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Pacific Theatre Via Midway» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Eastern Solomons rss

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Paul Owen
United States
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About a month ago, my serial Midway opponent Frank H. and I got together for another scenario from the Alan R. Moon variant, "Pacific Theatre via Midway." We returned to the Coral Sea, this time to fight the "Battle of the Eastern Solomons."

Gili-gili, New Guinea. NASA image. Public domain.

Frank, as the Japanese player, had the goal of invading Gili-Gili (on the eastern end of New Guinea) and Guadalcanal (further east among the Solomon Islands), each of which would earn him ten points. As the American, I had the goal of sinking all five of his transports (APs) before he landed any troops, a feat that would earn me ten points. Otherwise, we could both earn points by sinking ships and shooting down airplanes.

Coastal watchers reported that the Japanese fleet departed Rabaul early on the morning of 24 August 1942. In addition to five transports, the Imperial task force included two major carriers (Shokaku and Zuikaku), two smaller carriers (CVLs), three battleships (BBs), an astounding 13 heavy cruisers (CAs), and five light cruisers (CLs). From east of Guadalcanal, I headed west at flank speed to intercept the invasion force with my U.S. fleet of three carriers (Enterprise, Saratoga, and Wasp), one battleship (North Carolina), five heavy cruisers, and two light cruisers. Timed properly, I could make one carrier strike on the invasion force before nightfall.

I started with B-17s from Australia and Port Moresby in the morning. The Japanese fleet arrived at Gili-Gili at 1300 and began the invasion. At 1500, the U.S. fleet was close enough to send all aircraft to attack the invasion fleet and then fly on to Port Moresby to refuel and re-arm. Meanwhile, an overwhelming number of F4F Wildcat fighters arrived from Port Moresby to escort the strike force and interdict any defending combat air patrol (CAP); those fighters would fly on to land on the carriers and exchange places with the carrier strike force. There was no way, however, that all the B-17s, Dauntlesses, and Avengers in the Coral Sea were going to sink five heavily-escorted Japanese APs. Gili-Gili fell to the imperial invasion that afternoon.

U.S.S. Wasp, Saratoga, and Enterprise south of Guadalcanal
USN photo. Public domain

Now it was time for the Japanese fleet to cross the sea, however, and try to take Guadalcanal. Now Frank would have to sail his fleet into the teeth of the American carriers and under the superior numbers of U.S. fighters. From dusk until dawn of the next morning, he made half the transit peacefully. At daybreak, PBY Catalinas spotted the Japanese force about 40 nm southwest of New Georgia, making its way down the western side of the Solomons chain toward Guadalcanal. The U.S. carriers sortied one strike at 0500, and then a second at 0900, just as the Japanese arrived off the shore of Guadalcanal. When the smoke had cleared, there was not a single loaded transport left of Japanese troops with which to invade Guadalcanal.

The rest of the battle consisted of the Japanese retreating northwest up the Solomon Island chain under cover of aircraft based in Shortkimal and Buka while the Americans conducted two more strikes to further decimate the Imperial fleet. By nightfall of the 25th, it was all over.

Although the Japanese had conducted several attacks on the American fleet and come very close to sinking the Wasp, no American ships were sunk. Many planes were shot down, however. The Japanese fleet, on the other hand, suffered significant casualties - one small carrier, two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and all five transports were on the bottom of the Coral Sea after two days of fighting. The final score broke out as follows:

Frank H., IJN
38 2/3 Aircraft
10 Landing AP at Gili-Gili
48 2/3 Total

Paul O., USN
20 1/3 Aircraft
7 CVL Ryujo
3 CA Suzuya
3 CA Kumano
2 CL Nagara
2 CL Tatsuta
2 CL Tenryu
4 AP-1 (loaded)
4 AP-2 (loaded)
1 AP-3 (unloaded)
4 AP-4 (loaded)
4 AP-5 (loaded)
56 1/3 Total

So, despite having sunk so many ships, my victory was by a relatively narrow margin, owing to the successful invasion of Gili-Gili and the tremendous disparity in aircraft losses.
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