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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
VII: The Breaking Point: January - February 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    January - February 1942


    Delegates at the Locarno negotiations, 1925.

    Rationales for the failure of the Two-One-One (or 2-1-1) Talks are many, but the ultimate progenitor of any rationale lay in the Locarno treaties. The treaties were a series of seven agreements negotiated in the Swiss resort town of the same name from 5 to 16 October 1925 before being signed formally 1 December of that year; Locarno had divided Europe into two categories: the western borders--deemed “settled” by treaty--and the eastern borders of Germany with Poland, which were left open for revision. The negotiations sought the return of Germany back into the world order, as well as a promise from Germany to never go to war against her neighbors again. When Germany sought publicly to negotiate in 1939, Foreign Minister von Neurath had cited the Locarno agreements as a way to mask Germany’s true intentions of drawing the Allies offside and into war. Thus, some discussion of the nature of Locarno is justified here.



    Some of the major characters at Locarno: from
    top left: Gustav Stresemann (GER), Austen
    Chamberlain (UK), Aristide Briand (FRA), and
    August Zaleski (POL).

    In the period just after the Great War, the German nation worked vainly to recover her prestige and privileges as a leading European power. The German Foreign Minister, Gustav Stresemann, sensed hesitation on the part of the planned French occupation of the Ruhr in early 1925; he recognized that the French wanted a British guarantee of its postwar borders. For its part at the time, the British were reluctant to do so: they did not want the repeat of supporting a massive army on the Continent at the cost of blood and treasure. Seeking out his counterpart in London, Stresemann managed to get Austen Chamberlain to agree to the negotiations by a plan where all sides would get what they wanted through a series of guarantees. France came to the table because their occupation of Germany had caused more financial and diplomatic damage than the value of the security that resulted. Other nations invited to the negotiations included Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Poland.





    Signing the Locarno treaty, December 1925. On
    Neurath’s advice, Hitler had encouraged similar
    discussions to take place from 1939 to 1942.

    The first agreement also proved to be the most critical: a mutual guarantee of the borders of France, Belgium and Germany assured by two parties: Britain and Italy. The three signatories also promised not to attack one another, with the latter two acting as guarantors. Any act of aggression from any of the three would bring all other parties to the side of the defender. The second and third agreement laid out mechanisms of arbitration regarding future disputes between Germany and Belgium in one and Germany and France in the other. The fourth and fifth agreements created similar mechanisms for Germany and Poland and Germany and Czechoslovakia; both felt threatened by the first few agreements (justifiably so by subsequent events) and these treaties were meant to reassure them. The final two agreements reaffirmed the Franco-Polish and Franco-Czech mutual assistance should a conflict with Germany arise.



    Josef Beck (C) and Josef Piłsudski both hated the
    Locarno treaties, believing them to be a betrayal
    of their recently recreated nation. Beck’s inability
    to generate much goodwill from their allies and
    his ability to create hostility from everyone doomed
    Poland. Below, the coup leaders on Poniatowski
    Bridge in Warsawa.

    British support for the series of treaties predicated upon the French abandoning the Cordon Sanitaire. With their Great Power supporter withdrawn, the Poles and Czechoslovaks would be forced to peacefully resolve their own border disputes with Germany. This agreement was the source of significant distrust in Warsaw and Prague--justified in the long term--and a weakening of the Franco-Polish alliance. Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck ridiculed the treaties saying, "Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west." The hero of Poland, Józef Piłsudski, said: "Every honest Pole spits when he hears this word,” referring to Locarno. Piłsudski so hated the treaties signed by Poland that he led a coup d’etat, overthrowing the government of President Stanisław Wojciechowski in favor of Ignacy Mościcki; the old Marshal would continue to be the power behind the throne until his death in 1935.





    Hitler and Chamberlain discussing something, 1939.
    Chamberlain’s efforts to negotiate a settlement were
    in good faith, and he gained significant popularity in
    the attempt to divert the war, but this sentiment came
    to haunt his legacy after the war started.

    By 1939, the sentiments in the capitals of Europe had changed, but only so slightly. France’s continued humiliation at the hands of Britain when dealing with Germany had soured the sentiment between Paris and London; the Allies’ betrayal of Czechoslovakia (despite their immediate acceptance of Poland into the Allies) weighed heavily on those in Warsawa. Hitler’s allowance of the veil of “negotiations” appealed to the British and French Foreign offices, who warily eyed their own military strength compared with that of Germany.



    Charles Maurras, one of the leading minds in the
    Action Francaise ranks who argued that France
    should leave the British to their fate.

    As negotiations continued to drag on through two long years, the relationship between London and Paris similarly dragged on, especially with the changing political climates in France, whose Action Francaise party arose to power essentially on a wave of anti-British and anti-Popular Front sentiment. With Paris declaring that they did not want to be dragged into a war that their notional compatriots across the Channel had organized, and as some Frenchmen believed, championed. The reevaluation of their alignment with Westminster set the French on their turn-coat path later in 1942 (which later became known as “Better Hitler than Blum”), though the fickleness of the crowd would go on to the abrupt collapse of the AF government in 1943. The French formally withdrew from the Entente on 4 January 1942, with a flowery declaration which essentially stated the desire to not send their youth to die for Danzig penned by Marcel Deat. This publication would lead to massive peace demonstrations throughout France which began on 21 January, continuing for nearly twenty days.





    Laval, Bouthillier and Petain in Frank Capra’s
    documentary film,
    Divide and Conquer.

    With France thus neutralized, Germany’s demands became far more rigid, but the time for drawing the British into declaring a war against Germany had long since past. Germany’s economy had been pushed to nearly the breaking point: much of the government spending was on the military and while that had worked for awhile, Schacht--distant as he was from actual power over his department--raised concerns about securing the ability to continue such expenditures to support all of the war equipment and manpower produced and trained to date. This pressure led to a momentous decision: that the time had come to declare war.



    Hitler saluting infantry forces moving into place, 1942.

    Finalization of plans for the assault on Poland would take some time, however. New equipment was coming into the Heer, and there was some question as to whether certain formations would be ready for combat operations in time. While waiting, the propaganda department began to spin out a volume of rationales for what was to come. They cited the intransigence of the Allies, the problems of dealing with the land stolen from Germany by the Poles (and by extension, the Allies), and how reasonable Germany had been in negotiations with all parties.



    The front page of the New York Times, February 1942.

    As February arrived, the drumbeats were so loud that any day that passed without a declaration of war was counted as a surprise in the Western media. Newspaper headlines questioned “When it might the big show start?” Their answer came early on 8 February: Germany declared war on Poland that morning. Great Britain, followed rapidly by much of the Commonwealth, declared war on Germany.





    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s front page when the
    Belgians and Dutch mobilized their forces, 1942.

    The declaration of war set of a spate of cascading effects. Ireland granted military access to their former overlords almost immediately, though it was limited to training only; Thailand provided it later in the month. The United States announced that they were declaring a national emergency with the outbreak of war, and begin production of arms to defend their own territory. Throughout February the nations of Holland, Japan and her associated puppets, Ethiopia, Hungary, Luxembourg and Belgium all mobilized their forces. New Zealand joined the war on 13 February. The Royal Air Force led one of the first strikes against the Germans on 14 February when Nos. 2, 3 and 4 Strategic Bomb Wings conducted raids against Dusseldorf.





    The Chicago Sunday Tribune lamenting the Soviet
    occupation of Eastern Poland.

    Poland’s rapid collapse at the hands of an expertly conducted Bewegungskrieg over the course of ten days shocked the world. At its conclusion, the Soviets accepted their half of Poland, and the nation that had only just re-emerged onto the stage of history was ushered off. The Soviets also presented the Baltic states with their fait accompli, which the small nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia bowed to the inevitable. The world seemed to be playing exactly to the Reich’s tune.

    *****
    Author's Note: Two updates in a week? What is the world coming to?? Hope this gets everyone ready for the beginning of the world war!!
     
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    VIII: OPERATION WHITE EAGLE, POLAND, FEB 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    Despite nearly four years’ worth of what could essentially be described as warning, the attack of the Wehrmacht gained operational and tactical surprise on their Polish adversaries. The Heer’s plan was simple: the infantry would conduct fixing attacks while the Panzer-divisionen would break through into the rear to and cut Warsaw off from the rest of the country.

    A comparison of the orders of battle for both nations.


    The Poles had split their army roughly evenly between their two enemies: eighteen infantry and two cavalry divisions guarded both borders with Germany and the Soviet Union, but two mountain infantry divisions were also on the frontier with the Soviet Union. The Polish Air Force was formed from two wings each of interceptors and tactical bombers, based in airfields around Danzig. The small Polish navy consisted of five destroyer divisions and one submarine group.

    The Heer would send the majority of their regular ground forces. The Reserve-Divisionen and Feldgendarmerie-Divisionen--holding the West Wall against the French and the North Sea against the possibility of invasion from the British--would be held back from the operation, and two infantry and two motorized corps would not participate. It was the exact opposite in the Kriegsmarine: the advanced battlecruisers, light cruisers and submarines would be held in port while the ancient pre-dreadnaught battleships Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien, supported by the light cruiser Emden, the destroyer squadrons and the coastal submarine squadrons of Kommando u-Boot Ausbildung (KuBA) and U-boat-Geschwaders (UbG) I, II and III. The Luftwaffe dedicated the majority of their bomber (both close-air support and tactical), fighter, and transport squadrons to support operations in Poland, Goering retained all interceptor squadrons in the west of the country to protect against the expected British bomber attacks.

    On the first day of combat, the Heer engaged the massively out-numbered Poles on every part of the border. In overall command was Oberkommando Ost (OKO), which held the army group commands Heeresgruppen A, holding Armee Oberkommando (AOK) 1, 2, 3 and 4. The Wehrmachtamt retained command of XI AK, which was the command group for all three Gebirgsjager-divisionen (GbJD) and XII AK which held the Fallschirmjager-divisionen (FsJD).



    Maps of the overall strategic picture and detailed pictures of the various regions.











    From the East Prussian enclave, the three corps of AOK 1--holding I, III and V Armeekorps, or AK--launched several corps-sized attacks. The attack of V AK launched from the Johannisburg-Lotzen-Gumbinnen line against the Lomza-Augustow-Suwalki area, a front of nearly 69 kilometers. This was held by only two Polish infantry divisions, and resistance was overcome within three days. From Osterode and Ortelsburg, III AK launched a two-pronged attack into the Brodnica and Ostroleka areas, as the Mlawa area was a 43 km gap between the two infantry divisions. Both of those divisions turned and fled after barely a day of fighting.

    I AK (holding the Elbing-Marienwerder area) and VII AK (holding the Lauenburg-Butow front) had been tasked with reducing the Polish Corridor. I AK would attack across the Vistula, with the hope that VII AK could then approach unhindered from the rear. I AK’s 31 and 41 Infantrie-Divisonen (ID) and the headquarters division attacked south into Grudziadz while 21 ID attacked into Tczew alone. 1 and 11 ID conducted the river crossing into Danzig while 37, 47 IDs and the VII AK headquarters attacked from the rear. Despite being in AOK 3, VII AK supported the two divisions of I AK superbly, and 7, 17, and 27 IDs attacked into Koscierzyna to protect the flank and seal off the Corridor. The two battles into Tczew and Danzig would take nearly a week to prosecute, and face some of the hardest fighting and heaviest losses for the Heer during the campaign, mostly due to air attacks conducted by the Polish Air Force which--despite the propaganda--was not destroyed on the ground in the opening days of the war. AOK 3 held four corps (VII, IX, XIII (mot), and XIV (mot)), but only two--VII AK and IX AK--were at the front. IX AK was holding the Neustettin to Scheidemuhl line, and their attack focused on a 43 km front from Wiecbork to Rogozno.

    AOK 2 (entirely infantry) and AOK 4 (three Panzerkorps (PzK) and two motorised infantry corps which were not deployed for the campaign), covered the southern half of the operation. Despite the presence of six Armeekorps (II, IV, VI, VIII, X and XI (MTN)) and their 33 divisions, only sparse attacks were made, as there were significant gaps in the Polish front for the Heer to exploit. On the Kreuz - Zullicuiav line, II AK attacked with the 12, 22 and 42 ID and Headquarters division into Opalenica. IV AK sent three divisions (24, 34, 44 IDs) into Rawicz. One of the toughest battles in the south was in the VI AK area of operations, where three infantry and the headquarters divisions attacked into the fortified region of Katowice, this fight would take nearly three days before the Polish 9th Division retreated. The other was spearheaded by VIII AK, launching a four division attack against Cesky Tesin, held by the Polish 7th Division. This battle would last for four days and cause over 1400 casualties.


    Fallschirmjagers fighting around Warsaw. Three combat jumps, one for
    each of the three divisions, were executed during the campaign; and the
    experience informed how they would be employed in the future.

    It is worth noting that none of the Panzer-divisionen were engaged on the first day, nor even the second. Theirs was a true exploitation role throughout. In the AOK 3 area of operations, I PzK’s forces were not committed until after the infantry had pushed the opposing forces off away from the border, and would not become seriously engaged until supporting the assault on Warsaw on 12 September. In the south, II PzK had only open country between them and their objective: Krakow, which was the same for III PzK and their objective of Lodz. Both of those cities were occupied only by headquarters units, and were not ready for the airborne operations of the Fallschirmjagers. The first engagement for any of the Panzer-divisionen was when the five divisions of III PzK were engaged in Koscian by retreating elements of the Polish 15th Division, who rapidly withdrew from the onslaught.


    A collection of pictures from the campaign. Top: a platoon of Pzkpfw.IVBs
    gets ready for their advance towards Warsaw. Left: infantry under fire
    during the battle of Tszew, one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign.
    Right: a wounded dispatch rider.

    Once Krakow was secured, the II PzK turned north to cut off Warsaw from the south, and sent 2, 4, and 6 PzD to support the 3FsJD’s assault on Warsaw. The I PzK was advancing slowly from the west, but consistently was diverted because of retreating Polish forces along the Vistula river and could not detach from these engagements which slowed their advance down. In the end, it mattered little, the Polish army was not equipped to deal with the Panzers and their doctrinal approach was based on what had worked against the Soviets in the 1920 war: infantry holding key terrain while cavalry could use the wide plains to sweep behind their opponents and into their supply lines. The other failure for the Poles was their failure to concentrate their forces against the Germans: none of their divisions holding against the possibility of the Soviets invading were ever engaged and with the collapse of effective resistance in the west, those divisions disappeared, with their forces fleeing to Romania and Lithuania for escape to Britain. Nor did the navy fare much better: in a series of four engagements during their attempt to execute Operation Peking, all Polish destroyers were sunk, though the submarines made it to Britain.


    The two pre-dreadnaught battleships in port in Danzig. These vessels were
    far past their prime, yet continued to be pressed into active war service.

    The consternation felt by the Poles against the British for their failure to properly support the resistance was acute. The British failed to mount a serious operation to deploy ground forces, of course, as they would have had to negotiate the Kattegat and Denmark was still solidly pro-German, despite their claim of neutrality. The Royal Navy was ordered to undertake a relief effort against the Kriegsmarine, and dispatched a task force centered on the light aircraft carrier Hermes and supported by two heavy and three light cruisers. It should have been more than sufficient to deal with Raeder’s SAG Baltisch--centered on the two old pre-dreadnaught battleships--but the sudden appearance of a Royal Navy task force in the Oresund caused something of a panic in the halls of Shell-Haus in Berlin, leading to the sortie of the battlecruiser groups, and indirectly to the series of engagements around Denmark.


    *****​
    Author's Note: I'm back! Whew, this update took awhile... more from my desire to make those maps and the OOBs than anything, really. I am frustrated with myself because I don't have a good grasp on the real "flow" of the action here; I don't know when particular areas were occupied nor a more refined view of the timing of battles because I only have by day versus by hour. This is also before I was taking screenshots of everything, so I can't even go off of that... ugh. Anyways, hope you all enjoy it!
     
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    Appendix N: Axis Armies Order of Battle and Division TO&E, 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    Appendix N
    Axis Military Orders of Battle and Division Table of Organization and Equipment
    1942


    I. GERMANY













    II. HUNGARY



    III. ITALY












    III. JAPAN








    *****
    Author's Note: Whew, this took awhile. Had to reevaluate where everything was, then found more than a few numbering issues, and IIRC, the limit on pictures in a post is twenty, which means that there will be more posts called "Appendix N" because I want to make sure that I don't lose too much fidelity with these!
    @Axe99 might enjoy the naval pron, and all of those pictures should be appropriately sized to relate to one another!

    Japan Update (27SEP19): Paradox can't keep any of their research correct... ugh... So there are some modifications to the historical record. Ask questions and I'll sort out what I need to mention.
     
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    IX: 1. Sitzkrieg or 'Phoney War', Feb - Aug 1942: Foreign and Domestic Politics
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    February - August 1942

    Map of the World, 19 February 1942.

    When the German Heer stunned the world by the conquest of Poland in a mere nine days, there was a sobering pause. War had changed, and certainly if the eighth largest army in the world could be overcome so quickly, then how prepared were the rest of the Allies?

    Soviet May Day celebration. This camaraderie was no
    longer evident between the Germans and Russians by
    1942.

    One of the first reactions of this war was the full mobilization of the Soviet Union on 10 March, followed two days later by Finland’s mobilization. Tensions along this border could be adequately described as “tense” since the series of skirmishes back in 1939 which had sufficiently chastised the Soviet Union from widening the war. Finland had long sought to maintain their independence from Moscow, especially after the four-month-long civil war which had begun in May 1918 between communist “red” and conservative “white” forces. During the interbellum period, Finland had sought to develop strong ties with their Scandanavian neighbors, though as those nations turned more to fascism and away from liberal democracy, the Finns themselves turned more towards London than Oslo or Stockholm. Their development of strong relations would lead to Finland joining the Allies in 1943.


    Finnish troops in the Mannerheim line in 1942.
    Despite being a tiny and technologically backwards
    force in the late 30s and early 40s, the Finns had
    thrown back the Soviet invasion attempts and
    guaranteed their own independence.

    At a rare cabinet meeting on 13 March, Speer--sitting in for his figurehead Hjalmar Schacht--laid out the problem faced by the Reich. The Main Enemy, the Soviet Union, could call upon over 900 combat and combat support brigades, and was estimated to number over 1000 combat brigades within the next twelve months. In the meanwhile, the Heer would be faced with holding their western flank while a significant portion (roughly one third of all ground combat troops) of their own forces were little more than propaganda numbers. The Italians were in little better position, scattering their own forces around what amounted to at best a tertiary theater of East Africa or Greece. Hungary’s forces were largely best held as garrison troops as well. The problem, as Speer put it to the assembled crowd, was one of production. Speer argued strenuously for the arms industry to face the reality of the situation and permit women into the workforce, as well as require more shifts in those factories deemed most important. This was not merely some desire to actually push for the development of the Reich; it was a thinly-veiled grab at power. By the end of the day, Speer had secured the approval for Führerbefehle (Fuhrer Order) 4, Verfolgung des Krieges und des Dienstes des Volkes (Economic Prosecution of the War and Service of the People). Essentially, this order dictated two things: that all manpower would serve by requirement and a total economic mobilization with a focus on heavy industry was mandated to prosecute the war.


    Speer (left) delivering some news to Goering, together with
    Bruno Loerzer and Gunther Korten. Speer wanted control
    over all German munitions and arms production, and the
    power that would go with it. He backed Goering in the
    internecine warfare that accompanied Hitler’s “cabinet.”

    In England, a major worker strike sparked off by miners in Kent at the Betteshanger Colliery lasted nearly 19 days. The concerns focused on the danger of working certain seams of coal for the war effort, and the labor recruited to work those mines. The strike had follow-on effects, most especially with the strikes in Liverpool and Birkenhead by longshoremen, dockmen, drivers and conductors--nearly 12,000 workers in total. While the government under Bevin sought to promote conciliation rather than conflict and publicly deemed the strikes “hardly anything to worry about,” Order 1305 was exercised and three union officials were prosecuted and over a thousand miners fined. The sentences were by-and-large suspended and rapidly forgiven entirely, but strikes continued throughout the war.


    Spanish foreign minister Ramón Serrano Suñer, left,
    as the Caudillo Francisco Franco meets with Il Duce,
    Benito Mussolini. The support for the Nationalists during
    the Spanish Civil War would be paid back through the
    military access to Spanish territory during the war.

    As the latest European war (the third in five years) began, several of the otherwise non-aligned nations began to show their hands slightly. The first was the Spanish announcement that Italy would have transit rights through Spain’s territory.* While not going so far as to permit missions be launched from their territory, the possible use of Spanish bases by Italian forces caused grave pause to the Commonwealth arrayed against Germany. Italy had not yet joined the war, but Britain’s lifeline ran through the Suez, past Malta to Gibraltar and thence to the Isles. With the use of Spanish bases, the Regia Marina could range farther from home, despite the short legs of their fleet. Denmark followed suit in April giving transit rights** to Germany, whose efforts to influence through the Geheimdienst under Frick had paid off handsomely. By June, funding for operations organized by the Geheimdienst in the United States was called off as the support needed to be directed elsewhere for the war effort.


    The Riksdag today. The work of the Swedish NSAP to
    control the expansion of the left-wing parties and to support
    Germany fell apart when the expansionist desires started to
    hit too close to home.

    Across the Öresund, Stockholm was paralyzed in mid-March by a Geheimdienst-orchestrated Support the War demonstration. With much of the population swept up in the popularity of the Nationalsocialistiska Arbetarpartiet (NSAP) and broadly supportive of Berlin’s calls for support. With the NSAP in control of the Riksdag, the body passed legislation that outlawed the Communist and Socialist parties in June. This support was short-lived, however, as the NSAP’s popularity waned with Germany’s expansionist tendencies.


    Stalin (second left) and the son of the Shah, Crown Prince
    Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Vyacheslav Molotov during
    a meeting in Tehran during early 1942. The efforts expended
    in wooing Iran to the Soviet cause were largely wasted.

    The Soviet Union conducted several of their own influence operations in Iran during the end of the first half of 1942. Securing possible transshipment routes for trade that would not be threatened by the noose that Moscow clearly saw descending upon its neck with their western flank bounded by Norway, Sweden and Denmark leaning towards Germany and Finland leaning towards the Allies and Japan and China on their eastern flank, the only route out was to the south through the Middle East. While the Pahlavi regime was coolly receptive to the overtures from Moscow, Tehran’s outlook was more supportive of the Germans and Italians, though not going so far as to outright proclaim for the Axis powers. Reza Shah recognized that any public support would doom his regime as the Soviet Union and Great Britain would never permit the threats to their respective empires that an openly Axis Iran would cause.


    Imperial Japanese submarine I-8 arriving in Wilhelmshaven
    for the transfer of experts to Germany. Their support informed
    a significant portion of the plan for Orkney Bulldog. Below: the
    Reich’s contribution: several examples of Panzers, including a
    Panther prototype.



    Japanese Colonel Ishide riding in the cupola of the Tiger.

    The positive flow of the war in Germany’s favor in the first half of 1942 and the strategic question for Germany about striking at Great Britain led to Germany providing Japan nearly $8.6 million to train a division-sized Marine landing force. The Kriegsmarine had long held several small Marinestrosstruppkompanie (MSK) as the answer to the GD’s “wet” teams, and these special operations forces had performed admirably in Spain in the few uses of their particular talents (which included blowing up a Republican-controlled radio station on Ibizia) as well as during the opening operations against the Poles during Operation White Eagle around Danzig. These forces were nowhere near the size needed to conduct an amphibious assault into Great Britain, and so Raeder reformed the Seebataillon concept. This would be largely organized on the standard Heer infantry division’s lines, with three brigades each of three battalions, and would be supported by an artillery regiment and a regiment of combat engineers. While Japan was supplying the technical know-how of training, they did not supply weapons or equipment. The division itself would not be ready by the time that Operation Orkney Bulldog was launched, but the training of moving troops to shore and the planning for the landing objectives were informed by the Japanese advisors.


    Goering in a briefing outdoors, 1942. The Inspector General
    of the Air Force, Erhard Milch, is second from left. Obviously,
    the other officer to Goering’s left did not view the Reichsminister’s
    contribution favorably.

    During a speech to the Luftwaffe, Reichsminister Goering proclaimed that the Reich now possessed an air force greater than that of the rest of the world combined. The introduction of the Marschflugkörper--a “cruise missile” in modern parlance--specifically the Fieseler Fi 103 “Maikäfer” had been produced in significant numbers, with nearly 1200 examples equipping the force. With their introduction, the lack of a dedicated strategic bomber was not as problematic as previously believed, but the usefulness of the Marschflugkörper was as yet unproven.


    George Catroux was the French Governor General for
    French Indochina during the first few years of the conflict.
    His service continued until taking charge of the resistance
    against the Japanese invasion in 1943.

    France abandoning their entente with Great Britain earlier in 1942 had come as quite a shock to London. The Axis powers had seen an opening: France, riddled with internal domestic concerns and yet wanting to maintain their crumbling empire led to Japan initiating an influence campaign with Paris in June. Japan recognized that French Indochina was a route taken by American support of the Nationalist Chinese, and that the current French government were virulently anti-communist. The Japanese took this opportunity to paint the French colonial government’s opponents in Indochina--Vo Nyugen Giap and Ho Chi Minh--as much more communist than nationalist and stoked those fears progressively as the result of Soviet support especially in the Vietnam portion of the colony. The Nationalist Chinese, in response, attempted to reingratiate themselves with Germany, as a check on Japanese expansionist policy in Mainland China.


    Above: Japanese troops cross into Hong Kong.
    Below: the faces of the resistance that awaited the IJA.


    Japan, for their part, expanded the war into the Pacific on 11 July 1942 with a declaration of war against the British. Specifically, the Japanese sought to strip Britain of her Asian holdings, especially those in Malaysia and Hong Kong; Japan also sought to conquer Australia and New Zealand. The Diet, directed by the Imperial General Staff, immediately demanded the mobilization of the economy and an extension of service lengths until the end of the conflict.


    President Lindbergh speaking about the new
    Unlimited National Emergency. His betrayal of
    Isolationist Republicans led to their defections
    when Congressional Democrats began their
    investigations.

    On 17 August, an announcement was made that shocked the world. France, so long the recent historical enemy of Germany, signed onto the Anti-Comintern Pact. While not going so far as to join the war actively against their former ally, Great Britain, their tacit support and allowance of the use of air bases in Brittany and Cherbourg caused significant dismay in those parts of the world not yet affected by the war. Such was the response that even the United States, under the administration of President Charles Lindbergh, declared an Unlimited National Emergency. Given the America First wing of the Republican party was staunchly isolationist, this declaration was taken as a purely defensive arrangement, a nod that the Monroe Doctrine--and the Roosevelt Corollary to it--was back in effect.



    Italian M13/40 tanks, produced alongside the licensed
    PzKpfw.IIs, but in far fewer numbers, invade Egypt in
    1942. Below: former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    speaking at UVA in 1942.


    Italy took full advantage of the guarantee that their western flank was secured: Italy joined the war later in the day of 17 August, with Il Duce declaring in a speech to the Italian nation, “It’s our time!” Combat operations began at once: V Corps in Libya advanced to Alexandria, and the operation to secure Malta was begun. Reactions in the only two non-engaged global powers were uniformly negative: the Soviet Union saw the possibility of those who would help distract the Germans in their eventual war being overrun and initiated their own contingency planning for the future, while in the United States, former President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech at the University of Virginia, citing the concerns of the American people facing questions about the position that the nation had in the world. President Roosevelt continued that,

    “Some indeed still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.​
    Such an island may be the dream of those who still talk and vote as isolationists. Such an island represents to me and to the overwhelming majority of Americans today a helpless nightmare of a people without freedom—the nightmare of a people lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”​

    The President continued,
    “On this seventh day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-two, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.​
    “On this seventh day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-two, in this University founded by the first great American teacher of democracy, we send forth our prayers and our hopes to those beyond the seas who are maintaining with magnificent valor their battle for freedom.”​

    At the time, the speech was singular in that a former President would speak out in so public a place and to call out the sitting President for what appeared to most Americans to be a failure of diplomacy. The speech was a rallying cry for the Democrats in Congress, who began to push the issue of the administration’s failures. This also started a series of investigations which continued through into 1943.


    Mussolini speaking on the declaration of war against
    the Allies, 1942.

    Mussolini, however, did not care about the commentary by the former President. Mussolini called for the total mobilization of all aspects of the Italian economy, as well as expanding the draft and service requirements of the national forces in Italy. Late in the month, Bulgaria offered and Italy accepted transit rights through their territory. The war was very nearly global.


    ____________

    *: I don’t know how this wouldn’t have resulted in a DoW by Great Britain.

    **: I especially don’t know how this wouldn’t have resulted in an immediate occupation of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland by Great Britain… I’m going to edit it in properly to the current savegame.

    EDIT: I've decided to add a "Map of the World" to some of the posts, especially if large changes have occurred to what's holding where.
     
    Last edited:
    IX: 2. Sitzkrieg or 'Phoney War', Feb - Aug 1942: German R&D
  • Wraith11B

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    Jan - Aug 1942

    HEER.

    With the coming assault against Poland expected to begin within the month, the Heer finalized their doctrine for the mechanized infantry forces which would be supporting the Panzers throughout their operations. Time would tell whether those doctrinal moves were the right ones, but in the meantime the focus transitioned to improving attack movement by better organizing command and control at the operational level. This work, started in January, finished in May.


    Mechanized forces in training; this battalion made up
    Panzergrenadier-Brigade 1, assigned to 1.PzD.

    A continuing project that evaded notice of the Heereswaffenamt Inspector General Emil Leeb and even the Inspector of Armored Troops was the development of new engines for a future light tank project. The engine would be employed in the new armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) of mechanized units and also as a truck engine for motorized troops, but documents revealed that a relatively junior lieutenant colonel was seeking more chances to sell licenses of armored vehicles overseas, as well as a model that the Heer might use itself. Indeed, the new light tank design conducted reliability testing from May through August 1942.


    A line drawing of the VK.1602 Leopard light tank design.
    Equipped with a 5 cm Kw.K.39/1 L/60 cannon, this design
    was foreseen as a unit that could accompany the Panzer-
    Grenadiers in their operations, or for sale abroad.

    April saw the final touches of the latest iteration of the Panzer IV: the Pz.Kpfw.IV ausf. C. Problems with the ausf. As and some ausf. Bs had been exposed during the fighting in Poland, which saw significant losses in tanks, not through the impact of enemy action, but of breakdowns and design failures. A redesigned main gun and armor scheme was finalized as well. The combat experience also showed a clear need for a redesigned heavy tank: a few examples had been sent up to the Panzerkorps from the two motorized infantry corps’ Leiche-Divisionen, and the experience was less than stellar, but funding was delayed until intelligence courtesy of Frick’s Geheimdienst showed that the Soviet Union had an advanced heavy tank design that was beginning serial production.


    A Panzer IVC with the final Schürzen armor.
    This armor was largely ineffective, and tended
    to be removed by the crews at the slightest
    inconvenience.

    Small improvements to the production models of small arms for the infantry units began development in January, and were informed by experience in Poland. The Gewehr 43A had proven useful in combat, and was well respected by the infantrymen carrying it. Thus, the improvements were geared towards the refinement of magazines, and better ammunition burn. Improvements were also made to the MP38, which would become the MP42 and all small arms projects were finished in April. The Heereswaffenamt released more funding in February to improve support weapons, which focused in this iteration on the mortars assigned to infantry forces, and which finished in April. Further funding was approved in March for both improvements to the light artillery and anti-tank weapons held at the regimental level; these projects received final approval for production in May and June.


    Above, an improved mortar team digging in.
    Below, a mountain howitzer.

    In February and March, the Heereswaffenamt concluded the training for the Feldgendarmerie of the Heer, as well as the final selection for bridging equipment and assault weapons for the Pioniere. This freed funding for lessons from the recent conflict in Poland for both First Aid and Combat Medicine in March and April and continued through July. Experience in the employment of the Fallschirmjagers in Poland had delayed the final approval of tactical improvements to their operations until April.


    A member of the Feldgendarmerie performing
    his duties in a cold rain, 1942.

    Through August, digesting the experience from Poland was the focus for the Heer and their after action reports. April had four projects start: the first to improve generals’ experience in recognizing the elements necessary for breakthroughs, the second and third in improving organization of infantry units and their training for the assault. April’s final project was for the organization of the Panzers. In July, training Panzer forces began for future operations. In August, work began on training Gebirgsjäger and Fallschirmjäger formations as more combined arms operations.


    KRIEGSMARINE.

    The Kriegsmarine’s winter submarine training evolution concluded in January. While the after action reports were being assembled, the Unterseekriegsleiter office began planning for their contribution to the Grossdeutsches Reich’s war plans: unrestricted submarine warfare. Hitler had expressed reservations about the usefulness of such tactics, being of the understanding that it had been what finally brought the United States into the war against Germany during the Great War. Doenitz, supported by Frick, had explained that with the ascension of the decisively isolationist America First wing of the GOP in the United States, it would be highly unlikely to repeat itself. Raeder remained unimpressed, which led to the uboats not being deployed for months during the opening months of the war with the Allies. The doctrinal review would not be completed until late June, at which point it was too late for several flotillas of uboats which had to be disbanded because of losses.


    Type XXIEs after conducting training in 1942.
    Despite the promise of the fleet, conflict between
    Raeder and Doenitz led to the USKL largely
    remaining in port for much of the first few months
    of the war.

    The test programme for the refinement of Radar to equip the small surface combatants of the Kriegsmarine produced a deployable result in March. While funding was not immediately allocated to the project and thus it would be months before all refinements would be completed, the development was feted in the Kriegsmarine as a way to make those smaller (and thus more economical) vessels better able to find, fix and fight the merchantmen and escorts of the Royal Navy. The battles during the spring and summer of 1942 also showed that the heavy units needed an improved Radar set, but funding this project did not get released until July.


    A Focke Wulf Fw200 and Junkers Ju88 conducting training in the
    North Sea, 1942. Each Marinefliegergeschwader maintained a
    Staffel of navalized Fw200s for their long range reconnaissance
    missions.

    In March, the Kriegsmarine finished distributing the results of the late winter war games conducted by the heavy surface combatants to the officers of the fleet. These efforts and their recent conduct made the officers fresh for the surface battles which dominated the Sitzkrieg months of 1942. The funding was rapidly redirected after the first several battles to more crew training, targeting and range finding as well as further training for the Kriegsmarine’s air arm. The losses and damage suffered by the fleet during May and the loss of the Albatross in February was especially concerning for the Kriegsmarine. Indeed, the battles around the Kattegatt were so furious that the Kriegsmarine also ordered more training for their pilots and ground crew and a review of the tactical employment of the aircraft in April; all this training would finish in August. The crew training for cruisers would not finish until July for the heavy units and until August for the light units.


    Stettin, the first of its class of light cruisers, showing the latest
    radar set on her mast. Designed to almost be comparable in size
    to a heavy cruiser, the class was optimized for surface raiding, a
    leading cause of damage sustained by the type.

    The loss of the vessels making up the KuBA in late February to air attacks from the Ark Royal’s air wing caused the USKL to demand more capable air raid warning devices which could be installed on their submarines. The project, ordered in April, yielded an improved device in July, but as with all improvements, would be subject to the tyranny of time and effort to refit all submarines with the equipment.


    Kriegsmarine Frigate F1, dedicated convoy escort. These
    vessels served as the last line of defense against the
    predations of the Royal Navy, and Royal Canadian Navy.

    One of the main concerns of the units in the surface fleet after the series of engagements in Spring 1942 was the apparent training deficiency in the reconnaissance mission of the small surface combatants. The restricted waters of the Baltic, especially around Denmark, had made the battles a pile of knife-fights at relatively close range and had rapidly ground down the Royal Navy’s strength, especially in heavy cruisers. Training for spotting enemy vessels was begun in May and continued through early September. The merchant losses also convinced the SKL that anti-submarine warfare was seriously lacking, and so funding was provided in June to rectify that deficiency, while in July, an effort was started to work on escort system for the destroyers and frigates of the Kriegsmarine.


    A Heinkel He111 testing two torpedoes for the Kriegsmarine,
    1942. While the Luftwaffe assisted in the project, it did so only
    begrudgingly, and thus delayed the program.

    Studies of the engagements of the Marinefliegergeschwaders showed a decisive lack of hits on the vessels during engagements in May, which caused the Kriegsmarine to again look at the weapon systems which equipped their aircraft. It was June before they also began looking at the targeting systems and tactics, techniques and procedures for the operations. Another project focused on at-sea naval strikes was continuing from the previous year and published some conclusions in July but the project continued to be funded. The Kriegsmarine also began to look at the effort at making naval strikes in ports and harbors for the expected invasion of the British Isles, but it was not finished before the Royal Navy had dispatched their remaining fleet to deal with the Japanese Navy.


    A plan of the first German light aircraft carrier, Alder.
    Experience in carrier aviation was seriously lacking
    in the Kriegsmarine, but that didn’t stop Raeder from
    wanting his prestige projects to go ahead.

    While a German set of naval architects had conducted a thorough study of Japanese carrier designs in the early 1930s, German naval architects ran into difficulties due to lack of experience in building such vessels, the situational realities of carrier operations in the North Sea and the lack of overall clarity in the ships' mission objectives. This lack of clarity led to features such as cruiser-type guns for commerce raiding and defense against British cruisers, that were either eliminated from or not included in American and Japanese carrier designs. American and Japanese carriers, designed along the lines of task-force defense, used supporting cruisers for surface firepower, which allowed flight operations to continue without disruption and kept carriers out of undue risk of damage or sinking from surface action. While designs were well advanced in concept, the actual operational doctrines supporting their use were not. A pair of studies were funded in July: one, how to employ carriers within the Kriegsmarine and two, how best to operate those vessels. The ability to conduct this training was significantly diminished because of the lack of any carriers, but that did not stop the research studies from proceeding. [NOTE: recall, because of an error in my modding, GER and ITA wound up with more Carrier techs than I wanted to give them, which was none; and so I made a house rule that I would not allow myself to build any CVs as either nation until either I had researched some version of Carrier techs and either three CVLs had been built or the year was at least 1942.]




    The Stettin sinking after the engagement off Dogger Bank.

    The experience of the engagements around the Baltic and North Seas had exposed a significant weakness in the light cruisers of the Kriegsmarine. Older designs, especially the Emden-, K- and Leipzig-classes were becoming ever more outclassed by the planned expansion of the British and American navies. Thus, three projects initiated for better main armament, anti-air armament and engines for those light cruisers while another two projects, one for an improvement in the anti-aircraft artillery schemes for the battlecruisers and more training provided for Fire Control Systems were approved to begin in August.


    LUFTWAFFE.

    The combined projects of working in ground-based radar into how the fighter units of the Luftwaffe operated finished in February. These projects, based on the latest version of ground-based radar demonstrated the shortcomings of the system, which informed the development of an aerial search and navigation radars (the former of which was completed in March, the latter not begun until June) and the demand for an improved ground-based version (funded in April, and completed in July), as well as medium air search radar for the tactical bombers (and later co-opted by the Kriegsmarine). This larger radar system was completed in August, at which point the Luftwaffe demanded navigation radar systems.




    A radar station designed for raid warning. These radars were
    spared almost no expense despite their cost.

    The radar systems were only part of the plan. Goering had invested significant amounts of his personal prestige into the VLaN, which saw the construction of the progenitor of what would become known as an integrated air defense system (IADS), a networked system of radars, air defense artillery, and fighters to protect the nation. New artillery systems were completed in February to leverage radar-direction for those guns.




    This Würzburg was designed for gunlaying, rather than mere
    detection of hostile aircraft.

    Training for all Luftwaffe aviation formations continued with the inclusion of lessons learned over Poland and were finalized in April. This included better sortie generation rates through the use of what became known as elefantenritt, or elephant walk, in the close air support and tactical and heavy bomber formations which were no-notice drills designed to go from stand-down to full combat operations in as little time as possible. These drills also culminated in several ground attack training scenarios in the Sudetenland training area as well as in several Polish locations; by April they were coming to an end. Another lesson learned by the Luftwaffe was that their medium sized bombs were in need of better fuzing and design, and so the project was funded in July.




    An A4 conducting a field launch test, 1942. The A4
    was the epitome of the wartime efforts to restrain the
    Luftwaffe from “needing” a strategic bomber, and in
    that, the Luftwaffe succeeded.

    Another of Goering’s pet projects, the Marschflugkörper, was certified and the first production example was rolled out in March. By August, the Luftwaffe held nearly 1200 examples, and yet Goering was told of even greater possibilities. Continued funding into rocket research was directed to HVP in April, and in July, Goering was briefed on a project which would finalize what was called Aggregat (German for “Aggregate”) and would produce the world’s first ballistic missile. The project received approval from the Reichsluftminister in July and replaced the funding for the research in August.




    The Heinkel He 178, the world’s first jet-powered
    aircraft.

    These developments had convinced some in the Luftwaffe of the possibility of military aircraft equipped with rocket engines. A theoretical jet engine was demonstrated in April aboard the Heinkel He 178, a private effort by the company and spearheaded by Hans von Ohain and Ernst Heinkel. While Goering did not attend, two other high-ranking members of the Luftwaffe did: Ernst Udet and Erhard Milch. Neither were necessarily impressed with the display, but funding was begrudgingly parted with for further development research in April and continued through the year.


    CIVIL/SECRET.

    Speer’s desire to continue the drive to ruthlessly improve his standing and power in the Reich led to two projects in February and March focused on improving the production of industry and its efficiency. Focused as he was on centralizing all industrial concerns under his control, when these projects were finished in May and June respectively, his ministries had also completed several projects in the refinement of rare materials, steel production, oil refining, coal processing and synthetic fuel projects in March. Speer’s compatriot in the Reich’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Richard Walther Darré, had been convinced to begin another round of Agriculture improvement projects in March as well, which finished and began implementation in June.


    Richard Walther Darré, originally Ricardo Walther Óscar Darré,
    was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was a leading NSDAP
    ideologist who survived the Night of the Long Knives as a
    cabinet Minister for Food and Agriculture. Speer was a fellow
    compatriot with Darré’s dislike of Schacht.

    Applying some of the previous project results in the production of supplies, their organization and transportation, new projects in February (for the former) and March (for the other two) finished in June and July, respectively. This also was joined by a February project to continue the preparation for both the restoration of damage from strategic attacks against the Reich and for the needed expansion of the Reich into their new territory; this project was completed in June.

    Speer’s ability to bring the results endeared him to the Führer, and his influence within the inner circle of the Reich continued to burn brighter. Schacht had long since stopped even bothering to show himself at the Ministry, leaving a barely-disguised conflict for influence between Frick’s Abwehr, Heer, and Kriegsmarine on one side, the Luftwaffe and Goering on another with Speer’s Armaments Ministry (along with several of the other civilian ministries, especially those of Economics, Food and Agriculture, Labor, Transport and Education) playing the two off one another for his own benefit.

    It was Speer’s own involvement which continued the push for splitting the atom: Speer saw this as a way to liberate Germany from her need to produce coal or oil for powering the Führer’s plans for the grand restructuring of Berlin and other cities. Another influx of cash into the requisite background research was authorized in April, and ended in August while in May a specific project to work on separation of isotopes concluded and turned to the physics required for the construction of a nuclear reactor.




    Frick, right, meeting with Alexander Mach, left. Mach was the
    more ideological component of the Slovakian government, and
    staunchly pro-German. Frick used this to his advantage when
    dealing with von Ribbentrop.

    Frick, in one of his many plays to ingratiate himself with Speer (as well as to smooth over some of the issues between himself and Goering) advocated providing funding for decryption and encryption efforts. Speer in turn asked Frick for more funding for both mechanical and electronic computing machines, as the scientists who reported to him stated that their efforts would be aided by such machines and they would also help other projects as well. Speer, Frick and Goering all agreed to provide such funding in June.

    *****

    All, I've taken the post so that I can thank everyone. It will be amended to the post at 1000EDT.

    Wait till it gets to just 1 to go and the complex games theory around trying to engineer someone else accidentally posting at the top of the page.
    As it usually is with your own AARs, but I have secured the post (it will be amended to this one!).

    Clearly, the solution is to have the German science directorate develop heatproof pockets. :p
    They tried, but couldn't sort things out... Something about thermodynamics.

    so this is the final post to take you to the beginning of the page or am I just screwing things up?
    You've achieved the necessary numbers!!
     
    Last edited:
    IX: 3. Sitzkrieg or 'Phoney War', Feb - Aug 1942: Italian R&D
  • Wraith11B

    Call Kenny Loggins, you're in the DANGER ZONE...
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    Jan - Aug 1942


    Regio Esercito.

    In January, several projects came to a conclusion (among them a new training and doctrine publication for the Esercito’s Carabinieri or military police), releasing funds for one of the last two portions of the Infantry Improvement Project of 1942: for improving the support weapons in the infantry company and battalion. In February, the final project, infantry anti-tank weapons, received their approval for funding. These projects, farmed out to Beretta and Breda, specifically, returned an improved version of their current products in May. An improved light artillery system debuted in April (having been funded the year previous). The new weapons encouraged the Commando Supremo to begin a doctrinal study and training regime for their infantry units in May. Another encouraged focus from the German attaches was for combat medicine and first aid, much like they had already done in their own forces. The Italians begrugingly accepted the “suggestion” and funded them in March and April, which finished in July.


    A batch of Carabinieri officers in 1942. The Germans had
    consistently pointed out the deficiencies of their nominal
    Italian ally’s military police units, and while funding eventually
    was approved, the dedication to forming new units remained
    low.

    The new doctrinal manual for the Carabinieri was unfortunately out of date at publication, and the German military advisors scornfully reminded their Italian counterparts. The Italians, refused to reapproach their issue until March when funding was finally available, and published their latest effort in July. Another special branches, that of the Paracadutisti, Alpini and Mountain schools issued new training and doctrinal guidance in February, and the Paracadutisti received approval for their new equipment in February and new tactical guidance in March.


    The M15/42. Experience with the PzKpfw.IILs informed some,
    minor, choices in this tank, but the Italians insisted on riveted
    armor, a standarized gun system (instead of the two versions
    of 37mm in the L-IT ausf. L and 50mm in the L-IT ausf. H) that
    was supposed to be a compromise between the two but didn’t
    meet either of the benefits nor mitigated the problems of either.

    In the Armor branch, building on the experience with the PzKpfw.IIL-ITs, new armor schemes and a new engine design received final authorization in February. Funding for organizational work was continued when the original funding ran out in May, and the German attaches had been encouraging this work for years, ever since the Italians had first chosen to purchase the German light armor sets. Further work on instilling an offensive mindset amongst the divisions of the Italian forces began in February, and finished in July. In June, work began on lowering the supply consumption of the numbers of headquarters in the Esercito; while more work on maximizing the numbers of forces that a divisional commander could call on started in July.


    Regia Marina.

    Radar training, long the bane of the figurehead Admiral Cavagnari, concluded funding in February after sufficient numbers of operators had completed their course work. This work then turned to completing the Fire Control System training in March. Doctrine work turned towards better positioning of the battleships for naval combat in March, which would end in August. The crews of the show pieces of the Marina completed another round of training in May, with the requisite funding turning towards training the destroyers of the fleet for their escort roles, and working on anti-submarine warfare techniques which were pummeling the Kriegsmarine, and which the Italians were themselves significantly deficient in. Another project, specifically that of the optimization of the Regia Marina’s naval bases, finally finished in July.


    An Italian convoy under simulated attack from
    Naval Aviation units in 1942.

    Naval aviation training was completed in March for organization and planning naval air strikes at sea and against ports. In May, more funding was appropriated for naval strike techniques, which were thought to improve the efficiency of those strikes. This project was supplemented by another training cycle in June. In July, the Regia Marina sought new air-dropped torpedoes, as they had been using slightly modified surface vessel torpedoes which were having difficulty staying intact upon deployment, as well as showing faulty trigger mechanisms.


    RM Scipione Africano, one of the latest versions
    of destroyer in the Regia Marina.

    More funding received approval for disbursal in July with a training cycle for increasing the capability of destroyers and light cruisers to detect other naval forces. Previous efforts essentially had spread the destroyer screens far and wide, but relaying that information back to the battleline was problematic. Radios could be detected, light semaphore and flags could only be used within line of sight. Thus, the training focused on using those new Radar sets to detect vessels at ranges beyond sight. This funding coincided with a push for a new armament system for destroyers. In August, when debates in the Supramarino concerning the use of submarines in convoy raiding operations again arose. In a sop to their commanders, some research was conducted in convoy raiding doctrine, but it largely focused on the surface fleet.


    Civil/Secret.

    For Mussolini, little mattered more than creating an Italy that would be counted amongst the greatest nations in the world. To reach that lofty goal--few would go so far as to dare challenge it as a dream--he recognized that the industrial base was in desperate need of improvement. He directed the accountants in several concerned ministries--namely, National Economy, Corporations, Posts and Telegraphs, and Agriculture and Forests--to fund several projects to improve industrial production and efficiencies, as well as the production of military and military-related supply, logistics and organization, and Civil Defense. The industrial subsidies (production, efficiency and supply production) ran out in May, while Supply Organization and Logistics expired in June. Funding for agriculture improvements received approval in March; those subsidies expired in June. The Civil Defense project finalized their recommendations in July.


    Mussolini chairing a cabinet meeting. Throughout
    Il Duce’s tenure, he held almost every cabinet position,
    at one time or another.

    In February, Mussolini acting in his position as Minister of the Interior, received notification from the department that projects to improve extraction of coal and oil refineries had finished; a few weeks later, he was informed that improvements to the extraction of synthetic oil was finalized.

    The latest iteration of the journey to improving Italy’s radio detection telemetry capability received funding in March. These developments, spearheaded by Nello Carrara and Lieutenant Ugo Tiberio at FIVRE developed a device broadly equivalent to the British cavity magnetron to further develop their radar systems. The radar systems entered production in July. Once that project had been completed, the funding was directed to begin developing a new encryption key system for the Regia Marina; the funding for these projects had been diverted from the Regia Aeronautica’s budget after significant consternation had developed with the staff of the Superaereo for purchasing foreign aircraft rather than procuring local examples as well as suggesting that the Italians should develop a strategic bomber.

    *****
    Author's Note: I decided to strike whilst the iron was hot, given that there's a bit of a gap between when the top of the page billing might occur, and several posts since my last one.

    Post to follow. This is some impressive work.
    Thank you, and can't wait to read that response!

    Eagerly waiting for the next update .
    I am planning to download this whole AAR as pdf cause I wanna read it offline again and again and again and againnnnn
    This brings up something I want to open up to the community at large. I can understand that these posts can get quite large (some posts are in excess of 3k words!) and thus might not lend themselves to single sitting readings. Would my readers appreciate having the ability to grab PDFs of the work? (I'm leaning to a "Book" and "Chapter" system, so each chapter will have its own, but then I'll also have a "Book" with all of the chapters in one file)
     
    Last edited:
    IX: 4. SITZKRIEG OR 'PHONEY WAR': Axis Military Expansion Jan - Aug 1942
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    January - August 1942


    Armies.

    Heer expansion in the first eight months of 1942 can be divided into two realms: continued development of their motorized and mechanized forces on one hand and expansion of the Reserve Armee which would hold the conquered areas. For the former, the deployment of two new Schutzstaffel brigades for the XV and XVI Armeekorps’ Liechte-Divisionen as well as the 69. and 71. Infantrie-Division (mot); the latter was detached and immediately began retraining the motorized infantry brigades to become the first of the Panzergrenadier-Divisionen (PzGrD), the motorized artillery battalion group was also given to training to receive the first examples of a Multiple-Launch Rocket System which could maintain pace with the mechanized division it was assigned to. The 1. and 2. PzGrD would commission in late July. Other attachments for the XV and XVI AK(mot) included a motorized air defense artillery battalion group and a heavy armored brigade for XVI AK (mot).


    Above: the schwere Wurfrahmen 40 (sWuR 40) frames attached to the sides of
    Sd.Kfz. 251/1 half-track, loaded with the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41.
    Below: the Nebelwerfer 41 conducting a firing exercise in 1942.

    The latter--the Reserve Armee--received another corps command headquarters in the form of XXX Armeekorps (Feldgendarmerie). The 244. and 245. Feldgendarmerie-Divisionen activated in mid-May, well after five other FGDs had been transferred from the corps commands on the West Wall to new commands in the Reserve Armee. These commands were also receiving their ADA battalion groups, seven were activated over the course of the months.


    A company of the 244. FGD during a “ceremony.”

    Italy’s focus--what little they managed for the Esercito--focused almost entirely on the recreation of their MSVN forces for homeland garrisons. Three divisions were reactivated over eight months. The Esercito’s decisive deficit of heavy artillery was slowly being chipped away as two brigades of artillery were activated and assigned to their respective divisions. Like the Italians, the Japanese proved that their army was not truly focused on increasing their forces and only commissioned seven engineer brigades which were attached to their garrison forces; indeed their army was still contracting from the disestablishment of the anti-tank forces.


    Air Forces.

    The Luftwaffe was largely finishing its latest round of expansion during the first quarter of 1942. Zerstörergeschwader 12, the second group for XVIII Fliegerkorps (Multi-Role) was activated on 12 January, while XIX FK (MR), consisting of ZGs 13 and 14 would not be active until mid-June and not combat capable until well afterwards. Jagdgeschwader 21 activated under the aegis of XXIX FK (INT) on 5 February, and it’s compatriot, JG 22, would commission on 13 April, but the command would be disestablished as a realignment of all wings participating in the defense of the Reich were realigned the same day. XXIV FK (INT) would take the helm and be composed of JGs 7, 8, 13, 14, 21 and 22. The last tactical bomber group, Kampfgeschwader 10, completed the authorized strength of XXX Fliegerkorps (TAC) on 17 February.


    Examples of the Bf 109s destined for JG 21. By 1942, most of
    the squadrons for the Luftwaffe had been established, with new
    formations foregone in favor of replacing the airframes in the
    groups which already existed.

    With these major commands completed, aircraft production focus turned largely to the production of replacements for combat and training losses, ammunition and disposable stores. This was not the case, however, for the development of the Marschflugkörper, the first two hundred of which were activated on 11 April. Production ramped up considerably and rapidly: 800 more were completed in May, while 400 were accepted in June and July and another 800 in August.


    Italian Bf 109s were equipped with the Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm
    machine gun, which was comparable to the MG 131 from Germany,
    but nowhere near as capable as the German weapon.

    In Italy, the lack of focus on producing more Italian designs had caused something of a political stir, but the funding was not diverted or removed from the airframes already procured. The first three wings of the Bf 109-i (modified from the traditional German version with the replacement of the Rheinmetall-Borsig 13mm MG 131s for the Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns and Italian radios) were received over the course of several months. A sop to the Savoia-Marchetti corporation for ignoring their offer of producing an Italian multi-role fighter had been an order of tactical bombers, formed into the fourth group on 21 April.


    Naval Forces.

    The Kriegsmarine had expended much of their goodwill in the years before 1942, and the conflicts between the command staffs had caused a breakdown in the production of new hulls, especially as the cost of production for a single u-boat had skyrocketed from the cost of the early coastal subs of the Type IIA/Bs to the latest Type XXIEs. Indeed, only Ubootgeschwader 20 and 21 were commissioned making up Uboot Flotille X.


    The Focke-Wulf Fw190Tr was a modified multi-role aircraft
    designed to be able to bring a torpedo to conduct the strike
    mission or supplement the Bf 109Trs in the air defense or
    escort role. This of course supposed a light-weight
    torpedo which wouldn’t hamper the range of the fighter.

    On the other hand, the Kriegsmarine also took delivery of the first examples of the Messerschmitt Bf 109Tr (for Träger, or “carrier”) interceptors, Focke-Wulf Fw190Tr multi-role fighter/torpedo attack and Junkers Ju-87Tr dive bombers were received and began operational training. Another two groups were planned and examples were in production. Goering had been fuming for years over the loss of some of the focus on aviation, but had developed a bit of a magnanimous view: the more cooperative he appeared to his compatriots in the Kriegsmarine, the more chances that he would be able to eventually subsume their laughable efforts at their air arm, especially as his own forces were so graciously providing the Kriegsmarine with their second-hand aircraft.


    Commissioning ceremonies aboard the
    Leonardo Da
    Vinci the day before the commissioning of her sister,
    Francesco Caracciolo. The cost of these battleships
    far exceeded their usefulness as for much of the war
    the Royal Navy’s focus was on Germany.

    Italy had spent much of the last several years lavishly funding the Regia Marina. Indeed, on 20 February, the two battleships of the Da Vinci-class, the RM Leonardo Da Vinci and Francesco Caracciolo were commissioned into the fleet. Two more vessels were planned in order to fully (and finally) replace the dreadnaughts of the Andrea Doria and Conte di Cavour classes and to maintain a fleet of eight battleships. At the end of March, four destroyers of the Capitani Romani-class were commissioned as Destroyer Squadrons 30 and 31.


    A light cruiser, Suyuza, on trials after her commissioning, 1942.
    Japan was the only Axis navy to lose major fleet units to the
    Royal Navy in the first years of the war, a fact which generated
    significant smugness from the OKKM and RM.

    For Imperial Japan, her navy was quite appropriately considered the most important force. Over the course of eight months, the Chrysanthemum throne commissioned two light cruisers, four advanced destroyers, the most advanced aircraft carrier in the world in the form of the Hiryu, and a maritime reconnaissance wing.

    *****
    Author's Notes: I post this because it's done, and I like keeping everyone up to date! Also, everyone: ACHTUNG! ALARM! The YAYAs are back! Vote vote vote!

    Caught up again and WOW. Your work got even greater again! With all those great photos and greater ship drawings.
    Thank you, sir. I appreciate the compliments!

    But I hope, Lindbergh is forced to go soon, Roosevelt comes back and the US become a member of the allies, soon.
    Lindbergh does go, and it's a fiasco... Roosevelt does not return, however, as he is disgraced from the loss to Lindbergh... I'll have a whole update about that when the time comes! Suffice it to say, impeachment is a terrible process!
     
    Last edited:
    Appendix O: Luftwaffe Combat-Coded Aircraft Strength, FEB 1942
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    Appendix O
    Luftwaffe Combat-Coded Aircraft Strength
    1942











    *****
    Author's Note: Holy crap but did this take forever. I was hoping to have this out for the two year anniversary of this AAR, and I'm basically only off by about a month. That said, the hardest part was trying to find scale appropriate representations of all of the aircraft. Then, editing them out of where they were (wish I was better with Paint.Net, because as you might be able to tell there are some random pixels floating around everything). I was going to try and shoot for every nation, but after this, I think Germany can have it and everyone can drool over these. Inspiration provided by "@Naval_Graphics" on Twitter, and their "Every plane in the USAF/USMC/USN/USA" and especially "Every Ship in the USN" (which was one of the ones that I really wanted to do). I guess this is also in honor of being named "Graphics Artist of the Year"!

    Since I didn't annotate it within the graphics: the JGs have Bf 109s and Bf 110s, the ZG have Fw 190s.

    Well, that's one way to avoid AI idiocy in the game... :eek:
    For sure. I hate the fact that the AI makes this game far easier than it needed to be, honestly.

    I just caught up...this..this is trully glorioys setup...

    I am in shock
    Well, maybe have a bit more shock from these graphics!!
     
    Last edited:
    X: 1. Opening Salvos: Operation White Eagle and Operation Catherine, February 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    1. Opening Salvos: Operation White Eagle and Operation Catherine

    Operation White Eagle--the German invasion of Poland--was largely the Heer’s show, but that didn’t preclude the Kriegsmarine from trying to gain some glory for itself. While not decisive, it did set the stage for the actions around Denmark that so radically changed the face of the Royal Navy--indeed, that virtually ripped its heart out. The engagement should not have been equal: the British navy had virtually all of the experience and the infrastructure of a mature naval power. The Kriegsmarine had virtually none of that, but what they did have was the pressure of a chief in the mold of Tirpitz: Admiral Raeder.


    A review of the relative strengths of the British and German fleets.

    As the invasion of Poland began, the Baltic fleet--centered on the oldest vessels in the Kriegsmarine, the pre-dreadnaught battleships Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien, as well as the light cruiser Emden--was tasked with supporting the destroyers in restricting the ability of the Polish navy to interfere with Germany’s commerce to the Scandinavian nations or to escape to British ports. Further afield, this force was supported by the Marinekampfgruppe (MKG, a surface action group) Marschall centered on the three heavy cruisers of the Deutschland-class and the three original K-class light cruisers. Raeder, ever the cautious calculator, sought to avoid the sortie of his prized battlecruisers for what he considered a side show.

    The Royal Navy had been unable to grow their large surface combatant fleet in the interbellum period. Problems with constant bickering in Whitehall about the direction what little funding the senior service would be able to wrest from the penny-pinching of Westminster meant that most work focused on cheap escorts and transport vessels while the five battleships of the King George V-class and the Ark Royal-class aircraft carriers were laid down, construction proceeded so slowly that they were more charitably described as “make work” rather than serious efforts to expand the fleet; indeed, HMS Ark Royal would only commission in 1940, and HMS King George V in 1942. [NOTE: As part of the reevaluation of the direction that I took in 1943, I’m saying that they were laid down but were not in the build queue from the AI at this point. Work then proceeds until such time as they actually are constructed and commissioned.] For their part, Poland had invested heavily into the construction of additional destroyers in the interwar period, much to the detriment of its Army. The original Royal Navy plan had been similar to their plan for the previous war: a distant blockade of the German nation, as well as commerce protection for their merchant fleet. First Sea Lord Baron Ernle Chatfield, had been Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Flag Captain during the previous war’s Battle of Jutland and embodied the notion of what Winston Churchill had said of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe when he had commanded the Grand Fleet: he couldn’t win the war, but was “the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon.”


    Baron Ernle Chatfield. His inability to convince Parliament to part with
    more funds to rapidly procure advanced large surface combatants led
    to the severe pain inflicted upon the Royal Navy in 1942.

    Unfortunately for Baron Chatfield, the acquiescence of MacDonald’s government to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and their weak-willed lack of heavy funding for the Royal Navy put him in a position that he was forced balancing against an expansionist power in all three regions where the Royal Navy maintained significant interests. This conflict led to the drastic decision to concentrate the battlefleet against the Germans first, and then turning against the more distant powers in turn. Germany was largely expected to stick with its strategy from the Great War: much like Tirpitz, to maintain the Fleet in Being and thus more for show than any actual threat to the British Empire. It also ignored three key changes from the previous war: first, the pressure put upon Raeder for having demanded and received the investment of combat power centered in the battle fleet needed to be repaid with actual action. Second, the Danes and Norwegians fell well within Germany’s sphere of influence without being actual allies. Third, previous agreements to allow the Royal Navy to share the cost burden of opposing the threats to their empire had collapsed because of the British failure to recognize internal discontent in Paris and Washington which in their turn affected those governments’ support.

    Pressures upon Baron Chatfield to do something to support Poland came from both within and without. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had demanded action upon a half-remembered plan advanced by his idol, Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Fisher, the “Baltic Project” which now became Operation Catherine. The first phase saw a small carrier task force dispatched to pick up the Polish destroyers and assist their withdrawal to support the Royal Navy. Phase two would be an attempted ambush by the heavy units of the Royal Navy of the Kriegsmarine when they inevitably sortied to destroy such a small task force.

    The Kriegsmarine’s surprise at such a bold maneuver was telling. The scramble to ready the fleet for the pursuit of such a small squadron in what amounted to Germany’s home waters demonstrated how far OKKM had come in developing a battle-ready force in the previous six years. The first surface engagement came very late on 9 February, just hours after the commencement of combat operations against Poland. The bulk of Polish destroyers had slipped out to sea before the MKG Ostsee could invest the ports of Danzig and Gdyna but were sighted by reconnaissance aircraft deployed from the catapults of the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers of MKG Marschall in the Southern Baltic. The Polish vessels attempted to escape back deeper into the Baltic, but the two oldest Wicher-class destroyers could not outrun their opponents and instead turned to attack, sacrificing themselves so that the Grom-class vessels might successfully accomplish their mission. The heavy 11” guns of the Admiral Scheer put paid to the two vessels and the engagement ended on 10 February when the ships lost sight of one another in the darkness.


    Art of the battlecruisers
    Scharnhorst, Von Der Tann and Gneisenau in line ahead.

    The next day, the hapless Polish destroyer fleet attempted to take revenge against the Kriegsmarine’s MKG Ostsee with an early morning torpedo strike on 11 February. Unfortunately, the destroyer screen, led ably from Emden by Admiral Bohm, disrupted their attacks and the Emden’s guns disabled and eventually sank two of the destroyer groups. When Emden later withdrew to rearm on 14 February, the two final Polish destroyer groups emerged from their hiding holes in Finland and attempted a desperate attack again, but this time they ran smack into the guns of the Schleswig-Holstein and Zerstörergeschwader 2, which cleared the ocean of the remaining Polish surface fleet.


    HMS Hermes in better days.

    While those series of engagements were developing, the British had rapidly formed a carrier task force centered on the light carrier HMS Hermes, escorted by two heavy cruisers HMS Berwick (Kent-subclass of the County) and HMS Frobisher (Hawkins-class), and three light cruisers Cairo, Achilles, and Dunedin; the Polish submarine squadron was in the area but did not contribute to the engagement. The task force was formed out of the ships which had just finished a training cycle and were thus notionally the best prepared vessels in the Royal Navy. They were wholly unprepared for the Kriegsmarine forces which deployed into the Kattegat: all six of the Scharnhorst- and both of the Blucher-class battlecruisers supported by the eight Leipzig- and four Stettin-class light cruisers.

    The two heavy cruisers of the British task force were operating forward of the main force, while the three light cruisers screened the carrier. With this formation, the commander of the force, Admiral Henry Harwood, had expected at least part of his command to be able to escape or inflict some surprise loss upon any German vessels they encountered. Aircraft were kept down on the decks, mostly with an eye to the weather (as was typical in the Baltic in winter, it was dismal) as well as more realistic constraints (the constricted waters of the Kattegat prohibited an ability to turn into the wind for flight operations at will to keep i). The Kriegsmarine formation was led by MKG Saalwachter, which centered on the two Bluchers supported by the four Stettins, followed up by MKG Bachmann, which was Pommern, Bismarck and Tirpitz escorted by Leipzig, Albatross, Konigsburg and Mainz. The third group, MKG Warzecha, did not manage to make their way into the engagement as the trail of the fleet.



    A video camera of some of the impacts from 15” shells near

    Hermes.​

    Thus, when the two heavy cruisers identified several silhouettes from their Type 273 radar, they only had brief moments before the horizon flashed out with fires from the guns of the two Bluchers. After only a few salvoes, the German vessels had the range and a 15” shell from Hindenburg impacted the Frobisher, detonating her magazine and sending her to the bottom, and other shells reduced Berwick to a flaming wreck, which was finished off by a torpedo spread from Leipzig. The action forced the carrier and escorts to turn away and sprint out, where they were approached later in the day by the same force. This time, however, they managed to send aloft the Hermes’ air group, and the torpedo attacks of the Swordfishes damaged the Dresden and severely crippled the Linz. In the confusion, HMS Cairo had strayed out of formation to try and assist the two heavy cruisers, but this put her in range of the trailing group of battlecruisers. Gneisenau’s guns smashed the Cairo’s bridge and rapidly put most of her guns out of action when the captain ordered her abandoned and scuttled. While the two forces continued to sight one another, the distance was too great and the carrier force withdrew. The first phase of the battles around Denmark had ended with a bloody nose for the British and failed to extract the Polish navy.

    *****
    Author's Note: Well, here we go into the naval pron that will make up much of the next few updates! @Axe99 will be enjoying this, at least somewhat, and I'm sure @El Pip will be stomping around about how pitiful the Royal Navy's showing is for now.
     
    Last edited:
    X: 2. Operation Catherine Continues: Good Money Chasing Bad, February 1942
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    2. Operation Catherine Continues: Good Money Chasing Bad
    18 - 20 February 1942


    The initial bloody nose given to the Royal Navy by the Kriegsmarine either failed to get Baron Chatfield to reconsider his orders for the Baltic deployments or more likely, Churchill was working around his First Sea Lord. Already more vessels from the Home Fleet were being activated and deployed, including several of the most powerful of the surface fleet units. In the meantime--given the lack of any threatening posture of the other Axis powers to that point--the plan of “Each In Their Turn” led the Admiralty to recall the Mediterranean, African and Far East squadrons. By the 17th, the Mediterranean Squadrons were passing Malta from their home port of Alexandria, African station was closing with the Moroccan coast while the Far East Squadron (centered on HMS Eagle) crossed the international date line en route to the Panama Canal.



    Graphic with locations of the various force dispositions,
    19 February 1942.

    The first sortie had been planned with only one mission in mind: a rapid deployment to get the Polish navy out of the Baltic and into the relative safety of British ports. Hastily assembled with limited resources, the Admiralty had assumed they could sneak in and out without getting involved in a general action, or at the very least, draw out at least a portion of the Kriegsmarine to be attacked by the surface action groups that were setting up to follow Force H. While some records of these initial groups have been lost, as vessels and units were nearly constantly rearranged, Force L initially consisted of four heavy cruisers (including two of the most advanced cruisers in the Royal Navy, Exeter and York, as well as London and Devonshire) escorted by sixteen destroyers and entered the Kattegat early on 18 February to assist in covering the withdrawal of what remained of Hermes’ group. This was also the vanguard for Force F, a powerful squadron centered on the battleship Ramillies, the battlecruisers Hood, Renown, and Repulse, a light cruiser Durban and eight destroyers. Speeding to catch up was Force O, centered on Ark Royal, flanked by Revenge and Warspite, and escorted by the light cruiser Despatch at the head of twelve destroyers.



    HMS Repulse, and her sister ship Renown, both participated in the
    actions in the Kattegat in late February.

    Operationally, Force L was divided into two groups each of the two sister ships, as until Force H limped into harbor in England the failure of British Intelligence to recognize that the Scharnhorsts were armed with 15 inch guns was unknown. Two Kriegsmarine heavy surface action groups remained at sea: MKGs Saalwächter and Bachmann. Warzecha had taken charge of the damaged vessels from previous days’ actions to bring them into port and repair and refit. Saalwächter’s group, with Saalwächter transferring his flag to Hindenburg, joining Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Von Der Tann, escorted by the Stettin, Nautilus, Köln, and Magdeburg. MKG Bachmann remained the Bismarck, Tirpitz, and Pommern, escorted by Leipzig, Albatross, Königsberg and Mainz. These vessels had expended a significant amount of their ammunition and fuel, and were slowly making their own way back to port.

    In the Oresund, both sides’ radars detected the other at roughly the same time, but the superior range of the heavy guns aboard the battlecruisers made the contest one-sided. York and Exeter’s group were closer to the gap between the two groups of German battlecruisers than the London and Devonshire group, with Saalwächter’s force spread out, only Hindenburg and Von Der Tann could engage. Saalwächter ordered his light cruisers to drive off the British destroyers, which were attempting to lay smoke and run in a torpedo spread. Problems with the British torpedoes saw those that made it to the light cruiser line cause only minor damage, but the light cruisers, already low on ammunition, expended their last rounds in the engagement for no noticeable hits. Von Der Tann rapidly gained the range through the fog with its radar and smashed several destroyers. Hindenburg focused their fire on one of the largest returns, and bracketed York. Already a lighter design than the preceding County-class, York heeled over and sank, taking roughly half of her crew with her.



    York
    sinking in the Kattegat. The number of warships that would

    wind up on the bottom of the Denmark straits made for a
    significant hazard to navigation.

    Exeter laid on full speed and tried to extricate herself at the head of eight destroyers. In an unorthodox move more typical from his time in the Coastal Motor Boats, Captain Walter “Joe” Beckett[*] ordered the group into a Gefechtskehrtwendung or “Battle About Turn,” conducting a rapid 180 degree turn for each ship in the line. This placed Exeter at the back of the line, disregarding their own safety, and they managed to engage Tirpitz at the extreme of their guns’ range. Tirpitz sustained damage amidships, and several of her secondary battery and anti-aircraft guns were put out of action. Tirpitz, however, gave back much more than she received by putting several main battery shells into the Exeter, blowing her up in spectacular fashion with the loss of her entire crew. The action then concluded for the time being: the two Kriegsmarine forces had virtually exhausted their ammunition and the Royal Navy forces did not want to face down forces at such odds.

    With their heavy surface units in port refueling and conducting emergency repairs, the SKL’s “light” battle force--MKG Marschall--sortied from Kiel. Centered on the three Deutschland-class panzerschiff or “pocket battleships” in British parlance, they were escorted by the three K-class light cruisers, Kolberg, Karlsruhe and Kiel. German Naval intelligence had lost track of the heavy forces the British had sent into the area, and I UbFlte (U-boot Geschwader (UbG) 1, 2 and 3) and Kommando U-Boot Ausbildung (KUBA) were both heading back into Kiel to refit. The destroyers from Force L encountered several of those u-boats and engaged them, sinking or causing significant damage to several, especially harming KUBA, UbG 1 and UbG 3.

    Late in the afternoon of 18 February, MKG Marschall was steaming around Oresund in a wide arrowhead formation when flashes were observed to the north. The Deutschland-class cruisers had not yet upgraded their radar systems to “sweep” and thus their situational awareness to their flanks was minimized compared to their larger brethren. Within only a few salvoes, Admiral Scheer and Graf Spee were on fire almost from stem to stern, leading to Captain Patzig's order that Graf Spee be run aground to prevent her sinking; the escorting light cruisers also suffered with Kiel absorbing several hits from an escorting heavy cruiser. Deutschland managed to escape damage from any hits and responded in kind, but only caused minor damage with a few short rounds in retaliation. Though again records are confused, but the heavy units involved included the battleships Rodney and Royal Sovereign, a heavy cruiser, and the light cruisers Calcutta, Caledon, and Neptune. The damage was so extensive that the German heavy cruisers did not deploy again for the remainder of 1942.

    This engagement startled Raeder. The loss (albeit temporary) of 27% of the Kriegsmarine’s large surface combatants--especially a vessel named Deutschland--and almost 19% of their escorting cruisers would strike a significant blow to his power and prestige in Berlin. Raeder immediately ordered all battlecruisers which were not suffering from any damage to sea, to chase down the hostile forces. The first vessel to depart Kiel, Konigsburg, rushed to assist the stricken units and was met with withering fire from the 15-inch guns of Royal Sovereign and lost steering. Radio direction finding from RN units provided indications that the Kriegsmarine’s battlecruisers were drawing near, and so the task force attempted to withdraw but the speed of the venerable battleship combined with a lack of maneuvering room led to Royal Sovereign being caught out of position and sunk by Tirpitz. The escorting light cruisers attempted to take off the crew, but this cost them time to escape and thus Calcutta, Caledon, and Neptune were sunk by Hindenburg, Gneisenau, and Bismarck, respectively.



    Sailors being taken off of
    Royal Sovereign after the engagement.
    This cost those cruisers time to get away, and also their survival.

    Ill luck continued for the British, as Rodney and Dorsetshire struck mines or were possibly torpedoed (the record is vague). The Tirpitz, approaching from astern of Rodney, was given the best possible positioning for engaging the hapless battleship, and thus Rodney was smashed, but Tirpitz had expended the last remaining ammunition and drew off leaving Madgeburg to finish Rodney with torpedoes. Dorsetshire was closer to Denmark and managed to get off most of the crew who were then interned in Copenhagen until the German takeover of that nation in late 1943, but scuttling charges failed and Tirpitz’s secondary battery used the cruiser as an unmoving target after recovering any intelligence available from the vessel (which had had her boilers nearly destroyed by the mines and was thus unrecoverable).



    Rodney during better times. A compromise design courtesy of the
    Washington and London Naval Treaties, the layout would prove
    disastrous to both British and French examples.

    With that engagement completed, the Kriegsmarine again returned their vessels to port, as they had not been adequately resupplied. The vessels that had been in port for three days now and had fully resupplied and conducted enough repairs so as to be serviceable were sortied under Warzecha, this constituted only the battlecruiser Blucher and the light cruisers Lubeck and Dresden. This task group responded to Marinefliegergeschwader reports of a trio of cruisers nearing Rostock towards the Swedish side of the water making their way back towards the Oresund early on 20 February. This group was the two British heavy cruisers London and Devonshire and the light cruiser Durban. Warzecha deployed his Stettin-class light cruiser Lubeck as a lure, while keeping the slightly slower Dresden (of the Leipzig-class) as an escort. Radar aboard these vessels was having difficulty, as weather came in, and so Lubeck found herself very suddenly engaged by London and Durban. A snap spread of torpedoes from Lubeck caught London by surprise and she sheared out of line as they impacted aft and sent London’s shafts out of alignment, flooding the engine rooms. Lubeck took several hits from London’s remaining forward guns, and a return spread of torpedoes from Durban forced Lubeck off and running to rejoin the coverage from Hindenburg. London would sink nearly three hours later, with much of the crew being rescued by the Swedes.



    HMS London at anchor at the start of a convoy exercise.
    The misuse of so many of the Royal Navy’s escorts led to
    a shortage of escorts until almost 1944
    .​

    Later in the day, with sufficient ammunition and fuel brought aboard, MKGs Bachmann and Saalwächter returned to the Oresund. The Royal Navy’s Force O, a carrier task force centered on Ark Royal, which combined with what remained of Force L contained two battleships, one heavy and two light cruisers and twelve destroyers, but only one air group was available and ready at the time to deploy with Ark Royal. The Kriegsmarine forces at sea were seven battlecruisers and eight light cruisers, commanded by Bachmann and Saalwächter. Saalwächter laid on a high speed run and closed the gap with the approaching Royal Navy ships. Bachmann’s force was held beyond reach by air attacks trying to maneuver in the constricted waters of the Oresund and did not participate in the surface action, but sapped the British air groups’ organization to such a point that they were combat ineffective.



    Ark Royal coming under fire in the actions of 20 February.
    That a second Royal Navy aircraft carrier was engaged by
    Kriegsmarine surface forces in as many weeks was proof
    positive that interwar training had not had the desired outcomes.

    Revenge and Warspite, leading the cruiser Devonshire and the destroyers, attempted to cross the T of Saalwächter’s force, but their speed difference made it difficult for rapid firing solutions. Saalwächter, an admirer of British naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson, took a page from Trafalgar and deployed what he called Kampftrennungsmanöver, or “battle separation maneuver,” which alternated battlecruisers to port and starboard at high speed from line ahead, thus negating the “T.” The British battleships attempted to adjust but Warspite and Revenge were taken under fire by two German battlecruisers each and sunk with credit for Warspite being given to Scharnhorst and Revenge falling to Von Der Tann. The destroyers laid smoke and managed to get Devonshire to safety, but with more Kriegsmarine units coming out of port, Force O’s commander, Admiral Roger Backhouse, attempted to extricate his task group from where it had been ordered as quickly as possible.

    Bachmann, with his group now free of air attack, rejoined the fray, and worked his way into position on Backhouse’s starboard side (closer to Sweden), while Saalwächter was cruising towards the port side (and closer to Denmark). Through clever use of radio deception, the pursuing Germans believed that they were catching up with the Ark Royal because of a boiler casualty, but it was the Devonshire with Durban attempting to take off the crew. Air units managed to continue their show, but at a distance; they did, however, find time to locate and destroy KUBA’s u-boats which had been deployed to operate in the shallow waters of the Kattegat and Oresund. OKKM did not become aware of the loss of those vessels until several days later when they failed to return to port. Bachmann’s force took the pair of cruisers under fire, with Tirpitz sinking the Devonshire, and severely damaging Durban. The Germans finally recognized the trickery of the British and attempted pursuit, leaving the wreck of the Durban to be finally sunk by the Lubeck as Warzecha’s group passed it, but failed to make contact with the remaining enemy forces.

    The Second Battle of the Kattegat ended with a triumphant Kriegsmarine victory. Despite the smashing of the panzerschiff and several light cruisers, the British had suffered the loss of four battleships, four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers and eight destroyers, plus additional unknown damage to other units in the fleet. Churchill refused to acknowledge the unsustainable losses and ordered another force sortie to cover the retreat of the carrier and to harm German shipping to Sweden and Norway, under the impression that the Kriegsmarine would be exhausted by their efforts in the previous two weeks.

    *****
    Author's Note: As ever, the AI combined with an absolute crap game system results in wonky outcomes. There is absolutely no reason nor rationale for the RN to have sailed their heavy units into the Kattegat, and indeed, while there were plans drawn up, they were shelved when they figured out that most of the Baltic was too shallow for the draft of the battleships. This was also before I was taking proper notes (ie, screenshots) and so was relying on short hand during gameplay and transcribing the details later (thus, confusion on who was involved and when).

    In updatey news, I've managed to play through May 1944, and have made a few edits to the save game to continue to play June. It's a bit slow going, but there will hopefully be reasonable progress and opposition now rather than the ROFLSTOMP that the AAR had been up to this point.
     
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    X: 3. Operation Catherine: The End of Bloody February 22 February - March 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    3. Operation Catherine: The End of Bloody February
    22 February - March 1942

    The Royal Navy had yet more reckonings to endure and sacrifices to offer upon the altar of Churchill’s ego through the end of February and early March. With Force O in retreat, another fleet of cruisers and destroyers attempted to sabotage the German trade with Sweden and Norway as well as attempt to catch any units of the Kriegsmarine sleeping that they could. The Royal Navy believed that their opponents would have retired to their bases after the fights of the previous several weeks, as they would--apparently falling victim to what could only be charitably described as “mirror image bias”--and thus leaving some of the Kattegat open to the predations of a cruiser flotilla.


    HMS
    Calypso from the air. Little more than a flotilla leader, the light cruiser
    managed to survive the actions that sank much of her compatriots.

    This flotilla was formed around four heavy cruisers: Cumberland and Suffolk, of the County-class, York, of the eponymous class, and Effingham, of the Hawkins-class. Two light cruisers, Calypso (a C-class light cruiser) and Galathea (Arethusa-class) led two destroyer groups, 31 and 32, a group of eight old V-class destroyers. Another group had been formed from the heavy cruiser Norfolk, light cruisers Emerald and Enterprise, and two destroyer groups (27 and 28), this group was approximately a week behind the other force. Somehow, the Royal Navy’s reasons that--despite the previous losses to the Kriegsmarine--considering late Great War and treaty cruisers and destroyers a suitable task force for steaming unnoticed into the Kattegat and from thence to the Baltic to possibly cause damage to Norwegian, Swedish and German shipping is lost to history.


    Admirals Warzecha and Bachmann. Both gained notoriety worldwide for
    the drubbing that they gave to the Royal Navy.

    Their opponents in the Kriegsmarine mustered two powerful surface action groups, MKGs Warzecha and Bachmann. MKG Bachmann remained the Bismarck, Tirpitz, and Pommern, escorted by Leipzig, Albatross, Königsberg and Mainz; MKG Warzecha held the Blucher as force flag, but the remainder of the makeup of the surface action group is unknown.


    The
    Albatross. Her loss was a surprise to the naval command,
    but did not prevent the victory that followed.

    The British crept along the Norwegian side of the Kattegat. Using the weather (foggy and raining) to their benefit, they evaded the majority of the Germans’ air reconnaissance and their collaborators in Norway. Through the use of radio deception, the Royal Navy passed themselves off as a fishing fleet, and steamed at a slow speed to lend itself to their ruse. It worked, after a fashion: the Albatross had been detached from the group after one of those fishermen had requested an “escort” from the Kriegsmarine because they had been attacked by the British. HMS Suffolk lured the Albatross close enough before engaging with torpedoes, but the German ship managed to maintain enough buoyancy to fire off a rapid contact report before sinking and thus the battle was engaged.

    Pommern had been closest to the stricken light cruiser and managed to return fire rapidly enough to catch the Suffolk before she could accelerate to combat speeds. Two 15-inch shells smashed the bridge and forward turrets, causing the magazine to detonate and snapping the keel below the B-turret. Suffolk foundered just around 1030, with only a handful of sailors being rescued. None of the other vessels were able to penetrate the long arm of the German battle cruisers: Cumberland sank under fire from Tirpitz, while Effingham was wrecked by Blucher. Kent stubbornly refused to sink, and when the battle ended, Lubeck was again called upon to put several torpedoes into her to send her to the bottom. Later that night, the British destroyers had managed to sneak around the Oresund and catch the Kriegsmarine vessels moving towards Kiel and home; while several hits were recorded, none of the destroyers survived their assault. Only the two light cruisers Calypso and Galathea survived the actions, though more through distance, luck and targeting errors than through actual skill.


    A view of the force which had left from Hull to meet its demise in the
    Kattegat. None of these vessels would survive.

    The second flotilla which arrived off Denmark on the evening of 5 March attempted to follow the plan from the previous fleet action: remain undetected, pick off any enemy units which might stumble their way under the guns and across the paths of their torpedoes. Unfortunately for the British, the advantages which had allowed the previous force to penetrate deep into the Kattegat (slow speed, weather and fog) were no longer present, and so aerial reconnaissance had been tracking their movements, vectoring a smaller task force lead by Saalwachter (two of the Bluchers, and three light cruisers) towards the force. Marinefliegergeschwader 128 showed their capabilities well, accounting for four destroyers, while Blucher sank the Norfolk and Enterprise. Hindenburg took credit for the Emerald the following morning, and the other four destroyers were handled by the light cruisers Nautilus, Stettin, and Koln.

    The Royal Navy, suitably chastised for their hubris, withdrew from the North Sea for almost two months. The loss of so many of their vessels for a mere light cruiser in exchange caused a deep review of the forces arranged and dispatched to fight the Kriegsmarine, and from Wilhelmshaven in mid-April a new threat emerged: the u-boat.

    *****
     
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    X: 4. Uboote Heraus! Unrestricted Submarine Warfare February - July 1942
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    4. Uboote Heraus!
    Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
    February - July 1942



    King George V of the eponymous class at anchor in 1942. The decision to
    alter the armament from the originally planned 14” to a 15” gun cost years
    of production and almost the loss of the four additional members of the class.

    Experience in the Great War had formed the bedrock of the Royal Navy’s planning for the next war: they knew that submarines were a threat to the British Isles, but worked to either ignore the threat or make assumptions that the merchant navy would abide by what made their victory possible in the last war: the convoy system. Technologically speaking, the Royal Navy had ASDIC (the precursor to a proper sonar system), but seemed content with it as it stood. The Royal Navy had a multitude of issues throughout the interbellum period in wresting sufficient funds from Parliament in order to fund their building priorities. While large construction projects were consistently put off or drawn out, funding was transferred to cheaper destroyers as well as experiments in amphibious vessels. Indeed, between 1936 and the outbreak of war in 1942, the Royal Navy only added one fleet carrier (Ark Royal) and was about to commission one new battleship (King George V), but managed to double their numbers of destroyers (from 34 destroyer groups to 68) and create a massive fleet of amphibious vessels (from none to 15 squadrons). While spectacular, these numbers presupposed that they were employed gainfully, which it could be said was unlikely given the conservative and yet sometimes unabashedly reckless handling of the Royal Navy.


    The Tribal-class destroyers formed the backbone of the advanced
    destroyers laid down between the wars. Their employment left much
    to be desired.

    As noted in previous chapters, the Kriegsmarine was planning a war of kreuzerkrieg (Cruiser Warfare) from the outset. With the AGNA rendered moot by 1939, the Kriegsmarines’ submarine flotillas soared from a paltry four composed only of Type Is and IIs of all variants to a height of 21, mostly of the Type IXDs and with more of the Type XXIEs coming off the slipways. Combined with the surface fleet, Raeder intended to utilize his surface fleet assets to create the space for Doenitz’ submarines to work. While that plan had been in the works for years, issues between the chiefs of Seekriegsleitung (SKL), Vice Admiral Gunther Guse, and the Unterseekriegsleitung (USKL) Vice Admiral Karl Doenitz, led to a delay in the deployment of the submarine force’s true strength.


    Type XXIE u-boats of the Kriegsmarine. These are from 13 UbG,
    only one of which would survive the first six months of the war to
    be transferred to 20 UbG.

    For much of the early months of the war, only Kommando u-Boot Ausbildung (KuBA, Types I and IIA) and U boot Flotille I (Uboot Geschwader (UbG) 1 - 3, Types IIBs and VIICs) were prowling the Baltic, with crews rotating through for a sort of “live fire” refresher training. During the course of the campaign against Poland and through the end of February, the Germans sank nineteen merchantmen and four escort vessels, while only suffering the loss of one of their own merchants. This was followed by another quiet month in March during a sort of mutual pause of all naval activity in the North and Baltic Seas, during which four of the German’s merchant fleet’s vessels were sunk, joined by one of the Kriegsmarine’s ten F1 frigates; Australia only suffered the loss of two merchantmen during the course of the month. The relative quiet continued for the first two weeks of April, with Australia losing three merchant vessels and two escorts, mostly around the Baltic, but at the mid-month, Raeder finally relented after Guse had been mollified with the performance of his battlecruisers and allowed Doenitz to sortie almost his entire stock of available boats, especially those of the most advanced types.


    A tanker sinking after being torpedoed by a u-boat, early in the war.

    The sortie of the u-boats led to not only significant losses to the British merchant marine, but also led to fairly significant losses in the German u-boat-waffe. Within three days of their deployment on 15 April, 8 and 13 UbG had suffered such significant losses that they were decommissioned. Losses would continue: by the beginning of July, 8 whole geschwader were decommissioned due to losses (5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16 and 17 UbG), and with their losses, most of their flotillas were also struck from the lists, almost a third of the entire register, and even some of the most advanced types. The Kriegsmarine learned a valuable lesson: airpower from carrier decks could prove most problematic, as almost all of these losses were the result of one carrier in particular: HMS Ark Royal, the most advanced vessel in the Royal Navy.


    U-118 caught on the surface and strafed by aircraft from the Ark Royal.

    The bright side for Doenitz was that 45 Allied merchant vessels and escorts were sunk in April, 98 in May, 78 in June, and a whopping 132 in July. These losses were unsustainable, and brought a massive cost in national morale, treasure, and blood to the populations of Great Britain and her Dominions. Doenitz, of course, didn’t have to worry about the reverse of the issues: that while the u-boats were enjoying their increasing effective command over the Western Approaches and the Baltic, the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy were preying upon the hapless German merchant marine struggling to bring in materials purchased in the United States. In April, Germany would see their merchants reduced by six, and another of their frigates sunk. Eleven were lost in May, fifteen in June and another eleven in July. These losses were sharp for Germany, but did not sting nearly as badly, and there was worse to come for the Allies.
     
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    X: 5. Jutland, Revisited April - May 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    5. Jutland, Revisited
    April - May 1942

    Having been veritably “spanked” by the Kriegsmarine for over nearly a month just after the declaration of war in February, all the newspapers could discuss revolved around necessary changes at Whitehall and Westminster. Admiral Chatfield was reassigned to a sea command, and Churchill was told in no uncertain terms to stop sending the Royal Navy past Denmark. Admiral Dudley Pound was brought back, despite his poor health, in an attempt to reign in the First Lord of the Admiralty. A new strategy concocted, more reminiscent of the Kaiserliche Marine: lure the powerful surface units of the Kriegsmarine out into the North Sea where they would be on more equal terms with the Royal Navy’s forces, and hammer them with the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Command to whittle them down in a “defense in depth.”

    This plan proved flawed for a multitude of reasons: a primary flaw being that the plan presupposed that all of the subordinate commands would actually work together when the time came, despite having not previously trained to cooperate with one another. It also required the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to set aside long-standing animosity in their relationship; most damning, the plan assumed that the forces constructed and deployed in the interbellum were actually capable of what was demanded. Thus, a doomed effort from the start.

    On the other side, the Kriegsmarine was sitting very high on the hog in Berlin. The drubbing of the Royal Navy was giving Raeder significant clout with the Fuhrer. The experience with the carrier aviation of the British led directly to the laying down of the Alder, Germany’s first aircraft carrier, and orders to create four carrier air wings. Despite the losses to surface units, the Kriegsmarine’s chief was presenting a qualified success story, one that several of the leaders in Berlin thought would be used to encourage the British to sue for peace. The British press, however, had been denied accurate information due to the censorship which had been ordered by Chamberlain, and so the public was unaware of the full extent of the losses endured by the Royal Navy, and thus the hope for a resolution without further bloodshed was lost.

    Such was the situation when Whitehall ordered Force R, commanded by Admiral Harwood--the same Harry Harwood of the previous attempt to sail cruisers into the Kattegat--to leave their patrol area to the west of the Orkneys and cruise into the North Sea. The force was composed of a surface action group centered on the HMS Hood, the battleship Ramillies and supported by the eight destroyers of Destroyer Groups 19 and 56 (V- and Daring-class groups, respectively), as well as a carrier group centered on Hermes with the 13 Carrier Air Group aboard, escorted by the light cruiser Achilles at the head of four A-class of Destroyer Group 1. Well behind this force was Force G: a strong carrier force of Glorious and Courageous, escorted by the battleship Nelson and light cruiser Carlisle, and twelve destroyers.


    Stettin, in port prior to her ill-fated sortie. The size and
    capability of these “light” cruisers was to prove a hard
    lesson for the Royal Navy.

    Kriegsmarine units ready to put to sea were the MKG Saalwachter and MKG Bachmann. Saalwachter had the Blücher and Hindenburg, with four escorting light cruisers Stettin, Dresden, Nautilus, and Koln. Bachmann’s command, centered on the oldest three Scharnhorsts (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Pommern) and escorted by Leipzig, Konigsberg and Linz, were held back after a series of engineering issues were identified in some of the repair work done on the ships, but sailed later.

    Signals intelligence from OKW/Chi had detected the movement of Force R as they passed Scapa Flow, and accurately determined the force size of the carrier group; the surface action group was not detected. Passing this off to the Kriegsmarine led to Raeder ordering Guse to deploy MKG Saalwachter, and several hours later MKG Bachmann. The forces met off Dogger Bank, when the combat air patrol from Hermes found the Stettin cruising northwest on 24 April. At the beginning of the battle, Royal Navy dispositions saw the aviation group closer to shore with the destroyers in close and the light cruiser performing a radar picket; the surface action group steamed closer to Denmark and maintained the Darings ahead with the V-class ships behind; Saalwachter had arrayed his light cruisers on a crescent sweeping with their radars while Blücher and Hindenburg steamed abreast. Due to a recent storm, radar efficiency was reduced, keeping Stettin from realizing she was steaming right into the sights of Hood: her first realization of the situation had 15” shells impacting her stern on a lucky first salvo. Stettin’s stern separated aft of the Dora turret, and she lost steering and her screws with it. A deficiency in crew training for damage control caused her to lose the engine rooms to flooding and thus Stettin sank stern first only a few miles away from the SMS Blücher.


    Hood during happier times. The battlecruiser by which
    all Kriegsmarine plans rested, she would be one of the
    few British vessels to send German ships to the bottom.

    Not eager to charge in when he did not maintain an advantage over a freely maneuverable force, and having been unaware that heavy surface units were in the area, Saalwachter turned and ran towards Bachmann’s force. Harwood saw this and believed his force could catch up the Germans, much like Beatty believed that he would be able to catch up to Hipper during the Run to the South. Harwood made orders to his screening destroyers to lay on flank speed to try and catch the vessels and go for a torpedo attack during the evening when the Kriegsmarine vessels would be trying to shoot against failing light and be still silhouetted by the sunset. Over the course of several hours, however, his destroyers were picked off by excellent long-range gunnery from the German capital ships; aircraft from Hermes had gone in and landed several hits on Pommern and Gneisenau. With few escorts available, submarines rumored to be in the area and darkness keeping the aircraft from Hermes from participating, Harwood took himself back to Scapa Flow in defeat.

    The gunnery by the battlecruisers had saved them, but it also left Bachmann and Saalwachter without any real means to reach out and hit enemy vessels, so they decided to return to port to rearm. Intelligence had indicated that another force was at sea, and with so few heavy surface combatants left, that meant aircraft carriers, a reckoning they would endure only days later at the hands of Force G.

    On 2 May, MKGs Bachmann and Warzecha sortied when a report of HMS Nelson at the head of a destroyer group was received from Heligoland. Details of how the Royal Navy managed to get a battleship to that point undetected escape the historical record, but it is possible that a secret Royal Air Force project designed to conduct electronic warfare confused surface search radars ashore. Regardless, six battlecruisers and seven light cruisers emerged from the Jade and cruised rapidly to engage. The destroyers had broken off, but an engineering casualty had caused Nelson to lose way; facing in the wrong direction for her guns to be appropriately employed, the Germans hammered her from long-range and reduced her to a burning wreck, but Koln finally finished her off with torpedoes after taking roughly half of her crew off.


    Aircraft from
    Glorious en route to attack the Kriegsmarine.
    Despite consistent evidence that the Germans had generally
    no air cover, the relatively small British carrier wings could
    only harass the fleet units.

    The effort around Nelson only fixed the Germans in place, however, as two complete carrier air groups from Glorious and Courageous attacked. Blücher took several hits which knocked out critical components to her radar, radio, and her main armament. Lubeck and Koln suffered greatly at the hands of the Swordfish, nearly capsizing. The Scharnhorst, Tirpitz and Hindenburg also suffered various damage that caused the loss of nearly 400 sailors. Konigsburg and Dresden took moderate damage as well, with the former losing her entire bridge crew and the latter took a bomb straight down the funnel. Only bad weather and darkness stopped the aerial assaults. For the loss of a battleship, the Royal Navy had inflicted enough damage that Raeder for once realized that his once “invincible” battlecruisers might actually sink, and introduced a certain circumspection about deploying them further afield.


    One of the
    Stettins in port after the battle. Their relatively
    poor showing was cause for cautious optimism by Raeder’s
    chief opponent: Goering.

    This effort was realized when they returned to port: another Royal Navy surface action group, Force S--which had Admiral of the Fleet Pound try to employ the Kriegsmarine’s own tactics of fast large surface combatants against them--commanded by Rear Admiral Mitchell and built around the two R-class battlecruisers Renown and Repulse, the cruiser Shropshire, and Destroyer Groups 2, 3 and 4, attempted to cut the trade routes between Norway and Germany. With the surface fleet in such bad shape, u-boats and aircraft initially took center stage, first engaging on 6 May. Raeder, in conference with Guse, realized that there was no better option than to risk the surface fleet: the five “healthiest” battlecruisers and light cruisers would be dispatched to engage the Royal Navy: the force flag of MKG Bachmann flew in Hindenburg, with four of the Scharnhorsts: Gneisenau, Von Der Tann, Pommern, and Bismarck, escorted by Konigsberg, Mainz, Leipzig, Linz and Stuttgart.


    Hindenburg, seen here in her early war dazzle camouflage, proved
    to be a significant hurdle to overcome for the Royal Navy. Indeed,
    the lack of any significant construction programme in the interbellum
    left the British struggling to catch up.

    For eighteen hours, two Kriegsmarine squadrons (MFG 127 and 129) flew naval strike missions supported by four Luftwaffe groups (ZGs 3, 4, 11, 12). These had the fortunate side effect of focusing the Royal Navy’s attention to the air, and allowing the surface group to approach nearly undetected. When the surface engagement began on 7 May, Repulse and Shropshire were out of position with Destroyer Group 3 and rapidly fell to the long-range fire of Von Der Tann and Bismarck, respectively. While the rest of the Royal Navy task force attempted to close with their enemy, heavy hits were recorded on most of the German heavy units, causing most to withdraw; a four-ship formation of Pommern, Gneisenau, Leipzig and Linz were the only vessels capable of engaging the remaining enemy forces: Destroyer Groups 2 and 4 made effectively suicidal torpedo runs against the enemy forces at darkness in an attempt to permit the Renown to escape to fight another day.

    The high-tempo of operations continued seven days later on 14 May when another attempt to disrupt the German’s supply of metal from Norway and Sweden was made by Force V. The Kriegsmarine was in a sorry state: the Hindenburg was a virtual wreck with significant damage to shipboard systems, and even the Blücher was not in any shape to sail. Tirpitz, Von Der Tann, Scharnhorst and Bismarck all had some level of battle damage which would take time to repair. Of the Stettin-class light cruisers, none were combat effective, with the Nautilus’ deck almost awash at her moorings. Of the Leipzig-class, Lubeck had been drydocked just to keep her from capsizing, only five vessels of the class were in any sort of fighting trim.


    A graphic showing the major fleet units of the
    Kriegsmarine on 13 May.

    Force V was commanded by Vice Admiral Andrew Cunningham, one of the most capable Royal Navy officers in the fleet. He hoisted his flag aboard HMS Valiant, and commanded the carrier HMS Argus and its 3rd Carrier Air Wing, cruiser Delhi and twelve A- and V-class destroyers (Groups 6, 7, 18). Conducting a sweep down the coast of Norway activated yet another response from the Kriegsmarine. MKG Saalwachter deployed from Hamburg with Bismarck and Von Der Tann with Konigsberg, Mainz and Stuttgart while MKG Bachmann deployed from Kiel with Pommern and Gneisenau as well as the two light cruisers Leipzig and Linz. The Royal Navy force had been identified by the long-range Ju290 reconnaissance bombers from MFG 127 and 129, but none of the other aircraft could get close enough with the combat air patrols of the carrier air wing. Cunningham attempted to lure the Germans into a trap along the coast, using the fjords to good effect of denying the radar a good return. While the long range gunnery was excellent on both sides, losses saw six of the A-class destroyers sunk or so severely damaged as to be written off.

    Not four days later on 18 May, Force F cruised into Norwegian waters. Centered on the carrier Furious and battleship Queen Elizabeth, the two ships were escorted by the light cruisers Curlew, Arethusa, and HMNZS Leander. Three Kriegsmarine task groups were available, but only one was in good shape: MKG Marschall, with the three Deutschland-class heavy and three K-class light cruisers, were coming out of the Skagerrak while MKG Bachmann deployed from Kiel and MKG Saalwachter deployed from Hamburg; both of those forces remained the same from their previous engagement. Much like before, the purpose was to find some way to disrupt the trade links that kept the German machines running, and a suitable convoy was located. Queen Elizabeth was detached to engage the convoy, but it scattered and only a pair of trawlers were sunk. This had the unfortunate side effect of focusing the battleship’s attentions away from where more potent enemies would be coming to the rescue, and thus caught flat footed when Bismarck and Von Der Tann began engaging her. On only the seventh salvo from Bismarck, one of the 15” shells started a fire near one of the ammunition handling stations of the 6” guns aboard Queen Elizabeth, which reached the magazines and caused a massive detonation--an outcome which had only just been avoided by sister ship Malaya at Jutland. The aircraft of Furious struck back early in the morning of 19 May, causing damage to the “light” Kriegsmarine surface action group and sending them back into port without having engaged an enemy after Raeder grew concerned given how close to annihilation the group had come previously.

    A final operation conducted by Force C on 22 May was ordered. By this time, the Royal Navy was almost entirely a “Carrier Navy,” and it showed: the force flag flew in Courageous, escorted by the light cruiser Carlisle and eight destroyers of Destroyer Groups 25 and 26. The only Kriegsmarine assets available to attempt to turn back this force was MKG Bachmann: Pommern and Gneisenau and the two light cruisers Leipzig and Linz; while MKG Marschall was available and steamed to the Kattegat, they took no part in the battle and remained well away from the fighting. Air strikes from Courageous were launched, but the fickle nature of the weather over the North Sea prevented them from finding targets. With Admiral Pound in Whitehall monitoring the reports, he recalled the forces, but authorized the detachment of Carlisle to conduct some sort of commerce raiding along the coast of Norway. It was in this condition when the light cruiser stumbled into what it believed was a four-ship convoy but turned into MKG Bachmann’s task group. Launching a suicidal run against the nearest battlecruiser, Carlisle managed to put a torpedo into Pommern, but was sunk by the battlecruiser’s 6” guns.


    The Royal Navy’s
    Carlisle, which managed to avoid the fire of
    Pommern just long enough to launch a torpedo spread. Her
    captain would posthumously receive the Victoria Cross.

    Another bout of calm descended upon the North Sea. Pound, citing ill health, resigned in disgrace, and would be dead on 21 October. Though nothing happened to the leaders of the Royal Air Force, significant ire was directed towards them by the Navy because of their apparent lack of range to cross the North Sea to support the vessels at the hot end. Admiral Cunningham received his orders to report to Whitehall and would organize Operation Lightning: one of the last of the series of Royal Navy attempts to stem the tide of Kriegsmarine aggression in Europe.

    *****
    Author's Note: whew! So far, this chapter has over 20 pages, which is the longest chapter since the Prologue... and there is still one more section to go!

    Also, as an aside, while researching some pictures to use in this particular update, I found this gem of a video portion:
    Which now means I have to find a way to watch this movie.
     
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    X: 6. To Our Last Night Ashore June - July 1942
  • Wraith11B

    Call Kenny Loggins, you're in the DANGER ZONE...
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    6. To Our Last Night Ashore
    June - July 1942

    The final play by the Royal Navy in the North Sea for the summer of 1942 started, as they did previously, by attempting to force the Kriegsmarine into a defensive battle to protect the supply lines from Germany to Scandinavia. In the three weeks since the last time the guns had fallen silent, both sides seemed more willing to lick their collective wounds and stand back from direct conflict. The Royal Navy still had the thorn in their sides of the convoy war in the Atlantic, and despite inflicting serious losses against the u-boats, they suffered worse losses in merchantmen. The public was growing more apprehensive and despite the controls on the press, losses were proving harder to conceal from the average Briton.


    Royal Navy carriers were so low on aircraft that even a few
    American airframes purchased were pressed rapidly into service.
    Little could be done to overcome the unfamiliarity with the types,
    and their disparate capabilities meant that they were unable to
    effectively operate with the other British aircraft.

    This play, soon dubbed “Operation Mascot,” attempted to build on the relatively successful sorties led by the carriers of the Royal Navy: three carrier task groups were formed, ready to lure out the Kriegsmarines’ vessels. With relatively good weather projected, carrier air operations seemed like they would prove decisive, a chance to catch the German battlecruisers at a range and angle they would unlikely be ready to deal with. The first group, Force B, was centered on the Furious, escorted by the light cruisers Caradoc and Leander, and the four destroyers of Destroyer Group 17. The second, Force E, was centered on the light carrier Eagle, heavy cruisers Cornwall and Sussex, light cruiser Cape Town, and eight destroyers of Groups 29 and 30. The last group, which was not deployed until nearly the end of the month was Force G: centered on the fleet carriers Ark Royal and Glorious, it sailed with the battleship Barham and twelve destroyers from Groups 5, 18 and 26.


    Hindenburg later in the war, in Norway. Despite the awesome
    showing early in the war, the Kriegsmarine became more risk
    adverse, certainly chastised by the effect of the carriers.

    Most, though not all, of the damage which had been inflicted on the Kriegsmarine had been repaired, though some damage remained unrepaired because of a lack of time for all the units to get into dock or the damage was hidden. The three “heavy” surface action groups had largely been reformed, though the losses of light cruisers meant that their escorts were more in a one-to-one ratio with the battlecruisers, and the “light” surface action group was back at sea, though tucked safely in the Baltic. When naval intelligence identified the British vessels cruising along the Norwegian coast, all Kriegsmarine naval aviation together with twelve Luftwaffe multi-role fighter groups were ordered to form three “hunting grounds” (jagdgebeit) where one wing of naval strike groups would be escorted by two wings of the multi-role fighters. With nearly six full squadrons capable of air-to-surface and offensive counter-air missions, even the few carrier wings present were unlikely to be able to reach out and deal with the surface vessels. The Royal Air Force was again faulted for having developed high-performance fighter aircraft that seemed--to the Royal Navy--as being quite lovely to see taking off, circling their airfields and then promptly having to set down for refueling and some tea. The Royal Navy, however, had been largely squandering their own air power, and by 1 July, would not have enough aircraft available to kit out their remaining flattops.


    Fw190
    Würger or “Shrike” were designed from the outset
    to perform both as a fighter and a strike asset. With plumbed
    wing hardpoints for drop tanks, ejection racks for bombs and
    rockets, they certainly added to the capability of putting enough
    explosives into a certain area, which put the Royal Navy at a
    distinct disadvantage.

    This battle began on 17 June, and did not appreciably end until 22 June. In those five days of high-intensity air and naval operations, the Kriegsmarine’s air arm managed to prove their worth immeasurably. With the multi-role FW190s able to rapidly overcome the relative handful of Sea Hurricanes, Swordfish and Fulmars, the skies were open for the Do217s and Fw200s on their own attacks against the fleets. Force B would suffer the most from air attacks, the first time in history that air power alone had destroyed a naval force. Focusing first on the aircraft carrier, the Marinefliegergeschwaders rendered the force immobile when a torpedo detonated in the Furious’ wake: this caused the propeller shafts to be shaken out of alignment, causing the reduction gears to tear themselves to pieces and leaving Furious dead in the water; she would be scuttled that night by torpedoes from the destroyers. With their flagship sunk, the escorts attempted to make way to the follow-on Force E, but were caught again and without any air protection. While maneuvering to avoid bombs, Leander sliced one of the destroyers in two, and Caradoc disappeared in a towering explosion when fuel vapors were detonated by a torpedo. The remaining destroyers and Leander rapidly also succumbed to the relentless air attacks with no air cover of their own.


    Leander was a light cruiser class built for commerce protection
    when the Royal Navy realized that more cruisers, even with a
    lighter armament would better serve their strategic outlook.
    She was transferred after completion to the Royal New Zealand
    Navy, and commissioned on 24 March 1933. Her misfortune to
    sink one of the escorting the destroyers before succumbing to the
    bombs and torpedoes of MFG 128, was much like her namesake
    in the waters of the Hellespont.

    Force E managed to get into the area on the second day, their arrival punctuated by a sudden explosion from the cruiser Cornwall, which had been speeding past Eagle. Later scholarship determined that the cruiser had caught a spread of no less than four torpedoes from the U-29 under the command of Otto Schuhart which had been intended to hit Eagle. The Eagle’s air wing, even smaller than that of Furious, was rapidly overcome and destroyed. By now, the surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine, sailing from Wilhelmshaven, caught up to the engagement, and with a combined surface-air group began to pick off ships as they fell back. Sussex and Cape Town made a desperate assault together with the destroyers, and were collected by Bismarck and Pommern. Destroyer Groups 29 and 30 were rapidly seen off by the escorting light cruisers, with Stuttgart and Linz gaining hits on several and credit for their destruction, but not before the light cruiser Konigsberg suddenly rolled over and sank taking most of her crew with her due to failure of emergency repair welds to the hull. Eagle would finally be sunk by the bombs and torpedoes of MFG 129.


    HMS Eagle sinking, the first aircraft carrier so lost in combat
    directly attributable to enemy action--Furious was sunk by her
    own escort after being unsavable.

    Over the course of five days, the losses of two aircraft carriers, two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and twelve destroyers for the exchange of a light cruiser and nearly 300 aircraft of all types from the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe should have caused a return order among the Royal Navy’s offices in Whitehall. It did--but the fleets deployed did not receive the order. A secretive office of OKW/Chi managed to break the codes of the Royal Navy after recovering several code books from the previous several months worth of engagements. This tool was used by the signal intelligence bureau to issue confusing orders to Force G, causing it to wander over the location of 6 UbG, and bringing the group to action with MKG Warzecha. Barham was engaged by the Bismarck, and though contemporary reports have her succumbing to the guns of the German battlecruiser, it is more likely that the torpedoes of 6 UbG caused her loss when she suddenly rolled over and exploded. The certainty, however, is lost to history as 6 UbG was entirely lost over the course of the action of 29 June.


    Barham rolling over and sinking was caught by aerial camera.
    Contemporary reports have her being sunk under fire from
    Bismarck, but U-331 was also in the area, but was sunk two
    days later.

    The final engagement for the early course of the war came about from OKW/Chi intercepts. Intelligence indicated that the British Royal Navy was transiting a small group of warships between ports for refits on remaining battleships in preparation for a long-endurance voyage. Royal Oak, escorted by the Hawkins, Ceres and four destroyers from Group 1, were steaming close to the Belgian shore and detected by shore installations. MKG Saalwachter, consisting of the Pommern, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau escorted by the light cruisers Leipzig, Linz, and Stuttgart sailed first, but mistimed their approach and cruised too far north. MKG Bachmann, with the Blücher and Hindenburg escorted by Köln, Dresden, and Nautilus, would begin the engagement. In the fog, the Royal Navy squadron attempted to cruise under emissions control, broadcasting no electrical signals which they believed the Germans might be able to track, but this also meant that any engagement they might have would result in a close engagement which a small squadron would surely lose. Under no such restrictions, the Germans detected them and used their radar to maximum effect: By the third salvo from Hindenburg, her guns found the range on Royal Oak, and she was on fire from stem to stern, before rolling over and sinking. Blücher found the range on Hawkins and rapidly reduced that ship to a wreck. The rest of the ships in the formation scattered, with the destroyers of Group 1 falling victim to torpedoes from 14 UbG and the Hindenburg, while the Ceres was caught by Gneisenau and sunk.

    In little over five months, the Kriegsmarine had accomplished their mission, far better than anyone could have expected: the near-absolute destruction of the Royal Navy. At the start of hostilities, the Royal Navy could call upon seven aircraft carriers, fifteen battleships and battlecruisers, sixteen heavy and thirty light cruisers, a total of sixty-eight destroyers. Within six months, two carriers, half of the battleships and battlecruisers, all but one of the heavy and a third of the light cruisers, as well as fully a fifth of the destroyers of the Royal Navy had been littered across the bottom of the North Sea. Yet in the same time frame, the Kriegsmarine had lost only three light cruisers and a fifth of their submarines, but had worked desperately hard to keep their vessels afloat, despite some casualties which would have otherwise sunk their vessels had they been further away from support. Planning in Berlin could go forward with their next operation: Operation Orkney Bulldog.

    *****

    Author's Note: This wraps up the headache chapter for @El Pip, at least for now. Now he'll get to groan about the Pacific for awhile, where @Bullfilter will get to groan as the Japanese go out and try their hands against the Oz and Kiwis.

    EDIT: My update of the most recent Italian OOB (in Appendix N) is finished and has been displayed on the page. Tomorrow will likely mean Japan gets done (the navy is always the most difficult part) but all that means is I spend a few minutes copying down all of the correct dimensions before putting them back in there.

    The Imperial German Navy it seems.
    Quite, I'm just wondering how an Imperial German Navy ship name was appropriate for the Kriegsmarine... well, it's all fiction, thankfully.

    great! go KM!
    Indeed!

    Another excellent update @Wraith ! Keep it up!
    Thank you! I'm certain whoever the holder of the title "Wraith" is will be surprised, for sure! ;) :D
     
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    XI: 1. Operation Bauhinia: The Invasion of Hong Kong, 11 - 14 July 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    The Sun Also Rises
    1. Operation Bauhinia: The Invasion of Hong Kong
    11 - 14 July 1942



    Japanese soldiers marching into Hong Kong from Kowloon.

    The Japanese declaration of war against the British, delivered by the ambassador to the Court of Saint James on 11 July 1942, was the culmination of the breath that had strained against being held for so long since the Japanese had become signatories to the Anti-Comintern Pact only days less than a calendar year previous. The attack on Hong Kong--and the British Empire in general--was clearly a violation of international law: notification to the British that a state of war existed between the two empires was received in London only after engagements had begun. Both sides in the conflict recognized the importance of the territory, but the preparations for the coming war were decisively different.


    Canadian troops marching in formation, 1941. These
    troops were unprepared for the violent and overwhelming
    attacks of the Japanese forces.

    Controversy over Britain’s actual dedication to fighting the Japanese is centered on testimony from the American consulate delegation, who would later write that the British were more interested in keeping the Chinese in line than the Japanese out. Other charges leveled at the British indicate that they failed to adequately prepare both the civilian population and their forces to resist; these are balanced by the heroism and tenacity of the Commonwealth troops who made the best of a bad situation. The efforts were complicated, however, by a concentration of the fortifications being directed towards the sea, rather than towards the mainland. The British had assumed that any attack by the Japanese would come from the sea, but the strategic situation had changed with the truce which placed the Second Sino-Japanese War on ice until 1944. Despite this, there had been nearly four years in which the British High Command could have prepared their forces better for the assault which was seen by all to be inevitable, but with funding being what it was, no monies were devoted for the development of said fortifications, or a unified command structure to man them.


    A shore battery gun operated by Indian troops. Much of
    the defense had been focused on the perceived likely
    invasion from the sea, rather than from the shores of
    Kowloon.

    The decisions regarding the status and defense plans for Hong Kong were altered repeatedly in the interbellum period. Originally planned to left as an open city given the forces arrayed against it at the end of a very long and expensive tether to London, pressure on the British from Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek to ‘prove’ London’s support of the Chinese efforts led to the creation of the two brigade-strong Hong Kong Command, a motley force of British, locals, Indians, and even Canadians to resist against the expected Japanese attack. The losses in the North Sea and the strategic plan of “Each In Their Turn” meant the major surface vessels of the China Station had long since been recalled, leaving a mere two flotillas of Triton-class submarines and a handful of gun- and motor-torpedo boats. No appreciable air units were available from the Royal Air Force.


    A comparison between the forces arrayed to fight for
    Hong Kong. The outsized force of the Japanese proved
    more than a match for the few British defenders.

    On the other side of the coin, the Japanese ground forces arrayed against the island were the two divisions of XVIII Corps. These formations were composed of the two divisions of Imperial Guard troops, supported by a brigade of artillery and a brigade of engineers. In the air, three groups of Ki-63 multi-role fighters--the same aircraft developed by the Japanese from their purchases of Bf109Fs--were launching from Guangzhou. Of these, two groups were dedicated to conducting port strikes in an attempt to destroy the Royal Navy’s submarines (that is, the only major threat to the Imperial Japanese Navy in the area), while one group was devoted to providing close air support to the ground units. At sea, a small force of two ancient “heavy” cruisers and four groups of similarly old destroyers provided a small boost of naval surface gunfire support to the troops.


    Japanese artillery firing on positions during the invasion of
    Hong Kong.

    The engagement began at dawn on 11 July 1942 with a combination of air attacks and the guns of the Asama and Izumo. Within twenty-four hours, most of the garrison was out of organization and clinging desperately to small pockets of resistance. Constant air attacks combined with the rapid silencing of the coastal artillery allowed the ships to close in and press home their advantage. What few aircraft remained transported wounded and important people out of the colony, including Mme Sun Yat-Sen, the widow of the late Sun Yat-Sen. Effective resistance ceased approximately two days into the assault, but pockets of sporadic resistance kept the island from being truly pacified for nearly a week. In all, the Japanese Army reported that for the loss of only 86 soldiers and a handful of aircraft (mostly to accidents, though there were reports that a few fell to ground fire), they inflicted 586 casualties on the British and Commonwealth defenders, and took over five thousand prisoners.

    *****
    Author's Note: Not a top of page, but definitely worth it because I felt like things were dying down which would prevent me from getting there, and this is done so why not?! We move now to the Pacific, for the inevitable ROFLSTOMP for the Commonwealth. In other news, in a month, I'll be going to Midnight shift, which will mean that I become a monk, and probably have a few hours a night to devote to working with some of this stuff! Maybe.
     
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    XI: 2. Operations Malay Tiger, RY: The Malaysian Peninsula, British Borneo, and the Ocean Islands July - September 1942
  • Wraith11B

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    The Sun Also Rises
    2. Operations Malay Tiger, RY: The Malaysian Peninsula, British Borneo, and the Ocean Islands
    July - September 1942

    As objectives for the planned expansion of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere were debated, one expected target was always high on the list: Singapore. Aside from Hong Kong, Singapore was the central hub of the British colonies, the stepping stone on the way from India to Australia. Particularly well sited in the area of the Malacca Straits, Singapore was known as the “Gibraltar of the East,” a phrase that was ironic as no effort was made in making the defense of the city or the Malayan peninsula a priority. Interbellum planning--made irrelevant with the destruction of the Royal Navy--had been that any attack would be preceded by a long period of escalating tensions, which would give the Royal Navy enough time to sail a powerful squadron to Singapore. Another assumption--and this one even more fanciful given the political climate--was that the Americans would be on hand to provide assistance. Any efforts by commanders in the area of operations to expand forces available to their commands largely fell on deaf ears. Indeed, only after the declaration of war came did any forces receive orders to go to the Asian theater of operations, and that order only went to the British Army’s 1 Airborne Division, which had the dubious honor of conducting the world’s longest airlift from bases in England to Singapore.


    A soldier of the Malay Brigade, obviously perturbed about
    being photographed. His weapon, a Lewis gun, shows how
    the British Army failed to really prepare their distant stations.

    Japanese planning was, as ever, elaborately (some might say overly) complex. One naval task force was detailed to conduct landings at Kota Bharu with two Special Naval Landing Force divisions, just south of the border between Thailand and the Malay peninsula; another was slated for Johore Bharu with one division and XI Corps Headquarters. While no air forces were dedicated to this mission, no appreciable enemy air power was expected, either. Escorting these forces was an ancient surface action group built around the Ise- and Fuso-class battleships of Battleship Divisions 4 and 5, the two “youngest” of the Yahagi-class light cruisers of Cruiser Division 5, as well as two light cruisers from Cruiser Division 6, Naka and Kitikami. Five destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 18 (made up of the Shiratsuyu-class) were also brought along. Two groups of submarines (approximately twelve, though accounts differ) of a fourth-generation of IJN submarine class were tasked with cutting the supply lines from Britain, though their success was less than stellar. Facing this force, were perhaps nine thousand troops in Singapore of varying quality, as well as command forces for the area of operations. An Indian infantry division was available in Kuching, but with no naval or aviation assets available to conduct a sealift, they were unable to mass to effect the inevitable conclusion. Just after the declaration of war, London did order a group of naval bombers to deploy to Kuching, though the unit did not arrive in time and was later diverted[*].


    The comparison of the Orders of Battle on the eve of
    Operation Malay Tiger, which encapsulated the invasion
    of not only the Malay Peninsula, but also British Borneo,
    Nauru and the Ocean Islands.

    A mere four days after the declaration of war, on 15 July, the two landings began in earnest at Kota and Johore Bharu. With no real opposition, the Japanese forces were ashore rapidly and began moving towards their objectives, which for the landings at Kota Bharu was the major city of Kuala Lumpur and for the forces at Johore Bharu, Singapore. Unfortunately, the commander of the SNLF division at the latter landing site became indecisive, believing he did not have the forces to assault the garrison and thus wasting nearly ten days in waiting for the other two divisions to come down through the peninsula before finally launching his own attack on 25 July. This was bloodily repulsed, as reconnaissance by the defending forces had detected where the assembly areas of the amphibious forces were, and calling in nearly every available HE round from the islands 15” guns. Japanese intelligence had also failed to note that the British had flown in an entire airborne division, and so despite nearly equally bad losses, the British remained in control of the field when the attack was finally called off on 3 August. It would be almost a month of waiting until the rest of XI Corps was brought in, for the final assault on Singapore to be successfully concluded and all resistance ceased on 4 September; much of the Singapore Command’s units surrendered, while the 1 Airborne Division withdrew to Rangoon in what was the longest and largest air evacuation ever, at least until the German evacuation of Arkhangelsk in June, 1943.


    LTC Frederick Royden Chalmers, CMG, DSO, who was promoted to
    Lieutenant in both the Boer War and the Great War, survived Gallipoli
    and the Western Front with his command of the 27th Battalion only to
    be in Nauru during the Japanese occupation of the island. OTL: he was
    beheaded after an air raid on the island, and the man who ordered the
    execution was hung by the Australians for war crimes.

    While those operations were underway, landings were also executed against other British Pacific holdings, specifically Nauru and Ocean Island. These islands were largely worthless--aside from some phosphate mining on Nauru, they were geographically isolated--but the Japanese high command deemed the islands to be important as a way to establish a defensive position against any attempt to invade Japanese territories. As the Japanese arrived on 15 July, the island's chief administrator, a retired Australian Lieutenant Colonel veteran of the Boer and First World Wars Frederick Royden Chalmers, stormed up and down the beach hurling insults at the Japanese as they shelled several presumed defensive positions, but no armed resistance to the invasion occurred.[**]

    On 30 July, two SNLF divisions were landed in Miri, in British Borneo, and on 31 August, another division was landed in Sibu. The two divisions in Miri rapidly overcame the effective resistance of the 6. Indian Division, and the entire division surrendered mostly intact on 5 August. It had only taken a month and a half, but the Japanese were now in complete control of much of the British Pacific holdings and the Japanese turned their full attention to Australian and New Zealand territory, but more importantly, to the efforts of a service scrambling to prove their worth: the Royal Navy.

    *****

    Author's Note:
    [*]: The AI did dispatch No.16 RN Coastal Command naval bomber wing to Kuching. No idea why. I don’t recall it actually doing anything.
    [**]: This actually happened when German auxiliary cruisers shelled the island in December 1940; with no auxiliary cruisers in the Kriegsmarine, I altered his enemy a bit...

    Reading about the fall of Hong Kong gave me flash forwards to 2020. A chilling time for democracy.

    Nice update Wraith!
    History might not repeat itself, but it rhymes in the weirdest ways.

    This AAR truly is a masterclass in the art of breaking butterflies upon the wheel.
    I do try my best to keep things... relatively... out of the space-time continuum but with the uncanny valley feeling of certainly could have happened.
     
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    XI: 3. The Pacific Adventures of the Royal Navy New
  • Wraith11B

    Call Kenny Loggins, you're in the DANGER ZONE...
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    The Sun Also Rises
    3. The Pacific Adventures of the Royal Navy
    July - October 1942

    The decisions that led the Royal Navy to the deployment of the Eastern Fleet--especially when the Home Islands were under such a threat as the Kriegsmarine--are largely lost to history. The burning of almost all documents during the darkest hours of the first successful invasion of the British Isles since the First Glorious Revolution of 1688 placed a large damper on subsequent academic research, but broad conclusions can be drawn.

    With the accession of Japan into the war, suddenly altering the nature of the war from being a strictly European conflict into a global one, the Royal Navy faced a dilemma. Without the resources being brought in on her merchant marine, and without the protection to stop the predations of the Imperial Japanese Navy on the British holdings abroad--and especially preventing access as much as possible to the Indian subcontinent, Australia and New Zealand--the British empire would rapidly crumble, and the resistance to any threats would cease. Further surface action against the Kriegsmarine were proving too costly, the great bulwark once expected of the Royal Navy in any case was virtually annihilated. The decision was to rely on the Royal Air Force and the Army to confront any attempt on the Home Islands, but what remained of the Royal Navy was needed abroad to deter or defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy. Indications that the Kriegsmarine or the Abwehr had broken British codes sent Whitehall into a zealous demand for secrecy, with official orders only being transmitted by courier, handwritten in Welsh or Gaelic as an added layer of security. Preparations could not be hidden from the reconnaissance of the Wehrmacht, but between the false radio traffic indicating a sailing to remote bases in the Americas or Africa and a lack of image intelligence, the German intelligence community either drew the wrong conclusion about the Royal Navy’s intentions, lost interest in the Royal Navy while planning other operations, or knew about the planned deployment and failed to alert their nominal allies.

    To this end, the massive task force assembled consisted of the aircraft carriers Ark Royal, Courageous and Hermes; the battleships and battlecruiser King George V, Hood, Malaya, Ramilies and Resolution; the cruisers Orion, Galathea, Cardiff, Calypso, Curlew, and Danae; 34 of the Daring- (17 flotillas), 16 A- (4 flotillas), and 24 V-class (6 flotillas) destroyers rounded out the escorts. Despite the presence of two fleet carriers and a light carrier, only three air groups could be assembled for the voyage out of the five total which the FAA could muster, though given the small size of Hermes, this was quite possibly the limit of aircraft that could be carried. The Eastern Fleet was trailed by six flotillas of transports and ten amphibious landing craft groups which were conducting a sealift of the 1st and 5th Royal Marine divisions to bolster the defenses of Australia. By 25 July, the force had made it across the Atlantic; by 5 August the forces were heading for New Britain to base out of Rabaul. The massive airlift of the 1 Airborne division to Singapore had been routed through Rabaul, and remnants of the garrison of Rabaul a few days prior led to several additional members as the 1AB flew on.

    While those forces were en route, the Imperial Japanese Navy was exerting as much effort into isolating their target islands from interference in the landings which were occurring. In July and early August, the entire Royal Australian Navy was smashed in several engagements, largely around New Ireland and New Britain. Locations such as Nabuto Bay, Indispensable Strait, Ringdove Passage and Cape Saint George all featured heavily as the Australians tried in vain to support their few ground forces in the area. Their efforts were invalidated by Task Force Hibiscus, which was centered on the battleships Nagato and Mutsu, light carrier Zuiho, heavy cruiser Nachi, and 20 Fubuki-class destroyers. Task Force Chrysanthemum was also in the area centered on the carriers Soryu, Akagi, and Kaga; escorted by the heavy cruisers Haguro, Ashigara, and Atago; light cruisers Natori, Kinu, Yuru, Abukama, Mogami, and Mikuma as well as four Kagero-class destroyers of 25 Destroyer Squadron.

    This was not the only region seeing action; British vessels which had not been recalled from the Indo-Pacific at the start of the war were being caught up in the Singapore Straits as well. Seven separate engagements in the July to August timeframe saw continued use of Task Force Orchid (battleships Ise, Hyuga, Fuso, Yamashiro, light cruisers Yahagi, Hirado, Naka, Kitikami, 18 DESRON) to engage destroyers and merchants in the area. Losses to the Royal Navy during that time included the Columbo and Coventry, Destroyer Groups 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 57, 58, 60, and 62, and three groups worth of merchantmen and four groups worth of landing craft.

    Those areas were merely sideshows, of course. On 8 August, Task Force Hibiscus believed that it was chasing down a report of a small group of destroyers in the area of New Hanover which had been relayed by their aviation assets. The task force commander, Rear Admiral Nobutake Kondo, was operating without the benefit of radar, as the battleships had not had time to complete the refit to bring them up to the Type 32 standard and Nachi’s radar was malfunctioning. The lack of intelligence about the arriving Eastern Fleet had caught Kondo in a bind: his forces were dispersed to blockade and support the landings of a division in New Britain, not confront a massive enemy carrier task force. Thus, when the aircraft of Ark Royal appeared overhead, the Japanese were not prepared. Furthermore, the group did not have the benefit of the long combat experience enjoyed by the Ark Royal’s aircrews, which forced the group to try and recover to a formation that could concentrate more of their anti-aircraft fire. This order and the air attacks had most of the fleet looking up, and thus when the five battleships and battlecruiser opened fire, the British enjoyed rapid successes scoring hits on most of the destroyers of the 11 and 14 Squadrons as well as some of the transports attempting to bring the Special Naval Landing Force division ashore. Unable to retreat fast enough to the relative safety behind the guns of the battleships, an entire Japanese SNLF division drowned when their vessels were sunk by the combined efforts of the battleships and aircraft of the Eastern Fleet or were killed in their action ashore. Mutsu was the first Japanese battleship able to respond to the vicinity joined by Nachi, scoring a few hits on Malaya and forcing her to withdraw with her aft turrets out of action, but Ramilies and Hood took the pair under fire and within two hours had converted the Japanese battleship into a burning wreck; Nachi took a hit on her torpedo armament from Hood which caused the cruiser to disappear in a massive explosion. Without sufficient escorts remaining, Kondo was in a four-on-two battleship knife fight at only 10,000 yards, and it cost him the battleship Mutsu.

    A nearby task force, Task Force Sepik Blue--commanded by Admiral Ryozo Nakamura and centered on the battlecruisers Kongo and Haruna, leading the light carrier Hosho, and a motley collection of four Fubuki IIIs (DESRON 15), three Hatsuharu-class (DESRON 16) and five Shiratsuyu-class (DESRON 19) destroyers--responded to the Kondo’s call for assistance. While close, the force managed to arrive with enough time to assist in covering the retreat of what remained of Task Force Hibiscus. Their path took them past the retreating Malaya, which was sunk by gunfire from Kongo, but not before significant damage was inflicted upon Haruna among other vessels. The sudden appearance of such a large Royal Navy task force caused serious consternation amongst the leadership of the IJN, especially with the much-maligned intelligence sections. Orders flew out of Tokyo demanding that the long-range patrol bombers based from Truk and Eniwetok conduct bombing raids on any suspected locations supporting the Eastern Fleet. Japan ran their carrier aircraft ragged in a vain attempt to whittle down the British, which led to the sinking of Hood on 12 August off the coast of Put put. The IJN, getting desperate with the upset plans about how they would have handled the American navy, immediately ordered Task Force Chrysanthemum to the area.

    With nearly two hundred aircraft between them, this force should have been able to do significant damage to the Eastern Fleet. Bad weather hampered their operations, and at one point, a task group composed of the two heavy and four of the light cruisers attempted what should have been a specialty of the IJN: a night torpedo attack. Failing to recognize that there might have been comparable forces arrayed against them, and not being aware of how effective the British radar was aboard King George V, the cruisers were bracketed within three quick salvoes. Much like their sister ship Nachi, hits amidships near the torpedoes caused them to detonate and broke the ships in half, taking their crews with them to the bottom. As TF Chrysanthemum withdrew, Task Force Camellia, centered on the fleet carriers Ryujo, Shinano, Amagi, and Hiryu, light cruisers Kumano and Suzuya, as well as fourteen Kagero-class destroyers in three squadrons, began their own attacks and alternating with TF Chrysanthemum, but a combination of bad weather and excellent operational moves by the Eastern Fleet kept the British from taking much in the way of damage.

    By mid-August, Admiral Yamamoto was furious. His best carriers had been unable to do anything like worthwhile damage, and despite what seemed like the carrier air groups of the British having been largely slaughtered, enough remained in reconnaissance to keep them from tapdancing into any serious scraps. With their premier battleships having been smashed and their refurbished battlecruisers taking damage, Task Force Orchid was ordered to the area. Admiral Tanaka, cognizant that other admirals had tried and failed to smash the enemy fleet, went a different route: trying to lure the enemy into a trap. Using the intelligence of the Royal Navy’s underway replenishment cycle, Tanaka managed to place his ancient battleships roughly parallel with the resupply vessels. The three remaining British battleships, King George V, Ramilies, and Resolution formed up and began connecting to their oilers at dawn. Silhouetted against the rising sun, they were perfect targets for the flashes that stabbed out, and the three British ships were assaulted by the forty-eight 14” guns aboard the super-dreadnaughts. With shots falling all around them, the British were lucky that they were able to extricate themselves from their support vessels, but the delay cost them. Hyuga managed to land a near-perfect salvo just short of Resolution which went through the bulge and just under the belt armor. Resolution heeled over and did not recover, sinking sideways. Shifting her fire, Hyuga found the range on King George V and when combined with her sister Ise, the effect of twenty four guns on one vessel rapidly reduced the British vessel to a wreck. Ramilies might have escaped, but a sudden engineering casualty from such a workload as having cruised to the far side of the planet, far from home and proper maintenance facilities, caused her to shear away. Ramilies was quickly taken under fire, but resolutely remained afloat, leading to the coup de grace being delivered from the light cruiser Kitikami by way of torpedoes.

    The Imperial Japanese Navy was by this time almost completely exhausted. Recalled to Japan, the forces were realigned. At least one entire carrier air group had been demolished, and while the battleships and battlecruiser had been dealt with, and a few destroyers and submarines sunk here and there, by and large the Eastern Fleet remained intact through mid-October. Yamamoto had conducted repeated amphibious attacks to drive the Eastern Fleet out of the Pacific, stepping island to island to deprive the Royal Navy of places to hide. Another clash was imminent. The Eastern Fleet had withdrawn to Fiji, and the FAA had ceased to exist as a fighting force entirely[*]. Recognizing the dire straits that the Eastern Fleet found itself in, Admiral Jarvis began to plan how to extract the bulk of his forces from the theatre. Using a tactic employed by his compatriots against the Germans, Jarvis set a lure: the HMS Courageous and HMS Orion would remain in the area and generate the fleet’s radio traffic, while small boats lashed together would form the “fleet” for the inevitable Japanese reconnaissance efforts. It worked: the bulk of what remained of the Eastern Fleet (Ark Royal, Hermes, Danae, Galathea, Calypso, Curlew, 22 destroyer groups, and 3 transport groups) was able to escape, but Courageous would be sunk by aircraft from Kaga and Orion was credited to Akagi.

    Thus ended what remained of the Royal Navy in the Pacific. A gamble--a reckless one at that--which had flashes of brilliance and the only forces which managed to sink enemy capital ships through much of the first part of the war. The ground war continued through this period, but at this point, Australia and New Zealand were on their own.

    *****

    [*] - the British were out of CAGs.

    Author's Note: Unfortunately, I guess because of the fact that I'm using not-my-normal computer, I cannot upload images to Imgur which means my normal use of images is... nonexistent. I intend to correct this as soon as possible, but I figured I could at least get the update out there... and I apologize for the wall of text but I was trying to make sure that my paragraphs had some heft to them.

    Both add additional elements which can be added to a division, some of which are battalion size - HPP does this as well, though not nearly as extensively. It's neat, but a far cry from being able to construct every sub-divisional unit out of individual battalions - for example, the difference between a British INF brigade (3x INF battalions) and a USA INF regiment (3x INF battalions plus multiple support companies) could be modeled, offering a more interesting division-building experience than the everlasting 2x/3x INF debate that vanilla HoI3 offers.
    I do enjoy it, and wish that I could acquire the system for my own AAR mods.

    (BICE also suffers, my opinion, from "choose which historically-accurate element you don't want in your division!" syndrome, although this is a better problem to have than Paradox's "choose only one!" approach)
    I do not mind "wishing" away certain things (Bicycle infantry? No need, kind sir...) but do wish that units were a bit more modular with regards to things like transport (though HPP and BICE as far as I'm concerned to a fairly good job representing this, I'd prefer it not to require new units).

    I do think HoI4 has a battalion-based division builder, but we, ah, don't talk about that flaming garbage scow of disaster "game' here...
    Quite.

    Now that is a nifty piece of customisation work. You can outfit and make up a battalion however you want, no matter how stupid. Heavy towed artillery and bicycle infantry all the way.
    I wonder if there was ever a study of the various bicycle infantry units' effectiveness in combat in the getting-to/away or what have you. I sincerely doubt that bicycles (especially of the time) were at all capable of getting the average joes into the fight faster or anything.

    I've already done that one on Pip's. Twice. TTL and OTL.
    Well, I've both beaten you to the punch this time, and graciously allowed for future discussion material on the matter!

    It seemed the gentlemanly thing to do.
    Again I thank you, though as we've seen, I was dangerously close to having something ready for the top of the page.
     
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