Getting Ahead of Ourselves: A B-29 TL

Part 1-Getting the Ducks in a Row.

The Pentagon: April 20th 1943​

The office those assembled now sat in still reeked of fresh paint and varnish. The Pentagon had been offically completed months ago, and this office was one of the few that was suitable for those who were attending. General Marshall sat at the head of the table, joined by Generals LeMay and Arnold, who together formed the closest thing to the USAAF's commanders. Also joining them were the two leading engineers at Boeing in charge of the project the were here to discuss, and a few other assorted army officers who were here for various reasons.

Marshall opened the meeting "From my understanding, the B-29 has passed all the necessary trials needed for entering service and production.". "Yes General" The lead engineer spoke up "In fact production has already begun, and we have 250 service ready aircraft as of today, and a monthly production of 100 and rising steadily.". Marshall pondered that, That was enough for combat service to begin today, in theory at least. One of the other officers spoke up "We've already begun cross-training crews who have seen action in europe, We should have enough crew to keep up with production, with some to spare." Marshall nodded aprovingly. "Now the more important business, what are we going to do with these machines?" LeMay spoke up "General Stilwell is already overseeing the construction of facilities in China, they should be prepared for the aircraft by a month from today." Marshall nodded again. "I'd prefer to command whatever bombardment group gets sent to china" Arnold said "Out there, we'll need top down pressure to make sure the nationalists are keeping these things out of Jap hands." "Agreed" said Marshall "General Arnold, you are hereby ordered to take command of twentieth air force, You'll be expected to ship out this week" "Thank you sir" Arnold said as both men exchanged salutes.

Marshall Continued "Are any other concerns anyone thinks need to be adressed today?". LeMay stood up "Sir I think we should discuss who and what will be protecting these bombers.The Jap army air forces in china are still potent enough to pose a threat, and on the ground the superfortress is as vulnurable as any other aircraft. We can't rely soley on the Chinese to protect us in the air, as they will on the ground." Marshall waved him off "That reminds me, Arnold, you'll also be given a wing of about 80 P-40s, they're old, but they're the best we can spare at the moment, and they can operate from existing airfields. If there's nothing else, this meeting is over." After a round of saluting and plesentries, the men filed out, with one unifed thought that they all shared in some way or another "It's payback time you son's of bitches".
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Part 2-The Worst is Yet to Come.

Imperial General Headquarters June 16th 1943​

The Emperor of Japan was well aware that he was the only man here who didn't have the openly stated hatred of at least one other man in the room. While the heads of the Army and Navy general staff were good enough at working with each other, many of the other officers and men didn't do well enough at masking their disgust for one another. The turn the war had taken this past year had only made it worse, both branches had been eager to save face by blaming the other for Japan's situation. Hideki Tojo was here as well, mostly at The Emperor's insistence. Hirohito was anxious at the newest development of the war, given the sour reminder it gave him of the Doolittle raid last year.

Now everyone's attention turned to the projector screen on the wall. While there was little that could be made out in the grainy gun camera footage, the four engines and massive sleek fuselage were visible enough. More concerning was where and when that photograph was taken, last night over Yawata on Kyushu. Every man in that room knew what that meant, Japan was now under sustained threat of air attack. Japan's cities, and the lives of her civilians, were in jeopardy.

1st Air Army commander Kumaichi began his report "Last night at about midnight, roughly 60 American heavy bombers were spotted by a radar station on Jeju about one hour before arriving at Yawata. The 4th air regiment scrambled it's night fighters to intercept, however the speed and attitude of the bombers meant they escaped. One exception was an aircraft that was damaged by a lucky anti-aircraft shell, which the crew of one of the Ki-45's managed to destroy" at that two men standing in the rear nodded, not seeming to know what to do in a room with so many officers, not to mention the Emperor. "What can you say about casualties?" Hirohito asked. "Thankfully most of the bombs fell at least two kilometers east of the city, casualties are below 100, deaths less than a dozen, the mayor reports the cities industry is unaffected. However the inaccuracy of a new bomber is not unexpected, we should expect the Americans to improve their aim with time". At that Kumaichi sat down. "The main question" Tojo said "is what can we do now to improve our response to future attacks. Myself and General Sugiyama (The IJA chief of general staff) are already in contact with forces in china to organize a strike on these bombers while they're grounded. Our reconnaissance aircraft have already managed to locate the base in question, and the strike is due to launch next week."

At that The Emperor spoke out "And for how long will China be the only avenue through which these bombers can reach us?" Navy chief of staff Admiral Osami hung his head at this slight "Based on these reports, these planes can likely reach us from as far as the Marianas, or the Philippines. And being that the navy has so far proven unable to keep our territories safe, perhaps the Army should start arranging for these islands defense." Admiral Osami stammered "Heavenly sovereign if you doubt my intent to defend our homeland I assure you-" Hirohito raised a hand to silence him "Admiral I have no doubt or you or your sailors resolve to die for this nation. As such there are better uses for your fleet than a suicide charge. Once your fleet is rebuilt you'll have your hour, rest assured. Continue, Prime Minister." Tojo nodded and turned the page of his report "General Yamashita has been ordered to transfer to the Philippines to oversee defensive preparations (Serves the fool right, he thought), and General Kuribayashi has been ordered to oversee the same from Saipan.". "Kuribayashi?" One general asked, "Isn't he in charge of a training division, why him?". "He's an expert engineer and knows how to defend a static position better than most generals, The Emperor recommended him personally". After a few more points were discussed, The men bowed to Hirohito and filled out. That night, The Emperor's dreams were of burning cities, and melting children.
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Kuribayashi in charge of Saipan will make for a far more efficient and deadly defence than what Saito mounted IOTL.
Part 3-Headache's upon Headache's

Chengdu Airfield June 25th​

General Arnold rubbed his temples in frustration, these damn planes were going to give him his next heart attack. They were still probably the best bomber on the planet, he conceded, at least when they could actually fly. His base now had a total of 92 B-29s, Down from the 112 that had made it over the hump. Of those only two had been lost to enemy action in the five raids launched this week, the rest had crashed due to engine trouble. These new machines were having the mother of all growing pains, Arnold thought to himself. What's worse, on each raid at least 15 aircraft had had to turn for home due to one malfunction or another. Every spare part, and drop of fuel had to be dragged accross the Himalayas. And now he had to deal with the fact the that Japanese probably knew where he was, things were rough at the moment. As if god himself had decided to prove him wrong in that moment, air sirens began to wail.

Ten thousand feet above, and less than 50 miles away, 60 Ki-43 fighters began to accelerate. Another mile above them, 45 Ki-49 heavy bombers prepared their bombsights and gunners. Each bomber was armed with four 250kg fragmentation bombs, expected to be the best at destroying parked aircraft. On the ground, the P-40 Warhawks began filing down their runways. Meanwhile, pilots and ground crews began preparing every airworthy Superfortress they could to take off. Flak batteries, crewed by a mix of Chinese and American gunners, were already searching the skies. As the Oscars arrived over the airfield, the found some of the Warhawks still taking off, the rest clawing for altitude, the attack began.

The Ki-43's dove on the struggling Warhawks, in spite of the flak. Their pilots fought well, knowing they stood no chance in a dogfight, they engaged in risky head on attacks, where their armor gave them a better chance. Howevery most of the Oscar pilots were reasonably experienced, not against the Americans, but they knew how to fly their planes. A few had been flying since the war began six years ago. While the Americans were well trained, most of them were flying their first proper combat mission. The duel in the skies was a bloody affair, but the Japanese prevailed.

With the Warhawks too busy fighting for their lives down below, the Ki-49s began their runs on the bomber airfield. The American 90mm flak batteries were accurate, and many aircraft were knocked out of the sky, but not enough. The bombs fell, widely dispersed for maximum effect. One B-29 still tumbling down the runway, recieved what as almost a direct hit by a bomb. She managed to get airborne for a few seconds, before the brutalized bomber slammed back into the runway. Another bomb turned the base's fuel silos into swiss cheese and while there was no fire, the fuel leaked onto surrounding grass.

As the Japanese force began it's flight back to Wuhan, a handful of chinese planes attempted a chase, but the old soviet planes were too slow. In the end the Japanese losses were 15 fighters and 23 bombers, to the American losses of, 43 fighters and 45 bombers, with another 20 bombers damaged. General Arnold suffered a heart attack the next day, and although he would recover, it put him out of action for a week. The next week, General LeMay would advise General Marshall that Operation Matterhorn was logistically untenable, and that further action against the Japanese home islands should wait until the more secure base of the Marianas was secure. President Roosevelt reluctantly agreed, but ordered Admiral Nimitz to speed up preparation for the invasion of said islands.
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Part 4-Preparations for a Pitched Battle

Guam, August 6th, 1943​

General Kuribayashi gazed out at the sea from his position near the summit of Mount Lam Lam. An excellant place for the heavy guns, he thought to himself. The beach below was likely to be a landing ground, it would be wise to put pressure there. Kuribayashi was exhausted, He'd only arrived on Guam two hours ago after first stopping to see Tinian. The men had taken to calling him "The tourist" because of how frequently he moved between the islands. But it was needed, most of the other officers didn't seem to understand his strategy, constantly trying to concentrate the defences near the shore. And it seemed every time he looked away, those damn sailors were trying to dig trenches so close to the shore that they flooded at high tide.

His plans for Guam were a hybrid defence. While he was setting up static defences all over the island, his men would be permitted to retreat if their position was untenable. This would mean that any enemy advance would continueously be fighting both fresh soldiers, and those who had retreated from the previous position. The size of Guam meant that there was no need to throw everything at the beaches on day one. Lam Lam and the rest of the mountainous southwest Guam would be the area of strongest resistance, miles of caves and tunnels were being built to safely house thousands of soldiers during the bombardments, as well as allowing positions to reinforce eachother. Guam also had no shortage of fresh water, an issue on Saipan and Tinian, and local agriculture meant that more supplies besides food could be sent. Perhaps Guam would be a better position for me to command from, he again thought to himself. There was still much to attend to.

Pearl Harbor, August 6th 1943​

Admiral Nimitz sat at the head of the table, every flag officer relevant to the topic had been assembled. He opened the meeting "This operation is coming stright down from the top, President Roosevelt signed the order himself, so postponing or cancelling the mission isn't an option. We've been tasked with securing the Marianas by the end of this year, Apparently the President wants those bases for our bombers ASAP. So here's the skinny, Admiral Halsey, You'll be in charge of whatever carrier fleet we can muster, hopefully we can get at least half a dozen fleet carriers plus whatever escort's we can scrape out of the atlantic." Halsey nodded. "Oldendorf, You're in charge of the battleships, as well as any ships assigned to shore bombardment. Turner, you will be in command of the amphibious ships, as well as coordinating with marine command, which falls to Generals Buckner and Smith, Any objections?" The men looked around and nobody had anything else to say "Alright, General Buckner, what can you tell us about amphibious capacity" "It's not great" the General said "There's more to spare, but most of it is tied up in Italy, or England for one reason or another, so Eisenhower says the portion of production we're getting is all we can expect for at least another few months."

"And that being the case" General Smith spoke up "I doubt we can take every island at once. We'll have to secure them one at a time, otherwise the men won't be able to be ensured of steady resupply". "And then there is the question of the Phillipines" eyes rolled as General MacArthur could not bare to be ignored any longer. Nimitz sighed heavily and said "Look Doug I know you made a promise, but securing an archipelago of that size will require material we simply don't have. We'll see about it next year, but these orders are from the CINC himself, so agrue with him if you think that'll work out for you" MacArthur gave a look that could melt steel, but said nothing.

At that, General Buckner spoke "We estimate the Japanese forces in the Marianas to number no more than 60,000 in total. My guess is about 40 percent of that on Guam and Saipan each, with the rest spread throughout the other islands. To meet with the Presidents order's I think only Guam, Saipan, and Tinian actually need to be captured, the rest we can isolate and neutralize like we did with Rabaul. Nimitz nodded in agreement "Alright, weather means we probably shouldn't risk a landing before October, we'll start with Saipan and work our way south. With any luck, the chain should be secure by January. You'll be shipping out to your new posts immediatly. Good lick and godspeed." Salutes were exchanged, and the men recieved their detailed orders. The time to start clawing back what they had lost was here.
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The Emperor never spoke at the war council - until 9 August 1945, when he declared for surrender.
Didn't realize that, I'll just assume that offically he was just there to say thanks to the pilots for taking down a superfort, and to ask about humanitarian aid to Yawata.
Methinks the IJAAF raid probably succeeded a bit TOO well.
Maybe, but they still lost a lot of skilled army pilots, and them concentrating in Wuhan means less air support elsewhere. They still bled for it.
Didn't realize that, I'll just assume that offically he was just there to say thanks to the pilots for taking down a superfort, and to ask about humanitarian aid to Yawata.
The Emperor never spoke at the war council about anything. Nor did he make make public statements about anything. He did not present decorations, lead commemorations or dedications, or do anything else like British royals.
The Emperor never spoke at the war council about anything. Nor did he make make public statements about anything. He did not present decorations, lead commemorations or dedications, or do anything else like British royals.
I get that, I'm just saying that we can assume this meeting isn't really offically the war council, nor is the emperor attending, The Emperor just showed up due to his personal concern about tokyo getting blitzed, and used Tojo as a way of saying he's just letting the PM meet with him and the military at once. And I believe Hirohito did meet with Kuribayashi OTL, so I think a brief audience with some hero pilots isn't out of the question for him.
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The Emperor never spoke at the war council about anything. Nor did he make make public statements about anything. He did not present decorations, lead commemorations or dedications, or do anything else like British royals.
This really ought to be an immaterial detail, with quibbling over being little more than splitting hairs, unless Parmenion is intending to foreshadow the Emperor becoming a more active mover and shaker, with said moving and shaking significantly affecting the timeline.
Part 5-Naval Affairs

Yokosuka Naval Base September 15th, 1943​

Admiral Mineichi Koga, commander of the Combined Fleet, sat in the ward room of the Shokaku, along with Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, Commander of the newly created 1st mobile fleet. The Shokaku and her sister were the last survivors of Japans pre-war carrier assets. A few of the new generation of Japanese carriers could be seen out the porthole, the Unryu and a few of her sisters were coming along quite well, but not well enough. While Japan knew little of the Essex-class, it seemed to them that the Americans had invented a printing press for carriers. While Japan hadn't gotten a single fleet carrier completed since Midway, the Americans had managed to commission four, with well over a dozen more coming. Toga had been expecting to hear what he already knew, but it disappointed him nonetheless.

"There's just no way sir" The notoriously hideous Vice-Admiral lamented "Even if we can get Hosho ready for combat again, we can't expect more than six light carriers available for fleet service" Toga finished for him "Not enough to properly combat the Americans" "Yes sir, have you spoken with Admiral Shimada?" "I have, and it seems that we're all in agreement. The navy won't be capable of mounting a proper offensive until at least late spring next year, once the Unryu's and the Taiho are ready.". By which time the Americans will have produced another six carriers, both men thought to themselves. The entire upper command of the Imperial Japanese Navy felt like jumping off a bridge. They had failed protect Tokyo last year, failed to defeat the Americans at Midway, and now weren't even capable of sortieing against their foe. The Navy had failed The Emperor and Japan.

Ozawa changed the subject "How's work on the A7M coming?" he asked, eager for a counter to the American Hellcat. "Cancelled I'm afraid. Development was taking up enough of our time as it is, so Shimada had all Reppu resources transferred to Shiden production" "Because of the bombers." Ozawa said, and Koga nodded. "It's the only option we have to compete with the Army on that matter. And either way it's a good plane, Suisei and Tenzan production is being retained, so you'll still have a strong carrier attack arm whenever you do get to fight. And that reminds me, since a fleet action this year is likely out of the question, I'm scaling down the Hosho's combat refit to just lengthening her flight deck. I'll have her transferred to Yokosuka for advanced carrier training, it isn't combat, but it can't hurt for the men to be trained as much as possible." At that Koga saluted and left Ozawa to his work. The IJN's future still looked bleak.
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Part 6-The Marianas Campaign: Phase One

Saipan, October 3rd, 1943​

General Saito watched the initial American landings from his command post near Mount Tipo Pale. In the next life I owe Kuribayashi an apology, Saito thought to himself as he watched the American boats approach. He'd come close to openly accusing his superior of cowardice, on account of his strategy. He thought a strong, aggressive response to the landing was the only way to push them back. He was eating his words now. The Americans hadn't even arrived, and yet the shore was already stained with what was left of the sailors who had dug in on the beaches. Three days of shore bombardment, and a week of air strikes, had destroyed many of the exposed above ground static defenses. The men however, had suffered less than 500 casualties, mostly the flak gunners. Even now, nearly half the garrison was underground, waiting for their positions to have a clear view of the enemy. As the marines landed around the ruins of Chalan Kanoa, Saito gave the order to hold fire until further notice. Nearly an hour passed, the marines slowly advancing unopposed. Now Saito raised his radio and said "Commence firing".

The Southwest slope of Mount Tipo Pale lit up as the Japanese artillery opened fire. Everything from 25mm AA guns turned into field guns, to 320mm spigot mortars all pre-sighted, came down on the beach. The marines for their part, continued to advance, assisted by flamethrower tanks, and Admiral Halsey's Corsairs. The aircraft conducted dangerous low and slow strafing runs, which managed to silence many stubborn positions. By nightfall, the marines had barley advanced 1,000 yards, and had suffered nearly 700 dead. That night most of the Garrison retreated to the central mountains of Saipan, with the exception of naval commander Admiral Nagumo and 1,500 sailors, who attempted a nighttime banzai charge against orders. Nagumo and his men were slaughtered, only managing to inflict two dozen casualties before being mown down.

Meanwhile on Guam, Kuribayashi listened to radio reports, anxiously wondering how his defenses would hold up, And preparing a surprise for the Americans the following night.
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Did they skipped Tarawa and Operation Hailstone?
For the most part, to meet FDR's demand they're being given the Rabaul treatment for now. Meaning they'ee getting bombed to hell, but taking them is being left for after the Marianas. Hailstone will probably happen either on schedule, or when they start making trouble for Halsey.
The Marianas Campaign:Phase Two
The morning of October 4th brought no lull in the fighting, the marines had shrugged off the banzai charge of Nagumo's sailors, and were hot on the tail of the retrating Japanese soldiers. Their next objective was Isa Drive, a road That connected north and south Saipan through the central mountains. Kuribayashi had realized the natural chokepoint of the pass, and had concentrated the main effort of his defense here. That morning, several advance recon units of the marines were obliterated by the waiting japanese. As most of the Japanese defenses were expected to be facing the sea, the fortifications looking down on Isa Drive had been neglected in the preparatory bombardment.

Pre-sighted anti tank guns laid waste to the marine shermans and stuarts, destroying 36 on this day alone. The road itself was so heavily mined that men and vehicles were forced to crowd the hills to its side. Hundreds of 14 inch shells were fired, to little effect as the Japanese would simply slink into their underground bunkers during the bombardment. Again the carrier aircraft were the heros of the day, over 1,000 sorties were flown in support of the marines. In spite of this Saito was pleased to report that his forces had held up well, only suffering 5,000 casualties in spite of Nagumo's stupidity. The Americans were bleeding for every inch of Saipan, and they would not yield with out bleeding them for every inch that remained.

That evening on Guam, General Kuribayashi oversaw the delivery of his surprise. While the American air strikes had destroyed most of the Japanese strike aircraft, they had missed 43 Ki-51 attack aircraft hidden in the jungle, each loaded with a single 250kg bomb. The pilots were not specifically told this was a suicide mission, but none of them expected to return. As their planes began the short flight to an area 50 miles off the coast of Saipan, they scanned the twilight sea for targets. They spotted Carrier Divison 2, the southern flank of Halsey's carrier fleet, consisting of the old workhorses Enterprise and Saratoga as well as escorts, who were conducting fighter sweeps and ASW support of the forces closer to Saipan. The last daytime sortie of dauntlesses were coming in to land when radar contacts were reported.

Minutes later, the sky was bright with flak. The aircrew on board were struggling to get the dive bombers back in the hanger, while fighters from the rest of the fleet were speeding to their aid. The sonia's were plucked out of the sky one at a time, but not all of them. A crippled sonia slammed into the Saratoga's bridge killing her captain and most of the bridge crew. Another dropped her bomb on the flight deck of the Enterprise, her armor not stopping the fire that formed from aviation fuel and cooked off ammunition. Yet another sonia landed a near miss that shore off several propeller blades. Another plane slammed into the side of Saratoga, shrapnel maiming many of her hanger crew. The attack lasted mere minutes, but the damage was severe.

Only six sonia's would return, all of which were destroyed in bombing attacks the next morning. The Saratoga would suffer 130 killed and nearly 400 wounded, while the crippled Enterprise's luck finally ran out. The fire spread despite the valiant efforts of her crew, reaching the five inch ammunition storage before the magazine could be flooded. The explosion knocked out the ships power, and she was finally scuttled six hours after the attack, taking 400 sailors with her. Over the next weeks, President Roosevelt would read the daily casualty reports with a heart full of regret.
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The Ki-51 was one of the most underrated kamikaze aircraft IOTL on account of its durability and ease of operation. Coupled with the sound tactic of attacking at dusk, it had the potential to inflict significant damage. What has happened here looks to be a more successful version of the IJNAF Mitate-tai's suicide attack against Saratoga and Bismarck Sea off Iwo Jima in Febuary 1945.

Knowing Nagumo, he probably wanted to atone with his life for Midway and other defeats or Phyrric victories that he presided over.