From: Denver, CO
March 24th, 1942
After the last two days of non-engagements, today is a lively one in around Ceylon.
In a 'boring' night strike, 9 Hudson's bomb Jaffna, destroying one Oscar on the ground. The daybreak brings lots more action. Hurricanes sweep Jaffna and we shoot one down with no loss to our Oscars.
More interestingly, the British CV's move southwest and end up very close to our own carrier TF. Our fleet launches a strike, and initially six Kates arrive ahead of the rest. They get shot down, although the CAP is clearly very light, which should bode well for us.
A bit later, the main strike arrives - 47 A6M2, 63 Kates, and 35 Vals hit an enemy CAP of only 8 Sea Hurricanes, 8 Martlets and 1 Hurricane IIb. Our fighters make easy work of the CAP and our bombers go in unmolested. With 63 Kates it should be a bloodbath, but sadly they were not feeling it today. Still, we manage to put three torpedoes into Indomitable, 1 Torpedo into Formidable, and 1 deck penetrating bomb into Hermes. The cruiser Boise also eats one fish. DD Nizam is hit by a bomb, and three bombs on Indomitable don't penetrate, but do start 'heavy fires'.
The counterstrike launched by the Brits consists of 12 Fulmars, 8 Martlets and 27 Albacore TBs. We have 49 A6M2 on CAP and although we tear apart the fighters for no loss of our own, our Zeros totally miss the TBs! So 27 Albacores come in at four of our big carriers! Clearly the Brits are better with torpedoes than us today - while we had landed 5 torps with 63 Kates, they manage 6 hits with 27 Albacores. Ugh. Shokaku gets the worst of it with three hits, and Hiryu, Soryu and Zuikaku all take one each.
In the afternoon, Shokaku's Zeros and Vals, which relocated to Koggala (now operational) fly a strike at the British BBs still lingering at Koggala. The Vals put a couple bombs on Ramilles but it doesn't seem to do much. The rest of Shokaku's planes get some revenge and fly after the enemy carriers. 6 Zeros and 11 Vals put some bombs on Formidable and Hermes. The three bomb hits on Formidable don't penetrate, but do seem to cause some fires. The one on Hermes does penetrate however, hopefully putting the flight deck out of commission. Finally, 3 Zeros and 3 Kates hit another TF and put three torpedoes into KV Freesia. Why they can manage three hits on a little ship like that and not a big ship like Formidable is beyond me. :)
Meanwhile, our other three carriers are still flying planes, and 13 Kates and a few zeros find some transports northeast of the enemy carriers. We hit two xAK's sinking one clearly, and the other will hopefully go down with one torpedo hit.
Clouds in the afternoon seemed to shield the carriers from a better strike by our TF, or maybe we were just out of ops points. Hard to say. In any case, that battle could have gone better. On the plus side, while Indomitable appears to be burning badly, none of our ships have much in the way of fire. Shokaku has one point of fire, and the other three have zero. Shokaku is probably a goner, sitting at 80 Float damage. Even if she doesn't sink on her own, I'm sure in a day or two the area will be swarming with enemy subs and Shokaku will be lucky to go a hex a day. Still, maybe we'll get lucky. Stranger things happen (like 6 hits from 27 Albacores versus 5 from 63 Kates!) Just in case, I've dispatched two four ship ASW TFs with Mod-2 depth charge destroyers from Singapore to meet up with Shokaku. Until they arrive, the other carriers will stick around with their Vals on ASW duty. Maybe we can get some sub kills?
Tactically a British win so far - I suspect we will get Indomitable, and thankfully that is the biggest British CV in the group, but it still fields less planes than Shokaku so it isn't a favorable trade. Maybe our subs will get Formidable or Hermes, that would help even it up a bit. Even so, I think on a strategic level it isn't so bad. The Brits will not be able to easily threaten my SLOC to Ceylon for a little while yet unless they use surface ships with no aircover, which isn't a threat that would last long. Hermes and Formidable should be out at least long enough for me to take Colombo and then I'll have LBA around for them to deal with next time, freeing my carriers to focus on the Pacific.
Air losses today:
Hurricane IIb 17
Martlet II 10
Fulmar II 9
Sea Hurricane 3
B5N1 Kate 6
B5N2 Kate 5
D3A1 Val 4
A6M2 Zero 3
Ki-43-Ic Oscar 1 (ground loss)
Shokaku Sys: 34 Float: 80(64) Eng: 53(38) Fire: 1
Zuikaku Sys: 20 Float: 30(24) Eng: 13(11) Fire: 1
Soryu Sys: 1 Float: 42(36) Eng: 0(0) Fire: 0
Hiryu Sys: 11 Float: 25(21) Eng: 0(0) Fire: 0
Japanese air attacks British air attacks
The base of Dinagat near Leyte is occupied today.
16 more mines are swept at Bataan.
We try bombing the base where the enemy P-40E's are, but we don't do much damage and lose 3 Sallys for our trouble. I think I'll put them on ASW over the Bataan since there are enemy subs hanging out there.
< Message edited by Feurer Krieg -- 1/19/2014 5:57:31 PM >