Monday at NATS 1999

By Kevin Bray

There they were, this fine bright Oklahoma morning, two fleets with mayhem on their mind.
The Axis fleet, bloodied the last three years in the National battles, was ready to prove some points not only to the Allied fleet they faced, but to the battling world at large. The fleet was lead by 4 6-unit monsters, the well-worn but always dapper Bismarck of Wade Koehn, the new Nagato of Admiral Dirty Dave Haynes, Dirty's old Nagato which had just finished a complete refit by Chris Pearce, and the new Nagato belonging to Andy Ray. Backing up these behemoths were three 5-unit ships, lead by D.W.Fluegel's 28 second SMS Baden, fresh from her best of scale appearance in North Carolina.

The newly completed Scharnhorst of Jim Pate figured to be a dangerous boat if Jim had done his usual fine work. She was matched by her 24 second sister, the Gneisenau of rookie Steve Reichenbach. Following this fine trio were six 4-unit ships. The speedy 24 second Haruna of Chris Au was the fastest, followed by the 26 second duo of Dave Au's von der Tann, and Lief Goodson's Moltke. The three 28 second 4-unit sluggers were all new ships, the Westfalen of Tim Beckett, the Settsu of Gerald Roberts, and rookie David Asman's technically immaculate Nassau. Rounding out this fine fleet were four 3-unit Lutzows. Kevin Bray fought his fully worked up version next to Paul Block's rookie ship, while Mike Boyles and Paul Barrett both got their Lutzows (Paul had to borrow his ship once again) out on the water later in the week.

The Allied fleet, while recognizing that it had lost many of its finest members to the Axis cause, was still quietly confident that they could hold their own. They still had the powerful Missouri of Don Cole, the only 8-unit ship on the water for this Nats. Backing up Don were seven class 6 ships, six of them with 24 second speed: the experienced Bob Eakin in his Washington, Chris Groissant in his new North Carolina, Stan Watkins had his well-worked North Carolina, Rick Whitsell had a North Carolina for both himself and his son Frank, and site host Robert Rucker had his North Carolina worked up for battle as well. Rounding out the 6 unit sluggers was Brian Eliassen's 26 second South Dakota, which was to prove that it could still dance on the water when it had to.

The Allied 5-unit fleet was a bit thin, as rookie Ted Brogden sailed his 26 second HMS Queen Elizabeth alone most of the week. Jeff Poindexter did show up Wednesday with his 5-unit USS Texas for night battle, but had to leave again the next day due to illness. The Allies had a larger group of 4-unit ships, lead by three of the always popular I-boats, captained by the rookies John Whitsell, Jim Ewers, and Dana Graham. Dana's was an exceptional work that would bring home the best of scale at the end of the week, and proved to be a popular target all week. For the 28 second tight turners, the Allies had three ships, the well worked Espana of Ali Zinat, and the rushed to completion USS Michigan of Admiral Steve Milholland and HMS Bellerophon of Larry "Lars" Dahl.

For cruisers, the Allied fleet was composed four 2-unit 23 second speedsters, lead by the two Dutch cruisers Java and Sumatra, captained by Bart "I do declare" Purvis and CD Tom Jass. John Messere had an Atlanta, and his son Joey had the French George Leyges. Ali Zinat also had a Atlanta along as a backup ship, and ended up using her quite frequently during the week.

With a large number of freshly completed ships, it seemed to be a toss-up as to which fleet would get the breaks. Many were worried about the 28 second 4-unit sluggers, most of which had problems running speed trials the day before when the water kept coming over their bows. Tim Beckett had been forced to completely seal his Westfalen's A-turret due to the problem. Ship testing only found one ship with a hull that was too hard, and that problem was corrected by Wednesday.

The Monday Massacre:

The battle started with things going wrong for the Allies almost immediately. Ted Brogden's Queen Elizabeth's on/off switch failed, and was declared sunk quickly. Lars noticed that his HMS Bellerophon was slowing down, and then did a Three Stooges' slap to the forehead when he realized that when he'd run speed trials that morning he'd used an older battery that couldn't hold a charge, and hadn't replaced it with a fresh, full strength battery. Off he went to hide among the paddle boats, but Chris Pearce's Nagato found him and sank him with about 30 seconds left on his five. This was soon followed with a two North Carolinas being lost. Bob Eakin's Washington started having radio problems, and was declared sunk. Chris Groissant's North Carolina also had radio problems as Chris lost his pump and sank.

The first sortie carnage wasn't over, as Rick Whitsell's North Carolina sank, and as the number of Allied ships on the water dwindled, more boats were picked off. Admiral Milholland's Michigan went down, followed by Dana Graham's Invincible.

The Allied cruisers did their sniping and got off the water with no trouble, but Jim Ewers' Invincible soon found himself alone on the water and declared himself sunk after the Axis followed him into the moss. The sortie ended with 8 Allied ships sunk to no Axis.

The second sortie started with the Axis trying their best to cap their first sortie effort with a exclamation mark, and they did it by surrounding and sinking the Missouri. For good measure they also caught and sank John Messere's Atlanta. Frank Whitsell's North Carolina joined his father's under the waves for a total of eleven sinks to none.

Jim Pate's Scharnhorst went out of control and sailed in a circle for a time, but there were no Allies left to give him any trouble. The sortie ended with a large number of Axis still on the water looking around for more Allies and were shocked upon finding none. The Axis fleet had totally white-washed the Allies, scoring 27,000 points to 4,000. Their most damaged ships were Chris Pearce's Nagato at 670 points and Chris Au's Haruna at 730 points It was a massacre that the Allies would have a hard time recovering from the rest of the week.

Comments from the combatants after this battle included:
David Asman: It was great fun. I had butterflys, but the fleet sweep was nice.
Jim Ewers: There was too many of them, and not enough of us.
Teg Brogden: "Not much."
Paul Block: I had a great time. I wanted to play more, move in and have the little guys take over, but..
Tim Beckett: I couldn't get to the sinks fast enough. With the Westfalen there's no such thing as run and gun.
Steve Reichenbach: It was really fun to empty triple sterns into that Missouri and watch it sink, and then find it again.
Joey Messere: There's an awful lot of muck in that pond.
Brian Eliassen: Things were absolutely terrible until I sank Jim Pate.
Jim Pate: I didn't sink!!
Chris Pearce: Eleven for nineteen isn't bad, we'll have to try harder next time.
John Whitsell: I just tried to stay away from four guys at once.
Lief Goodson: It was not better than I expected, but better than I dreamed.
Fleugel: I hope the Allies are enjoying this NATS as much as the Axis.
Dana Graham: It was chaotic as hell!
Milholland: We got skunked.