BONFIRE, 18 April 1943

Briefing: For ninety minutes, the P-40 pilots of the USAAF's 57th and 324th Fighter Groups, accompanied by Spitfires of 92 Squadron RAF, had lazily patrolled over Cape Bon and the Gulf of Tunis. It was the Americans' second uneventful patrol of the day, and they were feeling cramped, tired and bored. It was 1800 hours, the hot sun was sinking in the west, and their patrol was nearly over. Then Captain Roy Whittaker thought he saw a flash low over the sea to the east. He focused on the area, and was stunned by what he saw. A mixed gaggle of thirty fighters were weaving at low level across the Mediterranean Sea, and below and behind them, like a flock of migrating geese skimming the waves, were three immaculate thirty-plane "Vs" of Junker 52s.

Map: Blue Sky
Aircraft: Allied:Eight P-40F
Two Spitfire Vc (Trop)
Axis:Three Bf109G-1/Trop
Two Bf110G-2/Trop
Two Macchi C.202
Fifteen Ju52/3M g7e

Set Up: Place three of the Ju52s in hexes 2848, 2850, 2852, facing W, altitude 1.0/1.2/1.4 respectively, speed 3.0, banked level. The rest are placed in five-plane vics with these three as their leaders, at the same speed and altitudes. The six escorts may be placed anywhere within 6 hexes (inclusive of altitude differences) from any Ju52, at any altitude within this limit, with any speed up to maximum level and with any desired facing and bank angle.

The P-40s and Spitfires may start in any hex with a row co-ordinate of 12 or less (e.g 4812). The P-40s start at altitude 7.0, speed 5.0, the Spitfires at altitude 15.0, speed 5.0. All may have any desired facing and bank angle.

Game Length: 15 turns

Rules of Engagement:
1. Tropicalised Models: The Spitfires were fitted with a large Vokes sand filter on their air intakes. Reduce their Max level Speed by 0.5 in all bands as a result of the drag penalty this imposed. The Bf109G-1/Trop had the MG17s of the basic G-1 replaced by MG131s. Use the Bf109G-2 ADC, but use weapon data from the Bf109G-6 ADC. The Bf110G-2 was the "standard" fighter-bomber version, which had an armament of two MG151/20 cannon and four MG17 machine guns, plus the MG81Z twin machine gun rear armament. Use the N1 and N2 weapon groups of the C-4, plus the N2 (as N3) and DG of the G-2. [For your convenience, I have reproduced the appropriate Firepower Charts below]
2. Loads: The Ju52s are each carrying twenty fully-armed troops and are thus considered loaded. Unlike bombs, they may not jettison this cargo, even if severely damaged!
3. Defensive Gunfire: Although usually depicted facing rearwards, the DG on the Ju52 was (according to pictorial evidence I have) mounted on a 360 degree ring; it can thus fire in "All Arcs, Level to High (12/6 o'clock lines high only)." Further, after the first pass, the soldiers in the Ju52s frantically jettisoned windows and hatches and subjected incoming fighters to a hail of small arms fire. To reflect this, after the first Ju52 has been shot down, all other Ju52s gain extra defensive firepower, worth 2 factors at range 0 and 1 only, and covering all arcs except the front arc. Also, the inherent defensive guns are always considered fully manned, regardless of how many gunners are killed/wounded.
4. Disengaging: Any Allied fighter that is neither in a firing position, nor Tailing an enemy, that sustains a "Fuel Leak" critical (regardless of how minor) must immediately begin an attempt to disengage, to the South or West if possible. If in a firing position or Tailing, they may delay this disengagement attempt until they are no longer in such a position. They were only minutes from the end of their patrol, and about 150 miles from friendly lines - with another 100 miles to base.

Allied Post-combat fate: All Allied aircraft begin with 60 minutes endurance. Each four game-turns on map uses up 1 minute of Endurance. At game end/after disengaging, subtract this and any fuel lost to Major Fuel Leak/Fuel Loss criticals. To return to base sucessfully requires 45 minutes Endurance if there is no ongoing leak. With an ongoing leak, 45 minutes endurance is not enough to return to base, but is far enough to reach Allied lines. Less than 45 minutes endurance with a fuel leak (or, in an extreme case, 25 minutes without an ongoing fuel leak!) requires the pilot to bail-out/force land behind enemy lines.

5. Victory Points: Each side receives normal points for aircraft damaged/destroyed during the scenario. The Axis player also receives "damaged" points for any Allied aircraft that fails to make base due to fuel shortage (unless already severely damaged), and Destroyed VP for any that fail to reach their own lines for the same reason.
6. Pilot Quality: RAF = Good, Luftwaffe, Regia Aeronautica = Average, USAAF = Limited [except re-roll any "recruit" results].

Variants:
1. Substitute He111H-22 transports for the Ju52s. Use the He111H-2 ADC, treat as loaded, and use the following defensive armament:
FG, One 20mm MG FF, Ammo 3 x 4, Criticals 2, FP: 11, 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, -.
TT, One 13mm MG131, Ammo 20, Criticals 3, FP: 7, 5, 4, 2, 2, 1, -.
Coverage: FG, Front, Low to High. TT, All High, but 6 o'clock line is High+.
2. If you don't have access to Uncle Ted's ADCs, use the He111 option above and substitute an extra Bf109 for the Macchi.


Debriefing:
The Spitfires and a squadron of the P-40s took on the thirty-plus escorts, while the other thirty-six Warhawks pounced on the lumbering transports. Whittaker damaged one on his first pass, wheeled around and sent three down within moments. Pulling up his nose, a Bf109 crossed his sights and he fired, the striken fighter spinning intot he sea. It had taken him three minutes to destroy four aircraft. For many of his fellow American pilots, this was their first combat. Three young Lieutenants became Aces in their first battle, two of them downing five Junkers apiece, the third claiming four and a Bf109.

Hatches and doors were hurriedly jettisoned from the "Tante Ju's", and the frantic troops started firing their personal weapons at their attackers. The open hatches gave the fighter pilots a sickening view of the results of their work, as their heavy .50 calibre bullets punched through the Junkers' thin hides, and turned the cargo hold into a blood-stained abattoir.

Scattered over the sky, escorts and transports alike were hunted down and savaged into the sea. After ten minutes, shortage of fuel brought an end to the carnage. The attackers lost six aircraft; the Germans and Italians lost 77, more than on any one day during the Battle of Britain. 59 of these were the transports, each carrying twenty battle-ready troops - over a thousand men.


Designer's Notes: The source is "Fighter!" by Robert Jackson. This scenario is almost exactly a one-sixth scale recreation. There were 12 Spitfires (mark unstated, but assumed to be Vc not IX), 48 Warhawks, 30 Bf109s and 110s (exact ratio unstated), "a few" Macchis, and ninety Ju52s. I guessed that more 109s would be used than the vulnerable 110s, and that "a few" equals 6. I also added the fuel rules to reflect the very real limit on the Allies, the fact they were already at the end of their endurance when battle commenced, but I have worked out the figures based on actual distances to the front line and to the Warhawks' home base. I also decided, although the Americans should be inexperienced, they were unlikely to have any recruit pilots.

For the He111 variant scenario, I have no details of the actual armament for the H-22/R1 model, which could carry 18 paratroops and is the logical substitute, but other similar marks were armed as I have suggested, the gondola weapons being dispensed with.


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Flight of Icarus
Scenario 6 Scenario 6
First to Fall

Version History:
1.0 Initial Version
2.0 Added Ju-52 Start Speed (previously omitted). Corrected P-40 Model from N to F. Corrected note about Spitfire Vc Tropical version (original version of scenario had them with Aboukir filter, but photographic evidence suggests this was equipment was rare).

[Historical Note: 18 April 1943 is more famous for another aerial encounter, in which the loss of a single transport plane and death of a single soldier had a far greater significance on the course of the war - it was the same day P-38s shot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto]


FIRE POWER CHART
Bf109G-1/TROPBF110G-2
GunsType WeaponsAmmoCriticalsGunsType WeaponsAmmoCriticals
N1Two 13mm MG-131113 N1Two 7.9mm MG-17274
N2One 20mm MG-15162 N2Two 7.9mm MG-17274
N3 Two 20mm MG-151122
DG Twin 7.9MM MG-81Z84

GUN ATTACK FACTORS
RangeN1N2Total RangeN1N2N3TotalDG
0182644 01212528612
1132033 19939579
291322 26626386
36915 34417254
44610 43312183
5347 5229132
6235 6--77-
7--- 7-----