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.

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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.

USS S-39 (SS-144)

More press for an S-boat this week. On patrol in the South China Sea, Three-Nine encountered a large convoy of merchantmen. Skirting around its edges, she picked out two likely targets and fired as many torpedoes as she could. She first sank a 3,000 ton maru {aided by the “Combat-Combat” event} and just barely missed sinking a second freighter, damaging it instead.

Unfortunately, her early luck in evading the convoy’s escorts deserted her as she pressed her re-attack on the second target. She was damaged as she tried to withdraw. She escaped though, and is now the oldest boat to sink an enemy.

USS Cachalot (SS-170)

Imagine walking into a casino, picking out a roulette table, and plopping down a little stack on black. The wheel spins... red. Loser. Try it again, on black again. Red, loser. Again:  red, loser. Again, again, again, again. All red, all losses. In total, you go on to bet black eleven times, and eleven times in a row, the ball lands on a red number.

That’s kind of been Cachalot’s war career.  As mentioned earlier, she began the war in Pearl under repair. At the beginning of each turn, she got a repair roll, with a 50% chance of improving her status (i.e., moving from “R3” to “R2”). She failed the first eleven rolls in a row (odds:  1 in 2,048).

This week, our long national nightmare ended. Cachalot passed a repair roll (by 1!) and is now situated in Pearl’s “R2” box! I predict she will pass her next two in row, and hit the fleet by the end of the month!

USS Skipjack (SS-184)

On 16 December, Skipjack earned the distinction of being the first U.S. sub to sink an enemy ship. She was damaged in the aftermath of that attack, and returned to Pearl immediately. She wasn’t able to begin her second war patrol until 29 January. Although she saw combat in the Solomons (and hit a small maru), she was unable to duplicate her earlier success.

Her third war patrol saw her head again for the Solomons—but last week she was redirected to the Bismarck Sea to join the search for a very special target. She came up empty, and this week returned to her intended hunting grounds.

Once there, she encountered a small convoy including the ancient (and very obsolete) “armored cruiser” Izumo, who’d strayed inexplicably far from the safety of home waters. Not questioning her good fortune, Skipjack quickly put multiple torpedoes into the venerable target; it broke in half and sank in minutes. For good measure, the sub put a torpedo into a small freighter in the vicinity; it did not explode.

Skipjack’s victory added 10,000 tons to her score—elevating her war record from the realm of historical curiosity to that of major early contributor.

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The score for the week was three ships sunk for a respectable (thank you, Skipjack!) 16,000 tons. Unfortunately, three subs were damaged in return. For the war, we are sitting on some nice round numbers:  30 and 140,000.

We are also counting the days until the end of the month. Why? Three words.

Gato is coming.

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