Everyone began arriving at my place just after 9:30 AM and we spent a little while catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning. After that we split up into the sides with Mark, David S, Arthur, and Paul taking the Japanese while Dale, Scott, Kevin, Dave C, and Charlie taking the Americans. Each side got their briefing and began planning their actions.
|The US Navy players|
|Japanese Navy players|
The Japanese had three main naval groups – a battleship group with three older battleships and a light carrier, a cruiser group with three heavy cruisers, and a resupply group (made up of a seaplane tender, heavy cruiser, light cruiser, and escorting destroyers) for the island of Kiska. The resupply group was trying to from some A6M2-N ‘Rufe’ and F1M ‘Pete’ floatplanes to the island and historically turned back for port when word got out about the American invasion of Attu. The Japanese also had some supporting bombers and search planes back at Paramushiro (off the west edge of the map). The Japanese had an optional resupply group with a light cruiser and some destroyer transports that could enter on the second day to take supplies to Attu or Kiska, getting the supplies through would give victory points and the Japanese chose to take the group and planned to send it to Attu.
The map below shows the basic starting positions for the starting forces on May 15. The game would run until May 20, but I think everyone expected it to be over before then.
|Operational map with starting positions|
|American planning session|
|Japanese planning session|
In the afternoon the Americans sent their southern heavy cruiser group toward Kiska to watch for the Japanese cruisers reported in the area, while the light cruiser group operating southwest of Attu turned to stay close to the island. The Japanese spilt their light carrier off from the battleships so it could launch an air strike while the battleships moved south of Attu. The air strike caught the American light cruiser group southwest of Attu. Nine B5N ‘Kate’ torpedo bombers attacked the four cruisers (one Cleveland class and three old Omaha class) heavily damaging the new Cleveland class and sinking an escorting destroyer.
In the east, the Japanese split the Kiska group sending the seaplane tender on toward Kiska, while the other ships turned to rendezvous with the battleship group. (On a side note, the seaplane tender would be sunk by an American submarine shortly after arriving at Kiska.) Late in the afternoon, the American heavy cruiser group picked up contacts on their radar, launched their floatplanes, and turned toward the contacts; setting us up for the Battle of Kiska.
Japanese forces consisted of the heavy cruiser Maya, the light cruiser Kiso and three destroyers.
|Japanese ships for the Battle of Kiska|
|American ships for the Battle of Kiska|
|Japanese turn and launch torpedoes with the burning Kiso at the end of the line|
As night fell and we started the second campaign day, the Japanese moved their cruiser and battleship groups together and headed for Attu. The Americans moved their battleships to meet up with the remnants of the cruiser groups and headed west of Attu, leaving on the escort carrier and several destroyers at Attu, but hoping to stop any Japanese force before it could reach the island.
Around 0500, the American met up with the Japanese west-southwest of Attu. Both sides spotted each other at about the same time (thanks to US radar), so neither side was surprised at the start of the Battle of Attu. Both sides set slowly converging courses toward Attu. The Japanese were looking to get into position to shell the American beachhead in the morning, while the Americans wanted to block the Japanese.
|Getting the US ships ready for the Battle of Attu|
|The Japanese battleships and escorts|
|Fuso lighting up the night|
|Japanese taking their torpedo shots|
|US light forces maneuvering to keep the Japanese destroyers away|
|The chaos of battle as the Japanese fail their morale roll|
Putting this into a historical context; Attu would still fall, both sides would have lots of ships to repair (although only the Americans had the shipyard capacity to really do it), and the timetable for the Kiska invasion would be thrown off a little (still allowing the Japanese to evacuate the island before the actual invasion). The Japanese battleship Mutsu would still blow up in port in June (only now it would be blamed on poor ammunition handling after reloading from the Battle of Attu instead of sabotage) and, due to damage sustained at the battle, Yamashiro would miss being sunk at Surigao Strait only to be sunk by American bombers near the end of the war. The American battleships Pennsylvania and Nevada would stay in the yards the next few months, delaying their participation in some campaigns, but still end up being sunk during the A-Bomb tests after the war.
Overall, I think everyone had an enjoyable time with the game. There were enough decisions to keep the players involved in the game and the two battles were interesting. The onus was on the Japanese to force the action and they did. The Americans could be more passive, but still needed to have a solid idea of how to react to Japanese moves.
From a referee point of view, most things moved along pretty smoothly. I was happy that we got in two battles and two air strikes (although I was hoping for more of those), which wasn’t too bad for a one-armed referee. I do need to figure out better ways to handle decisions and record keeping for aircraft for future games (I think this task was tough for the Americans), while still letting players feel they have control of those assets. On another note, the photographer for the day (my lovely wife) asked that we use larger ships in the future so she can get better pictures.