Pyke Ice Ships that (Almost) Won the War

When a government is at war, they’ve got to pull out all the stops. And sometimes, that means listening to ideas that would ordinarily seem totally insane. Or, in the case of Lord Mountbatten during the Second World War, an actual mad scientist. This is the story of how gigantic Pyke aircraft carriers made of ice won the Battle of the Atlantic, almost.

Ever looked at an iceberg and thought, “You could put an airstrip on that”?
Ever looked at an iceberg and thought, “You could put an airstrip on that”?

Wait, what?

Until mid-1943, the Allies were losing the Battle of the Atlantic. Part of this was due to the Mid-Atlantic Gap—a 500-mile wide slice of the ocean outside the range of bombers based in Britain and the US mainland. The Mid-Atlantic Gap was the German U-boats’ playground and became known as the ‘Black Pit’ for the hundreds of merchant ships that disappeared there. Before 1943, 1,015 merchantmen went down to U-boats stalking the Black Pit, and every ship lost was a serious blow to the Allied war effort.

But the boffins on both sides of the pond had a solution: planes. Convoys with their own air cover were far more likely to make it across the Atlantic and got the chance to knock out U-boats along the way, making the seas safer. Definitely a win-win. But planes need carriers, and to make carriers you need steel. A LOT of steel. Just about everything else a country needs to fight a war also needs a lot of steel, so it was in short supply everywhere.

Genius or Madman?

This is where the genius, spy, inventor, and mad scientist Geoffrey Pyke steps in. His solution to the Black Pit was simple: build aircraft carriers out of ice.

 

But not just any ice, Pyke had spent early 1942 with ice-expert Max Perutz designing a composite material much stronger than frozen water. Named ‘pykrete’ after its inventor, the material was a mixture of water and wood pulp that could be machined like wood and cast like metal. Pykrete was also far stronger than regular ice, floated better, and took longer to melt. If you had to build an aircraft carrier from ice, pykrete was the best ice for it.

 

With pykrete under production in Canada, Pyke set to work designing his carriers.

The Demonstration

In 1943, he updated his patron, Chief of Combined Operations Lord Mountbatten (who firmly believed Pyke was a genius who would win Britain the war), on the project, now named Habakkuk. His lordship was impressed and insisted on demonstrating Pyke’s pykrete to the admirals and generals present for the Quebec Conference.

 

Famously, Mountbatten had two blocks, one of pykrete and the other ice, placed next to each other in the meeting room. He then warned the top brass about the possibility of splinters. The generals looked on in confusion. Mountbatten then drew his pistol and shot the ice block, which shattered. He then fired into the pykrete block. The bullet ricocheted off and embedded itself in a wall, narrowly missing a general. Probably worried about what the next test might involve, the commanders threw their support behind the project, but that’s when things started to go wrong.

Good thing Lord Mountbatten didn’t test it with a STEN
Good thing Lord Mountbatten didn’t test it with a STEN

If It Weren’t For Those Meddling Generals…

The admiralty decided that Pyke’s ice carriers were the solution to all their problems, and started imposing restrictions on the design. Firstly, they wanted the ships to have a range of 11,000km. This was further than a Town-class light cruiser. Secondly, they wanted it to be torpedo-proof, necessitating a hull 40-feet thick. 

The Fleet Air Arm then piled on even more restrictions. They wanted the ships to accommodate heavy bombers, meaning the runway needed to be at least 2,000-feet long. Pyke’s ultimate design grew so large that structural issues appeared. With so much weight above it (planes, fuel stores, bombs, plus steel reinforcement) the pykrete in the hull of the ship would deform. The only solution to this was to install a massive refrigeration unit at the centre of the vessel. But this required an equally massive powerplant which, due to heat output, had to be outside the hull. With so many vital parts unprotected, the pykrete ships needed a battery of 40 4½-inch turrets for air defence. The monster ship would have displaced over 2.2 million tonnes!

The End

But it was not to be. As Pyke built his prototype in Canada, large numbers of long-range B-24 liberators and liberty-class escort carriers were becoming available. They closed the Mid-Atlantic Gap and began sinking U-boats in droves. Designed to fill a niche now nonexistent, Operation Habakkuk was sadly abandoned. Pyke’s great ice carriers never made it to sea.

The Story of The Jabidah Massacre in the 60s

This is the story of the Jabidah Massacre. In the 60s, precisely 1968, the Philippines were exercising their claims to the Malaysian territory of Sabah. It was a vast land that formed a part of the newly created Malaysia. The Philippine Government interpreted this as rightfully theirs.

They had drawn up plans to destabilize the region to warrant a Filipino military intervention. This plan however is shrouded in mystery and controversy and the full extent was never revealed to the public. What we do know however is that the government recruited more than 150 Muslim men from the Southern Philippines for unconventional warfare.

The Mystery of Jabidah and a Secret Trial – Bob's Histories & Mysteries
Jabidah

Arrival at Corregidor Island and the Jabidah

They were to be called Jabidah. They arrived on Corregidor Island to begin their training in guerilla warfare and jungle combat. Months of extreme training had created angst amongst the new recruits. In addition to that, the conditions were atrocious, food was terrible. To top it all off, they weren’t getting their promised monthly salary of 50 Philippine Pesos (roughly $80 in 2021). Naturally, the soldiers protested which didn’t sit well with their superiors. They sent a letter to Philippine President Marcos asking for better conditions and a higher wage. The soldiers were sent to different camps and/or sent home. It is also believed that they had mutinied allegedly upon learning the purpose of their intense training. This is when the bloodbath started.

At 2 am, a group of 12 men were told they were going home. This was the last time anyone ever heard of them. At 4 am, another dozen men were told to hop on trucks for the journey home. Apparently, the aircraft could only carry 12 men at a time. Arriving at the airstrip, they were told to disembark and line up. That’s when Jibin Arula heard the shots as his comrades started falling. Arula was a trainee who was part of this second batch. As he heard the shots, he ran for his life, getting shot in his left thigh in the process. By the early morning, the local fishermen had picked him up.

Jabidah Massacre
Jabidah Massacre

Aftermath

His accounts serve as proof that this event occurred. Afterwards, a senate inquiry proved inconclusive with the government arguing that it was all just an opposition smear campaign. But the Muslims in the south, long ignored by the national government did not forget. These events directly led to the formation of Muslim separatist groups. They were called the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and the, MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). These groups set the precedence of a Muslim insurgency in the southern Filipino region of Mindanao.

It is also worth noting that, the then President, Ferdinand Marcos had suppressed the coverage of the incident. Supposedly in the interest of national unity. This is the main reason why there is almost no documentation about the Jabidah Massacre. Due to this, there is a vast array of theories available today.

Did you know about the story of the Jabidah Massacre before? Do you believe that there are more secrets to this incident? We hope to keep bringing stories like this to light so more people know about them.

The 2nd Gulf of Tonkin Incident – Did it really happen?

People talk a lot about the horrors of Vietnam. The constant state of fear was common among all of the soldiers there in the 60s and 70s. One can only imagine the feeling of hearing the trees speak Vietnamese, or falling into a snake pit, or running into any other booby traps. But this begs the question, why were they there in the first place. The Americans and their allies found themselves in the meat grinder that is Vietnam, but the story of how they got there in the first place is quite interesting. This is about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

Gulf of Tonkin Incident
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

After the flustercuck that was Korea, the Americans were on the lookout for potential Communist invasions across the world. So when the Communist-backed North Vietnamese government took control of Hanoi, the Americans tried their best to make life uncomfortable for them.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 proved to be the deadlock breaker as it led to America finally engaging directly with Vietnam. On August 2, 1964, the Destroyer US Maddoxx while in its daily operations, the North Vietnamese Navy Torpedo Boats were getting closer to it.

What followed was a battle to which led to damage on either side but like everything else in life, nothing is equal. At the end of the open fire, Vietnam stood with damaged torpedo boats, four deceased and six wounded North Vietnamese sailors. On the other hand, the USA stood with one damaged aircraft and 0 casualties.

Maddoxx - Gulf of Tonkin Incident
USS Maddox

Funny enough, according to reports Destroyer Maddoxx had no damage except for the one hole made by a gunshot.

The 2nd Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Things didn’t stop here. On August 4, 1964, reports emerged that the 2nd Gulf of Tonkin incident took place. This was enough for the US Congress to leverage the situation and take action.

Soon the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave US President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian countries who have suffered due to the action of Communists of Vietnam.

This event in itself is another flustercluck but this gave the Americans an excuse. After this, Americans ramped up their military presence in Vietnam. With the USA’s sly tactics, they justified their actions. Just like that, one of the bloodiest and most significant conflicts of the 20th century escalated. The iconic Huey Helicopters of the Vietnam War.

Conclusion

Something interesting came into the limelight after years of the war. When the former Vietnam people’s Army General Võ Nguyên Giáp got a question on the events on August 4, 1964. He replied “Absolutely Nothing!”. Later, there was declassification of war information in 2005. There were two main findings. First, there was a record of an attack on August 2, 1964. Second, there was no record for the incident which was said to have happened on August 4, 1964.

This raises questions upon decisions that were taken by the US Government in 1964 which resulted in putting millions of lives at risk.  In conclusion, this is how the war began.

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