Dec. 13th, 1941
Clark Field, the Philippines.
Corporal Hideo Matsuyama’s tank was already running when he arrived at it, fresh from the mornings meeting with Lt. Nomiya, the platoon commander.
“You’re wasting gas, Iida.” he said, little real reproach in his voice.
“Well sir, with all we captured here I didn’t think it was something we needed to worry over” replied Iida.
“True enough, I suppose. Well, we are lead tank again today. We head out this way..” he said spreading the map before his driver. Nakata, his reloader, looked over things, just in case.
“Not towards Manila?” asked Iida.
“Nope. Apparently 16th division will take it themselves. We are just supposed to head towards Bataan. Seems the Americans are gathering themselves there for a final stand. We will be passing some villages along the way, I want us to be on our best behavior, we will probably be the first Japanese they see.”
Nakata interjected, “But Lt. Nomiya said we should—“
Hideo cut him off. “I don’t care. We are lead tank. As usual, I expect Lt. Nomiya to be in the rear of the platoon. We will treat all civilians with respect, and they in turn will give us respect. We will need to work with them.”
Nakata looked at him skeptically. Undeterred, Hideo continued, “Look, they can’t help it if they were occupied by the Americans. But under our guidance, with their resources, they really could become strong allies of ours.”
Iida was about to chime in when an explosion cut him off. The three ducked into their tank and a voice was already crackling over the radio. “West side! Infantry units! Maybe company strength!”
Hideo got his tank into the action, rotating the main gun while giving Iida instructions. Lt. Nomiya was the next voice on the radio giving directions to the other 3 tanks in the platoon.
With another three platoons, Hideo’s platoon performed a slow but steady flanking maneuver on the surprise attackers while the regiments medium tanks engaged them straight on. Though the regiment only had nine of the new Type 1 medium tanks, the attackers lacked heavy weapons and were unable to press forward the attack. Once the light tanks had them flanked, the attackers broke and ran. Fearing a diversion, Lt. Col. Kitayama forbade pursuit, content in having broken up the poorly executed attack. Thirty minutes later bodies were being counted and damaged assessed. The attackers had come from two different Philippine divisions and Hideo felt a bit sad seeing the vaguely similar faces of the dead soldiers looking up at him in their death stare. What possessed them to enroll in an American puppet army anyway? He was suddenly angry at them, the dead soldiers. In a foul mood he ordered his tank to move out.
“We have a lot of ground to cover today and tomorrow. Let’s go.”
Early the next afternoon they overtook their first group of civilian refugees. Upon seeing their column, two of the men in the column approached, one with his hands raised, the other with some piece of paper in his hand. Hideo ordered a stop, drew his pistol (you never knew) and approached the refugee spokesmen. They handed a card that had been airdropped over their village that morning, instructing them to surrender. It was directed to soldiers, not civilians. Still lacking clear directions on what to do with refugees, Hideo pondered the situation for a moment.
“Well, they aren’t getting in the way. That’s clear.”, offered Iida.
“Yeah. We will just leave them be.” He looked at the surrender card. Not sure what to do with it either, he found a pen, signed it with his full name and rank, and with that continued on. He was supposed to be lead tank, which meant being in the lead by at least 80 meters.
Five minutes later, from well behind he heard a single shot.
“Do you think…?” asked Iida, unwilling to finish the question.
Hideo’s face turned red. Lt. Nomiya. Bastard. Hideo looked back but the refugee group was too far back, out of view.
The incident played through his mind the rest of the day, until just after they had stopped their march towards Bataan. Hideo was sitting, going over his options when Lt. Nomiya approached. Hideo snapped to his feet, gave a perfunctory salute. About to start verbally laying into Nomiya he was stopped cold by Nomiya’s smile. Lt. Nomiya never smiled. And he had liquor. He gave the officer a quizzical look.
TOASTING MANILA'S FALL
“Manila fell! This evening! Except for Bataan, we own Luzon!”
The news rocked Hideo. He knew the 16th division felt they could take it alone, but he had expected it to take days, maybe a week or two. But already? Was it going to be this easy? The refugee incident drifted from Hideo’s mind and he accepted a drink. Looking around, everyone else was doing the same.
Dec. 14th., early morning, 100 miles south of Borneo..
After take off from Kuching's by-comparison primitive airfield, PO2 Osamu Matsuyama spent most of the morning doing lazy circle 8s over an army convoy destined for southern Borneo. Yesterday had been uneventful, strafing empty airfields across the island from his Kuching base. Today he had hope for real action. He followed Lts. jg Araki and Maki into another turn. Maki was a replacement. That was three now. But Maki seemed to know what he was doing, just needed some combat time.
Just then the call came in, Osamu recognized PO2 Shiga’s voice “Inbound fighters and bombers, 9 o’clock low!” Instantly picking up the Dutch attack, Lt. jg Araki turned his fighter to make a head on attack. Maki kept formation. Osamu was briefly tempted to break off and seek his own prey but stayed in formation.
In total 15 Zeros were on CAP over the convoy and the Dutch pilots had to either be foolhardy or extremely brave to press their attack. While Osamu’s group bore head on into one flight, Shiga’s flight of two aircraft were already moving into firing position on some obsolete Martin bombers. Osamu saw Maki’s hand go up as they flew past the ungainly American fighters and snap a close up.
The 4 Dutch fighters broke into pairs and Araki and Maki split, forcing Osamu into a decision. Maki would probably need more help he decided and stayed behind Maki in support. The lead Dutch pilot just 400 yards in front of Maki made the same mistake that was being made all over the Pacific and tried to get himself into shooting position by getting into a turning match with the Zeros, while his wingman risked being called a coward and simply dove away. Maki stayed with the lead and 30 seconds later the distinctive “boom” of his cannon shattered the canopy of the Brewster fighter and shredded its left wing. In entered a death spin. Osamu let out a shout. It wasn’t his kill but it was the closest he had been yet!
Heading back to the convoy Osamu looked for more targets but found nothing. He sought out Araki and rejoined him in formation.
Hours later, just before turning back Shiga again called out targets. He must have amazing eyesight, thought Osamu. This time Osamu’s group didn’t even break their orbit. It was just 4 antique torpedo bombers and Shiga and Nagaishi were half-way there already. Later he learned PO2 Shiga shot down 3 Dutch aircraft that day, Nagaishi getting 2 more.
Back at base Osamu and Araki hounded Maki to get his film developed. “Do you think you got him on film?”
“Pretty sure I timed it right. Glad I bought this camera! Lets go check”
An hour later they had a picture of Lt.jg Maki’s first kill. They admired the picture as they walked back towards their barracks.
“Well, once we get proper tea houses built around here I will buy you a drink! Quite a feat, Maki. Get transferred here yesterday, first kill today! You’re lucky I let you take it. Next one’s mine”
A buzz caught Osamu’s ear. He searched the sky for a familiar, but different aircraft. Sure enough a large group of Type 1 bombers were lining up landing. “Bombers? Already? Wonder where from.”
2000 ft. above Kuching Airbase, Borneo.
PO1 Hiroyuki’s G4M1 entered the landing pattern. Kuching Airbase was smaller than Takao, but he was glad to be here. There was certain to be more action, and the transfer had removed him from a difficult situation with Ling. He was off all women other than Haru he had sworn to his copilot Ueda all the long flight down.
He touched down on the single runway and followed the ground crews instruction, taxing to the westernmost edge of the run where workers, apparently IJA, were filling sandbags to make aircraft shelters for. He had hoped for more for his precious Mitsubishi.
Upon exiting the aircraft he was met by a familiar, smiling face. For once it was a nice surprise: “Hey big brother!” came the shout from Osamu, “Glad you make it to where the action is!”
“Hey little brother! Yeah, I heard the action was down hear and you might need some protection!”
Osamu introduced his flight-mates, Araki (who vaguely remember Hiroyuki) and Maki and requainted himself with Hiroyuki’s crew.
“Maki got his first kill today. A Dutch Brewster. We shot down more than 10 of their fighters and bombers today. I guess they did get lucky attacking the Nagato though, it took a torpedo from one of those antique floatplanes the Dutch are using. Revenge comes tomorrow!”
“Well, that’s why I chose to release the torpedo, not be a torpedo target. Naval Air Corps all the way. Do we still have time? Lets go into town, see Kuching”, he winked at Ueda, “Can’t wait to see what kind of women Kuching has!”
Ueda rolled his eyes, but knew a night, or at least an evening on the town was inevitable. "Come on Matsuyama," he said to Osamu, "You can tell me all about Maki's kill and I will tell you all about the your brothers solmen vows of chastity made all the way down here."
The small group of naval avaiators and crew made their way out for their first foray into Kuching.
430 miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii, aboard CV Hiryu.
Smoke hung over the briefing room and the pilots, commanders of the squadrons above Hiryu and their select CPOs, variously scribbled on their pads, sipped down think Navy coffee or studied Captain Kaku. Finally CPO Junichiro Matsuyama spoke up. “How bad is it, sir?”
The captain cleared his throat. “So far, not bad at all. The Americans interrupted the our landings at New Ireland, and have sunk a destroyer and transport and heavily damaged some other ships. Its not what they have done so far that warrants concern. It’s the situation. At least two American carriers are around Rabaul. We assumed that after the loss of their battleships and the other carrier they would mostly withdraw and regroup. We have invasions going on all over the area, from west New Guinea all the way down to some forgotten island named “Espiritu something-or-other”. They are mostly without aircover.”
Lt. Mori, commander of Junichiro’s Zero-sen squadron looked up from his pad. “Where is the Ryujo? Or the Junyo?”
The captain pointed to the wall map of the Pacific. “They are engaged in chasing down the fleets escaping the Philippines. And even if they were closer they wouldn’t help that much. They are too small. The American’s can’t truly go on the offensive, but they could sink a lot of ships. We need to get there in a hurry, and hopefully without being noticed. Only the cruiser and battleship scout planes will go up and we will make our best speed for the Coral Sea.” He stopped, looked at Junichiro. “If we get their fast enough, we may get the victory you think we need. If we can sink those two carriers, the American’s will be truly impotent. They would have to sue for peace. At least that’s what the admirals think.”
Junichiro weighed the thought in his mind. Just two days before in his journal he had written about the need to use the combined fleet in decisive action. Now, seemingly the opportunity presented himself. Would the Americans sue for peace if deprived of these two carriers? It was, he was sure, Japan’s only chance at victory. Yet, somewhere inside he doubted that American would give up that soon. He remembered driving across America’s seemingly endless highways years before with his family…
He pushed the defeatist thoughts from his mind. He could only do his best. He scanned the room looking at the others and with a smile he didn’t feel proclaimed, “Sir, in the Coral Sea we will end this war. Tell the Army to take their time with Singapore, America will soon be out of the war.”
< Message edited by Vetamur -- 5/7/2007 5:16:40 PM >