Tag Archives: USS Ranger

Big Water Flattop

Continuing in the same vein of pre-WWII American carriers that made it to the post-war (see yesterday’s post on Enterprise), flashing back some 75 years ago today, I give you the USS Ranger CV-4 in the Mississippi River, coming into view of New Orleans. 

Ranger, who we have talked about extensively on a past Warship Wednesday, only earned two battle stars for her wartime service, which was spent in the Atlantic as she was deemed too slight to fight it out with the Empire of Japan, only finally being sent to the Pacific in July 1945. Nonetheless, she struck blows against the Vichy French and Germans spread out from Morocco to Norway.

As detailed by DANFS, the end of her career was a postscript.

Departing San Diego 30 September 1945, Ranger embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa and then steamed for New Orleans, arriving 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola [it was thought she would be a training carrier there but was found to be in poor condition and the job was instead handed over to USS Saipan (CVL-28) then later USS Monterey (CVL-26)].

After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 18 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard 18 October 1946. Struck from the Navy list 29 October 1946, she was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Chester, Pa., 28 January 1947.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020: Avalanche, Darby, Husky & Fritz

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Sept. 30, 2020: Avalanche, Darby, Husky & Fritz

NH 108686

Here we see a great bow-on view of the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) in 1938, likely on her visit to her namesake East Coast Georgia city.

The nine Brooklyns, all ordered in 1933, was an improvement on the preceding New Orleans class with a London Naval Treaty-compliant 10,000-ton (listed) displacement. In true cruise fashion, while the armor was thin (just 2-inches on most of the belt), they were fast at 32+ knots and had one of the strongest gun armament of their type in the world. This was centered around fifteen (15) 6″/47 (15.2 cm) Mark 16 guns in five three-gun turrets capable of a 60-degree elevation.

Empty shell cases litter the deck near the forward 6-inch/47-caliber gun turrets of USS Brooklyn (CL-40) after she had bombarded Licata, Sicily, during the early hours of the invasion, 10 July 1943. (80-G-42522).

Each of these could lift a 130-pound super heavy AP shell or a 105 HC shell to a maximum of 26,000 yards. Further, they could be loaded extremely fast, an average of 8-to-10 shells a minute per gun. During gunnery trials in March 1939, USS Savannah (CL-42) fired 138 6-inch rounds in one furious minute.

As with the rest of her class, she had extensive aviation facilities, actually greater than that of a small seaplane tender. This included a large hangar, two stern catapults, and the ability to carry as many as six single-engine floatplanes with two more stored on deck. Larger flying boats, while they could not be accommodated onboard, could be fueled alongside.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of light cruiser Savannah, 1938; note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

A stern shot of Savannah in 1938, showing her cats and two Seagulls on deck. NH 108693

Laid down 31 May 1934 at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey, Savannah was the fourth on the Naval List since 1799, the most important of which was the Brandywine-class frigate that helped captured California from Mexico and go on to bag several Rebel blockade runners in the Civil War. She was commissioned 10 March 1938.

Her peacetime service was spent in a series of memory-making cruises including visiting her hometown, ranging to England, visiting the Caribbean, and clocking in with the Pacific Fleet, taking part in Fleet Problems XX and XXI.

Savannah in Savannah, 1938, passing City Hall. NH 108687

At Savannah Georgia passing to turning slip April 14, 1939. NH 108694

USS Savannah (CL-42) entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, during her shakedown cruise, 20 May 1938. Note her signal flags, displaying the call letters NAQL. Courtesy of Louis A. Davidson, 1977. NH 85625

As part of the Atlantic Fleet, once the balloon went up in Europe, Savannah was detailed to FDR’s Neutrality Patrol as CruDiv 8’s flagship.

Then came war

On December 7, 1941, she was at anchor in New York Harbor and quickly made ready for a real-life shooting war.

Spending most of 1942 screening the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in the Atlantic, she ranged as far south as Brazil and as far north as iceberg alley, cruising through U-boat infested waters. That October, she joined Adm. Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force, part of the Operation Torch landings in Vichy French Morocco.

U.S. troops aboard a landing craft head for the beaches during Operation Torch of the North African Campaign Oran, Algeria. 8 November 1942. Imperial War Museum photo. Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer

On 8 November 1942, she covered the landing beaches for elements of Lucian K. Truscott’s 9th Infantry across Red, Red 1, Green, Blue, and Yellow Beaches while the planes of her old companion, Ranger, flew top cover. Her guns fired for the first time in anger, silencing several Vichy batteries near the old masonry fortress at Kasba, the latter of which was held by French Foreign Legionnaires.

In all, Savannah fired 1,196 6-inch and 406 5-inch shells by nightfall. The next day, she added another 892 6- and 236 5-inchers to that tally, helping to stop a column of Renault R35 light tanks and work over additional French batteries in support of Truscott’s move inland.

Her humble Seagulls also got in some kills– with the unusual tactic of dropping depth charges on land targets.

Per DANFS:

During that same day, Savannah’s scout planes set a new style in warfare by successfully bombing tank columns with depth charges, whose fuses had been altered to detonate on impact. The scout planes, maintaining eight hours of flying time daily, struck at other shore targets, and also kept up antisubmarine patrol. One of Savannah’s planes located an enemy 75-millimeter battery which had been firing on Dallas and eliminated it with two well-placed depth charges. The cruiser added to the carnage when one of her 5-inch salvoes touched off a nearby ammunition dump.

Over the course of a five day period between 7 and 11 November, Savannah’s five SOC-3s clocked over 40 hours aloft, dropping no less than 14 325-pound and 35 100-pound depth charges on a mixture of targets both ashore and at sea.

Following the French capitulation, she returned to Norfolk, in the same train as the battleship Texas and other cruisers, at the end of November. She was soon assigned to Task Group 23.1 (Cruiser Division Two), with a duty to prowl South American waters for German blockade runners and commerce raiders.

On 10 March 1943, while on patrol with the destroyer USS Eberle (DD-430), she came across the armed Dutch freighter Kota Tjandi, which had been captured by the German Hilfskreuzer (auxiliary cruiser) Komet manned by a prize crew who had hopes of sailing her past the blockade to the Fatherland with her valuable cargo of 4,000 tons of tin and rubber. After firing shots across her bow and one of her Seagulls stitched up the sea in front of the blockade runner with a machine gun blast, a boarding crew moved to take control of the vessel but the Germans were too quick and sank her with scuttling charges.

German blockade runner MV Karin (Dutch freighter Kota Tjandi) aflame from fires, set by her crew before they abandoned ship, after being stopped in the South Atlantic by two units of the United States Fourth Fleet—the light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) and the destroyer Eberle (DD-430). A short time later, delayed-detonation scuttling charges exploded, killing all but three members of a boarding party from the Eberle attempting to salvage the vessel. The painting is by Richard DE Rosset via http://www.davidbruhn.com/

Savannah took on board the 75 German survivors, a mix of navy and merchant mariners, and their captors searched and placed the POWs under guard below decks, landing them in the U.S. on 28 March. She also reportedly picked up floating stores to include “Japanese rice beer, French champagne, canned salmon and sardines, oranges, bread still warm from the oven, and women’s shoes with Hong Kong labels.” Brazilian fishermen also recovered tons of rubber bales from the sea.

In May, she departed New York for Oran, escorting a troop convoy of Patton’s 7th Army to the Med. There was more work to be done.

USS Savannah (CL-42) off New York City, with a barge and tug alongside, 1 May 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-44025

Then came a trip to Sicily.

Operation Husky

The invasion of Sicily, code-named Operation Husky kicked off on the night of 9 July and Savannah played a pivotal role in the landings.

Lt. Col. William Orlando Darby, head and founder of the 1st Ranger Battalion, led his men ashore at Gela, fighting across the beach, through Italian coast defenses and withstood two days of counterattacks against German armor in the streets of the sea town, then captured the incredibly tough strategic nut that was the fortress town of Butera in a night attack at the top of a 4,000-foot hill. The very definition of light infantry, the largest ordnance Darby stormed ashore with was a single 37mm anti-tank gun, this meant that his fire support depended on the Navy, which had detailed Savannah to back him up.

In the official Army history of the Rangers in Italy, the CMH notes dryly that, “For all the courage of individual Rangers, naval gunfire support proved decisive in holding the town.”

As detailed in an interesting 185-page paper at the Joint Forces Staff College on the subject of Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) capabilities, past, present and future– penned by an Army colonel– Darby’s experiences ashore under Savannah’s 15 6-inch guns is detailed in the Ranger daddy’s own words:

We were in a very desperate situation…we just couldn’t move. They had a tremendous amount of small arms fire and they had a very well dug-in and well-built position –concrete emplacements, pillboxes, and all. I had this little lieutenant of Artillery with me, who had all the naval gunfire of the Savannah at his control, and I decided to put him to use. I had one of my men who was in position on top of the hill up here and who could see the gun batteries that were firing on us, some five 149 and 150 howitzer batteries that were blazing away. I never realized naval gunfire could be so accurate. We started firing with Savannah and before we finished… forced five batteries to stop shooting. We examined those gun positions and in every battery position, we found at least one gun with a direct hit and at least one stack of ammunition blown in each place…

Before I took Butera she was giving fire support to me – and accurate fire support – at a range of 22,000 yards, which I think is something for people to remember. Naval gunfire support with ground observation and good communications is just like anybody else’s artillery: It is good. As a matter of fact, it is awfully fine artillery because when you say, “fire for effect”, you have 45 rounds of 6-inch shells in one minute. They have 15 guns and fire about three rounds a minute.

According to Savannah’s logs, she fired about 1,890 rounds of 6″/47 HC Mk.34 projectiles in 97 hours supporting the Rangers and other troops ashore, about two-thirds of her magazines.

In an attempt to coordinate the fire ashore, her AV det suffered greatly at the hands of German fighters, her lumbering Seagull observation biplanes– with a top speed of 143 knots and a self-defense armament of just two .30-caliber guns– were no match for pairs of Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Three of four were splashed on their first sortie.

Via NARA

Heading back to Algiers to replenish her magazines, it was there that she found herself amid a maritime disaster.

DANFS-

While Norwegian cargo ship Bjørkhaug loaded Italian landmines in the harbor of Algiers on 16 July 1943, one of the mines exploded. The blast effectively destroyed the ship, and inflicted hundreds of casualties on people in the area. The flames threatened British cargo ship Fort Confidence, which carried a load of oil, and Dutch tug Hudson bravely took her in tow out to sea, where the crew beached her to prevent further loss. Savannah stood by to render assistance during the fiery ordeal.

Savannah stands by to render assistance as vessels burn after Norwegian cargo ship Bjørkhaug explodes in Algiers harbor, 16 July 1943. 80-G-K-3965

After rearming, it was off to Italy itself.

Operation Avalanche

Operation Avalanche, the Allied landings near the key port of Salerno on Italy’s boot, kicked off on 9 September 1943. Savannah was the first ship to open fire against the German shore defenses in Salerno Bay, providing fire support for the U.S. 5th Army until the 11th, when her world was rocked.

That morning at about 10:00 local, a Dornier Do 217K-2 bomber of III./KG 100 landed a 3,000-pound Ruhrstahl X-1 precision-guided, armor-piercing bomb on Savannah. The early smart bomb, known to the Allies as the Fritz X, hit the top of the ship’s number three 6/47 gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before its 710-pound amatol warhead exploded.

USS Savannah (CL-42) is hit by a German radio-controlled bomb, while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. The photograph shows the explosion venting through the top of the turret and also through Savannah’s hull below the waterline. A motor torpedo boat (PT) is passing by in the foreground. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral H. Kent Hewett, USN. NH 95562

USS Savannah (CL-42) afire immediately after she was hit by a German guided bomb during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. Smoke is pouring from the bomb’s impact hole atop the ship’s number three 6/47 gun turret. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. SC 243636

The damage was crippling, blowing out the bottom of the ship’s hull, immediately flooding her magazines– which may have ironically saved the ship as it prevented them from detonating– and killed 197 of her crew. In respect to the flooding, Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, observed that the lightweight “treaty cruiser” armor plan of the Brooklyns may have helped saying, “it sometimes seemed their flimsiness was a blessing.”

The detail from the ship’s war diary:

USS Savannah (CL-42) corpsmen attend casualties on the ship’s forecastle, after a German radio-controlled bomb hit her # 3 six-inch gun turret during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. National Archives. 80-G-54355

USS Savannah (CL 42), Struck by a German bomb, men take care of the casualties and make hasty repairs to continues to bombard shore installations of Salerno, Italy. While wounded men were given treatment, a crewman aims a stream of water down the smoking hole made by the bomb. 80-G-54357

USS Savannah (CL-42) bomb penetration hole atop her number three 6/47-gun turret, while the ship was undergoing initial repairs off Salerno, Italy. Note life rafts atop the turret, one of which has been cut in two by the bomb. Also, note the turret’s armored faceplate. The view looks forward, with number two 6/47 gun turret in the immediate background. The original photo caption, released on 2 November 1943, reads (in part): A round, clean hole marks the point of entry of a Nazi bomb on the cruiser Savannah. Inside, all was chaos, smoke, blood, and death. NH 97959

After eight hours dead in the water, Savannah was able to reignite her boilers and get up enough steam to make it to Malta under her own power, an impressive feat for a ship of any size that just took a major hit and had water inside one-sixth of her hull. Of note, German Fritz bombs on the same day sank the Italian battleship Roma, the flagship of the surrendering Italian fleet and on the16th hit the storied British battleship HMS Warspite, which had to be towed to Malta and was never fully repaired.

Over the next eight months, Savannah was extensively repaired to the point of being almost rebuilt, with new side bulges fitted and an updated 5-inch gun battery with modern fire control directors.

The USS Savannah during a day firing, May 1944. Note her newly-installed 5″/38DP mount. Truman Library 63-1398-148

5 September 1944 photo as rebuilt after FX-1400 guided bomb damage off Salerno. Hull is blistered up to the main deck and her former single 5″/25 guns have been replaced with twin 5″/38s. She is also fitted with a new bridge and new lightweight antiaircraft guns and the arrangement of those guns. The entire Brooklyn class was planned to be so modified but this was canceled at the end of the war. Via Navsource https://www.navsource.org/archives/04/042/04042.htm

Post-reconstructed USS Savannah (CL-42) photographed from a blimp of squadron ZP-11, while underway off the New England coast on 30 October 1944. NH 97956

The rest of her war was much less active, although the reconstructed cruiser to part in the escort of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Mediterranean in January and February 1945 on his way to the Yalta conference. She finished WWII as a school ship in the Chesapeake, carrying out weekly training cruises. After VE-Day, she was used on two Magic Carpet cruises returning GIs from France.

She also made one last stop in her “hometown.”

Starboard-bow view while steaming in the Savannah River, Savannah Georgia while attending Navy Day celebrations on or about 27 October 1945.

Entering an inactivation overhaul at the end of 1945, Savannah was placed in reserve the next year and decommissioned on 3 February 1947. She earned three battle stars for her wartime service and would never sail under her own power again. Her service lasted just shy of nine years.

Epilogue 

Some of her sisters never made it to the end of the war, with Helena (CL-50) hit by three Japanese Long Lance torpedoes in 1943 during the confused night action at the Kula Gulf. Of the eight Brooklyns that passed into mothballs after the war, six were transferred to the navies of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil in 1951 to include the class leader who, as ARA General Belgrano, was sunk by a British submarine in the Falklands in 1982.

In the end, Savannah was the last of her class the U.S. fleet, with fellow sister Honolulu (CL-48) disposed of in 1959. In the end, she was sold for $172,090 to Bethlehem Steel Co., of Bethlehem, Pa., for scrapping on 6 January 1960, and on the 25th of that month, she was removed from Navy custody.

Her 21-page war diary as well as dozens of monthly diaries and logs are digitized in the National Archives.

USS Savannah CL-42 model, data plats, and ship’s bell at her namesake city’s Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah is well-remembered in her namesake city and many artifacts and relics are dotted around town, as are markers.

There is also an array of contemporary maritime art in circulation including paintings and postcards.

The fifth Savannah, a name surely fit for a warship, was instead issued to a fleet replenishment oiler (AOR-4) in 1970 that served for 25 years.

The sixth Savannah, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, (LCS-28) is under construction in Mobile and was recently launched. Yes, she is an LCS, but at least she is a fighting ship.

Specs:

NH 67861

NH 108696

Displacement 9,475 (designed) 12,207-tons full load 1945
Length 608
Beam 69′
Draft 19’2″
Machinery:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 shafts 100,000shp
Speed: 32 knots
Complement 868
Armor:
Main Belt
At Machinery: 5 in
At Magazines: 2 in
Deck: 2 in
Barbettes: 6 in
Gun turret
Turret roofs: 2 in
Turret sides: 1.25 in
Turret face: 6.5 in
Conning tower: 5 in
Armament:
(1938)
15 6″/47 DP
8 5-inch/25 cal singles
8 .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
(1945)
15 6″/47 DP
8 5″/38 caliber anti-aircraft guns in four dual mounts
28 40mm/60 Bofors in 4 quads and 6 twin mounts
12 20 mm Oerlikon singles
Aircraft: Up to 8 seaplanes, typically 4 carried. Usually Curtiss SOC Seagulls but by 1945 SC-1 Seahawks.

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

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 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, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

Collection of Francis Holmes Hallett via NHHC NH 93484

Here we see “Sunset on the Pacific,” a colored postcard circulated around 1910 showing the Alert-class gunboat USS Ranger (PG-23) at anchor looking West. The bark-rigged iron-hulled steamer would have an exceptionally long life that would see her serve multiple generations of bluejackets of all stripes.

One of the narrow few new naval ships built after the Civil War, the three-ship class was constructed with funding authorized by the 42nd Congress and listed at the time as being a Sloop of War. Powered by both sail and steam, they were 175 feet long, displaced 541 tons and were designed to carry up to a half-dozen era 9-inch guns split between broadsides. The trio were the last iron warships to be built for the U.S. Navy, with follow-on designs moving to steel.

While under construction, the armament scheme was converted to a single 11-inch smoothbore Dahlgren rifle, two 9-inch Dahlgrens, one 60-pounder Parrott, a single 12-pounder “boat” howitzer that weighed only 300-pounds in its carriage, and one Gatling gun– the latter two of which could be sent ashore by a naval landing party to conduct business with the locals as needed. Speaking of which, she could afford to send her small Marine detachment as well as up to 40 rifle-armed sailors away as needed to make friends and influence people.

Alert, Huron, and Ranger were all completed at the same time, with the middle ship lost tragically on her first overseas deployment off the coast of North Carolina 24 November 1877 near Nag’s Head.

Ranger was constructed at Harlan & Hollingsworth, and, commissioned 27 November 1876, was the 4th such vessel to carry the name.

The preceding two Rangers saw service in the War of 1812 while the original was the 18-gun ship sloop built in 1777 and commanded by no less a figure than John Paul Jones for the Continental Navy. Famously, on 14 February 1778, that inaugural Ranger received a salute to the new American flag given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay.

Poster calling for volunteers for the crew of USS RANGER, Captain John Paul Jones, then fitting at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for her cruise into European waters. It quotes the resolution of Congress of 29 March 1777 establishing pay advances for newly recruited seamen. Description: Courtesy of Essex Institute Salem, Mass., owners of the original poster. NH 52162

Once our new, 4th, Ranger was commissioned, she was assigned to the Atlantic Station briefly before setting sail for the Far East where she would join the Asiatic Station, leaving New York for the three-month voyage to Hong Kong on 21 May 1877 via the Suez.

USS RANGER photographed before 1896. From Bennett, “Steam Navy of the U.S.” NH 44604

The crew of USS RANGER. Historical Collection, Union Title Insurance Company, San Diego NH 108286

Returning to the states in 1880, she was converted for survey work at Mare Island and spent the two decades slow-poking from Central America to the Northern Pacific and back while engaged in hydrographic duties. A ready ship in an area where no other U.S. flags were on the horizon during that period, she often waved the Stars and Stripes as needed in backwater Latin American ports while alternating between getting muscular with trespassers in the Bearing Strait and Alaskan waters.

While laid up between 1895 and 1899, the 20-year-old gunboat was modernized and landed her Civil War-era black powder shell guns and Gatling for a much more up-to-date battery of six 4-inch breechloaders and an M1895 Colt “potato-digger” machine gun.

USS RANGER, now with a gleaming white hull, photographed after she received 6 4-inch breech-loading rifles in 1897. After this refit, she could be distinguished from her sister ALERT by her funnel casin NH 44605

USS RANGER off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1898, with her cutters in the water. NH 71743

USS Ranger Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1900. CDR Wells L. Field was her skipper at the time. The original print is color tinted, lightly. NH 73386

By 1905, with the Russians and Japanese getting all rowdy in the Yellow Sea and adjacent areas– with resulting battered Russian ships increasingly hiding out in the U.S.-controlled Philippines– Ranger received a refit at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and set sail for Cavite for her second stint on the Asiatic Station. However, a cranky propulsion plant kept her largely in ordinary until she was sent back to the U.S. in 1908, arriving in Boston on 12 December via the Suez Canal. She was decommissioned the same day and laid up in Charlestown.

With a perfectly good 30-year-old three-master in the harbor and little regular work she could accomplish, the Navy turned Ranger over to the state of Massachusetts for use as the pier side training ship for the Massachusetts Nautical Training School in Boston on 26 April 1909, a role she would maintain until the Great War.

When the U.S. entered the international beef with the Kaiser in April 1917, Uncle eventually remembered he had the ole Ranger on the Navy List and called her back to active service as a gunboat along the New England coast, renaming her USS Rockport in October. This changed again just four months later to USS Nantucket.

USS Nantucket (PG-23, ex-Ranger) anchored off Naval Air Station Anacostia, District of Columbia, on 7 July 1920. Note her wind sail ventilators. 80-G-424466

In July 1921, she was reclassified from a gunboat to an auxiliary with the hull number IX-18 and loaned back to the Massachusetts Nautical School. Over the next 19 years, she became a regular fixture around Boston and the waters up and down the Eastern seaboard.

USS NANTUCKET (PG-23) then loaned to the State of Massachusetts for use at Massachusetts Nautical School, 1933 Description: Courtesy of Mr. Gershone Bradford Catalog #: NH 500

Leslie Jones the renowned photographer with the Boston Herald-Traveler, must have been taken with the Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket during his tenure with the paper and he captured her on dozens of occasions in the 1920s and 30s.

USS Ranger, later USS Rockport and USS Nantucket (PG-23 IX-18), was a gunboat of the United States Navy seen at Charleston Navy Yard. Photo by Leslie Jones Boston Public Library

Training ship Nantucket with the wind in her sails. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1923, firing a salute. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket leaving Boston Harbor for a cruise around the world 1923-05-17 Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Mass. nautical training ship Nantucket preparing for around the world trip at Charlestown Navy Yard 4.29.1928. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Secretary of the Navy Curtis Dwight Wilbur aboard training ship Nantucket in the late 1920s. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1928 at berth at North End waterfront note battleship in the background. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets hauling line on the deck of the training ship Nantucket off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Bow view of the training ship Nantucket in drydock at Navy Yard. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket: landing force drill with bayonets. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Provincetown Harbor Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Charlestown Navy Yard 1930. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Sailors in the rigging of the training ship Nantucket at the Navy Yard, Jan 1931. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

USS Nantucket, Mass. Training ship, at Navy Yard Jan 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket being reconditioned from a barkentine to a bark at Charlestown Navy Yard April 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets working with sextants on the deck of the training ship Nantucket while off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

When the clouds of war came again in 1940, Nantucket was taken back over by the Maritime Commission on 11 November 1940 for as a school ship at the new Merchant Marine Academy established at Kings Point, NY, after which her name was removed from the Navy Register for good.

Renamed T/V Emery Rice in 1942, the high-mileage bark gave all she could until she was damaged by the unnamed hurricane of September 1944, and after that was relegated to use as a floating museum ship.

At age 82, Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket/Rice was stripped and sold for scrap in 1958 to the Boston Metals Co. of Baltimore.

During her time in the Navy, she had nearly a dozen commanders (four of which would go on to wear stars) in addition to training legions of sailors and young officers for maritime service for two different schools. One of the most significant to do his time on the old girl was none other than later Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, who served on the ship as a newly-minted ensign from 12 August to 12 December 1908, on her trip home from the PI to Boston, before young Chester began instruction in the budding First Submarine Flotilla.

Besides her records maintained in the National Archives Ranger‘s original engine — the only example of its type known to be still in existence—was saved from destruction and is on display at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point as a national landmark.

As noted by the As noted by the AMSE

The horizontal compound engine of the Emery Rice is a unique survivor typical of the period 1840 to 1880. The 61-ton back-acting engine has an unconventional configuration in that its two cranks lie close to their cylinders and two off-center piston rods straddle the crank-shaft in a cramped, but efficient, arrangement.

The cylinder bores are 28.5 and 42.5 inches. The stroke is 42 inches. With saturated steam at 80 pounds per square inch gauge and a condenser having 26-inch mercury vacuum, 560 indicated horsepower were produced at 64 revolutions per minute. The engine was designed by the bureau of steam engineering of the U.S. Navy and built by John Roach & Sons of Chester, Pennsylvania, for the U.S.S. Ranger, as the iron-hulled ship was first known.

Dr. Joshua M. Smith, Ph.D., director of the museum, kindly provided the below for use with this post.

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Interestingly, two subsequent USS Rangers, coastal escorts SP-237 and SP-369, would be in service at the same time during the Great War–while our Ranger was serving as Rockport/Nantucket! The next Ranger was one of the ill-fated Lexington-class battlecruisers and never made it to commission. Finally, her name was recycled for not one but two famous aircraft carriers, CV-4 (1934-47) and CV-61 (1957-2004), the latter of which was only scrapped in 2017. Hopefully, there will be another soon.

As for her sisters, 60 sailors from the wreck of the Huron are buried together in Section Five of the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in well cared for lots while the ship herself is protected by federal mandate in her watery grave. A highway marker near Nag’s Head mentions her loss.

Alert continued to serve in the Navy as a submarine tender until she was decommissioned 9 March 1922 after a very respectable 47 years of service. She was sold three months later for scrap and I can find no trace of her today. During her time in service, Alert had 23 official captains, including future RADM. William Thomas Sampson, known for his later victory in the Battle of Santiago. Our subject outlived her by more than three decades.

As for King’s Point, the institution is still in cranking out USMM officers today and Ranger‘s original school, the Massachusetts Nautical School, is now the Massachusetts Maritime Massachusetts Maritime Academy located in Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod– Ranger‘s old stomping ground.

Specs:
Displacement: 1,202 long tons
Length: 175 ft. (53 m)
Beam: 32 ft. (9.8 m)
Depth of hold: 15 ft. (4.6 m)
Draft: 13 ft. (mean)
Installed power: Five boilers driving 1 × 560 ihp, 64 rpm compound back-acting steam engine
Propulsion: 1 × 12 ft. diameter × 17.5 ft. pitch propeller, auxiliary sails
Speed: 10 knots under steam
Complement: 138 officers and enlisted (typically including a 15 man Marine detachment until 1898).
Armament:
(1875)
1x 11 in (280 mm) Dahlgren gun
2 x 9 in (230 mm) Dahlgren guns
1x 60 pdr (27 kg) Parrott rifle
1x 12 pdr (5.4 kg) boat howitzer
1x Gatling gun for landing party
spar torpedoes for her steam launch (provision deleted after 1889)
(1897)
6x 4-inch breech-loading rifles
4x 6-pounder 57mm guns
1x Colt M1895 potato-digger type machine guns for landing party
(1921)
4x 4″/50 mounts

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SBD of Morocco

Yes, a Navy dive bomber on a dirt road in North Africa. It happened.

Below we have a U.S. Navy SBD (Scout Bomber, Douglas) Dauntless dive bomber, likely of Carrier Air Group 4’s VS-41 “Tophatters,” using a road as a makeshift runway, near Safi, Morocco, in November 1942. The historic port, about 140 nautical miles south of Casablanca, had been captured just hours before by three WWI-era U.S. Navy destroyers carrying a raiding force of light infantry in the opening moves of Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa.

NHHC 208-N-6070

Note special insignia used during this operation, with a wide white circle around the regular star & circle emblem, predating the Invasion Stripes of D-Day.

Developed by the famous ‎Ed Heinemann (father of the A-20 Havoc, A-26 Invader, A-1 Skyraider, A-4 Skyhawk, et al), the SBD was perhaps the most iconic carrier-borne strike plane of the war, with four squadrons of them responsible for scratching all four Japanese flattops at Midway, disabling three of them in the span of just six minutes. They also proved their mettle at the Coral Sea and in the Guadalcanal campaign with many, as evidenced above, operated from shore.

The SBD was probably from USS Ranger (CV-4) who for the Torch Landings had 18 such aircraft in VS-41. Another 18 SBDs were carried, nine each, on *two escort carriers USS Sangamon (ACV-26) and USS Santee (ACV-29). SBDs from Ranger, besides proving their worth plastering land-based targets, had also socked the French battleship Jean Bart on 10 November 1942 in Casablanca harbor with a pair of 1,000-pound bombs, finishing what the battleship USS Massachusetts had started.

VS-41 lost three aviators in North Africa– ARM George E. Biggs, Ens Charles E. Duffy, and ARM Aubra T. Patterson– and had four others shot down and captured (briefly) by the French. Founded in 1919, VS-41’s lineage is today carried by VFA-14, flying F/A-18Es.

*Two other escort carriers took part in the Torch landings but did not carry SBDs: USS Suwanee (ACV-27) with 29 F4F Wildcats and nine TBFs, and USS Chenango (ACV-28) carrying a load of 76 Army P-40Fs on a one-way trip.

More on Torch’s naval actions here.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Paul Sample

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Paul Sample

Paul Sample was born in Lousiville, Kentucky, 14 September 1896. Enrolling at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1916 to pursue art, he put his education on hold when the U.S. rushed into the Great War in 1917, serving in the Naval Reserve.

Once the war was over, he returned to Dartmouth, graduating in the class of 1920. After a stint with tuberculosis, Sample studied drawing and painting from artist Jonas Lie, then, using his Veteran’s Bonus, studied in New York and at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. By 1926 at age 30, he was on the faculty at USC.

By 1934, he was one of the most influential artists in the country, adept at Social Realism and American Regionalist painting styles with his work shown at the Met and appearing in Fortune, Esquire, Country Gentlemen, and American Artist.

Maple Sugaring, Paul Sample

In 1936, his old alma mater at Dartmouth made him an artist in residence– becoming their longest serving, making it through 1962.

In 1941 he was elected academician by the National Academy of Design.

When WWII came, the former Navy man served as a Life Correspondent attached to the sea service, embarking on the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) and heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) among others, covering the war in both the Atlantic and Pacific in watercolors that capture the feeling of the moment.

Fighter disaster on USS Ranger (CV 4), which depicts the crash of an F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighter on board USS Ranger on 25 August 1942 after an off center landing attempt. Artwork by Paul Sample. Photo # NH 89617-KN (Color)

Fighter disaster on USS Ranger (CV 4), which depicts the crash of an F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighter on board USS Ranger on 25 August 1942 after an off-center landing attempt. Artwork by Paul Sample. Photo # NH 89617-KN (Color). It should be noted that Ranger sailed to support the Torch Landings just days after this incident, where her aircraft were influencial in silencing the French.

Ship's band, USS RANGER (CV-4) Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89619-KN

Ship’s band, USS RANGER (CV-4) Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89619-KN

Seaplane base, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89615-KN

Seaplane base, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89615-KN

Field carrier landings, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89616-KN

Field carrier landings, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1942. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89616-KN. Note the distinctive gear of the F4F Wildcat.

"Chinese overside, submarine base, Pearl Harbor"Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 28"x 44". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89621-KN

“Chinese overside, submarine base, Pearl Harbor” Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 28″x 44″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89621-KN

Crew's quarters aboard a Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 17"x 24". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89620-KN

Crew’s quarters aboard a Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 17″x 24″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89620-KN. Note the crew sleeping on the torpedos. The foot front and to the left is great as is the “Shipwreck” GI Joe character.

Skipper on the bridge, Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 24"x 30". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89622-KN

Skipper on the bridge, Pacific submarine Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1943. 24″x 30″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89622-KN

Red beach, Leyte, Pacific Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1944. 14"x 38". Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89623-KN

Red beach, Leyte, Pacific Caption: Artist: Paul Sample, 1944. 14″x 38″. Description: Time-Life Collection Courtesy of Chief of Military History Catalog #: NH 89623-KN

After the war, Sample did mural work, painted the Saturn rocket launch for NASA in 1964.

He died in 1974, after working in his Vermont studio that morning, age 80.

Works by Sample may be found at the Arkell Museum, Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Currier Gallery of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Springfield Museum of Art in Utah, and the D’Amour Museum of Fine Art.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Warship Wednesday April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Here we see the unique aircraft carrier, the first of its kind produced from the keel up for the U.S. Navy, USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 1939.

Although one of just seven carriers in the fleet when World War II broke out, her service was far different from the other six flattops who slugged it out with the Japanese from the Coral Sea to Tokyo Bay.

While the Navy’s “covered wagon” USS Langley (CV-1) was converted from a collier in 1922, and the follow-on Lexington and Saratoga were converted from incomplete battlecruisers in 1927, Ranger was the first carrier for the fleet designed from the onset to be one.

Larger than the Langley and smaller than the Lexingtons, the 769-foot one-off ship could make 29 knots, cruise for 10,000 nautical miles at half that, had three elevators, and carry as many as 86 aircraft as designed. Importantly, she also carried a relatively heavy AAA armament for her day (40 .50-cal machine guns). Best of all, at just 17,000-tons she sipped at the allowable tonnage under the Washington Naval Treaty.

Designed in the late 1920s, Ranger was ordered in 1930 from Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co in Virginia and laid down on 26 September 1931.

There were over a half-dozen prior Rangers in the Navy dating back to John Paul Jones’ 18-gun sloop built in 1777.

RangerVsDrakeIn a rare case of extreme overlap, two different Rangers were active on the Navy List in WWI (SP-237 and SP-369) while two different Lexington-class battlecruisers (irony!) of the same era were at one time or another to carry the moniker.

Commissioned 4 June 1934, the subject of our tale had a very clean look to her, though was very different from John Paul Jones’ vessel.

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

One of the reasons a 17,000-ton ship could carry over 80 aircraft was due to a unique outrigger system that allowed deck parking with a minimum of space. (No folding wings back then).

picture30

Ranger embarked the brand-new Air Group Four consisting of VT-4, VB-4, and VF-4 stood up specifically for the ship. She soon set off for the Pacific and spent almost the entire prewar period in those warm waters.

USS Ranger pictured in Montevideo on visitors day with Vought O3U-3 Corsairs on deck and the British York-class Heavy Cruiser HMS Exeter in the background, on her way to the Pacific in 1934. Note the 5″/25 deck gun and the obsolete 6-pounder behind it, the latter likely just used for salutes. 

Well, not always warm…

In early 1936 Ranger and her aircrew, which included Coast Guard aviators at the time, conducted the first-ever carrier cold-weather test trials in Alaska waters, proving the concept.

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the "Cold weather Test Detachment" that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the “Cold weather Test Detachment” that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

Then followed more normal peacetime service.

Pacific flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936

All of the Navy’s flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936. Langley by this time was being converted to a seaplane tender and Yorktown CV-5, would not commission until 30 September 1937. Also, the Ranger, front, is deceptively large due to perspective. Lex and Sara went well over 40,000 tons

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

Underway at sea during the latter 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

Underway at sea during the later 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

USS Ranger 1939 via Postales Navales

However, with the war drums beating in far-off Europe, and the new Yorktown-class carriers taking her place in the Pac, Ranger chopped to the Atlantic Fleet in 1939. Once the war popped off, she began armed Neutrality Patrol operations in the North Atlantic.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U "Vindicators" of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 "Wildcat" of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U “Vindicators” of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat” of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, the crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

After Pearl Harbor, she was one of the first ships to pick up a borderline experimental RCA CXAM-1 radar, able to detect single aircraft at 50 miles and to detect large ships at 14 miles. Conducting sea patrols in the Atlantic, she also ferried Army P-40 Warhawks to Africa for transshipment to the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers fighting the Japanese in the Far East.

Curtis P-40F Warhawks taking off from the USS Ranger in the North Africa theater. They were not carrier-based but were transported to North Africa on carriers and subsequently took off from the carriers to reach their assigned bases

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while in route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while en route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all, she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1941.

The aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1942.

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Also note that her stacks have been lowered. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Setting sail for North Africa, she was the center of the Allied air fleet covering the Torch Landings in November 1942, accompanied by four new Sangamon-class escort carriers (which were technically heavier than Ranger at over 22,000-tons, though with a much smaller flight deck and hangar).

North Africa Operation, November 1942 - testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

North Africa Operation, November 1942 – testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note: Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger's mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger’s mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

Conducting almost 500 combat sorties in 72 hours, Ranger‘s aircraft destroyed at least 28 Vichy French planes on the ground in strikes on the Rabat and Rabat-Sale aerodromes, wiped out over 100 military vehicles, strafed four French destroyers at Casablanca, plastered the Richelieu-class battleship, Jean Bart, bombed the destroyer Albatross, and severely damaged the Duguay-class light cruiser Primauguet.

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8, 1942

Jean Bart French battleship at Casablanca 1942 via All Hands 1943

Ranger lost 16 planes in the Torch operation and cost the lives of ten airmen.

Her next solid combat was in a raid in occupied Norwegian waters in 1943. Attacking the Bodo roadstead, SBD dive-bombers escorted by Wildcats sank four steamers and logged hits on the 8,000-ton freighter LaPlata and a 10,000-ton oiler.

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

With newer, faster, better armored, and larger fleet carriers joining the fleet, Ranger had by 1944 become more than just somewhat obsolescent and was converted to a training carrier.

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Note the 40mm mount on her bow. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

She picked up a camo scheme, landed her old 5″/25s and puny .50 cals, replaced them with 40mm and 20mm AAA guns, had catapults installed, and got to the business of qualifying naval aviators.

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Note her camouflage paint scheme. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Sailing for the Pacific, she arrived in Hawaiian waters in August 1944 and quickly began carrier qualification cruises, concentrating on Navy and Marine night fighter squadrons, securing 35,784 landings by the end of the war.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45, when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45 when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

Totally obsolete in a fleet of new Essex-class vessels, she was used in Pensacola for a while then was decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. She won two battlestars for her wartime service.

Winging over the water, three Navy Curtiss Helldivers provide speedy and deadly air protection for the USS Ranger (CV-4) sun-gilded as it moves through the Pacific on a war mission. April 12th, 1945

Ranger was sold for $259,000 in scrap metal pricing on 31 January 1947 and subsequently broken up.

She minted brass on an unparalleled scale, with all ten of her skippers between 4 June 1934 and 1 May 1946 going on to become admirals including ADM. John Sidney (“Mac”) McCain Sr. His grandson is the current senator from Arizona.

Ranger had lots of “onlys” in the fact that she was the only pre-war US carrier to have never engaged Japanese forces in battle (even Langley was sunk by the Combined Fleet), the only U.S. carrier to perform flight operations above the Arctic Circle (during Operation Leader off the coast of Norway) during WWII, the only carrier not to receive a Unit Citation for her performance in Operation Torch (the four escort carriers which accomplished less all received one), the only carrier whose air group used green painted tail assemblies, and was the first U.S. fleet carrier to be scrapped.

Her bell is preserved in Pensacola, the cradle of Naval Aviation. For years it sat outside in the pouring sub-tropical rain:

Ship's Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

Ship’s Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos were taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

But has recently been moved inside and given a more prominent place of honor.

 

“After being displayed outdoors in front of the Cubi Bar Cafe for many years, the USS Ranger (CV 4) bell was desperately in need of some TLC. This is the result of the hard work of our staff with assistance from ensigns volunteering at the museum as they await the commencement of flight training.” (Photo: NNAM)

47-040-B

And her builder’s plate is at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

The Forrestal-class supercarrier (CV-61) of the same name ordered in 1954 and sold for scrap in 2014 maintained her legacy.

A vibrant veteran’s group, which celebrates the armada of past Rangers, is very active.

Specs:

020424
Displacement: 14,576 tons standard; 17,577 tons full load
Dimensions (wl): 730′ x 80′ x 22′ 4.875″ (full load)
Dimensions (max.): 769′ x 109.5′
Armor: 2″ (sides and bulkheads)-1″ (top) over steering gear
Power plant: 6 boilers; steam turbines; 2 shafts; 53,500 shp
Speed: 29.25 knots
Endurance (design): 10,000 nautical miles @ 15 knots
Armament: 8 single 5″/25 gun mounts; 40 .50-cal machine guns (1934)
24 40 mm (6x quad mounts); 46 20mm single mounts (1943)
Aircraft: 86
Aviation facilities: 3 elevators; no catapult
Crew: 2,148 (ship’s company + air wing) (1941 figure)

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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, 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!

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

Drone vs Ranger

Former super-carrier USS Ranger, being towed from US west coast to Texas, around the tip of South America where she will be scrapped, halted tow in Balboa to refuel the tow boats.

That’s when a local with a drone decided to buzz the ship as it sat in the Bay of Panama. Footage recorded by former officer in the Navy, who works and lives in Panama as a Panama canal Pilot.

Pretty neat video

Vale, Ranger

The USS Ranger is towed through Rich Passage for the last time on March 5 in Bremerton, Wash., as the historic aircraft carrier heads to Texas to be dismantled.

The USS Ranger is towed through Rich Passage for the last time on March 5 in Bremerton, Wash., as the historic aircraft carrier heads to Texas to be dismantled.

With all of her reprieves expired, the mothballed supercarrier ex-USS Ranger was towed out of Bremerton Thursday, starting its 16,000-mile trip from Puget Sound, around South America to a scrap yard in Texas. She has been at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility since 1993.

If you were a Top Gun fan in the 80s, you may have remembered Ranger.

As reported by the Kitsap Sun, “Ranger’s departure will leave just two carriers in the Bremerton mothball fleet — USS Independence and USS Kitty Hawk. Independence will follow the other two to Texas later this year. The Navy is holding Kitty Hawk in reserve until USS Gerald R. Ford becomes active. Ford is scheduled to join the fleet in March 2016, with its first deployment in 2019.”

The only other flattop on red lead row is the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). Decommissioned in 2007, she has been at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia since then and is (possibly) to be converted into a museum ship in Rhode Island.

Last ditch rally for the Ranger

An aerial portside view of the US Navy (USN) Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier USS RANGER (CV 61), with her Sailors manning the rails and aircraft of the Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) on her deck, as she is nudged into position by harbor tugs NIANTIC (YTB-781), NEODESHA (YTB-815), and WAXAHACHIE (YTB 814), at the pier on her arrival at Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (HI). USN Photo

An aerial portside view of the US Navy (USN) Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier USS RANGER (CV 61), with her Sailors manning the rails and aircraft of the Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) on her deck, as she is nudged into position by harbor tugs NIANTIC (YTB-781), NEODESHA (YTB-815), and WAXAHACHIE (YTB 814), at the pier on her arrival at Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (HI). USN Photo

According to news reports, the sale of the USS Ranger (CV61) to a scrapper for a penny after sitting on donation hold for year may not be the final chapter in the ship’s tale.

“Right now, we just want a stay of execution,” Michael B. Shanahan, project manager for the Long Beach rescue effort, who says they have $14 milly in donations for their war chest to keep the Ranger from being razor blades. “This is our last chance to stop the loss of an irreplaceable cultural and historic asset.”

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