Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

 

The day is coming! Unterseeboot before London. Lithograph print.
Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

Introduction

As Marc Milner recently explained in the context of the Second World War, ‘the first line of defense of trade was always the main battle fleet.’[i] What was true in 1939 was true in 1914. Germany’s High Sea Fleet, able to sortie from its protected anchorages only at significant risk, was reduced to relying on its destroyers, submarines, merchant raiders and naval air service to carry on the naval offensive. Britain’s Grand Fleet, although successful at confining the High Sea Fleet to the North Sea, was in turn unable to protect Britain’s far-flung merchant shipping. The two dreadnought fleets of the great naval antagonists were thus mutually immobilized. Flotilla craft, seaplanes and submarines became the primary instruments in the vast battle over oceanic trade. As British Prime Minister David Lloyd George prosaically described the situation, ‘When the last roving German cruiser had been beached in a mangrove swamp in Africa, in order to escape capture, the German Admiralty put more faith in the little swordfish which had already destroyed more enemy ships in a month than the cruiser had succeeded in sinking during the whole of their glorious but short-lived career. When they realized the power of this invention they set about building submarines on a great scale and constructing much larger types.’[ii]

While the Grand Fleet’s 10th Cruiser Squadron carried out the blockade of Germany, slowly strangling the Central Powers’ access to overseas trade, Germany’s U-boats, seaplanes and destroyers from the High Sea Fleet (HSF) and Flanders Flotillas attempted to circumscribe the blockade and attack Britain’s oceanic supply lines. The U-boats, like the Zeppelins and Gothas in the air, were new technological threats against which Britain’s traditional wooden walls provided no protection. To produce strategic effect with the aerial bomber and submarine, however, it was necessary to violate the laws of civilized warfare as they had been agreed upon by the European powers at the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907.[iii] For the Zeppelins and Gothas this meant bombing British cities from the air without regard for civilian casualties, and for the U-boats at sea this meant violating the rules for prize capture and indiscriminately sinking enemy and neutral merchant shipping without warning.

The new Admiralty building, from N. A. M. Rodger, The Admiralty (1979)

After a trepidatious start in February 1915, when the ‘War Zone’ was established around Britain, by the spring of 1917 the U-boats were well on their way to wiping out Britain’s merchant fleet. During the months of March, April, May, June, July, and August, British shipping losses were always above 350,000 tons, with losses peaking at 550,000 tons in April, and 498,500 tons in June.[iv] The Admiralty, under the leadership of First Sea Lord Sir John Jellicoe and First Lord Edward Carson, had computed the loss rate and expected that, if no solution were found to the submarine crisis, Britain would soon be reduced by starvation and thus forced to abandon the war long before the yearend of 1918.[v]

London, c. early 20th century, by William Wyllie

The Royal Navy undertook a herculean effort to reduce shipping losses and increase Anti-Submarine (A/S) capabilities. Steadily improved counter-measures, reorganization at the Admiralty and in particular of the Naval Staff, and the gradual implementation of escorted convoys during the summer of 1917, began to alleviate the crisis. Although shipping losses remained high, frequently above 200,000 tons per month until the end of the war, this loss rate was not enough to cripple Britain’s supply lines. Furthermore, U-boats were now forced to attack defended convoys, raising the risk of counter-attack and eventually resulting in the development of wolf pack tactics, as were seen a quarter century later during the Second World War.[vi]

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The Eye at the Periscope aboard a Royal Navy submarine, Francis Dodd collection

Although the implementation of escorted convoys curtailed shipping losses, and forced the otherwise ephemeral U-boats to attack prepared warships, the inability of the Royal Navy to attack and destroy the High Sea Fleet meant that any operation aimed at capturing or destroying the U-boat bases themselves, or attempts to mine the U-boat areas of operations, could potentially prompt a fleet action in the enemy’s thoroughly mined waters: raising the prospect of catastrophic losses for the Royal Navy.

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Convoy in rough seas, 1918, by John Everett

Later in 1918 the famous ZO operation was conducted in an attempt to block the bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend, while a redoubled aerial bombing campaign was additionally carried out. Finally, in October 1918, with the One Hundred Days offensive systematically rolling back the German army and liberating Belgian,[vii] the Royal Navy commissioned HMS Argus, an aircraft carrier system that included the Sopwith T1 ‘cuckoo’ capable or launching aerial torpedoes and thus opening the prospect for a torpedo strike against the High Sea Fleet in harbour – guaranteeing the defeat of Germany’s main fleet. And without the main fleet to protect the bases, the U-boats, minesweepers and flotilla destroyers carrying out the anti-shipping war would quickly find operations extremely difficult under the guns of Grand Fleet warships.

smoking-roomThe Smoking Room, HMS Ambrose, Francis Dodd collection

This blog examines the multidomain nature of the unrestricted U-boat campaign of 1917 – 1918, and demonstrates the unpreparedness of the Royal Navy to combat the submarine threat, but also the extensive reforms undertaken that eventually defeated the U-boats. By November 1918 the Royal Navy had devised a comprehensive and effective A/S and trade defence system, to which Germany’s raiders could not respond with any hope of success.

Various British warships sunk by U-boats and mines, 1914 – 1915, three armoured cruisers, three pre-dreadnought battleships, two light cruisers and HMS Audacious a 28,000 ton super dreadnought, completed in 1913, which struck a mine.

For both the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine), the First World War began with a flurry of surface and submarine activity. After the demise of Admiral von Spee at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, Admiral Souchen’s arrival in Istanbul, and the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank engagements of August 1914 and January 1915, the surface threat, beyond a few isolated light cruisers and merchant raiders, had been broadly curtailed.[viii]

Germany’s U-boats, for their part, destroyed a series of high-profile targets early in the war, from the seaplane carrier HMS Hermes, to the scout cruiser HMS Pathfinder, and the three armoured cruisers: HMS Crecy, Hogue and Aboukir. The new dreadnought HMS Audacious was lost to a mine on 27 October 1914, and the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed by U24 on New Years Day 1915. To add insult to injury, HMS Majestic and Triumph were both torpedoed at the Dardanelles by U21 during the May crisis of 1915.

The submarine and mine threat had a significant impact on Britain’s strategic position. The Grand Fleet required not only a protected and submarine-proof anchorage from which to operate, but also a large force of destroyers to escort it while at sea. The submarine’s emergent role as a commerce destroyer caught the Allies off guard. The decision in January 1915 by the Kaiser to authorize the designation of a ‘War Zone’ around Britain, in which British merchant shipping would be destroyed as part of a counter-blockade strategy, seemed a barbaric example of German ‘frightfulness’.

The strategic situation in the North Sea, 1917 – 1918, Map 9 from Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1998), p. 248

Although shipping losses increased, Germany’s U-boats were not yet plentiful enough to seriously impact the war, and the embarrassing sinking of the liners Lusitania in May and Arabic in August 1915, both with loss of life for American and other neutral citizens, encouraged the Kaiser to restrain the anti-shipping war. The new doctrine of surface battle, promulgated by Admiral Reinhardt Scheer, necessitated the withdrawal of the U-boats during 1916 to combine with the Navy’s Zeppelins for fleet operations. The singular result of the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, followed by the aborted August sortie, convinced Scheer that the British blockade could not be cracked by the High Sea Fleet.[ix] The new German war leadership under Ludendorff and Hindenburg, as such, made the decision late in 1916 to gamble on the U-boats sinking enough British, Allied and neutral tonnage to cripple Britain’s war effort and thus tip the war in Germany’s favour.

Various Francis Dodd drawings from 1918, done from Royal Navy submarines, trawlers, launches and merchant ships. The machine world successor to its wooden counterpart a century before.

On the Western Front, meanwhile, the Allied offensive in France was to be renewed under Generalissimo Joffre’s replacement, General Neville. This was to be an offensive the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) would support at Arras, and included the plan to capture Vimy Ridge.[x] The Allies, to supply this offensive, required huge quantities of material. The cross-Channel coal trade in particular was crucial for fuelling the French war effort: 800 coal transports crossed the English Channel in November 1916 alone.[xi] Other seaborne trade, such as food, shells, and especially fodder for the BEF’s horses, likewise required transshipment across the Channel by merchant ships. Critical supplies of metal and ore were delivered across the North Sea from Scandinavia, goods and commodities were imported across the Atlantic from America and out of the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar Straits. This cornucopia of merchant shipping was exposed, defenceless, and ready-made prey for the unleashed U-boats.

Merchant shipping tonnage sinking by submarines and other means June 1916 to October 1918, from Duncan Redford and Philip Gove, The Royal Navy, A History Since 1900 (2014)

U-boat Offensive, January – March 1917

From the perspective of the German high command the clear weakness in the Western Allied armies was their exposed seaborne logistics. High Seas Fleet C-in-C Admiral Reinhard Scheer, in his 4 July 1916 report on the Jutland battle to the Kaiser, stated his belief that the only way to defeat Britain would be through economic means, meaning “setting the U-boats against the British trade routes.”[xii]

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Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet & Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, Chief of the Admiralty Staff (Admiralstab), photograph by Hanse Hermann, Leipzig, 1918

On 22 December Admiral Holtzendorff accepted this view and advocated, in a fateful paper, for the destruction of all shipping approaching Britain.[xiii] Holtzendorff was convinced that if 600,000 tons of merchant shipping could be sunk each month, and sustained for a period of five months, the British would give in.[xiv] The renewed unrestricted submarine campaign commenced at the Kaiser’s order on 1 February 1917.[xv]

Commodore Andreas Michelsen, author of the book Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918, CO North Sea U-boats, Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote, June 1917 – November 1918. He replaced Fregattenkapitan Hermann Bauer.

Early in 1917 there were 111 U-boats available, 49 with the HSF at Wilhelmshaven, 33 at Zeebrugge and Ostend, with another 24 at Pola in the Mediterranean, two at Constantinople and three in the Baltic.[xvi] The Flanders Flotilla (coastal) U-boats alone had managed to sink enough shipping to reduce the cross-Channel coal trade by 39% during the final quarter of 1916.[xvii] This was enough of a threat to the French armaments industry that the Royal Navy’s Auxiliary Patrol, on 10 January 1917, commenced escorting large convoys of 45 ships across the Channel, 800 ships every month.[xviii]

April 1917: the catastrophic increase in Atlantic shipping losses, combined with a spike in Mediterranean losses, seemed to defy all of the Admiralty’s efforts. The potential for disaster seemed overwhelming. By this point, the French coal trade was being escorted across the English Channel, and the Dover barrage was being rebuilt with more effective mines. Despite this, nearly 100,000 tons of shipping had been lost in the Channel by the end of April. From Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, p. 382-3

With the restrictions on neutral shipping lifted, the U-boats began the slaughter. 35 merchant ships were sunk in the Channel and Western approaches the first week of February 1917 alone.[xix] By the end of February the U-boats had accounted for half a million tons, making more than a million cumulative when another 560,000 tons were sunk in March. The campaign high point was reached in April when 860,000 tons of Allied, British and neutral ships were destroyed.

1914-15

1916

Allied shipping losses in Channel and Western Approaches for 1914-15 and 1916

These figures represented the destruction of 1,118 Allied and neutrals in the first four months of 1917: 181 in January, 259 in February, 325 in March and 423 in April.[xx] Between 1 February and the end of April 1917, 781 British merchant ships had been attacked, another 374 torpedoed and sunk, plus 154 sunk specifically by U-boat cannons.[xxi] The United Kingdom exported 122,600,000 tons of goods in January, a value that fell to  93,200,000 in February.[xxii] Only nine U-boats, including accidents, were destroyed between February and April.[xxiii]

The Imperial War Cabinet, Jellicoe is standing at the back, second from left. First Lord of the Admiralty Edward Carson is third.

In Britain the new parliamentary coalition under former Munitions and then War Minister and now Prime Minister David Lloyd George was faced with an unprecedented crisis. In early December 1916 Admiral Sir John Jellicoe had been promoted out of the Grand Fleet and advanced to First Sea Lord (1SL), with the explicit objective of curtailing the submarine threat.[xxiv] There were many ideas about what to do, and it was not initially clear what the correct response was, and opinion in the Royal Navy was split. Captain Herbert Richmond believed convoy escort to be the obvious solution,[xxv] a subject he had studied in his historical work with Julian Corbett on 18th century naval warfare (published after the war as The Navy In The War of 1739-48).[xxvi] Both historians noted the importance of trade interdiction and convoy protection efforts in the Caribbean, and Corbett added the Korean peninsula experience in his staff history of the Russo-Japanese War.[xxvii]

Old Waterloo Bridge from South Bank by William Wyllie

Traditionally, Britain had indeed managed the threat from corsairs and privateers by convoying its merchant shipping. On 29 December Jellicoe, however, expressed his skepticism that convoy was the appropriate solution to the U-boat problem. The First Sea Lord’s position, in general, was that the historical analogy of convoy protection was no longer valid, given the vast increase in oceanic shipping, the supposed delays in loading, offloading, and assembling the convoys, coupled with limitations on available escorts.[xxviii] The reality was that the First Sea Lord perceived convoys as sitting targets, and was unable to transcend the tactical paradigm whereby the escorted convoy not only “reduced the number of targets” and thus increased the number of successful sailings, but also forced the U-boats to carry out attacks from positions where they would be exposed to destroyer counterattack.[xxix]

Furthermore, the figures the Admiralty estimated would be required for Atlantic merchant convoy escort were excessively high: 81 escorts for the homeward-bound Atlantic trade, and another 44 for the outward-bound trade.[xxx] Since the requirements of the western approaches had been minimized to increase destroyer numbers at Dover, Harwich, Rosyth and Scapa Flow, Jellicoe foresaw a situation in which the battle fleet’s escorts would be precariously reduced to endlessly feed requirement for merchant shipping escorts, as did in fact occur during Admiral Sir David Beatty’s second year as Grand Fleet C-in-C.

Jellicoe4

Photograph of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe as C-in-C Grand Fleet

When Jellicoe arrived, and until the April crisis, Britain’s trade defence policy was one of patrolling a series of shipping lanes, combined with aerial patrols over the coasts.[xxxi] The Admiralty had adopted an ‘approach route’ system, by which, rather than using its anti-submarine vessels as convoy escorts (convoys being believed to be large, slow moving, targets), the A/S vessels would patrol various approach ‘cones’ of which there were four, hoping to sweep them clean of enemy submarines.

Approach A: Apex at Falmouth, shipping from South Atlantic and Mediterranean, destined for London, English Channel, and East Coast Ports.

Approach B: Apex at Berehaven, shipping from North and South Atlantic, destined for Bristol Channel, London and English Channel and Mersey.

Approach C: Apex at Inishtrahull, shipping from North Atlantic for Clyde, Belfast, Irish Sea and Liverpool.

Approach D: Apex at Kirkwall, shipping from North Atlantic for North-East ports to the Humber.[xxxii]

The Admiralty’s initial Western Approaches ‘zone’ scheme, as established at the beginning of 1917, and the corresponding locations of sunk merchant ships. The unescorted approach lanes were ideal prey for the patient U-boat commander.

1917

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1917

In practice this system proved disastrous, effectively funnelling in and outbound shipping into dangerously crowded and exposed lanes. Although the actual lane utilized was random, the need for a great number of destroyers to patrol the approach area still made U-boat contact unlikely and trade defence precarious. The approach-lane program, as Henry Jones put it, had the effect of ‘concentrating great numbers of ships along the patrol routes off the south coast of Ireland and in the Bristol Channel.’[xxxiii]

The Western approaches were at first starved for resources: only 14 destroyers stationed at Devonport for use ‘escorting troopships and vessels carrying specially valuable cargoes through the submarine danger zone,’[xxxiv] in addition to 12 sloops at Queenstown.[xxxv] Jellicoe transferred an additional ten destroyers from Admiral Beatty to the Senior Naval Officer (SNO) Devonport, at least partly with the intention of increasing the number of escorts available for providing escort to troop or munitions ships.[xxxvi]  Aircraft and airship bases had not yet been constructed to cover these approaches,[xxxvii] and the Dover Barrage, meant to prevent the Flanders U-boat flotillas from crossing the Channel, proved totally ineffective. Worse, there were only enough depth-charges to equip four per destroyer at the beginning of 1917, and as late as July, only 140 charges were being produced each month. By the end of 1917 this number had increased to 800, sufficient to equip destroyers with 30 to 40 charges.[xxxviii]

Although Jellicoe implemented strong reforms meant to improve all areas of the A/S patrols, from increased depth-charge production, to building new RNAS bases on the coast; the crisis continued to worsen. Shipping losses increased in March and by early April 1917 had reached an apex. The officers responsible for the particularly exposed Scandinavian sea route met at Longshope, in the Orkneys, on 3 April and determined in favour of implementing convoys to protect North Sea sailings.

Motor Launch in the Slipway at Lowestoft, Francis Dodd, April 1918

As we have seen, convoys – or protected sailings – had already been implemented to cover the Channel crossing, and they were far from a novel concept. The War Cabinet secretary, Colonel Maurice Hankey, had in fact prepared a paper for David Lloyd George on the subject of ASW on 11 February 1917.[xxxix] This paper outlined the flaws in the current patrol system and unequivocally advocated the adoption of convoy and escort as the correct solution. Hankey’s observations regarding the benefits of convoys were particularly cogent:

The adoption of the convoy system would appear to offer great opportunities for mutual support by the merchant vessels themselves, apart from the defence provided by their escorts. Instead of meeting one small gun on board one ship the enemy might be under from from, say, ten guns, distributed among twenty ships. Each merchant ship might have depth charges, and explosive charges in addition might be towed between pairs of ships, to be exploded electrically. One or two ships with paravanes might save a line of a dozen ships from the mine danger. Special salvage ships… might accompany the convoy to salve those ships were mined of torpedoed without sinking immediately, and in any event save the crews. Perhaps the best commentary on the convoy [escort] system is that it is invariably adopted by our main fleet, and for our transports.[xl]

Two days later, at an early morning 10 Downing Street meeting, Lloyd George, Carson, Jellicoe and the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division (DASD) of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, spent several hours during breakfast discussing Hankey’s convoy paper. Jellicoe objected on the grounds that the lightly escorted convoys would make vulnerable targets and that merchant captains would not be capable of the complex station keeping required, or indeed zig-zag maneuvering, objections that did not convince Lloyd George, as Hankey described in his diary.[xli]

“The Pool” view of River Thames, by William Wyllie

The following week Jellicoe prepared a War Cabinet paper describing the progress of A/S measures so far taken by the Admiralty.[xlii] Jellicoe’s primary recommendation was merely to reduce the total maritime traffic, notably by abandoning supply for the Salonika front. This was a dismal situation, as Jellicoe put it, ‘the Admiralty can hold out little hope that there will be any reduction in the rate of loss until the number of patrol vessels is largely increased or unless new methods which have been and are in process of being adopted result in the destruction of enemy submarines at a greater rate than that which they are being constructed…’. At this time, Jellicoe illustrated mechanical thinking in his belief that an additional 60 destroyers, 60 sloops, and 240 trawlers would be needed for a patrol scheme of ultimately unspecified final scale, citing the case of the English Channel where auxiliary patrol vessels formed a complete lane through which traffic passed. His third recommendation was the destruction of the submarine bases themselves.[xliii]

1917admiraltyboard2.5-1

The expansion of A/S measures was above all else the priority for Jellicoe as soon as the new Admiralty administration was settled. The new First Sea Lord immediately set about re-organizing the staff and mobilizing naval logistics to supply new bases, improve torpedoes and mines, and create a host of flotilla and auxiliary craft for A/S purposes. DASD Rear Admiral Duff soon recognized the need for aerial patrol over the western approaches. In December 1916 Duff had requested that Director Air Services Rear Admiral Vaughan Lee implement a patrol schemes at Falmouth, the Scillies, Queenstown, Milford Haven, Salcombe, and Berehaven, to cover the exposed approach lanes.[xliv] In February three H12 flying boats were flown out to the Scillies to patrol the Plymouth approach.[xlv]

The U-boats were not alone in their exertion during February. The Kaiserliche Marine’s Zeebrugge force conducted raids against the Dover straits as the U-boats worked up towards maximum effort. The destroyer situation in the Royal Navy at this time was scattered: there were nominally 99 destroyers available with the Grand Fleet, 28 deployed with the Harwich Force, 37 with the Dover Patrol, 11 attached to the Rosyth, Scapa, Cromarty area, 24 at the Humber and Tyne, 8 at the Nore, 32 at Portsmouth, 44 at Devonport and 8 at Queenstown, although this includes ships refitting or being repaired, and not therefore the true operational strength.[xlvi] This great dispersion of force meant it was possible for Germany’s high-speed torpedo boat destroyers to sortie and conduct night raids with good chances of success.

Map showing the simplified Channel Barrage, the main Folkestone – Gris Nez line and the outer Channel explosive mine net at the end of 1917, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

To test the Channel defences, Admiral Scheer, early on 25 February, ordered the Zeebrugge destroyers to conduct a raid on the Dover coast with three groups, the first comprised of six boats of the First Half-Flotilla (G95, G96, V67, V68 and V47, Lieutenant Commander Albrecht in G95), the second comprised of four boats of the Sixth Flotilla (Lieutenant Commander Tillessen in S49, with V46, V45, G37, V44 and G86), plus a small diversion force of three boats from the Second Half-Flotilla.[xlvii] Albrecht was to target the Downs while Tillessen attacked the Barrage itself. HMS Laverock, a destroyer armed with three 4-inch guns under the command of Lieutenant Henry Binmore, encountered one of the approaching flotillas around 10:30 pm on the 25th.[xlviii]

SMS V43, 1913-class torpedo boat destroyer & Representations of Zeebrugge flotilla destroyers, V67 & G37

After a brief encounter the two sides slipped into the darkness, contact was lost and Tillessen turned back to base. The diversion force found no targets near the Maas, while the First Half-Flotilla carried out a brief shore bombardment of North Foreland and Margate, with no military consequence. Admiral von Schroder, in command of the naval and marine forces in Flanders, considered the operation a success in so far as it was a worthwhile distraction, drawing RN assets away from submarine hunting.[xlix]

paragon

HMS Paragon

A second raid on the Dover defences was organized for the night of March 17-18, during which 16 Flanders destroyers sortied under Tillessen’s command. On this occasion, the Dover destroyer HMS Paragon was torpedoed and sank, with the loss of 75 members of the crew, by boats from Germany’s Sixth Flotilla.[l] HMS Llewellyn was badly damaged by a torpedo attack when it came to assist the sinking Paragon.[li] The Second Half-Flotilla, for its part, sank the anchored merchant ship Greypoint and damaged a drifter near Ramsgate, which they also shelled without effect. Another raid on 24 March, this time against Dunkirk, destroyed a another pair of merchant ships.[lii] While these surface raids kept pressure on the Dover Strait defences, the shipping crisis itself was spiralling out of control.

U-boat Crisis, April – June 1917

On Saturday 24 March 1917, the London Times reported on Mr. J. M. Henderson’s parliamentary speech. On Friday the MP from Aberdeenshire stated that, due to the hardships suffered by the poor during the harsh winter of 1916, it would be necessary that ‘the Government should issue regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act directing the local authorities throughout the country to establish depots for the sale and delivery of coal, sugar, and other necessaries.’[liii] The creeping realization amongst the commons that the supply situation was deteriorating was not lost on the Lloyd George government. Indeed, the War Cabinet had already recognized, notably in a series of meetings during the second half of February, that food stockpiling and public rationing were both imperative and imminent.[liv]

Loading torpedoes aboard a coastal U-boat (UB-type), maintained at the Bruges base, 1917

By 21 March the situation was so serious that Arthur Balfour, then the Foreign Secretary, had been forced to convey to the Netherlands that the UK was likely going to begin requisitioning their shipping.[lv] On 2 April the War Cabinet considered the situation ‘most serious’.[lvi] The desperate nature of the shipping losses, and the inability of the Admiralty to resolve the crisis, can be seen in the War Cabinet’s consideration that smaller merchant ships should be built, thus compelling ‘the enemy to expend as many torpedoes as possible in his submarine campaign.’ It was also considered at the 2 April meeting that compulsory mercantile service may be required due to the potential collapse of crew morale.[lvii] All this chaos was being caused by roughly 50 U-boats, an unsustainably high figure that dropped to 40 in May as a result of the exhausting operational tempo the preceding month.[lviii]

Jellicoe, as First Sea Lord, could imagine only material solutions: strengthening merchant ships with bulkheads, or building enormous 50,000 ton ‘unsinkable’ ships for transporting wheat – further indications of the desperate situation.[lix] Indeed, some of the measures recommended to reduce losses were so desperate that had they been implemented the result would have ultimately had a negative impact on the anti-submarine war, such as the War Cabinet suggestion that the Admiralty reduce construction of airship sheds to save steel (airships proved to be ideal platforms for escorting convoys).[lx]

UB III type costal submarine, 500 tons displacement, crewed by three officers and 31 men, armed with four bow and one stern firing torpedoes, plus a single 8.8 or 10.5 cm gun

 

By 4 April figures provided by Sir Leo Chiozza Money, the Shipping Controller, indicated that by February 1918 merchant shipping tonnage would increase by 850,000 tons from building in Britain, plus 312,000 tons abroad, to which could be added the 720,000 tons of German shipping then seized in American ports. At this time it was believed that this new construction, combined with other efficiencies, would be enough to see the United Kingdom through only until the end of the year.[lxi]

On 1 January 1917 the British Empire possessed 16,788,000 tons (gross) of shipping. By 1 May this figure had fallen to 15,467,000 tons, despite new construction.[lxii] At the height of the crisis in April it was expected that the total would likely fall to around 12,862,000 by the end of the year, in other words, that 3.9 million tons would be erased during 1917. In fact, a staggering 9,964,500 tons were destroyed, globally, during the year, of which 3,729,000 had been British, almost matching the Admiralty estimate in April 1917.

Merchant shipping losses, British and World, to all causes. Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., Appendix III, section O, p. 381-2

The British Army needed to import 428,000 tons a month. The Ministry of Munitions imported another 1,400,000 tons monthly. For comparison, Britain imported one million tons of cotton, 70,000 tons of tobacco and 400,000 tons of fertilizers on a monthly basis. It was believed that a minimum of 553,000 tons of goods were required every month to sustain the civilian population.[lxiii] According to Jellicoe’s calculations, 8,050,000 tons of shipping were required for the Navy and Army, and on 1 January 1917 there were 8,394,000 tons available for vital imports. By 31 December 1917 the latter figure would therefore have been reduced to 4,812,000 tons, or a loss of 2.78 million tons of civilian imports per month.[lxiv]

The degree of the crisis is told by these statistics, implying a monthly loss rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 tons for the remainder of 1917. The final, and potentially decisive, result was that civilian imports would fall from three million tons in January to 1.6 million tons by the end of the year. Certainly strong economy would be necessitated, in addition to rationing that if continued unchecked would result in the extinguishing of non-military trade by the summer of 1918.[lxv]

Top scoring U-boat ‘aces’ based on proven tonnage destroyed, from Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, p. 218

While the debate carried on at the Admiralty and in the War Cabinet, the district commanders and SNOs were beginning, on their own accord, to form proto-regional commands and implement convoys. As we have seen, the Scandinavian mineral trade and the Channel food and coal trade. had both been placed under convoy with good results.

Some relief occurred on 3 April when the United States joined the war, a momentous event that was welcomed by the War Cabinet three days later. Diplomatic efforts were crucial if the American and Allied war efforts were to be united for maximum impact. Balfour therefore traveled to the United States aboard RMS Olympic while Rear Admiral William Sims, USN, crossed over to Britain in exchange.[lxvi] When Sims, who had traveled across the Atlantic in civilian disguise – in fact, aboard a merchant ship that struck a mine during the voyage – arrived in London and met with Jellicoe, the message Jellicoe had to convey, as Prendergast and Gibson put it, was dire: ‘the German submarines were winning the war.’[lxvii] On Monday, 9 April, Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that Admiral Sims would make the utmost efforts to mobilize American support for the anti-submarine campaign.[lxviii]

US Ninth Battleship Division, showing USS New York & USS Texas off Rosyth by William Wyllie.

Close coordination with the Americans brought immediate returns as it would now be possible for American imports to Britain to be carried in American merchant ships, freeing British vessels for other duties.[lxix] Auxiliary ships in the form of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (25 armed merchant cruisers and 18 armed trawlers), that patrolled the Shetlands and Faeroes line intercepting American contraband, was no longer required and its ships were redirected to more fruitful purposes until the squadron itself was abolished on 29 November 1917, shortly prior to the arrival in European waters of the United States Navy’s Battleship Division Nine under Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman.[lxx]

Francis Dodd artwork from 1918 showing RN submarine L2 engaging aircraft with its deck cannon.

As part of Jellicoe’s material strategy, Royal Navy aircraft were expanded alongside A/S flotilla craft. Flying boats stationed at Yarmouth and Felixstowe were equipped to locate and attack submarines, making possible large-scale A/S patrols supported by surface vessels. As the patrol system evolved the U-boats adjusted their tactics.

By March 1917 Jellicoe could inform Beatty that the Staff believed between 11 and 21 U-boats had been destroyed so far that year.[lxxi] Three German torpedo boat flotillas, between 30 and 40 destroyers were deployed to support U-boat operations.[lxxii] German seaplanes were engaged in a significant battle with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) for control of the North Sea, as well as carrying out anti-shipping missions, occasionally with success. April was a particularly busy month for the east coast air stations, the Felixstowe H12 flying boats being assigned to conduct ‘spider web’ patrols off the Kentish coast.

H-12 type Felixstowe flying boats on patrol, from Theodore Douglas Hallam, The Spider Web (2009) & ‘Spider Web’ style octagonal patrol areas for NAS Felixstowe.

In fact, the situation at Dover, since the raids in February and March, had resolved into an intense destroyer and seaplane conflict in its own right. The War Cabinet was informed on 26 March that 30 German destroyers had been massed at Zeebrugge.[lxxiii] Another destroyer raid was shortly organized, taking place on 20 April. The Fifth Half-Flotilla (V71, V73, V81, S53, G85 and G42) under Korvettenkapitan Gautier was to conduct an attack against Dover, while boats from the Sixth and First Half-Flotilla (Commander Albrecht in V47, with G95, V68, G96, G91 and V70) raided Calais.[lxxiv] Although in the event little damage was caused, the raid alerted Dover forces which sortied to intercept the retiring German destroyers. About 12:45 am the 21st, HMS Swift, commanded by Commander Ambrose Peck, with HMS Broke in support, spotted an unknown torpedo boat to the port bow. Swift attacked the boat, torpedoing G85 and disabling it, while Broke, under Commander Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans, rammed G42 and disabled the torpedo boat in hand-to-hand action.[lxxv] Broke was damaged by S53’s 105 mm cannon, but still managed to sink G85 with a torpedo after the German flotilla retreated. 89 sailors were recovered from G42 and G85.[lxxvi]

HMS Broke, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

The temporary defeat of the Flanders raiders, the introduction of the Felixstowe flying boats, and above all else, the introduction of the United States, made a powerful tonic for the Admiralty’s ailing morale. Jellicoe, however, still faced a mounting crisis. He turned to the Naval Staff for answers.

Organization of the Naval Staff, 1905 – 1917 (May), from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

In April 1917 the Anti-Submarine Division (ASD) of the staff was composed of 15 officers and two civilians, spread across seven offices located in the Admiralty Building, Block III.[lxxvii] The U-boat threat plot was kept in a Chart Room within the Convoy Section of the Naval Staff. The Chart Room was managed by Commander J. W. Carrington.[lxxviii] this room, known as the ‘X’ room, displayed a 6’ by 9’ map of all of the known information on submarines, convoys and their most recent locations or sightings.[lxxix] The ASD thus controlled a centralized hub for collecting from the Intelligence Division and disseminating to the Operations Division, U-boat data on the approaching Atlantic convoys. U-boat signal intercepts detected by the Direction Finding (D/F) stations along the coast alerted the Director of Intelligence to submarine activity. The cryptanalysts in Room 40 could then triangulate the location of a transmitting U-boat to within 50 or 20 miles and send this information, via pneumatic tube, instantly to the Chart Room.[lxxx]

Naval Staff2.5

It was imperative that Jellicoe be in the closest touch with the Staff, and in May 1917 he was promoted to Chief of the Naval Staff, uniting that position with the office of the First Sea Lord.[lxxxi] These reforms resulted in Admiral Duff’s promotion to Assistant Chief of the Staff, with Henry Oliver becoming the Deputy Chief.[lxxxii] By assigning duties to the assistant and deputy the Chief of Staff was, in Winston Churchill’s words, relieved of ‘a mass of work.’[lxxxiii] The Director of Operations, Captain Thomas Jackson and, after June 1917, Captain George W. Hope, were to prepare a weekly appraisals of the naval situation, with specific attention to submarines, for the First Sea Lord and the War Cabinet.[lxxxiv]

Organization of the Naval Staff and Admiralty Board, c. September 1917, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 20

Captain William Fisher, playing a part in Jellicoe’s reforms, replaced Admiral Duff as DASD. Fisher took a direct interest in operational aspects, orchestrating Jellicoe’s broader mission to centralize methods and material; he would communicate directly with the district commanders, such as on 21 July when he wrote a letter to Plymouth commander Admiral Bethell, proposing the use of kite balloons as a screen for convoys in his Area of Responsibility (AOR).[lxxxv]

 

The Decision for Convoys

The First Sea Lord, as we have seen, was initially skeptical of the possibilities of convoys.[lxxxvi] Early interest in convoy formation, not only in the English Channel and across the North Sea, but also in the Mediterranean, was ignored.[lxxxvii] Jellicoe’s initial blindness to convoy adoption hinged primarily on the scale of the endeavour. As he pointed out in 1934, the convoy system as had evolved by November 1917 for the Atlantic and English Channel required 170 escort vessels of all kinds (of which, 37 were USN destroyers), plus another 32 escorts covering the northern crossing with Norway, and a another 30 escorts in the Mediterranean for a total of 232 vessels, with another 217 escorts working with the fleet units.[lxxxviii] In practice, assembling, directing and communicating with the convoys proved a strenuous task, atmospheric conditions, enemy jamming, battle damage to communications equipment, all had an impact on a convoy’s, or squadron’s, ability to communicate. An officer was assigned to each arrival/departure terminus to manage assembly and coordinate with the escorts and merchantmen. In any given convoy the convoy itself was under the command of the convoy Commodore, while supporting warships were under the authority of the Senior Officer, Escort.[lxxxix]

 

Jellicoe as First Sea Lord, attending the Inter-Allied Conference in Paris, 27 July 1917, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff to his right

In early April the Scandinavian trade began to be convoyed, and with success. This was done at the insistence of the Norwegian government, who urged that the Admiralty do more to protect Norwegian merchant ships in the North Sea, of which 27 were sunk during March, and another 27 in April, plus six Danish and two Swedish neutrals.[xc] Of these ships, as Steve Dunn observes, nine were torpedoed by a single U-boat, U30, over the period 10 to 15 April.[xci]  Losses in the Lerwick – Bergan route, between the Shetland Islands and the Norwegian coast, were running at 25% per month since inception.

Although cross-Channel trade was by now routinely convoyed, the scale of crossing the North Sea, and the importance of the trade, including vitals such as ‘nitrates, carbide, timber, iron and steel,’ now necessitated new tactics.[xcii] Vice Admiral Frederick Brock, in command of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and on his own authority, was sharing destroyers for escort work with the C-in-C East Coast of England, and the C-in-C Rosyth: a plan they initiated on 3 March.[xciii]

Greenwich and the Thames, by William Wyllie

Jellicoe could see that this was the best option, given the dismal results from all other efforts.[xciv] Still, the First Sea Lord was wary about depleting the Grand Fleet’s destroyer flotillas, and was skeptical the convoy system would succeed in the long run.[xcv] In April, however, with the success of the Channel coal trade, where ‘controlled sailings’ had been implemented since 10 February with correspondingly dramatic reduction in losses such that, between then and the end of August, only 16 of the 8,871 ships convoyed across the Channel had been sunk.[xcvi] Jellicoe was just beginning to come around to the implementation of Admiral Duff’s comprehensive recommendation for convoying ‘all vessels – British, Allied and Neutral – bound from North and South Atlantic to United Kingdom’.[xcvii]

The pivot, from the perspective of the War Cabinet, occurred on Monday 23 April, when Lloyd George decided upon an upcoming visit to the Admiralty. The PM’s objective was certainly to put pressure on the Admiralty, but also simply to discover the details of whatever trade protection schemes the Navy was working on. Jellicoe had so far not suggested arranging convoys as the solution, rather relying on a multitude of measures, some more effective than others. In this case, DASD Rear Admiral Duff was in agreement with Grand Fleet C-in-C Admiral Sir David Beatty, as well as Admiral Sims, that convoy should be universally adopted. Jellicoe was still skeptical, having been convinced, in the weeks following the 13 February debate with Hankey, by interviews with a number of merchant ship captains who testified that station-keeping and convoy assembling, in particular, of inbound traffic, would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible.[xcviii] Jellicoe also clung to the dearth of destroyers, as well as an apparently deficient convoy trial that Beatty had conducted as counter-arguments. Under pressure from the PM, however, Jellicoe stated that he would reconsider Duff’s convoy proposal.[xcix]

Merchant convoy maneuvering with air support

Duff produced his report three days later, suggesting a program for convoying all Atlantic trade. The DASD observed that, in fact, contrary to Jellicoe’s perspective that convoys were merely larger targets, ‘it would appear that the larger the convoy passing through any given danger zone, provided it is moderately protected, the less the loss to the Merchant Services; that is, for instance, were it feasible to escort the entire volume of trade which normally enters the United Kingdom per diem in one large group, the submarine as now working would be limited to one attack, which, with a Destroyer escort, would result in negligible losses compared with those new being experienced.’[c] Jellicoe approved the scheme the next day, 27 April 1917, that is, three days before the PM arrived at the Admiralty.[ci]

Under Duff’s scheme, the Atlantic trade would be assembled into convoys at four key depots, where they would be joined by escorts and then shuttled into British harbours. Every four days 18 vessels would depart Gibraltar, escorted by two vessels outward and inward bound (requiring six escorts altogether – the other two being spares). Every five days 18 merchants would depart Dakar, protected by three escorts out and in, (nine escorts total). Every three days between 16-20 vessels would leave Louisburg, escorted by four destroyers both ways (12 total), and lastly, every three days 18 ships would depart Newport News, to be escorted by six destroyers (18 total), for a total program of 45 escorts. A further 45 destroyers would provide protection for the final leg of the inbound convoys, with six destroyers meeting each incoming convoy and escorting it to one of the pre-arranged collection points, either St. Mary’s, the Scillies, Plymouth, Milford Haven or Brest.[cii]

130 ton armed lighter X222, one of the armada of light vessels constructed or converted during PM Asquith’s wartime ministries. Originally designed for amphibious landings, these support craft were in converted to A/S patrol and convoy escort duties in 1917

 

Lloyd George and Hankey did indeed visit the Admiralty on 30 April, and had lunch with Carson, Jellicoe and his family, plus Duff, Captain Webb of the Trade Division and several Assistant Directors from the Naval Staff.[ciii] Jellicoe, the pessimist, considered the Prime Minister ‘a hopeless optimist’ who could not be swayed from his opinions regardless of the 1SL’s cold calculations.[civ] As Hankey phrased it, the meeting ‘set the seal on the decision to adopt the convoy system’.[cv] As significant as the decision in favour of convoys had been, another important decision was made at the next War Cabinet meeting: Lloyd George and Jellicoe agreed that Eric Geddes should be appointed as a civilian naval controller to administer all shipbuilding and supply for naval purposes.[cvi] Geddes strong hand ensured the delivering of the mass of material needed for ASW, with vessels available for A/S duty ballooning from 64 destroyers, 11 sloops and 16 P-boats in July 1917 to 102 destroyers, 24 sloops and 44 P-boats by November, a standard that was maintained well into 1918 when in April there were 115 destroyers, 35 sloops and 45 P-boats available for ASW.[cvii]

Various Francis Dodd artwork detailing shipboard convoy and patrol routine

It was still early in May when in Washington meanwhile, Sims and Balfour had convinced the Americans to supply 36 destroyers for RN use, a welcome development that would fill half of Jellicoe’s destroyer requirements.[cviii] Indeed, on the 22nd Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the general situation was, ‘for the moment, more reassuring.’[cix] During May the loss rate fell significantly: 106,000 tons of shipping had been destroyed in the Mediterranean, with another 213,000 tons – 78 British ships – lost in all other theatres.[cx] 

Furthermore, the RN and RNAS were conducting more frequent engagements with U-boats, suggesting that the A/S measures were having some impact, although as yet there were few concrete results. Of the seven U-boats destroyed during May, only three were attributable to RN efforts: U81, torpedoed by RN submarine E54, UC26, rammed by the destroyer HMS Milne, and UB39 which blew up on Dover Strait mines.[cxi] Significantly, the nature of the U-boat attacks had changed. In March, only 69 ships approaching Britain from the North or South Atlantic had been attacked, with only 32 ships attacked leaving British ports for the same destinations (this was in addition to 62 fishing vessels that were attacked, and another 60 ships in the Channel). By May the figure for import ships attacked had climbed to 100, while the export number had fallen to 20 (only 38 vessels in the Channel attacked, and only 20 fishing vessels).[cxii] Whereas 100,333 tons had been sunk in the Channel during May, only 32,000 tons were sunk in June 1917, a major success.[cxiii]

HMS Fawn, a 380 ton destroyer armed with one 12 pdr and five 6 pdr guns plus two torpedo tubes, on convoy escort duty & a Japanese destroyer escorting the Alexandria – Tarento convoy, 1918

By the end of May 1917, as Henry Newbolt observed, it was the unescorted import trade that was now at the greatest risk of attack: ‘five times as vulnerable as the export trade’.[cxiv] Experimental Atlantic convoys were tested late in May and, by the end of July 1917, 21 Atlantic convoys had run successfully. Of the 354 ships escorted across that ocean, a mere two were sunk by U-boats. Of all convoys run during this period, of 8,894 ships convoyed, only 27 were destroyed by enemy submarines. The statistics demonstrated that convoys were the best method for protecting merchant shipping. Although ships traveling in convoys were relatively safe, there was still a great mass of unescorted traffic that was easy prey for the U-boats. During the May to July period, 910,133 tons of the total 1,868,555 tons sunk was destroyed by High Sea Fleet U-boats operating in the Atlantic.[cxv]

U-boats operating in 1917, and British tonnage sunk per submarine. Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 1931, p. 195

Shipping losses were heavy and Jellicoe reported that, up to 20 May, 185 ships had been sunk by U-boats (105 British, 36 Allied and 44 neutrals), for 239,816 tons of British shipping lost: a cumulative total of 362,183 tons destroyed.[cxvi] Jellicoe estimated this number would likely climb to 500,000 tons before the end of the month. In the event, 616,316 tons (or 596,629)[cxvii] were indeed sunk by the end of May, 352,596 tons of which were British.[cxviii] There were 126 U-boats in Germany’s possession that May, with 47 the average number at sea on a daily basis that month. A month later the figure was 55, falling to 41 in July. 15 boats were lost during that three-month period, equating to 53 merchants ships (124,750 tons) sunk on average for each U-boat lost, which was down from the rate of 86 ships (194,524 tons) during the previous period, February to April.

In terms of U-boats lost or destroyed versus new commissions, September was the costliest month for the German submarine force. From Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 278

Unfortunately for the Allies, U-boat losses were more than made up for by the 24 new U-boats constructed during May and July.[cxix] In James Goldrick’s phrase ‘the navy admitted reality’ as more U-boats were urgently required, and an order for 95 boats, mainly UB and UC types but including ten U-cruisers, was placed in early June. At the peak of new construction, after another 220 boats were ordered in June 1918, some 300 U-boats of varying types were on order, 74 were completed in the ten months before the armistice, 1.85 per week.[cxx] Besides the battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg, and three further light cruisers, these would be amongst the last warships completed for the Kaiserliche Marine.[cxxi]

 

Convoy Implementation, July to September 1917

The improvements in air support, war material, American destroyers, the rolling adoption of convoys, combined with fatigue amongst the U-boats and loss of some experienced crews, was having an impact on the spiralling shipping loss rate. Import trade, which was now generally convoyed, was well protected so once again the U-boats concentrated their efforts against outbound shipping, which so far had not been incorporated into the convoy system.[cxxii] Jellicoe was now convinced of the need to implement a total convoy system, and outward-bound ships began to be convoyed on 13 August, the needed escorts being removed from the Grand Fleet. The results were excellent: during August, only three of the 200 ships convoyed in outbound convoys were lost, a figure that increased to 789 ships convoyed with only two losses during September. Likewise, 1,306 ships were convoyed inbound across the Atlantic, with only 18 lost that month.[cxxiii]

When the system was fully operational, as Arthur Marder described, there were ‘on the average, sixteen homeward convoys at sea, of which three were in the Home Submarine Danger Zone (Western Approaches, Irish Sea, of English Channel), under destroyer escort. There was an average of seven outward convoys at sea, of which four to five were in the Home Danger Zone. It is worth emphasizing that the convoy system protected neutral as well as British and Allied shipping’.[cxxiv]

The effectiveness of the U-boats had been crippled by this comprehensive convoy system, although the Mediterranean, where convoys had not yet been implemented, remained fertile hunting grounds, albeit with too few submarines operating there to represent a serious impediment to Allied supplies. Regardless, between October and November 1917 a convoy system was arranged for those waters, and by the end of November 381 ships, or 40% of all the Mediterranean traffic, had been successfully convoyed with the loss of only nine vessels.[cxxv]

Depth charge attack, by William Wyllie.

One of the key material improvements was in the quality and quantity of Britain’s undersea weapons, from torpedoes to depth charges and mines. During 1915 and 1916, 6,177 not very effective mines were laid in the Heligoland Bight. In 1917 the Allies reverse-engineered the more effective German mine, and production numbers increased significantly. Jellicoe was an aggressive advocate of mine operations and he championed the introduction of the German ‘horned’ type over the defective British ‘lever’ mines, specifically for the Dover Barrage,[cxxvi] while also advancing the technical and quantitative refinement of aerial bombs and escort depth-charges.[cxxvii] 12,450 mines were produced between October and December 1917,[cxxviii] with 10,389 laid in the Heligoland Bight and Dover Strait. Marder states that 20,000 mines were laid in the Dover Strait and Bight between July and December 1917, of which 15,686 were laid (in 76 fields) in the Bight during 1917.

hornedmines

‘Horned’ mines carried aboard a minelayer.

British mine counter-measures also improved, with 726 vessels counted in the sweeping force, or paravane equipped, so that only ten British vessels, less than 20,000 tons, were sunk by mines during 1918, compared to more than 250,000 tons lost in the first ten months of 1917.[cxxix]

Six U-boats were in fact destroyed by mines between September and the end of the year.[cxxx] At the beginning of 1918 the increased lethality of the Dover, Bight and Zeebrugge minefields meant that U-boats wishing to reach the Atlantic approaches had to exit the North Sea via the Orkney’s passage, or risk running the Channel nets and minefields. A vast effort was decided upon to mine the North Sea exit (250 miles, requiring 100,000 special ‘antenna’ mines),[cxxxi] and plans were examined to block the U-boats’ bases at Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Kiel. Another 7,500 mines would cut-off the Danish strait.[cxxxii]

A scheme to deploy 21,000 mines from Wangeroog to Heligoland to Pellworm, thus attempting to block the base of operations for the High Sea Fleet’s U-boats, was also considered. Actually executing these plans once again raised problems exposed by the schemes of Winston Churchill (Borkum) and Sir John Fisher (Baltic), that had not been resolved in 1914-15. The operation would require a vast armament, success was not guaranteed, and the potential for a catastrophic defeat was real.[cxxxiii]

 

RNAS Million based Coastal airship C23A escorting a convoy early in 1918 (C23A was wrecked on 10 May near Newbury)

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had not been neglected in this vast expansion of military hardware. Indeed, the coastal patrol and convoy escort roles supplied by the naval aviators were essential and had been significantly expanded, with 324 seaplanes, flying boats, and airplanes on duty, plus around 100 airships of various types.[cxxxiv]

Felixstowe F3, N4230, IWM photograph.

During 1917 the majority of these aircraft were involved in air patrol missions, in June 1917 only 46 airplane and 46 airship convoy escort missions were flown, but the figure rose to 92 and 86 respectively in September before poor weather curtailed flying.[cxxxv] By April 1918 the figure was 176 and 184, jumping to 402 and 269 in May. Airships provided the convoy with a constant deterrent to submarine attack, except during night, while flying boats and airplanes could fly in advance of the convoy on look-out, or counter-attack any located U-boats with bombs, which increased in potency from 230 lb delayed-fuse bombs introduced in May 1917 to the 520 lb bombs in use by 1918.[cxxxvi]

 

RNAS and RAF coverage of the Atlantic approaches by the SNO Plymouth and Queenstown. The RNAS South West Group under Wing Captain E. L. Gerrard implemented sweeping ‘spider-web’ flying-boat patrols off the coast of England and Wales, while Vice Admiral Bayly at Queenstown worked with Captain Hutch Cone, United States Navy, to develop flying-boat bases in Ireland.

Although convoy escort and improved A/S methods and material reduced the potential for a starvation defeat, shortages were still a serious problem. Oil imports to the UK were falling drastically as tankers were destroyed. On 11 June Jellicoe reported that he intended to form weekly oil convoys to relieve the situation.[cxxxvii] Two days later Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the implementation of the convoy system was ‘nearly complete.’[cxxxviii]

Convoys were highly successful in 1917, as this figure from Marder indicates. Of the 26,404 ships that sailed in convoys during that year, only 147 were lost. The Scandinavian and Atlantic convoys were the most susceptible targets for convoy interdiction missions, while the sparsely escorted Mediterranean had the highest loss rate that year.

Effects of Ocean Convoys, with the losses vs successful convoy sailing ‘cross-over’ point at August – September 1917, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 73

By the end of 1917 26,404 ships had sailed in organized merchant convoys: 4,484 across the Atlantic, 6,155 between Scotland and Scandinavia, and 15,684 in the French coal trade, with a total loss of only 147 vessels.[cxxxix] 32.5% and 42.5%, respectively, of those ships that were lost while being convoyed, were sunk while entering or leaving a convoy, when confusion was at its greatest.[cxl] These results were significant, as compared with June 1917 when 122 British merchant ships were sunk with a loss of 417,925 tons in a single month. Although loss rates dropped significantly by November, 85 ships were still lost to mines (8) and U-boats (76) at loss of 253,087 tons of British merchant shipping in December.[cxli] Allied tonnage losses, that is, non-British shipping losses, plummeted from 72 ships at 111,683 tons in July to only 46 ships at 86,981 tons in December.[cxlii]

By August 1917 the convoy system had been systematically implemented in all three maritime theatres, the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean

The Flanders UB and UC flotillas were, however, continually destroying Channel shipping at an average of 50,000 tons a month for the entire period and the Third Ypres offensive had failed to capture Passchendaele, and critically, the U-boat bases along the Belgian coast. Despite these set-backs there was room for hope. In the Atlantic the tonnage loss rate fell from 550,000 tons in April, to only 165,000 tons in November. 37 U-boats were destroyed during the second half of 1917, 16 by mines, the total equivalent to 7.4 boats a month, nearly matching the commission rate for new U-boats, 8.8 per month.[cxliii]

Counter-blockade submarine U151, 1,500 tons displacement, first of seven initially designed for use as blockade runners and in April 1917 converted to an Atlantic battle submarine, entering service in July 1917.

In September there were 139 submarines operating, the wartime peak, allowing for an increased daily average of 56 U-boats in October, more than the 39 at sea in November or the 48 in December.[cxliv] With nearly fifty U-boats continuously at sea every day, and new long-endurance U-boat cruisers plumbing the Atlantic to the tune of 52,000 tons per three month cruise, as U155 achieved in the fall of 1917 (10 steamers & seven sailing ships), the submarine war was far from over.[cxlv]

Daily average of U-boats at sea & total (Allied, Neutral & British) tonnage sunk on average per boat. The sinking rate was cut almost in half between March and December 1917. Furthermore the average daily number and size of vessels sunk was falling: whereas in March 889 tons of British shipping was on average destroyed each day, by August that number had fallen to 485 tons, & half again to 284 tons by December. In March – June the average size of each ship sunk was 5,084 tons gross, falling to 4,342 tons in July – October. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 58

 

Convoy Battles, October – December 1917

From Jellicoe’s perspective, the Royal Navy was engaged in an unprecedented destroyer and submarine action with the German Navy, with the possibility for a High Sea Fleet sortie at any time. Early in the morning of October 17, German light cruisers raided a west-bound Scandinavian convoy of 12 (two British, one Belgian, one Danish, five Norwegian, three Swedish) that had departed Marstein in the company of two destroyers, HMS Strongbow and Mary Rose.[cxlvi] Just after 6 am on the 17th, Strongbow spotted two unidentified vessels on a converging course. In fact, these were the 3,800 ton German minelaying cruisers SMS Brummer and Bremse, with orders to mine the Scandinavian convoy routes.

 

SMS Brummer, minelaying cruiser that along with sistership SMS Bremse, attacked a Scandinavian convoy on 17 October 1917 & HMS Strongbowdestroyed by SMS Brummer & Bremse at the action of 17 October 1917

The light cruisers proceeded to make short work of Strongbow and Mary Rose with their 15 cm guns.[cxlvii] The trawlers Elise and P. Fannon, armed with only one 6 pdr gun apiece, along with three unarmed steamers, managed to escape and retrieve Lieutenant Commander Brooke, CO of the Strongbow and others, from the water.[cxlviii] The enemy cruisers destroyed the remaining nine merchants in the convoy.[cxlix]

Locations of major minefields, Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, p. 62 & The chaotic minefield situation in the Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, from Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, p. 168-9

On 17 November the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight took place when the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Rear Admiral Phillimore, a component of Admiral Pakenham’s Battle Cruiser Force, intercepted a group of High Sea Fleet minesweepers that were attempting to clear the edge of the Bight minefields.[cl] Rear Admiral Phillimore’s HMS Repulse group pursued the minesweepers, but the Germans deployed a large smoke screen that successfully covered their escape.[cli]

HMS Repulse or Renown at steam, by William Weyllie. & Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, also by Wyllie

On 11 December Admiral Scheer ordered Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla (Torpedo Boat Flotilla II), comprising the largest and fastest destroyers in the fleet,[clii] to raid Britain’s merchant convoys. The Fourth Half-Flotilla was to attack shipping near Newcastle, while the Third Half-Flotilla raided the Scandinavian Bergen-Lerwick line. During the winter darkness early on 12 December, the Fourth Half-Flotilla destroyers (B97, B109, B110 & B112), moving north up the coast, encountered the stragglers from a southbound coastal convoy out of Lerwick, Shetlands, and torpedoed two transports, the Danish Peter Willemoes and the Swedish Nike and sank a third small coastal steamer shortly afterwards.[cliii] The Fourth Half-Flotilla then withdrew for its rendezvous with the light cruiser SMS Emden at 5:15 pm.[cliv]

German destroyers in formation, from Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), photo 9.1

The complexities of night-time communication in crowded sea-lanes meant that no clear indication of what was happening reached the Admiralty. Furthermore, the poor weather conditions and dearth of coastal lighting (suppressed except at specific times at Admiralty orders) resulted in the Third Half-Flotilla becoming lost and eventually approaching the Norwegian coast.[clv]

 

G101-type German destroyer, c. 1916

So it was with complete surprise that the daily convoy from Lerwick to the Marstein lighthouse, escorted by destroyers HMS Pellew and HMS Partridge, plus four armed trawlers, at 11:30 am south-west of Bjorne Fjord, encountered the German destroyers of the Third Half-Flotilla, under the command of Korvettenkapitan (Lieutenant-Commander) Hans Kolbe, a powerful force composed of SMS G101, G103, G104 & V100.[clvi] Lieutenant-Commander J. R. C. Cavendish of the Pellew, when the unknown destroyers approaching the convoy did not answer his signals, transmitted a warning notice to Beatty informing the C-in-C of the expected enemy contact (a signal actually received by the armoured cruiser HMS Shannon and its group, about sixty miles away), and then ordered the convoy to scatter.[clvii]

A RN destroyer and three armed drifters escorting a convoy of merchant ships, c. 1917-18

The 12 December 1917 convoy action, from Scheer’s High Sea Fleet, p. 383

Pellew and Partridge placed themselves between the German destroyers and the convoy hoping to buy time.[clviii] Kolbe’s force destroyed Partridge with gunfire and torpedoes until it sank. Pellew, partially disabled by gunfire, was lost in a storm and LTC Cavendish was able to navigate the destroyer towards the Norwegian coast while Kolbe turned on the convoy (six merchants, four trawlers) and annihilated it.[clix] Although the Partridge distress report was received by HMS Rival and then transmitted to the HMS Birkenhead group (3rd Light Cruiser Squadron) south of Norway, Kolbe’s force managed to slip east past the picket line shortly after sunset.[clx]

Chart of 12 December 1917 destroyer raid on the Scandinavian convoy route, from Marder, FDSF, IV

While this example demonstrated that Germany’s surface assets were very much still a risk to the convoy system, another encounter a week later with U-boats operating near a convoy assembly point highlighted the multidimensional nature of the battle.

A convoy of 17 departed Falmouth in stormy weather at 11 am on 18 December, screened by several trawlers. When the convoy was clear of the Channel and off Prawle point at 1:30 pm, the SS Riversdale was torpedoed. At noon the C-in-C Devonport, receiving reports of sunk merchant ships, ordered all merchant traffic between Plymouth and Portland to be halted, a condition that remained in force until 8 pm, and then again from 5:15 am.[clxi]

The 7,046 ton Cunard liner SS Vinovia was the next to be torpedoed, off Wolf Rock an hour later, with nine lives lost.[clxii] The Rame Head wireless-telegraphy (W/T) station reported a sighting, and the C-in-C Devonport ordered the trawlers in F section to investigate. These were the Mewslade and Coulard Hill. These hydrophone equipped vessels established a hydrophone picket, but did not locate any submarines.[clxiii] Meanwhile, airship C23, which had been despatched to investigate the Rame Head W/T contact, discovered that the French steamer St. Andre had also been torpedoed, sometime around around midnight.[clxiv]

UC100, UCIII-type coastal minelayer submarine, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

Lieutenant John Lawris RNR, in the sailing ship Mitchell, encountered a U-boat surfacing in windy weather off the north Devon coast. When, at 10:10 am, a submarine surfaced in front of the Mitchell Lt. Lawris opened fire, multiple shell hits causing the U-boat to dive. Although the trawler Sardius raced to support the Mitchell, the submarine was already gone.[clxv] Mitchell relayed this information to the Trevose Head W/T station at 10:25, and the report was broadcast around the region, where it was received at Penzance, Falmouth, Newlyn and elsewhere.[clxvi] The rush of W/T communication amidst the flurry of sighting reports caused communication delays. One Falmouth flotilla, carrying out hydrophone investigations of sightings, did not receive a sinking report until five and half hours after the event.[clxvii]

UB148 at sea

At 4:00 pm the Prince Charles de Belgique, a Belgian steamer, was attacked by a submarine eight miles from the Lizard. Luckily the torpedo missed, whence the U-boat was spotted by a Newlyn NAS seaplane cruising overhead at 500 ft. The seaplane carried out a bombing attack but was unsuccessful. Simultaneously at 4 pm, the trawler Take Care, while protecting the Brixham fishing fleet, spotted a submarine near Berry Head, although no further sightings were made. Several hours later trawler Lysander was picking up the survivors of the torpedoed Norwegian steamer Ingrid II, which had been enroute to Cardif for repairs.[clxviii] The Alice Marie was sunk next, sometime before midnight, then the Warsaw at 1:20 am, and then at 4 am the Eveline. The trawlers Rinaldo and Ulysses could do nothing to intervene, dashing between reports and unable to make firm detections with their hydrophones.[clxix]

A significant score of ships destroyed, and no submarine caught in the act. The impact of A/S measures continued to be essentially random, thus when UB56 crashed into a mine in the English Channel it became the only German casualty associated with the 18 December action.[clxx] Ten merchant ships of three nations had been lost, but the convoy, reduced to 16, still crossed successfully.

St. Paul’s and Blackfriars Bridge, by William Wyllie.

These battles and others like them demonstrate that as 1917 came to a close the Royal Navy had to strengthen and refine its procedures for convoy escort and ASW. Outside of the Mediterranean, the English Channel, Irish Sea and the Scandinavian corridor were all vulnerable to attack, especially near the as yet unescorted coastal routes.

 

Resolution: Attacks on the Belgian Submarine Bases & the Defeat of the U-boats in 1918

When 1918 opened the convoy system had been widely adopted and plentiful resources were being supplied to the regional commanders. The coastal space, however, had become highly contested. A German surface raid attack near Yarmouth on 14 January involved 50 vessels of various kinds, but was driven off by Commodore Tyrwhitt’s Harwich Force.[clxxi] Despite the ongoing surface and submarine battle, crucially, merchant sinkings were well below crisis levels and falling.[clxxii] In December 1917 the German Admiralty made Vice Admiral Ritter von Mann-Tiechler head of a dedicated U-boat office, recognition of ad hoc nature of the previous year of unrestricted submarine warfare.[clxxiii]

Sir Eric Campbell Geddes as Vice Admiral and First Lord of the Admiralty, 1917, photograph by Walter Stoneman

Naval Staff reforms c. January 1918, from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

The Naval Staff as organized in January 1918 for the Geddes – Wemyss administration, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 27

1918adboard2.5jpg-1-1

Jellicoe, in a controversial decision by Lloyd George and Geddes, was removed from office in December, and then replaced by his Deputy, Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.[clxxiv] Vice Admiral Sir Herbert L. Heath became the Second Sea Lord, Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey retained the Third Sea Lord position, and Rear Admiral Hugh H. D. Tothill became the Fourth Sea Lord. Duff stayed on as ACNS, and Rear Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle became Deputy DCNS and Rear Admiral George P. W. Hope of the Naval Staff’s Operations Division the Deputy First Sea Lord.[clxxv] Geddes now reformed the staff again, delegating home operations and air to the DCNS, the ASD and other trade protection elements to the ACNS, while the Deputy 1SL assumed responsibility for foreign operations.[clxxvi]

naval-staff3.3-1918

Next to fall from the famous Geddes axe was Vice Admiral Bacon, the long serving SNO Dover. Wemyss appointed Rear Admiral Roger Keyes in his place on 1 January 1918. Captain Wilfred Tomkinson became Captain of the Dover Destroyers.[clxxvii] The arrangement of the Dover Barrage, as it had been under Bacon, was expanded with a new system of illumination, authored by Wing Commander F. A. Brock (RNAS), son of the Brock of Brock’s firework (and explosive bullet) manufacturer, coinciding with a new patrol scheme, whereby 80 to 100 destroyers and auxiliaries were constantly patrolling the Straits by day and night.[clxxviii]

The positions of the Channel mine net and Folkestone – Gris Nez minefields in 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

Between 19 December 1917 and 8 February 1918 four U-boats were mined in the Channel, and UB35 was depth-charged by HMS Leven.[clxxix] The increased danger was so significant that Commodore Michelsen was forced to prohibit the use of the Channel route and instead endorse the northern route around Scotland, effectively adding five days of transit to the U-boats’ cruise.[clxxx]

Drifter net-mine deployment

The Flanders command launched another anti-shipping sortie on 14 January with 14 destroyers, although in the event no merchant ships were encountered.[clxxxi] A month later, on 13 February, Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla was despatched to attack the Dover – Calais barrage, in particular, the lights that since December 1917 had drastically increased the risk to transiting U-boats.[clxxxii] Heinecke’s destroyers departed in thick fog, and anchored overnight north of Norderney.

Dover trawlers and motor-launches, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

After working around to the English coast the attackers, eight in total, split into two half-flotillas and waited until night, and then, around 12:30 am on the 15th, began their raid against the well lit and heavily defended cross-Channel barrage. Attaining complete surprise, Heinecke’s force (Fourth Half-Flotilla) destroyed, according to Scheer, a searchlight vessel, 13 drifters, a U-boat chaser, a torpedo boat and two motor-boats, while the other half-flotilla (Third Half-Flotilla), working the southern end of the barrage, sank 12 trawlers and two motor-boats. Steve Dunn and James Goldrick give the accurate figure of seven drifters, one trawler sunk, with three drifters one paddle steamer damaged.[clxxxiii]

Zeebrugge raid of 22 April 1918, showing location of harbour assault force and canal blockships, from Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (1951)

Dover’s new C-in-C Admiral Roger Keyes now conducted the long-planned Flanders coast raid on 22 April.[clxxxiv] Although the blockships meant to obstruct the Zeebrugge harbour were only effective for a few days, the daring raid was described as a triumph by the press, with eight Victoria Crosses being awarded to the participants.[clxxxv] A further attempt to block the Ostend canal was attempted on 9-10 May, with likewise limited results.[clxxxvi]

On 23 April 1918 the High Sea Fleet launched a planned raid against the Scandinavian convoy route.[clxxxvii] This was a major operation involving the battlecruisers of the Scouting Group under Admiral von Hipper, in addition to light cruisers and destroyers, supported by Scheer’s main force. As the advanced group cleared the Heligoland minefields, however, SMS Moltke threw a propeller and suffered a turbine failure that ultimately damaged the engines and caused a breach in the hull. The battlecruiser had to be taken in tow by SMS Oldenburg.[clxxxviii]

24 April 1918 High Sea Fleet sortie, from James Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), map 13.1

The Grand Fleet was notified by Room 40 that the High Sea Fleet was out of harbour and Beatty prepared the fleet for sea,[clxxxix] although there was no chance the British could catch the Germans before they returned to harbour.[cxc] Later that evening, after being restored to its own power, Moltke was torpedoed by RN submarine E42, but managed to return safety of the Jade.[cxci] The fleet operation had failed to locate any convoys and the High Sea Fleet would not sortie again until it sailed for internment on 24 November 1918.

The bomb-proof U-boat pens at Bruges.

While the U-boats’ areas of operation were slowly being squeezed by increasingly comprehensive convoys and sophisticated hydrophone and aerial sweeps, the bombing campaign by RNAS Dunkirk, and after 1 April 1918, RAF No. 5 Group, against the Flanders U-boat bases was renewed.  Wing Captain Charles Lambe’s 27 May operating orders called for the No. 5 Group (Dunkirk) to bomb the Bruges docks twice a day, both day and night.[cxcii] Indeed, 70 tons of bombs were dropped on Bruges and Zeebrugge during May 1918.[cxciii]

 

Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) naval air, airship, and training establishment map, March 1918, and Royal Air Force (RAF) Home Defence Groups.

From mid-June until the end of August, 86 tons of bombs were dropped on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges by No. 5 Group, with another 49 tons dropped by other RAF squadrons.[cxciv] Between February 1917 and November 1918 the various Allied bombing forces (the US Northern Bombing Group had been forming since June 1918),[cxcv] managed to drop 524 tons of bombs on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges, and, although the Bruges electrical works were destroyed and the Zeebrugge lock gates targeted, only three submarines were damaged by the bombing programme.[cxcvi]

The U-boats, for their part, had been forced once again to change tactics, focusing on the lightly escorted outbound traffic returning across the Atlantic to America. During the summer of 1918 the U-boats, by expanding their area of operations into the western and southern Atlantic, scored a series successful sinkings.

Powerful 2,000 ton U139 – U141 ‘cruiser’ type developed for long-range operations in the Atlantic, armed with two 150 mm cannons and 19 torpedoes for its six torpedo tubes. & U140, double-hulled 12,000 nm range 2,000 ton submarine crewed by six officers and 56 men, armed with 8.8 cm and 10 cm guns and six torpedo tubes, four bow and two stern, from Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, Encyclopedia of U-boats from 1904 to the Present (2004), p. 39

1918

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1918

However, as the return voyage traffic was empty of supplies or troops the impact on the war was marginal in comparison to the 1.5 million American soldiers that successfully crossed the Atlantic.[cxcvii] Although shipping losses remained in the 300,000 ton/month range for the first eight months of 1918, with a high of 368,750 tons sunk in March, followed by a low of 268,505 tons in June, the sinking rate was not high enough to cripple Allied shipping.[cxcviii]

 

convoy01Convoys in 1918, by John Everett

justicia

32,000 ton White Star liner Justicia, sunk 19 – 20 July 1918, despite escort, by the combined efforts of UB64, U54, with UB124 in support (damaged by escorts and then scuttled).

A notable footnote is the 10 – 25 May 1918 concentration, wherein eight U-boats grouped against the western approaches off the Irish coast. Luckily for the Admiralty, this concentration was known and cleared through careful routing of approaching convoys, thus, as Newbolt phrased it, the Royal Navy had avoided the ‘the most methodical and elaborate attempt that the Germans Staff had as yet made to interfere with the convoy system.’[cxcix]

Meanwhile, the monthly loss rate for U-boats climbed significantly during 1918, from Gibson & Prendergast, German Submarine War

The U-boats certainly needed some change in method, as during 1918 69 U-boats were destroyed, a figure that matched new construction.[cc] As Lawrence Sondhaus concluded, ‘the balance sheet of Allied tonnage sunk versus German submarines lost clearly tipped from favoring the Germans in 1917 (6.15 million tons at a cost of sixty-three U-boats) to favoring the Allies in 1918 (2.75 million tons at a cost of sixty-nine U-boats).’[cci] The implementation of air-escorted coastal convoys for the East Coast of Britain and the Irish Sea – the two remaining areas of highest shipping losses – closed the final weakness in the trade defence system, and, as Tarrant phrased it, ‘all hopes of the U-boats forcing a decision finally evaporated’.[ccii]

Sinking locations, February to October 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

In August 1918, with the submarine war failing and the Allies preparing for their final Western Front offensive, Admiral von Holtzendorff resigned, being replaced by Admiral Scheer.[cciii] At a meeting between Scheer and senior German industrialists held 1 October 1918 it was determined that every effort should be made to increase submarine construction, first to 16 per month and eventually up to 30 per month.[cciv] This was too little too late, however, as the submarine war was winding down as Germany’s military situation on the continent collapsed.

Decline in global merchant sinking, May – November 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

The Flanders U-boat bases were liberated during October 1918, a decisive event in the Allied Hundred Days offensive. The Germans evacuated Ostend on 17 October, and then Zeebrugge and Bruges two days later. On 21 October the U-boat command issued the order to cease attacks on passenger ships, followed by the recall of all U-boats to Wilhelmshaven, from which the expected final sortie of the High Sea Fleet was to take place.[ccv] The naval mutiny following the 28 October order for the suicidal final sortie, and resulting capture of the fleet bases at Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven and Kiel by revolutionaries on 3 November, at last terminated the submarine threat.[ccvi]

Approximate locations of U-boats destroyed during the First World War, from Gibson & Prendergast

“The Archaeology of First World War U-boat Losses in the English Channel and its Impact on the Historical Record,” Innes McCartney, Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 105, no. 2, May 2019, p. 183-201
UB131 beached near Hastings, 9 January 1921, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 65

The RAF memorial, Victoria Embankment, c. 1923 by William Wyllie

Conclusion

As Stephen Roskill observed of the British experience with ASW during the Second World War, the immediate lesson was the complete failure of hunting groups, and the superior nature of escorted convoys, in particular with destroyer and air support. The old argument of offensive versus defensive measures masked the aggressive naval officer’s distaste for the rigors of convoy duty.[ccvii] The advantages of convoys were undeniable: the total space the convoy occupied was marginal when compared to the visibility of thousands of independently sailing vessels, which in effect acted as a screen for the convoys, until controls were tightened as losses continued into 1918.

First World War Royal Navy officers, by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1921.

Fast attack forces able to slip through the Royal Navy’s blockade, such as minelayers and destroyers, produced decisive results against convoys, as they were able to overwhelm the escorts. The U-boats, by concentrating against the coasts and the convoy dispersion points, and attacking the thinly escorted Atlantic and Norwegian convoy routes, were still able to inflict serious losses. The Admiralty did arrive at the essential formula for success – vastly improved A/S escorts, convoys, qualitative and quantitative improvements in material and technology from mines, depth-charges, bombs and shell, plus flying boats, airships, Q-ships, hydrophones, minesweepers and paravanes. So long as as the High Sea Fleet did not escalate the scale of its counter-blockade operations, the crucial merchant supplies would get through, while peripheral attacks, such as by the Zeppelins and Gothas against London and the coastal bases and arsenals, could not decide the outcome of the war.

The German naval command had gambled on an uncertain weapon, and come close to success. As the U-boat war evolved during 1917, both sides were forced to dramatically adjust their operations and tactics. For the Allies, restricting the movement of, and eventually counter-attacking the U-boats became the new paradigm, whereas Germany abandoned main fleet battle to focus completely on submarine construction and flotilla deployment. The historical parallel with 18th century convoy and the guerre de course was proven correct,[ccviii] and by the end of the war the tools to effectively locate and destroy U-boats had been invented, tested and operationalized. For the U-boats the lessons were clear: strength lay in numbers, and safety at night, far away from air patrols. The Second Battle of the Atlantic, twenty years later, would prove which side had truly grappled with the crisis, and mastered it.

After the War: UB77 in Portsmouth harbour with HMS Victory, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 55

HMS Renown departs Portsmouth, 16 March 1920, with HMS Victory and UB77 at left, by William Wyllie.
Francis Dodd drawing of the crew cabin aboard Royal Navy ML558 & sketches of U-boats surrendering, 20 November 1918, & Square-rigged sailing ship at sea, by William Wyllie

Notes

[i] Marc Milner, “The Atlantic War, 1939-1945: The Case for a New Paradigm,” in Decision in the Atlantic, ed. Marcus Faulkner and Christopher M. Bell (University of Kentucky: Andarta Books, 2019), 5–19.

[ii] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, Vol. I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Arcole Publishing, 2017)., chapter 40, loc. 14420

[iii] Hague Convention on Land Warfare, July 1899, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=CD0F6C83F96FB459C12563CD002D66A1&action=openDocument

 & Hague Convention on Neutral Powers in Naval War, October 1907, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=06A47A50FE7412AFC12563CD002D6877&action=openDocument

[iv] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 5 vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1931)., p. 195

[v] V. E. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, 1914-1945 (London: Cassel & Co, 2000)., p. 50

[vi] Donald Macintyre, The Battle of the Atlantic (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military Classics, 2006)., p. 73-7

[vii] Nick lloyd, Hundred Days: The End of the Great War, Kindle ebook (New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013)., Chapter 13, loc 4088

[viii] See for example, Nick Hewitt, The Kaiser’s Pirates, Hunting Germany’s Raiding Cruisers in World War I, Kindle ebook (New York: Pen & Sword Books, Ltd., 2013)., also, Julian Corbett, Naval Operations, vol. I, V vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1920).

[ix] Nicolas Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War, trans. Geoffrey Brooks, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2015)., chapter 7, loc. 2730-5

[x] Gary Sheffield, “Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Arras: A British Perspective,” in Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, ed. Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010), 15–30., p. 15-6

[xi] John Terraine, Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009)., part I, chapter 3, loc. 1297

[xii] Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War., chapter 7, loc. 2735

[xiii] Holger Herwig, The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)., p. 308

[xiv] Edwyn A. Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (London: Leo Cooper, 1994)., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xv] Gray., chapter 10, loc. 2451

[xvi] H. A. Jones, The War In The Air, Antony Rowe Ltd. reprint, vol. IV, VI vols. (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1934)., p. 47

[xvii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 51

[xviii] Tarrant., p. 51

[xix] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 47

[xx] Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 1923)., chapter 15, loc. 5209

[xxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 48

[xxii] ‘”Blockade” Effect in U.S. Trade,’ 19 March 1917, London Times, p. 7

[xxiii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 49

[xxiv] Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xxv] Arthur Marder, ed., Portrait of an Admiral, The Life And Papers Of Herbert Richmond. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952)., p. 228

[xxvi] Daniel A. Baugh, “Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond and the Objects of Sea Power,” in Mahan Is Not Enough: The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, ed. James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College Historical Monograph 10 (Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College Press, 1993), 13–49., p. 18 fn. See also in particular, Herbert Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48, Volume III, vol. 3, 3 vols., Cambridge Naval and Military Series (London: Cambridge University Press, 1920)., p. 52 et seq

[xxvii] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 267-80; & Julian Corbett, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 290, 359

[xxviii] Arthur Marder, From The Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Year of Crisis, vol. 4, 5 vols. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969)., p. 120-1

[xxix] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1314-21. See also, Winston Churchill, The World Crisis: Volume III, 1916 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 3, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 2013)., Chapter 15, loc. 5253-60

[xxx] Marder, FDSF., p. 122

[xxxi] John J. Abbatiello, “The Myths and Realities of Air Anti-Submarine Warfare during the Great War,” Air Power Review 12, no. 1 (2009): 14–31., p. 14

[xxxii] Norman Leslie, “The System of Convoys for Merchant Shipping in 1917 and 1918,” Naval Review 5, no. 1 (1917): 42–95., p. 43

[xxxiii] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45

[xxxiv] John Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1934)., p. 16

[xxxv] R. H. Gibson and Maurice Prendergast, The German Submarine War, 1914-1918, Reprint (London: Naval & Military Press, 1931)., p. 160

[xxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 17-8

[xxxvii] Alexander L. N. Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918” (PhD thesis, King’s College London, 2019)., p. 125-9

[xxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 14

[xxxix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 10-14

[xl] Newbolt., p. 14

[xli] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 156

[xlii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in A. Temple Patterson, ed., The Jellicoe Papers, 1916-1935, vol. 2, 2 vols. (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1968)., p. 144-9

[xliii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in Temple Patterson., p. 146-8

[xliv] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45-6

[xlv] Jones., IV p. 47

[xlvi] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 123

[xlvii] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, 5 vols., The Naval History of the Great War (Antony Rowe Ltd., Eastbourne: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1928)., p. 353; James Goldrick, After Jutland: The Naval War in North European Waters, June 1916 – November 1918, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2018)., chapter 9, loc. 3018. Goldrick says Tilleson.

[xlviii] Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea: The Dover Patrol, 1914-1918 (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2017)., p. 134

[xlix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3036-45

[l] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 360-68

[li] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 134; Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3126-41

[lii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3149-58

[liii] ‘Distribution of Coal and Sugar,’ 24 March 1917, London Times, p. 8

[liv] Paul Guinn, British Strategy and Politics, 1914 to 1918 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1965)., p. 228; see also, Stephen Roskill, Hankey: Man of Secrets, vol. I: 1877-1918, 3 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1970). p. 359-60

[lv] War Cabinet meeting 100, 21 March 1917, CAB 23/2/18, p. 2

[lvi] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lvii] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[lix] War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 4; see also, War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lx] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lxi] War Cabinet meeting 113, 4 April 1917, CAB 23/2/31, p. 2-3

[lxii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxiii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 3-5

[lxiv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, Appendix II, p. 8-9

[lxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[lxvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 159

[lxviii] War Cabinet meeting 116, 9 April 1917, CAB 23/2/34, p. 5; War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 2-3; see also Jellicoe to Rear-Admiral W. S. Sims, 7 April 1917, #41 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 155.

[lxix] War Cabinet meeting 115, 6 April 1917, CAB 23/2/33, p. 1

[lxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 274-5. See also, William Sims, The Victory at Sea (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016)., p. 352-3

[lxxi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 17 March 1917, #36 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 153

[lxxii] Jellicoe to Beatty, 24 March 1917, #37 in Temple Patterson., p. 153

[lxxiii] War Cabinet minutes 104, 26 March 1917, CAB 23/2/22, p. 3

[lxxiv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 135-41. Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 373

[lxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 377-8. Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 137-8

[lxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3221-50

[lxxvii] The Naval Who’s Who, 1917 (Polstead: J. B. Hayward & Son, 1981). p. 273

[lxxviii] Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (Rochester: Boydell & Brewer Inc., 2011), p. 301

[lxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Patrick Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1982)., p. 254

[lxxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Beesly., p. 254fn

[lxxxi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5

[lxxxii] Black, British Naval Staff., p. 34

[lxxxiii] Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915., chapter 15, loc. 5231

[lxxxiv] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5; see also, Black, British Naval Staff., p. 248-9

[lxxxv] DASD Fisher to C-in-C Portsmouth, 21 July 1917, Bethell Papers (VII), LHCMA. See also, Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare, p. 113.

[lxxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. vii

[lxxxvii] Marder, FDSF., p. 118-9

[lxxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. xi

[lxxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 268

[xc] Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., Chapter 10, loc. 1977

[xci] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 2002

[xcii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1984

[xciii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1977-93

[xciv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157 fn

[xcv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcvi] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1305

[xcvii] Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 157

[xcviii] Report of Admiralty meeting 23 February 1917, #34 in Temple Patterson., p. 149-51 & Jellicoe to Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton, C-in-C Rosyth, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcix] War Cabinet meeting 124, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/42, p. 3; see also, Holger H. Herwig and Donald Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918,” The Historian 33, no. 4 (August 1971): 611–36., p. 614

[c] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 158

[ci] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 160

[cii] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 159p.

[ciii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 159, 164

[civ] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[cv] Maurice Hankey, The Supreme Command, 1914 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 2 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2014)., chapter 62, loc. 4257

[cvi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 3

[cvii] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 275

[cviii] War Cabinet meeting 128, 1 May 1917, CAB 23/2/46, p. 2; War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 2

[cix] War Cabinet meeting 142, 22 May 1917, CAB 23/2/60, p. 2

[cx] War Cabinet meeting 156, 6 June 1917, CAB 23/3/3, p. 3

[cxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 54

[cxii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 43

[cxiii] Newbolt., V, p. 57-8

[cxiv] Newbolt., p. 43

[cxv] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 52-3

[cxvi] War Cabinet meeting 144, 23 May 1917, CAB 23/2/62, p. 7

[cxvii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[cxviii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 53

[cxix] Tarrant., p. 52

[cxx] Andreas Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918 (Miami: Trident Publishing, 2017)., p. 76, 78; see also, Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 635

[cxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4190

[cxxii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 259

[cxxiii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 260-1

[cxxiv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 263

[cxxv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 261-2

[cxxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 2 April 1917, #39 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 154-5

[cxxvii] John Jellicoe, The Crisis of the Naval War (London: Cassell and Company, Ltd, 1920)., Chapter III, p. 53-101

[cxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 13

[cxxix] Marder, FDSF. IV, p. 286-7

[cxxx] Marder., IV, p. 226

[cxxxi] Marder., IV, p. 227-8

[cxxxii] Marder., IV, p. 233

[cxxxiii] Marder., IV, p. 228-9

[cxxxiv] Marder., IV, p. 271

[cxxxv] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 140; see also, John J. Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I: British Naval Aviation and the Defeat of the U-Boats (New York: Routledge, 2006)., Appendix I, p. 174

[cxxxvi] Dwight Messimer, Find and Destroy: Antisubmarine Warfare in World War I (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001)., p. 134; Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 116; see also, H. A. Williamson, “Employment of aeroplanes of Anti-Submarine Work”, 14 August 1918, AIR 1/642, #267 in Stephen Roskill, ed., Documents Relating to the Naval Air Service. Volume I, 1908-1918 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1969)., p. 703-4

[cxxxvii] War Cabinet minute 160, 11 June 1917, CAB 23/3/7, p. 2

[cxxxviii] War Cabinet minute 162, 13 June 1917, CAB 23/3/9, p. 4

[cxxxix] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 282

[cxl] Marder., IV, p. 283,

[cxli] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxlii] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxliii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 59

[cxliv] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 276

[cxlv] Marder., IV, p. 276

[cxlvi] Steve R. Dunn, Southern Thunder: The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, Kindle ebook (Barnsley,: Seaforth Publishing, 2019). chapter 13, loc. 2882

[cxlvii] Reinhard Scheer, Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War, Kindle ebook (Shilka Publishing, 2013)., p. 378-81

[cxlviii] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 13, loc. 2873-968

[cxlix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 153-5

[cl] Newbolt., V, p. 168, et seq

[cli] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4407-27

[clii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 381. Dunn says this is Commodore Heinrich.

[cliii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4499

[cliv] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 383

[clv] Scheer., p. 383

[clvi] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 14, loc. 3199, 3249;  Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 184-8.

[clvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518

[clviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 189.

[clix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518; Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 190-2

[clx] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4525

[clxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198, 200-1

[clxii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 231

[clxiii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198

[clxiv] Newbolt., V, p. 198

[clxv] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvi] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxviii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxix] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxx] Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, The Encyclopedia of U-Boats From 1904 to the Present Day, trans. Andrea Battson and Roger Chesneau (London: Greenhill Books, 2004)., p. 47

[clxxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 208

[clxxii] Newbolt., V, p. 205

[clxxiii] Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 622

[clxxiv] Stephen Roskill, “The Dismissal of Admiral Jellicoe,” Journal of Contemporary History 1, no. 4 (October 1966): 69–93.

[clxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 204

[clxxvi] Figure 7.2 in Black, British Naval Staff., p. 230

[clxxvii] Arthur Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: Victory and Aftermath: 1918-1919, vol. 5, 5 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014)., p. 39-50.

[clxxviii] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxix] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxx] Marder., V, p. 41-2

[clxxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4822

[clxxxii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 386

[clxxxiii] Scheer., p. 387-8; see also, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 171-4, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4879

[clxxxiv] Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (London: The Hogarth Press, 1951)., p. 222-53; see also, Lawrence Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare in World War I: The Onset of Total War at Sea (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2017)., p. 179-80

[clxxxv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 191

[clxxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5123; see also Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 241-77

[clxxxvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5186

[clxxxviii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 393

[clxxxix] Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918., p. 284-9

[cxc] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5232

[cxci] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 396, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5269

[cxcii] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164

[cxciii] Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare., p. 75

[cxciv] Abbatiello., p. 76-7

[cxcv] Geoffrey Rossano and Thomas Wildenberg, Striking the Hornets’ Nest (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 140-1

[cxcvi] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164-5

[cxcvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 298. See also, Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 168-9

[cxcviii] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 173-4

[cxcix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 278-82

[cc] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 174

[cci] Sondhaus., p. 175

[ccii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 69

[cciii] Tim Benbow, Naval Warfare 1914-1918, Kindle ebook, The History of World War I (London: Amber Books Ltd, 2011)., chapter 6, loc. 3344-8

[cciv] Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918., p. 78-9

[ccv] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 324-5

[ccvi] Gibson and Prendergast., p. 328-9

[ccvii] Stephen Roskill, War at Sea, 1939 – 1945, Volume II: The Period of Balance, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols., History of the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1956)., chapter IV, loc. 2353-95

[ccviii] Richard Woodman, “The Problems of Convoys, 1914-1917,” in Dreadnought to Daring: 100 Years of Comment, Controversy and Debate in The Naval Review, ed. Peter Hore (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2012), 53–66., p. 55-6

Operation Urgent Fury

 

URGENT FURY

Operation Urgent Fury: Cold War Crisis in Grenada

Prelude 

C14159-28A

US President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy at Andrew Air Force Base, 23 April 1983, honouring victims of the 18 April Beirut US embassy bombing.

 

On Friday, 21 October 1983, President Ronald Reagan was in a budget overview meeting. Afterwards, the President met with Henry Kissinger and the Commission on Central America. Communist infiltration into Nicaragua was discussed. Finishing up the week, the President departed the White House for the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. With Reagan went Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, along with the newly appointed National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane.[i] The President was expecting developments in the Lebanese crisis, bright on the National Security Council’s (NSC) radar after the US embassy bombing in Beirut that April

The President turned in for bed after dinner, but was awoken hastily at four in the morning. It was Bud McFarlane and George Shultz. The President had been requested to authorize the invasion of Grenada, led by the United States, and supported by the Dominican headed Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), formed in 1981 and composed of St. Lucia, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

schultz.jpg

Secretary of State George Shultz being updated by satellite phone while staying at the Augusta Country Club, Atlanta Georgia, 21 October. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

The US President spoke to Margaret Thatcher by phone on the 22nd and the British Prime Minister requested calm, emphasizing that no immediate military action should take place. For the British government, the twin crisis in Grenada and Lebanon came too soon on the heels of the 1982 Falkland’s war, itself involving a major amphibious operation requiring carriers and assault ships acting against an island base.

C17822-15telephone.jpg

President Reagan at the Eisenhower cabin in Atlanta, Georgia, consulting with Secretary of State George Shultz and National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane early on the morning of 22 October. & Teleconferencing with NSC staff, 22 October.

 

Discussion and a 9 am teleconference followed, after which the President approved Operation Urgent Fury – the invasion of Grenada – and then went back to sleep.Since the end of American military involvement in the Vietnam war in 1973 and the subsequent over-running of Saigon in 1975, there was a perception that the United States was reticent to utilize military action in a potential conflict. Jimmy Carter had put his presidency on the line over Operation Eagle Claw – the effort to rescue American Iranian embassy hostages in 1980 – and so the decision to intervene weighed heavily on the mind of his successor.

Reagan spent the rest of Saturday, October 22nd playing golf, a normally mundane event punctuated by the incident at the 16th hole: A gunman held up the golf shop, taking hostages and demanding to speak to the President. While he was being escorted away from the country club, Reagan called the gunman as requested, but the man on the phone hung up every time the President got through.[ii] The man was duly apprehended after his hostages escaped.[iii]

At 2 am the following morning, Sunday 23 October, Reagan was awoken again and informed about the Beirut barracks bombing and the enormous death toll, later reports finalizing at 242 Americans and 58 French dead.[iv] The suspects included the Iranians, Syrians, or the organization that eventually became Hezbollah.[v] The killing of so many American marines and French peacekeepers – one-fourth of the US component of the four nation peacekeeping force – came as a shock. This second major attack followed closely on the heels of other United States Marine Corps (USMC) casualties, resulting from sniper-fire and a car-bombing incident against a convoy on 19 October.[vi]

The President returning to Washington on 23 October.

The morning of Sunday, 23 October President Reagan, Shultz and MacFarlane returned to Washington D.C. Hurried meetings with the National Security Council followed, and it was decided to continue with the invasion of Grenada. Special Operations Forces (SOF) were going in immediately, flown 1,500 miles by C-130s to investigate landing beaches for the Tuesday morning attack.

Before finishing for the evening, the President briefed congressional leaders Tip O’Neill, Jim Wright, Bob Byrd, Howard Baker, and Bob Michel about the invasion, and then took a phone call from Margaret Thatcher, who, again, warned of the potentially negative international reaction to American military action and advised against rushing the operation.[vii]

In the Caribbean waters around the small Windward Island nation of Grenada, nevertheless, an amphibious assault ship and an aircraft carrier battle group – hundreds of thousands of tons of warships – laden with United States Marines, aircraft, helicopters, artillery and commandos, was assembling under the command of Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf,[viii] and Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf,[ix] to overwhelm Grenada’s small People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), and its Cuban and Soviet bloc fighters. Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) 120 was steaming steadily towards Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was about to begin.

SR-71 TR-1

SR-71 Blackbird and TR-1 (U-2), high altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the type used by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to photograph Grenada between 20 – 24 October 1983

 

CJTF 120, responsible for carrying out Operation Urgent Fury, led by Vice Admiral Metcalf, has itself become a model for joint operations. Meltcalf’s career and resolute decision-making during the thirty-nine hour planning phase prior to Operation Urgent Fury’s execution are now considered a military case-study in leadership during an international crisis.[xiii] Furthermore, the future commander of Central Command, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, had been significantly influenced by his role as Metcalf’s deputy during Urgent Fury, and thus the otherwise brief campaign in Grenada is of interest to those studying the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War.

This post examines Urgent Fury and its planning, providing the reader with the essential battle-narrative and conclusions required to understand the nature of the conflict and judge why, in a House Appropriations Committee meeting on 26 February 1986, Secretary of the Army John Marsh and Chief of Staff of the Army General John Wickham testified that Urgent Fury had been a great success and, as General Wickham put it, “…a whale of a good job”.[xiv] Likewise, the seventh edition of the Marine Officer’s Guide describes Urgent Fury as a, “coup de main”. On the other hand, Norman Schwarzkopf would later write that, “the coup de main had failed utterly” and Sean Naylor, in his history of JSOC, described Urgent Fury as, “a fiasco”.[xv]

Bishop.jpg

Maurice Bishop, Revolutionary Prime Minister of Grenada (1979 – 1983)

Ultimately a successful joint campaign, the brief struggle over the future of Grenada is a watershed moment in the history of the Caribbean during the Cold War.[x] The United States was set to reassert itself through a massive conventional arms buildup and a more aggressive foreign policy.[xi] Utilizing a combined force architecture that included Navy, Marines, Army Rangers, Airborne, and JSOC Special Operations Forces (SOF), components, the planning and execution of Operation Urgent Fury should not lightly be dismissed as a brief example of US imperialism or a distraction in some calculated Machiavellian dry-run for a futuristic cold-war doctrine.[xii]

Far from it, the Caribbean leaders outside of Cuba could see where the political situation in Grenada was heading. The US, with historical interest in the integrity of the Caribbean states, especially those members of the British Commonwealth, including Grenada, had a responsibility to protect the islands from internal conflict and their exploitation by the Soviet Union. The United States was requested to enable what the local Caribbean forces did not have the capacity to implement: the capture of the traitorous members of Bishop’s cabinet, and the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) junta who had overthrown the island’s government and murdered Maurice Bishop.

PART ONE

 A Revolutionary Spark

Grenada in 1983 was a favourite tourist destination, only 133 square miles in size, with a population of 110,000. Grenada’s significant domestic product was nutmeg, of which the island produced a third of the world’s supply. Grenada had been a French colony until captured by Admiral Rodney’s forces in February 1762 and then ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years War.[xvi] Although briefly captured by France during the American Revolutionary War, the island remained a member of the British Commonwealth into the 20th century. In 1983 Grenada was home to more than 600 medical students at the island’s St. George’s University, comprising the majority of the 800 Americans and 120 other foreign nationals then visiting Grenada.

 

grenadabishopcastroortega

Daniel Ortega, Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro.

In March 1979 Maurice Bishop’s New JEWEL (Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education, and Liberation) movement, including Colonel Hudson Austin (chief of the Grenadian armed forces), seized power in a bloodless coup, overthrowing the corrupt Sir Eric Gairy. 1979 was a critical year in the Cold War. That year the Somoza family, led by Anastasio Somiza, was overthrown in Nicaragua, General Romero was ousted by a coup In El Salvador,[xvii] and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to head the revolutionary government in Iran.

Fidel-Castro-and-Maurice-BishopCastroBishop.jpg

Fidel Castro greeting Maurice Bishop; The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

In Havana, Castro’s Cuba quickly aligned with Bishop’s Marxist government, agreeing to finance the construction of a modern airport at Point Salines on the southern-most tip Grenada.[xviii] US analysts believed this airfield, scheduled for completed in January 1984,[xix] would enable the operation of MiG-23s from Grenada, while also acting as a staging ground for guerrilla deployments to Central America and West Africa.[xx]

letterstoandropov.jpg

Letters from the New JEWEL government to Yuri Andropov, then the Chairman of the State Security Committee of the Politburo, and the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, requesting counter-intelligence training. Also a letter to the Ministry of Defence of the USSR requesting military training. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

 

Bishop, despite his revolutionary Marxism, had recently shown signs of gravitating towards the United States, and had met with US officials in Washington in June 1983. Although Bishop then met with Castro early in October, hardliners in Bishop’s cabinet now decided to remove him from power. Cuban and Soviet backed Marxist revolutionaries, led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and the Leninist General Hudson Austin, placed Bishop under house arrest during the night of 13 October.[xxi]

Spurred by counter-revolutionary broadcasts supporting Bishop from Radio Free Grenada, a mob began to form outside the government run newspaper office. By 18 October General Hudson’s government was in crisis, with five cabinet members, including foreign minister Unison Whiteman having resigned to join the pro-Bishop mob, now more than 1,000 protester strong.

On Wednesday, 19 October 1983, the mob, led by Whiteman, freed Bishop from his house arrest and proceeded to march towards Fort Rupert, the police headquarters, and the entry point to St. George’s harbor. At this point troops loyal to Bernard Coard and General Austin, including armoured personal carriers (APCs), surrounded the mob and opened fire. Bishop and his cabinet were arrested and marched to Fort Rupert where they were executed. 18 people altogether, including education minister Jacqueline Creft and others, were killed.[xxii] General Austin declared himself head of the new Revolutionary Military Council and imposed a 24-hour curfew, in addition to closing the island’s commercial airport at Pearl, Grenville, on the island’s east coast.[xxiii]

coard.jpgAustin.jpg

Bernard Coard, Deputy Prime Minister & General Hudson Austin, Chief of the People’s Revolutionary Army, from the Associated Press newsreel archive.

Fort Rupert.jpg

Fort Rupert being stormed by the coup forces. Soviet BMP armoured vehicles lead the charge to capture Maurice Bishop, who was shortly thereafter executed by the junta. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

 

On 20 October Tom Adams, the Prime Minister of Barbados, denounced the violence on Grenada, followed shortly by Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica.[xxiv] On 21 October it became known, at an OECS meeting held on Barbados, that the US was looking for a reason to intervene in Grenada, and would be willing to do so at the OECS’s behest. A written request for intervention was thus drawn up,[xxv] and on 21 October, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, supported by Jamaica and Barbados, agreed to respond militarily to the overthrow of Bishop.[xxvi]

Prime Minister Adams of Barbados formally appealed to President Reagan for US military intervention in Grenada on 23 October.[xxvii] The OECS’s eight point request for information was also sent to the US State Department.[xxviii]

grenadaGeographical map of Grenada and the Grenadines from 1990

Grenada’s Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, had long before requested American assistance towards countering the rise of Cuban guerrillas on the island. Indeed, fighters from all over the Eastern bloc had been arriving in Grenada, including operatives and technical personal from Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Libya, East Germany and Bulgaria.[xxix] Castro, himself a promoter of Bishop’s government, however, refused to further support Austin,[xxx] no doubt concerned about directly confronting the United States over the crisis.

The Cuban dictator did, however, despatch Colonel Tortolo Comas to organize defensive measures on the island. Colonel Comas’ force included 43 Cuban soldiers and 741 Cuban construction workers, many of whom were also army reservists.[xxxi] Comas organized the Cuban fighters into companies to resist American intervention and deployed Soviet quad 12.7 mm Anti-Aircraft guns around the island, also authorizing the blocking of the runway at Point Salines with heavy equipment.

The People’s Revolutionary Army

PRA.jpgPRA strengh.jpg

From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). There were about 40 Cuban guerrillas fighters on Grenada, plus handfuls of fighters from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Syria and other Soviet bloc countries. There were 650 Cuban construction workers on the island, many of whom had military reservist training. The PRA was composed of a large battalion of soldiers, more than 450, supported by a small company sized militia.

19 October – 24 October: The Crisis & Planning

The Americans had become aware of the imminent possibility of action on 12 October. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Langhorne A. “Tony” Motley, convened the Regional Interagency Group of the National Security Council (NSC),[xxxii] and Motley informed the representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Colonel James. W. Connally (USAF) – the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Plans and Policy Directorate – that the Pentagon should begin a planning process in the event a US evacuation were ordered and military support required.[xxxiii]

crisisThe rungs of “Traditional Crises” in Herman Kahn’s On Escalation (1965)

This started the ball rolling, and on 14 October the Latin American desk officer for the NSC, Alphonso Sapia-Bosch, got in touch with Commander Michael K. McQuiston, USN, at the Joint Operations Division (JOD), Operations Directorate (J3), who informed Lieutenant General Richard L. Prillaman, US Army, the Director of Operations, who in turn raised the problem of military intervention with the National Military Command Center. A crisis unit composed of officers from the Western Hemisphere Branch of the JOD, an officer J5, and a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) were assembled to consider the possible program of operations.[xxxiv]

Meanwhile, on Barbados, the US Ambassador (also responsible for Grenada) began to receive reports of threats to the US medical students on Grenada. The NSC’s Regional Interagency Group met on 17 October to consider the ambassador’s reports, and, during this meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Motley asked Lt. General Jack N. Merritt (US Army), the Director of the Joint Staff, to prepare plans for a military rescue of the students. On 18 October Lt. General Merritt asked Lt. General Prillaman to contact Admiral Wesley L. McDonald (CINCLANT) to consider options.[xxxv] The group met again on 19 October, with Vice Admiral Arthur S. Moreau Jr., Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance.

The Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Caribbean Affairs, Richard Brown, briefed the group, specifically mentioning that at least 600 Cubans, mainly workers for the Point Salines airfield construction, were on the island, and two Cuban vessels were currently moored in St. George’s Harbor. At this point Vice Admiral Moreau pointed out that the JCS crisis unit was working on the problem, and that Lt. General Prillaman was monitoring the situation and in touch with USCINCLANT. It was decided to brief the Vice President (Special Situation Group) and the President (National Security Planning Group) to get authorization for military action.[xxxvi]

800px-Gen_John_Vessey_Jr.JPGJames Watkins

General John W. Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffAdmiral James D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Operations, 1982 – 1986

 

That evening Lt. General Prillaman sent Admiral McDonald the JSC Chairman’s warning order, requiring Admiral McDonald to submit plans covering various evacuation contingencies by the morning of the 20th. Readiness Command (USCINCRED) and Military Airlift Command (USCINCMAC) were to be in close touch with USCINCLANT. This planning group now requested DIA photoreconnaissance coverage of Grenada.[xxxvii]

As it happened, USLANTCOM had carried out rescue operation exercises involving Ranger and Marine landings in the Caribbean back in August 1981, and thus Admiral McDonald was able to reply speedily to the JCS, providing a full briefing to the Chairman later on the 20th. The need for higher resolution photography of Grenada, combined with better information on Grenadian forces (believed to number 1,200 regulars from the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), 2,500 – 5,000 militia, and four torpedo boats) was paramount.[xxxviii] It was known from DIA sources that a Cuban vessel (Vietnam Heroica) had delivered Cuban workers to the Point Salines airfield site, and that on 13 October more Cuban ships had delivered arms caches to the island.

Given the unknown nature of possible resistance on Grenada, the Atlantic Command staff recommended two general positions: first, diplomatic negotiations followed by civilian airlift of the hostages, if possible, or, in the event of opposition, the deployment of Marine Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 1-84 and the USS Independence battle group, both in the process of transiting from the continental United States to Lebanon, with the possibility of a follow-on attack by multiple airborne forces from USREDCOM.[xxxix]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Vessey, now briefed the Crisis Pre-Planning Group (CPPG) of the National Security Council, in a meeting chaired by Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter (USN), the Military Assistant to the NSC (and Bud McFarlane’s deputy). Also present were John McMahan, the Deputy Director of the CIA, and Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Langhorne A. Motley, the CIA’s Latin American specialist, Constantine Menges, and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.[xl] This meeting essentially passed the buck up to the Special Situation Group (SSG),[xli] although the lack of intelligence on Grenadian defences was discussed, with the CIA being requested to provide additional information. The CIA, however, had no agents actually in Grenada. Eventually the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was contacted to provide immediate intelligence and, under this authorization, TR-1 and SR-71 overflights took place.[xlii] Although the results of these high-altitude reconnaissance missions were passed on to JSOC, they did not reach the assault force in time for the invasion.

At 6 pm on the 20th the Special Situation Group of the National Security Council was convened by the Vice President. Present at that meeting were Secretary of State George P. Shultz and General Vessey, who briefed Vice President Bush, the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger), the Director Central Intelligence (William Joseph Casey), the Counselor to the President (Edwin Meese), the President’s Chief of Staff (James Baker), the Deputy Chief of Staff (Michael Deaver), and the National Security Advisor (Robert McFarlane) on the Grenada situation. The Vice President approved an expanded mission including “neutralization” of the Grenadian forces, although both “forceful extraction” and “surgical strike” plans were also considered.[xliii] Both Casey and Shultz favoured an invasion followed by the restoration of democracy, a plan supported by the CIA’s Menges.[xliv]

The timeframe was an issue, as the forces diverted to Grenada were needed to relieve MARG 2-83 in Lebanon, while the naval forces were required for the CRISEX ’83 exercise to be held with Spain. Nevertheless, as evening fell on 20 October, orders were issued to divert the task force.

Combined Joint Task Force 120

At 3 am on October 21st MARG 1-84 started heading in the direction of Puerto Rico, while the CV-62 (USS Independence) group made for Dominica.[xlv] At 10 pm on 22 October orders were received for the entire force to combine near Grenada.[xlvi]

Urgent Fury org.jpgOrganization Chart for Operation Urgent Fury, reproduced from Edgar Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

General Vessey was in contact with Admiral McDonald the morning of the 21st by which time it had been decided to add the two battalions of US Army Rangers and components of the 82nd Airborne Division to the invasion force. Vessey, due to attend a speaking engagement that evening, was briefly replaced by Admiral James D. Watkins the Chief of Naval Operations, to continue the planning processes. By now it was suspected that as many as 240 Cuban soldiers were on Grenada, plus as many as 50 Soviet citizens.[xlvii]

Vessey, about to depart for Chicago, contacted Atlantic Command, Military Airlift Command, Readiness Command and JSOC, instructing them to manage the deployment of Rangers, airborne and special operations forces to Grenada, in conjunction with the CINCLANT naval force deployments, all while maintaining operational secrecy and security. Grenada’s message traffic, being intercepted at the Pentagon, was, at Lt. General Prillaman’s behest, transferred to SPECAT (Special Category restrictions) channels. This was prudent, and helped to reduce later leaks, however, the story was nevertheless about to break: CBS had gotten wind of the Task Force diversion and ran the story on the 21 October evening news.[xlviii] Staff planners from the Rangers, JSOC, and 82nd Airborne were already aboard flights to Norfolk to meet with planners from the USMC, MAC and Atlantic Command headquarters.

 

Norfolk.jpg23mcdonald_190.jpg

Atlantic Command, Norfolk, Virginia. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). & Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, CINCLANT, October 1983

 

Meanwhile, Donald Cruz, the consular officer in Barbados, traveled to Grenada to meet with Major Leon Cornwall, a senior figure in the Revolutionary Military Council. Cruz met with the students at St. George’s university, who expressed concern about their situation. Cruz then departed by plane after it was cleared for Grenadian airspace.[xlix] At Bridgetown, Barbados, the OECS convened, and invoked Article 8 of the 1981 treaty, requesting the intervention of Barbados, Jamaica and the US in a multinational peacekeeping effort aimed at Grenada. Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon requested OECS support to liberate the island. These requests were relayed to the US State Department from Barbados between 21 and 22 October.

On the evening of the 21st Constantine Menges and Lt. Colonel Oliver North drafted an invasion order under the authority of a National Security Decision Directive for Reagan to sign. The order was sent to the President in Augusta, Georgia, but Reagan delayed.[l]

JCS.jpgThe Joint Chiefs of Staff, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). Vessey seated.

 

At 1:30 in the morning of 22 October, General Vessey returned to Washington, and the SSG was convened. At 4:30 am, as we have seen, the SSG phoned President Reagan, Secretary of State Shultz and National Security Advisor McFarlane, who were staying at the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. A teleconference was arranged for the complete National Security Planning Group at 9 am.[li] In that conference, Bush, Poindexter, McMahon, Motely, Menges and North consulted with Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane. By 11:30 am the NSC had reached a consensus decision on intervention.[lii]

The Joint Chiefs had prepared two force packages, utilizing combinations of Army Rangers and other JSOC elements (Team Delta and Navy SEALs), supported by a Marine Corps landing and 82nd Airborne assault. The primary objectives involved capturing the Port Salines and Pearls airfields, followed by capture of the Grenadian capital at St. George’s (including radio station, government buildings and police HQ), the St. George’s medical school, the Grand Anse beach, and then the Grenadian army barracks at Calivigny. All objectives would be secured within the first four hours. The airborne force would then deploy to consolidate and reinforce. D-Day would be Tuesday, 25 October, requiring an action decision no later than 8pm, 22 October.[liii] In fact, the decision for action and the order to carry out Urgent Fury had been issued at 4:45 pm.[liv]

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President Reagan’s evening meeting with the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room, 23 October. George Shultz to Reagan’s left, Vice President Bush to his right.

When Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane arrived back in Washington on the 23rd, they discussed the Lebanon crisis and the Grenada operation. After discussing Lebanon, Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger briefed Reagan on the Grenada plan. Reagan was wary of the risks, both to the medical students, and to the American forces. The Joint Chiefs assured the President that the the risks were marginal.[lv] Reagan signed the formal invasion order.[lvi] With the President’s approval, operation planning kicked into high gear. Secretary Weinberger authorized General Vessey to take control over of the operation, with the objective of speeding the decision cycle now that the political choice for action had been made.[lvii]

As with any action in the Cold War dynamic, American intervention in one hemisphere could prompt a Soviet response elsewhere. Reagan would brief Congress (under Section 3, War Powers Resolution) or inform Congress within 48 hours of the legality of the mission. The State Department would inform the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of American States regarding the justification for the invasion under UN Charter Article 51 and Rio Treaty Article 5. The United Kingdom would also be informed, considering Grenada’s status as a member of the Commonwealth. Shultz argued that Article 22 of the OAS and Article 52 of the UN charter, in addition to Prime Minister Eugenia Charles’ request for American assistance, provided the legal background for the intervention in Grenada.[lviii] With these issues outlined, new intelligence from the DIA (high-altitude reconnaissance) placed Grenadian and Cuban forces at as many as five thousand with eight Soviet made BTR-60 APCs and 18 ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns, in addition to 81-mm mortars and several 75-mm recoilless rifles located around the island.[lix] Grenada had no radar, ships or air units. The National Security Planning Group decided upon a maximum effort utilizing all available assets, and thus issued the Go order to Admiral McDonald.

After concluding his secure telephone call to Admiral McDonald, General Vessey contacted Strategic Air Command (SAC) and informed them of the operation. SAC immediately prepared KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft to support the operation from Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia and Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, Puerto Rico. SAC also approved reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Caribbean.[lx]

Grenada-physical-mapplan2

Grenada and Carriacou.

On 23 October Secretary Shultz despatched Ambassador Francis J. McNeill, supported by Major General George B. Crist, USMC (future CENTCOM commander), the Vice Director of the Joint Staff, to meet the OECS representatives and determine their willingness to join in a peacekeeping force, coordinated by the State Department, the Joint Chiefs and the CIA.[lxi]

Meanwhile, Admiral McDonald’s staff revised the operational plan, now composed of four phases: Transit, Insertion, Stabilization/Evacuation, and finally, Peacekeeping. The US assault force would manage the first three phases, which essentially amounted to maneuver, special operations forces landing, full invasion, including US Marines, and pacification followed lastly by the OECS force being assembled to act in the constabulary role in the fourth phase during which an interim government would be created.[lxii]

Admiral McDonald flew to Washington to brief the JCS on the evening of the 23rd. He proposed placing Vice Admiral Metcalf (CINC Second Fleet) in command of the Combined Joint Task Force 120.

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Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, Second Fleet, Atlantic Command, selected to command Combined Joint Task Force 120, photographed here in October 1986. & Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf  (centre, as Lt. General I Corps in 1987) was assigned as the Army – Navy liaison for Atlantic command, and then appointed by Metcalf as the operation Deputy Commander.

The Joint Chiefs were aware that the Navy needed access to consultation from someone with experience commanding combined operations, including Rangers, Airborne and Marines, and decided to appoint an Army-Navy liaison to Metcalf’s staff. On the afternoon of Sunday, 23 October, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, then the divisional commander of the 24th Mechanized Division, received a phone call from Major General Dick Graves, informing him that he was being considered for the position of Army – Navy liaison. Schwarzkopf soon discovered that this operation was the full-scale plan for the Grenada invasion.[lxxx]

urgentfuryUSN.jpgList of USN warships involved in Operation Urgent Fury

The core of the CJTF was Task Group 20.5: the reinforced USS Independence (CV-62) battle group, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry. Captain John Maye Quarterman Jr. in USS Guam (LPH-19) provided the base for amphibious operations and the flagship for Vice Admiral Metcalf. Amphibious Squadron Four itself was commanded by Captain Carl R. Erie (Task Force 124), with Commander Richard A. Butler as his chief of staff (Butler would later prove invaluable as one of the few naval officer in the squadron with knowledge of Grenadian waters).[lxvi] Captain David Bennett was also on hand in USS Saipan (LHA-2), part of Destroyer Squadron 24, in addition to two modern nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) amidst a host of destroyers, frigates and landing craft.

 

USS_Independence_(CV-62)_underway_in_the_Mediterranean_Sea_on_8_December_1983USS Independence, Air Wing CVW-6 and a Wichita-class refueler operating off Lebanon in December 1983.

The JSOC force element, including Rangers, SEALs, Delta, and 160th Aviation Battalion pilots, was designated Task Force 123. JSOC had received the notice to prepare on 21 October.[lxvii] The MH-60A Black Hawk Helicopters from the newly formed 160th Aviation Battalion,[lxviii] composed of pilots selected from brigades of the 101st Airborne division, would lead the way in their battlefield debut. Delta Force and US Army Rangers, received orders to surge on 23 October, deploying to Barbados in C-5A aircraft before assembling their seven UH-60 helicopters.[lxix]

USS Independence (CV-62), Task Group 20.5, Carrier Group Four

DN-ST-85-08955.jpegTask Group 20.5 CO, Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry, photographed in 1983, to the left of Vice Admiral Edward Briggs (center), Commander US Surface Forces, Atlantic Fleet)

The centrepiece of the USN task force was Carrier Group Four’s fleet carrier, USS Independence (CV-62), a 60,000 – 79,000 ton Forrestel class aircraft carrier.

USSIndependencedougherty_william_a_jr.jpg

CV-62 photographed alongside USS Savannah, (AOR-4), in the early 1980sCV-62 CO, Captain William Adam Dougherty Jr. (seen here as Rear Admiral)

CJTF 120 was created on 23 October with Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, Second Fleet, appointed as Operation Urgent Fury’s commander. Metcalf’s amphibious force was designated Task Force 124, placed under the command of Captain Carl R. Erie, with attached 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit under Colonel James P. Faulkner.[lxiii] Additional elements included Task Force 121, which was comprised of components of the 82nd Airborne. Major General Edward Trobaugh, commander 82nd Airborne Division, had received the warning order on 22 October. The Division Ready Brigade at the time was 2nd Brigade’s three battalions, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th, plus fire-support from B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.[lxiv]

82nd Airborne Division, US Army

82nd wait.jpegTrobaugh

82nd Airborne troopers waiting to deploy for Operation Urgent Fury air assault, MSG Dave Goldie colleciton. & Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division.

airborne4.jpgB Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th, December 1983 in Grenada, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017). Major Edward Trobaugh’s 82nd Airborne Division’s Ready Brigade, three battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th and B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.

82nd Org.jpg

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Organization of the 82nd Airborne Division, with units then on readiness selected for Urgent Fury. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

In addition to SAC and MAC air support, the USAF would provided Task Force 126: eight F-15s from the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing and four E-3As from the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) detachment, with the explicit objective of preventing Cuban interference around Grenada’s airspace.[lxv] General Vessey roughly determined that Grenada would be split into two areas of operation, with the north designated for the US Marines, and the south for all Army operation

Task Force 123

Joint Special Operations Command, 75th Infantry Regiment (Rangers), Team Delta, US Navy SEALs, 160th Aviation Battalion, 1st Special Operations Wing (USAF)

MGEN_Richard_A_Scholtes.JPEG.jpegJSOC.jpg

Major General Richard Scholtz, CO of JTF 123 and the first commander of JSOC. & Organization of Task Force 123, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). This was the first battlefield test of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), created by Charlie Beckwith following the debacle during Operation Eagle Claw in 1979. The idea was to combine the US military’s elite special operations forces under a single tactical command, supported by specially trained helicopter pilots, enabling rapid insertion and exfiltration during hostage rescue and counter-terrorism missions.

The JSOC Ranger assault (1st Battalion, Lt. Col. Wesley Taylor) would drop or land in five C-130 aircraft, escorted by four helicopter gunships, and secure the airfield at Salines. The Rangers would then secure medical students at the True Blue campus, afterwards moving to support the capture of St. George’s. 2nd Battalion’s Lt. Col. Ralph Hagler would then deploy and lead an attack on the PRA barracks at Calivngy.[lxx] JSOC commander Scholtes notified the Rangers on 22 October, and informed them that due to the limitation in available night-trained C-130 pilots, the Rangers would have to manage the initial deployment with only 50% of their total force.[lxxi]

The Point Salines objectives were given to the Rangers’ 1st Battalion’s A Company, Captain John Abizaid – later CENTCOM commander – and B Company, Captain Clyde Newman. Total strength was 300, plus two 25-man HQ elements. The Calivigny assault, scheduled for dawn on D+1, was given to 2nd Battalion’s A Company, Captain Francis Kearney, B Company, Captain Thomas Sittnik, and C Company, Captain Mark Hanna. Each company captain was to select 50 or 80 Rangers for their portion of the mission.[lxxiii] Once the 1st Ranger Battalion had cleared the Point Salines runway, C-141 Starlifters would arrive with Team Delta’s Little Bird helicopters, deploy them, and then carry out an assault on Fort Rupert.[lxxiv]

Under the guise of a training exercise, the two battalions now mobilized at Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia, at 2 pm, 23 October.[lxxii]

1st SFOD-Delta, A & B Squadrons

Delta2.jpgEricHaney.jpg

B Squadron. Eric Haney in back with sunglasses, Grenada, October 1983; Eric L. Haney, author of the memoir Inside Delta Force (2002).

JSOC had a number of targets to hit: while the Rangers were capturing Point Salines, Team Delta’s B Squadron, flown in by Major Larry Sloan’s Black Hawk, would secure the Richmond Hill Prison,[xcii] and SEALs from Team 6 would land from Major Bob Johnson’s Black Hawks in St. George’s to capture the Governor’s residence (behind Fort Rupert at the harbour entrance) as well as the Beausejour radio station. Nearby, Fort Frederick would be plastered by USAF aircraft to prevent the PRA from intervening in the Richmond Hill attack.[xciii]

 

Delta.jpgA Squadron operators on 25 October. Emerson “Mac” Bolen, Tommy Carter, John Turner, unknown, and Danny Pugh. Reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

After the Rangers had taken Point Salines, Delta’s A Squadron would land its Little Bird helicopters via C-141s and make an airborne assault against Fort Rupert. Although JSOC possessed plenty of detailed maps, most were left behind in the scramble to mobilize: USS Guam had only a 1936 copy of an 1895 British nautical chart of the Island, and Guam’s only Xerox machine printed copies too small to be useful.[xciv] The Delta operators bought Michelin guide maps of the Windward Islands to make do.[xcv]

SEAL Teams 4 & 6

1024px-US_Navy_100107-N-0000X-003_Members_of_Seal_Team_4_pose_for_a_group_photo_before_Operation_Just_Cause.jpgSEAL Team 4 operators in January 1990 during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama. During Urgent Fury, Team 4 would carry out UDT reconnaissance of the Grenville – Pearls area.

US Navy SEALs from Team 6 were scheduled to insert on the morning of the 23rd to provide beach reconnaissance for the planned Marine Corps and Ranger landing sites. Once cleared to land, the Marines would secure the medical school campus at the Grand Anse beach, while simultaneously securing the nearby town of Grenville and the Pearls Airfield – the island’s commercial airfield – [lxxv] SEALs from Team 6 would work with the Delta and Ranger assault force to secure inland objectives, beginning with Sir Paul Scoon, the Governor-General, held captive in his residence at For Rupert. Team 6 was also tasked with capturing Grenada’s radio station, and several other key targets including Fort Frederick, the Richmond Hill Prison, and the PRA training camp at Calivigny.[lxxvi]

1st Special Operations Wing (USAF)

ac-130-dllFive AC-130 gunships (16th Special Operations Squadron) provided close air support for the landings at Salines as well as during the SEAL insertion at St. George’s. The Ranger elements were deployed from 10 C-130s and two MC-130Es flown by this wing. The USAF Combat Control Teams used as pathfinders for the Rangers were also attached.

22nd Marine Amphibious Unit, USMC

On 22 October the Marine officers in MAU-22 – Colonel Faulkner, Lt. Colonel Smith and Lt. Colonel Amos – met aboard Guam to discuss the expected Grenada operation, which they believed at this time would be essentially an evacuation mission, assuming of course that the mission was going to go ahead.[lxxvii] It was decided that Company D would be used for amphibious assault, Company E for air assault, with Company F in reserve, or for a landing at the Pearls airfield.[lxxviii] Intelligence also arrived detailing what information was known about the PRA and its Cuban and Soviet bloc advisers. Liaison officers from CINCLANT, flown out from Antigua in a CH-53s, arrived the following evening, carrying information concerning the mission planning and Vice Admiral Metcalf’s objectives.[lxxix]

SmithHagler

Ray Smith (USMC), the regimental Lt. Colonel who was commander of the 2/8th Battalion Landing Landing team. Smith’s Marine Corps career spanned the Vietnam and Cold War. Lt. Col. Ralph Hagler (left), CO 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment, Rangers, US Army, photographed on 3 November, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

 

Amphibious Squadron Four, the MAU’s parent naval component, had sailed from the continental US for the Mediterranean on 18 October, with orders to relieve the Marine battalions stationed in Lebanon. Amphibious Squadron Four included the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) embarked under the command of Colonel James P. Faulkner (USMC). The entire force consisted of 43 officers and 779 men. Lt. Colonel Ray L. Smith’s men composed the core Battalion Landing Team 2/8. Lt. Colonel Granville R. Amos commanded the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261) and the Service Support Group 22 was commanded by Major Albert E. Shively. The Marine companies were commanded by Captains Henry Donigan (E), Michael Dick (F), Robert Dobson (G).

BLT2org.jpg

Early on 24 October Major General Crist was meeting with the chiefs of staff of the defense forces of Jamaica and Barbados, as well as the OECS Regional Security commander, to iron out the contribution of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force (CPF). It was determined that the CPF would deploy on the 25th, following the American assault, and would relieve US forces from holding key targets such as the Richmond Hill Prison, government buildings and the radio station in St. George’s. Jamaica was sending 150 troops, including a rifle company, an 81-mm mortar section and a medical team. Barbados contributed a rifle platoon of 50 soldiers, with the OECS unit comprising 100 constabulary personnel.[lxxxi]

Admiral McDonald called a meeting early in the morning on 24 October at Norfolk. In attendance were Vice Admiral Metcalf (CJTF 120), Major General Ed Trobaugh (82nd Airborne – TF 121), Major General Richard Scholtes (JSOC – TF 123) and Major General Schwarzkopf, in addition to representatives from the CIA and State Department. The atmosphere, following the loss of the Navy SEAL team at Salines (see below) was tense.[lxxxii] With less than 24 hours to go before the invasion was to commence, Major General Scholtes recommended a 24 hour delay so further reconnaissance could be carried out. This was denied, and a compromise was agreed instead, with Admiral McDonald pushing back H-hour from 2 to 5 am on the 25th, so that the Navy SEALs could take one more shot at Salines early on the 25th.[lxxxiii]

Firstattacks.jpg

The attack plan as represented by Wikipedia, showing Ranger and 82nd Airborne Division drops, JSOC insertion, and USMC assaults; & Detail of the same, showing allocation of US forces and targets. The initial landings were centred around securing three primary objectives: the Point Salines airstrip, the Pearls airport at Greville, and the capital buildings at Saint George’s. There were a series of secondary targets, including colonial fortifications, the university campuses, army barracks, and the surrounding hillside.

Metcalf suggested placing Schwarzkopf in the position of ground commander once the amphibious landings had taken place, but he was overruled by McDonald who pointed out that Major General Trobaugh outranked Schwarzkopf.[lxxxiv] Schwarzkopf, for his part, wasn’t certain how much use his input would be on such short notice. Metcalf made another important decision at this point, designating four members of his staff to send half-hourly status reports back to CINCLANT- the idea being to outflank any media reports while also providing a concise narrative of event for the political and military leadership to follow as the invasion unfolded.[lxxxv]

At 11 am, after concluding this meeting, Vice Admiral Metcalf and Major General Schwarzkopf boarded an aircraft for the flight to Bridgetown, Barbados, to meet Major General Crist and Brigadier General Rudyard Lewis, the commander of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force. Arriving at the Bridgetown airport amidst a flurry of journalists – expectations of imminent American military action having leaked out – and with Brigadier General Lewis not immediately available, Metcalf met briefly with Major General Crist instead, ordering him to organize the CPF for airlift to Pearls or Salines.[lxxxvi] Next, Metcalf, Schwarzkopf and their staffs transferred to Navy helicopters for the flight out to USS Guam, arriving between 5:30 and 5:45 pm while the Task Force was still several hundred miles from Grenada.[lxxxvii] The last of the task force arrived in Grenadian waters at 2 am on 25 October.[lxxxviii]

In Tampa, Florida, General Wallace Nutting, C-in-C Readiness Command (REDCOM) ordered the XVIII Airborne Corps to prepare the 82nd Airborne for deployment to Grenada, placing the deployed battalions under the command of Admiral McDonald.[lxxxix]

blackhawks.jpegBlack Hawk UH-60 helicopters, 160th Aviation Battalion photographed near Point Salines airfield, where 1st and 2nd battalions, 75th Ranger regiment, deployed on 25 October. SPC Douglas Ide collection.

The Black Hawk helicopters of Colonel Terrence “Terry” M. Henry’s 160th Aviation Battalion, five from Charlie 101 and four from Charlie 158 – both technically 101st Airborne Division components, were being loaded aboard C-5A aircraft on the evening of 23 October. The battalion’s helicopters were being flown to Barbados, along with more than 100 SEALs and Delta operators, 45 pilots and crews for the helicopters, and a handful of CIA and State Department officers.[xc] The Black Hawks would be led by pilots Major Robert Lee Johnson and Major Larry Sloan.[xci] The fully loaded C-5As took off from Pope Air Force Base on the evening of the 24th, and after landing in Barbados early on the 25th were ready to launch an hour before the sun was due to rise.

targets.jpg

Detailed western targets, ie, not including Grenville and the Pearls Airport. During Operation Urgent Fury maps of Grenada were scarce. This was the result of short-timing and lack of local sources in the CIA and State Department. Estimates about force locations were often wrong and enemy skill with machine guns and anti-aircraft guns was underestimated, proving a real threat to Special Operations Forces helicopters and light infantry.

 

forts.jpg

Forts overlooking St. George. Fort Rupert/Fort George at harbour entrance in green, Fort Frederick & Fort Mathew in red and the ruins of Forts Lucas and Adolphus in blue. Richmond Hill Prison in purple.

 

C17855-21

24 October, President Reagan holds a briefing with the National Security Council to discuss Lebanon. Present are: National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter, James Baker, Ed Meese, Michael Deaver, David Gergen, Larry Speakes, Richard Darman, Ken Duberstein, Craig Fuller, and George H. W. Bush.

At noon on 24 October President Reagan met individually with the Joint Chiefs at the White House, who again expressed their belief in the success of the operation. Secretary of Defense Weinberger, General Vessey and the other Joint Chiefs met with Secretary of State Shultz and the President to brief Congressional leaders. After the meeting the President and the rest of the National Security Council met with National Security Advisor McFarlane who had converted the Situation Room into a War Room to receive Metcalf’s staff reports from Grenada. Reagan asked Vessey what he intended to do. General Vessey said he planned to telephone the Pentagon with the final authorization and then go home and go to sleep.[xcvi]

PART TWO

Reconnaissance, 23 – 24 October

fort-frederick-st-georges-1.jpg

View of St. George’s harbour with Fort Frederick complex overlooking the Richmond Hill Prison, and Fort Rupert at right.

 

The Navy SEALs of Team 6 carried out the first JSOC mission. 12 SEALs and four members of an Air Force Combat Control Team (CCT) were sent in to reconnoiter the proposed beach landing site at Salines early on the morning of the 24th. The crews and their Boston whaler boats were parachuted into the water south of Grenada, near where USS Clifton Sprague was operating. The mission called for the crews to go ashore at Point Salines and carry out beach reconnaissance while the CCT operators planted radio beacons at the airfield for the C-130s to hone in on during the Ranger drop.[xcvii] This was a dangerous, complex, and untested mission and the results were poor.

The weather and sea conditions were not favourable, with the result that four of the SEALs drowned – either when their boat overturned or as a result of the drop. When the remaining SEALs and CCT men headed towards the shore in their only boat, the boat was swamped by waves and the engine flooded. Dawn was breaking by the time the SEALs were nearing the shore, and, for fear of revealing themselves and thus compromising the mission, the SEALs headed back out to sea, meeting up with Clifton Sprague.[xcviii]

constructionMainterminal.jpg

Cuban construction workers on the Point Salines airfield, from the Grenada Papers (1984). & View of the unfinished terminal buildings at the Salines airport

sof.jpg

Various SOF missions during the Grenada campaign. The failed Team 6 mission for 24 October was the Salines beach reconnaissance. The Paul Scoon rescue mission occurred on 25 October, as did the Beausejour radio tower mission. The first SEAL Team 6 mission to Salines (failed) is not listed. The 1st SOW mission for 25 October was the USAF Combat Control Team pathfinder jump.

PBL.jpg

Patrol Boat Light (PBL)-type Boston whaler, improved variant of the single-engine type airdropped with Team 6 crew for the Salines mission.

 

Second, after meeting with Metcalf aboard USS Guam, a SEAL Team 4 crew attached to Amphibious Squadron Four and commanded by “Wild” Bill Taylor and Lieutenant Michael Walsh, departed USS Fort Snelling at 10 pm on 24 October in the SeaFox patrol-boat. Once near Pearls the SEAL crew took to their Zodiac boats and carried out a traditional frogman UDT mission at the Pearls airport landing site,[xcix] successfully examining Grenville’s beaches. Considering the unfavourable nature of the terrain, the SEALs recommended a helicopter assault rather than a shore landing, and this change in plans was approved by Captain Erie and Vice Admiral Metcalf, only a few hours before the beginning of the invasion.[c] Afterwards, with the invasion underway, the Team 4 crew exfiltrated, eventually making their way to Guam to brief Schwarzkopf on the mission outcome.[ci]

Seafox1 (1)seafox

SeaFox patrol boat used by the SEAL Team 4 crew as part of the Pearls airfield reconnaissance mission. Note Zodiac inflatable boat.

 

While SEAL Team 4 was beginning their mission, around midnight on the 24th, a second SEAL Team 6/CCT insertion was attempted at Salines, but again the whaler boats were swamped and the engines flooded. The operators, no doubt exhausted, were unable to reconnoitre the Salines beachhead before sunrise.[cii] The failure of the Team 6 insertion, and the loss of four SEALs during the unit’s first wartime operation since its inception, has generated considerable controversy, especially considering the relative success of the more traditional Team 4 mission at Grenville.

Although there was another Team 4 crew available at Puerto Rico, who theoretically could have been inserted by one of the Task Force’s two nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), hindsight is 20/20 and there almost certainly would not have been time for such a diversion.[ciii] Regardless of the exact details, the failure at Point Salines impacted not only mission planning – with Salines being deemed too dangerous for an amphibious landing – but also delayed the entire operation, with the Ranger’s C-130 drop pushed back twice from the planned 3 am launch to 5 am, only a dozen minutes before the sun began rising.[civ]

Helicopter Assault, 25 October

guamgrenada.jpg

Guam in October 1983 off Grenada & Dr. Robert Jordan’s photograph of Guam seen from Grenada on 25 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

guam

The Marines destined for Grenville were awaken at 1 am.[cv] The first 21 helicopters from Lt. Col. Amos’ HMM-261 element left USS Guam at 3:15 am.[cvi] Rain caused some delays, and thus the first components of Company E, carried in CH-46s with AH-1 Cobra escort, arrived at LZ Buzzard – south of Pearls – 30 minutes behind schedule.[cvii] A TOW equipped jeep was damaged during its deployment from a CH-53, and two marines broke arms or legs while unloading, but otherwise the deployment went off successfully.[cviii] 12.7-mm AA cannons fired on the incoming helicopters waves, but these guns were knocked out by Cobra gunships.[cix]

guamhelos.jpgCreenhelos.jpeg

Sikorsky R(C)H-53 Sea Stallions, a Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight and Bell UH-1N Iroquois on Guam‘s flight deck during Operation Urgent Fury. & CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters deploying, SGT M. J. Creen’s collection

Kngihts.jpegblackhawk

CH-46 Sea Knights on 25 October 1983. UH-60 landings at Salines during Operation Urgent Fury. 

The helicopters delivered their Marines ashore at the Pearls airport at 5 am. Captain Henry Donigan, CO of Company E, deployed one platoon to secure the landing zone perimeter while the other two platoons attacked the airfield itself.[cx] Within two hours both the airfield and the Grenville objectives had been secured; the Marines captured two Cuban airplanes and their crews in the process.[cxi]

Lt. Colonel Smith was soon ashore with his HQ group, and he ordered the capture of Hill 275 that overlooked the airfield. The Grenadians had emplaced two 12.7-mm guns on the hill, but the crews fled as the Marines approached.[cxii] Company E now began moving west, encountering scattered 81-mm mortar fire in the process.

pearlsunload.jpgMarines landing at the Pearls airport, Grenville, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At 6.30 am the assault on Grenville began, with helicopters landing Company F at a soccer field, identified at LZ Oriole.[cxiii] In the case of both landings the initial landing zones had been less suitable than hoped, requiring quick adaptation by the helicopter pilots. Grenville and the port area were quickly secured without opposition, the population both friendly and excited to see the arriving Marines.

BaclkHawksfield.jpegUH-1N.jpeg

Black Hawks touching down on 25 October, SGT Michael Bogdanowicz.  & UH-1N hovering 25 October, SPC Gregory Tully collection

On the west coast the Navy SEALs and Team Delta were about to hit their targets. Most of Team 6 was landed outside St. George’s to secure Sir Paul Scoon at the Governor’s residence, while one squad hit Grenada’s public radio station north of the capital. Fifteen SEALs, including Lieutenant Wellington “Duke” Leonard, Lt. Bill Davis, and Lt. Johnny Koenig, fast-roped successfully down to the residence. After deploying its SEALs, the command Black Hawk piloted by Major Robert Johnson and carrying Team 6 CO Captain Robert Gormly as well as the satellite radios, was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The helicopter’s instrument panel was blown to pieces and Johnson was badly wounded, forcing the co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer David “Rosey” Rosengrant to fly back to Guam.[cxiv] Indeed, the Grenadians and Cuban gunners manning the anti-aircraft and machine guns covering the St. George’s approach were putting up a tremendous fire at the approaching helicopters.[cxv]

residence.jpgThe Governor-General’s residence behind Fort Rupert, in St. George’s, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

The SEALs persevered and successfully entered the Governor-General’s residence, locating Sir Paul with his family hiding in the building’s basement.[cxvi] The SEALs were shortly surrounded by Grenadian forces, including three BTR-60 APCs.[cxvii] The besieged SEALs were able to communicate to the fleet using their short-range radios, and, through Guam, SEAL Team 6 commander Gormly, who was about to head for Point Salines, was able to call for AC-130 gunship support. Metcalf despatched four Cobra gunships,[cxviii] and the Grenadian APCs were shortly out of commission.[cxix] The other telling is that Lt. Bill Davis used a phone in the Governor’s residence to call, “the airfield where American forces were already in control [Salines], and asked for gunship protection…”.[cxx] At any rate, with gunship and Cobra support, the SEALs held off the Grenadian infantry until the following morning when the Marines reached the Governor-General’s residence (see below).

Two teams of SEALs – 12 operators total – commanded by Lt. Donald K. “Kim” Erskine had also landed by MH-60 Pavehawks in a field next to the radio transmitter at Cape St. George Beausejour.[cxxi] Although the SEALs quickly overwhelmed the local guards at the Soviet built radio transmitter, PRA reinforcements, including a BTR-60, arrived and a firefight commenced.[cxxii] The SEALs lacked communication with the fleet (their cryptographic satellite radios did not work as planned, and their short range sets were too short range), and, worse, did not possess any anti-tank weapons.[cxxiii]

radio.jpgRadio Free Grenada, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At about 2:30 pm, with ammunition nearly exhausted, Lieutenant Erskine retreated under fire. Although many of his SEALs were wounded, they managed to make it to the waterfront.[cxxiv] As the Navy called in airstrikes and naval gunfire on the transmitter,[cxxv] Erskine’s teams swam along the shoreline until they reached a rocky cliff-face and hid there. Two pairs of swimmers were despatched to commandeer local fishing boats, but the SEALs were unable to free the boats from their fishing lines. Eventually the SEALs all made for the open ocean, where they were luckily spotted by a C-130 aircraft early on the 26th, and thence retrieved by USS Caron.[cxxvi] Lt. Erskine received the Silver Star.

Caron2.jpgUSS Caron firing on the Beausejour radio station after exfiltration by SEAL Team 6

While the SEALs were carrying out these operations, Delta’s B Squadron and components of Ranger C Company (1st Battalion) and their five Black Hawk helicopters were moving to their target. As the Black Hawks neared their objective at Richmond Hill they encountered heavy anti-aircraft and machinegun fire from Fort Frederick. Delta operator Eric Haney recalled his Black Hawk being hit by 23-mm rounds, wounding many of the occupants, including Major Larry Sloan, the commander of this Black Hawk section, who was hit in the shoulder and neck by 23-mm fire.[cxxvii]

 

Richmond Hill.jpg

Richmond Hill Prison, atop Mount Cardigan, west of Fort Frederick & Mathew. The tip of Point Salines (end of the airstrip) is visible at the extreme left.

 

When they reached the Richmond Hill prison the Rangers and Delta operators were stunned to find the target deserted. The helicopters thus broke off the attack, heading back out to the fleet to repair, refuel, and drop off wounded. As they were departing, one of the Black Hawks (#5), was hit by 23-mm rounds, the shells exploding through the cockpit windshield and killing the pilot, Captain Keith Lucas.[cxxviii] The Black Hawk went down inshore at 6:45 am near Amber Belair Hill. Although the crew, Rangers, and Delta operators aboard were badly injured, they were able to hold off a Cuban patrol until a rescue team led by Steve Ansley arrived.[cxxix] The UH-60 that Delta team member Eric Haney was in made an emergency landing on USS Moosbrugger.[cxxx]

While attempting to repair aboard the Navy’s warships the 160th Aviation Battalion was encountering the sharp end of inter-service bureaucracy: the Navy comptroller in Washington cabled Guam instructing Metcalf not to refuel the Army’s helicopters due to budgeting issues between Army and Navy logistics.[cxxxi] “This is bullshit,” Schwarzkopf recalled Metcalf saying, “give them fuel.”[cxxxii]

Those uninjured in Delta’s B Squadron flew back to Grenada to support the Rangers, and the Delta operators landed at Point Salines, moving into the hills around the airstrip to try to disrupt the 23-mm AA cannons before the Rangers began their C-130 airdrop.[cxxxiii]

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SEAL Team 6 CO Captain Bob Gormly and Delta Deputy Commander Lt. Commander “Bucky” Burruss at Point Salines, during Urgent Fury & LTC Burruss with LTC John “Coach” Carney, USAF Combat Controller.

 

The Airdrop

A Company’s Rangers departed the airfield in Georgia at 11:30 pm on 24 October.[cxxxiv] The Pathfinders were over the target at 3:30 am and jumped from a reconnaissance C-130 at 2,000 feet. On the ground, they confirmed that the Salines’ runway was blocked.[cxxxv] As the Rangers were preparing for the airdrop, Col. Taylor was unable to communicate with all of the aircraft in the formation, the lead aircraft’s navigation instruments were malfunctioning, and there were no radio beacons to hone in on. Taylor’s executive officer, Major Jack Nix, in transport #5, anticipated the jump order.[cxxxvi] Due to conflicting orders, some of the Rangers were stowing their chutes when they received a twenty minute warning that they were in fact jumping.

Major General Scholtes, who was airborne in a command EC-130, delayed the drop by thirty minutes to 5:30 am.[cxxxvii] Although a specialist team of heavy machinery operators from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 618th Engineering Company were supposed to drop first and clear the runway, the C-130 they were in was forced to fall back, putting Lt. Col. Taylor’s aircraft in the lead.[cxxxviii]

The-jump.jpgPhotograph taken by Ranger during airdrop at Point Salines

 

Point SalinesPhotograph by Tom Tassakis of Rangers dropping on Point Salines, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

With dawn breaking and sky conditions partly cloudy, the 1st Battalion Rangers began their drop at Salines at 5:34 am. Immediately the aircraft were lit by PRA searchlights and then fired upon by quad 12.7-mm fire.[cxxxix] Once on the ground Lt. Col. Taylor and nearby B Company Rangers watched two of the C-130s curve away, having aborted their drop due to intense AA fire. With only 40 men on the ground, Taylor called in AC-130 support, with two gunships responding. The Rangers hurried to clear the airfield of debris and vehicles. At 5:52 A Company’s Rangers started their drop, and were assembled on the ground by 6:34 am.[cxl] The Rangers, leading an infantry charge, quickly cleared the enemy guns from the airfield and then commandeered a local bulldozer to clear the runway. Colonel Taylor’s force was fully deployed within the hour.

Landingmap.jpgAirdrop, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At 7:07 am 2nd Battalion began its drop, and sustained several casualties in the process: Sergeant Kevin Joseph Lannon and Sergeant Phillip Sebastian Grenier were dead when they hit the ground.[cxli] Specialist Harold Hagen broke his leg, and Specialist William Fedak was tangled exiting the C-130, but was recovered aboard the plane.[cxlii]

Private Mark Yamane, M60 machine-gunner in A Company, was killed by a shot through the neck while providing fire behind a truck on the tarmac. 1st Battalion was in an extended gunfight with the Cuban defenders, more than 75 of whom eventually surrendered.[cxliii] The Rangers moved out to secure the village of Calliste.[cxliv]

URGENT FURYOperation-Urgent-Fury-Point-Salines-objectives.jpg

Salines, showing the approach and runway, from the air. Department of Defense photograph of objectives at the incomplete Salines airfield

The Rangers reached the medical school’s True Blue Campus at 7:30 am, and the building was secured after a firefight lasting 15 minutes. The PRA guards fled to the north. While conducting a jeep reconnaissance around True Blue, Sergeant Randy Cline of A Company (1st Battalion) drove into a PRA Ambush, and Cline, Privates Marlin Maynard, Mark Rademarcher and Russell Robinson were all killed.[cxlv]

By 9 am the Rangers had rescued 138 of the American medical students who were being held at the True Blue Campus, and learned that there were another 200 students being held at the Grand Anse beach campus. In total 250 Cubans had by now been captured, however the assault force lacked translators to interrogate the prisoners.[cxlvi]

captured.jpg2nd Ranger Battalion soldiers cover captured Cuban prisoners at the Salines airfield, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

DeltaDelta operator overlooking Task Force 160s UH-60s and OH-6s, which had been flown in aboard MAC transports to the cleared Salines airfield during Urgent Fury

While B Company’s Rangers were securing the airport, Team Delta’s A Squadron was deploying at Salines by C-141s. A Squadron set off in their Little Bird helicopters to attack Fort Rupert, but was forced to abandon the assault due to heavy AA fire.[cxlvii] 2nd Battalion (Rangers) were meanwhile preparing for the Calivigny operation, consolidating their hold on the Salines airfield, while C-130s landed equipment and Major General Scholtes established his HQ.

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Prepared 82nd Airborne trooper, photograph by JOC Gary Miller collection, 28 October, & 82nd Airborne deploying for Grenada operation, SPC James Hefner

 

At 10 am the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, began their C-141 airlift from Fort Bragg to Point Salines. The Airborne troopers, beginning with A Company, 2nd Battalion, landed at 2:05 pm.[cxlviii]

salines25.jpgAdvance from Salines, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

Vice Admiral Metcalf meanwhile was deploying the CPF to Point Salines to help reinforce the assault forces, and, along with General Crist, the CPF began landing at 10:45 am.[cxlix] CPF commander Brigadier General Lewis met with Major General Scholtes and Major General Trobaugh and agreed to use the CPF units to guard the Cuban prisoners.

EDFBarbados.jpegBrigadier General Rudyard Lewis of Barbados, commander Caribbean Peacekeeping Force (CPF), 25 October 1983 by JO1 Sundber

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Eastern Caribbean Defence force soldiers board a Black Hawk helicopter on 25 October, Creen collectionEastern Caribbean Defence (ECD) force soldiers, by PH2 D. Wujcik.

 

The Ranger’s final action at the Salines runway occurred at 3:30 pm when three BTR-60s attempted to break through a section of the line held by 2nd Platoon, A Company. Two of these APCs were quickly knocked out by LAW and 90-mm recoilless fire; Sergeant Jimmy Pickering is credited with the 90-mm hits.[cl] The third BTR, which had attempted to flee, was destroyed by AC-130 gunship fire.[cli]

BTR60knock.jpegC-Company-Operation-Urgent-Fury-ftd.jpg

Knocked out Grenadian BTR-6. & C company, 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Rangers) on 25 October, at Point Salines

 

Cobras Down

As we have seen, earlier in the day SEALs from Team 6 attempted to rescue Governor-General Paul Scoon. The SEALs had quickly secured Scoon but where then pinned down by APCs.[clii] The Rangers who were supposed to support the SEALs were busy fighting what they thought was a Cuban battalion north of Salines. Metcalf ordered airstrikes around the Governor-General’s residence to hold off the Grenadian forces.

Four Cobra gunships – in addition to a 1st SOW USAF AC-130 gunship – were tasked to provide this support, but the Cobras were low on fuel and unable to communicate with the Army or Air Force ground coordinators outside St. George’s. While Captains John P. “Pat” Giguere and Timothy B. Howard were heading to Guam for refueling, Captains Douglas J. “Darth Flight” Diehl and Gary W. Watson were just about finished their own refuelling and ready to depart. As the Cobras were heading back to Grenada, Captain Watson managed to establish radio contact with a forward air controller from the 1st Ranger Battalion, who wanted the Cobras to attack a 75-mm recoilless gun positioned inside a house near St. George’s. Watson destroyed the target and a nearby truck with two TOW missiles.[cliii]

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AH-1 Sea Cobra in flight, 25 October, PH2 D. Wujcik collection, & HMM-261 AH-1S Cobra firing its 20mm cannon, 25 October, MSGT David Goldie

Watson and Diehl headed back for Guam, to re-arm and re-fuel, as Giguere and Howard had finished fueling and were again flying out to replace them on station. Now in touch with the ground air controllers, Giguere and Howard received a request to attack Fort Frederick, overlooking St. George’s. While the two Cobras were carrying out this strike, Captain Howard’s Cobra was hit by anti-aircraft fire, shells blowing out his engines and wounding both Howard and his co-pilot, Captain Jeb F. Seagle, who was knocked unconscious. With leg broken and arm injured, Howard brought the Cobra down on a soccer field.[cliv]

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LTC Marshall Applegate photograph of SeaCobra supporting 1st Rangers at Salines, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Seagle, who had regained consciousness, pulled Howard from the crash only moments before the Cobra exploded, setting off the gunship’s 2.75-inch rockets. Howard gave Seagle his pistol and the co-pilot set off to find help while Howard tried to radio for rescue, sporadic fire from Fort Frederick landing around him. Unbeknownst to Howard, Captain Seagle was killed by enemy fire not long after departing the crash site.

HowardCaptain Jeb Seagle drags Captain Timothy Howard from their downed Cobra gunship, although Howard was rescued, Seagle was killed. Art by Lt. Colonel A. M. Leahy.

 

HowardCobra.jpgBurning wreck of Captain Howard’s Cobra at Tanteen field, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Howard’s wingman, Captain Giguere, was able to hold off Grenadian reinforcements moving to the crash site with rocket fire, while he radioed for a CH-46 to come pick up the survivors. CH-46 pilots Major DeMars and First Lieutenant Lawrence M. King Jr. made the approach, landing under fire near Howard. Gunnery Sergeant Kelly M. Neidigh jumped from the helicopter and with the aid of Corporal Simon D. Gore, Jr., rescued Howard. The CH-46 took off and headed for Guam.[clv] Tragically, Captain Giguere’s Cobra, which had been flying protection for the CH-46 during this time, was now hit by AA fire coming from the forts, and crashed into the harbor of St. George’s, killing Giguere and his co-pilot, First Lieutenant Jeffrey R. Scharver.[clvi]

 

Crash2Dr. Robert Jordan’s photograph of Captain Giguere’s Cobra crashing, taken from the Medical School. Major Melvin DeMar’s CH-46 is evacuating Captain Howard at the left. Major DeMar & Gunnery Sergeant Kelly Neidigh received Silver Stars for this action, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

 

Vice Admiral Metcalf now authorized the destruction of Fort Frederick. “Bomb it” agreed Schwarzkopf.[clvii] A-7 Corsairs from Independence were ordered to strike the forts. When Fort Frederick was bombed at 3:25 they inadvertently also destroyed what was in fact a mental hospital that had been fortified by the Grenadians, killing 18 of the patients who were locked in one of the hospital rooms when the airstrike occurred.[clviii]

a7.jpgA-7 Corsair overflying the Salines airstrip. Photograph by Gunnery Sergeant Joe Muccia. reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Amphibious Landing

The assault forces would now direct their efforts towards securing St. George’s. At 12 pm, Vice Admiral Metcalf met with Major General Schwarzkopf to discuss the situation. Schwarzkopf recommended a landing north of St. George’s at Grand Mal Bay by the Marine forces that were currently loaded in their amphibious transports but not yet deployed (Company G).[clix] This would create a flank to draw away PRA forces from the Grenadian capital.[clx]

Landing.jpgMarines disembarking from landing craft, 25 October.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith, who was ashore at Grenville, was having difficulty communicating with Guam. At 3 pm he received word from the Fort Snelling that an amphibious landing was being planned for the Grand Mal Bay. Smith departed for Guam in a helicopter, where he was briefed by Major Van Huss.

 

OH1.jpegmarines3.jpeg

UH-1 Iroquois landing amongst Marines, JOC Gary Miller collection & Marines with M16A1 rifles secure a housing complex on 25 October, photograph by PH2 D. Wujcik

 

The plan so far called for Captain Robert K. Dobson’s Company G to make the amphibious landing, while Company F would redeploy by helicopter from Grenville.[clxi] Smith convinced Metcalf and Schwarzkopf to delay the landing from 4:30 to 6:30, which meant recalling Company G – in the process of deploying to their landing craft from Manitowoc.[clxii] Navy SEALs hit the beaches and carried out a rapid beach reconnaissance.[clxiii] Dobson’s company had been sitting in its amphibious tractors since 3:45 am, their landing having been delayed four times until scrubbed at 7:30 am.

Still expecting to land at Pearls, Dobson was notified of the change in plans at 1:30 pm. USS Guam and the other amphibious ships were moving from the Pearls area to the west coast of the island for staging against Grand Mal Bay. Dobson, assuming the mission would be delayed until the following morning, at 5:50 pm had his marines prepare to stow their weapons and get some rest. Immediately after issuing this order the Go order was received for the Grand Mal Bay landing – designated LZ Fuel – at 6:30 pm.[clxiv] The first AAVs (amtracs) were ashore at 7:10 pm.

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Marine drinking from a coconut, photograph by PH2 D. Wujcik, 25 October & US Army Rangers at Point Salines airfield on 26 October

 

Captain Dobson had his platoons establish a perimeter while conducting reconnaissance of the road south towards St. George’s. At 11 pm the Marines established a helicopter LZ, enabling the MAU air liaison Major William J. Sublette to land in a UH-1. Sublette briefed Dobson on the situation, informing the Company G commander that it was believed there were significant enemy forces between their location and the capital. Company F was scheduled to arrive within the hour by helicopter. Sublette headed back to Guam to pick up Lt. Colonel Smith, who had been trying to coordinate the situation between Pearls and the fleet for several hours, and now came ashore by CH-46.[clxv] Smith ordered Sublette to return to Pearls and contact Lt. Colonel Amos, who would organize Company F for immediate deployment to LZ Fuel.[clxvi]

Smith now briefed Company G on the situation, utilizing a detailed map of Grenada that had been captured at Pearls.[clxvii] Tanks, jeeps with TOW missiles, and Dragon anti-tank missiles were arriving aboard utility landing craft. At 4 am on the 26th Company F began to arrive by helicopter. Company G was making its way south towards St. George’s, encountering only sporadic RPG fire as the PRA soldiers, hearing the approach of Marine armor, fled their positions.[clxviii]

shaving.jpegUS serviceman shaving, 25 October, by SGT Michael Bogdanowicz

CVA62 Grenada.jpg

CV-62 under combat conditions during Operation Urgent Fury. Hundreds of sorties were flown, missions including strike, medievac, reconnaissance, anti-submarine and close air patrol.

 

D-Day + 1, 26 October

With the Marines ashore and morning breaking on the 26th, Lieutenant Colonel Smith ordered Captain Dobson to storm the Governor-General’s residence. Marines fought their way south into the capital, reaching the residence at 7:15 am.[clxix] Three hours later the Marines had relieved not only Scoon, his wife, and nine other civilians, but also the 22 SOF forces that had been pinned down at the residence (all but one of the SEALs involved had been wounded) for more than 24-hours.[clxx]

This entire group exfiltrated by helicopter to USS Guam,[clxxi] and by 10 am they were having tea in Metcalf’s messroom.[clxxii] Governor-General Scoon, however, requested that he be landed at Point Salines until St. George’s had been cleared by the Marines, who were at that time in a protracted battle against Fort Frederick. Once St. George’s had been fully liberated, Major General Crist and Governor-General Scoon moved into a private residence at the capital and established an interim government through a JCS and CIA connection to London.

 

helo2.jpegCH-53 Sea Stallion, photograph by JOC Gary Miller, dated October 1983

After the Marines had secured the residence, Lt. Col. Smith arrived. He issued orders for Company G to capture the remains of Fort Frederick itself.[clxxiii] As Captain Dobson deployed his platoons for this assault he observed PRA soldiers abandoning the fort, throwing their uniforms to the ground. The PRA was beginning to crumble.[clxxiv]

0ct26.jpgAdvance to Grand Anse, 26 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

Back at the Salines airfield, 82nd Airborne troopers were planning to deploy to capture the Grand Anse beach, where it was believed more medical students were being held. Facing significant defense preparations, Major General Trobaugh requested support from Vice Admiral Metcalf. Schwarzkopf, who was now formally designated the deputy commander CJTF by Metcalf,[clxxv] recommended a Ranger helicopter assault – flown in by USMC helicopters due to the Rangers’ helicopters being damaged or unavailable. “Make it happen,” replied Metcalf.[clxxvi]

Marinestaking off.jpegblackhawk guam.jpeg

Marines boarding a Sea Knight, Creen collection, and Black Hawk UH-60 aboard USS Guam, 3 November, Creen collection

The fragmentary plan required CH-46s to land elements from three of the Ranger companies, followed by four CH-53s arriving to extract the rescued medical students. The CH-46s would then return and pick up the Rangers.[clxxvii] Lt. Colonel Amos would control the now extensive fire-support available (ranging from AC-130s gunships to A-7 Corsairs, and including naval gunfire and Army mortar and artillery), while aboard a UH-1.[clxxviii]

grand.jpgThe Grand Anse campus

At 4 pm 19 Marine Sea Knight helicopters departed from Salines to land the Rangers at the beach. The Task Force pummelled suspected Cuban and PRA positions with support fire from A-7 Corsairs, an AC-130 gunship, and Cobra helicopters up until the moment the CH-46s touched down at 4:15. One of the Sea Knights clipped a palm tree and, with a damaged rotor, had to be temporarily abandoned, although this helicopter was recovered later.[clxxix]

CH-53s arrived next to extract the medical students. Despite ongoing small arms fire, casualties amongst the Rangers were minimal; no Marines or Rangers were lost. After rescuing the students at Grand Anse, the Rangers learned of a third group being held at Lance aux Epines, east of Point Salines. As the CH-46s returned to pick up the Rangers, another Sea Knight clipped a palm tree, completely destroying the rotor. The crew abandoned their helicopter, utilizing a life raft to escape to sea where they were recovered by USS Caron.[clxxx] The entire operation was completed in 26 minutes with only one Ranger injured from flying shrapnel.[clxxxi]

wreck.jpgSea KNgiht.jpeg

Sea Knight abandoned on 26 October at Grand Anse, photographed on 29 October.  .

The Airborne battalions, meanwhile, were clearing southern Grenada. The 82nd’s 2nd Battalion, A and B Companies, had been tasked to secure the Cuban positions around Salines known as “Little Havana”. Prior to launching the attack at 4:30 am, B Company’s commander Captain Michael Ritz carried out a reconnaissance of the Cuban positions. Ritz was in fact walking into an ambush, and he was killed in a burst of gunfire that also wounded Sergeant Terry Guinn.[clxxxii]

A-7 Corsairs bombed the Cuban building complex and the Airborne troopers stormed the position. 16 Cubans were killed and another 86 captured. While collecting the large Cuban arms cache at the site, Staff Sergeant Gary Epps was killed when the recoilless rifle he was trying to disarm exploded.[clxxxiii]

Consolidation, 27 October

Marine Company E had meanwhile spent 25 October at Grenville awaiting a non-existent mechanized attack, and then spent the 26th covering the Pearls airfield. On the 27th Company E received orders to conduct reconnaissance around Mount Horne, three kilometers from Grenville, where a PRA battalion headquarters was expected to be located.[clxxxiv] Company E encountered no resistance as they secured the Mount Horne Agricultural Center, where maps, documents, and arms caches were discovered.

82nd fly.jpg82ndchop.jpeg

82nd Airborne enroute (photograph by Larry Hennebery) & being ferried to a landing zone, 25 October by Specialist Douglas Ide

At the urging of local residents, the Marines moved to seize the nearby Mount St. Catherine television and microwave relay station, where they located an 81-mm position the PRA was in the process of abandoning.[clxxxv] Shortly afterwards Company commander Captain Donigan received orders to secure an arms cache at the nearby Mirabeau hospital. While the Company was moving by vehicle convoy towards the objective they encountered fire from several isolated groups of PRA, including a team that was captured and later identified as Cuban.[clxxxvi] During the return drive to the Pearls airfield another small squad of PRA fighters engage the Marines from a ridgeline, but again were driven off.

ambulance.jpegoh6aguam.jpeg

JOC Gary Miller collection, UH-60 air ambulance. Wounded serviceman removed from OH-6A aboard USS Guam, 26 October

 

The Marine’s F and G Companies, on the west coast, spent 27 October consolidating St. George’s and the surrounding area. On the night of the 26th a jeep team with Company G encountered a BTR-60 and knocked it out with a LAW infantry anti-tank weapon. The following morning Lt. Col. Smith received orders to capture the Richmond Hill Prison – the abandoned complex west of Fort Frederick that JSOC had misidentified as occupied – as well as secure the ruins of Forts Lucas and Adolphus, slightly south of Fort Frederick.[clxxxvii] Captain Dobson’s G Company presently secured the abandoned Richmond Hill Prison, as well as the Fort Lucas ruins, and while the Marines were preparing to take-over the Fort Adolphus buildings they discovered that it was in fact the Venezuelan embassy.[clxxxviii] Company F now entered St. George’s to search for weapons caches.

 

patrol.jpgUS Marines patrol St. Georges on 28 October, filmed by JO1 Peter D. Sundberg

With St. George’s thoroughly secured, the Marines prepared to attack the Ross Point Hotel, where it was believed a further 400 Canadian, British and Americans were held. Company F secured the hotel in the evening, but found only a few Canadians.[clxxxix] On the morning of the 28th the Marines were relieved by the 82nd Airborne, 2nd Battalion. Not long afterwards, Lieutenant Michael Flynn, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division moved into the phone company building in St. Georges to tap into the Grenadian telecommunications, hoping to locate fleeing Cubans.[cxc]

The Canadian citizens were evacuated by Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft. 379 American medical students had by now been evacuated to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Assistant Secretary of State Langhorne Motley, in addition to a dozen reporters, had arrived on Grenada on the 27th as part of the post-invasion consolidation aspect of the operation. Major General Crist flew back to the Pentagon on 28 October.

Marinradio.jpegbinos.jpeg

Marine radio operator receives a call while shaving, photography by JO1 Peter D. Sundberg, 28 October. & Airborne troopers using binoculars in early November, Sergeant M. J. Creen’s collection

UrgentFurymarines.jpg82ndpatrol.jpeg

US Airborne trooper with M203 grenade launcher covering a building corner during Operation Urgent Fury & 82nd patrol, 25 October, SGT Michael Bogdanowicz

To reinforce the exhausted Rangers and Marines, two additional battalions of 82nd Airborne were landed at Point Salines at 9:17 pm. The JSOC commander, Major General Scholtes, departed Grenada in the afternoon on the 26th, and so at 7 pm Metcalf placed the Ranger battalions under Major General Trobaugh’s command.[cxci]

27Oct.jpgAdvance on Calivigny, 27 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

The final Ranger operation on the island was the capture of the Calivigny barracks on 27 October. This was expected to be a major operation, involving large numbers of PRA fighters and Soviet bloc advisors.[cxcii] The attack was to begin at 4:30 pm, leaving only one hour for planning and briefing. After a preparatory attack carried out by the 82nd Airborne’s 105-mm howitzers, the Rangers would fly in aboard Black Hawks and secure the site. 2nd Battalion was to carry out the attack with A, B, and C companies, along with the attached 1st Battalion’s Charlie Company.[cxciii] Each company would arrive aboard four Black Hawks resulting in four waves of landings.[cxciv]

Artillery.jpegartillery2.jpeg

82nd Airborne firing M102 (155 mm) howitzers during the 27 October Calivigny barracks attack. SGT M. J. Creen

caron3.jpgUSS Caron firing on Calivigny, 27 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

explosion.jpegStrikes2.jpeg

Explosion of 500-lb bombs on 27 October Sequence, during the Calivigny attack

Although the 82nd’s artillery fell short, Spectre gunship and naval gunfire from Moosbrugger destroyed a fuel and ammunition dump. A-7s then flew eight sorties, further destroying the camp. Unbeknownst to the Rangers, the barracks garrison had abandoned the camp, but were preparing an ambush for the approaching Black Hawks.

Blackhwaks3.jpegBlack Hawks at Point Salines, 4 November 1983, Staff Sergeant Haggerty collection

cal.jpgB Company Rangers from 2nd Battalion launching on the Calivigny raid, 27 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

A fusillade of fire hit the Black Hawks as the first chalks landed at 5:50 pm. The target was obscured by smoke and fire from the airstrikes and it was now that a major incident occurred: As the second Black Hawk was unloading troops, the third Black Hawk, taking enemy fire, lost control and crashed into the second. The incoming fourth UH-60 attempted to steer clear of the disaster area, but in the process clipped its tail rotor and lost control, also crashing.[cxcv]

Although three Black Hawks had been destroyed, none of the pilots or crew were killed, although one disembarking Ranger (Sergeant Stephen Eric Slater) was killed,[cxcvi] and many others badly wounded. Medical Sergeant Stephen Trujillo received the Silver Star for his life-saving work on the wounded.[cxcvii]

burn.jpgWrecked2.jpg

Time Life photograph from Jay Harrison collection showing burning Black Hawk helicopters & USAF Major Marshall Applegate photography of wrecked Black Hawk, 28 October, both reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

The barracks, which turned out to be empty, was searched and secured by 9 pm.[cxcviii] The Rangers loaded onto C-141s and flew home the next day, arriving at Hunter Army Airfied on 29 October.[cxcix]

There was a major friendly fire incident caused by communications problems on the 27th. Snipers attacking Airborne positions nearby Frequente prompted an Air Naval Gunfire Liaison team to order a Corsair strike against what turned out to be a 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne command post, resulting in 17 injuries.[cc] Badly wounded soldiers were evacuated to USS Guam and then Puerto Rico.

URGENT FURYHercules.jpeg

C-130 Hercules on approach to Pearls airport, 28 October, Creen collection & UH-60 helicopters flying over Point Salines airfield, 28 October 1983

By the evening of the 28th the primary objective had transitioned from high-intensity fighting to mopping up, while continuing to attempt to locate the Grenadian coup leaders. A team of post-invasion specialists, ranging from medics to military police were deployed to the island to assist with the return to normalcy.[cci] On the 29th Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis, the Minister of National Mobilization Selwyn Strachan, and Lt. Colonel Liam Jones, were rounded up in St. Georges.[ccii] The final 202 medical students were located at Lance aux Epines near St. George’s by the 82nd Airborne troopers.

salines3.jpegAirborne2.jpeg

Salines under US control, 28 October 1983. 82nd Airborne Division soldiers resting at Port Salines airfield, 28 October, Mike Creen

Marincaptures.jpegUS Marine guards captured PRA fighter in plain clothes, 28 October, JO1 Peter D. Sundberg collection

Operation Duke, 1 November

The interior of Grenada and the island of Carriacou to the north were believed to be the location of the final Cuban holdouts, and focus now shifted to locating and eliminating those last opposition forces.

The Grenada coup conspirators were shortly located, captured, and interned aboard USS Guam. The Cuban embassy was surrounded on 29 October and the ambassador, Jullian Torrez Riso, verified that he had been ordered to leave Grenada immediately. By the end of the day 599 US citizens and 121 foreign nationals had been rescued and evacuated. Admiral McDonald and General Vessey landed at Point Salines on 29 October to inspect the prisoners and captured arms caches.

film.jpeg

A/V crew with Betacam filming Urgent Fury, 3 November, SGT M. J. Creen collection.

The Marines learned through a local informant that a PRA battalion commander was hiding in Grenville and captured him. With fresh information on the PRA formation in Sauteurs, Company E prepared to move out from Pearls, readying at 3:30 am on the 30th.[cciii] By 5:15 that morning the Marine column had entered Sauteurs and secured it, the local PRA commander surrendering without a fight.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Company G received orders to mount its amtracs and secure Gouyave and Victoria. The Marines moved out at 3:30 pm on the 30th, supported by two tanks carried by utility landing craft and Cobra gunships overhead.[cciv] Both towns were secured that evening without opposition.

On 31 October Metcalf approved Operation Duke, the capture of Carriacou island to the North of Grenada. Over the course of the day all of the Marine forces on Grenada re-embarked with the fleet, their positions being taken over by the 82nd Airborne. The Marines returned to their landing ships for a final amphibious operation against Carriacou, scheduled for 1 November.

Carricou

Top: Details of Operation Duke. Navy SEAL insertion at Lauriston Point (green), Company F’s helicopter landing at the airstrip and march on Hillsborough (blue). Company G’s amphibious assault at Tyrrel Bay (red). Bottom: Captain Robert Dobson, G Company, speaks with locals from his amtrac after coming ashore at Tyrrel Bay, photograph by SGT Christopher Grey, USMC.

The Carriacou operation was to be carried out by USS Saipan, the Marines going ashore at 5:30 am on 1 November. One company would be air inserted at the Lauriston Point Airstrip, secure it, and then advance on Hillsborough. Simultaneously, another company would land at Tyrrel Bay and attack what was believed to be a PRA training base.[ccv]

SEALs went in first to reconnoiter Lauriston Point, and then, covered by eight USAF A-10 jets, Company F made the helicopter landing, while Company G performed the amphibious assault. The Marines secured all of their objectives without opposition in three hours.[ccvi] 17 or 19 Grenadian soldiers were captured, in addition to more equipment and ammunition, however, the expected Cuban guerrillas were not located and Lt. Col. Smith, sensing the situation was well in hand, paroled the PRA soldiers on good behavior.[ccvii] The 82nd Airborne relieved the Marines at 7 am the next morning. Within an hour the paroled PRA platoon reported to the 82nd Airborne and formally surrendered. By the afternoon of the 2nd all the Marines had departed for the fleet.

82ndtrooper.jpegmarinesstarlifter.JPG

The Liberated medical students with 82nd Airborne trooper, note bayonet . & US Airborne troopers watch a C-141 Starlifter arriving to evacuate rescued hostages on 3 November

starlifter2.jpegMarines starlifter.jpeg

C-141 Starlifter at Point Salines airfield, Marines in foreground, photograph by GOC Gary Mille& 82nd Airborne trooper board C-141 Starlifter on 4 November 1983, the end of Operation Urgent Fury

Combat operations officially ceased on 2 November and the entire task force was redirected towards its original objectives in Spain and in the Middle East.

Ronald Reagan sent this message to the 22nd MAU:[ccviii]

Although you have scarcely cleaned off the sand of Grenada where you were magnificent, you will now shortly relieve 24th MAU in Beirut. Once there you will assume the key role in our efforts to bring peace to Lebanon. You have proven without a doubt that you are up to the task as our very best. Godspeed and a happy 208th [USMC birthday – 10 November 1983]. Semper Fidelis.

Back at Grenada, Admiral McDonald designated Major General Trobaugh the senior commander. The task was now to prepare for the return to normalized governance. The 82nd Airborne was completely redeployed on 12 December.

URGENT FURYStudents board lifter.jpeg

Students board a Starlifter during evacuation.

Trough2.jpegMajor General Edward L. Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division, greeting Command Sergeant Major Tommie McKoy after returning to the United States on 4 November 1983

 

Resolution and Aftermath

C17900-15President Reagan and George Shultz meeting with Dominican Prime Minister Eugenia Charles on 25 October.

reagandomincaPresident Reagan and Prime Minister Eugenia Charles announcing the joint military action at a White House press conference, 25 October.

Following the success of the initial operation, on 25 October, President Reagan and Prime Minister Charles of Dominica gave a press conference at the White House. When confronted with probing questions by the White House press pool Eugenia Charles defended the legitimacy of the mission. Charles argued that the United States had been requested to leverage its unique military capabilities within the Organization of American States treaty framework, due to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States members lacking the military capacity to carry out the liberation mission. A visibly shaky President Reagan echoed these sentiments, stating that the legitimacy of the “invasion” was to be found in the OECS treaty structure, in combination with Grenada’s status as a member of the British Commonwealth.

US Ambassador to the UN Jeane J. Kirkpatrick presented the US case for intervention to the Security Council on 27 October. President Reagan spoke to the nation that evening, addressing both the Grenadian coup and intervention, and comparing the relative cost of action: A single suicide truck-bombing attack against the US Marine Corps and French peacekeepers in Lebanon, an act of multinational terrorism, with hundreds killed, and the success of an amphibious intervention that removed a murderous tyranny and restored democratic governance at similar cost of life.

speech.jpg

reagangrenada

President Ronald Reagan drafts the 27 October speech, and then delivers it in a televised national address on the events in Grenada and Lebanon, 27 October 1983.

On 2 November Major General Crist and Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam briefed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while the Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed by Admiral McDonald and General Paul Gorman (CINC Southern Command).[ccix] On 6 November General Vessey appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to answer questions about the operation.[ccx] Vessey maintained that, given the planning constraints and despite the errors made, the operation was a great success.

Secretary of Defense Weinberger and the Commandant of the Marine Corps General Paul Kelley testified before the House Appropriations Committee on 8 November. Both Admiral McDonald and the Joint Staff carried out investigations into the planning process, the latter’s report being released in January 1984 and the former’s in February.[ccxi]

C17901-17

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Vessey briefs congressional leaders on the Grenada operation, 25 October 1983. Cheney on the left.

13metcalf.jpg

A smiling Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf takes questions from reporters on Grenada shortly after the invasion.

bushlebanonVice President Bush with USMC Commandant General Paul Kelley (left) and Col. Geraghty (right) tour the Beirut USMC barracks rubble on 26 October.

In a May 1984 article of the US Naval Institute Proceedings, Lt. Colonel Michael J Byron, USMC, argued that the major lesson of Grenada was that it would no doubt become a model for the future of combined and joint operations.[ccxii] After Vice President Bush was elected President, the Grenada operation and the Lebanon crisis became a haunting reminder of the lure of military action, influencing decision making during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, and the conflicts of the 21st century.[ccxiii]

vessey.jpegChairman of the Joint Chiefs General John W. Vessey arrives aboard USS Guam, 28 October.

The conflict demonstrated several things about the nature of post-Vietnam 20th century conventional warfare and the American way of war. As was traditional, speed of planning could generate operational advantages in terms of surprise, however, the associated risks and unknowns were increased proportionately. Although the media quickly got word of the major naval maneuvers, the plans themselves were kept on a need-to-know basis amongst the decision-makers.

trough.jpegvessey.jpg

Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division (left), alongside General Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (center), touring Grenada on 3 November.  Note USMC M60 tank in background

Commanders.jpeg

Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, CINCLANT, General John Vessey, Chairman JCS, unidentified soldier 82nd Airborne, and Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division, pose with captured M-52 Czechoslovakian quad 12.7 mm AA gun

A major sticking point for the public was the press embargo that had barred reporters from Grenada until 28 October, with the exception of several reporters who had managed to slip in. This lack of independent journalistic coverage contributed to the generally negative international reaction to the US intervention.[ccxiv] General Vessey’s quest for operational security  was responsible, a decision that also impacted the ability of the services to cooperate with one-another.[ccxv]

Interservice cooperation was also hampered by the rapid planning process, that did not allow the services time to coordinate their communications, with the result that friendly fire incidents took place on some occasions. At other crucial moments the soldiers in contact were unable to radio for the necessary supporting fire or contact outside help.

mediapolicy.jpg

Press cartoon denouncing the JCS media policy, representative of the negative reaction to Operation Urgent Fury, both in America and internationally. From Operation Urgent Memory: The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present by Shalini Puri (2014).

 

As with the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982, special operations forces and naval aviation proved their worth. SOF forces captured critical objectives with the lowest possible loss of life, utilizing their advanced tradecraft to overcome not only the enemy, but also critical equipment failures and untested tactics.

Naval fighter-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft had unlimited freedom to operate once the enemy’s anti-aircraft guns had been suppressed. USS Independence generated hundreds of sorties. VA-15 flew 143 combat sorties, VA-176 flew 350 sorties, HS-15 flew 97 Search and Rescue (SAR) sorties, VF-32 flew 256 sorties in Grenada and Lebanon during its 1983 tour, VF-14 flew 82 sorties, VAQ-131 flew electronic surveillance, and VA-87, VS-28, and VAW-122 flew an unknown numbers of sorties. No naval aircraft were lost.[ccxvi]

Marine helicopters provided rapid on-site transport, fire-support and medical extraction, often in the face of significant enemy fire and with despites losses in equipment and crews. Military Airlift Command delivered the rapid deployment of 82nd Airborne forces, military supplies, medical evacuation, and the extraction of captured Cuban prisoners and the liberation of the thrilled medical students.

kim.jpgCaptured communist literature, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

ammo.jpegmunitions.jpeg

Captured munitions, shells, autocannon, rifle ammunition, rifles, BREN guns, explosives, mortars

M-52 Quad.jpegCaptured Czech made M-53 12.7 mm quad cannon

ZU23 2.jpegAAgun.jpeg

Captured Soviet ZU-23 (mm) AA guns, (Note LSTs and support ship in background) 2nd by 28 October, PH2 D. Wujcik

zu30.jpegCH-53 picks up ZU-23, 3 November, Creen collection

bmp.jpegURGENT FURY

Soviet BRDM-2 amphibious vehicle captured during the assault, filmed 28 October by Sergeant Mike Creen & Soviet BTR-60PB captured, 28 October

 

The PRA achieved a number of tactical surprises, taking advantage of knowledge of the local terrain and the probable American plan of action to block key service routes and airports, defend positions with ambushes, RPGs, mortars and heavy machineguns. Positions were held furiously for a few minutes and then abandoned in anticipation of heavier attacks, the local force maneuvering around to establish roadblocks and ambushes. This combination of defensive elements by experienced Caribbean soldiers easily inflicted significant damage on the helicopter assault forces and denied them landing zones.

SovietCIA report for September 1984, based on seized Grenadian documents, highlighting Soviet bloc armament shipments to Grenada, which would have continued until 1986

 

The enemy’s resistance was often determined and unexpected, depending on the fighting capacity of the Grenadian, Cuban and Soviet professionals defending their objectives. Considering that Grenada possessed no radar installations or Surface to Air Missile (SAM) sites – allowing the USAF and Navy’s airpower to provide close air support and reconnaissance – the anti-aircraft equipment, mortars, rifles, machine-guns and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) possessed by the Grenadians were Soviet or European made, modern, and sold in large quantities with the intention of eventually being exported to South America.

Although the enemy’s capacity to sustain resistance was rapidly destroyed and, more importantly, a legitimate and popular democratic interim government re-established, at the tactical level individual actions could still frustrate the American effort. The PRA and its allies fought successfully against elite JSOC elements until being overwhelmed by conventional reinforcements and air strikes. Four Black Hawks, two Cobra gunships, and one Marine Sea Knight Marine helicopter were destroyed or shot-down during the operation, with many more badly damaged.

 

Butcher.jpgRobertRSchamberger.jpg

StephenLMorris.jpgLundberg

Clockwise: Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Kenneth J. Butcher, (1)  Senior Chief Engineman Robert R. Schamberger, (2), Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class, Stephen L. Morris, (3) Quartermaster First Class, Kevin E. Lundberg, (4), SEAL Team 6 crew killed 24 October 1983.

The loss of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 operators and the 160th SOAR pilots was another blow to JSOC and its mission, but also a transformative event for the incipient special operations force, similar in magnitude to the aftermath of Operation Just Cause in Panama (1989), Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia (1993), Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan (2002), or the set-piece Operation Vigilant Resolve, in Fallujah, Iraq (2004).

The success of the Rangers resulted in the creation of an additional Ranger battalion, with the three battalions of the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) regrouped together as the 75th Ranger Regiment on 17 April 1986.[ccxvii] The Goldwater-Nichols act followed, reorganizing the Defense Department and creating the new Special Operations Command (SOCOM), stemming from lessons learned regarding inter-service cooperation and communication during Urgent Fury.

casualties.jpgTask Force 120 casualties, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

Vets.jpg4 November 1983, Nancy and Ronald Reagan greet wounded veterans at the Grenada and Lebanon campaign memorial service.

US losses amounted to 19 killed and 116 wounded. The 160th Aviation Battalion’s 45-man crew had 11 wounded with one pilot killed in the first twenty minutes during the initial helicopter insertion.[ccxviii] At least 13 JSOC personnel had died in combat.[ccxix] Ten Rangers had been killed or died of their wounds, with another 10 seriously wounded.[ccxx] Two members of the 82nd Airborne had been killed.

82ndmemorial.jpgMemorial service for the two 82nd Airborne soldiers killed on Grenada, 2nd Battalion B Company CO, Captain Michael Ritz and Staff Sergeant Gary Epps.

howardkelleylucas.jpg

Marine Corps Commandant General Paul Kelley and his wife at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, visiting Captain Timothy Howard, the survivor of the Cobra shot-down on 25 October. & Captain Keith Lucas, helicopter pilot killed during Richmond Hill assault, the morning of 25 October 1983

RangerscubarangersKIA.jpg

1st Battalion Rangers with captured Cuban flag from Operation Urgent Fury. & A Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers, KIA during Urgent Fury October 1983

Yamane.jpgTrujillo

Rangers Tony Nunley, Ramon Bual, and Manous Boles and others carry the coffin of Mark Yamane, the M60 gunner killed taking Salines on 25 October. & Silver Star recipient Ranger Medical Sergeant Stephen Trujillo beside Nancy Reagan at the State of the Union address on 25 January 1984. Stephen Trujillo’s story is told in his book, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders.

Cuban losses were 25 killed in action, 59 wounded and 638 prisoners, primarily the construction crew and Point Salines airport garrison. Grenadian forces casualties amounted to 45 killed and 358 wounded. 24 citizens of Grenada, primarily the 18 at the mental hospital near Fort Frederick, were killed during the operation.[ccxxi]

Paul_Scoon_(cropped).jpgGovernor-General Sir Paul Scoon gives a press conference on 9 November after being appointed head of the interim government of Grenada.

 US forces left Grenada by mid-December, and the government was intrusted to Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon and a nine-member council, tasked with managing the return to parliamentary democracy.[ccxxii] In 1984 Grenada elected Herbert Blaize as Prime Minister.

Castro.jpgNovember 14, 1983, Castro condemned the US action in Grenada in his Nineteen Lies Speech, denying that the Salines airfield was a military base, and holding a memorial for Cubans killed during the operation.

For Castro, the Grenada operation was confirmation that President Reagan would intervene in Latin America if American interests were threatened.[ccxxiii]

metcalfschwarz.jpgMetcalf & Schwarzkopf on Grenada, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf became Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, retiring in 1987.[ccxxiv]. In 1988 General H. Norman Schwarzkopf became the Commander in Chief of Central Command, succeeding General George B. Crist, thus becoming the architect of Operation Desert Storm.[ccxxv]

In December 1986, 14 of leaders of the anti-Bishop coup (the so-called Grenada 17) were convicted of murder by a 12-member jury. The various sentences, ranging from death by hanging to life in prison, were announced by Acting Chief Justice Denis Byron. The prosecution argued that the defendants, who pleaded not-guilty and in protest of the trial’s legitimacy had dismissed their attorneys, were members of the Central Committee that issued the orders to a four-man death squad, led by Lt. Callistus Bernard, to execute Bishop and his cabinet.

Grenada17.jpgPropaganda poster denouncing the murderers of Bishop (the Grenada 17), produced by the intervention forces, from the Grenada Papers (1984).

The guilty parties appealed their sentences on 8 March 1988. Although the sentences were upheld by the appeals court in 1991, they were commuted to life in prison by the Governor-General in August of that year. Further legal complications and protests from Amnesty International resulted in ongoing scrutiny of the Grenada 17 case, and in February 2007 the London Privy Council, the highest court of the former British colonies – still, pending a November 2018 referendum[ccxxvi]  – threw out the case, resulting in the release of former General Hudson Austin in December 2008 and on 5 September 2009 the final seven of the Grenada 17, including former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, were released.[ccxxvii]

 

coard2007.jpgFormer Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard (photographed here at St. George’s in July 2007), General Hudson Austin and others (the Grenada 17) were released from prison between 2007-09 as a result of appeals to the London Privy Council that found irregularities in their trials and appeals between 1986 and 1991.

 

GrenadaMonument.jpgOperation Urgent Fury memorial at St. George’s University, Grenada.

Point Salines Memorial.jpgOperation Urgent Fury memorial at Point Salines, from Operation Urgent Memory: The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present by Shalini Puri (2014).

 

Appendix, Components of CJTF 120

Carrier Group 20.5

CVW-6.jpgforrestalclass.jpg

CVW-6 embarked aboard CV-62 off Lebanon in 1983. Specifications of Forrestal-class from Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1981-2

CVW-6october.jpgCVW-6 in October 1983  CV-62’s Air Group was CVW-6, composed of VA-15, VA-176, VA-87, HS-15, VF-32, VF-14, VAQ-131, VS-28, and VAW-122.

VA-87.jpgVA-15.jpg

VA-87 A-7E Corsair IIs, embarked on CV-62 in 1982. & VA-15 A-7E Corsair II, photograph from 1984

VF-32.jpgVF-14.jpg

VF-32 F14-A Tomcat launching from CV-62 in 1983, off Lebanon  & VF-14 F-14A Tomcat landing on CV-62 off Lebanon in 1983

 

VA-176.jpgProwler.jpg

VA-176 A-6E in 1970, also flown were KA-6D tankers. & VAQ-131 EA-6B Prowler launching from CV-62 in 1983, off Lebanon

hawkeye.jpghawkeyetakeoff.jpg

VAW-122 E-2C Hawkeye aboard CV-62 in 1979, and at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia

Viking.jpgSea King.jpg

VS-28 S-3A Viking in 1982. & HS-15 SH-3H Sea King, deploying A/S sonar

 

USS Independence (CV-62) Carrier Battle Group

cg20.jpgUSS Richmond K. Turner (CG-20), CO Captain David Brooks Robinson, photographed in September 1981

Caron2.jpgCoontz.jpg

DD-970 Caron, Urgent Fury CO Commander James Stanley Polk, photographed in March 1985.  & DDG-40 Coontz, Commander Leon Preston Brooks Jr., with USS Independence in background, Naval Station Norfolk, August 1983.

SpragueFerguson

FFG-16, Clifton Spragueunderway in September 1982. Clifton Sprague was used to retrieve the US Navy SEALs on the morning of 24 October. CO: Commander, later Admiral, James Beatty Ferguson III

moosbruggerdyer

DD-980 Moosbrugger, underway in July 1983. DD-980 CO, Commander Donald A. Dyer

 

Destroyer Squadron 24

saipanstats.jpgBennett.jpg

Specifications for Tarawa-class LHA, including 27,000 – 39,300-ton USS Saipan. LHA-2 CO, Captain David Michael Bennett (photographed here as Rear Admiral) 

Saipan.jpgUSS Saipan (LHA-2), September 1980, with CH-46 Sea Knight, AV-8A Harrier, and OV-10D Bronco on deck.

DDG-10negin

USS Sampson (DDG-10), photographed in 1988-9. Commander Jerrold J. Negin

FF13FFG13co02

USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13), photographed in 1988. FFG-13 commanded by CDR Laurence Joseph Gionet, Jr., during Urgent Fury.

TAO143USNS T-AO-143 Neosho, fleet oiler

 

Other components of Task Force 120

silversides.jpgUSS Silversides (SSN 679), Sturgeon-class nuclear attack submarine

PortsmouthOlson

USS Portsmouth (SSN 707), Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, commissioned on 1 October 1983.  Captain Donald D. M. Olson

BriscoeHontz

USS Briscoe DD-977 at Antwerp, May 1986, CO, Commander Edward Brigham Hontz

FFG34Weeks

USS Aubrey Fitch FFG-34 CO, Commander Floyston Allan Weeks

surabachiDuermeyer

AE-21 Surabachi, ammunition ship., CO, Commander Stephen P. Duermeyer

recovery

USS Recovery ARS-43, Urgent Fury CO, Lt. Commander Robert Peter Brittingham

TaurusPMH4

USS Taurus PHM-3  ,  Taurus CO, Commander Richard Stewart Moore, Jr. & USS Aquila PHM-4, Urgent Fury CO, Commander David Michael lee

Task Force 124

CO TSF 124 was Captain Carl R. Erie

Amphibious Group Ships

Naval warships in the squadron included USS Guam (LPH-9), – also the operation flagship – Trenton (LPD-14), Fort Snelling (LSD-30), Manitowoc (LST-1180) and Barnstable County (LST-1197)

guam2.jpg

USS Guam (LPH-9), an 11,755 (light) – 18,300 ton (full load), Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, provided the staging point for the operation (seen here in November 1982 off Lebanon). Urgent Fury CO, Captain John Maye Quaterman Jr.

Trenton1974LSD30

9,000 (light) – 17,000 ton (full load) Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD 14), USS Trenton seen here in 1974. Urgent Fury CO: Captain Ralph Earl Whitby & LSD 30, Landing Ship Dock USS Forst Snelling (Commander William Ivey Taylor III), 7,000 to 12,000 tons loaded.

Barnstable.jpgWilliam Wagner

USS Barnstable County, LST-1197, Landing Ship Tank, with Landing Craft Utility 1664 alongside, 1 October 1981  Tod W. Wagner, then the commander of LST-1197

Manitowac.jpg8,450 ton LST-1180 USS Manitowoc underway off Virginia in October 1985. Urgent Fury CO: Commander John Dennis Kolata

Trenton and GuamTrenton and Guam near Barcelona on 16 January 1977

******

FortsGrenada.jpgMid-19th century (note steamship) watercolour of St. George’s with Forts George and Frederick visible. 

Notes

[i] Ronald Reagan, The Reagan Diaries, ed. Douglas Brinkley (HarperCollins e-books, 2007)., p. 188-9

[ii] Reagan., p. 189

[iii] https://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/23/us/reagan-unhurt-as-armed-man-takes-hostages.html

[iv] Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Press, 1993)., p. 328

[v] https://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/24/nyregion/monday-october-24-1983-bombings-in-beirut.html

[vi] Vice President George Bush personally visited Lebanon, attending at the site of the bombing on 26 October.

[vii] Reagan, The Reagan Diaries., p. 190; Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 330-1

[viii] Dennis Hevesi, “Joseph Metcalf III Dies at 79; Led Invasion of Grenada – The New York Times,” New York Times, March 13, 2007, sec. Obituaries, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/obituaries/13metcalf.html.

[ix] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/armour-tactics-at-the-battle-of-73-easting-26-february-1991/

[x] Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, ebook (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1987)., p. 280-1

[xi]  Chris Cook and John Stevenson, World History since 1914 (New York: Longman, Inc., 1991)., p. 311. Ronald Reagan gave his “Star Wars” speech on 23 June 1983

[xii] Russell Crandall, Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)., p. 108

[xiii] Samuel D. Ward, Urgent Fury: The Operational Leadership of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Metcalf, III, Kindle ebook (Pickle Partners Publishing, 2014).

[xiv] James Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz, Kindle ebook (Hutchinson & Co. Publishers Ltd, 1988)., p. 204

[xv] Lt. Col. Kenneth W. Estes, The Marine Officer’s Guide, 7th ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008)., p.132-3; H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero (New York: Bantam Books, 1992)., p. 250Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 252; Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, Kindle ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)., p. 24

[xvi] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/master-of-the-seas-of-the-two-indies-the-naval-career-of-admiral-sir-george-pocock/ see also, https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/captain-charles-middleton-and-the-seven-years-war/

[xvii] Cook and Stevenson, World History since 1914., p. 154

[xviii] Robert R. Quirk, Fidel Castro (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995)., p. 820

[xix] Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 329

[xx] Ronald H. Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ebook (Joint History Office, 1997)., p. 10

[xxi] Steven J. Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor, ed. Greg Wurth, Kindle ed. (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2004)., loc. 1101

[xxii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 11

[xxiii] George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State, Kindle ebook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993)., loc. 6541 – 6578

[xxiv] Shultz., loc. 6578-90

[xxv] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[xxvi] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 821

[xxvii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1113

[xxviii] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[xxix] George Childs Kohn, Dictionary of Wars, Revised ed. (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1999)., p. 198

[xxx] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 821

[xxxi] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1126

[xxxii] Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State., loc. 6590

[xxxiii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 12

[xxxiv] Cole., p. 13

[xxxv] Cole., p. 12

[xxxvi] Cole., p. 13

[xxxvii] Cole., p. 14

[xxxviii] Cole., p. 14

[xxxix] Cole., p. 14

[xl] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 280

[xli] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 15

[xlii] Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 211-2

[xliii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 6; Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 281

[xliv] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 282

[xlv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 16; Lt. Col. Michael J. Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada,” in The U.S. Naval Institute on The Marine Corps at War, ed. Thomas J. Cutler (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016), 120–42., p. 129; Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 208

[xlvi] Ronald H. Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ebook (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, HQ, USMC, 1987)., loc. 168

[xlvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 17

[xlviii] Cole., p. 18; Dan Rather, “Grenada,” Vanderbilt Television News Archive, October 21, 1983, https://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/broadcasts/287081.

[xlix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 18

[l] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 282-3

[li] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 19

[lii] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[liii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20

[liv] J. D. Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present, Kindle ebook, 2nd ed. (New York: Pocket Books, 1998)., loc. 6657

[lv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20

[lvi] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[lvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 26

[lviii] Cole., p. 21

[lix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6668

[lx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 22

[lxi] Cole., p. 23

[lxii] Cole., p. 23; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxiii] Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada.”, p. 128

[lxiv] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1126

[lxv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 24

[lxvi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 123

[lxvii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6657

[lxviii] Mark Markowitz, “Urgent Fury: U.S. Special Operations Forces in Grenada, 1983 | Defense Media Network,” Defense Media Network, June 3, 2013, https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/urgent-fury-u-s-special-operations-forces-in-grenada-1983/

[lxix] Eric L. Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit (New York: Bantam Dell, Random House, Inc., 2002)., p. 365

[lxx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxxii] Lock., loc. 6688

[lxxiii] Lock., loc. 6688

[lxxiv] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 367

[lxxv] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 247

[lxxvi] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 247; Mark Adkin, Urgent Fury: The Battle for Grenada (Lexington Books, 1989)., p. 137

[lxxvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 143

[lxxviii] Spector., loc. 157

[lxxix] Spector., loc. 196

[lxxx] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 245-6

[lxxxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 28

[lxxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 246

[lxxxiii] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 247; Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6730

[lxxxiv] Ward, Urgent Fury: The Operational Leadership of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Metcalf, III., loc. 164

[lxxxv] Ward., loc. 176

[lxxxvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 29

[lxxxvii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 248; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc 228

[lxxxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 236

[lxxxix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 30

[xc] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 366; Michael J. Durant, Stephen Hartov, and Robert L. Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Kindle ebook (New York: New American Library, 2008)., p. 11, 15

[xci] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 2, 11-12

[xcii] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson., p. 14

[xciii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 368

[xciv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 123; Joseph Metcalf, “Decision Making and the Grenada Rescue Operation,” in Ambiguity and Command: Organizational Perspectives on MIlitary Decision Making, ed. James G. March and Roger Weissinger-Baylon (Marshfield: Pitman Publishing, 1986)., p. 291; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 13; Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 211

[xcv] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 368

[xcvi] Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983 (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military Histroy, United States Army, 2010)., p. 164-5

[xcvii] Orr Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters, Kindle ebook (New York: Open Road Integrated Media, Inc., 1992)., loc. 3926-37

[xcviii] Kelly., loc. 3949-61. The Boston whaler boats are sometimes described as Zodiacs. Sometimes the team composition is given as 11 SEALs and one CCT.

[xcix] Michael Walsh and Greg Walker, SEAL!: From Vietnam’s Phoenix Program to Central America’s Drug Wars (New York: Pocket Books, 1995)., p. 227-32

[c] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Dick Couch and William Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story (HarperCollins e-books, 2014)., p.141; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 236

[ci] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 141; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc 442; Walsh and Walker, SEAL!: From Vietnam’s Phoenix Program to Central America’s Drug Wars., p. 237

[cii] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3961

[ciii] Kelly., loc. 3973

[civ] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6730; Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 248-9; Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983., p. 242

[cv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 247

[cvi] Edwin Howard Simmons, The United States Marines: A History, 4th ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003)., p. 273

[cvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 257

[cviii] Spector., loc. 275

[cix] Spector., loc. 275

[cx] Spector., loc. 275

[cxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 32; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 287

[cxii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 303

[cxiii] Spector., loc. 318

[cxiv] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 142; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 23-4

[cxv] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 19-20

[cxvi] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3881

[cxvii] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 142

[cxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 349

[cxix] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 144

[cxx] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3881; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 27

[cxxi] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3904; Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 125. In Couch and Doyle Lt. Erskine is referred to as Lt. Jason Kendall, although the text of the narration is identical to Couch’s telling of the event from The Warrior Elite where Erskine is referenced. Erskine did in fact receive the Silver Star, and there is no mention of Jason Kendall outside of this source.

[cxxii] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 125-6

[cxxiii] Dick Couch, The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228, Epub ebook (Three Rivers Press, 2009)., p. 16

[cxxiv] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 131; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3915

[cxxv] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3926

[cxxvi] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 135-8

[cxxvii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 370-1; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 22

[cxxviii]  Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 22

[cxxix] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 379-80

[cxxx] Haney., p. 374

[cxxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6864

[cxxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 250

[cxxxiii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 377-8

[cxxxiv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6719

[cxxxv] Lock., loc. 6730

[cxxxvi] Lock., loc. 6740

[cxxxvii] Lock., loc. 6751

[cxxxviii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1135; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6719, 6751

[cxxxix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6761

[cxl] Lock., loc. 6761-71

[cxli] Stephen Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders, Kindle ebook, 2017., p. 364

[cxlii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3961

[cxliii] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 131

[cxliv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6781

[cxlv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6822

[cxlvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 32

[cxlvii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 379

[cxlviii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1135

[cxlix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6802

[cl] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 173-7

[cli] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 378; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6874

[clii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 33

[cliii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 360

[cliv] Spector., loc. 376

[clv] Spector., loc. 411-22

[clvi] Spector., loc. 422

[clvii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 250

[clviii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 34

[clix] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 349

[clx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 34

[clxi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 432

[clxii] Spector., loc. 442

[clxiii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 252

[clxiv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 460

[clxv] Spector., loc. 480

[clxvi] Spector., loc. 493

[clxvii] Spector., loc. 509

[clxviii] Spector., loc. 515

[clxix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 35

[clxx] Edward N. Luttwak, The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform (Simon & Schuster, 1985)., p. 54

[clxxi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 524

[clxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 253

[clxxiii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 524

[clxxiv] Spector., loc. 534

[clxxv] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 255

[clxxvi] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 254

[clxxvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 568

[clxxviii] Spector., loc. 568

[clxxix] Spector., loc. 590

[clxxx] Spector., loc. 610

[clxxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6905; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 210

[clxxxii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1154

[clxxxiii] Mrozek., loc. 1154

[clxxxiv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 649

[clxxxv] Spector., loc. 649

[clxxxvi] Spector., loc. 681

[clxxxvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 38

[clxxxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 705

[clxxxix] Spector., loc. 726

[cxc] Michael T. Flynn and Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How to Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016)., p. 16-18

[cxci] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6874

[cxcii] Lock., loc. 6915

[cxciii] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 252-65

[cxciv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6915

[cxcv] Lock., loc. 6936; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 271

[cxcvi]  Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 271

[cxcvii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6936; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 279-99

[cxcviii] Gordon Rottman, US Army Rangers & LRRP Units, 1942-86 (London: Reed International Books Ltd., 1997)., p. 46-8; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[cxcix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[cc] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 39-40

[cci] Cole., p. 42

[ccii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 741

[cciii] Spector., loc. 751

[cciv] Spector., loc. 786

[ccv] Spector., loc. 807

[ccvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 45

[ccvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 819

[ccviii] Spector., loc. 830-2

[ccix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 47

[ccx] John Vessey, Selected Works of General John Vessey, Kindle ebook (Progressive Management, 2013)., p. 85-90

[ccxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 47

[ccxii] Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada.”, p. 137

[ccxiii] Bob Woodward, The Commanders (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991)., p. 285

[ccxiv] Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 332-3

[ccxv] Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983., p. 170

[ccxvi] Mark Evans and Roy Grossnick, United States Naval Aviation, 1910-2010, Statistics, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 2 vols. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016)., loc. 3417

[ccxvii] Rottman, US Army Rangers & LRRP Units, 1942-86., p. 48

[ccxviii]  Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 26

[ccxix] Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command., p. 24

[ccxx] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[ccxxi] Ronald H. Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ed. (Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1997)., p. 9

[ccxxii] Kohn, Dictionary of Wars., p. 198

[ccxxiii] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 819

[ccxxiv] Hevesi, “Joseph Metcalf III Dies at 79; Led Invasion of Grenada – The New York Times.”

[ccxxv] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/armour-tactics-at-the-battle-of-73-easting-26-february-1991/

[ccxxvi] Dominica News Online, “Antigua and Grenada to Hold Referendum on CCJ on Nov 6,” Dominica News Online, accessed July 19, 2018, http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/antigua-and-grenada-to-hold-referendum-on-ccj-on-nov-6/.

[ccxxvii] Times Wire Services, “14 Convicted of Murdering Grenada Leader, 10 Others,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1986, http://articles.latimes.com/1986-12-05/news/mn-790_1_grenada-leader. & “BBCCaribbean.Com | Last of ‘Grenada 17’ Released,” September 7, 2009, http://www.bbc.co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2009/09/090907_grenada_release.shtml. & Linda Straker, “7 Convicted of Killing Grenada Leader Released,” sandiegouniontribune.com, September 5, 2009, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-cb-grenada-coup-prisoners-090509-2009sep05-story.html. & Peter Ischyrion, “Privy Council Throws out Death Sentence against Maurice Bishop’s Killers,” Caribbean360 (blog), February 9, 2007, http://www.caribbean360.com/news/privy-council-throws-out-death-sentence-against-maurice-bishops-killers.

 

Any Other Name: The Origin of HMS Dreadnought (SSN, S101)

Any Other Name

The Origin of HMS Dreadnought (SSN, S101)

crest

Crest of S101.[i]

            Dreadnought was the Royal Navy’s first nuclear powered attack submarine (SSN). Dreadnought was built through the joint efforts of the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral of the Fleet, Louis Mountbatten in tandem with the Chief of the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Division & Director of the Naval Reactor Branch at the Bureau of Ships, Vice-Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. How did the Royal Navy develop a nuclear submarine force, and why was the distinctive name of Dreadnought chosen for the first SSN produced in Britain?

HMS Victory and HM Submarine No. 3 of 5 Holland boats, probably 1903.[ii]

            Background

 The submarine as an element of industrial warfare developed first during the American Civil War. The Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley infamously attacked and sank USS Housitonic, on 17 February 1864.[iii] Thirty-six years later, pioneering naval designer John P. Holland had successfully coupled the Whitehead self-propelled torpedo to a petrol-electric submarine platform. The United States Navy purchased Holland’s design and commissioned Holland as SS 1.

The Royal Navy’s first operational submarines were, likewise, Holland boats, acquired as a component of First Sea Lord John Fisher’s flotilla defence doctrine.[iv] Fisher planned to purchase 12 submarines starting in 1904.[v] Fisher, the motive force behind the first HMS Dreadnought (1905) was typically not kidding around and by the end of 1904, £770,050 had been spent on submarines, considerably more than the previous years estimate.[vi]

USS Holland, under construction 1900.[vii]

The First and Second World War demonstrated that the submarine was an essential naval system, both for blockade defense and for attacking enemy warships and supply-lines.[viii] Submarines influenced naval deployments in both World Wars (North Sea & Atlantic, 1917 and 1943;[ix] Pacific, 1945). The growing importance of the submarine was now matched by the deepening uncertainty of the role for the traditional surface fleet in the Atomic age.

In 1947 the Royal Navy’s Naval Review was concerned by the implications of atomic bombs for the future of the Navy, and indeed the existence of British society altogether: “Is it morally defensible or even worth while to mortgage our souls and all that makes life worth living for an existence devoted to an end that at best is unlikely to offer anything better than mere survival in a Wellsian aftermath of devastation, where the most ardent optimist could hardly hope to distinguish victor from vanquished?”[x] Stephen Roskill, also the Royal Navy’s official historian for the Second World War, witnessed the Crossroads test events and became enraptured by the destructive power of the atomic weapons. In particular, he observed the danger of nuclear attack against a fleet in port.[xi]

Following the Second World War, budget imperatives pushed the submarine to the fore on acquisition.[xii] Britain’s post-war political and industrial decline required the economy of effort that the submarine represented.[xiii] There was also speculation by futurists that submarines armed with nuclear equipped missiles, rather than RAF bombers or land-based ICBMs, would become the ultimate strategic deterrent. The introduction of the atomic bomb strengthened the necessity for the submarine’s role within the RN: Submarines, especially if nuclear powered and equipped, could be discreetly stationed at bases around the globe, minimizing the risk of attack on the homeland.

Admiral Rickover inspects Nautilus, 1954[xiv]

            The New Battlecruisers; USN Nuclear Attack Submarines

The nuclear submarine program in the United States was overseen by USN Captain and later Vice-Admiral, Hyman Rickover. A graduate of Annapolis, with years of service aboard submarines, Rickover was the USN’s appointee to oversee the electrical section of the Navy’s Bureau of Ships. Rickover brought a reputation for ruthless centralization and attention to detail: Lt. Jimmy Carter recalled the sharp-end of Rickover’s focus.[xv] Rickover’s objective as Director of the Naval Reactor Branch of the USN’s Bureau of Ships, after the Second World War, was to harness nuclear power for submarines. He achieved this goal with the development of USS Nautilus (SSN-571), launched in 1954. Nautilus’ first generation Westinghouse reactor (STR, followed by S2W) provided the submarine with 13,400 horsepower, and 900 hours endurance at full power.[xvi] Nautilus was joined by USS Seawolf (SSN-575) in March 1957, leading to the production run of four Skate class SSNs, the last of which, USS Seadragon (SSN-584) was commissioned in December 1959.[xvii]

 

Nautilus approaches Manhattan.[xviii]

In August 1958 USS Nautilus accompanied by USS Skate (SSN-578) crossed the Arctic via the North Pole.[xix] Dr. Alfred McLaren, an influential Arctic scientist and explorer described the details of this mission.[xx] Nautilus’ first nuclear core proved capable of 60,000 miles of cruising endurance and its third core was designed for 130,000 miles.[xxi] Next in accomplishment, the $109 million dual nuclear reactor, USS Triton (SSRN) circumnavigated the globe in 84 days.[xxii] In 1959 USS Skipjack, designed with a teardrop hull-form and sporting the new S5W reactor became the fastest submarine in the USN. USS Halibut (SSGN-587), introduced in 1959, experimented with launching Regulus generation missiles. These were impressive nautical and maritime feats in and of themselves, not significantly less complicated than NASA’s simultaneous Project Mercury.

These early generation nuclear submarines were, however, three or four times more expensive to operate respective to their conventional electric submarine counterparts. During a year-long overhaul, Nautilus required over $10 million in repairs.[xxiii] Nevertheless, C. W. M., writing for the RN’s Naval Review, considered the transition to nuclear as significant a revolution in military affairs as the sail-steam transition.[xxiv]

First Sea Lord Louis Mountbatten, Admiral of the Fleet, as of October 1956.[xxv]

            Mountbatten’s background

            The Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine force was in large part the product of First Sea Lord Louis Mountbatten and Rickover’s cooperation on nuclear technology.[xxvi] Mountbatten was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria. He was the brother of Princess Alice (mother of Queen Elizabeth II’s consort, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh).[xxvii] Mountbatten’s father, Louis of Battenberg, had been no less than the XO of HMS Dreadnought (1905)- the battleship of Sir John Fisher’s imagining.[xxviii] After a stint as the Director of Naval Intelligence and Second Sea Lord, by December 1912, Battenberg became First Sea Lord. Winston Churchill was the Admiralty First Lord.[xxix] Battenberg’s son, Louis Mountbatten, after an important career in the Second World War, including Supreme Commander South-East Asia, became First Sea Lord in April 1955.[xxx] Winston Churchill, Battenberg’s old master and once again PM (1951-55) had blocked Mountbatten’s appointment until Churchill resigned in 1955.

Happier times: Churchill and Prince Battenberg.[xxxi]

The significance of the new nuclear powered submarines as the future capital ships appealed to Mountbatten’s technocratic sympathies.[xxxii] In a November 1955 meeting with Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke (USN) Mountbatten learned about the American Navy’s future prospects for launching nuclear tipped missiles from submarines; what became the Polaris program.[xxxiii]

In terms of nuclear strategy, Mountbatten was considered a proponent of the emerging limited war, or flexible response doctrine, later expressed by US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his June 1962 Ann Arbour speech.[xxxiv] Mountbatten was trying to maintain a balanced RN, capable of carrier, amphibious and submarine operations.[xxxv] However, the introduction of thermonuclear weapons served only to reiterate the conclusions drawn post-war: the fleet had to disperse as much as possible to survive.

Mountbatten visited the United States in October 1955 in an attempt to gather information on the USN’s nuclear submarine program. His first encounters with Rickover’s school were frosty: Rickover blocked Mountbatten’s planned tour of Nautilus.[xxxvi] Rickover argued that the USA-UK Agreement on Military Atomic Co-operation did not yet “extend so far.”[xxxvii] Rickover actually met Mountbatten in London in August 1956, and it has been argued that Mountbatten then won-over the Strangelovian Admiral.[xxxviii] Rickover and Mountbatten worked in tandem for the next two years to surmount the diplomatic and legal hurdles required to enable transfer of the nuclear reactor technology. In December 1957 Rickover again visited Britain and met with Mountbatten, together they stressed the need for rapid movement on the reactor technology transfer.[xxxix] The US Atomic Energy Act was amended after March 1958 to enable Britain to acquire the legal right to possess the Westinghouse reactor technology. Nuclear fuel would be provided by the US.[xl]

Sandys in December 1947, MP.[xli]

The necessity for the Royal Navy’s first nuclear attack submarine

            Why the focus on submarines? In 1957 Harold Macmillan, Winston Churchill’s former Minister of Defence, and then Foreign Secretary under PM Anthony Eden,[xlii] became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and implemented a Defence review chaired by Minister of Defence Duncan Sandys. Sandys, Churchill’s son-in-law, issued his report in April 1957. The Sandys’ white paper “placed great reliance on nuclear weapons (the British thermonuclear weapon was about to be tested); and contained the ominous words ‘the role of naval forces in total war is uncertain’”.[xliii] Sandys’ recommendations included the termination of military conscription.[xliv] Existing aircraft carriers would transition to primarily anti-submarine platforms.[xlv] Sandys was reacting to the new public perceptions surrounding the thermonuclear bomb.[xlvi] The expectation was that the Navy would only be able to play a role in a limited war, and then primarily as a component of NATO’s anti-submarine warfare campaign in the North Sea and Atlantic.[xlvii] Nevertheless, part of the new Defence policy was a refocus on the RN as an element of British culture. The “naming policy” towards nuclear powered submarines reflected this.[xlviii] The new focus on nuclear submarines spoke to Mountbatten’s pragmatism: the RAF – RN rivalry over the Fleet Air Arm had not gone in the Navy’s favour.[xlix] The submarine was the RN’s last ace. Thus, the Dreadnought Project Team, with assistant director Naval Construction Rowland Baker as chief, was assembled in October 1957.[l]

In 1957 Rickover visited London and impressed upon the Admiralty the desirability of speedily adopting the American technology.[li] Initial controversy had been caused when Rickover had shown preference for Rolls Royce as the primary contractor, a decision that alienated Vickers (Rolls Royce did not yet have permission from the UK Atomic Energy Authority to produce fuel rods).[lii] At any rate, the US government contractor was indeed Westinghouse.[liii]

Mountbatten, in an effort to generate support for the RN SSN program, invited Sandys to tour Nautilus during its visit to Portland.[liv] Sandys was impressed, and Mountbatten now became concerned that the Defence Ministry would “decide that the nuclear-propelled submarine … made our present Navy completely obsolete.”[lv]

Mountbatten’s promotion had been approved by 22 May 1958 to Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and so  Admiral of the Fleet Charles Lambe became First Sea Lord (and Chief of the Naval Staff) in December 1958.[lvi] Lambe supported Mountbatten. The CDS now felt that with Rickover’s cooperation, he was in a position to advance his reforms. Rickover had to be kept onside but without turning the entire project over to the Americans: for example, Rickover was insistent that he “personally select all the senior personnel for Dreadnought” an opinion Mountbatten torpedoed after he demonstrated his own hands-on approach and knowledge of engineering during a visit to USS Skipjack in October 1958.[lvii]

Britain’s submarine for the “jet age”.[lviii]

            Technical specifications of HMS Dreadnought

The name of Britain’s first nuclear attack submarine was chosen to reflect the technological prowess of Britain during the Edwardian years, and to convey the ascension of the submarine to the position of capital ship.[lix] Battlecruiser names were chosen as it was expected that the submarines would fulfill much of the battlecruisers’ old role in terms of the “control [of] sea communications”.[lx] Subsequent submarines, Valiant (S102) and Warspite (S103) were named for the Queen Elizabeth class battleships familiar to the 5th Battle Squadron of the Battle Cruiser Fleet.

Dreadnought was laid down on 12 June 1959 at Vickers (Barrow), and launched on Trafalgar Day (October 21) 1960 by Queen Elizabeth II and members of the royal family. The SSN was commissioned on 17 April 1963. Dreadnought was 265.8 feet in length by 32.3 feet breadth, dimensions not indifferent to a German Type IX submarine of 1940 (261 feet by 22.4 feet),[lxi] although displacing almost three times as much, 3,000 tons on the surface and 3,500-4,000 tons submerged, and capable of diving to over 1000 ft. The submarine was armed with six torpedo tubes for 21-inch torpedoes. [lxii] 88 officers and men controlled the SSN.[lxiii] Dreadnought’s reactor was a fifth generation submarine reactor produced by Westinghouse (S5W) known for its redundancy and reliability.[lxiv] The reactor could develop 15,000 horsepower and remain at full power (28 knots) for at least 5,500 hours.[lxv]

S.101 enroute to sink the German derelict tanker Essberger Chemist with HMS Llandaff, F61, in background. See the video of the sinking in the endnotes.[lxvi]

Conclusion

By 1960 it was stated in the Naval Review that nuclear propulsion was “an essential characteristic” in submarine design.[lxxi] In 1962 Skybolt, the USAF nuclear attack system the RAF had hoped to acquire was about to be canceled.[lxxii] The result was a conciliation agreement between JFK and Harold Macmillan: the RN now planned to transition to the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile system, Polaris. Mountbatten, as we’ve seen, had encountered Polaris before, between 1955 and 1958.[lxxiii]

Operating Polaris would be the four SSBNs of the Resolution class, although these larger warships would require first a proven nuclear attack submarine platform.[lxxiv] The Navy’s aircraft carriers were in need of replacement, although this option was considered prohibitively expensive according to the Naval Staff. The 1964 Labour government’s Defence review invariably put the focus on affordability.[lxxv]

As the Dreadnought Project Team went about their work, advances in submarine warfare further emphasized the future role of the submarine: the Admiralty’s Underwater Weapons Establishment at Portland had devised a new generation of passive and active sonar for HMS Dreadnought.[lxvii] The advanced sonar and torpedo technologies of the 1960s made the submarine itself an anti-submarine weapon.[lxviii] As a result of the technology transfer protocol, the RN’s next class of nuclear powered submarines, the Valiant class, employed Rolls Royce Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR1).[lxix] Valiant was finally commissioned in July 1966.[lxx]

The SSN and SSBNs represented the last visceral image of Britain as a great power.[lxxvi] In 1966 the failure of the CVA 01 program and the climax of the struggle with the RAF for control of the Fleet Air Arm resulted in the submarines unexpected triumph.[lxxvii]

            Dreadnought was the first RN submarine to surface at the North Pole on 3 March 1971, not long after the conclusion of the Apollo 14 mission on 6 February.[lxxviii] Dreadnought was decommissioned in 1980, having served a longer career than its namesake predecessor. The remains of Dreadnought, along with Britain’s other decommissioned nuclear submarines, are currently laid up for disposal at Rosyth, the former base of the Battle Cruiser Fleet during the First World War.

Rosyth dockyard showing decommissioned SSNs and SSBNs.[lxxix]

Retired USN nuclear attack submarines in 1993.[lxxx]

[i]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dreadnought_%28S101%29#mediaviewer/File:Dreadnought_crest.gif

[ii] http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205024652

[iii]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Housatonic_%281861%29#Sunk_in_the_first_submarine_attack http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_USS_Housatonic

[iv] Jon Tetsuro Sumida, In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology , and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914, 1993rd ed. (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1989)., Table 10, “Expenditures on Flotilla Construciton by Type, 1889-90 to 1913-14 (not including cost of armament)., p. 352

[v] Nicholas Lambert, Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2002)., p. 117

[vi] Sumida, In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology , and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914., Table 10, “Expenditures on Flotilla Construciton by Type, 1889-90 to 1913-14 (not including cost of armament)., p. 352

[vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Holland_(SS-1)#mediaviewer/File:Holland_(SSl)._Starboard_bow,_on_ways,_1900_-_NARA_-_512954.tif

[viii] Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, 2nd ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961). p. 354-6

[ix] Duncan Redford, “The March 1943 Crisis in the Battle of the Atlantic: Myth and Reality,” History 92, no. 305 (January 1, 2007): 64. Redford is critical of both US (Samuel E. Morrison) and British (Stephen W. Roskill) official historians for over-stating the significance of the 1943 submarine crisis. Apparently Morrison had received the crucial documents from Roskill.

[x] Guy Liardet, “Nuclear Matters,” in Dreadnought to Daring: 100 Years of Comment, Controversy and Debate in The Naval Review, ed. Peter Horne (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Seaforth Publishing, 2012), 373–89. p. 376; quoting, Mate, “Second Thoughts on Atomic Warfare,” Naval Review 35, no. 2 (1947): 131–33.

[xi] SWR, “Bases and the Bomb. Some Implications of ‘Operation Crossroads.,’” Naval Review 35, no. 1 (January 1947): 16–24. p. 17; Stephen Roskill had been appointed a high level of clearance to report on the Crossroads operations, see Barry Gough, Historical Dreadnoughts: Arthur Marder, Stephen Roskill and Battle for Naval History (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Seaforth Publishing, 2010). p. 62. Roskill and his team saw the air-dropped “Able” detonation on 1 July 1946 aboard USN Auxiliary Blue Ridge. Roskill also saw the submarine style detonation of “Baker” on 26 July.

[xii] Duncan Redford, “The ‘Hallmark of a First-Class Navy’: The Nuclear Powered Submarine in the Royal Navy 1960-77,” Contemporary British History 23, no. 2 (June 2, 2009): 181–97. p. 182

[xiii] Ibid. p. 183-4

[xiv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hyman_Rickover_inspecting_USS_Nautilus.jpg

[xv] Jed Graham, “Rickover Was Way Up On Subs: Full Steam Ahead: The Admiral Made Sure to the U.S. Navy Its Nuclear Edge,” Investor’s Business Daily, May 1, 2007, online edition, sec. Leaders & Success.

[xvi] Wikimedia Foundation, “S2W Reactor,” En.wikipedia.org, November 20, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S2W_reactor.; Big Book of Warfare, “U.S. Naval Reactors,” Alternatewars.com, April 24, 2011, http://www.alternatewars.com/BBOW/Nuclear/US_Naval_Reactors.htm.

[xvii] davidvblack, “The Dawn of the Nuclear Age, Interview with Nuclear Engineer S. Reed Nixon,” blog, The Elements Unearthed, (December 28, 2010), http://elementsunearthed.com/2010/12/28/the-dawn-of-the-nuclear-age/., see also “USS Seadragon (SSN-584),” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, November 24, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=USS_Seadragon_(SSN-584)&oldid=631398860.

[xviii] http://vicsocotra.com/2010_stories/1-6-10-pulling-trigger2.jpg

[xix] Society for Science & the Public, “Two U.S. Atomic Subs Sail under North Pole.,” The Science News-Letter 74, no. 8 (115AD): 23 August 1958.

[xx] William Broad, “Scientists at Work — Alfred McLaren; Explorer of Arctic Depths Plans Another Trip North,” The New York Times, October 29, 2002, online edition, sec. Science.; Alfred S. McLaren, “Analysis of the Under-Ice Topography in the Arctic Basin as Recorded by the USS Nautilus during August 1958,” Arctic Institute of North America 41, no. 2 (June 1988): 117–26.

[xxi] Kahn, On Thermonuclear War. p. 265

[xxii] Ian Hillbeck, “Submarines Association, Boat Database, Dreadnought S101,” Database, Barrow Submarines Association, (1997), http://www.rnsubs.co.uk/Boats/BoatDB2/index.php?BoatID=680.

[xxiii] Kahn, On Thermonuclear War. p. 265

[xxiv] C. W. M., “Marine Nuclear Propulsion in Great Britain,” The Naval Review 48, no. 4 (1960): 393. p. 393

[xxv] http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125298, “Mountbatten, Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas, First Earl Mountbatten of Burma,” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31480.

[xxvi] J. R. Hill, “The Realities of Medium Power, 1946 to the Present,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy, ed. J. R. Hill and Bryan Ranft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 381–408. p. 384

[xxvii] Mountbatten, thepeerage.com http://www.thepeerage.com/p10075.htm#i100750

[xxviii] Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985)., p. 23

[xxix] Ibid., p. 30-1

[xxx] “Mountbatten, Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas, First Earl Mountbatten of Burma.”

[xxxi] Jim_and_Gerry, “Churchill – Less Than Audacious,” First World War Hidden History, accessed November 28, 2014, https://firstworldwarhiddenhistory.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/churchill-less-than-audacious/.

[xxxii] Eric Grove, The Royal Navy since 1815 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)., p. 231

[xxxiii] Ziegler, Mountbatten: A Biography. p. 560, see also, Eric Grove, Vanguard to Trident (Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institue, 1987). p. 234

[xxxiv] Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1983)., p. 316. See also: Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War., an abridged version of “No Cities” speech can be seen here: Robert McNamara, “‘No Cities’ Speech by Sec. of Defense McNamara, 1962,” June 1962, http://www.radiochemistry.org/speech_archives/text/04_mcnamara.shtml. J. R. Hill and Bryan Ranft, eds., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy (Frome, Somerset: Oxford University Press, 1995). p. 386. US President John F. Kennedy and UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had agreed at the Nassau summit in November 1962, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. See also Lawrence Freedman, “The First Two Generations of Nuclear Strategists,” in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986), 735–78., & Michael Carver, “Conventional Warfare in the Nuclear Age,” in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986), 779–814.

[xxxv] Hill, “The Realities of Medium Power, 1946 to the Present.” p. 386

[xxxvi] Ziegler, Mountbatten: A Biography., p. 558

[xxxvii] Ibid., p. 558

[xxxviii] Ibid., p. 558

[xxxix] Ibid., p. 558-9

[xl] Grove, Vanguard to Trident. p. 232

[xli] http://www.cvce.eu/en/obj/duncan_sandys-en-ddf753fe-5b95-4f0e-95a4-2172c8f4b623.html

[xlii] Grove, The Royal Navy since 1815. p. 224

[xliii] Hill, “The Realities of Medium Power, 1946 to the Present.” p. 386

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_Kingdom#cite_note-3 [xliv]

[xlv] Grove, The Royal Navy since 1815. p. 228-30.

[xlvi] Peter Nailor, “The Development of the Royal Navy since 1945,” in The Future of British Sea Power, ed. Geoffrey Till, Camelot Press Ltd (Southhampton: Naval Institute Press, 1984), 13–23. p. 15

[xlvii] Grove, Vanguard to Trident. p. 203

[xlviii] Redford, “The ‘Hallmark of a First-Class Navy’: The Nuclear Powered Submarine in the Royal Navy 1960-77.” p. 182

[xlix] Ibid. p. 189

[l] Grove, Vanguard to Trident. p. 232

[li] Ibid. p. 232

[lii] Ibid., p. 232

[liii] Ibid. p. 232

[liv] Ibid. p. 232

[lv] Ziegler, Mountbatten: A Biography. p. 560

[lvi] Ibid. p. 564-5

[lvii] Ibid. p. 559

[lviii] http://forummarine.forumactif.com/t5047-sous-marin-nucleaire-d-attaque-hms-dreadnought ; Redford, “The ‘Hallmark of a First-Class Navy’: The Nuclear Powered Submarine in the Royal Navy 1960-77.” , p. 186

[lix] Ibid. p. 186

[lx] Ibid. p. 186

[lxi] “German Type IX Submarine,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, November 27, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=German_Type_IX_submarine&oldid=634188836., Tony Gibbons, ed., The Encyclopedia of Ships: Over 1,500 Military and Civilian Ships from 5000 B.C. to Teh Present Day (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2001). p. 414

[lxii] J. J. Colledge and Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy, The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Philadelphia & Newbury: Casemate, 2010). ebook

[lxiii] Hillbeck, “Submarines Association, Boat Database, Dreadnought S101.”

[lxiv] Wikimedia Foundation, “S5W Reactor,” En.wikipedia.org, May 30, 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S5W_reactor.

[lxv] Gibbons, The Encyclopedia of Ships: Over 1,500 Military and Civilian Ships from 5000 B.C. to Teh Present Day. p. 454-5

[lxvi] https://www.flickr.com/photos/alec_blyth/5617490536/sizes/l ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7lTKO3pdCY

[lxvii] Grove, Vanguard to Trident. p. 233

[lxviii] Redford, “The ‘Hallmark of a First-Class Navy’: The Nuclear Powered Submarine in the Royal Navy 1960-77.”, p. 183-4

[lxix] Duncan Redford and Philip. D. Grove, The Royal Navy, A History Since 1900, A History of the Royal Navy Series 14 (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2014)., p. 244

[lxx] Grove, Vanguard to Trident. p. 233

[lxxi] M., “Marine Nuclear Propulsion in Great Britain.” p. 393

[lxxii] Hill, “The Realities of Medium Power, 1946 to the Present.” p. 386

[lxxiii] Ibid. p. 386; Ziegler, Mountbatten: A Biography. p. 560

[lxxiv] Hill, “The Realities of Medium Power, 1946 to the Present.” p. 386

[lxxv] Ibid. p. 386

[lxxvi] Redford, “The ‘Hallmark of a First-Class Navy’: The Nuclear Powered Submarine in the Royal Navy 1960-77.” p. 189

[lxxvii] Ibid. p. 193

[lxxviii] Wikimedia Foundation, “List of Apollo Missions,” En.wikipedia.org, November 6, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Apollo_missions.

[lxxix] http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Km9V-_YBdGc/Th7tL5yKMqI/AAAAAAAAAlU/ERLxbzTSGMM/s1600/rosyth.JPG

[lxxx] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/USS_Sperry_(AS-12)_and_retired_submarines_at_Puget_Sound_1993.JPEG