Meet the ship girl: Sculpin & Sailfish

Sculpin

Hey commander. Go ahead and make yourself at home. I don’t mind if you’d like to pop in and out of here. Wheeeeew. Being a submarine girl does get pretty hard at times, though I do try to make it easier on myself whenever I get the chance.

How do I make it easier? I think it really all comes down to mindset. See, let’s use fear as an example. That’s a word that many submariners know. Just ask my sister. She’ll tell you about failures, Murphy’s law, the importance of proper maintenance, following protocol… and all the rest of that. If I’m to be honest with you I think she’s looking at things the wrong way. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You’ll sink. Bah. All Fear. It’s all fear. Just makes you such a downer, and I prefer a more optimistic mindset.

Hope. That’s what we should be focusing on. Why focus on the negative? Sure, being a submarine girl is dangerous work, but we’re here for a purpose. Look at Captain Cromwell. He chose to go down with me. He knew that if captured he just might release sensitive information to the enemy. He chose duty over himself. I admire that. The courage to know that sacrificing himself was necessary for the common good. But not once did Captain Cromwell look at fear or let that stop him from doing what he should do. Instead, he chose hope.

Every day I have on this Earth is a blessing. Might as well enjoy it. Life’s too short to worry all the time.

STEC notes that the historical USS Sculpin ended the war with a modest three ships confirmed sunk, eight battle stars, and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. The USS Sculpin is named for the Sculpin, a large headed, small, spiny fish, which – in Sculpin’s words- is adorable in an ugly kind of way. 

Incidentally, USS Sculpin was best known for her demise. USS Sculpin had just made contact with an enemy convoy before being spotted by the convoy’s escorts. At the time, she was carrying Captain Cromwell, a coordinator of USN wolfpack submarine operations and knew of upcoming allied war plans. After surviving a crippling depth charge attack by the Japanese destroyer Yamagumo, her commanding officer, Commander Connaway, ordered the ship surfaced so the crew could have a chance at survival. The crew chose to fight. On the surface, the crew manned the deck gun, but were soon overpowered by the destroyer in a shootout. The destroyer hit the conning tower and killed Connaway and the deck watch, and the next senior officer ordered the ship scuttled. Unwilling to risk releasing information on the upcoming Tarawa operation or the fact that the US had cracked Japanese naval codes,  Captain Cromwell chose to go down with the ship. 11 other men joined him.

​The survivors from USS Sculpin were picked up by the Japanese and eventually embarked on  two aircraft carriers. One of them was the Chuyo, which would later be sunk by another US submarine, though only one of the USS Sculpin’s surviving crew would survive the sinking of the Chuyo. But that is another tale best saved for some other day.
Easy-going and cheerful (“Lazily happy” in her own words), Sculpin seems to enjoy giving advice to the other girls, and can generally be found lounging about on lawn chairs, relaxing, or tending to her fishtank. In combat, she retains her carefree mentality, much to her sister’s chagrin. However, her nonchalant attitude means that she remain unfazed even in the direst of circumstances, and she remains calm and level headed in situations where others would panic.  STEC recommends she be used for high-value-target operations, where her poise would help her eliminate the selected target and exfiltrate efficiently.

Sailfish

Oh! Commander! Sorry, I didn’t notice you there. Sailfish, reporting, SIR!

Just want to talk? Okay. Sorry.

What I’m doing? Oh. Scul’s been complaining about a weird sound coming from her equipment, so I’m fixing them for her. You know, sub girls rely more on our equipment more than any other girl on base. If one thing goes wrong, you’re screwed. You can’t surface because the enemy will get you. Dive too deep and you’ll be crushed like a can. A single leak in the battery compartment makes chlorine gas. The list of things that can go wrong is endless.

Trust me commander, you can never be too safe. A sub girl’s equipment should be completely flawless, and a little preparedness goes a long way. Every time I dive, I need to trust that things will hold up. Since you know, when they don’t, it’s not pretty. I don’t want to rely on luck or chances. I want certainty.

STEC notes that the historical Sailfish started out life not as USS Sailfish, but as USS Squalus. During a diving test in 1939, the USS Squalus sank due to a faulty main induction valve. The induction pipes on a submarine brings in air for the diesel engines and are closed when submerged. An improper seal on the main induction valve caused the engine room to flood, sinking the boat. Fast action by her crew saved the rest of the ship from flooding, but the crew then became trapped in the beleaguered USS Squalus. 

First on the scene of the sinking was her sister ship, USS Sculpin. The Sculpin located USS Squalus and established contact. Soon, submarine rescue ship USS Falcon along with submarine rescue expert Charles B. “Swede” Momsen successfully rescued the 33 surviving crew members. To date, the rescue of the USS Squalus was the first (and only) successful deep submarine rescue.

USS Squalus was later re-floated and re-christened “Sailfish”. Reportedly, she was renamed by Roosevelt himself, who stated that her bow rising above the water reminded him of a sailfish breaching the surface of the ocean.

On December 3rd, 1943, USS Sailfish spotted and sunk the Japanese aircraft carrier Chuyo. Chuyo was the first Japanese aircraft carrier sunk by submarine, but as fate would have it, it also just happened to be carrying the captive crew of the USS Sculpin. Only one of the submariners carried onboard would survive the sinking of Chuyo, but the crew of the USS Sailfish might take solace in the sailor’s recollection, where the prisoners rejoiced at the sound of the blast – even if it means that their own chances for survival were slim.

USS Sailfish went on to complete a successful combat career, ultimately surviving the war with nine battle stars and a a Presidential Unit Citation.

STEC notes that Sailfish, or “Sal”, as the other girls call her, is somewhat shy, earnest, and a little prone to worry. She seems to enjoy, and often preoccupy herself with fixing equipment around base. Sailfish possessed an innate talent at maintaining machinery, and many girls go to her for equipment troubleshooting. While skilled in maintenance, Sailfish has little interest in developing new items. In her own words, she “can’t see how things work until they’re put together.” Hopefully this statement can put at ease the minds of those commanders concerned about unauthorized modification requests from certain ship girls.

In nautical superstition (or tradition), renaming a ship causes bad luck. Historically, the captain of the USS Sailfish ruled that any crew member using the name “Squalus” would be marooned at the next port, and threatened to court martial crew members using the name “Squailfish.” While there are no records of anyone actually being marooned for using the aforementioned names, Sailfish also displays strong animosity over references to her historical monikers. With the exception of her twin sister, who affectionately call her “Squal”, STEC notes that no one is to call her “Squalus” and reiterates that “Sailfish” or “Sal” are the acceptable names.

For combat, STEC recommends that Sailfish be used in support of other naval units, where she can support the surface fleet with torpedo strikes and use her mechanical acumen to its full extent to repair battle damage. STEC has yet to come across something Sailfish cannot fix – even in the heat of battle.


Excerpts from the Admiral’s Office – Sculpin = Red / Sailfish = Blue


*Yawn* Sup Commander! What brings you down to these parts?

It’s been a while since I’ve visited. How are you girls doing?

HEY! SQUAL! COMMANDER’S HERE! WHY DON’T YOU COME SAY HI!?

ONE MINUTE! I’M A LITTLE BUSY RIGHT NOW.

Sorry commander, she’ll be right down.

What’s she busy with?

You know how Sailfish is. Always worrying about something or the other. Sometimes I wonder if she actually does have that OCD thingy I’ve heard about.

*The sounds of hurried footsteps. A door creaks open*

I don’t have OCD, FYI.

You DO have OCD. In case you didn’t know, OCD is a serious mental issue and you should really think about seeking professional help. First step to fixing a problem is acknowledging –

Fine. If I’m OCD, then you’ve got IDGAF syndrome, heh.

Chronic IDGAF syndrome?

Chronic I don’t give a fu –

Chronic I don’t give a foxtrot syndrome.

SORRY! I –

No no, you should finish –

No you go!

No you –

Anyway commander, you’d like to talk to us?

Yes. I’ve always wanted to know: are you two really twins?

Heehee. We were summoned together, have the same hieght, same hair color, same eyes, same bust size. Hell, I can even steal Squal’s clothes and wear it fine. That sounds like twins to you? Sounds like twins to me! 

I’d say so. Going by our historical counterparts, I should be the younger. Our ship counterparts were laid down in adjacent drydocks in Portsmouth Navy Yard, but USS Sculpin was laid down in September, and USS Squalus was laid down in October. From what little I remember, the crew of the two ships hung out a lot as well, so you could say that the lives of our historical counterparts were already intertwined. In that same way, our lives are intertwined as well. So, yes, we’re twins.

What’s it like, being underwater all the time?

I quite like it. It’s like a whole new world down there. Fish swim around you, the light filters down from above, really pretty. It’s something I really wish all the girls here could experience sometime. Personally, I really like like watching the fish. The way they effortlessly just glide through the water? I wish I could do that!

I, on the other hand, tend to ignore the scenery. While it is very pretty, I’ve got a job to do. There’s a lot of things you’ve got to do heading down there, and I can list plenty of ways a trip underwater can in theory go wrong. Follow the proper protocols and it’s really safer than you think, but I admit it can be a bit nerve wracking at times.

Do you know how the other sub-girls feel, Sailfish?

Call me Sal, commander. No, I don’t think so. I honestly think it’s just me.

Yeah, it’s SO just you. Lighten up!

Not to say that the other girls are careless or anything. I just think I’m a bit more cautious than the average…

Speaking of being cautious underwater, how does safety work? Like, I assume you breathe oxygen…?

That’s correct commander. We breathe oxygen.

No duh Squal. Commander’s not stupid!

So how do you breathe underwater then? 

Magic!

Scul’s halfway right, but it’s not magic. Well, at least I don’t think it’s magic. I think it’s just something we don’t quite understand yet. If you ask me, I think the gear somehow does the same thing as a rebreather without a mask or mouthpiece. You know our lungs don’t use all the oxygen we inhale. So, every time we exhale, a lot of oxygen is released as well. Rebreathers help collect that oxygen and use it again, allowing us to “breathe” underwater. Now, I have to say there are limitations. Air can only be reused so many times, so we’d need to surface eventually. This makes sense to me, since our “real steel” counterparts during WW2 had very similar challenges. Submarines of that era were probably more aptly named “submersibles” than the submarines we see, since they spent most of their time on the surface!

But you don’t?

No, commander. I don’t believe we’re as limited.

We could. It’d be kinda funny. A sub girl that doesn’t go under water. Now where have I heard that before…

So how long can you stay under water for?

I dunno. Pretty long. Squal?

I thought STEC’s study was terminated after finding out that we could stay under water for months…

Gotcha, so a long time. Something related to that. How do you girls see under water? Can you, well, see in the dark?

MAAAAGIIICCCCCCCC~

Scul, commander’s asking a serious question.

I know! But it’s so much easier to just tell him it’s magic! I mean, we’ve got so many different ways to answer that question! If we keep this up I’m going to turn into Mary with caveat this and theoretical if and conceptual that!

Well, I can say that I can’t see anything in the dark. In fact, when I watch you girls go out on those missions, I remember the echoing noise more so than the UI or the positional charts…

Ping! Ping! Yup. Just like in the movies!

Or what they taught him in class. C’mon, Scul, commander went through the academy. He knows his stuff…

No, really, I’m happy to hear it explained again. My memory could always use a jolt now and then.

Well, that pinging noise? That’s what’s called “active sonar”. We send out a sound signal, it bounces back and we can use that to gauge the distance between us and the thing in front of us and hopefully figure out where it is in relation to where we are. Now, to be honest, it’s a two way thing. The moment we “ping” we’re basically telling every thing in the area – abyssals included – where we are too, so we gotta use it strategically.

Scul I think the commander’s zoning out.

N-no I’m not! Sorry. I was just thinking. Thinking about … stuff. Yeah, stuff. Why aren’t you girls wearing bikinis? 

Same reason why Dolphin doesn’t wear a bikini I guess. Probably just not my type. I mean, I’ve stolen a pair of Narwhal’s bikinis once just to try on. Didn’t really fit me all that well, teehee. 

Wait, you’ve done that too?

Yo, you can’t hide stuff from your sister you know. Bottom drawer. Third cabinet from the door!

I feel like that didn’t really answer my question though…

Hey, look! That’s what we were wearing when we arrived, alright? I don’t know if I know what to say. Though, commander, don’t you think Squal would look quite nice in a bikini? Maybe you can get her some.

Wha? Me? No! Why would I wear a bikini?”

It’s a compliment, Squal. Just take it. C’mon commander, what do you think?

I don’t think HQ is going to allow me to answer that question… Uhh, moving on… How about those fairies of yours? Are they nice?

Nice? What an odd choice of words. I mean, yeah, I guess they’re nice. We have some manning sonar, some manning the TDC, others loading the tubes, you name it. They really help the whole multitasking thing and saves a lot of manual work on our parts. Sometimes they help me fix up equipment, too. Especially the TDC. That thing can be quite a pain to get working properly, and I’ve definitely learned a few tricks from them. 

Yeah, too bad they don’t talk. It can get pretty boring when it’s just Momsen down there in the shop. Now, Momsen’s petty jovial and more or less how I remembered him. When he’s not all serious face and all he’s a pretty fun guy to hang about. Tells us plenty of stories, too. I’m glad he showed up. 

Momsen?

Yeah, Charles B. Momsen. Inventor of the –

Scul, commander knows who he is. Come on.

Wait, I thought fairies can’t talk?

Momsen talks fine. Want me to get him? I think the old man’s still napping. 

T-that’s quite fine. Let’s not disturb him. I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to talk in the future. I’m just surprised that I wasn’t informed of his … arrival.

Eeey commander, look. The guy popped up three days ago. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of the news. That’s why we’re here. Heh.

Yeah, that’s good news. There’s a lot I don’t know, so thank you girls for keeping me posted. Honestly, I wish I knew more about how the mysterious little guys operate. 

I’m not too familiar with how fairies work either. That’s more of a Mahan question, or maybe you can ask Momsen himself when you get a chance. I’m sure he’d have some answers.

Or you can just call it Maaaaagiiiiccccc~ 

Not helping.

But MAAAGGGIICCCC!~


I’d just like to start off by saying I’ve always had a strange fascination with submarines and undersea warfare. It isn’t as glamorous as having big guns of a battleship or having the sheer striking power of an Aircraft Carrier, but I feel that there’s an allure to the silent service that just isn’t present in any other vessel type. It’s a hard feeling to explain, but I guess I just really like the sort of “unsung hero” that was the USN submarine service.

Unsurprisingly, when I stumbled upon the story of the Sculpin and the Sailfish I realized just how little I (and to an extent the team) really knew about the US submarine service in World War II. Even Morgane, our resident naval information database, had never heard of them (Morgane: this is totally true. I know next to nothing about submarines xD). So when Morgane was struggling to find candidates for Pacific 2, I thought it’d be a good chance to tell the story. We all learned a lot, and I thought the tale of the Sculpin and Squalus/Sailfish lent very well to anthropomorphism. 

Two submarine sisters. The older one helps rescue the younger from the grips of death. The younger ends up going through a very successful career not possible without the help of the older sister. When the older sister sinks, the duo’s lives cross paths once again, spelling doom for some of the older sister’s crew. It’s touching and a little sad. No wonder in my mind, Sailfish always seems to feel indebted to her sister. To Sculpin, though, I don’t think it’s a matter of debt. They’re sisters. It’s just what sisters do. I’d like to imagine that Sculpin’s cheerful-as-always attitude could bring a smile to Sailfish’s face. It’s kind of why we gave her that “derp” or idiot hair. 

-K9

%d bloggers like this: