From: NYer living in Boise, ID
Dec 44 Summary
Another month with quite a few surprises! Having the entire KB sortie to raid Pearl on 7 Dec was something totally unexpected, and catching it before it reached home waters was also pretty surprising. Continued progress on the land front in Asia, but not much in terms of gaining forward ground elsewhere in the Pacific, but instead securing LOCs and building up of existing bases. The Strat Bombing campaign continued throughout the month with good success, although remaining largely a nocturnal effort which limits friendly losses but also bombing effectiveness. Naval losses for the month were solidly in the Allies favor; the IJN reportedly lost 3CV, CVL, 2CS, 6DD, SSX and 7ML, compared to the Allies losing a DD and 2DEs on the warship side, but also the KB raid cost 5APA, 2AP, 5TK, 11xAK, and two medium xAPs. Not insignificant losses, but not probably not worth the cost of the KB either. In the air, losses were expensive to both sides: 1670 for Jpn to 960 Allied for the month’s tallies.
INTEL: While I figured another carrier raid was likely, especially after a sub sighted the Shokaku and an AO in north Pacific waters. Once sighted, I figured Shokaku was heading back to port. So, I never expected the full KB to venture all the way to Pearl, and do so pretty much undetected! I also didn’t expect the KB to put all its planes ashore before the Allied Fleet closed in. The continued withdrawal to consolidate lines in China has also been a welcome surprise. As expected, the daylight air campaign over Kyushu has been challenging, and I am continued to be surprised at the numbers and qualities of airframes being engaged; although supplies must be short, there is no apparent effect for the fighter force, and I fully expect that to continue. The real question going forward is, “what’s left in the tank?” Enough for another major counterstroke, or just limited nuisance raids? I gotta figure at least enough for another major “all in” effort, just a question of what will trigger it.
Strategic Bombing Campaign: A pretty good month with seven major B-29 raids at night, two B-24 daylight raids and two small raids against Tsu and Fushun. B-24s hit Kagoshima twice with mixed results while the primary B-29 raids hit Nagoya three times, Fukuoka twice while Hiroshima and Hamamtsu were hit once each. Opposition has been mixed, with some cities such as Hiroshima and Nagoya being heavily protected by CAP while minimal CAP on other raids. Flak remains a threat, although effectiveness also has varied. Bombing results have also been mixed, depending mostly on weather than opposition. All told, strategic bombing netted over 2700 strategic VPs, bringing the total to 12,172. I’ll take that. January will see more of a mix of daylight and night raids, at least depending on the success (or failure) on the daylight raid against Matsuyama. Will also look to expand the B-24s in the strategic bombing campaign, both against targets in mainland Asia and targets in range in Japan. Tokyo remains a goal again since weather prohibited any strikes in Dec. The greatest challenge will be limiting bomber losses and building up the B-29 pools to facilitate the squadrons expanding to 15 planes.
SUBWAR: Subs continue to disappoint, although they did well against the withdrawing KB. However, using subs as a “trip wire” to guard against another carrier raid was a major failure. The occasional merchant victim is becoming rarer and rarer as few sea lanes remain an option for Japan. Allied subs will continue to deploy around Japan, but now largely to serve as warning to any remaining IJN sortie. Japanese ASW continues to remain dangerous, although less and less ASW TFs are venturing outside of local home waters and ASW aircraft seem to be less numerous as well.
West Coast/USA/Rear Areas: Fighter production increases to 1479 in Jan as the British begin receiving the Corsair II. Pilot pools are in pretty good shape, but are still short for US bomber pilots for the bomber squadrons expanding in Feb. I’m now “graduating” bomber pilots from training with experience at 45….may reduce that to 43 to garner more pilots as long as ground bombing experience remains over 60. By spreading these nuggets out across the bomber squadrons, especially in low threat areas (China for example), this may be viable and get the squadrons to max out planes. While I should have sufficient airframes for most bomber types, the B-29 expansion is going to be limited by airframes. The 40 a month is enough to sustain losses, but not expanding each squadron by 5 planes. Will likely wind up disbanding additional B-29 squadrons and groups for 120 days to garner the additional aircraft.
NOPAC. While the KB visited enroute back to the Home Islands, damage was limited to coastal shipping off Dutch Harbor and Adak. And truthfully, this northern detour to hit the Aleutians gave the Allied Fleet the time needed to intercept. I expect the Aleutians to be quiet, with limited reinforcements flowing in to support the upcoming operations against the Kuriles.
CENPAC. Another carrier raid managed to disrupt both the Hokkaido troop and shipping buildup in Hawaii and shipping overall. Fortunately, nothing critical was lost, probably the worst losses were the 5 APAs; each APA is important at this point. Amazingly, no troop units or loaded a/c were lost in any of the merchants or transports sunk. Still, having the KB at sea and being able to hunt it down with the Fleet was a better than expected outcome. The bulk of troops earmarked for the landings at Hokkaido and western Kuriles have arrived in Hawaii, and now the fine tuning of organizing the amphibious begins in earnest. A few support troops still need to be brought to Hawaii from western Pacific bases, but all the combat troops are set, and pretty much fully prepped. Gathering and configuring enough assault transports will continue throughout the month, but the goal is to have the Kurile packages set by month’s end - still determining if the Kuriles and Hokkaido can be executed simultaneously, based on lift avail. Shooting for a late Feb target date to begin operations and setting sail out of the Hawaiian Islands - troops will be ready, but will need to bring back the Fleet and the CVEs which will take some time as well.
SOPAC. Well, the much needed rest for the Fleet didn’t happen as they spent most of the month chasing down the KB to the final conclusion in the frigid Sea of Okhotsk. Fortunately, with the Fleet otherwise occupied, SOPAC was able to continue support to SWPAC troops securing remaining objectives in the Ryukyu chain. The Fleet still needs some rest for repairs and reconfiguring deck loads, so it will require some time in Naga - or perhaps some will need yard time at Manila. In either case, the Fleet will likely not be able to sortie till mid Jan, so the upcoming landings off the SW coast of Kyushu will have to rely solely on CVEs and LRCAP for air support. That’s a risk I’m willing to take with the KB out of the picture. 30 or so CVEs with 600 or so fighters augmented by solid LRCAP should be able to provide enough CAP against a massed Kamikaze attack. I think I’ve said “should be” before. I do want the Fleet out to support the SE Asia landings at Saishu To however.
SWPAC. Tokunoshima, Okinoerabushima and Ishagaki were all secured without any major issues or losses, and those AFs are well into providing forward bases for Kyushu fighter sweeps. While the initial fighter sweeps over Kyushu were successful, L_S_T’s pull back to Nagasaki doomed the sustained effort - too many losses for too little gain. Focus now shifts to landings off the SW coast of Kyushu, with max effort by both air and ground elements. Bombers of V Bomber Command will also start participating more in the Strat bombing campaign as feasible. With Formosa and the majority of the Ryukyus secured, a good part of SWPAC available ground troops are now planning for landings on Kyushu.
China. The slow advance east continued as the IJA main body pulled back, delaying with primarily second line troops. Was surprised to be able to take Changsa in the center and Kienko in the north. As troops continue to move east, much combat power is still struggling to catch up as the front pushes further east. Will continue to press east as the situation permits, perhaps Wuchang is in reach now. With supply in China now at 1.2 million and climbing, the challenge is getting enough forward to support troop concentrations, especially in the NE. Will look to resume the air bridge, but instead of from India into China, it will now focus on coastal SE Asia supply hubs to the Chinese hinterland.
SE Asia. XXXIII Corps continued its advance along the Chinese coast, securing necessary AFs quicker than expected. IJA resistance has formed up near Hangchow, and investing that base by going around to its north, and threatening Shanghai will be XXXIII Corps focus in Jan. That leaves the bulk of 14th Army to focus on operations in Korea, which will begin in January with the small III Corps landing to take Saishu To, opening the sea lanes to the Korean Peninsula. If all goes as planned, landings by the powerful IV Corps at Moppo could optimistically begin by the end of Jan. The plan has XV Corps following up behind IV Corps, as will III Corps, putting the bulk of SE Asia Command on the Korean peninsula in Feb. Meanwhile, SE Asia’s 10th Airforce’s B-24s along with British Heavies will begin to hit Strategic industry targets in January, with targets ranging from northern China to Manchuria and perhaps into Japan itself.