Friday 24 March 2023

Nimitz: First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal


On Thursday the Wollongong Wargamers used Nimitz rules in a scenario based on the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. (Not to be confused with the first naval battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of Savo Island, or the preceding Battle of Cape Esperance! ) 

First Guadalcanal, like its two predecessors, was a confused and bloody close range night action. The difference was, US cruisers and destroyers, under the command of Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, were attempting to turn back Japanese battleships! 

Although we used an 8' x 6' table, the opposing fleets were set out just short of each other, the US having automatic initiative for the first 3 turns as they had been tracking the IJN on radar for some time...

Below, a view looking NE from Guadalcanal at Tassafaronga point - IJN closing from the left, its formation slightly disordered, the USN on the right:

The IJN's disorder was because, ordered to bombard Henderson Field, Vice Admiral Abe Hiroaki had sensibly ordered five destroyers to scout ahead, but, unbeknownst to him,  most of these were off station owing to mishandling manoeuvring to avoid bad weather in the run in down 'The Slot'. 

So the IJN were left dispersed and open to surprise...

Keen to raise interest in Nimitz, the brand new WW2 naval ruleset from Sam Mustafa, I hadn't waited until I had exactly the right ships painted up to match the historical order of battle. So long as I represented Abe's Flagship, Hiei, and her sister Krishima, and had the same number of points (81) for each side, no one would notice!

So instead of 2 heavy cruisers, and 3 light cruisers, the USN had 3 heavy cruisers. It would have been nice to feature the Atlanta though, who fired the first shots of the battle to knock out the Hiei's searchlights!

Atlanta vs Hiei by Howard Gerrard - The Naval Battles for Guadalcanal 1942, Osprey.

The IJN was ably represented by Darren, Peter and John on the left, whilst Caesar and I played the USN. Caesar took the cruisers, I the two destroyer formations - all Fletcher class DDs.

Per the historical battle, action was quickly joined with all formations opting to move fast! We agreed to trial Nathanial Weber's optional rules to enhance the chaos of a night action - possible mistaken targets and collisions. (posted in the Official Sam Mustafa Publishing fB group:)

These added even more spice to the game but, even with my dice rolling, never eventuated. (Whereas, tragically, in reality Atlanta came under accurate fire from San Francisco, her next in line)

My intentions were to close with my lead DDs to torpedo the Hiei

But first they would have to withstand the BB's casemated secondary battery fire...

Cushing was sunk in short order, but Laffey and O'Bannon survived to launch their fish...

Which with the USN's poor quality  torpedoes required a 6D6 to hit - all missed!

Caesar's cruisers were taking a fearsome punishment from incoming 16 inch AP. Northampton, then Indianapolis were sunk. But, with his cruiser's 8 inch guns, he was steadily inflicting damage on the Hiei... 

With my lead formation of DDs also sunk by now, having themselves managed to sink an IJN DD, my rear squadron also closed to launch their fish, this time on the Krishima. A solitary hit this time, but no damage! 

So the USN had lost 2 cruisers and 3 DDs, and sunk 2 IJN DDs and severely damaged the Hiei - so that very likely she would have been finished off by 70 airstrikes on the way up out of The Slot - as happened after the actual battle...

Having lost rudder control, Hiei circles whilst under air attack

US losses were also fairly historical: the IJN sank the light cruisers Atlanta and Juneau and the destroyers Cushing and Barton, whilst San Francisco, Helena and Portland were badly damaged.  

Portland under repair

Whilst for our game we declared a Japanese victory, historically the USN achieved their mission of turning back the IJN battleships from their bombardment mission and thus saved many Marine lives. Admiral Callaghan and the San Francisco's CO,  Cassim Young, were both awarded posthumous Medals of Honour.


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