May 1, 1943: Mid-Game Muddling Jan-May 1943
This period marks the first of a series of planned counterattacks against IJN/A holdings in the Central and South Pacific. Allied forces are enjoying great success against the IJN despite the fact that precious few IJN CVs have been sent into the fray. It is unknown why the IJN refuses to deploy in strength. Intel admits that this could be a ploy to draw US forces into Japanese land air cover. This is a major consideration heading into the later phases of Operation Yuletide(Saipan, Guam, and Tinian). Several major successes have taken place: Kwajalein 1APR and Roi-Namur 24APR have fallen to the 1st Marine, 5th Marine, 34th Infantry and 161st Infantry Regiments.
The loss of these two islands is a significant defeat for the Japanese, depriving them of a major mid-Pacific base, isolating other outlying members of the Marshalls (Maloelap/Wotja), and threatening the Truk->Rabaul supply line. Ponape is the next logical step, which would allow for heavy air bombing of Truk. This would represent the loss of the IJN's biggest supply depot and naval base in the South Pacific. Fourth Battle of the Marshalls 25-26APR
During the battle for Roi-Namur, the IJN responded with a 2 CV TF to interdict US operations. They were severely beaten. We managed to place several squadrons of Wildcats in the Marshalls immediately after landing, allowing for greatly reinforced CAP over the landings. The result was a virtual massacre of IJN aviation, and the likely loss of both IJN CVs. Several IJN escort vessels were also destroyed. Intel places the likely tally at 2 CAs. Lunga Becomes a Marine Triumph!
Lunga fell to the Marines on 24APR, well ahead of Intel projections. Of course, constant BB bombardment out of Noumea was exceptionally effective in dislodging the IJA's 24th Division. The survivors of the siege committed suicide or escaped into the jungles around what is being called Henderson Airfield. Bombing of the airfields near New Britain has commenced. Pressure on the Japanese is growing daily in the South Pacific. Future Operations:Operation Anchor
Anchor will continue with a wrapping up of the Marshalls and the redeployment of resources from South Central Pacific (Tarawa, Tabituea) to the front lines. Ponape is next on the list of targets.Landings at Torokina are in jeopardy.
After the fall of Lunga, Intel reporting only a small garrison at Torokina, just north of Shortlands on Bougainville. The 7th and 22nd Marine Regiments, fresh off their siege of Lunga, were pressed into service for a quick assault on the large airfield. This would have placed us in excellent striking distance of Rabaul and cut off the major airfield at Shortlands. Unfortunately, Intel got it wrong. The Marines are experiencing heavy resistance and a large siege is again likely. However, this landing is well behind the enemy lines with supply being a very real concern. We needed a quick victory, but it appears this may have been a step too far. BBs are en route for bombardment, and Allied air power is pounding IJA positions. A IJN CV counterstrike at this juncture may create a disaster.