Valentina taxied her I-16 Polikarpov fighter past the sleeker, faster more modern Migs and LaGGs that would be following behind, with their 70 MPH speed advantage they would arrive together over the target area, or at least that was the theory. She pulled back on the controls and climbed upward from the airstrip. Her aircraft had been the best in the wold in 1933 but now 9 years latter it was practically obsolete. Nevertheless her little “Ishak” had served her well so far; mainly on reconnaissance missions or hunting “lone wolf” enemy bombers, but this mission was different. The commissar had been very specific and she could still hear his words from the briefing “You are to defend Moscow West from the enemy bombers, you are to attack the bombers and you are to destroy the bombers. Everything else is of no importance, you are of no importance your life is of no importance but the State and Mother Russia must survive”.

As she gained altitude the puffs of black to the north delineated the enemy held part of the city; she nudged her little Ishak south, no need to die from a stray blast before she had a chance to kill some fascists.

Minutes later she was over the contested part of the city and felt she was staring into the gates of hell. Smashed building jutted upwards, like rotting teeth, fires burned across the city, from enemy bombing and artillery fire and above it all an inky black pall of smoke. But most striking and terrifying of all was the swarm of hundreds of black dots filling the sky, pirouetting above the ragging inferno; like a swarm of insects locked in a grim dance of death.

Starring at the scene before her she was transported back to her childhood on her father’s farm in the Caucasus’s. Papa had counted the sheep and found one missing. He had instructed the young Valentina to find it. She had searched for hours until she discovered the unfortunate creature. It had slipped down into the steep balka which formed the southern edge of papa’s farm and impaled itself on an old tree stump. She had slid down the slope to retrieve it and saw to her amazement that the blackened skin was moving. Could it be that the sheep was still alive? She prodded the skin which ruptured releasing the flies which had hatched inside the wound and had been feasting on the rotting flesh. Set free by her touch the bloated insects rose into the air and engulfed her. Flailing at them with both hands had run, screaming away.

She felt the same urge to flee now but with the commissars words still fresh in her mind she entered the fray. She spotted an enemy Heinkel, recognisable by the bulbous glass canopy, which had somehow become separated from the rest of the pack, Bearing down on her target she counted the distance, 1000m ,500m , 400m , …

Her plane exploded in a ball of flame as the 20mm cannon shells from the Messerschmitt tore into the airframe.  The flaming debris of the I-16 drifted earthwards to add to the conflagration below as the 109 banked up and away searching for its next victim.

Weather: Icy Siberian winds bring snow back to the southern steppes. A-D, Snow; G- Clear.

Finland & Army of Norway:  The 3-6 division west of the river adjacent to Murmansk is eliminated and troops are marshalled to take on the city within the next month. The 3-6 cadre from the Kandalaksha battle, its days numbered, retreats but stays on the railline.   Further south all offensive activity ceases.

AGN: All reinforcements and replacements are sent to bolster the defensive line trying to hold back the Soviet thrust aiming to sever the main Axis West-East rail line. The newly upgraded panzers are also dispatched one is held back by unrepaired rail breaks but the second arrives in time to take part in a counter attack which successfully nips off the southernmost hex of the Soviet advance. In the exploitation phase the line is reinforced and braces for the inevitable Soviet assault.

The Kalinin breakthrough continues with the forces in theatre, the promised reinforcements syphoned off to the west.  The Axis debate whether to advance due north to interdict the rail line or to strike east and secure a bridgehead over the river to the north east of Moscow. In the end they decide to strike north. Capturing the rail line will place 5 or 6 hexes of soviets to the west out of supply and put more pressure on Leningrad leaving a single line between the city and the East. Due to one of the scratch Soviet defensive stacks having no ZOC the advance slips past and secures the line with a 10-10 Pz XX.

MAR I '42 Axis Turn: Breakout North of Kalinin

MAR I ’42 Axis Turn: Breakout North of Kalinin

AGC: In another dramatic feint which catches the soviets off guard the German forces investing Moscow pincer SW from central Moscow and directly East into the SW hex. The Soviets had been expecting the attack to hit the Western Central hex which surrounded on 5 sides seemed the obvious target and has two guards with NKVD to provide a non–overunable remnant and stuffed with flack to mitigate air support. The SW hex has neither. The attack is one half a factor short of 4:1 which results in a bombing mission which turns into the bloodiest of the war to date. (See below)

MAR I '42 Axis Turn: Soviet advance checked NW of Veliki Luki

MAR I ’42 Axis Turn: Soviet advance checked NW of Veliki Luki

AGS: A completely defensive turn.

11th Army and the Crimea:  Odessa suffers some isolation losses due to the withdrawal of the Black Sea fleet and the Rumanians launch their first assault. With no German engineers or siege engine the assault peters out after a few days with no appreciable effect (NE).

SEVASTAPOL FALLS. At Sevastopol plague on the back of malnutrition rips through the Soviet defenders and outer defence works. The entire citadel is wiped out and one hex of the outer defence reduced to a single infantry regiment. The mixed Axis force eliminates the survivors and the Rumanian 1st Tank advances unopposed into the fortress.  (This really was a disastrous and freak result with the Soviets rolling 3 sixes in a row at Sevastopol)

Air War; Some deep penetrations inflict a number of rail cuts in the South but in the North are again ineffective.  In the centre the need for a half point of GS over Moscow results in the tensest and bloodiest air battle of the war to date.

The Germans send a mixed force of 5 bombers and 2 fighter bombers (110s) over the Moscow SW hex escorted by 16 Me109Es and Fs. The soviets have all their best fighters packed into the city. All Laggs and Mig3s (including a guards Mig3) with the exception of a lone I-16 rebuilt from remnants.  Total 16!! The Soviets decide to use the entire force to bypass the escorts and take on the bomber stream.

In a devastating strike 5 Soviet fighters including the Guards are eliminated and 4 aborted. 7 get through pairing off with the German bombers and fighter bombers. They move down the line of the German intruders – E, E (The 110s), R, A, R, R, MISS.  (For the loss of 2 more Soviets fighters).  So ONE bomber survives. The Germans brace themselves to receive AA fire to find their relief that the entire soviet 15 points have been placed in the western hex! The bombers deliver 1 effective point of GS. The assault succeeds (overrunning 3 more aborted aircraft on the ground) and one more hex of Moscow falls with the western central hex surrounded in a ring of steel.

Battle Report:
Auto attacks = 1, Diced  = 8
Losses: Soviet:  From Isolation = 19, Isolated combat = 2. Non-isolated = 45.
Axis:  None