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War at Sea: Guadalcanal Campaign Pt. 3
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
by Patrick Graham

Editor's Note: We have reworked this scenario into two distinct parts so the campaign will properly branch into Scenarios 4 and 5.

Overview

With their first major offensive on Guadalcanal unsuccessful, Imperial Japan needed to reinforce their weakened position on Guadalcanal and bring in fresh troops if another offensive was to be mounted against the American marines that had captured the island. However, despite the initial naval victory won at Savo Island, there was a great degree of difficulty in moving supplies and soldiers onto the island. The newly finished Henderson Field was already becoming a presence in the area. Its aircraft were taking a toll on Japanese shipping in the area, and were preventing efforts to bring fresh troops and equipment to Guadalcanal. Moreover, the carriers that had departed with Admiral Fletcher had returned. A group consisting of the carriers Enterprise, Saratoga and Wasp, in turn divided into three separate task forces, was now covering the resupply of Guadalcanal. If a major effort to move new troops and equipment onto the island was undertaken by the Japanese, these carriers would have to be dealt with.

Operation Ka sought to be a broad operation aimed at reducing Allied naval and air support in the Guadalcanal area while bolstering Japanese troop and equipment levels all the same. A Carrier force led by Vice Admiral Nagumo would move aggressively to the south scouting intensely for the American Carrier force. Once spotted, bombers from the three Japanese aircraft carriers would destroy their American counterparts. Surface ships would then move in to mop up the American task force while the remaining carrier borne planes in addition to bombers based in Rabaul would reduce Henderson Field. This would allow for the landing of one thousand soldiers from the ‘Ichiki’ Regiment and additional soldiers from the 5th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force. With Henderson Field destroyed and the American Navy repulsed, new ground offensives could take place on Guadalcanal to eject the Marines entrenched there.

The fleet initially moved south toward Guadalcanal on August 23rd, but had to quickly jot north when spotted by a scouting Catalina. The timetable was revised to commence a landing on the 25th. The American Carrier Group, aware of the Japanese presence in the vicinity but low on fuel sent back the Wasp and her escort to be refueled while the Saratoga, Fletchers flagship, and the Enterprise remained. The Japanese Task Force would detach its light carrier and its escort at 0145 hours on the 24th so that it could preemptively strike at Henderson Field. The sighting of the Ryujo Light Carrier at 0935 hours and the subsequent launch of American fighters touched off the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

Aftermath

The Ryujo light carrier force, was easily isolated being so far ahead of the main body of the carrier force. Bad weather forced away additional aircraft incoming from Rabaul and the airplanes the carrier sent against the airfield were unable to seriously damage the airfield. Incoming aircraft from the Saratoga blew the Ryujo out of the water with several direct bomb strikes. The heavy cruiser Chikuma spotted the American carrier force and the main body of Japan’s forces, the Shokaku and Zuikaku launched their fighters to attack the American ships. The Enterprise sustained heavy damage, taking three bomb hits to her deck. However, such extensive damage would not put her down, and the ship would return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. She would return on October 24th, just in time to participate in the battle of Santa Cruz. While the Saratoga would escaped unscathed, Japanese pilots favored the much closer Enterprise, she would withdraw from the area so as not to be isolated against further carrier threats.

Believing the American carriers in the area to be neutralized, Admiral Tanaka made the decision to push ahead with the convoy. This decision completely ignored the fact that Henderson Field was still operational. The convoy steamed ahead on the morning of August 25th. It did not take long for the ships and transports to be spotted by scout planes from Henderson Airfield, who followed up with an attack just after 0800 hours. The Jintsu and the Kinyu Maru, a transport, were heavily damaged in the strike. As evacuations were under way, another wave of attackers sunk the destroyer Mitsuki. Tanaka gave the order for the rest of the convoy to depart, abandoning, for now, any notion of daytime reinforcement of the island.

The failure of using day-time convoys to reinforce Guadalcanal would lead to the use of the famed ‘Tokyo-Express’ which delivered soldiers on armed destroyers during the night when aircraft were inactive. This service had begun shortly after the failure of Savo Island, but its necessity was highlighted by actions such as this, that failed remedy the problem of allied air cover. Unfortunately, this method of transportation was incapable of landing large numbers of soldiers or any heavy equipment. Aircraft at Henderson Airfield would continue to harass incoming destroyer convoys, accounting for several sunk and damaged vessels in the coming weeks. Henceforth, most operations in the future would be directed at eliminating this important airfield as a threat.

Scenario CGC-3: The Eastern Solomons

On the morning of August 24th, 1942 American scout planes spot the advance forces of Japanese carrier groups sent to escort a landing force bound for Guadalcanal. The Japanese task force must be dissuaded from continuing its landings. Japanese bombers must strip the American naval forces of carrier support in order to facilitate future landings.

Maps: Use Battle Map #1 for this scenario.

Task Force Under Admiral Fletcher
USS Enterprise x 1
USS Salt Lake City x 1
USS Boise x 2
USS Samuel B. Roberts x 2
USS Fletcher x 2
TBD Devastator x 2
F4F Wildcat x 1

Task Force Under Admiral Mikawa
Shoho x 1
Shokaku x 1
Tone x 2
Jintsu x 1
A6M2 “Zeke” x 1
D3A “Val” x 3

Deployment

Japanese forces deploy first in the Player One Deployment Area for this map configuration.

American forces deploy second in the Player Two Deployment Area for this map configuration.

Victory Conditions: Victory is determined normally

Campaign Instructions: If playing this scenario as part of the Guadalcanal Campaign. In the instance of a Japanese win, play scenario Guadalcanal 5 next. In the instance of an American win, play scenario Guadalcanal 4 next.


Scenario 3-B:

Scenario Card Description: In this fictional scenario, a small Japanese task for trie to sneak into Iron Bottom Sound in order to provide off-shore support for the Japanese bridgehead on the Ilu River.

Maps: Use Battle Map #6 for this scenario.

Task Force Under Admiral Fletcher
USS Enterprise x 1
USS Salt Lake City x 1
USS Fletcher x 4
TBD Devastator x 2
F4F Wildcat x 1

Task force under Admiral Mikawa:
Shoho x 2
Kongo x 1
Yukikaze x 2
A6M2 “Zeke” x 1
D3A “Val” x 1

Deployment:

Japanese forces deploy first in the Player One Deployment Area for this map configuration.

American forces deploy second in the Player Two Deployment Area for this map configuration.

Victory Conditions: Victory is determined normally:

Campaign Instructions: If playing this scenario as part of the Guadalcanal Campaign. In the instance of a Japanese win, play scenario Guadalcanal 6-B next. In the instance of an American win, play scenario Guadalcanal 5 next.










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