June 4, 1942

From the moment the first bomb dropped on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Japan was ascendant in the Pacific and the Allied navies were on the run. Defeat followed defeat, major surface ship after major surface ship sunk, every defended objective or stronghold lost before the Imperial Japanese military juggernaut...with little damage inflicted in retaliation. There was Doolittle's heroic raid on Tokyo in April, a 'mosquito bite on an elephant's arse' if ever there was one...but it did have one enormous consequence: it infuriated Japanese high command, and committed them to an elaborate offensive by early summer, the successful completion of which would, they felt, effectively end Allied resistance in the Pacific. The chief military goal of this offensive...was Midway.

Japan should have accomplished it's goal. It's fleet was massive...and the tip of it's spear, the four aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu, the largest, most advanced such vessels in the world, their crews and aviators skilled and accomplished without peer. Against them, after the attrition of the war thus far, the US Navy could range only a small task force of escorts, the hero of the Doolittle raid the carrier Hornet, her sister ship Enterprise...and the Yorktown, so badly mauled at Coral Sea the previous month Japan actually believed her sunk, but asteam at Midway thanks to an heroic refit by the dockworkers at Pearl Harbor. Still gross underdogs, even before considering the inadequacies of early war aircraft and inexperience of crew versus the Japanese, the Navy still took arms to defend Midway Island--with one enormous advantage, the intelligence of knowing Japans intentions after breaking her military cipher, and an almost unbelievable sequence of fortunate breaks, from the ridiculous (the Japanese scout plane that would have spotted the US fleet had a broken radio) to the sublime (one squadron pilot--a 'half-indian,' disregarded patrol instructions and found the Japanese by sheer luck), to the tragic (torpedo squadron VT-8 arrived over the Japanese fleet alone and unescorted, courageously attacked anyway and lost every plane and all hands save one, Texas Aggie Ensign George Gay, who then watched the entire pivotal battle of the war--and arguably modern history--from the ocean in the middle of it...but in that sacrifice drew down the fleet's combat air cover, leaving it critically undefended).

When, in that fleeting, supremely advantageous moment, with it's fighter cover off wave hopping after obsolete torpedo planes and the decks of its four carriers overflowing with bombs being loaded for a second strike on Midway and it's attack planes sitting helpless while being refueled, and the Dauntless dive bombers of USS Enterprise arrived above the Japanese fleet, the course of the Second World War changed. Reversed, in the span of moments. Vulnerable beyond any set of circumstances one could contrive, the dive bombers from Enterprise would sink three of Japans front line aircraft carriers, and join flyers from Yorktown and Hornet in decapitating the fourth and final, before the day was done. Worse for the aggressor, in a single morning the flower of it's most experienced, most talented aviators would perish, irreplaceable--either killed on the decks in that moment after the Enterprise dive bombers appeared unexpectedly above them, or after ditching their aircraft in the sea when there was no place to come back to, after the last sortie.

The massive invasion force had turned for home by June 6. A final, reflexive strike saw the Yorktown taken in return, though most of her crew, flyers and planes were saved. America had turned aside the blow intended to finish her, and her allied nations, in the Pacific War. For the first time since hostilities had begun, *she* commanded the seas.

It was a command the Allies would never relinquish. Just as they had not won a battle against Imperial Japan, until Midway, they would not lose a battle to Imperial Japan after Midway. Fortune in the battle for half the world changed in the virtual blink of an eye, in the skies above the mid-Pacific, won by the endlessly creative minds of iconoclastic American code breakers, the relentlessly committed sweat-and-muscle of American manual laborers, the commitment of American leadership and the courage--and blood sacrifice--of American warriors, June 4, 1942, 72 years ago today.

Warhammer Bundle Values

Games Workshop seems to have rediscovered the value in volume sales.

After being fairly roundly criticized for offering no discount whatever--and therefore no incentive to buy--on product bundles for their recent Apocalypse relaunch (especially when Forgeworld WAS doing so), their new large holiday bundles for 2013 represent notable value: the Space Marine Stormwing, for example, offers a Stormraven and two Stormtalon escorts, retail US$82.50 and $45.50 respectively for a total of $173.50, at the bundle price of $140.

There are a number of these bundles (including a couple Fantasy Battle themed); the Tempestus Firebase has my event moderator's eye: an Aquila Strongpoint ($115), an Imperial Defense Emplacement ($29.75), a Vengeance Battery ($50) and two Firestorm Redoubts ($65 each), retail $324.75, bundled for $250. That is a helluva table to battle over at a real discount.

Very welcome philosophy change, GW.

The Gorgon Primarch

Forge World renders Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands, their finest character sculpt yet, I believe:

Although the corporate 'back story' making it essentially a necessity that GW produce models of their Primarchs is well-known in the hobby community by now, to this point I've largely regretted it: I haven't been impressed enough with the physical realizations of these legendary characters to be happy. Ferrus Manus changes that--and not just because I have fielded an Iron Hands army in past myself (one could argue that makes my expectations higher): from the face to the pose to the wealth of detail, this model makes more of what I had imagined of the Emperor's technologically-oriented son, rather than diminish him.

Worth £55/$80+? Hard for me to even consider. But the asking price doesn't diminish the artistry; this is beautifully-done wargaming modelry.

Wrath of the Norsemen

1220 years ago, June 8, 793AD, began a brief but so-memorable reign of terror that it defined an entire people for Western Culture: at dawn, men came from the sea in sleek ships of a like never before seen to fall upon the English island monastery of Lindisfarne, men so fierce and bold and unafraid that, for the following three centuries, nothing--including the technological limits of then-current navigation or the geographical limits of the known world--stopped their advance. They sailed East down rivers through Russia, into Asia and entered Byzantine culture as the elite Varangian Guard; the sailed West to the New World, to change the population of Ireland, and to (for a time) rule England; they sailed south to pillage Europe, lay seige to Paris, to explore North Africa and reunite the Mediterranean culture with Europe. They were 'the Norsemen,' whom priests so famously pleaded with God to save, from their wrath; and 1220 years ago, with the sack at Lindisfarne monastery, began the great Viking Age. Skol!

Wargaming in 'Real Time'

One generally has to have a committed interest to WWII history to learn much about the November 1944-February 1945 Battle of the Hurtgen Forest (being among the worst defeats ever suffered by the US Army is probably a part of that), but for those in our hobby a fascinating subplot has emerged about the battle.

Field Marshal Walter Model is accorded great regard for his coordination of German defenses during the campaign, and it transpires that, even as the ill-fated US 28th Infantry was jumping off their attack on November 2, Model was running a wargame simulation of *just such a possible scenario* amongst his senior commanders, behind the lines in Cologne. Rather than scrapping the exercise when he learned of the American action, Model ordered the wargaming to continue, substituting actual tactical data for the hypothetical exercise data in as close to real time as possible, then responding with his available defensive assets as the wargame demonstrated various possible outcomes.

Before the Hurtgen campaign ended, over 33,000 Allied casualties had been suffered trying vainly to take 15 miles of woods. Model is often described as 'that rare form of German, the *defensive* military genius;' perhaps 'wargamer' is equally apt.

(for more on the Hurtgen Forest Campaign, see this month's Armchair General Magazine) +++

Reshuffling The NHL

The reincarnation of the Atlanta Thrashers as the Winnipeg Jets (complete with the classiest uniforms in the league) has drawn into stark relief the need for the National Hockey League to reorganize their 30 franchises and alter their scheduling policy, to better market the league and to avoid imposing starkly disproportionate travel demands (and corresponding game-time/marketing penalties) on certain affiliates. Commissioner Gary Bettman seems to understand this--but certain franchises (primarily established North/East Coast teams, grandfathered into the most favorable travel impositions and most ideal game schedules) seem opposed to 'taking one for the league' if it means their perfect situation is impacted.

Hockey has to stop thinking so parochially, if they hope for their sport--and League--to more broadly prosper.

If the NHL were to realign to four Divisions--an East and Central in the Eastern Conference, a Midwest and West in the Western Conference--it would preserve existing rivalries and unburden certain centrally-located franchises (Winnipeg and Dallas the most) of grueling travel miles (and away-game start times that rob the teams of home media audiences); it might look something like:

•NHL Eastern Conference•
East Division:
New Jersey
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

Central Division:

•NHL Western Conference•
Midwest Division:
St Louis

West Division:
Los Angeles
San Jose

If there was a desire to split the two New York and two Pennsylvania teams into opposite divisions, one of each could be switched (say Philadelphia into the East and the Islanders into the Central); Nashville and Columbus could be interchanged (this alignment makes sense time-zone-wise but with the other Central teams clustered in the north-mid-east, the marketing possibilities of games against the Predators and vice versa might make fiscal/promotional sense). And as configured the East Division doesn't have a Canadian team--one with an east-coast-time-zone could easily be shuffled in if desired, though there isn't a good candidate to shuffle out. And this could need adjusting if Phoenix loses their team (especially if Quebec lands it).

Fortunately, it would not make quite as much difference which Division a team was in under this proposal, as with only two Divisions--and thus only two Division winners--the other teams will be fighting every other franchise in their conference for the remaining six playoff spots.

Restructuring of schedules would first prioritize home-and-away games for every NHL team with every other NHL team--it is healthy for the League to give every fan a chance to see a given superstar in their own arena at least once every year. That accounts for the first 58 of a season's games; adding a second set of home-and-aways with the other 14 teams in a franchise's conference would push the regular season schedule to 86 games, but would be the fairest way to achieve a balanced schedule (and with the greater variety of opponents, would probably *feel* shorter and provide an attendance boost, as well); as a season extension would have to be negotiated with players (though now's the time to do that), 82 games could be retained by having teams play home-and aways with the other six (or seven) teams in their Division, then an alternating home-or-away third game against the seven (or eight) teams in the other Division in their Conference, then fill their remaining three (or four) games out against other Division opponents they were comparable to the prior season (East One versus East Two, Central One and East Three, a weighted schedule a la the NFL) until the schedule balanced. This would mean most teams would see every team twice, the teams in their own Division at least four times and some five, and the teams in the other Division in their Conference at least three times and some four (see above why 86 games would be preferable :).

Rivalries would be preserved, the entire continent would see the entire League every season, travel would be more balanced (Midwest teams will still travel the most, Dallas and Winnipeg still probably most of all--but it would be north-south, same time-zone) and the only crazy out-of-time-zone games any team would have to face would be rare--once or twice a season--and potentially interesting enough for fans to want to stay up late.

The NHL needs a move like this. The opportunity to make it happen is right now.