|Axis and Allies Campaign|
|Pacific Theater of Operations: Part 1 Results|
|by David Devere & Tom Maertz|
Pacific Theater of Operations: End of Winter 1941
At Pearl Harbor, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Malaya, New Guinea, Dutch New Guinea, New Britain, the Shan State and in NE China, Imperial Japanese forces crush local defenders but suffer reverses in Yunnan Provence, Hong Kong, Guam and meet a determined rear guard action by the Americans in the Philippines.
The Japanese High Command completely ignored local army commanders’ advice and stormed into Yunnan Provence only to be met by a wall of Chinese soldiers, machine guns and tanks. The battle was brutal – large formations of Koumintang machine gun teams relentlessly poured a rain of lead onto Japanese troops as they tried to close with the enemy. An exasperated Japanese Lieutenant sent in this report:
“To headquarters of Japanese Operations in China: The Chinese peasants overwhelmed our attacking force on Hill 107. The enemy had twenty five squads of Kuomintang Riflemen! Chinese rifle fire was inaccurate but overwhelming. A Type 97 Tankette knocked out a Soviet built T-26 early in the battle but the sheer volume of rifle fire forced crews of a tankette and type 87 armored car to abandon their vehicles. Two squads of Arisaka Riflemen were cut off on hill 107, and despite being outnumbered and cut off, succeeded in destroying 6 squads of Kuomintang riflemen - some of them in hand to hand fighting. Most of the Japanese mortars and machine guns on the surrounding hills were knocked out by either overwhelming Chinese rifle fire or American supplied support weapons. It was a disappointing defeat for the Empire of Japan but we will rebound! Banzai!” The battle bloodied the Chinese defenders reducing them to two infantry divisions out of the original five but they kept the supply line of the Burma Road open and that was their stated objective. The Japanese were able to retreat one squadron of fighters, but lost all of the attacking infantry divisions and a fighter squadron in the debacle. Rumors around High Command state that the Japanese planner of the attack has been asked to remove himself from duty.
The battle for Java was much more to the Imperial staff’s liking. The defending forces were completely destroyed or captured at the loss of only one infantry division. A typical response from Japanese amphibious assault commanders was:
“The UK defenders on Java were eliminated to a man. The town was heavily defended and fortified with bunkers, obstacles, and minefields that slowed the Japanese advance. Two Zeros were shot down by concentrated small arms fire, but they were able to eliminate the UK’s heavy ATG first, clearing the way for the JP armor. Once past the obstacles, the Japanese were able to swarm the town with the aid of some flanking SNLF paratroopers.” The Japanese are now in firm control of the Island of Java. Local attacks on the surrounding territories of Borneo, Sumatra and Malaya also met with success at the expense of British Commonwealth economies.
The battle for the Philippines, while at first catching American forces by surprise, was a tactical victory for America. Japanese forces were able to win the battle but since Manila is a victory point city the entire Island group must be completely subdued before it can be claimed and the Americans were able to retreat enough points to contest the territory for another turn. Since all the defending forces were initially worth one point, and the Americans were able to retreat one point, the US commander shrewdly kept the fighter squadron. This squadron will now defend the Philippines - operating at full strength (4 points) next turn. The Japanese will have an opportunity next turn to reinforce their positions and try to take the Islands from the Americans who are now secured in Corregidor. The Americans could also reinforce their units but US forces are far away. It could be an option for them – it all depends on how long the troops can hold out. Japanese intelligence found parts of a letter on an unknown American casualty, dated December 15th 1942, which stated:
“…but don't worry, mom. Crazed fanatics these men are. They are only men. Our weaponry is far superior to theirs. Our foot soldiers could take out some of their most armored equipment. They seem to think that they are invincible in "armored" cars that aren’t much more than milk trucks armed with machine guns. I think we really have a good shot of winning this war as long as the folks back home back us. I love you, mom. I hope to see you once this awful mess is all through. Love, Lester.”
Hong Kong was another Japanese victory that ended up being a tactical victory for the British. If it wasn’t for the support of Chinese and American forces the city would have been overrun. But as it sits now, Hong Kong, like the Philippines, is under siege. The British garrison has two full strength infantry divisions to one remaining Japanese division. The Japanese need to reinforce their units to gain any hope of securing the city. The British don’t have much to contribute to the defense of the city but rumors are swirling that the British High Command might commit a fighter squadron from India to the defense of the city. Despite the complexity of managing multiple nations into a cohesive command Hong Kong held. Here is a report from an unknown source delivered by Chinese Riflemen apparently moving away from the front after being disrupted:
“Commander of Hong Kong Defense Forces to High Command: The map used was Nº. 4 Urban combat. After bombardment with mortar fire, Japanese infantry and paratroopers initiated the assault on the city. They were repelled by Chinese machine gun fire supported by 2 M3 Stuarts. Japanese forces entered the city and engaged in furious hand to hand fighting over the objective (SNLF fanatics Vs. Gurkha). In turn Nº. 5 the Japanese assault lost momentum as a consequence of the high number of casualties and decided to withdraw the troops and reorganize the attack. Several units failed the retreat roll. The city remains in Allied control.”
In the last PTO engagement the British were able to salvage a destroyer from the remnants of their fleet off the cost of Malaya. While the British won the engagement, the Japanese were able to sink enough ships to reduce the fighting effectiveness of the UK fleet. Captain Sonokawa explains:
“AAR as submitted by Captain Sonokawa, Flight Leader of Genzan Air Corps, 22nd Air Flotilla:
Following up on a submarine report, we launched at dawn on Dec. 9th with about 150 G4M torpedo bombers. We somehow missed Force Z while outbound, but found it on our return leg. It was composed of the Hood, Exeter and 4 DD heading south at about 25 knots. A DD and Exeter were off the Hood's starboard side, a DD was leading it and two DD's were off its port side. I was told by my base commander that 5 B1 type submarines were forming a cordon to the South to prevent the British ships' return to Singapore. Divine fortune brought us together at the same point in time. From my vantage, I could see the subs in the clear ocean at periscope depth maneuvering for attack. The ships altered their course to the SE, perhaps to avoid the subs.
I ordered our first wave of bombers to focus on the destroyers, so as to allow the subs to focus on their attack without worrying about depth charges. Planes attacked the two DD’s, sinking one in five minutes despite their violent maneuvering. The other planes were driven off by the Exeter and its DD's AA fire.
While the air groups were forming up for another attack, the capital ships altered course due west, while their DDs swept ahead to battle the subs. One appeared to have been damaged with depth charges, but it crippled its attacker in return. A tremendous explosion caught my attention and I looked over in time to see the Hood lifted out of the water as two torpedoes struck home. The ship took a slight list and was smoking, but did not lose speed. The DDs were among three of the subs now. I directed my bombers to again attack them and avoid the tremendous AA fire the two larger ships were putting up. Two more DDs were sunk, the sea was crisscrossed with torpedo wakes, but none struck the capital ships.
While lining up our next attack, I noticed the British ships crossed the T of three of our submarines! But in this instance, it was a disadvantage to the British as the subs now had a 90 degree shot on them. Two more torpedoes struck the Hood, and it quickly began to lose speed and settle by the bow. The last DD was blown in two by another torpedo. I assigned two of my flights to attack the crippled Hood, and three against the Exeter. The Hood's AA was still effective, but the Exeter was crippled by two torpedoes. Both ships were limping south, but were now at point blank range with several subs. Multiple torpedoes were fired, and after several massive explosions, both ships slipped beneath the waves in a matter of minutes. Only an hour had passed since the attack had begun.
In my expert opinion, this battle has proven that the day of the Dreadnaught has ended. The age of the aerial bomber (and submarine) has dawned!”
The first turn went well for the Japanese as it should have. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a complete success, and the resource rich islands of Indonesia have been almost completely captured. But the losses at Yunnan Provence and the stiff defense of Guam by American Marines foreshadow difficult days ahead for Japan. The Americans are now at war in the Pacific and Europe and their economic power will not be denied.
Previously in the Axis & Allies Campaign: