INSURGENT MAY I TURN
With order completely restored in Madrid, General Franco triumphantly entered the traditional capital and established himself and his government in the largely undestroyed palaces in the western part of the city overlooking the Manzanares river.
The Nationalist steamroller continued on in Aragon. With concentration of force and under fighter cover to fend of Republican ground-support aircraft, Franco’s troops gained a bridgehead over the Cinca river north of Barbastro and reached the Catalan border. Although badly outnumbered, the Loyalists managed to retreat in good order. Also, the Nationalist attackers now face difficult terrain on their way to Lerida, supposedly their next objective.
At the extreme other end of the front, Nationalist forces took to the offensive at the Mediterranean coast east of Lorca. Thanks to massive gunfire support by the Italian Regia Marina, the second blatant intervention by Mussolini in this civil war, they broke into the heavily fortified Loyalists positions and made headway toward Catagena. The Italian fleet then broke up into three squadrons to blockade all the Loyalist port including Mahon on Minorca.
All other front sectors remained quiet. The Zaragoza airport has now been upgraded to a major base, well protected by AA batteries and within bomber and ground-attack aircraft range of juicy targets in Barcelona and Valencia. Nationalist, volunteer Italian, and Kondor Legion wings continued their raids, but now against stiffened anti-aircraft defenses. Targets were industrial installations and airfields in the Barcelona area, rail lines in Cataluna, and the port of Valencia. However, the results of this massive effort were very disappointing as no damage to speak of was done.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist merchant fleet kept busy as usual trans-shipping imports from Galician ports to Bilbao and S.Sebastian. Also, making good use of protection provided by the Regia Marina, transports ferried troops from Palm di Mallorca to Aguilas.
LOYALIST MAY I TURN
The revolt in Cataluna turned out more bark than bite. Guadia Civil moved into northeastern Barcelona to root out last die-hard POUMists. While the city is still under martial law, the Army barracks are firmly in Republican hands, so that new units can be outfitted without delay. Catalans and Anarchists are holding their peace and continue to flock to the recruiting stations.
The blockade by the Italian Navy proved only partially effective. Some ships with contraband (artillery pieces, tanks) from the Soviet Union were seized, some others met with mysterious mishaps, but many still got through to Barcelona, notably including a three freighters carrying new aircraft.
Despite the revolt in Barcelona and a shrunken population base (less than 20% of the country still held), the Loylists managed to field another seven new infantry divisions and four brigades, thanks in good part to Soviet arms deliveries. The new troops were rushed to the front in Aragon, now bristling with heavily manned entrenchments (15-16 CF per stack).
At the Mediterranan coast the People’s Army began to dig in under the umbrella of the heavy guns of the Fleet, which is still riding anchor at Cartagena.
The Airfirce abandoned its forward bases and concentrated fighters to protect Barcelona and Madrid from renewed Nationalist raids. Po-540 and new SB-2 bombers attacked rail yards in Madrid, doing a better job than their Nationalist counterparts in Barcelona and Valencia.
This is a trying time for the Nationalists. Massive reinforcements have enabled the Loyalists to strengthen their front to an extent that World-War-One trench warfare has developed. The Nationalist have numerical superiority, better units, no manpower shortage (empty pool and 80+ InfRpl accumulated), but shortage of artillery and supply severely limit offensive power. Even if they can assemble more “killer stacks,” there is little they can do with them for lack of attack supply. At this stage, the name of the game is attrition, and attrition does not become an effective weapon until the reinforcement and replacement rates start to dwindle. To add insult to injury, the Loyalists to date have been remarkably successful in avoiding losses (DR results one 1/3 chances).
The lopsided Loyalist reinforcement and ArtRpl rates for spring of 1937 probably reflect history pretty well as this was a time when the reorganization of the military bore some fruit. However, the Loyalists at that time still held Madrid, Bilbao, and a much larger portion of Spain than in our game. Whether they could have fielded so many new divisions when commanding only Cataluna, Valencia, Murcia, a small and scarcely populated part of Aragon, and a sliver of Castilla Nueva is open to question. Perhaps more of the reinforcements (of both sides!) should be listed as arriving in specific cities, so they’d be lost if the respective city is enemy-owned. But this is a delicate design problem: too much of it could destabilize the game, magnifying too strongly a small advantage once gained by either side.