Updates to “1943 – USS Duane Signaling Navy Blimp” Post

I would like to thank Mark Lutz, who is a visitor of this site for sending me some great information regarding WWII blimps. He has sent me what is likely some much more accurate information than I had previously posted about the photo below. He has also sent over some excellent information regarding WWII blimps that I have shared here as well. You can view my original post here to get a little bit of background.

A 10-man US Navy Blimp works with the US Coast Guard Cutter Duane offshore in the Atlantic Ocean in 1943. A Blinker light, which can be made out in the Blimp's car, provides safer communication than radio, which a U-boat's direction finder could home in on.

Here is Mark’s best guess at the photograph’s events:

While the photo could have been taken during convoy makeup in Newfoundland early in 1943, for one of Cutter Duane’s Newfoundland-Iceland-Britain convoys, I think the winter weather would have discouraged photography. The man at the signal lamp is too heavily dressed for Cutter Duane’s late 1943 convoy escort service in the Caribbean (Guantanamo and Trinidad).

If it is a convoy makeup photo, then Boston to Cassablanca convoy service in mid 1943 seems most likely, with the possibility the photo was taken outside New York as New York ships joined.

Cutter Duane escorted a number of convoys from Boston to Casablanca (North Africa) in mid 1943. Blimp crews, high enough to see much further than a ship crew could, would supervise convoy formation, and then turn the convoy over to a U-boat protection escort such as CGC Duane. If the photo was taken offshore Boston, the Blimp is from ZPG-11, South Weymouth, MA, which is near Boston.

Here are some alternate possibilities:

The photo might have been taken during Duane’s anti-U-boat training in Casco Bay, Maine, on 27 May or the 2nd time 24 September 1943.  ZPG-11 had a detachment mooring tower in NAS Brunswick, Maine, on Casco Bay.   If so, the Blimp could be training with Cutter Duane, or the Blimp could be a high observation platform, providing feedback to Cutter Duane.  The Navy encouraged photo documentation of such training.

Duane’s Boston to Casablanca convoys picked up additional ships outside of New York. If the photo is outside of New York, the Blimp is from ZPG-12, Lakehurst, NJ (South of New York). There are a fair number of Blimp convoy escort related photos in existence; this could well be another one.

Duane did attack a number of U-boats during 1943.  It is possible the photo shows Blimp – Cutter cooperation near the coast – the Blimp helping to pinpoint the U-boat, and the Cutter supplying underwater microphones and depth charges.  I think this is a slim possibility – people were preoccupied when there was evidence of a near-by U-boat.

More Information About Blimps in WWII:

The K-type Coastal Patrol Blimp of WW2 carried magnetic anomaly detection equipment which could sense submerged submarines if it flew over them, radar which could even spot a periscope a mile away, marker dye and night marker flares to drop on suspected submarine locations, a crew of 10 with binoculars, and a few depth charges. It has 12 to 24 hour endurance.  Blimps could hover, or fly up to 75 mph.

K (King) Blimps were large: They had about 4 times the helium of a typical advertising Blimp of today, and 5 times the horsepower. There were ~50 K-blimps in mid 1943, and ~100 in mid 1944, based along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts.

Mark also had some great background information on why the USCG Duane was sent to the Caribbean:

Why would the Duane be sent to the Caribbean?  By late 1943, U-boats moved from the US Atlantic Coast down to the Caribbean because U-boat hunting capabilities further North had greatly improved, making  it unsafe for U-boats up there.   The Caribbean was the only source for US aluminum ore (Guianas).   Oil for Britain came from Venezuela, Trinidad, and maybe Mexico, as well as Texas.   Some natural rubber came from Firestone plantations in Liberia, Africa, and up through the Caribbean.

The Navy assigned a lot of anti-submarine assets to the Caribbean in 1943, in addition to CGC Duane. Mark’s Father flew military Blimp patrol flights in the Caribbean in 1943, probably out of the Miami base, and may have flow with Cutter Duane at some time.

Again — thank you to Mark Lutz for sending in all of this information. It is incredible the amount of history that he has provided, and I hope all of the readers of this site enjoy it!

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