F-277 Saving the Shoho (WWII Naval)
Host: Stephan Berger; Scale: 1/3000; Rules: GQ3; Sponsor: ODGW; Number of Players: 10
May 7, 1942: In the Coral Sea, the CVL Shoho has been badly damaged by TF17 aircraft. IJN CruDiv 6 stands guard as a tow begins slowly taking her back to Rabaul and safety. As dusk nears Vice-Admiral Crace and TF44 appear on the horizon and a surface engagement is imminent. Shoho hangs on the result.
TF44 was comprised of cruisers HMAS Australia, USS Chicago, HMAS Hobart and five destroyers.
IJN forces: four heavy cruisers, 4 destroyers, Shoho and towing minesweeper.
Personal command: USS Jarvis (DD-393, Bagley-class) and USS Farragut (DD-348, Farragut-class).
AAR written from the Allied perspective.
The ANZAC force approached from the southeast in-column at 25 knots, three destroyers leading Chicago, Australia and Hobart with two DD’s trailing (Jarvis and Farragut). The Japanese force initially surrounded the Shoho, under tow at just 5 knots.
With sunlight fading over the first four turns IJN gunnery was superb while the Allies were largely ineffective. Japanese destroyers did a brilliant job of masking Shoho with smoke, preventing any opportunity for long-range gunnery attacks by the Allies. Chicago took a number of hits sharply reducing her speed and causing her to fall out of column. Australia and the leading destroyer suffered similarly but were able to maintain position. Early on the Japanese launched a torpedo attack at extreme range which failed to score any hits.
The Anzac column takes long-range fire from the IJN.
Admiral Crace ordered a due-north course change for his column, turning toward the advancing IJN cruisers. While the ANZAC force was able to score a number of hits of unknown effect, Australia took a terrific beating and was soon sunk. Hobart would follow three turns later as darkness fell across the table. Chicago, having repaired her engineering damage, was able to increase speed and follow at some distance.
At this point the ANZAC commanders caucused. There was some consideration for retirement but the DD captains appealed for a go-for-broke run at the carrier. With Crace's reluctant approval they would use Chicago as bait while the DD’s reformed and turned northwest for an echelon attack, the two trailing destroyers running outside the van.
True to form the IJN heavies focused on Chicago which was promptly torpedoed and shot to pieces. She did, however, manage to simultaneously return fire, sending cruiser Furutaka under.
The destroyers, racing ahead at 33 knots, quickly closed the range on Shoho. Farragut was able to put two medium-range 5-inch hits into her starting a hangar fire which would burn for a number of turns and reduce her to a single hull-box. Shortly thereafter two of the DD’s launched a dozen torpedoes.
The torpedoes would reach the target on the final turn of the game. The Japanese, having doubled back to engage the closing destroyers, were now a swirling mass of ships desperate to screen Shoho from attack. Of the dozen fish launched six would hit but three of those would be duds. One of the three torpedoes slipped through and struck Shoho, finishing her.
The final tally was roughly a draw. The IJN had sunk all three Allied cruisers and damaged three of the DD’s while losing a couple of cruisers and their light carrier.
Admiral Crace, fate unknown, had achieved what he set out to do.
Thanks to Steve Berger and our commander Cap’n Jack for running the game, and to ODGW for sponsoring. Hats off to the IJN players who scared the bejeebers out of us early on. As always we had a lot of fun.
Now we have to turn back and find Admiral Crace, treading water somewhere in the Coral Sea.