AAR by: Neal Ulen
Advanced Squad Leader AAR: The Sangshak Redemption (J150)
Here’s the historical situation:
Date: March 26, 1944
Location: Sangshak, India
Attacker: Japanese (58th Infantry Regiment, 31st Division)
Defender: Gurkhas (Support Company, 152nd Indian Parachute Battalion, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade and Company A, 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade)
The 153rd Parachute Battalion, 50th Parachute Brigade, was the only Gurkha airborne unit formed during the war. Their initial combat experience occurred as part of a delaying action against the northern pincer of the Japanese envelopment of Imphal, india. Along with its sister airborne battalions, the Gurkhas were deployed to the vicinity of Sangshak village where it faced the experience Japanese 58th Infantry Regiment as it sought to transit this location. The Indians from 152nd Battalion were the initial airborne unit deployed to Sangshak to meet the Japanese threat. After a seven day battle the Indians were pushed back. The Gurkhas from the 153rd were ordered to retake the village.
In March 1944 the Imperial Japanese Army invaded India from neighboring Burma. The small village of Sangshak was a northwest crossroad that led to the more significant target of Imphal only miles to the southwest, where Commonwealth forces had established defenses and supplies. British and Indian Gurkha moved in to hold back the Japanese invasion in this tiny corner of India.
Code named Operation U-Go, the Japanese invasion of India was quickly repulsed and lasted a scant four months. To date it was their largest defeat of World War 2, but certainly not their last. The IJA retreated back to Burma by June, 1944 with a bloody nose, having suffered over 30,000 dead, and 23,000 hospitalized from combat, disease, and starvation.
This scenario simulates a small part of the battles near Imphal, Kohima, and the India-Burma border in the spring of 1944 …
I took the Commonwealth/Indian Gurkha, and Scott took the IJA.
Here are our perceived advantages/disadvantages for both sides. It seems clear just from an OB perspective that the allies have the upper hand and it would require some Japanese heroics to pull this one off. Yet, ROAR balance is ever so slightly in favor of the Japanese. So go figure …
Below are our initial setups.
Before setting up first I assumed Scott would be centralized at the base of the hill and just drive into the village as deep and far as possible, pushing my skeleton force of regular British out … or outright killing them in hand-to-hand combat. Instead he surprised me, setting up the majority of his forces on an approach to my left flank, with his to mortars high on the hill manned by a single squad.
But he caused himself LOS issues to the left side by the dense jungle (2 level obstacle) in hex J6. That effectively cuts off mortar fire to support his left flank approach. His goal was to cut in behind me, try to contain the Gurkha reinforcements, and take (and hold) the required 2 huts , and at least momentarily control the church building in 42I3.
I had my 76mm mortar set up HIP in a foxhole in 42I6, and my small 57mm AT gun HIP in the bamboo in 42K6 pointing through the huts towards the church.
It didn’t take the Japanese long to sweep into the village and actually get behind my left flank. That the intent of this scenario, a see-saw battle where one forces starts as the defender, and the other is quickly put on the defensive when reinforcements sweep in. But in this case Scott’s Japanese may have driven too far, too fast, putting themselves in serious harm’s way of the 11 elite/1st line (and ELR 5) Gurkha about to sweep in from the southwest.
My couple of squads/dummy counters around the church as still holding on, primarily by not firing and stripping their own concealment until absolutely necessary. The Japanese finally come into the LOS of my 76mm mortar so I fire it out of HIP, but to little effect.
At the bottom of turn 2 the Gurkha reinforcements come running through the huts and palm trees in the lower left corner (southwest per the map compass). The Japanese can’t bring much firepower to bear as they do so, and the Gurkha are able to get into close proximity to two stacks of flanking Japanese. Not an ideal situation for them.
The Gurkha now make aggressive moves to engage the Japanese in the lower left, relying on heavy firepower, assault fire, high morale (8), stealth, and optional HtH combat. The Japanese melt before the firepower, and succumb to two high ratio CC attacks. I think Scott could begin to feel the inevitability of this onslaught, and the possible error of leaving many of his units in vulnerable positions.
Scott begins to retreat his squads. He’d taken and occupied the church and only needed to hang on to two hut hexes to come out victorious. I tried to lay as much smoke in the open areas as I could using all my mortars (3 of them now) and smoke grenades once movement started. I had little luck, only being able to place smoke in the hex right in front of the stone church.
In the end it didn’t matter. The Indians had far too many units, and Scott had far too few Japanese to lay down defensive fire effective enough to stem the charge. The Indians swarmed across the clearings and overwhelmed what was left of the IJA in Sangshak. At that point Scott through in the towel seeing the futility of keeping up the fight. He only had about 3.5 good order squad equivalents (one striped) and no leaders left, against about 12 good order Indians and Gurkha (with 3 leaders).
A few final thoughts. Scott never attempted a Banzai charge, one of the most effective Japanese nationality traits when used at the right time. Maybe the right opportunity just didn’t come up for him based on his plan. Also, the Japanese mortars up on the hill were abandoned around turn 3 when Scott determined they wouldn’t be effective due to LOS.
For my part I have to admit that I give much of my success to the overpowered Gurkha units. Well, they feel overpowered to me. It’s not like I had any brilliant tactical epiphanies while playing, just 3 platoons of really good reinforcements. As mentioned, most of them had morale of 8, ELR 5, and underlined morale. The platoon of elite 6-4-8 squads with assault and spraying fire are just nasty, nasty, nasty … then pair them with a 9-2 leader. Yikes.
Anyway, all be told, it was still a fun scenario. The ROAR balance should probably be taken with a grain of salt because we both believe this one is heavily dependent on Japanese tactics, while the Indian tactics are fairly straight forward … damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead!
Accompanying video with commentary …
.END OF BRIEFING.
Original Words/Video Content © 2021-2022, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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