August 21, 2008

Flight Deck Round-Downs... Why?

The early days of aircraft carrier design saw a lot of different concepts that eventually went by the wayside.  Such "innovations" as multiple flight decks (so airplanes could launch directly from their hangars),  transverse-mounted catapults that launched planes perpendicular to the direction of travel (ditto), longitudinal arrestor wires, arrestor gear at both bow and stern (so if one end of the flight deck had a hole in it, the ship could steam in the other direction and launch planes from the undamaged end), carriers without islands, the list goes on and on.  All of these elements made sense, however, and one can see why an Admiralty could think they were good ideas at the time.

One design feature of some early carriers, however, has always struck me as being particularly pointless, with no redeeming features whatsoever: the flight deck round-down.

HMS Hermes
As can be seen in the above picture, a round-down is a sharply sloping portion of the aft end of a flight deck, a location particularly unsuitable to topography of any sort.

IJN Akagi, circa 1927-'35.  Note the "fly-off" decks, right, round-down left.
In the book Shattered Sword, it's mentioned that the Akagi's round-down is so pronounced that it, in effect, shortens her flight deck, as planes cannot be spotted there without having them roll off into the sea.

So why are they there at all?  Throughout all my readings through the years, the only reason I've seen is that they were thought to be aerodynamically helpful for landing planes, perhaps by creating an are of calm air behind the ship.

But even if that were so, doesn't it seem that it'd be a rather ill-positioned lee for an aircraft attempting to land, not to mention small?  Further, they also look like a fairly hostile place to try and land upon in the first place.  Imagine: you touch down on the round-down, crest the "hill", and then?  You're thrown back into the air, much like today's "ski-ramp" carrier decks would do.

Do any of you, my readers, have an idea?  I'm completely flummoxed here!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:12 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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August 16, 2008

An Unfortunate Encounter

I'd like to relate to my readers something that happened to me earlier today, something that can only be described as confusing, perplexed and, ultimately, sad.

This morning, I went grocery shopping at a local store that has a fairly decent "international foods" section.  You know the type: Mexican staples, Indian chutneys and the like.  There's also a wide selection of Asian foodstuffs, including Japanese things like soba, 10 different types of soy sauce, some microwaveable beef bowls (awful), a couple of different flavors of Pocky, instant miso, sushi fixings, yadda yadda...

I was browsing through the section, trying to decide if I wanted to get a cheap packet of instant miso (I did, eventually) along with the Pocky and some hot sauce (good to add to chili) when an elderly man said to me "you shouldn't buy that (crap)."  I gave him a surprised look and asked, intelligently, "what?"

He repeated his assertion, adding "it's made by the Nips."

By now, my eyebrows had long left my forehead and headed for the stratosphere.  Like an idiot, though, I asked him what's wrong with getting Japanese food.  It's awfully tasty, after all.  He visibly became angry with me as he said (I'm paraphrasing here) "I fought them in the Philippines, they shot me and killed some of my friends, I hate those damn Japs and I will until the day I die."

I want you to imagine my state of mind at this moment: standing in front of me was a man I automatically honor, a WWII vet, and one who fought in the Pacific theatre no less, an area of history I'm fascinated in.  At the same time, though, he's trashing an entire race of people (including some that I'd call casual friends: Duck U has an exchange program with a Japanese college, so there's always around 5-10 students from there attending) for events that happened over sixty years ago, and a culture that I enjoy learning about to boot.

To say that I was confused and saddened just then would be accurate.  I would have loved to have spoken with him about his experiences if he would have let me, but at the same time his attitude (and don't get me wrong, I understand where it comes from: if you're not going to like someone or something, seeing your friends killed and being shot yourself is a pretty good reason) was distasteful at best.

Fortunately, he didn't recognize the baseball cap I was wearing (the Hanshin Tigers, brought back from Japan by a Duck U student for me).  After heaping some more abuse on "the Nips" and scorn on me, he stalked off (as best he could, using a cane and an old person's shuffle) muttering under his breath.

I'm still disturbed by the whole thing.  I think of Brickmuppet, who's touristing in Japan right now, and wonder if there's old members of the Imperial Japanese Army who might want to chew him out, or skewer him with a bayonet if they could get away with it, just for being American.  I think of my DVD rack, filled with anime, and my end-table, covered with pockyboxes... and one of my bookcases, stuffed with history books about the Pacific war. 

And I wonder which of us has the right of it: the elderly man who fought and bled for our country, who's attitudes are over a half-century out of date?  Or myself, who has the more modern attitudes, but who respects the actions of the other man.

In this multi-culti, politically correct world, are the experiences of the old soldier scornworthy?  I'm glad I don't feel the way he does, but is he wrong to feel that way?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:29 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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