Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Honda Point

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Twenty-three Sailors lost their lives as seven U.S. Navy destroyers wrecked against the rocks near the Vandenberg shores here in 1923. This tragedy was later referred to as the Honda Point disaster.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Fourteen Clemson-class destroyers of DesRon 11, under the command of Captain Edward H. Watson were steaming south from San Francisco to San Diego on night of the 8th of September, 1923. A navigational error had placed the squadron well off course, the order to turn to course 095 put them into a fog bank. Thinking they were turning into the Santa Barbara Channel (well south of their position) they actually turned directly into shoal waters at Honda Point.

Seven of the squadron's ships were a complete loss, two were damaged. Only five escaped unscathed.

Twenty-three sailors lost their lives.

The seven wrecked destroyers on Honda point. The lost ships were: USS Delphy (DD-261) was the flagship in the column. She ran aground on the shore at 20 knots (37 km/h). After running aground, she sounded her siren. The siren alerted some of the later ships in the column, helping them avoid the tragedy. Three men died. Eugene Dooman, a State Department expert on Japan, who survived, was aboard as a guest of Captain Watson, whom he had met in Japan. USS S. P. Lee (DD-310) was following a few hundred yards behind. She saw the Delphy suddenly stop, and turned to port (left) in response. As a result, she ran aground on the coast. USS Young (DD-312) made no move to turn. She tore her hull open on submerged rocks, and the inrush of water capsized her onto her starboard side. Twenty men died. USS Woodbury (DD-309) turned to starboard, but struck an offshore rock. USS Nicholas (DD-311) turned to port and also hit a rock. USS Fuller (DD-297) stuck next to the Woodbury. USS Chauncey (DD-296) made an attempt to rescue sailors from the capsized Young. She ran aground.
In Memoriam

From USS Young

Buchan, Ralph Kenneth Chief Pharmacist's Mate
Duncan, Earl Seaman 2 class
Grady, Everett William Fireman 2 class
Harrison, Earnest Carl Fireman 1 class
Jones Ernest Cabin Cook
Kirby, Edward Clinton Fireman 3 class
Kirk, Henry Thompson Fireman 3 class
Martin, James Tidwell Seaman 1 class
Morris, Wade Hampton Seaman 2 class
Overshiner, Gordon Jerome Seaman 2 class
Reddoch, Clitus Allen Radioman 1 class
Rogers, Leo Floyd Seaman 2 class
Salzer, Charles Alfred Coxswain
Skipper, Hugh Woodfan Seaman 2 class
Slimak, Joseph John Seaman 2 class
Taylor, Max H. Engineman 2 class
Torres, Enrique Cabin Steward
Van Schaack, Vern Russell Fireman 2 class
Young, John Fireman 2 class
Zakrzewski, August Fireman 2 class

From USS Delphy

Conway, James Wheaton H. Seaman 2 class
Dalida, Sofronio CC [Cabin Cook?]
Pearson, James Thomas Fireman 1 class

Until the sea shall give up her dead...

List of sources and other reading

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

USS Stewart (DD-224) (aka 巡視艇番号102)

Imperial Japanese Navy Patrol Boat No. 102
ex-USS Stewart (DD-224)

USS Stewart as part of the Asiatic Fleet (pre-WWII)
"Destroyer Week" here at The Chant continues...

There is a long tradition in naval warfare of taking captured enemy ships into one's own service after a battle, if, that is, the ship is in a good enough condition to be repaired and re-flagged. Often the original name is kept as it is considered, by some, to be bad luck to rename a ship.

For instance, in September of 1779, John Paul Jones, commanding Bonhomme Richard, and a squadron consisting of USS Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance, and Cerf, encountered a British convoy escorted by HMS Serapis and HM hired armed vessel Countess of Scarborough. In the ensuing fight Bonhomme Richard was reduced to a floating wreck, so after she struck her colors to Bonhomme Richard's much larger crew, Jones transferred to Serapis. Jones promptly renamed her USS Serapis.

Battle of Flamborough Head
Though Serapis eventually wound up in French service, it is an example of an enemy ship taken into service by the nation which defeated it. This gets very confusing at times when trying to discern the lineage of a warship, particularly in the age of sail. Just why would France build a ship named Northumberland? Said area borders Scotland in northern Britain. Fittingly she was captured by the Royal Navy and joined said navy, keeping her original name.

At any rate, it's not an unusual thing to happen in des affaires navales. What is odd though is to see that happen in later periods of warfare, like World War II.

In the early days of the Pacific War, the U.S. Navy was severely overmatched in the Western Pacific by the Imperial Japanese Navy. So much so that they banded together with surviving elements of the Royal Navy, the Dutch Navy, and the Royal Australian Navy to form the naval component of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, or ABDACOM. Which brings me to the ship juvat mentioned yesterday, USS Stewart (DD-224).

USS Stewart joined with an ABDACOM force to seek out and engage  Japanese forces advancing along the coast of Sumatra. Over the course of a few days, the Japanese demonstrated their superiority in surface warfare, USS Stewart, engaged by multiple Japanese destroyers, was severely damaged but managed to limp to Surabaya.

While in floating drydock, USS Stewart came off of the keel blocks onto her side causing even more damage to the already battered warship. To add insult to injury she also took a bomb hit from a Japanese aircraft.

As the Japanese army was threatening the port, the Allies had to evacuate so they scuttled the floating drydock containing USS Stewart. However, they didn't really destroy the ship. The Japanese managed to raise her, repair and refit her (note how USS Stewart's two forward masts have been combined into a single "trunked" funnel, which is a classic feature in Japanese warships, the why of that is explained here), and rename her Patrol Boat No. 102. Not a very good name I thought.

In the months and years which followed, American pilots would report what appeared to be a Clemson-class destroyer deep in enemy waters. She was attacked by American aircraft at Mokpo, Korea, and eventually found her way back to Japan where American forces recovered her at the end of the war.

She was recommissioned into the U.S. Navy for a short while but was eventually expended as a target off the coast of San Francisco. A sad end for a proud ship.

USS Stewart sinking off California, May 25 1946.
Note that she still bears the rising sun of Japan on her port side.
You can read more about USS Stewart's career here.

Big shout out to juvat for finding this story!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Stewart--Not Jimmy

I had a decidedly humorous event happen last Friday.  I visited the school district's central office to drop off a birthday card for a very good friend who is in durance vile there.  She was one of the first persons I met when I started working for the district.  So, I've known her for a very long time.  I had bought one of those musical cards that play an annoying version of "Happy Birthday" in the hopes that she would play it regularly, possibly over the PA.  I'd also included two lottery tickets, just because....  That was something we did for each other's birthday for the past 20 years.  I don't know if she's EVER played the song.

But I have! :-)

In any case, I went early as the number of people that I wanted to interact with in that building is minimal.  She wasn't in yet, so I put it on her keyboard.  As I was walking out, one of the other people I enjoyed working with was walking in, so I stopped and asked about kids, husband, vacations.  In short, a quick "how ya doin?".  While this is going on, the door opens and in walks one of the assistant superintendents.  I believe he should have been named Peter.

 As in principle.  Or as in the way he acts, which is another name for peter and a shorter version of Richard.

In any case, I continue the conversation with my friend and watch out of the corner of my eye as he approached.  I really wish I could have taken out life insurance on him, payable to me.

When he saw us talking and recognized me, I think he came very close to breaking his neck, looking away as he passed.  My friend and I exchanged a glance and a chuckle.  That was good for a laugh and lowering of the blood pressure all day long.

But that filled the requirement to visit until this time next year.

On a different note, it's a good thing that Sargento de la Fuerza Aérea muy, muy viejo y de solo un ojo, declared this to be "Destroyer Week" on the Chant du Départ Channel as I had already visited one (well...sort of), and had pictures.

In addition to SS-244, USS Cavalla, Seawolf Park has USS Stewart (DE-238),  an Edsall class Destroyer Escort

USS Stewart would be the fine ship on the far side of USS Cavalla.  The vessels on the near side are NOT ships.  (In case anyone was asking......)  I thought this an artistic shot.  Two combatants that fought the Japanese.  Two Japanese vehicles.  Hmmm!
In any case, I had exited, (do you disembark a decommissioned ship stuck in cement?) and boarded the Stewart.  As I did so, I racked my brain trying to remember who had that name and might have been worthy of naming a ship after.  

The only one I could think of was this one.

Or as we like to call him Jimmy Stewart, of Hollywood fame.  He is a legitimate hero.  Two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Croix de Guerre. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in March of 1941, before that became mandatory fashionable and rose to the rank of Colonel in 4 years.  Flew numerous bomber missions against Germany, including missions during "Big Week" where the US 8th Air Force came dangerously close to non-existence.  But...

He's Army Air Corps.  Heck, even the Army didn't like them, much less the Navy, so nope USS Stewart wasn't named after him.


She was named after Charles Stewart (1778-1869).  Stewart entered the Navy at the ripe old age of 13.  During his career, he commanded the USS Constitution, along with several other ships, fought in the Barbary wars and the War of 1812 as well as the undeclared war with France from 1798-1800 known as the Quasi War.  This war was an "unintended consequence" of the French Revolution and was fought because the US did not recognize the post revolution French government and decided that they were not legitimate and therefore, the US's debt to the French for their support in our Revolution was null and void.  I'm sure the fact that we had no money to pay that debt had no bearing on the decision.

C'est le guerre

In any case, Capt Stewart served for 63 years retiring in December of 1861 at the age of 83 years, 4 months and 24 days.  (Yes, Beans, that means he was older even than a day, maybe two).

It also turns out that DE-238 wasn't the only ship named after Charles Stewart.  USS Stewart (DD-224) was a Clemson class destroyer that was sunk early in WWII, raised and refitted by the Japanese and placed in service by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).  That would be an interesting post for Destroyer Week, wouldn't it?

So, enough about that History stuff, what was the ship like, juvat?

Well, It was roughly the same size as USS Cavalla, had about 25% more crew than her, and seemed way more spacious on the inside than Cavalla.  Still having sailed in some rough seas aboard ships WAY bigger than either, I think she might have moved around a touch.

That having been said, I did learn a few things about anti-Submarine warfare that I didn't know.  The Destroyer Escort was a smaller, thereby less expensive, ship that was designed to escort merchant ship convoys and provide them with anti-submarine protection.  This freed up Destroyers to escort combatant capital ships and provide them anti-submarine protection.

After making my way through the Cavalla, the bottom sign was unnecessary.

With a top speed of 20 Knots, the DE's could keep up with the merchant ships, have enough speed to run down a sub and weapons to kill the sub when found.

Not a very sophisticated gun, but would probably hurt a surfaced sub if it hit.

This I didn't recognize so I spent a bit of time reading the placard for it.  Seems this weapon was called a Hedgehog.  The ship would fire these as they made a pass on a detected sub.  It was different than a depth charge as it had to hit a target to explode.  While that may seem to be a shortcoming, apparently it was not.  With a depth charge, the weapon always explodes when it reaches the specified depth and since multiple weapons were usually employed, contact could/would be lost with the target because of the resultant noise.  This took time to reacquire, allowing the enemy to potentially escape.  Since the Hedghog only exploded when it hit the target, no hit, reattack was quicker since reacquisition was, usually, not required.
Who knew that a miss might be a good thing? Because of this, hedgehogs had a higher kill rate than depth charges.

Which they did have.

USS Stewart spent most of the war in the Atlantic escorting convoys. Therefore,just in case the bad guys had long range search airplanes, and the Germans did, there were several AAA batteries aboard.

With ammo quite handy.


I don't know if this was a long term storage location, of just to keep them handy when battle seemed eminent, but, Skip or someone will know.  It was on the aft side of the bulkhead less than 10' from the gun above and 30' from the one above that one.

 This was the Combat Information center, where the ship was fought.  It was off limits, so couldn't get much detail.  Even Murphy couldn't have sounded battle stations.............I think.

This was the Wheel House, where whomever was driving the boat worked.

The view of the Bow from directly in front of the Wheel House.

Officer's Mess

Passageway.  Wider than on Cavalla, but by no means....wide.


Enlisted Head
And just because Skip had, at one time, shared a favorite pastime involving this facility and lighted toilet paper.

Privacy at it's finest!

This next one was a bit of a puzzlement.  I suspect it also is an anti-submarine weapon, but the explanation on the placard was not very helpful.

However, this site provided more illumination.  A "K" gun would be used to propel depth charges to either side of the ship, thereby increasing the dispersal pattern of the depth charges.  4 could be mounted on either side so that 8 depth charges could be launched at once along with others being rolled off the stern.

So I guess, depth charges were fairly effective against their target.

An interesting day in Galveston.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Rerun - USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850)

USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (DD-850) after her FRAM* I modernization in 1962.
The eye and finger continue to heal, though, truth be told, both are a bit sore this Saturday eve as I type this. So I am (somewhat reluctantly) offering up a rerun from October of 2015. It was a weekend when my good buddy Murphy came to town and we toured the ships at Battleship Cove. Juvat's tales of the submarine he had toured, and the memory of an alarm klaxon going off in close proximity to my right ear, triggered memories of that trip. Yes, all of the ships remain afloat, neither Murphy nor myself were banned, so we have that going for us.

So call it "Tin Can Sunday," I have great respect for the men and women who go down to the sea in ships, two of the three progeny served on destroyers and I've walked the deckplates of a few myself. (Not to mention currently wringing out the systems on a new one.)

So without further ado, the Joey P -

USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., DD-850
"The Joey P"
As a young lad when JFK took office as the 35th President of the United States I, as a New Englander, already knew quite a bit about the Kennedy family. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was the oldest son, the crown prince of the Kennedy family. His father had visions of his oldest boy and namesake Joe someday sitting in the White House, not Jack. But history will have her way and it was not to be.

LT Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., USNR
25 July 1915 - 12 August 1944
The young Naval Aviator was killed at the age of 29 on a special mission.
Operation Aphrodite (US Army Air Forces) & Operation Anvil (US Navy) made use of unmanned, explosive-laden Army Air Forces Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator bombers, that were deliberately crashed into their targets under radio control. These aircraft could not take off safely on their own, so a crew of two would take off and fly to 2,000 feet (610 m) before activating the remote control system, arming the detonators and parachuting from the aircraft.

After U.S. Army Air Forces operation missions were drawn up on July 23, 1944, Kennedy and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy were designated as the first Navy flight crew. Willy had "pulled rank" over Ensign James Simpson (who was Kennedy's regular co-pilot) to be on the mission. They flew a BQ-8 "robot" aircraft (a converted B-24 Liberator) for the U.S. Navy's first Aphrodite mission. Two Lockheed Ventura mother planes and a Boeing B-17 navigation plane took off from RAF Fersfield at 1800 on 12 August 1944. Then the BQ-8 aircraft, loaded with 21,170 lb (9,600 kg) of Torpex, took off. It was to be used against the Fortress of Mimoyecques and its V-3 cannons in northern France.

Following behind them in a USAAF F-8 Mosquito to film the mission were pilot Lt. Robert A. Tunnel and combat camera man Lt. David J. McCarthy, who filmed the event from the perspex nose. As planned, Kennedy and Willy remained aboard as the BQ-8 completed its first remote-controlled turn at 2,000 feet near the North Sea coast. Kennedy and Willy removed the safety pin, arming the explosive package, and Kennedy radioed the agreed code Spade Flush, his last known words. Two minutes later (and well before the planned crew bailout, near RAF Manston), the Torpex explosive detonated prematurely and destroyed the Liberator, killing Kennedy and Willy instantly. Wreckage landed near the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk, England, causing widespread damage and small fires, but no injuries on the ground. According to one report, a total of 59 buildings were damaged in a nearby coastal town. W
B-24D, the aircraft type some of which the Army Air Forces converted to BQ-8 drones.
PBY4-1, two of which the Navy converted to BQ-8 drones though some sources indicate that the Navy did not call them BQ-8s. It was in this type aircraft that Navy Lieutenants Kennedy and Willy lost their lives.

In 1945 the Gearing-class destroyer DD-850 was laid down in the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Fore River Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts. She was christened the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. She is "the last surviving Destroyer built in the State of Massachusetts, the only vessel to stop and board a Soviet chartered ship during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and the last US Navy configured Gearing class Destroyer in the world" (source).

A young Robert Kennedy served on her during her shakedown cruise in February 1946. JFK and Jackie Kennedy watched the America's Cup races from her decks in 1962, anchored off of Newport, here in Little Rhody. The old ship has strong ties to New England. I had the honor, and privilege, of visiting this proud ship just recently at her final mooring at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.

The Joey P's bridge. Yes, that hatch was locked. Yes, Murph and I tried to open it.
The flight deck of the Joey P. Murph and I were surprised that she has a flight deck. We wondered what sort of helo could fly off such a small platform. We discovered that, as you shall, a bit further down.
You can climb up to Joey P's flight deck, so of course, we did.
Part of Joey P's enlisted berthing. No doubt Skip would consider this spacious.
This machine shop can be seen in the previous photo. Can you imagine trying to catch some rack time with some machinist mate working in there? I can't.
Looking towards Joey P's bow and her forward 5-inch gun mount. (Torpedo launcher in left foreground, see below.)
Search radar (the box-spring looking thing) on the mast and a gun fire control radar dish forward of the mast.
Aft end of the eight cell RUR-5 ASROC launcher. Manufactured by Honeywell, this launcher held 8 Anti-Submarine Rockets, essentially a torpedo with a rocket strapped to its butt.
Business end of the ASROC launcher.
An exercise ASROC mounted on its loader.
(If it's blue it won't go boom. If it's gray, get out of it's way.)
Joey P was originally equipped with two Mark 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (Mk 32 SVTT) with three tubes each, one of which you can see in the photo above looking towards the bow. These were designed to fire the Mk-44 torpedo. Those two examples in the photo are actually Mk-46s. (I know they're not blue but they're not war shots. At least I don't think they are... Nah, no way.)
Port side Mk 32 SVTT (detail from the photo above looking towards the bow).
Joey P's stack (think engine exhaust...)
The hangar just forward of Joey P's flight deck. Home to two Gyrodyne QH-50 DASHs (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopters). They're not that big, which is how the flight deck can be so small. Manned helos need not apply!
Placards detailing the drones. Not sure if you can read them. Need good eyes!
Another placard showing a DASH lifting off.
On to the Lionfish, where I brained myself.
Farewell Joey P!

* Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM)
** The original post is here.