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Warship Wednesday, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

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, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

Here we see the deck of a Kaiser-built Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) filled with some unusual aircraft– USAAF P-47D Thunderbolts– flying off her stubby deck just after a Japanese attack on the ship in June 1944. Her first exposure to combat, the next seven months would be a wild ride for Manila Bay, one that would see her count coup on some of the most iconic Japanese warships.

No matter if you call them “jeep carriers,” “baby flattops,” or “Combustible, Vulnerable, and Expendable,” the escort carrier concept is one we have covered a few times in the past several years on WW. Besides one-off training carriers and prototype ships, four large classes of U.S.-built CVEs (Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca, Commencement Bay) were cranked out during WWII, approaching 150~ hulls planned or completed for Uncle Sam and his Allies.

Manila Bay and her multitude of sisters (CVE-55 through CVE-104) were basically Liberty ships, C-3-S-A1 freighters, whose topsides were sliced away and fitted with flight decks and a small island on the starboard side with a modicum of AAA guns placed in tubs alongside the flight deck for self-protection.

Cranked out by the Kaiser yard in Vancouver, the Casablancas was the most prolific CVEs to see service, with a solid 50 ordered in bulk, to be completed within two years.

Think about that: one yard making 50 carriers in two years. You couldn’t beat that, even though they were not nice, larger fleet carriers. Quantity over quality.

Besides, the CVEs could be used for supporting beachheads during amphibious operations, escorting slow-moving convoys, and easily shuttling aircraft from location to location– all jobs that typically tied down the more valuable large flattops, freeing the big boys up for strategic and decisive fleet actions ala Mahan.

Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, right, presents President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a model of the escort carriers that he was constructing at Vancouver, Washington, on 18 March 1943. Kaiser built 50 of these CASABLANCA class carriers CVE-55-104 in 1943-44. NH 75629

Just 513-feet long overall, the Casablancas could carry a couple dozen aircraft in a composite squadron, typically a mix of upgraded FM‑2 Wildcat fighters and lumbering TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. However, they only had one catapult (most other CVEs had two) which limited their op-tempo a bit.

Manila Bay’s wartime embarked air wings (squadrons):
VC-7, 29 Jan – 28 Feb 44 – Marshall Islands.
VC-7, 19 Mar – 19 Apr 44 – Bismarck Archipelago.
VC-7, 27 Apr – 2 May 44 – Western New Guinea.
VC-80, 12-26 Oct 4 4- Leyte Operation.
VC-80, 12-18 Dec 44 – Luzon Operation.
VC-80, 4-18 Jan 45 – Luzon Operation.
VC-71, 9 Jun – 20 Jun 45 – Okinawa Gunto Operation.

For reference, see the below overhead shot of sister USS Savo Island (CVE-78) with a nice starboard bow aerial view of the Casablanca-class escort carrier underway.

Note disassembled aircraft on the flight deck, and camouflage paint scheme. It is not hard to see these are freighter hulls with a simple flight deck thrown on top and a small offset island to house antenna, a bridge, and an air boss. 80-G-409217

Laid down originally as Bucareli Bay (ACV‑61) on 15 January 1943, our featured carrier was renamed the more warlike Manila Bay (CVE-61) just two months later. Launched 10 July 1943, she was commissioned 5 October 1943 at Astoria, Oregon. In all, she went from first steel laid to joining the fleet in 263 days. Not bad.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), at launching, sliding down the ways at Kaiser Company Inc., Vancouver, Washington, July 10, 1943. 80-G-372761

The Casablancas carried a smaller armament than other CVEs, but they still weren’t helpless, packing a single open 5″/38cal DP mount for use in scaring off a small surface attacker, 16 dual 40mm Bofors, and 20 Oerlikon singles.

Testing the sole 5-inch gun USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 November 1943. Note fuzed ready shells. 80-G-372778

Testing 40 mm anti-aircraft guns onboard USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 October 1943 80-G-372776

She spent the rest of 1943 on shakedown along the west coast, where plane handling was often a new thing for many on both sides of the stick.

Crash of FM1 Wildcat, Bu# 46789, on the flight deck of USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), as she bursts into flames, December 16, 1943. 80-G-372821

And as the fire spreads to other parked aircraft. 80-G-372823

By January 1944, she was forward deployed, with her planes socking it to the Japanese on Kwajalein with Task Force 52, where she carried the flag of RADM Ralph Davidson for CarDiv 24.

Kwajalein Island, 4 February 1944, on the last day of major fighting between Japanese defenders and the U.S. Army invaders. Seen from a USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) plane from the Pacific, looking west, with landing beaches in the upper left distance surrounded by landing craft. Several LVT’s are on the beach in the foreground, moving toward the front lines, off the view to the right. The block-house area is in the right-center, with some buildings still burning. 80-G-373059

From there, she continued operating in the Marshalls including Eniwetok and then to Majuro, before chopping to TF 37 to hit Kavieng and then support operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea.

Relieved of her flag duties, the now-veteran carrier turned for Pearl Harbor for a quick refit and a mission to pick up a load of Army aircraft, 37 P-47-D Thunderbolts, for transshipment to points West. They would be headed to still-hot Saipan in the Marianas, where the “Jugs” would be engaged in combat immediately.

Pilots of the 73rd Fighter squadron, 7th USAAF, receive a briefing on the flight deck of USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) before taking off for Saipan, where they will be based, 20 June 1944. Planes are P-47s. 80-G-238677

There, just East of Saipan, the ship had her literal baptism of fire when she was jumped by a quartet of Mitsubishi A6Ms. Dropping small 100-pound bombs, they just missed the carrier by 400 to 600 yards. In return, her crew fired five 5-inch, 190 40mm and 465 20mm rounds at the planes. Likewise, these also evidently caused no damage.

USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) under bombing attack by four Japanese “Zeke” aircraft, off Saipan, at 1205 on 23 June 1944. Note USAAF P-47 fighters on deck, for delivery to Saipan airfields. 80-G-238680

During the attack, the Army fighter pilots calmly tended their planes while the bluejackets tended their guns. Just after the attack was over, the first four P-47s launched for Aslito Field.

USAAF P-47 fighters of the 73rd fighters SQ., 7th AF, being launched from USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) for delivery to airfields on Saipan, 24 June 1944. 80-G-238689

Catapult USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) P-47D-11-RA of 318th FG, 73rd FS, 42-23038 pilot Eubanks Barnhill in “Sonny Boy”

P-47 Thunderbolt #34 of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group takes off from the USS Manila Bay CVE-61

P-47D “Spittin’ Kitten” 404 of the 318th FG, 73rd FS prepares to launch from USS Manila Bay CVE-61, 23 June 1944

P-47D Thunderbolt #29 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd FS, 318th Fighter Group Cpt John O’Hare

P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback serial 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group

Lt. Joseph J. DeVona in the cockpit of his 73rd Fighter Squadron, P-47N “Empire Express.” Note the squadron’s “Bar Flies” insignia. The 73rd would prove itself on Saipan, ranging on 1,300-mile escorts as far as Iwo Jima, then transfer to Okinawa in April 1945 to finish the war. They would later become a bombing squadron flying B-52s in the Cold War. 

This great video covers the 318th FG and their trip to Saipan.

On Manila Bay‘s return trip to Pearl, she was used as a hospital ship, embarking 207 wounded troops for a return stateside.

Returning to CarDiv24, Manila Bay picked up a new skipper, CAPT. Fitzhugh Lee III (USNA 1926), who was the great-great-grandson of Light Horse Harry Lee of Revolutionary War fame and grandson Virginia cavalry general Fitzhugh Lee of Civil War and SpanAm War fame. Like his forefathers, he would lead his men into harm’s way.

–But first, she had to shlep a load of Navy and Marine bombers to the front.

USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) with a mix of about two dozen PBJ-1D (navalized B-25 Mitchell) and JM-1 (navalized Martin B-26 Marauder) aircraft embarked 24 August 1944. 80-G-243546

North American PBJ-1D Mitchell bomber of U.S. Marine Corps bombing squadron VMB-611 spotted on the deck of the escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61), August 1944. Note the radar nose cone. The squadron made a major contribution with these planes in the Mindanao campaign

Then, as part of Escort Carrier Group (TG 77.4), came the push for the Philippines, where Manila Bay was part of the famed Taffy 2 during the Battle of Samar.

About the last week of October 1944 from DANFS:

Prior to the invasion, her planes pounded enemy ground targets on Leyte, Samar, and Cebu. She launched ground support, spotting, and air cover strikes during the amphibious assaults 20 October; thence, she sent bombers and fighters to support ground forces during the critical first few days at Leyte.

As Manila Bay cruised to the east of Leyte Gulf with other carriers of Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump’s Taffy 2 (TU 77.4.2), powerful Japanese naval forces converged upon the Philippines and launched a three‑pronged offensive to drive the Americans from Leyte. In a series of masterful and coordinated surface attacks, an American battleship, cruiser, and destroyer force met and smashed enemy ships in the Battle of Surigao Strait early 25 October. Surviving Japanese ships retreated into the Mindanao Sea pursued by destroyers, PT boats, and after sunrise by carrier‑based bombers and fighters.

Manila Bay sent an eight‑plane strike against ground targets on Leyte before sunrise; subsequently, these planes bombed and strafed retiring enemy ships southwest of Panaon Island. A second strike about midmorning pounded the disabled heavy cruiser Magami. In the meantime, however, Manila Bay turned her planes against a more immediate threat-the enemy attack against ships of Taffy 3.

The running battle between the escort carriers of Rear Adm. Clifton Sprague’s Taffy 3 and the larger, vastly more powerful surface ships of Admiral Kurita’s Center Force; the brilliant, self‑sacrificing attacks by gallant American destroyers and destroyer escorts, and the prompt, aggressive, and unceasing torpedo, bomb, and strafing strikes by planes from Taffy 2 and Taffy 3, all contributed to the American victory against great odds in the Battle off Samar.

Manila Bay launched two airstrikes during the enemy pursuit of Taffy 3 and two more as the Japanese retreated. At 0830 she sent four torpedo‑laden TBMs and a seven‑plane escort to join the desperate fight. Three launched torpedoes at a battleship, probably Yamato, but she combed the wakes. The fourth plane launched her torpedo at a heavy cruiser, most likely Chikuma. It hit her to starboard near the fantail, forcing her out of control. The second strike an hour later by two TBMs resulted in one torpedo hit on the portside amidships against an unidentified battleship.

As the Japanese ships broke off attack and circled off Samar, the fierce airstrikes continued. At 1120 Manila Bay launched four TBMs, carrying 500‑pound bombs, and four bombers from other carriers. Escorted by FM‑2s and led by Comdr. R. L. Fowler, they soon joined planes from other Taffy carriers. Shortly after 1230, some 70 planes jumped the retiring Center Force, strafing and bombing through intense antiaircraft fire. Manila Bay’s bombers made a hit and two near misses on the lead battleship, probably Kongo or Haruna. Manila Bay launched her final strike at 1245, strafing destroyers and getting two hits on a cruiser.

Later that afternoon, Manila Bay‘s CAP intercepted a Japanese bomber‑fighter strike about 50 miles north of Taffy 2. Her four fighters broke up the enemy formation, and with reinforcements drove off the attackers before they reached the carriers. Her planes continued to pound enemy ships the following day. Laden with rockets and bombs, one of her TBMs scored two hits on light cruiser Kinu and several rocket hits on Uranami, an escorting destroyer. Both ships sank about noon in the Visayan Sea after numerous air attacks.

Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 1944. USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) and USS BOISE (CL-47) operating off Leyte, 28 October 1944. Photographed from NATOMA BAY (CVE-62). 80-G-287558

Some of her downed aircrews managed to be returned quickly.

Ensign Crandell, TBM Pilot of VC-80, and his aircrewman who were brought back on-board USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) by a U.S. Navy PT Boat 523 after they were shot down over Leyte Island beachhead, Philippines, October 22, 1944. Note the PT-boat’s field-expedient 37mm gun forward, salvaged from an AAF P-39 Airacobra. 80-G-372892

Of note, one of her Avenger pilots, LT (j.g.) Horace D. Bryan was presented with the Navy Cross, for landing two 500-pound bombs on the Japanese Nagara-class light cruiser Kinu in the Camotes Sea area on 26 October, which proved key in sending her to the bottom.

With no rest, the flattop was soon active in the Mindoro invasion and operations around Luzon for the rest of the year and going into 1945.

There, she felt the Divine Wind. Sistership USS Ommaney Bay (CVE–79) was sunk after an attack by a kamikaze Yokosuka P1Y Ginga twin-engine bomber on 4 January. The next day, it would be Manila Bay’s turn in the barrel.

From DANFS:

The enemy air attacks intensified 5 January. Patrolling lighters broke up morning and early afternoon strikes, shooting down numerous raiders. At 1650 a third attack sent all hands to general quarters. Vectored CAP bagged several enemy planes and antiaircraft fire splashed still more. Three planes got through to Louisville, Stafford, and HMAS Australia. Just before 1750, two kamikazes dove at Manila Bay from the portside. The first plane [a Mitsubishi A6M Zeke] hit the flight deck to starboard abaft the bridge, causing fires on the flight and hangar decks, destroying radar transmitting spaces, and wiping out all communications. The second plane, aimed for the bridge, missed the island close aboard to starboard and splashed off the fantail.

View from the flight deck of the escort carrier Manila Bay (CVE 61) under attack by Japanese kamikazes off Mindoro in the Philippines Jan 5, 1945

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Japanese kamikaze fighter bomber starting an attack on the carrier escort in the South China Sea during operations in support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273176

Firefighting parties promptly brought the blazes under control including those of two fueled and burning torpedo planes in the hangar deck.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Crew combating fire after Japanese kamikaze crashed into the ship’s flight deck at Luzon, South China Sea, during operations in the support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273184

VC80s 23 on-board planes on Manila Bay when suicide plane hit, via her war diary in National Archives.

Within 24 hours she resumed limited air operations. Most repairs to her damaged electrical and communication circuits were completed by 9 January when the amphibious invasion in Lingayen Gulf got underway.

Manila Bay had 14 men killed and 52 wounded, but by 10 January she resumed full duty in support of the Lingayen Gulf operations,” notes DANFs. “In addition to providing air cover for the task force, her planes flew 104 sorties against targets in western Luzon. They gave effective close support for ground troops at Lingayen and San Fabian and bombed, rocketed, and strafed gun emplacements, buildings, truck convoys, and troop concentrations from Lingayen to Baguio.”

Sent stateside for repairs, Manila Bay was back in action off the coast of Okinawa by 13 June, launching rocket and strafing strikes in the Ryukyus. Then, given a break with a cruise to the Aleutians, she ended the war in support of occupation operations in northern Japan, dropping supplies to POWs.

Switching to Magic Carpet duty, Manila Bay landed her aircraft and made three runs from the Western Pacific to Pearl and San Francisco. By 27 January 1946, she was given orders for the peacetime East Coast and eventual lay up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, being decommissioned at Boston on 31 July.

Manila Bay received eight battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for her wartime service.

While some CVEs, typically late-war Bogue-class escort carriers, found use in Korea and Vietnam, primarily in as aircraft shuttles, the Casablancas remained at anchor growing rusty. Only five of the class saw any significant post-war service past 1946– USS Petrof Bay (CVE–80), Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86), Cape Esperance (CVE-88), Tripoli (CVE-64), and Corregidor (CVE-58)— typically as unarmed MSC-controlled aircraft ferries with a mostly civilian crew. Even this limited role would end by 1959.

Five of the 11 American carriers lost during WWII were sisterships of Manila Bay, earning the class the perhaps unfair nickname of “Kaiser’s Coffins.”

As a class, the remaining Casablancas were retyped as utility carriers (CVU) or aircraft ferry (AKV), which saw Manila Bay designated CVU‑61 on 12 June 1955 while still in mothballs.

USS Manila Bay CVE-61, USS Woolsey DD-437, USS Chenango CVE-28. USS Baldwin DD-624 South Boston Naval Annex Jul 1959. 19590700S-20

Subsequently, her name was struck from the Navy list 27 May 1958 and she was sold for scrap to Hugo New Corp., 2 September 1959, a fate largely shared by the rest of her class.

By 1969, no Casablancas would remain anywhere in the world.

There has not been a second Manila Bay on the Navy List.

I can’t find her bell, but much of her war diaries are available online at the National Archives.

As for her 1944-45 skipper, Fitzhugh Lee III, he was present at the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, aboard Missouri and would go on to retire as a Vice Admiral in 1962. He was a double Navy Cross recipient, both for his command of Manila Bay at the Battle of Samar and on her kamikaze strike. He passed in 1992 and is buried in Northern Virginia, naturally.

Specs:

Inboard and outboard profiles of a U.S. Navy Casablanca-class escort carrier, via Wiki Commons

Displacement: 7,800 long tons (7,900 t)
Length: 512 ft overall
Beam: 65 ft
Draft: 22 ft 6 in
Propulsion:
4 × 285 psi boilers 9,000 shp
2 × 5-cylinder reciprocating Skinner Unaflow engines
2 × screws
Speed: 19 kn
Range: 10,240 nmi at 10 kn
Complement:
Embarked Squadron: 50–56, Ship’s Crew: 860
Armament:
1 × 5 in/38 caliber dual-purpose gun
16 × 40 mm Bofors guns (8×2)
20 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons (20×1)
Aircraft carried: 27

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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, Dec. 6, 2017: The Emperor’s last battlewagon

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

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017: The Emperor’s last battlewagon

Catalog #: NH 2716

Here we see the lead ship of her class of fast super-dreadnoughts, the HIJMS Nagato photographed at the time of her completion. Ordered 100 years ago this August, she was Japan’s first battleship entirely planned and built domestically after generations of relying on British and American yards and firms. She would also be the Empire’s final battleship on active duty.

Designed in response to the British Queen Elizabeth-class (35,000-tons, 24 kts, 8×15″/42 cal guns), Russian Gangut-class (28,000-tons, 24 kts, 12×12″/52 cal guns) and the U.S. New Mexico-class battleships (32,000-tons, 21 kts, 12×14″/50 cal guns), the two ships of the Nagato-class (our subject and her sistership Mutsu) would be faster– capable of 26.5 knots on her Gihon geared steam turbines fed by 21 Kampon boilers– more heavily armed with eight 16.1″/45 cal 3-shiki type guns, the first big ship guns designed wholly in Asia– and tip the scales at some 39,000-tons in her final configuration.

Laid down during WWI at Kure Naval Arsenal on 28 August 1917, Nagato is named for the historic castle-dotted province on the western end of Honshū. She was commissioned 15 November 1920 while Mutsu, built at the same time in Yokosuka, joined the fleet the next year.

As detailed in the most excellent website Combined Fleets (go there NOW for a complete rundown of Nagato‘s movements as well as anything about the Imperial Japanese Navy you are curious about) during her speed trial at Sukumo Bight, Nagato beat the world record for a battleship and made first 26.443 and then 26.7 knots and when commissioned became a flagship– and the first battleship in the world in service with 16.1-inch guns.

Her peacetime service was relatively happy and she was visited and toured not only by the Emperor several times but also King Edward VIII and German aircraft designer Ernst Heinkel, while Crown Prince Takamatsu Nobuhito served aboard her as a midshipman, as befitting her role showboat vessel.

Dignitaries aboard battleship Nagato, date unknown

In August 1922, she helped cover the withdrawal of the Japanese interventionist forces at Siberia after the Russian Civil War and the next year helped provide relief for the Great Kanto Earthquake.

1924, Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

NAGATO Starboard bow view leaving Hong Kong, 14 April 1928. Note the change in her funnel from the above 1924 image. Description: Catalog #: NH 90764

NAGATO Starboard quarter view taken between 1924 and 1934. Description: Catalog #: NH 90774

Japanese battleships Fuso (foreground), Nagato (center), and Mutsu (background) at Mitajiri, Japan, 1928

Between 1932-36, pushing about 15 years of service, she was modernized at Kure Naval Arsenal, her birthplace, where her bow was lengthened and modified, and she was given the more modern turrets from the unfinished battleships Kaga and Tosa— not completed due to the London and Washington Naval Treaties while a smaller battery of 76mm guns were replaced with 127mm rapid-fire models.

Her suite was replaced, and her topside arrangement changed significantly, losing a funnel and picking up a reshaped superstructure. At the same time, her electronics were revamped, and rangefinders updated. Her torpedo tubes, never really a serious weapon for a battleship, were removed but she picked up anti-torpedo bulges as well as a catapult and facilities for seaplanes, for which she would later carry a trio of Nakajima E8N1 Type 95 (“Dave”) floatplanes.

War was coming.

Battleship Nagato fires her main guns during an exercise in Sukumo Bay, Japan. 21 May 1936.

In 1937, she carried 1,700 Imperial troops to very active combat in Manchuria.

In 1938, as tensions increased, both Nagato and Mutsu gained a battery of 40mm and 25mm AAA guns.

NAGATO. The view is taken at Tsingtao, China, in the late 1930s. See how different her profile is from 1928 and 1924. Description: Catalog #: NH 82477

As part of the Combined Fleet’s BatDiv 1, Nagato was the flagship of Adm. Yamamoto for Operation Z, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and, along with her sister and four other Japanese battleships, escorted the carriers to Hawaii for that day which will live in infamy, arriving back at Hashirajima on 13 December 1941.

Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, the early 1940s

Nagato never made it closer than 350 miles from Hawaii’s coast, but her role as the command and control ship for the operation was pivotal.

For the next six months, while most Japanese battleships were engaged in the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Dutch East Indies, Nagato remained in the Home Islands and served a host to Prince Takamatsu’s headquarters (who was at that point a Captain). She then sortied out for the first time since Pearl Harbor to cover Nagumo’s carriers at Midway in June 1942, ending that operation by housing survivors from the carrier Kaga— whose turrets she ironically carried.

Back to Japan for another year as the war went on without her, the eternal flagship was not ordered out of the Home Islands again until August 1943 when she carried men and supplies to the outpost at Truk, where she remained until February 1944.

Her luck endured, and she was able to escape interaction with the Allied forces in the Pacific until her assignment to Operation “A-GO” in June 1944, a debacle that turned into what is now known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, escorting carriers Jun’yō, Hiyō and Ryūhō. She would later pick up survivors of the Hiyō, though she did go down in ordnance history as firing 16.1-inch Sankaidan shrapnel shells at incoming U.S. Navy bombers.

She withdrew to Borneo to await round II.

Japanese Battleships at Brunei, Borneo, October 1944 Description: Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser, and Nagato. Courtesy of Mr. Kazutoshi Hando, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 73090

Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser, and Nagato at Brunei, Borneo. Oct 1944. At this point in the war, this was arguably the last untouched reserve in the Imperial Japanese Navy

By October, as part of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, Nagato and the battleships Yamato, Kongō, and Haruna along with eight cruisers, came across Task Unit 77.4.3 (“Taffy 3”), commanded by RADM Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague, off Samar Island. Taffy 3 had six small escort carriers screened by seven destroyers/destroyer escorts. With a lopsided surface action looming and the option to run and leave the beachhead undefended not an option, Sprague directed his carriers to turn to launch their aircraft then withdraw towards the east while the tin cans took on the Japanese battleships.

While Nagato‘s gunnery was deemed by most accounts in the battle to be ineffective, at the end of the almost three-hour melee Sprague lost four ships—the destroyers Johnston and Hoel, the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, and the escort carrier Gambier Bay— to naval gunfire while the Japanese traded severe damage to the battleship Haruna and four of their own cruisers but were forced to retire. Nagato came away from Leyte Gulf with five bomb hits and about 150 casualties.

Japanese battleship NAGATO firing 16.1-inch shrapnel “Sanshiki” beehive shells at attacking planes, during the battle of Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944. #: 80-G-272557

Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944 Description: Watercolor by Commander Dwight C. Shepler, USNR, depicting the counterattack by the escort carrier group’s screen. Ships present are (L-R): Japanese battleships Nagato, Haruna, and Yamato, with a salvo from Yamato landing in left center; USS Heerman (DD-532), USS Hoel (DD-533) sinking; Japanese cruisers Tone and Chikuma. Note: the original watercolor was commissioned specifically for the dust jacket of Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II,” Volume XII, and reprinted in Volume XV of the same work. The painting was missing in 1973, so this photograph was made from the reproduction in the latter volume. Accession #: NH Catalog #: NH 79033-KN

Nagato returned to Yokosuka in November and remained there, largely an inactive floating anti-aircraft battery on shore power, for the rest of the war as the *last Japanese battleship still afloat. Her sister Mutsu was lost to an internal explosion in 1943 while the other 10 battleships in the Combined Fleet all went to the bottom between November 1942 (Hiei) and November 1944 (Kongo). (*the three hybrid battleship/carrier conversions Haruna, Ise and Hyuga, largley immobile, were still “afloat” as late as July 1945 when they were sunk or foundered at their moorings after U.S. air attacks, but almost totally inactive as was the converted target, the old battleship Settsu).

The scheme used on battleship NAGATO while moored at Yokosuka, from February 1945. Description: Catalog #: NH 82542

On August 30, 1945, as the official surrender loomed, Nagato was secured by the U.S. Navy under the guns of the USS Iowa with the ship’s XO, CPT. Cornelius Flynn, taking command of the prize crew.

USS New Jersey and IJN Nagato in the SAME photo 30 December 1945

Nagato, Nov. 1945 Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Her flags were captured, with several making their way to the U.S., including one that was at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans for a while.

The crew of USS South Dakota (BB-57) and President George HW Bush with the NAGATO flag at a 2004 reunion in New Orleans. NHHC Accession #: UA 474

Nagato was then given front row seats at the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll the next summer. She was just under a mile from the Test Able blast and about 950-yards from the underwater 40kt Test Baker, sinking five days after riding the tsunami of the latter.

She is at the base of the mushroom

Note how wrecked she is

The battered superstructure of battleship Nagato after the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test, 1946.

88-169-e Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Arthur Beaumont; 1946; Unframed Dimensions 16H X 20W “Former Japanese battleship Nagato after Baker blast”

“The former Japanese cruiser Sakawa sank in frothy green waters the day after test ABLE. Damaged battleships USS Nevada (BB-36) and Nagato are in the background.”

Another Arthur Beaumont watercolor. “A panoramic view of the fleet after test ABLE sketched from the bridge of USS Arkansas (BB-33). The ship in the middle is the scorched USS Nevada (BB-36), with Nagato behind and Sakawa sinking in the foreground.”

“The 32,000 Ton Japanese Battleship Nagato, sinking” Painting, Watercolor on Illustration Board; by Grant Powers; 1946; Unframed Dimensions 14H X 19W Accession #: 88-181-M

She rests on the bottom near USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Arkansas (BB-33). Just 100~ feet down, her hull is a hot spot for scuba divers from around the world.

Since her loss, the Japanese have erected a shrine to her, and Yamato.

While one of her Kaigun ensigns is on display at the Yamato museum:

Another Imperial Japanese Navy flag recovered from Nagato by a Sailor assigned to high-speed transport USS Horace A. Bass (APD 124) in 1945 was donated to the National Park Service last year at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center while a third, which had been on display at the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor, was sent back to Nagaoka city, Japan last month in an emotional ceremony.

“It was extremely important for us to make a connection with Nagaoka city and to return the flag from the Missouri to its rightful home,” said Mike Carr, USS Missouri Memorial Association.

Specs:

NH 111614 Japanese battleship H.I.J.M.S. NAGATO plans. March 1943

Displacement: 32,720 metric tons (32,200 long tons) (standard), 39,000 full (1944)
Length: 708 ft. 0 in (lengthened to 738 by 1936)
Beam: 95 ft. 3 in (111 by 1936)
Draft: 29 ft. 9 in (32 by 1944)
Installed power:
80,000 shp
21 × water-tube boilers (replaced by 10 in 1934)
Propulsion:
4 shafts
4 × steam turbines
Speed: 26.5 knots when built, 24 by 1940, 10 by 1945
Range: 5,500 nmi at 16 knots
Complement: 1,333 (1,800 by 1944)
Sensors (1943)
1 × Type 21-go air search radar
2 × Type 13-go early warning radars
2 × Type 22-go surface search radars
Armor:
Waterline belt: 305–100 mm (12.0–3.9 in)
Deck: 69 mm (2.7 in) + 75 mm (3.0 in)
Gun turrets: 356–190 mm (14.0–7.5 in)
Barbettes: 305 mm (12.0 in)
Conning tower: 369 mm (14.5 in)
Armament:
(1920)
4 × twin 41 cm guns
20 × single 14 cm guns
4 × single 76 mm AA guns
8 × 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes
(1943)
4 × twin 41 cm guns
18 × single 14 cm guns
4 × twin 127 mm (5 in)/40 DP guns
98 × 25 mm (1 in) AA guns
Aircraft carried (after 1936) 3 floatplanes, 1 catapult

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!