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Europa Games and Military History

Category: SE AAR No 1 (page 3 of 8)

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

1942 MAY II Soviet Turn

“Take the baby! Please! Take my little ditya!” the mother screams to the naval orderly. Reluctantly he agrees. “Ok! Quickly!”  Just then a shell lands close by sending a spray of water over sailor, mother, baby and the large rowboat already overladen with waiting, screaming and weeping  civilians and military alike. “Leave it”! Shouts one “We can’t wait, let’s get going all we’ll all die!“. “Thr ow him to me!” shouts the sailor as the boat starts to move off.

Out of sheer desperation the mother flings the wriggling, wailing bundle the last few feet as the boat is pushed off from its moorings. More shells land one just missing the boat which rocks and takes on some water. Furiously many hands start bailing and the lumbering boat inchers away from the wharf and slowly moves to the waiting destroyer in the bay. The mother turns, her job done, and runs for the cover of a nearby shop front long denuded of glass or produce. As she does so a cry goes up from the others crowding on the embankment. The Rumanians are coming! Run!!. Some jump, fall or are pushed into the rough seas of the bay and some hide behind what cover they can find but most flee inwards towards the mother’s hiding place and others like it. Seconds later solders burst from a side street shooting at the few remaining naval troops along the embankment. They return fire. Anyone, military or civilian, unlucky enough to be still standing in the open is cut down in the exchange. More shells explode in and around the wharf. From the relative safety of the shop front the mother sees the boat containing its precious cargo reach the larger ship which is already at full steam ready to depart. Just then a screech from above heralds the arrival of enemy aircraft and bombs fall adding to the carnage. Thankfully most drop wide of their mark and the destroyer is untouched. The last image burned into the mother’s eyes is that of a small bundle being thrown to waiting arms aboard the big ship and it turning out to sea. She drops her head and mutters a secret prayer for the safety of her little one.

Odessa has fallen.

Finish Front: In the centre the impudent German Ski unit which caused the loss of the rail gun has the favour returned.

In the south the failure of the Finish attack is taken as a reprieve and defences strengthened.

'42 May II: Frontlines in the Arctic before the Axis summer offensive

’42 May II: Frontlines in the Arctic before the Axis summer offensive

Leningrad Front: The attempt to liberate the spearhead is abandoned and troops fall back to the pre-winter fort line.  The spearhead forces themselves however are not content to go without a fight and attack a second line infantry division but can only retreat the defender.

The assault out of Narva continues towards Tallinn against a security division which the Germans had thrown into the line but air cover out of Riga allows this unit to retreat without loss.

North of the Valdai there are signs that the rout is slowing as fresh troops move into the area solidifying the defences.

'42 May II: Soviet breakout attempt south of Leningrad

’42 May II: Soviet breakout attempt south of Leningrad

Moscow Front:  The German bridgehead is contained but no attempt is made to counter attack it.  The west bank of the upper Volga begins to be evacuated.

Voronezh Front: Most of the 1st Shock Army is now back to the fortified line. Some stragglers remain and are given DAS to cover their retreat but hopes for their survival are low.

Rostov Front (AKA Crimea & Odessa).  With the fall of Odessa the Black Sea fleet and remaining air transports are withdrawn. The ground troops on this front continue to prepare their defence and await the Axis next move with bated breath.

'42 May II: Rostov awaits the Axis assault

’42 May II: Rostov awaits the Axis assault

Partisans: Get a special mention this turn for a series of raids across the occupied territories resulting in  a total of 5 rail breaks.

Air War: A few raids are made to disrupt Axis rail connections around their jump off points but most success is made in Estonia, breaking the rail line to Tallinn in two places to hinder any Axis counter strike against the Narva operation.

Battle Report:
Diced Attacks = 2;
Auto Attacks = 1
Losses;   German = 1

1942 MAY II Axis Turn

The Soviet meteorological office reports the winter of 41/42 to be the wettest on record with heavy rains persisting to the end of May making movement almost impossible across the vast bulk of the country. Perversely both sides welcome the deferment of the summer campaigning season.

For the Axis while in the South the motorised forces are in place much of the infantry is still tied up in the pursuit of the retreating 1st Shock Army and the Rumanians have an entire army still engaged at Odessa. Artillery assets are very sparse and will be useful in any breach of the Soviets river defences.

North of Moscow in the Kalinin bulge while pre-invasion preparations are continuing in widening the breach and clearing the west bank of the upper Volga troop levels are still short of those required to consider a major offensive. In part this is due to the diversion of troops eliminating the Soviet spearhead south of Leningrad. This work will require at least another month before significant forces can be transferred to the Kalinin area for Operation Fleischwolf.

For the Soviets every month is an opportunity to build their second defence line both from 1st Shock army transfers and newly arriving troops and reinforcements. The 8 Tank Corps received earlier in the month being a good example.

'42 May II: Frontlines before the Axis summer offensive

’42 May II: Frontlines before the Axis summer offensive

Weather: No Change!  A= S, B = M, C = M,  D = C, G = C

Finland & Army of Norway. Ground troops continue to push south from Murmansk while Luftwaffe squadrons launch an operation against an aborted P40E at a local base sending it straight to the remnants pile.

In the centre a lone German ski battalion takes advantage of a Soviet error and slips through the lines destroying a naval rail gun unit which has been left unguarded.

In the south the Fins try to push forward on a one hex front but retreat in the face of Soviet resistance and air cover. A full strength German panzer division arrives in theatre but is detrained too far away from the action to engage this turn.

May II '42: The Axis advances south of Leningrad, pocketing isolated Soviet units

May II ’42: The Axis advances south of Leningrad, pocketing isolated Soviet units

AGN: The forces south of Leningrad continue to push north ignoring the trapped soviet spearhead and strengthening the barrier between it and the Soviet front lines, The pocket contains 1x Guards Infantry, 1x Guards cavalry, 1x Regular infantry, 1x Naval rifle brigade, 3X Katyushas and 3x Artillery.

In the Valdai/Kalinin sector pursuit operations continue against the retreating Soviet defenders and newly arriving Soviet reinforcements alike. Operations continue by motorised elements to clear the west bank of the river north of Moscow. Rail conversion and truck transports will place the whole area in full supply by mid-month.

The general in charge of the breakout from the Volga canal bridgehead adjacent the NE Moscow hex takes the initiative and attacks the Soviet fortified line to the north in order to widen the bridgehead. He is granted, air support which damages but does not eliminate the supporting river flotilla. Under pressure of the attack the defenders abandon their fortified line but retreat in good order.

May II ’42: The Axis moves to attack Kalinin.

AGC: The forces shift infantry and motorised assets out of theatre and move to a defensive stance.

At the south of the sector some pursuit of the retreating 1st Shock army eliminates more troops struggling to return to their fortified lines through the mud.

AGS: Forces continue to build around the proposed jump-off point north of Kharkov. The scarcity of artillery assets has necessitated a shift in the penetration of the soviet MLR north of the original planned assault point to avoid river lines. This also allows infantry moving south to be in place in time for good weather.

11th Army and Odessa: The arrival of German railway guns allows the primarily Rumanian assault to go ahead irrespective of the Soviet Supply situation. The city is stormed and the attack result is a ½ EX bringing the 250 day siege to an end.

Kerch is taken by a mixed Axis assault – no current plans call for 11th Army to cross the straights which the Soviets have now fortified.

Air War:

In the south in preparation of the offensive and to support the deception that Operation Angelhanken is the main effort a massive area bombardment of the rail network is undertaken to isolate the proposed attack point from reinforcements. 5 hits are achieved for the loss of one Hungarian J88A

In the north a similar operation east of Leningrad goes awry as fierce fighter opposition downs 3 German aircraft for a single abort and fails to inflict a single hit on the rail net.

In the Centre a dive bomber assault escorted by fighters from the Moscow air defence force eliminates 3 of the 4 soviet interceptors in exchange for one abort but inaccurate bombing fails to eliminate the River flotilla target.

Battle Report
Diced Attacks = 13 Automatic = 2
Losses; Soviets; Isolated = 19,   Un-isolated = 36
Rumanian = 10

1942 MAY I Soviet Turn

Gregor raced towards the hedge line, his breathing heavy with exertion and his feet heavy with the cloying mud which seemed to pervade the whole landscape. He heard the whine of bullets pass his ear and instinctively dodged sideways.  His blue tunic was brown from the waist down, a sorry sight and not as it should be. He was part of a marine regiment and had spent the first part of the war in his home town of Leningrad. He was born there although in those days it was called St Petersburg. He had survived the revolution and the purges and the first few months of the war spent on board ship.  His father had been a stoker for the Imperial fleet so it was natural that he and his twin brother Prokhor would join up as soon as they were of age. Prokhor had been sent north to the Artic squadron and seemed to have got the better part of it but Gregor had heard nothing from him now for 3 months and the news from Murmansk was not good. He hoped his brother had somehow found safety but each day without news increased his fear that this might not be so. 

For his own part after the fleet was bottled up in Kronshtadt a call had gone out for volunteers for a territorial unit so he had joined up for some of the action and now found himself in the thick of things. Last time he has passed this way he had been moving south over clean crisp snow and they had swept the fascist invaders from their path. But shortly afterwards things started to go awry and now they were fighting for their very existence.  

His blood pounding in his ears as loud as the artillery shells pounding the earth ahead he raced towards the enemy position. A figure in dark green/grey appeared before him. Gregor squeezed the trigger and let out a burst from his sub machine gun which spluttered to empty after a dozen rounds. Luckily it was enough as the enemy fell backward. He burst through the hedge and into the ditch behind. Sensing rather than seeing a figure to his right he swung his now empty weapon around, butt extended. Catching the enemy combatant off guard the butt contacted hard against steel and flesh. The “coal scuttle” arched into the air as the adversary fell backwards with a groan. Gregor pinned him with his boot and grabbing the enemy’s machine pistol. He pulled it upwards; the force of his action dislocating the enemy’s shoulder as the strap was freed from its hapless former owner. Fumbling with the unfamiliar mechanism he swung right and sprayed the third occupant of the ditch. This fellow had been so intent in defending against Gregor’s comrades racing towards him that the savage scene to his right had gone unnoticed and he offered no resistance.

Not stopping, fuelled by desperation and adrenalin Gregor sprung out of the ditch and pressed onwards towards the next ridge line. A group of soldiers were racing towards him. He raised his newly acquired machine-pistol and aimed to fire a burst at the oncoming figures “Nyet comrade, Nyet!! – -they were Russians!!. He crumpled before then the sudden relief draining his ability and will to go further. He was saved, he was safe – for now at least…..

(Note: The stories normally provide a narrative to support a game event such as the Soviet spearhead breaking back to Soviet lines south of Leningrad,. In this case I wrote the story before the die roll and the Soviets rolled a 1! (4:1 attack) and thus failed to achieve the breakout. So a bit of artistic licence here. Let us just suppose Gregor’s unit found a weak spot in the German lines and slipped through before the ring was fully sealed)

 

MAY I '42: Failed breakout of encircled Soviet troops in the North

MAY I ’42: Failed breakout of encircled Soviet troops in the North

Finish Front: At Murmansk the inadequate Soviet forces can only hold their ground in front of the wall of now fully supplied German mountain divisions. In the centre however the attacks are pressed forward eliminating a Finish regiment and the advance reaches the pre-invasion border.

Around the southern lakes the Soviets consider their options but decide to take a defensive stance aided by air support from Leningrad.

Leningrad Front: The Soviet advance West from Narva continues attempting to draw off troops from the south as much as for any territorial advantage. The attacks cadre a German light division.

South of Leningrad the desperate isolated spearhead attempts a breakout, aided both by troops fleeing from the west and by new arrivals. The attack stalls against the German infantry division which holds firm.

The breach north of Kalinin now stretching to the Valdai continues to be a widening sore as troops rush south from Leningrad and others pull back to try and seal the breach.

Moscow Front: The troops west of the upper Volga cling onto the West bank while reinforcement and fortification of the East bank continues. Fresh troops are railed north of the German advance to occupy the region’s swamps and forests.

Tula’s defensive works continue to be strengthened.

May I 42: Sourthern Front reinforces its defensive lines

May I 42: Sourthern Front reinforces its defensive lines

Voronezh Front: The main Soviet attack force struggles to disengage. Harried by Axis patrols and probing attacks they can only withdraw at the speed of their lumbering artillery and rocket units; no more than one hex in most cases. This hinders the more mobile motorized units which are tasked to cover the retreat of their slower comrades.

Rostov Front (AKA Crimea & Odessa) A secondary line comprised of individual forts and mech stacks built around the newly formed tank corps take up position to the east of the fortified MLR providing depth to the defence,

The loss of the isthmus fort west of Kerch leaves the defenders no choice but to retreat. Those which can move to the safety of the east bank of the straights. A lone infantry brigade stays as a rear guard in the city.

Air War. Much airpower is devoted to DAS this turn. Long range bombers carry out a number of deep raids into the Axis rear with no effect. Unfortunately the retreat from Kerch exposes an aborted Transport aircraft left in the city. As a result of steady losses to the transport fleet the VVS decides to remove them from harm leaving Odessa to be supplied by the Black Sea Fleet once again.

Combat Report:
Attacks Diced = 4.
Losses:   German = 4,    Fins = 1

 

1942 MAY I Axis Turn

The Axis use the lull to examine their options for the upcoming summer offensive. A number of options are considered:

A Northern Offensive – Primary Aim – to shorten the front and gain full Finish involvement in the East.
This offensive essentially aims to cut off Leningrad as far East as possible by driving North from the Kalinin bulge. In association with this will be a general drive north via the direct route pushing back the Soviet gains south of Leningrad. In the meantime maximum assistance will be given to Finland. This offensive gains little in Resource reduction (3 points for Leningrad but will dislocate the factory) or inflict massive manpower losses but it will considerably shorten the line allowing greater defensive concentrations for the future. The disadvantage of this plan is that there is tough terrain and the main German advantages of mobility and armoured strike power is minimised. Another factor in this plans favour is that the bulk of the Soviet army is far to the south.

A North/Central Offensive: Primary Aim: To take Moscow, Tula and Gorky and eliminate a significant part of the Soviet army in the process.
This is primarily an extension of the 1941 assault and aims to encircle Moscow. Again a drive from the Kalinin bulge but due East then curving south via Ivanavo to Gorky. A second pincer driving from Orel will drive behind Tula and north to meet the northern hook. This aims to maximise Russian losses and will reduce Soviet production by 7 points.

The advantage of this plan is the relatively small geographical area and the fact that the northern flank is screened by impenetrable terrain making a Soviet counter strike unlikely from this direction. The disadvantage is the vast Soviet assault army is to the south which will no doubt move to eliminate the southern pincer.

A South/Central Offensive: This offensives only aim is to eliminate the large body of Soviet Assault troops to the West of Voronezh. This would be a limited positioning offensive with one pincer driving south of Orel and one north from Kharkov. The aim to eliminate as many Soviet troops as possible, The advantage is that this is prime tank country with  lots of rail lines for supply few natural defensive terrain features other than some minor river lines. The advantage is that the Soviets have no offensive concentrations to the south so this flank would be secure, conversely though the northern drive with its flank hard against Tula could suffer attacks from the north and Voronezh in the centre is well defended and fortified. This offensive gains one IRP reduction only.

A Southern Offensive This plan is for a strong mobile force to strike from Kharkov with two divergent thrusts. One aiming at Astrakhans via Stalingrad to secure the city and the flank of the main drive south to Rostov and the Caucuses. The advantage is that his offensive is against the weakest part of the Soviet line and the short hook to Rostov would pocket Stalino and the southernmost part of the soviet fortified line relatively easily. The main drive could capture or eliminate/disrupt 2 factories, the Baku production and 7 or more IRP centres.

The disadvantage of this plan is the vast amount of territory and the fact that the van guard will inevitably plunge out of supply. As with the central plan another disadvantage is the currently unemployed large Soviet assault army which lies to the immediate north which will harry and threaten the long exposed northern flank of this attack.

The Final Plan: Some combination plans are discussed such as a Central/South combination but this is discounted as too ambitious. After much debate Hitler and his General staff agree that Leningrad is to be the key. However there will be some variations and additions to the plan above. The Kalinin drive will strike east to capture the rail triangle with its apexes at Ivanovo, Kostroma and Vologda. This eliminates any help from the east and does not rely on the Finns capturing and holding the line south from Archangelsk north of Lake Ladoga. The single hex bridgehead over the northern Volga adjacent to the NE Moscow hex will try a direct assault to supplement this drive. The offensive will be made in association with a general push north in particular along the direct route from Veliki Luki aiming to reverse the Soviet gains south of Leningrad and taking advantage of the current dislocation caused by their own failed offensive. This drive will be infantry/artillery lead with some panzer support. Code name Operation Fleischwolf. (Meat grinder)

In order to mislead the Soviets as to the true intent of the summer offensive a second drive employing the panzers will be aimed at Rostov in the south. This is essentially the “small hook” part of the Southern Plan aiming to secure Rostov and the Don bend as a defensive line while capturing Stalino and eliminating the Soviet line south to the sea. This will launch some weeks ahead of the Northern push in the hopes of drawing the Soviet central army south. Code name Operation Angelhaken (Fish hook)

Pre-offensive moves. To prepare for the return of clear weather the central Axis forces will pursue the retreating Soviet army and keep in contact with it to reduce its mobility. This will however be an infantry pursuit allowing the mobile forces to move south to take up their pre-assault positions around Kharkov.

At Moscow infantry and defensive artillery will replace the panzers in the city while the panzers will occupy the important bridgehead east of the Volga adjacent to the NE Moscow hex. The west bank of the upper Volga north of the lakes will be cleared.

To minimise interference the Finns will be reinforced with a full strength Panzer division and tasked to sever the line south from Archangelsk.

North of Kalinin the rail line from the Valdai will be secured (and converted) and the infantry drive directly north reinforced to interdict or capture the East-West between Leningrad and Vologda.

To support the 1942 summer offensive plan the army boundary between AGN and AGC is moved south so that the whole northern pincer is under unified control. The new boundary is set at the centre of Moscow. Similarly AGCs control span moves to just north of Kharkov.

This turn:

Weather –No Change Snow in the Arctic zone, mud in B & C, clear elsewhere.

Finland & Army of Norway. A three hex assault against a key soviet fort south of Murmansk is successful allowing a Mtn division to advance and widen the route to Norway which had been constrained to a one hex wide corridor.

In the south the main assault is losing steam against a stiffening defence but manages to remove an infantry brigade from the northern flank of the advance.

AGN: AGN moves into offensive mode attempting to capitalize on the tentative encirclement of the Soviet spearhead south of Leningrad. 3 panzer divisions with support troops, mountain, light and infantry divisions launch a pincer move and succeed in trapping the two remaining Soviet assault stacks.  A third attack in this sector eliminates a 3-6 infantry retreating east from the Soviets moves towards Riga.

North of Kalinin the German forces continue to roll up the soviet flank north of the Valdai and the German forces consolidate their hold on the East – West rail line easing the stretched supply line serving the thrust.

May I '42: Heavy fighting along the shoulders of the Kalinin bulge

May I ’42: Heavy fighting along the shoulders of the Kalinin bulge

The Germans also begin the pre-offensive moves to clear the west banks of the upper Volga and start to replace infantry defenders with panzers in the eastern bridgehead over the canal adjacent to Moscow.

AGC: Around Orel/Tula the line thins as motorized assets are withdrawn to prepare for the summer offensive.  Further south in the Kursk sector AGC pursues the retreating Soviet Ist Shock Army and eliminates 2.5 stacks of units in 3 assaults trapping another by infantry advances. Kursk is taken against light opposition as the soviet forces abandon their hard won gains of the last 3 months.

AGS:  Preparations are made to prepare rail lines prior to the launch of the summer offensive and to receive mechanised assets transferring in from AGC.

May I '42: Local Attacks by the Axis in the Central Sector

May I ’42: Local Attacks by the Axis in the Central Sector

11th Army & Odessa Rail conversion reaches the outskirts of the city and the German siege assault train (Literally because composed primarily of rail guns including a new supper massive gun) arrives and prepares to aid the demoralized Rumanians

Although low odds against some tank support the Axis strike at the Soviet defenders at the neck of the isthmus and obtain a HX result and advance into the neck.

Air War. In the north rail strikes obtain hits against two of the lines radiating from Leningrad to hinder reinforcements to the soviet front line.

Central units are also tasked with starting to break up the soviet rail net around the proposed breakout point in the south. (Just north of Kharkov.

In the south the appearance of the Black Sea fleet temps the Luftwaffe against all past experience to try and sink the two CAs ferrying supplies to Odessa. All attempts fail and the ship remain intact. However some compensation is given in the form of two downed soviet fighters from the Odessa defence squadron.

Long range fighters again try to eliminate the soviet Air Transports at Kerch but are beaten back by Soviet fighters and AA one German aircraft is eliminated.

Battle Report
Attacks:    Diced = 11;   Auto elim = 4
Losses:    Soviets = 82   German = 5, Rum = 3

1942 APR II Soviet Turn

The failure to inflict any casualties on the main front last turn, the potentially disastrous isolation of the Leningrad spearhead and the melting snows convince STAVKA that it is time to call a halt to the Winter Counter Offensive.

The results are disappointing yet for a time were tantalisingly close to success. The capture of Bryansk was perhaps a pipe dream but certainly it was hoped that Kursk and Orel would both fall allowing two interlinked bulwarks to keep the Nazis at bay. With only Kursk at that right in the front line the plan fails and so the whole line is ordered to disengage.

South of Leningrad the drive south just failed to reach the vital Moscow Road which would have caused a lot of problems for the Axis if it would have been taken.

In this secondary drive south from Leningrad the offensive is over due to enemy action and the initiative is lost. The spearhead moves to extract itself without combat while relief reinforcements move south to aid safe passage but constant harassment from the air prevents any direct intervention.

The Soviets review their options for the coming year.

Their plan is defensive and by nature must therefore be reactionary. However a defensive plan is to be put in place to limit and contain Axis aggression.

The Soviets have maintained throughout the winter a fortified defensive line stretching now from Mariopol on the Sea of Azov to the Volga Canal north of Moscow where it joins the swamps. There is a small E-W section north of the Valdai and then the line is solid from Dno to Pskov where the lakes mark the front line north to Narva.  Planned extensions are to place a fortified ring around Tula which with the remaining Moscow hexes will form a defensive hub. The line is manned with a minimum of 7 points throughout its length.  The Soviet plan calls for the withdrawing attack elements to leapfrog the line and take up interlocking islands of resistance to the east of it. Infantry will form a continuously ZOCed second line with islands of resistance at strategic rail hubs and river crossings.  Motorised elements with Katyusha support will form Kill Squads to isolate and eliminate any Axis penetrations of the line (that is the theory anyway).

The continuing resistance of the Hero City Odessa is one of the great successes of the war and it is hoped that the city will continue to defy the Fascists particularly as it is tying up an entire Rumanian army.

The tactics in north of Moscow on the Leningrad front are constrained by terrain so here massed infantry with AT and tank battalion support will form defensive lines and protect open avenues and river crossings. Fortification is continuing in the area.

In Finland the Finish advance is of some concern and will need to be met with greater force than has so far been spared, The Soviets still maintain the belief that if Finland can be knocked out of the war by a strong attack into the country this will a great advantage and if possible this will be their aim for 1942.

Finnish Front: The Soviets leaguer outside the German lines at Murmansk and glare sullenly at the defensive ring around their city now firmly in German hands.

In the centre of the long line north they push back launching two assaults and while casualties are light they gain ground in both cases.

The main Finish assault is now within 30 miles of Petrozavodsk so reinforcements arrive and prepare to counter attack.

Action in the centre of the north Finland Front.

Action in the centre of the north Finland Front.

Leningrad Front: The isolated spearhead all momentum lost tries to exfiltrate back to home lines. Guards and an armoured xxx move south but are constantly harried from the air. The spearhead does link up back into supply but is not able to take any offensive action.

The troops further north moving west from Narva are only able to force a retreat from the defending German light division.

Further west troops slowly move south through the swamps to plug the gap north of Kalinin but the imminent loss of the vital junction in the forest there will enable German troops to gain full supply without having to rely on long truck columns but this is necessary to prevent the whole line being rolled up. A NKVD infantry division agrees to form the rear guard.

Moscow Front: The Volga canal is fortified and engineers put in place to extend a fortified ring around Tula.

Voronezh Front: The attack force is now reduced to a single line as the rear echelon over the last few months has been fed into the meat grinder. This pulls back as far as possible. Where it will not create holes in the line Katyusha brigades and mechanised troops pull back ahead of the infantry to take position behind the fortified MLR.

Crimea and Odessa; The Crimea offensive is called off and forces retreat to the narrow neck 80 miles west of Kerch.
The Black Sea Fleet is recalled to provide supplies and two CAs are dispatched with ammunition and food to the city of Odessa.

Air War:
A number of deep and medium raids aimed at Axis communication networks produce no meaningful results. The air bridge to Odessa meets more organised resistance than previously and only one transport makes it through although this is at the cost of a ME110c.

Battle Report
Attacks; Diced = 3

Losses: Soviets = None
German = 1,  Finish = 1

1942 APR II Axis Turn

Weather; The freak weather continues with snow returning to the Arctic zone but mud persists in B & C, clear further south.

Finland & Army of Norway. Little action as the German forces at Murmansk sit tight.  Transports arrive from Germany to supply the city ferrying in 20 REs; more than sufficient for the defenders. A fighter is transferred for defence should the Soviets try to interfere from the air.

North of Ladoga the Finns start up their attack again eliminating a 4-6 xx.

AGN: In their desperate attempt to sever the Moscow road the Soviets stripped the flanks of troops to bolster their main spearhead and obtain the force necessary to engage the panzer /Infantry stack reduced last turn. This left those flanks dangerously thin.

Choosing the moment to strike the German forces eliminate the weakest defensive stack and breakthrough to the Soviet rear cutting off the 4 stack spearhead. The containment is only by ZOC but will take any sting out of any subsequent Soviet attack. DAS is added to protect the breakout and masses of Harassment blankets the Soviet rear ensnaring the Guards infantry and Tank xxx rushing to the front.

Further east Axis forces take the all-important forested crossroads at the NE of the Valdai and put their front line in regular supply again allowing the truck support to begin the move east to Kalinin. Here the break is further widened but faces increasing opposition from Soviet reinforcements. Harassment is used here also to deny Soviet troops marching south from the E-W rail line the southernmost line of swamp hexes.

Axis counterstroke south of Leningrad

Axis counterstroke south of Leningrad

AGC: MOSCOW WEST IS CAPTURED!. Fanatical but isolated NKVD allow a rump to survive the initial assault but this is overrun in the exploitation phase. The capture of the hex is of great benefit freeing up the bulk of the city which will ease movement, allowing for example lower odds attack (no fear of retreat elimination) and will enable rail engineers to connect a number of converging lines.

AGS: Two attacks eliminate Soviet stacks at Orel and at Kursk which the Germans expect to be back in their hands with a month.

11th Army & the Crimea; The generous air supply lift and a lack of isolation eliminations make an assault on Odessa too risky. Rail engineers begin to convert lines to enable the German siege guns to get within range of the city to break the stalemate.

Due to the vagaries of the confluence of rail conversion, the weather-line and a carefully placed truck the Crimean forces will be in supply during the Soviet turn to resist any attack and will be ready to clear the rest of the Crimea next month.

Air War: Northern activity has been discussed above, in addition a fighter bomber raid on a river flotilla by Moscow scores a hit.

In the south massive raids are again directed at known Transport bases but only one unit (already previously aborted) is destroyed on the ground not diminishing at all the Soviet air lift capability.

Battle Report:
Attacks.   Diced = 7, Automatic = 2.
Losses: Soviet Isolated = 16 Non-isolated = 68
Axis = None.

1942 APR I Soviet Turn

The warming air and continuing precipitation turns the bulk of the battle field to mud effectively shutting down any major offensive but local attacks continue where sheer mass is sufficient to overcome opposition.

Finnish Front: The Soviet Murmansk relief column arrives to find the city has fallen and elite German mountain troops bar the railroad 16 miles south of the city. They muster their forces and prepare for a later assault.

Further south Soviet troops push towards Allakurtti eliminating two German Ski Battalions and Ukhta exchanging a bdr and regular regiment of Finns.

Leningrad Front: The Soviets continue the drive from Narva but the defenders pull back in good order, while  they pull back the Western advance from Pskov to consolidate earlier gains.

The main drive south takes advantage of the failure of the German counter attack and cadres a 16-10 Panzer and supporting infantry division in a 3 hex assault.

At Kalinin the eastern shoulder continues to firm up with a fortified defence east of the river and a screen east of it limiting German expansion. Fresh troops from the East arrive in force along the rail line to the north and prepare to march south through the swaps to set up a perimeter at the periphery. At the western end of the breach the out of supply former front line continues to inch back but maintain a large stack of mainly U2 units at the key forested crossroads at the NE of the Valdai.

Moscow Front: The isolated pocket survives the isolation roll and awaits the inevitable German assault while fortification continues east of the city.

Voronezh Front: More and more of the front line shuts down offensive operations and prepares for defence.  Around Orel two attacks result in a DR and NE signalling the effective end of the Soviet Winter Counteroffensive on this front.

Crimea and Odessa.  Odessa loses nothing from isolation. The attack from Kerch eliminates the German infantry cadre which has been retreating before it and an Italian division in a HX.

Air War. The VVS puts up lots of DAS and initiates a long medium range raid to Dnepropetrovsk aborting a Henkel on the ground.

Local fighter squadrons successfully protect the transport fleet eliminating a German twin engine fighter in the process and the transports deliver 6REs of supply to Odessa against German fighter opposition.

Battle Report:
Attacks Diced= 7
Losses Soviet = 20;
Germans = 17,
Italians = 4,
Fins = = 2

1941 Campaign Commentary

Both sides use the relief to review the current position against their plans for the campaign.

Axis

The Axis plan called for all forces to converge on Moscow with a view to surrounding the city and capturing this vital hub.

The Axis came very close to achieving this. The northern hook with the shortest route to the objective met the stiffest opposition but managed to batter through and gain a narrow corridor north of the city hooking around at the rear, The southern pincer marching in a wide arc against limited opposition cut through the Soviet front line and drove north in a wide sweep around the rear of Tula and came within a hex of contacting the northern forces.

For the briefest of moments Moscow was cut off but the rains came just one turn too early for the German panzers and the tanks mired, separated and unsupplied then needed to fight out for their survival and meeting a scratch relief force just south of the City escaped back to the western side of the strengthening Soviet MLR.

By the time the winter snows covered the ground the Axis forces were in control of 2 hexes of the city with a front extending from just West of Narva, around Pskov, up through the Valdai and around the west of Kalinin. From there protruding to two hexes over the upper Volga canal, and then straight south, east of Orel, Kursk, and Kharkov to the coast. At Mariupl. The Crimea was still in Soviet hands and Odessa remained defiant. All this had been achieved at very little cost with no eliminated divisions and only a handful of Stug and flack/Mot At units in the replacement pile and a good stock of accumulated RPs.

The Soviet Winter Counter Offensive changed that, The Axis were pushed back in the centre holding finally just west of Kursk and east of Orel. In the north the ignored Leningrad front exploded with a Soviet Offensive which has taken them to within a hex of the main arterial supply route to Moscow which even now is still in some danger. However the winter battles have not been all one sided and by sheer force of arms and good use of engineers and massed artillery the German forces at Moscow have captured 2 more hexes of the city and invested a third.

More spectacularly just north of the former capital an opportunistic attack at Kalinin taking advantage of the Soviet’s poor supply lines ripped open a breech which has allowed the Axis to move north some 100 miles and threaten Leningrad’s direct rail line to the East.
Despite these successes the Soviet offensive has taken its toll with 6 German infantry divisions in the Replacement pool and as many more cadred and with 4 panzer divisions similarly reduced. RPs are less than half their pre offensive levels and insufficient to replace more than 5 divisions total.

Results of Soviet Winter offensive

Results of Soviet Winter offensive

Soviet

The Soviet plan by its very nature was reactive but consisted of a series of defensive lines to be given up with increasing levels of resistance.
From the start the tactic of massing the armour behind the lines rather than dissipating it for AECD worked well and a rolling battle developed along the Moscow road which came close to preventing the German forces reaching the city. If the tankers has been positioned even further back it may have been possible to rescue even more of them for the defense but the large pocket east of Bialystok trapped too many..

Nevertheless although Soviet losses were high enough troops were saved and the forces held pretty much along the final planned MLR. The exception being the bulge north of Moscow and the loss of the city hexes themselves.
Odessa now given Hero city Status remains in Soviet hands but the easy collapse of Sevastopol marked a black point in the defense of the Crimea. The loss of Kalinin and the advances there however marked the major failure of the Soviet plan to hold the invader at bay along the originally planned stop line of the retreat.

The Soviet Offensive, The plan here was ambitious and while the initial shock gained some ground quickly the plan of reaching Bryansk proved far too ambitious. Ultimately local commanders were unwilling to sacrifice their scares mobile forces in exploitations and the attack was more of a slow grind. Still at this point the targeting of German mech forces and divisional grouping caused severe losses to the German side which they will struggle to make up in the short term.

The northern attack although smaller and on a narrower front gained great tracks of land initially and has come within a hex of cutting the main arterial route to Moscow, however this prize continues to elude the Soviets.
The Soviets successfully held the Finnish forces at bay in the south by the amazing exploits of the 10th Mech but neglected the north to their cost and the recent loss of Murmansk could have been avoided.

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