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.
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, 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, 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 :)
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). But, why the requirement for a greater range of 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's three features, that stand out for me ... First: 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! Second: 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). Third: 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, are there two design features (of HMS Dreadnought), that I did not like ... First: was 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 guns (5.44 kilograms). 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, that were used in later Battleship classes, for anti-aircraft arrangements. Thus did 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!). Second: Was 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. Overall: Dreadnought was the first of her kind, who sparked a Naval Arms race (as other countries wanted Dreadnoughts). Even so, there's one particular area, that Dreadnought often receives flak for - and that is, 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, Dreadnought was a step in the right direction, as many of her novel features, made it successfully into - later Battleship classes :)
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 ...
One of my favourite Battleship board games, is of course - Battleships itself! Whether you have a basic manual version, or a fancy electronic version, the game play's the same - to find and sink, your opponent's fleet :)
My Battleships fleet may have been moth-balled for sometime, but that all changed, this weekend! I found myself grinning, as I came across the box, with it's fleet of warships, and it's coloured pegs (red for hit, white for miss). With it's secret plastic case, and it's two dimensional peg boards - why it felt like time, for a skirmish or two :) I've always liked the fact that this game, had five warships in each fleet: one Aircraft Carrier (five slots), one Battleship (four slots), one Destroyer/Cruiser (three slots), one Submarine (three slots) and one Patrol Boat (two slots). Whilst the game has changed little (over the years), one part that had changed, was my choice of opponents: two younger relatives - who knew, they'd sink my fleet! Well now ... With a Battleship's broadside, we setup our boards :) It may have been for an hour, it may have been for an afternoon - but in any case, was I amazed with just how much, I'd forgotten ... Perhaps most paramount, was the importance of keeping your ships board, hidden from your opponent(s) - as I kept forgetting, not-so-secret after-all! Even so, I found myself amazed, by the amount of game-play variation, that can be found within this game - both depending upon your chosen shot strategy, and upon the level of your opponents, perceived luck :) For example, I decided to proceed logically, by shooting into: A1, B2, C3, etc. (i.e. make a big cross and subdivide), whilst my opponents, both tended to fire randomly. There was something of a contrast between these two methods - as I was surprised that random firing, tended to find warships, faster than with my logical approach ... Even so, I was glad to see that the random firing method, still seemed to suffer - when it comes to the two-peg Patrol Boat! Although if your first random shot, just-so-happens to be in the Patrol Boat, well ... Even a Battleship's Commander, may raise an eyebrow at that! In any case, I found it good to compare, each other's boards - at the end of the game. Where-as my first opponent, tended to keep her warships on the outer edges of the board, my second opponent, preferred to keep his warships, towards the centre of the board. I on the other hand, preferred to mix the location of my warships (although never on an outside edge, and avoiding the standard big cross firing layout - where possible). I also seemed to obsess more, about the location of my Battleship, to the location of my Aircraft Carrier - as Battleships were always my favourite form, of Capital Ship! As I would say: Nothing wrong with that :) I also love, the maths side to this game - as your really learning/using 2d coordinates, and for the most part, your not even aware, that your doing this! Mind you, one minor downside, with the standard (non-electronic) version of Battleships, is that it's relatively easy, for your opponents to cheat ... For one of my opponents, kept moving their Battleship about! Weve all done that, havent we? Although from memory, it was much harder to cheat, on electronic Battleships - as the computer knew just where, your Battleships were :) When I asked my opponents, what their favourite warship was (in the game): one said Patrol Boat (their reason being - the hardest to find), and the other said Battleship (their reason being - that their big gunned, and sink your fleet). In any case, I've always enjoyed the mystery that surrounds, both the Destroyer/Cruiser, and the Submarine - as their both three-slot models, that lead to a particular question: which one have I sunk? Although again, with the electronic version, I believe that didn't matter - as it used to tell you (for example: Cruiser sunk!). Overall: a classic Battleship game, that feels as though, it has stood the test of time ... For me, it's secrets lay - in both it's warships, and it's strategy. For others, it's secrets lay - in both it's timeless, and it's fun. Yet in any case, it's secrets lay - in both it's Battleships, and it's pegs! For this game of Battleships, is as much fun now, as it was back then :) And let's be clear, on one simple point: there's no way, you'll sink MY Battleship!