August 28, 2010

Name This Mystery Ship III

Again, no clues, no hints.  Winner gets a post of their very own!

C'mon folks, let's not let flatdarkmars have all the fun!

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August 24, 2010

USS Shaw

Like the USS Hammann, there was nothing particular special about the USS Shaw (DD-373).  Just one destroyer in a fleet with dozens similar to her, really. 

Laid down in 1934 as the tenth of the Mahan-class of destroyers, she weighed in around 1500 tons.  Armed with five 5"/38 guns and a whopping 12 torpedo tubes, there was no question that she was quite able to fight other ships her size, and with a top speed of 35kts she could outrun many of the ships she couldn't stand toe-to-toe with.  None of these numbers, however, made her different than any other destroyer in the US Navy.  She joined the Pacific fleet in 1940 after her shakedown cruise, training and overhaul.  In November of 1941, she found herself at Pearl Harbor, in a floating drydock for the sort of repairs that any ship needs after a while.

It wasn't until December 7th, 1941 that she became famous, thanks to one picture.  The Shaw, hit by three bombs probably meant for the USS Nevada, was set ablaze.  While the crew attempted to extinguish the fires, it was quickly realized that the attempt was doomed to failure and abandon ship was called at 0925.  Five minutes later, her forward magazines exploded.

After seeing this photograph, one could be excused for thinking that the Shaw was destroyed, in much the same way as the USS Arizona.  Indeed, for some 30 years I just assumed that was the case.  In fact, it wasn't.

The explosion severed the Shaw's bow completely and to be honest, fairly neatly... at least as far as that sort of  thing goes.  It also sank the floating drydock she was in (YFD-2, in case you were wondering), which went a long way towards extinguishing her fires.

If you'll direct your attention towards the top of this picture, you'll see just how dramatically she was truncated... as if an axe amputated everything forward of her bridge structure.  If you look at the bottom of the picture, you'll see the Cassin and the Downes just forward of the battleship Pennsylvania.  In fact, the sole Pearl Harbor survivor I've met served on the Downes.  But I digress.

Someone had the bright idea that the Shaw, bifurcated though she was, could be repaired.  Refloated, fitted with a wooden bow and fixed up enough to be able to sail on her own, she steamed off to San Francisco.  There, she was "placed under the anchor" and refit with a replacement bow.

By the end of August, 1942, 68 years ago, the USS Shaw returned to Pearl Harbor, a ship whole again.  She served through the rest of the war in the Pacific, making her presence felt at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Saipan, and Luzon.  She was decommissioned on October 2nd, 1945 and stricken from the Navy List two days later.  She was scrapped in 1946, ending what could only be called an eventful life.

USS Shaw, 1945
Again, congrats to flatdarkmars for being the first to guess the Shaw's identity.  Per his request, there will be another mystery coming soon!

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August 23, 2010

Name This Mystery Ship II

Once again, no clues or hints.  Leave your guess in the comments.  The first to give the correct answer will win a post on a topic of your choice!

And, for the record, I won't write about religion, politics or pr0n (though anime ecchi is okay).  Anything else is free game!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:08 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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August 21, 2010

USS Hammann

The life of a destroyer is never a glamorous one.  Big enough to be a target but small enough to easily die, the destroyer's main job is to protect bigger, more important, ships from those that would attempt to harm them.

The USS Hammann (DD-412) was the fourth of the Sims-class of destroyers, commissioned in 1939.  2200 tons at full load, her twin screws could push her 348 foot length through the water at 35kts.  She was armed with four 5"/38 guns and eight torpedo tubes, a common enough armament for a pre-war destroyer.  She also carried a few .50cal machineguns.  In comparison to what DDs would carry just a few years later, that seems a light load of weapons, but nobody really knew the threat aircraft posed at the time.

The Hammann was to be blessed (or cursed) with an active, but short, life.  She was assigned to Task Force 17 and served as the plane guard destroyer for the USS Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea.  She also collected many of her crew when the time came to evacuate the carrier.

The Hammann backs away, decks crowded with Lexington crew.

The Lex explodes.  The Hammann's bow is to the left, the arrow points to the USS Yorktown.
After the Coral Sea, the Hammann escorted the damaged USS Yorktown in her dash back to Pearl Harbor.  While the Yorktown underwent a crash repair program, Hammann replenished in preparation for the Battle of Midway.

We all know what happened there.  The hastily repaired Yorktown took three bombs and two torpedoes and ended up dead in the water.  Again the Hammann rescued survivors from an abandoned carrier, this time transferring them to a larger ship.  On June 6th, 1942, the destroyer pulled alongside the Yorktown to provide power, hoses and pumping for firefighting efforts.  While alongside, the Japanese submarine I-168, taking advantage of lousy acoustic conditions, slipped inside the destroyer screen surrounding the crippled carrier and loosed four torpedoes at her.  One missed.  Two went beneath the destroyer, striking the carrier.  And one slammed into the side of the Hammann.  Her back broken, the Hammann jackknifed and sank in four minutes.

The Hammann's stern portion goes down
Most of her crew ended up in the water, surprised but alive.  The destroyer, however, seemed to have other plans for her men.  Shortly after she went down, a massive underwater explosion occurred when her depth charges detonated.  This is somewhat odd, as the man in charge of them says that they had been safed.  Some have said that her boilers exploded.  Either way, the concussion from the explosion snuffed out the lives of 80 of her 192 crew.

There was nothing particularly special about the USS Hammann.  Just another destroyer in a fleet that had dozens... hundreds... of them.  But circumstances put her alongside the first two American carriers lost during WWII, and nothing but horrible luck made her the first American loss at the Battle of Midway.  She earned two battle stars for her service, and her captain, Commander Arnold True, was awarded the Navy Cross for his work at Midway.

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August 20, 2010

Name This Mystery Ship

No hints, no clues save one: she came to a tragic end.

The first person to guess correctly will win a post on a topic of their choice.  Leave your guess in the comments!

UPDATE: Reader flatdarkmars wins the contest, and has requested another "name that ship/plane/waffleiron/whatever" post.  Look for that to come soon!

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August 09, 2010

Two (Er... THREE!) More Texan Pics

Since I find myself at a loss for things to expound about, I figured I'd throw up another couple of pictures from my trip to Courtesy Aircraft.  Like this one:

It's almost like the manufacturers knew that, one day, someone would come along and want a place to put a rubber duck on the side of their plane.  Oh sure, they may say it's for entering or exiting the cockpit, but I think we know better...

Another picture of radial sculpture.  I have to admit though... I'm somewhat confused about why there's a penny wired into the engine:

I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the hole in the nut is exactly the right size for a penny.  It's also not just a one-off, since the engine on the other Texan had the same arrangement.  I just can't, for the life of me, figure out why it's there.  Not that I'm an engine mechanic or anything, because I'm not.  Ah well, perhaps we'll never find out.  Lends an air of mystery to the whole thing.

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August 07, 2010

Wonderduck Pays Courtesy A Call

You may remember back about a week or so ago, I mentioned in a comment to reader Will that the Duckford Airport was home to a warbird restoration shop.  It turns out that isn't quite the case, as I got the "restoration" part incorrect.  Instead, Courtesy Aircraft is a seller of classic warbirds and modern planes as well... and I was exchanging e-mails with them.  After three back-and-forths, I was told I could stop in any time during business hours to look around.  How cool is that?

It was a sunny afternoon as I pulled into the small parking lot next to Courtesy's hangar at the Airport.  I met Darcy, Courtesy's Marketing Director, and learned what I had feared: they were actually quite busy.  Turns out they had a few customers in town after their appearance at EAA AirVenture, which is good!  It did mean, however, that they couldn't spare anybody to escort me around the flightline.  I could stick around the hangar, I just couldn't go onto the taxiway... security, y'know.  I knew, and approved, even though it meant I couldn't get any closer than this to some juicy-looking aircraft:

Two T-6 Texans, just ahead of a pair of T-28 Trojans.  I gather that the high-visibility yellow-painted T-6 won a restoration award at Oshkosh sometime recently, in fact.  Still, the limitation didn't mean that there wasn't anything I could get close to...


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August 06, 2010


Just a teaser for the post I'll be putting up on Saturday...

It's a Notazero!

UPDATE: Pete Z reminds me that a T-6 makes an appearance in Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko, too:

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August 02, 2010

AirFest 2010: Thunderbirds, Run 'Em Up!

(continued from the first post)
Even though I knew I was in a great position, I didn't realize until just a few minutes ago really how good it was.  Here, take a look at this:

Obviously the duck isn't to scale, but that really does clear up where I was located: just over a half-mile from the end of the runway.  About 100 people and myself were lined up on the east side of 251, down to about where that farm area starts.  I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried... and the best part is, I DIDN'T plan it, it just worked out that way.  Should have brought some sunscreen, but such is the price of spontaneity.

When I arrived, there were some acrobatic planes doing their thing.  Then they finished up, and we waited for the main event to begin.  And waited.  And waited.  I figure that the big dark cloud moving NW to SE over the airport had something to do with the delay  As we were waiting, an older man and his wife pulled in.  They'd driven up from Peoria, nearly four hours, to catch the show.  "Your timing is great, they should be starting any minute!"  No sooner had I said that when a roar came from airfield; not one of high-performance engines, but of thousands of people cheering.  THEN came the loud whistling scream of six Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engines, followed closely by a cloud of white smoke and...

...The Diamond roared by.  Actually, this isn't quite The Diamond yet, as #4 is still getting into position, but it soon would be.  While I, and everybody else, were agog watching The Diamond fly overhead, the two Solos, #5 and #6, took off and went dead vertical, gone from view in an instant.  Meanwhile, the four planes of The Diamond changed shape...

...and went by in the "Close Follow" formation, which transitioned back to The Diamond over the airfield.  As soon as they cleared, #6 whipped by over my head for a knife-edge pass of the crowd.  Alas, that picture is nothing but a faintly Falcon-shaped blur as he went by too fast for my camera to adjust focus.  However, the lead solo, #5, was coming right towards us in a level slow roll, followed by a rapid climb-out to his right, smoke streaming all the way.

Around here, I lost track of what maneuver is which... and I don't really care.  Onwards for the really cool pictures!


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August 01, 2010

AirFest 2010: Eagles, Spooks, Warthogs and Hornets, Oh My!

I had an ulterior motive for purchasing my new digital camera when I did.  Y'see, I knew that this was the weekend for the Chicago-Duckford International Airport's annual airshow, named AirFest.  And I planned, as I always have before, to stand in the field behind Pond Central and take pictures of the USAF Thunderbirds, this year's featured performers, as they went by overhead. 

See, Pond Central is right at the edge of their performance cylinder, about two miles or so from the airport, so when they extend out from the runway they tend to fly right over my living room... literally.  However, they're usually the only performers who get that close, so on AirFest weekend I make a small change to my routine.  Instead of going to my usual grocery store, I head to a smaller, dingier place that has the advantage of being about a half-mile from the airport.  I've not usually gotten good pictures of the "supporting acts" from this location, but there's always a first time, right?  When I get to the store, there's no sound at all coming from the skies, so I head inside and do my shopping.  $70 later (and I forgot to get batteries, darnit!) I emerge from the Hilander and push my cart back to the DuckMobile.  As I unlock the Official Car of The Pond, I hear a strange, almost spooky, howling moan coming from the direction of the airport and getting louder.  Just as I look up, one hand unlocking the car door and the other frantically trying to dig my camera out of my pocket, the first of the jet performers, the F-15E of the US Air Force's Strike Eagle Demo Team screamed right overhead and low, rolled hard left and dashed away for what I assume was to be a high-speed "sneak" pass of the runway.  I quickly threw my comestibles into the back seat, moved my car about 100 feet west (no cars parking there), and waited for the moaning howl to come back.  And then it did.

He played around for a little bit, including one absolutely brilliant zoom for the skies that I couldn't get a picture of because the sun was too bright, then disappeared.  Content that I got at least one good picture, I got back into the DuckMobile... and then scrambled out again, because I heard a rumbling roar coming from behind me. 

I've never seen a F-4 Phantom II in the flesh before!  This one is from the Air Force's Air Combat Command "Heritage Flight".  A triumph of thrust over aerodynamics, the Phantom was called a number of derogatory names over the years, such as "Double Ugly", "Flying Brick" and "Iron Sled."  The Luftwaffe gave it the best nicknames, though: Luftverteidigungsdiesel ("Air Defense Diesel") and Eisenschwein ("Iron Pig").  Strangely though, I found it to be much more graceful in flight than the Strike Eagle.

And then something happened that blew my mind.


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