Stemming the Tide
2300 August 13th 1944.
North China Army Headquarters. Wuzhou, China.
Things had been going fairly well in Burma despite the massive Allied superiority in both numbers and technology. Higashikuni's defences had been opened up to a degree which was causing some concern to the Field Marshall. All spare forces were being sent to strengthen the Burmese defences when they became available. An unexpected advance had been made against his forces, one which was actually of great benefit to Higashikuni.
Yunnanese troops had captured Lashio. This reduced the possible lines of advance for the British and would cause some considerable delays to Japan's foe as they moved their troops around what was a very effective blocking move. Higashikuni wondered if he could be lucky enough for the Yunnan force to advance into Mandalay as well.
0000 August 14th 1944.
Diplomatic Offices. Tokyo, Japan.
Mamoru had spent over a month increasing trade with the Soviet Union and the deals that he had made had reduced the energy deficit considerably. His time would need to be spent all over again.
With the situation deteriorating in Europe for Japan's Axis allies the Soviets had cancelled all of their agreements with Japan. This was a major setback to Japanese industry and would need to be rectified soon as the energy reserves were down to below one week of supply. Military advances were going according to plan in most areas of China but it would still be some time before any enemy stockpile could be captured.
0000 August 14th 1944.
BB Division 1 Flagship. IJN Yamashiro, Palau Trench.
Yamamoto was heading south to intercept an American Light Carrier fleet that had been bombing Transport ships in Sorong. The latest intelligence from over flights by Japanese aircraft caused him to alter course.
The Carriers had been spotted moving away from Sorong to the east, so Yamamoto plotted an intercept course that would place him in range of the enemy fleet in Geelvink Bay.
having failed to damage the Transports to any degree by port strike the Allies called in South African Naval bombers. These could easily decimate the Japanese ships. Saboru would temporarily rebase to Sorong to deal with this new threat.
By 0800 hours on August 15th his two Interceptor squadrons had caused enough damage to prevent further bombing runs for some time. One of the Transport ships had been severely damaged but was still afloat.
Just as Yamamoto received this good news he was handed another message that was not so good. The American's and their Allies were determined to land in the Marianas and had sent another fleet into the North Mariana Trench.
Mj. General Lee had spotted the fleet, containing the already damaged Carrier USS Essex, and had made an immediate report back to base.
Unfortunately for Vice Admiral Scott there was a force more than capable of destroying his fleet very close by. Koga ordered BB Division 2 to sea noting that his fleet would arrive in the rain swept North Mariana Trench as night fell.
1000 August 14th 1944.
North China Army Headquarters.
General Yamashita, who was leading the main advance of the Kwantung Army, reported his arrival in Wanxian to Higashikuni. His initial intelligence on the defences of Chongqing, the Nationalists capital, was not favourable.
Eight divisions were defending against Yamashita's nine. Higashikuni would have to decide if the possible gains outweighed the possible losses if he were to order an attack.
1400 August 14th 1944.
BB Division2 Flagship. IJN Yamato, North Mariana Trench.
Koga had needed an hour to locate the American Carrier Task Force as he had entered the North Mariana Trench. Night and rain had made it slighty harder.
It took a further hour to close to firing distance for his big guns. By 1700 hours no ships had been sunk but the American fleet was suffering fairly large amounts of damage. Koga's ships had barely been scratched as his opponents force required daylight and good weather to allow its firepower to be brought to bare. Koga would win the battle and force Scott to withdraw but he had not managed to cripple this fleet.
One ship, the Light Cruiser USS Houston, would be sunk by IJN Yamato as the fleets opened range. Yamamoto ordered Koga to pursue Scott immediately. This would result in a day time encounter between the two fleets unless Koga's fleet was faster than the American Admiral's. Yamamoto reasoned that this American fleet was fairly weak and it was facing the largest Japanese Battlefleet in terms of firepower. He also hoped that Japanese bombers could sink the USS Essex before it could reach the South East Mariana Basin.
Ozawa would certainly try as his bombers arrived above the American fleet at dawn.