MARBLEHEAD at Simonstown

MARBLEHEAD at Simonstown

Jacques
Jacques

March 13th, 2013, 6:36 am #1


I found these well-hidden (combinedops.com)photos of USS MARBLEHEAD (CL-12) at Simonstown, South Africa during March 1942, where she underwent repairs before returning to the US.







The 3rd pic in particular, might be of interest to this forum. It is a good high resolution port side view of her clearly showing that she was still in possession of her two SOCs and might also be the evidence that we're looking for to confirm that she never got her 1.1" quads - 7 x 3"/50s still in place.

Regards,

Jacques
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John Melmoth
John Melmoth

March 13th, 2013, 1:39 pm #2

Hello,

Those are good pics.

I did not know anyone questioned her having 1.1" machine cannon, but she hadn't received them by then, and she did retain her SOCs, which were used in her NEI ops until she had to leave. Not always as simple a matter as some might suppose, in that type of cruiser, I mean. Flying floatplanes off the OMAHAs was always an adventure.

JM
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Nelson
Nelson

March 13th, 2013, 4:46 pm #3

I found these well-hidden (combinedops.com)photos of USS MARBLEHEAD (CL-12) at Simonstown, South Africa during March 1942, where she underwent repairs before returning to the US.







The 3rd pic in particular, might be of interest to this forum. It is a good high resolution port side view of her clearly showing that she was still in possession of her two SOCs and might also be the evidence that we're looking for to confirm that she never got her 1.1" quads - 7 x 3"/50s still in place.

Regards,

Jacques
Jacques,

Wonderful photos indeed and excellent sleuthing, lad! Whereja find 'em? The third image down is particularly fine, both in terms of what it shows and its photographic quality. Both the forward and after gun directors are revealed pretty nicely, and note the long arms on the forward optical range finder (anyone: coincidence RF or stereoscopic RF?). Also confirmed is the prior removal of Marblehead's low pair, aft, of sponson-mounted 6-inch/53cal guns, as had been done in her Omaha class sisters.

While there has never been a question whether Marblehead (CL 12) got her 1.1-inch quads before war began---clearly she did not---there has been speculation in the past whether she would have in her scheduled December 1941 availability at Cavite Navy Yard, which of course never happened. And that in turn impacted on the question of just how many 1.1-inch quad mounts were brought over in late 1941 to arm the Asiatic Fleet cruisers.

After additional research and some findings at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, the story is now much clearer, and I told most of it in late October 2012. The Omaha class light cruisers (ex-scout cruisers) were well down the priority schedule to receive their two 1.1-inch quad mounts each, so much so into the year 1942 that even Marblehead out there in the Danger Zone was not advanced to receive her two new pompom mounts. It's amply clear (at long last) that the Asiatic Fleet received five only 1.1-inch quads, the first one in fall 1940 before Houston (CA 30) returned to relieve sister Augusta (CA 31) as flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. At that time her remaining three lighter AA gun positions held 3-inch/50cal semiautomatic guns. One year later---give or take---on one of her routine peddler runs, either Henderson (AP 1) or Chaumont (AP 5) brought out a total of four additional 1.1-inch mounts for Houston.

There still persist some questions about intent. Was the 1940 mount prototypic, mounted in part to work the bugs out, and the intention was to replace it, as well as the three 3-inch/50 mounts remaining on Houston? Because an unconfirmed whisper has been heard that there was a problem with the original 1.1-inch mount's base ring, that is my belief, but hardly one supported to date by anything concrete. Was the intention to reserve one of the new mounts as a spare, as several sources declare? And given the finite amount of time Houston had at Machina Wharf, what actually was accomplished as an absolute necessity? One is reminded here of the removal of the four original and by then unsat main searchlights, to be replaced with new and more modern lights. In the end, however, the originals were simply reinstalled as-was. Whatever the denouement with the four new 1.1-inch mounts, a single mount was left at dockside, later taken by lighter and Luzon Stevedoring tug Ranger to the Mariveles Section Base in order to provide AA protection for floating dry dock Dewey (YSD 1). After a month in that role, the mount was moved over to Corregidor and then emplaced atop Malinta Hill. To iterate, just five 1.1-inch mounts in toto were sent to the Asiatic Fleet for Houston: one original and four newbies. Marblehead was never in the equation.

Again, great photos.

Nelson
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John Melmoth
John Melmoth

March 13th, 2013, 7:18 pm #4

Nelson wrote: "Also confirmed is the prior removal of Marblehead's low pair, aft, of sponson-mounted 6-inch/53cal guns, as had been done in her Omaha class sisters."

This is an error, I think, and a common one. I'm not sure MARBLEHEAD ever had those at all...She was built with a different MB lay-out than her sisters. It has been my understanding for many years that she was constructed with a unique configuration for her aft 6" guns, anyway. (This comes from H. T. Lenton's book, as I recall.)

[But, even IF she ever had them they were gone a decade or so before WWII, as many images from the early 30s show CL-12 without such...so, this hardly amounts to a revelation.]

Also, some of the OMAHAs had indeed received 1.1" mounts well before the NEI campaign, but to have done this with CL-12 was a different matter, obviously.

Finally, the story of HOUSTON's searchlights is more involved than that, but what is of greater interest--it seems to me--is that new information shows that CA-30 was also in the process of being prepped for a radar installation when she departed her home port at the end of November, 1941...

JM
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Nelson
Nelson

March 13th, 2013, 9:30 pm #5

John Melmoth (alias Donald M. Kehn, Jr.) wrote, quoting me initially:

> "Also confirmed is the prior removal of Marblehead's low pair, aft, of sponson-mounted 6-inch/53cal guns, as had been done in her Omaha class sisters."

This is an error, I think, and a common one. I'm not sure MARBLEHEAD ever had those at all...She was built with a different MB lay-out than her sisters. It has been my understanding for many years that she was constructed with a unique configuration for her aft 6" guns, anyway. (This comes from H. T. Lenton's book, as I recall.) >

If Lenton so declares, then that information would be apocryphal. Here is Marblehead (subsequently CL 12) on her trial runs in mid-August 1924, the month before she was commissioned. Although a warship in a photograph may be misidentified as a sister (member of the same class), it has been my experience that such identities in strictly trials photos are reliable and on the money. Note the identification of Marblehead in white ink, worn from age, on the print.

As can be seen during her 1924 trials, Marblehead does display that lower, aft 6-inch/53cal gun in a sponson characteristic of all the early Omahas. One must assume a counterpart gun on the port side.




Very likely corroboratory, NavSource has another, though undated photo claiming to be of Marblehead, having the same early configuration. Just highlight, copy, and paste:

www.navsource.org/archives/04/012/0401217.jpg

Of interest in other NavSource images is that by the early 1930s, those low, after, sponson-mounted guns are indeed gone, replaced by a single 6-inch/53 in a cylindrical gunhouse on centerline one deck above the upper, paired 6-inch/53s. Such gun mount, perhaps unique to Marblehead, was removed after a few to several years. See several images at

www.navsource.org/archives/04/012/0401217.htm

> Also, some of the OMAHAs had indeed received 1.1" mounts well before the NEI campaign, but to have done this with CL-12 was a different matter, obviously. >

Undoubtedly the onset of war brought an accelerated schedule for such installation, not applicable when Marblehead and her sisters were originally scheduled....so, this hardly amounts to a revelation.

Nelson
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John Melmoth
John Melmoth

March 13th, 2013, 10:21 pm #6

Nelson wrote: "Also confirmed is the prior removal of Marblehead's low pair, aft, of sponson-mounted 6-inch/53cal guns, as had been done in her Omaha class sisters."

This is an error, I think, and a common one. I'm not sure MARBLEHEAD ever had those at all...She was built with a different MB lay-out than her sisters. It has been my understanding for many years that she was constructed with a unique configuration for her aft 6" guns, anyway. (This comes from H. T. Lenton's book, as I recall.)

[But, even IF she ever had them they were gone a decade or so before WWII, as many images from the early 30s show CL-12 without such...so, this hardly amounts to a revelation.]

Also, some of the OMAHAs had indeed received 1.1" mounts well before the NEI campaign, but to have done this with CL-12 was a different matter, obviously.

Finally, the story of HOUSTON's searchlights is more involved than that, but what is of greater interest--it seems to me--is that new information shows that CA-30 was also in the process of being prepped for a radar installation when she departed her home port at the end of November, 1941...

JM
My error--not Lenton's at all. CL-12 was unique in having eleven (11) 6" from ca.late 1928 til 1939. She was the only OMAHA so re-configured.

I knew there was something odd about her aft MB arrangements...

Interesting that the USN felt the 38,000$ cost for more extensive alterations was too high in 1928.

JM
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Nelson
Nelson

March 15th, 2013, 7:26 am #7

John Melmoth (alias Donald M. Kehn, Jr.) wrote, quoting me initially:

> "Also confirmed is the prior removal of Marblehead's low pair, aft, of sponson-mounted 6-inch/53cal guns, as had been done in her Omaha class sisters."

This is an error, I think, and a common one. I'm not sure MARBLEHEAD ever had those at all...She was built with a different MB lay-out than her sisters. It has been my understanding for many years that she was constructed with a unique configuration for her aft 6" guns, anyway. (This comes from H. T. Lenton's book, as I recall.) >

If Lenton so declares, then that information would be apocryphal. Here is Marblehead (subsequently CL 12) on her trial runs in mid-August 1924, the month before she was commissioned. Although a warship in a photograph may be misidentified as a sister (member of the same class), it has been my experience that such identities in strictly trials photos are reliable and on the money. Note the identification of Marblehead in white ink, worn from age, on the print.

As can be seen during her 1924 trials, Marblehead does display that lower, aft 6-inch/53cal gun in a sponson characteristic of all the early Omahas. One must assume a counterpart gun on the port side.




Very likely corroboratory, NavSource has another, though undated photo claiming to be of Marblehead, having the same early configuration. Just highlight, copy, and paste:

www.navsource.org/archives/04/012/0401217.jpg

Of interest in other NavSource images is that by the early 1930s, those low, after, sponson-mounted guns are indeed gone, replaced by a single 6-inch/53 in a cylindrical gunhouse on centerline one deck above the upper, paired 6-inch/53s. Such gun mount, perhaps unique to Marblehead, was removed after a few to several years. See several images at

www.navsource.org/archives/04/012/0401217.htm

> Also, some of the OMAHAs had indeed received 1.1" mounts well before the NEI campaign, but to have done this with CL-12 was a different matter, obviously. >

Undoubtedly the onset of war brought an accelerated schedule for such installation, not applicable when Marblehead and her sisters were originally scheduled....so, this hardly amounts to a revelation.

Nelson
Guys,

Here is a photo of USS Marblehead (CL 12) in Dry Dock No. 2, Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, in June 1932.



Note the additional single 6-inch/53cal gun mount on centerline, one deck above the paired upper sponson mounts, aft, that are still in place from the original design. The lower sponson mounts, aft, which were a liability in anything approaching a heavy sea, have been removed. The new single mount was unique to Marblehead, but was removed in turn a year or two before the onset of WWII. In the photograph, the carpenter shop is on the left, and atop Breed's Hill in the distance stands the obelisk of the Bunker Hill Monument. Behind earth and timber breastworks on Breed's Hill in June 1775, the American patriots---or rebels---were admonished not to fire until they saw the whites of the redcoats' eyes.

Nelson
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GerritJ9
GerritJ9

March 15th, 2013, 11:00 am #8

My error--not Lenton's at all. CL-12 was unique in having eleven (11) 6" from ca.late 1928 til 1939. She was the only OMAHA so re-configured.

I knew there was something odd about her aft MB arrangements...

Interesting that the USN felt the 38,000$ cost for more extensive alterations was too high in 1928.

JM
Norman Friedman's US Cruisers has this to say on page 85:

In service the installed battery was not entirely satisfactory. The twin 6-in/53 gun was cramped and, as had been expected, could not fire nearly as fast as two single guns. In addition, the two lower after broadside guns were often impossible to operate, even in moderate weather. In August 1928 BuOrd suggested a remedy, noting also that the after twin 6-in gun was too wet; one had even been put out of commission when during a sharp turn a heavy sea struck its overhang, which projected beyond the side of the ship when it was trained slightly forward of the beam. The General Board was opposed in principle to such expenditures unless a marked defect is to be remedied, or a very important gian is to be made in military efficiency. Only the elimination of the low broadside guns aft and their replacement by a single mount on the centreline (at a cost of $30,000) met these criteria. The analogous guns forward could also be replaced, at a lower cost of $8,000 and with desirable improvements in seakeeping (less weight forward), habitability, and even rate of fire. The change was recommended. A third change, raising the after twin 6-in mount, was considered desirable from a gunnery point of view but too expensive both in top weight and in cost. On 7 November the secretary approved the relocation of all the lower guns, but only the after guns were removed. Only in the cruiser Marblehead were they replaced by one centreline gun; in the others the battery was permanently reduced to ten 6-in/53 guns. By 1939 the Marblehead had been reduced to ten guns. Five ships retained all twelve guns, Cls 4-5, 10, 11 and 13.
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Jacques
Jacques

March 16th, 2013, 5:49 am #9

I counted 7 x 3"/50 caliber guns on CL-12 (Am I right?) - 3 single mounts along each side and a single mount where the centreline 6"/53 used to be. This is also unusual for an OMAHA, most having only 4 x single 3"/50s. Where did the extra 3 come from? I recall that 3 x 3"/50s were removed from HOUSTON to make place for the quad 1.1"s. Is it possible that these were then transferred to MARBLEHEAD?

Regards,

Jacques
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Nelson
Nelson

March 16th, 2013, 7:44 am #10

Jacques,

> I recall that 3 x 3"/50s were removed from HOUSTON to make place for the quad 1.1"s. Is it possible that these were then transferred to MARBLEHEAD? >

The arithmetic makes this possibility a tantalizing one....but alas, nothing else does.

1. Marblehead (CL 12) was supposed to have a yard availability following that of Houston (CA 30), but that never happened. By the time Houston vacated Machina Wharf on December 1, 1941, having had her remaining three 3-inch/50cal AA guns dismounted there, Marblehead had already been at Tarakan, Borneo, for a few days as part of the Asiatic Fleet's southern dispersion plan. She never returned to Manila Bay, much less to Cavite Navy Yard.

2. It has long been my understanding that the Cavite marine detachment set up Houston's three 3-inch/50s, as well as a number of other guns of this same type, and used them for AA protection of the navy yard, mostly after the devastating raid on December 10. I suppose it's possible that the three guns from Houston and their ammunition were put on one of the tenders withdrawing from the Philippines, and somehow Marblehead got these three extra 3-inch/50s, such installation entirely or largely undocumented. I've never read of this later addition to Marblehead elsewhere, in either Java or Australia.

3. My problem is that other than the centerline gun aft, none of the three AA guns somewhat forward on the port side look to me like the characteristically long and slender 3-inch/50 AA guns. They look more like water-cooled M2 .50-caliber AAMGs to mine tired eyes. Not to mention they be just where the standard pair of 3-inch/50s should be.

I just dunno....

Nelson
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