The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: May 2001

FEBRUARY I 1938

Don’t trust anything that starts with “w,” such as weapons, warlords, wonder drugs, women, least of all weather! Winter gales, bad for Navy Seals, are at it again in the South China Sea, forcing cancellation of what had been planned for the Shanghai Marines. Polar cold and snow in the northwest,
snow or wintry weather in central China, mud in the south, gales or rough seas along the coast. Let’s book a trip to New Zealand (or to the Dolomites, where I had great time just about then).

Japanese Player Turn

To counter the incursion by Muslim and Shansi troops into Shahar, local security forces in that province, Jehol, and northern Hopei were spread out to cover cities and rail lines. This enemy maneuver is little more than a nuisance as even a minimal garrison will suffice to discourage attack. It cannot be disregarded entirely, however, because these gangs might block a rail line needed to counter another Tet Offensive.

Despite the atrocious weather, a maximum sweep was conducted against the remaining, already weakened KMT guerrilla base in the Hopei canal country and succeeded in wiping it out.

On the road to Yanku the next road block was cleared, and the troops are now emerging from the mountains into the foothills.

Farther south, 2 Army concentrated its best west of Chengchow in preparation for an advance on Loyang [last unconquered Honan dot city]. The Yellow River bridges at Chengchow and Taifeng were finally repaired.

1 Army in east-central Honan began collecting its forces that had been widely scattered in the destruction of KMT 1 Army. Vanguards resumed the advance toward the Yangtze and Nanking, tangling with a few factional troops that were too late to escape after destroying rail lines and bridges.

At the Shanghai front north of Lake Tai, from where a regiment of heavy artillery had to be withdrawn, the troops held their positions at the Grand Canal. South of Lake Tai, desperate measures were called for. Three divisions destined elsewhere, including the Formosa Mountain Division, were diverted to Hangchow and Chinshiawei and launched into the flank of the KMT forces advancing on Shanghai, smashing them in the process. At the cost of a delay in other plans, a crisis has been averted.

In Kiangsi, the forward elements of 9 Division, now well beyond their supply range, are continuing their advance toward Nanchang. Shangjao was taken with support by aircraft which, despite the weather, delivered what was expected.

Landing craft were dispatched to Formosa and started embarking two infantry divisions at Tainan. The Sasebo and Kure Marines embarked on Marus at Takao. Obviously, something is in the offing.

Chinese Player Turn

Desperate to mend his fences, Chiang Kai-Shek traveled humbly to Chungking bearing gifts to lure the recalcitrant governor of Szechwan back into the fold (8 res pts). In Shansi, his envoy Chan Kit-Yan made clever use of Lin Piao’s being fully occupied with bringing order to the shambles of his failed Tet Offensive to patch up relations with warlord Yen Hsi-Shan by delivering another generous bribe (another 8 res pts). Both efforts bore fruit, and all provinces and factions are again cooperating. [The Japanese had absolutely no res pts to spare for attempting to counter-bribe.]

In Shahar and northern Hopei, the Muslim and Shansi gangs roamed unchecked but were unable to do any significant damage [out and supply and isolated they cannot even break rail lines for lack of sufficient MPs]. The CCP 120 cadre established a new guerrilla base in the northeastern Wutai Mountains within striking distance of Peiping. Sabotage attempts by guerrilleros from the base in the Taiheng Mountains remained fruitless.

In the foothills west of the Ladies’ Pass yet another and probably last road block was set up to delay the inexorable Japanese advance on Yanku.

North of the Yangtze, only screens were kept to protect engineers still busy with dismantling railway tracks. The troops between the big lakes and the Kiangsu coast also slowly gave ground so as not to be cut off. A new KMT guerrilla base has been set up in the rice paddies east of Lake Tasung.

The Shanghai front is in general retreat toward Chengchiang, Wuhu, and Ningkwo. Nanking is being prepared for a last stand to delay the Japanese onslaught.

In Kiangsi, reserves were thrown in to block any further Japanese advance along the Hangchow-Nanchang axis.

The garrisons of the South China Sea ports were strengthened with new draftees. Yet, none of them stands much of a chance against a Japanese landing.

The defenses north of Canton are now in place.

Comments

The landing of the Shanghai Marines that was cancelled because of stormy seas had been planned for Tsinkiang, held by only a security brigade. Tsinkiang with its fairly large port is a good base for operations against Amoy.

The outcome of the Jan I 38 stability level check was even closer than originally thought. I had counted the puppet government of Hopei, installed after the previous check, as contributing a destabilization point, but became doubtful after reading the rules again more carefully. Mark Royer has now confirmed that only factions turning puppet through cooperation rolls are counted, not any provincial puppet governments installed by the Japanese when all major and dot cities in the province have been captured. Unless before April Chiang Kai-Shek is forced to move his government from Hankow or
Loyang is captured and a North-China regional government is installed, the Apr I 38 check will be even closer. (As in Jan I, the Japanese will get the maximum possible points for cities, but the loss of a reserve brigade near Hangchow will contribute 1/2 stabilization point.)

JANUARY II 1938

While the extreme northwest is still suffering from bitter cold, unseasonably mild weather has returned to north and central china. The winds have subsided.

Japanese Player Turn

In Shahar and Mongolia the puppet troops are huddling in their cities. Meanwhile, 5 Mountain Division made good use of the break in the weather to stage a sweep in the Wutai Mountains that found and wiped out the guerrilla base weakened by Tet. The KMT base in the plain survived another sweep, but is now seriously depleted. To add to Japanese strength in Hopei, reinforcements were brought in by rail from 1 Army at Tungshan.

2. Army at Shengchow and Taifeng stayed in place awaiting repair of the Yellow River bridges, merely contributing a few units to the guerrilla sweeps. 1. Army west of Tungshan, favored by the improved weather, completed the mop-up of survivors of once-proud Chinese 1 Army, truly a “Destruction of Army Center,” but at a cost [high-factor EX and HX]. Two divisions were detached to Lienyunkang and embarked (in exploitation), another was rebuilt from its cadre at Tunghai with replacements that had been flown and shipped in from the home country. The mop-up and the destruction of all bridges in the area prevented more than vanguards from advancing toward Nanking. Pengpu, defended only by factional rearguards, was taken.

In northern Kiangsi between Lake Hung Tze and the sea the a semblance of front begins to take shape along the old course of the Yellow River.

At the Shanghai front, seriously weakened by the withdrawal of 1 Division, the troops north of Lake Tai were taken back behind the Grand Canal in expectation of a Chinese counteroffensive— or is that a transparent ploy to lure KMT VII Corp into a trap from which retreat will be hard when Nanking is captured from the north? South of the lakes, the two reserve divisions in line also gave ground to occupy better defense positions in the line Wuhsing-Hangchow.

At the Chekiang coast, units of 9 Division and its reserve mopped up on the Yungkia road. The bulk of the division headed back inland to catch up with the contingent advancing into Kiangsi toward Nanchang. These troops, now out on a limb, were reinforced by an artillery regiment and pushed on, knocked out in
a bloody fight (EX) a KMT division sent to stop them, and are now approaching Shangjao.

The Formosa Mountain Division at Taihoku [today’s Taipei] was readied for shipment to Hopei.

With improved weather the air raids on shipping in Amoy and Minchow were resumed. Planes from Formosa and the carriers sank shipping and some destroyer escorts. Little is now left of the Chinese fleet.

Chinese Player Turn

Making use of the excellent weather, Shansi and Muslim troops sallied forth northwestward beyond Talung at the Shahar border. In the Wutai Mountains of northern Shansi the CCP 120 cadre also moved northwest, aiming to establish a guerrilla base within range of Peiping. Loyal factional troops set up one more roadblock west of the Ladies’ Pass on the approach to Yanku, which is now strongly garrisoned.

Desperate to achieve at least one military success he can point to, Chiang Kai-Shek ordered his troops around Nanking to attack. One thrust aimed northward in the direction of Pengpu was repulsed (AS), the other and stronger one toward Shanghai took the Japanese by surprise in that it was launched south rather than north of Lake Tai. It rolled over the weak screen of reserve brigades (DH against one of them) and the Grand Canal. The way to Shanghai, just 25 miles away, is open! Meanwhile, dismantling of rail tracks around Nanking continued.

In Kiangsi, Shangjao on the road to Nanchang was hurriedly reinforced in an effort to stop the dangerous incursion, already uncomfortably close to the province’s heartland around Lake Pu Yang.

In the Yunwu Mountains north of Canton a strong defense position is being established. Preparations for a fall-back position 60 miles farther north at Shuichow have been initiated. The ports along the Formosa Strait and South China Sea are bracing for the next amphibious assault, only the Gods know
where.

Comments

Good set-up of guerrilla bases is an art by itself. The base must by within range (10 hexes, with mountains etc. counting double) of the most important objectives, and should be in the best defensive terrain: the mountains if there are any. A die roll modifier of -2 and the fact that attackers except scarce mountain units are halved are the best defense against sweeps! This is very important because once a base far from the current front is eliminated, another one to take its place is not easily established. The best way appears to be to form some regular CCP units from guerrilleros of a nearby base and have these move to the right place, but movement through open terrain makes them vulnerable and is slow in mountains. Also, care must be taken not to activate base before it is strong enough to
withstand a sweep or two.

JANUARY I 1938

And winter gales and killer whales are bad …” Well, they have subsided to merely rough, but weather has remained wintry in north and central China and the south is still digging out from the storm’s mud.

Japanese Player Turn

The Tet Offensive in Hopei (to stick with the name it was given when being planned) has displaced Canton from the headlines. The Japanese command was quick and efficient with its response to the challenge. 14 and 108 Divisions were recalled from the Ladies’ Pass, reserves were mobilized, and
all rolling stock and air transport were diverted to reinforcing the threatened cities and, where possible, attack the guerrilleros. Then, in accustomed efficiency, 5 Mountain Division and support undertook an anti-guerrilla sweep and found and destroyed the CCP base in the canal country, leaving its warriors floundering helplessly for lack of leadership and support. [A mass sortie is a double-edged sword in that it leaves the bases weak and less able to survive a sweep, particularly if 5 Mountain rolls a “6.”]. The KMT base in the Hopei plain also suffered in another sweep, but survived. Because of the weather, no attempts were made against the bases in the mountains. The surviving guerrilleros still in the open now face well-prepared garrisons. The danger appears averted, at quite an expense in disruption of plans and cancellation of the advance on Yanku that was supposed to be resumed.

Meanwhile at Canton, the tired defenders, desperately short of ammunition and food, were routed [out of general supply, though not yet isolated]. Supplies were landed at Sunwul but, again, Adm. Nagumo, was able to manage without much expenditure of ammunition [only siege guns drew 1RE worth from unused ASP]. The entire city and its harbor are now firmly in Japanese hands. Completely exhausted from the fighting, no one was in a mood to riot [rampage roll negative]. The landing craft have been released, and the fleet has returned to Formosa, accompanying the reembarked 3 Division, Marines, siege guns, and HQ. Gunboats stay posted to keep Kwangtung shipping bottled up on the Hsi river, and Sunwul remains garrisoned. The tiny Canton airforce, on heavily escorted naval patrol but unable to act because of the weather, landed at bases from which they will be able to intervene in any attack on Swatow.

In the far north, commanders in Mogolia and Shahar reluctantly let go of their best toops as ordered by Tokyo. Their outposts are now vulnerable, but fortunately there is no enemy close enough to threaten them.

Disaster befell Chinese 1 Army in the plain of eastern Honan, west of Tungshan. With improved weather the Japanese pincers closed around all but one of its KMT corps. Even the complete shutting down of its supply lines by the Tet Offensive did not prevent Japanese 2 Army from outflanking and battering the Chinese left wing, while 1 Army supported from the ports of Tunghai and Lienyunkang did the same to the right wing. Many prisoners were taken, many more are to suffer the same fate.

Farther south, though, the Japanese were dealt some rebuffs: Two reserve divisions reinforced with artillery were repelled when trying to cross the Hwai river and seize Pengpu, the same fate befell another at the east shore of Lake Hung Tze, and close to the coast still another trying to force its way across the Old Yellow River was even forced to retreat.

To the west in west-central Honan, the weak picket line of 2 Army fell back on Taifeng and Chengchow. Two divisions no longer needed against Chinese 1 Army were sent northwest to this area to discourage any ambitions Chinese 4 Army might develop.

The Shanghai front lost much of its punch when the High Command ordered 1 Division to be withdrawn to Manchukuo, much over the objections of SEF headquarters. As a sop, long promised supplies were finally delivered at Woosung, but the outnumbered troops are in no shape to attack. North of the big lakes the situation has become stationary, and south only picket lines face one another.

In Chekiang, 9 Division had little trouble storming the seaport of Yungkia. One brigade of its reserves stands guard on the road inland, the other continued unopposed toward Kinwha and reached the Kiangsi border.

Navy bombers from Shanghai attacked the Chinese river flotilla on the Yangtze near Chenchiang and sank it. Carrier aircraft attacked Chinese shipping at Amoy and sank some coastal barges [1 RT].

Chinese Player Turn

Recalcitrant General Yen in Shansi was offered and took a royal bribe [7 res pts], but then still refused to resume cooperation with the central government [2R6 “3”, DRM -2 for KMT violations of territory]. Worse, imperious Szechwan Governor Ting Chueh, still miffed for being snuffed by Chiang Kai-Shek and unmollified by a bribe, decided to go his own way [1 pt bribe, DR snake eyes, 3 pt buy-off failed on 1R6 “5”]. His troops at Hankow mutinied; some may join the KMT, others just went home. Bleak times indeed. Are the rats abandoning the sinking ship?

More loyal factional troops moved into Yanku to strengthen the defenses.

In Hopei, direct guerrilla attacks on cities had to be cancelled as hopeless. All guerrilleros not in highly defensible terrain faded away again to reoccupy their bases and lick their wounds. It seems that Tet was launched prematurely after all. But recruitment has shifted into high gear and is expected soon to make up for losses. The survivors of CCP 120 Division are moving north into the Wutai Mountains to set up another guerrilla base [they had been withheld fromTet for that purpose]. Sabotage attempts by the guerrilleros kept out of Tet merely succeeded in causing one rail break near Shihkiachuang.

In Honan, one Corps of 1 Army is still holding out surrounded 50 miles west of Tungshan. Some of its troops have gone underground to set up a guerrilla base. One corps that had escaped the encirclement is struggling trying to reach the vicinity of Pengpu, where friendly forces have taken up defense positions.

In coastal Kiangsu a semblance of front is beginning to develop roughly along the old course of the Yellow River.

VII. Corps forward of Nanking received reinforcements and is now quite a bit stronger than the Japanese troops it faces. However, lack of ammunition precluded offensive operations. This is apt to change when supplies on their way from Hankow reach the front later this month. South of Lake Tai all remained quiet.

In Kiangsi, scraped up reserves were hurriedly sent to the border to block a further Japanese advance along the Hangkow-Nanchang rail line and road.

In Kwangtung, the rail line to Canton has finally been repaired. The troops sent to relieve the city are on their way south to set up blocking positions in the Yunwu Mountains 40 miles north of the city in order to prevent a Japanese advance. They are too weak to attempt retaking the city itself, but
forces strong enough for that cannot be spared.

Along the South China coast the garrisons of Foochow and Swatow were reinforced. At Swatow troops were stationed in the environs to guard against landings in the vicinity of the city.

Comments

The fall of Canton is a bitter pill. Not counting foreign aid and imports that arrive at inconvenient locations, the KMT now has only one factory left that can produce an ASP (at Hankow’s full-city hex), and only ASPs can be converted to GSPs. To keep a defense front strong with GSPs railed to a
forward HQ, as was done so successfully early on in Hopei, will no longer be a viable tactic. Also, with Canton’s fall the capacities of both the supply net and the railways have shrunk to less than half of what they were at their peak in August. Meager times ahead indeed!

The idea of a Tet Offensive may be sound, but this one was started too early and bungled at that. Greater strength was needed, and that brigade of regulars from the CCP 120 should have been saved for Tet to be moved onto a rail line to prevent rail transport of security units to threatened cities beyond. True, they had not enough MPs to reach such a hex in the snow weather of Jan I from their safe position, but Tet could then have been started in a later turn.
(The cadre of CCP 115 was held back intentionally to establish a new base in the Wutai or Taiheng Mountains, should one of the existing ones by eliminated by a Japanese sweep. That tactic is probably correct.)

Generalstab Updates, 16.5.2001

Okay, so it didn’t quite work out with weekly updates yet, but I had a lot of new things online last week without announcing them, so its gonna be okay I guess. Three main points: We’ve got the CVs of most of the Generalstab-members in the Zentralabteiluung now, so you can see a little bit of who’s-doing-what in here.
Second we’re continuing the game reports of course, alas for those of you subscribed to Lysator this may merely be an archive here.
Last we got two Europa-Howtos in the Kriegsschule, the first by A.E. Goodwin discussing the invasion of Denmark , the Second one on how to connect WitD and SF. Have fun.

YEAR’S END 1937

The Year in Review (includes Jan 38 stability check):

Since the start of the war in July, the Japanese have taken over Shahar and Inner Mongolia, conquered all of Hopei and Shantung, and advanced to a line that is just short of the course of the old Yellow River (forward of Chengchow, Kaifeng, Tungshan, and Tunghai). They have also taken Shanghai and Hangchow and are close to Nanking from that direction. An excursion of theirs into Shansi failed to take Yanku, the provincial capital, and had to recalled when rear communications were cut. In the south they have captured most of Canton city after an amphibious assault. They have installed new provincial governments in Shahar, Inner Mongolia, Hopei, and Shantung as well as a regional government
for Mongolia.

Yet, so far the invasion has been a mixed success and has left many in Tokyo impatient. The invaders are at the point of becoming overextended. They now struggle with serious supply shortages, and in the conquered provinces except Shantung they must contend with massive guerrilla uprisings that sap their strength. Moreover, the military leaders in China appear to be losing clout at home and are likely to see dwindling support and demands for troop releases. Although a good chunk of China has been conquered, much has yet to be accomplished, and it could still turn out that the invaders bit off more than they can chew. In the words of one Japanese general who refused to be identified: “There are 300 million Chinese; we can’t kill them all.”

On the other side, Chang Kai-Shek’s hold onto the reins seems to be slipping, no wonder after the impending loss of Canton and threatening decimation of his prized 1 Army in Honan! Serious trouble might be ahead for him, and the Chinese will to resist could collapse with his fall. [Stability level dropped to “2” in January. Actually, Canton and the plight of 1 Army had no effect on the stability check this time as they have not occurred as yet. In game terms, although the Japanese are ahead of historic performance with respect to points for cities conquered, the outcome was quite close: A very
high Chinese and very low Japanese random die roll could have kept the level unchanged. Also, the level might have remained so if the capital had stayed in Nanking, for 3 additional stabilization points. That can be argued, though, because the Japanese then would probably have gone for Nanking before Canton and might well have taken that city before year’s end.]

In game terms, the current situation is clearly in favor of the Japanese. With the points accruing for capture of at least Canton, Yungkia, and Pengpu and the formation of other provincial puppet governments in Chekiang and possibly Kwangtung, the stability level is likely to decrease again in April. However, no one should interpret this as an imbalance of the game in Japan’s favor. I have made unintentional tactical and strategic mistakes impartially for both sides, but it so happened that the Chinese ones had the more serious and more immediate consequences. Also, though conservative, I’m
temperamentally an aggressive player and probably better at devising Japanese offensives than Chinese measures to counter them, simply because for me that is more fun.

Japanese errors:

  • Too wasteful of resource points early on, including spending some on railway upgrading at a wrong place.
  • Not enough rear area security (this is coming to haunt them now with Tet).
  • Too much strength poured into Hopei-Honan offensive, from where troops are not easily shifted to other fronts, and leaving Shanghai front not strong enough for decisive action.
  • Canton operation without back-up by capture of nearby port city.

Chinese errors:

  • Not enough troops in and around Canton in initial set-up, reinforcement of that city too slow and not at highest possible efficiency (airlift too late, not enough artillery in first reinforcements, too few RTs shifted to Hsi while there was time, too few RFs and TFs moved to Hsi estuary before Nov II).
  • Tsingtao garrison left too weak.
  • Retreat by 1 Army from Tsinan initiated too late.
  • Move of KMT government to Chungking (fortunately corrected before harm was done).
  • Possibly, guerrilleros in Hopei should have been used more aggressively earlier. It may also turn out that Tet was launched prematurely, with not yet sufficient strength accumulated.
  • Not enough largesse when bribing warlords.

No doubt experienced players can add a lot more to this list. Please do!

Signing off for 1937 with the Chinese version of Auld laung syne and hoping you’ll had fun with the reports so far.

DECEMBER II 1937

Wow! That “blue northern” from the Gobi has hit! Winter weather with
massive storms has moved into north and central China with a vengeance and a
foot or so of snow in many places. Gale-force winds along the entire coast. In
the south, the monsoon season got off to an untimely early start with fierce
rain storms (weather roll “6”).

Japanese Player Turn

Oh my! The troops of Divine Wind ashore at Canton still have not secured a port and, because of the gale, “surf is up” and the landing craft cannot get to the beaches. Worse, wallowing in high swells the ships in the estuary can’t fire accurately [in storms, no non-amphibious landings at beaches even from LCs, and NGS quartered]. Divine Wind? My foot, more like a blast from hell. Well well, the best-laid plans of mice and men …… (or was that cabbages and kings??). Actually, the rain is a blessing in disguise: While having not that much effect on the fighting in the city, it will make it a lot harder for Chinese reinforcements and supplies to get through across that rail break! The troops ashore, though, don’t quite see it that way.

Despite the weather, Adm. Nagumo ordered an all-out attack, but not on the strongly defended harbor district (hit them where they ain’t!). Against weak opposition his troops seized the downtown area and the northeast. Moreover, 3 Division advanced beyond the city limits to place itself astride the railway from the interior [in exploitation], the defender’s lifeline. This may seal the fate of the city, but at a price: Ammunition is now almost completely exhausted. However, relief is in sight: The Shanghai Marines crossed the main arm of the Hsi river on coastal barges and, supported by fire from
the gunboats, stormed the river port of Sunwul [G4:4607]. [I am assuming the port to be in the hex where printed and on the great river side, not in the adjacent hex to the east into which that little arrow is pointing. The garrison missed blowing the bridge while the opposite shore was still Chinese-owned, so it could not move to the adjacent hex to block the crossing without leaving the intact bridge unguarded]. Finally a port, and the overworked landing craft can now be released. [The plan should in the first place have included a landing at Sunwul on D-Day with support from an RF if needed.] The gunboats then moved upriver to block any barge traffic from the west. Canton is now cut off from the supply net. Weather prevented any major air activities here and elsewhere.

Meanwhile up north on the Shansi border, 14 and 108 Divisions continued cleaning up around the Ladies’ Pass. By good fortune, 5 Mountain Division was close to Peiping, available for quick rail transport to south of Shihkiachuang to deal with that impertinent CCP brigade. In accustomed efficiency the 5th
wiped it out.

2. Army, hamstrung by supply problems, managed to bring forward one ammunition convoy. This made it possible to conduct a limited but highly successful operation against the west wing of the troubled KMT 1 Army: another KMT Corps outflanked and decimated. Meanwhile the Japanese 1 Army, able to rail ammunition forward after the Yellow River bridge at Tsinan had been rebuilt with help of civilian labor, concentrated on Tungshan and overwhelmed its brave defenders. The city remained quiet: too cold for rioting! [no garrison required].
[We are changing Optional Rule 44.F. The idea, based on what historically happened to Nanking, is a colorful touch, but a two-thirds chance of rampage is apt to make it occur more often than warranted. We’ll give the roll a +2 modifier. So far that would have made no difference as past rolls
never included a “3” or “4.”]

A reserve division was rushed by sea to Tunghai to prevent the Chinese from reoccupying the important ports. Another is tangling with the few Chinese brigades that attempted to advance into the open left flank of 1 Army just east of the Grand Canal.

Along the Shanghai-Nanking axis another limited attack was made and succeeded in forcing the defenders back a few miles onto fortified Chengchiang. Both sides here lack ammunition and supplies for any major operation.

In Chekiang, 9 Division force-marched toward Yungkia [major port and last still Chinese-held Chekiang dot city] and is closing up to the defenses at the Wu river gorge about 20 miles short of the city [yes, Wu, not Han as I misstated earlier]. One brigade of 9 Reserve Division continued unopposed
southwestward and reached Kinhwa, the other followed its parent toward Yungkia. An MG battalion and artillery regiment secured Ningpo and Chinhai.

Chinese Player Turn.

Gen. Wu in Canton sees his chances fade. To add to his troubles, the move of 3 Division to the Changsha rail line threatens his line of communications. As a riposte, he moved one of his precious few divisions out of the city [to G4:4107] to block a further envelopment by 3 Division and so forestall isolation [with the Hsi blocked by gunboats and 3 Division on the railway to Changsha, Canton is no longer part of a supply net, but not yet isolated as a 14-hex LoC can still reach a point in general supply traced to a port on a Yangtze tributary]. While preparing for a last stand in the harbor district and having materiel and industrial installations destroyed, Gen. Wu has ordered Swatow to be reinforced against another amphibious landing.
[Swatow is the only Kwangtung dot city, so its fall after that of Canton would trigger
the formation of a Kwangtung puppet government].

What did Marechal Foch say in World War I? My center is giving way, my right is pushed back, situation excellent, I shall attack! Alas, poor Gen. Wu has nothing left to attack with.

Meanwhile up north, Lin Piao in Hopei, unfazed by the defeat of his regulars near Shihkiachuang but deeply concerned about the plight 1 Army is in, decided to launch his long-planned Tet Offensive one month early. This is a massive effort to wreak havoc with Japanese supply lines through Hopei and attempt to topple the puppet government of that province by capture of at least one of its cities. Most of the guerrilleros from the three CCP and one KMT bases in the mountains and the canal country came out of the woodwork and are threatening to take over several weakly guarded or unguarded cities along the Peiping-Chengchow and Tientsin-Tsinan rail lines, much to the consternation
and near-panic of the local authorities. Will this coup succeed?

Around the Ladies’ Pass, factional troops too far off to join Tet have taken to the relative safety of the mountains. Also, the remnants of CCP 120 Division have been kept back as a reserve. Yanku has been reinforced by loyal factional troops (MNF).

All quiet at 4 Army [should really by 3 Army, took the wrong HQ counter], which was under no pressure and kept its positions, absorbing reinforcements sent by still loyal warlods. It was able to do so because the Japanese concentrated on hapless 1 Army while leaving only a screen to shield Kaifeng and Chengchow. This battered Army suffered further blows on both its right and left wings and is now in serious danger of being encircled. The snow slows the attackers, but impedes a retreat even more if there is no rail line or road to the rear. As a desperate measure, two KMT divisions were left
behind to delay the Japanese and gain time for the main body to attempt to extricate
itself.

The operation to push into Japanese 2 Army’s open flank east of the Grand Canal and seize the ports had to be given up. It succeeded only in compelling the enemy to divert some forces and shipping that he could have used better elsewhere.

Forward of Nanking, KMT VII Corps engineers have started to dismantle rails along the Shanghai-Nanking line. No combat actions here, but reinforcements and ammunition have been promised.

In the face of the threat posed by Japanese 9 Division, the Chekiang port city of Yungkia has been reinforced with new draftees.

Comments:

When invading a port with rivers and river ports around, as at Canton, never omit to take along your RFs and RTs. They can tread where TFs can’t and NTs can only if there is a port upstream. Moreover, once riverbanks have been secured, the RTs can function as ferries and as poor-man’s landing craft.
True, a supported Chinese division can block access to a river, but the Chinese
rarely have one to spare (artillery stacked with an unsupported division will not
do).

As the Chinese, when an invasion threatens, do take care to have either such a supported division at hand or an RF that blocks access to the river by sitting on a river hexside near the estuary (can be dislodged only by air attack).

As the Chinese, don’t forget that your engineers and construction workers can “dismantle” rail lines. It takes a little longer than just to break them, but you gain 1/3 res pt per hex and your opponent must first “repair” them and then spend 1 res pt per hex to rebuild. Not a bad deal at all!

The idea of a guerrilla “Tet offensive” is to build up massive strength, then start a saturation attack on the rail lines and cities when weather has turned poor and Japanese might has moved far out of the area. The hope is to swamp Japanese security and achieve success at least at one point. If a city (even a reference city) in a Japanese puppet province is captured, the puppet government falls and all puppet units are lost with it. The government (or another one) reappears in the next turn if all major and dot cities are still held by the Japanese, but the lost units do not return. Moreover, a strand in the rail net is cut at that point, possibly breaking the net into sections and leaving an army at the front with little or no rail capacity until the city is recaptured. Since the guerrilleros must be placed after the combat phase and not on rail lines or in cities, the actual attacks cannot be made until the next turn, however. Here, the Tet Offensive was started earlier than planned, in an attempt to stave off the threatening encirclement of 1 Army in central Honan. To see whether the guerrilleros were already strong enough to achieve the planned saturation, we must await the next Japanese turn.

The game map of the Canton area does not quite correspond to the maps I have seen (e.g., in Encyclopedia Britannica), but sure makes for challenging play. And then, I’ve never been there myself, my maps are all more recent, and floods may have seriously altered the lay of the land after 1937-41. I suspect the Hsi road bridges really are ferries. Anyone with first-hand knowledge?

Generalstab Updates, 5.5.2001

Today we’ve got some news coming from Spain, David Stokes “For Whom the Bell Tolls” continues into 1938, and with the current balance between Republicans and Falangists its gonna be an exiting 1938 I assume.

Additionally we’ve got News from the Gread Headquarters, where we’ll coment on the ongoing campaigns from now on. I found it nicer to have all new reports collected in one place instead of looking at the Kriegsarchiv.

DECEMBER I 1937

DECEMBER I 1937

Pleasant weather almost like Indian summer, with calm seas except at
that usual trouble spot: southern Formosa.

Japanese Player Turn

All eyes are on Canton. Although the Divine Wind master plan had called for a direct attack to seize the harbor, the idea was scrapped as too risky after the defenders had received massive reinforcements. However, by throwing all his weight into the harbor district, Gen. Wu left his other defenses weak. Divine Wind’s Nagumo countered by moving his two divisions across the narrow straits to attack the eastern part of the city instead. With economy of force he relied mainly on his siege guns to have his troops penetrate deep into the city at little expenditure of scarce ammunition [only siege guns draw their 1RE worth supply from ASP ashore]. His reinforcements–another infantry brigade and more artillery–were also landed on the east shore of the estuary. Meanwhile, south of the city the Shanghai Marines moved west to the road to Macao and, assisted by gunboats on the river, made short shrift of a Kwangtung factional division stationed there and then pushed on westward. Coastal barges [an RT] entered the river and posted themselves to function as ferries if needed.
[Whew! Tradewind at Shanghai was a walk in the park compared with this!]

While Canton’s little airforce had busied themselves providing CAP and ground support for the defenders of the harbor, Japanese carrier aircraft attacked the Changsha-Canton rail line, but failed to achieve results. Long-range bombers from Formosa proved better at that job [1 hit].

Meanwhile up north in Shansi, 14 and 108 Divisions reversed their advance on Yanku to clear the Ladies’ Pass in their rear, rolling over an outmatched Shansi division but failing to make contact with the remnants of CCP 120, who had faded into the mountains.

At the Yellow River, 2 Army occupied deserted Kaifeng and Chengchow. One division was split off to reconnoiter toward Loyang. The main body of 2 Army advanced southeastward to engage and begin to envelop the west wing of KMT 1 Army. No major combat actions here.

1 Army also pressed forward relentlessly toward Tungshan and points west hard on the enemy’s heels, providing the eastern pincer squeezing KMT 1 Army. For lack of supplies, still stalled at the Tsinan Yellow River bridge, only one limited attack here [DR]. On their left the troops from the Shantung peninsula crossed the Grand Canal and are approaching the Tungshan-Nanking rail line.

The Shanghai front is almost totally stalled for lack of supply [no ASP]. Only one limited attack was launched south of the rail line to Nanking and succeeded in wiping out one KMT division [tactic here is to concentrate for one attack, then spread out again in exploitation to cover the front anew].
South of Lake Tai a loose picket line of reserve brigades was set up forward of the Grand Canal while 9 Division and subordinate units surged forward unopposed heading south toward Kinhwa and east toward Ningpo. [Haven’t been there myself, but my maps show Ningpo as 15 miles inland and Chinhai as the port.]

Chinese Player Turn

A brouhaha ensued at Yanku, where Shansi troops, no great friends of Chiang Kai-Shek’s administration, became incensed over the KMT commander’s insistence to keep his own men safe and comfortable in the city while letting the Commie comrades take it on the chin. They defected en masse to the guerrillas. Shansi General Yen Hsi-Shan is refusing further cooperation with the central government. [I sounded off too soon about those cooperation rolls. This time Shansi rolled snake eyes for downward shift despite bribe of a res pt, and the buy-off attempt with 3 res pts failed. Greater largesse is called for!] However, enough KMT and loyal factional defenders are left in Yanku to make it a hard nut to crack. Moreover, the Shansi troops around the Ladies’ Pass kept to their positions, so the Japanese now have other worries than to attack the city.

To add insult to injury, the CCP 115 brigade that had not gone underground sortied from the Taiheng Mountains into the Hopei plain and now sits defiantly astride the Shihkiachuang-Chengchow rail line, the lifeline of the Japanese forces in Honan. Add successful guerrilla sabotage of the rail lines and you see the reasons for the smile on Lin Piao’s face. Japan’s negligence in not keeping the rear properly protected has come home to roost!

Farther south, 4 Army retreated slightly to put more distance between itself and the Japanese at the Yellow River, leaving destroyed bridges in its wake. The blocking position on the Chengchow-Siking road was reinforced by a newly raised factional Honan division.

In contrast, 1 Army is faring less well in its retreat from Tsinan. For lack of a rail line straight back and constantly harassed by the Japanese, its main body with most of Chiang’s best divisions has been too slow, and a crisis is in the offing. A saving grace is the fighting strength and still excellent cohesion of this formation, which will deny the Japanese victories as easy as they have got used to. The right wing of the Army is in fighting withdrawal from the Grand Canal. KMT 32 Division was left behind in Tungshan to defend that city to the last and gain time for the general retreat.

The westward advance of the Japanese forces from the Shantung peninsula to the Grand Canal has left a wide gap on their southern flank. A few ad hoc formations that could be spared north of the Yangtze river estuary are moving toward this gap in an attempt to reoccupy the ports of Tunghai and
Lienyunkang.

On the approaches to Nanking, KMT VII Corps is digging in forward of Shaohsing to deny the ex-capital to the enemy as long as possible. All is quiet to the south, where screening forces in the Tienmu hill country and a weak Japanese picket line of reserve brigades face one another. Still farther south, a coherent front no longer exists. Nothing can be thrown in to block Japanese excursions along the rail line to Kinhwa. The garrison of Yungkia [last Chekiang dot city still held by the Chinese] has been reinforced by new draftees, but the road to Ningpo and Chinhai is wide open.

Everything was done to expedite the transfer of reinforcements to Canton. All Yangtze river shipping was used to ferry KMT troops, including two elite divisions, to river ports from where they could be railed south. Most of the scarce rolling stock was shifted to the Changsha-Canton line. However, because of the bomb damage to the rail line, only a trickle of reinforcements has as yet reached the endangered city. This may be too little, too late.

In Canton itself, Gen. Wu still maintained his concentration of strength in the harbor district to deny the port facilities to the enemy as long as possible, even though that left little to beef up the defenses in the other parts of the city. Having delivered one last output of goods, both factories were dismantled in preparation for transfer, should there still be time for that.

Comments:

It certainly turns out to have been a mistake not to pack Canton with troops right in the initial set-up. No one can predict whether the Tokyo Mandate restrictions will not be lifted early, and a scantily garrisoned Canton then is a tempting prize. With their powerful NGS the Japanese pack quite a wallop, particularly if the Shanghai TF has been freed and the weather gods are kind. The operation is expensive in terms of res pts for landing craft and extra shipping, but the pay-out seems worth the cost.

The Japanese might have been well-advised to secure a Hainan coastal city before attacking Canton. That would have given them an airbase for use by aircraft with range too short to operate from Formosa, as well as a port with 30 MP for RFs to replenish in and then return to Canton with still 90 MP left for NGS preparation (good idea, courtesy Mike Tapner on this list. Still on a learning curve, I overlooked this one, but then you can’t do everything with limited resources).

Generalstab Updates, 2.5.2001

More game reports pouring in, Fred continues his solitary play of WoR into January 1938, while we’ve put an experimental WitD into the pipeline.