Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Savo Island - the OTHER day that will "Live In Infamy"

There's little doubt that the battle of Savo Island on 08/09/42 was a humiliating tactical defeat for the USN.  The first major clash of the USN and IJN surface forces should've been a stand-up fight between two cruiser squadrons.  Instead, it was the first of what would be many tactical defeats for the USN and strategic DE-feats for the IJN.  This makes the Solomon's Campaign one of the most interesting naval clashes of the entire war.  Plenty to get started here:
and even better, here:

In any event, the situation for our intrepid players was similar.  

The rules used were General Quarters 3.3, from Old Dominion Game Works: 
The rules are a medium to high-complexity set, mainly depending on how many different types of combat you put into one game - if you combine air attacks, submarines, surface combatants and shore batteries, don't complain about your game length!  We've been using them for small DD actions at night in the Solomons, where they work well and satisfy the group.  Each player has 1-2 DDs, and the emphasis is on command decisions to shape the scenario.
All the forces available were present, re-organized into forces easer to game with, and the quote is from the player who did the set-up [as Admiral Turner]:

R.Adm. V.A.C. Crutchley, RN, Task Group 62.6
HMAS Australia, HMAS Canberra [Kent, CA], HMAS Hobart [ ,CL]

CA Division – Cpt. F.L. Riefkohl
Vincennes, Quincy, Astoria [New Orleans, CA]

CA Division – R.A. Norman Scott, USN
Chicago [Northampton, CA], San Juan [Atlanta, CL]

DD Squadron 1– CDR. Williams
Division 1: Blue, Helm, Mugford,  Division 2: Henley, Patterson, Jarvis [Bagley, DD]

DD Division 2 – CDR. Smoot
Wilson [Benham], Gwin, Monssen, [Gleaves/Benson]

From Admiral Turner
“All ships at 12 knots.  Detection and repositioning of supporting ships is priority before engaging.  Do not engage at close range until sufficient squadrons present to sustain attack.”

The USN player had the choice of where to deploy to protect the supply transports unloading at Lengo Point:
The player commander chose to cover all four approaches separately, much like the original deployment.  But the North force was all three Australian cruisers, while the South force was just four US destroyers, and the East force was all the US cruisers.  Apparently he expected the IJN player to go with the approach through the channels, the closest to the anchorage.  In the center was a force of six Bagley destroyers, fielding 16 torpedoes each, eight per broadside.  I thought it was a bit unusual to screen with the CA's and back them up with DDs, but what do I know??

Meanwhile, the IJN had the option of four approach vectors - from the West, North or South of Savo Island, from the East either Sealark Channel or Lengo Channel.  The original Japanese approach was down the slot from the West, cutting South of Savo Island:
The IJN player chose to approach from the North of Savo with all force in the same formation.  His reasoning "it worked the first time..."

V.Adm. Gunichi Mikawa
Chokai [Takao]

Screen Division – Cpt. Asano
Tenryu [Tenryu, CL], Yubari [Yubari, CL], Yunagi [Kamikaze, DD]

CruDiv 6, Division 1 – R.Adm. Goto
Aoba, Kinugasa [Aoba, CA]

CruDiv 6, Division 2 – R.Adm. Goto
Furutaka, Kako [Furutaka, CA]

Here, the command decisions were offered to the players and very much decided the game - as it should be.  I resolved the approach vector of the IJN force at 22 knots and rolled them off against the Aussies for Detection / Acquisition.  In a rare instance of game imitating real life, the IJN Acquired the three cruisers before they even Detected the IJN.  Would the IJN imitate history and devastate the force with a surprise torpedo attack?

Tune in tomorrow!

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