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 The Japanese had withdrawn its 38 Infantry Division from there and intelligence suggested it was being moved to Babeldoab.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
April 10th 1943
Operation Cobber D-Day +5
Australia Command was pleased to report today the recapture of Port Moresby from Japanese forces. The operation was successfully concluded on the morning of the 10th April following a third assault by the 1st Australian Division. Japanese unites defending the Northern end of Port Moresby were routed and put to flight into the Kokoda Tail and the unforgiving terrain of the Owen Stanley Mountains. Australian troops are now back on soil they occupied a year ago and the focus now centres on consolidating our position in Port Moresby and repairing the port and airfield installations. General MacArthur is well aware of the isolated position Port Moresby is facing but a second toe hold on New Guinea was essential. High hopes are now centred on a feint that has blossomed into a very welcome opportunity in the form of Operation Wisp. For now Australia’s men can bask in the glory of their achievement, obtained at the cost of three ships and very casualties on land.
Operation Cobber D-Day+4
A third day of enemy air attacks over Port Moresby. Exhausted after three days of constant CAP and having their main field socked in by the heavy weather accosting much of the Eastern Australian seaboard no P-39s were flying CAP over the invasion fleet today. Enemy airplanes were thus granted a free run against the transports and warships in Joyce Bay. It seemed, however, that the Japanese were also suffering weather problems as only two small raids came in, and one only carrying torpedoes. The first raid brought in 7 Betty bombers one of which only scored a hit on the 3,500 ton Admiral Wiley. One hit however was enough to send the ship to the bottom.
The weather closing down the fighter fields was not affecting the aerodromes further inland being used by the heavy bombers of the Seventh USAAF. Three squadrons of B-24 Liberators were detatched from supporting the ground attack at Port Moresby and ordered to strike at the enemy airfield at Wewak on the far side of Papua New Guinea. They met opposition in the face of Ki-61 fighters but were able to deliver a heavy blow on Wewak. Several wrecked enemy planes were seen in post raid recon and it was clear that both the runway and the base itself had suffered damages.
Nevertheless the Japanese had a small window of opportunity to fly in some more reinforcements and as the second land assault went in a fourth Japanese infantry unit was indentified, the Guards Mixed Brigade. This unit was thought destroyed during an ill fated Japanese counter attack on Ndeni in late 1942. Intell assumes that the unit was recreated from a cadre or these are small remnants that have been flown in to stiffen the garrsion. What the case may be their presence was able to stop the Australian attack in its tracks. Depsite this over 500 enemy casualties were reported despite the loss of several M-10’s amd M-3’s. A third assault had been ordered for tomorrow and the Revenge and her consorts have once again been asked to lend their guns to the assault.
Operation Cobber Day 3 contd
As the 1st Australian Division began its attack on Port Moresby the shipping unloading men and supplies also began to feel the strain of battle. Five seperate attacks were made during the 8th by both elements of the IJAAF and the IJNAF. The first attack of the day saw 17 G4M1 bombers, escorted by 7 Zeroes, focus a direct attack squarely against the HMS Revenge. Her flak batteries covered the sky in black plumes of smoke and deadly shrapnel and despite a crowed Joyce Bay none of the 17 torpedoes launched struck her armoured hide. The second Betty attack of the day however did score.
The 4 Lightnings on CAP were able to down two of the escorting Zeroes but could do nothing to deter the 7 G4M’s heading straight to the fleet. Three peeled off to attack the Revenge once again while the remaining four honed in on the 7,300 ton troop carrier Santa Inez. The Japanese planes divided into two groups and attacked the transport in a hammer and anvil attack. The ponderous vessel was not lithe enough to evade all four torpedoes and she took one apeice on her port and starboard sides sinkng late in the afternoon.
The three Betties that attacked the Revenge were able to get through her flak screen and launch all their fish at her port side, one scoring a hit that inflicted minimal damage on her. Several of the G4M’s were also carrying bombs and carried out a level attack that missed all intended targets.
The remaining raids carried out by IJAAF level and dive bombers scored no hits though the xAP Colac did suffer a very near miss from a 500lb bomb dropped by a Sonia.
Operation Cobber Day 3
Joyce Bay was full of ships. American attack transports, smaller landing craft shuttling troops to the beaches from the ships. Minesweepers and destroyers combing the waters for submarines and Australian auxiliary ships unloading supplies right onto the beach. Yet it was the majestic Royal Navy battleship Revenge that dominated above all. Her 15 inch guns kept ward over the transports and at the same time roared defiance to the IJN to venture into Joyce Bay. Having escorted her cares into Port Moresby she was then tasked to use her mighty guns to support the 1st Australian Division’s push into Port Moresby scheduled for the morning of April 8th. An hour before dawn her four twin turrets swung to port and the first 15 inch shells started to scream into the Japanese lines mere seconds later. For merchant mariner and Digger alike it was simultaneously the most spectacular and yet frightening sight they had seen. The sailors and soldiers still on the transports could hear the shells screaming over their heads as loud as a freight train, the soldiers already on the ground heard the massive explosions they made on impact and those closest to the front line felt the shock waves as not only the Revenge but her consorts too dealt fire and misery to the Japanese marines holding Port Moresby.
As dawn broke smoke, dark billowing smoke covered the area of bombardment. As the 1st and 9th Australian Brigades limbered up to the fight explosions were heard in the main town area and the area immediately surrounding the port. Further explosions were also observed much closer to their positions as the 1st Jungle RAA Regiment joined the Division’s artillery in providing fire support from the nearby village of Vabukori. The attack order came in as the heavies from the mainland were finishing their bombing run. Amid the cordite fumes Australian infantry advanced into the lines of the Japanese 89th and 53rd Naval Guards. Chattering machine gun fire met their approach and soon men were dying on the main road into Port Moresby. 3 inch mortar support was required to blast away machine gun nests while the General Grants of the 2/5 lent their 75mm’s to blasting concrete emplacements apart. For two hours the Australians toiled against a fanaticism yet unseen by Australian forces who had fought the Afrika Korps in the desert. Slowly but surely a small wedge was being driven between both Japanese units and small pockets of Australian infantry were establishing strong points of their own in trenches formerly occupied by the Japanese marines. The Japanese seemed to lack artillery support of their own and this along with the days of aerial bombardment meant that the defence was somewhat disjointed. By late afternoon the 1st Australian had managed a slender foothold in Port Moresby as the first line of defence was broken. The 28th Infantry Brigade and the M-10’s of the 632nd Bn held in reserve would support the assault on the 9th April.
Situation at Port Moresby sundown 8-4-43
Well its done I’ve finished reading book two of A Song of Fire and Ice and it topped the first book by a mile. A roller coaster of a story that delves into the civil war tearing the Seven Kingdoms apart.
We are introduced to some characters in greater depth. Namely Stannis and Renly Baratheon, the main contenders along with Robb stark and Joffrey Baratheon for the Iron Throne. The book itself is a 800+ page plus monster but the action is so fast paced and frenetic that the pages flow past faster than the Trident. Taking off from the point in Book 1 when Jamie Lannister is captured the story develops and the plots thicken and twist. The Imp, Tyrion Lannister plays a massive role and Martin I feel develops the storyline of this particular character masterfully. He is by far and away my favourite character in the series so far, despite my intense dislike of the Lannisters and their cause! He grows into his role as the Hand of the King and slaps the impudent King Joffrey more than once. Likewise his plotting and scheming to cement his position of power using his wit, guile and clansmen is very well handled by the author. He also becomes somewhat of an unlikely hero in the Battle of King’s Landing as well.
Interesting as well the introduction of the Iron Men of Pyke as major protagonists in the storyline. I was not expecting the turn Theon Greyjoy makes and it was a pleasant, yet shocking, surprise to see how Martin uses these Westernos Vikings to further entwine and complicate his storyline. Running parallel we have the developing situation to the North of the Wall and the deepening sense of dread and danger posed by the wildlings and the hidden menace coming behind them. The very interesting twist within this sub plot is currently making me rip through the pages of part one of Book three! Jon Snow’s character is further developed and is shown to be a multi level and multi faceted character, much more so than the brooding bastard of book one.
Yet the crowing achievement of this book is Martin’s masterful handling of the pendulum swing of a civil war that is currently going on. At different times in the story the Lion of Lannister is paramount, at other times the Direwolf of the North howls supreme only to be cowed by the Kraken of the Iron Islands. The crowned stag of Baratheon as well as the new player, the Lord of Light are also on the brink of victory but fall short. Stannis comes the closest but in true fashion a climactic and truly epic battle evolves at the walls of King’s Landing. I honestly spent four solid hours yesterday afternoon eating up the last three hundred or so pages of this epic tale. What of Daenerys Targaryen? He dragons are growing up but I found her side of the story distracting from the main events of A Clash of Kings. I am sure that all her journeys and experiences in ACoK all have a relevance in the grand and final picture but they seemed somewhat out of place among the truly epic encounters in the story. Yet I do feel she is a major player and can’t wait to see how her role is developed in books 3-5.
In conclusion I can highly recommend this book to all. At times the book felt like I was reading The Two Towers or watching The Empire Strikes Back. That point in a trilogy when the bad guys bit back with a vengeance and their star seems on the rise. The great thing about Martin is his wonderful grasp of Medieval brutality and Machiavellian behaviours so characteristic of the time. Oh my Lord is dead, nevermind there’s another one to take my oath. At several times one or another protagonist is portrayed as the good or the evil side making the reader sympathise with all factions and at the same time dislike them. A great read that is now being followed by Book Three Part One, A Storm of Swords, Steel and Snow.
Operation Cobber D-Day +2
The Japanese air force made its first appearance over Port Moresby today. A late morning attack came in from the North East. Radar on the warships of the Covering Force detected the incoming aeroplanes at around 11:23. The standing CAP of P-38’s was already in the air and the information passed on from the controllers on the battleship Revenge was quickly relayed to the USAAF pilots that sped off to engage. Visual contact was made by the Americans over the green canopy of New Guinea some 40 miles to the East of Port Moresby. 7 G4M1 bombers were incoming, escorted by around 30 A6M’s of the latest type already being mauled by Spitfires over Merauke. The USAAF pilots dove on the Japanese Zeroes from around 20,000 feet using the midday sun to hide their descent. Surprise was instant and two of the enemy fighters went down in the first flurry of dogfighting.
A running battle then ensued as the Japanese fighter pilots fought to keep the Lightnings off the Betties. Despite losing some more of their number they were able to escort their wards to their target. HMS Revenge sat pretty off Port Moresby shepherding her transports to the beaches. Today she attracted every single bomb that fell from the sky. Thankfully none came anywhere near to hitting her as all seven Japanese bombers dropped their loads way off target. Once the attack had finished the Japanese planes returned to whence they came. So far so good…
Further aerial contact, however, was forthcoming. Late in the afternoon radars on the RN ships once again picked up incoming planes from the North East. The last CAP of the day once again sped into action but this time did not meet either fighters or bombers, rather slow pondering transport planes, identified as Ki-57’s. The P-38’s swooped in but the limited fuel left in their tanks meant they only had enough gas for one sweep at the enemy transport planes. Patrolling on the ground confirmed suspicions that the Japanese were reinforcing their position at Port Moresby as soldiers from a third Naval Guard unit were picked up the 1st Australian.