Friday, December 24, 2004

War in the Pacific Mini-AAR: Java Falls

I continued playing War in the Pacific. First winter of the campaign is behind me. It is April 9th 1942.

As the title says, the most spectacular event of the past month was the fall of Java. However, unlike Malaya and Philippines, Allies have enough time and resources to organise something like orderly withdrawal. Thanks to the superb rearguard action of Tjilitjap garrison (which fell on March 17th) and well-organised transfer of aircrafts from various airports, most of Dutch ground, naval and air forces have taken relative safety of Timor and absolute safety of Australia. Soerabaja fell on March 28th, and on April 1st Malang, the last Dutch base on Java, surrendered with some 5000 soldiers (which couldn't be evacuated). The casualties were high, but tolerable – 400 pound gorilla force of Japanese carrier have been slaughtering Dutch shipping all over Java Sea and in Soerabaja harbour, but enough ships have survived for evacuation to become possible. The worst setback in Java was loss of 6 damaged submarines that were scuttled in Soerabaja harbour.

Dutch retaliated for their losses with their small but relatively effective airforce and PT boats. They sunk few cargo ships, minelayers and a troop carrier. The first Japanese battleship to be damaged during the campaign was Hiei, struck by Martin 139 bombers in Batavia harbour – it lost one of its 25mm AA guns.

In the meantime, Japanese were consolidating their positions in the rest of Dutch East Indies. On Sumatra they have taken Beloekteoeng on April 5th, which again resulted with the loss of submarines. On Borneo they have taken Banjarmasin and Sampit, which puts in danger couple of thousand Dutch troops which, at this point, can't be evacuated. On Celebes Japanese have taken Macassar on March 20th. Dutch garrisons have retreated northwards, being pounded by Japanese air force. However, Japanese have problems using their base in Kendaru every night at least few B-17 bombers from Koepang come to visit and leave at least one of two of their planes destroyed.

On nearby Amboina, well-supplied Dutch garrison and extremely effective squadron of Australian Hudson bombers have managed to fend off at least one Japanese attempt of landing. Japanese cargo ship was sunk together with invasion force.

In Philippines, isolated garrisons at Cebu and Roxas succumbed to Japanese pressure on March 26th. Japanese have taken everything and are now busy transforming beaches into full-blown bases. When Allies come to liberate those islands, there would be plenty of work.

The most volatile battlefield is Southeast Asia. British garrison in Akyab has resisted Japanese onslaught valiantly. Japanese tried to strengthen their three-division force with a naval convoy carrying 2nd Tank Regiment. Only elements of that regiment landed because a single US PT boat managed to sink Japanese gunboat in brave naval engagement on March 14th. But Allied defence was shortlived. Reinforcements that couldn't have been delivered by sea came by goat trails – namely Japanese 56th Division. On March 27th this pressure prove to be too much and British forces have retreated.

Eastwards, British 18th Division pushed bravely southwards, in an attempt to relieve pressure on Akyab and cut Japanese supply lines west of Myitkyina. On March 21st they pushed elements of 1st and 6th Japanese Tank Regiment – which made Japanese hold on Myitkyna untenable. Two brigades were immediately sent southwards where they fought Japanese garrison. However, only the arrival of complete division turned the battle into British favour. Mandalay was liberated on March 29th and, in the process, at least 61 Japanese planes were destroyed on ground, mostly Ki-27 Nate fighters. British triumph in Mandalay was shortlived, though. On April 3rd Japanese 56th Division struck back at British and, after being reinforced with two tank regiments and mortar battalion, pushed British out on April 7th.

Much better news for Allies came from the north. Chinese 66th Division has liberated Mytkyina and thus re-opened Burmese Road. This would be a blessing for Chinese because they need fresh supplies. Inconclusive fighting rages in Hanoi – one Japanese, one Vietnamese division and two smaller Japanese units are faced against four Chinese division. Northwards, one Chinese division is about to attack 1000-men Japanese garrison in Pankhoi.

Andaman Islands are drawing more and more attention of Japanese air forces. Garrison, which consists of RAF base and 2nd Burmese Brigade, guards one squadron of Catalinas and one squadron of Australian Beauforts. The garrison is well-supplied and recently got one Australian squadron of Buffalo fighters. However, Japanese have conducted few devastating raids. Their air superiority over Bengals is such that they have launched air raid on Madras in an attempt to catch two British battleships – Ramilles and Resolution – which had bombarded Japanese positions in Akyab in early April. British have been strengthened with arrival of Formidable aircraft carrier, but its squadron of Fulmar fighters doesn't seem to be protection enough for the task force to venture too close to Japanese air bases. Allied fortunes in Southeast Asia might improve with the arrival of 48 Liberator bombers which are currently being convoyed from USA via Australia.

I'm thinking about another operation, codenamed Purple Panther. The idea is to land British naval engineering unit on the beach of Nicobar Islands. This would close Bay of Bengals for Japanese naval sorties and draw more attention from Japanese air. If Japanese are preoccupied with Nicobars, evacuation of British forces from Sumatra (which currently goes with relative success) would go more smoothly.

Eastwards, there isn't that much action. The most interesting events are around New Guinea. North coast is almost completely in Japanese control and same can be said of New Britain, except for small Australian engineering unit, which is hiding in bush, gets supplies from air and awaits some kind of evacuation.

Japanese attempts to wreck Port Moresby from air are, at this stage, proving to be the worst Japanese defeat of the campaign. RAAF has been recently equipped with two squadrons of Kittyhawk fighters and those two are put to very good use in Port Moresby. At this stage, Allied pilots have learned how to face Zeros on more equal footing (note: this is a game feature that gives Zeros additional manoeuvrability in the first months of war) and many of them are experienced. On April 3rd those pilots gave good trashing to Japanese bomber force – 33 Betty bombers were downed and at least two Australian pilots became aces. Japanese tried again and again they were struck hard, although with less casualties.

Eastwards, the major activity is around Guadalcanal. Australian engineers are trying to expand port and airfields. The former is especially important because a convoy carrying US 2nd Marine Division patiently waits to be unloaded. It is protected with US Navy carrier force made of Enterprise, Yorktown and Saratoga. On March 23rd Japanese have tried to attack Guadalcanal from air – elements of 78th FS US Army (which have been deployed before) and Wildcats of Enterprise easily repulsed that attempt.

In other areas of Pacific, logistics seems to be more important than combat. Americal Division have been deployed in Luganville, thus relieving elements of 3rd New Zealand Division. A convoy carrying 32nd USA Division to Brisbane, Australia is being planeed, while at least one US Division is going to be deployed on Baker Island and prepared for the invasion of Tarawa. I'm also contemplating move against Japanese base at Nauru.

Central Pacific saw some action when task force of two carriers – Yorktown and Saratoga – on its way to join Halsey at Guadalcanal made a minced meat out of Japanese supply convoy north of Gilbert Islands.

In North Pacific the most important news is establishment of US air force in Atka Islands. They should watch eventual Japanese moves in Aleutians.

In the grand scheme of things, Allies appear to be in slightly less desperate position than they have been one month ago. Japanese have scored major victory with the capture of Java and all those resources would be put to good use. Allied submarines have lost their bases in Philippines, Dutch East Indies and Malaya and it would take time before they are replenished and sent back to combat from Pearl Harbor, Colombo and Brisbane.

On the other hand, it looks like all bad things that could happen to Allies have already happened. In last month only one major ship was lost – Dutch destroyer Tjerk Hiddes. Numbers are definitely shifting in Allied favour. Number of ships sunk is equal, but Allies for the first time have advantage in number of planes lost – from the start of campaign they lost 1343 to Japanese 1387. Allies are also more active in the air – daily number of sorties is around 2800 to Japanese 2000.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Will the game really allow an amphibious assault on Tarawa in summer 1942, almost a year early? (And, if so, is it a good idea? All those Japanese carriers still running around...)

The level of detail is intimidating. The game tracks individual AA guns on battleships? Good grief.

(BTW, Japanese AA was crap. Those 25mm guns were obsolete in 1940, ridiculously outdated and almost useless by 1943. That's one reason so many Japanese capital ships got killed by Allied air attacks. A weird oversight, but there it is. If I were playing Japan, and the game allowed me to upgrade this, it would be a top priority.)

You have said it: the worst that can happen, already has. What will they do now, take Hawaii? I don't think so. From here on out, it's a war of production -- which means, a war you must work to lose.

Just hang on to Guadalcanal, and don't let the Burmese front collapse completely, and you'll be fine.

Doug M.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Dragan said...

According to the game's database, Japanese 25mm Type 96 AA gun, at least in its naval version, isn't that bad. Its perfomance - based on range, effect and rate of fire - is closest to 1.1 in Mk 1 AA gun.

Yes, the level of details is indeed intimidating. Any time I play I discover a new trick.

1:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home