Match corresponding to the UEFA Europa League and played at Old Trafford.
Well, well well. It wasn’t meant to have been like this. After United’s showing at the Amsterdam Arena last week it was meant to be a cake walk. It had all the markings of one when after 5 minutes Chicharito Hernandez out United ahead with a typical finish for his 10th goal of the season. Ajax got a smashing equaliser via the boot of Ozbiliz, though there was a hint of handball in the build up. De Gea didn’t have a chance. United in honesty dominated the first half but came out of the blocks very slowly in the second. Ajax started to dominate midfield with a tiring Cleverly fading out of the game. They piled on the pressure and David De Gea pulled off an excellent reflex save. Nani rattled the Ajax crossbar at 1-1 but Old Trafford, totally out sung by the fantastic Ajax away support, was left stunned after Ajax scored a second on 85 minutes via the head of Alderweireld. Things were not looking so rosy now and if Ajax got a third United would be out. Thankfully United did manage to wrest some control of the ball in the last 5 mintues of the game and saw the game out. Home defeat but 3-2 winners in aggregate. The Lions of Bilbao at San Mames next.
Manchester United Team
1 David De Gea
20 Fabio Da Silva
4 Phil Jones
12 Chris Smalling
21 Rafael Da Silva
13 Ji Sung Park
23 Tom Cleverly
18 Ashley Young
9 Dimitar Berbatov
14 Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez (Goal)
Paul Scholes on for Tom Cleverly
Johnny Evans on for Ashley Young
Danny Welbeck on for Dimitar Berbatov
Operation Wisp contd
Those Japanese fighters had instead been tasked to escort their bombers against the invasion force. The approach of the invasion fleets had been spotted by the Japanese, initially that did not cause much concern as the ship movements were intended as a feint to take attention from Port Moresby. Yet once the decision to go into Lunga was made the fact the ships had been detected was made moot. The first Japanese air raid came in over the main carrier task force off Guadalcanal. Some 50 enemy fighters approached from the North West, A6M models. They ran into a CAP of F4F-4s and Martlets. A crazy melee ensued that saw planes lost on both sides. As the fighters jousted however Betty bombers carrying sleek torpedoes arrowed in at wave height.
The sky around them was turned black as hundreds of AA guns poured their fire into them. Several bombers broke up as they were torn to shreds by the shells fired at them. Two vic however homed in on the battleship Royal Soverign, whose guns were protecting the circling Victorious. Seaman and pilot alike held their breath as four bombers dropped their fish, they hit the water with a splash and arrowed towards their target. One of the Bettys disintegrated a mere second after releasing taking a 20mm hit full on the nose, the torpedoes however all missed as the helmsman had the Royal Sovereign at full to starboard and the torpedo wakes streaked away from her.
Simultaneously over Lunga a second fighter sweep came in. Both VF-60 and VF-35 from the escort carriers Suwanee and Chenango were up early and were able to shoot down 10 enemy fighters for little loss.
Yet the real danger were the D3A2 dive bombers the Zeroes were escorting into Lunga. Despite harrasment by Wildcats a reasonably large number of these second generation Vals began their rolls, turns and dives from about 12,000 feet on the CVE Suwanne. She was a Sangamon Class Escort Carrier and a veteran of Operation Torch in the European Theatre of Operations but she was not facing Vichy French pilots but rather veteran pilots of the IJNAF, veterans of many a dive on an enemy vessel. The first two bombs missed but the third anf fourth hit her smack in the middle of her flight deck. The second bomb was the one that really did the damage as it blew a wide hole in the deck and ruptured two main fuel lines. These promptly erupted into flame when the fifth and sixth bombs struck her sealing her fate.
USS Suwannee burns after her fuel lines erupt into flame.
As their ship burned its way to the bottom of the sea her pilots, still aloft and soon to be bereft of a home, wrecked a terrible revenge on the retreating Vals. Chasing them almost back to Munda they claimed 9 enemy planes shot down. Though the Suwanee was to later sink her Avenger sqaudron was able to land in one of the bases in the Santa Cruz while VF-60 found refuge on the decks of the Chenango, later they would rejoin VT-60 on Vanua Lava.
VF-60 avenge their sinking ship.
The real life Suwannee was a real veteran and she even survived a Kamikaze hit in Ocotober 1944. She was later used as a helicopter carrier post war. Read more about her here.
11th April 1943
As the Battle of Port Moresby was being brought to a successful conclusion developments were afoot further to the East. Several units were in the process of being moved from recently finished operations in the Marshall Islands and had been earmarked for deployment in Port Moresby. The capture of this last base meant they were free for use elsewhere. Having had its eye on Lunga and Guadalcanal for while, South Pacific HQ now wanted these diverted units to land on Lunga and capture in a coup de main operation. The Japanese had withdrawn its 38 Infantry Division from there and intelligence suggested it was being moved to Babeldoab. Recon of Lunga and an extensive monitoring of enemy radio traffic suggested it was lightly held by two small units of marine infantry supported by two small air force base units. A USMC regiment and an Army regiment were readily available and aboard ships. Likewise two armoured battalions were also loaded and ready to go. The arrival of the carrier Wasp, the only surviving USN fleet carrier, and the Victorious, on loan from the Royal Navy, meant an small, blitz operation could be carried out. Two maxims however. Firstly, speed as Japan could reinforce quicker. Secondly, decisiveness in the assault as this had to be done quick.
The battleship Pennsylvania stole into Suva Bay in the small hours of the 11th April 1943 and fired a point blank range bombardment with all its available guns towards the area in and behind the main assault beaches. The light cruiser Concord also leant her steel and fire to the mayhem. Fitting that a ship there at Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941 be the one the was dealing death and destruction to signal the start of the attack on the Solomon Islands.
Following immediately behind were four different columns of vessels each carrying a different part of the invasion force. The 1st USMC Regiment was the first unit to hit the beaches of Guadalcanal supported by tanks of the 1st USMC 1st Tank Battalion. Veterans of Wotje the Marines already had experience of landing against an enemy held shore. The second echelon comprised of the US Army’s 35 Infantry Regiment fresh from its engagement at Roi-Namur. The 3rd USMC Tank Battalion supported the US soldiers. Escorting destroyers opened fire on the enemy beach defences as it was evident that these had recovered somewhat from the Pennsylvania’s shelling. USN LST’s were involved in their second action of the war having cut their teeth during the operations on the Marshalls.
3rd USMC Tank Bn delivered by LSTs
Further support from the landings came from the flight decks of the USS Wasp and HMS Victorious. Both carriers had their dive and torpedo bombers prepped up for a bombing attack on the main Japanese defence line on Lunga. Dauntlesses and Avengers dropped 5,00lb bombs on the Japanese lines adding to the confusion and mayhem of battle. No Japanese fighters were in the air to intercept the. Those fighters had other duties to perform…
FAA and USN carrier bombers attack Lunga