When I was a kid I used to build model ships in 1/700 scale and so did my friends. Between the half dozen of us, there may have been 200 ships representing the battle fleets of WWII from just about every nation that put out to sea. We even had submarines that at that scale were about the size of a Salem 100 cigarette. Like fans do with their sports teams we would argue endlessly about which ships were the best, most heavily armed, or had the best armor among the world’s navies. We even adapted the rules for a naval board game called Victory in the Pacific that allowed us to use our model ships in mock combat. So it is with some satisfaction that I notice the popularity of games like World of Warships and dozens of other online warship simulators. It seems that the debate my middle school friends and I use to have about the ultimate gunfighting ship still goes on today, but now among grownups. And the most popular debate now is whether an Iowa Class Battleship could take on a Japanese Yamato Class Battleship and win.

That was also the most common debate among us as kids in the 1970s. In the Paleolithic Age of my childhood, there was no internet to consult. We would either scour the books we owned on WWII ships or hop on our respective BMX Mongoose (the BMW of kid-bikes in that ancient age) and ride to the local library. Huddled there around a table with 20 open books about ships, we’d quietly argue about armor belts, gun diameters, shell weight, and muzzle velocity while attempting to settle the question,

“Could an Iowa win against the Yamato?”

We never agreed.