Leo Zappa
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Axis & Allies: War at Sea

United States Navy Pacific Fleet
After Action Report 041743
To: Commander-In-Chief, Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor

The Battle of Kolombangara

US Navy Task Force 76, operating in the vicinity of the island of Kolombangara, detected Japanese naval forces in the area and moved to intercept. TF 76.1, consisting of carriers Enterprise and St. Lo, and escorted by the light cruiser Atlanta, launched strike forces at 0855, targeting Japanese surface ships located to the NE of the TF. Strike forces consisted of Enterprise’s Scout 6, Torpedo 6, and Fighter 6, and St. Lo’s Scout 63 squadrons. These forces located Japanese heavy cruiser Myoko and light cruiser Jintsu at 0943 and commenced attacks. The US aircraft were engaged by Zekes from Japanese carriers operating NE of Myoko and Jintsu. The Zekes shot down the Devastators of Torpedo 6 to the last plane, but SBD’s from Enterprise and St. Lo got through unscathed. Myoko was targeted and hit by multiple 500-pound bombs. Myoko was observed to explode and sink at 0952.

At the same as US aircraft were commencing their attacks, Japanese divebombers and torpedo bombers from the IJN carriers Shokaku and Akagi located and attacked the escort carrier USS St. Lo. The St. Lo threw up an intense curtain of AA fire, which turned back at least one squadron of divebombers, but another group of Vals was able to execute their attack successfully, and the St. Lo was sunk at 1005 after taking at least four direct hits.

As these air attacks were unfolding, a USN Catalina also detected and attacked a Japanese submarine operating SE of Myoko and Jintsu. The Catalina confirmed scoring at least one hit on the sub, but it was still afloat when the Catalina had to break off the attack.

As these airstrikes were underway, TF 76.2, consisting of BB Washington, CA Baltimore, DD Fletcher, and DD Hoel, steamed due east to seek out and engage suspected Japanese surface forces. US submarine Barb was on patrol north of TF 76.2 but did not detect any Japanese vessels. TF 76.2 was followed by a USN transport bearing vital supplies for Marine forces on Kolombangara.

Enterprise recovered all aircraft by 1104 and commenced to rearm and launch her squadrons for a second sortie against Japanese targets. This time, Enterprise’s planes caught the Japanese CL Jintsu in the open and proceeded to attack, with positive results, as Jintsu was smothered under multiple 500 pound bomb hits and sunk at around 1152. While this was transpiring, another Navy Catalina located the Japanese sub, now identified as I-19, which had been previously damaged by the earlier Catalina. This Catalina proceeded to attack the I-19 and finished the sub off at 1201.

The Japanese meanwhile had also recovered their aircraft and had launched a second wave of attacks, this time against the Washington and Fletcher. Wildcats from Enterprise aided in the defense of TF 76.2 and while the Japanese attackers were unable to penetrate the Washington’s AA screen, a lone Val did score a single hit on the Fletcher, damaging her severely.

At 1314, TF 76.2 made contact with Japanese surface forces, identified as the battlecruiser Kongo and destroyer Yukikaze. Washington opened fire at a range of approximately 15,000 yards, targeting Kongo. Kongo likewise opened fire at Washington. At 1325, a salvo of 16-inch shells from Washington struck the Kongo amidships. A tremendous explosion was observed, and the Kongo broke in half and sank immediately. Meanwhile, the Fletcher engaged and destroyed the Yukikaze by gunfire. Japanese fire had been nearly as effective, as a 14-inch shell from Kongo penetrated the Washington’s deck armor, and only the action of a quick-thinking petty officer slamming the magazine hatch shut saved the Washington from the same fate as Kongo.

Japanese surface forces had been badly battered by this point, having suffered the loss of one battlecruiser, two cruisers, and a destroyer while not having yet sunk a single USN ship (other than the St. Lo, sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft). However, the IJN still had two fleet carriers and their complete air complements available. At 1409, Japanese aircraft attacked TF 76.2 once again. This time, the cruiser Baltimore suffered minor damage from one bomb hit, while the rest of the Japanese attackers were driven off. Enterprise launched its own aircraft for another strike against the Japanese fleet, this time locating the IJN’s First Carrier Division, consisting of the Akagi and Shokaku, both Pearl Harbor veterans. Dauntlesses from Scout 6 dove on the Shokaku, scoring two 500-pound bomb hits. The Shokaku was seen to be on fire, but maneuvering under her own power at around 1511, when the US aircraft departed to return to the Enterprise.

This concluded the Battle for Kolombangara, as Admiral Brooksimoto ordered remaining Japanese forces to retire from the area, conceding control of the strategic waters on Kolombangara to USN elements. Total casualties for both sides were reported as:

USN:
Lost:
- Carrier: USS St. Lo
- 14 Devastators, Torpedo 6
Damaged:
- USS Washington
- USS Baltimore
- USS Fletcher

IJN:
Lost:
- Battlecruiser: Kongo
- Heavy Cruiser: Myoko
- Light Cruiser: Jintsu
- Destroyer: Yukikaze
- Submarine: I-19
Damaged:
- Carrier: Shokaku

This concludes my after-action report of April 17, 1943.

Signed,
Admiral L. Zappa, USN, Commander Task Force 76

This report is based on 200 point fleets for each player, and battle map #5. At the end of the third turn, the Japanese player, trailing 153 to 19, and seeing that US surface forces would be claiming the last two objective counters, conceded the game. This was our first playing of the game, and we both had a great deal of fun. The main turning point was the exchange between the Washington and Kongo. I scored 12 successes with the Washington, exactly that needed to defeat Kongo's vital armor, while Dan scored 13 successes with Kongo, one less than he needed to destroy the Washington. Had this result been reversed, the game would have potentially turned out quite differently!
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Steve Malczak
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Great AAR! Very enjoyable to read.

And yes, Kongo has to be very careful about getting too close to enemy battleships. That Vital Armor of 12 is very weak and just begs to be hit.
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E Butler
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Great AAR!
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