Two Cultures Collide and Heroes Emerge from the Sea 8

The United States in 1941 was tense and filled with anticipation about the war in Europe. But nothing could prepare the nation for the events that were about to transpire. The nation and the Japanese had long been on a collision course because of the nature of their two cultures. But the population at large had no sense of the grotesque nature of that clash that would occur in the coming days. Or the cost for both nations over the next four years.

 

Washington Evening star. December 06, 1941,

“Silent Prayer Banned At Japanese Shrines

Silent prayers for the dead, which have been said at shrines and temples in Japan ever since the great earthquake of 1924, have been banned.

The Shrine Board in Tokio has ruled that praying silently is a “Christian custom alien to traditions” and requests that, instead, people give two deep bows and two handclaps.”

On the night before December 7, there was only one reference to Japan in the paper which served the nation’s capital.

Negotiations between the American and Japanese governments were coming to a head but most of the country was focused on events in Europe and the coming of Christmas. There had been a sense that something was brewing in the Pacific but it was not something for the general public to be consumed with just yet.

History doesn’t record what Commander Cassin Young, Commanding officer of the USS Vestal was doing the night of December 6th. Commander Young had just recently reported on board the ship after doing an Executive Officer tour at the submarine base at New London CT. His family had moved to the west coast where they had previously been stationed and he was living on board as a geographical bachelor.

The Vestal was an older ship that served as a repair ship for the fleet in Pearl.

She had been launched on May 19, 1908, and was placed in service as a fleet collier. She served in World War I when she was deployed to Queenstown. There, she provided services for ships of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla – and stayed there for the duration of the war.

The USS Vestal returned in 1919, and 22 years later, found herself on the verge of another World War.

Commander Young had had a distinguished career up to that point. Submarine and Destroyer Commander, Squadron Commander, many important posts in Washington and the West Coast including Hawaii and finally the executive officer at the Navy’s premier submarine school. Graduating from the Naval Academy in 1916, he served a progression of duties that was supposed to lead to a promising end. But fate and the Navy that struggled in the years between the wars had an impact on his path.

According to family records, that career hit a rough spot in 1941 when a new base commanding officer arrived at New London. The pre-war years were challenging to the Navy since budgets were slim and money was tight. As the XO, Young had overseen the spending of large sums of money rebuilding the base which had been neglected. Repairs to the lower base where the submarines operated and upgrades to the rapidly growing training facility were put into place. Even the quarters where the officer’s families were housed had received some upgrades.

But the new base CO’s wife was not satisfied that her housing was up to her standards and insisted that money be spent to make their quarters even more acceptable. Young, as the man who controlled the budget, refused to spend another dollar on the quarters. The money that had been allocated would be better spent on things that would prepare the Navy for an as yet undefined conflict.

There are no official transcripts of what happened next, but refusing your boss’s orders and the conflict it must have created resulted in Commander Young receiving a less than expected follow on set of orders. When his tour was completed, he found himself with orders to an old ship (launched before he was even a Midshipman) in a faraway place.

Young had been in the Navy since 1912 and he would not reach his retirement year until 1942. It is only speculation on my part, but he probably saw the handwriting on the wall. That explains why his faithful wife and family were living in California on the morning of December 7th and he was living on a very old ship tied up next to the USS Arizona.

The Arizona was not in her normal berth that morning and the Vestal was tied up in preparation for an overhaul that was going to occur. Normally, another battleship was tied up there but as fate would have it, the previous week’s maneuvers had resulted in a switch in berths.

The night before the morning of December 7th would have been a typical peacetime schedule. Social hours and dancing for many at the numerous clubs, calm weather with a smooth Hawaiian breeze to keep the air from getting stale on the old ships. Taps on board the ships and lights out as men came back to their bunks to enjoy a restful sleep prior to a Sunday in port. The fleet had been very busy for months before then sailing in formation, practicing their gunnery and flexing the powerful engines in broadly sculpted maneuvers around the Hawaiian Islands. The great grey hulks made for a magnificent picture while carving through the seas where Captain Cook once sailed.

Commander Young may have had trouble sleeping. The move from Connecticut to Hawaii was fairly recent and his body clock was more than likely still set to east coast time. He may have even been thinking of his family on the West Coast and the work that lay ahead on the Arizona.

The only facts we know are that at 7:55 when the Japanese attacked without warning, he went into action the only way he knew. As a man who had spent his whole lifetime preparing for this very moment, he went to work defending his ship.

The Vestal was a repair ship and not meant to slug it out with incoming Jap planes. But she did have guns and instinct told him to go to where the action was.

From the Vestal History:

“Sunday quickly took a turn as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The ship sprung into action, manning every gun from the 5-inch (130 mm) broadside battery to the .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on the bridge wings. At about 08:05, her 3-inch (76 mm) gun commenced firing.

What ensued next was a fight for survival. Two bombs intended for more valuable battleships on Battleship Row hit the USS Vestal.

One bomb struck the port side and penetrated through three decks. The bomb passed through a crew’s space and exploded in a stores hold. The explosion started fires that necessitated flooding the forward magazines.

The second bomb struck the starboard side. This bomb passed through the carpenter shop and the shipfitter shop, and left an irregular hole about five feet in diameter in the bottom of the ship.

Survival became the primary focus of the USS Vestal crew, while anti-aircraft fire became secondary. A bomb hit the nearby USS Arizona. Almost as if in a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal’s deck – sending Vestal’s gunners and crew overboard.

Among the men blown off Vestal was her commanding officer, Commander Cassin Young. The captain swam back to the ship, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, “Lads, we’re getting this ship underway.”

With fires on board the Vestal and after two bombs had struck the repair ship, the Vestal crew cut the mooring lines with axes, freeing her from the Arizona, and she got underway, steering by engines alone. A tug, the captain of which had served aboard the Vestal just a few months before the attack, pulled Vestal’s bow away from the inferno engulfing Arizona and the repair ship, and the latter began to creep out of danger.”

The Vestal survived the attack and was completely restored. While she was being restored, her repair crews were used to try and save as many men and as many ships as she could from the wreckage in the harbor.

Think about what happened for a moment.

Young was blown from his ship by the force of the explosion. He found himself in the water with many dead and wounded around him just trying to stay afloat and alive. The force of the explosion and the resultant landing in the water must have been disorienting. Yet, this man, Cassin Young, remembered that he was the Captain of the ship that had just been attacked. The attack was still going on. Bombs, torpedoes and bullets were flying and landing all around the harbor. Yet he CHOSE to go back to his ship and climbed back on board. He is soaking wet, probably covered with the oil and dirt form the debris of the water that he just crawled out of. He rallies his me.

The part of the story that is often left out was that once he was blown into the water, the order had been given by his next in command (or some senior officer) to abandon ship. But in the back of his mind, Young remembered that the battleship that was next to him still continued hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel and many bombs. More explosions would doom the Vestal and cost the lives of his remaining crew. Young had served on battleships in his career and he was an engineer so he knew what could happen if they did not escape the death grasp of the dying Arizona. He reversed the order to abandon ship and ordered the engine room to bring the main engines on line. When they were unable to muster enough main steam, he hailed the nearby passing tug and ensured the Vestal could get out of harm’s way.

It was an action of heroic nature conducted by a men who had spent his entire life training for this moment.

For his action, Commander Cassin Young was awarded the Medal of Honor and advanced to Captain by Admiral Chester Nimitz (another submariner). The Vestal, with Captain Young in command would play a key role in many of the coming battles including supporting the coming naval battles of Guadalcanal. Operating in forward areas with threats on all sides, she served as a needed repair ship for the battered and bruised ships that fought in the “Slot”.

In November, Captain Young would receive new orders and finally get to join directly in the fight. Admiral Dan Callaghan needed a new Captain for his flagship, the USS San Francisco (a heavy cruiser) and his friend Cassin Young would be just the man for the task ahead. On one night in November, they would sail together into history in one of the wildest and lopsided surface fights in the history of modern naval warfare. Neither man would make it through the night.

Cassin Young had passed 30 years as a sailor (counting his midshipman years) on the day he joined the angels. He is an American hero and someone who exemplified what courage and service to his country mean.

I am nearly finished writing about his life and am anxious for the world to know just what a great man he was. But today, December 7th, I hope you will think about Cassin Young and all of those men and women who were able to overcome the disaster of Pearl Harbor and eventually lead the country and the world back to freedom.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

By God’s Help and Teamwork – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 1942 Reply

Thanksgiving Weekend 1942 – Washington DC

The headlines on the front page of the Washington Evening Star on November 28th, 1942 were focused on the recent events in the Battle of Tunis in Northern Africa. Thanksgiving was just completed and the Navy football Team was lauded for a surprise win over Army in the annual traditional game. Mrs. Tom Girdler of Cleveland was granted a divorce in Reno Nevada from her husband who was a Cleveland Steel Manufacturer (Republic Steel) and manufacturer of airplanes in San Diego for the war effort. (buried later in the paper on page A-11 was the announcement of his nuptials to his 36 year old secretary on the same day).

But the interesting story was buried on page A11. Eugene Burns (associated Press War Correspondent) was finally able to file his reports on a battle that had happened between the dates of November 12-15.

In recent conflicts, the American people have been treated to nearly instant reports from the press about the actions of our armed forces. Almost as soon as the missile leaves the tubes of a submerged submarine, reports are made available to the public. Live shots from the shock and awe campaign in Iraq were spread all over the globe with the accompanying sirens of the Iraqi air raid system as a backdrop.

But things were different in November of 1942 and throughout most of the Second World War. Restrictions on information were considered necessary so that the enemy could not gain any advantage from having too much information. The full report from Pearl Harbor’s disaster was not even released until the following year. While rumors of the extent of the damage had already been shared by returning servicemen and civilians who fled the island, official confirmation was rare and sketchy.

So it is no surprise that the Navy and the press would be reluctant to share the complete story of what was later known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The battle that raged from November 12th to the 15th was both heroic and horrific. The stunning losses would not be revealed for quite some time after the battle but the losses in men and ships on both sides had consequences that changed the course of the war. Combined with the sacrifices of Marines and Army troops on the straggled little island of Guadalcanal, the road to Tokyo took a decidedly sharp turn on the final day of the battle.

To read the story in the Washington Star, however, you would have a sense of the battle but little detail of any use.

From the beginning of the battle to the end, the United States would lose more ships and Navy men than in any battle of its kind to date. It would also be one of the most significant surface actions ever recorded in US Navy history. But at a tremendous cost. 

Washington Evening star. [volume], November 28, 1942, Page A-11, Image 13

Jap Task Force Demolished Off Guadalcanal By ‘God’s Help’ and Teamwork of All Hands
Here are three delayed dispatches from Eugene Burns, Associated Press correspondent, giving an eyewitness account of the naval battle at Guadalcanal November 12 to 15.

By EUGENE BURNS,
Associated Press War Correspondent. WITH THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, Nov. 16 (Delayed).

We have been slaying the Japs for the last four days. We left some 20,000 of their best pioneer troops swimming in the ocean. We sent tens of thousands of tons of their irreplaceable forced steel into the Jap sinkhole off Guadalcanal. As we steam away from that wreckage the “well done” from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, is still ringing over our loudspeaker system.

This we know: The entire Jap transport fleet of 12 vessels was hopelessly destroyed.

A Jap battleship was badly damaged and perhaps sunk by cruiser gunfire, and then seven torpedoes and several heavy bomb hits. Five Jap cruisers were badly damaged and perhaps sunk by shellfire and heavy bomb hits and torpedoes. Many Jap destroyers were hit and sunk. A Jap air group was knocked from the sky. Some of our heavy ships have yet to send in their bag. Indications are that it will be considerable.

(A Navy communique November 16 describing this action listed the Japanese losses as one battleship sunk, three heavy cruisers sunk, two light cruisers sunk, five destroyers sunk, eight transports sunk, one battleship damaged, six destroyers damaged and four cargo transports destroyed.)

The smashing victory, the biggest since Midway, took a Navy pilot to fly beyond the safe distance of his gasoline supply to locate the Jap transport fleet and to send back a more accurate disposition of the enemy than yet achieved in the Pacific war.

San Francisco Waded in.

It took the cruiser San Francisco, already damaged by a flaming crash-diving plane, to wade in and polish off a Jap destroyer, explode a Jap cruiser, and then slug it out with a Jap battleship of the Kongo class—8-inch batteries against 14 or 16 inchers at a range of 2.000 yards.

It took the Army’s B-17s and fighter planes to keep the Jap fleet harassed, to knock down their fighters, to soften the opposition, to demoralize the Jap air force and to give our attacking force much-needed protection. It took an Army transport with 6-inch guns to get into the fight. It took men in compartments deep below the water line to man their battle stations while relief crews stood by hour after long hour, until night came, ready to replace instantly worn out crews.

It took the marines, who had been bombed and shelled and harried for four months and who had talked of home and had cherished pocketbook pictures of loved ones and who had been sick with dysentery and joked about pulling their belts up tighter to stand off the Jap and to hold Henderson Field so that air superiority never was lost.

Battle Took God’s Help.

It took God’s help. The seamen will be the quickest to acknowledge it. Our striking forces moved in on the Jap with everything but numbers in our favor. The weather  was right. The disposition of the Jap was right. The disposition of our forces, gathered from thousands of miles, was right.

To fill out the background of the picture: For four months the Jap had perfected his plans for this knockout blow to keep this Tokio Guadalcanal air express, via Jap mandated and occupied islands, intact. His schedule was upset the dawn of August 7, when the biggest United States naval force ever assembled in the Pacific landed marines who proved a five-to-one match with the jungle-fighting Japs.

He then used Rabaul as a terminal to his hop, skip and jump route from Tokio by making his airpower available to the tips of his conquest. Because his planes from Rabaul could not gain supremacy of the air over Guadalcanal, he projected a terminal to Buin, Faisl, Rekata Bay, Gizo and Buka. The Jap used everything in the book to wipe out American forces from their projected Guadalcanal base. Submarines shelled positions, transports attempted and made landings. Small patrol boats, landing barges, destroyers, cruisers were used to bring in overwhelming numbers of Japs. They hacked at the marines. United States Army forces. Coast Guardsmen, day in and day out, night in and night out.

Camouflaged Invasion Barges.

At one time they had 50 invasion barges camouflaged with trees and brush on their way to Guadalcanal. Two young Navy carrier pilots hit that group and strafed it and sent it back to its base, after which the marine pilots joined with the Navy pilots to wipe it out. The Jap then prepared for a giant frontal assault to overcome any opposition and to take the field at all costs and to drive American forces into the sea.

On October 25 the Japs had what seemed overwhelming power massed to shell the island with battleships, to knock it out with a carrier-based airplanes, and to occupy it with a strong transport force.

On October 26 an American task force sought out the enemy ships in his own submarine filled waters northeast of Santa Cruz and although outclassed 2-to-l engaged him. We lost a carrier and a destroyer. The Japs suffered damage
to one carrier, perhaps the loss of a second and damage to several heavy
warships. More important, perhaps, the Japs had four air groups consisting of 167 to 177 planes chewed up. A carrier attacked by 84 planes knocked down 34.

Reorganized Striking Force

Without air protection the Japs retired and quickly reorganized a surface striking force to move into the Solomons in sufficient numbers for a frontal assault supported by heavy night bombardment by battleships. heavy cruisers and destroyers.

It was an A, B, C maneuver. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would lie out 250 miles out of reach of our aircraft and protected by carriers farther back. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they would begin steaming in at high speed for their night shelling.

On the afternoon of November 12, 25 Jap torpedo planes and eight fighters struck at our cruisers screening force and transports at Guadalcanal. One of 30 which were shot down crash-dived on the cruiser San Francisco as announced
by a Navy communique.

That night off Guadalcanal the Japs sent in their mighty sweeping force. They were engaged by what seemed a puny screening force of American cruisers and destroyers.

The hopelessly outmatched American force waded in. Typical of that night’s action was the work of the already damaged cruiser San Francisco. While blowing up a Jap cruiser, she engaged a destroyer on the side and sank it. Then she closed in on a Jap battleship of the Kongo class, called the Pagoda by our flyers because of its superstructure, and hit it 18 times at 3,000 yards. Other Jap units also were hit.

Dead in Water.

The Japanese battleship was observed next morning dead in the water. She got under way at seven knots when seven torpedoes were rammed through her hull and some heavy bombs penetrated her deck. The San Francisco received no vital damage.

This determined action of our staunch little cruiser force and destroyers prevented any shelling of Henderson Field that night, thus enabling aircraft to operate from it to maintain local air superiority.

The next morning, Friday, November 13, two hours’ before day break, Lt. (j. g.) Martin D. Carmody, 25, San Jose, Calif., took off on search and found the Japanese transports by flying beyond his assigned area despite the fact that this endangered his return by lowering his fuel supply. After making his report—described by Lt. Hubert B Harden, Iowa Falls, Iowa, air operations officer, as the most accurate of any aerial report of the war in the Pacific—he flew his Douglas Dauntless back to the Japanese convoy and his bomb was a near miss off the stern of one transport. His group attacked other units, causing heavy damage to two heavy cruisers, perhaps sinking one of them. It was a raging furnace when the flyers left.

Led Flyers for Kill

Lt. Carmody returned to his carrier long overdue and later led attacking bombers and strafers in for the kill. Planes raked the transports with a murderous fire from guns capable of driving projectiles through thick steel plate. Discharged from screaming dive bombers the machine gun bullets can sometimes penetrate several decks and even pass out through the hull of a transport.

After the first group finished knocking out the escort opposition a pilot going in inquired of a returning pilot, “Did you leave any opposition?” “A little but nothing to worry about.” “There isn’t any task force there anymore. Just some transports. I’d say about five good ones left,” it was reported by one of the pilots of the second group which participated. A third attack group was told “I’d suggest you attack the good ones and dump ’em all. Just pick out any one and go to it.”

Carrier Strength Expended

Apparently the carrier strength of the Japanese had been expended the day before when 33 planes attacked our cruiser screening force and as they were engaged in protecting transports. The carriers during this last action apparently had pulled out and were streaking for safety.

On the afternoon of the 14th Lt. Macgregor Kilpatrick. 26, of Southampton. N. Y. “found and downed” a second Kawanishi which sighted our attack force. His wingman. Ensign William K. Blair. 26, of Toledo, said that it took about 40 shots apiece to drop the four-motored job flaming into the water.

During the night of the 14th one Japanese transport and three cargo vessels succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal attempting to land about 10 miles from the American Henderson field positions. These four ships were met with gunfire. A heavily damaged American cruiser limped out of port and completed the utter devastation of the Japanese transports. That night to complete the carnage several of our heaviest units moved into Guadalcanal and gave the Japanese a taste of heavy caliber gunfire. Marines who watched the engagement off Guadalcanal said that today’s firing was the heaviest they had heard.

Planes’ Attack on Battleship Left Only Oil Slick


WITH THE UNITED STATES FLEET IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 17 (Delayed) (A5).

Lt. Albert P. Coffin submitted the first report of how one small squadron of torpedo plane pilots torpedoed a Kongo-class Japanese battleship, two cruisers and four transports.

Lt. Coffin, who was graduated from Annapolis in 1934, was leading his flight through some protective clouds when he saw the enemy battleship, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers, steaming slowly past Savo Island, off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. It was the morning of Friday, the 13th. (He was to learn later that the battleship had been hit earlier that morning by a torpedo from a Marine Corps plane.)
Lt. Coffin’s squadron climbed for a torpedoing position. The planes then dived and swooped down from opposite sides for their prize. Columns of water funneled into the air as the Americans’ torpedoes struck the ship’s vitals. The battleship stopped dead in the water.

This action occurred when the battleship was only about 20 minutes from a position to shell Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, where American Marines and Army troops were expecting a Japanese offensive to recapture the island.

May Have Saved Day.

By stopping this battleship short of its objective, Lt. Coffin and his fellow flyers may have saved the day for the Americans in their sea victory over the Japanese fleet during the November 12-15 fight. Navy officers said that if the battleship had succeeded in shelling Henderson Field, it might have been Impossible for our planes to use the field for takeoffs to help the surface ships during the fight.

Lt. Coffin’s torpedo squadron scored more hits on the battleship and, when last seen that evening, the ship’s stern was afire and men were abandoning the vessel. The next morning, the scene was marked only by an oil slick 2 miles in

diameter.
That was November 14. That day more Japs ships were intercepted by the squadron which torpedoed two cruisers, leaving one of the Mogami class, burning fiercely. The planes also set upon transports, making life most unpleasant for perhaps a division of 15,000 amphibious troops bound for an attack on Guadalcanal.

Turned to Landed Troops.

The flyers then turned their attention to troops and equipment that had been landed on Guadalcanal from four transports which had managed to escape the fire of American planes and surface ships.

Many bombs were dropped on these troops, Lt. Coffin said. During the entire action, every plane in Lt. Coffin’s squadron received at least one anti-aircraft hit, but not one man was injured. Lt. Coffin gave credit for his squadron’s performance to Marine Corps fighter pilots who “gave my planes splendid fighter protection which was beautifully coordinated.”

Log of Action.

“Those marines don’t know fear,” Lt. Coffin declared. “If one of them sees something he’ll go up and take a poke at it regardless.” The log of the attacks gives a picture of what Lt. Coffin’s pilot, with marine fighter protection, did during the battle:

November 13 – first attack. Fish (torpedo) on port side forward and on starboard side amidships. About 13 Zeros overhead. Moderate antiaircraft fire. Second attack. Hits on starboard side of the battleship and on her port bow. At this time the Kongo vessel was about 10 miles north of Savo Island and heading north at about two knots.

November 14—Third attack consisted of intercepting Japs’ ships 170 miles away. Found five cruisers and four destroyers. Lead cruiser of Mogami class. Hits on right flank starboard side. Hit and one near miss and direct bomb hits on second cruiser. Leading Mogami – class cruiser observed burning fiercely and second cruiser observed smoking. Fourth attack against Jap transports some 125 miles distant. Two undamaged transports hit with torpedo amidships. Six Zero fighters gave opposition. Thousands of Japs seen jumping overboard. Fifth attack diving on two transports dead in the water. Hit and near miss scored on each. The hit broke one transport in half.

November 15.—Raids made on four transports which had been aground west of Point Cruz. Direct bomb hits scored and ships burning fiercely. Remnants of Japs estimated at three divisions amphibious troops bombed and received Molotov baskets (bomb clusters) with our compliments

Opening Battleship Salvos Made Direct Hits on Japs

ABOARD A UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 18 (Delayed).

Opening salvos of two United States battleships scored direct hits on the surprised Japanese fleet from a distance of about 8 miles in the historic naval battle off Savo Island the night of November 14-15.

The action was related today by the communications officer on “unidentified ship” which participates in the mighty blow which, sank one Jap battleship or heavy cruiser, three heavy cruisers and at least two Jap destroyers in addition to several ships damaged. Here is his story:

“On the morning of the 14th we received reports of heavy Jap bombardment of Guadalcanal. Our first job was to get there. We were too late. That day we milled out of sight of the Japs. We received news that two large groups of Jap transports with escorts were on the way to Guadalcanal. One group consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and about six destroyers.

‘‘Engage and Destroy.”

‘‘Orders were given to us “engage and destroy Jap transports which were crippled by air attacks during the day.’ “About 6 p.m. we made our first definite change of course to Savo Island. At sunset, about 7:46 p.m., we went into battle stations. An announcement of our task and known disposition if the enemy was made to the men in keeping with our normal policy of keeping our men intelligently informed.

When that news was delivered the men were asked ‘Men, what is your answer?’ Every man responded ‘Yea!’
A captain or Marines said over the speaker system, ‘the Marines are ready to give them hell any time.’
“Our best record of going into general quarters, was bettered by one and one-half minutes. The men were out to break records. This was the chance we wanted.

“Shortly after 9 o’clock we saw fires which appeared to be explosions to the northwest, about 30 to 40 miles west of the Russell Islands. It is my belief that the Japs were either firing upon their own units or that they were dispatching their own damaged ships to the ocean floor.

Tension on Ships Increased.

“As we approached Savo Island the tension of our ships increased. Our men began seeing things that were not there. Innumerable false reports were received. Rocks looked like ships and shadows like submarines. The men were straining to get a Jap target. “As we came around at 11:15 p.m. we passed over the spot where the cruisers Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy had been sunk August 9.

This word was passed to all hands. Our men were even more determined to get the “There was a quarter moon, the sky was overcast about 60 to 70 per cent. The water was nice and smooth, perfectly calm. “At 12:50 a.m. I sighted what first suspected to be the enemy. My eyesight is unusually good at night. “Right after that others saw three ships. “We received orders, ‘Commence firing when ready.”

Direct Hit on First Salvo

“Our first ship’s first salvo set her target on fire. It was a direct hit. “Within 15 to 20 seconds our target was lined up. We also got a hit on our first salvo. I could see fires start. “The Jap fire started after we got off three salvos. I counted at least six and possibly eight Jap ships returning the fire.

“After firing several minutes, our ships saw two large explosions near Savo Island and silhouetted against them were two large ships, either heavy cruisers or battleships, about 12.000 to 14,000 yards away.

“This engagement lasted about 10 minutes, I would Judge. It was furious. Then we had about a 5 minute lull. During the lull three Jap ships were reported on our starboard beam and suddenly the Japs illuminated us with searchlights. They were right on us. Their range was about 5.500 yards.

One of our ships started firing almost as soon as the Jap searchlights showed up.

Jap Searchlights Went Out.

“Our salvo was still in the air en route to the Jap ship when the Jap searchlight on the leading ship went out.

“The Japs did not begin firing until 20 seconds after their illumination. This is slow.

“The leading Jap ship was enveloped in smoke. It billowed up in great volumes. I am of the opinion that it was a battleship because it had four searchlights on it.

“Our battery concentrated on the second Jap vessel, and her search lights were knocked out. Smoke issued from her also. I believe she was a light cruiser.

“The enemy ceased firing. We fired several more salvos at her in the general direction of the smoke, but the engagement was finished. We ceased firing at 1:02 a.m., the engagement including a five-minute comparative lull lasting 44 minutes.

Jap Fire Opened Safe.

“During the illumination of the second engagement, they hit us. The hits sounded like big chunks of hail dropping on a tin roof. “We had a useless safe aboard which we could not open because the combination was lost. The Japs opened it for us with an 8-incher.

“The supposition that we caught the enemy by surprise I believe is correct.

“Our losses were about 2 per cent of our crew killed and 3 per cent Injured.

“Our bag was one possible battleship or heavy cruiser; three heavy cruisers; at least two destroyers.

“The enemy knows we hit him well.”

 

The actual battle was much more remarkable in its dramatic fury and devastation on both sides

The Task Force that was employed by the American on the morning of Friday the 13th was badly mauled. Admiral and seaman both shared the crushing blows from the Japanese guns and torpedoes.

In the 34-minute Cruiser Night Action of 12-13 November, one of the most furious sea battles ever fought, our ship losses admittedly were large. The enemy, however, suffered more severely, and his bombardment of Guadalcanal was frustrated with results which became impressively apparent during the next two days. United States losses were as follows:

Sunk                                                 Damaged

CA      0                                                          2 (Portland, San Francisco)

CL      0                                                         1 (Helena)

CLAA 2 (Atlanta, Juneau)                                     0

DD 4 (Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen) 3 (Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, Sterett)

Casualties on both sides were heavy, with the American force having the serious misfortune to lose both its commander, Admiral Callaghan, and its second in command, Admiral Scott.

In the opening salvos, Both Admiral Scott and Callaghan were killed along with MOH awardee Cassin Young and many others on the bridge of the USS San Francisco. The Atlanta was sunk in a blaze of gunfire and the Juneau infamously was sent to the deeps by a Japanese submarine’s torpedo taking along with her the five Sullivan Brothers.

Tenacity is such a mild word compared to what they showed.

It is probably just as well that the country did not have a better idea of how significant the victory in the waters off of Guadalcanal were or how costly. In the end, it was the sheer tenacity of the American Naval fighters that carried the day. It was the spirit of never giving up that the Marines and Army troops on the little island displayed that proved that the Japs could be stopped and their fortunes reversed. These men were giants.

“The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. “For us who were there,” said Morison, “… Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

General Alexander Vandegrift, the commander of the troops on Guadalcanal, paid tribute to the sailors who fought the battle:

We believe the enemy has undoubtedly suffered a crushing defeat. We thank Admiral Kinkaid for his intervention yesterday. We thank Lee for his sturdy effort last night. Our own aircraft has been grand in its relentless hammering of the foe. All those efforts are appreciated but our greatest homage goes to Callaghan, Scott and their men who with magnificent courage against seemingly hopeless odds drove back the first hostile attack and paved the way for the success to follow. To them the men of Cactus lift their battered helmets in deepest admiration.

Mister Mac

 

The unluckiest day Reply

Sailors by and large are a very superstitious lot.

The things that set a sailing man or woman on edge are as ancient as the sea itself. I am not sure if it is the dangers they know they will face once they are divorced from the shore or just a strong feeling that fate will reach out and touch them in return for all they did on their last liberty.

One of the oldest traditions that causes sailors to be concerned is setting sail on a Friday. In a few old books (including Lovette’s Naval Customs and Traditions) this is alluded to a number of times. It’s just bad luck to sail on a Friday. As someone who spent more than a few weeks at sea, I can assure you that being underway on any Friday had its down side but on a rare occasion, you would add weight to the day when it happened to fall on the 13th day of the month.

From Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors. Bassett, Fletcher (1885):

Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day).

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, was the Northern mariner’s chief deity. Hence it was a lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with the Northern warlike mariner.

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good character. But we are told in an old English work,* ” Certayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition.”

But Friday is of all days the one proverbially unlucky for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea.

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: “His thoughts naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors to await the ‘morrow’s sun.’ ”

Southey says, “Many a ship has lost the tide which might have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought it unlucky to sail on Friday.”

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in the “Itinerary” of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: “The next day the king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds.”

Cooper says of a certain hero: “As for sailing on Friday, that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, who could help it.” Brand tells that a London merchant said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voyage on Friday.

Thatcher writes, in 1821: “Seldom would a seaman then sail on Friday.” And Cheever, in 1827: “He (the sailor) will never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it.”

0lmstead also writes, in 1841: “There has been a singular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sailors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respecting the day, that, until within a few years, he should never have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be appalled by dangers which they would think light of on common occasions.”

For the United States Navy, one of the worst Friday the 13th’s occurred on November 13th, 1942.

Pearl Harbor’s horrendous attack was less than a year before that fateful day. The battleships that were meant to repel any Japanese incursion into the Pacific were either laying on the floor of the harbor or in various stages of repair. The Battle for Guadalcanal had been raging since August and a superior Japanese surface fleet was wreaking havoc on the Marines trying to defend a tenuous position on this little island in the Solomons.

The US Navy could muster some cruisers and destroyers but the new battleships were still being held in reserve for a later attack. On November 12th, a battle group under Admiral “Fighting Dan” Callaghan on the USS San Francisco came to the defense of the battle weary Marines. They had accompanied supply ships and reports reached them of a superior Japanese fleet coming down the slot that would try and pound the airfield into the Stone Age.

Callaghan hastily prepared his forces to try and counter attack the incoming force of surface ships. What he was unaware of at the tie was the size and scope of the opposing forces. The Japanese Commander was bringing the Battleships Hiei and Kirishima along with her escort of a cruiser and destroyers to bombard the island in a night attack.

A bad way to begin

The day before the main battle did not start out well for the San Francisco. The Japanese air forces were still within range and they saw an opportunity to sink the American supply ships and weaken the garrison. The cruisers and destroyers put up a brave fight but one of the Japanese planes was able to hit the San Francisco causing damage and many deaths. Her new Captain, Cassin Young had only been on board for a few days and was already receiving his baptism of fire. Young had been awarded the Medal of Honor after the Pearl Harbor attack but had to feel the weight of a thousand anchors as he helped his ship battle the fires and get back into line for a night action that was still to come.

As nightfall on the 12th arrives, there are storms north of the island in which the approaching Japanese fleet is hidden. Callaghan initially has no idea of the size and makeup of the forces he will oppose. It probably didn’t matter. He was a fighting Admiral and he was going to use his forces in whatever way he could to help the Marines.

After midnight on the 13th, the two forces converge. Utter chaos ensues. As one officer would later record, it was like a ballroom brawl with the lights turned off.

Before the battle is over, the American force is bloodied but not completely beaten.

Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, among many others on the bridge of the San Francisco are killed by the blasts from Hiei’s fourteen inch guns.

The battle proper only lasted around twenty minutes with sporadic fighting occurring well into the daylight hours.

At 1101, Commander Yokota Minoru’s submarine I-26 fires three torpedoes at retiring San Francisco. They miss, but one continues on and narrowly misses Helena. Another continues on and hits JUNEAU port side amidships near where she was hit the previous night. A minute later, a magazine explosion blows Juneau in half. She sinks in about 20 seconds.

On board the Juneau are the Five Fighting Sullivan Brothers. None would survive the sinking.

The Japanese retired that night and the Marines got a precious reprieve. For them, Friday the 13th ended up being one of the luckiest days they would ever know. The Naval Battle continued on for a few more days and the Japanese would end up losing their two battleships. That battle marked the turning point in the overall campaign and even though the Japs fought on tenaciously, they were never again able to mount a serious attack that could topple the forward progress of the allies through the Pacific.

What happened to the Sullivan’s?

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivan’s were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

After this unlucky day, the Navy adapted a policy where brothers were no longer able to sail together. It remained in effect for many years.

USS San Francisco SSN 711

When I reported on board the USS San Francisco (a nuclear fast attack submarine) she was in the Newport News Shipyard being constructed. My brother Tom was a Machinist Mate on board a destroyer that was stationed in nearby Norfolk Virginia. The 711 boat was my third submarine and I had learned to love the submarine life. After a number of conversations, Tom finally volunteered for sub duty and upon completion he was assigned to the boat with me.

My Mom, who was old enough to remember the Sullivan Brothers incident, was a bit concerned. But we convinced her that being together on the same boat we would be able to keep an eye on each other. I have had many men who were qualified that I still call Brother, but this one was both a submariner and a Brother. We had a lot of great adventures together and at one point the 711 boat had four sets of brothers on board.

We are all either retired or closing out our working lives but I can assure you that the bond will never be broken.

It was an honor to serve on board a submarine named after the famous USS San Francisco that was the centerpiece of that fateful action. While it was the unluckiest day for them, it helped to shape the fortunes of the country on its way to Tokyo Harbor in 1945. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. I think of them every time I hear the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save…

Special Note: I am putting the finishing touches on my book this week that tries to capture the Amazing Life of Captain Cassin Young. I will be telling you more about that in the coming weeks.

Mister Mac

I never planned on becoming an old veteran 15

As Veteran’s Day approaches once more, my thoughts turn to how many veterans I have known in my life. My Dad, of course, comes to mind immediately. He served during the last year of World War 2 in the Navy and returned to an America that was fundamentally changed from the country he had grown up in. His father served in World War 1 and his grandfather served in the Civil War. All of them were volunteers and each came home and participated in veterans groups until they passed on to the next reunion.

Growing up in my hometown, veterans always seemed to be really old.

Their original uniforms were ill-fitting and sometimes they had to wear the uniforms of the organizations they belonged to like the Legion and the VFW. Any attempt to get into one of their original uniforms for many was a struggle that got harder as the years passed. They walked a little slower than I am sure they must have when they served. Some struggled with mended limbs while others just fought the battle of arthritis. But none of them ever seemed to complain. They jockeyed up to see who would have the honor of carrying the flag or one of the Springfield Rifles as part of the honor guard. All of them understood that they were carrying that flag and the rifles for someone who was not able to be there to do so.

As the years passed, there seemed to be less and less of them marching.

Some had to slow down because they were no longer able to take that walk in the cold November weather. Others had long since joined their fallen comrades after having that same flag draped over their coffin. I visit my Mom every Tuesday at the retirement home she lives in now and this week I got a chance to see the men still living as they viewed the pictures from their younger days. Some now need assistance but all came to attention as best they could when the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem were recited and sung. I can’t imagine any of those men kneeling except maybe on the beaches of Normandy to try and avoid getting shot by a German machine gun. Or maybe on a beach in the Pacific to try and comfort a buddy that had just been maimed by a Japanese shell.

Going off to fight for my country

Like my Dad and his Dad, I joined when I was seventeen. I was in a hurry to leave town and serve my tour in uniform. Frankly, at seventeen, all I thought about was the glory and the nice uniform that would set me apart from my peers. Okay, I also thought about how it would help me with girls, but at seventeen, what young man doesn’t have at least a passing desire for the opposite sex. At least in the world I grew up in anyway.

And then reality set in

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered very early on that the payment for wearing that uniform was a lot of sacrifices. On the first day, you find out that in order to serve, you lose your freedoms. Really basic stuff like the freedom to wake up when you want, the freedom to speak when you desire and the freedom to get up and go anywhere and anytime you want. Gone. Just like that you find out that the rights you have taken for granted all of those years are no longer available to you.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still do all of those things. But you will pay an extraordinarily high price if you do not follow the rules.  What you don’t realize is that from that day until the day you are finished, all of those sacrifices are meant to shape you. You learn quickly that all of those around you are going through the same things. You are being built into a team and being prepared to do things that are unnatural and unpalatable to many people. Your actions as an individual and a team could result in the destruction of whole cities and the people within them. Or just a small village and a single enemy. No matter which, they would only be accomplished if the country was in danger. But you needed to be ready to answer if called.

I think that is when I started to understand why those veterans all looked so old.

It wasn’t just the passage of time. It was the understanding of the things they had seen and the things they had done. That hunched over old man wearing an Airborne Badge jumped out of a plane into enemy fire. That Marine who can barely walk had to climb over a sea wall at Inchon and spent the next two years of his life in hospitals trying to learn how to use his legs again. That sailor with the withered hands who survived burns over much of his upper body when a kamikaze plane crashed through the defenses of his ship.

They had the privilege of becoming old while many of their comrades did not.

The ones we remember on Memorial Day hold a special place in their hearts always. Some of them became old because they had something called survivors guilt. Why did that bullet take my brother and not me.

But when you look at your eyes, the age fades away. Those eyes that have seen so much are still intense with the feelings of achievement and sometimes a little pride. I see it every time I volunteer at the VA. I saw it last week at out Veterans Breakfast put on by my state Representative Justin Walsh. Those eyes saw unimaginable horrors but also saw the fruits of their sacrifices fulfilled. They achieved their mission and them came home to a country that was better for their service.

I am older now than the men were who I used to think were ancient. I survived my two decades of service while some of my generation did not. Many who served with me now are suffering from the ravages of age and diseases that surely came from their service. When I have been lucky enough to see them at reunions though, I notice something within a few minutes of talking with them. While outwardly we all appear older, we are all still very young at heart. To a person, they all say the same thing. If they were younger, they would do it all again.

Where do these men and women come from? More importantly, if the country needs them in the future, where will they come from?

Thank you to all who served. It was my greatest honor and privilege to serve as your comrade.

I never planned on becoming an old veteran. But with the Grace of God, I am thankful to still be able to write these words. I know many who did not have that written as part of their stories.

A couple of old Chief Warrant Officers

Mister Mac

 

The Patten Family and the USS Nevada (1941) 3

As it so often happens, I was looking through the archives and discovered an article that jumped off the pages at me. This article was found in a collection of Navy Department News Releases and was released seventy seven years ago today (September 7, 2018)

NAVY DEPARTMENT

HOLD FOR RELEASE

SUNDAY PAPERS, SEPTEMBER 7, 1941

FATHER TO JOIN SEVEN SONS IN THE U. S. NAVY

A sea meeting unique in the world’s naval history will take place on the quarterdeck of the USS NEVADA on Tuesday night with the central figure, strangely enough, a farmer from Ridgefield, Washington. Officers and crew of the big battleship drawn up at rigid attention for the impressive rite, Captain F. W. Scandland, U. S. Navy, the NEWADA’s commanding officer, will administer the Navy enlistment oath to the farmer– Clarence Floyd Patten, a man of about 50 years.

Standing just behind the principal in the ceremony, in which Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in Washington will take part by radio, will be seven proud Sailors–Patten’s sons, Clarence, Jr., Myrne, Roy, Marvin, Allen, Gilbert and Bruce, all serving in the NEVADA’s fireroom. The elder Patten, not to be outdone by his sons, decided some time ago to follow the same urge which led them to the sea and into the service of their country and he will be enlisted as a fireman, first class.

Nor is the father the last of the Patten family who will enter the Navy. An eighth son, Wayne Henry Patten, just 16, about to become a sophomore at a Portland (Oregon) High School and with aspirations to become an aviator, plans to enlist when he becomes eligible on July 1, 1942. The NEVADA’s location for the ceremony will remain secret for reasons of Navy security, but the public will be enabled to hear the rites through the facilities of the National Broadcasting Company, which is to present it over its Blue Network from 7:00 to 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Secretary Knox will congratulate the elder Patten on the patriotism of his all-Navy family in a brief talk over a special hook-up linking Washington, D.C., with the NEVADA. All of the Patten brothers were born at Lake City, in Carroll County, Iowa, and the first to enter the Navy was Clarence Floyd Patten, Jr., now 25, who enlisted on July 1, 1937. The next was Myrne Roosevelt Patton, 22, who enlisted October 5, 1937.

Roy Hart Patten, 20, enlisted November 21, 1939; Marvin Kenneth Patten, 28, on January 3, 1940, exactly two weeks ahead of Allen Mayo Patten, 24; Gilbert Russell Patten, 29, on August 31, 1940, and Bruce Calvin Patten, 18, on December 12, 1940. Clarence, Myrne, Roy and Marvin all enlisted at Des Moines, Iowa; Allen at San Diego, California; Gilbert in Honolulu, T.H., and Bruce at Portland, Oregon.

In keeping with the Navy’s policy to bring together, whenever possible, brothers in the service, the seven Patten boys were put together in the NEVADA. In fact, all of them are stationed in the fireroom and occupy seven bunks together in a corner of one of the ship’s sleeping compartments.

(Photograph available in Photographic Section, Office of Public Relations.)

The Nevada wasn’t in her usual place when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor just a few month later. During the previous fleet maneuvers, she was delayed coming into port and the USS Arizona took her usual berth. This left the Nevada outboard of another ship and able to get underway once the attack occurred.

USS Nevada (BB-36), eldest (by a few months) of the battleships in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, was hit by one torpedo during the last part of the Japanese torpedo planes’ attack. This opened a large hole in the ship’s port side below her two forward turrets. Her anti-torpedo protection, of a type back-fitted to the Navy’s older battleships, resisted the warhead’s explosion fairly well. However, serious leaks were started in the inmost bulkhead, allowing a considerable amount of water into the ship.

The damaged Nevada got underway at 0840, about a half-hour after she was torpedoed, backed clear of her berth, and began to steam down the channel toward the Navy Yard. The slowly moving battleship was an attractive target for Japanese dive bombers, which hit and near-missed her repeatedly, opening up her forecastle deck, causing more leaks in her hull, starting gasoline fires forward and other blazes in her superstructure and midships area. Now in serious trouble, Nevada was run aground on the Navy Yard side of the channel, just south of Ford Island.

As her crew fought her many fires, the ship twisted around until she was facing back up the harbor. With the help of tugs, Nevada then backed across the way and grounded, stern-first, on the other side of the channel. Her old, much-modified structure proved itself to be anything but watertight, and water traveled inexorably throughout the ship. By the following day, she had settled to the bottom, fortunately in fairly shallow water. There she was to remain for over two months, the subject of one of the first of Pearl Harbor’s many demanding salvage projects.

Over the course of the morning, Nevada suffered a total of 60 killed and 109 wounded. Two more men died aboard during salvage operations on 7 February 1942 when they were overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas from decomposing paper and meat. The ship suffered a minimum of six bomb hits and one torpedo hit, but “it is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received, […] as certain damaged areas [were] of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb

None of the Patten Family were listed as KIA in the attack. You can find the rest of their amazing story here:

http://www.pearlharborsurvivorsonline.org/html/USS20Nevada20Patten20Brothers.htm

The Sullivan’s were not so fortunate

Just over a year later, the Navy’s policy on allowing family to be stationed together received a shocking jolt when the USS Juneau was sunk at the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal. The famous “Fighting Sullivan Brothers would all lose their lives in a single day.

The Navy would not allow brothers and family to serve again for many generations. Interesting footnote: forty years later (1981) My brother Tom and I both served on the USS San Francisco SSN 711 for over three years together. During that time, the 711 boat would be host to a total of four sets of brothers.

To the best of my knowledge, we all made it home safely. Interestingly enough, my brother Tom went on to serve on the Submarine USS Nevada.

I have often thought that the world was filled with a number of randomly colliding coincidences.

Mister Mac

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania – Serving the Navy in World War 2 (and Beyond) 1

Sometimes people forget the strong bond the Navy has always had with the City of Pittsburgh

On this Labor Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight the men and women who contributed to the victory in World War 2. Many never carried a gun, but their efforts were instrumental in delivering not only men and weapons, but the many supplies needed to bring the Nazi’s and Imperial Japan to their knees.

Geographically, Pittsburgh is situated far from either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. This was both a blessing and a challenge. The blessing was that at the time, the city was well out of range of traditional attacks. She was also located in an area that is still rich with natural resources and a well maintained systems of rivers with locks and dams. The challenge was building anything of significance and delivering it intact to the war effort. While the rivers are well suited for the many coal barges that routinely sail from the mines, they are not deep enough or wide enough to manage a larger vessel.

The answer came in the form of a unique new vessel that was desperately needed on both coasts. The LST  Landing Ship, Tank, or tank landing ship, is the naval designation for ships built during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. This provided amphibious assaults to almost any beach. The bow of the LST had a large door that would open with a ramp for unloading the vehicles. The LST had a special flat keel that allowed the ship to be beached and stay upright. The twin propellers and rudders had protection from grounding. The LSTs served across the globe during World War II including: Pacific War and European theatre.

These unique vessels were built in a number of places but Pittsburgh was ideally suited for their construction.

Here is their story from the Book “Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II “Volume I (Part II)

Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pa. – Construction of LST’s took place along the seacoast and on inland waterways. One of the building sites which was farthest from the ocean was Neville Island, on the Ohio River, a short distance below Pittsburgh, where the Dravo Corporation, a prime contractor for the Navy, built facilities for the construction of twelve LST’s at a time. Prior to the war expansion for the Navy, Dravo had built on Neville Island a plant where barges and other river craft were produced.

Under the war program, the existing yard was expanded by the construction of a seven-position assembly line. The first construction operation took place in position one, parallel to, and farthest from, the river. The growing ships were moved sidewise to each successive building position and finally into the Dravo side-launching ways, which existed before the Navy project was initiated.

Other new facilities constructed included a mold loft, a main office building, a warehouse, a machine shop, and two platens. The platens were open, rectangular, steel platforms for welding assemblies before installation in the ships. The platens were built at the stern ends of positions 1, 2, and 3 in the assembly line. The expanded old yard was called West Yard.

Upstream on Neville Island, separated from West Yard by another industrial property, an entirely new yard area, East Yard, was built. The assembly line at East Yard had five building positions. Side-launching ways were built, as were a service shop, warehouse, carpenter shop, sheet metal shop, two platens, and several minor buildings for personnel and offices.

To facilitate the equipping and outfitting of ships, two fitting-out quays were constructed on the river bank. One, 1,350 feet long, was located at the East Yard; the other, 300 feet long, was just east of the West Yard launching ways. Together the piers accommodated ten ships, moored two abreast. The quay was constructed as a filled steel, sheet pile cellular type. Three icebreaker piers, consisting of steel sheet piling driven in a 30-foot-diameter circle were constructed adjacent to each other, in a line at right angles with the shore, near the upstream end of the longer quay. They served as a means of breaking ice and downstream drift and for ship mooring. Additional mooring, in the non-quay waterfront area, was obtained by the construction of four dolphins in a line 50 feet from the shore and parallel to it.

In each yard, whirler-type gantry cranes were used in the pre-assembly and ship construction areas for handling ship sections and materials. Seven gantry-crane tracks were built, as were tracks for side-movement of ships on the assembly lines and tracks for railway service.

Three architect-engineer firms were used by the prime contractor. One handled the heavy-construction design and supervised the work of a heavy-construction contractor. The second handled shop and warehouse design; the third handled design of offices, cafeterias, and locker buildings. Work in the second and third categories was performed by a second construction contractor. Each of the two construction contractors performed almost $3,000,000 worth of work. The overall cost of the facility, including the non-civil works, was more than $10,000,000.

On Memorial Day, 1944, more than 25,000 gathered in Pittsburgh to watch the launch of LST-750, which Allegheny County residents had financed by purchasing $5,000,000 worth of extra war bonds. In 1944, Dravo Corporation’s Neville Island Yard worked round the clock. It built 15 LSTs in a six-week period before the D-Day invasion. Damaged by a Japanese kamikaze, the LST-750 sank near the Philippines’ Negros Island in December 1944.

The Pittsburgh Area has always been a representative community for what makes America exceptional.

The LST story is just one of the many contributions her citizens made to the war effort. Many of her own sons went to sea on these ships and helped free the world from Fascism and Imperialism.

Mister Mac

To help celebrate the Navy’s 243rd Birthday, Pittsburgh is holding its traditional Navy Birthday Celebration on October 12th, 2018. We are offering an opportunity for anyone who would like to contribute to the celebration to help by making a donation to the Navy League Pittsburgh Council Navy Ball Fund. In exchange for a contribution of $15.00 or more, you will receive this commemorative coin.

The Navy League is a 501 C3 organization

These limited Edition Coins will go fast so contact me at bobmac711@live.com if you would like to help celebrate the Navy’s Birthday

 

Cassin Young, Captain, United States Navy MOH Recipient, Information request 1

Good morning. For the past few years, I have been searching through Naval Records, newspaper articles, period books and a number of other sources to help complete the picture of one of the greatest heroes the Navy has ever produced, Captain Cassin Young. The journey has had a lot of twists and turns but I am nearing completion of the project.

I am missing one crucial element of the story that the rest hinges upon. During 1940-1942, then Commander Young was the Executive Officer of the Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut. He was a submariner from his earliest days in the Navy during some very pivotal times and served as a Submarine Squadron commander prior to this assignment.

But something happened at the base that changed the course of his life. I have part of the story but it comes to me from a second hand source. The only way I can validate it is to speak with a family member that can corroborate what I have found. I have reached out to them on social media and in other ways but so far no response.

So I am taking a shot in the dark.

I am asking that if you read this, you would consider sharing it to your own Blog or to any social media that you are connected to. Have them reach out to me here at theleansubmariner and I will do the rest.

When I started the project, my motivation was that so little was known about the amazing life and service of an American Hero. Last Christmas, I was given a book about Pearl Harbor and the author and one of the men he wrote about alluded to something that was both reprehensible and unthinkable. They attacked someone who had spent a lifetime preparing for just the moment that occurred on that December morning in Pearl. My book will show a different view of those events based on many sources. I feel compelled that the rest of the real story be told.

The time period Young spent in New London would help to fill in one last gap in the book. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

Mister Mac

The Fleet Today: 1942 Chapter XV THE “PIG BOATS”: THE SUBMARINES 4

While much of my work is original, there are some times when I find things that are too amazing to disturb. The year was 1942 and the book “The Fleet Today” by Kendall Banning had just been released (again). My assumption was that the book was already in publication before December 7th 1941 and was released as is. The reason I make that assumption is the fact that the main part of the book still focused on the mantra the Navy practiced for the thirty years prior to Pearl Harbor. “The Battleship is the BACKBONE of the Navy”.

The book has a lot of interesting chapters about life in the Navy just prior to the beginning of the war. What interested me most of course, was the chapter called The “Pig Boats”: The Submarines.

If you have ever wondered what a submariner of that era went through for training and actual service, this seems to be a pretty good representation. I have to warn you, its a long read. But if you love all things submarines, you will find a quiet place to read it and savor the richness of the story.  For me, it was worth every second.

Spoiler alert: One of the best parts is right near the end

Mister Mac

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“Chapter XV THE “PIG BOATS”: THE SUBMARINES

US. SUBMARINE STATUS (As of December 6, 1941)

Number in commission 113

Number building 73

TOTAL 186

“ALONGSIDE the docks at the submarine base lie moored a line of “pig boats,” the sailor’s name for submarines. Some of them are so new that the paint on them still shines in the sunlight. Their high bows and their stately superstructures tower impressively above the water. They are so long that even those parts of their hulls that remain above the sur- face extend beyond the ends of the docks.

In contrast to these undersea leviathans are the smaller submarines of the so-called R and S classes, which were built during the World War period, and, though still serviceable, are now regarded as suitable only for coast defense and training purposes. Because these smaller fry exceed the prescribed age limit of thirteen years, they are officially classified as “over age” by the terms of the Washington and London Naval Treaties of 1922 and 1930 respectively. While they lack the improvements of their more aristocratic brethren, have a smaller cruising range, and certainly can boast of fewer comforts—if any submarine at all may be said to have comforts— the basic principles of operation are the same. Thus these older types serve adequately as training ships for the men who are newly admitted to the submarine service; at the same time their use releases the newer vessels for more important duty with the fleet.

It is a little after eight o’clock in the morning.

Groups of sailors are making their way down to the dock, prepared for a training trip of six hours or more. The men are clad in their work uniforms; clambering about the oily machinery with which the hull of the submarine is packed is not a function that demands formal attire. The commanding officer, the diving-and-engineer officer and the torpedo officer; a group of young student officers who are taking the five-months course at the Submarine School; a few experienced and seasoned chief petty officers to act as instructors for the enlisted students who are taking the six-weeks basic course, and the regular crew, constitute the ship’s company. They number thirty-five or forty in all. Four days a week the students get practical instruction on these training trips; on the fifth day they get classroom work and are examined on what they have learned. Both the officers and the men get the same instruction in the technical details of the operation of a submarine— with the exception of the operation of the periscope. The use of that all-important instrument, upon which the very life of the vessel often depends, is restricted to the officers alone. It is a prerogative of command.

Before the day’s work is over the submarine will have made four, five or six dives. Before his course is completed the student will have made about fifty dives. For each dive, each enlisted man used to get $1 extra on his pay; it was awarded to him in the submarine service as a bonus for the hazardous character of his duties. Now the extra pay ranges from $5 to $30 a month flat. The students will not only learn by observation how these dives are made but will perform some of the operations themselves, always under the watchful eyes of their instructors. No student has the chance to make a serious blunder. No serious blunder has ever been made by a student.

Because of the dangers inherent in the submarine service, extreme caution is exercised in even the most simple of operations. This caution extends as far back as the selection of the men themselves. In the first place, they must be dependable men. The crew of a submarine is small and every man has a duty to perform; a single act of negligence might endanger the life of every man aboard. In the second place, a submariner must be blessed with the virtue of calmness and self-possession. The fellow who is subject to temperamental outbursts or who is contentious or who talks too much or who becomes excited has no place on a pig boat. And—to add the human touch—he must not be cursed with those little mannerisms or affectations which, in the intimacies that must necessarily prevail in cramped quarters, might grate on the nerves of his shipmates. Even that intensely personal and often unavoidable quality, designated by the medicos as bromidrosis but more popularly known as “B.O.,” will bar a man; even if his “best friends won’t tell him” the Navy will. The fruit of this selective system is found in the chief petty officers who have been developed over a term of years and who rate among the steadiest, most silent, and ablest groups of men in the Navy.

A submarine that starts out on a training trip from a base goes to the “diving area” to which it is assigned. These areas vary in size from four square miles up to a hundred or more square miles. Before a dive is made, each vessel reports by radio its location, the approximate course it proposes to steer and the expected duration of the dive. As soon as it comes up it reports “Surfaced.” The ordinary dive for elementary training purposes lasts about 20 minutes. The record for submergence was made at Cape May, when a submarine rested on the bottom (in order to conserve its electric power by cutting off its motors) for 96 hours. If a submarine fails to report surfacing within 30 minutes of its predicted time, attempts are made to reach it by radio. If they are not immediately successful, the Navy unleashes all the rescue forces at its command—aircraft, near-by vessels of any description, rescue ships, divers. Alarms of this kind are theoretical rather than actual, however; skippers of submarines just do not forget to report.

When all the men are aboard, the diving officer pulls out the “diving book” and begins to check up. The weight of the boat right now, as compared to its weight on the previous trip, is a factor that must now be taken into calculation; this knowledge is needed for the manipulation of the controls. Are there more or fewer men aboard? How do the number of gallons of fuel aboard check up with the last voyage? What is the status, in terms of pounds, of the forward and aft trim tanks? Controlling the depth of a floating craft submerged in water presents a problem analogous to that of controlling the altitude of a free balloon floating in air. So delicate a balance must be preserved that when the oil goes out of the tanks, for instance, it is replaced automatically by an equal volume of heavier water, and this excess weight must be compensated for before the submarine dives again. An inadvertent break on the surface of the water in the presence of an enemy would betray its location and spell its doom.

As soon as the vessel gets under way, the student submariners climb down the perpendicular ladders through the small circular hatches—which serve as the “escape hatches” in time of emergency—and are led about on sightseeing tours in small groups by the various instructors.

A submarine, the student learns, is divided into six compartments; in the more modern vessels that have a torpedo room aft as well as forward, a seventh compartment is provided. Each is a separate, watertight unit, capable of sustaining human life for several hours or possibly days, even though every other compartment is flooded. The average submarine with a full crew can remain submerged for about 36 hours without replenishing its air supply.

Its only connection with the adjoining compartment is a small, oval door just large enough for one man at a time to crawl through with a “watch-your-step-and-mind-your-head.”

The steel, watertight door to it weighs three hundred pounds or more, but it hangs upon hinges so scientifically designed and so delicately balanced that it may be swung by the push of a finger—provided the vessel is on an even keel. Should the vessel be tilting upward at an angle opposite to the direction in which the door swings, brute force would be required to pull the door upward in order to close it; it was exactly this situation that confronted the alert young electrician’s mate of the ill-fated Squalus when it sank May 23, 1939? His timely display of physical strength in pulling the door up- ward to close and to dog it before the onward rush of water hit it saved from death the 33 men trapped in the forward compartments. Every submariner is indoctrinated with the law and the gospel that quick decisions must be followed by immediate action. Emergency drills accustom the men to shut these watertight doors and secure them in a matter of split seconds.

The forward compartment, which extends right up into the bow of the submarine, is the “torpedo room”; on the modern boats it is called the “forward torpedo room” to distinguish it from the after torpedo room in the stern. Here are located the cluster of tubes through which the torpedoes are dis- charged by compressed air. Contrary to popular belief, the torpedoes are not aimed by the crew that discharges them. The torpedo crews have no way of seeing the target; they perform a purely mechanical routine and adjust, load and re- lease the projectiles only upon command from the control room. The projectiles are “aimed” only to the extent that the submarine itself is pointed so that the moving torpedoes will meet the moving target after they are fired, and this position can be determined only by the officer at the periscope. It is he alone who can sight the enemy, estimate the range, calculate the speed and course of each vessel, and direct the torpedo crew to make the proper adjustments in the torpedoes themselves. The maximum range and speed of torpedoes are both items of information of a secret nature; it is not a secret, however, that for training purposes torpedoes may be geared to speeds ranging upward from 27 to 45 miles an hour or more, and that target practice is conducted at ranges from 6000 to over 15,000 yards. The higher the speed the shorter the range, and vice versa. As soon as a 2500-pound torpedo leaves its tube, water is immediately let in to preserve the trim of the boat. The number of torpedoes that can be carried on a modern submarine is also a naval secret, but it is no secret that when these have been expended, the submarine is disarmed and helpless—except for a 5-inch gun on its deck; this, of course, can be manned only when the boat is on the surface. As a result, a submarine in wartime does not waste its limited number of torpedoes. Especially when those torpedoes range in price from $7500 to $12,000 apiece. In time of peace torpedoes fired in practice are retrieved and used many times.

Abaft the forward torpedo room is the “forward battery room.” To outward appearance this compartment on the training ships is filled with tiers of folding metal bunks; on the modern vessels this space is divided up into officers’ quarters and even a wardroom, so tiny and compact as to make a Pullman stateroom seem like a two-car garage. The compartment gets its name, however, not from any battery of guns supposedly operated from it but from a compact cargo of large storage batteries below its deck. These are the batteries that furnish the electric power for operating the boat under water, when the Diesel gas engines must be shut off.

Aft of this, a little forward of amidships, is the brain, nerve and message-center of the vessel, the all-important “control room.” This is where the skipper has his post of command when the submarine is submerged; here, consequently, is the periscope, the eye of the ship. Off to one side silently stands the quartermaster at the helm; near him are grouped the ship’s navigators, bending over their charts spread atop narrow, built-in desks. Over in a corner is tucked the radio room, miniature in size but equipped with submarine communication apparatus that is included among the most jealously guarded of all the Navy’s secrets.

This control room is literally so packed with mechanical devices and instruments that only the narrowest of passage- ways can be provided for traffic; however, when the sub- marine is proceeding under water, there is little moving about by the members of the crew; every man is stationed at his post. Near the center rises the oily steel tube that is the periscope. When cruising at periscope depth—which is about 40 feet below the surface—the commanding officer stands before this vital instrument, clutching the two handles that control the movements of the lens above, and peering into the eye- piece. Within range of his arm is the battery of push-buttons used for signaling instructions within the ship; among them are the general alarm, collision alarm and diving alarm, whose shrieking voices of warning sound like the wails of tortured banshees. About the compartment are arranged glistening dials, levers, valves, throttles, clutches, indicator lights and all manner of control and recording gadgets, doodads and thingumbobs. Over against the starboard bulkhead stands an array of controls which operate the Kingston valves. These admit water to the main ballast tanks when the submarine is diving. When the valves are opened, the normal procedure is to open the vents also, in order to permit the air to escape.

In time of emergency a “quick dive” often becomes necessary. A quick dive used to be called a “crash dive,” but perhaps because of its ominous psychological significance this term has finally gone out of use. When a quick dive is about to be made, the skipper gives the command “ride the vents”; this consists of opening the Kingston valves (or “flood valves” on* modern submarines) and keeping the vent valves closed. By this method it is possible to bring the boat down to periscope depth in 70 seconds or less. Along another bulkhead is lined up the battery of “water manifold” valves for regulating the flow of water to the different variable tanks in order to keep the vessel in trim. The “air manifold” valves are used for blowing water out of the tanks when the vessel is about to rise.

The “most important single instrument” in a submarine is the depth gauge. When the vessel is submerged, this instrument is under constant surveillance. A needle on the dial reveals the water pressure on the outside of the hull, graduated to indicate depth in feet. Another important instrument is the ordinary aneroid barometer, which indicates the air pressure within the boat itself. This air pressure, which is only a fraction of a pound and consequently negligible, is applied merely to determine if all the outboard openings are tightly sealed; any leakage of air, naturally, prevents compression and thus serves as a danger signal.

As might be expected, the control room is not alone the center of the submarine’s communication system, but also the point from which all communications of any kind emanate. What happens in time of disaster in case the control room is flooded? In such a case the entire communication system of the submarine becomes paralyzed. The forward end of the vessel is cut off from the after end. For reasons which are not difficult to understand, practically all such mishaps as do befall a submarine befall the forward or after compartments.

It was the control room of a submarine that served as the setting of a drama of the sea that has begun to assume the aspects of a classic. It started, according to legend, in the friendship between two or three cadets at West Point and as many midshipmen at Annapolis, and was continued after graduation. The Army men entered the Air Service; the Navy men the Submarine Service.

“Ever been up in a plane?” the fliers asked of their Navy guests during the latter’s visit to the flying field.

No, they had never been up in a plane. Yes, they would be delighted to take a trip. So up they went, with their Army hosts at the controls, and a grand performance indeed they put on. They gave their guests the works—loops, tailspins, barrel rolls, Immelmann turns. The sailormen were finally landed, a bit groggy and pale, perhaps, but still game and properly appreciative. In the course of time these same fliers, mindful of their social obligations, called upon their Navy friends at the Submarine Base. No, they had never been down in a sub. Yes, they would be delighted to take a trip. So aboard they all went; orders were passed; the engines were started, and while the Vessel was proceeding to the diving area, hosts and guests repaired below to pass the time.

“Rig for diving!” at last came the cry from the bridge.

Hatches on-the deck were slammed shut and dogged; the diving officer made his round of inspection; diving stations were manned. The hosts explained to their visitors the mechanics of the operation. Soon, however, the interest of the hosts began to be diverted from their guests and become focused upon the controls. They showed signs of anxiety; something was evidently going wrong. The depth gauge seemed to be the center of interest; instead of stopping at the indicated depth of 40 feet, the needle continued its course. Now the boat was shown to be down to 60 feet; now 80 feet; soon it struck 150 feet. The hush in the boat was broken only by the commands of the officers.

“These boats are designed to stand 200 feet of pressure, but they can probably stand as much as 300 feet,” the skipper encouragingly assured his guests. With increasing perturbation the visitors watched the gauge record a depth of 180 feet, with the needle steadily moving into dangerous area. At 200 feet the silence was blasted by the shriek of the collision alarm. All compartment doors were instantly closed; the visitors were now trapped in the control room with their hosts. Suddenly the lights went out and the compartment was thrown into a tar-like blackness. The dim emergency lamps were switched on; they cast the compartment into an eerie gloom. At 220 feet the Momsen escape lungs were hauled forth and strapped upon all hands, with hurried instructions for their use—just in case. A stream of water began to trickle ominously down the hatchway from the conning tower. Beads of perspiration broke out upon the faces of the worried visitors. The needle now registered 260 feet; the boat was now well down into the danger zone; obviously out of control. When a depth of 300 feet had been reached and the submarine was in imminent peril of collapsing, the needle on the depth gauge miraculously steadied. Slowly, exasperatingly slowly, the boat began to rise. With breathless interest the eyes of the visitors were riveted upon the dial as the needle indicated the return to safety. At last, thank God! the boat broke the surface; the hatches were thrown open to the sky, and the visitors clambered joyfully to the deck.

The vessel was still quietly moored to the dock; it had never moved a foot. The hosts smiled enigmatically. The debt of the submariners to the fliers had been paid in full.

The most popular spot on the whole submarine—popular because it combines all the recreational features of a mess hall, social center, playground and rest room—is the after battery room.

The outstanding feature of this compartment is a large, substantial, built-in, flat-topped structure that serves the purpose of a dining table. About it runs a passageway too narrow to provide space for seats but large enough for standing room. In height it comes nearly up to a man’s chest, which is just about the height of a bar, and that is exactly right. Over against the bulkhead at one side are arranged the gal- leys, flanked by sufficient cabinets and refrigerators and other storage space for food to maintain a steady flow of edibles to insatiable customers. Steaming coffee is served continuously to all and sundry; so, too, apparently, are soup, stew, meats, vegetables, cakes and pies, to accommodate the men on various watches whose meal hours are variable and sketchy. Be- cause of the limited space available on a submarine for such standard recreational facilities as deck tennis courts, running tracks and gymnasiums, to say nothing of swimming pools, pool tables and bowling alleys, the only indoor sport permissible is eating, and the submariner goes in for it in a really Big Way. In recognition of this phenomenon Uncle Sam gives the submariner a larger allowance for rations, and the submarine service prides itself on the quality and quantity of its grub. On short training trips, fresh meats, vegetables and fruits are obtainable, but on long cruises recourse must be had to canned goods. It has been aptly observed that “the submarine owes its existence to the invention of the Diesel engine, the storage battery and the tin can.”

Adjoining this social center is the engine room, so packed with machinery as to permit only the narrowest of passage- ways down the center. While the submarine is under way on the surface, the puffing Diesel engines here installed furnish the power; upon submerging, these are turned off and the electric motors are put to work. Motors neither consume the air supply nor give out gases. The motor compartment is aft of the engine room. In the tail of the ship—right down in the very extremity—a small space is provided for a few tiers of metal bunks and a tiny cubbyhole (or two) that has a miniature spray at the top and a drain pipe at the bottom, and which, by these symbols, lays claim to the designation of the shower bath. On the modern submarines this after compartment is a torpedo room similar in size and equipment to the forward torpedo room.

A group of new men is being conducted about by a chief petty officer and shown the more vital points of interest. “This particular ship,” the chief explains, “has three escape hatches. One is right here in the torpedo room; there it is up there; it is the same hatch through which you came down. Another one just like it is in the motor room. The third one is in the control room; that one leads right up through the conning tower and opens up at the bridge. These things over here, packed away in the corner, are the escape lungs. You will find them stowed in each end compartment. There are enough aboard for every member of the crew plus 10 per cent. You will also find a few scattered through the ship, but these are intended for emergency use as respirators and chlorine gas masks.”

The instructor explains the use of the various appliances throughout the vessel; his “students follow him respectfully but in silence. They have been accustomed to serve on larger ships, where a wider gap exists between the men and their chiefs than in the confined quarters of a submarine. The larger the ship, the greater are the formalities. The new men are shy about asking questions at first, so the instructor rambles along easily and does most of the speaking himself.

“See this peculiar coating on the interior of the boat?” he observes. “That is cork paint. The particles of cork in it help absorb the moisture caused by sweating. The small metal tablet you see in every compartment gives the Morse code. Most of you men know the code, but in case of acci- dent you may have to tap out mighty important messages with a hammer to the divers outside, so these tablets may come in useful in case your memory is rusty.”

“This little gadget over the door—you’ll find one over each door of every compartment—is the ‘gag’ for the compartment blow system. In case of emergency in a compartment, be sure to remove this stopper from its socket and insert it in the salvage airline before you leave. That will make it possible to admit high-pressure air to the vacated compartment and blow water out of any flooded compartments whose salvage blow outlets have not been gagged.”

The chief conducts his class to the automatic detector that records the presence and amount of hydrogen gas, if any, that may be generating in the submarine. That is the highly inflammable gas used in balloons. Because it has no odor or color, it can be detected neither by the nose nor by the eye. A 4 per cent concentration of it is considered dangerous be- cause of its explosive character. It is generated occasionally when the batteries are being charged, but accidents from this source are rare. More dangerous is the deadly chlorine gas, which is sometimes generated when water comes in contact with the batteries. This is a heavy gas, greenish-yellow in tinge and with a pungent odor that floats low over the decks, so its presence is quickly made known. When it is discovered, the alarm is given, the compartment is vacated, the entire crew don their lungs for use as gas masks, and the boat sur- faces with all speed unless an enemy ship is waiting to drop a depth bomb upon it. Carbon dioxide gas is just the com- mon CO2—the refuse given off by breathing and commonly known as merely “bad air.” This becomes a troublemaker only when fresh air is not available, and it is ordinarily counter-acted by some chemical. Soda lime was formerly used for this purpose; it was spread upon cloth of all kinds, especially upon mattress covers. But soda lime proves ineffective in low temperatures, and when a disabled submarine is resting on the bottom and the pumps are inoperative, the submarine be- comes as cold as a refrigerator. So a new chemical, effective in any temperature and known as “a CO2 absorbent,” is now used.

“That man standing over there with headphones is rotating the wheel of the listening device,” the chief continues as his flock pauses in its tour. “Under good conditions he can pick up the sounds of the propellers of a ship several miles distant and tell its bearing. And this small wheel overhead here, when given six turns, releases the marker buoy. That is used only as a distress signal when the submarine is disabled under water; it shows the searchers where the boat is lying. Inside the buoy is a telephone that makes it possible for anyone on the surface to talk to the men in the submarine.”

The class proceeds to the after battery compartment. “That mechanism up there,” the chief points out, “is the under- water signal ejector. It releases bombs that give out smoke of different colors; red smoke bombs, for example, are calls for help. When a smoke bomb is ejected, the water melts a thin wafer in the shell and the chemical action causes an explosion which throws a bomb 175 feet into the air. During maneuvers a yellow smoke bomb is ejected three minutes before surfacing as a warning to neighboring craft to keep clear.”

Thus the initiate is eased to his new duties and is familiarized with his strange environment. Many of his early lessons aboard are concerned with safety measures; with modes of escape in hours of peril; with methods of sustaining life till rescue comes. He learns how to summon aid by releasing oil at intervals by the several available means—through torpedo tubes, through signal bomb vents, through the toilets— in order to create a slick of oil upon the waters and thus reveal his location to searching airplanes and vessels. He is told how to conserve the limited air supply during enforced .submergences by restricting his physical activities and even curtailing his speech. He learns about the emergency lockers that contain enough food to keep him alive—a can of baked beans, supplemented with a cup, a spoon, a couple of candles and a pocket flashlight. He is at least assured that he will not starve to death; unless he is rescued before a second can of beans is needed, he might as well begin asking forgiveness of his sins, because his predicament is hopeless.

On the other hand, the morale of the submariner is bucked up by the knowledge that every conceivable precautionary measure is taken for his safety. He learns that the submarine, so far as its seagoing qualities are concerned, is “the safest type of ship afloat”; it is practically impossible to capsize it. In case of a hurricane it can escape by the simple expedient of submerging and cruising in quiet waters fifty or a hundred feet below the surface—although this is not done, because of the necessity of preserving its storage batteries. He participates in various roles in emergency drills, fire drills, collision drills, abandon-ship drills, and man-overboard drills.*

* While a modern submarine carries small motor boats, they are not quickly available; consequently a rescue at sea is effected by throwing out a life preserver and either reversing the engines or swinging* the vessel about in a circle until the members of the life-saving crew can climb out on the wing- like diving planes and pull the victim aboard. At a surface speed of 12 knots a rescue can ordinarily be made in less than three minutes. The record of 2 minutes and 7 seconds was made by the crew of the submarine R-I3 in 1938.

In spite of the fancy assortment of perils that beset the submariner, the accident rate is so amazingly low that the life insurance companies no longer charge a premium on policies to men in this branch. The mortality rate, to be specific, is 1.53 a thousand in the Navy as a whole, and only 3.60 a thousand in the submarine service; that represents a difference of just about two more fatalities for every thousand men. This is so slight that it has failed to arouse any superstitions among the submariners themselves. In fact, they have fewer superstitions than the average sailorman; they are a notably staid, level-headed lot, with perhaps just a trace of fatalism in their make-up. Signs, portents and omens play no part in their lives. Once in a rare while a whisper of superstition travels about; a chief electrician once acquired the reputation of being a Jonah because he had figured in three mishaps and escaped from each. “Three strikes and you’re out” was the umpire’s decision, and he was thereafter kept on shore duty, where his shipmates would just as like he would stay.

The attitude of the representative submariner is well reflected in an incident that occurred on the S-1 after it had successfully completed a training trip. “Captain, do you know what you have just done?” an old- timer among the chief petty officers smilingly inquired. “Today is Friday the 13th, and at 1300 by the clock you took the boat down on its I313th dive and gave a brand-new diving officer the complete works.” Yet only one man of the entire crew had bothered to heed the omens.

One of the perplexing tasks in the training of new submariners is to loosen up their tongues and induce them to speak up boldly and repeat all the orders they receive on board. Men from the fleet are not accustomed to talk in the presence of officers except in answer to questions. The crew of a submarine is so small and the duties and responsibilities of each man are so great that no chances are taken that an order is either unheard or misunderstood. The most common fault of a newcomer is over haste, due to his over anxiety and nervousness, especially in manipulating the water manifolds. But the instructor who stands over him steps in to take charge before any damage can be done. Most of the men selected for the basic submarine course make good; only one out of fifteen is dropped and sent back to the fleet. The chief causes for failure are inaptitude in learning the controls, temperamental traits that threaten personal relations with ship- mates, juvenile skylarking, and the unforgivable sin of “being late.” Any man who is temperamentally dilatory is marked for an early end to his submarine career; that is a symptom of a trait that is not tolerated; it is evidence of his lack of reliability and integrity.

All of the practical instruction aboard ship is supplemented by concurrent classroom work that is graded and marked on the 4.0 system, which is used at the Naval Academy and throughout the Navy. The passing mark is 2.5, which is equivalent to a mark of 62.5 per cent on the decimal system. The curriculum of the basic course may be outlined thus:

1st week: Sketches of the submarine, showing the location of all tanks, controls and other pans

2d week: Sketches of each compartment, showing all the gear in each

3d week: Use of the water manifold and maintenance of the trim line

4th week: Use of the air manifold

5th week: Battery ventilation and salvage systems

6th week: Fuel oil and lubricating systems

Courses for the more advanced students include a six-weeks storage-battery course, a six-weeks gyro-compass course, a six- weeks radio and sound course, and a twelve-weeks submarine Diesel engine course. Graduates are given certificates, their class standings are entered in their service records, and they are considered all set to go to sea in the submarine service; incidentally, they have not exactly impaired their chances of winning the competitive examinations for higher ratings. Technical education is playing an increasingly important role in the making of all modern sailors, and this is especially true in the submarine service.

But what the newcomer learns about submarines and submariners is by no means confined to what he gets out of text- books. Here are just a few odd bits of un-academic lore with which he regales the wondering folks back home: When a submarine crosses the equator, it dives under it. It is an old Navy custom.

Since the inception of the submarine, Uncle Sam has at various times designated the classes of boats that have been developed, by letters of the alphabet running from A to V—with the exception of the letter U. That has been reserved for Germany. Modern sub- marines bear the names of game fish, in addition to their hull numbers.

Messages of a strictly personal nature scribbled upon the walls of the waiting rooms at the bus stops near submarine stations are written discreetly in the dot-and-dash system. In case a sailor happens to get caught on the top deck of a submarine that is submerging, his only chance of saving himself is to cling to the periscope and place his hand over the eyepiece as a signal to those below that he is in very urgent need of help.

A submarine when submerged must either keep moving forward or rest on the bottom; it cannot hang suspended in water and remain under control.

The only way a submerged submarine can take soundings is by the use of a “fathometer,” which records the time taken for sound waves to travel back and forth between itself and the sea bottom directly below it.

As every good submariner knows, John Q. Public entertains some strange illusions about undersea craft. Some of his more common fallacies, as revealed by his questions, are:

  • That the submarine cruises almost continually under water. (It submerges only occasionally and for short periods, and then only for training purposes or when engaged in maneuvers or on war missions.)
  • That the air compression within the submarine increases with the depth. (Except for the slight “pressure in the boat” that is applied just before submerging as a test for possible leakages, the compression remains the same at all depths.)
  • That the torpedoes are propelled on their course by compressed air. (They are launched from the tube by air pressure; thereafter they proceed by power generated in their own miniature engines.)
  • That the crew is conscious of a sinking sensation when the submarine descends. (Usually the bow of the submarine dips only 4 or 5 degrees when diving and points upward at about the same slight degree when rising; except for this trivial tilt, there is practically no sensation of either rising or falling. Ascents and descents are often made, too, on an even keel.)
  • That the deck gun of a submarine can be fired under water. (No gun could be either sighted or fired when submerged, even though it were manned by mermen.)
  • That the last man to remain in a sunken submarine has no way of escaping. (He has the same chance to escape as anyone else, either by the Momsen-lung method or by means of the descent chamber.)
  • That the most dangerous period of submarine operation is when diving. (That is merely one of three hazardous moments. Equally critical moments come just before the submarine rises to periscope depth after a deep submergence and also when approaching in close proximity to other vessels. When below periscope depth, the vessel is completely blind and can detect the presence of vessels overhead or approaching only by means of its listening devices. If the propellers of vessels on the surface are not turning over, their presence is not likely to be revealed.)
  • That the periscope is always visible above the water and that the presence of a submarine during an attack can thus be detected. (During attack the periscope is raised only for the hastiest of peeks, for the purpose of taking bearings.)
  • That exciting glimpses of undersea life may be viewed from the ports of a submarine when submerged. (The only ports on a submarine are in the conning tower, and only in clear water and when near the surface where light permits vision can an occasional fish be seen.)

Not all of the high adventure in the submarine service is confined to wartime. Even routine training trips never be-come wholly monotonous; the ever-present element of danger and the ever-alert effort to avert it, make each trip at least a potential thriller: especially when a brand-new boat is put through her paces in trial runs and test dives, to find out if she is really seaworthy—or not. While most test dives develop no troubles of note, occasionally a breath-stopping incident occurs that is no less exciting merely because it does not make the headlines. Here is one behind-the-scenes drama that never even attained the dignity of official documentation. It is taken from the personal record of a sailor who was a member of the ship’s company: *

Fresh from a blueprint, she had yet to prove her mettle—in the depths as well as on the surface—before she would be officially accepted. A jammed vent cover, loose hatch bolts or weak plating that would crumple in when they reached the pressure depths, and three million dollars’ worth of steel hulk plus the lives of 54 men would sink to oblivion. Perhaps such thoughts as these were passing through the minds of the submarine’s crew, causing them to take extra turns on the numerous watertight locking devices that sealed the boat. Presently a chief torpedoman stepped up to the bridge.

“Top side secured for diving, sir.”

“Very well.” The captain turned, spoke into the voice tube.

“Rig ship for diving.”

The order went through the boat sending the crew racing to their diving stations.

In the torpedo room, where her missiles of death were sent bubbling on their destructive missions, a handful of men stood ready to flood the bow torpedo tubes. In the forward battery room more men were turning the big wheels that cut out the main air induction and cut in the auxiliary line. The ballast tank vents, located in the after battery room, were opened wide. Further aft in the engine room and motor room, grimy machinist’s mates sweated over the now quiet Diesels and prepared to start the motors. * By courtesy of Joseph McNamara, of the S-91, who took part in the test dives of that vessel in the Pacific in 1939.

Amidships in the control room where the entire operation of the boat was centered, the second officer labored over tank capacity tables, gradually putting an even trim on the boat. Around him stood members of the crew poised tensely at the most important diving stations in the boat: the flood valves, diving planes and steering control.

A maze of countless valves glittered from the port and starboard bulkhead; red lights, green lights winked on and off from the safety panel located over the motor controls signifying the opening and closing of all hull apertures.

Up on the small semicircular bridge, the captain pored over reports coming to him from every compartment in the teeming shell below him. A veteran submarine officer, his calm, assured manner seemed to have instilled a sense of security and confidence into the apprehensive crew. He was the government’s official “test pilot” for all new underwater craft; a job that was packed with constant danger and one of which he was never envied in the least.

“Shift all control below—course one eight zero.” The quarter- master and signalman scrambled below, leaving the skipper alone on the bridge.

“Both motors ahead one third. Stand by to dive.” A tense gripping suspense followed this order. Then the diving alarm went screaming through the boat. Up on the bridge the captain watched the hull slowly settle, the decks go awash. With a last look about, he dropped through the narrow hatch, locking it secure. “Eyeports awash, sir,” reported the quartermaster as he reached the conning tower. Damn! They must have flooded fast to be going down at this rate. He stepped down into the control room, where a volley of reports came at him.

“Ballast tanks flooded, sir.”

“Pressure in the boat, sir.”

“Ready on the motors, sir.”

The captain glanced quickly at the big depth gauge on the port bulkhead. Thirty feet already and sinking fast. He spoke to the men at the diving planes.

“Diving angle—five degrees. Level off at fifty feet.”

A test dive in a new boat is always made in stages of fifty feet. Wooden battens placed athwart ships throughout the length of the boat record the effects of the pressure on the submarine’s steel sides.

“Stop both motors.” The voice of the captain was cool, efficient. The throbbing motors died away, leaving a penetrating silence filling the boat, broken only by the lapping of the waves caressing the submarine’s exterior.

“Level off.” The captain, his eyes glued on the depth gauge, repeated the order as he saw the needle rush past the fifty-foot mark. The men on the planes strove to check the sudden change in the boat’s diving angle. Eighty, ninety, a hundred feet, and still no sign of leveling off. The faces around the crowded control room had taken on the color of chalk. The S-91 dove still deeper. Every pair of eyes was fixed on the captain.

“Hard rise.” There was a slight tremor in his voice as he shot the order to the men at the diving planes. The power levers were thrown all the way over. A blinding flash came from the diving-gear control panel, paralyzing the men at the planes. They stared helplessly as the bubble in the indicator glass bobbed crazily back and forth. All control of the diving planes was gone. With a sickening lurch the 8-91 plunged for the bottom.

“Blow all ballast!” The man at air manifold fumbled with the big blow valve. The depth gauge now registered 240 feet. Their safety depth was only 300 feet!

Quickly the white-faced skipper stepped forward, brushing the man aside, and gave the valve a strong pull. It was frozen fast! “A wrench, quick!” he shouted. A man darted aft to get one. Half fearfully, he glanced at the depth gauge—280 feet!

He couldn’t wait for the wrench—he had to act fast if he was going to save them.

“Both motors full astern,” came from the captain. It was their only hope now. If the motors could check their plunge long enough to break the air valve loose, they still had a chance. Slowly the powerful motors of the S-91 took hold, sending a violent shudder through the boat as the terrific strain told on her. Tense figures relaxed slightly; the depth gauge needle faltered, stopped at 293 feet. A wrench was quickly put to the frozen valve. A shot of oil, a blow from the light sledge, and it broke free, sending the high pressure streaming into the tanks and forcing the heavy ballast out into the sea.

Steadily regaining her buoyancy, the submarine rose gallantly from the pressure-laden depths.

“Eyeports awash, captain!” The glad cry accompanied by a dull “plop” told them they were back on the surface once more, none the worse for their nerve-racking ordeal. The captain’s recommendations would now mean the boat’s acceptance or rejection.

A few minutes later he finished the brief report:

“General performance of S-91 excellent. No remarks worthy of mentioning.” The distinction that marks the discipline, technique and morale of the submarine service and sets it apart as peculiar to itself and different from every other branch of work in the Navy is expressed by an experienced submarine officer in the following eloquent words: *

The commanding officer of a submarine is a bigger factor in her success than any officer or man in any other type of ship that floats. He alone sees the enemy and he alone makes the estimates upon which the success or failure of the attack depends. But the well-trained crew of a submarine is a team. The Captain calls the signals and carries the ball, but the untimely failure of even the least member of the crew may mean disaster. … To operate a complicated mechanism like a submarine, each individual must be free to volunteer information, to discuss when discussion is profitable, to exercise initiative and discretion in carrying on his duties; yet in other situations he must obey instantly, without question and without thought as to his safety. The recognition of the subtle changes in the situation which determine where and when and in what circumstances these two widely different attitudes are demanded is what makes a good submarine officer.

* By courtesy of Lieutenant Wilfred J. Holmes, retired, writing under the nom-de-plume of “Alec Hudson,” and by permission of The Saturday Evening Post.”

 

 

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