Tuesday, December 30, 2008

USS Crane (DD-109)

Figure 1: USS Crane (DD-109) circa 1939-1940, after she was re-commissioned for Neutrality Patrol service. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Crane (Destroyer # 109) in the Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal, 30 May 1919. The original photograph was printed on post card ("AZO") stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: "Red Lead Row," San Diego Destroyer Base, California, photographed at the end of 1922, with at least 65 destroyers tied up there. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: William M. Crane, born in 1776 at Elizabethtown, N.J., was appointed midshipman in 1799 and captain in 1814. He won honors for his gallant fighting in the attacks on Tripoli in 1804 and Captain Crane was assigned command of the Mediterranean Squadron in 1827. He was on the Board of Navy Commissioners and was the first Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography from 1842 until his death on 18 March 1846. This is a photograph of a painting of William M. Crane while he was Commandant of the Boston Navy Yard, April 6, 1825 to June 13, 1827. Courtesy of the Boston National Historical Park Collection, NPS Cat. No. BOSTS-7072. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after William M. Crane, a notable US naval officer during the early part of the nineteenth century, USS Crane (DD-109) was a 1,060-ton Little class destroyer built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at San Francisco, California, and was commissioned on 18 April 1919. The ship was approximately 314 feet long and 31 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots, and had a crew of 103 officers and men. Crane was armed with four 4-inch guns, two 1-pounder anti-aircraft gun, twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges.

Crane left San Francisco on 21 April 1919, transited the Panama Canal, and arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, on 13 May. She was sent to Europe on 5 June and visited ports in England and France. Crane assisted in escorting the ship that brought President Woodrow Wilson to the Versailles Conference and then returned to the United States. On 27 July 1919, Crane was ordered to return to the Pacific Fleet and arrived at San Francisco on 1 September. Once there, she participated in the Naval Review and was visited by the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, on 4 September. After participating in naval exercises off the coast of Washington State, Crane was placed in reserve at San Diego on 26 January 1920, taking part in occasional maneuvers until she was formally decommissioned on 7 June 1922. Once decommissioned, Crane was placed in the famous “Red Lead Row” in San Diego, where numerous decommissioned destroyers were docked.

After World War II began in Europe, Crane was re-commissioned on 18 December 1939. She was assigned to the Neutrality Patrol in the Pacific and was given the task of training Naval Reservists and Naval Armed Guard Crews until the United States was attacked on 7 December 1941. Crane remained on the west coast on antisubmarine patrol, local escort duty, training exercises, and screening duty for amphibious exercises until 22 April 1944. She then was assigned to the West Coast Sound Training School for the remainder of the war as a training ship. Once the war ended, Crane left San Diego for the last time on 2 October 1945 and arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 19 October. She was decommissioned on 14 November 1945 and sold for scrapping on 1 November 1946.

Training ships like Crane were an indispensable part of the war effort, even though few people know about them today. In the Crane’s case, she helped train sailors who were assigned to warships throughout the Pacific and those ships played an enormous role in defeating Japan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

HMS Cumberland (F85)

Figure 1: HMS Cumberland docked at Spillers Wharf, Newcastle, England. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: HMS Cumberland returns home for Christmas after fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: Friends and families of HMS Cumberland's crew gathered on 12 wharf in HMNB (Her Majesty’s Naval Base) Devonport to welcome home their loved ones in time for Christmas. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: CPO (Chief Petty Officer) Chatfield pictured after his arrival home with his sons Jack and Scott. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: Leading Hand Mark Verner pictured after his arrival home with his daughter Loren Verner. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: Part of HMS Cumberland's crew gathered on deck as the ship docked at 12 wharf, HMNB (Her Majesty's naval Base) Devonport. The ship returned after a four-month deployment. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: Leading Seaman Ben Woodward pictured after his arrival home with his daughter Ashley Woodward. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: Another angle of HMS Cumberland docked at Spillers Wharf, Newcastle, England. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a county in England, HMS Cumberland (F85) is the second of four Batch 3 Type 22 frigates and the sixteenth ship to bear this name. Cumberland was built by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd. and was commissioned at her home port in Devonport, England, in June 1989. The 5,400-ton Cumberland is approximately 486 feet long and 48 feet wide, has a top speed of 30 knots, and has a crew of 252 officers and enlisted personnel. The ship is armed with Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, Seawolf missiles (used for anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense), a 4.5-inch main gun, two 20-mm guns, and a 30-mm Goalkeeper close-in-weapons-system. Cumberland also carries a Lynx helicopter armed with Sea Skua anti-surface missiles, Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes, and a machine gun. In addition, the frigate has two Pacific-type sea boats that are used to land boarding parties comprised of Royal Marines as well as members from the ship’s crew. Each of these small boats carries one machine gun.

On Friday, 19 December 2008, HMS Cumberland returned to her home port at HMNB (Her Majesty’s Naval Base) Devonport, England, just in time for Christmas. The ship had been on a four-month deployment that took her to the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Cumberland originally was deployed to the Arabian Gulf as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) to conduct defensive diplomacy patrols in the region. But, after transiting the Suez Canal, NATO responded to a request from the United Nations by sending elements of this force to escort merchant ships for the World Food Program and to conduct counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. With Somalian pirates making almost 100 attacks on merchant and passenger ships this year, shipping companies have made increasing demands for more naval protection in the region. Fortunately, Cumberland was well equipped, trained, and prepared to deal with pirates. This past summer at Devonport, the ship and its crew underwent intensive operational sea training in conducting anti-piracy operations and maritime security patrols.

Cumberland worked with other NATO warships and maritime patrol aircraft (and used her own Lynx helicopter) to identify vulnerable merchant ships. Sometimes the mere presence of this ship was enough to prevent a pirate attack. But if Cumberland received a report of any suspicious activity or of an actual pirate attack, she immediately launched her helicopter. Both the ship and the helicopter then headed for the suspected pirates, with the heavily-armed helicopter reaching the area first to discourage any would-be attackers. Once over the troubled area, the helicopter crew assessed the situation and guided Cumberland straight toward the pirates, with the frigate firing flares, sounding horns, flashing lights, and making VHF radio calls demanding that the pirates stop immediately. If the pirates didn’t stop, the ship’s fire hoses might be used to to disrupt the crew of the pirate boat. At the same time, the Lynx helicopter continued flying overhead monitoring the situation and providing top cover if needed. A boarding team comprised of Royal Marines then was launched and sent to board the pirate vessels.

In one incident, the Royal Marine boarding team got into their boats and signaled a stern warning to the pirates, demanding that they stop. The Royal Marines eventually boarded the pirate’s support vessel and searched it. Weapons were recovered and equipment used for piracy, such as ladders and grappling hooks, were confiscated. The pirates were detained and their skiffs were sunk by gunfire from Cumberland.

Cumberland has made a significant contribution to the international effort to combat piracy off the coast ot Somalia. During her deployment, the ship seized 20 assault rifles, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, several pistols, and sank four pirate vessels. It is hard to believe that, although we are heading into 2009, navies around the world are still combating piracy, an illegal practice that is hundreds of years old. Although today’s pirates are usually better armed than their predecessors, so are the ships used to hunt them down. But the scourge of piracy still proves how vulnerable unarmed merchant ships are and how important warships are in hunting down and eliminating this threat.

Yet, in my humble opinion, one of the most significant accomplishments of HMS Cumberland’s mission was that she made it back home in time for Christmas. Even though these crewmembers will be sharing the holiday season with their loved ones, let’s take a moment to remember that there are literally thousands of men and women serving on warships all over the world who will not be as fortunate as the Cumberland’s crew. They will be at sea, doing a job that will keep them far from home this Christmas. Many, many thanks to them and their families.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SS Stephen Hopkins

Figure 1: The launch of the SS Stephen Hopkins in April 1942. Five months later she fought and sank the German raider Stier. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: A Liberty Ship steaming in the Atlantic during a winter storm. The weather in the Atlantic was almost as dangerous as the Germans. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: A Liberty ship on fire in the Pacific. These cargo ships were usually easy targets for enemy surface raiders and submarines. SS Stephen Hopkins changed all of that. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: The Navy cargo ship USS Carina, formerly SS David Davis. This ship is similar to Stephen Hopkins. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: SS Jeremiah O’Brien, one of only two Liberty Ships still in existence. She is currently docked at San Francisco, California, as a floating museum. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: SS John W. Brown, the other Liberty Ship still in existence. She is currently docked at Baltimore, Maryland, as a floating museum. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: Rare photograph of the German raider Stier, the ship that sank Stephen Hopkins. Her guns were hidden by fake panels and bulkheads, giving the false impression that she was a harmless cargo ship. Once an Allied target was sighted, the fake panels and bulkheads were lowered and her guns would begin firing at her unsuspecting prey. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: The US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea comes up to the starboard side of the US Naval fuel tanker Paul Buck at the McMurdo Station ice pier. The research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer cruises along the sea ice channel in the distance. Paul Buck was named after Captain Paul Buck, the commanding officer of Stephen Hopkins. Photograph courtesy Peter Rejcek, National Science Foundation. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a politician from Rhode Island who signed the Declaration of Independence and went on to serve as governor of that state, SS Stephen Hopkins was a 7,181-ton American Liberty Ship built at Henry J. Kaiser’s shipyard at Richmond, California, and was one of the first 20 of an eventual 2,750 Liberty Ships that were mass-produced by the United States during World War II. She was delivered to the US Maritime Administration on 11 May 1942 and was approximately 441 feet long and 57 feet wide and had a top speed of 11 knots. Although a cargo ship, Stephen Hopkins did have some defensive armament, consisting of one antiquated stern-mounted 4-inch gun, two 37-mm guns forward, and six machine guns. The ship had a Merchant Marine crew of 42 men, as well as a US Naval Armed Guard detachment of 15 men. The Naval Armed Guard was given the task of manning all of the guns on board the ship.

Stephen Hopkins was managed by the Luckenbach Steamship Company and her maiden voyage took her to New Zealand, followed by stops in Australia and Cape Town, South Africa. While steaming from Cape Town to Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana (now the country of Suriname), Stephen Hopkins encountered a rain squall in the south Atlantic just east of Brazil. It was the morning of 27 September 1942 and the captain of the ship, Paul Buck, was hoping to avoid any German submarines or merchant raiders that were prowling around the area. Suddenly, out of the morning gloom two ships appeared directly in front of the Liberty Ship. They were the German merchant raider Stier (which means bull in German) and her supply ship, the blockade runner Tannenfels. Stier had originally been built as the 4,418-ton cargo ship Cairo and was approximately 408 feet long and 56 feet wide. In April 1941, she was converted by the German Navy into a merchant raider and armed with six 5.9-inch guns, two 37-mm guns, four 20-mm guns, and two 21-inch torpedo tubes. Stier was under the command of Kapitanleutnant Horst Gerlach and was camouflaged to look like an ordinary cargo ship, with its guns hidden behind fake panels and bulkheads. Once an unsuspecting Allied cargo ship was located, Stier would uncover its guns and start firing at the defenseless merchant ship. Stier had destroyed several Allied cargo ships in this manner so, when she stumbled upon Stephen Hopkins, Kapitanleutnant Gerlach thought it would just be another easy “kill.”

The three ships did not see each other due to the poor weather, but when they suddenly sighted each other after coming out of that rain squall they saw that they were only about two miles apart. Stier began shooting at Stephen Hopkins almost immediately, hurling 5.9-inch shells at the American Liberty Ship. With a top speed of only 11 knots, Captain Buck knew that he didn’t stand a chance of outrunning Stier. But Captain Buck had stated previously to his crew that if they ever encountered a German surface raider they would stand and fight with what they had rather than surrender. So Buck turned his ship to face the German raider and ordered his only 4-inch gun to commence firing. By now some of the German shells were beginning to hit Stephen Hopkins. One of the shell fragments hit Ensign Kenneth M. Willett, US Naval Reserve, commander of the US Naval Armed Guard gun crew in charge of the ship’s 4-inch gun. The youngest member of the ship’s crew, Cadet Midshipman Edwin J. O’Hara from the US Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, New York, took over command of the gun and started firing at the German warship.

Remarkably, the first shot out of the gun hit Stier squarely and jammed her rudder. The second shot from Stephen Hopkins cut a water feed pipe in Stier’s engine room, leaving the German raider unable to move or bring her torpedo tubes to bear. But by now Stier’s guns were pounding the Liberty Ship, starting fires and killing many crewmembers. Yet the American gun crew kept up a steady stream of fire, hitting Stier repeatedly. Even Hopkins’ 37-mm guns got into the act, hitting the German raider as well. Stier was hit again and again, with some of the hits even scoring below the waterline. One 4-inch shell hit Stier’s fuel bunker and set it on fire and another shell hit the bridge as well as the diesel generator. All in all, Stier was hit by 15 4-inch shells from Stephen Hopkins, an amazing accomplishment.

But Stier was scoring numerous hits too and soon Stephen Hopkins was turning into a flaming wreck. The Liberty Ship’s gun crew was being cut to pieces by flying shrapnel and, at one point, the severely wounded Ensign Willett was the only one manning and firing the gun. He was killed by an exploding shell and soon after that Captain Buck, seeing his ship ablaze and his only gun now silenced, reluctantly gave the order to abandon ship. As what was left of the crew started to go over the side of the burning ship, they heard their 4-inch gun begin firing again. Evidently, Cadet O’Hara had gone back to the gun after Willett was killed and began loading and firing the gun all by himself. He fired the gun’s last five shells at the Germans, scoring hits on both Stier and Tannenfels. When he was out of ammunition, O’Hara went over the side to join the other men already in the water.

Stephen Hopkins was now engulfed in flames and started to sink rapidly. German shells continued pounding the hulk as she started to go down. Captain Buck was last seen on the bridge, throwing the ship’s secret code book over the side. He never made it off the ship. The crew managed to launch only one lifeboat which eventually picked up 23 men. Ensign Willett and Cadet O’Hara were not among the survivors. Stephen Hopkins sank at approximately 10:00 AM.

But Stier was in desperate shape as well. She was so badly damaged that she had absolutely no hope of making it back to friendly port, let alone Germany. Two hours after the battle, Kapitanleutnant Gerlach reluctantly gave the order to scuttle the ship. After the severely damaged raider was scuttled and sank, Gerlach and the Stier’s surviving crewmembers were picked up by Tannenfels and brought back to Bordeaux, France. Gerlach was convinced that he had run into a heavily armed warship, probably an auxiliary cruiser. He refused to believe that a lightly-armed Liberty Ship had destroyed Stier. Even after the true identity of his adversary became known to him, Gerlach refused to believe that Stephen Hopkins had not been secretly fitted with more heavy armament than was officially reported.

As for the 23 survivors from Stephen Hopkins, their ordeal was only beginning. Shortly after the ship went down, two of the men died. The rest of the men had to survive on a small ration of pemmican (a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious emergency foodstuff) and malted milk tablets. They rigged a small sail and headed for what they thought was land, hoping that, in the meantime, a ship would find them along the way. But no help came and eventually, over the next few weeks, six more men died on board the small lifeboat. Finally, on 27 October 1942, 30 days after the loss of Stephen Hopkins, they reached a small fishing village on the coast of Brazil. They travelled an amazing 1,800 miles of open ocean, but only 15 men remained out of the original crew of 57.

This was the only time in World War II that a cargo ship sank a heavily armed surface raider. The men of Stephen Hopkins displayed a remarkable amount of courage under fire and they simply did not quit even though the odds of succeeding were nil. In addition, after the battle, what was left of the crew made an awe-inspiring journey in an open boat across the south Atlantic that few thought was possible. For their heroism, Ensign Kenneth M. Willett was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, while Captain Paul Buck and Cadet Midshipman Edwin J. O’Hara were posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. Eventually a destroyer escort was named after Willett and cargo ships were named after Buck and O’Hara. The crew of Stephen Hopkins were determined to go down fighting and, in this case, that gritty determination proved deadly for the merchant raider Stier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

HMS Jervis Bay (F-40)

Figure 1: The ocean liner SS Jervis Bay as she appeared prior to World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: HMS Jervis Bay (F-40) as she appeared after her conversion to an armed merchant cruiser. This photograph of HMS Jervis Bay was taken by Peter Tingey, an apprentice aboard the Canonesa. It was taken in September 1940 as Jervis Bay was escorting Convoy HX72. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: The officers from HMS Jervis Bay. This photo was published in November 1940 in the Telegraph-Journal, a local newspaper from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Back row - left to right - Gunner E.R. Stannard, Lieut. Richard Shackleton, Surgeon-Lieut. H.St.J. Hiley, Paymaster Lieut. A.W. Stott, Lieut. Hugh Williamson (chief radio officer), Lieut. A.H.W. Bartle, Lieut. Norman E. Wood, Lieut. Walter Hill, Lieut.-Commdr. George L. Roe, Lieut. H.G.B. Moss, Paymaster Lieut. J.G. Sargeant. Middle row - left to right - Paymaster Commdr. E.W. White, Lieut. Commdr. K.M. Morrison, Commdr. J.A.P. Blackburn, D.S.C., Capt. E.S. Fogarty Fegen , V.C., Engineer Commdr. J.H.G. Chappell, Lieut. Commdr. A.W. Driscoll. Front row - left to right - Wireless Operator Donald Curry, Midshn. Owens, Midshn. Ronald A.G. Butler, Midshn. C.C.T. Latch, Midshn. W.B. Thistleton. Other senior officers of the vessel, including Surgeon Lieut. Commdr. T.G. Evans , Lieut. Dudlet J.H. Bigg, and Sub-Lt. Guy Byam-Corstiaens are not shown in the picture. Surgeon-Lieutenant Commander Evans, who rejoined the ship shortly before she sailed in her last convoy, relieved Surgeon-Lieutenant Hiley. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen, VC, Royal Navy, commanding officer of the HMS Jervis Bay. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: Painting of HMS Jervis Bay during her battle with the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer on 5 November 1940. Courtesy Michael W. Pocock, MaritimeQuest.com. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: The next three photographs are movie frames from a film shot by a crewman on board the Admiral Scheer, who had a 16-mm movie camera equipped with a telephoto lens. These pictures were taken during the first fifteen minutes of the battle. This picture shows some 11-inch shells fired from Admiral Scheer straddling HMS Jervis Bay. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: This photograph shows HMS Jervis Bay being hit by one of Admiral Scheer’s shells. But Jervis Bay is still firing back at the German battleship. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: More shells hit HMS Jervis Bay, which was being blown to pieces by Admiral Scheer. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9: Survivors from Jervis Bay on board the Swedish freighter Stureholm, under the command of Captain Sven Olander. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 10: The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in 1933. Admiral Scheer was named after Admiral Reinhard Scheer and it was designated a “Pocket” battleship by the British in 1939. Germany called it a Panzerschiff (armored ship) of the Deutschland class of battleships. Under Captain Theodor Krancke, Admiral Scheer was one of the most successful commerce raiders of World War II. Her longest raid took her as far as the Indian Ocean. She capsized and sank after being bombed by the Royal Air Force while docked at Kiel in 1945.

Figure 11: Captain Charles Woodward, Master of the modern 60,000-ton container ship M.V. Jervis Bay, standing by Montague Dawson's original painting "The Convoy That Got Through." The painting depicted HMS Jervis Bay’s battle with Admiral Scheer. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 12: The current MV Jervis Bay built in 1993, a 60,000-ton container ship. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a bay in Australia, Jervis Bay was an ocean liner built in 1922 by Vickers Ltd., at Barrow in Furness, England. She was part of the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line and was largely used to transport emigrants between Australia and England. Jervis Bay carried 732 third-class passengers but only 12 first-class passengers, and these were usually government officials. The 14,000-ton ocean liner was approximately 549 feet long and 68 feet wide and had a top speed of 15 knots.

By the early 1930s, Jervis Bay had been taken over by the P&O Line. Jervis Bay continued functioning as an ocean liner until August 1939, when she was acquired by the Royal Navy and converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Also known as “auxiliary cruisers,” armed merchant cruisers were basically ocean liners with guns bolted on to their decks. At the start of World War II, the Royal Navy was so short of convoy escorts that it converted ocean liners into armed merchant cruisers, hoping that these ships could buy some time until more appropriate escorts could be built. In the case of the SS Jervis Bay, now HMS Jervis Bay (F-40), the elderly ocean liner was armed with seven World War I-vintage 6-inch guns and two 3-inch guns. The ship had no armor protection and had a crew of 255 officers and men. In command of Jervis Bay was 49-year-old Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen, RN, a tough career officer with a large amount of seagoing experience.

On 28 October 1940, a convoy of 38 merchant ships formed into nine columns at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The convoy, code-named HX 84, was under the protection of HMS Jervis Bay. The convoy was bound for Britain and the Jervis Bay was the only escort for all 38 merchant ships, which shows how short the British were of suitable escorts. A meeting was held in Halifax prior to the convoy’s departure and it was attended by all of the merchant ship captains in the convoy as well as Captain Fegen. At the end of the meeting, Captain Fegen said, "Should we have the unlikely bad luck to cross the path of a pocket battleship, I can only promise to do my best." Little did he know how prophetic those words would be.

Late in the afternoon of 5 November 1940, while steaming in the middle of the Atlantic, convoy HX 84 had the unfortunate bad luck to run straight into one of Germany’s modern pocket battleships, Admiral Scheer. Under the command of Captain Theodor Krancke, Admiral Scheer was heavily armed with six 11-inch guns, eight 5.9-inch guns, six 4.1-inch guns, eight 37-mm guns, ten 20-mm guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. Captain Fegen understood immediately that the convoy was in deep trouble. Armed only with his seven antiquated 6-inch guns, Fegen knew he was no match for Admiral Scheer. But Captain Fegen, the son of Vice Admiral Frederick Fogarty Fegen, came from a long and illustrious line of Royal Navy officers. Retreat, let alone surrender, was simply not an option. So, while looking certain death straight in the eyes, Captain Fegen did not flinch and turned his ship directly towards Admiral Scheer. He was going to attack the German battleship, hoping that this would allow the unarmed merchant ships enough time to scatter and get away. Night was fast approaching and, with a little luck, the dispersed merchant ships would be hard for Admiral Scheer to locate in the dark.

The entire battle lasted only about 24 minutes. Captain Fegen signaled the other ships in the convoy to scatter and then ordered Jervis Bay to fire all of its guns, even though she was hopelessly out of range from Admiral Scheer. But the German battleship had no problems hitting Jervis Bay with her 11-inch guns. Armor-piercing shells began pounding Jervis Bay, with one of the shells hitting the bridge. The resulting explosion tore off one of Captain Fegen’s arms, but he was still alive and managed to stay in command of the ship. Unfortunately, he was killed a few minutes later after several more shells slammed into his ship. By now Jervis Bay was a blazing wreck and the command was given to abandon ship. She sank a few minutes later and only a handful of survivors managed to make it into the water. Admiral Scheer destroyed five merchant ships after the loss of Jervis Bay, but the rest of the convoy, 33 ships, managed to get away. Later that evening, Captain Sven Olander of the Swedish freighter Stureholm made the bold decision to go back and search for survivors from Jervis Bay, even though Admiral Scheer was still lurking around in the area looking for more targets. Stureholm managed to rescue 65 men, but the rest of the crew (190 men including Captain Fegen) went down with the ship. After making this daring rescue, Stureholm slipped away and returned to Halifax.

Jervis Bay bought the precious time that it took for most of the ships in the convoy to get away from Admiral Scheer. Many more merchant ships would have been lost had the armed merchant cruiser not attacked the German battleship. For his sacrifice during the battle, Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, England’s highest award for valor. Was the amazing sacrifice of Jervis Bay worth the cost? The crewmen on board the 33 merchant ships who survived the confrontation with the German battleship certainly agreed with Captain Fegen’s decision.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

USS Bayfield (APA-33)

Figure 1: USS Bayfield (APA-33) at Charleston, South Carolina, on 4 January 1950. She is proceeding to Pier D-5 at the Charleston Naval Shipyard to embark troops of the Third Division from Fort Benning, Georgia, to participate in Operation "Protrex." Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Bayfield (APA-33) off the New York Navy Yard, 21 November 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Bayfield (APA-33), flagship for the "Utah" Beach landings, lowers LCVPs for the assault on Normandy, 6 June 1944. USS LST-346 is partially visible beyond Bayfield's stern, and USS Nevada is in the far right distance. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Bayfield (APA-33), flagship for the "Utah" Beach landings, loading landing craft on "D-Day," 6 June 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: USS Bayfield (APA-33) photographed on 6 February 1952. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: Hungnam Evacuation, December 1950. Marines boarding USS Bayfield (APA-33) at Hungnam for transportation out of North Korea. Note details of the Marines' packs. Man at left is carrying a Russian Mosin-Nagant carbine in addition to his M1. This photograph was released by Commander, Naval Forces Far East, on 20 December 1950. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: USS Bayfield (APA-33) offloading a Jeep into a LCM, 1952. The original picture caption, released by the Public Information Office of Commander Naval Forces, Far East, under the date of 27 October 1952, reads: "Operation Decoy's Preparation --- A jeep is lowered into an awaiting LCM during pre-operation decoy exercises. In the operation, UN forces sailed to the beaches of Kojo, North Korea, and brought out enemy troops so that Naval surface artillery, combined with Marine, Air Force, and Navy air units could smash them.” Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: Operation "Passage to Freedom," 1954-1955. Four crewmen display a welcoming banner for Vietnamese refugees coming on board USS Bayfield (APA-33) for passage to Saigon, Indochina, from Haiphong, 3 September 1954. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9: Operation "Passage to Freedom," 1954-1955. Vietnamese refugees receive food on board USS Bayfield (APA-33) while en route to Saigon, Indochina, from Haiphong, circa September 1954. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 10: Operation "Passage to Freedom," 1954-1955. A crewmen rations out water for Vietnamese refugees on board USS Bayfield (APA-33) during their journey to Saigon, Indochina, from Haiphong, circa September 1954. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 11: Six of Bayfield's LCVPs cross the line of departure en route to White Beach, during amphibious exercises on 18 November 1961. USS Page County (LST-1076) is in the background, with LCU-1499 beyond her stern and LCU-1613 to the right. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 12: USS Bayfield in the Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal, on 5 December 1962. Photographed by J. O. Fox. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

USS Bayfield (APA-33) was named after Henry W. Bayfield, an officer of the Royal Navy who came to Canada during the War of 1812 and, once the war ended, decided to stay in the United States. He went on to become a famous surveyor of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the coast of Labrador. USS Bayfield was the lead ship in a class of 16,100-ton attack transports that was originally built by the Western Pipe & Steel Company at San Francisco, California, and was constructed as a C3-S-A2 freighter under a Maritime Commission contract. She was acquired by the Navy at the end of June 1943, was placed in a reduced state of commission, and sailed via the Panama Canal to Brooklyn, New York, where the Atlantic Basic Iron Works converted her into an amphibious warfare ship. Bayfield was fully commissioned into the US Navy on 20 November 1943 with Captain Lyndon Spencer, US Coast Guard, in command. The ship was approximately 492 feet long and 69 feet wide, had a top speed of 18.4 knots and a crew of 575 officers and men (all of them members of the US Coast Guard), and could transport roughly 1,226 troops. Bayfield was armed with two 5-inch guns, eight 40-mm guns, and 24 20-mm guns.

Following a shakedown cruise in the Chesapeake Bay area, Bayfield was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, for some repairs. After conducting several amphibious training exercises, Bayfield steamed to Great Britain with a full load of troops in February 1944. Once she got there, Bayfield spent the next three months preparing and training for the invasion of France. She was equipped with special command facilities and, during the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, Bayfield was the flagship for the assault on “Utah” Beach. After the invasion of Normandy, Bayfield was sent to the Mediterranean in July and, one month later, participated in the invasion of southern France. Bayfield returned to the United States for an overhaul in September 1944.

Bayfield then was assigned to the Pacific in November 1944, where she spent the next two months conducting amphibious training exercises in Hawaiian waters. She landed Marines on Iwo Jima in February 1945 and in April took part in the invasion of Okinawa. For the remainder of the war in the Pacific, Bayfield was assigned to various logistics operations. During the last four months of 1945 and in early 1946, Bayfield supported the occupation of Japan and Korea, and participated in Operation “Magic Carpet,” which brought American war veterans back home to the United States.

In June and July 1946, Bayfield attended the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. She remained on active duty in the Pacific for several more years and then was assigned to the Atlantic. But in mid-1950, the Korean War brought Bayfield back to the Pacific. She operated off the coast of Korea until May 1951 and in September made a round-trip voyage from the United States to Japan and back. In March 1952, Bayfield was sent back to Korea to provide logistics support for the troops there.

For the next two years, Bayfield made three more cruises to Asia and in August and September 1954 assisted in the evacuation of refugees that resulted from the partition of Vietnam. She was one of more than 40 amphibious transports assigned to Operation “Passage to Freedom,” where US Navy ships assisted people who were fleeing Communist North Vietnam to live in democratic South Vietnam. During this operation, the US ships provided food, shelter, and medical aid, as well as transportation, to thousands of people who made the journey from North to South Vietnam.

For the next 13 years, Bayfield was assigned to the Pacific. Although her homeport was in Long Beach, California, she spent a substantial amount of time in Hawaii and the Far East, visiting ports in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. In 1967, while the war in Vietnam was raging, Bayfield served as a floating barracks at Danang, South Vietnam, transported Marines to and from combat zones, and took part in several landing operations. She continued various transport duties off the coast of Vietnam until the end of May 1967, when she returned to Long Beach for the last time. Bayfield was placed out of commission but in reserve on 28 June 1968. However, a Navy board of inspection and survey found the old transport to be unfit for further service. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 October 1968 and she was sold to Levin Metals Corporation of San Pedro, California, on 15 September 1969 for scrapping.

USS Bayfield received four battle stars for her service in World War II, four battle stars for her service during the Korean War, and two battle stars for her work in Vietnam. This was a very impressive record for an amphibious transport, especially one whose career spanned three wars and roughly 25 years of constant service. Ships like Bayfield get precious little recognition, even though they take substantial risks in wartime and do important work in peacetime. Bayfield transported thousands of people and many tons of cargo during her lifetime and she was even able to give several hundred refugees a chance at a new life by carrying them from North to South Vietnam. Amphibious transports are vital to any major navy and ships like Bayfield show just how useful and durable they can be.