|They're not really made of steel.
These warships we model are actually made of flesh and blood, of brains,
sweat and courage. We model the steel part because we can, but at our loss
do we forget that each model we build was once the home, office and at
times, the tomb of real sailors.
If you feel the way I do about ships, and if you are, like me, working on your Trumpeter Hornet, then you will likely want to read The Ship That Held the Line, subtitled "The USS Hornet and the First Year of the Pacific War" by Lisle A. Rose. The book is published by the U.S. Naval Institute and is available at Amazon.com and other merchants.
“While the planes flew, the ship's company settled back into the daily routine of life at sea. Dawn general quarters were followed by breakfast; then the 08:00 crew mustered on station. Occasionally at least some of the engineering department was formally mustered on the hanger deck to give the sallow, heat-enervated men an opportunity to escape their cramped workspaces below decks and get a bit of sun and wind. The rest of the day was consumed with work, chow, sleep and maybe some poker or craps shooting.
"The endless sea stretched monotonously around the ship from horizon to horizon, broken only by the forms of dashing destroyers and stolid cruisers holding steady course. Men woke, worked, ate and slept with the sounds and rhythms of the ocean. It hissed along side of the gliding hull; its salty smell mixed with the oil and gasoline fumes. It provided a backdrop of uniformity and harmony.”
Later, when the ship is under attack, the author quotes a sailor as saying:
“No matter what the eye tells, the realization of a torpedo hit comes through deep in a man's stomach, like the dull thud of a blow buried deep in flesh.”
Finally, Rose takes us right into the belly of the ship as she dies at Santa Cruz:
“Crashing into the compartment without warning, the bomb detonated near the port bulkhead with a horrible roar. The concussion raised everyone several feet off the deck. The blast transformed steam tables, servers, lockers and ladders leading to the deck above into blazing hot shrapnel… Nowell and most of his mates died instantly, their bodies shredded by shrapnel, wretched and torn by very severe concussion and burned by unbearable heat.”
“The cries reverberate through the empty hull that had been constantly filled with the sounds of men and machines from its birth. 'Pilots, pilots, man your planes,' 'Supper, supper for the crew,' 'I'll call three whores and a pair of treys,' 'Seaman, if I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times…' Only the dead inhabit the Hornet now, and perhaps the ghosts of Johnnie Waldron and the men of Torpedo 8 as well. The last voices fade away over the side. By 17:27 everyone is gone, and the United States Ship Hornet (CV-8) passes forever from the navy lists. A hush falls over the big, abandoned hulk, which rolls gently in the soft swells of the tropical ocean.”
Lastly, the book chronicles the rise of the carrier as the primary offensive
tool of the U.S. Navy, as the realities of war at sea in the early 1940's
make it clear that the age of the battleships is receding under the evolutionary
pressure of the carriers. The author analyses the mistakes of both sides,
with special attention paid to the action at Midway. Again, much of this
may not be totally new to those already familiar with naval strategy, but
the writing is good enough to carry the informed reader without undue effort,
and clear enough to inform a reader new to the subject.
Having read this book, I look at my still unpainted Hornet now in a
very different way. Like “Band of Brothers,” this book exposes you to the
boring, busy, uplifting, frightening, happy, sad, lonely, comradely lives
of men at war at sea in the early 1940's, and through that, explains the
history of a proud ship present at key naval battles in the Pacific.
||Click this link to buy The Ship that Held the Line: USS Hornet from Amazon.com...|