For the past week I've been in Hawaii with the Naval Reserve, doing my part to keep the world safe for democracy. By day, I was defending freedom by learning about operational planning and decision making while working out the details of a fictional coalition assault on the Cayman Islands. But by night, I was defending freedom by downing as many fruity tropical drinks as I could.
Fortunately for my budget, I was able to secure lodging in the Bachelor Officers Quarters on the base. I even had a decent view:
I didn't spend a lot of time there though. When I wasn't in the classroom imagining island invasions in the Carribean, my view was more likely to look like this:
And I was more likely to look like this:
While I did bring along my proper DSLR camera with the idea I was going to spend some real time taking quality photos, I basically failed in that department. The best I managed most of the time was some half-hearted snapshots with my little point-and-click camera that I keep in my pocket. That's how I snapped this sunset while I was stumbling along the beach at Waikiki:
Here's a winning shot of the view across from the conference center where the training was taking place:
And here's a self-portrait of me looking wide awake, alert, and clean-shaven* in between lectures:
On Friday we wrapped up our little wargame. Suffice it to say, the drug-cartel-backed insurgents who'd seized control of the Cayman Islands were no match for our task force so we were able to quickly end their reign of terror and successfully liberate the Caymanian people.
Or are they Caymans? Caymish? Caymanites? Caymese?**
With training over, I ended up with a good six hours to kill between the end of training and my flight back to California. Since it was on the way, I decided to get changed and go wander around the weather decks on board the USS MISSOURI (BB-63).
For those of you who don't know, MISSOURI was the last battleship in the US Navy. She's an IOWA-class battleship and was the state of the art when she was launched during World War II. When the war with Japan ended, she anchored in Tokyo Bay and it was on her quarterdeck that the Japanese signed their formal surrender. The ship also saw action in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War.
Walking aboard I couldn't help but be impressed. It wasn't the size of the ship necessarily (my last container ship was eighteen feet longer and a good deal heavier when fully loaded) but her sleek lethality.
For comparison, my first ship (a SPRUANCE-class destroyer) had a pair of 5-inch gun turrets. The MISSOURI on the other hand has twelve 5-inch guns set in dual turrets on either side as well as a main battery of 16-inch guns in three triple turrets. So in order to send enough ordnance downrange to match the weight of a single barrage from the battleship, my destroyer would have to fire both of her guns at their maximum rates of fire continuously for about ten minutes (assuming they didn't malfunction). That's a lot of kaboom!
You can see the guns of the two forward turrets in this shot:
Once I was aboard, the first thing I had to do was go to the starboard side and take a look at the spot where World War II ended. There's a large bronze placard mounted in the deck to mark the location:
A few feet away are the copies of the surrender documents with the signatures of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, among others.
After a bit of contemplation, it was time to head up to the pilothouse and check out the view. Of note, the door to the wheelhouse is massive:
The bulkhead you're looking at is 17-inch thick steel armor. The door therefore is a solid 17-inch thick steel plug. I'd hate to think what it must weigh, but it looks like it's rigged with a powered drive of some sort to open and close it. The cutout in the middle of the door is one of the few viewports through which the crew inside can look out. Not much goes on inside the wheelhouse though, the helmsman and lee helmsman seem to be the only people who would be in there while the conning officer would call in steering and speed orders from elsewhere.
Here's the view from the forward end of the bridge:
The guns don't look quite as impressive from this angle. To really appreciate them, you have to look from the other side:
Each one of those gun barrels is 67 feet long and weighs in at just about 116 tons. The shells that they fire would weighed 2,300 pounds and would travel to their maximum range of 23 miles in 50 seconds, landing with pinpoint accuracy. Kaboom!
Here's the aft turret viewed from just forward of the flight deck:
If nothing else, my visit definitely reinforced the feelings I had for the IOWA-class battleships from the very first time I read about them as a kid: I want one.***
In what seemed like no time at all, the ship closed down for the day and all of the visitors were ushered away. With not much else to do, I drove back to the airport, checked my bags, and sidled up to the bar to enjoy my last couple of hours in Hawaii.
Enjoying my last couple of hours in Hawaii meant destroying three of these:
Comfortably numb, I was ready to get on a plane again. There were lots of empty seats, so I ended up having one whole row to lay down and sleep in. So the flight home was mostly pretty good.****
*I was only two of those three things at the time the photo was taken.
** I spent a lot of time letting my mind wander during some of the lectures. As a result, I generated a list of 44 alternate terms for the people of the Cayman Islands.*****
***I actually have plans to build one after I finish building my Sherman tank.
****The wierd part was that on this half-full flight there was some guy wearing the exact same shirt as me. It might not be wierd for most people, but I was wearing that ridiculous orange and white aloha shirt pictured above. It's hard to imagine that anyone else would buy such a shirt. Wierd.
*****Not kidding: Caymans, Caymanians, Cays, Caymanese, Caymanites, Caymines, Caymanati, Caymanarans, Caymanalines, Caymaroons, Caymadamians, Caymani, Caymanodes, Caymese, Caymian, Caymaniacs, Caytards, Cayms, Caymanards, Naymacs, Caymish, Caywegians, Caymites, Caymars, Caydians, Caytians, Caymen, Caymanistas, Cayerinos, Caymanistanis, Caychos, Caymorros, Caymajos, Caymatics, Caymatians, Caymacs, Caymi, Cayonaise, Caymicans, Caymicanos, Bratch (people from Holland are Dutch, so why not?), Brackish, and Catch.