23 March, 2008

Battle of Angaur

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!

Angaur Campaign Map - Starting Positions

A gentle valley rose from the coastline up towards Saipan through the crossroad Middle Village.

Angaur Campaign Map - Closeup of Saipan

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.

Aerial Shot - Battle for Middle Village

The Americans secure their right flank before committing to an advance.

Americans secure right flank - Battle for Middle Village

Despite the Americans' caution a surprise Japanese attack by unsupported armour crushes their left flank.

Japanese tank platoon crush American left flank - Battle for Middle Village

The rattled American commander is left clinging to a defence line in the jungle against the rampant Japanese assault.

Americans defend jungle line against Japanese infantry assault - Battle for Middle Village

Japanese artillery sweeps the battlefield of remaining American resistance.

Japanese artillery surveys battlefield - Battle for Middle Village

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.

Aerial Shot - Battle west of Lake Aztec

The Japanese are aggressive with their strategic reserve of armour, and attack to cut off the American right flank.

Japanese armour company advanced to cut off Americans in village - Battle west of Lake Aztec

Exploiting that success, the Japanese infantry charge through the American centre to crush the American battalion's resistance.

Japanese infantry assault takes village - Battle west of Lake Aztec

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.

Aerial Shot - Battle near Beach Green 3

Steeling themselves for the murderous crossfire, the Japanese left flank advances.

Japanese left flank readies advance - Battle near Beach Green 3

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.

American right flank, supported by 105s repulses attack - Battle near Beach Green 3

[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.

Aerial Shot - Battle of Pacific RR

So close to their landing area, the American have brought up halftracks and combat engineers to aid what will be a fevered defence.

Fighting Seabees backed up by armour platoon - Battle of Pacific RR

Yet again the Japanese make ready for an all-out bayonet charge across the paddy fields.

Japanese  prepare to advance across paddyfields - Battle of Pacific RR

Japanese mobile guns await the lifting of dawn to bring their firepower to bear on enemy units weakened by the infantry assault.

Japanese mobile artillery wait for dawn - Battle of Pacific RR

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.

Americans hold hill against Banzai charge - Battle of Pacific RR

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.

Angaur Campaign Map - End Positions

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.

Aerial Shot - Battle of Phosphate Plant

On their right flank the American armour is in a good position to severly punish the japanese infantry.

American armour prepares for advance - Battle of Phosphate Plant

In the centre the Japanese surge forward to take control of the ridge line overlooking the town, before the American artillery can dominate.

Japanese infantry in centre surges to control worker's village - Battle of Phosphate Plant

An entire infantry company supports the imminent American armour assault.

American infantry supports mass armour attack - Battle of Phosphate Plant

That assault is spectacularly successful, but somehow a squad of infantry hold out against massed firepower in a warehouse.

American armour annihilates Japanese left, but infantry hold out in warehouse - Battle of Phosphate Plant

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.

Final assault of Japanese armour - Battle of Phosphate Plant

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...

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