Friday, November 04, 2011

Fullbore Friday

One Fullbore --- two ships. Lots of lessons here for today; importance of small arms, diversity of weapons systems, training, drills, cold weather survival, damage control .... and just plain battlemindedness; on both sides.
During her fourth patrol, Borie got a radar contact on U-256 shortly after 1943 hours, 31 October and closed in. The sub promptly crash dived. Two depth charge attacks forced her back to the surface, but she again submerged; after a third attack, a large oil slick was observed. Though U-256 made it home badly damaged, Hutchins believed the target to be sunk, and signalled the Card: "Scratch one pig boat; am searching for more."
Borie then got another radar contact about 26 miles (42 km) from the first, at 0153 hours on 1 November 1943, range 8000 yds. (7200 m) and charged in to engage. At 2800 yd (2500 m) radar contact was lost, but sonar picked up the enemy sub at about the same time. Borie engaged U-405 (a Type VIIC U-boat) hours before dawn, at 49°00' N., 31°14' W. There were 15-foot seas, with high winds and poor visibility.
The destroyer initially launched depth charges, after which the submarine came (or was probably forced) to the surface. Borie then came about for another attack, engaging with 4 inch (102 mm) and 20 mm gunfire at a range of 400 yd (360 m)
The sub's machine guns scored hits in the forward engine room and several scattered and harmless hits near the bridge, and her deck gun crew traversed their 88 mm (3.5 inch) gun and took aim for their first shot at Borie's waterline; but Borie's 20 mm gunfire wiped out every exposed member of the sub's crew topside, and a salvo of three 4 inch shells then blew off the sub's deck gun before it fired a round. Borie then closed in and rammed U-405, but at the last moment, the submarine turned hard left and a huge wave lifted the Borie's bow onto the foredeck of the U-boat.
After the ramming, Borie was high-centered on top of U-405, and until they separated, exchanges of small arms fire took place. This was a unique battle: unlike most other modern naval battles, it was decided by ramming and small arms fire at extremely close range. Borie's 24-inch spotlight kept the submarine illuminated throughout the following battle, except for brief periods when it was turned off for tactical reasons.
The two ships were initially almost perpendicular to one another; as the battle progressed, wave action and the efforts of both crews to dislodge from the enemy ship resulted in the two vessels becoming locked in a "V" for an extended fight, with the U-Boat along Borie's port side. The two ships were locked together only 25-30° from parallel. The action of the seas began to open seams in Borie's hull forward and flood her forward engine room. The submarine's hull, made of thicker steel and sturdier beams to withstand deep diving, was better able to handle the stress. Hutchins reported later, "We were impressed by the ruggedness and toughness of these boats."
Normally, in a surface engagement the superior armament, speed and reserve buoyancy of the destroyer would have been decisive. But in this unusual case, the destroyer was unable to depress her 4 inch (102 mm) and 3 inch (76 mm) deck guns enough to hit the sub, while all of the submarine's machine guns could be brought to bear. One or two 4 inch gun crews attempted to fire, but their shells passed harmlessly over the target. Borie's crew had a limited number of small arms, however, and the German deck mounts were completely open and had no protection. The executive officer had presented a virtually identical situation during drills on 27 October — a theoretical ramming by a U-boat on the port side — and as a result, after the ramming the Borie's crew took immediate action without orders.
In the extended and bitter fighting that ensued, dozens of German sailors were killed in desperate attempts to keep their machine guns manned. As each man emerged from the hatch and ran toward the guns, he was illuminated by Borie's spotlight and met by a hail of gunfire. Borie's resourceful crew engaged the enemy with whatever was at hand: Tommy guns, rifles, pistols, shotguns intended for riot control, and even a Very pistol. Borie's executive officer and a signalman fired effectively from the bridge with Tommy guns throughout the fight. One German sailor was hit in the chest with a Very flare. One of the Oerlikon 20 mm cannon was also able to continue firing, with devastating effect.
Borie's crewmen could clearly see a polar bear insignia painted on the conning tower of the sub, and three numerals that had been obliterated by 20 mm gunfire. The bow of the sub had been badly damaged by the depth charges and she was probably unable to submerge. U-405's deck armament was extensive: in addition to the 88 mm gun, she also had six MG 42 machine guns, in one quadruple and two single mounts. These weapons would have been devastating if the sub's crewmen had been able to keep them manned. Occasionally, one of them would reach one of the MG 42 mounts, and open fire briefly before he was killed. Other German sailors kept up a sporadic small arms fire of their own from open hatchways.
At a key moment in the fight, as Borie's port side crewmen were running out of 20 mm and small arms ammunition, two Germans broke from their protected position behind the bridge and approached the quad mount gun. A thrown sheath knife pierced a German crewman's abdomen and he fell overboard. Unable to bring his gun to bear, one of the 4 inch gun captains threw an empty 4 inch shell casing at the other German sailor, and successfully knocked him overboard as well.[4]Finally, U-405 and Borie separated and the two crews attempted to engage each other with torpedoes, to no effect.[4] At this point, about 35 of the German crew of 49 had been killed or lost overboard. Borie had been badly damaged and was moving at a reduced speed, while the sub was still capable of maneuvering at a similar speed.
The U-405's tighter turning radius effectively prevented the Borie from bringing her superior broadside firepower to bear, and her skipper, Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann, did a masterful job of maneuvering his badly-damaged boat with his remaining crew.
Borie shut off her searchlight, with her crew hoping that U-405 would attempt to escape and provide a better target for gunfire. The submarine did attempt to speed away, and Borie switched her searchlight back on and turned to bring her broadside guns and a depth charge thrower to bear. The sub was bracketed by shallow-set depth charges and struck by a 4 inch shell, and came to a stop. Borie's crew observed about 14 sailors signalling their surrender and abandoning ship in yellow rubber rafts, and Hutchins gave the order to cease fire; several of them were apparently wounded, being loaded into the rafts in stretchers by their shipmates. The last to leave the stricken ship was wearing an officer's cap. U-405 sank slowly by the stern at 0257. She was seen to explode underwater, probably from scuttling charges set by the last officer to leave. Hutchins reported later,
When the submarine sank, there was a yell that went up from all hands — it probably could be heard in Berlin. The men were clasping each other and patting each other on the back, and all during the action, there were times when it was actually comical to observe the situation, particularly with the submarine pinned underneath ... heretofore their one dream had been to catch a submarine, depth charge him, bring him to the surface and then to sink him with gunfire, this particular action more than justified their hopes.
The survivors were observed firing Very star shells: Borie's crew believed this to be a distress signal, and maneuvered in an attempt to recover them from their rubber rafts, as they approached 50-60 yards off the port bow. But as it turned out, the Germans were signalling another surfaced U-boat, which answered with a star shell of her own. A Borie lookout reported a torpedo passing close by from that U-boat, and Borie had no choice but to protect herself by sailing away. The Borie was forced to sail through the U-405 survivors' rafts as she turned away from the other U-boat, but the men on the rafts were observed firing another Very flare as the Borie steamed away in a radical zigzag pattern. No German survivors were ever recovered by either side; all 49 crewmen were lost.
A jubilant radio report of the sinking of the U-405 was sent to Card after the engagement,
Time to celebrate? Well, notsofast.
Because of the loss of electric power, the crew had to wait until daylight to fully assess the damage to their ship. First light brought a thick fog. Borie was too badly damaged by the collision to reach the rendezvous in time, or even be towed to port by her sister ships. She had sustained severe underwater damage along her entire port side, including both engine rooms, as the two ships were pounded together by the sea before separating. The stress of the wave action from the 15-foot waves, as Borie was pinned against the U-boat's hull, had caused damage to key operating systems throughout the ship.
The forward engine room and generators were completely flooded, and only the starboard engine was operating in the partially flooded aft engine room. Auxiliary power had been lost and speed was reduced. The most critical damage was the compromised hull; but steam and water lines had separated, and most of the fresh water for the boilers had been lost, compounding the drive system problems. As a result, Hutchins was forced to use salt water in the boilers: the reduction in steam pressure forcing him to further reduce speed to 10 knots, making her an easy target for U-boats.
At about 1100, the communications officer restarted the Kohler emergency radio generator with a mixture of "Zippo" lighter fluid and alcohol from a torpedo; a distress call was sent, a homing beacon was set up and, after some delays due to poor visibility, Borie was spotted by a TBF Avenger from the Card.
Valiant efforts were made to save the ship. Kerosene battle lanterns had to be used for all work below decks. The crew formed a bucket brigade, and all available topweight was jettisoned, even the gun director. All remaining torpedoes were fired. The lifeboat, torpedo tubes, 20 mm guns and machine guns were removed and thrown over the side, along with the small arms used against the U-boat crew, tons of tools and equipment, and over 100 mattresses. Only enough 4 inch ammunition was kept for a final defensive action: 10 rounds per gun.
But the ship continued to slowly settle into the water with all pumps running; trailing fuel oil from all portside fuel tanks, and an approaching storm front had been reported. It would have been necessary to bring out a tugboat to tow her into port; due to the poor visibility prevalent in the North Atlantic, Hutchins believed the chances of a tugboat finding the Borie were slim. The nearest port, Horta, was about 690 miles away; Iceland, Ireland and Newfoundland were all about 900 miles away, and the task group was at the approximate center of five reported U-boat wolfpacks. By now there were 20-foot waves.
As nightfall approached at 1630, Hutchins reluctantly ordered his exhausted crew to abandon ship. The Card task force had taken a substantial risk by leaving the escort carrier unprotected in sub-infested waters. Card was 10 miles away, but Goff and Barry were close by as the crew abandoned Borie; on orders from the Task Group commander, the ship was not scuttled at that time. Despite the sporadic machine gun and small arms fire from U-405, none of Borie's crewmen had been killed during the engagement, although several were wounded. But due to 44° F. (6° C.) water, 20-foot waves, high winds and severe exhaustion, three officers and 24 enlisted men were lost during the rescue operation. Hutchins reported, "Many of the lost were just unable to get over the side" of the two rescuing destroyers.
Still, the ship remained afloat through the night; Goff and Barry attempted to sink the wreck at first light, but torpedoes went astray in the heavy seas. One 4 inch shell from the Barry struck the bridge and started a small fire, but she still refused to sink. The coup de grace was delivered on the morning of 2 November by a 500 lb (227 kg) bomb dropped by a TBF Avenger from the Card, piloted by Lt. (jg) Melvin H. Connley of VC-9. Borie finally sank at 0955 on 2 November. The survivors were transferred to the more spacious accommodations of the Card for the journey home.
The battle of the Atlantic in a nutshell. There is a reason you hear the trailer for The Cruel Sea on Midrats.

Hat tip S.


SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Brave ship, brave men.  They knew that they were not in a FLETCHER, but they still went and did the job. Thank you, Men of the BORIE.

ewok40k said...

talk about using everything and the kitchen sink in close quarter battle... flare guns? thrown knives? throwing empty gun shell cases?
btw, ramming was quite commonplace when engaging surfaced or shallowly submerged subs in ww2 - here are few cases i tracked down - data from:
<span>15th/I6th - Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoy SC104</span><span> - The</span><span> convoy with 47 ships escorted by the British B6 group lost eight merchantmen to U-boats. However, in mid-Atlantic on the 15th, destroyer "Viscount" rammed and sank "U-619", and next day destroyer "Fame" accounted for "U-353", also by ramming. (Note: the identity of "U-619" is sometimes reversed with "U-661" sunk in the vicinity by the RAF.) </span>

<span>22nd - U-boats attacked ON166 and its American A3 group in mid-Atlantic and sank 14 ships in the course of four days. In exchange "U-606" </span> <span>was d</span><span>epth-charged to the surface by Polish destroyer "Burza" and Canadian corvette "Chilliwack" and finished off by ramming by US Coast Guard cutter "Campbell". </span>

<span>11th - North American/UK convoy HX228 (60 ships), escorted by the British B3 group, lost a total of four ships. Destroyer "Harvester" rammed "U-444" but was disabled and the U-boat had to be finished off by French corvette "Aconit". "HARVESTER", now stationary, was sunk by "U-432" which was in turn brought to the surface in mid-Atlantic by "Aconit's" depth charges and finally destroyed by gunfire and ramming.</span>

LCDR Black said...

That is full mother effing bore!  On both sides, training, a will to win and a will to live was a driving force.  I've been looking, but have not found my will to win training on NKO.  Could somebody give me the course number?  I am certain it is between my importance of diversity training and trafficing in persons training. 

kmadams85 said...

Thank God for men and ships like these!  

Someone ought to send this as a letter to SECNAV and teach him how to name ships properly.

chief torpedoman said...

Lots of well deserved bragging rights here for those men. I cannot imagine the LCS taking that kind of punishment.

Wasn't there another USN DD and Uboat fight where the Germans tried to board and sailors threw Spuds at them?

ASWOJoe said...

That may need to be a new qualification board question: What are the maximum and effective ranges of a thrown 4" shell casing?

GBS said...

The only things missing were cutlasses, pikes, and men swinging to the other vessel on a rope.

CAPT JAP (ret, not yet deceased I think) said...

Reminds me of USS OBannon (DD-450) throwing potatoes at a japanese sub, who thought they were grenades. The Japanese spent all their time throwing them overboard to protect themselves allowing the OBannon to pull away and attack. By the way coffee cups were truly thrown from the bridge wings in this fight.

In a fight there are no rules!!!!!!

AOD said...

Interesting.  I have read so many different blog posts before where naval officers and chiefs are balsting PT requirements, small arms proficiency requirements, and body fat composition requirements.  The fact is, if your ship is engaged in a fight, such things can save your life.  A skinny little waif or a soft lump of butter lard ass will not be able to contribute much in a severe damage-control environment, nor will they be able to contribute much in a small arms running gun battle.  Cry all you want about the PRT, body-weight composition tests, but don't cry when you can't pull yourself out of a burning space (because you can't do a single pull up), or when your side arm jams on the quarterdeck and you have no idea how to "tap-rack-clear" your weapon back into working order.

AOD said...

"Never fight fair."

chief torpedoman said...

AOD, I don't think the hue and cry about PT is so much about the need to get in shape as it is about the "rope and chock" not being a good measure of overall health.

Now admitedly, I retired a long time ago, but even back then on the Spru can I was on, there was not much opportunity or equipment to use. The navy has always been at a disadvantage on PT. No time is dedicated for the crew to do it like the marines do. Also underway in heavy seas doing plane guard staring at the a55 end of a bird farm,does not make it easy to exercise.

Small arms training and "hands on" DC training? I say bring it on!

Grandpa Bluewater said...

You do a great service by recalling the mighty deeds of those who went before.

"The Enemy Below", it turns out, wasn't nearly as wild and sensationalized by Hollywood as one might think.  Quite the opposite, actually.

ewok40k said...

life writes greatest stories, especially at wartime... look at some of the FBF material at Salamander's site, and what great movies we could make from them...

Bistro said...

AOD, I think you'll find that there isn't much there anymore. In fact none at all. All the PT requirements are so much BS in the navy. Nobody runs a mile and a half to their duty station on a destroyer. I cannot recall a single pushup saving a sinking frigate. Situps?

No, read the whole story. That ship was almost designed to suffer extreme battle damage and continue. How long did that ship run without electricity? Were all its pumps steam driven? None electrical? Find steam on modern warships or ask yourself what happens with the power out. The combat system in its total entirety drops off line as do all the computers and every single pump. No pumps=no eductors. One or two fat men who can FIX the problem is what is required in the absence of equally well trained fit men. And yes of course as Repair 3 Locker Leader I made the fatboys my Investigators but didn't do the same with Repair 5A since those guys were all snipes and nothing but skin muscle and bone.

It has been a very very long time since we last lost a USN ship to enemy action.

Surfcaster said...

Sadly it will be the effective range of a thrown 57mm shell casing.

Or an ethernet card.

Retired Now said...

Minimum Range of the 57mm gun onboard LCS-1  ?

Well, as designed, the MINIMUM range was between 3.5-4 nm.  That means that any "enemy" that was detected at less than 8,000 yards range (approx), was not engageble by LCS-1's designed main battery.

Nice design by the Prime Contrcator LOCKHEED MARTIN !    They have since altered the non-firing zone software to permit shooting at ranges within 8,000 yards of ownship.   So,  LCS-1 has been limping around the coasts of the USA and only able to fire her 57mm gun mount at "close" targets (less than 8,000 yards range), but sending a sailor up on the forecastle to lower all the life lines.

Just remember that shooting thier main battery at anything within 4 nm of LCS-1, is a work-around, not as designed by Lockheed Martin for this tiny crew.

see the BLIND ZONES of the main battery here:

Thanks Lockheed Martin, for ensuring our LCS-1 class will always endanger their small crews. 

John said...

So what if the Crappy Little Ship cannot fire at a surfaced sub at close range? 

Just follow the Borie example and ram ths sub!

I am sure that the sub crew would pick up any survivors from the LCS after it crumpled and sunk.

Retired Now said...

<p>You're right. I'll edit my post, if I can. Actually, those who do not sincerely care about our Navy, would just remain apathetic and uninvolved. Your post makes a sharp point and I certainly wish someone articulate like you were in charge of the US Navy's entire LCS project, since you can make a rapid and persuasive argument.
</p><p>My comments have failed to adequately express the passionate concern I have for the future US Navy. My dad spent years telling my sisters and I about how his ship essentially spent months at almost continuous GQ, shooting at some of the over 2,000 Japanese Kamakazi's off Okinawa in 1945. Both side fought ferociously and a total of almost 4,000 Kamakazi were sent against America's Navy towards the later part of the war. That's the background that I was raised in before I joined the Navy 2 weeks after high school and then spent two prolonged deployments off Vietnam. I have a reasonable taste of the all but unimaginable day in and day out confusions and small destroyer type challenges encountered during my two 11 month long wartime deployments to SE Asia. And a total of 21 years of tours onboard DD/DDG/FFG.

Retired Now said...

<p>PART 2:   Hence, my stomach turns since I worked onboard LCS-1 during her East Coast testings before I retired from my second career. Compared to the Full Bore ASW destroyer operations (above article), LCS-1 would not have to worry about encountering any subs since they never will have any hull mounted sonar like USS Borie had almost 60 years ago. Hull mounted sonars can work 24/7 since they are not towed or helo-borne. Although LCS-1 radars have detection ranges way beyond the 2,800 yards and 8,000 yards mentioned in the Full Bore post, these 55 new warships have weapons with far less range and coverage. 102 mm guns onboard USS Borie. LCS has one 57 mm gun with a max effective range of 10,000 yards and a minimum range of just under 8,000 yards ! That gives LCS-1 only a brief moment and tiny range interval to shoot her main battery as tgt closes. This design by Navsea and LM doesn't upset anyone, because now there is a work-around: lower all the lifelines, vice designing a ship for battle that can shoot 360 degrees (vice only 220 degrees in bearing) at reasonable close-in and far ranges. Other LCS design problems surely make USS Borie a much finer warship, built over 60 years ago. Anyway, it really doesn't matter because LCS has no staying power, no range, is missing hull mounted (organic) sensors, and pitiful weapons for ASW, AAW, ASUW. Imagine using LCS-1 during WW-II Battle of the Atlantic: when that U-404 first would start firing on LCS-1, this non-shock qualified ship would immediately have a cable or two loosen within the Total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE) and the small crew of the LCS would be doomed to defeat by a World War II submarine on the surface and close range. LCS is a delicate, peacetime ship that would never have been of any use to even the resourceful, brave crew of USS Borie 60 years ago. Glad my dad never had to even look at a picture of the future 55 LCS's planned for our Navy's future.
</p><p> </p>

cdrsalamander said...

You'se still good BTW.  Better than good.

LCDR Black said...

Several years ago the NORKs and ROKN guys got into it and the NORK vessel rammed the ROKN vessel and they exchanged small arms fire.  That was maybe the late 90's, I think.  This still happens, these are still skills and training is still valuable in defending one's ship with every thing at hand.  A lot of men have died or come home injured to bring that point home.  We ignore their lessons at our peril. 

ewok40k said...

Point should be taken, would any of skippers in today's risk-adverse, no-casualties-allowed mentality dare to risk his 10 digits $ ship in a ramming maneuver? Or, should he dare to, what would be his further career path? (implications of LCS ramming ANYTHING aside...)

QMC(SW)(ret) said...

A quad MG 42-that must have been a nasty piece of work.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

That would have been a Flakvierling quad 20mm, I should think.

Outlaw Mike said...

I think so too. 4 x 20mm. I never heard of MG42's in a quadruple mount. But when Doenitz instructed his crews to engage attacking planes from mid 1943, Flakvierlings were indeed mounted on the newer and heavier VII series with bigger conning towers.

Yhe U405 was an 'old' ship however. Commissioned in 40 or so. In my opinion, not suited for mounting a Flakvierling afterwards. So I'm a bit puzzled here about the quadruple mount and whatever caliber it used.

Anyway... even though they fought for an evil system, I have to take my hat off for the sub's crew. It's chilling to read about 'dozens' of them willingly stepping forward to man those machineguns in the certain knowledge they wouldn't survive longer than a few secs. One of the great mysteries I've always been wondering about is how a prodigious people like the Germans could ever have followed a bunch of criminals like the nazis. Such a tremendous waste of good people.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Germany must have been settled by Chicago Democrats.

Outlaw Mike said...

I wouldn't say settled, cause the good Germans were there to begin with. But you may be onto something. It's pretty obvious at some point a lot of them must have emigrated to Germany. For instance, there's many German towns named after American ones.

Bistro said...

Not really. It's about a warship and crew fighting another warship and crew and using the weapons and fighting power of the ships against each other. When you disrespect the ships you are left with nothing but the crew. The losing crew was still larger than an LCS crew and yet it had far more firepower than an LCS. More to the point there is not a single weapon on an LCS that can operate sans power.

Bistro said...

You go aboard ROKN warships and they still have the one shot one kill stencilled on the gunmounts.

QMC(SW)(ret) said...

You know, I wondered about that too but I was thinking about how much deck space a quad 20mm mount would have taken on a U-boat. When you think about that, a quad MG 42 makes more sense. It would have eaten a hellacious amount of ammo though.

ewok40k said...

I think the real deal was 4 separate mounts of MG-42 on the towers railings, but I'm not 100% sure. Few older VIIC were retrofitted with quad 20mm, so the decision is up to you. Both if allowed to be manned would exact toll on exposed USN crew, but the real threat was the 88mm gun that could really put dent into the ship itself.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

If the 4 stack destroyer shown is Borie, she was built between 90 and 100 years ago.  She could eat an LCS for breakfast on her worst day.

kmadams85 said...


I have little argument with your criticisms of the LCS class designs, and offer my apologies for coming off that way.  USS Borie was indeed a fine warship, and I also think it's unfortunate that we don't build things like we used to do, but isn't there enough LCS bashing in other threads?

Bistro said...

Well, they were pretty evil. OK, they were a lot evil. We bombed the snot out of them and then we camped out on their little evil patch to this day and that's a full 60 years of keeping down the evil.