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Battleship Artwork - HMS Hood 1937

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:


Out of the Depths - The USS Indianapolis - 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.

13/07/2017 | Nebula Hawk | Web: Out of the Depths - Indy Survivor

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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:


In Harm's Way - The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis - Doug Stanton


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?

27/03/2017 | Nebula Hawk | Web: | Read More: In Harm's Way - Part Two

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The Mighty Hood - Ernle Bradford

At first glance, the most prominent feature of this book (on HMS Hood) - is the fact that it was written, within just a few years of HMS Hood, having been lost:


The Mighty Hood - The Life and Death of the Royal Navy's Proudest Ship


Initially, I felt somewhat apprehensive - as haven been written in 1959, how good could it be? Well ... Whilst it took me a chapter or two, to get into the text, I was so pleased that I did :) For one simple reason: this book on the Mighty Hood, contains a wealth of information, that you just don't find, in other (more modern) Battleship books. A clue lies in the book's subtitle: The Life and Death of the Royal Navy's Proudest Ship. And it is Hood's Life, that the book primarily concentrates on ... And of this Life, is Hood's Empire/World Cruise, one of the most important parts of the book. For it is here, that I started to feel, just something of the values of the Men, and of the importance of Routine (to the men that served on her) ... For a Sailor learns the Ways of the Sea: where to polish, where to knot, where to stand, where to tuck, where to box, where to train - but not after Rum! For a sailor endures the Trails of the Sea: in the sweats of the Tropic, in the freeze of the Arctic, in the storms of the Pacific, in the fogs of the Vikings, in the cheers of the Empire, in the demands of the Bow. As practice makes perfect - and all is not quite :) For a Warship is Alive: foot-steps in her corridors, meals in her galleys, lights in her decks, breathes in her hull, study in her gauges, commands in her Bridge. For a Warship, is the Heart and Soul of her Crew :) And yet, is there no accounting for luck ... As when Hood's fatal blow was struck, did all of it end: her lights and sounds were no more - just silence. The book's handling of this fate, was just as sudden - which left me with a feeling of, how can this be? How can a warship that sailed around the World, be lost in a matter of seconds? How can a warship that was a Legend the World over, suffer such an instant demise? Well ... We shall never know for sure - although the book does hint, at flaws in her design (especially the thinness of her deck armour, compounded by the stresses of her long hull form). In any case, I found several surprises within this book ... First: Was the level of competitiveness, that existed between the sailors of Destroyers/Cruisers, and the sailors of Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood). Destroyer men, seemed to feel that Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood), could not look after themselves - and did not want to be outdone (especially in terms of seamanship), by the crews of Capital Ships (that to them, almost never put to sea!). It is with some irony then, that such Destroyer/Cruiser men, longed to serve on-board HMS Hood :) Second: Was the level of luck encountered (or lack of it!), on the day of Hood's loss, by her Commander - Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland. For all intents and purposes, decisions that Holland took on the day, all appeared to be logical and correct (as of a wise and talented commander) - but without one key ingredient, luck of any kind! An example would be, when he sent his accompanying Destroyers, further North (to seek the Bismarck), only to stumble upon the Bismarck himself (well away from his Destroyers). The irony is, that at every decision he took (even those that were based upon, sound naval value) - luck simply conferred, his advantage away. For example: He had more heavy calibre Naval Guns (eight 15 inch and ten 14 inch), but his manoeuvrers during the night (whilst seeking the Bismarck), meant that he lost much of his Angle of Approach advantage - and as such, could only bring his forward naval guns to bear (four 15 inch from Hood, six 14 inch from Prince of Wales). Third: was the order, in which HMS Hood fired her guns (one barrel from each turret fired, followed by the other barrel, alternating for continuous fire). It's the first time that I'd read, such a specific fact like this, which I feel is a forgotten fact - from the time that this book was written ... Added to this, did I also find another forgotten fact - the fact that Hood, was not a new ship: she had been heavily used, throughout the oceans of the World, and her boilers plus turbines, were no longer capable of propelling her, at her design speed (of over thirty knots). Thus, it may appear obvious, that she was in need of a service - but I'd not thought about this requirement before (preferring instead, to ponder upon, her potential redesign). Overall: this book contrasts the Life of HMS Hood, against the Loss of HMS Hood. Her life was long, for a warship (around twenty-five years). She'd navigated the World. She was known to most (if not all) of the British Empire. She was known to the VIPs (such as Kings and Queens). She was known to the Children (that in peacetime, had both danced and played - upon her decks). She was known to the Sailors (both those that served on her, and those that wanted to). She was Alive - but she was still a warship. Her guns, that had been primarily used in training, were now for war. She was a Legend (known to all), that bore an Achilles Heel (known to few). Her men knew the calibre of her steel, the power of her guns, and the meaning of her flags. For they served a way of Life, that now no longer exists ... Silence: for those that know the Sea, may never walk upon the Land again - our Mighty Hood.

15/01/2017 | Nebula Hawk

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Star Wars - Complete Vehicles

When it comes to a Science Fiction book, that guides you through the Battleships and Starships, of the Star Wars Universe - then there really is no better source of reference, than Star Wars - Complete Vehicles:


Star Wars - Complete Vehicles - Starship drawings and cutaways.


I like the fact that this book, includes large cross-section drawings and cutaways, of the Capital Ships - that make up both the Imperial Navy, and the Rebel Alliance. The artwork is outstanding! In both terms of it's quality, and in terms of it's details - such as showing the inner workings of Capital Ships, Cruisers, Fighters and Assault Craft (including weapon systems, sensor arrays and command/control positions). Each drawing is also accompanied, by a wealth of textural information, that helps you understand just how, these Interstellar Capital Ships - actually function :) I particularly enjoyed, the section on Republic Technology, which explains the combat and manoeuvring systems, of both large Starships, and small Starfighters - including: shields (which deflect incoming laser beams and ballistics), armament (an entire range of futuristic laser cannons and gun turrets, together with conventional missiles and shells), power systems (such as nuclear fission and fusion reactors, which both supply power for weapon systems, shields and life support) and engine systems (such as sub-light Ion Engines, and greater than light-speed Hyperdrives). I also enjoyed the sections, that describe both the Republic's Firepower, and the Imperial Navy's Firepower ... As there's heavy-duty turbo-laser gun turrets, that can punch through both the shields and armour, of enemy Battleships, Starships and Cruisers! And it is these laser gun turrets, that are fitted to the Capital Ships, that are found within this book :) When it comes to the Capital Ships, do I find that they draw my eyes the most (as they are highly detailed behemoths) - and I have three favourite Battleships/Starships ... First: is the Venator Class Star Destroyer. With it's red hull markings, contrasted against it's grey/beige metal hull form, and it's high dorsal ridge (aka conning tower), does this Starship look extremely domineering :) At over eleven hundred meters long, does this Starship also function as an Aircraft Carrier - as it can deploy an entire Fleet of Starfighters and Assault Vessels! Of it's on-board weapon systems, do I especially like the inclusion of it's eight heavy turbo-laser gun turrets - which are used primarily, for broadsides against enemy Starships (in traditional Navy style Fleet Encounters). Second: is the Republic's Home One (Fleet Flagship). Being of an elongated cylindrical shape, do I especially like the concept of size, that's found within this Starship's midship section :) As it's outer decks (of accommodation and personnel), are wrapped around it's internal vitals (of power and atmospheric processing plants) - together with a unique twist, of an internal Paradise Lagoon (recreational area)! Added to this, is the concept of two smaller Spaceships (one large, one small), that can detach from the larger Mothership - and Home One takes on a class, all of her own :) Third: is the Starship Invisible Hand, which having it's cutaway drawing, spread out over four pages (when folded out) - is truly impressive :) Being a long Starship, can you see exactly where her hull form, suffers tremendous breakup stresses - when she ends up passing through, a planetary atmosphere! You can also see, the arrangement of internal bulkheads and frameworks, that support her thickened hull form - together with the large internal hangers, that house the various assault ships/vessels (of the Droids and their Army). A further twist (for me), is the inclusion of emergency air brake panels - which protrude from the sides of her hull form (in a bid to slow her down!). Her hull form also features a conning tower (which I feel is overly tall), together with external communication sensors and masts (which I again feel, are somewhat protruding). What of the smaller Starships and Starfighters? Well ... There's again three, that stand out for me :) First: is the Millennium Falcon, which although I knew she was fast, I didn't know that the reason (that she is fast), is because of her upgraded Ion and Hyperdrive engines! I also didn't know, that she carried military grade, quad laser gun turrets - that are insanely powerful, for a Spaceship of her size :) Even so, I was pleased to see, that I could relate to the logic, of locating her vitals (such as her power core and engineering station), towards the centre of her hull form - where it affords the most protection! I even found myself amused, by the idea of added armour plates (that thicken her hull form), as it seemed to me, that they were added in a somewhat - haphazard fashion :) Second: is the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter (as used by the Rebels). This entry made me laugh, when I read that the X-Wings (quad) laser cannons, operate at the limits of safety - in order to maximise firepower! I was also surprised to learn, that the X-Wing is capable of undertaking Deeper Space Missions by itself - as it incorporates life support systems (for it's pilot), that can last for several days. I also liked the complexity of the X-Wing (upon it's schematic) - which I feel, comes from it's high levels of manoeuvrability (such as it's various thrusters), and the fact that this small Starfighter, also packs a Hyperdrive! Third: The Imperial Tie Bomber. Which I found provided an interesting twist, as it's really a Starbomber (as opposed to a Starfighter) - which is able to precision bomb, both planetary targets (such as military installations), and Starship hull forms. Thus, did I like the fact that the Tie Bomber, augments the already fearsome bombardment capabilities, of the behemoth Capital Ships - such as Star Destroyers :) Overall: this is an amazing Science Fiction book, that contains a wealth of information, on both the Capital Ships (such as Battleships and Starships), and the smaller Spaceships and Starfighters - that are found within, the Star Wars Universe. Added to this, is the books coverage of land based assault vehicles, both the smaller (such as the AT-RT one man walker), and the larger (such as the AT-AT assault force walker) - and you start to gain some idea, of the amount of quality information, that's contained within this book :) I also liked the fact, that this book can be read, in two specific ways ... Either - 1) pick-up and read a random page (as there's so much detail on it, it's just as distracting!). Or - 2) read from cover-to-cover (as this examines the various Starships, in a chronological order, that reflects the sequence - of the Star Wars films). In either case, do I feel that you shall loose many an hour (just like me), pawing over specific Starship drawings and cutaways :)

27/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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HMS Queen Elizabeth

Of all the Royal Navy's Battleships, there are none more highly regarded, than those of the Queen Elizabeth class - and of those, is there none more renowned, than the lead warship herself - HMS Queen Elizabeth:


HMS Queen Elizabeth - with eight fifteen-inch Naval Guns and twenty Dual Purpose four-and-a-half-inch Quick Firing guns.


HMS Queen Elizabeth, was one of five sister battleships, that having been laid down in 1912/1913, became the workhorses of the Royal Navy (throughout both World Wars). In terms of Naval Architecture, is there an important milestone, that is usually accredited to them: that 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! For me, I feel that the Queen Elizabeth, was also the most glamorous (of her sisters) - as she received, the most modifications, throughout her long service life (of thirty-six years). When it comes to the Queen Elizabeth's profile, are there four features, that I particularly liked ... First: Is the arrangement of her primary armament - two naval gun turrets forward, and two naval gun turrets aft. Which for me, has always felt, like it encapsulated, the ideas of balance. And yet, do these ideas of balance, also transfer themselves, to the choice of naval gun calibre. For the Queen Elizabeths, were armed with eight fifteen-inch naval guns, which are believed to have been, the best well balanced guns, within the Royal Navy (of all time). As the fifteen-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 fifteen-inch calibre shell, would not be as successful, as the earlier, thirteen-and-a-half-inch calibre shell, nor as successful, as the much more widespread (and familiar), twelve-inch calibre shell - which had both been fitted, to previous battleship classes. Second: Whilst the earlier profile, 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, really 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 :) Third: Originally, the Queen Elizabeth was armed, with sixteen six-inch (case-mated) secondary naval guns - which were again, at the mercy of turbulent seas! The fact that these six-inch guns, were also intended, with the soul 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 dual purpose four-and-a-half-inch guns - that could target both enemy vessels, and enemy aircraft :) I also liked the fact, that these dual purpose guns, were both enclosed in turrets, and that they were located, at higher levels, above the hull form (e.g. at main deck level), which afforded more usability, in turbulent seas :) Forth: Was the addition of bulges, onto the sides, of the Queen Elizabeth's hull form. Where as earlier battleships, had been coal powered (with the coal providing reasonable levels of dampening, against the shock/power of a torpedo impact/explosion) - there was no such protection, within the Queen Elizabeths (as they were oil fuelled). Thus, did the hull form bulges, provide a layer of protection, against the menace - of the submarine/aircraft launched torpedo :) Despite this, was there one particular modification, to the Queen Elizabeth (and her battleship class), that I was not-so-keen on: their aircraft arrangements. Whilst I understand the logic, of having aircraft launched from a battleship (e.g. a spotter plane), I feel that such modifications, were really too space occupying, and should have been reserved/relegated, to the role of a support ship (such as an accompanying aircraft carrier, or an accompanying destroyer/cruiser - equipped with sonar, for the detection of submerged submarines). Overall: the Queen Elizabeths, were the most heavily used, of all the Royal Navy's battleships. They were present at every major theatre of war, even being useful - when heavily damaged! An example of this, was when HMS Warspite (one of Queen Elizabeth's sisters), was limped into position, to bombard the invasion beaches (of D-Day) - whilst only having six usable, fifteen-inch naval guns. And as for the Queen Elizabeth? Well ... I just loved the fact, that her later modifications, resulted in a truly impressive and imposing - Titan of the Seas :)

20/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Battleship Artwork - HMS Hood 1937