Monday, December 13, 2010

The battle of East Kokoda, part 2

The battle commenced with a crescendo of mortar and mountain gun fire.  The eerie half light thrown off the mist by the star shells showed the fleeting ghostly outlines of the first waves of Japanese troops coming on - fast!
 The mist shrouded village comes under fire.

Templeton's men opened up first.  A D1 to acquire meant a 10% chance and Doug rolled well for his forward sections but less so for the Vickers which tried repeatedly to find targets.  Every allied volley was responded to with a hail of mortar and gun fire.  The Japs soon zeroed in on the Vickers and the mortar.

Templeton's men come under increasing mortar fire - the green marker indicates the mortar has been activated to fire.
In the distance at the end of a clump of jungle is the redoubtable Hajimoto-san, sniper extraordinaire.

Captain Bistrap's D Company consisting of 16th & 17th platoons (each of three 9-man sections, each with a Lewis LMG)  covered the Administration buildings at the end of the airstrip.  The Japanese were massed in a wide arc covering the end of the plateau and came on to our front and left flank. 
 
In order to shoot the Japs they had to be within 12" - but of course at that range, they can also see you!   Their natural inclination during the first half of the battle was to close in fast and attempt to overrun the position.  Which gave the defenders only one chance to cut them down before they got in amongst our foxholes.  Mercifully, Bistrap's leading platoon performed admirably and cut down two sections at close range.  But once their positions were revealed by firing, between the waves of advancing Japanese they were pounded by mortars, artillery and HMG fire and began to sustain heavy casualties almost immediately.

 The Japs close in on Bistrap again.  Note the Jap NCO on the edge of the Admin hut - 
the lone survivor of the 1st Banzai charge that came perilously close to getting into the position.

The Japs were now hitting us on three sides, having worked their way around in the jungle opposite the airstrip. Along with the infantry they infiltrated three snipers that began to cause casualties between the infantry assaults, picking out the officers and NCOs.  They proved to be devastatingly effective, taking out each of the Australian officers in turn.  The first to go was Bistrap.  Nice and safe in his foxhole under the Admin hut, he was forced to make a dash to his forward section to rally them after they began to panic under heavy fire (and casualties).  His 9" movement bought him agonizingly just short of the neighbouring foxhole. Here Greg and Ian rolled a D1 and BANG! - poor old Bidstrap gets it in the back.

This was the start of the disaster that was to roll over the Australian defences. 

 Bistrap's forward defence line - note the mortars observation team in the elevated hut - it didn't help as they couldn't see a thing!  Cut off by the flow of the battle they are now missing presumed dead.

Meanwhile B Company under Templeton (Doug) were coming under increasing pressure with Banzai attacks that made it right up to the edge of his position.  Together with the incessant Japanese fire, Templeton was called on to remove the suppression time and again.  Worse was to follow as the Vickers HMG - so effective in the Oivi battle - failed to acquire any significant targets before being zeroed by the Jap mortars and then taken out.
 The waves of Japs were getting closer all the time.  The lone survivor of an attack - the next overran the position
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

Ian's Japs now also closed in on Bistrap's now leaderless company (or what was left of it).  Somehow they acquired the target no less than four times and wiped out two Jap sections - but there were three times that number coming at them!  A third Jap section charged home and a vicious hand-to-hand ensued for the Admin hut with the remainder of the Australians holding it wiped out.

With the Japs holding the hut, the remaining section poured fire into it to wipe them out in turn (save for one crazed sword-wielding survivor).  

Doug (Templeton) beat off another charge on his position in front of the village also at heavy cost.  At this point disaster struck again for the Australians.  His position repeatedly lit up by star shells, the gallant Templeton repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to rally his exhausted men only to fall victim to the same sniper that killed Bistrap. The redoubtable 'Hajimoto-san' had struck again.
Hajimoto strikes again!
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)
The attacks on the leading positions came in waves, interspersed with increasingly accurate fire of all kinds.  Jap commander Ian cleverly changed tactics, instead of charging in yet another section, got within the 12" and then used his numbers to win the fire-fight - outnumbering the opposing Australians more than three to one, the Japs were able to absorb their losses while at the same time pouring fire into the Aussie position.  The last remaining section of Bistrap's forward platoon were wiped out.

The final Japanese assault overruns the Australian positions on the edge of the plateau.
The last series of turns effectively involved trying to disengage from the Japanese and effect a withdrawal but saw vicious hand-to-hand fighting in which most of the surviving Australian units were caught in the Jap pincer movement and destroyed. 
 Ian's Japs close across the airstrip, trapping the survivors of Bistrap's D Company.  The survivors of B Company including the attached HQ Support section are cut down by Greg's victorious Japs as they try to withdraw through the village.

After Templeton was shot, Major Watson had bravely left his shaky Papuans - earlier they had attempted to winkle out the Jap snipers across the airstrip but it ended in failure, with the section being shot down or fleeing after their NCO was killed.  Watson got into the hut at the end of the village and successfully rallied Templeton's men for the last time.  At this point he ordered a withdrawal but this was ignored by the surviving militia NCO (clearly out of his mind eh Doug? ;-)  The Japanese charged in yet again and further hand-to-hand saw most of the surviving members of B Company wiped out.  The brave Major shot two with his faithful Webley hand-cannon but was himself shot down as he left the hut to rejoin his Papuans and the surviving Australians.  The position well-lit by shells, sniper Hajimoto-san had no trouble dispatching his third officer! BANZAI!!!

The survivors withdraw - less than three sections out of two & a half companies. The yellow counter on the roof of the hut yet another of those @#$% star shells!

Some of the 39th HQ Support attached joined up with the remaining two Papuan sections.  Some, like the observer team, were cut off and  although not killed in the final round, nonetheless are missing, presumed dead.  The final butcher's bill was over 100 Japanese (similar losses to the Oivi battle) but over 50 Australians and Papuans including most grievously, irreplaceable heavy weapons like the Vickers and all LMGs save one.

So ended the battle for East Kokoda, the battle for West Kokoda, the airstrip itself, promises to be even more challenging especially in the face of the Australians heavy losses - fully half of the 39th Battalion - virtually the only troops between the Japanese and Port Moresby!

Another brilliant scenario from Andrew - one of the most challenging I've ever played - aided by the expert handling of the Japanese forces by Greg and Ian.  A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon - pity we have to wait until next year to complete the first Battle for Kokoda!

Cheers,
          Doc
Had to add one last 'shot' of Hajimoto, deadly sniper!
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake, tinkered with by me!)