Well, there sure was something bloody wrong with the USN ships that day... this is gonna be long, but let's go into details:
I decided to play the "historical?" scenario as the Japanese. Just to be clear - I have just recenty came to play CAW and I have never played the Tarawa scenario before.
I thought that the Japanese side would be the harder side to play, I'm a veteran player of the original CAW1 and CAW2 and I imagined that the Tarawa would be a slightly easier version of the Philipine Sea scenario so to speak - the US having numerical superiorty in planes and carriers, better pilots, good CAP and superior AA capability of their ships.
It turned out that at leats the last 3 parts turned out not to be so.
I started the game by reloccating all the planes from the west to the Marshall islands, mostly to Jaluit and Wotje. Seeing that the scenario is quite long, I decided not to rush my naval forces and wait for a good weather opportunity - ie sunny weather near Tarawa where the main ennemy force would lie and bad weather around the Marshall Islands - from where I planned to strike.
I kept my naval force safely north of Eniwetok - well beyond the ennemy range. Then on the first day I launched an all-out strike with all my land-based airforce from the Marshalls. I directed it at the nearest located US carrier group. I didn't expect any great sucess, except mayby one damaged carrier or a sunk CA. I was mostly hoping to engage one of the ennemy carriers group's fighters on CAP and soften it up for an eventual attack with my carrier based aircraft.
I was actually expecting to lose some 50% of my land based aicraft in this attack, due to ennemy CAP and AA fire from the ships, but I deemed that an unavoidable price - I was expecting the US to bomb the Marshall islands on this or the next day, therefore I'd rather see my planes go down in the air taking some of the ennemy with them, rather than to see them blown to bits on the ground.
To my suprise, not only did the vast majority of the bombers got through the US CAP, but they managed to strike an ennemy carrier force. To my even greater suprise, the land-based torpedo bombers scored several hits on the Essex and the Independence (later turned out the Essex was sunk and the independence badly damaged).
At this time, the US was mostly busy bombing Tarawa and Rabaul - both empty with none of my planes left tehre, so that didn't bother me. What bothered me most was the possibility that the ennemy would send a strong task force of heavy carriers to strike at my fleet. Therefore, that night I cautiously placed my navy a bit south of Eniwetok, with its maximum plane range barely extending to the north of Tarawa. I then placed 75% of my fighters on CAP. I wanted to see if the ennemy recon planes will spot it, and if yes then will the ennemy risk an attack with unescorted bombers.
It turned out that my naval force was not detected at all. On day tywo I again launched my land based planes against another ennemy carrier group. This time I had even more luck - the ennemy was caught in a "Midway momet" - their planes sitting on the flattops. To my astonishment, my land-based crews scored multipel hits on the USS Yorktown, Lexington, Cowpens and on several smaller units. A second group of planes attacked a US escort carrir group, scoring a few hits on the flattops.
The positive result of the attack made me bold enough to launch my carrier based bombers (with the target on the edge of their maximum range) and couple that attack with another combined strike from my land-based forces. The target was the already damaged escort carrier group.
This time however, the ennemy moved up a battleship group between the incoming airstrike and the target group, that diverted some of my planes from their original target. This attack proved costly - a lot of planes, especially carrier-based double engine bombers, were destroyed by ennemy CAP and AA fire. This did not stop the attacking force, that scored several hits on the US BBs and CVEs, but I didn't get any confirmed sunk ennemy vessels.
This made me decide on a more bold move - getting near with my naval force and attempting a "just before dusk" strike with my torpedo and die bonbers with some fighter cover. This proved a good idea - by the end of the day at least 2 escort carriers (Anzio and Liscombe Bay) and one Battleship (Washington) were confirmed sunk, while several other large units took hits. The ennemy never launched a strike against my carriers, I don't think they even managed to locate them.
With heavy lossess to the attacking air groups, and damage done tpo the ennemy, I decided that I shouldn't push my luck and the following night I gave all my ships orders to retreat to Truk.
The next few days I launched a few land-based aircraft strikes, but aside from sinking a CA, CL and getting a few hit son the US battleships, i scored no major targets, atthe same time taking lossess. At the end of the day I relocate dmuch of my land-based planes to more distant airfields - Nauru, Truk and Eniwetok, and decided to wait the rest of the scenario out.
The US invaded Tarawa, and bombed the empty Rabaul again two times, but taht was it.
In the end, it turned out I managed to score a mjaor victory - I sunk 4 large carriers, one light carrier, 3 escort carriers, 2 battleships, 1 heavy and one light crusier and two destroyers. All the while, not losing a single ship of my own. I lost about 350+ planes, while the ennemy lost some 450+ planes. The US also sored points for invading Tarawa.
The victory, suprisingly, came too easy. The US carriers were fragmented into small 3 carrier groups and often ventured out of range of other US carrier groups so I was able to strike them piecemal one by one. The Japanese land-based bombers proved very effective - they were responsible for the majority of hits. The US never attempted to bomb the Marshall islands where all my planes were based. Instead, they were happy to bomb empty airstrips on Tarawa and Rabaul. The UN Navy never attempted to strike at my naval force, I am not even sure they managed to even spot it.
1) Overall, the senario seems too easy for the Japanese, as from other AAR I read here, I am not the only one who scored a crushing victory as the Japanese.
2) I think the quality of the Japanese land-based airgroups should be reduced, as they did not perform even 20% as well in history as they do in this scenario.
3) I think that, since this is a speculatie scenario featuring a sortie by the Imperial Navy, the heavy US Carriers of TG 50 groups should operate togeather and actively seek out the ennemy. (like they did in real life at the Philipine Sea in a similar Japanese sortie situation). They could also bomb the individual Marshall island airfields too. I'm not yet too familiar with the AI orders so I'm not sure how to acheive this.
Historical background comment:
If this happened in reality, I could only imagine the backlash of the US popular opinion. Even after the real battle of Tarawa, the casualities of the marines made a lot of people question the need to take Tarawa and criticize Nimitz. If in addition to the bloody toll of the marines, Nimitz would also lose 8 carriers and two battleships - I can only imagine taht he would be relieved of command and the "McArthur" option of driving to Japan via Biak, Philipines and Taiwan would be the only7 politiclally acceptable option left. The Marianas, Marshall islands or Iwo Jima would never have been invaded.
I hope you liked my AAR. I think I'm gonna go back to CAW now taht I found out that the MegaMod was released.
< Message edited by Ardashir -- 9/19/2010 12:33:52 AM >