Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Belang-Alasan: War at Sea in the East Indies 1943...

1943, and as the war in the east slowly begins to turn, a British fleet attempted to intercept the Japanese Carrier Akagi on a run to port.

The Akagi, fat with aircraft was accompanied by light cruiser Jintsu, and a single destroyer. Running a few miles to the north were the Battlecruiser Kongo and the heavy cruiser Myoko. Picket duties were being maintained in this sector by a I-19 class submarine.

In response, the British assembled a force centred round HMS Rodney and Carrier HMS Illustrious. A pair of Australian cruisers and two destroyers were seconded to the operation, in the hope of stopping the Japanese reaching safe waters. A British submarine was also rushed independently to the area.

In the engagement the Japanese were split by a pair of small Islands 10 miles east of Belang. The Royal Navy was able to initially engage the smaller but powerful Japanese battlecruiser group. However air attacks by the Japanese fighters based on the Akagi effectively neutralised the British air power.

Nonetheless by 11.45 hrs the Japanese had already lost most of their offensive air ability in an unsuccessful strike on the British carrier group. Though their submarine picket managed to Torpedo the Illustrious.

By this stage the Rodney was beginning to make its' impressive main battery tell, with a firepower the Kongo and Myoko were unable to match. However the engagement had now descended to one of a close quarters assault, as the Japanese attempted to use their 'Long Lance' torpedoes to sink the British carrier and its' escorts, whilst screening their own.

The Kongo, Myoko and Jintsu were lost, but the combined efforts of these vessels, the I-19 submarine and desperate surface attacks by Japanese fighters were enough to sink the Illustrious, and allow the Akagi to escape.

Although the Royal Navy could count control of sea lanes and the destruction of several key enemy assets in its' favour, the loss of its' own carrier and the escape of the enemy's resulted in Belang-Alasan being considered a Pyrrhic victory at best. It would be some time still until the mighty Akagi was sunk, but for now all it could do was slink back to port, unescorted.

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