Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Last Monitor

This politics is making my head hurt.
Let's have a boat story.
Monitors, a great idea that just kept on giving.
I've prattled before on the subject of these ships, the brain-wave of a certain, prickly, Swede asshole.
Low free-board, a turret mounting disproportionately large guns, all that.
I burbled away about the first one here, although it was mostly the CSS Virginia, the cumbersome monstrosity that fought the most advanced warship of the day, USS Monitor, to a draw I was on about.
The next improvement, the "breast-work monitor" and stepping-stone toward the battleship, I waxed tedious in discussing here.
Monitors just kept a'coming.
This concerns the last monitor.
USS Wyoming, BM-10  was one of four, Arkansas-class monitors and the only one of the four to have been built on the West Coast.
Part of the 1898 building program, Wyoming was commissioned in San Francisco, Dec. 1902.
3225-tons with two 12" guns, four 4" guns as well as two six-pounders.
The twelve-inchers being the real stars as might be imagined.
She served in the eastern Pacific for four and a half years and, in late 1903 and early 1904, she hung around Panama helping secure that nation's independence from Colombia.
In 1908 she was one of the first ships converted to burn oil rather than coal.
But, since this the time of manic battleship-building - and they're named after states after all - her name was changed to Cheyenne in 1909 so that the up-and-coming BB-32 could use "Wyoming".

She did a stint as a training ship for the Washington State Naval Militia until, after a refit at Puget Sound, she began what was the work she was to do for the rest of her life.
She became a sub-tender.
 
Here she is with four of her charges during the time America was sitting out the Great War.
One of the four pig-boats shown is H-3 which gave the old girl some time in the spotlight - and an opportunity to showcase her competence if only by comparison.
As an aside, my late father-in-law was a pig-boat sailor in the '30's and I'd always thought, based on what he'd told me, that the name came, not from the foul conditions aboard but rather the way the little, short-range subs of the day would line up to the tender. Like piglets.
Similar etymology as that of "pig iron" but that's another conversation.

The grounding of H-3 near Eureka, California is where she stood in the breach for one of her dependents when she'd gotten herself into trouble.
This is also another subject that I've also bored you with already;  way back here.
It's all about me, of course. You should know that.
Short version, for those not inclined to follow links (You're missing out on cheap boner-pills. Your loss): H-3 got crosswise to the surf in December, 1916 and while Cheyenne, a Coast Guard cutter and a Navy tug strove mightily to free her it was to no avail.
Their were civilian contractors willing to undertake the work - for quite reasonable fees but the Nav blew them all off.
The civilians did finally get H-3 back into deep water... in April, 1917.
She went on to serve another six years.
But this all happened after the incredible blockheadery displayed by my Nav wherein they managed to pull off the total loss of the cruiser USS Milwaukee and still leave the little pig-boat beached.
Good thinkin', that.
All good things must come to an end and so it went with Wyoming/Cheyenne.
Above, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with other defunct vessels, destroyers to the right, subs to the left. 1938.
She's easy to spot.
"One of these things is not like the others..."
She was sold for scrap in 1939, the last U.S monitor.
Don't be down-hearted! The day of the monitor as warship may had passed in the colonies but across the pond, the Lord Clive class monitors served all through the Great War.
These were the real deal. Toward the end they were mounting twin 18-inch guns.
Pretty much a coastal battery mounted on enough boat to let it move around.
That's the shit.

2 comments:

Jim Hayden said...

Great post! The Navy had "Monitors" during the Vietnam War too - converted landing craft with a 40mm cannon forward.

http://www.warboats.org/images/jpg/StonerPics/stonermonitor.jpg

Dan brock said...

Thanks, Jim!
I'd forgotten about them.
There's a lot to be said for guns with not-much boat under them.

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