The development of Turkish submarines went on a long way. The very first ones, Abdülhamid and Abdülmecid, were commissonned in 1886 and 1887, at a time more Navies considered them experimental and little else. A cooperation between Sweden and British Yards, they were based on the Nordenfelt design, brought to Turkey in pre-manufactured parts, assembled in great secrecy behind closed doors, at the Tersane-i Âmire dry dock.
They stayed in service for a few years, showing the limits of the steam engine concept, but also what the future could look like. The experience served to put the basis of a submarine corps, train personal, but technology went a long way until WWI. At the time, Turkey had no submersible in service to oppose to the entente. The young turks movement and revolution that followed plus the war with Greece and the new Republic changed all this.
Therefore this history could be separated unto several periods: Following the early beginnings in 1885-1918, it’s the Republican Period (1923-1935) which prepared the way, with acquisitions, followed by WW2 (1936-1943) and the cold war era from 1944 to 1967 and from 1968. About the latter topic, see the dedicated Cold war Turkish Navy Page.
The first modern Turkish Submersibles
The first two “modern” submarines since 1885 were so during the Republican period. They had been ordered in 1925, completed and commissioned in 1928. In between was a long process. Turkey at the time had no expertise in such construction and the question was who to ask them to built them, knowing that at the time as now, this has an impact on geopolitics and state relations (notably alliances and neutrality stance). Contencious relations with the former entente (France and UK in particular) precluded orders there, as for Italy, it’s stance with Greece before WWI was something to consider. USSR, like Imperial Russia before still was still seen as a potential threat, having close borders and relations would only warm up in the 1930s. That left only Germany, the natural WWI ally for such endeavour, but after a regime change and now under the yaw of the Versailles draconians limitations, was forbidden to built any submarine. Nevertheless, through the German attaché in Istanbul, a prospect soon emerged:
The choice of Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw
In 1919 the Versailles treaty imposed that all German U-Bootes would be delivered or dismantled to Britain as approved by Articles 188, 189 and 191, as prepared on 28 June 1919, entered into force on 10 January 1920. The entente nations was then free to pick up existing U-Bootes of their choice (and obviously some were more prized than others), leading to sometimes tense discussions and arbitrations between England, France, USA, Japan and Italy.
The Treaty of Versailles though its Article 191 in addition forbade Germany of the construction or purchase of any submarine even for purely commercial purposes. However the entente ignored the entire infrastructure of technical expertise still there, inherited from German submarine industry. It was requested to hand over existing plans and documentation, but it seems this was never carried out. Not only that, personal employed in these design bureau, now back from military duty, were seen as wasted potential by the new head of the Reichsmarine, Admiral Von Trotha. This, Germany started various activities in order not to lose this expertise, experience and knowledge. Admiral Paul behncke which replaced him and retired from the navy in 1924 setup a complete organization in order not only to no loose this precious potential, but creating an export product that could benefit the country by generating resources and keeping the expertise alight until Germany wouls restart its own submarine production.
To avoid the political troubles by acting against provisions of the Versailles treaty, the Netherlands were chosen to settle a covert German company N.V. or Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw (IvS for short) which meant “Engineering Bureau for Shipbuilding Inc.” Basically all engineers that counted in former design bureaus settled there to resume work in 1922, with documentation of former WWI submersible models. They setup an entirely new submarine technology development and application program, completely outside the territory of Germany and the peering eye of French or British inspectors. Once all was ready, a small commercial team started to contact naval attachés in Japan, Argentina, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Romania, the USSR, China and Turkey, always in a top secret fashion. Since the former entente countries had no spies in neutrals, nothing came out of it.
An order that arrived just in time
Three shipyards were owned by two German companies Vulkanwerft (Hamburg) and A.G.Weser/Krupp (Bremen) as well as Germaniawerft/Krupp (Kiel) with top secret support of the German government, all had invested in the Hague facility by in July 1922 and went over some legal issues causing delays. Thus, IvS started to market its first product by 1925. The design team called “Inkavos” was led by Dr. Hans Techel, and its financial support provided in complete secrecy by the German navy, eager to retain its abilities. Secretly financed, IvS could thank Turkey for its first orders, with the intermediary of Admiral Ernst von Gagern, making this sale happen.
The two Turkish submarines were ordered for one million marks just when the economic conditions of the country started to balance themselves, and it became vitally important for allowing IvS a first sale, enabling more trust from future customers. This was also a was for Turkey to came to the aid of its old ally. But it was not for certain at first, as the IvS sales team had its own priority countries: Argentina, Spain and Italy where they determined a need. When proposals met some resistance at first, IvS entered a financial stalemate to the “Turkish Connection” went at a perfect timing. With this support, Germany at least could see its whole enterprise succeed.
Tractations were all done in pure secrecy, with front companies established for the order, concealing communication between IvS and the German navy such as First Mentor Bilanz GmbH, and from 1927 Igewit 1 GmbH and Tebeg GmbH. Fijenoord received the order, and plans from IvS as a Dutch legitimate business whereas it was fully controlled by Krupp. Ths whole scheme was fully uncovered during the Nuremberg hearings after the war. Part of this operation still had not been fully clarified today.
Development of requirements
Fijenoord shipyard in the Netherlands was to be responsible for this construction. And we can only wonder how Dutch engineers looked at the blueprints that were showing a good old WWI design, UB-III class (see WWI German Uboats).
Lieutenant Atâulllah (Nutku) was one of the important personalities in Turkish shipbuilding industry later, which at the time mentioned in this memoirs some training on construction of future submarines with national designs and requirements. Via contacts at the Hague’s NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw just opened in 1922, this project, also assisted by other Turkish engineers authorized to draft a basic adaptation of Germany U-Boat designs. This led in 1923 to a set of requirements to be submitted to IvS.
Lt. Nuktu worked at the Fijenoord Shipyard trained by German engineers and technicians from IvS. He also had the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge acquired later, performing various navigational and diving missions on location. It was not a coincidence he was chosen for this task as an engineer with a German education (spoke fluently German and a bit of Dutch). However once on site he was kept largely in the dark, only taking part to the sea trials and cruise back to Turkey as observer. As he declared at the time:
… me and my friends have not been subjected to any questions, interrogations or examinations since we returned from our studies in the Netherlands, and we have been kept waiting for five months without taking part in any duty…
The fact this order was placed in 1925 reveals possibilities of secret negotiations between Germany and Turkey starting perhaps even after the proclamation of the republic. Werner Fürbinger was assigned to Turkey as a technical attaché as early as 1920 but no heavy equipments could be ships at the time due to the economical conditions of the young republic.
It seems the Turkish requirements were simple and straighforward: Two patrol submarines intended to have the range to criss-cross the Black sea, meaning going from Istanbul to Odessa, Sevastopol, the Kerch strait or as far east as Batumi, and stay on station. In case of war with USSR, at least three large rivers ended there, with the associated merchant traffic. The rest were common specifications for such type of submarine, and Krupp (pardon, IvS) engineers just exhibited the UB-III design which seemed perfectly tailored for the Job (and spared them a lot of efforts):
About the UB-III design
The UB-III were the most produced, last and best “medium” German submarines even developed to that point. The type is frequently cited as the start of a long lineage culminating with the legendary Type VIII when from 1933, all experts were repatriated to Germany and IvS almost took a secondary role. The UB-III was not large, with just 555 t surfaced and up to 684 t submerged, 57.80 m long (189 ft 8 in) with a 40.10 m (131 ft 7 in) pressure hull, 5.80 m (19 ft) wide and 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in) deep. It was powered by 6-cylinder diesel engines developing 1,100 PS (809 kW or 1,085 shp) and electric motors rated for 788 PS (580 kW or 777 shp) on two propellers. Speed was not stellar, just 13.9 knots surfaced and 8 knots submerged.
But they had a range of 9,090 nmi (16,830 km or 10,460 mi) at 6 knots surfaced in the last version (late production boats) or 55 (102 km/63 mi) submerged. They did not dive deep, tested at just 50 m (160 ft), but this was largely enough for the Black sea, which was not that deep either. Armament was classic for the time with a deck 105 mm (4-in) gun, four 50 cm (19.7 in) bow torpedo tubes, one stern of the same and just 10 torpedoes. Just like other countries, Turkey envisioned to acquire also a submarine depot ship or tender.
Design of the Birinci İnönü class
The general scheme of the UB-III type. By default of blueprints, we can guess that the İnönü class was virtually identical, with some minor dimensions changes, new interior detailed fittings, and a different conning tower, which formed the base for all German U-Boats designs to follow.
These first two submarines ordered were called the “First” and “Second” (Birinci, Icinci) battle of İnönü in 1921 which sealed the victory over the Greeks and sealed the fate of the Republic. (and not “number one”, “two” as stated in conways) The UB III class in its final (third planned) evolution in 1918, formed indeed the perfect basis with little revisions if any, ensuring the Turkish admiralty to have these in no time, despite their objections.
The first Turkish submarine therefore pioneered, from a never built planned type, and with the addition of engineering studies made in between, inclusion of recent scientifical and technological progresses, formed the first link in the long lineage that was the Type VII.
Still, these were also prototypes, full of recent R&D not completely created according to exacts demands of the Turkish Naval Forces. We can see here a political good will gesture going over the heads of the latter as it enabled the German Navy to examine design variables for their own future needs, all graciously paid for by Turkey…
Hull and general design
Interior design and top view of the UB-III. Again, we shall see the İnönü class as a faithful repeat, with some adjustments. The torpedo tubes room takes almost 1/3 for the pressure hull’s lenght, separated fro the main (crew) compartment amidships, the crews quarter, central operation room in the middle with the strong conning tower above and built-in periscopes, an its sail on deck. Behind, the galley, the small officers quarter and more crew quarters. Then the third compartment, separated by a watertight bulkhead like the torpedo room, containing the MAN diesels and batteries.
The hull of the İnönü class was 58.68 m long, 5.80 m wide and 3.50 m deep, so the Turkish design was longer by a 80 cm, same beam, and less deep (the original was 3.85 m) to better cope with shallow waters. After all for WW2 standards, these were coastal submarines. The only really distinctive piece (since original blueprints are lost) shows a slightly different conning tower. This had some importance (see later). The structuration was about the same as the UB-III again, with a central inner hull ending with a rectangular section running from the bow, which had moderate flare and was more rounded to improve seaworthiness, and sloped down almost to waterline level. The top of the presure hull was almost flat and covered with anti-stripping serrations.
There was little innovation on this: These had the usual solution of two MAN diesels, rated for 1,100 bhp combined, and two Siemens electric motors for 700 shp resulting in a top speed of 13.5 kts surfaced and 8.5 kts underwater. This was barely an improvement over the UB-IIIs, which reached up to 13.9 knots surfaced and 8 knots underwater.
It must be said that for treaty-bound peacetime regulations, these submarines had not been commissioned yet when undertaking the long trip to Istanbul. They were armed with was was available in Turkey. Torpedo Tubes:
The Birinci İnönü class had six tubes, versus five on the UB-III: Four forward, but two aft. We can suppose for the models used that Turkey had no problem picking one of its regular 450 mm (17.7 in) models in the fleet, although there is not much info on that topic. Given the space aboard the torpedo compartment, they had likely ten torpedoes in storage, like for the UB-III. This only authorized for a short campaign, unless there was a supporting tender. Of course by WW2 standard this was a caliber considered completely obsolete. The next Dumlumpinar, Sakarya, and the “Ay” serie were all armed with 21-in tubes. In the 1920s, this caliber was still quite common for submersibles.
Birinci Inonu, date unknown, showing its deck 75 mm gun in maximal elevation. The CT seems rigid, and there is no trace of the aft 20 mm AA gun.
Guns & AA:
The main deck gun was probably an Italian Ansaldo dual purpose, high elevation 75mm gun (3-in) or the original Vickers model.
The AA consisted in a 20mm autocannon (Oerlikon or Hispano) setup on deck, on a pintle mount aft of the conning tower, as shown in this photo.
Here lays the main difference and innovation of this design compared to the UB-III, which missed an AA gun, and which CT was a bit different.
It must be added that like WWI models, both has a net-cutter installed forward. Two communication cables were hanging from its base, up to the Conning Tower and aft to the poop. Barriers were fitted on each side of the central structure of the inner hull, rectangular with a simple bump to accomodate for the larger stepping platform of the forward deck gun.
According to rare photos of the İnönü class, the conning tower design changed over time. This photo allegedly in 1928, shows it only with the lower part of the kiosk, integrating a small chadburn and wheel, when surface navigating, but others shows at least a canvas or metal sheeting above, to protect the crew from the elements, which is found in most photos. It was the same as for the late UB-III type, minus the inclusion of a 20mm AA gun aft, but the latter is little documented, as there are no photos shing the rear part of the CT. In any case, this CT integrates for the forward part a wave breaker and had a flange on top to deal with heavy weather. There were two apertures at the back of the upper portion of the CT for conventional navigation lights (green and red). This photo and this one also shows apparently a “rigid” CT but this one and this one shows rather a white canvas instead, so likely an earlier date. It is true also these “canvas” versions of the CT are associated with a tricolor flag which more resemble the Dutch one than Turkish. Which goes into the hypothesis early tests were done with a canvas-covered CT, which became rigid after they entered service with Turkey, either because the parts to complete the CT were sent in between, or gathered from Germany, or both were refitted in the late 1930s or possibly WW2.
⚙ Birinci İnönü class specifications
505t surface, 620t submerged
58.68 x 5.80 x 3.50 m (192.6 x 19 x 11.6 ft)
2x MAN diesels 1,100 bhp + 2x Siemens electric motors 700 shp
The Purchase, Construction and Delivery Process of the 1st and 2nd Inonu was done in the context of a Power Struggle over the Turkish Navy, founded over continuous wars since the Tripoli War, by a newly established Republic of Turkey to cope with immediate geopolitical threats, inherited from the Ottoman Empire. A naval armaments program and large-scale renovation and modernization of existing, “legacy” warships idling in ports for years became priorities. The rivalry between naval and land forces recurred in the Republican Era unfortunately.
The army emerged victorious from the War of Independence and with Kemal Ataturk at the head of state, became the sole authority in the modernization of the armed forces, it therefore shaped the naval program in accordance to their own needs. General Chief of Staff Fevzi Pasha wanted a limited naval program oriented towards coastal defense, with submarines and small ships. Its first traduction were the 1st and 2nd İnonu submarines, largely the product of a land forces-oriented perspective.
Birinci and Ikindci İnönü in service
Even before completion, and even long before sporting the red and crescent flag of the young republic, the two submersibles carried an all-German personal aboard to make an extensive serie of close to shore sea trials and navigational tests in the North Sea, testing cruising performances generating extensive reports, all later carried via diplomatic briefcases to Krupp.
At completion, these submarines left Rotterdam on 25 May 1928 for their cruise to be be delivered to Turkey. That cruise was carried out under the Dutch flag, and with a the German crew, plus a few few Turkish observers on board which were just there as passengers. Neither France or Britain had any idea that a German submersible with its German crew and bogus flag were cruising along their coast, from the Netherlands through the channel and to the Gulf of Gascony, the Spanish coast, strait of Gibraltar, coasts of North africa and strait of Messina, up to the Aegeans and Greek coast, and the Dardanelles…
Nothing can be found on the service logs of these submarines, were are left in the dark here, apart the fact they were almost always seen together in photos, and likely based at the Istanbul naval base.
We also know these submarines were modernized in 1940-1941 with German help, allowing them to last a few more years (hence the new style CT shown in some photos). By September 1948 they were outdated and Birinci Inönü was lost on October 17, 1951 in the Black Sea for unknown reasons. Her sister-ship was withdrawn from service on March 14, 1954 due to a fire which wrecked her to such a point the examination team reported the dmage was too extensive at this point to make any repairs worthwile.
At the time, MDAP programs soon procure a new generation of GUPPY types to the naval forces in the frame of NATO. Thus, Ikindci İnönü was broken up soon after. Conways is quite vague on the subject, just telling they were “discarded circa 1950”.
Conclusion: A crucial first step… paid by Turkey
IvS engineers after this well timed Contract for Turkey prove it was able to the task, and soon, Finland, the USSR, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Romania, Argentina and even indirectly Italy looked forward the small Netherlands Company for their own design, with the conditions they would be built in the respectuive customer’s countries. The sum of the knowledge gained in the next submarine types, looely based on customer’s specification sometimes, fit the future Kriegsmarine’s specifications, and gave birth to the coastal Type IIA, the oceanic Type VII and long range Type IX based on all these IvS prototypes. Germany later signed an agreement on 29 June 1935 with Britain to loosen the Versailles conditions, and the first German submarine was built on German soil just five weeks afterwards, all thanks to the ground work made by the Dutch design bureau, which closed its doors before an enquiry could be done.
By allowing Germany to have a new-built UB-III and test limited innovations, the Turkish order enable a long lineag that went through approximately 1,150 U-Boats by 1945. The “numbers” were also probably the most direct ancestors of the Type VII (500-tonnes class). Despite officially Finland was a customer in 1926, Spain in 1928, the sales followed always the same pattern, proposed but first adapted to German needs. The final customers were bacically forced to accept the deal and tone down their own requirements. The Finnish types were the prototypes of the U-Boat Type IIA and the U-25 and U-26 of the 1936 Spanish E1 and Turkish Gür class. The Type I U-Boat was in fact TCG Gür, and this classification was used the first time. Many more would follow until the Type XXI and beyond…
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships
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None found, but i presume any UB-III with some scratchbuilt work on the CT would do.
UB-III kits: Found only these small 1/700 3-D printed ones on shapeways.
There is however a paper kit from UBoatInfo (1:72 scale !) with 580 parts requiring, about 100 hours to build. It shows the interior structure, the machines, armament, crew and crew space. Full review and photos.
Summary of Turkish Submarines
Birinci İnönü class (Built in NL Fijenoord) launched 29 January 1927, comm. 9 June 1928 (stk 1948)
İkinci İnönü launched 12 March 1927, comm. 9 June 1928 (stk 1948) TGC Dumlupınar: A version of the Italian Vettor Pisani-class submarine built in CRDA, Monfalcone, launched 4 March 1931, Commissioned 06 November 1931, stricken 1949 Sakarya
Italian modified Argonauta-class submarine built in CRDA, Monfalcone, launched 5 February 1931, comp. 6 November 1931, Decomm. 1949 Gür
Modified U-Boat Type IA built by proxy by the Yard Echevarrieta y Larrinaga, Cádiz, launched 22 October 1930, comm. 29 December 1936, Decomm. 1947 Ay class:
Modified version of the Type IXA submarine built in Germaniawerft Kiel:
-Saldıray: launched 23 July 1938, comm. 5 June 1939, Decomm. 1958
-Atılay: Launched 1938? Comm. 1939? Lost 14 July 1942
-Batıray: Launched 28 September 1938, seized, comm. 20 September 1939 as KMS UA, Scuttled 3 May 1945
-Yıldıray built in Gölcük Naval Shipyard, launched 26 August 1939, comm. 15 January 1946, Decomm. 1958 More on the following classes on the cold war Turkish Navy Page
The well named “avenger”, Juggernaut of retribution
The Grumman TBF Avenger is the well-remembered, massive WW2 US Navy torpedo bomber of the USN. It was also at the time the largest and heaviest single-engine aircraft of the war. It forged an enviable reputation as the main stick of the fleet carrier force in 1942-45, insturmental in the Pacific Campaign. Developed quickly and adopted as fast by the USN, it never suffered the comparison with the ill-fated SBC Helldiver and was beloved by its pilot, although slow and ponderous.
Extremely rugged, this behemoth of a plane replaced with success the previous Douglas Devastator as planned, with flying colors, despite sufferinf the comparison with more advanced Japanese equivalents at the time. Coupled with the Hellcat or Wildcat on escort carriers, the war-winning design earned the nickname of “tough turkey”.
The Avenger shared credit for sinking the Yamato and Musashi, the cruiser Mogami, five aircraft carriers, many destroyers and 30 axis submarines. Greatly modified after the war, the Avenger still performed until the 1960s as an ASW patroller, well-exported. A legendary design, deserving a comprehensive study.
A replacement for the Devastator
TBF Avenger, mid 1942
With the Vindicator, the Devastator was the main USN torpedo bomber in service on carriers of the USN until after the battle of Midway in June 1942. Developed to replaced the TBD-1, already obsolescent in 1939 the Avenger was larger, with an engine almost twice as powerful and giving a bomb bay to use an improved aerial torpedo or bombs (1,500 kg). It proved also invaluable for reconnaissance with a camera and flares, and could do precisision bombing. It was one of the best aircraft of the American air fleet, extremely rugged, powerful, reasonably protected against gunfire, and well defended by a turret and belly MG gunner, it was also superbly resilient, a perfect complement of the equally rugged F6F Hellcat of the same manufacturer. The prototype first flew in 7 August 1941. It was introduced gradually in 1942 and replaced all older models (but not the Dauntless) at the end of 1942. It became the bedrock of the Essex class aircraft carriers as well.
The TBF Avenger emerged from the 1939 US Navy requirement to replace the Douglas TBD Devastator, which was in service from 1937 which advanced tech for the time, but now no longer relevant. It was indeed obsolete when the attack on Pearl Harbor comenced and was withdrawn in the months following, in 1942, then completely retired by 1944. In between, back in 1939, the USN determine the powerplant was the paramount factor for a replacement design and wanted the best and latest engine from Pratt & Whitney and Wright.
The requirement called for:
-A crew of three,
-A top speed of 480 KPH (300 MPH),
-A warload of one 900 kgs (2,000-pound) torpedo, or three 225 kgs (500-pound) bombs
-Internal bomb bay,
-Armor protection for the pilot and gunner,
-Self-sealing fuel tanks,
-Powered dorsal turret.
The finalists were Vought and Grumman. Vought delivered the XTBU-1 prototype, two being purchased and evaluated as well as two XTBF-1 Grumman prototypes. For the well-known company until then accustomed to lighter models, fighters, this was a daring first foray into heavy duty carrier planes. For this proposal, Leroy Grumman started from a blank page, just making a larger model, a conventional monoplane which could accomodate a large crew, all-metal. The whole project was elaborated in just five weeks, under the direction of chief engineer Bob Hall. Another “first” for Grumman was the design of an internal bomb/torpedo bay to help in aerodynamics qualities, while integrated a belly gunner. This was the task of Robert Koch. Former designer at General Electric, Oscar Olsen developed the electrically-powered dorsal turret. It invented notably for it the “Amplidyne” control able to cope with violent loads transfers in flight maneuvers; And the whole design made the turret lightning fast.
The final result was not appealing though, if rational, gaining in the company the nicknames of “Turkey” and “Pregnant Beast” or later “Chuff”. The final design incorporated a forward-firing 0.3-in M1919A4 placed on the right side of the nose and operated by the pilot but also the belly gunner 0.3-in Browning MG used by the bombardier when not on its task, and the main dorsal defensive 0.5-in heavy machine gun in the dorsal powered turret, which was the plane’s main rear protection.
Vought’s competitor XTBU-1 was good, but it’s development lingered between April 1940 to December 1941. By then it was too late for a production.
The US Navy looked at the Grumman design, despite the competition was good, as the Vought XTBU-1 was even more promising with some advanced tech, notably to facilitate the pilot’s work. However the latter had many issues due in part to its complexity and was not ready when the Navy needed it. Moreover, the company was already struggling to fulfil orders for the F4U Corsair and could not give any date for a production start. That was the main issue there.
The Avenger was chosen by default, and a reorganization assigned the TBY project to Consolidated. The latter was not in a hurry to complete it, and the project evolved as a potential replacement for the Avenger, the Navy adding now requirements and modifications. The programme lingered up to such a point the final TBY Seawolf ended with only 181 built in 1944-45 before being cancelled.
Grumman being the earliest, and with the most promising rapid development was declared the winner wit an order placed by the USN for 286 aircraft, on April 8th, 1940 before the prototype had even flown. This was done in August 1st, 1941. The XTBF-1 had its maiden flight piloted by engineer Bob Hall, equipped at the time with the Wright R-2600-8 14-cylinder Cyclone radial, just completed, capable of 1,700 horsepower. This info was passed to the Navy which was reassured in its risky bet. The need was so pressing for a reliable production machine that the USN confirmed the order but the initial procurement was later modified to appear more conventional and open. However the flight was not perfect. Bob Hall reported the aircraft suffered badly from yaw instability, and the flight was somewhat hair-raising… Many fixes were made, including a tail-dorsal fin on the second prototype, absent on the first (see later). Also the prototype failed to meet the top speed, being about 10% less than Navy spec, although performing well in all others.
Development of the prototypes went on. On November 28th, 1941 one XTBF-1 crashed, but fortunately Bob Hall and Gordon Israel had parachutes. Later the investigation nailed the electrical wiring, which caused a fire in the bomb bay. The remainder XTBF-1 prototype completed all its test flights, helping ironing out all located defaults, until the pre-production models would be manufactured. Notably, the production model’s tailfin featured a sizeable fin fillet to correct the yaw instability problem. The opening ceremony of the company new facility coincided with the very day of the Japanese attack, famously. The TBF was later officially accepted by the navy, with the Grumman’s code.
Design of the Grumman TBF Avenger
A bit like the Hellcat, the TBF looked brutish. It was not to win any beauty contests, but became perhaps one of the best torpedo bombers of the second world war, with the unassuming Swordfish and Italian Sparviero as perhaps equals in reputation. Like the Hellcat again, it had its very large engine and a bulky fuselage to accomodate both a belly gunner and large bomb bay, and procure good visibility to the pilot. It had a tremendous reliability and resilience, combined with enough adaptability and modularity to perform a large panel of missions over the years, explaining it largely out-did its potential successors, but the Douglas AD.
The Design the Grumman team choose for such short notice was conventional. The team embarking on a brand new type did not wanted to add many innovations on top of this. It just stuck to comply with the requirements. The TBF Avenger notably had wide-area wings, in fact the largest span of any USN plane in service for many years. It was also the largest and heaviest single engine model ever deployed on a an aircraft carrier, in any navy to that point. The stout fuselage had an oval section, semi-monocoque construction with stressed duralumin skin.
The forward cowling barely housed the massive and powerful radial engine coupled with a classic Hamilton three-bladed propeller (see later). The cockpit, like for the Hellcat, was voluntarily placed high atop the deep fuselage for better visibility, but this contributed to the bulky appearance, in stark contrast with the nimble Vought XTBU-1.
The typical “greenhouse” could all three crewmembers, and covered about 1/3 of the fuselage lenght. There were seated position for three crewmen seated inline: The pilot forward, the bombardier/belly gunner/navigator, and the rear turret gunner (see later for details). The lower fuselage had aft vision ports for the bombardier while housing additional equipment, lifeboat, flares, survival gear. Production models differed by the frame numbers, especially for the pilot’s canopy, sometimes divided, or deleted frames.
Wings, tail, landing gear, hook
Controls: The distinct empennage to the rear had a bump and the tail section on top, the latter being of conventional layout. Like previous Grumman models, wings, tail and rudders were all squarish. The main wing assembly was mounted in a low-mid position, straight with some dihedral past the landing gear.
Sto-Wing folding axle seen in detail on the F6F Hellcat.
Wings: Both were massive and thus power-foldered using the same system pioneered by Grumman, “Sto-Wing” diagonal axis pivoting system, and sitting flat up against the fuselage, saving much space.
Undercarriage: It was classic, with good span to ensure stability, but much reinforced compared to previous models with two main landing gear legs retracting under wing, away from the fuselage centerline. It used a taildragger landing gear, with all three gear retractable.
The TBF also had a retractable tail wheel. The forward panel protection of the undercarriage, which acted as trap door when shut in the wells, could double as airbrakes when dive bombing.
Arrestor hook: The stinger-type arrestor hook emerging from the fuselage rear tip was electrically-powered and lowered when landing but simplified, later production versions had a simpler external hook.
Bomb Bay: Its generous, 2-panels bomb bay had room to spare for the torpedo, and could accomodate various payloads, like a tailored auxiliary bomb bay fuel tank for long ferry flights, as asked by the Navy. This 1023 liters tank could be jettison in flight, was not self-sealing and generally drained first. This could be completed by the underwings smaller tanks. However during support mission, it was not rare using this bomb bay to drop supply packs or canisters to ground troops.
Power: The wing fold, main landing gear, bomb bay doors, and flaps were all hydraulically actuated. The main control surfaces however were hand-controlled, and so required considerable amount of muscle in some compartments of flight. Pilots complained the TBF “behave like a truck”. But it was very stable.
The pilot was complemented by the turret and belly gunners, but only the latter multiple duties and swapping locations on board. For the pilot, vision forward was excellent, being on an upwards slope and ahead of the wing leading edges. The turret gunner was basically seating in his position for the entire flight. The crew entered the fuselage via a starboard side hinged door, and all proceed as they could to their designated seats, being “stuck” in place during long hours. Only the jack of all trades radioman had some leeway inside the fuselage. When gatting rid of everything inside that did not compromised flight safety, the fuselage appeared roomy enough to enable a certain Wellington Smith to reach a record by carrying 17 pilots plus himself, into a TBM, flying from from Holtville in California to Naval Air Facility El Centro. Some transport versions were later built to carry VIPs and personal across aircraft carriers (see later).
The MG gunner doubled as navigator, and had three positions inside the large fuselage: He was seated behind the pilot during flight to communicate more easily about the road taken and coordination with the rest of the squadron, but can double as bombardier, belly gunner and camera operator, aiming the bombs or torpedoes.
The bombardier had a folding seat to quickly swap to the lower fuselage posting, both managing its bombardier/torpedo roles in the front section, or manage on the rear section the defensive machine gun under the tail section.
The belly gunner had to provide navigation, bomb aiming, but also acted as radio: The generous radio equipment filled the “greenhouse” canopy, up to the rear of the pilot. They could be repaired via a “tunnel” along the right hand side. The space taken could be replaced by an extra seat, so four could be housed in the greenhouse on modern models.
Interior, Belly Gunner/Bombardier post as seen from the access trap.
The dorsal, rear turret gunner did not swapped positions, being stuck at its post on a dedicated fixed seat, under a rounded framed enclosure. They were to defend it when in its most vulnerable, during an attack run. Unlike past torpedo bombers, the turret was a tour de force. Common on larger bomber, it was still rare on single-engine models. The British already “opened the ball” with models such as Fairey TurretDemon biplane, the Boulton-Paul Defiant in the RAF and Blackburn Roc in the FAA, both proving inept concepts in wartime. Why Grumman decided to go for this solution ? Simply the USN at the time looked at these applications and this was prewar, seeing an innovation worthy of adoption, wrote it down in the specifications, and Grumman had to comply. It’s why it was also used on the Vought TBU (later TBY Seawolf).
Fortunately, while the forward armament of the pilot reinforced (inexistant at first on both British models), the Grumman turret proved good enough to compensate. The chief engineer in charge put forward the turret traverse speed and elevation as paramount to cope with the speed differential with existant and upcoming fighters.
The Avenger used the “twin Cyclone” Wright Wright R-2600, declined into miltiple variants. It reached 1700 hp, and was also used by the Brewster SB2A Buccaneer, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and F6F Hellcat prototypes. As the name indicated it was a 14-cylinder supercharged, doube rown, air-cooled radial with a 6+1⁄8 in (155.6 mm) bore, 6+5⁄16 in (160.3 mm) stroke, displacing 2,604 cu in (42.7 L). The engine block was 62.06 in (1,576 mm) long for 55 in (1,397 mm) in diameter, for a dry weight of 2,045 lb (928 kg). It used for valvetrain two pushrod-actuated valves per cylinder, with sodium-cooled exhaust valve.
It was also fitted with a single-stage two-speed centrifugal type supercharger (11 in diameter) with a blower ratio of 7.06:1 (slow regime) up to 10.06:1 (high).
The Fuel system used Stromberg PR48A downdraft carburetor, with automatic mixture control. A task the pilot had no longer to worry about. The oil system used a dry sump, with one pressure pump and two scavenge pumps. This power was passed onto classic three bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propeller.
The prototype flew in August 1941 with R-2600-8, while the later XTBF-2 tested the P&W 1,900 hp (1,400 kW) XR-2600-10 and the XTBF-3 had the R-2600-20 engine, with the same output, and the XTBM-3 flew with R-2600-20 engine with a regime of 1,700 hp (1,268 kW) and 1,900 hp (1,420 kW) depending of the altitude. It became standard for GM production.
Fuel and Oil: The basic internal capacity was 330 US gal (275 imp gal; 1,249 l), in three center-section integral tanks. In addition, the Avenger could be equipped with two 58 US gallons (48 imp gal; 220 l) droppable slipper tanks, under the outer wings. There was even, but only for ferry flights, or when armed with rockets only, an option to install a jettisonable 275 US gallons (229 imp gal; 1,041 l) tank in the bomb-bay.
The performances of the TBF Avenger (R2600-8) procuring a Power/mass ratio of 0.11 hp/lb (0.18 kW/kg) were the following: Top speed: 278 mph (447 km/h, 242 kn) at low level, cruise speed of 215 mph (346 km/h, 187 kn), service ceiling of 22,600 ft (6,900 m), climb rate of 1,075 ft/min (5.46 m/s). To compare this was 391 mph (629 km/h, 340 kn) top speed and 2,600 ft/min (13 m/s) climb rate for the Hellcat, so double. The Avenger’s massive fuselage understandably created a lot of drag. Range was 905 mi (1,456 km, 786 nmi) at cruise speed, with only its internal fuel tanks, less than the Zero and even the Hellcat (945 mi).
It was not supremely agile, but was very stable and generally reliable, without any vice so rookie pilot friendly. The could operate without escort but its defensive armament was not enough to protect it. Escorting Hellcats were mandatory. Escort carrier sailors nicknamed it the “turkey” compared to the Hellcat. But its was a “tough turkey” as all crews recoignised. Unlike past torpedo bombers, it stood a balanced chance.
The pilot at first had a single synchronized .30 caliber (7.62 mm) M1919 machine gun in the nose. A single defensive .50 caliber (12.7 mm) of the perforated short barrel was mounted close to the turret gunner’s head in the rear electrically powered turret. A third one, 0.30 caliber M1919, hand-fired was placed on a flexible mount underbelly to defend the always vulnerable below tail angle. For this, the radioman/bombardier had to bend over in the belly, swapping positions from his usual folding bench, facing forward, to operate the radio and bomb sight.
But soon pilot’s complaints had the sinle 0.3 removed and replaced by two Browning AN/M2 0.5 cal. light-barrel in each wing, outboard of the propeller arc. This also added to the Avenger’s strafing ability.
The rear turret was a marvel of engineering for the time, different from aother’s manufacturer’s solutions. Designed by Oscar Olsen, his concept of using amplidynes—electromechanical amplifiers to rotate it was a breakthrough. His system used miniaturized components, tailor-built by GE on Olsen’s plans. They turned out to be ideal to provide a rapid and consistent movement. There were plans to upgrade the turret from one to a twin mount, but the space aboard prevented it ultimately. The gunner controlled the turret with a pistol grip and its trigger, with a reflector sight and backup iron sight for targeting. He was protected like the pilot, by an armored seat, armored sides and armored glass. To escape when ditching, there was a small trap on his “fish bowl”.
Mark 13 Torpedo
The Avenger had a large bomb bay, allowing for a single Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo. This ordnance had a reputation or unreliability mirroring the larger Mark 14, as shown during the disastrous attack at Midway, when 35 out of 41 torpedo bombers that dropped their payload failed to score a single hit, while being lost in action. Throughout 1942, other actions showed a well below average hit probability due to a faulty proximity system. At first designed by BuAer and BuOrd, the first were tested and manufactured at the US Naval Torpedo Station, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) at Goat Island, off Newport, Rhode Island. Problems were fully ironed out by 1944, but by then already, the concept of torpedo bomber was seen as obsolescent. In all until 1945, some 16,600 Mk.13 torpedoes were cranked up by multiple plants (Pontiac Motor Division, Amertorp Corporation, International Harvester), declined into the Mod 1, 2, 2A.
The Mark 13 could reach 6,300 yards (5.8 km), carrying a Warhead Torpex of 600 Ibs/270 Kgs (Mod 2) and using for the latter a Mk 8 contact exploder.
This model was also operated by the Helldiver and by PT-Boats.
Mark 24 (Fido) Torpedoes
The 2,000 lb (907 kg) Mark 24 mine (Fido) acoustic homing torpedo was a late addition and replacement for the improved Mark 13 in 1942. The concept of a “homing” torpedo in the US emerged well before news from the German progresses with the Falke T-4 and Zaunkönig T-5 torpedoes arrived in 1943. This ultimately led to a submarine-based MK28 acoustic torpedo in 1944. But another lighter and shorter model was designed for aerial launch. The design started by late 1941 and was ready by late 1942. About 4,000 were produced for a total order of 10,000. The “fido” weighted 680 pounds (310 kg) for 84 inches (2.1 m) and 19 inches (48 cm) diameter, so on paper two could fit in the Avenger’s bomb bay, but in pratice this was generally only one.
The Mark 24 “mine” was slow but agile, it could reach 4,000 yards (3.7 km) underwater and carried a HBX 92 Ib (42 kg) Warhead trigerred by a Mk 142 fuze with contact exploder. It was successful in about 22% attacks. 264 attacks were launched with this weapon on all fronts, 340 dropped, mostly performed by Avengers. 31 U-Boats, 15 damaged, 6 sunk for IJN submarines, 18 damaged.
The bomb bay open
The TBF/TBM could carry a single 2,000-pound (907 kg) bomb, four 500-pound (227 kg) bombs. These were standard USN Navy ordnance with contact exploders. The Avenger used generally strafing or level-flight tactics for bombings, but it was rugged enough for short dives, keeping safety margins. It was rugged enough but this depended of the experience and condifence of the pilot. This was not recommended anyway. Boms were naturally imprecise, so rockets became a favorite from 1944.
Bombing with the Avenger was by default using the glide-bomb approach which for the pilot was two-handed between the stick and retrimming, but it stabilized well for clean and accurate drops. This also made conversrly for a very stable 78-knot carrier approach with good visibility over the nose.
The bombardier was helped in his task by its famous Norden bombsight, however in that case soon useless. It was geared towards high-altitude level bombing and noted these slanted approaches, but bureaucracy and inertia had the supply of this going on (and often dismounted). The bombsight was linked to an autopilot system (“Stabilized Bombing Approach Equipment”) used for long flights and releaving the pilot from his heavy flight controls.
Usually the bombardier used a direct calculation from his small, slanted window peering into the dark bomb bay, which when opened provided a view down ahead between bombs. Drops were controlled by the pilot however, controlling the heading, airspeed altitude and distance and using his reflector gunsight above the instrument panel. This in fact made the multitasking bombardier/radioman/belly gunner redundant on the long run, especially when the Avenger was rarely used for torpedo runes anymore but in the ground attack role. It was limited to a two-men crew.
Up to eight 3.5-Inch (89 mm) Forward Firing Aircraft Rockets, 5-inch (127 mm) Forward Firing Aircraft Rockets or High Velocity Aerial Rockets. The first FFARs were developed in 1942, in service from June 1943, and the srelatively small (3.5-inch diameter) coupled with a non-explosive warhead, was meant for Anti-Submarine Warfare: The goal was puncturing the hull of an U-Boat. Later, a 5-inch anti-aircraft shell was attached to the rocket motor creating the 5-Inch FFAR (December 1943). It was slow by then down to 780 km/h (485 mph) and thus was developed the High Velocity Aircraft Rocket (HVAR). The later was for many years the staple of USN/USAAF heavy airbone rocket: 134 pounds (61 kg) for 68 inches (173 cm) in lenght, carrying a 7.5 Ib (3.4 kg) TNT/Comp B 45.5 pounds (20.6 kg) warhead, and solid propellant rocket motor using ballistite, extruded to reach 1,375 feet per second (419 m/s), cumulated with the aircraft’s speed. These rockets saw action in WW2, Korea and Vietnam.
Aerial depht charges were naturally smaller and lighter than standard ships ones.
It is less well known, but he Avenger could also carry out smoke laying missions, to conceal individual ships. A smoke tank was designed indeed to fit into the bom bay. Having 2000 Ib smoke in liquid form discharged by a dispenser meant a fairly large smoke curtain. Many tests had been done in the interwar and this tactic was still sued in some occasions.
Rendition of the TBF
15,536 lb (7,047 kg)
Combat Weight, max:
40 ft 1⁄8 in (12.195 m)
54 ft 2 in (16.51 m), or 19 ft (5.8 m) folded
16 ft 5 in (5.00 m)
490 sq ft (46 m2)
root: NACA 23015; tip: NACA 23009
Wright-Hamilton three-bladed Standard constant-speed
330 US gal in 3 center-section tanks, 32 US gal oil tank
2x 58 US gal droppable slipper tanks, outer wings, jettisonable 275 US gal bomb-bay
278 mph (447 km/h, 242 kn)
905 mi (1,456 km, 786 nmi) at cruise speed
2x 0.3 M1919 in fwd and ventral, 1x 0.5 in M2 tail, 2000 Ib bombs, Mk13 Torpedo, Mines, 8x FFAR or HVAR
3, see notes
Production: From TBF to TBM
On the afternoon of 7 December 1941, Grumman held a ceremony. A new manufacturing plant was opened officially and shown to the public. Little did they knew Pearl Harbor would happened at the same time, “earlier” in time far away. As the ceremony ended, guards arrived and the plant sealed off to avoid sabotage. It started work, tailored for the new “Avenger” (officially named in October 1941, but the press liked the idea this was that December day), and by June 1942 already, the first 100 TBF rolled of the line.
The BF-1C succeeded the former TBF-1 with wing-mounted fuel tanks doubling its range and thus, giving longer “legs” to USN commanders to perform missions while keeping task force safer from harm. By 1943, production bottlenecks caused by the new F6F Hellcat, taking the bulk of Grumman’s production pushed Grumman to start to phase out Avenger production and ask the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors to take over production, changing the acronym to TBM in a new plant in Ewing, New Jersey. Similar arrangement had been made with the F4F Wildcat.
To achieve this transition, with the suspension by federal order of normal peacetime licencing rules, Grumman was obliged to send all blueprints and delivered a complete TBF-1, held together with sheet metal screws for the automotive engineers to disassemble it fully and “reverse engineering” it. But Ford being Ford, they redesigned the aircraft, tailored for automotive style production. This meant notably many simplification of design, without loosing the assential qualities. This meant faster processes and lower cost overall. Just like for the GM Wildcat, produced until 1945 despite it’s age and filling the numerous escort carriers of the USN and Royal Navy (where they were called the “Martlet” and “Tarpon” and retook their original name in 1944-45 in the Pacific with the BPF.
Early production model in april 1942
The very first production TBF-1 made its maiden flight on January, 3, 1942. Its first test operation checked all USN boxes, earning a global “very satisfactory” report, and with little changes if any for the finalized production, which was quite rare for a model design so quickly. Especially compared to the Vought Model, it was unheard of in the industry, even by wartime. By late July 1942, Grumman reported its first 100 deliveries, many still with the peacetime markings (white star with central red roundel, even for the earliest, a white and red tail).
USN group VT-8 was the first to receive this initial batch by January 1942, based on USS Hornet, first of the name (CV-8), still alive at the time. She departed to train on the the east coast of the US before heading with this rookie air group to the Pacific, and specifically to deliver them on Midway Island. After this, regular production models arrived (see later) and improvements were also on the way.
Production in wartime and the first combat reports led to increase the forward armament radically, pilots having sometimes missed opportunities, and during production two cal.50 (12.7mm) Browning M1920 heavy machine guns was added to the wings, fed in all with 1,200 rounds. This revision was made on the asembly line, as the TBF-1C. Thus retroactively the models not modified were redesignated TBF-1B.
TB-1B/Tarpon Mk.I/Avenger Mk.I
They were intended for Lend-Lease (Fleet Air Arm). They arrived in Britain as the “Tarpon Mk I” modified to include British-required gear. At some point in 1943 they were redesignated “Avenger Mk I” for better allied coordination.
XTBF-1: Prototypes, 1,700 hp P&W (1,300 kW) R-2600-8 engine, large dorsal fin for N°2 TBF-1: Pre-production and Initial production model (1,526 built) TBF-1C: Two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) wing guns, fuel increased to 726 US gal (2,748 l). (765 built) TBF-1B: Paper designation for Royal Navy Tarpon/Avenger Mk.I. TBF-1D: TB-1 Conversion with centimetric radar, right wing radome. TBF-1CD: Same but for the TBF-1C. TBF-1E: Conversions with additional electronic equipment. TBF-1J: Bad weather/night operations equipment and setting TBF-1L: Retractable searchlight installed in the bomb bay for night operations. TBF-1P: Photo-reconnaissance conversion for older TBF-1s TBF-1CP: Same conversion for the TBF-1C XTBF-2: Single TBF-1 re-engined with the P&W 1,900 hp (1,400 kW) XR-2600-10, prototype. XTBF-3: Same with the R-2600-20 engine (same output as the 2600-10), prototype. TBF-3: Paper production version of the XTBF-3 cancelled as it was passed onto GM.
General Motors Avengers
Avengers from VT-28 taking off fril the Independence fleet carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) in June 1944
The Redesigned model which arrived wit instructions was known internally as “P-K Avenger”, standing for “Parker-Kalon”: Grumman facilitated the process of serially built the Avenger by GM, by delivering to the new Eastern facilities a special model assembled entirely with sheet-metal screws (from Parker-Kalon Corp.) for quick disassembly/reassembly. Grumman had doubts even that GM could pull it out, but the latter managed to largely out-do the New York company by producting 7,500 TBM (“M” standing for (general)”Motors”), versus 3,000 for Grumman. This was however still below Ford expectation, largely due to the difficult swap from car to aircraft production, betwee smaller tolerances, compexity, and constant in-line upgrades. But GM generally proved Grumman wrong, as Leroy allegedly said he would be surprised if Ford managed to built a single one…
TBM-1: GM production of the TBF-1. (550 built) TBM-1C: GL production of the TBF-1C. (2,336 built) TBM-1D: Convertion to centimetric radar, right wing radome (TBF-1D) TBM-1E: Additional electronic equipment, as TBF-1E. TBM-1J: All weather operations like TBF-1J TBM-1L: Retractable searchlight, bomb bay, as TBF-1L TBM-1P/1CP Photo-reconnaissance, same as TBF-1P/1CP TBM-2: TBM-1 re-engined with 1,900 hp XR-2600-10 engine (single test model). XTBM-3 Four TBM-1C prototypes, R-2600-20 engines.
There was no production TBM-2.
TBM-3 taking of from USS Makin (CVE-93), 1945
From mid-1944, the TBM-3 started production, fitted with a more powerful engine and extra wing hardpoints for drop tanks and rockets, further increasing range and capabilities. The last model, with further simplifications, the “dash-3” became by far the most produced of all Avengers, with circa 4,600 delivered until 1945, but at that date, they did not reached active units of the TF 38/58, which operated the dash-1 still by the summer of 1945. They were used mostly for ground attack by then, with bombs and rockets. TBM-3:s TBM-1C with new engine and double cooling intakes and minor changes. (4,011 built) TBM-3D: Same, with centimetric radar, right wing radome. TBM-3E: Stronger airframe plus search radar and no ventral gun. (646 built). TBM-3H: Surface search radar conversion. TBM-3J: All weather operations variant TBM-3L: Bomb Bay retractable searchlight TBM-3M: “Tiny Tim” rocket launcher conversion underwing. TBM-3N: Dedicated night attack version. TBM-3P: Photo-reconnaissance version. TBM-3Q: Electronic countermeasures version (very first USN type) with gun turret. TBM-3R: 7 passenger transport conversion for carrier use. TBM-3S: Dedicated anti-submarine (ASW) version (postwar). TBM-3U: General utility/target version (postwar). TBM-3W: Airborne early warning control/relay platform, AN/APS-20 radar (cold war).
The last planned version was the TBM-4, with nearly 40 variants planned, but it was cancelled after V-Day in the summer of 1945.
The XTBM-4 were three prototypes based on TBM-3E (Surface search radar) but the modified wing had a reinforced center section and new folding mechanism to allow a better way to not damage the radome and stay compact. The TBM-4 was the cancelled production version, with 2,141 initially ordered.
Total Production by Grumman and General Motors combined reached 9,836 or 9,839 planes depending of the sources and inclusion of prototypes. This was a large pool providing sells to other navies postwar, and added to this, many modifications were made after the war, with full modernizations in the fifties, notably as a dedicated ASW search and destroy plane which equipped many navies until the 1960s. A remarkable achievement for the model designed and adopted so quickly. Happy customers and users post war were Brazil, Cuba, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, and Uruguay.
Combat use (USN)
The first 100 delivered in May-June were assigned to three carriers out of Pearl Harbor in December, constantly engaged afterwards, and thus not resupplying their air park, “used to the bone”. They missed thus the Battle of Midway, with an exception. The beginnings of the Avenger were an attack on Tulagi, May 4, 1942, before the battle of Coral Sea, they targeted ships of the Japanese “B” invasion fleet.
Early Operations: Midway and the Solomons Campaign
Surviving VT-8 TBF-1, 24 June 1942.
Six TBF-1s based on Midway Island in VT-8 (Torpedo Squadron 8) would participate, alongside worn out Devastators landed from USS Hornet. Both types equally suffered heavy casualties, arrived in penny packet and facing a formidable Japanese combined combat air patrol: Five were shot down and the sole survivor returned so heavily damaged (with one gunner killed, the rest of the crew wounded), it was written off after quick inspection. That was a good test of their ruggedness though. Greater numbers of Devastators were sent off, none returned.
Author Gordon Prange argued that the use of the old Devastator somewhat spoiled the “Miracle at Midway” and that complete victory could have been achieved if Avengers would have replaced them, although it’s really dive bombers that saved the day here. The lack of succes of US torpedo bombers in 1942 and even up to late 1943 combined inexperienced pilots, lack of fighter cover, and poor aerial torpedoes as explanation. Later these points were fixed and the Avenger could show its true potential being unleashed in many battles and operations.
Avengers in flight in late 1942
On 24 August 1942, Avengers showed their worth at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons from USS Saratoga and Enterprise: 24 TBFs sank the light carrier Ryūjō and shot down a “Val“, for the loss of seven.
Next, Avengers from both the Marine Corps and Navy participated in the 1st Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, finished off IJN Hiei, crippled during a night fight.
ASW role in the Pacific and Atlantic
Their traditional surface role or torpedo attackers was complmented by a recoignised ASW role: Collectively, Avengers and Tarpons claimed for the allies around 30 submarine kills, mostly U-Boats but also several Japanese, like the I-52. They were recoignised very effective sub-killers in the Pacific as well as in the Atlantic from escort carriers. And when they did not sunk their preys, they obliged U-Boat to dive, allowing escorts to steam ahead to catch them, by forcing them to keep their head underwater. With their far greater range compared to the Wildcats they also provided air cover for the convoys, often spotting first and reporting surfaced U-Boats.
Late operations (Island hopping)
One distinguished Avenger pilot was a future president: In June 1943 (not even aged 19), George H. W. Bush was commissioned as the youngest naval aviator of the time, flying a TBM in VT-51, based on the Independence class USS San Jacinto. He was shot down on 2 September 1944 close to Chichi Jima, hitting the radio tower target as expected and bailing out. His crewmates died but he was eventually rescued by USS Finback, receiving a DFC for his action.
Another famous Avenger pilot was future actor Paul Newman, a rear gunner which did not qualify as pilot, being color blind. He operated from the escort carrier USS Hollandia in the last days of the war, being 500 mi (800 km) of Hiroshima when the A Bomb was dropped.
Grumman TBF-1 Avenger of VT-5 about to take off from USS Yorktown (CV-10), circa late 1943.
After the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” Admiral Marc Mitscher scrambled a combined air force of 220-aircraft to catch the IJN task force. About 300 nmi (560 km) away Hellcats, TBF/TBMs, and dive bombers found them and attack, taking many casualties, and many -especially the fighters- never returning or landing by night in perilous conditions. Avengers from Independence-class USS Belleau Wood claimed IJN Hiyō.
Another operation of note was operation Ten Go: Avengers helped sinking the super battleships Musashi and Yamato, but they were in all operations from the reconquest of the Solomons to the Mariannas, the Philippines, and up to Iwo Jima, Okinawa, raids on Formosa, and summer 1945 final raids on Kyushu and the home island in general.
In 1944, the same Avengers, equipped with homing torpedoes in the Pacific, started to attack enemy submarines and made quite a tally, starting with I-56 in the Indian Ocean.
The Atlantic Campaign
Another aspect of the big bird which is often overlooked is about the Battle of the Atlantic: It concerns moslty the fleet air arm which deployed the Tarpon Mk.I from most of its escort carriers, in ASW escort missions, where it was found quite acceptable. Most of the 30 submersibles sunk by the Avenger were German U-Boats. But in reality this “hunting board” is deceiptive as many more were co-claimed by surface ships. The tactic used was simple: Avengers armed with rockets and depht charges would spot, attack a surfaced U-Boats, report it to the fastest escort vessels, generally destroyers, keeping it all the way “the head underwater” by dropping depht charges. When submerged, the U-Boat crawled to a mere eight knots (for the VIIC) and thus, a hunter killer group could despatch 30-kts destroyers, leaving regular convoy escorts (mostly Destroyer Escort, frigates and corvettes) in close-in defence.
Modified TBM Avengers researched a counter-illumination camouflage. They were fitted with Yehudi lights, forward-pointing which were automatically adjusted to match the sky’s brightness and create an active concealment. This was a form of early “stealth” only valid for the guns operators since radars could pick them up anuway. But they no longer appeared as dark shapes which was quite useful for their slow, low flying torpedo runes. This was the result of the Canadian navy’s diffused lighting camouflage research. It showcased a modified TBM arriving to 3,000 yards (2,700 m) of an oberver before being seen, which was the ideal rocket launching range. This however came too late in the war for mass production.
Other Operators of the Avenger
Fleet Air Arm
The Avenger became the Tarpon in Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm service. The British Admiralty test pilot Roy Sydney Baker-Falkner was the first to fly it at RAF Boscombe Down in 1942. When the FAA started to operate in the pacific, like the Wildcat, narmed Martlet, the name “Tarpon” was discontinued, “Avenger” used instead for the sake of interoperability and communication standards. The first 402 TBFs delivered by lend-lease became thus in 1944 the “Avenger Mk I”, followed by 334 TBM-1s called “Avenger Mk II”, and 334 TBM-3 as the Mk III.
The first Avenger for the Fleet Air Arm arrived early in 1943, also piloted by Eric “Winkle” Brown. He found its spun rapidly and dangerously if anti-spin controls were not pulled in time. Thus went stright into the flying manual, pilots from there were informed to avoid intentional spins.
They operated, despite their large size, on various aircraft carriers, notably the entire Archer and Attacker class, related to the US-built Bogue class.
Outside escort carriers, FAA Avengers also served with fleet carriers. They operated in the Indian Ocean, notably working out in cooporative training during operation ‘CLUB RUNS’, renamed “avenger”, and put to the test during Operations Meridian I & II against Japan’s remaining oil refineries. Later they took part in various cooporative exercizes in the Pacific, forming Task Force 57, and deployed during Operations ICEBERG I, ICEBERG OOLONG, ICEBERG Redux and ICEBERG II. I sincerely hope that armouredcarriers.com will have a go on the Avenger to expose the FAA side of the story more in detail.
Some Avenger still served on the European theater, mostly those from land bases on the British Isles and from escort carriers. A most unusual and interesting kill was shooting down a V-1 flying bomb on 9 July 1944, which was close enough at some point to an FAA Avenger for Telegraphist Air Gunner, Leading Airman Fred Shirmer (from the dorsal one) fired from 700 yards (640 m) and managed to cripple either its engine or wing, since it veered and crashed. Shirmer would go to the BPF and earn a DSM for Operation Meridian at Palembang. In January 1945 he managed indeed to shot down a rare Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojo” in low level combat over the jungle. The FAA also made tests to try new weapons, such as the Highball “bouncing bomb” (codename Tammany Hall), and trials were performed by three modified Avengers, but without much success.
Deliveries and variants includes: -Tarpon GR.I: Early TBF-1 initial transfer of 400. Avenger Mk.II: TBM-1/TBM-1C models, with 334 transferred. Avenger Mk.III: British TBM-3 (222 delivered) Avenger Mk.IV: british TBM-3S (70 ordered, then cancelled) Avenger AS4: British TBM-3E, only delivered postwar, used until replacement in the late 1950s Avenger AS5: British TBM-3S, also postwar, but modified with British equipment Avenger AS6: TBM-3S, British equipment and new centrline radome. 100 AS5/6 delivered by 1953.
RNZAF: Royal New Zealand Air Force
The only other operator in World War II was the Royal New Zealand Air Force which used the type primarily as a bomber, equipping Nos. 30 and 31 Squadrons, with both operating from South Pacific island bases during 1944 in support of the Bougainville campaign. Some of the Avengers were later transferred to the British Pacific Fleet.
In 1945, Avengers were involved in pioneering trials of aerial topdressing in New Zealand that led to the establishment of an industry which markedly increased food production and efficiency in farming worldwide. Pilots of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 42 Squadron spread fertilizer from Avengers beside runways at Ohakea Air Base and provided a demonstration for farmers at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton, New Zealand.[page needed]
Postwar, Avengers were still operated for years in the No. 30, 31, 41 and 42 Squadrons of the RNZAF.
Cold War Operators
Both the USN and USMC still operated the Avenger for some more years, notably in specialized ASW variants such as the TBM-3W. One incident became a popular mystery, still unresolved today in the infamous “bermuda triangle”: This was the entire disappearance of training Flight 19, five TBM-3s Avengers from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, lost in December 1945. No trace of the missing aicraft was ever found, fuelling much conspiracy theories. This was featured in Spieleberg’s movie “encounters of the third kind” among others, and generated a lot of literrature.
The cold war FAA use
British Pacific Fleet Avenger II from HMS Victorious, late 1944
Regular Avenger Mk.I-III were gradually retired after the war, but in 1953, the Royal Navy starting to acquire anti-submarine warfare versions under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP). These were designated Avenger AS Mk IV or AS Mk V, used in the ASW role until the arrival of the Fairey Gannet from 1955. From there, they were exported still under MDAP to France, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands.
Canada: The RCNAF
RCAN Avenger ExCC ASW with MAD system, 1950
Canada became a primary user of the model, using 125 surplus aircraft (TBM-3E conversion) in 1950-1952, replacing the Fairey Firefly. However the RCAN was just swapping its naval policy way from anti-submarine warfare (ASW) so they were soon reconverted. 98 were overhauled and received a brand new ASW suite: The radar and the electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems as well as sonobuoys were new, the dorsal turret removed and replaced by an clean plexiglas observation canopy, designated AS 3.
Of these, a good number recveiced the new US magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), a boom located on the left side of the fuselage, redesignated AS 3M. In addition only eight Avenger Mk.3W2 (TBM-3W) were converted. In 1954 the admiralty however voted for its retirement and gradual replacement by the more tailored, roomier, long range Grumman S-2 Tracker for North Atlantic patrols. Deliveries only started from 1957, while Avengers were gradually retired and reassigned to training duties, the first retired from July 1960.
The Brazilian Naval Air Force adopted the Avenger, operating three in ASW role in the 1950s, but inly for training on the Aircraft Carrier Minas Gerais (A-11).
Seven TBM-3S2 were purchased in 1956 for the Cuban Navy, but they were retired by 1960.
Also using the Grumman Hellcat and Bearcat in Indochina, France adopted postwar the Avenger. The Aéronavale operated the 143 they received between four carriers and bases, of four types: Model 3E with rear turret, Model 53 for ASW research, 3S for ASW strike, Model 3W for radar detection, search and navigation. After the 143 from the US, 27 were delivered from UK od the AS Mark.4 type for spare part. The 4.F flotilla was the first equipped in 1951. Three flotillas 4.F, 6.F and 9.F flew the TBMs, which operated in pairs as the 3W detected subs, the 3S attacked. In all, 4.F, 6.F, 9.F, 3.S, 5.S, 10.S, 15.S, 54.S, 56.S. used them, the last one was retired in 1965. The TBM was replaced by the Breguet 1050 Alize.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force operated Hunter-Killer Avengers groups in the 1950s and 1960s.
Royal Netherlands Navy
The RNN or Dutch Naval Aviation Service, operated the Avenger in the 1950s.
The Nicaraguan Air Force used the Avenger
The Uruguayan Navy operated 16 TBF Avengers in 1949-1963.
In Civilian use
Some Avengers continued earning their keep until more than sixty years after their debut. Until recently, at least one aerial firefighting operation used Avengers as firebombers and/or fire spotters over Canada. Many ended in the caring hands of collectors and warbird museums.
Among other uses, most were converted as spray-applicators and water-bombers in North America, with the greatest concentration in New Brunswick. The Forest Protection Limited (FPL) of Fredericton, there operated the world’s largest civilian Avengers group for many years, starting operations in 1958 after acquiring 12 surplus TBM-3E from the RCN, and it peaked in 1971 with 43 in use. The company sold three to museums or private collectors and other followes, whereas some crashed until the 2000s.
Avenger stull flies as warbirds in private collections and are a popular airshow feature, quitre commona also in aviation museums. By 2020, the Commemorative Air Force sports three TBM at different locations.
Replacing the Avenger: Grumman, Douglas and Martin
In 1944, the USN started to look at a replacement for the Avenger, but already looking at a more “universal” model, like those looked for also in the British Fleet Air Arm. The Typical “do it all” of the USN planned to enter service in 1945 was ideally a large, powerful single-engine model with a single seat, its pilot and no gunner. Indeed, it was to be modelled as fast as a fighter, precisely to perform the following roles:
-Long range escort fighter
Owing to the classic adage that a “do it all” could be just mediocre or passable in any of these compared to specialized model, this was still the credo of this time. In 1945 indeed, USN Fleet carriers counted on four models to cover for all their needs: The Avenger as a versatile torpedo bomber, the Helldiver as a specialized (but mediocre) dive bomber, the F6F Hellcat as a fighter (soon to be replaced by the F8F Bearcat), and the F8U Corsair as fighter bomber. Having in single model to cover all roles, or at least all but pure “fighter” role, looked logical on paper, simplifying maintenance, storage, supply and operation.
However, looking at the numerous delays of the very complex F-35 programm today, this was not an easy task, imposing many compromises to fill all these roles. From there, many companies participated, but only three manufacturers emerged as “winners”, obtaining orders for comparative tests, leading to a small production as they all fitted niches for the same basic “A” specification (given later, followed by the manufacturer code), enjoying later very different fates. Here they are:
Grumman AF Guardian
The designated successor, built indeed in replacement but embracing a particular aspect only the Avenger, as used in the Atlantic: It became the first purpose-built anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carrier-based aircraft, flying i December 1945 but introduced in 1950, built to 389 units and retired by August 1955, early than many modernized and reconverted Avengers. Redesignated as AF-2W (TB3F-1S) and AF-2S (TB3F-2S) for its two versions and commencing service in September 1950 VS-24 and later with VS-25, the 193 AF-2S Guardians built were succeeded in a sense by the 1952 AF-3S (ASW hunter) using a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) for detection (40 built). The last arrived in March 1953 and they saw action during the Korean War, but was unpopular, both underpowered and heavy on the controls, with a high accident rate. Its replacement came just in time as the twin-engine Grumman S2F Tracker as a combined hunter-killer, making for a quick removal of the Guardian until 31 August 1955, some still active with the ENN Air Reserve until 1957.
Martin AM Mauler
The Mauler was a “jack of all trades”, but specialized as a torpeod attack plane, carrying three of these, and thus, could be described as the most obvious sucessor of the Avenger. Developed from the XBTM which first flew on 26 August 1944, the large single-seat attack aircraft went through numerous development delays and only came into service by 1948, seeing a small production. It proved indeed troublesome and only remained on the frontline for two years, retired after 1950, and replaced by the simpler Douglas AD Skyraider. Some stayed in reserve squadrons until 1953 and a few were converted into the early AM-1Q electronic-warfare aircraft (distant relative to the Prowler).
Douglas AD Skyraider
Douglas AD-1, VA-3B, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1948
Last of the three, the Douglas AD also flew in WW2, first flying on 18 March 1945, and serted service in 1946. It was a very simple and rugged model and thus, succeeded with ease to the Mauler and Guardian in the generic attack role. Amazingly, it was delined into many versions and remained throughout Korea and Vietnam the only single seat piston engine model frontline in the US Navy. The US retired the very last as the conflict ended, in 1973, but some soldiered on in the 1980s, like 1985 for the Gabonese Air Force. It was the only success story of this trio.
Final assessment: A “tough Turkey”
With a maximum takeoff weight of 17,893 pounds, the Avenger was WW2′ largest naval carrier airplane in anvy navy. It was even larger and heavier as a single-engine than the legendary USAAF’ “Jug”, the P-47 Thunderbolt, 400 pounds lighter. The Avenger also could lift one ton of payload and more, between a 2,000-pound torpedo or four 500-pound bombs, which was unique. The other carrier bomber of the time, the Curtiss Helldiver, carried the same in its bomb bay, but was far less reliable. But it was somewhat underpowered. See a nice color cutaway at historynet.com
The naming was a common myth as it made its first public appearance on December 7, 1941, but the name appeared in documentation by early October, two months before Pearl Harbor. The press at the time biaised this to fit a morale-boosting wartime narrative essentially.
Pilots joked it could fall faster than fly. Some full payload takeoffs, especially from tiny escort carriers dekcs, certainly felt true. It was safer for them to be catapulted but the 45 feet ones on CVEs could only propelled the beast to 19 knots, into the wind and 90 knots was barely its flying speed. Taking speed at the crest of the wave after a dive was the only solution. It seems ponderous. The Hellcat had a better engine and was much lighter in comparison.
FAA Avenger II over its carrier, HMS Biter, flying over the convoy
Its performances as a torpedo carrier were close to mediocre at first due to the initial faulty Mark 13 aerial torpedoes, but this was solved in 1943, and results started to show. It could carry bombs and was mostly using them in strafing attack, but it could dive as well, although this was not recommended, bing the primary role of the Helldiver.
By 1944 it received hard points under the wings to operate launch rails for 5-inches HVARs rockets, providing a destroyer’s broadside in capabilities. By inerty alone, without even detonating, attacks on submarines saw them punch right through their hull, preventing them to dive. As pilot’s training improved, they became even adept at launching them into Japanese caves during air support missions over Okinawa in 1945. Also in 1944-45, the Avenger received the deadly “fido” an early acoustic model which far better performances.
The aircraft’s ruggedness and stability compenasted largely for it’s truck-like responsiveness, and provided with good radio facilities and docile handling they could be used as acommand aircraft for Air Group (CAGs) as well during raids. Ceiling and range was better than any previous USN torpedo bomber anyway, far better than the Nakajima B5N “Kate”. However later IJN models were certainly better in performances. Later Avengers proved adaptable enough to be turned into EW platforms (Electronic Warfare) postwar while radar equipments were more and more sophisticated, until the late Canadian ASW variants using MAD detection system to track down Soviet submarines in the north atlantic and GIUK gap.
USN Models, Grumman TBF
Grumman XTBF-1, second prototype. The first crashed, the second inaugurated a large dorsal fin.
TBF-1 preserie, VT8 NAS Norfolk, May 1942
TBF-1 from VT-8, CV3 USS Saratoga, mid-1942
TBF-1, VF-8, Midway Island 4 June 1942
TBF-1, USS Enteprise late 1942
TBF-1, Unknown unit, june-October 1943
TBF-1 Training Sqn. 1943
Onboard USS Randolph (CV-15), 1943
TBF on USS Block Island, 1943
TBF-1, USMC unit, 1943
USN Models, General motors TBM
TBM-1 of a night operation training unit, USS Bataan (CVL-29), 3 February 1944
TBM-3, USS Bunker Hill, 1944
TBM-3 Alternate Camouflage SC-II (land based)
TBM-3, USS Essex 1944
TBM-1Cn VT-51 San Jacinto June 1944
TBM1C, VC-42, USS Bogue, Sept. 1944
TBM-3 “Bayou Bell”, USS Essex, 1945
TBM-3, VC-97 USS Massar Strait, February 1945
TBM-3, VT-82 USS Bennington, CV-20 February 1945
TBM-3 VT(N)-90 USS Enteprise, March 1945
TBM-3, VT-46 USS Independence, April 1945
TBM-3, Eastern Division, VMTB-233, USS Block Island, April 1945
TBM-3 VMTB 132, USS Goucester, July 1945
TBM-3, VT-88 USS Yorktown, CV-10 July 1945
RBM-3, VC-83, USS Sargeant Bay, (CVE-83), July 1945
TBM-3, VT-33, USS Sangamon (CVE-26), 1945
TBM-3 of Flight 19 USMC, NAS Fort Lauderdale, December 1945, of Bermuda Triangle fame.
Fleet Air Arm Models
Avenger Mk.I, HMS Indefatigable
TBF Tarpon Mk.I Donibristle, mid-1944
Tarpon II, HMS Empress, Channel, mid-1944 with invasion bands
Avenger Mark 1, 711th Squadron, RNAS Crail, 1945
Avenger AS Mk.4 TBM3E, 1947
TBM 3S from 825 Sqn, HMCS Magnificent
Cold war international service
The Avenger was still used for several years by the USN and Marines after the war. A batch of them even became entangled with one of the enduring mystery surrounding the “Bermuda Triangle”: On 5 December 1945, a flight of five Avengers (Flight 19) completely disappeared without explanation or leaving a single trace. Edward Van Winkle Jones in Associated Press was the first to report in September 1950 and this generated tons of books or hypothesis, even featured in Spieleberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. More seriously, the Avenger as a torpedo bomber was getting old, and it was soon found more appropriate as a specialized ASW patroller.
GRUMMAN (EASTERN) TBF (TBM) AVENGER by Rene J. Fracillon, Profile Publications.
THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF 20TH CENTURY WEAPONS AND WARFARE, edited by Bernard Fitzsimons, 1978 edition.
TBM/TBF AVENGER IN ACTION by Charles L. Scrivner, SQUADRON/SIGNAL PUBLICATIONS, 1987.
AMERICAN WARPLANES OF WORLD WAR II, edited by David Donald, Aerospace Publishing LTD, 1995.
“Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger” by M. Hill Goodspeed, WINGS OF FAME, Volume 13 / 1998, 32:91.
Drendel, Lou (2001). TBF/TBM Avenger Walk Around. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications.
Drendel, Lou (1987). “Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger”. U.S. Navy Carrier Bombers of World War II. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications. pp. 89–120.
Fletcher, R. G. (1995). Front Line Avenger Squadrons of the FAA. Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, UK: R.G. Fletcher..
Francillon, René (1970). Grumman (Eastern) TBF (TBM) Avenger. Aircraft in Profile. Vol. 214. London: Profile Publications.
Geelen, Janic (1983). The Topdressers. Auckland: NZ Aviation Press.
Hove, Duane (2003). American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Burd Street Press.
Jackson, B. R.; Doll, Thomas E. (1970). Grumman TBF/TBM “Avenger”. Aero Series. Vol. 21. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers.
Jackson, B. R.; Doll, Thomas E. (1970). Supplement to Grumman TBF/TBM “Avenger”. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers.
Kinzey, Bert (1997). TBF & TBM Avenger in Detail & Scale. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications.
Pelletier, Alain (1981). Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger (in French). Paris: Editions Ouest-France.
Prange, Gordon William; et al. (Goldstein, Donald M.; Dillon, Katherine V.) (1983). Miracle at Midway. New York: Viking.
Scrivner, Charles L. (1987). TBF/TBM Avenger in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications.
Skulski, Przemyslaw (1997). Grumman Avenger. Seria Pod Lupa (in Polish). Vol. 5. Wrocław, Poland: Ace Publications.
Tillman, Barrett (1979). Avenger at War. London: Ian Allan.
Tillman, Barrett (1999). TBF/TBM Avenger Units of World War 2. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing.
Treadwell, Terry C. (2001). Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing.
Wheeler, Barry C. (1992). The Hamlyn Guide to Military Aircraft Markings. London: Chancellor Press.
World War Two TBM Avenger pilot Ken Glass shares his story with They Gave It All.
Inside the TBM by Military Aviation History
The Models Corner:
A well covered one. I remembered making the 1/72 airfix kit back in the day. General query on scalemates
The TBF/TBM was covered by almost all kit manufacturers from Japanese ones to US ones, from 1/16, 1/24, 1/32 (Comet, trumpeter and others), 1/36 (Scientific), 1/48 (like Academy, Accurate Miniatures, Ace, Monogram, Hasegawa, HobbyBoss, Lindberg…), 1/50 (Nichimo and Marusan), 1/72 (countless), down to 1/130, 1/144, 1/350 and 1/700 grapples for carrier kits.
The Romanian Fleet in WW2: All ships in service seen in detail, from the Marasti and Regele Ferdinand class destroyers, Sborul and Naluca class Torpedo Boats, Submarines, minelayers and MTBs, but also more detailed overview of operations in the black sea during WW2.
#ww2 #romaniannavy #blackseaww2 #marasti
In this page are also added extra operational details.
The “wooden marvels” were known by many names during WW2, but the official and generic “PT-Boat”, meaning “Patrol, Torpedo (Boat)”. They were an unknown type for the USN in WW1, as there was no need for such “naval dust” when a large battlefleet was available mostly to project power. Therefore, it’s the only the conditions of war that urged the need for these small vessels, although the acquisition process started already back in 1938. Three standards emerged from a three years long competition, Elco, Higgins and Huckins. Wooden-built not to tax strategic materials, they were deployed in all theater of operations, not only the Pacific but Mediterranean, and even the Channel. Small, but well armed and fast, they proved able to perform a large variety of missions, but they also paid a heavy price for their dangerous close quarters missions. PT-Boats certainly played their contribution to the allied victory in WW2, but nothing comparable to the rest of the fleet, submarines included.
Modest and relatively inexpensive, PT-Boats’s inflated fame was largely earned in the Pacific, especially in the Solomons and Philippines. They proved able to distrupt traffic within the confines of innumerable islands, lagoons and archipelagos of the Southeast Pacific in close collaboration with US Marines. They were the supreme “jacks of all trades”, from ASW patrol to skirmishing, ground support, spec ops, troop transport, supply, AA cover, and raiding deeply into enemy lines. The “barge busters” also rarely engaged destroyers or even cruisers, but their inflated successes in early 1942 needs to be toned down.
The shining moment of the 800+ PT Boats ever built was “only” the sinking of IJN Terutsuki off Guadalcanal. This was meagre for thousands of sorties, but overall axis losses amounted to hundreds of units sunk and a thousand more or less seriously damaged, most being light vessels. They were also significantly larger than other equivalents of the allies, the small Thornycroft MTBs, MAS from Baglietto or G5s from Tupolev, in fact closer to the British Fairmiles, Italian MSs or Russian D3s.
These generous dimensions and flexibility meant it was possible to install almost “a la carte” armaments and equipments depending of the unit commander’s tasks at hand. They proved modular enough for these quick reconfigurations, and by 1943, all had radars to operate by night. Their flexibility meant they could operate from a great number of bases scattered over the theater of operations, sometimes close to known IJA garrisons or bases. They also earned dedicated ships (converted Barnegat class ships) for maintenance, supply and repairs, ranging from five to 40 PT-Boats depending of the squadrons present. Overall, although not impressive compared to larger ships or submarines, manned by courageous, resourceful crews, they played their part into sometimes seriously disrupting enemy operations, wherever they went, and thus securing their place in the USN while not taxing traditional military yards or using strategic materials.
WWI US Navy MTBs
WWI Hickam’s PT Boat
Hickmans’s Sea-sled broadside view in San Diego, California
When the war broke out in August 1914, the US want nothing of an involvement but prospect for possible exports for the belligerents, also covering the USN own needs. William Albert Hickman, a Canadian designersettled in California, wrote for his own initiative procedures and tactics for a fast and agile (and seaworthy!) torpedo motorboat using his system, to be used against battleships and cruisers. This proposal went to Rear Admiral David W. Taylor at the time directing the USN Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R, later BuShips) and the next month Hickman received a greenlight to draft plans of a 50-footer (15 m) “Sea Sled” torpedo boat, with an inverted vee planing hull (an early form of catamaran, using partly wing-in-ground effects), which he designed, as he was also a small boat builder. He submitted this design to the Navy, hoping of some contract, and in a return letter by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, the latter explained he had to reject it, based on the fact the US was not at war, not on technical grounds.
Hickman, undeterred, sent his proposal to the British Admiralty in October, which was interested but expressed doubts that such as small boat, even pushed to 60 feet, would be enough to cope with the north sea. Hickman, still willing to obtain a contract, built on private funding a demonstrator, which was a ’41-footer’ (12 m) carrying a single 18-inch Whitehead Mark 5 torpedo, common at the time. In February 1915, he demonstrated it in a show run at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph), in winter so in rough sea condition off Boston. It was attended by both US and foreign representatives. No contract followed. The British Admiralty representative there however, Lt. G.C.E. Hampden, reunited back home in summer of 1915 the Lieutenants Bremner, and Anson to discuss the possibility of developing such boat at home. They approached John I. Thornycroft for an equivalent, a process that ultimately led to the CMB line or “Coastal Motor Boat” of which a serie entered service from April 1916.
British 1916 CMB, plan and in action
In August 1915 though, the US General Board approved the test of a single experimental small torpedo boat which could carried by rail or a regular steamer on deck. Thie boat, redignated C-250 was awarded not to Hickman but Greenport Basin and Construction Company in New York. Construction took time and it was delivered for official testings by the summer of 1917, but failed to reachs its specs. A second boat designated C-378, based on Hickam’s sea sled design was ordered, from him this time between late 1917 and early 1918 depending on the sources. Hickam just went with his own prototype built in September 1914 crossed with the C-250 designed (when he failed the competition).
C-378 training with a floatplane in 1918, showing it was almost as fast.
This new prototype was C-378 was tested just before the Armistice, which resulted in a cancellation of the whole program (and compehensible frustration of Hickman).
Nevertheless, the Hickman C-378 which weighted 56,000 lb (25,000 kg) reached 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) during trials. This tim, Hockman went for a 1,400 horsepower (1,000 kW) aviation engine, amd long runs maintaining 34.5 kn (63.9 km/h; 39.7 mph), while tossed in winter, braving a northeaster storm, going up through 14 ft waves. For the time, and even to this day, it’s nothing but an achievement for such type of vessel. Despite this there was no utility for it but endless testings. The “Sea Sled” was not forgotten and came back in 1939, being used by the Army and Navy as a rescue boat or a seaplane tender during the interwar.
Already in 1922, the US Navy agreed that they needed torky combustion engines for their propulsion, but wanted to test the two CMB types in service in the RoyalNavy at the time: A 45-footer (14 m), and the 55-footer (17 m). They were tested extensively, the larger of the two being put to numerous and various trials until 1930. Nothing followed.
In 1938, as boots noises were heard throughout Europe and in Asia, the rejection of treaties and nationalism at an all-time high, the US Navy looked upon procuring theor own MTBs, at least for testing and defensive purposes. The admiralty sponsored a design competition to small boat builders. The goal was to obtain a highly mobile attack boat, in part inspired by WWI actions, like those of Italian MAS, or British models against the Bolsheviks in 1919. Prizes would be awarded for the winning design, and in 1940, about 12 manufacturers answered with at least a prototype. Canada and Great Britain however would supply the initial needs of the US Navy from December 1941. There was also a perceive need from probable belligerents of an incoming war, which became reality in September 1939.
In 1938 so, the USN restarted an investigation, this time based on the numerous boat builders that flourished before the 1929 crisis and which were still there. They excluded Hickman’s Sea Sled in defining two different classes. They wanted to create a 54-footer (16 m) boat and a 70-footer (21 m) which were more appropriate to be seaworthy. This was strickly restricted to a small cadre of respected naval architects, and the Navy, Hickman nont being among them. More on the topic of the Hickman’s PT
The competition was published on 11 July 1938, with this time four types defined (two more were added, destined to the same boat builders):
-A 165-foot subchaser (Future PC type)
-A 110-foot subchaser (Future SC type)
-A 70-foot motor torpedo boat
-A 54-foot motor torpedo boat.
The prize for each was set to $15000, including an extra $1500 for those reaching the final competition ring. All designs were to be submitted on 30 March 1939.
-The “70 footer” was restricted to the whole size range until 80 feet. It was able to carry not one but two standard Naval 21-inch torpedoes and four depth charges, with two .50-cal HMG for close protection, and sustain a speed of 40 knots in all sea conditions, and this over 275 miles, or 550 miles at cruising speed, around 30+ knots. These were quite stringent conditions.
-The “54 footer” was restricted to 20 tons for easy transport, 40 knots but 120 miles/240 miles, and armament of two torpedoes plus depth charges and single .50-cal machine-guns, plus a smokescreen generator.
September 1938 arrived (concluding a busy summer!), 24 designs being received for the 54 footer, 13 for the 70 footer.
George Crouch (one of the particpants), which new full well about the merits of Hickman’s Sea Sled design wrote that he esteemed his design far superior to BuShips, until it was specifically excluded from the competition. Three designers for the first, five for the other were retained for the second round of the competition. They were asked to submit detailed plans for their respective boats with a deadline set on 7 November. On March 21, 1939, the final round was concluded. The USN announced that Sparkman and Stephens won the grand prize for the 70-footer category, Professor George Crouch with Henry B. Nevins, Inc. winning for the 54-footer category.
Contracts thus followed, placed to two yards to produce these, in May 25. Sparkman and Stephens (the 70 footer) was asked to scale up their design to 81 feet overall, while Higgins Industries contacted by the Navy on the behalf of Henry B. Nevins, Inc. since they had the capability to deliver the new prototypes PT5 and PT6. On June 8, it’s Fogal Boat Yard that was contracted to built the PT-1 and PT-2 and Fisher Boat Works to built the PT-3 and PT-4 all four for the 54-footer (Crouch design) and Philadelphia Navy Yard (PT-7, PT-8) for two new 81-footer this time in-house designed by BuShips, mainly in aluminum and with no less than four engines.
Later Higgins built a second PT-6 “Prime” of its own initiative. It was completely redesigned by Andrew Higgins using his own methods but incorporating in part (the aft hull section), Hickman’s inverted V design, notably for its landing crafts. They built later the PT-70 incorporating further improvements over PT-6 Prime.
Meanwhile, the Navy went on testing the new boats just delivered. They were gruelling tests, in realistic conditions, and fully armed. This revealed limitations and many issues that had to be solved before even meeting requirements and specifications. The Navy continueed to push for continual improvements until they reach an agreement over the satisfactory working design, one which could be used as standard.
Huckins 77 footer prototype PT-9 in June 1940
At Electric Launch Company (Elco) meanwhile, saw chief engineer Henry R. Sutphen of his team, Irwin Chase, Bill Fleming, and Glenville Tremaine, went to the United Kingdom for ideas in February 1939, at the Navy’s request. They were to be shown British Thornycroft motor torpedo boat designs, proepcting to acquire one which could serve as a backup and to compare US designs. They visited the British Power Boat Company and acquired a 70-footer (21 meter) built as a private venture and called PV70. In British service it became PT-9. It was based on the Hubert Scott-Paine’s racer. This became the prototype for the early Elco PT boats, later to be the main supplier of PT Boats. By late 1939 the Navy contracted Elco, not part of the early competition, to start production of eleven replicas of the PT-9, to be delivered to the navy and tested as a full strenght squadron for naval exercize evaluations.
A third protagonist came about in the second competition (the plywood derby, see later) and this was Huckins Yacht Corp., Jacksonville in Florida. This was a very respected designer and builder of high-end, high performance and luxury boats, among the most reputed any in the jet set and Hollywood could dream to acquire. On 11 October 1940, an agreement between this company and the Navy was drafted and signed, in which the Navy would provide its one military-grade engines, while Huckins was to provide the PT boat for these, and that this one should be offered to the Navy for an undisclosed amount. This was a 72-footer (22 m) internally called MT-72 and after bein acquired, became PT-69, the company only earning $28.60 for it all.
‘The Plywood Derby’
The final chapter of this nearly four year process was a final competition pitting the new competitors between them.
In March 1941 an heavy weather run from Key West to New York by the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2 using Elco 70-footers had to cope wuth up to 10-foot waves even, at moderate speeds, which washed their bow all along, the crew reporting “extreme discomfort” and fatigue, compunded by structural failure with the forward chine guards goned and broken bottom framing as well side planking cracking among others. MTBRON 1 however was very satisfied with the 81-footer Higgins (PT-6), with beter seakeeping. The USN therefore cancelled further Scott-Paine boats purchases while the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships (BuShips) purchased more Packard engines to equip both Huckins and Higgins boats, building their own prototypes.
There was in May a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) attended by BuShips, BuOrd, MTBRONs, and Interior Control Board Conference about future PT characteristics. The 77 ft Elcos proved not enough for the task, and it was estimated it would be the same for the 70 ft (21 m) Elco. Comparative tests for evaluation asked for five new design but no more Elco 77-footer.
The Board of Inspection and Survey (Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, Jr.) conducted these service tests off New London from 21 to 24 July 1941 with the PT-6, PT-8, PT-20, PT-26, PT-69, PT-70 and a British MRB-8 (Motor Rescue Boat) (specs in the detailed review of MTBs).
Each member of the Board conducted an independent inspection between structural sufficiency, habitability, access, arrangement for attack control and communication facilities, in order to keep an objective eye.
They were all tested with weapons loaded, fully equipped (with all torpedoes and depth charges) and fuel for 500 nm/20 knots. Tactical parameters were obtained by an airship taking photos all along. The goal was to study their seakeeping qualities, hull strength at max speed, in the open ocean. Each boat had an accelerometer installed in the pilot house. The first open water test started on 24 July 1941 over 190 nmi at full throttle, which became the reasons for the famous nickname “Plywood Derby”. It was conducted from the mouth of New London Harbor to Sarah Ledge and around the eastern end of Block Island, off Fire Island Lightship with the end line at Montauk Point Whistling Buoy.
Both Elco 77-footers were actually fully armament loaded, but the others instead had same weight copper ingots topside. The “race” shown a transverse failure for PT-70, the choice of copper being disastrous as they often fell into the hull. Of the nine that raced, six completed it, three withdrawing (PT-33 -structural damage; PT-70 -loosing copper ingots; MRB -engine issues from the start).
PT-20 and a single Elco 77-footer came first at 39.72 kn on average. PT-31 made 37.01 kn, PT-69 (Huckins boat) 33.83 kn and PT-6 (Higgins 81-footer) 31.4 kn, PT-8 Philadelphia NyD boat ended at 30.75 kn and the PT-30, PT 23, PT-31 being around 37 kts. Accelerometers ranked the Philly NyD PT-8, whch took the least pounding, and the Huckins PT-69, followed by the Higgins boat and Elco last.
The was soon a second open-ocean trial:
The ingot loading proved not very practical, but they were conducted this time over 185 nmi, still fully fitted out on 12 August 1941, and only PT-8, PT-70, and MRB ended the race. Elco sent PT-21 and PT-29, and like the others, fending off 16 ft (4.9 m) waves. The Huckins boat (PT-69) withdrew (bilge stringer failure), the Higgins 76-footer had numerous structural failures, PT-21 had minor cracks in the deck. PT-29 was used as a pace boat with PT-8. Average speeds recorded crowned Elco PT-21 at 27.5 kn, Higgins PT-70 at 27.2 kn, Higgins MRB and Philly NyD PT-8 at 24.8 kn, but accelerometers data were incomplete due to the heavy pounding. The air observation (aisrhsip) was abandoned due to the heavy weather. Elco boats were found the least structurally sound overall.
Board of Inspection and Survey’s findings were that any of these boats on average could reach 30 knots or even 40 knots with light ordnance load. Maneuverability was generally satisfactory with a 336 yards (307 m) turning circle, that there was enough space to accomodate the planned torpeod tubes and depht charges, but that structural weaknesses fractured bilge stringers quite often. It was agreed that the Packard power plant was to become a standard. It was also made standard an armament of two torpedo tubes, depth charges and light AA.
Overall, the Huckins 78-foot (PT-69) should be considered for immediate construction, the Higgins 80-foot (PT-6) design should be scaled down a bit and was ecceptable for immediate construction, while the Elco 77-foot design was acceptable under condition of strenghtening the hull according to the Bureau of Ships recommandations. The “in-house” Philadelphia 81-foot was to be lightened and given three Packard engines for new tests.
It appeared overall that the main issue was structural. Runs were made wothout issues on open sea with moderate seas, but the Higgins PT-70 and 77 footers. In between tests however, both companies worked to cure the causes of these structural failures. The second (punishing) endurance run still shown weaknesses on the PT-70, 69 and PT-21, but more localized and easier to modify on recommandations. Overall the “Plywood Derby” was a first naval, realistic, detailed and rigourous assessement, rarely done with any other warhip to far, in any country. It was a benchmark to be followed in the cold war and an essential part of the PT boat development in the US. Some design challenges needed decades to fix (in fact hull and propellers shapes determined by computerized calculations) but they defined a standard for propduction that could be easily implemented and arrived perfectly on time.
Not only the Packard plant received demands to step-up production radically, but the Huckins 72-foot and “redux” Higgins 81-footer were scheduled already for production. In October 1941 BuShips held a new conference, setting new requirements this time for production boats, notably the ability to carry the four 21 in (53 cm) torpedoes (no tubes), length restriction to 82 foot and confirmation of Higgins and Huckins orders.
Elco, which became the largest provider, was under scrutiny to cure its boats’s structural weaknesses, under BuShips recommendation. Even after these changes were done, Elco competed for the PT-71 – PT-102 order but failed based on a higher cost. They created a new facility to lower the unit cost, and received the third batch in the end.
The USN looked for smaller vessels than their steel-hulled patrol boats, but higher speeds and cryying at first four 21-in (533mm) torpedoes. Primary role was ship hunting, and at first they were indeed classified as “motorized torpedo boats” (MTB), something widely shared and generalized in Navy parlance as MTB until replaced by missiles Fast Attack Craft or FACs. The USN evaluation resulted in some model chosen, but the companies behind lacked the industrial capability for mass production later degraded to simpler forms. This became the famous “Plywood Derby” ending with the choice of ELCO, Higgins and Huckins. All three soon received orders.
Conclusion of trials
It’s Elco Motor Yachts from Bayonne, New Jersey, but also Higgins in New Orleans in Louisiana (already seen for the LCVPs) which were retained for mass production, along with Huckins since the two soon had bottlenecks for production. Ultimately it’s Elco that produced the most numerous of them. The design and construction were thus standardized between the 80-foot Elco boat, the 78 ft Higgins, and a the 78 ft Huckins Boat. Near 400 Elco PTs were built, while Higgins turned between 199 and 205 and just 18 for Huckins.
Elco answered after simply purchasing a British the new Scott-Paine MTB, sent to Electric Boat in Groton, which Elco was a subsidiary. No need to present Electric Boat, they were the great pioneers of US submersibles. This Elco prototype was called PT-9 becoming the very first US PT boat, after many modifications. But still needed time To prove the concept on sea trials, alone and against other PTs. For two years, PT-9 won all the plywood derbies. Confident it its wooden wonder, Elco enlarged its plant, tripled its capacity and it the peak in 1944, employed some 3,000 men and women working three shifts per day, six days a week, with one new PT boat solling our of the line every 60 hours.
General conception & construction
These PT-Boats were built en masse by four main firms: Elco, Higgins, Vosper and Huckins. Although the first two remain in the majority, the Vosper were of British origin, built and transferred in “resverse lend-lease” as it is true that the British expertise in the matter was recognized worldwide. 768 units will be built in total. The traditional doctrine of the US Navy, inherited from Mahan and ignoring the “naval dust”, however used launches in large numbers during prohibition, patrolling against the traffic of Rum on the great lakes from Canada. . Thornycroft launches had been purchased on a trial basis at the end of the Great War, and in 1939, when hostilities broke out, several prototypes were ordered, including one built in Britain, from Hall-Scott, which became retrospectively the 9th of these prototypes (PT9) and the direct ancestor of the PT-Boats.
Quickly the PT10 to 19, of the “70 foot” model and armed with two torpedoes, were delivered by Elco (Electric Boat Company, founded by the father of modern American submarines, John Holland), then lengthened to 77 feet to place four torpedoes. 12 ASM models (PTC1-12), built in parallel, were sent to the Royal Navy on lease. The firm Elco then produced the series PT20 to 68, of 80 feet, which would become its standard. The PT109 was part of the third series, PT103 to 196, and there were 6 others, the PT314 to 367 and 372-383, and up to 790, or 400 copies in total until 1945. They were built in wood, in order to combine lightness with ease of construction and to contribute to the preservation of strategic materials.
ONI, know your boat, upper deck showing differences between Elco and Higgins boats, July 1945
Nicknamed by the press “plywood wonders”, the PT Boats were in reality constructed of two diagonal layered 1 in (25 mm) thick mahogany planks, with a glue-impregnated layer of canvas in between. Holding all this together were thousands of bronze screws and copper rivets to avoid rust. This had the advantage of easy damage repair in the field, patching, ect. And to include local base force personnel. They proved also capable to be disassembled relatively easy, as five Elco Boats arrived as knock-down kit to Long Beach Boatworks for assembly (West Coast) just to see if that was possible. And the five were assembled and operational in a short notice indeed, without much issue. This offered further strategic mobility, as now they could even by, at least in theory transported by smaller vessels and/or in larger quantities rather than all-mounted on top of decks.
The construction of the Elco boats reused some recipes from Huckins boats, and their structure was made of mahogany, in 2×2 thick planking, while Higgins boats had recipe of its own, but used about the same techniques.
Aluminum parts were expected to be painted and cleaned in suitable pickling solution, or washed with clear water, dried and painted afterwards with zinc chromate primer before its regular painting.
All stainless corrosion-resisting steel prior to painting were to sand blasted or cleaned before painting.
Galvanizing using the hot process was to be done with zinc at least 98% pure, ater treatment of zinc spray and not hot dipping. It was even stated that the increase in weight due to galvanizing could be between 0.8 and 1.6 pound per square foot. For all external parts to be galvanized it was expected to use a heavy coat of red lead.
The internals were spartan to say the least, but functional. The interior, while full speed, was so noisy no sailor could ever dream to try to sleep inside. They all waited until the boast was stantionary at a safe place. Thus it was not rare to see them, unlike larger ships using quarters, operating on 24-hours shifts. Accordinf to the lit of equipments, the boats were granted enough mattresses and sleeping berth for all men onboard. As shown on this cutaway or this one by Donn Thorson, living quarters, understandably, were located forward, as far as the engines possible. However in rough weather this was a very noisy and leaky compartment to live in.
Safety: Elco boats carried a Rubber life raft and a 9-foot Dinghy. Each of the 14-17 sailors and officers had both regulatory WWII US Navy Kapok Life Jacket (or assimilated), and when in action station, a standard M1 helmet, Navy version. It was not the US Navy Mk II talker helmet. The dimensions of the boats were such that oral communication and signs still worked.
The bridge on board Elco PT109
The mainstay of all designs was the Packard V12 4M-2500 (and following), a marine petrol engine which had nothing to do with the British Rolls Royce Merlin engine as sometimes stated, but a model developed for boat racing in the 1930s, notably deceloped by Garr Wood for his world record speed boats. Here what is said about it by him (src)
“Despite the commonplace assumption, the new-generation Packard marine engine, initially tagged the 4M-2500, was anything but a re-popped Liberty. Instead, Vincent, Packards lead engineer, started with a clean sheet and designed a four-stroke, 60-degree V-12 with an aluminum block with a bore of 6.04 inches and a 6.50-inch stroke, which brought it to 2,490 cubic inches. Weighing 2,900 pounds, the 4M-2500 had four valves per cylinder, a 6.4:1 compression ratio, and a centrifugal supercharger, later models were also fitted with an intercooler. A Holley 1685F aircraft carburetor supplied the fuel, 100-octane gasoline, fired by two spark plugs per cylinder. The first engines developed 1,200hp, but improved versions with higher boost levels nominally made 1,500hp. Packard built 14,000 marine engines during the war, three of which went into each of the Navy’s 768 PT boats, two astern and one amidships for better service access.”
Packard 4M-2500 (pinterest)
Packard built already thousands before the second world war notably “Liberty” aircraft engines and sued General Electric superchargers patents to create the serial marine engine for U.S. Elco, Huckins and Higgins PT Boats as well as British Vosper MTB’s. Given all boats carried three of them, that’s at least 1,500 provided for completion, but since they were worn out after years of service, the same number of replacement engines and parts would grow to above 3,000 for PT Boats alone.
The initial Packard 4M 2500 provided 1200 bhp, then 1,350 BHP and by 1945, 1,500 BHP, meaning a total output “under the foot” of 4,500 bhp, but they were also known gas-guzzlers 5000 gallons of 100 octane aviation fuel consumed ina single night sortie. Cruising speed was 2400 rpm with a theoretical 3000 rpm for 41+ knots bursts.
Some in the field changed the gear ratio’s on the supercharger for extra power also, but this practice shortened their life span. Packaerd designed specially for the PT-Boat a terminal electrical device to synchronise them. The centre engine was surrounded by a port and starboard wing engines, not direct but but through Veedrive gearbox. Cavitation issues at low speed and a tendency to veer left was known (see also the handling).
The engine room on board Elco PT109
PT boats were designed -as stated in the handling book- to answer the following question:
“Is it possible to build a small ship, extremely fast and still seaworthy, which can deliver a real knockout punch to a capital ship?”
So having the seaworthiness of a round-bottom sailing ship and huge speed was only relevant as so far the sea stays calm, or be at east in the worst weather didcated compromised. The PT boat was designed thus to outrun anything that floats and carrying also weapons to sink all kind of targets, while being capable of a reasonably high speed in bad weather.
Its flat-bottom required special handling in a seaway and don’t needed to be capped in speed on a 4-foot sea still. But at double, thanks to maximum speed down wind or across. It was discourage to try to head directly into the wind and heavy weather, while it woukld be impossible to man stations properly, with the addition of much spray reducing further visibility.
It was advised to steer a zigzag course, and taking the wind and seas quartering over the bows instead to optimize speed, maintain visibility. Condition of loading of 30°-45° and down to 20° were sufficient. In a 20 feet sea and greater, it was estimated a PT Boat still steer down wind or across it and steer into it with a turn or two of the wheel, obove crests and calculating the next wave at a favorable angle. Steering left and right would allow to keep a almost straight course, dead aweather at good speed.
The PT boat having three right-hand propellers, and two or three rudders, each directly aft of each propeller in the slip-stream had effects on the handling, obviously. This made for a triple torque, tendency to veer to the left full speed ahead and rudder amidships. It was due to the top propeller blade working at pressure than the bottom blade, giving the latter a stronger thrust against the water sideways pushing the stern starboard at 1,000 r.p.m., on all three shafts. 3° to 4° right rudder were needed to compensate. It was cancelled above 1,500 rpm and at high speed.
Another characteristic was its great agility: A PT boat would turn on her own length at slow speed, one engine ahead, one astern, rudder hard over. This was handy in the confined in some areas, or just to manoeuver with other vessels nearby. PT Boats were often “packed” in squadrons near their motherships, when not berthed.
To have a better idea of the Huckins 78ft internals: ptboatforum.com
Here is an extract of the BuShips march 1944 handbook for 80 footer PT Boats construction:
Two Pioneer compasses, One Rubber life raft, One 9-foot rigid standard dinghy (stored aft of the mast).
For the crew, accomodation anf furnitures: CREW’S QUARTERS: Four Transom berth cushions, pantasote covered, One Mess seat cushion, same and two Mess seat cushion backs, same, One Door curtain, lavatory, One Table, mess. OFFICERS’ STATEROOM: One “Root”-type berth, One Transom and cushion, Two Thin mattresses, One Chair, with cushion. PETTY OFFICERS’ STATEROOM One “Root”-type berth, One Transom and cushion, Two Thin mattresses. CHART ROOM: One Seat cushion, pantasote covered, One Back cushion, pantasote covered. OFFICER’S MESS: One Seat cushion, pantasote covered, One Seat cushion, back. CREW’S DAY ROOM: Two Crews lockers (portable), Two “Root”-type settees, Two Mattresses. ENGINE ROOM: One Observer’s seat cushion. MISC:
-One M. S. A. explosimeter Model 2.
-A Regular steel shipping cradle per boat, complete with chocks and boat-locating arms. In addition, there shall be supplied one out of every four cradles equipped with rubber-tired wheels and steering linkage.
-Two 75-pound Danforth anchors, with 5/8″ shackle and 3/4″ pin.
-Two 50 Fathoms 4 1/2″ sisal anchor rope complete with thimble and shackle. Rig one for service.
This is just a part of all equipments aboard.
The SO Radars
In standard from 1943, all PT Boats received a SO type radar, placed on top of their twin leg mast, aft of the bridge. The small array was protected from sea spray by a plastic dome.
This was a family of small, short range Air/Surface Search radars mostly intended for night operations. The “family” comprised the SO-1, SO-2, SO-7, SO-8, SO-9, SO-11 and SO-13, all 10 cm sets with slightly different powers and ranges. SO-3, SO-4 and SO-12 (CXBX) operated at 3 cm only.
Production was 525 SO (all types) and 587 SO-13 (which became standard between February and November 1944), but also 2047 SO-1, 1700 SO-8, 535 SO-2, 110 SO-9, 350 SO-4 and 235 SO-3, all with the basic same wavelength of 10 cm and power Output of 75-200 KW. Crucially the detection range was 16 nm on average at the surface and 35 nm in the air. Pulse Width was 0.37 or 1 microsecond with a Frequency of 650 Hz (on 65 kW), scan rate 12 rpm, and at max range unclutterred it could detect all surface targets up to 20 nautical miles (37 km), down to 5 nautical miles (9 km) for submarines.
The 420 lbs or 190 kg units were found on PT-Boats but also on many light vessels and “boats” of the USN, such as sub-chasers or LCCs.
Their initial armament included 4 torpedo tubes, later phased out, as lighter 21-in Mk.13 torpedoes (shortened Mk.14) with gyroscope launching, from the side cradles were the main armament. It was coupled in all cases by four heavy machine guns 50 cal. (12.7 mm) Browning in twi turrets after of the bridge. Things became quirky for the heavyer AA armament, with mix 40 mm Bofors, 37 mm and 20mm Oerlikon AA guns.
For infantry support, some were given two rocket launchers, 12 tubes, 114 mm (4 in), and 127 mm (5 in) in 1944, going as far as four sets an a 60 mm mortar (2.3 in). With a wooden deck it was easy to bolt on many equipments in various locations. Still, there were guidelines on stability to be followed. They also had ASW launchers at the stern with the provision of ten ASW grenades and sometimes two depht charge launchers without reloads, or coupled with two reload racks using pushers.
Typically the Huckins was armed with a 40mm Bofors aft (like the others), a 37mm standard, also centerline on the bow deck and a 20mm Oerlikon also aft, centerline with a simple locker separating it from the stern Bofors. The bridge was indeed further forward than the others and the two twin cal.50 were at the same level abaft the bridge, unlike the Elco boats which had these two in échelon, as were its largest guns, the Bofors and 37mm, also in échelon aft. The Oerlikon was placed forward.
One feature that became commonplace were two sets of 8-cell Mark 50 Rocket Launchers installed on a swivel mount that can allowed the launched to be folded inwards, and outwards when in use.
For an Elco boat of 1944, the BuShips preconised list included:
-Four Torpedo launching racks, Mark 1.
-Two Mk. 17, Mod. 1 mounts for twin .50 cal. machine guns.
-One Mk. 14 22 mm. A. A. mount.
-One 40 mm. Army type A. A. gun (stern) with tools and equipment.
-One .50 cal. machine gun spare (packed in box).
-Two .50 cal. machine gun Instruction Manuals.
-Two sets .50 cal. machine gun sights.
-One box spare parts for .50 cal. machine gun mounts and cradles.
-Eight ammunition boxes .50 cal., 250 rounds each.
-Eight ammunition boxes .50 cal., 250 rounds each, spares.
-One Oerlikon 20 mm. A. A. machine gun, 1 box of spare parts and tools, and 1 instruction manual, and 12 magazines.
-One Oerlikon spare barrel.
-One Smoke screen generator Mk. 6 for mounting on stern.
A Sailor readies a torpedo for launch from PT boat off Florida c1944
The standard model imposed was the Mark 13 Bliss-Leavitt. This was an aerial torpedo, but of 21-inch rather than 18-inch. It was not a reduced copy of the standard (and very controversial) Mark 14 per se and shared many components, fortunately not all its defects.
It originated in a 1925 design study but development dragged on along Navy specs changes. By late 1944, the design was refined enough to allowe reliable drops from 2,400 ft (730 m) at 410 knots (760 km/h) instead as exposing the carriers, very low and very slow. This of course was no problem for the PT-Boats. The 1944 Mark 13 weighted 2,216 lb (1,005 kg) and still carried a potent 600 lb (270 kg) of HE Torpex.
Although classed as a “21-in” it was in reality as 22.5 inches (570 mm) tprpedo measuring 13 feet 5 inches (4.09 m), squat dimensions compatible with the bomb bay notably of the Grumman Avenger. It was not supermely fast, only reaching 33.5 knots (62.0 km/h; 38.6 mph) over 6,300 yards (5,800 m) which was 12.8 knots slower than the Mark 14, and it had a lesser negative buoyancy. Nevertheless it lacked magnetic influence system used in the same Mark IV exploder and thus, had at first a better detonating chance. Total production reached 17,000 in WWII.
Mk.13 Torpedo launched from its cradle, at full speed.
It should be noted that early models, such as the PT-109, used a Mark 14 torpedo (Elco PT boats) and some were even given the older Mk8 torpedo depoending on available stocks. This was prior to the fitting of the much lighter Roll Off Racks for the 22.5″ Mk13 which became standard issue in 1943. The use of the Mark 14 explains the lack of successes in 1942.
In 1944, a prototype with greater firepower was built, the “Thunderbolt” equipped with a 20 mm Oerlikon quad AA mount M??? at the back, similar to that which equipped Half-Tracks. Nothing came out of it, since these mounts were already in short supply for the European theater.
But the usual lot was of four types:
-One 40 mm Bofors Mark VII see more
-One 37mm autocannon Mark 4, a 1924 patented Browning design, in service from 1942 (ROF 150 rpm mv 2,000 ft/s, using 30-round magazine)
-One 20mm Oerlikon Mark VII? See more
-Four 50 Cal (12.7mm -1/2″) Browning Machine Guns mounted in manually operated rotating turrets, with the ammo bands circling inside.
One of the mediterranean camouflaged tested the spectacular “zebra pattern” in black and white or shades of grey, which was very distruptive but complex to make and thus, rarely applied. The only larger ship that displayed this supreme “razzle dazzle” scheme was the French cruiser Gloire.
BuShips recommended that all completed boats were painted and varnished throughout, with sufficient coats to preserve the surface on the long run. All fastening holes and sensitive outside equipments shall be carefully puttied when they were not plugged (bolted) with sanding before and between coats. Of course for all external metal the fampous standard “red primer” was indispensable. The standard marine paint by default was the Navy formula 5-11 special haze gray (Navy Dept. Spec. 52C45). Fastening holes used smoothing cement, Navy formula 62. The finish was a coat of haze gray (Navy formula 5-H) and a third finish coat was left to the latest camouflage schemes, to be applied in the field.
The Bottom was primed with copper bottom enamel, with all fastening holes cemented with putty, finished with two coats of the same as before. The interior was only painted with one coat of primer, glazed and with two coats of fire retardant white paint (Navy Dept. Spec. 52P22). An extra coat was required in busy passageways or confined spaces, which were many. The superstructure was finished with no less than three coats of formula 511 special haze gray, and final camouflage. Decks were primed with fastening holes filled with smoothing cement and two coats nonskid deck paint, plus camouflage if required. Thus, not only the hull, but superstructures and decks could be painted.
Huckins 78-foot (24 m) PT-259 underway near Midway c.1944
As for this external field painting, many of these units were camouflaged to match the densely vegetated environment. Still on the “decorative” chapter, their crews liked to paint “shark mouths” on the stern, others were more inspired by pin-ups and cartoon characters taken from the habits of bomber crews. But these aesthetic escapades were often in contradiction with the official directives whose respect was ensured by more or less tolerant unit commanders…
There were however official camoufmage schemes provided, followed with more or less zeal. For examples, see the individual profiles at the end of the article.
Trials by Fire: Tactics & Operations
USS PT-167 is holed by an enemy torpedo that failed to detonate, 5 November 1943. Painting by Gerard Richardson
“PT boats filled an important need in World War II in shallow waters, complementing the achievements of greater ships in greater seas. This need for small, fast, versatile, strongly armed vessels does not wane.” — JOHN F. KENNEDY
PT (Patrol, Torpedo) boats were deemed quite useful for short range oceanic scouting with with torpedoes and light, fast armament. It was at forst thought of them to attack enemy supply lines and harassment of warships. All, in all some Forty-three PT squadrons were created in time, each sporting no less 12 of them. PT boat duty was not thought after but by those who want something very dangerous, requiring string caracters and initiative. Despite some results, these squadrons suffered an extremely high loss rate in WWII, being overall more easy prey for larger ships than hunters themselves. Their most useful role in the Pacific notably was to assist submarines in destroying Japanese supply lines. However with only a limited radius of 500 nm at 20 kts, bases needed to be kept “close to action” which was only permissible in some areas, like the Solomons, Marshall and Philippines or around New Guinea. The first Higgins boats fought at the Battle for the Aleutian Islands in 1943. Later they were preferrablly shipped to the Mediterranean theater, Elco models being used almost exclusively in the Pacific.
Originally antiship vessels, they were publicly and erroneously by the press credited with sinking Japanese warships soon after Pearl Harbor but their earl test was in the long Solomons campaign an most often by night. They mostly targeted Japanese barge traffic in the highly contested “Slot.” But squadrons were deployed in the southern, western, and northern Pacific. A few even saw action in the English Channel, seeing action in Normandy.
During World War II Elco Naval Division of Electric Boat Co., Bayonne, N.J., built nearly 400 PT-boats for the U.S. Navy. Most (326) were of the standard “80-footer” using the trademark double-planked mahogany construction, gaining fame in daring night raids on movies but rarely succeeded in those attacks. They carried indeed four torpedoes, but they were of low power, similar in capabilities to airbone models, with a direct contact, surface run at relatively low speed, short range compared to standard Naval Torpedoes.
Their primary mission was to attack enemy shipping, everything that presented itself. Ideally warships, and by default, landing vessels, auxiliaries and merchant ships. For antiship missions, they could lay and destroy mines when equipped with paravanes or special gear. They were used also for ASW patrols, being given a few depht charges, and an hydrophone, by default of a sonar. They were also used to sneak out at night behind enemy lines and carry out rescues or harass enemy coastal supply lines earning the nickname “barge busters.” PT boats were also sufficienty well armed to provide fire support for troop landings, being able to beach themselves before extraction. They would be used also to lay smoke screens and rescue downed aviators, or to carry out intelligence, and doing deep raids which gave them the same aura in the public as their land african equivalent, the “Long Range Desert Range”. Almost all surviving Elco PTs were soon scrapped or sold.
For these “specops” operations the boats’s initially open air exhausts at the back were covered by mufflers. They were used for silent running by feeding the exhaust out under the water at low speeds. Each had butterfly flap valves fitted in the main exhaust pipes, after the muffler take off, operated by a lever system. Thus system was proven relatively effective and made the chances of a PT Boat arriving on target at low speed by night in surprise way greater.
A 80-foot (24 m) Elco PT boat with original Mark 18 torpedo tubes on patrol off the coast of New Guinea, 1943
General Mac Arthur praised the PPT Boat concept he saw very well fitted for the defence of the Philippines, he became a strong advocate of PT boats, but none was present when the Japanese attacked in January 1942.
“A relatively small fleet of such vessels, manned by crews thoroughly familiar with every foot of the coast line and surrounding waters, and carrying, in the torpedo, a definite threat against large ships, will have distinct effect in compelling any hostile force to approach cautiously and by small detachments.”
— General Douglas MacArthur
Seen from Washington, DC however, the few PT-Boats done were all to be sent to Britain in lend-lease. MacArthur instead tried to appraoch Britain to procure a serie but all models were kept for British service in wartime. He could not test PT boats to defend the Philippine Islands when they were really needed, but a few arrived before the fall of the Philippines, evacuating personnel including MacArthur himself and his family. PT-41 (Lt. John D. Bulkeley) MTB Ron 3 evacuated them from Corregidor, after he famously said “i shall return”. The mission was done by night through the Mindoro Strait via Cuyo Islands (west of Panay) and a close encounter with a Japanese cruiser west of Negros.
PT-41 arrived in Cagayan (Mindanao), MacArthur promising recommendations for the crews. Bulkeley earned a Medal of Honor for his dangerous run. It’s after this start that PT-Boats, sometimes called “MacArthur’s secret weapons” often were reported in the medias with bogus sinking of important Japanese ships. Most of the time they proved false, but in some case, damaging was assimilated to sinking. In any case, these were a moral booster after the loss of the Pearl Harbor battlefleet and series of defeats. But they were forgotten when media attention was diverted to the Doolittle raid.
During the Solomon Islands Campaign the press was quick to raise to the public’s attention back at home the “Green Dragons” and “Devil Boats”, as nicknamed by the Japanese. They were deployed to hunt warships in the early doctrine, but results were so mediocre (due notably of faulty torpedoes) that they were soon withdrawn from these operations. Modern “speical type” IJN destroyers were more hunters than preys for these and they paid aheavy price, with the greatest loss rate in 1942 and until early 1943. Modern destroyers indeed used projectors and could fire fast and fiercely enough to destroy these “mosquitoes”. PT Boats plays more of a deterrence which indirectly caused extra caution when Japanese knew PT boat presence, disrupting indeed their supply runs, notably to Guadalcanal. The Japanese recovered several Mk.13 torpedoes and soon came to the conclusion these PT boats were a mild threat overall, but this modified their plans and this caused ultimately their defeat and evacuation of the island and in fine, the fall of the Solomons.
Commander Bulkeley, which evacuated McArthur declared that these PT boats were made:
“to roar in, let fly a Sunday punch, and then get the hell out, zigging to dodge the shells.”
This was partly true but over romanticized during WW2 by the medias, fuelling a popular belief that they could engage enemy capital ships and still escape. But in reality they were just too noisy and still too slow not to be dealt with, with deadly accuracy by any IJB secondary and even AA guns. Attacks of this kind were quite rare, not to say suicidal. The wooden hulls could not even hold water with a near-miss, let along direct hits.
PT 59 after her conversion into a gunboat.
The tactics were rapidly changed, and smaller forces (not full squadrons) were detached during the night for such attacks, engines running low, with all kinds of measures to try to mitigate their noise. They approached that way until torpedo range (which was short), launched and indeed escaped at full speed. By night the torpedo wakes were indeed sometimes detected. If the torpedoes hit and exploded, flames would illuminate the whole area and uncover their position as a giant flare would. When trying an “all stealthy” approach, the commander also tried to escape at low speed until the torpedoes hit, or if the first round missed and still undetected, officers which could stomach it would try a second attempt. Nerve-racking to say the least.
The real specialty came about naturally, in this quick darwining evolution. PT boats found more success against Japanese barge cnvoys, often weakly defended, rather than warships. As soon as this was discovered and now “cold” about the use of their faulty torpedoes, all squadrons commander wanted thier boats to be reconverted as gunboats essentially, with more machine guns and light cannons added. Some wanted the standard 3-in/50, but the weight was just too great for the wooden hulls and rate of fire still unsufficient for this kind of raids. Instead, the most efficient weapon, outsid the 20mm Oerlikons, were the often always stern Bofors. Its position imposed tactics in formation, whith loops, starting with a forward charge, broadside and retreat all guns blazing.
US air superiority in daylight condemned the tradtional Japanese convoys with large ships to night missions with barges instead, “coating” in shallow waters.
“Know Your Boat” distributed to newly trained crews, as often using humor to let the message pass better. U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 1945, Maritime Park Association
PT boat crews fed a reputation of recklesness fed by their own profile, with small crews authorizing far greater familiarity between officers and men, and lax discipline. Initiative was not only on the line of duty but also in the art of scavengening whatever could bolster their capabilities or supply them in the scarcity of the early war conditions. This lax attitude was reflected also on land during rest periods, with the military police kept more busy with this lot. PT Boat crews were also known for lax outfit to say the least, fighting bare chested and not always wearing trousers, or having non-regulatory attire. A situation not unlike some submarine crews. One thing the navy obtained at least was to avoid painting personal symbols or pinups on their boats, unlike the air corps. They were often locally camouflaged, in sometimes surprising fashion, although the Navy obtained some discipline there in patterns and colors, which was regulated (see apparearance). They tolerated though, the occasional shark teeth on the bow.
Nevertheless, while all this took place, the naval staff official doctrine was still to seach and attack surface vessels, and recoignising the danger of exposure, they were supposed also to lay mines and use smoke screens. More missions added to the lot, which impacted their loss rate. All in all it seems, depending of the source, that 531 PT boats were built. The overall picture was 69 lost mostly to enemy fire, followed by storms and accidents or friendly fire. Early boats of 1941 were simply worn out by 1943-44. The loss ratio was still very acceptable as these were considered “expandable”. But the Navy wanted to have nothing to do with these boats, which were mostly gathered at PT Base 17, Samar, Philippine, to be broken up to salvage everything of value and leave the wood to rot. Nine PT boat hulls survived, some restored (see below).
58 footers Prototypes
PT-9 off Washington DC (1940)
This very first 58ft Experimental MTB, laid down 12 July 1939 by Fogal Boat Yard in Miami, Florida to answer the USN called. She was launched launched on 16 August 1939 and completed 20 November 1941, tested by the navay but rejected, and nicknamed “Wet Dream”. She was reclassified as a Small Boat pennant C-6083 on 24 December 1941, ending as a service launch at Newport. 30 t, 30 knots, armed (as planned) with two Mk IV-4 torpedoes, two .50 cal. M2HB. She was powered by two 1,2000 hp Vimalert gasoline engines after after initial trials, on Navy demand, by Packard 4M-2500 engines on two shafts.
A second 58 feet Experimental Motor Torpedo Boat (laid down 19 August 1939 at Fogal Boat Yard in Miami, Launched 30 September 1939, Completed 20 November 1941
(later reclass. as “Small Boat, C-6084” in December 1941, kept for training. She displaced 30 t, with two shafts 1,200hp Vimalert gasoline engines for 30 kts.
Ads by Packard, on the PT-3
A third 58 footer prototype, laid down 1 August 1939 at Fisher Boat Works in Detroit, completed on 20 June 1940 and placed to the MTB Sq1 for trials on 24 July 1940. MTBRon 1 was commanded by Lt. Earl S. Caldwell. After a serie of trials she was transferred on 19 April 1942 to the Royal Navy as MTB-273 but canceled and went instead to the Royal Canadian Air Force as Bras D’Or, M 413 (first of the name, the other would be a cold war hydropter) used as a High Speed Rescue Launch for downed pilots.
She was returned to the U.S. in April 1945, retransferred to the Shipping Administration in May 1946 and undergoing today a restoration.
First with two 1,350hp Packard gasoline engines for 25t (beam 18 ft) she combined two standard torpedoes, two .50 cal., two DCR. Speed unknown. PT-4 was Laid down at the same time as PT-4 at Fisher Boat Works and completed by 20 June 1940, trialled at MTBRon 1 she was nicknamed “Get In Step” and later “Old Faithful”, scheduled to be the RN MTB-274 but RCAN instead (B-120), back to the US in June 1945, civilian service from October 1946. Same specs as above but armed with only two twin HMGs.
80 footers Prototypes
First Higgins 81 footer prototype. She was laid down on 1 August 1939, launched 4 November 1940, comp. 1 March 1941 and received by the US on 17 March 1941 to MTBRon 1, making gruelling trips at high speeds. After this, like MTB-3/4 her transfer to the RN was cancelled and she ended in the RCAN as Abadik (M 407), with Eastern Air Command, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, later B-117, back to the US in 1945, then Shipping Administration in 1946 and from 1948 used by Nock Sicari of Flushing in New York as the yacht Gloria. She displaced 34 t for 15.4′ beam and 8.5′ draft, but these are the 1948 measurements. The crew was 6, and she operated during tests with two 21-in torpedoes, two .50 cal. HMGs, powered by three 1,200 bhp Vimalert gasoline engines, the first with this configuration.
There were two of them initialy, both by Higgins as 81 footers. The first was contracted to Finland as rescue boats, but sold to the RN in June 1940, MGB-68 in January 1941, training duties at HMS St. Christopher (Coastal Forces training base), Fort William, Scotland. Paid off in July 43, sold 1944 civilian service, then to father Euan O’Brien’s (1968) in Scotland, houseboat in Bowling Basin until 1977, then to Bowling 1980s and in Clyde, destroyed by fire in 1988. 34 tons, three Packard 3M-2500.
The second one was identical (Launched 29 October 1940) and assigned for tests at MTBRon 1, RN transfer cancelled in July 1941, instead RCAF Nictak (M 447), returned June 1945, Small Boat, Fate unknown. She had better Packard 4M-2500 gasoline engines.
PT-7 was another 81 footer, a “BuShip boat” built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, launched 31 October 1940, with her transfer cancelled after some tests to the RN, and instead became RCAF Banoskik (M 408) in Nova Scotia, later B-118, returned to the US in 1945 and sunk as a target soon after.
She was quite larger and heavier at 51 t for dimensions 81 x 17 x 3 feet, 41 kts. Armed with four 21″ torpedoes, one Bofors mount and four Hall-Scott gasoline engines mated on two shafts.
Second admiralty boat, with an Aluminum-hull built by Philadelphia Nyd. Launched, 29 October 1940, started tests with MTBron 1 from 25 February 1941 then MTBron 2, 13 August 1941 and later reclassified as the District Patrol Craft YP-110, 14 October 1941
Assigned to Inshore Patrol, Fourth Naval District, 1942, stricken 10 January 1943, but not scrapped, hull retained for tests, sold postwar, seen on sale 2008, extant in Franklin, LA, 2010.
The sole British MTB in US service, for trials. She was a 70 footer Scott Paine MTB, laid down by the British Power Boat Co., Ltd., in Hythe, Hampshire and acquired by the Navy on 24 July 1940 for comparative tests at MTBRon 1, then transferred on 8 November 1940 to MTBRon 2. Tested in Florida and Caribbean waters, winter 1940-1941, to be retransferred to the RN but instead went to Canada as
V-264, Halifax-Gaspe harbor defense force, then S-09 and from March 1943 patrolling from Quebec (blackout patrols) on the Saint Lawrence River, mostly searching for U-Boats. Safety vessel in Toronto, 1944, returned February 1945, sold for BU September 1946, tr. Shipping Administration 1946, fate unknown.
Specs: 55 t. 70 x 20 x 5 ft, three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines for 41 kts. In Canadian service she had two MGs, 8 Depth charges, powered by two 550hp Kermath V-12 gasoline engines.
WW2 small series & prototypes
Elco PT-10 to PT-19:
70 footers launched from August 1940 at Elco, Bayonne, New Jersey. They all served with MTBRon 2. (Displacement 40 t. 70 x 11 x 6 ft, Three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 for 41 kts, crew 14, armed with two twin .50 cal. M2 (Dewandre turrets), four 18″ torpedoes or two 21″ torpedoes) plus alternative Lewis MGs and 20 mm Oerlikon, all. Most were transferred to the RN Transferred to the Royal Navy from 11 April 1941.
Higgins 70′ “Hellcat” PT-564
Laid down in 1942, Comp. 30 June 1943, comm. August 1943. She was a high speed (46 kts), low silhouette new prototype. A Board of Inspection and Survey showed trials in September in which she reached 47.825 knots on full-throttle mile run. By November it was decided however not not put her on production as she was less maneuverable, costier and more complicated to build.
In service from 2 September 1943 and assigned to MTBRon 4 by November 1944 (Lt. Comdr. Jack E. Gibson) in the training squadron based at Melville, RI. It was 28 boats strong, for Higgins boats crews. Squadron 4 later was sent to the Solomons in the Operational Development Force (advanced training), stricken in February-March 1946. After 1948 she was sold to the IDF Navy as MB-200 and reequipped with a single 20mm/70 Mk 10, still the two twin 12.7mm/90, four 572 TR, and SO-13 radar. See the interior arrangement.
Specifications: 40 t, 70 x 20 x 4-ft 6-in, 3 props 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 46 kts, armed with 4x Mk XIII 21″ torps, 2×2 .50 cal. 1x 20mm mount
Canadian Powerboat 70 Footer:
The serie comprised the PT-368 to PT-371. They were Scott-Paine designed boats built in 1942 by the Canadian Power Boat Co., Montreal, Quebec, and acquired by the Navy 21 November 1942, Comp. 19 April 1943. Originally planned for the Dutch KNIL, then Caribbean, acquired under reverse lend-lease from the Dutch Government but converted to Elco standard at Fyfe’s Shipyard in Long Island and reassigned with Elco’s 80 footer PT 362-367 made in Harbor Boat Building Co. in California.
They were in service with MTBRon 18 (Lt. Comdr. Henry M. S. Swift, USNR) assigned to the Southwest Pacific. They saw combat in Dreger Harbor, Aitape, Hollandia, Wakde, and Mios Woendi and Kana Kopa (New Guinea), Manus (Admiralties) and at Morotai (Halmaheras). They ended in San Pedro Bay, Philippines.
Specifications: 33 t, 70 x 19 x 5 ft, 3x 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 for 41 kts. Crew 12, 2x 21-in TTs, 1x 37mm, 1x 20mm, 2×2 .50 cal. MGs.
The Very Best and Finest PT boats
During the “plywood derby”, Huckins presented a prototype which cost the company $100,000 in 1940. It was trialled, selected, and refined as the 78-footer. The pre-serie prototype was attibuted the pennant PT-69 and was noted for its quadraconic hull design unique to the company, as well as its robust construction method. It was evaluated in July 1941. It looked very promising and even managed to stand out before its other competitors Elco and Higgins. Huckins was selected for production, but since Elco and Higgins showed they could rapidly ramp up production, the much more modest capacities of Huckins only earned them an order for 18 boats. Few in number and costier than the rest, they were regarded however as the very best PT-Boats of the time. The lucky crews that got attached to them praises their qualities. The finish quality was also of another level, true to their luxury yachting origin.
The Huckins Yacht Corporation under wartime industrial procurements had to share their Quadraconic Hull construction, to be licenced to Elco and Higgins as their robust laminated hull as well. Huckins was indeed renowned for its fine yacht designs and that’s whyt it is seen here first. Elco and Higgin’s performances are largely attributed to this technical expertise from Huckins.
Huckins boats weighted 40 tons (unladen) and used Packard marine gasoline engines (3M-2500, 4M-2500 and 5M-2500 in 1945) rated for 1,350 horsepower each and more. These derived from the 1925 “Liberty” aircraft engine. Although standard speed was 39 knots, they proved able to reach 42 knots on trials, and to maintain this even in rough waters.
Their design was peculiar with a bridge amidships, long bow deck, torpedo tubes in inline pairs angled on the sides, typically two twin Browning 0.5 cal. in standard turret amidships, stern light 40mm Bofors cannon and one to three 20 mm Oerlikon forward, plus two stacks of four depth charge throwers aft. The crew ranged between 11 (minimal) and 17 (1945) manned by two officers, to the Lieutenant grade.
Despite their qualities, the small quantities meant the USN, which regarded standardization as paramounts, wanted them not on the frontline, but rather assigned to specific defensive patrolling of sensible areas and crew training. PT-95-97, the first production boats (PT-69 was the prototype) went straight for training, based at Melville (Rhode Island). The remainder (PT-98 – PT-104) were assigned to defend the Panama Canal Zone and PT-255 – PT-264 Hawaiian waters. The Royal Navy also received ten of them from 1942. The 18 boats delivered were assigned to two squadrons fully filled by early 1943 as ships arrived peace meal.
Two similar boats completed and delivered on 30 June 1941, reclassified District Patrol Craft YP-106 by September 1941, Third Naval District stricken in 1945, sold 1947.
The first becam the yacht Atlantis II, British flag in 1961, fate unknown. The second was District Patrol Craft YP-107 same date, discarded
Specs: Displacement 40 tons 72 x 16′ 6″ x 4′ 6″, four Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines, 630shp on 2 props, for 41.5 knots FL and 43.81 knots (tests). Crew 15, two twin .50 cal. Browning M2, four 18″ torpedoes.
Specs Huckins 78′ PT-95 – PT-102 and Continued (PT-265 – PT-313)
Displacement: 52-56 t. Full Load Dimensions: 23.93 x 6.12 x 1.60 m (78 x 19.5 x 5 ft) Machines: 3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, 1,050 hp. Maximum speed: 39-41 knots Armament: 4x 18in (457 mm)* Ts, 1x 40mm Bofors, 1-3 20 mm AA or 1x 37mm, 2 DCR, 2×12 127 mm RL Crew: 17
*Initially two 21-in TTs
⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)
52-56 t. Full Load
23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
Elco 80 footers (1942)
PT-196 “Elcopuss” with her impressive livery More
The 80 ft (24 m) production of Elco Naval Division boats became the largest and heaviest (longest, not beamiest) of the three PT boats standards in WWII and more were built (326) than other types. A paradox given the initial structural weaknesses of the prototypes compared to the other two. In the end, the best (Huckins) was only given a token order in comparison. These 20 ft 8 in (6.30 m) beam were classified as “boats”. The fact that they could be carried (just for transport anyway) on the deck larger freighters forbade them the title of “ship”, in the traditional sense. Still these “boast” could carry smaller ones, at least inflatables.
Other sources production wise gave 385 built, with prototypes rounded to 400. It seems the differencial were boats built in 1945, cancelled on V-Day but completed anyway. 326 could be those effectively seeing WWII.
They were not only the longest of the three, but also the largest, as 80 x 20 ft 8 in (so a ratio of 1/4) for 56 ton displacement. They were given Packard marine gasoline engines, rated at 1,200 bhp each for a total of 3,600. But as war progressed, these engines were upgraded, followed and compensated for the addition of equipments and armament.
They carried three officers, 14 ratings but wcould be operated to as few as 12, compared to 17 for the Huckins boats. Armament was standardized at first to a “light” combnination of a single 20-mm Oerlikon cannon aft, and two twin M2 turreted (0.5 in Browning HMG) or due to shortages, 0.8 in (7.6 mm) Lewis equivalents, four 21-inch torpedo tubes with the “short” Mark 8 torpedo. Later this was expended and augmented, and a larger variety of equipments carried, like smoke dischargers, rocket launchers, radar, etc. Many were “augmented” in the field, such as President Kennedy’s PT-109 which had a 37-mm anti-tank gun fitted on her fore deck.
Tehnical overview of a 80ft ELCO PT-Boat, Side elevation and deck plans from “Allied Coastal Forces of World War II: Vol. II” by John Lambert and Al Ross, via Robert Hurst on navsrource.
Displacement: 40 tons, Full load. Dimensions: 24.38 m long, 6.30 m wide, 1.60 m draft. Machinery: 3 shafts gasoline engines 1050 hp. Top speed 39 knots. Armament: 4 torpedoes 18-in (457 mm), 1 x 40mm, 1 x 37mm, 1 x 20m AA, 2×2 HMG 50 cal. (12.7 mm), 2 depth charges, 2×12 5-in 127 mm rocket launcher. Crew: 17.
⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)
52-56 t. Full Load
23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
Higgins 78 footers (1942)
The PTs produced by Higgins, in New Orleans, were 215 units, from PT71 to PT808, but with many cancellations. These were shorter but also wide models. Also 1.60 m deep, their hull was more roomy than the rest and deeper, although narrower than the Elco boats. They could travel 500 nautical miles at 20 knots. In 1944, Higgins also produced the prototype “Hellcat” (PT564) lightened, aluminum, but it could not receive heavy armament and was not followed.
Service wise, Higgins boats joined the frontline later than the ELCO in US service, as the first production batches were sent to Russia and Britain via lend-lease in 1941 (before pearl harbor).
In fact approximately half of the Higgins boats served in the Mediterranean and English Channel, the other half in the Pacific and Aleutians.
The series comprised the following orders:
Higgins 78′ PT-71 to PT-94
Higgins 78′ Continued PT-197 to PT-254
Higgins 78′ Continued PT-265 to PT-313
Higgins 78′ Continued PT-450 to PT-485
Higgins 78′ Continued PT-625 to PT-660
Last serie: Higgins 78′ Continued (PT-791 – PT-808)
⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)
52-56 t. Full Load
23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
⚙ Higgins Boats 5th Continued series*
48 t. Full Load
78 x 20′ 8″ x 4′
Same plus 1x 37mm, 8x Mk 6-300lb. DCs, 2x20mm
*Note: from the last batch, PT-797 to PT-801 were canceled on 7 September 1945 and PT-802 to PT-808 on 27 August 1945.
British Elco BTP
BPT-1 to BPT-68
They were known as the British Motor Torpedo Boats (BPT), BPT-1 to BPT-68. Built by Elco for Lend-Lease Transfers. PT-49 became BPT-1, Laid down 12 June 1941 and reclassified BPT-1 in July 1941,
Launched 26 August 1941, Comp. 20 January 1942, transferred 4 February 1942, commissioned as MTB-307. They had diverse assignations, moslty the Mediterranean. In the case of BPT-1 she was paid off 10 March 1945 at Palermo in Sicily, transferred to Italy in February 1947 as GIS-0019.
The PTs produced by Vosper in Great Britain, in 1944-45, were 137 planned, smaller, slower but with more autonomy on patrol (570 nautical miles at 20 knots). They had two torpedo tubes in order to revert more to an anti-ship role. These were the PT-368-371, 384-449, 661-730. They had four Depht Charges in chutes but some experimented with powered quadruple chutes.
It should be noted that on the reverse, the US via lend lease procured the RN some 80 PT-Boats:
-Elco MBT-359-268, 307-236, MGB82-93, with 11 MTBs and 2 MGBs lost.
-Higgins MTB-419-423, MGB67-73, 100-106, 177-192, no loss
-Other USN types, MTB269-271 and 273, 274, no loss.
⚙ Vosper series
45 t. Full Load
22.10 m long, 5.87 m wide, 1.68 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
3 shafts 3,375shp
2×533 mm TTs, 1x20mm, 2×0.5 in Vickers AA, 4 ASW DCT
PTC Boats (1943)
Motorboat Submarine Chaser Conversions
Concerned the PTC-1 to PTC-66. Built by Elco. Interestingly enough, after completion from February 1941 they served from 6 March 1941, going to Motor Boat Submarine Chaser Squadron ONE (PTCRon 1) under command of LT. John D. Bulkeley. But the unit was soon abandoned because unsatisfactory sound gear to locate submarines. At least they had a SO-13 (or assimilated) radar. A dedicated article will follow on this type.
PT 658 off Portland, still operational. PT-658 was a Higgins boat originally intended for Squadron 45, Pacific Fleet, but with the war closing, never sent there. In 1958 it was sold to an individual in Oakland, renamed Porpoise and later repurchased by an association, PT Boats, Inc. by veterans which restored her between 1995 and 2005. It is one of the two fully functional afloat example, now on the north bank of the Willamette River in a custom-built boathouse (Portland, Oregon) “PT-658 Heritage Museum”, the Swan Island Industrial Park.
PT-305 was another Higgins 78 footer restored by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, originally assigned to MTB Squadron 22 (Captain LCDR Richard J. Dressling) which saw action on the coast of Italy, France and sunk a German Flak lighter, F-lighter, and MAS boat, which was more tricky. Restoration was complet in 2016 and she made her sea trials with the US Coast Guard on Lake Pontchartrain.
A few originals survived, not least PT 617 at Battleship Cove in Fall River (Mass.): PT-617: The end of the war saw most PT-Boats stripped, beached and burned, or scrapped (their wooden structure was not treated to resist much years) but the PT-617, a 80-foot Elco type which survives up to this day, but in static form.
PT-796: On of the very last Higgins boats, she never saw action. Post-war duty with MTB Squadron 1 in the Caribbean and East Coast was followed by towing experiments. In 1961 she was maskeraded as PT-109 for John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and was decommissioned in 1970. PT Boats, Inc. bought and restored her in 1975 and she is displayed with PT-617 at Battleship Cove. Hr nickname of “Tail Ender” came from her being od the very last batch built.
PT-137 was such exceptions, and at the Battle of Surigao Strait, on Oct. 25, 1944. She succeeded in crippling the light cruiser Abukuma, later caught and sunk by B-24 bombers. (see a cutaway). She served with MTBRon 7 (LT Rollin E. Westholm, USN), she served in the Southwest Pacific, seeing action in New Guinea (Tufi, Morobe, Kiriwina, Dreger Harbor, Aitape) and in the Philippine (San Pedro Bay, Ormoc). Transferred to PTBRon33 in 1945, still in the Philippines. She was nicknamed “Snafu”, “Arbie Barbie” and “The Duchess” successively. A full review will be done when tackling the class individually.
JF Kennedy’s PT 109 crew
PT-109 skippered by John F. Kennedy while in ambushed was surprised in the night of Aug. 2-3, 1943, by IJN Amagiri in a strait off the Solomon Islands. Rammed, the poor PT boat broke in two, killing two crewmen and injuring Kennedy. Perhaps the best known PT operating in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific with 14 other PT boats sent for a nighttime ambush of four enemy destroyers of the Tokyo express. Most fired their torpedoes and retired by three remained behind to druvey the results, including PT 109. In the confusion, Kennedy mistook a fellow PT for an approaching destroyer and could not manoeuvr fast enough to fire a torpedo. Kennedy and survivors swam 3 miles to a small island, surviving with the help of locals and ultimately being rescued by PT-157.
Mediterranean PT Boats
PT-333 underway off New York, August 1943
PT-333 underway off New York, August 1943
In the Mediterranean Sea PT-Boats were also used for coastal operations, especially well suited for the confines of the Adriatic and of the Aegean Islands. They generally targeted heavily armed German supply barges (F-lighters) sometimes also sinking their escorts, German E-boats. Encounters with Italian ships were rarer, since presence of the USN really started in 1943 (from November 1942 onwards). However when operating around Sicily as soon as they had a port, they tried to at least disrupt the evacuation of the island following the success of Operation Husky. The Italians laid down in particular, dense minefield to interdict the allies to approach. PT boats were thus used to removed some, and penetrate the area. A good career example, PT-6 or PTron15: Casablanca, Bizerte, Pantelleria, Op. Husky, Palermo, Salerno and Invasion of Italy, Maddalena and Bastia, Anzio, Elba, Southern France and Op. Anvil, Leghorn. The three PT squadrons of the Mediterranean were there for 2 years, loosing 4 boats (mines) with 5 officers and 19 men Kia, 7 officers, 28 men wounded. They fired 354 torpedoes, claimed 38 vessels sunk for 23,700 tons, damaging 49 (22,600 tons) and with British boats co-claimed 15 more vessels (13,000 tons), damaging 17 (5,650 tons). “At close quarters” by Bulkley.
Channel and DD-Day PT-Boats
As part of Operation Neptune (D-Day), the allies deployed a number of patrol boats, which had to secure streamline navigation in the English Channel between Great Britain and the Normandy coast. On June 6, 1944, these were the PT-484, PT-552, PT-564, PT-565, PT-567, PT-568, PT-617, PT-618, PT-619, PT-1176, PT-1225, PT-1232, PT-1233, PT-1252, PT-1261, PT-1262, PT-1263. The danger came from U-Boats and E-Boats. The latter sorties indeed: Off Le Havre, four German E-Boots emerged from the screen smoke and went face-to-face with the allied fleet and Force S (Sword) convoy, and a fierce fighting ensued. The escorting Svenner, was hit and sunk. All four E-Boats disappeared bacl into the smoke. None of the PT-Boats met any German ship the first day. They stayed on patrol anyway until more reinforcements arrived the following days and weeks.
PT Boat Supply and Maintenance
Lead vessel of the Oyster Bay class motor torpedo boat tenders (AGP-6/AVP-28), is there anchored in the Leyte Gulf by December 1944 servicing a full squadron. She still had a destroyer armament and could fend off attacks while delivering shore bombardment, acting as much as a base and supply/maintenance vessel. Note by that time, all PT-Boats had a radar and were camouflaged.
Originally Oyster Bay was the Barnegat-class small aircraft tender AVP-28, reconverted later in 1943. Four ships laid down as seaplane tenders were reconverted as PT tenders at Lake Washington Shipyards (Houghton, Wash.). Fine and sleek ships with destroyer lines were faster tha LSTs for this role, far better armed, but had limited space and could not house a PT boat dry for maintenance, which required a floating drydock. She was transferred to Italy in 1957 as Pietro Cavezzale (A-5301), and was only decommissioned in 1993. This sub-class will be covered in detail alongside the Barnegat class.
Were PT Boats really effective ?
Simple answer, no. JFK joined this corps, falling like the rets of the public for the dash and heroism involved, as highlighted in the press of that time. But is the feeble results they obtained for their numbers and missiones hours accumulated on all seas was not enough, there were clear issues from the start:
-Their Mk.13 torpedoes were faulty at first. Like the Mk.14. The design was essentally the same, but shortened, and kept the despicable “family traits” common to the type, runing too deep and failing to explode when hitting target, way too often for comfort. This left little devices against a more powerful ship, but their mines (indirectly).
-Lack of hitting power. Their best guns were 40mm Bofors, not bad against planes, but very weak against well protected steel ships. AA guns only could harm personal and do little else.
-Limited radar. This was only a basic navigational radar which could detect targets to the immediate vicinity, they were not powerful enough to go further than 20km, and were blocked by the relief around in confined waters.
The real strenght of PT Boats were their crews, a “special breed” of men which valiantly fought, aganst oll odds in the early Pacific war phases. They were only useful to interrupt Guadalcanal’s supply efforts from the Japanese. Their nickname of “barge buster” was acquired then and there. They rarely sunk ships by themselves, less on large warships. Their supporting role for troops ashore or evacuation was also quite useful, and they made many of such missiones, including VIPs like MacArthur. All this in spite of the massive “propaganda” at home, in movies and series. Studios could acquire them and they fit inside these, looking great. After his service, JFK really continued to inflate this reputation, which also helped his career, but the overall sense from this was that they really punched in the general perception way above their real weight.
There is another fact to reinforce this: PTs were all scrapped after the war, not kept but for tests in small quantities. They found no use in Korea, a few modern ones were used for spec ops in Vietnam but they saw no conflict since at least in the USN. In Vietnam gunboats, patrol bboats (the PBR) were used as well as small monitors or converted landing crafts, no MTBs. There is also the opinion they were the “deadliest boats of WWII”, here the article. But overall, the cold statistical post-war report of the USN stated the PT Boats “were not cost-effective”. They were largely seen as a wartime expedient.
PTs in the cold war
The Argentinian ARA Alakush in 1962
The US fleet of PT-Boats was disposed of in 1945 or 1946, given to the Maritime Board to be resold to the civilian market, or scrapped. Mny were used for many more years in various roles, and some sold to allied navies.
But in the US they had a legacy: Under the new classification of “fast attack craft” (FAC), a new class, PT-812, of just four boats was built to embody wartime lessons, with welded and/or riveted aluminium hulls, a luxury that did not existed in WW2. These were rather large, at 67.9 tons light, 92.5 tons FL, 30.5/32 x 5.6 x 1.2m (105 x 18.4 x 3.11 ft) with evolved versions of the same four Packard gasoline engines and 10,000 bhp, enabling a top speed of 38.2 kts. They had the same four torpedoes, two Bofors and two twin Oerlikon AA. They tested also DCs and rocket launchers and various configurations. They were used for many tests, being built in 1950 by Elco, Bath Iron Works, Trumpy in Annpolis and Philadelphia NyD, knowing they were out of any official requirement. They had various fates, the first two being striken in 1965.
The next step was in 1962-68. These FACS were 12 Norwegian designed boats built by Bastervice in Mandal, Norway for the first batch, and Trumpy in Annapolis USA for the second, used by the USN and known as the “Nasty class“. PTF-3 to PTF-22 were used for “unconventional operations”, with the Navy Seals in Vietnam. They were alrady far from the traditional PT-Boats, having no torpedoes but a mortar instead, as well as a Bofors and two Oerlikon guns. These were 80 tons, 24.5 x 7.5 x 1.2m (804 x 24.7 x 3.10 ft) boats equipped with two Napier-Deltic diesels for 38 kts. Discarded in the 1980s.
In 1967-68, four Osprey class boats (PTF-23-26) were built in Sewart Seacraft of Berwick in Louisiana. Improved Nasty with aluminum hulls and same engines, relatively similar hulls and performances, armament. They were discarded in 1990. But in between larger patrol crafts were developed as well as hydropters, a new promising way to exceed speeds, but that’s a story for another day.
Drawing of Nasty class PTF Boat (Patrol (boat), Torpedo, Fast) in 1964
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946
Bulkley, Robert J., Jr. At Close Quarters: PT Boats in the United States Navy. Washington: Naval Historical Division, 1962.
Chun, Victor. American PT Boats in World War II: A Pictorial History. Atglen PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1997.
Fahey, James C. The Ships and Aircraft of the U. S. Fleet. Victory Edition. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1945.
Friedman, Norman. U. S. Small Combatants, Including PT Boats, Subchasers, and the Brown Water Navy
Hoagland, Edward D. The Sea Hawks: With the PT Boats at War. Navato, CA: Presidio Press, 1999.
Johnson, Frank D. United States PT Boats of World War II in Action. Poole, UK: Blandford Press, 1980.
Nelson, Curtis L. Hunters in the Shallows: A History of the PT Boat. Washington: Brassey’s, 1998.
Polmar, Norman and Samuel Loring Morison. PT Boats at War: World War II to Vietnam. MBI Publishing Co., 1999
Following the success of the Jeanne d’Arc, the French admiralty tasked chief engineer Emile Bertin to create a simplified and cheaper version, to be built in series.
However they still were intended to fill the same commerce-raiding strategy in line with the “Jeune École” theories. With three ships built, the Gueydon class confirmed the path taken since the Jeanne d’Arc, mostly caracterized by a much greater range and better speed compared to the previous ships since Dupuy de Lôme. The last commissioned, Dupetit-Thouars, in 1905 was the only lost in WWI. The two other survived the war, the interwar, and were scuttled in 1940 in Brest, later refloated but destroyed in 1944.
A “template” with mass production
“Following” them were (they were built practically at the same time, and quicker) were the Dupleix class (Dupleix, Desaix, Kléber), the Gloire class (Gloire, Marseillaise, Sully, Amiral Aube, Condé) near-repeats of the Gueydon, and finally back to much larger ships, the Léon Gambetta class (Léon Gambetta, Jules Ferry, Victor Hugo), followed by modified one-offs, the Jules Michelet (1905) and Ernest Renan (1909). No cruiser was built by France past the launch of HMS Dreadnought. There were only unrealized projects of battlecruisers and scout cruisers before WWI broke out. In all, following the Jeanne d’Arc in 1899 and in the span of six years, the French cranked up 16 armoured cruisers for their commerce raiding war, which scenario never realized itself.
Hull and general design
The Gueydon class measured 137.97 meters (452 ft 8 in) long overall, and with a beam of 19.38 meters (63 ft 7 in), maximum draft of 7.67 meters (25 ft 2 in) for a displacement of 9,367 metric tons (9,219 long tons). Thus they were indeed less costy to built thanks to a ten meters shorted hull (147 m/482 ft 3 in on the Jeanne D’Arc), slightly narrower of just 5 cm (2 inch), and with a lower draft.
Protection was following about the same scheme, but less extensive by the dimensions. The Gueydon class had a lower hull, and the aft turret was not on deck, but elevated to the main upper deck.
About the silhouette, they had about the same superstructures, albeit lower and lighter, with the same, but thinner single military mast forward and pole aft like all previous cruisers, but based on a lighter machinery, with exhausts truncated into four main funnels, easier to distinguish. The hull seen from above still had a fairly elliptic design without straight section as customary of the time, hull lines were refined with narrower entries and ends. Their hull ratio was slightly less favourable, but they were regarded as better steamers overall, gaining a knot in top speed.
They had a crew of 566 officers and ratings, and would serve as flagships but added staff are not known.
Armour protection layout
It was Harvey armor for the main armor belt.
-The main belt was 150 mm (5.9 in) and extended vertically 1.3 meters (4 ft 5 in) below the waterline, and up to the upper deck over 43.0 meters (141 ft) in lenght.
-It went forward to the bow except but stopped 4.0 meters (13 ft) short of the stern.
-The lower, 150mm main armor tapered down to 91 mm (3.6 in) forward, 81 mm (3.2 in) aft, and down to 51 mm (2 in) to its lower edge.
-The upper armor strake was about 97–81 millimeters (3.8–3.2 in) down to 56–41 millimeters (2.2–1.6 in) above, between the main and upper deck.
-There was an aft transverse bulkhead, 84–41 mm (3.3–1.6 in) thick.
-There was a forward bulkhead, closing the casemate compartment, 120 mm (4.7 in) thick.
-There was another 102 mm (4 in) bulkhead below it, down to the lower deck, aft this time, rear of the casemate compartment.
-Horizontal protection comprised a main, curved, lower protective deck 2 to 2.2 inches thick. It was completed by a light armor deck on top, 20 mm (0.8 in) thick.
-Underwater protection was about the same as previous Bertin’s ships and his speciality: Extensivelty subdivided watertight internal cofferdam filled with cellulose, which ran all along these two protective decks.
-Gun turrets were semi conical with slanted sections, and had all around protection of 160–176 mm (6.3–6.9 in) with 32 mm (0.9 in) roofs.
-Main barbettes estimated 200 mm (8 in) thick, down to 50 mm (2 in) under the protective deck.
-The Main ammunition hoists had walls 2 inches thick.
-Secondary Casemate guns probably the same as for the Jeanne d’Arc, 74 mm (2.9 in) thick.
-100 mm guns had 50mm shields (2 in).
-The forward conning tower had 160 mm thick walls. There was no aft CT.
This was consistent with the previous design and perhaps better balanced, although with hindsight the thicker conning tower was not that useful. The greatest difference was the position of the aft turret, one deck higher, making for a taller barbette.
The Gueydon class like their predecessors had three shafts. The central one was the cruise shaft, and two outer ones were used for full speed. Gueydon had three vertical triple-expansion steam engines, connected to each propeller shaft. The interesting point is that not only this powerplant was reduced in size compared to the previous cruiser (which had 36 boilers and nearly 30,000 shp). Three variants were tried, all based on the same vertical triple expansion models:
-Gueydon had 28 Niclausse Boilers (19.600 shp)
-Dupetit Thouars had 28 Belleville boilers (22,000 shp)
-Montaclm had 20 normand Siguaudy boilers (Unknown output, assumed to be also 22K shp)
Going up to 22,000 indicated horsepower (16,400 kW) they could reach between 21 and 22 knots (39–41 km/h; 24–25 mph), so most authors put 21.4 kts as a medium. They were reached on trials. For autonomy, the Gueydon class carried up to 1,575 metric tons of coal (1,550 long tons; 1,736 short tons), enough for 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) which was far less than the 12,000 nm of the Jeanne d’Arc, seen probably as too ambitious. She would also travel 5,000 nautical miles at 18 knots as extrapolated from the trials.
The armament of the Gueydon class was in straight line inspired by Jeanne d’Arc but with a twist: In common, they had the same single 194 mm (7.6 in) guns fore and aft, still “light” for armoured cruisers, but the secondary armament was brand new and composite: Wheras Jeanne d’Arc had fourteen single 138.6 mm (5.5 in) guns, the Gueydon class adopted eight of the new 164 mm (6.5 in) casemate guns which offered a far better range, same rate of fire, and heavier broadside. To compensate for the numbers, they had four single 100 mm (3.9 in) guns, with a much greater ROF. This made for a total of twelve guns.
The light battery was less extensive also, with ten instead of sixteen Hotchkiss 47 mm (1.9 in) guns and four single 37 mm (1.5 in) guns to compensate, located in the forward military top. This was completed by the usual torpedo tubes, the same two 450 mm (17.7 in) fixed broadside models. Overall a somewhat lighter but perhaps more balanced armament, which complicated supply though.
Same two 194 mm/40 (7.6 in) guns in single gun turrets fore and aft of the superstructure as for Jeanne d’Arc and all following cruisers. It used a separate-loading, bagged charge for a 75–90 kg (165–198 lb) AP shell existing the barrel at 840–875 m/s (2,760–2,870 ft/s). ROF was 2 rpm. The mount could elevate -6° to +15°. Range was circa 12,580 yards (11,500 m).
Their secondary armament comprised eight 45-caliber quick-firing (QF) 164 mm (6.5 in) guns in casemates. They were located along the hull, four in casemates to fire forward and aft, close to the bridge and aft superstructures and main turrets, and four in side postion with limited traverse.
These 164 mm guns became a staple of French designs up to that point. They were not that more powerful than the common Vickers 6-in (152mm), and the Modèle 1893 was used up to WWI and beyond, found vrtually on all cruisers and battleships of the French Navy. They had a Welin breech block, Hydro-pneumatic recoil, could elevate -10° to +25°, had a ROF of 2-3 rpm, shells leaving the barrel at 770–775 m/s (2,530–2,540 ft/s), up to 9,000 m (9,800 yd) at 25°. Later mounts allowed 36° and 18,000 m (20,000 yd).
The remainder Canet/Schneider 100mm/3.9-in guns (Canon de 100 mm Modèle 1891) fired a Fixed QF ammunition. Recoil used a Hydro-spring recuperator with a Canet screw breech for loading. ROF was 10 rpm, muzzle velocity 710–740 m/s (2,300–2,400 ft/s) and max range 9.5 km (5.9 mi). So they were even longer range compare to the 164mm.
Anti-torpedo boat armament
The same battery as before was used, but reduced. The ten Hotchkiss 47mm located along the main deck were 2 in Modèle 1886 using fixed projectiles for a 30 rpm ROF, at 571 m/s (1,870 ft/s), up to 5.9 km (3.7 mi) at +20°. The smaller 37 mm Hotchkiss (1.5 in) guns were located all four in the forward military top.
Same configuration as for the Jeanne d’Arc, both 450 mm tubes (17.7 in) were located above the waterline to avoid any weakness of the hull.
The Blueprints.com – Reconstruction of the class, two views.
Illustration by the author
⚙ Gueydon class specifications as built
9,367 metric tons (9,219 long tons) standard
137.97 x 19.38 x 7.67 meters (452 ft 8 in, 63 ft 7 in, 25 ft 2 in).
3 shafts VTE steam engines, 28 Niclausse Boilers* 19,600-22.000 hp
Main belt 6-1.6 in, turrets 8-in, casemates 4.7-in, CT 6.3-in
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Sondhaus, Lawrence (2014). The Great War at Sea: A Naval History of the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Commandant de Balincourt, Les Flottes de combat en 1915, Augustin Challamel
Jean-Michel Roche, Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours, t. 2, Rezotel-Maury Millau, 2005
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Les Flottes de Combat en 1917, Commandant de Balincourt, Augustin Challamel, 1917
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The first cruiser was named after Louis Henri de Guédon, Briton Vice Admiral, Governor of Brest and first governor of Algeria under the Third Republic. She was built at Arsenal de Lorient, started on 2.8.1898, launched on 20.9.1899 and completed, commissioned on the first September 1903 (construction time six years).
Gueydon was armed in Toulon in 1903 and started her first campaign in the Far East, based in Indochina for a time. Its assignation there ran from 1903 to 1906 after which, and following a refit, she was in gome waters (Toulon) in 1906-1909, then in service along the South Atlantic in 1910-1915.
When WWI started, she patrolled and escorted convoys along the shores of South America, from Brest to Gribraltar in 1915, and to the West Indies (French Caribbean, Antilles) in 1916. It seems this was her assignation until 1918, without much action. In 1919 she was in limited service and probably in reserve in 1922 due to to the Washington treaty limitations.
In 1923, she was comprehensively overhauled at Arsenal in Brest to serve from 1926 in Toulon as a gunnery schoolship. She had part of ther machinery removed (aft boilers groups) to make room for extra accomodation and had a mix of weapons to present the trainees all types in service. In 1927, she replaced Pothuau (an old protected cruiser) in this role. She was stricken in 1935, and from there was reconverted as a pontoon-barracks for the Preparatory School of the Navy.
She was anchored in Brest when WW2 started. She was notably photographed by the Luftwaffe, and to avoid capture, scuttled on June 18, 1940, just before troops entered the city. However her hull sunk in shallow waters and still emerged. She was refloated by the Germans but found little use, until at least she was maskeraded in 1943 as the cruiser Prinz Eugen to deceive RAF observers. The Germans added the old sloops Aisne and Oise to beef it up, erecting fake superstructures. Eventually she was completely blasted by the Germans in August 1944, during the capture of Brest by the allies, Free French and resistance groups. Photo 1Photo 2
FS Montcalm (1900)
FS Montcalm, named after the French General in North America, was built in F C de la Méditerranée, La Seyne, south of France. Laid down on 27.9.1898 she was launched on 27.3.1900 and completed on 24.3.1902 (five years construction).
After sea trials and working out, she made her maiden voyage and shakedown cruise by conveying French President Émile Loubet to Russia, reaching Kronstadt in the black sea, to receive the official visit of Tsar Nicolas II on board for lunch on May 23, 1902. From 07.02.1903 she departed for the far east fleet, and served there until 1906. In 1906, she lost a propeller while steamiong back home in the Mediterranean. She was repaired in Bizerte and returned to Brest for final repairs and overhaul. She returned to the Far East fleet, until 1910, and was back home to be used on the south atlantic until the war broke out.
On February 17, 1915, the British requested her for a mission to Singapore, to quell a rebellion by companies of the 5th Light Infantry Regiment of the Indian Army. The latter was fuelled by the party’s anti-British nationalist propaganda “Ghadar”. The same year she returned to her patrol duties along the Atlantic coast from Brest to Gibraltar. The next year in 1916 like her sister she covered convoys to the Caribbean and South America, until 1918.
Marshall Joffre in Tokyo, as part of a goodwill diplomatic trour on behalf of the French government in Asia.
In 1921, she left for Singapore again, as part of Joffre’s Mission in the Far East. She carried the Marshal for a “goodwill tour” of four months in Asia. This tour lasted from November 11, 1921 – to March 12, 1922, a diplomatic mission to strengthen French influence in emerging Asian countries such as Indochina, Cambodia, Siam, Japan, Korea and the China, also to thank them, in his name as commander in chief, for their participation in the Great War.
Montcalm was decommissioned on October 28, 1926 and was converted as a training ship, paer of the “Armorique Group”, renamed “Trémintin” to free the name for a French heavy cruiser, in 1934. When the Second World War broke out, she was in Brest, scuttled on June 18, 1940 as German troops entered the city. She was refloated but destroyed again in 1943 following an air raid. Other sources states August 1944 which was more likely.
“Armorique” school group, with Tremintin (ex-Montaclm) and Gueydon, modified as a school ship. Photo reconnaissance by the Luftwaffe over Brest in June 1940.
FS Dupetit-Thouars (1901)
The cruiser, built at Toulon was named after Aristide Aubert du Petit-Thouars (1760-1798), killed in Aboukir while commanding Le Tonnant. She was laid down on 17 april 1899, launched on 5 july 1901 and completed on 28 august 1905 (6 years). She served at first in the Mediterranean, with nothing really notable but her peacetime exercises and upkeep periods routine. After a reserve period from 1911 to 1913, the Dupetit-Thouars was assigned in 1914 to the ocean instruction division. The cruiser will then carry out various missions during this period of war, including the escort of supply convoys leaving from North America to France.
In WWI she served in various escort missions and patrols between the far east, Mediterranean and Atlantic. In 1918 she mostly carried out transtlantic escorts. It’s with one of these, in August, that she was sunk by U-62.
Montcalm in the naval review EB1911
The sinking: Commander Pasqué commanded the ship on 26 June, sailing from New York to take charge of a convoy of 24 merchant ships leaving Halifax for the Verdon in France. On August 7, 1918, 7:50 p.m., carrying out a security mission in the Atlantic, 800 km from the French coast, for the Cruiser and Transport Force. She was ambushed (as known later) by SM U-62 at 46° 18′ north latitude, 12° west longitude. Armand Baudoin organized the evacuation aboard makeshift rafts, saving almost all of the crew. Out of 500 men, only ten were lost. Those still stranded at sea had to wait until August 8, spotted and picked up by USS Tucker, later landedin Brest on August 12. Commander Armand Baudoin was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor on August 15, 1918 by President Poincaré for his actions to save his crew.
As per the report when it arrived the Commander Pasqué went out for dinner while on the bridge was second in command, Captain of the Corvette Winter. Since she was underway in a very dangerous sector, all lookoputs were at their post, officers in duty on deck and engines as the crew. The outside watch from the forward topmast would warn the bridge at any moment by megaphones and by an electric warning bell. There was a security service in combat posts in case.
The was electrical emergency lighting was provided, reduced lights activated, maneuvering winches constantly heated and lifeboats arranged outside under the davits, whaleboats and yawl stored on the bridge. There were also many inflatable rafts and all men on the upper decks wore their lifejackets or have them close at hand. In addition the captain frequently ordered evacuation drills the day before each departure.
The three wireless telegraphy stations and radio direction-finding station were constantly armed. Ship position was reported by radio every half hour from the main and emergency station.
As the sun set at 8:15 p.m. the convoy stopped zigzagging, assuming a too low visibility for effective submarine operations. FS DUPETIT-THOUARS however leading the front of the convoy was still lacing at that time and by 8:45 p.m., moved circa 1000 meters in front of the convoy’s center.
The horizon was still clear enough to see the ships’s silhouettes. However wothout warning the first torpeo hit at 8:51 p.m. on the starboard side, under the forward bridge. Ten seconds later, a second hit near the aft gangway. No one spotted either the submarine or its periscope also Lt. POCHARD on the main lookout post, saw the last element of the trajectory first torpedo wake.
The damage was immediately apparent as the ship took a moderate list to starboard, and seemed slow enough to take measures. Security teams tried to stop the flood, but the explosion served the electric circuitry, most lamps shut inside the machinery and total darkness after the second hit due to the rupture of the lead switchboard.
Montcalm in Sydney, 1914, photo by Sam Hood
A few emergency quinquets allowed minimal visibility in the engines and boiler room and officers carried American portable electric lamps.
On the bridge, the hit broke the windows, damaged various control and transmission systems and acoustic pipes which prevented steering and communication with the engines. The megaphone was used instead. The wireless mast came down and a lifeboat was swept away.
A distress signal was posted though, and if the main machinery still worked, auxiliary machines died, and the pumps with them. Officers reported that even the progression of the flood was slow, there there was no chance of saving the ship and now only personnel safety mattered. Captain Winter ordered “full port, 90 turns” to move away from the probable position of the submarine, but all links with the steering room were broken, as well as to the port engine. Commander Pasqué back on bridge ordered to move on the port side to not coming across the convoy, risking collisions.
Aftr being informed of the extent of the flooding and damage, he ordered Captain Winter to start the evacuation on deck. He ordered to stop the engines, to lower the flooding but the list progressed. The evacuation was very orderly, going on for nearly sixteen minutes, in boats and rafts, others being picked up by escorting US destroyers.
The cruiser sank just moments after the last men and two commanders left the board. Documents contained in the box of the cipher room were thrown at sea. Of the ones lost, three died in boiler room 3, and the remaining ten were probably dragged with their rafts, into the capsizing. Officers indeed toured the ships in the depht to be sure none was missing. 50 minutes after the torpedoing, Dupetit Thouars went down. On August 8, all six escorting US destroyers Tucker, Drayton, Winslow, Porter, Warrington and Fanning carried the survivors. However around 10 p.m., the guilty U-62 emerged near the remaining rafts, maneuvered with precaution, alongside one of them and and officer spoke in French to ask the name, tonnage of the cruiser sunk, sent food and clothese, took off one of the men’s cap for its ribbon as souvenir and disappeared. U-63 was an U-57 class U-Boat, very successful as between 1917 and 1918 she sank 53 ships, Dupetit-Thouars included, her last and best “kill” of this war.
The Ibuki class (伊吹型) or Kurama class (鞍馬型) were transitional “semi-battlecruisers” classed as armoured cruisers (Sōkō jun’yōkan) of Imperial Japanese Navy, with a powerful secondary armament leaning towards monocaliber.
Delays had them completed only in 1909-1911, and they were obsolete. An interesting design nonetheless, they served in WWI, trying to catch Von Spee’s Asian squadron and covering missions to seize the German Carolines and Mariana Islands, or escorting convoys to the Indian Ocean. In 1922, the Washington treaty was signed and they were disarmed and latter scrapped. #IJN #WWI #ibuki #kurama #armouredcruisers #imperialjapanenavy
Origins and context
After the Russo-Japanese War, many lessons had been digested around the world on naval combat. This was arguably the most influential battle of “modern” battleships so far, prior to Jutland ten years afterwards, generated a lot of theories about how combat between capital ships should be done. The Ibuki class ships reflected Japanese experience from that war, designed to fight side-by-side with battleships and were given an armament almost as superior to Japanese battleships of the time. The key of this design was a very powerful secondary battery, making them for most author’s “battlecruisers” yet, they were still armoured cruisers, of the very last generation, their best equivalents would be the German SMS Blücher, with had lower caliber guns, but on a monocaliber fashion. However by the time they were completed, HMS Dreadnought had been built, and with her sister ship IJN Kurama she was obsolete even before completion in 1909 and 1911, British proper battlecruisers were much more heavily armed, and faster. In 1910 already was launched HMS Lion, which was way superior, and trigerred an order for the Kongo class, studied from 1911.
Both ships “battlecruisers” had a short carrer in World War I, hunting Von Spee’s German East Asia Squadron without success and searched for the commerce-raider SMS Emden, al well as protected troop convoys in the Pacific Ocean in 1914. They were both were sold for scrap in 1923 due to the Washington Naval Treaty.
The Ibuki-class ships originally had been ordered during the Russo-Japanese War, on 31 January 1905. They were to be supplementary Tsukuba-class armored cruisers. However they were redesigned to incorporate 8-inch (203 mm) guns rather than the twelve 6-inch guns initially planned. Engineers thus had to rework their hull entirely, which became larger to fit the new, large side turrets and required also more output, adding extra boilers to keep the same speed.
Protection was well cared for, more even that for the Tsukuba class since they needed to be superior to all armored cruisers and and to take part in a battleline, along with regular battleships and drew much from the two Kasuga-class armored cruisers, drawiong inspiration from the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. Of course, the appearance of the British Invincible class as they were just started, having eight 12-inch guns for 25 knots, cause concerns to the admiralty, which proceeded anyway.
Design of the Ibuki class cruisers
The Ibuki class were 485 feet (147.8 m) long (between perpendiculars 450 feet or 137.2 m) for 75 feet 6 inches (23.0 m) in width and 26 feet 1 inch (8.0 m) in draft. This for a displacement in line with the last generation armoured cruisers, about 14,636 long tons (14,871 t), normal, 15,595 long tons (15,845 t) fully loaded. This was 900 tons more than the Tsukuba class. Metacentric height was 2 feet 11.5 inches (0.902 m). The crew amounted to 845 officers and ratings.
Compared to the Tsukuba class, they were longer, larger, but proceeded from the same general design, with a forecastle given recesses for the broadside forward turrets, and a lower deck, a tall bridge, two mast, taller this time and tripod, and three equal size and span funnels instead of two. Conways classed both the Ibuki and Tsukuba classes as “battlecruisers” given their role (this is literraly their intended role), not based on armament consideration. In comparative sense, only the Kongo class were the first true IJN “battlecruisers”. On the other hand, the Blücher, despite having a more homogeneous, monocaliber armament, was still considered an “armoured cruiser”, because she was not intended to take part in battles but to hunt down cruisers.
Armor of the Ibuki class was improved compared to the Tsukuba class. She used for the most important parts, comprising the belt, Krupp cemented (KC) armour. Main belt amidship: 7 inches (178 mm) along the citadel (between barbettes). For and aft Belt: 4 inches (102 mm) beyonf the citadel. Upper belt strake: 5-inch (127 mm) only betwen the 8-in barbettes. Secondary turrets semi-bulkheads 6 inches (152 mm) thick. Transverse bulkheads: 1-inch (25 mm) thick 12-in gun turrets: faces and sides 9 in (229 mm), roof 1.5-in (38 mm). Main barbettes: 7 inches 8-inch turrets: 6 inches frontal arc. Secondary barbettes: 5 inches, 2 in (51 mm) below the armor belt. Main & secondary armored decks: 2 inches. Forward conning tower: 8 inches, communications tube 7 inches.
Both battlecruisers had the same vertical triple-expansion (VTE) steam engines as the Tsukuba class, but the delayed Ibuki allowed her to serve as a test-bed to install steam turbines. Four sets of Curtis turbines purchased from Fore River Shipbuilding Co. in the US were in the end procured to equip both IJN Ibuki and the battleship IJN Aki. Later $100,000 were paid to buy a manufacturing license, to be manufactured by Gihon. However the first ships planned to received these were the never completed Amagi class battlecruisers (But IJN Akagi had those).
IJN Ibuki thus diverged from Kurama by having a superior total output of 24,000 shp (18,000 kW), allowing her to reach 21.5 kts, wheras Kurama had two shaft VTE for 22,500 shp (16,800 kW), reaching 20.5 kts. However both had 28 Miyahara water-tube boilers, to compare with the 20 of the Tsukuba class, which “only” reached 22,500 shp for 21.25 kts.
These boilers comprised 18 mixed-firing ones with superheating of the Miyabara water-tube type, with a working pressure of 17 kg/cm2 (1,667 kPa; 242 psi). They used fuel oil sprayers on coal to boost burn rate. But still, they were considered bad steamers: For Ibuki on sea trials, 12 August 1909, she only reached 20.87 knots (38.65 km/h; 24.02 mph) based on 27,353 shp (20,397 kW). The turbines were modified, propellers changed but for only “scratching” a fraction of knot. New trials on 23 June 1910 had her reaching 21.16 knots (39.19 km/h; 24.35 mph), based on 28,977 shp (21,608 kW), just enough to be accepted, but still below expectation.
IJN Kurama with her old style four-cylinder reciprocating steam engines and same boiler with four more for 28 total, and an additional funnel, seemingly reeached the desired speed figures on trials. Both carried 1868 and 2,000 long tons of coal plus 215 (200 and 218 long tons respectively) long tons of fuel oil for the sprayers. No range figure was given, like for the Tsukuba class.
The Ibuki-class were armed with four 45-caliber 12-inch 41st Year Type guns as main armament. They were mounted in twin, hydraulically powered turrets. These mounted elevated to −3°/+23° and could load at an angle of +5°, and up to +13° in thoery, although problematic due to the shell weight. They fired a 850-pound (386 kg) armour-piercing shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,800 ft/s or 850 m/s, enabling a max range of 24,000 yd (22,000 m) although like in the RN and considered past experiences at Tsushima, a 18,000 yds was preferred.
The intermediate armament was the earl game changer of the design and why she leaned more towards a “battlecruiser” unlike her predecessor: She boasted four twin-gun turrets, all alongside the central superstructure with large cutouts and sponsons to enable a 250° traverse. They had a 45-calibre 8-inch 41st Year Type gun, derived from Vickers models built under licence in Japan. They actually could fire as far as the main guns thanks to a 30° elevation, givin them the near-same range of around 23,000 yards (21,000 m), and they were faster. Their 254-pound (115 kg) shell, AP or HE, existed the barrle at a muzzle velocity of 2,495 ft/s (760 m/s). Thus in battle, they were likely to fire their whole broadside at max range, not waiting for the secondaries to engage.
Torpedo boat threat was well understood by the admiralty as as previous ships she had an impressive range of smal caliber fast-firing guns:
-The core was fourteen 4.7-inch/40 Type 41 QF guns, mounted in casemates of the hull and two in the superstructure. They fored a 45 Ib shell at 2,150 ft/s
-They also came with four 12-pdr/40 12 cwt QF guns, plus four 12-pdr/23 QF on high-angle mounts for AA fire alread, doubling as saluting guns. Both fired the same 12.5 Ib shells at 2,300 ft/s or 1,500 feet per second.
These cruisers were fitted with three submerged 18-inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes, each on a broadside, one in the stern. The latter was a training torpedo with some traverse, but the two broadside ones were fixed. The torpedo model was likely 18″ (45 cm) Ho Type 38 No. 1 (1905) purchased from Whitehead with a Gyroscope, three-bladed propeller, 220 lbs. (100 kg) Picric Acid or Shimose warhread, and ranges of 1,100 yards/27 knots or 3,300 yards/20 knots. More
Belt 4–7, Deck 2, Bulkheads 1, Barbettes 2–7, Turrets 9, CT 8.0 in
Construction was delayed due to a lack of shipyard facilities as much as of skilled workers, they fell in low priority in construction order, which in part explains their very late release.
-Kurama in particular was started in Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on 23 August 1905 and should be the lead ship. But construction dragged on until launch on 21 October 1907 as priority was given to the new Kawachi and Settsu plus the repair and reconstruction of the captured ex-Russian ships. She was only completed on 28 February 1911, making for a five years time.
Ibuki on her side was started two years later, she had to wait for the slipway used by IJN Aki became available in Kure Naval Arsenal. However the latter took advantage by stockpiling material and components and this was ready to break a record construction time of five months, only beaten by HMS Dreadnought (four months). The decision to go from reciprocating engines to turbines on Ibuki made her a high priority over IJN Aki, so she was first Imperial Japanese Navy ship fitted with steam turbines. Aki was delayed for five months as it was estimated the cruiser was better suited as a testbed.
IJN in June, 23, 1910, colorized by Irootoko Jr.
Problems with her turbine engines delayed the full completion of Ibuki, compounding her construction started two years after her sister IJN Kurama still using reciprocating engines. Both were completed far too late, mostly due to Shipyard capacity. Ibuki emerged from Kure Naval Arsenal to be commissioned on 11 November 1907.
She made a first sortie, doubling as shakedown cruise to Thailand, attending the coronation ceremony of the Thai king Rama VI Vajiravudh. Not much happened until 1914, and she was mobilized with the rest of the fleet when Japan declared war on the central Empire and started to go after German possessions in the Pacific and Asia. She thus took part in the hunt for the German light cruiser SMS Emden in 1914. But she never caught her.
She also escorted a convoy of ten troopship with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force aboard, crossing the Tasman Sea with the cruisers HMS Pyramus, HMS Minotaur. They went first to Albany in Western Australia in November 1914 and later departed with HMAS Sydney, to protect a large ANZAC convoy (20,000 men and 7,500 horses) across the Indian Ocean to participate to the British campaign against the Ottoman Empire.
They were landed in Egypt where they trained for many months before being thrown into the furnace of Gallipoli.
The fleet moved ahead from Albany at 8.55, in all 36 transports and 3 escorting cruisers, in case the Germans would shown along the way. Ibuki escorted the liners Ascanius and Medic carrying troops from South and Western Australia. During a rain squall they fell out of the line and of sight, Ibuki taking HMAS Melbourne’s position, starboard beam, while the latter wen astern of the convoy. They arrived off the Cocos Islands. Soon, HMAS Sydney was dispatched to the island and took part in the Battle of Cocos. Meanwhile, Ibuki “shephered” the convoy, its most serious protection. Captain Kanji Katō wanted to engaged Emden, but this was denied by the convoy commander aboard HMAS Sydney. The Royal Australian Navy however noted this and saluted the “samurai spirit of the Ibuki” each time an IJN Imperial Japanese ships visited Australia in WWI and the interwar. Little did they know…
The rest of the war saw mundane tasks, fleet training, gunnery drills and patrols in the Pacific or Japanese waters. IJN Ibuki was still active when her country decided to sign the Washington Naval Treaty. The axe was to fell and the “armoured cruiser/battlecruisers” of the two classes were thussold for scrap on 20 September 1923, despite their age. The guns however were all salvaged and reused in shore batteries, installed at Hakodate in Hokkaidō, and along the Tsugaru Strait. They were still active in WW2, thus a reason, why the USN mostly launched air strikes, and only later closed for shire bombardment of industrial eras, but at such distance they were never threatened. A full review of IJN shore batteries and fortifications are awaited as part of the Naval Fortifications portal.
IJN Kurama colorized by Irootoko Jr.
Problems encountered with IJN Ibuki’s geared turbine engines led the Navy to decide for Kurama to keep her planned vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines. This was fortunate as she was already three years beyond sechedule, delayed at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal.
Kurama in sea trials. She was just half a knot slower than her turbine-driven sister.
Shortly after commissioning, she carried the mark of Admiral Hayao Shimamura for a long trip (doubling as shakedown cruise) to Great Britain. She was to represent Japan in the Coronation Fleet Review for King George V, held in Spithead, on 25 June 1911.
IJN Kurama at the KGV Cornonation review in Spithead
IJN Kurama next trained and made several voyages to China and the Pacific until 1914. Like her sister, she was mobilized, after failing to catch Graf Spee’s fleet, to protect British merchant shipping in the South Pacific. Soon, she joined the newly completed IJN Kongō and Hiei) to support landings in the Caroline and Mariana Islands, both former German colonies. They did not stood a chance.
From the 1st South Seas Squadron search for the East Asia Squadron, departing on 14 September 1914 to Truk on 11 October, protecting troop carriers as part of the squadron task to occupy the Carolines.
The squadron was based in Suva, Fiji by November 1914, to prevent a return of the East Asia Squadron. IJN Kurama was flagship of the 2nd Squadron in 1917. She was then transferred to the 5th Squadron in 1918, but nothing much happened. She trained, between fleet exercizes and gunnery drills.
In 1921 she was assigned to the northern fleet with the intention of taking part in the East Siberian campaign, supporting the “white russians” based in Ekaterinburg. She covered the landings of Japanese troops in Russia during the Siberian Intervention and went back home for a short refit and training. Unfortunately the internatonal coalition cold not prevent the Red Army successes and was forced to evacuate.
However like her sister she was disarmed in 1922 followed the signature of the Washington treaty. She was stricken in 1923 and scrapped while jer artillery was salvaged, two 203 mm turrets engine as coastal batteries around Tokyo Bay.
Conway’s all the world’s battleships 1860-1905
C.E.W. Bean, The Story of Anzac from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign
O’Brien, pp. The Anglo-Japanese alliance, 1902-1922, p. 142
Evans, David (1979). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. NIP
Gibbs, Jay (2010). “Question 28/43: Japanese Ex-Naval Coast Defense Guns”. Warship International. XLVII (3)
Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter & Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. NIP
Lengerer, Hans & Ahlberg, Lars (2019). Capital Ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1868–1945, Zagreb Despot Infinitus
Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War I. London: Random House Group. 2001. p. 167.
Given the still “hot” topic in geopolitics out of the Ukrainian invasion these days, looms the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan by China.
After seeing the PLAN or People Liberation Army Navy in detail the past years, it’s fitting to see its probable opponent, the ROCN.
In this article, we will see the very origin of both the post-revolutionary Navy in 1911, origins and occupation of Formosa, the WW2 navy and civil war split, ships attributed by the allies to the KMT and PRC in 1948-49, actions and losses, and the fundation of the new Republic of China Navy. The development of the fleet until today, difficult relations with the US, gradual sourcing outside the US and development of a local industry, current and future plans, organization and composition (including the Taiwanese Marines and Naval Air force).
#coldwar #taiwan #rocn #republicofchinanavy #taiwannavy
The Capitani Romani-class was a class of light cruisers acting as flotilla leaders for the Regia Marina (Italian Navy). They were built to outrun and outgun the large new French destroyers of the Le Fantasque and Mogador classes. 12 hulls were ordered by late 1939, but only four were eventually completed, and three before the Italian armistice, September 1943, with just two active before the end of the war. The class name is an historian commodity as all were named after prominent Ancient Romans Generals or statesmen “capitani” having a broader sense here. Only two ever saw little service until the capitulation. After the war, these same ships, spared destruction, were reclassified as flotilla leaders or “caccia conduttori”, and later modernized, but under French flag as per peace treaty conditions and war damage attributions.
For the general context back in 1937, The heavy French destroyers still posed a threat to Regia Marina. The last ones, those of the Mogador and Fantasque class were not answered, and thus was the ideao to develop a a “Super Destroyer” a concept well beyond Flotilla Leaders, but scaled almost like a light cruiser, but still the same DNA as a regular destroyer. During the 1930s, the concept was reinterpreted, and between high speed, light protection, same torpedo armament as a destroyers, they were always heavily armed as for main artillery with four twin turrets. The Soviets had the Kiev and Tashkent (built in Italy), the British Royal Navy Cossak class, arguably, and the Japanese Akitsuki class. They were not comparable to a close, but different concept that was the AA cruiser, like the the Dido and Atlanta classes in 1940.
In reality, officially, these “Capitani Romani” (at the insistance of Mussolini, like an echo to the “Condotierri”) class were designed as scout cruisers, for long range oceanic operations and dubbed esploratori oceanici. Some authors still would consider them as heavy destroyers, broadly similar to the German “Spahkreuzer” project.
Design-wise they were almost unarmoured hulls with a large powerplant able to bring them to 40 knots and more, but still with a light cruiser style armament. The original design was modified during their early conception in 1938 as prime requirements of speed and firepower changed.
The launch of Attilio Regolo in 1939
The speed was, as for the first “Condottieri”, an important motivation, the Guissano class and the new specifications included the possibility of exceeding 41 knots. With limited movement and poor protection of the engine room, these ships had to be able to catch and destroy enemy destroyers and escape cruisers. They were armed with the , semi-automated and fast 138 mm model 1939 guns shared with the Commandante Medaglie d’Oro class destroyers, which construction just started. for the rest, their configuration was that of large destroyers, with two quadruple axial torpedo banks and powerful AA armament. ASW armament was present, but more of an afterthought, and no radar (in 1938). However this would change.
Design of the “Capitani Romani” (1939)
Rendition of the “Regolo class” USN intel – ONI. Note the very different shape of the bridge among others. Quite off the mark here for naval recoignition.
Based on these previous estimates, the final design was approved in 1939. Umberto Pugliese and Ignazio Alfano worked on this design, with work starting in 1938, from the Italian-built Tashkent for USSR by Odero-Terni-Orlando (OTO shipyard) in Livorno. The hull was flush deck, with a central superstructure incorporating a tower, the first of two funnels and the tower bridge supported the main fire direction center, followed by a foremast, a pole as designed, but which was later in production replaced by a tripod in order to support the upcoming Gufo radar system. The two funnels were widely spaced apart, having straight lines.
Around the aft funnel were grouped the night projectors, and AA mounts. The service boats were stacked abaft and behind the forefunnel, with a walkway above the fore torpedo tubes bank. Right behind the forefunnel was installed the aft fire control director. The second torpedo tube bank was installed aft of the aft funnel complex, also centrline, again topped with a walkway. The rear superstrcture was short and only contained the upper “X” turret.
The very “sharp” prow of Africano. No doubt they would reach 43 knots or more.
The machinery was well served by a fine, about 10:1 ratio like destroyers. The powerplant comprised four vertical water tube boilers, each arranged in its own room; Steam came to two sets of Belluzzo turbines, driving two shafts ended by 4.20-meter diameter three-blade propellers. Each group of two boilers operating a turbo-reducer group, consisting of a high-pressure turbine and two low-pressure turbines for more versatility.
Their machinery reached in the end a phaenomenal 93,210 kW (125,000 hp). To put this into perspective, this was the same as the 17,000-ton Des Moines class heavy cruisers !. Top speed as planned was 41 knots (76 km/h; 47 mph) but of course at the price of no protection. Eventually, they did managed even better in trials, easily reaching 43 knots (80 km/h).
The interwar Italian craze for speed was confirmed again. Basically it was logical, as they were supposed to replaced the 1920s Cadorna class, also designed to be “destroyer hunters”. Wartime load made them of course slower, generally 1.9 to 9.3 km/h or 1.2 to 5.8 mph, although in mission, Scipione Africano, while still fully loaded even managed to peak over 43 knots, so much faster than any British destroyer.
Regolo -official profile photo, just camouflaged.
Main turrets on Africano
Main 4×2 135 mm (5.3 in) DP Modello
The Capitani Romani-class’ main battery consisted of eight 135 mm (5.3 in) DP guns. They had a rate of fire of 8 rounds a minute, for a range of 19,500 m (21,300 yd). These 135/45 mm gun were considered the best Italian naval gun of World War 2. They had a 45° elevation and a 19.6 km range, were capable of a 8 rounds per minute ROF, and were very accurate with a dispersion 25% lower than the old 120mm/50 models. Still, they lacked a satisfactory anti-aircraft amunition and direction foor an effective barrage. They were made by OTO and Ansaldo and accuracy was helped by their placement in separate cradles, greatly improving accuracy by lack of interference when firing. More on navweaps.
Torpedoes: 2×4 533 mm (21 in) TTs
This secondary heavy armament comprised two axial quadruple torpedo tubes, with no less than eight 533 mm (21 in) launched in a single volley, and more reloads than on an average destroyer. The model was the 53.3 cm (21″) Si 270/533.4 x 7.2 “M” built at Naples (Silurificio Italiano). It was shared by most interwar and ww2 destroyers and cruisers. It is unsure when it was introduced, likely 1936, and Weighted 3,748 lbs. (1,700 kg) for an overall Length of 23 ft. 7 in. (7.200 m). Each carried a 595 lbs. (270 kg) warhead at 4,400 yards (4,000 m)/46 knots (setting 1) or 8,750 yards (8,000 m)/35 knots or 13,100 yards (12,000 m)/29 knots, Powered by a Wet-heater. Later versions, those used on the Capitani and Medaglie d’Oro class were 48 knots, 38 knots and 30 knots settings speeds respectively.
-Eight single 37 mm (1.5 in) AA guns: These were the standard Breda type, which needed a crew of three to operate.
The anti-aircraft armament, after the forced renunciation of the new 65/64 mm anti-aircraft guns, consisted of eight Breda 37/54mm in eight individual mounts, particularly useful against torpedo bomber attacks, and against low altitude targets.
More on navweaps
-Four twin 20 mm (0.8 in) AA guns. These eight 20mm/70 Breda guns, in four twin mounts were located on raised platforms around the aft funnel. They proved themselves well, easy to use and maintain, and could fire tracer, tracer-explosive, ultra-sensitive, disruptive rounds, widespread on the Regia Marina. The eight 37/54mm mounts were located on the sides of the bridge deck, plus two abreast the aft turret. The four 20 mm twin mounts More on navweaps
All these cruisers were designed as minelayers with two rails running on the weather deck to the forward superstructure to the stern, with chutes. 70 mines were carried, of an unknown type. Could be the Pignone Elia 145/1930 Elia, the more recent 1936 P200 (P5) or Bollo P125/1935. They had no ASW installation.
First Italian cruiser completed with radars:
Close view of the bridge and FCS atop. Note the tripod with a platform for the Gufo radar, not yet installed.
The Capitani Romani class received the EC-3/ter Gufo radar.
This 10 kw unit worked on a 400 – 750 MHz frequency with a PRF of 500 Hz, a Beamwidth of 6° (horizontal) and 12° (vertical), a Pulsewidth of 4 μs and 3 rpm, for a range of 25 up to 80 km (50 mi).
8×135 mm (4×2), 6x37mm AA, 8×20 mm AA, 8 533mm TTs
Turrets: 6–20 mm (0.24–0.79 in), Conning tower: 15 mm (0.59 in)
View from the open control bridge
The ‘Capitani’ in the cold war
San Marco class
San Marco, D563 in 1959
Giulio Germanico and Pompeo Magno were completely modernized for the Marina Militare: Germanico became San Marco (D 563) and San Giorgio (D 562) reclassified as destroyer leaders. Both ships were extensively rebuilt between 1951 and 1955 US weaponry and radar typical of the time:
-Six 127 mm (5 in) guns (twin turrets) for ‘A’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets,
-Menon anti-submarine mortar (in lieu of ‘B’ turret)
-Twenty 40 mm (1.6 in) Bofors AA guns
-Sensors: Radars SPS-6 and SG-6B radar, SQS-11 sonar, Mk37 fire control system.
San Marco later became a cadet training ship, rebuilt in 1963–1965 with a brand new CODAG machinery for extra range (thrice). She was also fitted with new 76 mm (3 in) OTO Melara guns in place of all 40 mm artillery and ‘X’ (rear) 5-in turret. She was decommissioned in 1971, but San Giorgio served for another decade, until 1980, making one of the oldest ship in the Marina Militare since she was laid down in 1939, 41 years.
French Chateaurenault class
The two ex-Attilio Regolo class cruisers Scipio Africano and Attilio Regolo were attributed to France in 1948. They were converted in fast ASW/AA escort cruisers for the french task forces. Conversion started after some design work in 1951 at La Seyne NyD, completed by 1954. They were re-commissioned as Chateaurenault and Guichen dubbed “escorteur d’escadre” (litt. “squadron escort”) like the T47 class destroyers. They received initially three twin 105 mm mounts of the same type used on German capital ships and cruisers in a superfiring pair aft and a single forward. The rest comprised French twin 57 mm M1951 in fwd “B” positio or behind the rear funnel, new fire directors and radars. For ASW warfare four triple 550 mm acoustic TTs (12 in all !) were installed forward, close to the forward superstructure and they had a short lattice mast for the heavy DRBV11 surface radar plus the DRBV 20A.
They acted as command ships for squadrons and ultimately lost their aft deck 105 mm mount and TT banks for extra accomodation. They were stricken sooner than the Italian vessels, in 1961. Profile of the Guichen class in French service
Regolo underway, leading the destroyers Mitragliere, Fuciliere and Carabiniere
With the combination, of very high power and fine lines giving them an unprecedented top speed, even maintained in combat load, acurate and modern armament, including good AA, and radars for the first time, the Regolo class (or ‘Capitani’) could well be, arguably, called the best Italian cruisers of WW2.
The only relatively grey spot on this assessment would be their late arrival into the fight for the Regia Marina. Most of the major battles were over in the Mediterranean, after Torch and the evacuation of Sicily Italy was down to defend Sicily when they arrived, and with the combined naval and air power of the allies, Mussolini’s dream of an “Italian lake” was definitively buried. The three active vessels of the class nevertheless, saw their fair share of action, single-handely defeating motor torpedo boats which were equally agile and very fast, with skills and accurate, combined rapid fire by night. This performance likely bought back the humiliation the battle of Cape Bon, when the two light cruisers they were supposed to replace were sunk by a destroyer squadron. They too were fast, but lacked awareness (not radar, near complete surprise) a good, accurate main battery and fire density.
The “Capitani” also proved the worth of their AA when Africano repelled several allied air attack, including one that could have put the Italian government in immediate danger, and showed their versatility by laying minefields which had the effect of deterring the allies to stop the axis evacuation of Sicily, ensuring prolongated, fierce fighting in Italy in the upcopming months and years.
The Capitani Romani were thus, the perfect replacement needed for the early six Condotierri class, but they arrived far too late.
The allies neever gave them another chance to fight, this time the Germans, and they spent the rest of their career of co-belligerence as transports.
However as a testiment to the qualiy of the ship in general, adaptability and longevity, four of them would serve for more than half of the cold war (even 1980 for one), proving they could be modernized in completely different configurations and for many roles.
Now for a bit of “what if” and alternate history, they were probably be the concrete realization of the “spahkreuzer” the Kriegsmarine dreamed of in Plan Z, either for the Baltic or north sea. They would have excelled by hunting down northern route convoys from Norway, hitting hard and leaving all allied destroyers behind. Would they had been laid down instead in 1937 and all twelve available in 1940-41, no doubt the Mediterranean campaign could have turned differently as well for supermarina.
Scipione Africano, date unknown
The prow of the unifinished Ottaviano Augusto in CNR Ancona before launch
Robert Gardiner, Roger Chesneau Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
Elio Andò, Incrociatori leggeri classe “CAPITANI ROMANI”, Parma, Ermanno Albertelli Editore, 1994
Piero Baroni, La guerra dei radar: il suicidio dell’Italia : 1935/1943, milano, Greco e Greco, 2007
M. J. Whitley, Cruisers of World War Two – an international encyclopedia, Londra, Arms and Armou, 1996
Gino Galuppini, Guida alle navi d’Italia : dal 1861 a oggi, Milano, A. Mondadori, 1982.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Militare nel suo primo secolo di vita 1861-1961, Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1961.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall’8 settembre alla fine del conflitto, Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1971.
Raffaele de Courten, Le Memorie dell’Ammiraglio de Courten (1943-1946), Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1993.
Pier Paolo Bergamini, Le forze navali da battaglia e l’armistizio, in supplemento “Rivista Marittima”, n. 1, gennaio 2002, ISSN 0035-6984 (WC · ACNP).
The Capitani Romani: Construction, fate and career
In construction from 1939, the 12 ships were delayed with the start of the war catching them in June 1940: Only eight of them were launched, and three completed, RN Attilio Regolo in May 1942, RN Scipione Africano in April 1943 and RN Pompeo Magno in June 1943. Giulio Germanico was completed after the war while Pompeo Magno was completely modernized and renamed, and remained in service until 1964 and 1971 respectively. The other two became war reparation to France in 1948 (Guichen and Chateaurenault). Only Scipione Africano and Attilio Regolo saw combat.
Construction of Africano in Livorno
This cruiser was named after general Scipio Africanus, which vanquished Hannibal at Zama. She was laid down at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939, launched 12 January 1941, completed on 23 April 1943 under command of Ugo Avelardi. Next she had Captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi in command from 24 February to 25 March 1943, and from there, Frigate Captain Umberto Del Grande from 26 March to 5 May 1943, and Frigate Captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi from 6 May 1943.
Scipione Africano in sea trials, not yet camouflaged.
Her most famous engagement arrived when she detected and engaged four British Elco motor torpedo boats in the 16-17 night of July 1943 en route to Taranto. It happened while crossing the Messina straits at high speed, off Punta Posso. She sank MTB 316 and heavily damaged MTB 313 between Reggio di Calabria and Pellaro:
Scipione Underway at sea
After the Allied landing in Sicily (Operation Husky), and anticipating of a possible blockade by the Allied part of the Strait of Messina, she was sent to force the Strait and reach Taranto, going also from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian sea, Operation Scilla. She left La Spezia at 6.30 am on 15 July 1943, under the command of the vessel captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi from Naples. Africano was by then equipped with the EC3/ter Gufo radar and proceeded through the strait at 02.00 on 17 July and detected off the Calabrian coast near Capo Pellaro, four Elco type motor torpedo boats, MTB 260, 313, 315 and 316 from 10th Flotilla sailing from Augusta and on patrol south of the Strait. They spotted the cruiser in returned and attacked immediately.
Africano’s captain took action, and moving away at high speed, dodging incoming torpedoes while opening fire with her main artillery even her 37 and 20 mm at this range. She was deadly accurate, and soon hit all four MTBs, left them afire behind at full speed, arriving unscaved in Taranto. All in all, she sank one MTB and damaged two others. Her commander and crew were publicly praised by Admiral Bergamini on 18 July 1943.
On 4-17 August Scipio made several mine-laying missions in the Gulf of Taranto and off the coast of Calabria, escaping each time Allied planes attacks. Her actions allowed to crteate a safe “corridor”, deterring the allies to attack the retiring Italo-German forces from Sicily. The four minefields in the Gulf of Taranto and Gulf of Squillace were laid with RN Luigi Cadorna.
On the evening of 8 September, the armistice was heard via radio and while in Taranto around 6 am on 9 September, she received orders to reach Pescara asap, escorted by the Gabbiano-class corvettes Scimitar and Baionetta from Brindisi and Pola and meeting underway. At around 2:00 pm while off Capo d’Otranto at 28 knots, she spotted the German S-Boats S 54 and S 61 approaching fast. However, fearing the guns of Africano, they suddenly created an artificial fog curtain and declined action, just maneuvering to get away. Commander Ernesto Pellegrini went on afterwards towards Pescara without other incident.
Scipione Africano arrived shortly after midnight there, with the corvette Baionetta (Lt. Piero Pedemonti) which had on board the Badoglio government and Minister of the Navy De Courten. She however refuelled and went on to Ortona and embarked the royal family on the 10th soon rejoined by Africano as escort. They reached Brindisi, and King Vittorio Emanuele III with his entourage disembarked around 4 pm, hosted by Admiral Rubatelli.
The other corvette Scimitar arrived in Pescara from Brindisi (Lt. Vascello Remo Osti) on the early morning on 10 September,proceeding to Taranto the following day. Six allied fighters were spotted incoming over Brindisi, but they were deterred by a vigorous AA defence of Scipio Africanus and the corvette.
Africano with her Co-belligerence livery, 5 May 1943
On 29 September, Scipio escort Marshal Badoglio and part of government officials to Malta for signing the armistice treaty with General Eisenhower on board HMS Nelson, following the ceasefire of 3 September agreed by General Giuseppe Castellano. The cobelligerence saw Africano in the same role as other cruisers of her class, making transport trips to Alexandria and the Bitter Lakes were eventually Italian battleships were interned, notably the modern RN Vittorio Veneto and Italia. She proceeded to other missions until 1945, under command of Captain of the Libero Chimenti (22 March 1944-31 January 1945), Riccardo Imperiali de Francavilla (1 February-21 March) and eventually Emilio Francardi (22 March-31 August 1945), until she was interned, and later attributed to France for war reparations, as Guichen.
Regolo in Livorno, May 1942
RN Attilio Regolo was named after Marcus Atilius Regulus (statesman and general in 267 BC-256 BC of 1st Punic war fame) at O.T.O., Livorno, laid down on 28 September 1939, launched on 28 August 1940 and completed on 15 May 1942, but commissioned in August 1942 under command of Vessel Captain Pietro Sandrelli (14 May-10 October 1942). She was fitted like the others to be used as a minelayer, a mission she performed under orders of frigate Captain Umberto di Grande, until seriously damaged by a torpedo in November by the submarine HMS Unruffled on 7 November 1942. Her bow was severed by the blast, but she managed to limp back and to port, with some help. She managed to reach Messina, and was towed to La Spezia, where she remained in drydock for several months with her bow repaired, with the intact prow of Caio Mario, still under construction.
To Captain Umberto Del Grande, leaving on 31 January 1943 succeeded Lieutenant Dario Salata, responsible for the repairs until recommission in La Spezia, from 1 February to 17 May 1943.
Regolo with her destroyed bow
According to some sources, in the summer of 1943 she received her intended radar EC.3ter Gufo. She was completed after the allied landing in Sicily, and only returned to service on 4 September 1943, under orders of frigate Captain Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara. On the 8th she was still in La Spezia, as part of the VII Division with Montecuccoli and Eugenio of Savoia, the latter being flagship, carrying the insignia of Admiral Oliva. Admiral Bergamini warned by the Chief of Staff De Courten of an imminent armistice and possible immediate transfer of Italian ships, but most remained waiting for their destiny, obliged to raise a black flag on their masts and having black circles painted on the decks. various positions emerged, some officers wanted indeed to set sail out and to seek a final battle of to scuttle the fleet, but Bergamini took control from La Spezia and sailed to Maddalena to join the battleship Roma as flagship, followed by Vittorio Veneto and Italia as the IX Division, to be escorted by the cruisers of the VII Division,, Attilio Regolo being used as command ship of destroyers (Commodore Franco Garofalo), leading the destroyers Mitragliere, Rifiliere, Carabiniere and Velite (XII Squadriglia) and the Legionario, Oriani, Artigliere and Grecale (XIV Squadriglia) in two columns plus in vanguard the TBs Pegaso, Orsa, Orione, Ardimentoso and Impetuoso.
They met en route ships from Genoa of the VIII Division (Garibaldi, Duca degli Abruzzi, Duca d’Aosta, the latter flagship of Admiral Bianchieri)- preceded by the torpedo boat Libra. At 15.45 Roma was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers using Fritz-X guided bombs and sank after two hits in a few minutes. Admiral Bergamini with his staff went with her. Carabiniere reversed to pick up recover survivors, followed by Attilio Regolo and Carabiniere, Pegaso, Orsa and Impetuoso.
Attilio Regolo stayed behind with three ships of the XII Destroyer Squadron and torpedo boats under command respectively of captain Giuseppe Marini, and captain Riccardo Imperiali of Francavilla, staying until they recovered 622 sailors, but 1352 went to the bottom with Roma. 17 had been picked up by Attilio Regolo. Italia was also hit, but not fatally, and despite being flooded by 800 tonnes of seawater, she went on, taking command until reaching Malta, under command of Admiral Oliva on Eugenio di Savoia. There, they met the Duilio, Cadorna and her sister Pompeo Magno.
Vessel Captain Giuseppe Marini on Mitragliere, squadron leader of the XII Sqn having many serious injuries on board requested Attilio Regolo to be detached to Livorno. Evenually the formation, looking for a neutral port, headed for the Baleares, Spanish controlled. There, they would be able land the wounded sailors from Roma and resupply before heading to a place of internment. After arriving on 10 September, Regolo docked in Porto Mahon, Menorca, TBs stopping at Mallorca. The wounded and burned were disembarked, transported to the hospital.
However in the nigh of 10-11 September Regolo’s turbines were sabotaged while leaving the Spanish waters and both Pegaso and the Impetuoso, Imperiali and Fulgosi left their moorings and were scuttled, the crews interned. Commander Marini (Regolo) failed to get water and fuel oil and on 11 September failing to leave under 24 hours according to the Hague convention, were seized by order of the Spanish government. Months passed with growing tension, many ship crew members expressin their wish to join the Italian Social Republic. In January 1944, a few desertions commenced. Some stole a 14-ton fishing boat to escape, but did not survived a storm.
Regolo in Venezia, 1945
Tensions between Spanish soldiers and civilians towards the crews reach such a level, that to decrease it on 22 June 1944 Spanish authorities forced a reunion of all sailors and officers, asking them to join either the Kingdom or RSI. Voters would be repatriated across the border with France if joining the latter, or by ship via Gibraltar for the second option. Out of 1,013 voters, 994 opted to stay loyal to the King, 19 joined the RSI. The cruiser, wit a skeleton crew was at last authorized to leave Spanish waters on January 15, 1945 ad arrived in Taranto on January 23. According to peace treaty clauses, Regolo was among the units ceded as war damage to France, acted on July 27, 1948 with the initials R4. Her last captain was Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara from 18 May 1943 to 3 July 1945. She was renamed Chateaurenault in French service, until the late 1960s after reconstruction.
Emperor and conqueror of Germany hence the nickname (full name Germanico Giulio Cesare, 24 may 15 BC, 10 oct. 19 AD), was among the first of these cruisers started. She was started on 3 April 1939, launched on 26 July 1941 and captured by the Germans in Castellammare di Stabia while under completion (90%). She was never completed by them and instead scuttled on 28 September 1943. Instead, she was raised and completed again by the Italian Navy after the war (Marina Militare), renamed San Marco and quite modified. She served as a destroyer leader until her decommission in 1971. Her career started on 19 January 1956, she was Renamed San Marco, and served as a destroyer leader.
Pompeo Magno, named after Pompey the Great, Caesar’s mentor, friend and later rival, was built in CNR, Ancona, laid down 23 September 1939, launched 24 August 1941 and completed on 4 June 1943 but never fully operational. Construction at the Cantieri Navali Riuniti in Ancona was followed by a completion on 4 June 1943 and she entered service twenty days later, assigned to the Taranto base, and carrting out minelaying missions. It seems during this summer of 1943 she received the EC.3ter Gufo (“Owl”) radar but this is contested among sources. At that time, she was under command of Vessel Captain Paolo Mengarini from 24 June, until 7 August 1943 and later of Frigate Captain Alberto Banfi.
In July 1943
Pompeo Magno clashed in the night of 12-13 July 1943 in the Strait of Messina, with five allied MTBs apparently having intercepted her EC.3ter radar emission. This episode would prompt the Italian admiralty to limit the use of this radar. Magno however managed to locate these ships by radar, caught them and engage them in battme, sinking two in rapid succession, severely damaging a third, later sunk while the remaining two fled at full speed (which was not easy due their top speed quite close to the Romani class). When teamong with Africano, both woold repeat that feat in the night of 16-17 July with British MTBs in the same Strait of Messina but there are conflicts in logs of both ships. More likely it was the Scipio Africanus after the Allied landing in Sicily and in anticipation of a possible Allied blockade of Messina which headed full steam ahead, forcing the narrows to Taranto.
Proceeding to Malta, 9 September 1943
The armistice of 8 September saw pompeo Magno in Taranto with her twin Scipione Africano and Cadorna inside the V Division, escorting the battleship Duilio. The armistice caused tensions and on the 9 September, after Scipio left her moorings around 6 AM, ordered to reach Pescara, other ships were ordered to proceed to Malta. A meeting between officers favored instead a scuttling of their ships. Rear Admiral Giovanni Galati (cruiser group) simply refused to go to Malta and wanted instead to sail North, joining the axis, or to seek a last battle, but he was placed under arrest by Admiral Bruto Brivonesi, failing to convince him to follow the King’s orders of the King. However in the end loyalty prevailed and two battleships, two cruisers, the destroyer Nicoloso da Recco left Taranto, soon in sight of a British fleet which escorted a troopship convoy to occupy Taranto. Around 19:00 the Italian fleet was attacked by German fighter-bombers, Duilio having near-misses. At 09:30 AM they escort a British destroyer, and soon eight more to escort them to Malta, arriving in 17:50, mooring off Madliena Tower, they were joined by the other group from La Spezia (lossing the battleship Roma) under Admiral Oliva. Pompeo Magno soon was to depart again:
Underway in 1946
On 4 October, she sailed from Malta back to Italy, with the VIII Cruiser Division (Taranto) and on 2 February 1944 she was reassigned to the VII Cruiser Division. After some upkeep she was to carry out mostly transport missiones during the co-belligerence, under command of Alberto Banfi until 4 September 1944 and Nicola Murzi from 5 September 1944 to 13 October 1945.
She survived the war, was renamed San Giorgio, and served as a destroyer leader until 1963. She was decommissioned and scrapped in 1980 (will be covered in a dedicated cold war article).
Caio Mario, or “Gaius Marius” in english, great reformer and statesman before the age of Casear, she was laid down at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939, launched 17 August 1941 but never completed before she was captured by the Germans in La Spezia, with only the hull completed, so that she was used as a floating oil tank, and scuttled in 1944.
Claudio Druso (after Nero Claudius Drusus) was built at Cantiere del Tirreno in Riva Trigoso, laid down on 27 September 1939. Construction was cancelled in June 1940, and shew as eventually scrapped between 1941 and February 1942 to fill more urgent needs of the hard-pressed Italian industry.
Claudio Tiberio (Emperor Tiberius) was started at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939 but construction was cancelled by June 1940. She was scrapped between November 1941 and February 1942.
Silla after launch Varo under completion, 1943
Cornelio Silla (Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the dictator that re-established the senate faction over the “populares”) was laid down at Ansaldo, Genoa on 12 October 1939, launched on 28 June 1941 and Captured by the Germans in Genoa while fitting out. She was sunk in an air raid in July 1944.
Ottaviano Augusto in Ancona, after launch
RN Ottaviano Augusto was named after the Emperor Augustus (“Octavian”). She was laid down at CNR, Ancona on 23 September 1939, launched on 28 April 1941, left unfinished and captured by the Germans in Ancona while under completion. She was never completed by the latter and sunk in an air attack on 1 November 1943, so soon after capture.
Paolo Emilio (Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicusn, c.229 – 160 BC) was a two-time consul of the Roman Republic and general who conquered Macedon (hence the surname), putting an end to the Antigonid dynasty in the Third Macedonian War. She namesake ship was laid down at Ansaldo, Genoa on 12 October 1939 but Construction was cancelled in June 1940, and she was scrapped where she laid between October 1941 and February 1942.
Ulpio Traiano (the Emperor Trajan) was laid down at CNR, Palermo on 28 September 1939 and launched on 30 November 1942. She was never completed, but was not seized by the Germans for completion since she was sunk while in completion and fitting out on 3 January 1943 by a British human torpedo attack in Palermo.
Vipsanio Agrippa (aftet the famous admiral Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa of Actium fate) was laid down at Cantiere del Tirreno in Riva Trigoso in October 1939, and Construction was cancelled on slip in June 1940, directly linked to the start of the war. It was obviopus she would never be finished and was more useful in scrap metal for more urgent needs. She was scrapped between July 1941 and August 1942.
USS Texas 1890 – The very first USN battleship.
After the American Civil war ended in 1865, what was later called the “old navy” started to decrease and over the years, few new ships were built, so much so that in 1883, the Congress was asked two authorize the first modern USN cruisers (the Atlanta class), and many commerce raiding masted cruisers followed. But it’s the realization that Brazil had noew its first modern ironclad, the Riachuelo, that rang the alarm for the admiralty, which had nothing to compare. From there, the Congress granted a request in 1888 to built a coastal ore-dreadnought, which became USS texas (BB1) the first modern sea going USN battleship. Here is this story. #USN #newnavy #USNavy #usstexas #WWI
The venerable “Old Hoodoo”
USS Texas was a pre-dreadnought, the very first planned from 1888 by the United States, and largest warship ever commissioned so far. This was a response to the new warships acquired by rival South American nations, Brazil precisely. The new ship was also intended to fuse the most recent technological advances from Europe and start a complete overhaul of the North American maritime strategy and long-term planification.
One characteristic of the new US design was of course a redical departure over pas monitors, which were the default USN ironclads intil then, and instead of a greater freeboard and keeping turrets fore and aft, USS Texas was designed to have her main battery placed en echelon, close together, allowing the best compromise in broadside, chase and retreat while concentrating armour amidship, based on the limited tonnage authorized.
USS texas Colorized by Irootoko jr
Nonetheless, due to the state of U.S. industry at that point and lack of experience in that matter, design and construction of USS Texas dragged on, and when ultimately commissioned, she was already obsolete. In any case, with USS Maine started as an armored cruiser, both became the bedrock of the “new navy” consecrated by the war of 1898.
USS Texas fostered a standing “cursed” or unfortunate reputation after a few mishaps from the get-go, often dubbed “Old Hoodoo” with incidents during construction, a grounding off Newport, flooding while moored in New York City. But her notoriety improved with the Spanish-American War, blockading the bay of Cuba and taking part on the battle of Santiago de Cuba.
She did not see WWI however. Renamed San Marcos in 1911 (freeing BB-35’s name) she became a crane ship, and then a target ship on Chesapeake Bay until WW2 and was later blasted by explosives but refloated and scrapped in 1959.
USS Texas was seen as a first-and major step in this American maritime plan, BB-1 was succeeded by many generations until USS Wisconsin (BB-64) laid down in January 1941. The latter had almost ten times her displacement, was twice as fast and carried an armament that was unimaginable at the time, both in range, precision and global firepower. This represented a 50 year gap in technology. Unfortunately, USS Maine famously exploded in Cuba whereas USS Texas, despite surviving until 1945 as San Marcos, was not preserved.
Development and order
Riachuelo, there just completed, which started it all.
The delivery of Riachuelo in 1883 by Great Britain to the Brazilian Navy, a stepup of the naval rivalry with Argentina and Chile alarmed the United States government. Riachuelo was indeed the most powerful ship in the Western Hemisphere. The admirakty new she could defend its own ports with monitors, some quite old, but not going out at sea to fight a possible opponent, and Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, Congressman Hilary A. Herbert decounced this in Congress by stating
“if all this old navy of ours were drawn up in battle array in mid-ocean and confronted by the Riachuelo it is doubtful whether a single vessel bearing the American flag would get into port.”
Meeting the Brazilian potential threat
Description of USS Texas in Brassey’s naval annual, 1894
The Navy Advisory Board, which new such ironclad could effectively blockade the American coast started planning two coastal armoured ships to back in 1884. Riachuelo was known since her launch indeed on June 7, 1883. The Brazilian planned tw sister ships, Riachuelo and Aquidaba (which was completed in 1885). Both new USN ships had to face constraints though: They had to fit within existing docks, which were rather small (otherwise the construction of new ones would had cause an extra delay of several years), and to have a shallow draft to reach most American ports and bases at the time. Minimum speed was set to 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph), a bit better than the 16.7 knots in official documentations presented by Samuda Bros for the Riachuelo class.
The new battleships were however constrained to displace 6,000 long tons (6,100 t) by a congress decision. They were optimized for end-on fire with gun turrets in échelon and sponsons over the sides, enabling them to fire across the deck, like the Riachuelo and Aquidabã but also the German Sachsen class or the German-built Dingyuan class, but most British ironclads of the time, included the ill-fated masted HMS Captain.
Splitup between Maine (AC1) and Texas (BB1)
However after many discussions in 1884, plans changed again and the first of these two ships was laid down for as a battleship substitute instead, faster and carrying 10 in (250 mm) guns. She was eventially USS Maine (AC1), the first USN armoured cruiser. The other one was instead more of a conventional ironclad armed with two 12 in (300 mm) guns, named USS Texas, a symbol of hardly gained freedom, and first named in honor of this state in the USN.
The US Navy Department still had the great lines but no precise design, and not having the design bureau nor experience in that field, was condemned to look over the Atlantic, more experienced builders in UK, France, Germany or Italy. It started an international design competition. The one retaoned, was Naval Construction & Armaments Company, Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, UK. This was an odd choice: It was indeed an experienced yard which already signed many liners, but which had no previous experience in designing battleships. The first ever built here was IJN the pre-dreadnought IJN Mikasa for Japan, launched in 1898. A better choice should have been to contact Portsmouth or Pembroke DyD which signed already the colossus, Agamemnon class and Inflexible in the 1880s.
A battery arrangement soon obsolete
Anyway, the winning design just precised the placement of the forward turret on the port side, and aft starboard and many recalculationd for the superstructure to be separated into three parts, to allow effective cross-firing. Still they could not fire ability to fire to the opposite beam fully, their arc of fire being reduced. As designed, deck or superstructure were not particularly reinforced to withstand muzzle blasts: It was shown at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.
Five years before completion these issues were already known and criticized in European admiralties, and the echelon was abandoned, making Texas obsolete by this arrangement. The Bureau of Construction and Repair later created and its technical wing, the Board on Construction, considered a complete reconstruction with centerline main guns in two single or a single twin one forward, but construction by then was too far advanced. Navy Secretary Benjamin Tracy only wanted detail improvements to speed up construction.
USS Texas under the New York bridge
USS Texas was authorized by the U.S. Congress on 3 August 1886. The start of construction was delayed by eight months due to redesigns, the admirakty beingg concerned by her stability and other characteristics. Her keel was laid down Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia on 1 June 1889. Norfolk Navy Yard would soon delivered many other battleships, this time in a shorter span. She was launched on 28 June 1892, baptised by Miss Madge Houston Williams, granddaughter of Sam Houston, the founder of Texas. Being launched on by June 1892 (nearly four years later !) and completed a further three years afterwards befor her commission on 15 August 1895 seems quite long indeed. It was rare for British and German standards, twice as shorter in span, but not unusual in French and Italian navies though. Like in the latter case, redesigns was the main cause, but other issues as well. Her first captain was Henry Glass, which went through sea trials and many fixes.
Detailed design of USS Texas
Hull and general design
Texas’ hull measured 308 feet 10 inches (94.1 m) overall in lenght, for 64 feet 1 inch (19.5 m) in beam, so around a 2/10 ration. Maximum draft was 24 feet 6 inches (7.5 m),a bit more than anticipated for coastal operations. She displaced 6,315 long tons (6,416 t) when fully loaded. Metacentric height was 2.54 feet (0.8 m). Her hull was almost primastic in shape for better water entry and flow, with the greatest beam amidship, around the barbettes. The hull was also flush deck, but on two deck levels for better seaworthiness. As usual for that generation of ships, she was fitted with a ram bow. The latter comprised a bottom opening for the froward torpedo tube and the top was heavily decorated, another trait of the time.
Armour protection layout
Harvey armor was used for the most ensible external components of the protection scheme. Here as follows:
-Main waterline belt 12 inches (300 mm), tapered to 6 in (152 mm) on its lower edge, 188 feet (57.3 m) long, 7 feet (2.1 m) high.
-It was 3 feet (0.9 m) under the waterline, angled inwards on 17 feet (5.2 m) down to 8 inches (203 mm) thick for raking fire.
-Transverse bulkheads, closing the citadel 8 in (203 mm) thick
-Protective deck 2 inches (51 mm) thick, sloped downwards on both ends and to the sides at 3 inches (76 mm).
-Gun deck 12 in diagonal armored citadel protecting the turret machinery and CT supports, 2-inches thick.
-Barbettes 1–3 in (25–76 mm) – more protective caps.
-Circular turrets walls 12 in (300 mm) thick plus 1 in (25 mm) roofs
-Turret hoists, voicepipes and electrical leads encased in armored tubes.
-Conning tower 9 in (229 mm) thick walls.
-Lateral hydraulic pipes underside deck unprotected, but in armored tubes after 1902 refit, 1-2 in.
-No armor above the main belt or hull ends. No consideration was given at the time to experimental rapid-fire guns with HE shells.
-Her underwater protection was already developed, with two wing compartments either side of the machinery spaces
-Centerline, longitudinal tight bulkhead separating VTE engines and boilers*.
-A double bottom protected most of her hull, extended to the lower edge of the armor deck.
*Asymmetric flooding however were risky to stability without more refined compartimentation.
Texas wa given a set of VTE (Vertical Triple-Expansion) steam engines from Richmond Locomotive and Machine Work in Virginia. These were inverted VTE, with an expected output of 6,000 shp but in trials, 8,610 indicated horsepower (6,420 kW) wrere achieved. Two propeller shafts only, with four-bladed narrow type blades propellers. They used steam coming from four double-ended cylindrical boilers. Working pressure was 175 psi (1,210 kPa; 12.3 kgf/cm2).
On trials, of course she was pushed to reach 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph), so better than her contract speed of 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph).
For autonomy, she carried 877 short tons (796 t) of coal and two Edison electric dynamos powering searchlights and for interior lighting.
Texas Decorated prow
It was consistent, between two single 12 in (305 mm) guns, half of what contmpprary battleships had, but more in line with coastal battleships and monitors of the time, compensated by sic rapid-fire 6 in (152 mm) guns and completed to deal with torpedo boats, with no less than twelve single QF 6-pdr (57 mm (2.2 in)) guns, four single 1-pdr 37 mm (1.5 in) revolving guns, six single 1-pdr guns. As usual for the time she also carried four 14 in (356 mm) torpedo tubes.
Main: 2×1 12-in
The main armament comprised two 12-inch (305 mm)/35 caliber Mark I guns. They were mounted in single Mark 2 hydraulically powered turrets, encased in a circular armored redoubt. This was very reminiscent of monitors or Coles turrets for that matter. Both were placed on the broadside in échelon as said, overhanging on large sponsons to give them a theoretical 360 dregree fire. Two can be brought to bear fore and aft, but broadside fire was impossible for the opposite turrets at many angles.
Maximum elevation was 15°, depression −5°. Eighty rounds per gun were carried in the hull. These were 870-pound (394.6 kg) shells, exiting the barrel at 2,100 ft/s (640 m/s) to 12,000 yards (11,000 m) at max. elevation. Each had a fixed rammer below and outside the turret and so loading obliged the gun each time to be angled down in a single positions of 0° elevation. Before 1898, advances in artillery had this modified to load at any angle, greatly improving reload speed, which was initially one shot every five minutes at best. Notes:
180 rounds in all was not impressive if they had to fend off many opponents in a prolongated battle. The weak muzzle velocity was not going to favor penetration power, and at max elevation, many naval guns of the time were far better an any way. And for those of their potential opponents, the Riachuelo class, they had four 240 mm (9.45 in) guns in two turrets, made by Vickers Armstrong, which could fire a 380 pounds (172.37 kg) shell at 10,000 yards. So this was quite a fair match, even against the two of them.
Secondary: Six 6-in
Four of these six 6-inch (152 mm) guns were in hull casemates along the sides, fore and aft of the main sponsons. The remainder two were mounted on the main deck, in open pivot mounts with light shields. The latter differed as the were 35 caliber, while casemate guns were 30 caliber. Elevation is estimated to be +12°. Shells weighed 105 pounds (47.6 kg), high explosive. They existed the barrles at a muzzle velocity of 1,950 ft/s (590 m/s). Range was estimated under 9,000 yd (8,200 m) at maximum elevation.
Tertiary: 6 and 1-pdr
The antitorpedo battery was quite consistent:
-Twelve 57 mm (2.2 in) six-pounder guns in casemates along the hull, firing a 6 lb (2.7 kg) shell at 1,765 ft/s (538 m/s) (20 rpm), 8,700 yd range.
-Two 37 mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss 5-barreled revolving guns, fore and aft superstructure.
-Two lighter 37 mm Driggs-Schroeder 1-pdr guns on the fighting top. They fired a 1.1 lb (0.50 kg) shell at 2,000 ft/s (610 m/s) to 3,500 yd (3,200 m), 30 rpm.
Texas carried four 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes: They were all placed above water to avoid potential watertight weak points. The pattern was also classic for the time, in lozenge:
One bow, one stern tube, two broadside tubes, aft of the hull.
Engineers planned also that she could carry two small steam torpedo boats armed with a 1-pdr gun plus trainable torpedo tube, the same carried by USS Maine. However without surprise, the prototype built for the latter performed so poorly that this prospect was cancelled. The concept of toprpedo boat mothership was tried in the 1880s by UK, France or Italy with the same disappointment. Seductive concept on paper, this was a complete failure on practice.
USS Texas was commissioned on 15 August 1895 and started her initial sea trials with Captain Henry Glass in command. Many issues had been found so that she returned to the drydock in the New York Navy Yard. These were mostly structural flaws. Foors buckled, the cement near the keel cracked due to vibrations. So her floor brackets were reinforced and cement repaired. An enquiry was made on her structural integrity in January 1896. The Board recommended further strengthening, which cost an additional $39,450 over 100 days. The Board enquired about the effect of these on stability notably, and in February were answered that it added 31 long tons (31 t), causing her draft to augment to 2 in (51 mm) and change her metacentric height to 2.76 ft (0.84 m).
During another trial she ran aground near Newport (Rhode Island) in September the same year (1896). It was a human error compounded by a signal failure and officers were reprimanded. She returned in the NYNY for the third time. Not yet into the drydock, she saw the yoke securing her main injection valve (starboard engine room) broken on 9 November 1896, repaired. She was flooded due to the removal of the receiving pipe. The watertight doors as well as the voicepipes were leaking and water also seeped through the electrical cables holes in the bulkhead. This flood will spread to the other engine and boiler rooms and coal bunkers, magazines, shell rooms. The result was she ship completely flooded and settled to the bottom, and salvage efforts were considerably difficult. Water was eventually pumped out and divers had to remove 300 short tons of coal to lighten her before she could proceed to the drydock.
After new repairs she was at last assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron. Her role was to patroll the Eastern Seaboard. By February 1897, she made her first cruise to the Galveston in Texas, and visited New Orleans. However while in Galveston on 16 February 1897 the local pilot was mistaken about the depht here and she buried herself into a mud bank. Assistance came from the U.S. Revenue Steamer Galveston, but she could do nothing. Later by both using her port anchor and a tug she coukd be freed. Such an unlucky ship was soon called by the crews “Old Hoodoo”.
Back to the Eastern Seaboard in March 1897, she was not involved in operations until 1898, after a refit was done in June 1897, seeing her bow and stern torpedo tubes removed, better telescopic sights added to her turret roofs in the summer and in January, she visited Key West in Florida, proceeded to Galveston by mid-February. Via the Tortugas in March she arrived in Hampton Roads on 24 March. But soon, international news had her prepared for war, for the first (and last) time in her career.
Texas in Cuban waters, May–July 1898
The spring saw a state of war being declared between the United States and the Spanish Empire. It was trigerred by conditions in Cuba denounced by the press, and the supposed destruction of USS Maine in Havana harbor attributed to Spanish authorities in February. On 18 May USS Texas was prepared for war under command of Captain J. W. Philip. She headed for Key West, close to Cuba. On the 21th she proceeded off Cienfuegos in Cuba, joing the Flying Squadron engaged in a blockade. She returned to Key West for coal and returned this time to Santiago de Cuba on the 27th, patrolling until 11 June, and probing Guantánamo Bay, offering gunnery support to Marine landings.
The 12 June, she landed three field pieces she carried and M1895 Colt–Browning machine guns for Marines Lt. Col. Robert W. Huntington. For five weeks, she patrolled between Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo Bay and on 16 June took part with USS Marblehead to a shelling of South Toro Cay Fort, Guantánamo Bay. They ruined it in an hour.
On 3 July, while off Santiago de Cuba she was signalled a sortie on force of Admiral Cervera. She opened fire as soon she spotted these ships, targeting the armored cruisers Vizcaya and Cristobal Colon, and with USS Iowa, Gloucester, and Indiana, fired with her secondaries on approaching torpedo-boat destroyers (Audaz notably).
The latter were soon silenced and obliged to beached themselves not to sink, whtoit achieving anything. Montoyo’s four armored ships meanwhile were battered to submission. In turn, they sheered off toward the shore to beach. This was the end of the Cuban Spanish Fleet. Texas however was not unscathed from this sole battle in her career: She had received a single 6 in (152 mm) HE shell on her starboard side, above the main deck, above the ash hoist. Fragments damaged the latter, destroyed air shafts doors and bulkheads, crippling the adjacent structure. But there was not injury.
After the surrender at Santiago and before the peace protocol was signed in Washington, DC, in August, Texas was back in New York, on 31 July. Captain Philip was promoted to Commodore on 10 August and by late November and December, she operated off Hampton Roads December, returning to her peacetime routine on the Atlantic coast, between the northeastern coast, and Caribbean, but visiting also San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Havana.
USS Texas at Brooklyn Navy Yard circa 1903
USS Texas in 1900 was clearly not to the level of the new battleships built in between for the USN. She was decommissioned for a lengthy refit, starting on 3 November 1900, at Norfolk NYD, until 3 November 1902. The modifications included the following:
-Funnel and topmasts raised (wireless telegraphy installed also).
-Protection for her 12 in (300 mm) ammunition hoists doubled
-Broadside torpedo tubes removed.
By February 1904 in trials she showed only capable to reach 13.9 knots, even under forced draft.
She returned for a refit in 1904 this time to have four 6 in (150 mm)/30 removed and replaced by new 35-caliber, new generation guns, and two 1-pounder guns removed. With extra accomodations she became flagship, Coast Squadron, until 1905, so not force to make patrols as before.
As a target ship
“Old Hoodoo” was decommissioned (11 January-1 September 1908) now as stationary station ship at Charleston, South Carolina. By 1910, one 37 mm (1.5 in) revolving gun and another 1-pdr gun were removed but two six-pounder guns added. She was regarded by the admiralty as obsolete by 1911, degraded to a gunnery target. The Navy wanted indeed to test her Harvey armpur, still widely used, against modern shells for her new dreadnought fleet. Fire tests would be performed botj on armored and unarmored parts, with underwater hits probabilities evaluated. They also wanted to note shattering or rupeture effects on pipes and all internal organs of the ship, as well as the flammability of her fittings, or penetration angles and force at long range.
Texas, to be renamed because a new dreadnoght was to be ordered under this name, was fully fitted out for it, all accomodation as station ship removed and dummies rigged to evaluate crew damage, at a cotal cost $29,422.70.
On 15 February 1911, recommissioned as a target shiop under the name of USS San Marcos she was tested in Chesapeake Bay for weeks, until sunk in shallow water in Tangier Sound, by 21–22 March 1911. USS New Hampshire (BB-25), a pre-dreadnought of the Connecticut-class battleships, finished her off. Most crucial knowledge was the examination of her hull, under the belt, showing so many holes below the waterline that flooding was complete. She sat, still emerging to serve as target for more time. Later she had interior fittings demolished. She was used for a torpedo experiment on 6 April and on 10 October at last she was stricken, but received a cage mast (Identical to the ones sported by the Florida-class) built atop her remains in 1912 to see the effects of 12-in shells. This time, she was fired upon by the monitor USS Tallahassee from 1,000 yards (910 m), on 21 August. The mast took nine hits but withstood the damage and confirmed the USN cage mast were the ideal solution, contrary to tripods.
In fact San Marcos (now no longer “USS San marcos”) as she was now reduced to wreck, was used in many occasions, in WWI, the interwar, and was still used for gunnery practice in 1940, but since she was submerged, her wreck only supported a canvas target screen, invisible below 2-6 feet below the surface, marked by an unlit buoy. The cargo ship Lexington missed it in 1940 and collided with her in low visibility. So she was now considered a hazard to navigation and was filled with tons of explosives to raze her upperworks and hopefully push her hull deeper into the mud. This was done actually in January 1959 but what keft of her can bee explored by divers today.
Alden, John D. (1989). American Steel Navy: A Photographic History of the U.S. Navy from the Introduction of the Steel Hull in 1883 to the Cruise of the Great White Fleet. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press (NIP).
Allen, Francis J. (1993). “”Old Hoodoo”: The Story of the U.S.S. Texas”. Warship International.
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. NIP
Reilly, John C.; Scheina, Robert L. (1980). American Battleships 1896–1923: Predreadnought Design and Construction. NIP
Sieche, Erwin F. (1990). “Austria-Hungary’s Last Visit to the USA”. Warship International. XXVII (2)
Venzon, Anne, ed. (1992). General Smedley Darlington Butler: Letters of a Leatherneck 1898–1931. Greenwood.
The Netherlands – 1936-40:
Tjerk Hiddes, Isaac Swers, Philips Van Almonde, Gerard Callenburgh.
The Tjerk Hiddes or Gerard Callenburgh class destroyers were specifically designed to counter the Japanese “special type” destroyers in the east indies. They were larger, faster, better armed and with greater range compared to the 1920s Admiralen class, based on a Yarrow design. Too late to be completed before the invasion, two were scuttled (one repaired, becoming Kriegsmarine’s ZH1, sunk on 9 June 1944 during Operation Neptune), the other, Isaac Swers, completed in UK and with the allies in the Mediterranean with Force H, taking part in the Battle of Cape Bon, she served in the Indian Ocean and Eastern Fleet but was sunk by U-431 off Algiers in November 13, 1942, during Operation Torch.
Design and development of the Tjerk Hiddes class Destroyers
In 1935, the “admiralen” class destroyer (Van Ghent and Van Galen classes) formed the bulk of the Dutch submarine Force. The last of these, HNLMS Witte de With, being launched in 1928. They were considered now obsolescent in design, regading other countrie’s own models, notably the formidable German “Narvik” class, faster and better armed. Also there were several cruisers and capital ships projects such as the KNIL Battlecruisers and Provincien class cruisers which needed an equally fast, long range escort, especially to face now their likely enemy, the Japanese “special type” destroyers.
Dutch Destroyers were about 15 when WW2 started and most were stationed in the Dutch East Indies where they fought the Japanese. Ther British standards made their integration easier among allies, notably with the ABDA Command.
Increasing range, speed and armament meant a larger and updated design was needed, and once again, the admiralty turned to Great Britain as a source of inspiration, looking at contemporary designs in development at the time notably the J-K-N class (ordered in 1937) and previous destroyers leaders, but still with their own design specifications. In particular they wanted a ship capable of 38 knots of possible, armed with five main guns and quadruple torpedo tube banks instead of triple on the Admiralen, limited to 36 knots and having four guns. The threat of the IJN aviation was also preceived and an increased AA was also looked for. Since the were intended for operations in the confined of the Java sea and defending the East Indies, they were to double as minelayers as well.
For this, of the several yards contacted, Yarrow came with a tailored design in early 1937 wich best matched the Dutch admiralty needs. The first two, Gerard Callenburgh and Tjerk Hiddes were ordered under the 1937 program. They were based on Yarrow blueprints, purchased, but built entirely like previous destroyers in the Netherlands, with Dutch torpedo tubes, and Swedish main guns and AA, plus Dutch more advanced fire control systems. The second batch, Isaak Sweers and Philips van Almonde were ordered in 1938. The class is sometimes called “Gerard Callenburgh class” in other publications as she was the first laid down. I kept here the Conway’s one, based on the launch date.
Given the dates, the writing was on the wall concerning their fates: The Tjerk Hiddes class Destroyers were caught during the German invasion of the low countries in May 1940, while in completion. All had been launched but Philips van Almonde, having different fates: Tjerk Hiddes, laid down at Roterdamsche Droogdok Mij, on 11.1938 and launched 12.10.1939 was scuttled, incomplete, on 14.5.1940.
Gerard Callenburgh (pennant 208) laid down at the same yard in October 1938 and completed on 12.10.1939 was scuttled incomplete 15.5.1940, but in a state which allowed the Germans to raise her hull and complete her as ZH1, under the Kriegsmarine flag.
Isaac Sweers of the second batch was laid down at De Schelde, Vlissingen in November 1938, launched on 16 march 1940, two months before the invasion. Her crew did the unthinkable: They managed to leave the harbor as she was and joined Great Britain. Thus, she was completed at Thornycroft, Southampton, in March 1941 with British equipments, and sunk on 13.12.1942 in action.
HNLMS Philips van Almonde built in the same yard and which laying down was delayed until March 1939 was still in construction and later BU on the stocks on 17.4.1940.
Hull and general design
Although having some design appearance reminding British designs, these ships were quite unique when seen in detail. Contrary for example to the contemporary J-K-N class they had two funnels, not a single, the armament was managed a different way, and the superstructure diverged, notably with a rounded bridge forward, not angular like on RN destroyers. But they shared an open bridge. Like contemporary US destroyers, instead of large windows their bridge had sturdier portholes, better suited to resist heavy weather’s spray.
They had a straight, moderatly angled bow like British designs, a rounded stern, tripod foremast, simple pole after the aft funnel, and twin 40 mm AA organized in a way which placed a forward mount superfiring to her “A” main battery twin turret.
Isaac Swers as completed in UK.
Powerplant of the Tjerk Hiddes class Destroyers
They were given two shafts, driven by two two sets of Parsons geared steam turbines (Yarrow design obliged) built under license by Werkspoor, fed by three double-ending, 3-drum oil-fired Yarrow boilers. They procured a total of 45,000 shaft horsepower as designed, enough for a top speed of 36 (nominal) to 37.5 kts (speed trials reported, in Conways). They carried also 560 tons of oil for an undurance of 5400 nautical miles at 19 knots. Engine power was 45% greater than the “Admiralen” class with better endurance as planned. The top speed was reached in UK during her official acceptance trials by Isaac Swers.
Armament of the Tjerk Hiddes class Destroyers
It was made of Dutch guns, with Dutch fire control, and two AA calibers, both Swedish, plus British torpedo tubes. Isaac Swers as completed was noticeably different.
As designed, they carried two twin 120mm/45 (Licenced Bofors by Wilton-Fijenoord) No.8 guns installed on deck for and aft and a single one located on the aft superstructure, superfiring. This made for a total of five instead of six. It seems the decision of a single gun was motivated by stability concerns. In UK, Swers was completed with three twin mounts, but they were lighter.
The Mark 8 fired a 45.2 lbs. (20.5 kg) shell at 2,625 fps (800 mps), ROF 10 rpm, and max range at 45 degrees, 21,300 yards (19,500 m). More
AA Armament: 40mm Bofors, and HMGs
The Tjerk Hiddes class Destroyers had two twin 40/56 Bofors No.3, the “original Bofors” purchased from Sweden. The two mounts were located, for one on the usual position, on the small structure between torpedo tubes banks, but the other was placed on a superfiring position forward, given an excellent arc of fire. This was trenedously effective caliber. Specs on the Bofors can be found here.
This armament was completed by two twin 12.7 mm/62 (0.5 in caliber) heavy machine guns. They are likely the British liquid-cooled Vickers 0.50″/62 (12.7 mm) MG Mark III used in quad tandem mounts on British designs of the time. They were located on two platforms on the roof of the same structure supporting the aft twin Bofors on the original, since the space between funnels was reserved to launch the onboard floatplane. On completion, Swers had them relocated in front of the aft funnel.
Torpedo Tubes: 2 quad mounts
These were Mark 9 models, also used by Van Galen (1943), possibly Isaac Sweers, and Tromp (1945) and British destroyers in service after the war. These British 1,725 kg, 53,3 cm (21 inch), 7,2 m long models were powered by a burner-cycle engine, carrying a 365 kg warhead to 15,000 m @ 40 knots or 17,000 m @ 35 knots depending of the setting. A far cry compared to the Japanese “Long Lance”.
The Dutch Navy purchased 68 but delivery was intended for 1941.
Mines and Depth Charges
The class was equipped with short deck railings in order to carry a modest load of 24 mines.
They also equipped with basic ASW weaponry, two racks and/or dependoing of the sources four “dieptebomwerpers” or depht charge throwers aft. They probably would have a Dutch sonar, but Isaac Swers was re-equipped with a British type 124 sonar.
Fokker C.XI – Author’s illustration.
It might sound surprising, but Dutch destroyer used by the KNIL were dependent on aviation to operate, a bit like light cruisers. They carried a single seaplane as designed, a Fokker C.XIW. It was installed in between the two funnels, not catapulted but just deposed at sea using a boom crane and recovered the same way. They were intended for scouting ahead of the combined fleet (a cruiser and two destroyers). Needless to say they were never installed, unlike the Admiralen class, which operated them in the east Indies with some success.
Completion of Isaac Swers in UK
Towed in May 1940 “naked” with parts of the superstructures but no armament to UK, the Dutch government in exile (Nederlandse regering in ballingschap) later secured an agreement to complete her to British standard for full integration into the RN. Thus, when completed in 1941 she had three twin 102mm/45 QF Mk XVI (4-in DP) in light mounts on the same positions as before, two twin 40mm/56 Bofors No.3, two quad Vickers 12.7mm/62 or 0.5-in liquid cooled HMGs located between the funnels, and the same torpedo tubes banks, four Depht Charge Throwers with 12 in reserve and still the capability to lay 24 mines, which was never used.
Author’s illustration of Isaac Swers
ZH1, ex Gerard Callenburg – credits netherlandsnavy.nl (in the sources)
⚙ Tjerk Hiddes specifications
1,604 tons standard, 2,228 tons fully loaded
105/107m oa x 10,60m x 2,80 m (344/351 x 35 x 9 feets)
Tjerk Hiddes was in construction when the invasion of the low countries happened, Tjerk Hiddes, and of she had been launched prior to the invasion, she was far away for completion, and to prevent it, workers at the yard placed explosive charges to scuttle her in Rotterdam. She sank on 15 May 1940, but this did not prevent her into falling in German hands. The Germans had the firm intention to raise her for completion, which was fone. However a commission estimated that the damage was just too extensive for repairs, so instead, she was scrapped.
HNLMS Gerard Callenburgh/ZH1 (1939)
Gerard Callenburgh was also scuttled on 15 May 1940. However it seems some charges failed, because whatever the case, the Germans captured her and salvaged her to be thoroughly examined. The damage was estimated light enough for her to be repaired and completed, but after being towed back in Germany, to be completed by Blohm & Voss yard in Hamburg.
She retaining most of the Dutch armament and equipment, despite ordnance issues (the Kriegsmarine was so starved for destroyers that all prizes were welcome) and she was commissioned as ZH1 standing for Zerstörer, [destroyer] Holland, on 11 October 1942. KMS ZH1 spent the remainder of the year and of 1943 on trials in the Baltic, the crew needed to train on a ship which had all marking and procedures written in Dutch.
It seems the Kriegsmarine’s staff did not want to make many modifications as they believed she was a faithful British design, and wished to compare her their own designs. They retained main armament, propulsion machinery, armament and even the fire-control systems. However for maintenance and ordnance issues, they replace the anti-aircraft armament with German equivalents, two 37 mm mounts and single 20 mm.
She sailed for the Baltic Sea on 25 October to start working up, her initial trials revealing issues, corrected during a refit in Hamburg on 18 January 1943. However in April during another sorties (11th to be exact), she collided with the Danish cargo ship SS Douro, taking light damage. However while in repair still in June she was damaged during and air raid, again delaying any sortie until October, but that gave the occasion to add a FuMO 24/25 radar set above the bridge.
Departure for France
Eventually deemed serviceable, she was transferred to Western France via the English Channel, a dificult and perilous transit started on 31 October with Z27 from Kiel for France, and while off Verdon-sur-Mer they were spotted and fired upon by British coastal artillery. Fortunately apart sme shrapnel damage, they were unscaved. However on 5 November during a sortie they were attacked by British motor torpedo boats off Cap d’Antifer and won the skirmish. She was assigned to 8. Zerstörerflotille (Flotilla) escorting the 6,951 GRT blockade runner MV Osorno through the Bay of Biscay for a first sortie. However she had troubled with her condensers and was towed to port on 26 December by T25. March 1944 saw her out after repairs, and she teamed with Z23, T27 and T29 escorting IJN I-29 to Lorient, scheduled to return to Japan with German tech. They also escorted U-boats through the Bay of Biscay in case of RAF encounters.
Operation Neptune, the battle of Ushant
On 6 June was Kapitän zur See Theodor von Bechtolsheim in charge of the 8th flotilla scrambled ZH1, Z24, Z32, and the torpedo boat T24, to head for Brest, Britanny, just above Normandy, and from there to start operations. While en route they were attacked by Beaufighters, Z32 receiving two rocket hits. ZH1 at the time was given four quadruple 2 cm Flakvierling mounts. On 8/9 June, while proceeding from Brest to Cherbourg by night, they were intercepted by the 10th Destroyer Flotilla in what became the Battle of Ushant. The British squadron consisting of HMS Tartar, Ashanti, Eskimo, Javelin, Haida, Huron and Błyskawica. All were quite powerful destroyers. The British spotted them by radar and opened fire first, the Germans launched torpedo salvoes which missed, turned away to evade. British fire nevertheless badly damaged ZH1 as she was targeted by HMS Ashanti and HMS Tartar from the start at short distance, having notably the main steam line severed aft and her forward boiler room flooded, resulting in all power lost.
Amazingly, they lost track of the stranded ZH1 in the darkness when firce fighting went on. When HMS Ashanti was about to engage Z32, ZH1 drifted back into the area and started firing on HMS Tartar in manual mode. HMS Ashanti manoeuvered in support and launched her full torpedo broadside on ZH1, severing her bow. Even in that state, the bow was still floating and guns blazing. ZH1 also fired her remaining torpedoes under manual control, but missed. Under withering fire, her captain ordered to abandon ship, preparing a scuttling by using her depth charges. Three officers and 36 crewmen were killed in this battle, and a single officer, 27 men reached France, the British capturing the remaining 140 men.
HNLMS Isaac Swers (1942)
Isaac Sweers is laid down on November 26 1938 at “De Schelde” dockyard, Flushing or Vlissingen and on May 10 1940 to avoid capture, she is towed across the Channel by the tug Zwarte Zee. They escaped the Luftwaffe patrols and arrived unharmed on the 11th, on the Downs. The next day she was in Spithead.
Escape and Completion in UK
After arrangements were made between the RN and Dutch Navy, later she was towed for completion at the John I. Thornycroft Dockyard in Southampton, completed in May 29 1941. She was the only destroyer of this class to serve with the allies.
On June, 24, 1941 after a month of trials, testings and intensive training, she is declared operational for the first time, with commander J. Houtsmuller in command. She left Southampton for Greenock, via Plymouth, and through Bristol for her final trials. On 5 July she sailed for Scapa Flow, for coordination training with the RN. At last, she is allocated to the British 19th destroyer flotilla, based in Greenock on the Clyde. Her task was escorting convoys southward, to a position near Spain, the troopships beind redirected to North Africa for the ongoing campaign.
Convoys to Malta
By August 1941, Isaac Sweers covered WS-10 and back, covered the tug Zwarte Zee tryin to save Cape Rodney (4512 gt). On September 14, 1941 she collided with HMS Brocklesby, with minor damage. Three days later she left Greenock with HMS Laforey, Lively and Oribi for Operation Halbert, escoring nine merchant vessels to Malta. On the 24th she was back in Gibraltar with Rodney and the Polish DDs Garland and Piorun. They were sent to escort Nelson back to Gibraltar. On the 27th, they are attacked by 12 torpedo planes, Sweers having a near miss, 30 meters off the bow while Nelson is hit. They were soon ordered to engage an Italian battlefleet signalled 70 miles away but the latter withdrew. They are attacked off Sicily again and the Imperial Star is hit by a torpedo.
The following day the escort is back to Gibraltar. On the 29th, HMS Gurkha detects a submersible, and the Sweers but failed to sink Diaspro (Perla class), which escaped.
In October-November she escorts another convoy to Freetown and then to Malta. She takes part on the 10th to operation Perpetual, to Malta, escoting the carriers HMS Ark Royal and Argus, escorted by Malaya, Hermione and six other destroyers. Ark Royal was sunk by U-81.
On November 26, Isaac Sweers is reassigned to the 19th Destroyer Flotilla, Group I. patrolling in the strait of Gibraltar. On December 11 she was scheduled for an overhaul in Britain but was rerouted to the Eastern Mediterranean, with the 4th destroyer flotilla (Flagship HMS Sikh, Commander Stokes).
Battle of Cape Bon
During the second night, they received a report that two Italian light cruisers were spotted by a Wellington, heading southwards. The route was planned toward Bon Cape and Stokes decided to attack in the night of 12/13th of December. Ordering 30 knots the flotilla proceeds to Skerki-channel and arrive near Bon Cape at about 02.00, HMS Sikh spotting several lightflashes, but the enemy disappeared behind the cape, forcing the flotilla to round the cape, discovering the Italian cruisers the very fast “destroyer killers” Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano capable of 40 knots.
HMS Sikh was the destroyer leader, followed by HMS Legion, Maori and Isaac Sweers, closing the line. Sikh fired four torpedoes; making 2 hits on Barbiano. HMS Legion did the same and claimed one more while opening fire, then Maori, scoring one too, completely destroying the leading cruiser. The second one fired and missed, receiving a torpedo hit by Legion and many shells. All destroyers concentrated fire on her, including Sweers, making many hits. However she soon reported an approaching Italian torpedo-boat Cigno (Spica class), and focused on her while firing four torpedoes, missing. Leaving devastation, the flotilla retired to Malta afterwards. Later they were ordered to escort another convoy, the single HMS Breconshire, 9,000 GRT from Alexandria on the 15th.
She was attached to Force K in Malta for this mission, meeting the ship on December 17. They faced air attacks at 13:00 and 18:00 h, evading all 10 aerial torpedoes launched. However a new report stated an Italian fleet of 4 battleships, with cruisers and destroyers were signalled closing. They were spotted 14 miles away, opening fire, and the convoy had to fend off another air attack, Sweers claiming one plane. They changed course twce and eventually left Breconshire behind with two destroyers while Admiral Vian ordered a diversion of the remainder with a torpedo attack. But this was enough and the Italians folded up.
December 24, Sweers had a new commander, W. Harmsen, replacing J. Houtsmuller. She later escorted the convoy MW 8 B to Malta. On January 17, 1942, Sweers successfully towed HMS Gurkha hit by U-133 out of a pool of burning oil, rescuing 240 of her crew. She landed them in Tobruk harbor and returned to the convoy the following day, reaching it at 02:00 hours.
Indian Ocean Operations
On the 23th, with the situation degrading in the East Indies, it is decided to send her to help. On the 8th, after crossing the canal, she enters the Indian Ocean, stopping to refuel at Colombo, drydocked for maintenance and fixes. She was at sea again on the 28th and back by order, but it was too late already. Instead, she is attached to the British Eastern Fleet. On April 5, she is Addu Atoll for refueling with Force B, en route to find the Japanese fleet. The latter was soon attacking Ceylon, and Colombo, later finding and sinking HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire and another day, HMS Hermes with HMAS Vampire. Eventually, deprived of any base, Force B made it back to Bombay on the 13th.
Nothing much happened afterwards. On April 30, she stopped in the Seychelles, on May 22 was based at Mombasa in Africa but whereas the latter participated in Operation Ironclad, she left for Britain and a major overhaul, via Simonstown, Freetown and Gibraltar. this took place in June-September Drydocked at Thornycroft, gaining 20 mm Oerlikons and more depht charge throwers, new Asdic. When recommissioned, this was followed by a refresher training in Scapa Flow.
By October 1942 she escorted HMS Furious to Gibraltar and went to the Azores, escorted the troop convoy KMF-1 bound for North Africa, and Operation Torch. She missed her rendez-due to a deciphering signal error and on the 5/6 passed the Gibraltar strait, but Sweers stayed here as part of Force H. On the 11th she rescued survivors from the 11.069 GRT Nieuw Zeeland, with HMS Porcupine, torpedoed by U-380. On the 12th, she returned with Force H, refuelled underway and by night, covered the resplishment Force R before joining back Force H.
The following day however at 05:00 hours, her luck turned. She is hit by two torpedoes on her starboard by an unknown submarine (later identified as U431, Kapitän-Leutnant Wilhelm Dommes). She is soon flooded and ablaze after a fuel tank is hit, burning oil spreading rapidly. The second torpedo hit next to the officers quarters, asleep by then and all killed. She would rapidly sink, with only 86 survivors out of a crew of 194, some rescued by the trawler Loch Oskaig.
HNLMS Philips Van Almonde (never)
HNLMS Philips Van Almonde’s hull was still in construction at KM de Schelde since 2 March 1939 when captured in May 1940 but the Germans. She was not even sabotaged, and examined after capture. Since work to be done was still considerable, German authorites estimated her 1000+ tons of high grade steel was more valuable for other uses, and she was broken up on her slipway from 17 May 1940.
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1922-47
M. J. Whitley, Destroyers of World War 2, 1988 Cassell Publishing