Tag Archive | USS Lexington

Warship Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Lady Lex off Panama

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

(This week’s WW abbreviated due to events.)

Warship Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Lady Lex off Panama

Original negative given by Mr. Franklin Moran in 1967. Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 64501

Here we see the U.S. Navy’s second aircraft carrier, the brand-new USS Lexington (CV-2) off Panama City, Panama on 25 March 1928, some 92 years ago today.

The fourth U.S. Naval vessel named for the iconic scrap against Minutemen and a detachment of British troops on 19 April 1776, Lexington had originally been designed and laid down as a battlecruiser, designated CC-1.

Authorized to be converted and completed as an aircraft carrier 1 July 1922 she commissioned 14 December 1927, Capt. Albert W. Marshall in command.

The above photo and the four that follow were taken while the $39 million “Lady Lex” was on her shakedown cruise, deploying from her East Coast builders to her homeport at San Pedro, California, where she would arrive on 7 April 1928 and spend the next 13 years of her life.

NH 64697

NH 64699. At the time, she carried her inaugural air group to include Curtiss F6C fighters and Martin T3M torpedo planes, which can be seen on deck.

Note her twin 8″/55 gun mounts. NH 64698

“‘A close squeeze.’ U.S.S. Lexington. 33,000-ton aeroplane carrier, going through Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal.” Courtesy Jim Ferguson via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/02.htm

Of note, Lex had only received her first aircraft aboard only two months prior to her Panama photoshoot.

First plane on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington– a Martin T3M –at the South Boston Naval Annex January 14, 1928, Leslie Jones Collection Boston Public Library. Note her 8-inch guns

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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.

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Slow Death of the Nachi, 75 years on

One of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s mighty quartet of Myoko-class heavy cruisers, Nachi was a 13,000-ton brawler built at the Kure Naval Arsenal and commissioned in 1928. Carrying five dual twin turrets each with 8″/50cal 3rd Year Type naval guns, her class was the most heavily-armed cruisers in the world when they were constructed.

Nachi fought in the Java Sea (sharing in the sinking the Dutch cruiser HNLMS Java along with Graf Spee veteran HMS Exeter) and at the Komandorski Islands (where she, in turn, took a beating from the USS Salt Lake City) before she ended up as part of VADM Kiyohide Shima’s terribly utilized cruiser-destroyer force during the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.

Shima, who was later described by one author as “the buffoon of the tragedy” ordered his cruisers to attack two islands he thought were American ships then raised the signal to turn and beat feet after they found the wreckage of the battleship Fuso, a move that left Nachi, the 5th Fleet flagship, damaged in a crackup with the heavy cruiser Mogami, the latter of which had to be left behind for the U.S. Navy to finish off.

Nachi pulled in to Manila Bay, which was still something of a Japanese stronghold on the front line of the Pacific War, for emergency repairs.

Discovered there two weeks after the battle by the Americans, while Shima was ashore at a meeting, Nachi was plastered by carrier SBDs and TBMs flying from USS Lexington and Essex.

In all, she absorbed at least 20 bombs and five torpedos, breaking apart into three large pieces and sinking in about 100-feet of water under the view of Corregidor. The day was 5 November 1944, 75 years ago today.

Nachi maneuvers to avoid bomb and torpedo plane attacks in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Note torpedo tracks intersecting at the bottom, and bomb splashes. Catalog #: 80-G-272728

Nachi under air attack from Task Group 38.3, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Photographed by a plane from USS ESSEX (CV-9). Catalog #: 80-G-287018

Nachi under air attack from Task Group 38.3, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Photographed by a plane from USS ESSEX (CV-9). Catalog #: 80-G-287019

Nachi dead in the water after air attacks in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Taken by a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288866

Nachi dead in the water and sinking, following air attacks by Navy planes, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. A destroyer of the FUBUKI class is in the background. Taken by a USS LEXINGTON plane. Note: Destroyer is either AKEBOND or USHIO. Catalog #: 80-G-288868

Nachi sinking in Manila Bay, after being bombed and torpedoed by U.S. Navy carrier planes, 5 November 1944. Note that her bow has been blown off, and the main deck is nearly washed away. The photo was taken from a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288871

Nachi nearly sunk, after U.S. carrier plane bomb and torpedo attacks, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Air bubbles at right are rising from her midship section, while the stern is still floating, perpendicular to the water. The photo was taken from a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288873

Although close to shore and with several Japanese destroyers and gunboats at hand, Nachi went down with 80 percent of her crew including her skipper, Capt. Kanooka Enpei.

Also headed to the bottom with the ship were 74 officers of the IJN’s Fifth Fleet’s staff and a treasure trove of intel documents and records, the latter of which was promptly salvaged by the U.S. Navy when they moved into Manila Bay and put to good use. The library brought to the surface by hardhat divers was called “the most completely authentic exposition of current Japanese naval doctrine then in Allied hands, detailed information being included relative to the composition, and command structure of the entire Japanese fleet.”

Even though it was late in the war, Nachi was the first of her class to be lost in action. Within six months, two of her remaining sisters, Ashigara and Haguro, were sunk while Myoko was holed up in crippled condition at Singapore, where the British under Mountbatten would capture her in September. 

Warship Wednesday, March 14, 2018: Always on the edge of history

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, March 14, 2018: Always on the edge of history

Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library,

Here we see the Porter-class destroyer USS Phelps (DD-360) dockside at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston shortly before she was commissioned in early 1936, note her armament has not been fitted. Though with the fleet just a decade, Phelps always seemed to be just off the portside of some of the most important Naval vessels of WWII and always did everything that was asked of her, picking up twelve battle stars along the way.

The 8-ship Porter class had fine lines and looked more like a light cruiser with their high bridge and four twin turrets than a destroyer. Their displacement was fixed at 1850 tons, the treaty limit at the time, but with their 381-foot oal they were very rakish. Truly beautiful vessels from that enlighten era where warships could be both easy on the eyes and functional. With a 37-knot high speed, they could bring the pain with an eight-pack of 5″/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12s in four twin Mk22 turrets, which Navweaps refers to as “unquestionably the finest Dual Purpose gun of World War II” in addition to surface target torpedo tubes, a smattering of AAA guns, and an array of depth charges for sub busting. Designed in the early 1930s, all eight ships in the class were completed by February 1937, half built at Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River yard and the other half by New York Shipbuilding.

Our hero, Phelps, was first of the Fore River vessels, laid down 2 January 1934. She is the only Navy ship thus far to tote the name of Rear Admiral Thomas Stowell Phelps, USN, a hero of the Civil War navy.

Rear Admiral Thomas Stowell Phelps, USN (1822-1901) Portrait is taken circa 1865-1870 when Phelps was a commander. Photo from: “Officers of the Army and Navy (regular) who served in the Civil War,” published by L.R. Hamersly and Co., Philadelphia, 1892, p. 315. NH 78327

Phelps joined the Navy in 1840 at age 18 and gave the service 44 years of his life, most notably serving as the skipper of the 11-gun Ossipee-class steam sloop USS Juniata during the Civil War, taking her in danger-close to the Confederate batteries at Fort Fisher and helping to capture that rebel bastion. Phelps was named a rear-admiral on the retired list and the old but still beautiful Juniata went on to circumnavigate the globe and was only decommissioned in 1889.

The 11-gun Ossipee-class sloop-of-war USS Juniata in 1889, Detroit Photo. Via LOC. Her class included the ill-fated USS Housatonic.

USS Phelps commissioned 26 February 1936 and, as soon as her shakedown was complete, escorted the beautiful new heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) with President Roosevelt aboard on his Good Neighbor Cruise to South America that included stops in the Caribbean and points south.

USS PHELPS (DD-360). Note her Mark 35 directors above the pilot house, she had another on the after deckhouse– yes, two GFCS on one destroyer, pretty big league for a pre-1939 tin can. Courtesy of The Mariners Museum, Newport News, Va. Ted Stone collection Catalog #: NH 66339

Assigned to the Pacific Fleet by 1941, Phelps was at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day, moored in a nest of destroyers alongside the old tender USS Dobbin (AD-3) in berth X-2 along with fellow destroyers Worden, Hull, Dewey, and Macdonough. Though in an overhaul status and on a cold iron watch, according to her report of that fateful morning her crew observed bombs being dropped from planes diving on Ford Island and on ships moored in vicinity of the target ship USS Utah at 0758 and, by 0802, her guns were loaded and had commenced firing “it having been necessary to reassemble portions of the breech mechanisms which had been removed for overhaul.”

Now that is readiness!

Phelps downed one confirmed Japanese aircraft and took shots at another couple that were probable. By 0926 she was “underway, with boiler power for 26 knots, and stood out to sea via the North Channel,” to take up patrol offshore. The lucky destroyer suffered no casualties.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941 View taken around 0926 hrs. in the morning of 7 December, from an automobile on the road in the Aiea area, looking about WSW with destroyer moorings closest to the camera. In the center of the photograph are USS Dobbin (AD-3), with destroyers Hull (DD-350), Dewey (DD-349), Worden (DD-352) and Macdonough (DD-351) alongside. The ship just to the left of that group is USS Phelps (DD-360), with got underway on two boilers around 0926 hrs. The group further to the right consists of USS Whitney (AD-4), with destroyers Conyngham (DD-371), Reid (DD-369), Tucker (DD-374), Case (DD-370) and Selfridge (DD-357) alongside. USS Solace (AH-5) is barely visible at the far left. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-33045

Within days, she was with the fleet looking for some payback, escorting the big fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) on roving raids across the increasingly Japanese-held Western Pacific. By May 1942, she was just 400 miles off the Northern coast of Australia and heavily engaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Tragically, Lexington was mortally wounded in the exchange with Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi.

USS Lexington (CV-2) under air attack on 8 May 1942, as photographed from a Japanese plane. Heavy black smoke from her stack and white smoke from her bow indicate that the view was taken just after those areas were hit by bombs. Destroyer in the lower left appears to be USS Phelps (DD-360). The original print was from the illustration files for Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95579

Though the majority of Lady Lex’s crew survived and were taken off, with the carrier’s Commanding Officer, Captain Frederick C. Sherman, the last to leave, the mighty flattop needed a coup de grace, a task that fell to Phelps.

Our destroyer fired five torpedoes between 19:15 and 19:52, with at least two duds or missed fish being observed. Immediately after the last torpedo hit, Lexington, down by the bow but nearly on an even keel, finally sank.

Last week, Paul Allen’s RV Petrel discovered one of Phelps’ unexploded fish in the debris field for Lexington

A U.S. Mk 15 21″ surfaced launch torpedo near Lexington, one of Phelps’. RV Petrel

Following the Coral Sea, Phelps retired to Pearl in the company of the wounded carrier USS Yorktown and prepared for the next engagement.

(DD-360) At Pearl Harbor, circa late May 1942, following the Battle of Coral Sea and shortly before the Battle of Midway. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-66124

Then came Midway, where Phelps was part of TF16, serving as escort and plane guard for USS Hornet (CV 8).

80-G-88908: Battle of Midway, June 1942. A close-up of USS Atlanta (CL 51) with USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Phelps (DD 360), all of Task Force 16, in the background. The picture was made during the third day of the battle as Atlanta came up to aid the destroyer, which had broken down temporarily because of fuel shortage. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2016/09/27).

After Midway, Phelps left for the West Coast where she received an updated AAA suite that saw her marginally effective 1.1-inch and .50-caliber guns swapped out for many more 40mm and 20mm pieces along with the Mk 51 Fire Control System for the former. For her main guns, she swapped out the older Mk33 for a new Mk35 GFCS and added both an SC air search radar set and one SG surface search radar set.

USS Phelps (DD-360) Description: Plan view, forward, taken while she was at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 24 November 1942. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-38915

Plan view, aft, taken while she was at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 24 November 1942. Note submarine building ways and cranes in the background. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-38914

The rest of the war was extremely busy for Phelps, fighting the nightly raids by the Japanese and supporting the invasion of Guadalcanal, bombarding frozen Attu and Kiska in Alaskan waters, marshaling the troopships and closing just off the beach at Makin, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok; the hell of Saipan.

USS Phelps (DD-360) underway at sea, 27 May 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Note, her # 3 5″ mount has been deleted, the superfiring aft installation. Catalog #: 80-G-276951

In August 1944, Phelps was reassigned to the Atlantic, her place taken in the warm waters of the Pacific by newer destroyer types with more massive AAA suites. It was figured that the fast Porter could be more useful in the ETO.

USS Phelps (DD-360) Off the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, about November 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 3d. Note that her eight 5-inch twins have been swapped out for five 5″/38 Mark 12 guns in a combination of Mark 38 twin mounts and a single Mark 30 mount superfiring aft. Her GFCS also has been upgraded to a Mk37. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-73963

She spent the rest of the war on convoy duty and serving in the Mediterranean, arriving back on the West Coast post VE-Day on 10 June and was soon laid up.

USS Phelps (DD-360) moored at Casco Bay, Maine, 9 August 1945. USS McCall (DD-400) and a frigate (PF) are moored with her. Note she now has Measure 21. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-332952

Decommissioned 6 November 1945, Phelps was struck from the list 28 January 1947, sold 10 August 1947 to George Nutman Inc., Brooklyn, and subsequently scrapped– just 11 years after her completion.

Of her sisters, only class leader, Porter, was lost, torpedoed in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in 1942. The other six Porters managed to complete the war in one piece and, save for USS Winslow, were paid off by 1946. As for Winslow, she endured for a while longer as an experimental unit and only went to the breakers in 1959.

Besides Phelps’ torpedoes on the bottom of the Coral Sea, she is remembered in maritime art.

Tom Freeman (American, born 1952) U.S.S. Arizona passes Diamond Head on November 28, 1941. U.S.S. Phelps (DD-360) is the escort

Specs:

USS Phelps (DD-360) in her final form. Off the New York Navy Yard, 8 August 1945 in Measure 21. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-87408

Displacement: 1,850 tons, 2,663 fl
Length: 381 ft (116 m)
Beam: 36 ft 2 in (11.02 m)
Draft: 10 ft 5 in (3.18 m)
Propulsion: 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Geared Bethlehem Turbines,2 screws, 50,000 shp (37,285 kW);
Speed: 37 knots (65 km/h)
Range: 6,500 nmi. at 12 knots (12,000 km at 22 km/h) on 635 tons fuel oil
Complement: 194 (designed) later swelled to 276 with new systems, AAA suite
Sensors: SC search radar, QC sonar
Armor: Splinter protection (STS) for bridge, guns, and machinery
Armament:
As Built:
1 x Mk33 Gun Fire Control System
8 × 5″(127mm)/38cal SP (4×2), though only three turrets (6 guns) fitted
8 × 1.1″(28mm) AA (2×4),
2 × .50 Cal water-cooled AA (2×1),
8 x 21″(533mm) torpedo tubes two Mark 14 quadruple mounts (2×4) with 16 torpedoes carried
2 Depth Charge stern racks, 600lb charges
c1944:
1 × Mk37 Gun Fire Control System,
5 × 5″(127mm)/38cal DP (2×2,1×1),
1 × Mk51 Gun Director,
4 × Bofors 40mm AA (1×4),
8 × Oerlikon 20mm AA (8×1),
8 x 21″(533mm) torpedo tubes two Mark 14 quadruple mounts (2×4) with 8 torpedos carried, later removed by 1945
2 Depth Charge stern racks, 600lb charges
4 300lb K-Gun Depth Charge throwers, 2 stdb, 2 port

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Warship Wednesday, May 10, 2017: ‘All Vessels: Make Smoke!’

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period, and one of the most interesting tasks of a bygone era was that of making smoke, on purpose.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 10, 2017: All Vessels: Make Smoke!

Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Albert K. Murray; 1944; Framed Dimensions 20H X 24W

“The signal from the Admiral’s flagship. The sharp blasts of his ship’s whistle have indicated the approach of enemy aircraft in force. Almost immediately plumes of whitish smoke arise from all ships of any size in the anchorage. Speedy small craft race among them with smoke pots pouring out a thick screen. Beach battalion men get their pots going and presently all the waterfront operations will be swathed in a dense opaque fog to confuse and disrupt impending bombing.”

One of the most popular tactics for early steam navy forces was the newfound ability to make instant smokescreens, either by ordering the stokers to burn cheap coal in designated boilers; constricting the airflow to the boilers and thus creating billows due to the choking flame; or by adding oil to the coal or funnel. This common tactic was a hit by the turn of the century, with Edwardian/Great White Fleet era ships– destroyers in particular– practicing it regularly.

USS CUSHING (DD-55) Laying a smokescreen, before World War I. Print in the collection of the late Admiral C. T. Hutchins, USN, owned by Mrs. H. C. Allan. Courtesy of Lieutenant H. C. Allan, USN, 17 Dec. 1940. Catalog #: NH 55539

Destroyer laying a smokescreen, circa 1914 Description: She is probably part of the Second Division, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Torpedo Flotilla. This photo is one of a series from the collection of a USS Walke (Destroyer # 34) crewmember, a three-stack destroyer which was a member of the Second Division. Courtesy of Jim Kazalis, 1981. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 99863

USS Woolsey (Destroyer # 77) Participates in laying a smokescreen, during Pacific Fleet battle practice in Hawaiian waters, circa mid-1919. Photographed by Tai Sing Loo, Honolulu. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1971. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 73608

By the end of the Great War, aircraft delivered smoke screens had been added to the lexicon as had purpose-made smoke generating devices.

This opaque white chemical smoke (titanium tetrachloride) was generally more effective than the sooty black boiler smoke of the Great War age, which tended to dissipate rather quickly. By the 1930s, the U.S. Navy used three different recipes for smoke: HC or hexachloroethane type smoke mixture, FS or sulfur trioxide in chlorosulfonic acid, FM or titanium tetrachloride, and WP or white phosphorus.

A Curtis H-16 flying boat lays a smoke screen near units of the U.S. Fleet at anchor near Panama, circa 1924. Ships include; a Tennessee-class battleship, under smoke, a Nevada-class BB, center, a New York-class BB, far left, a New Mexico-class BB, far right, and an Omaha-class cruiser, background center. Photo from the Library of Congress collection.

Aircraft lay a smokescreen over USS Langley (CV-1) during fleet maneuvers in 1930

Aircraft lay a smokescreen over USS Langley (CV-1) during fleet maneuvers in 1930

USS Lexington (CV-2) Steams through an aircraft-deployed smoke screen, 26 February 1929, shortly after that year’s Fleet Problem exercises. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75714

Smoke Screen is laid by three T4M-type torpedo bombers, circa the early 1930s. Description: Courtesy of Chief Photographer’s Mate John Lee Highfill (retired) Catalog #: NH 94852

Destroyer Squadron Twenty (DESRON-20) emerging from an aircraft smoke screen laid down by planes of VP-7, VP-9, and VP-11, during an exhibition for Movietone News, off San Diego on 14 September 1936.Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley Jr., Washington DC, 1969 Catalog #: NH 67294

USS MONAGHAN (DD-354) foreground, USS DALE (DD-353), and USS WORDEN (DD-352) in the background to the right emerging from a smoke screen laid down by planes of VP-7, VP-9, and VP-11 during an exhibition for Movietone News, off San Diego on 14 September 1936. Description: Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley Jr., Washington DC, 1969 Catalog #: NH 67272

80-G-463112: U.S. Navy destroyers lay fuel smoke screens the fleet to shield USS Lexington (CV 2), January 5, 1934

EMANUELE FILIBERTO DUCA D’AOSTA (Italian light cruiser, 1934-circa 1957) Caption: Photographed before World War II. Naval intelligence analysts marked the smoke screen projector and stern anchor, common to Italian cruisers and destroyers at this time, on the original photograph. Description: Catalog #: NH 85918

KIROV (Soviet heavy cruiser, 1936- circa 1975) Caption: The original caption of this illustration from a Soviet publication reads-roughly-“creation of a smokescreen curtain,” and is attributed to the photographer N. Verinuchka. The ship’s port battery of 3.9-in./56-caliber antiaircraft guns can be seen in the center and the three elevated barrels of the 7.1-inch main battery beyond. Description: Catalog #: NH 95483

Aircraft used for smoke screens would be fitted with the Mark 6 Smoke Screen tank (50 gals.), weighing 593 lbs. when filled with 442 lbs. of FS, which was capable of ejecting smoke for 15 to 50 seconds. Chemical smoke from aircraft, the 1920s:

WWII saw perhaps the most extensive use of smoke screens by naval forces, especially on daylight littoral operations such as amphibious assaults.

During WWII, besides funnel smoke and smoke generators, the Navy used both the Mark 1 and Mark II Smoke Float, devices which were 165 lbs. when filled with 90 lbs. of HC. They were 30.7″ high by 22.5″ in diameter and produced smoke for 18 – 21 minutes for the protection of convoys against submarines. There was also the Floating Smoke Pots M-4 and M4A1 (13″ high by 12″ in diameter and weigh 35 lbs. when filled with 26 lbs. of HC. They generate smoke for 10 – 15 minutes and are designed for amphibious operations) as well as smaller M-8 Smoke Grenades and 5″ smoke projectiles (using WP).

PT boats were standardized with the standard Mark 6 generator which used a commercial ICC-3A480 full spun steel Mk 2 ammonia cylinder tank with a capacity of about 33 gallons, filled with FM or titanium tetrachloride. German S-boats ran a similar setup.

Mark 6 Smoke Screen Generator used by PT boats

Salerno Invasion, September 1943 U.S. Navy PT boat laying a smokescreen around USS ANCON (AGC-4) off Salerno, 12 September 1943. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-87326

Night air raid, Naples, Italy. German flares lighting Naples Harbor, seen from USS BROOKLYN (CL-40). A smokescreen covers the water in the distance, laid by allied ships and shore units. Note tracers from anti-aircraft gunfire. BROOKLYN’s turret #2 is silhouetted at left. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-220333 National Archives Original Sat, Mar 11, 1944

German battlecruiser Gneisenau laying funnel smoke around 1940. NH 82411


“USS O’Bannon (DD-450) laying a smokescreen, as seen from her own bridge in the Solomons,1943.”(NHHC: 80-G-K-3974)

Crew of battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) watch as destroyer USS Cony (DD-508) lays down smokescreen Leyte landing operations Oct 20, 1944

Dido Class Light Cruisers in action: Convoy From Alexandria to Malta meets and engages Italian Warships in the Mediterranean, HMS Cleopatra throws out smoke to shield the convoy as HMS Euryalus elevates her forward 5.25-inch guns to shell the Italian Fleet, March 22nd, 1942.

Although radar basically ended the usefulness of smoke screens in fleet vs. fleet operations, or in shielding a landing craft from a non-optically guided missile, fleets still practiced the maneuver well into the 1950s.


USS Caperton (DD-650) Lays a smoke screen during Atlantic Fleet maneuvers, 1956. The original print, dated 11 September 1956, carries the following caption: Most effective in World War II the smoke screen obscured the views of opponents gun and torpedo directors. Since radar is now widely used, the smokescreen has less use except in very close in engagements or in air attacks by small planes without radar. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 104045

And, of course, it still has usefulness today when it comes to kicking in a door by a maritime landing or raiding force and you are trying to shield incoming waves from the Mk 1/Mod 0 eyes of a machine gun nest or RPG operator.

Some things never go out of style as witnessed by these ROK Marine Amtracs firing smoke grenades on an amphibious landing exercise. As the Norks use a lot of optically-sighted weapons, this is likely a great idea to keep standard.

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

A sinking Helldiver

“Mission Beyond Darkness” by Robert Taylor.

“Mission Beyond Darkness” by Robert Taylor.

“In the foreground the SB2C Helldiver of Lieutenant Ralph Yaussi, its tanks dry, has ditched near the carrier USS
Lexington. As Yaussi and his gunner James Curry clamber out of the sinking aircraft, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Anthony, her 24-inch searchlight ablaze, is moving in to make the pick-up. The chaos and confusion of that infamous night during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, springs back to life in this stunning painting.”

For the record, Anthony served until 1946 then was decommissioned and transferred to the West German Navy as Zerstörer 1 (D170) in 1958 where continued on until 1976, one of the last Fletchers in service. She was sunk by U-29 as a torpedo target in the Mediterranean on 16 May 1979, certainly one of the last occasions of a German U-boat sinking an American destroyer.

As for Yaussi, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot of a plane in Air Group Two, embarked in USS Hornet (CV-12), in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, on 20 June 1944, as reflected in the above painting. He passed away at age 89 and is buried in Los Angeles.

Lady Lex, and Yaussi’s old ship the Hornet, endure as museum ships.

The gray ghosts of the Gulf Coast, 1964

“Sept. 13[1964] A RARE SIGHT—Aircraft carriers and battleships aren’t seen together at sea these days, primarily because all of America’s battlewagons are in mothballs. But two historic veterans of WW II, the carrier Lexington and the battleship Alabama got together in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. The Lexington, still in service, was en route to New Orleans for a visit; the Alabama was being towed to Mobile where it will be enshrined.”

“Sept. 13[1964] A RARE SIGHT—Aircraft carriers and battleships aren’t seen together at sea these days, primarily because all of America’s battlewagons are in mothballs. But two historic veterans of WW II, the carrier Lexington and the battleship Alabama got together in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. The Lexington, still in service, was en route to New Orleans for a visit; the Alabama was being towed to Mobile where it will be enshrined.”

Alabama (BB-60) had a short but safe career in the Navy. Commissioned  16 August 1942, she earned 9 Battle Stars for her work in the Pacific before entering red lead row on 9 January 1947 at the ripe old age of four. Stricken in 1962, she has been preserved since 1964 at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile Bay.

Lexington, (CV/CVA/CVS/CVT/AVT-16), is actually younger than Alabama, commissioned 17 February 1943. Recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 Battle Stars, she saw hard service in WWII and the Cold War (after a 8-year lay up) before becoming the Navy’s dedicated training carrier in 1969. Decommissioned/stricken on 8 November 1991, she has been preserved at the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Hence, the 1964 photo was a harbinger of things to come, as both endure as silent gray sentinels, the last of Halsey’s capital ships on the Gulf Coast.

Project Whale Tale

In the 1960s the U-2 spy plane was the most advance manned recon aircraft in the world. However, all planes have a finite range. With that in mind, the CIA wanted to test stretching the U-2’s range to help get those “hard to reach” areas by using strategically placed U.S. Navy aircraft carriers as launching, receiving or refueling points. After all, they figured if a B-25 could take off from a 1942-era carrier, why couldn’t a U-2 take off from a larger one in 1962?

Thus began the saga of Project Whale Tale which ran from 1963-69 and saw CIA pilots get carrier qualed on T-2 Buckeye trainers from USS Lexington and test their actual long-winged spy planes from USS Kitty Hawk and USS America.

U-2 on deck of USS America CV-66

U-2 on deck of USS America CV-66

According to The Aviationist, the operational ability to take off from and land on a carrier was used only once, in May 1964, when a U-2G operating off the USS Ranger was used to monitor the French nuclear test range, at Mururoa Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean, well out of range of any land-based U-2 aircraft.

Still, it was done and who knows what happened that has yet to be declassified. So if an old salt tells you a tale of a visit when he was in the service of a blacked out powered glider with a 103 ft wingspan, don’t write it off as so much fluff.

The shit couldhave happened.  Keep in mind that the U-2 is still in active service.

Here is a neat video (without sound) of some U-2 carrier ops

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