January 1, 1943: Fortress PacificNovember-December 1942
This period marks major advances by Allied forces in the Central and South Pacific. On 14NOV42 TFs 51.1 and 51.2 embarked major combat units bound for the islands of Makin and Mili for Operation Anchor. By 22NOV all fighting had ceased and the islands were in Allied hands. Engineering battalions immediately began repairing and expanding the island facilities and both airfields were staffed and in operation by the beginning of December.
In the South Pacific, Allied forces landed on Tassafaronga (the northwestern portion of Guadalcanal) on 23DEC during Operation Tojo. IJN forces were easily displaced to Lunga, but strong forces remain on the island. The campaign for Guadalcanal has just begun, but it shows all signs of being a hard fought campaign that will last throughout 1943.
The IJN response was to pound both islands with CV and CVL TFs after US CVs had vacated the area. Both sides have excellent intel in these regions, and the simply waited until the US CVs departed to escort the transports back to Pearl. They succeeded in harassing the forces at Guadalcanal, but were turned back with heavy losses from the Marshalls. More on that engagement in a moment. The IJN now shows some hesitation in confronting the USN on equal terms. Future CV engagements will have to be manufactured carefully, as the IJN still has all of their CVs in service, as far as intel can determine.
2nd Battle of the Marshalls
2-4 DEC 1942
We got a break in the Marshalls. An IJN CVL TF engaged our forces near Mili just as our CV TF was leaving the AO. Normally, these hit and run tactics are very difficult to counter, as the IJN immediately pulls back to friendly waters after strikin. However, this time the SS Greyback was able to slow the enemy by hitting a CVL with torpedoes during a night attack. The USN CV fleet arrived in time to hammer the IJN forces before they could recover.
Intel believes all 4 CVLs were sunk, one BB was severely damaged, and several escort ships were destroyed in the attacks that followed. Air losses were as high as 50%. We can sustain these losses over the long term, but the effects on morale and pilot experience are serious concerns that need to be addressed.
End of Year Report:
As you can see, we have greatly reduced the number of light CVs in the IJN, but we have yet to begin decimating their CV fleet. Until we are able to significantly reduce IJN airpower, large scale operations behind IJN lines are on hold. Air superiority must be established and unquestioned over invasion targets before CenPac will release the ground assets for Operation Yuletide (Guam, Saipan, Tinian).
Air losses have been significant for both sides. HQ will not be pleased until we have reached a 1.5-2 kill ratio. The expected arrival of the F6F Hellcat and F4 Corsair this year bring hope that we will start to achieve that ratio in this Spring.