WWII destroyer using “coal power” in 1973

The Gearing class destroyers entered US Navy service during WWII. Decades later one of them, USS Johnston (DD-821) took part in a unique experiment to test the feasibility of using a coal-derived synthetic liquid fuel as opposed to imported oil.

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(The “late-war Gearing” layout, the template to which USS Johnston (DD-821) was built in 1945.)

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(Crew patch for sailors involved in the 1973 experiment.)

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“jumboized” WWII warships

After WWII the US Navy modernized war-built vessels to various degrees for many reasons. Many options were available: new weapons, new radars and sonars, enlarged superstructures, new radios, adding or removing aircraft capability, replacement engines, layout changes, and so on.

Normally one thing that couldn’t be changed was the physical size of the hull. Things could be added, moved, replaced, altered, or rebuilt inside or atop the hull; but at the end of the day the WWII hull was what it was.

In the examples below, extremely dramatic “surgery” actually changed the length and size of the entire ship.

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(Not a case of seeing double: the bow and stern sections of USS Navasota (AO-106) pointed in opposite directions during the WWII warship’s 1960s “jumboization”.)

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(The WWII submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) cut completely in half during 1959. This “jumboization” was one of the most complex engineering jobs ever done prior to the computer age.)

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last voyage of HTMS Sri Ayudhya / the Manhattan Rebellion

Thailand’s two Thonburi class warships of WWII were very unique and interesting designs, but very little has been written about them.

The second ship of the class, HTMS Sri Ayudhya, was later sunk in one of the strangest situations of post-WWII naval history; a big-gun capital ship fighting in the downtown of a major inland city. Outside of Thailand even less has been written about that. So, perhaps this will be of value.

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(The Thonburi class as they appeared during WWII.)

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(The old dredge Manhattan, which lent its name to the failed 1951 rebellion which resulted in the loss of HTMS Sri Ayudhya.)

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cruiser Nürnberg: post-WWII service

The most famous German surface warship to survive WWII was the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, studied by the US Navy after WWII and then expended as a nuclear target.

The only large WWII German warship to see active duty in its intended role during the Cold War was the light cruiser Nürnberg, which served on in the Soviet navy.

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(The light cruiser Nürnberg of the WWII German navy.)

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(The Soviet light cruiser Admiral Makarov, the former Nürnberg, during the mid-1950s.)

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six years of wwiiafterwwii / the Dirty Harry aircraft carriers

I neglected to make an intended “anniversary” post for one year of being online, and later two years, and five years, and 100 subscribers, and then finally the number of days WWII ran. As you can tell I am not well with remembering events. So belatedly, this is the sixth anniversary of wwiiafterwwii, now longer than the war itself lasted.

I thank all readers / commenters for the knowledge shared over the years.

While I just write these for general enjoyment, I do try to keep the atmosphere at least plausibly scholarly and thus avoid “silly” or irrelevant topics. So, normally I would not touch on something like the below. But I figure, just once can not hurt, so here is a bit of “lighter reading”.

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WWII warships as “floating White Houses”

In August 1945, the USA’s two atomic bombs hastened the end of WWII. Four years later the USSR tested its own atomic bomb. As the American military adjusted to the new reality, many new concepts came about. Some were tried, successful, and retained. Others were just tried.

NECPA (National Emergency Command Post Afloat) was a concept to use two WWII warships as a refuge for the President during times of great tension, either prior to a nuclear war with the USSR or as one was already starting.

nhlate(USS Northampton (CC-1), an unfinished WWII cruiser, was one of the NECPA ships.)

wright1967

(USS Wright (CC-2), formerly a WWII aircraft carrier, was the other NECPA ship.)Read More »

sunset of naval netlaying after WWII

Some changes to the US Navy after WWII were both readily apparent and abrupt. The carrier-based warplane replaced battleship gunnery as the most potent offense at sea. Smokescreen-laying, an important art for destroyer captains in 1939, was more or less moot ten years later due to the near-universal fitting of radar on warships. And so on.

The decline of naval defensive nets after WWII was neither fast, nor with a simple explanation. In the US Navy the discipline sort of just quietly went away, slowly, over a period of about 15 – 20 years…yet, the decline was unmistakable even as soon as WWII’s end in 1945.

Little is said as to how or why naval nets vanished, or what happened to the US Navy’s many net warfare ships after WWII. So perhaps this will be of value.

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(USS Pinon (AN-66) hauls in a German anti-submarine net at Cherbourg, France following the city’s liberation during WWII.)

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(An inert Polaris ballistic missile being launched in 1963 from a buoyant test cylinder tended by USS Butternut (AN-9), a WWII veteran net ship.)

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(The Dominican Republic navy’s Separación, which had been USS Passaconaway (AN-86) during WWII, during the 1990s.)

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USS Midway: retrieval of land-based South Vietnamese warplanes 1975

The fall of Saigon in 1975, and along with it the fall of South Vietnam and final end of the Vietnam War, is most remembered in the United States for the dramatic helicopter evacuation of the American embassy.

Less known is the final chapter to the “Frequent Wind” story: how the aircraft carrier USS Midway, built to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII, ended up retrieving the remnants of the defunct VNAF (South Vietnamese air force) during the summer of 1975.

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(USS Midway (CV-41) at the end of WWII, prior to commissioning.)

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(USS Midway with US Air Force helicopters staged prior to the start of “Frequent Wind” in 1975.)

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(A most unusual scene as the flight deck of USS Midway is filled with land-based warplanes of the defunct South Vietnamese air force.)

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Wu Chin III: Taiwan’s remarkable rebuilt WWII destroyers

Some warships which survived WWII were given updates during the late 1940s or 1950s, for the most part modest changes to keep them current a while longer. In terms of being the most dramatically altered, a few examples stand out including the two WWII Baltimore class gun cruisers transformed into the US Navy’s first guided missile cruisers; USS Boston (CAG-1) and USS Canberra (CAG-2).

Of all WWII warships later rebuilt, Taiwan’s Wu Chin III modifications to Gearing class destroyers may be the most amazing. Unlike the cruisers above, the Taiwanese were packing more technology into smaller hulls; they did not have the Pentagon’s budget to play with; and most amazingly this was done not just years after WWII ended, but almost a half-century later.

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(The Gearing class destroyer USS Power (DD-839) at the end of WWII.)

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(The Wu Chin III-rebuilt destroyer ROCS Shen Yang – the former USS Power of WWII – in the 21st century.)

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