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Pearl Harbor: 75 Years On

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 07 2016

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This mural of Battleship Row under attack was made compositing three photos taken on December 7th, together and filling in details and colorizing the result.  This mural is 10 feet tall and nearly 34 feet long inside the museum.

This mural of Battleship Row under attack was made compositing three photos taken on December 7th, together and filling in details and colorizing the result. The full sized mural is 10 feet tall and nearly 34 feet long, and on display at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum in Muskgon, Michigan

Today people will gather at Pearl to remember the attack that resolutely launched a reluctant America into WWII.

Was it a surprise? Depends on what you mean by “surprise”.

To the American public, many of whom were anti-war, it was a shock in nearly every way. The Japanese were not our enemy; they were rice farmers; they were not capable of this–what the hell happened?! How could they penetrate as far as Hawaii with no one noticing?

To the military and government who had been watching both sides of the world conflict, the who wasn’t a surprise. The “when” wasn’t even that much of a surprise, thanks to the code-breaking capabilities. Everyone in Roosevelt’s cabinet figured that, unless a miracle happened, Japan and the USA would be at war by Christmas, if not sooner.

But Pearl Harbor, I believe, was still a shock in the “where” and the “how” categories.

Lives and ships were lost.  America was nearly defenseless to protect itself across the immense expanse of the Pacific. We had a military the size of Sweden’s, and had been practicing using flour bags for bombs and grenades and wooden rifles for practice due to budget cuts.  For all anyone knew, Japan was ready to move into Hawaii or even the West Coast.  With a large enough army, they could have done so.

As the hours wore on, the news poured in.  We concentrate so hard on Pearl Harbor (at least here in the United States) we sometimes forget that Manila was hit hours later.  Singapore, the seat of the British Navy in the Far East, was attacked, Wake Island, Thailand, Malaysia, the Japanese Empire blossomed, battle by battle. By Christmas, the Japanese would be within striking distance of Australia.

It was a new, terrifying world.

Which thankfully came to an end.

Today, the wounds are still closing. The identities of unknown victims of Pearl Harbor are slowly being identified through DNA advances. Today the Japanese Prime Minister will attend the memorial ceremony to honor the dead.  Today, we will try to stop and strike that delicate balance of remembering the past and honoring those who gave their lives, while nurturing the present reconciliation with Japan.

There are still injustices left from Pearl Harbor.

People on both sides who never met fathers, brothers, and uncles.

People who were locked up in detention camps for being able to trace their ancestry back to Japan.

Two families, Kimmel and Short, who still campaign to clear their ancestor’s name as the scapegoats for Pearl Harbor.

Families who still wait, hoping one day a skeleton marked ‘unknown’ in the Punchbowl will come back with a DNA match, so the name can be restored.

 

Today, when we pause to remember, let’s try to understand what happened and why, if only to make sure, as often as possible, that it cannot happen again.

The Concealed Loss of S-27, Part 3: The Flight of Raven

Lost Subs, Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 04 2016

This is Part 3 of a series.  You can read Part 1 here and Part two here.

Submarine S-27 becomes Camp S-27 waiting for…

Most of the canned rations had already been removed from the 27, and hauled “home” to Constantine Village.  The offices figured that they had about 30 days’ worth of food at two meals a day.  While Jukes was at S-27’s wreck site, the crew found an old abandoned dory.  Worm eaten though it was, it at least still floated.  A little scavenging supplies and some creativity provided rods and lines, and some enthusiastic fishermen provided fresh fish to supplement the meals.

Another Amchitka Cabin from 1938. Alaska Digital Archives

Another Amchitka Cabin from 1938. Alaska Digital Archives

For his part, young George Herold never doubted that they’d be rescued before the rations were eaten.  But records show some of the older men and officers worried whether enough fish or foraging could feed the crew after a month’s time, if no help came.  No one dared think of winter.  I doubt for morale’s sake they shared their worries to others in public, and certainly, Herold never worried it would take long.

Also taken in 1938, this shows the interior of the cabins the S-27 crew stayed in. Alaska Digital Archives

Also taken in 1938, this shows the interior of the cabins the S-27 crew stayed in. Alaska Digital Archives

 

But least with all the kerosene lying around abandoned, they were reasonably warm.

Every day, the men had to fall in for roll call, which Herold and many others found rather funny, because, “who would go AWOL anyway.”[i]

The camp settled into a routine. Though Amchitka was well known for the sheer numbers and variety of arctic wildlife, the men saw very little.  Herold himself later said, “ [it] was a funny thing—we didn’t see no animals, or nothing at night there…birds occasionally, but there was nothing on that island at all.”[ii]

Photo taken in later 1941 (perhaps during an expedition into the loss of S-27 or looking into Amchitka's suitability as an Air Base.) Alaska Digital Archives

Photo taken in later 1941 (perhaps during an expedition into the loss of S-27 or looking into Amchitka’s suitability as an Air Base.) This may be the type of dugout that Herold and his friends took for their shelter in Constantine Village.  Alaska Digital Archives

The only life many saw was the occasional plane, miles away, possibly patrolling. From that distance, it wasn’t likely the planes saw the little community. Still, camp life and routine was dominated by the simple idea, with the Japanese so close, don’t make any changes that could be noticed by an air patrol.[iii]

Wednesday, June 24th arrived.  Five days into this adventure, camp muster was called, just as it was every morning.  And after the morning jokes about having to do so, everyone went to their assigned duties, whether that was sentry duty, fishing, cooking the day’s first meal, or just keeping out of trouble.

The weather had been nice for a few days[1], but that day it was foggy, wet and miserable.  The patrol planes based in Dutch Harbor reported that conducting any reconnaissance beyond Atka Island, 120 miles to the east, was impossible.[iv] The wind whipped the seas into a rough condition.

The Church bell suddenly rang out. A plane was coming right for them! The men quickly ducked into the buildings or dugouts they’d found.  Herold heard Nelly yell out, “He’s either going to drop bombs or supplies, take you pick!” [v]

The plane got closer, and closer, until the crew realized it was a PBY Catalina—the American Flying Boat!

A Catalina PBY-5A, the model the men sighted that day. Wikipedia

A Catalina PBY-5A, the model the men sighted that day. Wikipedia

The Raven Lands

In seconds, the “abandoned village” exploded into a mass of shouting, waving men.  One grabbed an American flag and spread it out on the ground for the pilot to see[2].  Several others ran to the sandy beach scrawled “S-27” in large letters. [vi]

The large plane dropped from 1500 feet to 300, then circled, watching this event.  A lamp blinked, and the signalman read the message “WILL SEND POSIT  X  WILL LAND.” [vii]

The Catalina soared out to the sea, banked, and landed beautifully in Constantine Harbor, despite the rough waves.  The pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Julius Raven, popped the hatch and leaned out of the cockpit waving as a couple excited S-27 survivors paddled the worm-eaten dory out to meet the plane.

This sight might have been similar to the crew of the S-27. While it was taken in Unalaska Island, it shows another Catalina using a dory to load and unload passengers and cargo. Alaska Digital Archives.

This sight might have been similar to the crew of the S-27. While it was taken in Unalaska Island, it shows another Catalina using a dory to load and unload passengers and cargo. Alaska Digital Archives.

Raven, his copilot Rock Bannister, and the crew, were returning from a routine patrol, and had gotten lost.  They’d seen Amchitka by chance, and flew over to confirm their position when the village erupted. Several minutes later, Raven reported that Patrol Wing 14, his air group, would send three more planes in the morning to take off the crew of S-27, provided Raven evacuated as many as he could now.[viii]

Evacuation of the 10-15 men he could fit inside required dumping most of Raven’s equipment overboard—something the men happily did.

Jukes and Harold were not evacuated with Raven’s plane.  Herold made sure to good-naturedly jerk the chains of those who went: ‘How come you get to go first?” [ix]

That night, the remaining S-27 crew cooked up every bit of food they wanted.  “…[We] had Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner in one.  We stuffed ourselves and laid back like fat cats,” Herold said. [x]

Late the next morning, three more PBYs, stripped of extra equipment and arms,[xi]  landed in Constantine Harbor. The crew quickly destroyed all the weapons and ammunition they had evacuated off the S-27, before boarding for home.   Extra items, which were deemed no real help to the enemy if they landed (mostly blankets, unused winter clothing and more canned food) were to be left as well.   Herold proudly wore the one thing he had made absolutely sure he got off his old boat: a tailor made set of dress blues which had cost him three-quarters of a month’s salary which he had bought eight months earlier in San Diego. [xii]  [xiii] He’d left behind all his work clothes and toiletries on the S-27,  but took these with him when he boarded the raft back when he evacuated the S-27.

The flight “home” to Chernofsky harbor on Unalaska Island took about six hours. The seas were rough and the Catalina Herold was on hit hard: “After a couple of big bounces, we stayed on the water and swore we’d never get into another airplane”. [xiv]

They were brought to the seaplane tender USS HULBERT (AVD-6), a floating hotel/plane stocking depot/repair stop.  Each man was examined by the on-board doctor, then allowed a bath and a clean bunk for the night.  Considering the water restriction on a submarine, it was likely the first shower most  had in nearly a month.

The USS HULBERT, a destroyer-turned-seaplane tender. Later, she would ground for several days near Attu Island, but would finish out the war. Navsource.org

The USS HULBERT, a destroyer-turned-seaplane tender. Later, she would ground for several days near Attu Island, but would finish out the war. Navsource.org

Fallout at Dutch Harbor

The next day, despite Herold’s self-promise to never fly again, the crew was packed aboard another plane and flown across Unalaska Island to Dutch Harbor.  While in the air, Herold thought of home and realized there was something special about this week.  He’d dropped out  of his last year of school to join the Navy and “see the world”. Pearl Harbor had changed “see the world” to “fight a war”, but this week back home in Patterson, New Jersey,  all his old classmates were celebrating prom and graduation.  [xvi]

Once safely landed at the sub base in Dutch Harbor, the crew of the S-27 were each issued a new sea bag, and forced to leave behind anything they’d brought with this from Amchitka—this included Herold’s carefully-saved blues. [xv]

The ordeal wasn’t quite over, at least not for Jukes and some of his crew.  He, his officers, and several enlisted men were sequestered to attend the official investigation at Dutch Harbor into whether the S-27’s loss was “cause of war” or caused by dereliction of duty.  Jukes and his crew, as experienced submariners, were needed aboard other boats, so rather than waiting, so the trial was scheduled quickly: July 1, 1942 at Dutch Harbor.[xvii]  The outcome of the investigation would determine whether anyone would face charges in a formal court martial.

Jukes had the right to have another submarine commander represent him at the investigation. He chose S-28’s CO, John Daniel Crowley.  Crowley had actually been tasked with finding the S-27 and crew on June 22, but foul weather kept him from seeing anything at his assigned area on Semisopochnoi Island.  Lt. Frank Smith asked the CO of S-35, also newly returned, to be his counsel.

Three days of testimony followed, much of which involved painfully (so very painful…) detailed information about tide tables, their availability and accuracy, current charts and when and how they did and didn’t work, who did what, when, and why.   Fifteen witnesses, some from the S-27, and some from the command at Dutch Harbor, were called, and some these witnesses, like XO and Navigator Lt. Smith, answered over 100 questions during their interrogation.  After the testimony, the board came to their conclusion.

It was dereliction of duty.

Jukes was found to be derelict for failing to exercise due caution and supervision while the S-27 charged her batteries in the fog, and was recommended for court martial.

XO Lt. Frank Smith, navigator, was derelict because he failed to fix the position of the ship, despite the lack of radar, stars, or landmarks and was also recommended for court marital.

Boatswain Kreuger was negligent because he ordered S-27 to assume the pre-assigned course while the visibility was still poor, and failed to ask his CO if any different orders were needed given the circumstances.  [xviii]

Jukes and Butler would face a formal court martial.  Kreuger would be given a letter of Admonition.  The rest of the crew were free.

It was also determined that salvaging the S-27 was impossibly dangerous, due to her condition and location so close to the front lines.  Investigators, landing at Amchitka by plane two days after the crew left, photographed S-27’s remains, which were included in the investigation, and are featured in this series.  They discovered she was breaking up even more and predicted she would sink during the next major storm.

Still, testimony of Lt. Cmdr. Carl N. Anderson, an Alaskan Captain with over twenty years’ experience sailing the Aleutians, helped.  He made the point that the official information given to Jukes was horribly insufficient, and that no tide tables could be accurate in the Aleutians, as circumstances changed tides and currents based on too many factors than could be tabulated. Still, Lt Cmdr. Anderson said, in his experience, when he didn’t know where he was, he would have dropped anchor and waited for the fog to pass or headed straight south, and out to the open sea.

Concealment

Most submarine losses were realized in retrospect.  A sub which didn’t return to port for long enough was simply assumed lost.  The next of kin would be notified via telegram that the boat was overdue and presumed lost with all hands.  The radio would say the same-“overdue and presumed lost”. The crew would be listed as MIA for the duration of the war, until POW rolls could be inspected to make sure no one had escaped and been captured by the enemy.

In S-27’s case, however, a boat, but not a crew, had been lost.  Lost near enemy territory, and the Navy knew their announcements could be listened to by the enemy.  The news that a submarine, even an old one, was potentially above water and within reach might trigger a conquest of Amchitka, if only to retrieve anything of use from her before retreating back to Kiska and Attu.

So the loss was covered up, as though it had never been.

The crew could not talk about it, or write about it.  George Herold himself was barred from writing anything, and only told his parents confidentially during his first leave home, fourteen months later.

As far as the Navy was concerned, the S-27 simply had stopped going on patrol one day.  Not lost, just not…at all.

It wasn’t until August 10, 1945, that the loss of the S-27 was publicly announced.

Along with three other submarines (which had also grounded and the crews were saved)…

…and 104 other Naval vessels…

…but no one really noticed.

 

Because on August 10, 1945, THIS was the headline.

 

So, yes, the news of S-27's loss kind of got lost under the big news of the day, three years later...

So, yes, the news of S-27’s loss kind of got lost under the big news of the day, three years later…

EPILOGUE

Jukes went on to command two new Gato-class submarines, The Kingfish and the Cutlass,  In a strange twist of fate, eighteen months after S-27 grounded in Alaska, Jukes, commanding Kingfish, stopped by Midway Island on his way home from Kingfish’s sixth patrol, Jukes’s first as Commanding Officer.  It was January 1944, and one submarine and a sub rescue vessel were grounded in Midway’s channel, partially blocking the only route into the lagoon.  The grounded submarine was the Flier and her CO was Commander John D. Crowley, Jukes’s old counsel for his S-27 investigation.

By March 1945, Frank Smith, former XO of the S-27, was the Commanding Officer of the Hammerhead for her final three patrols.  During these patrols, Hammerhead sank five ships, earning her three more battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation.

The crew of the S-27 was broken up and assigned new boats or duties.  Many were reassigned to Aleutian submarines, including the S-18, 28, and 35.

George Herold about the time of the S-27 loss. Photo courtesy of Herold to the National Parks Service.

George Herold about the time of the S-27 loss. Photo courtesy of Herold to the National Parks Service.

George Herold, along with one other S-27 crewman, Rocco Pia, was assigned to the submarine Finback.  Herold served on Finback for five patrols, sailing out of Dutch Harbor, Pearl and ending in Freemantle, Australia. After Finback, he served aboard Picuda for six patrols. Despite some close calls with depth charges, he survived and continued in the Navy until an accident forced his early retirement in 1949.

Of the entire S-27 crew, only two died during WWII.  Lt. Young, who had lead the expedition to unsuccessfully find the village the first day, died on August 25, 1942, when his plane taking him from Alaska to the continental United States vanished.   [xix]

Lt. Young. From On Eternal Patrol Website

Lt. Young. From On Eternal Patrol Website

Robert Shirah, one of S-27s lookouts when she grounded, later served on submarine Escolar.  The Escolar vanished during her first patrol. Her resting place and cause of her disappearance remain unknown.  [xx]

Robert Shirah, from On Eternal Patrol website.

Robert Shirah, from On Eternal Patrol website.

August 9, 1942, Julius Raven, who had found the survivors, went down on while conducting a search mission for a missing plane [xxi].  He had been awarded an Air Medal for his part in rescuing the S-27 survivors, and after his death, received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions against the Japanese. A high speed transport, commissioned in 1945, was named in his honor.[xxii]

S-27 can no longer be seen, and must have sunk relatively close to where it grounded near St. Makarius Point.

Amchitka After

Amchitka itself soon became one of the largest bases in the Aleutians.

In December,1942, Amchitka, despite its drawbacks of muddy and marshy ground, was selected as the new advance airbase in the Aleutians.  A pilot was ordered to destroy the village and church from the air before the ground forces moved in. He had no problems taking out the cabins, but “felt squeamish destroying this sacred building,”. Still, he “made several half-hearted passes…[then] bombed the church flat.” [xxiii]

This is the only image I could find of the interior of the church. It's so beautiful. The name is lost, though the Orthodox Church in Alaska says the records pertaining to this church or chapel were transferred to the Library of Congress, so it is possible the name could be recovered someday. The iconostasis is stunning, even in black and white. In full color, it must have been beautiful. Elements of the decor come from Aletutian motifs one can see on other artifacts. Alaska Digital Archives.

This is the only image I could find of the interior of the church. It’s so beautiful. The name is lost, though the Orthodox Church in Alaska says the records pertaining to this church or chapel were transferred to the Library of Congress, so it is possible the name could be recovered someday. The iconostasis is stunning, even in black and white. In full color, it must have been just breathtaking. Elements of the decor come from Aletutian motifs one can see on other artifacts.
Alaska Digital Archives.

The American ground troops moved in on January 12, 1942, and, despite the foul winter weather, had the first runway completed by February 16.

Taken in March 1943, this shows the location of S-27's Constantine Village 9 months after their departure. This is "Runway Alpha", which would soon be the smallest of three. Each of those dots is a single quonset hut, for those stationed there. US Archives, Wikipedia.

Taken in March 1943, this shows the location of S-27’s Constantine Village 9 months after their departure. This is “Runway Alpha”, which would soon be the smallest of three. Each of those dots is a single quonset hut, for those stationed there. US Archives, Wikipedia.

 

Soon, two more were constructed, including Runway Charlie.  At 10,000 feet long, it was the longest airstrip in the world at that time.   A year after the submarine rescue, the bare tundra the s-27 survivors got lost in was crisscrossed with the three runways, several hangers, and dozens of roads, buildings, and Quonset huts. It was a base supporting more than ten thousand troops, and the launch point for the re-taking of Attu Island. The Battle of Attu, 11 May – 30 May, 1943, would be one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific.

By August, the Amchitka base personnel lead the way to Kiska, only to discover the Japanese had quietly evacuated the garrison over two weeks earlier, under cover of heavy fog.

After the war, Amchitka became the site of three underground nuclear tests in the 1950’s.  Today, it has resumed its National Wildlife Refuge states (a status it had before WWII began), and is deserted.  However, the marks of its military history remain.  Looking at satellite imagery of Amchitka today reveals a web of airstrips, roads, and foundations of buildings long since removed, but no sign of the S-27 and her crew’s adventure.  The only thing the crew might recognize today is the few Aleut graves, formerly located near the church which was ordered destroyed to make way for the base.  [3]

Footnotes

[1] This is according to Herold.  Official records and testimony from Jukes or the crew make no mention of the weather after S-27 grounded, and three submarines looking for the S-27 on Amchitka and Semisophochnoi that day reported foul weather so bad, they could barely patrol or recon during that week.  But Alaskan weather is variable and highly local.

[2] Whether this flag was salvaged from the S-27 or discovered in the village is not known.  One account, and only one, mentions this flag as an “ensign”.  If it was an ensign, then it was the flag assigned to the S-27, and was salvaged from her, but it would have been identical in appearance to the 48-star “Old Glory”.

[3]  One of the ironies of the church’s destruction was that, as a part of the standard military base, a base church was built, and remained standing for decades after Amchitka closed.  The church didn’t need to be closed, it could even have continued in its function as a church, though perhaps in a wider denominational use.  But this, as we will see, wasn’t the only native church destroyed in the Aleutians during the 1940’s.

Sources Cited:

[i] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg 9 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

 

[ii] Interview with Geroge Herold and Harry Suomi, 2014

[iii] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg 9 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

[iv] (War Diary, Command Task Force 8 6/1/1942 – 6/30/1942, 1942) pg 207

[v] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg 9 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

[vi] ibid

[vii] ibid

[viii] (War Diary, Command Patrol Wing 4, 6/1/1942 to 7/5/1942 (Enc A), 1942)

[ix] Herold, George, “the first and Only patrol of s-27 (SS-133) The Silent Service in WWII; 2012; pg 54

[x] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg  10 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

[xi] (War Diary, Command Patrol Wing 4, 6/1/1942 to 7/5/1942 (Enc A), 1942)

[xii] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg  10 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

[xiii] Interview with Geroge Herold and Harry Suomi, 2014, Transcript, pgs 11 and 12

[xiv] Herold, George, the first and las patrol of S-27 (1989) , pg  10 http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/SS-132_S-27.pdf

 

[xv] ibid

[xvi] Interview with Geroge Herold and Harry Suomi, 2014, Transcript

[xvii] Imvestigation into the Loss of SS-27

[xviii] Summary and finding of the Facts, Investigation into the loss os S-27

[xix] On Eternal Patrol, Lawrence Hildegard Young,

[xx] On Eternal Patrol, Robert Shirah,

[xxi] War Diary, Command Patrol Wing 4 8/1/1942 – 8/31/1942

[xxii] Wikipedia, entry Julius A Raven, accessed 8 Januaery, 2016

[xxiii] Kohlhoff, Dean Amchitka and the Baomb pg 18

The Concealed Loss of the S-27, Part 1

Lost Subs, Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 19 2016

June 19, 1942.

Taken before the war, the S-27 was an old 1920's boat. I particularly like the laundry hung out to dry in this photograph. By 1942, of course, that sort of thing was forbidden in enemy waters. Pic from wikipedia.

Taken before the war, the S-27 was an old 1920’s boat. I particularly like the laundry hung out to dry in this photograph. By 1942, of course, that sort of thing was forbidden in enemy waters. Pic from wikipedia.

It was foggy and overcast, further darkening the long twilight that passed for night in summertime Alaska. Little is worse than being cold and damp through.   High on the bridge of submarine S-27, Robert Shirah from Hawkinsville, Georgia, and Stanley Jorgenson from Chicago Illinois, flanked the Officer of the Deck, Theodore Kreuger[1], shivering through their lookout duties.  They didn’t bother with the usual binoculars as they strained their eyes to see through the soup.  In this haze, the lenses fogged over within moments.

S-27 was using the precious six hours of night to run on the surface and charge her batteries.  She was five miles south of the Alaskan island called Amchitka, and as soon as the sun rose, she’d be heading to the island of Kiska, just fifty miles away.  The Japanese had swept through Attu and Kiska two weeks earlier, landing with no resistance. S-27’s job was to see how many troops were invading, and where they had dug in.  Perhaps, even, discover what had happened to the villages and installations out there.

Things were running as usual for this time of day. About half of S-27’s officers were asleep, including her Captain and First Officer. And, as was also usual, the captain had left orders for the night watches. S-27 was to lay to, drifting on the open sea, while both of 27’s engines charged her batteries.  At twenty years old, the submarine had half of the engines the now-standard fleet subs did, and frequently, every minute of the arctic nights were needed to charge her batteries for the long days ahead.

But not tonight. At 12:45 am, less than an hour after reporting for the watch, Kreuger received word that the battery was nearly charged, well ahead of normal schedule.  Kreuger then followed the next set of orders: One engine was left charging, and the other engaged the props.  S-27, five miles from the nearest land, turned to course three-zero-five[2] at two-thirds speed, a whopping six knot crawl[3].[i]  By dawn, everyone expected to leave sight of Amchitka’s south-western shore, assuming the sun could burn its way through the mist in time.  As it was, S-27 slowly nosed her way through threads of grey fog floating over a nearly-black sea, under a darkly clouded sky.  No landmarks, no stars, no radio signals, no sonar…the S-27 was, for a few more moments, utterly blind.

Up above, Jorgenson saw a darker patch of fog just ahead of S-27. Seconds later, he realized it was a rock!

He called a warning to the Officer of the Deck, who hollered below “Left Full Rudder, come to course two-two-five-true[4] and report to the captain that I think I have sighted land on the starboard bow and am changing course…“ Seconds later Jorgenson called “…breakers twenty-five yards forward!” They were close enough to see waves striking the rocks, even in the haze! Krueger ordered, “Back Emergency!” and sounded the collision alarm. [ii]

My take on those last moments before she hit the rocks. Author's own work.

My take on those last moments before she hit the rocks. Author’s own work.

It was already too late.  Caught in a current they didn’t know existed, S-27 slammed into a submerged rock, lifted on a swell, and crashed down in a rocky cradle.  With each surge of water, S-27 torqued and groaned, pounding her props, and wrenching at her hull’s seams.

Bleary-eyed from the sleep he’d just been yanked out of,  S-27’s new commander, Lt. Cmdr. Harold Jukes, climbed onto the bridge.  In the past few seconds, everything had changed. Trapped on the coldest front line of the Pacific War with forty-two souls under his command, Jukes had to make a number of decisions to keep his men alive in an environment none of them had trained for.

 

The Forgotten Front Line: Alaska

 

By June 1942, the Pacific War was going well for Japan.  In the 48 hours after Pearl Harbor, they’d attacked Midway Island, Wake Island, Manila, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.  Japan, a nation that had few of the natural resources needed to wage a modern war, now had access to rubber, copper and iron mines, oil wells, food and labor.

But the shocking expansion of the Japanese Empire (called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”) hadn’t done what Japan had hoped: Australia and America hadn’t capitulated and sued for peace, they’d stood and gathered themselves to fight back.  In April, just four months after Pearl, the Americans had bombed Tokyo itself, shocking the Japanese people. [5]

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, had gone to school, lived, and worked in the USA.  He knew the Americans were not yet fighting hard. He knew it took time to repair damaged ships, train the thousands of new recruits rushing to sign up, and re-orient the US economy to war rather than commerce.  There was a still small window of opportunity left before Japan’s limitations would become liabilities, and Yamamoto formed a three-pronged attack.

To the south, Japan advanced through the Solomon Islands, determined to cut Australia off from direct routes to the New World and reinforcements.  Any help coming from the Old World already had to come through U-Boat infested waters.  Isolated, with most of her military-aged men already gone fighting for King and Country in Africa, Australia would be quarantined and contained.

A little skirmish called “the Battle of the Coral Sea” put an end to this leg of the plan.  Still, Australia was somewhat isolated, and the Japanese troops had good footings on islands like Guadalcanal.  It wasn’t a complete loss…

MAp of Japan empire

In the center of the Pacific, the Japanese moved to complete their attack on Midway Island.  Pearl Harbor was too well defended and stocked now.  But Midway, small and lightly used, would push Japan’s front lines within easy reach of Pearl, locking the Americans on their side of the ocean.  Unfortunately for the Japanese, their secret codes had already been broken, and the American Aircraft Carriers would be there to meet them.

And in the north, the Japanese would pounce on Attu and Kiska Islands in the Alaskan Aleutian Chain.  Seizing these islands would secure the Northern Great Pacific Routes, the sea traffic lanes which could have allowed the Americans to send supplies to still-(technically)-neutral Russia, and from there to China, Japan’s enemy. As long as Japan held these islands, they could keep America and Canada in place and even launch attacks on west coasts of Alaska, Canada and America.

June 3 arrived, and the attacks at Midway and Alaska opened.  Carriers and troop transports waiting to attack Attu and Kiska launched an attack on Dutch Harbor, the largest western Alaskan port in the Aleutians.  This attack may have been more a distraction to keep any Alaskan-based troops in the north, rather than running south to assist the Battle for Midway as that started.

Then, to the Japanese, the unthinkable happened: in two days of heavy fighting at Midway, led by their brand new monster battleship Yamato, they…lost.  Not just lost, but lost four aircraft carriers, the pilots, maintenance crews, and all their experience along with.  It was a fatal blow, not just at Midway, but to their arena of the war, even with four more years to come.

Many modern historians believe the Aleutians Campaign was supposed to have started the same day as Midway, but for some reason, there was a delay.  On June 7, the six month anniversary of Pearl Harbor, while America celebrated the victory at Midway, the Japanese quietly landed on Kiska and Attu Islands, formally invading the United States, and taking prisoners.[6]

The news of the invasion was mostly kept from the mainland.  It would only cause panic, and it was mostly subsumed beneath the news of Midway’s victory anyway.  Still, Japanese troops on American soil would have to be dealt with.

S-27, along with several other sister subs, arrived at Dutch Harbor Alaska a week after Midway, on June 12.  These old subs had been assigned to help re-take these islands through recon and sentry duty.  Dutch Harbor was still obviously damaged from the earlier Japanese attack. 17-year-old George Harold from New Jersey, remembered the pier S-27 pulled in at:

“…the pier we tied up to had taken a direct hit with a small bomb. You had to be careful where you put your feet or into the drink you went.” [iii]

 

This photo, found at this website months ago (it appears to be removed) may have been the exact pier Harrold recalled decades later.

This photo, found at this website months ago (it appears to be removed) may have been the exact pier Harrold recalled decades later.

 

Summer in Dutch Harbor area was wet and muddy.  Herold saw “…boards for sidewalks and lots of mud…a wooden roller rink and some Aleutian kids skating on it.”[iv]

S-27 had just hours to take on supplies, fuel, and the new charts of the Aleutians she would now be patrolling before setting out again.

Seen attached to its original identifying record, this photograph shows an S-boat in Dutch Harbor taken about a month before this incident. US Navy Photo

Seen attached to its original identifying record, this photograph shows an S-boat in Dutch Harbor taken about a month before this incident. US Navy Photo

Her mission:  inspect the Aleutians, especially Amchika Island, the next island east of Kiska, to see if the Japanese had advanced there, before proceeding to recon Kiska.  The military had to know if the Japanese were consolidating their gains or advancing as fast as possible through the Alaskan islands. At Kiska, S-27 would three other sister S-submarines patrolling various sectors too.

The summer days this far north are eighteen hours long, and the S-27, working in assumed enemy territory, had to patrol submerged during the day, and charge her batteries on the surface during the short night.

S-27 reached Amchitka on 18 August and inspected the old Constantine Harbor with their periscope.  The Japanese had bombed the small evacuated community there, flattening half the structures (three) but leaving the rest, including the old Russian Orthodox Church, still standing.  There were no other signs of Japanese troops.

From here, Jukes had two routes to head west for Kiska: either go around Amchitka to the north, or the south.  Along Amchitka’s northern shore was Rat Island, Little Sitkin Island, and  Semisopochnoi Island.  Scuttlebutt said Semisopochnoi was where the Japanese were building an advance base, which would include a radio, and air patrols.  All of these would limit S-27’s movements and escape options.  So Jukes took his crew south before heading west, where in an emergency, he could head south to unobstructed deep water.[v]

 

The Fatal Fog

The charts of Amchitka and the Aleutians the crew of S-27 had were the most up to date available, as were the tide tables, but there was still insufficient information[vi].  Every night, Jukes ordered his submarine to set a course at least five miles from the nearest land whenever she surfaced for a night’s battery charge.[vii]  It was no different on this night.   S-27 started her engines, but not her props, and “Laid To” during the charge.  This meant that the S-27 was stationary (or so they thought) during the charge period, so both her engines could charge the batteries as quickly as possible.

The currents in the Aleutians are strange, and unusual.  The most experienced of Alaska’s navigators and captains know the currents change based on the tides, the moon phase, amount and movement of ice and icebergs in the water, among many other factors[viii]. With few tide tables to guide him, Jukes had manually tested the currents all the morning…they mostly registered at 1 to 2 knots, heading in various directions as they moved around Amchitka, but nothing strong, and at five miles south of Amchitka, there seemed to be no real current at all.  Jukes, confident that S-27 would be sufficiently far from land in case of the normal currents they’d encountered earlier, left orders to wake him if trouble or land was spotted.

The night watch began.

However, after the fog rolled in, S-27 drifted into a strong current, heading northwest.

In an era before GPS, ships at sea could navigate through the sun’s position or the stars.

Unless it was overcast.

They could use Direct Reckoning, calculating position based on landmarks.

Unless those landmarks are lost in fog.

They could have used sonar to map the ocean’s floor and find the shoals.

If it didn’t give away their position to the nearby enemy.

They could use radar.

If they had it.  They didn’t. [ix]

They could use the fathometer, to measure the depth of water beneath the hull to keep out of shallow waters surrounding islands.

If they had that, which they didn’t either.  They did have a lead weight on a string if they needed to measure depth.  But the waves had been washing over the deck during the night as the 27 charged her batteries, making such measurements too dangerous for any crewman. [x]

Everyone trusted their earlier measurements of little to no detectable currents, and the distance from any land to protect them, as it always had before.

But at some point, the S-27 moved into a fast current that pushed her, quickly, smoothly, five miles off course.  When the battery was charged, Kreuger gave the order to set the pre-ordered course. The fog gave only seconds of warning.  Now, the S-27 was hopelessly trapped and taking on water.

After sending a distress call to any and all US Navy vessels in the area, asking for a tow off the rocks, Jukes set his men to work doing what they could to save themselves.

For a couple of hours, they tried to back her over the rocks.  Releasing the ballast water and even most of her fuel, only made S-27   more unstable.  George Herold, in his bunk in the Forward Torpedo Room, had been jolted awake in the crash.  Now, as 27 rolled and twisted, his friend Nelly[7] said, “Are we on railroad tracks or something?” [xi]

27’s starboard prop crashed into a rock as she rolled in the surf.  It was soon smashed beyond use. The only remaining prop, on her portside, proved it could not power the boat over the rocks back to deep water.

 

3:30 am: About three hours after grounding, Jukes and his crew hadn’t heard a word from the outside world.  S-27 was still water tight, but as the foul weather and swells continued, she took tremendous, ongoing abuse.  Short of help arriving before dawn, S-27’s riveted hull probably wouldn’t make it.   With no radio interceptions at all from the outside world, they all silently faced the fact rescue was unlikely.

The crew of the S-27 was on their own.

 

Part two coming soon…

Taken from the official naval investigation of the incident, this is the S-27 trapped on Amchitka's shore.

Taken from the official naval investigation of the incident, this is the S-27 trapped on Amchitka’s shore.  From this perspective, her bow on the left, hidden behind the rock, and her stern, raised out of the water, is on the right.

Footnotes

[1] I was unable to find Kreuger’s hometown with certainty.  If anyone knows it, please let me know, I’d love to include it.   His place of last enlistment was San Diego in 1936, but many sailors, (including about a quarter of S-27’s crew) re-upped in San Diego.  If the ’36 enlistment was a re-enlistment, that’s most likely not his hometown.

[2] Approximately west north-west.

[3] Not quite 7 mph

[4] Southwest

[5] This is now known as “The Dolittle Raid”

[6] In the aftermath of the Aleutian invasion, many native Aleut populations were evacuated from the Aleutian Islands. By some accounts, people were forcibly resettled, mostly to camps on the Alaskan Panhandle. However, it was too late for the two small settlements on Attu and Kiska. A village of around 45 people on Attu, including 15 children, and the hired schoolmaster and his wife, were captured.  The schoolteacher, Charles Jones, did not survive the invasion, though whether he committed suicide to prevent capture, or was shot by soldiers is still unclear.  His wife, Etta, was separated from the others and shipped to Japan, where she would remain until repatriation in October 1945. In September 1942, as the Japanese mostly left Attu to consolidate Kiska against the incoming American invasion, the remaining Aleut Attu residents were taken to a POW or work camp in Hokkaido, where they spent the rest of the war digging pottery clay for the Japanese war effort.   Sixteen died.  When the survivors returned to the USA and Alaska, after the war, they were not allowed, due to small population, to return to Attu. Attu is uninhabited. [6]

On Kiska, ten American servicemen forming a weather detachment, were also captured.  (One managed to escape and hide for 50 days, before he surrendered, starving and cold.)  Between the Japanese and American efforts, the Aleutians were vacant from Dutch Harbor to the Russian line, allowing either military to build or reinforce the islands.  ( Merrit and Fuller, The Environment of Amchitka, pgs. 120-125)

[7] This is likely Fireman, Second Class Roe D Nelson, from Kansas City, MO

 

References:

[i] Testimony of Theodore Kreuger, Investigation into the loss of S-27, pg 14

[ii] (Jukes, 1942)pg. 3

[iii] Herold, George, the Loss of USS S-27; Commander Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet

[iv] ibid

[v] Jukes, 1942, Pg. 1-2

[vi] Testimony of Lt. Cmdr Carl Anderson, investigation into the loss of S-27

[vii] Jukes, 1942, Pg. 1-2

[viii] Testimony of Lt. Cmdr Carl Anderson, Investigation into the loss of S-27

[ix] The above limitations of s-27’s capabilities drawn from Testimony of Lt. Frank Smith, investigation into the Loss of S-27, pgs 4 – 17

[x] Testimony of Boatswain Kreuger, Investigation into the Loss of S-27 pgs. 14- 22

[xi] Herold, George, The The Silent Service in WWII , pg 51

 

“Cause I Found the Golden Rivet!..”

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
May 29 2015

Not to be confused with the “Golden Ticket “ from a demented Candy-maker, but the story itself is almost as strange!

Flier cover front only

In one of the early drafts of my book, Surviving the Flier, the main “character” (I use that term loosely since the “character” was an actual man I knew and respected greatly) talked about the various non-quals constantly over his shoulder and behind his back learning Flier’s controls for their final submarine qualifications.

“… [I would ] find a non-qual intently inspecting the air bank gauges, sketching electrical systems, or hovering over my shoulder watching me plot our course on a chart. It was a little nerve wracking, but I had been in that position last patrol, and cut them a break.

“At least I didn’t send them on the “Golden Rivet” goose chase.”

For various reasons, that last sentence was cut, mostly because, while such snipe hunts existed, I couldn’t find evidence of any happening on the Flier.  (Still thought it was a fun sentence through!)

But what was the “Golden Rivet”?

 

In case you can't tell...yup still have no Photoshop yet.  Gonna have to make that a priority this weekend I hope!

In case you can’t tell…yup still have no Photoshop yet. Gonna have to make that a priority this weekend I hope!

 

 

For those who remember the Transcontinental Railroad in history class in school, the final spike of the rail which was driven in on May 10, 1869 was made of solid gold. (There were actually four commemorative spikes: two of gold, one of silver, and one of iron, silver and gold). The legendary gold spike was driven in, photo ops were completed, then it was yanked out, replaced with a standard iron spike and the gold spike was promptly put in a museum, where it remains.

 

The "Golden Spike" is somewhere between the two trains in the track.  It'll stay there for only a couple of hours.  US Archives Photo

The “Golden Spike” is somewhere between the two trains in the track. It’ll stay there for only a couple of hours. US Archives Photo

That “Golden Spike” lore apparently had an impact on the new Steel Navy now under construction.

The Civil War of the United States (1861- 1865) was really the bridge between the wooden hulled sailing warships of the past, and the upcoming steel-hulled, steam driven ships of the future.

And the “Golden Spike” of the famous railroad connecting the East to the West, apparently morphed into the “Golden Rivet” of the Navy. (Though some say the Navy story is older and impacted the “Golden Spike”)

In any event, the story goes that each ship contained a Golden Rivet, the very first Rivet placed in a ship (or sub). This would perhaps be the Rivet laid at the Keel Laying Ceremony at the start of a ship’s construction. [1]

Admrial Clark Woodward drives the official first rivet of the future USS MISSOURI during the keel laying ceremony. The Missouri is now on display in Oahu, overlooking the wreck of the USS ARIZONA.  US Navy Photo.

Admiral Clark Woodward drives the official first rivet of the future USS MISSOURI during the keel laying ceremony. The Missouri is now on display in Oahu, overlooking the wreck of the USS ARIZONA. US Navy Photo.

It’s all nonsense, of course.  A rivet of gold would be too soft to withstand the strains of a ship at sea.

But that doesn’t stop the experienced sailors from using it to prank the new hands!

Aboard submarines, each new sailor fresh out of school was considered a non-qual, a person who had the book knowledge, but not the on-hand knowledge to be a submariner.   Their final education took place on board the submarine, where they had to prove that they knew each and every system on a boat, from the engines, to the weapons, to the coffee maker…because you never know when you’ll be a torpedoman forced to cook for 80-120 hungry submariners in a pinch.

Thus all the non-quals had to prove they’d been over every inch of the boat.

Cue the “Golden Rivet”.

I ran across more than one account of an old Submariner telling the new non-qual that the last question on the qualifying exams was telling or showing the Captain where the sub’s Golden Rivet was. As it was in a different place on each boat, the non-qual had to find THIS sub’s Golden Rivet as proof.

This story is doubly ridiculous as starting in the Gato-class boats, the hulls were WELDED, not Riveted. Finding a rivet of any kind, much less gold, would be astonishing.

Still, the Gold-Rivet-Snipe-Hunt suggestion was the beginning of a long, hard, grungy search through the bowels of the ship…and that’s if the prank was fairly benign. It was, according to most, left to the non-qual to figure out that there was no such thing…how long it took him was part of the old hands’ amusement.

As pranks and initiations go, this one, in this form, is rather harmless. There are other legends associated with the “Golden Rivet” that are less so, but I’m not going to mention them here.

 

Commemorative Golden Rivets have been part of the Transcontinental Railroad, The Rigid Airship USS AKRON (ZR-4),  the Golden Gate Bridge (where it famously broke in half and fell into the San Francisco Bay…or an opportunistic pocket!), The Empire State Building ,  among other stadiums, towers and public structures in the early 20th century, but the Golden Rivet on a ship was never real…except in one alleged case in the United Kingdom.

Britannia

Aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the older hands would tell the new recruits “Look, here’s the Golden Rivet, the last rivet placed aboard the Britannia.” And when the new hand bent down to look, he got a swift kick to his nether regions.

Thus continued a ship’s tradition…until, the story goes, the day Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, came aboard.

She’d heard about the Golden Rivet, and wanted to see it!

And no amount of hemming, hawing, delaying, or changing the subject would deter her!

Several men of the Britannia, apparently had access to gold leaf on board (it WAS the Royal Yacht after all!) and quickly leafed a rivet in an out of the way spot in an engine room. A few minutes later, Princess Margaret was shown the Golden Rivet, and everyone was happy.

And just to be safe, that rivet remained Gold-plated (or gold-painted) to this day.  While I can find no photos of it, I have found more than one first-hand account of its existence. Short of boarding the now-museum Britannia, to check, I think it’s likely there.

At any rate, it makes a good story.

“We’ve out-clevered ourselves! Quick! Gild a Rivet!”

 

 

Footnotes

[1] A few accounts have the “Golden Rivet” as the last rivet.

The Newest Indiana in the Fleet! Welcome PCU INDIANA (SSN-789)!

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
May 20 2015

(Yes, Photoshop and my new computer are still non-compatible. Musashi will come, but Memorial Day will come first, which is perfectly fine, there’s lots of stuff going on. USS INDIANA for example.)

May 18th  marked the “keel laying ceremony” for the PCU[1]Indiana! Being a Hoosier by address, this is big news in my neck of the woods.

The official Navy image of what the completed INDIANA will look like.  US Navy Image.

The official Navy image of what the completed INDIANA will look like. US Navy Image.

This will be the fourth Indiana by name, and the first Indiana in nearly 68 years time. (See below for the previous Indianas in the US Navy)

A keel, in ship’s parlance, is a long beam that runs along the length of the ship. In the sailing days, the keel was the “backbone of the ship”, with ribs coming up from the keel and the skin of the hull over that. As wooden vessels transitioned to steel in the late 19th century, this keel became a long steel beam, with steel ribs and hull plating. In all cases, the keel was what gave the ship its strength and structure, any problems with the keel would create problems later.

 

These are two submarines under construction on July 4, 1944. On the left is the TIRU which will enter service.  On the right is the Wahoo (II), which will be scrapped as the war ended before her construction.  However, you can clearly see the keel running down the center of the WAHOO (II)'s back, where all the sections of her frame will be attached to.  (It is also a good cross-section of a WWII era submarine, the central circular section is the pressure hull where the men will live and work, the 'bulges" on either side are the ballast tanks/diesel tanks.  US Navy Photo via navsource.org

These are two submarines under construction on July 4, 1944. On the left is the TIRU which will enter service. On the right is the Wahoo (II), which will be scrapped as the war ended before her construction. However, you can clearly see the keel running down the center of the WAHOO (II)’s back, where all the sections of her frame will be attached to. (It is also a good cross-section of a WWII era submarine, the central circular section is the pressure hull where the men will live and work, the ‘bulges” on either side are the ballast tanks/diesel tanks. US Navy Photo via navsource.org

If the Launch of a ship is her birthday, then the keel laying, is in a way, the ship’s official conception date. (Never mind that a lot of work has already been done up to this point!) From this date forward, the ship is “officially” under construction.

 The Keel Ceremony and a Ship’s (Boat’s) Sponsor

A ship (or boat, as we’re discussing a future submarine here) has no crew or Commanding Officer at this point, so she her keel ceremony is overseen by her “sponsor”.

This sponsor is a civilian who acts as a “godmother” to the ship or submarine whose keel is being laid.  Sometimes the sponsor is the wife, mother, or daughter of a submarine dignitary, or congressional personnel, and this person will return for her Launch, and commissioning. According to Don’t Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions by Jonathan Eyers, the ship’s sponsor is “…a sort of ship’s mascot—even if most of her crewmates probably wouldn’t want her to join them on board.”

Some of the last several sponsors of submarines include:

Then-First Lady Laura Bush at the Keel Laying Ceremony for the USS TEXAS in 2004.  The Texas has been in service since 2006.

Then-First Lady Laura Bush at the Keel Laying Ceremony for the USS TEXAS in 2004. The Texas has been in service since 2006.

 

  • USS TEXAS (SSN-775): Laura Bush The then-current First Lady and Texas resident
  • USS HAWAII (SSN-776): Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii in 2006, when the she boat was under construction.
  • USS NORTH CAROLINA (SSN-777): Linda Bowman, wife of Adm. Frank Bowman, director of Naval Reactors.
  • USS NEW HAMPSHIRE (SSN-778): New Hampshire-resident Cheryl McGuiness, widow of Pilot Thomas McGuiness , lost aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001, when the plane hit the Twin Towers.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama writes her initials during the Keel Ceremony of the upcoming submarine ILLINOIS.   Official WH Photo.

    First Lady Michelle Obama writes her initials during the Keel Ceremony of the upcoming submarine ILLINOIS. Official WH Photo.

  • USS MISSISSIPPI (SSN-782):: Alison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  • USS JOHN WARNER (SSN-785) : Jeanne Warner, wife of living-namesake John Warner[2]
  • USS ILLINOIS (SSN-786): Michelle Obama, current First Lady and Illinois resident.

Ship’s sponsors come from all over, but regardless of why each person is chosen, it is a great honor to be so. The INDIANA’s sponsor is Diane Donald, wife of retired Adm. Kirkland Donald, who was a submariner. Mrs. Donald is a long-serving member of the Submarine Force Spouse Organization.

During the Keel-laying ceremony the ship’s sponsor traditionally conducted some sort of symbolic work on the keel. During WWII, they might help place a rivet (not the “Golden Rivet” of Sea Story Lore).

Modern shipbuilding methods have forced some changes to the “Keel Laying Ceremony”…including the lack of a keel. But the ceremony is still the first landmark in the life of a ship.

Admrial Clark Woodward drives the official first rivet of the future USS MISSOURI during the keel laying ceremony. The Missouri is now on display in Oahu, overlooking the wreck of the USS ARIZONA.  US Navy Photo.

Admrial Clark Woodward drives the official first rivet of the future USS MISSOURI during the keel laying ceremony. The Missouri is now on display in Oahu, overlooking the wreck of the USS ARIZONA. US Navy Photo.

 

The Keel Authentication/Laying Ceremony

Many subs today are built in modular sections, and then welded together in the shipyard. Sometimes, by the time the “Keel Ceremony” is conducted, the ship is over half-built in various sections. The PCU JOHN WARNER was reportedly 59% complete by the time her keel ceremony took place in 2013. The INDIANA has been under construction since 2012, and is officially 48% complete as is.

And since there is no Keel to lay, per se, the sponsor no longer has a rivet to rivet. So sometimes, the “Keel Laying Ceremony” is now a “Keel Authentication Ceremony” and marks the welding of the first modules of the boat together. The ship’s sponsor will write her initials in chalk on a steel plate, and a welder will weld the initials onto the plate. The plate will then be attached to the submarine’s hull, permanently uniting the boat and sponsor.

In INDIANA’s case, the welder who did the steel rendering of Mrs. Donald’s initials was Mrs. Heather Johnson, a 37-year old welder with ten years’ experience. This marks the first time a female welder participated in this part of the Keel ceremony.

Indiana's Sponsor Mrs. Donald watches her initials getting welded durign part of the Keel ceremony for the Indiana.

Indiana’s Sponsor Mrs. Donald watches her initials getting welded during part of the Keel ceremony for the Indiana.  You can see the chalked initials on the steel.  Many sponsor choose “block style lettering” (see Mrs. Bush above) for their keel block, but Mrs. Donaldson did not.  Ms. Johnson later said it was more challenging, but she was able to do it with all the practice she’d put in leading up to the ceremony.

Now the INDIANA has been ceremonially put under construction.  Her construction will likely take another two or more years, putting a tentative delivery date sometime in 2017 to 2018. (This is my calculation, not anything official, just based on the past several VIRGINIA-class boats)

 

The First USS INDIANA (BB-1)

Indiana (I) underway.  US Navy Photo.

Indiana (I) underway.

The lead ship of the INDIANA-class battleships, INDIANA (I) holds the distinction of the being the very first modern battleship in the US Navy (BB-1). She was built by William Cramp and Sons Shipyard in Philadelphia between 1891 and 1893, and commissioned in 1895. She served through the Spanish American War, then was decommissioned. Technology had advanced in five short years, and she was now obsolete, and was modernized receiving a second commission in 1906. She served several years as a training vessel, before before being decommissioned a second time in 1914.

That year, iof course, saw the beginning of “The Great War” now WWI. The INDIANA was called up again, and served as a training ship until 1919 when she was decommissioned so her name could be given to a new construction. Deliereately grounded near Chesapeake Bay, ex- INDIANA (I) served as an aerial target by the fledgling Navy Pilots. She sank during these tests, though the water was too shallow to swallow her. Her hulk was sold in 1924, and she was removed and scrapped.

 

The Second INDIANA (BB-50)

A painting of what the second Indiana and her sisters would have looked like.  US Navy History and Heritage Center

A painting of what the second Indiana and her sisters would have looked like. US Navy History and Heritage Center

This SOUTH DAKOTA-class ship never tasted water. Her name having been borrowed from Indiana (I) , her keel was laid on 1 November 1920, the fifth-such battleship

In an effort to prevent another World War (yes, we all know that didn’t work!) signers of the Washington Naval Treaty, the USA, Britain, Japan, France and Italy, voluntarily limited their navy’s ship size to 35,000 tons. Germany was barred from having any large naval vessels by the Treaty of Versailles. By keeping the size and number of ships capped, some felt that they could avert another conflict by one large power starting another war.

The treaty was signed on February 6, 1922, and by its terms the Indiana (II) and her sisters were too large. Even though most were over 30% complete, they were scrapped.

The second battleship INDIANA shortly before her construction was cancelled due to the Washington Naval Treaty.  US Navy Photo

The second battleship INDIANA shortly before her construction was cancelled due to the Washington Naval Treaty. US Navy Photo

 

The Third INDIANA (BB-58)

The third Indiana, which would serve during WWII

The third Indiana, which would serve during WWII

The terms of the Washington Naval Treaty were due to end in 1936, with provisions for re-upping another term. By the, Japan had terminated their portion, and many in the militaries around the world could see that another war was all but certain now.

The South Dakota-class battleships were tried again. Indiana (III) (BB-58) was laid down in November 1939, but was born into war. In her five-year career from 1942 – 1947, she participated in the Solomon Islands campaign, the Marianas Islands Campaign, the fights for Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Truk Atoll, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima nad Okinawa.

Despite her five-year age, by this time, she was one of the older battleships that had survived WWII, and was put in reserve status. Formerly decommissioned and scrapped in 1947, Indiana (III) has several artifacts on display around Indiana: her mainmast and guns at IU, her anchor at the Allen County Warm Memorial in Ft. Wayne, her bell at the Heslar Naval Armory in Indy, and her prow at Memorial Stadium at IU.

 

Footnotes:

[1][1] PCU—Pre-Commissioning Unit. A ship gains the “USS” (United States Ship) only after commissioning. Until then, she is a PCU unit, and the Navy officially does not take responsibility for her yet. The Navy may assign her first Commanding Officer, they may be overseeing her construction, they may provide a crew for her sea trials, but until she’s commissioned, she is not a USS anything. In fact, at this point, she’s officially, SSN-

[2] The JOHN WARNER is only the third sub to be named for a living namesake. The previous two such boats were the HYMAN RICKOVER and the current JIMMY CARTER. And yes, like the WARNER, their sponsers were also the namesake’s wives: Mrs. Elenore Ann Bednowicz Rickover and Mrs. Rosalyn Carter

Horace Hunley and the Civil War Underwater Experiment Part 1: The PIONEER submarine

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 18 2014

That line between Genius and Insanity is razor thin…just ask Horace Hunley, lawyer and submarine inventor.

The Hunley submarine, the first submarine to sink an enemy warship in war, sank 150 years ago today (within minutes of completing her claim to fame).  I will be putting together a week long blog about her development, sinking(s), crew, sisters, and finally, rediscovery.

The CSS HL HUNLEY, in her refrigerated conservation tank in Charleston, South Carolina. (only a few miles from the AMBERJACK's memorial, come to think of it.) Public Domain

It’s a fascinating story…but has several moments of, “Wait, they did What?  AGAIN?!” in it.

Most people don’t know this, but the CSS HUNLEY, who is getting all the attention this week, was the youngest of a submarine trio, and only one of MANY submarines designed and constructed for both sides of the American Civil War.  her two older sisters were the PIONEER and AMERICAN DIVER.

Despite the fact the Hunley is officially the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, it is not considered to be part of the official history of the Navy’s submarine force.  The Submarine Force’s start date is April 1, 1900, when the Navy purchased the HOLLAND (VI) from its inventor John P. Holland.

Of course, technically, the HUNLEY was invented, served, and was lost under the flag of the Confederate States of America, not the United States of America, so I suppose on some level, it makes sense.

Despite the use of submarines during war on American soil (the Turtle’s attack on the HMS EAGLE in 1776, and two more ‘submarine attacks” on British Ships during the War of 1812), and a number of other submarine developments and inventions world-wide, by the mid 19th century Navy of the USA did not have any plans to pursue submarines.   In fact when Hoosier SHOEMAKER Lodner Philips invented and successfully tested two submarines in Lake Michigan, in 1852, he offered to sell them to the US Navy.  Their response?  “No Authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat…the boats used by this Navy go on, not under, the water.”

But of course, necessity is the mother of invention…and invention’s unspoken father? Desperation.

Just as soon as the United States split along the Mason-Dixon line, both the US Navy and the brand-spanking squeaky new Confederate Navy are willing to consider and even encourage any new technologies, no matter how cutting edge, dangerous or even foolhardy.

Leaving the Union and their “Alligator” for the moment, since this IS an article about Hunley and The Hunley, we’ll head to New Orleans.

Horace Hunley was a New Orleans lawyer, and like many men in the Americas at this time, liked to wear a few more hats, serving in the Louisiana Legislature as well as inventing.

As soon as what would become known as the American Civil War broke out, The Confederate Government authorized private citizens to operate as privateers (cause the new Confederate Navy is missing several critical items: ships!  (well, at least seaworthy ones, they didn’t have many of those).

Knowing that it would take years they didn’t have for the Confederate Navy to come close to matching the Union Navy in terms of ship numbers, the Confederacy turned to technological innovation, trying to make each ship more than a match for any on the other side.  Ironclads, torpedo boats, and even revisiting the submarine question.

Submarines became even more important as President Lincoln and the Union Navy, taking advantage of their pre-existing personnel, resources and numbers of ships, took advantage of the Confederacy’s Achillies Heel, and blockaded the new nation into its own boarders. Despite the wealth the South exported in the form of cotton to Europe, it had little infrastructure compared to the north, and required trade with the north and Europe to sustain its economy.  The blockade would end up destroying the South’s economy.

A submarine however, theoretically, could either run under the blockade itself, or attack and destroy enough Union ships that the  South could break through and trade with Europe or even gain recognition from European countries for its status and standing in the world.

Enter Horace Hunley in New Orleans. (New Orleans was one of the principal ports of the South and one of the particularly blockaded ports from the North.)

Hunley and two friends, Machinists James McClintock and Baxter Watson, began designing submarines. They quickly built one submarine, the PIONEER, and tested her in NOLA’s Lake Pontchartrain. Thirty feet long, four foot diameter, she had a hand cranked propeller, it was crewed by three men.  Two turned the propeller, and the third guy  got to do everything else.

File:PioneerSubDrawingStauffer.jpg

Sketches of the PIONEER showing the exterior, and interior plan. You can see the hand-cranked propeller on the right, towards the stern. The "periscope" in a way, is object "C". navsource.org

PIONEER proved she was seaworthy (after some modifications to stop small leaks), including being able to stay safely underwater up to two hours. Some accounts state that she sank a schooner and a couple of target barges using towed Torpedoes in Lake Pontchartrain.  (A Torpedo at this time was what we’d consider a “sea mine” today, an explosive device that blows on contact).  According to Donald Cartmell’s The Civil War Up Close: Thousands of Curious, Obscure and Fascinating Facts, two men died in the course of dive tests, though there does not appear to be evidence that the PIONEER herself sank.

https://i2.wp.com/www.hunley.org/final_images/contentlarge/HS_0146.jpg?resize=623%2C414

This shows the eventual HUNLEY, but you can clearly see how a submarine could easily sink something while dragging a buoyant "torpedo". The submarine, being underwater and several feet ahead and below the explosion (and presumably on the opposite side of the affected target) would probably have been well-shielded from the blast and sinking. from hunley.org

As with most inventions, once you have one, you start going, “Oh, next time we should do this, and this, move this here, that over there…”  As PIONEER continued her trials, Hunley, McClintock and Watson began designing a sister on paper.  But in the meantime, they received a letter of marque from the Confederate government, turning the PIONEER and any of her potential crews into legal pirates, allowed to attack ships and capture booty–so long as they limited themselves to Union ships and booty.

But New Orleans was too important to the Union Troops.  A year after the war began, Union troops landed in massive numbers, overwhelming NOLA’s defenses.  The  inventors had to evacuate to Mobile, Alabama with as many blueprints, designs and drawings they could carry, but there was no way to move PIONEER in time, and no way to reliably take her by sea to a safer port.  She had to be scuttled, better lost to all now than show the incoming Union troops what Hunley and his team had already accomplished.

Sadly, the attempt didn’t work.  The PIONEER was found and raised by Union troops.  U.S. Navy Lieutenants Alfred Colin and George W. Baird of the USS Pensacola‘s engineering department thoroughly studied this strange ship and forwarded their drawing to their fleet engineer.  These documents were lost until around 1994, when historian March Ragan found them in the National Archives.  The drawing below was included in that report (note the “Rebel” in the “Rebel Submarine Ram” title.)

File:PioneerSubDrawingShock.jpg

The Union Troops drawing of the PIONEER. This was the drawing that finally proved the submarine on display for years in New Orleans wasn't the PIONEER. (see below). From navsource.org

 

The PIONEER remained high and dry until 15 February 1868, when she was sold at auction for $43 worth of iron scrap.  And so ended one of the great experiments in marine technology.

Strangely though, PIONEER apparently had some competition.  In 1878, while dredging the St. John Bayou channel, another iron submarine was discovered. Incorrectly identified as the “Pioneer” for years, (because no one seems to have made the connection between the weird vessel sold ten years earlier for scrapping and this thing) it’s now known that this was a different boat altogether.  But that’s about all that’s known.  To date, no one has been able to conclusively find any records, documentation or any indication of what she was called, who designed or built her, or anything else.  As mysterious an artifact as you’ll ever find from the Civil War, it underwent conservation in 1999 (to remove the cement “conservators” filled her with in 1908!) and is now on display in the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge.

(Apparently, there is a current theory regarding this strange boat.  Historian Francis Chandler Furman theorizes that this vessel might have been a scale model working prototype of what should have been a much larger vessel to be constructed in Confederate shipyards.  If true, it would have been made at Tredegar Iron Works of Richmond Virginia (makers of steam engines, rifles, cannons and  iron cladding for CSS VIRGINIA, among other things) and may have been sent to New Orleans through Edward M. Ivens, Tredegar’s New Orleans agent, possibly for testing, or even to be the pattern for the New Orleans shipyards.)

 

File:Subsoldiershome.jpg

The unknown submarine, at its outdoor display site, where it remained until 1999. It's now housed inside the Louisiana State Museum. wikipedia.org

Based on the blueprints left behind, a life-size PIONEER has been re-created and is now on display at the Lake Pontchartrain Museum in Louisiana.

Meanwhile, back in 1862, on their way to Mobile, Alabama, with as many designs as they could salvage, the Hunley trio already had a new name in mind: AMERICAN DIVER.  And unlike her now-lost older sister, she’d have a new innovation: engine power.

 

More Information:

The HL Hunley in Historical Context

 

USS Flier Exhibit Opened

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 05 2013

I took a long time away from this project, mostly because the USS Flier exhibit now on display at the Silversides Submarine Museum swallowed me whole!  It was a great ride, and the exhibit is now open for the public!

When I started this blog, I assumed I would be in Muskegon to work more closely with this project, instead of working remotely from another state as the historian and consultant checking facts, drawing maps, ect.  But I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Designed by Kalamazoo-based Jeff Bernstein Exhibitions, I think the Flier exhibit is very well executed and tells the story very well.  Even though Flier herself only lived 13 months, from launch to sinking, and more than half of that was training, transport and repairs, she left her mark on the Navy, and history.

The exhibit highlights each member of the crew’s personal story, artifacts from the Flier’s crew, and the Coastwatchers and Filipinos working against the Japanese behind enemy lines.

In addition, we also have a cross-section WWII-era torpedo, and history of submarines in WWII highlighted as you head into the museum.

It’s a permanent installation, so if you’re ever in Muskegon, stop on by and check out the story!

For more about the exhibit including a small gallery of photos, see this article from the Muskegon Chronicle.

 

Next up: A short diversion from submarines, though not shipwrecks.  Has the Griffin been found at last?

Submarine News: Present

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 22 2013

News keeps coming out of the world of the submarines, both past and present, and in a way, future.

Three days after the man who set the May 23 and 16 June, 2012 fires on the USS Miami, yes another small fire was reported on March 18, 2013.  While this fire does appear to be purely accidental (reported as being sparked by a  damaged light fixture), it put Miami’s future in further doubt.

Initially determined to put Miami back in service, the Navy had to start making decisions about what and where to best put their money after the sequestration kicked in on 1 March 2013.  This most recent fire has only furthered those questions about whether Miami is most effective for the Navy refurbished and back in service, or torn apart (possibly for parts for her sisters).   As it is, the civilian workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are already going to have to take 22 days off without pay between April and September 30, which, of course, further slows the rate or repairs.

On the other hand, the US House passed a bill that would still preserve the construction of two Virginia-class Submarines in 2014, setting aside the approximate $777 million dollar cost for their materials and work for that calendar year.  That bill has headed to the Senate.

This debate opens up a new and interesting debate that’s been slowly growing in the Submarine Force.  Each submarine is the pinnacle of her era’s technology, and is constantly being updated between patrols and tours.  That being said, at the pace of technology, not to mention nuclear fuel rods, most submarines have a certain life-expectancy.  If you replace the fuel rods once, a submarine can expect to serve 32-33 years (Los Angeles, the longest in-commission submarine served 34 years from 1976 to 2010.  Currently, the USS Bremerton, (1981-current) is the closest to beating her title at 32 years and counting.).  But at the height of the Cold War, the American Navy was commissioning 2-5 submarines in a year.  Right now, Virginia class submarines, from the Virginia to the new John Warner, were being built and commissioned at the rate of one every other year to one a year.  On 2008 and 2010 two were commissioned, and two submarines were started in each year for 2011 and 2012.  If this bill goes through, the two subs for 2013 (likely the South Dakota and Delaware) will also start construction.

At the same time, the aging Los-Angeles Class boats are being phased out, frequently at a faster rate than the new constructions are being phased in.  From 2004-2007, only three Virginia class submarines joined the US Navy, (Virginia, Texas and Hawaii), while six submarines were deactivated (Hymen G. Rickover, Augusta (finally deactivated early Jan 2008, but scheduled for 2007) Salt Lake City, Honolulu, Portsmouth, and Parche).  This resulted in a net loss of three submarines.  While things are balancing out a little more, as some of the oldest boats in the Navy reach 30+ years of age, the Navy has serious issues to grapple with.

Submarines are some of our most versatile vessels.  They can go where surface ships can’t, whether by treaty or treacherous sea conditions.  Most submarines are positioned to be in a strategic position to strike any location on earth within a 24 hour time frame (or so I’m told).  Smaller numbers of submarines available means longer deployments, longer times between repairs, perhaps longer lifespans and limitations on technology as upgrades cannot be fitted into a boat without ripping her apart to her hull.

I’m not sure what the right answer is.  Each Virginia costs a $2-$2.4 BILLION each, but are designed to be highly versatile.  And the Virginia’s will age: Virginia herself is nine years old this year.  Building new is expensive.

But the expense in decommissioning or drawing down the number of decommissioned boats is also expensive.  AS anyone who owns an older car can tell you, breakdowns seem to occur more frequently as a car ages—and a sub is no exception.

 

 

 

Small Fire on the Miami: http://www.wmur.com/news/nh-news/Small-fire-reported-on-USS-Miami/-/9857858/19364840/-/2whb5tz/-/index.html

Virginia Submarines: http://www.onr.navy.mil/en/Media-Center/Fact-Sheets/Cost-Reduction-VA-Class-Subs.aspx

 

Memorial Day: a Thank You

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
May 28 2012

When I was a kid, Memorial Day to me was a weekend where Dad got to stay home an extra day,  weekend when we opened our pool and planted our garden.  Despite their best efforts to teach us about what Memorial Day really meant, it was hard for me to really comprehend it.  My grandfather served in WWII, my Uncle was in the Air Force in the 70’s, but both survived.  There was no close relative or friend who I knew who had gone away and HADN’T returned, no photo of that missing uncle or cousin, the grandparent who I knew only from stories, so despite my respect for veterans that my parents instilled in me and my siblings, it was a kind of an abstract concept for me for many years–in fact, well into my young adulthood.

It’s so different now.  I still don’t have that relative or friend who hasn’t returned from a warfront, whether WWII or Afghanistan or Iraq, though I know many who are serving and have served our country in the current theaters.  But working with veterans and listening to their stories, happy, sad, frightening, wistful, has opened a door into that world that I can no longer NOT see.  I’ve seen Submarine Veterans who literally live with ghosts, and have for years, of friends who they took R&R with, who schooled with, who got on a different boat and simply vanished.  In talking to Al Jacobson and Jim Alls of the Flier crew, and the relatives of the men who never returned, I’ve gotten to “know” in a little way, these men who were so bright an vibrant and have remained frozen in youthr decades now.  It’s so easy, especially when we’re young and “immortal”,  for us just to see old men who can’t stop telling stories about days long gone and a world that no longer exists…but when I finally  listened, I got to see the 18 year old behind the wrinkles, the greying hair, the cane, and hearing aids…and I got to meet the men who are fading into the mist if we DON’T listen.  Who had dreams, and families, and plans which never flowered…and my gratitude grew so much…and I’m so thankful.

So this Memorial Day, I’m still planting my garden with my kids, still celebrating the world my family and I are blessed to live in, but I do so with a thankful and sad heart that for some people, those who never returned, those who returned with struggles they did not have to bear, and those who bore their part at home.   I have greater respect than ever (sadly, six years too late) for my own grandfather who fought with Patton through the African Theater into Italy and Berlin, and who never spoke of it.  I wish I could tell him, what I say now: to anyone who has served, is serving, or will serve:

 

THANK YOU

 

Thank you for putting your life and dreams on hold to live where you’re told, wear what you’re told, and work together to do something, and even die doing something so that I can live at home and not have to fear.  Thank you for leaving your comfortable and familiar world to enter situations where life, death, and injury were sometimes a matter of luck, or seconds, or a few feet right or left.  Thank you for being willing to experience horrors to keep them from us.  Thank you for serving so I can live in a world where my biggest worries CAN revolve around the price of gas,  and the quality of my children’s education, not if someone will invade and rape, murder, torture me or steal my food and house and children, like so many of my ancestors had to worry about for centuries, and many people around the world still do.  Thank you for being some of the first on the scene in natural disasters here and around the world.  Thank you for being among  the first to build schools and help build in places blighted by violence and natural disasters.  Thank you for not only protecting those of us you leave behind in America, but protecting and serving those people whom have little connection to your personal world before you joined, and whom you may never see again.

Our military, both individually and collectively, isn’t perfect.  No human is, so no organization of humans can be. But when I watch all the branches of our military, and listen to those who are willing to talk, I see people who give their all, and do their best in situations that they are protecting me from.  There are no snipers in my neighborhood.  No warlords taking my daughter in lieu of food a drought won’t let me grow.  No one putting a gun to my head and threatening me or my family unless we change our faith, or politics, or opinions.  I will never have to choose between giving my children a good education at the risk of their lives…

And our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future, are a big part of the reason why.

So this Memorial Day, (as well as everyday) I want to say “Thank You” again.  For just doing what you do the best that you can, in often difficult, dangerous, and uncomfortable situations.

THANK YOU.

 

Book Signing

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
May 10 2012

Long story short, I’ve been away due to a minor health issue that is just sapping my energy (it’ll resolve itself soonish) and and ramp up in my contract work that’s mostly due soon. Both those things sap my energy and time so that this blog, sadly, got the short shaft. I have, however, in the process, discovered a lot more about the Submarine Force adn some of the stories behind it, so those will make their way here soon, when my health/energy improves or my docket clears up some.

But I did want to say that I’ll be speaking at 10 am tomorrow at the E.B Ball Center in Muncie, about the Flier and be signing my book. So if you’d like to see some of the photos that didn’t make the book, or were discovered too lately to use, or just talk submarines, I hope to see you there.