Saturday, March 1, 2014

Somewhere in the Pacific, 1943

I've been wanting to work my 75mm M3's into a scenario for a while, coupled with an urge to build an island scenario board. So last Monday my old gaming buddy Tim Stapleton and I got our teeth into a generic Pacific island scenario, set sometime in 1943. The rules used were, as always, Battlefront WWII and the game was played with 20mm figures on a 6' X 4' board.

The Marines' objective was to execute a successful amphibious landing and fight their way inland to seize a Japanese airstrip. We allowed 12 turns for this, a bit short as it turned out, so the game was extended to 16 before it was felt that it had run its course.

1. The Battlefield 

Two possible landing areas are identified, code named Red and Blue beaches. Surveillance has determined that both beaches are ringed with barbed wire at the high water mark and that there are significant fortifications covering the landing areas. A spit of bare land divides the two beaches with a stream inlet exiting at the juncture. On the left flank of Red Beach the land curves around to create a bay with an inaccessible shore line, believed to also be fortified. (All pillboxes and trenches were identified with hidden unit markers only prior to the attack.)
In the distance can be seen the airfield, accessed by a jungle trail that leads up from the right end of Blue Beach. A broken ridge of rocky ground spans the battlefield, and it is here and along the shoreline that the Japanese defenders have established their two primary lines of defence.

2. The Attackers

For this scenario the attacking player has been allocated a full battalion of Marines. The battalion medium machine guns have been split up between the three companies while the two attached assault engineer sections are attached to the first wave companies along with the naval fire control party which will be available to call in the off shore guns of a destroyer after the initial fire plan concludes.
The American player opts to reserve his battalion command stands, 81 mm mortars and 75mm M3's for the follow up wave. This wave could either have its arrival on board designated ahead of time or be called in at a later time, with it arriving on board edge one to two turns following the call. The American player chooses the second option.

3. The Defenders

The IJA have stationed two companies in defence of this island. These are bolstered by a regimental infantry gun company (with 81mm mortars replacing the traditional 75mm gun), and a Type 88 Dual Purpose 75mm gun in an AA role by the airfield. A battalion antitank company (represented by two 37mm AT gun models) are attached to the company defending the landing areas. The battalion's 70mm battalion gun and heavy machine guns are also attached to this company.
The second IJA company occupies a string of dug outs inland from the beach along the rocky spine that spans the board.
Some Japanese armour also bolsters the island defences, with a self-propelled 75mm howitzer lurking behind the barricade blocking the exit from the beach and a Type 97 Chi-Ha tank in reserve further inland.

4. Red Beach

This is the beach on the American's left flank. The American player opts not to land anything on this beach, rightfully concerned of the possible enfilade from the suspected Japanese positions on the land jutting out to the left. This does, however, have the effect of leaving these units untouched for a later counterattack. Log bunkers house the two 37 mm AT guns, with the one to the right also having a line down to Blue Beach.

5. Blue Beach

The focus of the American landings, this beach is exited by a jungle trail that leads back to the airfield. The central bunker houses the battalion gun while the SP howitzer was positioned at the road's exit onto the beach just off picture to the right. A Japanese heavy machine-gun is also positioned here.

6. The Objective

A pig wanders in the middle of the now abandoned airfield while a Japanese AA crew scan the skies for enemy aircraft.

7. First wave approaches

While naval artillery fire brasses up the Japanese defences in a series of concentrations, the first wave, consisting of A and B Companies, approach in their Amtraks. ( As each model represents two to three actuals I doubled the carrying capacity for each to eight stands of infantry.)

8. Hitting the beach

Under cover of smoke which blankets the entire landing area laid down by the destroyers, the first wave makes the final run in unscathed by the defenders fire. The barbed wire stops the Amtraks from immediately clambering up onto the beach.

9. Japanese SP howitzer opens fire

This allows the Japanese SP to get in a second shot, knocking out the first Amtrak and forcing its occupants to bail out into the shallow water, suffering their first casualties. As they bail out the heavy machine gun opens up on set lines of fire down the beach.

10. Marines move off beach

A second Amtrak is brewed up as it crosses the wire and its occupants are also forced to dismount under fire. A Company's Amtraks are still in good order, although one is suppressed from fire by the 37 mm gun on Red Beach. As it has already breached the wire its Marines opt to dismount and engage the Japanese dug in at the jungle's edge.

11. Breaching the wire

Marines forced to dismount in the water make the water's edge and move across the wire, all the while under fire from the machine gun at the right end of the beach. But some of the company makes it off the beach and takes the fight to the enemy.

12. Pillbox knocked out

The pillbox housing the 70mm battalion gun is knocked out in close combat.

13. Clearing out the defenders

The beach head is widened as B Company moves down along the jungle's edge, clearing the defenders out of their trenches. Despite repeated calls for fire the Japanese mortar shells fail to arrive and their defence on Blue Beach starts to crumble.

14. Japanese pull back

With the centre of Blue Beach's defences breached the Japanese howitzer and some of the remaining infantry from Blue Beach start to pull back towards the second line of defence deep in the jungle.

15. Second defensive line encountered

While the remaining Japanese defences on Blue Beach are mopped up, elements of the two companies push into the jungle towards the airstrip. A second line of defence is encountered and the Marines immediately move into close assault, hoping to break through quickly before reinforcements arrive. But the line holds and they are sent reeling back as more Japanese defenders are pulled out from nearby positions to bolster the line.

16. Another Amtrak knocked out

Meanwhile a third Amtrak is knocked out as it ventures up the trail to the airstrip in support of the advancing Marines. Engaged by a Japanese tank, enemy infantry then close in to close assault. A Type 99 AT mine squad (bomb on a stick) are knocked out by the Amtrak's 50 cal before it in turn is taken out by the remaining infantry.

17. Japanese celebrate victory prematurely

With casualties mounting, A Company's will to fight breaks and they scramble back to the beach while the remaining elements of B Company are whittled down by artillery and small arms fire. Waving their rifles in the air Japanese celebrate an easy victory as they send most of A company packing, hurried on by the arrival of Japanese armour.

18. Second wave arrives

The celebration is premature because the American second wave is just hitting a beach littered with burning Amtraks.

19. A Company retreats to beach

A Company arrives back at the beach in full retreat to welcome C Company and battalion HQ as they make their landing.

20. B Company wiped out

Meanwhile the last of B Company inland is wiped out as Japanese released from Red Beach join in, falling on them from the rear. With the last of the American forces committed to Blue Beach, those defenders on Red Beach have been freed up to now pull back and bolster the second line of defence.

21. Defensive fire from Japanese bunker

The 37mm gun emplaced in the bunker on Red Beach does a stellar job, knocking out both of C Company's Amtraks in successive shots from the flank. Meanwhile the Marines make their way towards this last gun still firing from the beach, winkling out intervening defenders as they go and bagging the useless Japanese mortar FO in the process.

22. 75mm M3's exit the beach

The 75mm M3's disembark, one forging straight ahead into the jungle while the second turns to travel the longer but ultimately more negotiable route up the trail.

23. Bunker overrun

The pesky 37mm housed in the log bunker on Red Beach is finally overrun, taken out in close assault by a machine-gun section, but only after claiming both of C Company's Amtraks.

24. Marine battalion commander comes ashore

The Marine battalion commander comes ashore with his headquarter troops and the 81mm mortar platoon. Rallying the demoralized A Company, he directs his two remaining companies in attack back into the jungle.

25. Second wave moves off the beach

Amidst a mass of burning Amtraks, C and the regrouped remainder of A Company move off the beach.

26. Marines advance cautiously

The second wave encounters the Japanese just as they dispatch the last of B Company. Spotting the Japanese armour they stay out of sight, holding up until more reinforcements can arrive.

27. 75mm M3 moves up trail

The American SP 75mm travels up the jungle trail as some Japanese defenders, unspotted, move past them nearby through the jungle, heading towards the beach.

28. Ambush!

The M3 maneuvers into enfilade behind the ridge, potting the Chi-Ha in ambush as it pulls back from the ridge into the jungle.

29. Both sides consolidate

With the Japanese line firmed up and reinforced the Americans marshal their troops for the final push. The second halftrack has become hopelessly bogged down in the jungle, but the Marine commander moves up on the right flank, hoping to get some bearings on the enemy in order to call down mortar fire. A couple of sections are sent forward to draw fire while the remaining American troops lie in overwatch.
(This is the point where the game officially ended at 12 turns and besides, Tim had to go, but as it seemed so anticlimactic (and more importantly, the 75mm M3's had just entered the action) I played on solo for another four turns.)

30. End of a long haul

Meanwhile, back at the airfield, an epic trek comes to an end as the second Japanese 37mm gun crew stumble out of the jungle. They have hand-hauled their weapon through the jungle from Red Beach to augment the airfield's defences.

31. American mortars go into action

Now emplaced on Blue Beach, the American 81 mm mortars finally go into action, albeit briefly, as the Marine commander calls in fire on the spotted Japanese SP howitzer.

32. Marines charge under cover of smoke

As the Marines form up for the assault, the Japanese commander orders his troops to withdraw slowly towards the airstrip. The American commander sees the enemy melting back into the jungle and realizes that this is a cat and mouse game he isn't going to win. He orders his troops in to attack under cover of smoke. The two half tracks also advance simultaneously to within spotting distance of the Japanese SP howitzer. One half track is promptly knocked out but the second survives to engage the enemy armour.

33. Japanese counterattack

The American attack fizzles out, and a failed morale roll sends half of their units in panicked retreat to the beach. All companies on both sides are below 50% now (with some at 75%) so command and control begins to break down. On their turn some of the Japanese also panic, committing a disordered Banzai charge that breaks against the American defensive fire.
The game ends with the remainder of the Americans falling back towards the beach and a handful of Japanese still in tenuous control of the airfield, making it a somewhat dubious Japanese victory.


  1. Lovely terrain and battle report; very evocative. Thanks!

  2. Fantastic looking game. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Outstanding Bill, love your work mate!