We ran the third of our playtest sessions Saturday, in spite of Mother Nature. Klaxon telecommutes for the sessions from Orlando via Skype on my iPad, which normally works out very well, but the nor'easter knocked out the internet connection halfway into the game. Luckily, one of the players had a phone with free nights and weekends, so we propped it up in the center of the table, and Klax was with us audio only the rest of the night.
We started out where we had ended last session, with the sobering news of Pearl Harbor, and the notice that we were to exercise unrestricted warfare on Japan. The Skipper decided to try and trace the convoy that had left the night before, and the officers threw in their guesses as to the destination. It could have been to the west to the Dutch East Indies, south to Australia, or north east to the Philippines. The gang decided that the Philippines was the most likely, as the convoy left the encircling reef of Palau through the northern exit. The Thresher went in pursuit.
Not yet having surface search (SJ) RADAR, the Thresher depended on visual and auditory clues, and the lookouts finally sighted smoke in the late afternoon. Catching up with the convoy as night was falling, the Skipper decided to go in on the surface at night. There were six marus in the convoy, three each in two columns, along with six escorts of various types. They were running a simple zig pattern. The skipper ordered the Thresher up the port side of the convoy until it got ahead of the flanking escorts.
It being peacetime when the sub left, the Thresher was loaded with ten old Mark 10 steam torpedoes, one in each of the six bow and four stern tubes, and eight practice fish, with dummy warheads weighted with water, four in each torpedo room. The skipper ordered three bow and two stern tubes loaded with dummy fish, all in the even tubes - that is tubes 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.
The Thresher then turned into the convoy, firing tubes 2, 4, and 6 right across the bows of the leading port escort. Immediately, the skipper ordered a hard left, and the sub raced across the front of the convoy. The escorts, as planned, bit on the bait and sounded the alarm, and the marus immediately zigged to the right. Meanwhile the crew in the forward torpedo room were busy reloading tunes 2, 4, and 6 with live fish. The port column was led by a 4500 ton tanker, followed by a big, fast troopship of about 10,000 tons. The skipper fired tubes 1 and 3 at the tanker, then sent torpedo 5 into the troopship. All three torpedoes ran hot, straight, and normal, and exploded with a satisfying whump. The tanker burst into flame and began sinking immediately, but the troopship was just slowed by the hit.
Unbeknownst to the Thresher, there was an escort out front of the convoy, who saw the Thresher against the flames of the tanker. He immediately cut in and raced toward the sub. The Officer of the Deck saw the escort, and informed the captain, who ran straight away through a gap in the starboard column. As the escort turned in towards the sub, the skipper fired tubes 7 and 9 at the escort. Torpedo 7 hit his port bow and blew his front end off, his screws driving him into the waves within a minute. Thresher then dove.
With tubes 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9 loaded with live fish, the Thresher surfaced half an hour later, having evaded the remaining escorts, and began another end run to catch up with the convoy. They did not find it, but did find the slowed, wounded troopship, with two escorts. The Thresher made another surface run, this time from the Starboard side, and planted fish 2, 4, and 6 into his side. The troopship, her keel broken, folded up into a V shape, and began sinking.
The Japs had set a trap for Thresher, though. As the two escorts began rescue operations, a third, unseen escort suddenly roared in from the night. Watching the troopship sink, the bridge crew might have been caught with their pants down, but the Signals officer caught the fast screws coming in and alerted the skipper. Once again, he turned away and dove, lining up a shot down the throat of the new escort as he went. with a satisfying WHANG! torpedo 9 hit, and the escort just exploded. The Thresher swam away, surfaced, and headed for Pearl. A nervous AAC pilot bombed them as they were on their way in to port, but the bombs missed. The crew were very rattled by this, and by the devastation at Pearl, where rescue parties used cutting torches to try and find any last possible survivors on the wrecks in the harbor, or at least to locate the bodies.
Once back at Pearl, the Thresher was refitted while the men took liberty. the Skipper learned that his Japanese friends had been rounded up and relocated, forcibly, to a camp on Maui. Lt. Jerkin, the XO, got stinking drunk before he even got to his room. Lt. Montgomery goes to see his girlfriend, and finds she has been seeing another man, an Army Air Corps pilot. The Skipper and the Lieutenants run into her and her new boyfriend at a nightclub, and a general brawl almost erupted, but the Skipper takes charge and defuses it. Before that, though, Lt. Bullock found the pilot who had bombed them as they came in - "An' after we sank ten Jap ships an' four escorts, too!" - publicly shaming him.
Lt. Montgomery finds his girl had heard of a sub being blown up at Cavite in the Philippines, and assumed it was his boat, not being very bright. Then she met her new boyfriend, who helped her get over her despair. She tells Will that she will share time between the two of them, as she couldn't bear to see either of them hurt, and Will's turn will be tomorrow. The Skipper announces he is going over to Maui to see his friends, and Mr. Tambeaux and Mr. Bullock volunteer to accompany him. Will Montgomery and Mr. Jerkin will stay behind at Pearl, each for his own reasons.