Conclusion of an AAR started here:
This is a compilation of our weekly game e-mails (for which we finally started taking pictures), posted here for the very few of you that are bored enough to read about somebody else's game. We have all made serious strategic, operational and tactical blunders. We are, however, keenly aware that historical actors also made serious blunders, and to some extent these mistakes have improved our game experience and made our first playthrough feel very much like participating in history.
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Sal for this wonderful game and his tireless support for it, and also to the community here. The last 5 months have been some of the most fun any of the three of us have ever had with any game.
The Axis forces of Germany, Italy, Turkey, Hungary and Norway continue to control most of the continent, although the Axis countries of Finland and Spain have dropped out of the war.
The Western Allies have recently retaken the Middle East. Italian and Turkish forces are approaching the Suez from west and north, however, and have the Allies outnumbered by more than 2 to 1.
In the east, the USSR is grimly holding on after serious reverses in 1943 and is banking on “Zhukov’s Surprises”, a pair of long-shot gambles, to turn the tide of the war.
----- 1944 -----
ZHUKOV TAKES ISTANBUL! / STALEMATE IN SPAIN CONTINUES
In the East, frequent snow squalls and near-zero temperatures limited activity to probing attacks by both sides.
Zhukov’s second surprise began to develop in the form of the Soviet 3rd Guards Inf, who landed in Instanbul and brushed aside local forces to take the city. Germany immediately shipped in a garrison unit to limit any breakout into the Balkans. Unknown to anyone outside Zhukov and a small cadre of the 3rd Guards HQ, the 3rd Guards had quite a different objective and carried with them a special Lend-Lease request: 20,000 Hershey’s Chocolate bars and 1,000 pinups of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable.
Germany continued to lock the UK in Gibraltar, but the Allies’ strategic bombing campaign finally began to show some signs of impacting German war production as heavy bombers pounded no fewer than 5 German cities during the month.
TURKEY QUITS WAR / US LIBERATES JERUSALAM
February 8th saw a break in the weather in Turkey, and Zhukov put his plan into action. He personally accompanied the 3rd Guards Inf. as they struck Southeast into Turkey and rushed along the ancient single-rail track to Ankara. The Turkish Army, stretched to the limit fighting the UK throughout the middle east, had no units within 200 miles. The Soviets covered their trucks with flowers and with banners in Turkish saying “Neutrality is Peace” and “A Free Turkey for the Turks”. They handed Hershey’s chocolate and pictures of American starlets to everyone they encountered.
The Americans had cautioned the Soviets that pictures of American pinup girls may not be welcome in the secular but majority Muslim Turkey, but Stalin had dismissed their concerns with a wave of his hand saying “men are men”. It appears that Stalin was right, as most of the Turks that the 3rd encountered quickly accepted both the chocolate and the prints.
Confused by this strange precession, and with no real way to slow down the Soviet troops in any case, the Turks allowed Zhukov to roll into Ankara on the 21st where he set up his 2 Corps in the Ataturk Forest Farm in the center of the city. He continued to hand out chocolate and pictures of Rita Hayworth to anyone who approached and requested a meeting with President Ismet Inonu.
Zhukov handed Inonu a letter drafted in secret at the Teheran Conference and signed by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. It guaranteed Turkey’s neutrality during and after the war if Turkey laid down arms and immediately withdrew from the struggle. Inonu was highly skeptical of the Soviet’s willingness and the Allies’ ability to enforce such a guarantee. However, with his army exhausted, 6 US Divisions moving toward his Southern border and a full Soviet Guards Army in his Capitol, Inonu quickly sent out orders for all Turkish armed forces to immediately lay down arms and Turkey quit the war.
Farther South, the US 1st Army moved up through Palestine, recapturing Jerusalem along the way. On the 18th, Robert Capa took the famous Life Magazine cover photo of 300 Jewish soldiers of the US 1st Division standing atop Sherman tanks in front of the Wailing Wall.
Horrendous weather continued to severely limit operations on the Eastern Front proper, and Western Allied forces remained pinned down by some 500,000 Axis troops in Spain.
GERMANY ANNOUNCES OCCUPATION OF VICHY, GOV’T COLLAPSES! / 2nd PZR SURRENDERS / OREL AND KHARKOV CAPTURED
Marshal Petain announced on March 7th that Vichy France would relinquish its nominal autonomy and submit to direct German military occupation. French resistance fighters launched a series of coordinated attacks on the Vichy government that became known as the “Le Moment Est Arrive”. Government offices, police stations, radio stations and telephone exchanges were attacked.
The Toulouse and Lyon the police offered only token resistance and the Marseille police actively cooperated with the takeover. In Vichy however, the local police and French Nazis of the Milice francaise held out in a pitched battle around the National Assembly building. The FFI resistance fighters were well-armed by the SOE, however, with M3 “greaseguns”, M1 rifles and even a few bazookas. The FFI won out and flew the Tricolor from the Assembly flagpole at 4pm on March 28th.
The Allies reacted quickly and in an impressive display of logistical agility, landed the US 1st Army in Marseille on the 26th. In response, the Germans quickly sent the GER 1st Garrison to restore order in Toulouse, although the other 3 cities were left in the hands of the Resistance.
In the USSR, the SOV 1st, 4th and 6th Guards Inf had kept Guderian’s 2nd Pzr pinned on the Donets just east of Kharkov for two months, but without making any serious dent in his defenses. On March 11th, however, the Soviets were finally able to push into Kharkov and cut off supplies to Guderian’s beleaguered Army. On the 18th, having cut Guderian’s mobility to virtually nil, they mounted a massive assault and were able to force the 2nd Pzr to capitulate.
The Allied bombing campaign continued with great intensity during the month, and Gen Spaatz released a detailed intelligence report to the Joint Chiefs estimating that German production had been cut by over 50%.
WEATHER SLOWS FIGHTING
Barcelona came under heavy attack early in the month, and while the UK 8th Tank was able to maintain its defensive perimeter, Gen. Eisenhower elected to shift the men to Marseille to support the US 1st Army for a push into Southern France or Italy.
Frequent snow squalls mixed with deep mud descended across Russia and slowed the fighting there. Germany shored up Army Group South’s line, now stretching from Kursk to Odessa and consisting of 5 garrisons units anchored by the 1st Pzr in the center and the 17th and 18th Inf in the north near Kursk.
SOVIETS SHATTER ARMY GROUP SOUTH / MARSEILLE OFFENSIVE
The Soviets took full advantage of both the weather and near-total air superiority to smash Army Group South. They decimated several garrison units to surround and eliminate 1st Pzr and pushed into Odessa. By month-end, the Wehrmacht was left with just 2 garrison units covering 200 miles of front from Odessa to west of Kharkov.
In France, the GER 2nd and Liguria garrisons moved north into Lyon, brushing aside the local resistance and taking up blocking positions in the hills to the north of the US 1st Army, and the 7th Inf moved north toward Bordeaux.
STAND FAST ORDER / ARMY GROUP SOUTH DISASTER / LOW COUNTRIES INVASION
As June began, the Germans were on a line Leningrad-Bologoye-Kursk, and the remnants of Army Group South were opposing strong Soviet forces in a line Kharkov-Odessa. In all, scattered German forces were left covering a line almost 900 miles in length.
OKH immediately drafted a plan for a general withdrawal to more defensible positions, proposing to shorten the line by 300 miles. However, when presented with the plan, Reichmarschall Jobie Burke said that it was too conservative. Explaining that he had foreseen the results of such a plan “in a powerful dream”, and he insisted that the Wehrmacht would be “overwhelmed by a huge red wave”. For 4 days arguments raged back and forth over the right course of action, but Burke would not be swayed.
On June 4th, Burke issued his fateful “Stand Fast” order and the Germans would try to hold the line. General Brauchitsch acerbically commented that “only a madman conducts war based on dreams”. Brauchitsch and Halder were replaced by General Jodl and Field Marshal Kietel on June 5th.
The luckless 3rd Panzer, although understrength and on its fourth commander of the war General Hans Rottiger, was shipped East and the 5th Pzr and 14th Inf were moved South to reinforce the threadbare line there. Still, this left only 5 field armies and 2 garrisons holding a 300-mile front Kharkov-Kishniev. In some areas divisions were asked to cover over 15 miles of front.
The Soviets were at first suspicious that the German actions were some kind of ruse, but the Stavka quickly began to view them as a gift. Incredibly, the Soviets then attempted an envelopment of the entire German Army.
In the South, the Soviets destroyed the Vlasov garrison and the 14th Inf army in succession and punched through the resulting gap to surround the 5th Pzr and take Kiev. In the North, the Soviets cut off supply to the Afrika Corps and the 4th Pzr holding Bologoye, shattered the 6th Garrison and the ITA 6th Army outside Leningrad, and advanced around the North end of the German line. The 10th INF even raced west and liberated Tallinnin in Estonia in a surprise strike.
By month-end, only 220 miles separated the Soviet’s northern pincer from the southern, with 11 of the 13 remaining German field armies in the east located 150 miles deep in the developing pocket. Only a single rail line through Minsk & Smolensk remained operational. OKH immediately submitted a revised the plan for general withdrawal, albeit a far simpler one if only because it involved markedly fewer units.
Meanwhile, the Western Allies launched the largest amphibious invasion of the war, intended to liberate the Low Countries in a single sweep.
The US 1st French Army landed against light resistance in Antwerp, and the CAN 1st Army landed in Amsterdam and immediately launched an assault into Rotterdam against the GER 1st commanded by the brilliant Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz. Despite being surrounded, the GER 1st had spent many months preparing a defense in depth along the many canals on the approaches to Rotterdam and was able to hold on with heavy losses.
Although Gen. Alexander declared the invasion a “complete success”, the original plan involved capturing the Rotterdam docks by DD+6, and recriminations abounded over logistical problems that left the main Rotterdam attack without air support.
GER 1st ARMY HOLDS ROTTERDAM / ARMY GROUP SOUTH ELIMINATED
The Germans responded to the Low Countries Invasion with their Standard Counter-Invasion Procedure: they pulled every available unit to surround the beachhead as closely as possible. The 16th Inf, 7th Inf and 3rd, 5th, 8th and 9th garrisons were rushed in from Spain and Germany proper. The green troops of the US French 1st Army pushed out to the South and the US 9th Army landed in Antwerp.
Meanwhile the Canadian 1st moved to finish off the beleaguered GER 1st Army in Rotterdam. However, despite being surrounded and pummeled from the air, General Blaskowitz showed his mastery of flexible defense in depth, retreating from one canal line to another. He had been assigned one battalion of the brand-new Tiger II tanks mounting the ‘long barreled’ 88mm cannon and sporting over 180mm of frontal armor. Using these as defensive strongpoints and to spearhead local counterattacks, the 1st Inf beat back 3 assaults by the CAN 1st.
As a result, the WAL made little progress and expanded their beachhead a mere 30 miles inland, while their primary ports were still split by the GER 1st Inf.
In the USSR, the Germans belatedly made a general withdrawal to a line from Velikiye Luki to the eastern Prypat Marshes, with the 1st Parachute Army under General Schlemm taking up a key blocking position SE of Lake Peipus on the Estonian border.
Jodl had elected to withdraw nearly all his forces to positions north of the Marshes, leaving the 2 Panzer units of Army Group South and the 7th Garrison to slow the Soviet’s advance south of the marshes.
The withdrawal was hampered by significant Soviet interference, however. The 4th Pzr and Afrika Corps were unable to break out to the west and were left behind pinned near Bologoye, and the 10th Inf was unable to make it north of the marshes in time and was trapped just north of Kiev by the SOV 5th Guards. The 5th Pzr was also unable to fight its way past the valiant 5th Guards Inf near Kiev due to heavy Soviet air support and excellent use of several battalions of new T-34/85 tanks.
In response, the Soviets pushed forward with a massive effort in the South, one that showed the days of a lone Panzer Army constituting an invincible threat were over. Brushing aside the 3rd garrison, they subjected the 5th Panzer to repeated assaults from all sides and simply battered it into surrender. They then caught Rottiger’s luckless 3rd Panzer just as it finished de-training from its long trip from Spain, and destroyed it piecemeal in a mere 5 days. Advancing to a line of Kiev-Kishinev, they took both cities and the front-wide assault left the ITA 11th just south of Odessa the only Axis unit south of the marshes! Advance units raced ahead to secure Cernauti and threaten Lvov & Brest at the western end of the Pripyat Marshes.
The Western Allies were driven back to Marseille by the 2nd Pzr, and at this point hold only a narrow bridgehead with the UK 8th and US 1st armies, pinned in by the panzers, Italian troops and garrison units.
The strategic bombing campaign continues to take a toll on the German economy. After much debate, Harris and Spaatz shifted their focus from ball-bearing production to oil, with a focus on aviation fuel refineries. This appears to have been largely successful, as Luftwaffe sorties are down sharply on both fronts with some air fleets almost entirely grounded for lack of fuel, giving the Allies near-total air superiority over the battlefield.
UK 8th SURRENDERS / ROTTERDAM LIBERATED / GERMANS RETREAT IN USSR
The Axis launched a major offensive to reduce the Marseille bridgehead early in the month. The reconstituted 2nd Pzr, GER 2nd Gar and ITA 8th Inf surrounded the UK 8th Army just north of the city. After an extensive artillery preparation, two Italian brigades of P 26/40 heavy tanks and the last remaining squadron of Ro.57 ground-attack planes forced Lt. Gen Oliver Leese to shift two divisions to the east, opening the way for 2nd Panzer, now under General Bohme, to smash Leese’s northern line. Bohme’s lead units overran the UK 8th’s artillery and captured Leese’s HQ on the 3rd day of the battle. Although individual units held out for another week, by mid-month the UK 8th Army ceased to exist as a fighting force.
The US 1st Army abandoned Marseille and moved to Valecia in Spain, threatening supply lines for the GER 15th Inf near Gibraltar which is the sole remaining Axis army in Spain.
The US also landed another army in Calais, bringing the Allied total to 5 armies in the Low Countries & France, facing off against about 600,000 Axis troops in the north including 1st Pzr, and another 300,000 near Marseille including 2nd Pzr.
The hapless Canadian 1st Army in Amsterdam had its commander replaced and on Aug 4th, the incoming General Harry Crerar launched yet another attack against the beleaguered GER 1st Army in Rotterdam. As usual, Generaloberst Blaskowitz’s veteran troops repulsed the initial attack with light losses, but this time the Allies used their complete air superiority to their advantage. Near constant flights of Hawker Typhoons and the new Tempest fighter-bombers wore down Blaskowitz’s forces and hampered their mobility. The Canadians worked their way slowly through the city, block by block. Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tanks and engineers with demolition charges lead the way and after 22 days of absolutely brutal street fighting Blaskowitz was penned into the Waalhaven dockyards and finally laid down arms (although not before setting the docks ablaze).
The Allies celebrated, and American Seabees expected to have the main port operational by the end of September. The Dutch, meanwhile, mourned because their second-largest city lay in smoldering ruins reeking of ash, cordite and rotting corpses.
Rotterdam had withstood 1,000 years of floods and invaders but did not survive its liberation.
Rotterdam Sept 8, 1944
In the east, the Germans extricated the remains of Army Groups North and Center and retreated some 130 miles west forming a line Riga-Vilnius-Brest. The Soviets matched the line in the north and pushed forward rapidly in the south, surrounding the GER 1st Parachute Army in Brest. In southestern Europe, the Soviets advanced with 2nd Tank army and three Inf armies.
By month-end, the Soviets and Germans faced each other across a ragged line and strong soviet forces stood ready to exploit a 120-mile gap between the 1st Parachute Army in Brest and the German 7th Army in the mountains SW of Lvov.
In the United States, Thomas E Dewey launched his fall presidential campaign, with the slogan “End the War in ‘44”, criticizing Roosevelt’s handling of the European war and calling American progress on the continent “soft, slow and confused”. In several raucous rallies, he harped on the invasions of (and subsequent withdrawals from) Corunna, Barcelona and Marseille. He also repeatedly called the buildup in the Low Countries “painfully slow” and quoted dire predictions from some commentators that the war was likely to drag on well into 1946.
On the German home front, stupendous efforts are underway to rebuild the armies lost over the summer in Russia, and wholesale pummeling of German cities by US and UK bombing fleets continues to seriously disrupt production and distribution of aviation fuel and to slow war production.
WARSAW LINE / PARIS HOLDS / SOVIETS SWEEP RUMANIA & BULGARIA
In the east, the Germans retreated a further 100 miles, but formed a strong defensive line from Konigsberg – Warsaw – Vistula River in the North, with three Italian garrisons moved into blocking positions Belgrade – Budapest in the South while reinforcements completed refitting in Germany.
In France, the ITA 9th Inf gallantly held on to Paris in the face of repeated attacks from the green troops of the US 7th Army. The Italians, led by Gen Renzo Dalmazzo, manned improvised defenses north of the city. Supported by the ITA 1st Air operating from bases near Vichy, who themselves had to fight through the constant patrols by American P-38s, Dalmazzo threw back poorly-coordinated attacks by the Americans on Sept 9th, 13th and 15th. Meanwhile, the German Army pulled back to a line running through the Ardennes along the east bank of the Meuse River. The Italians meanwhile moved the 8th and 10th Armies northward to Dijon and Lyon.
In Spain, the Gibraltar garrison and the US 8th Army surrounded and eliminated the Ger 15th Inf, eliminating the last German troops from Spain.
In the Atlantic, Admiral Donitz deployed two new submarine technologies simultaneously: the Wanze radar warning unit and the G7es acoustic torpedo as his submarines attempted one last large push to interdict significant Allied shipping. Donitz had successfully argued for over 6 months that both new technologies should be kept secret and not used until a significant number of U-boats were equipped with both, and his patience paid off. Convoys ONS18 and ON202 were both decimated, and the Allies suffered the third worst month of the war in shipping losses, and U-boat sinkings dropped precipitously.
PARIS LIBERATED / US 9th TAKES SEDAN / BATTLE OF SZOLNOK / SOVIETS ADVANCE INTO YUGOSLAVIA
The US 7th Army finally pushed Gen Dalmazzo’s ITA 9th Inf out of Paris, liberating the City of Light after 4 years of Axis occupation. The Americans also advanced through Sedan to the Meuse, forming a line along the Marne vs. the Italians in the South of France and the Meuse vs. the Germans to the east.
The Germans brought significant forces South into Hungary including the new 6th SS Pzr and 5th Pzr, creating Army Group Balkans to defend against the Soviets attacking from the south.
The 6th Guards Tank, Andrei Kravchenko commanding, had outrun supporting infantry in its advance into to the foothills of the Carpathians north of Szolnok. Early in the month it was surrounded but successfully beat back attacks by the 1st Pzr, 5th Pzr, 7th Inf and ITA 7th Garrison. The 6th suffered serious losses but stubbornly fought on.
The Soviets shattered 2 Italian garrisons, totaling nearly 100,000 killed or captured, and advanced into Yugoslavia capturing Belgrade and Nis.
The advance brought the Italian losses to nearly a quarter-million troops to date. The “Non Mio Figlio Altro” movement (“not my other son”) had long been gaining strength despite persistent rumors that it was a communist-funded subversive group and despite numerous crackdowns by Mussolini’s Blackshirts and the ORVA. NMFA gained significant strength as news of the latest losses spread through Italy, and riots broke out in Taranto and Milan.
Gen Lelyushenko’s famous 3rd Guards Inf, now known as “The Chocolate Army” after their unconventional drive to Ankara, was reinforced at Nis with the 13 Guards Mountain Cavalry Division and extra logistical support troops.
US 9th LOSES SEDAN / BATTLE OF AACHEN / SOVIETS SMASH PANZERS AND ENTER HUNGARY
The Germans and Allies engaged in fierce fighting all along the Meuse. The US 9th was pushed back out of Sedan, but the UK 2nd Army recaptured it the following week. Meanwhile, the US 3rd, Gen. Patton commanding, was entrenched NW of Aachen on the German-Dutch border and suffered fierce attacks by the GER 1st Pzr and 4th and 5th INF, but the US troops, supported heavily by P-47 Thunderbolts using “Holy Moses” rockets, were able to defend the river line.
The weather in eastern Europe was unseasonably mild, and the Soviets took advantage of it by launching attacks all along the line. Soviet attacks were backed by massed artillery, total command of the air and close cooperation with Polish and Yugoslav partisans. The Soviet Guards Tank armies punched through the German lines in multiple places, surrounding and eliminating the 2nd Pzr and capturing Warsaw in the north, and smashing the 1st Pzr, 6th SS Pzr and ITA 10th Inf while advancing into Hungary in the south.
The ORVA (the Italian secret police) conducted multiple raids on suspected leaders of the NMFA, but in most cases they had been tipped off by Dino Grandi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Grandi had by this time become convinced that the Germans were simply using Italian troops as “cannon fodder” and was entirely sympathetic to the NMFA.
The Italian army attempted to suppress news of the loss of the 10th Inf on the eastern front, but the NMFA by this time was publishing a very well-read underground newssheet and the army was unable to keep the new losses secret. Rioting broke out in many major Italian cities and, for the first time, in Rome itself.
The NMFA reported that some of Mussolini’s deputies were demanding a meeting of the “Grand Council”, theoretically the only body that could constitutionally remove Mussolini from power, although the council had not met since the start of the war.
Lelyushenko and his Chocolate Army left overland supply routes behind and conducted an incredible march 120 miles over the Sar mountains to capture the Albanian port of Durazzo. Italian observers in Durazzo reported that an extremely large fleet of transports docked in the port- far more than would seem to be needed to keep the 3rd operating in Albania.
Riots again broke out in Rome at the news, and the NMFA became even more emboldened, their weekly newssheets calling on King Victor Emmanuel III to remove Mussolini from power.
ITALY SURRENDERS / GERMANS HOLD THE LINE EAST AND WEST
Both the Soviets and the Western Allies made slow progress against strong German defensive positions in December.
The stunning news of the month came from Lelyushenko’s Chocolate Army (3rd Guards Inf). The Soviet fleet sailed from Durazzo in the dead of night on Dec 18th, and charted a course north through the Adriatic during 2 days of dense fog and rain squalls. Italians in Durezzo promptly reported that the fleet had left port, but apparently NMFA sympathizers inside the MVSN buried the report and it was not passed on to higher command.
39 hours later, the Soviet fleet appeared outside Venice Lagood and using detailed nautical charts obtained directly from Italian resistance groups, landed in 7 different spots around the harbor and city. Meanwhile, NMFA operatives attacked local police stations, and the Chocolate Army captured Venice in 6 hours while hardly firing a shot.
However, Lelyushenko was not finished. While rioting once again broke out in Rome, the 3rd Guards hastily landed their trucks and light tanks and prepared to move out. By the 21st, they had crossed the Po river and on the 22nd they brushed aside roadblocks established by local guards and taken the city center of Bologna.
On the night of the 21st, the Grand Council met and voted 19-8 to ask the King to resume his constitutional powers, in effect removing Mussolini from power. King Emmanuel summoned Mussolini to the Royal Palace, where he was arrested by Carabineri on the King’s orders and replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The following morning, Badoglio issued orders to all remaining Italian troops to stand down and return to Italy.
----- 1945 -----
Jan - Feb 1945
FRONTS STATIC / PEACE MOVEMENTS
Winter weather slowed combat operations to a crawl across the continent. The US, without Italians to the south to contend with, extended their line along the Meuse southward to the Swiss border. The Soviets advanced a few miles through northern Yugoslavia, and are straddling Lake Balaton.
In a feat of diversified production and carefully husbanding resources, the Germans consolidated remaining planes and aviation fuel into 2 operational squadrons, preparing for the inevitable assault in the spring.
Peace movements in both the US and the UK began to surface for the first time, and motions were raised in both Congress and the Commons to force the governments to consider a “Plan B” if the stalemate continued into the summer.
STALEMATE CONTINUES / DOVES DEMAND “PLAN B”
Taking advantage of the fact that many cities and rail centers in Southern France are still under local German control, the German 1st GAR was secretly shipped by rail and deployed just west of Paris in a surprise raid. Located deep in the WAL rear, the 1st threatened logistics chains from Antwerp to Le Havre, and the US was forced to redirect the US 1st Army west to deal with the surprise.
Alternating sleet and rain produced deep mud and poor conditions across Germany, and neither the Soviets nor the Western Allies were able to make any progress whatsoever against stalwart German resistance. In a notable defense, the well dug-in GER 15th Inf. in Metz repelled assaults by the UK 2nd, US 1st, 5th and 7th armies. Eisenhower was in a uncharacteristically dark mood after the assaults failed, and quipped that “Some of our commanders seem to think the Krauts will run out of ammunition if we just let them shoot enough of our men”.
Doves in both the US Congress and the UK Commons increased in number and volume, demanding a specific end-date for the war in Europe, and questioning the continued “waste of good men hammering uselessly against fanatical resistance”. Roosevelt and Churchill both flatly refused to publicly acknowledge the issue, but privately worried that things could spin out of control if some real progress was not made soon.
STUNNING ADVANCES / ARMY GROUP NORTH SURRENDERS
The deep mud and slush of an unseasonably cold March quickly turned to dry and beautiful weather across Germany in early April, catching both sides by surprise.
The German 5th Garrison repeated the successful raid of the 1st Gar from March, moving mostly by train from Venice to just south of Nantes, again disrupting Allied supplies and forcing the UK 8th west for cleanup duties.
The UK 2nd in Luxembourg meanwhile, suffered a massive assault by several German units including the last major parachute drop of the war, and was forced to retreat in disarray to Sedan.
The Western Allies, however, launched an immediate counterattack in the center of the German line and made full use of every available Mustang and Thunderbolt to smash the 2nd Pzr and 8th Inf, blowing a hole 100 miles wide in the German line and finally advancing to the Rhine.
In the East, the Germans had concentrated their Panzer groups south of the Carpathians, expecting a strong push from the Balkans. It was a grave miscalculation by the OKH, as the Soviets responded by attacking en-masse across the north. The Soviets pummeled German positions with entire air fleets of IL-2 Sturmoviks and thousands of artillery tubes. Shock Armies punched through German prepared positions, with Guards Tank armies close on their heels. Again and again, German static positions were surrounded, cut off and reduced, while Guards Mobile Inf groups raced ahead. In 3 weeks of constant fighting and no quarter given, the Soviet Baltic, Northern and Central Fronts completely annihilated Army Group North, wiping out all 6 German Field armies north of the Carpathian Mts. The main Soviet force crossed the Oder River, and advance units ended the month only 60 miles from Berlin.
The stunning successes silenced the war critics and optimists voiced hope that the war could end in a matter of weeks.
US, UK SMASH GERMAN LINE / PREPARATIONS FOR FINAL OFFENSIVE
Spring rains finally arrived as the Wehrmacht exhausted carefully husbanded fuel reserves organizing a last-ditch defense of the Reich along the Elbe and Spree Rivers in the East and the Rhine and Ems in the West. Germany launched one surprise counterattack in the Rhur but despite committing the last battalion of King Tiger tanks, the effort quickly wilted under constant attacks by rocket-throwing P-47 Thunderbolts.
Germany’s will and ability to resist was quickly fading as it became clear to even the most wild-eyed optimists that the end was near. Field Marshal Keitel committed suicide and Gen. Jodl went missing on May 8th, leaving OKH in the hands of Field Marshal von Rundstedt.
There were exceptions, however. In the Ardennes, the famous 2nd Pzr was effective to the last, repelling successive attacks by the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 1st French armies, leading a stout defense of Frankfurt & Stuttgart.
In the north the WAL, led by the US, were able to force the issue and smashed the German line, taking Bremen and rolling across the German Plain halfway to Hanover, with Patton’s spearhead getting as far as Hamburg.
In the east, the Soviets advanced through the mud to the new German line and prepared for a final push once the weather cleared.
GERMANY NEAR COLLAPSE
Rundstedt diverted the 5th Pzr and 6th SS Pzr west to delay Patton, while the 2nd Pzr held out under massive Allied assaults and the 1st Para & 12th Inf. grimly held on to Frankfurt & Stuttgart. The 6 Garrison, composed mostly of Hitler Youth was tasked with holding Munich’ while the 11th SS Pzr and 3rd Pzr dug in around Berlin.
In the East, the Soviet behemoth ground forward, surrounding Munich and Berlin and pushing into Leipzig. The GER 1st and 6th armies, bypassed and surrounded in the eastern Carpathians, dug in and fought to the death, successfully resisting assaults by 4 Soviet armies.
With no rail lines still operating, zero fuel reserves remaining, and Berlin surrounded and cut off, the German High Command had effectively lost control of the army and the country. Nonetheless, driven by pride, long habit and dreams of past glories, local commanders continued to hold out.
GERMANY CAPITULATES / V-E DAY JULY 15
Patton raced forward against Eisenhower’s explicit orders and unsuccessfully attacked German positions NW of Berlin. The US and UK finally forced the 2nd Pzr to surrender and pushed into Frankfurt & Stuttgart. The Soviets unleashed massive artillery bombardments of Berlin and Munich.
With every major city save Hanover captured or under intense artillery fire, Reichchancellor Jobie Burke disappeared. Finally, on June 15th Field Marshall von Rundstedt claimed authority for the Reich and surrendered unconditionally.
The war was finally won.
JULY, 1945 (WAL TURN) GER WILL: 0 GER CITIES REMAINING: 4
MAXIMUM AXIS ADVANCE: NOV 1942 2,960,330 SQ MI
Postscript: June 1946
It has become clear that the USSR has no intention of allowing any country within their zone of influence to become a free western-style democracy. Pro-Stalinist communist governments have been installed in Italy, Czechoslovakia, Austria and throughout southeastern Europe, and an “Iron Curtain” has descended across Europe from the Franco-Italian border north to Berlin. Germany has been split east and west with no settlement for reunification in sight. The long prayed-for peace has turned to an armed truce between West and East as old suspicions resurface.
Patton’s July advance to Berlin, considered a reckless risk at the time, paid political dividends later as the US retained control of the western part of Berlin and a corridor north of the Elbe stretching from Berlin back to Hamburg. Patton has made much of this in the press and is rumored to be preparing for a presidential run in the 1948 elections.
Reichchancellor Jobie Burke was never seen again, but rumors as to his fate abound. Some say that he escaped on a Type XXI U-boat to Malaya, some that he snuck into a US POW camp and is living in Brooklyn under an assumed name. One persistent rumor is that the Soviets secretly captured him during the assault on Berlin and have been performing experiments on his brain ever since. The Soviets categorically deny this, which is of course considered in some circles proof that it is true.
Meanwhile, the new government of Juan Peron in Argentina recently reached a deal with the cash-strapped UK to purchase significant war surplus material including tanks, aircraft and destroyers. Neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay have both turned to the USSR for support, strangely insisting that President Peron is in fact just a figurehead and that someone else is behind Argentina’s ominous military buildup…
Thank you far more entertaining than my session reports on games, sent you some GG for your trouble.
Wonderful story! Very nicely done. As you've shown, the Axis can get quite fragile in 1943, but it was good to see that the Germans were able to reform and continue until the end.
The Chocolate Army is a great touch, and reminds me of long-distance mobile warfare that I've pulled a few times in my own games. Excellently done!
Fantastic, Aaron, simply fantastic! The Chocolate Army story line was quite fun.
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Sal for this wonderful game and his tireless support for it, and also to the community here. The last 5 months have been some of the most fun any of the three of us have ever had with any game.
I'm honored and very happy you all had such a great time.