|Opening Salvo: War at Sea|
|Part 8 - Destroyers|
LUCA TARIGO - BACKGROUND
Like all Italian Navigatori-class destroyers, the Luca Tarigo was named after a famous Italian explorer. The Navigator destroyers were built in response to the larger French Jaguar and Guepard destroyers; compared to other Italian destroyers of the time they were quite large and powerful. Launched in 1928, the Luca Tarigo would fulfill the usual escort duties of a destroyer during the events leading up to the Second World War. After only one year of war the ship would be
Battle of the Tarigo Convoy
While the campaign in North Africa was waged, the waters around between Italy and Libya were the site of many naval conflicts. Both the Allies and Axis were attempting to safely convoy their own transports, while disrupting those of other side. The 1941 Tarigo Convoy was named after the flotilla’s flagship, the Luca Tarigo. It also consisted of the Baleno and Lampo - two Folgore-class destroyers – four German troopships and one Italian ammunition ship. British intelligence had intercepted messages regarding the convoy, and it was later shadowed by a British aircraft.
The British 14th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of the destroyers HMS Janus, Jervis, Mohawk, and Nubian, was sent to intercept the Italian convoy off the Kerkennah Islands off the Tunisian coast. Attacking at night and with surprise due in part to their advantage in radar, the British destroyers destroyed the entire convoy and all three escorting Italian destroyers. However, the Luca Tarigo managed to hit the HMS Mohawk with a torpedo, causing it to be scuttled soon after. The Captain of the Luca Tarigo was posthumously awarded the highest Italian decoration for valor, the Medaglia d'Oro.
LUCA TARIGO – WAR AT SEA
The Luca Tarigo has fairly standard defense values for a destroyer. The destroyer’s mere armor rating of two means few ships will fail to hit her, but a vital armor of seven means that only larger ships have a good chance of destroying her outright. Her gunnery attacks are standard for a destroyer, good enough to attack other destroyers or auxiliary units, but weak against larger opponents. Her torpedoes help make up for this and allow her to attempt to engage battleships, although this is hardly a recommended course of action. The main problem with the torpedoes is their lack of range. By the time she’s close enough to engage, the Tarigo will likely be crippled or destroyed before she can even fire them.
Sub Hunter is an interesting ability for a destroyer that doesn’t seem to have a particularly effective ASW attack. However while the odds of hitting a submarine may not be great, they’re still possible and it’s important to remember that the ASW attack is resolved first – meaning that if the Luca Tarigo hits, the submarine will be crippled or destroyed before it even gets to attack. Sub Hunter can be used in multiple ways. The most obvious method is if you go first and move into a submarine’s sector, you can follow it if it leaves. However it can also be used to effectively give the ship a speed of three, though of course it’s limited to entering a sub’s sector. This use works just as well going first or second and can sometimes be used to close into torpedo range of other ships. Assuming, of course, you survive to fire them.
Lay Smoke Screen is the most important feature of the Luca Tarigo, and you will note that it has unlimited uses. However, this doesn’t always mean that dropping smoke is the best course of action. Remember from the Advanced Rulebook that there is not defensive fire as in Axis & Allies Miniatures, and if you’re not careful your opponent can simply slip into the smoke for cover. Lay Smoke Screen is always one of the rare abilities that are best used by the first player. Position the Luca Tarigo in front of a battleship such as the Vittorio Veneto. Have the battleship open fire, and then the Luca Tarigo simply lays smoke. Now the line of sight is cut off to the battleship, and the Luca Tarigo will have a one in three chance of avoiding attacks.
The main drawbacks of the Luca Tarigo, compared to other destroyers, are her low AA and ASW values. However her abilities and moderate cost help make up for this. Devious admirals will find Lay Smoke Screen especially useful in their tactics. You may need to bring a few of these destroyers along though if you intend to make use of the smoke screens; they aren’t all that hard to sink and be assured your opponent will target them.
USS FLETCHER (DD 445) – BACKGROUND
Commissioned in June of 1942, the USS Fletcher was the lead ship of her class and named after Admiral Frank Fletcher. The Fletcher performed many vital roles in battles such as Guadalcanal, the Solomons, Leyte Gulf, and even the Korean War. In her years of service the Fletcher earned twenty battle stars.
A few months after being commissioned, the Fletcher began operations in the south Pacific and was sent out on escort and patrol duty around Guadalcanal. In November she was part of a force used to cover the landings of reinforcements, and was able to drive off a heavy wave of aircraft – destroying several herself.
As the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal began, the USS Fletcher was part of the infamous Barroom Brawl. The US Force, consisting of a carrier, two battleships, five cruisers, and twelve destroyers engaged the Japanese force guarding their transports. During the course of the battle the Japanese lost several ships, including both battleships and eleven of their transports. Despite the chaos of the battle, the USS Fletcher would come out relatively unscathed.
Battle of Tassafaronga
After supplying, the Fletcher was sent out to patrol for submarines, but was soon sent with a force of cruisers and other destroyers to intercept another Japanese attempt by the Tokyo Express to land troops at Guadalcanal. The US force consisted of four heavy cruisers – USS Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Hampton, and Pensacola – the light cruiser USS Honolulu, and the destroyers USS Drayton, Fletcher, Maury, and Perkins. The Japanese force included only eight destroyers; the flagship Naganami, the Takanami, Kuroshio, Oyashio, Kagero, Suzukaze, Kawakaze, and Makinami. Though it consisted of only destroyers, the lesser Japanese force was able to inflict heavy damage with their long-lance torpedoes. The Americans lost a heavy cruiser and a destroyer, with three more cruisers were heavily damaged, driving the Americans off. In return only one destroyer was sunk. The USS Fletcher managed to rescue the crew of the sinking USS Northampton before leaving.
During the Solomon Islands Campaign, the USS Fletcher would perform duties such as warding off air attacks, bombarding shore targets, rescuing downed aviators, and attacking Japanese landing barges. She later covered the new US landings on Guadalcanal, and in February 1943 sunk the Japanese submarine I-18. Later she covered the landings on Russell Islands, bombarded Munda airfield, and escorted transports.
The Fletcher had a brief lull as she received an overhaul in Sydney, Australia, before once more being sent into combat. In the Invasion of the Gilbert Islands she provided additional air cover for the carrier task group, once more downing several aircraft. The Fletcher was sent to Pearl Harbor for another refit, and then escorted a convoy from San Diego to Lahaina Roads. Hawaii. After escorting the convoy it was back to routine for the Fletcher – bombarding Tarroa, patrolling Eniwetok, escorting another convoy, and patrolling against submarines.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
Prior to the battle the Fletcher was used to screen troop transports and other convoy ships for the initial landings, and was assisted in the prelanding bombardments on Ormoc Bay, Mindoro, and on the Japanese airfields. Then she was once again used as an escort to fend off more aircraft.
The Fletcher provided close cover for the Luzon Attack Force, taking out several aircraft that attacked during the Lingayen Gulf landings. She then took part in several other landings, including Palawan, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga. She then covered the minesweepers at Tarakan before running escort for ships around the Philippines.
Battle of Bataan
During the Battle of Bataan the Fletcher fired in the preliminary bombardment, acted as fire support, and once more covered the minesweepers. The Japanese batteries on Los Cochinos Point included the Type 96 240mm field howitzer, and the Fletcher was sent to engage them. The Fletcher came under heavy fire, and a hit from the batteries killed eight on boarded the Fletcher and wounded three more. However her crew kept up the attack while performing damage control. Also, despite the damage she was even able to perform rescue operations for the minesweeper YMS-48, also critically hit by the Japanese batteries.
By the end of World War II, the Fletcher had earned fifteen Battle Stars, but this wouldn’t be the end for her. Though she was placed in reserve on January 1947, she was refitted and made and joined the 7th Pacific Fleet with the outbreak of the Korean War. During this period she participated in the invasions, screened carriers, was used for antisubmarine training, and patrolled the Taiwan Straits. Her actions earned five more Battle Stars. She wouldn’t be decommissioned until 1969, and finally sold for scrap in 1972.
USS FLETCHER (DD 445) – WAR AT SEA
The USS Fletcher has the highest armor value of any destroyer, a whole three. The increase is really only significant against the weakest guns of capital ships or the batteries of other destroyers. However, even one point can sometimes make the difference between a hit and a miss. The Fletcher lacks special abilities such as sub hunter, close escort, or lay smoke screen, instead having a minor and limited ability against battleships.
Chase the Salvoes is not to be underestimated, as it can sometimes be used to close in on those enemy battleships, but on the other hand your opponent must be using a battleship. Of course this ability isn’t the primary reason you would take the Fletcher, it’s just something a little extra on a ship that’s decently priced. If you get to use it consider it a bonus, but if not then don’t feel as if its points wasted.
The gunnery value on the USS Fletcher is low for a destroyer, though the higher of the two US destroyers’ attacks. Still against destroyers it’s good enough, and against most other units one die doesn’t make much difference. By now you may be asking yourself exactly what good is this ship. The answer is the Fletcher performs well as a cheap escort for your capital ships. She has the highest AA value of any destroyer, and is quite capable of turning back enemy aircraft. She may not be quite as adept at sub hunting like the USS Samuel B Roberts or HMS Javelin, but as long as you are the second player you still have a very good chance of hitting an enemy submarine. Two Fletcher-class ships should be able to take out a sub before it even gets to fire.
The USS Fletcher makes for a great and inexpensive escort. Fitting with its history, she can be used to fend off aircraft, attack enemy submarines, and even add a little supporting fire in a surface engagement. She may not seem like much, but she gets the job done.
Opening Salvo #9
On Wednesday we will have our final preview of Axis and Allies Miniatures: War at Sea as we examine the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Until then, feel free to discuss this on our message boards.