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Subject: The end of BGG rss

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Ian Wakeham
United Kingdom
Chester
Cheshire
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I didn’t feel much affinity with my crew members until my right gunner was killed outright over Tokyo trying to defend against an attack from multiple Japanese fighters – suddenly a random selection of names seemed to hold a greater poignancy.

My initial intention had been to name my plane the BGG and to populate it with members of the BGG community, much in the way that Pat Hirtle had produced his brilliant Patrol! session report using various BGG “celebrities”; who can forget the multicoloured image of the dying Private Robert “GROGnads” Wesley? (The report was deleted after Pat’s departure but the comments still remain at http://boardgamegeek.com/article/1936097).

However, I realised there was no way I could pull off a session report in the same manner, but I decided to keep the BGG name. After some quick research I found that there was a B-29 named Gas Gobbler (together with another B-29 - Lucky Lady - it completed a round the world trip in 1948). To retain the BGG initials I called my aircraft Big Gas Gobbler. Then, to generate some reasonably believable names, I used the random name generator at: http://www.kleimo.com/random/name.cfm - using an obscurity factor of 10 i.e. reasonably common names.

My crew was as follows:

Pilot: Captain Earl Gowan
Copilot: First Lieutenant Edward Halstead
Bombardier: First Lieutenant Roy Ellsworth
Navigator: Second Lieutenant Brandon Mansfield
Engineer: Master Sergeant Richard Saxon
Radio Operator: Sergeant Harold Chinn
Central Fire Controller Gunner: Staff Sergeant Sean Howarth
Left Gunner: Sergeant Kevin Kaufman
Right Gunner: Sergeant Jonathan Derryberry
Radar Observer: Staff Sergeant Keith Glasper
Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant Arthur Lightfoot

The first mission was to bomb the aircraft factory at Akashi. But inexperience showed with all the bombs missing the target. The only bit of drama was the failure of the hydraulic pump to the brakes which meant that for the landing back at Tinian, Captain Gowan had had to use emergency pressure to stop the plane before the end of the runway.

The second mission was just as unsuccessful with all the bombs missing the urban area around Nagoya. A Tony (the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien or “Flying Swallow) tried its luck but he was chased off by the forward upper and aft upper guns. A return trip to Nagoya for the third mission was a success with about 40% of the bombs hitting the aircraft factory.

The fourth mission was very different: Tokyo, which meant a greater likelihood of encountering Japanese fighters, particularly when the expected resistance was supposed to be heavy. On reaching the bombing zone, unsurprisingly, the BGG was attacked from all sides. Although all available gunners were put into action, the Japanese fighters continued their attacks.

One Frank (the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate or “Hurricane”) approached in a vertical dive but missed completely. Two Georges (the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden or “Violet Lightning”) fired from 10:30 level and 10:30 low but neither was on target.

A further George, coming in from 1:30 high, was more successful and hit the navigation/radio compartment. Sergeant Chinn – the radio operator – was severely wounded and his oxygen supply was damaged but still operational.

The final George attacked from 3 o’clock low and was clearly an ace pilot. Successive shots hit both bomb bays (forward and aft) but miraculously missed the bombs, instead lodging in the auxiliary fuel tanks in both bays. Fortunately both tanks had already been emptied of fuel during the flight. However, the George’s final shots hit the waist compartment, wounding the CFC – Staff Sergeant Howarth. The right gunner – Sergeant Derryberry - wasn’t so lucky and was killed immediately. In all the confusion the bombs missed their target.

During the flight back the #2 engine developed a malfunction but although it wasn’t running at full power there was little effect to the speed as the bomb load had already been dropped.

At the end of the mission it was decided that Sergeant Chinn was too badly wounded to participate in any further missions, so I had two places to fill. Sergeant Gary Ouelette replaced Chinn as radio operator and Sergeant Kenneth Gulick took the vacant role of right gunner.

The fifth mission of the Big Gas Gobbler was a return to Tokyo. Again, the Japanese fighter resistance was expected to be heavy. I was not looking forward to a repeat of the fifth mission. I wanted some of my crew members to make it through their full 35 mission requirement. Fat chance!

Early on there was a recurrence of the hydraulic pump failure which had affected the landing in the first mission. Bad weather then disrupted the formation. Before reaching Tokyo the radar began to malfunction. The omens were not good.

Suddenly a Frank attacked from 1:30 level and although the forward upper gun jammed, the Japanese pilot was too much of a novice to hit the BGG.

Then, as the bomber approached the target a flak burst exploded in front of the nose of the aircraft. The co-pilot and the bombardier were killed instantly and the pilot – Captain Gowan - was severely injured.

…PAUSE THE ACTION

At this point, I had the luxury of being able to decide what to do next. In fact, it took me half an hour or so of consulting the rule book and the charts and tables to make a decision. For a game which is a simulation and therefore involves more dice rolling than decision making I was surprised at how tough the decision process was.

With the co-pilot dead and the pilot badly injured and unable to control the plane, my options were basically twofold: land the plane or bail out.

Landing the plane was soon ruled out. A modified result of 2 or less (for rolling 2D6) would wreck the B-29 and kill the remaining crew members. Unfortunately, there’s an immediate -10 modifier for landing on land or ditching in the sea if anyone other than the pilot or copilot are attempting to land the plane. This is made worse by a -4 modifier for a landing in Japan and a modifier of -2 if landing at night (which would be the case if I returned back to base). It’s not made clear whether landing in Iwo Jima attracts the same modifier as landing in Japan but as it’s still Japanese-controlled during this mission, I assumed the worst. Only on an unmodified roll of 12 would the crew be safe (regardless of any negative modifiers). I didn’t want to rely on rolling boxcars.

So the alternative would be a controlled bailing out. But where? Over Japan or in the sea, and if the latter, should I hope that the plane could return close enough to the base at Tinian to give a greater likelihood of being rescued – that’s assuming that the crew members manage to survive at sea – the sea condition, weather and zone all affect the result. The BGG was just in the process of turning around which would mean it would have to run the gauntlet of the Japanese fighters around Tokyo and possibly over Iwo Jima before it could reach any friendly waters.

I was playing in bed using the Hamete virtual dice server at http://dicelog.com/dice on my net book and a heavily annotated mission log to record my position. After much deliberation (and nudging from my girlfriend to go to sleep) –– I made a decision. I also decided that I would not re-roll for the alternative courses of action to see what would have happened if I had decided differently.

Now, as I said, it took me over half an hour to reach a decision. For the crew members of a real B-29 Superfortress that would have to take mere seconds and unfortunately much was beyond their control. Read the following extract from B-29 Hunters of the JAAF (Osprey Publishing, 2001) by Koji Takai & Henry Sakaida. It gives an idea of the deadly randomness of events during a real B-29 mission:

Quote:
Col Robert Clinkscales of the 468th was leading his four aircraft diamond formation in Gertrude C (42-6334) […] On this particular mission he had taken someone special along for the ride – with him in the cockpit was ‘Sally’, his cocker spaniel.

The 4th Sentai’s 1Lt Isamu Kashiide, and his subordinate Sgt Shigeo Nobe, approached the large bomber formations in a head-on run. As Kashiide lined up an opponent with his 37mm gun, Nobe, who was flying to his right, took a spontaneous decision and radioed that he was going to ram. Also in the aircraft was the rear-seat gunner, Sgt Denzo Takagi.

‘Don’t be hasty!’ yelled Kashiide. But it was too late. Nobe was going to bring down his enemy at any cost. Gertrude C had just released its bombs when Nobe manoeuvred his ‘Nick’ right into its flight path. He banked the aircraft to the right so that his right wing came vertical to Clinkscales’ aircraft like an upraised knife. Pilots watched in horror as the ‘Nick’s’ right wing sliced into the B-29’s left wing between the tip and the No 1 engine. The bombers wing tank exploded in a fireball, while the remains of Nobe’s fighter cartwheeled backwards through the formation.

Maj Humphrey was flying behind Clinkscales’ aircraft. Flaming debris flew over his right wing, nearly hitting him. Capt Ornell Stauffer, pilot of Calamity Sue (42-6368) in the trail position, was not so lucky. He pulled up sharply to avoid the wreckage, but his horizontal stabilizer was sheared off and the aircraft spun all the way down. The only person to survive the ramming and subsequent collision was Sgt Charles Shott, who parachuted down and was captured. He lived to return home.

RESTART THE ACTION…

My decision was to bail out over Japan, knowing that any surviving crew members would be captured and imprisoned but at least they were more likely to survive than trying to land the plane or bail at sea. The plane was depressurised and one by one the crew leapt out. The two dead crew members remained in the BGG, as did Captain Gowan as he was too badly injured to attempt to bail out. He would die in the wreckage of the Big Gas Gobbler.

Of the surviving crew members, Staff Sergeant Glasper was inexplicably killed during the bail out. The remaining six parachuted safely but were all soon captured. Slowly, over the remaining months of the war, these brave men died as prisoners of war, succumbing to disease, killed by neglect or their captors, or executed for crimes against humanity. Only one man survived from the crew of the Big Gas Gobbler - Sergeant Kenneth Gulick (the rookie right gunner) was released at the end of the war.
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Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
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Good report. Thanks for taking the trouble to write it all down.

One important lesson (from the historical account): don't take your dog on a mission.

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Edward Kendrick
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Redditch
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Barry Kendall wrote:
Good report. Thanks for taking the trouble to write it all down.

One important lesson (from the historical account): don't take your dog on a mission.



Guy Gibson's dog was killed by a car immediately before the Dam Busters raid. Sometimes dogs just can't win.
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Drew Heath
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That dog was also named nigger. A fact widely mentioned in print but nearly always awkwardly overlooked in video documentaries about the Dam Busters.
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Edward Kendrick
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Redditch
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Shad wrote:
That dog was also named nigger. A fact widely mentioned in print but nearly always awkwardly overlooked in video documentaries about the Dam Busters.


Correct.

It was entirely non-controversial in those days - 65 years ago - to call a black dog "Nigger".
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Mitchell Quinn
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I'm not sure if I'm disturbed or amused that BGG met it's end in Ian Wakeham's bed.
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Mike Hoyt

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A tip from an old grognard, happily married for 20 years now. Do NOT play games in bed while your girl-frined has other ideas. Even if her only idea is to get some sleep.

Great report. Thanks for posting!
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