RbF I-4 Used and Abused After Action Report (AAR) Advanced Squad Leader scenario
This is the Mokmer Airstrip (today’s Frans Kaisiepo International Airport) on the island of Biak, 15 June 1944. The IJN had 3 airfields built and captured by the US 41st Divison. The IJA decided to recapture them, aided by the remaining 4 IJA tanks on the island.
(Credit: Google Earth)
(“Soldiers of the 41st Infantry Division, after emerging from the jungle, overcoming Japanese resistance, advance on an open field on the South Pacific island of Biak, off the New Guinea coast; May-August 1944.” Credit: https://www.ww2incolor.com/)
Victory Conditions & Tactical Considerations
The IJA broke out of the Dense Jungle with 12 squads and 4 leaders, which included a 10-1 and a 9-1. They had 4 LMGs and 2 MTR that could pump WP out to 6 hexes. There were also the 4 x Ha-Go’s described in the Historical Perspective. The Americans had 11 squads: 3×667, 7×666 & 1×546. They had 3 leaders, which includes a 9-1 and a 8-1, plus 1xHMG, 2xMMG, 4xBaz44 and a 60 MTR. The IJA win at the end of any Game Turn if they have 7 CVPs or more than the Americans (unbroken) on/adjacent to any runway hex, and they had 7.5 turns to do it.
The IJA didn’t really have an advantage in manpower (so no unnecessary CC), and the Americans outranged and outgunned them. They did have an advantage in leadership and morale, plus they could get to where they wanted to get to if they want it bad enough. The 4 AFVs were key for preventing the Americans from backing off into the airfield. These bazookas had a range of 4 but the Ha-Gos were small. So TH on a moving Ha-Go is 6 @ 1 hex, 5 @2, 4 @3, 1 @4, ie they were effective at 2 hexes at best unless they catch you stopping. The 2 knee mortars had WP and these Ha-Gos had vehicular smoke grenades, apart from being able to provide Armor Assault or vehicular hindrances if needed be.
The IJA setup on row 3 while their tanks come in from offboard. Americans setup near the bottom edge of the top map, however in doing so, would have to retrograde across plenty of Open Ground, first to the tree line on Board 14 (bottom) and then across the airfield (where you get an additional -1 to incoming fire). We needed to back up before the IJA tanks got behind us!
I took on Brian William’s US setup in his AAR from Jan 2000. The idea here was to defend the left and the center where it’s closest to the airfield. We would try to hold the line for as long as possible before backing off onto the airfield. Having the IJA AFV hooking behind us would definitely be an issue. Hopefully our bazooka’s would deter some of that. The HMG (plus 9-1) and the 60 MTR were in the trees located in the center of the board. One MMG was in the middle with the 8-1 and the other MMG guarded the left side.
After Action Report
The IJA wasted no time moving in. Too fast perhaps, they already made me felt like I’d made a mistake and gave them too much ground upfront. On the left, they prodded my lone squad (which promptly broke and ran) and was well on their way hooking around to the airfield. In the middle, an IJA tank ran into the dense jungle in a bid to freeze my MMG. We killed it in CC. Slightly to the left of it, another IJA tank did the same with another MMG team and was unfortunately bogged in the jungle which only made it easier to kill. Its partner AFV pivoted and stopped right in front of a HS bearing a Baz but they wouldn’t be able to hit a thing this whole game. A couple of squads came through the middle with their knee mortars. They weren’t able to do much damage to the HMG-Mortar team but they laid down smoke for their comrades to the right. On the right, a body of IJAs came through the dense jungle unmolested. That gully in middle of the field would be an ideal jump off point.
In the middle, the concealed units that sat behind the MMG team were in fact, a Baz team! They slid up under the wreck, shot the other AFV and immobilised it. Given where it was, we figured an immobilisation was as good as a kill. The remaining IJA tank (that stopped in front of the Baz team) started up! The Baz team immediately fired but missed again. The other Baz team fired but couldn’t connect either! That Ha-Go waltzed all the way down to the HMG team (with 2×666 and a 9-1, no less!). The HMG fired and got snakes!! Pity you can’t CH with a 50 cal. However, the TK’s 7 (AF1) at that range and the last AFV was put down as well. The hoard of IJA on the right decided not to wait and did 2 Banzai’s (over OG!). Meanwhile on the far left, the IJA platoon continue to make their way down south. The Americans were fortunate enough to keep a team in front of them. We couldn’t win most standing gunfights though, we had to always try to get the first shot in.
We were able to decimate enough IJA troops to be able to pull a big withdrawal on the right. We ran to the end of the airfield and hoped to advance across the runway (add’l -1 to incoming fire). The IJA tried another Banzai on the far right but some pretty heavy firepower got in the way (and killed the IJA 9-1). The IJA pulled another Banzai through the kunai on the left towards our MMG as well. We had a flanker harassing that Banzai but it got hit by the IJA sniper halfway through.
(“Jungleers on Biak by Keith Rocco”, https://www.militaryimages.net/)
IJA Turn 6 – they had lost a good number of troops to the Banzai’s already. The broken MMG HS from our first position finally managed to self rally! So even though the IJA tried to run some troops up from the back, they didn’t get too far. They did a final Banzai attack to get to the edge of the airfield, and lost their 10-1 in the process. This was when they decided to call it quits and started pulling out RbFI-5 (ATF1) Paper Line ..
(“1944 Biak- Japanese Prisoners being fed” https://www.ww2incolor.com/)
How’s this Scenario Interesting?
I think movement across Open Ground was key for both IJA and US troops. The IJA had 4 tanks to help hook around and to interdict American movement (their 4 LMGs would have extended the 4 hex IJA range nicely). Plus their cover / smoke grenades should have provided protection for IJA troops in the face of heavy US firepower. The Americans couldn’t win standing firefights and as I mentioned before, we had to always get the first shot in. We would have a very hard time with our low morale if we had to retreat through opposing fire. We lucked out early on when the first couple of Banzai’s didn’t leave the IJA with enough troops to see beyond the tree line, thus allowing US escapes. Once we settled into the buildings around the airfield it’s all open ground for the IJA, those AFVs would have been helpful.
I really like Brian William’s setup. The bazooka teams in particular were looking over the narrowest places (and/ or where those AFVs had to turn). I couldn’t have done something as good as that. I might have made the mistake of setting up a little to forward, increase the difficulty of my retreat and enabling Banzai’s through those jungles.