Makassar Strait Round Two
We (Robsan and I) enjoyed Makassar Strait so much we thought we’d try it again. We were a bit better organized this time and got several more turns in before time ran out again.
Rear Admiral Doorman was exhausted. His striking force had been under incessant bombing for hours. By some miracle (aka a ruling) they had suffered no real damage, but everyone’s nerves were raw from the stress. Its 1600 hours on 3 February 1942 and the Dutch/American force is steaming due north at 25 knots in clear weather with 30,0000 yards visibility. The wind is Force 1 from the NE. The Admiral’s mission is to abort a Japanese invasion convoy aimed at Ambon.
The ABDA is steaming with its cruisers (HrMs De Ruyter, USS Houston, USS Boise, USS Marblehead and HrMs Tromp) in line ahead with the Dutch destroyers (HrMs Banckeret, HrMs Piet Hein and Van Ghent) to starboard and the American destroyers (USS Stewart, USS Barker, USS Bulmer and USS John D. Ford) to port.
The masthead reported “Enemy in sight, dead ahead”. Doorman ordered a 45 degree turn to starboard and an increase to flank speed. Doorman also ordered the destroyers to make funnel smoke as he expected the Japanese to out gun him in 8”. Doorman then ordered all float planes prepared to launch.
At 1606 hours 2 IJN heavy cruisers fired at Boise through the gap in the smoke between the two destroyer divisions and missed. At 1612 hours the lead Japanese cruiser switched fire to Stewart heading the American destroyers and missed. At 1618 hours all 7 of the Allied FP launched as did 5 Japanese FP. The Japanese heavies and Houston exchanged fire (although Boise seemed to be targeted also, if the shell splashes were any evidence at all). The Japanese missed, but Houston hit Nachi once. Both sides fired at the spotter a/c and missed. At 1624 hours the exchange of shell splashes continued with various Japanese destroyers shooting at Banckert and her shooting to back to no avail.
By 1630 hours Doorman’s force had bent round to a heading of 90 degrees. He was trying to get round the Japanese to starboard, but they were having no part of it. Meanwhile the Allied 6” cruisers were using their spotter a/c to target the Japanese destroyers through the smoke without hitting anything except Tromp who hit Hatsuharu twice causing her to slow a bit. Nagara hit Banckert once knocking out her DC without starting a fire (I think the Dutch CRT is in error as it is the only CRT where DC hits do not cause fires).
At 1642 hours Houston’s AA shot down a Japanese FP. Houston hit Nachi twice while Boise hit Oshio once. The Japanese whiffed entirely. But that turned around at 1648 hours. Banckert damaged Nagara’s spotter a/c, but the ABDA whiffed totally otherwise. Nachi damaged 1 of Boise’s spotter a/c. Now, Nachi, Asashio and Michishio hit Banckert twice each. Banckert was slowed to 23 knots and suffered other damage. But the Japanese were not done with Banckert. At 1654 hours Nachi, Myoko, Asashio, Michishio and Ikazuchi hit Banckert nine times between them. Banckert sank slowing, taking until 1806 hours to completely submerge.
By 1700 hours Nachi was exchanging misses with De Ruyter. Boise and Tromp lost radio contact with their spotter a/c (failed their commo check). Doorman expecting torpedo attack reversed course with his cruisers by turning together to the west where he hoped to gang up on the trailing Japanese destroyers without their being covered by smoke (he failed here also). The American cans were still laying funnel smoke but were following the cruisers round while the remaining Dutch destroyers continued laying smoke to the east.
But it was 1700 hours in the real world, and I had to drive to Salem through Portland commute traffic, so we called it a Japanese victory. Robsan had once again completely thwarted my pitiful attempt to get past him and sank one of my best destroyers doing it. But he did not succeed in scoring a Java Sea level victory three weeks earlier than history as he might well have if I not hidden continuously (and some might say cowardly) behind smoke for the entire engagement. All in all, we had good time, and it was well worth the drive.