24 January, 2009

Battle of Peleliu

I ran this battle at Warpcon at the weekend twice. Once on the Saturday and again on the Sunday. Both battles panned out differently.
In terms of numbers of combat troops on the battlefield, this would be one of the closest of all landings in the Pacific; and play was to bear out the terrible losses experienced by the Marines back in 1944.

Day 1

Japanese defences are deeper than usual, but there is still a heavy concentration around the hills on the northern and southern corners of the island.
The Fifth Marines in the centre seem to have the easiest of it, with only a few defenders holding the palm-tree line near their beach.

Fifth Marines motor towards Orange1 Beach

Their compatriots to the south face several emplaced artillery batteries in the side of the hill overlooking Orange3, and these begin their barrage as the amtracs make their way ashore.

Emplaced Japanese artillery overlook Orange3

The Marines land in the centre and quickly decimate the defenders, with the added protection and firepower of the amtracs coming in very handy. A company of Shermans adds to the carnage.

Marines land and hit defending Japanese hard

At White1, things become very bloody for both sides, with wild elephant grass hampering attempts by the Marines to come to grips with their opponents. The battle for the Point looks like it will be a long contest...

Fight at White1 for the Point begins

Back in the centre, Marines push the Japanese out of their hiding places in the Jungle, and prepare to run them down in the open adjoining the airfield.

Marines taken ground supported by armour

It's the same story back in the centre, and despite the difficulties in getting a large mass of Marines ashore at once, the Marines seem to be accounting for the Japanese defenders alright.

Marines pour it on remaining defenders on Orange1

The first of many artillery barrages rains death on an unsuspecting American unit, knocking out the vital tank unit in the centre. Divisional HQ suspects these powerful artillery pieces must be located further inland near Umurbrogal Hill.

Japanese Barrage destroys armour

The Marines get their revenge, as 16" shells pound the Japanese overlooking Orange2 and Orange3. Their strong bunkers prove little respite with good navy FAOs on the ground.

Naval Salvo wreaks havoc on Japanese artillery

As Marines attempt to push inland, several officers begin to go down from unseen shots. Japanese snipers, carefully camouflaged and selective in their targeting begin to make their presence felt.

Japanese snipers make their presence felt near barracks

With artillery ashore on Orange3, the Marines make headway into the jungle and up the hill, with armour flanking their line of attack to destroy fleeing Japanese units.

Armour lands on Orange3 to exploit hard work by Marine artillery

Despite reinforcements arriving on White1 the Japanese manage to annihilate the Marines there, with a final banzai charge clearing the beach of the heroic artillerymen in the surf.

Bloody battle for the Point ends in victory for the Japanese

All is not lost however, as Marines landing on the relative safety of Orange1 move northwards to sweep the bunkers overlooking White2 of their guns and begin to move towards the barracks at the airfield.

Marines from Orange1 move up to sweep bunkers overlooking White Beaches

Day 2
Night passes without incident, and seeing heavy American reserves arrive in the centre, the Japanese holding the village at the Mangrove swamp on the far side of the island against a landing there retreat to make their way to the caves for the final defence.

Japanese retreat from Mangrove Village

With two reinforced companies now holding the hills on Umurbrogol the Japanese commander is confident that he will take care of any Marines making it that far.

Japanese hole up in caves on Umurbrogol

Meanwhile the Japanese defending the barracks inflict heavy casualties on the attackers, but their prospects look bleak as mobile artillery advances on their position to being a new bombardment.

Japanese defending barracks exact heavy price on Marines

Moving inland off the Point Marines make contact with the Japanese sniper and they push hard through the jungle despite losses to officers.

Marines hunt for sniper

At mangrove swamp Marines from Orange3 with combat engineers take the village recently abandoned by the Japanese. Nearby the retreating Japanese are hit hard by Corsairs from the Marine Air Group supporting the landing (combat photographers failed to capture the event)

Seabees and Marines take Mangrove Village

With support from artillery Marines take control of the barracks near the airfield, destroying anti-air guns which were making life difficult for the ground support Corsairs.

Marines clear the barracks

Marines begin their assault on the cave complex, but with most combat engineers assets lying on the beaches it is difficult work. Their is success, but at a price.

Assault on caves

The leader of the Japanese defence charges out of a cave to pounce on a weakend American unit, but strength in numbers allows the Marines to seal the first cave. The Mariness will have to consolidate and try again, calling in support from the Army Division currently clearing the nearby island of Angaur.

Marines seal first cave

All-in-all about as close as a scenario writer could hope for.
The final score was 21-17 to the Japanese, who had a single break-point remaining, but the Marines had taken two of the four breakthrough objectives and had begun clearing the cave complex.

I'll post photos and report from the second play soon.

07 January, 2009

The Bloody Trail

The Battle of Peleliu, 1944

U.S. Forces fight to capture an airstrip on the small coral island of Peleliu. General Rupertus, commander of 1st Marine Division, predicted that the island would be secured within four days, but due to Japan's well-crafted fortifications and stiff resistance, the battle lasted for over two months. The battle remains one of the war's most controversial, due to its questionable strategic value and high death toll. When considering the number of men involved, Peleliu had the highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific War.

Warpcon XIX will be running from 23rd to 25th January in University College Cork

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