Out of the Depths - The USS Indianapolis - Edgar Harrell
This is the first Warship book that I've read, which has actually been written, by one of the survivors, of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis - the retired US Navy Marine, Edgar Harrell:
I found within it's pages, a retelling of the Loss of the USS Indianapolis, that serves to highlight, both the absurdities of War, and the Refusal of the Human Spirit - to give up! An absurdity of War ... Two Marines sleeping on a Turret roof one night (owing to the heat of the Pacific), with one Marine (Edgar Harrell), choosing not to the second night - only to have that same Turret roof, blown sky high (by a Japanese Torpedo / Magazine Explosion), knowing for well that your friend is gone (as he slept on the Turret's roof again that night). A refusal to give up ... Bobbing away, in a sun bleached sea, with a life jacket that's waterlogged, in a circle of corpses (your former crew-mates), surrounded by sharks (whether you knew it or not), with a parched mouth, and swollen lips - then out of the distance, something bobs up and down, a crate of potatoes, half rotten but Heaven! And it is here, that Edgar Harrell, felt that he would Survive, the ordeal of the Crew of the USS Indianapolis, floating in the Pacific Ocean (for up to four and a half days) - because he knew for well, that God had a plan ... Yes indeed, did I find that this retelling, is as much to do with God, as is the fact, that the US Navy blundered - knowing not (through various absurdities of Command), that the crew of the Indianapolis, were adrift at sea! In places, I found this book hard to read (or at least to relate to), because I don't believe, that I'm very religious (although I like the idea, of such a hierarchy and it's symbolism). Granted, it's hard to say for sure, how many of us would behave (and what we would choose to believe in), having just witnessed, several of our former crew-mates, being ripped to bits by sharks, whilst those very same sharks, chose to pass us by! In any case, there's several parts of this book, that stood out for me ... First: the USS Indianapolis herself. She was a workhorse of the US Navy, featuring in many of the campaigns of the Pacific. I especially liked the recounting, of the bombardment of Iwo Jima - as the power of the Indy's five inch, and eight inch Naval Guns, is made very clear. Added to this, is the technology of a Warship, which even in 1945, could hone a five inch shell, onto the path of an incoming enemy plane - through the marvel of Radar :) Second: the horror of having a Warship, fall apart beneath you. It's hard to imagine, that solid steel could bend and buckle, until you see it - Edgar Harrell did, the bow was gone! I was shocked, by the truth of his recount - at the injuries of the men, who were just trying to make their way, to the decks of a ship, that was rapidly taking on water, whilst exploding all around them, in Fires of Hell! Yet even then, would those same men, have chosen to remain on-board, if only they had the choice. Third: the reality of floating in a sea/ocean (for several days). You can't escape it, unless you die. You have to ride it, even a fifteen foot wave. You have to take it, sun blistered skin. You have to bear it, darkness of night. You have to go with it, this endless tide. For there's simply nowhere, you can go! Your at the mercy of the sea. As was Edgar Harrell, and his fellow survivors. Whilst reciting his tale, did I feel that Edgar, answered an important question - just how would you pass the time? As Edgar was blessed with a working watch, both a blessing and a burden (as he says). I felt that I connected with, an idea that was proposed here - were going to swim for the coast! Though it be, hundreds of miles - were a Marine, and we Strive to Survive :) Fourth: is the disbelief that was encountered, by Edgar Harrell and his fellow survivors, at the persecution (and court-martial) of their Captain - Captain McVay. It seems absurd to me, that you can blame a Captain, for the loss of his warship, whilst they were at war - especially when it was higher up, that the blunders occurred. The fact remains that the Indianapolis, should never have sailed unescorted, through hostile waters. I fully agree with Edgar, that McVay was not at fault - and I feel that the various letters of correspondence, really adds a unique perspective, to the contents of this book. Fifth: Is a further absurdity of War ... Which for me, is perhaps the most striking part of this tale. Whilst many of the survivors, may very well have survived four days at sea (through strength, belief, willpower, luck, etc.), it was that last half a day (from when they had been spotted), that I feel for many, the real test came! For one simple reason: they'd almost run out of, the energy to keep going (e.g. the ability to tread water) - yet they had to wait, for the various rescue ships, to arrive on the scene! It must have been a true Test of Faith, where I suspect minutes felt like hours, and a still mind-numbing thought: that they had been left afloat for so long, in the first place! I wonder how many more would have been saved, if they'd been found, half a day earlier? As at the end, all strength fails - you succumb to the sea. Overall: this book really is, a recounting of one man's Quest for Survival, and the Strength of his Character - amongst the Cruel Sea, of a Pacific War. Whilst I might not share, all of Edgar's views and beliefs (pertaining to God), I feel that I can relate, to two important points that he makes. The first: Edgar won't go near the sea/ocean these days. I can understand why. It would almost be like going back. And as Edgar says: the visions of the dying throws of the Indianapolis, are still raw in his mind (let alone the sharks). The second: when not everything is going to plan, and your entire World seems to be falling apart (let alone a Warship), just remember one thing - God Wills It (at least I believe, that's what Edgar was hinting at). Peace.
In Harm's Way - The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis - Part Two
Third - Rescue: What shocked me the most, was that it was only through luck, that the crew of the USS Indianapolis (floating in the Pacific), were even spotted in the first place!
If it hadn't been for a loan submarine bomber (piloted by Lieutenant Chuck Gwinn and his crew), then it seems likely to me, that they would only have been found, when all were dead ... What really stands out for me (in this book), is that the entire rescue effort - stems from Gwinn. If it hadn't been for him, and his two radio reports (of survivors in the water), then nothing would have happened - as it seems as though, the hampering of the chain of command (aka the need for confirmation), would have sealed the crew of the USS Indianapolis's fate (as indeed it had, up until now). For once those two radio messages were received, did the US Navy swing into action - as it seems to me, that various superior officers were now not so keen, to be seen as the one's that did nothing. I was further shocked by the book at this point, as no one knew who these men were (that were floating in the sea). It is here that this book, helps to convey the selflessness of the rescuers, that helped to save the crew of the Indy ... For I found this especially true in two places: i) the sea plane that put down, to haul over fifty survivors on-board - knowing for well, that landing the sea plane on open choppy water, could have doomed their own fate. And ii) the American rescuers, that dived into the water, knowing for well that there were sharks down there! Added to this, was the fact that these rescuers, still did not know exactly who they were rescuing - as it took a question about baseball, and a direct answer: were from the USS Indianapolis. Shock ... That was felt by both the rescuers, and the survivors (as many felt that they were still hallucinating). And yet, ask any sailor, who has been adrift at sea for days, wondering whether they would ever be rescued, what the most important thing in this entire world is? And their answer shall be: water! As fresh water is worth it's weight in gold - actually, forget the gold, just give me the water :) With that in mind, was there also another part of this book, that stood out for me: the quality of the care, that the men received (after they had been rescued). For most (if not all), were covered in oil (that had to be removed), before their various injuries could even be looked at (such as broken arms and broken legs), together with the effects of long term exposure to salt water (such as salt water ulcers). In essence, this part of the book, left me with the impression that medical crews (such as doctors and nurses), worked tirelessly to bring these shipwrecked men, back to full health (as indeed they did). Conclusion: I found this book, to be a draw-dropping read, about the horrors of war - I simply could not believe, some of the things I was reading (although I did). I was particularly amazed, by one simple point, that kept tugging at me, as I continued to read: how easily avoidable, the aftermath of the sinking could have been. As it seemed to me, that there were four opportunities earlier on (in the disaster), where the crew of the Indy - could have been rescued far sooner. Three of these stem from the SOS message, that the radio crew of the USS Indianapolis, managed to send out as she sunk. It would seem that this SOS message, was received not once, but three times (by on-shore listening posts), that failed to act on the SOS - because they awaited confirmation from the Indianapolis, that she was in-fact sinking. A command/requirement, that the Indianapolis could not meet - as she was sunk in around twelve minutes. The sending of the SOS (which the Indy's radio crew stand/swear by), was complicated by the specific set-up of the Indy's radio equipment. She had two radio rooms (one forward, one aft). The forward one was the primary (i.e. could both send and receive messages), but it was taken out by the second torpedo hit. This left the aft radio room ... But whether through design, or an operational quirk (I do not know which) - it could only receive, incoming radio messages! Even so, does this book make it clear, that the Indy's radio crew, managed to improvise/modify some of the radio equipment, so that it could send an SOS. I think it's crazy, that a ship the size of the Indianapolis (610 feet), would of only had one workable send and receive radio room (both should have been set-up as such). And the fourth opportunity to have rescued the crew of the Indianapolis much sooner? Well ... For me, that lays entirely with her estimated time of arrival (in the Navy port of Leyte). It seems absurd, that she would have been allowed to go (approximately) two days overdue - without anyone asking (by way of a radio message), whether she was still out there? Granted, it may have been unwise to have reported the Indy's position (in such a response), but a simple YES I'M HERE would have worked wonders. Finally: I'm on the side of Captain McVay! I don't see how, you can hold a Captain responsible for the loss of his ship, when that Captain requested an anti-submarine escort (aka a Destroyer) - and was told that none was necessary. As if none was necessary, why did McVay's orders include a requirement for zigzagging? Granted, the zigzagging was to be carried out at his discretion - but why include them at all, if intelligence believed his route to be safe, and free from Japanese subs? It feels to me, as though higher up Navy personnel, were simply covering their own backsides - by pinning it on McVay.
In Harm's Way - The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis - Part One
So, you think your having a bad day? Think again! Just chat to any of the survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis - and tell me again ... As they truly were - In Harm's Way:
Reading this book shocked me. As I simply could not believe, that at the closing stages of World War Two, that an entire US Warship could be lost - without the US Navy being aware of it at all! And yet, that is EXACTLY what happened ... For the USS Indianapolis, was torpedoed and sunk by herself, in the middle of the Pacific - compounded by a complete breakdown in the Laws of the Sea, or at least, what a sailor can expect when their ship is overdue. First and Foremost, I liked the layout of this book, as I found that it was split into three main sections: Sailing to War (telling you of the Indy's top secret mission), Sunk (telling you that some sailors nightmares - do come true) and Rescue (telling you just how precious life - really is). I shall now consider each of these sections in turn ... First: Sailing to War ... Having been under repair (for a Japanese Kamikaze attack), the USS Indianapolis was suddenly whisked into active duty again, when it was decided that she would transport the atomic bomb (Little Boy), that would help seal the fate of Japan. As the book coveys, much of her crew was surprised by this whisk (as they were on leave) - which was further wrapped in mystery, as the crew knew nothing of the details of her cargo! I was especially surprised, by the fact that Captain McVay, also did not know of the identity of his cargo - only that it was important (as I'd previously believed that a ship's Captain, was a high enough rank to have known). But ... Such is the Secrecy of War! It is here that the book reveals, that the USS Indianapolis, was a flagship of the US Navy - having been chosen by Admiral Raymond Spruance (because of the flexibility of her high speed). Thus, was I surprised to learn that the USS Indianapolis, had been ordered to sail by herself, between the (previously occupied) Japanese Islands of Guam and Leyte - aka, through Japanese sub infested waters! For me, the fact that she was a flagship (alone), meant that she should have been escorted (by at least one Destroyer) - as the Indianapolis, could neither detect nor attack, enemy submarines: she was a heavy cruiser, that was designed to bombard shore installations (with her nine eight-inch naval guns). It was also within this section, that I found myself surprised by: i) how differently two sailors can view the same event (such as the loading of the nuclear bomb components on-board), and ii) by the believability of wartime decisions (such as attempting to pass an army medical officer off - as a navy gunnery expert). Second: Sunk ... What would qualify as a nightmare for you? Sleeping near the bow of the Indy, when a torpedo slams right into the bow - blowing you fifteen feet into the air? Or seeing the men that that happened to, simply being vaporised? Or perhaps ... Seeing your ship ploughing through the sea, having lost it's bow - water quickly rising? Or even sliding from the decks of the Indy, in your injured state - straight into an oil soaked sea? Or perhaps ... Being caught in a flash fire, that cooks your mate - but misses you? How about being dragged underwater, by a snaring cable - just when you'd thought you'd escaped? Being dragged down and down, until your blasted to the surface - by an escaping air bubble? Well ... That was just the start of the nightmares, for the men of the USS Indianapolis - as their ship sunk beneath them, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Pacific! Yet it was known by her sailors (or at least believed), that after a day or two, that she would be declared overdue - and that their ordeal (of floating in the Pacific), would soon be over. Except ... That never happened :( For the survivors of the Indy's sinking, found themselves adrift in the Pacific Ocean, with no food or drink (i.e. fresh water), or medical provisions of any kind (in the most part), for four and a half days! If they were lucky, they'd managed to grab either a life vest, or a life belt - or if they were really lucky, they'd managed to grab a space on a raft. And yet, was I surprised to learn, that many of these sailors were actually injured (with broken legs and/or broken arms), together with various degrees of burns (to hands, torsos, faces and eyes). Yet even if you consider a sailor with a life vest, and a broken arm, that's covered in ship oil, to be extremely lucky - would that same sailor, need even more luck, to survive through to rescue! For as the crew of the USS Indianapolis, drifted clear of her oil slick, did the survivors start to become aware, of a menace beneath their feet: sharks!! Consider for a moment ... Could you drift for four and a half days in a life vest (that's becoming waterlogged), knowing that there's hundreds of sharks swimming, both around and beneath you? Your answer is NO!! Yet for the crew of the Indianapolis, they had to - for where else could they go? It's the chapter called Shark Attack, that all this is revealed in. It's the chapter called Genocide, where the nightmares came alive! As American sailors, started killing each other. As American sailors, started whole scale hallucinating: the USS Indianapolis had returned, and many of the boy's simply swum down to meet her. It was the sea salt you see, compounded by glaring sunlight, and no hope of rescue: for to the crew of the USS Indianapolis, did it seem that they had been forgotten about (which indeed they had - as no one knew!). Or did they?
Of all the Royal Navy's Battleships, there are none more 'highly regarded, heavily worked and wartime modified' than those of the Queen Elizabeth class - and of those, is there 'none more renowned' than HMS Queen Elizabeth herself:
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her four sister battleships (Barham, Malaya, Valiant and Warspite) had all been laid down (for construction) in 1912/1913. Being completed in 1915/1916 they were soon 'put to use' within World War One - with HMS Queen Elizabeth 'shelling land forts' in the Dardanelles, and her sisters 'taking heavy fire' at the Battle of Jutland. In terms of Naval Architecture, there is 'an important milestone' which is usually accredited to them: they are seen as, the World's first true, fast battleships :) For one simple reason - their designs were close to 'the ideals' of matched: armour, guns and speed! By the time of World War Two (1939 to 1945), they were regarded as the Royal Navy's primary battleships - with HMS Queen Elizabeth herself 'being the most modified' within her long service life (of 33 years).
When it comes to the Queen Elizabeth's profile/battleship class, there are four features that I particularly liked:
The arrangement of her primary armament naval guns - 2 twin turrets forward, and 2 twin turrets astern. Which for me 'has always felt like' that it best encapsulated 'the ideas of balance'. And yet, do these ideas of balance, also apply to the choice of naval gun calibre. For the Queen Elizabeth class, were armed with eight 15 inch naval guns, which are believed to have been, the best well balanced guns, within the Royal Navy. As the 15 inch naval gun/shell, met the ideals of: maximised destructive fire-power, with low barrel wear/tear, and considerable engagement range :) Which is perhaps 'just slightly ironic', because it was feared, that the 15 inch calibre shell, would be inferior (in terms of performance and robustness) to the 'well established and proven' 13.5 inch calibre shell - which was fitted to 'the preceding generation' of British battleships (the Iron Duke class).
Whilst the earlier profile/appearance of the Queen Elizabeth, was certainly impressive 'they are as nothing' when compared to the Queen Elizabeth, when she was overhauled - with her imposing 'block like' forward superstructure (and conning tower). As this feature 'more than any other' totally modernised the appearance of the Queen Elizabeth :) Whilst at the same time, do I feel that it improved, her fighting capabilities 'no-end' - as there was so much more 'available space and vantage points' for fire control (including new 'gunnery radar').
The Queen Elizabeth 'was originally armed' with sixteen 6 inch (case-mated) secondary naval guns - which were 'at the mercy' of turbulent seas! The fact that these 6 inch guns, were designed 'with the sole purpose' of engaging enemy vessels - meant that they were of little use/value, against enemy aircraft. Thus 'was I glad' when the Queen Elizabeth was overhauled, with a dedicated secondary armament, of twenty 4.5 inch dual purpose guns - that could target both enemy warships and enemy aircraft :) I also liked the fact, that these dual purpose guns, were now 'enclosed in turrets', and that they were located 'at higher levels' above the hull form (i.e. at forecastle deck and quarterdeck levels), which afforded more 'usability and accuracy' in turbulent seas :)
The addition of anti-torpedo bulges 'onto the sides' of the Queen Elizabeth's hull form. Whereas previous battleships had been 'coal powered' - the Queen Elizabeth class was 'oil fuelled'. Yet oil 'did not protect' like coal did! Because coal 'when stored in hull forms' - both dampened the explosive forces/shockwaves of torpedo impacts, and guarded against flooding. Thus 'the addition of hull form bulges' provided an external layer of protection, against 'incoming enemy torpedoes'. Unfortunately, as the torpedoes of World War Two 'gradually became stronger' - it was found that their bulges 'were insufficient'. HMS Barham provided 'conclusive proof of this' - when she was hit by 3 torpedoes (amidships), soon capsizing 'with her magazines exploding' and sinking!
I feel that the Queen Elizabeth class battleships 'would have been even better' if the modifications had been 'left at the above' - yet they were also modified to carry aircraft. As it was felt (at the time) that battleships 'needed help spotting'. The idea being that 'spotting/reconnaissance aircraft' would be useful, for providing information to the battleship - such as 'sighted local enemy warships' and/or ground forces (for shore bombardment). In previous battleships, such aircraft were 'usually launched' from modified gun turret roofs - but HMS Queen Elizabeth herself, had the following setup:
An aircraft 'launch catapult' that was installed 'across the width of the ship' (behind the smokestack).
Two large 'aircraft recovery cranes' that were installed 'one port one starboard' (behind the smokestack).
Two large 'aircraft hangers' that were used for 'aircraft storage and maintenance' (behind the smokestack).
Despite having these 'fancy aircraft handling arrangements' - it was 'eventually learned' that aircraft aboard battleships 'took up too much space', and that aircraft 'were better left' to aircraft carriers. As such, HMS Queen Elizabeth had all of her aircraft removed (July 1943) - yet I also feel, that the superiority of 'radar directed fire' contributed to this decision.
Within World War Two, HMS Queen Elizabeth was initially stationed within the 'Home Fleet' (i.e. coastal waters of the United Kingdom) whereby she completed her 'sea trails' (as was required 'on completion' of her major refit). After assisting within the Atlantic (i.e. convoy duties) she was then transferred to the Mediterranean. Whilst based at Gibraltar, she 'steams to rendezvous with' an incoming Atlantic convoy (which is carrying allied 'troops, fighter planes and tanks' for Egypt). The convoy 'runs the gauntlet' to Alexandria (also being protected 'along the way' by the battleships HMS Barham, HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant) - where upon arrival (at Alexandria), the Queen Elizabeth becomes flagship. At this time, 'Germany decides' that Crete (as held by the British) is fundamental 'to the German war machine'. As such, the Queen Elizabeth reinforces 'defensive fleet operations' in/around the waters of Crete (helping to guard against Italian warships and German aircraft). The Queen Elizabeth then participates in several 'fleet gunnery exercises' (north of the Suez Canal), together with several 'diversionary missions' (that are designed to 'draw heat' from other 'allied convoys and naval operations'). It's then time 'for the big one' when Queen Elizabeth (and her sisters Barham and Valiant) are ordered 'to provide fire support' for the British Army's 'North African relief of Tobruk'. It is here that HMS Barham is 'torpedoed and sunk'! Shortly after, with both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant 'having returned' to Alexandria, the Italians penetrate the harbour defences and 'place explosives' underneath their hull forms. Both Queen Elizabeth and Valiant are damaged! Unfortunately, the Queen Elizabeth was 'so badly damaged' that it takes around 18 months to repair her (even having to transfer to the United States 'to fully complete her repairs'). The Queen Elizabeth then returns to the United Kingdom, whereby her crew 'is made ready', and it is decided that she be transferred to the Indian Ocean (via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal) to support British operations 'against the Japanese'.
It really 'can be seen' that the Queen Elizabeth 'was a workhorse' of the Royal Navy, which is why she was 'repaired and overhauled' during wartime (although 'the same is also true' for her sisters). She had a 'fundamental role' to play within the Mediterranean, whereby if she hadn't been present at Alexandria, I feel that the Allies 'would have been overrun'. As a whole, the Queen Elizabeth class battleships were regarded as 'being extremely robust, but frequently targeted by the enemy'. This was 'even more so' for her sister HMS Warspite, who with incomplete repairs (only six 15 inch naval guns) was used to bombard the invasion beaches of D-Day! Even so, the Queen Elizabeth 'shall always be my favourite':
Yes, she was 'heavily damaged' at Alexandria, but she was 'rebuilt and made as new' - because she had a job to do!
HMS Queen Elizabeth's Battleship Data ('as modernised' in 1940):
Armament: Eight 15 inch naval guns (4 x 2), twenty 4.5 inch dual purpose guns (10 x 2), thirty-two 2-pounder 'pom-poms' guns (4 x 8), fifty-two 20 mm 'Oerlikon cannons' (26 x 2) and sixteen 0.5 inch 'Vickers' machine guns (4 x 4).
Armour: Belt (6 to 13 inches), primary turrets (4.5 to 13 inches), barbettes (4 to 10 inches), secondary turrets (up to 2 inches), decks (up to 5 inches) and bulkheads (4 to 6 inches).
Whilst Valiant's data 'was similar' and Warspite's data 'secondary armament different' - both Barham and Malaya 'were considerably different' (because they were not modified 'as much as their sisters').
If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that best illustrates the requirement of, mounting as many naval guns on your battleship (as possible), then there's no finer example, than the Royal Navy's - HMS Agincourt:
HMS Agincourt (of 1913), mounted no fewer than, fourteen twelve-inch naval guns (in seven twin-turrets). This was done, to both maximise her fire-power, and increase the chances of hitting, an enemy battleship. I like the fact, that her turret arrangement, adhered to the principles of Naval Conflict, that had been learned in the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory: the more guns you have, the more fighting power, your warship - brings to bear :) And yet, perhaps unlike the days of HMS Victory, did this maximisation of guns - come with a price tag! In the case of Agincourt, carrying so many turrets (seven) meant that their weight had to be 'paid for', at the expense of adequate - armoured protection ...
This was particularly apparent, upon the thinness of her belt armour (up to nine inches), the thinness of her deck armour (up to two and a half inches), and the thinness of her bulkheads (up to six inches). Of these, I would say that it's the bulkheads thickness, that would concern me the most - as having seven gun turrets, could easily mean, that a fire/explosion, in one of their magazine's/shell handling room's, could easily spread, to an adjacent gun turret/group of turrets! And given the fact, that HMS Agincourt was regarded (amongst the Royal Navy), as a 'floating magazine' - leads little to the imagination ... Despite this, there are three features to HMS Agincourt's profile, that I quite liked:
The fact that HMS Agincourt mounted all of her primary naval guns, on the centreline, of her hull form. This meant that she could bring all, primary naval guns to bear, on both port and starboard - which maximised her broadside. The adoption/standardised use of centreline turrets went hand-in-hand with the 'Space Age Idea', of super-firing turrets (where one turret's roof, was directly beneath, another turret's gun barrels). In the case of HMS Agincourt, this leads to an interesting arrangement, of her stern turrets - a little group of three, which was 'somewhat unique' in their layout :)
Having so many primary naval guns (fourteen twelve-inch), made it a 'key requirement' for her shell spotters, to have an unimpeded line-of-sight, towards the enemy. Thus, it is good to see, that her forward lookout platform/spotting top (that's mounted atop the forward-most tripod mast), is actually located, in-front of the forward-most smokestack - where it seems less likely to have been 'smoked out'.
Whereas HMS Dreadnought (the so-called grandfather of all later/better battleships), had for the most part, omitted any (dedicated) secondary armament - the same could not be said, for HMS Agincourt. In the case of Agincourt, I like the fact that she featured twenty six-inch guns - that were all grouped, within the 'central third' of her hull form.
For me, the inclusion of six-inch (surface target) guns reflected a decent realisation of the 'potential menace' of Destroyers and Patrol Boats (who could both launch torpedoes!). Yet here do I find, that there's a secondary armament feature - which I was not so keen on:
The fact that her six-inch guns, were case-mated (i.e. built into the hull form), and that they were situated (mostly) beneath main deck level - meant that they would have been unusable, in anything but 'a calm sea'!
Despite this, the inclusion of a (powerful) secondary armament, meant that Agincourt, did at least cater for, two different ranges, of Naval Engagement - both long range (with her twelve-inch guns), and short/medium range (with her six-inch guns). This made naval combat 'so much easier' - as off target 'shell splashes' could be traced 'more easily' to one of two gun calibres (with any 'necessary aiming adjustments' being made to the associated naval guns).
HMS Agincourt was a 'somewhat novel solution', to the conflicting naval requirements - of both maximising fire-power, and maintaining survivability. Ironically, the spread of her seven turrets, both aided survivability (as the chances of an enemy shell, knocking them all out - was much reduced), but the chances of an enemy shell, knocking out the entire battleship, was much increased (as the turrets were housed within a hull form, that did not have enough - armoured protection).
HMS Agincourt's Battleship Data:
Armament: Fourteen 12 inch naval guns (7 x 2), twenty 6 inch naval guns (20 x 1), ten 3 inch naval guns (10 x 1) and three 21 inch torpedo tubes.
Armour: Belt (4 to 9 inches), turrets (up to 12 inches), barbettes (3 to 9 inches), decks (1 to 2.5 inches), bulkheads (up to 6 inches).
If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that's responsible for defining an entire genre of Warships, than that credit of distinction, belongs only to the Royal Navy's - HMS Dreadnought (of 1906):
HMS Dreadnought was a 'World Above', the Warships that had come before her (the pre-dreadnoughts), and her design was so radical (at the time), that she gave her name, to all the Dreadnoughts that came after her (which we know by today - as Battleships). I especially like the fact, that HMS Dreadnought, helped redefine the definition/meaning of the phase: Naval Engagement ... This was achieved, through a 'Space Age Idea' - that unified her primary armament, to be of all the same calibre of guns: ten twelve-inch naval guns. This in-turn, supported the idea of Naval Engagements, from greater distances - as shell spotters, only had to look for one type of shell splash (to help correct their aiming).
Why the requirement for a greater range of naval engagement? Well ... It was believed, that such Dreadnoughts, would no longer be within the range of - enemy torpedoes! It was an idea that was regarded as radical, because Navy Engagements (up to circa 1906), had always been fought, at closer ranges (being somewhat reminiscent, of the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory).
When it comes to HMS Dreadnought's profile, there are three features, which stand out for me:
Her high 'ram shaped' bow. This would have helped with her sea keeping (of 21 knots), and have been useful (owing to its shape), for the ramming of enemy warships, and submarines!
The poles that extend along the side of her hull form. At first, I thought that these were a part of her armour - but they are in-fact, booms for her anti-torpedo nets (which would have been deployed, when she was in port, and/or when she was stationary).
The layout of her primary armament gun turrets (i.e. her ten twelve-inch naval guns). Three gun turrets were located on her centre line, and could fire on either beam - at an enemy located to port or starboard (as the turrets rotated). The remaining two turrets, were located on her beams/wings (one port, one starboard) - but could only fire at an enemy, located on the relevant beam/wing (owing to limited rotation, and no line of sight/fire across her main deck). Thus do I like, the fact that HMS Dreadnought, could bring to bear: eight twelve-inch naval guns - for a full naval broadside!
Despite this, there are two design features (of HMS Dreadnought), that I did not like:
Her complete lack 'of a true' secondary armament. Having been so revolutionary, it was almost an afterthought, to have added in twenty-seven twelve-pounder (5.44 kilogram) guns. These, were all mounted above deck, both on the roofs of her primary gun turrets, and within her topside superstructure. And as such, I find it slightly ironic/reflective, that these were the positions, which were used in later Battleship classes, for anti-aircraft arrangements. Thus did HMS Dreadnought, lack any effective close range, medium calibre guns - that could have been of use, against enemy Patrol Boats and Destroyers (who ironically, could launch torpedoes!).
The location of her forward most, gun spotting platform (atop the tripod mast). Which could easily be 'smoked out', when she was at speed! Although to be fair, this particular design flaw, also affected - later Battleships.
HMS Dreadnought 'was the first of her kind', who sparked a Naval Arms race - as other countries, also wanted Dreadnoughts. Even so, there's one particular area, that Dreadnought often receives flak for - that her thickest belt armour (of 11 inches), was actually located beneath the waterline (when she was at sea), where it would do - little good! In any case, HMS Dreadnought was a 'step in the right direction', as many of her novel features, made it successfully into - later Battleship classes :)
HMS Dreadnought's Battleship Data:
Armament: Ten 12 inch naval guns (5 x 2), twenty-seven 12 pounder guns (27 x 1) and five 18 inch torpedo tubes.
Armour: belt (4 to 11 inches), turrets and barbettes (up to 11 inches), decks (0.75 to 4 inches), bulkheads (up to 8 inches).
At many times in the past, have I thought that it would be a good idea, to be able to play a game of Battleships, whilst your out and about :) The Battleships Card Game, is a massive-step towards, achieving this goal:
Granted, you may prefer to play this game on your table at home - but being a card game, it's format is slightly different, to the traditional table-top game of Battleships. Added to this, is the fact that the game has been enhanced - as there's two possible modes of play: beginners (aka simple), and with Power Cards (aka complex). Personally though, I found even the beginners version too complicated (and somewhat different to traditional Battleships) - so I decided to play, My Own Version ... And it's My Version of gameplay, that I really loved - as it's both easier to play, and quicker to play :) But first, the most fundamental difference (to traditional Battleships), is the fact that you can actually take, more than one shot at a time ... This is achieved, through the game's use of destruction/armament cards - which can either be bombs or torpedoes, and can either be single shot, double shot or triple shot (in the case of bombs). In any case, you aim a destruction/armament card, at one of your opponent's (face down) coordinate cards ... And it is these coordinate cards, that take the place of the grid, from a traditional game of Battleships. On the back of each coordinate card, is there either: a warship (indicating that you hit), or a miss (indicating that you missed!). It was here that I found myself laughing, as there's nothing like seeing your three bomb card, sinking into the water :) And yes, that is a clue, as to My Version of gameplay: we just set-up our coordinate cards, then took the entire (red/blue) suite of destruction/armament cards, and simply removed the top card all the time. This made the card game, feel much more like traditional Battleships - which is why, I enjoyed it so much :) What of the warships? I was glad to see, that the standard warships are present (but now as card artwork): Patrol Boat (two hits), Destroyer/Cruiser (three hits), Submarine (three hits), Battleship (four hits) and Aircraft Carrier (five hits). In any case, there's far less coordinate cards (usually twelve) - which is responsible, for a faster game (as in traditional Battleships, there's a hundred coordinates). Yes the card game's, quicker to play (especially in My Version of gameplay), but you end-up, having just as much fun - as you play many more games! Even so, did one of my opponent's, find a way to speed up his gameplay even more (he'd devised a method, so he knew which of my coordinate cards, had a warship on them). I thought at first, that he was having incredible luck - until I realised, that he'd creased the edges of my warship cards! Just for that, I'd considered drawing a five bomb card myself :) Which in-turn, leads us into the Power Cards ... These make the game so much more complicated, that we pretty-much, gave-up! I think the idea of the Power Cards, was to jazz up Battleships a bit, but I just found, that they lead to confusion ... What do the Power Cards do? A simple Power Card is the Shield. If you play it on your Battleship, then your Battleship shall receive a plus two (meaning that instead of needing four bombs to sink it, it will need six bombs). That was simple right? But then, your warship cards also have Ship Powers on them, which come into effect when the card is turned over. An example is the Destroyer/Cruiser Power, which means that you can count torpedoes as bombs. To be honest, this really became too confusing (as I kept forgetting), and with each warship that was found/turned over, did you have another Ship Power to remember (such as Battleship - add plus one bomb to each of your bomb cards). Added to this, is the confusion that's possible, when you Upgrade Your Game (as the box/web suggests - through the App). Well ... After having downloaded the Battleships App, I again found myself head scratching ... I thought it would allow me to play Battleships on my tablet - but I eventually realised, that it actually supports the card game! It took a while for me to realise this fact :) I kept clicking that spinning torpedo, and realised that it was giving each player orders - such as: Tail Wind Miscalculation (you can only hit your opponent's back line), Super Repair (remove two cards from any of your damaged ships), Cannon Stuck (you can only fire torpedoes), and Fast reload (play two cards - a bomb and a torpedo, or two bomb cards, etc.). Thus, did I again, come up with My Own Upgraded Version of the App plus Card game: i) Set-up your coordinate cards. ii) Deal your (red/blue) destruction/armament cards. iii) Have the App generate an Order Card (click the torpedo at the start of your turn) - then play as normal (i.e. only drawing the top destruction/armament card), with that power/order in effect (just for that turn). iv) Repeat iii) until you have sunk your opponent's fleet (or they've sunk yours!). Another interesting feature (of the Battleships App) - is that you also gain, a Battleship's themed musical background, whilst you pound the enemy fleet! Overall: I enjoyed playing My Own Version of this Battleships card game - as in doing so, I'd recreated the gameplay, of traditional Battleships :) I felt happy about this, as it was as though, I was a Battleship's Commander, who'd saved the day - but at the same time, had also disobeyed, the Admiral's orders ...
If you asked me to name, one of the first Battleship board games (that I ever played) - then I would say, Torpedo Run!
My Destroyer's been hit! Or at least it felt like it, whilst I hounded my parents, to go get me this game :) This game had the biggest board, that I had ever seen: at 34.5 x 46.5 inches ... Perhaps it was this, that made me feel (at the time), that I was in command, of a large Naval Fleet - perhaps in the Pacific? In any case, the aim of the game was of course, to sink your opponents fleet ... And a formidable Naval fleet, it was indeed: one Commander's Battleship (guess which ship I was on/in?), three Cruiser/Destroyer support ships (each sub-servant to the Battleship), and one Submarine shooter (the Achilles heel - of the enemy fleet). As such, the Submarine shooter was equipped, with red projectiles - that you fired, at the enemy warships. Each warship in turn, had small gaps in the bottom, which the projectiles could enter, causing your ship to blow up! In the case of the Battleship, it had five such points, and only when all associated structures had been blown off - did this Dreadnought sink. These structures were representative, of the Conning Tower (on the Cruisers), and both the Conning Towers (front and back), and three Naval Gun Turrets - on the Battleship. I especially liked the fact, that this game represented, the relative power/hierarchy, of a Cruiser to a Battleship: the Cruisers were in-front of the Battleship (from memory), and as such, would (usually) be damaged/sunk first. Yet a Battleship, was much larger (hence the five damage points - compared to just one, for the Cruiser), so in many respects, it was easier to hit (if your Cruisers were not positioned correctly, and/or had already been sunk!). I remember being impressed with the size of the Battleship (the model was over 14 inches long), together with the details of the Battleship (which included - both primary and secondary, naval gun turrets) and thinking to myself: there's no way you'll sink this :) But alas, the game was representative (in iron sight), of the very weapons - that helped to finish off, the dominance of the battleship (during World War Two). As those red projectiles, were indeed - torpedoes! I remember thinking, that I could work around this (game play) challenge, by turning my Battleship, around the other way :) In effect, I'd fitted my Battleship, with anti-torpedo nets ... There's no way that my opponent, would ever notice of course :) Overall: a classic board game, with some decent (game play) models, of Battleships and Cruisers - and a large playing board, that kept us entertained for hours. It left an impression on me, as I still have the warships, around here somewhere - but perhaps slightly ironic, I have not seen the board, for quite a few years now ... Such a big board it was to: at 34.5 x 46.5 inches, it's Torpedo Run! you know, and where am I? Well ... Still on my Commander's Battleship, moving that Cruiser here :)
Indianapolis and Hood - Great Blunders of World War Two
All warships, no matter whether Battleship or Cruiser, Carrier or Destroyer, are to the men that serve on them - the Bastions of the Sea:
Yet in-turn, are the warships themselves, at the mercy of the men that command them, and the men that designed them. In the case of the USS Indianapolis, was it a catalogue of errors - that lead to her loss ... Whilst watching this DVD, I found myself amazed, that she was sunk in the Pacific, because of a denied request (of an anti-submarine escort) and a gargled radio message (that nobody requested clarification of). In essence: no one knew that the USS Indianapolis had been sunk (by at least two torpedoes), and no one knew that she was declared overdue (as radio operators had not received, the message that she was on her way - in the first place!). This DVD shows the horrors of the loss of the Indianapolis, which through the use of computer animation, helps drive home, one simple point: she was all alone, in the middle of the Pacific at night, listing heavily (through her breeched hull), with no ability to call for assistance - as her radio was out, on her top secret mission, that no one knew about! To say that this DVD shocked me, is something of an understatement ... This DVD then shocked me again, as it portrays (at least in part) the true horrors, of her crew's five days in shark infested waters - whilst various elements of the US/Allied Navy, believed her sinking to be a hoax/false report (even after having intersected and decoded, a Japanese Sub's radio message). Thus, can I say that the loss of the Indianapolis, was compounded by communication failures. And it is here that the DVD, plays right into: the loss of HMS Hood ... Hood was the biggest warship of the Royal Navy, a requirement that came from the Navy's desire, to have a battle-cruiser/fast-battleship, that was capable of: over thirty knots. Yet as this DVD shows, this speed - came with a price tag! This time, the blunder occurred, at Hood's design stage - which was itself, combined with two further blunders, on the day of her loss ... The first blunder (for me), was the fact that her Vice-Admiral, ordered both a radio silence, and for her accompanying escort (the battleship Prince of Wales), to turn off it's radar (directed fire), and refrain from using it's spotting aircraft. Thus was Hood, already at a disadvantage ... Which when compounded with the blunder of her design (having too thin/little deck armour), and the blunder of her going up against a fully modernised, enemy battleship (the Bismarck), sealed her fate. Again, the DVD makes use of computerised animation, to help drive home, the dramatic loss of HMS Hood. It also shows some footage, of a genuine magazine explosion (possibly HMS Barham's), which helps to further illustrate, why HMS Hood, stood no chance at all. I too, am in awe of the colour footage of HMS Hood, that's present upon this DVD - as it certainly does feel, as though she really was, invincible! Yet it is here that I found a twist, or should that be, a distort in the lines of communication? For it was known from day one, that her deck armour, was too thinly spread (especially over her magazines), which was itself only known - by a few high ranking, Navy personnel. Thus, were both the USS Indianapolis, and the Royal Navy's HMS Hood - lost on missions, that neither should really have been on - even if on paper, they both seemed up to the task. Overall: I feel that this DVD does a reasonable job, of covering the loss of both the Indianapolis, and the Mighty Hood. There's some great colour footage of the Indianapolis (I liked her camouflage scheme), together with some decent colour footage of HMS Hood (I liked the size and power, of her formidable arsenal of weapons). Added to this, is there some high-clarity (black and white) footage of the battleship Bismarck (who truly did look impressive - with her eight fifteen inch guns, and thick armour plating, especially visible, on her hull-form). And yet, did I find it hard, not to draw parallels, between these so-called blunders, and another frequently encountered term: that of (so-called) friendly fire.