Tag Archive | warship wednesday

Warship Wednesday, Sept, 19, 2018: The well-traveled Sea Otter

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, Sept. 19, 2018: The well-traveled Sea Otter

Here we see the deteriorating Qing Empire’s most modern warship, the 1st class protected cruiser Hai-Chi (also seen as Hai Chi, Haicang, and Hai Qi), of the Northern Fleet of the Imperial Chinese Navy as she sat at anchor in the Hudson off Gotham on Sept. 11, 1911. Note her Yellow Dragon Flag, flown by the Qing Dynasty from 1889 through 1911. This proud ship was an important turning point in Chinese military history.

The sleeping dragon that was old Imperial China had a rude awakening in 1894-95 when the Japanese picked a fight in Manchuria over Korea that ended in humiliation for the larger country. Scarcely 10 months long, the First Sino-Japanese War saw the Japanese slaughter the vaunted Chinese Beiyang Fleet, hailed at the time as the largest and most battle-ready in Asia, complete with a pair of German-built armored turret ironclads — the 8,000-ton Dingyuan and Zhenyuan— both outfitted with thick armor and modern Krupp guns. The latter was even commanded by American naval mercenary and Annapolis legend Philo Norton McGiffin.

However, the Beiyang Fleet was filled with ill-trained landsmen, at the mercy of corrupt officials (who sold off the explosives and powder charges, replacing them with flour and sand) and had just an overall poor tactical appreciation of modern naval warfare. This showed in the disastrous Battle of the Yalu River (also termed the Battle of the Yellow Sea), the world’s first large fleet action since 1866. At the end of the engagement, the Chinese fleet was, for all intents, combat ineffective, bested by a smaller but more professional Japanese force that had done their homework.

From the First Sino-Japanese War Battle of the Yellow Sea by Kobayashi Kiyochika ca. 1894

Following the Japanese capture of Weihaiwei four months later, the battered Zhenyuan was taken as a war prize while Dingyuan was scuttled. The Beiyang Fleet commander, Qing Adm. Ding Ruchang, along with his deputy, Adm. Liu Buchan, committed suicide and were posthumously drummed out of the service. Philo McGiffin, shattered and suffering from wounds incurred at the Yalu, blew his own brains out in a Manhattan hospital two years after the battle, aged a very hard 36.

Philo Norton McGiffin as a naval agent of China in England, left, a USNA cadet, right, and after the Yalu, center

Suffice it to say, China needed a new fleet.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Germany seized Tsingtao, the British took over Weihaiwei, Russia moved into Port Arthur and the French took over Kwangchow Wan, all on “leases” set to run out in the 1990s.

Between the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895, which ended the war, and the Chinese Revolution that saw the end of the four-century-long Great Qing dynasty in 1911 and birthed the Republic of China, the Manchu court ordered over 40 new warships from around the globe. A trio of small cruisers, the 3,000-ton Hai-Yung, Hai-Chu, and Hai-Chen, were ordered from Vulkan in Germany. From Vickers came the 2,750-ton cruisers Ying Swei and Chao-Ho. French-made torpedo boats, Krupp-built river monitors, Kawasaki-produced gunboats (ironically), destroyers from Schichau. It was a rapid expansion and recrafting.

The largest of the orders, placed at Armstrong for production at its Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne shipyard, was for a pair of 4,500-ton (full load) protected cruisers, Hai-Chi (Yard No. 667) and her sister Hai-Tien (#668).

(One note about the naming convention of our subject here, some translate Hai Chi as “Boundary of the Sea” while others go with “Sea Otter,” anyway, back to the story)

The design by British naval architect Sir Philip Watts, KCB, FRS, was what we would term “off the shelf” today, simply a very slightly modified version of the Chilean cruiser Blanco Encalada and the Argentine ARA Buenos Aires, also produced by Armstrong.

Armstrong Yard No. 612. ARA Buenos Aires, Hai-Chi’s sistership, sort-of. Note the big 8-incher up front. Completed in 1896, Buenos Aires continued in use with Argentina until 1932 and sold for scrapping in 1935. (Photo via Postales Navales)

Armstrong Yard No. 605. The Chilean cruiser Blanco Encalada in 1904 note her bow crest and national ensign. The longest lived of the four sisters to include her two Chinese classmates and Buenos Aires, she was hulked in 1944 and broken up in 1946.

These cruisers were fast, at some 22 knots (which was surpassed on builder’s speed trials for the Chinese ships, whose hybrid Yarrow/Bellville boiler arrangement allowed them to break 24kts), and had long legs, capable of cruising some 8,000 miles– an important factor for ships in the Pacific.

Further, they were big, with twin 8″/45 cal Armstrong Pattern S guns in single fore and aft mounts (the Japanese also fitted these to their Kasagi and Takasago-class cruisers), and a secondary of 10 QF 4.7 inch Mk V naval guns. Add to this a host of smaller anti-torpedo boat guns, the latest Maxim machine guns, and five above-water torpedo tubes and you had a brawler. Armor protection ranged from 4 to 6 inches and a 37mm deck sheath. The ships were modern, with the best Barr & Stroud optics, electric lights and shell hoists, as well as powered turrets and forced ventilation.

Note the Qing functionaries and Edwardian locals at her christening in 1897. Not surreal at all.

The bow of the mighty Hai-Chi, complete with Imperial dragons

The very modern (and western-attired) crew shown between the forward pair of QF 4.7-inch guns, at the time of her commissioning of what could be a German-made Hai-Chen-class cruiser. Thanks for the update, Georgios Nikolaides-Krassas.

Hai-Chi was commissioned 10 May 1899. When arriving in China later that summer, Hai-Chi was the nominal flagship of Admiral Sa Zhenbing (Sah Chen-ping), commander of the Imperial Chinese Navy– the seniormost survivor of the Battle of the Yalu. Luckily the Navy did not become involved in the mess that was the Boxer Rebellion, although some Army units did, and were the worse for it.

HAI CHI in a Chinese port 1907-09. Photographed from USS CLEVELAND (C-19). Copied from the album of Assistant Paymaster Francis J. Daly, Courtesy of Commander Thomas M. Daly, USN, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100017

Her sister, Hai Tien, foundered 25 April 1904 after hitting a rock in at night in Hangzhou Bay, ending her career after just five years of service.

She was wrecked some 60 miles from Shanghai on what was then known as Eagle Point on Elliot Island near Guzlaf light. Her crew was saved by Chinese customs officals and the Armstrong-built cruiser USS New Orleans (CL-22) in May landed a team nearby to inspect her unoccupied wreckage.

Salvage largely failed due to the hazardous conditions in the shoal, although her guns were reportedly saved by the Chinese.

In 1911, Hai-Chi was tapped to participate by the dynasty in King George V’s coronation review in Spithead alongside an all-star cast of international warships. For the circumnavigational voyage, she was fitted with a Marconi wireless system, one of the first in the Chinese Navy.

Photograph (Q 22235) Chinese Cruiser HAI CHI, 1911. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205262762

On the way back to the Pacific, she crossed the Atlantic and paid lengthy port calls in New York and Boston.

The New York Times noted the event as the arrival of the “cruiser Hai-Chi of the Imperial Navy of China, the first vessel of any kind flying the yellow dragon flag of China that has ever been in American waters.”

Both hosting local dignitaries aboard and sending an honor guard to Grant’s Tomb (the former U.S. President was a key ally to China while in and out of office and was well-respected), the Chinese made a splash akin to visiting Martians in pre-Great War New York.

Note the big 8″/45 over her stern. She carried two of these monsters.

Photo shows Rear Adm. Chin Pih Kwang of the Imperial Chinese Navy and New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor at Grant’s Tomb in New York City on Sept. 18th, 1911. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2009, and New York Times archive Sept. 19, 1911, via Bain News Service.)

A landing party headed to Grant’s Tomb to lay a wreath given in friendship, all in this series from the LOC

Note the Mauser I.G.Mod.71 rifles, China purchased over 1 million of these big black powder bolt guns which fired from a tubular magazine from Germany in the 1890s and they were evidently still good enough for Naval service in 1911. The Chinese Army at the time this picture was snapped fielded the Hanyang 88, itself a domestically-made copy of the German Gewehr 88.

Recalled to China at the fall of the Dynasty, Ha-Chi became part of the new Republic’s navy and remained the most significant Chinese naval asset until the two-ship Ning Hai-class cruiser class was completed after 1932. During WWI, she served in home waters after China entered the conflict in 1917 on the side of the Allies, with no one around to fight.

HAI-CHI At Chefoo, China, circa 1914-1916 Description: Collection of C.A. Shively, 1978. Note she has the ROC flag. Catalog #: NH 88554

She was later scuttled as a blockship in the Yangtze River at Jiangyin along with 39 other ships on 11 August 1937 to obstruct the Japanese advance during the Second Sino-Japanese war.


Via 1914 edition of Janes

4,300 tons (standard)
4,515 t (full load)
Length: 423 ft 11 in o/a
Beam: 46 ft 7 in
Draught: 17 ft 11 in
Propulsion:2 shafts, 4 Humphrys & Tennant, Deptford VTE engines, four double-ended Bellville and four single-ended Yarrow 12-cylindrical boilers, 17,000 bhp at a forced draught.
Speed: 24.15 knots
Range: 8,000 nmi at 10kts on 1,000 tons of coal
Complement: 350-450 (sources vary)
2 × 203.2mm (8.00 in)/45 Armstrong Pattern S (2 × 1)
10 × 120mm (5 in)/45 Armstrong (10 × 1)
16 × 47mm (2 in)/40 Hotchkiss (16 × 1)
6 x Maxim machine guns
5 × 450mm (18 in) torpedo tubes (1 × 1 bow, 4 × 1 stern broadside) for Whitehead torpedoes.
Armor: Armstrong Harvey nickel-steel
Deck: 37–127 mm (1–5 in)
Turrets: 114.3 mm (5 in)
Barbettes: 51 mm (2 in)
Conning tower: 152 mm (6 in)

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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, Sept, 12, 2018: Of Chucktown, Apra and Camiguin

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and 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, Sept. 12, 2018: Of Chucktown, Agana and Camiguin

NH 88407 Photographed by A.J. McDonald

Here we see the U.S. Navy’s one-of-a-kind protected cruiser USS Charleston (C-2) in San Francisco Bay, circa early 1890.

Protected cruisers, generally what would be termed in WWII as light cruisers, were a class all to their own in the late 19th Century and the U.S. Navy was just getting into the business. The first three steel cruisers for the USN– Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago— the so-called “ABC” cruisers, were all ordered in the early 1880s as the country was shaking off the slumber of the Civil War and the Navy’s “Great Repairs” period.

To see what was going on in Europe, a fourth cruiser was to be built to plans purchased from Armstrong in Britain, similar to the Armstrong-built Japanese cruiser Naniwa, which launched in 1885. Some 3,800-tons, she was to be constructed on the West Coast at Union Iron Works in San Francisco.

Just 320-feet long, she was smaller than a frigate of today but had a complicated steam plant of six fire-tube boilers and two engines that allowed a speed of some 19-knots, which was fast-ish for the 1880s. Protected (see where the designation comes from?) by 2-3 inches of steel plate armor, she carried a pair of breechloading 8″/35 guns (one aft and one forward), as well as a half-dozen 6″/30s and a dozen smaller 1-, 3-, and 6-pounder guns. She also had four above-water torpedo tubes.

The crew of Charleston’s after 8″ Gun exercising, circa 1890-93. The 8″/35 was used on the Indiana (B-1), Iowa (B-4) and Kearsarge (B-5) class battleships, as well as the cruisers New York (ACR-2), Brooklyn (ACR-3), Baltimore (C-3) and Olympia (C-6) classes. NH 73390

Compare the above to this image of dapper officers of Japanese protected cruiser Naniwa, Charleston’s half-sister, posing near one of that ship’s two 10-inch (25.4 cm) main guns, 1885.

Charleston further carried some Gatlings and landing guns as she could put her 30-man Marine detachment and as many as 100 of her sailors ashore to act as light infantry.

Ship’s marine guard at the American Legation, Seoul, Korea, during the Sino-Japanese War, Winter of 1894-95. First Lieutenant B. S. Neuman, USMC, in command. Officers on the left of the line, from L. to R.: Naval Cadet W. S. Crosley; Naval Cadet W. G. Powell; Assistant Surgeon R. G. Brodrick; Pay Clerk K. J. Griffin. NH 55561

Confusingly, what was to be the first numbered cruiser USS Newark (C-1), actually was ordered after Charleston, from William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, in 1888. Cramp was also building the cruiser Baltimore (C-3) at the same time to plans purchased from Armstrong, to make things even more confusing. Anyway, back to our ship.

Charleston In drydock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1889, when nearly completed. Note her bow scroll. NH 89724

Only the second U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, the first being a short-lived galley that commissioned in 1798, Charleston commissioned 26 December 1889, CAPT G. C. Remey in command and, after working out some bugs with her engineering plant, sailed for the Far East to become the flag of the Pacific Squadron.

Another view of that big forward 8″ gun. NH 55081

NH 55082 Photographed about 1890.

According to DANFS, She carried the remains of the “Merrie Monarch,” King Kalakaua of Hawaii to Honolulu after his death abroad, and between 8 May and 4 June 1891, took part in the search for the Chilean steamer Itata which had fled San Diego in violation of the American neutrality laws, enforced strictly during the Chilean Revolution.

In 1893 she was back on the East Coast as part of the International Naval Review conducted at New York City 26 April 1893 during the Columbian Exposition before heading to Latin American waters to provide gunboat diplomacy amidst the Brazilian Revolution.

That national ensign, tho

Charleston seemed a popular ship and had good duty, traveling the world from Singapore to Halifax and back several times. The below images show her off Brazil, where she was part of the international force there.

Three-legged race on board Charleston during Thanksgiving Day celebrations at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 1893. Participants include British and German sailors. The onlookers appear to be of mixed nationalities, as well. Courtesy of Captain Henry F. Picking, 24 December 1893. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52452

Men running an obstacle race, during Thanksgiving Day celebrations on board Charleston at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 1893. Assistant Engineer Louis M. Nulton, whose name appears in the lower right of this image, was an officer of the ship at this time. Courtesy of Captain Henry F. Picking, 24 December 1893. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52451

USS Charleston Thanksgiving Day celebrations on board in November 1893, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. NH 52449

By 1896, already growing increasingly obsolete and in need of an overhaul, she was placed in ordinary in San Francisco.

NH 71753 In dry-dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Work is progressing under electric lights 1896

When war with Spain reared in 1898, she was called out of extended repair and, with the captain of the Mare Island yard, Henry Glass, assigned as her skipper.

Group photo of USS Charleston’s officers at Mare Island in 1898. Glass in the center. Note the collection of lieutenants in their 30s and 40s along with a sole warrant officer in the back row.

Just two weeks later, she sailed for Honolulu where the cruiser met three steamers, City of Peking, the City of Sydney, and the Australia, packed with Marines and U.S. Volunteers headed to the Philipines.

Leaving Honolulu on 4 June, Glass, a 54-year old Union Navy vet who ironically saw hard service on the steam sloop Canandaigua blockading the port of Charleston during the Civil War, opened sealed orders from SECNAV John Davis Long:

Sir: Upon the receipt of this order, which is forwarded by the steamship City of Pekin to you at Honolulu, you will proceed, with the Charleston and the City of Pekin in company, to Manila, Philippine Islands. On your way, you are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam. You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the governor and other officials and any armed force that may be there. You will destroy any fortifications on said island and any Spanish naval vessels that may be there, or in the immediate vicinity. These operations at the Island of Guam should be very brief, and should not occupy more than one or two days. Should you find any coal at the Island of Guam, you will make such use of it as you consider desirable. It is left to your discretion whether or not you destroy it. From the Island of Guam, proceed to Manila and report to Rear-Admiral George Dewey, U.S.N., for duty in the squadron under his command.

Just over two weeks later, Charleston and her convoy sailed to Guam and “sailed boldly into the harbor, firing a challenge at Fort Santa Cruz. Almost at once, a boatload of Spanish authorities came out to apologize for having no gunpowder with which to return the supposed salute. They were astounded to learn that a state of war existed and that the American ships had come to take the island. The next day the surrender was received by a landing party sent ashore from Charleston. With the Spanish governor and the island’s garrison of 59 as prisoners in one of the transports, Charleston then sailed to join Admiral Dewey’s fleet in Manila Bay.”

More on the seizure here, if curious.

When the American and Spanish negotiators finally signed the Treaty of Paris on 10 December, one of its provisions gave possession and control of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the United States. Likewise, CDR (later RADM) Edward D. Taussig of the gunboat USS Bennington took formal possession of Wake Island for the United States with the raising of the flag and a 21-gun salute on January 17, 1899. The only witnesses aside from her crew were seabirds. The ship arrived at Guam at the end of the month and on 1 February the US colors were raised by Taussig at the Government House there. Taussig reportedly found the abandoned Spanish positions, masonry works constructed c.1800 and armed with four or five black powder guns, in poor shape.

Back to Charleston.

Arriving at Manila on 30 June 1898, she was too late to take part in Dewey’s epic naval skirmish that left the Spanish fleet at the bottom of the harbor but did take place in the naval blockade that followed and provided naval gunfire support against first the retiring Spanish Army and then the local insurgents.

NH 55084 At Manila, Philippines, in 1898. She had convoyed the first U.S. troops to Manila in May-June of that year, capturing Guam while en route.

A recently scanned photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War, likely working up on the way to Hawaii. Note the cutlasses and flat caps. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

Ending a short naval career, she proved another first for the Navy when she became the first steel-hulled ship lost by the service after she grounded on an uncharted reef near Camiguin Island, north of Luzon on 2 November.

Wrecked beyond salvage, she was abandoned by her crew, who made camp on a nearby island, later moving on to Camiguin while the ship’s sailing launch was sent for help. Keeping over 300 safe and together for two weeks on a desolate atoll is the stuff of blockbuster movies today but has escaped the attention of Hollywood. Either way, on 12 November, the gunboat USS Helena (PG-9) arrived to rescue the shipwrecked survivors.

She is remembered in maritime art.

U.S. Navy “Second Class Cruisers – 1899” Monitor, USS Amphitrite; USS Atlanta; USS Columbia; USS Charleston, USS Minneapolis. Published by Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The remains of the ship were apparently plundered first by locals and then by groups of better equipped “treasure hunters” armed with explosives in the 1990s and little is thought to endure. The illegal salvors were looking for everything from coins stored aboard following the occupation of Manila to souvenirs bought by her crew in China.

The wreck did not end the career of Glass, who was sent back to the states to take command of the naval training station at San Francisco. By 1901 he was CIC, Pacific Squadron, and served until he was placed on the retired list in 1906 as Commandant, Pacific Naval District, leaving the service as a RADM. He died in 1908, aged 84.

Naval Base Guam has a plaque commemorating him and the Glass Breakwater in Apra Harbor is named in his honor.

The Charleston‘s name was reissued in 1905 to another cruiser (C-22) which served through the Great War, and by the Erie-class gunboat (PG-51) for WWII service. Since then, it has been carried by an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-113) and issued to PCS-Charleston (LCS-18) which is expected to commission later this year. The Navy took delivery of her in Mobile last week.

Austal’s ninth Independence Class LCS, USS Charleston (LCS 18), has completed acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico and has been delivered to the Navy. She is 98-feet longer than her cruiser namesake, though a good bit lighter and without the torpedo tubes and batteries of 6- and 8-inch guns! (Photo: Austal)

As for reefs in the Philippines, they are still claiming warships.


NH 75308 Builder’s model Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1972. Copied from the Union Iron Works scrapbook, vol. 2, page 8

Displacement 3,730 tons,
Length: 320′ (oa)
Beam: 46′
Draft: 21′ 9″ (Max)
Machinery: 7,500 IHP; 2 Horizontal, Compound engines, 2 screws
Speed: 19 Knots
Crew 300.
Armor, 3″ Shields, 3″ Deck, 2″ Conning Tower.
2 x 8″/35 Mark III
6 x 6″/30
4 x 6pdr
2 x 3pdr
2 x 1pdr

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!

Warship Wednesday, Sept 5, 2018: Der Piratenjäger

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and 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 5, 2018: Der Piratenjäger

Here we see Kaiserliche Marine’s proud, twin-funneled flusskanonenboot (river gunboat) SMS Otter on the Yangtze River in China sometime between 1910 and 1914. She was one of a kind and had an interesting backstory.

You see, long before the Germans showed up in Kiautschou Bay on 13 November 1897 and the next morning steamed into the inner harbor of Tsingtao to carve out a colony by force, the Imperial German Navy wanted a riverboat to smash roving bands of waterborne Chinese pirates and protect Teutonic interests in the region. While corvettes, sloops, and other traditional bluewater warships could muscle their way into China’s coastal cities and exercise gunboat diplomacy, you needed something much shallower to penetrate the sprawling Yangtze river system and ward off hostile junks filled with sword and musket-armed bandits.

Thus, in 1876, F. Schichau in Elbing was contracted to work up a warship like the Germans had never used before. Displacing just 130-tons (165 max) the 101-foot long gunboat could float in a gentle 5.4-feet of water. Carrying a 120mm rifle forward and an 80mm aft, she could plod along at 8-knots on her coal-fired steam plant (when not using her auxiliary sail rig) and accommodate some 43 officers and men. She was to be a littoral combat ship of the late 19th Century:

The design for the 1877 German pirate buster. She never did get her canvas

The name of this mighty river-going pirate buster? Well, the Germans were fond of animal names for gunboats and Otter just seemed to fit. Commissioned 1 April 1878, everything seemed set.

She even boasted dragons on her prow.

However, the nearly flat-bottomed Otter proved a horrible sea boat, nearly swamping on trials, and the prospect of her sailing from the Baltic to Nanking was thought to be just a drawn-out suicide. This relegated her to a career spent as an artillery tender, compass trials boat and pierside training ship that never left sheltered waters or put to sea on a cloudy day. Decommissioned in 1907, the Navy kept her around as a hulk and test ship until she was scrapped in 1926, never seeing China. Indeed, never even really leaving German coastal waters.

Sadly, this version of Otter never went to China, losing her name in 1907 to a second Otter that did.

Putting their desire for a river gunboat on ice, the Germans eventually acquired the 147-foot Shanghai-built river steamer Woochow locally and, after adding some Germans to her crew as well as a couple of four-pounders, dubbed her SMS Vorwärts (Forward) like her deployment, just in time for the Boxer Rebellion. The same was done with the smaller 120-foot coaster Tong Cheong, which became SMS Schamien. However, they did not prove very well suited to the task and purpose-built craft were urgently requested.

Therefore, two new flat-bottomed gunboats were purpose-built by Schichau on experience learned from Otter— the 157-foot SMS Vaterland and Tsingtau.

Frankes Collection vintage postcard Kaiserliche Marine German river gunboat SMS Tsingtau

Armed with an 88mm gun and a four-pounder, they were built in nine sections and shipped to the region in pieces, solving Otter‘s biggest drawback. Vaterland went via the HAPAG steamer Bisgravia in February 1904, then reassembled in Shanghai and put into service on 28 May 28, 1904. Tsingtau was carried by Prinzzess Marie to Hong Kong the previous September and was in service by Feb. 1904. Once they were operational, they replaced Vorwärts and Schamien, who were sold locally.

However, things were heating up in China. In 1905, no sooner than the two new gunboats entered service, riots broke out in Shanghai that required landing forces. International (read= European) efforts to penetrate and extend influence on the upper reaches of the Yangtze as well as the Min and Pearl river systems taxed the two boats and their crews.

Enter a new and improved Otter!

The boatyard of Joh. C. Tecklenborg, Geestemünde, laid down Germany’s purpose-built fourth (and largest) Chinese river gunboat from a development of the Vaterland/Tsingtau design. Some 177-feet overall (173 at the keel), she could float in just 3.2-feet of water. Equipped with Thornycroft-Schulz steam boilers vented through twin stacks, her two VTE steam engines allowed her to reach a blistering 15.2-knots (faster than Vaterland/Tsingtau‘s 13) despite her flat-hull, or poke around at 5-knots for an impressive 4,300 miles.

Her armament was a pair of fast-firing 5.2-cm SK L/55 Krupp guns— popguns still capable of poking smoking holes in random junks or blowing apart suspect buildings 2,000 yards from the river banks– and three big water-cooled Spandau machine guns.

The 2.05″ 5.2-cm SK L/55 gun was found on German torpedo boats and cruisers of the 1910s. Otter carried two as her main armament, with about 300 shells carried in her magazine.

To protect against small arms fire, she was given 5mm of steel armor plating on her sides and over her vitals.

Completed in 1909, Otter trailed on the Weser before she was disassembled and was shipped overseas in nine sections aboard the Leonhardt & Blumberg GmbH steamer Marie Leonhardt.

German river gunboat SMS Otter, built for China service, round about 1909 on the river Weser under national flag prior to commissioning.

Reassembled and ready for service by April 1910 after inspection by Vice Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl himself, Otter was the pride of the East Asia Squadron’s riverine operations. Over the next few years she calmly did her job and ranged the rivers of China, the biggest German on the block once you moved inland, and the fastest thing on the brown water.

Otter in China service. Note she has her Reichskriegsflagge flying

Going back to the days of the Woochow, the commander of each German river gunboat was given an operating budget to buy supplies for their ship, as they were not attached to a base. These funds were typically in Mexican silver pesos as they were the easiest to move in China (keep in mind that the famous Tsingtao brewery was started with 400,000 Mexican silver pesos in 1903). The budget also allowed for the hiring of as many as a dozen local Chinese auxiliaries to serve as stokers, pilots, cooks, and stewards besides, of course, doubling as terps. The practice was common on European (and American) river gunboats of the era. It was a quiet life, interrupted by periods of terror. Think The Sand Pebbles but with more sauerkraut and better beer.

A local aboard Otter with the ship’s mascots. via Auktionshaus Christoph Gärtner GmbH & Co. K

Enter the July 1914 crisis that turned into the guns of August.

The German Navy in Asia was far-flung in the late summer of 1914. Under the command of the Vice-Admiral Graf Spee, his East Asia Squadron proper was homeported in Tsingtao. This included the armored cruisers Scharnhorst (his flag) and her sister, Gneisenau, as well as the light cruisers Emden, Leipzig, and Nurnberg; and the four Iltis-class gunboats Iltis, Jaguar, Tiger, and Luchs. Also in the principal German colony in China was the old cruiser Cormoran, which was laid up; a torpedo boat (S90), the tug/minelayer SMS Lauting, and a few steamers quickly converting to auxiliary cruisers.

Out in the German Pacific island colonies– which the Allies would rush to capture, setting the stage for the island-hopping campaigns of 1943– were the old cruiser Geier (Vulture) and the survey ship Planet. Poking around the Pacific coast of Latin America was the cruiser Dresden, complete with a moody junior officer by the name of Wilhelm Canaris.

At Canton on the Pearl River was the flusskanonenboot Tsingtau and on the Yangtze at Nanking with Otter was Tsingtau‘s sister, SMS Vaterland.

The whole of the Kaiser’s military ashore in Asia.

With the likelihood of being able to fight it out with the large Russo-Anglo-French fleets in the Far East when the balloon went up, the good Graf Spee got going. His East Asia Squadron sans the auxiliary cruiser Cormoran and light cruiser Emden beat feat for the Atlantic (which didn’t go well) leaving the aforementioned ships to embark on commerce raiding on their own.

The four Iltis-class gunboats were left at Tsingtao and scuttled before the Japanese could capture them, although their crew and guns were used to arm auxiliary cruisers that largely made it out before the siege. The hardy torpedo boat S90 scuttled after breaking out– as she sank the Japanese mine cruiser Takachiho (3,700-tons) — and had her crew interned by the Chinese in Nanking. By March 1915, the last of von Spee’s squadron, the weathered Dresden, scuttled off windswept and remote Robinson Crusoe Island of southern Chile.

Geier went to Hawaii and was interned. SMS Tsingtau was abandoned on 2 August at Canton with a skeleton crew who later sank her in the river. On 7 October, the crew of Planet scuttled the vessel off the island of Yap to avoid capture by the Japanese.

In Nanking, things went a little differently.

In an effort to have their cake (not be destroyed by the Allies) and eat it too (not lose their ships to the Chinese), the crews of the river gunboats Vaterland and Otter were converted to non-combatants and their ships sold to a private company (although they still apparently kept their armament from what I understand). Vaterland became Landesvater and Otter became München (Munich) on 18 August. The crews, leaving their Chinese auxiliaries behind along with a handful of volunteers to keep the boats afloat, let out for Tsingtao colony as best they could.

This subterfuge of the gunboats-that-weren’t lasted until China, stretching her newfound legs of post-Imperial nationalism, drifted into the Great War on the side of the Allies. In 1917, the German unrestricted U-boat campaign saw the freighter Athos I sunk off Malta with 754 Chinese workers aboard in February (some 200,000 laborers were recruited by French and British agents in the country to work behind the lines on the Western Front.) The next month, China broke off its diplomatic ties with Germany, and on 20 March promptly requisitioned (seized) the two “civilian” gunboats in Nanking although they ran into some trouble as much of the vital equipment on both were wrecked or tossed overboard. Vaterland/Lansesvater subsequently became the Chinese gunboat Li-Sui (also seen as Li Chien) while Otter/München became Li-Tsieh (also seen in Western sources as Li Chieh, Li Jie, Lee Ju, or Lee Jeh, as transliteration is bullshit).

Both ships, reworked and rearmed, went on to serve on the Chinese Sungari flotilla along the Amur river throughout the confusion of the Russian Civil War and Allied Intervention followed by the terrible warlord era in that part of the globe that persisted through the 1920s.

During the 1929 border clash known as the Sino-Russian War, Soviet aircraft from the seaplane-carrier Amur working in tandem with Tayfun-class river monitors of the Red Amur River Flotilla apparently sank Otter/München/Li-Tsieh during this period of undeclared confrontation. Otter‘s fate was sealed in a duel with the monitor Krasnyi Vostok (alternatively credited as killed by Sverdlov on Navypedia) on 12 October at what was termed invariably the Battle of Lahasusu (Sanjiangkou), although the old German ship in Chinese hands reportedly scored hits on two Soviet gunboats. Grounded, she later was scrapped in 1932 or 1942 (again, sources vary).

As for Vaterland/Lansevater/Li-Sui, she was rebuilt several times and, captured by the Japanese in 1932, became part of the puppet Manchukuo Navy until 1945 as the Risui. The Soviets then captured her when they swept into Manchuria and she became the gunboat Pekin for a time under the Red banner– which would have been at least her 4th.

To wrap things up:

Many of the 1914 German river gunboat crewmen looking to leave managed to ship out of China on the auxiliary cruiser Cormorman, only to be interned in Guam for the duration. Others, falling in with one Kapitänleutnant Erwin von Möller, formerly the of the SMS Tsingtau, managed to make it to the Dutch East Indies where they fitted out the schooner Marboek and took her 82 days Westward to the Arabian coast, in hopes of making the Ottoman Empire. However, they were reportedly caught by Arabs and killed in the desert in March 1915.

Kapitänleutnant Erwin von Möllers party

Otter‘s prewar skipper, Korvettenkapitän Rudolph Firle, made it to the Ottoman Empire on his own by late 1914 and was put in command of the Turkish torpedo boat flotilla at Constantinople. He went on to win two Iron Crosses and two Ritterkreuz before the Armistice. His most noteworthy action came on a moonless night in 1915 when, at the conn of the Schichau-Werft-built Ottoman destroyer Muavenet-i Milliye (765-tons), he was instrumental in sinking the moored old Canopus-class pre-dreadnought HMS Goliath (14,000-tons) in Morto Bay off Cape Helles with three torpedoes. He later had escapades with the Bulgarians and in the Baltic. Leaving the Navy in 1921, he became a big wheel at Norddeutscher Lloyd and was later instrumental in the design of the 1930’s passenger liners Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Potsdam.

A fez and RK/EK-clad Firle, left, among his Ottoman Navy buddies, Yuzbasi Ali Riza (commander of torpedo boat Sultanhisar), and Binbashi Ahmed Saffed (commander of Muavenet-i Milliye) around 1916.

The Tsingtau – historischbiographisches Projekt (in German) has a list of Otter‘s final Kaiserliche Marine crew.

About the biggest reminder of Germany’s past colony in China that endures is the Tsingtao Brewery, which is now publicly traded and is China’s second largest such activity. Further, Oktoberfest is alive and well in the Qingdao region, as it is known today.

As far as I can tell, the German Navy never had another warship named Otter but did brush off “Piratenjäger” assignments, contributing ships to anti-piracy operations in the EU’s Operation Atalanta and NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield/CTF-151 in the Gulf of Aden, Guardafui Channel, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean over the past decade. In all, at least a dozen frigates and replenishment ships flying the black, red and gold Bundesdienstflagge have been mixing it up in regular deployments off the HofA since 2008.

If only they had dragons on their bows.


Otter compared to her predecessors Tsingtau and Vaterland, via the 1914 Janes

Displacement: 280 tons
Length: 177-feet overall
Beam: 28.3-feet
Draft: 3.2-feet
Engineering: 2 Thornycroft-Schulz steam boilers, 2VTE 3cylinder steam engines, 1730hp, twin stacks, twin 1.4m screws
Speed: 15.2 knots designed (listed as 14 in Janes, 13 by Navypedia)
Range: 4350@5kn on 87 tons of coal
Complement: 3 officers, 44 men, + auxiliaries
Armor: 5mm steel sides
(As built)
2 x 5.2-cm SK L/55 Krupp rapid-fire four-pdrs with 300 shell magazine
3 x MG08 machine guns
(the 1920s, Chinese service)=?

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Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and 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, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy

Here we see a mighty veteran of the Civil War, the ship–rigged screw sloop-of-war USS Monongahela with her full sail rig sucking air, believed to be around 1902 when she was in her last years as a sail training ship for apprentices at Newport.

Designed as a barkentine-rigged screw sloop with no bowsprit, she was the first U.S. Navy warship named for the river in Pennsylvania and, appropriately, was crafted in the Keystone State at Philadelphia Navy Yard during the early years of the Civil War. Armed with a 200-pounder Parrott rifle, and two 11-inch XI-inch Dahlgren shell guns, the 227-foot long three-master commissioned on 15 January 1863 and promptly sailed for points south to join the Union fleet.

USS Monongahela artwork showing her as originally built, with just three pivot guns and no bowsprit. This was her configuration until 1865. Later, she added a pair of 24-pounders as well as a matching set of 12-pounders to the list. NH 45205

Monongahela sailed to reinforce Rear Adm. David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, then found herself just eight weeks after commissioning (some shakedown cruise!) attempting to run past the fire-breathing Confederate batteries on the Mississippi at Port Hudson, La., on the night of 14/15 March 1863. It was a near-disaster and Monongahela grounded under the guns of a heavy Rebel battery, taking a heavy fire and losing six men killed and 21 wounded, including the captain.

Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s fleet engaging the rebel batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, March 14th, 1863. During this engagement, Farragut, passed the heavy batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, with USS Hartford and USS Albatross, to establish an effective blockade of the vital Red River supply lines. During this action, USS Richmond was disabled but drifted downstream, USS Monongahela was grounded but escaped, and USS Mississippi was grounded at high speed, set afire, and blew up. Hand color lithograph by Currier & Ives, possibly 1863. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-PGS-05757

The fleet came back to Port Hudson in May, with Farragut using Monongahela as his flag, and pounded the batteries once again.

Then, in July, just days after Vicksburg had fallen, the ship dueled with Confederate batteries at Donaldsonville, La, where Monongahela‘s skipper, CDR. Abner Read, was killed by shrapnel and her executive officer maimed. This led a survivor from USS Mississippi, lost at Port Hudson four months prior, to be given command of the vessel, a lieutenant by the name of George Dewey who would later see a bit of service in the Philippines.

The ship, already a much-scarred veteran after just a half-year of service, now went to assist Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Texas campaign, helping to capture Brownsville before Thanksgiving then ending the year back off Mobile, looking for blockade runners and exchanging potshots with Fort Morgan.

Speaking of which, she was in the thick of the action when Farragut charged the mouth of Mobile Bay in August 1864. There, something amazing happened. Outfitted with an iron prow ram, Monongahela was to be the Admiral’s designated tackle for the Confederate casemate ironclad Tennessee, the quarterback of the Rebel fleet in the Bay and flagship of grey coat Admiral Franklin Buchanan.

As described by Shelby Foote bis book “The Civil War, A Narrative Red River To Appomattox”:

Accordingly, when Tennessee came within range about 9.20, making hard for the {Farragut’s} flagship (Hartford), Monongahela moved ahead at full speed and struck her amidships, a heavy blow that had no effect at all on the rebel vessel but cost the sloop her iron beak, torn off along her cutwater.

From Farragut’s own report, in terse understatement:

All the vessels had passed the forts by 8: 30 o’clock, but the rebel ram Tennessee was still apparently uninjured in our rear.

Signal was at once made to all the fleet to turn again and attack the ram, not only with the guns but with orders to run her down at full speed. The Monongahela was the first that struck her, and, though she may have injured her badly, yet failed in disabling her. The Lackawanna also struck her, but ineffectually, and the flagship gave her a severe shock with her bow, and as she passed poured her whole port broadside into her, solid IX-inch shot and 13 pounds of powder, at a distance of not more than 12 feet. The ironclads were closing upon her and the Hartford and the rest of the fleet were bearing down upon her when, at 10 a. m., she surrendered. The rest of the rebel fleet, viz, Morgan and Gaines, succeeded in getting back under the protection of the guns of Fort Morgan.

This terminated the action of the day.

Admiral Buchanan sent me his sword, being himself badly wounded with a compound fracture of the leg, which it is supposed will have to be amputated.

This act– ramming a well-armored Rebel ironclad with a steam sloop at full speed at the start of a surface engagement while simultaneously brushing off the threat of mines and shore bombardment– was the stuff of legend and was well-remembered in naval lore, regardless of the tactical impact it had on the engagement. At the time, Leslie’s reported the blow caused “the huge rebel monster to reel like a drunken man.”

Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Woodcut by Roberts, circa 1866, entitled Capture of the Ram Tennessee by Farragut (Mobile Bay). It depicts CSS Tennessee being rammed by a U.S. Navy steam sloop, either USS Monongahela or USS Lackawanna. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 65707

Painting by Lieutenant Colonel Edmund S. Sayer, USMC (Retired), December 1938, depicting USS Monongahela ramming CSS Tennessee during the battle. The artist composed this painting from Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s battle plans. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 42397

From Monongahela later came a boarding party to swarm over the seized Tennessee. That party included one Ensign (later RADM) Purnell Frederick Harrington of Dover, Delaware, who picked up a Leech & Rigdon .36 Colt Navy clone from the enemy ship.

Few Georgia-made Leech & Rigdon’s were made (less than 1,500 guns on a Confederate government contract) and fewer survive today. This one has a silver oval plaque inlaid in the right grip and engraved in block letters and flowing script: “Ensign P. Fred Harrington U.S. Navy, USS Monongahela, Mobile Bay Alabama Friday, Aug 5th, 1864 Captured with the Rebel Ironclad Tennessee.” It sold at auction via Cowan for $47K in 2016.

Monongahela on the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Across the top is written “Port Hudson. Donaldsonville. Texas Coast. Mobile” while the 691-ton Unadilla-class gunboat USS Winona (5 guns) is shown to the left and the 1000-ton ironclad river gunboat USS Essex (6 guns) to the right of the frame. From Philbrick collection, Kittery Maine. Catalog #: NH 995

After receiving bow repairs, Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf Squadron until the end of the Civil War and then received an assignment to the West Indies Squadron.

There, according to DANFS, she soon ran into another sort of battle– one with Poseidon.

The warship had the unique experience of being landed high and dry almost a mile inland from the shoreline when a wave generated by an underwater earthquake struck Frederiksted, St. Croix, on 18 November 1867. The tsunami generated a roughly 20-foot high wall of water that wrecked the harbor, destroying buildings and shattering many small boats. The water also carried the screw sloop over the beach, warehouses, and streets where she came to rest on an even keel some distance from the water. She lost not a soul, though the town suffered five people drowned. A working party of mechanics from New York Navy Yard under Naval Constructor Thomas Davidson succeeded in refloating the ship on 11 May 1868, following a four-month endeavor. Monongahela was towed to New York and thence Portsmouth where she was slowly repaired, finally departing in 1873 to join the South Atlantic Station.

USS Monongahela stranded at Frederiksted, St. Croix, the Virgin Islands on 4 March 1868 after an unsuccessful launching attempt. She had been washed ashore by a tidal wave on 18 November 1867 and was finally refloated on 11 May 1868. Monongahela had received a bowsprit in her 1865 refit but retains her original straight bow. NH 45208

After a decade of service as a training ship on both the East and West Coast, our hardy warship was stripped of her guns (although pictures show what appear to be at least one muzzle-loading Dahlgren on her deck as late as 1891), and, with her machinery removed and rig scaled back, was converted to a floating supply ship and tender at California’s Mare Island Navy Yard.

USS Monongahela off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in July 1884, following conversion to a sailing storeship. USS Mohican (1885-1922) is fitting out in the left background, with Mare Island’s distinctive large crane beyond. NH 45209

In 1890, the seagoing storeship was re-cast as a ship-rigged training ship and dispatched to Newport Station, then a key training base. Leaving Mare Island after her period in doldrums, she rounded Cape Horn and made New York in just 106 days on sail alone– a feat for any windjammer. Once on the East Coast, she began her third career, that of a school ship.

USS Monongahela (photographed in port, following her 1890-91 conversion to a ship-rigged training ship. NH 60266

After a decade without guns, the old warrior was given a training battery that consisted of a mix of 6-pounder (57mm) breechloaders, multi-barrel 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, and various small arms.

A book by Frank Child of Newport, Rhode Island, entitled “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” was published in 1892, and froze both the ship and her students in time. As such, they show the Victorian-era naval training establishment well, to include modern weapons such as rapid-fire guns, blended with traditional marlinspike seamanship and the use of cutlasses.

USS Monongahela (1863-1908), departing Newport, Rhode Island Caption: For Europe, 23 June 1891. Photographed by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45881

Apprentices drill at furling topsail and mainsail, off Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45894

“Morse code of signaling.” Apprentices practice semaphore signaling, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Note: 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon behind these boys NH 45888

Apprentices in blues drill with a 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon, circa 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45891

“Ready.” Apprentices of the Fourth Division at small arms drill, on board USS MONONGAHELA (1863-1908), at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Note the .45-70 caliber M1879/80/81 Winchester-Hotchkiss rifles. These were the first detachable-mag bolt-action rifles the Navy would adopt, buying some 2,500 of them. They were later replaced by the M1885 Remington-Lee and the M1895 Lee rifle. Further, note what seems to be a Civil War-era Dahlgren shell gun to the far right of the image. While you could say it was quaint, it should be noted that legacy ships such as the training sloop USS Enterprise still had working IX-inch Dahlgren pivot guns at the same time and would keep them until 1910! Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45886

Apprentices in winter blues at gun drill on board, circa 1891. Gun is a six-pounder rapid-fire Hotchkiss model. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport NH 45890

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices on board USS Monongahela at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Keep in mind the Navy retained cutlasses in ship’s stores through WWII. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

On 15 May 1894, she was attached to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as the school’s practice ship, carrying Mids on lengthy summer cruises to the Caribbean and Europe for the next half-decade (taking a break to serve as an auxillary patrol ship on the East Coast during the Spanish-American War) before being sent back to Newport to resume her old job teaching apprentices until 1904.

Sometime after 1895 (likely during the aformentioned SpanAm service) she evidently picked up at least one modern 3″/50 caliber gun. More on that later.

USS MONONGAHELA, practice ship for the Naval Academy from 1894-97, is seen tied up to the Academy wharf. USS Newport (PG-12) practice ship in 1897, can also be seen in the background. Description: Courtesy of Rear Admiral Edgar H. Batcheller, USN, Charleston South Carolina, 1969 NH 68422

Under sail, with starboard studding sails spread in a very light wind, while serving as U.S. Naval Academy Practice Ship in 1894-99. Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89732

In 1902 she was still beautiful, as the below postcard series shows.

19-N-12118 USS Monongahela, starboard stern, at sea,

19-N-6801 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12112 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12114 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12119 USS Monongahela, port view,

The old warship was dispatched in her 41st year to the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she was to serve as station ship at the primitive coaling base. There, she was engulfed in a fire on a cool spring night in March 1908 while anchored between South Toro Cay and Grenadillo Point. While the ship was afire, it was towed to the harbor area on the south side of Deer Point, near Officer’s Landing.

“The ship was towed to the harbor because it was easier to try and fight the fire,” explained CDR Jeff Johnston, public works officer for GITMO’s Naval Station in a 2009 article. “The effort was unsuccessful, and the ship sank in only about 20 feet of water.”

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Remains of the USS MONONGAHELA, which had been destroyed by fire on March 17, 1908. Probably photographed during the early “teens”. Courtesy of Carter Rila, 1986. NH 100938

One of the few items salvaged from the charred wreck was a 3″/50 caliber deck gun, which had become warped and developed a downward drop of the barrel. Dubbed “Ole Droopy,” it was installed on Deer Point, directly over the remains of the old Civil War vet.

Ole Droopy was warped in the fire that destroyed the USS Monongahela in 1908, then later salvaged and put on display. This is how the venerable gun appeared in 1915. I believe– but am open to debate on this– that it is an early Mark 2 gun.

Ole Droopy stood sentinel over the sunken remains of the USS Monongahela at Deer Point before it was moved in 1942. The stone slab beneath the gun remains in the backyard of a private residence today. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy) UNCLASSIFIED – Cleared for public release. For additional information contact JTF Guantanamo PAO 011-5399-3589; DSN 660-3589

In 1942, the gun was moved to a downtown location, where it remained until 1988 when it “disappeared” rumored to be interred unceremoniously in a base landfill condemned by the base commander and public works officer who “were not pleased with the undignified look of the warped, downward pointing deck gun. To some young Sailors and Marines, it became the appendage of off-color jokes and references.”

Ole Droopy is shown on a postcard in front of the base library in the 1950s.

Other than the vintage naval rifle, which has now marched off into naval lore of her own, Monongahela was commemorated in the fleet itself by two vessels that went on to carry her proud name– a WWII-era Kennebec-class oiler (AO-42) that picked up a dozen battle stars before she was struck in 1959 and a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler (AO-178) commissioned from 1981 to 1999.

Nonetheless, the original hard charger of Port Gibson and Brownsville, home to Dewey and Farragut, survivor of a beef with the king of the sea and schoolmaster to the fleet, Monongahela is well-remembered in maritime art, and Mids continue to see her every day.

Painting by Gordon Grant, showing the ship during her days as Naval Academy Training Ship. “U.S.S. MONONGAHELA, Civil War Veteran and famous Midshipmen’s Practice Cruise Ship.” This screened print appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1944. Catalog #: NH 45992-KN

USS Monongahela (1863-1908) mural by Howard B. French, in Memorial Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, depicting Monongahela during her days at the Naval Academy Practice Ship, 1894-99. The mural was donated to the Naval Academy by Mrs. Louis M. Nulton. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43576-KN

Further, her plans are in the National Archives.


Displacement:2,078 long tons (2,111 t)
Length: 227 ft
Beam: 38 ft
Draft: 17 ft 6 in
Propulsion: Steam engine (until 1883)
Sail plan: Sloop sails, ship after 1890
Speed: 8.5 knots as designed
1 × 200-pounder Parrott rifle
2 × XI-inch Dahlgren smoothbores
2 × 24-pounder guns
2 × 12-pounder guns
(Disarmed 1883-1890, although may have kept a few old cannon)
(After 1890)
A mix of 3-inch and 6-pdr breechloaders, 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, small arms

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.

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Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and 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, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

(Photos: Karlskronavarvet/Marinmuseum)

Here we see a colorized photo of the Swedish pansarskepp HSvMS Dristigheten (Swedish= “The Boldness”) passing under the iconic Levensau High Bridge in Germany’s Kiel Canal during a visit to that country, between 1912 and 1927.

Pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”), or pansarbats, were a peculiar design that was popular in the Baltic from about 1900-45. These short, shallow-draft ships could hug the coastline and hide from larger capital ships while carrying big enough guns to be able to brutally bring the pain to any landing ship escorted by a shallow draft light cruiser or destroyer approaching from offshore. Sweden had kept out of wars since Napoleon was around, but she was still very wary of not only Russian and German but also British designs on the Baltic. With her neutrality only as good as the ships that could protect it, the country built a series of 15 coastal defense vessels, or pansarskepps, from 1886-1918.

Sometimes referred to as battleships, or cruisers, these warships were really neither. Nor were they destroyers.

They were pansarskepps.

Sandwiched roughly in the middle of these vessels was Dristigheten, preceded by the trio of Svea-class vessels (3,200-tons, 2×10-inch guns) and a matching threesome of Oden-class ships (3,445-tons, 2×10-inch guns), while she was followed by eight more advanced Aran, Oscar II, and Sverige-class ships.

A standalone vessel, Dristigheten was laid down at Lindholmen, Goteborg in October 1898 just after the world was amazed by the recent steel navy combat that was the Spanish-American War. While most of Sweden’s pocket battleships carried names drawn from Norse mythology or the country’s royal family, Dristigheten is a traditional Swedish warship name going back to the 18th Century where it was carried by a 64-gun ship whose figurehead is preserved to this day.

Some 3,600-tons, she was just 292-feet overall or about the size of small frigate these days. However, she had as much as 247mm (that’s pushing 10-inches) of good (for the time) Harvey nickel-steel armor and a pair of domestically-produced 209mm/43cal M1898 naval rifles.

One of those pretty 209mm/43s. Dristigheten, the first to mount such guns in the Swedish Navy, carried one forward and one aft. She was also the first Swedish naval ship to use water tube boilers.

These 8.3-inch guns, as noted by the 1914 Janes, could fire a 275-pound AP shell on a blend of special Bofors-made nitro-compound that was capable of penetrating 9.5-inches of armor at 3,000 yards. A half-dozen smaller 152mm guns were the secondary battery. A dozen 6-pdr and 1-pdr popguns would ward off torpedo boats. As such, she was the first Swedish capital ship with only quick-fire artillery. A pair of submerged torpedo tubes added to the party favors.

Commissioning 5 September 1901, Dristigheten was a happy ship and was inspected on several occasions by King Oscar II of Sweden, a septuagenarian who had joined his country’s navy at age 11.

The picture shows four Swedish armored ships Göta, Wasa, Äran, Dristigheten (without her later tripod foremast which was fitted in 1912) and collier Stockholm, which anchors during the winter season in Karlskrona’s naval harbor. Ships are flagged for King Oscar II’s birthday on January 21, 1903. The boats frozen solid in the ice and people can be seen moving around on the pack. (2289×1213)

1899 impression of the Swedish fleet with several Swedish pansarbats featured including #2. ODEN (1896) #3. THOR (1898) #4. NIORD (1898) and #5. DRISTIGHETEN (1900), then under construction. Via Karlskronavarvet 11788 (2778×728)

For a quarter-century, Dristigheten steamed around European waters, showing the flag, training naval cadets and visiting friends (Sweden knew nothing but friends, although some were friendlier than others).

Swedish coast defense ship DRISTIGHETEN, note the early single foremast she carried from 1900-1912

Postcard of the Swedish battleship HMS Dristigheten in Algiers, 1906

Dristigheten, 1920, Bordeaux. Note the tripod foremast, added in 1912.

The non-colorised version of the Kiel photo (Marinmuseum Fo113541A)

While the Baltic would freeze over, she would traditionally voyage on a long-haul winter cruise (in times of peace) to the Mediterranean, visiting Southern Europe and North Africa. Malta, Tangier, Vigo, Salonika, Suda Bay, Toulon, Bizerte, and Smyrna all saw the big Swede on a semi-regular basis.

Janes listed her as a “battleship” in 1902, 1914, and 1919. A 3,600-ton battleship.

During WWI, she, along with the rest of the pansarbats, kept a cautious neutrality in Swedish waters between the warring Allies (composed of the Tsar’s Baltic fleet and the occasional British submarine) and German surface and untersee units.

Once the war ended, the days of these plucky ships were numbered, with the goal of bringing more modern cruisers and destroyers online while keeping a few of the newer pansarbats around as a strategic reserve.

As such, in 1927 Dristigheten was refitted as a seaplane carrier (flygmoderfaryget.) With this conversion, she lost her big guns and torpedo tubes, trading them in for a few smaller caliber AAAs and the capability to handle a few floatplanes as well as tend small craft such as patrol boats and coastal gunboats. Also gone was her aft mast. Her magazine space was largely converted to avgas bunkerage.

The Swedish Navy’s Marinens Flygväsende (MFV) at the time flew a host of early Friedrichshafen and Hansa models with Dristigheten lifting these recon seaplanes from her deck to take off on the water and retrieving them from the drink on their return. In her later years, she carried Heinkel HD 16/19s

She continued her service as a seaplane tender through WWII, during which she was augmented with a dozen additional AAAs and served as a key mothership for coastal patrol/artillery units.

Dristigheten in Karlskrona WWII note camo. Note the 40mm Bofors mounts under weather protection.

Decommissioning 13 June 1947 after a solid half-century on the King’s naval list, Dristigheten was converted to a training hulk and target ship, continuing to serve for another 13 years, testing Sweden’s new weapons, keeping the fleet’s existing guns in action, and teaching fresh classes of sailors in damage control.

In 1960, the testing reached a tipping point and she sank.

Raised, she was scrapped in 1961, outliving most of her contemporaries.

Shown in the Oscarsdockan in Karlskrona

As for her contemporaries, she outlived almost all of them. For the record, the last of the pansarskepp-era mini-battleships, HSvMS Gustav V, was used as a training hulk and pier side until 1970 when she was scrapped.

Dristigheten is remembered extensively in maritime art.

Herman Gustav af Sillen Swedish, (1857–1908) “Dristigheten under stridsskjutning 1903.”

Pansarbat Dristigheten by Axel A. Fahlkrantz


Displacement: 3,600 tons
Length: 292 ft overall
Beam: 48 ft 6 in
Draught: 16 ft 0
Propulsion: Steam triple-expansion engines, 2 screws, 8 Yarrow boilers, 5,570 shp
Speed: 16.8 kn
Range: 2,040 nmi at 10 kn on 310 tons coal. 400 tons maximum coal would allow for “6 days at full speed.”
Complement: 262 (1901) up to 400 as tender
2 x 209 mm/44cal. Bofors 21 cm M/98
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
10 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs (Janes also lists a pair of 1-pdrs)
2 × 457 mm submerged torpedo tubes. Whitehead torpedoes (1901-1917) Karlskrona torpedoes (1917-22)
2 x 210 mm/44cal. Bofors M/1898
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
8 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/16
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/19
4 x 75mm/60cal. Bofors lvk M/26-28 AAA
2 x 40mm/56cal. Bofors lvk M/36 AAA
4 x 8 mm/75,8cal. lvksp M/36 MGs
Armor: Harvey Nickel: 247mm in the conning tower, 6-8 inches main belt, barbettes, and turrets; 4-inches casemates, 2-inches deck.
Aircraft carried (1927-47) : 2-4

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, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and 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, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photograph

Here we see, behind the striking young lady, is the Argo-class 165-foot (B) submarine chaser/cutter Nemesis (WPC-111) of the U.S. Coast Guard, taken during the 1953 Gasparilla Festival in Tampa. Nemesis was just under 20 at the time and had an interesting life both prior to and after this image was snapped.

The USCG’s two-dozen 165-footers were built during the early-1930s and they proved successful in WWII, with two sinking U-boats. Based on the earlier USCGC Tallapoosa (WPG-52), the 165-foot class of cutters was divided into two groups, the first designed primarily for derelict destruction and SAR, the second for Prohibition bootlegger busting:

The first batch, the six Class A vessels, were named after Native American tribes– Algonquin, Comanche, Escanaba, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Tahoma— and had a 36-foot beam, a 13.5-foot maximum draft, a sedate speed of 13 knots, and a displacement of 1,005 tons. We’ve covered a couple of this class of “beefy” 165s before to include USCGC Mohawk and cannot talk these hardy boats up enough. Tragically, one of these, USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77), was lost after encountering a U-boat or mine in 1943 with only two survivors.

The more beefy 165-foot (A) class cutters (Coast Guard Collection) 

The follow-on 18 WPCs in Class B were named after Greek mythos– Argo, Ariadne, Atalanta, Aurora, Calypso, Cyane, Daphne, Dione, Galatea, Hermes, Icarus, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus, Thetis, Triton, and Electra. They were much lighter at 337-tons, narrower with a 25-foot beam, could float in under 10-feet of water (the designed draft was ~7ft.) and, on their suite of direct reversible GM-made Winton diesels, could touch 16 knots while keeping open the possibility of a 6,400nm range if poking around at a much lower speed.

Coast Guard Cutter Icarus, an example of the 165 (B)s, drawn in profile. Note the short, twin stacks. (Coast Guard Collection)

They were built between 1931 and 1934 at a series of five small commercial yards and were designed as patrol vessels. Their normal armament consisted of a dated 3-inch/23 caliber Mk 7 gun and two 37mm Mk. 4 1-pounders. Due to their designed role in busting up Rum Row, their small arms locker included a few Thompson M1921 sub guns, M1911s and a number of Springfield 1903s for good measure.

“Coast Guard planes from the Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, greeting new 165-foot patrol boat PANDORA arrival December 6, 1934, to take station.” Top to bottom Flying Boat ACAMAR, Amphibian SIRIUS and Flying Boat A. As you note, the slimmer twin-funnel 165-foot (B) class sub chasers had a much different profile

The subject of our tale, Nemesis (can you get a better name for a warship?), was ordered for $258,000 from Marietta Manufacturing Co. at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the Ohio River, alongside her sisters Nike and Triton, in 1931. All three commissioned the same day– 7 July 1934– ironically some six months after Prohibition ended.

Nemesis and her 44-man crew (5 officers, 39 enlisted) set sail for St. Petersburg, Florida, where they would consider home for the rest of her (peacetime) career with the Coast Guard.

USS Trenton postal cover welcoming Nemesis to Ste Pte

With tensions ramping up prior to the U.S entry to WWII, several East Coast 165s, to include Algonquin, Comanche, Galatea, Pandora, Thetis, and Triton, were on duty with the Navy after 1 July 1941 to assist with the Neutrality Patrol. The rest would follow immediately after Pearl Harbor. Armed with hastily-installed depth charge racks and a thrower and given a couple of Lewis guns for added muscle, they went looking for U-boats as the defenders of the Eastern Sea Frontier.

Nemesis’s sister, USCGC Argo on patrol displaying World War II armament and haze gray paint scheme. Note the 3″/50 forward.

As noted by DANFS:

The Gulf Sea Frontier, which included the Florida and Gulf coasts and parts of the Bahamas and Cuba, was defended in only rudimentary fashion during the early months of the war. Initial defenses consisted of the three Coast Guard cutters Nemesis, Nike, and Vigilant, together with nineteen unarmed Coast Guard aircraft and fourteen lightly armed Army aircraft.

In late February 1942 four ships were torpedoed in four days, and in May 41 vessels were sent to the bottom by hostile submarine action off the Florida coast and in the Gulf. As sinkings mounted alarmingly in the Gulf Sea Frontier waters, American defensive strength in the area began to increase rapidly and overwhelmingly.

Sister Icarus (WPC-110) in May 1942 depth-charged U-352, sinking the submarine off the North Carolina coast and taking aboard 33 of her survivors. Thetis (WPC-115) scratched U-157 north of Havana just a few weeks later. Meanwhile, at the same time, Nike (WPC-112) attacked and “likely sank” a surfaced U-boat off Florida’s Jupiter lighthouse then rescued 19 from a torpedoed Panamanian freighter.

Operating in the 7th Naval District on coastal patrol and convoy escort duty throughout the conflict, Nemesis rescued 28 from the Mexican tanker Faja De Oro, torpedoed by U-106 off Key West in May 1942, an attack that helped spark Mexico’s entry into the War against Germany.

“Remember the 13th of May”, referring to a Mexican oil tanker, Faja De Oro, sunk off the coast of Florida by a German submarine. Nemesis saved her crew. Mexico declared war on the Axis Powers in support of the Allies on 22 May and, along with Brazil, was the only Latin American country to send their sons to fight overseas during World War II– notably the flyers of Escuadrón 201 who took U.S.-supplied P-47s to the Philippines as part of the Fifth Air Force, flying 785 combat sorties.

The next month, Nemesis again had to pluck men from the Florida Straits. This time 27 men from the American-flagged SS Suwied, sank by U-107 on her way from Mobile to British Guyana.

Our cutter did not manage to bag a U-boat on her own, although she reported contacts on several occasions and dropped a spread several times. Between February and August 1942 she launched attacks on submarine contacts on at least five different occasions.

By 1944, Nemesis, like the rest of her class, had their armament replaced by two 3″/50 guns, two 20mm Oerlikons, 2 Mousetrap ASW throwers as well as more advanced depth charges and throwers. Nemesis was also one of just five of her class that carried SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar, sensors that the humble 165s were never designed for.

In 1945, the Navy selected six patrol vessels as its “Surrender Group” in the 1st Naval District including the three up-armed 165-foot Coast Guard cutters– Dione, Nemesis, and Argo. These ships helped process the surrender of at least five German submarines, U-234, U-805, U-873, U-1228, and U-858. Notably, U-234 was packed with sensitive cargo to include senior German officers and 1,200 pounds of uranium.

Kodachrome of German Submarine U-805 after surrendering to the U.S. Navy off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 16 May 1945. National Archives. Nemesis was part of the Navy’s “Surrender Group” handling these boats.

Nemesis received one battle star for her World War II service and chopped back to the USCG in 1946.

Postwar, Nemesis picked up her white scheme and, losing some of her depth charges, went back to St. Pete.

Closer to her festival picture at the beginning of the post. Note the extensive awnings. South Fla gets warm about 10 months a year. Also, note the 3″/50

By 1953, most of her class had been decommissioned with only Ariadne, Aurora, Dione, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus and Triton still on active duty. On the East Coast, Triton was stationed in Key West and Nemesis was in St. Pete. Nike was in Gulfport, MS.

Decommissioned after a busy 30-year career on 20 November 1964, Nemesis was sold on 9 February 1966 in a public auction, going to Auto Marine Engineers of Miami who parted her out over the years. (One of her masts could be on the late PBS&J Corporation founder Howard Malvern “Budd” Post’s Waterside estate.)

Renamed Livingston’s Landing, her hulk was rebuilt by 1979 to look like a triple-decker African steamer and used as a floating restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, picking up the name Ancient Mariner in 1981 while performing the same job. She was docked just west of where Hyde Park Market used to be, across from jail.

Sadly, “the floating eatery was closed in 1986 by health officials as the source of a massive outbreak of infectious hepatitis” that sickened more than 80.

With nothing else going for her, the once-proud vessel was acquired at public auction, “purchased by the South Florida Divers Club of Hollywood for $6,000 and donated to Broward County’s artificial reef program. In June of 1991, the Nemesis, now called Ancient Mariner, was sunk as an artificial reef off Deerfield Beach.”

She is a popular dive site today resting just 50-70 feet deep. “A large Goliath Grouper guards the wreckage and can usually be found in the wheelhouse.”

Of her sisters, USCGC Ariadne (WPC-101), the last in federal service, was decommissioned 23 Dec. 1968 and sold for scrap the next year. Some went on to overseas service, including USCGC Galatea, Thetis, and Icarus, who remained afloat into the late 1980s with the Dominican Republic’s Navy. At least five of the class were bought by the Circle Line of NYC and converted to local passenger ferry work around the five boroughs. Daphne is thought to be somewhere in Mexican waters as a tug.

Of the 24 various 165s that served in the Coast Guard and Navy across a span of almost a half century, just one, like Nemesis a B-model, remains in some sort of confirmed service.

Commissioned as USCGC Electra (WPC-187) in 1934, she was transferred to the US Navy prior to WWII and renamed USS Potomac (AG-25), serving as FDR’s Presidential Yacht for a decade. Struck from the Navy List in 1946, she was saved in 1980 and is currently open to the public in Oakland.

Ex-USS Potomac (AG-25) moored at her berth, the FDR pier, at Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. in 2008. Still floating in less than 7ft of water, as designed. Photos by Al Riel USS John Rogers.Via Navsource

As for the Coast Guard, they are increasingly recycling the old names of the classic 165s for their new class of 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters so it is possible that Nemesis will pop back up. Further, the service retains a number of old bells from the 165s as artifacts, such as from USCGC Comanche, below, which means the bell from Nemesis could very well be ashore somewhere on a Coast Guard base.


334 long tons (339 t) trial
1945: 350 tons
160 ft, 9 in waterline
165 ft. overall
Beam: 23 ft 9 in
Draft: 7 ft 8 in as designed, (1945): 10 ft
2 × Winton Model 158 6-cylinder diesel engines, 670 hp (500 kW) each
two shafts with 3-bladed screws
Fuel: 7,700 gals of diesel oil
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,000 nautical miles at 11 knots; 6,400 @6kts on one diesel.
44 officers and men as designed
1945: 75 officers and men
Sensors: (1945) SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar
1 × 3-inch /23 caliber gun
2 × 37mm one-pounders
Wartime (1945):
2 × 3-inch / 50 cal guns
2 × 20 mm guns
2 × Y-guns
2 × depth charge tracks
2 × Mousetrap anti-submarine rockets

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.

Don’t count on that Tsushima cryptocurrency just yet

The stern plate of Donskoy, via the Shinil Group, who may be one of the biggest hoaxsters of the 21st century.

It increasingly looks like the shadowy group that intended to salvage the “billions” from the Tsar’s lost semi-armored frigate Dmitriy Donskoy, which made headlines last month, was more flash in the pan than gold in the bank.

From Gizmodo:

More bizarre twists and outrageous claims kept coming, culminating in a July 26 press conference in which company President Choi Yong-seok told reporters, “there’s no way for us to figure out whether there would be gold coins or bars on the Donskoi,” and that the company’s previous claims were based on speculation and media reports. He also said he’d only become president a few hours before the conference and the other members of leadership had resigned.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that treasure hunters have promised big bucks from the Tsar’s doomed 2nd Pacific Squadron only to come up short. In 1980, Japanese salvors located the armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov and pulled up an unspecified amount of gold bullion, platinum ingots, and British gold sovereigns– over the howls of the Soviets. The ship reportedly carried 16 platinum bars, 48 gold bars and about 5,000 pounds of British gold coins. The funny thing is– the ingots shown off in 1980 were later found to be made out of lead.

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