Pearl Harbor represented the single worst defeat in US Navy history. The debacle of December 7, 1941 was so horrible that every wargame I’ve played covering the entire War in the Pacific has “special rules” to replicate the disaster. The Japanese attacked without declaring war catching the US forces in Hawaii completely by surprise. The US Army Air Corps was caught on the ground. Only a couple of US Navy Ships managed to raise anchor. Many anti-aircraft guns did not fire early in the battle because their ammunition was locked away and could not be loaded into the guns. The Order of Battle WW2: US Pacific Campaign is highly scripted in order to simulate the total surprise of Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is the first scenario in the US Pacific Campaign. I’m playing the campaign on the Lieutenant level of difficulty.
This battle is weirdly scripted to simulate the disaster. The primary objective is “To endure the attack for 15 turns.” This translates into “bend over, grab your ankles, and prepare to be spanked.” You are going to be attacked for fifteen turns by the Japanese Naval Air force and there is no way not to achieve this objective.
The secondary objectives are:
1] Visit primary VPs to activate AA guns – gives you another AA gun.
2] Visit airfields to activate Fighter aircraft – gives you either a P36 or a P40 fighter
3] Shoot down 5 enemy aircraft – weakens the Jap air force in future scenarios
4] Keep at least 1 battleship alive – gives you an auxiliary battleship in a future scenario.
You start with one mobile unit, a jeep ambulance. This ambulance can move into VPs to activate a mobile AA gun unit or an airfield to activate a US Army fighter. The AA units can in turn move into other airfields or VPs to activate other units. However, the fighters cannot land on an inactive landing field to activate additional squadrons of fighter aircraft. I’ve played this scenario at least a half a dozen times to provide an optimal strategy, at least on this level of difficulty.
How you move your units in the first four turns determines the effectiveness of your defense and your ability to achieve the secondary victory conditions. Like other Pearl Harbor simulations, this battle is highly scripted. This is the only scenario of the campaign where I’m strongly urging a player to follow an exact movement pattern to achieve highly specific results. All of the other scenarios I provide suggestions on executing your tactics for a successful strategy. But at least in turns 1-4 I suggest doing exactly what I’m illustrating in this AAR.
The Japs are going to blast you on Turn 1 and you can do nothing about their initial strike. Your ambulance should move to the VP to activate an AA unit. That AA unit will move to Hickam Field to activate a Fighter. The screenshots show how you should move your units on turn 1. Your fighter should engage an enemy torpedo or bomber plane. It is optimal to have your fighter end its turn in a space that covers some of the battleships to provide the chance for opportunity fire on Jap planes making attacks on turn 2. I usually place the fighter adjacent to the Arizona since it and the adjacent battleship are commonly selected as initial targets.
Turn 2 starts out by your units getting blasted by the Japs. You should move your AA unit into a port square so it can go into the harbor adjacent to Ford Field – the island in the middle of the harbor. Your ambulance reverses course across the harbor to target another VP and airfield. Your active fighter should probably attack the aircraft you damaged last turn so you can shoot it down in turn 2 or 3. Last, your AA gun might be in range of a Jap aircraft. If so, fire away. However, the AA gun MUST move to the indicated port square to reach Ford Island as soon as possible. Give up the AA shot on a jap plane if needed to advance your strategy.
In Turn 3 the Japs start off and hammer you some more. Your jeep ambulance moves as indicated on the screenshot. On turn 4 if you follow my advice you will activate two additional squadrons of US Army fighters and have the AA gun optimally positioned on Ford Island where it can shoot at Jap aircraft attacking your battleships. Your fighter should finish off the damaged Jap plane, or attack a different fighter or bomber unit if you shot down a Jap plane in turn 2. You MUST place your AA gun transport immediately adjacent to the airfield on Ford Island to optimize your results. The screenshot shows where your unit should go.
DO NOT have your fighter attack Japanese fighters or Zero’s escorting Jap bombers or torpedo planes. A fighter is considered “escorting” a bomber or torpedo plane if it is immediately adjacent to that unit. If you attack an escorted plane, the fighter gets a free retaliation attack. In the Pearl Harbor scenario, the fighters can do only minimal damage to ground targets. You need to keep your fighters healthy to shoot down Jap bombers and torpedo planes which can sink the fleet.
On Turn 4 the Japs start out with their attacks and you finally get enough forces to do some serious damage. Your AA gun lands on the Ford Island airfield and launches your second fighter. The ambulance activates your third fighter and another AA unit. The AA unit in turn heads up the NW road towards another airfield and VP containing yet another AA unit. Mirroring what occurred on the day of the battle, a squadron of B17s fly in. There is nothing for them to bomb so I would use this unit as a scout to reveal where the Japanese aircraft attacking your fleet are located. With 3 fighters you can probably shoot down a Jap plane every single turn – as long as you do not engage the Zeros.
Turn 5 – the US Army Air Corps is mostly activated. My three fighter units can down a Jap bomber or torpedo plane a turn as long as I do not engage in dogfights with the Zeros. My AA unit on Ford Island is in range to hit a Jap plane about every other turn for the rest of the scenario. My AA unit continues to work its way north to activate another landing strip and eventually the northernmost victory point which gives me another AA unit.
Turn 6 – Your currently active AA unit activates another fighter unit and another AA unit. The Army Air Corps now has five fighter squadrons in the air. The newly activated AA unit continues onward on the North Road to the last AA unit activation site on the Western part of the map. The Ambulance unit continues to move East across the top of the harbor. Again, don’t dogfight the Jap fighters. Last, don’t reinforce any of your fighter squadrons. You will desperately need those reinforcement points in the next couple of scenarios. Most of these fighter units are not advancing to the next scenario.
Turn 7 & Turn 8 – You get an F4F Wildcat from an offshore US carrier to add to your defense. The Ambulance keeps heading East, NorthEast along the road towards the remaining airstrip. You should have a lot of firepower in the skies. By the end of Turn 8 I had shot down 4 Japanese squadrons without reinforcing a single fighter unit. Amazingly, no Battleships have been lost with the Arizona clinging to life with one point remaining. This was a set of lucky outcomes for me. I’ve always lost at least one battleship on previous playthroughs.
Turns 9 through the end of the scenario on Turn 15 – On Turn 10 I activated the last spot on the Western side of the map. This gave me a Naval Commander as a reward – something totally unexpected and not in the secondary victory reward explanations. In this scenario you eventually control one destroyer. It is pointless to assign this commander to your only naval unit. You don’t get any major naval units for several scenarios. For this reason, I leave the commander on the beach.
On Turn 12 I activated my last fighter squadron. The Japanese have mostly retreated off map or have been shot down by this point. As indicated by the screenshot, I “won” the scenario achieving almost every secondary objective. You are better off activating airfields than AA units. I don’t think you can activate both all airfields and all AA units. If you are wise, you will follow this strategy and mostly use the AA units to activate fighters.
Good Luck! I had a little more luck in this battle than any previous playthrough. But the big luck was barely keeping the Arizona alive.