10th-15th of February 1943
A CV raid is developing on the Western seaboard of Oz. On the 12th, a sub attacked a group of AO, guarded by cruisers and DD. The next day, a small strike struck a Port Hedland convoy and sank an xAKL. Perth harbour is being evacuated for the time being, and CT fuel convoys kept in Southern Australian ports or running for maps edge.
Well, Joseph certainly worked out his problems with bombardments, on the 10th Yamashiro, Fuso, Kirishima and Hiei bombed the island. On the 11th, Yamato, Musashi, Haruna and Kongo did the same. The defenders got a days respite, after which Hyuga and Ise joined 2 BB of the first group. Then on the 14th the second group came out again... This has obviously stopped all fort building and the airfield is barely operational. I'm trying to figure out how he's organizing the runs, the Yamato and Musashi need either Rabaul to reload, or a very big AKE, but if he's using one of those it's at a level 0 port, because I've reconned everything else.
Allied counter-operations have been negligible since the sinking of Chikuma, 2x2 DD groups have raided between Munda and Guadalcanal. The first group of 2 Fletchers failed to find anything, but the second group of 2 Porters had a more lively raid. First they sank an E on ASW duty after which they ran into an amphibious group including LSD ships. Unfortunately the Japanese spotted better and the group evaded combat. They staid in the Solomons during the day for some reason, but no strikes were launched against them. The next night they tried raiding Munda, but ran into a CA/CL force which ran them off with light damage to one the DDs.
This discovery of the amphibs has left us with an interesting situation, at first I thought he was reinforcing other islands, but now it seems as if he is actively reinforcing his forces at Tassafaronga and his troops are marching on Lunga ! There is still a good-sized armada at Tassafaronga and I'm pondering whether or not to throw the remaining CVs at them ... The situations is as follows.
The CVs had left port a couple of days ago, as I was contemplating a strike against Munda. This put my CVs within a day of striking at 'Canal. This is very fortunate, as Joseph is unlikely to expect a strike tomorrow. If my CVs were at Noumea, they could've done this as well, but from Sydney or Auckland (more likely bases to refit after the Guadalcanal invasion) they would've been one or two days further away. As you can see I'm planning to put them within 6 hexes of Tassafaronga, to allow my TB to strike as well. This spot would also keep my 12 hexes from the nearest Netty base, Shortlands.
What do I fear, that this is an ambush and that CVs are hiding around Shortlands or to the North of the Solomons and are planning to spring forward to ambush my CV. Joseph must know that his amphibious ships and cruisers are good bait. The day that I am ahead of a reasonable schedule might be my saviour in that case, he'd hold back for one more day and then send his carriers to the 'Canal area so they could strike against CVs coming from whichever direction. He could sprint into the Coral Sea of course to try and catch me a day before I launch my strikes, but that seems unlikely as that'd only guard against an approach from the South and not from the East. I'm going to cast the die and launch 1 day of strikes before retreating in case this is an ambush, may a couple of cruisers pay with their lives !
Bombing against Lashio airfield runs into LRCAP, costing me a dozen heavies, ouch ...