Boat Wars: The Return of the Axis
(Thursday at the 2000 IR/CWCC Nationals)
by Tom Tanner, AP (Axis Press)
BEL AIR, Jul. 20 --- Loyal Axis forces, building on their success in Wednesday's Night Battle, continued their march on the road to victory Thursday, encouraged by rumors of Allied dissension requiring desperate measures by the Allied Admiralty to retain control of the traitorous Austrian-Hungarian (AH) forces.
Early reports of mutiny in the so-called "United Fleet" began to be heard early Thursday morning when it was learned Dave Lawrence, Site Host and captain of a AH VERIBIS UNITIS-class (VU) battleship, began to openly challenge Admiral Fisher, sending a representative to the Allied flagship, HMS VALIANT, late Wednesday night requesting permission to return to the Axis Fleet, claiming "my heart is with the Axis cause."
Confronted with open mutiny Admiral Fisher responded with stunning and calculated swiftness, evidence of which could still be seen today. Most of the AH fleet found that their pay and mail had been released by the Admiral, as well as leave being granted for the captains. The result was AH captains running wild at the pond, with Capt. Frank Pittelli using his leave time to relive his childhood swinging in the lakeside swingset. However, Capt. Lawrence learned that his mail had been "accidentally redirected to the Japanese Fleet." In addition, Capt. Lawrence's representative to the Admiralty was found dead aboard the flagship, reportedly having bled to death after unspecified wounds incurred during Night Battle, but the fact his body was still lying on deck Thursday morning suggests he may have been murdered and left as an example to the rest of the AH Fleet to "toe the line." It didn't work though, as AH Captain Steve "give me coffee" Andrews" made additional demands for coffee and danishs each morning. Adm. Fisher was reportedly "considering the request."
In contrast with the discord in the United Fleet, which saw Capt. Lawrence launch his opening salvo into Adm. Fisher's flagship as a protest against the treatment of his emissary, the Axis Fleet entered the battle in high spirits. With the "Monday Curse" far behind them and their boats working reliably, they looked forward to meeting their foes. In the first sortie, Capt. Ken Kelly's SMS DERFFLINGER and sister-ship SMS HINDENBURG (Capt. Tom Tanner) chased and damaged Capt. Dave Lewis's USS PHEONIX, then went on to harass Capt. Stan Watkins' USS WASHINGTON. At the beginning of the second sortie Capt. Lewis sailed over into the channel behind the island to hide, but was followed by the SMS DERFFLINGER. Unfortunately for Capt. Lewis, he thought it was the SMS HINDENBURG, and seeing Capt. Tanner on the far shore with his view blocked by the island, thought he was safe. He was surprised to see the "HINDENBURG" pull up beside him and begin to pound his ship! Capt. Kelly of the SMS DERFFLINGER had taken station on the opposite side of the channel behind Capt. Lewis and had the pleasure of watching USS PHEONIX (48-10-8 - sink) slip beneath the waves.
During Capt. Lewis' fight for survival, HINDENBURG had returned to fight the Washington, who was now being supported by Capt. Will Montgomery's VU BACON MAKER #2 (17-2-8). Operating close inside, SMS HINDENBURG suffered considerable topside damage from the combination of WASHINGTON's triple sterns and BM2's triple bow guns, but managed to inflict a considerable number of belows (3/4 of his total number of belows for the week) on the WASHINGTON (26-5-12) in the process.
Meanwhile, Capt. Nathan Blattau's IJN YAMATO damaged Capt. Dave Voghtman's USS NORTH CAROLINA (83-11-33) to such an extent the NC declared 5 immediately upon returning for Sortie #2, protected by the AH fleet in the "cradle of love."
Capt. Matt Moury in the SMS VON DER TANN (22-7-13) went after the now abandoned VU of Capt. Lawrence, inflicting massive topside damage (83-3-4). As a result of his damage, Capt. Lawrence hid among the bridge pylons the second sortie, calling "ram" whenever the VDT came close, even if he couldn't see his boat. The irony here is that Capt. Lawrence had proposed rules to outlaw "weenie rams" just a week before, but now thinks they may be acceptable in "certain situations," for example, when he's in trouble.
While operating in the furball close to shore, Captain Ed "I really am a Captain" Shepard's DKM LUTZOW backed into a VU, losing control of his ship for a short time and taking his pump out, resulting in the LUTZOW's loss (11-1-2 - sink) when she beached herself and sank in the 1st sortie.
Axis cries of victory rang out when it was determined that they had outscored the United Fleet by 3000 points, 11180 to 8180. With that, and a good meal in their stomachs, the Axis Fleet prepared for Convoy Battle #2.
To eliminate some of the inequities of Convoy Battle #1, a modification to regular campaign rules was agreed to by both Admirals and the CD. Instead of the normal feeding frenzy centered around the convoy ship, only one attacker and one defender was allowed within ten feet of the convoy ship. This would require good coordination between ships to protect/harass the target the entire way, complicated by the need for the convoy ship to circle the island during it's transit from port to port. As before, targets were set up on opposite sides of the island.
With the United Fleet operating two decent convoy ships (Don Fisher's LST and Marty Hayes' TRAITOR 1) and the Axis weak in this area, the Axis strategy was to hold the line using three teams: 1) Defensive to protect Axis convoy ships; 2) Offensive to attack the enemy convoy; and 3) a group to defend/attack targets and fight where needed. Team 1 consisted of the two DERFFLINGERs, with the SMS DERFFLINGER escorting the convoy ship from port to a point halfway to the island, at which point the SMS HINDENBURG would take over to escort the convoy ship around the island and on it's way to port, along the way being relieved by DERFFLINGER. The first Axis convoy ship to attempt this, Cameron Moury's Italian light aircraft carrier, lost power and was sunk near the bridge, but Kurt Lewis' larger Japanese Maru successfully made a later run.
The Axis offensive team consisted of D.W. Fluegel's SMS BADEN attacking United ships as they exited/entered port, Capt. Cam Moury's SMS NASSAU attacking them while in open water between shore and the island, and Capt. Matt Moury's VDT taking them on around the island. Marty Hayes' TRAITOR 1 easily made the first run, but Don Fisher's LST was not so lucky, Fluegel reporting that it had taken a below from the BADEN early in it's voyage.
By far the most exciting battle involved the second trip of the TRAITOR 1 which occurred with only minutes to go in the battle. After being harassed by AXIS ships all around the island and taking serious damage, Marty thought he had to wait for another 10-15 seconds before his 5 minutes was up and he could return to port. In addition, he was captaining his ship back to the mainland port while he stood on the island 20-25 yards away. As he approached the port, he misjudged the angle and bounced off the outer marker, away from the mouth of the port. Before he could recover from his mistake, TRAITOR 1 listed over, raised her bow, and sank beneath the waves to joyous Axis shouts.
Some of the other action occurred near the targets, where Capt. Orrill Ferguson with the DKM TIRPITZ, Capt. Shepard's LUTZOW, and Capt. Blattau's YAMATO defended the Axis beachhead, losing only 7 of the 20 targets. Capt. Watkins spent some time over there attacking, especially when the LUTZOW went out of control (but survived the battle), then went to defend his own targets for a short time. We don't know who knocked down what, but 10 United Fleet targets went down during the battle, a far cry from Tuesday's near "clean-sweep." In the end, the score ended up being a tie, each side getting 2500 points.
With two wins and a tie in the last three battles and one Fleet Battle to go, the Axis had gained 3000 points and were within 4000 points of victory. Everyone was very excited at the turn the war had taken, and greatly anticipated Fleet Battle #5 coming up on Friday morning.
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