From: just beyond the outskirts of Margaritaville
Samoa - Verdun in the Pacific
This invasion was my chosen site to break Pillager's Japanese outer perimeter line in the Pacific, this choice among a number of (for the most part) equally bad options for accomplishing this task. Pillager could not have planned and prepared the location of the Japanese perimeter better, from Wake to Port Moresby, no routes of approach where any type of Allied LBA could be used to support or cover an amphibious attack. A wide belt of open sea (12-15 hexes across, four to five sailing days by transports) in front of the entire length of Japanese defenses allowing ample warning of an Allied approach to any location.
Known intelligence showed that many bases along the Japanese perimeter were fully built up and garrisoned. Pillager had transferred most of the Japanese LCU strength that could be removed from the Kwantung Army to the south - these units reinforcing Jap bases all along the outer perimeter line as well as many key bases in interior areas (Truk, the Marianas and Marshalls, Canton Is, Rabaul, Marcus, etc). These Japanese troop dispositions were verified by numerous Sigint reports over a considerable period of time.
The initial Samoa invasion and subsequent naval/transport sorties to reinforce and supply Pago Pago have taken a toll on U.S. and Allied ships, particularly transports. A large proportion of the transports sunk were small AK's, many of these Allied ships that had successfully evacuated the Phillipines, DEI, Malaya, and other locations during the early Japanese advances of 12/41 to early 1942. These transports had been held in reserve and earmarked for use in amphibious and island hopping operations due to their size, quick loading/unloading capacity, and relative expendability. However, most of these small transports are now gone. Only a relatively small number of larger U.S. transports and landing craft were sunk in the Samoa operations, leaving the overall U.S. and Allied transport situation in good shape.
The U.S. escort carrier force lost heavily during the initial Samoa invasion, 7 of the 10 CVE's participating in this operation were sunk with an eighth CVE heavily damaged. This force has been gradually replenished with new CVE's arriving as reinforcements and its return to action is expected shortly.
Many BB's in the U.S. naval bombardment force also received substantial damage from Jap LBA naval strikes, mainly in the initial Samoa invasion. Several of the more lightly damaged BB's are repaired and back in service, a backlog of older BB's with heavier damage remain in U.S. west coast shipyards. Current operational level of U.S. naval shore bombardment forces is approx 50-60%.
Heavy employment of the U.S. Main Carrier Force in escorting the transport sorties to Samoa have also taken a toll. While no U.S. CV's or CVL's have been sunk and only one CV (Saratoga) and one CVL received heavy damage from Japanese air attack, many of the carriers and larger escorts (fast BB's and cruisers) in the Main Carrier Force now require or are in the process of undergoing repair (refits) for "wear and tear" damage during operations off Samoa. These ships also receiving upgrades as they are taken "off-line". U.S. ship reinforcements (carriers, fast BB, cruisers) are being dispatched to the South Pacific as they arrive in the game to relieve other ships in the Main Carrier Force so they can be taken "off-line" for refits and upgrades. Destroyers are somewhat less of a problem as their numbers are more than sufficient to establish a continuous rotation of fresh DD's into the Main Carrier Force.
All the above naval and transport activity off Samoa has resulted in a heavy workload for U.S. shipyards, to the point where some damaged ships with lower repair priority are being temporarily "mothballed" until sufficient shipyard capacity is available to handle their repair without slowing the turnover of ships having a higher repair priority. The actions off Samoa have resulted in the establishment of a "triage" system for damaged ships where emergency repair is handled in forward bases and damaged ships are being distributed between various shipyards according to ship type and each ship's level of damage. Emergency repair facilities at forward bases have saved a number of ships very heavily damaged off Samoa that might have sunk under other circumstances. The "triage" system is expected to continue its usefulness in subsequent U.S. Pacific operations.
Ten U.S. combat divisions, two Corps HQ, plus a number of other LCU remain on the three Samoan islands (Pago Pago, Savaii, Upolu). These units are in various levels of "repair". One primary objective of recent and continuing operations is freeing up U.S. LCU's in the Samoa area, restoring them to fully operational status, and getting them moving again. I will touch upon the status of LCU's on each island shortly.
The U.S. base (particularly the airfield) on Pago Pago is now intact and fully operational for the first time. The transport sortie to Pago Pago that is just concluding has left nearly 100K supply on hand in Pago Pago base with still more supply unloading. Approximately 200-300 planes are now operating from Pago Pago airfield, these almost entirely a mix of Corsairs and 4E bombers. U.S. fighter plane strength on Pago Pago is sufficient to repel Japanese LBA strikes against Pago Pago base or Allied ships at Pago Pago. 4E bombers now on Pago Pago are beginning airfield strikes against Jap bases on Upolu and Wallis Is - plans are to render Jap airfilelds at both locations inoperable and keeping them that way. This situation combined with the very heavy attrition inflicted on Japanese LBA is the main force shifting the tide at Samoa in the Allies' favor. An additional 500+ U.S. planes of all types are available at Penhryn Is and are easily transferrable to support air ops on Pago Pago.
The three U.S. combat divisions, one Corps HQ, and other LCU's on Pago Pago are at full TOE strength and fully operational.
With Pago Pago base fully operational (and likely to remain that way), the next Allied focus in the Samoa area is Savaii. My plans are to repeat at Savaii much the same process that was done for Pago Pago - transport sorties bringing in supply, engineers and base support LCU's. Gradually getting the base (especially airfield) on Savaii operational, then bringing in more LBA. Two U.S. combat divisions are on Savaii, both of them presently in poor supply and operational condition.
Once Savaii is brought up to operational status, then we deal with finishing the U.S. capture of Upolu... The necessity of this is mainly to free up the five U.S. combat divisions, one Corps HQ, and other combat units that are now stuck on Upolu. Plans are to continue keeping the Japanese airfield on Upolu fully suppressed and supplying the U.S. ground units on Upolu. Now that Pago Pago is fully operational with large stocks of supply points, plans are to begin moving supply from Pago Pago to Upolu using small landing craft (especially handy being that Pago Pago and Upolu are in adjacent hexes). Most of the U.S. LCU's on Upolu have a substantial number of disrupted elements and are below full TOE strength. Supply levels on Upolu also being quite low.
Recent intelligence is indicating the KB does not appear to be operating from Suva and has at least temporarily moved north (though it is not known where it has moved or why). The possibility of keeping the KB up north is a significant factor behind preserving Operation Bulldog as a decoy operation.
The air battles over Pago Pago have what is turning out to be a very significant result, the ongoing decimation of front-line Japanese LBA. I plan to continue using Samoa as a "meat grinder" for Japanese air strength, either LBA or carrier-based.
My estimates are moving toward a conclusion that the KB represents a substantial portion (if not most) of the remaining operational front-line Japanese air forces in the Pacific. If this trend is true, Pillager will eventually be forced to employ the KB in a role of providing air support for Japanese defensive operations (rather than as a naval attack force), and possibly in a unfavorable situation that can be strongly exploited by U.S. carriers. I expect at some point to get such an opening, only a question of when and where.
At this time I have no immediate strategic plans for advancing beyond Pago Pago, this in keeping with an overall Allied strategic idea of finding the most promising point of attack then exploiting this point of attack with the maximum force available. If the most promising point of attack is from the Samoa area, so be it. Right now I exclude nothing.
< Message edited by wneumann -- 10/25/2009 7:24:33 PM >