INSURGENT MAR II 1938
The Azores high has move on and warm air has invaded Spain in its wake. Melting snow has produced a sea of mud in the north, but the south is enjoying dry, spring-like weather.
In Aragon, an impatient Nationalist command insisted on continuing the Ebro offensive despite poor ground conditions. Starting out from Escatron and Hijar (13:3232 and 3233) the tired troops trudged forward through slush and sleet and gained ground toward Alcaniz (3432), presumably their next major objective. However, once again the Loyalists were able to fall back in good order.
In clear skies overhead, the battle royal continued. For the first time some Me-109s bit the dust, but not before having taken three times their number of Ratas with them (1K and 1A versus 1A). The 109s kept Loyalist ground support aircraft away, but could not fully protect their brethren: some obsolescent He-45s fell to the Ratas.
Meanwhile, the Barcelona red-eye continued: Savoia-Marchetti night bombers kept attacking, but not to much effect. A different story at Valencia: Here, Heinkel-111s caused additional damage to factories while fighters and light bombers savaged the airbase, destroying the two squadrons of hated SB-2s on the ground, at the loss of some hapless Italian Fiats to the ever sharp AA gunners.
Except for these hotspots, all fronts remained quiet.
LOYALIST MAR II 1938
Concerned about the worsening supply situation at their front east of Teruel, the Loyalists pulled back from their entrenched positions in the Alfambra valley (23:3303), el Pobo mountains, and foothills of the Sierra de la Canada (23:3302 to 13:3334). Even so, logistics remained a nightmare and mule trains were mobilized to get at least a modicum of supplies forward to the troops (attack supply converted to general supply and brought forward with SMPs).
Some troops freed by the shortening of the front near Teruel were transferred to Aragon. Otherwise no significant activities.
While the Me-109s still licked their wounds, new Ratas were got operational and attacked the air strip at Monreal in the Jiroka valley (23:3103), forcing Fiats to scramble, but doing no harm to ground installations. R-Z attack bombers did better, damaging the railway station at Cuenca.
The Ebro winter offensive so far has produced a tidy gain of territory (14 hexes), close to 14% of still Loyalist-controlled Spain and reducing that hold to barely more than 10% of the countries total. However, it has fallen short of reaching its greater objective: to inflict crippling losses. (In the eight “big” attacks in Aragon since November, with on the average a better than 50& chance of causing casualties, only two did so.) As a result, the Loyalists are now stronger than at any time since the collapse of the Murcia pocket. Moreover, a grand wave of reinforcements will become available starting early April (thirteen infantry divisions, a handful of brigades, ample artillery and armor points). The Insurgents will have a hard nut to crack! On the other hand, by now the Loyalists between Teruel and the Ebro almost have their backs against the wall, with only one mountain range between the current front and the sea. A further Insurgent advance of 80 km would split Valencia from Barcelona. If despite more difficult terrain Franco’s troops do better in summer than they did in winter, the Loyalist cause is apt to become critical.
The last few weeks have seen more activity in the air than at any time before. Losses have been heavy on both sides and about evenly distributed. However, having entered this round with inferior numbers (though with better fighters), the Loyalists can less afford the losses. They are now down to two squadrons of Ratas and one of R-Z fighter bombers while the Insurgents, in addition to two squadrons of Fiats, still have six of heavy and light bombers.