OK, Order of Battle.
The Fearsome Four are patrolling the South China Sea, with Yamato
, and are unavailable; the fleet is led by Admiral Okuro Daichi from the Nagato
. The Bear is out for blood, followed closely by the Mikasa
. They are screened by a small light cruiser division.
To their north, Commodore Fetu Lotomau leads the Zao
and two Myokos
in a heavy cruiser division.
And, prowling the mouth of Port Arthur, we have four attack subs and eleven destroyers, bearing down on the Russians like hellhounds.
At 21:00 exactly, Isonami
enters Port Arthur at flank speed and turns on her ITMS. She is closely followed by Mutsuki
. The Japanese systems immediately get return signatures, corresponding to at least three capital ships. No enemy ship is moving; the Russians are caught completely flat-footed.
They are alerted to the presence of the Japanese ships when Yakaze
opens fire on the anti-capital coastal batteries with incendiary shells. Too late, too late
torpedoes are already in the water.
The torpedoes smash into the Russian ships at anchor. There are screams and the raid sirens finally
go off, but the destroyers are already on their way out. As they are retreating, Satsuki
empty their launchers into the Russian battleline from a range of less than three thousand yards. The result is absolute carnage. In the light of the burning ships, Minazuki
identifies one of the enemy ships: it's a battlecruiser, possibly the Rymnik
Meanwhile, Lotomau leads his division against the northern coastal defenses. Zao
absolutely savage a heavy coastal battery before the gunnery crews can ever bring their guns to bear.
The entirety of Port Arthur is burning. Thirty torpedoes have been launched against the Russian battleship row at point-blank range; more than twenty have hit. Only one ship manages to make steam and exit that hell: it's a Rymnik
-class alright, and making good speed toward the north. She's the Fokshani
, under the command of Captain Ivan Urumov, a distinguished officer of the Tzarist Navy who was too skilled for the new regime to just discard.
Time for the Dreadnoughts to earn their pay.
closes the range and prepares to engage. Unfortunately, Urumov knows is business and has the armament to back it up. At a range of under five thousand yards, the Fokshani
lets loose with a devastating broadside of eight 16-inchers. The weak bow armor of the Nagato
crumbles like paper and the massive shells punch through the main engineering spaces and the armor of Turret A. The Nagato's
engines die; her electrical power is cut.Fokshani
follows up with a withering salvo of her secondaries: 6-inch shells punch through the Nagato's
superstructure and light several fires in her upper decks. The Bear staggers, dead in the water.
On the Nagato's
bridge, Okuro demands a damage report, as Mikasa
takes emergency evasive action to avoid ramming her colleague. Nagato
has been crippled and the damcon crews are fighting the fires, but she is, thankfully, not flooding.
"Then power up the secondary pump generators," he orders, "and transfer all power to the Turret B mount. Strike back with everything we have left
last remaining front turret traverses and her 13-inchers fire, with local control; at this range, the Fokshani's
11-inch belt is butter. One of the Nagato's
shells punches deep into her vitals and halves her speed.
Then, Lotomau brings the heavy cruisers to the dance. Zao, Izumo
close in and blast the Russian giant at point-blank range with their medium batteries; her superstructure is turned into a mass of burning wreckage and glowing metal.
and her division catch up and execute a textbook torpedo run. The Fokshani
is hit five times by the massive Japanese torpedoes; she goes down in less than five minutes. Urumov never leaves the conning tower. Only thirty-two sailors make it out alive.
crippled, the Japanese refrain from pushing the attack. They have achieved their objectives. The Mikasa
takes her older sibling under tow and makes toward South Korea; the fleet follows in close formation. Spirits are soaring.
The true extent of the damage suffered by the Russian fleet would only become known in the following days. It was a massacre
, due to no small degree to the fact that the Russians had no screening forces whatsoever
deployed to the Far East: the new regime did not trust the relatively small crew of a destroyer (or even a cruiser) not to defect and had, therefore, left their capital ships completely unguarded, preferring to keep their screening forces under closer scrutiny in northern Europe.
The old Dreadnought Moskva
(originally Imperator Nikolai
) had been the first to sink, followed closely by the battlecruiser Navarin
. The Fokshani
was the only Russian ship that had fired a single shot in anger. The only survivor was the battlecruiser Ochakov
, whose officers had (no thanks to her completely drunk captain), managed to beach in Port Arthur.
The Japanese hadn't lost a single ship. Japan rejoiced.
With the data from the actual battle available, the Japanese Admiralty immediately ordered the upgunning of the Takaos
. These cruisers were getting relatively old; but their refurbishment, though expensive, would once again make them competitive against all comers.
Meanwhile, the Silent Service engaged the Russian coastal forces. In a daring long-range minelaying mission (and refueled by an American tanker in the Northern Atlantic), the I-129 took an opportunistic shot at the Russian cruiser Gromoboi
. The Russian ship barely made it back to base, with less than a foot of freeboard on her bow.
Also, I-114 just surfaced and engaged a Russian coastal patrol vessel in a gunnery duel, smashing her to matchwood. And not a single **** was given.
In November, the Musashi
and the Mikasa
offered battle to the remnants of the Russian fleet in Liaotung. The Ochakov
just cowered in its harbor (wisely so). What
At the end of the month, strange news arrived from Senegal. Confused reports, at first; then detailed situation reports; then stunned accounts of the goings on. Because Communist Russia, in a move so staggeringly incompetent as to leave the entire world reeling in horror at its sheer stupidity, had decided to seek out a decisive battle with the Japanese Fleet. And had started what came to be known as the Voyage of the Damned.
In the 15th of November, the entirety of the Russian Battleline departed Archangel, to travel from northern Europe, around Africa, through the Indian Ocean and to Liaotung, there to engage the Japanese fleet. The Suez canal was closed to them, with Great Britain's Grand Fleet ready to defend it; no ships but those of the Germans were willing to resupply them; and their planned route took them through Japanese-controlled territorial waters for at least 70% of the trip. The Japanese Admiralty were just...unable to comprehend
how anyone would think this was a good idea.
The Voyage started out in a most auspicious manner, when Russian ships identified French fishing fleets as Japanese torpedo boats off Armorique. The ensuing panicked firing caused three instances of blue-on-blue (or red-on-red, as the case may be) fire, with the newly repaired Gromoboi
being struck by secondary fire from the flagship Pervenets
. Hilariously, none of the French boats were hit, despite the Russians expending more than three hundred rounds of ammunition in total, before Admiral Kutuzov could rein in his trigger-happy force.
Follwowing that, the refueling planned to take place off Gibraltar through German tankers resulted in a destroyer ramming the tanker Milchkuh
, and causing an oil spill that was, then, ignited. Two destroyers suffered major damage; as did the resupply ship that was meant to deliver foodstuffs.
Following that debacle, the Russian fleet embarked on the long trip around Africa. And upon reaching Senegal, Admiral Kutuzov was instructed by the Political Officers assigned to the fleet to disembark a marine detachment, to take control of the Japanese coastal sites. Kutuzov protested that his troops were underequipped and that any ground action would greatly delay the fleet - he was promptly relieved of duty and arrested, with the Political Officers taking direct control of the fleet, disembarking six hundred marines, and then abandoning them in Senegal
, to continue their trip around Africa.
The local Askari troops closed in, with a vengeance.
The Japanese Silent Service kept a close eye on the movements of the Russian Fleet. With a series of nighttime strikes, they considerably whittled down the ASW forces escorting the Russian capital ships.
And, the 'Maru boys' made certain that, whatever success the Russians enjoyed in submarine warfare, they paid for in blood.
On the third of December, less than ten days after the Russians' departure from Senegal, the Askaris had retaken the ports. Only fifteen Russians and a single Askari had been killed; the rest of the Russian marines surrendered in short order.
The Russian fleet postured around Madagascar for a while, but had no marines left to threaten the Japanese garrisons; furthermore, their ships were now suffering from major mechanical problems and lack of fuel. Japanese subs had kept the German tankers meant to resupply them away; and several ships (being very poorly maintained) had suffered catastrophic boiler and gearing damage. Pervenets could barely chug along at 15 knots; poor Bayan
could do only eight, on one functioning boiler. Their supplies were going stale; several desalination plants on ships were failing and lack of drinking water, in the stifling summer of the Indian Ocean was a major problem. Even more importantly, most wireless sets in the fleet were malfunctioning; or tightly controlled by the Political Officers, to prevent the crews from getting any...ideas.
What reached the South China Sea, on the 28th December 1943 was a collection of barely-floating wrecks; with near-mutinous, starving crews, being constantly harried by Japanese light forces and subs. What they encountered, off the coast of Sumatra, was the entirety of the Japanese battle-line, including the Fearsome Four and the Musashi
Thankfully for the Russians, Moscow had capitulated a few days ago, yielding considerable concessions in the East, in exchange for the preservation and return of their fleet. The Russian fleet leadership only found this out after arriving in Sumatra, thanks to the contribution of British and French envoys: their last wireless set had given up the spirit three days before arrival.
The Russian ships were allowed to dock in Port Arthur, for the necessary repairs; but they did so under the watchful guns of Kongou
- and under the flag of the Rising Sun.
And then...they were instructed to sail back