December 7th 1941 – And Manila it was
On the morning of the seventh of December, Japanese bombers from Formosa and carrier based planes raided the American airbase in Clark Field and attacked the Asiatic Fleet in Manila. Four submarines, a mine sweeper, two small crafts, and two Philippine cargos were sunk. Two destroyers, a dozen submarines, and about twenty cargos and tenders were damaged. Japanese troops reportedly landed on the northern coast of Luzon, in Appari and Laoag, and in the southern Philippines, in Cagayan, Zamboanga, and Jolo. In Malaysia, the British base in Georgetown was raided, and Japanese troops landed in Kota Baru.
There were no further raids in the afternoon, and in retrospect, the damage was much less than what it could have been had the Japanese picked a more ambitious target (Hawaii, say). Overall, it was more a day of disrespect than infamy. But it means war anyway, so here we go.
I tend to be lucky with my seventh of December. Of the twenty seven submarines that begin the war in Manila, four were sunk outright, and eight are too damaged to consider evacuation. Eight other escaped unscathed, and seven are limping towards Surabaya. In the end, I will probably save half of them. The rest of the Asiatic Fleet is trapped in port, and probably doomed. I concentrated all the fighters I could muster in Manila, to try to get a few Japanese pilots in exchange.
The raid on Clark was not very successful either. One B-17 and a handful of P-40 were destroyed on the ground. The attack on Clark and Cagayan (invaded on day one) seems to prove that my opponent has a healthy respect for my 4E bombers. In my previous game, I used them in China. The two squadrons from Cagayan were bought and sent to China at one. Those in Clark Field, too damaged to fly, were disbanded.
Whereas all Japanese fleet carriers seem to have been committed to the raid against Luzon, mini-KB is nowhere to be seen, and there were no attacks or invasions in the Celebes or in the Pacific. This could mean a second operation is underway, in a different theater.
But anyway, Kido Butai is in the South China Sea, which means several things. First, there is little I can do against a quick series of landings in Mersing, Singkawang and Palembang. In my previous game, I had kept my surface forces around Borneo, and managed to catch a couple of landing parties. This is not feasible once KB is around (all the more as it could split, half of it covering the Sumatra invasion, the rest the operations in the Celebes). I am still keeping my Royal navies (Dutch and British) around, just in case, but it is likely that a full scale evacuation (also known as a Sir Robin) will have to happen soon.
On the other hand, the longer KB remains in the East Indies, the more opportunities I have to derail advances in other theaters, or build up reserves for an earlier reconquest. No attack on Pearl Harbor means I get to keep the ships and planes that are usually destroyed there. And extricating my Dutch and British navies means I end up with large assets for operations in mid to late 1942.
It is still too early to tell, but I am seriously contemplating a “wise Sir Robin”, a strategy where an early retreat in the Indies would allow for an earlier buildup, and advance somewhere else, a gambit, in chess parlance.
But right now I need to know more about enemy intent, and the first was sent back with fairly conservative orders. In Malaysia and Luzon I am retreating, towards Singapore and Manila. The Asiatic Fleet has a decent CAP, and an early landing in Mersing should be greeted by torpedoes, and two Australian brigades in a few days. Elsewhere, US squadrons are now training, bases are building. I have not given order to the Dutch and Indians: I am still waiting for more information about mini-KB and KB whereabouts.
In China, I am trying to improve on the defense which served me well in the previous game. I am not attacking at all, to conserve supplies. Industry repairs have been stopped, for the same reason, and all units in clear terrain are running to the nearest hill or wood. I am shooting for a fairly large perimeter, including Sian, Chuhsien, Kukong and Kweilin, and a first line of resistance from Tuyun to Changsha, to Ankang, Sian and Lanchow. The idea is to keep Japan busy chasing and besieging units along the coast and in the hinterland while others are slowly building forts in the woods.
That’s pretty much all, I’m afraid. The war in on, I’m waiting for the onslaught, considering my options.