Warship Wednesday–Territories and Mission

If you ever wonder just how crazy things got with the end of the Washington Naval Treaty, look no further than the Alaska-class large cruisers.  Unlike the poster (and it’s a lovely series), I’ve never been of the school of thought that the Alaska-class were considered to be battlecruisers.  First, generally the Navy tended to be pretty clear about their designations during the design process in the 1930s-1940s.  This was due to Congress having a nasty habit of shifting around funds.  Second, the Alaska vessels were NEVER intended to get anywhere near a battleline or, for that matter, really stand in a line of battle.  Finally, there’s that problem with the underwater protection.  While not strictly true, in general the pre-World War II USN believed capital ships needed to reinforced against torpedoes and mines, whereas cruisers were more of a “Meh, sucks to be that crew, but we had to figure out something to keep it within treaty limitations.”

In any case, it would be interesting to see what would have happened had these vessels have ended up in a surface fight.  Thankfully the constraints of construction prevented it from happening in time for the Solomon Islands campaign.  That would have been very, very bad, given the Alaskas were not known for their nimbleness and presented a rather large target.  I can see First Guadalcanal being even bloodier with Alaska present, as there would have been probably a few minutes of her punching the crap out of Hiei or Kirishima followed shortly by “I’ve never seen a vessel take so many Long Lances in my life.”

All this means is that the Alaska-class really serve as a cautionary tale regarding hysteria, intelligence, and mission.  They were far from bad ships.  However, they really represent resources that could have been better spent elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the lag between design, resource allocation, and construction meant they developed an inertia of their own.

On the alternate history front, expect to see the Alaska and Guam make an appearance in both the Usurper’s War-series as well as another project.  😀

Warship Wednesday: Fun With Turrets

Thanks to the U.S.S. Iowa for filming this interior of the 16-inch turrets.  In the case of the Iowa and many other late war ships, each gun could elevate and fire independently.  Bonus:  Here is a World War II-era training video.

As an author, as I watched this I realized just how many things could get knocked out by a partial penetration of the armor.  Bombs hitting near the turret would probably cut power cables, shells could jam the turret ring, etc., etc.

I also noted the redundancy in plotting and fire control, something which was not always prevalent in early war / World War I modernized ships.  Although switching positions is going to lead to a degradation of capability, at least redundancy gives the vessel a chance to keep swinging rather than becoming a mission kill.

Warship Wednesday–Carrier Doctrine #1

Interesting thing I discovered about carrier doctrine in writing the Usurper’s War series in general, but definitely with regards to Against the Tide Imperial: The three main carrier navies in our timeline did things very, very differently.

For the early war (as in before late ’44), the unfortunate combination of the RAF being responsible for equipping the Fleet Air Arm from basically 1924 through May 1939 plus European geography did no favors for RN carrier design.  This is not to say that the carriers were “inferior,” as some historians have stated.  No, it’s to say that despite an early lead in developing the type, the RN focused on gunline in basically a littoral setting rather than open ocean combat.  Thus, a RN carrier task force meeting either an IJN or USN force of equal strength in daylight during 1942-1943 would have had problems.  If the numbers were uneven?  Well, not to say “foreshadowing,” but you’ll see my take on things when Tide finally comes out.

As to the Japanese–diagramming out “split deck” strikes by division is a pain in the neck.  There are advantages to it, and some of those are discussed here, once again, in this article.  But man, those disadvantages are killer.  Especially when one has to factor in “Who is the duty carrier?” and whether or not the Tone and Chikuma‘s searchers should be augmented.  As a teaser, I’ll present the strike that gets launched in one Against the Tide Imperial‘s key sequences:

1st Division (Akagi and Kaga)

17 Shiden

15 Suisei

27 Tenzan

2nd Division (Hiryu and Soryu)

21 Zero

16 Suisei

12 Tenzan

3rd Division (Taiho and Shokaku)

20 Suisei

24 Tenzan

Now, in each of these cases, rather than each carrier launching an “alpha strike” of their own group, each division has designated one vessel to provide the fighters / dive bombers, the other the torpedo bombers.  I can only imagine this gets kind of hectic if one doesn’t have the fuel or time to practice it.  It also means _every_ carrier will be launching / recovering aircraft at the same time.  Taken to the next level, suddenly Japanese outcomes at Pearl Harbor (see no third strike), Midway (see returning Midway strike discombobulating ability to react to ship sighting), and Philippine Sea (see lack of strike training due to fuel issues) make a lot more sense.

In the Usurper’s War timeline, this is a pretty hefty strike.  Defending against it, the RN force only has a total of 66 fighters (of which 16 are Sea Hurricanes) on four flight decks.  Given deck handling practices, CAP rotations, and the fact that there’s a rather major intelligence miscommunication that’s coming, they won’t get that many fighters airborne.  How does it turn out?  Well, you’ll know in a few months… 😀

Review of Midway (2019 Film)

I’ve been plugging away on Against the Tide Imperial most of November for Nano. I was amidst the Kido Butai engaging four of the Royal Navy’s carriers in the Indian Ocean when my memory jogged:  I never reviewed Midway despite intending to right after seeing it.  This, folks, is called “Nano-brain,” in which other tasks seem to fall aside as one strives to get to 50,000-words by 30 November.  (As I’ve long been a Nano-rebel, yes, I’m counting this blog post towards my 50k.)

Bottom Line: Go see it.  As in, if you are a Pacific War buff, open a new tab, figure out a show time near you, then go immediately.  This is really a movie you want to see on the big screen, as it’s a visual feast.  I’m not saying see it in IMAX 4-D like I did (all the other show times didn’t line up well for a work night)

Is it accurate?  About 80-90% so, with the discrepancies (e.g., Halsey arriving just as the Lexington is sinking, said carrier being represented as a Yorktown-class due to CGI, etc.) being minor and obviously done in the service of story.  But let me be clear–this is not a Ben Affleck’s Pearl Harbor.  Or put another way, you can see that the historical adviser was front and center versus bound and gagged in the corner.  Indeed, it’s sad to say that Midway did a better job of accurately capturing the Pearl Harbor attack in a matter of minutes than the titular, much maligned movie did.

If you’re saying, “Wait, what?”, understand that this movie attempts to pack everything from 7 December ’41 to 4 June ’42 into the first half.  This goes better than expected and is highly necessary if you take someone who doesn’t know the history, but buffs may get a little annoyed at some shortcuts.  For example, I can’t remember Vice Admiral Fletcher ever actually making an appearance on screen, and Raymond Spruance kinda gets the short shrift.  Similarly slighted? Anyone who flew a Wildcat, Commander John C. Waldron, and the Yorktown‘s squadrons.  However, in exchange DICK BEST finally gets the credit he deserves (albeit with a lot of Hollywood spin), Wade McCluskey is humanized, and the sacrifice of Commander Gene Lindsey (VT-6) also gets front and center treatment.  Finally, you will leave this movie wondering when they’re going to film Doolittle, and not in a bad way.  (Seriously.  The Raiders need their own movie after this.)

Overall, very entertaining and mostly accurate, I’d give Midway 4/5 stars.  Yes, things could have been done better in a lot of ways, but the way they chose was very, very good.

***History discussion incoming***

For those of you who have been following some of the recent scholarship on Midway, the movie folks straddled between what I call the Miracle at Midway and Shattered Sword schools.  (For a brief rundown of the debate, see Parshall, Dickson, and Tully’s article here.  Parshall and Tully wrote the book Shattered Sword, which is a full length treatment of this article.)  I think the producers did it well, as they showed the problems constant attacks had on the Kido Butai.  However, they did have Nagumo well on the way to getting his second strike prepared and ready to spot when the SBDs show up.  This is mostly opposed to Parshall and Tully’s belief that the Kido Butai was probably at least another half hour out from being able to swing at Fletcher/Spruance when the weather forecast became, “Clear, with a 100% chance of Helldivers and 1,000-lb. bombs…”.  Personally, I’m with the movie producers, i.e., no the Japanese decks weren’t full of aircraft but another 20 minutes would have likely been bad news for the USN.  Hmm, maybe someday a person should do an alternate history of Midway…

Speaking of alternate history, Against the Tide Imperial is coming along well.  I’ve greatly benefited from reading the book How Carriers Fought as a refresher course in RN carrier tactics.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing Somerville stayed away from Nagumo in 1942.  Spoiler alert:  Vice Admiral Cunningham does not stay away from Vice Admiral Yamaguchi in Against the Tide Imperial.  So if you’re a fan of carrier battles, keep an eye out for the pre-order link next month.

 

WWII Quick References (NOV 2019)

Figured I’d perchance save loyal readers some gumshoe work down the road if they ever want to do a World War II story:

You can find ONI drawings for World War II references (like for your cartographer to draw ship outlines) here.

This is a good time zone converter for those cases when you go from Hawaii to Mombasa  to Ceylon all in one chapter.

Finally, lunar data for those pesky night Mosquito attacks.

Now, back to the Kido Butai vs.  Her Commonwealth Navy’s Far East Fleet.  Later!

Happy Veteran’s Day Potpourri Post

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated the blog.  I figured I’d hit some of the high points of the last couple of weeks:

Attended the Ozark Book Con down in Fayetteville this past weekend as a vendor.  First year event with all that entails, but had good panels and talks with several good authors.  I recommend attending the event for the professional aspects if you’re in the area.  If you’re coming from out of the town, it’s definitely a “Hey rando friend I haven’t talked to in years, mind if I sleep on your couch?” until it grows some.  Which, given the professionalism and drive on display, I think it definitely will.

On the way back, finally got to meet Acts of War‘s editor, Mary, in person.  In addition to being long overdue, the fact it’s been 5+ years since that book went through her able hands made me marvel at what modern technology makes possible.  Although her current work with medical journals precludes her from working on anything else, I’m glad that a mutual acquaintance said “Hey, I know someone who might be able to help you…” many moons ago.

Speaking of the Usurper’s War series, Against the Tide Imperial continues to move along.  Unfortunately, after getting read the riot act by an author mentor, I’ve had to accept that the Phases of Mars anthologies are 100% my “books for the year.”  Combined with the new day job’s obligations (oh, yeah, I got promoted and changed positions), the process of putting out Those In PerilTo Slip the Surly Bonds, and Trouble in the Wind has pretty much sucked up a lot of available time.  So, rather than put out a substandard product or skimp on marketing, Against the Tide Imperial is slipping to the right again.  The manuscript will get done this year (which means preorders will be up), but the actual _book_ is probably going to be out in 1st Quarter 2020.  *angry author noises*

This dovetails to a professional lesson that I am learning again, but in a different dialect:  Projects are rarely as easy as they may initially seem.  At the beginning of the year, with Those In Peril shooting up the charts, “Suuuure, we can do two more of these this year…” seemed like a good plan.  What I now realize is one can do three books in a year, it just means one probably shouldn’t also do cons and other creative projects if there’s also a fourth book one would like done.  So, for 2020, the lesson will be, “No, I think that timeline doesn’t work for me, thank you…” as I get solo projects back in line.  (Feel free to remind me of this in the comments when my hair is on fire again this time next year.)

In addition, having now done editing three times, I cannot emphasize enough that you should always pay your damn editor.   It’s a whole different animal than writing, and I will issue a blanket, heartfelt mea culpa for some of my past sins to my editors.  In addition, as an author, understand that your editor’s job is to polish up your work.  “Polish” implies that you have done a grammatical read through, researched the technical aspects of the work, and are basically giving the editor a complete story that just needs a set of professional eyes to look upon it.  This goes doubly so for an anthology submission.  Indeed, I’m just going to let John G. Hartness take it away…(language alert…NO REALLY!):

Anyway, it’s Nano (and yes, I’m counting these words), and I’m going back to US CVs about to go to guns with an Italian Fleet.  (Yes, that’s a teaser.)

It’s Time to Get A Little Surly!

To Slip the Surly Bonds has gone live on Amazon.

Cover Art

This was a long time coming, but all the hard work has paid off.  There’s an exclusive Taylor Anderson short story in here, a whole bunch of award-winning authors, a story from your humble narrator involving P-38s on Guadalcanal…yeah, it’s worth the price of admission.

In addition, if your friends like Alternate History, I’m throwing Acts of War up on sale beginning on Saturday (14 SEP) in the US and Sunday (15 SEP) in the UK.

 

 

Back in the Top 100

So it’s been a busy couple of months with the imminent release of Those In Peril and making preparations for next year’s con season.  But, I’m glad to report that Acts of War, the first novel in The Usurper’s War series, is back in the Top 100 for several categories on Amazon.

 

Back in the Top 100

So if you haven’t already given it a shot, feel free to click on the hyperlink above.  If you’d like to check out a sample, there’s one here.  I’ve also broken ground on Against The Tide Imperial and hope to have it done by June of next year.  Anita C. Young is working on the cover as we speak, so I’ll hopefully have that for readers of my newsletter by the start of the year.  Hint:  It involves a SBD Dauntless doing what it did best, i.e., making holes in enemy ships.  If you’re intrigued, sign up for the newsletter here.