|Pic courtesy of and copyright of Greg Pullin.|
The Cape Town-based Peninsula Wargames Group played a 3000 point per side Bolt Action game. Nine players signed up, with the game organised and umpired by David Davidson, who compiled the following After Action Report:
Background (from Wikipedia)The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
I chose this campaign as it’s one where we can historically field both US Marines and US Army forces.
ScenarioThis scenario was loosely based on an attack by US forces on Japanese positions around an airfield (there were several on the island). We used Scenario 3: Point Defence in the BA rulebook, but with five, not three, objectives, to accommodate the larger forces. We played on a 10’ by 6’ table (mainly so we could accommodate the team of nine participants!), so added 6” to the movement of all reinforcements arriving on the base or side table edges on the bound they arrive on the table to partially compensate for this. (We also added 12” to the distance along the relevant short board edge for outflanking units.) The victory conditions were also modified to reflect the larger number of objectives:
Objectives held by US
Decisive Japanese victory
Marginal Japanese victory
2 or 3
Marginal US victory
Decisive US victory
|Pic courtesy of and copyright of Greg Pullin.|
The forcesBoth sides deployed around 3000 points worth of kit. The US had three reinforced platoons: one Marine platoon of two eleven-man squads, tooled up with all the possible late-war Marine “goodies” such as shotguns, pistols, BARs etc, plus an officer and the usual supports (armoured transport(s), mortar, MMG, bazooka, sniper); another veteran tough-fighting Army platoon with a similar organization; and a slightly smaller veteran engineer platoon with two squads with integral flamethrower, officer and softskin transport. Importantly, the Americans also took two forward air observation teams – more on them shortly. Even more importantly, they had two Shermans and an M5A1 Stuart. The Japanese had two reinforced platoons, with five 13-strong squads split between them, and a good selection of the usual supports, including no less than that SEVEN tanks (this is not in line with the usual generic platoon lists, but we were short of Japanese infantry and one of our club members had gone on a Chi-Ha painting spree, doing four the night before the game). The Japanese also had one forward artillery observer, who would also make his presence felt.
|Pic courtesy of and copyright of David Davidson.|
The gameThe objectives were the two buildings (one a hanger) and emplacement around the airfield, and the two emplacements on either hill overlooking the airfield – all in the Japanese deployment zone as per the scenario. Some Japanese planes were parked on the airfield, but ruled as grounded due to lack of fuel, so were just there for show (although in game terms providing potential soft cover). The Japanese decided to risk the preliminary bombardment, and put most of their forces on table, keeping only a few reserves.
The game started with the US preliminary bombardment arriving on schedule – and it proved very effective in pinning the Japanese, some of the pin markers staying in place for almost the whole game. The US commander also rather cannily kept used most of his order dice for his 2nd wave, waiting as long as possible in the first bound before starting to move on the 1st wave. The US tactics were to be a main thrust down the centre road by the Marine platoon and US infantry platoon, with the engineers sent around to the left flank on an outflanking manoevre.
The preliminary bombardment caused the Japanese commander some initial consternation, as they had used the “ambush tactics” special rule to put much of their forces into ambush. Once pinned by the opening US bombardment, no further orders could be issued to “unpin” these units in the first bound – showing that this rule can be a double-edged sword, or katana in this case! A veteran US Sherman quickly appeared – the inevitable Japanese reserve shot from a pinned AT gun missed, to no one’s surprise - and the M4 immediately brewed up one Japanese Type 97 Chi Ha after inflicting massive damage on the lightly armoured tank, taking full advantage of its gyro-stabilized main gun. (Indeed, the Shermans’ performance in this game was on par with what one usually associates with King Tigers!) The US also called in two airstrikes immediately, as did the Japanese with their artillery.
Bound two started with the Japanese artillery barrage arriving on target, and causing a LOT of pins on the US forces. Things rapidly went from worrying to potentially catastrophic for the US, as the Japanese tank fleet sensibly ignored the Shermans (heavily armoured by Pacific standards) and focused on the US armoured transports instead. Within a few shots, two M3 Halftracks and a LVT4 were either destroyed or immobilized with their former passengers pinned down (both figuratively and in Bolt Action terms, literally!) However, things weren’t going all the way of the sons of Nippon. The first US airstrike arrived, and the Corsair immediately shredded some Japanese defenders around the airfield. Also, the Shermans (now joined by an M5A1 Stuart) were continuing their anti-tank rampage, destroying Japanese armour as it appeared.
|Pic courtesy of and copyright of Grant Burke.|
Nonetheless, by mid-game, things were really looking bad for the US in general – with their central attack pinned down, and with no objectives taken, it looked as though the US might have to pull back and try again, conceding defeat. However, both luck and determination stood the US forces in good stead. Another aircraft arrived, it turned out to be a rookie pilot, but a special rule for this game requiring that that friendly fire be directed at a target within 24” on the original target resulted in one of those strange things which happen in wargames (and also of course in war). The new target, a Sherman, shrugged off the hail of bullets with no more than a pin or two, but the Japanese infantry all around it were ALSO pinned in style, as was a Japanese Kai Shinoto (upgraded type 97). Even worse, the pins from the Hellcat were just enough to reach that tank’s morale value and it was also put out of action!
In the centre, the US had got their infantry moving again- the veteran infantry with a major in close proximity had passed their order tests easily – and continued fire had whittled down the central Japanese defenders in the forward airfield position. Also, on the US left flank, the Engineers had arrived, and despite the first squad being overwhelmed by a Japanese Banzai! charge, the 2nd squad was closing in on the Japanese hill emplacement, with the Japanese now badly outnumbered.
In bound 5, the US pulled off a surprise upset. On their left flank, having wiped out the Japanese defenders to a man after another Banzai! charge, they occupied the hill objective on their left. Additionally, they seized the central trench line on the airfield, giving them a draw with two objectives held. The day had been long (the game had been going on for six hours by this stage, including set-up), and with no obvious changes likely in bound 6 (or a possible bound 7) we called the game, with the result a draw.
“Movie moments”Most good games seem to have these, and my personal selection as umpire included:
- The very effective US preliminary bombardment;
- The equally effective Japanese artillery barrage;
- The stunningly effective ”friendly fire” air attack which somehow managed to destroy a Japanese tank despite actually being forced to target a Sherman. (On the Western front, the saying was “when the RAF arrives, the Germans duck; when the Luftwaffe arrives, the Allies duck; and when the USAAF arrives, everyone ducks!”)
- The Banzai! charge against the Engineers on the Japanese right flank. It didn’t eventually change the game but it was right in character and really surprised the US engineers (and their commander!)
- Umpire and scenario designer: David Davidson
- US forces: Anthony van Dijk (US CiC); Grant; Charles Freestone; Mike Schubert.
- Japanese forces: Lindsay Hall (Japanese CiC) ; Michael Karsten; Greg Pullin; Evan Gotte (the last holding the current record for speed-painting Japanese tanks)
AppendixFor players without the Armies of US and Japan books, here are the standard army special rules, summarized briefly, as well as two house rules we played. Special rules – US
- Fire and Maneuver: US infantry squads can move and fire without usual -1 movement penalty.
- Gyro-stablised: Suitably equipped US veteran tanks can move and fire without usual -1 movement penalty.
- Air superiority: Forward Air Observer can call in two strikes per game.
- Modern communications: Units moving on from reserve do so without usual -1 penalty.
- Death before dishonor: All units are fanatics (p70 main rules) and infantry and artillery units automatically pass morale tests when attacked by tanks.
- Banzai charge: Infantry may charge/move towards closest visible enemy, automatically passing Order test.
- Ambush tactics: Any units starting Hidden (p 117 main rules) may also be in Ambush.
- Show your loyalty: Green troops with 6: of Kempetai officer may re-roll Green die roll.
- Spotters, medics and forward observation teams cannot claim (or dispute) objectives. They may also not be used to crew vehicle mounted weapons.
- Aircraft attacks: for “friendly fire” on the air strike chart (the “rookie” pilot rule, p.65), hidden friendly units cannot be targeted. (The rules prohibit air or artillery strikes from deliberately targeting hidden units; we extend this to friendly fire incidents involving aircraft). Also for this game, only friendly units with 24” of the designated target (as with artillery) can be targeted under this rule.