HS14- The Christmas Gifu

Mike205

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It’s July, it’s hot, and it’s humid. It’s so hot and humid in the south that if you go to the mailbox you come back looking like you fell in a swimming pool. The other night I came back from walking my dogs and my wife asked if it’d rained. That’s how bad I looked.

Aside from being the peak of summer, July is also the month of half-Christmas. The recent Black Friday in July online shopping extravaganza was meant to remind us that in just four short months we’ll be riding the wave of holiday consumerism.
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In honor of half-Christmas, and because we wanted to play something representing the U.S. Army in the PTO, Doug and I chose The Christmas Gifu as this week’s scenario.


It depicts part of the 23rd Infantry Division’s push to clear Guadalcanal’s interior of surviving Japanese units. The defenders nicknamed this region The Gifu, after a rugged, mountainous province in Japan. Historically, local warlords had used this terrain to their advantage, heavily fortifying the peaks and ridges, then riding out to conquer and unify Japan.

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Guadalcanal’s Gifu was just as heavily fortified, laced with well located bunkers and trenches. The Americal’s difficult fight through this hilly, jungled terrain was made famous by James Jones’ novel The Thin Red Line and its 1998 film adaptation. Doug and I would get a firsthand look at the realities of trying to mount cohesive defenses and attacks in this kind of frustrating terrain.

Set on half of board 32 (rows U-GG), the scenario pits the 132nd Infantry Regiment against elements of the 124th and 228th Japanese infantry regiments. Its features a straight up jungle fight, as the Japanese are dug into bunkers and trenches in order to prevent an American breakthrough. Dicing for sides, I wound up as the attacker. My 17 X 6-6-6 squads, 4 mmgs, 2 x 8-0, 8-1, and 9-1 leaders would have to drive north to south across the board, exiting either 13 or more CVP off of the south end or inflicting 26+CVP in Japanese casualties. The U.S. also receives one CVP per tunnel exit /entrance eliminated.

Tunnels you say? Why yes, that’s because the Japanese get 12 x 1+3+5 bunkers to house their 2X 4-4-8s, 8 x 4-4-7s, 6 2-2-8 crews, 2 hmgs, 4 mmgs, 4 lmgs, 8-0, 9-0, ad 9-1 leaders. They can also set up entrenched in suitable terrain. Per SSRs, multiple bunkers can set up in the same hex, and can be connected by tunnels that allow units to move as if from a cave complex to a cave.

Looking at the board, I had doubts my boys could pull it off. First of all, by SSR, no paths on board 32 exist. This means that there is one large clearing in the middle and two on the sides of the board, creating several funnels that my troops would have to pass through if they wanted to avoid obvious kill zones. Because paths didn’t exist and because PTO was in effect, those interior jungle hexes were also dense jungle.


I’m not saying I’m great at PTO but I am saying that I’m not a new jack either. I’m familiar with the dangers of rushing units through dense jungle against HIP Japanese fortifications. I’m also sadly all too familiar with the straying rules as well. I only had seven turns to get my guys off the south edge- that was definitely not enough time to carefully search every hex. At some point I’d have to risk it and run squads through, hoping they didn’t hit hidden defenses or get lost in the dark, dank, triple canopy jungle. Flashing back to Platoon, I anticipated stumbling upon machine gun nests and taking fire from the front and the rear. True to form, I’d strike this pose many times during the game as my men failed MMCs.
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In an attempt to ensure a shot at victory I would hope that Doug committed most of his forces to the areas around the clearings. I’d divide my forces into two separate columns that would push down either side of the large clearing, carefully sweeping the area, and by turn four meet back up around AA8 and then exit from there. I deployed two squads before the game to provide two skirmisher HSs per column and intended to deploy at least one more squad in each column when the game started. I also wanted to keep these decoys well supported by full squads who would quickly respond once they uncovered fortifications. Each column also received on -1 leader and 8-0 leader. I planned to keep both of them back to rally since American morale is so fragile. I knew I’d need to constantly recycle units and in particular I was concerned about the American ELR, which was a 3. If I came out the other side of this battle with a victory I had a gut feeling it would be with mostly 2nd liners and maybe even some green troops as well.



Things immediately got off to a bad start. Several units strayed and my skirmishers got mixed in with their support units. Two of my leaders also wound up out front rather than safely ensconced within the main force. On turn two, one of these groups would encounter a HIP Japanese squad with a lmg and 9-1 leader. Another on the left flank bumped into another one. By the end of the turn I had three broken and ELR’ed squads, a broken HS, a pinned HS, and to make matters worse a Japanese sniper wounded my 9-1 leader, who died the following rally phase alongside a boxcarred HS.
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Welcome to the jungle.



It would take me another turn to sort my lines back out, rally my boys, and push forward. By the end of turn three I began bumping up against the main line of resistance. Japanese squads were popping out from everywhere and I was taking fire from the front and flanks. It appeared that Doug had indeed clustered several bunker complexes to cover the clearings and placed another one around the central clearing. In between, however, I was still running into trenches, a few more bunkers, and his troops were hardly static. Doug had cleverly placed two bunkers in some hexes, allowing his mmg crews and squads to quickly scoot from one CA to another. My guys would finally fight their way into a bunker hex only to find it abandoned. Next turn they’d be facing point blank mmg fire from a bunker directly in front of them. Slowly but surely I painfully discovered that Doug had set his MLR right across the board rather than divide it into disparate groups. His defense was cohesive as well as complex.
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My only saving grace was Doug’s bad luck with his mmgs. On three successive occasions he malf’ed mmgs and hmgs, losing them in following rally phases. It was unreal- whoever was running the Gifu’s armory should have committed hari-kari.



I was also, surprisingly, winning most of my CCs and by turn five I had pretty much cleared the left hand bunker complex. The one in the center stubbornly held on and I was getting dragged into an uneven fight on the right. Despite making progress I almost conceded. My force now mostly consisted of 2nd line squads and HS. Most of my 6-6-6 were now HS, and I even had a disrupted green squad that I was desperately trying to rescue. In contrast, Doug’s guys were standing tall- after taking two blasts of 24FP one of his 4-4-7s ELR’ed and CAS reduced to a conscript HS. Step reduction is a bitch.



Turn 6 I got a second wind, as I managed to break through his trench line and outflank his hmg and 9-1 leader in a key position in the center, allowing me to run several squads through. Two strayed and only one was able to successfully get past Doug’s defensive line.



By this point the fighting on the right had largely petered out, allowing him to send out three squads and a gun crew who began to close the gap in the center and work their way in behind my right hand column desperately driving towards the exit. His infiltrators managed to do some damage, killing my 8-1 and a HS in CC and DMing several broken squads. On the left another counterattack overran and massacred my disrupted green squad. Next turn it was over.
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Despite cracking the Gifu my survivors withdrew to reconsolidate and avoid being cut off. Historically, the Americal’s initial attack unfolded in a similar way- they were forced to withdraw and worked for the next month to outflank and isolate these strongpoints before assaulting largely abandoned fortifications.

Before the game started I had my reservations about this scenario. I’m not a fan of static defenses and like games where both sides have options to both attack and defend. However, HS 14 delivered its gifts and I admit it was fun, in a masochistic kind of way, to try and uncover and then overwhelm the Japanese bunker complexes. Kudos to Doug too for springing some counterattacks when opportunities presented themselves. This one really conveyed the tense jungle fighting in the Solomons and places like Bougainville during the early island hopping campaign. It was also fun to pit the frail morale of well armed U.S. infantry against hidden and tenacious Japanese defenders.



Merry half-Christmas from the Pacific!

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jrv

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Because paths didn’t exist and because PTO was in effect, those interior jungle hexes were also dense jungle.
PTO is in effect and not defined as light, but that means that all jungle hexes are dense, not just interior ones [G2.1]. Interior hexes matters for straying [G2.22] but are not otherwise different from exterior hexes. The fact that paths don't exist doesn't matter for dense vs. light jungle. If they did exist the hexes would still be dense.

The Edson's Ridge historical map has a mixture of dense and light jungle, but that is not typical. Typically all jungle hexes are dense or all are light.

I was still running into trenches
In most scenarios where the SSR says units may set up "entrenched," the intention is for foxholes and not full trenches. Here the SSR reinforces that by saying that Japanese units "may do so Entrenched (B27.1)," where B27.1 is the rule for foxholes. If your opponent used trenches I am fairly sure that was not the intention of the designer.

JR
 
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Cpl Uhl

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Nice AAR. I had a negative impression of this one, but you make it sound like a classic smash-mouth PTO dense jungle fight. Hope to try it. Thanks!
 

Mike205

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Nice AAR. I had a negative impression of this one, but you make it sound like a classic smash-mouth PTO dense jungle fight. Hope to try it. Thanks!
At first glance, I felt similarly but it turned out to be really fun. The intrigue for me was the American ELR and FP vs. IJA step reduction and fortification mods/tunnels/multiple bunker locations in point blank firefights and CC. In a sick way, it was entertaining to watch my squads degrade from 1st to second line and even green squads while digging the Japanese out of their bunker complexes. Great early island hopping atmosphere that foreshadowed the cave tactics of late war PTO.
 
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