Flat Top Double Blind
Battle of Wake Island continues
1941, 21 December, 01:00 – 10:00
USN - Jens " Balls of Steel" Hansen
IJN - Stefan Karolyi-Brink
The first contacts occured around 03:00. In three separate locations, IJN Mavis reconnaissance groups observed surfaced USN submarines around Wake Island. The IJN Mavises chose to attack the detected submarines who fired back with their deck guns. No hits where scored by either side in the darkness and the subs dived to avoid further harassment from the IJN aviators.
The IJN Mavises are most likely operating from the IJN base on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.
Around the same time the USN radar station on Wake detected two IJN air groups passing S to N, one on each side of Wake Island. These air groups could be two of the Mavis groups that also attacked the USN subs.
The dark hours passed with further contacts between IJN Mavises and USN subs. It seems clear that USN has a very strong sub presence in the area around Wake Island and that IJN is air patrolling in force around Wake Island.
After sunrise at 06:00 contacts between IJN Mavises and USN subs ceased. This may be due to IJN moving or withdrawing their reconnaissance flight, or the USN submarines staying under the surface.
Around 06:00 the USN radar station on Wake Island detected an IJN air formation incoming directly from the S. As it came in over Wake Island the IJN air formation was intercepted by three USN Wildcats. The IJN air formation was found to consist of 50 Nell bombers which came in at high altitude for a level bombing run. The USN Wildcats valiantly attacked the IJN air armada but were quickly blasted out of the sky in a hailstorm of 20 mm cannon shells and 7,7 mm machine gun bullets. Apart from the Wildcats, IJN didn’t see any USN planes at Wake, either in the air or on the ground.
Wake Island AA batteries did their best to repel the bombers and succeeded in shooting down three Nells. The bombing run proceeded none the less and the release was spot on. IJN noted solid hits cratering the runway, which will be out for a couple of hours.
IJN air crews targeting defense installations also noted multiple secondary explosions, which indicate several AA or coastal defense guns may have been hit.
After the bombing run the IJN Nells set of straight S, probably for their Kwajalein base. It seems clear that IJN has a strong bomber force stationed at Kwajalein and well within strike range of Wake Island.
1941, 21 December, 10:00 – 22 December 01:00
Air and naval operations continued with some contacts between the two sides. Around noon a IJN Mavis reconnaissance section discovered a USN task force E of Wake Island. The section leader decided to risk confrontation with possible CAP and went in close to investigate. The USN task force was found to consist of two destroyers and a fast transport ship (destroyer converted to transport troops or equipment) heading W towards Wake Island. The IJN section was satisfied with just reporting the position and composition of the task force and continued their search heading NE.
Around the same time a IJN Mavis section met a USN Catalina section S Wake Island. Neither side were particularly well suited for interception and had to contend themselves with hurling abuse and making insulting gestures at each other.
Around 16:00 three USN B-17 section discovered a IJN task force N Wake Island. Also they approached the task force to investigate. As the B-17:s came in over the task force they discovered that it consisted of one carrier, one seaplane carrying heavy cruiser and one destroyer. The B-17:s where then intercepted by three Zeros that managed to climb up to the B-17 from low altitude. The B-17:s defended themselves effectively with their .50:s, which proved devastating to the Zeros wooden frames and unprotected fuel tanks. The IJN had to temporarily divert the destroyer to fish some, thoroughly embarrassed, IJN fighter pilots out of the sea. Flight lieutenant Kawamura Akiras AAR was unusually brief.
As the B-17:s flew over the task force they spotted another IJN task force, just N of the first one. The B-17:s continued straight for the newly discovered task force. As they came in, they saw that this taskforce also consisted of a carrier, a seaplane carrying heavy cruiser and a destroyer. The B-17:s started lining themselves up for a bombing run on the carrier. By this time, however, the IJN was ready for them. The B-17:s were met by 9 Zeroes. The speed and agility of the light IJN Zeroes and the power of their 20mm cannons proved too much for the, otherwise, well protected B-17. The Zeroes simply shredded the B-17:s with no IJN loss.
At nightfall, air operations ceased. The navies continued to maneuver in the darkness but no further contacts were made.
The 21:st gave the USN an excellent reconnaissance advantage as the managed to locate two IJN carriers with accompanying escorts. The IJN carriers were located within strike range of Wake Island. The ships were located late in the day and no USN attacks came in before sunset. The IJN carriers may have a good chance to relocate during the night.
IJN located a small transport ship and two destroyers. Not as exciting, but a nice and friendly target, if the IJN aviators feel interested in some target practice.
Now the battle continues...
1941, 22 December 02:00 – 10:00
USN - Jens " Balls of Steel" Hansen
IJN - Stefan Karolyi-Brink
The final hours
The USN were operating three carrier forces ESE of Wale island.
CV Saratoga with CA Astoria, CA Minneapolis, and CA San Fransisco and six destroyers
CV Lexington with CA Chicago, CA Indianapolis and CA Portland and eight destroyers
CV Enterprise, CA New Orleans, CA Northampton, CA Salt Lake City and nine destroyers
The Saratoga arrived at the start of battle and had managed to avoid detection during the previous day, while it awaited the arrival of Lexington and Enterprise.
The USN had located two IJN carrier groups N of Wake Island, heading E, in the previous afternoon. In order to engage these the USN moved their submarine force into the area NE of Wake. The USN had a significant advantage in subs, outnumbering the IJN 7 to 2.
The USN force discovered by the IJN the previous afternoon E of Wake, heading straight for Wake, consisted of two destroyers and a fast transport. They moored in Wake harbor around 22:00 on the 21:st and the transport started offloading marines and supplies in order to reinforce the Wake garrison. The two destroyers immediately sailed E, perhaps on an anti-submarine patrol. With no presence of IJN subs or planes the transfer of men and goods from the transport went smoothly and everything was offloaded by 06:00 on the 22:st.
The IJN carrier forces that were discovered, just before nightfall on the 21:st, by the USN B-17:s N of Wake Island steaming E made an about turn and started heading W.
The IJN carrier forces consisted of:
CV Hiryu, CAV Chikuma, and a destroyer
CV Soryu, CAV Tone and a destroyer
They started a counter clockwise circle of Wake Island, staying within strike distance, to be ready to launch against Wake. As they had reversed direction during the night they, without knowing so, avoided the USN submarine force which was heading out NE from Wake to catch them. USN also launched reconnaissance flight in Wakes NE quadrant but there was nothing to find.
The IJN landing force entered the battle area straight to the S of Wake around 03:00. With the troop transport ships came an IJN surface force consisting of CA Aoba, CA Furutaka, CA Kako, CA Kinugasa, CL Tatsuta, CL Tenryu, CL Yubari and 14 destroyers.
As the USN was concerned mostly with the area N, NE and E of Wake the IJN transport force sailed peacefully N and were within three hours of Wake at game end.
Around 03:00 the IJN launched their Mavis reconnaissance planes from their Kwajalein base straight S of Wake island. The IJN estimate of where the, hitherto unseen, USN carriers would be was remarkably good. The IJN planes flew straight into the sea area where the USN carriers were operating ESE of Wake. Unfortunately for the IJN the planes were sent in to positions right in between the USN carrier groups but just out of visual range. The situation looked quite peculiar with some plane sections virtually surrounded by USN carriers and quite unaware of their predicament. The USN carriers, being equipped with radar, had the IJN planes under observance. The IJN the chose to put the planes in holding position, probably to act as a detection barrier if the carriers would try to pass after sunrise. The USN started to maneuver their carrier forces away from the stationary plane sections and also launched Wildcats to intercept. The first interception attempt failed with the Wildcats losing the Mavis section in the darkness.
The Lady Lex unfortunately made a miscalculation and sunrise came to reveal her to one of the stationary Mavis sections, which immediately reported in the position. The IJN quickly detected two more carrier groups in the area. Revenge was on the way however and aggressive Wildcat sections quickly intercepted and shot down the two of the detected four Mavis sections. One more was shot down going a bit too close to inspect a detected USN carrier group.
The Lady Lex was doomed however. The Nell bombers from Kwajalein were in the air and closing in on the last known position. She did her best to outrun them and two more hours of steaming would have put her out of range, but it was not to be. A Mavis section came in from the N to report her position and then came the airstrike, 48 Nell bombers armed with torpedoes. The USN, following the raid on radar, quickly flew in what fighters were in the air from the other two carriers in the area to support the Lady Lex. The Nells met only six Wildcats at low altitude, the rest were at high altitude, and managed to hold the off without loss. The AA was a different story with a carrier, three heavy cruisers and eight destroyers all firing. Six Nells splashed but the rest launched their torpedoes.
The Lady Lex took five direct torpedo hits, crippling the ship, crumbling the flight deck and ruining the elevators. She was out and the order was given to abandon ship. The cruisers and destroyers spent the next two hours moving Lexingtons crew onto themselves, under cover from the air groups from Saratoga and Lexington. The remaining USN ships headed E for Hawaii while IJN airstrikes and cruiser gun fire started reducing the defenses at Wake Island. The IJN marine infantry landed at 22:00. The Wake Island garrison surrendered on the 23:rd of December at 06:00.