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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January 27, 2016

FoF Kongo, WoWS Style


click for biggerness
So as near as I can tell, the Fleet of Fog vessels in World of Warships are simply supercharged versions of their non-FoF counterparts.  Lord knows the guns sure seem to have an extra punch as they turned me into cottage cheese in no time flat.  Non-players of the game might have missed it, but y'all take a close look at the harbor my St Louis is in... it might look awfully familiar. 

It's an enjoyable enough game, but I'm not sure if it's really catching my fancy.  If it was more "realistic", I could see myself going crazy-go-nuts over it, but the arcadey gameplay is a turnoff.  Maybe if I was any good at the game it'd make a difference.  Heh.  As-is, I have no idea how to make it more realistic without making each match hours long, but I'm no game designer.

For which fact we should all be grateful.

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August 14, 2015

8/14/1945


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June 04, 2015

Midway Day 2015


It seems fitting somehow that the Blue Angels have been buzzing around Pond Central all day on this, the 73rd anniversary of the US Navy's most important victory.  We all know the story by now... at least, if you've read The Pond for any length of time you do.  In fact, I've written so extensively on the topic that I can't find anything new to write about regarding Midway.  So I open it to you, my readers: do you have any questions regarding the Battle of Midway?  Let me know in comments, and I'll get you an answer.

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March 02, 2015

IJN Musashi Found

The wreck of the Japanese battleship Musashi, probably the largest battleship ever to go sea, was located today by Billionaire Paul Allen.

That's the first view tweeted out earlier today, of the great ship's bow Imperial Chrysanthemum (which appears to have either fallen off or been covered by sea gunk) as seen from a ROV piloted from Allen's yacht Octopus.  Amazingly, the Octopus, at over 400 feet, is about half the length of the Musashi

At last report, they are still trying to prove conclusively that the ship is the Musashi, but it's very hard to confuse her with anything other than her sister ship Yamato which has been precisely located for years.  We have no real idea about the orientation of the above picture... she could be upside-down on the sea floor for all we know.

We'll find out soon enough... exciting times ahead!!!

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February 10, 2015

Rollercoaster

Just another day in the glorious Pacific Ocean for the USS Lunga Point.

You may also title this "The crew of the USS Lunga Point throws up in unison."

"Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" also works, if you're into that sort of thing.

UPDATE.  No, the Lunga Point hasn't broken in half.  Click "more" to see what's going on in the picture!

more...

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February 01, 2015

Kongo Sisters

As much as we'd like it to be true, I'm afraid that the ships of the Kongo-class of battlecruisers/fast battleships didn't actually look like this:

I know, it's hard to accept.  But we must accept reality... in truth, they looked like this:

There are worse things.

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December 30, 2014

Torpedo Planes

In the runup to the beginning of World War II, the aircraft carrier began to force itself into the position of "Queen of Battle", wresting the title from the massive guns of the battleship.  As strategies and tactics on how to use the planes the flattops provided began to coalesce, it was generally assumed that the dive bomber, while accurate, would provide support to the true shipkiller: the torpedo bomber.  This thinking makes much sense to a Navy.  After all, when it comes down to it, a bomb punches holes in the decks of a ship, letting in air.  A torpedo, though... a torpedo makes big holes in the side of a ship, letting in water.  Water, while pretty much required for a ship to be a ship, is also not something you want inside your ship.  It causes ships to sink.  Bombs may wreck the upper decks, may set fires, may explode deep inside the hull, but only rarely will they actually be a direct threat to the hull integrity of a warship bigger than a destroyer. 

A torpedo attack was conducted based on the requirements of the dropped weapon itself.  Depending on the nation, a plane may have to fly as low as 50-100 feet and as slowly as 115mph or less to successfully launch the torpedo and have it swim correctly to the target.  Launching outside of those parameters could result in broaching or porpoising, or even the torpedo breaking up upon impact with the water.  Early on, this wasn't considered a problem; most torpedo planes could barely reach 200mph unladen and with a tailwind.  With a 2000lb weapon being lugged around, such lofty velocities were mere dreams.  At the start of the war though, nobody truly understood the sort of murderous anti-aircraft fire a prepared warship could throw up, let alone multiple ships in a layered defense.  Then carriers started to embark modern, effective fighter planes, and torpedo attacks began to become suicide runs.  Only when part of a "combined arms" attack, with dive bombers, torpedo planes, and fighters all arriving on a defended target at the same time, could the crew of a torpedo attacker have a prayer of seeing their bunks that evening.

There were three major torpedo planes flying off of aircraft carriers in the early years of World War II, one each from Japan, the United States, and Britain.  That's not to say there weren't others in use; the Brits had an effective bomber in the Beaufort.  Germany used the He-111, Italy a number of different multi-engine planes, and American PBY Catalinas were known to carry a pair of torps.  However, for the sake of this post, I'll only be looking at the three carrier planes in use: the Fairey Swordfish, the Douglas TBD Devastator, and the Nakajima B5N.

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Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:57 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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December 10, 2014

Mayfly

In 1911, the Royal Navy eagerly awaited the official delivery of His Majesty's Airship No.1, infuriatingly nicknamed "The Mayfly".  She was to be the RN's first airship, the largest and fastest in the world.

In pre-delivery tests, the usual panoply of problems were discovered, none of which were unable to be solved.  Except for one tiny difficulty that refused to go away, no matter how hard the crew at Vickers worked at it: she couldn't fly.  Make no mistake, she could float (barely), but nothing more than a tiny amount, and that only in perfect conditions.  She weighed in at 19.5 tons and had the lifting ability of 19.7 tons.  Something had to be done.

There were two options.  The first was obvious: add more lift.  However, "obvious" doesn't mean "easy."  For an airship, it means cutting the beast in half and adding a new section containing more gasbags.  This is also a relatively expensive way of accomplishing the task.  The second option is easier: lighten ship.  Get extra weight out of the hull and you'll be able to fly without changing the amount of gas involved.  Of course, this is what the folks at Vickers decided to do.  They went in and replaced structural members with thinner, lighter pieces... including the main keel.  The day came for a new flight test.

A gust of wind caught the Mayfly as she came out of the hangar, tilting her hard to starboard.  While the groundcrew struggled to roll her back over, she snapped in half.  As her crew abandoned ship, the two ends rose in a V-shape, ironically proving that cutting the internal weight down fixed her flight problems.  Soon enough, however, the Mayfly settled into the waters at Barrow-in-Furness.

Fortunately, none of the crew was injured, and British airship development went into something of a dark period.  It took five years for HMA.09 to take to the air, under the guiding hand of designer HB Pratt, who had predicted the failure of the Mayfly.  Pratt's main assistant was a young man named Barnes Wallis, who wound up with a successful career designing unconventional bombs.  He was the designer of the "Dambuster" bouncing bomb, as well as the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" weapons.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:27 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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