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. 

08 April 2012

Turn 16: On performing suboptimally

1—8 April 1942

So how’s that New Era working out for you?

This will be a record setting entry in the category of “brevity,” because this was a record setting (technically, tying) week in the category of “futility.” Nothing went right.

How bad? Well. Seventeen boats conducted patrols this week—an entirely respectable number. Six of them failed to find targets—a 35% “no contact” rate, where the war-to-date rate had been 17%. The boats who did make contact only managed to generate six attacks (not one but two boats had to abort due to mechanical problems). That’s (coincidentally) a rate of 0.35 attacks per boat on patrol. The wartime rate had been over 1.1 attacks per patrol week. Kind of stunning.

But, how did those attacks fare?

That’s how. They missed.  They all missed.

01 April 2012

Turn 15: The end of the beginning

24—31 March 1942

USS Gato (SS-212)
Perhaps that title is a bit of an overstatement; perhaps not. More on that below.

The fourth month of the war drew to a close with a lukewarm performance. Most notably, The Troublemaker found her groove again. She had a disappointing (and scoreless) third war patrol, but her fourth was brief, violent, and successful. On the 24th, she attacked a large and heavily defended convoy in the Marshalls. She first brought down a 2,000 ton transport, and then an 8,000 ton oiler. In so doing, she has re-established her place alone at the top of the leader board, in both ships (5) and tonnage (24,000) sunk. She is presently heading back to port to rearm.

The total score for the week was 12,000, with USS Permit (SS-178) contributing the remaining 2,000. For the war, we are standing at 188,000—a good, solid total for the end of March.

And with the end of March comes the end of an era—although it might not seem so at first glance.

22 March 2012

Turn 14: Skipjack, again

17—23 March 1942

One of the interesting (occasionally maddening/occasionally thrilling) facets of this game is how wildly variable the weekly results can be. Relatively small swings in “luck” can result in major swings in weekly scores—one roll of a 3 when what you needed was a 2 might cost you half your week’s haul (with the converse being obviously true as well).

Glamour shot!
The variability stems mainly from two facts.  First, you make a large number of low (or very low) odds attacks. You might well take 20 shots, say, but you’re only going to have a reasonable expectation of about three of them resulting in kills. But let’s say you get a little unluckier than you expect, and sink only two targets. That’s only changing one result out of 20 tries—hardly a big deal when you look at it that way—but it’s crushing your yield by 33%!

Second, the tonnage of the individual targets you’re shooting at is itself highly variable. One shot might be at a tiny 1,000 ton freighter, the next at a 10,000 ton oiler, and the next at a 20,000 ton behemoth. If you get your great rolls on the first of those three rather than the third—well, you will be cursing your dice’s lousy sense of the moment and looking at a very different score than what you might very easily have gotten.

To be sure, one expects these things to tend to even themselves out over long periods of time. On average, you’re going to be about average. Over the course of specific turns, though—well, meet my two pals “Feast” and “Famine.” Or maybe I should say meet “Famine,” because “Feast” doesn’t hang around here all that often.

With the foregoing in mind, let us consider this past week.

16 March 2012

Turn 13: Triskaidekaphobia

9—16 March 1942

[For Turn 13, I’d intended to run several boats through their patrols on the auspicious date of 13 March. In the event, I was monumentally sick that day, and couldn’t really sit upright for most of it. How’s that for good luck?]

Since things have been going reasonably well lately, I’m entirely content to stick with my tried and true strategies (or maybe “habits” would be a better word). That is to say: priority one is always to have four top-of-the-line boats patrolling the Marshall Islands every week, with the Aleutians being the first “overflow” destination for boats patrolling out of Pearl Harbor. In the west, the Coral Sea and the southern South China Sea are the main hunting grounds. Older (less capable) boats tend to be sent to the Solomons and the Gilberts, where I willingly trade a higher chance for “no contact” search results for weaker counterattacks.

Sculpin, heading toward the Bay Bridge
Sticking with that general plan paid off with another pretty good week. Twenty boats were on patrol (quite a high number), and they collectively managed to sink five targets. That’s an excellent total—the second highest of the war—but they were, unfortunately, almost all small fry. The lot of them accounted for 19,000 tons. Now, I am not for one second complaining about a 19k turn at this point in the war. On the other hand, there was a lot of oh, what might have been going on this week—ineffective hits and very near misses on juicy targets; that kind of thing. In short, this was a good week that always felt like it was trying to be spectacular—but just couldn’t pull it off.

The star of the week, undoubtedly, was USS Sculpin (SS-191).

06 March 2012

Turn 12: Vignettes from a war

1 — 8 March 1942

No real overarching theme or narrative for this week. Instead, here are glimpses of some of the stories that have unfolded over the first three months of the war.

~ ~ ~

USS Trout (SS-202)

Remember Trout? She kicked off the war for the Silent Service on 7 December by turning up a Diligent Escort as the very first target revealed in the game. She was damaged in the encounter, but escaped with her life—barely. She remained on station near Midway for another week (per orders) but returned to Pearl on Christmas Eve.

She remained there, under repair, through January, and put to sea for the Marshall Islands on her second war patrol on 8 February. That patrol was brief and fruitless; she encountered no enemy shipping and returned to port just ten days later.

She commenced her third war patrol on 26 February, again bound for the Marshalls. Just this week, she was finally able to fire her first torpedoes of the war—and she made them count. In her first encounter with the enemy since being damaged in the opening hours of hostilities, she hit (but failed to damage) one small freighter and then sank a second. It was only a 3,000 ton score, but given Trout’s difficult war career to date, it was a meaningful contribution.

29 February 2012

Turn 11: Codename: “Wounded Bear”

22–28 February 1942

The era of carrier warfare dawned a little earlier in the AL&SWverse than in real life.

The calm:  Lexington, from Yorktown
By that, I mean that the “war event” dice have dictated that the Battle of the Coral Sea occurred this week; 25 February 1942 to be precise (vs. 7/8 May in real life). It is an interesting mental exercise to consider whether a major carrier engagement was remotely possible at this early date in the real world—but we are considering an alternate history here, after all, so let’s just go with it.

As anyone with a passing interest in naval history likely knows, Coral Sea was the first naval battle ever fought where ships of the two opposing sides never saw each other—all of the offense was delivered by carrier-based air power. Two US fleet carriers (USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5)) squared off against two fleet carriers (Shōkaku and Zuikaku) and a light carrier (Shōhō) of the IJN. The carriers exchanged strikes over the course of two days; ultimately, Lexington and Shōhō were fatally wounded, and Yorktown and Shōkaku were seriously damaged. Both sides lost many aircraft (and their crews) and a handful of smaller ships as well. The human toll was about 1,700 men killed.

The storm:  The Lady, in extremis
Most of the sources that I have seen conclude that the battle was a tactical victory for the IJN, but a strategic victory for the US. The destruction of Lexington was a serious blow, but the losses the Japanese sustained in return forced them to abandon their planned invasion of Port Moresby (the battle’s precipitating event). I won’t pretend to be a historian here, so I will recommend Wikipedia’s extensive and well-written article on the battle as an excellent starting point for readers who’d like the explore the topic further.

As mentioned above, Shōkaku came out of the battle significantly worse for the wear. On the second day of strikes, she took three bomb hits, wrecking her flight deck and damaging her bow. Her crew managed to put out the resulting fires, giving her at least a chance to survive to tell the tale. She was, however, still far from home—and her enemies well knew they’d hurt her badly. They codenamed her “Wounded Bear,” and directed all available assets to find and kill her before she could make port.

That task, of course, largely fell to the submarines.

22 February 2012

Turn 10: What exactly is a sargo?

15–21 February 1942

I am not making any of these up.
It’s a . . .

Wait for it . . .

A sargo is a . . .

[Dramatic pause . . .]

. . . .

A fish.  A sargo is a fish.

If Wikipedia is to be believed—and since it’s on the internet, it has to be true—the sargo, or Diplodus sargus, is a small “seabream” native to waters nowhere near America. If certain other sources are to believed, they wear dixie cups and ride fierce, psychedelically colored torpedoes (?) like mighty chariots on the surface of a twilit sea. Huh.

Anyway, the reason we care—beyond our general love and thirst for knowledge on all topics, of course—is that D. sargus was also the namesake of a United States submarine (an entire class of subs, actually) that fought in World War II. And our sargo, or USS Sargo (SS-188) to be precise, has been on an absolute two-week rampage in the Coral Sea.

14 February 2012

Turn 9: All we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant

8–14 February 1942

Will this poster come true in the AL&SWverse?
The mood around ComSubPac’s offices has been decidedly grim for the last few weeks. Scuttlebutt among the staff has it that the admiral (i.e., moi) is under a tremendous amount of pressure from higher brass; the kind of pressure that uncomfortably juxtaposes the concepts of “do better” and “or else.”

And that pressure is understandable. America is fighting a new kind of war—on land, at sea, and in the air; seemingly everywhere on earth at once. And at this early date, it is still scrambling desperately to figure out how to do it. Our natural resources and national wealth are considerable, but certainly not limitless; every ton of steel that is put into new submarine construction is a ton of steel that won’t be available to build a new aircraft carrier, or a new bomber, or a new tank. So, the Silent Service is fighting not just its country’s enemy, but also fighting to demonstrate its basic viability in modern warfare. It has no tradition to fall back on; it can point to precisely zero previous successful submarine campaigns in all of history to bolster its case.

And this simple fact must be acknowledged:  it hasn’t exactly done a great job of it so far. So many near misses. So few emblematic successes. So many boats limping home with scarred hulls and mangled masts—with nothing to show for it. Perhaps—as the sentiment is already beginning to take hold in Washington—perhaps those tons of steel slated for submarines might be put to better use elsewhere. And perhaps you men with the gold and silver dolphin insignia on your chests can better serve by focusing on fishing up downed aviators, by transporting special forces—by, you know, supporting the real warriors.

Do better. Or else.

08 February 2012

Turn 8: Accidents happen

1—7 February 1942

[On board USS Saury (SS-189), 4 February 1942, Marshall Islands Operating Area.]

“That was a hit. That had to be a hit!” The skipper turned from the periscope in disgust as he slammed a fist into his open palm. The massive merchantman he’d been watching so intently plodded serenely away—stubbornly (or obliviously) failing to sink, or even to acknowledge that she’d been under fire.


“I don't know, but I just watched that spread all the way into the side of the fattest maru in the Pacific. There is no way that was a miss! When we get back to Pearl I am marching straight up to ComSubPac and telling him what he can do with these torpedoes.”

The XO was silent for a moment, as the captain tersely gave maneuvering orders that he hoped would allow for another approach, another attack with their obviously flawed weapons. Then: “Are you sure we didn’t set the...”

His thought was cut off by the distant but distinct sound of a torpedo explosion. The two men stared at each other.

“What in hell was that?”

30 January 2012

Turn 7: Thresher vs. Japan

22—31 January 1942

The week got off to a good start, at least, with the repair crews at Pearl and Fremantle both doing excellent work. Six boats were under repair at the end of last week. All except one (the woebegone USS Cachalot (SS-170)) has been returned to active service. Maybe that horrible “damage bug” we had during the early weeks of the war is under control now. Knock on wood.

Not to belabor the negative, but Cachalot’s situation probably warrants some mention. She began the war laid up in Pearl Harbor, finishing an overhaul. Unlike her real-life counterpart—who got underway on her first patrol in the middle of January—my Cachalot has languished in port for the entire war to date. Not only has she failed to return to the fleet, she has failed to so much as make any perceptible progress toward that goal. {In game terms:  she began the war in Pearl’s “R3” box, i.e., the most seriously damaged classification. She has failed every single repair roll so far. That’s seven straight failures, each one of which had a 50% chance of success.}

Making a strong bid to become the blog’s new cover girl...
Repair successes notwithstanding, not many boats were on station to patrol this week—but two who were scored successes. On 24 January, the somewhat (it must be said) inauspiciously named USS Plunger (SS-179) executed a textbook-perfect approach and attack on a 3,000 ton maru. {She rolled a perfect 0-9 for To Hit/Damage; awesome, but I wish I could have saved that roll for a cruiser or something.} The next day, USS Thresher—yes, Thresher—scored her third kill, which also happened to be a 3,000 ton merchant. No one else has a second yet. Causing trouble has evolved for her from being a habit (as I described it earlier) to being a lifestyle. Surprisingly, though, she’s still just in second place on the tonnage list (which further illustrates what a big deal Gudgeon’s success was at the beginning of the month).

Those two kills brought our overall score up to 12 ships sunk for 57,000 tons. That, of course, leaves me needing to bring in another 33,000 to pass the first career milestone at the end of February. What follows is way more analysis than you are likely to want to read about my chances for successfully doing so.

21 January 2012

Turn 6: Back on track?

15—21 January 1942

The dust has more or less settled from the Manila evacuation. All the boats that scrambled out of port made it to Fremantle or Surabaya without significant incident. Additionally, the three boats tasked with evacuating the gold reserves made it safely in as well. (There will not be a little extra in your pay checks this month, though, fellas. Go Navy!) So, in the end, the Fall of Luzon event didn’t really cost us anything other than (precious, precious) time. Going forward, it will be back to business as usual in WestPac—but without the Sword of Damocles hanging over our main base.

Argonaut—a smart ship. Note the guns.
Elsewhere, the fleet got back on track a bit after an extremely disappointing performance last week.  Notably, a pair of old timers got onto the scoreboard (albeit, by taking down very small prey).  First, USS Dolphin (SS-169) brought down a 2,000 ton maru. She held the mantle of “oldest boat to score a kill” for less than 24 hours, as the next night, USS Argonaut (SS-166)—commissioned in the Roaring 20’s — brought down a 1,000 ton target.

Argonaut was an interesting and unique ship. She was designed and built to be a minelayer, with extensive and complicated minelaying gear in place of aft torpedo tubes. {This is definitely reflected in game, as her Attack Value is only 3, as compared to the rating of 6 enjoyed by the state-of-the-art boats at the beginning of the war. It is a minor miracle when a boat with an AV of 3 sinks a target while the Torpedo Value is still −2.} She was also a big girl, the largest U.S. sub built before the advent of the nukes. Finally, if she found herself in a position to use her guns, it wasn’t exactly going to be a slap fight:  she sported two 6-inch/53 cal deck guns. To put that in some context, Thresher (who used her gun to such great effect two weeks ago) and her more modern sisters in the Tambor-class only mounted a single 3-inch/50 cal gun. {This too is reflected in game. If Argonaut lucks into a Surface Gunnery Combat Event, she gets to roll on a much more favorable line on the damage table—great attention to detail, Brien!} I’m not going to say much about her real-world career, right now at least, because I am profoundly superstitious about discussing certain things about real boats while “my” version is still fighting. Astute readers may draw from that conclusions as they may. There were many, many brave men in that war.

14 January 2012

Turn 5: Luzon falls; chaos in WestPac

8 — 14 January 1942

As I observed earlier, the fall of our base in Manila was inevitable—and this week the inevitable happened. The first War Event of the game threw the entire western Pacific into chaos. All boats in port had to evacuate, including the two which had been undergoing minor repairs, and conduct base-to-base movement to our new base in Fremantle or to the newly deployed tender in Surabaya. That’s nine boats doing absolutely nothing useful for the next few weeks, as they transit and refit. At least none of the boats in Manila were so damaged as to require scuttling.

The “Golden Patrol”
Additionally, three boats had to be pulled off station to evacuate the gold reserves of the Philippines. The boats assigned to this special mission were older, so our combat strength wasn’t impacted as much as it could have been. (Not that it ended up mattering much, as discussed below.) In real life, USS Trout famously participated in the gold transfer—she’s pictured to the right with the results of her haul on deck.

Elsewhere, thirteen boats were able to conduct patrols. Not a single one was able to score a kill—so the week amounted to a painful shutout.  Especially frustrating was the fact that two subs damaged their targets, but were unable to finish them off with re-attacks.

The only real silver lining was that, for literally the first time, no boats were damaged this turn—finally, some “Spotted” results started showing up on counterattacks instead. Moreover, the two previously damaged boats that made it in to Pearl this week were quickly repaired and will not be out of action for a significant period.  {I.e., they rolled “Superficial” on the Damage Table.}

I’m starting to feel really nervous about that milestone check coming up at the end of next month. I need to get 53,000 tons in the next six turns. I really need to see some big numbers and soon. A dozen boats are on station to patrol next week. I certainly can’t take another week like this one.

08 January 2012

Turn 4: The torpedoes are now trying to kill us directly

1—7 January 1942

On the night of 5 January, USS Gudgeon (SS-211), underway on her second war patrol, found herself in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands stalking a particularly juicy target:  the ancient (and huge) repair ship Asahi. No escorts were immediately apparent, allowing the skipper to methodically set up a favorable approach. The boat fired a full spread at the lumbering AR, doing everything possible to maximize her chance for success. But something went obviously wrong almost immediately. Instead of “hot, straight, and normal,” one of the fish had other ideas. Rather than streaking out toward the target, its course curved lazily to port—the start of a circular path that put the firing ship itself in danger.

The skipper ordered an emergency dive, hoping to avoid the errant weapon. Seconds crawled by as the unwitting target, the terrified submarine, and the implacable torpedoes traced their paths through the dark waters of the Pacific.