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Ariecho

November 9 - Focus: IJN Nagato and Battle of Duisburg convoy

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Today's calendar was pretty busy, but with everybody having social life's activities, we couldn't cover everything.  Among the things that would have been worth writing about, but couldn't are the following.

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Things that happened on a November 9, and that we didn't cover:

  • 1901 - SMS Mecklenburg launched

  • 1912 - USS Nevada laid down

  • 1914 - SMS Emden sunk

  • 1914 - Battle of Cocos

  • 1939 - HMS Newfoundland laid down

Regular statistics.  On any November 9, between 1901 and 1945

  • 34 Allied ships were laid down, 34 were launched, 46 were commissioned, and 9 were sunk

  • 1 German ship was launched and 1 was sunk

  • 1 Japanese ship was launched

  • JeeWeeJ and Italy took the day off.
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1919 (written by NGTM_1R)

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Nagato actually shares a lot in common with ships like the Ersatz Yorcks or HMS Hood. Designed during World War I and incorporating the lessons (real or perceived) of Jutland at a late stage. This was the last stage of battleship development actually realized before the Washington Naval Treaty changed the equation.

Nagato early in her career, exact date unknown.

 

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Nagato, like the later Yamato, was borne of the inescapable realities of Japan's condition: their major prospective opponent was the United States, and they had neither the industrial might nor the political clout to build one for one or better. The earlier classes were given 14” guns to match the Americans , but Nagato was armed with 16.1” guns and made faster than any prospective American opponent in a desire to be able to dictate the range of an engagement. This probably wouldn't have worked out for them, as the Americans could and actually intended to build two Colorados for every Nagato plus three Lexington-class battlecruisers and three South Dakotas (1920 edition). In the event, that didn't happen because of the Washington Naval Treaty, but nothing better illustrates the reasons it was in Japan's interests to artificially cap the ability of the US to build battleships.

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Nagato was laid down while World War I was still a going concern, in August of 1917. She was launched on the 9th of November 1919 (hence why she's today's ship), and commissioned in November of 1920 at which time her guns are the largest in the world and her speed is a healthy 26.7 knots flat out.

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As the pride and joy of a Japanese Navy not quite so paranoid as it would be later, Nagato plays host to many foreign dignitaries in the early 1920s. Jospeh Joffre, former marshall of Franch; Edward VIII, Prince of Wales (and then-Lieutenant Louis Mountbatten, a name to know if you study the World War 2 Royal Navy) are the most famous. The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 puts a damper on all this and while returning to Kure for rescue work Nagato is endangered by a typhoon when the starboard casemate area is flooded by high waves, causing the ship to list for several hours while proceeding at 20 knots. August of 1924 has Nagato damaged in a training accident, when submarine RO-28 penetrates the anchorage Nagato is using during exercises and launches torpedoes at close range; one damages one of the battleship's screws. In 1925 Nagato plays host to a delegation from Germany that use her for shipboard seaplane testing.

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From April 1935 to January 1936 Nagato is in drydock undergoing modernization. The February 26th Incident, an attempted coup by a group of young Army officers, interrupts trials. The rebels take over the Diet building and other areas in Tokyo, assassinate or attempt to a number of officers both Navy and Army, primarily Navy. The Navy takes an extremely dim view of this and Nagato is deployed with the First Fleet to end the uprising. Nagato berths at Odaiba pier in Shinagawa and aims her guns at the Diet building, while much of her deck force and engine room crew were deployed to reinforce the defenses of the harbor. The uprising ends three days later without significant bloodshed, but is one of the key steps towards the rise of the military in Japan's government.

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1937 sees Nagato involved in moving troops to Shanghai during the newly born war with China. In September 1939 Isoroku Yamamoto raises his flag as Commander-in-Chief Combined Fleet aboard Nagato. Finally. In the spring of 1941 Nagato receives her last refit pre-war, changing her main battery barrels for new ones among other things.

Nagato shortly before the war.

 

Nagato shortly before the war in 1940 or 1941, exact date unknown

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While the carriers are busy seeming to win the war, Nagato sits around Hashirajima accomplishing absolutely nothing. She sails with the main force at Midway but sees no action; then it's back to Hashirajima to do training and nothing until June of 1943. Sistership Mutsu, at anchor, abruptly explodes for undetermined reasons. It is not until the 25th  of the month that the fleet stands down again after rescue, investigation, and a thorough check for enemy submarines. Nagato does not venture to a forward area until August, when she departs Japan for Truk. While at Truk, aside from some high hopes about a raid on the Gilberts, there was no action. Nagato once again sat around.

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In February of 1944 Truk is evacuated just ahead of Operation Hailstone, shifting to Palau, then Lingga, and along the way Nagato is sighted by and sights submarine USS Puffer on the 20th. It is the first time Nagato has actually seen an enemy warship. Nagato is at Lingga until March, briefly refits at Singapore, and returns to Lingga again until May, when they move to Tawi Tawi. Assigned to Operation Kon in early June (the relief of Biak), this is interrupted by the invasions of the Marianas. At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Nagato is assigned to shepard carriers Junyo, Hiyo, and Ryuho as part of Force B. Nagato is stationed off Junyo's port bow and successfully defends her charge against  torpedo aircraft from USS Belleau Wood among other carriers, but Hiyo is sunk. The Japanese withdraw in defeat to the homeland.

 

Nagato at Lingga Roads prior to Leyte, October 21 1944.

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Back to Lingga again in mid-July, Nagato serves the odd duty of ferrying sailors for liberty at Singapore in October, then comes Leyte. In the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea Nagato opens fire at 1027, but the Americans cannot seem to come to grips with her as her violent manuvering and AA fire keep them at bay until 1412, when aircraft from USS Essex arrive. The first enemy weapons to strike Nagato are two bombs that explode on the boat deck, inflicting extensive damage: five casemate guns and one of the heavy AA mounts are knocked out. Nagato's secondary battery is greatly reduced.

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At Samar Nagato opens fire at 0601. She fires relatively few rounds however, as like Yamato she is stuck between torpedoes in spread from USS Heermann. When the torpedoes run out of fuel Nagato turns back and attempts to aggressively charge the US ships, but the unit commander is reprimanded for this action and Nagato is ordered to fall in behind Yamato on a less-aggressive course. During the engagement Nagato fires 45 rounds main battery and ninety-rounds secondary battery. During the attempt to escape, at 1656, a sharp evasive manuever washes some of the quarterdeck AA gunners overboard; destroyer Akishimo is directed to pick them up but doesn't find them. On the 26th the fleet is further attacked but Nagato is not directly targeted. She has lost 38 crew killed and 105 seriously wounded during the engagements of Leyte, mostly from the bombs that wrecked her secondaries.

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After Leyte, Nagato returns to the homeland. By November Nagato is a floating AA battery. Her funnel and mainmast are sheered off to improve arcs of fire. By Feburary of 1945 the gas has run out and Nagato is tied to a pier at Yokosuka, with a coal-burning “donkey” boiler providing power to the galley and heating systems. It is unable to power the full AA battery, rendering many of the powered triple 25mm mounts inoperative. In June, she is stripped. Her secondary battery and AA guns are removed, the secondaries to cover the piers at Yokosuka, her AA guns to a nearby mountain, and her main battery pointed at and ranged on the mouth of Sagami Bay. Extensive camouflage efforts are made but are proved ineffective on the 18th when Nagato is attacked by over a hundred aircraft. Two bombs strike home, doing minor damage but killing many men, including one which hits the bridge and kills captain and executive officer. In addition a Tiny Tim rocket strikes the fantail, but fails to explode and instead passes through the ship.

 

Nagato as she was surrendered, under the watchful eye of an Avenger from VT-27, USS Independence. Note the bare decks and obviously missing guns from her AA sponsons, as well as the cut-down masts and funnel.

 

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On the 15th of August, the crew assembles on the afterdeck to listen to the Emperor's radio broadcast announcing the surrender of Japan. Fifteen days later, USS San Diego ties up at Yokosuka Naval Base. Sailors from USS Iowa, USS Horace A. Bass, and Underwater Demolition Team 18 boarded and secured Nagato the same day, and the XO of Iowa formally took command of the ship from the Japanese captain. She was stricken from the Navy List on the 15th of September, and used as a test ship during Operation Crossroads. She survived Test Able and Test Baker with ease, but was so thoroughly radioactive that the minor flooding that resulted could not be combated and she sank unobserved on the 30th of July.

 

Nagato in the foreground during Test Baker; her superstructure is pretty distinctive despite the small size of the picture.

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Her wreck remains at Bikini Atoll, where it is considered one of the best wreck dives in world.

All stuff here represents Nagato at the height of her career in 1944.

Dimensions

Length (waterline):

Length (overall): 738 feet

Width: 113 feet 6 inches

Draft: 31 feet 2 inches

Displacement: 38510 tons standard

Weapons

4x Twin 41cm/45 3rd Year Type guns

18x 14cm/

4x twin 12.7cm/40

98x 25mm/60 AAMG in double, triple, and single mounts.

Armor

Main Belt: 4 to 12 inches

Deck: 2 to 6 inches

Barbette: 15 inches

Gunhouse:7.5 inches to 12 inches

Conning Tower: 14.5 inches

Engines

10 boilers, 4 turbines, 4 shafts

82300 SHP

Performance

25 knots

8650 nautical miles at 16 knots

Crew

1734

Aircraft

3 floatplanes (E8N2 or F1M2), 1 catapult.

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1941

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On November 7, 1941, the Royal Navy’s intelligence services learned that an Italian convoy was leaving Naples, with Tripoli (Lybia) as its destination.  A few weeks earlier, more exactly on October 21, 1941, the Royal Navy had created a new task force, named Force K, whose exact purpose was to seek and destroy such convoys.

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Force K

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The Royal Navy had 3 “Force K” during World War II:

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The first Force K was put together to chase German commerce raiders, but was eventually dismantled after the battle of River Plate, where KM Graf Spee scuttled rather than falling in the hands of the Royal Navy.

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The second Force K was put together in October 1941, at Churchill’s demand,  as he was concerned that not enough effort was done to deny supply to Axis troops in North Africa.  It was based in Malta, and consisted of 4 ships: light cruisers Aurora and Penelope (Arethusa-class), and destroyers Lance and Lively (L-class).  It was under command of Captain Agnew.

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A third Force K was put together in 1942, but it is another story.

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Force K Commander

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Sir William Gladstone Agnew (1898-1960) served in the Royal Navy during World War I and World War II.  During World War II, he was the commander of Force K, which he led until 1943.  He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral in 1950.

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Sir William Gladstone Agnew

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First attempt

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After his arrival in Malta, Agnew tried immediately to intercept Italian convoys, and went to sea twice on October 25, and on November 1, but didn’t find anything.  He would have to wait another week before luck smiled at him.

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November 8

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After intercepting messages informing it that a convoy was leaving Naples, the Royal Navy asked the Royal Air Force to dispatch a Martin Maryland on November 8 to try to find the whereabouts of the convoy.  In the meanwhile, Force K’s 4 ships left Malta, knowing of the convoy, but not knowing of its escort.  In the afternoon of November 8, the British aircraft spotted the convoy and relayed its position to Force K.

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Martin Maryland

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The convoy that left Naples must have been important, as its 7 transport ships were escorted by no less than 2 heavy cruisers (Triesteand Trento), as well as 10 destroyers.  Before going any further, let’s compare the armament of the belligerents.

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So, on the British side, on my left, please welcome Cruiser Aurora and her 6-inch guns, as well as the L-class destroyers and their 4-inch guns!

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On the Italian side, on my right, please … wow … are those 8-inch guns? And how many?  EIGHT!  Time out, please!

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I’m being told that the Royal Navy still wants to fight, so let’s go ahead.  They must have something they know to go against such a force, while being outnumbered and outgunned.  They had!

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The British ships indeed had something named radar … sorry, I spelled it backwards … I meant radar.  The Italians didn’t.  Furthermore, while the Italians didn’t care too much about whatever ships the Royal Navy could throw at them, they were afraid of one thing: aircraft!  So, they organized themselves in a formation that would give them the better odds against an air attack.  As the night started to fall, they felt more and more confident, faithful to their doctrine that nothing could happen to them in the cover of darkness.  Therefore, the convoy’s organization was to have 2 columns of transport with a close escort of 4 destroyers around, the heavy cruisers and the rest of the destroyers following..

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Convoy’s composition

CA Trieste and Trento

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Heavy Cruiser Trieste

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DD Maestrale, Fulmine, Euro, Grecale, Libeccio, Oriani, Granatiere, Fuciliere, Bersagliere,and Alpino.

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Maestrale-class destroyer (RM Scirocco)

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Transport Duisberg (7,389 tons), San Marco (3,113 tons), Maria (6,339 tons), Rina Corrado (5,180 tons), Sagitta (5,153 tons)

Tanker Minatitlan (7,599 tons) and Conte di Misurata (5,014 tons).

Load: 13,290 tons of materiel, 1,579 tons of ammunition, 17,281 tons of fuel, 389 vehicles, 145 Italian and 78 German troops.

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Force K composition

CL Aurora and Penelope

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Light cruiser Aurora

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Destroyers Lance and Lively

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Destroyer Lance

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November 9

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When he closed on the convoy, a little after midnight, Captain Agnew still didn’t know what he was facing.  His radar was showing him multiple targets, but he couldn’t tell what they were.  He assumed that it was all transports and destroyers, so he put his group in a position where the Italians would be illuminated by the moon, giving him a tactical advantage.

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A little before 01:00AM, Aurora opened fire from a distance between 3,000 and 5,000 yards, creating confusion among the convoy.  The Italian officer in charge of the destroyers thought that the ships that were finally silhouetting in the horizon were the heavy cruisers, so he didn’t pay attention to them.  Moreover, some reports attest that the Italians believed that they were victim of an air raid.

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Between the smoke from burning freighters and smokescreens from destroyers, the distant escort and Trieste were incapable of targeting the British force.  Agnew, on the other hand, could still rely on his ships’ radar and continued to pummel the convoy.  Aurorarapidly sank Grecale, while Penelope hit Maestrale, and the destroyers picked targets of opportunity.

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Italian destroyer Fulmine counter-attacked but was soon targeted by Lance and Penelope who eventually sank her.

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A game of cat and mouse then started.  While the distant escort (heavy cruisers and rest of destroyers) tried to get in position between the British and the convoy, Force K kept maneuvering, using the transports as a shield.  The close Italian escort eventually reacted, but afraid of hitting their own ships, they didn’t use any torpedo, and never really threatened the British formation.

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Eventually, the British force realized the presence of Trieste and Trento, and low on ammunition, they retreated.  All 7 transports were sunk, including the German ship Duisburg, who gave her name to the battle.  More than the losses (to which  damaged destroye Libeccio would be added later, when she was finished by a British submarine), half of the supplies supposed to reach Axis troops was at the bottom of the sea.

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Force K was not done with Axis ships in the Mediterranean.  Captain Agnew was eventually nicknamed “the scourge of the Mediterranean”, and his group would, a few weeks later, would continue to haunt the Regia Marina.  But as they say, it’s another story!

Edited by Ariecho
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Good stuff

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Cool read. Yet I saw your other list, of ships by other people. How does these not fall into that "its been done or use the search button" that i've seen people say on these forums? Don't get me wrong, its good to read these but whats the difference. I mean minus a specific date?

Still good work  :great:

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View PostXxHellSpawnxX, on 09 November 2013 - 10:55 PM, said:

Cool read. Yet I saw your other list, of ships by other people. How does these not fall into that "its been done or use the search button" that i've seen people say on these forums? Don't get me wrong, its good to read these but whats the difference. I mean minus a specific date?
Still good work  :great:
What we're doing here is covering topics which are relevant to this day in history and not just one ship or class just because we like them. :eyesup:  But, if a ship has already been covered by someone (and we remember to check) we place a link to the topic in question. I'd say: take a look HERE and you'll see that the stuff we cover is also much broader than just the ships.

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View PostXxHellSpawnxX, on 09 November 2013 - 10:55 PM, said:

Cool read. Yet I saw your other list, of ships by other people. How does these not fall into that "its been done or use the search button" that i've seen people say on these forums? Don't get me wrong, its good to read these but whats the difference. I mean minus a specific date?
Still good work  :great:
I think there is a major difference between have 2, 3, or even 4 people talking about a ship in their own words (that happened with the Bretagne-class, where we have four different entries) and having 3 people posting the same video about whatever they saw on the History Channel, and why nobody said anything when the 4th entry on the Bretagne happened..  That's why (and someone just asked me recently), I think the more speak in their own words about a ship or a battle, the merrier.  Check your local library, or Amazon.com, and look at "battle of Leyte Gulf", for example.  You'll be amazed by the number of entries you'll see.  I don't think the first guy who wrote about it told the 2nd one "hey, what the "F" are you doing?  I already did it".  Again, the reason is because everybody showed their point of view.  I think it's what makes a difference between having 4 guys here write about the Bretagne and having 2 guys showing the same video about the Bismarck.  I might be wrong, it's just my take on it.
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As far as our daily thread, I think that most of the subjects that we've been covering have never been covered before.  As JeeWeeJ said, we only speak about ships or events that happened on a specific day.  The two subjects that we covered today happened on a November 9:  Nagato was launched on November 9, 1919, and the battle of the Duisburg convoy happened on November 9, 1941.

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Do you guys ever think that some ships have souls?  I do, and Nagato's was weeping that it was never able to show its full potential.

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View PostColdt, on 10 November 2013 - 05:29 AM, said:

Do you guys ever think that some ships have souls?  I do, and Nagato's was weeping that it was never able to show its full potential.

Which saddens me to see such a fine battleship sacrificed in another country's greed for power. In fact, I would've said the same for the many other ships that were involved in Operation Crossroads. What is considered one of the best wreck dives in the world, could've been one of the best museum ships in the world IMO.
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View PostWolcott, on 10 November 2013 - 05:43 AM, said:

Which saddens me to see such a fine battleship sacrificed in another country's greed for power. In fact, I would've said the same for the many other ships that were involved in Operation Crossroads. What is considered one of the best wreck dives in the world, could've been one of the best museum ships in the world IMO.
True (and +1).  Unfortunately, museum ships are very expensive to operate.

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View PostAriecho, on 10 November 2013 - 01:41 PM, said:

True (and +1). Unfortunately, museum ships are very expensive to operate.

Indeed. But for all we know the Japanese may have been willing to preserve it. Heck, it might have even seen some service with the JMSDF, assuming its damaged condition could be repaired. That is of course had the Americans not sunk it and returned it instead. Thanks very much btw =)

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