Tag Archives: USS Iowa

Get to the choppa: Battlewagon edition

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter is secured by flight deck crewmen aboard the battleship Iowa (BB-61) on 1 Sep 1985. Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-02511, by PHC Jeff Hilton,

The Iowa-class battleships received official helicopter pads and a helicopter control station below their after 5-inch director–although no hangar facilities– in the 1980s during their Lehman 600-ship Navy modernization.

The helicopter control station on the 02 level of the battleship Iowa (BB-61). Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-09557, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

They used them to host visiting Navy SH-60 and SH-2s, as well as the occasional Marine UH-1, CH-46, and CH-53 while also running their own early RQ-2A Pioneer UAV detachments–to which Iraqi units would later surrender to during the 1st Gulf War. 

Crew members aboard Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter approaches the landing area at the stern of the battleship USS IOWA (BB 61)

A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is parked on the helicopter pad during flight operations aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61).

A U.S. Marine Corps Boeing Vertol CH-46D Sea Knight (BuNo 154023) of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) prepares to land aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64). The helicopter was transporting Allied military personnel who were coming aboard the ship to be briefed by Wisconsin´s Commanding Officer, Capt. D.S. Bill. The meeting was taking place during the 1991 Gulf War. 6 February 1991 Navy Photo DN-ST-92-07868 by PH2 Robert Clare, USN

The curator of the Battleship New Jersey Museum tours the ship’s helicopter deck.

 

However, the 1980s-90s by far was not the first time those dreadnoughts sported whirly-birds.

1948-55

Back in 1948, while the ships still had floatplane catapults and a quartet of Curtiss SC-2 Seahawk floatplanes on their stern, USS Missouri (BB-63) accommodated a visiting experimental Sikorsky S-51, piloted by D. D. (Jimmy) Viner, a chief test pilot for Sikorsky.

Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter (Bureau # 122527) landing on Missouri’s forward 16-inch gun turret, during the 1948 Midshipmen’s cruise. Guard mail, ships’ newspapers, and personnel were exchanged via helicopter while the Midshipmen’s cruise squadron was at sea. Most exchanges were made by hovering pick-up. The forward turret was used as a landing platform since the floatplane catapults on the ship’s fantail prevented helicopters from operating there. The photo was filed on 13 September 1948. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-706093

With the cats deleted in the early 1950s, the Iowas saw more HO3s, now equipped with folding blade rotors and externally-mounted rescue hoists.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) A Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter of squadron HU-1 takes off from the battleship’s afterdeck, while she was operating off Korea. The upraised green flag signifies that the pilot has permission to take off. Crash crew, in yellow helmets, are standing by with fire hoses ready. This helicopter is Bureau # 124350. The photograph is dated 14 April 1953. The photographer is Lt. R.C. Timm. 80-G-K-16320

USS Iowa (BB-61) steams out of Wonsan harbor, Korea, after a day’s bombardment. The photograph is dated 18 April 1952. Note HO3S helicopter parked on the battleship’s after deck. Also, note the WWII catapults are deleted but the floatplane crane is still on her stern. NH 44537

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) snow falling on the battleship’s after deck, 8 February 1952, while she was serving with Task Force 77 in Korean waters. Note 16″/50cal guns of her after turret, and Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter parked on deck. Photographed by AF3c M.R. Adkinson. 80-G-441035

Four Marine HO4S/H-19 (Sikorsky S-55) and one Navy HO3S/H5 on the fantail of USS Missouri during the Korean War, 1952. The H-19s are likely of HMR-161, which largely proved the use of such aircraft in Korea. 

Vietnam

New Jersey also supported the occasional helicopter during her reactivation in the Vietnam war. Notably, she received 16-inch shells and powder tanks from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) by H-34 helicopter lift, the first time heavy battleship ammunition had been transferred by helicopter at sea.

New Jersey (BB-62) underway off the Virginia Capes with an SH-3D Sea King from HS-3 “Tridents”, (attached to the Randolph CVS-15 and a squadron of CVSG-56), about to land on the fantail. However, it is more likely that the helicopter flew out to the “Big J” from NAS Norfolk. Official Navy Photograph # K-49736, taken by PH3 E. J. Bonner on 24 May 1968, via Navsource.

Two UH-1 Huey helicopters resting on the fantail of the New Jersey (BB-62) during her service in December 1968 off Vietnam. Courtesy of Howard Serig, via Navsource.

But wait, old boy

With all that being said, it should be pointed out that it was the Brits who first successfully used a helicopter on their last battlewagon, HMS Vanguard, in 1947, a full year before Missouri’s first rotor-wing visit.

Landing a Sikorsky R4 helicopter on the aft deck of the battleship Vanguard February 1, 1947

And Vanguard would go on to operate both RN FAA Westland WS-51 Dragonflies and USN Piasecki HUP-2s on occasion in the 1950s.

The more you know…

Boom!

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.

Gravely

Gravely is deployed as the flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 to conduct maritime operations and provide a continuous maritime capability for NATO in the northern Atlantic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Andrew Hays/Released)

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.

Iowa fired at targets off North Korea 1952 80-G-626016

USS Iowa (BB-61) Fires her 16″/50 cal guns at targets in North Korea, circa April-October 1952. The photo is dated 17 December 1952, some two months after Iowa left the Far East at the end of her only Korean War combat tour. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-626016

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.

Low clearance, tight squeeze

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).

A bow view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) passing through the Pedro Miguel Locks of the canal. DN-SN-87-09408

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.

Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier USS Constellation (CV-64), which was constructed at Brooklyn Naval Yard, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1962

Previous carriers, the Midways, and Essex-classes included could just make it without de-masting.

Essex-class carrier USS Tarawa (CV-40) passes under the Brooklyn Bridge

As could the tallest lattice masts of dreadnought battleships.

BB-39 Arizona in New York City,1918, colorized by Monochrome Specter

Farewell President Bush

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.”

 

A big stick in Portsmouth harbor once more, 32 years ago today

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.

That’s one big porcupine, 74 years back

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.

 

Remembering Turret 2

iowa-turret-2-remembrance-ceremony

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.

One of the worst peacetime accidents in modern Naval history, the turret explosion occurred in the Number Two 16-inch gun turret on 19 April 1989, claiming 47 lives. 

Vale:

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

Guess how many 16-inch shells are left in storage?

Crewmen load a 16-inch shell aboard the battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB 64) as the vessel is readied for sea trials (Photo: National Archives)

Crewmen load a 16-inch shell aboard the battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB 64) as the vessel is readied for sea trials (Photo: National Archives)

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
Total                                                                                                  15,595

And the Army is looking to get rid of them, as I detailed in this piece at Guns.com

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).

central-city-surplus-d875-16-inch-gun-shell

Break out the holystone

Today’s bluejackets have to worry about modern 21st-century problems while underway such as flakey internet signals, running out of pop, broken exercise equipment, 1980s tech in the CIC, chicken wheels, and lines for the washing machine. One thing they don’t have to fool with is the old 01 Division holy-stone train.

What is a holystone? Well here is the wiki on it and another mention here but suffice to say that this lump of sandstone, boiler brick, or even ballast weight was common to sailors from the 18th century through WWII.

It’s simple to use, just add seawater and sometimes a liberal coating of sand and scrub away at the teak decking of your old school battleship, cruiser, destroyer, or frigate along with a dozen or so of your closest hammock mates under the close supervision of the bosun.

Sailors rubbing the deck of the Japanese battleship Yamashiro, Seto Island Sea, 1943

Sailors rubbing the deck of the Japanese battleship Yamashiro, Seto Island Sea, 1943

Sailors rubbing the deck of battleship HMS Rodney, 1940

Sailors rubbing the deck of battleship HMS Rodney, 1940

Sailors holystoning the deck of Pelorus-class protected cruiser HMS Pandora in the early 20th century

Sailors holystoning the deck of Pelorus-class protected cruiser HMS Pandora in the early 20th century

Working the deck of the old HMS Nelson

Working the deck of the old HMS Nelson

Royal Navy Battleship Sailors scrubbing holystoning Bridge HMS Royal Oak Photo 1917 colorized by Postales Navales

A working party holystones the deck of USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) in June 1966. “25 licks per board”

At the end of the day, you would have a nice, clean deck that had been stripped of its top layer of grit and grime.

September 1, 1986: German destroyer Rommel D-187 (right) in company with USS Iowa BB-61 and Peder Skram F-352. The deck was likely freshly stoned as the battlewagon was headed to NATO-allied ports and needed to be squared away for the inevitable spate of visitors

Of course, today’s sailors much prefer nonskid.

Except for those who are assigned to the last two wooden decked ships in the U.S. Fleet, the USS Constitution, and USCGC Eagle who just donated a spare one to the USS Missouri museum…

However, they still have plenty of leftovers.

USCGC Eagle

Somethings never change