Mine Division 111 Sasebo, Japan taken February 26, 1955

Seawall @ Jake (Juliet) Basin Sasebo, Japan

CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE – Again to enlarge More

The Sasebo, Japan based mine sweeping boat division began as the COMinRon-3 Boat Division sometime following the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. In early 1951 it was commissioned as Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE, still reporting to COMinRon-3, cosisting of two 40′ motor launches and a dozen or more LCVP’s as minesweepers. Conversion to mostly 50′ motor Launches (modified with decks and even cabins, before the end of the war. At the Korean Armistace, the Division was re-named Mine Division 111, reporting to MinRon 11 in Long Beach, CA. In 1958 their 50′ Motor Launch Minesweepers (MLMS) were replaced by newly built 36′ Mine Sweeping Launches (MSL’s) built bt Sagstad Shipyards in Seattle, and powered by Boeing 502-10-C Gas Turbine Engines.

Posted in Boeing Gas Turbine, CoMinRon 3, Creighton Franklin "Red" Donldson, Korean War, LCVP, Mine Division 33, Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE, Mine Sweeping Launches 36', minesweeping, USN EOD, USS Cabildo LSD-16, USS Epping Forest, William Christian "Duffy" Hushion | Leave a comment

The Small Boat Navy – USN Film 1968

JungleRiverSwampNavyVietnamWarOFFICIALFULLUSNavyDocumentary

Three minute introduction only. WP limits videos to 32mB

This movie, The Small Boat Navy, was sent to me by a shipmate in 2013. It appears to be a very well done documentary, post 1968, regarding Vietnam Naval Coastal Surveillance and Riverine Warfare. There is a section devoted to minesweeping the Long Tau Shipping Channel (Saigon River Complex)using 57′ Mine Sweeping Boats – MSB’s. Nothing is mentioned regarding the 36′ Mine Sweeping Launches – MSL’s of Mine Division – 33 transported by the USS Epping Forest MCS-7 Who arrived in July 1964 for the  check sweeping of Cam Ranh Bay, Nha Trang Harbor, and Da Nang Harbor. The EF MCS-7 transported our ten MSL’s to Vietnam eighteen times through 1968. Our XO of MinDiv – 33 said he attended a meeting in early 1966 in Saigon, where MACV was considering our 36′ Mine Sweeping Launches for the Long Tau Shipping Channel minesweeping effort. MSL’s were eliminated in favor of the 57′ MSB’s due to the MSB’s larger size, pilot house, bunk arrangements, head facilities, and general sea worthiness. Also, the MSB was fitted with ceramic armor, and had a small crane for deploying oropesa minesweeping gear, and the newly designed chain drag sweep gear, for clearing command detonated mine wires from river shorelines to mines planted in the river.

Posted in Cua Viet River, Epping Forest Boat Division, Long Tao Shipping Channel, minesweeping, MSB-1, Nha Be, Russian Made Mines, Saigon Port Complex, Size 5 Oropesa, SVN, USMC Base Dong Ha, USS Epping Forest, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Boat Minesweeping Unit – Bizerte, Tunisia – Summer 1944

Six young USN reserve officers and one hundred young sailors gathered at a boat dock in Bizerte, Tunisia in early summer of 1944. They were told they were going to learn to sweep German mines with shallow draft 36′ boats designated as Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel, or LCVP’s. The Germans allegedly had shallowly planted moored mines off the beaches of Southern France, violating the Geneva Convention, by planting these mines within a foot of the surface. The Yard Minesweepers (YMS) had a draft of six feet, and also had difficulties sweeping close to shore. Using German minesweeping gear captured from earlier invasions of North Africa, this gear was later perfected as Size 5 Oropesa sweep gear in the USN inventory.

The Boat Minesweeping Unit (BMS) was the first large scale boat unit organized by the USN for shallow water minesweeping ahead of an invasion in Europe. Allegedly, Boat Unit Eight practicing for the Normandy Invasion in the English Channel months prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion, was scratched from the invasion due to rough English Channel weather having swamped their LCVP’s during practice.

Lake Ferryville was the WWII name of the salt water lake fed from the Mediterranean by a channel dug by the Phoenecians in the 3rd or 4th century BC. Lake Ferryville (today lake Bizerte) was where the BMS Unit practiced daily.

The invasions began near St Tropez, St Maxine, and continued westward to Toulan, and Marseilles Harbors. Small boat minesweeping had arrived in the U.S. Navy at the unit level. Previous use of motor launches and landing craft had been dabbled with on a much smaller scale since 1942, according to Mine Warfare Notes – a fleet wide classified USN publication published during WWII.

Irving B. Gerson Lt(jg) USNR and Ed Sinclair

Posted in Bizerte, Boat Minesweeping Unit, France WWII, Gerson. Irving Ltjg, Irving Gerson Lt(jg), Lake Bizerte, Lake Ferryville, LCVP, Marseilles, Mine Warfare Notes, minesweeping, Size 5 Oropesa, St Maxine, St Tropez, Toulon, Tunisia | Leave a comment

Donaldson & Hushion Die at MokPo, Korea April 1952

Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE was sweeping for moored mines at MokPo, Korea in April 1952. As they swept across the mouth of the MokPo River their gear was caught in the sand, and the strong current flowing from the river swamped their LCVP 36′ minesweeper. The current sunk their boat stern first as it was “anchored” by the Oropesa minesweeping gear it was towing. As rescuers watched, the boat went down by the stern, and the bow was pointing skyward. All crew members of MSB-3 were thrown into the icy water as nearby MSB One minesweepers rushed to the rescue. MSB-19 Boat Captain Lewis Yore BM2 rescued two crewmembers alive, and unfortunately could not recover the remaining two more before they either drowned, or died of hypothermia. FN Creighton Franklin “Red” Donaldson, and BM3 William Christian “Duffy” Hushion are shown here in better times, and in the Treasure Chest Bar in Sasebo, Japan during Christmas 1951. This video slideshow was my first of many attempts to memorailize individuals about which I was writing. Red shown in an earlier minesweeping mission holding an explosive cutter used to cut moored mine cables, and Duffy was shown next to a captured Russian MKB mine at their Sasebo HQ.

Hushion-Donaldson Korea

The sign at the beginning was their HQ Building at Jake Basin in Sasebo, Japan and the colorful North Korean Propaganda Poster was from the era early in the war. The mine explosion destroying a South Korean YMS (a 140′ WWII YMS) occured during the start of the 900 Day USN Seige of Wonsan Harbor in North Korea. The ship was of course obliterated by 900 lbs of TNT, and the USS Redhead a similar YMS/AMS was between the South Korean ship and the camera on 10-18-1950.

Ed Sinclair

 

 

 

Posted in CoMinRon 3, Creighton Franklin "Red" Donldson, Korean War, LCVP, Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE, minesweeping, MSB-1, Russian Made Mines, USS Cabildo LSD-16, William Christian "Duffy" Hushion | 3 Comments

36′ Mine Sweeping Launch Taiwan Feb 1964

The photo below shows an MSL from Mine Division 33 during Operation Back Pack off Taiwan in February 1964. I was assigned as the second SN on MSL-14 and took this picture with my Brownie Hawkeye from the Stern Deck of MSL-14. My first mine exercise, I was being taught by Stroud SN who is on the bow communicating via semaphore with other MSL’s in the formation. The Boat Captain on the port side coxswain platform is BM2 Birchfield, and the sailor sitting on the starboard gunwale is Nelson EM3 or EM2 the boat electrician. I believe the sailor crouching forward inside, is likely the fifth crew member, an Engineman.

Stroud, the SN on the bow, is reading the signalled semaphore message indicated by his raised arm. His semaphore flags are likely in his right hand. The Element Commander of five MSL’s is likely signalling an upcoming turn. The navigation “balls” indicate we are towing gear on both port and starboard sides, a signal for civilian traffic to stay clear. The main propulsion engine, a Boeing 502-10C gas turbine is in the foreground. At full power when towing, the 502-10C generates 110-130db of noise similar to any jet engine. The power package loaded forward, is a diesel powered generator powering our acoustic minesweeping hammer, a noisemaker when towed far behind, is intended to explode acoustic mines well aft of the boat. We are also streaming moored Oropesa sweep gear.

Ed Sinclair

Posted in Boeing Gas Turbine, Mine Division 33, Mine Sweeping Launches 36', minesweeping, Operation Back Pack, Semaphore, Taiwan, USS Epping Forest | 1 Comment

IRON MEN IN WOODEN BOATS

Iron Men In Wooden Boats the “History of Small Boat Minesweeping” was something I wanted to document for posterity, so that my shipmates would not be relegated to the “dustbin of history”. In planning my book I have not found publishers willing to publish a book to accommodate the wide range of media that my research had uncovered, so as I accumulate and create multimedia presentations, I will offer samples on this blog, in no particular order, to stimulate interest in my book, and hopefully additional content contributions – that document the History of Small Boat Minesweeping”.

Register for blog updates, and info regarding my book “Iron Men In Wooden Boats”.

Edward Sinclair

Posted in Boeing Gas Turbine, CoMinRon 3, Creighton Franklin "Red" Donldson, Cua Viet River, Der Tiger der Fjorde, Epping Forest Boat Division, Frank Talarico, Korean War, KpLt Hans Bartels, Kriegsmarine, LCVP, Long Tao Shipping Channel, Mine Division 33, Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE, Mine Sweeping Launches 36', Minenraummutterschiffe, Minensuchboot M1, minesweeping, MSB-1, Nha Be, Norway WWII, Operation Back Pack, OPNAV NOTICE 1650, Russian Made Mines, Saigon Port Complex, Semaphore, SVN, Taiwan, U-Boat, Unit Awards, USMC Base Dong Ha, USN EOD, USS Cabildo LSD-16, USS Catskill MCS-1, USS Epping Forest, Vietnam, William Christian "Duffy" Hushion | 2 Comments

Der Tiger der Fjorde – WWII Norway

Minesweepers in Combat? Well, one Kriegsmarine minesweeper Kommandant von M1, Kapitanleutnant Hans Bartels earned the nickname “Der Tiger der Fjorde” or “Tiger of the Fiords” in Norway following the German invasion in 1940. His demonstrated his aggressiveness from the first day of the invasion, even upstaging his commanding officer, by the capture of Norwegian objectives assigned to his superior for the invasion.

A 1953 German adventure magazine SOS Shicksale Deutscher Schiffe Nr. 7 depicts Bartels Minensuchboot M1 using his minesweeper as a tugboat, ramming his bow into the bow of a transport ship he was attempting to board and capture. For this, he earned the Iron Cross. The book is 40 pages and in German, which I cannot read, but a friend who speaks German told me several legendary stories regarding Hans Bartels. I have since obtained much more information on Bartels Norwegion service in minesweeping, and towards the end of the war in the Kreigsmarine midget submarine program, and Bartels tragic demise.

Bartels and his executive officer were U-Boat commander wannabees, both having submitted appeals to Berlin to be selected as U-Boat captains. Bartels XO eventually was selected for U-Boat duty, but Bartels may have been considered too much of a loose cannon to command U-Boats.

He went on in Norway to command a minesweeping division, and created some very innovative minesweeping boat designs using Norwegian fishing craft. He established a division flag and plaque and promoted an espirit-de-corp in his division around a fierce looking Tiger logo. His boat minesweepers even tried their hand at mine planting in Norwegian Fiords, with the heavy mines almost swamping their boats in that role.

An endless promoter, Bartels once transported one of his boat creations, along with a brochure announcing their upcoming commisssioning in Norway, to Berlin Naval HQ, Mooring it in a canal alongside Naval HQ, and inviting Adm Raeder to view the boat, and to attend their Norwegian commissioning ceremony. Evidently, Kriegsmarine top commanders were not paying enough attention to Bartels innovations, in his mind.

I intend to cover the History of Boat Minesweeping from WWI days, but my inability to read material in German and Russian, has not allowed me the depth of research to lead with this material, so I am contemplating a second volume. I already have enough materials to make it an exciting read, but the language barriers, and my inability to interview but a few WWII Kreigsmarine veterans, and of course no WWI veterans, I will lack recording first hand experiences, and the multitude of photos the veterans provided from WWII forward.

Ed Sinclair

 

Posted in Der Tiger der Fjorde, KpLt Hans Bartels, Kriegsmarine, Minensuchboot M1, Norway WWII, U-Boat | Leave a comment

The Minesweeping Mother Ship Concept Was Born in WWI

During my research on mine sweeping boats for my book “Iron Men In Wooden Boats, Small Boat Minesweeping in the US Navy 1944-1970″, I discovered several ship configurations in the U.S. Navy used to transport boats converted into minesweepers for many small invasions. These were generally transports and the APD conversion destroyers, used in the U.S. Navy’s long march north across the Pacific. The Okinawa invasion late in the war actually had a designated mine warfare depot ship named the USS Terror CM-5, built as a mine layer, that had minimal if any mine sweeping capability aboard.

In Korea, in 1950, preparing for the western Invasion, the USS Catamount LSD-17 showed up with fourteen LCVP’s in her well deck, with tons of Size 5 Oropesa minesweeping gear, and commenced sweeping approaches to  Chinnampo. It was the first use of the LSD as a minesweeping mother ship. Many LSD’s followed, and even several LST’s, until the USS Epping Forest was redesignated MCS-7 and transferred to MinePac around 1961. This repurposing continued until the early 1970′s, also using a small aircraft carrier, Inchon, and two converted LSV WWII Minelayers. Catskill and Ozark.

However, the first documented deployment and use of mine sweeping mother ships were by the Germans in WWI. The Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic converted pre-Dreadnaught Battleships for use as mine sweeping mother ships. Called “Minenraummutterschiffes” their gun turrets were removed and replaced with boat skids on the main deck. These mutterschiffes carried up to eighteen 57′ F-Bootes, themselves looking like conversions of standard motor launches.

SMS Lothringen and 57′ F-Boote mine sweeping motorbootes

WWI German F Boote 57′

England and America planted 70,000 mines in multiple lines and depths to create what was known as the “North Sea Mine Barrage” stretching from Scotland on the east, to Norway on the west, intended on denying German U Boats and their surface fleet access to the Atlantic.

The North Sea Mine Barrage concept was once again utilised in WWII, and the German Kriegsmarine re-instituted the Minenraummutterschiffe concept again for this new war, with up to a dozen mother ships. These were mostly captured transport vessel conversions, carrying both German made minesweeping boats, and Norwegian made boats. Some were converted fishing boats using Swedish diesels. and and modified by placing their screws in the bow of the boats.

The North Sea Mine Barrage forced the Germans to exit to the Atlantic through the supposedly well guarded English Channel. As well watched and patrolled as it was, the Battleship Bismarck and Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen successfully escaped into the Atlantic in 1941, where Bismarck was finally sunk. Prinz Eugen survived the war, and was captured. It was one of a number of ships finally sunk during the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Bomb testing, trying to  determine the survivability of naval warships.

Posted in Korean War, Minenraummutterschiffe, minesweeping, USS Epping Forest | Leave a comment

USN Magnetic Minesweeping in Wonsan, North Korea 1952

USN Magnetic Minesweeping Wonsan North Korea 1952

This video shows Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE launching Four LCVP Magnetic Minesweepers from the USS Cabildo LSD-16 in April 1952. MSB-1 had a variety of boats, including modified USN Motor Launches (40′ and 50′), and 36′ Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP’s) outfitted with Oropesa sweep gear for moored minesweeping. The four LCVP’s outfitted for magnetic minesweeping could not be launched by cranes from the LSD, because the magnetic minesweeping gear was powered by several 750 lb submarine batteries stored in the boat, making it too heavy to launch via the mother ship’s cranes. Therefore, the LSD would ballast down, flooding a portion of the well deck, and the boats would simply sail out via the stern gate. Recovering magnetic boats at night, were the reverse of the process. The LSD ballasted down, flooding the well deck with enough water to float the boats, and the boats would sail into the well deck under their own power.

The magnetic minesweeping tails were approximately 1,500 feet long, with bare electrodes hanging into the water at 1,000 and 1,500 feet, alternately pulsed positive and negative, setting up large and powerful magnetic fields to detonate magnetic mines 1,000+ feet behind the towing boats. This of course was predicated that the minesweepers be as non-magnetic as possible, because they first had to sail past these magnetic ground mines lying on the bottom of the harbor.

The video shows the boats connecting to their mag tails, retrieved from these same boats using sailor-power (by-hand) following the previous days sweep operations and “flaked-down” on the well deck.

Following the magnetic mine sweeping boats, there is an LCVP moored minesweeping boat shown cutting a moored mine. Following the severing of a moored mine cable or chain, the mines float to the surface, and generally are sunk from a safe distance away by gunfire. However, in this video you see two Mine Squadron Three Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officers in a rubber dinghy paddling to these Russian made mines, and disarming then (Rendering Them Safe) for the purpose of exploiting the technology and returning then to EOD Headquarters located in Indian Head, MD during the Korean War. Generations of EOD Divers have been trained to disarm live mines on the dozens of Russian mines captured by Mine Squadron Three Officers in Wonsan, North Korea during our 900 day seige and occupation of this enemy harbor.

In fact, one of these 1,200 lb Russian MKB behemoths was discovered floating down the Long Tao Shipping Channel (Saigon River) on December 31, 1966, and the EOD Diver LtCdr Frank Talarico disarmed the MKC Chemical Horn Mine in the river near the Saigon Port Complex. He tied a rope to an eyebolt in the mine and dagged it to shallow water, he and another EOD person removed the cover plate, and pulled out the detonator and Tetryl booster. Their training at Indian Head kept them alive. The 506 lbs of cast TNT is later steamed out of the 984 lb steel case to for return to EOD HQ.

I apologize for the abrupt end to the video. Evidently, the hosting service truncated the video due to it;s size.

Ed Sinclair

 

Posted in CoMinRon 3, Frank Talarico, Korean War, LCVP, Long Tao Shipping Channel, Mine Sweeping Boat Division ONE, minesweeping, MSB-1, Nha Be, Russian Made Mines, Saigon Port Complex, USN EOD, USS Cabildo LSD-16, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Russian Built Mines in Vietnam Rivers

Vietnam saw few “traditional” minefields due to the strength of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, and North Vietnam’s lack of a Navy. The Viet Cong acquired one Korean War vintage MKB moored mine (1,200lb) and set it afloat In December 1966 in the Long Tau shipping channel (Saigon River). Spotted bobbing in the river, the Navy was alerted, and an EOD Diver was dispatched to disarm this Russian mine on 12-31-1966. These same Russian moored contact mines, captured at Wonsan, North Korea in the early fifties, had been used to train generations of EOD personnel at Indian Head, MD HQ, and now at EOD HQ EglinAFB, FL.

A second major discovery in the use of Russian mines by the enemy in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese hauled segments of the more modern Russian ground mines, the 24″ cylindrical HAT II acoustic-magnetic bottom mines down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to the Cua Viet River. These have modular sections, and are up to 6 ft long when assembled. One was believed to have exploded and capsized an LCU/YFU full of munitions, killing six of the seven sailors aboard, while traversing the Cua Viet River to the Dong Ha Marine Base upriver.

EOD Divers found another HAT II fully assembled and planted outside the bar at the mouth of the Cua Viet river, and rendered it safe. Luckily, no large USN ships could navigate the shallow Cua Viet River, and did not venture across the bar heading upriver.

It is believed that the North Vietnamese, or like during the Korean War, Russian advisors, assembled these mines, and tied a series of floation devices around or alongside them, swam into the river floating these mines, and deflating the flotation devices with knives to “plant” these ground mines on the river bottom. These mines were believed to have acoustic-magnetic trigger mechanisms.

During the Battle Of Dai Do Village, in the Sring of 1968, Naval forces battling the NVA north of the Cua Viet river spotted suspicious activity on the north bank during the battle, and sent ground troops to investigate later. They discovered segments of these HAT II cylindrical mines on the river bank. EOD divers from the Cua Viet Base discovered parts for eight complete mines, evidently hauled down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in peices by the North Vietnamese. This was the NVA attempt to close down the Dong Ha-Cua Viet ammo supply line, and overrun the USMC Base at Dong Ha. MSL’s from the USS Epping Forest left Da Nang the day this discovery was made, and sailed north to Cua Viet, prepared to sweep the river. This minesweeping unit consisting of ten 36′ Mine Sweeping Launches, now designated as the Epping Forest Boat Division, formerly Mine Division 33, had moved aboard the USS Epping Forest permanently in the summer of 1966. They allegedly towed a WWII “iron rail” magnetic sweep, believed to be a section of magnetized railroad track, packed inside a PVC pipe, behind their 36′ Mine Sweeping launch. No detonations resulted from their sweeps of the Cua Viet, the scene of the deadly LCU/YFU explosion days earlier.

Almost all remaining mine planting activity in Vietnam in Bays and Rivers consisted of home made explosive devices, manufactured in the jungle from unexploded US ordnance explosives, trash, and battlefield junk such as tin cans, shell casings, aircraft wing tanks, and various containers. The most frequent were command detonated explosives planted in the rivers, and detonated by an enemy fighter from a foxhole alongside the river, using dry cell batteries.

Posted in Cua Viet River, Epping Forest Boat Division, Mine Division 33, Mine Sweeping Launches 36', Russian Made Mines, USMC Base Dong Ha, USN EOD, USS Epping Forest, Vietnam | 2 Comments