Message From A Former Allied Rookie

I Remember

I remember when it happened, when I knew I was on the wrong side of the war. It was in the opening days of the Great War of '97, though like most wars it was just a continuation of the last one. The same prejudices, the same issues, many of the same antagonists, just the place had changed. And I was there...

I'd joined the Allies just after the last one, the Ninety-Sixer, mainly because of my grandfather. An old war-horse himself, I'd learned a lot about war and battle and what men need to know to survive. I learned about duty, honor, and how to have respect for a gallant foe, even one that had lost.

I'd seen war before this, a little skirmish that happened to occur near my home. I went to see, curiosity filling me, and what I saw, from the safety of the sidelines that Fall of '96 in the Northeast, was impressive. How little did I know it was all a game, those two days of comradery and fun, nothing like the real battles I'd see later. But I enjoyed watching, and dreamed of being in the game. My Grandfather, still alive at the time but his time short, was from Massachusetts, and the Allies dear to my heart for they had to be better than the Axis, didn't they?? They had won in '96, and if they had won, their cause must have been just. So I worked and toiled and from the shores of Annapolis rose a new vessel of war, the South Dakota class super-dreadnought USS Massachusetts.

But even then I knew something was wrong. I was finding that the best source of information and assistance in my task was being provided by the local squadron of the Axis Fleet, the Maryland Attack Group or MAG for short. They told me about tactics and gun placement and damage control. Usually my queries to the Allied fleet on these subjects seemed to be vague and not quite forth-coming. I felt out of the loop. But I figured that it would all be corrected when I actually met the fleet, when we fought together in the just cause of defeating the Axis threat we knew was rising. I watched as the monster Yamato class battlewagons, each mounting six guns, two pumps and faster than my supposed "super-dreadnought" were created. I saw them practice in preparation for the coming war, even had an accidental encounter with a Axis squadron while I was running un-armed on engineering trials that I was lucky to survive (thankfully I was still running a little fast at that point). It made me think, maybe I'm on the right side after all. Then came the war.

I was at an intelligence posting on that first day, far from the scene of the confrontation. I missed the trials and the meetings of that fateful Sunday in July, arriving late in the evening. I immediately began the final preparations I knew were necessary for the fighting that would begin in the morning. I met some fellow allies, who seemed nice enough but didn't know me (or did, and that I was a member of MAG from an area deep in Axis territory), referring my questions of tactics and strategy for next day's battle to the Admiral. When I found him early Monday morning he was immersed in the preparations for the day ahead and could spare me no time. I later learned, however, that I had been assigned to a four ship squadron. The war started.

The battles raged back and forth across the lake, mighty warships inflicting deadly punishment upon one another. I don't remember many of the details but I do remember this - I liked it. We pressed our attack, bolstered by a 3:2 advantage in ships, probably more in actual number of guns on the water. The Axis fell back to the opposite shore of the lake to regroup. And I noticed something then. The Axis, though being pushed back, were having fun. They taunted us, cajoled us, goaded us into bringing the fight to them. We worried about conserving our ships. And we hesitated. We had the numbers to crush them, but the powers that be held our forces back, refused to use our advantage to finish the job, concerned they would lose too many points. I was there to fight, to bring the battle to the enemy, to bring Armageddon on those opposed to me. I ordered "Full Steam Ahead" and charged across the no-man's land that separated the two fleets, confident that my brothers-in-arms would follow. Then I knew I was on the wrong side...

As I steamed into that furball I was surprised by two events, the actions of the fleets. I was cheered by my enemies even as they surged forth for actually having the courage to fight, meanwhile my erstwhile "allies" cried for me to return, waiting on their side of the lake with their mighty armada, not willing to risk a fight on less than favorable terms. I knew then I was on the wrong side. For the true warrior, it is not so much the fight that is important, but how he fights. My grandfather taught me that, too. And the Allies were lacking something that day.

That was when I knew I was on the wrong side.

Tom Tanner
Former CO, USS Massachusetts
Current CO, SMS Hindenburg