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Barsoomian Warships

David Bruce Bozarth

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THIS PAGE HAS BEEN UPDATED (December 14, 2020)

The article might appear confusion unleashed, but it does represent one researcher's 60+ year passion for the Barsoomian works of legendary American author Edgar Rice Burroughs. While the data and concepts might make vision glaze over, the adventures of writing this will be totally entertaining as it contains more twists than a Barsoomian kidnaping, escape, chase, narrow avoidance, more chase and eventual freedom and happy ending.

I hope you stick around for the surprise at the end!

—David Bruce Bozarth

Editor's note:

This article deals with weights, speeds, time and other attributes. The author used Earth measures throughout. To convert to Barsoomian weights and measures see A Barsoom Glossary" or use a rough factor of 38% of Earth weights. For haads to miles multiply by 2.7. As the Barsoom day is only 26 minutes longer than Earth's rotation, the "24" used below is "pretty close".

Edgar Rice Burroughs, more famous as the creator of Tarzan of the Apes, penned a tale even earlier about an ex-Confederate captain named John Carter, who managed to travel between worlds via astral projection while escaping a band of Apache Indians out to do bodily harm, circa late 1865 or early 1866.

Carter's advent to Mars, known as Barsoom, is told in easily obtained editions under the title "A Princess of Mars". For this article to make any sense for most, you should at least read that book. On the other hand, if you are steam punk imagineer and just plain love strange things and what ifs, read on:

A BRIEF HISTORY, NECESSARY

BARSOOM IS DYING

Carter finds himself on a world without surface water, or so little it almost does not count. Barbarism and Technology reside side by side. Dominate races of Red, White, Yellow and Black duke it out for the dwindling resources of the Red Planet ... and with a Green race of six-limbed sentient, though extremely violent and backward culture that only laughs when their "targets" are suffering under torture, pain, and dying.

For an overview see my "A Barsoom Glossary".

Now to the reason for this article:

A WORLD AT WAR

When Mars was covered with five great oceans the Orovars, a white race, sailed those oceans as both commerce and raiders. As their culture grew in science and knowledge over a period of time possibly near half-a-million years, the Orovars discovered that Barsoom was losing breathable air. Ultimately the Orovars created the atmosphere plants that would allow Barsoom to continue after the passing of the seas—and even the Orovars themselves.

The Black Pirates, called the First Born by their claimed lineage from the Tree of Life (beginning of humans on Mars, analogous to Genesis among Christians), also struggled/competed with the Orovars and, among the many interactions between the two races (probably rapes and pillage and other atrocities by both) an interbreed of race was birthed, known as the Red Martians.

The Red Martians retained nearly all of the good and bad qualities of their ancestors: War and Wisdom, and embarked on populating the vast desert and moss covered dead sea bottoms with extraordinary vitality. Again, the quest for control of dwindling planetary resources brought about war and conflict, pride and prejudice, wealth and poverty, and a growing realization that even this, too, will pass.

The green men were fought to a standstill and banished to the harshest of the land areas, where their barbaric and war-like culture and strict communistic culture and child rearing methods kept their numbers small compared to the other human races on Barsoom.

The remaining white race, perhaps descended from the Orovars themselves, split into two isolated areas, having nothing in common, and each group sought reclusion and anonymity. However, one subset of the white race created a vile, hollow religion and milked it for all it was worth, playing upon the cultures and superstitions of the other human races.

The blacks withdrew to distant and protected strongholds, one group in a vast underground domain where Mar's last remaining ocean lay in perpetual darknes. The other group sought a distant and semi-verdant valley. Between both they created a myth that the First Born black pirates actually lived on one of the two moons circling Mars.

Barsoom—Mars—was a dangerous place!

ARMIES AND NAVYS AND SOLDIERS, OH MY!

I could go into the history of warfare on Barsoom, as related by John Carter to Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I am more eager to address a single aspect the eleven novels suggest. So, what I will say will be short:

There was a lot of war. There was a lot of killing, raping, and pillaging. There was also a bit of science and technology that surfaced along the way.

FIREARMS, LIGHTING

Burroughs detailed, even if not complete, that his Barsoomians had the ordinary knives, swords, sabers, and spears, clubs and, later, bows and arrows—the usual primitive weapons known to human kind. Each are merely an extension of what the human body can do with hands, feet, teeth and strength, just at a distance.

On Earth the discovery of gunpowder extended the "throw of a fist" or a "thrown rock". Making a firearm to project that "fist" or "rock" improved the effectiveness, and later, cannons of various calibers and range were manufactured. Among the first hyperbolic statements by Burroughs on Barsoomian firearms is that green Martian rifles had a range of 300 miles. He did mention that radio finders were available for the larger weapons, and this was well before similar RADAR guidance was available to Earth (known as Jasoom to the inhabitants of Mars) for naval and land artillery units.

Each of these weapons were powered by RADIUM ... which is not the RADIUM known on Earth's Periodic Table of Elements. It was something different. Radium could be used for ever-lasting lighting, which was also directional, ie. seen on the surface but would not reflect into outer space, thus displaying cities—at least this was Ed's explanation in the late 1930s of his writing career.

At the same time RADIUM, if exposed to direct sunlight would detonate, or burn, with tremendous force, reminiscent of white phosphorus going incandescent on Earth. At the same time radium had sufficient weight that when charged into bullets for rifles or shells for cannon, could do extensive damage, much like uranium enriched shells used in Earth's recent and current wars. However, unlike Earth's enriched ammo, Barsoom's shells would self-detonate after a night battle come the next day!

BARSOOMIAN EIGHTH RAY

Burroughs had a complicated and near mystical series of nine (9) rays peculiar to Barsoom. The Eighth Ray (always in title caps) was specified as a lifting or anti-gravity emanation that could be bottled into tanks, attached to loads and, when excited by an electric current of some kind, would lift that mass. This ray, in fact, could lift a mass beyond the atmosphere of Mars as revealed with the flight of Mar's first space ship Barsoomas revealed in a thinly-related tale, The Moon Maid

The only other "ray" described in Burroughs' Martian Saga is the Ninth Ray as reported by John Carter:

The building in which I found myself contained the machinery which produces that artificial atmosphere which sustains life on Mars. The secret of the entire process hinges on the use of the ninth ray, one of the beautiful scintillations which I had noted emanating from the great stone in my host's diadem.

This ray is separated from the other rays of the sun by means of finely adjusted instruments placed upon the roof of the huge building, three-quarters of which is used for reservoirs in which the ninth ray is stored. This product is then treated electrically, or rather certain proportions of refined electric vibrations are incorporated with it, and the result is then pumped to the five principal air centers of the planet where, as it is released, contact with the ether of space transforms it into atmosphere.

The above suggests my reliance on "electricity" to be the variance on the lifting power of the Eight Ray as used to create positive buoyancy for Barsoomian air craft. Note: The Eighth Ray is apparently reliant on solar energy and some kind of "refining" to separate that raw resource, and then storing it in tanks or reservoirs, much like the refining of oil on Earth. Keep these concepts in mind, as they are essential to the intent of my search for Barsoomian Warships.

GEO-MAGNETIC POWER

Every planet has a magnetic field. On Mars Mr. Burroughs postulated that clever engineering and technology could tap into that magnetic stream to create the ultimate perpetual motion engines capable of spinning propellers to impart force to overcome the inertia of mass to move through the atmosphere.

Since the magnetic fields were permanent, any ship equipped with such engines would have unlimited range, which was a clever insight by a fellow born in 1875 to pre-date the abilities of the nuclear warships of our day—which have unlimited range and up to 20-25 year re-fuel and refit time frames.

Keeping all the above in mind, it is time to start the search.

10,000 MAN BATTLESHIPS

One has to keep in mind that the Barsoom stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs are fiction. My opinion? Pretty great fiction and fun and romance and exciting and things to ponder for an entire lifetime. Still pondering some sixty years later ... but at the same time ERB wrote "future stuff" based on realities known of his own world—Earth—and that added some realism to the escapism.

Yet, like any teller of tall tales he sometimes overstated things in the rush to deliver the adventure and romance. Some "hard facts" need to be maintained:

REALITIES AND SPECULATION

Ed Burroughs was 35 when he wrote "Under the Moons of Mars", the first of eleven novels set on the planet Mars.

In 1906 the world was stunned when the British unveiled the first All Big Gun Battleship in the world. It was called Dreadnought.

Three years earlier the Wright Brothers made history in powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In 1899 Marconi's wireless radio was transmitting from ships at sea.

It should be noted that every scientific thing that Burroughs wrote into his stories was logical extrapolations of future efficiencies of all these wondrous new things in science and the world.

Things were getting bigger, better, faster...

HOW BIG IS A 10,000 MAN MARTIAN BATTLESHIP?

Aerial ships are common to the Barsoom novels. The most powerful are the 10,000 man battleships of the Helumitic Navy. Helium, of course, is where John Carter and his Barsoomian wife Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium reside.

AT THIS POINT THE ARTICLE CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT!

I had returned to the texts of the Barsoom Saga by ERB to locate some examples of such naval monsters—and came across this:

Upon Hor Vastus devolved the delicate mission of organising a secret force of fighting-men sworn to follow John Carter wherever he might lead. As we estimated that it would require over a million men to man the thousand great battleships we intended to use on Omean and the transports for the green men as well as the ships that were to convoy the transports, it was no trifling job that Hor Vastus had before him. (Gods of Mars)

Notice something? Some specific thing wherein a ten year old reading in a rush of excitement might do a mental mathematical calculation in a rush ... and leave off a zero? An error that created an impression of monster 10,000 man ships? An impression that was not corrected until just now?

Face—Meet Palm!

This author is prepared for the chuckles and finger-pointing likely to follow this revelation. It will sting a bit, but like my ERB heroes, I will soldier on...

NOW WE CAN PROCEED

Bear with me as the embarrassed flush illuminates my keyboard, but the revelation above makes everything else fall into place.

All the prior remarks are correct, even when framed with an invalid factor, so no time was wasted getting this far. However, proceeding from here on the realities of Barsoomian Navies makes logistical sense given the populations, resources and all that which had bothered me these many decades.*

* There is a land-based military unit on Mars known as an Umak. It has 10,000 men.

After correcting that starting premise for this article of 10,000 man battleships down to a very realistic 1,000 man crew size, the nature and scale makes more sense—proving ERB might have exaggerated only slightly! At the turn of the last century (1900), modern battleships had crew sizes ranging from 500 to 700, all ranks. By 1912 new dreadnought battleships had crews of 1,250 to 1,850 on vessels of 570 feet, plus or minus 50 foot.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

Barsoomian aircraft are similar in design and concepts to Earth analogs, largely based on lighter-than-air designs, ie. dirigibles, but likely have more interior usage compared to terrestrial "gas bag dirigibles", and are more armored like traditional naval vessels.

On Earth internal combustion, whether by coal, oil, diesel (a refined oil), or nuclear, takes up a significant portion of the ship's interior spaces. During ERB's lifetime the transition from sail to coal to oil took place, each transition changing the size and engineering involved in new generations of naval ships.

Example, based on statistics for BB-35 USS Texas, laid down 1912:

In 1914 (when launched), coal and oil bunkerage totaled 268,132 cubic feet. During the 1926 refit to oil only 25% greater efficiency was stored in 200,550 cubic feet, mostly inside the double hull behind the armor belt and in significantly reduced lower deck tankage. This freed up 67,582 cubic feet of internal spaces.

Barsoomian airships, however, use magnetic propulsion obtained from the planetary field, thus no storage requirement for "fuel" that the USS Texas (BB-35) consumed during operations at sea. Texas (original coal fired) had a range of 16,500 miles at 10 knots (11.5/mph). Once that fuel was depleted she could go no further. After conversion to oil Texas could cruise 16,500 miles at 14 knots, an inprovement. At higher speeds, up to her design limit of 22 knots, fuel usage rose logarithmically and range was correspondingly reduced. Barsoomian naval craft, however, could continue, limited only by the human factor of provisioning (food/water).

Earth navies are limited to the surface or undersurface of the world's oceans. On Barsoom specially equipped ships could navigate water (surface and submerged), air, and space!

Burroughs' great battleships, however, are presented with some curious descriptions. Such as:

The building was an enormous one, rearing its lofty head fully a thousand feet into the air. But few buildings in Zodanga were higher than these barracks, though several topped it by a few hundred feet; the docks of the great battleships of the line standing some fifteen hundred feet from the ground, while the freight and passenger stations of the merchant squadrons rose nearly as high. (Princess of Mars)

This suggests that some of these great ships were treated as dirigibles, tying up to tower masts, some mounted atop high buildings. Something like the mast on top of the Empire State Building.* Other descriptions show the ships could ground on their keels on dead sea bottoms or other land areas which could accommodate their bulk.

* This never happened in real life on Earth. The project was eventually deemed impossible, even under perfect weather conditions. The Empire State Mooring Mast was a 1930s project, so once again, ERB anticipated the future!

BOUYANCY

As noted above regarding the Eight Ray for lifting power, Barsoomian airships had tanks charged with this lifting property. Burroughs did not specifically describe the appearance of the tanks, but the appearance and properties of the ships themselves suggests that some tanks were internally mounted on the outer hull in pairs, or that a central tank ran through the center, or a combination of both depending on the size of the vessel.

Going by the description of the one-man and two-man fliers, upon which many of ERB's stories depended for moving main characters around the face of Barsoom, some interesting facts can be determined.

In one passage where John Carter and Tars Tarkas make an escape using a two-man flier, the craft did lift and was otherwise functional, just drastically reduced in altitude and speeds achieved.

Perspective: Elsewhere in the novels it is alluded that Tharks (green Martians) are over fifteen feet tall and on Earth might top out at 400 pounds. Carter, at six foot would have been lean at 160 pounds, though likely closer to 180 due to descriptions of his appearance. Thus, combined, their living flesh "load" was 560 pounds. Add another 75 pounds for weapons, accoutrements and apparel, a load of 635 pounds is possible. Two ordinary HUMANS would have placed the load at 285-360 pounds. A rude calculation indicates a significant loss of lift when overloaded. At this point, without a known "lift per pound" to unit X of Eighth Ray, nothing more can be assumed.

Meanwhile, the smaller craft are made from skeel, a fabulous hardwood on Barsoom. Strong, durable, and not subject to rot. The battleships, however, were fabricated from gleaming metals, some named as "steel", "duralumin" and "forandus" as well as wood appointments. Which construction is lighter? Wood or metal?

Unknown.

HOW BIG?

Author's visualization of Barsoomian Battleships circa 2011. Tara, wife of Gahan of Gathol viewing trials of the new Vanator over the city. (click for larger image)

Some known facts:

At this point we drop into the realm of assumptions with sketchy facts, and only have Earth corollaries to gain any insight.

The one man flier is likely a surfboard type "deck" and windscreen cowling mounted on a torpedo sized tank with ballasted keel to keep it "upright". Length: 21-23 feet.

The five man flier is a paired tank version of above, a wider deck, perhaps expanded 24"-30" between tanks.

The ten man flier is two pairs of tanks in tandem (total of four) of the above described, resulting length 42-46 feet. Perhaps equiped with a small cabin forward.

Unknown: Are these auxiliary aircraft stored at "zero to plus 1% positive bouyancy" or dead weight? Why the question is important is if the Eighth Ray depletes under electrical excitement. We don't know. If, on the other hand, the craft can be stored at a constant "zero" bouyancy while the battleship is in flight these craft would neither lift, or load the mother ship. Again, unknown.

Assumptions that follow are based on World War II aircraft carriers, Essex Class specifically. Assuming Hellcat F6 with longitudal folding wings for narrowest storage, TBA Avengers, wing fold up and SBC Dive bombers, wing fold up: max aircraft would be 110. The Barsoomian battleship described above has 115+ aircraft. Reality? Essex carried three types: Fighter, Torpedo/Bomber, Dive Bomber. Each had stowage conditions different from the others thus operational wings were usually 88-92 plus 50% spare parts.

During WWII Essex class carriers generally kept 1/3rd of their planes on deck at all times, thus a "two deck" storage plan. Also maintained a CAP flight of 4 to 10 in the air at all times. Movement, protection, and strike ability remained optimal under these standard operations.

Extending the above concepts to the Martian battleship, use of top deck, Hanger One and Hanger Two are very likely. As these carried units are all vertical take off and landing—or able to do lateral take off—a reservation of one third of the top deck to simply launch planes would not be essential.

This suggests the Barsoomian Battleship is likely an extreme BUFF—deep-chested, near cylindrical in appearance (giant fat flying cigar) with a flat deck on top with the "wheel house" forward, embedded in the nose rather than an island bridge work like the Essex class, though some kind of island structure is useful for management of the top deck and to house the "radio" mast and other communications.

Pushing stupid numbers—again based on USS Lexington upon which my Uncle Paul, dad's younger brother, served during WWII from Kwajalein on—could store all aircraft below decks, up to 110 aircraft.

F6F Hellcats are 34 feet in length, 12' wide wings folded. TBF Avengers, 40' long, 20' folded. These physical dimensions are similar to the "Barsoomian" speculations above, which suggests the Barsoomian Battleship, with double interior hangers and a top deck might carry twice the aircraft in one half to two/thirds the hull length of the World War II "The Blue Ghost".

SPEED?

Here we run into a whole slew of variables that stretch into fantasy land. The Martian atmosphere, even with the artificially enhanced atmoshere plants of the Barsoom Novels, is thin.

All above indicates "best" speeds for the Barsoomian Battleship might be far slower than the "fast" cruisers and lesser vessels described in the novels being capable of up to 400 miles per hour. More obvious is that launching the ship's internal aircraft and crews would become increasingly perilous with any increase of speed!

In experimenting with the new motor at Hastor last year, an attempt was made to drive a scout flier at the exceptional speed of thirty-three hundred haads per zode (Note: Approximately five hundred miles per hour; a haad being 1949.0592 earth feet and a zode 2.462 earth hours), but before the ship had attained a speed of three thousand haads per zode it was torn to pieces by its own motor. Now we are trying to attain the greatest strength with the minimum of weight and as our engineers succeed we shall see speed increased until, I am sure, we shall easily attain to seven thousand haads per zode (Note: Over one thousand miles per hour), for there seems to be no limit to the power of these marvelous motors. (A Fighting Man of Mars)

Carter was a tad optimistic on potential speeds for prop driven aircraft in my opinion. At some point the spinning metal props tips are exceeding the speed of sound, even in a thin atmosphere like Barsoom's, and the explosive effects of the mini-booms would fatigue and fracture standard propeller types.

Caged props, which might delay the onset of sonic booms at prop tips, introduce other oscillations which result in the same tendency to fatigue. Until Barsoom develops the "jet" turbine/fans known on Earth, speeds in excess of 550 mph (Earth) or 600 mph (Barsoom thin atmosphere) seems unlikely.

Since the propulsion force is the magnetic field of the planet, which will not vary in intensity and certainly can't be increased like an internal combustion engine where when more power is needed you throw more fuel at it! Increasingly more complex gearing (alluded to in the texts but not fully explained) to increase fan speed would be required. Certainly possible, but was not reported in depth in the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, though some kind of gearing was obviously required for functionality. Note: Planetary Magnetic Power is a constant and cannot be easily amplified. Only the mechanical side of the engines and gearing can be made more efficient or more capable.*

* I am ignoring my pastiche which postulates a major change in Barsoomian propulsion which suggests a new energy source which indicates interplanetary and potentially interstellar travel. See: Ras Thavas and the Calot: The Morgor.

NAVIGATION

In the first four novels Barsoom's aircraft were navigated by stars, roads, landmarks and ordinary compass. By Chessmen of Mars the son of the Warlord, Carthoris, had developed a directional compass AND a constant height ground terrain follower and collision avoidance device which allowed for autopilot functionality to any compass coordinate input.

At night I slept, secure in the knowledge that my directional compass would hold a true course for Horz and always at the altitude for which I had set it—a thousand feet, not above sea level but above the terrain over which the ship was passing. These amazing little instruments may be set for any point upon Barsoom and at any altitude. If one is set for a thousand feet, as mine was upon this occasion, it will not permit the ship to come closer than a thousand feet to any object, thus eliminating even the danger of collision; and when the ship reaches its objective the compass will stop it a thousand feet above. The pilot whose ship is equipped with one of these directional compasses does not even have to remain awake; thus I could travel day and night without danger. (Llana of Gathol

One advantage of this navigational advance is that lesser vessels could function 24/7 without a helmsman/pilot on station at all times. This unit was small enough to install on even the least of airships, the one-man flier. On larger ships, which kept 24 hour standing watches, the number of certified helmsmen required could be reduced—producing greater bridge efficiency—and allowing an increase in other ship-wide ratings, or the addition of more "marines".*

* The use of "marines" in this article is related to non-airship crew members, largely landing parties and infantry as found on World War II ships of all nations during that conflict.

CONCLUSION

I had originally created the lead graphic showing USS Lexington from various altitudes for "how big?" to ponder on "how much larger would a Barsoomian Battleship be compared to an air craft carrier manned by 10,000 men."

During the preparation for the stringing of words and examples together for this article I encountered a passage in the Martian stories that completely changed the original concept by belatedly correcting a "mental error" from sixty years ago as "a snot nosed kid doing sloppy mental math" while reading ERB's opening trilogy to the Barsoom Saga. Sheesh! How embarrassing!

Then, after a pause, after a beer, after nap, and after a little thought, I came to the realization the article still deserved to be completed—still had value for "digging deeper" into what Burroughs imagined and wrote for the entertainment of not only millions and millions, but for at least seven generations of readers who still discover and enjoy his "damphool litrachoor".

Along the way I gained a new respect for ERB's attention to details and uncanny ability to temper his fantastic speculations and extrapolations of futurist technologies in a realistic manner.

It must be stated that when Burroughs first wrote of the great air fleets of Barsoom (1911), the story of human flight in self-powered aircraft was marginally eight years old. By 1912 top speeds began to approach 90 miles per hour and endurance was just shy of 45 minutes. Weight aloft (above the machine itself) was 1.5 human beings (at best). Range and distance was under 60 miles. All of these various landmark accomplishments vanished the next day when another landmark achievement was made! Things were that new. That ERB predicted the concept of "aircraft carriers"—which he called "battleships" for his Mars stories—pre-dated the advent of truly functional aircraft carriers on Earth by more than 20 years. This is truly amazing imagineering!

Time to wrap this up, so one answer on my attempt to discover "how big" (based on a stupid error 60 years ago) has resulted in a more rational assumption to depict a Barsoomian Battleship. Final extrapolations (not quite whimsical!) might be something like this:

BARSOOMIAN BATTLESHIP SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 550 feet

Beam: 150 feet

Depth: 75 feet

Empty Weight: 20,000 tons

Full Load: 35,000 tons

Range: 40 days (human provisioning), 1 year Eighth Ray replenishment and refit

Lift Tanks: 48. Thirty are required for ordinary operations.

Max Ceiling: 6,500 feet.

Speed: 100 mph never exceed, 65 mph cruise, 20 mph aircrew launch through forward, and aft recovery, 10 mph for lateral launch port or starboard, or lateral launch via catapult at 20 mph or higher speed.

Propulsion: 24-14' 3-blade pod-mounted engines, 12 staggered per side—eight of which are multi-gimbal, split fore and aft, for vertical maneuvering, and landing/takeoff operations

Armament: 12 large rifles—1 bow, 1 transom, 2 top, 2 keel, 3 port, 3 starboard. 36 small rifles at compass points top, keel, fore and aft positions

Complement: 800 crew and marines plus 200 air crew

Hanger decks: two internal with fore and aft launch capability. Additional flight operations via main deck.

Munitions Max Load: Shells—6,000 large rifle, 60,000 small rifle, 1000 250 pound bombs, 250,000 small arms reloads (shoulder rifle and pistol)

Aircraft carried: 122—5 ten-man cruisers (one large rifle, 60 rounds, 2 bombs); 10 five-man scouts (one small rifle, 40 rounds, 1 bomb); 100 one-man scouts (one small rifle, 20 rounds); 4 fifty-man landing/cargo barges with 2 small rifles; 2 twenty-man work boats, unarmed; 1 Captain's gig (20 man capacity) 2 small rifles.

Upgrades/Refits: Submarine capable water tight seals, installation of 4 water screws—two fore, two aft, speed underwater: 10 mph.

 

FINAL TAKEAWAY

Having corrected the first error in midstream which ultimately made great sense, I still have a quibble with Ed Burroughs for some hyperbole regarding the size and strength of the various Barsoom navies which pepper his otherwise exciting and sterling prose:

How can there be THAT MANY battleships?

Barsoom, at the time of John Carter's transit to the Red Planet had, AT BEST, a population of 500,000,000 humans, including Green Martians, for the entire planet! His rousing battleship confrontations spoke of "thousands" of these immense aerial beasts of war in furious action and THAT just doesn't make sense from either a national need or ability to build such craft on Barsoom.

ERB's immense number of capital ships didn't ring true to me when I read the books in the 1960s, just 15 years after that war's end in 1945. I had the real history of a world that was not dying (still isn't despite all the bad press, but that's a different discussion) that had finished a Second World War where a total of 90 battleships (big gun machines) and 65 fleet size aircraft carriers (out of a total of 233 all type carriers from MAC to Escort which are NOT "battleship" size) of ALL COMBATANTS INVOLVED had waged a horrendous action—on all sides—during a time the world's population was just advancing above 2,000,000,000 (two billion)!

How could a dying world of limited population field such mammoth vessels of war?

Then I must always remind myself: When picking away at fables one can only be frustrated! I am, and remain, completely satisfied with my willing suspension of disbelief while reading the artful prose of Edgar Rice Burroughs—and still enjoy the lifetime of fascination with the stories.

Damn the Facts!

Enjoy the Tale!

But if you must insist to treat the worlds created by Edgar Rice Burroughs as real don't drop a zero to create a miscalculation that will disturb you for sixty+ years!

UPDATE, December 14, 2020

I WAS RIGHT!

This article has been a very fun thing to do! First, I had my "memories" at work. Then I found a passage that turned that memory on it's head, but in a GOOD WAY. The article took a different turn, again in a good way that makes logicistical sense for a dying world and limited population and resources.

But it does turn out my memory was not at fault, only the number of "how many 10,000 man battleships might exist on Barsoom.

While clearing up some typos, missed punctuation and considering the insertion for more illustrations I went back through the texts, this time using the 10,000 man land military unit known as a Umak ... and there, in black and white, in the tale of Tan Hadron of Hastor, as told in A Fighting Man of Mars, there it was! The very reference I knew in my heart of hearts was there all along:

I am Tan Hadron of Hastor, my father is Had Ur-tur, Odwar of the 1st Umak of the Troops of Hastor. He commands the largest ship of war that Hastor has ever contributed to the navy of Helium, accommodating as it does the entire ten thousand men of the 1st Umak, together with five hundred lesser fighting ships and all the paraphernalia of war. My mother is a princess of Gathol.

Update December 17, 2020

Comments soon appeared asking "do they do it in the woods?" Military vessels in particular can't leave a "poop" trail while on mission. Airships above the 10 man class obviously maintained internal works to process and store body waste, while extracting all purified fluids for further use. The resulting dry product would be sold at port facilities for fertilizer in local markets.

—Editor

There is at least ONE aerial battleship which can carry 10,000 "infantry" men AND a crew (size unknown, likely 800-1,000) that was built and successfully flown in combat.

But in that proof another conundrum is exposed! The phrase accommodating as it does the entire ten thousand men of the 1st Umak, together with five hundred lesser fighting ships and all the paraphernalia of war. ... begs the question:

"Does this mammoth vessel carry 500 lesser ships internally?"

My head aches.

Time for a beer to figure out that astounding comment!