Pond 'Admirals' Re-create Naval History

June 03, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Allied and Axis warships battled it out for two hours Saturday in Odenton's Patuxent Pond, serving up a barrage of artillery that left four U.S. and British ships under water and the powers from Japan and Germany claiming victory.

"This round went even better," said Axis commander, "Admiral" Frank Pittelli, explaining his strategy for the second phase of the war. "We capitalized on all the damage we inflicted in the first sortie."

The Axis lost none of its ships and received minimal damage, despite a significant numerical disadvantage. The Allies had 11 ships to the Axis' five.

"I came down from Massachusetts to sail for 15 minutes and got 100 holes in my boat," lamented Don Fisher, who, when not operating the Barham, a Queen Elizabeth-class British warship, fills holes in people's teeth in his work as a dentist.

The war was over by noon. The men, members of the Maryland Attack Group, headed offfor lunch. At 2 p.m., a new battle in a new war would begin, and theAllies could try to regain some lost prestige.

The group meets periodically for its battles, which can last minutes or hours. Members propel custom-made model warships -- built to scale -- around a pond,firing BBs from the turrets and trying to score points through hits.

Because the boats are made of Balsa wood, a direct hit by one of the BBs will penetrate the hull. Operators control the speed, direction and firing of the guns from remote controls on shore.

"It's a nice hobby to have," said Paul Broring, a pediatric dentist in Silver Spring. "It's fun building the boats. And you get to use them; you just don't have to look at them when you're done. Plus you get to do things you couldn't do as a kid."

These war games are taken seriously.

A boat can take up to a year to build and must meet rigid standards. It must be constructed perfectly to scale, taking into account speed,maneuverability and the number of turrets.

It can cost between $500 to $800 to build and equip each boat with a hull full of electronics, from battery packs to rudders to tanks holding Freon, used to propel the BBs.

When a ship sinks, the war is temporarily haltedso the owner can swim out and retrieve it.

Many of the Axis boatswere fast, maneuverable and equipped with side guns -- advantages that led to victory even though they were out-gunned.

The two sides started the war on opposite ends of the pond, which resembles a marshmore than the open seas. The ships must be close to get good shots off: More points are awarded for causing damage below the waterline.

The Axis strategy was to divide the Allied ships into two groups atopposite ends of the pond, sending veterans against novices in hopesof crippling as many ships as possible early on.

"We then rejoined forces and went after the less experienced ship," Pittelli said. "We did a lot of damage to ships, and we will go after them in the nextsortie."

Broring's warship was one of those targeted by the Axis.Although it stayed afloat, it was eliminated from competition when the radio died and it started to take on water because the pump wasn'tworking.

"I've got a couple hundred holes in it," Broring said. "But it didn't sink."

The group was back out on the pond yesterday to wage more battles. Members are gearing up for the annual international competition next month at Patuxent Pond.

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