11 June 2012

[Place holder]

Not dead yet! (Not by a longshot.)

I have been buried lately by real life stuff. Onset of summer, maybe? Whatever the reason, AL&SW has gotten a little bit behind for the first (but undoubtedly, not the last) time. All is well, though, so stay tuned...

30 May 2012

Turn 22: Barriers and milestones

16—24 May 1942

A straightforward, and reasonably successful week.

Higher command {i.e., the War Event table} directed the force to execute a barrier mission in and around the Straits of Makassar and Malacca—choke points on trade routes extremely vital to the Empire. Four boats were in position to take up this duty: USS Tambor (SS-198) and Shark (SS-174) came in from the east, while USS Sargo (SS-188) and Pickerel (SS-177) moved from their previously assigned patrol areas to the west. The combination of operations in restricted waters and the region’s high importance made the subs’ mission unusually dangerous. Three of the four boats were spotted at some point in the process, but all avoided significant mishap. Only Sargo conducted a successful hunt. On the night of the 21st, she brought down a 5,000 ton oiler, and weathered a vicious depth charging in return. She escaped unharmed, and is en route back to base to re-arm.

Elsewhere in the fleet, two other boats each sank 5,000 ton cargo ships. USS Flying Fish (SS-229) continued her excellent maiden patrol; after only three weeks, she is tied for seventh place on the tonnage leader board. The third boat to score this week, USS Seadragon (SS-194), is one of the subs with whom the Fish is tied.

Only one boat was damaged this week, and that did not come in combat. Early in her patrol in the Solomons, USS Seal (SS-183) suffered a major engineering casualty—her third bout of significant engine distress thus far in the war. (Somewhat paradoxically, she holds the record for longest war patrol.) Ops staff is urging that Seal replace one of the boats scheduled for major refit later this year.

Three kills for 15,000 brought the wartime total to 224,000 tons. That is enough to meet the end-of-May career longevity milestone—with a whole week to spare! [/sarcasm] The next is 360,000, due three months hence.

16 May 2012

Turn 21: Average (finally)

8—15 May 1942

Finally, for the first time since the end of March, we’ve had a non-lousy week. Hooray mediocrity!

In fairness, it would be difficult to
incorporate a torpedo into the design
and have it not look phallic.
USS Sculpin (SS-191) scored again. Patrolling in the Marshall Islands on the 13th, she encountered a moderately-sized task force. Carefully avoiding the escorts, she set up a difficult attack on what she believed to be a small carrier. She missed it, and that main target escaped—but one of the fish in the spread wandered on to find the side of a 3,000 ton transport nearby. It detonated, sinking the non-target target. It was the second “accidental” kill of the war, and the fourth enemy ship sunk by Sculpin. She now sits atop the tonnage leader board, with a total of 26,000.

Also of note, two days before Sculpin’s encounter and not far away, USS Flying Fish (SS-229) brought down a 5,000 ton oiler. Objectively, it was a modest score; but given our performance of late, 5k felt like a gigantic victory. It was also heartening to see a Drum-class boat with an early success—the Fish only entered the theater at the beginning of this month.

Two other boats sank small targets, bringing the total for the week to 13,000 tons. Again: hooray mediocrity! Having finally passed the 200k milestone, we are standing at 209,000 for the war. We need 11k more by the end of the month. Eleven thousand in two turns seems like a small enough matter—but (again) given our recent performance, I presume nothing.

07 May 2012

Turn 20: Hail and farewell

1—7 May 1942
Streak breaker

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat (and then never speak of it again): the wretched, incomprehensible scoreless streak that swallowed April whole is over, finally over. USS Saury (SS-189) ended it on 5 May by bringing down a 3,000 ton merchant in the Solomons. It was Saury’s second kill (but her first on purpose).

Saury’s victory was the first for the service since 24 March, 42 long days ago. (But who’s counting?) During that streak, the service conducted 80 sub-weeks worth of patrols, made a total of 71 attacks, and saw six submarines damaged and one lost. (That last point bears repeating. Number of enemy sunk in April: 0; number of subs lost: 1.) It was, to say the least, a mind-boggling experience. It showed me in a quite tangible way that incredibly unlikely is not the same as impossible.

It also might well end up costing me the game. The May career longevity milestone looms; a month ago, it looked like we’d make it in a walkover. Now...? Let’s just say that operations this month will be fraught with interest.

01 May 2012

Turn 19: Loss

22—30 April 1942

By late April ’42 in the real world, the U.S. had lost five submarines in the Pacific. In that regard, at least, we have been very, very lucky.

The sub school Color Guard at the WWII National
Submarine Memorial East
Two of those five sub casualties were claimed in combat at sea, one was scuttled after being bombed in port, and two others were lost to mishaps that were not directly combat related. In contrast, going into the final week of April, only a single AL&SW boat had been lost—and that, all the way back in December, when the war was less than a full week old. We’ve had a few close calls, to be sure. But 60 boats have sailed in the Pacific Fleet, and after 18 weeks of sustained and intense combat operations, 59 of them remained in commission. A remarkable run. But this wretched month wasn’t finished with us just yet.

On 22 April, a land-based bomber surprised USS Thresher (SS-200) on the surface in the Marshall Islands operating area, two days after she’d embarked upon her fifth war patrol. The big American fleet boats were not quick divers, making the sudden appearance of enemy aircraft a constant worry. The Japanese plane dropped a string of bombs on the crash diving sub. One was a direct hit, or near enough: the sub’s pressure hull was fatally breached just aft of her conning tower. The sea poured through the wound as, for one last time, The Troublemaker slipped beneath the calm surface of the Pacific.

Her life and career were brief but spectacular. Thresher went down as unquestionably the service’s top performer. Just five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she made the first American attack on a Japanese capital ship. She (wildly) missed a heavy cruiser, but (after narrowly avoiding disaster in the ensuing counterattack) she doggedly lined up a second attack on the same target—only to miss (wildly) again. Three weeks later she scored her first kill, sinking a target by gunfire (the only sub yet to do so). That put her in an early tie atop the leader board for number of ships sunk; she would never in her life relinquish that spot. Her war ended with five enemy ships sunk, totaling 24,000 tons.

On a personal note, Thresher’s loss affected me more than anything, good or bad, that I can ever remember happening in a game. It’s silly how emotionally invested we can get in these things, isn’t it? (Or maybe that’s just me, and my sentimental streak showing through.)

22 April 2012

21 April 2012

Turn 18: 0-for-60

16—21 April 1942

 You know what I don’t want to talk about right now? The submarine war in the Pacific.

So let’s take a look at what’s going on back on the home front. Mid-April, 1942. Despite the worldwide conflagration, the ’42 Major League Baseball season is underway, and has just finished up its opening week. The Yankees are off to a hot start at 5-2. DiMaggio went 3-for-4 today in a lopsided victory against the Philadelphia A’s, bringing his season average up to a somewhat mortal .286. The Red Sox are tied atop the standings with the Yanks, despite a blowout loss to the Senators yesterday. Teddy Ballgame took an 0-for-3, but it only brought his average down to .375. Closer to the author’s home, the (significantly less legendary) Reds are 2-4, having just been crushed by Stan Musial’s Cardinals.

On the entertainment front, Glenn Miller has extended his stranglehold on the #1 spot on the Billboard singles chart with “Moonlight Cocktail.” Listen to it (above); perhaps not Miller’s absolute greatest, but perfectly lovely, perfectly evocative. And in context, perfectly heartbreaking.

So I guess that’s about it for the week—oh, wait. Yeah. Silent War. There’s that.

15 April 2012

Turn 17: There seems to be something wrong with our submarines this month

9—15 April 1942

All of a sudden, we are...not doing well.

“The early, desperate days of the war—when it seemed doubtful that any success could be achieved—are gone. They won’t be back.”
— Me.
 “Just average luck should result in a pretty good week.”
— Also me.

Hatsuzuki. These guys are having a much better April
than my guys.
Where to begin? How about the first combat encounter for a Next Gen sub. That’s historically significant, right? It turned out to be USS Gato (SS-212) herself who saw the first fighting for her class. Patrolling in the Coral Sea, she encountered a very small group of ships that turned out to be a smallish (5,000 ton) oiler, escorted by three destroyers. Which was...unfortunate. She managed to get off only a single low-odds shot (which she almost made) before being damaged herself in the counterattack. Hardly an auspicious start to our New Era.