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NEWPORT, R.I. - Twenty-two of the U.S. Naval War College’s (NWC) youngest war gamers inflicted as much damage as possible on enemy naval forces during “Sink the Bismarck,” a family event held in the college’s McCarty Little Hall, Feb. 24.

NEWPORT, R.I. (Feb. 24, 2012) Players push a model while playing the table-top war game "Sink the Bismarck!" in McCarty Little Hall at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC). The game, simulating a World War II naval battle between German and British forces, was played by NWC staff and their children. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)Children ages 8 -17 years old participated in a war gaming exercise to acquaint them with NWC’s mission in preparing future maritime leaders to make key decisions in a competitive, time-pressured environment.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to get the families in to see what we do in our department and expose the kids to the idea of role playing as a team,” said Lt. Cmdr. Larry Johnson, one of NWC’s war gaming directors.  “This really expands the perspective and point of view to their approach for problem solving, competition and working together.”

The scenario was based on the World War II, naval Battle of the Denmark Strait between the German Kriegsmarine and Britain’s Royal Navy in May, 1941. Each team comprised of a captain, navigator, operations officer and an engineer. Crews had one to three minutes to design a plan, report to the battle bridge and carry out their mission. The fleet’s arsenals consisted of a main and secondary battery, torpedoes and mines, and whichever team scored the most damage points in the allotted amount of time would prevail as the winner.

For 10-year-old Mayla Ward, captain of the British battle cruiser HMS Hood, the key to success was in figuring out the other team’s plan, and counteracting their strategy.

NEWPORT, R.I. (Feb. 24, 2012) Referees measure the distance between ships while players wait during the table-top war game "Sink the Bismarck!" in McCarty Little Hall at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC). The game, simulating a World War II naval battle between German and British forces, was played by NWC staff and their children. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)“So far we’re doing really well. Our strategy is for all of our ships to do the same things and to put as much battle damage on the other ships as possible,” explained Ward, a 4th grade student from Aquidneck Island Christian Academy and daughter Dave Ward, who is a contract war game specialist at NWC. “As you can see, the Bismarck has sustained a large amount of damage.” 

This is the third year NWC’s War Gaming Department held this event during the local school winter break. According to NWC War Gaming Senior Military Analyst Pete Pelegrino, the game not only gives the kids an idea of what NWC does to prepare future military leaders but also provides them a bit of a history lesson.  

“It’s a very kinesthetic game and it harkens back to the old retro-style of gaming NWC conducted back when they used molded-lead ships on a large classroom floor at the turn of the century,” Pelegrino said. “This is just a modern version of those components. Good old floor games and board games can be powerful educational experiences.”

Pelegrino said this event all started when he purchased a couple of battleship models on eBay and evolved into purchasing more model ships to form British and German fleets. He then developed the game that is now known as “Sink the Bismarck” battleship war gaming experience.

“It’s pretty true to history,” said Pelegrino. “We hold similar games for Cub Scouts, cadets, high schools in and around Rhode Island. It’s all free and run by NWC volunteers. Our goal is to bring gaming to the classroom as a free resource.”

Pelegrino and other teachers have this and other similar war games on a website: www.juniorgeneral.org. There, teachers can find classroom wargaming ideas to help teach history, decision making and perhaps inspire a future Chief of Naval Operations. 




By Teresa L. Sullivan
Posted by Brie Lyons