Tarawa - A Crossfire WW2 scenario

The Napnuts fought the seminal battle for Tarawa Atoll at highly reduced scale. A real meat grinder nonetheless.
Order of Battle:
1. Defences
1 Company Japanese Marines (Regular)
1 Type 95 light tank (dug-in)
1 twin dual-purpose 127mm Gun (emplaced)*
1 47mm AT gun (dug-in)
*127mm has 50:50 chance of halved rate of fire after first 3 waves land to reflect ammo shortage; capable of direct fire on the beach due to position.
2. Reserve
1 Company Japanese Marines (Regular)
1 Type 95 light tank
3. Obstacles
Polyhedrals, concertina wire, AP mines covered about half of the landing area
1. Landing Force
1st Wave: 1 Company USMC (Veterans) in LVTs, 1 Stuart M3 (LCT)
2nd Wave: 1 Company USMC (Veterans) in Higgins boats, 1 Sherman (LCT)
3rd Wave: 1 Company USMC (Veterans) in LVTs and Higgins boats, 1 Sherman (LCT)*
4th Wave: 1 Company USMC (Veterans) in Higgin boats, 1 Sherman (LCT)
5th Wave: 1 Company USMC (Veterans) in Higgin boats, 1 Stuart M3 (LCT)
* Higgins boats and LCTs have a 50:50 chance of snagging on the reef after Turn 1 forcing marines to wade in and take an additional initiative to get ashore (vicious but accurate). If LCTs beach on the reef, Shermans have 50-50 chance of being disabled due to flooding as they attempt landfall
2. Naval Gunfire
Either of:-
1.) 4 tubes of smoke
2.) 2 tubes of HE
HE available subject to Navy liaison landing successfully and achieving radio contact (50:50)
3. Air Support
1 Hellcat, rocket armed (50:50 chance of successful call contingent on air liaison landing successfully; 1 air liaison per wave)
We all knew that Tarawa was a bloody battle but it was numbingly bloody when the Napnuts fought it.
The first wave came under heavy fire despite smoke screens which rendered out of LOS much of the Japanese defence. 1/3 of the first USMC company was basically killed or suppressed coming in. The Stuart was lost due to a lucky hit. However, the remaining 2 platoons made the beach and the relative cover of the seawall. So far, so good.
The second wave also managed to get ashore with about 30% loss but lost its Sherman to direct fire along the way. But things were getting tougher ...
Subsequent waves were hammered apart coming in as the Higgins boats got stuck on reefs, forcing the assault parties to wade in. However, the 4th wave did succeed in landing a Sherman tank on the beach. The Sherman was of dubious utility in assault since it could not breach the seawall. It nonetheless entrenched the Marine toehold on Red Beach 1 (which the umpire decided upon because it was easier to paint 1 stripe on the LVTs than II or III).
Onshore, the USMC had landed in the least built up fortifications around the main bunker. Unfortunately, this channelled them into a killzone, and despite repeated efforts, the marines failed to carry the main bunker. However, they took some earthworks and repulsed a Japanese counterattack, inflicted enormous casualties on the Japanese in the centre of landing zone.

Attempts at dislodging the defenders via destroyer HE and Hellcat strikes were largely unsuccessful, although the Marines did get close enough to launch a 2 section assault on the main bunker, which was bloodily  repulsed by  the elite marines of the Japanese Navy.

The battle essentially fizzled out with about a reinforced platoon of USMC supported by a Sherman tank, bogged down in the vicinity of the trench line. With the 5th wave of USMC on the way, night fell on Red Beach 1.
Historically, this was about as well as the US attackers did in real life: as night fell on day 1 of Operation Galvanic, only 20% of the initial landing force was in position on the beaches, and a Japanese counterattack would have likely dislodged them. So it was in our game, which saw USMC remnants clinging grimly on to the few hundred yards of ground they had captured.
The game ended without either side being able to claim a decisive victory: the USMC were unlikely to be dislodged from the beaches, and the Japanese line was unlikely to be breached by the 5th wave alone.


Napnuts Tarawa Suggested Solution:


Use smoke from all available guns in order to get the first 3 waves to the seawall as quickly as possible. Ignore return fire until maximum units reach seawall cover. Get Tanks under Seawall as these will be psychologically damaging to the Japanese defender. Turn LVTs around to deliver subsequent waves.


Switch Naval Gunfire and airstrikes to the bunkers and 5" guns. Marines at Seawall direct platoon and company fire at the soft cover and the bunkers. It might make sense to take out the soft cover first since these are easier targets. It would be bloody but I suspect that massed Naval Gunfire PLUS company HMG fire would probably be able to suppress the central bunker. Also bearing in mind the airstrikes are free.

How easy is it to take out a bunker? Each 4D6 gives you a 10% chance of suppression. Each 3D6 gives you a 7% chance. I'd say, cumulatively, a MG company crossfire PLUS Naval Guns PLUS Hellcat strikes (focused on the pillboxes) should probably have done the job.

The trade-off is that the troops on the seawall take MORE casualties since they are in soft cover but the pillboxes take heavier naval gunfire and Hellcat fire (the US ALWAYS have better arty and it doesnt run out).


The assault on the pillboxes was not neccesary since the US commander is NOT on a strict timeline. He had all the time in the world to direct barrage fire on the pillboxes and wait for more tanks and infantry to roll up.

Report by WW2 Coordinator: LK Tho