Narrative: The Destruction of Army Group Centre.
This turn sees the culmination of the Soviet Summer Offensive albeit extended through the autumn to winter. Meteorologist and the bunions of local babushkas both confirm that the dampening atmosphere signals the start of the deep Soviet winter and snows are expected by the middle of the month. Accordingly directives are sent to Army and Corps commanders to maximise the remaining period of hard frost and dry ground. They do so by concentrating on weaker sections of the Axis line and maximising odds at these critical points. In this they are aided by the fact that many frontline units are cardred and supported by battalion and regimental sized units lacking the ability to influence action outside their immediate frontage. The Soviet assaults are successful with only a minor setback to the south of the sector just north of Bryansk where a retreating stug unit occupies a swamp hex. Accumulated movement costs prevent overrun and force a detour of exploiting units with some gaps between the encircling forces. Elsewhere however the encirclement is made up of a solid line of tank and mechanised corps. In total a 200 mile breach is ripped in the Axis line! While the total losses suffered by the Axis the entire turn is limited to 65 points a full 111 factors of AGC units are encircled and isolated within the resulting pockets. With winter snows rapidly approaching the Soviets are confident that the Axis will not have the strength or mobility to break significant numbers out of the encirclement. (Only their own stretched supply lines may cause them to fail). By the end of the month they anticipate Army Group Centre will be eliminated as an effective fighting force. In this they will have achieved their objectives set at the beginning of the summer. They now occupy the line from Riga, Vitebsk, Smolensk, Bryansk, Orel, Kursk (Excepting the Axis counter move at Dougavpils). While they have not created any great encirclement, they have in the final months of the year demonstrated their mastery of Blitzkrieg, Soviet style. It is no longer a question of if, but when, they clear the Holy Motherland of the German jackboot.
Partisans: Partisans are directed to concentrate on airfield attacks this turn where possible. Two airfields are hit together with two rail cuts.
Finnish Front/Norway: A single attack is launched against the units fleeing south towards Tana. A penal and ski battalion are eliminated.
Leningrad front: A rebuilt mech and tank corps together with mortar support rail south from the Leningrad factories and eliminate the German air bridge at Tartu.
To the south the German bridgehead over the Divina is engulfed by infantry and support troops moving West and those in the Riga entrapment holding firm but no attacks are made against the bridgehead.
In the Vitebsk Sector the Soviets conquer the city by direct assault against a Security division and anti-tank unit which remain as token resistance the main defenders having pulled back south. The bridgehead is enlarged to the west by direct assault over the river against an infantry division and anti-tank unit holding a forest hex. An exploitation move to overrun the resulting cadre is declined due to lack of second echelon forces to reinforce the bridgehead.
Further East the small isolated pocket of a Panzer cadre and mobile artillery is left in the besieged state and not assaulted; instead mobile forces concentrate on attacking south towards Smolensk. The outer fort held by a 5-6 infantry division is captured, the division retreats west to avoid encirclement and in doing so opens the city to overrun in exploitation when a Police unit is crushed. Only the lack of pontoon bridges prevents the Soviet Mech corps from moving south of the river. However recon report a junction with Moscow front tank units moving from the south completing the encirclement of enemy units to the East of Smolensk.
Moscow front: In a series of concentrated attacks against weak spots in the German line strung out between Smolensk and Bryansk the Soviets fragment the defenders into a number of sections. Exploitation units move behind the un-attacked sectors of the line ensuring their isolation. Meanwhile powerful forces moving from the Bryansk bridgehead drive west along rail line encountering only a few scattered security regiments en-route.
South of Bryansk an infantry division caught east of the river is carded.
Stalingrad front: Two attacks mounted immediately southwest of Kursk eliminate two more forts.
Further south the continuing mud and resulting supply difficulties make any form of offensive impossible with large sections of the Soviet front at U3.
To the south of the Don preparations are started for a combined air and naval operation against the Crimea. Capital ships, River Flotillas, Parachute troops and air transports are assembled. Mid-range Assault bombers fill newly constructed airfields to prepare to aid the assault and harass the defenders while long range bombers transfer to Stalingrad to initiate deep raids into the rear to disrupt rail nets. On the Kuban peninsular ground troops are railed forward to follow up on the assault.
Air combat: Only one of the Soviet attacks requires any air support and the Soviets provide more assault bombers than Axis interceptors in range so the Axis forces decide not to engage. There are the usual series of exchanges along the front but most result are Aborts and a number of aircraft on both sides return to base injured. Losses overall on light with two Soviets and one Ju88C eliminated. The Luftwaffe however suffer two further losses on the ground; a transport/glider combination eliminated at Tartu and an Aborted Me109G by a bombing raid in the Kursk sector.
Attacks: Auto = 1 (Tartu), Diced = 14
Losses: Soviets = 11, Air =2
Axis: Forts= 13 (abandoned 9, captured 4), German: Isolated = 7, Un-isolated = 65, Pos AA = 4; Air = 3 (2 on ground)
Loss Ratio Axis/Soviet for Dec I ’43 = 72/80 = 0.9