New Georgia campaign July – October 1943

Started by paulr, 27 August 2023, 12:49:21 AM

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paulr

After the 6 months of hard and deadly fighting for Guadalcanal ended in February 1943 the Allies occupied the Russell Islands, northwest of Guadalcanal. Their next step towards the major Japanese base, Rabaul on New Britian was the New Georgia group.

The New Georgia campaign began on 30 June 1943. US troops carried out landings in the Kula Gulf, in the north of New Georgia, and around the Munda area on the western coast. The campaign ended on 7 October 1943 when the last Japanese, hemmed in by New Zealand troops, were evacuated from Vella Lavella, finalising the Allied capture of the islands of the New Georgia group.

This campaign focuses on the five significant naval battles that occurred as the Allies advanced through and the Japanese evacuated from the New Georgia group:

  • Kula Gulf
  • Kolombangara
  • Vella Gulf
  • Horaniu
  • Vella Lavella



We are slightly belatedly marking the 80th anniversary of this campaign by playing a five-battle narrative campaign.

We will be using 1:3,000 ships and General Quarters I/II to play each battle.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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paulr

Kula Gulf
Last weekend we played the first game of the campaign, Kula Gulf.

Sometimes a game can be so fascinating that you neglect to take pictures (or maybe the umpire just forgot)  :-[  #-o

In our game both sides suffered less casualties than historically:
   American   light cruiser Helena sunk
   Japanese   2 destroyers sunk and 2 damaged



The Japanese force was a Support Group of 3 destroyers followed by a Transport Group of 4 destroyers heavily loaded with troops and supplies. They are heading north up the east coast of Kolombangara Island.

The US force was 2 destroyers, 3 light cruisers and 2 more destroyers heading west to pass north of Kolombangara Island.

The Japanese detected US radar emissions and increased to full speed. The Support Group heading NNW while the Transport Group heading WNW to close the coast and radar shadow of the island. The Americans also increased to full speed and headed SW towards Kolombangara to cut off the Japanese. The two leading US destroyers pulling ahead of the slightly slower cruisers. The two rear US destroyers started to move up the port side of the US column aiming to close on the Japanese Transport Group.

Unbeknown to the Americans visibility to the northeast was better than to the west and south. This let the Japanese Support Group launch a long-range torpedo attack on the US cruisers before the Americans had seen the Japanese.

The next turn the American cruisers saw the Japanese Support Group. Based on their experiences in and around Iron Bottom Sound they immediately violently altered course. This meant that the 3 US cruisers were heading north, southwest, and south.

The leading US cruiser hadn't altered course enough and was caught by a spread of 4 torpedoes, one of which struck home reducing her to half speed and halving her firing. The Japanese had correctly guessed the course changes of the second US cruiser with half the torpedoes fired at her. Fortunately for the Americans all 4 torpedoes missed.

The US cruisers had fallen behind leaving the 2 leading US destroyers to engage the 3 Japanese destroyers of the Support Group. Both US destroyers took heavy damage but as the cruisers joined the pursuit, they started to get hits crippling 2 Japanese destroyers and damaging the third.

The 2 rear US destroyers closed on Kolombangara and the 4 Japanese destroyers of the Transport Group. Out numbered two to one and not realising how badly hampered the Japanese were by the troops and supplies aboard the Americans engaged from a respectful distance. They only inflicted light damage on the leading Japanese destroyer but avoided any damage in return.

As it was getting late both sides agreed to call the game at this point with the Japanese withdrawing to the west and the Americans breaking off to the east. I quickly totalled up the victory points:
   American 11.5
   Japanese 10

Using the General Quarters VP results the Americans won the "Battle of the Memoirs".

While writing this report I've realised that I missed the victory points for crippling the Japanese destroyers #-o so the corrected scores are:
   American 17.5
   Japanese 10

So, the Americans actually won a Tactical victory, and the Japanese were responsible for a "Tactical set-back".

We will be fighting the battle of Kolombangara next weekend. I'll try and remember to take pictures.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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pierre the shy

Given the disparity in forces at Kula Gulf (the IJN only has destroyers of various types while the USN has 3 quite powerfully armed Light Cruisers with no less than 15 x 6" guns each) I think I was pretty lucky to get away without losing any of my destroyers, though several were very heavily damaged.

Paul's scenario is finely balanced, with the Japanese holding the initial advantage with greater sighting ranges and Long Lance torpedoes, while the once the USN cruisers get their act together any Japanese destroyer that is hit by a rain of rapid fire 6" is in real trouble if within visual range.

In this game the American cruisers mostly ended up where I predicted so my torpedoes were in the right place but I rolled too high to hit the second one in the line (actually the Helena(?) but using the model of the USS Phoenix).....I consoled myself in the knowledge that the real Phoenix had a date with Commander Wreford-Brown some time later  :ar!

GQ1/2 with the home brew night fighting rules still gives a very tense game....I'll try harder to live up to my reputation of rolling low in the next game  ;) 

           
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

hammurabi70

QuoteWe will be fighting the battle of Kolombangara next weekend. I'll try and remember to take pictures.

So are losses carried forward to the next battle or are the fleets reset with just victory point totals carried forward?

paulr

There are some linkages based on losses

I won't say too much for now as one of the players is a member of the forum :-$
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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fsn

Any chance of some photos?

Look forward to the next battle.
Lord Oik of Runcorn (You may refer to me as Milord Oik)

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2023 - the year of Gerald

paulr

QuoteSometimes a game can be so fascinating that you neglect to take pictures (or maybe the umpire just forgot)  :-[  #-o

QuoteWe will be fighting the battle of Kolombangara next weekend. I'll try and remember to take pictures.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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paulr

Kolombangara
Last weekend we played the second game of the New Georgia campaign, Kolombangara.

This time I remembered to take pictures #:-S

Historically Helena had been sunk at Kula Gulf and so HMS Leander fought at Kolombangara with Honolulu and St. Louis. In our previous game no US cruisers had been sunk so the Allied players decide to use Helena with her 15 6" guns rather than Leander with 8.

Another "Tokyo Express" mission down "the Slot" towards New Georgia had been sighted by Allied coast watchers and an Allied force of cruisers and destroyers were ordered to intercept.

Japanese reconnaissance aircraft had spotted the Allied force but the ships pressed on planning to inflict casualties on the enemy and get the much needed transport group through. As contact is made between the ships the transport group is ordered to withdraw to the west and divert via Vella Gulf.

At 0100 on the morning of 13 July 1943 in bright moonlight the two forces are approaching each other northeast of Kolombangara Island. Nicholas, the leading Allied destroyer detected a column of Japanese ships approaching from the west on radar. The Allies worked up to full speed, the leading destroyers heading west south west. Soon after the Allied cruisers turned north east. They were aiming to catch the Japanese in a cross fire.



As soon as they came into sight both sides' destroyers fired star shell. The Allied destroyers were silhouetted against the Japanese star shell that had gone long while the Allied star shell illuminated the Japanese light cruiser, Jintsu. The Allied destroyers and the leading Japanese ships opened fire, the Allied cruisers took a little longer to react. (The Allies are rated as Green night fighters and have a number of limitations and increased chance of delayed reactions.)



Jintsu and the two leading Japanese destroyers launched a barrage of torpedoes at the Allied Cruisers and followed up with gunfire. The rear three destroyers turned away and engaged the rapidly approaching Allied destroyers. The Allied cruisers fired on Jintsu and the leading Japanese destroyer. The destroyers, hampered by heading directly towards the Japanese fired on the rear Japanese destroyers. Fortunately for the Allies all the Japanese torpedoes missed the cruisers.



As the second division of Allied destroyers came into sight the Japanese completed their turn away and headed for the shelter of a slowly approaching rain squall. Jintsu fired her port torpedoes at the leading Allied destroyer, Nicholas. One of the four torpedoes struck home and was enough to sink the destroyer. Jinstsu, illuminated by a star shell, drew the fire of all the Allied cruisers and was badly damaged including hits to her steering gear. The two Japanese destroyers near her took evasive action and avoided being hit.



The rear three Japanese destroyer entered the rain squall. The other two destroyers continued to evade as they withdrew towards the squall. The second Allied destroyer, O'Bannon, narrowly avoided colliding with the sinking Nicholas. But she and the 3 other destroyers of the leading division surged past Nicholas on the engaged side and fired all their torpedoes and guns at the Jintsu. The Allied cruisers and the second destroyer division closed as rapidly as they could firing on Jintsu as they came.



At 6-7,000 yards, slowed to 8 knots and with her steering gear damaged Jintsu was an easy torpedo target. Four of O'Bannon's ten torpedoes slammed into her. We only need to determine the damage from the first hit, Jintsu was sunk. The Allies regretted firing 40 torpedoes at her.

The Jintsu's sacrifice had not been in vain, the Japanese destroyers had reached the shelter of the rain squall. In fact, Hamakaze had cleared the squall and came under fire from the northern most Allied cruiser, Honolulu. Fortunately for the Japanese no hits were scored and the Japanese destroyers withdrew west behind the rain squall. The Allies decided not to pursue through the squall and risk another barrage of torpedoes.

Totalling up the victory points:
   American 17.25
   Japanese 13.5

With a difference of 3.75 using the General Quarters VP results the Americans won the "Battle of the Memoirs".

In our game both sides lost the same number of ships as historically but the Allies suffered less damage overall.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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pierre the shy

Unfortunately the American cruisers always seem to either turn the wrong way at just the right time or have the luck of the devil if I do guess the right quadrant and I throw too high a score to hit with any torpedoes that do intercept them. USS Phoenix was lucky as I guessed right but rolled a 5.

Being a cruiser Jintsu was a fire magnet for all three of the American cruisers, she only has a defence of 3 being a small post WW1 vessel. Given the firepower of any of the US CL's it was not surprising that she was sunk once hit. Jintsu did pretty well with her Long Lances, sinking the USS Nicholas with one salvo from her starboard tubes before swinging round and just missing USS O'Bannon by a whisker width with her reduced port salvo (rolled a 1 to hit but needed to roll again and get a even score for a single hit...rolled a 5  :'(

For the IJN these games are all about survival, once the enemy is spotted its time to fire your torpedoes and then get the hell out of Dodge.....trying to go toe to toe with American ships fitted with gunnery radar         is not a good idea.

With the starshells for visual effect and the night fighting house rules we adopted for the GQ1/2 rules these games are tense and have a pretty realistic feel and are great fun to play.
 

 
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

paulr

Vella Gulf
Last weekend we played the third game of the New Georgia campaign, Vella Gulf.

After three successful runs down "the Slot" and through Vella Gulf to reinforce Villa on the south east corner of Kolombangara Island (which included the sinking of JF Kennedy's PT-109) the Americans sent a force of destroyers to oppose the next "Tokyo Express".

Pierre the Shy reviewed the Japanese forces at his disposal; 4 destroyers and the light cruiser Jintsu. Then he read the following note, "Jintsu is available if not crippled or sunk at Kolombangara – New Georgia campaign." So, 4 destroyers so heavily loaded with troops and supplies that their combat ability was halved, "what could go wrong."

The Allied commanders reviewed the forces at their disposal and were shocked to have no cruisers. The two players only had a division of three destroyers each. They were Task Group 31.2 which had been extensively trained in night fighting by their recently replaced commander, Arleigh Burke. Their new commander Frederick Moosbrugger adopted Burke's methods and plan meaning that the Allies were rated Normal rather than Green night fighters.

At 2323 on the night of 6 August 1943 the Japanese headed south down Vella Gulf between Vella Lavella and Kolombangara Islands. Meanwhile the Allies moved north to intercept relying on their radar to locate the enemy as visibility now the moon had set and in heavy rain squalls was only 4,000 yards.

Radar contacts allowed the Allied destroyers to work up to full speed and prepare for action. The plan was for the leading division to pass to the west of the Japanese followed by the second division passing to the east, catching them in a cross fire. As the leading Allied division came into sight they open fired and launched torpedoes. The Japanese were caught unawares and were unable to respond immediately. Before they could open the fire, Allied torpedoes had slammed into both leading destroyers sinking them.



The leading Allied division turned hard to starboard and crossed behind the Japanese and headed up the east side of the Japanese column. The second Allied division once abreast of the Japanese fired their torpedoes and then turned south before turning to starboard to block any Japanese attempt to continue south.

Hit hard by Allied gunfire and with her rudder damaged the third Japanese destroyer fired her remaining torpedoes at the third destroyer of the lead Allied division and manged to narrowly avoid collision with the sinking second Japanese destroyer.

The fourth Japanese destroyer fired her torpedoes at the second destroyer of the leading Allied division and then turned to port to withdraw to the north. She passed between the first and second destroyer of the Allied leading division.



Torpedoes hit and sank the third Japanese destroyer and both targeted Allied destroyers. Due to her dramatic manoeuvres the fourth Japanese destroyer managed to avoid the torpedoes aimed at her. She made smoke and attempted to avoid the gunfire from the four remaining Allied destroyers but she was soon slowed and badly damaged. Pierre the Shy conceded that she would be sunk without inflicting any more damage on the Allies.

Totalling up the victory points:
American 16
Japanese 12

With a difference of 4 using the General Quarters VP results the Allies had almost won a "Tactical Victory" but would have to settle for convincingly winning the "Battle of the Memoirs".

Historically one of the Japanese destroyers escaped and the Allies suffered only one casualty, a crush injury to a gun loader caused by an accident.

After seeing the scenario play out, I decided that it was not as balanced as I had hoped. I have made a couple of changes to the scenario to improve the Japanese chances:
  • The Japanese now expect enemy ships to be approaching from the south slightly reducing the chance of them being unable to engage the Allies in the first turn in sight.
  • An Allied ship that is sunk is now worth four times it's DF rather than three.

Applying the revised victory points calculations gives both sides 16 victory points making it a draw.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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paulr

Horaniu
Back on 2 December we played the fourth game of the New Georgia campaign, Horaniu.

On 15 August, the Allies landed on the south east coast of Vella Lavella, bypassing the main Japanese troop concentration on Kolombangara. To maintain contact with these troops, and ensure their later withdrawal, the Japanese planned to establish a staging base at Horaniu, near the northern eastern tip of Vella Lavella. To accomplish this a convoy of barges, carrying two companies of army troops, a naval platoon and supplies, left Bougainville on 17 August bound for Horaniu.

At about 23:30, 17 August, the Japanese convoy was attacked by eight AirSols (Aircraft, Solomons command) Avenger torpedo bombers, and forced to scatter, although no ships were damaged. Guided by reports from these aircraft the American naval force rapidly approached from the east. The Japanese also received reports of the approaching Americans from their reconnaisance aircraft.

The American destroyers detected Japanese destroyers on radar to the north northwest and increased speed to keep between them and the north coast of Vella Lavella. There were also returns from two more possible groups of Japanese ships but the returns weren't clear.



As soon as they came into sight both sides fired star shell. The two leading American destroyers were illuminates as was the leading Japanese destroyer, the rear two were silhouetted by the star shell that had gone long.

The Japanese hit the superstructure of the leading American destroyer, Nicholas, hard - halving her available firepower. The second American destroyer, O'Bannon, took hits in the hull and began to slow. The American return fire was less effective.



The Japanese destroyers turned towards the Americans reversing course, perhaps trying to slip behind the Americans. Nicholas pulled slightly ahead of the damaged O'Bannon and the other American destroyers who had slowed to avoid collision. Each destroyer engaged its opposite number as the star shells drifted northwest on the wind. Ahead of Nicholas a group of approximately 20 Japanese barges appeared out of the gloom heading south towards the northern coast of Vella Levella at 10 knots.



The Americans decided that the damaged Nicholas would engage the sighted Japanese barges while the three other destroyers would engage the four Japanese destroyers. This appeared to be a good decision as O'Bannon and Taylor hit the second enemy destroyer and the Nicholas badly damaged a barge.

The Japanese moved to close the range while the other group of possible vessels continued to move south.



Nicholas continued to engage the barges but they were small targets desperately manoeuvring and the damage she had sustained in the opening minutes greatly limited the effect of her fire. The second Japanese destroyer, Hamakaze, had been hit hard by two American destroyers and forced to withdraw.

As damage started to mount the six other destroyers all launched their torpedoes before any more were put out of action. O'Bannon and Taylor continued to score hits while the Japanese gunnery was less successful.



American torpedoes slammed into Isokaze and Shigure but missed Sazanami. Japanese torpedoes narrowly missed O'Bannon and Taylor but struck Chevalier. Nicholas broke off from the barges and engaged the approaching Sazanami.



The Japanese now found themselves with only Sazanami and the badly damaged Hamakaze facing three damaged but still effective American destroyers. Sazanami moved between the barges and the American destroyers, hoping to buy enough time for them to disperse along the coastline. Hamakaze tried to use the two sinking Japanese destroyers as cover from the American destroyers. The group of possible Japanese vessels turned west to stay clear of the American destroyers. (They were only a blind with no vessels, the Japanese hoped they may distracte one of the American destroyers.)



Nicholas dispatched Sazanami with torpedoes and returned to engaging the Japanese barges. The damaged Hamakaze made smoke and attempted to use the sinking American destroyer as cover from the badly damaged O'Bannon and Taylor.



As Chevalier sank Hamakaze was slowed and finally sunk by gunfire from O'Bannon and Taylor. Nicholas continued to engage the barges until they were too close to the coast for her to safely operate sinking one more barge.

It had been a much harder fought battle than historically. In the actual battle the Americans had no destroyers damaged and the Japanese had two destroyers slightly damaged. Without support from their destroyers the Japanese barges (actually 13 barges, four motor torpedo boats, the subchasers Cha-12 and Cha-5, and a Soukoutei-class armoured boat) lost five vessels.

The Americans had sunk all 4 Japanese destroyers for 24 Victory points plus one barge for 0.5 VPs, totalling 24.5.

The Japanese had sunk one American destroyer for 6 VPs, crippled 2 more for 6 VPs and had 18 barges reach Vella Levella for 9 VPs, totalling 21.

A win by 3.5 VPs meant the American would win the "Battle of the Memoirs". A few slightly different rolls for torpedo hits could have seen a Japanese victory.
Lord Lensman of Wellington
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pierre the shy

"There's something wrong with our ##$ %@#(*&^% torpedoes today" - any other dice roll result would have sunk at least one more of the USN DD's.   

It could have gone a lot worse for the barges if I'd let even one more American DD get near them. In the event most of them were able to exit the board since the Americans insisted on throwing potatoes at them rather than firing at them with AA guns  :o

I was disappointed that the umpire ruled that any rifle grenades or knee mortars fired at the Nicolas at point blank range by the barges in return were equally ineffective  :D     

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

Duke Speedy of Leighton

You may refer to me as: Your Grace, Duke Speedy of Leighton.
2016 Pendraken Painting Competion Participation Prize  (Lucky Dip Catagory) Winner

Steve J


hammurabi70

Great stuff!  What models do you use for the barges?