Monday, November 21, 2022

BOOKS: The Beginnings of the latest USS Astoria during World War II

Which ultimately became fondly known as the “Mighty 90!”


Although initially I was a bit apprehensive about “reading,” err listening to this book due to it’s title. I’d have to say that Days of steel rain: the epic story of a WWII Vengeance Ship in the Year of the Kamikaze, by Brent E. Jones was Hands Down the Best of the four World War II ‘Ol School CD Audiobooks I’ve recently read.


What I liked about it best was it’s portrayals of the Men serving on the Ship and their various roles and how they interacted. As the two leading characters seemed to be the Ship’s first Captain, George Carol Dyer and Marine Captain Gerard T. Armitage.


As I was unaware that during WWII, since I Don’t know if the practice’s still carried out today? But a small Marines compliment, 42 men total I believe, were assigned to serve as the Ship’s Security Detail. Providing Security for the Ship’s Captain, along with being in charge of the Brig and general Security.


Although both Men Held the same rank, Dyer was the Senior in rank. Yet both Men formed a strong bond of Admiration, and Armitage took warmly to Dyer simply calling Him soldier, which apparently were typically “fighting” words to Marines then…


Both Dyer and Armitage overcame physical injuries incurred previously during the war,. As Dyer suffered a serious Leg injury while aboard the USS Biscayne in Salerno, Italy when being attacked by German aircraft. Yet Dyer was consumed with recovering in order to gain command of a ship, since He desperately wished to achieve the Fleet rank of Admiral, and at Age 45, saw His chances waning Fast. Having to Skip accepting two commands while recouperating…


Armitage suffered a Broken Back when upon a Liberty ship that I think was torpedoed by a Japanese Submarine? As Armitage served at Guadalcanal and spent considerable time on the Island with His Back against a Palm Tree awaiting transportation Home. As Armitage would spend a year becoming physically fit to return to service.


Before Armitage’s Doctor said, you’re the first patient I’ve Had that wants to Go Back to the War!


The Author Brent E. Jones, who I’d never Heard of before, writes a wonderful “Nuts & Bolts” account of the individuals involved in taking the Delayed Light Cruiser to Battle in the last year of WWII. As the USS Astoria (CL-90) took 1,000 Days to build, and was the most costly and over budget Light Cruiser built during the War.


As it’s Funny How the “Statute of Limitations” has apparently run out after some 75 years plus, which the Author details, in a book that He spent ten years researching! Beginning with describing how Bad the William Cramp & Sons  Shipyard in Philadelphia was, being constantly beset by workers Striking! Along with the low morale, and describing one Enlisted Shipmate’s attempts at Gaming the System to keep from returning to War.


The third USS Astoria, eventually known simply as the Mighty 90. Was named after Her predecessor, which was Sunk in 1942. Although many Sailors believed this to be a Bad Omen and flirting with King Neptune.


Captain Dyer is Not impressed by the looks and workmanship of the Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding concern when being on Hand for the Christening of Cleveland light Cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CL-91) in December, 1942. As His USS Astoria (CL-90) who’s Keel was laid down in September, 1941 sits unfinished and Overlooked in another of the Shipyard’s “Berths.”


As Dyer tasks His “XO,” (Executive Officer) Erasmus W. Armentrout Jr. to begin filling the Astoria’s roster. Which I believe was comprised of 1,100 Enlisted Men and some 110 or more Officers, since I’ve seen numbers ranging between 1,263-1,285 total compliment.


The Cleveland Class Cruisers were derived from the Brookland class Cruisers, and was larger than Her New Orleans Class Cruiser Namesake’s predecessor with an Overall length of 610 Feet One inches. Her Beam was 66 Feet Four inches wide and She drew a Draft of 24 Feet Six inches.


She weighed in at 11,744 Long Tons, (11,932 T) which I finally got curious about this measurement I’ve seen quoted several times. Learning that a Long Ton is the Imperial measurement or short, the Metric amount vs. Standard Full Tons being U.S. measurement. And Fully loaded, she weighed in at 14,131 Long tons. (14,358 T)


As where’s ‘Ol Professor (Steve) Matchett to tell us about New Money vs. Old Money…


Her Armament consisted of 12 Six inch 152mm and 12 five inch 127mm Artillery Guns. Sporting two Six inch and one five inch Turret Fore and Aft. With the remaining Five inch Turrets being Midships. Along with sporting 28 40mm Bofors and 10 20mm Oerlikon Anti Aircraft Guns.


Propulsion was generated from four Steam boilers providing 100,000 Shaft Horsepower to Her four GE Westinghouse Steam Turbine engines each turning one “Screw,” (Propeller) with a Top Speed of 32.5 Knots.


She was also equipped with a compliment of four Vought OS2U Kingfisher Floatplanes being launched from two stern Steam Catapults. And I swear as a Wee’ lad that I built a plastic model kit of this rugged Floatplane.


As the Kingfishers weren’t equipped with folding Wings and therefore, obviously took more storage space aboard their ships.


As there’s many snippets about one of the Astoria’s Float plane pilots named Chuck Tanner. As Tanner and Armitage became fast Friends thick as Brothers, since I believe they both Hailed from the same City.


As Tanner and two other Floatplanes are tasked with making a twilight rescue of Downed airmen in Japanese territory, which wasn’t a normal mission. And the other two Floatplanes run low on AvGas’. (Aviation Gasoline) Forcing All three to set down and wait for Daylight.


Sadly, the other Crews are lost at Sea, since Tanner was the only one to Have a Sea Anchor in order to ride out the Night. While Tanner decides the next morning He’d better try getting Out of there. Since if He can See the Enemy’s shoreline positions, then obviously they can See Him!


As Tanner goes out on the main float and cleans the Fouled Sparkplugs in Hopes of being able to restart His engine!


Taking off, Tanner’s forced to land since the propeller’s stuck in low speed Pitch setting and will burn more petrol. Landing and crawling out on the main float once again, Tanner manages to Hammer the propeller into High pitch mode and quickly Departs again.


Using His Instruments and Dead Reckoning from Charts. Tanner runs into a thick Cloud Barrier and determines the Kingfisher will run Out of Gasoline in Six minutes Flying time. Pulling back the canopy after setting his watch’s timer, Tanner prepares to Bail Out and Parachute for what He Hopes is “Friendly” territory.


And while the USS Astoria’s Crew believes that Tanner’s been lost at Sea. The “Cucumber Cool” Float plane pilot who’s motto is “Low ‘N Slow.” Is then rescued by Friendly Coast Watchers who Help Tanner “Island Hop” back to Safety and ultimately be reunited with the USS Astoria.