Turn 6 – After flattening Mili, the Yorktown Group sailed south towards Butaritari Island. Both Dauntless Dive Bomber squadrons landed for refueling. The Wildcat squadron flew South and discovered an unknown number of Jap aircraft in hangers and a Jap Light Cruiser. The Light Cruiser is deadly to the Yorktown if it closes within torpedo range. A heavy anti-aircraft detachment overlooks the airfield and a supply ship is anchored in the harbor.
Enterprise Group’s two Wildcat squadrons ambushed a Jap Fighter Squadron at takeoff and shot most down. One float plane has Wotje under radar coverage with no planes are in the air but there may be planes on the ground. No ships are in the vicinity.
A float plane scout spotted a Jap supply ship in the Jabor Island harbor.
Turn 7 – The Yorktown group dispatched all three destroyers to intercept the light cruiser. The F4F Wildcat circled the Jap airfield daring the planes to attempt to take off. The Yorktown launched a rearmed and refueled squadron of SBD Dive Bombers. The three destroyers fired torpedoes at the Jap Light Cruiser heavily damaging it. The Jap ship lightly damaged one destroyer. The F4F Wildcats continued to dare the Japs to attempt to take off from Butaritari Island.
In the North the Enterprise Group used its PT boat to shoot up the remaining Jap aircraft on Maloelap with its 50 caliber machine guns. The three air squadrons made the short flight to Wotje where they spotted Jap planes still in their hangers. Unfortunately, one F4F Wildcat flew too close to the airfield and a plane was shot down by Jap anti-aircraft fire. The Enterprise ordered his PT boat and a destroyer to steam at full speed to Wotje to hopefully shell the Jap AA detachment and the planes on the landing field.
Turn 8 – The Yorktown’s Squadron 1 of Dauntless dive bombers sank the Jap Light Cruiser. The destroyer force is being split. One destroyer is ordered to steam to Jabor Island and sink the Jap Supply ship. The other two destroyers are ordered to bombard Butaritari Island, sink the supply ship and shell the airfield. The Yorktown herself will slowly steam towards Jabor Island to allow her two Dauntless and single Wildcat squadron to be recovered.
Turn 9 – The detached Destroyer and PT boat are hitting Wotje with their guns. The Japs got a squadron into the air, but it was heavily shot up on take-off. The two ships should be able to reduce the fuel depot and the anit-aircraft gun without any difficulties. The Enterprise air wings can either hit the Japanese planes or shoot up land targets.
My easternmost scout float plane approached Kwajalein Atoll from the Southeast. I’d hoped that the damage inflicted by the Enterprise group due East of Kwajalein would allow my scout plane to get a quick glimpse of the Japanese forces. It did not work. My scout was intercepted by Jap fighters and one of the three scouts was shot down. Remaining scouts pushed on hoping to get into extreme radar range of Kwajalein before turning back.
Turn 10 – I get two sub units. During the rest of the battle they skulked around, sank a Jap ship or two, got depth charged, and managed to escape. That is it for my coverage of the subs. This is not a knock-on US Submarine forces in the Pacific. They sank the Jap Merchant Marine which crippled the Pacific fleet, air force, and starved their troops. The successful US submarine strategy made island hopping feasible because Japan could not adequately resupply isolated units.
The Kingfisher scout found a lot of trouble. First, the southern approach to Kwajalein is guarded by a naval gun covered by a heavy AA unit. The remaining Jap squadrons are on full alert. The Jap fighter is coming up on our tail and radar picks up at least two Jap squadrons forming up over Kwajalein.
This changes my strategy. First, the Enterprise needs to stay well to the East of Kwajalein to hopefully avoid detection. This great distance means the air wings have a long way to travel to hit the Kwajalein fuel dump or airfield. The distance does give the fighters more time to shoot down incoming Jap planes. Last, dive bombers must destroy the coast gun before the PT Boats or destroyers can approach Kwajalein. Few long run plans remain unchanged after the enemy is contacted.
The Enterprise Group has good and bad news. The good news is the PT boat and destroyer will reduce Wotje Atoll next turn. The fighter wing based at Wotje has been destroyed. The bad news, the squadrons are about out of fuel and need to land and rearm. You can only launch one squadron a turn so getting everything rearmed, refueled and airborne takes multiple turns. The Scout’s contact report from Kwajalein means the Enterprise cannot move towards Kwajalein unless the Jap squadrons are destroyed.
The Big Picture: A minimum of three Jap squadrons are within strike range of the Enterprise. Enterprise will not have their air units back for multiple turns. One squadron of F4Fs is being refueled and rearmed and can supply combat air patrol on turn 11. The other two squadrons must land, refuel, rearm and launch before the Japs arrive. This takes time. Kwajalein is guarded by at least one coast artillery unit. Yorktown cannot support Enterprise or attack Kwajalein for many turns. Until Yorktown recovers her planes she must move slowly.
Turn 11 – The Enterprise Air Commanders are jammed into the radio room. Static crackles as an anxious, young, and stressed out voice comes over the speaker. The transmission is from the OS2U Kingfisher Scout Flight Blue Hawk. Three scout planes were in the flight.
“This is Blue Hawk 1. Blue Hawk 2 exploded in air. No survivors. Four Jap fighters are on Blue Hawk 3. Blue Hawk 3 is smoking. Oh NO! Blue Hawk 3 is on fire. She is going down. Hard landing. THOSE JAP BASTARDS ARE MACHINE GUNNING BLUE HAWK 3 ON THE WATER!
I’m heading for the cloud bank.
Damn, I’m not going to make it. Two Tony’s [Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien] are coming up on my tail. I cannot shake them.
Engine on fire. Bail Out! Bail Out! I’ll keep her level as long as I” ……………………………… static.
The radioman twists his dials. He slowly shakes his head and tells the commander: “transmission lost sir.”
Commander Jenkins: “Walker’s report last hour may have kept the Enterprise from sailing into multiple squadrons of Jap Torpedo Planes and Bombers. Those were brave men. Brave men…… “he looks at his shoes and leaves the radio room. Others follow.
The crews of Blue Hawk 2 and Blue Hawk 3 are listed KIA. Blue Hawk 1 was listed MIA presumed KIA. KIA was confirmed after the Marines took Kwajalein in February 1944 and the Jap records were reviewed.
Lt. Walker and his crew (Blue Hawk 1) were awarded the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross – Posthumous.
Lt. jg Emerson and his crew (Blue Hawk 2) and Lt. jg Cox (Blue Hawk 3) were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross – Posthumous.
Turn 12 – Yorktown will soon recover the last of her squadrons. She is sailing almost due West towards Jabor Island. The two destroyers which shelled Butaritari Island and sank the Jap supply ship are sailing at top speed to rejoin the Yorktown in the waters off Jabor. One destroyer is almost within range of the Jap Supply Ship anchored at Jabor.
One scout squadron is East of Jabor. The second is between Enterprise and Kwajalein.
Enterprise has recovered all squadrons and is launching a wing of F4F Wildcats this turn. Next turn the second squadron of F4Fs will be launched. Without adequate Combat Air Patrol, Enterprise will not close on Kwajalein.
Time for an update on victory conditions. Only 3 Jap Squadrons are alive. Two of the three fuel depots are torched. Only the Kwajalein depot remains. The US Navy has sunk 6 ships against a goal of 10. I’m in excellent shape midway through the scenario.
Turn 13 – Heavy Jap Raid Intercepted West of Kwajalein – Two Jap Squadrons, Torpedo and Bomber, launch attacks on a destroyer escort steaming towards Kwajalein. Since I pushed as hard as possible on Radar, the Japs may not have spotted the Enterprise. One F4F Wildcat will attack the Jap squadrons on my half of the turn. A second F4F squadron has just taken off from Enterprise and can probably engage next turn. A squadron of land-based Jap Fighters is coming up from the SW to engage the Wildcats.
Turn 15 – Starting the Mop-Up – The Jap air units have been heavily chewed up. The torpedo and fighter squadrons returned to Kwajalein. They proved no match for the F4Fs. The Yorktown’s fighter squadron should arrive in two turns. The Dauntless Squadrons are either hunting down stray shipping or converging towards the coastal gun. Last, the heavily damaged destroyer and the PT Boat Squadron are rapidly approaching Kwajalein from the NW to avoid coming under fire of the Coast Gun for as long as possible.
Turn 16 – The net is closing on Kwajalein. Two damaged Jap Squadrons landed and all three F4F Wildcat Squadrons can pounce on any Jap Aircraft attempting to take-off. Aircraft are vulnerable when attempting to take off and gain altitude. A Dauntless squadron will attack the Coast Gun next turn. Last, the PT Boat squadron and a heavily damaged destroyer are in bombardment range.
Turn 17 – Mopping Up – All Jap air units capable of harming my carriers have been shot down. Only a handful of Jap fighters remain. The Jap coastal artillery is almost destroyed, and US Navy ships are bombarding Kwajalein.
Turn 18 – Jap Airpower Destroyed – All Japanese aircraft in the region have been destroyed. The damaged F4F Wildcats are returning to their carriers. Some pilots were lost, but the survivors gained valuable combat experience. Only the Dive Bomber Squadron is aloft close to Kwajalein. The heavily damaged destroyer and the PT Boat squadron can shoot up the fuel depot.
Goals Achieved – Time to Retreat – On turn 19 the last Jap fuel depot was destroyed by Naval Gunfire. The Dauntless Dive Bombers sank enough shipping to satisfy Admiral Nimitz. All of the aircraft are returning home. Yorktown, Enterprise, and their immediate escorting vessels retreat West at top speed. Hanging around makes the carriers vulnerable to Jap surface ships and submarines.
Meanwhile, the US Navy Carrier Hornet launched B-25 land bombers at long range against Tokyo. The raid did little damage to the Japanese military but did great damage to their pride. Drunk with Victory, the Japs do not concentrate their Carrier strength in the upcoming battles of The Coral Sea and Midway.
Scrambling is a costly purchase at 10 research points and I only have 8 points. Scrambling lets your fighters take off and move 50% of their full movement in one turn. This increases their combat effectiveness about 25-30%. I bank my research points and move on to the next scenario.