Afterlife with archie

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Here at LSOZI, we are going to lớn take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period và will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to lớn the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, August 16, 2017: Possibly the most Devil Dog carrier, ever

Here we see the Commencement Bay-class escort carrier, USS Sicily (CVE-118), as she enters San Diego cất cánh on her return from her first deployment to lớn the Korean War zone, 5 February 1951. Lưu ý the Marine Corps F4U Corsairs, OY-2 Sentinel spotter planes và the early Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter on deck. The aircraft to the rear are Grumman AF-2W Guardians, an early ASW plane. The baby flattop had already marked her place in Marine Corps history when this image was taken.

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Of the 130 U.S./RN escort carriers– merchant ships hulls given a hangar, magazine, và flight deck– built during WWII, the late-war Commencement Bay-class was by far the Cadillac of the thiết kế slope. Using lessons learned from the earlier Long Island, Avenger, Sangamon, Bogue & Casablanca-class ships. Like the Sangamon-class, they were based on Maritime Commission T3 class tanker hulls (which they shared with the roomy replenishment oilers of the Chiwawa, Cimarron, and Ashtabula-classes), from the keel-up, these were made into flattops.

Pushing some 25,000-tons at full load, they could make 19-knots which was faster than a lot of submarines looking lớn plug them. A decent suite of about 60 AAA guns spread across 5-inch, 40mm & 20mm fittings could put as much flying lead in the air as a light cruiser of the day when enemy aircraft came calling. Finally, they could carry a 30-40 aircraft airwing of single-engine fighter bombers và torpedo planes ready for a fight or about twice that many planes if being used as a delivery ship.

Sound good, right? Of course, and had the war ran into 1946-47, the 33 planned vessels of the Commencement Bay-class would have no doubt fought kamikazes, midget subs & suicide boats tooth & nail just off the coast of the Japanese trang chủ Islands.

However, the war ended in Sept. 1945 with only nine of the class barely in commission– most of those still on shake down cruises. Just two, Block Island & Gilbert Islands, saw significant combat, at Okinawa and Balikpapan, winning two and three battle stars, respectively. Kula Gulf and Cape Gloucester picked up a single battle star.

With the war over, some of the class, such as USS RabaulUSS Tinian, though complete were never commissioned and simply laid up in mothballs, never being brought to lớn life. Four other ships were cancelled before launching just after the bomb on Nagasaki was dropped. In all, just 19 of the planned 33 were commissioned.

The anh hùng of our tale, the only ship in the U.S. Navy ever named after the island of Sicily, or more correctly the 1943 military chiến dịch for that island, was laid down at Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Tacoma, Washington, 23 October 1944 and commissioned 27 February 1946. Ironically, seven earlier sisters were decommissioned the same year.

Arriving on the East Coast in July 1946 after shakedown and outfitting Sicily served in the Atlantic Fleet in a number of support and ASW roles, experimenting new types và tactics for the next three years while stationed at Norfolk. By 1950, she was one of the few escort carriers still in active service và embarked big AF-2W (TB3F-1S) Guardians (at 22,000-lbs takeoff weight, the largest single-engine piston-powered carrier aircraft, và likely the largest aircraft period, operated from escort carriers), aboard.


" data-medium-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=860" class="size-full wp-image-25900" src="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=860" alt="" srcset="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=860 860w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=150 150w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=300 300w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg?w=768 768w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-66791.jpg 1000w" sizes="(max-width: 860px) 100vw, 860px" />USS SICILY (CVE-118) at thủ đô new york City, September 1947. Courtesy of The Marine Museum, Newport News, Va. Ted Stone Collection. Catalog #: NH 66791



On 3 April 1950, Sicily was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Diego later that month. While preparing for summer exercises, the North Koreans crossed over into South Korea và the balloon went up.

Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s famous đen Sheep Squadron, VMF-214, then under Major Robert phường Keller, were given orders lớn embark for Korea on Sicily as soon as possible. While the Corsairs weren’t front-line fighters in the burgeoning jet age, they could still perform CAS, interdiction, và armed reconnaissance missions and look good doing it.

The ship was commanded by noted WWII aviator, Capt. John S. Thach (USNA 1927), inventor of the “Thach Weave”, a tactic that enabled the generally mediocre U.S. Fighters of 1942 lớn hold their own against the Japanese Zero.



With a line up like Thach và the đen Sheep, you know what happened next.

On 3 August 1950, a group of 8 F4U-4B Corsairs from VMF-214 became the first Marine squadron khổng lồ see action in Korea, launching from Sicily & executing a raid against DPRK positions near Inchon. At the time, the little jeep carrier was flagship of Carrier Division (CarDiv) 15.



The withdrawal of the marines from the Chosin Reservoir to Hungnam was covered by Corsairs from Sicily. HVAR rockets & napalm make good buổi tiệc ngọt favors.

Speaking of that napalm smell…

One of the black Sheep pilots at the time was 1Lt. Donald “The Great Santini” Conroy, a storied figure who entered the Marines as an enlisted man in WWII & later retired as a full colonel in 1974 after pushing A-4s in Vietnam. More on Conroy later.

National Archives footage of VMF-214 on board Sicily, United States Naval Photographic Center film #246. (no sound)



The black Sheep eventually left and Sicily picked up the Death Rattlers of VMF-323 for her second tour with the 7th Fleet, from 13 May to lớn 12 October 1951.


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" data-medium-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=860" class="size-full wp-image-25906" src="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=860" alt="" srcset="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=860 860w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=150 150w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=300 300w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg?w=768 768w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/f4u-4-corsair-aircraft-of-vmf-323-armed-with-bombs-napalm-tanks-and-hvar-rockets-are-launched-for-a-mission-from-the-flight-deck-of-the-escort-carrier-uss-sicily-cve-118-off-korea-in.jpg 1000w" sizes="(max-width: 860px) 100vw, 860px" />F4U-4 Corsair aircraft of VMF-323 armed with bombs, napalm tanks và HVAR rockets are launched for a mission from the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118) off Korea, in 1951.


On her third tour in Korea, 8 May to lớn 4 December 1952, she had a few new tricks up her sleeve.

In late August 1952, Sicily took aboard the Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR-161) and tested the first vertical envelopment (moving combat-ready Marines from ship to lớn shore via whirlybird) combined with an amphibious assault in what was termed Operation “Marlex-5” off the coast of Inchon. While the tactic had been trialed in California earlier that year with HMR-162, the op with Sicily was the first time it was used overseas, much less in a combat zone.

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On 4 September 1952, the Checkerboards of Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) moved from airfields ashore to Sicily’s decks & over the next several days their Corsairs had a number of run-ins with North Korean MiGs. The hardy Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, which could vì Mach 0.87 at sea level và had a pair of 23mm cannon supplemented by a big 37mm mount, was a brawler.

Well about that…

On 10 September, Marine Capt. Jesse Folmar in his F4U-B (BuNo 62927) destroyed a North Korean MiG-15 in aerial combat over the west coast of Korea while flying with his wingman. Outnumbered 4:1 the two Marine Corsairs were outnumbered by eight MiGs.

From VMF-312’s unit history:

Folmar và Walter E. Daniels were attacked by eight MIG-1 5s which made repeated firing runs on the slower F4Us as they tried to get out of the area. After one of the MIGs completed a run on the Corsairs, instead of breaking off lớn the side, the jet pulled up directly in front of Captain Folmar’s guns. A quick burst of the 20mm cannon soon had the MIG ablaze & heading for the ground. The kill marked the first time an American had downed a jet fighter with a propeller-driven aircraft. Another MIG retaliated with a burst of 37mm fire which forced Captain Folmar to bail out, but he was rescued và returned to the ship. Captain Daniels’ plane was not hit & safely landed on board the carrier.

It was quite a feat.

While USAAF, Soviet và British piston-engine fighters chalked up something lượt thích 150~ German Komets and Me262 kills in the latter stages of WWII, the MiG was a much more formidable adversary. There were few comparable events.

The Brits, in their only air-to-air victory in Korea, chalked up a similar action to Folmar’s when on 9 August 1952, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Lt. “Hoagy” Carmichael of 802 Squadron downed a Nork MiG 15 while flying a Sea Fury of the carrier HMS Ocean, while in Vietnam Navy A-1 Skyraiders accounted for several MiG-17s.

Sicily’s Guardians, of Navy Reserve Anti-Submarine Squadron VS-931, also gave unsung service, conducting maritime patrol and keeping an eye out for submarines. Two of the big sub hunters, with their four-man crews, were lost while on Sicily‘s third war cruise– BuNo 124843 and 126830– though their crews were saved.


" data-medium-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=860" class="size-full wp-image-25910" src="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=860" alt="" srcset="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=860 860w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=150 150w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=300 300w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg?w=768 768w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/af_guardians_of_vs-20_on_uss_sicily_cve-118_in_1952.jpg 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 860px) 100vw, 860px" />The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118) underway, with Grumman AF-2S and AF-2W Guardians of SV-931, circa in October 1952, en route to lớn Hawaii. Photo by LtJG Philip Nelson, USN via Wiki


Sicily finished the war in the United Nations Escort và Blockading Force, deploying lớn the Far East from 14 July 1953 khổng lồ 25 February 1954.


" data-medium-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=860" class="size-full wp-image-25911" src="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=860" alt="" srcset="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=860 860w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=150 150w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=300 300w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg?w=768 768w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97318.jpg 1000w" sizes="(max-width: 860px) 100vw, 860px" />USS Sicily (CVE-118) photographed at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, circa February 1954, with USS Yorktown (CVA-10) at right and eleven LCM landing craft in the foreground. Grumman AF Guardian anti-submarine aircraft are parked on Sicily’s flight deck. Douglas AD Skyraider attack planes are parked aft on Yorktown’s flight deck. Catalog #: NH 97318


" data-medium-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=860" class="size-full wp-image-25912" src="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=860" alt="" srcset="https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=860 860w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=150 150w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=300 300w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg?w=768 768w, https://anhhungxadieu.vn.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/nh-97317.jpg 1000w" sizes="(max-width: 860px) 100vw, 860px" />USS Sicily (CVE-118) underway with F4U aircraft parked aft, April 1954. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History và Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97317


And just lượt thích that, with a tad over eight years of service, five Korean War battle stars, & legends under her belt, Sicily was decommissioned 4 Oct 1954. Though retained in mothballs until 1960, the days of the short-deck carrier were over for the jet powered Navy & newer purpose-built Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ships, with about half the crew of the Sicily và her sisters, were being commissioned to lớn carry Marine helicopters into battle. Lượt thích the Commencement Bay-class, the Iwo’s were named after battles.

On 31 October 1960, Sicily was sold to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation for scrap.

Of the rest of the Commencement Bay-class, most saw a mixed bag of post-WWII service as Helicopter Carriers (CVHE) or Cargo Ship and Aircraft Ferries (AKV). Most were sold for scrap by the early 1970s with the last of the class, Gilbert Islands, converted khổng lồ a communication relay ship, AGMR-1, enduring on active service until 1969 and going khổng lồ the breakers in 1979. Their more than 30 “sisters below the waist” the other T3 tankers were used by the Navy through the Cold War with the last of the breed, USS Mispillion (AO-105), headed lớn the breakers in 2011.

As for Sicily‘s heroes, their tales endure.

MiG-killer Folmar’s deeds from Sicily in 1952 were commemorated in a painting by Lou Drendel, which now hangs at the Naval Air và Space Museum in Pensacola.

The Aviator himself was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame & is buried in Foley, Alabama, passing away in 2004.

Remember the (literal) đen Sheep pilot, The Great Santini? Conroy’s son, Southern storyteller Pat Conroy, later based Lt. Col. Bull Meechum, USMC (played by Robert Duvall in the movie) as the wild man Marine Corps pilot with a host of family issues on his father in a book and film of the same name.

Conroy, who called MCAS Beaufort trang chủ and graduated from the Citadel, filled his works with many references khổng lồ Marines and, obliquely, lớn his father. Col. Conroy is buried at Beaufort và in later life he attended book signings alongside Pat, inking “The Great Santini” with his signature.

Of Sicily‘s Marine squadrons, all are still around. VMFA-312 flies F/A-18Cs based out of MCAS Beaufort (Santini’s base) while the đen Sheep of VMA-214 are pushing AV-8Bs out of Yuma until they get their shiny new F-35Cs. The Death Rattlers of VMFA-323? They are assigned to Miramar and still deploy on carriers regularly, as their Hornets are a part of Carrier Wing 11.

Meanwhile, the Korean People’s Army Air Force remain the last military operator of the MiG-15, as some things never change.

Specs:

Displacement:10,900 long tons (11,100 t) standard24,100 long tons (24,500 t) full loadLength: 557 ft. (170 m)Beam:75 ft. (23 m)105 ft. 2 in (32.05 m) flight deckDraft: 30 ft. 8 in (9.35 m)Propulsion: 2-shaft geared turbines, 16,000 shpSpeed: 19 knots (22 mph; 35 km/h)Complement: 1,066 officers & menArmament:2 × 5″/38 caliber guns (1 × 2)36 × 40 mm Bofors gun (3 × 4, 12 × 2)20 × đôi mươi mm Oerlikon cannonsAircraft carried: 34

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, & fellowship you can find. Http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated khổng lồ the encouragement of the study of naval vessels & their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 lớn date). Its purpose is lớn provide information và a means of tương tác for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are quality in their sweep và subject.

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