Cape Wrath, Scotland (April 10, 2019) The Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) fires her beautiful red-white-and-blue embellished 5″/62cal Mk45 Mod 4 gun during a live-fire exercise as part of Joint Warrior 19-1. Dig that 70-pound shell just forward of the bow.
The first Navy ship named for VADM Samuel L. Gravely Jr., it is an appropriate photo for that esteemed warfighter and surface warfare officer who had three wars under his belt.
Commissioned in 1942, he just missed being one of the “Golden 13” of initial African-American officers in the Navy. He went on to be the only black officer on the submarine chaser USS PC-1264, conducting anti-sub patrols up and down the Eastern Seaboard in WWII. During Korea, he was a communications officer on the battleship USS Iowa, a vessel who got in lots of NGFS missions during that conflict.
Going on to skipper the tin cans USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717), USS Falgout (DE-324), and USS Taussig (DD-746) during the 1960s, Gravely oversaw NGFS missions off Vietnam in the latter before commanding the guided missile “frigate” (later cruiser) USS Jouett (DLG-29).
Gravely went on to break out his flag over the Third Fleet and retired from the Navy as head of the DCA. He died in 2004 and, as reflected in his 38 years of active and reserve service, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The largest Royal Navy warship ever to take to the sea, the fleet carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), has been in the water for six years. This means a drydocking period to check her hull and strip away the trees that are growing upon it.
While based at HMNB Portsmouth, she was assembled over an eight-year period in the Firth of Forth at Rosyth Dockyard from components built in six UK shipyards (way to subcontract the pork!) and has headed back to her place of birth for the work. This means sailing under the three Forth bridges, for which she was specifically designed to pass through the (temporary) lowering of her mast.
Similarly, the Queen Elizabeth-class were designed with just 39-inches of clearance to pass through the lock into Rosyth Dockyard– weather and tides providing.
It’s not the only case of ships being formatted to meet navigational limitations. For generations, the U.S. Navy’s carriers and battleships were limited to fit the 110-foot-wide and 890-foot-long Miraflores lock chambers of the Panama Canal (the waterline beam of the Iowa-class was 108 feet while they were 888-feet long, providing just a foot on each side to squeeze through).
It was controversial to construct the Midway-class of carriers in the 1940s as too big to transit the Canal– a first for the Navy.
Further, to be able to reach the Brooklyn Navy Yard, vessels up to the Forrestal and Kitty Hawk-class conventional supercarriers had an allowance to swing their mast so that could get under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Previous carriers, the Midways, and Essex-classes included could just make it without de-masting.
As could the tallest lattice masts of dreadnought battleships.
As a 10-year-old youth who spent his spare time watching B&W war films, building Testors scale models, and plinking with his .22 at targets that approximated the most heinous enemies you could imagine, I had a chance to attend the recommissioning of the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) on a warm spring day in Pascagoula.
Visiting the immense haze gray super dreadnought, bristling with 16-inch guns and Tomahawk cruise missiles, I made extra effort to crawl, slide into, and otherwise creep around parts of the vessel that was…off limits…unless you were part of the crew. As I was a regular visitor to the USS Alabama and did the same there, I feel I had been training for that very moment for years already.
This set me up for a collision course– literally– with a group who were getting a private, though more sanctioned, tour: Vice President George H.W. Bush.
It was one of the first times I had ever met a President (or Vice) and he spoke very briefly to me before his party resumed their endorsed inspection and I was promptly ushered back to more civilian-approved areas.
Anyway, that’s my story of how I almost got kicked off a battleship but met a Bush.
Vale, Mr. President.
Of note, he was a former WWII veteran himself, having joined on his 18th birthday. An Avenger pilot, the 20-year-old was shot down on a raid over Chichijima, about 150 miles north of Iwo Jima. Targeting an important radio station, Bush’s aircraft was hit by ground fire and, his engine aflame, headed out to sea back towards the U.S. fleet, desperate to reach his carrier again. Ditching his crippled aircraft, Bush was picked up by a U.S. submarine, the USS Finback, and eventually returned to his squadron.
Others were not so lucky. His two crewmen in the TBF were killed while aviators who were shot down and reached the isolated island were later found to have been killed and partially eaten on the order of Japanese officers.
In a 2007 interview with the U.S. Naval Institute, Bush said there is “nothing heroic” about getting shot down and that he still thinks of the loss of his two crewmen “to this very day.”
20 September 1986: US Navy battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) enters Portsmouth Naval Base, note HMS Victory, and several 372-foot long Royal Navy Leander-class frigates in the background for size comparison.
Absent any of HM’s battleships since HMS Vanguard (23) was scrapped in 1960, Portsmouth had gone a quarter-century without seeing a dreadnought of any class before Iowa‘s appearance. In the interval, all of the Iowas had been laid up (save for New Jersey‘s short 20-month reactivation for Vietnam), with the class leader only recommissioned 28 April 1984.
Aerial view of the super-dreadnought USS Iowa (BB-61) underway, 10 June 1944.
At the time her armament consisted of 9x 16″/50 cal Mark 7 guns in three triple turrets, 20x 5″/38 Mark 12 guns in 10 dual mounts, an impressive 80x 40mm/56 cal Bofors anti-aircraft guns in a score of quad mounts, and 49x 20mm/70 Oerlikon cannon, for a total of about 158 large caliber guns of all size– which is a whole lotta lead in anyone’s book.
If you are near San Pedro tomorrow, stop by the museum ship USS Iowa where they will be having their annual Turret 2 Remembrance ceremony.
Michael Shannon Justice, Seaman (SN), Matewan, WV
Edward J. Kimble, Seaman (SN), Ft. Stockton, TX
Richard E. Lawrence, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Springfield, OH
Richard John Lewis, Fire Controlman, Seaman Apprentice (FCSA), Northville, MI
Jose Luis Martinez Jr., Seaman Apprentice (SA), Hidalgo, TX
Todd Christopher McMullen, Boatswains Mate 3rd class (BM3), Manheim, PA
Todd Edward Miller, Seaman Recruit (SR), Ligonier, PA
Robert Kenneth Morrison, Legalman 1st class (LN1), Jacksonville, FL
Otis Levance Moses, Seaman (SN), Bridgeport, CN
Darin Andrew Ogden, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Shelbyville, IN
Ricky Ronald Peterson, Seaman (SN), Houston, MN
Mathew Ray Price, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Burnside, PA
Harold Earl Romine Jr., Seaman Recruit (SR), Brandenton, FL
Geoffrey Scott Schelin, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GMG3), Costa Mesa, CA
Heath Eugene Stillwagon, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Connellsville, PA
Todd Thomas Tatham, Seaman Recruit (SR), Wolcott, NY
Jack Ernest Thompson, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Greeneville, TN
Stephen J. Welden, Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2), Yukon, OK
James Darrell White, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Norwalk, CA
Rodney Maurice White, Seaman Recruit (SR), Louisville, KY
Michael Robert Williams, Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2), South Shore, KY
John Rodney Young, Seaman (SN), Rockhill, SC
Reginald Owen Ziegler, Senior Chief Gunners Mate (GMCS), Port Gibson, NY
The answer to that would be 15,595 live ones in 10 different variants including HC, armor piercing and practice.
The last battleship salvo was from USS Wisconsin 16 May 1991, with the last battleship transferred to museum life in 2012.
The Army’s last 16″/50cal Gun M1919 coastal artillery battery was disbanded in 1946.
Currently at AAAC, Crane:
Designation/Type Filler Number
D862 High Capacity Explosive D 3,624
D872 Armor Piercing Explosive D 2,430
D874 High Capacity Explosive D 591
D875 Armor Piercing 666 M46 GP Grenades 22
D875 Armor Piercing 400 M43A1 GP Grenades 234
D877 Armor Piercing Explosive D 1,743
D878 High Capacity Explosive D 2
D879 High Capacity Explosive D 411
D881 Practice Tracer only 272
D882 High Capacity Explosive D 6,266
I thought it was cool that PM picked up the piece, I read PM as a kid.
Anyway, I think they make great conversation pieces. Central City Surplus just redid a 1,900-pound D875 AP shell (and yes, that is a QH-50 DASH in the background).