Allied Turn

This turn the Allied player continues to build up his desert force’s strength with good reinforcements and production assets. In the initial phase he has a net of 13 ARP’s, so in the new air cycle he can spend up to 4 ARP’s per turn. In addition to this turn’s five air unit reinforcements he uses ARP’s to rebuild from the aborted box the SA DB-7B and the US B24D5 heavy bomber. This cleans out the Allied aborted and eliminated boxes. Using two arm RP’s he builds the two 5-3-10 arm X (9 & 24) upgrades from the Aug I 41 turn and also brings on the 10 Arm XX HQ unit reinforcement. This cleans out all remaining units in the Mid East Forming Box. However, since he is not stacked for the 2-10 mot lt AA X conversion, he will have to wait another turn for it. Although there are ground units available in the Mid East replacement pool he does no more RE builds, evidently hoarding them for quick vital rebuilds after the game’s upcoming looming battles begin for victory in the desert campaign saga. At the end of the initial phase he has remaining 5 1/4 Br RP’s, 2 Br arm RP’s, 3 ½ Aus RP’s, 1 3/4 Ind RP’s, 1 1/2 NZ RP’s, ¾ SA RP’s, 1 ¾ FF RP’s, and 11 ARP’s. Near the end of the Allied initial phase the Axis player starts to fly his harassment missions, but then becomes flustered when he suddenly begins to see holes in the projected harassment barrier, and in perhaps a fit of frustration then declines to fly any, intending to save the whole lot of appropriate air units for possible DAS in the combat phase. On a lark he sends the SM 84 based near Tobruk on sea patrol.

At the start of the movement phase the Allied player sends gsp’s to Malta, first from Gibraltar, then from Alexandria. The SM 84 goes after one of the ntp’s from Alexandria carrying two gsp’s just south of Crete, but misses. As usual, the Axis player does a non-phasing air transfer mission of all four Ju 52s based in Libya back to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. The Allied player then moves some of his construction units westwards up to and beyond his previous Egyptian stop line and builds a one-cap temporary airfield at 1818 and a 2-cap temporary airfield at 1719. Evidently he feels it’s time to begin menacing the Afrika Korps and to start forcing the issue of who possesses the Western Desert. At the end of his movement phase he moves a powerful armored/motorized force up to 0919 and 0920, threatening the DAK XXX marker stack at 0819. The Axis player responds by sending the Me 110 F on CAP over the endangered hex, but also knows that he has no less than seven other good fighters in interception range in case things come to a head in the combat phase. He’s also been careful to base the three available B bombers (two SM 79-2s and a Ju 88A4) within half-range of the Axis desert front line shield for possible DAS use along with the two Ju 87Ds and the Me 110 E based in the Tobruk vicinity.

In the combat phase the Axis player sends on DAS all the above-mentioned air units to the imperiled Axis stack at 0819, but the Allied player backs down by not sending GS and escorts, and so there is no combat. His fighters are still out of interception range of the Axis desert front line shield and this may be one reason he doesn’t yet want to engage in an unfavorable big air battle there or in dicey ground combat maybe lacking in sufficient GS (depleted by a swarm of Axis interceptors) and against ample DAS.

During the exploitation phase the Allied player settles into a new forward defensive “stop line” at 1618 and 1620-1621, with a stout rearward line at 1719-1720. At the 1-cap temporary airfield at 1818 he bases the SA P 40C and at the 2-cap temporary airfield at 1719 he bases the Aus P 40E and the new reinforcement Spit 5. Again, he does no night port bombing missions against Axis held Derna, Tobruk, or Bardia, evidently carefully saving up his air units and ARPs for a big desert show down later on. Nevertheless, the Axis player feels hard pressed and threatened at his existing Sidi Barini desert front line, and feels that the Afrika Korp’s day of reckoning is quickly approaching wearing the proverbial “seven league boots.”

German Turn

Early in his initial phase the Axis player deactivates his three Ju 52s from the 1942 Axis Sp Op Forces Pool that have been in play for five turns and removes them from the Mainland Europe off-map holding box, where they are based. Minus three Axis VP’s will be dutifully tallied into the Axis VP score. But a few steps later in the initial phase the Axis player activates two new Ju 52s and a DFS 230 glider air unit from the ’42 Axis Sp Op Forces Pool that was planned on the Jun II 42 Axis initial phase and places these air units in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. In the reinforcement/replacement step of the initial phase the Axis has a net of 9 Italian ARP’s and 9 German ARP’s for the new air cycle, meaning he can spend up to three ARP’s per turn for each country. He spends two It ARP’s to bring on-map an eliminated Ju 87B and three Ger ARP’s to rebuild an eliminated Ju 87D and and aborted Ju 88A4. Sadly, he withdraws the Me 110F heavy night fighter and the It MC 200, yet another indication that the Western Desert campaign is steadily becoming a low priority theater for the Axis high command as the world war progresses. The It 0-2-6* inf III 330 GaF Tripolitania Garrison release is placed at the Tripoli hex. Late in the Axis initial phase the Allied player sends out a number of air units on harassment and does three hits each on hexes 1418-1419-1420-1421-1422.

At the start of the movement phase the Axis player first sends two Z1007b’s and the He 111H based at Tripoli on a Malta Status night strat bombing attack on Valletta and scores two hits, but the He 111H crash lands upon its return to base. He then sends a Ju 88A4 based near Sirte on the same night strat bombing mission and scores a hit, but it also crash lands when it returns to base. This brings the Malta Status up to 9. This satisfies him, so he doesn’t stage westwards the just replaced Ju 88A4 placed at the permanent airfield at Mechili to do yet another night strat bombing mission against Valletta and keeps it there for possible use in Egypt later. In the naval movement step the Axis player sends his two Ger arm RP’s to Tripoli and the 1 ½ It arm RP’s to Bengazi and they all make it. The It 4-3-6 arm III 31 and the It Inf XX HQ unit 136 GF make it to Tobruk and Bengazi respectively, but the It 1-6 arm II 13 is sunk in transit by the Allied Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls, the first such Axis loss in the present game. The Axis player does his usual air transport of a step of attack supply to the Gulf of Sirte coast road permanent airfield hex at 18A:2629 with the three Ju 52s based in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box (the third Ju 52 is a Jul I 42 Axis reinforcement); the empty DFS 230 trails behind like a dangling kite’s tail. Using his Cent Med shipping capability the Axis player safely coastal ships (per Rule 34B1-Inshore Waters) the It 0-6 const III at Bardia to Bengazi and also an It pos flk unit at Tobruk to the same destination. Then he uses coastal shipping to safely sea transport 3 Ger inf RP’s from Bengazi to Homs (18A:0522) in the hope that this will enable him to buy rebuilds later when the game gets really bad for the Axis in North Africa and Bengazi is perhaps either cut off from the Cyrenaica or captured by the Allies.

The Axis player breaks down many of his motorized divisions at the beginning of the movement phase to better gain hex control of the Egyptian road and rail hexes in the “no man’s land” between the opposing Western Desert forces and to gain a final Egyptian coast rail line damage hit at 1519, but before advancing he does several port bombing missions against Allied owned but unoccupied Matruh harbor. The port hex is within interception range of at least three Allied fighters, but he declines to intercept the bombing mission (two extended range Ju 87Ds) escorted by two Me 109F3s and the new Me 109G2. Had the Allied player opted to intercept the Axis player would have canceled the mission, as he wants to take as few air unit losses as possible this turn in the imperiled Axis desert front line zone in Egypt and save his air units for defense in the upcoming Sep II 42 Allied turn in case the Allied player then executes a major ground attack. He scores one port hit and then sends another bombing mission against Matruh escorted by three MC 202s, which the Allied player again declines to intercept, and this mission scores another port hit, jacking the total to three port hits against Matruh. The three MC 202s land at Bardia. Before the Matruh bombings, the second It const III at the Halfaya Pass hex (0419) ups the 2-cap temporary airfield there to a 3-cap, then moves into the nearby Bardia hex and ups its 2-cap temporary airfield to a 3-cap. Along with it in the Bardia hex are the It 0-1-6 inf III A and the inf XX HQ unit A, and the It 0-8 lt flk II 83. The 0-8 const III Afr at 0618 (with a 3-cap airfield) moves to 0519 and builds a 3-cap airfield there and then ends its move at Halfaya Pass. At the Pass are also the It 1-6 inf III A, the It 3-4-6 art III 8A, the It 0-8 lt flk II 81, and the It Ju 87B and a Me 109F3. The Re2001CB transfers to the newly built temporary airfield at coast road hex 0519. With it in the same hex are the It 3-6 inf XX 17 Pav and the Ger 2-8 inf III 433. In the Tobruk vicinity are three Ju 87Ds, two Ju 88A4s, two SM 79-2s, the SM 84, and the Me 110E.

By the end of the movement phase the Axis has at Bengazi a step of attack supply, the It 0-6 const III, the 1-8 inf III 136 GF, the 8 inf XX HQ unit 136 GF, and two pos flk units (one Ger and one It). But no fighters are based at the important port, the MC 200 having just been withdrawn. At Agedabia is an It pos flk unit, the Fol para III 187, a step of attack supply, and the G 50bis. At El Agheilia is the Fol 6 Para XX HQ unit, and at the 3-cap permanent airfield at coast road hex 2629 is a step of attack supply, the Fol para III 186, the It lt flk II 82, three Ju 52s, and the DFS 230 glider unit. A step of attack supply moves to Derna and there are two at Tobruk. The final on-map step of attack supply is is at coast road hex 19A:0618, one hex behind the desert front line shield. Here also is the 3-cap temporary airfield where the Me 109G2 and two Me 109F3s are based. In the same hex are the It 2-3-8 art III 16C and the Ger 2-8 inf III 382. Another step of attack supply remains in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box along with 1 It inf RP and 2 Ger RP’s.

Feeling frisky and maybe lucky after his Matruh adventure, the Axis player sends the two Ju 88A4s in the Tobruk vicinity on an extended range daylight naval harassment strat bombing mission against the Port Said hex, which the Allied player has still neglected to cover with fighters in interception range. The two Luftwaffe bomber units make it through the three flack factors and one scores a hit, reaping a VP for the Axis player.

By the end of the exploitation phase the Axis player has pushed the rail hit marker in Egypt up to 1519 and has regained road/rail hex control up to hex 1418 and back to the Siwa Oasis. In an apparently small but in fact quite significant move (in this Europa war gamer’s view) the Axis desert front line backs up one hex westwards, putting the desert front line shield now at 0718-0719 (each hex stack containing a Pz XX) and a large It arm/mot stack at 0619. He will still have to secure with harassment the vulnerable southern Axis flank in the Allied player’s Sep II 42 initial phase. This retreat in fact very likely signals the end of any further eastward movement in the Axis invasion of Egypt. It likely marks the beginning of a new and imposed Axis Western Desert strategy of an anywhere from steady to pell mell withdrawal away from an Allied 8th Army now so powerful that the Afrika Korps can no longer stand up to it at close quarters, in particular if the Allies have close-in fighter cover and/or are able to outflank from the south the eastward facing two hex maximum desert front line shield (eg., one Pz XX each in two hexes). Indeed, they may chronically threaten to outflank the Axis desert front line in a “runaway” all the way to Tunis. In each Western Desert war game in late 1942, as perhaps in the real campaign itself, when the Axis player begins retreating the Afrika Korps away from an overwhelmingly powerful Allied force, perhaps in many desert games beginning in the El Alamein vicinity, he only retreats to the final Axis standard supply/major port hex of ultimate Axis disaster and surrender in North Africa. Soon Eisenhower’s Torch invasion of French North Africa will place the Axis in North Africa in the unenviable position of an ant between two large and heavy cinder blocks poised to crush it. In our presumed “historical simulation” situation beginning with the ’42 Desert Cauldron battles, in terms of Axis MTO strategy in the context of the North African campaign, the only two relevant factors for conducting the desert campaign seem be somehow a conservation of some quantity of Axis Western Desert OB forces for use later in the defense of the European mainland (likely Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, and/or maybe southern France) and the delaying of an Operation Husky type invasion of Sicily/Italy/southern mainland Europe as long as possible by a stubborn “to the death” delaying action strategy as long as possible at a North African standard supply source/major harbor (eg. probably either Tunis, or Tripoli, or Bengazi) at the minimum up to the May I 43 Allied turn (eg., the historical date of final Axis disaster in North Africa).