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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Battleships and me...

Posted 08-15-2012 at 06:16 AM by PhantomCruiser
Updated 08-16-2012 at 05:02 AM by PhantomCruiser

My thoughts on the movie “Battleship”; from a battleship sailor…

When I first heard that there was a movie to be released about my old ship I thought to myself “Dang, Michael Bay’s going to ruin another one…” I assumed that if I were to watch it in theatres that I’d need double hearing protection and a few shots in me to assist in the suspension of belief in order to make it through the entire movie. For these reasons I elected to skip it entirely and wait until I could watch it on Netflix.

As it happens on of the guys brought it in to work during my weekend. Note: I don’t make it a habit to goof off and watch movies while at work, but on weekends we are here for rep coverage only (no maintenance); mainly to provide backup should the fecal matter hit the oscillating/rotational cooling mechanism.

I wasn’t that thrilled to hear what had been brought in. Honestly I thought I’d much rather see “Kentucky Fried Movie” again, but that’s what was available. As I found out Michael Bay didn’t have anything to do with this project, so there’s one for the “plus” column.

It started out pretty routine, with a few comedic moments tossed in just to set the character of “Hopper”. Liam Neeson needed a haircut. I also thought it was a bit strange to see Skarsgaard walking around in the daylight (and without vampire teeth no less).


Aliens arrive during Rimpac exercises and chaos ensues. Finally they get around to the old girl, I haven’t seen her since they turned her into a museum, but I plan to do so this fall. For the most part (to use some Mythbusterisms) what happened was plausible, but not feasible. Mighty Mo’ took a crew of 1600 sailors. Being what this is, we can drop 600 or so from deck division (deck division motto “If it moves, salute it, if it doesn’t move, paint it). You need deck to maintain the ship, not necessarily fight it. There was also a small army (navy?) of boiler techs and machinist mates to get her moving, not to mention the unnamed myriad ratings that make up the men of a warship afloat. The “old guys” showing up to save the day says something that’s probably true. After leaving the NAVY 15 years ago, if I found myself in the position to do so (in “real-life”), I’d do it in a heartbeat (kiss the wife, tell her we got to go kick some butt, walk across the Quarterdeck and get busy.

What did it for me was the nostalgia of seeing my old ship, coupled with knowing EXACTLY where the filming was taking place whenever they were aboard. As AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” was playing, Hopper is looking down a familiar passage known to us as Broadway. From broadway you have access to all the engine rooms, boiler and fire rooms. What a keen eye would pick up on it the thing that looks suspiciously like an “I” beam running down Broadways length. That’ll be important later…

Hopper makes his way onto the bridge via the starboard bridge wing (navigators station) walks around behind the “Citadel” (round compartment with the massive armored door, out onto the port bridge wing, aft and up a ladder. From here he passes back to the starboard side (again behind the Citadel and onto the O-5 level Bridge (flying bridge) just in time to see a wave come over the bullnose. I’ve made that very same trip 100 times or more (I’ve ducked too when I was up there, they almost got the “ thump” sound right when that happens, it needed a lot more bass).

The only real problem I had was when they were moving the shell from turret 3 to turret 1 (why didn’t they go to 2, it was closer). That “I” beam I mentioned earlier? That’s why it’s there. It’s a quite simple evolution to use a nearby jib-crane to hoist the bullet (there is a sling for just that purpose) up to that I-beam and 2 guys can hustle it down Broadway to the next turret. They had mentioned that it weighed “more than 1000 lbs”; well it they were right, it does; quite a bit more, actually. That was a 2700 lb round of high explosive that they were trying to man-handle down the wrong passageway to get to the turret. It takes 6 silk bags of powder (each bag weighs 110 lbs) to lob said HE round a distance of 27 miles. To make it go that far, they’ve also got to send it to an altitude of approximately 36,000 feet.

Another slight nit-pick; the order to drop the port-side anchor to slew the ship around so her broadside could engage. I want to say that it wouldn't work like that, anymore... I say anymore because it has been done, during the Revolutionary War (I believe). I'm having a mental block as to which battle specifically, but the "turn-on-anchor" maneuver was done in naval history, and I think by John Paul Jones. When I get a chance I'll scour "them internets" to find more specifics. Dropping the anchor would be easy enough, a guy hits the "pelican" with a mallet and the jaws open to let the chain go free. Stopping the anchor is another matter entirely, it takes a team of guys on the anchor windlass to stop the movement so another poor sod can reset the pelican. The mistake in the movie is to let the chain go free, that last "shot" of chain is painted red, if the crew sees red chain coming up, a smart person would run, quickly. A "hero" would jump on the windlass to try to stop it. This happened to us on the New Jersey in '98 in Thailand, and the guy got a Navy Achievemant Medal out of it. The reason for the drama is that that much energy (the departing the chain) released would whip the chain around and beat the crap out of the foc'sul (and kill any person it touched along the way). That being said, I'm more than willing to ignore this, just because it was such a cool maneuver to pull.

I’ve heard a lot of the “haters” talk about how obsolete the old girl is. True, that her kind has been replaced by the modern carriers as the “Capital” ship of the fleet. But consider this; her armor belt is 27 ½ inches thick, as is the front bulkhead of her 16” turrets. She’s got a double hull construction, nine 16” guns that will tear the crap out of anything in range, plus the 5” gun mounts (6 barrels per side) that the movie totally ignored. The reload time of a 16” was just under 30 seconds, the 5 inchers could lay down almost 6 rounds per minute. Let’s not forget to mention that she carried the very same Harpoons (16) and Tomahawks (32) that the rest of the fleet uses. Her electronic countermeasures and Close-In-Weapons-System were also “Fleet Standard”. She might be functionally obsolete, but for a single “modern” warship to take her on would be like having a pit bull by the ears. Meaning you might have it where you want it, but letting go isn’t exactly high on your “to-do” list. Truthfully, the only ship that a BB fears are submarines; she can’t out run or out maneuver them. She can take a pounding, but without the ability to hit back a BB would be a sitting duck. I’m more than reasonably sure that she could tear up her own weight of metal in a fair fight, or even a not-fair fight with any other ship above the water (carriers not withstanding). And even then, if both sides are tightly controlling their EmCon conditions, it might be an even match (the carrier might get a few ships off, but the planes may not have a platform on which to return).

So there is my diatribe on “Battleship”. In hindsight I wish I had seen it in the theatre. I’ve been digging around in my old pictures (might scan and post some later) and found where I’d re-enlisted in ’91. Just forward of turret 1, where Hopper and company were standing when all the old salts walked up to offer their services. I wish I could have been one of them.

So says the Phantom Cruiser.
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  1. Old Comment
    Urwumpe's Avatar
    About the turret issue: Maybe they mistook it with the Iowa... which had its turret 2 destroyed and sealed after a massive explosion.
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 07:09 AM by Urwumpe Urwumpe is offline
  2. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Yeah, that was a sad day, I knew some of those guys. Only enough to nod at them in a passageway, but still.

    I'd considered this after-the-fact. But they clearly show a 9 gun broadside into the baddie, and it was turret 3 that took the impact of those alien whatever thingys.

    I must say though that direct fire with 16 inchers at less than 5000 yards is as easy as it gets. Pretty cool use of CGI, but a bit of camera shake would have been welcome. Hopper and Capt Nagata would have seen flames from above, below and both sides. The O-5 level bridge was my absolute favorite place to watch gun-shoots.

    I'm going to get my printer to start talking to my computer and scan in some old pictures. I'll take the best and post them here.
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 07:26 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  3. Old Comment
    garyw's Avatar
    I have to say...... Aside from the silly comsat collision thing I loved this movie. It was silly, fun, lots of explosions and a James T. Kirk like character being thrust into command.

    Yes, there were a lot of technical issues with it, certainly some shipboard ones I never caught as I don't know the details of these ships and reading your blog makes those much clearer but I can over look those because its FUN.

    Too many movies today don't have a storyline or have one so weak you can poke holes it in. Battleships storyline was 'aliens invade, YES THEY DO, big guns, boom' - they never tried to techno babble why the aliens travelled light years through interstellar dust then ran over a comm satellite which I appreciate more than endless claptrap trying to justify a bad plot point.

    As for that anchor maneuver I loved it. Very clever visually appealling and helped the good guys to win. Of course, 'real world' aliens would probably have tracking systems on missiles so this wouldn't work but what the hell. I'd love to know where that was done previously because I know I've read about it before!
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 07:44 AM by garyw garyw is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Izack's Avatar
    Wouldn't "real aliens" have just dropped a solid block the size of that craft at a high fraction of lightspeed? Oh wait, that's just claptrap isn't it.

    Thanks for the naval insight, PC. I haven't seen more than a few minutes of this movie (and heard the audio for the entire first half; too busy in the next room over er... cuddling ) so when I do see it, I'll keep it in mind. Reading in your blog that Michael Bay isn't involved is a shock (this seems right up his alley) and encouragement to see this film without raising the blood pressure too much.
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 10:39 AM by Izack Izack is offline
  5. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Don't try to put "Battleship" in the same league as other summer movie blockbusters. More along the lines of something for a Saturday matinee from days long-gone. Like Gary said, the movie was fun. Little bit hokey, but on reflection that might have been intentional (and if it was, it was brillient). I'd put in the same category as watching "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", only with a different flavor.
    I was entertained, and really, that's what I want out of a movie. If I want to think and contemplate, then I'll watch a film. There's a distinct difference.
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 12:34 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Mattyv's Avatar
    Which ship did you serve on?
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 12:38 PM by Mattyv Mattyv is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Izack's Avatar
    Aye, that's what I'm looking for. Fun little thing for a weekend. I don't feel like watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly this afternoon.
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 01:06 PM by Izack Izack is offline
  8. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    In order of appearance...
    1989/1990 - USS New Jersey
    1990/1991 - USS Missouri
    1993 - USS Doyle (8 weeks Baltops while on shore duty)
    1996/1997 - USS Steven W. Groves

    Keep in mind all these were as an attached command. As an airedale I wasn't "ships company" unless the ship "needed" us (if you get my meaning).

    Assigned commands, were; VC-6 (flying the Pioneer RPV), VX-1 (shore duty, with H-2, H-3, H-60B/F/H, S-3, P-3), finally HSL-44 (with the "Lead Dogs of Det 4) taking an SH-60 named Magnum-450).

    I've been on several other ships (it counts if I spent the night, right?). Those being the Iowa & Wisconsin, Nashville, Deyo (Dayayay-yo), Enterprise, America, Kitty Hawk and the San Jacinto (almost my favorite). Not going to lie, I got around. Before I got married I was Go-Navy!
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 02:30 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  9. Old Comment
    garyw's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Izack View Comment
    Wouldn't "real aliens" have just dropped a solid block the size of that craft at a high fraction of lightspeed? Oh wait, that's just claptrap isn't it.
    As has been said a few times, if you have FTL you don't need weapons. Something slamming into Earth at c will be enough to cause major damage. In this case I just accept that the aliens couldn't/physics won't allow it/THEY JUST DON'T OK!!
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 05:28 PM by garyw garyw is offline
  10. Old Comment
    mojoey's Avatar
    Originally Posted by PhantomCruiser View Comment
    I've been on several other ships (it counts if I spent the night, right?). Those being the Iowa & Wisconsin, Nashville, Deyo (Dayayay-yo), Enterprise, America, Kitty Hawk and the San Jacinto (almost my favorite). Not going to lie, I got around. Before I got married I was Go-Navy!

    Hey hey! Big E FTW!
    Posted 08-16-2012 at 08:03 AM by mojoey mojoey is offline
  11. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    The E? Honestly I think I'd been in better dives. The transient berthing they put me in was awful. I elected to spend the night on a roll of bubble wrap in the line shack. As far as carriers go, I think the Kitty Hawk was the best one I've seen.
    Posted 08-16-2012 at 12:30 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  12. Old Comment
    SiberianTiger's Avatar
    Why are you Phantom Cruiser and not a Phantom Battleship, btw?
    Posted 08-16-2012 at 12:41 PM by SiberianTiger SiberianTiger is offline
  13. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    I used the term Phantom Cruiser for my car for years (still do actually, I'm on the Mark IX model). It's from an old cartoon Space Ghost. But I'd would have tossed that Glick thing out an airlock as soon as it showed up in the series (same with Bandit on Johnny Quest).
    Posted 08-16-2012 at 02:33 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  14. Old Comment
    mojoey's Avatar
    Well you know, I said the ship, I didnt say anything about the squid berthing
    Posted 08-16-2012 at 04:32 PM by mojoey mojoey is offline
  15. Old Comment
    Eli13's Avatar
    (Following your logic: )
    I spent a night on the Alabama, does that make me a battleship sailor now?

    Just kidding of course, but I plan on going again next year. Fun stuff.

    Enjoyed the naval commentary, PC.
    Posted 08-18-2012 at 11:23 PM by Eli13 Eli13 is offline
  16. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Eli13 View Comment
    I spent a night on the Alabama, does that make me a battleship sailor now?
    Uhh, no.. Maybe we could say that your an honorary member? But anyway, Roll Tide!

    I've toured the Alabama, it was very different then the Iowa class, but similar enough in places to give me some deja vu. The guns are the same size and caliber, but in places the layout is drastically different (plus she's quite a bit shorter). One thing in particular that sent me time-travelling was that after all these years the Alabama still has that familiar smell of grease and oil. It was faint to me, but my wife said she thought it was pretty strong. She looked OK, but I wish they had more money to take better care of her (referring to the ship here, not the wife, she looks A-OK).

    I want to go see the North Carolina too, all the pictures I've seen tell me that the "Showboat" is well maintained. I'd also like to see the Texas, mainly to see how the design has changed.
    Posted 08-19-2012 at 12:47 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  17. Old Comment
    Eli13's Avatar
    Just a joke.

    When I was visiting, they were doing some renovations to the bridge and various rooms below deck. I don't know if they found some money for that, or what, but from what I could tell she seemed in OK shape. Then again, I don't have much to judge against.

    What I still want to see is one of the Iowa classes. I was a bit disappointed when I did some research prior to visiting the 'Bama. But it's a battleship nonetheless, made for a fun night. Played some capture the flag at night. Hiding in the 16" turret lights seemed to be a great place to wait at.

    About that grease and oil scent, I definitely noticed it, but it wasn't all that bad to me. All in all, I enjoyed that experience a lot.
    Posted 08-19-2012 at 01:16 AM by Eli13 Eli13 is offline

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