"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

Militor!

Militor!
When you're serious about off-roading.
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Monday, November 16, 2015

What the Hell, Boat Post

I've raved before about the drop-dead coolness of torpedo boats and our topic is kinda like on of those. It looked the part anyway. 
USS Katahdin wasn't really a T-boat since it actually possessed no torpedoes nor armaments of any kind save four, quick-firing, six-pounders.
  for a while anyway
Read: "Deck guns" like this one on USS Oregon, taken at about the same time.
Although, the pictured gun is a Hotchkiss, the one animated on the link above is a Nordenfeld. We need to be clear about these things.

 No, Katahdin was a whole different breed of cat.
She was a "Harbor Ram". Of course, the six-pounders bad-assed as they were, were only defensive. The Katahdin was expected to put down any battleships - and yes they were her intended target - that may have slipped into her AO by ...  running into them
You saw it first here, ladies and gentlemen.

This was big news in 1893. The above drawing and accompanying text were given pride-of-place - on page 8 of the San Francisco Call - next to all the pressing advertisements of the day.
We'll go on a brief, pictorial romp before we go on with Katahdin's service and undignified end.
Here are the stats:
  • 2,190 tons displacement. about a third that of the concurrent, USS Maine (Remember?)
  • Two-hundred and fifty feet long and about forty-five across, she drew only fifteen feet of water. Hence the "harbor ram" designation; 
  • "Run your battleship into MY harbor and expect to be sunk forthwith by my pointy nose, shallow draft, impressive ass-pounds and kick-ass, fast engines.
Or not. Although her credentials and construction (Presumably) were solid, her engines, although more powerful than had been specified, had failed to bring her to the requisite speed of 17 knots.
But, so bitchin' cool was she that special legislation was passed to accept her as is - which was certainly adequate to the task given the likelihood of hostile battlewagons menacing our vulnerable harbors.
 A fantasy lithograph of what might have been...
Of the three ships pictured, only the rearmost, the gunboat Machias  had actually been commissioned in 1893 and our mate, Katahdin front-and-center, never rocked those, Great White Fleet colors.
Here's a close-up that solidifies in my mind why it must have sucked big-time to serve in Katahdin.
Notice the ship's gangway; such as it is, welded steps onto her "turtleback".
Now there's no brain-strain to figure out the purpose of said construction. This vessel plans on spending, at least some, time under water.
Not to worry, the lads were safe because the turtleback served its purpose and kept the lower decks sealed away nicely from the the deadly wet stuff.
But, notice the stack. Check out the size of this thing, easily six feet in diameter. that's because Katahdin burned coal. With fifteen, vertical feet of her below the waterline, she must have cozy indeed when underway.
She actually did her job during the Spanish-American War, patrolling harbors from New England to Shit City (Norfolk).
Alas, no Spanish warships appeared for her to fearlessly puncture with her pointy bow so we'll never know if she was a good idea or not.
She got shuffled around and ignored for a while until her final orders came (Dramatic, innit?).
The sixteen years between her launch and her demise were chaotic to say the least. Roosevelt built and outfitted his "Great White Fleet" and sent it on a round-the-world show-the-flag cruise.
Then, before they'd even gotten back home, virtually all of his battleships were rendered obsolete by the Brit upstart, HMS Dreadnought.
Now it was all about guns - big guns and lots of them.
Dreadnought changed the game with five pairs of 12" guns.
Now, just three years later, The Navy ordnance folks were cranking out brandy-new 14" guns.
Like these on USS Texas, circa 1918:
It was the testing of these new wonder weapons that brought Katahdin back into action. Very brief action.
If you hadn't noticed, just to the north of our happy Texas shipmates was a page from the NY Daily Tribune from October 1909. It's a breathless account of how agog, simply agog they were about the Navy's new 14" 450 caliber rifles.
Shoehorned in among vast praise for manufacturing and ballistics, Katahdin is mentioned, blocked out in grey above.
Here's the quote:
"...as if robed for the sacrifice..." What a line of shit.
And she cost a million dolllars! WTF?
That's about twenty-six million in modren money so, by present standards, she was a bargain.

2 comments:

frank said...

Hi Dan

Are the 14" rifles 45 calibers long or 450? I think is typo

Enjoy your posts.

Dan brock said...

Those were the long barrel version. Really long. Busted, Frank. Thanks.

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