April 30, 2021

Open Thread 77

I have a couple of housekeeping things. First, apologies for the lack of Aurora last week. I've been distracted, and just didn't get around to it. Second, I'm planning to scale back the virtual meetups to about once a month, now that the lockdown is winding down. Third, I'm going to designate this the semi-regular thread for ideas on what to write about. As usual, I make no promises, but anything good will go on my idea list.

2018 overhauls are British Battleships in WWII*, Sea Stories - The Swimming Pool and the Fuzes, Main Guns parts one, two and three, Life Aboard Iowa and So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 1. 2019 overhauls are Shells Part 2, the Four Chaplains, Continuous At Sea Deterrent, Megasilverfist's review of Polly Woodside and So You Want to Build a Battleship - Construction Part 3*. 2020 overhauls are my review of Historic Flight Spokane, Falklands Part 21 and Merchant Ships - Bulk Carriers.


  1. April 30, 2021quanticle said...

    Apropos of nothing, here is a video of a Russian frigate having a very bad day.

  2. April 30, 2021bean said...

    Wow. I bet the ship's laundry was busy after that.

  3. April 30, 2021Lambert said...

    Suggestion: an overview of lifeboats, or boats that a warship carries in general.

    I was looking at a car carrier a while back and the lifeboat was an awfully long way up. I suppose dropping into the sea from that height is still preferable to being stuck on a burning vessel

  4. April 30, 2021ike said...

    Do/did other great power militaries maintain chaplains or is that a US only thing?

  5. April 30, 2021bean said...

    I believe most militaries have a representative of whatever they worship around. The British also have chaplains, and communist states have political officers.

  6. April 30, 2021ike said...

    Were British Chaplains state-church only?

  7. April 30, 2021bean said...

    For a while, yes. I just singled out the British because I know their chaplains exist, and I’m not 100% sure on anyone else. But at some point, they opened their chaplain ranks to non-state churches. Not sure when.

  8. April 30, 2021ike said...

    I looked it up and it looks like the French anti-religion laws specifically exempted the military, so they proudly fielded chaplains of all three religions.

    WWI Germany - Chaplains for 3 religions WWII Germany - down to 2

    WWI Russia - yes (Russian only?) WWII Russia - No

    (also the wikipedia article on chaplains is just as sloppy and terrible as you would think it would be.)

    So, for unknowns we have:

    Italy China Japan Austria

    I feel safe guessing on Austria without documentation. : )

  9. May 01, 2021Lambert said...

    From the Royal Army Chaplain's Department Wikipedia article: Only Anglican chaplains were recruited until 1827, when Presbyterians were recognised, but not commissioned until 1858.[2] Roman Catholic chaplains were recruited from 1836, Methodist chaplains from 1881, and Jewish chaplains from 1892.[3]

    Apparently the MoD also has Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh chaplains but all the MoD webpages about them seem to return 404 errors.

  10. May 01, 2021ike said...

    It is surprising there were not Church of Scotland chaplains earlier, given its official status (Britain is weird).

  11. May 01, 2021Neal said...

    Any one else read the article about Taiwan, China, and the U.S. in The Economist?

    One of the most concise and dispassionate summations I have read as of late. Neither hawkish nor dovish but rather reminding of the factors involved...all in 1000 words or so.

    I know the Navy has been thinking along these lines for a few decades, but lots of other moving parts now.

  12. May 01, 2021ike said...

    That article was a lot better than the economist usually is. (I hear they used to be great over a generation ago.)

    It is hard not to read that article and think, "China is getting stronger every day and has (or will have soon) the men, arms, and will to win."

  13. May 02, 2021DampOctopus said...

    I assume you're talking about the article "The most dangerous place on Earth", but there are linked articles on the Chinese military, the American political outlook, and Taiwanese semiconductor manufacture which are also worth reading. The last one in particular: I hadn't realised just how dependent the world had become on TSMC, which has largely displaced Intel from the chipmaking business over the last few years. If Taiwan is invaded, or blockaded by either side, then everyone - the US, China, and the rest of the world - are going to suffer some serious economic dislocation.

    I agree that this is an example of the Economist in unusually good form - possibly because their worse articles tend to be those relating to partisan politics, whereas China policy in the US is a fairly non-partisan issue.

  14. May 02, 2021bean said...

    Warship quiz. There is one person I am aware of who had a warship named after him or her on both sides of WWI. Who was it?

  15. May 02, 2021Lambert said...

    My guess would be one of those nobles from Anglicised German lines like Lord ~~Battenberg~~ Mountbatten or the house of ~~Saxe-Coburg Gotha~~ Windsor.

  16. May 02, 2021ike said...


    It looks like both Italy and Austria have cruisers named 'St. George'.

  17. May 02, 2021bean said...




    That's good, and might raise the count of people with ships on both sides to 2 (depending on how we count that) but isn't the one I'm looking for. Also, shouldn't England have one of those?

  18. May 02, 2021ike said...

    Britain and Germany both had light cruisers 'Ariadne' (named after the goddess).

    Britain also had a 'St. George' cruiser.

  19. May 02, 2021ike said...

    Looks like Russia also had a battleship '[St.] George the victorious'.

  20. May 02, 2021bean said...

    Interesting. I shouldn't be surprised there was an HMS St. George, because England. But the person I am looking for is an undisputed historical figure, not mythological/religious. We know dates of birth and death and could go visit the grave.

  21. May 02, 2021Neal said...


    Yes, that's the article. Sorry I forgot to state that in my original comment.

    I was also surprised at just how much of the world’s chip production is being shouldered by TSMC. Any supply interruption from them would certainly be a significant 360 degree problem

    I also agree with you on The Economist. I have been a reader for almost forty years now and it is less good when it mires in some purely political topics (aren't we all sadly?) and at its best when it looks like these kinds of issues and accurately puts out what factors are at play and what needs to be considered...but alas...we used to call that straightforward geo-strategic reporting! Perhaps a lost art/skill these days?

  22. May 02, 2021ike said...


    Well, both France and Germany had a battleship 'Loraine', so if you squint you could say King Lothar (one of Charlemagne's descendants). : )

  23. May 02, 2021ike said...

    Well, I out-smarted myself there.

    How about the two Battleships 'Charlemagne'?

  24. May 02, 2021bean said...

    Right. There are two historical people who had ships named after them on both sides of WWI. Good catch, that was not the one I was thinking of.

  25. May 02, 2021ike said...

    I don't know how I feel about classing the martyrs as non-historical. I would except your point more readily if it were St. Michael instead.

    If you are willing to count the Reds as a third side (They fought both of the other two, after all), then there was at least one 'St. George' fighting on all 3 sides; he clearly wins. : ) Interestingly, it looks like the Russian 'St George' changed sides through capture at least 5 times: Tsar -> Red -> German -> British -> Wrangel -> Red.

    Let's see... Britain built a monitor 'Prince Eugene' in '15 and the Hapsburgs had battleship of the same name.

  26. May 02, 2021bean said...

    Prince Eugene of Savoy was indeed the name I was looking for. Noticed it when looking at monitors, because the coastal defenses series isn't actually dead.

    I'm not trying to make comments on the historicity of the martyrs, so much as taking the position that there's a big difference between names which come from the distant past and route through Christendom, and names which are relatively far more recent. Eugene of Savoy was closer to their time than Nelson is to ours, so it's much weirder that he ended up with ships on both sides than Charlemagne or St. George (who were significantly closer to each other than either was to WWI).

  27. May 02, 2021ike said...

    Filling out the list of gods we have:

    Mars: USA / Britain / Austria Thetis: USA / Britain / Germany

    That was fun. Thank you, Bean. I only searched and found the British Eugene because I thought the Italians would want to make one. It is too bad North Dakota was so far down the seniority list for a city-cruiser. That would have been great fun.

  28. May 02, 2021Anonymous said...


    If Taiwan is invaded, or blockaded by either side, then everyone - the US, China, and the rest of the world - are going to suffer some serious economic dislocation.

    For now, should fabs become more dispersed that would be reduced (and China does want that, or at least for there to be lots of fabs on the mainland).

  29. May 03, 2021Doctorpat said...

    Could it be argued that Taiwan supports TSMC being the world source of chips as a defense policy?

    If USA and Europe will go to war to stop fuel doubling in price, they'll DEFINITELY go to war to prevent computers quintupling.

  30. May 03, 2021ike said...

    @Dr.pat The RoC's diplomatic position has been crumbling for the last 50 years. You are probably right that is their last good card left.

    As it stands, I feel like only the USA would show up if things went hot. Long term I don't hold out much hope without an American pivot towards Russia a la the old Nixon-Mao Alliance.

    I know the RoC traditionally has terrible relations with Japan, but maybe that has improved in recent years. They both fear a strong PRC. Then again the Japanese military is some sort of nightmarish quantum fever-dream that both exists and doesn't.

  31. May 03, 2021quanticle said...

    It is too bad North Dakota was so far down the seniority list for a city-cruiser. That would have been great fun.

    There's a city called North Dakota? Where?

    Agreed that it would have been good fun to have North Dakota as a cruiser, with South Dakota as a battleship.

  32. May 04, 2021bean said...

    The first rule of military/congressional relations: don't annoy anyone powerful. The second rule: all Senators are powerful. Even North Dakota has two Senators, and these Senators are for some reason allowed to write legislation, so naming a cruiser after their state when the other states are getting battleships is a bad idea.

  33. May 04, 2021Alexander said...


    If North Dakota had a city cruiser, it would presumably be the USS Bismarck Ü

  34. May 04, 2021bean said...

    When they decided to name a ship after the capital of North Dakota, they went with City of Bismarck, which I consider a missed opportunity. (It's one of the JHSVs or EPFs or whatever they're called this week.)

  35. May 04, 2021Balesirion said...

    Here is an excellent summary of the issues involving TSMC in the case of a Chinese invasion, with some follow-up here.

  36. May 04, 2021ike said...

    Honest question: Is Bismarck (the man) not popular outside the mid-west? I know, intellectually, there are no giant statues of Arminius (of Teutoberg Forest fame) in the deep-south or New England.

  37. May 04, 2021Lambert said...

    How about a C-130 carrying a list of key TSMC employees and a stack of green cards sat in Okinawa?

    Or maybe all the tech companies will start building up an inventory of chips.

  38. May 04, 2021bean said...


    I think it has less to do with Bismarck the man and more to do with Bismarck the ship, and avoiding the exact thing we're making jokes about. But yes, he's going to be a lot less popular in areas where the Germans didn't settle.

  39. May 04, 2021John Schilling said...

    China wants for there to be lots of high-end chip fabs on the mainland, the way they want there to be several modern jet-engine manufacturers on the mainland. Or the way Taiwan wants there to be at least one manufacturer of modern diesel-electric submarines on their island. They want it, but the knowledge and skills necessary to accomplish it do not exist in those places and cannot be learned from books or even stolen blueprints; you need to either have someone who knows how to do it teach you the art, or you need to spend a decade or more learning the hard way all the tacit knowledge that nobody ever bothered to write down. By which point the state of the art will have advanced, making it a technological stern chase.

    Often you can hire people to teach you the knack, but in those particular cases everybody with the relevant knowledge and skills lives in countries whose governments find it politically advantageous for the Wrong China to not have those arts.

    Also, w/re high-end chips in particular, I don't think the relevant knowledge fits in the heads of a collection of people small enough to fit in a C-130, or an Airbus 380, never mind the extended families they'd insist on bringing with them. If there's a major war in Taiwan, I'm pretty sure TSMC's ability to build modern chips is going down for the count even if the United States does intervene. With oil you can win the war, put out the fires, and drill new holes. With chip fabs, it's a bit harder than that.

  40. May 04, 2021Neal said...


    Trying to look through your previous topics to see if you ever covered how they refloat a damaged and sunk large vessel. Is it perhaps something that you covered before?

    I was watching an episode of the Russian produced Soviet Storm series and they mentioned, in passing, a Soviet battleship that had been sunk off Leninigrad in 1942 but brought back into service.

    We did some pretty good work after the Pearl Harbor raid. How do they even start on this?

  41. May 05, 2021Anonymous said...


    I know the RoC traditionally has terrible relations with Japan, but maybe that has improved in recent years.

    Japanese rule of Taiwan was pretty benign so there isn't really any hate there.

    They both fear a strong PRC. Then again the Japanese military is some sort of nightmarish quantum fever-dream that both exists and doesn't.

    If a hostile power were to take Taiwan it would seriously complicate Japan's defense so as long as defending Taiwan seems feasible Japan would have very good reasons to contribute forces.

    John Schilling:

    or you need to spend a decade or more learning the hard way all the tacit knowledge that nobody ever bothered to write down. By which point the state of the art will have advanced, making it a technological stern chase.

    True, but by then you won't be as far behind and will if you give it enough resources eventually catch up but it does require patience.

  42. May 05, 2021Lambert said...

    Thierry Breton wants the EU to do it the hard way, reaching 2nm by 2030.


  43. May 05, 2021Johan Larson said...

    Is the Abrams tank pretty much invulnerable from the front, except for oddball magic-BB shots? The guides I am seeing online (admittedly for video games) portray the tank as vulnerable from the back, sides, and top, but with the front being essentially secure against modern weapons.

    And if it is true, what would it take to reliably punch through the Abrams front armor?

  44. May 05, 2021bean said...


    I talked about the specifics of the salvage at Pearl Harbor here back in the very early days of the blog. A more general discussion of salvage is on my to-do list, although it's going to have to wait for the muse to call. The USN salvage manual is available online, along with a bunch of reports, if you want to read up on this yourself.


    I'd try a 16"/50. Not even sure that shell type matters, but I'll use AP just to be safe.

    More seriously, you'd need either bigger shaped charges or a gun that can throw things faster and harder. (Or go in from the top, which is how most advanced anti-tank missiles work.) I know that in the 80s, NATO was looking at bigger tank guns, I believe of 140 mm or so. The problem was that 120mm is about the biggest you can load with fixed ammo by hand, so they were going to need to separate the ammo, with consequences for rate of fire. Don't have sources to hand, sadly.

  45. May 05, 2021Ian Argent said...

    The Abrams is legendarily hard for another Abrams to catastrophically kill. They've had to blow in place a couple of them at various points in the past 3 decades, and it's never been easy to do. Not to mention the assorted incidents of friendly fire.

Comments from SlateStarCodex:

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed before being displayed.

Name (required):

E-mail (required, will not be published):


You can use Markdown in comments!

Enter value: Captcha