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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Pelican Sam

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[hr][/hr]
INDEX


INTRODUCTION



FALL WEIß



FALL BLAU



TABLES AND DATA
[hr][/hr]
INTRODUCTION

*Updated Wednesdays and weekends.*

I’ve been trying to start this project for a little over a year now and think I finally have a handle on how I want to present it. Essentially this will be written as a narrative history of World War II Germany focusing on a broad set of minor (and not usually reoccurring) characters from all levels and distinctions within the German armed forces and civilian populations. Each chapter will intersperse the events of the game as they unfold for me, the player, with snippets of relevant, fictional stories for individuals. I have always particularly enjoyed books and After-Action Reports written in this perspective, and this is me trying my hand at it.

In the past, when I’ve tried to start this project, I’ve always ended up abandoning it after becoming unsatisfied with the direction it was heading. It always either felt too disorganized or too rushed, but I believe I’ve struck a better balance this time. I have played, and written ahead, a few installments so as to give me a buffer for when the inevitable writing slump sets in (as a frequent reader of AARs and a fan of the ABC series LOST I know how frustrating no ending, or a rushed ending, can be). Even though I have written ahead, I would still appreciate any feedback you have to offer. Whether it’s a scathingly critical essay that catalogues and mocks my failings as a writer or just a comment about what is or isn’t working for you, all comments are appreciated. As well, I’ve shrunk the margins on each post because each part is fairly long and, in my personal experience, long unformatted forum posts have a tendency to appear more daunting than they actually are; so if you have questions or comments regarding that aesthetic, I’d like to hear them as well. In order to incorporate any feedback you may have I will try to stagger the release of installments by about a week (-ish) so as to give me time to read your comments and tweak the next week’s chapter.

As for the specifics of the game: I’m playing the most recent patch of Hearts of Iron 3: Their Finest Hour (I believe v.4.02) as Germany, with no modifications or alterations to the game files, at normal difficulty. The game started in 1936 and has followed a mostly historical route to the invasion of Poland, which is where the AAR begins. Though I have followed a historical route thus far in the game, it was more for the sake of continuity with the real world so that I would have less exposition at the game’s start than a conscious desire to recreate World War II exactly as it happened.

Going into the game you should know two very important things: 1) I am not a very good player, and 2) I hope I lose. To the first point, I think playing at a slower speed (so as to properly catalogue the game’s events for the AAR) may give a false impression that I am better at this game than I actually am, but rest assured I am not a very strong player. To the second point, if, by the grace of the HoI Gods, I fair well against the AI, I am not above cheating for the AI (either by increasing the difficulty, or interfering directly) to further stack the odds against myself. If I win, I win and I won’t change that; but the price for that victory had better be so steep in virtual blood and sanity lost that I am but a shell of my former self at the game’s end.

As for the style of this AAR, you should know that it is still rough (read: overly longwinded) and even though I am satisfied enough with what I’ve done so far to begin sharing it, I'm still working out the kinks in the format; the initial installments are particularly prone to meandering as I search for an adequate sense of pacing. As well, the first installments from Fall Weiß do not have very many in-game screenshots as I forgot to take them at the time and then absentmindedly wrote over the autosave file as I continued to play. In the future, however, I hope that there will be more ingame screenshots, should the AAR-landers demand them.

But, anyway, I just wanted to say I hope you each have as much fun reading it as I have had writing it.
Notes & Disclaimers
  1. I have attempted to obfuscate Nazism wherever it emerged; if something comes off as contrary to that statement (or an image is not on par with the forum’s standards), kindly let me know.
  2. I take a lot of liberties with the game. In fact, because this AAR takes so many liberties with interpreting the events of the game, you could make the argument that this is probably more of a fanfiction than an AAR (though one shudders to think of the slash stories that could come out of a HoI3 fanfiction).
  3. Take geographical references at face value when possible. If you fact-check my geographical reference points (or even some of those in the base game) you will find yourself inundated by bewilderment, as was an amateur cartographer friend of mine. In order to make things ‘flow’ better I have had to fudge some facts of physical geography and have no doubt misnamed rivers on occasion. However, unless something is glaringly wrong (e.g., the ‘Somme’ is suddenly where the ‘Dnieper’ should be), or self-contradictory, it’s probably best if we just accept the geographical facts as written and move on. On that note: I apologize for the errors throughout and for any offense caused to both the locals who have been misplaced, and to the geographers who care about this kind of thing (but I make no apologies to the cartographers of the world; you are a gloomy breed).
  4. As the game makes no distinctions between the different organizational styles of the world’s armies during the time (chiefly the difference between the German and American divisional organizations versus the British and Commonwealth regimental system) it should be noted that Allied brigades and German regiments are equal levels of organization; for information on specific German operational structure please consider Table A for a quick breakdown.
  5. Please forgive anachronistic inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Without buying too many more books, information regarding some things, such as the above historical German organization, has proven to be a tedious scavenger hunt of loose and incomplete data. I’m sure that someone, somewhere, has amassed all of the data I could ever want regarding such things, but I have yet to find it. If you find historical inaccuracies, feel free to point them out; do note though: I have had to make some concessions in order to best represent the events of the game.
  6. German units are identified in German and use German naming conventions of the time (e.g., First Army Group is written as Heeresgruppe A, First Army is written as 1. Armee, I. Corps is written as I. -Korps, 1st Infantry Division is written as 1. Infanterie-Division, 1st Infantry Regiment is written as Infanterie-Regiment 1, etc.). All units of other nationalities (including the allies of Germany) are subsequently identified by the standard British/American identifiers of the time (e.g., First Army Group, First Army, I. Corps, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Regiment, etc.). I’ve tried to be consistent and historically accurate but regrettably I am no historian. If errors have been made in naming conventions (either German or other nationalities) please do inform me so I can correct them. Also, I should explain that I speak only three words of German, so I apologize in advance for translation errors.
    • German army groups were named by alphabet (Heeresgruppe A), geographic location (Heeresgruppe Nordukraine), or their position in relation to other army groups (Heeresgruppe Mid).
    • Corps sized units can be designated with the Armee- (I. Armeekorps) or Panzer- (I. Panzerkorps) prefix, or none at all (I. Korps); but all Korps-sized units should still be considered to be of equivalent size.
    • Historically 'Panzergruppe' was the equivalent of an army-sized unit of Panzers, but in the initial invasion of Poland I instead refer to a panzer army as 'Panzerarmee'.
  7. As there seems to be a population of younger members here I have attempted to restrain myself from vulgarities, but a few may slip past the censor; again I apologize for any offense caused.

<< Introduction​
 
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Pelican Sam

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TABLES AND DATA

[anchor="table_a"]TABLE A.[/anchor]

Organization of the Wehrmacht​
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
High Command
Army Group
Army
Corps
Division
Brigade
Oberkommado des Heeres
Heeresgruppe
Armee
Korps
Division
Regiment[sup]1[/sup]​

Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
Luftflotte
--[sup]2[/sup]
Fliegerkorps
Geschwader
Gruppe​
Oberkommando der Marine
Flotte
Schlachtflotte
Schwadron[sup]3[/sup]
Flotilla
Schiff​
Notes
  1. German regiments are comparatively equal to Allied brigades; in the rare instance where the German OOB identifies a unit as a brigade it is more accurately an understrength division.
  2. The Luftflotte (Air Fleet), equivalent to an Army Group, is composed directly of Fliegerkorps, with no intermediary level of organization.
  3. The marked difference between a naval 'Schwadron' and a Flotilla is that a Schwadron is composed of at least one capital ship and flotillas, while a Flotilla is an organization of smaller, non-capital, vessels.
 

Pelican Sam

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On the afternoon of September 2, 1939 Hauptmann Hermann Edhofer found himself standing in western Slovakia struggling to come to terms with the reality of the impending Polish invasion. Exactly eleven months before he had stood in a remarkably similar position along the Czechoslovakian border, waiting eagerly alongside the rest of Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 for the order to invade—an order that was to never come. As it had been in Czechoslovakia there was a subdued restlessness to the atmosphere of 3. Company; however, unlike Czechoslovakia, there was also an uncanny sense of calm among the men of his company. In the days before the postponed invasion of Czechoslovakia, the men had talked of little more than glory, medals, and battle, but here few men openly concerned themselves with anything more important than their next leave. To listen in on them as he had, it seemed as though none of them truly believed they were on the path to war; few even bothered to mention the impending invasion, and those that did were chided for their naiveté and were reminded of the Czechoslovakian and Austrian ‘invasions’. To Edhofer, the men of 3. Company sounded more like a reserve unit of conscripts who would never see the front rather than the elite fighting unit they were supposed to be.

Despite his personal concerns that the reality of the invasion was not being treated with an appropriate amount of respect, Hauptmann Edhofer couldn’t fully blame them for their nonchalance either. Since the annexation of Austria less than two years earlier, this marked the third time that Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 had been set on high alert and told to prepare for war. Even though he had been made privy to some of the more intimate details of the invasion two days earlier, it still took until 3 Company had arrived at its staging point for the reality of the invasion to set in for him too. “In the trucks, we had not comprehended the nature of our work” he would later write. “It was not until we clamoured out in a wide, steep field and Major Pohl ordered us to begin at once our 3 kilometer march to the border, that it dawned on me as it must have the others: we were finally to have our day of glory.”

In the early morning hours of September 3, after the Polish government refused to cede the Danzig corridor to Germany, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 moved into its position along the Polish border towards Cieszyn from Terchová in western Slovakia. At 0500 hours Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99, and all other forces under the command of Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), launched a massive surprise attack on Poland across its shared borders. Nearly 617,000 soldiers participated in the initial attack, along with another 25,000 Luftwaffe personnel and the Reserveflotte of the Kriegsmarine.

However for Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 and the rest of 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division, it did not turn out to be the day of glory that they had been waiting for. The Polish division previously assigned to Cieszyn had been recalled to defend Katowice before 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division had even crossed the Slovakian-Polish border. In its place, a small Polish reconnaissance platoon had been left to report on the movements of the advancing German troops outside of the town. While Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 had been tasked with clearing the crossroads at Skoczów 10km east of Cieszyn, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100 was assigned to lead the main attack on the Polish defenders from the town of Cieszyn itself. Unaware that their enemy had already abandoned the position, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100 stormed the town and engaged the small Polish reconnaissance platoon that had been left to monitor it. The short-lived engagement between Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100 and the Polish vanguard was to prove the only reported engagement of the day for the entire division. Even though the firefight lasted less than ten minutes, 6 German and 9 Polish soldiers laid dead at its end, bearing the distinction of being among the first casualties of the war.

Unaware that their enemy had already abandoned their position, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 and Hauptmann Edhofer’s 3. Company continued to cautiously advance towards the crossroads east of Cieszyn. Before the invasion, intelligence had told 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division to prepare for several days of bitter fighting against “an entrenched and fervent enemy” in the form of the elite 21st Infantry Division. With those briefings in mind, many of the men found themselves brimming with a nervous anticipation that “[was] every bit more terrifying than combat.” Every hill or copse of trees the men of 3. Company passed had within it the potential to hide a bloodthirsty enemy. However, after nearly six hours of anticipating a Polish counterattack that never materialized, 3. Company reached its objective without incident and began the tedious process of preparing a blocking position north of the Skoczów crossroads.

Though the day had not lived up to the expectations of combat for Hauptmann Edhofer and 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division, 200kms north of Cieszyn, over the skies of Kalisz, the day was more than living up to the expectations of combat for I. KG-Fliegerkorps. One of the three medium bomber corps assigned to the invasion, I. Kg.-Fliegerkorps had been tasked with performing its first bombing sortie of the war on the morning of September 3, when elements of its bomber and escort wings were engaged by Polish fighters. Between 0500 and 0730, several hundred German and Polish fighter aircraft engaged in aerial combat over Kalisz in the first, and only, major aerial skirmish of the entire Polish campaign. During the engagement 48 Polish single-engine aircraft were credited as shot down or disabled, with 7./JG 71 pilot Leutnant Hein Vetter scoring three kills, the most tallies of any pilot during the Polish campaign. Though the Luftwaffe was not without its losses, they remained minimal, reporting only 8 single-engine Messerschmitt Bf-109Fs, 11 twin-engine Dornier Do-17s, and only 15 pilots and crewmembers lost in the action.

While not as large in scale as later aerial battles of the war, the Battle of Kalisz did prove to be a decisive defeat for the Polish air force. After Kalisz German bomber groups flew unmolested, as the decimated Polish air force seemed reluctant to again face the numerically and technologically superior Luftwaffe in open battle. Over the course of the first day alone, Luftwaffe records show that 972 single-engine and 648 twin-engine bombers flew more than 2,000 unopposed sorties across western Poland. Decrypted communications and local intelligence reports estimate Polish casualties from bombings between the range of 1,250 and 1,350 killed, in addition to the damage done to bridges, roads, railways and other infrastructure throughout the country.

German Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers in action above Poland.
By noon the air battle over Kalisz and the skirmishes that had unfolded across virtually the entire German-Polish border had reinforced OKH’s opinion of the Polish soldier as “third-rate, with little training, or desire, to fight.” Similarly senior German commanders at OKH congratulated themselves for the success of the invasion as intelligence trickled in from the front where it seemed they had achieved overwhelming surprise and put the Polish army off balance.

While the specific day and time of the attack might have come as a surprise to the Polish government, in the months and years leading up to September 3, 1939 it had been no secret in either Germany or Poland that a war was on the horizon. Intelligence gathered in Poland by the Abwehr (the German intelligence agency) suggested that the western Polish military command had knowledge of the German build-up along the border as early as March; however if the Polish western command had any indication of the plan starting in September, their defenses on the first day of battle did not show it.

In truth the plan for the invasion of Poland had been in existence in one form or another since as early as August, 1937. Originally, the plan for the invasion of Poland was to be conducted simultaneously with an invasion of Czechoslovakia; however after the First Vienna Award partitioned Czechoslovakia, the plan to invade Poland was again redrafted and resubmitted for approval to OKH. By June, 1939, after several additional revisions to accommodate the growing forces in the east (mostly from redeployed units that had been scheduled to invade Czechoslovakia) preparations for the plan were put into motion and a September launch date decided.

Codenamed ‘Fall Weiß’ (Case White), the final plan proposed to use “maximum effective force” that would aim to cause the unconditional surrender of the Polish government within two weeks, a timetable that was deemed vital for the success of the operation. If the German army became embroiled in a prolonged campaign in the east, the British and French armies would be able to mount an offensive against the weakly defended German western front; however if Poland could be neutralized quickly the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed in June guaranteed a neutral Soviet-German border, allowing the German army to comfortably redeploy the bulk of its army to the west to launch offensive operations of its own.

In order to achieve the rapid victory proposed in the plan, the invasion was organized into three main thrusts:

Firstly, 1. Panzerarmee, under General Von Knochenhauer, was to advance northeast from Breslau with the objective of penetrating deep into Polish territory, and capturing Lodz and Warszawa within the first week. VI. Panzerkorps and Kavallerie-Kommando Insterburg would meanwhile provide support for I. Panzerarmee from Prussia by securing the vital defensive network at Modlin, north of Warszawa, and crossings on the Vistula and Bug rivers respectively.

The main advance for OKH, with 1. Panzerarmee advancing on Warszawa; in the west two pockets are expected at Poznan (west) and Kalisz (south); in the north 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division is expected to land at Torun.
Secondly, in the Danzig corridor, I. Armeekorps would cross the river Vistula at Tczew, linking up with II. Armeekorps and encircling Danzig. To support the attack, XXII. Armeekorps was to attack south from Königsberg towards Wloclavek, with support from 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division, which was to capture the airfield at Torun. This attack by XXII. Armeekorps would cut off any Polish divisions retreating from the Danzig corridor and trap them in a pocket of resistance at Chelmno. Meanwhile, from the Meseritz Line in Germany, IV. Panzerkorps in the north and I. Panzerkorps in the south were to exploit openings north and south of Poznan; linking up at the Warta River, they would encircle the westernmost Polish divisions in a pocket at Poznan, while also sealing off the Danzig corridor from the rest of Poland. 2. Armee and 4. Armee would then sweep eastward from the Meseritz Line to pressure the pocket around Poznan until it collapsed.

The planned advance for the encirclement of Danzig. In yellow: the planned pocket at Danzig (north), and Chelmno (center).
Lastly, Heeresgruppe C was to capture Krakow and Lwów. 7. Armee would attack through Katowice and then move to secure the area north of Krakow; III. Panzerkorps would simultaneously attack Krakow directly, trapping any divisions south of Katowice in a pocket at Cesky Tesin and Cieszyn. Meanwhile, 6. Armee was to advance north from eastern Slovakia towards Debica; upon arrival, XII. Armeekorps would advance east and capture Lwów while VII. Armeekorps continued north to capture the industrial center of Lublin.

By the end of the first week, the German army was expected to have captured Warszawa and Lublin at which point 1. Panzerarmee would wheel east and link up with 6. Armee along the Bug river, trapping any Polish divisions remaining in southwestern Poland between 1. Panzerarmee in the northwest, 7. Armee in the south, 3. Armee in the west and 6. Armee in the east.

The planned advance for Heeresgruppe C. The yellow line represents the planned pocket, while the green line in the northwest is to be held by 1. Panzerarmee on their route to capture to Warszawa; in the east the blue represents 6. Armee’s objectives at the Bug river; note also 6. Armee is erroneously referred to as 7. Armee (two aides have since been fired).
The plan was ambitious for its timetable, more than its outcome. German military intelligence regarded the German army as vastly outnumbering the Polish army in the west; as well, the average Polish division was regarded as being equipped with dated equipment, which “[would] result in a sure German victory”. What German military intelligence couldn’t predict, however, was how quickly that victory would be achieved. If Polish forces could not be adequately contained in pockets away from the main German objectives, but were instead allowed to retreat and prepare defensive lines around Warszawa and the Vistula river, German military planners estimated that a war in Poland could last as long as three months, which would be enough time for the British and French armies in the west to organize and launch a counterattack of their own. From the first hours of the invasion, however, it seemed that the Polish army had little hope of lasting to the end of the week, let alone the month.

By 1800 hours on September 3 the northwestern Polish front around Rogozno had collapsed. North of Rogozno, Model’s 10. Panzer-Division had completed a stunning breakthrough against the Polish 15th Infantry Division in Wiecbork, and in doing so had created an opening for the rest of IV. Panzerkorps. With forward elements of the Polish division initially outmanoeuvered and surrounded by 10. Panzer-Division, the Polish infantry managed to offer only lackluster resistance against the surging panzers. With the help of their newly minted Wz. 35 anti-tank rifle, which proved to be effective against even the heavier PzKpfw.IIIs, the Polish division was able to hold its ground long enough for the encircled Polish regiment to fight through its encirclement and rejoin its division. By 1430 hours, however, the situation around Wiecbork had become hopeless for the Poles and the division was forced to retreat in the face of mounting casualties at the hands of Model’s 10. Panzer-Division. Though the 59th Infantry Regiment had managed to escape encirclement it, and the rest of the 15th Infantry Division, had paid the high price of 635 dead for a single day of fighting. Among those, the 59th Infantry Regiment totalled the most casualties at 464 dead, the highest of any Polish regiment for that day.

Model’s 10. Panzer-Division, alternatively, proved overwhelmingly successful during engagements throughout the day, losing only 4 tanks and counting 73 men wounded and 45 killed. Though the escape of 59th Infantry Regiment was a bitter end to the day’s fighting, 10. Panzer-Division had still managed to achieve its objective of opening an avenue of advance through the Polish defences. As well, in order to avoid being encircled by the advance of IV. Panzerkorps, the Polish 24th and 30th Infantry Divisions were forced to withdraw from their engagements at Wronki and Rogozno.

By day’s end the Wehrmacht had made gains on all fronts, and met determined resistance during only a few; however, and most importantly for the campaign, all attacking Panzerkorps had won their objectives for the day. While 10. Panzer-Division had opened up the flank northwest of Poznan, 1. Panzer-Division had smashed through Krotoszyn in the southeast threatening to close the Poznan pocket; 1. SS-Standarte ‘Deutschland’ and 68. Infanterie-Division (mot) had meanwhile forced a Polish retreat from Krepice, opening an avenue of attack towards Warszawa. Including 10. Panzer-Division’s attack on Wiecbork, German Panzer and motorized divisions had suffered only 288 casualties for the day (104 killed and 184 wounded), plus 17 Panzers knocked out of action, while inflicting an estimated 1,630 killed on the Polish defenders.

Though, despite their wide ranging successes of the day, it had not been all glory for the Wehrmacht. 3. Armee, among which 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division counted itself, had advanced on its objectives in the early morning of September 3, only to find that the bulk of the Polish divisions had already pulled back to defend other objectives, with the only exception being the 27th Infantry Division who was engaged in heavy fighting with the 2. and 3. Gebirgsjäger-Divisions at Cesky Tesin. For 3. Company and the rest of 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division, however, the prevailing notion was that they had again been cheated of battle. As the Gebirgsjägers waited for a battle that was seemingly forever out of their reach, a small part of Hauptmann Edhofer couldn’t help but wonder if 1. Gebirgsjäger-Division was being purposely given assignments of the lowest priority as a penance.

While 3. Company uneventfully consolidated its position throughout the night of September 3-4, 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division was making history. At approximately 0210 hours the first elements of 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division, led by Student, performed the first combat jump in history. Landing north of Torun, the paratroopers would deny the Polish army access to the region’s strategic airfield and screen the advance of XXII. Armeekorps. The airfield, undefended and unused by the Polish air force, proved to be an easy objective for the division and by dawn on September 4, the paratroopers were able to secure their objectives without incident.

German Fallschirmjägers of 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division landing outside of Torun.
As the night of September 3-4 proved another loss for the Polish with the surrender of Torun, by dawn on September 4 the Polish army had begun to rally across the western front. Commanders were ordered to launch local counteroffensives where possible to halt the German advance, and to hold their ground. In southern Poland, along the Slovakian-Polish border, German 7. Armee had already made substantial gains against the Polish garrison inside the city of Katowice and was threatening to push the Polish division from its streets. Losing Katowice threatened to cut off 27th Infantry Division who was already tangled in a losing engagement at Cesky Tesin. Emboldened by the orders of the day to counterattack, 12th Infantry Division launched an offensive towards its former position at Cieszyn. The attack, it was hoped, would provide an escape route for 27th Infantry Division and allow both divisions to escape the encirclement in the south.

At approximately 0800 hours Hauptmann Edhofer and 3. Company came under heavy small arms and mortar fire at their position north of the crossroads at Skoczów. Vital for both the Gebirgsjägers and the Polish divisions, the crossroads provided a route to Bielsko Biala, which in turn provided a route to Krakow and out of the German pocket. 3. Company and the rest of I. Battalion had been sent north to form a defensive line in the hills overlooking the crossroads. Anchoring the battalion’s left flank along a sparsely wooded ridge, Hauptmann Edhofer and 3. Company found themselves exposed to the brunt of the Polish attack. Normal German defensive doctrine was to form a defensive line in depth instead of length, so as to avoid leaving any company exposed as 3. Company was now; however Major Pohl, commander of I. Battalion had decided the terrain and various avenues of attack towards the crossroads made defending in-depth impractical.

Despite their exposed position, the Polish attack that hit 3. Company was repulsed with ease. Though the entire battalion was under attack across its length, by “an enemy of unknown strength”, 3. Company was the first to repulse their attack. Hauptmann Edhofer had found himself to “[be] proud of 3. Company’s performance and poise in defeating their first enemy attack with a professional disposition.” Though the main attack had been quickly blunted by 3. Company, German and Polish positions continued to exchange fire and mortar rounds as the Poles continued to apply pressure on the Gebirgsjägers. Sensing an opportunity as the Polish opposition slackened, Hauptmann Edhofer quickly organized a platoon to counterattack towards the Polish lines. Having had nearly 24 hours to study the terrain ahead of him and perform reconnaissance of the area, Edhofer was confident that he had a sufficient enough lay of the land to lead an attack through it.

At 0930, as the Polish attack had whittled to only sporadic sniper fire from both sides, Hauptmann Edhofer ordered the platoon to advance through the hilly terrain ahead of them. So unexpected was the counterattack that the German platoon had pushed deep into the Polish lines by 1000 hours and had come into contact with a relatively undefended Polish battalion headquarters. The Poles, caught unaware by the sudden appearance of some 40 armed Germans, surrendered to the Gebirgsjäger after only a short firefight. An hour later, Edhofer’s 3. Company had returned to their defensive line with 34 prisoners in tow, 12 of who were officers, including the Polish battalion commander. For his role in the counterattack on September 4 Hauptmann Edhofer was awarded the Order of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class. After Edhofer’s counterattack, the Polish attack at Skoczów fell into disarray, which allowed Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 to organize itself for a regiment-wide counterattack. Attempting to outflank the Polish division on the right, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 would cut off the escape of the 12th division and trap them in the pocket at Cesky Tesin.

With the Polish in disarray and offering no more attacks on the battalion’s lines, Hauptmann Edhofer took the time between attacks to assess the strength of his company’s position. Checking in with his platoons, Edhofer was surprised at just how little damage the Poles had inflicted on the Gebirgsjägers. They had lost no equipment in either the attack or counterattack, and only counted three men wounded. Though they may have seemed hardly prepared for combat two days earlier, the successes of those initial engagements was enough to renew any lost faith Hauptmann Edhofer may have had in his men.

 
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Fantastic! Excellent writing thus far, and I love narratives! Narrative AARs are completely underrated nowadays, I am very partial to them - my first AAR was a narrative, and the first AARs I ran across when randomly searching the web which eventually brought me into the forums were narratives! :cool:

It's great to see you carry on in this manner, with well-placed screenshots too, which shall hopefully bring in other readers who like the gameplay genre AAR. Looking forward to more! :)

Cheers!
 

guillec87

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niceee! I'm in!
 

Pelican Sam

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Oh, thank God. People have responded. After almost 24 hours on no responses I was starting to get paranoid. :ninja:
Fantastic! Excellent writing thus far, and I love narratives! Narrative AARs are completely underrated nowadays, I am very partial to them - my first AAR was a narrative, and the first AARs I ran across when randomly searching the web which eventually brought me into the forums were narratives! :cool:

It's great to see you carry on in this manner, with well-placed screenshots too, which shall hopefully bring in other readers who like the gameplay genre AAR. Looking forward to more! :)

Cheers!
You're too kind, sir. I also really enjoy narrative-type AARs, and I'm glad someone else does too. :)

As an aside, I just started reading your Saints and Sinners AAR, and I wanted to say kudos on that; it's magnificent.

niceee! I'm in!
Thank you!
 

farlite

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Nice, wish i had time to write that much for mine. Good start
 

volksmarschall

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Oh, thank God. People have responded. After almost 24 hours on no responses I was starting to get paranoid. :ninja:

You're too kind, sir. I also really enjoy narrative-type AARs, and I'm glad someone else does too. :)
Be not fooled, there are many lurkers... at least, from my experiences, I periodically had people finally drop a comment saying they were long time lurkers or unregistered forum followers who finally registered to become part of the forums. (But then again, from 2011-2013, I was on a long hiatus on these forums so I don't know how much things have changed). I think that the the Narrative AAR, often being very hard to complete from the author's position, sometimes becoming very long (which contributes to it being hard to complete), and with a majority of forumites I would presume, being High school/early college, gameplay AARs dominate for the ease at which the author can post and the readers can follow. Plus, the gameplay AAR is the closest thing to what a proper, "play-by-play" AAR was/is.

Fret not also on how many comments one gets. Generally the longer you push through and continue to work the more people start to show up! But yes, the Narrative AAR is the most rewarding and gratifying of all when you finish. And seeing you spent nearly a year thinking about this - just shows dedication and attention to detail! Everyone starts out with no responses at first! :p
 

Pelican Sam

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Nice, wish i had time to write that much for mine. Good start
I've been sick a lot the last six months, which has really given me a lot of time to sit down and write things out that any normal, or sane, person would never bother to sit down and write out.

Thank you for commenting and for reading, my friend!

Be not fooled, there are many lurkers... at least, from my experiences, I periodically had people finally drop a comment saying they were long time lurkers or unregistered forum followers who finally registered to become part of the forums. (But then again, from 2011-2013, I was on a long hiatus on these forums so I don't know how much things have changed). I think that the the Narrative AAR, often being very hard to complete from the author's position, sometimes becoming very long (which contributes to it being hard to complete), and with a majority of forumites I would presume, being High school/early college, gameplay AARs dominate for the ease at which the author can post and the readers can follow. Plus, the gameplay AAR is the closest thing to what a proper, "play-by-play" AAR was/is.
That's an astute observation. I will keep the lurky-ness of people in mind going forward!
 

red_KLG

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I like it and I also like the newspaper edition... it spices up the AAR.

As for the lack of comments, it is just that narrative AARs require an investment as a reader (as I am sure they require much more investment for a writer) and it sucks a lot when one is abandoned.

Don't worry, you ll gain followers as people get convinced that this is not a one post wonder !
 

Pelican Sam

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I like it and I also like the newspaper edition... it spices up the AAR.

As for the lack of comments, it is just that narrative AARs require an investment as a reader (as I am sure they require much more investment for a writer) and it sucks a lot when one is abandoned.

Don't worry, you ll gain followers as people get convinced that this is not a one post wonder !
First of all, thanks for reading!

What you and volks have said about the level of investment required for narrative AARs makes a lot of sense. I'm just glad that it got any reception at all. I started writing the final draft for the first four posts in about August, and when I finally looked over the 25-some pages of Word I had amassed I thought it all seemed a tad too unwieldy for posting. After all, who has the time to read that much of an averagely written fictional history? So until about a week ago I wasn't even sure if I should go ahead with the project, which is the reason I was so paranoid when it took a few hours for the first person to respond. But the reception has been positive enough to convince me that this is a project worth continuing, so again, I thank each of you for your kind words for both reading and leaving a comment.
 

Davout

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Pelican Sam, great job so far and I look forward to see where you take this AAR.

A few friendly suggestions. Firstly, just write as if you are only writing for yourself, don't worry about pleasing a readership because then you will start second guessing yourself which will inhibit you publishing. If you like it, there is a good chance others do too, even if they can't be bothered to comment. Secondly, pace yourself. That first instalment was a monster and it may become very daunting to try to match it each time. I liked the 2nd instalment of the newspaper as a very nice change of pace, short sharp and too the point. But I did like seeing a long narrative again - just like the old days. Also, just keep plugging away even of you aren't 100% happy with an instalment. Frankly we won't see the flaws because we will be too wrapped up in the story, and you will find that it gets easier as you go along as you see what works and does not. Finally, keeps notes, not just of the game but of random things which may pop in to your head during the day which could be used on a rainy day to help break a writer's block.

Best of luck. I will be following this with interest.
 

guillec87

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it was to be expected, did you respect the MR Pact?
 

Pelican Sam

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it was to be expected, did you respect the MR Pact?
Yes!

Pelican Sam, great job so far and I look forward to see where you take this AAR.

A few friendly suggestions. Firstly, just write as if you are only writing for yourself, don't worry about pleasing a readership because then you will start second guessing yourself which will inhibit you publishing. If you like it, there is a good chance others do too, even if they can't be bothered to comment. Secondly, pace yourself. That first instalment was a monster and it may become very daunting to try to match it each time. I liked the 2nd instalment of the newspaper as a very nice change of pace, short sharp and too the point. But I did like seeing a long narrative again - just like the old days. Also, just keep plugging away even of you aren't 100% happy with an instalment. Frankly we won't see the flaws because we will be too wrapped up in the story, and you will find that it gets easier as you go along as you see what works and does not. Finally, keeps notes, not just of the game but of random things which may pop in to your head during the day which could be used on a rainy day to help break a writer's block.

Best of luck. I will be following this with interest.
Thanks for reading, Davout! The newspaper installment was really just something I whipped up the other day. Since I'm sitting on the next three installments anyways I figured I'd expand my horizons a little and release a second smaller installment each week while I'm waiting. You're absolutely right that the first one was a monster of an episode, and hopefully I can keep it going. The other ones for Fall Weiß won't be quite as large (the first installment was about 3300 words, if memory serves), but they should still weigh in around the 2500 word mark (+/- 250 words).

I also want to thank you immensely for your advice. I appreciate it more than you can ever fully know, and believe you are right on all counts.

I will do my best to keep plugging away at it. :)

Thanks again!
 

Pelican Sam

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‘Without incident’ was proving to be the watchword of the campaign. Reports that filtered back to divisional headquarters, some even going as high as OKH itself, were littered with repetition of the phrase. In some places Polish divisions, buoyed by orders to counterattack and hold their ground, had begun to offer a meager resistance in the early hours of September 4, but for the most part German operations continued across the Polish front without incident. Even those Polish divisions that had valiantly vowed to hold their ground were not in a strong enough position to affect a counterattack and repulse the German invasion; in fact, most divisions mounting a notable resistance were those on the far western front near Meseritz, where they were being attacked with only a minimal amount of force to keep them from escaping the planned envelopment at Poznan.

Reports from September 5 were no different, echoing the phrase across all branches of the Wehrmacht. In the Kriegsmarine Vizeadmiral Böhm’s Reserveflotte—consisting of the Great War-era battlecruisers Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien, the modern battlecruiser Scharnhorst and five flotillas of destroyers—patrolled Danzig Bay ‘without incident’; three Fliegerkorps of interceptors maintained air superiority over the skies of Poland ‘without incident’; even 1. Panzerarmee had, after initial skirmishes on September 3, advanced within 100kms of Warszawa ‘without incident’.

As the invasion’s main thrusts were meeting their timetables with such limited opposition, a false rumour had begun to circulate at OKH that the Polish army had simply stopped resisting the German invasion altogether. One report even went so far as to suggest, in great detail, which parade routes would be best utilized by the German army upon its imminent arrival in Warszawa and a follow-up report presented a rough timetable to immediately begin redeploying forces to the western front. While the successes of the invasion were well known at the German high command, Generalleutnant Adam had nearly dropped his tea when he first found the report on his desk on September 5. Afraid he had somehow missed the Polish surrender in the night, he hurriedly made calls to 1. Panzerarmee headquarters in Breslau to make sure this was not the case. After verifying with other members of 1. Panzerarmee’s general staff that the war was indeed still ongoing, he issued an immediate and terse reply to all OKH staffers. The message was short and sweet, and reminded the German officers that the war had not yet been won, and ended with a stern reminder. “Tempered prudence,” the message had exhorted, “is a virtue for all officers, especially those who are not, nor have ever been, in the midst of a battle.”

The Polish western command was also having problems, though its problems were not as convenient as an overzealous officer corps. General Smigly-Rydz, commander of the Warszawa HQ (and by position, the Polish army), maintained the belief that a defensive effort could still be mounted at the border, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. He had received assurances from British and French commanders in the west that “[a] fully modernized expeditionary force” was “en route to assemble and counterattack the German lines tout suite”. With such assurances from his allies, Smigly-Rydz had refused to hear arguments from subordinates about retreating to a more defensible position. Even as 1. Panzerarmee closed in on the Polish capital—just 120 kms away on September 5—General Smigly-Rydz remained resolute that Poland’s allies in the west would regain the initiative and allow them to drive the Germans back.

General of the western Polish forces, General Smigly-Rydz.
Further worsening the Polish position on September 5 was the situation in Katowice. Just after midnight the Polish 17th and 32nd Infantry Divisions had begun to quietly withdraw from the city center, extricating themselves from combat under the cover of night. They had managed to delay three German divisions from taking the city for two days, but the price had come steep for the Poles, with an estimated 797 Poles killed in action. However the German 56. and 57. Infanterie-Divisions, who had provided the main force for the attack on Katowice, counted only 114 dead and 198 wounded. Though the Polish divisions had put up a stubborn defence, without air support the German Luftwaffe was able to decimate static ground targets and methodically weaken the Polish defences. These accurate and devastating bombing attacks flown by German bombers were delivered so effectively on the Polish hardpoints on the city’s outskirts that German infantry were able to infiltrate as deep as the city center on the first day of fighting, a feat thought impossible by the Polish garrison.

Gefreiter Bernhard Sholtz, an infantryman in the 56. Infanterie-Division, had found himself breathing a sigh of relief as the morning of September 5 had come. The day before he had written in his diary of the fighting in the city: “Every street, every block, is a trap, as much for us as for them. We are only fortunate we have not lost more. We are in such close quarters to the enemy that we share a bed.” The fighting proved fierce and destructive as the Polish army improvised defensive fortifications on key streets, creating corridors that greatly restricted the movement of the German infantry. However the hastily erected roadblocks and machine gun positions proved to be ultimately ineffective as the German infantry divisions had clawed their way into the heart of the city after only two days of fighting, forcing the Polish divisions to forfeit their position and retreat.

Though the withdrawal of the Polish infantry divisions saved them from a continued, bitter fight inside the city, their withdrawal was a key strategic victory for the German army. With no force in Katowice to block the Germans advance, 7. Armee had a route into the virtually unguarded Polish interior. Even worse for the Polish army, by 1600 hours forward elements of 64. leichte Division had reached the outskirts of Krakow and, by 1800 hours, reported back to 3. Armee that the city had been captured without opposition.

That Krakow had been taken without a fight stunned Generalleutnant Adam, who had expected the Polish army to defend it even more stubbornly than they had Katowice. Almost immediately after Generalleutnant Adam had received word of Krakow falling to the Germans without enemy contact, he received a telephone call from OKH’s commander, Field Marshal von Böhm-Ermolli. The aging Field Marshal had seemed almost frail the last time Adam had seen him and on that day his voice sounded as tired and strained as it ever had. “Are you still certain that the Polish army has not surrendered?” the Field Marshal had asked.

Generalleutnant Adam, shocked by the appalling lack of information OKH’s commander seemed to have of the invasion, told the Field Marshal: “They are still fighting. If you have any doubt, ask Generalmajor Dietl.” Ever a hard man to read, Field Marshal von Böhm-Ermolli only cleared his throat and hung up the phone.

South of Danzig at Laskowice, the fighting had bottlenecked for Generalmajor Dietl’s 77. Infanterie-Division. The division had tried to force a crossing on the Vistula near Laskowice several times since September 3, but had met fierce and determined resistance from 23rd Infantry Division each time. Though the Germans had managed to cross the river on several occasions, the Polish division had pushed back the attack and reclaimed the bridge each time. On September 5, Major Max Finke, commander II./217 Infanterie-Regiment once more ordered his battalion to attempt a crossing at the bridge nearest to Laskowice proper. Major Finke hoped to force a crossing again. But when he gave the order to Hauptmann Busch, the company commander who would be taking the attack in, the man only looked at Finke with sullen eyes. Though he said nothing, Hauptmann Busch and his company had been at the forefront of every push across the river in the last two days, and they had paid dearly for it. But for any reservations he may have had, Busch said nothing and at 0850 hours dutifully led his men to their starting point. Having been promised every artillery piece in the division by Oberst Giese, the regiment’s commander, Major Finke was certain that II. Battalion, with 5. Company leading, would be able to cross the river before noon.

German artillery moves into position on the German side of the Vistula to support the coming attack.
At 0900 hours the artillery began its thundering barrage into the small hamlet on the Polish-held side of the Vistula, but for all of its sound and fury, remarkably few shells had fallen near the bridge where they were needed most. Major Finke, noticing the problem, signaled the artillery commander to move his barrage closer to the bridge, only to learn that the artillery commander was under strict orders from division headquarters to “avoid damaging any of the bridges, those most prized of possessions”. A stone-faced Major Finke could only listen as the shells streaked over his head and exploded somewhere out of view, knowing full well that the most fortified Polish positions would be left untouched.

As the division’s guns quieted, Hauptmann Busch ordered his company’s heavy machine guns to open fire across the river and the mortars to fire smoke shells to conceal the infantry’s advance. When enough smoke had been laid, Busch ordered the first wave to begin its advance. Leading the column personally, Busch managed to only reach the apex before a Polish machinegun opened fire, striking the Hauptmann several times in the chest and killing him instantly. As it had over the past two days, the attack began to once more falter as the German infantry were raked by Polish machineguns through the smoke. Firing from concealed positions inside houses and narrow slit trenches on the opposite side of the river, the artillery had seemingly hit everything but its intended targets. Feldwebel Burkjard Dewitz, who had been right behind Hauptmann Busch when the Hauptmann had been hit, found himself in a sudden frenzy. Singlehandedly he charged forward towards a Polish slit trench with a primal roar. Firing once from his hip he immediately killed the gunner before jumping into the trench and clubbing the loader with the butt of his rifle. With one machine gun disabled Dewitz had looked behind him expecting to see the rest of the company on his heels. Through small windows in the smoke screen Dewitz could see his fellow German soldiers still pinned on the bridge by machinegun fire. Identifying the nearest machinegun position through the smoke mostly by sound, Dewitz approached the house where the fire was coming from. In a second-story window he could see the vague outline of a man as he crept through the garden. Taking a position under the window Dewitz laid down his rifle, and took tossed two grenades into the house, knocking out the machine gun.

German infantry heading into the attack along the Vistula.
Though machinegun fire continued from other nearby houses Dewitz had managed to give the infantry on the bridge the momentum they needed for the first small groups to make it over. Those that made it over found themselves cleared the houses in the hamlet until the firing had stopped and the rest of the company was able to cross the bridge. With the Polish defensive base around the bridge broken, II. Battalion was able to cross the bridge in force and push the remaining Polish troops from the area surrounding the hamlet. By 1145 hours, after several hours of heavy fighting, Infanterie-Regiment 217 had crossed the Vistula in force behind II. Battalion and advanced on and captured the town of Laskowice proper by 1300 hours.

For his action on the bridge, Feldwebel Dewitz was awarded the Order of the Iron Cross, second class. Even more miraculously to him than a medal though, was his survival. He later admitted to friends that, while he had been proud at the time of his actions, he was embarrassed that he had been so reckless with his life. Including Hauptmann Busch, 18 Germans lost their lives on that bridge and in the ensuing fight, along with another 22 wounded.

Though Field Marshal von Böhm-Ermolli never contacted Generalmajor Dietl as Generalleutnant Adam had arrogantly suggested, but the events of the last three days at Laskowice had proven to anyone still asking at OKH that the Polish fighting spirit had not been completely broken. By the end of the engagement the Poles had managed to delay the German advance across the river for three days, killing 258 Germans and wounding 564, for 396 casualties of their own. The battle, though a German victory, had proved similarly demonstrative to General Smigly-Rydz that a victory was still possible if the goal was to delay the German advance.

To the rest of the Polish general staff still grounded in reality, however, the withdrawal at Laskowice signaled the end of the Polish army. By 0600 on September 6, the day after Laskowice, 17,208 men had surrendered to the XVIII. Gebirgskorps at Cesky Tesin and by noon the German I. and II. Armeekorps had linked up at Tczew, cutting off two more divisions in the city of Danzig. Before dusk on September 6 the 23rd Infantry Division, now retreating from Laskowice, was also surrounded by German forces at Chelmno.

Some of the 17,000 Polish prisoners taken on September 5-6.
Even had the general staff of the Polish army been able to convince Smigly-Rydz of the army’s dire situation, it was too late to affect any plan of action to save them. By September 7 over 30% of the entire Polish western force had been killed, captured, or rendered inert by German encirclement. Complicating things even further for the Polish command staff was 4. Panzer-Division, which had captured the fort at Modlin in the night of September 6 - 7 and was now poised to cross the Vistula and take Warszawa from the north.

In spite of the many defeats suffered across Poland, and pressure from the army general staff, the Polish government was reluctant to ask Smigly-Rydz to step down. As a commander in the Polish-Soviet war, Field Marshal Smigly-Rydz had proven himself to be both a capable commander and tactician. In the eyes of some high-ranking Polish authorities his record of service was enough to assure them he was the man to see the war through to its end, whatever the outcome. More importantly for those making the decision, however, was the consideration of troop morale. Even if they had wanted to remove the Polish army’s commander, it could potentially lower morale even further if the army’s commander was relieved at such a critical juncture. Desperate to both keep morale from falling too much lower and to heed the advice of the Polish generalship, the Polish government struck a deal then with the army: Smigly-Rydz would remain acting commander of the Polish army, but control of the western portion of the army would be ceded to Syzlling who would have “free operational command” for the duration of the war. On paper, this was a promotion for General Smigly-Rydz, but in effect it made General Syzlling the de facto commander of Polish troops in western Poland. General Syzlling, who had until then been commander of the defunct Warszawa Army (which existed only on paper), quickly set to work trying to revive the struggling Polish army.

Immediately Syzlling identified the problem as having spread too few troops over too much ground, and issued orders for units to break out of their encirclement at any cost. The 10th and 55th divisions, trapped in Danzig were to breakout at Tczew and join up with the 23rd Infantry Division at Chelmno, while the 17th and 14th divisions attempted to break out of Poznan (who would eventually also link up in Chelmno). North of Warszawa the 16th and 18th divisions, which had been beaten back to Pultusk from the Prussian border by the two divisions of Kavallerie-Kommando Insterburg, were to immediately counterattack the forts at Modlin to delay the German panzer division from entering Warszawa. General Syzlling believed if a concentrated force could be amassed at Chelmno, it could fight its way towards Warszawa and defend the Polish capital long enough for the British and French to launch their attacks on Germany, which would draw away many of the extra German divisions in Poland and even the odds. While Syzlling acknowledged that his plan of counterattacking was similar to that of Smigly-Rydz, he believed that the counterattacks that had been ordered by Smigly-Rydz on September 4 had been “too broad in scope and limited in purpose”, and believed that his breakouts were more focused, and would be able to turn the tide of the war for the Polish army in the west.

As Syzlling was plotting to save the Polish army early on September 7, Generalleutnant Adam awoke and tended to his morning routine as he always did, writing in his diary: “I predict today that the war in Poland will continue the way it always has: without incident.” Unbeknownst to the general was that at 0800 hours the Polish army, with renewed spirit and leadership, would launch what would prove to be the most incidental actions of the entire campaign.


 
Last edited:

volksmarschall

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Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli, one of Austria-Hungary's last promoted Field Marshals! I'm glad to see he has a command for this campaign! :cool: He is a central figure in my case-study of the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI I'm tirelessly laboring on.

Great cliffhanger I might add, and tremendous writing! I am also amazed that you accumulated 25 pages of work before having a crisis of whether to continue with the project, I think I speak for those of here, it's nice to see that you decided to push through with it. One's first AAR, especially the first few pages before one starts developing a repertoire is always the toughest. I do think you may have come around to these forums a bit late for the heyday of narratives, but hey, you will surely bring fantastic memories for those of us who were hooked by the narrative AARs of old that some of us also embarked upon! Not only is this a showcase thus far of how a well-written AAR should progress, it will no doubt bring back old memories. Not to mention, completed narratives (or narrative-histories) always rank high in people's opinion. And seeing you listed this as "omniscient-history" for the librAARy, I think you have a good command of English.

Cheers!
 

Pelican Sam

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Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli, one of Austria-Hungary's last promoted Field Marshals! I'm glad to see he has a command for this campaign! :cool: He is a central figure in my case-study of the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI I'm tirelessly laboring on.

Great cliffhanger I might add, and tremendous writing! I am also amazed that you accumulated 25 pages of work before having a crisis of whether to continue with the project, I think I speak for those of here, it's nice to see that you decided to push through with it. One's first AAR, especially the first few pages before one starts developing a repertoire is always the toughest. I do think you may have come around to these forums a bit late for the heyday of narratives, but hey, you will surely bring fantastic memories for those of us who were hooked by the narrative AARs of old that some of us also embarked upon! Not only is this a showcase thus far of how a well-written AAR should progress, it will no doubt bring back old memories. Not to mention, completed narratives (or narrative-histories) always rank high in people's opinion. And seeing you listed this as "omniscient-history" for the librAARy, I think you have a good command of English.

Cheers!
That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. You're far too kind, but I must admit I don't mind.
 

guillec87

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nice update! I like your AAR, are you planning on including more map pictures for future updates?
 

Pelican Sam

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nice update! I like your AAR, are you planning on including more map pictures for future updates?
Thanks, guille!

And yes, I will be including more maps/ingame screenshots in the future. However, when I played through the invasion of Poland I unfortunately forgot to take very many screenshots of the unfolding situation. For that reason the first four-ish updates won't have very many in-game screenshots, but future updates after that should have at least two in-game screenshots per installment.