CY6! – The Beaufighters Got One
Bob had recently read “Fork Tailed Devil: The P-38” by Martin Caidin and had requested that the Lightning make an appearance for our next Check Your Six! game, so I wrote a couple of P-38 scenarios and we decided to do this scenario, based on a passage in that book by P-38 pilot Charles King.
The P-38s from the 39th Fighter Squadron are escorting Royal Australian Air Force Beaufighters on a strafing attack against Japanese shipping during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (Note: the Bismarck Sea does look awfully green in the game photos – I haven’t made a new blue hex mat and my old one has hexes that are bigger and so limits available maneuver space. I opted for gameplay over aesthetics this time). Charles King described encountering five Zeros stacked at various altitudes from sea level up to 5000 ft. That made for a fairly interesting set-up for the Japanese as their planes were not able to mass for an attack easily.
Ken and I took the Japanese and began maneuvering to attack the Beaufighters. Unlike attacks against most bomber targets, we had to avoid presenting the Beaufighter a decent shot at use, as their heavy armament of four 20mm cannons and six .303 caliber machine guns would rip our lightweight fighters to shreds. With that in mind Ken and I maneuvered for favorable shots. I got in the first shot and immediately damaged a Beaufighter, but the P-38s were quick to respond and splashed a Zero. The damaged Beaufighter was chased down and destroyed eventually. Ken made a head on approach to one Beaufighter, counting on his advantages in agility and crew skill to keep him from harm. The plan worked, as the Beaufighter missed and the Zero connected with cannons and machine guns, destroying the second RAAF aircraft. During the fight one of Bob’s P-38s and my veteran Zero made a head to head firing pass, with both aircraft being damaged. The P-38’s engine damage was more severe and that aircraft began to withdraw back to the south.
A running battle ensued as the Zeros (aided by reinforcements in the form of a pair of Japanese Army Ki-43) tried to chase down the last two Beaufighters. Tom’s remaining Beaufighter was able to skate away as the Japanese concentrated on Bob’s remaining aircraft. A stren chase like this is a tough situation for the attacker because you make yourself predictable for the escorts when you are setting up the shot. However, one of my Zeros had the luck this day. The escorting P-38s twice had very good close-range shots and twice whiffed the to-hit roll. I needed this bit of luck because so far my rolls for damage had been pretty low and the Allies had shrugged off all of the damage we could throw at them. Spared from destruction, the Zero bored in on the Beaufighter and blasted it from the sky. That aircraft promptly ran out of ammo on it’s next shot. The Lightnings did manage to being down one of the two Ki-43s though.
While all of this was going on, one of Ken’s Zeros had been engaging in a long chase to catch up to the damaged P-38, plinking away from medium range with his light machine guns. Finally ken was able to close the range and bring the cannon to bear. However, Bob turned away and looked to be just about to escape. Ken had one last shot and scored a hit. Bob passed the Robustness roll but rolled doubles and Ken got a lucky hit – a fuel tank explosion! sitting in the last hex row of the table, Bob’s aircraft was destroyed.
The Japanese won the scenario with 16 VP to 13 VP, downing three Beaufighters and a Lightning at a cost of one Zero and an Oscar destroyed and a Zero damaged. A fun close game that the Japanese pulled out in the very end with the destruction of the last Beaufighter and the damaged P-38. Ken’s decision to chase down that fighter proved to be a good one.
I’ve had these Beaufighters painted for quite some time now, but they’ve been sitting around waiting for me to put the insignia on them. I really liked the way they turned out.