A Noob vs Japan

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TheFilthyCasual
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
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Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:56 am

A Noob vs Japan

Post by TheFilthyCasual » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:21 am

Short backstory:

I used to prefer real-time strategy, but I never liked the feeling of being rushed; my mind simply doesn't work fast enough. So last year I thought I'd try my hand at turn-based, and since I'm a WW2 buff, that is the first thing I went looking for, and since OOB is the newest WW2 hex-based wargame there is, I figured what the heck. So unlike many of the people playing here, I've never touched good 'ol Panzer Corps or Panzer Generals, so I had no idea what what I was doing. I managed to scrape myself through to Guadalcanal on my first attempt, failed it 3 times in a row before eventually winning but with half my units dead, then failed New Georgia three times in a row and left the game aside for along while. I hate letting myself get defeated though, so I decided a change in mindset was needed and I came back and tried it again recently, and eventually succeeded. What you'll be looking at here is an AAR of my first successful campaign in OOB; it's not perfect. But if you'd prefer something a little more scrappy and organic than a 100% completionist walkthrough, look no further.

Also, as I said, big WW2 nut, so I got into the habit of naming all my units after actual units that either actually were, or plausibly could have been, involved. I actually did the Boot Camp missions this time (I foolishly skipped it when I first got the game), and I went into the main campaign with the following core:

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Plus there's the ones the game gave me in the first scenario:

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Hopefully that scratches your details itch; or maybe it's just me. Though, I'll be doing this turn by turn, so there will be plenty of details.


Pearl Harbor

Everybody was antsy about Japan after they look over Indochina. It was pretty obvious they were setting themselves in a position to dominate the South Pacific, and drag us into a fight with them. But we also knew how powerful the US Navy was, and how powerful our country was in general; the Japanese would have to be crazy to try to take us on directly.

So imagine the surprise of an auxiliary medical officer in Pearl Harbor, up early in the morning to report to the naval hospital, when 30 planes swoop over his head barely a hundred feet off the ground as he drives next to the Harbor on his way to work. It's no wonder no one caught them coming in - where in the hell would they have come from?! It took everyone a minute to process what was happening; they were Japanese planes - the big red sun on the wings are like flashing signs - attacking America's main naval base in the Pacific! But it's too late - they're on top of Battleship row, torpedoes in the water and bombs flying. The Oklahoma, Arizona and West Virginia are trapped in the confines of the harbor, hemmed in by an 'escorting' cruiser at anchor with a skeleton screw.

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But that doc in the jeep - knew just what he had to do. Knew it more than anyone else; unfortunately I cannot congratulate him, for I do not know his name, as this was the one and only time he ever participated in the same battle as our task force.
Rather than run for cover, he floored the pedal and sped towards Hickam field. The AA guns and fighters around the Harbor didn't seem to be reacting despite the explosions; granted, it was an exceptional circumstance, but fast action was needed!

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Speeding towards the airfield, men of the 200th AA Battalion sleeplily waltzed out of their barracks to see what all the commotion was about. Some were even sipping coffee as they sauntered out. Not slowing down, the doc drove through the throng, screaming at the top of his lungs "THE JAPS ARE ATTACKING, MAN THE GUNS, MAN THE GUNS DAMMIT!" as he continued on his way. Reaching Hickam field and not knowing where the commandant was, he repeated himself, driving around the hangars and mess hall screaming that the Japs were attacking.

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10 P-40s of the 6th Pursuit Group scrambled into the air in the next few minutes as the harbor roared, and rushed to defend the hapless battlewagons.

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Our pilots' first encounter was when they attempted to drive torpedo bombers away from the Arizona. They downed two B5Ns, but concentrated tailgun fire from the rest of the formation took down one of ours as well. Our destroyer the Livermore had relatively weak AA abilities, but the crew fired what they had, hoping to hit something.

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Breaking off, our pilots engaged a group of D3As diving down on the Oklahoma. They were too late to stop the dive bombing, but as the Japs pulled out, we came in behind them and took down 4. Tailgun fire downed two P40s. The crazy doc, meanwhile, madly hopped into a PT boat and sped for Ford Island to rouse the pilots there off the ground. What inspired him to think it was a good idea to be on a boat at that point one can only speculate.

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The Commander of our Task Force's naval elements, Admiral Philip Clark, was away from the base inspecting a radar installation. He at first thought the Japanese attack force were a group of B17s due to arrive that morning, but when they called in to announce their approach, he realized something was amiss.

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The 200th finally got its act together and began firing at Japanese torpedo bombers in conjunction with the fighters.

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When the radars picked up another group moving in, that was when Clark realized something was seriously wrong. He called various bases to scramble a response, but only Hickam Field picked up.

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Luckily for everyone, the mad doctor had miraculously made it to Ford Island and made a sprint for the hangars to scream and shot and kick until the pilots got out of their hidey holes and into the air. They had good reason to not want to try to take off though - after losing two more bombers, an escort of Zeros showed up and shot down 3 P40s. Though they managed to down two Zeros, the remaining 4 planes were low on ammo and had been outmaneuvered. They risked it to land back at Hickam Field to rearm.

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Pilots from Ford Island did reluctantly get in the air, but they were too late to stop the attack that zoomed over the runway and blew up the Oklahoma in a ball of fire.

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The Ford Island pilots quickly dispensed with their fear. The Zeros had not seen them take off, and the P40s jumped them. One strangling Zero downed a P40, but our men downed 5 Zeros. The Japanese had felt so safe in assuming surprise, now they were the ones being surprised.

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And then, as if God himself were smiling on us that day, 10 Wildcats from the Enterprise arrived over Hickam Field, having flown ahead of their carrier which had been delayed by weather. The control tower told them to wave off and take out the Japanese.

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The doc hopped back into his PT boat and sped across the bay to alert more airfields. Meanwhile, the combined effort of the AA guns and 19 friendly fighters took its toll. Each Japanese wave, at least by my tally, was a group of 70 planes - 10 Zeros, 30 dive bombers and 30 torpedo bombers. Now under sustained air attack, it wasn't long before more than half of the first wave had been shot down.

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However, the sheer numbers disparity meant enough bombs got through to doom the Arizona as well.

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Nevertheless, the Japanese had clearly been sloppy. Determined as they were to quickly obliterate the battleships and scram with a bomber-heavy force, they were at the mercy of out numerically superior fighter forces, despite there being far more Japanese planes than American.

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The Japanese, in their stubbornness, did not withdraw the first-wave planes that attacked the ships and instead, they pressed their attack onwards despite the odds against them, knowing the 2nd wave was right behind them. Luckily, our fighters, with some more pilots scrounged up from around the base, were back in the air and waiting.

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Admiral Clark had radioed ahead the Japanese attack vector from the radar tracking. While our 6th Squadron boys and the AA guns sought to finish off the last of the first wave, the Ford Island and Enterprise pilots intercepted the Japanese planes on their approach.

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Another group of friendlies flew into the Harbor the same time the Japanese did; Doc's work yet again.

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The Japanese didn't really have a chance now. With 31 of our fighters in the air and no fighter cover of their own, they were sitting ducks.

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As our pilots obliterated the 2nd wave, our destroyers sought to exit the harbor to make way for the bigger ships to leave. On their way out, they picked up a sonar contact - the Japanese had tried to get a sub into the harbour! The depth charged response was ineffectual, but it scared the sub off and cleared the way out.

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All that was left to do was to chase down anyone we could.

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Why the Zero escorts fro the 2nd wave were up at the north end of Oahu, no one knows. The squadron that went after them got a nasty shock when they lost 4 P40s in the span of a couple minutes. Luckily, they had the luxury of calling other fighters in to dogpile the Zeros, and the result was rather one-sided.

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Japan's final act of spite was to destroy one of our radar stations on their way out. One can't help but wonder if those planes may have been better used at the harbor.

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The Doc finally caught up with the Admiral to tell him what was going on, though Clark already new full well via message from the airfields Doc had visited. I dunno if he ever got a Medal of Honor, but if anyone deserved one, it would be him. If he hadn't kicked those pilots into their planes, every ship in the harbor would probably have been a wreck.

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All in all, it was a rude shock. No one had ever even dreamed the Japanese would park their aircraft carrier off Hawaii and bomb our fleet in its own port; luckily, thanks to the heroic efforts of our pilots, gunners, and Doc, complete disaster was avoided. Two battleships had been destroyed, yes, but other than a couple depots and a radar station nothing else had been damaged; indeed, the failure of the Japanese to eliminate our planes int he first wave by attacking the airfields is a conspicuous oversight. And as a result, the enemy had lost around 100 planes to our 23. The pilots felt pretty proud of themselves that night.

GabeKnight
Lieutenant Colonel - Panther D
Lieutenant Colonel - Panther D
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Re: A Noob vs Japan

Post by GabeKnight » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:08 am

Nicely done!
TheFilthyCasual wrote: Short backstory:
I used to prefer real-time strategy, but I never liked the feeling of being rushed; my mind simply doesn't work fast enough.
Yeah, same here. Started with the first Warcraft, then Command and Conquer and further clones, but at some point it was all just about building everything fast enough and rush it to the enemy with as many units as possible to hopefully overrun them...
TheFilthyCasual wrote: Also, as I said, big WW2 nut, so I got into the habit of naming all my units after actual units that either actually were, or plausibly could have been, involved. I actually did the Boot Camp missions this time (I foolishly skipped it when I first got the game), and I went into the main campaign with the following core:
Then you definetely should try some of Erik's custom campaigns. He does the same thing in his scenarios. The missions are really great, and his clinging to historicity sometimes drives me mad :wink: :mrgreen:

TheFilthyCasual
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:56 am

Re: A Noob vs Japan

Post by TheFilthyCasual » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:50 pm

War Plan Orange-3

As the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they simultaneously (though it was December 8th there) invaded the Philippines. MacArthur's airforce was destroyed on the ground, leaving only our 3rd Pursuit Squadron able to oppose the Japanese bombers. Our corps had been forward-deployed to the Philippines after their training exercises in November, centered around the 31st Infantry Regiment and supporting units, commanded by our old Boot Camp commander, now-Colonel Harold McNeil, commanding his force from a command tank of the 192nd Tank Battalion. In addition, the 200th AA Battalion and 6th Pursuit Squadron that had so well defended Pearl Harbor were rushed to the Philippines to bolster our air defence after the disaster at Clark Field.

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We also had the new 193rd Tank Battalion on hand; unlike the 192nd, it had not been to Tank School nor had it trained with us in November, so its crews were raw.

Our forces were held in reserve near Manila, but the Filipino troops to our north collapsed more quickly than anyone expected, and our men had to be thrown into the line to allow MacArthur to withdraw his forces form Manila to the more defensible Bataan Peninsula.

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Our planes barely had time to get off the ground before Japanese fighters showed up and jumped the 3rd Squadron. The Japanese air group in the Philippines had made its home at an airfield just to our north, 6 squadrons strong: 2 of Zeros, 2 of Hayabusas, and 2 of G4Ms.

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The 1/31st reached Angeles just as the Japanese were crossing the river, and had to try to hold off a force twice its size to allow the 65th Engineers to blow the bridge over the Pasig-Potrero; our men had not yet reached the west bank.

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With Japanese tanks already pounding some Filipinos dug inside bunkers south of Magalang, McNeil sent the 192nd and the Philippine troops he could scrounge up to confront them.

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Despite losing 6 planes in the initial ambush, our pilots turned things around on the Japanese fighters. Supplemented by AA fire, 6 Zeros were downed and the rest retreated, the 4 remaining planes of the 3rd Squadron in pursuit. The Hayabusas banged up the 6th Squadron too, but with only two planes of their own left, the writing was on the wall for them.

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The shooting had not yet started to the west; the Japanese maneuvered their troops so as to bring two battalions to bear against the 1/31. The engineers had done their job; Philippine troops moved up to defend the village next to where the bridge had been, AT guns lagging behind them, while the 193rd held the left flank. A Japanese recon unit was spotted crossing the river to our north.

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The Japanese battalion advancing down the road from Magalang ran into Philippine troops hiding in a patch of jungle and flanking fire from our tanks. Having lost 70 men, they pulled back to regroup, and the Japanese tank unit was brought forward to confront ours. The bunker complex next to the river was overrun, and more Filipinos raced down the road to plug the gap.

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All 20 Japanese fighters had been downed, but the enemy airfield was defended by AA guns; thus, we could not safely bomb them as they lay on the ground - we had few replacement planes available as it was. In any case, we were in no position to try anyway, for we had lost 13 planes ourselves. The AA guns had tipped the balance this time.

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The 193nd sent the helpless Japanese armored cars fleeing back across the river, but to the east of the Pasig-Potrero, the Japanese had mauled the 1/31 with little loss to themselves and Angeles was in their hands. Our engineers slogged south to prepare the next bridge on that river for demolition. The Filipinos that tried to plug the river flank north of San Fernando were cut to ribbons; it looked like a fall-back to San Fernando was now needed.

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The Japanese took a pause to replace any losses before resuming their attack. Japanese infantry continued to hound the 1/31 as it fell back to San Fernando. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions had used the time gained to their north to prepare defences along the river, but now the 1st Battalion's rout was threatening the whole defence scheme.

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The Japanese seemed to be massing an entire regiment to the north, preparing to storm our left flank; our men there continued to dig in. McNeil pulled the 192nd back to San Fernando to help 1st Battalion, but the Japanese simply rushed past him toward the main intersection. Combined with the Japanese tanks appearing next to the river, they seemed to be planning a blitz of some sort; McNeil had no choice but to order his entire regiment to withdraw from the river crossings into San Fernando to destroy the Japanese vanguard on his left, followed by a withdrawal to the south, as abandoning the river would make holding the city untenable.

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We had bought just enough time for the rear-echelon units, supplies and depots in the city to be evacuated to Bataan, however. It was a loss, but not as bad as it could have been.

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The Japanese vanguard company was surrounded and wiped out, but things were then turned on us as expected - Japanese tanks appeared at the main intersection, blocking our escape path. They meant to bag the entire regiment! (Sans the 1st Battalion, which had withdrawn across the river to the east to regroup and reinforce, having lost 90 men and accomplished nearly nothing) McNeil's Filipino rear guard had nearly been annihilated, only a few men in bunkers still holding out.

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The Japanese advance against our left flank finally began; infantry crossed the river to the north while tanks and trucks full of infantry were seen streaming into Angeles, no doubt preparing to cross the river despite the lack of a bridge.

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With their infantry support held up by 3rd Battalion, 2nd Battalion and the tanks knocked out all but one of the Japanese tanks at the crossroads, clearing the way for a withdrawal.

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AT guns drove off the enemy armored cars again, but an entire regiment bore down on the bunkers near the river. Japanese engineers burned the Filipinos out of their bunkers with flamethrowers; the 193rd and more Filipinos prepared to hold the village, but with Japanese tanks right behind the infantry, the odds of doing so seemed in doubt.

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Pre-occupied with mopping up the Philippine troops, and with most of their force lagging behind the vanguard, the 31st Regiment withdrew south of San Fernando without incident and again prepared to defend the river crossings. This time, the engineers planned to have the bridges destroyed before the Japanese reached them.

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The dug-in Filipinos weathered the initial Japanese assault rather well, but their flanks were being turned. The AT guns were overrun, and the green 193rd made a poor first showing. After hitting us with artillery fire, the Japanese crossed the river with tanks of their own and traded 2 of their tanks for 4 of ours. The entire position was untenable, and McNeil ordered a retreat. Zeros showed up to strafe the hapless AT crews; the 6th Squadron was called on to intercept - the 3rd had been busy trying to destroy a squadron of G4Ms flying towards San Fernando.

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2nd Battalion was left to defend Guagua, the bridge dropped into the water; 3rd Battalion moved out to defend Minalin. But the engineers would never reach 1st Battalion's position in time to destroy the bridge, so the decision was given to pull one more river back; since that bridge had bunkers in front of it, there should be enough time to destroy it.

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With almost all the reserves being sent to Bataan, McNeil begged MacArthur for more men to hold the left flank. MacArthur eventually agreed, but sent little - a company of Americans, some Filipinos, and a battalion of small pack howitzers. However, since all the trucks had been commandeered to help evacuate to Bataan, the howitzers had no transport and had to be manhandled forward, significantly delaying their joining the fight.

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The left flank, as expected, rapidly collapsed. The Filipinos and green Americans had neither the numbers nor the skill to hold the Japanese back. Reinforcements were rushed forward to try to keep the Philippine battalion from completely dissolving in panic, but every engagement with the Japanese caused them to lose half a company at a time; they had only half their men left. The tanks simply tried to stay ahead of the Japanese ones.

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The Filipinos regrouped and put a full company in the line next to the tanks, but it was no good. Japanese infantry and tanks completely overran their position and sent them fleeing into the jungle, now with only 60 men remaining in the whole battalion. The 6th Squadron downed 7 Zeros and the rest fled.

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As the two remaining planes of the 3rd Squadron, having shot down all 10 Japanese bombers, flew over San Fernando, they reported seeing dozens of Japanese tanks moving south. No one had ever thought the Japanese Army was this mobile! The 31st hoped the combination of the river, a lack of bridges, and heavy fortifications might finally be enough to stem the tide. The left flank continued to collapse, meanwhile; as they retreated, the 193rd was shot up by Japanese armor and lost 2 more tanks. The other unit of Japanese bombers now appeared over the 193rd and successfully bombed another of our tanks.

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Luckily for everyone, our job was nearly complete. MacArthur had withdrawn the last forces from Manila and they were now racing down the coast road to Bataan; we just had to hold out long enough to let them escape, then we could too.

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McNeil finally managed to bring up the 1/27th to reinforce the left flank - it would be needed. The forces MacArthur had lent would simply not be enough to halt the Japanese appreciably. As the 6th Squadron tried to down some G4Ms (they downed only 1, and lost two P40s in the process), they spotted masses of Japanese vehicles heading for the open plains between Lubao and Floridablanca (the G4Ms obliterated the remaining AT guns). McNeil decided all his armor would be needed there to prevent his left from being broken off and destroyed, especially with the 193rd barely holding itself together. The 31st now faced a combined arms offensive along its entire front with only infantry.

The unlucky duo from the 3rd Pursuit Squadron were jumped on their way back to Floridablanca by a squadron of Hayabusas and both were lost. With half their planes gone, the remainder of the 3rd Squadron was dissolved at the airfield and reassigned to bring the 6th Squadron up to full strength; though, with Japanese artillery approaching, their chances of being able to assist those planes already in the air was looking lower.

The corps was sad to see their original fighter unit be destroyed in its first battle; the only bright side was their destruction of the Japanese bombers that had flown out to San Fernando. This saved the 31st Regiment from enduring any air attack, something the forces on the left flank were not as lucky to avoid.

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With Japanese artillery in range of the airfield, it was not safe to land our planes there any longer. With the arrival of fighter escorts for their bombers, there was no chance of our stopping the Japanese air attack; the 6th Pursuit Squadron was withdrawn from the battle, leaving only the 200th AA Battalion with any ability to fight off the enemy planes. The arrival of the 192nd blunted the Japanese infantry assault at first, and the Japanese stalled for just a short time; enough time to get more tanks to the 193rd. Meanwhile, 2nd Battalion had been routed from Guagua and the decision had been taken to route it back south to guard the left flank of the 3rd. The engineers destroyed the bridge in front of 1st battalion as Japanese tanks tried to dismantle the bunker complex across the river.

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As quickly as he'd put out one fire, another started. 2nd Battalion was mauled, and it looked like the Japanese may well overrun the whole regiment from the left, though 3rd battalion had managed to destroy a Japanese tank company trying to cross the river. Thus, McNeil rushed the 192nd back across the Pasig-Potrero, along with reinforcements for his beleaguered battalions, and threw back the Japanese engineers who had been trying to burn the defenders of Minalin out of the buildings. This action also kept the road open, allowing the 31st to withdraw.

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And withdraw they did, for they had held out longer than anyone could have hoped for. MacArthur had been able to withdraw everything to Bataan, and he now prepared to turn it into a fortress - with our corps up front, of course.

TheFilthyCasual
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Re: A Noob vs Japan

Post by TheFilthyCasual » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:51 am

Battle of Bataan

No one was under any illusions. When everything was withdrawn to Bataan, it was not because we would be able to hold out there. The Japanese were simply too powerful - they had overwhelming air, armor and artillery support. The amount of firepower they could bring to bear, and the number of soldiers they could bring to bear, was nothing the forces we could muster at Bataan could defeat. Indeed, our air forces were withdrawn - with only our 6th Squadron and its couple dozen planes left in the whole of Luzon, it was suicide for it to continue to fight on alone, so it was pulled back to Hawaii. As such, Colonel McNeil made the decision to use some of his already limited forces to put together the 201st Anti-Aircraft Battalion armed with 90mm guns that, unlike the 37mm guns, could actually shoot high enough to hit G4M bombers, which we had no doubt the Japanese would send at us. It would, at least until the guns were destroyed (and there were no replacements - there were only 10 guns available), provide some kind of relief against the otherwise unimpeded Jap bombers.

Aside from a few PT boats, of which only two were allocated to combat duty (PT-33 and 34), waiting to make any kind of last-ditch escape, there was no means of getting off Bataan. Even with the PT boats, there was no way they could carry a significant number of men - if they swept anyone away to Mindanao, the last safe (but indefensible) island, it would be the scattered survivors of a final battle at the far south end. There was no way everyone could make if off, there were barely enough to get MacArthur's staff out let alone any of the troops. There was little point in hoping to get out of the coming battle alive - no reinforcements, no backup, virtually no escape. The 31st regiment and its support and auxiliary troops prepared to face complete destruction, and only hoped to take some Japanese with them.

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With a mountain range running down Bataan's middle in the north and south, with only the southern tip and the center having roads passing between east and west, our forces were going to be divided and, indeed, our Engineers intended to keep it that way. The sole bridge linking the east and west halves of Bataan was to be destroyed to prevent enemy forces from flanking; a straightforward slugging match down the coast roads would allow us to hold out for longer. On the west were deployed the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 31st Regiment, plus the 193rd Tank Battalion and the 201st AA; being closer to Japanese airfield, it was deemed more likely those guns would be needed there. The Japanese initially probed the defences there, but did not attack. They seemed to be preparing.

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On the right flank was deployed a more heterogeneous force consisting of half Filipinos and half Americans. The American troops consisted of 192nd Tank, its command tank serving as McNeil's mobile HQ, the 1/31, the 1/27 and the 200th AA. The engineers were busy behind the lines rigging bridges to be blown and preparing another line of defence around Pilar, which included a large and well-fortified siege gun manned by a Marine Defence Company under Captain Pete Simpson at Mount Samat. The initial Japanese attack threw tanks at dug-in Filipinos from three sides at a forward bend in the river; that looked to be the first place they would puncture our line.

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Indeed, the right flank's line was too long for our forces to hold. We doubted the Filipinos would survive the fight at the river, and with them gone we would have only 4 battalions to hold the line, and 1 of those really needed to be spotted behind the lines to blow the bridges, not fight AT them. The Samat-Pilar line would be shorter, enough for our men to actually man it.

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Happy for us (as happy as we could be, at least) then that we had stalled the Japanese so well outside Manila. We had all the ammo and supplies from the main supply dumps in Manila; we were in no danger of running out of ammo or food. We could comfortably shoot at the Japanese all day and all night; what we did not have was more manpower. Without the ability to ship more men in, every man lost was a permanent decrease in strength. Our force would only get smaller and smaller as the fight dragged on.

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The Japanese battalion that probed the left flank was shot up as it tried to cross the river. After losing 60 men, it pulled back to regroup, and armor was brought forward to subdue our defences instead.

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Japanese tanks crossed the river but were checked by McNeil's, with 3 being knocked out. 3 more Japanese tanks were taken out by Filipino troops, though the combined infantry-tank assault battered them. The Stuarts again played fireman and threw the Japanese infantry back over the river, but this meant abandoning the left end of the line as infantry were shuffled along the front; the east was already unraveling.

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With the river being largely abandoned, Philippine troops up in the central mountains were ordered back south to guard the right flank of the western defence line against any Japanese who tried to come in behind. Jap planes also made an appearance, strafing the Filipinos on the left as their tanks overran them on the right.

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The Philippine troops on the left flank collapsed; those who were not trapped in their isolated bunkers were dead on the field. Two entire regiments of Japanese soldiers with tank support now faced our three battalions at Abucay. The 192nd did make a determined counterthrust, however, destroying more Japanese tanks and sending one enemy tank battalion fleeing back over the river. Enemy attempts to dislodge McNeil did not succeed; so far, we had lost two tanks.

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The 200th downed a couple zeros that attempted to strafe our tanks as they moved east to block the enemy armor from flanking Abucay, but any hope of maintaining a defence was crumbling as the 1/27th, which only now engaged the first firefight of its entire existence (the enemy had not attacked them in the previous battle nor until now in this one), lost 60 men and threatened to let the Japanese waltz into Abucay and roll up the entire force.

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Nevertheless, MacArthur commended McNeil for his defence so far, given the odds. About 200 Japanese had been killed and 10 tanks and 2 planes destroyed. I'm not sure the 400 Filipinos that lay dead by and behind the river bank felt so great about it though. Nevertheless, MacArthur released more auxiliary troops to McNeil to bolster the defence; no doubt he intended for them to replace the lost Filipino troops in the east, but McNeil instead sent them north along the west coast - he needed someone to guard the right flank there now that the eastern defences were falling.

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Some troops nearby, along with the AA guns (given the enemy air presence to the east), were already in position to do that. Oddly, rather than try to tackle the 192nd, the Japanese armor moved west and left Abucay to the following infantry, who were too slow to stop a withdrawal to the Pilar-Samat line. Japanese attacks against the 1/31 at Abucay failed to kill a single American, giving the 1/27 time to pull back.

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Now that the east had cracked, the Japanese went for the west. Our PT boats had been performing hit and runs against Japanese troops they could see along the shore when a convoy of transport ships moved into the area - what appeared to be two troopships and a supply freighter! They evidently meant to land men behind us to disrupt our defences.

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Those defences were only now being attacked. The Japanese brought up artillery and many more troops and focused their attacks on two points in the line, one against the Filipinos and one against the 2/31st, hoping to crack the right flank. The initial assault didn't succeed, but both units were battered, and with any units to the rear needing to be diverted to guard against enemy landings, the western defences were now but a crust for the Japanese to crack.

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The Japanese attempt to flank the western defences was thwarted by Philippine troops, and the 1/31 again shot up the Japanese battalion that had been hounding them on the road from Abucay, which they had rapidly withdrawn from. Our eastern forces were now comfortably positioned along the Talisay under the cover of the Marine artillery on Mount Samat, ready for the next Japanese attack.

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With Japanese forces now hitting the right flank, the Filipinos collapsing and Japanese Marines headed for their rear, McNeil ordered the western defenders to pull back to a narrower section of jungle that could be held with only two battalions. That way, he could use the other units to wipe out the Japanese landing force, whose supply transport PT-34 had already torpedoed, and PT-33 was quickly speeding to assist.

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The Japanese armor was again repulsed by the Filipinos; they had raced far ahead of their infantry support and had now twice had their lead tank blown up by explosive traps. Meanwhile at Pilar, an entire Japanese company was wiped out trying to cross the river against both of McNeil's dug-in battalions while under fire from Mt. Samat. Why they hadn't simply waited for more men to come forward in support, who can say - they may have thought our retreat signaled that our forces were weak and would be easily overrun. The 1/27 felt catharsis from this after their initial disastrous encounter with the Japanese.

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In the west, the Filipinos on the line were overrun and killed to a man, though the defenders in the bunkers killed at least 100 Japanese before they were blasted out themselves, which was the best showing the Philippine forces had given yet. Except, that is, for those engaging the Japanese tanks on the right flank; a raid on the village where the enemy tanks were bivouacked netted 2 more tanks destroyed before the other 2 drove them off. 2 more tanks were destroyed by the 3/31 as they tried to cross a river while pursuing the fleeing battalion.

PT-33 put another torpedo in the Japanese supply ship while PT-34 circled it, raking the deck with machine gun fire. Fires raged on board and the crew were powerless to resist; the ship was surely doomed, and with it, the landing force.

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Far sooner than expected, the Japanese managed to advance into Pilar. Two battalions hit the 1/31st at once and drove it back towards the 200th AA's positions, taking the city and unhinging the defence, though their advance was hampered by fire from the Marines on Samat.

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In the west, the Filipinos staged another raid on the village and destroyed the remaining Japanese tanks; any elation this may have brought was halted when it was learned a fresh infantry-armor force was heading their way. Other Japanese tanks hounded the retreating American battalions; one company was left as a rear-guard, facing down hundreds of Japanese soldiers. The 193rd raced south to where it seemed the Japanese marines meant to land.

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Desperate to maintain a defence at the river, McNeil had Simpson bombard the Japanese troops in Pilar; then, his tanks, backed up by the 1/27th, surged back into Pilar, again annihilating the Japanese company occupying it. Another Japanese unit trying to cross the river was halted and half destroyed, but they did manage to knock out two of the 192nd's precious tanks.

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Things were now beginning to unravel. In the east, Japanese infantry knocked out another M3, though they lost 40 men in doing so; then, with only 4 tanks left, 6 Japanese tanks rushed McNeil's position and knocked out 3 more, leaving only his command tank still functional. His had his tank keep driving south to Limay to regroup with his 5 other remaining tanks and prepare a defence there; the infantry were on their own. Indeed, worse than that, the 1/27th was one it's own, the 1/31st having already withdrawn south to Orion. Pete Simpson's heavy guns, however, hampered the Japanese advance and broke up some of their formations, preventing them from breaking the remaining defenders. Japanese tanks tried to attack the 200th AA Battalion only to find one of their tanks burning from concentrated fire, though the battalion did lose two guns in the process.

The Filipinos were driven from their newly-regained village by more tanks and then strafed by Zeros; AA fire brought down two.

In the east, Japanese tanks had reached the next defence line, but their infantry was still being held up by the heroic rear guard. Meanwhile the battered supply ship was unable to move in behind the Japanese Marines due to the PT boats, so the Japanese were hemmed in at the beach with no supplies, facing the 193rd and a company of infantry.

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A formation of Hayabusa's tried to give some strafing support but ran afoul of both AA units, losing 5 planes. Filipino troops were called up to assist; yet the fanatical Japanese Marines refused to call it quits or even try to escape, but advanced around the 193rd to block the road, cutting the northern defences from MacArthur in the south. Without backup, this would never hold, but it was annoying regardless, especially since these noticeably more skilled enemy troops had managed to destroy 3 tanks so far.

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To the north of this, the defences had contracted to the point McNeil had ordered; now they had to hold position until a way south could be cleared. The rear-guard had continued to harass and kill the Japanese infantry following them; despite having only 30 men left, they were not overrun but managed to join the defence line. They had given as good as they'd gotten and delayed the enemy considerably. The Japanese tanks made no headway against the main line, and the 3/31st managed to destroy every one; at least, until another unit was brought up.

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In the east, the Pilar defences had finally cracked. The 200th AA lost 5 guns when Japanese tanks attacked and drove them towards Mt. Samat. Rather than finish them off, the Japanese would turn their tanks on the bunkers, leaving the 3 remaining guns and their crews to limp slowly south; they would play no further part in the fight. The Marine guns knocked out the lead enemy tank; as such, the Japanese decided to mop up the softer targets before tackling Mt. Samat. In a formidable stand, the 1/27th destroyed 5 Japanese tanks when they enemy attempted to drive them into the river.

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With the 192nd down to only 6 tanks, McNeil was desperate for anything to hold back the Japanese armor bearing down on him. There were enough knocked out Japanese tanks in his perimeter, as it turned out, to allow his mechanics to make repairs such that they were sufficiently operable and could be turned against their original owners. The crews were not impressed by the old fashioned, under-gunned and un-ergonomic designs of the Japanese tanks, but 13 tanks is better then 6 so no one complained too much.

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The defenders still at Pilar knocked out 4 more Japanese tanks; the town was becoming a virtual tank graveyard. But the 1/27th had been battered, and while the Japanese infantry support had been bombarded and delayed by Simpson's artillery, their position north of the river was untenable, and McNeil ordered a retreat. Simpson must have known the Japanese would now come for him.

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At Bagac, AA fire knocked out two more Japanese planes and their tanks continued to press the Filipinos back. The shot-up 2/31st retreated south, leaving auxiliary troops to defend the north end of the position; the 3/31st repelled a Japanese infantry-tank attack.

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The Japanese SNLF continued to be surprisingly effective despite their complete lack of supplies. 90 of the 200 that had landed were dead, but the 193rd actually had to retreat north out of town when the Japanese ambushed and destroyed two tanks and sent the other two fleeing for their lives when the zeros again appeared to strafe the Americans. Forces south of the river moved up to get rid of these pesky marines.

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In the west, the Japanese traded 40 men and a tank to kill 50 men of the 3/31st and drive them back; the 2/31st had regrouped right behind them and was ready to fight again. The PT boats had finally gotten the Japanese supply ship to sink; not that it would have mattered now anyway, as the SNLF landing force was down to 70 men and completely surrounded.

In the east, our captured Japanese tanks stopped the still-Japanese tanks from crossing the river while the Japanese infantry were hung up trying to destroy the Philippine troops trapped in bunkers outside Pilar. Though surrounded by hundreds of Japanese, the river and the artillery fire from Mr. Samat made the eradication of the bunkers difficult, though inevitable.

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The Japanese marines were finally destroyed; only 10 Filipinos ended up being killed int he process. This entire distraction had shifted the defences southward - only a couple hundred rear-guard troops stood in the way of the battered 3/31st and 193rd at Bagac. It was clear the the defences would have to be shifted south again; meanwhile, 8 Zeros, flying over water away from AA fire, had now taken up the task of trying to sink PT-34.

Japanese forces now began to attack Mt. Samat, though the Marines drove off one battalion. Our captured tanks continued to trade losses for Japanese ones; Japanese infantry tried and failed to take Orion from the riverside, but it was clear the Japanese intended to flank from the left anyway, and the town would need to be abandoned regardless. At Limay, McNeil gathered the 192nd's last 6 tanks to defend the river to the last man; the distance between the sea and the mountains at Limay was short enough that even with the 1/27th down to 20 men and the 1/31st down to 60, McNeil could actually concentrate his force there and defend the riverbank, at least for a short time.

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Japanese tanks heading for Bagac were halted by a force of 80 men supported by the PT boats, which fired in drive-bys at the Japanese tanks even as the Zeros continued to strafe them. The 193rd organized its last 6 tanks together; with the Filipinos at Bagac pushed back into their bunkers, someone needed to guard the north route. Attempts by a Japanese weapons company with mortars to breach the defences west of Mt. Samat and flank Bagac did not work, and eventually the entire company was wiped out by the river.

The 1/31st was forced out of Orion and was down to just 30 men. Only the 65th Engineers, who as yet had not engaged the Japanese even once, could now reliably hold the line. Only 4 of our captured tanks remained as a rear-guard in the east, but it was better than nothing.

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The disaster of the last landing force did not seem to deter the Japanese; indeed, they were at it again. Three troop ships and a supply ship sailed south towards Agloloma, no doubt once again intending to cut off our west coast defenders from behind; despite PT-34 being badly shot up by Zeros, only 4 were now left as the gunners on the boats had managed to down 4 Zeros, and they felt confident in being able to sink another supply ship.

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The Marines on Samat again blasted a Japanese attempt to attack their position. Indeed, Simpson had done so much to disrupt the Japanese infantry support on the west sector that MacArthur promoted him to Major and ordered him to withdraw from the position to receive a commendation; at MacArthur's headquarters, he was promoted, medalled, and informed he was now part of our corps. We lost the last of the captured Japanese tanks, and the Japanese had lost another tank company - yet, regular as a bowel movement, another came up right behind it. No matter how many we destroyed, the Japanese flung more at us, and now there was no mistaking that we were nearly finished.

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Though it seemed odd for a Marine to be put in charge of Army troops, MacArthur thought Simpson would serve better as commander of the forces in the west than going down in the Mt. Samat Alamo. Simpson resented being ordered to abandon his men, but equally accepted his new command with the casual gusto he was known for.

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Mt. Samat was now doomed; but that had always been part of the plan. The place was so well fortified that it would take considerable effort for the Japanese to root its defenders out of the bunkers, and they had already lost many men just attempting to reach it, let alone storm it.

The east was down to scraps: a Japanese infantry attack against Limay was shot up by the 192nd and the bunker complex west of town. But even 60 dead Japanese was not really compensation for the loss of one of our tanks, for there were 10 enemy tanks across the river which 5 Stuarts would be in no position to stop.

In the west, Simpson, like McNeil, used the command tank of the 193rd as his mobile HQ. He ordered 70 men of the rear guard to dig in at Bagac. A weapons company with heavy MGs and mortars was to dig in south of the river and hold the bridge; Filipino troops, some in bunkers and some not, would hold the rest of the riverbank. The 20 men of the 3/31st, 90 men of the 2/31st and 6 tanks of the 193rd would set up near Agloloma to destroy the new Japanese landing force. It was unlikely that they would destroy it before the rear-guard broke, but they might destroy it in time to set up outside MacArthur's HQ in Mariveles and make a final stand without having to watch their backs.

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That landing force was extremely close to Agloloma now. A torpedo had been put into the supply ship but it still sailed on towards the coast; PT-34 was having trouble engaging the ship with 2 Zeros still shooting up the boat.

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The harassing Zeros were finally downed; the two PT boats had managed the effort of a fighter squadron and downed 8 Zeros over the course of the fight. The supply ship was now well and truly doomed, as soon as they got their torpedoes reloaded.

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The eastern defences took the toll expected - 60 Japanese soldiers and 3 tanks were destroyed in attacking Limay; one of the bunkers and two more M3s were knocked out. McNeil was putting up a heroic defence; it was hard to ask for any more. But with only 3 tanks left, the 192nd would not be able to withstand the next Japanese attack; and with their being the most formidable position standing Japan's path to victory on the east coast, that would doom the entire sector. The 1/27th and 1/31st mustered only 50 men between them; they would never stop the Japanese from reaching Mariveles.

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G4Ms escorted by Hayabusas appeared over the rearguard to soften them up for the ground attack that was following on their heels, for Bagac had just fallen; 30 men straggled back into our lines. The Japanese Marines finally made landfall in the jungle between Agloloma and the airfield - 210 men and 6 tanks marched to destroy them.

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The Japanese now attacked Limay with the largest concentration of armor yet seen on Bataan - 27 tanks total - after the infantry had so spectacularly failed, 130 men dead. 19 attacked the bunkers while 8 attacked the 192nd - the Japanese lost 3 more tanks to McNeil, but he lost one too and he, with one other tank, fled the town. With the bunkers being systematically reduced, Limay was lost - and while McNeil's remaining infantry had dug in at two chokepoints south of Lamao, with barely any men they would never be able to stop all these tanks. McNeil ordered a retreat yet again.

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The new enemy aircraft spelled the end for PT-34, which was sunk by a final massive strafing attack. PT-33 was now a target - but her skipper was determined to sink the big freighter before he went down.

The Japanese had learned, it seemed, and brought along 10 AT guns to defend their beachhead. With only 10 men remaining in the 3/31st there simply weren't enough troops to hold the airfield; the 30 men who escaped Begac were pulled from the frontline to defend the airfield, but they probably would not get there in time.

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McNeil's last stand had come. With two tanks and 20 men at Cabcaben he tried to stop 3 Japanese tanks at the bridge; the tanks killed those few remaining members of the 1/31 with ease, and knocked out one of the M3s. Alone, McNeil knocked out two of the Japanese tanks before losing the fight to the third - severely burned, McNeil fled his burning tank and did not stop running until he reached Mariveles. Nothing now stood in the way of the Japanese.

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MacArthur hastily scrounged up a few more Filipinos to hastily man the east road into Mariveles.

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However, this could not be immediately done, as every man available was needed to destroy the Japanese marines that had seized the airfield - the Japanese had killed the remaining men of the 3/31st. MacArthur himself could see the Japanese taking up positions around the perimeter from the roof of his own headquarters; however, Simpson's troops could not immediately intervene, as they had a battery of AT guns they needed to finish clearing out and another company of SNLF were coming ashore, so the Philippine troops and the survivors of Bagac were ordered to clear the airfield.

The rear-guard at the bridge on the west road had held up the Japanese spectacularly, wiping out the first Japanese assault company and was now decimating a second.

The 65th Engineer battalion actually did not too badly in its first firefight, halting a Japanese infantry attack over a mountain; but their position had been completely flanked, and they were at risk of being surrounded.

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The Japanese bombers continued to pound the rearguard even as the Japanese assault forces continued to be cut down every time they tried to cross the river.

The Japanese at the airfield were assailed from all sides; 30 men holed up in a hangar, but it was clear the airfield would soon be clear again. Simpson's tanks cleared the AT guns from the jungle to the west, who had ironically not managed to knock out a single tank; 80 Japanese Marines who had made it ashore were his next target.

The 20 survivors of the 1/27th did what little they could and began setting up a roadblock at the east end of Mariveles; the engineers, meanwhile, had continued to hold off their pursuers well but were now essentially surrounded by flanking Japanese forces.

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PT-33 delivered a coup-de-grace with a final torpedo into the Japanese supply ship. It's job done, the Japanese marines were certainly doomed, and MacArthur ordered it back to Mariveles to help evacuate the few men that would fit; the boat had been shot up a bit by Japanese fighters.

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Flanked, the engineers had been cut to ribbons by Japanese infantry. 20 men fled into the mountains to avoid pursuit, and eventually made it back in time to get out; this was considered enough to say that the unit "still existed". The east roadblock was simply run over by Japanese tanks and the 1/27th ceased to be. A Filipino bunker complex and 10 AA guns were all that remained to defend the east side of Mariveles.

The rear guard was nearly destroyed; but the 30 survivors did not retreat, stoically choosing to stand and die at their posts. They had killed nearly 200 Japanese soldiers who had tried to cross the river; not a man of the unit survived.

Filipino troops had recaptured the airfield and the road was open again. MacArthur saw that the game was up - he had planned to stay to the end with his men, as they all had, but Roosevelt had ordered him to leave and organize the defence of Australia. MacArthur was reluctant to do this, but ultimately obeyed his commander in chief and he, along with his staff, boarded PT boats in Mariveles and sailed for Mindanao. There were not enough PT boats to evacuate everyone - thus, it was decided that auxiliary and Filipino troops would be left on Bataan. After mopping up the last 60 Japanese marines hiding in the coastal groves, Simpson led the 60 men of the 2/31st, the 6 tanks of the 193rd and the 201st AA into Mariveles, where McNeil waited with the engineers and the remaining gun crews of the 200th AA. When McNeil saw what remained of his regiment in totality, he had an emotional breakdown; usually known for being a hardass, non-nonsense type, he nevertheless loved the men he commanded, and seeing that almost all of them were dead was too much to accept in that moment. The tanks and AA guns could not come along as no large ships were available, so 6 tanks, 10 90mm guns and 3 37mm guns were left behind on the beach while the men crammed themselves into every boat that could be found, and they followed MacArthur to Mindanao, and from there to Australia.

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In the end, other than killing enemy soldiers and blowing up lots of their tanks and planes, this is all the Battle of Bataan accomplished - killing most of the defenders such that few would be left behind when the few survivors escaped at the end. And in the end, 400 Filipinos and 220 Americans were still left behind as MacArthur and our corps fled. Most of the force that had been raised during last autumn now lay dead in the Philippines - the force would have to be rebuilt from scratch; the 31st Infantry regiment had only one 'battalion' left, and this was the size of a couple platoons.

It was by far the darkest hour our forces ever experienced in the entire war - and most who experienced it did not survive to tell the tale.

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TheFilthyCasual
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:56 am

Re: A Noob vs Japan

Post by TheFilthyCasual » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:16 am

The Marshalls-Gilberts Raid

War Plan Orange-3 was doomed from the start; while the MacArthur still attempted, and failed, to use it, the Navy had no intention of storming across the Pacific to his rescue. Thus, as our men were wiped out at Bataan, our naval forces were given a more minor, and certainly less risky, task. Though we possessed aircraft carriers, we lacked any experience in using them under combat conditions. The pilots, most importantly, only had flight school to rely on, and had not yet seen action. It was seen as important to give our pilots combat experience, and also boost morale - with our forces being defeated at every point so far in the Pacific, except the close shave at Pearl Harbor, sitting idle was not an option - though, neither was any decisive action. It was decided to give the Japanese a pin prick - an annoying little raid, to blow some stuff up just to prove they weren't untouchable. The most vulnerable targets to hit were their island holdings in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, on the very edge of their zone of control. Their fleet likely would not be around to stop us, though they could show up rather quickly as Truk was not terribly far away, so the raid was to be of a short duration - hit-and-run. Some questioned the point, but a low-risk environment was undoubtedly the best way to acclimatize our sailors and pilots to combat.

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The primary targets of the operation were fuel dumps, airfields and ships. The Enterprise would sail with us as well, doubling our plane complement; not anticipating that a major fleet action was likely, the Torpedo squadrons of both carriers were kept in the hangars while fighters and dive bombers were sent aloft.

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Since we could not stay long, and recovering/relaunching aircraft would make it take far longer to hit all the targets in the AO, our surface escorts, led by Captain Joseph Wright on the New Orleans, would attack enemy installations from seaward, along with any ships they came across.

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Intel suggested 80 enemy planes present. We could only send up 60 planes at once, but each carrier held about 90, so there was little chance of us losing the air battle.

The VF-5, VB-5 and VB-6 flew off from Yorktown, they quickly spotted Japanese ships in the distance heading towards Maloelap.

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Wright, meanwhile, took the New Orleans, Niblack and Livermore towards Mili. Enterprise launched 10 fighters to give this group air cover. Meanwhile, Gleaves, along with 10 Wildcats and 10 Dauntlesses from Enterprise, would head south for Butaritari. If maximum damage was to be done in minimum time, all three targets would need to be attacked simultaneously; though, Enterprise had been slower than Yorktown in launching planes, so Gleaves would be without air cover for the initial approach.

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Mili was defended by 5 coastal guns, but their fire was inaccurate. A helpless repair ship was docked on the east beach, and was left alone as Wright focused fire on the coastal battery.

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The ships spotted near Maloelap turned out to be a supply ship - which, being the trailing ship, was quickly gored with several bombs - and a troop transport.

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With the coastal batteries silent, Wright proceeded to sink the repair ship, which, in fanatic fashion, suicidally charged his ships while firing its very low caliber guns ineffectually.

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With the supply ship slipping under the waves, the dive bombers began attacking the transport as VF-5 strafed and destroyed a Japanese plane parked unawares on the runway at Maloelap.

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The alarm sounded almost immediately at the base, and Japanese pilots could be seen scrambling out of buildings towards their parked planes.

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The Gleaves, approaching Makin, spotted a Japanese ship cruising off its coast, but could not identify it until he got closer.

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The repair ship at Mili was blown to smithereens, but that did not seem to deter the frigate parked at the warf any. It stormed right up to the Niblack and raked its decks, causing minor damage and a few deaths. Japanese sailors seemed as determined to die fighting as their soldiers. Enterprise's Wildcats knocked out big G4M on the runway; those planes would be the greatest asset the Japanese could count on for any sort of counterstroke against our ships, so there was a clear impetus to destroy them before the got off the ground.

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The transport sunk, the bombers that still had their ordnance turned to the planes parked on the airfield. A bomb on one of the hangars blew up four planes, while strafing fighters took out a fifth.

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Thinking the Japanese ship was sailing away from him, the Gleaves' skipper had the ship begin firing at Makin airfield, where he destroyed four planes with just a couple salvoes. However, the Japanese ship was not sailing away, and it was not another repair ship - in fact, it was the cruiser Katori, which, outgunning the little destroyer, began to make damaging hits upon it shortly afterward.

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With Wright per-occupied by the frigate, the Wildcats over Mili had been alone against the AA guns while they tried to destroy another Betty. With the alarm sounded long before, however, the Japanese had already begun to get them off the ground, and only one was destroyed before the rest were in the air, while AA fire brought down three Wildcats.

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Another attack run at Maloelap wrecked the remaining Zeros before any of them could even taxi to the runway. VB-6 thus went on ahead to scout Wotje for targets, finding another airfield and a fuel dump protected by an AA battery.

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The Gleaves was in serious trouble; a torpedo run on the Katori seemed ineffective - minor damage was done, if at all, despite the close range. It seemed odd the torpedoes would have missed. As a result, the Gleaves was raked with fire from the cruiser; her guns remained in action, and no hits were scored below the waterline, but the superstructure was largely wrecked and half the crew killed as the Japanese closed in. Wright, now deeply regretting his decision to send the Gleaves alone, was steaming full ahead south to save it; it would be a great blot on his conscience, and record, to lose a ship in his first battle because of cocky overconfidence (he believed the Japanese had nothing heavier than destroyers in the area).

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Meanwhile, the Enterprise's Wildcats had shot down another G4M as they took off, but the rest turned east and flew directly towards the direction they must have seen our planes approaching from. AA fire brought down another Wildcat, and the remainder broke off to chase the bombers while the Niblack and Livermore began working over the AA battery.

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At Wotje, the Wildcats took on the task of strafing the airfield while the dive bombers began planting bombs on top of the AA guns so the fuel dump could be bombed without interference.

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That Japanese bombers were actually heading for the fleet sent Clark into a mild panic, for, anticipating that the Japanese would be caught on the ground, he left no fighters behind to protect his ships. His only hope of avoiding an attack now would be the 6 Wildcats returning from Mili.

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Those Wildcats caught up with and shot down another bomber, but still they rest pressed on. The bombers had to be brought down one at a time with concentrated fire, as they were too large for each Wildcat to take on each bomber simultaneously and bring them down in any reasonable amount of time.

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At Makin, the New Orleans arrived in time to threaten the Katori with crossing its T, requiring its skipper to shift his attention to the New Orleans and launch a torpedo salvo. Only one torpedo skimmed the bow of the ship; the rest missed. The Dauntlesses from Enterprise had arrived by now, but with the Wildcats reporting that Makin held (or had held, before 8 had been destroyed on the ground) 20 aircraft including 10 bombers, Wright waved the bombers off towards the islands, choosing to sink the Katori by gunfire.

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It was at Wotje that we lost our first pilots - two Wildcats and a Dauntless went down to AA fire as the group attacked the Atoll.

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The Dauntlesses destroyed 7 AA guns, but had neither the bombs nor fuel remaining to finish the job and go after the fuel storage. They had to turn back to the Yorktown to refuel; the Wildcats, having drop tanks, could stick around a bit longer, and took that time to chase down and destroy the Zeros that managed to get off the ground.

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5 bombers approached within just outside the range of our ships' AA guns. Clark had begun sailing his ships north, away from the Japanese planes, but they were still easily within attack range; however, Enterprise's Wildcats, still on their tail, shock the Japanese resolve to continue after they downed another bomber, and the four remaining G4Ms miraculously began to turn back just short of their target!

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Despite the close range, Wright manuevered the New Orleans such that the Kotori never managed to land any shots that didn't bounce off the cruiser's turret armor. Meanwhile, New Orleans' larger guns began to show their effect on the enemy cruiser.

The bombing attack on Makin was devastating to the Japanese; with most of the airfield ablaze and the planes blasted in their hangars, the bombers continued towards towards Butaritari to deal with a battery of 100mm AA guns that had been harassing the Wildcats.

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As all this was going on, our submarines has finally arrived at their destination, well behind the frontline atolls, to prowl the shipping lanes leading to Kwajalein. Our sub, the Tautog, also had Thresher as its hunting partner, and quicklt spied their first target, a Japanese troop transport.

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Wright had Gleaves circle around behind his flagship and head towards Butaritari to sink a supply ship anchored in the lagoon. The Katori's fire, meanwhile, was faltering, its speed dropped, and it began to noticeably list as fires raged across the deck.

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As others had been fighting the enemy, the destroyers off Mili had been having some casual target practice against the Japanese fuel storage units. Satisfied that all were quite on fire, Wright had them set off west towards Jabor.

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Two Japanese planes did manage to take off through the inferno blowing across Makin's runway by the wind, but there were 8 Wildcats waiting for them, and it didn't take long for them to be picked off and sent seaward. The Katori had by now stopped moving and could be seen lying lower and lower in the water. The superstructure had been blown to pieces and all but one of her turrets were wrecked; Wright's ship had still taken no serious damage.

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Being at an extreme range from Enterprise, the dive bombers at Butaritari had to turn back to refuel almost as quickly as they had gotten there. However, with the enemy planes gone, Wright could destroy the remaining targets at his leisure; the Katori was no longer a threat, being at the bottom of the ocean and all.

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The only target of note spotted at Jabor was a ship at the warf.

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Before sailing towards Jabor, however, the Livermore stopped to shell Mili, as three shot-up Japanese bombers returned to land there. What made them think that would make them safe from the Wildcats, who can say; in the end, all were destroyed.

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As VF-5 returned to the Yorktown, VB-5 and VB-6 had already taken off and were heading back out. This time lag would make them vulnerable to enemy fighters, but Clark judged there was no time for them to wait around for the Wildcats to refuel, and sent them ahead.

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The ship at Jabor was a repair ship, and unlike the one at Mili, this one was slippery. Though the Niblack made hits upon it, even at the limit of its gun range, the Japanese skipper pushed his ship to max speed, continually skirting beyond the range of the destroyer.

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The transport the subs had ambushed was severely damaged, but both were disappointed that only two torpedoes of the salvo had hit; as a result, they were forced to chase the wounded ship down and sink it with their deck guns.

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With Butaritari clear of targets, Wright sailed back towards his destroyers. Gleaves, heavily damaged, nevertheless was sent directly west to raid Japanese shipping along with the subs, while Wright planned for his other 3 ships to sail for Kwajalein. While he hated leaving her alone again, the damaged destroyer could not be risked there, in case there were enemy planes or coastal guns to contend with.

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Clark, realizing his planes would need as much time over Kwajalein as possible if they were to effectively attack it in the limited time left, decided to move his fleet towards Maloelap so his planes would not have as far to go on their return leg.

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To the west, another transport came within sight of the subs, while the heavily damaged repair ship limped towards a looming Japanese convoy heading north.

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With some skillful shooting, the Niblack sunk the repair ship at long range, just as the convoy approached, and one of its escorts broke off to engage.

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Our bombers reappeared over Wotje; though the Japanese were ready, with only 3 guns left, they could do little to save themselves or their fuel.

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Once again, torpedoes failed to sink the transport, and deck guns were needed to give the coup de grace. The Tautog's skipper began to question his ability to aim.

The Niblack found itself caught between a Japanese frigate and an old Japanese destroyer; normally a bad place to be, but the Livermore had caught up and began firing at the frigate, which was much too small to last very long under such bombardment.

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This time, the Japanese on Wotje did not down a single plane. With their guns destroyed, the garrison could only look on as bombs turned the fuel dump into an inferno.

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With Wotje a blazing hellscape, all our planes, including the recently refueled planes from Enterprise, set off towards Kwajalein. Kwajalein had an airfield, so any enemy fighter cover would have to be endured for a few minutes until the fighters in the second wave caught up with the dive bombers.

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The Japanese frigate met a swift and explosive end. Having been held up by this encounter, Wright decided to make up for not making it to Kwajalein by sinking the entire convoy.

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The two old Japanese destroyers did only sparse damage to the Niblack in their point-blank brawl, and the writing was clearly on the wall for them.

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Attempting to minimize the damage that the Japanese planes could do to them, VB-5 decided to first bomb the airfield rather than the fuel dump; though they destroyed four D3As, they ran afoul of the Ki-43s patrolling the airspace, and, combined with the AA fire, lost 5 planes in only a short span of time. Another flight of Vals, which had already taken off, flew in an arc northeast, no doubt trying to skirt our attack force and attack our ships. VB-6 attempted to help by attacking the AA guns, but only knocked out two.

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Niblack found itself under fire from another frigate, one of the destroyers and a support ship simultaneously; while each of these could do only minor damage, the cumulative effect was noticeable, several crewmen were killed and the radar was knocked out. Luckily one of the enemy destroyers sunk almost simultaneously with this, and the other came under fire from New Orleans, which had just now gotten in range.

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As VB-5 attempted to disengage, Ki-43s hounded the group; the fighters, which should have been right behind them to help, had broken off to the north to stop the Japanese dive bombers, leaving the Dauntlesses at the mercy of the enemy fighters. Before the Wildcats eventually intervened, only 2 planes of VB-5 were left in the air. This was precisely the risk Clark knew he faced, and 16 men payed the price. However, it did have the side effect of pulling the Japanese fighters away from the fuel dump, which VB-6 was now bombing.

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When our 17 Wildcats met the 9 Ki-43s in the first real dogfight they'd ever fought, it was a much tougher job than anticipated. The Japanese fighters were extremely maneuverable, much moreso than the lumpering Wildcats, and despite being outnumbered, the Oscars outmaneuvered our fighters and three managed to escape being destroyed and returned to the airfield, shooting down as many Wildcats as their own planes. The Wildcats could not pursue to take revenge however; there were still 6 D3As skirting to the south towards our fleet, and they had to be stopped. In addition, VB-6 needed to refuel and could not finish off the fuel dump; it would be up to the dive bombers that had hit Butaritari to finish the job, preferably before the Japanese refueled their planes.

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With all the escorting ships at the bottom, Wright's slightly battered ships proceeded to obliterate the Japanese supply ship before turning for home.

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Gleaves had found two Japanese frigates trailing to the south, and was eager for some payback for her damage, but Wright ordered the ship to pull back before she could sink either.

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4 Wildcats from Enterprise intervened as the Ki-43s took off again; as it turned out, it didn't matter, for the dive bombers set the entire enemy fuel depot alight just before they took off. All the Japanese could do now was exact some revenge as our planes tried to escape; it would not in any way make up for the massive loss of fuel during this raid, something Japan explicitly went to war to acquire, and something she could barely afford to replace.

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Nevertheless, the enemy fighters and AA fire took down the poor Wildcats. Clark had hoped to destroy all the Japanese planes in the area on this raid; he would have to settle for all but one.

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Besides the fuel depots, the final tally for the raid was:

79 aircraft
32 AA guns
5 coastal guns
3 Support Ships
3 Transports
3 Frigates
2 Supply Ships
2 Destroyers
1 Cruiser

in exchange for 23 Wildcats and 11 Dauntlesses.

While mistakes were made, especially on Wright's part, leading to perhaps unnecessary damage to our surface ships, especially the Gleaves, the cost of the raid was relatively negligible. While Japanese losses were nowhere near catastrophic, the exchange was not good for them, and the loss of the fuel dumps on Mili, Wotje and Kwajalein would prevent, at least for the immediate future, any attempt to replenish the air groups on these islands. Most importantly, lessons were learned and tactics evaluated, which would hopefully lead to a better performance when we inevitably had to fight the Japanese Fleet.

TheFilthyCasual
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Lance Corporal - Panzer IA
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:56 am

Re: A Noob vs Japan

Post by TheFilthyCasual » Thu Aug 16, 2018 7:01 am

The Battle of the Coral Sea

Admiral Clarke would not have long to wait before testing his mettle against the Imperial fleet. The Japanese Fleet had been in the Indian Ocean, but Sigint determined they had returned to the Pacific and would be escorting an invasion fleet headed for Port Moresby; an advanced force was already headed to the Solomon Islands' capital at Tulagi. With New Guinea, Rabaul, Buin and Tulagi under Japanese control, Australia would be isolated and cut off from supply from the United States; and so would the American forces that had been deployed there. As such, Nimitz made the decision to finally confront the Japanese at sea with the carriers available - with Enterprise and Hornet still on their way back from Colonel Doolittle's ambitious raid on Tokyo, only Yorktown and Lexington could confront the enemy. It was certainly a risk, but everyone had had enough of being pushed back for the last six months.

Task Force 17 had two more ships added to its roster in anticipation of this battle: USS Astoria (CA-34) and USS Eberle (DD-430), in order to give Yorktown a proper escort force; however, Wright's ships would not serve as such in this battle. Task Force 11, Lexington's battlegroup, had a glut of escorts for a single carrier - 10 destroyers and 4 cruisers. As TF11 was to be put under Clarke's command, since he was the only one with combat experience, Clarke took 4 destroyers, and cruisers Chester and Minneapolis as escorts for Yorktown, and sent Wright's ships, along with Portland and 3 destroyers from TF11, to block the Jomard Channel, which the invasion fleet would have to sail through to reach Port Morseby.

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Additionally, the West Virginia, which our pilots had saved from destruction at Pearl Harbor, had been repaired and was loaned to us as escort for Yorktown.

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The objective of Yorktown's CAG was to destroy the Japanese force being unloaded at Tulagi, to prevent their establishment of a seaplane base in the Solomons.

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Lexington's small auxiliary air group had no combat experience; as such, VF-6 and VB-6 were transferred to Lexington to supplement its strike power. It would sail northwest towards New Guinea and bomb the Japanese transport ships.

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New Orleans, Astoria, Gleaves and Livermore arrived off Port Moresby faster than the rest of Wright's ships. The ships from TF11 would arrive later, while Niblack and Eberle would be delayed yet further.

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Once Lexington had finished refueling, Clarke ordered his plan executed. Yorktown sent its planes into the sky as the elder carrier set sail for New Guinea.

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Almost immediately, it was apparent something was amiss. As Neosho sailed back to Australia, Chicago's float planes picked up enemy aircraft on radar...

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Lexington's skipper prudently launched his Wildcats to intercept, something no doubt appreciated by the crew of the Sims, who shortly thereafter reported 10 Japanese torpedo bombers bearing down on them.

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At Tulagi, a torpedo struck straight in the side of a Japanese transport ship and split it right in half, sinking within minutes, while a Dauntless dropped a bomb on the stern of the destroyer Kukizuki.

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The B5Ns flew past Sims to plant a torpedo in the Neosho, though the damage was not fatal. The Wildcats shot down three of them as they tried to pull up from their runs, but the damage was done. Clarke was seriously concerned now - IJN torpedo bombers this far out to sea meant an enemy carrier HAD to be around, though intel had not specified whether there were any or not. And evidently, given that no Japanese scouts had been seen so far, the enemy must have good information on the locations of his ships - the enemy bombers had only missed the Lexington very narrowly! Clarke got the suspicion he had fallen into some sort of trap.

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Reconnaissance seemed to confirm all the speculation. Radars on Kingfishers flying ahead on Lexington's intended course detected 3 enemy ships and two groups of planes directly ahead! However, visual confirmation of what ships were in the group was demanded by Lexington's skipper before he committed any of his attack planes; he did not want to make the same mistake the Japanese had just made.

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Finally, and far too belatedly for comfort, Clarke received fresh intel from Hawaii - the enemy invasion fleet did contain aircraft carriers. It was now imperative for his scouts to find them before the Japanese could launch their own attack planes, and for the Tulagi strike force to return so it could be sent against the enemy fleet.

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The enemy bombers were unable to escape the Wildcats and one by one they were all picked off. Tail gun fire downed 3 of our planes.

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Kukizuiki slipped beneath the surface, but Yuzukicontinued to put up a concerningly effective anti-aircraft defence.

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The floatplanes confirmed the trio of ships to be a destroyer, a cruiser, and the light carrier Shoho, whose complement of planes, all Zeros, immediately jumped the helpless Kingfishers. They had time to radio Clarke the location of the Shoho, but none of them would make it back alive.

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That was all he needed to see. Lexington's bombers were immediately launched and sent towards the Shoho, while her Wildcats flew in ahead to clear out the Zeros.

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Meanwhile, Wright had also picked up radar contacts to his north - what was almost certainly the invasion force. With the carriers busy fighting each other, Wright's ships were on their own against whatever came around the tip of the island.

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Just in time, the extra ships from TF11 showed up to assist him.

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Clarke's own Kingfishers indirectly confirmed the existence of at least two more Japanese carriers when, after flying over an enemy picket force to the northeast of Shoho, they were jumped by two squadrons of Zeros and annihilated. Clarke inferred they must have been operating from carriers north of Shoho, or perhaps northwest, escorting the invasion force. If the latter were the case, Wright might be in serious trouble.

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To add fuel to the flames, another problem presented itself right at Clarke's front door, when a Japanese submarine announced its presence by launching a spread of Long Lances right towards the Minneapolis, which seemed to be blocking any shot it might have had at Yorktown. Only one torpedo ended up hitting, and the damage, to the bow, was minor, but it sent the destroyers into a frenzy, for no one could pick it up on SONAR and the Long Lances did not produce bubbles that gave away their position, so no one knew which way the submarine had fired from.

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Unfortunately, the attack plan on Shoho unraveled immediately, for when Lexington's Wildcats appeared over the little flattop, they were greeted not by the second-rate auxiliary pilots that had attacked Pearl Harbor, but Japan's veteran carrier pilots who, losing three of their own, downed all seven Wildcats in a short, sharp dogfight. When contact was lost, VF-6 was scrambled and hauled onto the flight deck, but the bombers were already on their way to the target, and now they had no protection.

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The ships at Tulagi had been sunk and our planes were heading home, but the cost had been higher than desired - 2 Wildcats, 2 Dauntlesses and 1 Devastator - and was not even complete. The base on Tulagi itself had not been attacked, and with the planes now needed to attack the enemy fleet, they could not be spared for a second strike. As such, Clarke, despite the submarine threat, ordered one of his destroyers to Tulagi to shell the base; if he was lucky, maybe it would draw some Japanese attack planes away from the Yorktown.

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The Admiral had chosen a poor time to make that decision, for no sooner had the destroyer left than the Japanese submarine again found its run foiled by a cruiser and got a glancing torpedo hit on Chester. Again, the destroyers found nothing. He had dodged a bullet twice now, but sooner or later either that submarine was going to run out of torpedoes, or one of them was going to hit his ship.

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Wright finally joined the battle in earnest. His battle line drawn, with his own ships anchored on the left by the coast, 6 Japanese destroyers hit his right flank destroyers and attempted to turn them back, but concentrated fire from his cruisers immediately began to have a telling effect on the little ships.

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And with Niblack and Eberle now on the scene, Wright had a decisive advantage both in numbers and firepower. Unless the Japanese brought much heavier ships and/or aircraft against him, it was difficult to see how the invasion could get through.

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Despite this, the Japanese pressed on ferociously as they were wont to do; an enemy cruiser bringing up the rear sunk a TF11 destroyer.

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The dive bomber attack on Shoho was a complete disaster. Four Dauntlesses went down before they even reached the target, along with two Zeros. The remaining enemy fighters then waited for the 6 survivors to drop their bombs, only one of which hit, before leisurely landing to rearm. As they did this, another group of Zeros, presumably from a carrier north of Shoho, came to its aid and massacred the remaining dive bombers for no loss. The torpedo planes were now alone against 10 Zeroes as they flow ever so low and ever so slow towards their target; VB-6 was scrambled to the flight deck. It looked like the auxiliary pilots were going to be a total loss, and any sinking of any carrier would be up to our air groups.

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What appeared to be the screen for the enemy invasion fleet was clearly doomed, but they gave one last hurrah to make us pay for our victory - all their remaining ships focused on a single destroyer and quickly sunk it, and even landed a few hits on Portland; but no more. The jig was up.

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Lexington's Devastators did manage to put one good torpedo hit in on the Shoho, which damaged its engines and made it easy to catch up with; but by the time VF-6 arrived in the area, not a single one of them was still in the air, and not one of their tail gunners had managed to down a Zero, leaving our pilots outnumbered. VF-6 had not, admittedly, seen combat either, but they had at least been to flight school, which auxiliary pilots had not.

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The Japanese cruiser managed to cripple another destroyer, but would not get the chance to finish the job, blowing up in spectacular fashion from a full broadside fired by Wright's cruisers.

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For whatever reason, perhaps lack of fuel or simple lack of communication, the fresh squadron of Zeros retreated back towards its own carrier, leaving Shoho's five remaining planes to be jumped by VF-6. Two survivors managed to land on the flight deck, but the ship was badly listing from the torpedo hit and it looked as if they would fall off at any moment.

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What really concerned Clarke was a fresh report indicating that his fears had been correct - the Japanese DID know where his carriers were. If both the other carriers were fleet carriers, that meant a 40 plane attack wave was coming, while he could only put 20 fighters, at most, up to challenge them, and half of those were out on an attack mission and would probably be out of fuel by the time they returned to their carrier.

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Unhappy with VF-5 losing two planes despite there being no air opposition at Tulagi, Clarke made an off-the-cuff decision to replace the squadron's commander with its #2 officer and our only ace pilot (so far), Lt. Commander Jason Ward, before sending them to intercept the enemy planes. As it turned out, this would prove to be an inspired decision.

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Just to make things worse, another Japanese submarine managed to find the Lexington and put a torpedo through the aft section; the damage was not major, but it wasn't nothing either, and if the ship were attacked by enemy planes, would do nothing but compromise its hull integrity. Clarke's only consolation was that, this time, his destroyers had found the submarine almost instantly and promptly sunk it.

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Yorktown was not as lucky. As the last of her air group flew off towards the enemy, the elusive I-boat finally scored a hit on the stern of the flagship, though the damage was minor; and still, to their commander's neverending frustration, the destroyers could not pin its location down.

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VB-6, at least for an hour or so, managed to claim the crown of "First enemy carrier sunk" and act like it was important. Certainly, it removed one group of Zeros from the equation; on the other hand, 42 aircraft had been lost in the process of sinking it (though, on the other other hand, a ship going down kills many more people than a plane).

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No sooner had the Shoho capsized than those other Zeros appeared again; drawing them away to the west, VF-6 hoped to allow VB-6 an opening to head for the Zeros' home carrier, but in the process ran afoul once again of the nimble Zeros and their expert pilots. After 5 Zeros and 6 Wildcats had been downed, the two survivors of the melee broke off for home.

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As he had been brawling with the Japanese screen, Wright had seen several ships on his radar to the north of his position, loitering safely out of his range - the transports, he probably correctly guessed, for once the Japanese cruiser had blown up, the blips on his radar retreated towards the edge of the display, then disappeared. The invasion, it seemed, was off!

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The Wildcats' sacrifice seemed to be the right call. The Zeros had retreated when VB-6 appeared over the huge flattop - the Shokaku, no less! And where she was, her sister was bound to be near - the Japanese always sent pairs of sister ships out together. However, though two hits were scored against no combat air patrol, 4 cruisers clung close by and sent up a thick barrage of flak that took down three planes. The pilots radioed to Clarke that attack planes could clearly be seen being brought up to the flight deck; time was of the essence.

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Unfortunately, Yorktown's planes were not yet over the target, which still gave the Japanese time to get their planes into the air. VF-5 had gotten tangled up with Zuikaku's combat air patrol and was keeping it from hitting the bombers following behind, but no doubt Shokaku's Zeros would soon be back to make up for it.

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Thus it was that Shokaku's attack group appeared over Lexington with only two Wildcats available to stop them; just the vanguard of the entire force which would arrive over the next hour or two. Both Wildcats went down trying to stop the bombers, but 10 more just as quickly took off from the carrier.

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The plus side was that the Tulagi seaplane base had been blown to bits; combined with the retreat of the invasion force, that meant it was mission accomplished for the Task Force. The question now was, just how dearly would they pay for it?

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Out of the blue, MacArthur had his arm twisted by Nimitz to give over a squadron of B-17s to Clarke for this battle; a bit late, but better late than never. High-flying, sturdy, and heavily armed, they were believed to be difficult for the Japanese to effectively shoot down and were thus sent north of New Guinea to find the Zuikaku while the carrier planes attacked her sister.

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Wright, in the meantime, had spread his ships out looking for Shoho's escorts, which he correctly guessed were still lurking between his ships and the Lexington group.

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The Japanese bomber pilots were, as expected, not amateurs, and knew how to dodge a combat air patrol. Losing 4 planes, they passed through the defence and scored two hits on the Lexington, wrecking the forward elevator and starting a major fire on the deck; and with 6 planes still to deal with, the ship's radar also picked up the torpedo bombers right behind them as expected.

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The attack on Shokaku was going to plan, thankfully. The carrier had been almost exactly where Clarke had predicted, so the attack planes wasted little time getting to it. Ward's Wildcats shot down 8 Zeros and force the other two, shot up, to emergency land on the flight deck which was simultaneously being bombed by VB-6, who had put two more bombs into the big Crane; however, the AA fire had chewed up the formation and, with only 4 planes left, they decided to head back to the Lexington, leaving the job to the 5th CAG. Zuikaku's attack planes passed by as this was happening.

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Meanwhile, the nature of Clarke's sub predicament became a bit more clear when both West Virginia and Yorktown were hit at once with more torpedoes; he had been facing two subs this whole time! Whenever his destroyers had moved in the direction of one, they had allowed the other a clear shot!

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Lexington's assailants were seriously imperiling her; two D3As were still aloft when the torpedo bombers arrived and, on their first pass, put two torpedoes right in the side of the ship. The rushing water may ironically have staved off an explosion in the magazine from the bombs, but the ship began to list heavily and was dead in the water. No amount of damage control could help the massive hole in her hull.

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On it's first run, VB-5 put a fifth bomb on Shokaku, whose flight deck was now wrecked, but not before her CAP had taken off again. With Ward's Wildcats drawn southwards to intercept Zuikaku's attack planes, the Zeros would be free to continue their bomber feeding frenzy.

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But it was too late for the Japanese. It had taken them just enough time to get their CAP back up that they could not stop a 6th bomb and two torpedoes from splitting Shokaku in half. The big carrier burned furiously as it rolled over; the Zeros could only look and and try to take their revenge on those responsible.

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That, indeed, they did. Coming out of their runs, the Devastators were helpless, and 5 went into the sea in the blink of an eye. AA fire downed 3 Dauntlesses.

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The B-17s, meanwhile, were disappointing. Zuikaku was, again, pretty much where Clarke predicted it to be, but despite the complete lack of fighter cover, high altitude bombing of moving ships, even a big carrier, was proving completely ineffective.

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Astoria had initially been trading hit for hit with Shoho's escorting cruiser until the rest of Wright's ships showed up; even then, it managed to put some holes in his destroyers before going down, along with a Japanese destroyer.

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Finally, Clarke managed to catch a break; his destroyers found both Japanese submarines within 10 minutes of each other. After being depth charged and forced to surface, his cruisers worked over one while the West Virginia exercised some needed catharsis and blew the other to smithereens.

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While the dive bombers had been dealt with, only two torpedo bombers had been destroyed attacking the Lexington, and the other 8 were now coming around for another attack run on the immobilized and now very-low-lying ship. As the crew frantically attempted anything they could think of to right the ship, those on the bridge, unable to move it, could only pray the enemy somehow missed this time.

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But even if they did, 18 more planes were still on their way; Ward had only managed to down two B5Ns on their approach to Lexington, and soon his fighters would be out of fuel.

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Having dispatched Shoho's escorts, Wright saw on his radar that several enemy ships, freed from having to escort Shokaku, were heading south to engage him. Preferring not to chance anything - overwhelming force had worked so far - he decided to continue south, group up with Lexington, and then engage any ships that bothered to follow him with the entire combined force. However, this move would require leaving behind the crippled TF11 destroyer at the rear of his line - for as much as its skipper tried to fix the engine, the ship was nearly dead in the water. His decision to do so is just another of many debatable decisions Wright made throughout his career; it certainly did not help the perception that he was more interested in destroying the enemy than making sure his own men lived through the fight.

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Zuikaku's torpedo squadron made a beeline for the Lexington. Knowing that being spread out would never eliminate either enemy group, Ward called VF-6 to group up with his planes and pile onto this fresh squadron, as it was the most immediate threat to the carrier's survival; indeed, learning to co-ordinate between CAGs was one of several things learned at the Coral Sea. As with many things, however, the first attempt was not the most successful. Two Wildcats were downed by tail gun fire. The combined formation took down 5 torpedo planes - but the 3 leading planes got away from them. There was nothing in their way but some ineffectual AA fire. The Japanese squadron leader set his torpedo down directly in line with the stern of the ship, and no one could do anything but watch as it inevitably and inexorably traveled towards the Lexington.

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Even if the stern hadn't been ripped open to the sea, the massive explosion that followed would have doomed the ship regardless. Escorts crowded around trying to fish men out of the water, but most of the crew had been killed.

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With their commander dead, after some initial confusion, Clarke handed command of Lexington's escorts over to Wright. The Japanese had successfully avenged Shokaku - all that was left to do was shoot down as many Japanese planes as possible; Zuikaku's torpedo squadron was the first to fall to the vengeful Wildcats. Their dive bomber squadron had just missed the party, but would be made to pay for the sunken carrier all the same.

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VB-6 was in a no-win situation; they had arrived back at their carrier only to find it at the bottom of the sea. With no fuel left to make it to the Yorktown, all 4 planes ended up ditching in the Pacific. More concerning to Clark, however, were the 9 Vals that, having missed getting a shot at Lexington, were now heading for his ship! Ward's 3 remaining planes were out of fuel and had to land; they could not be used to stop the Japanese.

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Wright's gambit paid off; after dispatching his abandoned cripple, 3 Japanese cruisers blundered into the combined firepower of 7 destroyers and 4 cruisers. VF-6, meanwhile, attempted to finish off Shokaku's torpedo squadron but found the tail gun fire unusually intense, and ended up losing 4 Wildcats. Shokaku's fighters had, in the meantime, flown to Zuikaku's defence and shot down all the B17s; they had not manage to land a single bomb on target.

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In the end, Clarke dodged a bullet. His escorts poured AA fire into the Japanese formation and no sooner had the barrage come up than 4 Vals fell into the sea. No sooner did that happen, than did the Japanese think better of trying to attack the Task Force with only 5 planes and fled the way they had come.

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VF-6 finally gave up chase near New Georgia as they got to their range limit. They had managed to down all but one Kate - but that last one still got away, and the Americans were left with a bloody nose, having lost 5 planes to nothing but tail gun fire.

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Hopelessly doomed, the Japanese destroyers decided to focus all their attention on one TF11 destroyer and take it down with them. It was hardly a fair trade for 3 cruisers. His job done, Wright sailed back towards Clarke, and the whole Task Force sailed for home.

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The battle in the Coral Sea was no doubt a victory, and a historically important one. For the first time in history, aircraft carriers had fought each other, and we had come out on top - not by much, granted. Sinking Shoho and the extra squadron it could put in the air broke the Shokaku-for-Lexington tie. Plus, we had sunk a transport, 9 destroyers, 5 cruisers, 3 submarines, turned back the invasion force, and destroyed the Tulagi base. We had lost just 4 destroyers, none of them from TF17.

In the air, however, our pilots found themselves up against veteran opposition for the first time and, frankly, did not fare very well. Both recon squadrons were destroyed, as were the B17s, and all the auxiliary pilots on Lexington - 60 planes in all. It was abundantly clear that our auxiliary airmen simply are not up to snuff against the Japanese carrier pilots.

As for our pilots, CAG 6 lost 26 planes and CAG 5, which once again proved the most skilled group, lost 19.

We destroyed, on balance, 70 enemy aircraft. Only 15 of those were downed by auxiliary pilots, the rest by ours. We did not fare as well as before, but given the skill level of the enemy pilots that was to be expected. But it is really, in the end, the auxiliary pilots that were the weak link. They were utterly ineffectual, little better than cannon fodder, and could not be expected to be useful in future engagements.

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