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The Old Girl's New Tricks, Part IV

OK, now we get to the action!

Chapter 16

As the freighters unloaded, Blythe strode to the portside gangway. There was a small boat speeding up to the Arkansas, presumably with Halsey's message, and Blythe was not going to wait to find out what that message was -- and who was delivering it.

He was slightly disappointed to see the first -- and only -- man to bound up the ladder was a young lieutenant, a duffel over his shoulder and an attache case in his other hand. At the top, he smartly saluted the ensign on the stern, and then snapped another to Blythe. "Lt. Tripp reporting, sir, on behalf of Admiral Halsey. Permission to come aboard, sir?"

Blythe returned the salute. "Permission granted. I presume you have our orders?"

"Yes, sir."

"Come with me, Lieutenant. I presume you're going with us?"

"Yes, sir, if that's all right with you."

"I think you'll like your accomodations. We had no idea who we were receiving, so we prepared the Admiral's quarters. Enjoy them, but don't get too used to them."

After Tripp dropped his duffel off in his cabin, they walked to the ward room. There, he handed Blythe a sealed envelope and stepped back. "Admiral Halsey ordered me to answer any more questions you might have, but he was very detailed."

Blythe opened the note.

Will, we have reports from several coast watchers that the Japs are sending their own convoy to Guadalcanal to reinforce their forces on the island. It's skipping the slot, running along the northern edge of the Solomons. You and your destroyers are to proceed due north, passing between Savo and Florida Islands, then cruise along the northern shore of Santa Isabel Island. You should intercept the convoy by 1800 hours. If you haven't made contact by 2100 hours, withdraw due east at flank speed until sunrise, then circle back to Noumea to avoid Jap subs and aircraft.

The escorting force is believed to consist of at least four destroyers and three cruisers, covering at least eight transports and freighters. If that force gets through, at best it would prolong the battle for months. At worst, it could cost us the island. Those ships must be sunk or turned back at all costs.

I wish I could give you more support, but word came through too late to get any other ships up there. You're all that stands between victory and defeat on Guadalcanal. I know you'll do me proud and give 'em Hell, Will.

Bill Halsey

Captain Blythe finished reading the note aloud to his stunned officers. "Lieutenant, I trust those coast watcher reports were verified?"

"As best we could, sir. There were at least three reports, timed to be consistent with a convoy moving at 12 knots along the course described."

"And the escorts -- any details about them?"

"One report said they looked like heavy cruisers, and the Jap cruisers are damned good -- in a lot of ways, better than ours. For one, they carry torpedoes. For another, they work. They work very well indeed."

"And we're looking to meet them around dusk, aboard a battleship with no radar."

"To make it even worse, the Japs are probably the best in the world at night fighting. The other night was the first time they didn't seriously kick our ass -- but they still took out a light cruiser and three cans, and worked over one other destroyer and shot up the
South Dakota.The Washington was damned good, but also damned lucky when she put that Kongo on the bottom."

"What about submarines and aircraft? How much do we have to worry about them?"

"Admiral Halsey's ordered all US subs to stay out of that area, so any subs we sight will be hostile. He's also ordered some long-range fighter patrols to try to keep the Japs away. But it looks like the Japs are trying to pull this on the QT, so they won't be diverting any covering forces out of concern they'd be drawing attention to the convoy. If we find them, they'll probably yell for help, but we'll have at least some time before they can get there."

Blythe sighed. "No radar, no aircraft, just visual sighting and surface ships against surface ships. We've gone back to the Great War." Then he chuckled wryly. "Which is oddly appropriate, considering we're on a ship built before the War."

Foster spoke up. "Sir, we have the destroyers, and they have radar..."

"True enough. Not as good as ours was, because at least ours was mounted considerably higher up, but it should be good for something. Put the
Bates off our port bow, the Fleming on the starboard bow, and the Hamm to our stern -- that'll give us good all-around radar coverage."

His officers nodded.

"All right, everyone report to your duty stations. We have a convoy to raid. Let's show the Japs how it's done, shall we?"

Chapter 17

The bows of the Arkansas and her consorts cleaved the waters of Iron Bottom Sound. In the battleship's ward room, the usual suspects were joined by Lt. Tripp and Commanders Aspin, Cohen, and Perry -- the captains of the three destroyers. Captain Blythe knew that time was of the essence, but decided that getting the three men aboard the flagship -- and back to their own commands -- to plan out the upcoming battle was worth the delay. Besides, his crew hadn't had a chance to play with the bosun's chairs in some time.

"All right, gentlemen. Jap heavy cruisers. What do we know about them?"

Almost as one, they all turned expectantly to Lt. Tripp. Blythe smiled. "It appears you have the floor, Mr. Tripp. You're the only one here actually assigned to the Pacific, plus you're assigned to Admiral Halsey's staff -- and I personally knows what he demands of his men. Tell us all you know about what we are going up against."

Tripp stood, the sweat already beading on his brow. "Well, sirs, we don't know which cruisers they're sending..."

"True enough. But give us the broad strokes."

"Yes, sir. The Japs haven't built any new heavy cruisers in almost a decade, but the ones they have are pretty damned good. They're fast and very well armed. They can all go faster than 33 knots, so we can't outrun them."

Blythe wryly interrupted. "Just as well, Mr. Tripp, as I have no intention of running away. But that also means that they can run away from us, and we can't catch them."

"Yes, sir. They can do almost double our speed. And they're very well armed. The Jap 8-inch gun is roughly equal to ours. It's got a range of about 30,000 yards, and each ship carries between six and ten guns, depending on the class."

Blythe turned to Mr. Rose. "You're our gunnery expert. How much can those guns hurt us?"

Rose considered the question. "Not much. Most of our armor can shrug it off. The belt, main turrets, magazines, machinery, conning tower, and deck should be safe. They can cause us problems on the ends, mess up the superstructure, and take out our secondaries if they get lucky, but for the most part they're not much of a danger."

Blythe nodded. "Good to know. Go on, Mr. Tripp."

"Well, sirs, they also carry torpedoes. Eight to sixteen tubes, split evenly port and starboard. We hear they might even carry reloads. And..." he paused.

Blythe could tell Tripp was uncomfortable. "Sounds like you want to say something that's off the record, son. Go ahead, out with it."

Tripp swallowed. "Well, sir, the official position is that the Jap torpedoes are pretty much like ours -- maybe a little more reliable, as ours seem to have some problems, but nothing special."

"You say that like you don't agree with that assessment, son."

"Well, there are rumors and completely unconfirmed reports that their torpedoes -- at least the ones on their cruisers and destroyers -- have a "super-torpedo" that can travel over 30,000 yards and has almost half a ton of warhead. We've been in a few fights where our ships got torpedoed while the Japs were theoretically out of range. The official story is that subs got in close during the fight, fired the torps, and then disappeared without ever being seen, but some folks are thinking that a super-torpedo makes more sense than subs that appear just long enough to sink our ships, then disappear again."

Blythe considered the matter for a moment. "No matter what he hear or believe or think, we won't be backing down from this fight, so you aren't scaring us off, Mr. Tripp. And 'be careful and keep an eye out' is good general advice, so make a note to watch for torpedoes -- or Japs looking like they're firing torpedoes -- from the instant we first see 'em." He paused to look around the room balefully. "And I trust no one here will make official note of Mr. Tripp being the source of our caution -- which he gave under extreme duress."

Tripp couldn't help himself; he let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, sir." Then, after drawing a deep breath, he continued.

"The Japs are also the masters of night fighting. They train like hell for it, and they are pretty much the best in the world."
"So those are their strengths. How about their weaknesses, Mr. Tripp?"

"They're well armored, but not against 12" guns. Your shells should go right through them without any problems. I'd recommend using your high explosive rounds, and hold back on the armor-piercing. They've also had weight problems -- too heavy in general, and too top-heavy in particular. That can affect their maneuverability a bit."

Blythe took it all in. "So, that's what they can do. With all that, what might they do?"

Tripp again spoke up. "Sir, I read your reports on convoy escorts. I think you nailed it -- they're warriors, not hunters. I think it's a pretty safe bet that as soon as we show up, they'll forget all about the transports and charge right at us. And they'll want to get close enough for torpedoes -- they'll know their guns won't be enough."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. Tripp. And if they do that, we should keep in mind that our mission is not to take out the warships, but sink or drive off those transports. To that end, if we cripple one of theirs, then it's off the board enough -- we don't need to return to Noumea with a broom tied to our mast." The men chuckled at the thought. It was a submarine tradition -- the broom indicating that the vessel had "swept the seas" -- and wasn't the sort of thing a battleship did."

"Here's my plan, gentlemen: we'll run up the coast of Santa Isabel, about ten miles offshore. The Arkansas' radar is down, so we go in with the Fleming and the Bates about 2,000 yards ahead of us, 4,000 yards apart. The Hamm will be about 4,000 yards to our stern, keeping any surprises off our back door. The instant Fleming or Hamm pick up the Japs on radar, you send out notice."

"At that point, you two will go charging in for a torpedo attack. If it's getting towards dark, fire off some star shells to put them on the spot. The Arkansas will swing to port, getting some sea room and unmasking our aft battery. Between us opening fire at max range and you two charging in, that ought to get their attention. That will leave the Hamm to go to flank speed, skim in close to the shoreline, and charge up on their flank -- hopefully, losing themselves in the island and confusion."

"From what I've read about the Japs, they'll detach their destroyers to confront the Fleming and Bates, and their cruisers to go after the Arkansas. They just might not see the Hamm until she's close enough to ruin their whole day with torps or gunfire." He paused to feign tipping his hat to Commander Aspin. "Captain's discretion, of course. Hell, you might even get to take on the transports without any cover."

"The Arkansas will engage any cruisers at maximum range, using the new high explosive rounds we took aboard from the Diamond Huckster. Once the cruisers are accounted for, or we run out, will we switch to any of the old Common rounds we still might have aboard."

Foster spoke up. "I'd also recommend we put up extra lookouts. It will be risky to them, but they might give us extra warning about incoming torpedoes. That's the real threat."

"Risky indeed, Mr. Foster. They'll be wide open to Jap guns." He paused. "All right, but volunteers only. A lookout who's only there because he's been ordered, with incoming shells, will be more interested in finding cover than in looking out for torpedo wakes. They'll most likely end up on the lee side, keeping our backs safe from the threat from the front." Foster jotted down the answer. "Anything else?"

Rose spoke up. "What about sending up the float planes for recon and spotting?"

Lt. Dwire, the head of the ship's aviation detachment, reluctantly spoke up. "That could be a problem. Both my planes are down with mechanical problems. One of 'em blew an oil seal and seized the entire engine. The other has cracked the attachment for the main float. We could probably swap the engine off the second bird into the first one, but that's a full day's job."

Captain Blythe immediately headed off any potential criticism of Dwire. "I've already expressed my displeasure to Mr. Dwire, and he has convinced me that there was little to foresee either problem. But it is still damned inconvenient. Anything else, gentlemen?"

There was silence.
"Very well. Captains, thank you for coming aboard. Mr. Rose, inform the destroyers that they can begin coming alongside to collect their skippers. Everyone else, get rady for battle. We'll go to General Quarters once we're north of Santa Isabel, and maintain it until further notice." He then paused to catch each man's eyes briefly. "And let's never forget that there are many thousand Marines on Guadalcanal right now depending on us to stop those transports. If those Japs get through, it's going to be very, very bad for them. They don't even know it, but they're depending on us to stop those Japs. And this group will not let them down -- no matter what the price."

Blythe had been considering whether to spell out just what that price could be. He finally decided to put it as bluntly as possible. "In fact, every single one of our ships is considered expendable tonight. If we all go down with all hands, but we stop the Japs from getting through, we will have won."

There was no mistaking that. And every single man got even more somber.

Blythe realized he needed to break the mood a little. "But I have a better idea, gentlemen -- let's put them on the bottom instead."

Chapter 18

It was getting on in the afternoon. The sun was approaching the top of Santa Isabel, and the Arkansas was casting a lengthening shadow across the waters stretching west. Since she was surrounded by destroyers with radar, Captain Blythe had let his lookouts relax a bit -- he knew he was taking a risk on trusting the destroyers so much, but he calculated that once the battle started, he'd need his lookouts at their best.

According to his orders, he shouldn't intercept the Jap convoy for at least another two hours. But those reports had been sketchy at best, and he didn't put his full faith in them. They could meet the Japs any minute -- or not at all.

Either way, he'd be ready. And so would his ship. The Arkansas might be well past her retirement date, but she still had plenty of fight left in her. And her crew was downright spoiling for a chance to show what she -- and they -- could do.

"Captain! Signal from the Bates!" Many ships, consistent with a Jap convoy, heading right this way!"

The moment had arrived -- presuming it wasn't a radar glitch. They'd lost their own radar to just such a problem, and it wouldn't surprise Blythe if something similar was happening to the destroyers. But Blythe not only couldn't take the chance, but his ship could always stand a bit of practice. "Signal for confirmation. Sound general quarters, all hands to battle stations. Stand by for surface engagement."

There was a long wait. Several minutes passed, and the tension mounted.

"Sir, signal from the
Fleming! They confirm the contact! Estimate four destroyers, four cruisers, and ten transports dead ahead, range 22,000 yards from their position, speed 12 knots!"

Blythe felt an eerie calm settle upon him, the type he'd only felt in the most realistic exercises and drills before. "Sparks, order the task force to carry out Plan Ozarks. And alert the crew -- this is no drill."

Ahead, the destroyers surged to flank speed, like hunting hounds freed from the leash. Behind, the Alfonso Hamm also firewalled its throttles -- but also doused her running lights and turned to port. It wasn't night yet, but she still might lose herself in the shadows of Santa Isabel. And it was time for the Arkansas to play her role in the fight.

Blythe settled back in his chair and closed his eyes. This had disoriented his bridge crew at first -- it seemed odd that their skipper would try to take a nap during combat -- but they soon learned that he had a plotting table in his head that was far more accurate than any they could lay out for him. Time and time again they had seen him pull off the most sophisticated maneuvers and tactics without once opening his eyes, just sitting there demanding information and barking orders.

"Current course and speed?"

"Bearing 297 degrees, speed fifteen knots."

"Excellent. Engine room, make turns for seventeen knots. Notify me the instant we have visuals on the enemy cruisers."

The old girl groaned and strained as her screws bit harder into the waters of the Pacific. Designed for 21 knots originally, now she could barely reach 19. Long moments passed as the destroyers grew smaller in the distance.

"Sir, lookouts report four Jap cruisers on the horizon!"

"Excellent, Mr. Rose. Designate them from our port to starboard as Able, Baker, Charlie, and Dog. And let me know when we have ideas on their courses, bearings, and speed."

It took a couple more minutes until that could be clearer. The cruisers were ignoring the American destroyers, leaving them up to their own tin cans, and focusing on the Arkansas. Baker and Charlie were coming straight for her, while Able and Dog were swinging wide.

Blythe could see several advantages for that tactic. Fortunately, he had anticipated it. "Helm, bring us about to course 330, right standard rudder. Fire control, have each director start working on solutions as soon as they have visuals on the cruisers. Director One will target Dog, Director Two Charlie, and Director Three Baker. Have a couple of lookouts keep an eye on Able for now."

As the
Arkansas swung starboard, she listed slightly to port. "Sir, the Fleming has more information. They report the cruisers are four Takao-class heavies, and confirm they're coming after us. They also say they're engaging four Jap destroyers."

Blythe nodded. "Mr. Tripp, Takao-class. Give me details."

Tripp stepped up. This was familiar territory for him, and he'd refined the art of presenting critical information in clear and concise form. "About ten years old. Ten ten-inch guns, twin mounts, laid out like a
Brooklyn's main battery. Sixteen torpedo tubes, two quad mounts on each beam. Speed just over 30 knots. Insufficient armor to resist our main guns. Main guns can mess us up a bit, but not likely to be a major problem. Biggest threat are the torpedoes."

Blythe nodded. "Duly noted, Mr. Tripp. Mr. Rose, what's the word on our firing solutions?

Rose spoke up. "Director One has a solution on Dog. Director Two is working it, and Director Three just got unmasked and now has clear sight."

That made sense. One and Two were on the fore part of the ship, while Three was aft. "Have all guns slaved to Director Two. Charlie will be our first target. As soon as all guns are ready and have a solution, they are to open fire."

Lt. Tripp couldn't contain himself. So far, Captain Blythe had done nothing that he'd expected. "Sir, may I ask a few questions?"

Blythe kept his eyes closed. "I estimate we have at least one minute before we can open fire, Mr. Tripp. Make it quick."

"Sir, why aren't we going at flank speed and and using full rudder? Isn't that standard procedure in combat?"

"Several reasons. First, it's still early in the fight -- I want to keep something in reserve. Second, the old girl is tired and wearing out. If we push her too hard, we could strip a gear or jam the rudder."

"I see. And why are we targeting Charlie first? Isn't Dog the more immediate danger, from torpedoes?"

"Most likely. But Charlie's coming right at us, with Baker alongside. Any misses on Charlie might hit Baker. Plus, she's closer -- I want the best odds for our first war shots."

Rose interrupted the brief lesson. "Sir, Director Two says it has the solution on Charlie, and five mounts report ready."

"Five mounts?"

"Turret Five reports mechanical trouble, and needs another minute to be ready."

"We can't wait. Ten guns will have to do. Fire!"

And for the first time in her long career, the Arkansas fired her main guns in anger, at an enemy ship.

Chapter 19

"Clean miss, sir! Spotters report 10 splashes!"

Captain Blythe nodded slowly. "As expected. I know our gunners are good, but a first-salvo hit would be nothing short of miraculous. Continue firing."

"Sir, spotters report the Japs are firing!"

"I need more than that, Mr. Rose. Which ships?"

There was a brief pause. "Baker and Charlie, sir!"

Blythe nodded again. "As expected. Anything on Able or Dog?"

Rose checked. "No, sir, continuing as before."

"So we have eight guns between the two ships, firing 8" shells, while we're tossing back 10 -- soon 12 -- 12" shells back. I rather like those odds."

The Arkansas shuddered again as the main guns fired their second salvo. "That felt slightly more substantive, Mr. Foster. I presume Turret Five is back online?"

"Yes, sir. The gun captain sends his apologies."

"No need; it probably saved us a couple of shells. But make note of what wrong; I'd rather it not happen again."

Just then large spouts of water erupted well ahead of the Arkansas. "Sir, the Japs first salvo just fell well short -- at least a couple of thousand yards."

"Good, Mr. Rose. And our second salvo should be arriving at any moment."

Rose couldn't contain himself. "Sir, spotters report at least two hits on Charlie! They counted nine splashes and two direct hits! We got the range!"

"Excellent, Mr. Rose. Continue firing."

Just then the
Arkansas was soaked by a large splash. "Sir, the Japs have found the range! Four rounds, closest barely a hundred yards to port!"

"Calm down, Mr. Rose. Even if they find the range, their guns can't do much to this old girl. And you say four rounds? I suspect we rattled Charlie even more than we hoped."

The Arkansas shuddered as she hurled her third salvo at the enemy. Over 10,000 pounds of steel and explosives flung themselves through the evening sky. Far below, Captain Blythe thought he heard the faint crash of shattering dishware. Apparently not everything was battened down as well as it should have been.

Commander Rose tried to contain himself. "At least three more hits on Charlie, sir. We've definitely got the range. She's seems to be slowing slightly and... oh my God!"

Blythe let a bit of iron and fire put a razor edge in his voice. This was the voice, the tone he'd spent years developing that cut through all distractions and diversions and put the fear of God into the target. "Report, Mr. Rose."

It had its hoped-for effect. He shook his head briefly. "Sir, Charlie is gone. A massive explosion. We must have caught her in a magazine or torpedo mount."

Blythe allowed a slight smile to turn up the edges of his mouth. "Excellent. Order Director Three to take over the main guns and open fire on Baker. Director Two is to copy the solution and take over firing as soon as it is confirmed. Once Director Two has the guns, Director Three will switch to Able. Director One, keep lock on Dog; we'll get to him soon enough."

It was a complicated shuffle, but Blythe had his reasons. Once the directors settled on their targets, each would be matched up with the enemy cruiser that corresponded with its location.

Blythe, though, had already moved past the cruisers for a moment. "Mr. Foster, what's the word from the destroyers?"

"One moment, sir." He spoke into a headset, then relayed the answer. "Sir, not good. The Bates reports that the Fleming took at least one torpedo and exploded, and the Bates has had her stern blown off. They report, though, that one Jap can is sinking, another is dead in the water, and a third is on fire -- but it and number four are charging in for a torpedo attack on us."

Well, that wasn't excellent. The destroyers had been outnumbered, but they had more than held their weight. Blythe had whittled down the odds from four cruisers to three, but now two destroyers had stepped in to take its place. He really didn't like those odds -- especially since the Navy, in its infinite wisdom, had deigned to land most of Arkansas' secondary guns. They'd have come in quite handy against destroyers, and all he had were three five-inch guns on each beam, along with several smaller guns intended to take on aircraft. "Keep me posted on those destroyers, Mr. Foster. Mr. Rose, what's the status from Director Three?"

"Sir, they report a good solution on Baker, and all guns report ready. Just waiting for your order to fire.

The damned fools! The middle of combat was no time to stick to proper protocol. The men in the Director should have fired the instant they had the solution and control of the guns. Blythe bit back a curse and opened his mouth to give the order to fire when


Chapter 20

The echoes of the impact were still resounding through the bridge when Blythe shouted out. "Give me status of all main guns!"

Rose shook his head to clear the cobwebs, then confirmed the signals. "Turret three is unresponsive, all others report still ready."

Blythe swore. Turret three was paired with four, positioned forward and above the silent mount. "Order turret four to stand down. Turrets one, two, five, and six fire!" He couldn't take the chance that whatever had silenced turret three might be made worse -- possibly catastrophically worse -- by turret four firing.

The eight guns roared, and almost 7,000 pounds of steel hurtled out towards the Jap cruiser designated "Baker." Blythe then turned his attention to his own ship. "Damage report!"

Foster had been busy. "Two hits, sir. One hit high on the armored belt, no real damage. The other landed on the top of turret three. The catapult's wrecked and we have some splinter damage to the stack, but the turret reports they're ready for action -- but their ears are ringing like hell."

Blythe was relieved that was all it was. The turret could withstand the shell, but the crew inside must have felt like they were in a giant bell. No wonder they took a moment to recover.

Rose then spoke up. "Clean miss on all eight shots, sir. Director Three says the hits threw off their solution, but they've corrected for it."

"Excellent. Resume firing with all guns at their discretion. Mr. Rose, make sure that they understand they are not to wait for orders."

"Aye-aye, sir."

The Arkansas shuddered as all twelve of her main guns roared, and another 10,440 pounds of full broadside went hurling off towards the enemy. In his mind, Blythe could almost see the cruiser's Rising Sun silhouetted against the setting sun, and gave himself a brief moment to appreciate the symbolism. He then added tears and tatters to the proud Imperial Japanese Navy banner he'd constructed, and smiled.

Back to business. The Arkansas was clearly ahead on points in this fight, having sunk one cruiser at the cost of two almost meaningless hits, but there were still three heavy cruisers and two destroyers charging at them. Not good odds at all. "Mr. Foster, status update on all enemy ships."

"Sir, Able is swinging in slightly, closing the range. Baker's still charging in almost head-on. Dog's also tightening in their arc. And the destroyers -- I've designated them Easy and Fox -- are cutting in between Able and Baker."

That was helpful, but didn't give him the details he needed. "Give me range, heading, bearing, and speed on each of them, Mr. Foster." It took a moment, but Blythe was able to fill in the plotting board inside his mind. The destroyers were behind the cruisers, but closing. In the meantime, two more salvoes went arcing out towards Baker.

Time to shake things up, Blythe decided. The Arkansas had been holding a nice, steady course since the beginning of the battle. The Japs had had more than enough time to come up with gunnery and torpedo solutions, so why not throw them a curveball?

"Helm, confirm our current heading is 025 degrees and speed 17 knots."

"Confirmed, sir."

"Let's screw with the Japs a bit. Engines to flank speed, right full rudder. Bring us about to 270 degrees."

Rose was thrown off at the 245-degree turn. "Right rudder, sir? That's the long way around to that course."

"Are you in any great rush to get closer to the enemy, Mr. Rose? I'm not. I'd like to keep them as far back as possible."

"Sorry, sir. Aye-aye. Flank speed, right full rudder."

Foster then shouted from his station. "Sir, lookouts report Dog is opening fire, and at least two more solid hits on Baker!"

And just then the Arkansas shuddered from at least three more hits. On paper, she was immune to any real harm from the Japanese 8" shells. But the men who had drawn up those papers were nowhere to be found today, and Blythe had heard stories about the impossible happening several times in this war. The Hood being sunk by a single shell from the Bismarck. A single bomb going down the stack of the Arizona and utterly destroying her in a massive explosion. He couldn't prevent that entirely, but he could do all he could to minimize it.

Author's note: yes, I know no bomb went down the Arizona's stack at Pearl Harbor. But that particular myth wasn't debunked until after the war, so Blythe is simply echoing the conventional wisdom of the time.


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Comments (5)

Mr. Tea,The Arkans... (Below threshold)

Mr. Tea,

The Arkansas is doing a corkscrew kabuki - right in front of all the Japanese combatants. Meanwhile, the Hamm is driving in to give the reach around to the naked enemy transports. As Captain Blythe would say, ..."Excellent!"

Semper Fidelis-

Mr. Tea,Nice setup... (Below threshold)

Mr. Tea,

Nice setup putting the meeting engagement at dusk... where the Japanese Fleet advantage at night is mitigated.

Historically, the Washington and South Dakota tried the inshore route along Guadalcanal in their night meeting engagements and didn't have room to maneuver; they and their supporting task force got tagged by repeated torpedo salvoes. Much better to have sea room... which is where you put the Arkansas. You covered these historical surface engagements, which happened just days before in your story, without getting to much into it.... so a nice historical lessons learned tactical touch there... transposing it into your story.

I can see the next event coming a mile off... Long Lance!

Semper Fidelis-

Good work, Jay. Out of cur... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Good work, Jay. Out of curiosity, how many rewrites did it take to get you here? I love punching out material, but I hate




Mr. Tea,The lack o... (Below threshold)

Mr. Tea,

The lack of US air cover in your story is believable, as the Kongo and her escorts had just plastered Henderson two nights before. It would take a while to reconstitute the air strip; and the burning and smoking Kongo had temporarily breached (to keep from sinking) on the East side of Salvo Island during the night after the Naval engagement.

At dawn the next morning she opened up on Henderson again (her forward batteries were within easy range). She only got off a few salvos though, before she was finally put down... the last rounds coming just moments before she slipped below the waves. The Japanese really did want to fight to the death.

All four Imperial Takao heavy cruisers are engaging the Arkansas? Yes. Picked the best from their Order-of-Battle I see. Thats a lot of firepower. As I recall them cruisers had two spot planes each. But who really knows, the Arkansas didn't use theirs either, so I guess things even out.

As I have commented on before, Japanese tactics stank... so you have em historically pegged...and knowing what one's enemy will do and how they will react is a good chunk of any fight. The setting place of your engagement is known after all... as "Iron Bottom Sound."

As an fellow student of this kinda history, I can appreciate the research effort you have put into making your story come alive. Good job and well done, Jay.

Semper Fidelis-

Jay,details aside...... (Below threshold)
rain of lead:

details aside........
you just plain write a compelling story
it's fun reading your work

keep it up






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Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

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In Memorium: HughS

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