Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mr. Midshipman Cox's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Jim McDonald at Making Light has a serious post up on the duel of U.S.S. Chesapeake vs. H.M.S. Shannon, riffing off Heinlein's use of an example from it in Starship Troopers. Not to be missed, by those who don't like to miss such things.

The Heinlein ref, which turns out to be inaccurate in a small but important detail, is the best teaser.
“When I suggested that your platoon leader might be killed, I was by no means citing the ultimate in military disaster. Mr. Hassan! What is the largest number of command levels ever knocked out in a single battle?” * * *

"... I am thinking of a case in which four levels were wiped out in six minutes--as if a platoon leader were to blink his eyes and find himself commanding a brigade. Any of you heard of it?”

Dead silence.

“Very well. It was one of those bush wars that flared up on the edges of the Napoleonic wars. This young officer was the most junior in a naval vessel--wet navy, of course--wind-powered, in fact. This youngster was about the age of most of your class and was not commissioned. He carried the title of temporary third lieutenant’--note that this is the title you are about to carry. He had no combat experience; there were four officers in the chain of command above him. When the battle started his commanding officer was wounded. The kid picked him up and carried him out of the line of fire. That’s all--make pickup on a comrade. But he did it without being ordered to leave his post. The other officers all bought it while he was doing this and he was tried for `deserting his post of duty as commanding officer in the presence of the enemy.’ Convicted. Cashiered.”

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