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USS Ranger CV-61

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World War II marked a transition in naval warfare that very few people foresaw. After all, while there had been changes in naval technology over the preceding centuries, they had largely been confined to three aspects: gunnery, armor, and propulsion.

In the Golden Age of Sail – a period which continues to hold my fascination – cannons and sail held supreme. Later in the nineteenth century warships adopted steam engines, actual armor plate, and guns which while connected to their forebears were magnitudes more powerful.

Students of history know that these big gun ships dominated throughout the nineteenth century and became supreme in the early part of the twentieth culminating in the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet who both clashed at Jutland. No one knew it at the time, but that was essentially the high-water mark of the all big gun ship. More such ships would be built and commissioned for the next couple of decades, and some would be incredible. The HMS Hood – one of the most elegant ships ever built would ultimately be sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, herself a tour de force of naval architecture. (Her design predecessors Scharnhorst and Gneisenau showed stunning beauty.) There were American battleships in this league about which I have previously written.

Yet aircraft carriers are somehow different. Maybe it’s the mystique of Pearl Harbor, but I can’t help but notice the tremendous success of the British whose Swordfish aircraft successfully attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Of course, it must be allowed that the Japanese both knew of and studied the Taranto attack.

That’s the transition. World War II marked the transition of naval supremacy from the all big gun ship to the aircraft carrier. Some debated it at the time, but there is no disputing that in the Pacific, the United States after Pearl Harbor had lost the eight battleships of the Pacific Fleet. The US Navy was left with the carriers to bring the fight to the enemy, and I suspect that the stalwart American sailors were just as surprised as anyone else when those carriers not only proved equal to the task but the masters of it.

That brings me to the postwar aspect of things. It is simply an axiom that combat reaps lessons. Four years of the most intense conflict, in which technology becomes a weapon itself, will yield lessons which the observant may improve their ability to wage war. In a postwar context, the USS Ranger, CV-61 may be the first ship to embody those lessons.

Now, it is true that other ships were built and designed before the Ranger. The USS United States was probably the most significant, though she was never in any danger of completion. The Ranger herself was a member of the Forrestal class, and she followed that ship as well as the Saratoga. USS Independence rounded out the class.

The reason Ranger is important is she was built from the start with the angled deck so critical to modern carrier operations. Invented by the British – very clever people where naval technology is concerned – the angled deck allowed for simultaneous takeoff and landing operations. It also eliminated the danger of a landing aircraft failing and crashing into other planes forward on the deck.

From an American point of view, though many WWII carriers were converted – Essex class and others – it was the Forrestals, led by the Ranger, that incorporated this new and critical innovation.

The Ranger has a more personal meaning for me – my cousin commanded a squadron of A-4 Skyhawks off of her in the Vietnam War. Her service to the country was exemplary, and at this time her fate remains unclear. I hope she becomes a museum ship as I would dearly like to go aboard her. Here she is in her prime:

USS Ranger

A glass raised to the entire class: USS Forrestal CV-59, USS Saratoga CV-60, USS Ranger CV-61, and USS Independence CV-62!

Written by martinipundit

October 5, 2010 at 2:13 am

Posted in Military, Ships

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Pearl Harbor Plus 64

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Today is Pearl Harbor day – sixty-four years ago, the Japanese Empire launched a sneak attack on the United States Pacific Fleet, then based at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. President Roosevelt called it a date which would “live in infamy.” It was a bright, Sunday morning, when just before 8 am, a wave of planes came out of the blue to shatter the American fleet. Two hours later, when it was over, the eight US battleships: Arizona, California, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia, were sunk or badly damaged. One, the Arizona, would never be repaired, and another, the Oklahoma would founder being towed to the west coast, but the other six would eventually be returned to service.

This is the Pennsylvania after the attack: 

Also destroyed in the attack was most of the air power the US had there, but significantly, neither the dockyard facilities nor the logistics facilities of Pearl Harbor were seriously damaged. Most important of all, not a single American carrier was at Pearl Harbor.

So why did the Japanese attack? The short answer is resources. Engaged in a brutal conquest of China, the Japanese were consuming vast quantities of oil, rubber, and other resources basically not found in the Japanese Isles. As their invasion of China created more alarm and revulsion in the west, the Japanese found themselves facing a trade embargo, and now began to look for the resources it needed in Southeast Asia. However, the US Pacific Fleet was a serious threat to Japanese expansion plans. Thus they resolved to strike at the US battleship fleet, ironically with the weapon – the aircraft carrier – that would make the battleship obsolete and render the entire attack a colossal error.

The Japanese attack was a brilliant piece of planning, staff work, tactical execution, and daring. It was, at the same time, strategically insane. The last thing the Japanese wanted was a protracted war with the United States, which they knew they could not win, so they staged a blow which would prevent the US from projecting naval power in the Pacific for the amount of time necessary for them to complete their resource grab. After which, some sort of negotiated truce would be possible. Or so the Japanese warmongers deluded themselves. Instead, the surprise attack galvanized a nation, and made a return to the status quo ante impossible. The Japanese – admittedly, not all of them – fundamentally misread the American character and it cost them dearly.

There is a parallel to our modern Pearl Harbor – September 11th. In this, the same fundamental miscalculation was made by the enemies of the United States, believing the nation weak, and unwilling to defend itself. The 9/11 attacks were intended to force us to withdraw from the Middle East, and from the world stage so as to give Osama bin Laden and his ilk a free hand to reestablish the Caliphate. Like the Japanese sixty-four years ago, Osama misread the American character and it has cost him dearly. It’s not over yet, but it will end the same way World War II did – with the unconditional surrender of the enemies of the United States.

A glass raised to the men and women who died at Pearl Harbor, and on 9/11.

Information, links, and images of Pearl Harbor can be found here. My thoughts on this day last year are here.

Written by martinipundit

December 7, 2005 at 1:59 pm

Posted in History, Ships

Trafalgar 200

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Today marks the opening of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a victory which assured Great Britain’s command of the sea for the next hundred years, and which ultimately confined Napoleon to the continent. Although Admiral Horatio Nelson fell in his moment of triumph – mortally wounded by a French sharpshooter – he knew that he had won the day. (Nelson was quite battered in his time, having already lost an eye and an arm in other battles.) Warships from 35 nations have gathered at Portsmouth England to partake. Here are (bottom to top) the HMS Invincible, the USS Saipan, and the FS Charles de Gaulle:

Trafalgar200 website here, and a good description of the battle here.

Update There have been some suggestions that the French were trying to upstage the British by sending the de Gaulle – their most impressive naval unit – inasmuch as they actually lost the battle of Trafalgar. I think this is reading too much into things. Look at the picture – if size matters, the de Gaulle compares unfavorably to the HMS Invincible and definitely to the Saipan. It is important to consider that both of the latter carriers are not ‘attack’ carriers, the Invincible being what the British call a “through-deck cruiser” meant primarily for helicopters and VSTOL aircraft like the Harrier. The Invincible, by the way, is by no means a new ship, having fought in the Falklands twenty-three years ago. The Saipan, similarly, is not an aircraft carrier, but is what we in the States call an ‘amphibious assault ship.’ This means she has harriers, and helicopters, and a lot of marines. Her primary role is to project a complete battle force – air, land, and sea – at any given point, but she is not a fleet carrier like a Nimitz class.

The Charles de Gaulle, on the other hand, is the French version of a Nimitz, and she does not compare favorably at all. She carries fewer aircraft (less than half), displaces far fewer tons (look at the picture), and has proven rather cranky in actual operations. This is not surprising given that only the US has had real experience and success building nuclear-powered surface warships. Teething pains are to be expected, as the Russians found out when they tried to build ships of this sort. The de Gaulle is what she is, and that is the finest warship in the French fleet. I think it appropriate to give the French the benefit of the doubt on this one. No doubt some Gallic pride is involved, but I believe they sent the de Gaulle not to snub the British, but to honor their role in this great naval conflict. Personally, I wish we could have sent a super carrier to this review, but there is a war on.

Here is a picture of the de Gaulle in company with the USS Enterprise CVN-65 which give some idea of the relative size: 

The Enterprise was the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world. Of course, she was commissioned in 1961 (de Gaulle in 2000), and displaces some 90,000 tons (more than twice the de Gaulle) and carries nearly 100 aircraft (de Gaulle carrries 40). If someone really wanted to upstage the British, they would have sent a ship like the Enterprise.

Written by martinipundit

June 28, 2005 at 9:30 am

Posted in History, Ships

First American Carriers at War

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The United States was somewhat slower to develop aircraft carriers than other navies, both the Japanese and the British gaining a head start. But in the interwar period, the US built some remarkable ships, several of which would become instrumental in turning the tide of battle in the Pacific in 1942.

Here is a photo of the first three US carriers in Bremerton, WA in 1929:

At the bottom, we find the USS Langley CV-1, the first American carrier. She saw action in WWII as a converted seaplane tender, being sunk in February, 1942. In the middle is the USS Saratoga CV-3, a ship which survived the war only to be sunk during the nuclear tests at Bikini Atholl.

It is the top ship we’re most interested in. This is the USS Lexington CV-2, the “Lady Lex.” She and her sister Saratoga began life as battlecruisers, but they and the four other ships of the class were cancelled in 1922 in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty. The Lexington and Saratoga had already been launched, and the decision was made to convert them to aircraft carriers. In this guise, they were undoubtedly more successful and more valuable to the nation. Before Pearl Harbor, a total of eight carriers were built by the US, all of which eventually saw action of some sort in WWII, and only three of which survived. The other five were all lost to Japanese action in 1942.

The first six months of 1942 were difficult ones for the American military forces in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor had devastated the American battleships, forcing the Navy to rely on the carriers for major operations. That Pearl Harbor had changed naval warfare in favor of the carrier only made a virtue of the necessity. Three key objectives drove American strategy in those months: Protect American forward bases in the Pacific, prevent the Japanese from seizing New Guinea and the Solomons (which would threaten Australia), and conserve the carriers. Basically, two of these three objectives would be met.

As a prelude to the invasion of New Guinea, the Japanese sent a task force to seize Port Moresby which included three carriers: the Shokaku and Zuikaku – two heavy carriers that had been at Pearl Harbor, and the light carrier Shoho. In total the Japanese carriers had 140 aircraft. In response, Admiral Nimitz dispatched two carriers, the Lexington and the much newer USS Yorktown CV-5 with 138 planes. This is the Yorktown in 1940 in San Diego:

The resulting battle, called Coral Sea and fought over May 7-8, 1942, was the first battle ever to be fought entirely with carrier-based aircraft. The American commander, Rear Admiral Fletcher, attacked the Japanese invasion force on May 7, and sank the Shoho. The next day, the main carrier duel began, and the Japanese withdrew after losing 73 aircraft, cancelling the invasion. The first time out, the American carriers had inflicted a strategic defeat on the Japanese.

It came at a very high cost, however. In addition to the loss of 66 planes, the Yorktown was damaged and the Lexington hit by two torpedoes. Here she is just before the war (the dual 8″ turrets were removed early in 1942):

The damage was severe, and fires raged throughout the ship. Many men were trapped below decks, and herculean efforts were made to save them. The crew managed to put out the fires, only to have them flare up again when the ventilation system was turned back on. The order was given to abandon ship, all hope lost for the trapped crewmen. The Lexington was scuttled, and the US had lost her first heavy carrier. The Yorktown had also been damaged in the battle, and she steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

This loss was not without gain, however. One month later, a decisive carrier action took place near Midway Island, key to a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. A huge Japanese fleet, including the other four heavy carriers from Pearl Harbor: the Akagi, the Kaga, the Hiryu, and the Soryu were met by the newly repaired Yorktown and her sister ship the USS Enterprise CV-6. When the battle was over, all four Japanese carriers had been sunk, and along with their irreplacable loss was the irreplacable loss of the cream of the Japanese aviators. But this battle was won at the cost of the Yorktown, damaged by the Japanese planes and finished by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.

Yet Midway was a staggering victory. From that point forward, the American took the offensive in the Pacific, and the invasion of Guadacanal followed soon after. The Japanese had shown the world the power of the aircraft carrier, but it was the US Navy which took them to school. A salute to all our veterans, past and present, on Memorial Day.

Written by martinipundit

May 30, 2005 at 11:45 am

Posted in History, Ships

USS San Francisco Redux

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Remember the USS San Francisco, the sub which ran aground while submerged last January? The Navy has concluded it was ‘pilot error.’

The crew of an attack submarine that struck an undersea mountain in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year did not adequately review navigation charts that warned of an obstacle in the vessel’s path, according to a Navy report released Saturday.

I have no idea if this is whitewash or not, but you knew someone had to be blamed.

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May 9, 2005 at 11:21 am

Posted in Ships

Can’t Improve on This

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Anything I might have said about the Navy’s newest submarine is said far better by Chris Muir:

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February 16, 2005 at 11:28 am

Posted in General, Ships

The Damaged San Francisco

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The Navy has released pictures of the damage the USS San Francisco sustained when colliding with that undersea ‘mountain.’ Here’s one:

God Bless watertight bulkheads.

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January 27, 2005 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Ships

The San Francisco Hit an Undersea Mountain

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Hard too.

Apparently, the sub was traveling in excess of 33 knots when she hit.

Saturday’s accident near Guam caused part of the sonar dome, which is part of the submarine’s nose, to flood, officials said. The commander of the USS San Francisco, Kevin Mooney, has not been relieved of duty while the investigation of the accident continues. Mooney could be relieved of duty if officials determine there is enough evidence that the accident could have been averted.

The investigation will look at the sub’s speed, its location and whether the undersea formation was on navigational charts, officials said. The submarine was traveling in excess of 33 knots — about 35 mph –when its nose hit the undersea formation head-on, officials said.

Amazing the damage wasn’t more severe.

Written by martinipundit

January 12, 2005 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Ships

USS San Francisco Back Home

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The USS San Francisco has reached her home port in Guam.

The Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) arrived safely in Guam Monday afternoon Guam time (all following dates Guam time) following a Friday grounding accident at sea, approximately 350 nautical miles south of Guam. Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died Sunday from injuries suffered during the accident. Twenty-three other Sailors were treated by medical teams dispatched out to the submarine for a range of injuries including broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury. The submarine had a crew of 137 at the time of the incident.

Still no word on what might have happened to cause a submarine to ground 350 miles from the nearest land, but one imagines the grounding actually took place on the seabed – the alternative is a collision of some sort. More info about the Navy’s attack subs here.

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January 11, 2005 at 9:05 am

Posted in Ships

USS San Francisco Has Run Aground

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The US submarine force has a pretty enviable safety record compared to other nations but accidents will happen. The Los Angeles class attack sub USS San Francisco (SSN 711) has run aground near Guam and one crewman has died. The sub itself is now headed for Guam under escort. Our condolences to the family of the crewman. Here is an older picture of the San Francisco:

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January 9, 2005 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Ships

The Unexpected Stroke

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In lighter fare, both written and visual, there are two events of the 20th century often invoked or set as backdrops for stories – Pearl Harbor and the Titanic. Each provides suitable melodrama and need not even be the main focus of the tale. I recall seeing one TV movie about the presidency in which some fellow was to come give the president advice or something and the line was — he’s coming in tomorrow – “on the Titanic.” Nothing more was heard of this, but then one didn’t need to know any more than that. He drowned and there it was. And how many episodes of Magnum P.I. had a Pearl Harbor theme to the story?

The reasons for this are not difficult to discern. Both events were tragic, unexpected, and entailed great loss of life. They represent the two poles of the unexpected stroke, and provide the storyteller with ready-made chrome which requires virtually no extra labor. The story basically tells itself and on a grand scale. One can find this sort of stroke on the small stage as well – a fire in which children lose their lives, an ambush on the battlefield – but it is the larger events that shape subsequent events and our perceptions of them.

The Titanic is remembered quite differently from Pearl Harbor because it was basically an accidental unexpected stroke. Oh, there was some blame to go around for the crew, but mostly, it was the iceberg and it’s hard to blame an iceberg. Here there is tragedy and drama contained within the event itself. The proverbial “Act of God.”

Pearl Harbor is different. Unexpected yes, blameless no. A sneak attack which drew the United States into a shooting war in which hundreds of thousands died. The reverberations of that unexpected stroke – tragic and dramatic – are felt even today. Indeed, it is thus we speak of a ‘postwar world’ even now.

Yet there is more to it though when human agents are deliberately behind the stroke. The apportioning of blame is immediate, obvious, and motivating. We rightly decry the first shot of an ambush, a knife in the back, a poisoned goblet. How much more so the shot that unleashes unexpected death in large numbers and plunges the world into war. It makes us not only sad, but angry and determined.

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We have just passed the 3rd anniversary of the unexpected stroke of 9/11 which someday will no doubt provide a tragic backdrop for many stories. In the meantime, on this day, when it is proper to remember those who sacrificed their lives, it also worthwhile to consider how we receive the unexpected stroke, and how it changes us all in ways we can scarcely predict.

Here are the battleships of the US Pacific Fleet, as the unexpected stroke commenced:

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December 7, 2004 at 9:40 am

Posted in History, Ships

USS Ramage DDG-61

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In the late 90s I was living on the water in a small town south of Boston. It was a wonderful place, with views of Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic from every room, the constant smell of salt in the air, and a wide variety of ships and shipping to observe, which I always found of interest. Still, there was one ship in particular which stood out in those days, if only because I saw her so much. Indeed, I began to feel a trifle persecuted as I began to see this ship not only at home, but elsewhere.

I refer to the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, USS Ramage, DDG-61. She’s a powerful ship – more powerful a warship in fact than most navies possess. Their main function is to provide escort for the supercarriers, and to this end they have a formidable array of weaponry controlled by the Aegis system. The United States presently possesses more than forty ships of this class, with more building and authorized. I have a cousin who served on one, USS Mitscher DDG-57, and another was the USS Cole DDG-67 which was attacked by terrorists in in Yemen in October 2000 with the loss of 17 of her crew.

The Ramage is homeported in Norfolk, VA, and is presently assigned to the George Washington carrier battle group. The Ramage is named for a WWII Medal of Honor winner, CDR Lawson P. “Red” Ramage who almost single-handedly took on a Japanese convoy and its escorts in a furious night battle, sinking at least two ships and damaging many more at no damage to his own submarine. Ramage eventually became a Vice Admiral.

I first saw the Ramage on July 24, 1995, two days after she was commissioned in Boston as she cruised Massachusetts Bay. After that, I saw her no fewer than seven times, last in 2001. Much as I loved seeing naval vessels (I keep a log as you might have surmised) I did begin to wonder if the Navy had any other destroyers.

Among the more memorable sightings, was when the Ramage had the honor (along with the USS Halyburton FFG-40) of escorting the USS Constitution on her first sail under her own power in 116 years. My own view was somewhat dimmed as I was on the south shore and the action mostly took place on the north shore, but I did have a more or less uninterrupted view across Massachusetts Bay. We made quite a party of it.

It wasn’t until I began to see the Ramage while traveling that I became concerned. I attended a wedding in Newport, RI in the summer of 98 at an elegant inn by the channel. The wedding itself took place on a vast expanse of green lawn right by the water. As the bride and groom exchanged vows, the Ramage rounded the point and majestically steamed right behind the exchange, making a very unusual backdrop for a wedding as I’m sure you can imagine. I later apologized to the happy couple, explaining I had no idea to what lengths the destroyer would go to keep an eye on me.

I last saw Ramage in 2001, and somehow missed her visit to Boston in 2003. So perhaps the spell is broken. Indeed, on a trip to San Diego later that summer I saw no fewer than ten other Arleigh Burke class destroyers.

Still, I think of the Ramage from time to time, and wonder how she is. I trust she and her crew are well, with calm seas, as they bravely serve the nation.


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October 20, 2004 at 8:34 am

Posted in Ships

Curious Bears

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On a lighter note, a friend e-mailed me these pictures of the USS Honolulu SSN718 (a Los Angeles class attack sub) which recently spotted some bears when she surfaced in the Arctic Circle.

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September 28, 2004 at 5:31 pm

Posted in General, Ships

A Visit to the USS Nautilus

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I visited the US Submarine Museum in Groton Connecticut yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to see how effective a facility it is.  In addition to an actual Japanese submarine, there was an Italian ‘frogman’ sub from WWII and a postwar US Navy SEAL version of the same concept.  The museum itself offers a superb introduction to the history of undersea watercraft and a wall with scale models of every type of submarine to ever serve with the US Navy.

The crown jewel of the museum is the Nautilus herself.  I was surprised to find active duty Navy personnel running the museum, with a Lt. Commander OIC, an XO, and a CMC commanding a group of sailors who, judging by their fruit salad, must be some of the Navy’s best. Here’s the Nautilus in her day:

She was a pretty important ship.  The first nuclear-powered vessel ever, first in a long line of nuclear-powered submarines, and the forerunner of the giant ballistic missile submarines of today which form one-third of America’s nuclear deterrant triad. She proved that nuclear power could be used safely and effectively on naval warships, and at the same time, is a tribute to American ingenuity and pioneer spirit.

It is indeed fitting that she be preserved as a memorial to those who served and as a symbol of what we can achieve. This is how I saw the Nautilus yesterday:

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August 27, 2004 at 5:25 pm

Posted in History, Ships


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Light blogging today as I spent the day in Mystic Seaport and viewing the USS Nautilus museum in Groton CT. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.

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August 26, 2004 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Ships

The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

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Not quite six decades ago tonight, a US Navy warship, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the waning days of World War II.  Germany had already been defeated, and in July, the Allied Forces were preparing for the invasion of mainland Japan. Although everyone knew that Japan had been beaten, no one expected them to surrender less than a month later.  At Iwo Jima in February 1945 the Japanese had fought bravely and tenaciously to the death.  More than 20,000 of them perished defending a tiny sulfurous rock that they considered Japanese native soil against the US Marine Corps. Planners for Operation Downfall expected American casualties in a battle to take the Japanese home islands to be numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and General Douglas MacArthur’s intelligence chief anticipated a million killed or wounded by the fall of 1946.  The invasion was considered necessary to bring about the surrender of Japan, which few believed could be induced to surrender on a blockade alone. Accordingly, in July 1945, President Truman ordered the new atomic bomb to be used against Japan. The first was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and the second on Nagasaki on August 9. The USS Indianapolis carried both bombs to Tinian Island in the Mariannas, from whence the B-29s were launched.

The Indianapolis was what was known as a ‘treaty cruiser.’ After World War I, the victorious powers had agreed to limit their fleets.  Heavy cruisers, like the Indianapolis, could be no more than 10,000 tons displacement for example.  When she was commissioned in 1932, the 9950 ton Indy was one of the most modern cruisers in the world – fast and sporting 9 eight inch guns in three turrets.  She would gain fame when she served as the conveyance for President Roosevelt on numerous occasions, and was involved in many battles during the war. Additional information in her career can be found here.

This is the Indianapolis shortly before she was lost:

On her return from Tinian, the Indianapolis had been ordered to rendezvous with the battleship USS Idaho to engage in gunnery practice.  The radio communications to the Idaho had been garbled, and she did not know to expect the Indianapolis, and so no one seemed to notice when the cruiser failed to show up.

Instead, she had run afoul of a Japanese submarine, I-58, commanded by a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack, who launched a half a dozen torpedoes at her just after midnight.  At least two of the torpedoes hit home, one tearing the bow off the cruiser and the other striking her amidships and causing multiple explosions which knocked out electrical power and split the ship down to her keel.  Less than fifteen minutes later, the Indianapolis had sunk beneath the waves, taking more than 300 of her 1196 man crew with her.  The remaining 900 or so ended up in the oil-choked water with very few life rafts, no food, and only a few in life jackets.  And no one knew they were there.

Many of the wounded did not survive the night, and with the coming dawn came sharks.  Massive numbers of Great White Sharks circled the defenseless sailors and marines who bobbed in the water.  The sharks picked off stragglers, and those unfortunate enough to become detached from the main group.  With no water, many drank the sea water, and began to go mad.  All of them prayed as the sharks swam around the periphery and a few feet below.  No one could know when he might be the next one eaten alive. It was estimated that by the third day, there were only 400 or so left.

On Thursday, a Navy bomber was flying over the area and its commander noticed a large oil slick in the water.  Moving in for a closer look, he spotted the men in the water, and radioed his base in Palau.  But it was three hours before anyone believed it was more than a prank and dispatched a Catalina PBY to investigate.  As the PBY approached, it flew by a destroyer, the USS Cecil Doyle, and Lt. Marks, in command of the PBY, radioed his mission to the tin can whose Captain diverted to the position of the ‘men in the water.’ Meanwhile, Lt. Marks in his PBY arrived at the site where the survivors of the Indianapolis were.  His crew dropped them rafts and supplies, but when Marks saw that they were still being attacked by sharks, he made the decision to land his PBY and pick up as many survivors as possible.  This risky move saved at least 56 sailors and marines who were hauled aboard and even climbed onto the wings of the PBY. Marks repeatedly radioed for help, and the Doyle steamed towards them. Eventually the Doyle and other ships saved 317 sailors and marines – all that remained of the crew of the Indianapolis.

Link to the USS Indianapolis Organization

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July 29, 2004 at 3:56 pm

Posted in History, Military, Ships

Tagged with

The Old Battlewagons

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Obsolete though they may be, there is still nothing like a battleship.  Strategy Page makes the case for bringing two of the last back:

These perceived shortfalls in fire support are the reason that there has been a lobbying effort to reactivate at least two of the Iowa-class battleships, led by the United States Naval Fire Support Association (USNFSA). The two ships that would return to service should the USNFSA get its way are the Iowa (the #2 turret has been nearly repaired, and the parts to complete the repairs are stored in that turret) and the Wisconsin. These ships would be equipped with shells developed from the HE-ER Mk 148 program (cancelled after the 1991 decommissioning of the battleships). The Ex-148 was slated to have a range of 91 kilometers using a 13.5-inch (343mm) shell in a sabot. An 11-inch (280mm) version would have had a range of 180 kilometers (equivalent to the 155mm AGS). These shells, at 1,400 pounds/635 kilograms and 694 pounds/315 kilograms respectively, are much larger than the shells from the 127mm and 155mm guns. For targets close to shore (within 15 miles/25 kilometers or so), the Iowas could use their regular shells, either the 2,700-pound (1,225-kilogram) armor-piercing shell or the 1,900-pound (862-kilogram) high-capacity shell. This is possible due to the fact that the Iowa-class battleships carry much more armor than the Burke and Zumwalt-class destroyers, and are thus much more resistant to damage.

The Iowa class has certainly been among the most long-lived of US warships.  Four were commisioned during WWII: Iowa (BB61), New Jersey (BB62), Missouri (BB63), and Wisconsin (BB64).  Two more, the Illinois (BB65) and the Kentucky (BB66) were never completed. The ships cost the taxpayers $100 million each in 1944, but they can be said to be a bargain given that they are still potentially viable warships six decades later.  One, the Missouri saw the surrender of the Japanese Empire in Tokyo Bay and is now a museum ship at Pearl Harbor.  The New Jersey is slated to become a museum.  With nine 16 inch guns apiece, the Iowa and the Wisconsin represent more artillery firepower than most countries possess.  As with ships like the German Bismarck and the Japanese Yamato, they were the epitome of the battleship (the Montana Class, had any been built, would have eclipsed the Iowas).  While those ships and their sisters are long gone, the Iowa class stands ready to serve again. Surely something to consider.

Here are all four.  That’s the Iowa in the foreground.

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June 29, 2004 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Military, Ships

Tagged with , ,

Green Pirates

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Those loopy folks at GreenPeace are up to their old tricks. A ship carrying genetically modified cattle feed, has been boarded and stopped:

The 125,000 tonne ship, from Louisiana, was nearly three miles south of Breaksea pilot station, where pilots board ships and steer them into their destination dock, when the activists boarded it.

There was a time when the British called acts like these “piracy,” and a time when they knew how to deal with it.

Written by martinipundit

June 21, 2004 at 2:42 pm

Stealth Ships

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Gizmodo an article from the BBC revealing – surprise – the Swedes are ahead in the race to build a stealth warship for their navy – a 73 meter corvette named ‘Visby.’ It has been some time since Sweden has been a first rate naval power, but with companies the likes of BoforsSaab, and Kockums, their defense industries have produced some fine systems. 

Stealth ships are a very cool idea, and the U.S. and Royal navies are also planning such ships, although in their case much larger destroyers.  The American version is planned as a replacement for the Arleigh Burke class destroyers, and will be built by Northrop Grumman.  Their spokesman claims:

The DD(X) will be as revolutionary as the Dreadnought was when the British introduced it at the turn of the last century.

That’s a big statement.  HMS Dreadnought was indeed that rare ship which made all others warships obsolete.  The Union ironclad Monitor and the Confederate Virginia (more commonly known by her former name – Merrimack) also enjoyed that distinction.  There aren’t many others.  The first galley to sport a ram – if we knew her name – might qualify, and perhaps the first cog sporting a cumbersome, primitive cannon would also be in the running. 

Some might claim the honor for the CSS Huntley – the first successful submarine.  While it took the Huntley three tries, and two crews, she did sink the Union blockader USS Housatonic.  However, in my view, the Huntley added a new kind of warship, destined to play a pivotal role in naval conflicts, but not one which rendered the ships of other navies obsolete.

In the same fashion, the development of the aircraft carrier by the British towards the end of World War I provided the kindling for a revolution lit by General Billy Mitchell when he successfully sank the former SMS Ostfriesland with an airborne bomb from a plane flown off the deck of a ship.  The aircraft carrier (of which, coincidentally, I’ve just seen two from the air as I type this, the Forrestal and the Saratoga) eventually supplanted the all big-gun battleship – the first of which was HMS Dreadnought – but it took twenty years and the experience of World War II before that happened.

So it would be quite the feat to even equal the HMS Dreadnought.  Sounds like fun.

Written by martinipundit

June 10, 2004 at 9:35 pm

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