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Old 10-22-2021, 11:24 AM   #274
Molon Labe
Ocean Warrior
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Along the Watchtower
Posts: 3,262
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16 June 1942
Battle of the Coral Sea begins with an ambush, Royal Navy smashes troop convoy, Oosthaven captured

Battle of the Coral Sea
EDIT: I started calling this the "second" battle of the Coral Sea, but looking back the "first" wasn't much of a battle, it was just me tearing up enemy ships unopposed.

The first combat event was well forward of the Enterprise's path, two minesweepers found an enemy sub off Brisbane and failed to damage it.

At first light, scoutplanes detected Carrier Division 3 making its way towards what I'll call the Lae Strait (the gap between Papua New Guinea and New Britain). The carriers had scouts of their own--a Val spotted the USS Nautilus waiting in the strait for it and attacked. The bomb was a damaging near miss--but the Nautilus' gunners actually shot the #$%^er down for trying. Nautilus remains on station, but the carriers are obviously alerted to it. Port Moresby launched an ill-considered level bombing attack on the fleet.

Later in the morning, the Hornet's radar detected a large incoming strike from the north--behind it. CARDIV3 is still too far away for this to be them, but clearly this is a strike from multiple carriers:
A6M2 Zero x 18
B4Y1 Jean x 13
B5N1 Kate x 14
B5N2 Kate x 8
D3A1 Val x 44
Hornet immediately scrambled a strike and sent it north to sink whoever launched the planes.

We managed 18 Wildcats opposing the enemy strike, plus a single Australian P-40 from a nearby airbase. They did OK, I guess, considering the equal number of enemy fighters: 1 Zero and 1 F4F shot down, plus 4 Vals and 4 Jeans. But that left quite a few getting through:
CV Hornet, Bomb hits 3, Torpedo hits 2, on fire, heavy damage
CA Northampton, Bomb hits 2, Torpedo hits 1, heavy fires

So the opening blow knocked out my only operational carrier here--Hornet is in pretty much as bad of shape as the Enterprise was when this all started.

The Hornet's air wing found the enemy fleet, positively classifying the Kaga, Hiryu, Shoho, and Kongo (I suspect Junyo is there too). They had 42 Zeroes on defense up against our mere 8 Wildcats escorting 25 SBCs and 4 TBDs. The Zeroes splashed 3 Wildcats and 7 of the SBCs, one more SBC was shot down by flak during its dive, so we ended up with 17 SBCs and 4 TBDs actually making attacks. One TBD put a 500lb bomb (because the squadron was assigned to ASW duty they were carrying bombs) through Kaga's flight deck, setting off an Avgas explosion and setting the ship on fire. I don't think the ship is done for, but it is most likely out of this fight. An SBC also managed a hit on Shoho, which wasn't as damaging but it's a big bomb and a small ship, so there's a good chance this one is out of the fight too.

Port Morseby's bombers (2 Hudson, 5 Liberators) arrived at CARDIV3, running into 54 Zeroes and 9 Rufe float fighters. The fighters splashed the Hudsons easily, then got 3 of the Liberators. A fourth Liberator was lost to flak, leaving a single plane to attempt an attack on Shokaku, which missed of course. The number of enemy planes on CAP suggests the Akagi is here too.

Enterprise was next. 13 late-arriving Jeans went after her. We only had 2 Wildcats and a P-40 left on patrol; they did what they could, shooting down 1 before the attack (and two more on the way out). Flak got another, but that's still 11 torpedo bombers attacking a vulnerable ship:
CA Australia, Torpedo hits 1
CV Enterprise, Torpedo hits 1, heavy damage

A follow up attack by the KB-fragment failed to locate the carriers, finding instead the surface forces that had been part of Hornet's group before she broke off to try to get to port. 16 Zeroes escorted 27 Vals and were intercepted by 3 Australian P-40s. We got two Zeroes. The Vals only managed a single hit on a destroyer.

How did this happen? The KB was expected, but it was supposed to show up the way CARDIV3 did--at least a day away with enough warning to order the Hornet to bug out. I'm not sure where the western force came from--I can only speculate that it took advantage of the evacuation prompted by the Yamato's group to find a gap in our scoutplane coverage and it got into the Arafura Sea completely undetected.

Here's the situation now:

I'm hoping CARDIV3 will face the brunt of my "KB greeting party", in particular from Milne as they have about 50 fighters supporting the bombers there, so they might break through in force. Enterprise's air wing is now at Cairns, which is further south than we want, but the northern bases aren't big enough to support offensive operations. VF-6 will help cover the damaged carriers; Enterprise's bombers can get involved if KB-west continues southward. Hornet's air wing--what's still operational--is going to Port Morseby, which could give them a shot at either group.

I'm laying a minefield in Cooktown since that's the obvious place for them to send surface forces to try to finish the damaged ships off. I'm also detaching a few cruisers to sprint around behind KB-west to maybe get a shot at the Kaga or Shoho if they try to retreat back the way they (probably) came. And the submarines that I just dismissed have been ordered back. Hopefully when the smoke clear tomorrow his carrier forces will have suffered as great a loss as mine.

I've rebuilt my torpedo bomber squadron at Singapore, and sent them out hunting. They killed a cargo ship at Mersing with 4 hits.

Oosthaven has been captured.

Now for the good part of today. The Royal Navy CVBG had been moving back along the Indian Ocean coast of Sumatra, as it looked to me like the enemy task forces there were starting to venture too far to be supported by Betties that could have Zeroes escorting them. That target disappeared. But, I'm also trying to get a squadron of Hurricanes into Palembang from Rangoon. To do that I need an airbase in northwestern Sumatra as a refueling point, and the bases are dropping like flies. The last suitible base has enemy troops closing on it. So, my heavies are closing in for a bombardment of those troops. The CVBG was ordered back north to cover that operation. By random luck, we spotted a troop convoy protected by a single destroyer--probably airplane mechanics and base forces trying to move into my base after the infantry clears out my troops.

Albacore I x 27
Fulmar II x 12
Sea Hurricane Ib x 6
Martlet II x 15
Swordfish I x 6

xAK Senyo Maru, Torpedo hits 1, on fire, heavy damage
xAK Eiko Maru #2, Torpedo hits 2, and is sunk
xAK Aso Maru, Torpedo hits 2, and is sunk
xAK Zuiko Maru, Bomb hits 5, Torpedo hits 3, and is sunk
xAK Rokko Maru, Bomb hits 4, Torpedo hits 3, and is sunk
xAK Tateisi Maru, Torpedo hits 1, heavy fires
xAK Koto Maru, Torpedo hits 3, and is sunk
xAK Mikasa Maru, Torpedo hits 1, on fire
DD Kawakaze

One Swordfish was downed by flak. I'd happily trade this success for a fully operational Enterprise or Hornet, but right now this is the good news in a world of despair.

Actually, there is one other bit of good news. After successfully getting a cargo ship to Pearl about a week ago, I started sending more. One is about to arrive tomorrow, and it hasn't been detected despite mostly clear skies. Lahaina airbase is really looking like a paper tiger. We managed to siphon enough avgas out of hangar queens to put a recon flight up: we spotted 9 support ships and merchants at harbor--including a sub tender--but no warships; airbase strength reported as 8 fighters, 29 bombers, no auxilliaries (scoutplanes and transports), and just 8000 troops estimated. I can't say I understand it, but it looks like the Pearl operation was abandoned, with the invading troops left stranded.

I'm going to respond to this conservatively. The first priority to to resupply Pearl because my cargo ships are so plentiful that if this is a trap and I lose a bunch, no big deal. But if I am able to resupply Pearl, I'll probe the invading armies and see if they are ready to fight or if they're starving and out of ammo. As for Lahaina, if I can get a supply convoy in undetected, then I can get battleships in undetected, and there isn't much that base can do to retaliate if the runways are a cratery mess. Also, an operational base at Pearl/Hickam can support lots of bombers.

DD Duncan arrives at Balboa
ML No. 230 arrives at Karachi
177th USAAF Base Force arrives at San Francisco (unrestricted, full strength)

Last edited by Molon Labe; 10-22-2021 at 12:50 PM.
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