Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Commander Middle East Force, or COMIDEASTFOR in the vernacular, was a rather unusual command. Established following World War II it was more diplomatic mission than warfighting entity, designed to fly the flag and represent the United States in the Indian Ocean, based out of Bahrain. Normally there would be one naval auxiliary/amphibious unit permanently assigned as flagship and a couple of destroyers on loan from the Atlantic Fleet for about six months at a time. In the late 1960's the flagship was normally a Barnegat seaplane tender, like the Valcour, pictured lower right. It had enhanced communications and air conditioning, reduced armament and was painted white against the blistering sun of an Indian Ocean summer. Since no company has yet produced a model of the Barnegat class I scratch built one a number of years ago out of wood and spare parts. In the late 1960's the navy realized that these ex-seaplane tenders were getting long in the tooth and decided to replace them. A number of different ships were considered to fill the void. One was the Terror class minelayer (CM-5) (next forward and left in line), which I converted from a Seabattle model. I removed the after gun mounts and put some boats and a couple of landing craft back aft, leaving room for a utility helicopter. I always rather liked the Terror design, which was similar to destroyer and submarine tenders of the period but smaller and armed like a destroyer. I would only hope that had they used Terror in this diplomatic role they would have changed her name. Also considered was the much larger seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4), which would have had plenty of room for the staff on board, a hanger in the stern and with the removal of a crane (in my conversion), plenty of room for a helicopter to land aft. I made this conversion from a GHQ model. Also considered was the heavy cruiser Salem (CA-139), which had recently been decommissioned. Again, it would have had plenty of room for the staff, enhanced communications and probably could have landed a helo, but bristling with guns it might have sent the wrong message to governments of the area. However, this Seabattle model really looks good painted white. Finally selected was the Raleigh class former LPD La Salle (AGF-3), which ended up serving in the role for a couple of decades. Again this was a Seabattle model. So this is my selection of COMIDEASTFOR flagships, real and projected - the great white ghosts of the Arabian coast.