Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Figure 1: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway at sea, 29 November 1937. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway in San Diego harbor, California, 11 April 1938. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway at sea during the later 1930s. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Cummings (DD-365) photographed by Ted Stone, circa the later 1930s. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia, Ted Stone Collection. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Cummings (DD-365) photographed by Ted Stone, circa the later 1930s. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia, Ted Stone Collection. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Case (DD-370), USS Shaw (DD-373), USS Cummings (DD-365), and USS Tucker (DD-374) with USS Brooklyn (CL-40) behind in Auckland, New Zealand, March 1941. Courtesy Gary Hines. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: 3 September 1944 the day Cummings participated in an attack on Wake Island. Note light gun shields forward, no shields aft. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: A series of images from the collection of Garold White, whose father served on board Cummings during World War II. The first is Cummings’ “Scoreboard.” Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: A Japanese vessel that surrendered to Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: More of the crew from the Japanese vessel that surrendered to Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: A Japanese pilot that had been shot down by Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Andrew Boyd Cummings, a Union naval hero who was killed during the Civil War, USS Cummings (DD-365) was a 1,465-ton Mahan class destroyer that was built by United Shipyards at New York City and was commissioned on 25 November 1936. She was approximately 341 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 36 knots, and had a crew of 158 officers and men. Cummings was initially armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges, although this armament was substantially modified during World War II.
Following a shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, Cummings was assigned to the Pacific in the fall of 1937. Aside from attending US fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean in 1939, Cummings spent the next six years of her career in the Pacific. She was based at Pearl Harbor in April 1940 and made a trip that took her to Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti in March and April 1941. But as war drew closer in the Pacific, Cummings spent most of her time patrolling the waters off the coast of Hawaii.
Cummings was docked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. Although bombs exploded ahead and astern of her, no direct hits were scored on the ship. Flying bomb fragments, though, did cause some minor damage. Cummings quickly built up steam and left Pearl Harbor. She then spent the rest of 1941 and the first four months of 1942 escorting convoys between Hawaii and the US mainland. In May 1942, Cummings was sent to the south Pacific, where she was assigned to patrol and escort missions during the struggle for Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Cummings went back to San Francisco for an overhaul in the fall of 1943 and then was assigned to the Aleutian Islands. Cummings patrolled the Aleutians for several weeks before returning to Pearl Harbor on 21 December.
During January and February 1944, Cummings escorted US aircraft carriers during the Marshall Islands campaign and then worked with the British Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean from March to May. Cummings returned to Hawaii to resume duties in the central Pacific and in July 1944 she escorted the heavy cruiser USS Baltimore (CA-68) as it carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Hawaii and Alaska and then back to the US mainland. Roosevelt was on board Cummings for several days in August during trips between Seattle, Washington, and the Puget Sound Navy Yard. While on board Cummings, President Roosevelt broadcast a nationwide address from the forecastle of the ship.
Cummings participated in the raids on Wake and Marcus Islands in September and October 1944 and she escorted aircraft carriers during the invasion of Leyte in October. Cummings then operated in the Marianas and Bonin Islands areas, taking part in patrol, escort, and air-sea rescue missions. She also was part of the assault on Iwo Jima in February and March 1945 and provided gunfire support for the troops on shore. In September 1945, after Japan surrendered, Cummings supervised the occupation of the island of Haha Jima, part of the Bonin Islands. On 19 September 1945, Cummings was sent back to America, making stops in San Pedro, California; Tampa, Florida; and finally Norfolk, Virginia. She was decommissioned on 14 December 1945 and sold for scrapping on 17 July 1947.
Cummings received seven battle stars for her service during World War II. She was at Pearl Harbor on the very first day of the war on 7 December and she was with the US Navy in Japanese waters when the war ended in 1945. She was a typical destroyer, taking on numerous escort, patrol, and shore bombardment duties during the war. She even transported the President of the United States, an honor few ships can boast. But once the war was over and she was no longer needed, Cummings was quickly decommissioned and scrapped, a fate that claimed many fine ships. Although she no longer exists, her career is still worth noting.
Posted by Remo at 9:24 AM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Figure 1: USS Finback (SS-230) slides down the building ways at her launching at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 25 August 1941. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Launching of the USS Finback (SS-230) at Portsmouth Navy Yard, 25 August 1941 at 2:40 PM, view showing ship in water being towed to berth No.1 by the tugs Penacook (YT-6) and Sightseer. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: U.S. Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut. Members of the 4th Command Class at the Submarine Base, February 1942. Those present are, bottom row left to right: Lieutenant Commander Mannert L. Abele; first command would be USS Grunion (SS-216). He would be killed in action while commanding the Grunion, 30 July 1942. Lieutenant Commander Thomas B. Klakring; first command would be USS Guardfish (SS-217); Commander Karl G. Hensel, Officer in Charge; Lieutenant Commander George W. Patterson, Jr., Senior Assistant; and Lieutenant Commander Jesse L. Hull; first command would be the USS Finback (SS-230). Top row, left to right: Lieutenant Commander Howard W. Gilmore; first command would be USS Growler (SS-215). He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after he was killed in action on the bridge of Growler, 7 February 1943. Lieutenant Commander Philip H. Ross; first command would be USS Halibut (SS-232); Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. Taylor; first command would be USS Haddock (SS-231); Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Burrows; first command would be USS Swordfish (SS-193); and Lieutenant Commander Leonard S. Mewhinney; first command would be USS Saury (SS-189). Official U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-G-88577, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Flasher (SS-249) and probably Finback (SS-230), most likely from April of 1945 when Flasher was in Pearl Harbor while on its way to San Francisco for an overhaul. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Finback (SS-230) underway off New London, CT, 7 March 1949. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Lieutenant Junior Grade George H. W. Bush is pulled aboard USS Finback (SS-230) on 2 September 1944 after his TBM Avenger was shot down over ChiChi Jima, a Japanese radio station. Bush was the last aviator shot down over the island to be rescued. All of the other pilots captured on this island during the war were executed. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Finback (SS-230) was a Gato class submarine that was built by the Portsmouth Navy Yard and was commissioned on 31 January 1942. She displaced 1,526 tons surfaced and 2,424 tons submerged and had a top speed of 20 knots surfaced and 9 knots submerged. Finback had a crew of 60 officers and men and was armed with one 3-inch gun, one 4-inch gun, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. The submarine also was approximately 311 feet long and 27 feet wide.
After her shakedown cruise, Finback was sent to Pearl Harbor and arrived there on 29 May 1942. On 25 June, she left Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol, which took her to the Aleutian Islands. While in the Aleutians, Finback was attacked by two Japanese destroyers on 5 July. She managed to survive an intense depth charge attack and slip away from the enemy. Finback then completed a reconnaissance of Vega Bay, Kiska, on 11 July and also surveyed Japanese activities at Tanaga Bay, Tanaga, on 11 August. She ended her first war patrol by going to Dutch Harbor on 12 August and then returned to Pearl Harbor on 23 August for an overhaul.
After leaving Pearl Harbor on 23 September 1942, Finback’s second war patrol took her to Formosa. On 14 October, Finback intercepted a convoy of four merchantmen and sank one of the ships before the convoy’s escorts forced her to leave the area. She then headed for the Chinese coast and on 18 October Finback severely damaged a large freighter. On 20 October, Finback sank another large merchant ship and, while steaming on the surface, destroyed an ocean-going sampan with gunfire. Finback arrived back at Pearl Harbor on 20 November.
During her third war patrol, Finback was assigned to escort a carrier task force and on 17 January 1943 she attacked an enemy patrol boat while surfaced. After an intense gun battle, Finback managed to sink the Japanese warship. After a brief stop at Midway Island for repairs, Finback started her fourth war patrol, which lasted from 27 February to 13 April 1943. During this patrol, she scouted the shipping lanes between Rabaul and the Japanese home islands. On 21 March, Finback damaged a large cargo ship and she pursued an enemy convoy from 24 to 26 March. The submarine managed to fire six torpedoes at two of the largest ships in the convoy, but was chased away by Japanese escorts before she could determine whether or not any of them hit. While on her way back to Pearl Harbor, Finback sank a large freighter off Japanese-held Wake Island.
Finback returned to Formosa on her fifth war patrol and on 27 May 1943 she sank a cargo ship. On 7 June she sank a merchant ship and managed to sink another on 11 June before going to Fremantle, Australia, for an overhaul. During her sixth war patrol, Finback prowled around the coast of Java. She sank one freighter on 30 July and another on 3 August. On 10 August, Finback evaded a Japanese escort and a patrol plane and inflicted substantial damage on yet another cargo ship. On 19 August, Finback also badly damaged three small Japanese ships with her guns while surfaced.
After another overhaul, Finback left Pearl Harbor in December 1943 for her seventh war patrol. She went to the South China Sea and, although plagued by bad weather, few contacts, and Japanese patrol planes, Finback still managed to sink a large tanker on 1 January 1944. While surfaced, she also sank a Japanese fishing trawler with her guns on 30 January and badly damaged another the next day.
Finback’s eighth war patrol took her to the Caroline Islands, where she acted as a rescue ship for American pilots while also searching for enemy shipping. She attacked a six-ship convoy on 12 April 1944 but, due to attacks made by the convoy’s escorts, she was unable to determine if she had hit any of her targets. On 16 April, while making a reconnaissance of Oroluk Atoll, Finback fired her guns on a steamer and a lookout tower on the atoll. She then went back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
During her ninth war patrol, Finback was sent to the Palau Islands and to the Mariana Islands. Her primary assignment was lifeguard duty for American pilots who were shot down while attacking targets on the Mariana Islands. She returned to Majuro in the Marshall Islands on 21 July 1944 for a refit and then left on 16 August for her tenth war patrol. Once again she was assigned to lifeguard duty, this time off the Bonin Islands. She rescued a total of five downed American pilots. One of those pilots was shot down on 2 September 1944 while on a mission to bomb a Japanese radio station on the island of ChiChi Jima, located roughly 600 miles southwest of Japan in the Bonin Islands. He was in his TBM Avenger bomber and, after he dropped his payload and hit his target, his plane was struck by antiaircraft fire. The pilot was forced to bail out of the burning aircraft and landed off the coast of ChiChi Jima. The few American pilots who had landed on the island were all executed by the Japanese, so it was critical to stay as far away from ChiChi Jima as possible. The other American aircraft that took part in the attack radioed for help and strafed a Japanese patrol boat that was attempting to reach the downed pilot who was floating helplessly in his small life raft. Finback was patrolling 15 to 20 miles from the island when she received the call for help. She raced to the scene and within a few hours was able to surface and rescue the young pilot. The downed pilot was 20-year-old Lieutenant Junior Grade George H.W. Bush, the man who would live to become the forty-first president of the United States and father of the forty-third. For his courage and disregard for his own safety in pressing home his attack on ChiChi Jima, Bush was later awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. Had Finback not rescued the future president, he undoubtedly would have been captured and killed by the Japanese.
On 10 and 11 September 1944, Finback followed a Japanese convoy and eventually torpedoed and sank two small freighters. After that, she returned to Pearl Harbor to refuel and rearm. Finback left Pearl Harbor in November 1944 and returned to the Bonin Islands for additional lifeguard duty for downed American pilots. However, she did manage to sink a freighter on 16 December before returning to Midway on 24 December for repairs.
Finback’s twelfth and final war patrol was made between 10 January and 25 March 1945 and it took her to the East China Sea. Unfortunately, due to a lack of worthwhile targets, Finback was forced to return empty handed to Pearl Harbor for a thorough and lengthy overhaul. She was at Pearl Harbor when the war ended in the Pacific.
Finback went to New London, Connecticut, for the remaining five years of her active career. She was used as a training ship and sailed to the Caribbean in 1947 and 1948 to participate in fleet exercises. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve in New London 21 April 1950 and sold for scrapping in 1959. Finback received an impressive 13 battle stars for her service in World War II and was credited with having sunk 59,383 tons of enemy shipping. Not only did she have an impressive wartime career, but Finback also managed to save the life of a future president of the United States. One can only wonder how history would have been altered had this ship not been patrolling off the Bonin Islands on 2 September 1944.
Posted by Remo at 8:30 AM
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Figure 1: Bow view of the Gato (SS-212) looking aft, at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, 31 December 1941 immediately after launching. USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofworldwarii.org. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Broadside view of the Gato (SS-212) off Mare Island on 6 August 1943. She was in overhaul at the shipyard from 14 June until 15 August 1943. USN photo # 5735-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Stern view of the Gato (SS-212) departing Mare Island on 6 August 1943. USN photo # 5733-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Starboard forward quarter view of Gato (SS-212) off Mare Island on 6 August 1943. USN photo # 5736-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. The photo is off a negative from the Vallejo Naval Historic Museum. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Stern plan view of Gato (SS-212) at Mare Island on 23 Nov. 1944. She was in overhaul at the shipyard from 10 September until 6 December 1944. The barge tied up to her port side is YF-513. USN photo # 7158-44, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Modifications made on 29 November 1944 at Mare Island for Gato (SS-212) include installation of a new freestanding mast for her SD radar and relocation of her SJ to a new mast supported by her periscope shears. In some boats, the new SJ mast was mounted forward of the periscope shears. The three girders supporting the shears are the only remnants of the prewar enclosed bridge: their height indicates how far the fairwater has been cut down. Note also the ammunition-passing scuttle let into the deck abaft the bridge fairwater. Photo and text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History, by Norman Friedman, Naval Institute Press. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: This close up of the starboard side of the bridge superstructure of the Gato (SS-212)shows the arrangement of the guns, periscope, and other deck gear. This photo was taken during the boat's overhaul at Mare Island Shipyard, November 29, 1944. The circles indicate new items added during the overhaul. The boat mounts a 4-inch gun forward and a 20mm gun aft. On the gun deck forward is another 20mm gun and a 40mm gun aft. The telephone mounted to a board hanging on the railing was a temporary import connection. USN Archives photo # 19-N-75565. Photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of World War II, by Thomas F. Walkowiak. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: This top view of the 4-inch/50 cal deck gun mounted onboard the Gato (SS-212)during her November 29,1944 overhaul. Note the deck hatches for the stowage of the small boats carried below the main deck. To the left of the gun at the tip of the barrel is the forward marker buoy. The forward escape trunk top hatch is open. To the right of the marker buoy is the access to the escape trunk side door. USN Archives photo # 19-N-75563. Photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of World War II, by Thomas F. Walkowiak. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: Gato (SS-212), off Mare Island Navy Yard, 29 November 1944. US Navy photo # 7266-44, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Gato (SS-212) was the lead ship in a highly successful class of 77 submarines built in the United States during World War II. The ship displaced 1,526 tons on the surface and 2,424 tons submerged and had a top speed of 20.25 knots surfaced and 8.75 knots submerged. Gato was approximately 311 feet long and 27 feet wide and had a crew of 60 officers and men. She was armed with one 3-inch gun, four machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. Gato was built by the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut, and was commissioned on 31 December 1941.
After her shakedown cruise off New London, Connecticut, Gato left on 16 February 1942 for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal. On her first war patrol out of Pearl Harbor (which lasted from 20 April to 10 June 1942), Gato unsuccessfully attacked a converted Japanese aircraft carrier on 3 May 1942 off the Marshall Islands. Although attacked and depth-charged by four Japanese destroyers, Gato somehow managed to get away. On 24 May she patrolled the western approaches to Midway Island, just prior to the major battle that took place near there.
During her second war patrol (2 July to 29 August 1942), Gato patrolled the waters east of the Kurile Islands next to the Aleutians. She torpedoed an unidentified Japanese ship on 15 August and ended her patrol at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. On her third war patrol (4 September to 23 December 1942), Gato was initially assigned to operations off Kiska. She then went to the Japanese stronghold at Truk atoll, where on 6 December three destroyers attacked Gato after she had attacked a Japanese convoy. Gato once again was able to elude the destroyers and made it to Brisbane, Australia, on 23 December 1942.
Up to this point, Gato did not have a stunning record of accomplishments. However, this all changed with Gato’s fourth war patrol (13 January 1943 to 26 February 1943). While prowling off the coast of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands chain, Gato sank one Japanese transport and two cargo ships. On her fifth war patrol (19 March to 6 June 1943), Gato landed an Australian commando team at Toep, Bougainville, on 29 March 1943 and evacuated 27 children, nine mothers and three nuns from that same island. On 4 April she was seriously damaged by some Japanese escorts between the islands of Tanga and Lihir and was forced to return to Brisbane for temporary repairs. After being repaired, Gato landed some additional Australian commandos at Toep Harbor on 29 May and evacuated some more refugees to Ramos Island. She then patrolled off Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands before arriving at Pearl Harbor on 6 June 1943.
After an overhaul at the Mare Island Shipyard in California, Gato returned to Pearl Harbor on 22 August 1943. Her sixth war patrol (6 September to 28 October 1943) took her to Truk, Bougainville, and then on to Brisbane. Along the way, Gato attacked a Japanese convoy, scoring several hits on two large cargo ships. On her seventh war patrol (18 November 1943 to 10 January 1944), Gato sank one cargo ship north of the Bismarck Archipelago and sank one cargo ship and damaged another off Saipan. Japanese escorts tried to depth charge her after the last attack, but Gato once again managed to escape.
During her eighth war patrol (2 February to 1 April 1944), Gato sank three Japanese trawlers, one transport, and one cargo ship off New Guinea and Truk. Gato’s ninth war patrol (30 May to 22 June 1944) found her transporting Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood to Midway Island. She also made a photographic reconnaissance of Woleai Island and acted as a rescue ship for downed American pilots. Gato spent most of her tenth wartime patrol as a rescue ship for pilots, which lasted from 15 July to 2 September 1944. After this patrol, Gato once again went to Mare Island for another overhaul.
On her eleventh war patrol (28 January to 13 March 1945), Gato patrolled the Yellow Sea, where she sank a Japanese coast defense ship and a cargo ship. During her twelfth war patrol (12 April to 5 June 1945), Gato acted as a rescue ship off Okinawa and rescued 10 Army aviators near the beaches of Toi Misaki, Kyushu. She also was nearly sunk by two Japanese submarines after they fired torpedoes at her. The torpedoes, though, missed by a narrow margin and Gato managed to escape from the area.
Gato left Pearl Harbor on 8 July 1945 on her thirteenth and last war patrol. Once again she acted as a rescue ship, this time off Wake Island and Honshu. She received the word on 15 August to “Cease Fire” just as she was about to begin an attack on another Japanese merchant ship. The war was over and Gato steamed into Tokyo Bay on 31 August for the official Japanese surrender, which took place on board the American battleship USS Missouri. After the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945, Gato returned to Pearl Habor and then went via the Panama Canal to the New York Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned there on 16 March 1946. Gato served for many years as a naval reserve training ship at New York and later at Baltimore, Maryland, until her name was struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1960. She was eventually sold for scrapping on 25 July 1960 to the Northern Metals Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Gato received the Presidential Unit Citation for her performance during war patrols four through eight and she also received an impressive 13 battle stars for her service during World War II. Gato sank a large amount of enemy tonnage and she had many harrowing encounters with the enemy, yet she was always able to make it back home. This was a tough ship with an even tougher crew and she certainly was a worthy leader for one of the largest classes of submarines ever produced by this nation.
Posted by Remo at 8:44 AM
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Figure 1: Niagara (American Steam Yacht, 1898) photograph taken prior to her World War I Navy service. It is printed on a postal card. This yacht was acquired by the Navy on 10 August 1917 from Howard Gould of New York City, and placed in commission on 16 April 1918 as USS Niagara (SP-136). Redesignated PY-9 in July 1920, she was decommissioned on 3 March 1931 and sold for scrapping on 13 September 1933. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Niagara (PY-9) at anchor, circa 1920, probably in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Note her eagle figurehead. Collection of Gustave Maurer, ex-Chief Photographer, 1921. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Niagara (PY-9) in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, circa 1920. Two battleships are in the background. Collection of Gustave Maurer, ex-Chief Photographer, 1921. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Niagara (PY-9) at anchor, probably while assigned to surveying duty during the 1920s. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Niagara (PY-9) in port during the early 1920s. Collection of Captain Frederick R. Naile, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Niagara (PY-9) in a Caribbean-area port while on surveying duty, circa the 1920s. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Niagara (PY-9) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, circa 1931-1933, while being stripped for sale. Courtesy of the Philadelphia "Inquirer", 1936. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Niagara (PY-9). Sailor working on the ship's eagle figurehead while she was being stripped for sale at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, circa 1931-1933. Courtesy of the Philadelphia "Inquirer", 1936. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Sailor uses a pneumatic chipping tool to remove paint from a small gun pedestal on board a ship at the Navy Yard during the early 1930s. The ship may be USS Niagara (PY-9). Courtesy of the Philadelphia "Inquirer", 1936. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Section of structure, including bathroom facilities, removed from a ship being scrapped at the Navy Yard during the early 1930s. The ship may be USS Niagara (PY-9). Courtesy of the Philadelphia "Inquirer", 1936. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Niagara was a 2,690-ton steam yacht built in 1898 by the firm of Harlan and Hollingsworth at Wilmington, Delaware. She was purchased by the US Navy on 10 August 1917 from Howard Gould of New York City, converted into an armed patrol yacht, and commissioned on 16 April 1918 as the USS Niagara (SP-136). The ship was approximately 282 feet long and 43 feet wide, had a top speed of 12 knots and had a crew of 195 officers and men. Niagara was armed with four 4-inch guns, two machine guns and one Y-gun.
Niagara was used as a convoy escort even though she was slow and not heavily armed. But the US Navy was desperately short of ocean-going escorts during World War I and it made full use of whatever it could get its hands on. A month after commissioning, Niagara was assigned to escort convoys between the United States, Bermuda, and the Azores. On 5 September 1918, Niagara rescued and towed to safety the merchant sloop Gauntlet, which was cast adrift after losing all of her sails in a storm. On 14 September, Niagara steamed to the West Indies, where she escorted a French cable ship between several ports. She returned to Charleston, South Carolina, in December 1918, a few weeks after the armistice ended World War I. Niagara then was sent to the New York Navy Yard for a major overhaul and arrived there on 13 May 1919.
One curious fact about Niagara is that the US Navy decided to keep this ship in commission after the war ended, even though it decommissioned many larger and much more capable ships. Following her overhaul, Niagara was used as a training ship in Long Island Sound. On 25 September 1919, Niagara left for Key West, Florida, and then cruised off the coast of Mexico. She also visited ports in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Other assignments took Niagara to Honduras, Guatemala, and Cuba. The gunboat was reclassified PY-9 on 17 July 1920 and she continued patrolling the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean until 21 April 1922, when she arrived at Philadelphia to be decommissioned.
Niagara was re-commissioned on 24 June 1924 and was assigned to surveying duties in the Caribbean region. She then spent more than six years charting the Gulf of Venezuela and the coast of Central America. Niagara returned to Philadelphia on 17 October 1930 and was decommissioned on 3 March 1931. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 10 December 1931 and she was sold for scrapping to the Northern Metal Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 13 September 1933.
Niagara was a nineteenth-century ship that was forced to fight in a twentieth-century war. Even though she was slow, poorly armed, and never designed to be an escort, she still managed to provide the US Navy with many years of useful service as a gunboat. Niagara certainly did look out of place in a modern Navy but, in her own way, she managed to keep alive a certain romance associated with the sea, when ships powered by both sail and steam were used as gunboats to protect American interests around the world. Niagara sailed throughout the Caribbean, the West Indies, the Gulf of Mexico, and steamed off the coasts of Central America, Bermuda, and the Azores. She undoubtedly provided her young crewmembers with much adventure and the sea-keeping experience they needed to move on to other, more modern, ships within the Navy. But, sadly, Niagara, and ships like her, also were obsolete and headed toward extinction.
Posted by Remo at 9:18 AM