Chapter 11: The Red River Blues - Infamous Faaborg Stalker Strikes
A typical German attempt to cross one of the notorious Dutch rivers during June. Few moments after this photograph was taken the raft was hit by 14092 bullets, 42 mortar rounds and 12 insults.
At beginning of June it seemed like the summer that year would become extraordinarily beautiful in Western Europe. The gentle skies opened brilliant blue above the streets of Brussel and in Amsterdam tulips blossomed like never before. A strange spectre of normality hung over the cities, mixed with haunting feeling of living on borrowed time. For not far away Rhine run red as German juggernaut clashed with best divisions Spain could throw against it. Incredibly Anglo-Franco-Spanish Alliance had managed to hold everything Wehrmacht had to offer on wrong side of the rivers so far, but now German war machine switched gears for total onslaught.
However, there was still some room for cautious optimism and some good news were received. At 3 June most remarkable set of double events shook the Allied commanders. It was almost impossible to believe but Spain had, little by little, grown to be a considerable international power by now. Madrid and Barcelona had become buzzing hubs of war-industry, intelligence gathering and unofficial centers of anti-Hitler movements. Recent stunning victories of Spanish arms in Denmark and Holland had earned reluctant respect, even awe, from major Allied powers while in Low Countries and Scandinavia Spain was already a legend of its own. To everyone's surprise, mostly to his own, President Azaña was leading a modern and powerful country equal to Italy in international standing. From Bastogne to Denmark Spanish divisions fought determinedly against overwhelming German numbers, while back home Spanish industry was making miracles undreamed of only few years ago. It was not exaggerated to say that Spain had been reborn as a country between Civil War and 1940.
Unfortunately the bonuses were rather meager. +5% manpower was equal to one level of agriculture, which was negligible. +5% to counter-intelligence was equally welcome but not necessarily earth-shaking. On other hand .5 increase in LS was major boost. Nearly all of Spanish LS was pumped to officers to keep their rate equal to new divisions being created, but all was welcome. Only few most important scientific projects still received funding, most significantly new infantry weapons were field tested.
Spanish leaders were stunned to hear that important events had also taken place in UK, but of wholly different kind. For some time already parliamentary crisis had been brewing in London about the way war was waged and decisions that had been taken so far. Opposition was notably led by certain Winston Churchill who bombarded government with questions that were difficult to ignore. The war was going well - but no thanks to once proud UK who had contributed almost nothing so far. English people were furious that government had not participated in Denmark campaign, and that performance of English divisions in Low Countries was so low. Indeed, it was difficult to understand how single Spanish infantry division had firepower and combat strength equal to four English infantry divisions. Noisily Churchill had been insisting that merely comparison between English and Spanish divisions was enough to "take Great out of Britain."
Famously Churchill won "Mr.Warface 1940" competition with this picture.
Finally in 3 June Neville Chamberlain resigned due to such failures in British strategy and Churchill was appointed as Prime Minister. As his first action in office (actually the first was to smoke a cigar, but that was unofficial) he declared that Britain would fight to the last drop of Spanish blood and held one of his most famous speeches;
"... Spain shall fight in France, Spain shall fight on the seas and oceans, Spain shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, Spain shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, Spain shall fight on the beaches, Spain shall fight on the landing grounds, Spain shall fight in the fields and in the streets, Spain shall fight in the hills; Spain shall never surrender."This magnificent speech lifted spirits in Allied countries, especially in Spain though some leaders thought the message was "mixed." But since most Spanish commanders were busy shooting Fascists they really had little time to think such matters.
Also famously Churchill and President Azaña met soon in Paris where General Allied Headquarters were established in Moulin Rouge, Montmartre. Meeting was legendary;
As they shook hands (Azañas hands shook all the time anyway) Churchill declared confidently 'We are going to win this war!'
'How can you be so sure, my Imperialistic friend?' Azaña wondered in amazement.
'Because scissors beat paper!'
Needless to mention, President Azaña was stunned speechless by this deep military wisdom. Despite their distinctively different personalities and vices, the two Allied leaders soon became rather friendly, perhaps because Azaña so often paid for drinks in bar. This caused heavy strain on Spanish economy, but improved relations.
These magnificent developement lead Spanish people finally to unite in one front behind the war effort. After more than century of chaos and general stupidity Spain had finally found a new sense of purpose in killing Fascists. This had several important effects, such as sale of war bonds that boosted Spanish economy slightly. People were now motivated to give anything that was needed for victory. It was going to be a long war, but that's the way Spain liked it.
Routinely defiant British propaganda that did not meet reality.
After all these monumental events somebody remembered that there was, indeed, war going on. Spanish divisions were critically overstretched since they were holding unrealistically wide front, and Spanish army possessed no reserves, since they were now defending Denmark. Orders were simple; dig in on riverbanks and never let go. Two great rivers Rhine and Meusa were chosen to make the famous 'First last stand.'
At June 4 Spanish army was fighting desperately on all fronts against crazy German onslaught. German soldiers were really scary, since they possessed almost necessary fanaticism to run into rivers under extremely heavy gunfire. It was sad and frightening to behold, but more painful to Germans than to Allies. Despite heavy fighting most of these battles were won with relative ease, causing heavy casualties to Fascists.
By now Spain had deployed significant forces in Holland, most of whom were never supposed to be there. Mountain divisions and marines meant against Italy were thrown into line along with garrison units supposed to defend Spain. Spanish army was truly democratic, since everybody who could catch a bullet was simply thrown into battle to do that. There were few luxuries and privileges for officers, such as existed in most armies. Republican army had been recreated from the scratch after the Civil War and had no baggage of traditions to uphold. It was simply a machine for war, even if relatively democratic machine. It also proved highly effective.
Amersfoort was swampy province next to Amsterdam, and final defence line from which there was to be no retreat. While this province was not protected by major river, the marshy terrain proved most formidable defence any army could ask for. Attacking German infantrymen were mowed down in great numbers as they trudged through thick sludge, while Allies had constructed cleverly dug tranches and pill boxes. Also Spanish Armada patrolled the waters nearby, firing on any German movement and creating extreme pain and frustration. Germans did not mount significant assaults against this province after suffering extreme casualties.
Maastricht and Arlon were also bitterly fought of, and in Battle of Maastricht desperate Spanish marines and infantrymen fought desperately to keep the tide away until reinforcement arrived. Here the lack of reserves became cause of concern, then of desperation. Exhausted divisions could not be replaced nor given any rest. Divisions simply fought until they reached breaking point, then after few days of hasty rest were again thrown into the line. It was no picnic, but Germans suffered much more casualties. Even tired divisions still had superior numbers and firepower compared to their German counterparts who had to attack over a major river. Somehow the line held for weeks the battle continued. Often the Germans were swimming in their own blood after weeks of intense fighting, riverbanks clogged with casualties. When German onslaught finally pulled back, tired defenders realized they had won a stunning victory.
But even this was not the most terrible and notorious battle of Western Front. In Ede, slightly south of Amsterdam, Germans were looking to overwhelm defences in what proved to be the only weak link in Allied defences. The battle had begun already weeks ago, but unlike most refused to end. Ede was difficult terrain to hold since here Rhine made a bulge, leaving defenders hold a peninsula of land surrounded by Germans. But retreat was not a realistical option. Enemy had to be kept on other side of the river at any cost, no matter how many divisions had to expanded. As Spain poured more and more troops to hold the blood-soaken soil Wehrmacht send more and more unfortunate divisions to capture it. The stage was set for the bloodiest and most wretched battle that would pass into legends of war. German soldiers would nickname Ede 'Operation Totentanz' or simply 'Valhalla front.' During the June Rhine literally run red for miles, and German casualties floated all the way back to Germany.
Battle of Ede was weeks old in June 2, note how Belgian divisions take much higher casualties that Spanish divisions. Actually Ede was held only by Spanish divisions, when one thinks about it.
Again and again unfortunate Germans attacked over the river in ramshackle collection of barges and rubber-boats, only to meet full fury of Spanish defensive fire that routinely caused crippling casualties. On other hand Germans answered with everything they had; massive artillery barrages, bombers, STUKAS and extreme fanaticism that was only equalled by stubbornness of the defenders. As Spanish defenders slowly became exhausted the situation reached critical point when enemy breakthrough would be certain. After two weeks of heavy fighting only two Spanish divisions remained, supported by useless British division who had probably just lost its way.
Battle of Ede June 16m when "Lucky 13th" Division found out that it was not so lucky after all. Note how broken Dutch divisions are too stupid to retreat from battle. Five Spanish divisions had already retreated, completely exhausted.
In desperation Spanish High Command begun to throw everything to fill the gap. A new tactic codenamed 'Combat Whoring" was adopted. (German agents mistook this as some sort of auxiliary force. What were they thinking?) Actually this was a method to gather every available point of combat bonus. Best Spanish leaders were recalled and given command of few remaining divisions in combat readiness, then sent into battle. When their divisions broke the leaders were transferred to command fresh divisions, and same happened again. Germans were dismayed to find out that they fought against General Miaja all the time - and he was now skill 6 General, giving +45% combat bonus, nearly equal to major river. (They really hated him by now, and he liked that.)
But not even this seemed enough. Endless stream of German divisions replaced their dead comrades, though on wireless German generals were discussing the rate of attrition in rather stunned terms. But Hitler was crazy, and German generals were crazy enough to obey him. Now even garrisons straight from Spain were thrown into the line, to keep Ede just for those few extra days.
Battle of Ede June 20, once again under German bombing. Combined Allied air forces had not been enough to defeat Luftwaffe.
But around June 20 most unexpected and strange sideshow was taking place away from bloody fields.
The Energy Crisis
At evening of 21 June General 'Walrus' Martínez lumbered towards the familiar room in Madrid. It had to be hell of a reason to call him back from Ede, but order was order. Perhaps something staggering had occurred. Had Manuel bought a new dog again? With a brief knock he entered the office.
To his surprise there were two other people in the room, the smooth little man who was Armament Minister José and older man whom he immediately recognized as Foreign Minister Sebastian. On desk before the President was a bucket, covered with cloth. President waved his hand towards the bucket. 'Welcome Martínez! Have a look.'
With shrug of his shoulders General took the cloth off and looked inside. He lifted an eyebrow.
'Well?' Asked the President.
'Boss, I almost could swear that this is coal.' General answered, scratching his head.
'Indeed it is, Martínez. You are currently looking at Spanish coal reserves, so please be careful with it.'
'HAR HAR HAR! That was a good one Boss!' General laughed so heartily windows trembled. 'I always thought you were such a tight-assed old stick but that was a good one! Our coal reserves indeed!' Nobody else laughed. Atmosphere was actually rather serious.
'Now dear Martínes.' José begun with curious smile. 'Those are actually all of coal reserves in Spain. I'm currently trying to figure out how to run all our factories with that.' General stared at the minister.
'But how can we be out of coal! It's one of the cheapest and most plentiful resources available! Are we under blockade perhaps?'
'No.' President sighted. 'Allies rule the seas.'
'Are we out of money or credit?' General seemed perplexed.
'No. Our vaults are bulging with gold and dollars.'
'Then why...?' He left the question float.
'Let me explain, my well-mustachioed friend.' José continued. 'As you certainly know thanks to our efforts and my genius we tripled Spanish industrial output between 1936 and 1940, allowing us to build this prosperous nation we are now bleeding out in Holland. Unfortunately our coal production, which we do not have, has not tripled, creating large deficit. Today our last storages run out, save this one bucket. No coal, no production.'
'But the plan was to buy the necessary coal from global market.' General scratched his head. 'Is UK not our ally? How about USA and USSR?'
'They have no coal.' Foreign Minister Sebastian interrupted.
'You mean they are not selling us?'
'I mean that they have no coal.' Sebastian continued. 'All Majors except Germany are making deficit. They have none to spare.' There was heavy silence in the room. General walked up and down the carpet, scratching his head with both hands. It was obvious that he was thinking hard. Finally he looked up.
'Boss, you are saying that we did not run out of coal. The World run out of coal?'
'Yes Martínez. The World just run out of coal.' President looked rather tired. 'Damn these HPP rules! In normal HoI3 we would be swimming in coal! How can USSR run out of coal? Like Sun running out of hydrogen!'
'Unfortunately this is not all.' Sebastian continued. 'We have strong proof that USA is selling all their surplus to Germany under our noses, and simultaneously imports German supplies. In short, they are exporting all their money to Germany and feeding Fascist war machine.' President facepalmed at this point.
'It was my sad duty to inform our allies that from this day onwards they could expect Spanish production to drop by 40%.' José mentioned with wry smile. 'Naturally they were shocked and demanded us not to downgrade our mobilization level. I politely inquired whether they were willing to sell us the coal we needed, and they politely confessed that they had none. Even mighty UK is currently unavailable for help, which is hardly surprising by now.'
'By 40%!' General wondered.
'Indeed. Unless some unforeseen boon strikes us we can produce barely 60IC, most of which will go into keeping our army in fighting order. We could only produce one or two divisions at time, and barely any of our Secret Projects.'
'Spain HAS secret projects?' General gaped.
'Certainly Martínez. We have Project Pluto, the top-secret rocket facility that made big headlines in The Times, and Project Southern Hospitality, which is the fortification of Pyrenees. Now both are unfortunately suspended. Have a look in reports, but try not to cry.'
General looked at top-secret reports about Spanish industry, and immediately took out a big handkerchief, which be sneezed noisily.
'It's terrible!' He cried, big tears rolling down his moustache.
'Yes indeed.' President sighed heavily. 'Under these circumstances I had no other option but to downgrade our mobilization laws. I would rather chew my head off than to sign this law, but even José cannot squeeze blood from nothing.'
'I'm working on it.' Minister said suavely.
'Well, this will give our people a rest, if nothing else. Now we effectively return back to those "developing country" days. It seems we now became that proverbial underdog that the name of this AAR suggests.' He glanced at his Armament Minister approvingly.
'By the way José, what is your role here?'
'I contribute my brilliant brain, my razor wit and my good looks to Allied cause.' He answered with the same, wry smile.
'So indeed you provide that +10% IC which recently became completely useless?' President asked.
'Ah, it seems that you are correct and I have administrated myself out of my office.' He flashed a smile. 'However, since I have not had a vacation in four and half years, I could happily consider resigning until the situation has been cleared. Can I have the pleasure of recommending my own follower?'
'Please do.' President muttered. 'I hope he is made of coal.'
'Not quite. But we have this magnificent talent who could help us a little. He is stage magician and he can pull supplies out of his ear. That should spare some of our industry for more worthwhile purposes.'
'Magnificent, but why cannot he do it now?'
'Oh no, it is only possible when he is minister. Otherwise he sells them in black market.'
And so Spanish production fell by 40% in one night.
After the two men had left General sat down to light his pipe. President seemed deeply concerned, which was rather common for him. Civilians were like that. No matter how many Fascists they killed, President kept worrying about some ridiculous matters, such as total defeat.
'How on earth are we going to win this war, Martínez?' He asked suddenly.
'Whaddya mean, Boss? The war is going great! I expected us to be in Africa by now.'
'Nice to hear. I mean, we are only holding ground. When is it going to end? Are German people ever going to rise against their tyrannical dictator?'
'No dice, Boss!' General laughed. 'We have only two realistic ways to win. One of them is that we beat Germans back to Berlin, haul Hitler out of his bunker and stuff a hand-grenade into his...'
'Thank you very much.' President wisely interrupted him. 'Take Berlin? Why not Moon next? Is there any more realistic way to end this slaughter.'
'Sure Boss! If we could activate Liberty Prime from Fallout 3 and send it to Berlin, we could probably win easily.'
There was heavy silence.
'I'll see about that.' President said pensively.
And so war went on, but with 40% less industry. Spain was now in real trouble, and Battle of Ede was still raging. Germans were defeated in dozens of smaller conflicts, such as Bastogne, but Ede was about to collapse. Spanish commanders were uncertain how many German divisions had been annihilated so far, but estimates ranged between 20-30. All other fronts were thinned to provide manpower to hold Ede, and even notorious "Anton Shugar" divisions was transported from Denmark to Holland.
Meanwhile Faaborg had been under constant if ineffective attacks by Germans. In late June something extraordinary happened. Through their periscopes Spanish soldiers saw, for first time, vehicles of legendary Panzerwaffe. In 27 June division of light panzers took attack formations at far side of Faaborg strait, and then bravely drove into the water, sinking like stones. It seems that they had taken too much encouragement from the bottle. Panzer units took -99% amphibious penalty, taking ludicrous casualties.
"Battle" of Faaborg June 27.
Germans could not understand it. All major wars produced their own legends, and it was no different this time. German soldiers were so deeply traumatized by their experiences in Faaborg that they were speculating that some extraordinary, even supernatural, force was fighting against them. As soldiers gossiped and whispered about it during many dark nights, this story slowly emerged into dreaded "Legend of Faaborg Stalker." Story told that often lone German sentries were found dead at morning, clubbed from behind. The culprit was never caught, not even glimpsed, and German morale begun to suffer. Some even claimed that it was ghost of Lenin stalking Faaborg at night, killing Germans with "the Hammer and the Sickle."
While it is easy to dismiss such stories as products of stress, frustration and too many schnaps, it cannot be doubted that Germans suffered many unexplained casualties in Denmark. Such things happened in major wars, and actions by British or Spanish commandos cannot be ruled out. Did 'Faaborg Stalker' exist? Some claim that this mysterious photo, presented below, gives clue about the identity of the Stalker.
Others claim that is is only a lousy Photoshop joke. The truth may never be known.
At beginning of July Germans had not conquered a single inch of European territory during a long, long time. The battle of Ede continued...