Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rest in Peace - Glen R. "Pappy" Sears

It is with deepest regrets that we must report that Glen R. "Pappy" Sears, one of Razorback's commanding officers, departed on eternal patrol 17 March 2008. He was eighty years old, and left behind his wife, a son, and two grandchildren. As befitting a man who loved the sea, his ashes were scattered into the ocean off Honolulu 19 March.

Pappy served twice aboard Razorback. He first reported aboard in the fifties as a lieutenant under LCDR C. E. Statsny, and returned as commanding officer 30 April 1964. He earned his nickname from his classmates at the Naval Academy, who saw the former enlisted sailor as their "sea daddy," always willing to share lessons learned while on patrol. He will be sorely missed, by them and by many others.

Click here to witness Pappy's return to his old command in 2006, the first in forty years.

The top photograph was donated to AIMM by Captain Sears during his visit. It shows him and his then 7-year old son (his son is now a Captain in the Navy). The bottom two photographs were taken during Captain Sear's visit to Razorback with his family in 2006.

Sailor, rest your oars!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Submarine Article in the Current Issue of Naval War College Review

The Winter 2008 issue of Naval War College Review has an excellent article about the People's Republic of China and the Submarine Service. Entitled Chinese Evaluations of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force, it is authored by founding director and three research faculty at the Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute.

According to the authors, there are at least five publications devoted to naval warfare in the PRC. In addition, there are dozens of technical journals. The authors examined over 1,000 articles from these publications and analyzed over 150 articles.

The article is divided into five main sections:

  • Chinese reaction to current issues facing the U.S. Submarine Service

  • Chinese evaluations of specific American submarine capabilities, including the conversion of four submarines to SSGN (Guided Missile Submarine) configuration

  • Critical historical issues, including Chinese perception of U.S. Submarine operations during the Cold War

  • How Chinese analysts believe their ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) force would match up against American submarines

  • Chinese perceptions of the future of the American submarine service.
Finally, the authors close with a short summary, saying "Chinese strategists are keenly interested in the U.S. Navy's submarine force...There is clear evidence that Chinese naval analysts have enormous respect for U.S. submarines, submariners, and their weapons."

The full issue is available as an Adobe PDF at the Naval War College's Website. Be forewarned. The file is a 24.7MB download and may take a while to download.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Just How High Did the Water Get?

The Corps of Engineers was able to keep the central Arkansas area at 22.01 feet, a foot below flood stage (normal river level is about 8 feet.)

What does 22' of water look like?

The water was completely over our gangway, and up the sidewalk, almost to the parking lot.

Our spar poles and mooring lines kept the submarine and the barges safe and sound, so we will return to normal hours on Friday, March 28.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

High Water Returning - AIMM to be Closed This Weekend

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water level on the Arkansas River is expected to crest at 21.4 feet on Saturday.

The picture above is from last year, when the river crested at a little more than 16 feet.

Obviously, this is a situation beyond our control.

When the gangway is underwater, we are, of course, forced to close.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Missing WWII Vessel Found

When a ship or a submarine sinks, there are usually survivors to provide some information about the fate of their vessel and their shipmates. HMAS Sydney (Her Majesty's Australian Ship) was one of the few vessels to be sunk with all hands and with little information about her final resting place. She was also the largest vessel to be lost with all hands during World War II.

Sydney was sunk by the German commerce raider Kormoran on 19 November, 1941 after a fierce 30-minute battle that also damaged the German ship so badly she also sank. The survivors of the German vessel only knew that they saw the badly damaged Sydney sailing over the horizon toward the port of Perth, Australia.

However, she never arrived and her entire crew of 645 officers and men disappeared with her, leaving relatives to always wonder about the fate and final resting place of their loved ones.

The mystery has now been solved, after 66 years. Sydney was located in 8,100 feet of water not far from the site of her final battle.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Photos from the Archives - WWII Submarine Training

Here are a couple of photos from our archives. These photos are not on display at the museum. The only place you can see them is here, and soon on our main website.

These photos show sailors training in submarine escape procedures at the submarine base in Groton, CT during World War II, using the "Momsen Lung". This device was successfully used by American sailors to escape from the sunken submarine USS Tang during WWII. Similar devices were also successfully used in the British and German navies.

After WWII, the Momsen Lung was replaced with the "Stenke Hood" which in turn, has been replaced by a modern suit known as the SEIE (Submarine Escape and Immersion Equipment).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Article about AIMM and USS Orleck in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Yes, AIMM is considering adding a destroyer to the museum. This is not something we sought out, people associated with USS Orleck (DD-886) contacted us. The pertinent facts are:

  • USS Orleck has a very active foundation and support network of over 1,500 people
  • The foundation will pay for all moving costs to get Orleck here
  • The foundation will pay for the maintenance of Orleck once she is here. This is money that will go directly into the NLR economy (for paint and other supplies) that would not otherwise come to NLR.
  • Addition of Orleck will allow NLR to compete for additional military reunions and conventions and she will bring in additional tourists who will eat in local restaurants and stay in local hotels. These are visitors who would not otherwise come to to central Arkansas.

Destroyer a prospect for NLR museum

By Jake Sandlin

— North Little Rock’s maritime museum is studying the addition of a 390-foot-long destroyer to its site on the Arkansas River at no initial cost, the museum’s director said Wednesday.

Ship preservationists have been looking for a new home for the USS Orleck since the sale last summer of the Levingston Island property in Orange, Texas, where it had been since December 2006.

The buyers gave the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation that owns the Orleck until this month to move it.

“Basically I’m just doing our cost analysis if it gets here and what it’s going to cost us [to maintain],” said Greg Zonner,director of North Little Rock’s Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, 120 Riverfront Drive. “For us, it [the proposal] is just kind of sitting there. We haven’t said yea or nay.”

The Orleck would join the USS Razorback submarine at the on-river museum just east of the Main Street Bridge. But its arrival would hinge on the feasibility of towing such a large vessel up the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.

“They think they can do it,” Zonner said, referring to a group associated with the Orleck’s preservation and fundraising. “We’re not really pursuing it. I basically told them if it costs us anything, we couldn’t do it.”

Bob Orleck of Randolph, Vt., executive director and treasurer of the USS Orleck Association, confirmed that North Little Rock is being seriously considered for the destroyer.

“We’re working toward the goal of getting her up there,” said Orleck, a nephew of Lt. Joseph Orleck, for whom the ship is named. “We’re hopeful that it’s a perfect fit for the ship.”

The association has about 1,500 members, said Orleck, who served on the Gearing Class destroyer. He is also president of the Orleck’s nonprofit Education Preservation and Information Corp., which promotes reunions, fundraising and news about the Orleck.

“Our group would provide not only financial support for the ship but also would help in providing a great deal of volunteer effort, not only to help with the Orleck but with any ships at the [North Little Rock] museum,” Orleck said.

Zonner said the Orleck association contacted him about relocating the ship to North Little Rock and he at first turned it down.

“I said, ‘Gee, guys, first I don’t think you can get [the Orleck] up here, and secondly we don’t have the money to do it,’” Zonner recalled. “They came back and said, “We think we can get it there. And can you take it if we pay all the expenses in getting it there?’”

The museum is still trying to add the tugboat Hoga that survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and is now part of the Navy’s inactive fleet at Suisun Bay near San Francisco. North Little Rock obtained title to it in2005, but it could cost the city a minimum $400,000 to transport the Hoga from California.

When North Little Rock got the Razorback submarine from Turkey in 2004, the draft of the submarine - or how much water depth is needed for a vessel to float - wasn’t sufficient in shallow parts of the Arkansas River, and the craft was held in Rosedale, Miss., for more than two weeks. The submarine draft was as much as 14 feet; the river’s channel was mostly between 10 and 12 feet deep.

Barges were eventually employed to lift the sub higher in the river to finish its journey.

Zonner said he’s been told the destroyer drafts about 13 feet now but could get close to 10 feet “after they basically empty her out.”

“They seem to think they can do it,” he said.

Orleck called the movement upriver “very do-able.”

“It takes an awful lot of smart people, but they will be able to do it from what I hear,” Orleck said.

Where the destroyer would be placed along the river is another question. The museum would likely pull away the two barges moored on the river and put the 390-foot destroyer next to the 311-foot Razorback.

A distance of 427 feet lies between the Junction Bridge that crosses over the river and the end of the Patriot tugboat, used by the Arkansas Queen Riverboat operation alongside the museum. That’s enough room for the Orleck, Zonner said.

“Theoretically, it should fit,” Zonner said. “But we’re still a long way from it going there.”

If the already-renovated barges had to be moved from the museum site, they could be moved upriver near Burns Park for small groups to rent, said Bob Rhoads, the city’s parks and recreation director.

“I really haven’t looked at the costs,” Rhoads said, adding that he was told of the possibility only last week. “It could be a similar situation for our rentals to smaller groups at like the [park’s] hospitality house or pavilions. That’s one way I look at it.”

The Orleck, built in Orange, Texas, and commissioned during World War II, served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. As it did with the Razorback submarine, the U.S. Navy sold the Orleck to Turkey after it was decommissioned in 1982. It made a return in 2000 to Orange after being decommissioned from the Turkish navy in 1998.

After Hurricane Rita tore the Orleck and other vessels from their moorings at Ochiltree-Inman Park in September 2005, severely damaging the Orleck, the ship was moved for repairs. Once completed, the ship relocated to Levingston Island the next year.

This article was published Thursday, March 6, 2008.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In Memoriam - USS Grayback (SS-208) - Lost 26 February 1944

USS Grayback (SS-208) served ten war patrols and is credited with sinking 22 enemy vessels and damaging nine. Under the command of Willard A. Saunders, she entered WWII. During 1942, she and four other submarines brought down 81 vessels. Operating under Cmdr. Johnny Moore, in 1943 she joined USS Shad (SS-235) and USS Cero (SS-225) in what proved to be a very successful wolf-pack.

Tasked to operate independently once more in January of1943, Grayback served the beginning of her tenth war patrol off the coast of China. After fueling up at Midway 3 February, she was sent to patrol the stretch between Luzon in and Formosa. She radioed in 24 Febrary, reporting 44,000 tons sunk or damaged so far on her patrol. The next day, Moore reported having damaged two more ships and having expended all but two of his torpedoes. He was ordered to return to Pearl Harbor, but Grayback was never seen again.

Japanese records state that a carrier plane located a US submarine 26 February about 300 miles east of Grayback's last known position. It landed a direct hit on the submarine, which exploded. Japanese surface craft joined the fight, and continued bombarding the damaged submarine until bubbles and an oil slick appeared on the surface. Assuming Moore received and followed orders to return immediately to Pearl Harbor, Grayback would have been in approximately the position recorded by the Japanese carrier plane.

80 men went down with Grayback, and the fearsome boat's crew were posthumously awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.