Echoes of the War

Echoes of the War

End of the Normandie

Final chapter in the tragic history of the liner Normandie has been written with the disposal of the rusty, ruin of the once pride of France’s mercantile marine, to Morris E. Lipsett.

Lipsett, who paid the U. S. Maritime Commission $161,680 for all that’s left of the ship, which cost $65,000,000 (exclusive of the millions paid out by this country in raising and moving the wreck after the fire of February 9, 1942), said that he bought it as a gamble. He paid $3.80 a ton for the scrap steel in the hulk but doesn’t know what it will cost to get the metal out. Scrap steel is at present selling at about $15.33 a ton.

America will pay the French government $13,500,000 for the ship, which sum, it is said, will be used by the French to purchase some of our Liberty ships.

Although the Normandie proved to be a white elephant since the nation took it over and renamed it the Lafayette, she was not a total loss. In righting her the Navy trained many divers and ship workers who later did yeoman’s service in clearing wrecked ports and keeping the maritime supply lines open.

Fire fighters of New York, who struggled to save the ship on that memorable and chilly February afternoon, will never forget that battle . . . nor will the Navy personnel who lost most of their belongings-—and the scores who narrowly escaped with their lives. There never was a fire like it. There will in all probability never be another.

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The 10,000-ton Liberty ship Cassius Hudson was crippled in October by sea mines off Trieste, Italy. This and other mine fields sown by Germans in the last war will endanger commercial shipping for some years it is said. . . . In October, the Admiralty announced that two British destroyers struck unexplained mines in the Mediterranean near Epirus with “some casualties” to crew members. Both ships remained afloat. . . . Officers and men of the R.A.F. (Royal Air Forces) stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, fought a fire in a high-octane gasoline dump which swept the area. They saved three-fourths of the 500,000 gallons stored in the dump. . . . Units of New York City’s marine fireboat fleet saluted the great liner Queen Elizabeth as she steamed up the North River on her first peacetime passenger trip. . . . A three-hour fire in the hold of the U. S. S. Wayne, Navy auxiliary vessel in drydock in Hoboken considerably damaged the hull. Firemen on twoalarm assignment controlled fire, said to have been caused by sparks from a welder’s torch. . . . George W. Angell, fire prevention official of the Allied Headquarters, Japan, estimated that fire losses in Japan this year would be more than 1,200,000,000 yen. Opening a drive against what he termed “amazing indifference” to fires by the Japanese, Angell said that twenty-six had been killed and 240 injured between May 1 and August 1, 1946. . . . Two thousand tons of rubber and other property with a total value of $1,660,000 were destroyed in a recent fire in the Borneo port of Bandjermasin, Batavia.

. . . The famed Narwhal, World War II submarine, was swept by flames for the second time in two weeks at the Quaker Shipyard & Machine Co., Camden, N. J., where she is being scrapped. . . . Fire, which damaged the Wellington, N. Z„ Exhibition Building that city, destroyed 31,000 bales of wool, valued at approximately $2,240,000 and a quantity of New Zealand Air Force equipment. . . . Fire broke out on the aircraft carrier Ark Royal under construction at Birkenhead, Eng., but was extinguished with slight loss. . . . Three American soldiers and three German prisoners of war were killed when a ton and a half of German munitions exploded unexpectedly near Frankfurt Am Main, Germany. . . . Fire damaged the U. S. Cruiser Huntington, in Italian waters; Reports state that the fire starting in insulation, was extinguished in forty-five minutes by the British Royal Navy Fire Service. . . . Hundreds of homeless persons evacuated from the area of Fort Gagaresse, near Toulon, France took refuge in the city after an explosion which killed forty-three persons and injured fifty-seven. Mines, piled to await disposal on the beach, let go unexpectedly only thirty feet from a place where hundreds were bathing. . . . A fire in the storeroom of the 35,000-ton liner Mauretania in Liverpool was extinguished in twenty minutes. . . . Three military American government buildings in the Stuttgart, Germany, area were damaged by bombs in what was described as the first organized aggressive German underground activity in the U. S. occupation zone since the end of the war. No casualties.

Adding to Our Hazards?

Amid all the publicity (most of it founded on fact) about superrockets and guided missiles, it is disclosed that the Army Air Forces has started a $25,000,000 to $35,000,000 development program in Muroc Dry Lake, Calif., to develop the 70-square mile area into the world’s largest airport for jet and rocket aircraft.

It is said the project will require ten years for completion, but already there are two big permanent hangars and some temporary ones, with workshops, offices and Army barracks on the dry lake bed. Runways are reported the longest in the world, one extending seven miles.

In the early days of the war the lake was used for bombing practice, and extensive secret tests of experimental aircraft and rockets have been conducted in the area, located ninety miles from Los Angeles.

Many of the Army’s latest planes are located there, including the giant XB-35 Northrop “flying wing,” the 10,000-mile, 10,000 pound bomber, and the Douglas XB-43 jet bomber with a 400-mile-anhour speed and an 800-mile range.

Just what this development, and the Army’s experiments with V-2 rockets being conducted at White Sands, N. M. —where rockets have been shot over 100 miles into the air—will mean in the way of added hazards to the contiguous areas is problematical but fire chiefs who envision the future do not discount the problems this project will create.

Echoes of the War

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Echoes of the War

How Hot Is Hot?

Another post-war off-shoot of the war is the “hottest torch ever made”.

The torch, exhibited publicly for the first time at the final sessions of the American Chemical Society’s meeting in Chicago, September 13, is a flame made by two gases, fluorine and hydrogen. The heat developed is more than 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the surface temperature of some “cool stars.”

According to published reports, this torch is hotter than either oxy-acetylene or oxy-hydrogen. However, hot as this is, it is not the hottest flame produced by man. That, except from atomic bombs, comes from electrical arcs exceeding the sun’s surface temperature of 10,000 degrees.

The torch, which is suitable for welding copper (which requires abnormally high heat) was developed by Dr. A. V. Grosse of the Houdry Process Corp. and Homer Priest of the Oak Ridge, Tenn., atomic laboratories.

Atomic Repercussions

An atomic bomb, exploded in any of the world’s great seaports as the bomb was exploded beneath the surface of Bikini Lagoon, would paralyze that port “indefinitely,” according to Dr. R. A. Sawyer, University of Michigan physicist, who was technical director in charge of all instrumental observations at Bikini.

Dr. Sawyer said the chief menace of the bomb was radioactivity, so underwater explosions were more effective, than those in midair. Radioactivity per sists in water, Dr. Sawyer said, but dissipates in air. “It will not be sale for anyone to live on any of the Bikini ships for at least six months,” he continued. “Men may board them for various lengths of time. For instance a man can now stay on the destroyer Cunningham for as long as twenty-four hours, but at first radioactivity was so great, we had to use seven-man relays to remove instruments from the ships.”

The stockpile and production rate of atomic bombs—present and projected —are major factors in assessing the potential of atomic warfare, the Bikini atom bomb tests showed. Dr. Karl T.

Compton, chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff Evaluation Board, says that we must think of future atomic warfare— not in terms of one or two bombs—but of many bombs.

Bikini’s principal value, according to information released by Dr. Compton, was in defining closely and accurately the characteristics, power, capacity and limitations of the present bomb. . . .

It is clear from Bikini, say reports, that the atomic bomb is far more than an another weapon; that it is the most terrible and destructive weapon now known to man. It is also clear that as of the present it is not the “absolute weapon” and that it cannot, as of the present, entirely replace other weapons, said the press reports of Dr. Compton’s interview, adding: “It is clear, there-

fore, that a large nation like the United States or the Soviet Union reasonably well prepared for atomic war—that is, with its cities ready for partial evacuation. its industries and its military installations rather well dispersed and with atomic bombs of its own—cannot be conquered by a few atomic bombs unless its nerves fail.”

According to Dr. Compton, a few atomic bombs of the present type Bikini showed, will certainly not destroy a large nation’s capacity to resist, and probably will not destroy its will to resist.

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The Army transport Edmund B. Alexander was rocked by an internal explosion near the Weser Light Vessel, fifteen miles from Bremerhaven, Germany early in September but the 343 persons in the crew were removed safely. . . . Fire broke out on the main deck of the liner Queen Mary in September, but was soon extinguished by crew fire-fighters, assisted by port firemen of Halifax. . . . The entire dock area of Pictou, Nova Scotia, was threatened by a waterfront fire which did $1,000,000 damage to Dominion freight sheds, freight cars, repair jetty and shops. Help was rushed from neighboring Pictou County towns. . . . A German V-2 rocket fired by the Army technicians at White Sands, N. M., exploded at 20,000 feet elevation, crashed to earth about a mile and three-quarters from the launching platform. Exploding fuel shot flames 1,000 yards in all directions. . . . Fire that broke out as reveille was being sounded damaged a service club in Camp Kilmer. Two fire companies from New Brunswick aided the camp fire-fighters to control the blaze in the large flame building, which housed a cafeteria, library, lounge, dance hall and game room. . . . Echoes of the British-Palestine troubles were heard in New York when anonymous telephone calls warned that the 25-story Cunard Building on Broadway, Manhattan would be blown up. . . . In Beyrouth, Lebanon, two bombs were hurled through the window of the American Consulate causing considerable damage, . . . While unloading in Haifa Harbor, the British tanker Empire Cross exploded and sank. Twelve of a crew of thirty to forty were rescued. It is reported not known whether or not Jewish terrorists were responsible. . . . Three oil pipe lines serving the port of Haifa were cut and set on fire, amongst other acts of depredation in that area. . . . Fire damaged the United States cruiser Huntington at Rome, Italy, it is said. The blaze started in insulation on the second deck. British Royal Navy fire service aided the ship’s crew to extinguish the fire. . . . A tear gas bomb, said to have been a war souvenir, exploded and routed several hundred Baptists from Glenwood Church, Kingsport, Tenn., and startled a Methodist congregation at Highlands Church nearby. Three sharp explosions were heard and acrid fumes routed the congregations in tears. The cause? A hoy “experimenting” in his own backyard. . . . A large ammunition explosion in Vladivostok, Siberia, which sank a ship in the harbor and blocked the port is reported to be the latest of a series of post-war incidents in Russia that have emphasized the internal difficulties of the Soviet state, say press reports. The blast was laid to sabotage. . . . On October 1, 500,000 pounds of explosives—old but still potent—were set off at the Navy’s Arco Proving Grounds, Arco, Idaho, “to see what happens when 250 tons of TNT explodes at one time. The test charge was arranged in the center of the proving ground with 1,500,000 pounds of additional powder nearby. The object was to determine if this additional powder was stored safely. Thus far no report of the results have been released. . . . Medical aid was dispatched by air through thunder storms and low clouds, via Coast Guard heroes to help treat injured men aboard the stricken tanker Bennington 225 miles off Savannah, Ga. Six crew men were dead or missing and two others critically burned in the explosion and fire, which destroyed the fore part of the 10,172-ton tanker. Later the ship made port under her own headway, the crew having extinguished the remaining fire.