Check Your Six! – Come On, Charlie!
Last week I hosted another Check Your Six! game for the group here. I had written a scenario a while back called Come On, Charlie based on an encounter I had read about between Zeros of the Tainan Air Group and Airacobras from the 39th Fighter Squadron and we finally got a chance to give it a try.
This encounter initially interested me for a couple of reasons. Foremost, it was one of the few instances I could find in which the Airacobras actually started the attack in a favorable position. Second, the famous Japanese ace Saburo Sakai was a participant. Finally I was able to find quite a bit of detail on the fight to add interesting details.
The scenario centers around a group of beleaguered B-26B Marauders returning from a raid on Lae. The B-26s were attacked by the Tainan Air Group fliers outbound from the strike and have been harried the entire way, losing half of their aircraft. American fighters based at Port Moresby did not have the range to escort the bombers all of the way to Lae, so an escort group (call sign Charlie) was to meet the bombers on the way back. The escorts come on the scene as the Japanese are still attacking the bombers and so are able to get the jump on the Japanese fighters. The scenario starts with the bombers surrounded by Zeros, which are randomly assigned facing toward or away from the bombers and at random speeds. The Japanese in our scenario were pretty evenly distributed facing toward and away from the bombers, but we rolled low for our starting speeds, finding ourselves at a definite tactical disadvantage (i.e. low and slow). The Airacobras then deployed to bounce the Japanese. Finally, one Japanese pilot (Warrant Officer Yoshino, an ace with 15 kills) was place in his historical starting position – trailing the leading US element.
The game was a bloody one from the first turn. The Japanese were forced to move before the Americans on the first turn (representing the bounce) and so chose to concentrate on the remaining bombers. One was destroyed and another suffered engine damage in this initial pass. However, Yoshino downed one of the US aircraft that turned to engage him. One of the Zeros fell prey to a burst from an Airacobra. The second element of Airacobras dropped in from above and a swirling fight developed around the bombers as they fled south. The Airacobras held their initial advantage of altitude and speed for a while and were able to use that to good advantage for a while, but eventually they were down to the same level as the Zeros and the greater skill of the Tinain fliers began to make itself felt. Two more B-26s were damaged, but both suffered airframe damage and so their speed was not affected. Saburo Sakai had been facing away from the bombers and moving slow at the start of the game, so took a couple of turns to get back around. On his first shot I rolled doubles (the Japanese had been a running fight against the bombers so were able to run out of ammo even on the first shot) anbd ran out of cannon ammo. However, the Ace pilot was able to bring down the bomber with the damaged engine using just the 7.7mm machine guns. Both forces lost a couple of additional fighters and suffered additional ammunition depletion (I eventually rolled doubles and ran out of ammo with all three of my Zeros, although Sakai had machine gun ammo to the end).
The Zeros continued to pour fire into the bombers whenever possible, but after a couple of early failures, the robust construction of the American bombers allowed them to weather shot after shot. Bob was also able to consistently roll well for his Airacobras as well, shrugging off several good shots by the Zeros. Eventually the B-26s broke through and the fight became a running one. Most of the Airacobras had been damaged or run out of ammunition and had dived out of the fight. A couple of Zeros continued to pursue the remaining three bombers. Scott was able to eventually bring down on of the damaged aircraft just before it got off the table. Sakai pursued an undamaged bomber for several turns, hitting it each turn with fire from his two machine guns. but barring a lucky hit, the two puny rifle-caliber weapons had little chance of bringing down the American plane.
With the bombers safely away, the remaining US escorts dived away from the fight. We tallied up the victory points and the Japanese were the winners, mainly on the strength of having destroyed three of the bombers. The game was a really fun one and I thought it captured the feel of the accounts of the battle very well. I did make a few little adjustments to the scenario based on the outcome of the game as well as a little more research I’ve been able to dig up (the version on the Downloads page is the newest version).
My hands must have been shakier than usual because this batch of photos is a little blurrier than usual. I did manage to score a mini-tripod while picking over the carcass of Circuit City this weekend, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some better shots in the future…