Friday, December 17, 2004

War in the Pacific Mini-AAR: Philippines Fall

I continued playing War in the Pacific and reached March 12nd 1942.

As the title of this segment suggest, the most spectacular event was the fall of Philippines. On February 19th Bataan fell, with some 40,000 Allied soldiers being taken prisoners. This triggered Operation Angelo's Run – mass evacuation of all naval and air resources from Manila. Only small sections of Allied naval forces reached safety – destroyer Pillsbury, which has reached Darwin one month later and couple of cargo ships. Two patrol boats were also sunk, each having honour of single-handedly bumping into Japanese carrier force.

The fall of Bataan was followed by the fall of Manila on February 25th. Four US ships, including seaplane tender Langley were scuttled in harbour in order to prevent their fall in Japanese hands. Again, some 40,000 Allied troops were taken prisoner. This included Philippiness headquarters, but the headquarters of Asiatic Fleet managed to flee to safety via cargo ships and is currently enjoying relative safety of Dutch base in Koepang, Timor.

After the destruction of all Allied forces on Luzon, the only remaining Allied garrison are 81st Philippines Division and US naval base stationed at Cebu. But they won't hold for much longer – all cargo ships that could have led them to safety are either sunk or far in the south. In the meantime, Japanese have taken Ormoc, Tacloban and Guiuan.

With the fall of Philippines, Japanese attention has turned towards what had been their major reason for war – Dutch East Indies and its oil fields. Japanese have conducted offensive operations on three out of four major islands. Sumatra has been ignored mostly because demoralised Dutch and British troops are seeking shelter in Padang and Sebang, respectively. In doing so, they are at the mercy of Japanese air force which had proven its power by sinking two cargo ships and destroyers in Padang harbour. Only one RAF unit has been successfully evacuated from Sumatra to Ceylon.

Most spectacular Japanese action was major raid by 400 pound gorilla force of three capital aircraft carriers. Any attempt to stop that force was doomed, although Dutch air force and one Dutch submarine tried, with predictably tragic results. Japanese planes have been sinking any ship they could spot, and that included cargo ships and tankers fleeing to safety of Australia. Number of Allied ships sunk is now again higher than the number of Japanese ships sunk.

With such overwhelming force, Japanese could land their forces at leisure. One such example was Balikapan on Borneo. 21st and 24th FG, aided by 3rd and 34th have fought bravely against Japanese air forces, both from Tarakan and from carriers. This resulted with some of the epic victories – US, for the price of 1 or 2 of their fighters downed dozens of Japanese planes, mainly Ki-27 Nates. However, pressure from carrier-based Zeros and Japanese numerical superiority was too much. Despite their heroic defence they US airmen couldn't prevent Japanese bombers to push through and sink, among other things, US destroyer Barker recuperating in Balikapan harbour. All those forces were later withdrawn and on March 12th 1942 Japanese landing forces have captured the base.

On nearby Celebes Japanese have landed on Kendari and chased Dutch garrison from there on March 7th. Filipino 6th Fighter Squadron, despite being equipped with somewhat more modern Air Cobras, couldn't do anything about it and had itself extracted from Macassar.

Java was predictably the focus of Japanese attention. They went straight for the gold and landed in Batavia on February 24th. The Dutch could be accused of many things, but not giving Japanese run for their money is not one of them. Dutch force, which among other things, consisted of two infantry regiments, was resisting until March 4th and inflicted heavy casualties on Japanese 2nd Division and 35th Mixed Brigade. Dutch and Allied air force was also very active and they were hitting Japanese naval forces around Batavia hard, managing to sink couple of minelayers. Even one Dutch destroyer – Tjerk Hiddes – was active, managing to maul one Japanese destroyer during the night raid in Batavia harbour, one of the rare surface actions in this period of the campaign.

This, however, couldn't prevent the inevitable. Dutch defence finally collapsed on March 4th. Two days later Japanese have pushed Dutch out of nearby Merak, which also led to two cargo ships lost during the chaotic evacuation attempt. Dutch have retreated towards Bandoeng and are now fighting desperate rearguard action in Tjilitjap. Any possible means – cargo ships and transport planes – are used to extract as much Dutch forces to the relative safety of Bali, Koepang and Darwin.

Northwards, in Burma, the Japanese have struck Akyab hard with three divisions – 55th, 33rd and 6th. British position is relatively strong and the garrison – one Indian division, one Indian brigade, one artillery regiment and one armoured brigade – is resisting, although the Japanese have three times more men. Japanese have mauled the base defences but haven't captured the base yet. In my humble opinion, their poor logistics have more to do with it than British defence.

Eastward, in Central Burma, British 18th Division have tried to cut back Japanese supply lines west of Myitkyina. They slammed into two Japanese tank regiments and the result is inconclusive slugging match.

The most spectacular and arguably the most successful Allied action in this theatre is Operation Pink Panther – deployment of 2nd Burma Brigade on Andaman Islands. The troop carrier was supposed to be sheltered by Hermes task force – escort carrier and two AA crusiers. In the end, the operation was successful – British, although demoralised, are now holding the island and are relatively well-supplied, with troop carrier unharmed. Hermes force wasn't that lucky – one AA cruiser received a torpedo hit and would need some patching up in Colombo harbour. Andaman Islands are now used by a squadron of Catalinas and Australian Beaufort bombers. This isn't much, but it could discourage Japanese from thinking of Bay of Bengal as their lake.

In the most unexpected of all places – Chinese theatre – Allies have successfully launched first major offensive into the territory held by Japanese before the war. Four Chinese divisions have slammed into Northern Vietnam, and after few inconclusive engagements, pushed aside one Japanese and division of Vietnamese conscripts. Currently they are some 30-50 miles north of Hanoi.

Southwest Pacific also saw its share of action. It was not so spectacular, but nevertheless heartbreaking for Allies. At first, it looked like Operation Black Tiger being complete Allied success. Australian garrison, aided by two squadrons of Hudson bombers from Port Moresby, resisted Japanese onslaught while being evacuated by air at the same time. On February 21st, Japanese 6th Naval Guard Unit has pulled out from Gasmata. But Australian triumph was short-lived. In early March Japanese have landed from sea and on March 7th pushed the weakened garrison westwards. In doing so they destroyed two Allied transport air squadron – one Australian, one US Marine – on ground, which totalled around 47 planes.

Another problem in Southwest Pacific is presence of Japanese submarines who especially like to operate on the north-eastern coast of Australia. So far they managed to sink US cruiser Boise and one Australian minesweeper. One Australian destroyer is damaged.

South Pacific is place of hectic logistical activity. Luganville received its first planes from USA, while big convoys of supplies and fuel are sailing towards New Zealand. Convoys carrying fighter planes and bombers are now going towards Guadalcanal, where they should be protected by Halsey's Enterprise group.

In Central Pacific US Navy conducted two raids against Tarawa. In the latter, Maryland was the first US battleship to see some action after Pearl Harbor. It was unharmed, but Lexington, which was giving air protection, was hit by one torpedo. It is currently being patched up in Pearl Harbor. Future plans in Central Pacific include bombing/isolation campaign against Tarawa and clearing of Japanese garrisons at Gilbert Islands. Idea is to have sea lanes between USA and Australia secure. Before this happens, major logistical problems – deployment of engineering units, supply and fuel – must be solved.

Fall of Manilla had one interesting effect. Chester Nimitz simply stopped being commander of Central Pacific. Actually, he ceased to exist at all. I think this is a bug that could be removed in 1.3 patch of the game.

I also made some personnel moves. General Gerhart became commander of Allied forces in Southwest Pacific. Admiral Bagley became commander of South Pacific, while Admiral W. Lane became commander of Central Pacific.

Statistically speaking, previous few weeks were dreadful for Allies. With Philippines in their hands, Japanese look like clear winners, even when their significant holdings in Sumatra, Java and Borneo aren't taken into account. Again, the number of ships sunk is in their favour – 129 to Allied 139. Both sides are slightly more equal in the number of planes lost – Japanese 1047 to Allied 1173. The biggest Japanese losses are recently in Ki-27 Nate fighters lost over Balikapan, while the Allies lost many planes on ground when Balikapan and Gasmata fell. The Allied top ace – FO F. Cullen of 24th FG with 12 air victories – was killed over Balikapan. There are 13 more Allied aces – all from 3rd, 21st and 24th FG – who are still flying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, so Java fell almost as quickly as iOTL. Brr.

You still have Bali, but probably not for long.

-- If the game allows for guerrilla activities, then keep an eye on Timor. OTL it got overrun in March, but then a small group of a couple of thousand Australian guerrillas went into the bush and then managed to keep ~30,000 Japanese tied down for the next six months. Of course, by the time the survivors were evacuated, 2/3 of them were either dead or in Japanese hands, and thousands of native Timorese had also died. But still.

Are the Andamans really so important?

Burma, yes. But the Chinese counter-offensive should help at least a little, no?

-- Logistical issues will start to really hurt the Japanese soon. Watch for it. The high-speed expansion phase is coming to an end. Hang on to your strongpoints and keep chewing at them. Attrition is your friend.

Watching with interest.


Doug M.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Dragan said...

Actually, Japanese still haven't finished with Java. Dutch still hold Soerabaja and eastern parts of the island. But not for long, I'm afraid.

As for guerilla activity, the only place where the game takes this into consideration is China.

Andaman Islands can be important, because the Allied air power from there might close Bay of Bengal for Japanese shipping. If the base is strenghtened with new airfields and new ports, this could do quite a number on Japanese logistics in Burma.

As you said, attrition is my friend. And it seems to be working in case of Akyab - British still hold, despite outnumbered 1:3. This is due to Japanese having to supply three divisions via a single mountain trail.

11:29 AM  

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