After Action Report Kokoda West – 29th July 1942
Part 1 of 2 Kokoda is played as two separate games, West and East
Game 1 - Kokoda West
(Photos from Greg Blake)
Historical and Campaign setting
The battle for Kokoda begans at 0230 hours 29th July in the early morning with mist rolling over the escarpment of the Village.
The Australian forced had returned from Deniki in the late afternoon of the 28th after deserting the Village of Kokoda that morning and after fighting a patrol action to the east of the village against numerically superior Japanese forces.
The Japanese Commander Yokoyama on the night of the 28th orders his forces to move close to the Kokoda village perimeter to await attack orders. Yokoyama commits the 2nd Company, 144th Battalion to led the attack supported by the two medium mortars of 1st Battalion 144th and two 70mm Infantry Guns 1/144th battalion. In reserve he places the 1st Company 144th Regt setting up behind the jungle line to the West of Kokoda. A savage mortar and artillery bombardment begins.
Facing the Japanese is a mixed defence force of Australian Militia troops and local Papuans. The Australian Order of Battle comprising 16th and 17th Platoons, D Company 39th Battalion –under Captain Bistrap, one Vickers MG, 39th Battalion MG Section, one 81mm Mortar from 39th Battalion HQ and three small sections of Papuan Infantry (Papuan Infantry Battalion) under the local area commander Major Watson. Command for this part of the battle fell to Captain Templeton, acting as the ADC to Lt Colonel Owen 39th Battalion who is deployed to East Kokoda.
The Japanese forces had their artillery and Mortars set up in open terrain facing west Kokoda. The 2nd Company moved onto the table as two forces, the first group comprising two platoons with by knee mortars moving towards the village from the North and the second group the third company with attached mortars moving on from the North West. Snipers from the 2nd company deploying in the jungle line far to the west of the village looking for viable targets.
At first the Australians were outside 12” and therefore were not placed on the field of play until they reveal their positions by firing or by the Japanese came within 12”.
Initiative feel to the Japanese but due to the Australians hidden force option not much happened. The Australians made many attempts to acquire targets with one section managing this in the end causing light Japanese casualties.
(Photos from Greg Blake)
For several turns the same situation was repeated, one by one the Australians did however acquire targets and firing became steadily heavier and Japanese troops began to fall. The Japanese players stop their grenadier sections and the knee mortars now came into play. By the end of turn three the Japanese medium mortars fired star shells on the front of the Australian entrenchments and the battle began to turn in the favour of the Japanese attackers.
Japanese snipers hiding in the jungle fringes to the west of Kokoda also started to worry the Australian positions. By the end of turn four, they started to pick of NCO’s all the time seeking to locate and take out the Australian commanders. In response to this one section of Papuan Infantry was sent out from their trenches with the mission of hunting down the snipers. Unfortunately within two turns their Australian Corporal was killed and the section initially retreated back to seek shelter but through further casualties began to rout.
By turn five Japanese casualties were becoming heavy 40 men had now been killed for a total of only five Australians and the first of the banzai charges had failed.
Turn six saw the all out bombardment of kokoda begin to take its toll, a second star shell was fired over kokoda and the Australian positions to the north were now in full light. The casualties within the Australian positions became heavy.
Continuing to apply the pressure the Japanese platoon that had been deployed to the North West had moved South and now swung back toward the airfield.
The Australian command realising that the defensive position was now under in trouble with many units suppressed moved Captain Bidstrap into a position where he could use his superior gut check to their advantage. As he turned his back to move towards a group of Australian that were in need of his guidance a lone sniper “Hajimoto” sighted the officer squeezed off a carefully aimed shot and the officer fell dead.
The command situation worsened with Captain Templeton becoming suppressed through mortar fire leaving the local area commander Major Watson in charge of the whole position.
The Australian support weapons feared little better, within three turns the HMG had been firstly suppressed was then taken out and the Mortar Section was experiencing heavy fire and had become suppressed.
Meanwhile the Japanese had lost 5 sections out of their 12 available amounting to 65 casualties. The Japanese commander gave the order for the reserves that had been hidden behind the jungle line to the west of the village to now move on. These new troops moved quickly from their start positions towards the crumbling Papuan positions to the west crossing the airfield and bringing fresh fire on the remaining Australian positions on the escarpment.
(Photos from Greg Blake)
Captain Templeton while attempting to recover from his suppression feel to Hajimoto, sniped from long rang. Full command truly fell to Major Watson.
The situation was serious, from the north Japanese troops had eliminated all resistance on the escarpment and two sections now moved fast threatened the centre of the village. As the mortar team retreated from their position the crews were cut down. Scattered small sections of surviving Australian troops had rallied near a forward hut, while an Australian sergeant and Major Watson argued about when to pulling out. The Major gave into the sergeant sealing their fate, Watson to Hajimoto’s sniper rifle and the others on the points of Japanese bayonet’s.
The remaining Papuan and Australian troops that had survived the onslaught began to flee down the track through the rubber plantation to the safety of Deniki.
West Kokoda had fallen.
To be continued – East Kokoda still to be played.
Outcome – The Australian casualties were 54 men, 1 HMG and 1 8Imm Mortar plus observers. The Japanese casualties were 94 men from 2nd Company, 1st Bn 144th Regt and 13men from 1st Company, 1st Bn 144th Regt, a total of 108 casualties.
The surviving Australians amounting to 9 Papuan Infantry – 1 Rifle, 2 Smgs, 2 LMG’s and 2 Australian NCO’s SMG armed and a small section of HQ staff 5 men plus Surgeon Vernon withdrew back to Deniki to await orders.