Alt-history writing project

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MiddleAgedKen
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Re: Alt-history writing project

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randy wrote: Tue Oct 05, 2021 4:05 pmI spent 3 years in a joint service assignment where the Navy had a lot of influence. Being in the late 80s I did not see any explicit racial prejudice, especially not in official policy. I was however taken aback a bit at the explicit and casual way a lot of the Navy officers seemed to view enlisted folks the way a Eurotrash aristocrat would view a peasant.
Two data points on that topic: If it please the court, may I introduce (ahem) Leftenant Nathanael Allison, Peeeee Aitch Deeuh.... (if you're hearing an echo of "Wile E. Coyote, Genius," it's almost certainly a complete coincidence :roll: )

Second, Tom Wolfe cited in The Right Stuff a holdover culture of "Eastern Socially Acceptable" in the Navy. Apparently it was particularly desirable to be Episcopalian....
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Netpackrat
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Re: Alt-history writing project

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MiddleAgedKen wrote: Wed Oct 06, 2021 1:48 am Two data points on that topic: If it please the court, may I introduce (ahem) Leftenant Nathanael Allison, Peeeee Aitch Deeuh.... (if you're hearing an echo of "Wile E. Coyote, Genius," it's almost certainly a complete coincidence :roll: )
Seems like some of his concerns are probably valid, even if a few of his generalizations are not.
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MiddleAgedKen
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Re: Alt-history writing project

Post by MiddleAgedKen »

Netpackrat wrote: Wed Oct 06, 2021 2:36 amSeems like some of his concerns are probably valid, even if a few of his generalizations are not.
Probably so, and a fair observation, but that makes me think of Wolfe's mention/description of "Army Creole" (also from The Right Stuff) with a side order of Lincoln's rejoinder to those (Never-Granters? :mrgreen: ) who wanted him to cashier Grant: "I can't spare this man: he fights."
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HTRN
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Re: Alt-history writing project

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MiddleAgedKen wrote: Wed Oct 06, 2021 1:48 am Second, Tom Wolfe cited in The Right Stuff a holdover culture of "Eastern Socially Acceptable" in the Navy. Apparently it was particularly desirable to be Episcopalian....
Is that anything like the culture in the State Dept where only certain people from certain new england old money families seem to rise to the top?
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Re: Alt-history writing project

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Can’t really say, but I can’t imagine my grandfather (Master Chief) tolerating being treated as a peasant…

Now, admittedly, he joined in ‘41 or ‘42, and stayed in until the Navy decided he was too old in the early 80s…
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Captain Wheelgun
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Re: Alt-history writing project

Post by Captain Wheelgun »

Another long section...

April 15, 1937 - Early morning, Aboard San Antonio, Off the American coast, near Hampton Roads, VA.

“Signal from Burleson County, ‘Boat off the port bow, approximately 5 miles, have sent standard challenge, awaiting reply’.” The destroyer, which was leading the small convoy, was barely visible from San Antonio’s starboard bridge wing.

“Very well.” said Lt. William Porter, the Gunnery Officer, and currently Officer of the Deck. “Messenger, please inform the Captain and S. M. immediately. Signalman, please relay the contact report to Gulf Star and Gillespie County.”

“Aye, sir.” “Aye, sir.”

“Helm, maintain present course and speed.”

“Maintain present course and speed, aye, sir.”

After about five minutes, the signalman reported again. “Approaching vessel is the pilot boat from Norfolk, requesting permission to rendezvous for personnel transfer.”

After double-checking the night order book, Porter replied, “Send to Burleson County, ‘Permission granted. Please relay our position to the pilot boat and tell them to meet us.”

“Aye, sir.”

While the signal light clattered from overhead, Karl and the Sailing Master, Cmdr. Lewis Alexander, entered the bridge.

“Captain on the Bridge!” called the yeoman of the watch.

Porter rose from the OOD’s chair, turned to the two senior officers, and saluted. “Captain, the contact has been identified as the pilot boat from Norfolk. She requested permission to rendezvous to transfer personnel. As per your orders, I granted permission and asked Burleson County to relay our position to the pilot boat.”

“Very well. I’ll take the conn.”

“Captain has the conn!”

Sitting down in the OOD chair, Karl said “Well done, Bill. How was the night watch?”

“Very quiet, sir, after the last of that storm moved south of us. No damage reported on any ship. Those lucky stiffs over on B.C. and G.C. probably didn’t even have to clean up any spilled coffee!”

Karl smiled at the vehemence in Lt. Porter’s voice. “Don’t bet on that. The new trimaran configuration has some stability advantages, but that blow was enough to rattle the dishes on a battleship. That’s why I wanted to keep the President’s ship in our lee as much as possible. Go ahead and finish your watch turnover with Mr. Alexander and grab some sleep.”

“Aye aye, sir.”

After a few more minutes a lookout reported the pilot boat was in sight. Karl stepped out on to the port bridge wing to observe. Looking up at the signalman on the lookout platform above, he said “Signal the convoy to move to line astern of us, and warn them that we will be reducing speed to meet the pilot boat.”

“Aye, sir.”

Karl saw that the pilot boat was crossing their bow, maneuvering to come up on the starboard side. Which made perfect sense, as that was currently the leeward side, which would make transferring the harbor pilot much easier. After it was clear, he ordered all ships to reduce speed to five knots.

Lewis said “Looks like they’ll be alongside in a few minutes, sir.”

“Yep, looks like it. Would you go meet the pilot and escort him up here, please?”

“Aye, sir.”
********************
Standing on the deck of the pilot boat, Chester Nimitz lowered his binoculars and said to the harbor pilot, a grizzled old merchant Captain named Smith, “Quite a contrast between those destroyers and the cruiser, isn’t it? I’ve seen a few racing boats with three hulls, but I never imagined that anyone would build a warship like that.”

“Aye, they’re mighty peculiar lookin’, I’d say. Looks like they’ve got more beam than the cruiser, even though they’re a hunnert feet shorter. Must make for some funny handling.”

“Probably. Should make them pretty steady gun platforms, though. Considering the number and size of those guns, that had to be what they were looking for. Don’t see any torpedo or depth charge launchers, though. That’s pretty odd. I wonder why they have so much empty deck space aft of the third turret?”

“Seaplane launching, maybe?”

“Can’t be. There’s no catapult and no cranes for recovering the the plane after it’s landed.”

“I imagine you’ll find out soon enough. I just hope they can maneuver well enough to avoid problems. Some fairly tight waters around here. Fortunately, I only have to take the small liner up to Washington. The rest are staying here in Norfolk.”

As he said that, the pilot boat finished maneuvering up to the boarding platform that had been lowered from the deck of the cruiser. The sailors standing on the platform caught the lines thrown by the pilot boat’s deck hand and secured them to cleats. Nimitz and Smith moved to stand at the edge of the deck, waiting for the right moment to jump across to the platform. Smith jumped first, followed by Nimitz on the next roll. One of the sailors directed them up the narrow, near-vertical stairway leading to the main deck while the other one released the lines and threw them back to the pilot boat.

Nimitz went up, followed by Smith. Reaching the top, he turned toward the quarterdeck and saluted the young officer waiting there. “Permission to come aboard?”

“Permission granted, sir.” said Ensign Michael Collins, returning Nimitz’s salute.

Chester stepped aside to make room for Captain Smith. Turning, he saw a very large, very black man with the five rank dots of a Commander on his collar saluting him. Nimitz returned the salute out of pure reflex, starting to realize how right he had been in his warning to Admirals Leahy and Tarrant.

“Welcome aboard San Antonio, Captain. I’m Commander Alexander, the ship’s Sailing Master.”

“Sailing Master? Captain Smith asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“Second in command, sir. If I recall correctly, that would be ‘Executive Officer’ in your Navy, is that right, sir?”

“Yes it is. Thank you Commander. I’m Captain Nimitz, I’ve been assigned as the liaison officer for the duration of your stay here. This is Captain Smith, the harbor pilot.”

“Welcome aboard, Captain Smith. If you gentlemen will follow me, Captain von Stahlberg is waiting on the bridge.”

“Certainly, Commander, lead on.”
********************
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Re: Alt-history writing project

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Another section...

Karl walked back into the bridge from the starboard wing, where he had gone to observe the transfer. A few moments later, Lewis entered with an ancient looking civilian who had to be the pilot and another, who was wearing a U.S. Navy uniform with the four stripes of a Captain. Lewis made the introductions.

“Captain von Stahlberg, this is the harbor pilot, Captain Smith, and the liaison officer from the American Navy, Captain Nimitz.”

“Gentlemen, welcome aboard San Antonio. Captain Nimitz, please forgive my surprise, I wasn’t informed that you would be coming with the pilot.”

“I apologize for the change in plans, Captain. There were some last-minute changes in protocol for your visit and I thought it would be best if I came out as soon as possible to relay them to you.”

“Thank you for your consideration, Captain. Lewis, you have the conn, I’ll be in my sea cabin discussing those changes with Captain Nimitz. Please provide Captain Smith with any information he needs. Bring the convoy back up to ten knots and maintain line astern formation.”

“Aye sir. I have the conn. Maintain line astern, convoy to increase speed to ten knots.”

“Captain Nimitz, if you’ll follow me please?”
********************
Chester studied the younger Captain as he followed him down the ladder to the deck below the bridge. Slightly taller than average, with a black patch over where his left eye should be. He had a slight limp when walking, and a very firm grip on the handrail. He had short, sandy blonde hair peeping out from under the baseball cap that seemed to be standard shipboard wear in the Texas Navy. The caps were dark gray, matching the color of their uniforms, with the ship’s name embroidered on the front. They stopped at a hatch a few feet aft of the bridge ladder.

Karl opened the hatch and said, “After you, sir. Please make yourself comfortable.”

Chester entered the small cabin, seeing everything was very tidy, with all of the usual appointments of a warship captain’s sea cabin. He removed his pea coat and cover, looking for a place to put them. Seeing only one coat hook on the bulkhead, he decided to lay them on the table next to the hatch.

Karl closed the hatch and hung his coat on the hook, putting his cap on his desk. Waving Chester to the only chair in the cabin, he sat on the side of the bed. “What has changed that was important enough for you to come out on the tail end of a storm, Captain?”

“Your request for off-base shore leave for some of your men was denied by the sheriff of the county outside the base.”

“By ‘some’ of our men I assume you mean the ones who aren’t in danger of getting sunburned, Captain Nimitz?”

“Unfortunately, I do. And since we’re going to be working together for the next few days, my first name is Chester. The local sheriff has always had a policy of not allowing even our own colored sailors to be in the town outside the base after dark, and during the day only for official Navy business, escorted by white petty officers or officers. He keeps deputies at all of the base gates to enforce this. He did specifically say that your white sailors are welcome anytime.”

“Thank you for telling me, Chester. And my name is Karl. What about use of the Officer’s and NCO’s clubs on the base? Has that also been restricted?”

“No, it hasn’t, but it took a phone call from the CNO to the base commander, Rear Admiral Hall, to get that approved. Admiral Hall also insisted that any non-white officers and NCOs have at least one white officer or senior NCO with them, and no more than three non-whites in the clubs at any one time. He also said to inform you that unfortunately, there is not enough dock space available to accommodate your ships, and you will be assigned anchorage positions in the outer harbor.”

“I see. It sounds like we’re really not welcome here. I would normally lodge a formal complaint about this, but I don’t want to have any risk of disturbing my President’s talks with your President. I will be discussing this with our Secretary of State and Director of Naval Operations, who are traveling with the President.”

“I wish I had better news for you, Karl. When I was briefing Admiral Hall and Admiral Tarrant, the Fleet detachment commander here, I explained that this would be seen as a direct insult to your Navy, but Admiral Hall refused to allow anything more than what I have told you. Admiral Tarrant did invite you and your other captains to dinner tonight with him and Admiral Hall. Perhaps you can use that as a starting point to get the restrictions eased.”

“We’ll see, Chester. Was that the only change? Is the exchange of gun salutes still as it was arranged?”

“Yes, it is. USS New York will be waiting in the outer harbor. Your ships will fire a total of nineteen guns, and she will reply with twenty-one in honor of your President. She’s scheduled to leave for England in a few days carrying our representative to the coronation ceremonies. If the timing is right, you may end up sailing in company with her.”

“What about refueling? Since we’re going to be anchoring out, have there been arrangements for fuel barges?”

“Yes, that has been taken care of. They should be alongside tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you Chester. And I apologize if I seem angry with you. I am angry, but I know it’s not your fault.”

“No apology needed, Karl. I would be equally angry if the positions were reversed. Hell, I’m pretty upset myself that senior officers of my Navy are treating yours this way. It’s not right.”

Just then the phone from the bridge buzzed. “Excuse me a moment, Chester” Karl said as he grabbed the handset. “Yes?... Very well. Continue maneuvering as directed by the pilot. I’ll be back up in a few minutes. Captain, out.”

“That was the Sailing Master. we’re about ten minutes from making the first turn into the harbor entrance. Do you want to come back to the bridge with me, or would you like to look around the ship? I can have a guide assigned to you.”

“There will be time for a proper guided tour later. Thank you for offering, though.”

Karl stood and began putting his jacket and cap back on. Chester did the same.
********************
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Captain Wheelgun
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Re: Alt-history writing project

Post by Captain Wheelgun »

Here’s another section. If you’re wondering what the destroyers look like, picture an Independence-class LCS without the stealth features and with working engines and weapons. And if you’re questioning the number & size of the guns, check the specs for the IJN’s Fubuki-class destroyers, built in the 1920’s.

********************
Later that morning, in the outer anchorage of Naval Base Norfolk, Norfolk, VA

Karl looked around the harbor, confirming that his ships were properly secured to the provided anchor buoys and that Gulf Star was hove-to nearby, waiting for the pilot to be transferred to her. He turned to the harbor pilot and said “Very nicely done, Captain Smith. Thank you for your assistance in getting us here.”

“Thank you, Captain von Stahlberg. And may I say that I was most impressed by the maneuverability of your destroyers. I was expecting them to handle poorly, but they were just the opposite. Do they have engines in those outer hulls, sir?”

“Yes, they do. Like San Antonio here, they have diesel engines turning electric generators, which in turn drive the motors turning the screws. The Fayette County class have four shafts, two in the central hull and one in each of the outboard hulls. It’s sometimes hard to see those because they’re actually on the inboard side of those hulls.”

“Interesting.” said Chester, who had been watching the whole process from one of the lookout positions. “That should provide protection from torpedo strikes unless the angle is just perfect. And that explains how they were able to turn in place to line up with the anchor buoys without needing assistance from a tug. Very useful in tight spaces.”

“Yes it is. I commanded one of the subchasers that were an earlier form of the design. It’s very different from a conventional ship, as you thought it would be, Captain Smith. But once you learn their quirks, it’s easy to fall in love with them.”

Captain Smith asked “How did your Navy get started building trimaran designs, Captain? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“Well, the owner and lead designer for Bay City Marine, one of the builders of small vessels near Galveston, had gone on holiday to Hawaii and saw some of the native canoes there. He was impressed with how stable they were on the open ocean under both oar and sail power. When he got back, he decided to try building one of his own, but engine powered. Around that same time, the Navy had released a request for design proposals for a new small torpedo boat, about 100 feet long, capable of carrying at least two 21” torpedos and a couple of small guns. When the owner of BCM heard about that RFP, he submitted his boat as a demonstration of the idea along with plans for a larger version that would meet the required specs. Long story short, his boat won the contract, becoming our T-100 class torpedo boats. The thing that sold the Bureau of Design, Construction, and Repair on them, besides the stability, was that he put the torpedos under the arms connecting the center and outboard hulls, on simple shackles instead of needing tubes with complex launching systems. Saves a bunch on weight and cost, and leaves more deck space for other equipment.”

“So they just drop into the water, like from a torpedo bomber!” said Chester. “That’s why I didn’t see any torpedo tubes on your destroyers. You’ve done the same thing there, haven’t you?”

“Yep, depth charges too. Those racks are inboard, next to the hull, where they can be reloaded easily.”

“So after the torpedo boats worked out so well, they scaled them up?”

“Yep, next was the T-200 class. A 200’ subchaser with two more torpedos and the first to mount depth charges. Those were also the first to get the 3.5”/56 caliber dual-purpose gun, the navalised version of the 88mm anti-aircraft gun we bought from the Germans, back before the Nazi’s took power there.”

“And now you’ve upped the ante again with those destroyers. What are those, 5” guns?”

“Yep, 5”/51 caliber, just like the secondary battery here on San Antonio. In fact, when we re-gunned most of the Austin-class cruisers, we took the opportunity to try out different gun and mount combinations just like we did with the different power-plant types. The big difference is that we bought San Antonio’s guns from y’all, but now we are making them ourselves, with semi-fixed ammunition instead of loading with separate powder bags and shells. And those are dual-purpose, too, with 75 degrees maximum elevation.”

“Very interesting. We never bothered to develop a multi-gun turret for the the 5”/51, and we went much shorter for our new 5” dual-purpose gun. I’m guessing it’s possible to go even larger with the trimaran concept?” asked Chester.

Startled, Karl looked at his watch and said “Wow, look at the time. Captain Smith, I reckon we need to get you over to Gulf Star so they can continue on to Washington. I need to discuss some things with Admiral Collins, so you can ride with me.” Turning to the Sailing Master, he said “Lewis, please call away my gig, and a second boat to take Captain Nimitz ashore.” Turning back to Chester, he said “I assume you need to go ashore to report to your superiors and to get ready for that dinner with Admiral Tarrant, Chester?”

Understanding that Karl was brushing off a question he wasn’t at liberty to answer, Chester smiled and said “Yes, I do. Thank you for your courtesy, Captain von Stahlberg.
********************
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tfbncc
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Re: Alt-history writing project

Post by tfbncc »

Getting better all the time. But these snippets are like giving a shot glass of water to a very thirsty man. Too few and never enough. Write faster dangit, and finish the book.
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Re: Alt-history writing project

Post by Captain Wheelgun »

The story continues, over 10,000 words now...

Aboard Gulf Star, Norfolk, VA.

Admiral Collins was in the sitting room of the President’s suite, looking out at the escort ships as they tied up to the anchoring buoys. He wondered why the escort force hadn’t been directed to dock at the base, or at least to anchor in the inner harbor. As he was watching, he saw an unexpected set of signal flags break out on one of San Antonio’s flag halliards. “Case Alamo? I wonder why von Stahlberg ordered that” he said, a little louder than he had intended.

“What was that you were saying, Admiral?” said Albert Gonzalez, the President’s secretary.

“Sorry, Mr. Gonzalez, I was wondering why Captain von Stahlberg had ordered the flag signal ‘Case Alamo’ hoisted. That’s normally only used for possible threat situations. It’s an order to keep all crewmen aboard ship, and to prepare for possible hostilities.”

“Does it have anything to do with all that gunfire I heard a while ago?”

“No, sir. That was the exchange of salutes, an old tradition to signal peaceful intent.”

“Humph, firing guns seems a strange way to say ‘We come in peace’, Admiral. They weren’t firing live shells, were they?”

“No, sir, they weren’t. Back when navies first started using muzzle-loading guns, a warship entering a foreign port would fire her guns, in a safe direction, of course, demonstrating that they were no longer loaded and couldn’t threaten the port they were visiting. The port’s fortifications, if any, or a warship belonging to the port city, would then fire a similar number of guns in reply. This later evolved into the tradition of firing certain numbers of guns to salute national honor or visiting dignitaries. You may have noticed that while our ships fired nineteen guns, the American battleship over there fired twenty-one, the traditional number for honoring a head of state.”

“So it was a salute to President Velasquez, then? If the Yankees are welcoming us, why is the Captain preparing for a fight?”

“I reckon we’ll find out soon enough. His gig is on it’s way over here now.”

********************

Karl removed his cover as he entered the President’s sitting room, and braced to attention on seeing the President, Secretary Lincoln, Admiral Collins, and a fourth man he didn’t recognize in the room.

“Why did you order Case Alamo, Captain? This is supposed to be a peaceful visit. Have you received word of a possible threat?”

“No direct threat, Mr. President, and certainly nothing regarding you or your entourage. After discussions with the liaison officer the Americans assigned to us, I felt it would be best to keep all of our men aboard ship to prevent the chance of any unwanted friction with U.S. Navy personnel or local civilians.”

“Why would there be any ‘friction’ Captain?” asked Lincoln.

“Because the liaison officer, Captain Nimitz, informed me that the local Sheriff had denied off-base liberty to our non-white personnel, and the base commander, Rear Admiral Hall, had placed severe limits on access to on-base facilities for those same crewmen, Mr. Secretary.”

“Ah, I was afraid of that. Do you recall the discussions we had about possible racial issues, Mr. President?”

“Yes, I do, Harry. And you can be sure that I will bring it up with President Roosevelt when I see him. I won’t have my nation’s Navy insulted and mistreated in this manner! They may choose to treat their own people like shit, but I will be dammed if I will accept such treatment for Texans!”

“Did Captain Nimitz explain why you are anchoring in the outer harbor instead of tying up at their docks, Captain?” asked the Admiral.

“Yes, he did, sir. ‘Admiral Hall regrets to inform you that there is not sufficient dock space available to accommodate your ships, and the only space currently available is in the outer harbor’. After we tied up I sent a lookout up the mainmast high enough to get a look into the inner harbor and dock. There were at least five docking slips large enough to accept our ships open. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that except for the battleship New York over there, we’re completely alone and in the furthest anchorage from the base.”

“Yes, and she’s conveniently positioned to have her full broadside covering your ships, too.”

“Nimitz, I wonder if he’s related to the Fredericksburg Nimitz’s?”

“As a matter of fact, he is, Mr. Secretary. And he seemed at least as upset about telling me all this as I was to hear it. He’s the Assistant Chief of their Bureau of Navigation, and he was assigned to us directly by their CNO because he is from Texas. I’m given to understand that the local Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Tarrant, is also pretty upset about the restrictions, but couldn’t override them due to chain of command issues. Admiral Tarrant has invited myself and the other captains to dinner tonight. Admiral Hall and Captain Nimitz were also invited.”

The fourth man, who had been silent until now, said “Maybe we should send some regrets of our own, Mr. President, and have the Captain turn down the dinner invitation.”

“Sir, I believe that would be a mistake” said Karl. “Admiral Tarrant and Captain Nimitz are trying to be reasonable, and I don’t think we should refuse this opportunity to show we understand that.”

“I agree with the Captain, Mr. President.”

“I agree as well, Harry. But mind this, Captain. You will not, under any circumstances, accept any form of insult from any U.S. Navy officer or sailor. That is a direct order.”

“Aye aye, Mr. President!”
********************
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