TARAWA: CG III - Utmost savagery. An AAR.


Years ago, when I really looked in the box of "Blood reef: Tarawa", historical module 5 of the ASL serie, I clearly thought "I'm not going to play this in my life...". I had not read yet the rules about the Japanese and PTO terrain, the map was too big to be opened anywhere in my house, I didn't know anyone interested in a campaign game with Advanced Squad Leader. Then I met Sergio64 and the other people of ASL Italia. With Sergio we decided to try Tarawa. First we had several games with the Japanese, then we played the mini campaign on Gavutu Tanambogo; after an year we were in position for starting the CG III of Tarawa, "Utmost savagery".

Tarawa brings effectively Advanced Squad Leader on the operational level, thanks to several exceptional conditions: invading from the sea a small atoll there are no manouver spaces on flanks, the battlefront is narrow and fixed, time of operation is set as are orders of battle with minimal reinforcements.

CGIII - date 1 - 20 nov. AM

As the American player I was faced with the organization of the assaulting waves and the problems of a regimental commander. Where hit the ground? Where are the enemy concentrations? Will I have a balanced force? Will I have the front space to deploy my force?

Looking at Sergio deployment I noticed that he concentrated in front of the pier with a veritable fortress of concrete bunkers backed by a fort in the middle of of the island, made of trenches and bombproofs behind a wire barrier. Drawing the firing ranges and arcs of the pillboxes I obtained the following image.

I take the language from the original descriptions of the atoll, that described it as a bird.
I decided to avoid the worst fire concentration, the one covering the pier and the deadly area in front of the "neck" even if could have led to traps.

USMC overall plan

On Red Beach 1 I aim for rushing to the "beak". This people has to take the beak and conquer the "head" of the island engaging the most of the enemy garrison. My grasping hand.
On Red Beach 2 I go straight for the "chest". This people has to pin the enemy and draw his fire. I do not expect them making too much progess. I plan not to send to them reinforcements and send them wading to spread them as target and save LTVs.
On Red Beach 3 I oblique left to hit the relatively empty "underbelly". I trust these marines to land with less losses, gain the bigger foothold and receive the main reinforcements. I'll load all of them on LTV and attach a tank platoon fron another battalion. They'll invade the "underbelly" and from there sweep all over the "body". My hitting hand.

Japanese overall plan 

The plan is to survive as long as possible and to inflict as many casualties as possible to the Marines while crossing the ocean to land on the island. After the initial crossing the only possibility to survive will be to make the USMC pay an high price for each terrain they have to cross and for each pillbox they have to destroy.
Iíve heavily fortified the centre in correspondance to the pier hoping to survive the initial bombardment with enough firepower to be able to stop the USMC entering on the pier and also to protect the centre of the island from a front attack to eliminate the possibility of the division of the island in two parts with no possibility of reinforcing the northern one.
Also Iíve bought all the possible Vickers gun and placed them in the middle of the island to cover the centre of the island, the command bunker has been manned as full as possible even if I hope they will not be attacked for the first period.

 


The Plan for the landing

Consequentely I target the naval bombardment against the bunkers effording the cones of fire on my avenues of approach. I hope mainly in the smoke screens raised by the artillery impact, I do not expect it to be too effective. After the fall of the bombardment I obtain what I expected: no pillbox has been destroyed, Japanese losses are minimal. The effect of the smoke deletes for one turn some fire cones and I enter the map as planned.

I'm haunted by the words I read in a AAR: "first wave is a complete write-off". I enter my men on the map expecting horrendous losses. They have to suffer to help the second and third waves to touch the beaches.

Landing manifest: 20 AM.

 *** On Red Beach 1. The anvil.

Wave 1: medium tank  platoon and a company of marines reinforced with a hw platoon, plus HQ, on LTV.

First objective: grasp a foothold on the "beak".
Minimal objective: lay a carpet of wrecks while heading for the beak to create some cover for the second wave.

Wave 2: light tank  platoon and a company of marines reinforced with a hw platoon, wading.

Step on the beak

Wave 3: a company of marines, the hw company, the scout sniper platoon, wading.

Struggle the tip of the beak from the Japanese's hold

*** On Red Beach 2. Sacrificial lambs.

Wave 1: medium tank  platoon and a company of marines on LTV.

First objective: Be obliterated by the fire coming out of the whole enemy front and lay the "carpet of wrecks".
Minimal objective: draw some fire...

Wave 2: two companies of marines, plus HQ, wading.

Head stubbornly for the breast.

Wave 3: the rest of the hw platoon, the 75mm howitzer battery, on LVT. 

Survive, somehow.

*** On Red Beach 3. The seaborne blitzkrieg.

Wave 1: two light tank  platoons.

First objective: Invade the underbelly and hit the concealed Japanese vehicles behind the palms.
Minimal objective: help the LVTs to make a beachhead on the "underbelly".

Wave 2: a company of marines and the rest of the hw company, on LVTs.

Make a beachead on the "underbelly".

Wave 3: two companies of marines reinforced with two hw platoons, plus HQ, on LVT.

Make a large beachead on the "underbelly"!

 


sergioee7.jpg (308020 byte) Sergio64 enjoying shooting out wading marines,

picture.jpg (106374 byte)"Aerial" Picture.
Turn 4

Turn 4. End of American turn


Click on the beaches. Click here for the whole image

Turn 6. 


Click on the beaches. Click here for the whole image

Japanese 20 am comments

The naval bombardment has been quite ineffective destroying some empty building but reducing some crew and some squads with the loss of a LtMTR near the pier and the airfield; also a leader has been wounded and a Korean squad reduced.

The Marines have avoided the pier attacking, covered by the smoke, the beak and the west of the pier with tanks and LVT while in the far east only light tanks are beginning the attack toward the east of the island.

The first wave on the beak has been almost totally annihilated even if the tetrahedrons have not caused any damage; only two of the starting LVT have been able to download the USMC on the beach while other have been destroyed or immobilized. This will be a bonus for the US because the wrecks and the immobilized LVTs will give a cover for the other two waves while the men on the beach have been able to destroy the first pillbox and then enter the island. The tank have been able to reach almost unarmed the beach due to the fact that only AT 37L are present and only on the beach I can hope to immobilize them.

At the end of the morning the USMC have been able to advance a little in the beak eliminating some guns and conquering all the pillbox in the area.

The first wave in the centre have been able to reach the shore with only few squads and some wounded leader but they have been able to eliminate the crew manning the Year 3 ART type gun which was the only able to destroy the Shermans that are coming ashore. The second and third wave have followed the first but paying a great toll. A squad have been able to re-man the ART gun destroying one of the Sherman and slowing down the advance of the following waves but at the end of the morning have been eliminated together with the 37L AT that from this beach was causing damage on the beak.

The first wave on the east has been able to advance almost without opposition due to the smoke at the beginning and the loss of a 140L gun due to malfunctioning; moreover, the Type 95 HA-GOs have demonstrated their inability to match even the light USMC tanks being destroyed one after the other in a futile attempt to stop the approaching USMC.

Because the first two waves have been of only tanks very little casualties has been obtained on this beach, only the third one on LVTs have paid some toll to the 37L AT placed near the center and covering the east part of the island.

USMC Casualties

Red Beach 1     Red Beach 2   Red Beach 3 TOTAL
87 CVP 106 CVP   42 CVP 235 CV

Japanese casualties

6 x Light tanks 4 x Guns    
10 x Crew 5 x Squads 11 x HS TOTAL
1 x Leader 10-0 2 x Leader 9-1 3 x Leader 9-0 85 CVP

Surviving USMC forces per beach
During the rephit phase other USMC loss are 7 CVP due to wound and losses on wading infantry.

Beach One

Beach Two

Beach Three

 

At start

OK

%

 

At start

OK

%

 

At start

OK

%

SFCP

2

0

0

SFCP

2

1

50

SFCP

2

2

100

Leaders

20

12

60

Leaders

20

8

40

Leaders

20

15

75

Squads

30

22

73

Squads

30

9

30

Squads

30

24

80

Halfsquads

27

10

37

Halfsquads

27

3

11

Halfsquads

27

16

59

Crews

3

3

100

Crews

6

5

83

Crews

3

3

100

MMG

18

15

83

MMG

18

7

39

MMG

18

13

72

HMG

3

1

33

HMG

3

2

67

HMG

3

3

100

60mm LMT

9

5

56

60mm LMT

9

3

33

60mm LMT

9

8

89

 

 

 

 

75mm LInfG

3

1

33

 

 

 

 

81mm MT

4

2

50

81mm MT

4

2

50

81mm MT

4

3

75

M4 Sherman

7

4

57

M4 Sherman

7

3

43

 

 

 

 

M3 Stuart

6

5

83

 

 

 

 

M3 Stuart

12

9

75

Survivors average

58%

Survivors average

44%

Survivors average

82%

 

USMC player impressions

BAD!

Naval bombardment.
Survival rolls. Even if the LVT has a good "7", I blew three of the rolls out of four. Losses amongst the passengers were awful.
Leaders losses: a 9-2 AL was killed before firing a single shot, a 10-3 in the second waded hex.
Jap ROF on Red Beach 2: a 37 AT hit three LVT in a row, destroying two. From the pillboxes on the "neck" MGs killed six cloaking counter in a turn with all content.
Flanking fire & mutual supporting pillboxes: three M4 and two LVT operating on Red Beach One were destroyed by a 37mm AT in a pillbox on Red Beach Two. I tried for four turns to assault it and the men tasked with the mission were always battered by machineguns set on the neck: I lost at least 8 squads in the effort.
Attaching HQ to other than the last waves: I believed  that there would have been NOBA on the first date. There is not - when I realized it I had already wrote down the load manifest. The SFCP and leaders were uselessy killed in the first waves.
Booby traps: CR several squads on the wall, one from the holy scout snipers.

GOOD!

Air support. Entered on the first turn, had the japs keeping heads down for the whole date and put three 200L turrets and a tank out of action.
Sniper fire: several attacks silenced the pillbox in the middle of Red Beach Three.
Tank fire: dueling with pillboxes the tanks drew fire from the LVTs, suppressed several positions and nailed five enemy tanks.
Enemy counterattacks: packed on the beaches the marines surviving the reef repulsed all Japanese's moves to take lost positions and two assaults with AT heroes.
Pathfinders: luck with bogs and little attention payed from japanese gunners let their mission fully accomplished, very little vehicles got stranded on the reef.
Japanese breakdowns: plagued some annoying weapon in the very worst moment.

 

Japanese player impressions

GOOD!

The ineffective bombardment have left almost all position intact.

The rate of some 37L AT and of the MGs from the bunker near the beak have been awesome causing a lot of casualties on the wading infantry on Red Beach 2 and Red Beach 1 due to the reciprocating cover insured by two AT 37L that have been able to fire for almost all the turns.

BAD!

Iíve lost too many important guns due to malfunction and following disablement especially the gun on Red Beach 3 lost very early have permitted the USMC to have a good toehold on the beach.

The Type 95 HA-GOs are almost useless: they cannot do anything even against the M3A1 and are no problem for the infantry too.

The USMC air support has been very deadly eliminating three of the four Vickers gun and making the movement of squads along the isle very dangerous, together with the Vickers they have also eliminated one other gun.

Iíve forgot to place any Tank Hunter hero near the beaches.

 

*** An episode: over the wall.
The first leathernecks hit the beach on the beak, emerging from a wrecked LVT. The survivors are an half squad and a leader 9-1. The beach hex they step on is overlooked by the pillbox on the very end of the point, containing a 37 mm AT gun, and by a trench containing a japanese squad that fires a LMG on the Americans, turning them fanatics and having an hero appear. The Sherman tanks wading behind the marines unleash supporting fire that destroys the occupants of the pillbox, reduces the japanese squad and leaves pinned the survivors. The marines roll the needed TC and jump over the seawall, attack the japanese pinned half squad in CC and occupy the trench. The Japanese commander reacts with all at hands: from the adjacent trench a twin half incher fires at point blank and kills the US hero, while a concealed squad, led by a 10-0, abandons a pillbox looking on "Green Beach". The imperial infantry ambushes the marines and jumps on them in CC, wounding the 9-1 marine officer; hand-to-hand melee ensues in the bloody trench. American support fire hits the melee - I hope in the better morale of the Americans: instead the marines half squad is chancely killed by boxcar MC. In the trench remain the japanese squad and 10-0 leader, brandishing his katana, against a single, wounded 9-1 marine that fights like a lion: In the following CC phase everybody gets killed in melee.
The first attack over the wall ends with a lesson: every step hinland has to be backed by organized, mobile support fire bases.


Japanese overall comment

Iíve covered very poorly the east beach forgetting to place (as was the initial plan) a gun in the far east of the map and probably fortified too much the centre. This could be a problem in the next days if, as I expect, the USMC will attack the centre from the two flank and not from the pier.

I have to hope that the fire from the Black beaches is enough to delay the USMC movement.

Situation at the end of 20 AM and plan for 20 PM. 


 

USMC overall comment

I lost the date's battle, anyway I'm really satisfied of the invasion. The flank beaches have been taken as planned, and I have a toehold in the center too.
On Red Beach 3 there are 32 squad equivalents, 4 .50 HMG, 8 tanks, 3 81mm mortar, it's a reinforced battalion.
On Red Beach 2 the marine battalion was maimed: 75% of infantry were killed. I kept an eye on the marine company in the very first wave: of 4 leaders, 9 squads and 6 half squads, they arrived on the beach a squad, half and a wounded 9-2 - at the end of the date they were all dead.
On Red Beach 1 results of the landing were various and I have a mixed force with the scout snipers and some tank.
The next date I'll push less inland and more on the beaches along the shore to clear pillboxes and ease the follow on forces' landings. US machine gun nests and mortar batteries are going to be set up to shoot at all Japanese positions, plaster his strongpoints and stop reinforcements shifts.

My final objectives for the evening of November the 20th are: consolidate the beacheads, clear the most of Green Beach and take the jungle in the underbelly, with the command bunker and Red Beach 3, altogether conquering 6 pillboxes.

Landing manifest: 20 PM

First wave. Support elements of the invading battalions are sent ashore hoping that the Japanese is too engaged with the marines already landed.
*** Red Beach One: two companies of engineers.
*** Red Beach Two: a company of engineers and some bulldozers.
*** Red Beach Three: two sections of armed halftracks.

Second wave
& third wave
: a whole "Follow - on" battalion on LVTs runs straight for Red Beach Three.
*** Red Beach Three: HQ company, three companies of marines, one HW company.

Situation at the end of 20 PM.


(refit phase counters shown on map)

*** An episode: grasping the neck.
The first mission for the marines ashore on Red Beach One was taking the fortification complex around the deadly command bunker looking from the Neck down the cove between Red Beach One and Red Beach Two. The Japanese have been shooting with heavy machine guns from the morning, accounting for scores of killed marines, shot with .50 bullets while wading the reef. The position is backed by several bunkers and trenches; to suppress it the Marines set up a platoon with MMGs and two tanks on the beach,  while 81 mm mortars launch white phosphorus and all the 60mm light mortars from the Beak rain grenades on trenches and foxholes around the command bunker in hex M17. The first marine platoon with three squads appears in front of the "wood and sand" bunker of the outer ring and easily shoot away the Japanese squad inside. These American troops move aside and the second marine platoon, with three squads and a 9-2 leader, steps ahead to take the trench network behind the bunker. In a palm hex a Japanese sniper fells the 9-2 leader and the squads weaver, seeing the attacking platoon in dismay Japanese light mortars open up from several directions: at the end of the bombardment the marine platoon is routed with severe losses.
Platoon after platoon is pushed ahead while the firebases pound without respite the imperial troops; when a detachment breaks, it routs back and fresh troops out of reserves and rallied soldiers take its place. Later the marines thrust a engineer platoon in the trenches and the last reserves are sent to block them, a HA-Go light tank and two halfsquads. The marines call for their own reserves and crush the counterattack: a Stuart with AL knocks out the enemy light tank with bounding fire, the engineers blast with flametrowers the Japanese infantry. Attrited in frontal firefight the surviving halfsquads around the command bunker have not the strenght to hold the marines, the last crew inside is striped and the fortified complex falls to close combat hopeless for the imperial soldiers. Oblique attacks and strikes on the exposed flesh are the best weapon for the Japanese, that must avoid frontal firefight.

 

USMC overall comment

The afternoon of the first day of invasion was completely different from history, I succesfully pushed inland on all beaches even if at a cost.
On Red Beach One I had to crack the command bunker complex on the Neck and advance along the beaches to take more bunkers  to get out from debris and wire masses and only a the end of the date I had the frontage to deploy my forces. I succeded in taking half of the Head with methodical use of massive firepower, mortar fire and timed attacks; I also cleared the bunkers looking on Green Beach assuring a safe corridor for troops paddling in later.
On Red Beach Two the losses were even: a Sherman was literally dismantled, ending "abandoned", "MA malfuntioned", "CMG malfuntioned" and "immobilized", I had three wounded leaders out of the four present, but to my surprise I did not suffered counterattacks: the japanese forces had been attrited and Sergio neither has too much to act with. At the end of the date I reached the airfield and joined on the right with forces from Red Beach One. The ability of expanding this beachhead, the less reinforced and the more battered, is an hint of the overall situation for the following date.
Red Beach Three was the stage for the biggest battle, I had here more troops and the wider frontage. With the help of several tanks and air support my troops dueled with japanese stroingpoints and conquered two command bunkers, one the Island Command Center.
Moreover I landed the reinforcements with slight losses, and on Red Beach Three I piled up another whole  USMC battalion.

The surprise was finding at the end of the day how few Japanese troops were still standing on the island. The effect of costant marine firepower is deadly even for fortified troops.
The Japanese player cannot muster more than sparse platoons on the frontline, while the USMC was plenty of fresh troops. I runned out of 10-3 counters!

The Japanese called for the Night Banzai charge for the 20 Night date, without success. Game was to proceed to the date of 21 AM, anyway looking at the balance of forces  the players agreed to abandon the campaign for excess of USMC forces.

Balance of forces for 21 AM.

USMC

RATIO US:JN

Japanese

unit type qua.ty totval   totval qua.ty unit type

10-3

6

18

       

10-2

6

12

 

4

2

10-2

9-2

2

4

       

8-1 9-1

19

19

 

6

6

9-1

8-0

4

     

5

10-0 8-0

7-0 6+1

6

     

1

8+1

LEADERS

43

 

LEADERS 3:1

 

14

LEADERS

LEADERSHIP

 

53

LEADERSHIP 5,3:1

10

 

LEADERSHIP

DC

22

         

FT

11

         

M3A1

5

     

1

Type 95

M4A2

6

         

M3 GMC

9

         

TANKS

 

20

TANKS 20:1

1

 

TANKS

             

MTR 81

5

         

Art 75

4

         
         

1

AA 120L

         

1

AA 75

         

2

AA 12.7

         

1

ART 75*

         

4

AT 37 L

GUNS

 

9

GUNS 1:1

9

   

668

57

342

       

768

15

105

       

348

18

54

       

248

38

76

       

Hero

7

         
       

104

26

448

       

3

1

348

       

8

4

238

       

40

10

447

       

6

2

347

       

4

2

237

       

24

8

347

       

2

1

237

       

1

1

137

       

54

18

336

       

1

1

126

INFANTRY

 

577

INFANTRY
FIREPOWER 2,3:1

247

 

INFANTRY

       

28

12

LMG

MMG

50

266

 

59

11

MMG

.50 cal

8

96

 

64

6

.50 cal

MTR 60

21

63

 

16

12

Mtr 50*

SW

 

425

SW
FIREPOWER 2,5:1

167

 

SW

 

Japanese player: sergio64 - American player: oxpinguin