Friday, March 01, 2013

Fullbore Friday

Just inside living memory, we were not a hyperpower - not even a super-power. The Pacific wasn't an American lake, the the Western Pacific had a very large and very serious non-USA navy that claimed it.

We were there though - and our crews had a different view of war at sea.
On 31 October 1941, R/Adm. William Glassford, commander of the US Navy's Yangtze Patrol, informed his river-gunboat captains that their vessels would soon be ordered to the Phillipines. "In case of war, our major effort will be to preserve our personnel and ships, as much as possible, for subsequent action - and to inflict the greatest possible damage on the enemy. You will engage Japanese forces of equal or inferior strength. You are not expected to engage an enemy of superior power. However, you will defend yourselves if so attacked."

The river patrol craft had a shallow draft and were not built for ocean travel. Their rudders and propellers were practically at the water's surface.

The USS Mindanao (PR-8) was one of eight gunboats built for service on the Yangtze River and Chinese coastal waters. The ship was built in Shanghai, China, by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works and placed in commission on 10 July 1928. The Mindanao was 211-ft long with a 31-ft beam and steamed at a respectable 16-kts.

As war in the Pacific became imminent, the Mindanao found herself in an increasingly precarious position. She was the flagship of the South China Patrol and the only American Naval vessel in the vicinity of Hong Kong.

In early September 1941, Cmdr. Alan R. McCracken was placed in command of the Mindanao and Capt. L. J. Hudson came aboard as the new flag officer.

During the months of October and November, the gunboat made two trips up the Pearl River to Canton. On the second voyage, she was followed by a Japanese minelayer. And, while moored off Shameen Island, Japanese planes zoomed low over the river craft. Commander McCracken stated: "Japanese officials were extremely frosty to us. They apologized for their inability to receive a courtesy call from Captain Hudson because, as they put it, 'Make busy with big fight."'

On 2 December, the Mindanao received orders to proceed from Hong Kong to Manila as soon as possible. The gunboat was without life rafts for an ocean trip. However, a Chinese boat yard, working throughout the night, completed four rafts for the ship.

The tug Ranger, of the Luzon Stevedore Company, was directed to accompany the Mindanao to Manila. McCracken described final preparations for the journey: "Heavy spare parts, which had been stowed ashore, were packed on board the Ranger, along with 800-rounds of 3-in shells. Other machinery was lashed to the fantail of the Mindanao to help keep her stern down and her propellers underwater. The gunboat was also loaded with a quarter-million rounds of .30-caliber ammunition.
Shipmates, that is just the start of the incredible story of the MINDANAO. Read it all.

Hat tip Charles.

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