Zuihos day begins at 0200 hours, with her airgroup crews gathering under the red lights, the cramped hanger creaking and groaning from the swell about them. Despite the hours they have worked, this is a new day, another day. Battle may come, it may not. But duty must be done.
The TBDs are attended first.
The chain blocks rattle, and the bombs come up from below, 800 kg eggs, sheening from the oil film that coats them. They are plain, black, almost innocous. No lewd chalk messages for these bombs. They remain all business.
They are manhandled in turn onto the three carts Zuiho has, and these in turn are manhandled under the waiting bombers.
Winches turn, soon they will nestle in place.
The hint of gasoline fumes fills the air, as each precious gallon is pumped into the tanks. The smell will linger as always, despite the great fans beating ceasingly all about them.
Bobing takes 7 minutes, soon each plane.......now tons of silent death, are manhandled to the lift in turn, the bells tingle, and up into the dark they go each in turn.
In less than half an hour, all nine bombers are spotted, crazed shadows in the flight decks subtle hidden lighting.
Crew chiefs climb in, final checks are done, and soon the bellow of engines, the stink of fumes covers the deck.
Our pilots have eaten, weary quiet men. Some have prayed at the small shrine, some have snatched a last smoke.
The bombers will depart soon, the fighters within another hour.
Dawn is still a long way away.
Takeji enters the bridge shortly after the first engine breaks into life.
He takes the forcast. Scattered cloud, 5000 feet. The occasional scattered shower. A stiff southerly breeze, 20 knots.
Good carrier weather.
Mentally, he stocktakes one last time. What have they forgotten?. What will they discover left undone?
But they are ready.
They must be.
'Engine room reports full power available sir"
For the thousandth time, he curses Zuiho bridge, curses his view.
'Flight bridge reports ready to launch sir"
"very good. Revolutions 230!, Port ten. new course 180"
Another day begins for Captain Takeji
Hidaka will fly today.He waits now as the last of his CAP fighters rumbles into the dawn.
12 fighters will remain down, waiting for the dawn.
Around him, Uto, Diogawa, Ogawa.
'Pull up a chair friends. Today might be a good day to be very, very ready"
Another day begins for them.
Action stations is called at 0430, the usual time, the usual routine.
In damage Central, Minobe takes his usual chair, slumps into his usual position, slips into the usual silence
Lurch takes his position, recieves the damage control station reports.
"Ship at state one sir"
And then there is nothing to do. Count his china graph pencils, avoid minobes eyes.
Another day, deep in Zuihos bowels begins.
Hirate reports after repair ready and closed up.
Carefully he selects one of the sweet rolls he stole enroute, wipes the dust of it ( yes, he dropped the bloody thing), begins breakfast.
He sits down carefully, braces against the swell.
Okano orders open the main engine drains, swings the main throttle, watches the Charge come down the hatch into the Port engine room. The nod, and the charge disapears below, undoubtably to fiddle with the 2nd condensate pump govenor replaced last night.
But the bells ring again to 230 revs,.yes, charge picked up on that, the second pump is coming on...........
He rejoins them on the steaming platform, bends to Okano's ear
"I expect it might be another busy day, they were spotting the bombers last i saw"
"Action you think chief?"
The Charge sips a cup of tea, (third claw on the job), shakes his head.
"Doubt it. Just another day I would think"
Zuiho greets the dawn.
Our men are in place
But there is one last player, one who is with us every day.
Sometimes gentle, sometimes carprious, sometimes beautiful.
The sea slides past, grey and white capped this dawn.
Always there, always implacable.