Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Figure 1: USS Wasp’s (CV-7) starboard bow, December 27, 1940. Image #80-G-463431. Courtesy National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Lt. David McCampbell, Landing Signal Officer, bringing in planes aboard USS Wasp (CV-7) circa late 1941 or early 1942. McCampbell later became the Navy's top-scoring "ace" in World War II. Behind him is the Assistant Landing Signal Officer, Ensign George E. "Doc" Savage. In the catwalk in the lower center are Len Ford (enlisted man) and Lt. Hawley Russell. Caption details were provided by Captain David McCampbell, USN (Ret.), in 1982. Official U.S. Navy photo, now in the collection of the National Archives. Image #80-G-K-687(Color). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Wasp (CV-7) off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, on 8 January 1942, following overhaul. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives (# 19-N-27320). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: A Spitfire Mk.Vc being loaded aboard USS Wasp (CV-7) at Port Glasgow, Scotland, in April 1942, at the start of Operation Calender. Note some F4F Wildcat fighters parked on deck, with their wings folded—Wasp carried twelve Wildcats during the two aircraft ferrying missions she carried out with the Royal Navy to augment the dwindling defenses of Malta (Operation Calender, in April, and Operation Bowery, in May 1942). USN photo, taken from “Skies of Fire,” by Alfred Price. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: A Spitfire Mk.Vc about to start its run off USS Wasp. The aircraft that had taken off ahead of it is visible above its starboard wing. Already the lift is on its way down to the hangar to pick up the next fighter. USN photo, taken from “Skies of Fire,” by Alfred Price. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Neg No. OCR-11886 — US Navy's aircraft carrier Wasp ferries British aircraft to Malta. One of the first photographs showing the carrier en route to the British Mediterranean Stronghold. Signalman on the bridge of the Wasp on the alert for any signals from escort ships of approaching enemy ships or planes. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Wasp (CV-7) entering Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 26 May 1942. An escorting destroyer is in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-12240). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Wasp (CV-7) in port in June 1942, with a motor launch coming alongside. Probably taken in San Diego Harbor, California. Planes on deck, some with wings folded, include SB2U scout bombers and F4F-4 fighters. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-447). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Wasp (CV-7) burning and listing after she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-19, on 15 September 1942, while operating in the southwestern Pacific in support of forces on Guadalcanal. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-16331). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: USS O’Brien (DD-415) is torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-19 during the Guadalcanal Campaign, 15 September 1942. USS Wasp (CV-7), torpedoed a few minutes earlier, is burning in the left distance. O'Brien was hit in the extreme bow, but "whipping" from the torpedo explosion caused serious damage to her hull amidships, leading to her loss on 19 October 1942, while she was en route back to the United States for repairs. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-457818). Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Wasp (CV-7) was a 14,700-ton aircraft carrier that was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company at Quincy, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on 25 April 1940. Wasp was approximately 741 feet long and 80 feet wide, had a top speed of 29.5 knots, and had a crew of 2,367 officers and men. The ship was armed with eight 5-inch guns, 16 1.1-inch guns, 16 .50-caliber machine guns, and carried roughly 80 aircraft.
Wasp spent the first two years of her life in the Atlantic, taking part in naval exercises, neutrality enforcement patrols, and various other escort duties. In April and May 1942, Wasp assisted the British Home Fleet in the North Atlantic and twice entered the Mediterranean to deliver vital Royal Air Force aircraft to the besieged island of Malta.
Wasp then was sent to the Pacific in June 1942 to reinforce US Naval forces after the massive carrier battles at Coral Sea and Midway. Wasp was also sent there to prepare for offensive operations in the South Pacific. In early August 1942, she participated in the invasion of Guadalcanal. Wasp then fought desperately to help hold that vital island in the face of determined Japanese efforts to recapture it.
But on 15 September 1942, Wasp’s luck ran out. While steaming to the south of Guadalcanal, the carrier was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-19. Wasp was hit by two torpedoes, which, unfortunately, exploded next to the ship’s gas tanks and magazines. Huge, fiery blasts ripped through the forward part of the ship. The intense fires set off enormous amounts of ammunition, bombs, and gasoline. The water mains located in the forward part of the ship were destroyed because of the explosions, making it impossible to fight the spreading flames. Wasp began listing to starboard between 10 and 15 degrees as the ship gradually came to a halt. With fires spreading rapidly throughout the ship and with the carrier’s list increasing, Wasp’s skipper, the famous Captain Forrest P. Sherman, realized that the situation was hopeless. After consulting with his executive officer, Commander Fred C. Dickey, and with the uncontrollable fires quickly spreading towards the rear of the carrier, Captain Sherman saw that the only option left was to abandon ship. At 1520, the order was given and all of the badly injured men were lowered into rafts or rubber boats. The men had to leave from the aft section of the ship because the fires were too intense at the forward end. The whole process was very orderly and there was no panic. Many men, though, refused to leave the ship until all of the wounded had made it off. But after 40 minutes, at 1600, almost everyone was off the ship. Everyone that is, except Captain Sherman. He made sure no one was left on deck, in the gun galleries, or in the aft aircraft hangers. Once he was convinced everyone had left, he slid down one of the lifelines on the fantail and lowered himself into the sea, the last man to leave the stricken carrier.
The ships that were escorting Wasp rescued 1,946 members of her crew, including Captain Sherman. Although burning fiercely from stem to stern, Wasp was built so well that she still refused to go down. The destroyer USS Lansdowne (DD-486) was given the task of firing five torpedoes into the sinking ship. Three of them hit and still Wasp did not sink. For a while, the carrier was literally a burning torch upon the water. Eventually, though, the massive damage sustained by the ship finally took its toll. At 2100, Wasp finally slid beneath the waves bow first.
USS Wasp received two battle stars for her service during World War II. The interesting thing about this ship was that it proved, once again, that carriers could sustain an amazing amount of punishment and still remain afloat. It basically took five torpedoes (two Japanese and three American) to finally sink Wasp, even after the ship was totally devastated by massive fires. American aircraft carriers were built tough and could take a beating, qualities that would serve them well in the coming months of the Pacific war.
Posted by Remo at 5:38 AM
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Figure 1: USS Buchanan (DD-131) at Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, 18 May 1936. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Buchanan (DD-131) underway on 26 February 1919. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Buchanan (DD-131) in port, probably at San Diego, California, circa the early 1920s. Note that the after 4"/50 gun is still mounted on her fantail. Also note the pattern of the numeral "3" painted on her bow. Courtesy of ESKC Joseph L. Aguillard, USNR, 1969. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Destroyers in the Upper Chambers, Gatun Locks, during the Pacific Fleet's passage through the Panama Canal, 24 July 1919. Those present are: USS Wickes (Destroyer # 75) and USS Yarnall (Destroyer # 143), both at left; USS Philip (Destroyer # 76), USS Buchanan (Destroyer # 131) and USS Elliot (Destroyer # 146), left to right in the center group; USS Boggs (Destroyer # 136), USS Dent (Destroyer # 116) and USS Waters (Destroyer # 115), left to right in the right center group. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Aaron Ward (DD-132) photographed during the early 1920s, probably off the U.S. West Coast. USS Buchanan (DD-131) is at left. Courtesy of ESKC Joseph L. Aguillard, USNR, 1969. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: View of British sailors learning about their new ships, a part of the Lend-Lease agreement in September 1940. In the background are the USS Buchnanan (DD-131) and the USS Crowninshield (DD-134). Courtesy Tom Kerman. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: HMS Castleton (ex-USS Aaron Ward, DD-132) and HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131) alongside in Devonport Dockyard after arriving from the USA in September 1940. Courtesy Bob Hibbert. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131) under refit prior to the St. Nazaire raid. The bridge has been stripped, armoured, and has some of the splinter matting in place. The forward 4in/50 has been replaced with a 12pounder gun. Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: HMS Campbeltown, disguised as a German destroyer for the famous raid on St. Nazaire, France, in 1942. Campbeltown was built as USS Buchanan (DD 131), one of hundreds of "four piper" or "flush deck" destroyers constructed during the World War I era. Buchanan was one of 50 such ships transferred to the UK under the "Destroyers for Bases" deal, becoming HMS Campbeltown on 9 September 1940. She served the Royal Navy as an escort until early 1942, when she was assigned a role in the St. Nazaire raid. Courtesy Joe Radigan. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: HMS Campbeltown grounded on dry dock sill moments before detonating. Courtesy Joe Radigan. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: HMS Campbeltown as seen from alongside the Normandie Dock shortly before she exploded. On the left is one of the two tankers present in the dry dock. When the destroyer exploded, both tankers were swept against the dock walls by the inrush of water and sank. Courtesy Bob Hibbert. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: Aerial photo taken some months after Operation Chariot. The Normandie Dock has been sealed and work is in progress restoring the facility. In the middle of the picture, the stern half of the Campbeltown sits on the bottom, the forward section having been blown to pieces. Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: The wrecked Campbeltown (her foreends towards the camera) inside the lock. Note the Normandie's docking blocks, the ruined caisson at the right rear of the lock and the sand wall sealing all. Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Buchanan (DD-131) was a 1,090-ton Wickes class destroyer and was named after Admiral Franklin Buchanan (1800-1874), who played an important role in the US Navy prior to the Civil War and then was a leading figure in (ironically) the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War. Buchanan was built by the Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine, and was commissioned 20 January 1919. The ship was approximately 314 feet long and 30 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots and had a crew of 122 officers and men. Buchanan was armed with four 4-inch guns, two 3-inch guns, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes and depth charges.
During the early part of her career, Buchanan patrolled both the Atlantic and the Caribbean for the US Navy. In May 1919, she assisted in providing route protection for the trans-Atlantic crossing of the Navy’s NC flying boats. Buchanan then was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and transited the Panama Canal in July 1919. The destroyer served along America’s West Coast until she was placed out of commission in June 1922.
Buchanan was re-commissioned in April 1930 and continued working in the Pacific for seven more years. She was decommissioned in April 1937 (as newer ships were brought into the fleet), but was once again re-commissioned at the end of September 1939. It was necessary to re-commission the old destroyer because the outbreak of World War II in Europe forced the United States to enlarge its Navy for neutrality enforcement purposes. For the remainder of 1939 and well into 1940, Buchanan operated in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. In early September 1940, Buchanan was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she was decommissioned and turned over to Great Britain as part of the famous “Lend-Lease” agreement, where fifty old American destroyers were given to England in exchange for basing rights in British possessions in the Western Hemisphere.
After its transfer to Great Britain, USS Buchanan became HMS Campbeltown in the Royal Navy. Campbeltown was initially based at Liverpool and served as an escort guarding the Western Approaches to Great Britain. She was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy in January 1941, but then was given back to the Royal Navy in September. Once back in the Royal Navy, Campbeltown resumed escorting convoys in the Atlantic, where she saw action against German U-boats and aircraft.
In January 1942, Campbeltown was selected to take part in “Operation Chariot,” which was the proposed commando attack on the German-occupied port of Saint-Nazaire, France. In 1942, the enormous German battleship Tirpitz was anchored at Trondheim, Norway, and was considered a major surface threat to merchant convoys headed for England. But, if the Tirpitz did enter the Atlantic, she would need a drydock big enough to handle her in case she was damaged or in need of repairs. The only drydock on Europe’s Atlantic seaboard that was large enough to accommodate Tirpitz was located at Saint-Nazaire. Originally built to service the huge French ocean liner SS Normandie, the drydock was now a vital military target.
The goal of Operation Chariot was to ram an old, expendable warship filled with explosives into the gates of the drydock. Accompanying this ship would be a number of small motor launches and motor torpedo boats filled with British commandos, whose mission was to destroy the drydock’s pumping and winding machinery. After the warship rammed into the drydock’s gates, the crew from the warship and the commandos were to be evacuated by the motor launches and the motor torpedo boats. After the commandos left, the explosives inside the warship would go off and the drydock would be destroyed. Needless to say, this was an extremely dangerous plan and its prospects for success seemed marginal, at best. But the Royal Navy thought it worth the risk if it kept Tirpitz out of the Atlantic and away from its merchant convoys.
Because of her age, HMS Campbelton was considered expendable and was selected as the ramming ship. On 10 March 1942, Campbelton arrived at Devonport, England, to be modified for this mission. All of her 4-inch guns were removed and replaced by a 12-pounder light automatic gun and eight 20-mm guns. Her depth-charge projectors and tracks also were removed and her bridge was protected with armor plating. Campbelton’s two after smoke stacks were removed and her two forward stacks were modified to resemble those of a German destroyer. This was done to confuse the Germans defending Saint-Nazaire into thinking she was a friendly German warship. The crew was reduced to just 75 men (under the command of Lieutenant Commander Stephen Beattie) and an explosive charge consisting of 24 depth charges containing a total of four tons of explosives was fitted into steel tanks just behind the steel pillar that supported her forward gun mount. The timed charges were set before the ship sailed and were cemented into place to prevent anyone from interfering with the detonation.
HMS Campbelton left Falmouth, England, on the afternoon of 26 March 1942 with only enough fuel for a one-way trip to France. She was escorted by a small flotilla of 18 motor launches and motor torpedo boats, along with two Hunt class destroyer escorts. The small task force made it successfully to France and the final attack on Saint-Nazaire began shortly after midnight on 28 March. The Campbelton and her escorts remained undetected until 0122 on 28 March, when searchlights illuminated the attacking ships. Campbelton increased speed to 19 knots and headed straight for the drydock gates under intense enemy fire. Numerous hits were made on the old destroyer but she kept on moving towards her objective. Then at 0134, Campbelton rammed the drydock’s gates, firmly wedging herself into position. Commandos and demolition parties went ashore in the face of heavy German fire and successfully planted demolition charges that destroyed the withdrawing machinery for opening the drydock’s gates and the pumping machinery for the drydock itself. Of the 611 men who took part in this operation, 169 (64 commandos and 105 sailors) were killed and 215 were captured. Only 222 were successfully evacuated by the surviving torpedo boats and motor launches that escorted Campbelton. Five other men made it to shore and successfully evaded capture by making an amazing journey through France to neutral Spain. The captain of Campbelton, Lieutenant Commander Stephen Beattie, was one of the men taken prisoner and later received the Victoria Cross for his part in the raid.
At first the Germans didn’t really know what to make of the attack. Campbelton was still wedged into the drydock’s gates and, even though the Germans searched the ship, nothing was found. Then at 1135 on the morning of 28 March, the hidden demolition charges on board Campbelton went off, creating an enormous explosion and causing the forward part of the ship to disintegrate. The huge blast killed approximately 300 Germans who were on board or around the ship and it destroyed the drydock’s gates, causing water to rush into the drydock and forcing what was left of the shattered destroyer into it. The explosion rendered the drydock at Saint-Nazaire unusable for the rest of the war and it wasn’t completely repaired until 1947. Tirpitz, therefore, would be unable to threaten Allied convoys in the Atlantic since it no longer had a usable drydock on the Atlantic seaboard.
Whether or not the raid on Saint-Nazaire was worth the price is debatable. The raid was technically a success, but it came at a very high price in human lives. In addition, with Allied naval and air power growing in strength throughout the region, one wonders if the Germans would have risked Tirpitz in the Atlantic even if the drydock at Saint-Naizaire were operational. After all, Tirpitz’s sister ship, Bismarck, also tried to enter the Atlantic to attack Allied shipping and didn’t succeed (even though HMS Hood was destroyed by Bismarck in the process). But the fact remains that Campbelton, which started life as a humble American destroyer, played a key role in one of the most daring, dangerous, and dramatic missions of World War II.
Posted by Remo at 8:25 AM
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Figure 1: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) running builder's trials in 1897. She is flying the house flag of her builder, William Cramp & Sons, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) running builder's trials in 1897. Note the house flag of her builder, William Cramp & Sons, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, flying from her mast head. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1897 or early 1898, with USS Columbia (Cruiser # 12) in the right background. Published in "Uncle Sam's Navy", 1898. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) in drydock, circa 1897-1898. This is a relatively coarse halftone image. Courtesy of Erik Heyl. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) at anchor, circa the early 1900s. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) anchored off New York City, 1905. Photographed by C.C. Langill, New York. Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) in New York Harbor during the Spanish-American War Victory Fleet Review, August 1898. Photographed by E.H. Hart, Brooklyn, New York. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Iowa (Battleship No. 4) steaming in New York Harbor, escorted by tugs, yachts and other craft, during the Spanish-American War Victory Fleet Review, 21 August 1898. Photographed by F.P. Jewett, Orange, New Jersey. Donated by Rear Admiral St.C. Smith. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Iowa (Battleship # 4) anchored off New York City during the Spanish-American War Victory Fleet Review, August 1898. USS New York (Armored Cruiser No. 2) is in the right distance. Photographed by George P. Hall & Son, New York. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Coast Battleship No. 4 (ex-USS Iowa, Battleship No. 4) steaming off the Virginia Capes, under radio control from USS Ohio (BB-10) five miles away, as bombing planes made attacks on her to determine their effectiveness, 29 June 1921. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1969. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: Coast Battleship No. 4 (ex-USS Iowa, Battleship No. 4) maneuvering under fire by battleship guns, while in use as a radio-controlled target during Fleet gunnery practice off Panama, circa 22 March 1923. Note projectiles hitting the water on either side of the target. The ship was sunk as a result of damage received in this exercise. Collection of Vice Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: Coast Battleship No. 4 (ex-USS Iowa, Battleship No. 4) under fire by battleship guns, while in use as a radio-controlled target during Fleet gunnery practice off Panama, 22 March 1923. Note projectiles hitting the water on either side of the target, and the ship's collapsed forward smokestack. Photographed by A.E. Wells. The ship was sunk as a result of damage received in this exercise. Collection of Commodore Norman C. Gillette, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: Coast Battleship No. 4 (ex-USS Iowa, Battleship No. 4) damaged after use as a radio-controlled target during Fleet gunnery practice off Panama, 22 March 1923. Note shell holes in the ship's hull side, in line with the main mast, collapsed forward smokestack, and other damage to her superstructure. Also note numbers painted around her lower foretop, probably to indicate bearings, and F5L flying boat taxiing in the left background. The target ship was sunk as a result of damage received in this exercise. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Iowa (originally called Battleship No. 4) was an 11,346-ton battleship built by William Cramp & Sons at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned 16 June 1897. She was one of the first modern all-steel battleships in the US Navy and was approximately 360 feet long, 72 feet wide, had a top speed of 17 knots and a crew of 727 officers and men. Iowa was armed with four 12-inch guns, eight 8-inch guns, six 4-inch guns, 20 6-pounders and four 1-pounders.
After her shakedown cruise off America’s East Coast, Iowa was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and patrolled the Atlantic seaboard for the rest of 1897 and well into 1898. Once the Spanish-American War started, Iowa was ordered to help enforce the blockade of Spanish warships at Santiago de Cuba on 28 May 1898. On 3 July 1898, the trapped Spanish ships tried to escape and Iowa was the first American warship to sight the enemy. As the Spanish ships were leaving Santiago, Iowa was also the first US battleship to fire its guns at the Spaniards, beginning what would eventually be called the Battle of Santiago. In command of the Iowa was Captain Robley D. “Fighting Bob” Evans, who eventually became one of the most famous admirals in the US Navy.
Iowa’s role in the Battle of Santiago lasted roughly 20 minutes. In that space of time, Iowa’s accurate gunfire destroyed the Spanish cruisers Maria Teresa (flagship of the Spanish task force) and Oquendo, setting both ships on fire and forcing them to beach themselves. Iowa continued the battle and, while being escorted by the converted yacht Gloucester, sank the Spanish destroyer Pluton and severely damaged the destroyer Furor, forcing that ship to beach itself as well. Finally, Iowa’s guns reduced the Spanish cruiser Viscaya into a burning heap of steel, forcing that ship to run aground so as not to sink in deep water. After the battle was over, Iowa received on board approximately 300 survivors from the Spanish warships, including Admiral Pascual Cervera, commander of the Spanish task force. It was an enormous victory for America and firmly established the US Navy as a major naval power.
After the Battle of Santiago, Iowa steamed to New York, arriving there on 20 August 1898. In October, Iowa was sent around South America to join the Pacific Squadron. She patrolled the West Coast until February 1902 and then was assigned to the South Atlantic Squadron. Iowa returned to the East Coast in early 1903 and, after an extensive overhaul, joined the North Atlantic Fleet from late 1903 to mid-1907. She was then placed in reserve, but returned to active duty in May 1910 after being modernized and given a new “cage” mainmast. For the next four years, Iowa was used as a training ship and her duties included taking US Naval Academy Midshipmen to European waters for naval exercises. The battleship was again placed out of commission from May 1914 to April 1917, but then was re-commissioned and served during World War I as a Receiving Ship at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She also was used as a training and guard ship in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Iowa was decommissioned once again at the end of March 1919 and was renamed Coast Battleship No. 4 a month later to free up her name for use on a new battleship. In 1919, the now thoroughly obsolete battleship was selected to become the US Navy’s first radio-controlled target ship. The conversion took place at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and was completed in August 1920. All of the ship’s guns were removed, remote control equipment was installed, her after boilers were converted to burn oil instead of coal, and compartments were sealed and automatic pumps were installed to control water that would be admitted after the ship was struck by either gunfire or bombs from aircraft.
After almost three years of tests, modifications and preparations, the ship was finally ready. In February 1923, the battleship transited the Panama Canal into the Pacific, where she was to serve as a target for the battleship Mississippi. One month later on 23 March, Coast Battleship No. 4 was hit from 8,000 yards by the Mississippi’s five-inch secondary batteries. Then nearly three-dozen 14-inch shells hit the target ship. Shortly after that the old Iowa sank in the Gulf of Panama.
Iowa was one of the first modern battleships in America’s new steel navy and she was instrumental in the enormous naval victory at Santiago de Cuba. She helped make the United States a world naval power and served with distinction in the US Navy for roughly 26 years. Even at the end of her career, this tough battleship withstood numerous hits before finally succumbing and slipping beneath the waves. Iowa was a remarkable warship during a unique period in American naval history, a time that we will surely never see again.
Posted by Remo at 8:22 AM
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Figure 1: USS Pillsbury (DD-227) from a Christmas card for the Asiatic Fleet, dated 1937. Courtesy David Wright. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Pillsbury (DD-227) circa the 1930's. Courtesy Marc Piché. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Black Hawk (AD-9) panoramic photograph of the ship moored at Chefoo, China, during the 1930s with other ships from the US Asiatic Fleet. Destroyers alongside, from Destroyer Division 14, are (from left to right): USS Bulmer (DD-222); USS Pillsbury (DD-227); USS Pope (DD-225); USS John D. Ford (DD-228); USS Edsall (DD-219); and USS Peary (DD-226). Courtesy of Walter R. Woodward, 1979. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Pillsbury (DD-227) circa 1927, location unknown. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: A memorial to CMM Richard Lang and the men of the USS Pillsbury (DD-227) located at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA. Courtesy Colleen Collier. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after John E. Pillsbury, a US Admiral who was a world-renowned geographer, USS Pillsbury (DD-227) was a 1,190-ton Clemson class destroyer that was built by William Cramp and Sons at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned on 15 December 1920. She was approximately 314 feet long and 30 feet wide and had a top speed of 35 knots and a crew of 116 officers and men. Pillsbury was armed with four 4-inch guns, one 3-inch gun, twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes and depth charges.
Pillsbury spent most of her career in China and the Philippines as part of the US Asiatic Fleet. On 27 November 1941, with the Japanese threatening American bases in the Philippines, Admiral Thomas C. Hart, Commander of the US Asiatic Fleet, ordered Pillsbury and a number of other warships to steam to Borneo. After hostilities began on 7 December 1941, Pillsbury (along with Dutch and Australian naval vessels) operated out of Balikpapan, Borneo, on reconnaissance sorties and on anti-submarine patrols. As the Japanese advanced throughout the Pacific, these ships were moved once again to Surabaya, Java. From there, units of the US Asiatic Fleet searched for the advancing Japanese Navy.
Although several American destroyers from the Asiatic Fleet scored a significant victory against the Japanese at Balikpapan on 24 January 1942, that was one of the very few bright spots for the US Navy at that time. Pillsbury took part in the Battle of Badung Strait off the coast of Bali on 19-20 February 1942. A combined force of British, Dutch and American warships (with a total of three cruisers and seven destroyers) attacked four Japanese destroyers that were escorting 2 transports. The action occurred late at night and the Allied ships should have decimated the Japanese task force. However, the Japanese sunk a Dutch destroyer and severely damaged a Dutch cruiser. The Allied warships damaged three of the Japanese destroyers (one of them severely), but did not sink any of them. The battle lasted for several hours and eventually both sides left the area. But, in the end, the Japanese destroyers fought off a much larger Allied task force, did not lose any ships, and successfully protected the two transports they were escorting. The Allies had bitter lessons to learn from this battle: they had to improve communications between Allied warships, learn how to fight together as a team, and they had to perfect their night-fighting capabilities. These were problems that would haunt the US Navy throughout the early part of the war, especially during the early naval battles off Guadalcanal.
After the battle, Pillsbury and the destroyer USS Parrott (DD-218) were sent to Tjilatjap, Java, for some badly needed repairs to their engines. But Java was about to fall to the oncoming Japanese and many American warships were ordered to retreat to Australia so that they could live to fight another day. Unfortunately, many of them did not make it. On the night of 2 March 1942, one of those retreating American warships was Pillsbury. She ran straight into a large force of Japanese warships that was patrolling south of Java. Two Japanese cruisers pummeled the lonely American destroyer with numerous hits, sinking Pillsbury within a matter of minutes. The ship went down approximately 200 miles east of Christmas Island. The Japanese quickly left the area to search for additional prey and did not bother to look for survivors. Pillsbury’s crew was never heard from again.
The fall of Java, along with the destruction of most of the US Asiatic Fleet, was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the US Navy. Many American, British, and Dutch warships were sacrificed to buy precious time for the Allies. The US Navy needed that time to regroup and to rebuild its fleet, especially after the disaster at Pearl Harbor. But it was ships like Pillsbury that bought the Allies this precious time and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.
Posted by Remo at 8:24 AM