From: Lone Star Nation
March 19, 1943
Sailor First Class Ichihara Eizo peered into the clear, moonlit night in the Aleutians "Spring." DD Maikaze was the lead ship of a force detailed to attack an American invasion of a rocky island called Adak. Eizo had no idea why anyone would consider Adak worth fighting for, but apparently the High Commands of both sides in this war thought it worth doing. Behind Maikaze came the torpedo cruisers Kitakami and Oi, along with the older destroyer Yakaze.
Commander Nakasugi Seiji spoke to the Bridge in general. "Keep a sharp lookout. We are to locate and engage the enemy covering force, centered around Battleships Mississippi and Colorado. That should clear the way for our Battleships to attack the invasion force."
No one had asked Eizo, but this seemed a sound plan to him. Mississippi and Colorado were older, slower vessels that should be vulnerable to the massed Long Lance torpedoes of the Japanese cruisers. And, if any ship in the Imperial Japanese Navy was right for the job, it was the "Mighty Maikaze," hero of a similar engagement in which the brave destroyer and her sister the Shiranui had sunk the heavy cruiser Australia in the South Pacific and lived to tell the tale. In fact, it was the sinking of the Australia that had found Maikaze in Japan and available to intervene in the Aleutians. The ship was at Kure naval base in part for a refit, but in part to participate in the filming of a propaganda piece.
No one knew it yet, but tonight the brave ship and crew were going to run out of luck. Unknown to Eizo, his Captain and the Japanese lookouts, Maikaze was already appearing as a blip on the radar screen of the USS Massachusetts.
"Target the lead enemy ship - Fire when ready!" With these words, Captain Francis Whiting of the Massachusetts doomed the Maikaze. His words, translated into action, sent a salvo of 16 inch shells arcing toward the unsuspecting Japanese destroyer.
Eizo ducked his head as Lieutenant Bando walked by in the tight quarters of the Maikaze's Bridge. This tiny move saved his life as the ship exploded under the impact of the massive projectiles. From this point forward, the severely concussed sailor remembered only disjointed images of the Naval Battle of Adak, as it came to be known.
Bando was dead... That much was clear. Had to get back to the Helm. What happened? No enemy ships had been reported. Was it a mine or a submarine? The Helm was destroyed, inoperable. Next duty station was the Auxiliary Control.
The night air was still calm, but Hell was all around. Eizo saw Kitakami and Oi desperately turning toward what was now obviously an enemy squadron, torpedoes coming to bear painfully slowly. Just before he went below decks, a second salvo from Massachusetts hammered Maikaze. Blown clear, the helmsman found himself deposited in the water. His beloved ship's back was broken, already sinking. Maikaze was out of the fight only one minute and twenty-nine seconds after it began.
Eizo blacked out...
That he came to at all was a surprise. That he was somehow clinging to a floating piece of debris was even more unlikely. The water was cold, VERY cold. Hauling himself on top of what appeared to be the wreckage of a lifeboat, Eizo wrapped himself in a shredded tarp for warmth and turned to look around, his wits still uncertain. He saw that the IJN torpedo cruisers had launched on the enemy and even now had turned to flee. Eizo wondered whether they would hit anything...
"Turn, Mamie, TURN!" Captain Whiting urged his ship to move away from the approaching Long Lances. He grudgingly had to admit the Japs were good. Caught unawares, they had moved into position for a torpedo attack under fire, launched, and were now escaping into the night. The veteran Skipper was astonished at the sheer number of torpedo tracks headed toward his squadron. Well over thirty fish in the water tested even the powerful engines of the South Dakota class battleship.
One track was left harmlessly astern, then two, then three. Then the huge vessel shuddered as a torpedo exploded well aft. Big Mamie sailed on, but something felt wrong. Even before the formal damage report reached him, Whiting knew his engines were hit. Massachusetts was now a slow moving target.
Floating on his little wreck, Eizo could see in the light of the full moon that the Japanese torpedo attack had disorganized the American formation. What were these new ships that could move so quickly! Clearly not the old Mississippi and Colorado. Searchlights from the enemy probed for the IJN cruisers, but found nothing. However, the lights attracted unwanted attention.
The terse command, relayed through the IJN Battleships Fuso and Yamashiro, approaching from an unseen quarter, resulted in terrible destruction. Shells rained down on Massachusetts, the heavy cruiser Wichita and the light cruiser Montpellier. Big Mamie tried to return fire, but damage to her engines and rudder left the normally fast warship in a bad position. Her aft turret managed to land a penetrating salvo on Yamashiro, but the Kaigun had found the range, and another hit forced Captain Whiting to order her magazines flooded.
But the USN wasn't out of fight either. Eizo watched in horror as Yamashiro was suddenly staggered by two accurate salvos from a new entrant to the fray, which he later learned was Battleship Indiana. The dreadnought's third salvo hit home as well, touching off the Japanese battlewagon's ammunition stores, resulting in a fireball and shockwave so violent that the brave sailor was knocked off the wreckage that had become his sanctuary. Cold embraced him again... Surely this was the end. The Japanese ships turned to retreat, but as they did so, Fuso defiantly pumped shells into the stricken Massachusetts. Eizo's vision faded as he drifted alone...
"Damn, it's cold," thought Captain Whiting. He was in shock, peering over the gunwale of his launch as HIS ship, the indestructible Massachusetts, slipped under the waves stern first. He didn't know who History would judge as the winner of tonight's battle, but the loss of his ship was already eating into him. He heard something nearby, but couldn't focus.
"Sir? Sir!" said Chief Perkins, another occupant of the launch.
The Captain finally came around. "What is it, Chief?"
"We've found a survivor in the water, but he's Japanese. What should we do?" The Chief's hand was on his pistol, giving voice to an unspoken question.
"Bring him aboard, Chief. Wherever he's from, I imagine he's having a bad night too."
And thus did First Sailor Ichihara Eizo live to see the end of the Great Pacific War.
< Message edited by Cribtop -- 5/13/2013 4:13:24 AM >