Tag Archives: vintage warships

Warship Wednesday, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Nordisk Pressefoto via the M/S Museet for Søfart- Danish maritime museum. Photo: 2012:0397

Above we see a beautiful period photo of the Danish skoleskibet Danmark with a bone in her teeth, the tall ship’s canvas fully rigged and speeding her along, 18 white clouds mastering the sea. Just seven years old when she was caught up in WWII, she would find a new home and wartime use in Allied waters while the Germans occupied her country.

A tremastet fuldrigger in Danish parlance, the big three-master went 212-feet overall from her stern to the tip of her bowsprit and 188 feet at the waterline, with a displacement of 790 BT. Her mainmast towered 127 feet high. Constructed of riveted steel with 10 watertight bulkheads, she was designed in the late 1920s to be a more modern replacement for the lost schoolship København, whose saga we have covered in the past.

Laid down at Nakskov Skibsværft, part of the Danish East Asian Company (Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or just ØK), a giant shipping and trade concern that at one point was Scandinavia’s largest commercial enterprise, while Danmark was a civil vessel, many of her officers and crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list and many of her cadets would serve in the fleet as well.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under konstruktion på Nakskov Skibsværft.

She was christened on 17 December 1932 by one Ms. Hannah Lock.

Young Ms. Lock was striking, and likely the daughter of a company official. The company’s bread and butter were both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok, and the far east, so it was no doubt an exotic and glitzy affair.

Due to low tide, she was not officially launched until two days later.

Skoleskibet DANMARK søsættes 19. december 1932. På grund af lavvande blev skibet først søsat to dage efter dåben.

On her maiden voyage, photographed from the schoolship Georg Stages.

Picture from Danmark’s Capt. Svend Aage Saugmann’s photo album shows Danmark at Ponta Delgada in the Azores on 27 February 1936. 2013:0126

The Drumbeat of War

In the summer of 1939, with Europe a tinderbox, the Danish government had pledged to send the country’s largest naval warship, the 295-foot coast defense cruiser Niels Juel, to participate in the World’s Fair in New York. However, as misgivings set in, it was agreed that Danmark would make the trip instead, complete with a mixed group of naval and mariner cadets.

Arriving in New York in August, Danmark’s cadets were hosted by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to a Yankees baseball game as part of the general festivities. Once Germany invaded Poland, followed by the Soviets, then Britain and France joined a growing world war, Danmark was ordered to remain in U.S. waters until things cooled down. With that, she cruised to Annapolis, spent the Christmas 1939 holiday in Puerto Rico, then arrived in Jacksonville, Florida in early April 1940. There, they met with Danish Ambassador Henrik Kauffmann, who announced the ship was returning home after her nine-month American exile.

The school ship Danmark lying in St. John’s River near Jacksonville, Florida, during early World War II. Note her neutrality markings. 723:63

With Poland long since occupied and divvied between Berlin and Moscow, and the latter ceasing hostilities with Finland, coupled with the quiet “Phony War” between Britain/France and Germany, things were expected to calm down.

Well, you know what happened next.

WAR!

On 9 April 1940, the Germans rolled into Denmark without a declaration of war, ostensibly a peaceful occupation to keep the British from invading. The German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, was a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen. Of course, the Danes would stand up a serious resistance organization later in the occupation, as well as field viable “Free Danish” forces operating from Britain, but for the time being, the country was a German puppet state.

Ambassador Kauffmann, however, decided to cancel Danmark’s return home and kept the ship in Florida.

Via the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Anchored off the Coast Guard station in Jacksonville, Danmark became a ship without a country. The Danish Embassy in Washington arranged for a monthly stipend of $10 for the crew, but Danmark had no other support. On the morning of April 10, Capt. Knud Hansen was greeted on the pier by a group of Jacksonville citizens and two large trucks. They brought 17 tons of food and supplies. Hansen did not turn them away, although there was no space on board for all of it. Each morning thereafter, women brought cookies, pies, and men brought tobacco and other items. Even an anonymous shipment of summer uniforms arrived, much to the crew’s delight.

The Danmark had become a foreign vessel lying idle in American waters. It had remained in Jacksonville from early April 1940 until late 1941, or nearly 20 months. Many of the ship’s Danish cadets decided to transfer to the Merchant Marine and 14 of them would die serving Allied forces. Ten of Danmark’s original crew remained aboard, including Hansen and First Mate Knud Langevad.

With a long history of using tall ships to train new sailors, VADM Russell Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard, visited occupied Denmark in the summer of 1940 and began talks with the Danes to purchase the vessel as a training ship. The negotiations dragged on throughout the next year, with the U.S. government offering about half what the ship was worth, and the White House balking at even that amount.

Then, the morning after Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. firmly in the fight and no longer “The Great Neutral,” Hansen fired off a telegram to Waesche’s office.

In view of the latest days’ developments, the cadets, officers, and captain of the Danish Government Training Vessel Danmark unanimously place themselves and the ship at the disposal of the United States government, to serve in any capacity the United States government sees fit in our joint fight for victory and liberty.

With the offer accepted, she was rented for $1 per year, paid via silver coin to the Danish Embassy, then was escorted to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, still with her crew under control, and commissioned on 12 May 1942– 80 years ago this week– as USCGC Danmark (WIX-283). Her remaining professional crew would be in USCG service for the duration, accepting ranks in the USCGR.

In a nod to her “rented” status, she flew the Dannebrog and U.S. ensigns simultaneously.

The Red White and Blue on her mast

Under sail while in USCG service, with a U.S. ensign flapping above her mast. Note the bluejackets in cracker jacks on deck. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0214

Danmark in USCG service, USCG photo

Danmark in U.S. Port WWII. Note her Neptune figurehead. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0209

From the USCG H’s O:

Each month, new Coast Guard cadets embarked Danmark for training. The Danish officers had many challenges before them–everything that a Danish cadet learned in six years, plus what he learned to qualify as a Danish navy officer, had to be taught the American cadets in four months. No American officers served aboard and, to avoid attack by U-boats, the tall ship never sailed beyond Martha’s Vineyard or the southern tip of Manhattan.

Dubbed the “Dirty D,” cadets scrubbed the Danmark at least three times a day with rainy days devoted to cleaning out lifeboats and sanding oars. The wheelhouse was varnished frequently. It was lights out at midnight when the ship’s generator shut off. If the last liberty boat returned late to the Danmark, the cadets had to undress, sling out hammocks and climb into the hammocks in total darkness.

USCG Furling Sail, 4.11.1942 Ellis Island. Danmark possibly 026-g-056-040-001

Cadets in Rigging, 3.24.1943 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-001-036-001

Going Aloft, 4.15.1942 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-056-041-001

CG Cadets on DANMARK

An immigrant of sorts helping her adopted country, appropriately enough She often called at Ellis Island. During the war, the station was a USCG training base, schooling new Coasties who would go on to man Navy ships around the globe.

Via the NPS:

From 1939 to 1946, the United States Coast Guard occupied Ellis Island and established a training station that served 60,000 enlisted men and 3,000 officers. They utilized many buildings on the island. For example, the Baggage and Dormitory Building served as a drill room, armory, boatsman storeroom, carpenter’s shop, and machine shop. The Kitchen and Laundry Building was utilized as a kitchen and bakeshop. Lastly, the New Immigration Building provided dormitories for the men. After their time at Ellis, the enlisted men and officers were largely responsible for manning transports, destroyer escorts, cutters, and submarine chasers during World War II.

In all, over 5,000 Americans were trained directly on Danmark during the war, including 2,800 who would go on to receive their butter bars in assorted U.S. maritime services.

Finally, with the world at peace again, on the birthday of Danish King Christian X, 26 September 1945, the Stars and Stripes were hauled down and the Dannebrog shifted to the top again.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Danmark (WIX-283) USCGC Danmark in September 1945 just before her return to the Danes 

On 13 November, Danmark finally headed home again.

Besides the Danmark, over 5,000 Danish merchant sailors manned over 800,000 tons of shipping for the Allies, many never to be seen again. 

Epilogue

Since returning home, Danmark has continued her service over the past 75 years.

Post-war, probably 1946 during her Pacific cruise, looks like the Marin highlands in the distance under the Golden Gate (thanks Alex! & Steve) Note she has a U.S. flag on top and is trailing her Dannebrog. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0216

Photograph from 1947 by Kronborg, photographed from the north, with the school ship Danmark and Georg Stage. The photo was taken in connection with the saga film “The White Sail.” Donated by Carl-Johan Nienstædt. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2016:0050

1947 linjedåb Line Crossing ceremony on Danmark

Ivar’s with Danmark Sailing Vessel via SPHS 1946 Seattle

School ship Danmark is at sway and a scheduled boat is passed from Centrumlinjen M / S SUNDPILEN. By Karl Johan Gustav Jensen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2003:0119

Kiel Tall Ships event: Segelschulschiff DAR POMORZA (poln.), davor Segelschulschiff EAGLE (amerik.). Jenseits der Brücke mit Lichterkette über die Toppen Segelschulschiff GLORIA (kolumbian.), davor im Dunklen Segelschulschiff DANMARK (dän.), ganz vorn Segelschulschiff GORCH FOCK.

HMS Eagle (R05) passes a sailing ship Danmark in Plymouth Sound, 1970

Danish Air Force SAAB RF-35 Draken overflies the schoolship Danmark, summer 1991. The aircraft “Lisbon 725” (named after the Royal Danish Air Force’s ESK 725 radio callsign), had been painted in that stunning color without official permission to celebrate the unit’s 40th anniversary. Command allowed ESK 725 to retain the livery, with some code and national insignia modification, for the rest of the year as the unit was retiring its Drakens anyway and would be disbanded in December 1992. 

Danmark is, naturally, remembered in maritime art.

“Coast Guard’s Seagoing School, 9.29.1943 Danmark” by Hunter Wood 026-g-022-040-001

Painting by James E. Mitchell, showing the ship during the Bicentennial “The Tall Ships Race” on the Hudson River on July 4, 1976.

She still carries the same Neptune figurehead.

Danmark’s Neptune figurehead, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0283

As well as a marker celebrating her service abroad with the USCG.

Memorial plaque with thanks from U.S. Coast Guard January 1942- September 1946, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart.

She has returned to her home-away-from-home numerous times, a regular fixture in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and New London over the decades.

The barque USCGC Eagle (ex SSS Horst Wessel) in service with the USCG in 1954, sailing along Danmark off the East Coast.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under bugsering i New York Havn, 1974. 

Today, as part of Besøg MARTEC, the Danish Maritime and Polytechnic University College in Frederikshavn, Danmark is still busy.

She just completed her regular 5-year inspection and certification and looks great for having 90 years on her hull. 

Skoleskibet Danmark drydock May 2022

Every summer she takes aboard 80 new cadets along with a 16-strong cadre of professional crew and instructors, and they head out, covering subjects both new and old in the familiar ways that WWII Coasties would recognize.

Specs:

Tonnage- 1,700 gross (1942)
Length- 188′ 6″
Beam- 33′ mb
Draft- 14′ 9″ (1942)
Machinery
Main Engines- 1 diesel
Propellers- Single
Armament- N/A

***

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

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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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Warship Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 72318

Above we see the Balao-class fleet submarine USS Kraken (SS-370) tipping on the way during launching at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on 30 April 1944.

And splash…NH 72319

During World War II, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built 28 submarines for the U.S. Navy and had contracts to build two more that were canceled.

Sponsored by Ms. Frances (Giffen) Anderson, wife of influential and rabidly anti-Japanese GOP Congressmen John Zuinglius “Jack” Anderson of California, Kraken’s side launched into the Manitowoc, as shown above, in April 1944 then commissioned on 8 September of the same year.

Kraken on trials in Lake Michigan circa 1944. Note she only had one 5″/25, aft, and two 20mm Oerlikons on her sail. Description: Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1978. NH 86955

This picture is of the crowd gathered for the commissioning ceremony of the submarine USS Kraken (SS 370) at the Manitowoc on 8 September 1944. Huge scrap piles of material for unfinished submarines can be seen in the background. The large cylindrical sections labeled “SS-379” would have formed hull portions of the USS Needlefish (SS 379). Other parts would have gone into the Needlefish or the USS Nerka (SS 380). In July 1944, with the war winding down, those contracts had been canceled and the parts for those two unbuilt boats were scrapped, as shown here. (Manitowoc Library photo P70-7-505)

USS Kraken (SS-370) running surfaced in Lake Michigan, Michigan. September 1944. NH 72321

Incidentally, Ray Young, a Manitowoc artist who was employed as a designer at the shipyard, would create Kraken’s insignia, that of a binocular-eyed sea dragon. He would do the same for the last nine subs completed by Manitowoc as well as for a quartet of boats built by Electric Boat.

Some of Young’s amazing insignia, with Kraken’s being in the top left corner.

Off to war!

Immediately following her commissioning, Kraken steamed via Chicago to Lockport, Illinois, then was towed in a floating dry dock down the Mississippi River arriving at Algiers Naval Station, across the river from New Orleans, on 4 October.

Kraken, with crew on deck, passed inbound up the Manitowoc River through the open Eighth Street drawbridge in Manitowoc, September 1944. NH 72323

Setting out for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, Kraken was assigned to Submarine Division 301, SUBRON 30, part of the 7th Fleet. She arrived in Hawaii on 21 November, just in time for Thanksgiving, then made ready for her inaugural war patrol.

Leaving Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1944, she made for the South China Sea for anti-shipping work. Pulling lifeguard duty for carrier airstrikes off Hong Kong on the morning of 16 January 1945, she rescued one Ensign R. W. Bertschi, USNR, an F6F-5 Hellcat pilot (BuNo 70524) of the “Jokers” of VF-20 from USS Lexington (CV-16).

A week later, on 22 January, Kraken encounter a 5,000-ton oiler and made a submerged daylight attack with three fish that resulted in no hits. A nighttime surfaced attack two days later, firing a spread of four torpedoes against a Japanese destroyer, also resulted in no damage. She ended her 1st Patrol at Fremantle on Valentine’s Day 1945, and Bertschi, in addition to his wings of gold, finally made it to shore, just falling short of earning a set of dolphins.

Her next sortie was lackluster. Kraken arrived at Subic Bay, the old U.S. Navy base that had just been liberated, on 26 April, concluding her 2nd Patrol.

Her 3rd War Patrol was conducted in the Gulf of Siam, the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and the Eastern Indian Ocean between 19 May and 3 July. She was part of a “Yankee Wolfpack” consisting of USS Bergill (Comwolf), Cobia, Hawkbill, and Bullhead patrolling the Pulo Wai-Koh Krah Line, then near the British T-class subs HMS/m Taciturn and HMS/m Thorough. By that time of the war, the seas were undoubted target poor.

In the predawn hours of 20 June, Kraken surfaced alone off Japanese occupied Java to shell the Merak roadstead, following up on a report from Bullhead. This resulted in a surface gun action with two anchored “Sugar Charlie” type coasters, reportedly sinking one (later confirmed to be the 700-ton Tachibana Maru No.58) and damaging the other.

Two days later, Kraken shelled the Anjer Point Lighthouse just after midnight and got into an artillery duel with a Japanese coastal battery for her trouble.

However, she did stalk a small coastal convoy of five Marus and three escorts, then followed it through ought the next day before taking a run at it during the bright moonlight on the morning of the 23rd in a combined torpedo and gun attack.

In the swirling four-hour engagement, Kraken expended five MK XIV-3A and four MK XVIII-1 torpedoes at ranges just over 2,000 yards along with 54 rounds of 5-inch HC, 116 rounds of 40mm, and 474 rounds of 20mm at ranges as close as 1,500 yards. The Japanese escorts, small subchasers, fired back and bracketed Kraken but caused no damage.

Kraken was credited at the time with sinking a 1,600-ton transport oiler and a 700-ton coastal steamer, as well as damaging two ~400-ton escorts, although this was not borne out by postwar boards.

She ended her 3rd, and most successful, Patrol at Freemantle, steaming some 11,926 miles in 45 days.

Kraken (SS-370) with Ray Young’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com via Navsource.

Further detail of the Kraken’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. Note three Maru sinkings, three ships damaged including two Japanese naval vessels, two shore bombardments, and Ensign Bertschi’s rescue. Courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org via Navsource.

It was in Australia that she was given a quick overhaul that included doubling her armament to make her one of the late war “gunboat submarines.”

However, her following 4th War Patrol did not gain any kills, although Kraken suffered one of the last active Japanese air-and-naval pursuits of the war, logged on 13 August. The Patrol ended after just 23 days when Kraken was signaled to halt hostilities on 15 August due to the Japanese surrender and proceeded to Subic Bay.

She would linger there for a few days before being ordered stateside as her crew was made up of several very experienced officers and men that had been drawn from other boats, some having as many as 15 war patrols under their belts.

Setting out for California, Kraken would be one of the escorts for the famed battleship USS South Dakota (BB-56), as she carried Admiral Halsey under the Golden Gate Bridge in October.

The crew of USS Kraken (SS 370) unloads their torpedo stores at the end of World War II in San Francisco. An MK18 is shown. Note the camo on her 5″/25.

Kraken received just one battle star (Okinawa) for World War II service. She was initially credited with sinking three ships, totaling 6,881 tons.

Kraken is listed as one of 15 Manitowoc Balaos in Jane’s 1946 entry.

Peacetime

Placed out of commission 4 May 1946, Kraken languished in mothballs with the Pacific Reserve Fleet until August 1958, when she was ordered partially manned and towed to Pearl Harbor NSY for snorkel conversion.

She emerged much changed, with a streamlined profile, no deck guns, and a very modern appearance.

Kraken remained at Pearl for the next 14 months, heading to sea for brief exercise periods.

Her final deck log was dated 24 October 1959 and closed quietly.

El Inolvidable Treinta y único

The reason for her USN deck log ending was because Kraken had been transferred on loan to the Spanish Navy as SPS Almirante García de los Reyes (E-1). While Franco, the old fascist buddy of Mussolini and Adolf, was still in power, the 1953 Madrid agreements thawed the chill between the U.S. and the country, opening it to military aid in return for basing.

The Spanish at the time only had two circa 1927 EB-designed pig boats (C1 and C2) that had survived the Civil War but were in poor condition, two small 275-foot/1,050-ton boats (D1 and D2) constructed in 1944 at Cartagena that were both cranky and obsolete, and G-7, the latter a partially refirb’d German Kriegsmarine Type VIIC U-boat, ex-U-573, which had been interned after receiving damage and sold to Franco’s government.

This made Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes the only relatively modern sub in the Spanish Navy in the Atomic era as she had the fleet’s first snorkel, guided torpedoes (Mk37s), and submarine sonar. As such, after her pennant number shifted to the more NATO-compatible S-31 in 1961, the boat was termed “El Treinta y único” or “Thirty-Only One” as she was the sole submarine in the force considered battle-ready.

This would endure for more than a decade.

Visiting New York

Melilla August 1971 El treinta y unico El Mejor Spanish S-31 submarine Admiral Garcia. Note the old light carrier USS Cabot as Dédalo with Sikorsky S-55 Pepos on deck

In July 1971, USS Ronquil (SS-396), a Guppy’d Balao-class smoke boat became SPS Isaac Peral (S-32) and allowed the old Kraken some backup. The next year two more Balao Guppies, ex-USS Picuda (SS-382) and ex-USS Bang (SS-385), would arrive in October 1972, renamed SPS Narciso Monturiol (S-33) and Cosme Garcia (S-34), respectively.

Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes’s 1973 entry in Jane’s.

Sold to Spain and struck from the US Naval Register, on 1 November 1974, Kraken would endure in operation until April 1981, when she was finally removed from service and scrapped.

By that time, Spain had a force of four brand-new French-built Daphné-class submarines in service.

Epilogue

Kraken’s plans and deck logs are in the National Archives but as far as I can tell little else remains of her.

Sadly, her name, possibly the most epic sea creature there is, has not been repeated on the Navy List.

Eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country. None are Manitowoc-built boats.

Nonetheless, please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which will not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is hopefully in the process of being saved and moved to Kentucky)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,525 surfaced; 2,415 submerged.
Length 311′ 9″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Main machinery: 4 x General Motors diesel model 16-278 A, 4 x General Electric electric motors
Speed (knots): 23 surfaced, 11 submerged.
Range (miles): 11.000 at 10 knots (surfaced), 95 at 5 knots (submerged). Patrol endurance was 75 days.
Complement: 70 (10 officers)
Sonar: Passive: AN/BQS-2 B. Active: AN/BQS-4 C.
At the end of his career used an updated BQR-2 taken from stricken SS-382/S-33.
Guns:
1 x 5″/25 (second added in July 1945)
1 x 40mm/60 Bofors (second added in July 1945)
1 x 20mm Oerlikon
All were removed when she entered service in Spain.
Torpedoes:
10 x 533mm tubes: 6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes: 16 forward and 8 aft.
Initially armed with Mk14/18 torpedoes, in the last years of her career changed to Mk37


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!

Disappearing Swedish Ships, still a thing

In the past several years, we have often talked about how much the Swedish Navy has appreciated physical camouflage since at least the 1930s.

Thus: 

Swedish coastal defense battleship HSwMS Gustav V, using extensive camouflage, a serious tactic used to great extent by the Swedes, especially for air defense

The Swedish navy has had a long history of camouflaging their ships while hidden next to rocky isolated inlets and islands, even large capital ships.

The above, with the ship highlighted after the fact

After all, in a country whose craggy, rocky, geography gives it a 2,000 mile-long coastline along the Baltic, and whose fleet in modern times has never topped 100 warships, the concept of hiding among said crags and rocks– with the aid of a bit of extra concealment via tarps and vegetation– is an easy sell.

Speaking of which, the Swedes are still at it, with Saab’s Barracuda Camouflage system, which is already used on tanks and vehicles and includes IR blocking, has a Marine Solution that works not only against the MK 1 Mod 0 eyeball, but also defeats “90 percent” of near-infrared (NIR), shortwave infrared (SWIR), thermal infrared (TIR) and broadband radar wavelengths.

Note the below images of a 52-foot Stridsbåt 90 H(alv)/Combat Boat 90 (CB90)– a fast military assault craft developed by Swedish boat maker Dockstavarvet, a part of Saab subsidiary– with Barracuda camouflage panels installed, then against a rocky coastline, and finally with the camouflage net fully deployed.

Via Saab:

Barracuda’s Camouflage Marine Solution has been uniquely designed to offer complete confidence to soldiers operating from the water, whether cutting through waves at breakneck speeds or moored to the coastline. Comprised of interlocking, fully customizable panels and an advanced multispectral camouflage net, this innovative solution delivers unrelenting protection from state-of-the-art enemy sensors in times when uncertainty could mean defeat.

If Saab could make a jungle and reef variant, I could see serious uses for this among the atolls of the Western Pacific.

Happy 100 For U.S. Navy Carrier Air and what it Brings

While the Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation — traditionally recognized as the moment Eugene B. Ely’s Curtiss pusher lifted off from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) in 1910– is a historic milestone that was passed over a decade ago, we are now in the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers.

On 20 March 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (Navy Fleet Collier No. 3) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1). 

1931 Jane’s, showing a plan for the carrier Langley

Named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer, and engineer, “The Covered Wagon” started as an experimental platform but was quickly proven an invaluable weapons system that changed how the U.S. Navy fought at sea.

As noted by the Navy:

In the nearly 100 years since, from CV 1 to CVN 78, aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace. With an unequaled ability to provide warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict, and to adapt in an ever-changing world, aircraft carriers, their air wings, and associated strike groups are the foundation of US maritime strategy.

SECNAV Carlos Del Toro’s official message celebrating 100 years of U.S. Navy Carrier Aviation.

About those big decks…

Today, the U.S. Navy has more big deck flattops than any other fleet in the world– a title it has held since about 1943 or so without exception– including 10 beautiful Nimitz-class supercarriers (all of which have conducted combat operations) plus one Gerald R. Ford-class carrier in commission (and finally nearing her first deployment) and two more Fords building.

It is expected the Fords will replace the Nimitz class on a one-per-one basis. Of the current 10, five are in PIA, DPIA, or RCOH phases of deep maintenance, leaving just five capable of deployment. Still, even with half these big carriers tied down, the five large-deck CVNs on tap are capable of more combat sorties than every other non-U.S. flattop currently afloat combined.

For reference, check out this great series of top-down shots by MC3 Bela Chambers of the eighth Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (C 550) transiting the Ionian Sea during recent NATO tri-carrier operations.

Commissioned in 1998, HST, like her sisters, is over 100,000-tons full load and is capable of carrying 90 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Currently embarked with CVW-1 aboard, you can see her deck filled with over 30 F-18E/Fs from VFA-11 (Red Rippers), VFA-211 (Fighting Checkmates), VFA-34 (Blue Blasters), VFA-81 (Sunliners), and EA-18Gs of VAQ-137 (Rooks) along with MH-60S/Rs of HSC-11 (Dragonslayers) and HMS-72 (Proud Warriors) and E-2D “Advanced” Hawkeyes of VAW-126 (Seahawks). The current wing is deployed with 46 F-18E/F, 5 EA-18G, 5 E-2Ds, 8 MH-60Ss and 11 MH-60Rs. Once an F-35C squadron gets integrated with CVW-1, replacing one of the Rhino units, it makes all sorts of other changes. Add to this MQ-25 Stingray drone refuelers and you see big things on the horizon.

For comparison, Charles de Gaulle, commissioned in 2001, is the only nuclear-powered carrier not operated by the U.S. Navy. At 42,000 tons she is smaller than the conventionally-powered Chinese carriers or the new Royal Navy QE2 class vessels, but the French have been operating her for two decades (off and on), including combat operations, and she is probably at this point the most capable foreign carrier afloat. However, she typically deploys with only around 30 aircraft, including the navalised Dassault Rafale (M model), American-built E-2C Hawkeyes, and a mix of a half-dozen light and medium helicopters. Her current “Clemenceau 22” deployment includes just 20 F3R Rafales of 12F and 17F.

The newest of the three vessels seen here, is the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (C 550), commissioned in 2008. Some 30,000-tons full load, she was built with lessons learned by the Italians after operating their much smaller (14,000-ton) “Harrier Carrier” Giuseppe Garibaldi, which joined the Marina Militare in 1985. Whereas Garibaldi was able to carry up to 18 aircraft, a mix of helicopters and Harriers, Cavour was designed for STOVL fixed-wing use with 10 F-35Bs (which Italy is slowly fielding) and a dozen big Agusta AW101 (Merlins). She is seen above with a quartet of aging Italian AV-8Bs, which explains why Garibaldi, currently in Norway on a NATO exercise there, is there sans Harriers.

It should be noted that, when talking about smaller but capable carriers such as Charles de Gaulle and Cavour, the U.S. Navy also has a fleet of “non-carriers” that can clock in for such power projection as well.

Further, there are seven remaining Wasp-class and two America-class amphibious assault ships, which can be used as a light carrier of sorts, filled with up to 20 AV-8Bs or F-35Bs (after updates), with the latter concept termed a “Lightning Carrier.” A slow vessel, these ‘phibs are not main battle force ships, and they cannot generate triple digits of sorties per day, but they are a powerful force multiplier, especially if they free up a big deck carrier for heavier work. While not as beefy or well-rounded an airwing as a Nimitz or (hopefully) Ford-class supercarrier, these LHD/LHA sea control ships can provide a lot of projection if needed– providing there are enough F-35Bs to fill their decks.

Thirteen U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), are staged aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) as part of routine training in the eastern Pacific, Oct. 8, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

Speaking of which, USS Tripoli (LHA-7), is set to fully test the Lightning Carrier concept next month, drawing 20 F-35Bs from VMX-1, VMFA-211, and VMFA-225. 

Last All-Gun Cruiser Could Get Hail Mary Save

The beautiful De Zeven Provinciën-class light cruiser Hr.Ms. De Ruyter (C 801), who went on to serve the Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81) until she was retired in 2017, was to be saved as a floating museum, perhaps at the Naval Museum in Callao but lack of funding and interest has derailed that.

The Peruvians now have the vessel up for sale with the asking price starting at about $1.07 million. 

Of course, that figure is to scrap the ship but concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint probably make that a non-starter as it would likely cost more to safely dispose of all the bad stuff than her value in recycled materials. This leaves the prospect that she may just be scuttled at sea or, possibly, sent to Alang where such things don’t matter as much.

However, there is a slight possibility the ship could go back “home” with some Dutch groups reportedly making a move to acquire and preserve the old girl. 

Of course, see “concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint ” as well as “lack of funding and interest” to see how that will likely turn out.

Either way, it is a shame.

BAP Almirante Grau of the Peruvian Navy, was decommissioned on Sep 26, 2017

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2022: The Chart Maker

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Mar. 9, 2022: The Chart Maker

National Archives Photo 19-N-34392

Here we see the white-hulled seagull that was the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey’s vessel Pathfinder being converted to a naval vessel, at the Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington, on 9 March 1942, 80 years ago today. Note the barge alongside, full of wood paneling torn from the vessel to make it more battle-ready. While this is not a traditional “warship,” it was said that, “The road to Tokyo was paved with Pathfinder’s charts,” which I think deserves some recognition.

Carrying on the name of the Lewis Nixon-designed clipper-bowed yacht that was taken into Naval service for the Spanish-American War then went on to serve the USC&GS for forty years, mapping most of the Philippines for the first time, the above Pathfinder was purpose-built for her survey work.

Laid down at Lake Washington in peacetime– February 1941– she was 229-feet overall, with a DeLaval steam turbine fed by twin Babcock and Wilcox header-type boilers. Just 2,175-tons, this 2,000shp engineering suite allowed the vessel to touch a paint-peeling 14.7 knots on her builder’s trials.

Pathfinder being converted to a naval vessel, at the Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington, on 9 March 1942, showing white being replaced with grey. 19-N-34393

Same day as the above. Note her relatively fine stern lines and empty survey boat davits. 19-N-34391

Acquired by the Navy after Pearl Harbor, she was converted and commissioned 31 August 1942, as the haze-grey USS Pathfinder (AGS-1). She picked up a pair of 3-inch guns forward, another pair of 20mm cannons aft, depth charge racks, and two old Colt M1895 “potato digger” machine guns. 

With her warpaint on and teeth put in! USS Pathfinder (AGS-1) off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, 31 August 1942. 19-N-34396

Same day as the above, showing her stern depth charge racks and 20mm Oerlikons. 19-N-34395

Following a short shakedown, she arrived at Funa Futi in the Ellice Islands (today’s Tuvalu) on the day after Christmas 1942.

As noted by DANFS:

For nearly two years Pathfinder operated along the dangerous New Guinea-New Britain-Solomon Islands are as allied land-air-sea forces fought to break the Japanese grip on the area. An isolated reef, an uncharted harbor, a lonely stretch of enemy hold coastline-each presented a different problem. At Bougainville, Treasury Island, Green Island, Emirau, and Guam, advance Pathfinder parties were sent ashore under the noses of the Japanese to work in close cooperation with Allied amphibious elements in laying out harbor charts or surveying inland channels.

She survived no less than 50 bombing raids while in the Solomons in 1943, including at least one in which her gunners bagged enemy aircraft.

On 7 April, while off Guadalcanal, she was attacked by 18 Japanese fighters and dive bombers coming in high and fast. Responding with 11 rounds from her two 3″/50s, 597 rounds from her 20mm Oerlikon, and 202 from her ancient Colt .30-06s, she downed two planes in two minutes. Her only damage was some 7.7-caliber holes in her survey launch.

From her April 1943 War Diary, in the National Archives.

Following charting efforts around New Guinea, Pathfinder was sent back home to California at the end of September 1944 for a three-month refit in which she would pick up even more guns.

Her late-war look. Bow-on shot of USS Pathfinder (AGS-1) off San Francisco, California, 9 December 1944 after her late-war stint at Mare Island. #: 19-N-79507

The same day, stern shot. Note the depth charge racks. 19-N-79508

The same day, 19-N-79505

Same day. Note her twin 40mm singles over her stern, replacing two 20mm Oerlikon. 19-N-79506

Pathfinder was part of the push to liberate the Philippines, assisting with the landings in Casiguran Bay, Luzon in March 1945, where she withstood other air attacks.

Her luck ran out on 6 May 1945 while in “Suicide Slot” off Okinawa. A Japanese kamikaze plane crash-dived into the survey ship’s after gun platform killing one man, starting fires, and setting off ready ammunition. Emergency parties quickly brought the flames under control.

The action resulted in two Silver Stars.

Licking her wounds, Pathfinder remained off Okinawa and by August 1945 was at General Quarters 170 times in four months. She ended her war in a series of surveys among Japan’s home islands posy VJ-Day to assist the Allied occupation.

USC&GSS Pathfinder leading a line of four coast survey ships, circa 1945-46. The next ship astern is unidentified, but third, in a row is the survey ship Hydrographer. Description: Courtesy of Ted Stone, 1977.NH 82197-A

Her 1942-45 Pacific journey, via her War Diary

Epilogue

Arriving at Seattle on Christmas Eve 1945, Pathfinder decommissioned on 31 January 1946 and was transferred to the Commerce Department, being struck from the Navy List on 13 November 1946.

She received two battle stars (Solomons and Okinawa Gunto) for her World War II service. For more information on that period, her war diaries and history are digitized in the National Archives. 

USC&GSS Pathfinder (OSS-30), her guns hung up and her original white scheme reapplied, continued her survey work, only without as much threat from kamikazes, mines, and enemy submarines– although she still had her gun tubs well into the late 1950s!

Pathfinder at anchor, Photographer: Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, May 1958 Skowl Arm, Alaska. Note her empty gun tubs aft. (NOAA photo)

Pathfinder in Seattle ca. 1961. Her old WWII gun tubs have finally been removed. (NOAA photo)

Retired from NOAA service in 1971, the year after the new organization absorbed the USC&GS, Pathfinder was sold for scrapping to General Auto Wrecking Company, Ballard, WA. in 1972.

Currently, the US Navy still maintains a survey ship honoring the old name, the USNS Pathfinder (TAGS-60), a 4,762-ton ship that has been in commission since 1994.

Specs:

Displacement 2,175 t.
Length 229′ 4″
Beam 39′
Draft 16′
Speed 14.7 kts (trial)
Propulsion: one DeLaval steam turbine, two Babcock and Wilcox header-type boilers, 310psi 625°, double DeLaval Main Reduction Gears 2000shp
Complement: (Navy 1942) 13 Officers, 145 Enlisted
Armament (1944)
2 x 3″/50 dual-purpose gun mounts
4 x 1 40mm gun mounts
two depth charge tracks
two depth charge projectors


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Warship Wednesday, March 2, 2022: Burnt Java

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 2, 2022: Burnt Java

NIMH photo

Here we see the Koninklijke Marine naval docks at Soerabaja (Surabaya), on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. The photo was taken 80 years ago today, 2 March 1942, from the coal jetty towards the West. With the Japanese fast approaching, the Dutch started the destruction of the yard at 11:30 am and you can make out the 1,500-ton dry dock sunk along with the patrol boats P19 and P20. The new 2,500-ton drydock is listing to the right with a cloud of smoke from the Perak oil tanks in the background.

While the scuttling of the Vichy French fleet at Toulon in 1942, and the self-destruction of the Royal Danish Navy at its docks in Copenhagen in 1943 to keep them out of German hands are well-remembered and often spoken about in maritime lore, the Dutch wrecking crew on Java at Soerabaja and Tjilatjap gets little more than a footnote.

Dominated by the Dutch for some 125 years before the Japanese effort to uproot them, Java was one of the centerpieces of the Indonesian archipelago in 1942 and a principal base for the colonial forces. While Borneo, Sumatra, and other islands may have had more resources– including natural rubber and pumping 20 million barrels a year of oil– Java was the strategic lynchpin. Defended by the (nominally) 85,000-man Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) along with their own air force, the ML-KNIL, it was the Dutch Navy and its shore-based long-range patrol craft of the MLD naval air service that was the colony’s first line of defense.

Japanese invasion map of the Netherlands East Indies cropped to show the landings and attack on Java. Note the location of the Dutch naval bases and how far the island is from Darwin. (OSS Collection Stanford University)

However, with the ML-KNIL/MLD’s aircraft swatted from the sky, and the Dutch navy’s largest units– the cruisers Hr.Ms. De Ruyter and Java— sunk at the Battle of the Java Sea on the night of 28 February along with following on Battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March that saw two Allied cruisers sent to the bottom, Java was wide open and future war criminal Gen. Hitoshi Imamura’s 16th Army started landing on the island at three points directly after.

While Dutch Lt. Gen. Hein Ter Poorten’s force of three KNIL divisions and a mixed brigade worth of British/Australian/American reinforcements would seem on paper to be an even match for Imamura’s troops, the Japanese had the momentum from the start and by 8 March, the Dutch radio station at Ciumbuluit signed off with “Wij sluiten nu. Vaarwel tot betere tijden. Leve de Koningin!” (We are closing now. Farewell till better times. Long live the Queen!)

This effectively ended the short-lived ABDACOM command, severed the Malay-Timor barrier protecting Australia, and was the near-height of the Japanese success in the South Pacific. In March 1942, the Japanese would mount no less than 17 air raids on Western and Northern Australia.

Unescapable

The noose around Java was tight and several vessels that tried to break out failed.

The Japanese cruisers Takao and Atago found the old destroyer USS Pillsbury (DD-227) near nightfall on 2 March and sent her to the bottom with all hands.

At roughly the same time, the Japanese heavy cruiser Maya, accompanied by destroyers Arashi and Nowaki, found the British destroyer HMS Stronghold (H50) trying to escape from Tjilatjap to Australia and sank her, recovering 50 survivors.

The Australian Grimsby-class sloop HMAS Yarra (U77) was escorting a convoy of three British ships (the depot ship HMS Anking, the British tanker Francol, and the motor minesweeper HMS MMS 51) and survivors from the Dutch ship Parigi, from the fighting in Java to Fremantle when they were attacked on 4 March by three Japanese heavy cruisers– Atago, Takao and Maya, each armed with ten 8-inch guns– and two destroyers. The 1,080-ton sloop gave her last full measure but was unable to stop the massacre of the convoy and the Japanese were especially brutal, with reports of close-range shelling by the two Japanese destroyers, was witnessed by 34 survivors on two rafts. The blockade-running Dutch freighter Tawali, rescued 57 officers and men from Anking that night, while the escaping Dutch steamer Tjimanjoek found 14 further survivors of the convoy on 7 March, and two days later 13 of the sloop’s ratings were picked up by the Dutch submarine K XI (a vessel that would go on to serve with the British in the Indian Ocean through 1945).

Persian Gulf, August 1941. Aerial port side view of the sloop HMAS Yarra II. She would be sunk along with her three-ship convoy while trying to escape Java on 4 March 1942. (AWM C236282)

Survivors

To be sure, the last large Dutch surface ship in the Pacific, the cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp had escaped destruction and would serve alongside the Allies for the rest of the war, while her sister Jacob van Heemskerck, arriving too late to be sunk in the Java Sea, would duplicate her efforts.

Likewise, several Dutch submarines had managed to evade the Japanese dragnet and make for Australia, where they would continue their war.

Others, under an order of the Dutch navy commander on Java, RADM (acting) Pieter Koenraad, were ordered to attempt to escape after receiving the code KPX. (Koenraad and his staff embarked on the submarine Hr.Ms. K-XII, which made it to Australia safely, and from there he left for England, returning to Java in 1945 with the Free Dutch forces)

The 500-ton net-tender/minesweeper Hr.Ms. Abraham Crijnssen, capable of just 15 knots and laughably armed, famously decided to try for Australia camouflaged as a small island, leaving Java on 6 March with a volunteer crew and made it to safety on 20 March.

Personnel covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull to resemble rocks. The ship remained close to shore during the day and only sailed after sunset, sometimes traveling less than 50 miles a night. “Mijnenveger Hr.Ms. Abraham Crijnssen (1937-1961) gecamoufleerd in een baai (Soembawa) in Indische wateren in 1942.” (NIMH 2158_000014 and 2158_028298)

The scuttling itself

This left all the vessels too broken, under-armed, or small to break through the Japanese blockade and make it 1,200 miles across dangerous waters to Australia. Not wanting them to fall into the hands of the Japanese, the Dutch and their Allies took the wrecking ball to over 120 vessels on Java at Soerabaja, Tanjon Priok, at Tjilatjap on 2 March.

The largest of these under Dutch naval control, Hr.Ms. Koning der Nederlanden, was a 70-year-old 5,300-ton ramtorenschip ironclad that had been disarmed and turned into a barracks ship in 1920. She hadn’t left the harbor in generations under her own steam, so this was a no-brainer.

The Hr.Ms. Koning der Nederlanden originally mounted a pair of Armstrong 11-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns in each of her two turrets and was protected by 8-inches of iron plate. Used as an accommodation ship for the flotilla of Dutch submarines in the islands, she was set on fire and sunk at Soerabaja on March 2. (Photo NIMH)

Other large ships sent to the bottom were a group of Allied merchantmen trapped in the harbors to include three 7,000-9,000-ton Dutch Java-China-Japan Lijn line cargo ships– Tjikandi, Tjikarang, and Toendjoek— scuttled as blockships. In all, 39 merchantmen were torched, mostly small Dutch coasters and empty tankers, but including three British Malay vessels (SS Giang Seng, Sisunthon Nawa, and Taiyuan) that had escaped Singapore, the 1,600-ton Canadian freighter Shinyu, and the small Norwegian tramps, Proteus and Tunni.

The two most potent Dutch combat vessels left in Java, the Admiralen-class destroyers (torpedobootjagers) Hr.Ms. Banckert and Witte de With, did not survive the day. These 1,650-ton Yarrow-designed boats were built in the late 1920s and, capable of 36 knots, carried four 4.7-inch guns and a half-dozen torpedo tubes. Both had been severely mauled in surface actions with the Japanese and were unable to evacuate to Australia. The Dutch built eight of these destroyers and lost all eight in combat with the Germans and Japanese within 22 months of Holland entering the war.

Hr.Ms. Banckert seen in better days (Photo NIMH)

Hr.Ms. Witte de With (Photo NIMH)

Marine docks in Soerabaja. The photo was taken from the warehouse towards the East. Start of the destruction 11:30 am. The 3,000-ton dry dock with the destroyer Hr.Ms. Banckert is seen sinking. The dock had been torpedoed by Hr.Ms. K XVII before the submarine was able to submerge and make for Freemantle with the port’s commanding admiral aboard. On the right is the 227-ton tug/coastal minelayer Hr.Ms. Soemenep.

Speaking of destroyers, the old four-piper Clemson-class destroyer USS Stewart (DD-224) had been severely damaged at Badung Strait, only making it to Soerabaja with her engine room still operating while submerged. Written off, her crew was evacuated to Australia on 22 February and the ship, stricken from the Navy List, was left to the Dutch to scuttle.

USS Stewart (DD-224) steaming at high speed, circa the 1920s or 1930s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 61898

The Dutch, who had a huge submarine fleet in the region, had three small “K” (for Koloniën or Colonial) subs scuttled at Soerabaja, the 583-ton circa 1923 KVII-class Hr.Ms. K X, the 828-ton circa 1926 K XI-class Hr.Ms. K XIII, and the 1,045-ton circa 1934 K XIV-class Hr.Ms. K VIII.

Colonial Submarine Hr.Ms. K X seen here upon arrival at Surabaya. In the background both the Java class light cruisers (Java and Sumatra) and on the far right a Wolf-class destroyer. 25 December 1924. Fast forward over 17 years later and the little sub was in repair at the same port and unable to get underway for Australia

Onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K X

Onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K VIII in drydock

De onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K XIII op zee

The Hr.Ms. Rigel, a 1,600-ton unarmed local government-owned (gouvernementsvaartuig) yacht used by the Dutch governor-general that had been converted to a minelayer, was too fine to let the Japanese have but too slow to make run the blockade. She ended her career on 2 March as a blockship at Tanjong Priok.

Hr.Ms. Rigel in her prewar livery (Photo NIMH)

When referencing mine craft, the ten Djember (DEFG)-class auxiliary mijnenvegers (minesweepers), small 100-foot vessels of just 175-tons constructed specifically for work in the islands, were all either scuttled or left wrecked on the builders’ ways in Java. Similarly, the five even smaller 74-ton Ardjoeno-class auxiliary minesweepers, the twin 150-ton Alor and Aroe, and the twin 145-ton Ceram and Cheribon, were in the same lot, with the Dutch sinking these as well.

Minesweepers of the 3rd Division, auxiliary minesweepers of the Alor-class in action in the Dutch East Indies in 1941. These were all sunk by their crews on 2 March 1942. Small vessels like these had no hope of storing enough fuel to make it 1,200 miles to Allied lines. (Photo NIMH)

The Alors were built as regional police vessels (politiekruisers) for use in coast guard roles and were outfitted as sweepers in 1939 under naval command. (Photo NIMH)

One great unrealized hope that could have spoiled the Japanese landings was the 17 TM-4 class of motor torpedo boats. Begun at Navy Yard Soerabaja in 1940, they were small and quick vessels, just 63-feet long with a 5-foot draft, they could make 36 knots.

TM-4 klasse motortorpedoboot Hr.Ms. TM 8 portside. Note her two stern torpedo tubes and two forward light machine guns.

Motortorpedoboot Hr.Ms. TM 5 Hr.Ms. TM 8 en Hr.Ms. TM 6. Note the exhaust pipes for their three gasoline aviation engines, salvaged from old seaplanes

Motortorpedoboot Hr.Ms. TM 5 op hoge vaart met op achtergrond Hr.Ms. TM 8

TM8 getting on the plane

As the islands were cut off from Europe due to German occupation of their homeland, much use of surplus parts was made. This included Lorraine Dietrich gasoline engines from condemned 1920s Dornier Wal and Fokker T-4 aircraft as well as Great War-vintage 17.7-inch torpedo tubes from scrapped Roofdier-class destroyers and Z-class torpedo boats.

Their only other armament was twin Lewis guns. “Motortorpedoboot Hr.Ms. TM 5 (1940-1942), Hr.Ms. TM 8 (1940-1942) en Hr.Ms. TM 6 (1940-1942) afgemeerd.”

Just 12 TM-4s were completed by March 1942, and they were all scuttled, while the other half-dozen were left unfinished onshore.

In the same vein as the TM-4s, the Dutch had planned to build at least 16 130-ton B-1-class subchasers at three different yards around the colony. These 150-foot motor launches, armed with a 3-inch popgun, some AAA pieces, and 20 depth charges, would have gone a long way towards providing the Dutch some decent coastal ASW. However, none were complete in March 1942 and the work done by the time of the fall of Java was disrupted as much as possible.

As a stopgap before the B-1s were complete, the Dutch had ordered eight small wooden-hulled mosquito boats from Higgins in New Orleans.

The Dutch Higgins boats substituted 16 depth charges for the more familiar torpedo tubes used on these vessels’ follow-on brothers as the Navy’s PT boats. They also had a 20mm gun and four .50 cals, in twin mounts with plexiglass hoods. Classed as OJR (Onderzeebootjager= Submarine hunter), the first six arrived as deck cargo in December 1941 and February 1942 but saw little service.

Onderzeebootjager Hr.Ms. OJR 4 (1941-1942) wordt te New Orleans a/b van het ms Poelau Tello gehesen voor verscheping naar Ned. Indië

Two had been lost in gasoline explosions and the Dutch scuttled the remaining four in Java (OJR-1, OJR-4, OJR-5, and OJR-6) on 2 March.

Incidentally, the two undelivered Higgins boats (H-7 and H-8) were delivered after the fall of the Dutch East Indies to the Dutch West Indies where they patrolled around Curacao.

Onderzeebootjager Hr.Ms. H 8 (1942-1946) op weg van New Orleans naar Curaçao

The local Dutch government had several small patrouillevaartuigen gunboats at their disposal outside of naval control, dubbed literally the Gouvernementsmarine or Government’s Navy. Dubbed opiumjager (opium hunters), they engaged in counter-smuggling and interdiction efforts around the archipelago as well as tending aids to navigation, coastal survey, and search and rescue work. Once the war began, they were up-armed and taken under navy control and switched from being gouvernementsvaartuig vessels. Small patrol boats scuttled in Java on 2 March 1942 included the Hr.Ms. Albatros (807 tons), Aldebaran (892 tons), Biaro (700 tons), Eridanus (996 tons), Farmalhout (1,000 tons), Fomalhaut (1,000 tons), Gemma (845 tons), Pollux (1,012 tons), and Valk (850 tons).

Flotilla vessel (opium hunter of the Gouvernements-navy) Valk

The arrival of the submarine Hr.Ms. K XIII in the Emmahaven. In the background is the survey ship Eridanus of the Gouvernementsmarine (GM). Taken over by the Navy in September 1939, Eridanus was converted to a gunboat and later scuttled at Soerabaja on 2 March 1942, along with the submarine shown.

Epilouge 

In all, of the more than 120 ships destroyed by the Dutch on Java, almost 90 were small vessels under 1,000-tons such as the Djembers, the TM torpedo boats, and the assorted coastal patrol, subchasers, and minelayers. Many of their crews were marched into Japanese POW camps to spend the next four years in hell, while a small trickle was able to escape on their own either into the interior– keep in mind that about half of the rank and file in the Dutch Far East fleet were local Indonesians– or manage somehow to make for Allied-controlled areas.

The Japanese were able, as the war dragged, to raise and salvage many of the scuttled vessels and return them to service in the IJN. Likewise, several of the TMs and B-1s that were left unfinished were eventually launched under the Rising Sun flag.

Of the larger ships, the destroyer Hr.Ms. Banckert was raised by the escort-poor Japanese in 1944, partially repaired, and put in service as the patrol craft PB-106. On 23 October 1945, VADM Shibata Yaichiro, CINC, Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet, surrendered Java to Free Dutch Forces, and Banckert/PB-106 was returned to the Dutch, who promptly sank her in gunnery exercises.

The stricken Asiatic Fleet destroyer, ex-USS Stewart, whose hull had been broken and her crew had left her scuttling to the Dutch, was also salvaged by the Imperial Japanese Navy, and entered service as Patrol Boat No. 102 in 1943, rearmed with a variety of Dutch and Japanese weapons and her funnels retrunked into a more Japanese fashion. Found at Kure after the war, she was taken over by a U.S. Navy prize crew in October 1945 and steamed under her own power (making 20 knots no less!) across the Pacific to Oakland.

Her old hull number repainted and a Japanese meatball placed on her superstructure, she was sunk by the Navy in deep water in May 1946.

Ex-USS Stewart (DD-224) under attack while being sunk as a target on 24 May 1946. Airplanes seen include an F4U Corsair in the lead, followed by two F6F Hellcats. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-702830.

When the Dutch returned to Java in 1945, besides resuming control of the few vessels still around that had been refloated by the Japanese– craft which were soon discarded– they embarked on a campaign to salvage many of the rest, with hulks shipped off to Australia where they were broken into the 1950s. 

Remains of former Dutch submarine K VIII, Jervoise Bay, Cockbum Sound, Western Australian in 1956 after being blowup for scrapping.


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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022: Long Lance in the Night

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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. 16, 2022: Long Lance in the Night

Australian War Memorial photo 305183

Here we see Hr.Ms. Java was under attack by Japanese Nakajima B5N “Kate” high altitude bombers from the light carrier Ryujo in the Gaspar Straits of what is today Indonesia, some 80 years ago this week, 15 February 1942. Remarkably, the Dutch light cruiser would come through this hail without a scratch, however, her days were numbered, and she would be on the bottom of the Pacific within a fortnight of the above image.

Designed by Germaniawerft in Kiel on the cusp of the Great War, the three planned Java class cruisers were to meet the threat posed by the new Chikuma-class protected cruisers (5,000-tons, 440 ft oal, 8x 6″/45, 26 knots) of the Japanese Navy.

The response, originally an update of the German Navy’s Karlsruhe class, was a 6,670-ton (full load) 509.5-foot cruiser that could make 30+ knots on a trio of Krupp-Germania steam turbines fed by eight oil-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers (keep in mind one of the largest oil fields in the world was in the Dutch East Indies). Using 18 watertight bulkheads, they were fairly well protected for a circa 1913 cruiser design carrying a 3-inch belt, 4-inches on the gun shields, and 5-inches of Krupp armor on the conning tower.

Jane’s 1931 entry on the class, noting that “The German design of these ships is evident in their appearance.”

Their main battery consisted of ten Mark 6 5.9-inch/50 cal guns made by Bofors in Sweden, mounted in ten single mounts, two forward, two aft, and three along each center beam, giving the cruisers a seven-gun broadside.

Cruiser Java model by Oliemans

Unless noted, all images are from the Dutch Fotoafdrukken Koninklijke Marine collection via the NIMH, which has a ton of photos digitized.

Dutch cruiser Hr. Ms. Java, note her shielded 5.9-inch guns

The 5.9/50 Bofors mounts had a decent 29-degree elevation for their period, used electric hoists, and a well-trained crew could fire five 101-pound shells per minute per mount, giving the Java class a theoretical rate of fire of 50 5.9-inch shells every 60 seconds. Holland would go on to use the same guns on the Flores and Johan Maurits van Nassau-class gunboats.

Java delivering a broadside, 1938

Gunnery exercise aboard the Light Cruiser Hr.Ms. Java somewhere near Tanjungpriok, 1928.

The 5.9/50s used an advanced fire control system with three large 4m rangefinders that made them exactly accurate in bombarding shore targets.

Night firing on Java. These ships carried six 47-inch searchlights and the Dutch trained extensively in fighting at night.

The cruisers’ secondary armament consisted of four 13-pounder 3″/55 Bofors/Wilton-Fijenoord Mark 4 AAA guns, one on either side of each mast, directed by a dedicated 2m AA rangefinder. While– unusually for a cruiser type in the first half of the 20th century– they did not carry torpedo tubes, the Java-class vessels did have weight and space available for 48 sea mines (12 in a belowdecks hold, 36 on deck tracks), defensive weapons that the Dutch were very fond of.

Designed to carry and support two floatplanes, the class originally used British Fairey IIIFs then switched to Fokker C. VIIWs and Fokker C. XIWs by 1939.

Note one of Java’s Fokker floatplanes and the straw hat on the sentry

While the Dutch planned three of these cruisers– named after three Dutch East Indies islands (Java, Sumatra, and Celebes) — the Great War intervened and construction slowed, with the first two laid down in 1916 and Celebes in 1917, they languished and were redesigned with the knowledge gleaned from WWI naval lessons. Celebes would be canceled and only the first two vessels would see completion.

Java— ironically laid down at Koninklijke Maatschappij de Schelde (today Damen) in Flushing on 31 May 1916, the first day of the Battle of Jutland– would not be launched until 1921 and would spend the next four years fitting out.

Dutch Light Cruiser HNLMS Java pictured at Vlissingen in 1924. Note her triple screws

Dutch Light Cruiser HNLMS Java pictured at Vlissingen in 1924

Dutch Netherlands Light Cruiser HNLMS Java pictured at Vlissingen in 1924

Java Vlissingen, Zeeland, Nederland 1924

The crew of Java in Amsterdam, 1925, complete with European wool uniforms. Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana of the royal family visit the ship. Sitting from left to right are: Commander M.J. Verloop (aide-de-camp of Queen Wilhelmina?), Captain L.J. Quant (commanding officer of Java), Queen Wilhelmina, Princess Juliana, Vice-Admiral C. Fock (Commanding Officer of Den Helder naval base), and Acting Vice-Admiral F. Bauduin (retired, aide-de-camp “in special service” of Queen Wilhelmina). Standing behind Captain Quant and Queen Wilhelmina is (then) Lieutenant-Commander J.Th. Furstner, executive officer and/or gunnery officer. (Collection Robert de Rooij)

A happy peace

Making 31.5-knots on her trials, Java commissioned 1 May 1925 and sailed for Asia by the end of the year. Her sistership Sumatra, built at NSM in Amsterdam, would join her in 1926.

Java at Christiania-fjord, Norway, during shakedown, circa 1925

The two sisters would spend the next decade cruising around the Pacific, calling at Japan and Australia, Hawaii, and China, showing the Dutch flag from San Francisco to Saigon to Singapore. Interestingly, she took place in the International Fleet Review at Yokohama to celebrate the coronation of Japan’s Showa emperor, Hirohito, in 1928.

In a practice shared by the Royal Navy and U.S. fleet in the same waters, the crew of the Dutch cruisers over these years took on a very local flavor, with many lower rates being filled by recruits drawn heavily from the islands’ Christian Manadonese and Ambonese minorities.

The Bataviasche Yacht Club in Tandjong Priok, Batavia. Fishing prahu under sail in the harbor of Tandjong Priok. In the background the cruiser Hr.Ms. Java. Remembrance book of the Bataviasche Yacht Club, Tandjong Priok, presented to its patron, VADM A.F. Gooszen, October 19, 1927.

S1c (Matroos 1e Klasse) J.G. Rozendal and friends of cruiser Hr.Ms. Java during an amphibious landing (Amfibische operaties) exercises with the ship’s landing division (landingsdivisie) at Madoera, 1927. Note the anchor on their cartridge belts, infantry uniforms with puttees and naval straw caps, and 6.5x53mm Geweer M. 95 Dutch Mannlichers. A really great study.

Dutch Navy tropical uniforms via ONI JAN 1 Oct 1943

Java Tandjong Priok, Batavia, Java, Nederlands-Indië 8.27

Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java crew via NIMH

Note the extensive awnings, essential for peacetime cruising in the Pacific

Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java met een Dornier Do-24K maritieme patrouillevliegboot op de voorgrond

The Koninklijke Marine East Indies Squadron including Java and the destroyers De Ruyter and Eversten arrived in Sydney on 3 October 1930 and remained there for a week. The ships berthed at the Oceanic Steamship Company wharf and Burns Philp & Company Wharf in West Circular Quay. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the “unfamiliar spectacle” of the Dutch squadron’s arrival.

Night scene with HNLMS Java berthed at West Circular Quay wharf, October 1930. Eversten is tied up next to her. Samuel J. Hood Studio Collection. Australian National Maritime Museum Object no. 00034761.

Day scene of the above, without the destroyer

Dutch light cruiser Hr.Ms Java, Sydney, Octo 1930. Note the 5.9-inch gun with the sub-caliber spotting gun on the barrel. The individuals are the Dutch Consul and his wife along with RADM CC Kayser. Australian National Maritime Museum.

Dutch cruiser HNLMS Java, berthing with the unfinished Sydney Harbour Bridge as a background, circa 1930

Java Tandjong Priok, Batavia, Java, Nederlands-Indië 8.31.32. Note she is still in her original scheme with tall masts and more rounded funnel caps.

Hr.Ms. Java Dutch cruiser before reconstruction. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

During the early 1930s, both Java and Sumatra were slowly refitted in Surabaya, a move that upgraded the engineering suite, deleted the deck mine racks and saw the old manually-loaded 3″/55 Bofors quartet landed, the latter replaced by a half-dozen automatic 40mm Vickers Maxim QF 2-pounders on pedestal mounts in a Luchtdoelbatterij. 

Water-cooled and fed via 25-round cloth belts, the guns had been designed in 1915 as balloon-busters and could fire 50-75 rounds per minute.

Note the sunglasses of the operator closest to the camera

Note the range finder

With problems in Europe and the Dutch home fleet being cruiser poor– only able to count on the new 7,700-ton HNLMS De Ruyter still essentially on shakedown while a pair of Tromp-class “flotilla leaders” were still under construction– Java and Sumatra were recalled home to flex the country’s muscles in the waters off Spain during the early and most hectic days of the Spanish Civil War, clocking in there for much of 1936-37.

They also took a sideshow to Spithead for the fleet review there.

Groepsfoto van de bemanning van kruiser Hr.Ms. Java, 1937

By 1938, Java was modernized at the Naval Dockyard in Den Helder. This dropped her Vickers balloon guns for four twin 40/56 Bofors No.3 guns, soon to be famous in U.S. Navy service, as well as six .50 cal water-cooled Browning model machine guns. Also added was a Hazemeyer (Thales) fire control set of the type later adopted by the USN, coupled with stabilized mounts for the Bofors, a deadly combination.

Talk about an epic photo, check out these Bofors 40mm gunners aboard Java, circa 1938. Note the shades.

With Franco in solid control of Spain and tensions with the Japanese heating up, our two Dutch cruisers returned to Indonesian waters, with the new De Ruyter accompanying them, while the Admiralty ordered two immense 12,000-ton De Zeven Provinciën-class cruisers laid down (that would not be completed until 1953.)

Java 7.16.38 Colombo, Ceylon, on her way back to the Dutch East Indies

Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java stern

Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java manning rails coming into Soerabaja, returning from her two-year trip back to Holland

Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java (1925-1942) te Soerabaja 1938

Java. Port side view, moored, circa 1939. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 80902

Java moving at high speed circa 1939 with a bone in her teeth. NH 80903

War!

De kruiser Hr.Ms. Java in Nederlands-Indië. at anchor after her major reconstruction. Note she has shorter masts and additional AAA batteries, among some of the most modern in the world at the time.

Of note, U-Boat.net has a great detailed account of Java’s war service. 

When Hiter marched into Poland in September 1939, most of Europe broke out in war, but Holland, who had remained a staunch neutral during that conflict and still hosted deposed Kaiser Wilhelm in quiet exile, reaffirmed its neutrality in the new clash as well. However, that was not to be in the cards and, once the Germans marched into the Netherlands on 10 May 1940– the same day they crossed into Luxembourg and Belgium in a sweep through the Low Countries and into Northern France, the Dutch were in a major European war for the first time since Napolean was sent to St. Helena, whether they wanted it or not.

At that, Java dispatched boarding parties to capture the German Hapag-freighters Bitterfeld (7659 gt), Wuppertal (6737 gt), and Rhineland (6622 gt), which had been hiding from French and British warships in neutral Dutch East Indies waters at Padang.

Post-modernized Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java with Fokkers overhead. The Dutch Navy had 23 Fokker CXIV-W floatplanes in the Pacific in 1941

Cooperating with the British and Australians, Java was engaged in a series of convoys between the Dutch islands, Fiji, Singapore, and Brisbane, briefly mobilizing to keep an eye peeled in the summer of 1941 for the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, which was incorrectly thought to be in the Indian Ocean headed for the Pacific.

One interesting interaction Java had in this period was to escort the Dutch transport ship Jagersfontein to Burma, which was carrying members of the American Volunteer Group, Claire Chennault’s soon-to-be-famous Flying Tigers.

While working with the Allies, a U.S. Navy spotter plane captured some of the best, last, images of the Dutch man-o-war.

Java (Dutch Light Cruiser, 1921) Aerial view from astern of the starboard side, August 1941. NH 80906

Java. Aerial view starboard side, circa August 1941. NH 80904

Java. Aerial view starboard side, circa August 1941 NH 80905

Once the Japanese started to push into the Dutch colony, simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Java found herself in a whole new shooting war.

Escorting troopship Convoy BM 12 from Bombay to Singapore from 23 January to 4 February 1942, Java then joined an Allied task force under the command of Dutch RADM Karl W.F.M. Doorman consisting of the cruiser De Ruyter (Doorman’s flagship), the new destroyer leader Tromp, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, the Australian light cruiser HMAS Hobart, and ten American and Dutch destroyers. The mission, from 14 February: a hit and run raid to the north of the Gaspar Straits to attack a reported Japanese convoy.

As shown in the first image of this post, the little surface action group was subjected to repeated Japanese air attacks in five waves, and in the predawn hours of 15 February, the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Ghent ripped her hull out on a reef, dooming the vessel. Cutting their losses, Doorman split up his group, sending half to Batavia and half to Ratai Bay to refuel.

Four days later, essentially the same force, augmented by a flotilla of Dutch motor torpedo boats and two submarines, were thrown by Doorman into the mouth of the Japanese invasion fleet on the night of 19/20 February 1942 in the Badoeng Strait on the south-east coast of Bali. The outnumbered Japanese force, however, excelled in night combat tactics and were armed with the Long Lance torpedo, a fact that left Doorman’s fleet down another destroyer (HrMs Piet Hein) and the Tromp badly mauled and sent to Sydney for emergency repairs.

Then, on 27 February, Doorman’s Allied ABDACOM force, reinforced with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the heavy cruiser USS Houston, sailed from Surabaya to challenge the Japanese invasion fleet in the Java Sea.

While that immense nightmare is beyond the scope of this piece, Java and De Ruyter‘s portion of it, as related in the 1943 U.S. Navy Combat Narrative of the Java Sea Campaign, is below:

Immediately after the loss of the (destroyer) Jupiter our striking force turned north. At 2217 it again passed the spot where the Kortenaer had gone down that afternoon, and survivors of the Dutch destroyer saw our cruisers foam past at high speed. Encounter was ordered to stop and picked up 113 men of the Kortenaer’s crew of 153. It was at first intended to take them to Batavia, but upon learning of a strong Japanese force to the west the captain returned to Surabaya.

The cruisers of our striking force were now left without any destroyer protection whatever. This dangerous situation was aggravated by the fact that enemy planes continued to light their course with flares. But Admiral Doorman’s orders were, “You must continue attacks until the enemy is destroyed,” and he pressed on north with a grim determination to reach the enemy convoy.

It is doubtful if he ever knew how close he did come to reaching it in this last magnificent attempt. The convoy had in fact remained in the area west or southwest of Bawean. At 1850 a PBY from Patrol Wing TEN had taken off to shadow it in the bright moonlight. At 1955 this plane saw star shells above 3 cruisers and 8 destroyers on a northerly course about 30 miles southwest of Bawean. As these appeared to be our own striking force no contact report was made.69 At 2235 our PBY found the convoy southwest of Bawean. Twenty-eight ships were counted in two groups, escorted by a cruiser and a destroyer. At this moment Admiral Doorman was headed toward this very spot, but it is doubtful if he ever received our plane’s report. It reached the Commander of the Naval Forces at Soerabaja at 2352, after which it was sent on to the commander of our striking force; but by that time both the De Ruyter and Java were already beneath the waters of the Java Sea. At 2315 the De Ruyter signaled, “Target at port four points.” In that direction were seen two cruisers which opened fire from a distance of about 9,000 yards. Perth replied with two or three salvos which landed on one of the enemy cruisers for several hits. The Japanese thereupon fired star shells which exploded between their ships and ours so that we could no longer see them.

Shortly afterward the De Ruyter received a hit aft and turned to starboard away from the enemy, followed by our other cruisers. As the Java, which had not been under enemy fire, turned to follow there was a tremendous explosion aft, evidently caused by a torpedo coming from port. Within a few seconds the whole after part of the ship was enveloped in flames.

The De Ruyter had continued her turn onto a southeasterly course when, very closely after the Java, she too was caught by a torpedo. United States Signalman Sholar, who was on board and was subsequently rescued, reported having seen a torpedo track on relative bearing 135°. There was an extraordinarily heavy explosion followed by fire. Perth, behind the flagship, swung sharply to the left to avoid a collision, while the Houston turned out of column to starboard. The crew of the De Ruyter assembled forward, as the after part of the ship up to the catapult was in flames. In a moment, the 40-mm. ammunition began to explode, causing many casualties, and the ship had to be abandoned. She sank within a few minutes. For some time, her foremast structure remained above the water, until a heavy explosion took the ship completely out of sight.70

The torpedoes which sank the two Dutch cruisers apparently came from the direction of the enemy cruisers and were probably fired by them. Both Sendai and Nati class cruisers are equipped with eight torpedo tubes.

Of our entire striking force, only the Houston and Perth now remained. They had expended most of their ammunition and were still followed by enemy aircraft. There seemed no possibility of reaching the enemy convoy, and about 0100 (February 28th) the two cruisers set course for Tandjong Priok in accordance with the original plan for retirement after the battle. On the way Perth informed Admiral Koenraad at Soerabaja of their destination and reported that the De Ruyter and Java had been disabled by heavy explosions at latitude 06°00′ S., longitude 112°00′ E.71 The hospital ship Op ten Noort was immediately dispatched toward the scene of their loss, but it is doubtful if she ever reached it. Sometime later Admiral Helfrich lost radio contact with the ship, and a plane reported seeing her in the custody of two Japanese destroyers.

Epilogue

The post-war analysis is certain that Java was struck by a Long Lance torpedo fired from the Japanese cruiser Nachi. The torpedo detonated an aft magazine and blew the stern off the ship, sending her to the bottom in 15 minutes with 512 of her crew. The Japanese captured 16 survivors.

Nachi would be destroyed by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft in the Philippines in 1944, avenging Java’s loss.

Japanese cruiser Nachi dead in the water after air attacks in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Taken by a USS Lexington plane. National Archives photograph, 80-G-288866. Note, Nachi also took part in the Battle of the Java Sea and played a major role in sinking the Dutch light cruiser Java.

Sistership Sumatra, who had escaped Java Sea as she was under refit in Ceylon, was later sent to the ETO and, in poor shape, was sunk as a blockship off Normandy in June 1944, her guns recycled to other Dutch ships.

In December 2002, a group from the MV Empress, searching for the wreck of HMS Exeter, found that of Java and De Ruyter, with the former at a depth of 69 meters on her starboard side. Shortly afterward, the looted ship’s bell surfaced for sale in Indonesia. It was later obtained by the Dutch government and is now on display in the National Military Museum in Soesterberg.

The names of the 915 Dutch sailors and marines killed at the Battle of the Java Sea at installed at the Kembang Kuning, the Dutch Memorial Cemetery in Surabaya, Indonesia, while in Holland the Dutch Naval Museum has a similar memorial that includes the recovered bell from De Ruyter and other artifacts.

In 2016, the Dutch government reported that the hulks of both Java and De Ruyter had been illegally salvaged to the point that the war graves had virtually ceased to exist.

Now more than ever, the expression “On a sailor’s grave, there are no roses blooming (Auf einem Seemannsgrab, da blühen keine Rosen)” remains valid.

Drawing Afbeelding van kruiser Hr.Ms. Java en onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K IX

Java cruiser Fotoafdrukken Koninklijke Marine postcard

Koninklijke Nederlandse Kruiser Hr.Ms. Java, Marinemuseum Den Helder A003a 789.2

Specs.


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!

Bay Area Ranger, Ranger, and Ranger

Here we see the old ferry house across from Vallejo at Mare Island, California, about 1892. The Alert-class gunboat USS Ranger (PG-23) is in the right background, with the crew’s hammocks and washing hung out to dry. Authorized by the 42nd Congress the bark-rigged iron-hulled steamer would have an exceptionally long life that would see her serve multiple generations of bluejackets of all stripes.

Photograph from the William H. Topley Collection. Courtesy of Mr. Charles M. Loring, Napa, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 68678

Next, we see the unique USS Ranger (CV-4), the first American aircraft carrier built from the keel-up Entering Hunter’s Point drydock, San Francisco, California, on 2 March 1937.

Note .50 caliber AA machine guns (uncovered) along the flight deck, forward. Note also” 5″ guns and saluting guns at the bow (port and starboard). At the time, she was the first carrier to be docked with planes aboard. NH 51826

Finally, we have the Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Ranger (CVA-61) passing under the San Francisco Bay Bridge on her return to the States on 17 June 1971.

This is from the 1970–71 Cruise Book. Via Navsource/ John Slaughter, Webmaster USS Ranger History & Memorial site

Have a great weekend, guys!

Adm. Semmes gets a home

Facing a $25K-a-day fine from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the City of Mobile has moved the recently toppled statue of the former U.S. Navy CDR/C.S. Navy ADM/C.S. Army B. Gen., Raphael Semmes, to the city’s museum, where it belongs.

Notably, the museum also holds numerous relics of the commerce raider CSS Alabama, which Semmes helmed to 66 naval victories and one crushing defeat, as well as artifacts from the officer’s own life, including an ornate French-made Houllier-Blanchard revolver I chronicled in the past.

You don’t see these every day. 

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