“Sorry About That”
During the campaign in northwest Africa and Tunisia in 1942-1943, highly mechanized Anglo-American forces had to negotiate often treacherous tracks and roads in mountainous country. Occasionally there were traffic accidents. In some of these Arab civilians lost lives or property. To compensate the local citizenry, the Allies paid for any loss of life or property that resulted from traffic accidents, using a sliding scale that seems to have been considered generous by the local folks.
|Camel || 25,000|
|Donkey || 10,000|
|Girl || 500|
The figures for adults, sheep, and goats are unavailable but presumably reflect similar social attitudes.
The devastating Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 – the “date that will live in infamy – left the U.S. Fleet prostrate. Of the eight battleships, two heavy cruisers, six light cruisers, 29 destroyers, five submarines, one gunboat, nine minelayers and ten minesweepers, and 24 auxiliaries plus several miscellaneous vessels (including a decommissioned cruiser so old she had fought at Manila Bay in 1898) in port that day, all eight battleships, ten other warships, and several auxiliaries were damaged or sunk.
But on the very day following the Japanese attack, a massive salvage operation began. As a result, by late 1943, all of the ships hit that fateful day were back in service save three, the battleships Arizona (BB-39) and Oklahoma (BB-37) and a former battleship that had been converted to a target vessel, Utah (AG-16/ex-BB-31). All three of these ships were damaged beyond repair.
The prodigious recovery effort inspired many marine engineers to suggest innovative approaches to refloating the sunken vessels.
Perhaps the most creative proposal was one put forward by a certain Lt. Ross to refloat the battleship California (BB-44). About 2,000 square feet of the battlewagon’s side had been ripped open by torpedoes. The normal way to refloat a ship with such damage was to send divers down to fit a watertight patch and then pump out the hull. This was a dangerous and time consuming task. Divers first had to survey the damaged area and cut away any twisted metal that might interfere with the patch. Then a patch had to be fabricated and carefully fitted so as to be watertight.
Ross, an assistant shop superintendent at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, proposed using a patch made by freezing the water adjacent to the ship’s hull. The idea was simple, and had been used on several salvage jobs in the St. Lawrence River; fabricate an elaborate framework of piping over the damaged area and then pump refrigerant through it. As the pipes cooled, the water adjacent to the hull would begin to freeze and eventually a patch of ice would be formed. The ship could then be pumped out and towed to a dry-dock.
Rear Adm. William Furlong, commandant of the Navy Yard, was gentle – after all, Ross was only a lieutenant, junior grade at that. He congratulated Lt. Ross for his ingenuity, but then pointed out that there wasn’t enough piping available to construct the necessary framework, nor sufficient refrigerant. And anyway, the ambient water temperature in the St. Lawrence was frequently only a little above freezing, while that in Pearl Harbor was usually a lot warmer.