STOP THE PRESSES. MAJOR LAND/AIR/SEA BATTLE IN THE BISMARK SEA!!!
On or about May 15, 1942, several Japanese task forces left Truk with the mission of retaking Manus.
On or about May 15, 1942 several Allied task forces left Brisbane with the mission of invading Wewak.
The result? A swirling chaotic massive battle in the bismark sea.
The IJN struck first with massive bombardments of the allied garrison on Manus by two BB/CA task forces that destroyed most of the airfield on the island and left the land forces reeling. At the same time, the KB launced a wave of planes at Rabaul but suffered some significant attriton from the fighter defenses there. The KB then retired to north of Manus and pounded the island while Japanese transports unloaded their cargos over the beaches. Met with only desultory return fire, the Japanese soon had a number units on shore.
The morning of the 21st, however, the Japanese APs unloading at Manus were surprised to see American carrier planes scouting them out from overhead. Within an hour, many of the APs were buring hulks on the shore while the KB, out of range of American ships to the north of Manus had to be content with bombing the ground forces during the day. THat night, the American, who had redirected the Wewak invasion force to Rabaul, had to decide what to do with his carrier task force. Although tempted to run and pocket the APs he had sunk, he opted to stay but to stay close to Rabual with its protective fighters.
The next day dawned and Nagumo had decided to end the war once and for all moving south east of Manus. The Japanese carrier planes struck first and ran into a wall of Allied fighters. Although most of the carrier VFs were tasked with escorting the diver bombers and torpedo planes the extra squadrons at Rabual were on 100% escort duty. In the end, the Japanese strike was greeted with 145 fighters with only 42 Zeros on escort duty. There was 50%+ attrition on the strike before it went in and then it only managed to inflict one torpedo hit on the Yorktown and one on the Lexington. Then, it was the American turn and the result was a holocaust of exploding bombs, fuel, and ammunition. By the end of the day, the Kaga, Akagi, Zuikaku and Shokaku were each reported to have taking 8 or more hits and to be on fire with heavy damage. American planes watched the Shoho go down and the other Japanese carriers were reported to be in shambles. The two Japanese torpedo hits did minor damage and both carriers were still in the fight.
That night, on the basis of the battle reports, the American carriers pushed into the Bismark sea to pick off survivors and a Japanese submarine put a torpedo into the Enterprise. The American invasion force also headed out to Wewak. The next day was anti-climatic as the Allies invaded Wewak, B-25's from Moresby bombed Manus and the American carriers did not find much to attack while the Enterprise headed back to Rabaul for repairs. The next day dawned with the American invasion of Wewak.
Now the pendulum began to swing the other way. Recon revealed a large Japanese surface force just two hexes away from the carrier task force and a large BB task force right next to Wewak where the invasion task force had just shot off most of its ammunition in support of the invasion. Frantic american airstrikes left a couple of BBs on fire but the heavy BB armor appeard to save the IJN from any serious damage. The Americans also plotted movement to attempt to keep both the carriers and the invasion APs.
That night, the American carriers made it to Rabual to refuel and restock. But, the IJN caught the invasion task force and left almost all of the APs crippled and buring on teh shores of Manus as well as obliterating some minor allied ships. Also, another Japanese submarine put a torpedo into the Yorktown.
The next day, allied forces attacked Wewak and captured the base but failed to make any headway on Manus. The remaining healthy american carriers left port towards Truk where they pounded two Japanese CAs who were left burning and dead in the water. They also found the Zuiho which appeared to have about 10 zeros on board and put 5 1000 pound bombs into her. The carriers also found and finished off two or three Japanese CLs. Over the course of the next 2 days the reduced American carrier task force hunted down some IJN destroyers, AKs, and patrol boats that had been used by the IJN to resupply their troops on Manus.
As it now stands, both sides are gasping for supply on Manus. It is clear that the IJN has taken a major hit to its carriers but only the Shoho and the Kaga are reported sunk (the absence of any IJN CAP after the carrier battle indicates that even if the ships are not sunk, they are crippled). The American losses in APs was serious as these were the big ones (20 points each on average). Also, the attrition of American BBs continued with the Idaho taking significant damage during the sea fight and an American CA going down as well.
On other fronts, the Japanese are starting to put the squeeze on China and are closing in on Changsha. For somereason the AVG refusses to take any replacements so the Japanese army airforce is having its way. The British have pushed the Japanese out of Burma inflicting a severe defeat on teh IJA at Rangoon and Pegu. But, Japan is inching closer to taking Singapore and is landing near Palembang.
Oh, and American torpedos continue to suck. :-)