February 19, 1942 -
My opponent sent me a little “teaser” with this turn in which he told me to watch out for his picket line. Immediately I started to think that he had caught and whacked one of the damaged BBs that was on the way back to the US West Coast. I've got three of them heading back to three different ports at this time, and though all of them are surrounded by a large number of ASW ships, one never knows when a sub will sneak through to ruin the day.
The turn started out with the usual Japanese occupation of an undefended base; this time Roxas in the Philippines. Then I breathed a sigh of relief as I found out where the Japanese sub picket line was situated – off of Exmouth on the far north-east corner of Australia. First off Japanese sub RO-33 shot four torpedoes at CL Trump but missed, and then the Dutch DDs missed at their attempt to hit the sub in return.
This didn't discourage the skipper of RO-33 because immediately afterwards the sub surfaced and attacked xAK Fairfield City. The crew on Fairfield City got off the first shot and hit RO-33 with a 4” shell, but the sub's skipper and crew remained agressive and fired back, hitting the Transport with two shells from the deck gun and eventually sinking the ship with three torpedoes. So my opponent's sub picket line worked as advertised, but this wasn't a big loss as the Fairfield City had done its job of bringing fuel to Port Hedland and so providing the fuel that the Dutch combat ships need to head back to Perth.
At this point it was the USN's turn to try a submarine surface attack as USS Nautilus attacked the unescorted Japanese transport xAK Sekiho just off of Ominato. Nautilus took advantage of its cruiser-like 6” guns to pound the Japanese Transport ship with 13 hits, leaving it burning and heavily damaged. But the skipper of the Nautilus left when he ran low on 6” shells, and never did finish off the Transport with a torpedo. So Nautilus is now on its way home to replenish its guns.
The night phase finished with a Japanese landing on the undefended island of Busuanga in the Philippines. I'm not certain why my opponent chose this particular base instead of any of the others, but it may be just a case of there being so many empty bases to capture that he has to start somewhere.
The day phase started out with a different tone as Hurricanes swept the sky over Mandalay and shot down an Oscar on LR CAP over the base. The Hurricanes had a 10 to 2 advantage in numbers. I didn't even order them to fly that attack, but I'll take the result happily. Later on in the day the B-17Es from Calcutta flew in and attacked the Japanese troops at Mandalay. This time five Oscars and two Tojos came in to defend but they were driven off by the Forts. The B-17s accomplished their mission with minor damage to themselves and returned home safely.
Japanese bombing continued at the usual places – San Jose, Makassar, and Medan – but in an interesting move a bunch of Bettys hit some of the troops at Darwin. I still had the British Buffalos back a couple of bases in case the KB did a Zero sweep of Darwin, but the KB had moved back beyond Timor and so the Bettys were unescorted. So for the next turn I've moved a British Buffalo squadron back into Darwin, just in case my opponent makes a slip and sends the bombers back in against Darwin again.
I had planned a number of air attacks in China for this turn in the hopes of slowing down the Japanese assault on Nanyang, but only one attack flew, a lone Chinese bomber squadron that attacked a small Sino-Japanese unit that is blocking the road south of Ichang. The AVG interferred with another attempted Japanese bomber attack on Chengchow, but the failure of the Chinese to attack the Japanese troops at Nanyang turned out to be very unfortuate later on.
And the Dutch flew against the transport TFs at Palembang again today. Once again large numbers of Dutch bombers and fighters flew against a handful of Oscars on CAP. Most of the Dutch bombers got through but they just couldn't hit the mark on the transport ships. Dutch losses were relatively light, but I am at a loss as to what to do with them, so I just re-set them for Search and ASW patrols.
In a somewhat surprising move the Japanese started to land at Dili late in the turn. I guess that this makes sense, because this way when my opponent invades Lautem there will be no retreat path for the Defenders and they will have to surrender.
Then the grim news continued in China as the Japanese besiegers of Nanyang did another Deliberate attack which achieved a 2:1 result and lowered the Fortifications down to Level 2. The Japanese took 955 casualties while the Chinese took 2181 casualties. I'm really kicking myself on this mess – I totally underestimated the Japanese capability to move large numbers of troops quickly. I have some relief columns that are almost at Nanyang, but I likely need two more days for them to reach it, and I don't know that I will get that time.
Stepping back to the Logistical War for a moment, a rather strange and unexpected thing occured this turn. I had noticed that a USMC VMF squadron was listed for some time as arriving on the Saratoga. The squadron was “greyed-out” for some reason. I have lots of withdrawn air groups coming back after their 60 day “vacation”, and I did withdraw all of the Marine fighter units so that I could use their planes on my CVs, but I withdrew those VMF squadrons from air bases, not from the CVs themselves.
Well, Saratoga was sitting in Bombay Harbor and this turn the VMF squadron suddenly appeared on the flight deck of the CV. The squadron was there with its pilots, but without any planes. The option to add planes was “greyed-out”, as was the option to move the squadron to the Base. So I formed the Sara into a single-ship TF and docked her. At that point I could move the VMF squadron to the Base, and once in the base I could now fill up the squadron with planes. The squadron was “expecting” Buffalos, and I have plenty of those in reserve, so I filled it up and set the unit to Training. At some point I'll bring that Fighter Unit up to the Front Lines, but I may wait until I have enough Wildcats to upgrade it first. So it was a strange occurance, but I can certainly use Fighter units in India, so I won't complain.