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Subject: After Action Report : Surigao Lite rss

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Joe Czarnecki
United States
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The scenario: Kinkaid actually heeds his staffer's warning and
understands that Halsey has left San Bernardino unguarded. Paranoid
that Kurita will arrive at the same time as Nishimura, he decides to
split his forces, sending the minimum necessary to bottle up Surigao
while the rest prepare to defend the eastern mouth of Leyte Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Japanese have gotten their act together down south and
the forces of Nishimura and Shima have joined up.

I gave both sides a free set-up with certain restrictions. The
American admiral had his two battleships (West Virginia and
Mississippi) in the center of the Strait, with two cruisers (Boise and
Phoenix) on the right flank (west) and one cruiser (Louisville) on the
left flank (east). One division of three destroyers was headed down
each side of the slot, and one division was just ahead of Louisville
to act as an inner screen. Course was south of east for the
battleships, cruisers and reserved division of destroyers.

The Japanese came up the Strait in three columns: Shima's four
destroyers on the left (west) flank and Nishimura's four destroyers on
the right (east) flank, with Mogami, Nachi, Ashigara, Yamashiro and
Fuso in column in the center. Range from WV to Yamashiro was 25,000
yards at the start. Maximum visibility in the darkness was under
15,000 yards. The Japanese were advancing northward at 15 knots.

Things got hot fast. The Japanese accelerated as their search radars
reported contacts ahead, and the American flanking destroyers were
already flying down both sides of the slot at 36 knots. Louisville
selected Mogami, Boise the Ashigara, and Phoenix the Nachi and
commenced fire immediately. Those three lashed out at the gunflashes
the next turn, but the Americans were already on target.

Over the next six minutes the Louisville made the Mogami her "special
friend" and systematically knocked out all of the hapless cruiser's
primary and secondary guns, ignited five major fires and disabled all
helm and leehelm control with five 8" HE hits. Preoccupied with their
fires and the fact that they were careening out of control for the
shore of Dinagat Island dead ahead to the east, the Mogami's crew
failed to fire torpedoes.

Louisville paid for silencing Mogami with a single 8" AP hit delivered
by the concentrated fire of Mogami, Nachi and Ashigara. The round in
question originated from Ashigara and wrecked a quarter of
Louisville's secondary battery, although the dangerous magazine fire
was soon brought under control.

While Nachi and Ashigara teamed up with Mogami in their unsuccessful
effort to knock out the Louisville, the two Brooklyn class cruisers
did frightening execution to the two Myokos. Boise lashed Ashigara
with nine 6" AP rounds in eight minutes before one round punched
through the Japanese cruiser's belt and into her magazines, blowing
the ship to splinters shortly after it dealt the single blow to find
Louisville. Phoenix systematically silenced Nachi in the same period
with twelve 6" AP rounds that left the Japanese cruiser's main battery
out of action and two major fires burning. Like Mogami, this ship
also failed to get off torpedoes, and was fascinatingly missed by no
less than sixteen American and thirty-five Japanese torpedoes that
went boiling down her starboard side and ahead of her bow
respectively. The two American cruisers then passed behind the
American battleships, which had decided to close the range and the
cruisers ceased fire.

As the Japanese right flank destroyers led by Shigure angled to the
east to try to set up a torpedo shot, the American left flank
destroyers cut west and began to make smoke, cutting off the view of
the American battleships, and putting Louisville into blind fire
against Mogami. A fierce fire-fight erupted between the three
American destroyers and the four Japanese, and American torpedoes went
into the water. The Japanese were apparently holding theirs for
bigger game. Newcomb and R.P. Leary put five fish into the water,
each. Two of Leary's fish hit the second Japanese destroyer, Asagumo
and the TORPEX warheads vaporized her. The other three fish missed
Asagumo and instead struck Yamagumo two minutes later, vaporizing her.
Newcomb's fish missed. Shigure took gunfire that ignited two fires,
and Michishio, at the end of the line, suffered shell hits that
started a fire and lamed her machinery, limiting her speed to 13
knots. At the same time, Newcomb was hit, a fire started and two guns
knocked out. R.P. Leary was smashed with many shells; eight major
fires erupted, every gun was knocked out, both boiler rooms were hit
twice, both engine rooms were also hit and all power and propulsion
were lost, but the crew still managed to get their last five fish in
the water at the hapless Mogami. The cruiser was blundering in front
of them with a perfect 90 degree target angle, but all five fish
missed. A.W. Grant also took fire and suffered minor damage to her
machinery, lost two guns and had a pair of major fires flare up.

Leary's crew must have--understandably given the condition of their
ship--underestimated the blazing Mogami's speed, but the lamed
Michishio staggered obligingly in front of the spread and the third
Japanese destroyer in six minutes was obliterated as three American
torpedoes ripped her apart. After the last fish went in the water, so
did the R.P. Leary's crew, abandoning their immobilized, disarmed
inferno secure in the knowledge that they'd more than repaid the
Japanese for her loss. Shigure was left suddenly alone, angling to
round the end of the American smoke-screen where it hung in the nearly
windless night, while the Newcomb and Grant continued onward, seeking
bigger game for their remaining torpedoes in the center of the Strait.

The Japanese left flank destroyers fared somewhat better. Instead of
the column turn employed by the right flank, the Shiranuhi, Kisumi,
Akebono and Ushio executed a turn en echelon to the left and began
working a torpedo solution they hoped would reach the heavier American
ships. As they did this, the American left flank destroyers H.L.
Edwards, Bennion and Leutze roared past, intent on reaching the Nachi
and Ashigara, which were steering west of north, and the two Japanese
battleships moving en echelon behind them, also west of north.

As the Boise and Phoenix rapidly disposed of Ashigara and silenced
Nachi, the left flank destroyers and the secondary batteries of the
two battleships open up on the American destroyers. The lead two
destroyers were heavily punished, the Edwards so badly she could not
get her torpedoes off on time. Bennion and Leutze each put eight into
the water, but missed the fast stepping Nachi. Seeing the danger, the
Japanese battleships had swung around to an easterly course to evade
those torpedoes.

Meanwhile, the Japanese left flank destroyers put thirty five
torpedoes into the water. These missed the Nachi and the three
American right flank destroyers and ran into the center of the Strait,
where they almost hit the Robinson and Halford, before passing ahead
of the American battleships and behind the Louisville.

The Robinson, Halford and Bryant had countermarched from an easterly
course to a westerly to keep the center barred to the Japanese. They
contributed some blind gunfire to the destroyer duel in the east, then
prepared to head down the center of the Strait to get at the Japanese
battleships and Nachi. As they completed their turn, Robinson and
Halford passed through a large spread of Japanese torpedoes unharmed.

Yamashiro and Fuso initially steered west of north, but as the right
flank American destroyers bored in and launched torpedoes, they turned
east to evade them and blasted their tormentors with secondary fire
even as they exchanged main battery fire with the American
battleships. The American battleship commander initially elected to
come down the Strait, closing the range. As the Japanese swung east,
the Americans also returned to an easterly course and both sides' full
batteries joined in. WV hit Fuso four times with 16" AP, one round
going clean through the Japanese ship. MS hit Yamashiro with five 14"
AP rounds. The Japanese retaliated with Fuso striking WV with five
14" AP rounds, knocking out three boiler rooms, although the American
ship's superb damage control crews restored two to operations in
minutes making the ship still capable of 20 knots. Yamashiro hit MS
with four 14" AP that did little significant damage.

In the midst of the American battleships' barrage on the Japanese
battleships, larger columns of water erupted next to the Japanese
ships as the torpedoes the Edwards had been delayed in launching found
their marks. The Edwards had launched eight torpedoes. One missed
astern of Yamashiro, but the next two hit. Only one detonated, but it
did sufficient damage to the battleship's machinery to limit her to 15
knots. The other five torpedoes missed ahead of Yamashiro and ran on toward
Fuso. Three missed; two hit and proved proportionately as powerful as
the rounds that struck her sister ship had proven ineffective. The
hit aft was almost twice as damaging as the detonation on Yamashiro,
but the hit amidships doomed Fuso. The ship broke in half, capsized
and sank from catastrophic damage.

Edwards did not long outlast her victim. Swept by shells and with all
of her machinery out; without power or propulsion and with three guns
out and two torpedoes left, the crew went over the side to escape
seven major fires raging on board. Bennion also suffered, hit
repeatedly and with two guns and an empty torpedo mount out, and three
fires raging on board. Leutze also took a round. All the American
gunners could claim in riposte was a single shell hit on the Akebono.
However, Bennion and Leutze proceeded to loose their four remaining
torpedoes with the lamed Yamashiro dead in their sights at a 90 degree
target angle only 3000 yards distant...

And that's where we left it.

The Japanese team put up a much better fight than Nishimura and Shima
did in reality, but the Americans still won in a wild, woolly and
interesting action.

A LOT of torpedoes got shot, and at some very close ranges. The
Americans paid for that, but they got hits. The Japanese attempted to
utilize their torpedo range advantage, but did not aim as well; and
the field was so thoroughly in motion as to spoil their aim (excepting
the destroyers that unexpectedly turned into harm's way, yet escaped
unscathed). R.P. Leary's three destroyer kills with eight torpedo
hits out of ten was incredible. H.L. Edwards' four hits out of eight
on Yamashiro and Fuso was equally impressive. Late-war American
torpedoes are deadly. With their problems fixed, and carrying TORPEX
warheads, the Mk XV torpedoes are shatteringly good you can get close
enough to use them.

The last two actions we have fought have proven Japanese heavy
cruisers to have glass jaws, and they tend to have their armament
easily disabled. And they blow up nicely.

This is also the second action where the American Mk 1 16" gun has
proven it is distressingly powerful and prone to driving shells
straight through Japanese battleships as the range comes down.

A good fight and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
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