May 26, 2024


Navies have long believed that seamanship and shiphandling are best learned at sea, particularly on sailing ships. Initially, virtually all naval training was conducted at sea, but as ships grew more complicated, some work began to move to shore facilities and hulked ships. And even as sail gave way to steam in the 19th century, many clung to this belief, with rather odd results, such as the existence of a small fleet of sailing ships with unpaid crews, as many nations required sail experience to get a merchant mariner's license. The argument advanced by proponents of sail was that it taught seamanship, particularly an understanding of wind and current, in a way that simply couldn't be matched by powered vessels, as well as giving cadets a chance to learn leadership and teamwork.

Horst Wessel in Nazi service

How seriously this was taken varied greatly between navies. Some, such as the USN and RN, were quick to abandon sail training on seagoing ships, although small-boat sailing remains part of the curriculum at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis to this day. Others took it far more seriously, building new steel-hulled training ships for the benefit of future officers. Among the leading proponents of this view was Germany. The German training ship Niobe was sunk in a squall in 1932 with heavy loss of life, and public support was rallied for the building of a replacement, named Gorch Fock. She was a steel-hulled barque,1 and proved successful enough that the Kriegsmarine ordered two stretched sister ships, Horst Wessel and Albert Leo Schlageter, named after heroes of the Nazi party. A fourth ship was built for Romania, while a fifth, Herbert Norkus, was cancelled incomplete when war broke out. Gorch Fock spent the war primarily as an accommodations ship, while Horst Wessel and Albert Leo Schlageter, now equipped with light AA guns, continued to conduct training cruises in the Baltic. Read more...

May 24, 2024

Open Thread 157

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

Overhauls are Millennium Challenge 2002, Auxiliaries Part 1, FFG(X), Tomahawk Part 1, Tomahawk Part 2 and for 2023 Drydocks and my review of RTW3.

May 19, 2024

Museum Reviews - Boston 2024

While in Boston ahead of the Naval Gazing meetup, I was able to tour some of the city's coastal defenses, and go back to one of the ships I saw during my last visit to the northeast that had not been on my iternary.

One of the casemated walls at Fort Independence

First, there was Fort Independence on Castle Island, the oldest continuously fortified site in British North America. Fort Independence is a fairly typical third system fort, a masonry star fort with casemates in the walls facing out to sea. These days, it's a public park, with easy access by car if you're on the south side of downtown (it's not an island any more), although public transit access seems to be lacking. Read more...

May 12, 2024

Museum Review - Bovington Tank Museum

Reader DampOctopus here, with a review of the Bovington Tank Museum, which I visited in April 2024. First, some context...

The tank was originally developed under wartime conditions, and the need for advantage on the battlefield naturally took precedence over preservation of the historical record. After the conclusion of WWI in 1918, Bovington Heath was littered with the debris of this development effort along with surplus tanks salvaged from the battlefields of France, abandoned to slowly rust. There they might have remained but for a visit in 1923 by Rudyard Kipling who suggested that they should be preserved for posterity. His suggestion prompted an effort in that direction over the following decades and today the Bovington Tank Museum is both the home of the earliest artifacts from the history of the tank and the largest collection of tanks in the world.

Achtung - Panzer!
Type: Tank Museum
Location: Bovington, UK
Rating: 5/5
Price: £21.50 (US$27) for normal adults


The curators of this museum have gone to considerable effort to display their collection to good advantage. Take the Trench Experience exhibition. It starts with a replica recruiting office and leads on through a recreation of a WWI trench system, with mannequins in period-appropriate costumes sheltering in dugouts and listening to background radio chatter. Then you turn a corner and see a soldier shouting in German and cowering away from a shape looming over the trench ... which turns out to be a Mark I heavy tank. Continue onwards and you see a series of examples illustrating the development of the classic rhomboidal British heavy tanks of WWI: the later Marks IV and V, a Mark IX armoured personnel carrier,2 a Mark V** with stretched chassis for crossing wider trenches and a Mark VIII of an Anglo-American design that didn't see service until after the armistice. Read more...

May 10, 2024

Open Thread 156

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

The 2023 Naval Gazing meetup was last weekend, and a great time was had by all. Besides the planned events, we also had a special bonus tour, which confirms my theory that you should all come next time, because you never know what will happen.

Overhauls are SYWTBABB Construction Part 3, Shells Part 3, my review of Ft. Sill, Coastal Defenses Part 2, LCS Parts two and three, and for 2023, my review of Seawolf Park in Galveston and The East Asia Squadron Part 1.

May 05, 2024

Museum Review - USS Cod

While on a recent trip to Ohio, The Fatherly One got a chance to visit USS Cod in Cleveland, unique among the country's museum submarines in having been extremely minimally modified, and was kind enough to write a review.

Cod pierside3

USS Cod – SS-224, WW II Fleet Submarine USS COD Submarine Memorial North Coast Harbor Cleveland, OH

The Cod is the only WW II Gato class fleet submarine in its original wartime configuration. No stairways and/or doors have been cut in her pressure hull. Access for the tour is via the escape trunk which deposits you in the forward torpedo room. From there the tour heads to the stern. On the outside, there are dents from depth-charging and bullet holes from a strafing run. Read more...

April 28, 2024

Air Attack on Ships Part 4 - US Torpedoes

Torpedo bombing had begun during WWI, but it only reached full deployment during the second world war, when all of the major combatants made use of it in various forms.

A Mk 13 torpedo undergoing maintenance

The outlier in how they used torpedoes was the Americans, who tended to do things slightly different from everyone else, although my sourcing on their practice is far better than I have for any other power, so they get their own post. The US Mk 13 aerial torpedo was distinguished in a number of ways. Most notably, it was relatively short and fat, 22.4" instead of the 17.7" that was standard in the rest of the world. This configuration was adopted as it was thought that a longer torpedo would be a serious constraint on the performance of future torpedo bombers.4 Also unusual was the range/speed combination, which was initially 6,000 yards at 30 kts, although this was later altered to 4,000 yards and 33.5 kts,5 still leaving it substantially slower and longer-ranged than was typical for an aerial torpedo.6 It also lacked the gyro-angling feature that most navies fitted their torpedoes with, which allowed the pilot to set a course different from the airplane's before the torpedo was dropped which it would then turn to after entering the water.7 Read more...

April 26, 2024

Open Thread 155

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

The big news is that next weekend is the New England meetup. I'm not accepting more people for full-time, but if you're in the area and want to drop by for a bit, let me know.

Overhauls are British Battleships in WWII, Shells Part 2, Continuous At Sea Deterrent and for 2023, my review of the Titan silo in Tucson and A Visit to Texas.

April 21, 2024

Thoughts on the Iranian Missile Attack

Last weekend saw one of the largest missile attacks in history, almost totally blocked by the defenses of Israel and various countries that came to Israel's aid. As such, it's worth a look to see what lessons we can learn. For those who weren't paying attention, reports generally seem to agree that Iran (and its proxies in Yemen) launched about 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 110-120 ballistic missiles. And to be clear, 300+ missiles (some sources are saying 350, probably with the balance made up by more drones) is a lot. For comparison, during the first Gulf War, the United States launched 288 Tomahawks. Obviously, that was in the context of a much larger air campaign, but this was clearly more than just lobbing a few missiles as harassment.

But the attack was a complete failure, with the net result reported of two Israeli airbases damaged (not clear exactly how much) and a single girl left in critical condition by falling debris. Some of this was because about half of the Iranian ballistic missiles failed during launch and crashed short of the target8 but most of it was a superb performance by Israeli and American ABM systems, and the rapid work of an impromptu coalition of basically everyone who wasn't Iran in the region to deal with the atmospheric threat. Read more...

April 19, 2024

35 Years Ago

35 years ago today, while conducting gunnery exercises off the coast of Puerto Rico, Turret II exploded aboard Iowa. 47 members of her crew were killed. Every year, a memorial ceremony is held for them, and I was able to attend in 2019 and honor the men who died.

  • Tung Thanh Adams - Fire Controlman 3rd class (FC3) Alexandria, VA
  • Robert Wallace Backherms - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Ravenna, OH
  • Dwayne Collier Battle - Electrician's Mate, Fireman Apprentice (EMFA) Rocky Mount, NC
  • Walter Scot Blakey - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Eaton Rapids, MI
  • Pete Edward Bopp - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Levittown, NY
  • Ramon Jarel Bradshaw - Seaman Recruit (SR) Tampa, FL
  • Philip Edward Buch - Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTjg) Las Cruces, NM
  • Eric Ellis Casey - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Mt. Airy, NC
  • John Peter Cramer - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Uniontown, PA
  • Milton Francis Devaul Jr. - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Solvay, NY
  • Leslie Allen Everhart Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Cary, NC
  • Gary John Fisk - Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2) Oneida, NY
  • Tyrone Dwayne Foley - Seaman (SN) Bullard, TX
  • Robert James Gedeon III - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Lakewood, OH
  • Brian Wayne Gendron - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Madera, CA
  • John Leonard Goins - Seaman Recruit (SR) Columbus, OH
  • David L. Hanson - Electricians Mate 3rd class (EM3) Perkins, SD
  • Ernest Edward Hanyecz - Gunners Mate 1st class (GM1) Bordentown, NJ
  • Clayton Michael Hartwig - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Cleveland, OH
  • Michael William Helton - Legalman 1st class (LN1) Louisville, KY
  • Scott Alan Holt - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Fort Meyers, FL
  • Reginald L. Johnson Jr. - Seaman Recruit (SR) Warrensville Heights, OH
  • Nathaniel Clifford Jones Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Buffalo, NY
  • Brian Robert Jones - Seaman (SN) Kennesaw, GA
  • Michael Shannon Justice - Seaman (SN) Matewan, WV
  • Edward J. Kimble - Seaman (SN) Ft. Stockton, TX
  • Richard E. Lawrence - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Springfield, OH
  • Richard John Lewis - Fire Controlman, Seaman Apprentice (FCSA) Northville, MI
  • Jose Luis Martinez Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Hidalgo, TX
  • Todd Christopher McMullen - Boatswains Mate 3rd class (BM3) Manheim, PA
  • Todd Edward Miller - Seaman Recruit (SR) Ligonier, PA
  • Robert Kenneth Morrison - Legalman 1st class (LN1) Jacksonville, FL
  • Otis Levance Moses - Seaman (SN) Bridgeport, CN
  • Darin Andrew Ogden - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Shelbyville, IN
  • Ricky Ronald Peterson - Seaman (SN) Houston, MN
  • Mathew Ray Price - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Burnside, PA
  • Harold Earl Romine Jr. - Seaman Recruit (SR) Brandenton, FL
  • Geoffrey Scott Schelin - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GMG3) Costa Mesa, CA
  • Heath Eugene Stillwagon - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Connellsville, PA
  • Todd Thomas Tatham - Seaman Recruit (SR) Wolcott, NY
  • Jack Ernest Thompson - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Greeneville, TN
  • Stephen J. Welden - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Yukon, OK
  • James Darrell White - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Norwalk, CA
  • Rodney Maurice White - Seaman Recruit (SR) Louisville, KY
  • Michael Robert Williams - Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2) South Shore, KY
  • John Rodney Young - Seaman (SN) Rockhill, SC
  • Reginald Owen Ziegler - Senior Chief Gunners Mate (GMCS) Port Gibson, NY

They came to the Navy as strangers. Served the Navy as shipmates and friends and left the Navy as brothers in eternity. - George H.W. Bush