This wave of fighters –16 strong, seek just one thing, to drag the fighters away from the B17’s thundering in overhead.
Nearly 30 zeros swarm into them –and it becomes stunningly clear that the brewsters are no match, the little demons a bit more nimble –but neither good enough.
The killing begins…………
Po Nashiguchi has the worst of it – he nips in behind a Brewster –dead in behind –squeezes the trigger –and just two rounds get away before the guns jam.
He does not curse, does not panic –flipping his bird inverted, he drops away from the furball.
Leveling out – and suddenly the world is full of crashing black bangs, the rattle of shrapnel –the excited seamen on the invasion ships are taking no chances –if it flies –shoot at it.
Gritting teeth now, he swings around , hard, seeking home.
He needs to land, needs to get the gun unjammed –needs to fight.
He joins circuit, turns in, lines up the lights, begins to descend on to the little deck.
Below, in the Port Boiler room, Okano has gotten the pressure back under control, he signals the sprayer puncher to “pull a half” –reducing the firing rate slightly –and freezes in shock.
THERE IS NO WATER LEVEL SHOWING IN THE BOILER!
Oh my GOD! –for how long!
Instinct takes over
He screams it –a yell to be heard over the screaming whine of the blowers “Loss of water!, pulling fires!”
Without hesitation, he pulls the fuel emergency trip –and even as he does, his sprayer punchers are racing to the back of the boiler, to the main stop, to the blower throttles, his water tender killing the feed pump , securing his systems
Hidaka momentarily turns his eyes away from the bombers approaching overhead – watching carefully Nashiguchi’s approach –and then he feels it –the rumble below, the sound of blowers out of synch, and again the smoke begins to bellow out from the stack –and , there is no mistaking it –the abrupt slowing down of Zuiho’s race through the ocean.
‘bridge one engine! –loss of port forward boiler –water casualty –reducing revolutions port shaft to 230!”
“OOW -watch your helm – don’t let her swing!”
“OH you little cow” Hasegawa thinks ‘your timing cannot be better’
But the old man shows no panic, no fear. In fact, he flashes the helmsman a smile – ‘A challenge for your skills no?’
Encouraged, the seaman doubles his efforts.
He won’t let her deviate an inch –not a bloody inch.
Strangely enough –as the B17’s release the strings of eggs so far overhead – he will be the only man on Zuiho who will feel no fear – everything concentrated on keeping the course.
The B17’s –have, of course – simply brushed aside the swarming zeros and now unleash their deadly load.
But they will pay a price, turning away, two will separate slightly, and the massed fire will be come individual defence –inadequate it will turn out – Ryujos men will take down both the wayward bombers.
For Nashiguchi, one second his path is perfect, the next, he is wildly overshooting –and he panics –chopping the throttle, and she drops hard, misses the last cable –he bounces –and sanity regains control –slamming the throttle forward, she skids, floats over the starboard side, scattering gunners everywhere –and somehow, some how, he keeps her flying………..
The bombs scream down –at Haranua –and she vanishes in a mountain of erupting water – and emerges unscathed.
And suddenly, the raid is gone.
Nashiguchi tries again, gets down.
Zuiho continues to race over the ocean, but not nearly as fast now,.
“Port engine bridge”
“Port engine –charge speaking”
“Captain wishes to know if it was a real water loss –or just your gauge glass?”
“Inform Command please I must assume for real. Recommend sir, we change the glass now –the boiler is now secured”
a long pause ‘wait”
The charge changes the channel on the comms –“Port Boiler, Charge – get the spare gauge glass to the top plates, get ready to go –I think we will have to do this quick”
‘Where are the bombers Hidaka?’
Hidaka consults his flight chart – most bombers will be reaching limit of search sir – most have 4 hours fuel left –at most”
‘we can still recover?
‘yes –but I can’t launch a loaded bomber on a calm day like this on three boilers sir”
‘Alright – recover as usual.” Hasegawa watches the last patch of wreckage pass by –unknown grave of another brave Dutchman…..”I think they have shot the bolt”
The work will be brutal
100 percent humidity.
Bolts – 1 and a quarter inch thick –all torqued up to incredible Kn
The replacement glass – the quickest way to tackle this – they will replace the entire unit –can barely be lifted by 4 men - is manhandled to the platform.
The Charge himself –climbs to the boiler room roof – here temperatures are simply insane –temperatures he simply ignores – up here –as he struggles with the block and tackle that simply must be rigged – he does not have to worry about sweat in the eyes –it will evaporate well before it even can bead on his brow.
It takes an hour to get the old glass of – 30 minutes to lift the new –20 to sit the new gaskets –get this misaligned –disaster! – 15 to insert the new bolts.
Bodies will break –men will stumble away –gasping for breath in the superheated air –stumble to the vents, drink (and sometimes vomit), and then, bodies broken to the indomitable spirit –will return to the work –to replace the next man who has collapsed
The Charge remains –he does not do the work – he could never insult his men by presuming he could do it better . But it is inconceivable to be anywhere else..
This is the most difficult , this inserting the bolts–everything is still red hot –peel your skin hot – to the touch
Yet some of the work is as delicate as flower pressing…………
It takes another hour to tighten the bolts –remove the tackle –and – every heart in every throat – to open the cocks to the pressure that remains in the boiler.
It does not leak.
There is no celebration, no slapping of hands –too much has been achieved for such stupid empty gestures –the real victory lies in the simple words.
‘repairs complete –‘ permission to light of 1A boiler”
‘Will we be online in 40 minutes Minobe?”
‘Sir, I apologise it took so long –but yes –we will be 100% in 20 mintes”
Loemadjang lies in Japanese hands. Already 23 flot fighters are staging in.
All of Zuiho’s birds are home, her pilots exhausted –yet exalting in the action of the day.
Hasegawa turns Zuiho for Palua – his magazines empty
The Army, 3 divisions strong is ashore with out loss.
So far, the happy phoenix remains the little ship that could.
From the Captains LOG
Regret no entry for January third – frantic day –D day
Lost first Kate –op loss yesterday.
Continuous operations from this force kept enemy at bay –and invasion fleet untouched. I am impressed indeed bypower of flight deck.
Ship today suffered critical engineering casualty to a boiler during critical operations.
Repairs totally unsatisfactory –taking too long –and I cannot believe initial casualty could not have been avoided.
My faith in senior ranks engineering department severely dented today.
Jan 3rd – operations loss –one Kate
Continous Cap –no action
PO Okura –Kate pilot – credited with a single PT boat kill while on search pattern over Soerabaya
Heavy combat by all fighter pilots today.
7 kills claimed by this ship – 5 brewsters, 2 demons.
Nil losses, one zero damaged.
From the Diary of the Charge
Failure of gauge glass 1A boiler.
Well done men of one boiler, outsides crew. Repairs rapid and successful.
Ship attacked today –but apparently they missed by miles!