December 07, 2017

The Forgotten Pearl Harbor Memorial

The whole world is familiar with what happened to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor that fateful day in December of 1941.  In remembrance of that tragic loss, a touching memorial was built over the sunken remains, and is a tourist attraction unlike any other perhaps in the world.  


In 1941, the USS Utah was no longer a glamorous ship.  Once a Dreadnought era Florida-class battleship, in 1931 she was converted to a radio-controlled target vessel (AG-16), both her main and secondary batteries removed, and her torpedo bulges shaved off the hull.  In 1935 she was given a the new assignment of anti-aircraft training.  To which end, she was given an ever-changing collection of AA guns, from .50cal machineguns all the way up to the famous 5"/38 dual-purpose gun.  It was in this duty that she was at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th, 1941.

Moored in a position normally used for the US Navy's aircraft carriers, torpedo planes from the Japanese carrier Soryu closed in on her.  While the squadron leader waved the run off, correctly identifying the Utah as not worth attacking, six planes did not get the message and dropped on her.  Of these six torpedoes, two hit the seriously unprotected vessel which immediately began to list .  Some 12 minutes after the attack on her began, she rolled over onto her port side and settled to the bottom of the harbor.  Some years later, an attempt to salvage her was made, but was unsuccessful.  It was decided to leave the hulk where it lay.

A small memorial plaque was placed in 1950, and a larger memorial erected in 1972, seen to the right in this picture.  Only those with a military ID can visit, and like the Arizona Memorial, it is considered a war grave as the ship still holds the remains of 58 crewmen killed on Dec 7th, 1941.  She's not as well-remembered as the Arizona; she was neither as glamorous or her loss as dramatic.  She is still one of a perishingly few remaining touchpoints for the events of the day that began the Pacific War.  In many ways, she deserves better.

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December 02, 2017

Heh... "Devil Duck"

"Okay men, listen up."  


The Marines, gathered at the stern of the troop transport, directed their attention to the weatherbeaten sergeant.  Some distance away, the big guns of the Colorado threw 16" shells at a small piece of land in a very large ocean.

"All right.  Someone up the chain screwed the pooch.  There ain't no tide today, so the landing craft can't get over the reef."

Someone piped up with a lighthearted tone in his voice: "So we're going home, right?"

The sergeant rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, Jenkins, we're going home.  The war is over.  We won.  And it was all because of you."  The gathered group of men laughed, but there was an audible tightness to it.  "Nah, we ain't that lucky.  We're going in on the alligators."  A muted reaction from the men told what they thought of this... the LVTs might well be able to climb over the reef and carry them right to the beach, but on the other hand they had no armor and were slow in the water.  "Any questions?"

Silence.  "Awright, lets go."

The men burst out with the traditional "OORAH!" as they moved to the ship's rail... all but one of them.  That one Marine joined in with a loud, clear "QUACK!"

The target was Tarawa.  And Siwash was going to war.

more...

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August 21, 2017

Yamato: Portrait Of The Battleship As A Young Boy

Here ya go, CXT.

No, I don't understand my title either.

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August 13, 2017

Name That Mystery Ship XXXIII

It's been seven months since the last Mystery Ship contest... which is better than a year, like the previous entry... so I think it's time once again!  Name this mystery ship:


As usual, no image searching.  I can't stop you from doing it, but you'll have to live with it on your conscience forever.  As is also usual, CTX and FDM are on the leash until I let 'em at it.  You get one guess, and one guess only, so make it count.  Winners are determined by me, my decision is final, so don't push it, 'k?  The winner gets his or her very own blog post on a topic of their choosing (exceptions: pr0n, politics, and religion).

This one might be easy, but we'll see.  Good luck!

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August 10, 2017

Good Pilots Just Land Planes

But the GREAT pilots land them with style!


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July 04, 2017

07/04 Over BB-55


Happy Independence Day, everybody!

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June 06, 2017

D-Day Stories By The Greatest Announcer Of All Time

Two years ago, when Vin Scully was still calling ballgames for the Dodgers, he decided to tell a few stories about the events of D-Day.  Being Vin Scully, the result was amazing.

Today is the 73rd Anniversary of that heroic, terrible day.  

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June 04, 2017

Midway 75 Years Later: Never Call Me A Hero

A few months ago, somebody named "Nick" showed up in the comment section of a post I wrote on the passing of "Dusty" Kleiss, the last of the Midway dive bomber pilots.  He was looking for information on the picture of Mr Kleiss I had used... where I got it, maybe where the hi-res version is located, that sort of thing.  As it turned out, I remembered where I found it and a little bit of research found that the hi-res version was available via the AP.  I took the time to send Nick the info in an e-mail and thought that would be the end of it.

As it turned out, I was wrong.  Nick was an editor at HarperCollins, and he had been looking for a good photo to use for a book that would be coming out about Mr Kleiss.  I expressed enthusiasm for such a project, and said that I'd be buying it as soon as it came out.  I also pointed him to the Battle of Midway Round Table, and pointed out that it would be of great interest to them as well... after all, Mr Kleiss had been a member himself!  Not long after that, Nick said "I'm sending you a copy of the book."  I'm certainly not going to turn that down!  I also pointed out that it won't make a difference to any review I write... though I really really hoped it'd be good.  The book showed up a couple-three weeks ago, ahead of the official release date, and I began to read through it.  So what do I think about Never Call Me A Hero by N Jack "Dusty" Kleiss (with Timothy and Laura Orr)?

It's delightful.  His service in the Pacific takes up a little over half of the book, more or less, with the remaining pages devoted to the rest of his life.  Kleiss was a habitual note-taker, and he apparently kept everything he could.  His logbooks and diaries of his time on USS Enterprise make up much of the basis for his recollections, copies of official reports and other primary source documents fill in the rest.  But clearly just as important, if not moreso, to Kleiss are the letters he wrote to his girlfriend (later wife) Jean and their relationship.  He was clearly a man deeply in love with his girl, a love which stayed with him even after she passed away in 2006, after more than 60 years of marriage.  We also get to read about what he did after he left the Enterprise, then after retiring from the US Navy in 1962, two topics about which the historical record had previously been essentially silent.

But the real reason we've come to Never Call Me A Hero is his role at the Battle of Midway.  After having read the book, I came away with a sense of both pride and sadness from "Dusty".  Pride in that, while he repeatedly says that he was "just doing his job," the job the US Navy had trained him for, he and his fellow pilots knew they had just been a part of something big.  It's also clear, though, that in many ways June 4th, 1942 was the worst day of his life.  Very shortly before the big attack, he had a talk with his best friend, Tom Eversole, about what was being loaded onto his plane: a Mk.13 torpedo.  Lt Eversole flew a TBD Devastator in VT-6, and after the earlier missions the Enterprise had been on, raids on the Marshall islands, Admiral Halsey had made it clear that as long as he was in command, not a single TBD would ever go to the flight deck carrying a torpedo.  Admirals Fletcher and Spruance had other ideas.  As their conversation came to an end, Kleiss went to his plane thinking his friend was going to die.  Worse, he believed that Eversole thought he was going to die, too.  Even worse, they both knew it would be for nothing: all Mk.13 torpedoes had a flawed trigger mechanism that prevented it from actually exploding when it hit a target.  That usually wasn't a big deal though, since the Mk.13 also tended to malfunction when dropped from a height into the water... kinda like the way a torpedo bomber releases a torpedo.

In a very real way, reading Never Call Me A Hero brought the Battle of Midway to life in a way my prior reading never did.  We all know the names, of course: Dick Best, Earl Gallaher, Wade McCluskey, and many others.  But that's pretty much all they are: names.  But to Dusty Kleiss, they were friends, bosses, someone he had lunch with the day before.  Pilots that he had known for a year or more, some that he just barely knew, even one that he disliked intensely.  More than anything else, that's the value of the book: it gives a human touch to the titanic events of June 4th thru 6th, 1942.  They call it the battle that changed the course of the war.  For Kleiss, it changed his life forever.  He tells us in a matter-of-fact way about the actual attack runs he performed on the Kaga, the Hiryu, and later the Mikuma, gives us some feeling about what it was like to swoop down on a target and plant a bomb dead center, but it feels... I'm not sure how to put it.  Almost detached, but with a huge amount of emotion just behind the facade.  It's a fascinating part of the book, not just the tale being told, but how it's being told as well.  We also get to see a part of the battle that I'm not entirely sure has been talked about before: what it was like afterwards.  Knowledge that they'd won a huge victory, bringing a measure of vengeance to the men and ships killed at Pearl Harbor just a few days under six months earlier... but also his reaction to returning from the first attack and seeing just four stunned men sitting in VT-6's ready room.  Realizing that his own squadron  had taken losses that would have been considered catastrophic a few days earlier, but now meant that VS-6 had more remaining crewmen than the others on the Enterprise.   The intense anger when The Powers That Be tried to send the dive bombers on a ridiculously long search/attack mission... with 1000lb bombs slung underneath, restricting the amount of fuel they could carry, and the resulting yelling match between the squadron leaders and the bridge staff.  Eventually, the satisfaction of a job done well. 

After Midway, Kleiss was reassigned, leaving the Enterprise and VS-6 for a training position on the mainland, teaching trainees how to be dive bomber pilots.  Once the war ended, he bounced around the Navy high command in technical billets.  For example, he was in charge of the team that designed (well, modified a British design) and installed the steam catapults on the new USS Enterprise (CVN-65).  After leaving the Navy, he became a high school physics teacher.  And he never talked about Midway.

Until Walter Lord began writing Incredible Victory, his outstanding book on the Battle of Midway... and the first to really use statements from the men who were there.  Marines in their slit trenches on the sandy atoll, riding out the Japanese attack.  Army B-17 crewmen, harassing the Japanese fleet from 25000 feet.  Navy backseat gunners.  Fighter pilots.  Dive bomber pilots.  Even after a six-page reply to Lord's written questions, Kleiss remained reluctant to speak about Midway.  Though it's never explicitly stated in the book, I suspect there was a bit of survivor's guilt involved.  He does wonder why he was allowed to live when his friends and comrades died around him.  On those occasions when family of his friends in VS-6 wrote him, asking for recollections of their father or grandfather, he always had trouble replying... because such-and-such died when his Dauntless caught fire and burned down just before crashing into the ocean.  Then, in 1992, something changed.  It was 50 years later, and he realized that he didn't just want to talk about those wonderful, awful days in June, he had to.  He began attending conferences and anniversaries as a guest of honor, mainly because it was a great way to reconnect with his old buddies from the Enterprise, but to share his role in the battle as well.  Finally towards the end of his life, his goal was to get his memoirs written and published before the 75th Anniversary of Midway.  N. Jack "Dusty" Kleiss didn't live to see his autobiography published, having passed away on April 23, 2016, but he knew it would be.

Never Call Me A Hero doesn't tell us anything about the events of Midway that we didn't already know.  What it does do is distill everything down to the level of one human caught in the middle of the greatest victory the US Navy has ever had.  It makes us connect with the man, the pilot, the dive bomber pilot, of the Enterprise in a way no other book has before or will again.  It's a fascinating story of a man in the middle of history, and who played a major supporting role in how the history resolved.  If you are a Midway historian, you will want to read this book.  If you like biographies, you'll want to read this book.  The book is not essential to understand the Battle of Midway, but you will come away with a better appreciation for the human side of war.  It wasn't just SBDs and A6M2s and Kates and Buffalos.  There were real people in those cockpits, people who lived and died due to their skill, or the skill of their enemies, or just the luck of the draw.  That's important to remember.  "Dusty" Kleiss never considered himself a hero... the men who never came back, they were the heroes, he said... but though he might have denied it, he was certainly a brave man who influenced the direction of the world on those three days in June, 1942.  It's a good story and well told.  It's a fitting memorial to the Last Dive Bomber, and to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

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February 19, 2017

A Dutchman's Story

Over at reddit, there's a certain community called "askhistorians", where history questions are given serious answers by professional historians or knowledgeable amateurs.  The most prolific and responsible responders become "flaired users", considered the go-to people on their particular specialties.  If a flaired user is answering a question in their specialty, there's a very good chance indeed that they know what they're talking about.  I'm lucky enough to have convinced people that I know what I'm talking about and earned my flair ("Pacific Theater - World War 2")  back during the unemployment time.

As I was taking it easy on my knee (doing nicely, thankyouverymuch!) Saturday afternoon, I wandered into askhistorians to see what was going on.  One of the questions was quite interesting: a young man's grandfather was held in a POW camp in Japan at the end of the war and claimed that he saw a nuclear explosion.  Where could he have been held, and how did he get there?  I didn't know, but I wanted to find out.  So I started digging into the intarwebbz with what little information I had:

1) Grandfather was Dutch, living in the East Indies.
2) We had his name.
3) He had to have been held near Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

It was unsurprising to me that there was information about Japan's POW camps on the 'web.  What did surprise me was that one of the best sites was from Japan itself.  And oh my, it had a list of every POW camp on Japanese soil, broken out by location of the administrative center.  And what do you know?  Both Hiroshima and Fukuoka, which is just north of Nagasaki, were admin centers for POW camp networks.  A quick perusal of nationalities held in the Hiroshima camps made it clear that Grandpa was likely held in a Fukuoka camp: at war's end, only 500 Dutch nationals were held near Hiroshima, while around 3700 were in the vicinity of Nagasaki.

So it was possible that Grandpa could have been in the vicinity of one of the bombs.  I was almost ready to call it a night, when I hit a gold mine of information.  This site was devoted to Allied POWS in Japanese hands, both in Japan and elsewhere.  And there, in the middle of a cluttered index page, was a jewel beyond compare: the POW rosters of each Fukuoka camp at the time they were liberated.  Better still, they were official records, pdf'd from the National Archives and Records Administration.  There were some 20 or so reports, one for each camp.

As is my wont on any sort of project like this, I started from the back... and after about ten or 15 minutes of searching, I opened the roster for Fukuoka Camp #23, which held mostly Dutch prisoners.  I quickly jumped to the correct initial and started looking.  And then, about two hours after I had read the original question, I found him.

To say I was excited would something of an understatement.  He really could have seen the bomb over Nagasaki!  I posted my findings, then started phase II of the search: trying to find where Camp 23 was located.  This took no time at all.  On another page of the site with Camp #23's roster were photographs of each camp, whatever was available.  For #23, there was only one... a remarkably sharp aerial shot.  And there at the top was the lat/long of where the pic was taken... a quick wrestle with Googlemaps, cursed be its name, got me to where I was looking.

The red star was the rough location of Fukuoka #23, some 54 miles from Nagasaki as the crow flies.  The only thing was that Mt Tara was directly between the two points, but as it turns out it's only just barely a mountain, measuring in at just over 1000m in height.  The Nagasaki bomb exploded around 500m over the city.

After all the searching, I pretty much had the answer.  Grandpa probably didn't see the flash of the detonation, but certainly could have seen the smoke cloud, and probably heard something of the explosion.  Satisfied, I finished updating my post and took a nap.

When I woke up this morning, it was to an inbox filled with comments, a notification that someone had given me a month of "reddit gold", and the revelation that my comment had been linked to by reddit's "best of" page... and one more thing.

Another reddit user found Grandpa's name in the lists for another Fukuoka camp, #14... which was less than two kilometers from Ground Zero.  It was totally destroyed by the blast, with seven POW deaths.  Despite this, Camp #14 stayed in operation until it was liberated in September.  I did some quick digging and found there was no discrepancy: the report the other user found was of all POWs to have held in the camp, not the list of who was there when it was liberated.  Clearly Grandpa had been moved to #23 at some time before the bomb dropped.  It did, however, allow me to partially answer the OTHER part of the poster's original question:  how did Grandpa get there?

It turned out that most of the Dutch POWs were brought to Fukuoka #14 in April 1943, on one of the lesser-known Hell Ships, the Hawaii Maru.  It only made two voyages in that role before being used as a troop transport instead.  While conditions were as bad in the ship as in any other Hell Ship, remarkably few prisoners died on board. 

I do believe the results of my research falls into the category of "a good day's work".  I'm stupidly pleased with myself, I am.

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February 14, 2017

Happy Val. Day 2017


I'm not sure why I need to buy chocolates and roses for a dive bomber, but...

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January 23, 2017

WoWs: DIRIGIBLE!

DIRIGIBLE!

DIRIGIBLE!!

DIRIGIBLE!!!

I find myself in a state of peace, for I have seen the dirigible and therefore all is right with the world.  Farewell, sweet airship with a rigid structure covered by an outer skin... until the next time I play the World of Warships map named "Polar."  And you, my readers, may you be fortunate enough to see your own dirigible.

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January 15, 2017

Name That Mystery Ship XXXII

It's been nearly a year since I last found something I thought challenging enough for a Mystery Ship competition.  Very late last night (as in 5am late) while looking for something else entirely, I stumbled across the perfect thing!  Ladies and gentlemen, here's your image:

As always, no image searching is allowed... I can't keep you from doing it, but what good is an unearned victory?  CTX and FDM are not allowed to guess (or leave hints) until I let them off the leash.  You get ONE guess, so make it count.  The winner (as declared by me, and my decision is final) will get a post of their very own about anything they want (no pr0n, politics or religion, however) within reason.

Don't just sit there, get to guessing!

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December 28, 2016

WoWs: Just Battleship Things

Are you guys familiar with the old joke involving a battleship and a lighthouse?  World of Warships lets you repeat it yourself!

I actually really appreciate these little touches the game throws in.  They didn't have to put a lighthouse in the game, or a little town complete with moving milk truck, or things like that, but they did, and it makes it much more fun.  My favorite has to be on the map called "Polar", which has a dirigible floating around it.  The first time I got that map and saw it, I yelled "DIRIGIBLE!!!" in chat, and started giggling.  Then I went out and did something like 120k damage.  Ever since, I can't start playing that map until I see the dirigible.  I've even had my entire team looking for it.  Most of 'em had never seen the dirigible before, can you believe?  To be fair to them, there are other things to be looking at.  Things like...

Kongo!  Yes, I've managed to earn myself a couple of ARP ships.  Funny how that happened... I wasn't even trying, and when I reached the "yay" point the game didn't happen to mention it.  It wasn't until later when I reorganized my ship carousel that ha-ha! there they were.  "They?"  Why yes, "they."  Not only Kongo(-desu), but...

Hiei!  I've actually had better luck with Hiei than Kongo, even though they are exactly the same ship, just with a different paintjob.  I can only assume it's because da red wunz go fasta.  Which make it the exact opposite of...

...the New Mexico, which is not red.  Nor is it fast.  It wouldn't be fast if you threw it off a cliff.  There's nothing it can't turn into flinders and scrap metal, though.  I've had soem very good games with the NMex, including one match pvp match where I deleted two enemy cruisers with two consecutive broadsides.  Maybe they'll learn not to give a battleship their entire side as a target next time.  Even better, the NMex can take a pounding and keep going.  I've seen it bounce Nagato and LOLorado rounds like they were marshmallows.  Which is good, because I'm not entirely skilled in the esoteric world of battleship combat yet.  Gimme something with torpedoes any day.

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December 07, 2016

Infamy @ 75



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November 21, 2016

When WoWS Grinds My Gears

I'm still playing World of Warships, though nowhere near as often anymore.  Still, I've managed to break into Tier VI a couple of times while playing almost exclusively against bots.  My first Tier VI ship was the New Mexico, a big, slow, heavily armored US battleship that costs 45000xp stock... no small feat, considering that a good match vs bots will net you ~500xp. 

My second Tier VI ship is the Cleveland, an American light cruiser that holds the distinction of being built in greater numbers than any class of cruiser by any navy ever.  It's a good ship, I just hate it... I just can't get the hang of its rainbow-arc guns... but that's not why I'm here.  Like many Tier VI cruisers, the Cleveland has a "float fighter" on-board that it can launch for limited protection against enemy planes.

In this particular case, it's a non-existent float variant of the Grumman F3F "Flying Barrel."   This cheeses me off something fierce, and it's one of the few things I really dislike about this game: the amount of "Paper Ships" involved... or in this case, "Paper Planes".  There was a perfectly good float fighter out there that they could have used, one that actually existed!

The Grumman F4F-3S "Wildcatfish".  Yup, they basically stapled a pair of floats to the underside of a Wildcat and ran it through testing.  I can only imagine that performance was... well, let's be charitable and call it "lacking."  But who cares?  When you've got a cool nickname like "Wildcatfish", you don't need to be fast or maneuverable.

It was no A6M2-N "Canoe of Destiny" though, I'll tell you what.

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June 04, 2016

The Last Divebomber

It had been a very long day already for Norman.  He'd been flying for three hours in search of his target.  If he was very lucky, he'd get to suffer through the full two hour flight back.  The fuel gauge of his plane was telling him that he might get to take a swim instead.  Between then and now, though, he had to do his job while a bunch of other men doing their jobs tried to kill him.  Because the date was June 4th, 1942, Norman was flying a SBD Dauntless dive bomber, he was part of Scouting Six (VS-6), flying from USS Enterprise, and he was about to become a very important part of the Battle of Midway.

His boss, Commander Wade McClusky, led his two squadrons of SBDs down on the Japanese carrier Kaga.  Five of the first six bombs missed, and then it was Norman's turn.  He popped the Dauntless' dive brakes, throttled back the 1000hp Wright Cyclone engine, then went into his dive.  Hanging against his straps, he thought back to his days in training: dive as low as you can before you drop, and aim ahead of your moving target.  He also thought to himself, that big red circle makes a great aiming point...

He didn't release his 500lb bomb until he reached 1000' of altitude... for a dive bomber, point-blank range... and hit 9g's on the pullout, trusting the SBD's sturdy construction wouldn't fall apart under the stress.  It didn't, and he made his escape from the Japanese fleet very low on the deck indeed.  His bomb hit the Kaga's centerline just short of his target point and probably exploded in one of her hangars.  The ship sank later that day.

Norman managed to nurse his Dauntless back to the Enterprise, landing aboard with a mere three gallons of gas left.  Of the 33 SBDs to take off from the carrier that day, only 15 made it back, only 11 of them usable.  Once back aboard, he ate a sandwich and took a nap.  A few hours later came the call for another strike, this time against the sole remaining Japanese carrier, the Hiryu.  Between the Enterprise's surviving SBDs and the Dauntlesses that had landed aboard from the badly damaged Yorktown, 25 planes lifted off, carrying a random assortment of 500lb and 1000lb bombs.

After another long flight, the mixed force of Dauntlesses found their target.  This time, Norman's 1000lb bomb was the fourth and last to hit the Hiryu,  all of them in her bows.  Indeed, he was one of the last to attack, if not the last.  The Hiryu would burn for hours, then sink on her own later.

On June 6th, Norman again found himself diving on a Japanese ship, this time the cruiser Mikuma.

And again, he put his 1000lb bomb on target, becoming the only pilot at the Battle of Midway to score hits on three ships.  For his overall performance at this greatest victory, he would be awarded the Navy Cross.

As it turns out, Midway was Norman's last combat action.  He was transferred stateside where he trained the next generation of dive bomber pilots for the rest of the war.  He served in the Navy for 20 years, retiring with the rank of Captain.  He'd then go on to live a full and rewarding life.

Captain Norman Kleiss, once better known as "Dusty" Kleiss, died this past April 23rd at the age of 100.  He was the last dive bomber pilot to have served at the Battle of Midway to pass away.

Today is the 74th anniversary of Midway. 

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February 16, 2016

The Chesapeake Raider

By 1912, the US Navy had gotten pretty good at the whole dreadnought thing, more or less.  They'd commissioned six battleships in three classes, carrying either eight or ten 12" guns in four or five twin turrets.  Unlike the Royal Navy or the German Navy which tended to employ "wing" turrets, the US Navy had firmly stuck to putting their turrets on the centerline.  In the case of the South Carolina class of ships, this meant while they only had eight guns, they could all fire to one side or the other.  The original HMS Dreadnought, on the other hand, carried 10 guns: six on the centerline in three turrets, then a wing turret on either side of the superstructure.  Thus both ships could fire eight guns to a broadside, but the SoCar didn't have to carry the extra weight of an extra turret around (note: while it's true that the wing turrets could fire straight ahead or behind, thus giving the Dreadnought an advantage on paper, in practice this was never really done: the gun blasts would damage the ship!).  For the fourth class of US battleship, it was decided that 10 main guns just wasn't enough: twelve were needed.  And thus was the Wyoming-class born.

The name ship of the class, BB-32, was commissioned in September of 1912 and weighed in at just over 27000 tons at full load.  While small for what we now consider a battleship, at the time she was the heaviest ship in the fleet and amongst the heaviest anywhere.  She was the first US ship to incorporate an anti-torpedo bulkhead, and her main armor belt was 11" thick.  Her machinery could scoot her along at a touch over 20kts at 26000hp.  What was uncommon about her was the way her guns were arranged.

Three superfiring turret pairs, all on the centerline: one pair forward of the bridge structure, two pairs aft.  One pair was roughly amidships, the other aft.  In theory, the four rear turrets could all fire directly astern.  In practice?  Well... not so much.  The superfiring midships turret might be able to, the decklevel one would have serious difficulties. 

While I hate to use a videogame representation for this article, good pictures of the ship from the side are hard to come by.  At least this way you can clearly see the positioning of the turrets.  The rear four were all quite capable of firing "over the shoulder", with clear arcs of fire forward.  On the whole, however, the six centerline turret concept can't be considered a success; the extra weight of the turrets, and extra holes pierced through the main deck, put unneeded stress on the body of the ship (the Japanese had similar problems with their Tone-class cruisers, which had five turrets all forward of the bridge).

Once the United States entered World War I, the Wyoming was part of Battleship Division 9.  In late 1917, BatDiv9 reinforced the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, becoming 6th Battle Squadron.  The wartime service proved to be relatively unexciting, and Wyoming returned to home waters in April 1919.  She bounced back and forth between Atlantic and Pacific Fleets until the early '30s, when she was named flagship of the Training fleet and began her life as a "demilitarized" gunnery training vessel: half her main guns were removed, her anti-torpedo bulges and side armor went away as well.  It was at this point she was renumbered as AG-17.

In place of the three removed main turrets, a startling proliferation of smaller guns appeared.  From .50cal machinegun mounts to 5" turrets, the Wyoming trained tens of thousands of sailors in the art of naval gunnery of all sorts as World War II got started.  Homeported in the Chesapeake Bay area (ergo her nickname of "Chesapeake Raider"), she served in this manner until early 1944.  At that time, the last of her 12" guns were removed, replaced instead by more 5" turrets.

With the arrival of the kamikaze threat in the Pacific, the Wyoming became more important than ever, becoming a testbed for anti-kamikaze tactics.  It was in this role that she was employed when the war ended.  She lasted for a couple more years after that, being decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped at the end of that year.  Not so bad for a dreadnought-era vessel, that.

UPDATE: A closeup shows that they're clearly not lights.

Having said that, I'm not entirely sure what's going on here.  To me, they look like baskets with... floats?... in them?  Like what you'd see on fishing nets.  Emergency-use nets, like if they were rescuing survivors they'd throw them over the side to give the survivors something to climb up?  I have no idea...

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Name This Mystery Ship XXXI: Don't Call It A Comeback

It's been over a year since the last time I did one of these, but what the hell, here we go again!

As always, CTX and FDM can't play until I take them off the leash.  Everybody else, remember the rules: no image searching, no google, nuthin' like that.  Just good ol' detective work.  You get one guess, so make it count.  The winner (as declared by me, and my decision is final) will get a post of their very own about anything they want (no pr0n, politics or religion, however) within reason. 

So what are you waitin' for?  Get t' guessin'!

UPDATE: Brickmuppet wins with his text message to the Duckphone late this afternoon.  A post on this ship (at which point, the name will be revealed!) will be up later tonight.  If anybody names the ship before then, I'll be royally peeved, so please don't.

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February 01, 2016

Showboaters

It was late, I was getting tired, and I decided that before I made my way into the embrace of Hypnos, I'd go take a few ships out for a sink in World of Warships (I'd had a run of bad luck recently).  Once I had signed on, I discovered that Avatar was online as well... and shortly thereafter, we had been joined by David.  After a few successful battles, I finally realized that I was on the verge of falling asleep in my chair.  I called for one last fight, but we needed to get some glamour shots of the squadron before we packed it in.  Av and David both agreed.  David brought out his brand-spankin'-new Wyoming-class dreadnought, while Av and I decided to play escort in our St Louises.

click for bigger if you'd like
Since David was both larger and less able to maneuver than our more nimble cruisers (and this is probably the only time you'll hear a St Louis described as "nimble"), the task of getting close fell to us.  Av's declaration that we'd "get close enough to jackstaff cargo" notwithstanding, it proved to be slightly more difficult than I expected.  On the other hand, Avatar's crew was playing frisbee with David's, so what do I know?  For the record, that's Avatar at the top, David in the middle, and yours truly at the bottom.

Closest approach.  Throughout the night, the three of us seemed like we'd been maneuvering together for years.  Indeed, at one point I was in my South Carolina and the other two in St Loo's, and the way the game started put them in front of me.  The game began, Avatar moved a kilometer ahead of David, and I was a klick behind, bringing up the rear.  The appearance of a bad guy off to port made Avatar call for our merry band to head that way... and from my vantage point, all three of us began the 90-degree turn at the same time, and finished the turn at the same time.  Like we had planned it that way, and had drilled in the battle turn together for weeks.  It was really quite cool.

Alas, my position at the left of the formation meant that I was on the "shadow side", and thus all side shots were silhouetted against the setting sun.  I could not pivot my camera around far enough to get a shot from the right side of our band and still get all three of us in the shot.  Fortunately, David took advantage of not having to do anything but motor straight ahead and got some decent shots himself; by all means, click on it for a larger version.  Look at that battleship, all dolled up in a purty camouflage and stuff.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, mostly because the bad guys finally showed up and it was time for us to go to work.  It was a good match, but really, the most fun was our attempt at imitating the Blue Angels in ship form.  We honestly cleaned up, our little band doing a good job while being slightly outnumbered.  Towards the end of the match, however, my discipline broke down as I laid eyes on the one sight every surface skipper wants to see in battle.

"CARRIER!" followed by sadistic chuckling.  Now, this particular carrier had been a pain in the butt all game, so it was with pleasure that I gave it broadside after broadside, setting it ablaze a few times... until I racked up three citadel hits in one volley.  Understand: in WoWS, citadel hits are like hitting a grand slam home run.  A single citadel hit can take half a battleship's HP away.  Three of them at once on a carrier?  Surprisingly, it didn't sink from that, but if I had sneezed on it, it probably would have capsized.  It only took one more hit for it to get all splodey.  Good times, good times.

So why aren't you playing?

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January 31, 2016

Battleship, Row!

World of Warships continues to hold my attention, at least to some extent.  Today brought me a new milestone in the game: my first battleship.

As usual, click for biggernation
Yep, it's a South Carolina!  On one hand, first big-gun vessel to have its main armament all on the centerline.  On the other hand, it's only slightly faster than continental drift, some planets have a better turn radius, and its armor is... lets be charitable and call it "insubstantial." 

However, it does make for some pretty screenshots!  That's something I haven't complemented WoWS on yet: how good it looks.  For a free-to-play game, it looks unimaginably pretty.  Back when I was playing text games on my TRS-80 Model III, I never would have thought that games would look like this:

If you're only able to click on one picture to make it bigger, click this one.
Mind you, these pictures aren't from some replay system or cinematic cutscene... nope, this is actual gameplay.  I didn't even notice the gunnery clock on the forward cage mast when I was playing, but yup, it's there!  Just loads of little detailing on these models.  Unfortunately, the first match I played with the ship, I wound up being sunk by the combined firepower of two battleships and a cruiser.  The third match was even worse, as David and Clayton (aka TheSquirrelPatrol and MachineCivilization) and myself found ourselves facing Tier V and VI cruisers, backed by a couple of Kongos.  Outranged from the very beginning of the match, all we could do is close the range as fast as we could, and dodge incoming fire.  "But Wonderduck," I hear you say, which is impressive considering my headphones are cranking 'The Outbreak of World War' right now, "I thought you said the South Carolina is slow and can't turn." 

That's right, I did.  Please note, this isn't a screenshot of my South Carolina sinking, but David's.  He at least went down guns blazing.  Me, I exploderated after getting to fire a total of one volley.  I believe those rounds moistened a destroyer.  Perhaps in a few years, the corrosive nature of the salt water I splashed upon the DD will gnaw a hole in it somewhere.  Alas, that was my only contribution to the fight, for it was at that moment the Kongo got in range and suddenly there was a South Carolina-shaped hole in the ocean where my ship had been.

SoCar in better, more intact, times
Hopefully we won't be uptiered quite so badly next time.

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