Skip Bombing at Wewak Harbor
Haven’t had a game report up here in a long while, not because we haven’t been playing games, but just a combination of busy, lazy, and constantly forgetting the camera. Admittedly I could write reports without any pictures, but I like the eye candy. However last Friday I did remember about halfway through the game, which was a Check Your 6! game based on an attack on Japanese shipping in Wewak harbor by the B-25s of the 38th Bombardment Group.
A Japanese supply convoy had been detected moving into Wewak harbor and on Sept 2, 1943, the 38th Bombardment Group was dispatched to deal with the transports by low altitude attacks. The B-25s of the 38th BG had been converted into strafers, replacing the bombadier’s position with 4 0.50 cal machine guns and adding 4 more in external blisters. This gave the B-25s great forward firepower that was used to suppress AAA fire as they came in for masthead height skip bombing attacks. On this occasion 16 bombers of the 38th Bomb Group attacked the harbor, led by elements of the 405th Bombardment Squadron (the Green Dragons). The Japanese were ready for them this time and the B-25s were under constant attack from enemy fighters. Historically the bombers were escorted by ~60 P-38s, but those were engaged with ~80 enemy fighter above the low cloud deck. However, it’s entirely plausible that a few P-38s could have made it down from the clouds and so I added a few to the scenario. The 4 B-25s attacked from the SW (coming in from the shore) and immediately lined up on the nearest transport. Some Tonys were on patrol over the harbor and a couple of shotai of Oscars were chasing the bombers, entering behind them a couple of turns later.
As the B-25s approached the first target at 200 mph and 250′ (the optimal skip bombing profile), the Japanese AAA really started to fire. One of the strafers poured fire into the decks of the transport ahead and silenced it’s AA guns, but an AA battery on shore (represented in our case by an extra Japanese destroyer) scored a hit on the flight lead’s bomber. A lucky hit wounded the pilot and forced the crew to abort, but the co-pilot took over and kept the plane out of the drink. The first bomb was delivered and a hit topside, damaging but not crippling the vessel. At this point the swarm of faster moving Oscars and Tonys descended on the bombers and I started my string of miserable Robustness rolls. A ‘4’ and a ‘5’ later (on 2d6) and the flight lead’s aircraft lost an engine and a second aircraft had airframe damage and a fuel leak lucky hit. All was not totally lost as the turret gunners got a Japanese fighter and the Lightnings were swinging into the fray. I immediately pickled the bombs on the wounded bird and turned the flight toward the south edge, planning to make a bomb run against the ship anchored there on my way out.
The aircraft that had bombed the ship strafed another transport then turned for home, catching and Oscar in front of his forward guns, but was not able to hit the agile fighter. I didn’t have long to lament the missed shot as the bomber was promptly shot down. A couple of more turns saw the lone bomber still carrying ordinance just about to release his bombs when AAA and fire from the surrounding Japanese aircraft downed both that bomber and the one with the fuel leak. The flight leader’s aircraft caught an Oscar in the sights of his 8 0.50 cals and when it was all said and done, there was not a lot left of that Oscar. However, the bomber crew had a problem in that they were facing the wrong direction, at TAL 1, running on one engine, and any turn to the south risked a stall. There was nothing to do but go for it and I made the turn for home… and promptly spun into the water. The P-38s had licked up another kill along the way, but the Japanese were content with the days work and bugged out, having earned a rather decisive victory.
All in all a very entertaining game. Flying the bombers was fun as they have a lot more to do than just plod across the table in terms of lining up the skip bombing attack, supressing AA, etc. In addition, for this scenario, the bombers are allowed to move in the mover group appropriate for their crew skill once they have pickled their bombs. There were numerous recorded instances of B-25 strafer pilots downing Japanese fighters with their forward guns (including one on this mission).
This game was also a playtest of the scenario in preparation for Fall In!. I sent the scenario in to be included in the CY6! game area with many others, but apparently that clump of games did not make the Fall In! PEL. As soon as I have a good idea when the game will be, I’ll post it here. I also registered the game for 8 players, but will have extra bombers and Oscars so can take a couple of extras. As is so often the case, the dice tried their best to throw off my playtest. The robustness of the US bombers was a total non-factor as I rolled at a four and a five early on and added two very damaging lucky hits, essentially crippling my bomber force before I ever got going. However, even with that, a good hit on the last transport could have at least salvaged the day.
If all goes well, I’m going to make a brand new sea hex mat and produce a nice shore line, etc. so that it really looks like Wewak Harbor. I’m adding some nice new AAA positions, jetties, and small craft around the harbor to really give it a nice look. In addition, I’m converting my B-25C models into strafers, adding the nose and side guns and, if I can pull it off, painting the 405th BS’s dragon’s head artwork onto the noses of the bombers. One of the things that I really like about the scenario is that I’ve been able to find a wealth of information about this mission including details of the make up of the convoy from the Combined Fleet site and a very detailed description of the raid from the official unit records archived on the 38th Bombardment Group’s website, which is an excellent site for anyone interested in the war over New Guniea.