After Action Report - 4 Dec 1999

Attempted landing on Guadacanal

Warren Peterson

Dateline: Pacific Ocean, Near Guadacanal

The Americans managed to deliver a decisive blow to the Japanese Imperial Navy this day. A daring attack launched this afternoon from the Lexington with support from the Yorktown surprised the light carrier Shoho and its escort ships. The attack group composed of Dauntless dive-bombers and Devastator torpedo-bombers penetrated Japanese fleet defenses and delivered fatal blows to the carrier. The sinking of the Shoho, however was not without loss as an entire squadron of dive-bombers was destroyed by enemy fighters. May God bless the families of these Sons of Liberty who made the supreme sacrifice.

The Japanese however were not willing to let the Americans gain the upper hand. The Japanese Task Force Commander, smarting from the news on the loss of the Shoho, acted on the report of a missing reconnaissance plane. He would get his revenge, and decided to launch a massive counterstrike to the last known position of the missing reconnaissance plane. The strike group was composed of all available aircraft (49) from two Shokaku class carriers.

The American Task Force Commander was busy maneuvering the Lexington and recovering the earlier attack sortie, when news came from a fighter patrol that a massive Japanese strike force was inbound. This was bad news indeed. The fleet was badly out of position. Fighter cover consisted of three Wildcats being lead by a rookie Captain who had recently joined the task force from stateside. As the warning sirens blared, orders were hastily issued for all support ships to close with the Lexington. The Captain was ordered to attack the approaching enemy. Maximum effort was required if the godless hordes were to be stopped.

The three Wildcats gave a good account and downed 5 Kates and 1 Zero before being destroyed.

Their heroic actions allowed time for some repositioning of the fleet, but it was not enough. As the cloud of screaming enemy planes closed on the Lexington, the fleet's AA guns opened fire. The curtain of steel that was thrown up was intense. Every gunner knew the stakes. Failure was death.

Enemy planes began their bombing runs and several were cut to pieces by the AA fire. Others failed to release their deadly cargo at the proper moment and missed. For some the AA fire was too intense and they retired. Luck however was not completely with the Americans as several dive-bombers scored hits on the Lexington. Damage control crews fought valiantly to control the fires and keep the ship afloat, but it was not enough. The AA guns were destroyed, fires raged and she was taking on water. It looked like the end.

As the last of the attacking planes turned toward home, a Kate made a final torpedo run at the Lexington. Hoping to deliver the blow that would send her to a watery grave the pilot focused on his objective and released the torpedo on target. The torpedo streaked through the water dead on target, but luck was with the Americans as the torpedo hit the Lexington and failed to detonate.
The Lexington survived!

Scenario Notes

This action was based on the and Blue Sky rules. The two sides (Japanese - Dave Harrison and Joe Shaffer; Americans - Warren Peterson and James Prior) had blank maps and were allowed to search anywhere on the map for the enemy. The Japanese had to prevent the five transports from reaching one of the islands in the Solomans - they weren't sure which was the target. They had three carrier and support vessels. The Americans rolled and as luck would have it Guadacanal was their target.

The searches turned up no results for the first four turns, then the Shoho was spotted. The Japanese players mumbled something about it being a decoy... The turn following the Lexington was spotted and the waves of IJN planes arrived.

The AA fire of the American fleet was very heavy - too heavy perhaps, as it was almost impossible for them to miss. The AA rules will be modified to give the attackers some chance, but as it was a significant number got to drop their loads.

The scenario was too ambitious for the time allocated. It would have been better with one carrier per side. All in all everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so it can be considered a successful battle.