We had an opportunity to play Fire in The Sky – my favorite take on the Pacific war and I had the honor of playing American side of the story. I have to admit that the American problem – excessive flow of wrong material at the wrong time is a bit frustrating – especially if opposition manages to snatch CV’s away early on.
My opponent opted not to go for the Pearl Harbor to my amazement, but instead put up a strike force that guaranteed the flow of oil and to take out Port Moresby and Guadalcanal. Besides of that, he was rather conservative in the oil expenditure, and reserves were building up quite nicely – especially near disaster near Wake that reminded Japanese that American CV threat is real. Unfortunately US TF did not manage to cause damage nor hits to the Japanese, but they certainly treated more carefully afterwards.
At the start of the second turn, Japan could transport 8 and after third, when Singapore fell, 12. From then on, he kept hoarding – and then only focused on severing the link between Australia and Pearl Harbor keeping reactionary force at hand. Until Guadalcanal, the attack went surgically and like knife in the butter. Cost however was that spent units were not redeployed into the front lines, and holes started to appear into Japanese umbrella.
Of course I tried over and over again block the eventual doom from happening but my every attempt met end in the hands of the carrier force – or some other disaster. Hard task when moving single 4 step infantry unit to anywhere near Guadalcanal cost half the available transport capacity and fleets faring not much better. Deploying even a small reactionary force to keep eye on the Japanese operations in the region had tremendous cost. American single carriers were vulnerable to extreme. It is not to say that my opponent did not make tactical and strategic mistakes – far from it. However, they were completely offset by my own incompetency ;).
However, losing a CV and AACL in same turn to two submarines is something to tell home about, a bad thing not because of losses – they would be replaced, but because of the region the losses occurred – in Gilberts. At the time, only viable position to threat Japanese ops and drag them into fighting on ground of my choosing. That was the moment things started to hit the fan – repeatedly.
Our take on battle in Guadalcanal featured – remarkably enough – carrier hide and seek where both sides launched strikes against another simultaneously, and while Americans mortally wounded Shokaku and Zuikaku, Lexington paid the price and sunk. Two smaller Japanese carriers were damaged but made it back home. Not in any shape to continue fight, American TF limbed back to home and for the moment it seemed that Guadalcanal and Port Moresby were safe.
Far from it. Despite the reinforcements that New Zelanders received in Port Moresby they were subject to vigorous attack from the Japanese ground forces, apparently infuriated by the fact that every call for support from Japanese navy, or air forces had failed in past months. After the latest batch of reinforcements, Port Moresby fell to Japanese hands, and not a long after, first troops landed practically unopposed in Brisbane.
Mind that at this time Manila, nor Leyte were not taken yet and both were well within the Japanese gasp would they wish to do so. For Americans, there were nothing that could have stopped it from happening. Loss of Brisbane was to have catastrophic results. In fact, when American final attempts to alleviate the situation miserably failed, and VP’s were mounting, I conceded.
Lesson learnt. Never leave your backdoor unguarded – and American CV’s are indeed very vulnerable if fighting alone, and not in the ground of their choosing. Given that the reaction distance is only half of the movement allowance, even the fastest vessels have range of four. Therefore, guarding region of Solomons or New Guinea does require local reactionary strike force standing by all the time. A hard task even if there is no Japanese air umbrella in place – which will surely extend as operations move forward, additionally hindering naval ops.