WW2 USN Submariner ‘Dolphins’ from an officer aboard USS Skipjack (SS-184)

USN Submariner badge, type 2, "deep wave" variation made by Hillborn & Hamburger Inc. and engraved "To Audrey from Sidney Kelf 11.25.42". Collection: Julian Tennant

USN Submariner badge, type 2, “deep wave” variation made by Hillborn & Hamburger Inc. and engraved “To Audrey from Sidney Kelf 11.25.42”. Collection: Julian Tennant

Another item from my collection this week. This time it is a WW2 USN “deep wave” type 2 Submariner badge made by Hillborn & Hamburger that I acquired from a family here in Australia. The badge originally belonged to Lieutenant Sidney Alfred Kelf who served aboard the Salmon class submarine, USS Slipjack (SS-184) in 1941 and 1942.

The badge came from the estate of Audrey Beryl Hughson an Australian who was given it as a keepsake by Kelf whilst he was stationed in Australia during WW2. The badge is engraved “To Audrey from Sidney Kelf 11.25.42” which indicates the engraving was done at the conclusion of the boat’s 5th war patrol which took Skipjack from the submarine base at Fremantle in Western Australia to Pearl Harbor.

USS Skipjack (SS-184) off Provincetown, Massachusetts during sea trials, 14 May 1938. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

USS Skipjack (SS-184) off Provincetown, Massachusetts during sea trials, 14 May 1938. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

USS Skipjack (SS-184) was laid down on 22 July 1936, launched 23 October 1937 and commissioned on 30 June 1938. It was one of the 29 submarines that formed the US Navy’s Asiatic Submarine Fleet that was based in Manila in the Philippines at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Skipjack left for her first war patrol off the east coast of Samar two days later. It ended on 14 January 1942 in Darwin, Australia and after 16 days in port, commenced her second patrol in the Celebes sea which concluded in March at the Fremantle base in Western Australia.

American Submarines at North Wharf, Fremantle, 1945. The ship in the background is submarine tender USS PELAIS, surrounded by her 'brood', which included the subs BONEFISH, RASHER, BOWFIN, BLUEFISH, NARWHAL, TINOSA, CREVALLE and COD. Photo: Family of RAN photographer, Saxon Fogarty

American Submarines at North Wharf, Fremantle, 1945. The ship in the background is submarine tender USS PELAIS, surrounded by her ‘brood’, which at that time included the subs BONEFISH, RASHER, BOWFIN, BLUEFISH, NARWHAL, TINOSA, CREVALLE and COD. Photo: Family of RAN photographer, Saxon Fogarty

On the 14th of April, under the command of Lt. Cdr. James Wiggins Coe, Skipjack left Fremantle for her third war patrol, this time in the South China Sea. The submarine had her first success on 6 May 1942 when it torpedoed and sank the Japanese transport ship Kanan Maru (2567 GRT) about 25 nautical miles north-east of Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina. It followed this up on 8 May when it sank the Japanese transport ship Bujun Maru (4804 GRT) about 125 nautical miles east of Cam Ranh Bay and then the Japanese troop transport Tazan Maru (5477 GRT) near the Gulf of Siam on 17 May before returning to Fremantle on the 2nd of June.

On 18 July 1942, USS Skipjack left Fremantle for her 4th war patrol, this time in the Banda Sea and had her next victory when she torpedoed and damaged the Japanese fleet oil-tanker Hayatomo (14050 GRT) south-west of Ambon, Netherlands East Indies on 23 August. The patrol ended when she returned to Fremantle on 4 September.

I am not sure of when Sidney Kelf met Audrey or the circumstances of their meeting and the Audrey’s family could not provide me with any additional information about the relationship, but it would have occurred before Skipjack left for her 5th war patrol on 29 September 1942. Once again she was ordered to patrol in the Banda Sea, then work her way up north and end this war patrol at Pearl Harbor. On 14 October Skipjack had her next success sinking the Japanese transport ship Shunko Maru (6780 GRT) about 450 nautical miles west-south-west of Truk.

The Japanese Freighter S.S. Shunko Maru sinking in the central Pacific, after she was torpedoed by Skipjack (SS-184) on 14 October 1942. Photographed through Skipjack's periscope. Shunko Maru's back appears to be broken, and her hull bears traces of pattern camouflage paint. Photo: US National Archives # 80-G-33292

The Japanese Freighter S.S. Shunko Maru sinking in the central Pacific, after she was torpedoed by Skipjack (SS-184) on 14 October 1942. Photographed through Skipjack’s periscope. Shunko Maru’s back appears to be broken, and her hull bears traces of pattern camouflage paint. Photo: US National Archives # 80-G-33292

The submarine concluded her 5th war patrol in Pearl Harbor on 26 November 1942, before being ordered to Mare Island Navy Yard for an overhaul. It appears that Sidney Kelf did not accompany the submarine for refit to California but remained in Pearl Harbor and assigned to the Lapwing class Minesweeper,  USS Seagull (AM-30) which was reclassified as a Submarine tender.

USS Skipjack returned to Pearl Harbor after her overhaul and completed another 5 war patrols, sinking Japanese destroyer Suzukaze and transport ship Okitsu Maru on her 9th patrol and damaging the Japanese motor sail ship Tatsu Maru No.6 on her 10th and final patrol in November 1944. The submarine was then retired to training duties before being sunk during Test Baker, the second of two atomic bomb tests conducted at Bikini Atoll on 25 July 1946.

Insignia of USS Skipjack (SS-184) during WW2

Insignia of USS Skipjack (SS-184) during WW2

My research regarding the life and service of submariner, Lt. Sidney Alfred Kelf is far from complete and I do need to do a lot more research as my original records were lost when a computer hard-drive failed. I do know that he originally joined the navy as an enlisted man and was a Chief Torpedo-man before being commissioned. I also have a photograph of his grave headstone which indicates that he was born on May 8 1902, died October 31 1966 having served in the Navy in both World War 1 and 2.

USN submariner Kelf headstone

In addition to his submariner ‘dolphins’ badge, Sidney Kelf’s participation in two successful war patrols would have qualified him for the Submarine Combat Insignia with gold star. I am not sure what his medal entitlement is but as I intend to continue to research this individual, I’ll update this article as new information presents itself.

USN Submarine Combat Insignia qualification.

USN Submarine Combat Insignia qualification. This is one of two rare variations made by Sheridans of Perth to supply the submariners stationed at Fremantle during the war. Collection: Julian Tennant

 

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Malaysia trip report #2 – The Royal Malaysian Navy, Customs and Maritime museums, Melaka

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) Melaka

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) Melaka

During my first trip to Malaysia I did not leave Kuala Lumpur and whilst I did get to visit the Air Force and Police museums as well as some militaria shops, I did not make it to the two other places that I was keen to see, the Royal Malaysian Army and Royal Malaysian Navy museums, both of which are outside of KL.  So, on a return from a trip to visit the battlefields of Central Vietnam, I arranged to extend the break between AirAsia flights to give me a couple more nights in Malaysia.  Arriving at KLIA from Danang in the early evening, I took a taxi straight from the airport to the town of Melaka, about an hour and a half’s drive away. A one way trip cost me roughly the equivalent of US$45 and whilst it was not the cheapest option, it was the quickest for somebody who only had limited time.

Melaka (also referred to as Malacca) is the capital of the state of Malacca in the southwest of Malaysia and during the 15th century was one of South East Asia’s greatest trading ports, so as a result the town is steeped in maritime history. I came to visit the Malaysian Navy Museum, but first stop was the Maritime Museum of Malacca, situated just across the road and housed in a 36m long replica of the Flor De La Mar, a treasure-laden 16th century Portuguese galleon which sank during a storm in 1511 somewhere in the Straits of Malacca. The museum gives an overview of Malacca’s importance as a regional trading hub and its seafaring traditions from the time of the Malacca Sultanate through the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods. I quite enjoyed the museum, particularly the models and the cost of entry also included the Navy Museum, so this is definitely worth including on a visit to the Melaka.

Melaka Maritime Museum / Flor De La Mar                                                                          

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-282 6526

Email: helpdesk@perzim.gov.my

Web: www.perzim.gov.my

Right next door to the Maritime Museum is the Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia) so I decided to check it out as well. This is a fascinating museum that is free to visit and has an abundance of items on display.  Exhibits include uniforms, customs measuring devices and of course, various seized items of contraband ranging from pornography to weapons and narcotics.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia). Knives seized by Malaysian Customs. The brass handled dagger design appears to have been influenced by aspects of the Fairbairn Sykes commando stiletto.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia). Knives seized by Malaysian Customs. The brass handled dagger appears to have been influenced by some design and manufacture aspects of the Fairbairn Sykes commando stiletto.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-2833924

Web: http://www.customs.gov.my/en/mp

Across the road, the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) or Muzium TLDM to the locals, is dedicated specifically to the Malaysian Navy rather than a general naval history of Malaysia. Through a series of didactic panels, supported by various exhibits the museum outlines the development of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the role it plays in Malaysian society. The material being displayed is a mixture of equipment, uniforms, insignia, photographs and items related to the Royal Malaysian Navy’s interactions with other nations naval forces.

As a badge collector, I found the insignia exhibits particularly informative as it is often difficult to find good reference material identifying contemporary uniforms and badges. Most of the explanatory captions and panels also include English translations so it is quite easy to make sense of the displayed material. My specific interest in Airborne and Special Forces unit insignia was also well catered for with displays of uniforms and insignia relating to the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut or more commonly known as PASKAL also being shown in the exhibits.

Insignia detail of a uniform worn by members of the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut, more commonly known as PASKAL.

Insignia detail of a uniform worn by members of the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut, more commonly known as PASKAL.

After spending the middle of the day checking out the Maritime and Naval Museums, I took a stroll back to my room via the touristy Jonker Street, checking out a couple of antique shops along the way. Nothing much to satisfy my needs and possibly over-priced to take advantage of gullible tourists such as myself, but worth a look anyway. In retrospect I should have headed to the Submarine Museum (Muzium Kapal Selam) but I had wanted to check out the shops around Jonker Street, so all good… next time. Then it was time for a quick bite and a beer before retiring for the night. In the morning I’d arranged for an early pick up to take me to back to KL International Airport via the Army Museum at Port Dickson… and I’ll save those pix for another post.

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium TLDM)                                                                      

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-283 0926

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:30 (closed 12:15 – 14:45 Friday)

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia)

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia)

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Venice’s Naval History Museum – Museo Storico Navale

Established by the Regina Marina (Italian Royal Navy) in 1919, the Museo Storico Navale is located in the Castello district, near the Venetian Arsenal. The city state of Venice was built on the back of its naval might and at its peak, the Arsenale di Venezia (Venetian Arsenal) could produce a fully operational warship in 24 hours, so a visit to this lesser known museum is a must for anybody interested in the broader context of Venetian history as well as those with specific military related interests.

Museo Historico Naval - Venice.

The museum collection covers the maritime history of Venice and the Italian navy. It is divided between two locations about 100m apart. The bulk of the collection, including weapons, uniforms and an impressive collection of model ships is located on the waterfront. Around the corner is the Padiglione delle Navi, a series of sheds that was built in 1577 as an oars workshop and now known as the Ships Pavilion, housing larger vessels and artifacts.

The main museum building has 42 exhibition rooms spread over 5 levels and covers both naval and civilian maritime histories. Near the entrance is a WW2 era “Maiale” (Pig) SLC piloted torpedo used by the naval commandos of Xª MAS and as my collecting interest is focused on special operations units, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of items related to this unit on display.

Museo Historico Naval - Venice.

SLC or slow-running torpedo, nicknamed “Maiale” (Pig) was manned torpedo submarine used by the commando-divers of X-MAS (Decima Flottiglia MAS) of the Royal Italian Navy during WW2.

Museo Historico Naval - Venice.

Diving equipment used by the underwater assault craft operators from X-MAS (Decima Flottiglia MAS) of the Royal Italian Navy during WW2. This equipment was made in 1941 and used by the “Gamma” Teams in actions off Gibraltar and Algeria during World War 2. It consists of a rubber suit, a respirator using oxygen from a tank which is renewed by the soda lime ash in the bag on the chest, mouthpiece and face mask

The Decima Flottiglia Motoscafi Armati Siluranti, also known as Xª MAS or X-MAS was an Italian commando frogman unit of the Regia Marina created during the Fascist regime. The acronym MAS refers to various light torpedo boats used by the Regia Marina during World War I and World War II.

 Xª MAS evolved out of the world’s first special forces frogman unit, the 1ª Flottiglia Mezzi d’Assalto (“First Assault Vehicle Flotilla”) which had been formed in 1939. In 1941, the re-designated unit was divided into two parts – a surface group operating fast explosive motor boats, and a sub-surface weapons group using manned torpedoes called SLC (siluri a lenta corsa or “slow-running torpedoes”, but nicknamed Maiale or “Pig” by their crews), as well as “Gamma” assault swimmers (nuotatori) using limpet mines. During its operations, the unit destroyed 72,190 tons of Allied warships and 130,572 tons of Allied merchant ships and resulted in the Royal Navy developing similar capabilities.

Following the armistice of Italy on September 8, 1943, the Xª MAS was disbanded with some of its sailors joining the Allies to fight the Germans. In the German occupied north of Italy, Mussolini set up the Italian Social Republic (RSI) to continue the war and under the command of Junio Valerio Borghese also known as Il Principe Nero (The Black Prince), Decima Flottiglia was revived. By the end of the war it had over 18 000 members and had a reputation as hard core pro-fascist unit, operating in anti-resistance campaigns under the command of Waffen SS Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, supreme commander of SS forces in Italy.

Examining the watercraft and uniforms used by the sailors of  Xª MAS was the real highlight of the museum for me. But there is lots to see here and it is easy to lose track of time. I spent at least 4 hours in the main building before even reaching the Ships Pavilion, so if this kind of stuff interests you, arrive early and give yourself plenty of time.

Museo Historico Naval - Venice.

Some of the uniforms on display. The jacket on the left was used by the Italian State circa 1790. The Jacket and waistcoat on the right was used by the Venetian Navy during the same period.

 

Museo Historico Naval - Venice.

Model of a CB type Coastal Submarine (1940 – 1945)

Venice Naval Historical Museum

Riva San Biagio Castello 2148,

Venice Ships Pavilion

Rio della Tana Castello 2162 c, Venice (close to the Arsenal bridge)

How to get there:

Vaporetto ACTV: Line 1, 4.1, 4.2 stop Arsenale

Opening Hours:

The Venice Naval Historical Museum is open every day

  • 1 April – 31 October: from 10 am to 6 pm (last admission 5 pm)
  • 1 November – 31 March: from 10 am to 5 pm (last admission 4 pm)

The Ships Pavilion is open every day

  • 1 April – 31 October: from 11 am to 6 pm (last admission 5 pm)
  • 1 November – 31 March: from 11 am to 5 pm (last admission 4 pm)

https://www.visitmuve.it/en/museums/naval-historical-museum/

museo historico navale Borghese-11

This submarine is not related to the museum, but I discovered it whilst wandering around the area. It is the ‘Enrico Dandolo’ (SSK 513), which was the third submarine of the Toti class that the Italian Navy built in the 1960’s. This one was decommissioned in 1996. Unfortunately it is on the Navy base which continues to occupy a lot of the Arsenale region and had restricted access, so I could not get any closer to examine it in detail.

Albany’s Princess Royal Fortress and National Anzac Centre

Albany, located 418km south-east of Perth, is the oldest colonial settlement in Western Australia. Established in 1826 it was originally settled as a military outpost for the colony of  New South Wales as part of their plan to halt French ambitions in the region. In 1893 the first Federal fort, the Princess Royal Fortress, was built on Mt Adelaide and the town was the last port of call for Australian troops departing for service in the First World War. During the Second World War it was home to an auxiliary submarine base for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in the event that the primary base at Fremantle was lost to the Japanese. So, with a long weekend giving me some spare time, I decided to take a drive down to Albany to check out the Princess Royal Fortress and the National Anzac Centre.

Albany Barracks museum

Albany Barracks Museum at the Princess Royal Fortress

Albany overlooks King George Sound, one of the world’s finest natural harbours and during the 19th century the Australian states realised that the loss of this strategic port could be disastrous not only to Western Australia but to all the colonies. As a result, all the states agreed to pay for the construction of a fort and the British Government would supply the guns. The Princess Royal Fortress was dug into the hillside of Mount Adelaide with two gun batteries – Fort Princess Royal (2 x 6 inch guns) and Fort Plantagenet (1 x 6 inch gun) at nearby Point King. Neither battery fired a shot in anger and in 1956 the Princess Royal Fortress was decommissioned; the buildings initially being used as a hostel and holiday camp before being redeveloped in the late 1980’s as a heritage site. The fortress is now home to a number of interesting military sites including the Albany Barracks and Princess Royal Battery, the National Anzac Centre, HMAS Perth Museum Interpretive Centre, Navy Heritage trail, the South East Asia Memorial, US Submariners Memorial and the Merchant Navy Memorial.

6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort

6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort

Albany Barracks museum

Artillery uniforms, circa 1890’s

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-04

Cap and jacket detail of an artillery officer of the Fortress Princess Royal battery circa 1890’s

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-05

Albany Barracks Museum

6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort

6 inch gun at the Princess Royal Fort

Princess Royal Fortress Command Centre built in 1942.

Princess Royal Fortress Command Centre built in 1942.

HMAS Perth Museum

HMAS Perth Museum & Interpretive Centre

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-09

HMAS Perth Museum

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-10

Royal Australian Navy (DPCU) uniform worn by CMDR Michael Manfield who had previously commanded the submarine HMAS Waller. HMAS Waller was the third Collins Class submarine to enter service. It was named after Captain Hector “Hec” Waller, DSO and Bar of the HMAS Perth I which was lost during WW2. HMAS Waller’s patch, seen on the right shoulder (and actually upside down on the uniform), features the Stuart rose which references Captain Waller’s service on HMAS Stuart whilst the Oak Leaves represent Captain Waller’s three Mention In Despatches during his career. The field of black and blue signifies the night battles at sea during WW2 in which his flotilla was engaged. I am not sure why the curators decided to add the Chief Petty Officer’s rank slides to the uniform or why the HMAS Waller patch is upside down… Curator must have been on the rum.

Bofors and other artillery pieces on the Navy Discovery trail

Bofors anti-aircraft gun and other artillery pieces on the Navy Discovery trail

USN Submariners Memorial

USN Submariners Memorial commemorating the WW2 submariners who remain on eternal patrol

Entry to all the museums and sites, with the exception of the National Anzac Centre is free and are definitely worth a visit presenting some interesting pieces of memorabilia at the various buildings and displays.

The National Anzac Centre was opened on the 1st of November 2014, a century after the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops departed from King George Sound, bound for the Great War. Visitors assume the identity of one of 32 servicemen who served in the war and follow their experience of the conflict from recruitment through active service to their return (for some). Their stories unfold through interactive displays, artefacts, photos, film and audio recordings. The content, curated from the Australian War Memorial and the Western Australian Museum, is interesting and engaging. A visit to the centre is definitely worth the Au$25 entry fee.

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-12

The National Anzac Centre with the USN Submariners Memorial in the foreground.

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-13

National Anzac Centre

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-14

New Zealand and Australian uniforms at the National Anzac Centre

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-15

Ottoman identity disc, 1915. Official historian Charles Bean recovered three examples of these identity discs in the Lone Pine trench system in 1919. This example has been cut into a heart shape, possibly by its owner. Unfortunately the low light made it difficult to get a really clear image with my iphone.

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-16

Foreign service helmet, Pattern 1902. Often referred to as the Wolsley or sun helmet, this example was worn on Gallipoli by Ballarat farmer Sergeant Cuthbert Stanley-Lowe of the 9th Light Horse. Stanley-Lowe was hospitalised on 15 June 1915 with ‘rheumatism and headaches’ caused by ‘exposure and strain in the trenches.’ He was evacuated to Lemnos and Egypt before being returned to Australia as medically unfit in early 1916.

National ANZAC Centre, Albany.

This British 1916 Mk 1 helmet was worn by Major General (later Lieutenant General) Sir Joseph Talbot Hobbs throughout his service on the Western Front. He has fixed an Australian rising sun badge to the front of his helmet. Major General Hobbs, commander of the 5th Australian Division, is best known for orchestrating the night attack on Villers-Bretonneaux on 24-25 April 1918, which recaptured the town.

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-18

German helmet, gas-mask, wire cutters and pistol on display at the National Anzac Centre

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-19

Australian trench raiders clubs and revolver at the National Anzac Centre

albany fort princess royal ANZAC centre-20

Interactive display relating the stories of individual participants in the Great War at the National Anzac Centre

Princess Royal Fortress

Forts Road, Albany, Western Australia 6330, Australia                                                                   Ph: +61 8 9841 9369
Open 0900 – 1700 every day except Christmas Day.

Admission is free to all areas and buildings except the National ANZAC Centre which costs Au$25 for adults, Au$21 concession, Au$11 for first child (5- 15 years old) and $Au6 for every child thereafter.

National Anzac Centre:
Ph: +61 8  6820 3500

info@nationalanzaccentre.com.au
https://www.nationalanzaccentre.com.au

Photos of the Princess Royal Fortress during WW2
https://www.ozatwar.com/bunkers/princessroyalfortress.htm

Albany visitor sites:
http://albanyregion.com.au/anzac-history/
https://www.amazingalbany.com.au/category/anzac/

Australian made USN Submarine Combat Insignia Restrike

Some of the more desirable of the WW2 era US Navy Submarine Combat Patrol badges are those made by the West Australian company of Sheridan in Perth. This company made USN submariner badges to supply the large US submarine fleet operating out of Fremantle during the war.

Recently, incomplete strikes of the Sheridan type1 badge have been appearing on eBay. Concerned that these may be ‘finished’ and aged then sold as originals to collectors I bought one for comparison to my original badge and also contacted the seller. He told me that he is the grandson of a former USN submariner and he had these made by Sheridan around ten years ago. According to him, the die was quite fragile and incomplete which is why the badges have not been sheared-cut from the sterling sheet. This also explains why the detail is not as sharp and defined when viewed next to an original example. This is particularly noticeable on the reverse and the difference can be clearly seen around the lettering of the hallmark and ‘silver’ stamp. It should be noted that, John, the guy who had these restrikes made has never attempted to sell them as anything other than restrikes/reproductions, but it will be worthwhile for collectors to make note of the differences shown in my picture for future reference.

Comparison of the original Sheridan type 1 Submarine Combat Insignia (top) and the recently manufactured restrike. Note the differences in fine detail and finish.

Comparison of the original Sheridan type 1 Submarine Combat Insignia (top) and the recently manufactured restrike. Note the differences in fine detail and finish. Click on the image to enlarge.

WW2 US Navy Submarine Combat Insignia

WW2 period USN officer's 'Dolphins' submarine qualification badge (manufacturer H&H, New York) and Submarine Combat Insignia with stars indicating successful completion of 4 'war' patrols (manufacturer AMICO, New York).

WW2 period USN officer’s ‘Dolphins’ submarine qualification badge (manufacturer H&H, New York) and Submarine Combat Insignia with stars indicating successful completion of 4 ‘war’ patrols (manufacturer AMICO, New York).

On March 26, 1943, the US Navy authorized an award, known as the Submarine Combat Insignia, for successful completion of a ‘war’ patrol in which the submarine sunk, or assisted with the sinking of at least one enemy vessel or carried out a combat mission of comparable importance. The award consisted of a silver submarine pin approximately 5.6cm (2 ¼ inches) long with a scroll beneath the waves where a gold star was affixed for each successful war patrol. The badge itself represented the first successful patrol, so the addition of the first gold star represented the second patrol, an additional star the third patrol and so on. The scroll only allowed space for three stars (four successful war patrols) so if a fifth successful patrol was carried out, one of the gold stars was removed and replaced with a silver star. The attachment for the badge was a horizontal pin back. Clutch backed versions do exist, although they are post WW2 replacements.

Both officers and men wore the Submarine Combat Insignia on the left breast just above the centre of ribbons or medals and in the case of officers, directly below the gold submariner ‘dolphins’ badge. It should be noted that enlisted seamen who qualified for submarine duty prior to and during WW2 wore an embroidered version of the ‘dolphins’ badge on their right sleeve. This was moved to the chest in mid 1947, but the ‘enlisted’ silver metal variation of ‘dolphins’ badge was only approved in September 1950.

My interest in these badges was aroused when I saw WW2 veteran Australian Special Forces operator, Jack Wong Sue DCM wearing a USN Submarine Combat Insignia badges on his medals during an ANZAC Day commemoration. Jack served with Z Special Unit and was one of a seven-man team that operated for six months behind Japanese lines in Borneo. The team, code named AGAS-1, was inserted by the US submarine, USS Tuna, a Tambor class submarine on it’s thirteenth patrol of the war.

WW2 Australian Special Forces soldier, Jack Wong Sue DCM wearing his medals and the USN Submarine Combat Insignia award during the ANZAC Day commemorations.

WW2 Australian Special Forces soldier, Jack Wong Sue DCM wearing his medals and the USN Submarine Combat Insignia award during the ANZAC Day commemorations.

As I researched a little further I started to uncover a multitude of manufacturers variations of this fascinating badge and soon had developed a sideline collection of combat patrol insignia, some of which are shown below.

Manufacturer: Amico, New York

Manufacturer: Amico, New York

Manufacturer: Vanguard, New York

Manufacturer: Vanguard, New York

Unknown manufacturer - hallmarked Sterling

Unknown manufacturer – hallmarked Sterling

Unknown manufacturer - hallmarked Sterling

Unknown manufacturer – hallmarked Sterling

Manufacturer: Sheridan of Perth, Australia type 2

Manufacturer: Sheridan of Perth, Australia type 2

Manufacturer: Sheridan of Perth, Australia type 1

Manufacturer: Sheridan of Perth, Australia type 1

Manufacturer: NS Meyer, New York

Manufacturer: NS Meyer, New York

Manufacturer:  Hilborn & Hamburger inc, New Jersey type 2

Manufacturer: Hilborn & Hamburger inc, New Jersey type 2

Manfacturer: Hilborn & Hamburger inc, New Jersey type 1

Manfacturer: Hilborn & Hamburger inc, New Jersey type 1

Manufacturer: Gemsco, Conneticut.

Manufacturer: Gemsco, Conneticut.

Manufacturer: Gemsco, Conneticut. Pin back variation (early post war)

Manufacturer: Gemsco, Conneticut. Pin back variation (early post war)

Fullsize and miniature mess dress variations of the Submarine Combat Insignia in display/sales boxes. Three 'war patrol' stars can also be seen wrapped in cellophane in the box of the miniature badge, which was made by the NS Meyer Company of New York. The larger badge on the left is in a box from the Los Angeles based firm of Wolf-Brown Inc, although the badge itself is hallmarked Gemsco and has clutch back fittings indicating early post war stock.

Full size and miniature mess dress variations of the Submarine Combat Insignia in display/sales boxes. Three ‘war patrol’ stars can also be seen wrapped in cellophane in the box of the miniature badge, which was made by the NS Meyer Company of New York. The larger badge on the left is in a box from the Los Angeles based firm of Wolf-Brown Inc, although the badge itself is hallmarked Gemsco and has clutch back fittings indicating early post war stock.

For any collector interested in exploring these or the USN ‘Dolphins’ qualification badges in more detail, I thoroughly recommend David A. Jones’ excellent book US Silent Service: Dolphins & Combat Insignia 1921-1945.

US Silent Service: Dolphins & Combat Insignia 1924 - 1945 by David A. Jones. Published by R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-88-2

US Silent Service: Dolphins & Combat Insignia 1924 – 1945 by David A. Jones. Published by R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-88-2

The RAN ‘Special Duties’ parachutist wing

RAN_para-1

Whilst many people think that these are a Special Air Service wing, because of its shape and similarity to the design of the brass stamped British tropical dress SAS wing. It is in fact a Royal Australian Navy parachutist wing although there is an SAS connection.

It was introduced in 1994 as the Australian Navy ‘Special Duties’ parachutist qualification for the sailors (primarily clearance divers) who had passed the SAS selection and counter terrorist training cycle in order to serve as part of the TAG (Tactical Assault Group) which at that time was part of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment. Within months of its introduction it was decided that there was sufficient water ops capability within SASR and the requirement to include the CD’s as part of the TAG was removed, making the insignia virtually obsolete overnight as no more sailors would be likely to qualify for it.

RAN Parachutist wings

LHS shows the standard RAN parachutist wings for mess (top) and dress uniforms whilst the SAS qualified ‘Special Duties’ equivalents are on the right.

CD officers at a dining-in night at Waterhen in 1999. Two of the CD’s can be seen wearing the mess dress Special Duties wing above their medal miniatures.

Sailors who have NOT completed the SAS selection and CT training cycle are awarded the standard RAN parachutist wing upon completion of their para training. This includes the Clearance Divers who now form part of the east coast based TAG-E which is structured around the Sydney based 2 Commando Regiment. Only sailors who have completed the SAS selection and CT training are entitled to wear the SDU parachutist wing.

Collectors should note that no cloth or bullion wings of either of the RAN para wings variations are authorised, nor are they worn. They are fantasy/fake items, made for collectors.

Fake RAN Special Duties wings

Fantasy/Fake SD parachutist wings made for the collectors market. The dealer who first posted these wings made the usual claims but has provided no evidence to substantiate the story. Subsequent investigations can find no evidence of them being requested or worn by anybody qualified to do so. Close inspection of the wing shape also indicates that it was made using the same machine used to make collectors copies of the Australian SAS wing.