Sunday, December 05, 2004

War in the Pacific Mini-AAR: Singapore Falls

I continued playing War in the Pacific. It is January 22nd 1942.

As those more familiar with WW2 history probably know, that date was as far from happy times for Allies as it could be imagined. The game is getting even worse.

Singapore fell after being surrounded by the overwhelming Japanese air power. Japanese have quickly set up air bases around strategic British stronghold and began to mercilessly pound anything on the island – airfields, ports, ships and utterly demoralised and disorganised British and Empire forces. Quite aware that the city won't hold, I set up evacuation codenamed Eol. It was partially successful – fragments of British forces (mainly aviation support units and Indian brigades already depleted with the fighting in Malaya) have managed to find some sort of sanctuary on neighbouring Sumatra, mostly in Palembang. Royal Navy units weren't that lucky – almost all capital ships that were originally stationed in Singapore are sunk by Japanese aircraft, either in port or on route to Palembang. Finally, after having to resist the might of five Japanese divisions for couple of days, Singapore fell on January 14th 1942 (more than a month before historical schedule). It is estimated that at least 30000 Allied troops were taken captive – some in Singapore, some during the collapse of defences in nearby Johore Baru.

Palembang, which was supposed to be sanctuary for Allied force, proved to be trap. Prince of Wales was spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes and sunk in Palembang harbour on January 10th. Light cruiser Durban and one Australian destroyer suffered the same fate few days later. Force of four US Navy destroyers which tried to determine from where Japanese aircraft came also went down in Java Sea.

Japanese owe this success partly to the quick establishment of the air bases, but also thanks to the arrival of powerful task force of four capital carriers. While Zuiho light force was nothing more reconnaissance-in-force, this unit was there to do maximum damage. And they did it, sinking almost everything in sight. Allied air forces that had tried to make some impact from Palembang were hit very hard on January 20th – a day after Japanese have begun their landing there. Japanese 2nd Division and 35th Brigade are now there and are trying to dislogdge mix of Dutch and Indian troops. Survving Allied air forces are scattered all over Sumatra and Java.

In nearby Borneo Japanese have captured Pontianak base. It is all but certain that they would close Java Sea for Allied shipping very soon.

Situation is slightly better in Burma, although 1st Burma Brigade's moment of glory was short-lived. On January 18th they were quickly pushed out Moulmain by the forces of Japanese 33rd Division, brought in order to strengthen the push on Rangoon. As for the Rangoon itself, arrival of one Hurricane squadron (deployed to theatre together with around 100 other modern British planes) didn't do much to help city's air defence. Two British fighter squadron are being slaughtered every day. On the other hand, two convoys have managed to help the besieged city with fresh supplies and paid that with relatively mild losses – one cargo ship and one escorting patrol gunboat were sunk in Rangoon Harbour. One Indian armoured brigade and British field artillery regiment are deployed in Akyab, where the small engineering unit are preparing the second line of defence and building a port.

There isn't much change in Philippines. US and Filipino forces are holding Manila and Clark Field, but not for long. The defences of Clark Field have begun to crumble and US fighter and bomber squadrons – most experienced and most successful Allied air units in Pacific Theatre – are being evacuated to relative safety of Ilolo. From there, with little luck, they would retreat to Australia.

Japanese scored another important victory in Rabaul. On January 13th 1942, after almost a month of successful defence, Australian forces are being pushed out of Rabaul. They are retreating towards Gasmata, a place on New Britain, and are being supplied from air by a unit of converted Hudson bombers.

Australians fared badly in Guadalcanal. A convoy has successfully landed Australian naval engineering unit on the island but, while unloading supplies, the ships were detected and attacked from two directions by long-range Japanese bombers. Three days of merciless bombing took their toll – one cargo ship is sunk, one is barely floating; other two are going to be immediately pulled to the relatively safety of Noumea, base recently strengthened with one New Zealand brigade.

Central Pacific is area where US Navy is strengthening any rock where Japanese could land. That includes Johnston Island, Palmyra, Christmas Island and, last but not least, Baker Island, where 2500 men and 28 AA guns are uncomfortably close to Japanese forces at nearby Gilbert Islands. US Navy has conducted two major carrier-based air raids on Tarawa and struck one Japanese ship at Apamama. The latter includes Halsey's Enterprise, which should come near Gualdacanal and try to help Australians with supplying the island.

In the meantime, US is strengthening North Pacific while the convoys are sending more and more reinforcements to Central Pacific.

Allied air forces have currently five aces, the top being FO Cullen of 24th FG with 8 victories. Allies have so far lost 727 planes to Japanese 519. Those losses are reflected in the daily number of sorties – Japanes have around 2000, while Allies barely manage 700. Reinforcements from USA and UK still have to arrive. In terms of ships, Allies have lost 71, while Japanese lost 58 (mostly thanks to Allied submarines and mostly cargo ships; none of Japanese capital ships was sunk in last two weeks or so).

If the game was to end now, the outcome could be Japanese victory.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang in there! January '42 is, as you say, sure to be horrible. Losing Singapore is inevitable; losing it a month early is almost meaningless (though it feels bad).

Hang on to Guadalcanal if you can. Historically, the air and sea battles around it in '42-'43 were disastrous for the Japanese -- major losses for both sides, but the Allies could replace them and the Japanese couldn't.

Right now you can't afford to fight a war of attrition, so your strategy of withdrawing units makes perfect sense. Later, though, you'll be able to swamp the Japanese.

Watching with interest,

Doug M.

10:18 AM  

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