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On that morning of November 11, 1943, the carriers� planes flew out to bomb the shipping in Simpson Harbor. When they returned they were followed by a flock of Japanese planes, perhaps as many as a hundred and fifty. I couldn�t say what it was like to be attacked by that many planes, because when they were bearing down on us I was in the depths of the Plotting Room (or �Plot�), and I might as well have been in a submarine. The Plotting Room contained the Mark I (Ford) computer and the Sperry stable element, a large gyroscope. Plotting rooms were way below decks near the center of rotation of the ship, so that the gyros could minimize the ship�s rolls and make them less violent. The Combat Information Center (or CIC), on the other hand, was located in close proximity to the bridge. That was the place where the CIC gang tried to put together information from the Plot and the radars
and to keep track of what was happening for the benefit of the captain on the bridge. Officers and men with headsets put marks on plexiglass plotting boards, each X indicating the probable location of a Japanese ship or plane, with an arrow indicating direction. The CIC was a response to the need for a data-correlation room when radar became a reliable tool; it was a sign of the growing complexity and technological nature of the war. Thanks to our radar, by 1945 we also served as a fighter-director ship and guided our carrier-based aircraft to intercept incoming enemy planes. The work was complicated, which is why the officers often referred to
the CIC as �Christ, I�m Confused.� The Murray did not have a CIC until one was installed at its first major navy yard availability at Mare Island.
As assistant gunnery officer, I dealt with the data received in the Plotting Room and directed the fire-controlmen who operated the large mechanical computer there, a big gray monster about the size of a pool table. All the information on enemy targets was processed in the computer, which calculated the ballistics of where to aim the main-battery guns so that projectiles would intersect the target. After it had ground away for a while, a buzzer would go off and the word �solution� would light up. We would send the firing solution to the guns and up to Jim Boyd in the director, and he would swivel around and take the planes under fire as quickly as we could give him the target information. He could see the planes coming in even if we couldn�t, and he shot down four or five planes during the attack on Rabaul. He even had a sufficient sense of the occasion to reach down and make a chalk mark on the side of the director when he scored a hit. He could do that because the planes didn�t come in one after another on top of him, as they do in the movies. It didn�t happen that fast, and he had time to look around and see how the situation was unfolding. After the battle, our signalmen painted a small Japanese flag up on the outside of the bridge for each Japanese plane we had shot down. The McKee always felt it was in competition with us, and there was a friendly rivalry to see who could put up the most little Rising Sun flags.
The Rabaul strike was a major event for the sailors on board the carrier Bunker Hill, who for years afterward held a reunion every November 11 to commemorate the event. For the Murray, however, it was a one-day diversion. Destroyers were in short supply at that stage of the war, so the Murray was shuttled about from one operation to the next. After the Rabaul strike, we were immediately dispatched to Espiritu Santo and attached to the Tarawa Attack Force for the assault on the Gilbert Islands. The battle for the atoll of Tarawa and the islet of Betio was famous for its savagery, but the Murray�s role was minor compared with that of the marines. We spent most of our time steaming back and forth along the so-called ping lines screening the transports from submarine attack.