Keynes Cruisers

Story 0001 November 12, 1936


This is a riff that owes a lot to half a dozen timelines that have been a source of great entertainment and thought for me. I am stealing shamelessly structure, ideas and plot points from The Whale has Wings, Pacific War Redux, April 1942 Alternate Indian Ocean, A True and Better Alamo Redux and several other stories and timelines. I hope I can provide a fraction of the fun to you that those stories have given me.

November 12, 1936 Washington DC

“Congratulations Mr. President, your victory is overwhelming and the American people expect even greater things from you.” Harold Ickes was the President’s trusted advisor and a leader in his Brain Trust. The election had not been close, but the polling was inconsistent as Gallup had thought the President was in trouble.

“I know, we have done so much, but we need to more. The question today and everyday forward is what promises do we break because circumstance have changed?” The President paused to enjoy a puff from his cigar. His eyes had never set on Harold, instead as he sat in his office chair, he looked out the window onto the National Mall.

“Interest rates are still below 1% for short term debt, and the 10 year rates are less than 2.5% so the deficit is not hurting the country’s long term strength. I know we promised to balance the budget but I also know that my popularity and power is only as good as last quarter’s employment report… We may still have to cut back a bit, and Harold, your department will probably bear the brunt of the cuts, but I think we can use the Navy to shore up some of our marginal supporters in the Northeast. The Army and the Air Corps could drive some money to the Great Lakes.”

“Franklin, let me sound out the House and the Senate as they’ll have their own ideas, but we have a short period of time with amazing majorities before normalcy returns and people forget that the Republicans are the ones who created this Depression and their misery.”

January 1, 1937 Great Britain

The Naval building holiday expired. Great Britain cut the first steel for King George V and Prince of Wales, new 35,000 ton battleships. Each would have ten 14 inch guns and a speed of 28 knots.

March 1, 1937

The Federal Reserve maintained interest rates at 1%. Reserve requirements were left unchanged instead of increased as originally planned.

May 1, 1937

The Federal Reserve left short term interest rates at 1%. Reserve requirements were left unchanged instead of increased as originally planned.

July 11, 1937 Washington DC

House Majority Leader William Bankhead (D-AL) hid a sigh of relief as the last hand had been shaken, the last promise made, the last eyebrow raised. The current Emergency Relief Appropriations Act would go through the House in the morning and then through the Senate early the following week. The act would authorize $2.5 billion in emergency relief spending, a significant cut from the $4.8 billion spent in 1935 and 1936 on the Works Project Administration. Only $1.9 billion was appropriated for the WPA.

The Navy was authorized to build one more Yorktown class carrier with work to be started as soon as practicable. Nine cruisers, three repeats of the Wichita heavy cruiser and six slightly modified St. Louis light cruisers would be laid down over the next three years. Twenty four new destroyers of the latest 1500 ton class were authorized in addition to the regular naval appropriation. Sixty older destroyers would be brought in for significant overhauls at smaller, non-federally owned yards. Finally, Senator Milton’s (D-NJ) vote had been secured when the Navy agreed to subsidize sixteen tankers for Standard Oil.

The Army appropriation had been a long and vicious fight. Congress would approve and fund a new square infantry division but the four infantry regiments and associated support battalions would not be concentrated. Current formations would be sent overseas as soon as the new units were raised. One infantry regiment would reinforce the Philippines, another would go to Hawaii, a third would go to Panama and the last regiment was being penciled in for Puerto Rico. The infantry branch also lost sole control over tanks as the cavalry wanted to convert a pair of horse regiments into a tank brigade.
Story 0002 August 22 1937
August 22, 1937 Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania

“Son, we’re so proud of you, just don’t forget where you came from after you get your fancy diploma. We’ll always be here for you… and you’re not too far from us.” Vladimir Jarosechek hugged his work strong son with more emotion than he had ever allowed himself to show around his five children.

His oldest son was a success. He was eighteen and not trapped for the rest of his life underground in the Appalachian coal fields or in the hell on earth of a coke battery. His son has been accepted to Northwestern University and would be an educated man.

Joshua Jarosechek looked at his family, his proud family and focused on his father. Vladimar had a permanent hue of coal and dust ground into every exposed skin pore as he spent six days a week underground. Last night, his father had taken him to the bar near the mine gate and showed him off to all of his co-workers. His son was escaping Belle Vernon and taking a train to the city. His son was not coming into the mines again. His son was going to the city. His son was a success.

The young man had ridden the train a few times in his life, once to catch a Pirates game with his dad in the days when the mine was working three shifts, but he was leaving for good. Belle Vernon was a fine town if you needed a break from the mine, but it was an afterthought to the world. He was going to Chicago.

Between football and the Navy, school would be paid for and he had a commission promised to him at the end of four years. He had never seen the sea, he had never seen any still body of water larger than the rain filled quarries that dotted his home county’s landscape like pox scars.

As he straightened his tie one last time and tapped his wallet that had been filled with cash whose origins he did not need to know about, he hopped aboard the morning train to Pittsburgh with the hope that only an eighteen escaping from a known trap could have.

August 23, 1937 Thomas Number 1 Mine, Georges Township, Fayette County Pennsylvania

Vladimir Jarosechek adjusted his lantern hat and loosely gripped his lunch pail a few minutes before his shift started and he descended into the deep pit mine that had allowed him to raise his family in bad years and thrive in good years. His oldest son was not joining him today nor would he any other day, and he smile as at least one of his boys would escape. Today he would be joining the rest of his gang of forty miners to continue their assault on the Pittsburgh Seam. Seven hours later, his crew would emerge, having sent up two hundred and sixty tons of coal that would be cooked into coke. A week later that coke was sent down the Monongahela River and burned at the US Steel Homestead Works to produce the first batch of new battleship armor plate in fifteen years.
Story 0003 September 29, 1937
September 29, 1937 Long Island

The Grumman engineers were excited as their XF4F-2 prototype taxied to a stop. They had been testing the stubby fuselage fighter for a few weeks now, and she was purring like a well fed cat curled up on a lap. A few modifications would be needed before she was ready for the Navy to have a look at her, but they had a winner on their hands.

October 27, 1937 New York Naval Shipyard

USS North Carolina, the first modern American fast battleship with nine 16 inch guns and a top speed of 27 knots was laid down. Her construction promised employment for five thousand skilled workers and twenty thousand indirect jobs in greater New York.

October 30, 1937 Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

USS Los Angeles, the first of the 1937 Emergency Relief act heavy cruisers is laid down at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. Her construction will employ 2,500 workers for the next three years.

December 12, 1937 Quincy, Massachusetts

The cold northeast wind penetrated the thin jackets of a five man crew who were laying the last keel support blocks in the second largest building slip at the Fore River Shipyard. Soon USS Constellation would be built above the heads of this small crew.

December 12, 1937 Nanking

Chief McElver cursed as an able seaman handed him another cup of coffee spiked with some cheap whiskey. HMS Ladybird had picked him and seven other American sailors up from the waters of the Yangtze River an hour ago after his ship, USS Panay, had to be abandoned. The Japanese bombed her for no reason. He had spent half an hour every day making sure that his deck division touched up the American flags painted atop of every skyward facing structure. There was no way this could be an accident.

December 15, 1937 Bremerton Naval Shipyard

The 14,000 ton hulk with rust streaks on her proud bow was being renamed yet again. She had started life as USS Washington but that name was needed for a battleship that was never completed. Her name was now needed for a new battleship. She was renamed USS Seattle and served the Pacific Fleet proudly as a flagship and an intimidating force with her heavy 10 inch guns. Now she was a receiving ship, a waypoint for men who had more important places to go. Her new name reflected that, USS Puget Sound, as Seattle was needed for a new light cruiser that was being laid down that week next to her sister Norfolk.
Story 0004 December 12, 1937
December 22, 1937 Manila

SS Water Rose, 5,653 GRT, arrived in Manila from San Francisco. Her cargo consisted of twelve 75mm guns, 18,000 shells for those guns, four million rounds of .30-06 ammunition, thirty six 2 ½ ton trucks and 3,200 tons of other supplies for the US Army in the Philippines. A steady trickle of freighters would follow her as the US Army transferred a white infantry regiment to the Islands over the next nine months. The veteran regiment from Washington would be replaced by a new regiment that Congress had authorized.

December 24, 1937 Hurley Wisconsin

The whistle blew as the last shift emerged from the iron mine elevator. Miners were joking with a casual indifference to the cold as they at least now had the faded gray umber of daylight. Tired muscles and hunched backs were stretched as the last jokes of the year were told.

The men had been working full shifts late in the year as the blast furnaces in Gary and Cleveland needed high quality ore. The new Navy orders were encouraging expansion of rolling plants able to work with the high strength alloyed steel needed for armor and structural supports. The last Laker of the season would be on its way on the 26th and the mine would close for the next three months.

January 13, 1938

The US unemployment rate nudged up 2/10ths of a point to 14.6%
Story 005 January 22 1938
January 22, 1938 Washington Naval Yard

“Johnson, Matheson, my office now”

The two engineers put down their pencils and quickly tidied up their work stations that were covered in papers concerning the 1.1 inch anti-aircraft gun. They wondered what this call to the boss’s office meant. The early installations has been going well enough. The new destroyer leaders were the next class to get the guns. They were a bit of a challenge as they were far smaller than a cruiser or a battleship.

The director’s office was a testament to quietly stated power. Heavy oak furniture, well polished brass picture frames, and fine water colors of a dozen warships in half a dozen battles greeted the young engineers as they stepped through the door frame.

“Please take a seat”

Both men pulled the well stuffed chairs away from the desk. One chair bumped into a globe as he was slightly nervous at this meeting. Meetings with the boss seldom were a good career event, and jobs for engineers were still tough to find.

“No need to worry gentlemen. The Navy is happy with your work, and so am I. However, the 1.1 inch anti-aircraft gun has been a fickle bastard. Your job is to straighten it out. Congress in its infinite wisdom has authorized $155,000 for further engineering tests on this gun. You’ll both be going to sea aboard Somers when she conducts her shakedown cruise.

You have two primary objectives. First, observe how the gun is used in the Fleet, secondly, identify ways to make Fleet use match with the specifications and expectations that the Navy has invested in this project. Any questions? “

“When do we leave?”

“Next month”

“What is the long term objective of the program?”

“Good question, Johnson. As you know most of the light anti-aircraft guns in the Fleet right now are belt fed machine guns. Those guns have too short of a range and the round is too light to carry any explosive any reasonable distance. They may have been sufficient fifteen years ago, but now, the Fleet’s short range air defense is obsolete. The 1.1 inch gun corrects this severe deficiency.

We need this mount to work, and we need it to work right. If the Navy needs to expand, it will expand with raw recruits and conscripts, not the highly skilled sailors that currently man its ships. The Navy will need weapons that can be fought and weapons that can be maintained by men who are walking down the street this afternoon. It is a large and complex piece of machinery that replaces small and simple guns.

Our job is to give the Navy the tools that they’ll need. And if we can save Congress some money by building our weapons more efficiently, our lords and masters on Capitol Hill will be eternally grateful. Is that clear enough?

“Yes sir”

“Very well, wrap up your work and start planning for a wonderful cruise to the Caribbean.”

February 15, 1938 Fort Riley, Kansas

The 7th Cavalry Brigade accepted their 110th M1 Combat Car. This regiment would spend several months training on the new equipment it would exercise against other units.

February 28, 1938 North Atlantic USS Sommers

The experienced crew were trying hard not to laugh at the engineers. The shorter one, Matheson, had spent the past three days trying to waddle to the rail whenever the destroyer hit swells that barely disturbed any sailor’s gait while Johnson had been running around the ship like a boy given a golden eagle and told that he could only spend it at a candy store. His civilian clothes were destroyed in the engine room as the snipes showed him about. The Skip had to stop his enthusiastic guest from getting in the way but he was following orders that these engineers were to get the run of the ship.

Soon, the live fire anti-aircraft drills would start. The main battery would be almost useless against any attack other than that by torpedo bombers. The two quad Chicago Pianos were the main air defense. The forward mount had been finicky but the gun crew and a few extra machinists had spent the last twenty one hours fine tuning their baby. The aft mount was ready.

Over the next three hours, the two engineers collected a wealth of information. Three major casualties occurred; a dropped magazine slowed the rate of fire on the forward mount and two mechanical failures that were repaired on the mount. The last casualty took the ship’s company twenty minutes to fix. Accuracy was decent but the guns were not firing until the target was less than a minute away from attacking the ship.

March 12, 1938 Vienna

The German Army was marching down the grand boulevards of Vienna after they had been invited in by Austrian political opportunists.

Story 006 April 11 1938
April 11, 1938 Haverhill Massachusetts

Another boxcar of boots was attached to the engine. They would begin a slow journey, first to Boston and then west to Fort Ord, California. Most of the boots in the car would eventually end up on the feet of the doughboys of a new infantry regiment. The remaining boots were headed to Hawaii as they followed an established infantry regiment. Somehow, six dozen pairs of boots would find their way to Chungking and the last would be worn out in 1953.

April 13, 1938 Washington Navy Yard

The two engineers walked confidently down the gangway with sea bags flung over their shoulders. The past seven weeks had produced a wealth of information. Most of their notes had already been sent to the arsenal the night before. Sailors from the deck division had been tasked to bring seven crates of prototypes, models and sketches before they were released for liberty.

There were three major improvements that the engineers wanted for the 1.1 inch anti-aircraft mount and one major recommendation. The first change stemmed from the recognition that the gun was a good piece of gear when it worked. It did not work often enough. The crew of the Sommers lavished attention on their mounts but they were seldom at 100% capability. Simpler construction, easier maintenance and more reliable engineering was a must. The easiest modification would be a metal stiffener for the mount. Secondly, the quad mounts went through ammunition quickly. The current mount had less than a minute’s worth of ready ammunition on hand. More clips needed to be stored on the mount for instant action while the ammunition handling work flow would need to be shorten the path magazine to barrel on new construction. The last major change was the ammunition. The shells were fused to detonate on contact with fabric wings. The fuses were too sensitive. The effective rate of fire was far lower than the theoretical maximum rate as everyone was justifiably terrified of high explosive shells that could detonate on contact with doped fabric. The Navy and Army Air Force were moving towards all metal construction. Re-fusing shells to deal with metal skinned aircraft would lower the fear while increasing the rate of fire.

The last recommendation that the engineers were debating was whether or not there was a need for a dual barrel mount for destroyers and lighter warships as the quad mount ate up a significant amount of deck space. A simpler dual mount without all the bells and whistles could give the older destroyers a respectable anti-aircraft capability that shamed the light machine guns they currently mounted. That would be a new project and a new funding request if the boss approved of it.

May 17, 1938 Washington DC

The new Naval Act had passed the Senate earlier in the week and the President had signed the bill that morning. The Act authorized another three battleships, a new carrier, and eight more cruisers of a lighter design than the current St. Louis class plus additional destroyers and submarines. American shipyards were starting to become busy as a trickle of new construction that had sustained them through the first part of the decade was becoming a navigable river if not yet a flood.
Story 007 June 3 1938
June 3, 1938 Belle Vernon Station, Pennsylvania

Joshua Jarosechek looked at the busy railyard in Uniontown. He was a city boy now, having completed his freshman year at Northwestern. He had established a good routine of study, skirt chasing, and physical training with the Navy. In March, his NROTC class had been taken county airport for familiarization flights. He had been amazed at seeing the ant like people and model cars scurry underneath him as he looked out of the open observer cockpit on the SBA scout bomber as it did a lazy circuit over the lake, passing the Golden Mile, before heading back up the Chicago River. Flying was even more fascinating and invigorating than sweet talking city girls. He cinched his travelling bag tight to his shoulder and stepped off the train. Three steps off the platform, he was swarmed under by a sea of hugs including an unexpected hug from his father. They had much to catch up on over dinner and a beer but so little time as he was due to arrive in Annapolis for his midshipmen’s cruise on the 12th.
Story 008 July 21 1938
July 21, 1938 BuShips Washington DC

The carrier Wasp was still under construction at Quincy but the architects were busy analyzing the design. She was a half measure, an expedient to take care of some remaining tonnage left over in a now defunct treaty.

She would be a second rate fleet carrier at best. Wasp had only five eighths the engine power and almost no armor to cram an air wing that was 90% of the regular fleet carriers. She would be an excellent training ship, and a good carrier for a secondary theater. However she could not be the basis of an expedient carrier. The Yorktown class was faster, better armed and armored with far more endurance while the two converted battle cruisers were even larger with more combat endurance than the purpose built full sized carriers.

Instead the architects had two tracks they were working on. The first was similar in size but far less ambitious than Wasp. Cruiser hulls and cruiser machinery would be used to build fast light carriers that could support the heavy carriers on offensive missions. Their air groups would be small; full capacity might only be thirty-five aircraft instead of Wasp’s seventy-five but they would be faster and slightly better protected on a 10,000 to 12,000 ton hull. These ships would be expensive for the capability that they provided but they could be built in yards that could not build a Yorktown or the new fleet carrier design that was being bandied about. One designer had raised the possibility of designing a fast aircraft maintenance ship that could supply the fleet carriers with spares and repair damaged aircraft. That idea had been quickly shot down.

The other possibility was a conversion of auxiliaries, probably fast tankers, to basic rear area aircraft carriers. The Navy was looking into the possibility of C-2 cargo ships and T-3 tankers. These ships would not be able to make more than 19 knots with new machinery and a clean hull, nor could they operate more than thirty aircraft. However, they could act as ferries and support ships. Fleet carriers would be freed up for for more important duties.

There was no authorization for new construction. Instead a few thousand dollars and three dozen hours of tank and wind tunnel time had been found for testing out rough models of expedient carriers. Anything that the architects found out over this summer of testing and drawing would be instantly obsolete but they could at least find out what definitely would not work when the Navy needed flight decks in a hurry.

September 30, 1938

The major western powers and Germany had reached an agreement concerning the disposition of the Czechoslovakian border lands that were overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Germans. Germany would occupy those lands while the United Kingdom and France would not militarily oppose.

October 1, 1938

The Munich Agreement was digested across all European capitals. Poland took this as a pre-emptive war warning and continue to review and revise mobilization and modernization plans. Great Britain and France both hoped the agreement would buy them at least another two years to re-arm. Hungary and Romania prepared for a deluge while the Soviets continued their internal purges.
Story 009 October 17 1938
October 17, 1938 Cramp and Sons Philadelphia

USS Buchanan steamed past the row of merchant ships loading for dispatch to Europe and the Near East, guided by a pair of tugboats. She was going into drydock for the next three months. A comprehensive overhaul of machinery was the main course of business. Her rear armament was being experimentally re-arranged. The 3 inch anti-aircraft gun was gone. The aft 4 inch gun took its place while it was being replaced by a quad 1.1 inch mount. She would not be as good as new when she left the caisson, but she would be in far better shape in three months than she had been in years.

Thirty of her sisters had already been overhauled and updated. Eight had been converted into minelayers, and sixteen had seen their engineering spaces reworked. Those ships had lost a boiler and 10 knots of speed to gain the range to be a convoy escort.
Story 0010 November 1, 1938
November 1, 1938 the White House

“Franklin, we’re going to get hurt next Tuesday, but I think we’ll still have a working New Deal Majority” Harold Ickes was relieved as he said this. Polling had been all over the place as the economy slowed its rapid growth that fueled their victories in 1936. In 1938, the economy grew a hair, just 0.1% for the first three quarters of the year. Unemployment had increased by half a point over the course of the year. Industrial utilization had declined as new facilities came on line without new orders. The agricultural bill would juice production in the farming states, while the military had picked up some of the slack for heavy industrial production.

“Harold, I know, I am worried about the Great Lakes, those seats are our most vulnerable and our targeted spending there never had any truly visible projects. Philadelphia and New Jersey are seeing ships, California has seen more airplanes coming off the factory floor, and Illinois is seeing artillery pieces. Cleveland just sees a little more steel being sent to the shipyards even as steel production declines. We prevented large drops, people aren’t seeing new jobs. I’m worried, as the clouds of war are coming.

Everyone but us is involved in Spain. Edgar is keeping an eye on the Lincoln and Washington Battalions. Italy is digesting Abyssinia while Japan is getting more aggressive in China. Germany has thrown off the shackles of Versailles while France and Britain are just waking from their slumbers. We have the latent strength but we have never been able to mobilize that strength until after a crisis. An unfriendly Congress can make gaining that strength more difficult.”
Story 0011 November 8, 1938
November 8/9, 1938 Germany

A large scale pogrom sanctioned and supported by the Government started in Germany. Thousands of Jewish owned businesses were ransacked and hundreds of assaults and rapes occurred. Jewish communities were devastated as thousands were taken to concentration camps. The trickle of refugees that had been leaving Germany soon became a flood seeking a path out.

November 9, 1938 the White House **

The results were being collated in the West Wing. There was no way to hide the reality that yesterday was a painful day for the Democratic Party. Democrats had lost fifty one seats and only picked up seven for a net loss of forty four House seats. Republicans had picked up two minor party seats as well. Losses were spread throughout the country, but the Great Lake states were the epicenter of the public rebuke of the Democrats and the Roosevelt stagnation. Ohio elected ten new Republicans yesterday. Pennsylvania turfed nine Democrats. Five seats lost in Indiana and Wisconsin, three seats lost in both Minnesota and Illinois, two seats in Michigan.

The Senate saw five new Republicans win seats. The only good news was a pair of squeakers that looked to be holds in Wisconsin and Connecticut. Wisconsin could have been worse but Progressives and Democrats had reached an informal agreement to not compete against each other in certain House seats and the Senate race. There were three or four House races where a split anti-Republican vote would have elected a Republican.

** In OTL, the results were 71 House seat pick-up for Republicans and 7 Senate seats instead of +53/+5 in this TTL,_1938
Story 0012 November 22, 1938
November 22, 1938

USS Cimarron (AO-22) was launched into the Delaware River from the shipyard in Chester, Pennsylvania. The US Navy had bought her directly from Standard Oil of New Jersey for use as a fast fleet tanker. Once she had completed fitting out and shaking down, she would be assigned to the Atlantic Fleet to support the fast carrier groups. Seven of her sisters would be joining her in the next year as the Navy saw the value of large and fast oil tankers that did not hinder the strategic speed of the carrier groups. Ten oil tankers would be completed for civilian usage but retain easy conversion to military supply ships in case of emergency.
Story 0013 December 10, 1938
December 10, 1938 Gibbs and Cox

Three designs were almost ready for submission to BuShips competition for the eight ship requirement for a flotilla leader. The first design was 7,200 tons with three twin six inch guns and four twin five inch anti-aircraft mounts. The next design was the favored design. 6,100 tons with eight twin 5”38 caliber mounts with three forward and aft, superfiring and a wing turret on each broadside. A slightly larger and more stable variant was the final design. She would be 6,500 tons at light load with the turrets re-arranged so there would be four pairs of twin turrets of dual purpose five inch guns. Each cardinal direction would have a single block of the new dual purpose guns with a dedicated director.
Story 0014 December 13, 1938

December 13, 1938 Haiphong, French Indochina

The stevedore swore as his partner's foot shifted. The heavy crate lurched and all of the weight went against his thighs for a moment. Finally his partner regained his footing and another crate came off the ship. Unloading this freighter was a slow and dangerous job as no one wanted to drop a crate. A dozen Boeing Peashooters were on board as well as enough ammunition to supply a corps for a month.

An American freighter had arrived three days ago and Chinese government officials swarmed over the ship’s manifest. A few American “volunteers” had arrived on a tramp steamer from Manila a week ago and they were anxious to see their pursuit planes. Chinese government officials were anxious to get everything off loaded and onto the waiting freight trains that needed to hurry north.

December 27, 1938 Lowell, Massachusetts

The young man, more a boy than a man but he imagined himself as older and more responsible than he truly was stepped out onto the busy main street of the mill town. The cold wind bit through his thin coat and his fingers tensed in a losing fight against the cold. Moth eaten wool mittens gamely did their best but fingers were exposed. He hunched down and drove his body through the wind along Merrimack Street, past City Hall and the library, past a half dozen century old mills where a single shift had steady work and a second shift occasionally was being called.

He failed. The recruiter had been honest with him two weeks ago when he first walked into the office to join the Marines. He had bad teeth, bad eyes, and a body broken from poor nutrition in the past nine years. The Marines were looking for good men, not just any man. The sergeant was skeptical that the skinny boy of 139 pounds and a sunken chest could past the physical but the earnest pleading and the desperate need to leave the city was evident, so a physical was scheduled.

The doctor poked and prodded at him, listened to his heart, his chest, his stomach. A cardiac abnormality was found, a skipped beat that had never bothered him but would explain why he was occasionally short of breath during his one and only year playing football at Lowell High School. Those were idyllic days, his two years of high school before he had to drop out to work and support his family. If he hurried, he could make it back to the machine shop at the mill where he was being taught to be a loom mechanic before lunch. His foreman had agreed to turn a blind eye to his absence this morning and Mr. Papadopolous was not a man he wanted to take advantage of as his kindness was a rare event.
Story 0015 January 1 1939
January 1, 1939 Kure Naval Arsenal, Japan
The steel for the keel of the new cruiser Asama was piled in a series of sheds around the building slip. The cruiser would be a modified Mogami class vessel, a little bit larger and a lot more stable as weight was moved lower on the ship and the armor redistributed slightly more efficiently. Most Japanese construction capacity was devoted to the super battleships of the Yamato class as well as the new carriers but the American cruiser build-out demanded a response even if it was an inadequate response. If there were no construction problems, she would be ready to join the Fleet in 1942. By then the architects would be ready with an improved Ibuki class heavy cruiser.

January 14, 1939 Guantanamo Bay

The shore patrol was busy tonight. Three American heavy cruisers and four destroyers were in port. Joining them were a pair of older British light cruisers and a French aviso. The three navies were on reasonably friendly terms and they had spent the time to organize a night of boxing matches and tug of wars for the men to blow off some steam. A Scottish lightweight won the night as he actually knew how to fight given that he boxed in Berlin's Olympics before joining the Royal Navy. Everyone elses' skills were visibly inferior to his and it showed to even the drunkest eye. After the boxing matches, thousands of sailors with some money in their pockets went out in search of beer and girls. Most of the men were successful in only finding beer. Frustrations led to a few words being exchanged and more than a few punches followed. Most missed but a few connected until several bars outside the main gate had to be emptied.

The next day, the American and British cruisers went to see for a day of scouting line drills. Each navy had different ways of accomplishing the same task and the officers took note of what worked and what did not from their peers.
Story 0016 February 3, 1939

February 3, 1939 San Diego, California

VF-3 was notified that they were to send six pilots and forty ground crew to Long Island, New York for manufacturer training on the new Brewster Buffalo fighter. Saratoga was due to get a full complement of sixteen of the hot new fighters by late summer.

February 11, 1939 Delaware Bay

USS Buchanan had been released from the yard a few days ago. She had taken on board her crew and loaded stores before commencing post-refit acceptance trials. The first few days were easy days. Steering was confirmed, forward sprints and reverse stops had been undertaken, damage control drills to confirm that steam could still be moved like a magician’s distraction hand. Steam had been building in the boilers for hours as the black gang lovingly cared for their fiery beasts and fickle tea kettles for this moment. Now her Skipper grinned as his ship was about ready to go to flank speed to confirm the results of the engineering refit. Last year she started to shake and her engines strained to push her over thirty four knots for more than four or five minutes.

“All Ahead Flank, three bells” the skipper called out.

“All Ahead Flank, three bells. Aye sir” The helmsman repeated the order and then he pushed the ships’ telegraph. Within seconds the engineers confirmed the order. Soon the large bronze propellers bit into the gray choppy water as valves were fully open, oil quickly burned and the boilers released vast amounts of highly pressurized steam to the turbines. Maximum designed RPM was reached on both shafts and then a few more RPM’s were made as the propellers cavitated.

The bosun called out "33 Knots and accelerating, 34 knots and accelerating, 34.5 knots and accelerating" until the ship’s log recorded a speed of 35.9 knots, a few tenths of a knot over her design speed.

Sea sprayed the exposed men on deck but some hid behind the new gun shields on the four inch guns as Buchanan was free. She sprinted southeast to the open Atlantic, past the majestic Cape May lighthouse and left dozens of slow practical merchant ships in her wake. She was free.

Thirty minutes of exiting freedom, she slowed down to ahead full for a four hour high power fun. The engineering watch worried and observed with trepidation as pressures went through her plant that had not been tried in years as she had been babied to coax more life out of her machinery. Few problems emerged. The port turbine seemed to spin a touch faster than the starboard turbine, and the ship had a slight vibration above thirty three knots but compared to how she shook at twenty nine knots before her refit, it was barely noticeable.

Three more days of trials and a week of minor repairs in Philadelphia were on tap. After that she would rejoin the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico for the spring problems.
Story 0017 March 3 1939

March 3, 1939 Mare Island Naval Shipyard

USS Walker, formerly DD-163 and now DM-24, slowly steamed out of the shipyard for the last time. She had escaped her fate to become a water barge and instead had been converted into a fast minelayer. Seven compatriots were already at San Francisco. The eight ships would cruise to Baja California, then onto the Canal Zone with port visits scheduled in Peru and Chile. After returning to the Canal Zone, they would head to the Philippines to reinforce the Asiatic Fleet in early July. A tender would meet them in Manila Bay. She would sail with two merchant ships carrying bombs and replacement engines for the Army Air Corps.

March 29, 1939 2108 north of Abucay, Bataan Luzon

“General Lim, we were able to move the entire company along over Mount Natib west of Abucay. It was rough, but we could do it and no one on the coast would be able to see us. Give us a couple of mules and we could get mountain guns up there to command the Peninsula. Sir, you have to let us try it and give the 31st a bloody nose”

The young Philippine Scout captain waited for a response. Two regiments, one American and one Scout were engaged in some of the largest maneuvers of the past decade on the Bataan Peninsula. The Scout regiment’s objective was to take Abucay while the American infantry regiment was to hold that town as well as the crossings over the river in front of the town. Three companies had been tasked to aggressively patrol and the last company arrived back to the bivouac just twenty minutes ago, six hours later than expected.

“Are you sure we can get the regiment over the mountain?”

“Yes sir”

“Very well, get your men fed and rested. They’ll take the lead at 0330 tomorrow morning.

The next morning the third battalion of the regiment made an ungodly amount of noise and an artillery battery “fired” several harassment missions against the American outpost line. The Scouts had been surprised at how light the 31st’s patrols were. Instead they were willing to receive an attack on a narrow, well registered front.

The other two battalions and a battery of British mountain guns had left their assembly areas five hours earlier.

By mid day, the flanking column collapsed the American lines and the umpires stopped the exercise with the Scouts decisively winning.

Three more days of field exercises were held for both the Scouts and the 31st before they were taken back to their garrisons.
Story 0018 March 31, 1939
March 31, 1939 London and Paris
A joint declaration by the British Empire and the Republic of France was issued this morning. Polish territorial integrity would be guaranteed by the two major western powers.

April 12, 1939 Fort Bliss, Texas

The 7th Cavalry Brigade had a good week exercising against a pair of horse cavalry regiments and an infantry regiment. The trip from Kansas to Texas was a challenge. The first leg was by train ending in San Antonio. The second trip was a road march from Fort Sam Houston to Fort Bliss. Almost every vehicle broke down at least twice, and thirty tanks and combat cars were still on the highway. However once the regiment arrived and had a week to repair its equipment, the exercises went well. The last scenario where an infantry company of the New Mexico National Guard was attached to the brigade’s lead regiment and they road in staff cars gave the regiment the capability to hold ground instead of just acting as raiders and disrupters.

The Brigade needed more mechanics and they also needed a more reliable tank.
Story 0019 April 15 1939
April 15, 1939 Puget Sound Navy Yard
Amidst a steady hammering of rivets, and screeching of cranes straining to move turrets and armor into place on half a dozen warships, an unusual ceremony was being held today. Two destroyers were to be launched. USS Wilson (DD-408) and USS Wiedle (DD-417). Wiedle was one of the repeat Benhams ordered by Congress in the summer of 1937. Five of her sisters had already been launched and four more were due to be in the water by the end of June. The repeats were near replicas of the originals although the quad .50s had been landed and replaced with a pair of twin 1.1 inch guns. The aft pair of quad torpedo tubes were removed. Instead twin tubes were mounted after the first ships of the class had been tossed about a bit much as they were too top heavy.

April 18, 1939 Bethlehem Steel

The Polish Army's representative walked through the immense steel works satisfied. Bethlehem Steel had made hundreds of 75mm guns for the American Expeditionary Force in 1918. They had put in a bid to make another 200 artillery pieces in that caliber for the Polish Army. After the inspection tour, the major was confident that the bid was not overly ambitious for the firm and that the firm could supply 2,000 rounds per gun as well as the needed spare parts. He would recommend that a contract be signed as soon as funding could be made available with a target delivery date of December 1939.
Story 0020 April 28, 1939
April 28, 1939 Berlin
Adolf Hitler tore up the Anglo-German naval pact and the German-Polish non-aggression pact.

The Royal Navy could not respond as their dockyards were already approaching full capacity and hitting hard critical path constraints.

April 29, 1939 Charleston Navy Yard
USCGC Bibb and USS Erie were kissing cousins. They both were tied up a couple hundred feet from USS Constitution where a work crew was busy replacing some of her live oak planking. The two light patrol ships were due to go to sea for several days worth of anti-submarine excercises near the Isle of Shoals. Engineers and naval architects would be onboard both ships as there was a whisper of a demand for an austere escort design. These ships were a good starting point as they were big enough to actually stay with a convoy for a while and tough enough to do so in rough seas. Smaller and cheaper cutters were available like the Lake class, but the northern seas would be rougher on those ships, limiting their efficiency.