Tuesday, December 6, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Playtest Session 8

Last session ended with the Coelocanth two days southwest of the Bonins, with one Mark 14 reload forward and four Mark 10 fish left in the aft tubes. This session picked up where the last session left off, and veered quickly into Hollywood Thriller-land.

The Skipper ordered a course change towards Chichi-jima, on a hunch that small convoys might be using the harbor there as a stop-over on the way to and from Japan and the Marianas. Chichi-jima itself was protected by a big radar station - where Lt. j.g. George H. W. Bush would later earn the DFC as an aviator from the San Jacinto - and it was mostly avoided by subs. during the first night of the transit, RADAR picked up a small, single target dead ahead. The Skipper ordered the speed increased to catch up, and soon the OOD caught sight of the target, a submarine on the surface heading directly away from the Coelocanth, towards Chichi-jima.

In the moonlight, the OOD swore he saw a swastika on the conning tower fairwater of the sub ahead when the Skipper joined him on the bridge. Observing the boat, and making no effort to shoot or catch up, the Skipper confirmed this, and noted she also had a net cutter - a serrated, angled steel beam propped up on the rear end by two support beams - on the bow. A German U-boat, either out of the Indian Ocean, or all the way from the Atlantic, was right in front of them.

In spite of the fact that a single torpedo from the U-boat's stern tubes could easily sink the Coelocanth, the Skipper decided to follow the U-boat to wherever it led, a very dangerous course of action. The U-boat gave no sign that she knew she was being followed, and continued on course, as the Skipper ordered two large tasks from the crew - one from the Engineer, and one from the men. The Coelocanth was just in sight of the U-Boat in the darkness, and directly behind it, where the U-boats hydrophones could not hear her due to the sound of her own screws.

The Coelocanth followed the U-boat through the next day - both submerged, with the Coelocanth tracking the U-boat by hydrophones - and night. Still, the U-boat gave no sign of noticing her shadow - a series of really terrible rolls by the GM compounded by the night penalties and the inability to hear behind her - until the U-boat began transmitting just west of Chichi-jima a couple hours before dawn.

The Skipper was expecting this, and had the Signals Officer, Mr. Bullock, search the radio spectrum to find any plain language transmissions on low power. Mr. Bullock found the transmissions, and the Skipper listened in. Besides being fluent in Japanese, the Skipper was also fluent in German and Italian - the son of peripatetic linguists who taught all over the globe before the war, including Germany and Japan, and spoke many languages. The conversation was in German, and brief. After trading codewords, the sub was to await an escort into Chichi-jima's harbor just west of the island at dawn.

When the transmission ended, the Skipper ordered the Coelocanth to turn sideways to the U-boat, so that both the 5 inch gun on the fore deck and the 4 inch gun aft would bear. He then gave the order to the Weapons Officer, Mr. Mongomery, in front, and Mr. Bullock on the 4 inch gun, to fire. The two guns fired at the same time, both shells hitting the U-boat at the same moment, obliterating it.

The Skipper then ordered his two surprises - a false net cutter fashioned by the engineer to be mounted in the bow, and his new Kriegsmarine uniform and flag to be brought up from below. While he dressed, the flag was run up the SD RADAR mast. Lt. Wiggins was sent out to paint a swastika on the side of the fairwater - on his own, without orders, he painted over the Coelocanth's collection of Japanese Asahi and meatball flags, denoting her kills. Good thing that! It might be misunderstood by the Japanese! Wiggins was an artist in his spare time, and did a superb job with the painting.

The skipper was gambling that the Japanese could not tell an American sub from a U-boat after erecting the false net cutter. This was not an unreasonable gamble - Germany was half a world away, and had many different modles of submarine, like the Japanese, and US subs were almost never seen in broad daylight, and the form follows function of a sub's shape was pretty universal. Still, it was a hugely dangerous gamble perched on a knife-edge - but that was typical of the Skipper. In any case, at dawn, the Coelocanth in Kriegsmarine drag met a Japanese destroyer just west of Chichi-jima.

The Captain of the destroyer took the appearance of the Coelocanth in stride, and shouted "Follow me!" to the Skipper through a bullhorn. The destroyer preceeded the sub past a corvette and into the horn-shaped harbor of Chichi-jima. The destroyer anchored in the southern, wider part of the horn, while three small Japan-bound tankers huddled together in the sharp nothern tip. As the Coelocanth followed, the destroyer let down a small boat, which putted over to the sub, a junior officer guiding it. The Skipper, with Mr. Bullock in jeans and t-shirt beside him, left in the boat, and came onto the destroyer to meet with the Captain.

The conversation was in German, which the Captain pronounced badly and with a thick accent, and of which Mr. Bullock knew next to nothing. "You have the mercury?" asked the Captain. "Ja" replied the Skipper, thinking 'It's atill on the U-boat, under the ocean'. "And for me?" "We will load the mercury, then transfer the uranium when that is out of the way." state the Captain.

The Skipper knew he was in trouble. It only made sense to transfer the mercury first, as the sub had far less space to stow stuff than a destroyer. The Skipper bent on all his charm, and used Convince to argue that it would be simpler for him to load the uranium first, as the sub was so very delicately balanced. The Skipper won the argument and went back to the boat to bring her alongside the destroyer. The uranium was transferred in lead lined boxes, then the sub swung around and shot the destroyer with the single torpedo in her bow tube, and simultaneously fired three torpedoes at the tankers sinking one and damaging another.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! the Coelocanth sped away toward the harbor mouth as the stricken destroyer tried to rush to battle stations and fire her guns. The Skipper fired her last torpedo in the aft tubes, and the destroyer went down in two pieces. The little corvette came on at the sub, but Mr. Montgomery at the 5 inch gun forward put two shells into his hull and sank him. The boat dove right outside the harbor mouth to avoid planes swarming up from the airfield, and headed for Pearl, all torpedoes expended.


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