April 1942 Alternate Indian Ocean

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Zheng He, Feb 9, 2014.

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  1. Driftless Geezer

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  2. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1000 Hours, 23 November 1942, Rangoon, Burma – At the airfields around Rangoon and in Thailand, the JAAF prepared for its biggest operation since May. The original plan called for night terror raids against population centers in Bengal and the Arakan in an attempt to undermine what the Japanese believed to be fragile civilian morale. However, with intelligence indicating the arrival of several Allied convoys in the area, the chance to hit freighters and merchant ships sitting in port or anchored offshore was too good to pass up. The Ki-46s had returned and while there was not time to develop the film from their cameras, the reports from the aircrews that the harbors and waters offshore of Cox’s Bazar, Akyab, and Chittagong were “teeming with fish” as one pilot stated meant the bomber crews would have a target rich environment.

    Tasked to attack the docks and shipping around Akyab were 27 Ki-21s of the 12th Sentai and 18 Ki-48s of the 8th Sentai escorted by 24 Ki-43s of the veteran 64th Sentai. Hitting similar targets around Chittagong were 30 Ki-21s of the 98th Sentai escorted by 24 Ki-43s of the 11th Sentai. Launching and assembling the formations north of Rangoon took time and it was not until 1100 hours that the main formations were on their way to their targets.
     
  3. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1100 Hours, 23 November 1942, Mergui Burma – At Mergui, the Kanoya NAG put up 24 torpedo armed Betty bombers escorted by 24 Zeroes for a strike against Allied shipping near Akyab. Hoping to get a crack an enemy carrier task force, they were being forced to settle for the concentrating of Allied shipping off the Arakan coast. It was believed that both of the reconnaissance Betties had been shot down but the unit did have a partial report from one of the reconnaissance planes and the 81st Sentai had passed on the reports from its Ki-46s, pleasant moment of joint cooperation in a military not known for such behavior. Since they were flying against a fixed location, the reports from the reconnaissance pilots were good enough for their purposes. By 1130 hours, all 48 planes were in the air and headed northwest, ironically just as the surviving Betty from the morning reconnaissance mission was approaching the airfield, signaling that its radio was not functioning. Given the range to the target, the escorting Zeroes would have to recover at Mingaladon near Rangoon and refuel before returning home.
     
  4. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1200 Hours, 23 November 1942, Myitkyina Burma – The final aircraft involved in the Japanese attack took off from the forward airfield at Myitkyina just before noon. The Ki-43 equipped 50th Sentai at Myitkyina was sending 12 fighters on a sweep over Chittagong and another 12 over Akyab ahead of the main raids in order to distract and tie down Allied air defenses and hopefully cull out a few of the defending fighters as well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  5. Schlock Well-Known Member

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    The Japanese have attacked the food aid convoys, haven't they?

    I think the Japanese are going to cop a lot of blame for the starvation in the post-war history books instead of the Empire, which is going to be seen as trying to do the right thing only to have the Japanese sink it all when it got there.
     
  6. Viper91 Donor

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    Do the British have radars in the region? Also, how many fighter squadrons are available. Given the upcoming offensive and the theater being relatively quiet, I would expect the British to be well prepared for attacks by this point.
     
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  7. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    It's all coming...
     
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  8. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    See this previous post - #3847
     
  9. USS_Ward Well-Known Member

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    "I've been looking forward to this"- Count Dooku
     
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  10. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1245 Hours, 23 November 1942, Chittagong Airfield, India – Since arriving in theater over three months ago, Air Vice Marshal Quinton Brand had worked day and night to setup an air defense network of radar sites, ground observers, and communications stations linked to the airfields and command posts at Chittagong and Calcutta. Brand had moved the primary operations center for No. 224 Group from Calcutta to Chittagong and it was almost identical to the one he led at RAF Rudloe Manor when he commanded No. 10 Group during the Battle of Britain. A protégé of Dowding and Park, Brand saw his job as maintaining control of the air over the Arakan and Bengal through sustained operations as opposed to destroying Japanese formations in massive clashes.

    Shortly before 1245 hours on 23 November reports from forward radar stations and observation posts began flooding into the Operations Center showing enemy formations approaching from the southeast along with two different blips coming from vectors to the east with one headed for Chittagong and the other for Akyab. As staff officers moved pucks on the map board and orders were issued to individual fighter squadrons, Brand evaluated the information in front of him and quickly began issuing clarifying orders. He surmised the raid coming from the southeast, from the direction of Rangoon was the main attack while raids approaching from the east, likely the forward fields at Magwe or Myitkyina were diversionary attacks, possibly even fighter sweeps.

    Of the 13 fighter squadrons under his command (11 RAF, 1 RAAF, 1 IAF), six were assigned to bases along the coast from Chittagong to Akyab with another six at bases around Calcutta and Dacca and one further north at Imphal. However, one of the fighter squadrons in the Arakan, the Brewster Buffalo equipped No. 25 Squadron RAAF at Chittagong was designated for escort operations because it was the only one of Brand’s squadrons with the range to escort bombers to Rangoon. As such it was only to be used for air defense in absolutely desperate circumstances.

    For the incoming raids, Brand elected to commit three of his squadrons. No. 155 Squadron at Akyab was scrambled to meet the main raid approaching from Rangoon while No. 136 Squadron at Akyab divided its attention between the main raid and the diversionary raid coming from the east. No. 79 Squadron at Cox’s Bazar was ordered to split its fighters between the main raid and the assessed diversionary attack headed for Chittagong. For the time being Brand elected to hold No. 67 Squadron at Cox’s Bazar and No. 135 Squadron at Chittagong in reserve. Within minutes of first contact and the issuance of orders, Hurricanes and Mohawks were taking to the air to join the fighters on standing patrol.
     
  11. Scafcom Well-Known Member

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    Cue music from the film " Battle of Britain".
     
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  12. Driftless Geezer

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    Happy to oblige.....:biggrin:
     
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  13. vl100butch Well-Known Member

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    Appropriate....for a minute I thought you were going to post Aces High March....
     
  14. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1300 Hours, 23 November 1942, Akyab, Burma – Eight Hurricanes from No. 136 Squadron made contact with the 12 Ki-43s of the 50th Sentai from Myitkyina 15 miles east of Akyab. Four Hurricanes attacked head on while the others dove from above out of the sun. Two Ki-43s went down in the first pass and after that fight turned into a twisting aerial ballet with the RAF pilots using their superior speed to avoid turning with their nimble adversaries and the JAAF pilots used their slower mounts’ agility to spoil the aim of their opponents. A third Ki-43 was shot down exchange for two Hurricanes. One due to a lucky round that pierced the coolant lines of its Merlin engine and another because its rookie pilot tried match a veteran Oscar pilot in a low speed turn.

    Ten miles to the south, 16 P-36s from No. 155 Squadron got into a protracted duel with the 24 Ki-43s of the 11th Sentai. The furball between two evenly matched fighters came down to a battle of pilot skill with both sides scoring two kills while another P-36 was damaged. Given the similarities between the Ki-43 and the P-36, fratricide was a potential issue and several pilots missed likely kills by hesitating an instant too long to pull the trigger for fear he was firing on a comrade. Four Hurricanes from No. 136 Squadron managed to slip past the escorts and got in among the Ki-21s from the 98th Sentai shooting down six and damaging three others causing them to turn back. Eight other Hurricanes found themselves occupied by 24 Ki-43s from the 64th Sentai and after scoring a quick kill, the RAF pilots used their speed to out dive the slower Oscars, less one Hurricane.

    Overall, the Japanese fighter escort did its job, tying down most of the combat air patrol while the few Hurricanes that engage the bombers hit those of the 98th Sentai that were headed for Chittagong. This meant the 27 Ki-21s of the 12th Sentai and 18 Ki-48s of the 8th Sentai got a free run against Akyab. The Ki-48s led the attack, dive bombing individual ships at the docks and anchored in the harbor while the Ki-21s conducted a formation drop over the docks from 15,000 feet. Anti-aircraft fire got two of the Ki-48s and damaged two others along with a single Ki-21 going down in flames. Several ships as well the dock facilities were hit but once again the JAAF bombers were betrayed by their preference for smaller 100kg bombs. With almost 400 total bombs raining on the target area, hits were guaranteed but none of the merchant ships and freighters hit were in danger of sinking with the exception of two small coastal steamers that caught fire and were run aground. Their bomb loads dropped, the surviving bombers turned away from the target and headed out over the water before turning back toward Rangoon.

    To the north, the eight Hurricanes from No. 79 Squadron vectored to intercept the 12 Ki-43s from the 50th Sentai approaching Chittagong missed their intercept due to clouds while the cloud cover also caused the Oscar pilots to fly too far to the south of Chittagong and in skies free of enemy aircraft they chose to strafe a convoy on the roads between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar destroyed three trucks before turning back for Myitkyina.

    The final air action played out north of Akyab when eight Hurricanes from No. 79 Squadron from Cox’s Bazar engaged the Ki-21s of the 98th Sentai with four of their escorting fighters that had not been pulled away by earlier engagements still in tow. The unfortunate bomber crews were facing fighters that had plenty of time to gain altitude and setup an intercept using information fed to them by the ground stations. The Hurricane pilots ignored the escorting Oscars and dove through the bomber formation shredding four Ki-21s with their cannons on their first pass. Have already lost six bombers with another three turning back with battle damaged, the remaining 17 Ki-21s dove for the deck, dropping their bomb loads as they ran for the Bay of Bengal. The Ki-43s successfully keep the Hurricanes away from the retreating bombers, at the cost of one of their own.

    As the Japanese planes cleared the area, the RAF fighters began returning to their airfields while the Operations Center, staff officers and Air Vice Marshal Brand attempted to get a handle on the situation and reorganize the defensive posture for the area. Brand had already detailed two officers to figure out what went right and more importantly what wrong.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  15. Viper91 Donor

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    Sounds like the RAF did well, they just either still don't have as many squadrons as they could use, and some of the ones they do have are using planes that would be better off being replaced as soon as more suitable aircraft are available. I'm guessing that due to issues in other theaters of operations, some of that may not happen until sometime in 1943, likely not until North Africa is secured, and more then likely not until after Operation Husky.
     
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  16. Driftless Geezer

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    Sounds like some distinctive paint work would be helpful. A version of Red Tails maybe, or something along those lines?
     
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  17. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    1415 Hours, 23 November 1942, 100 Miles Southeast of Akyab, Bay of Bengal – One of the primary missions of the RAF and Allied squadrons at this time was conducting aggressive patrols along Burma’s coast to monitor Japanese barge and coastal steamer traffic and provide warning of any possible amphibious operations aimed at Akyab. Two Fairey Battles from the Indian Air Force’s No. 7 Squadron were on a such routine patrol on 23 November when the pilots caught site of a large formation of aircraft heading northwest several thousand feet above them. They had already dropped their bombs on some barges south of Ramree Island a few minutes earlier and upon seeing what was above them both pilots dove for the wavetops and headed out to sea while their observers frantically signaled their base near Chittagong, “Many planes inbound.” Fortunately for the Indian air crews, they had made good their escape before any of the Zeroes escorting the Betty torpedo bombers had a chance to react.

    At Chittagong, Air Vice Marshall Brand was handed the message by a staff officer at 1422 hours. No one knew exactly where the Battles were on their search arc by based on the call sign, the officers in the Operations Center could make an educated guess about the location and direction of what was apparently another Japanese attack. Additionally, since the raid had not yet been picked up by Akyab’s forward radar stations, it was still over 50 miles out.

    Now many of the officers in the Operations Center who were not Battle of Britain veterans understood why Brand insisted on keeping two Hurricane squadrons on the ground during the earlier attacks. Scramble orders were issued to No. 135 Squadron at Chittagong and No. 67 Squadron at Cox’s Bazar which already had eight fighters on standing patrol, four over Akyab and four over their home station. Meanwhile, at the fighter bases, ground crews worked furiously to ready the fighters that had flown earlier that day.
     
  18. Driftless Geezer

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    Luck with skill and skill with luck pay off this time. The Battle crews had some luck being there at the right time, but the necessary skill to be there at all, plus the skill to know what to do and the skill to pull it off in time.
     
  19. Errolwi Well-Known Member

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  20. Schlock Well-Known Member

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    With the India-Burma theatre heating up, they might be able squeeze some more squadrons out of Fighter Command instead squandering them on Rhubarb raids in France.
     
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