Last March, while the Battle of Peleliu was on my mind for a convention big-battle of Memoir '44 I came across the 81st Infantry Division's (so that's the US Army not Marines) parallel landing on the island of Angaur. The battle got a page or so in the book I was reading as research for Peleliu. Peleliu 1944: The Forgotten Corner of Hell Surely they deserve more than this?
With Steve's and my birthdays swiftly approaching I put together a small wargames campaign to play over the weekend. Using Piquet's Theatre of War to generate the battles, which would be played out using single-board Memoir '44 we recruited Eamon and Loughlin to play the Americans while we undertook the arduous task of defending the island...
At the beginning of the campaign, the Americans are already deployed on their landing beaches, with the Japanese deployed near what they had thought the likeliest (and heavily fortified) landing spots and also near the major town of Saipan itself.
Campaign units represent battalions, and tactical units represent platoons. So with sixteen figures representing a platoon of 39, the game of Memoir '44 would almost be at skirmish level!
A gentle valley rose from the coastline up towards Saipan through the crossroad Middle Village.
Battle for Middle Village
The Americans have the advantage of numbers but must contend with the deadly killing ground in front of the well-chosen Japanese positions.
The Americans secure their right flank before committing to an advance.
Despite the Americans' caution a surprise Japanese attack by unsupported armour crushes their left flank.
The rattled American commander is left clinging to a defence line in the jungle against the rampant Japanese assault.
Japanese artillery sweeps the battlefield of remaining American resistance.
Battle West of Lake Aztec
Pushed back in the centre of the island, the American try an alternate line of advance, sweeping around Lake Aztec. Their they find a surprisingly strong Japanese defence.
The Japanese are aggressive with their strategic reserve of armour, and attack to cut off the American right flank.
Exploiting that success, the Japanese infantry charge through the American centre to crush the American battalion's resistance.
Battle near Beach Green 3
With a cunning flanking move American come up behind the Japanese still concentrating on Beach Green 3. With open and marshy terrain, the American strategic reserve's firepower should prove decisive.
Steeling themselves for the murderous crossfire, the Japanese left flank advances.
Although the Japanese advance is moderatetly successful on their left flank it is pushed back with horrendous casualties and elsewhere on the battlefield their advance is fatally slowed by the marshy area they expected to trap the American beachhead.
[A new American tactical commander was in charge, and Lt. Col. Lloyd's influence on the battle was nothing short of miraculous]
Battle for the Pacific Railroad
In a bid to turn the Battle for Angaur the Japanese advance towards the American base of operations at the end of the Pacific Railroad. They have been caught out of position by the American deployment for a flank attack, but the midnight timing should negate many of the Americans' advantages.
So close to their landing area, the American have brought up halftracks and combat engineers to aid what will be a fevered defence.
Yet again the Japanese make ready for an all-out bayonet charge across the paddy fields.
Japanese mobile guns await the lifting of dawn to bring their firepower to bear on enemy units weakened by the infantry assault.
Somehow the American have held the hill against the fearsome banzai charge. The Japanese are broken and flee back away from the American-held beach.
The Americans have held the beaches and swept away the rest of the Japanese defences. They advance on Saipan itself and the main outlying defences of the Phosphate Plant.
While they have superior numbers and a reinforced company of tanks, the Japanese were firmly ensconced in the urban areas on the eastern outskirtes of the Phosphate Plant.
On their right flank the American armour is in a good position to severly punish the japanese infantry.
In the centre the Japanese surge forward to take control of the ridge line overlooking the town, before the American artillery can dominate.
An entire infantry company supports the imminent American armour assault.
That assault is spectacularly successful, but somehow a squad of infantry hold out against massed firepower in a warehouse.
The last Japanese tank on the island inflicts heavy casualties on the American taking the ridge line in the centre but is finally left stranded and helpless.
A great campaign game, with some tense battles. Everything came down to the last battle (a case of "next score wins"). And it looks like the 81st will be able to reinforce the Marines on Peleliu after all...