Guadalcanal Campaign – Part IV
Another quick update on the Guadalcanal campaign for Check Your Six!. Last week we played a couple of more scenarios, both involving raids by formations of Japanese Bettys against Henderson Field.
In the first, we had 4 Wildcats against a standard nine-plane Vee of Bettys. Three Zeros provided the close escort. These bombers were almost on top of Henderson Field, so the Wildcats dived right in on the bombers and the US anti-aircraft gunners blazed away at friend and foe alike. A couple of head on shots damaged a couple of bombers on the second turn and then things went south in a hurry for the Americans. One of my Wildcats and a Zero collided, killing both pilots, and my second pilot was blown from the sky by fire from a pair of Zeros. Three more Zeros were diving into the fight as Ken brought his two Wildcats through for another pass. The green pilot was damaged as the ace Wildcat pilot flamed a Betty. However the odds were starting to stack up against the Americans and the remaining Wildcats nosed over and dived out of the fray. the Japanese reported accurate bombing with many strikes on the runway and surrounding areas.
A second wave of Bettys was intercepted further out by a flight of five Wildcats that included three green pilots. The Zero escort was only three aircraft, but all were skilled or veteran. The US aircraft came in for an attack against the left wing of the bomber vee. Ken attacked from head on and I attacked from the bomber’s left, making a high side pass. We shot down one bomber in the initial pass and I carried on across the formation to attack the right wing while Ken reversed vertically to come in behind the left wing. It was Ken’s turn to soak up Japanese cannon fire and he soon had two fewer aircraft in the fight (one damaged and one out of ammo), knocking out one Zero along the way. I swung in behind the right wing of the bombers and proceeded to down two more before losing one of my planes and Ken’s last fighter to damage. Left all alone, I took a couple of last shots until the Zeros got close and then dived away. The surviving Marine fliers in both scenarios could possibly have stayed to inflict more damage, but the risk of losing additional fighters in most cases outweighs the likelihood of getting another bomber or the danger from that aircraft’s bombs.
Following the tabletop action, a couple of pen-and-paper naval scenarios were played out. The Japanese attempted to run more reinforcements down The Slot by high speed destroyer, but were located and attacked by SBD’s from Henderson. Damage was reported but it is unknown how many Japanese troops were unloaded. Later a force of destroyers attempted to move south and bombard the airfield. They were again located by scout bombers from Cactus who guided in the main strike force, which sunk two destroyers. The remaining ships bombarded the airfield and then retired.
We have only one tabletop scenario left to play as the Japanese prepare for their all-out assault on the Marine perimeter. Have the fliers of the Cactus Air Force stopped enough Japanese reinforcements from reaching the island or will the thin line of Marines be overwhelmed. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.