Additional info re Houston's 5" ammo?

Additional info re Houston's 5" ammo?

Melmoth the Wanderer (DMKjr)
Melmoth the Wanderer (DMKjr)

October 27th, 2011, 1:53 am #1

Why, hello,

1) Not ALL of the replenished 5" ammo acquired by HOUSTON at Tjilatjap came from BOISE either.

2) BOISE replenished herself with about 10 tons of rock acquired at Tjilatjap, which was used as ballast and for covering areas of the bottom spaces affected by her grounding damage.

3) However, aboard HOUSTON the men handling these 5" projectiles knew the difference easily, as their caps were not the same color.

4) The news of HOUSTON's AA projectile problems reached the US media--in newpapers--sometime before the ship was lost. I am certain the vector for this leak was one of her aviators.

5) By Feb 27th, though, it didn't matter...


MthW/Don Kehn, Jr.
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Nelson
Nelson

October 27th, 2011, 5:40 am #2

Some relevant information from (1) Walter G. Winslow, 1984, The Ghost That Died at Sunda Strait, and (2) Coxswain Madson's reconstructed log in

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/shi ... html#Enclb

Winslow, page 99: "According to Commander Maher [Cmdr. Arthur L. Maher, Houston's gunnery officer], during the Flores Sea battle [February 4, 1942, in which No. 3 turret was permanently put out of action by a bursting bomb and 48 men were killed] the Houston fired about four hundred 5-inch antiaircraft shells, 70 percent of which were duds."

Ibid, page 100: "Fortunately, the Boise had left behind some good 5-inch antiaircraft shells, and we were able to load five hundred of them before getting under way [from Tjilatjap] for Darwin on the morning of 8 February."

Madson, February 7, 1942:

"Temporarily repairing bomb damage, fueling and provisioning ship. Took aboard 500 rounds A.A. ammunition."

So, agreement that 500 rounds of 5-inch AA were loaded at Tjilatjap.

Madson, February 15 [sic], 1942:

"Sure enough at 1130 we sighted 45 bombers in the clouds. Part flying boats and part medium bombers. We started firing rapidly and drove back wave after wave. One of the merchantmen laid a smoke screen and covered part of the convoy. All this time we were twisting in and out of the convoy like a mother hen protecting her chicks. The attack lasted 45 min, and during that time we fired 900 rounds."

Winslow, page 103, on the AA defense in the Timor Sea, February 16, 1942: "In all, the 5-inch guns had fired 930 rounds. The ammunition replacement party, consisting of twenty off-watch men from the 5-inch gun crews and personnel from the aviation division, had worked so strenuously during the engagement that many men had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Only eight of the first loaders had been able to continue at their stations throughout the entire series of attacks, and reliefs had to come from the other watch section."

Arithmetic requires that either satisfactory 5-inch AA shells had been obtained from a source in addition to Boise, or once again, Houston had to dip into the older faulty shells to fire at the attacking bombers, or both possibilities. If memory serves, she went into her last fight with a grim shortage of 5-inch ammunition.

Nelson
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Tom
Tom

October 27th, 2011, 1:32 pm #3

If memory serves, she went into her last fight with a grim shortage of 5-inch ammunition.

-------------

I don't know how many rounds, but Houston and Exeter consistently fired at aircraft -- both Allied and Japanese -- throughout the Battle of the Java Sea and the day leading up to it. This would have reduced the AA ammunition stocks of Houston even further. I have read in several accounts, including those of Winslow and Duane Schultz, that Houston actually ran out of 5" rounds in the Soenda Strait. Her crews were reduced to firing starshells toward the end.

Regards...
Tom
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Melmoth the Wanderer (DMKjr)
Melmoth the Wanderer (DMKjr)

October 27th, 2011, 3:43 pm #4

Some relevant information from (1) Walter G. Winslow, 1984, The Ghost That Died at Sunda Strait, and (2) Coxswain Madson's reconstructed log in

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/shi ... html#Enclb

Winslow, page 99: "According to Commander Maher [Cmdr. Arthur L. Maher, Houston's gunnery officer], during the Flores Sea battle [February 4, 1942, in which No. 3 turret was permanently put out of action by a bursting bomb and 48 men were killed] the Houston fired about four hundred 5-inch antiaircraft shells, 70 percent of which were duds."

Ibid, page 100: "Fortunately, the Boise had left behind some good 5-inch antiaircraft shells, and we were able to load five hundred of them before getting under way [from Tjilatjap] for Darwin on the morning of 8 February."

Madson, February 7, 1942:

"Temporarily repairing bomb damage, fueling and provisioning ship. Took aboard 500 rounds A.A. ammunition."

So, agreement that 500 rounds of 5-inch AA were loaded at Tjilatjap.

Madson, February 15 [sic], 1942:

"Sure enough at 1130 we sighted 45 bombers in the clouds. Part flying boats and part medium bombers. We started firing rapidly and drove back wave after wave. One of the merchantmen laid a smoke screen and covered part of the convoy. All this time we were twisting in and out of the convoy like a mother hen protecting her chicks. The attack lasted 45 min, and during that time we fired 900 rounds."

Winslow, page 103, on the AA defense in the Timor Sea, February 16, 1942: "In all, the 5-inch guns had fired 930 rounds. The ammunition replacement party, consisting of twenty off-watch men from the 5-inch gun crews and personnel from the aviation division, had worked so strenuously during the engagement that many men had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Only eight of the first loaders had been able to continue at their stations throughout the entire series of attacks, and reliefs had to come from the other watch section."

Arithmetic requires that either satisfactory 5-inch AA shells had been obtained from a source in addition to Boise, or once again, Houston had to dip into the older faulty shells to fire at the attacking bombers, or both possibilities. If memory serves, she went into her last fight with a grim shortage of 5-inch ammunition.

Nelson
Guys,

Bear in mind neither Quinn Madson nor Walter Winslow were in Divisions 4 or 5 (CA30's AA divs; 6 was her 1.1"), but an officer who was, and who was universally considered one of the ship's "outstanding" men, indicated another figure taken on at Tjilatjap...

Since there are other accounts that exist and which I have that state different numbers, unless or until primary source docs are found, this is all speculative.
I will merely note that I suspect repeat SUSPECT that CA30 over-stocked her 5" capacity after the fiasco on 4 Feb. Ships other than BOISE of course supplied some 5" to the ABDA units in this campaign.

I do have exact figures for her 5" when she went into the Batjvzee, and can say with some assurance she did NOT repeat NOT begin her last fight with a shortage of 5"---You may be confusing this w/her very real shortage of MB shells (8") that night. I have figures on the 8" as well, and they were indeed "grim"... However, as you all understand the ranges they engaged at made the use of 5" applicable throughout the battle.
It should also be understood that there was a good deal of ordnance stacked in non-standard areas of the ship as she went into Sunda Strait.


MthW/Dmkjr

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Nelson
Nelson

October 28th, 2011, 3:05 pm #5

Don,

> Bear in mind neither Quinn Madson nor Walter Winslow were in Divisions 4 or 5 (CA30's AA divs; 6 was her 1.1"), but an officer who was, and who was universally considered one of the ship's "outstanding" men, indicated another figure taken on at Tjilatjap... >

Perhaps. I know little about Madson and I'm aware that Winslow was an SOC pilot, but three likely relevant things occur, actually reminders of what have been posted recently in this forum.

1. The source for Winslow's figure of 500 rounds of 5-inch AA loaded aboard at Tjilatjap was almost certainly Houston's senior gunnery officer--and the senior surviving officer among her PoWs--Cmdr. Arthur Maher (The Ghost That Died at Sunda Strait, pp. 99-100). Should not we consider him, too, an "outstanding man" aboard the cruiser, and probably the most authoritative person on this matter?

2. During the heavy AA action in the Timor Sea, the aviation section served in the 5-inch ammunition trains. Winslow may have been among them, or at some point got some inkling of the state (quantity) of that ammunition from these guys.

3. As Tom reminds, during her last fight--which, tragically, was not that long--the heavy cruiser did exhaust all of her regular 5-inch rounds, being reduced in the last gasp to firing starshell.

> Ships other than BOISE of course supplied some 5" to the ABDA units in this campaign. >

Again perhaps. But as the clock ticked down to Zero for the warships of the Allied navies, the problem became increasingly one of opportunity. After she had returned to Java, WHEN and WHERE did Houston have the opportunity to replenish the 900+ rounds of 5-inch AA she had fired off in defense of the Timor convoy? She was in and out of Darwin in a flash on February 18, 1942, taking time only to refuel there. She overnighted at Tjilatjap on the 21st/22nd. I think she left that port early in the morning, but that would have been the only time or place I can figure. If you have additional information that she had a sufficient window of opportunity at Tjilatjap, and there remained additional and sufficient U.S. 5-inch/25 ammo there, please share.

At present, I am of the opinion that in her final two battles, Houston was not overburdened with 5-inch ammunition. As I have requested of you elsewhere today, I shall consider objectively your arguments to the contrary, but I need more facts and figures, and as brought up in another thread, those all important sources.

Nelson
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Nelson
Nelson

October 28th, 2011, 3:41 pm #6

I just wrote

> [Houston] was in and out of Darwin in a flash on February 18, 1942, taking time only to refuel there. She overnighted at Tjilatjap on the 21st/22nd. I think she left that port early in the morning, but that would have been the only time or place I can figure. If you have additional information that she had a sufficient window of opportunity at Tjilatjap, and there remained additional and sufficient U.S. 5-inch/25 ammo there, please share. >

In an effort to garner any further details, I went back to

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/shi ... /ca30.html

and checked both the "official" and Madson's reconstructed logs. The former states simply that Houston arrived at Tjilatjap at dusk on February 21, 1942, and refueled at the dock, departing the port at about 0800 hours on the following day. Madson adds that she not only fueled, but provisioned at Tjilatjap, which strongly implies to me that she took on only food and perhaps water. Neither reconstructed log mentions the loading of ammunition of any size.

Nelson
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Melmoth the Worn Out (dmkjr)
Melmoth the Worn Out (dmkjr)

October 29th, 2011, 4:05 am #7

Nelson,

Then you have it all figured out. Well-done!

MthW/DMKjr

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Nelson
Nelson

October 29th, 2011, 5:42 am #8

No, I don't have it all figured out, but I'm attempting to.

What Maher told Winslow is that about 400 rounds of the old 5-inch junk was fired during the Flores Sea fight, with a disturbing 70% dud rate.

To the relief of one and all, about 500 new rounds unloaded from Boise at Tjilatjap became available and were brought on board Houston. Although Winslow does not specify, a reasonable assumption is that this info also came from Maher, so bears a high likelihood of accuracy. A valid question arises at this point: Did Houston unload a lot of the old 5-inch rounds at Tjilatjap to make room for the new stuff, or did she keep what old 5-inch ammo was left after the Flores Sea fight? That is, did she have what was left of the old ammo, plus the 500-some new rounds, when she stood out of Tjilatjap on February 10, 1942?

During the Timor Sea fight, it is estimated that more than 900 rounds of 5-inch AA were fired at the attacking IJN aircraft. It is obvious that either (A) ALL of the new and reliable 5-inch AA rounds were fired, OR (B) the 5-inch rounds were carefully husbanded against future battles, and a mixture of the new and old were expended. Whatever, It is patently obvious that there was now a deficit of some hundreds of 5-inch rounds vis-a-vis the number on board when Houston departed Darwin on February 14, 1942. She was back in the that port four days later, in and out--zippity doo--having refueled from a barge, and on her way back to Java.

It would seem to me that as the refueling and reprovisioning are mentioned in the reconstructed logs for February 21-22, 1942, the equally important task of loading additional ammunition there would be specified as well.....assuming any additional USN ammo remained at Tjilatjap. Were there such rounds in Soerabaja, and when would Houston have had the opportunity to load them once she arrived there? Things happened awfully fast thereafter.

Without going to different histories of the Sunda Strait battle, HMAS Perth encountered enemy ships about 2315 hrs on February 28 and opened fire within minutes, let's say at 2320. She was sunk within a half-hour, so 2345-2350 hrs. Houston lasted another 20-25 minutes. I have read different times for her sinking, but let's just say she was under by ten minutes past midnight on March 1st. However you slice it, Houston's battle lasted about 50 minutes, by which time she had exhausted her normal 5-inch rounds and was firing starshell and throwing brickbats. You tell me that she had oodles of 5-inch rounds, but if so--and without sarcasm this time--why did she run out in such a relatively brief time unless she was manifestly short on 5-inch ammunition?

I do not know off-hand what the normal storage load for 5-inch ammunition was in this class of heavy cruiser, but of course if Rooks and Maher were smart, they would have exceeded that capacity, as you wrote earlier, by storing additional such rounds in unlikely places. That still does not mean a lot of the old stuff would not have been removed to make room for the new, so the total number of 5-inch rounds was 500 or so new, plus whatever of the old rounds that could be kept aboard. But without any ammunition replenishment after the Timor Sea fight of February 16, those 900-930 rounds fired would have made a big hole in the supply of 5-inch rounds.

Nelson
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Melmoth the Generous Wanderer (DMKjr)
Melmoth the Generous Wanderer (DMKjr)

November 1st, 2011, 2:36 am #9

I just wrote

> [Houston] was in and out of Darwin in a flash on February 18, 1942, taking time only to refuel there. She overnighted at Tjilatjap on the 21st/22nd. I think she left that port early in the morning, but that would have been the only time or place I can figure. If you have additional information that she had a sufficient window of opportunity at Tjilatjap, and there remained additional and sufficient U.S. 5-inch/25 ammo there, please share. >

In an effort to garner any further details, I went back to

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/shi ... /ca30.html

and checked both the "official" and Madson's reconstructed logs. The former states simply that Houston arrived at Tjilatjap at dusk on February 21, 1942, and refueled at the dock, departing the port at about 0800 hours on the following day. Madson adds that she not only fueled, but provisioned at Tjilatjap, which strongly implies to me that she took on only food and perhaps water. Neither reconstructed log mentions the loading of ammunition of any size.

Nelson
Nelson & others,

1) The gunnery officer of HOUSTON [her senior survivor], CDR Arthur Maher stated in his 1945 Action Report on the Battle of Sunda Strait that HOUSTON fired approximately 750 rds of 5"/25cal in the final engagement, so hardly a negligible amount, even if off by 100 rds either way.

2) One must bear in mind that her MB's 8" supply was far more critical in terms of depletion, and the MB was put out of action by shellfire & attendant damage before all could be fired. Based on various sources I believe the ship had roughly 300 MB shells left when she went into Sunda Strait. That figure would equal 1/3 of her "as built" allotment of 900 shells, and as her forward turrets had fired approx. 600 shells at BatJvzee, this makes good arithmetical sense. Some accounts--including Van Oosten--have said she had 50 shells per 8" gun left that night, so that's 300 projectiles. I find the figure quite plausible.

3) I have an official message sent by the ship to HQ saying she had 60 shells left, but this is clearly a missprint or garble; turret two alone fired 26 or 27 salvos before being destroyed--that's about 80 shells right there--so it may have been 60 shells per gun...but there's no way that moving 60 shells from Turret Three forward consumed as much time and effort as ALL firsthand accounts say. Moving 300 is much more like it. That's about the amount that would still have been in Turret Three's [previously flooded] magazines.

4) Also, the business about her 'being reduced to firing starshells' is a misunderstanding of how her 5"/DP battery was set up to function, pure & simple. It also fails to take into account how large her allotment of SS had been. (e.g., when undergoing her final refit at Machina Wharf, Navy Yard Cavite in November 1941, in one day she off-loaded over 330 starshells...among much else.)

5) Someone has suggested that CA-30 fired the most 8" MB shells of any USN cruiser in the war. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I like the sound of it.

All for now,

MthW/DMKjr
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Nelson
Nelson

November 3rd, 2011, 4:06 am #10

Why, hello,

1) Not ALL of the replenished 5" ammo acquired by HOUSTON at Tjilatjap came from BOISE either.

2) BOISE replenished herself with about 10 tons of rock acquired at Tjilatjap, which was used as ballast and for covering areas of the bottom spaces affected by her grounding damage.

3) However, aboard HOUSTON the men handling these 5" projectiles knew the difference easily, as their caps were not the same color.

4) The news of HOUSTON's AA projectile problems reached the US media--in newpapers--sometime before the ship was lost. I am certain the vector for this leak was one of her aviators.

5) By Feb 27th, though, it didn't matter...


MthW/Don Kehn, Jr.
In trying to get to the bottom of the ammunition available to USS Houston in her final battle, I've noticed certain discrepancies in dates, which I would like to address and find the answers to. In early February 1942, badly damaged Houston steamed to Tjilatjap and after a period of time left there; in mid-February 1942, she steamed to, then departed from Darwin, escorting the convoy to Timor; in late mid-February 1942, the convoy was discovered by a Mavis flying boat, followed up by multiple bombing attacks; the convoy thereupon returned to Darwin and Houston stood out same date; in late February 1942 she returned to Tjilatjap and then steamed for Soerabaja, the battle of the Java Sea, and her ultimate doom. The precise dates, however, differ among men who were without exception aboard the cruiser. The column titled Off(icer)s C(o)mp(osite) Deck Log is the "official" reconstructed log during the final month of Houston's service life. Ranks are as they were in February 1942. In using the table, which is difficult to array perfectly, I think it is far more important to note the degree of agreement, or not, in these dates, rather than to identify the individual providers.

********* CQM G. Coxswn Cmdr. Offs Cmp Ens Ch Lt. Walt
********* Hedrick Madson Maher Deck Log Smith Winslow

enter Tjilatjap Feb 5 Feb 5 no info Feb 5 no info Feb 5

depart Tjilatjap Feb 11 Feb 8 no info Feb 10 Feb 10 Feb 8

enter Darwin Feb 13 Feb 11 no info Feb 14 Feb 14 Feb 11

depart Darwin Feb 13 Feb 12 Feb 14 Feb 15 Feb 15 Feb 14

flying boat Feb 14 Feb 14 Feb 15 Feb 15 Feb 15 Feb 15

bomb attack Feb 15 Feb 15 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16

convoy return Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 16

enter Darwin Feb 18 Feb 18 no info Feb 18 Feb 18 Feb 18

depart Darwin Feb 18 Feb 18 no info Feb 18 Feb 18 Feb 18

enter Tjilatjap Feb 19 Feb 21 no info Feb 21 Feb 21 Feb 21

depart Tjilatjap Feb 22 Feb 22 no info Feb 22 Feb 22 Feb 22

From the data above, it can be seen there is universal agreement that damaged Houston entered Tjilatjap on February 5, 1942. There is concurrence, too, that the Timor convoy turned back on Feb 16, 1942, and re-entered Darwin on the 18th. Agreement across the board exists on the dates that Houston departed Darwin (Feb 18, 1942) and departed Tjilatjap (Feb 22, 1942). Hedrick's arrival date for the ship at Tjilatjap on Feb 19, 1942, is clearly wrong on the basis of not being possible, given her departure from Darwin. I do not possess Cmdr. Arthur Maher's after-action reports prior to Houston's departure from Darwin, or between the Timor convoy's reversal in course to the battle of Sunda Strait.

I am not being critical of anyone's failure in memory, particularly considering what these men went through between March 1942 and war's end in 1945, but I am wondering if somewhere there exist specific dates that historians concur on? Some measure of "official" dates as far as can be determined?

Nelson
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