stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more. The Gillis claimed two planes shot down. No ship was damaged.

Koga’s Zero

Not a bad day’s work for an isolated outpost.

Three days later, while on air-sea rescue patrol, Gillis made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact.

DANFS= “A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island.”

Starting on June 9, PBYs of VP-41, operating from Dutch Harbor, initiated what became known as the “Kiska Blitz,” a series of extreme long-range shuttle attack bombing missions by the flying boats of PatWing Four to plaster the Japanese ships at that occupied Aleutian island, using Gillis, which had forward-deployed closer to the action, at Nazan Bay off Atka island. This took amazing 48-hour sorties with the old tender providing fuel, hot meals and extra 250-pound bombs to the Catalinas until she was out of bombs to give. This lasted for several days, with Catalinas of VPB-42 and 43, until a Japanese scout plane discovered the seaplane tender and her position was compromised.

This drawing was made by the intelligence units of the U.S. 11th Air Force, showing a dual Imperial Japanese Navy Type 11 Early Warning Radar site on the captured Alaskan island of Kiska in Oct 1942. It was built by the Japanese in response to the PBY blitz.

On June 13, before retiring from Atka, Gillis was ordered to carry out a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to all buildings and a local Aleut village to leave nothing of use to the Japanese. She later fought off a sortie from three four-engine Mavis bombers from Kiska while in Kuluk Bay, Adak. To her brood she added the plywood PT-boats of MTBRon 13.

Higgins 78-foot torpedo boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 (MTBRon 13) moored in Attu, Alaska, Jul 1943. Note PT-75 and PT-78 nested outboard of their squadron-mate and a PBY Catalina patrol plane taking off. 80-G-475727

After that, joined by four other tenders, Gillis formed the mothership backbone of Patrol Squadrons 41, 43, 51, 62; consisting of 11 PBY flying boats and 20 PBY-5As. By October 1943, however, the other tenders were withdrawn, and she was the only one in operative condition forward deployed to the Aleutians.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) leaving ARD-6 Dutch Harbor, Alaska 80-G-386650

With the theatre dying down, by April 1944 Gillis departed Dutch Harbor for the West Coast where she was given an overhaul and served as a plane guard off San Diego. She was then ordered forward into the Pacific to rejoin the shooting war.

She then sailed with RADM M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, en route via the Marshalls, Marianas, and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa, arriving off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. There, Gillis guarded minesweepers and stood by UDT teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol.

USS Relief -AH-1 In a Western Pacific Harbor, probably at the time of the Okinawa Campaign, circa April 1945. USS Gillis -AVD-12- is in the left background Catalog #: 80-G-K-3707

On 28 April, Gillis departed Okinawa in the screen of USS Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis won two battle stars, for escort and antisubmarine operations in the American area (1941-44) and Okinawa.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945. She was sold to NASSCO, Treasure Island, CA, for scrapping 29 January 1946.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:

USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12): Outboard profile from Booklet of General Plans (NARA) 117877196

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4 x 4?/50cal guns
1 x 3″/23AA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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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