The Further Adventures Of The USS Flyswatter, Parts I-V

Over the last week, I wrote the second part of the story of the USS Manchester. And over the next three days, at this time, I’m going to publish them here. As before, they will be in the extended section so those not interested in my venture into historical fiction can skip over them.

I dunno if or when I’ll do this sort of thing again, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to do. And I ended up doing a lot of historical research to get the details as right as I could.

Two notes: First, halfway through Part III, some of that research forced me to trash about half that section and scrap several plans. I was persuaded to save the part I had written, even though it was utterly obsolete, so it’s left in there — but clearly marked as junked. I’m glad I listened; I think I wrote some good stuff there, and managed to re-use some elements in the “main” story.

Second, at some point I decided to throw the readers a curve ball and insert a “joke” section where I tried to hit on a bunch of the cliche’s that trouble amateur historical fiction and parody them. I’m going to leave that in there, as well, because — like the part above I had to delete — I had way too much fun writing them.

“Purists” may want to skip the latter half of Part III and Part 4.1. I hope they don’t, though.

Part I

November, 1942

Captain Joe Tormolen lay back on his cot. He desperately wanted and needed to sleep, but it would not come.

Tormolen had been able to sleep on pretty much any ship he’d been on, in any climate. It was almost a matter of pride to him. But this tiny cot, in this Quonset hut, on the island of New Caledonia – this was worse than any ship he’d ever sailed aboard. He had grown used to sleeping aboard a ship – the slow rocking, the quiet rattle of the engines, the muffled tramping of countless feet, all the little things that served as a reminder to his subconscious that he was surrounded by steel, stubbornly bobbing atop the seas.

He found himself missing the Argonne. The sub tender had been an utterly inadequate flagship for Admiral Halsey when he first took command of the theatre. She was cramped, slow, and woefully un-air-conditioned, but at least she was a ship. Tormolen had not grumbled when Halsey announced he and his staff were going ashore, but he wished he had.

Tormolen found himself thinking back to his first cruise at sea. A freshly-minted ensign, he had been assigned to the battleship Arkansas. He’d been walking around the ship late one night when he stumbled across an illicit poker game.

His first instinct had been to break up the game, but he’d let the chief who seemed to be running it persuade him to let it go. Instead, Tormolen had watched, fascinated – he’d never played poker, and the intensity of the players had him quickly enthralled.

The game eventually came down to two young seamen, and the pots kept growing. In the final hand, there was more cash piled on the table than Tormolen had ever seen in one place. Just as the sailors were about to settle that final pot, however, Tormolen’s lieutenant came looking for his misplaced ensign. The lieutenant confiscated the pot and the cards, blistered the ears of the chiefs who had been standing around encouraging the young players, and led Tormolen straight to the captain’s quarters.

The captain had not been pleased to be presented with the news, and immediately ordered Tormolen back to his quarters – with orders to stay there until he was summoned. Joe closed the door behind him, leaving the two officers to quietly discuss the matter.

The next afternoon, that same lieutenant had showed up at Tormolen’s quarters and escorted him back to the captain’s quarters.

“Mr. Tormolen, would you care to explain what you were doing at that poker game last night?”

“Sir, I discovered it underway while walking the ship, and should have put a stop to it immediately. But I let myself be persuaded that it was harmless, and instead watched it.”

The captain humphed. “Well, at least you aren’t dumb enough to lie to me. Tell me, Tormolen, do you play poker?”

“No sir, last night was the first time I even saw a game being played.”

“Do you know why gambling is forbidden on Navy ships, and especially on mine?”

“No, sir. I had never thought to question the regulations.”

“Let me explain it to you, Mr. Tormolen.” The captain took an envelope out of his desk and handed it over. “Count this.”

It was the pot from that final hand. Tormolen counted it, as ordered. It was, indeed, far more money than he’d ever seen in one place, let alone held.

“That, Mr. Tormolen, is about four months’ pay from each of those two idiots who were in that final hand. If Lieutenant Whedon hadn’t broken up that game, one of those men would have lost pretty much every penny he owned.”

“Sir, that was their choice. If a man wants to risk…”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion, Mr. Tormolen. As I was saying, one of those men was about to lose every penny he owned. That would have caused a great deal of resentment between two men who one day might need to depend on each other for their very lives. More importantly, it would have driven a wedge between two of my crew, and I can’t afford to have two men hating each other when they should be thinking about their duties to this ship.

“I can’t keep the men from gambling when they’re ashore, but I can keep them from doing so on my ship. And anyone who tries to get around that – even if it means standing by and staring like an idiot while it goes on – will get my shoe up their ass as far as I can kick it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, Tormolen, do you know what I’m going to do about this whole sorry mess?”

Tormolen saw a court martial in his future. Or, at least, a captain’s mast. “No, sir.”

“We’re going to pretend this never happened. After you leave, the senior chief is going to come in here and take that envelope. After we take 20% of it for the Crew Fund, we’re going to split it right down the middle and lock it in the ship’s safe. Once we get back to shore, those two sailors in that final hand will be given that money.

“The only reason I’m not taking any official action, Tormolen, is because of you. There is no way I can punish a single one of the players without punishing you even more severely, and I’m not going to put that kind of a black mark on your record on your very first tour at sea.”

Tormolen felt himself sag with relief.

“I want you to understand the price of your future, Mr. Tormolen. To preserve that career, I am choosing to not discipline six crewmen who most likely desperately need it. I am letting them off, because there is no way I can come down on them like they deserve without destroying you in the process.

“This doesn’t mean that the whole matter is whitewashed, Mr. Tormolen. I’m putting those six men into a single work gang. That gang is going to be getting the nastiest, most disgusting, most back-breaking details I and the senior chief can find. And would you care to speculate what officer is going to be assigned to supervise this gang?”

The following months had been the worst of Tormolen’s young life. From holystoning the decks to cleaning the bilges to painting the hull to scouring the heads, he had led the poker party on a tour of the worst places aboard the Arkansas. When he had been transferred of the battleship, he had left with a thorough knowledge of the less-than-glamorous workings of the Arky – and a lifetime loathing of poker.

Then, four months after he left the ship, he heard through the grapevine about a murder aboard the Arkansas. Sickly, he had looked into the story, and it was just as he has feared – one of those two men in that last hand had killed the other. A gambling debt was supposedly involved.

There was no way Tormolen could know if the killing might had been averted, had he shut down the game as soon as he stumbled across it. Maybe, maybe not.

It was that last hand that kept coming to mind. It seemed the perfect metaphor for the fighting going around Guadalcanal. Neither the United States nor Japan had intended to make the Solomon Islands the crucible it had become. Neither nation had expected to pour as many men, planes, and ships into the pot, constantly raising the stakes and sinking more and more and more resources into the fight. The butcher’s bill was already far higher than any other battle, and there seemed no end in sight. The determining factor was turning out not to be numbers, or technology, or tactics, but simply a matter of who was willing to shed the most blood.

As of this moment, neither side was even considering folding.

Part II

Captain Tormolen stepped into the room in the house that had previously served the French Consul General that served as the main meeting area. Admiral Halsey was already there, as usual. Tormolen took a quick glance of the reports from the overnight fighting.

First up, more Marine casualties ashore on Gudalcanal. Once again they had kept the Japanese from retaking Henderson Field, but at a terrible cost, and the airfield had been battered once more.

The Japanese had managed to bring another convoy down the Slot. The Tokyo Express was keeping the Japanese going. All day, the Americans brought in their reinforcements, and the Japanese tried to stop them. At night, the Japanese brought in their reinforcements, and the Americans tried to stop them. So far, it was a savage stalemate, with the only changes being to the casualty counts – the numbers of men killed and wounded, planes shot down, and the numbers of ship sent to the bottom.

Ever since Halsey had taken command of the Southern Pacific, the morale of the men had improved remarkably. But so far, that had yet to translate into actual gains. Tormolen feared that the “bounce” that Halsey’s arrival had triggered would fade into renewed cynicism and despair if the fierce warrior did not deliver some tangible results – and soon.

“Joe! Get over here – we’ve been waiting for you!” Halsey’s bellow echoed off the walls, their once-pristine paint now marred with maps and charts and – in one place – plans and charts drawn right on the surface.

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know I was needed any sooner.”

“I didn’t send anyone for you because I figured you’d need all the rest you could get. Pack a bag, son, you’re going out to sea.”


“You’re going back to the Manchester. Stark’s come down with appendicitis, and you’re going out to take his place.”

“Sir, Commander Washburne is the Manchester’s exec. Why isn’t he getting command?”

“Because Captain Washburne isn’t aboard her. He left a week ago, heading stateside for his own command. His replacement’s been delayed, so right now the Manchester is missing her two top men. I can’t move up any of her other officers without leaving a gap in her command structure, so the best solution is to put another officer in command temporarily.”

Tormolen was overwhelmed. “But sir, after my last visit, Captain Stark and I didn’t part on the best possible terms.”

“You two might not have gotten along famously, but he has a hell of a lot of respect for you. You know the Manchester better than any other officer available, both the ship and the crew, and you’ve got a solid, permanent assignment here, so you’re not likely to grow too attached to Stark’s seat. Most importantly, we need every ship, and we can’t afford for the Manchester to sit at anchor while we wait for her new exec to show up, and then learn the ropes.

“The docs say Stark should be fit for duty in about three weeks or so. You’ll be acting captain until then. If Commander Serra does turn up, you can get him up to speed and — if he can handle it — put him in charge of the Manchester and come back here. Or you can stick it out until Stark’s back on his feet. Until then, Joe, the Manchester will be yours.”

Part III

Over the past few days, Tormolen and the Manchester had gotten acclimated to each other. Captain Stark was well-liked as well as respected, and – in these odd circumstances – that helped Tormolen’s assimilation go more smoothly. Everyone aboard not only knew that his presence was temporary, but that he had been Stark’s choice. Coupled with the fact that many of the crew remembered Tormolen from his stay a few months ago at Midway, and it was quite possibly the smoothest transition in Navy history.

Naturally, there were still some rough spots. Tormolen had never held a command before. His last two promotions had come from shore duty; he’d left the command track while still a Lt. Commander – first to the Bureau of Construction and Repair (which became the Bureau of Ships), then to Admiral Halsey’s staff. He wasn’t used to the nigh-absolute power a captain wielded aboard his ship. It was a heady experience, checked only by the nigh-absolute responsibility that accompanied it.

That was fine in the abstract. On a more concrete level, Tormolen was finally feeling like he belonged at the conn of the Manchester. The crew responded instantly to his commands, and his officers promptly (but respectfully) let him know when he was about to make a mistake. Most importantly, they had developed a very high level of respect and trust that let them work together virtually seamlessly.

But the grace period Admiral Halsey had granted the ship was over. They’d had their “shakedown,” and now were expected to resume their duties as a fully-functional warship in the United States Navy.

(Original ending goes here)

At the thought of Admiral Halsey, Tormolen found his eyes drawn out the bridge window, to the Enterprise. Halsey himself had sailed down from Noumea on the Big E. He had tried commanding from the rear, and didn’t care for it. So now he was where he had to be – right in the thick of things.

Then Tormolen re-read the dispatch they’d received a couple of hours ago. Last night, Admiral Callaghan had led most of his screening force into the Slot to intercept the Japanese. Two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers had challenged the Japanese in the dark, where the enemy had a decided advantage.

And they’d won.

Callaghan most likely wasn’t expecting the Japanese to send a battleship into the crowded waters of the Slot, but they had. And his forces had not fled from the challenge. They sank one destroyer and took enough of a chunk out of the battleship – it was, apparently, one of the four Kongo-class vessels originally built as battlecruisers, but refitted and reclassified into a full-fledged battleship – that when morning came, aircraft from the Enterprise and Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field had finished her off. And the supplies the battlewagon had been escorting never landed.

But at one hell of a price.

It was still unclear exactly how many American ships had been sunk and how many had been crippled, but only one cruiser and one destroyer were still reporting as fit for duty. And Admiral Callaghan was confirmed among the dead.

The Japanese had been stopped last night, but it had taken nearly everything the Americans could throw at them. If they tried it again, it would be hard – Halsey’s cupboard was almost bare.

The words of the ancient Greek general Pyrrhus came to mind. “Another victory like this one, and I am undone.”

(End Part III)

(Original ending of Part III)

And their first challenge was tonight. The Japanese had been steadily reinforcing Guadalcanal with what had become known as the “Tokyo Express.” Every night, it seemed, Japanese destroyers and other fast ships would race down the Slot, dump cargo and reinforcements into the ocean off Guadalcanal, then race for home. In the daytime, the Americans did just the opposite.

This mirrored perfectly the tactical situation: the Americans controlled the daylight hours, thanks to having air superiority. But at night, when the planes were grounded, the Japanese – who had spent years and years perfecting the art of night-fighting – ruled.

That situation had led to turning Guadalcanal into a 2500-square-mile meat grinder.

Tonight, though, the Americans would be looking to break the cycle.

Admiral Callaghan would be leading a force of two heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and eight destroyers into the deadly waters north of Guadalcanal in hopes of surprising the Japanese. If the Americans had any luck, they would put enough of a hurting on the Japanese to slow down the constant resupply of their forces on Guadalcanal, and give the Americans the chance to get ahead.

While keeping a confident, resolute façade for his crew, Tormolen had his doubts about the Manchester’s effectiveness in the fight. She had never been intended to face other surface ships, and certainly not at night. On the other hand, she was sailing alongside the Atlanta and the Juneau. The Manchester had been designed as an enlarged version of those ships. If Callaghan thought those ships were suitable for the battle, then the Manchester was even more so. And while the Manchester’s 5″ guns were relatively small, she still had a truly formidable punch – she could fire almost a ton of shells on her broadside every four seconds or so. Over a minute, that gave her – at least on paper – the power of a battleship.

Of course, that was on paper. In practice, it didn’t work out quite as well. A dozen five-inch shells hitting in the same spot didn’t have anywhere near the destructive potential of a single fourteen-inch battleship shell.

Luckily, the Japanese had been relying not on battleships, but on destroyers and cruisers – and they were much more thin-skinned than battleships. Against those, the Manchester’s guns could wreak considerable havoc.

As the sun neared the horizon, Tormolen ordered the Manchester into formation. Callaghan had split his forces into three elements – four destroyers in the van, the six cruisers in the middle, and the remaining four destroyers bringing up the rear. The Manchester was last in line for cruisers, trailing the Juneau.

Tormolen also questioned Callaghan’s deployment. Tormolen had had a little experience with the new SG radar that was being phased in, and was mightily impressed. Five of the ships in the group were equipped with it, but all were assigned to the rear half. It seemed as if Callaghan either didn’t understand or didn’t trust the new radar, and was preferring to rely on the older SC systems that the ships he’d chosen to lead the group were using.

But Tormolen kept his concerns to himself. He was not only the newest member of the task force, he had only held command for a few days. He wasn’t on Bull Halsey’s staff any more, where dissent was not only tolerated, but actively solicited. He was the captain of one ship in a task force, and the most junior at that. Once he had a battle or two under his belt, he’d feel more comfortable raising his voice.

The Manchester slid easily into formation, off the Juneau’s stern. From the rear, the similarities between the two ships was apparent. Tormolen studied the three-tiered 5″ guns on the stern that had inspired the design of the Manchester and marveled. He’d spent many an hour poring over the plans for the Juneau (well, technically, her sister, the Atlanta, four ships ahead in the formation), working out how to enlarge her into an even more formidable platform. The final design for the Manchester was 100 feet longer, 10 feet wider, and 4,000 tons heavier, but he’d added another four turrets on the beams, increasing the firepower by 50% over the Atlantas. He recalled the aphorism he’d tossed at his staff while they tried to squeeze every single gun they could on the Manchester – “nothing succeeds like excess.”

They’d taken his words to heart, and the Manchester turned into a veritable porcupine, with gun barrels sprouting out of almost every inch of deck. And she’d shown the value of those guns at Midway, when she’d shot down nearly every attacking Japanese plane that had ventured near, earning the nickname “The Flyswatter.”

Unfortunately, enough had managed to drop their payloads in time to cripple the Manchester’s charge, the Yorktown, and leave her vulnerable to the Japanese submarine that had finished her off, but the crew had taken that failing as a challenge. Their already-superb marksmanship had gotten even better, the lookouts even sharper-eyed, and the radar operators even more perceptive. Tormolen almost pitied the next Japanese pilot unfortunate enough to fly into the range of the Manchester’s guns.

Tonight, though, she wouldn’t be facing planes. The Manchester’s five-inch guns were officially rated as “dual-purpose,” meaning they were considered effective both against aircraft and ships. Tonight, the latter part of that designation would be put to the test.

Tormolen was confident this was a test the Manchester would pass.

Part IV

As the day wore on, the news kept getting worse. The Juneau was gone – destroyed in a single cataclysmic explosion. Four destroyers were also resting on the newly-named “Ironbottom Sound” – the Cushing, the Laffey, the Barton, and the Monssen. The Atlanta was badly mauled, and not expected to make it. The San Francisco – Callaghan’s flagship – had had her topside ripped to shreds, but her hull and engines and weapons were still mostly intact. The Portland had taken at least one torpedo, and was under tow. The destroyers Sterett, Aaron Ward, and O’Bannon also were seriously hurting. In fact, the only ships still effective combat units were the light cruiser Helena and the destroyer Fletcher.

Tormolen had only met Callaghan a couple of times, in passing, but had been impressed with him. He had definitely been of the old school, trusting in his ship’s guns and armor to face down the enemy. And by all reports he’d gone down swinging.

Oddly enough, Tormolen most keenly felt the loss of the Atlanta. During the Battle of Midway, he’d had a few chances to see the ship that had inspired his design of the Manchester.

The similarities were obvious – the three 5″ turrets fore and aft, rising up from the main deck towards the middle of the ship — were an unmistakable signature of both vessels. But that was where the similarities largely ended. While the Atlanta had one more turret, amidships and towards the stern on each side, the Manchester had another three on her beam – with the center one raised to fire over the other two if necessary.

To accommodate the extra main guns, as well as the slew of smaller weapons, the Manchester was almost 80 feet longer, 10 feet wider, and displaced 4,000 tons more than the Atlanta. He recalled the motto he had impressed on his team when they questioned his determination to cram as many weapons on the ship as could fit: “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Still, he was deeply concerned. Callaghan and his forces had, indeed, stopped the Japanese from their combined resupply/bombardment run down the Slot, but it had cost them Callaghan himself and most of his force. The next time the Japanese ran another Tokyo Express, what would Halsey have to stop them?

Just then Tormolen got a hint of his answer: an inquiry from the Enterprise about each ship’s fuel status.

He stepped to the intercom as he read the message. “Engineering, this is the captain. What is our current bunkerage?”

“We’ve managed to run pretty lean since our last refueling, Captain. I put us at about 82% of full.”

“Excellent, Mr. Book. Sparks, pass that information back to the Enterprise. Oh, and take note of how the other ships answer.”

The Adventures Of the USS Flyswatter, Part 4.1

It had taken some persuading, but Tormolen had convinced Halsey to allow the Manchester to join Admiral Lee’s force going up the Slot this night. The four destroyers led the formation, followed by the Washington and South Dakota. The Manchester was stuck bringing up the rear.

It was just before midnight that the Americans and Japanese spotted each other. The destroyers commenced their attack, but were quickly taken out of action by the fiercely accurate and devastating Japanese torpedoes.

Then the South Dakota went dark. Something must have happened; Tormolen had seen her take no damage, but her guns suddenly went silent and even the faint running lights went dim. That’s when she started really taking a pounding.

Tormolen realized he had no choice. He was under strict orders to keep the M Protocol under wraps except in the most dire of circumstances, but here they were. It was literally a case of do or die.

He grabbed the intercom and shouted – speaking not to the crew, but the ship herself. “Engage M Protocol!”

There was a brief moment of silence as the baffled crew all paused to consider the command. On the bridge, all eyes turned to Captain Tormolen as if he had suddenly started spouting in Ancient Egyptian.

Then the silence was broken by a series of groans that shuddered through the ship. One ensign on the bridge started to panic. “We’ve been hit! We’re sinking!”

Tormolen shouted the young man down. “Belay that, mister! We’re not sinking – we’re morphing!”

The crew clung to any convenient protuberance they could find as the ship literally reformed itself. From a sleek cruiser, the Manchester reconstituted herself into a giant, vaguely humanoid shape. Two great legs stretched down to the sea bed, holding a massive torso aloft. Two arms sprouted from the shoulders, one of them ending in a massive tube. And the bridge now rested atop, forming a vague head.

Tormolen spoke clearly into the microphone. “Manchester, target that enemy battleship and fire!”

The right arm raised itself and leveled the mighty tube it bore at the battleship. Then, in a massive flash of lightning, a single projectile streaked forth. When it struck the battleship, it instantly exploded, scattering debris over miles. When the smoke cleared, all that was left was a patch of small fires on the sea.

“Holy crap! What the hell was that?”

“That, mister, is the Navy’s newest secret weapon. A 25-megajoule rail gun that fires 16″ projectiles moving roughly seven times the speed of sound. It’s the ultimate ‘one hit-one kill’ weapon.”

“And what happened to the ship?”

“This, mister, is called ‘Combat Mode.’ The Manchester is the first vessel in the world that can re-configure her very shape into one that lets her fight at least as well on land as on the sea. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more work to do.” Tormolen clicked the microphone open again. “Manchester, target remaining enemy ships and fire at will!”

The Manchester’s railgun made quick work of the remaining Japanese vessels. Prioritizing them by size, she quickly vaporized the two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers.

At the end, she almost seemed to be showing off – sinking two of the destroyers with a single shot.

Then silence reigned the waters of Ironbottom Sound. Off in the distance, the South Dakota could be seen flickering back to life.

Tormolen took to the intercom. “Attention all hands. As you just discovered, this ship has quite a few surprises built into her. We wanted to keep them a secret as long as possible, but now that the cat’s out of the bag, I think it’s time we showed the Japanese just what good old-fashioned American know-how can whip up.”

“Manchester, engage rockets and set course for Tokyo, speed Mach two!”

There was a mighty rumble beneath the Manchester, and the sea began to boil. The massive robot slowly rose out of the depths, flames erupting from her feet. She cleared the waves and rose to an altitude of several thousand feet, then tipped forward, still accelerating.

“All hands, this is the captain. We should be arriving in Tokyo in a little under three hours. I suggest you sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Part V

“Captain! The order’s been given. Admiral Lee and the Washington are to lead a force into the Slot tonight. It’ll be the Washington, the South Dakota, and four destroyers.”

“So the Old Man’s going for broke. Sparks, get the Enterprise on the horn and see if I can talk to Admiral Halsey directly.”

“Sir, they say Admiral Halsey can talk to you in about 20 minutes, and he can spare you no more than five.”

Tormolen knew that if he was going to persuade Halsey, he’d have to do it it quickly – or not at all. “That should be enough.”

* * * * *

“Joe, I’m up to my ass in work here. Make it quick.”

“Sir, I am formally requesting that the Manchester be assigned to Admiral Lee’s task force for tonight’s mission.”

“Thought that was what was up. Sorry, Joe, I can’t spare you. Without Lee’s battlewagons, the Enterprise’s anti-aircraft defenses are seriously depleted. I need the Manchester right her to keep the Japs off our only carrier.”

“Sir, I understand that. But…”

“Also, Joe, your ship is barely armored and carries nothing bigger than popguns. A whole lot of popguns, I’ll admit, but popguns. Lee’s going hunting for a battleship and cruisers, and your guns won’t be much more than nuisances against them.”

“Sir, I admit the Manchester couldn’t do much more than mess up the paint on a Kongo. But they’ll have smaller ships with them – light cruisers, destroyers, and transports. The Manchester could mop up the floor with those ships. Especially those with torpedoes that could go gunning for Lee’s battlewagons.

“I know the Manchester’s guns are fairly small, but we’ve got a broadside of about half a ton of steel, and we can pump out about 15 broadsides every minute. Also, they’re officially rated as ‘dual-purpose,’ meaning they work just as well against surface ships as they do planes. We can chew up pretty much anything the Japanese have short of a battleship, meaning we can keep the heat off of Lee. We didn’t design this ship as just a carrier escort. Battleships are capital ships, too, and they could certainly use a little extra help in this fight.

“Finally, sir, I know that you picked the cans to go with Lee based on their fuel state. They’re from four different divisions, so it’s obvious that that was the sole consideration. Well, we’ve got over 80% bunkerage, more than plenty for some serious maneuvering.”

There was a long pause – long enough that Tormolen was fearing that Admiral Halsey had stormed off from the radio in disgust.

“All right, Joe, you’ve sold me. I’ll tell Ching Lee that you’ll be tagging along, too, and he can figure out where to put you in his formation.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Don’t thank me, son. I have a hunch that I’m not granting you or your crew any favors for doing this.”

Tormolen then opened up the intercom.

“Attention all hands, this is the captain. So far, we’ve spent the entire war playing defense, letting the Japanese take their best shots at us. Tonight we go on the offensive. We’ll be joining Admiral Lee and the battleships to go into the Slot and keep them from getting to Guadalcanal.

As you all know, the Japanese have been using these ‘Tokyo Express’ convoys to bring in reinforcements, supplies, and to bombard our boys on the island. The Marines are counting on us to keep the Japanese away, and I know the Manchester will not let them down.”

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