DEC I INSURGENT
While dreary weather lingered in the south, a cold front passed through Aragon and Cataluna bringing a bit of sunshine, a drop in temperatures that let the mud dry up a little, and snow flurries in higher elevations (winter weather).
In the south, the pocket has ceased to exist. The last die-hard defenders, the 66th Division clinging to the town of Elche, were easily overwhelmed. The total count of the pocket amounts to five infantry divisions, twelve independent infantry brigades (ten of them Anachist), four regiments of artillery or mortars, and one regiment each of engineers, cavalry, and anti-aircraft guns, for a total of over 60,000 prisoners taken.
At his headquarters in Zaragoza, Generalissimo Franco presented Nationalist Spains highest decoration, the Cross of Merit with Diamonds, to Major von Scheele, commander of the Flak Regiment of the Legion Condor that had isolated the pocket in the first place and then almost single-handedly frustrated all relief efforts. (The Condors have just arrived in Zaragoza, but are unlikely to repeat their performance in Aragon.)
Although the transfer of troops from the Valencia front is far from complete, the better ground conditions in Aragon prompted the jump-off date of the new offensive to be moved forward. As expected, the attack was launched in the Ebro valley, with main thrust on the river’s south bank along the Zaragoza-Tarragona rail line from forward of Fuentes del Ebro toward Quinto (23A:3033). However, despite the efforts of sappers, ample artillery support from the opposite shore, and sorties of the entire Nationalist airforce, the offensive made no headway (another AS at 4:1 -1).
Savoia-Marchettis continued their raids against industrial targets in Barcelona, but this time failed to add to the damage.
Nationalist naval forces and Italian submarines ventured forward in an attempt to interfere with shipping of materiel and supplies to the Catalan ports. They are operating at the outer fringes of fighter range, relying primarily on low clouds and rain squalls for protection (no Republican aircraft has a TBF greater than 1, which is ineffective when halved for rough seas). However, without fighter cover they did not venture too close to Valencia, where a resurgent Republican airforce now is concentrated.
DEC I LOYALIST
The Loyalists scrambled to strengthen their defenses in the Ebro valley even more, turning Quinto (23A:3033) into a formidable stronghold (now 22CF in that hex) in anticipation of further Nationalist attacks.
Work on fortifications continued on the Valencia and Teruel front. Guerrilleros blew up rails at Palencia on the Santander-Valladolid line, one of the few not heavily patrolled by the Guardia Civil. The airforce continued its rehabilitation program, sheltered by poor weather that discouraged Nationalist raid on its bases.
With the surrender of the last defenders of the pocket and the halt called to the advance on Valencia, the Nationalist southern campaign has come to an end. Since its start in early June it has cost the Loyalists their last footholds in Castilla Vieja, all of Murcia province, and a good portion of Valencia province, all told more than a third of the territory they still controlled at the outset. The bounty has included the cities of Albacete, Murcia, Cartagena, and Alicante and over 70,000 prisoners. The blow has been severe, but has not in any way diminished the Loyalists’ ability to defend what they still hold.
With more luck in their large attacks north of Valencia, the Nationalists might have succeeded in reaching Sagunto (23A:3703) to cut Valencia itself off from the rest of Loyalist Spain. Valencia being the only surviving Anarchist sopply source, this would have seriously weakened the Loyalist cause. Now the Nationalists face the likelihood of mud for some time to come and 18CF stacks in a line of forts in good defensive terrain (-4 modifiers). In Aragon, in contrast, winter weather can be expected to last for a while and the terrain is clear (modifiers only -2 against entrenched line, -1 once that line is broken or combat engineers are used). Moreover, whereas further headway past Valencia would have shortened the Loyalist front, an advance in the Ebro valley toward the coast will stretch it, so that Loyalist losses should eventually translate into a weaker line. In this light, the switch of Schwerpunkt to Aragon makes sense. Much will now depend on the luck of the die in the large attacks in Aragon that are sure to come. There will be no advance if the Nationalists keep getting the worst possible results on their main-line attacks as they now have three times in a row.
The astute reader will have noticed that “Condor” is now spelled with “C” in these reports. A review of German sources on the Civil War has shown “Legion Condor” to have been the official name and spelling. TEM is now also using “Condor” but still after instead of before “Legion.”