Grand Theft Submarine – Stealing the U-111 2

Its been nearly 100 years since the U11 was liberated from the British and brought to America. Recent research has indicated an interesting Submarine Race in the United States. Two newspaper articles from the time period have been added at the end of the article.

theleansubmariner

Note: This article is a result of some research I have been doing in the past few days about an amazing submarine story related to the technological development of American submarines. The story was researched and developed using two reference books: United States Submarines, Naval Submarine League, published in 2002 and United States Submarines by Robert Hatfield Barnes in 1944. Its a little longer than what I normally post, but if you love submarine history and adventure, it might be a nice read for a very cold winters day.

Mister Mac

In the aftermath of World War 1, reparations were demanded by the victorious members of the Allied Powers. 176 submarines were surrendered to the Allies in accordance with the treaties and terms of the peace. Before the war, submarines had been scoffed at by most of the world’s Admiralties. British Admirals dismissed the little craft as being too slow to…

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A New Wrinkle on H. G. Rickover – A Real Life Saver 4

I was doing a little research this morning about the main subject of a book I am writing and I ran across a little gem that while unrelated was certainly an eye catcher. It had to do with a young Lieutenant named Hyman G. Rickover. Okay, to be fair, he wasn’t all that old when he was recognized in the June 13, 1931 Bureau of Navigation Bulletin Number 159. When Mr. Rickover was already 29 years old, he entered the submarine service. When this mention occurred, he was 31 years old.

The exact wording of the recognition was this:

“The Secretary of the Navy recently addressed letters of commendation to the officers listed below:

Lieutenant Hyman G. Rickover, U.S.N., U.S.S. 48

For rescuing Augustin Pasis, MAtt. 1c, U.S.N. from drowning at the Submarine Base, Coco Solo, Canal Zone”

Petty Officer Pasis was a First Class Mess Attendant that was returning from shore leave when he fell over the side of the boat according to the June 3rd San Antonio Express Newspaper.

To be honest, I only met Admiral Rickover one time.

I was on my third submarine and it was the spring of 1981 when the USS San Francisco was on sea trials. Looking at the frail old man, I was awestruck with how much power he still wielded even in his later years. None of us knew that within a year he would be forced out of the Navy he had spent a life serving. But thinking about his size, it’s hard for me to imagine that even at a younger age, he might have the strength to rescue a drowning sailor. In between other projects today, I did a little research about his time in submarines and especially on the S-48.

I have researched the S boats for years and I know some of the history about the four boats that made up the “4th Group” of S boats. None of them faired very well and the S-48 was no exception.

From the records:

“Rickover preferred life on smaller ships, and he also knew that young officers in the submarine service were advancing quickly, so he went to Washington and volunteered for submarine duty. His application was turned down due to his age, at that time 29 years. Fortunately for Rickover, he ran into his former commanding officer from Nevada while leaving the building, who interceded successfully on his behalf. From 1929 to 1933, Rickover qualified for submarine duty aboard the submarines S-9 and S-48.

On 1 June 1929, S-48 had been reassigned to SubDiv 4, with which she operated through the end of 1929. Then assigned to SubDiv 3, later SubDiv 5, and then Squadron 3, she continued her operations off the New England coast, with an interruption for winter maneuvers to the south. During this time, Lieutenant Hyman G. Rickover was assigned to her. He later credited S-48′s “faulty, sooty, dangerous and repellent engineering” with inspiring his obsession for high engineering standards. She was transferred to the Panama Canal Zone in 1931. On 1 March, she arrived at Coco Solo, whence she operated for four years.

SS-159 S-48

Four “4th Group” S-boats were constructed. The 4th Group S-boats were the largest of the fifty-one S-boats contracted to be built for the United States Navy. These S-boats had six water-tight compartments to enhance internal integrity. S-48 thru S-51 were authorized in FY1920 and laid down 1919-20 at Lake Torpedo Company, Bridgeport CT. They were modified “S” class boats which added an aft torpedo tube which resulted in 27 tons additional displacement. All four commissioned in 1922.

The S-48 Class submarines were 240′ in length overall; had an extreme beam of 21’10”; had a normal surface displacement of 903 tons, and, when on the surface in that condition, had a mean draft of 13’6″. The submarines displaced 1,230 tons when submerged. The designed compliment was 4 officers and 34 enlisted men. The S-boat was equipped with two periscopes. She had a double hull in the center portion of the boat; a single hull at each end of the ship. This S-boat could completely submerge in one minute to periscope depth. Maximum operating (test) depth was 200′.

The submarine was armed with five 21-inch torpedo tubes (four in the bow and one in the stern). Fourteen torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50-caliber gun was mounted on the main deck forward of the conning tower fairwater.

Stowage was provided for 44,350 gallons of diesel oil by utilizing some of the ballast tanks as fuel oil tanks. This gave the boat a maximum operating radius of 8,000 miles at ten knots when transiting on the surface. The normal fuel oil load was 23,411 gallons. Two 6-M-85 six-cylinder 900 brake horsepower (at 410 rotations per minute) diesel engines, that had a total output of 1,800 horsepower, that were made by the Busch-Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company at Saint Louis, Missouri, could drive the boat at 14.4 knots when operating on the surface.

Submerged propulsion electrical power was provided by the 120 cell main storage battery which was manufactured by the Gould Storage Battery Company at Trenton (“Trenton makes, the world takes”), New Jersey, which powered two 750 B.H.P. electric motors, with a total output of 1,500 designed brake horsepower, that were manufactured by the Ridgeway Dynamo and Electric Company at Ridgeway, Pennsylvania which turned propeller shafts which turned propellers which drove the submarine at 11 knots, for a short period of time, when submerged.

Two of the four boats would suffer battery explosions and decommissioned in 1927 and a third would be lost when rammed by a merchant ship. The lead ship of the class grounded off New Hampshire during a storm and her crew was evacuated. The resulting repairs and modernization would keep her out of commission for over three years.

In February 1924, S-50 (SS-161) suffered a battery explosion which resulted in exhaustive engineering testing and her early decommissioned in August 1927. On 29 January 1925, S-48 (SS-159) grounded off the New Hampshire coast and her crew was evacuated during a storm. She would be salvaged and modernized, returning to commission in December 1928. S-51 (SS-162) was rammed and sunk by the merchant SS City of Rome off Block Island, RI on 25 September 1925. She was raised in 1926 and sold for scrap in 1930. On 20 April 1926 S-49 (SS-160) suffered a battery explosion and was decommissioned in August 1927.

A Hard Luck Sub

S-48’s hard luck started 10 months after launching, when the yet-to-be-commissioned sub conducted her first test dive in New York Sound off of Penfield Reef on December 7, 1921.

According to press reports, the 240-foot boat “was hardly under water before the shouted reports came from the aft part of the vessel: ‘Engine room flooding! Motor room flooding!’” Emergency procedures kicked in. The men in the aft compartments stumbled forward and the forward compartment doors were shut. “A moment later the stern softly bumped on the bottom. The electric lights went out.” Flashlights in hand, the sub’s Commander, Lt. Francis Smith, ordered the ballast tanks blown, but “the weight of the water in the stern compartments was too much…her nose tilting up a little but that was all.” Two hundred pounds of pig lead ballast bars were jettisoned through an air lock and four dummy torpedoes were shot out, on which the crew had painted “HELP” and “SUBMARINE SUNK HERE” along with numerous milk bottles “in which messages were enclosed giving notice of the plight of the vessel.”

Slowly the bow began to rise like an inverse pendulum, but the stern stuck to the bottom. The upward tilt shifted the stern water. “Port batteries flooding!” yelled a crewman. The New York Evening News described the dramatic moment: “Breathing stopped. A flooded battery means chlorine [gas].” Cmdr. Smith and three crewmen immediately began bailing “to get seawater below the level of the [battery containers]…their hands were burned and every moment or two a whiff [of chlorine gas] drifted across their faces,” making them cough and choke. No sooner had they gotten the water off the port side batteries that the starboard batteries started flooding. At the same time, the boat’s bow continued to tilt upward as more material weight was jettisoned. At 30 degrees, the ships executive officers were certain the bow was above the surface “more than sixty feet from the bottom.”

One member of the crew, while being pushed from behind, wriggled and worked his way out of the sub through a torpedo tube, which was about four feet higher than the ocean surface. A rope was passed up the tube, and the remaining crew of 50 were pulled out one by one. Hot coffee and blankets were also hauled up as the men huddled in the freezing weather. One Sailor’s wet underclothing “was frozen into a solid casing about his shoulders and legs.”

Some of the men went back down into the sub through the torpedo tube and “hauled out mattresses [which]…one by one were burned at the tip of the upstanding bow…the men sitting around their flaming signal…[warming themselves from] a stiff wind…[and] rough waters.” They were finally rescued at 10:30 PM by a passing tug. The ordeal had lasted 14 hours, 10 of which were spent exposed to the frigid elements. Three men were briefly hospitalized for minor chlorine gas inhalation. Most of the men were employees of the Lake Torpedo Boat Co. of Bridgeport, Conn.

Initial reports by the Associated Press claimed that the sub had been hit by a tug boat, but it was later learned that somebody left open one of the airtight “manholes.” Divers were able to secure the hatch and refloat the vessel.

By the following August (1922), the S-48 began its second series of tests on Long Island Sound, diving to a depth of 100 feet and firing torpedoes and “other such trials.” She was accepted and commissioned by the U.S. Navy in October of 1922. Over the next three years, she was in and out of New London, Conn. for repairs. She ran aground twice in 1926 during a violent storm once taking on water, which again caused chlorine gas to form. She was then returned to New London for the fifth time. Due to a lack of repair funds, the submarine was decommissioned. Funds became available in 1927 and repairs commenced, which included a hull extension of 25½ feet. In December 1928, she was recommissioned. Within seven months, she was back at New London undergoing repairs before resuming operations in June 1929.

It was a year later that Rickover joined the crew.

By then, S-48 was the only remaining S-class submarine from the four-boat Group IV consisting of S-48 to S-51. S-49 and S-50 experienced battery explosions and S-51 sank due to a collision with a passenger ship. By the time Rickover reported aboard the S-48, her two surviving sister ships, themselves mechanical and electrical nightmares, had been decommissioned.

In his biography, “Rickover: The Struggle for Excellence,” Francis Duncan reports on a myriad of mechanical and electrical problems confronted by the young engineering officer on his first cruise aboard the S-48. He relates that the pneumatic control valves used to submerge the ship never “synchronized [properly and thus when diving] she [always] lurched to one side or the other…to as much as twelve degrees.” Rickover wrote about his first cruise in July of 1930. Less than an hour into the cruise, a malfunctioning electrical controller forced the sub to stop. Once fixed, the gyro compass repeater then “went haywire…[making it] impossible to steer a correct course,” he reported. About an hour later, an exhaust valve stem cracked, forcing another stop. It was repaired and “then three…cylinder jackets of the port engine developed leaks… [Rickover, fearing the Captain] would become disgusted [with his performance] took the chance and ran with the leaky cylinder jackets…” If that wasn’t enough, several hours later “the electrician reported…something wrong with one of the main motors.” Crawling into the bilges to check out a “jangling in the bow,” he discovered the anchor chain was loose, “the control panel for the anchor windlass had become grounded.”

Two months later, smoke belched from a ventilator fan; a main battery had caught fire. According to Thomas Rockwell in his book, “The Rickover Effect,” the skipper, fearing an explosion, “ordered all men on deck, prepared to jump overboard if the expected hydrogen explosion occurred.” Believing the problem was his responsibility, Rickover volunteered to re-enter the sub and fix the problem. Rickover wrote, “the smoke was coming from the battery compartment…when it was opened black smoke billowed forth… Wearing a gas mask and trailing a lifeline [Rickover ventured through the hatch].” Finding no fire, he rigged a ventilating system and lime was placed in the compartment to absorb carbon dioxide. A later examination revealed that the fire had started by sparking battery connections. Three hours later, a short circuit in the “charred battery connections” started yet another fire, which he unsuccessfully attempted to put out with a carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher. In desperation, he successfully sprinkled lime on the flames. It worked. The cause of the second fire was old and deteriorating insulation. Rockwell also relates that Rickover was confronted with propulsion motors that “were a continual source of trouble.” Showing his hands-on approach to problem solving, “he redesigned and rebuilt them [after which] they caused no further trouble.”

13 June 1931 Bureau of Navigation Bulletin… Rickover commended for saving a petty officer form drowning

In July 1931, Rickover was promoted to Executive Officer.

In November, the S-48 had another mishap. She started a dive for a practice torpedo run and immediately “she took a twelve-degree list and a sharp downward angle. At seventy feet…she was out of control…blowing the tanks…brought her up… [A later] investigation showed a vent valve had failed to open.” In February of 1932, after several diving mishaps, a group of officers “nervous and tired, had drawn up a message…for all to sign, stating the ship was unsafe and could not complete her assignment.” According to Duncan, “Rickover argued them out of it…it would be bad for the reputations of all concerned and [told them] that he could work out a new diving procedure.” His diving protocol meant diving took longer, but it worked.

The 1932 Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies

The first gravity measurements at sea had been made in 1926 from a submarine of the Royal Navy. The first U.S. gravity measurements at sea had been made from the submarine USS S-21 (SS-126), assisted by the Eagle Boats USS Eagle No. 35 and USS Eagle No. 58.

S-48 was assigned at the request of the Hydrographer of the Navy by the Secretary of the Navy to assist with the second U.S. expedition to obtain gravity measurements at sea using a gravimeter, or gravity meter, designed by Dr. Felix Vening Meinesz. Meinesz, joined by Dr. Harry Hammond Hess of Princeton University, and a U.S. Navy technician, participated in the expedition. The submarine was accompanied and assisted by the minesweeper USS Chewink (AM-39) in a route from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Key West, Florida and return to Guantanamo through the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos region from 5 February through 25 March 1932. The description of operations and results of the expedition were published by the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office in The Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932.

SS-159 S-48

Despite her frequent mechanical and electrical mishaps, sinking’s, and groundings, the Lake Torpedo Boat Co. built S-48 was finally deactivated in 1935 and berthed at League Island, N.Y. At the beginning of WWII, she was reactivated and used for training at New London. “Overhaul and repair periods [during the war] were frequent,” history records.

The hard luck S-48 was decommissioned in 1945 and scrapped the following year after 25 years of service, three of which inspired one of the Navy’s most respected and honored seamen.”

I do not know what happened to the man Rickover saved. He had a son that lived in Norfolk but the only other records I could find indicated that he followed a sailor’s life. Like Rickover, he was in his late twenties or early thirties so I can imagine that he would continue on serving the Navy through the next decade at least.

Like most people that rode nuc boats, we owed a lot to the man who guided the Navy’s nuclear power program. I have a new appreciation for him after reading about his exploits on the S 48 boat.

Mister Mac

A photo of S-48 (SS-159) which was taken in November 1931 at Submarine Base Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone aboard the boat. Persons from left to right are: LTJG Howard Walter Gilmore as a LCDR, he later commanded the S-48 in 1940 and in 1941 commanded the Shark (SS-174), in 1942 he became 1st CO of the Growler(SS-215) where he was KIA. Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16) was named in honor of him. LT Hyman George Rickover was last CO of the S-9 (SS-114) until 15-APR-1931 and also later commanded the S-48 as a LCDR in 1937. He became Admiral and father of the nuclear navy. Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was named in honor of him. LTJG William Ramon Headden later commanded Plunger (SS-179) from 26-JAN-1939 to 22-FEB-1941 as a LCDR and destroyer Edison (DD-439) from 01-MAR-1942 to 24-02-1943 as a CDR. LTJG Frederic August Graf commissioned the transport ship John Land (AP-167) as CAPT and first CO. LT Olton Rader Bennehoff was CO of S-48 when the picture was taken. He took command of S-48 23-JUNE-1931. He previously commnded Eagle #7 (PE-7) since 24-NOV-1918 and the submarine S-11 (SS-116) since 02-JAN-1926. He probably had a second tour as CO as a LCDR in S-48 in 1934. In WW II he became the one and only CO of amphibious transport ship Thomas Stone (APA-29) from 18-MAY-1942 to 01-APR-1944.

 

 

 

 

 

Aloha to my Facebook Ohana 12

I did three shortened tours in the Navy in Hawaii and had some of my greatest and worst life experiences while I was there. One word that comes to mind when I think of Hawaii and the subject of this post is Ohana.

From Wikipedia: “Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻ ohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional).The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.”

This is for my Facebook Ohana.

Some things are harder to do than others. I quit smoking many years ago when I finally got past the excuse of “I just like the way it feels to smoke” and realized it was cutting my life short. At my age, I also know that I no longer have the ability to eat and drink anything I want since there are obvious negative consequences. For some unfair reason, my body no longer metabolizes all of the things I wish to consume and my physical appearance and health reflect that.

One of the addictions I have been struggling with for some time now is Facebook.

It all started so innocently. I wasn’t going to spend much time on it but it was an easy way to connect with old friends from the Navy and High School. (My college friends were almost all navy since it was a program that was run through Navy Campuses). In the years since I have been a member of Facebook, I have seen three Presidents, more changes in Congress than I can count, and uncounted upheavals to society caused by movements and tragedies. The daily barrage from Facebook from friends and people who I do not know has probably helped shape my opinions and certainly stoked my emotions more than a few hundred times.

Facebook has been like a family in many ways.

We love, we fight, we remember each other’s birthdays, we share our sadness at the loss of a loved one (including our beloved animals). We argue, we agree, we find common ground, we are divided. We share our inmost personal beliefs and concerns with perfect strangers (sometimes at the expense of our actual families). In all that time and all of the thousands of postings, I am absolutely convinced that no ones mind’s were really changed no matter how witty, how sincere, how passionate, or how mean a post was.

I have (as of March 28th, 2018) over 970 friends. I used to have over a thousand but some have left my “family” in silence. To be fair, I have also banished some along the way.  Perhaps it was something I said? Or maybe something they posted? Probably a bit of both.

Facebook has been convenient for me to achieve some personal goals.

I administer a number of pages about submarines, reunions, cats, World War 2 History (which is a passion) and I used it for my business. Truth be told, I have never actually gotten one sale from FB but that may be just as much about my service as it is about the ability to sell my service. To be fair, I have had some satisfaction also. My submarine and lean blog has had many of its nearly 370,000 readers come from postings on Facebook. Maybe that’s why you came today.

You have shared parts of your lives and your travels and I have done the same. I am glad for those who made my life richer from their stories. The part I have really loved about Facebook has been my ability to listen as much as I want to and when it becomes to long winded, I can click off and go to another story. That beats the hell out of the Thanksgiving Day table after dinner where the only escape you have from a long winded or too often repeated old story is to feign sleep or the need to get up and stretch at the earliest possible break in the action.

Darkness fell

In the last couple of weeks (or has it been months), I have noticed that FB has become a very dark place. I’m not just talking about Mr. Zuckerburg comparing his site to the new Church or the nefarious dealings of people who have harvested and misused our personal data. I honestly believe both of those things happen with such regularity now that they are commonplace in many arenas.

The darkness comes from within me. I am angry about things that I can’t control most of the time and I am failing to do the positive things that I believe that are required of us as humans and certainly of someone who claims to follow Christ.

So I am going to take some time off. On April 1st, all of my FB pages that I have created will go dark. I will clean up my computer and I Phone and delete any links to the site. I am sure that the world will not come to a stop.

April 1st this year is the day we celebrate Easter. The Resurrection of the Living God. A time of redemption for all who wish to follow Him. It seems like as good a day to get a restart as any.

See the source image

I will miss many people that truly have become family (some for the second time). You will all be in my prayers. If you need to get in touch with me, you can still email me at bobmac711@live.com or you can visit the leansubmariner web site at www.theleansubmariner.com

There are over 600 stories on the page now and I intend to continue to write as long as I have another story left in me.

It has been amazing over the years to share so much with so many people on Facebook. I am grateful for the prayers you have sent our way through many of those years. I hope to meet you again someday. Until then, I leave you with one of my favorite words; Aloha.

Aloha, I have been told, has three meanings.

Hello, Goodbye and I love you.

Seems like the most fitting word for this day.

Bob

Aka Mister Mac

 

A Prophesy From Nearly a Hundred Years Ago is Just as True Today 8

Everywhere you look these days, people are reacting to the senseless deaths of innocent people and wondering how we can stop the killing.

I think its a fair question. But I think we are not examining the root causes of what seems to be an increase in evil actions. Society has become very sophisticated since the days when the Europeans and others came to the shores of America. The vast country that lay before them was already inhabited, albeit with people who were not as organized and ready to repel the invaders. The resulting turmoil between natives and invaders was exacerbated by the conflict between the “Old Countries” that sought to take advantage of the new lands for their own purposes.

At one point, the invaders became the nation we are today.

The old ways of kings and queens were rejected and a representative form of government emerged. Laws were struck and revised and slowly the nation evolved as a new entity with a purpose and a culture of its own. Along the way, a man or a woman no longer had the day to day fear of attack from the forces of nature, other warring parties, or just people with bad purposes. Communities sprung up and men no longer had to carry their weapons openly to provide for individual liberties and security. Gunfights in the street diminished and new laws were created to govern behavior. The police would be the new protectors and ordinary people could just go about their business building the new country.

See the source image

But all of those circumstances were surrounded by one constant. We had moral codes. We had religion as a backbone to society and a family structure that held people and particularly children accountable. Schools had structure, business had rules, the police were respected if not feared, and the government was something that was there to help manage it all.

Well, that is the illusion anyway. Things always seem to look better in the rear view mirror.

I have been researching the early 1900’s for a book I am writing. Some of the articles I have been finding come from the Library of Congress’s Project called Chronicling America. The project entails digitally recording newspapers in their entirety from all over the country. This storehouse of information is free (so far) and shines a light on what the world was really like back in the day. Some of the stories about what really did happen back in the day. Killings by shooting, stabbing, poisoning and so on fill many of the pages. Violence all over the world is recorded in nearly every decade. Bank robbing’s, stickups, home invasions, and on and on. Frankly, the idea that violence is a new thing is as ludicrous as thinking that man has ever really had a peaceful period.

The main difference now is the way we are all connected electronically through the internet and cable.

Unless you live in a cave and have no connection (which means you aren’t able to read this) you are being influenced by someone’s opinion or interpretation of the facts as they occur. Somewhere today, large groups of young people who were disturbed enough to put down their video games, are gathering to protest something. Some believe that taking away everyone’s guns will make it a safer world. The less idealized may think that just regulating the guns is a good solution. Mind you, none of them is old enough to own a gun, but they somehow have the wisdom to know how to fix what has been an almost non stop problem since the day Cain picked up the first rock.

See the source image

The question of guns and weapons is not a new one.

In 1919, the first World War had just ended and the countries were still counting the cost of the carnage. New and powerful weapons had reached an industrial strength that no one could have imagined. Mass bombardments, gas, machine guns, airplane and even the deadly creature from the sea called a submarine. In the months and years that followed Armistice Day, nations began the struggle to contain the beasts they had unleashed. The British had been particularly hard hit by the submarine menace and determined to eradicate the foul little beast no matter the cost. Other nations who saw the boats as a great equalizer fought hard to prevent the Brits from having their way. The American’s saw the fledgling weapon as a tool of the future. Its a good thing they did. When the Japanese left the battleship fleet lying on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, it was American Submarines that helped to carry the war back to the enemy almost immediately. Imagine if the Brits had been successful in their quest.

This is an article from the time that was pretty prophetic

From “The Washington times. (Washington [D.C.]), 17 Jan. 1919”

I would suggest that we pay heed to those words of nearly a hundred years ago.

For all those willing to surrender the second amendment, how do you propose protecting the remaining amendments?

Or are you just going to rely on the good will of others?

#notme

Mister Mac

Floating Drydocks: A Noteworthy Innovation That Changed the Course of Two Wars 7

Floating Drydocks had been around for a long time before World War 2. But the scope of naval warfare during World War 2 and the Cold War that would follow would test the Navy’s ability to maintain vessels in faraway locations. This is part on of the story of docks like USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7) which serviced the Polaris and Poseidon Missile submarines of the Cold War.

Looking back on the years since the LA was placed out of commission, its easy to forget that for over thirty years she served on the front lines of a different kind of conflict. But it was a need identified and filled many years before that which made her ability to fill this new role possible. This is the story of the Floating Drydocks of World War II.

 

Advanced Base Sectional Dock Number 3

“The fleet of floating drydocks built by the Bureau of Yards and Docks during World War II was a significant and at times dramatic factor in the Navy’s success in waging global war.

It had long been recognized that in the event of another world war the fleet would be required to operate in remote waters, and that ships were going to suffer hard usage and serious battle damage. It was obvious that many crippled ships would be lost, or at least would be out of action for months while returning to home ports for repairs, unless mobile floating drydocks could be provided that could trail the fleet wherever it went. It was the Bureau’s responsibility to meet these requirements.

Floating drydocks have been used for overhaul and repair of ships for many years, and many ingenious designs have been devised from time to time. One of the most interesting was the Adamson dock, patented in 1816, which may be considered the prototype of some of the new mobile docks. The Navy apparently built several wooden sectional docks at various navy yards about 1850, but little is known of their history.

About 1900, two new steel floating drydocks were built for the Navy. The first of these, of 18,000 tons lifting capacity, was built in 1899-1902 at Sparrow’s Point, Md., and towed to the Naval Station a Algiers, La., where it was kept in intermittent service for many years. In 1940, it was towed via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor to supplement the inadequate docking facilities there. Since the dock was wider than the Canal locks, it was necessary to disassemble it at Cristobal and to reassemble it at Balboa. Although both the dock and the ship in it were damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the dock was not lost, but was quickly repaired and subsequently performed invaluable service both in the salvaging of vessels damaged in that attack and in the support of the fleet in the Pacific.

The other dock, the Dewey, was a 16,000-ton dock, built in three sections, and capable of docking itself. It was constructed in 1903-1905, also at Sparrow’s Point, Md., and was towed via the Suez Canal to the Philippines. The saga of this voyage is an epic of ocean towing history. The Dewey was still in service at Olongapo when the Japanese invaded the Philippines early in 1942. [sic: Preliminary landings took place as early as 8 December, with the main landings following on the 21st. Manila was occupied on New Years Day. — HyperWar] It was scuttled by the American naval forces before they abandoned the station.

Neither of these docks was suitable for mobile operation. Between 1920 and 1930, the Bureau of Yards and Docks made numerous studies of various types of mobile docks of both unit and sectional types. In 1933, funds were finally obtained for one 2,200-ton dock, and the Bureau designed and built the ARD-1. This dock was of revolutionary design. It was a one-piece dock, ship-shaped in form, with a molded closed bow and a faired stern, and may be best described as U-shaped in both plan and cross-section. The stern was closed by a bottom-hinged flap gate, operated by hydraulic rams. This gate was lowered to permit entrance of a ship into the submerged dock and then closed. The dock was then raised by pumping water from the ballast compartments and also from the main basin. This dock was equipped with its own diesel-electric power plant, pumping plant, repair shops, and crew’s accommodations. It was the first drydock in any navy which was sufficiently self-sustaining to accompany a fleet into remote waters.

The ARD-1 was towed to Pearl Harbor, where it was used successfully throughout the war. Thirty docks of this type, somewhat larger and incorporating many improvements adopted as a result of operational experience with this experimental dock, were constructed and deployed throughout the world during the war.

Advance Base Sectional Dock in the South Pacific
View shows keel blocks and bilge blocks set to accommodate a ship.

 

In 1935, the Bureau obtained $10,000,000 for a similar one-piece mobile dock, to be capable of lifting any naval vessel afloat. Complete plans and specifications were prepared by the Bureau for this dock, which was to be 1,027 feet long, 165 feet beam, and 75 feet molded depth. Bids received for this huge drydock, designed as the ARD-3, appreciably exceeded the appropriation, and the project was abandoned when the additional funds needed for its execution were refused.

At the same time, plans were prepared for the ARD-2, an improved and enlarged model of the ARD-1. It was not until November 1940, however, that funds were obtained for its construction, and the project placed under contract. The ARD-2, and an additional dock, the ARD-5, were completed in the spring of 1942. Additional docks of this type were built in rapid succession and were delivered during 1943 and 1944 at an average rate of more than one a month.

Types of Floating Drydocks

The war program of floating drydocks included a wide variety of types to meet the varying service requirements for which they were designed. The principal categories were as follows:

  • ABSD — Advance Base Sectional Dock. Mobile, military, steel dock, either (a) of ten sections of 10,000 tons lifting capacity each, or (b) of seven sections of 8,000 tons lifting capacity, for battleships, carriers, cruisers, and large auxiliaries.
  • ARD — Auxiliary Repair Dock. Mobile, military, steel unit dock, ship-form hull, with a normal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons, for destroyers, submarines, and small auxiliaries.
  • ARDC — Auxiliary Repair Dock, Concrete. Mobile, military concrete trough type, unit dock with faired bow and stern, 2,800 tons lifting capacity.
  • AFD — Auxiliary Floating Dock. Mobile, military, steel trough type, unit dock, with faired bow and stern, of 1,000 tons lifting capacity.
  • AFDL — Auxiliary Floating Dock, Lengthened. Mobile, steel trough type, unit dock, similar to AFD’s, but lengthened and enlarged to provide 1,900 tons lifting capacity.
  • YFD — Yard Floating Dock. This category included a wide variety of types, designed generally for yard or harbor use, with services supplied from shore. Among the principal types were 400-ton concrete trough docks; 1,000-ton, 3,000-ton and 5,000-ton one-piece timber trough docks; sectional timber docks ranging from 7,000 to 20,000 tons lifting capacity; and three-piece self-docking steel sectional docks of 14,000 to 18,000 tons lifting capacity.

These classifications were modified in 1946 in order to make the standard nomenclature of floating drydocks consistent and more descriptive. Four class designations were established, as follows:

  • AFDB — Auxiliary Floating Drydock Big.30,000 tons and larger.
  • AFDM — Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium.10,000 to 30,000 tons.
  • AFDL — Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little. Less than 10,000 tons.
  • AFDL(C) — Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little (Concrete).

Under this modification, the ABSD’s were redesignated AFDB’s; the ARD’s became AFDU’s; the RDC’s became AFDL(C)’s; the AFD’s became AFDL’s; and the YFD’s became AFDM’s.

Advance Base Sectional Dock

The problem of providing floating drydocks capable of moving to advanced operational areas in the wake of the fleet, of sustaining themselves in full operation without support from shore, and of sufficient size and lifting capacity to dock all capital ships had been under study by the Bureau for many years. The ARD-3 was one solution of this problem. It was recognized that a unit dock of this size possessed certain disadvantages. In required a special basin of huge size for its initial construction. It was necessary to retain this basin in reserve or provide an equivalent basin elsewhere, for the periodic docking of the hull, since it was not self-docking. The towing of a craft of this size presented an operational problem of unprecedented magnitude. Provision for stresses during storms at sea required heavy reinforcement of the dock. Concern was felt over the possibility of losing the unit dock from enemy action while en route.

Cruiser in an Advance Base Sectional Dock
Showing the ship secured in position so that it will be supported on the prepared blocking as the dock is unwatered.

 

Studies had been carried on concurrently by the Bureau on various types of sectional docks, which would be designed with faired hulls for ease of towing and with joint details which would permit rapid assembly in forward areas under adverse conditions. These schemes were not carried to a final conclusion, primarily because the requirements of the Bureau of Ships for the longitudinal strength and stiffness of the assembled dock could not be met by an practicable form of joint.

When war was declared, it was apparent at once that a number of mobile capital-ship floating drydocks would have to be constructed immediately. The project was authorized and funds made available early in 1942. Studies in connection with the preparation of plans and specifications led to the proposal of a sectional type of dock, with field-welded joints, designed for a strength materially below that previously specified by the Bureau of Ships. This reduction was accepted, and the sectional type adopted.

Unwatering an Advance Base Sectional Dock
Water is pumped out of the bottom pontoons and wingwall compartments to raise the ship out of the water.

These docks were of two different sizes. For battleships, carriers, and the largest auxiliaries, the larger docks, consisted of ten section, each 256 feet long and 80 feet wide, and with a nominal lifting capacity of 10,000 tons. When assembled to form the dock, these sections were placed transversely with 50-foot outrigger platforms at either end of the assembly, making the dock 927 feet long and 256 feet wide overall, with an effective length of 827 feet, a clear width inside wing walls of 133 feet, and a lifting capacity of 90,000 tons.

The smaller docks, intended for all except the largest battleships, carriers, and auxiliaries, consisted of seven sections, each 240 feet long and 101 feet wide, with a lifting capacity of 8,000 tons. The assembled dock had an effective length of 725 feet, an overall length of 825 feet, a width of 240 feet, a clear width inside wing walls of 120 feet, and a lifting capacity of 55,000 tons.

At maximum submergence the 10-section docks had a depth over the blocks of 46 feet, with a freeboard of almost 6 feet; the 7-section docks had a corresponding depth of 40 feet and and a freeboard of almost 5 feet.

For both sizes, the sections were faired fore and aft to a truncated bow and stern, and could be towed at a speed of 6 to 8 knots without excessive power. In the assembled docks, the flat bows and sterns formed interrupted berths alongside to which barges and vessels could be readily moored.


A Section of an Advance Base Sectional Dock in Tow
Wingwalls are down to reduce wind resistance. Repair equipment is stowed on deck.

The sections consisted of the bottom pontoon and two wing walls, which were hinged at the bottom so that they could be folded inboard for towing, the purpose being to reduce the presentation to the wind and to lower the center of gravity as compared to fixed standing wing walls.

Each bottom pontoon of the battleship dock was 28 feet deep and was subdivided by two watertight bulkheads running lengthwise and four watertight bulkheads athwart the section to form twelve water ballast compartments and a central buoyancy compartment, 36 feet by 80 feet. This buoyancy compartment contained two decks, the upper deck being used for crew’s quarters, and the lower deck, for the machinery compartment. The double bottom was subdivided to form fuel-oil and fresh water tanks. Access to the usable compartments was provided by passageways under the upper pontoon deck which connected to stair trunks in the wing walls.

The wing walls were 20 feet wide and 55 feet high, and were subdivided by a safety deck set 14 feet below the top deck to form dry compartments above and three water ballast compartments below. The dry compartments were completely utilized for shops, storage, and similar facilities. Quarters and galleys were in the dry compartments in the bottom pontoons.

Each section was equipped with two 525-h.p. diesel engines directly connected to 350-k.w. generators, and with pumps evaporators, compressors, and heating and ventilating apparatus. No propulsion machinery was provided.

The smaller docks were similar, except that the bottom pontoons were 231/2 feet deep and the wing walls were 18 feet wide and 49 feet high.

Each dock was equipped with two portal jib cranes having a lifting capacity of 15 tons at a radius of 85 feet, traveling on rails on the top deck of the wing walls. In the case of the smaller dock, the cranes were set back from the inner face of the wing walls to provide clearance for overhanging superstructures of carriers, and the outer rail was supported on steel framing erected on the outboard portion of the pontoon deck.

ABSD Construction

The 58 sections required for these docks were constructed by five contractors at six different sites, including four on the West Coast, one on the Gulf Coast, and one near Pittsburgh on the Ohio River. Generally, they were built in dry excavated basins which were flooded and opened to the harbor for launching. In one case, two basins in tandem were utilized to suit local site conditions, and the sections were locked down from the upper basin, in which they were built, to the lower basin, the water level of which was normally at tide level and was raised temporarily by pumping.

 

Picture:


Raising the Wingwalls of an Advance Base Sectional Dock with Hydraulic Jacks
Crews on top of wingwalls change position of the pins in the beams alternatively.

At one yard, the sections were built on inclined shipways and end-launched; at another, they were side-launched. These sections were built in from 8 to 14 months. Maximum possible use was made of prefabrication and pre-assembly methods.

ABSD Assembly. — Although the wing walls were generally erected initially in their upright position for ease of construction, it was necessary to lower them to the horizontal position for towing at sea. On arrival at the advance base where they were to be placed in service, the wing walls were first raised again to their normal position and the sections then aligned and connected.

An ingenious method was evolved for the raising of the wing walls, which was found to be quicker and more certain than the scheme originally contemplated of accomplishing the result by the buoyancy process. Each wing wall was jacked into position, using two jacking assemblies, each consisting of a long telescoping box strut and a 500-ton hydraulic jack. Closely spaced matching holes were provided in the outer and inner boxes of the strut through which pins were inserted to permit holding the load while the jacks were run back after reaching the limit of their travel. These devices were also designed to hold back the weight of the wing walls after they passed the balance point during the raising operation. Two 100-ton jacks opposing the main jacks were used for this purpose. After the wing walls were in the vertical position, they were bolted to the bottom pontoon around their entire perimeter, and all access connection between the wing wall and bottom pontoon were made watertight.

The sections of each dock were successively brought together and aligned by means of the matching pintles and gudgeons which had been provided for the purpose on the meeting faces of the sections. Heavy splice plates were then welded in position from section to section across the joints at the wing walls, at top and bottom, and on both the inside and the outside faces of the wing walls. The strength of these connections gave the assembled dock a resisting moment of about 500,000 foot-tons, or approximately one-fourth that of the largest prospective vessel to be docked.

The drydock cranes were carried on the pontoon deck of individual sections during tow, and were shifted to their operating position on the wing walls during assembly of the dock by immerging the partially assembled dock, bringing the section carrying the crane alongside, and aligning it so the rails on the pontoon deck were in line with those on the wing walls of the rest of the dock. The trim and alignment were adjusted during the transfer by a delicate control of water ballast.

The assembled docks were moored at anchorages in protected harbors where wave conditions, depth of water, and bottom holding power were satisfactory. The large docks required at least 80 feet depth for effective use. They were moored by 32 fifteen-ton anchors, 14 on both side and 2 at either end, with 150 fathoms scope of chain.

In actual operation, it was found that the effectiveness of these docks could be improved by providing auxiliary facilities in excess of those available on the dock itself. A considerable number of shop, storage, and personnel accommodation barges were provided for this purpose.

Special Problems

Special conditions of service involved many entirely new studies and developments for our floating drydocks. For instance, as the docks had to operate in outlying areas where ideal conditions for operation could not always be met, it was necessary to give the adequacy of their moorings special consideration. In the largest size docks, this involved wind-tunnel experiments which gave some surprising results and indicated that a rearrangement of the moorings as originally planned was desirable. Also, as the drydock operating crews were initially relatively inexperienced and docking of ships under advance base conditions had never been attempted to the extent contemplated, it was necessary to prepare complete operating manuals for the use and guidance of the crews. Damage control was also important, and damage-control manuals were prepared for all advance base docks, covering every possible contingency of weather an enemy action.

As advance base docks were commissioned and had regular Navy crews and as they operated in areas where they had to be self-sustaining to a large extent, it was necessary to develop allowance lists for each type of dock and outfit them in much the same manner as a ship. This necessitated the incorporation into the docks of special facilities for the handling, stowage, and issuance of great quantities of material and equipment.

Complete statistics have not been compiled of the total number of vessels of all kinds from the mightiest battleship and carriers to the humblest patrol craft that were salvaged, repaired, and overhauled in this armada of floating drydocks. Themost dramatic demonstration of the importance of the mobile drydocks was given during the long drawn-out naval support of the invasion of Okinawa, when the fleet was subjected for weeks to continual and desperate “Kamikaze” attacks by Japanese suicide-bombers. The fleet suffered great damage, but the ready availability of the mobile drydocks at nearby advance bases, and the yeoman service rendered by their own crews and the ship repair components at these bases, save many ships and minimized the time ships were out of action for repairs, to such an extent that these docks may well have represented the margin between success and failure.”

AFDB-1 with West Virginia (BB-48) high and dry in the dock

The AFDB’s served on for many years. You can read about some of their stories in the archives of theleansubmariner.com

Mister Mac

I love LA 3

Regular readers know that once upon a time when the world was still dark with fears from the Soviets, a little known base in Scotland served as a portable pier for our submarine fleet. Starting in 1960, units of the United States Fleet anchored in a small inlet called Holy Loch that was just up from Dunoon. The submarine tenders that rotated in and out for the next 31 years all toiled endlessly to support the ballistic missile submarines and occasional fast attacks.

The other major unit was the floating sectional drydock that was known

as the USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7).

You can search theleansubmariner by looking for articles about her and understand just how important this asset was and how amazing the technology was that allowed her to serve for the entire time Site One was open.

A chance for a new life for a venerable name

The LA has been decommissioned for nearly twenty seven years as a Naval Unit but a unique opportunity has emerged that would pay tribute to the city that gave its name to this unit.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s congressional delegation says the U.S. Navy’s next nuclear submarine should be named “USS Los Alamos” in recognition of the community’s contributions.

The delegation sent a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Monday citing the founding of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the once-secret federal installation that helped develop the atomic bomb.

The letter refers to the heritage, service and scientific achievements of the northern New Mexico community.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the lab, one of the nation’s premier nuclear weapons research centers. Aside from its role in the Manhattan Project, work at Los Alamos provided the technical understanding in nuclear energy that led to the Naval Propulsion Program.

The naming effort also has the support of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

See the source image

Virginia Class Submarine

Of course I strongly support the efforts to bring back the name Los Alamos to the US Navy. My only hope is that in all the hubbub, the people who are pushing from the name don’t forget the mission the original LA performed. By providing remote dockings all of those years, she contributed so much to the nation’s defense.

Heritage means something to all of those who have served in the Navy.

This is one heritage that should not be forgotten.

Mister Mac

A Bluejacket’s Memory 4

The Peacoat

I can think of few images that better represent an American Bluejacket more than the famous statue of a sailor in his peacoat with the collar turned up and his hands in his pockets. I remember the controversy when the Lone Sailor was first unveiled. Purists were quick to point out that the guy not only had his hands in his pockets but the buttons were undone and he generally looked a bit like a sailor on his way home that was tired of the sea. His grim expression seems to strengthen the notion that he was not the happiest person on the pier.

Yet in a moment, he captured the heart of many sailors that have left their home and served in what is best described as challenging to one’s soul and one’s physical being. Ever since man learned that a correctly designed craft could break the bonds with the land, men and now women have found the joy and the suffering that comes with the trip. And the boredom which probably occupies quite a bit of a sailors life.

The Navy announced last year that it was going to phase out the peacoat. I have to be honest and admit that I went through some emotional soul searching when the announcement was made. From a practical standpoint, the decision made some sense. After all, with modern fabrics and design capabilities, there are many more effective coats available that would exceed the ancient design and materials which make up the peacoat.

Yet, the coat is still listed in current Uniform Regulations

The Navy Peacoat

A double-breasted, hip length coat made of dark blue authorized fabric with a convertible collar, a set-in pocket in each forefront, and a single row of four 35-line black plastic anchor buttons down the right front and three on left. Men’s Peacoat buttons to the right.

So where did the coat get its name?

According to a 1975 edition of the Mariner’s Mirror, the term pea coat originated from the Dutch or West Frisian word pijjekker or pijjakker, in which pij referred to the type of cloth used, a coarse kind of twilled blue cloth with a nap on one side.

Another theory, which is mostly favored by the US Navy, is that the heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from “pilot cloth” – a heavy, coarse, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. This was sometimes called P-cloth from the initial letter of pilot, and the garment made from it was called a P-jacket – later a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.

That’s a long time. That’s a lot of tradition. For a young man of eighteen years of age, being issued one of these was a family tradition. The coat I was issued was nearly the exact same coat as my Grandfather and my Father. In fact, one of my favorite pictures of Dad is when he was my age and stationed in the Finger Lakes Region of New York in the winter of 1945. I am pretty sure he was glad for the heavy wool in that very cold climate.

I thought about that coat a bit last night as I looked up at my Lone Sailor statue on the mantle. Not sure why other than the fact that the heat was blowing to overcome the weather outside. I remembered looking at the pile of clothes they had just issued me and coming to grips with the fact that this government issue outfit would be my main gear for the next four years. (I had no idea that it would stretch to more than twenty years at that point.)

It was June of 1972 and the Company was instructed to wear our cotton whites. But June of 1972 in Great Lakes was not a very warm time. In fact, it was colder there than parts of winter back in Pennsylvania. When we were in our off time (which wasn’t very often) that heavy coat actually came in pretty handy. I would find that to be true a number of times over the next few years.

The garment they gave me in boot camp smelled faintly like mothballs. There was a government label inside that had a place to write your name and number with a stencil pen. There was a precise way to fold it as well.

All Navy sailors learn quickly that space on boat a ship is very precious and limited so we had to learn the exact best way to fold our clothes. In the years since I have retired, I collect old Bluejackets Manuals and as far back as I can see with the ones I have collected, this folding thing has been around forever.

Some of the uniforms I was issued are long since gone from fashion. The Navy gave us something called utility uniforms. They were supposed to be more durable than dungarees but no one actually liked them. Frankly, they made us look like some kind of third rate Navy sea scouts instead of sailors. I was never so happy to ditch a uniform than when those went away.

The same with the miserable undress blues which were made of the coarsest and least wearable wool ever created. I often imagined some Senator made a killing by voting to provide unwearable wool to the Navy that came from his brother in laws chintzy factory.

The peacoat was special though. It was a lot like a wearable blanket. And a shelter from the wind and rain. The letter W comes to mind when I think back to that jacket.

Wool, Waterproof, Warm, Windproof, Wearable, Worldly

It was how we identified when we were out and about. In a crowd, you all looked the same or at least you did until you noticed that Petty Officer’s wore their distinctive rating badges. Those badges became something to strive for. A bluejacket for a bluejacket. It wasn’t armor but sometimes it felt like it.

I was glad for that jacket while I was in Great Lakes that Fall and early winter. I was even gladder when I went to New London for submarine school. But I quickly found that it was nothing more than a space absorber in my seabag when I went to Charleston. It didn’t make the trip to Hawaii not did it go with me as I sailed the oceans of the Pacific. I would use it in later years, but only when it was dictated.

I wore all kinds of foul weather gear as I changed submarines, homeports, and advanced through Chief to Chief Warrant Officer. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Bridge Coat when I went to Scotland but that never came to pass. It would have been a waste anyway since I soon transferred to an older submarine tender where I spent three years in an engine room surrounded by hot diesel engines and other equipment that tested the crew all of the time.

I still have the peacoat I was issued.

To be honest, it doesn’t fit anymore. I like to think that the wool has shrunken over the years but that’s a lie. Success and life have contributed to my girth increasing beyond the point where anything I once wore might even barely fit. Yet I can’t throw it away. Maybe someday when the nephews are cleaning out the junk form our house they will laugh a little at Uncle Bob’s tendency to hold on to stuff that no one cares about anymore. Kind of like the Navy wanting to get rid of the peacoats. No one seems to care anymore.

But I am glad to have the memory of being one of a long line of sailors who was identified by the Bluejacket I wore.

Mister Mac

The Thin Veneer Called Civilization 1

Even the most ordered society can fall into despotism.

One of the classical examples is the transition of Japan from an enlightened kingdom to a brutal conqueror within a few short generations. How did it happen? Just as importantly, could it happen again?

At the time of Emperor Meiji’s birth in 1852, Japan was an isolated, pre-industrial, feudal country dominated by the Tokugawa shogunate and the daimyōs, who ruled over the country’s more than 250 decentralized domains. By the time of his death in 1912, Japan had undergone a political, social, and industrial revolution at home and emerged as one of the great powers on the world stage. The New York Times summed up this transformation at his funeral in 1912 with the words: “the contrast between that which preceded the funeral car and that which followed it was striking indeed. Before it went old Japan; after it came new Japan.”

The word “Meiji” means “enlightened rule” and the goal was to combine “modern advances” with traditional “eastern” values

From a recent history of his reign and the aftermath:

“With the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912 a great deal of uncertainty about Japan’s future followed. Many believed that Meiji Japan had flourished under the steadfast rule of the emperor who reigned for more than 40 years. Now his first son, Yoshihito, ascended to the throne and took the name Taisho, ushering in the next era. Those deeply loyal to Emperor Meiji and resistant to modernization efforts were particularly vulnerable. Some would hold fast to the centuries of Japanese tradition, rejecting any shifts in gender roles or education and military reforms, while other reformers embraced change.

The young Taisho emperor was born in 1879 and at an early age contracted cerebral meningitis. The ill effects of the disease, including physical weakness and episodes of mental instability, plagued him throughout his reign. Because of his sickness there was a shift in the structure of political power from the old oligarchic advisors under Meiji to the members of the Diet of Japan—the elected representative officials increasingly gaining influence and power. By 1919 Emperor Taisho’s illness prevented him from performing any official duties altogether. By 1921 Hirohito, his first son, was named ses-ho, or prince regent of Japan. From this point forward, Emperor Taisho no longer appeared in public.

Despite the lack of political stability, modernization efforts during Taisho continued. A greater openness and desire for representative democracy took hold. Literary societies, mass-audience magazines, and new publications flourished. University cities like Tokyo witnessed a burgeoning culture of European-style cafés, with young people donning Western clothing. A thriving music, film, and theater culture grew, with some calling this period “Japan’s roaring ’20s.”

For these reasons the Taisho era has also been called Taisho democracy as Japan enjoyed a climate of political liberalism unforeseen after decades of Meiji authoritarianism.”

“One of the leading political figures, and the man who coined the term Taisho democracy, was professor of law and political theory Dr. Yoshino Sakuzo. After observing and traveling extensively in the West, he returned to Japan and wrote a series of articles promoting the development of a liberal and social democratic tradition in Japan. In the preface to his 1916 essay “On the Meaning of Constitutional Government,” Yoshino wrote:

 The fundamental prerequisite for perfecting constitutional government, especially in politically backwards nations, is the cultivation of knowledge and virtue among the general population. This is not the task that can be accomplished in a day. Think of the situation in our own country [Japan]. We instituted constitutional government before the people were prepared for it. As a result there have been many failures. . . . Still, it is impossible to reverse course and return to the old absolutism, so there is nothing for us to do but cheerfully take the road of reform and progress. Consequently, it is extremely important not to rely on politicians alone but to use the cooperative efforts of educators, religious leaders, and thinkers in all areas of society.”

With such ideas openly circulating, Japan also saw the rise of mass movements advocating political change.

Labor unions started large-scale strikes to protest labor inequities, political injustices, treaty negotiations, and Japanese involvement in World War I. The number of strikes rose from 108 in 1914 to 417 strikes in 1918. At the outset of World War I, there were 49 labor organizations and 187 at the end, with a membership total of 100,000.

A movement for women’s suffrage soon followed.

While the right of women to vote was not recognized until 1946, these early feminists were instrumental in overturning Article 5 of the Police Security Act, which had prevented women from joining political groups and actively participating in politics. They also challenged cultural and family traditions by entering the work- force in greater numbers and asserting their financial independence.

One of the most widespread political protests occurred in 1918 with Japan’s rice riots. Like the rest of the world, Japan was experiencing wartime inflation and low wages. The dramatic increase in the price of rice, a staple of the Japanese diet, had an impact on the entire country. In August 1918 in the fishing village of Uotsu, fishermen’s wives attempted to stop the export of grain from their village in protest against high prices. By October more than 30 separate riots were documented, the vast majority organized by women workers. They refused to load grain, attacked rice merchants, and protested the continued high prices. They inspired other protests, such as the demand by coal miners for higher wages and humane work conditions.

Much of this social unrest, political uprising, and cultural experimentation came to a halt on September 1, 1923.

On this day a powerful earthquake struck Japan measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. This natural disaster is referred to today as the Great Kanto Earthquake. The force of the quake was so strong that a 93-ton Buddha statue 37 miles from the epicenter moved almost two feet. The disaster devastated the entire city of Tokyo, the third largest city in the world at that time, destroyed the port city of Yokohama, and caused large-scale destruction in the surrounding area. The earthquake and subsequent fires killed more than 150,000 people and left over 600,000 homeless. Martial law was immediately instituted, but it couldn’t prevent mob violence and the targeting of ethnic minorities. Koreans living in Tokyo were targeted, as rumors spread that they were poisoning the water and sabotaging businesses. Newspapers reported these rumors as fact. According to standard accounts over 2,600 Koreans and 160–170 Chinese were killed, with about 24,000 detained by police. The numbers include political opponents such as the anarchist Osugi Sakai, his wife, and their six-year-old nephew, who were tortured to death in military police custody. The officer responsible for this crime later became a high-ranking official in Manchuria.

Using the social unrest as an excuse, the Japanese Imperial Army moved in to detain and arrest political activists they believed were radicals.

After events surrounding the earthquake, the relationship between the military and the emperor began to shift. According to the Meiji Constitution, the emperor led the army and navy. However, all military decisions were actually made by the prime minister or high-level cabinet ministers. As political activists became more vocal, many were abducted and were never seen again. Local police and army officials who were responsible claimed these so-called radicals used the earthquake crisis as an excuse to overthrow the government. More repression and violence soon followed. Prime Minister Hara (1918–1921) was assassinated, and a Japanese anarchist attempted to assassinate Taisho’s first son, Hirohito.

Order was firmly restored when a more conservative arm of the government gained influence and passed the Peace Preservation Law of 1925.

Besides threatening up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone attempting to alter the kokutai (rule by the emperor and imperial government, as opposed to popular sovereignty), this law severely curtailed individual freedom in Japan and attempted to eliminate any public dissent.

The transition in the emperor’s role to one of greater power began with the death of Emperor Taisho on December 18, 1926.

Following tradition, his son Hirohito ascended to the throne and chose the name Showa, meaning “peace and enlightenment.” Hirohito neither suffered from physical or mental ailments like his father nor held the commanding presence of his grandfather. Rather, Hirohito began his reign by per- forming all the ceremonial duties flawlessly but appearing in public only for highly orchestrated formal state occasions. Over time as the political climate within Japan shifted to a more militaristic stance, so did the role of the emperor. One specific gesture is emblematic of the changes occurring in the role and power of the emperor. When Hirohito first appeared in public in the early years of his reign, commoners would always remain dutifully seated to avoid appearing above the emperor, but they were permitted to look at him. By 1936 it was illegal for any ordinary Japanese citizen to even look at the emperor.”

We all know what happened next.

 

When I see the chaos that is brewing within the United States in 2018 because of the divided political and social groups that claim leadership, I fear that we have a very thin veneer between an organized and civilized society and one that drops into complete anarchy followed by a harsh structure that will ultimately please no one.

The great earthquake of 1923 that claimed so many lives and caused the breakdown of their system could easily be mimicked today by any number of catastrophic events in America. We have been warned for years about the vulnerability of the power grid (with recent reports suggesting it remains so) and the very real concerns of pandemics which could easily leap across the wide oceans and affect the entire population. Rogue nations with nuclear technology and evil minded regimes could disrupt life as we know if in many different ways.

What would be our response?

Would we find ourselves in the mother of all martial law situations leading to a brutal and repressive regime? Could the world survive? As our chaos continues to grow and some groups are demanding a national disarmament, I would encourage them to study their history books before they willingly surrender their rights. I am not so inclined to go along with any suggestion of abolishing our basic freedoms. I will fight to the death to preserve them.

Mister Mac

 

The Build – Reflections from an Old Docking Officer 3

The Build

When you have sailed on submarines for most of your career, stepping outside of your comfort zone reveals many things about who you are. Most submariners have achieved a level of excellence that is demanded by the profession. You are operating a large ship that is designed to sink and do most of its work undetected. That requires each person to be multi-talented in addition to being subject matter experts. You may be cooking one minute and helping to put on a band-it patch the next. Your watch could be as routine as pumping water from one tank to another then suddenly shifting into a battle stations mode where multiple responses must be made in a split second with no time to analyze.

In other words, you can get a little self-confident. If you get really cocky, you may just decide to take another path and become a Chief Warrant Officer. This program is designed for Chief Petty Officers who have no college degree but have a high degree of technical knowledge and advanced leadership skills. It has traditionally been highly selective and the billets are very limited. The year I was selected (FY 1989) there were only thirteen of us selected in my skill set out of a few thousand applicants.

I knew life was going to be different since instead of having a small division of men to care for, I would now have larger groups of men and women on board a ship that was not a submarine. I had no idea how different until I crossed the bow of the USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7) a large four section drydock in Holy Loch Scotland. When you first see her up close, you are struck by the size of the thing and the new challenge you are about to face.

Every ship and submarine is designed to sail the ocean with certain physical characteristics. But every ship and submarine also share one thing: they all need to come out of the water from time to time. When a ship is in the water, its hull is supported by the water that cradles it. Taking the water away means that all the weight will be shifted to another place and if it isn’t done properly, you could damage the ship itself or one of the many underwater components not visible when the ship is floating.

Someone has to create the build.

The Los Alamos was resurrected from a graveyard in Florida in the early 1960’s. She had been placed in storage at the end of World War 2 in the late 1940’s. When the new Polaris submarine program was introduced, the need for a portable servicing facility was determined. In this case, a small body of water on the west coast of Scotland was deemed suitable. For that reason, the Site One base in Holy Loch was created. Four sections of the dock were towed to the Loch and assembled by Seabees. That dock commenced operation within a short period of time and did hundreds of routine and emergency dockings over the next thirty years.

When a ship or submarine is designed, it comes with plans for building and plans for docking as the need arises. The submarines that Los Alamos had been designed to support were built at the same time and after she was reactivated. SO needless to say, they plans we had for each boat were really worn and aged by the time I reported on board. The Navy had sent me to Connecticut to train on a dock that was a lot more modern and not a sectional dock. But the principles remained the same. You had to understand weights and measures, metacentric heights, and the importance of the build.

Each build is slightly different, even on the same class of boats. Some had different equipment, some had seawater openings in different places and all had to be examined carefully in order not to damage the boat when you land it. Most importantly, all of the calculations for block heights had to be precise. Then you had to have a plan on how to land the boats exactly where you built the blocks. The time needed to create a build plan was at least a week. You take the old plan and verify that no changes have occurred. Then you painstakingly set up the height measures for each of the wooden blocks that will be built. The carpenter shop then cuts each block to your specification and prepares them to mount on the base blocks. You also need to calculate the measurements for the side blocks that will be shifted in place to prevent the boat from accidently rolling over.

There is little room for error.

These wooden blocks are designed to crush with the weight but they have a designed factor that allows for uniform crush. Once the calculations are complete, the build begins. Men and women from the docking department work day and night alongside the deck division to place the blocks and caps in their proper place. The last step is when the Docking Officer personally measures each part of the build and certifies it.

All of this work occurs in a variety of weather. All year long. In Scotland, that can mean anything from freezing rain to blinding snow storms. The schedule rarely was interrupted by weather. Many times the boat needed more than a routine repair so we just did what we did.

Apparently someone thought he was Captain Morgan

The day comes when all is ready and the floating drydock submerges in place. You do that by flooding the dock down until it is low enough to accept the submarine or ship that is waiting to cross her brow on the open end. The Captain and Docking Officer are on the Flying Bridge opposite of the open end and everyone on the dock is in place ready to receive the ship. When the nose of the submarine enters the dock area, the Docking Officer becomes legally responsible for the safety of the unit. It means bringing her in safe and not scraping the walls, setting her down correctly with having it fall over, and ensuring that this multi-million dollar warship will be safely landed and able to be restored to fighting condition in a few weeks.

No pressure at all.

March 15, 1991 was my qualification docking. It was an incredible feeling to finally land the boat and the tugboat that we landed at the same time (two units at once was pretty common for the Los Alamos).

It was the longest day of my life and certainly one filled with exciting things no one had planned. The docking took a little longer and while we were bringing the boats in a sudden squall appeared. That wind tried to knock our two charges all over the dock before we could land them. But the crew of the dock did a marvelous job.

A party had been planned by the wives for the event over at our house on shore. Since the docking was delayed about eight hours, the party started without us, But when we finally finished, the crew assembled at my house and we commenced a celebration for the ages. It did not end until the next morning. Most of us had to go back to work and believe me there were a few hurting sailors and officers that day. But it was a successful landing and that meant the world to me.

Sadly the announcement that the dock was to be closed down after 31 years came not too long after that. I was able to do five dockings before the end but the lessons have stuck with me ever since:

  1. To have a good build, you have to have a good crew. I was honored to have some of the best people I have ever worked with on that dock.
  2. The most expensive ship in the Navy still relies on a solid foundation. The build must be carefully created and designed for the worst possible scenario,
  3. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the only way to find out who you really are. Being a long time submariner gave me confidence in one area but may have actually been keeping me from reaching my potential

The engineers that originally designed the sectional floating drydocks would have had no way to foresee the impact of their design on future operations. The first atomic power plant was not even commissioned until 1948. But the core principles of safely docking a vessel stand the test of time. I salute all of the unsung heroes of the Cold War that operated in the worst conditions of all but helped protect America from those who wanted to destroy her.

Mister Mac