A154 - Orange at Walawbarum

Loads of heavy weapons
Back with my favourite Japanese in my next foray into the wild Pacific Theater in a Burmese scenario versus Merril’s Marauders.
History
Chicago Tribune Report by Charles Leavells September 26th 1944
Running out of ammunition! The new spread up and down our lines. From our positions high on the bank of the Nambyu river it looked as if the entire Jap army was charging towards us out of the jungle. At the same instant we were warned that other Japs had crossed over to the South and were beginning to attack our right flank. That was why the grenades had been gathered and sent down.
Lt. Gen Stillwell’s men were pushing in from the north, but we had no way of knowing how soon they might reach us. And the wild eyed Japs continued to pour out of the jungle. Officers who had been gathering a small surplus of ammunition here and there issued it to all equally. We were taking dead aim now, making each shot tell against the Japs closest to the river crossing and praying that our fire counted as strong as before.
Battle comes to End
The Japs never knew how close they were to victory. As the blood red sun dropped out of sight they unaccountably ceased firing. In the silence that followed. Henry Gosho – our American born Jap interpreter – was the only one not too surprised to speak. In the early dusk his high pitched, sing song voice rang our across the river in a scorching tirade against Hirohito and Tojo. Some of the Japs screamed back then they plunged into the jungle. The battle of Walawburn was over.
Before the dusk deepened into darkness a dark chilling fog rolled up from the river and covered the bloody field beyond. Behind it we could hear the Japs carrying their crying and neglected wounded into the jungle. Patrols reported that small Jap units were prowling our trail, but we couldn’t do anything about them at the moment. We continued to be nervous. It’s no fun to sit in the darkness out of ammunition with Japs on the loose all around you.
We sweated it out for three or four hours. We again delved into our delectable K rations, but this was the only diversion. Then, long after dark, things began to happen. A long park train, loaded with ammunition for all weapons, came singing into camp. Sgt. Jimmy Hallard of Spokane , Wash, having been unable to raise any other of out units by radio, had walked back four or five miles, dodging Jap snipers, and had delivered out message asking for more cartridges and mortar shells.
Chinese forces take over
Ballard and his mules had no sooner arrived than we received a welcome message – to pull out and let the Chinese take over. We had hardly started before we began meeting the Chinese. We had heard nothing of their approach. Stillwell’s breakthrough either had been too far north for us to hear or had taken place during the noise of one of our battles. The Chinese were more jubilant over our success than we were.
The official report of the Walawburn battle gave us credit for killing more than 800 Japs on that field across the Nambryu. The large number of wounded carried off after dark was not estimated. We suffered a total of three casualties. And the enemy had cleared out of Welawburn heading for the south. The way was clear for another link in the Ledo road. It was now we began using our new name “Merril’s Marauders”

This scenario is reflecting a small, but key, part of an important engagement in Burma. Stillwell was launching an attack against the Japanese 18th Division with two Chinese Divisions (the 22nd and 38th) and as part of the attack snuck a heavily armed force of Merril’s Marauders around behind the Japanese to block their retreat and pin them in place during the attack.
The Marauders are a famous American unit (or the less romantic sounding ‘5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)’ (also code named ‘Galahad’ which sounds much better) who were trained in the same Long Range Penetration tactics as the Chindits. Stillwell was keen for the only US troops in system to be under his command both to prevent the British controlling them and to give him a greater say in strategic decisions. As with the Chindits he used the unit mercilessly until it was disbanded with only 200 surviving members (of the 2,750 who entered Burma only two left the country who had never been killed or hospitalized with any injuries or illness). Many of the Marauder’s were known to hate Stillwell by the end of the camapign awith several apparently seriously considering shooting him and blaming it on the enemy. Their leader ‘Frank Merril’ had been promoted from the ranks and had also been a military attache in Tokyo with some familiarity with the Japanese language. He was remarkably quickly promoted probably due to the American armies expansion and aggression in ensuring successful officers were promoted fast. He commanded the Marauder’s until a heart attack in march 29th 1944 just after the engagement listed here.
Frank Merril
The Japanese 18th Chrysanthemum Division was a solid force known form their willingness to cut corners (earlier in the war when the supply situation was bad they had merrily plundered a neighbouring divisions stocks being given the nickname ‘thieving troopers’). They were, at that point, in a particularly difficult place with the Chindits ‘White City’ being placed directly over their supply line to assist Stillwell in this attack.
Soldiers of the IJA 18th Chrysanthemum Division in happier times
The 18th were commanded by an interesting character in the Japanese army. Lt-General Shinichi Tanaka was one of the more aggressive (hohoho) officers in Japan. He had served as military attaché in Moscow prior to the war and believed feverantly in Japans destiny to rule China and Siberia. As such he was one of the ‘young Turks’ who heavily influenced other Japanese officers towards war. Tanaka had a different perspective though. He was keen on a sudden, surprise assault on Russia through Siberia whilst the Soviets were distracted by the German invasion and got as far as getting two divisions transferred to Manchuria. Fortunately for the sake of the war (if this attack had been launched the Soviets would not have reinforced Moscow and the attack on Pearl Harbour and subsequent arrival of the USA in the war are unlikely to have happened) Japanese intelligence that correctly ascertained that Stalin had not removed any Siberian divisions to bolster their forces against the Germans caused this plan to die a death (and then allowed Russian intelligence to find out that the Japanese had no interest in attacking Siberia THEN allowing divisions to be removed just in time to help blunt the German attack on Moscow).
Shinichi Tanaka
Tanaka carried on being outspoken and strategically astute when he was one of the few officers to recognise that the US Marine invasion of Guadalcanal was not a reconnaissance and his opposition to the lessening of the Japanese armies shipping pool led to him insulting Tojo to his face causing his dismissal until he received command of the 18th. Tolland describes it as follows. He notes the army wanted huge amounts of shipping to get troops to Guadalcanal but the Cabinet realised it would be wasted and destroyed thus preventing their ability to survive the war. Essentially that if they gave the army the transports they needed to re-take the island then there was a good chance they would both fail and be crippled in military supplies for future defences. They then used a small increases to try and placate the army which did not work and a senior Cabinet officer was sent to ‘explain’ the decision
At the door of Tanabe’s house Sato heard angry shouts from inside. He recognised the voice of the army’s Chied of Operations, the impulsive and hot-tempered Lieutenant-General Shinishi Tanaka. Inside, Sato was confronted by seven or eight members of the General Staff.
“Bakayaro!” Tanaka shouted, he had been drinking.
When Sato turned to leave, Tanake reached for his sword. Several of his colleagues seized him but he broke away, rushed at Sato and hit him in the face. Sato punched back. The two generals swung at each other as several General Staff officers shouted envouragement to Tanaka, made savage by the ‘power of sake’. Sato broke loose and pushed his way out of the hostile room. It was the first fight he had ever walked away from.
With Sato gone, the impetuous Tabaka still could not be restrained. It was well past midight when, belligerent with charges and demands, he burst into the home of Tojo’s deputy in the ministry. Heitaro Kimura, a quiet man, apologized to Tanaka for the “insufficiency of my efforts” and finally persuaded him to go home. Even when he was sobered up the next morning, Tanaka continued his attacks. This time his victim was General Teichi Suzuki of the Cabinet Planning Board. This intemperate display hardened Tojo’s position. He told Sato to inform the General Staff that “come what may” the Army would only get what the Cabinet had decreed.
It was clear to the General Staff that Tojo’s ultimatum meant eventual suspension of the battle for Guadalcanal. The division chiefs held an emergency meeting and then , uninvited, drove in a body to the Prime Minister’s official residence. In the anteroom Sugiuama took aside Colonel Tanemura, the diarist, and whispered, “If there is another quarrel, bring him [Tanaka] out at once.”
Tanaka was ushered into a Japanese-style room where Sato and two others were sitting on the floor. Sato and Tanaka stared at each other as if ready to resume their fight. The atmosphere grew increasingly embarrassing.f inally, just before midnight, Tojo entered in kimono and lowered himself to the tatami. Tanaka begged him to reconsider the demand of the General Staff. Calmly, without a trace of emotion, Tojo refused. For half an hour the two argued, their voices raising. Tanaka lost all control. “What are you doing about the war?” he shouted. “We’ll lose it this way. kono badayaro [you damn fool]”
Tojo stiffened. “What abusive language you use!” he said. the room was hushed. Tanemura entered from the anteroom and took Tanaka’s arm. “The chied’s orders.” he said.
Tanaka, after being officially reprimanded for insulting a superior officer, was dismissed from his position, but as so often the case in Japan his crude and violent advocacy won the Army a temporary victory. The following evening Tojo bowed to the General Staff’s request for more shipping.
.
This didn’t help the Japanese in the end and Tanaka was unemployed for a few months until sent to Burma to command the 18th.
Setup
This scenario has some big rules headaches in that the Japanese start next to a shallow stream with a close hill so LOS needs to be carefully understood. Movement will also be hard and it is unlikely I can banzai anything first turn so will have to take a lot of fire..
The massed ranks of the Chrysanthemum Division in the South
I have split my force in two. I don’t like doing this but as the scenario objectives take part over two maps with nasty terrain in between if I keep concentrated I will run out of time. The Southern force is the bigger of the two. I have all my long distance weaponry on the hill. Their objectives are to lay smoke on the key US defensive positions and lay fire on anything else. While they are doing this the rest of the force will enter the stream and try to slowly move closer to the US lines allowing a jump off point for some timely banzais. If this works I can then work the rest of the troops close enough to take the position…
The North with the key HIP force sneaking up..
In the North I have a much, much smaller force but am hoping a little subterfuge will assist. I have HIP’d two squad and an officer and will move the rest of the troops close enough to ‘draw’ fire from the US defenders. Then I can reveal the HIPS and rush them (banzai if necessary) at the squad defending the ford. This might allow me to crack the position open.
The Game
Historically this was a blood bath but I will do my best to avoid it. In the South I managed to fairly effectively blanket the key Marauder defensive positions in a mix of White Phosphorus and smoke before sending the lads swarming forwards. Managed to get close first turn revealing a couple of deadly Panjiis I will have to overcome to get to grips with the Americans next turn. As long as I don’t fail three morale checks I should be okay to at least draw fire allowing the heavier troops to get closer. In the North the ‘shoot me’ units drew fire from only one US stack so the HIP troops revealed and thundered forward. It was not an unqualified success with the officer killed, ones squad pinned and one striped but enough for me to break the squad defending the ford and move one squad over. These two squads will now function as a poisonous snake and hopefully force the US player to reserve fire as the reinforcements move up!!
Early Days
The south
The first turn consisted of a mass laying of smoke over the US lines while the Japanese units got themselves over the stream. Turn two led by two berserking squads massed Banzais charged into the smoke several Panjis slowed the Imperial Japanese forces slightly but not enough to stop the central and lower part of the US line getting swamped. Casualties were high even with the
+3 to all shots from the smoke as the US forces rolled very well.
Counter density? what counter density
By turn three the pressure started telling as the best central forces led by the 9-2 vacted the southern field and took
position as a more northerly wood where they could shoot over the field and presumably reinforce the Northern troops. The Marauders shooting continued to be excellent and caused the Japanese
sniper to wake up where he shot then killed the 9-1 leader whose accompanying squad then broke. rarely for me the Japanese sniper was alson ot quite and in the US defensive fire managed to operate twice firstly wounding the officer then killing the officer causing a LLMC which broke the last defending Marauder squad on the ridge. The remnants of the Marauders withdrew Northwards so we shall quickly see what they plan to do next.
The much thinned Japanese attackers consolidate on the ridge. While the remains of the
defending Marauders decide whether to counter attack either flank
The North
Due to lesser squads the advance here was more delicate. Drawing fire squads did the job they were expected to do before the HIP stack revealed and charged forward. As in the South US
shooting was alarmingly good but this is the IJA and they just take it and go on. First turn my lads got across the river and second turn they piled forward to pressurise the other victory
hex. The defenders here (a 9-0 leader and 6-6-7 squad with medium machine gun) was proving resilient but in a numbers match when your outnumbered by the Japanese then bar a heavily rating machine gun then you can get in difficulties. The shooting was intense. The squad in the victory hex managed to get two squadsd own to half squads and a third striped just approaching the position. Due to lack of numbers I resolved (turn 3) to not go into hand to hand but to infiltrate around. This proved useful when in the US turn his two morale check resulted in Battle Hardening for the striped squad (all I feared was a KIA and at a 20 up 1 there was a good chance of one). This squad was my hero squad as it had engaged a US half squad the turn before and snake eyed its roll killing the US troops and allowing them to infiltrate forward next to the victory hex.
The higher striped squad just killed a defending squad in hand to hand combat
and infiltrated forward. Next turn it would battle harden on a 20 up 1 shot from
the victory hex defenders.
That allowed me to fire group all the little half squads in encircling fire. The Marauders resisted the first 1MC easily enough but the encircling 1MC (another 8 up 2) caused another 1MC that this time broke the defence. What’s worse (best?) is that those defenders would get erased for failure to rout this turn and the remaining US troops would need to counter attack either flank to save the scenario.
End Game
This broke the back of the scenario. The card says the Japanese win at the end of any game turn in which they contol both the Northern hill hex and four of the southern. It being my turn next the Northern turn was guarenteed and Ia lready had four of the southern hexes. It would take a rate tear of the Gods to stop me in the South and even then without a US turn to re-occupy those hexes and the fact I have enough spare troops to advance into four end of the turn and all looks lost for the Marauders.
Nice scenario and I always love playing the Japanese. having played through I would be tempted (as the US player) to use a more reverse slopes type defence. Set up away from the front edge of the hill and wait for the Japanese to crest. If the panjis are the square in front then much damage may be done with much less risk of being smoked to death. The mountain gun could stilldo some smoking but the mortars would be out of it..Would play again happily as either side.

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