6th June 1943, Reuters.
China in Peril?
Japanese air units have suddenly decided that the air space over the Chinese city of Changsha is prime estate. Oscars and Lilys have been contesting the air space and bombing the airfield respectively. CAF units reinforced by several USAAF squadrons from Burma, have been fighting back. Recon of the nearby area suggests that the IJA is also on the move West. Yesterday Kuomintang units holding the river to the East of Hengyang reported coming into contact with advanced elements of a Japanese division. Reinforcements are on their way and it is now clear that the Japanese summer offensive plans revolve around the capture of Changsha whose industries are vital for the war effort in China. The Generalissimo has been reassured by allied commanders that China will not be left alone and that moves to support her have already started and two very far flung theatres of war. For now the USAAF stands shoulder to shoulder with their brave Chinese allies in the face of continued Japanese aggression. The Japs may find a different Chinese army to that they started fighting in 1937 as Uncle Sam is now arming these brave soldiers wanting to rid their homeland of all traces of Japanese occupation!
May 1943 Submarine Warfare Summary
Another lean month for the Silent Service with barely 100,000 tons of enemy shipping damaged or sunk. There has been a marked increase in aerial ASW patrols off the Timor and Ambon areas of operation and also around the entrances to the Sea of Japan. Several new convoy routes have been discovered but targets have run dry in the previous happy hunting grounds in the approaches to Tokyo. The aim for June 1943 is to seek and destroy his tankers and oilers. If I can stop or hinder the flow of fuel his heavy and carrier units lose some of their mobility. Somewhat unlucky in that there has been a large percentage of dud hits this month. Top scorer is the SS Cisco with 22,500 tons spread over 4 ships. 4 boats were also lost the American Seawolf and Grampus and the Dutch KX and KIX. God speed brave mariners.
31st May 1943 Part One
USAAF fighter pilots now have an airplane capable to defeat the cream of Japan’s naval aviation and one that can compare with the Navy’s ugly Corsair, though the Thunderbolt (as so christened by its crews) was also one ugly ‘son o’bitch’ as so colourfully put by 1LT Ward from Texas flying the P-47D2 (its official nomenclature) in the 341st Fighter Squadron from Lunga. The order to scramble had come early. Lunga was now a strong forward base and its radars now command the approaches from the Japanese bases to the North. With the taking of Tulagi and Tassafaronga and the build up of Rennell and Rossel Islands Admiral Nimitz had his eye on Russell Islands to further build another air base to accommodate the massive build up of strength coming in from the States. Bereft of carriers he needed bases that could not be sunk. The Southern Solomons provided them aplenty. Mutually supporting they could act a powerful counter measure to the enemy’s carriers and could provide cover for the USN’s still powerful and almost intact battle line.
The scramble order had come over the airwaves and both the 341st and VMF-214 were soon bolstering the aerial patrol over the transports unloading at Russell. 25 enemy fighters escorted 9 Betty bombers carrying torpedoes. The Corsairs had the high station and they immediately bounced the Zeroes rapidly shooting down two. The Thunderbolt claimed its first air-air kill three minutes into the action. The aforementioned 1LT Ward claimed an A6M3a after blowing out of the sky. The P-47 proved durable and rugged in combat, indeed Ward’s plane was seen to have received 15 hits from enemy machine guns on the tail section alone with no detrimental effect on performance.
1LT Ward makes his kill
Yet the operational bow was meant with sadness as despite the loss of 5 enemy bombers, two intrepid pilots sank their torpedoes into the transport vessel Peisander. She sank later in the day taking a large chunk of the vehicles of the 1st USN Naval Construction Regiment. A second raid later in the day (15 Zeroes and 6 Betties) was completely annihilated by the Corsairs and Thunderbolts. Over 30 enemy planes had been shot down for no loss to the P-47’s. A new and powerful weapon now bristled in the Allied arsenal.
Further good news also landed on Admiral Nimitz’s desk from Australia Command. General Blamey was pleased to report that the 1st Australian Division had ejected all Japanese troops from Buna. Allied troops were back on the Eastern shore of the Solomon Sea for the first time since 1941.
27th May 1943
1st Marine Regiment supported by three tank battalions had finally fought their way past the jungle and Japanese rearguards to the small settlement at Tassafaronga on the Northern end of Guadalcanal. The remnants of the Lunga garrison had retreated here and intell had also identified a further Japanese Naval Guard unit. Since Lunga and Kira Kira had secured their planes had been daily bombing the Japanese positions around Tassafaronga and recon planes had kept a careful watch over any and all movement that had been spotted. In all honesty the dense jungle had been the Marine’s worst enemy but by the 25th May the 1st Marines reported that they were in position ready to commit to the assault. A preliminary bombardment was ordered for the 26th May but disturbing news was brought back by the daily recon photographs recorded on the 26th May. Japanese units had seemed to abandoned their positions en mass and had melted away. Submarines did not come into contact with any fast moving transport vessels nor had radio intelligence picked up any inkling of a withdrawal. Commanders on the ground suspected some sort of charge on the Marine line during the night of the 26th/27th May. As such they prepared for said eventuality. Stuart and Sherman tanks were spread out along the line with their 75 and 37mm guns facing the tree line. Between the tanks fire teams dug in around 30 and 50 cal machine gun positions that encased the main marine bivouac in a wall of fire and steel. The hours after sundown were tense and nerve racking. Many a Marine wished the Japs to charge just to break the monotony. They had their wish granted at 1:45 am when a swarm of Japanese soldiers with drawn bayonets and their officers brandishing their wickedly curved swords broke through the tree line in an almighty roar and charge. Bravery and elan however are no match for hot lead and steel as first the Marine machine gunners began to reap a terrible toll on the Japanese attack only to be joined by the boom of the 75mm guns on the Shermans firing at point blank range. Three human waves broke their backs against the withering fire the Marines were able to call upon. Mortars and regimental field guns added to the slaughter. No mercy was given and when the sun rose and the dense clouds of cordite and gun smoke lifted nearly 3,000 ton Japanese bodies lay in front of the Marine position. The killing ground between the first fox holes and the tree line was covered in heaps of mangled, bloody bodies torn about by shot and shell alike. Here and there a wounded man moaned or still crawled stubbornly towards the American guns. The shock on the faces of the Marines, already veterans of Lunga and Tarawa was plain to see. What had the Japs wanted to achieve? What was clear was that Japanese presence on Guadalcanal was destroyed in one night of destruction. Mopping operations would begin as soon as the Marines had replenished their ammunition. Was Tassafaronga just a herald of what awaited them further to the North???
Marine tankers pose in front of their tank on the morning of the 27th May
Ground combat at Tassafaronga (113,137)
Japanese Shock attack
Attacking force 4167 troops, 40 guns, 0 vehicles, Assault Value = 161
Defending force 5273 troops, 94 guns, 370 vehicles, Assault Value = 299
Japanese adjusted assault: 20
Allied adjusted defense: 406
Japanese assault odds: 1 to 20
Defender: terrain(+), preparation(-), fatigue(-)
Japanese ground losses:
2894 casualties reported
Squads: 109 destroyed, 64 disabled
Non Combat: 75 destroyed, 23 disabled
Engineers: 0 destroyed, 0 disabled
Guns lost 15 (8 destroyed, 7 disabled)
Units destroyed 1
Apologies for lack of posts but family and Easter took priority.
Rusell Island, Coral Sea. With Tulagi and Lunga secured Allied commanders see the setting up of a base here as crucial to further advances North. Port Moresby already dominates the Western Solomon Sea, Rusell is intended to anchor the center and provided aerial support. A small unit of Australian commandos occupied the empty island via submarine insertion and were swiftly followed by Australian support troops redeployed from New Caledonia. The absence of IJN warships had emboldened the RAN that only sent two small minesweepers as escorts. Hindsight is wonderful when one has it and it dictates in this particular event that such a valuable asset as a new LSI ship should have been heavily escorted. The sinking of the HMS Victorious and the damaging of the USS Wasp changed all the well laid plans.
Stealing in from the North four viscous sharks in the guise of Japanese destroyers mercilessly savaged the convoy being unloading the 9th RAAF Support Unit. Torpedoes and shell fire sink all ships at Russell Island drowning over two thousand men, Australia’s largest tragedy in the war to date. Four deadly destroyers that have been the only enemy ships sighted in the theatre for a long while. Nimitz’s warning of complacency still rings in the ears of Allied commanders in the theatre. One Australian Vice Admiral has a lot of blood on his conscience. For the average grunt on the ground it is another two thousand deaths that need to be avenged. Japan will reap her whirlwind!
One submarine, 5 of its torpedoes cause a massive strategic rethink for the Allied Command.
HMS Victoriuos sinks, USS Wasp takes one amidships. Fortune is indeed a fickle mistress.
19th May 1943
Something was definitely up at Ponape. SS Rasher reported that she had torpedoed a transport in the anchorage near the atoll. Her skipper also included the sighting of many other ships in his report. He was given immediate orders to shadow the enemy convoy at Ponape and to attack any targets of opportunity that arose.
These orders were later rescinded and the Rasher was immediately ordered to a position to the South West of Ponape where enemy aircraft carriers had been spotted. The source of those Zeroes yesterday had been found and the Rasher along with a brace of other submarines were to shadow and attack the enemy carriers. A quartet of Fletcher Class destroyers were also making a high speed approach of Ponape in order to get at the task force unloading there, unfortunately they arrived too late as their nocturnal sweep brought no returns to their radar screens. With enemy carriers pinpointed at close range they got out of Dodge fairly rapidly and headed back to base. Post haste. Sun up on the 19th May found Ponape anchorage empty but recon photos clearly showed many vehicle tracks leading from the beach to the tree line, a clear indication that the Japs had reinforced Ponape. An opportunity had been missed by the Fletcher’s! The enemy carriers were once again found by VP-14, this time steaming solidly North West, Truk mayhaps?