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


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!


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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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December 10, 2014


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.

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December 07, 2014

73 Years Later

The USS Arizona looking glorious in pre-war white, some years from her ultimate fate in Hawaii.

It was 73 years ago today when the United States was plunged into the maelstrom of World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was 73 years ago today that Arizona became more than just a ship to the American people, but a symbol to rally around.

Which doesn't mean it wasn't more than that to those who served upon her.  To them, the Arizona was home, their shipmates brothers.

Today, there is a memorial to the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, but most moving is that the ship is still leaking... some melodramatically say bleeding, or weeping... oil into the waters entombing the ship.

Today is likely the last official meeting of the USS Arizona Survivors Association.  There are only nine names remaining on the Association's list, none of them younger than 93.  Four survivors are in attendance today at Pearl Harbor's ceremonies.

Soon, the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" will be all we can do; those who were THERE will be gone.  Time marches on.

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October 17, 2014

The Buffaloes of Finland

It is an article of faith that the worst fighter plane of WWII was the Brewster F2A Buffalo.  It's pretty difficult to contest this assertion: in the single true fight it was in, the Battle of Midway, it was essentially massacred by the Imperial Japanese Navy's A6M2 Zero, much the same way a high school team would be by the Chicago Bears.  "It is my belief that any commander that orders pilots out for combat in a F2A-3 Brewster Buffalo should consider the pilot as lost before leaving the ground" reads one Marine after-action report.  After Midway, the barrel-shaped plane was relegated to trainer status, then to mechanic training.  Its passing was unmourned, its memory one of ridicule and scorn.  The British and Dutch, who also received versions of the Buffalo, felt similarly.

It fell to the Finnish Air Force to give the Buffalo its taste of glory.


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September 17, 2014

The Decoy Game

It was 1945, and the good news was that the end of the Pacific War was near and everybody in the US knew it.  The bad news, however, was that it seemed like the Japanese didn't know it, and still thought they could come out of the situation with something like a victory.  Places like Okinawa and Iwo Jima made it clear to US military planners that the inevitable invasion of Japan was going to be a horrible bloodbath, and that was just on the Allied side.  The catastrophe it would bring down upon the Japanese military could not be described, and the civilian costs could not be imagined.  It was expected that whatever fleet moved to invade the Home Islands was going to find itself swamped by thousands of kamikaze, and if one out of ten made it through the Big Blue Blanket, the Invasion force could die before it ever set foot on land.

So the planners decided: let's have a decoy fleet!  It can mimic the radio broadcasts of an actual invasion force, and the appearance, without all those pesky potential casualties.  Once everybody stopped laughing, someone said, "no, really."  With nothing better to do, it was decided to see if it could actually work. 

Sub Chaser PC-449 was a one-off ship, being built as part of a design competition to replace the WWI-era PC-1 sub chaser class.  She tipped the scales at about 85 tons, and could move her 110' length along at a whopping 17kts.  Built in 1940, she went to sea with 27 souls.  Her hull classification changed to SC-449 in 1943 and she carried a 3" gun to complement her depth charge launcher.  She was a particularly small ship to go in harm's way aboard.  She was also, if truth be told, surplus to requirements; it's not like there weren't literally hundreds of other ships in the US Navy that could do her job.  So in 1945, she was selected to go into the shipyards as part of Operation Swiss Navy.  Her part of the job?  To become a Bogue-class CVE.

The shipyard (okay, probably just a few guys with hammers) stripped off everything above decks (guns, bridge, stacks, etc) and put a plywood "flight deck" overtop of everything.  The overall size of the ship can been seen when you realize that there's a man crouching next to the "island" and he's the same height.  So, yeah, it's nigh on 500 feet shorter than an actual CVE, who's it going to fool?

Operation Swiss Navy was eventually going to include battleships, cruisers, carriers, all of them based on sub chasers or other small craft.  Of course, there's no way it'd look right next to a real CVE... much too small, obviously... but amongst others of her own kind?  Imagine you're a frightened kamikaze pilot, prepared to die, on your last flight.  You're trying to grow another set of eyes as you look for Hellcats and you suddenly see, far below you... PC-449.  You'd think it was a full-sized carrier, wouldn't you?

The Invasion of Japan never happened, so Operation Swiss Navy never came to flower. After the war, PC-449 was sold to a the civilian sector, where she ended her life as a research vessel for Texas A&M.  She was finally scrapped in the '70s... one of the last CVEs to go to the breakers... and certainly the smallest.

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September 16, 2014

Name This Mystery Ship XXX: Adults Only!

There are milestone moments in the life of... well, anything!  A child walking for the first time, a car reaching 100,000 miles, a baseball player getting his first hit in the majors, one's first rubber duck, one's second rubber duck, one's third rubber duck... you get the idea.  I can't help but feel that with this, the 30th "Mystery Ship" entry, The Pond has reached some sort of milestone in and of itself.  But enough of this woolgathering!  Here, for your enjoyment, is the Mystery Ship:

As always, no image searches or googlereversi or anything like that.  It's supposed to be difficult, y'see.  However, I am of the opinion that the prize is worth the candle: one free post on any topic you care to name (no pr0n, religion or politics, please)!  One guess per person.  Post no bills.  Burma Shave.

As always, FDM and CTX are unable to play for 24 hours or my say-so, whichever comes first.  Everybody else, have at it!

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August 08, 2014

"Girls" of the Kancolle Video

I probably should have done this last night, but I was too busy taking cold showers to do so.  There are three Ship Girls shown in the video for Kantai Collection (or "Kancolle"), and I pretty much had no idea who they were.  I mean, I know about the game, but I've never played and know nothing about how or when you acquire the shipgirls.  Which isn't to say that I couldn't figure out some stuff on my own, or with a bit of research!

Obviously the first we see is an aircraft carrier, and I'll admit that on her, I cheated: I already knew the answer.  She's the Akagi, the first full-sized carrier the IJN put to sea.

Ms Akagi is also one of the more popular shipgirls in the game, I gather, and has a figma coming out in September.  But what of the second girl, the battleship?  Well, I made a startling leap of faith considering we're talking about a game where the ships are young women, but I said to myself that they'd try and be historical about this.  First, they'd have a ship that was fast enough to actually keep up with the carrier. Second, I assumed they'd have the correct amount of turrets.

That led, inexorably, to the only class of battleship the IJN had that fulfilled both criteria: the Kongo-class "fast battleships."  Originally built as battlecruisers, refitted with more and better armor to upgrade their status before WWII, I guessed we were looking at the first-in-class (like Ms Akagi).  As it turns out, I was right: Ms Kongo it was.  Which brings us to the third shipgirl.  I had absolutely nothing to go on whatsoever except for one quick shot.

The fishhook maneuver for the girl on the right told me she was a destroyer.  She's clearly getting out of the way of the two big'uns, maybe after firing her torpedoes the way the IJN calls for.  Either way, great, she's a destroyer.  The IJN had thirty-quadzillion destroyer classes.  I had no idea which one she was... except that I did.  See, I knew that the "star" of the show was going to be Fubuki... which, curiously enough, was the name of the first-in-class of the first what we'd call "modern destroyer" design.

So there we have it.  Akagi, Kongo and Fubuki.  I've since read somewhere that these are some of the first shipgirls you can collect in Kancolle, so that makes sense too.  I guess I'm surprised they didn't have one of the splendid Japanese cruiser designs in the video, but I'm not complaining by any means!  January can't get here soon enough.

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July 03, 2014

Now THIS Is A Helluva Picture

That is one of the Mutsu's main turrets after salvaging post-war.  The ship was in harbor in 1943 when it apparently killed itself, suffering a massive internal explosion that cut it in half.  Only some 350 men out of a complement of nearly 1500 survived.  The two aft turrets were salvaged in 1970-71.

What an amazing picture.

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June 06, 2014

D-Day 70

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

"You are about to embark on The Great Crusade... ...the eyes of the world are upon you.

"Your task will not be an easy one.  Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle hardened.

"The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.  We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

"Good luck!  And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
-Dwight D Eisenhower.

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June 05, 2014

The First Of Many

The year is 1979 or 1980.  The place is Duckford.  Wonderduck has been friends with Vaucaunson's Duck for roughly a year, and there'd been a lot of Fight In The Skies played in that time, with more still to come.  The game is fun, challenging and exciting, but Wonderduck wants to know more about the planes of World War I... because doesn't everybody?  The library at QS Trotter Elementary School has practically nothing on the topic, of course.  Which means that purchasing is the only recourse, and herein lies a problem.  Problem #1: Wonderduck is 10 years old, and has no income of any sort.  Problem #2: Momzerduck and I are... not to put too fine a point on it... poor.  Duckford is in the midst of a deep Recession, either a hangover from the nationwide '75 one or the beginnings of the crushing early '80s failure (note: Duckford was a factory town... emphasis on was.  They went away in this time).  Money was very tight indeed... often it came down to "heat, light, food: choose two."

Which just goes to show how great a mom Momzerduck was... she made it work, somehow.  Yes, times were tight, but she never complained where I could hear her and things always came out okay in the end.  Looking back at it, it must have been hell for her, and here comes lil' Wonderduck, wondering if he could get something frivolous like a book on World War I airplanes. 

I don't know that that's how it went down.  It was 35 or so years ago, after all, but if it wasn't exactly like that, it must have been pretty close.  But sometime not long afterwards, a trip to Royal Hobby occurred that ended up with me leaving with a book on airplanes from the beginnings of flight through 1918.  And did I read the hell out of that book.  It wasn't a children's book, oh no.  It had a good basic history of flight at the origins, the names and figures involved, and then it got into facts and figures of planes famous and failed... the entry on the Phillips Multiplane set my brain a-racin', trying to figure out how anybody would think that'd work.  Of course, things like aerodynamics weren't as well known then as they are now, but I was just a kid.  So I kept reading, over and over, until I practically had that book memorized.

And then I grew up.  The games of FITS stopped.  High school happened, and it sucked.  Then college, getting kicked out of grad school, and the real world came a-callin'.  Somewhere along the way, the book disappeared, probably into the trash one way or another.  Other interests came and went, or came and stayed, and I simply... forgot.

The end.  No happy ending here, folks.  It doesn't work that way in real life, I'm afraid.  It's gone.


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June 04, 2014

Midway Day 2014

Just don't have enough time to do this justice, but here's an interesting photo of filmmaker John Ford, taken with some Marines at Midway.

Of course, Ford made the classic documentary The Battle of Midway, as well as the less well-known Torpedo Squadron 8Both are watchable here

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May 03, 2014

Name This Mystery Ship XXIX: Yes, Really.

While I'm working on the Ben-To! writeup, here's a little brainteaser for ya.  Heh.  I got no hints for ya...

There ya go.  Yep, I'm a bastitch... granted. 

CXT, FDM, y'know the rules: you don't get to play for a while.  Everybody else, have at it.  Remember, no imagesearch... you're a poopiehead if you use an image searching app or anything like that.

UPDATE: Okay, CTX, FDM... you're let off the leash.

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April 22, 2014

Mystery Ship XXVII

I dunno, we'll see about this one.  Name this Mystery Ship!

It may be really easy, it may be confusing!  As always, FDM and CTX are in the Masters category, so they can't play yet... but everybody else, take your best shot!  Remember, imagesearch is an abomination unto the eyes of men and ducks.

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December 22, 2013

Yamato vs Iowa: The Best Laid Plans

Last night, I sat down to create a post detailing the outcome of a fight between an Yamato-class battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy and an Iowa-class battleship from the US Navy.  Hardly new ground, this, but it would have been a first for The Pond.  Except there was a teeny tiny little problem.

After doing research, racking my brain, and a lot of staring at the ceiling, I simply could not come up with a way that the Yamato had a legitimate chance to win, short of stupidly restrictive rules.  Limiting the area of combat to 20 miles or whatever, for example.  Without doing that, there just doesn't seem to be a way that the Iowa could lose, save for luck.

The Japanese ship's main (only?) advantage is her 18.1" guns' longer range.  The Type 94 had a range of 26 miles, while the American 16"/50 Mk 7 could throw a shell (essentially) 24 miles.  Penetration ability for the two was found to be roughly the same.  But at all ranges, the US gun was more accurate.

So unless the Yamato could put an unlikely round on target in that two mile stretch where the Iowa couldn't respond, almost everything pointed toward the technically smaller ship's advantage.  She was faster by at least six knots, her armor layout was better, the fire control was much better, even the secondary battery would better.  Other than sheer size and an amazing amount of built-in buoyancy (a Yamato-class ship was designed to have every compartment outside of her armored box area ["A" turret to "X" turret"] flooded and still float), the Japanese ship had one other thing going her way: the only impenetrable armor ever put to sea.

The armor on the front of the three main gun turrets on the Yamato was 26" thick, sloped at 45°.  In US Navy testing after the war, this armor could be penetrated only when an Iowa's gun was placed at 0° inclination to the armor plate, and at a range of zero yards... in other words, a completely unrealistic situation in battle.  In any likely combat situation, there was no way to punch through the armor on the front of a Yamato's main turret.

So, one advantage, I suppose, but not one to hang a battle on.  The only way the chances of victory for the Japanese begins to become realistic is if they can close the range, so to counteract the huge fire control advantage the American ship has.  If that happened, then you're looking at a coinflip, maybe even a Japanese advantage as their superior weight of broadside plummets down.  But with their six knot speed advantage, the Americans can decide the range and keep it there.

So, good idea for a post, but it kinda doesn't work.  It happens.  A better battle might be Yamato vs South Dakota, since a SoDak is, for all intents and purposes, a slower Iowa.  Maybe in the future.

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December 07, 2013

Mystery Ship XXVI: Not Much Of A Mystery

No prize for this one, not today (it's not much of a mystery, after all)... but here's the Mystery Ship for y'all!

Brickmuppet, this one's for you.  Why am I showing this Coastie as a mystery ship?  What's so important? 

Remember folks, no cheating!

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November 30, 2013

Battle of Midway: AMA!

Over at Reddit, in the "warshipporn" subreddit, I'm doing an "Ask Me Anything" on the Battle of Midway.  Feel free to stop by and ask anything you've wondered about!

I haven't done anything MilHist related in a while, so c'mon over!

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