Blackpowder cartridges......Fletcher class WW2 DD torpedo launching

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
I went back to "Blackshoe Carrier Admiral" and reviewed the chain of command and it was a mess.
Nimitz had told Ghormley "to exercise strategic command in person" for the whole area, and yet
at the last minute, Ghormley, the night they sailed for Guadalcanal put not only TF-61 ( three carrier
task forcess) under Fletcher but also told Fletcher to also take "tactical command" of all the forces.
So, yes, technically Fletcher was given tactical command. I had forgotten that, because it really didn't
actually happen that way when things went down. The reality of exceptionally poor radio
communications and huge distances between the amphibious and air task forces meant that
Fletcher was out of contact with the amphibious forces for days at a time,
and many times radio traffic was totally missed or passed on from another ship the following day.
There were a number of extremely critical lost messages that, had they been recieve in a timely
manner would have made significant differences in how things turned out.

In reality, Fletcher only commanded his TF-16 (Saratoga and support ships) and then reasonably effectively
TF11 and 18, (which were the other two carrier task forces) due to the fact that the carrier task forces intentionally
stayed widely separated, many tens of miles, so that if Japanese search planes found one carrier, they wouldn't
be able to attack all three. The dispersion had that advantage but the disadvantage of very poor strike
coordination, a serious problem at the early stages of the war. Later in the war, carriers fought in groups,
and within sight of each other.

Turner and Crutchley (TF-44) were effectively operating independently, following the battle plan
agreed to in Pearl and Aukland, since radio communication was just short of hopeless on a short
term basis. Typically Fletcher was hundreds of miles from Turner at any given time. For example, during
the landings the carriers were south of Guadalcanal and the landings were on the north side. Things just
ran according to preplanned schedules set days and weeks earlier.

Bret, if you would like, I will mail you my copy of "Black Shoe Carrier Admiral" and you can read a lot
more about Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal in a very detailed, well written book.
 
Last edited:

RBHarter

West Central AR
My Uncle after some digging around was on the USS Mustin DD413 . It's big claim to fame ? It sank the USS Hornet . It fits in here having been with the task force 17 fleet to Guadalcanal .

Small world . My Uncle suvived the war . Lost his best friend overboard in a typhoon . I suspect he was there for the Hornet .
 

Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
No need Bill, I can find it if I ever get the time and add it to the library. But thanks for the offer. I'm going to ave to try to remember (an iffy proposition these days!) to find that book I have on Guadalcanal, can't even recall the name or author now. Had some good info in it from a USMC perspective. I do recall that Marine squadrons off a carrier, probably Saratoga as you said, got tot he island some time after the Cactus Air Force (thanks Brad!) got in operation and made a big difference. Incidentally, I believe many of those Air Cobras intended for France wound up in Mudder Russia after Herr Hitler deciding (fortunately) to open another front to his east. Thank goodness for stupid decisions!

Along the lines of starving Marines (and Japanese) on Guadalcanal, another chapter that I find fascinating is the Chindits (sp?) and the Coastwatchers. Talk about long supply lines! I suppose there are probably other equally amazing but relat ively unknown chapters we never hear about. Lord knows most people forget China was in the war and Korea too, at least to an extent. We probably have little idea what they went though.
 

358156 hp

Well-Known Member
BTW, there are numerous mentions of PT boat crews using mallets to launch torpedoes too. I suspect that the issues with the fire control systems going on the fritz were pretty common.
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Those coast watchers were mostly Brit rubber and other farmers who volunteered to stay, and regularly radioed warnings to
Guadalcanal of Japanese planes or ships coming down from Rabaul.

Bret - see if you can find a copy of "Shattered Sword" - which is the corrected and accurate story of the Battle of Midway.
The Japanese air group commander on the Pearl Harbor raid, and who would have lead the raids in Midway, had appendicitis,
and was grounded for a while. He was on Akagi when she was sunk, and after the war, he wrote a book of his WW2
experiences, especially about Midway. His name was Fushida, and his book was translated to English and became THE
AUTHORITY on what was happening on the Japanese ships, since he was in the top command structure during the battle;.
Unfortunately, it turns out that Fushida lied massively to make the Japanese look better, and much of what he told in the
book was false. To compound matters, US authors of official histories, both USN and civilian took his work and incorporated
it with US records into "the official story".....which was seriously skewed for 50 years.
A group of serious naval history hobbiest....not entirely unlike this group of serious shooting hobbyists, got together on a
web site to chat.
American amatuer historians were puzzled when they made comments about "Fushida said.....", and they got sarcastic comments
from the Japanese members. It turns out that Fushida had been thoroughly debunked in Japan in the 60s, but none of that
had been translated, and the entire English speaking naval history world was unaware of this.
Over a period of several years, the Japanese members were able to travel to various parts of their country and interview
many survivors of Midway. And they were able to get a lot of previously unknown ships blueprints, and information from
crew and pilots of the time about Japanese aircraft carrier technology, SOPs and much more.
Over a period of years, the story of Midway was significantly rewritten from the Japanese side, correcting Fushida's lies,
and many technical misunderstands of how the Japanese carriers worked and what they could and could not do.

All of this was finally written up into "Shattered Sword" at the urging of well known Pacific WW@ author John Lundstrom.


Here is the intro: http://shatteredswordbook.com/ShatteredSwordIntroduction.pdf

The intro is worth reading by itself.

Bill
 
Last edited:

Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
Well, you don't often see Yamamoto and the word "dishonest" in the same sentence. It does kind of make you wonder what other "facts"...aren't. As I said way back at the start of this thread, Winfield Scott Cunningham was a hero for surrendering, unless you read the account of the Marines who were there. JFK's record as a sailor wasn't anything too wunnerful until his daddy had a PR flack take the story of PT109 and turn it into a heroic saga. You can look all over the place and find what many people refer to as "alternate facts" or less the glamorous definition like "out right lies". The victor write the history...or at least they used to. These days it's getting hard to separate fact from fiction!
 

RBHarter

West Central AR
"Our Enemy Japan" .
Published 1942 . I don't recall the author , very good book .
It is a fish bowl history from Perry forward to 1940 ......I didn't make the association of the Shoguns having been in power nearly into the 20th Century .
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
It is REALLY amazing what a group of serious amateur historians were able to do, and they managed to permanently
record first person historic information from Japanese survivors of the Battle of Midway, and several of these men
died within months of being interviews, almost silenced forever by time.
Serious amateurs can be really serious.
Kinda like this site.

If you find the Pacific War interesting, Shattered Sword is worth a read, for sure. Although it is not for the casual
reader, as it goes in some detail into the design and air operations methods of Japanese carriers, and compares and
contrasts that to US carriers - warts for all that have warts, too, definitely NOT a "the Americans are always smarter
and better" kind of a book. Each side's strengths and weaknesses, errors and home runs are pointed out even handedly
by the authors. Their interest is historic accuracy.

And a historic tidbit that is often lost in the shuffle. How many know that ONE pilot is personally primarily responsible
for sinking two of the four Japanese carriers sunk at Midway? Lt Commander Richard Best, squadron commander of
the diver bomber squadron from USS Enterprise. He carried a single 1,000 lb bomb when most of his pilots carried
two 500 lb bombs. He was THAT good. And for Akagi, and Hiryu the following day, his bomb was a perfect dead center
hit and the 1,000 lb bomb drove deep down into their guts and set off unstoppable fires which quickly consumed each
ship. Why haven't you heard of all the other amazing exploits of this hero? Because soon after Midway, he was invalided
out of the USN with tuberculosis, and although he lived to age 91, he never flew for the Navy again. A real hero, by any
measure. He got the Navy Cross and the DFC. He was put up for a postumus MoH after his death but it was denied.

And yes, Akagi was hit by, IIRC, one 500 lb bomb, too, which jammed the rudder, setting her up for future attacks,
but it was a damaging near miss, and very well might have been handled by Japanese damage control.
Best's hits were unsurvivable in each case.

Bill
 
Last edited:

Wiresguy

Member
Another vote for Shattered Sword and Black Shoe Carrier Admiral. Also any books by James D. Hornfischer, especially Neptune’s Inferno and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.
These books really bring to light what our kin went through in some of these battles.
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is an amazing book. Three US DDs and four DEs, and six 18 knot escort carriers
are attacked by FOUR Japanese battleships (ncluding Yamato, the biggest battleship ever built), six cruisers, two
light cruisers, 11 destroyers......and the DDs and one DE went straight at them. They managed to get close enough
to literally be under the guns of the cruisers and BBs, guns could not be depressed enough to hit them. The US
DDs shredded the superstructures of several cruisers, killing the top offcers, blinding their gunnery. The escort
carriers ran as hard as their puny powerplants could run, dodging shellfire all the way. The DDs and DEs laid
smoke and fired all their torpedoes. Amazingly, US torpedoes forced Yamato, the flagship, to turn to "comb"
the torpedoes, running 30 kts AWAY from the fight, with hot torpedoes on either side, for 10 long minutes, putting
the Jap commander, Adm. Kurita, so far from the fight, and with the ferocity of the DDs engagement, they mistook
the DDs for cruisers, the DEs for DDs and the escort carriers for big deck carriers. Kurita was attacked by aircraft with
shore bombardment bombs, showy but unable to inflict more than superficial damage without armor piercing
noses. Kurita, out of touch and getting an apparently tough fight, turned and ran. We lost two DDs sunk, one DE sunk,
one escort carrier sunk in this lopsided battle, that was a miracle of ballsey bravery. After the main battle was over,
the very first kamikaze strike sunk a second escort carrier, often included in the action, even though it really wasn't associated
with Kurita's fleet. This is The Battle Off Samar.

A heck of a book, heroes everywhere. The Samuel B. Roberts was remembered as the destroyer escort that fought like
a battleship". The "main battery" of a DE is her THREE torpedoes. Sammy B. pulled up under the guns of a Jap
heavy cruiser and fired her three shots, plus her two 5 inch guns. One of her Mk 15 torpedoes blew the stern
of the Jap heavy cruiser Chokai, setting her up to be sunk. Ultimately, the US DDs and aircraft managed to sink
three Jap heavy cruisers, an amazing outcome. three others were seriously damaged by exceptionally accurate
5 inch fire. A 5 inch shell cannot sink a cruiser, but they can shred the entire superstructure and kill a lot of the
folks above the main deck. And they did. This was supposed to be impossible.
There was a second Samuel B. Roberts, almost sunk in the Persian Gulf by an Iraqi mine in '88, and literally lashed
together with steel cables to keep her from breaking in half, and she worked her own way out of the mine field on her
5 kt electric thrusters, refusing to let any ship enter the minefield to tow her.
 
Last edited:

Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
I've read a bit on that "Tin Can Sailor" action Bill, I forget where. Amazing example of using what you have and making the best of it. Adapt, improvise and overcome. Well done!

I think there is a TV show on LCmr Best, or part of one. One of those "Air Aces" types. The dive bombers did some great work in several battles.

One of things that I don't understand these days is the lack of guns on our naval vessels. Yes, missles are swell and an auto loading deck gun is great, but there are times when having a mess of guns can really come in handy. Of course, I'm the type that thinks we should at least have a few heavy cruisers, if not battle ships, around to support forces in landings on hostile shores. I know, I'm a dinosaur...
 
Last edited:

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
The issue is cost in some cases. And modern torpedoes have made pretty much most smaller ships sinkable with
a single torpedo if they can get it in position. Modern torpedoes dive under the hull and detonate below the
hull, creating a HUGE bubble of gas which lifts the ship at the center, breaking it's back and all smaller ships sink
very quickly from this treatment. I'm not sure if the larger ships can survive it, but it is a quite different effect
from a side hull hit with a WW2 torpedo.


But, we don't seem to use torpedoes much any more, even though we have them. Some of that is that the
Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf is too shallow for much in the way of submarine ops, but we have them on our ASW
helos and maritime patrol aircraft.

That said, all the current crop of ship attack missiles have about a 200-500 lb warhead, and are not armor piercing.
So, even a slightly larger than WW2 DD sized ship (now called a guided missile cruiser :rolleyes:) cannot easily be sunk by even
a few of these antiship missiles. Shred the superstructure, turn it into a burning hulk, but sinking is not much on the
list of possibilities. In the 80s tanker wars, we totally shattered one of Iran's destroyers with multiple Harpoon missile
hits, but it was towed to port and eventually rebuilt, hull intact, although a disaster above the main deck, completely out
of the fight, of course.

It is a shame that the last of the WW2 battlewagons couldn't have been refurbished one more time, but their steam
plants were unique/antique and it became such a niche training situation that it wasn't possible to have sailors rotate to
other ships or from other ships to them, they were so different that it took special ratings to run the steam plants
and those sailors were in dead end jobs, no path up to more modern machinery, or no need for their skills on
any other ships in the fleet. So, in addition to the huge costs, they required a LOT of staff that had to have unique
training. Bad career moves for sailors and engineering officers on them, nobody wanted to ruin their careers on
antiques, no matter how romantic, historic and cool and it was hard to blame them. Their primary punch was
their vertical box launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, although the 16 guns were still useful in shore bombardment
too.

A WW2 heavy cruiser was 575 ft long, 70 ft beam, max displacement 17,000 tons. A current Ticonderoga class guided
missile cruiser, is 550 ft long, 55 ft beam, and displaces 9600 tons at full load. A bit over half the displacement, 120 ft shorter,
15 ft narrower. Much, much more capable against aerial targets, longer ranged (Harpoons) against surface targets. Same
max speeds. The Ticos do have torpedo tubes, so with modern Mk 48s, very capable within range. And two helos which
can carry lightweight ASW torpedoes, and provide long range sensor platforms. Different times, different ways of
fighting, different weapons systems.
 
Last edited:

Rick H

Active Member
Look what the Brits did to a WWII US Cleveland class Light Cruiser....General Belgrano, in the Falklands. Two torpedoes with 800lb. torpex warheads and she was such a wreck that she was ordered abandoned after 20minutes.

Modern warships don't carry armor, modern US Cruisers and DD's carry Kevlar fragmentation screens to protect certain areas, mainly electronics and fire control. The 5" MK45 54 or 62 caliber naval cannon are nothing to sneeze at. 15-20 rpm sustained until the 600 rd. magazine is depleted, on a DD and two of them on a Cruiser. 15 mile range (statute) and 65 lb. projectile.
 

Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
I get what you mean as far as modern naval vessels. I was thinking more along the lines of supporting amphibious landings and dealing with smaller armed vessels that, oh I dunno, lets say Somali pirates maybe, might be using. Or maybe dealing with... what do they call them? Litteral (sp?) type craft where guns are a whole lot more useful than torpedoes and missiles. I know, it;s USMC thinking again combined with the fact we dealt with lightly armored speed boats used by drug runners/human smugglers up here. I'm thinking something like a Vulcan cannon and some of those smaller auxiliary guns we used to see all over the aircraft carriers, they were what? 5"? And for the landings you need something that would work on fortified building/structures 3-5 miles inland at least. Seems like we limit ourselves to the latest technological wonders and forget that sometimes simple and cheap works just dandy.

Gotcha on the steam engines Bill. That's okay. In my dream world the hull for the USS Chesty Puller is being laid down now. It's basically an Iowa class BB with a modern engine system and all the latest gizmos- backed up by those lovely 16" guns!!!!! Dream on USMC!
 
Last edited:

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
No doubt the 5 inch gun is a serious weapon. The DDs and DE in the Battle off Samar proved to the Japanese
cruisers that very accurate 5 inch fire was a serious issue. The DDs took out the optical rangefinders and in one
case killed everyone on the bridge of one Japanese cruiser with 5 inch fire. It turns out that the DE had a
remote gun laying electromechanical gun director, and the gunnery officer had spent countless hours tuning
it and verifying that when he put his crosshairs on a target and pulled the trigger, the remote 5 inch mount
put a round right there....basically sighting in his "scope" very accurately. USS Samuel B. Roberts did amazing
damage with exceptionally accurate and rapid fire 5" shells from only two guns. And one of her only three
torpedo rounds took the stern off of a heavy cruiser. Truly amazing. When the namesake frigate was
starting to break in half after the Iraqi mine, the sailors, well aware of the famous legacy of their ship's
name, refused to give up, and ran steel cables down corridors on either side of the ship's centerline and
ran them to the main capstan, winching it tight and literally tying the ship together to keep her from
breaking in half. And a perpetual screwup sailor who was assigned to the deep in the bowels backup
diesel power genset, fired it up and kept it running when that was the ONLY source of power on the whole
ship when the main gas turbine was knocked out by the Iraqi mine. He went from a screwup to a hero, refusing
to leave when water entered the compartment, keeping the diesel running, powering pumps, lights, etc.
There were still heroes and brave men in '88, too. And a lot of them in '44, too. And many of them died
attemting "the impossible". They were shocked when Kurita's far superior force was driven off.

And yes, the modern single mount 5" autoloader is probably the firepower equivalent of three or four turrets in
WW2, and more precisely laid.
 
Last edited:

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
One of the things that they have recently done along those lines, Bret is to add a surface target mode to the
Phalanx CIWS. This is a 20mm gatling type cannon in a semiautonomous mount, called "R2D2" for it's shape
by the crew sometimes. It was created as a way to "last ditch" knock down cruise missiles, using radar which
is seeing both the target and the cannon shells and drives them together, much like you driving the spray from
a garden hose by guiding the water, ignoring the nozzle.
They recently added more sensors (infrared optics, IIRC) and software designed to deal with small boats and such
targets on the water's surface.


They also typically have some .50 cal manually laid mounts, too, and that can easily reach out a mile and in a
small boat, there is NO PLACE to hide from Ma Deuce.

Bill
 
Last edited:

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Yeah, seems like a fairly good thing, given the small boat swarming attacks that the Iranians have apparently
tried. I still think a half dozen pintle mounted M2 .50 BMGs with skilled gunners would be pretty darned
effective over water. Just walk the massive splashes on to target, unless it is foggy and no visibility. With
current night vision capability, would work on any clear night, too.
 

Rick H

Active Member
That 5" MK45 has multiple ammo type...one Mark72 HE-72 HE-ICM "Cargo Round" explodes above the ground with a 365 meter kill area. It disperses submunitions and is extremely deadly against fast maneuvering small craft, aircraft, and troop positions.
This isn't your Father's Navy anymore.