The Mk38 Gun Mount and Ballistics and Weapons Effectiveness Lessons from Pursuit of the Graf Spee, Part 1

This is the first of a 2 part post by Chuck Hill’s CG Blog.  Part 1 uses The Battle of the River Plate to help explain the difficulties of just stopping a large ship, never mind actually sinking one.

Part 2 shows the potential weapons systems, tactics and difficulties today’s USCG could use to stop a large ship being used for nefarious purposes, either as a weapons carrier or as the actual weapon.

As a naval history buff Part 1 is the most interesting to me but both parts are well worth the time to read.

Photo: Heavy cruiser HMS Exeter seen after the battle, looking aft from the bow. Both forward twin 8″ gun turrets and the firecontrol system were disabled and the bridge destroyed by “splinters.”

 

Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in April 1939. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 89566.

Photo: After superstructure of Admiral Graf Spee showing 15 cm/55 and 10.5 cm/65 guns. Note the burned-out Arado Ar 196A-1 floatplane on the catapult and the after main-director rangefinder. Photograph taken at Montevideo, Uruguay in mid-December 1939, following the Battle of the River Plate. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 80976.

 

Introduction:

Note, this has been edited from the original, based on feedback particularly with regard to the ammunition remaining on Graf Spee after the engagement. I don’t believe the thrust of the post has been changed.  

This is the first of two parts. Part one will tell a story. Part two will talk about the implications of lessons learned, applied to how the Coast Guard might deal with the threat of terrorists using a medium to large merchant ship to make an attack.

These are themes that will be discussed in part 2 before looking at specific tactics to make the best use of what we have. Hopefully you will see these illustrated in the following story.

  • In comparing guns, at any given range, the longer ranged weapon generally enjoys an advantage in accuracy.
  • It is very difficult to sink a ship by gunfire alone.
  • Ships’ structure provide a degree of protection that makes it difficult to comprehensively target the crew of a ship without sinking the ship.
  • It is difficult to forcibly stop a ship with gunfire alone.
  • You can run out of ammunition before you accomplish your mission. The depth of your magazine may be important.

 

But first the story: The Mk38 Gun Mount and Ballistics and Weapons Effectiveness Lessons from Pursuit of the Graf Spee, Part 1

 

75 years ago this month

It’s 35 degrees Fahrenheit this morning (it feels like a balmy 40 degrees in the shop) and we’re supposed to have flurries Friday morning.  My blood is too thin for this so here’s a picture to remind me it could always be colder and wetter.  I feel sure the North Atlantic in January qualifies…

U-Boot U-123 in See

The forward gun crew of U-123 prepare to engage a surface vessel sometime in January 1942.

U-Boot U-123 in See

This view from the conning tower of U-123 shows their intended victim in the distance.

via: http://ww2today.com/

More on U-123

Warship Wednesday Dec. 7, 2016: The eclipsing old bird of Battleship Row

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Here we see the Lapwing (“old bird”)-class minesweeper-turned-seaplane tender USS Avocet (AVP-4) from atop a building at Naval Air Station Ford Island, looking toward the Navy Yard. USS Nevada (BB-36) is at right, with her bow afire. Beyond her is the burning USS Shaw (DD-373). Smoke at left comes from the destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375), ablaze in Drydock Number One. The day, of course, is December 7, 1941 and you can see the gunners aboard Avocet looking for more Japanese planes (they had already smoked one) at about the time the air raid ended.

Inspired by large seagoing New England fishing trawlers, the Lapwings were 187-foot long ships that were large enough, at 965-tons full, to carry a pair of economical reciprocating diesel engines (or two boilers and one VTE engine) with a decent enough range to make it across the Atlantic on their own (though with a blisteringly slow speed of just 14 knots when wide open on trials.)

Not intended to do much more than clear mines, they were given a couple 3″/23 pop guns to discourage small enemy surface combatants intent to keep minesweepers from clearing said mines. The class leader, Lapwing, designated Auxiliary Minesweeper #1 (AM-1), was laid down at Todd in New York in October 1917 and another 53 soon followed. While five were canceled in November 1918, the other 48 were eventually finished– even if they came to the war a little late.

Which leads us to the hero of our tale, USS Avocet, named after a long-legged, web-footed shore bird found in western and southern states– the first such naval vessel to carry the moniker. Laid down as Minesweeper No. 19 on 13 September 1917 at Baltimore, Maryland by the Baltimore Drydock & Shipbuilding Co, she was commissioned just over a year later on 17 September 1918– some seven weeks before the end of the Great War.

Read the rest here: Warship Wednesday Dec. 7, 2016: The eclipsing old bird of Battleship Row

Remember, its not about saving 20 percent on bedding today


In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words:

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations

Source: Remember, its not about saving 20 percent on bedding today

Batteries of the HMS Alexandra

the-batteries-of-the-hms-alexandra

The Development of Navies During the Last Half Century by Eardley-Wilmot, Sydney Marow, Sir, 1847-1929 Published 1892

hms_alexandra_right_elevation__deck_plan_harpers_feb_1886

Right elevation and deck plan as depicted in Harpers Monthly, February 1886

HMS Alexandra was a central battery ironclad of the Victorian Royal Navy, whose seagoing career was from 1877 to 1900. She spent much of her career as a flagship, and took part in operations to deter Russian aggression against Turkey in 1878 and the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882.

She was commissioned at Chatham on 2 January 1877 as flagship, Mediterranean Fleet, and held this position continuously until 1889. She was the flagship of Admiral Hornby in his passage through the Dardanelles during the Russian war scare of 1878. She ran aground in bad weather at the narrowest part of the strait; she was towed off by HMS Sultan in time to lead the squadron to Constantinople. She was present at the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882; in this action the Admiral’s flag was shifted to HMS Invincible, as she was of shallower draught and could sail closer to shore. In 1886, the Duke of Edinburgh hoisted his flag on board, and Prince George of Wales, later King George V, joined as a lieutenant. During this action on 11 July 1882, Gunner Israel Harding flung a live 10-inch shell overboard, an action which led to the award of the Victoria Cross.[1] She paid off in 1889 for modernisation.

In 1891, she was flagship of the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves at Portsmouth, and remained so until 1901. Alexandra was featured in the first volume of the Navy and Army Illustrated in early c. April 1896 and was then described as a “coastguard ship at Portsmouth” with her principal armament being eight 18-tons guns, four 22-ton, six 4-inch and four six-pounder and six three-pounder quick firers.[2] At this time, she had a complement of 408 officers and men and was commanded by Captain W.H. Pigott. Her last sea-time was as flagship of the “B” fleet in the manoeuvres of 1900. In 1903 she became a mechanical training ship, and she was sold in 1908.                                                                    HMS Alexandra

More including pics HERE

USS Wasp – 74 Years ago today

ship_wasp12

Wasp burning and listing after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-19 in the South Pacific, 15 Sep 1942 ww2dbase

uss_wasp_28cv-729_burning_15_sep_1942

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19 east of the Solomons, 15 September 1942.

On Tuesday, 15 September 1942, the carriers Wasp and Hornet and battleship North Carolina with 10 other warships were escorting the transports carrying the 7th Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Wasp was operating some 150 nautical miles (170 mi; 280 km) southeast of San Cristobal Island. Her aircraft were being refueled and rearmed for antisubmarine patrol missions and Wasp had been at general quarters from an hour before sunrise until the time when the morning search returned to the ship at 10:00. Thereafter, the ship was in condition 2, with the air department at flight quarters. The only contact with the Japanese that day had been a Japanese four-engined flying boat that was downed by one of Wasps F4F Wildcats at 12:15.

About 14:20, the carrier turned into the wind to launch eight F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntlesses and to recover eight F4F Wildcats and three SBD Dauntlesses that had been airborne since before noon. Lt. (jg) Roland H. Kenton, USNR, flying a F4F-3 Wildcat of VF-71 was the last aircraft off the deck of Wasp. The ship rapidly completed the recovery of the 11 aircraft before turning to starboard, heeling slightly as it did so. At 14:44 a lookout reported “three torpedoes … three points forward of the starboard beam”.[1]

A spread of six Type 95 torpedoes were fired at Wasp at about 14:44 from the tubes of the B1 Type submarine I-19. Wasp put over her rudder hard to starboard to avoid the salvo, but it was too late. Three torpedoes struck in quick succession about 14:45; one actually broached, left the water, and struck the ship slightly above the waterline. All hit in the vicinity of the ship’s gasoline tanks and magazines. Two of the spread of torpedoes passed ahead of Wasp and were observed passing astern of Helena before O’Brien was hit by one at 14:51 while maneuvering to avoid the other. The sixth torpedo passed either astern or under Wasp, narrowly missed Lansdowne in Wasps screen about 14:48, was seen by Mustin in North Carolinas screen about 14:50, and struck North Carolina about 14:52.[9]

There was a rapid succession of explosions in the forward part of the ship. Aircraft on the flight and hangar decks were thrown about and dropped on the deck with such force that landing gears snapped. Aircraft suspended in the hangar overhead fell and landed upon those on the hangar deck; fires broke out in the hangar and below decks. Soon, the heat of the intense gasoline fires detonated the ready ammunition at the forward anti-aircraft guns on the starboard side, and fragments showered the forward part of the ship. The number two 1.1 in (28 mm) mount was blown overboard.

Water mains in the forward part of the ship had been rendered inoperable meaning no water was available to fight the fire forward, and the fires continued to set off ammunition, bombs, and gasoline. As the ship listed 10-15° to starboard, oil and gasoline, released from the tanks by the torpedo hit, caught fire on the water.

Captain Sherman slowed to 10 knots (12 mph; 19 km/h), ordering the rudder put to port to try to get the wind on the starboard bow; he then went astern with right rudder until the wind was on the starboard quarter, in an attempt to keep the fire forward. At that point, flames made the central station unusable, and communication circuits went dead. Soon, a serious gasoline fire broke out in the forward portion of the hangar; within 24 minutes of the initial attack, there were three additional major gasoline vapor explosions. Ten minutes later Sherman decided to abandon ship as the firefighting was ineffectual. Survivors would have to disembark quickly to minimize loss of life.

After consulting with Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, Captain Sherman ordered “abandon ship” at 15:20. All badly injured men were lowered into rafts or rubber boats. Many unwounded men had to abandon ship from aft because the forward fires were burning with such intensity. The departure, as Sherman observed it, looked “orderly”, and there was no panic. The only delays occurred when many men showed reluctance to leave until all the wounded had been taken off. The abandonment took nearly 40 minutes, and at 16:00 Sherman abandoned the ship once he was satisfied that no survivors were left on board.

Although the submarine hazard caused the accompanying destroyers to lie well clear or to shift position, they carried out rescue operations until Laffey, Lansdowne, Helena, and Salt Lake City had 1,946 men embarked. The fires on Wasp, drifting, traveled aft and there were four violent explosions at nightfall. Lansdowne was ordered to torpedo the carrier and stand by until she was sunk.[1] Lansdownes Mark 15 torpedoes had the same unrecognized flaws reported for the Mark 14 torpedo. The first two torpedoes were fired perfectly, but did not explode, leaving Lansdowne with only three more. The magnetic influence exploders on these were disabled and the depth set at 10 feet (3.0 m). All three detonated, but Wasp remained afloat for some time, sinking at 21:00.[10] 193 men had died and 366 were wounded during the attack. All but one of her 26 airborne aircraft made a safe trip to carrier Hornet nearby before Wasp sank, but 45 aircraft went down with the ship. Another Japanese submarine, I-15, duly observed and reported the sinking of Wasp, as other US destroyers kept I-19 busy avoiding 80 depth charges. I-19 escaped safely.[1][11]