Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Once Upon A Midnight Dreary*

Arabian Gulf (June 19,2004) – The Osprey-class mine hunter coastal ship USS Raven (MHC 61) cruises in the water while participating in exercises geared toward fighting the global war on terrorism. Raven is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho (RELEASED)
While I am seldom at a loss for words when in polite (or otherwise) company, I will, occasionally stumble about and lurch hither and yon searching for a topic to write about here, on the blog. As it were.

There are times when I have just committed a post to the ether (usually by scheduling it to launch the next day at precisely 0400 Sandy Eggo time), have prepared myself to retire for the evening to my chambre à coucher, have spent a few minutes reading the latest tome I have my nose buried in, have paid my obeisance to the felines of the tribe, and have switched the lights off when it hits me...

What will I write about tomorrow?

I'm not sure if other bloggers suffer this quandary. I mean it's not like I'm not getting paid to do this. No one will starve or be sent off to live in the streets if I don't come up with a post. Those who write for a living have, I'm sure, suffered through such a thing.

I think that I might be a bit OCD when it comes to the blog. Yes, I enjoy doing this. Yes, I have lots of interests and I'm old enough to have plenty of stories to tell. I tell ya, it ain't a lack of material which troubles me, 'tis the presentation of that material. For I strive to be entertaining, informative, and (if at all possible) amusing. Sometimes (okay, most of the time) I will settle for amusing. Sometimes even if only I find it amusing.

Yeah, that happens. Don't tell me you haven't noticed.

Anyhoo...

Last night I kept having the strangest dream, someone had hacked the blog, loaded it with all sorts of colorful graphics which were intended to sell some objet d'art which I could not, for the life of me, remember, when the alarm yanked me out of a sound sleep at 0600 local. (Which would be New England time. For those keeping score at home.)

So being all haggard and weary, I dragged myself to work. On the way there was a driver proceeding merrily along at 25 mph, on a road where the speed limit is 45. If you're wondering, yes, I will admit to making some less than Christian comments vis-à-vis this chap's heritage, breeding, intelligence, and driving skills. 'Twas then that I realized two things:
  1. It's the Christmas season, I should be a bit more forgiving, and
  2. I was really in no hurry to get to work, why all the fuss?
For you see, it is the last week of the year at my place of employment. We are not in at all next week and damn few of us are actually manning the ramparts this week. Those who can are taking vacation this week, those who can't are unbothered by those things which normally get us spun up. The phones aren't ringing, there is a dearth of e-mail, and people are generally just winding down.

What it feels like at work this week. (Source)

Anyhoo, I start off work by looking for a spreadsheet I wanted to have a look at, for to plan next year's activities (as in vacation planning, etc.) and lo and behold I stumble across a spreadsheet of ship selections available to The Nuke way back when she was about to be commissioned. Being interested in things of that nature, I opened it up and began to peruse the various selections, listed were the names of the ships and their home ports.

The list began with a number of cruisers...

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 4, 2010) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) transits in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship is underway supporting Southern Seas 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Shelley/Released)

Made it's way through the available destroyers (one of which, USS McFaul she eventually got)...

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 18, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) transits the Pacific Ocean. Halsey is conducting a three-week composite training unit exercise in preparation for a deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin/Released)

Way down at the bottom of the list were these...
  • MCM 1 AVENGER
  • MCM 2 DEFENDER
  • MCM 3 SENTRY
  • MCM 5 GUARDIAN
  • MCM 6 DEVASTATOR
  • MCM 10 WARRIOR
  • MCM 13 DEXTROUS
  • MHC 52 HERON
  • MHC 53 PELICAN
  • MHC 54 ROBIN
  • MHC 55 ORIOLE
  • MHC 56 KINGFISHER
  • MHC 57 CORMORANT
  • MHC 59 FALCON
Mine warfare ships. Of which one, USS Raven is the leading photo (way up top). Now the Raven is an Osprey-class coastal mine hunter. Which reminded me of a story. (Yes, I'm finally getting to the point of today's post. Long time readers should be used to these long-winded intros by now, with their many sidebars, distractions, and digressions. Like this one.)

The WSO and I were down Virginia way for to drive The Nuke's vehicle back to New England as she was out at sea and would be for about six months. Rather than let her car sit, I volunteered to take care of it. (The very car I now own, yclept Big Girl, thanks to the generosity of The Nuke.)

Headed northwards we stopped on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel for to dine, there being a fine little dining establishment just at the entrance of the first northbound tunnel. Which would be at the exit of the last southbound tunnel. Said information you really didn't need but which I give to you freely and without purposes of evasion. Or words to that effect.

Where we stopped to eat...

(Source)

After we dismounted the vehicle, I noticed something to seaward, something small but something haze gray in color. My first thought? "Cool. Warship!" Fortunately near the restaurant there are these...

(Source)

A few coins later and I'm looking at this...

MHC 51, USS Osprey (Source)

This was the spring of '06. I didn't know the ship I saw was the Osprey until I got home and looked up the hull number. I had figured her for some sort of mine warfare platform and I was correct.

Seems that The WSO and I saw the old girl (as she was commissioned in '93 she wasn't that old) coming in from her last days on the bounding main. She was de-commissioned and struck (on the same day) in June of that very year.

I will need to do some more reading and digging on these little guys. While any ship can be a mine sweeper once (BOOM! What the Hell was that?- I think we hit a mine!) these ships dedicated to that dangerous trade deserve a post of their own. We've talked about carriers and destroyers in these spaces before but those ships need these little guys out front, clearing the seas. Otherwise those big, sexy platforms are just expensive targets. I also have a few friends whose stock and trade is/was mine warfare.

It ain't all airplanes and big guns in the Navy. Or so I'm told...






* With apologies to Mr. Poe. No, not the guy who plays for West Point, the original one, ya know the poet...

46 comments:

  1. My friend Larry told me that te first indication that his DD had hit a mine off Vietnam was the ship heaving, and his ankles breaking.Sweeper crews are among the bravest of the brave.

    I like the old truck photo. I am fascinated by the old rusty beasts, with enamelled badges on the radiator shroud that look like they were just installed. Ford is supposed to be reintroducing the Ranger in 2018. When I get one, maybe I should have the whole truck cloisined, like a lapel pin, and it will last forever!

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    1. Yup, mine warfare is not for the faint of heart.

      I too like the old trucks.

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    2. I looked at the photo of the old Dodge truck and it struck me, I know exactly where that was taken. In central Nevada is an old mining town called Berlin and this is a photo of the mine office. I can feel the sun and cool air and smell the sage. Thanks for the ride!

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    3. Ya nailed it Lou, that's exactly where that photo came from.

      Good eye!

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  2. By the by, what volumes of lost and long forgotten lore were pondering?

    Sometimes the sweepers get protection. There was a sweeping mission during the Korean War, where the presence of shore batteries earned the sweepers the BIG BADGER BOAT and USS SAINT PAUL riding shotgun for them.

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    1. Currently I'm reading Alaska by James Michener, got it for free off the company used book rack. I needed a break from reality. It's an entertaining read.

      It's good to have a passel of big guns supporting you, especially if the bad guys are watching.

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    2. I've liked every Michener novel I've read, but haven't read that one. Review please.

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    3. Roger that. So far it's good, if you like Michener, you'll like Alaska.

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    4. I read Alaska quite some time back.
      It is one of those I may re-read if I ever run out of new material.
      It's classic Michener.

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    5. I've read a lot of Michener, surprised that I hadn't read this one.

      Making that right even as we speak.

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  3. It took a little time to crank up the memory bank, (dormant storage) and do a little internet research.
    From a website called MSO casualties. http://102msos.8m.net/msocasualties.html
    "Atlantic 07/20/77: The USS Direct (MSO-430) is badly damaged by a two-hour engine room fire about 120 miles southeast of Newport, Rhode Island,and is taken under tow to Newport where it arrives the next day."
    The Willy R (DD-714) was operating not far from the Direct when we got the message about being on fire. We lit off all four boilers and headed for her as fast as we could, (might have cut a few safety corners a little sharp, but it did not matter because our family needed our help) we got there just after another can, (name escapes me) so our contribution was standby and help.
    But until I read today's post I had largely forgotten the event, and had forgotten just how good it felt to be able to go just as fast as we could to help out our brothers who truly were in peril on the sea.
    Thank you for your post.

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    1. Good story John, I need to check out that website.

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    2. Mines are cheap and have caused the most damage to Naval vessels in the modern era- more than aircraft, missile attacks, small-arms, etc. A single $10k mine almost caused the loss of PRINCETON and SAMUEL B ROBERTS, and severely damaged TRIPOLI and the repair of those ships was into the tens of millions. Pretty asymmetric of you ask me.

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    3. Ok, it wasn't one mine that did all that, but you probably understood what I was trying to say.

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    4. Yes, I got that Tuna. Mines are (relatively) cheap compared to warships. I hate mines on land, I hate mines on the sea. They are nasty and indiscriminate.

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    5. One mine, two mines, they still cause a lot of damage.

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    6. Shortly after I got back from my minesweeper in the Persian Gulf, we were underway in SOCAL on my home minesweeper when USS CONSTELLATION caught fire. My salty CO had been Main Propulsion Assistant on a carrier so we went to full power to rush to rescue CV-64. Yes, he was that kind of skipper. We offered them 50% of our oxygen breathing canisters (about 2 dozen). Somebody over there thanked us nicely and asked us to leave them alone.

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    7. I can picture that, the minesweeper rushing to help the mighty carrier.

      (I thought this post might catch your eye and spark a memory or two.)

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  4. That'll be fun! Looking forward to some minesweeper action. I knew a couple of minesweeper sailors (forget which ships) and they always had great stories.

    For some reason the term minesweeper always makes me think of strawberries.

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    1. Nice Caine Mutiny reference.

      I'm betting you used geometric logic to come up with that.

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    2. Heh. Click, click. I blame the mess boys.

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    3. When Caine Mutiny II showed up in the movie distribution on minesweeper in Persian Gulf the skipper locked it up so nobody could watch it. The parallels were dismally close to the bone.

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    4. Damn, too close to home for him, neh?

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  5. Great post. Unfortunately, My Navy has a habit of ignoring the imperatives of mine warfare --not sexy you know--until it is too late (That BOOM! you refer to earlier). The saying is "Every ship can be a mine sweeper.....once.".

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    1. Sexy doesn't win wars. Something we seem to have forgotten.

      (My Air Force thinks political correctness and feelings win wars, they're even more misguided than the Navy.)

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  6. Very cool. I had no idea the bridge-tunnel was also a place where you could find a business doing, um, business. It must be somewhat fascinating to have your place of work NOT be a ship yet still be out in the middle of the water.

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    1. The view while eating is pretty decent. As I recall, the food was pretty good.

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  7. "Said information you really didn't need but which I give to you freely and without purposes of evasion. Or words to that effect."

    Is there some kind of award for word count?

    I remember seeing MSOs and MSCs and thinking, "I couldn't live like that."
    I imagine if I'd been on one of them and seen a DD I'd've prolly said the same thing.
    It's one of those ship type things.

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    1. If there isn't an award for word count, there should be.

      I'm thinking that those mine warfare ships must have been pretty sporty in a storm. Of course, destroyers tend to be sporty as well, at least according to my two tin can sailor kids.

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  8. The sundown of the AVENGER Class ships, and the seemingly endless delays/problems with their replacement is what keeps me up at night. Ok, not really, but it is a problem.

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  9. FYI, Sarge, one day your blog will be considered a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Just sayin'!

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    1. Well, that was the original intent. Something for my grandchildren to ponder and wonder about just how strange their grandfather was.

      I like quaint.

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  10. Never knew anyone in the mine-sweeping business. Do have some friends/acquaintances from the Vietnam brown water Navy. Their stories are "interesting".

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    1. Patrolling in the Mekong Delta, yeah, I'll bet they've got some stories!

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  11. As I recall, USS FORCE burned to the waterline and sank in 12 minutes out by Guam. There is something about marinating a wooden hull in fuel and lube oil and then striking a spark.

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    1. Yes, that happened in April of 1973. Fortunately no one died.

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    2. Dating myself, one of the Engineman from the Force ended up working with us on my and other YTB's and YTM's in Apra Harbor.
      He said that it more than likely was a high pressure fuel line to a injector that failed, spraying a mist of diesel on hot exhaust piping.
      He was not on watch or in the engine room when it happened, so it was just conjecture.
      When the fireball erupted things and not just the fire went to hell quick, there were some other factors (someone has to take the blame) that the official reports chronicle.

      When a ship sinks, almost all the personal belongings are replaced by the Navy.
      At the time, rumor had it that if all the stuff that was claimed lost when the Force sunk it would have taken a freighter to carry it all.
      But there was no way to invalidate the claims by the crew, so there were some large checks written.

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    3. I didn't know that. Stands to reason.

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  12. Old mines are / were inexpensive, modern ones can be quite expensive. The discriminatory soft and hardware is one of the main costs.
    Now someone is working on a mine that will go where it needs to be on its own and wait for the correct target.
    It can be launched or dropped many miles away from where it will end up.
    This mine is supposed to have a quite low detectable profile.

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    1. Damn. Yes they can be expensive, still cheap compared to a major surface combatant. That new mine sounds scary, hope it's ours.

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  13. Regarding mines, I've posted it here before(IIRC) and elsewhere to the fact that during the Korean War NORK mines were so effective in denying the USN operational flexibility that one Admiral (whose name I don't remember) said in utter disgust: "Here we are with the greatest Navy in the history of the world and we're being denied access to vital waters by a country that doesn't even HAVE a Navy!" LOL (But not really funny...just sad)

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    1. I remember you posting that.

      Mine warfare, not sexy, not cheap. Can't project power ashore without it.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)