Category Archives: history

Footage of the Last Hours of USS Wasp CV-7

 Shortly after 1440 on 15 September 1942, in the waters of the Solomon Islands, USS Wasp (CV-7) was struck by three torpedoes from the IJN submarine I-19.   The impact point was directly below the AVGAS distribution station, which was in operation when the torpedoes struck.   Within minutes, Wasp was engulfed in flames, roaring like a furnace, punctuated by powerful explosions from built-up gasoline vapors.  Ammunition and aerial bombs began to detonate from the heat, and inside of an hour, Captain Forrest Sherman ordered Wasp abandoned.   She burned well into the evening before torpedoes from USS Lansdowne (DD-486) finally sank her.

lea

wasp-burning-and-sinking

When I was a young lad, I read an excellent book on the Solomons Campaign.  In it, the author described Wasp as burning like a torch, and how, as darkness fell, sailors on other ships could see her glowing red from the fires inside.   When Wasp finally slipped beneath the waves, it was said she emanated a loud and eerie hissing as her hot steel sank into the sea. Watching the footage above, one understands that such a description, like Tom Lea’s famous painting, is hardly hyperbole.

In all, 193 sailors died on Wasp, and 366 were wounded.   Forty-three precious aircraft also went down with her. She had been in commission just 28 months.

In the 37 weeks of war since December 7th, the US Navy had lost Langley (CV-1), Lexington (CV-2), Yorktown (CV-5), and Wasp (CV-7).  Also soon to be lost was Hornet (CV-8), sunk at Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942.   Hornet, however, would be the last US fleet carrier lost during the war.

H/T to Grandpa Bluewater

1 Comment

Filed under air defense, aviation, Defense, guns, history, missiles, navy, planes, ships, training, veterans, war, weapons, World War II

Gun Control, Racism, and Liberals

The folks at Ushanka tell us the sometimes-tragic consequences of the blindly foolish liberal mindset towards the two subjects.

Kevin Sutherland on gun control:

Since I am in politics, there is one phrase coined by our Founding Fathers that really strikes me. When they founded this nation, they set out to create a “more perfect Union.” The important distinction in this phrase is that our Union is not perfect. More than 225 years later, despite so much change, this is still true. It is likely that we will never achieve absolute perfection, but I believe that the heart of American exceptionalism is that we never stop trying. If history is any guide, the forces for progress always succeed eventually, no matter how formidable their opposition is. Our fight is not merely for new gun control measures or even new mental health programs. It is for the creation of an even more perfect Union.

That is why I am a liberal. . .

Kevin Sutherland on race relations and the SC church shooting:

In my opinion there are few things that are more offensive to the victims of this crime than refusing to address the racism, much of which is institutionalized, glorified and celebrated in the South (including with the help of symbols like the Confederate flat), that cultivated this incident.

Kevin (right), a Democrat Party operative, was stabbed (40x) to death on a DC Metro train on July 4th by Jasper Spires (left).

I am posting FYI only.  I have no comment.

Nor have I.   Except to remark that Liberals will hate us even more because we refuse to be Kevin.

H/T to JPP

8 Comments

Filed under Defense, guns, history, Personal, Politics, stupid, Uncategorized, weapons

Iconic Photos

Welcome to the timesuck that is Iconic Photos.
wellington
Duke of Wellington, by Antoine Claudet, 1844.
dresden
Dresden after the fire bombing, by Richard Peter from the Rathaustrum.
chains
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, on the SS Great Eastern by Robert Howett, 1857.
honey
Gurung honeyhunter, by Eric Valli, 1987.
Now I wish I’d kept some of the contact sheets from the NASA photographers. They don’t do that with digital photography.

3 Comments

Filed under history

Happy Birthday, George Orwell

orwell

Somewhat belatedly.  Born Eric Arthur Blair, in India, on June 25th, 1903.

It is hardly the man’s fault that his seminal work, written as a chilling dystopian warning regarding the destruction of liberty, has become an instruction manual for the far-Left “Liberal” Secular-Progressive Statists who now hold the levers of power in our once-great Republic.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

“They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.”

If you refuse to agree that 2 + 2 = 5, you are racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-child, and probably watch Fox News.

4 Comments

Filed under Around the web, Cold War, Defense, girls, helicopters, history, islam, leadership, obama, Personal, Politics, recruiting, terrorism, training, veterans, war, weapons

The Battle of Bunker Hill

The American Revolution kicked off with the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, but the first real battle between the colonials and the British Army took place on this day in 1775 with the Battle of Bunker Hill (which was mostly fought on Breed’s Hill). British forces in Boston were besieged by colonial troops on the hills around the city. To consolidate their hold on the city, and gain control over the entrance to the harbor, the British sought to occupy the hills. The first two British assaults were bloodily repulsed. The third assault carried the hills mostly because the colonials ran out of ammunition. While the colonial forces were defeated and forced to retreat to Cambridge, the heavy losses of the British, about 200 dead and 800 wounded, sent a signal that the colonial forces were every bit the match for the redcoats.

File:The death of general warren at the battle of bunker hill.jpg

The battle also gives rise to one of my favorite (apocryphal) stories.

An American Marine officer found himself on temporary duty in England, and it came to pass that he was invited to the officer’s mess of one of the regiments that had fought at Bunker Hill. The British Army has a long, proud history, and the messes of the regiments are often repositories of many of the artifacts of that. And the British Army loves to take notice of the long history of many of its regiments, with a fierce unit pride that even the oldest US units can’t quite match.

And so, the British officer is proudly displaying these mementos to the American Marine, and comes across a flag captured from the colonials at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Alluding to the long service of the regiment, the Brit says, “And you’ll notice we still have the flag.”

The American calmly replies, “We still have the hill.”

17 Comments

Filed under history, Humor

The Last “Thousand Tonner”

USS Allen

Some of the most interesting curiosities in the history of naval warfare surround older warships remaining in service long after similar vessels have been retired.  Sometimes, the story of such ships is one of tragedy, like the three elderly Royal Navy cruisers sunk in the Channel by a German U-Boat in 1914, or the nearly-helpless Spanish wooden-hulled Castilla, quickly sunk at Manila Bay.  Other times, like with Oldendorf’s “Old Ladies” at Surigao Straits or the Iowas in Desert Storm, the veteran ships were found to still be plenty lethal.  One such curiosity is the unlikely tale of USS Allen, DD-66.

The rapid advances in Naval technology that spanned the last decade of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th included generational leaps in warship design, hastened further by the outbreak of war in 1914.  Nowhere was this more manifest than in the smallest of the combatant ships of the world’s navies, the destroyer.  Originally the “torpedo boat destroyer” built to protect larger ships of the battle line from the speedy small craft and their ship-killing weapons, powered torpedoes, soon these “torpedo boat destroyers” became the carriers of torpedoes themselves, then called simply, “destroyers”.

US destroyer construction in the early part of the century followed apace with designs elsewhere.  Small, largely coastal craft evolved into the 700-ton “flivvers” and later, the “thousand-tonners” of the O’Brien, Tucker, and Sampson classes.   Despite being almost new, these 26 ships of the latter three classes had proven barely suitable for the requirements of destroyer service in a modern war at sea.  Among the first US ships to attach to the Royal Navy in 1917, by the end of the war they were hopelessly outdated, as the British W and V classes, and the latest German destroyers, were significantly larger, much faster,  far more capable warships.

Following the Armistice, almost all the “thousand tonners” were quickly decommissioned, as they were replaced in service with the “flush-decker” Wickes and Clemson classes, of which an astounding 267 were built (though few were completed in time for war service).   A number of the obsolescent “thousand tonners” were given to the US Coast Guard, where they served into the 1930s.  Most, however, were scrapped or sunk as targets.  Most, but not all.

One unit of the Sampsons, USS Allen, DD-66, was placed back in commission,  to serve as a training ship for US Navy Reserve personnel.  She would serve in this role between 1925 and 1928, after which she returned to the Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.   Allen was retained even while a number of her younger and far more capable “flush-decker” sisters were scrapped.  As war clouds loomed, Allen was selected to be recommissioned, in the summer of 1940.  She must have been an exceptionally well-maintained vessel.  Even with that, the choice to recommission Allen was a curious one.  She and her sisters were designed before the First World War, and still reflected the “torpedo boat destroyer” mission in her layout and systems.

USSAllenDD66

USS Allen 9

After some time in the Atlantic, Allen was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, which had recently moved to Pearl Harbor.  She was present and fired her only shots of the war during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  Lacking adequate endurance and weapons, Allen spent the war escorting vessels between the Hawaiian Islands, helping to train submarine crews by acting as a mock sub chaser, and she made the occasional voyage back to the US West Coast.  In the course of the war, Allen had her antiaircraft armament considerably augmented, with six 20mm cannon, and she lost at least one set of torpedo tubes.  She gained depth charge throwers, and even a modest air search radar.   I could find no reference to her being fitted with sonar of any kind, however.  (And if Norman Friedman didn’t say it happened, it didn’t happen!)

USS Allen 10

Immediately following the war, of course, the worn-out and thoroughly obsolete Allen was quickly decommissioned, in the fall of 1945, and just as quickly sold for scrap.   She is shown above, disarmed and awaiting disposal.  At the time of her decommissioning, she was the oldest US destroyer in commission, and the last survivor of her class and type.   Built to specifications which dated to before US entry into the First World War, USS Allen would serve through the Second, a throwback of four generations of destroyer design.  A remarkable record of service indeed.

7 Comments

Filed under air defense, Coast Guard, Defense, engineering, guns, history, navy, ships, training, veterans, war, weapons, World War II

Fort Ebey

We’ve written before on the coastal defenses of Puget Sound, mostly focusing on the turn of the 20th century Taft/Endicott period forts such as Ft. Casey.  The beginning of World War II saw a massive investment in more modern coastal defenses, along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and such places as the Panama Canal Zones. Bureaucratic inertia being what it is, by the time most of these forts were ready for service, it was abundantly clear, particularly along the West Coast, that no invasion fleet would reach even the central Pacific, let alone Hawaii or the actual continental US.

In 1942, the Coast Artillery Corps decided to upgrade the defenses of Puget Sound with a modern coast artillery battery located a few miles north of the existing Ft. Casey. It was to comprise a battery command post, an SCR-269A fire control radar, and two M1905A2 rapid fire 6” guns mounted on semi-armored barbettes.

795px-FortEbeyBattery248_Plan

Image via Fortwiki.

800px-Fort-Columbia-Gun

Image via Fortwiki. 6” gun at Ft. Columbia.  Note the older Endicott period emplacements in front of the mount. None are at Ft. Ebey.

A quick look at this image from Google Earth tells us that the fort was well sited to cover any approach to Seattle.

Ft Ebey

Mind you, this doesn’t even take into account the other batteries, including 16” batteries, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the entrance to Puget Sound.

The only problem is, the battery wasn’t completed and ready for service until March 1944. By that time, the fighting in the Pacific was taking place in the Carolines Islands roughly 5000 miles away. All the effort to complete the fortifications were superfluous to actually winning the war. The guns of the battery were removed sometime shortly after the war. The concrete support structure was not demolished, however. Turned over to Washington state in 1965, it opened as a state park in 1981, and has been a popular park ever since, with its quaint trails and gorgeous view of Puget Sound.

5 Comments

Filed under army, Artillery, history