April 1942 Alternate Indian Ocean

1000 Hours, 30 December 1942, Toungoo Airfield, Burma – The Japanese continued trying new tactics to challenge the Allies’ control of the air over the Arakan. Beginning early in the morning on 30 December 1942, individual shotais of Oscars from the 50th Sentai staged to Tougnoo Airfield 150 miles north of Rangoon, refueled and then flew sweeps over the Arakan before returning to Mingaladon. Their mission was not to engage Allied fighters, in fact the pilots had strict orders to avoid dogfighting unless absolutely necessary, but to hunt unescorted Allied attack aircraft in the area.

The Japanese were bound to enjoy some successes as the Allies were not providing direct escorts to close air support and battlefield interdiction mission and one Battle, an Albacore, and a Blenheim were shot down. Roving Hurricanes providing fighter cover in the area did claim two Oscars in exchange for one of their own.

The primary impact of the change in tactics by the Japanese was that it forced Air Vice Marshal Brand to continue committing all of his fighters to air defense and patrolling, meaning he had to continue denying request from Slim and other ground commanders to release some of his cannon equipped Hurricane IICs for close air support. It also meant Brand had to change the missions for his reconnaissance aircraft because he needed to know where the Japanese were operating from with Magwe still shutdown.
 
A bit of a four-dimensional shell game going on(East-West, North-South, altitude, time). Or whack the pinata, with two players armed with maces....
 
1300 Hours, 30 December 1942, Penang, Malaya – The light cruiser Tama, the second line destroyer Kuretake, the Italian sloop Eritrea, and six empty merchant ships arrived at safely at Penang after their mission to Port Blair. Escorting freighters to bases around the Andaman Sea was unexciting for the crews of the warships but necessary given the constant Allied submarine presence in the area. It was also about the mission IJN units in the area could perform given their lack offensive capability and Allied air and naval superiority in the Bay of Bengal.
 
1400 Hours, 30 December 1942, Colombo Harbor, Ceylon – The crews of most of the ships that had arrived that morning from Bombay were enjoying a brief period of shore leave or were seeing to the repair and replenishment of their ships. However, the crew of the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire was taking on a more somber mission. Since early April the hulks of the battleships HMS Revenge and HMS Resolution had been sitting in one of the shallower areas of Colombo’s harbor, their decks awash since getting torpedoed by the submarine I-3 during the early morning hours of 10 April 1942.

In death both ships had served several valuable purposes. They were bomb sponges during the Kido Butai’s second attack on Colombo, diverting Nagumo’s pilots from more valuable targets. They had been long since been stripped of all usable parts to help keep their sisters HMS Ramillies and HMS Royal Sovereign in fighting shape and many of their anti-aircraft guns were now setup on shore, supplementing Colombo’s air defenses or were transferred to other ships in the fleet. The two old battlewagons also served as valuable training targets for RAF and FAA pilots and they had the distinction of playing an important role in helping No. 11 Squadron develop the skip bombing tactics since employed with deadly effect by RAF Blenheim squadrons throughout the theater.

However, Revenge and Resolution were now taking up too much space in Colombo’s harbor and it was time to remove them and scuttle them offshore in deep water. It had taken several weeks to pump the water out of the battleships patch them up enough so they could be towed out to sea and sunk. HMS Devonshire and her crew had the dubious honor of pulling both hulks out of Colombo, with HMS Revenge going first.

Shortly after 1500 hours on 30 December, Devonshire slowly towed Revenge out of the harbor and when they were 20 miles offshore with sun setting on the horizon the care taker crew on Revenge open the seacocks and quickly boarded a whale boat and were picked up Devonshire. With Devonshire’s crew looking on, Revenge slipped beneath the waves. Resolution’s turn was coming the next morning.
 
What a shame that all that scrap metal could not have been reused. But I suppose it was not practical to tow such large ships to the nearest place where they could be scrapped. Wherever that would have been in 1942. And they couldn't devote a major warship for a chore that could take a couple of months. Perhaps use a large tugboat? Escorted by a corvette or two? They would be going slow but they could end up bagging an enemy submarine. Scrap metal and/or sub bait.
 
What a shame that all that scrap metal could not have been reused. But I suppose it was not practical to tow such large ships to the nearest place where they could be scrapped. Wherever that would have been in 1942. And they couldn't devote a major warship for a chore that could take a couple of months. Perhaps use a large tugboat? Escorted by a corvette or two? They would be going slow but they could end up bagging an enemy submarine. Scrap metal and/or sub bait.
OTOH, in about 30 years’ time, the wrecks could be amazing artificial reefs for scuba diving if they’re not too deep to dive on...
 
0800 Hours, 31 December 1942, Norfolk, Virginia – The last day of December 1942 saw significant developments for the US Navy and the Royal Navy. Most important, the new aircraft carrier USS Essex commissioned into the fleet at Norfolk, VA. The first of a new class of carriers that would carry the war to the Japanese and see stellar service into the 1970s and ultimately become one of the most successful classes of warships ever built. After commissioning, Essex was due for sea trials with a scheduled departure for Pearl Harbor in May 1943.

In addition to welcoming Essex into the fleet, the US Navy decided to suspend construction on the Alaska class battlecruiser USS Guam and cancel the four remaining ships in the class (USS Hawaii, USS Philippines, USS Samoa, and USS Puerto Rico). Construction on USS Alaska would continue while Guam’s hull was floated and moved out of the slipway to facilitate LST construction, similar to what was done with the hull of the battleship USS Kentucky in June 1942. While the US Navy held out the possibility that both Kentucky and Guam could eventually see completion work was never restarted on either ship. Additionally, the battleship USS Illinois, due to be laid down in mid-January 1943 was cancelled in order to free up shipyard space, skilled labor, and materials.

Similarly, at the same time the Eastern Fleet was treating HMS Resolution and HMS Revenge like a couple of crippled race horses, the Royal Navy made the painful decision to cancel the new battleship HMS Vanguard. Laid down over year earlier, her construction was already well behind schedule due to a shortage of skilled labor. However, what ultimately drove the decision was that since Vanguard was laid down in October 1941, six capital ships of the Royal Navy – HMS Barham, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Repulse, HMS Revenge, HMS Resolution, and HMS Warspite had been sunk or heavily damaged from submarine launched or air launched torpedoes. The message was clear, and the Admiralty could no longer justify expending the necessary resources for Vanguard’s construction, particularly when put against competing priorities.

In order to win over the Prime Minister who did not want to see HMS Vanguard cancelled the Admiralty promised that to the maximum extent possible, materials and labor saved from the cancellation of Vanguard would go toward accelerating the completion of the aircraft carriers HMS Implacable and HMS Indefatigable, both behind schedule. Some estimates this reallocation of resources could shave six months off the projected completion dates for both ships. This argument combined with a reminder of the results of OPERATION COBALT successfully placated Mr. Churchill.
 
OTL USS Illinois was laid down on 6 December 1942 but she is a month or so behind schedule ITTL for whatever reason just to make the decision easier. Kentucky is straight OTL and I don't think it is too much of a reach to make the same decision with Guam. Keeping Alaska because she is further along.

A bunch of you asked about Vanguard awhile back so I thought I would weave that in. Mainly I would like to speed up the completion of Implacable and Indefatigable and this is a plot device to help with that. This will allow for a CV buildup in the Indian Ocean faster than OTL.
 
Why the change in regard to Guam, Kentucky and Illinois? If anything, wouldn't the USN want to accelerate their construction?
 
Why the change in regard to Guam, Kentucky and Illinois? If anything, wouldn't the USN want to accelerate their construction?
No, it's a carrier war now. OTL (and ITTL) Kentucky and Illinois had their construction put on hold in 1942 and possible conversion to carriers was looked into. Kentucky's fate ITTL is largely the same as OTL and Illinois OTL was only 22% complete in August 1945 so that shows you how much priority was put into her construction.
 
Not a criticism, but maybe they could have been used as a breaker somewhere?
The problem is both ships are in really bad shape by now and simply getting them seaworthy enough that they could be towed out to sea and scuttled is challenging. Towing them somewhere to be used as breakwaters or to be scrapped is too hard and frankly risky.
 

nbcman

Donor
OTL USS Illinois was laid down on 6 December 1942 but she is a month or so behind schedule ITTL for whatever reason just to make the decision easier. Kentucky is straight OTL and I don't think it is too much of a reach to make the same decision with Guam. Keeping Alaska because she is further along.

A bunch of you asked about Vanguard awhile back so I thought I would weave that in. Mainly I would like to speed up the completion of Implacable and Indefatigable and this is a plot device to help with that. This will allow for a CV buildup in the Indian Ocean faster than OTL.
Now we have to hope for a 'construction accident' in the future to Alaska to prevent that hopped up CA from getting launched in August 1943.... Good update all around.
 
The problem is both ships are in really bad shape by now and simply getting them seaworthy enough that they could be towed out to sea and scuttled is challenging. Towing them somewhere to be used as breakwaters or to be scrapped is too hard and frankly risky.
For a (dated) comparison, the USS Maine ACR-1 was patched up enough in 1912 to refloat her and then she was towed out of Havana harbor and sunk in deep water, close to Cuba.
 
How is the ASW fleet doing, with the larger units being taken out of pipeline are there more ASW assets being built or put in the pipeline?
 
Sounds like the shipbuilding resources are going to amphibious assets, which isn't surprising when you consider that the Far East is going better than OTL. There's more need for landing craft out that way and they aren't going to skimp on Overlord to provide more shipping for Burma and the Solomons.
 
How is the ASW fleet doing, with the larger units being taken out of pipeline are there more ASW assets being built or put in the pipeline?
It's a mix - the British will divert resources to escorts and getting the next too big decks in the fleet soonest. The Americans will concentrate on lift.
 
Historically, the US was building a myriad of different size, shape, purpose ships and boats on any patch of land adjacent to water with access to the ocean. Higgins landing craft built up the Mississippi in New Orleans(and other spots), submarines, minesweepers, patrol boats, more landing craft built all across the Great Lakes, etc. Bigger ships built at numerous yards on the East, Gulf, and West coast
 
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