Friday, June 07, 2013

Fullbore Friday

Very selfishly and self-referential, I've blogged before about Grandfather Salamander's Battleship, USS ARKANSAS (BB-33).

With the anniversary of the Normandy invasion yesterday, I just wanted to bring up the topic again. 

Look at her in action on the right. I don't know about you - but if I were in that landing craft, I would be quite happy about where I was coming ashore. That is good backup - and it also gives you an indication how close to shore she came.

Five Battle Stars and only one casualty through two World Wars, what a lucky ship. She went down serving as well.

Here is a nice summary of what must have been an outstanding summer of service; summer of '44;
... Arkansas’ combat experience began during the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Arkansas took up a position 4,000 yards off the coast of “Omaha” beach. At 0552 hours, all of the battleship’s 12-inch guns opened fire on the Normandy coastline. During the day, Arkansas was fired on by German shore batteries and was attacked by German aircraft. Fortunately, the Germans scored no hits on the battleship. Over the ensuing days, Arkansas continued providing gunfire support along the French coast. On 25 June, the battleship dueled with German shore batteries off the coast of Cherbourg, France, with the enemy repeatedly straddling the ship but never hitting her. Arkansas’ big guns helped support the Allied attack on Cherbourg, which led to the capture of that vital port the following day. After Cherbourg was secured, Arkansas went to Weymouth, England, for fuel, ammunition, and supplies.

Arkansas left England on 4 July 1944, bound for the Mediterranean. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and anchored at Oran, Algeria, on 10 July. Eight days later, Arkansas got underway and reached Taranto, Italy, on 21 July. She remained there until 6 August, and then steamed to Palermo, Sicily, the next day.

On 14 August 1944, Operation “Anvil,” the invasion of the southern French coast between Toulon and Cannes, began. Arkansas provided gunfire support for the initial landings on 15 August and continued her bombardment until 17 August. After making stops at Palermo and Oran, Arkansas returned to the United States.
Every time I peel another layer of the ARKANSAS story, I find out something new. This caught my eye;
US Navy Operation Neptune 1944-06-06 Coast of Normandy On 3 June, Arkansas sailed for the French coast to support the Invasion of Normandy. The ship entered the Baie de la Seine on 6 June, and took up a position 4,000 yd (3,600 m) off "Omaha" beach. At 0552, Arkansas' guns opened fire. During the day, the venerable battleship underwent shore battery fire and air attacks; over ensuing days, she continued her fire support. On 13 June, Arkansas shifted to a position off Grandcamp les Bains. VCS-7, a US Navy Spotter Squadron flying Supermarine Spitfire VBs and Seafire IIIs, was one of the units which provided targeting coordinates and fire control. On 25 June, Arkansas dueled with German shore batteries off Cherbourg, the enemy repeatedly straddling the battleship but never hitting her. Her big guns helped support the Allied attack on that key port, and led to the capture of it the following day. Retiring to Weymouth, England, and arriving there at 2220, the battleship shifted to Bangor on 30 June.
During 20 days of combat operations, the aviators of VCS-7 were awarded 9 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 6 Air Medals and 5 Gold Stars in lieu of additional Air Medals.
Imagine the pilots of VCS-7, flying float planes when all of a sudden their Skipper comes in and asks, "Hey, how'd you guys like to fly Spitfires?"


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