Allied Admiral Takes the Plunge
by Tom Tanner, AP (Axis Press)
HAGERSTOWN, MD July 15 -- Allied Admiral Steven Milholland's (not so) Invincible sank into the warm waters of the lake at Greenbrier State Park for the second time during the 1998 Nationals, the result of a night encounter with the fleet formerly known as The Axis. Proving once again that "Axis Rule the Night," the only battle of the entire week that had both sides evenly matched in numbers of captains and units was a resounding victory for the Axis. Each side entered the battle with twelve ships. The allies held a slim lead in units, 64 units vice the Axis' 62, an advantage strengthened when the SMS Hindenburg called "Five, out-of-control" after discovering she had no throttle control just after the call of "It's War!" The Hindenburg was forgotten by most in the frenzy of the first few minutes and was able to drift under the boundary bush to sit out her five minutes unnoticed (and practically untouched with just a single above) except for the ignored cries of David Ricci to the allies that "there's an Axis boat in the bush-h-h, does anybody care?"
Battle was joined a little before 9:00pm as darkness fell over the lake. Lights from the city of Hagerstown, just to the West of the lake, reflected off of low clouds to cast a diffuse glow over the lake, just enough to see shapes moving in the water. The effect was deemed "creepy" by Dave Lewis, while Ali Zinat's imagination started to get away with him, stating "There are sea monsters out there." The ability to recognize ship silhouettes was a valuable asset that night, an ability not all captains possessed and sometimes led to fratricide. One such encounter occurred to the left of the boundary bush (imagine a 10 foot wide and tall bush at the apex of the curve in the lake shore - it effectively divided the lake into two zones of war). As Dave Au's Revenge (55-4-3) searched for Axis ships to attack he was approached by a short, squat shape that was close to shore. Possibly thinking it to be a Viribus Unitis (commonly called a Bacon Maker), he closed and one, two, three salvos were fired at the unidentified ship. The mystery was solved when one of the Holy Three, Jeff Poindexter, quietly told Dave that he was shooting at the Texas, pounding a founder. The Texas moved off, none the worse for the encounter, and survived the battle with only 19 aboves and 1 on the waterline.
Those who didn't trust their ability (or their night vision) to recognize ships by their silhouettes mounted lights on their ships, ranging from the spotlights set on a two foot tall tower on Mike Torda's DKM Bismarck (a boat we all expected to turn turtle making it's first turn from the weight being that high up) to the Christmas lights fitted to Kurt Lewis' (but captained in this battle by father Dave) USS Phoenix (20-1-1), and everything in between. Alternate calls of "bring those lights over here" and " Turn'em off. TURN THEM OFF. Leave them off. GO AWAY!" rang across the water's edge as captains tried their best to maneuver into a killing position near some unsuspecting foe. Don Fisher, trying to videotape from the shore, was heard to say, "This is unbelievable! Unbelievable! No way I'd do this."
The battle was highlighted by the sinking of two allied ships. The "Free French" Swampworks kit cruiser Georges Leygues (18-3-2) run by Joe Messere sank very early in the battle, to be followed near the end by Swampy himself, Admiral Milholland (20-3-11). It was a memorable scene as the large spotlights of the Invincible, casting an devilish glow from three feet down, lit the Texas from below as Jeff Poindexter marked the grave of his fallen admiral. As the firing settled down cries of "On Five" and "Off Five" could be heard till only a few allied vessels with nothing to shoot at were left. Jeff, buoyed by surviving his first night battle in ten years, and being one of the last battlers on the water at that, exclaimed "I own the lake" followed by "Texas on Five." An unidentified voice promptly called back "Who cares!" When asked about what he thought of night battle Jeff replied, "I like not being able to see anything." Teammate Chris Au, battling the Wisconsin (9-1-3), thought it was "chaos" while Don Fisher summed it up quite nicely with "As absurd as this hobby is, this is the epitome of absurdity!"
If it seems that I'm concentrating on the allies, well you're right. As everyone knows the Axis took no damage and any rumors that the score was as close as 7185 points scored against the allies with only 4045 points of damage taken by the Axis are absolutely untrue. The allies only scored one hit against the Axis according to the vigorous and thorough note-taking this reporter did, the one above the waterline hit on the motionless Hindenburg (most likely an stray Axis round). Anyway you count it, the AXIS RULE THE NIGHT!
In other news, Wednesday afternoon was the day for challenges. 15 challenge (also known as 1-on-1's) battles were fought in the hours leading up to night battle. Axis Deputy Minister of Propaganda (and rising star rookie captain) Paul Barrett (he claims no relation to the bear) pummeled rookie allied captain Robert Rucker (0-1-0) in a brutal match. Captain Barrett (who has a slight mental disorder involving the correct spelling of the simple word Maryland) suffered no damage in his farewell battle. In a related note, Captain Barrett reports that he is recovering nicely after an unexpected close encounter with gravity. The Maryland countryside, upset with his constant misspelling of the word Maryland and a firm supporter of the Maryland Attach, uh... Attack, Group, rose up and struck Paul in the chest. No charges are pending against the offending hill at this time. Veteran Axis captain Curly Barrett (he IS related to the bear) continued the carnage, defeating rookie allied captain Jeff Cutler by 120 points. Being a good speller, and showing proper respect for the MAG (accept no substitutes), Curly was able to depart without injury.
An extremely rare outbreak of Oklahoma Syndrome was observed during a 1-on-1 between Larry "King Rat" Ricci and Frank "Rat Slayer" Pittelli. Larry's Oktoberskaya Revolyutsiya (22-0-1), quivering before the onslaught of the dreaded Bacon Maker (4-0-0), tried a high speed turn, rolled over and played dead in one of the first instances the veteran battlers present had ever seen of an IR/CWCC boat "Turning Turtle". Larry, assisted by son and fellow RAT David as well as RAT Cameron Moury, scoured the bottom of the lake to recover spilled guts of the now empty but still floating hull. And speaking of Oklahoma, Rob Rucker regained some lost honor when he defeated the Axis Gross Admiral Steve Andrews by 70 points.
Showing the true spirit of the Wail Away '98 campaign and the Axis battlecry "Get the kids!", Frank Pittelli, alone in his Bacon Maker #1 (17-3-8) defeated the combined RATS (Rookie Allied Target Squadron, a wholly owned subsidiary of MAG Inc.) squadron of Kurt Lewis in the USS Phoenix (2-0-0), David Ricci in the USS North Carolina (23-2-5), and Cameron Moury in the USS California (22-4-4) by 525 points.