Tuesday, November 12, 2019

2nd USA Air Raid vs Lae, New Guinea

New Guinea Campaign
Mission: Link air, naval and land action in a campaign and story context
Game #4
November 7, 1942/2019
Allied 2nd. Wave Air Attack On Lae, New Guinea

At the morning briefing Lt. Colonel Devine said, "You boys are going back to Lae to finish the job. I want you over the target by 1830 hours. Get in and out fast. We'll turn on the lights at Seven-Mile Field for your return landing. --- Questions? --- Yes, Captain Bolton."

Colonel, yesterday we had no specific targets. Just bomb what we thought best upon arrival over Lae as I recall you saying. Today though I infer you want us to finish demolishing enemy fuel storage tanks as best we can.

Yes, that's it Blatz. Do that and the Zeros at Lae won't be bothering Port Moresby for a long time. I know it's a tough assignment what with 50% losses yesterday, but its gotta' be done.

He called me Blatz because that was my nickname in the 19th Squadron of the 22nd Bombardment Group. You see, I'm from Milwaukee and Blatz is a decent beer manufactured there. So my crew started calling me that. Otherwise I'm Jackson Bolton, jumped up to Captain because Charlie Iverson commanding B Flight bought it yesterday over Lae.

There weren't any more questions except between the green skipper, Lieutenant Silverman commanding Number 6 and me. I told him all he needed to do was stay close to Guilfoyle in Number 5 and he would be as fine as possible. "Watch and learn," Guilfoyle added with a grin.

We crossed the Owen Stanley Range flying through a pass at 8,000 feet easily enough. Mist and storms did not materialize though they are frequent in this region. We flew to the right of Captain Henry Killgallon's A Flight diving for the deck of the coastal plain on the northeast side of New Guinea.

Killgallon didn't think the Japanese would expect us to approach Lae the same way as yesterday. "Blatz," he said, "It's like baseball. A hitter won't usually expect two curve balls in a row. So head for the beach and bank left for the harbor just like you did yesterday."

That's what we did. Only this time I ordered B Flight to change from line ahead to a Vic. Guilfoyle flew to my right as my wingman while Silverman flew slightly behind my left.

Killgallon's A Flight looked to be in good shape when we parted company.

But his curve ball analogy didn't work out so well for him. The next time I looked to my left, I was shocked to see two of his planes shot down and Zeros vectoring toward me. Killgallon in the last remaining A Flight ship pressed on to the fuel storage tanks.

We held formation firing our top turrets at the approaching enemy. Would we be lucky  again and get through to the target just like yesterday? The answer thank God was yes. Both Zeros were turned back by our fire.

Guilfoyle and I approached the target straight on though my ship was damaged. Silverman had by then taken a bad flak hit from Rapid Robert's infernal 90mm A/A battery near the airfield. The rookie turned for home almost losing control of the aircraft. I later learned the ride was extremely difficult due to damage but he made it back to Port Moresby; a credit to his skill and tenacity. He didn't quit and he learned.

As Guilfoyle and I dropped our bombs on the fuel tanks, we sadly noticed Killgallon's ship burning on the ground. There were no survivors seen as we flew over and then banked for Port Moresby. Just like yesterday, enemy fighters had disappeared. We only had to contend with sporadic and ineffectual anti-aircraft fire before getting out of their range.

Navigating for the mountain pass we painfully climbed to 9,000 feet. Vibrations and buffeting were hellish. I wondered if Number 4 would even be able to recross the Owen Stanley Range or if we would suddenly fall apart plummeting to certain death into the cruel jungle below.

"Hey Blatz," yelled my Co-Pilot, Lt. Mason. "The right engine is sparking and throwing smoke. Fuel is getting low too. We'd better land soon."

Yeah, Jar. I know. We'll make it. He was from a farm in Nebraska. His mom and sisters preserved vegetables in Ball Mason Jars. He brought two cases of them when we flew to Australia last month. Corn naturally, strawberries, pears and green beans. Good stuff. That's why his nickname was Jar.

Twenty-five minutes later the sea came into view shimmering in the moonlight. Port Moresby was blacked out but we could make it out. Then our guys at Seven-Mile turned on the lights to guide us in. It was just in time because number 1 engine sputtered to a stop and number 2 didn't sound too good. A  Martin B-26 Marauder can land on one engine with experienced pilots. Stateside crews don't believe this calling the plane The Widowmaker. Well, they're wrong because we'd practiced it often enough.

And we did it again --- for real this time.

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Japanese Score
3x Allied Bombers Downed: 12 pts.
1x USAAF Crew Captured: 1 pt.
1x Bomber Driven Off without Bombing: 5 pts.
Total 18 pts.

Allied Score
Fuel Tanks Destroyed: 16 pts.
4x Zeros out of action for one day: 0 pts.
Total 16 pts.

Campaign Score From Four Air Battles:

27: Port Moresby #1
07: Port Moresby #2
12: Lae #1
18: Lae #2
64 points

07: Port Moresby #1
16: Port Moresby #2
18: Lae #1
16: Lae #2
57 points

Next Things
Planning Coral Sea.

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