Even at the beginning of the turn it’s obvious the Allied player isn’t comfortable with the situation in the Cauldron battle zone. There are now no Allied air units based in Libya, neither at Tobruk nor the nearby Desert Cauldron (DC) at start airfields at 4818 or 5018, nor at the field at 0319 by Halfaya Pass. The three P-40Es, the P-40C, a Hurri 2C, and the DB7B are based at the DC at start fields at Sidi Barrani (0718) and the airfield at 0819 on the Tobruk-Matruh rail line. The Well 2, a Well 1C, and the Blftr 1C&1Fs are based at either Matruh (1318) or at one of the four other DC at start fields along the Matruh-Alexandria coast road/rail line. To the surprise of the Axis player, who has feared an Allied counter punch this turn, the Allied player does what might be called an “Auchinleck skedaddle” and scoots out most of his ground forces from Libya, save at Tobruk and the adjacent southern fort hex up the ridge at 4818. Inded, in the Allied initial phase the Axis player uses the two Ju87Ds and a SM79-2 for harassment to protect the southern flanks of the extended Axis desert front line “chicken neck” extending eastwards and ending just before the stony desert area to the south of Tobruk. During the Allied movement phase the three aforementioned Libyan airfields are removed from the map, leaving the vacant Tobruk airfield the only Allied one left in Libya. The Allied player later says the more he looked at the Axis forces’ strength, the more convinved he became that holding a desert front line in the Cauldron battle zone only invited heavy Axis attacks with probably at least fair odds each Axis turn.
A very large garrison is left at the improved fortress Tobruk which includes the 1st and 2nd SA inf XXs (both 7-8s), the Br 0-2-8 hv flk X, a pos flack unit, the 64RPC con X, a Br 6-4-6 arm X, two Br 3-8 art Xs, and four attack supply counters. The Tobruk hex and the adjacent ridge hex at 4818 essentially contain the red coats that were adjacent to Axis units with ZOCs and therefore couldn’t move out of Libya and were left behind “on their own.” I of course sang the appropriate stanzas of J. Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans,” but I assure pro-Allied Association members that I soon stopped after further analysis later on.
All is not bleak for the Allied player. In his initial phase the Desert Rat attack per Rule 37F gets a good die roll on the WW success table and inflicts a hit on the unguarded at start Axis airfield at 4218 (just east of Derna) which also aborts a Me109F there. In the exploitation phase the Allied player sends a Wellingtion and all three A-30s (at extended range) to the Erakleion airfield on Crete and gets a hit, also aborting a SM79-2 based there. Wellingtons also score a strat bombing hit on the important Axis port at Derna and jack its port hits up to 2, on top of the game’s at start 1 hit per the DC set-up.
In the initial phase the Axis player spends one ARP to rebuild the Me109F aborted last turn. He uses a rigid priority schedule where good fighters are almost always brought back first, then later bombers. At the game’s DC start both the Germans and Italians had 6 ARPs. Now they’re down to 2 Ger ARPs and 3 It ARPs. If at all possible, both will retain at least one ARP up to the next Jul I 42 air cycle so as to have an initial ARP total of 9 and thereby each be entitled to spend up to 3 ARPs per axis initial phase in the subsequent air cycle turns. This turn in the desert zone the Axis has three Me109F3s, two MC202s, the RE2001CB, two Ju87Ds, a Me110D&F, a MC200, three Ju88A4s, a CR42AS, and a MC200. Based at Tripoli are the BR20M and a He 111H, and at Crete are a SM79-2 and a G50bis. The Axis aborted and eliminated air boxes are chock full of smashed up Axis air units, whereas the Allied air boxes have few damaged air units. This same trend was evident in the Crusader game played earlier.
Although still superficially on the offensive in the MTO, the Axis player inside feels the Allied player is in a strange way calling all the strategic shots in the theater. At Malta, with the arrival of the Spit 5s, the Axis air abandoned a continuation of the major air offensive there and instead reinforced the Afrika Korps air in the desert war zone. Faced with last turn’s Auchinleck skedaddle, the Axis player has no other choice but to hurl its strength against the “sacrificial lamb” stack at the fort hex 4818 south of Tobruk. Here stand the Br 50th 7-8 inf XX, a supported Ind 2-8 inf X, and a Br 3-8 art X. Although Tobruk and hex 4818 block any significant further Axis eastward penetration, the Allied player sends a large array of hasassment into the Tobruk vicinity. Still, it’s easy for the Axis player to surround the ill-fated Allied stack on five sides. The Allied harassment has only lessened the amount of available DAS that turn. The Axis player throws in a large amount of GS to jack up the attack odds, hoping thereby to avoid exchanges, and attacks with pretty much everything he’s got, except that he expends only two attack supply steps to give only 20 REs full attack strength in order to conserve attack supply in the face of increasing supply problems as the Malta status number gradually goes against Axis Central Med shipping. He wins big with a DE, giving the Axis renewed hope after the May II 42 Axis initial turn fisasco.
At Malta the BR20M and the He111H get lucky and score night strat bombing hits for the Malta Status, but the He111H is aborted upon landing after a night mission. Both fly back to Tripoli to be out of range of the Spits the Allied turn.