Narrative: Operation Neptune – A sailor’s tale
Dimitri walked up the gangplank through the apparent chaos of the quay at the bustling docks onto the destroyer waiting in the harbour. He was one of a vast throng of comrades moving onto naval ships and troop transports packed into the port. Kit bags slung across their shoulders and hunched forward against the weight of the bag and the upward slope of the gangplank they moved slowly towards the gently moving decks of their target ships.
Despite his heavy load Dimitri had a spring in his step; the waiting was finally over. Rumours were rife as to where the disembarkation point would be. Most thought the Crimea but some of the more imaginative considered a direct assault on Sevastopol may be planned and there was even one rumour that they were bound for Odessa, but Dimitri dismissed these as far too fanciful. His money was on Kerch.
He was a trained marine having this initially been stationed in Leningrad for most of ’42. When the manpower shortage forced his unit into a frontline combat role they were transferred to Tula. The following eight months they had been marching west in fits and starts and had seen some direct action. He was proud to say that his unit had performed well under fire and having maintained cohesion was still close to its paper strength.
Then two months ago they had been pulled out of the line and transferred south by rail. Most places they passed were unknown to him although Stalingrad was a name he recognised. They continued south and west to the Black Sea coast where they were put into intense retraining as a Marine Assault unit. They practised landing craft drill, beach assaults and close combat and it was clear to all that something big was in the offing. It was therefore with relief as much as joy that he now moved up the gangplank onto the big ship. The wait was over. Their officers marshalled him and his comrades to their bunks in the bowels of ship where he caught a few hours of much needed sleep.
The next morning the ship weighed anchor and then moved out to sea. Almost as soon as they reach the open ocean light snow flurries started to fall, not unexpected given the decreasing temperatures they’d experienced over the last few weeks. Winter had arrived in the South.
By midmorning they reached their objective; a golden sandy beach below a shallow bluff south of Kerch.
The ship weighed anchor out in the bay and the massive guns opened fire, pounding the cliffs and then rolling inland to engage the enemy troops occupying the city. Half an hour later the guns fell silent. Dimitri and his comrades went over the sides clambering down the nets into the waiting launches. The fortunate into motor launches the rest to rowboats. As the beach loomed closer Dimitri was expecting them to come under enemy fire at any minute, but it was clear that the ship’s mighty guns had done their work well. Approaching the beach there was little enemy resistance and his boat reached shore without encountering any direct enemy fire. In three hours they had establish their perimeter. Two days later they had moved north and linked up with comrade units who had braved the narrow Kerch straights and landed to the north of the peninsular. The enemy was surrounded.
Once again, the naval guns opened up, pounding the enemy; these were joined by waves of bombers and fighters strafing anything that moved within the town. When the whistles blew and his unit and others surged forward there was little resistance from the demoralized defenders and Kerch was taken.
Within hours Dimitri and his fellow marines were relieved to welcome the arrival of 4th Mech Corp which had been rapidly ferried across the straights. They now changed facing and braced themselves for the inevitable enemy counter-attack…..
Partisans: 4 Rail hits
Finland and Norway: No action as the Soviet troops and supplies continue to inch towards the German defensive line.
Leningrad Front: The Soviets recommence their attack on Riga following the containment of the German threat from Dougavpils. The attack is assisted by assault engineers and Siege Artillery and forces the German defenders out of the city catching and eliminating 3 enemy aircraft on the ground.
The armoured corps used to counterattack the German drive north are now employed in a snap attack over the Dvina 50 miles East of Riga and cadre a German 5-7-6 division occupying the defenders fort and overrunning the remnant in exploitation.
Further west the bridgehead is widened but here the defenders retreat in good order without loss.
Moscow Front: Outside the SW suburbs of Orsha another 56-7-6 is cadred but to the NW of the city a stack retreats, again denying the Soviets the blood they desire.
In the Bryansk region two small stacks are destroyed in automatic eliminations but a diced attack results in yet another DR.
The bulge to the west of Kursk continues to grow as more troops are redeployed to exploit the weakness at the junction of AGC and AGS.
Stalingrad Front: South of the weather line sees the most attacks as the Stalingrad front is now fully supplied and in contact. This front is a lot weaker in terms of mobile assets and artillery except for a Tank Army south of Kharkov attacking SW. Nevertheless, a series of low odds attack are launched to the north and south of the Kharkov defensive complex and the forts are penetrated in a number of places. North of Kharkov a third inf 5-7-6 is cadred resulting in the only Soviet losses this turn in an EX.
As on the northern Fronts however Axis losses are generally light although north of Gorovka a 7-8 pz cadre is eliminated and a 3-6 luft inf XX with Wehrmacht inf cadre eliminated.
Operation Neptune: Of note this turn is the initiation of Operation Neptune a combined air and sea invasion of the Crimea specifically the Kerch peninsular. Marine units land in an arc around the two Rumanian division occupying Kerch. Only one marine unit is dispersed due to limited visibility on the beaches and attacks at half strength. With naval bombardment and a large air assault the U2 defenders are eliminated and the city captured. A 15-8 Mech unit exploits across the straights to consolidate the gain.
Further west however the part of the operation designed to place the Rumanian reserves at the neck of the peninsular out of supply and prevent a rapid Axis response to the invasion is less successful. The single marine unit is disorganised and of little effectiveness on landing and one of the two Guards Airborne units is disrupted failing to the cut the supplies to the two Rumanian divisions who will now be free to rapidly contain and counterattack the Soviet invasion forces. Overall however the objectives have been met and with artillery corps and Guards infantry ready to ford the straights it is likely the Soviets will be successful in achieving their goal of establishing a foothold in the Crimea; thus widening the front and potentially threatening the withdrawing Axis from the Rostov area.
Air combat: In two attacks DAS is driven off by effective AA fire increasing the odds. 8 rail bombing attacks result from rail net disruption missions all for the loss of a single Pe 2FT.
Auto eliminations = 3, Diced Attacks = 13. Total = 16.
Soviet = 5, Air = 1
Axis: Forts = 8 (including abandoned earthworks), German = 30, POs AA = 6, Air = 4 (3 on ground), Rumanian = 10 (8 Isolated), Eastern = 1. Total Ground = 39.