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"Tarawa beach assault rules suggestions?" Topic

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06 Nov 2020 9:12 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Tarawa beach Assualt rules suggestions?" to "Tarawa beach assault rules suggestions?"

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Comments or corrections?

Dentwist Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2020 7:18 a.m. PST

We are planning an assualt on Tarawa, we are planning to use Rapid fire, but wouldn't mind other suggestions

HMS Exeter07 Nov 2020 11:28 p.m. PST

I'm no Tarawa scholar, and I'm unfamiliar with Rapid Fire, but your question piqued my interest, so I did some Wikipedia reading and net surfing.

1. You're probably going to want to step the rules down from Brigade to Battalion level, based on the principle deployment units. Personally I think a game of this type would work best at Company level for the infantry units and platoon for the specialty support units.

2. Given the static crust nature of the defenses, and the complete failure of the Japanese field phone system, this is a game that would probably lend itself to having all the players run USMC, with a randomized or GM moderated Japanese side. The Japanese stuck to their bunkers until forced to retire into the trenches behind, and fight on until things deteriorated to banzai time. Decision Games have a D Day at Tarawa solitaire game that might be a real boon to your efforts. If for no other reason than getting the game map could well be a treasure trove.

3. The Day 1 Northern Red Beach assault waves encountered horrific problems. The expected high tide proved to be a "neap" tide, far shallower than expected. The LCVPs could not clear the outer reef, so the marines had to debark there and wade ashore. The LVTs could crawl over the reef, but were subjected to murderous fire on the approach to the "beach."

Much of the Red Beach shore was not beach, but a tall coconut log sea wall. While this did offer a precious defilade, it also obliged the marines to essentially go "over the top" to move inland. The defilade was imperfect until the marines cleared the snipers from the Burns Philips wharf. Was there anyplace in the Pacific that didnt have some kind of Burns Philips presence? You should plan to build in wading movement under fire, and movement over the sea wall fully exposed.

You should probably plan to completely dissolve unit cohesion into an almost man for man count of personnel reaching the shore, then dice for officers trying to reform "pick up" commands of infantry, and dice for possible assembly of support elements. Think Saving Private Ryan.

As it happened, the marine's advance looks to have occurred primarily from the center of the Red Beach shore, where there was no seawall and the LVTs could actually debark on dry land.

The second day landings on the western Green Beach progressed more conventionally and saw armor finally getting feet dry.

4. Of the 5000 man Japanese garrison, about 2900 were SNLF. The balance were labor troops. Of them, some 1200 were Koreans. I leave it you sort out the relative combat capabilities of each of the 3 groups. It bears noting that only 129 of the Koreans survived. The Decision Games offering could probably help here.

5. If you wanted to deconstruct and start from scratch, I'd suggest using a sectored game map much like the Board Game Storm over Arnhem. Each landing craft approach lane would start at the reef and have several "steps" to the shore. The shoreline would be subdivided based on Japanese unit boundaries with bunkers at the front and a trench system behind. The marines could only enter a beach sector once some bunkers were overcome. Further bunker fighting would have the marines enjoying flanking advantages. Marines move, Japanese fire, Japanese move, Marines fire, Naval gunfire support, if available, close assault.

6. Of course a rivet counting purist would argue it should be called Betio, not Tarawa. Betio is to Tarawa as Gettysburg is to Pennsylvania, or some such blather.
Don't ask me how to pronounce Betio. Online you can get at least 5 different ideas. Bay chee oh; besho; bittio; whatever

Just some ideas.

And people say nothing good comes of insomnia.

KSmyth08 Nov 2020 8:26 p.m. PST

We ran a Tarawa game in the late 1990's using Arty Conliffe's Crossfire rules. It was a very small scale game (I think it was three companies worth.) It was very tough on the Marines because they had to move from cover to cover, taking fire as they moved. I thought the rules did a great job demonstrating their challenges. We ran it a couple of times at Enfilade (convention in the Pacific Northwest) and the Marines barely eked out win the first time, and lost horribly the second time.

Dentwist Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2020 10:32 p.m. PST

Thanks HMS Exeter you hav given us some things to think about

1. I think RF can be scaled to this.
2. Yes a GM seems to be the go here.
3. I think the reef/wading issues can be handled fairly easily.
unit cohesion will need some work as it was a major issue, also, the issue of been driven away from the designated landing zone, I like the officer idea.
4. unit quality can be handled. Most of the Koreans were on-combatants caught up in the heat of battle, so the IJN forces are about 2/3 the 5000.
5. The Japanese defenses were incredibly well laid out and survived much of the preliminary bombardment, their interlocking fields of fire held the marines for a long time.
6. Yes you are correct, just like Operation Galvanic called for the capture of Tarawa Atoll, Operation Longsuit was the capture of Betio which was the largest island.

Naval bombardment will also have to be worked out. On D-day the 3 battleships were in too close their shells were skipping across the island because of the low angle of fire. The 5" us of the destroyers in the lagoon was very affective.

HMS Exeter11 Nov 2020 5:45 a.m. PST

USN 5"/38, when you absolutely, positively, gotta blow the living snot outta something up close and personal.

Wolfhag11 Nov 2020 5:32 p.m. PST

HMS Exeter pretty much covers it.

If you want a grunts eye level of the battle watch this video: YouTube link

At 8:57 it shows the assault on the main command bunker.
Notice the reduced visibility in many of the shots.

The second day landings on the western Green Beach progressed more conventionally and saw armor finally getting feet dry.

That was because Major Ryan's "Orphans" (what was left on Red 1) were able to flank all of the defenses on Green beach and take the entire length by the end of the day with the help of a Sherman tank. This allowed reserves to land the next morning and work their way across to the middle of the islanding flanking the defenses on the sea ward side.

Once the sea wall defenses were breached there were covered approaches behind them that made it fairly easy to flank and destroy the rest of them. The inland defenses appear to be mostly spider holes and tree snipers.

The assaults were normally done by only a few Marines, normally combat engineers with flamethrower and demo charge. The flamethrowers were mainly for suppressing the defenders so the demo charge could be laid. Thermite and WP grenades chased the defenders out too. If you use the "blind, burn and blast" tactic you should be successful and keep causalities low.

Most rule sets I've seen don't handle the nuances of this battle very well.


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