February 3, 1942
Rear Admiral Dormann’s war had not been going well up to this point. But here we will divert from history and steam into the realm of “what If”. What if the Japanese LBA had not found his striking force and what if the Boise had not found a submerged rock to ground upon.
There were reports of what appeared to be another invasion convoy heading South through the Makassar Straight and Dormann’s mission was to stop it. The ABDA Striking Force was organized into a cruiser squadron and two destroyer divisions (one Dutch and one American (DesDiv 58).
The ABDA was arrayed in three columns heading due North at 25 knots. The cruiser squadron (HrMs De Ruyter, USS Houston, Boise and Marblehead followed by HrMs Tromp), in that order; was in the center and flanked by (port) RNN Destroyer Group 2 (HrMs Bancket, Piet Hein & Van Ghent) and (starboard) DesDiv 58 (USS John D. Edwards, Barker, Bulmer and Stewart). The wind was from the NE at 5 knots and the visibility was clear.
At 1600 hours the lookout spotted the enemy ahead at 30,000 yards (good eyes and I gave him a cookie). The enemy appeared to be in two groups. The first group appeared to be a pair of Myoko class cruisers with a pair of (Fubuki & Hatsuharu class) destroyers. The second group consisted of a Nagara class cruiser and four (Asashio class) destroyers.
At 1606 hours the ABDA increased speed (it took a few minutes to get the command relayed to the DesDivs) and turned 2 points to port. Myoko opened on Banckert and deluged her in shell splashes. LTC Chompff’s sense of humor had him flash a “Thanks for the sea water shower” to the Japanese.
At 1612 hours the ABDA had settled on a heading of 30 degrees and the DG2 was covering itself, De Ruyter and Houston in smoke. DesDiv 58 was covering itself, Marblehead and Tromp in smoke also. Dormann’s idea was to slip around the Japanese to starboard. Besides, it was the best way to stay dry in the face of a bunch of Japanese determined to get them wet.
At 1618 hours Myoko and Boise exchanged shell splashes at approximately 21,000 yards.
At 1624 hours the ABDA had turned two points more to port and DG2 was far enough ahead at 36 knots that its smoke was no longer covering Houston. The lead Japanese cruiser continued to fire at and miss Banckert. The Nachi however hit Houston twice knocking out a fore turret and slowing her to 26 knots. Houston in return hit Nachi thrice and her fire slacken somewhat. Boise missed the Myoko, but the Nagara hit John D. Edwards twice, knocking out her fore gun and slowing her to 30 knots.
At 1630 hours Banckert hits the leading Japanese destroyer (Fubuki) thrice slacking her fire and slowing her. The slowing of the Houston had caused De Ruyter to also emerge out of DG2’s smoke and she took advantage to hit Nagara once causing her fire to slacken a bit. Boise hit Myoko again causing her fire to slacken even more. On the other hand the Japanese heavies were now concentrating on Houston hitting her twice and knocking out her remaining fore turret and setting her float plane on fire. The Asashio having sat it out long enough, fired at John D. Edwards and hit her, knocking out her port 4”.
At 1636 hours The ABDA turned DG2, together, sharply to starboard to avoid the torpedoes they were sure the Fubuki and Ikazuchi had launched. The gamer (me) knowing full well about the dangers of the Long Lance sought a decidedly gamey solution to that problem. Of course, he also fooled himself as I just now remembered that the Fubuki class carried Type 90 torpedoes (but that Hatsuharu class carried Type 93, so only half deceived).
Ikazuchi to just let Banckert know she was being gamey hit her twice knocking out her fore gun and slowing her to 30 knots. Myoko hit Boise twice, knocking out a SL, her float plane and setting her afire. Houston hit Nachi and Boise hit Myoko. DesDiv 58 had reversed course together to clear the cruiser squadron and get to their unengaged side. De Ruyter, Marblehead and Tromp all engaged at shooting at anything not a Japanese heavy cruiser and got a couple of sundry hits that affected nothing.
1642 hours Boise and Banckert failed to put out their fires suffering further hull damage. The ABDA turned its collective rear to the point they believed torpedoes had been fired from while sheltering under smoke. The torpedoes arrived but were in the third range band and determined to have a rear aspect, auto failed to hit (more gamey stuff).
1648 hours Boise put her fire out while Banckert continued to burn for two more attempts. At this point real life reintervened and I had to go home. I concluded I was in no way nearer to accomplishing my mission then I was at 1600 hours and conceded defeat to Rear Admirals Takagi and Hara (played by the honorable Robert Bishop).
Robertsan made every damage repair role and successfully flooded every 8” turret hit during our little foray into history. All in all, gaming with Robert (win or lose) is always a joy. I on the other hand drove back to Salem from Portland quite tired. I put on a pot of coffee and sat in my recliner with my feet up and my JRT in my lap and promptly fell sound asleep. I woke up some 4 hours later wrote this AAR from my memory and notes. It is written entirely from the ABDA (my) point of view and all mistakes are mine.