austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

We've got a heck of a job to do

Returning to the Pacific War, and the struggle to liberate China and Korea and keep Japan from conquering the Pacific Rim: January 1945 ended with a pair of research breakthroughs with technology for the ballistic missile --- and research leads for the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile --- becoming available, and atomic weapons finally reaching the point where their construction could be researched. I would set technology teams to work on that as soon as the research slots made that possible. The next breakthrough, in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, would come the 22nd of March. This didn't give me any nuclear carriers, just the background technology to research them and later put them into construction. Similarly for the 13th of May a breakthrough in the basic rocket interceptor came from the technology teams who were clearly having a very good year.

For the 1st of February with Guangdong liberated the United States announced the re-establishment of the Guangxi Clique, one of the pre-party Chinese factions and the only truly native Chinese government I could reestablish at the time. They promptly joined the Allies and the war, and took over administration of most of the territories in southeast China as the United States or France liberated them. The United Kingdom worked its way up from Burma, a much more challenging route. Meanwhile the search for island bases from which to invade Japan took me to Iwo Jima and the Bonin Islands, the game's nearest outposts, and for the 23rd of April the United States was just able to begin the regular bombing of Tokyo.

If Japan hoped to blitzkrieg down the Pacific Rim and grab territory fast, the campaign utterly fizzled, leaving them at war with Europe and North America without much to show for it. The success of probing efforts under heavy air cover in southeast China made the United States decide to ignore most of the south Pacific islands they have --- they'd be good mostly for practicing amphibious assaults anyway --- and focus on rolling up the coast towards Shanghai. By May a combined amphibious and air assault had taken Taiwan, with serious thoughts about Okinawa to come.

Under MacArthur's command a division of twelve infantry units did very well zipping up the China coastline, with other smaller units filling out the interior provinces. With the war dragging on a whole six months and no sign of the complete collapse of Japanese forces I decided to shift from carefully securing the broad front from Indochina up to Shanghai to sending units out in fast-paced offensive maneuvers designed to take lightly held territory and cut Japanese units off from their supply bases.

This may sound like the obvious course, but it opens my units, going in deep, to all kinds of supply problems on their own; plus, during the blitzkrieg their supply and personnel levels keep dwindling --- I might get somewhere but I would be using the units up hard. Plus, territory claimed but not held by units (I just didn't have them) would be subject to partisan rebellions and to being reclaimed by any Japanese units that wandered through. However, the chance of pushing Japan-in-China to a faster collapse was very tempting.

And all the better, it worked: by the 27th of June I had seized the right territories to allow the re-establishment of the Nationalist Chinese government. (The game lets you create nations, but only around their ``natural cores''.) And so, with a pomp and ceremony I can only imagine because the game doesn't play things out like that, on the 4th of July, 1945, Nationalist China was declared liberated and restored to the map, joined to the Allied cause, and promptly set to work building its own army to join in the liberation of western and northern China, Manchuria, Korea, and Japan. (You can't tell me that in the circumstances the actual United States government wouldn't pick the 4th of July as the official New Independence Date.)

On the 12th of July, the United Kingdom held an election and voted in the Labour Party, replacing Winston Churchill with Clement Attlee. This is, I believe, a scheduled event almost impossible to avoid rather like the Presidential Election of 1944 pitting Roosevelt against Dewey. It's unfortunate that it is scheduled this way since I can't see the British holding an election nine months into a war going very well, and more, I can't see how Churchill would have been prime minister anyway. Remember, in this timeline Britain was not at war from 1939 through 1943 and I believe they'd had a general elections scheduled by 1940. Even had Neville Chamberlain been returned to office (and why wouldn't he, given they weren't doing the fighting?) and died on schedule, the circumstances that brought Churchill to power were a special blend of catastrophe on all fronts; that just didn't exist here. By rights, Churchill should have remained a bellicose if well-spoken minister with impractical ideas about invading the Balkans. But I suppose it'd be impossible to model all the permutations of party politics for all possible alternatives, particularly since the game gives a fair shot at representing the politics of 200 nations for the 1936-to-1954 era. It still bugs me.

Despite the steady progress up through China, and the successful invasion of Okinawa, I wanted to get a jump on liberating Korea and attempted invasions of Jeju, then Busan, then Seoul, all of which established that I didn't have enough air cover and didn't have enough talent in amphibious-assault-on-mountain-range tactics to make those anything other than horrible, bloody defeats. This gave me serious pause about whether to try invading Japan first or taking the rest of China. There are only a few spots from which Korea can be invaded, and they were all proving surprisingly tough, probably because despite the naval patrols (surface and aerial) which were reporting fewer battles with the Japanese Navy and more convoys and escorts sunk, the Japanese troops in Korea could assemble on a few strategic points --- Seoul, Pyongyang, and along the Yalu River --- and still draw most of the supplies the dwindling Japanese industrial base could provide. The hinterland of China, on the other hand, would offer troops at the ragged end of supply and organization chains, but are also vast distances with lousy roads and slow movement at the best of times. I chose to have a few small units of infantry moving ever-westward, under the modest air cover necessary, and to gather marine and mountaineering forces with all the remaining tactical fighters and bombers keeping all Korea under aerial assault.

Meanwhile I'd got the hang of the game's rules about how paratrooper assaults are done. The target spot has to be within range of an air base at which paratroopers and the troop transport plane are based, of course, but it turns out the organization levels --- which build over time, but are reduced by changes in orders, in locations, or by combat --- have to reach a sufficient level. With a better understanding of the game's mechanism for that I was able to start dropping soldiers into territories effectively, and could begin placing troops for an attack on Korea or western Japan.

In a serious surprise on the 1st of August the Netherlands and Japan reached a separate peace agreement, returning to the status quo ante bellum, which I suppose is fair in that in eight months of ``war'' they hadn't had any actual forces confront each other, but it feels historically inauthentic to me. Meanwhile, my forces in China were worn out after a half-year of steady and deep advances through the territories. So from the 15th of August I set them to resting and recuperating and rebuilding personnel and organizational levels. Happily, this didn't stop the advance: Canada and the United Kingdom had landed impressive armies around Jinan and under American air cover were happy to bring the allies ever-closer to Beijing and the Manchurian border.

Canada proved particularly enthusiastic, to the point that when the rest was over my troops would need several weeks to move to the front that Canada had advanced ... I really should have measured this, but I think it was the better part of a thousand miles. As I'd anticipated, Britain and France were taking pieces of southern China in invasions coming up through India and Burma (for the British) and Indochina (for the French); I'm sure this won't result in any fascinating yet difficult post-colonial traumas when the war is over. I note that Britain is mostly getting out of this remote deserts separated from anything by the Himalayas, large blocks of land no sane administrator would want; France is getting less territory --- the Chinese governments would get control of territories adjacent to what they already ruled, and the British have their salient to the west of the French lines --- but it's richer in people and resources.

The Japanese Navy, I should mention, consisted of several battleships, nine carriers, and various small craft. Gathered into a single fleet this is an intimidating bunch, although the smaller craft were sent more on nagging little convoy-sinking missions which threatened to get ahead of the convoy-rebuilding program. However, several times the United States Navy and the Royal Navy were able to catch the main Japanese Fleet in a crossfire where disengaging from one fleet and moving to the next region of sea would put them in a battle with a fresh alternate fleet; even if they won an encounter --- and it would often be a close thing --- they had no time to rest, rebuild, or resupply. It's hard grinding down a fleet of that size, and it wasn't finished this year, but it was chased back to the Japanese home islands. It would re-emerge, however, to haunt the southern Yellow Sea, not just conveniently near home base but also about the most strategically useful point for it: with the United States or Chinese governments in control of the whole coastline south, the fleet being there allows for the complication of shipment of troops and supplies to the would-be Korean liberation forces.

After nearly a month's pause the United States was ready to resume the assault, and on the 21st of September penetrated the Manchurian border to liberate Changde --- which also contained an air base suitable for use for the invasion of the rest of Manchuria and of northern Korea. MacArthur and Patton were set marching east and south-east to absorb what they could, set up the invasion of Korea, and incidentally complete cutting off the Japanese in China from their remaining supply base.

With the start of November the war entered its second year, but despite the length few could be seriously upset at the results: Guangxi and Nationalist China restored, the Shanxi territories ready for re-establishment as an independent government, Manchuria coming under United States control, Taiwan and Okinawa launching strategic bombardment raids on Japan regularly.

But there would be tragedy still: on the 9th of November, Franklin Roosevelt died, with Truman ascending to the presidency and messing up my reallocation of ministers as I'd just finished firing J Edgar Hoover and this event brought him back. On the other hand, I got to fire him again.

On the 27th of November, with most of Manchuria in United States hands (although garrisoned by Canadians, actually), Truman announced the annexation of the country and the shattering of Japan's Co-Prosperity Sphere (reduced to Japan and Mengkukuo). While some Manchurian provinces would remain in Japanese hands through the end of the year, this would not be a bad start to the Christmas season.

So as 1946 entered, the world was still at war; the Allies, the Netherlands excepted, putting on an excellent unified front, and eastern China is liberated under two native regimes and the United States government. Korea and the Japanese home islands are not yet penetrated. However, Japan's industrial base has been knocked down from comparable to Britain's to about the level of Canada's; on the other hand, Canada might just win the Most Valuable Player trophy for this conflict. While Japan's Navy is formidable gathered in one location, they have to concentrate all their forces to beat the United States or British navies in the area.

Trivia: Twenty United States planes were lost in combat in the attack on Vice-Admiral J Ozawa's fleet group at the (United States) Capture of the Marianas Islands, ordered by Admiral M A Mitscher when it was noticed Ozawa had remained around the battle area (he'd believed his planes had landed on Guam). Eighty were lost or crashed in the return flight and recovery after dark. Source: History of the Second World War, B H Liddell Hart.

Currently Reading: The Day Before Tomorrow, Gerard Klein. Fascinating twist on the time-travel premise: the Federation goes back in time to poison the societies of potential future rival powers so they can't develop into menaces; but, to avoid paradox, one can't travel back within one's historic light-cone. As there's faster-than-light travel this works out all right for the Federation, but it's a neat restriction on the game that I hadn't seen before. (The story ends as most stories about Eternal timecops propping up empires might be expected to.)

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