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Navy Review #33

December 29, 2006

Greetings and Welcome to this Winter edition of Navy Review. Today our newsletter is filled with great sea stories from ships-of-the-line to submarines! Please enjoy and Happy Christmas to one and all!


A Ship to Fight for a Kingdom

The intrepid British ship-of-the-line has become apart of that nation’s myth and legend. Lord Nelson’s HMS VICTORY is one such warship that exists today; the last symbol of hundreds like her that helped forge the British Empire in the Age of Sail. The title “ship-of-the-line” was born early in the 18th Century with the need for fighting ships to maneuver in the line of battle. The new ships were classified into “rates” with a first rate carrying 100 or more guns, a second rate 90 guns, and a third rate 60-80 cannon. By the end of the century the third rate had become the most numerous, and of these the 74 gun ship-of-the-line the most popular.

The “74” was born after the failure of the 3-decker 80, whose lower guns were so near the waterline as to be unusable in any adverse seaway. The eighties were eventually scrapped or cut down to become 2-decker 64s. The first British built 74 was the CULLODEN of 1747 that was similar to captured French 2-deckers, only smaller. At the start of the Seven Years War in 1755, only six such craft were in service, but 8 years later this number had increased to 40. By the end of the American Revolution 20 years later, the numbers of 74s had doubled.

The popularity of the new class rose from two factors. First, their compact size allowed for better sailing qualities over the larger three-decker. Second, the superior fighting skills of the average British sailor made the ship often capable of out-gunning larger enemy warships, including French and Spanish first rates. Nelson’s ship at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797 was the 74 gun CAPTAIN from which he captured the 80 gun SAN NICOLAS and the monster 112 gun SAN JOSEF. Later at the Battle of the Nile, the British possessed nothing larger than a 74 against a French Fleet that included the huge L’ORIENT (120). At the end of the war with the French in 1815, there were 70 such vessels in the Royal Navy. Later, Napoleon would surrender to the 74 BELLEROPHON, and another, the NORTHUMBERLAND would carry him away to his final exile at St. Helena.

With the dawn of peace, many of the wooden ship-of-the-lines were scrapped outright or placed in reserve. Some were converted to the new steam power. Beginning in the 1880’s, the last wooden battleship on the Royal Navy lists was a two-decker, the RODNEY (72), which paid off in 1870. She was the last in a long line of sea-fighters that were the navy’s backbone as it forged an Empire.

When the American Continental Navy was established, after the break with Britain, Congress ordered 3×74 gun warships as the nucleus of the new fleet. Authorized in November 1776, only one, AMERICA was actually completed. She was soon presented to France for services rendered during the Revolution. During the next struggle with the Royal Navy in the War of 1812, more 74s were authorized beginning with INDEPENDENCE in 1813. Like the previous class of ship-of-the-line, none entered service during the war, but neither were these fine vessels sold off. The new class of four gave valuable service in foreign stations and ferried American dignitaries on ambassadorial duties.

Following the war, nine more 74s were authorized, all but the lead ship COLUMBUS named for US States. Several of these were still in service during the Civil War. OHIO supported the land assault at Vera Cruz during the Mexican/American War, landed amphibious troops at Tuxpan, and finished the struggle as Flagship of Mexican Pacific Coast Operations. A British officer later described OHIO as “perfection in a line of battleship”. The appearance of armor, massive new guns, and exploding shells spelled the demise of the wooden ship-of-the-line by the mid-19th Century. Such vessels helped establish two of the world’s great navies and were the engineering marvels of their day.

FACT: Guns were first fitted on sea vessels in the 14th Century, on European, Turkish, Arab, and Chinese ships.

FACT: Early ship cannon were made of forged iron, which was unsafe, inaccurate, and clumsy to use. They tended to explode if too large a charge was fired.



First Littoral Combat Ship Christened-On September 24, USS FREEDOM (LCS-1) was launched at the Marinette Marine Shipyard in Wisconsin. On hand for the traditional Navy ceremony was Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen and Mrs. Birgit Smith, who smashed the champagne bottle at launch. Smith is the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, Medal of Honor recipient from the War in Iraq. The 370 ft. long FREEDOM is the first of a kind warship for the fleet, geared toward operations in shallow waters, where diesel subs and terrorist pirates are likely to hide. Commissioning is planned for 2007, and she will be home ported in San Diego California. For video of launching, see below.

National Security Cutter Launched-The most modern vessel in the Coast Guard was launched on October 2, the Cutter BERTHOLF. The new ship is named after Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf, the first commandant of the modern-day Coast Guard. BERTHOLF is a 470 ft., and 4700-ton cutter, the first of a planned 8 called the LEGEND class. The ship is apart of the Coast Guard’s $24 billion Deepwater Project, a 25 year plan to replace the service’s aging fleet and aircraft.

USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH Christened-In a month for christening, the Navy’s newest NIMITZ class aircraft carrier CVN-77 was launched with most of the Bush family in attendance. This newest vessel is named for the elder President Bush, a navy pilot in World War 2. Doro Bush Koch, the elder Bush’s daughter, performed the ceremony by crashing a bottle of wine against the BUSH’s massive bow on October 8, at the Newport News Virginia shipyard. This is the 10th NIMITZ type to be built, with improved features making it a bridge to the newest class of Navy supercarriers.

France to Order New Attack Submarines-The French Navy expects to receive six BARRACUDA class nuclear attack subs between 2016 and 2026. Worth $10 billion (US), the contract will be filled by shipbuilder DCN and Areva SA. The 360 ft., 4600 tons boats will replace the RUBIS class. Automation reduces the number of crew over the older class from 80 to 60.

Iranian UAV Watches US Carrier-Last month, Iranian television showed video which it claimed was a home built unmanned aerial vehicle with pictures of a US aircraft carrier loaded with warplanes. Further, the Iranians claim to possess 10 such videos of drones photographing foreign navies in the Persian Gulf. To view the video, see the link below.

China sub stalked U.S. fleet-In a month made for stalking, a US aircraft carrier was shadowed by a Chinese Song class diesel powered sub. KITTY HAWK (CV-63) was deployed near Okinawa when the sub was spotted some 5 miles away, according to navy officials. The SONG is the Chinese’s first indigenously designed submarine equipped with German built diesel engines. Armament includes wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles, including the Y-92, which can be fired while the sub is submerged.

FACT: Bronze guns were more flexible, durable, and reliable than iron, but also much more expensive. They were often used by wealthier nations such as Spain and Portugal

FACT: Under King Henry VIII, the English began using cast iron cannon, which was less reliable than bronze but also 1/5 the cost.



GATO class-This was the standard US fleet submarine of the war. Armament was 6 torpedo tubes forward and 4 aft, with 20 torpedoes or 40 mines. Most carried either a 3-inch or a 4-inch deck gun. Length was 312 feet, with a 27 ft. beam, and displacement was 2420 tons submerged. Speed was 20 knots surfaced, 9 knots submerged, with a range of 11,000 miles. Crew complement was 70. A total of 72 of this class was constructed, the largest in US Navy sub history.

KAIDAI VARIANT KD.7-This class was the best Japanese sub of the war, very similar in performance to the US GATO. Armament was 6 TT forward with 12 torpedoes, plus a 120mm and 2×25 mm guns. Length was 346 ft., the beam 27 ft., with a submerged displacement of 2602 tons. Maximum surface speed was 23 knots, and she could do 8 knots submerged, with an extreme range of 8000 miles. Crew complement was 88.

I-400 class- This Japanese boat was the largest submarine of WW 2 at 6560 tons submerged. Their great bulk was needed to carry 3 floatplanes plus an aircraft hangar. Length was 400 ft. with a maximum speed of 19 knots surfaced and 6.5 knots submerged. They possessed an astounding range of 30,000 miles! Armament was 8 TT with 20 torpedoes, plus a 140mm deck gun and 10x25mm anti-aircraft cannon. Crew complement was 144. Only 3 of the I-400 were built.

S class- These British boats were among the most successful subs of the war. They were medium sized with a displacement of 900 tons and an operational depth of 300 ft. They were intended for operations in confined waters such as the Mediterranean and the North Sea. Length was 217 ft., range 6000 miles, with a surface speed of 10 knots. Armament was 6 forward TT with twelve torpedoes, plus a 3-inch deck gun. A total of 62 were constructed in the war.

T Class- This larger British submarine was closer in size to standard US and Japanese boats. They displaced 1575 tons submerged, with a range of 11,000 miles. Surface speed was 15 knots with a maximum submerged speed of 9 knots. Armament included 6 internal and 2 external bow TT, plus 3 stern tubes. A 4-inch gun and 20mm AA cannon was loaded on deck. Crew complement was 65. Fifty-two boats of various types were built of this excellent class.

Type VII- This was the largest class of submarine ever built, with over 700 of various modifications constructed. The Germans favored this medium sized boat, which could be built quick and easily. They displaced 871 tons submerged, with a length of 218 ft. and a beam of 20 ft. Surface speed was 17.5 knots and 7.5 knots submerged. Range was 8000 miles. Armament included 5 TT with 14 torpedoes, plus a 37mm and 2x20mm guns. Crew complement was 46.

FACT: According to legend, Alexander the Great once dived beneath the sea in a submarine type craft in 332 BC. His vessel was a glass case or globe that was covered with mule skin.

FACT: The first recorded proposal for a submarine was in 1578, by English innkeeper William Bourne, also a scientist, mathematician, inventor, and naval theorist.



David Bushnell (1742-1824)
For the victory over the U-boats at the close of World War 1, German Gen. Paul von Hindenburg told a group of British officers the reason for his nation’s defeat was due to this man dead for almost 100 years. David Bushnell was not only considered the father of the submarine, but the American inventor also created the means to defeat his fearsome weapon with underwater explosives, known today as the depth charge. Bushnell was born in Saybrook Connecticut on his father’s farm in 1742. After the death of his parent’s when he was 27, he spent his inheritance to attend Yale College where he graduated in 1775. While in school, he proved gunpowder could explode underwater, which apparently gave him the idea for the submarine. The first such vessel was completed that year, a top shaped craft built with heavy oaken beams.

“Bushnell’s Turtle” was man powered with a vertical and horizontal screw propeller plus a rudder. A foot valve allowed the craft to ascend or descend. Its armament was a sub charged equipped with a clock timer to ignite it within a 12-hour period. Despite several successful demonstrations, the TURTLE never sank another ship, though attempts were made in 1776-1777 against the British fleet blockading Boston Harbor, in the Delaware River, and New York Harbor. The latter failed action at Governor’s Island was against the 74 gun ship-of-the-line HMS EAGLE, with the sub piloted by Ezra Lee. Abandoning any further submarine experiments during the Revolution, in 1779 he was appointed an officer in George Washington’s Army in charge of sappers and miners. Bushnell ended the war in charge of the Corps of Engineers at West Point. Later in Life, he taught school and practiced medicine in Georgia under an assumed name. He died at the age of 84 in 1824.

FACT: Italian Engineer Frederico Gianibelli submerged a small ship filled with explosives at the Siege of Antwerp in 1585.

FACT: Dutch physicist and inventor Cornelius Van Drebbel built 3 submarines based on William Bourne’s design in 1620, and demonstrated them to English King James I.



Battle of Camperdown
When British Admiral Adam Duncan was ordered to blockade the Dutch Fleet at Texel in the Spring of 1797, who were in alliance with the newborn French Republic, he immedialty faced a dilemma. This was the year of the Great Mutiny, which rocked the Royal Navy at Nore and Duncan’s fleet at Yarmouth. Only his flagship VENERABLE (74) and ADAMANT (50) was in any condition for sailing, too miniscule a force to impress the Dutch Admiral De Winter. Yet, the experienced and tenacious Duncan set out to enforce the blockade with his two ship-of-the-lines, intending to hide the exact state of his squadron with a ruse. First, he stationed ADAMANT near to shore in plain view of the enemy with orders to signal the flagship periodically. VENERABLE was stationed further out to sea, near the horizon. On occasion, Duncan would signal outwards to the open ocean to an unseen, and unknown to the Dutch, a non-existent fleet over the horizon. Thus was the British admiral able to keep the enemy in port for several crucial weeks, until the problem with the mutineers was resolved, and the rest of his fleet joined the blockade.

In October, De Winter finally set sail to carry out his mission for an invasion of Ireland. Duncan was in port at Yarmouth with most of his fleet revictualling, when word came of the enemy breakout. Sallying forth, he met the Dutch off Camperdown on the morning of the 11th with 24 ships; the enemy possessed 25. With his fleet staggered and unready, the British officer could do nothing but order a general melee’, a tactic similar to Nelson’s at Trafalgar. The VENERABLE broke through De Winter’s line astern, thus preventing its escape into the shallow coastal waters. The Dutch flagship VRIJHEID (74) was eventually surrounded by four British battleships including VENERABLE, ARDENT (64), BEDFORD (74), and finally TRIUMPH (74). The Royal Navy was so badly damaged at the end of the battle, they failed to prevent the escape of several enemy vessels into the shoals, but did capture 11 ships along with Admiral De Winter. Along with Nelson’s later victory at Copenhagen in 1801, Camperdown effectively neutralized the Franco-Dutch Alliance and finished any plans for the invasion of Ireland.

FACT: English iron ore possessed millions of microscopic fossilized sea animals called “The Greys” which made it superior to forged iron. It also made English guns famous throughout Europe.

FACT: English ships of the 16th Century still carried some bronze cannon, called culverins, which could smash a wooden vessel at 350-400 yards.



John Ford’s Navy
“I wish to extend to you my sincere personal thanks for the good work performed by you on your southern trip in the ARANER.” So stated a communiqué between a US Naval Intelligence Officer, dated June 1936, and famed Hollywood producer John Ford, director of westerns including Stagecoach and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, among others. Between 1936-1939, Ford used his rank as an officer in the US Naval Reserve to spy on suspicious Japanese shipping off the Mexican Coast. On 29 December 1939, the director sailed his personal yacht ARANER into Guaymas Harbor at the request of the chief intelligence officer of the 11th Naval District. There he studied Japanese fishing vessels until he was convinced they were performing covert activities. Using his Hollywood influence, Ford milled among the locals along the waterfront and gathered more evidence which he promptly dispatched to the Navy Department. Even his wife Mary participated in the deception, when she asked to use a telephone on one of the Japanese ships. While there, she observed sophisticated photographic equipment and pictures identifying the “fishing vessel” as an Imperial Navy ship.

In April 1940, Ford established the Naval Photographic Unit along with fellow Hollywood filmmakers. His plan was to provide combat footage for the government and the public, if and when America entered the war. In the Fall of 1941, the Unit was accepted into the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. After Pearl Harbor, Ford turned over the ARANER for wartime service. To the end of the war, the yacht was used for anti-submarine duty on the Pacific Coast. Ford was in the heat of battle in the Summer of 1942, filming live the Battle of Midway. As bombs dropped all around, the director personally held the camera, cool under fire atop a nearby tower. Later while descending, he was struck by a piece of shrapnel and knocked briefly unconscious. After seeking medical attention, Ford was soon back in the states, where his film Battle of Midway became a sensation: the first photographic proof of an American victory in World War 2. The film won an Oscar for best documentary of 1942.

Throughout the conflict with Germany and Japan, Ford’s camera followed him to the frontlines, filming Operation Torch to the Normandy Invasion. During the war, he received the Purple Heart and the Legion of Merit. Afterwards, Ford became a Hollywood legend for his movies, many starring the equally legendary actor John Wayne. Yet, it was his wartime service that meant the most for him in later life, where the director served his country honorably and well.

FACT: Culverins and demi-culverins mounted on wheeled carriages were the direct descendents of cannon of Nelson’s Navy.

FACT: Some bronze culverins remained serviceable for two centuries after their forging.


Video of USS FREEDOM (LCS-1) launching:

Iranian Drone Spies on USS Ronald Reagan:

Nelson and His Navy-From the Maritime Historical Society:


Until next time, God Bless and remember our troops in harms way!

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