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Museum organizations document an operating US, WW II built destroyer
Serving in the Mexican Navy in 2006

Netz under steam

With the December 2005 decommissioning of the ex-USS Powers (DD-839) in Taiwan, R.O.C., Mexico is now operating the last WW II American built steam destroyer in the world. Ex-USS Steinaker (DD-863), now ARM Netzahualcoyotl (D-102, "Netza"), was built during WW II, modernized under the FRAM Mk I program during 1964 and finally transferred to Mexico in the early 1980s. We believe she is the oldest American built steam man of war still operating and probably the only operational US Navy 5" 38 cal. Netza and her crew are the last of these incredibly successful destroyers. There are numerous sights and sounds unique to destroyer operations that will be lost forever when this ship is decommissioned. During February 2006, the Historic Naval Ships Association, the museum crew of USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and Tin Can Sailors requested and received permission from the Mexican Navy to document Netza. We have attempted to record some of the essence of the US WW II, Cold War, and Mexican Navy destroyer experience.

USS Steinaker, a Gearing class destroyer, was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company's Staten Island yard and commissioned in May 1945. The ship was converted to a radar picket (DDR) in 1952 and then subsequently underwent a major modernization with her FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) overhaul in 1964. By 1968, Steinaker was transferred to the Pacific to participate in naval gunfire support operations off Binh Thuan and Phu Yen provinces; "Sea Dragon" operations off the coast of North Vietnam to interdict sea-borne infiltration of Communist forces into South Vietnam; and anti-aircraft picket duty off the demilitarized zone. She also operated with aircraft carriers conducting strikes against North Vietnam. She received two battle stars for her Vietnam service. In 1968 DD-863 returned to the Atlantic and resumed her normal patrol and exercise operations. In July 1973 she became a reserve training vessel in Baltimore. During February 1982, Steinaker was stricken from the US Navy register and transferred to the Mexican Navy in Newport, RI.

The USS Massachusetts Memorial Committee operates USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr (DD-850) as part of the Battleship Cove Naval Park in Fall River, MA. The ties between ex-Joseph P. Kennedy and Netzahualcoyotl are long and deep. They were both built by Bethlehem Steel Company with the same machinery and arrangement of compartments. Both served a majority of their time in the US Atlantic fleet and both were in the Red Sea in 1967. They share so much in common that after Kennedy was retired in 1973 parts were taken from her to be used on Steinaker. The goal of the Battleship Cove Museum and the USS Joseph P. Kennedy is to be the preeminent home for the preservation and documentation of FRAM Gearing class destroyers.

The Historic Naval Ships Association (http://www.hnsa.org), USS Massachusetts Memorial Committee (http://www.battleshipcove.org, http://www.ussjpkennedyjr.org) and Tin Can Sailors (the national association of destroyer veterans, http://www.destroyers.org/) have partially funded the expedition. The volunteers have funded the rest.

With the very generous cooperation of the Mexican Navy, in March of 2006, USS Joseph P Kennedy Jr Assistant Curator Rich Angelini, ex-Kennedy crew member Mike Angelini, and Historic Naval Ships Association director Rich Pekelney visited Manzanillo, Mexico to film and photograph Netza. They were joined by a professional film crew from the University of Colima CEUVIDITE. The team was given complete access to the ship and all of her equipment, including the opportunity to take photographs and video.

All the photos and video are shared with the Mexican Navy and are available for non-profit museum use. (Please contact us directly for any commercial use.) They will be used for comparison during museum ship restoration, in displays, in video kiosks, as background sounds aboard ship, etc. The possibilities are endless in helping preserve, research and interpret Gearing class destroyers and other ships that share a similar main propulsion (BBs, CVs, etc.)

The photos at the link below were taken March 22, 23 and 24 of 2006. We can report that Netza (ex-Steinaker DD863) is very, very similar to Kennedy and is in good condition. The link below will give you a first detailed look at this historic ship. These are not in any particular order, just a quick look.

Photos of Netza from March 2006

Video

Steinaker/Netza video part 1 of 2 YouTube Video
Steinaker/Netza video part 2 of 2 YouTube Video

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Below is a narrative describing our trip that was written while watching the sunset on our last night in beautiful Manzanillo.

25 Mar 06

Folks,

It has been a very busy, but incredibly fun and productive trip. Everyone we have encountered has been friendly and helpful. We cannot say enough about how generous and thoughtful the Mexican Navy has been to us. They have consistently done more than we could ever have expected.

We arrived in Manzanillo on Monday 20 Mar 06 and were met by Cap. Corb. CG Saul Hiram Bandala Garza, the operations officer of ARM Netzahualcoyotl ("Netza"). Captain Bandala was tireless in helping us throughout our trip. We could not have been so successful without his constant help.

Once settled into the hotel, we looked out to see two WW II yard oilers (YOs) on anchor. We immediately felt at home, esp. when we spotted a WW II, AUK class minesweeper maneuvering its way through the channel from the hotel's lobby.

On Tuesday 21 Mar we met with Cap. Frag. CG DEM Raul Alberto Paredes Hernandez, commander of Netza, Captain Bandala, and our film director M.C. Miguel Alberto Macias Amador from the University of Colima. We planned the filming and toured the ship.

Our first impression of the ship was that she was an almost unmodified Gearing class FRAM Mk. I ship complete with all her ship handling, weapon systems. The exterior of the ship was extremely well preserved with great attention to detail. As we inspected the interior compartments of Netza, we found that much of the original furnishings and equipment in various spaces have been removed and/or modified. However, most of the major systems were in place.

On Wed 22 Mar we had an early meeting with Contralm. CG DEM, José Máximo Rodríguez Carreón, Chief of Staff of the Pacific Naval Force. We thanked the Mexican Navy and discussed the project.

We then returned to the ship. Our first priority for filming was to concentrate on the equipment that cannot be operated in the museum environment. We were trying to capture both the skilled crew's operation of the equipment as well as the equipment itself. Our principle focus was on the main propulsion (600 lb. steam turbine) and 5" 38 gun operation. Although her anti-submarine warfare equipment is all in place, she is now used primarily as a training ship and we were not able to film any of anti-submarine warfare equipment in operation.

We stayed in port on Wed. and concentrated our efforts on the interior spaces of the ship. We shot video and took many photographs. These will be used to create a short video, provide video and sounds for exhibits on the museum ships, and to document the equipment and its use for future research.

We recorded the steps involved in loading an exercise shell and powder load from the 5" gun magazine to the gun. On Thursday, the crew would load and fire a full powder load while the film crew recorded from the bridge. Many other interior spaces were filmed showing the normal daily operations of the ship.

On Thursday 23 Mar we arrived early to record the lite off and raising of steam in a boiler. Overnight they had started one boiler. We recorded the entire process of lighting off the second boiler, it took about 2 hours. The process is the same as was done on the first, but with power available they could use the blowers, steam, etc. to speed up the second boiler. These ships were designed to raise steam quickly. We got underway on two boilers.

It was incredibly exciting to all of the museum crew to be underway. Although ordinary to the ships crew, to Rich A. and Rich P. of the museum crew it was incredible to feel the heat of the boilers, the vibration of the turbines and movement of a type of ship we have only experienced as museums. To Mike A. it was a return to an old friend.

We recorded raising anchor, engine rooms, responding to bells, the gun turret and gun director movement, raising the whaleboat, and many spaces aboard ship. However, filming the 5" 38 cal dual mount firing with full loads was something else. It is incredibly loud. It is hard to imagine what it was like for those 1970s crews that were firing 300 or more rounds in a day.

We returned to port exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

We started again early on Friday 24 Mar. This morning Rich and Mike A. headed out with the film crew on Netza, Rich P. and Miguel followed Netza out on a fast intercept boat. The Mexican Navy has something like 40 of these Swedish built boats capable of 45+ knots. We brought our cameras and photographed Netza underway from several angles. Rich A., Mike A. and the film crew were busy with video aboard Netza. After two hours the patrol boat dropped us off on Netza to rejoin the rest of the crew. We continued filming, including raising the king post (used for underway replenishment), damage control, bridge operation, etc.

The Gearing class destroyers have really beautiful lines. She is nothing like the modern warships that look like broken milk boxes forced through water. She looked both menacing and graceful as she maneuvered. It was breathtaking to see her underway.

We continued our filming right up until we arrived in port. I should mention here that the film crew worked incredibly hard. We filmed in hot, narrow and crammed spaces. We ran them from one end of the ship to the other, from top to bottom. They kept on going. When port traffic threatened to delay our entrance to the port they hopped in the whaleboat and headed for the pier. While the museum crew was enjoying dinner with the officers of Netza, the film crew was driving 1.5 hours back to Colima to start transferring video. I might also mention here that the meals in the Netza wardroom are better than most restaurants.

The at sea time on Netza was an experience that none of the museum crew will ever forget. When we returned port it was hard to pry Rich A. and Michael A. off the ship. They continue to plot the hijacking of the ship and steaming her to Fall River. Eventually they had mercy on our liaison officer and let him return to his family for a few hours.

On Sat 26 Mar, we headed up to the University of Colima to look at the film. We spent six hours rough cutting some of the sequences. It was not enough time to edit something presentable, but it provided us with something to show others quickly.

We are very thankful to the many very generous Mexicans that helped us with this project. We cannot say enough about how good the Mexican Navy has been to us and much we appreciated their help.

Rich Pekelney
Rich Angelini
Michael Angelini

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