From: Oregon, USA
December 12, 1941 – December 13, 1941
The early days of the war continue to go well for Japan. So far my policy of holding back the transports and sending in the warships has paid off well. And I’ve had a couple of breaks go my way as well. Of course, swift and overwhelming force tends to create its own luck.
Japanese Losses: Japan has begun to lose ships, however. The first Japanese ship of the war to be lost (other than the five midgets lost at Pearl) was xAK Keiso Maru, sunk by SS Sargo in the Luzon Strait. The convoy carrying the 33rd Div. from Sasebo to Bangkok was attacked by Vildebeests out of Hong Kong. Two APs were hit by bombs and one has sunk, so the division will arrive in a bit of a reduced state. Other Japanese ships have been damaged, as will be recounted shortly.
Carnage in the DEI: on 12 December Admiral Kurita's four heavy cruisers and their escorts arrived at Brunei. There they found Thracian, Thanet, and Scout. Thracian went down in a hail of shells and torpedoes but the other two escaped until the day phase. Then, in round two, Thanet went down but not before DD Arashi took a couple of shells and some heavy damage. Scout was lightly damaged but escaped not only these encounters but also another meeting the next day.
I had wondered where those British destroyers had gotten off to. I think they were probably lurking in Brunei waiting for a Japanese invasion force.
Things turned really ugly on 13 December. A Japanese destroyer division led by CL Natori had been placed at the narrows in the center of the Makassar Strait to intercept ships fleeing south. What they found instead, just a few hours after sunrise, was a very powerful Allied force coming north, led by POW and Repulse. Included were Houston, seven light cruisers, and fourteen destroyers. The Japanese force did the intelligent thing; that is, they turned tail and ran.
Meanwhile, not far away, four Japanese battleships – Nagato, Fuso, Ise, and Hyuga – were descending on Tarakan. These ships had been dispatched from Japan at the outbreak of the war with four destroyers, all that were immediately available. Allied ships had been spotted at Tarakan the day before and the battleships sent there in hopes of picking off a ship or two.
What they found instead was a harbor packed with Allied ships. The result was carnage. Warning: the following snippet from the combat report is not suitable for small children:
Day Time Surface Combat, near Tarakan at 67,91, Range 14,000 Yards
BB Nagato, Shell hits 4
BB Fuso, Shell hits 1
BB Ise, Shell hits 1
BB Hyuga, Shell hits 3
DD Kuretake, Shell hits 1, on fire
DD Sanae, Shell hits 1, heavy fires
DD John D. Ford, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
DD Peary, Shell hits 3, and is sunk
DD Pillsbury, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
DD Pope, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
PG Isabel, Shell hits 9, and is sunk
PG Asheville, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
PG Tulsa, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
AS Holland, Shell hits 6, and is sunk
AS Otus, Shell hits 5, and is sunk
AS Canopus, Shell hits 9, and is sunk
AV Langley, Shell hits 5, and is sunk
AVD William B. Preston, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
AM Finch, Shell hits 3, and is sunk
AM Bittern, Shell hits 1, and is sunk
AM Tanager, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
AM Quail, Shell hits 10, and is sunk
AM Lark, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
AM Whippoorwill, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
AO Pecos, Shell hits 4, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
AO Trinity, Shell hits 6, and is sunk
TK Mindanao, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
xAP President Madison, Shell hits 17, and is sunk
xAP Rochambeau, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
xAKL Sagoland, Shell hits 15, and is sunk
xAKL Paz, Shell hits 3, and is sunk
TK Gertrude Kellogg, Shell hits 22, and is sunk
TK Manatawny, Shell hits 6, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
xAKL Anakan, Shell hits 2, and is sunk
xAKL Bisayas, Shell hits 5, and is sunk
xAK Capillo, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
xAKL Compagnia Filipinas, Shell hits 9, heavy fires, heavy damage
xAKL Corregidor, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
xAKL Dos Hermanos, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
xAKL Elcano, Shell hits 5, and is sunk
xAKL Escalante R, Shell hits 10, and is sunk
xAK Ethel Edwards, Shell hits 7, and is sunk
xAK Governor Wright, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
xAKL Palawan, Shell hits 9, and is sunk
xAKL Princess of Negros, Shell hits 10, and is sunk
xAKL Sarangami, Shell hits 3, and is sunk
xAK Si Kiang, Shell hits 38, and is sunk
xAKL Taurus, Shell hits 3, on fire
xAK Tantalus, Shell hits 4, and is sunk
xAK Yu Sang, Shell hits 1
xAK Ravnaas, Shell hits 17, and is sunk
Japanese Ships Reported to be Approaching!
Allied TF begins to get underway
Poor visibility due to Rain
Maximum visibility in Rain: 15,000 yards
Range closes to 17,000 yards...
Range closes to 14,000 yards...
CONTACT: Japanese lookouts spot Allied task force at 14,000 yards
CONTACT: Allied lookouts spot Japanese task force at 14,000 yards
I think the Allied plan was to collect all the refugees from the area and then escort them to safety using the most powerful force that could be gathered, one that could defeat any Japanese force likely to be encountered. Though that is just speculation on my part. At any rate things weren’t quite done going wrong for the Allies.
Zuiho (armed with torpedoes) had joined Ryujo (now armed only with bombs) in the Celebes Sea. They attacked the Allied force and did some damage: POW took two torpedoes and light cruisers Durban and Boise each took a couple of bomb hits that penetrated their deck armor.
Japanese forces, including the transports still unloading at Jolo (which was captured) have been ordered out of the area. Meanwhile, by chance, Admiral Kondo’s Southern Force is entering the western end of the Java Sea. Things could become very interesting.
Pacific: Guam has been captured. Wake was bombarded and invaded; the first attack failed at 1 to 1 odds but more Japanese troops are landing tomorrow and the base will probably fall. The coast guns there started fires aboard CL Kashima and an xAK.
Poor AM Penguin ran into one of the invasion forces heading towards Wake on 12 December; the luckless ship was sunk by the light cruisers in the escort.
Hong Kong: after a couple days of bombardment the first Japanese attack came off at 1 to 2 odds. Japanese forces will bombard for a day and then try it again.
The situation around the Makassar Strait: