Category Archives: Ships and the Sea

Checking in

By lex, on July 12th, 2006

I must be brief: Cleaning quarters ends in five minutes, at which time 2500 Sailors otherwise profitably engaged in dabbing casually at bulkheads with foxtails, standing stoic watch with broomsticks at port arms or gazing thoughtfully upon knee-knockers with sandpaper limply in their hands will rush to the closest computer terminal and check their stock quotes, whereupon all the bandwidth now available to me in lieu of such activity will gently swirl (in a clockwise direction, this being the northern hemisphere) down into that great yawning abyss known as “Server Cannot Be Found.”

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Navy, Ships and the Sea

First Ship, First Cruise

 

By Lex, on Sat – April 30, 2005

 

I was talking to my chief-of-staff the other day about the first CO I’d had as midshipman – his name escaped me, but his adventures had not. One of those tales brought a glimmer of recognition to his eyes, and he asked, “what ship, and what timeframe?”

Turned out that nearly 30 years ago, the COS and I had been across the pier from one another – he as Lieutenant Junior Grade, and I as a third class midshipman. One of those strange circularities of the service, things that somehow ought to surprise, but over time and experience have lost their ability to do so. He remembered the CO well, and caught me up on his career after I’d left the ship.

Turned out the man had made admiral, and retired with one star on his collar. For reasons which I will in time reveal, this surprised me.

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Exemplary Violence

Posted by Lex, on February 17, 2011

 

One old coot from Norway recommends it as a deterrent to piracy: *

A Norwegian shipping magnate was strongly criticized Wednesday for suggesting that pirates captured off the Horn of Africa should be sunk with their skiffs or executed on the spot.

In a newspaper op-ed, the 79-year-old founder of the Stolt-Nielsen shipping group, Jacob Stolt-Nielsen, said history shows that fighting piracy requires a gloves-off approach.

“When (piracy) implies a great risk of being caught and hanged, and the cost of losing ships and weapons becomes too big, it will decrease and eventually disappear,” Stolt-Nielsen wrote Tuesday in Norwegian financial newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv.

“Pirates captured in international waters have always been punished by death, often on the spot,” he wrote, arguing that modern navies should deal with the problem like Roman pirate hunter Pompey did more than 2,000 years ago.

“Not arrest them and say, ‘naughty, naughty, shame on you,’ and release them again, but sink their boats with all hands,” Stolt-Nielsen wrote. “The pirates won’t be frightened by being placed before a civilian court.”

The article drew sharp criticism in Norway, a seafaring nation known as a peace broker in many of the world’s armed conflicts and as the home of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The sole survivor of the Maersk Alabama pirate crew was recently sentenced to 33 years in a US prison. *

One more bullet would have been cheaper.

** 05-09-18 Links Updated – Ed. 

 

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Passages. Sad Passages.

Brownsville, Texas
It is where ships go to die.
Forrestal and Saratoga are unrecognizable.
Constellation arrived a couple of weeks ago.
The three Good Ships I made cruises on are in the queue. Independence, Ranger and Kitty Hawk.
Yeah.
It hurts.
Old friends they are to so many who chose the sea.
The times are indeed, a changing.
Passages.

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Filed under Carriers, Good Ships, History, Lex, Navy, Really Good Stuff, Remember, Sea Stories, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea

Her final voyage: Navy’s first super-carrier USS Forrestal begins journey to the scrapyard after being sold for ONE CENT

Having served in Independence and Ranger, this does tug at the heart strings a bit. I did serve in those years with men who were aboard Forrestal during the tragedy of 1967.

The Navy has paid one cent under a contract to have the 60-year-old vessel dismantled by All Star Metals in the Gulf port of Brownsville.

The decommissioned aircraft carrier Ex-USS Forrestal, pictured in 2010, is now on its final voyage to the scrap heap in Texas
The decommissioned aircraft carrier Ex-USS Forrestal, pictured in 2010, is now on its final voyage to the scrap heap in Texas

Tugboat Alex McAllister pushes the USS Forrestal into the Delaware River on the aircraft carrier's final voyage from Navy Shipyard in south Philadelphia
Tugboat Alex McAllister pushes the USS Forrestal into the Delaware River on the aircraft carrier’s final voyage from Navy Shipyard in south Philadelphia
The times are indeed a changin……………………………

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Treasure Map

I’m currently reading Theodore Roscoe’s United States Submarine Operations In World War 2. This particular edition was probably a first edition published in 1949(!) by the United States Naval Institute Press. It’s even looks like it was published in 1949:

20131108-171453.jpg
From the preface:

This volume is not the official operational history. Strictly speaking, it is not a history, nor is it to be studied as such. Herein, in the narrative form, the reader will the inspiring saga of submarining. For the student, the technical side is featured. And many aspects of submarine warfare which would ordinarily be excluded from a purely historical text are detailed and discussed.

It’s in my care for now, on loan from the Pritzker Military Library. I wanted to see if there are historical parallels between the sub campaign in the pacific to seeing how reasonable it would be to use SSNs/SSKs to contain the PLAN within the first island chain.

Going through the first chapter I found this enclosed in the book:

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It’s an unknown newspaper clipping detailing the moorings of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 at 7:55am.

The other side of the clipping features an ad for a book called “Home Before Dark” by Eileen Bassing. According to a quick Google search it was first published in 1957.

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That leads me to believe the map and newspaper were published in 1957.

The map itself is very interesting as it details most of the ships in port and even tells I what some witnesses were doing moments before the attack.

Even more unusual, the paper left a stain on the page which makes me believe maybe it hasn’t been seen since 1957. Who knows.

Anyway, this is a treasure map and maybe, if the reader know more than I, of some historical significance.

Just amazing…you never know what you’re going to in and on these books.

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Filed under Books, Navy, Sea Stories, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea, Submarines, Uncategorized

Operation End Sweep (part 2)

3-1-2010 11-51-59 PM

A map of North Vietnam with the shaded areas representing mined areas.

Part 1.

It was never the intention of the Nixon Administration to make sweeping mines in the South China Sea a political issue. Nevertheless, on 16 May 1972, the Washington Evening Star quoted Nixon as saying “the mines will go when the POWs (Prisoners of War) are free.” SECSTATE Kissinger saw that eventually minesweeping could be used to help bring our POWs home because the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) were the one that initially raised the mine sweeping issue in connection with handing over the POWs. By 15 December, 1972 the White House told SECDEF (Secretary of Defense) that the JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) should review it’s minesweeping plans for North Vietnam. On 20 December, the JCS responded to the Whitehouse and SECDEF by saying clearing the mines posed an “undue risk to Naval personnel.” However, by that time the peace processes was faltering and Operation Linebacker II commenced, resulting in an increased mining of the waters off North Vietnam. Eventually the DRV did return to the peace table and on 27 January DRV signed a “Mine Clearing Protocol” as part of the so-called Paris Peace Deal.

The most important issues directly related to OES (Operation End Sweep) in the protocol were:

Article 3: consult immediately on relevant factors and agree upon the earliest possible target date for the completion of work.

Article 4: set a meeting between Naval representative from the US and DRV “At a later date. (these meeting actually began before the protocol was signed).” During this time the US Navy gave some rudimentary technical details on how the Destructor mines worked.

Article 5: Specified that DRV should actively participate in clearing/sweeping inland waterways using equipment and training that was given to them by the US.

By 5 February a “Haiphong Clearing Committee” had met to discuss the technical details of minesweeping the Haiphong area. These meetings took place on TF-78 Task Force 78) ships.

On February 6th, MSOs entered and swept the anchorage where the larger ships of TF-78 would stay. USS Impervious swept the area and marked with the path with buoys. Sweeping in the vicinity of the anchorage continued south of Grand Norway Island on the 7th.

Sweeping the northern ports over the southern ports and inland waterways but the problem was the large between in the minefields the DRV had charted and the minefields that the US Navy charted. The sweep plan stated only areas where known mines were and/or had self-destructed or sterilized would be swept. By 7 February the LPH and LPDs arrived at the anchorage while other airborne units continued training at Subic Bay. Another DRV point of contention was the insistence on the Navy giving the DRV towing gear and earth moving equipment to dig-up and move buried mines. However, at the time, the US was unwilling to allow this.

The first merchant ship departed Haiphong around the 7th, before sweeping of area had even begun. These shallow draft ships were empty (having already unloaded military equipment before the mining began) and used US supplied minefield charts to make the run into the South China Sea at high tide. Even before US Navy sweeping operations began, the NVN (North Vietnamese Navy) used Soviet supplied “closed loop” mine sweeping gear to sweep portions of the port of Haiphong.

On 21 February, airborne mine seeping assets arrived on-scene. The first airborne sweep by an HM-12 CH-53D (with a UH-1E in the lead) occurred on  27 February. Meanwhile on 23-25 February, Raydist equipment was installed ashore at Do Son, Cat Bai and Dinh Vu. These were transported ashore by CH-46s from HMM-165. A fourth Raydist was installed on board the fleet tug, USS Tawasa (ATF-92).

Early in the morning on the 28th, sweeping operations stopped because the POWs were not being returned per agreement. OES was being used as the “carrot” to get the DRV to return the POWs but the DRV wanted mine sweeping equipment for sweeping the inland waterways on their own. Agreement to this was reached on 5th March and operations resumed on the 6th.

Magnetic Orange Pipe 1

Magnetic Orange Pipe

3-1-2010 11-51-38 PM Northern ports and villages were swept for the next 6 weeks. Airborne unit Alfa swept the Haiphong area using the MK-105 sweeping gear. Unit Bravo, using the MOP swept the Cua Cam area. On a side note, airborne units, Charlie and Delta never trained with the MK-105 gear.

3-1-2010 11-53-25 PM On 9 March at 1240 local, the first and only mine swept, a MK-52, detonated behind in the vicinity of a MK-105 being towed behind a CH-53D.  Most of the deployed mines by the time of OES had already self-sterilized.

WAMUS_Mines_mk52_pic

MK-52 mine.

On the 13th, the Soviet merchantman, Zayson transited the Haiphong channel inbound.

On the 17th, the USS Enhance, had an engine room fire. Enhance was anchored in the outer approach to Passe Henriette. USS Safeguard assisted and brought the Enhance under tow. That same day an HM-12 CH-53D lost it’s tail rotor and crashed. All the crew were recovered.  After this all CH-53s (throughout the US Navy and USMC) were grounded and inspected. On March 25 a MK-105 undertow collided with a “civilian” 12ft wooden skiff. There were no injures but there was some minor damage to the –105.

id_ch53_super_stallion_04_700

An HM-12 CH-53D Super Stallion.

Another CH-53S was lost on 2 April due to a tail rotor failure. It splashed down in Haiphong harbor and the crew was recovered. As a result, a more extensive inspection of all OES CH-53s occurred. Pitch change rod end assemblies were replaced and gearbox inspections were increased to every 10 flight hours. Flights resumed on 6 April.

300px-Washtenaw_County_MSS-2

The USS Washtenaw County seen transiting the main channel in Haiphong harbor.

By 14 April the USS Washentaw County transited Haiphong’s main shipping channel to demonstrate is navigability but by the 17, this was cut short again because the DRV failed to meet the agreed to cease-fire in Laos and Cambodia. On the 24th, elements of TF-78 departed the area for Subic Bay.

On 24, April the USS Force had and engine fire and sunk about 770 miles east of Guam, on it’s way to OES. The crew was recovered by a Norwegian merchant ship.

Taking TF-78 off the line allowed for TF-78 to undertake a reassessment of OES.  The Navy estimated that most of the mines had self sterilized by the first week of May. As of the 16 April, in the Haiphong area 3 days each of sweeping at Cua Cam and Lach Tray channels and 2 additional transits by Washtenaw County in the main shipping channel were all that remained to be done. In the Hon Gai and Cam Pha, 6 and 2 days, respectively, of airborne screening remained. Remaining operations would be conducted as a check sweep because all mines completed their self-sterilization period of 6 months. There was also an assessment of equipment that the Navy had given to the DRV.

Operations resumed on 20 June and an agreement was also in place to give the DRV more equipment for sweeping the inland waterways, which, by now, they were going to do on their own. Most of the check sweeping was done around Lach Huyen and on the  26 mine sweeping in the north by Haiphong was finished. On 28 June operations shifted to Vinh. Alfa swept near Hon La and Bravo swept Quang Khe.

On 4 July the fatality of OES occurred when a flight deck crewman on the USS Ogden caught in the closing stern door of a CH-53 that was taking off.

Finally, Operation End Sweep, wound down by 20 July 1973. The closing dispute between the Navy and the DRV was over bulldozers. The DRV wouldn’t accept the condition of the TD-6 bulldozers. The TD-6s were thought, by the DRV, to be in poor material condition. There was a final meeting on 18 July 1973 to resolve this issue but nothing ever came of it.

Elements of TF-78 left the DRV for Subic Bay and on 27 July 1973 TF-78 was dissolved 6 months to the day it was formed.

In total, the Haiphong area accounted for 70% of the tow hours. The 3 northern port areas required 87% of the tow hours. Generally the sweeping was carried out to a 95% certainty that no live mines remained.

Here’s a summary of End Sweep units:

CH-53Ds: 37 aircraft

13 USN HM-12

24 USMC HMM-463 and HMM-165

Ocean Minesweepers (MSOs): 10

Mine Flotilla 1 Western Pacific

  Engage (MSO-433)

  Force (MSO-445

  Fortify (MSO-446)

  Impervious (MSO-449)

  Inflict (MSO-456)

West Coast

  Enhance (MSO-437)

  Leader (MSO-490)

  Illusive (MSO-448)

Naval Reserve Training Force ships, based in Hawaii

  Conquest (MSO-480)

  Esteem (MSO-438)

  Washtenaw County (MSS-2)

p.s.

I was trying to find out exactly who the only fatality was. I was unable to find out. If anyone does know, please let me know.  I’d like to dedicate these posts to his sacrifice.

For more information on the different elements of OES see the following:

The Naval Historical Society’s page on OES.

Wikipedia’s page.

Navsource.org has a few more pics of the vessel involved.

102 Minesweepers has some good stuff.

Eagle One has some good info on the history of airborne minesweeping.

Finally, some more history of airborne mine countermeasures here.

2 books provide context and further information:

Hartman’s “Weapons That Wait: Mine Warfare in the US Navy” and the Naval Historical Society’s “Operation End Sweep: A History of Minesweeping Operations in North Vietnam.”

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