Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Figure 1: USS Lorain (PF-93) under construction at the American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, Ohio, 1944. Courtesy the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Launching of USS Lorain (PF-93) at the American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, Ohio, on 18 March 1944. Courtesy Russ Hartley. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Lorain (PF-93) leaving Lorain, Ohio, in 1945. Courtesy Murray Thompson. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Covington (PF-56), left, and USS Lorain (PF-93), right, docked at New York City in 1946. The original photograph is dated 11 May 1946, when the ships were on loan to the US Coast Guard. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1974. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a city and county in northern Ohio, USS Lorain (PF-93) was a 1,430-ton Tacoma class patrol frigate that was built by the American Shipbuilding Company at Lorain, Ohio, and was commissioned at Baltimore, Maryland, on 15 January 1945. The ship was approximately 303 feet long and 37 feet wide, had a top speed of 20 knots, and had a crew of 176 officers and men, all of whom were members of the United States Coast Guard. Lorain was heavily armed for anti-submarine warfare, with three 3-inch guns, two twin 40-mm guns, nine 20-mm guns, one Hedgehog anti-submarine spigot mortar, eight depth-charge projectors, and two depth-charge tracks.
Lorain left Baltimore on 28 January 1945 and completed her shakedown training off Norfolk, Virginia, and Bermuda. The ship then headed north for additional training to Casco Bay, Maine. On 11 April, Lorain steamed to Argentia, Newfoundland, and used that location as a base for weather patrols in the north Atlantic. While serving as a weather ship, Lorain travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland, and also patrolled the waters off Greenland and the Azores.
Lorain returned to the United States and arrived at Boston, Massachusetts, on 14 September 1945. She conducted weather patrols off New England until late October and on 2 December headed south for duty in the Caribbean. An escort assignment took her to Brazil in early 1946 and, after two weather patrols east of Bermuda, she returned to Boston on 7 March 1946. Lorain was decommissioned at Boston on 14 March 1946.
The ship then was sold as World War II surplus to the French Navy on 26 March 1947 and was commissioned into the French Navy on that same day. Renamed La Place (F-13), the ship was disarmed a year later and served as a weather observation ship in the north Atlantic. Shortly after midnight on 16 September 1950, La Place reached St. Malo, France, and decided to anchor offshore before entering the port the next morning. But a recent storm had disconnected a magnetic sea mine that was left over from World War II and had been tethered to the ocean floor. The mine evidently floated to the surface and struck the ship, causing a huge explosion. La Place sank almost immediately and only 42 of her crew of 75 men were rescued from the icy waters after the ship went down. In one of the stranger twists of fate, a ship that was originally built to serve in World War II was actually sunk by a mine that was laid during the war, even though the ship went down on 16 September 1950, more than five years after the end of World War II.
Posted by Remo at 8:20 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Figure 1: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway in Puget Sound, Washington, on 3 July 1946, two days before commissioning. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway in Puget Sound on 3 July 1946, two days before commissioning. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway in Puget Sound on 3 July 1946, two days before commissioning. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway in the early 1950s. The ship lacks her 5-inch gun, which was removed in 1951, but still displays a World War II-style small hull number. The quadruple 40-mm gun mount on her fantail was probably added in a 1948 yard period. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Valcour (AVP-55) viewed from a taxiing seaplane in an undated photograph probably taken no later than 1960. An aviation insignia was added in the mid- or late-1950s adjacent to her hull number. Her main battery consists of two quadruple 40-mm mounts, one forward and one aft, and two twin 40-mm mounts amidships. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Valcour (AVP-55) shown before departing her base at Little Creek, Virginia, for her fourteenth Middle East deployment in mid-1963. She now has a tripod foremast with a modern air search radar, new ECM antennas around the stack, and a large communications antenna and a new deckhouse in place of her after 40-mm gun mount, all probably fitted in an overhaul around 1960. She retains an aviation insignia adjacent to her hull number. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger number.
Figure 7: USS Valcour (AVP-55) conducting a highline transfer with USS Boston (CAG-1) on 10 May 1964. She no longer displays an aviation insignia adjacent to her hull number, probably because of her administrative transfer from an aviation to a cruiser-destroyer type commander in January 1964. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway around 1964-1965. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Valcour (AVP-55) underway in a photograph released in September 1965. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: USS Valcour (AGF-1) departing Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 18 April 1966 for her new home port of Bahrain. This, her sixteenth Middle East deployment, lasted until she returned to Norfolk in 1972 to decommission. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: USS Valcour (AGF-1) underway with awnings spread after 1965. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: USS Valcour (AGF-1) underway in July 1970. Official US Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: USS Valcour (AGF-1) shown in her final configuration, in a photograph released in November 1972. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 14: Ex-USS Valcour (AGF-1) hulk moored at the Solomons Branch of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory after being towed there from Norfolk on 20 March 1973. Ex-Valcour was used to study the effects of electro-magnetic pulses on her electronic equipment at the EMPRESS facility at Point Patience. The poles of this facility, which transmitted EMP signals to the ship, are visible in the background. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 15: USS Valcour (AVP-55) Crew Fighting Tanker Fire. Valcour's fire and rescue party cooling down the deck of the Italian tanker Argea Prima in May 1955 after controlling a fire with portable fire-fighting equipment. The tanker, carrying 72,000 barrels of crude oil, had caught fire after a Dutch freighter collided with it in the entrance to the Persian Gulf. After four hours of work, Valcour was able to return the tanker to its crew, which had abandoned it following the collision. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 16: USS Valcour (AVP-55) Liberty Party in the Seychelles Islands. Valcour's boat carrying sailors in 1960 during the first visit of a US Navy ship to the Seychelles Islands in 48 years. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 17: USS Valcour (AGF-1) Gun Crew at General Quarters. The crew of a 40-mm twin mount practicing loading procedures while Valcour was on station in the Red Sea during the 1967 Middle East crisis. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 18: Sheikh Isa bin Sulman Al-Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain, departing USS Valcour (AGF-1) on 5 April 1967 after an official visit to Rear Admiral Earl R. Eastwold, USN, Commander Middle East Force. The Sheikh, his brother, and other dignitaries lunched on board with the Admiral. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 19: Insignia of USS Valcour (AGF-1) as supplied by the ship in April 1970. Its features include a dhow, common in Middle East waters; numeral "1" for Valcour's hull number; Admiral's two-star pennant, representing her flagship assignment; and a map of the Persian Gulf where she was based. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a small island in Lake Champlain, New York, the 1,776-ton USS Valcour (AVP-55) was a Barnegat class small seaplane tender that was built by the Lake Washington Shipyard at Houghton, Washington, and was commissioned on 5 July 1946. The ship was approximately 310 feet long and 41 feet wide, had a top speed of 18.5 knots, and had a crew of 367 officers and men. Valcour was armed initially with one 5-inch gun, eight 40-mm guns, and eight 20-mm cannons, but this armament was drastically reduced later in her career.
After completing her shakedown cruise off San Diego, California, Valcour was sent to the east coast in September 1946 to join the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. She was based at Norfolk, Virginia, and made occasional visits to Quonset Point, Rhode Island; Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and tended to sea planes in those locations until 1949.
Valcour was designated as the flagship for the Commander of the Middle East Force and left Norfolk on 29 August 1949 for the first of an amazing sixteen deployments to the Middle East. The ship steamed across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and then transited the Suez Canal. Valcour stopped at Aden on 24 September and then went on to visit ports throughout the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. As the Middle East flagship, Valcour acted as the command post, living facility, and communications center for the Commander of the Middle East Force and his staff of 15 officers. As a good-will gesture to the nations in the region, Valcour distributed medicine, clothing, textbooks, and domestic machinery (such as sewing machines) to the needy. In addition, Valcour and her crew assisted in the construction of orphanages and schools and entertained dignitaries, military representatives, and local government officials. Valcour also kept a close watch on merchant shipping lanes in the area, was available to rescue ships in distress, and evacuated American citizens from unstable nations in the region during times of crisis. Valcour left the Persian Gulf on 6 March 1950 and returned to Norfolk via the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean. After completing an overhaul and a brief training assignment, Valcour returned to the Middle East and once again became the flagship for the Commander of the Middle East Force from 5 September 1950 to 15 March 1951.
On 14 May 1951, two months after returning from her second Middle East deployment, Valcour was leaving Norfolk on a training exercise when she suffered a steering malfunction. Without the ability to turn, the ship collided with the collier SS Thomas Tracy, which was sailing nearby just off Cape Henry, Virginia. Thomas Tracy tried to turn away from Valcour, but the collier’s bow soon crashed into Valcour’s starboard side, rupturing an aviation gasoline fuel tank. An enormous fire soon broke out on board Valcour, with the burning aviation gasoline engulfing much of the ship. Making matters worse, the seaplane tender’s hull was torn open and water was pouring into the ship. A number of men, fearing being incinerated by the flames, jumped overboard, only to drown in the fierce currents that swirled around the ship. At one point, the situation looked so bad that Valcour’s commanding officer, Captain Eugene Tatom, gave the order to abandon ship. Fortunately, the crew of the collier Thomas Tracy managed to contain a fire in her forward hold and the ship limped to Newport News, Virginia, with no casualties.
Valcour became the center of a large recue and salvage operation, with the submarine rescue ship USS Sunbird (ASR-15) and the Coast Guard Tug Cherokee (WAT-165) rushing out to the scene to offer assistance. Fire and rescue parties from both ships, along with members of Valcour’s crew who remained on board the stricken vessel, eventually managed to bring the fire under control and stop the flooding. Sadly, the collision and fire on board Valcour claimed 36 lives. Valcour was towed back to Norfolk where she underwent a massive overhaul over the next few months to not only repair the damage, but also to modernize the ship. During the overhaul, major changes were made to Valcour. Air conditioning was installed throughout the ship and her forward 5-inch gun was removed. New and improved electronic equipment was also added to the ship. All of the construction work was completed on 4 December 1951.
After that, from 1952 to 1965, Valcour deployed every year to the Middle East as one of a trio of special ships that served alternately as the flagship for the Commander of the Middle East Force. Valcour slipped into a regular routine as the years went by. She would leave Norfolk in January, relieve USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) as flagship when she arrived on station in the Persian Gulf, and return to Norfolk after being relieved by USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41) in August. Some of the highlights of her deployments to the Middle East included assisting a damaged cargo ship in the Indian Ocean in 1953 and then escorting that ship to Bombay during a massive typhoon. Valcour came to the rescue of a burning and abandoned Italian oil tanker, the Argea Prim, in May 1955 and managed to extinguish the fires and salvage the ship and its cargo. The seaplane tender also visited the Seychelles Islands in 1960, the first such visit to the islands by a US warship in 48 years.
In 1960, Valcour was modernized yet again. She received a tripod mast, a new air search radar, and a tall communications antenna which, along with its deckhouse, replaced the quadruple 40-mm gun mount on her fantail. Valcour completed her fifteenth Middle East deployment in March 1965. That same year, both Duxbury Bay and Greenwich Bay were decommissioned and Valcour became the only Middle East flagship in the US Navy. She was reclassified AGF-1 in December 1965 and left the United States for her new home port in Bahrain in April 1966. Valcour served there until January 1972, when she was selected for inactivation. Valcour was relieved by USS La Salle (AGF-3) in November 1972 and returned to Norfolk. USS Valcour was decommissioned in January 1973 and in March her stripped hulk was towed to Solomons Island, Maryland, where it was used by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory for electromagnetic pulse experiments. The ship was finally sold for scrap in June of 1977.
Figure 20: USS Valcour (AVP-55) illuminated at night on 17 April 1954, probably in a Middle East port. Her hull number is larger than it was earlier in the 1950s. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Valcour is seen here all lit up at night, just like a Christmas tree! Merry Christmas to all and have a Happy New Year.
Posted by Remo at 9:21 AM
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Figure 1: Launching of USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer #130) at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, 20 November 1918. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Destroyers fitting out at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, on 8 April 1919. They are (from left to right): USS Leary (Destroyer # 158; Builder's # 217); USS Babbitt (Destroyer # 128; Builder's # 213); USS Dickerson (Destroyer # 157; Builder's # 216); and USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer # 130; Builder's # 215). Builder's hull numbers are painted in small numerals on the ships' bows. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer # 130) photographed soon after she was completed in 1919. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer # 130) transiting the Panama Canal, 1920. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Undated photograph showing USS Swasey (DD-273), USS Welles (DD-257) and USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) transiting the Panama Canal. Courtesy Robert M. Cieri. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) photographed circa the 1930s. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Undated photograph of USS Jacob Jones (DD -130) and USS Claxton (DD-140) docked at New York City. Photo from the collection of Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Shown left to right, USS Tattnall (DD-125), USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), and USS Hopkins (DD-249) moored together off San Diego, California, circa 1935. This view shows the ships' bows, with signal flags hoisted in the rigging in honor of a special occasion. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: Shown left to right, USS Hopkins (DD-249), USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), and USS Tattnall (DD-125) moored together off San Diego, California, circa 1935. This view shows the ships' sterns with propeller guards, depth-charge racks, and small craft visible. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Shown from left to right are USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), USS Erie (PG-50), and USS Manley (DD-74) in harbor during a US Naval Academy Midshipmen's cruise, 3 August 1937. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: USS Yorktown (CV-5) tied up at Pier 7, Naval Operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia, on 30 September 1937, with commissioning ceremonies underway on her flight deck. USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) is on the opposite side of the pier. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: USS Yorktown (CV-5) along with other ships at Pier 7, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, on 19 October 1937. The other ships present are (from left to right): USS Texas (BB-35); USS Decatur (DD-341); USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) and USS Kewaydin (AT-24). Note automobiles parked in the foreground. Photograph from Department of the Navy collections in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Commodore Jacob Jones (1768-1850), US naval hero of the War of 1812, USS Jacob Jones was a 1,090-ton Wickes class destroyer that was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 20 October 1919. The ship was approximately 314 feet long and 31 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots, and had a crew of 113 officers and men. Jacob Jones was armed with four 4-inch guns, two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges.
After being commissioned, Jacob Jones served briefly in the Atlantic, but then joined the Pacific Fleet after transiting the Panama Canal in 1920. After being placed in reserve from August 1920 to June 1921, the ship was active along America’s west coast until she was decommissioned on 24 June 1922.
Jacob Jones was re-commissioned on 1 May 1930 and was initially used as a training ship, steaming in coastal waters from Alaska to Mexico. She then was used as a plane guard ship for the Navy’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers. Jacob Jones remained in the eastern Pacific until March 1931, when she was sent to the Caribbean for naval exercises. She returned to the Pacific from early 1932 to the spring of 1933. After that, though, the ship was assigned to the Atlantic and Caribbean areas of operations. Jacob Jones participated in numerous tactical exercises, training assignments, and diplomatic missions. In October and November of 1938, Jacob Jones crossed the Atlantic and operated in European and North African waters as part of US Naval Squadron 40-T. The ship returned to the United States on October 1939, shortly after the start of World War II in Europe.
For the next two years, Jacob Jones was assigned to submarine support duties, anti-submarine training, and Neutrality Patrols off the coast of the United States and in the Caribbean. After the United States entered World War II on 7 December 1941, Jacob Jones was assigned to convoy escort duties while based in Argentia, Newfoundland. On 4 January 1942, Jacob Jones left Argentia and escorted USS Albatross (AM-71) and USS Linnet (AM-76). The ships were going to join Convoy SC-63, which was bound for England. Along the way, Jacob Jones made an underwater contact and began a depth-charge attack. The destroyer, though, lost contact with the submarine. She then continued her mission and successfully escorted the two other ships to the convoy. Jacob Jones returned to Argentia on 5 January.
On 14 January 1942, Jacob Jones joined Convoy HX-169 which was headed for Iceland. A bad storm hit the convoy, with enormous waves and force 9 winds battering and then scattering the convoy. Jacob Jones eventually made it to Iceland on 19 January and then five days later she escorted three merchant ships back to Argentia. On the way back to Argentia, Jacob Jones again made a sonar contact with a submarine, but her subsequent depth-charge attack failed to sink the enemy warship. Jacob Jones and the merchant ships sailing with her arrived at Argentia on 3 February.
After escorting an incoming convoy that was bound for Boston, Jacob Jones was assigned to an independent anti-submarine patrol and was based in New York. On 22 February 1942, while under the command of Lieutenant Commander Hugh Black, Jacob Jones left New York and searched for German U-boats. Not far off the coast of New York, Jacob Jones made sonar contact with a submarine and attacked immediately. For five hours, the destroyer dropped depth charges while searching for the U-boat. After dropping roughly 57 depth charges, the men on the destroyer saw an oil slick but no additional debris from the submarine. Having dropped all of her depth charges, Jacob Jones had to return to New York to re-arm. Subsequent investigations failed to confirm that a U-boat was sunk that day.
On the morning of 27 February 1942, Jacob Jones once again left New York and headed southward to patrol along the southern coast of New Jersey. Shortly after she left New York, Lieutenant Commander Black received orders to focus her attention on the area between Cape May, New Jersey, and the Delaware Capes. At 1530, Jacob Jones spotted the burning wreckage of the tanker R.P. Resor, which had been torpedoed the previous day east of Barnegat Light. Jacob Jones circled the area for two hours searching for survivors and, after finding none, continued heading south. She was steaming at a steady 15 knots in calm seas and reported her position at 2000 hours before beginning radio silence. There was a full moon and visibility was good. The ship was completely darkened without any running or navigation lights burning and she continued on her southerly course.
At dawn on 28 February 1942, the German submarine U-578 spotted Jacob Jones and quickly fired a spread of torpedoes at the destroyer. The torpedoes raced towards the unsuspecting destroyer and two of them hit the ship’s port side in rapid succession. The first torpedo hit just aft of the bridge, apparently hitting the destroyer’s magazine and causing enormous damage to the ship. The explosion tore off the forward part of Jacob Jones, completely destroying the bridge, chart room, and the officers’ and petty officers’ quarters. The ship shuddered to a stop as a second torpedo hit about 40 feet forward of the fantail, blowing off the aft end of the ship. Only the midsection of the ship remained intact. Lieutenant Commander Black and most of the crew were killed by the explosions. Roughly 25 or 30 men were still alive, though, and, incredibly, the midsection of the ship remained afloat for almost 45 minutes. This gave the survivors some time to abandon ship in the four or five life rafts that were left on board the ship. But, as the pieces of Jacob Jones slipped beneath the waves, some of her depth charges exploded, killing some men in one of the rafts.
At 0810 on 28 February 1942, an Army observation plane sighted the life rafts and reported their position to rescue ship Eagle 56 of the Inshore Patrol. The patrol boat raced to the scene, but strong winds and deteriorating weather conditions forced her to give up the search after picking up only 12 survivors, one of whom died on the way back to Cape May. Other ships and aircraft continued the search for survivors for two more days, but none were ever found.
Few people today realize that a savage naval war took place right off the east coast of the United States during World War II. Many ships, like the Jacob Jones, were sunk literally within sight of New York and New Jersey. It was a bloody war and thousands of people died in the struggle. It is well worth remembering that, in wartime, our coasts can be extremely vulnerable to enemy attack.
Figure 13: Photograph taken in the early 1940s of Lieutenant Commander Hugh Black, USN (1903-1942). He was lost at sea on 28 February 1942 while serving as Commanding Officer of USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), when his ship was torpedoed and sunk. USS Black (DD-666) was named in his honor. The original photograph was presented to USS Black by Mrs. Hugh Black, Ship's Sponsor, on 21 May 1943, the day the ship went into commission. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 14: A photograph of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Thomas W. Marshall, Jr., USN (1906-1942) during the 1930s. As a Lieutenant Commander, Marshall was Executive Officer of USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) when she was torpedoed and sunk on 28 February 1942. He was lost with the ship. USS Marshall (DD-676), commissioned on 16 October 1943, was named in his honor. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Posted by Remo at 9:20 AM
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Figure 1: USS Strong (DD-467) delivers mail to USS Honolulu (CL-48) during operations in the Solomon Islands area, circa early July 1943. Note the sign painted on Honolulu's starboard catapult: "No Smoking Abaft This Sign." Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Stern view looking forward of USS Strong's (DD-467) twin screws and rudder. Photo taken on the day she was christened, 17 May 1942, at the Bath Iron Works Yard, Bath, Maine. Courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Heavily retouched copy of a photograph of USS Strong (DD-467) taken circa the latter part of 1942. The retouching, which includes the land in the distance and the ship from the forward smokestack to the top of the pilothouse, was mainly done for censorship purposes, to eliminate radar antennas from the ship's gun director and foremast. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Conyngham (DD-371) at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, 15 February 1943. The destroyer in the right background appears to be USS Strong (DD-467). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: South Pacific Operations, 1943. Ships of Task Force 18 are seen here during gunnery exercises off Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, on 10 April 1943. At right are the destroyers Strong (DD-467) and O'Bannon (DD-450), making a turn. The three large ships in the distance are light cruisers, including St. Louis (CL-49) and Helena (CL-50) at left and either Nashville (CL-43) or Honolulu (CL-48) in the right center. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after James H. Strong, a famous Union ship captain during the Civil War, USS Strong (DD-467) was a 2,050-ton Fletcher class destroyer that was built by the Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine, and was commissioned on 7 August 1942. The ship was approximately 376 feet long and 39 feet wide, had a top speed of 35.5 knots, and had a crew of 273 officers and men. Strong was armed with five 5-inch guns, four 40-mm anti-aircraft guns, four 20-mm cannons, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges.
After her shakedown cruise, Strong escorted a convoy to Puerto Rico in October 1942 and then another to North Africa in November. She then set sail for the Pacific on 27 December 1942. After transiting the Panama Canal, Strong refueled at Bora Bora in the Society Islands and arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 27 January 1943. Strong began escorting convoys for two days and then was ordered to return to Noumea. On 1 February, Strong and the destroyer USS Cony (DD-508) escorted a convoy that was heading for Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. Strong left Espiritu Santo on 5 February and headed for the Solomon Islands and patrolled off the coast of Guadalcanal until 13 February, when she was attached to Task Force (TF) 67, which was made up of four cruisers and several destroyers.
TF 67 spent the next few weeks patrolling off the coast of the Solomon Islands. On 14 March 1943, Strong and the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD-449), Radford (DD-446), and Taylor (DD-468) were detached from the task force to bombard shore targets on Kolombangara Island. They did so on 16 March, but then resumed their patrol duties around the Solomon Islands. On the morning of 5 April, Strong made a strong surface radar contact at a range of 9,350 yards. Strong illuminated the target with its search light and saw that it was a Japanese submarine steaming on the surface. Strong and the nearby destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD-450) quickly opened fire with all their guns. Strong hit the submarine at least three times with her 5-inch guns and numerous hits were made by O’Bannon as well. The Japanese submarine, which turned out to be RO-34, settled by the stern and sank. The two destroyers, though, dropped some depth charges where the submarine went down just to make sure that it really was sunk and would not come up again. RO-34 was never heard from again.
Strong then was attached to Task Force 18. During the early morning hours of 7 May 1943, Strong escorted three destroyers carrying mines into Blackett Strait, which was located between Kolombangara and Arundel Island. The small force dropped their mines and quickly left the area. The next morning, four Japanese destroyers blundered into the newly-laid minefield. One Japanese destroyer blew up and immediately sank, while two others were damaged and then sunk by prowling American aircraft a few hours later. Although badly damaged, the fourth Japanese destroyer managed to get away.
On the night of 12 and 13 May 1943, Strong and Task Force 18 bombarded Kolombangara. Strong was then assigned to patrol and escort duty off Guadalcanal. On the afternoon of 16 June, Strong was roughly halfway between Guadalcanal and Tulagi when approximately 15 Japanese dive bombers attacked the cargo ships she was escorting. Strong put up heavy anti-aircraft fire as the planes attacked and managed to shoot down three of the Japanese aircraft.
Shortly after midnight on 5 July 1943, Strong and Task Force 18 were ordered to bombard New Georgia Island in the Solomons after American troops had landed there. The ships fired on Rice Anchorage on the west side of New Georgia. As the American ships were leaving after the bombardment, a group of Japanese destroyers just happened to be approaching the area. The Japanese spotted the American task force and immediately fired their torpedoes at it. Strong’s gunnery officer saw one of the torpedoes coming straight for his ship, but did not have enough time to notify the bridge. A torpedo slammed into the port side of the destroyer, setting off a major explosion. One of the American destroyers in the task force, USS Chevalier (DD-451), saw that Strong had sustained a fatal hit and literally rammed Strong’s bow so that her crewmembers could throw nets and lifelines over the side to the men on board Strong, which was by now sinking. Well over 200 of Strong’s crewmembers managed to scramble on board Chevalier in only seven minutes. Meanwhile, Japanese gunners on New Georgia spotted the two American warships and illuminated them with star shells. The Japanese then opened fire on the incapacitated Strong with their artillery pieces, hitting her several times. USS O’Bannon began counter-battery fire against the Japanese position, trying to give some cover to Chevalier as she continued pulling men off Strong. Unfortunately, Chevalier had to cease rescue operations because Japanese artillery shells were now coming uncomfortably close to that ship as well. As Chevalier began leaving the area, Strong sank deeper into the water and was listing heavily. The doomed destroyer then broke in half just before she sank. But as she went down, some of her depth charges went off, killing a few of the survivors that were swimming in the water. A few minutes later, the two parts of the destroyer sank, taking 46 crewmembers with her.
This brief but deadly confrontation proved that whoever sees the enemy first usually gets the first shot. In this instance, one shot (or torpedo) was all that was needed to doom the destroyer Strong. But this incident also showed the incredible bravery and teamwork of the other destroyers in the American task force, with Chevalier trying to assist Strong while O’Bannon provided covering fire against the Japanese guns on shore. USS Strong was less than a year old before she died, but the ship still managed to receive two battle stars for her service in World War II.
Posted by Remo at 9:44 AM