Saturday, January 01, 2005

War in the Pacific AAR: Myitkyina Falls

Before I start, I must admit that I feel somewhat awkward when writing this AAR. Some of the locations are going to be more familiar to general readership than in previous instalments, thanks to the morbid coincidence. Part of the AAR is dedicated to Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and needless to say, this is the very same area that was struck by Asian tsunami one week ago. It is unpleasant to think of real life and still unfolding tragedy having even this, purely accidental connection with what amounts to a piece of entertainment.

In the meantime, I changed my mind and decided to apply v. 1.4 patch to the game. So far, there weren't any major consequences like bugs or crashing. Most of the changes in the patch were related to the very start of the campaign, and at this stages, they are irrelevant. However, I did see a significant increase of Chinese troops and they would have some effect on the events to come.

Currently, the game has reached April 25th 1942.

The most spectacular events unfolded in Burma. British 18th Division, which had so bravely taken Mandalay in March, has been pummelled by pursuing Japanese forces. Three Chinese divisions in Myitkyina were of little use when faced with Japanese 56th Division, aided by at least three tank regiments, two heavy and one mountain artillery regiment and three mortar battalions. This concentration of firepower was too much for Allies – on April 21st, after two days and loss of 2000 men in ferocious bombardment, Allied force of 1 British and 3 Chinese divisions abandoned Myitkyina and retreated towards Ledo.

Westwards, 20th Indian Division suffered badly when trying to push into Japanese positions south of River Chindwin. 7th Armoured Brigade might have better luck. In the meantime, British have gathered significant force north of Akyab – 2nd Division, two Indian brigades, 2 armoured brigades and 1 artillery regiment. They, supported with at least two squadrons of Blenheim bombers, will try to push Japanese 18th Division out of Akyab.

In Dutch East Indies Japanese are trying to mop up any remaining Allied base. While Timor seems to be well-defended – especially from air – and well-supplied thanks to its proximity to Australia, other isolated pockets and garrisons aren't that lucky. On April 9th at least 2700 Dutch soldiers – the last remains of all garrisons – surrendered on Borneo. On April 12th Japanese have taken island of Lombok and took 1400 Dutch prisoners. At least one cargo ship sent to evacuate the garrison has been sunk.

Even more serious situation is in Sumatra. Japanese are so bold that they have managed to send landing force in Indian Ocean and attack Padang on the western coast of Sumatra. This is worrying development, because Padang is the only harbour from where significant Dutch and British force could be evacuated to safety of India and Australia. So far, it doesn't seem that the landing force is big and the garrison is resisting. I sent British carrier force – Formidable and Hermes – in a vain effort to catch ships from the landing force. All they managed to do is to shoot down few Japanese bombers from Sumatra airfields. However, since the carrier force has only one squadron of Fulmars, this definitely isn't enough to provide safety.

In Northern Sumatra situation is dire. Japanese have landed relatively significant force in Kuala, which includes elements of Imperial Guards Division. On April 20th Dutch garrison was pushed out. This has cut the retreat for some 4000 Dutch and Allied soldiers trying to reach Sabang from where some kind of evacuation can be conducted. Southwards, Japanese have taken Jambi on April 20th.

In the rest of Dutch East Indies there weren't much activity. Small Japanese force that have landed on Amboina is unable to take it. Dutch, American and Australian airplanes were very active in the area. At least 3 Japanese battleships received hits in Kendari harbour on Celebes, one destroyer was damaged and unknown number of cargo ships also hit. The only setback for Allies was carrier-based air raid on Amboina which obliterated Dutch fighter force. In the meantime, Americans have established base on Aru Island, in an attempt to protect Port Moresby from west.

There was significant activity in and around New Guinea, and most of it wasn't very favourable for the Allies. On April 9th Japanese have captured 800 Australian soldiers – the last remains of New Britain garrison. On April 13th few Japanese soldiers, supported by two battleships – Mutsu and Yamashiro – landed in Buna. They were opposed by NVGR Battalion, light but very determined Australian force. However, five days later, following a devastating air raid, which have claimed 100 Australian casualties, Japanese took Buna by storm. NVGR Battalion has retreated to Dobodura beach.

I reacted by sending one half of 30th Australian Brigade to Buna via Kokoda Trail. One brigade of 7th Australian Brigade has landed in Gili Gili, and this should protect Port Moresby from east.

While Japanese lost appetite for attacks on Port Moresby (and now conduct air raids only at night), Guadalcanal became theatre of air war. I had planned Operation Meatgrinder – the idea is to replace elements of 3rd NZ Division and Australian engineering unit with US forces – 31st Naval Base Force, 2nd US Marine Division and 2nd US Marine Raider Battalion. 72th Fighter Group US Army has already been deployed on the island and Halsey's task force is going to provide air cover to cargo ships and embarking troops. If Japanese try to attack those ships from air they are going to be pulverised by Halsey's and ground-based fighters. On April 16th Japanese conducted bombing raid and got slaughtered – 29 Betty bombers and 8 Zero fighters were downed without single ship being damaged. Two days later, with Halsey's force away on a fruitless mission to sink Japanese battleships in Coral Sea, Japanese were lucky to sink one cargo ship.

Elsewhere, there was relatively little activity. The best Allied success was in China. Chinese 91st Corps has captured Japanese Pankhoi base. Chinese are now having their first port after many years. There won't be much use for it, but this victory has moral significance.

Central Pacific and North Pacific didn't see much activity. After some lull, US submarines are again active and they did some damage on Japanese shipping north of New Britain. Japanese submarine, on the other hand, managed to sink US destroyer Conyngham off the north-eastern coast of Australia.

Although disasters continued to happen and although situation in Burma is dire, some kind of balance has been established. Allies seem to be more active in the air –3800 sorties to Japanese 2800. Number of ships sunk is in Allied favour – 176 to 169. Number of planes destroyed is also in Allied favour – they lost 1389 to Japanese 1569.


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