Oil, fuel, resources. These are what this war is about. The siezing of them, the carting of them, the converting of them to weapons of war. That is the great picture.
But today, refuelling day, its closer, more personel than that
The tankers have hauled over the horizon, 12 of them, deep, heavily loaded. Welcomed friends every one. The most eagerly hunted ships in the war. But here they are, and they bring something Abe has not had for many months now, freedom of action.
The tankers break into three columns, and the fleets begin the task
Zuiho will take her turn near midday.
She has done this now so many times in this war, yet, (and if you like, you can skip to the next post and the war) it needs repeating, just how unique this proceedure is, just what effort is involved.
It has begun early in the morning, well before dawn. The double bottoms team has visited the boiler rooms, the engine rooms, and unerringly aligned the valve chests, the transfer pumps. Fuel, tons and tons of it, has moved unhidden through out Zuiho's length, topping up the main tanks, emptying others. The trick to fuelling, you see, is to have as few tanks to fill as you can.
Being a carrier, and a carrier operating aircraft today, one also has had to consider the most vital thing, 'Dont let a truking list develop!"
Hidaka hates stokers as it is.don't let the arrogant little turd give us yet another reason to go off at us.
There are other requirements today. Aviation fuel is going to be recieved, 25000 litres of it today. More tanks to prepare.
At 10 am the bosuns parties are going to begin work, preparing the jackstays, the shock mats, the ropes, all the mysteries of the sailors craft. There is more pressure today, a new XO, and Aoki it appears, is very much a hands on man, from here until completion he will be there, (annoying the crap out of those more skilled and experienced than he -ie just about all involved).
The recieving station is hauled into position, greased, the ropes checked yet again.
At 1100 hrs, communications, the flashing of lights between the flagship and her fleet turns towards Zuiho.
Here, again, the wonder of an organisation working at its peak. A destroyer has fouled her lines ahead of Zuiho, thus Zuiho will go elswhere, this position, this time, this speed.....orders that flow swftly and must be obeyed.
Takeji will recieve the orders, and this busy, busy bridge will reverberate to a single curse. Zuiho has set herself to receive starboard side too.........but will now have to receive from port
In 30 minutes time if she can.
The orders will be recieved with what might surprise many, perfect aquimanity (spelling! lol) . After all, this is the sailors world, Situation normal, all %^&*$# up!
They will swing the gear alright, she will be ready. After all, this is Zuiho.
Minobe takes his post at the station, as does Lurch, the CPO Chippee. Lurch because he is the clearest, calmest speaker in the department -and communications are all in this little operation, the Chippee because he is responsible, and Minobe because he has to be there.
below, Charge takes his seat in the Port Engine room, Hirate the ports Astern Throttles, Okano the Starboard (for these two too are the best to have here)
And last in this circus, Hidaka clears his flight deck, dispatching todays CAP........his deck effectively will soon be closed.
The no smoking light goes on, and the dance will soon begin.
It is now upon Takeji that the mantle rests. Zuiho steams a thousand yards astern of the tanker, waiting.
But the bridge is not still, no warships bridge ever is. All about them the formation wobbles and varies, destroyers creaming to new positions, capital ships as well. The bearing, the distance to many of them needs watching closely.
Collisions bring no favours..............
Lihghts flash upon the tanker, the word passes to the engine room, thetelegraphs ring. She surges forward, closes, comes abreast. Orders, sharp, quick, issued. Answered.
The ropes, the hoses, go across smoothly. Aoki has sense of mind to keep clear........yes, his crew do this well, very well,
The liquid gold begins to pass across, a ton a minute, the hose rock hard, bulging.
And , of course, all over Zuiho, and the tanker, the goffers hang about gun bays and walk bays, and just watch the mesmerising show.
There is no drama, I am afraid, no hose bursts, no parting lines, no men overboard, no crushing glancing blows of ships against ship (for all of these could happen)
It just happens successfully.........as it should.
More lights, more messages.
Even as Zuiho swings away, Takeji's mind is moving onto bigger things.
"Pipe Hidaka please"
And then he sets about getting Zuiho into her new place.
Hidaka will enter, read the latest signal, and grin "Abe is going to try again ney?"
Takeji smiles too, waves at what surrounds them.
"Never going to get as good as this,..........you wil get your chance to crack 100 kills , I would think"
Takeji is right.
Three task forces have formed.
Here, Japan sails. Abe turns it to its new course, Due East. Back towards Darwin.