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Torn between two buddies...

A recently got an e-mail asking me where I stand in the latest dispute between Kevin and Laurence Simon. Laurence is a bit miffed at Kevin, and is making no bones about his feelings (no great surprise there).

This isn't the first time I've found myself friends with people who don't get along. In fact, it seems I have a bit of a gift for it. I've lost count of the times I've ended up like this, and it probably won't be the last time.

But, where do I stand on the matter? Do I think that Laurence has a legitimate beef, or is he just looking for a fight?

This will be my first, last, and only comment on the whole matter.

During World War II, the United States commissioned a rather odd class of ships. The Alaska-class warships were true "white elephants" of their day, falling pretty much between contemporary heavy cruisers and battleships. That ambiguity has led to huge debates about whether they were cruisers or battlecruisers, an argument that has outlived the ships themselves, the last of which was scrapped 45 years ago.

The navy fed into the controversy, giving them the designation CB (Cruiser, Large). CA was reserved for heavy cruisers, while the aborted Lexington-class battlecruisers of the 1920's had been given the designation CC. By giving them a different designation from standard cruisers, they fed the theory that these were indeed battlecruisers, without the name that had been disgraced by the poor performance of the classification during World War I.

The basic concept of a battlecruiser was, originally, a large, fast scouting ship that carried battleship-caliber guns, but cruiser-level armor. Its mission was to "outfight anything it couldn't outrun, and outrun anything it couldn't outfight." This was a wonderful idea, right up until someone else started putting those ships in the water. At that point, it became, as some people so memorably put it, a case of "eggshells armed with sledge hammers." And once that happened, Naval higher-ups started looking at their sheer size, their guns, and started putting them into the sort of roles that battleships took -- a role that they were singularly unsuited to fulfill, as the catastrophic destruction of the HMS Invincible, the HMS Indefatigable, and the HMS Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland, lost with nearly all hands. Then, in 1940, the HMS Hood also went down with nearly all hands.

So, back to the point: a battlecruiser is a battleship-sized vessel with battleship-sized armament that is faster and less armored than a contemporary battleships. How does that match up with the Alaskas?

As far as size, they seem to fit. They're longer than all US battleships but the Iowas, a full 120' longer than the South Dakotas and 80' longer than the North Carolinas. And for their 12" guns, they match the then-venerable Arkansas, and actually are larger than Germany's twins, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which carried 9 11" guns (but were designed to eventually replace the triples with 15" twin mounts). And they were fast -- they could move at over 30 knots.

But were they truly battlecruisers? I think not.

First, about their main guns. The 12" was a remarkably powerful gun, but it wasn't a battleship-caliber weapon. The US had converted to 16" guns exclusively for battleships in the 20's, and never looked back. Other navies had built new battleships recently, but they'd had 14" guns at the smallest. The 12" gun simply wasn't battleship-caliber when the Alaskas were designed.

Second, their secondary battery. The 5"/38 caliber gun was probably the finest dual-purpose gun of World War II, proving useful both against ships and aircraft. Nearly every ship the US built during World War II from a destroyer up to battleships and aircraft carriers used that gun, and the Alaskas were no exception. But where battleships had the guns along the beam, the Alaskas followed the pattern laid down for cruisers: a hexagonal layout, with one fore and one aft (above and superfiring the main guns) and two on each beam.

Thirdly, their aircraft. The US used catapults to launch floatplanes from cruisers and battleships, using the planes for both scouting and spotting long-range gunnery. The "fast battleships" all had their catapults on the stern, as did most cruisers. But the Alaskas carried their aircraft amidships, like the Chesters, the Portlands, and the New Orleans - class cruisers.

Fourthly, their stern. American battleships had evolved from the tapered stern to a more curved shape, while cruisers had evolved the "transom" (squared-off) rear end. The Alaskas followed this model, and the only battleship to also adapt it was Britain's HMS Vanguard.

I once considered a drug metaphor for warships. Battlecruisers were "battleships on speed" or "battleships on cocaine," with the corresponding weight loss and increased energy, but more fragility. By that model, it's clear that the Alaskas were far more "cruisers on steroids" -- bigger, stronger, and with the rise of the airplane as the weapon of choice, ultimately impotent.

And they were ALMOST truly beautiful ships. What the hell were the designers thinking when they stuck all those pieces of junk on the smokestack?

And if anyone's wondering just what this has to do with the dispute between Kevin and Lair, all I can say is I've never seen Mr. Holland's Opus, so I make do as best as I can.


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Comments (18)

You misspelled surprise.</p... (Below threshold)
Malibu Stacy:

You misspelled surprise.

Sigh... fixed. Thanks, Stac... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Sigh... fixed. Thanks, Stacy.


I'm afraid there's no remed... (Below threshold)
Malibu Stacy:

I'm afraid there's no remedy for the dorkage, however.

The Weblog Awards needs som... (Below threshold)

The Weblog Awards needs some sort of retribution method. For example, given the 'nazi' nasty crap that was flung about in last year's Awards, this year there should be some sort of equally hideous nasty gossip about someone prominent in the current Awards. And, with this year's Awards beginning to look like the 'damn you and your Awards' Awards, then next year the Awards could have some equally defeatist negativity applied to every one-armed, deaf, cat loving, ship sailing, illiterate person daring to blog.

Somethin' like that. I DO think this year's Awards are showing signs of inbreeding, as if certain genetic flaws were not glaringly obvious.

Ah, the smell of blogging in the morning!

Best wishes to everyone working so hard to try and make the Awards possible, popular and territorial.

Reading your post [and thin... (Below threshold)

Reading your post [and thinking about the conflict you describe and not your words] only brings my mind to the Bard's Plays:

What do you read, my lord?

Words, words, words.

What is the matter, my lord?

Between who?

I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of
wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
you could go backward.

[Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method
in 't.

and MacBeth:

a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I've often had friends that... (Below threshold)

I've often had friends that don't get along with each other. My method of dealing with them, side with the one not being an immature dickhead. Having only been privy to Laurence's side of the argument I'd say he's being the immature dickhead. But hey, I've only seen one side, you'll know how to handle this best, being privy to all the goings on.

I'll have to take Laurence'... (Below threshold)

I'll have to take Laurence's side on this. Mainly because I want to win the "Dead Pool". ;)

I've discussed this kind of... (Below threshold)

I've discussed this kind of thing before:

One of the many ways Buckminster Fuller's principles were proven to be totally full of crap.

As for your problem, I'd suggest asking Mohammed. I'm sure there's a sura or three that covers such a situation.

This isn't the first tim... (Below threshold)

This isn't the first time I've found myself friends with people who don't get along.

BTDT. One time -- one -- I had one of the parties try to pressure me to take a side, and I informed him/her/it that since both were my friends and I had no other stake in the matter, I wasn't going to take either side.

That appearing not to satisfy that particular friend, I added that whichever one insisted I take a side, was definitely not going to like the side I took.

All three of us remained good friends for quite a while after that.

Jay,I know you wer... (Below threshold)


I know you were heavily influenced by 70’s pop music.

But in truth, loving both of them really isn’t breaking all the rules…

...bearing in mind the clea... (Below threshold)

...bearing in mind the clear impression that this

I recently got an e-mail asking me where I stand...

...came apparently from an otherwise disinterested third party. It's not my intention to suggest that either Kevin or Lair tried to get you to take sides.

It's just for fun, people.<... (Below threshold)

It's just for fun, people.

I'm with McGehee on this on... (Below threshold)

I'm with McGehee on this one. Whenever I've found myself stuck between two friends involved in an (usually idiotic) argument, I tell them to leave me out of it. If one demands I take a stand, I automatically side against that one. If both make the demand, it's "a pox on both your houses" time.

Just lock 'em in a chat room and let them tear each other up (but save a transcript!).

Not to take sides, but if y... (Below threshold)

Not to take sides, but if you get frustrated by this kerfuffle, here's a site that will help you vent (if you don't already know about it):


Admit it, Jay Tea, this is ... (Below threshold)

Admit it, Jay Tea, this is a cheap stunt to get non-geeks to read your geek ship post. Now, if you were posting about FA18s you wouldn't need any stunts.

jmaster - you sir, owe me a... (Below threshold)

jmaster - you sir, owe me a clean monitor and new keyboard... along with some pepto for my nausea..

OneDrummer,Now wha... (Below threshold)


Now what exactly do you find so nauseating about my advice to Jay?

Was it the thought of the haunting melody, and timeless lyrics of the song to which I referred?

Or maybe the homoerotic undertones of some kind of worst case interpretation?

There is NOTHING geeky abou... (Below threshold)

There is NOTHING geeky about declaiming on the virtues of one of the truly underappreciated classes of the USN in WWII, especially in referring to their aesthetic appeal. Any true ahip aficianado will tell you that, even more than in those simpering, gas-guzzling, nasty aircraft *spits*, Looks Matter.

Truly a fine and valiant post; I commend it as a keeper of Neptune's Trident.

And thanks for the earworm song, too. :P






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