The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy: A Collection of High-Seas Stories from Comics’ Most Daring Sailor – Review

The All-American Hero – Don Winslow

It was an unexpected surprise. A parcel from the US Naval Institute Press was waiting for me at the Post Office and I had already received the batch of books I was expecting as well as the model ships that were on order. I wondered what it was but as it was raining here, I could not open the parcel to examine the contents until I got back to the office. What a great surprise.

Edited by Craig Yoe and published by Dead Reckoning in September, 2018, the copy I received was forwarded by the U.S. Naval Institute and was the hardcopy of the book. The book is 272 pages long, with ISBN-13: 9781682473238 and is sized at 8.5 X 11 in.

There are, I believe, a Kindle and ePDF (ePub?) version as well.

The back cover – from here it is obvious the style of the content

Who was Don Winslow? The character was first created in 1934 as a newspaper comic strip by Lt. Cdr. Frank Victor Martinek USNR. As this was the period between wars, his erstwhile enemy at this time was a supervillain simply known as “The Scorpion”.

Winslow was noted as being “tall, stalwart, handsome,, all-America, moral, strong, intelligent – in other words, perfect in every way!”

Whether Don Winslow was created as a bit of fun (hobby) or to assist in the recruitment of young men into the U.S. Navy is problematic. What is known is that Don Winslow battled evil in all its forms with intelligence, bravado, and his faithful sidekick, Lt. Red Pennington! Don’s best girl was Mercedes Colby, daughter of retired Admiral Colby and sometime nurse. Don and Red bounced around Asia battling The Scorpion’s evil plans along with the infamous pirate Singapore Sal (you could tell she was a pirate as she had a skull and crossbones on her hat 😁) until Worlld War 2 came along and they could battle the Nazis and Japanese.

Don escaping the Japanese trap (I think)

Don Winslow was made into a radio serial in 1937 and the comic lasted until 1957 when it finally disappeared from the King Features stable.

The book is full of action packed Don Winslow comics as he and Red face-off against the full variety of nefarious enemies in the best pulp fiction manner. My personal favourite nemesis is Singapore Sal. There are 26 comics included (28 if you could the three part Death for Sale separately). Comics such as:

  • The Stolen Battleship
  • Don Winslow of the Navy Climbs Mt Everest
  • Don Winslow of the Navy meets Singapore Sal
  • The Return of Singapore Sal
  • Messenger of Death, and
  • The Doomed Atoll

to name a few!

Don Winslow is really likely only to be familiar to readers from the US as unlike heroes such as the Phantom, Winslow was very much an American here (the Phantom was very much everyone’s hero).

Having said that, I have enjoyed returning to the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of the Craig Yoe’s collection of Don Winslow of the Navy comics – back to a time when heroes wore white and had strong jaws and evil villains were clearly evil villains.

 

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USAAF Spitfires in World War 2

In one of those usual oddities of Google and the Internet, I was hunting for some information the other day on Soviet World War 2 aircraft camouflage and, as you do at a time like that, came across a reference to the USAAF flying Spitfires in World War 2. “Tally ho”, I thought,  “here’s an oddity to look further into”.

Look into it I did.

Well, not only did the USAAF flying some Spitfires but the US Navy also managed one squadron. There were four groups in the USAAF flying Spitfires for a time, initially out of England and then in the Mediterranean. They were:

United States Army Air Forces

4th Fighter Group

  • 334th Fighter Squadron
  • 335th Fighter Squadron
  • 336th Fighter Squadron

7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group

  • 13th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron
  • 14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

31st Fighter Group

  • 2d Fighter Squadron
  • 4th Fighter Squadron
  • 5th Fighter Squadron

52d Fighter Group

  • 307th Fighter Squadron
  • 308th Fighter Squadron
  • 309th Fighter Squadron

United States Navy

Supermarine_Spitfire_Mk.Vc_USAAFI’ll freely admit that this was news to me. I had always associated the USAAF pursuit (fighter) groups with P-40s, P-47s, P-38s and P-51s, never with the Spitfire.

The 4th Fighter Group was fairly typical, It was constituted and activated in 1942, Activation was in England and the core of the Fighter Group were formers members of the RAF Eagle Squadrons. They commenced operations with Spitfires but moved across to P-47s in March of 1943 and P-51s in April 1944. 

Of course, the US Army Air Force was not the only non-Commonwealth country operating Spitfires in World War 2. I mentioned 1942 above. In 1942 Spitfires were being sent to the Soviet Union to assist that war effort. I can see I will need to add some to my Soviet mid World War 2 army. The picture below is of a line of Spitfires, camouflaged and marked with a red star ready for export to the Soviet Union.

USSR_Vb_1942

Vinh Long

vinh long 100 Jim at the War Times Journal has released some more models of ships from around the end of the 19th Century. This latest release includes:

  • Collingwood
  • Monmouth
  • Drake
  • Highflyer
  • Dupleix
  • Vinh Long
  • Wittelsbach
  • Braunschweig
  • Cormoran
  • Arcona
  • Umbria
  • Etna

Along with two shore batteries.

The Vinh-Long particularly interested me as I recalled reading somewhere about the USS Bainbridge (DD-246) having rescued a large number of passengers and crew from the vessel in the 1920s and the skipper of the Bainbridge being decorated for his efforts. A little research was therefore in order.

Off to the US Naval History and Heritage website – one of my favourite sites, especially for US Navy vessels history.

vinh long 105 The Vinh-Long was a 5500-ton screw steamship and was built in 1881. I was one of several military transports needed to support France’s colonial empire. During the First World War the Vinh-Long server as a hospital ship. After the November 1918 Armistice she returned to her previous role as a troops transport.

On 16 November 1922, while carrying 495 persons, including civilians as well as military and naval personnel, the Vinh-Long caught fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey. She was carrying armaments in her magazines and as the fire spread, eventually it reached her after magazines causing explosions. This caused the fire to intensify and spread throughout the rest of the ship.

Even though the blaze as intense and there were known risks of further explosions (the forward magazines for example. The USS Bainbrdge (DD-246) pulled alongside the bow of the Vinh-Long and managed to save 482 of the passengers and crew. Thirteen people, among them two women and four children, lost their lives in the fire and subsequent efforts to abandon ship, some having life boats fall on them when they were in the water. One other man died of exposure on board the Bainbridge.

vinh long 106 The Bainbridge was approached eventually by HMS Sepoy but by that time the Bainbridge was underway to Istanbul with the survivors so needed no further assistance.

The rescue of Vinh-Long‘s passengers and crew was widely celebrated at the time. The Bainbridge‘s officers and crew were officially commended for their performance and the captain of the Bainbridge, Lieutenant Commander Edwards, was subsequently honoured with the United States’ Medal of Honor along with the French Legion of Honor and the British Distinguished Service Order.

Following on from here are pictures of Lt Commander Edwards receiving his medal from the US President, Calvin Collidge and then the last three photos are of Edwards’ actually report of the incident.

I can see I will need to prepare and order for Jim shortly.

vinh long 110

vinh long 200

vinh long 201

vinh long 202

Navy Ships Called Canberra

There I was the other day, looking up some photos on the US Navy’s Historical Centre website (photos at http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/nhcorg11.htm and general website at http://www.history.navy.mil/),

A Watercolour Painting of HMAS Canberra - presented to the USS Canberra
A Watercolour Painting of HMAS Canberra - presented to the USS Canberra
a truly great resource for photographs of ships, and I stumbled across a US World War II cruiser, USS Canberra. I had some immediate and brief confusion, thinking about HMAS Canberra which had served with the US Fleet in the Pacific during World War II but a quick view of a photograph of the ship eliminated that confusion.

I then got to wondering how many navy vessels have borne the name “Canberra“. I’m not thinking about general marine, as I know there was a cruise liner named Canberra but rather vessels in the defence forces of various countries called Canberra. These then are the ones I have come up with.

Royal Australian Navy

  • The first Canberra was a County-class cruiser launched in 1927 and sunk after the battle of Savo Island in 1942.
  • The second Canberra was an Adelaide class guided missile frigate launched in 1978.
  • The third Canberra will be the first of two Canberra class large amphibious ships due to enter service in 2012.

HMAS Canberra (D33), named after the Australian capital city of Canberra, was a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class of County class cruisers, which served between 1928 and 1942. She was sunk in the Battle of Savo Island, on 9 August 1942, during World War II.

The Canberra was replaced with HMAS Shropshire, the previous HMS Shropshire, which was transferred to the RAN on 20 April 1943.

United States Navy

USS Canberra in 1943
USS Canberra in 1943

USS Canberra (CA-70, ex-CAG-2, ex-CA-70) was a Baltimore class cruiser and later a Boston class guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy. She served from 1943 until 1970, and participated in World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis naval blockade. Canberra was named after the Royal Australian Navy’s County class cruiser, HMAS Canberra, which was sunk during the Battle of Savo Island.

A Baltimore class cruiser under construction was selected to become USS Canberra after a request from the US President Roosevelt for a ship to commemorate the loss of HMAS Canberra. The Baltimore class cruiser previously designated as USS Pittsburgh was renamed, and was launched as USS Canberra on 19 April 1943 – interestingly, the day before the UK government transferred the Shropshire to the RAN. USS Canberra was launched by Lady Alice C. Dixon, the wife of Sir Owen Dixon, Australia’s ambassador to the United States, and is the only United States warship to be named after a foreign city.

Since there was a policy not to duplicate names across the Allied fleets, plans to rename Shropshire as Canberra were negated.

The Australian Government returned this tribute by naming a new Tribal class destroyer, HMAS Bataan, in honour of the Battle of Bataan – the only Tribal class destroyer that I am aware of that is not actually named after a tribe.

P&O Line

SS Canberra was an ocean liner, which later operated on cruises, in the P&O fleet from 1961 to 1997. She was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland at a cost of UK £17 million, and was launched on 16 March 1960. The ship was named on 17 March 1958, after the federal capital of Australia, Canberra, and entered service in May 1961. SS Canberra served the British armed forces during the Falklands War in 1982 by acting as a troopship. She remained in her white colour and this may have saved her from damage from the Argentine Air Force as the Argentine pilots claimed they were told not to hit the Canberra, as they mistook her for a Hospital Ship.

So, Canberra seems to be a gallant name for a ship – funny that the city of Canberra is so far from the sea.

BB17 – USS Rhode Island

USS Rhode Island passing through Panama Canal
USS Rhode Island passing through Panama Canal

One of the search terms that returned no value was BB17. Now, again, as I think I know most of the readers of Thomo’s Hole’s tastes, I suspect that the search for BB17 was not for “BB17, The largest adult community … “, but rather for the USS Rhode Island, BB17.

The USS Rhode Island was a 14,948-ton battleship of the Virginia class. She was built in Massachusetts at Quincy by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company and was commissioned in February 1906. She was known in Australia at the time as she was one of the vessels of the American Great White Fleet that circumnavigated the globe, stopping in at Australia on the way. The picture to the right is the Rhode Island passing through the Panama Canal.

The Rhode Island had a limited involvement in World War I, and was decommissioned in June 1920. Soon after that the Rhode Island was given the hull number BB-17 but saw not further active service. She was sold for scrapping in November 1923.

Details of the Vessel:

Displacement: 14,948 tons
Length: 441.7 feet
Beam: 76.3 feet
Draft: 23.8 feet
Speed: 19 knots
Complement: 40 officers, 772 men
Armament: four 12-inch (305 mm) guns
8 × 8 in (203 mm) guns
12 × 6 in (152 mm) guns
12 × 3 in (76 mm) guns
12 3-pounder gun
four 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

USS Rhode Island at night
USS Rhode Island at night