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Sam Carsten
Fictional Character
Southern Victory
POD: September 10, 1862
Appearance(s): American Front
through
In at the Death
Type of Appearance: Direct POV
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: 1891
Occupation: Sailor, formerly a farmhand
Military Branch: United States Navy (Great War, Second Great War)

Sam Carsten (b. 1891) was an American sailor who joined the Navy in 1909, "right off the farm". He was a big slow-moving man, pale skinned with blond hair and blue eyes, and thus was prone to sunburn.[1] He served in the Navy during both the Great War[2] and the Second Great War[3] as well as the Pacific War.

Carsten had considerable intelligence and initiative. As he would be told much later in life, had he graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he might have eventually become a brilliant admiral. However, Carsten's capacities went completely unnoticed at the time of his recruitment and for many years afterwards. He made use of them mainly for such purposes as finding ways to be idle on board while appearing to work,[4] or perpetrating painful practical jokes on hated superiors without being found out.[5]

At the start of the Great War, Carsten was a Seaman First Class aboard the USS Dakota cruising to attack the British at the Sandwich Islands.[6] He also volunteered for the manual assault on Fort William Rufus. That attack was successful as was the invasion itself and so the islands were easily captured from Britain.[7]

Carsten remained in the Sandwich Islands for some time. He was ashore when a Japanese scout areoplane was spotted. He immediately returned to the Dakota where battle-stations were soon sounded. The ship, along with several other battleships, sailed out with accompanying cruiser and destroyers. A small, outgunned Japanese fleet of cruisers and destroyers was spotted and the U.S. forces speed to attack. However, several Japanese submersibles lay in wait and sent out spreads of torpedoes. Several U.S. ships were sunk and the Dakota damaged but limped back to port where it was in dry-dock for six month.[8] He also took part in the Battle of the Three Navies which resulted in more serious damage to the Dakota.[9]

While on leave in the Sandwich Islands. Carsten had a casual conversation on the sea shore with a surfing Polynesian named John Liholiho, which turned out to be a decisive turning point in Carsten's life (and even more so, in Liholiho's life). Some of the terms he used led Carsten to suspect Liholiho of being a spy for the British.[10] Carsten reported his suspicions,[11] which were confirmed, and Liholiho was arrested and executed. This manifestation of initiative and motivation - unusual for sailors on leave - led to Carsten being promoted to Petty Officer Third Class, and set him on the way to eventually becoming an officer and a ship's captain.

During the end of the war he was stationed in South America as his ship attempted to help cut off the flow of supplies from Britain's allies to the island nation itself. That mission succeeded once Brazil came into the war on the side of the Central Powers.

After the war ended Carsten, who was interested in aviation, began to serve on the U.S.S. Remembrance, the world's first airplane carrier. Ironically, he began his service in his sick bed, when he was sickened by the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Carsten was one of the lucky survivors. He spent some time on the Remembrance, patrolling the North Atlantic Ocean. He was with the ship when it made a friendly port-of-call to Ireland just as the northern Protestants rebelled against the new Republic. The Remembrance helped put down the rebellion by shelling and bombing Belfast.

Carsten was encouraged to take the officer's test and, to his surprise, passed on his first attempt.[12] He was made an ensign and transferred to the destroyer USS O'Brien.[13] Carsten served on that ship for some time before being transferred back to the Remembrance.[14] He served on that ship when, in 1932, the ship was torpedoed in a surprise attack that kicked off the Pacific War. He fought on the Remembrance throughout the war and even earned a promotion to Lieutenant, Junior Grade.

Carsten continued to serve on the ship after the war and into the Second Great War. During that war he took part in the raid on Charleston, South Carolina that answered the Confederate bombing of Philadelphia which started the war. The ship was hit near the bow by a bomb from a land-based Confederate bomber. Carsten led a damage control party to institute temporary fixes. He noticed a five-inch gun exposed below the flight deck with its crew dead. After ordering repairs he took several men with him and fought the gun as effectively as he could, scoring at least one hit on enemy aeroplanes.[15]

Carsten remained on board when the Remembrance docked in Bermuda for repairs. He sailed out to face the HMS Ark Royal when a fighter from that ship shot-up a U.S. fishing boat. The ship sailed into the path of a British submersible but the spread of torpedoes missed and the sub was sunk by an accompanying destroyer. Carsten thought the British were repeating a ploy that the Japanese had used to nearly sink the Dakota during the Great War but instead they had done so to lure both the Remembrance and the USS Sandwich Islands away to make their joint invasion of Bermuda easier.[16]

With Bermuda fallen and the Bahamas threatened, the Remembrance was ordered to sail around Cape Horn and to the Sandwich Islands to help defend them.[17] He fought in the Battle of Midway. There the Remembrance was sunk, but Carsten lived because one of his superiors helped him get off in time.

After the battle Carsten was promoted to Full Lieutenant and was even given command of his own ship the destroyer escort, USS Josephus Daniels. On that boat he partook in many operations including, bombing Baja California, helping transport US marines in North Carolina, and helping stop the smuggling of arms by Britain into U.S.-occupied Canada. Eventually, he was sent to help insurrectionists in the Confederate state of Cuba and later Irish rebels, just as he (incorrectly) remembered being assigned during the Great War.

Carsten commanded the Josephus Daniels for the duration of the Second Great War. In late 1943, his ship was sent south of the equator to intercept Brazilian and Argentian ships carrying supplies for Britain. It was here that his resolve as a commander was tested, as his executive officer, Myron Zwilling, humiliated by a game of "King Neptune", banished sailors whom he'd felt had insulted him to captured Argentinian ships to serve as prize crews. Carsten confronted Zwilling, who admitted the motives for his actions. Carsten very tactfully suggested that Zwilling would be better elsewhere. While not a dramatic moment, Carsten's confident handling of this incident reflected quite well on him. Replacing Zwilling was Lieutenant Lon Menefee who served as X.O. for the remainder of the war.

At the end of the war, Carsten was promoted to lieutenant commander, and given the choice of serving the Sandwich Islands, or occupation duty of the Confederate coast. Carsten chose the latter. He was also flattered when a Naval board picked his brains on the international political situation, wanting his input on what the U.S. Navy would need to do in the post-war world.

Carsten contentedly served aboard the Josephus Daniels, realizing that at his age and as a mustang, he wasn't likely to rise above lieutenant commander. In 1945, he discovered that he'd scratched a mole on his skin until it bled, indicating he may have developed skin cancer due to his earlier sunburns at sea.

References[]

  1. American Front, pg. 58, HC.
  2. The Great War trilogy, generally.
  3. Settling Accounts tetralogy generally.
  4. Walk in Hell, pg. 44, HC.
  5. Ibid. pgs. 94-96.
  6. American Front, pgs. 58-63, HC.
  7. Ibid. pgs. 139-142.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 370-374.
  9. Walk in Hell, pgs. 223-227.
  10. Ibid. pgs. 372-375.
  11. Ibid. pg. 436.
  12. Blood and Iron, pgs. 491-495, HC.
  13. The Center Cannot Hold, pgs. 13-17, HC.
  14. Ibid., pgs. 189-190.
  15. Return Engagement, pgs. 23-28, hc.
  16. Ibid., pgs. 86-95
  17. Ibid., pgs. 217-218.
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