Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The U-66 and RMS Lady Hawkins

The U-66 was 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras on a moonless night on January 19, 1942, when it discovered the Lady Hawkins zig-zagging at nine knots.  The submarine came up alongside at 01:35 AM and its searchlights identified it as a cargo-passenger ship.

Commander Zapp of the U-66 then moved ahead and fired two stern torpedoes 1,200 meters away.  The Lady Hawkins saw them and took evasive maneuvering, but, both struck.  The first torpedo hit Hold No. 2, forward of the bridge.  The second hit Hold No. 3 near the engine room and the Lady Hawkins immediately began to list. 

Three of the six lifeboats couldn't be lowered because of the list.

Monday, May 14, 2012

$4 Billion on the SS Port Nicholson?

From the April 30th ABC News "Potential $4 Billion Loot from WWII Wreck Beckons Treasure Hunters" by Gilliam Mahoney.

The Maine-based Sub Sea research company has been searching for the wreck of the SS Port Nicholson for almost five years and now believe they have found the ship.  In the process they have spent $6.5 million.  If they have indeed found it, they stand to make around $4 billion from the gold and platinum the ship was carrying when it was sunk in 1942 by a German U-boat around 50 miles off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts.

This treasure was in the form of gold and platinum carried by the ship as payment from the Societ Union to the United States for war supplies.

Each crew member of the Sea Hunter stands to get as much as $8 million.

Good Work If You Can Get It.  --GreGen

Another Pearl Harbor Veteran Dies

From the May 4th Aurora (Il) Beacon-News "One of area's last Pearl harbor survivors dies at 94" by Denise Crosby.

Back when i was growing up in the 50s and 60s, there were World War II veterans all over the place.  Not so any more.  We're all getting older.

George Hettinger died April 29th and had been on the target ship USS Utah that fateful day.  Born Feb. 22, 1918, the youngest of ten children in a North Aurora farming family, he joined the US Navy in 1938 and became an electrician of the USS Utah.

He was in the bunk room when the torpedo hit and his first thought was to save his West Aurora High School ring until he saw all the smoke coming into the ship.  Within minutes, it capsized, trapping many below deck.  Six officers and 52 enlisted died that day.  Hettinger remembered: "When I finally got into the water, my hands and feet were going like crazy...shrapnel started falling.  There was another guy...struggling in the water below me, hollering that he couldn't swim.  I went back to help the guy out."

After the attack, he was assigned to the USS Honolulu which had also been damaged that day.

Another of the Greatest.  --GreGen

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Sinking of the RMS Lady Hawkins

From cclausen.net.

On Wednesday, I posted about ships sunk off the North Carolina coast in January 1942, at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic off the American coast.  One of those nine ships went down with the loss of 251 lives.  I'd never heard of the ship, so had to do some further research.

Of the 322 persons aboard the RMS Lady Hawkins, there were only 71 survivors.  The ship was built by Cammel Laird & Co. in 1928 and weighed 2908 tons, capable of going 14 knots and owned by the Canadian national Steamship Company, Ltd..

At 7.43 hours 19 January 1942the unescorted Lady Hawkins, under the command of Master Huntly Osborne Geffen was hit by two stern torpedoes from the U-66 and sank in 30 minutes about 150 miles from Cape Hatteras.  Geffen, 85 crew, 1 gunner and 164 passengers lost their lives.

The chief officer, 21 crew and 49 passengers were picked up after five days floating in the Atlantic by the Coamo and landed in Puerto Rico Jan. 28th.  Chief Officer Perry A. Kelly was awarded the MBE and the Lloyd's War Medal for bravery at sea.

The rescue ship, Coamo was torpedoed itself December 9, 1942, and sank with the loss of 133 passengers and crew.  The U-66 was sunk May 6, 1944, by the destroyer escort USS Buckley with 36 survivors and 24 dead.

Completely Lost in All the Titanic Hub-Bub. --GreGen

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hawaii's World War II Coast Defense

Battery Pennsylvania at Mokapu Point is a Marine Corps base today.  It is difficult to visit and next to a firing range.  (Guns from the USS Arizona.)

Some other Coastal Battery sites:

Battery Adair is under an admiral's house and used as a cellar.

Battery Arizona at Kahe Point is by a landfill owned by Waster Management.  The guns for it were from the USS Arizona.

Oahu was ringed by hundreds of mass-produced pill boxes in 1942, many still exist.  Also, many anti-aircraft batteries ()mostly 3-inch, 20mm) were constructed between 1942 and 1945.

Defending the Island Before Planes Took Over.  --GreGen

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ships Sunk During January, 1942 Off the North Carolina Coast

The Battle of the Atlantic in early 1942 was going badly for the Allies,  None more so than off the coast of North Carolina.

JAN. 14TH 

BRAZOS, freighter from a collision with the HMS Archer off Cape Hatteras.


NORVANA, tanker sunk by eithet U-123 or U-86 off Diamond Head Shoals, 29 killed

CILTVAIRA, freighter-- U-123, 2 killed

CITY OF ATLANTA, passenger-freighter, sunk by U-123 south of Diamond Shoals, 43 killed

MALAY, tanker, shelled by the U-123 off Diamond Shoals, 4 killed

LADY HAWKINS, passenger freighter, sunk by U-66 off Cape Hatteras, 251 killed


OLYMPIC, tanker, sunk by U-130, 31 killed


EMPIRE GEM, tanker sunk by U-66 off Diamond Shoals, 49 killed

VENORE, freighter sunk by U-66 southeast of Cape Hatteras, 17 killed

It Would Appear the U-123 and U-66 Were Having Exceptional Months.  --GreGen

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jews Who Served-- Part 2

The exhibit concludes with a Wall of Honor with photographs of Jewish veterans, one of whom is Walter Cohn, 90, of Chicago.  He was born in Germany and was on one of the last of the Kindertransport trains (an interesting story in itself) to leave Germany with young Jewish children.  It took him to Holland where he received a visa to the United States in December 1939.  He enlisted at the age of 18.

He was accepted by his fellow soldiers, some who would say they didn't know he was Jewish when they found out.  These were mostly people from smaller towns and the South who had probably never seen a Jewish person.

But, as a Jew, he was motivated to join the Army for one simple reason, "Revenge.  I lost many members of my family.  The Gestapo picked up my grandmother, who was 84.  She died in the gas chamber."

The exhibit is at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie through June 17th.  Cost $6 to $12.  http://www.ilholocaustmuseum.org/.

All Served.  All Gave.  --GreGen

Jews Who Served-- Part 1

From the March 1st Chicago Tribune "'Foght' tells stories of Jews who served" by Donald Liebenson.

Anti-Semitic people felt that Jews would be physically unfit to serve and would not pull their weight and would take the so-called easy jobs.  Statistics, however, as seen at the "Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War" opening at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois, show otherwise.

In all, 55,000 Jews, 11% of the total Jewish population, served.  Nearly 40,000 were wounded and about 11,000 killed.  Another 52,000 were decorated for gallantry.

The exhibit originally started in New York City in 2003 and contains video, audio and writing about these veterans.

Besides the enemy, many faced "pervasive discrimination and anti-Semitism."  One recalled being rebuffed with a slur when he went to get his replacement for guard duty.  "I reached down, pulled him out of the hole and pummelled him."

Another section included what they saw when they liberated the concentration camps  Newsman Fred Friendly said, "Nobody said you're going to see the worst thing you're ever gonna see, now or for the rest of your life.  No one gave you a hint."

More to Come.  --GreGen

Monday, May 7, 2012

Some More on Those USS Arizona Guns

From DiamondheadHike.org.

Diamondhead Battery 407 (1943-1944) was originally constructed to mount the Arizona's guns and originally also its turrets as well.  Only the two aft turrets were salvageable.  However, there were huge delays in installing the batteries.  Everything had been underwater for months and when the parts were salvaged, it was not done with the idea of reuse.  Cuts were made in the wrong places and parts were missing.

The guns were over thirty years old and had been modified, making the procurement of replacement parts nearly impossible.  The battery is currently being used by the Hawaii National Guard.

Getting More Use Out of Your Guns.  --GreGen

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Arizona's Aft Two Turrets

I started doing some more research on what happened to the Arizona's aft two turrets after the last post. 

From wiki mapia, I found that turret #4 with its three 14-inch guns, destined to become Battery Pennsylvania, was not finished when the war ended and never was.  The tunnel complex and battery commander's station still exist, but are on private-owned property.  No mention as to what happened to the guns or turret.

There was mention of one of the turrets at the December 7th website as being at Fort Barrrette, considered a major part of Oahu's Coast defense System that stretched from Fort Ruger on Diamond Head to Fort Barrette on Kapoki.

Another source said that only Battery Arizona was completed, and that just before VJ Day.

Turret #3 was placed at Kahe Point and became Battery Arizona.
Turret #4 was at Fort Hase at Mokapu Point and became Battery Pennsylvania.

Still wondering what happened to the guns after the war.

Just One of Those Little Things That Get Me Too Interested.  --GreGen

The USS Arizona After Dec. 7th

From Wikipedia

The ship was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 1 Dec 1942, and the wreck cut down so that little remained above the waterline.  Personally, I think they should have left that forward mast pitched over like it was.

The aft main battery turrets and guns were removed and the cannons from #2 removed, but both forward turrets remain in place.

Turrets #3 and #4 (the aft turrets) became the US Army Coast Artillery Corps battery Arizona on the west coast of Oahu and Battery Pennsylvania on Mokapu Point.

The #2 turret guns were later installed on the USS Nevada in the fall of 1944 and fired on the Japanese-he;d islands of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

Contrary to popular belief, the USS Arizona is not in perpetual commission like the USS Constitution.

I always thought that someone should write a book about the cleanup of Pearl Harbor after the attack.

At Least the Arizona Got a Little Payback.  --GreGen

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bits of War: 3 Millionth Visitor-- Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies-- Pearl Harbor Survivor Not Dead Yet

Bits of War.  Some New News About an Old War.

1.  3 MILLIONTH VISITOR--  The World War II Museum in New Orleans reported it would have its 3 millionth visitor sometime May 1st.  It opened June 6, 2000.  Last month it had its highest monthly total of visitors ever-- 44,807.

2.  PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR DIES--  The April 10th KREM in Spokane, Washington, reported that Brad Colburn, 87, the youngest of ten Pearl Harbor survivors in the area, died.

3.  PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR NOT DEAD YET--  The April 11th Kitsap (Wash.) Sun reported that Don Green read that he had died in the 189th and final issue of the Pearl Harbor-Gram, the quarterly magazine of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.  He was on the ammunition ship Pyro (interesting name for an ammunition ship) at Pearl Harbor.  Thirteen Pearl Harbor survivors remain in the Kitsap area, including Mr. Green.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Burial Aboard the USS Arizona-- Part 2

Under the direction of Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Fuqua, who won a Medal of Honor, Schubert opened hatches and helped the wounded off onto boats coming over from the USS Solace which then transported them to nearby Ford Island.  Only then did Anthony Schubert seek medical attention for a cut on his head and burns on his hands and arms.

His daughter said, "He saw his young comrades destroyed in an instant and he never got over it.  Today, they do a lot of counseling, but he never had it."

He served for 13 years and retired as a lt.commander.  In later years, he worked for the Arabian-American Oil Company and taught at the University of Virginia.

Anthony Schubert's ceremony at the USS Arizona included a two-bell ringing, rifle salute and taps.  The big American flag flew at half mast while his remains were transferred to a Navy diver who held it above the water as they positioned themselves over the open barbette of the ship's #4 turret.  Then the diver descended and placed the urn in a large open slot into the ship.

His was the 32nd such internment.  Of the 300 Arizona survivors from that day, only about twenty are still alive.

A Fitting ceremony.  --GreGen

Burial Aboard the USS Arizona-- Part 1

From the May 11, 2010, Hawaii News "Survivor of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor buried."

Anthony Schubert died in Hutchinson, Kansas August 12, 2009, and his ashes were interred on the USS Arizona where 1,100 of his shipmates died Dec. 7, 1941.  He was in the head shaving when the attack came and later helped load wounded sailors onto rescue boats.

His daughter, Tina Haywood, learned that his remains could be interred on the ship after he died and is sure he would have considered it an honor.  This privilege is extended to all of those aboard the Arizona who survived the attack.  Sadly, this number is fast dwindling.

Schubert graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1940 and was an ensign on the Arizona when he heard the air raid sirens and then scattered gunfire.  He quickly put on a pair of dungarees and slippers and ran to his battle station where he saw Japanese planes flying in low toward Battleship Row.

By then, the Arizona was being rocked by explosions and the boat was sinking so quickly that the mooring lines were snapping.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Unbeatable Ship Nobody Ever Heard Of-- Part 3

The USS San Diego took part in action in the Solomon Islands, the first major U.S. offensive action in the Pacific and won its first Battle Star.  In October, it was at the Battle of Santa Cruz where its 5-inch guns shot down three Japanese planes, but Doolittle's aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet was sunk.  The San Diego rescued 200 sailors from it.

The ship's task for the next two years was to protect large aircraft carriers and provided great cover.  One officer remarked, "With eight turrets with 16 5-inch guns were all firing at the enemy, it looked like the ship itself was on fire."

During the course of the war, the San Diego steamed more than 300,000 nautical miles and participated at Tarawa, Saipan, Philippine Sea, Guam, Tinian and Okinawa without major damage.  No sailor was ever killed.

The Japanese surrendered after the second atomic blast at Nagasaki and Admiral William "Bull" Halsey designated the San Diego as the flagship of Task Force 31, and as such, was the first major U.S. ship to enter Tokyo Bay on August 27, 1945.  The surrender was signed September 2nd.

On return to the states, the San Diego received "the noisiest welcome ever given a warship by its namesake city."

The vessel finished its career as the second-most decorated U.S. ship, ever.  It was decommissioned in 1946 and mothballed at Bremerton, Washington.  In 1960, it was sold for scrap.

The History of a Ship.  --GreGen

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Unbeatable Ship That Nobody Ever Heard Of: USS San Diego-- Part 2

The ship was commissioned six months ahead of schedule and one month after the Pearl Harbor attack., January 10, 1942, in Boston.  First commander was Benjamin Franklin Perry.

It was actually more like an over-sized destroyer with a top speed of 35 knots with two steam turbines producing 75,000 horsepower, 542 feet long and mounting sixteen 5-inch guns, 16 heavy machine guns and 8 torpedo tubes.

On May 17th, it arrived in its namesake city while on training exercises, but most San Diegoans didn't find out about it because of wartime secrecy.  After two weeks, news of an impending Japanese attack on Midway caused the San Diego to hurry out to sea as an escort to the aircraft carrier Saratoga, but the battle was over by the time the ship reached Pearl Harbor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Unbeatable Ship That Nobody Ever Heard Of: The USS San Diego

From the March 18, 2010, San Diego Union-Tribune "Cruiser San Diego the "unbeatable Ship" of World War II" by Richard Crawford.

The first US Navy ship named San Diego was launched in 1904 and sank after hitting a German mine off the New York coast in 1918.  (I never knew the Germans had mines off the US coast in World War I.)

San Diego author Fred Whitmore calls the second San Diego "the unbeatable ship that nobody ever heard of."  It gathered 15 Battle Stars for action in the Pacific action during World War II and was the first major US vessel to enter Tokyo Bay several days before the surrender.

There is a memorial for it at North Harbor Drive.

After the first ship sank, San Diego tried for an aircraft carrier because of the city's role in aviation, but the naming policy of the Navy allows carriers to be named after historic fighting ships or important battles, but Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson promised a new cruiser would carry the name.

In August 1938, FDR approved four new battleships and four new cruisers.  Construction on the San Diego began in March 1940 in Quincy, Massachusetts, by Bethlehem Steel and the ship was launched July 26, 1941.  Grace Benbough, wife of San Diego Mayor Percy J. Benbough sponsored the event, breaking a bottle of champagne on the prow.

More to Come.  --GreGen