After talking with some students today about our upcoming 30 day challenge, I have been thinking of my own project I want to work on over the 30 days. I am planning to write a book, or at least a big chunk of a book about Operation Desert Storm from the point of view of sailors who served in the Persian Gulf. I have a number of videos that I recorded there aboard my ship the USS Missouri. Some of these I have published on YouTube.
I have found some other interesting videos on YouTube from other sailors there at the time as well. But today I decided to look on Twitter to see what, if anything, people were saying with the hashtag #desertstorm. To my surprise, only a few tweets down from the top of my search results, I found a tweet with a link to a video of my ship, the battleship Missouri, that was recorded during a fire mission into Kuwait from another nearby ship, the USS Curts.
I have never seen footage like this from another perspective before. I have only seen the Missouri firing the big guns from aboard the battleship itself. I watched the video several times, that’s how mesmerized I was by it. I enjoyed hearing the comments of the sailors on the Curts as they watched us do our thing. It was interesting seeing the fire and smoke, followed by a long delay and then finally a boom. Aboard the Missouri, a gun firing was bone-rattling. Aboard the Curts, from a mile away, it was more like a regular gun shot sound.
Today I was thinking that whoever recorded that footage was documenting history in action. The USS Missouri and the USS Wisconsin were the last two battleships in the world to fire their guns in combat. That footage captured some of those final moments. Unless Mythbusters or some other such reality show manages to secure a surplus 16″ gun and some ammo, the world won’t ever see anything like it again.
I was also thinking about how I would explain to others what it was like to experience the fury of a sixteen-inch battleship gun firing. Even those sailors aboard the USS Curts didn’t get to feel the full effect. I thought I would take a big metal 55 gallon drum and bang really hard on it with a metal pipe or something. That might be somewhat like the sound (not really even close, but a start).
But banging the drum would just simulate the sound. You also need the blast of air in the face. A shot in the face from an airzooka toy would be a start, but again not even close. It really needs to slap you hard in the face and the chest. You would also need to feel in instant blast of heat as well. I don’t think a standard hair dryer would be hot enough. Maybe a flash from an industrial heat gun blowing on you.
Do all of these things simultaneously, bang a 55 gallon drum, shoot an airzooka in your face, blow a short blast of hot air in the face with a heat gun, and you are getting in the ball park of what it is like. You still would need to feel the deck rattle beneath you. Maybe you could do all of this while standing on top of a small trailer that someone could strike with a sledgehammer to make it vibrate. Finally, you would need to light one of the big smoke bomb from July 4th, because you need to inhale some smoke as well. Do all of these things and you would have a simulation that only somewhat describes the experience of seeing a single sixteen-inch gun being fired up close. Now for full effect, you can multiply that by nine to feel the fury of a broadside!
I honestly did not enjoy watching the battleship guns firing up close. I’m glad I experienced it, but it really was overwhelming. I preferred to be and usually was, down inside of the plotting room where the guns were being fired from deep within the ship. Maybe I was just a wimp, but the plotting room was where I was supposed to be.
However, seeing that footage from another ships perspective was a wonderful find today. It makes me wonder what else is out there for me to discover?