Manticoran News Bureau
“Can’t Stop The Signal“
Meeting the Czechs at the Camden Docks.
Czech Republic vs. New Jersey
by Captain (JG) Marcus Johnston, OC, CGM, RMN, HMS Claymore (CA-51)
2015.06.17 CE / 346.13.37 AL (MNB) – It’s amazing where the Navy will take you, and that’s true even in the fan service. When I learned that the Czech contingent that came to MantiCon was going to see USS New Jersey, I realized, “Wait! That’s only an hour away!” So a quick Facebook post later, and I was set to meet up with our sister organization at a museum ship.
I arrived right on time, and after some confusion, found myself meeting the commander of HMS Phantom, Captain Lenka “Blanca” Lukacova, Baroness Moonford, as well as Steward’s Mate 2nd Class Zuzana "Zuzka" Zdarska, and Rear Admiral Jan "Caba" Cabrnoch, CO of HMS Iwo Jima and the TRMN's 7th Fleet. We waited for over an hour for the rest of the squadron to show up, thanks to the vagaries of traveling in a foreign country. It turned out that Zuska and me travelled the same exact path to get to the battleship, but only after the three of them had driving an extra four hours the day before. Turns out there’s a Bethlehem, New York, when they really wanted to go to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. However, they got off lucky—Vice Admiral Jan Kotouč, commanding BatCruRon 39, flew the rest of them into Washington, D.C., and then got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams driving up to Philadelphia.
You would only need one volley and… goodbye, Philadelphia!
Eventually everyone arrived, somewhat exhausted, but ready to climb into a large metal box built in 1942. I got to meet Admiral Kotouč, Blanca’s husband, Captain Michal "Dragon Lord" Lukáč, who commands GNS Equinox, as well as the other spacers who joined us, including Fregattenkapitain Marcus Wilmes, the lone Andermani representative from our German chapter. After tickets were purchased, and necessary bathroom breaks, this herd of naval aficionados boarded “the more decorated ship in the Navy.”
After you get over how BIG an Iowa-class battleship is, the next thing that went through my mind is “How do you fit a thousand people here?” The answer soon became obvious, after taking several pictures of the huge sixteen-inch guns, we followed the tour below decks to the realm of the boatswain mates. The museum ships preserved where the “2nd Division” slept, and allowed you to crawl into their bunks, discovering just how small they are. Despite that things were necessarily compact on board ship, your personal effects stored just above your head while you slept, the ship went on forever. Depth, as well as length, meant that you could store people and supplies in all directions. There was a “wishing well” nearby, which had been grated off, but people threw coins down a ladderway that was four stories deep!
Found this drawing in the bunk beds.
As fascinating as this was, my Czech companions kept taking tons of pictures, so I decided to continue the tour without them, figuring I would run into them later. Once back above decks, the tour took me to the officer’s mess, which a guide explained operated in a very different manner that what I imagined. Here the XO was in charge—the captain ate in his own room—and officers paid a small price to eat here instead of the enlisted mess. Once in “Officer Country,” designated by having blue tile, I went up one level to see the admiral’s quarters and wardroom, as well as the captain’s realm, and then on to the bridge and flag bridge. The helm was encased in thick metal, not just for protecting the helmsman from strafing bullets, but also because when the main batteries fired, the compression effect of the shells would have crushed anyone not protected. The windows on the bridge had to be removed before they blasted away.
From there, it was into the Combat Engagement Center (CEC), where 1980’s technology controlled the cruise missiles, point defense, and anti-ship missiles. The New Jersey served in every American conflict from World War II to Desert Storm, and was frequently updated in its long service. The ship was a combination of the old and new; despite the tech being crude by modern standards, the main and secondary guns were almost completely manually driven. Speaking of crude, my mind boggled as I stepped into the communications room, where there were typewriters, teletypes, and military versions of the Commodore 64 (no, I’m serious – it was the same computer!).
In the Combat Engagement Center – the finest technology the government paid to the lowest bidder.
Finally driven back below decks, I saw where the men of the marine detachment slept, and pictures showed how they would run laps around the deck for their exercise. This lack of space and exercise equipment became more pointed when I went to the mess, seeing lots of signs saying, “Think Thin!” Obviously the sailors would have no opportunity to exercise, so to keep within Navy weight requirements, they would have to eat a limited number of calories. After eating the worst kielbasa I have ever eaten, I finished the tour by visiting the laundry, the barber shop, and the helicopter back above decks.
After three hours exploring this magnificent ship, I was tired and hungry… and then realized I never ran into the Czechs once since leaving them behind. I was sad since I would miss seeing them again; their schedule was very tight once they left the ship. I texted them my apologies, grateful for the limited time I spent with my fellow spacers from across the ocean, and the excuse I needed to see this amazing ship.
Finishing up in Marine Country – MarDet USS New Jersey
Copyright © 2015, Bureau of Communications, The Royal Manticoran Navy: The
Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, Inc.
CAPT (JG) Marcus Johnston, OC, CGM, Director of Publications, BuComm. All pictures used with permission or used in a way that qualifies as fair use under US copyright law.