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Europa Games and Military History

Month: January 2019

1942 JUL I Soviet Turn

Commentary

In contrast to the many decisions to be made by the Axis commander this turn the Soviets have only one –

Do they fight to save Leningrad or
Do they start evacuating the North?

Evacuation now while most units still have full mobility would be wise and help to save the army for another day and Leningrad only contributes 3 IRPs per turn and whilst it does still have a factory this now trapped.

On the other hand the troops of the Leningrad Front are well emplaced under forts and/or good terrain along most of the area to be evacuated and are roughly at parity in terms of strength points with the German forces opposing them. Should they remain and drop to half strength the Germans would not necessarily break through at will or in too many places sufficient to initiate a rout.  In addition holding fast along this long front does tie up many German troops

However the arrival of 4x 9-7-8 Tk XXXs three of which can engage the enemy forces in the Moscow/Kalinin area decides the issue. The Soviets decide to hold firm and strike back at the German panzers.  The Soviets can still pack a punch and although they have been dealt a hefty blow they are not out of the fight yet.

STAVKA sifts through the various reports and finds weaknesses in the German dispositions where they have thrust forward with parts of the line of advance held by infantry and support troops and some by lone AT battalions.

They thus prepare their counterstroke and commit all their re-enforcements and last reserves into the battle.

The fate of Mother Russia will be decided over the next couple of months.

Turn Report

Finish Front: The line south of Murmansk falls back again and reaching superb defensive line around the lakes of the Kola Peninsula they decide to make a stand. Due to the increasingly alarming situation in the Kalinin sector the offensive into the heart of Finland is suspended. The isolated tank corps retreats back south the way it came but finds the Cavalry brigade blocking the path home. North of Ladoga the Soviets attack a lone finish infantry cade and eliminate it in a HX.

Leningrad/Moscow Front; The Soviets are not positioned to be able to clear the crucial rail-lines interdicted by German advance units so they devise an indirect approach. They launch a wave of attacks aimed at the weak points of the German advance targeting the enemy formations as close to their main line as possible to cut off as many units as possible and thus minimise the German’s capacity to counter attack. In this they are aided by 3 of the newly arrived/ upgraded 9-7-8 tank corps and many existing 6-4-8s. They also employ massed katyusha batteries. With colossal air support using every airframe which can reach the battles at standard or extended range most attacks gain at least one and some two column shifts for GS. (In one particular battle they miss a shift for the sake of 1/3 GS point, such are the fortunes of war and flak die rolls).

 

Jul I '42 - The Soviets strike back NE of Moscow

Jul I ’42 – The Soviets strike back NE of Moscow

They set up 4 attacks and lady luck for once is on their side. Every attack is successful many gaining DE results (rolling 3 sixes in a row did help).

Attack 1 – Aimed at the German infantry/artillery stack at the bridgehead NE of Moscow this attack completely eliminates 2x inf xxs and a mot art brigade. This isolates 2 other German panzers, one mot div and artillery assets which are now trapped behind the Soviet fort line and high value defensive stacks blocking the path east.

Attack 2: Targets a 13-10 panzer holding the southern ring of the doughnut shaped advance past the pair of forts on the east bank of the upper Volga astride the rail line to Yaroslavl. This is eliminated and the cadre retreats back towards the German front lines.

Attack 3: This goes in unsupplied from inside and outside the Soviet pocket with massive air support. The Soviets attack a mixed stack of a 6-10 mot div, 2-10 eng, 2-1-10 stug, and crucially the forward-most Truck. Again a DE eliminates the stack with the mot cadre falling back westwards.

Attack 4: A bypassed stack attacks out of supply against a lone 1-10 AT units holding a channel open to supply the Axis spearhead at the start of the turn. It is eliminated.

The difference this time when compared to previous such counter-attacks is that the Soviets now have sufficient mobility with the new Tank corps to exploit into the gaps created and form a very strong armoured wall. This wall cuts the Germans off from their comrades to the West and fractures the German swerpunkt into a number of cut off sections. The escape South for the panzers is barred by troops lining the river around Yaroslavl. The way East is blocked by fresh reinforcements railing from the Urals and the way North is blocked by the last reserves from Leningrad and from units pulled out of the line against the Finns.

Armoured brigades move into the lead German Panzer’s ZOC and thus establish supply as far north as Vologda.

In total the Soviets have trapped: 7 pz xx, 2 mot xx, 1 Mot x, 1 pz cadre, 1 inf xx, 11 artillery units and 8 support units but just as the Soviets continually amaze the Axis with their ability to find new reserves and firepower so the Germans amaze the Soviets with their ability to fight their way out of a difficult situation.

Time will tell who finally gains the upper hand.

Voronezh Front: Due to the emerging crisis far to the north approximately 2/3 of the Soviet attack corps/katyusha combos rail north. In this they are greatly hindered by some strategically placed rail breaks courtesy of the Luftwaffe which slows the redeployment.

Jul I '42 - Soviets call retreat in the South, awaiting the Axis next move

Jul I ’42 – Soviets call retreat in the South, awaiting the Axis next move

Consequently the Soviets call off their attack much to the annoyance of local command who were keen to inflict more losses on the aggressors.

Infantry/cavalry/AT combos fall back behind the river lines north and south of the breach and the reduced number of armoured corps move SE in the direction of Stalingrad just out of range of the bulk of German motorized assets. This forms a large inverted bulge in the line tempting the Axis to move East into it. The Soviets sit back behind their defensive wall and wait for the Axis to make the next move. 

Air War: All attacks gain massive air support except for the attack immediately NE of Moscow where massed Me fighter squadrons stationed in the city make this area a no fly zone for the VVS.

Battle Report:
Combat; Diced = 5.
Losses: Soviets = 3, German = 33 and truck;  Finns = 3
Air = 0

1942 JUL I Axis Turn

Commentary

The game reaches a critical phase as the Axis forces approach their objective to the north of Moscow.
So this turn is one of decisions.

 For the Finns – do they fall back as fast as possible to defend the capital or do they fall back slowly in the expectation that their foe will be crippled by events further south and they can resume their attempt at restoring the losses of ‘39.

 For the Germans attacking along the rail line to Vologda – Do they continue their assault East plunging out of supply to obtain their objectives or…
Do they turn inward and eliminate the bypassed forts to their rear to secure their supply lines or…
Do they turn southwards and join with the force thrusting NE from Moscow to surround the East bank fort line thus trapping yet more Soviets.

For the small force moving from Moscow – Do they try to nibble away at the East bank forts, or
Do they attempt to breakthrough to the NE.
If they succeed – Do they play safe and slowly grind forward or
Do they exploit and spread out to create maximum disruption in the Soviet rear?

For the Axis in the South – Do they attack the Soviet tankers head on in a clash of armour or
Do they try and strip away the tanker’s infantry support or…
Do they reverse direction and turn inwards to eliminate the fortified line at their rear?
Either way do they then consolidate their gains or push onwards to Rostov?

Find out below.

Turn Report

Finland and the Army of Norway: – The Murmansk force continues to push south but only manages to retreat a 3-6xx, however this is driven west of the lake system and away from the rail line.

Level heads prevail in Finland. The Fins decide to pull back one hex on the main front to shorten the line. A 3-6 German inf cadre leaguered in Tallinn for possible rebuild is given new orders and sails to Helsinki releasing the Finnish Cavalry brigade there which reaches the North bank of the rail causeway behind the Soviet Tank corp and cuts off the rail line to Leningrad. An infantry division from the main front joins a 6-6 infantry xx pulled from the defensive fort line shielding the approaches to Helsinki and together they ZOC surround the Soviet breakthrough force

Advance units reach two of the objectives of Operation Meatgrinder

Advance units reach two of the objectives of Operation Meatgrinder

AGN. The Germans north of the Valdai mass and gain another forested hex but still only have a single foothold on the Leningrad/Volodga rail line.

In a heated exchange which almost costs at least one Field Marshal his job the German Officers who favour a methodical approach with fort reduction are overruled by an agitated Fuhrer who insists that the eastward momentum must be maintained at all costs. So the panzers drive East in two parallel columns. Both attacks succeed and advance units occupy the river bend adjacent to Ivanovo and 30 miles north. A lone 16-10 pz detaches from the rest and occupies the vital wooded rail junction at point 2107.

The Fuhrer is vindicated as Leningrad/Archangelsk and the North are cut off from the rest of Russia.

The drive NE from Moscow continues at a more cautious pace.  A 6-4-8 is reduced to cadre and retreats into an empty fort behind. This however is a costly victory for the attackers because a 10-10 pz is cadred in the HX. The relief of the Soviet remnant is short lived however as the cadre is overrun in the exploitation phase.  Caution prevails however and the Germans halt and pursue no further content that their advance places another fort out of supply and closes the gap to the main line of advance to 16 miles.

AGC: Fortification continues along this quiet sector.

Axis forces consolidate in the South

Axis forces consolidate in the South

AGS: Contrary to action in the North the Axis forces here turn inwards and eliminate the by-passed fort line. All but one of the forts are annihilated by a combination of massed infantry and artillery over the river and attacks from the Soviet’s rear by the mobile units. Most fall to automatic surrounded attacks. The Axis forces here are strengthened by the Rumanians from Odessa who can now fully engage in the attack. Territorial gains are limited to a penetration of some 80 miles but the attack as desired has drawn of at least 50% of Soviet armour and eliminated the fortified line over a 180 mile frontage. In exploitation the Axis consolidate and form double stacks of divisions which should prove immunity to any Soviet counter thrusts.

It is up to the Bolsheviks to make the next move.

Air War: Some attacks are aided by GS particularly in the north. Soviet rail lines in the south are targeted with some success to try to prevent the Soviets rapidly re-deploying their armour assets from the South to the North.

Battle Report: (I have decided to include air losses from now on)
Combats: Over-runs = 5,   Automatic = 7,   Diced = 3
Losses: Soviets Un-isolated = 117, Forts = 8, Aircraft = 2
German = 8, Luftwaffe = 1

In Memoriam Panzerkeil

Jason Long is a household name to many Europa players. Jason did a lot of historical research centered on the war in the East and the Balkans and published numerous articles in TEM and various Newsletters. He also created several Europa scenarios (“Clash of Titans”) and designed the unpublished Peace in Our Time game on the invasion that almost occurred, the planned German assault on Czechoslovakia in 1938.

For a long time, Jason ran two websites dedicated to the Axis air forces (Sturmvogel) and Axis armies (Panzerkeil). Both are offline or archived now, but Jason kindly gave permission to us to re-publish some of his materials. Since “Total War” will most likely never see the light of day, we’ve decided to include some of Jasons research on the Hungarian Army during Barbarossa, which you can now read in the Academy. In the comming weeks, we’ll add some more material.

Hungarian participation in Barbarossa

The Germans initially had no desire for Hungarian participation in Barbarossa which suited most of the Hungarian leadership quite well. But the Germans, meeting more resistance than they anticipated, said that they would welcome any voluntary contribution made by the Hungarians the day after Barbarossa began. This changed the situation radically and the Hungarians compromised by breaking relations with the USSR. This was hardly satisfactory to the pro-German faction within the Hungarian government and the Honved (military), but they weren’t able to do anything more until the Hungarian city of Kassa (Kosice) was bombed, reputedly by the Soviets, on the 26th of June.

The Hungarian Dictator Horthy Miklós and Adolf Hitler, 1938. Credit: Ladislav Luppa

The Hungarian Dictator Horthy Miklós and Adolf Hitler, 1938. Credit: Ladislav Luppa

A Soviet attack on neutral Hungary makes no sense unless it occurred by accident, but it could well have been a provocation staged by the Germans or Romanians to “encourage” Hungarian participation. One Hungarian fighter pilot reported engaging three German-manufactured He 111H bombers flying southeast after Kassa had been bombed. The He 111 was in both German and Romanian service at the time. Any number of theories have been advanced over the years, but nothing has been settled.

The attack enraged Adm. Horthy who decided upon an emphatic response. The pro-German faction got its wish; Hungary would join the attack on the USSR As the Honved was totally unprepared for war, mobilization of selected reservists and the impressment of civilian motor vehicles took several days more than anticipated even though only those forces designated to invade the Soviet Union were mobilized. These were the Carpathian Group which comprised VIII. Corps and the Gyorshadtest (Mobile Corps). VIII. Corps contributed the 1st Mountain and the 8th Border Guard Brigades as well as all of its corps troops. The Gyorshadtest comprised the 1st and 2nd Motorized Infantry Brigades as well as the 1st Cavalry Brigade and, some sources claim, the 15th Bicycle Battalion from 2nd Cavalry Brigade. Other corps contributed bicycle infantry and anti-aircraft battalions as well as two-gun batteries of 150mm artillery. These units were the best available to the Hungarians, even the Border Guards, and were definitely a cut above the rest of the Honved.

The 1st Mountain Brigade was organized into four mountain infantry battalions, plus an artillery battalion of two batteries, each with four 75mm pack or mountain guns. A platoon of two 149mm howitzers was attached for the duration of the campaign. Each mountain infantry battalion had three companies of mountain infantry, each with twelve LMGs, two 51mm mortars and a 20mm anti-tank rifle, a machine-gun company of nine HMGs, a battery of four 75mm pack or mountain guns, a platoon of four 81mm mortars, an anti-tank platoon of four guns, an engineer platoon as well as a reconnaissance detachment. Under the direct control of the brigade were a company of 6 motorized 40mm Bofors AA guns, an anti-tank company of four guns, a motorized anti-aircraft company of ten AAMGs, a cavalry company, an engineer company as well as a platoon each of motorcyclists and five Csaba armored cars.

8th Border Guards Brigade controlled far less at the brigade level than its compatriot in VIII. Corps, namely a motorized anti-aircraft company, an engineer company and a platoon of two 149mm howitzers. All units, even the five border guard battalions, were organized identically to the units in 1st Mountain Brigade.

The motorized infantry brigades were composed of an motorized infantry regiment, two bicycle infantry battalions, an armored reconnaissance battalion, a motorized artillery battalion, a motorized engineer battalion as well as the standard motorized flak and AAMG companies. The motorized infantry regiment had three battalions, each with three infantry companies, each with twelve LMGs, two 51mm mortars and two anti-tank rifles, a machine-gun company with twelve HMGs and four 81mm mortars, an anti-tank platoon of four guns and an engineer platoon. The bicycle battalions were organized identically to the motorized infantry battalions with the exceptions that all units were motorized except the bicycle companies themselves and the addition of a artillery battery of four 105mm howitzers and a platoon of five Italian CV 33 tankettes. The armored reconnaissance battalion had a company of ten Csaba armored cars, a company of twenty CV 33 tankettes, a light tank company of twenty Toldi Is, a motorized infantry company organized like those in the motorized infantry battalions, except that it had three anti-tank rifles, as well as motorized platoons of engineers, medium mortars, and anti-tank guns. The artillery battalion had four batteries, each with four 105mm howitzers. The engineer battalion had only one company of combat engineers and a bridging column.

The cavalry brigade was, quite probably, the most powerful unit of its type in Eastern Europe due to its extensive supporting arms and numerous heavy weapons. It had two hussar regiments, two bicycle infantry battalions, an armored reconnaissance battalion, a motorized artillery battalion, a horse artillery battalion, a motorized engineer company and bridge column as well as the standard motorized light flak and AAMG companies totalling 7350 officers and men. Each regiment had two hussar battalions in addition to a four-gun battery of horse-drawn 75mm mountain guns, a mounted engineer platoon, a motorized platoon of anti-tank guns, and a platoon of tankettes. Each hussar battalion had three companies of cavalry with twelve LMGs and three anti-tank rifles and a mounted machine-gun company of twelve HMGs and four medium mortars. The bicycle, engineer, and armored reconnaissance battalions were organized exactly like those in the motorized infantry brigades. The motorized artillery battalion differed only in that it had but two batteries of 105mm howitzers. The horse artillery battalion had two four-gun batteries of 76.5mm guns.

My sources are rather contradictory about the identities of the non-divisional units assigned to the Carpathian Group so the information given below must be regarded as less than reliable. I do know that VIII. Corps contributed its bicycle, heavy artillery and AA battalions while other corps contributed the odd battalion or so.

The VIth and VIIIth bicycle battalions were far weaker than their compatriots assigned to the Mobile Corps as they lacked the machine-gun company, artillery battery, tankette platoon, and anti-tank rifles of their more powerful brethren. Their anti-tank platoon only mustered two guns and a machine-gun section of two HMGs was substituted for the machine-gun company. It appears that these units were exchanged with two others sometime after July as my primary source mentions the IInd and VIIth battalions in September and doesn’t mention either of the first two after 7 July, after VIII. Corps had requested their return to Hungary on 3 July as they were considered to be combat ineffective due to breakdowns and tire shortages! Hence my tentative conclusion that they were replaced by the other two. With that in mind I’ve given the Hungarians the ability to replace them for free.

Each of the nine corps in the Honved had one of these bicycle battalions for reconnaissance duties, except I. Corps. No higher headquarters existed for them, so I’ve had to group them by their parent armies. The ID used is First Army because it only had two battalions in its subordinate corps.

The corps motorized heavy artillery battalions were severely under strength in 1941 with only two 150mm howitzers in each of their two batteries. VIII. Corps provided its complete battalion, but I., III., VI. and VII. Corps only provided a single battery. I’ve amalgamated them into a single weak counter with the ID of the Carpathian Group as this only lasted for the duration of the campaign.

In contrast to the other arms the anti-aircraft artillery participated in strength. I., V., and VIII. Corps contributed their complete motorized AA battalions. In addition the 6th, 9th, and 14th motorized light AA batteries were assigned to the Carpathian Group from the infantry brigades of the same number. Each anti-aircraft battalion had one battery of four heavy and another of six light AA guns. Each of the motorized light batteries was organized as above. In addition to the above units, one source mentions the 105th Motorized AA Battalion which had the same structure as the corps-level units. Including the 105th the Hungarians have around three points of flak including the flak organic to the brigades. Rather than give some of these brigades an intrinsic flak strength, I decided to show it as a separate unit with the Karpat ID as it is stronger than the usual army-level amalgamation would be. None of it seems to have advanced with the Mobile Corps after VIII. Corps was halted on the Dneister and this allows me to restrict it as well.

The only combat engineers with the Carpathian Group were VIIIth Combat Engineer Battalion and the 151st and 152nd Motorized Combat Engineer Companies. As VIIIth Battalion had two companies, both non-motorized, I decided to round the movement factor down to eight (non-combat/motorized) given the Hungarians’ systemic problems with vehicle maintenance and supplies.

Infantry weapons consisted of the 8mm Huzagol 35 M. rifle, a few of the excellent 9mm 39 M. submachine-gun as it was just entering service, the ancestor of the German MG 34, the 30 M., as the LMG, and modernized Austro-Hungarian Schwarzlose 07/12 machine guns in the medium/heavy MG role. Mortars were a mix of German and Hungarian-manufactured 51mm and 81mm models. Anti-tank defense was provided by license-built 20mm Solothurn s18-1100 anti-tank rifles and German 37mm guns. Artillery was a grab bag of modernized Austro-Hungarian Skoda 75mm 15 M. mountain guns, 149mm 14 M. howitzers, modern German 105mm 1eFH 18 howitzers and Swedish 150mm Model 31 howitzers. Sweden also provided all of Hungary¹s AA guns, including the famed 40mm Bofors and the far more obscure 8cm. The horse artillery used the ancient Skoda 05/08 76.5mm gun.

AFVs assigned to the Mobile Corps totaled 140 CV 33 tankettes bought from Italy, 49 license-built Csaba armored cars and 80 Toldi I light tanks. Both of the latter were armed with a 20mm gun adapted from the Solothurn anti-tank rifle.

The Carpathian Group began its attack on 30 June with attempts to clear the passes through the Carpathians. The defenders demolished many of the roads and bridges in the area which slowed down the advance considerably. The Soviets surprised the Hungarians with their skillful delaying tactics, but the Soviets made no real effort to hold on to the area between the Carpathians and the Dneister. The Hungarians reached the Dneister by 6 July delayed more by supply problems than by the Soviet defense. The units of VIII Corps were relegated to occupation duties after reaching the Dneister, but the Mobile Corps, with the addition of VIIIth Bicycle Battalion, was placed under command of Army Group South and continued on despite immense supply difficulties and numerous breakdowns. It breached the Stalin Line against light resistance during mid-July and continued to advance as Soviet defenses toughened. By month’s end the Corps’ logistics situation had become perilous as it had out-run its supply lines. Its commander requested a week-long pause to recuperate, but this was ignored by the Germans.

Forced to continue its advance, it cooperated with 1st Panzer Group to pocket Soviet forces near Uman in early August. Afterwards, it headed south to Nikolaev with the objective of cutting the Soviet 9th Army’s line of retreat in cooperation with the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps. Despite heavy Soviet counter-attacks, the 2nd Motorized Infantry Brigade entered Nikolaev from the west as the 16th Panzer Division entered from the east. The aggressive Soviets did succeed, however, in preventing the majority of 9th Army’s troops from being encircled.

The Corps finally got its well-deserved rest after the capture of Nikolaev as it was placed in reserve at Krivoi Rog from 24 August. This only lasted a week or so as the Corps was to defend a 200 km (120 mile) stretch of the Dnepr River from Dnepropetrovsk to Nikopol while the 1st and 2nd Panzer Groups encircled the Soviet Southwestern Front behind Kiev. The most dangerous part of this sector was the island opposite Zaporozhe. The cavalry brigade provided the corps reserve with two hussar battalions, but the rest of its troops were distributed among the motorized infantry brigades.

Nowhere were the Hungarians strong enough to do much more than deploy in widely dispersed strong points supplemented with a line of sentry posts. The Soviets were continually raiding across the river, usually in less than battalion strength, and the Hungarians were hard-pressed to defeat these raiders. The Soviets were particularly troublesome around Zaporozhe Island and Nikopol. In fact a multi-battalion attack on 5 September evicted the two battalions defending the island. The first attempt to retake the island by 14th Cycle Battalion failed and the sector commander had to be evacuated to the rear with nervous exhaustion. The next highest-ranking officer present reported himself sick and his replacement reported his troops to exhausted to attack.

Hungarian Convoy with artillery movers in the Ukraine, 1942, Credit: FORTEPAN / Csorba Dániel

Hungarian Convoy with artillery movers in the Ukraine, 1942, Credit: FORTEPAN / Csorba Dániel

It was obvious that the Hungarians had been given more than they could handle and either had to be reinforced or made responsible for a smaller sector. 16th Panzer Division took over 1st Motorized Infantry Brigade’s sector which allowed it to move opposite Zaporozhe Island. This was only temporary as 16th Panzer was withdrawn on 13 September. This did not bode well for the Hungarians as they were completely shot. 2nd Motorized Brigade’s companies had lost half of their combat strength and more than two-thirds of the Corps’ armored vehicles were out of commission! Fortunately the rapidly developing encirclement around Kiev diverted Soviet attentions, and forces, further north to counter the German pincers. The German 4 Security Regiment arrived on 27 September, which allowed the severely weakened 1st Cavalry Brigade to be withdrawn from the front lines and sent home on 5 October.

It was replaced by IInd and VIIth Bicycle Battalions for the drive northeast from Dnepropetrovsk towards Izyum beginning on 11 October. Material shortages and the extensive mud forced the Hungarians to split their force in two parts, one with all the cross-country trucks, well-supplied with heavy weapons, and the other with all the less mobile units. The lead group reached the Donets River opposite Izyum on 28 October, but not before the Soviets had time to evacuate the riverbank and blow the bridges. The Hungarians were in no shape to attempt to cross the river in the teeth of the Soviet entrenchments and they were long overdue to be relieved. The primary delay had been the German requirement for the Hungarians to furnish security troops. They returned to Hungary beginning in the first half of November and were replaced by four security brigades, with a fifth arriving later.

These were formed from second and third-line reserves using the headquarters of regular infantry brigades, but without most of the support units that each normally had, although a cavalry company and a motorized light AA battery were assigned. Each was only at between 50 and 70% strength and was armed with very little other than small arms. They had no artillery at all and only a small number of machine-guns. Each of their two regiments had three battalions of infantry. To equalize the burden, the Honved assigned battalions from every corps district in the country rather than just use the normal battalions.

Losses suffered by the Hungarians in the campaign weren’t very high, a total of 4524 killed, or just over 10 percent of the 44,444 assigned to the Carpathian Group proper, but equipment losses were severe. 1200 motor vehicles, 28 guns and 30 aircraft were lost, as were all of the tankettes, 80% of the Toldi light tanks and 90% of the Csaba armored cars committed.

Air Force Operations

The Royal Hungarian Army Air Force initially contributed two squadrons each of Italian CR.32bis and CR.42 fighters as well as two squadrons each of Italian Ca.135bis and German Ju 86K-2 bombers as well as four squadrons of reconnaissance aircraft. This was reduced after July to two squadrons of CR.42s, and a squadron each of Ju 86K-2 and Ca.135bis bombers. A flight of Italian Re 2000s was deployed from August for combat evaluation. All aircraft returned to Hungary along with all of the rest of the Hungarians in November. These number are only in aggregate enough for a single Europa counter, and rather than inflict a Mxd aircraft counter on the Axis player, I decided to let him pick which one he would like to use.

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn

Commentary

The game has reached a critical phase where the Soviets have now committed 95% of their armoured reserves with a view to stopping or indeed eliminating the Axis mobile formations and restoring their fortified line which they can then use to launch their own attack in due course.

In Finland they plan a bold counter attack to remove the threat from the Leningrad/Murmansk rail line.

On the main front in the North they are forced onto the defensive and against military good practice but arising out of military necessity they are forced to commit their reserves to passively hold the line and only mount one attack – against the bridgehead over the Volga River south of the Leningrad/Vologda rail line. The penetration to the north of the rails due to terrain and Soviet dispositions is unable to be engaged and the double stacked Panzers pushing NE from Moscow are too strong to touch on the narrow frontage. Soviet reserves therefore mount the one attack in the south and move to blocking positions encircling the attackers and restricting their ability to mass and manoeuvre – but will this be enough?

It is a completely different storey in the south where the panzers are deployed in open terrain with 3 points of penetration of an extended fort line. Covering half the frontage with cavalry/AT stacks and massing elsewhere the Soviets line up 5 attacks on infantry, panzer, mech divisions and the Hungarian 1st armour. Complete success will isolate the Axis speared and fragment it into 4 segments. Complete failure will leave the panzers intact and the Soviets exposed to devastating counter attack – both sides hold their breath as the die is, quite literally, cast.

Turn Report

Partisans: 3 rail breaks achieved.

Finish Front: The sporadic attacks in the centre continue and claim a Finnish 1-6* regiment.

In order to ease pressure off the main Leningrad/Murmansk line the soviets launch a scratch attack directly north from Leningrad across the old Mannerheim line. Troops stationed there who have seen no action since hostilities began move to attack the equally quiescent Finnish defenders catching them completely by surprise. The attackers are bolstered by some replacement divisions from the city and one of the reserve mech Corp moved from its defensive position south of the city. (The second reserve corps moves to Leningrad central where it can move south on the rail radials to any threatened point should the Axis try a surprise attack themselves.)  Two Finnish divisions are attacked. One is cadred and pinned against the lakes to the north. The other, surrounded is eliminated. Exploiting mech units reach the rail junction at point 4602 splitting open the entire Finish front. In support of this offensive the tank corps pushing north along the shores of Lake Ladoga renews its efforts and cadres a third division. As the Finish commander of the tank regiment feared when 9th Pz withdrew his unit is also swamped by the Soviet attackers and is forced backwards but with no path open surrenders.

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Battles in the North

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Battles in the North

Leningrad Front: All units less those sent north to attack the Finns are fed into the defence of the Leningrad/Valodga rail line but can only move as far as the German block 80km east of Tikhivin where the easternmost infiltrates East around the panzers.

Moscow Front: The Soviets look at their options and reluctantly conclude that the German armour is just too strong to attack directly. They therefore launch a single attack against the infantry bridgehead over the river and retake the hex cadering an 8-6 infantry xx and sealing the southern breach. However they are out of position and cannot do the same north of the rail line. The tank corps therefore move into the line clamping the panzers tight to the back of the surrounded units (who will be supplied next check). The VVS provides copious amounts of DAS in the hope that the air cover will be sufficient to preserve their armour from German attack in turn. They do manage to strengthen the breach immediately NE of Moscow with some infantry/AT combinations and move engineers into position to rebuild the fort line. As per doctrine they maintain the former front line forts which now penetrate into the German lines like a hooked finger.

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Moscow Front

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Moscow Front

Voronezh Front: This front sees no action but the pitifully thin reserves are thinned further in response to the German breakthrough in the north.

Rostov Front:  The counter-attack is executed. Tank corps move into attack positions and execute a total of 5 attacks up and down the line of German exploiting units. Where the attacks are not made Cavalry/AT combos move from behind the river Don and form a new line tight against the panzers ring

The attacks do cause damage to the invaders cadering a 7-6 infantry division, an 11-10 panzer, and completely eliminating the Hungarian tank division. (Together with a number of support units).

In particular the southern breach of the fort line is resealed eliminating a 6-8 light division and its support.

Unfortunately the attack against an SS Mech corps aimed to isolate a German truck unit fails and although the entire Axis line is pocketed the truck unit can supply all but the southernmost three panzers.

In the Exploitation phase the Soviets use minimal infiltration to isolate the Axis line and re-supply the forts and bypassed infantry stacks. Attacking stacks redeploy to a defensive posture under cover of DAS and await the German riposte.

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Battles in the South

1942 JUN II Soviet Turn: Battles in the South

Battle Report:
Combats:  Auto = 1. Diced = 10

Losses:
Germans = 34;  Finns = 16;  Hungarians = 7
Soviets = 11

1942 JUN II Axis Turn

Weather: Clear across all weather zones. (Automatic)

Finland and Army of Norway: All quiet north of the main Finish drive. 15 supply REs delivered to Murmansk.

The impertinent Soviet motorised division which placed the Finish attackers out of supply is eliminated but the main drive stalls against stiffening Soviet opposition as an attack to eliminate a small bulge fails (NE). 9th pz moves west to protect the flanks against the Soviet Tank Corps positioned to move northwest along the limited rail line skirting Lake Ladoga. The local Finnish commander opposes this move fearing his spearhead will be too weak to resist a Soviet counter attack.

AGN: The remnants of the Soviet attack towards Tallinn are mopped up and the diverted mechanised/tank units start to move East in the exploitation phase.

A Soviet error north of the Valdai brings unexpected dividends. Panzers destined for the main Eastwards attack are diverted north on news from aerial reconnaissance that a lone AT unit forms the second line behind a stack in wooded terrain. A full Corps attack is launched which eliminates the defenders and exploiting units overrun the AT unit and take up a blocking position on the Leningrad/Vologda rail line approximately 80 miles East of Tikhivin. Leningrad’s supply line now must route through Archangelsk and passes within18 miles of advancing Finish forces.

The Situation in the North: The Axis exploit gaps in the Soviet line.

The Situation in the North: The Axis exploit gaps in the Soviet line.

North East of Moscow the single Panzer corps advance is halted by a wall of Soviet tank corps so the Germans simply clear two hexes of non-fortified units between this wall and the fortified line which it has hooked behind.

With the west bank effectively cleared, mobile assets from south of Leningrad arrived and much of the Soviet armour committed in the south the three prerequisites for Operation Meatgrinder are met.

The operation is launched with simultaneous attacks over the river north and south of the Leningrad/Vologda rail line. Tough fighting at the river crossing in the south cadres a 10-10 panzer in a HX but in the north the defenders are pushed back without loss and scatter allowing an exploitation overrun to link with units moving north trapping two entire Tank corps, supporting troops and rockets against the river.

AGC: The last remnant of 1st Shock is eliminated and engineers move into position to begin fortifying the line.

AGS: The breaches in the Soviet line are developed with a total of 10 attacks widening the breaches and eliminating surrounded defenders. A second penetration of the line is achieved 30 miles north of Gorlovka and the pincers meet trapping a total of 13 divisions and 10 regiments. Notable resistance is offered from a NKVD division, security battalion and guards regiment who stand firm in their fortified position despite the forces arrayed against them (NE @ 4:1-1). The exploiting units however do not attempt to gain significant territory cowed by the large array of Soviet armour behind the upper Don. The panzer leaders halt in line abreast and brace themselves for the Soviet repost.

Jun II '42 Axis Turn: Disaster befalls the Southern Front

Jun II ’42 Axis Turn: Disaster befalls the Southern Front

Air War:  A number of ground attacks are given significant GS to obtain sufficient odds to attack the fortified line limiting other activity. Some raids are made against rail lines with limited effect however in one notable encounter south east of Leningrad a He111H and escorting ME110E eliminate a P40E and two Hurricane 2 interceptors for no loss. Elsewhere however the Luftwaffe suffers a loss of 3 aircraft in a battle which claims another 2 Soviet machines.

Combat Report

Attacks:
Diced = 15. Auto = 7
Losses:
Soviet Un-isolated = 93 plus 1x RF, Isolated = 13,  Overuns = 9.
German = 6 (Cadred Pz xx)

1942 JUN I Soviet Turn

STAVKA issues orders for mobile formations to move into position following reports of Axis breakthroughs of the fortified defence line north of Valuylki and NE of Moscow. 

In accordance with agreed protocols all fortifications are to be defended to the last man. Any breaches are to be sealed with Infantry/Cavalry backed up by AT gun brigades. Where possible local counter attacks are to restore the line. These actions aim to stop the breakthroughs or at the least provide sufficient time to allow the armoured reserves to assemble within striking distance of the breakthrough points and concentrate for armoured counter attack. The aim is not merely to check the Axis advance elements but to ensure their complete destruction.

It appears clear that the line between Moscow down to Voronezh is to be unmolested so armoured reserves divide at the Tula latitude moving North and South into position ready for the clash of steel.

Partisans obtain  2 Rail hits.  Rostov Factory preps for transfer.

Finland Front:  Troops facing Murmansk fall back to maintain the line. In Central Finland two separate attacks eliminate a Finish Bdr unit and German ski battalion but the real action occurs in the south on the north shores of Lake Ladoga. Here a Soviet tank division and two front line infantry divisions with massed air support attack and cadre the 5-6 German infantry division guarding the secondary rail line. A lone exploit capable 3-8 xx NKVD Mot unit exploits to the rail junction at 5027 completely cutting off the spearhead of the Finish assault army including the 9th Pz xx. Unfortunately 5 long range bombers all fail to inflict a single rail hit so this unit will be exposed for counter attack. However it is hoped this action will be sufficient to buy some time and prevent the Axis cutting the vital N/S rail line.

Soviets surprise breakthrough North of Lake Ladoga

Soviets surprise breakthrough North of Lake Ladoga

Leningrad Front. The Narva expeditionary force returns to the Soviet lines less two stragglers caught by the German advance and terrain.

Further east along the E/W rail line between Leningrad to Vologda troops are rushed into position to strengthen the line protecting this rail line in the swampy forests north of the German advance.

Moscow Front: Armoured corps move north from their reserve positions around Tula and ready themselves Yaroslavl where German armour has pressed forward. The remainder hold back to await developments.

Voronezh Front: Other than facilitating armoured reserves moving north and south this Front sees no action. The single remaining Assault unit is given full DAS as it extracts itself from German ZOCs and moves eastwards to Voronezh.

Rostov Front:  The defensive plan swings into action.

  1. a) Counter attack where possible: Local units mount a counter attack on the German advance into Makeyevka and after 2 weeks of fierce hand to hand combat in the rubble push the mixed Axis units out of the city and retake it inflicting a high cost on the defenders.
  2. b) Seal the breaches: The failed breakthrough south of Valuylki is sealed by cavalry/infantry and AT units.  Engineers are moved into position and Res Pts positioned to build fortifications next turn.
  3. c) Delay any advance: The northern breach is too large for either counter attack or complete sealing so alternate stacks of Inf/cav/AT are placed at the leading edge of the Axis advance to slow progress. Elsewhere along the sides of the breach units infiltrate the gaps to further impede any forward momentum of the aggressors.
  4. d) Prepare to Counter Attack.  Stacks of armoured assault units move from their reserve positions  to form a solid wall along the north shores of the upper Don and intermittently across the bend of the river in a line running NE through Molorovo.  A total of no less than 8 stacks comprising 9 tank corps 3 mech/mot divisions and countless tank brigades and artillery/katyusha units thus form an arch around the breach within striking distance.
Soviet Turn: The Southern Front moves to contain the Axis assault

Soviet Turn: The Southern Front moves to contain the Axis assault

Air War. The vast majority of Soviet air is devoted to DAS this turn except the failed rail attacks in Finland and equally ineffective raids south of Leningrad along the Moscow road. An air base raid on Kaluga out of Tula also fails to achieve any hits

Combat Report:
Combats:  Diced = 4
Losses Finns = 1, Germans = 8,  Rumanians = 6,  Croatians = 2,  Italians = 4
Soviets = 0

1942 JUN I Axis Turn

Weather: Clear across all weather zones.

As the Axis Summer 1942 offensive is launched the normal commentary will be suspended in lieu of a detailed description of the opening moves across all fronts which is likely to set the pace and form for the upcoming campaigning season.

Finland & Army of Norway. At Murmansk the Germans have 4 mountain divisions forming a line 2 hexes south of Murmansk and extending SW. They are supported by a few ski battalions, the ski rocket battalion and two supported regiments. Nord is present and was to be withdrawn to Norway for upgrade to the 7-8 mtn XX but has been put back in the line to achieve breakthrough odds for this turn’s attack south which with Luftwaffe support from 3x HE11Hs provides sufficient GSs for a 7:2 (-1) attack eliminating a Soviet Naval regiment and pushing another hex south down the main rail line. (Due to last turn’s transport of a Panzer division to south Finland only 5 REs of supply are available at Murmansk limiting attack strength. With less capacity used to transport the mountain division this turn 10 REs of Supply are delivered to Murmansk for use next Initial phase.)

In the centre a reinforcement 6-8 mountain division is shipped from German off map ports and lands at Kemi and moves by rail over the recently rebuilt line via Salla to the front. It joins a Finish 3-6* regiment and 1-8 ski battalion and expends the Res pt shipped with it to eliminate a defending 2-6* inf Regiment/1-8 ski battalion. The Finish 3-6* is lost in the 4:1 (-2) exchange.

North of Lake Ladoga the 9th Pz XX (16-10) joins the Finish armour regiment, artillery, infantry and GS to attack a stack of a 4-6 xx with 3-2-8 tank regiment at 4:1 AA fire against the two DAS  Il4s is ineffective.

AGN: South of Leningrad The Axis forces resist the temptation to pursue the retreating Soviets which in any event have reached the safety of their pre winter offensive fortified line. Instead the panzers and motorized units elect to eliminate the now isolated U2 spearhead left over from the Soviet Winter Offensive. The two Soviet stacks are organized to give the larger maximum defensive capability which halved still amounts to a total of 12.5 points. The smaller stack totalling 2.5 after halving is overrun by the German motorized attackers. Infantry and support units form a defensive line offset south from the Soviets by two-three hexes taking advantage of the flanking forests and swamps. Learning the lessons from last winter all open hexes are to be fortified. Gaps in the infantry wall and attacking main motorised stack are filled with support troops so that the cadres of the two surrounded Guards Infantry and Cavalry cannot retreat ensuring the elimination of the stack automatically at 3:1(+3). In the exploitation phase all the motorized elements begin the move to their jump-off points NW of Kalinin.

The Soviet thrust to Tallinn cannot be ignored and infantry peel off from the Western flanks around Pskov and move north to engage the Soviet 2 division screen just north of the river at Tartu. The deep penetration of the Soviets offers too tempting a target and the possibility of trapping a number of divisions and tank regiments is such that a newly arriving Panzer and Mech Inf division are diverted north. They are forced to de-train 100 miles south of Tartu due to Soviet rail bombing preventing them engaging this turn. The infantry attacks a 3-6xx defender at 5:1 and eliminates it advancing past a defending 4-6 winterized xx which is surrounded by the mobile units in the exploitation phase.

North of the Valdai Soviet defenders including guards infantry divisions moving SE from Leningrad are too strong for the German s to engage so infantry with some artillery support and the lone 6-10 motorized xx which has been attached to this corps since the start of autumn probe northeast.  Attacks against two weaker stacks result in a DR and NE gaining a modest single hex advance.

NE of Kalinin the western bank of the river is cleared except for a single stack of units which is surrounded. (Comprising a 5-6 (w) inf xx, 2-6* inf x, 2-1-6 tk x in woods with 4 points DAS).

The attacks are executed with a view to minimising losses, for while it is accepted that losses will be needed to breach the main line the army is still a long way off recovering from the winter losses and needs to conserve units for the main assault.

West bank cleared and breakout from Moscow

West bank cleared and breakout from Moscow.

In a classic pincer assault a 4-6xx/1-2-8 AT stack suffers a DR with the AT unit being pursued to the river by advancing armour and infantry.. North of the by passed stack a second attack guarantees an advance at 7:1 which eliminates the opposition. A 4-6xx south of the breach is surrounded as a result and succumbs to a guaranteed elimination. In the exploitation phase armour advances sweep along the river bank behind the enemy force securing their isolation and eventual destruction. The hole created north of the island of resistance exposes a weakness in the soviet defence as exploiting armour crosses the swampy river system eastwards. Further north still a 6-10 motorised unit is ordered to halt its advance west of the river for fear of a counter attack from strong Soviet forces operating in the area to the north,

NE of Moscow: The armoured stack forming the bridgehead over the Volga canal attacks the displaced units from the fortified line and obtains a DH. The surviving defenders retreat but a lone 3-8 Cav xx is overrun in the exploitation phase. German forces limit themselves to a single hex advance for fear of overextending the advance before the main assault over the river is made. (This premature assault may prove unwise as it has alerted the Soviets to the threat and because no advance is yet made over the canal the defending fort line may be evacuated before the trap can be closed.)

AGC: At the northern end of this sector the Germans pull back behind the short river NW of Tula and form a “Hedgehog” line of alternating infantry divisions east of Orel down to Kursk. Engineers are moved into place with a view to fortifying this sector where no assaults are planned. Rail road engineers will be tasked to complete a cross rail system here to tie up the various rail heads and facilitate rapid north/south troop transfers, if needed, next winter. 

In the southern sector an infantry assault surrounds and eliminates a stack of stragglers from the 1st Shock Army.  They are then ordered to solidify the line and take and defend the important rail junction at point 0318.

AGS: The secondary diversionary assault “Operation Fishhook” springs into action. The initial breakthrough is conceived as two mixed armoured/infantry assaults with more armour as a second echelon. The aim is to disrupt the fort line in two double hex assaults 30 miles apart and encircle the defending enemy troops occupying the fort line and secondary line between the breakthrough points widening the breach to 6 hexes. The fortunes of war are such that a retreating stack from the Soviet 1st Shock positions itself in front of the planned assault hex diverting some assets to ensure its elimination and forcing the northern attack south by one hex. The northern prong nevertheless attacks on a two hex front both at 4:1 (-1). One attack eliminates the defenders the other obtains a DH.

JUN I 1942 Axis Turn: Operation Fishhook

JUN I 42: Operation Fishhook kicks off

Panzers and motorised divisions with support overrun the survivors in the exploitation phase plus a second formation caught at part mobilisation behind the lines (2-6* inf and 2-1-8 tk X). The attackers form a small fan of units hooking south.

The southern prong meets heavy resistance but after a week of intense assault manages to winkle the defenders out of the fortified defensive lines and enters the reference city of Valuylki. Defenders however retreat in good order and form up alongside second line units in an overrun proof wall preventing any exploitation.

Aiming to replicate the success in delaying the retreat of 1st Shock the front line south to the sea moves adjacent to the Soviet fortified line to prevent the defenders easily shifting troops.  To further engage the defenders a primarily infantry assault lead by SS motorised division LASSAH and massed rail gun support takes the dot city of Makeyevka immediately adjacent to Stalino. In all in this sector 4 forts are eliminated and two cities taken.

JUN I 1942 Axis Turn: Breakout in Exploitation phase

JUN I 1942 Axis Turn: Breakout in Exploitation phase

11th Army and Odessa: The Rumanians at Odessa move by administrative movement overland to preserve rail capacity for the use of Res Pts, rail guns and reinforcements

Rail engineers continue to convert lines into the Crimea to ensure the peninsular can be supplied next winter and engineers are positioned to fortify the narrow isthmus 50 miles west of Kerch.

Administratively 11th Army is placed under the command of AGS.

Air War:
A number of missions are undertaken to disrupt the Leningrad to Vologda railroad but only a single hit is achieved.Similar widespread attacks against the trail net behind the southern attack is more successful with two hits adding to existing damage limiting rail access to the assault zone.

The air space over Moscow is very hotly contested with both sides having large and roughly equal number of fighters. The Luftwaffe has to date got the better of the soviets in all  major engagements but the Soviet presence is sufficient to deter any lone bombing runs and only large set piece engagements are attempted.

One such is this turn where a medium sized battle forms NE of Moscow. German dive and level bombers with escorts attack a damaged River Flotilla bolstering the river defence line.

6 Lagg 3s, 3 Mig3s and a single I-16 intercept the formation of bombers which is escorted by a mixture of 8 ME1909 Es and Gs. The Laggs and I-16 engage the screen while the Migs attempt to bypass and head for the bomber stream. The one unengaged ME109 returns one of the Migs trying to slip past the screen but the others Return two of the bombers. The Interceptors eliminate two of the Laggs who fail to cause any damage but the plucky I-16 aborts a Messerschmitt and lives to tell the tale.

All the bombers avoid the RF’s AA fire and obtain 2 hits more than enough to sink the shipping. Overall the mission is designated a success and contributes to the elimination of the defenders in the ensuing assault..

Battle Report
Combats:  Diced = 16, Auto elim = 2, Overruns = 4.’
Losses:  Soviet; Isolated = 37.   Un-isolated =  72 plus 1xRF
Finnish = 3