Chapter 38: Part Two – 16 to 23 November 1947
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    Chapter 38: Part Two – 16 to 23 November 1947

    Introduction

    The intensity of operations stepped up significantly in all three active theatres in the third period of the month from 16-23 November and the fighting in and around Toyohara reached a crescendo on land, in the air and at sea. Therefore, in order to cover the latter in sufficient detail (and because I thought it was a ripping good yarn in a more unusual area for the Soviets), I will keep to the staged approach for this eight day period and use a full chapter to depict it.

    I do intend to pan out further for December, but this first month is so crucial for the Soviets and there’s so much action, I want to do it some justice. It also allows a few cliff-hangers for the final week of the first month of WW3! ;) Tech and espionage developments will be covered in monthly summaries at the end of the next chapter.

    ******

    The West

    The skies remained contested, with VVS interceptors active again, trying to prevent enemy raids by CAS and TAC sorties. During the week, the Soviet bombing rate of effort would remain similar to the week before: generally one, sometimes two target provinces hit per day, with an average of about 675 casualties inflicted per day, with Wehlau (3,338 over five days), then Pulutsk (1,886 in three) being the main targets. The Allies were only able to penetrate VVS air cover sporadically, causing 1,078 casualties in Pogegen and Insterburg on the 17th and 616 in Pogegen on the 23rd.

    The Allies were able to do little in the south, a Greek sortie against Caransebes on 16 November being an indicative example. They caused a few casualties but were then mauled when the VVS turned up as they finished their ground attack.

    ZwJk2v.jpg

    The German raids early in the period (mentioned above) got through on the 17th, but were then contested by the VVS, leading to an absence of Allied TAC raids in the north for the next five days.

    jNvBel.jpg

    Some major battles were decided on 17 November as things continued to heat up, a loss at Sandomierz (Soviet 1,637/7,998; Allies 1,221/8,975 killed) and a victory in Debica (2,111/35,743; Allies 4,840/30,971 killed). The Allies were still having supply problems in Prussia, for example in the key battle for Wehlau.

    That night, there was a very bloody defensive loss in Turka at 2100hr, just south of Lwów (Soviets 7,436/51,835; Allies 2,207/48,958 killed). The loss in Turka and pressure elsewhere saw the Hungarian Front put onto a fully defensive posture (the Debrecen objective would be removed later).

    Fm79y6.jpg

    On 18 November, another big battle was resolved: a concerted Allied attack on the border air base of Stanislawow was repelled by the Red Army (Soviets 2,606/33,305; Allies 4,260/21,645 killed). This was a relief, but the Soviets found themselves increasingly on the defensive in Poland.

    On the afternoon of the 20th, a new V2 battery was deployed in the forward air base in Jaworow (west of Lwów) and another in Suwalki (on the Prussian border). As they were being installed, at 1500hr one of the old V1 batteries in Brzesc Litewski was launched at the airfield in Warsaw, where repairs had begun and a few wings were operating. Two hours later, a long battle to defend the north-western edge of the Polish salient was won at Krasnik (Soviets 2,329/26,609; Allies 3,924/33,864).

    The early morning of 21 November saw the VVS once again repel Polish efforts to bomb the key battleground province of Ostroleka, which the Soviets were trying to hold against Allied counter-attacks.

    BkmGHN.jpg

    Another big battle came to a head at 1500hr on the 21st, with a big defensive win at Biala Podlaska – a Polish border province directly south-west of Brzesc Litewski taken earlier in the month – (Soviets 4,503/42,570; Allies 5,061/23,196 killed). But by that night, it was under attack yet again.

    By 2200hr that night, the southern Polish salient was being slowly eroded and remained under pressure. The Soviet offensive in this sector had ground to a halt and was if anything being slowly pushed back.

    apf7jZ.jpg

    Wehlau, where a major Soviet attack had been in progress for some time and was going well, had been under constant VVS ground attack from 17-21 November, causing over 3,300 Allied casualties. But the Luftwaffe interrupted this early on the 22nd, damaging Soviet CAS and TAC wings.

    32JVvw.jpg

    A few hours later, Hungarian aircraft managed to restart raids on Drohobycz (though only 50 casualties were caused in a one-off raid, it was indicative of continued Allied efforts to find holes in the Soviet air defences, where more INT had to be taken off line for repairs as the month wore on).

    At 0300hr on 23 November, the lengthy and bloody battle for Memel was finally won by the Soviets, but at great cost (Soviets 9,214/68,986; Allies 5,248/44,759 killed). An hour later, another expensive victory came in Wehlau (Soviets 3,006/54,739; Allies 1,523/93,407 killed). Neither had been occupied by the end of the day.

    Unfortunately, that evening there were two significant defensive losses: one in Debica on the western edge of the southern Poland salient (Soviets 2,664/32,132; Allies 3,395/32,633 killed) and on the Hungarian border in the hotly contested Drohobycz (Soviets 2,361/23,826; Allies 1,549/12,954 killed).

    As the eight-day reporting period ended just before midnight on 23 November, a little progress had been made in east Prussia and on the northern Polish border, but the southern Polish salient had been nibbled away. Some ground had been lost in Romania too.

    cT8mLe.jpg

    The pace of combat had increased significantly, with the Soviets losing a majority of the 63 battles concluded between 16-23 November. Total casualties on both sides in the west were very nearly even: and were twice as many as the previous two weeks combined for both the Soviets and Allies.

    The fighting remained hard and large-scale in Prussia with Memel and Wehlau due to be occupied by the Soviets after tough fights. But it was a slow and grinding process in that sector.

    saIhpd.jpg

    In Poland, the salient towards Warsaw and Krakow remained fairly shallow, with large Allied reinforcements (mainly German divisions, but also Czech, Italian and Yugoslavian formations) joining the fight.

    3RoZYp.jpg

    The Hungarian sector had been hard-fought but largely stationary. Romania continued to be chaotic, with many provinces, especially Mehadia, fought over multiple times. Constanta had fallen to the Allies but not followed up, Bucharest was now under threat and a worrying pocket had nearly been isolated in the west of Romania, with Mehadia at its western edge.

    mSY93R.jpg


    ******

    Toyohara

    The hectic fighting in and over Toyohara went on unabated. As 16 November began, the Soviet paratroopers had withdrawn from the fight and were retreating to the ships, but the enemy mountain division had also been forced out of the battle. A single enemy CAG harassed the fleet, with the heavy cruiser Krasni Kavkaz taking the brunt of the damaged.

    r70cBW.jpg

    A day later, the Soviet marines and infantry were trying to shock the British 2nd Armd, which had a defensive advantage to reduce its casualties.

    feqHDb.jpg

    That night, the enemy CAG attacks stepped up, with five wings hitting the two Soviet battle fleets from carriers in an unknown location causing widespread though not yet critical damage.

    As the land battle raged on and MAJGEN Ivanov launched a reckless assault, by the morning of the 19th another enemy CAG strike hit home at 0600hr.

    VVV6vm.jpg

    The CAGs hit again at midday, damaging but not sinking any Soviet ships. Then at 1800hr, all hell broke loose as the carrier fleet(s) that had been launching the air strikes followed up the latest naval strike with a direct attack on the Soviet invasion fleets, with two fleet and two escort carriers involved.

    i5ixll.jpg

    In response, all three Soviet NAV groups were launched at the Japanese fleet, including the previously unused 4th Maritime Group in Tumnin. But the CAGs were closer and at it again at 1900hr, though they ended up engaging the 4th Group instead, while some of the Soviet NAV got through to damage the Japanese fleet. At 2200hr the Japanese had enough and withdrew as the Gulf of Terpeniya was flooded with damaged ships and aircraft from both sides. The invasion would continue.

    KGtUUG.jpg

    Early on the 20th, the five Japanese CAGs were finishing another mission as two VVS INT wings intercepted them, in company with the 4th Mar Gp. But the Soviets wings came off second best in the ensuing dogfight and the CAGs were striking the fleet again by 0600hr. Many Soviet ships were now completely disorganised and many were damaged, some heavily.

    9ULqLo.jpg

    The dogfighting over the fleet escalated even further later that morning. First one VVS INT group, then another, then by 1000hr both together fought the enemy CAGs: they started to do some damage, but many of the Soviet interceptors were badly disorganised by then. The mid-morning strike finished at 1100hr, in which the first Soviet vessel was sunk: the previously damaged Krasni Kavkaz.

    WLp7QU.jpg

    That afternoon, desperate to get ashore before the fleet was destroyed, the reckless assault continued, but the weakening British armour managed an effective counter-attack to slow down progress.

    hjqGyh.jpg

    Following this, a succession of single-CAG interceptions frustratingly kept deflecting large Soviet TAC raids aimed at Toyohara, as all available aircraft were thrown into support the attack, even though the Japanese wings were taking ever greater damage.

    BqEvQc.jpg

    Late on the 20th, the newest sub squadron (the 2nd, out of Petropavlovsk Kamcackij) was ready for combat and was sent out to patrol between Hokkaido and the Soviet Pacific Coast. The Japanese fleet seemed to have holed up in the port of Toyohara after withdrawing from the last naval battle, hence the abundance of CAG air cover there.

    Then, words were heard that echoed uncomfortably for the Soviets when a patrolling NAV group was ambushed by fresh Japanese INT to the south of Inchon on the morning of the 21st.

    jDCUMS.jpg

    An hour later, a small Japanese task force (two CL and a DD flotilla) was spotted and attacked by Soviet NAV in La Perouse Strait, directly south-east of the Gulf of Terpeniya. By midday they had entered the invasion zone and were attacked by the battered Soviet fleet and by supporting NAV. The destroyers were soon in trouble, then both the Soviet fleet and NAV combined to sink two of the Japanese cruisers by 1800hr, even though both claimed the Mogami: another victory for the desperate gamble where the ground battle still dragged on, with the Soviet marines on top but taking heavy casualties.

    Y3FVVv.jpg

    Early on the 22nd, another enemy CAG strike was intercepted by the almost exhausted VVS air cover patrol, who had been flying air superiority missions for the whole invasion period. They had to break off for recovery at 0500hr. But the two wings of 14th Fighter Group in Vladivostok was still on line and flying intercept (14. IAD at 95%, 41. IAD at 27% strength, but both still well organised). Then at midday, yet another ground attack on Toyohara was thwarted by the enemy’s 16th CAG, but the latter were defeated by the VVS escorts at 1500hr.

    7qoz9D.jpg

    On the ground in Toyohara, Soviet numbers were starting to overcome the British armour, though the 1st Marines were just as exhausted as their enemies and air support had been denied for some days by enemy CAG interceptions. The battle was nearly over, but if the fleet was forced away, the whole enterprise would fail.

    oTsj91.jpg

    A sortie attempt was made at 1900hr on the 22nd by one of the Japanese carrier TFs in Toyohara, accompanied an hour later by a naval strike from their three CAGs. The battleship Yamashiro led the surface attack, with Kaga and Zuiho holding back to launch their air strikes.

    FkCDt5.jpg

    But the CAGs ran into VVS NAV first (which had been trying to strike the enemy task force) at 2100hr, then the Soviet 14th Fighter Group joined in an hour later. By 2300hr, the Japanese had been driven off, with no ships sunk on either side. The battle in Toyohara was entering its final stages. The Japanese carriers seemed to have avoided any serious damage in all this.

    ivL9KT.jpg

    Yet another VVS ground attack on Toyohara was frustrated by a lone and full strength CAG from 0300-0500hr on the morning of the 23rd. They had done a very adept job at holding off multiple VVS raids over successive days.

    But this last effort was not enough for the British to hold on in Toyohara: they broke at 0600hr and an hour later, the Soviet marines and follow-up infantry divisions had secured their objective – at last! But there was no respite for the Soviet invasion fleet, which now had the retreated Soviet paratroopers aboard and were still trying to unload the last division and the Marine Corps HQ. The Japanese CAGs again struck in waves at 0900hr. By midday, the 5th DD flotilla had been sent to the bottom.

    gjaMB9.jpg

    And even as those five CAGs were attacking the fleet, at 0700hr the Soviet INT were engaging another two over Toyohara: in all, seven enemy CAGs were engaged in their desperate action to drive off the Soviet fleet.

    At 0800hr, a short attempt by the previously defeated Japanese 15th Mtn Div to re-enter Toyohara was brushed off quickly within an hour (Soviets 8/45,743; Japanese 132/6,846 killed).

    But the consequence of the taking of Toyohara was that the entire Japanese fleet that had been harbouring there was forced out – and now made a heavy attack on the two Soviet invasion fleets at midday. Simultaneously, a massive eight wing GAG strike was launched, but the 14th Fighter Group desperately tried to hold them off. It was the most hectic and dire action of the Toyohara campaign to date.

    h8Wmpx.jpg

    By 1500hr, three enemy ships had been sunk, but at 1800hr the CAGs got through the VVS fighter cover, once more damaging many Soviet ships by 2000hr. The battle continued throughout the rest of the night and would move into the morning of the 24th.

    ******

    The East

    Japanese fighters were increasingly active in the Far East on 16 November. Guessing that the Japanese were using P’ungsan in northern Korea as their forward base, the so-far unused 3rd Strategic Group was sent in to hit the runways, but they were intercepted over P'abal li, the escorts taking the heaviest damage.

    rcH8Pd.jpg

    They got through to P'ungsan that afternoon, managing to do some reasonable cratering but took damage from the AA guns and a Japanese interception from 1500-1700hr. Due to an orders mix-up, what was meant to be a solo mission took off again that night, and this time one of the STRAT wings also took heavy damage. By the time it was done, the group had to be evacuated to a rear base for repairs, Vladivostok being over-crowded.

    ZMIqoS.jpg

    The vulnerability of Vladivostok, where fighter cover had been diverted to the Toyohara operation, was brought home on the morning of the 17th: a renewed Japanese port strike sunk both the repairing submarine flotillas in their docks at 0800hr. In retrospect, they should have been sent back to Kamchatka instead.

    6IItBn.jpg

    As Ch’ongjin and Yanji continued to be killing grounds and were not key to victory against Manchuria, 1ya Armiya was switched to a defensive stance and a consolidation on a Dunhua-Kraskino-Ch’ongjin line on the afternoon of the 17th.

    U0VdoF.jpg

    The fight in eastern Mongolia continued to be tough for both sides, with a close defensive loss in Tamsog Bulak on the afternoon of the 19th (Soviets 1,262/7,998; Allies 1,178/18,116 killed). But to their north, Soviet 7th Army forces were on the advance in north-western Manchuria.

    On the afternoon of 20 November, two new V2 installations were deployed in Vladivostok: if any more runway strikes were deemed necessary, they would be used.

    At 1300hr on 22 November, the Soviets won a close battle for Byrka in northern-western Manchuria (Soviets 1,175/9,999; Allies 1,260/8,891).

    As the period finished, the Soviets had advanced more than half way to Harbin in the north and had pushed into the rougher terrain to its south-east. The north-eastern Manchurian and Mongolian fronts were holding their own, on balance. And of course, on Sakhalin Toyohara had just been taken, though at significant cost and with the navy still engaged in the Gulf of Terpinya.

    NWrS0Q.jpg


    ******

    The South

    On 17 November, a joint Soviet and Persian attack in Durbun in western Pakistan was bloodily repulsed (Soviets 1,124; Pakistanis 1,262 killed), with RAF raids on Nok Kundi on the 16th (1,096 killed) and Lashkar Gah on the 17th (killing another 1,071 Soviet troops) assisting their defence.

    By early on the morning of 18 November, the Soviet 7th HArm Div had secured Amarah and now advanced on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, which was unoccupied.

    3F5h6i.jpg

    But there was a reverse to the north in Kirkuk on the 19th, the Soviet attack there defeated (Soviets 555; Iraqis 610 killed).

    There was however a clear Soviet victory in Ba’quba at 1000hr on 23 November (Soviets 257/16,992; Iraqis 873/16,340 killed), just north of Baghdad, which remained undefended. It fell at 1800hr and the Iraqi capital shifted to Tikrit, which was also under threat.

    The general situation in the Southern (Caucasus) Theatre showed extended incursions into Iraq, with the Allies pecking away at the south of Afghanistan while the Soviets and Persians slowly advanced into western Pakistan. To date, Allied air power in the eastern sector had proven more destructive of manpower than Soviet victories on the ground for the enemy.

    GOPGeh.jpg

    A more detailed view of Iraq showed the French INT was patrolling the deserts east of Tikrit and its approaches were still well defended, even if it was not itself. It looked like a Syrian division may eb moving up to defend it, however.

    iJOK6c.jpg

    In Pakistan, a Persian division had managed to push forward and occupy Durban by the end of the 23rd.

    ******

    Strategic Warfare

    The Soviets lost convoys on the Ulya-Petropavlovsk Kamcackij route on 19 November (one convoy, one escort) and the 21st (also one convoy, one escort).

    The Soviet submariners sunk a French transport in the Tsushima Strait on the 20th and Japanese convoys in the same location on the 21st and another in the Northwest Pacific Basin Plateau on the 23rd.

    ******

    General Summary

    On all fronts, up to the end of 23 November 1947, the Soviets had lost 148,694 troops in ground combat and 27,870 to air strikes, for a total of 176,564 casualties. The Allies had seen 144,578 killed on the ground and 55,378 from the air, for a total of 199,956 casualties. The main difference continued to be Soviet air power. Of the 239 battle results recorded, the Soviets had won 132, the Allies 107.

    But the eight day period to 23 November seemed to show something of a tide change, with a total of 96,949 Soviet combat casualties from all sources and only 91,055 for the Allies. 99 battles had been fought resolved (a significant increase in tempo from the previous eight day period) with 45 won by the Soviets and 54 by the Allies.

    Time seemed to be running out in the West for any decisive Soviet blow. The South and East showed a little more promise, but these were unlikely to be the decisive theatres in the overall war. The desperate ploy to capture Toyohara had worked, but the cost had been heavy and a furious naval battle still raged as the Japanese fleet broke out to escape through the Soviet invasion and escort fleets in the Gulf of Terpeniya.
     
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    Chapter 38: Part Three – 24 to 30 November 1947
  • Bullfilter

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    Chapter 38: Part Three – 24 to 30 November 1947

    Introduction

    Toyohara finally fell to the combined airborne and amphibious assault on 23 November – but at some cost to the air and naval forces supporting the invasion. The full cost would only be known once the naval battle caused by the escape to sea of the Japanese fleet sheltering in Toyohara Harbour – including six aircraft carriers – was over.

    With the offensive in the West seemingly bogged down, the main Soviet hopes now remained in the Southern and Eastern Theatres.

    ******

    The East

    The Japanese CAG strikes (eight CAG wings flying from three CVs and three CVLs) hit again on the morning of 24 November, two groups flying separately but both finishing at 1000hr.The results were devastating, with all the previous accumulated damage compounded by the massed strikes and simultaneous naval combat. The last Soviet troops were also ashore by 1000hr, by which time the surface battle had concluded in an almost Tsushima-like defeat for the Soviet Navy as the few remaining Red Navy ships bolted for the now-occupied port of Toyohara to get away as quickly as they could.

    lfENKh.jpg

    The ‘new’ battleship Sovietsky Soyuz was the largest Soviet casualty, with the pride-of-the-fleet Parizhskaya Kommuna the only ship of either fleet to survive in good shape: all their CAs and CLs had been sunk. In essence, the surface element of the Soviet Navy had been eviscerated but their mission had succeeded. And they had sunk Japan’s last known battleship, the Yamashiro, doing it.

    The big question to all concerned, for the Soviet military as well as Japan and the Allies more generally, was why Stalin had been so fixated on maintaining this invasion despite the crippling naval losses and diversion of almost all VVS wings to supporting it. Was it simply grim and bloody-minded revenge?

    The answer was soon revealed: Stalin had wanted to demonstrate the Soviets could take a key Japanese city [ie a VP province] and no others had been within feasible early reach. With the developing stalemate in the West and knowing China could soon be sending troops to the Allied front, Stalin had to do something to change the calculus and quickly.

    hLDV4C.jpg

    With Toyohara secure and the remnants of the fleet scurrying for port, it was time to show the Japanese the awesome power of Soviet technology. Ironically, the 3rd Strat Group was still recovering from its damaging attempt to strike Allied runways in northern Korea. But the TAC bombers groups (specifically their M/R escorts) in Vladivostok were just in range of Tokyo. And one specially modified bomber from 11th Tac Group [withdrawn from AI command for the mission] was soon flying into history.

    As the bombers were en route, the Red Banner Pacific and 2nd Pacific Battle Fleets limped into port at Toyohara with 11 of the 26 ships or flotillas that had begun the Battle of Gulf Terpeniya, safely unloading the para division that had been aboard during the last climactic naval battle.

    11th Tac Group arrived over Tokyo at 1400hr but had to contend with an interception by three Japanese fighter wings for four hours before they could finally deliver their payload. At 1800hr on 24 November 1947 a new sun dawned over the Japanese capital.

    GPx4lM.jpg

    NB: it seemed very harsh to do this while watching the Tokyo Olympics on TV, but that’s HOI3 for you. :(

    The effect on Japanese national unity was huge, but it was not enough to elicit a surrender, given only Toyohara was in Soviet hands. As the first atomic weapon was delivered on an actual target, the 19th Tac Group was loading up with another nuke in Vladivostok. Nagoya was their target, at a distance of 696km (max range 775km). By 2000hr, 11th Tac was back at its base airfield: wing strength varied between 65-79% and enough organisation was left for them to remain damaged but airworthy if required again.

    The dose was repeated on Nagoya at 2300hr on the same day Tokyo had been struck. But it was still not enough to make the Japanese surrender. 13th Tac were hit by Japanese fighters as the nuke dropped, savaging both the TAC wings by 0100hr on the 25th.

    frO79k.jpg

    11th Tac was loading up again with a third nuke and set off for Osaka as the last bomb dropped on Nagoya (a range of 664km). By this time, the Japanese fighter cover was well alerted: they arrived over Osaka at 0100hr and were ambushed by five INT wings – three of them straight from the dogfight over Nagoya. The majority of the Soviet bombers were shot down – but the one with the payload made it through and at 0500hr Osaka was the third city devastated in the space of a day.

    xnfqYn.jpg

    As 11th Tac straggled into Vladivostok at 0800hr, the Japanese had commenced negotiations for an armistice. The boost to Soviet national unity from these three demonstrations of Soviet nuclear supremacy was considerable (+4 x NU per delivery).

    The cost this time was that the two Vladivostok-based TAC groups had to remain off line for repairs, having suffered badly during their long-distance desperate missions.

    That evening, a naval skirmish occurred in the Rishiri Strait, Japanese destroyers attacking a Soviet sub squadron, one flotilla almost destroyed by the time Japanese radios crackled with new of the armistice, the action suddenly ending.

    5xzHvw.jpg

    At midnight, Japan formally surrendered. They would (forcibly) join the Comintern, but not as a combatant: they were in a truce with their former Allied partners.

    60k3hN.jpg

    Comment: given their new NU of just 1% and the whole of Chinese-occupied China at Allied mercy, this was probably just as well.

    In the Vladivostok Sector, there remained a mix of Japanese and Allied divisions under the others’ command as well as their own.

    7tXFLt.jpg

    Something similar was the case in the Khabarovsk Sector, where a number of Manchurian divisions were of course unaffected.

    pJ08iO.jpg

    Comment: It is working the same way as it did with Slovakia in my Talking Turkey game: a bunch of Japanese EFs still in Allied colours and a good number of Allied EFs still under Japanese command. It will take some time to sort out and could be quite chaotic for a while.

    Combat tempo in the East, especially in the Vladivostok Sector, reduced considerably with the Japanese surrender – surprising no-one. With the Japanese Air Force out of it and the VVS TAC groups recovering, ground attacks on both sides was greatly reduced too.

    At 1700hr on the 29th, the Red Navy fleets arrived in Vladivostok – now safe from Japanese air attack – for repairs, after consolidating into a single fleet (under Kuznetsov’s flag in the RBPF).

    As the month ended, the Soviets were holding in Mongolia and advancing in northern and eastern Manchuria. The Soviets had won the great majority of battles in the East in the last eight days with one battle in Konto still in progress.

    yEgQbu.jpg

    The Soviets were not quite as close to Harbin as the maps indicated and the situation remained confused. To the south, most opposition had been coming from Japan, and a more general advance should now be possible – though winter conditions may start to slow movement down in December.

    yYzJrB.jpg

    Sakhalin had now been rightfully transferred to Soviet sovereignty, with at least one British armoured division now trapped in Maoka (possibly also another still under Japanese command).

    DRAnwa.jpg

    A number of Allied formations were present in northern Korea and in the Japanese Home Island, while many Chinese units had been passing through Japanese-occupied China. Where all these divisions would end up remained a moot point.

    NqDSm3.jpg


    ******

    The West

    The first major result of the period came on the morning of 24 November, with the Soviets winning a huge defensive battle for Ostroleka, despite losing 2,000 more men than their opponents. Over 217,000 men had taken part in the battle and over 21,000 of them had perished.

    BXCWls.jpg

    By the afternoon of the 25th, three of the four armies in the Polish Front (ie army group) were on the defensive, with just the 9th trying to push through in the centre towards Lublin.

    EtzCnc.jpg

    The Hungarian Front also remained largely on the defensive, with heavy fighting in recent days from Turka all the way south-east to Stanislawow.

    nWBhyO.jpg

    On the evening of the 26th, the largest nation in South America joined the Allies.

    VpDkKA.jpg

    The Allied air forces had either not attempted or been prevented from conducting any ground attacks from the 24-27th and another V2 strike on a depth airfield in western Poland early on the 28th attempted to help maintain that suppression.

    6Iiaw9.jpg

    The Germans were however able to launch one of their heavy strikes on Pogegen (Prussia) later that morning. But a heavy VVS interception ensured it was the only Allied ground attack to get through in the West for the rest of the month. Without this suppression, the Soviet position would no doubt have been even more dire.

    y7JBZR.jpg

    At 0800hr the same morning, the Soviets lost a large defensive battle on the Hungarian border in Turka (Soviets 2,608/16,995; Allies 1,456/25,977 killed).

    To Turka’s south-east, another Allied attack on Stanislawow was repelled at 0200hr on the 29th (Soviets 1,217/14,410; Allies 1,797/12,987 killed). And that afternoon, a major Soviet attack on Ostroleka in Prussia succeeded with a large loss of Allied lives including Germans, Italians and Czechs (Soviets 1,194/96,851; Allies 3,945/23,990 killed). But in the south, the Soviets were defeated in Vrsac that night (Soviets 3,018/15,970; Allies 2,350/55.809 killed) and in Mehadia.

    The Allies tested Soviet air power again in both Poland and Prussia (the latter another possible resupply mission by US transports this time). Both were reinforced by Luftwaffe fighters, but no Soviet ground casualties resulted. With a Polish CAS wing possibly being destroyed.

    HNH4uc.jpg

    In central Poland, an attack to try to retake Krasnystaw was won at 1100hr on 30 November (Soviets 1,840/21,991; Allies 3,109/16,966 killed). But the defence of Krasnik in the salient (to Krasnystaw’s immediate south-west) failed just two hours later (Soviets 2,140/14,839; Allies 2,167/51,960 killed), showing how tough it was to make progress anywhere in the West as Allied reinforcements kept arriving to bolster their line.

    Tiring VVS INT wings in the south took on a German NAV bomber group over Bucharest in the afternoon (Bucharest had by then fallen to the Allies – Romanian surrender progress at 95%), while those US transports had again been intercepted and savaged soon after.

    cOtJfn.jpg

    As the month ended, the Soviets maintained territory in Prussia and Poland but had been checked in Hungary and were now in trouble in Romania. The Allies had won more than twice as many battles and skirmishes than the Soviets, whose casualty list was longer in that eight day period than the Allies’. Ground attacks by the exhausted bombers of either side had been few and far between.

    tDOjjD.jpg

    Fighting remained intense in Prussia, with the Soviets now on the outskirts of Königsberg at Labiau and Wehlau. But German armour had slipped into Memel before it could be occupied and fighting there continued. In general, the Soviets remained on the offensive and advancing slowly, but not enough to be decisive.

    W9oeDU.jpg

    In Poland, the southern salient had been eroded a little, but not yet cut out, with only two battles currently in progress – both Allied attacks on Soviet-held Polish provinces.

    GHyJu5.jpg

    The Allied pressure on the Hungarian border continued: though they were currently retreating from Drohobycz a large column seemed to be moving into Skole to its north-west. The Soviets were attacking Greek and Austrian troops in Stulpicani.

    qSP9kI.jpg

    As mentioned, things were turning sour in Romania. The fall of Bucharest brought Romania to the brink of surrender as Soviet troops remained exposed to the west in the Mehadia Salient.

    mPCBMi.jpg


    ******

    The South

    By the early afternoon of 28 November, there was fighting in three provinces on the Iraqi Front when the Soviets encountered an Egyptian division fighting under Israeli [!!] command at 1300hr.

    K5Ermp.jpg

    With these new Allied reinforcements beginning to appear, taking Tikrit (which should knock Iraq out of the war) quickly became even more crucial. The 13th Army was given blitzing orders and Tikrit made its only objective.
    The first Allied air raid in Iraq came on Karbala at 0500hr on the 29th, though only 19 casualties were caused.

    The fight for Kirkuk ended in a big Soviet victory at 1600hr on the 30th (Soviets 162/34,981; Iraqis 1,364/25,894 killed), but it would not be occupied before the day ended.

    Kirkuk was the only battle decided in the Southern Theatre during the eight day period. Fighting continued in Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, where Soviet casualties from RAF raids were comparatively heavy, but falling off as the month ended.

    V9Bx4W.jpg

    In Iraq, battles in Ba’quba and Al Wadyan continued: taking Kirkuk should make a strong assault on Tikrit much easier – if the Soviet army commander showed the required aggression.

    GzssRu.jpg

    A well-positioned advance by Soviet mountain troops into Mardan had put the Pakistani capital of Islamabad under some threat, while Indian troops spearheaded an advance into southern Afghanistan – which the Soviets were not too worried about at this stage.

    clBGDN.jpg


    ******

    Strategic Warfare and Industry

    No Allied STRAT raids were conducted and neither side registered any convoy sinkings registered in the final eight days of November.

    The surrender of Japan had brought one more objective into the Comintern column [though at 12, the Allies still maintained their New World Order]. It also brought a welcome boost to Soviet leadership capacity from the ambitiously title ‘naval supremacy in the East’ effect.

    hyTZGT.jpg

    After recent technical advances (see below) the upgrade bill had risen greatly by 29 November, while the reinforcement cost had doubled. No supply production was required, while there were four atomic bombs left in the stockpile.

    cJ1G92.jpg


    ******

    Espionage and Research (Monthly Summary)

    Early in the month, the Spanish caught a Soviet spy on 3 November and their strength was up to three teams, causing the Soviets to put their mission there up to 100% on counter-espionage. On 8 November, the Soviets traded one of their teams for a Turkish one. By the time the month ended, all the Spanish agents had been run to ground, including a new one recruited during the month.

    arhrO9.jpg

    These developments meant there had been no increase in party influence or covert teams in Spain during the month. In Turkey, the political situation was also neutral, but two more covert teams had been infiltrated.

    Four projects had been completed during the month, while the capitulation of Japan had allowed two extra research topics to be begun. The IC cost of the infantry equipment advances in particular was large. V2 range continued to be extended, even as the penalty for ‘before time’ research had begun to apply.

    4ACiZK.jpg


    ******

    General Summary

    Over the whole month, in all theatres the Soviets had lost more troops to ground combat than the Allies by nearly 9,000 men, but had caused almost double the air raid casualties. Of 291 land battles recorded, 155 had been won by the Soviets, 136 by the Allies – a trend that was turning in the Allies’ favour as the month ended. For both sides, well over half the casualties had come in the West. All up, over 464,000 troops had lost their lives so far in the first month of WW3.

    dzOA8b.jpg

    It remained to be seen whether Soviet success in the East and their first use of atomic weapons could do anything significant to balance the stalemate in the West and the likely surrender of the Romanians.
     
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    Chapter 39: Part One – 1 to 16 December 1947
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    Chapter 39: Part One – 1 to 16 December 1947

    Introduction

    November had seen the great Soviet offensive into northern and central Poland fizzle out and bog down. A grinding offensive continued in Prussia, where the Allies still had supply problems, but the Soviets had turned to the defence along the Polish and Hungarian borders. The situation in Romania had become grave, with fears for the Soviet formations exposed in western Poland, towards Mehadia.

    Things were going better in the Far East, with Japan nuked out of the war and Manchuria now on Stalin’s chopping block: taking out both these countries was a grudge left over from the end of WW2.

    The war in Iraq was also going quite well, with Baghdad occupied and the fall of Iraq anticipated if the makeshift capital of Tikrit could be taken. Things were more problematic on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the a fairly small Soviet holding army (the 19th) with a little Afghan and Persian support was under increasing British pressure, with substantial support building from Pakistan and India.

    ******

    The West: 1 to 7 December

    With the Army commanders handling the details on the ground, STAVKA’s main input was monitoring and adjusting broad stances and objectives for each Army commander (AI) and keeping an eye on air operations. The latter was a mix of groups assigned to selected Army HQs and others (strategic forces including the Missile Corps and selected groups) being managed directly by STAVKA (me).

    From 0600-0800hr on 1 December, three Soviet INT (125th Fighter Group, AI commanded) largely destroyed a German escort M/R wing and damaged a TAC wing when they were intercepted over the southern Baltic. The same VVS INT were in combat against three Luftwaffe INT over the Pomeranian Coast from 1000-1200hr and then they were hit by six German INT from 1400-1600 in the same location in a running battle. By the end of this one German INT wing was virtually wiped out, but 130. And 101. IAD-PVOs were both reduced to 0% strength, 73. IAD to 64% strength. The group had to be detached from the chain of command and sent for urgent repairs.

    That night, two Soviet INT wings tangled with one Italian and one German TAC Group over Constanta (Romanian Black Sea Coast) with a total of two M/R and four TAC wings from 2000-2200hr. The VVS caused significantly more damage than they took and the Allied raids were aborted. As a result of these vigorous efforts, only one Allied raid struck home in the west that day, down in Romania (178 killed in Baja de Arama). No VVS ground strikes were launched that day.

    But the efforts to protect Romania could not stop their capitulation at midnight on 2 December. By 0300hr, Soviet forces were strung out in a series of pockets or badly exposed salient across Romania. Some of the armies to the north would be given ‘relieving’ objectives, but saving the most westerly of the Soviet forces would be a tall order for these (AI) commanders, especially given they remained under heavy pressure along the Hungarian border near Lwow.

    TV1wLQ.jpg

    Radar decrypts showed the airfield in Lódz had been largely repaired (3.1 capacity) and two Polish TAC were based there. A V1 (the last of the old models) strike ending at 1100hr on 2 December wiped out the facilities again, in case any other Allied wings might have tried to use them. The dose was replicated in Debrecen (2.81 capacity, five Hungarian and French INT wings) at the same time, V2s wiping out the facilities.

    At 2300hr that day, two large victories were reported in Prussia: at Bartenstein (Soviets 2,199/37,986; Allies 4,588/110,140 killed) and Memel – at last (Soviets 1,996/35,271; Allies 1,506/7,991 killed). STAVKA still had hopes of pushing forward in Prussia ‘the hard way’, even if the rest of the front was not looking too promising. Allied formations there were still having bad supply problems, which was allowing the advance against heavy Allied numbers.

    No Allied air strikes were recorded that day, but single VVS strike on Königsberg killed 214 enemy. No more Soviet ground attacks would be launched in the west until 7 December.

    At midnight on 3 December, a new tank division (LARM, 2 x MECH, 1 x SP RART) was deployed in Rybnica on the Romanian border and assigned to 1st Army of the Romanian Front. When ready, they would be part of the attempt to stop the collapse of the sector, which was a real possibility. The trapped Soviet formations were desperately trying to escape through Brasov, but French, British, Belgian, Greek, Yugoslav, German and Bulgarian forces were all making that difficult.

    kOfCEK.jpg

    Only minor Allied air raids were conducted from 3-5 December (totals of 57, 117 and 201 Soviet soldiers killed on those days across the whole Western Front). The air forces on both sides seemed exhausted.

    The 90th German PzGren Div arrived in Memel at 0500hr on 4 December before the Soviets could secure it, restarting the battle there. A US Airborne division was in Memel too, but not at all engaged in the combat (not even in reserve).

    At 1100hr on 5 December a V2 runway strike was ordered on the air base at Königsberg once again, where three French and German CAS wings were using the partly repaired facilities (2.98 capacity). These had been virtually wiped out again by 1500hr.

    The same was done to Bratislava (3 x CAS, 1 x M/R, 1 x TP wing) a day later, its facilities reduced to rubble by 1600hr on 6 December. Allied air strikes hotted up, with the Luftwaffe killing 641 in Pogegen (East Prussian sector) of a total of 917 Soviets killed that day.

    By the end of 7 December, exchanges from the Prussian to Hungarian border were roughly even. Romania, of course, was a disaster in the making. Allied air raids almost stopped completely (only 57 killed in one raid), while the VVS struck Rachov (northern Poland) to kill 611 Allied soldiers in support of a major Soviet attack there.

    BA54BX.jpg

    Note: The Red soldier icons are Romanian provinces that turned French on their surrender, but weren’t occupied by enemy troops. Green line is the front as at the end of 30 November.

    In Prussia, the Red Army is still trying to advance, the revised plan being a smaller cut-off of Königsberg and any Allied troops they can trap in the narrow strip to its north. Ortelsburg, Bartenstein and Allenstein are the next key objectives after Rastenberg was taken earlier in the week.

    ssHogn.jpg

    The Allies have been exerting very heavy pressure and advancing to the north- and south-east of Lwow.

    yWJjBs.jpg

    There were now two distinct pockets of Soviet troops in Romania, with both being squeezed tighter.

    M9fSbI.jpg

    And as usual, the plotting or bombings and air combat over the last week are a good indication of where the heaviest ground fighting has been. The British have again been conducting STRAT bombings on Soviet centres in the Caucasus (full report at the end of the chapter).

    MmJNs0.jpg


    ******

    The South: 1 to 16 December

    With Kirkuk recently occupied, the crucial battle for Tikrit began late on 2 December.

    8ODgEg.jpg

    The fight would last until the afternoon of 5 December, the Red Army proving victorious. But Allied (British and French) air raids had killed 993 Soviet troops in Mosul during the battle.

    The initial attack caused the Iraqis to break off their heavy attack on Ba’quba at 0000hr on 3 December, with the defenders victorious (Soviets 605/8,000; Iraq 1,289/17,978 killed). At that time, the diplomats were able to add a second war goal for Iraq – to install Communism on the planned puppet government. Just in time!

    With Tikrit in their sights, at 1400hr on 5 December the 13th Army’s objective list was expanded to include Qasr el Burqu (VP location on the Jordan-Iraq border, and not in Amman for some reason), Amman (the Jordanian capital), Jerusalem, Beirut, Soûr (VP location) and Damascus (no VPs in Syria). They were also ordered onto a blitzing stance.

    In Afghanistan, things were deteriorating a little, with a major battle for Lashkar Gah lost (AAR imitates life) at 0000hr on 6 December (Soviets 1,848/19,336; Allies 1,647/18,960 killed). British air raids supporting the attack had killed a total of 645 troops in Lashkar Gah from 1-5 December.

    Tikrit fell at 1000hr on 7 December to 1. Tankovaya Divizya and their Government capitulated at 0000hr on 8 December, joining the Comintern and establishing the customary truce with their former Allies. A small measure of revenge for the loss of Romania a few days earlier.

    The Soviet plan was to try to overrun the rest of the Middle East and see if they could take the Suez Canal while trading ground for time if necessary in the rough terrain of Afghanistan and eastern Persia.

    l8dfUJ.jpg

    Note: The earlier 13th Army orders given on 5 December in anticipation of the Iraqi collapse are shown above.

    The territorial exchanges for the entire Caucasus (Southern) Theatre at 0000hr on 8 December are shown below.

    ha0VLo.jpg

    The Iraqis grandly announced that they were mobilising their army on 9 December, but it was uncertain what benefit that might provide the Comintern war effort, given they remained in a truce with the Allies and could not diplomatically be called into the war by the Comintern.

    By the end of 16 December, there had been no further territorial changes in the Middle East, though a few more battle had been fought with Syrian and other Allied troops. [I had to ‘encourage’ the AI a little by ordering a few divisions forward then giving them straight back to AI control.] Things were a little worse on balance in the Afghan-Pakistan Sector.

    fiHE6l.jpg

    Note: dashed arrows represent changes since 0000hr on 8 December.

    ******

    The East: 1 to 16 December

    The attack on the British armoured division cut off in Maoka on Sakhalin by the seizure of Toyohara and subsequent Japanese capitulation was won at 1900hr on 1 December, with the remaining 7,865 troops surrendering.

    On 3 December, the French division cut off earlier in Byrka (a Soviet province on the north-western Manchurian border) was defeated and surrendered at 1500hr.

    One of the tougher battles against Manchuria was won at Khonto at 1500hr on 5 December (1,522/7,994; Manchuria 1,550/8,988 killed).

    By the end of 7 December, the Red Army was advanced relatively freely in eastern Manchuria and had improved its position in Mongolia and north-western Manchuria – the removal of the Japanese from the Allied cause had been a great benefit, as hoped. But Harbin remained out of immediate reach again, for now.

    y6T5lG.jpg

    A series of smaller victories in eastern Manchuria had received only modest VVS support (372 enemy killed in Fangzheng on 4 December) as many wings still recovered from their exertions during the invasion of Toyohara and associated naval battles in November.

    Air support in eastern Manchuria would step up again from 8-16 December, with another 1,430 enemy killed in strikes on Hailun, Zhaodong and Fuyu. There was no Allied air activity in the East during the entire month.

    On 8 December, the Japanese also advised they were mobilising.

    Excellent news came at 2200hr on 9 December: 15th Army’s fast-moving spearhead of 57 Mot Div had taken the Manchurian capital of Xinjing after a brief fight. [No VP for it, but it will presumably foul up the Manchurian logistics system]. The capital was transferred to their major city of Harbin – the primary Soviet objective.

    Another major defeat was inflicted on the Manchurians at Heilong Jiang early on 11 December (Soviet’s 464/18,981; Manchuria 1,942/7,992 killed) – the 11th Soviet victory in a row in the East for the period to date.

    Two new Whiskey-class submarine flotillas (range 4,400km) were deployed in Toyohara on 12 and 13 December. They were formed into the 4th Sub Squadron and began post-launch upgrades and training.

    Hailun, on the outskirts of the new Manchurian capital of Harbin, was taken on 12 December after the battle for it had been won, with VVS support, back on 8 December. And they reported that Harbin was undefended, though 177 SD were currently chasing a retreating Manchurian militia division towards it.

    ieYCEW.jpg

    MAJGEN Konev (!!) caught up with them at 0900 on 15 December, finding the Manchurian defenders out of supply and trying to delay his breakthrough attack. After a twelve hour skirmish, the Manchurians broke. VVS support was not even called on.

    nj1i03.jpg

    In a well-timed manoeuvre, Konev’s 177 SD occupied Harbin on the stroke of midnight on 16 December, triggering an immediate Manchurian surrender and truce with the Allies. Like Japan, their journey from the Axis to the Allies had now seen them forced into the Comintern, at gunpoint. Stalin’s glee was fierce and pitiless. The ‘second revenge in the east’ had been scored. No just the vile puppet state of Mengukuo remained of the three former bitter enemies that had been ‘stolen’ by the Allies at the end of WW2.

    67Sklm.jpg

    The 15th Army was ordered to prepare for attacks to combine with 7th Army to cut off remaining Allied forces in Manchuria and Mengukuo at their capital (and only VP city) of Hohhot and also to prepare for a subsequent attack on the so-called 'Communist' Chinese class traitors and Capitalist-Imperialist lick-spittles.

    fkJbc2.jpg

    1st Army was ordered to complement 15th Army’s mission against Yan’an and also south to the Nationalist Chinese centre of Xi’an. 6th Army was supposed to head to the southern part of Japanese-controlled China and prepare for an attack on the Nationalists – though this was only an indicative plan and may not be fully implemented, or could even be countermanded to support the other armies to the west.

    jWccwI.jpg

    17th Nav Group was transferred to Shanghai, to take up any strike opportunities that may arise. During this period, both local (ie AI driven) and STAVKA-directed movements of VVS air groups in the Far East were made to try to get closer to the battlefields in Mengukuo, given the sparsity of air bases in Manchuria.

    3rd Sub Sqn was ordered to re-base to Gaoxiong (on Japanese-occupied Taiwan) and 2nd Sub Sqn to Manila in Japanese-occupied Philippines.

    By 0500hr on 16 December, the broad extent of the Far east redeployment could be discerned. No formations were moving to any Japanese territory as yet, so that may need to be addressed in due course.

    6nyzjV.jpg

    The first half of December 1947 had seen the Soviets triumph in Manchuria and start to push Mengukuo and its supporting Allied formations back as well. Every engagement fought so far had been a victory.

    GKCTxN.jpg

    Note: the new forward border between Manchuria and Mengukuo is marked in yellow, advances in Manchuria from 8-16 December are not marked and no further territory was exchanged on the Mengukuo front from 8-16 December. Sakhalin was fully secured.

    ******

    The West: 8 to 16 December

    The effort to contest the skies and suppress Allied air strikes in the West continued, with (AI guided) INT tangling with French counterparts over Sop on the morning of 8 December. This was wearing down both sides, with one of the VVS wings needing to be withdrawn for repairs.

    eBCHaO.jpg

    129. IAD-PVO was linked with 2. IAD in 7th Fighter Gp, still under 23rd Army command. They were in action again on 9 December and in two actions they managed to blast a lone French CAG wing out of the air as it attempted to bomb Skole (Lwow sector).

    HRJgZf.jpg

    The same VVS fighters were in action again the following day, escorting CAS over Lezajsk (central Poland sector) on the morning of 10 December. The Luftwaffe INT that contested that raid were then struck by three (AI guided) straight after the first dogfight, by the end of which the German fighters were largely destroyed.

    V0WEg2.jpg

    Simultaneously, STAVKA decided to shift the V2 campaign to logistical strikes in Königsberg, hoping to increase the supply pressure in the salient north of the choke point at Königsberg (ie Memel, Labiau and Cranz). Another V2 rocket battery no longer required in Vladivostok was re-based to Kaunas to replace the one just expended.

    In Romania, the first relieving attack to re-secure Reni from the Bulgarians went in at 1900hr on 10 December: Reni was the gap in the reserve Soviet-occupied line of provinces between St. Georg (on the Black Sea coast) and Iasi, between the pocketed troops to the west and the Soviet border, opened up when Romania capitulated.

    Unused recently and without a likely nuclear strike to conduct any time soon, on 11 December 2nd Strat Gp was ordered to supplement the V2 logistical strikes on Königsberg. Their first raid was successful, but caused far less damage (less than a tenth) than the V2s had the day before. The French intercepted but the VVS escorts were largely able to keep them at bay.

    IjF1Nh.jpg

    They went back again in the afternoon, but this time the Luftwaffe sent in another three INT wings. 2nd Strat Gp managed to see off the French INT group, but incurred significant damage doing so and their own raid was aborted.

    vxkUrh.jpg

    One more try was made that night, and while more damage was done by 0100hr on 12 December, the VVS group was badly mauled by the Luftwaffe and had to be withdrawn for repairs. Infrastructure in Königsberg had been reduced to 40% by that point and its supply and fuel dumps reduced further.

    Runway cratering opportunities were also still being scouted and a large concentration of Allied aircraft was spotted in Breslau’s partly-repaired air base that morning. Czech fighters from another airbase tried to intercept the rockets (presumably to little or no effect, despite the pop-up message, given they travel at 5,000kph!) once again reducing the facilities to rubble and hopefully preventing repairs to the mass (13 wings) of German and French aircraft sheltering there.

    3TzmsO.jpg

    Early on 13 December, the forces in the main Romanian Pocket were still struggling to escape, but a German infantry division had now blocked their best path of escape in Brasov as the noose tightened around them.

    7Or3oK.jpg

    That morning, after a particularly heavy German raid on Wehlau (immediately east of Königsberg) killed 872 defenders in a single attack, the two M/R wings from 6th Tac Gp (based in nearby Suwalki and assigned to 23rd Army) were detached and formed into an ad hoc fighter group, while the TAC wings waited off-line.

    A battle for the key Prussian province of Osterode was won at 0800hr (Soviets 1,429/41,026; Allies 2,100/70,908 killed). And at 1000hr, that scratch M/R fighter force (STAVKA directed) was intercepting the latest Luftwaffe attack on Wehlau, where the troops on the ground were sorely pressed.

    9W7lZm.jpg

    Even though the Germans called in another three INT wings, one of the enemy TAC wings was heavily damaged and the ground attack run was forced to abort. The valiant VVS airmen also suffered but the Germans did not return to Wehlau that day. Following this, more direct STAVKA control was exerted over air units in the Prussian sector and further reorganisation made to get CAPs in the air and heavily damaged wings sent to the rear (via reserve missions to preserve organisation) to recuperate.

    In response, the Luftwaffe sent a group of three INT wings under the command of Adolf Galland to Suwalki, where they ambushed the M/R fighter force on intercept duty for Wehlau (3. and 7. IADs). 3. IAD was reduced to 37% strength and no organisation by 1900hr and had to be withdrawn for repair. At 73% strength, 7. IAD (M/R) remained viable.

    A further reorganisation ensued, with 129. IAD-VO (INT) flying into Suwalki at 2000hr, brushing past Galland’s fighters unscathed after a brief engagement. A (different, just to confuse things) 7. IAD (INT) joined them in 7th Fighter Gp to maintain the intercept mission over Wehlau, but Galland’s three wings attacked them again over Suwalki at 1000hr on 14 December. The engagement was announced as a ‘win’ by the VVS, but 7. IAD took some damage and was reduced to from 53% to 33% strength. Unfortunately, this had delayed their interception of a new Luftwaffe raid on Wehlau, which caused 265 ground casualties at 1500hr, adding on to another 179 they had caused that morning.

    Once more, STAVKA ferried badly damaged wings back to depth airfields to recover, ensuring frontline operational air bases did not try to keep more aircraft on site than they were able to repair at the one time.

    A series of nagging Allied raids on Cahul (linked to the Soviet attack on Reni) had been going on from 11-15 December, causing a total of 803 casualties. Apart from in Wehlau and Cahul, from 8-15 December bombers from various Allied air forces (including Germany, France, Poland, Greece and Italy) had also raided Fagaras (679), Pogegen (1,433), Stanislalow (656), Ramnicu Sarat (165), Tirgu Jiu (410), Sibiu (445) Skole (40), Lupeni (103), Jaroslaw (127) and Bran (91) in the West.

    12th Army sent INT to stop the Cahul raids early on 15 December: the dogfight was inconclusive, but the French raids on Cahul did stop afterwards. Unescorted Italian TAC hitting Stanislalow were intercepted that afternoon, but raids there continued into the following day.

    jI9yal.jpg

    Memel was taken by 41 SD at 2100hr that night – another significant milestone.

    At 0000hr on 16 December, the crucial battle for Remi was won (Soviets 198/8,997; Bulgaria 1,136/7,999 killed), but the large pocket in western Romania were as far as ever from relief.

    Though Memel had been taken, the previously un-engaged US 11th Abn Div (MAJGEN Omar Bradley) restarted the battle there from within Memel (some kind of gameplay glitch, IMHO, that they should have been lurking there until then), with it being classified as an attack by four Soviet divisions then in Memel (+81% progress).

    Another V2 strike on logistics hit Königsberg at 0400hr on 16 December to keep the supply pressure up in the coastal salient. Mixed news came in from Prussia at 1000hr, with two large battles resolved: in Wehlau the Soviet defence was defeated by an attack from Königsberg though the Allies had taken heavy casualties (Soviets 3,798/51,780; Allies 4,335/37,683 killed); while a victory was won in a Soviet assault on Allenstein (Soviets 2,799/34,489; Allies 3,569/172,469 killed).

    209 Mot Div secured Reni at 1300hr: a small improvement in Romania, but the Bulgarian division retreated behind the lines to the north-east, which could cause subsequent mischief, while the garrison division in St. Georg was under Bulgarian attack, though it was holding for now. An advance element of the relief effort was advancing on Tecuci, while a column of troops from the nearer Romanian pocket was about to escape to Barlad.

    wms2Jo.jpg

    Budapest’s air base was cratered again with V2s at 2200hr (Hungarian Air Force, 2 x CAS and 2 x INT, base capacity of 4.12, doing 4.01 damage).

    As 16 December ended, the situation in the west varied from sector to sector. Overall, 83 battles large and small had been fought across the front, almost exactly evenly split in results. But the Allies had suffered significantly more casualties to ground combat. STAVKA judged this was due mainly to two factors: poor Allied supply in Prussia degrading combat effectiveness and a largely defensive fight on the rest of the front, when many battles had heavier Allied casualty counts, even when the Red Army lost. In the first half of the month, the Allies had managed to inflict significantly more casualties from the air, despite the efforts of the VVS.

    sxSWqs.jpg

    In the Prussian sector, multiple battles had been concluded in a number of provinces in the first half of December, especially when the Allies reinforced before the Soviets could follow up victories, or in counter-attacks after one side occupied, including in Ortelsburg (four); Bartenstein, memel and Ostroleka (three each); and Labiau, Rastenburg and Wehlau (two each). In the last eight days, Memel Rastenburg, Ortelsburg and Rachov had been taken by the Red Army, but ground had been lost on the northern Polish border west of Brzesc Litweski and the Allies were advancing back into Wehlau.

    WMQbcJ.jpg

    The southern Polish-Hungarian sector had seen plenty of heavy fighting but not much exchange of territory. But the western Romanian pocket was a tale of woe once again and had been further compressed.

    IEYJBS.jpg

    A summary of air action locations over the last week once more showed key focal points of fighting in Prussia, in the centre north and south of Lwow, and in Romania, within the Pocket and around the battle for Reni. British STRAT had once again been hitting industrial and resource targets in the Caucasus.

    4vaKdm.jpg


    ******

    Technology, Industry and Strategic Warfare: 1 to 16 December

    Given their great utility in the war so far, another four V2 units were ordered at the beginning of 1 December, given a high priority in the limited production budget.

    As at 2 December, the upgrade bill had climbed to over 136 IC, reinforcements due to the battlefield carnage was at 84 IC, with no supply production as yet, but the stockpile beginning to drop below maximum. After consumer goods (20 IC), this left just 94 IC for new production.

    On 5 December, given the heavy repair rotation turnover in the VVS INT wings, 44 IC of the precious production budget was allocated to constructing three new Yak-15 INT wings, due for completion on 2 May 1948.

    Four projects finished research, with the two infantry equipment techs generating a very large upgrade bill. The two air techs were seen as vital to the air war in the west and were continued. After the infantry upgrades, the next priority for research was deemed to be light tank equipment.

    YMF3ZO.jpg

    The RAF’s strategic bombing campaign against Soviet industrial targets in and around the Caucasus went from 5-11 December, hitting a range of centres and causing some irritating damage. But STAVKA needed every fighter it could spare for the fighting fronts, so basically ignored these attacks.

    xkoEj1.jpg


    ******

    Diplomacy and Espionage: 1 to 16 December

    On 3 December, all the Allied countries were allocated new war goals to make them puppet governments or enforce Communism, whichever applied after the first round of allocations the month before.

    Soviet spies were lost in Turkey on 4 and 10 December, where counter-espionage effort was refocused. In Spain, local security forces had remained non-existent, so covert operations (2/3 of effort) were re-commenced.

    A full intelligence summary will be provided at the end of the month.

    ******

    General Summary

    The first half of the month had seen 107 battles fought across the three active Theatres, the Soviets winning 61 and the Allies 46: this difference was due to the East, where the Red Army had won all 15 battle.

    The Soviets had suffered 50,335 killed in ground combat and 11,440 to air raids, for a total of 61,775 casualties. The Allies had lost 68,325 on the ground and 5,723 from the air, for a total of 74,048 casualties (neither total includes surrendered troops).

    This had translated to major breakthroughs in the Middle East (Iraq’s capitulation) and the Far East (Manchuria’s surrender). Grinding progress had been made by the Red Army in Prussia, but losses in Romania and Afghanistan, where the situations were deteriorating.

    STAVKA believed the key to the Western Front, especially the Battle for Prussia, rested on continuing to get the VVS in better fighting shape, to suppress more Allied ground attacks and get Soviet TAC and CAS back into the air in greater numbers. They would concentrate on this aspect in the second half of the month.

    In the south, the aim was to take the Suez Canal and wrap up the Allied satellite powers there while the going was good. Afghanistan may need to be gradually surrendered for now, then hopefully turned around later if more forces could be transferred.

    The East was now progressing well, with a mad rush across Manchuria in to outflank Mengukuo and establish a line along the Communist and Nationalist Chinese borders: especially if Japan was suddenly drawn into the war (it was uncertain how long their truce with the Allies would last, even if Stalin did nothing to encourage the Japanese to break it themselves).
     
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    Chapter 39: Part Two – 17 to 31 December 1947
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    Chapter 39: Part Two – 17 to 31 December 1947

    Introduction

    The first half of December saw Romania fall to the Allies, but Iraq and Manchuria defeated and forcibly enrolled as non-belligerent members of the Comintern. Things were looking promising in the Far and Middle East, mildly positive in Prussia, balanced in the European Air War, difficult in Afghanistan and a nightmare in Romania.

    In the West the key immediate Soviet objectives were to push on to and through Königsburg to Danzig, hold or stabilise the line from southern Poland to the Black Sea and try to reassert a degree of air superiority against the numerically preponderant but generally less capable (with the exception of the Luftwaffe) Allied air forces.

    In the South, a delaying defence would be fought in Afghanistan and eastern Persia while the 13th Army tried to roll up the Middle East to and including the Suez Canal and – if it could be taken – Alexandria.

    For the East, Mengukuo must be subdued first. After that, a strategy for the rest of China would need to be devised.

    ******

    The West: 17 to 24 December

    The VVS’s renewed campaign to regain air superiority in the second half of December started with the successful interception of two Polish TAC wings over Chelm from 0200-0400hr on 17 December: two INT heavily damaged one wing and forced the ground attack to abort. The Poles tried again over Jaroslaw at 1000hr but were defeated before a detailed report could be examined.

    At 1400hr, victory was declared in Memel against the US 11th Abn Div, serving under French command and emerging from the countryside after the Soviets had occupied it (Soviets 181/33,992; Allies 970/8,043 killed). Omar Bradley fled south-west to Cranz along with his troops.

    Heavy Luftwaffe strikes killed 650 men in Rastenburg that day, on top of about 150 casualties from three other locations across the front. The Soviets killed about 400 Allied troops in nearby Rachov.

    The key border town and air base (previously evacuated) of Brzesc Litewski fell to the Allies at 0800hr on 18 December. A quick (AI directed) counter-attack from 6th Tank Div was soon abandoned.

    DikRGT.jpg

    Stryj (north-west of Stanislawow) was successfully defended at 1100hr (Soviets 1,403/37,974; Allies 2,963/16,947 killed), even as the battle for Stanislalow itself was lost (Soviets 433/6,752; Allies 741/14,698 killed), though the province itself would not be lost after it was reinforced later.

    Three full strength Italian INT tangled with two VVS INT wings over Warsaw at 1900hr: 39. IAD, already damaged, finished the engagement much the worse for wear and would soon need repairs. But the same Italian wings then tried to jump three VVS INT wings over Jaworow from 2300 until 0100hr the next morning, with one Italian wing being badly damaged.

    Soviet strikes on Rachov killed 316 Allied troops, while only 225 Soviet soldiers died in attacks on Bran and Rastenburg that day.

    The fighting on the ground continued all through this time, with the enemy reoccupying Wehlau (directly east of Königsberg) at 2100hr on 19 December. This was a blow to Soviet plans in the sector. At 2300hr, scouts reported that nine Allied wings (3 x INT, 4 x CAS and 2 x TAC, from Germany, Italy and Yugoslavia) had rebased to the undamaged airfield in Brzesc Litweski (repair capacity 8.0). No V2 strike was initiated, as Stalin wanted the base back – and quickly!

    Heavy German strikes on Rastenburg (1,092) had resumed, with Allied aircraft causing 1,246 casualties in total, while the VVS could only manage 316 in Rachov in return. The momentum in the air war was proving difficult to change.

    By 0000hr on 20 December, the situation in the Romanian pocket remained desperate, but the trapped Soviet troops fought on fiercely enough. STAVKA intervened to order four divisions to retreat east to Tirgiu Jiu and for two more to attack from there to the south-east at Filiasi, before giving control back to the army commanders.

    RhVg3m.jpg

    And a heavy Yugoslav Air Force concentration at the partly-repaired Beograd airfield was spotted, leading to another V2 strike. At the same time, 104th Fighter Gp (two half-strength but mainly organised INT wings) was ordered to run air cover over Bran in the pocket, which had been under Allied air attack for some days. And three Hungarian INT wings intercepted an unescorted VVS CAS strike (AI directed) on Skole (Hungarian sector) at 0300hr.

    More air battles ensued that morning as the VVS campaign hotted up. Those repeated Greek raids on Bran were intercepted by 104 FG, causing some enemy damage (though not stopping subsequent raids), while Hungarian and Soviet INT fought over Jaworow, the Hungarians becoming badly disorganised.

    vOj7fD.jpg

    At 1300hr, the ‘relief battle’ at Tecuci (central Romania) was won against the 1st Royal Marines under Greek command (Soviets 358/18,997; Allies 784/9,967 killed), but the drive towards the pocket looked to be insufficient to rescue their comrades in and around Bran, which was still under Allied air attack (though the raids were not heavy yet).

    The VVS air effort seemed to have had an effect, with only 87 Soviet bombing casualties (Tirgu Jiu and Bran) that day. But no Soviet bombing missions struck the Allies that day nor the next.

    The rear-guard was pulled out of Lupeni at 0700hr on 21 December, following the rest of the troops to Tirgu Jiu as the pocket shrank in on itself. Allied plane caused 691 casualties in four provinces, but mostly in the north.

    On 22 December, the VVS returned to widespread bombing operations, on Brzesc Litewski (STAVKA directed), Bartenstein and Labiau (AI directed, in support of major ground battles). All these raids were contested by Allied interceptors. 3. IAD was almost destroyed over Brzesc Litewski and would need off-line repair.

    6Bj0kR.jpg

    The resumption of Soviet bombing killed 573 Allied troops that day, a figure which would ramp up quickly and continue to cause heavy Allied casualties for the rest of the month. Allied raids would also rise to a peak by 24 December, but then begin to fall off for the rest of December. It seemed the Soviets had finally managed to resume the upper hand in the air – and this had a beneficial effect on the ground too, where they began to win significantly more battles (in attack and defence) than had been the case for the last few weeks. Further air war information is summarised at the end of the chapter.

    The orders to stop the CAS attacks on Labiau were called off by STAVKA too late: both wings were completely destroyed (ie off the orbat) by Adolf Galland’s fighter group on 23 December.

    26ucqg.jpg

    The VVS strikes on Brzesc Litewski and Bartenstein were unopposed early that morning, but Galland’s fighters intercepted Golovanov’s mixed strike group over Bartenstein at 0800hr: but not before the raid had killed 433 Allies soldiers.

    A big Red Army defensive victory came at Chelm (occupied Poland, south of Brzesc Litewski) at 1000hr (Soviets 1,429/38,961; Allies 4,644/24,984 killed), which boosted spirits in the sector. The VVS strikes on Brzesc Litewski and Bartenstein hit freely again that afternoon – the latter killing 504 in one raid. A monthly high of 2,766 Allied casualties in a day from raids in three provinces were inflicted.

    Early on 24 December, 33rd CAS Gp was re-tasked by STAVKA to support the beleaguered troops caught in Romania, where 13 Tank Div (recently arrived in Filiasi) was attempting a relieving attack ordered on Râmnicu Vâlcea. Though they ended up bombing Brasov instead! Interestingly, the Allied troops there had big supply problems, though they counter-attacked the Soviet assault expertly, were dug in, had good terrain and the weather was poor, which all balanced out this advantage. The situation in Bran continued to deteriorate.

    RyeC65.jpg

    The next raid did try to attack Râmnicu Vâlcea, but French INT prevented them completing the run. The VVS countered a French raid over Bran that evening.

    hxK64S.jpg

    And 21st Fighter Gp, re-basing from the Far east to Sevastopol to help with air operations in Romania, was jumped by RAF fighters over Hotan in western Sinkiang soon afterwards!

    A new (STAVKA-directed) attack on Brzesc Litewski started at 1600hr: 218 Mech Div found only a completely disorganised German infantry division in place and anticipated a quick victory.

    ******

    The South: 17 to 31 December

    A tank division from the Soviet 13th Army defeated an Egyptian infantry division in a heavy battle at Rutba in western Iraq (Soviets 207/9,000; Egypt 1,203/8,956 killed) at 1300hr on 17 December, paving the way to cross the border into Jordan.

    But though resistance was now weak, moving in the desert conditions took time: by 27 December Soviet tanks were in Jordan at Al Hammad and attacking Jordanian HQs and an Egyptian division in Qasr el Burqu (VP province) to its north. The skirmish only lasted three hours, with the enemy retreating at 1600hr.

    Days of murderous RAF ground attacks on Zaranj (3,476 killed over four days from 24-27 December) forced STAVKA to redeploy a full fighter group to Bandar e ‘Abbas in Persia and they were quickly in action. The RAF bombers got their bombs away in two more raids that day, but both were intercepted, with one RAF TAC wing taking heavy damage. They were not seen for the next three days, to the great relief of the Comintern ground troops fighting in Afghanistan and western Pakistan.

    10HKTA.jpg

    On 29 December, attention on that front switched to Gwadar in western Pakistan, where a combined Pakistani and Indian (!!) force was attacking four garrison divisions trying to hold the province. The battle continued as the year ended.

    OOQiCK.jpg

    Qasr el Burqu fell to the Soviets at 1100hr on 30 December as tank divisions began advancing west to Amman and north-west to Damascus.

    But Amman was spared a battle: the Jordanians surrendered at 0000hr on 31 December. 13th Army would now focus on knocking Syria, Lebanon and Israel out of the United Nations (as the Allies tended to refer to themselves).

    KrXvey.jpg

    The battle for Damascus started at 0900hr and continued as the day ended, the leaderless Syrian militia division (2,998 men) resisting 1 Tank Div (9,000 men) more strongly than expected.

    As 1947 ended, Soviet ambitions to take the whole Middle East (Saudi Arabia being unaligned and in no danger of joining the Allies) were looking reasonable. But in Central Asia, a large part of southern Afghanistan had been lost and the Allies had made a small incursion into eastern Persia. RAF air ground attacks accounted for almost the entire Soviet casualty count in completed combat in the second half of the month. This would have been even worse without the late fighter intervention.

    eWSL29.jpg

    Note: once more, the soldier icons represent land taken in December by peace settlement rather than troop occupation. Dashed arrows show enemy territory as at 31 November occupied since 16 December. The ebb and flow of Allied air raids over the month can be traced. The blip at the end was from French and British raids in the Middle east which started up again on 31 December.

    The fighting in Damascus continued and the Soviets were happy they never had to attack the regular Jordanian division that had been stationed in Amman. It remained to be seen what the Allies had in place to defend Lebanon and Israel. But the terrain would continue to be difficult as they moved forward.

    BZM8YL.jpg

    A survey of available information on enemy air strength showed the RAF had seven wings (unknown type) in Karachi (capacity 8) and four in Delhi (4). Many more were in depth air bases, but away from the front line.

    In the Middle East, there were five wings (mainly RAF) in Lemesos on Cyprus (4), three French in Beirut (4), three RAF in Tel Aviv (5) and seven RAF in Alexandria (7).

    The Comintern presence was far smaller: the three Persian INT wings crowding the small base in Bandae e ‘Abbas had never been observed doing anything useful, while the 18th CAS Gp in Tbilisi was out of effective range: it would be assigned to STAVKA control and a new base for them decided in January.

    L9MLLV.jpg

    Note: this graphic is part of a comprehensive end-of-year report on most VVS assets by Theatre.

    ******

    The East: 17 to 31 December

    What was supposed to be a relatively quiet period in the Far East was shattered by an urgent alert on the night of 17 December.

    y2AmsO.jpg

    Note: this came as a bit of a shock!
    The Dutch were coming! The local army commanders had left Vladivostok unguarded and the Netherlands had decided to ‘have a crack’ at it. STAVKA intervened to detach three divisions from those heading west to head to Vladivostok in case the enemy made it ashore. Meanwhile, 22nd Mar Gp was sent out to strike the enemy invasion fleet and report on its make-up.

    They discovered the small task group was solely made up of Dutch a Dutch CA, 3 x CL, 2 x DD flotillas and a single TP flotilla. Which meant they had no air support: huzzah! The Soviet flagship was fully prepared, but the only other combatants left in the Pacific were two DD flotillas only partly repaired after the ordeal off Toyohara. They would stay in port for now.

    MWe0Bj.jpg

    Note: in an outrage, the Dutch were using a ‘captive’ Japanese division that was still assigned to them as an EF!

    The first exploratory raid was followed up in greater strength early on the morning of 18 December, with a CAS group (quite useful against ships) added into the mix. The two NAV groups in range (all still being repaired after Toyohara) took part and the third would be transferred from the north, where they were out of range. The Dutch ships were soon in trouble, but were stuck with the invasion attempt for now.

    Two more naval strikes followed on 18 December, the last including all six NAV wings and the CAS group: the Dutch ships were taking a pounding. But they persisted with the landing attempt and the troops were getting closer to a full lodgement.

    d2QTR9.jpg

    Another smaller strike that night still only damaged ships, not sinking any. At 0200hr on 19 December, ADM Kuznetsov deemed the situation grave enough – and the aerial preparation sufficient – to set sail aboard the old flagship and Pride of the Fleet Parizhskaya Kommuna, escorted by the two under-strength destroyer flotillas. Meanwhile, another naval strike was initiated causing more damage – especially to the troop transports.

    ATrthJ.jpg

    Parizhskaya Kommuna (BB) made contact at 0500hr, opening up on the now heavily listing Dutch flagship HrMs Celebes (CA) with its relatively big guns. By 0700hr the invasion force had very nearly made it to shore, but the Celebes had been sunk by a broadside from the old battleship and the transports were nearly destroyed. They would be sunk, the naval battle won and the invasion repelled by 0800hr.

    Dq1pnK.jpg

    The old Gangut-class battlewagon claimed both the Celebes and the transports as sunk, adding to its previous tally of a Romanian DD flotilla and the Japanese light cruiser Yahagi. It had suffered no damage or disorganisation and the experience level of the crew stood at 110% [which all good sporting teams give when competing at the highest level!].

    As if to help celebrate this victory, at 0800hr Manchuria announced it was mobilising.

    At 1500hr, two of the three relieving divisions diverted to Vladivostok were restored to local army command, while the 2nd Para Div up in Tumnin began a strategic redeployment to become a garrison force.

    On 20 December, all attempts by the NAV wings to find and destroy the fleeing Dutch fleet had failed and they were recalled to continue their repair programs.

    Over in Mengukuo, the defensive battle of Mandlat Sum was won at 0900hr on 23 December against NatChi troops (Soviets 839/10,000; Allies 1,794/11,994 killed).

    On the afternoon of 25 December, 21st Fighter Gp was ordered to rebase to Sevastopol, where the need for fighter support was more urgent. These were the same wings ambushed by the RAF on the way over.

    A short skirmish was fought at 0800hr on 26 December at Songuyan with Dutch troops trying to exit Manchuria, encountered by Soviet columns in strategic redeployment to western Manchuria (Soviet 0; Dutch 11 killed). Technically, it was recorded as a ‘loss’ as the Soviets moved on, but the Allies came off second best, as they would in a few more contacts of this time in following days. The Soviets basically ignored them.

    Some progress had been made in northern Mengukuo since the Manchurian capitulation on 16 December, but no VVS air support had been provided in the second half of the month, probably due to the lack of well situated airfields.

    Oqe2zw.jpg

    The strategic redeployment of 1st, 6th and 15th Armies [all AI controlled] to western Manchuria continued, as some Allied stragglers still wandered around now technically neutral Manchuria.

    8tm6Lp.jpg

    By 31 December, all INT wings had been stripped out of the East, to support the air war in the West. But the rest were kept in theatre, in the hope they might be used in Mengukuo and in case Japan was drawn unexpectedly into the war (I’m not sure about the reliability of that truce) later. In total, 23 wings remained there: and the six NAV wings had certainly proved their value against unescorted surface fleets!

    5PaC17.jpg


    ******

    The West: 25 to 31 December

    The grim war in the West continued at 1947 drew to bloody close. More heavy German raids on Memel drew out a new composite group of three VVS INT wings (two of them with 36-47% damage) to try to protect them on 25 December, after 890 casualties were caused in two raids that day and 1,326 across the front. From that point, losses from Allied air raids would decrease. Meanwhile, the VVS would average around 1,500 enemy killed each day for the rest of the month in up to four separate target provinces each day.

    The Romanian province of Tecuci was taken by the Soviets at 1800hr as they tried to supplement the thin fall-back defence in eastern Romania.

    The VVS was active in Prussia over Wehlau and in defending Memel early on the morning of 26 December as they wrestled for control of the skies over their main offensive effort that was crucial to the whole war in the West. The Luftwaffe would stop raiding Memel after this interception and other than a day of heavy raids on Wehlau (after the Soviets retook it) on 28 December, the Allied bombing toll dropped off heavily, which certainly helped the troops on the ground in both attack and defence.

    RnFPkv.jpg

    21st FG finished its difficult transfer from the East to Sevastopol at 0100hr, but had taken hits to its strength (down to 54% and 49%) and organisation (from rebasing and the dogfight over Sinkiang) and had to go into a repair cycle.

    At 0400hr, the Soviet attack to regain Labiau was won though at some cost (Soviets 1,895/33,389; Allies 872/36,266 killed) and raced to reoccupy it.

    The situation in Romania was grim that morning. The spoiling attack on Râmnicu Vâlcea had nearly failed, though it had at least degraded the enemy’s attack on Bran. But there seemed no viable escape possible for the 12th Army divisions trapped in the pocket. Meanwhile, St. Georg had been lost, opening up a gap into eastern Romania, where the Romanian Front HQ was still showing a slow response to the emergency, despite many orders to shore up the line there, as Albanian and Czech troops pushed forward.

    3jwCzi.jpg

    At 1500hr, 12th CAS GP (2 x M/R, 2 x CAS) was switched from hitting Wehlau to Cranz in support of the attack from Memel. They finished their first raid at 2000hr, but the sudden arrival of enemy reinforcements saw the attack defeated just two hours later.

    Another STAVKA directed attack on Brzesc Litewski started at 0100hr on 27 December when a fresh British division marched in to mount a hasty defence before the Soviets could occupy it.

    KQzu41.jpg

    Despite a difficult start the Red Army would persist for the next four and a half days, with continuous VVS support (3,181 Allied casualties from 27-31 December), eventually ending in victory on 31 December. The air support was probably the crucial factor in winning the battle, against fortifications in urban terrain.

    In more good news, Wehlau was retaken at 1700hr that day, placing the Red Army back on the outskirts of Königsberg. But at 2300hr, the hopeless breakout attempt on Râmnicu Vâlcea failed, with heavy losses (Soviets 1,544/7,995; Allies 443/41,888 killed).

    During 28 December, VVS interceptors spoiled French and Greek ground attack missions in eastern Romania and on beleaguered Bran, inflicting significant losses on the bombers, even while maintaining a heavy rate of bombing by their CAS and TAC groups.

    Another big victory in the latest big Soviet attack on Bartenstein (south of Königsberg) came at 1300hr (Soviets 1,891/67,866; Allies 2,546/51,568 killed).

    The Albanians in eastern Romania at Galati proved no match man-for-man for the attacking the Red Army and were defeated at 1200hr on 29 December (Soviets 50/9,990; Albanians 772/7,995 killed). At the same time, the major Soviet attack on Skole (Soviet border province, Lwów sector) succeeded (Soviets 742/32,253; Allies 2,720/19,998 killed), again with heavy [AI directed] VVS support (2,397 Allied troops killed from 26-29 December). Skole was retaken just an hour after the victory, though the Allies counter-attacked straight away.

    lRTCMf.jpg

    Four Polish TAC wings using Warsaw as a base (back up to around 4.4 repair capacity) was hit with V2s (4.3 damage) at 1700hr, all part of the effort to keep the Allied air forces off balance and give the army a fighting chance.

    But Cranz (north of Königsberg) was proving a tough and expensive nut to crack, with another attack on it failing at 0400hr on 30 December (Soviets 2,598/17,990; Allies 595/42,013 killed). Perhaps the [AI] local army commanders should leave it alone and concentrate on taking Königsberg to cut them off instead [oh, I was sorely tempted, but resisted the urge to intervene].

    But in the Romanian pocket, the defiant Soviet resistance continued, with the mountainous Tirgu Jiu proving too much for the Allied attackers at 1500hr (Soviets 177/33,600; Allies 819/23,980 killed). And tactical reports from the front in northern Poland indicated Allied troops were also suffering supply problems there (Brodnica, on the Prussian border, -50% penalty for lack of supplies defending a Soviet attack at 70% progress).

    Bran still resisted at 0700hr on 31 December, but the troops there were now almost completely out of supply (-49.3% penalty, enemy attack -68% progress). Time was running out, even as relieving armoured column was attacking a German division Focsani, three provinces to the north-east.

    Bartenstein was occupied by the Soviet vanguard of 26 SD at 0800hr, now giving an approach to Königsberg from two directions and extending the Prussian salient closer to the Baltic coast and within three provinces of Danzig.

    French INT finally tried to stop the persistent VVS raids on Brzesc Litewski in the early afternoon but it was too little, too late. Both sides took losses and the raid was disrupted, but the Soviets had (as noted earlier) won the battle even as the disorganised French fighters were returning to base.

    Four new SS-6 (V2) batteries were deployed at 1300hr and began working up to operational capacity, three in Suwalki and another in Stanislalow.

    That evening, the French sent fighters to intercept the latest VVS bombing raid as it took off from Kaunas, causing more damage, though the M/R escorts did their best to fight back. The French stayed around too long, however, and at 2100hr were themselves ambushed by three VVS INT wings, who inflicted heavy damage on two of the tiring enemy wings. It was also hoped the French would find it difficult to repair them anywhere near the front, due to Allied overcrowding in badly damaged bases.

    9Fq6hs.jpg

    As the year ended, the Soviets were in Allenstein (south of Bartenstein) and 232 SD was attacking the bottleneck of Braunsberg: if it could be taken, it would cut off all the Allied troops in Königsberg and the two provinces to its north. There was a very large column of Allied units there, but many were HQs, all seemed to be unsupplied and most of the combat formations were completely disorganised and incapable of fighting, so the attack currently had a decent chance of succeeding with just the one division available to attack (+70% progress).

    The long-delayed thrust through Prussia and northern Poland was finally beginning to take shape, albeit far slower than had been hoped two months before. All round casualties were far less than in the first half of the month, especially on the Soviet side. The Red Army won far more battles than it lost, at more than a 2-1 ratio in the second half of the month. Casualties from Allied air raids were massively reduced and those suffered by the enemy greatly increased in the 17-31 December period.

    vwEJle.jpg

    Offsetting this was the disaster in Romania, where the situation was far from stabilised. At least the stubborn resistance of the trapped divisions had distracted the Allies from a stronger push through eastern Poland, but that front really needed to be stabilised and the Romanian Front army commanders were still proving slow to react.

    Good progress had been made, especially in the last few days, in Prussia and north Poland. The two large columns south-west of Königsberg contained a lot of HQs and unsupplied and disorganised formations, so Stalin still had hopes the offensive might succeed, if weeks later than originally planned. If Danzig fell, the nukes may soon be striking targets in Poland! [How it personally pains me to say that, but it is what it is!] It was also hoped that Brzesc Litewski might soon be regained and the airfield put back into VVS use.

    gRbFsi.jpg

    The Lwów sector had seen heavy fighting as the Allies tried to regain occupied provinces in eastern Poland and to push into the Soviet Union towards Lwów itself., but the heavy use of airpower had helped to stabilise the situation.

    LJdy8s.jpg

    Romania was still a mess and Odessa remained under threat from any Allied breakout. It remained uncertain whether the armies of the Romanian Front would act quickly enough to limit the incursions to Romanian territory. The Bran pocket still held out, diverting significant Allied effort.

    P2uaox.jpg

    The Western Theatre contained around 27 VVS wings (not counting SS-6 missile batteries) in front line ‘operational’ bases (ie those actively engaged in interception or bombing missions, or available to do so). They were all temporarily under direct STAVKA control, but some would probably be reassigned to local army command after priorities were reassessed at the beginning of 1948.

    CUEDIu.jpg

    Another 15 wings were in ‘repair bases’ on the second line (all moves to and fro within 'reserve' mission range to reduce disorganisation). Some of those wings might be able to return to frontline service soon (100% strength was not required) while the STRAT wings were being rested up in case they were needed for a longer range nuclear strike. If shorter range, the SS-6 missile batteries or (for short range) TAC wings (medium range) were capable of delivery the required payloads. Though Allied interception could well prove withering, so missile delivery would be preferred if feasible.

    OWyru2.jpg

    A fairly comprehensive review of general enemy air strengths and air base repair facilities available from casual observation (in most cases aircraft types were unknown) had been plotted out. ‘Visible’ first line Allied bases were marked in yellow (wings/repair strength), second line in orange. Most frontline enemy bases had been kept heavily damaged, though Bucharest and Stettin may need a ‘top up’ v2 strike soon (though supplies were now limited, with production badly constrained).

    ERLC4g.jpg

    The map also shows the broad sweep of air operations over the previous week, while VVS strengths are marked in blue. Even though VVS aircraft were largely superior to their Allied counterparts (especially the smaller ones), the Luftwaffe in particular had good equipment, training and doctrine. The scale of the problem was graphically illustrated, with the VVS outnumbered about 2-1 on the frontline and perhaps 3-1 or more overall in central and eastern Europe.

    ******

    Technology, Industry and Strategic Warfare: 17 to 31 December

    VVS equipment, ‘schwerpunkt’ doctrine and air doctrine advances were made and pursued in the second half of December.

    An6VOc.jpg

    The upgrade bill grew to 186 IC on 19 December after more advances, while the supply stockpile was finally beginning to be run down appreciably, to around 89,200, but new supply production was not yet resumed. With the reinforcement bill at about 72 IC, this left only about 51 for the production queue, headed by SS-6 (V2) and INT wing production, leaving little room for much else.

    By 26 December, the supply stockpile had shrunk to 75,500 and production was restarted, at around 41 IC to begin with. Production was increased a little to 57 IC, and reinforcement demand had fallen a little to 65 IC. This meant the balance had to come from upgrades, decreased to 150 IC against a full requirement of 186. It was also noted that the fuel stockpile had begun to fall steadily, down to 68,600 by that point, with plenty of movement, especially in the east, and air operations probably consuming increased amounts. The oil stockpile was almost full, so if the rate of decrease continued, some improved technology may need to be researched, any area that had been neglected of late due to huge stockpiles and less demand.

    On 28 December, the supply stockpile had shrunk further to 68,800 and supply production was ramped up to 62 IC, upgrades decreased again to 121 IC. Fuel supply fluctuating, but holding fairly steady.

    As 1947 ended, supply production had increased again to 79 IC, but reinforcement needs had decreased further to 57 IC (probably because of sharply reduced casualty rates in the West in the second half of the month). Upgrade spending was decreased a little further to 114/185 IC. The fuel stocks were holding level. Production was focused on the three INT wings with the remainder now going on trying to finish of 30. Tank Div (running at 27% of its 26.7 IC requirement). New SS-6 production had been suspended temporarily, but would be resumed when the latest round of three western air base expansions was completed on January 8.

    No further RAF STRAT raids occurred in the latest reporting period.

    ******

    Espionage: 17 to 31 December

    More Soviet spies were lost in Turkey on 19 and 24 December, triggering another increase in the counter-espionage mission (75%) and only 25% left on covert operations. Turkish spy strength stood at two.

    But another spy was lost there just two days later, leading to all effort in Turkey being put temporarily into counter-espionage. But yet another spy was neutralised on the 27th, making a massive six for the month, with no Turkish spies neutralised, even with the increasing focus.

    With losses outpacing training, the Soviet spy reserve was decreased by two over the course of the month. On the brighter side, enemy efforts within the Soviet Union (as detected, anyway) seemed to have fallen to an all time low, the UK being the leading offenders. And without any direct influence, Communist political influence had grown in both Spain and Turkey to 18%, both all-time highs. More covert teams had been trained in both countries, despite the increasing distractions in Turkey.
     
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    Chapter 40: January 1948
  • Bullfilter

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    Chapter 40: January 1948

    Introduction

    Note: the mini mod to extend the game end worked fine (big thanks to @Wraith11B for pointing me in the right direction before the clock ticked over to 1948). Though when redoing the message settings under the new mod, I forgot to check spy neutralisation reports until late, when I belatedly noticed I hadn’t been getting any. So I’m sure many will be abjectly heartbroken that the intel summary will not be quite as comprehensive as usual! :D

    December 1947 had seen the Soviets reorganise their air resources and begin to exert air superiority in the West, to deadly effect. But despite Allied supply problems, Red Army progress in Prussia had been slow and the Polish-Hungarian sector had been largely neutral.

    In Romania the Soviet 12th Army had been encircled in western Romania and their pocket gradually compressed, but they still fought on hard as the year ended. The Soviets had made a largely ineffectual attempt to reach and relieve them, but were now more concerned with securing eastern Romania, where minor Allied countries were reinforcing efforts to push to and over the Soviet border towards Odessa.

    Operations in the Middle and Far East had been progressing well with a Dutch attempted naval landing at Vladivostok decisively repulsed. Though in Central Asia, the Allies had reinforced their line and were pushing further into Afghanistan.

    ******

    1. The Far East

    January 1948 started with suggestions being made to Manchuria and Japan to send expeditionary forces to Vladivostok (allied objectives set), though none would appear that month.

    As the 7th Army pushed slowly down on Mengukuo from the north and west, 1st, 6th and 15th Armies were making their way across Manchuria to Mengukuo’s eastern border. By 6 January, enough of these divisions were at or approaching the border for the stances of all three armies to be switched to attacking and offensive air operations.

    Manchuria remained in the Comintern but neutral and a number of Allied units were still making their way out of it, mainly to the south-west. This continued to result in sporadic skirmishes, often as Soviet troops on strategic redeployment bumped into these generally unsupplied enemy divisions. These were usually recorded as ‘technical’ losses, as the Soviet divisions just broke contact and kept moving.

    An more deliberate battle was fought at Jianchang (southern Manchuria) on 7 January, where the unsupplied French 27th Mountain Division was defeated (Soviets 20/17,000; France 145/12,748 killed).

    By 11 January, encounter skirmishes were still occurring as Soviet formations were still moving into position.

    wTGJAY.jpg

    The largest battle of the month so far occurred in Quinglong on the 17th (Soviets 74, France 346 killed) as the tidying up of Manchuria continued. Successful skirmishes were then fought at Har Nur (19 January) and Xilinhot (24 January), with the latter being occupied on the afternoon of 29th, forming the leading edge of the 7th Army advance in northern Mengukuo.

    The largest battle of the month in the Far East was won in Duolun against a Chinese division early on 31 January (Soviets 38/52,982; China 841/5,965 killed), including VVS air support (another 759 enemy casualties). This signalled the first serious involvement of forces from the three ‘eastern’ armies on Mengukuo’s eastern border with Manchuria, who were now largely in position.

    YhcHzn.jpg

    Note: I hope the colours work. It's more to indicate the scale and spread of combat during the month in each province, rather than flag individual battles or which side was the attacker. But if it's confusing, I'll adjust as I go.

    ******

    2. The Middle East

    As in the Far East, allied objectives were set for the Comintern puppets of Iraq, Jordan and Persia at Lankaran, on the Soviet border with Persia, on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Again, designed to attract EFs to Soviet service. And again without any result that month.

    A skirmish for Damascus was won early on 1 January against Syrian militia as Soviet tanks advanced to secure it. Damascus was taken at 2000hr on 2 January, but the capture of the capital did not trigger a Syrian surrender. [Note: as one of those countries without a VP province, it would seem every province needs to be occupied to make them surrender: too much work to bother with for the moment.]

    The first attempt to take Beirut began at 1600hr on the 3rd, but was soon halted as the odds were poor: the Lebanese infantry division defending it had AT that matched the light armour of 1 Tank Div (Soviets 14, Lebanon 9 killed). Reinforcements would be required.

    There was no serious resistance when Jerusalem was attacked by 16. Tank Div at 2200hr on 4 January. It would be taken at 1200hr on the 6th, followed by the Israeli surrender at midnight.

    G52MQ3.jpg

    Meanwhile, Jordan announced its mobilisation on 5 January – but remained at truce with its former Allies. Israel would suit follow on 8 December.

    The second attack on Beirut began at 0000hr on 8 January, this time with 9 Tank joining 1 Tank Div, though a Syrian militia brigade had been brought in to help defend it [only 32% progress]. It would take exactly four days until victory came early on the 12th (Soviets 282/16,374; Allies 741/12,844 killed). The city was taken three hours later, following which Lebanon surrendered on 13 January and started mobilising the next day.

    SDLBQC.jpg

    As the fight for Beirut was in progress, the Palestinians were attacked by 16 Tank Div in their capital of Gaza at 0200hr on 10 January. The battle would be won the following day (Soviets 73; Palestine 329 killed) and Gaza occupied, but as with Syria (ie no VP province) the whole country would need to be occupied before they would surrender.

    As some 13th Army divisions were redirected to help stabilise the deteriorating situation for 19th Army in Afghanistan, at 0000hr on 15 January STAVKA took advantage of the passing 7th HArm Div (which included a Guards brigade) to direct an attack on the oil-rich British outpost of Al Kuwait. It would take over five days for them to organise after they de-trained at Shagra in southern Iraq.

    Meanwhile, a nearby Egyptian division was ignored by 16 Tank Div as STAVKA directed it to race for the Suez Canal. By 0100 on 15 January they were in El’ Arish - two provinces from Romani, on the eastern shore of the Canal. They were attacking from Misfaq by 1800hr on 16 January, but found Romani well-defended by two Egyptian divisions and their attempt to blitz through the defences expertly countered.

    D2FxnP.jpg

    But the Soviets had an armour advantage and would persist with their attack, 16 Tank Div eventually winning (Soviets 339; Egypt 1,023 killed) and advancing into Romani by 1500hr on 20 January. They immediately began trying to force their way across to Bûr Sa ‘id on the western bank, which at that time was still not defended.

    The battle for Al Kuwait began at 1600hr on 20 January, just as their colleagues were attempting to cross the Suez. The 10th (British) Indian Div plus some HQs were the only British defenders. They would resist until 0800hr on the 23rd (Soviets 139/10,994; British 1,051/11,991 killed), with the rest of the enemy troops surrendering and Kuwait was occupied by 1400hr on the 26th (and made an EF objective for Iraq).

    Unfortunately, one of the retreating Egyptian divisions made it across to Bûr Sa ‘id first at 1900hr on 23 January, starting a battle. Although they lacked supplies [-40% penalty], the reckless assault of 16 Tank Div across a water obstacle was making little or no headway [0% progress]. It would eventually be called off on the night of the 29th, with 467 Soviet troops and only 14 Egyptians killed.

    Meanwhile, the rest of Palestine had been occupied by (STAVKA-directed) Soviet troops following up the build-up heading to the Suez. Palestine was acquired as a direct-ruled Soviet Middle Eastern outpost on 28 January: first up an EF rallying objective was established [just on the off-chance it may work one day]. Later, Stalin may decide to develop a port and air base at Gaza, if such was deemed useful.

    Leay6r.jpg

    From 1100 hr on 30 January, the British quite cleverly began a series of logistic strikes on the supply choke-point of Misfaq in the Sinai. There would be three completed before the end of the month, and another in progress, doing heavy damage to road and supply dumps. It may have an impact later, but for now the lead Soviet divisions had sufficient fuel and supplies.

    At 1300hr on 31 January, 9 Tank Div had reached Bîr Gifgafa (south of Romani) and tried to cross the Suez into Ismâ’ilîya but found another Egyptian infantry division in place, beginning another opposed amphibious attack – again, with small hope of success, though the Egyptians were still about 1/3 disorganised from their earlier defence of Romani and the Soviet medium tanks had an armour advantage. They persisted with the attack for now.

    At the same time, with the logistic strikes continuing on Misfaq, the 2nd Fighter Group 93 x INT), which had been repairing in Baghdad for some days, was reserve-hopped to Tel Aviv Yafo. They would repair for a little longer, but it was intended they start intercepting further Allied bombing missions in early February.

    By the end of the month, good progress had been made in the Middle East, though the hope of gaining full control of the Suez Canal had been checked, for now.

    076nGn.jpg

    lfalJs.jpg

    The situation in the Battle for Ismâ’ilîya and after the RAF strikes on Misfaq.

    ******

    3. Central Asia

    The Soviets continued to slowly trade ground for time in Afghanistan and on the Persia-Pakistan border, but STAVKA became increasingly worried by growing Allied strength as the month wore on. The RAF was active and more Allied divisions from further afield were joining in, with Britain, Pakistan and India being the most numerous. Objectives for 19th Army were adjusted to reflect previously lost ground and the deteriorating situation as the new year began.

    amNKk6.jpg

    On 2 January, 18th CAS Group (2 x CAS) was transferred into the bare-bones (level 1) air base at Stalinabad from Tbilisi [no bases near enough for a reserve hop, so organisation lost].

    Meanwhile, a series of dogfight began early on 3 January, with Soviet fighters from Bandar e Abbas tangling with two unescorted RAF TAC wings over Gwadar (western Pakistan), causing damage and preventing ground casualties. But the great battle there, which had been going on since December, was lost at 0100hr on 4 January (Soviets 3,273; Allies 2,964 killed).

    The VVS engaged escorted RAF TAC over Iranshahr on 7 January but the same day, a raid by the VVS 18th CAS Group on Jalalabad killed 161 enemy troops but was intercepted and both wings damaged, forcing future missions to be shelved. At that stage, precious IC were diverted to begin improving the repair facilities at Stalinabad air base to level 2.

    On 11 January, the Household Division from Bhutan attacked the Persian 4th Div and Soviet HQ 69th Corps in Chabahar (Persia-Pakistan border). The Allies would reinforce the fight in coming days and it would not end until the 22nd.

    By 19 January the RAF were supporting the attack on Chabahar, with the VVS again intercepting unescorted TAC there early that morning: though the raid still struck home, those bombers would not return. But raids on Asmar (Afghanistan) continued from 18-22 January, killing a total of around 3,000 Soviet defenders.

    The VVS was left unable to respond to these, as they were ambushed and significantly damaged and disorganised over Sonmiani Bay on 19 January by three full-strength RAF INT wings as they pursued the RAF TAC trying to hit Chabahar again. 2nd Fighter Group had to be rebased to Baghdad for repairs, as Bandar e Abbas did not have sufficient facilities (level 1, with three Persian fighter wings also in place there). It was that partly-repaired Group that would later be transferred to Tel Aviv Yafo at the end of the month.

    The fight in Chabahar was lost after dogged Persian resistance at 1100hr on 22 January (Persia 1,303/7,645; Allies 2,012/26,987 killed).

    But a week later, an Allied attack on Asmar (Afghanistan) was finally defeated at 1500hr on the 29th (Soviets 1,285/14,619; Allies 2,129/17,988 killed), despite renewed RAF bombing in support (another 551 casualties). A determined Allied attack on Shindand was also defeated at 0400hr on 31 January (Soviets 408/8,998; India 1,353/8,993 killed).

    As the month ended, RAF bombing had shifted the overall casualty count in the Allies favour once VVS air cover was gone and they had gained some significant ground. But by then, the first reinforcements from the Middle East were beginning to arrive, while some other units from the far north had begun a long redeployment to help stabilise the sector …

    UNxVDG.jpg


    ******

    4. The North

    After being dormant so far since the war began in November, signs of activity began to be seen in the northernmost sector, on the Norwegian-Finnish border. But that activity was the withdrawal of some ‘excess’ divisions to the Romanian border (four divs) and Stalinabad (two divs) – a very long rail journey for both redeployments.

    6RQAcX.jpg

    It was almost three weeks before anything else occurred – it was a probe initiated by one of the local divisional commanders. And he put over 65,000 defending Allied troops to flight merely by advancing towards them. Victory came without a shot being fired: the enemy had apparently been out of supply for so long that morale had completely collapsed in Rastigaissa! MAJGEN Mishanin would be made a Hero of the Soviet Union for his bold but bloodless conquest.

    i0vYg4.jpg

    The two armies in the north were quickly switched to attacking stances.

    lCfvsN.jpg

    Though a ‘recon bombing’ that afternoon of Kirkenes by the small bomber group rebased to Murmansk revealed the defenders of Kirkenes were better provisioned and still well-organised.

    XLZ6ct.jpg

    Two STRAT groups ( each 2 x STRAT) were rebased to the Finnish airbase in Oulu at the same time, with 2nd Strat Gp starting the first logistic bombing of Kirkenes that evening, as the TAC bombers began making ground attacks. The other STRAT group soon joined in the rolling logistical strikes on Kirkenes: the objective would be to eventually put the whole Allied force in northern Norway out of supply.

    The assessments at 0400hr on 21 January made after the first raids showed local fuel (1.06) and supply (5,27) holdings had been heavily reduced and were now well below required Allied resupply rates, though new supplies still came into the port. Infrastructure had already been heavily reduced (from 3.00 down to 1.92). By that night, the supply dumps were virtually empty and infrastructure badly damaged (0.69).

    Early on 22 January, 89th Tac Gp switched from ground attack to port strikes, aiming to reduce the amount of supplies being shipped in as well. As a by-product they also started to damage two Norwegian sub flotillas in the harbour. Which [AI dumbness] seemed unwilling to leave as the raids dragged on.

    By early on 23 January, infrastructure in Kirkenes was almost non-existent and the port badly damaged, shipping in only 2.74 units of supply and fuel per day. The following morning, it was only about 0.3 units per day.

    STAVKA ordered a two-division probe on Kirkenes at 1700hr on 24 January: although supply was indeed almost gone [-49% defender penalty] for the Allied 74,700 troops there, organisation had not yet deteriorated. It was discontinued straight away (25 Soviet, 6 Allied casualties). By that night, the logistic bombing of Kirkenes was not doing any more damage. 2nd Strat Gp was switched to ground attacks, to see what they could do. The answer was ‘not very much’ (five soldiers killed).

    Meanwhile, the continued port strikes had sunk one of the sub flotillas [stupid AI :rolleyes:].

    aFXyrn.jpg

    That night, 2nd Strat Gp was switched to logistical bombing of Polmak, to good effect, while the other STRAT group kept Kirkenes ‘topped up’ with logistic strikes, while the TAC still hit the port. By the afternoon of 26 January, supply and infrastructure in Polmak was almost as bad as it was in Kirkenes. Logistical bombing of Kirkenes was switched then to Storfjordbotn, where the Allied troops were retreating to from Rastigaissa. 2nd Strat Gp kept hammering away at Polmak.

    At 0100hr on 27 January, another brief probe hit Kirkenes (14 Soviet, seven Allied casualties), but the 56,816 Allied troops there were still not disorganised [supply penalty 49.8%], though some were spotted withdrawing to Polmak. Which was soon hit with a STAVKA-ordered attack by four divisions at 0300hr. Allied supply was low and the defenders were badly overcrowded. Even in the poor weather, the Soviet’s shock attack looked promising and would continue, with the TAC bombers switched to ground support attacks there, away from their port strikes on Kirkenes, though a STRAT group was switched back to logistic strikes there to keep supply suppressed.

    s8EzSm.jpg

    At 0400hr on 30 January, 27th Army (objectives Polmak and Kirkenes) was switched to a blitzing stance. When this had not energised the local army commander by 2000hr the next day, STAVKA directed an all-out attack on Kirkenes with all available troops. Weather, over-stacking, enemy entrenchment and terrain hampered the attackers (as did the night attack of course, when that applied), but the Allies of course lacked supply and were themselves still somewhat over-stacked.

    toERX4.jpg

    The battle would be a tough one, but the Soviets had the manpower to sustain the attrition and hoped to exhaust enemy supply and organisation with time. If the Allied presence in the north could be eradicated, it would allow a small garrison to be left and many more divisions freed up for other fronts.

    In the last ten days of the month, the ground attacks on Polmak and Kirkenes had caused almost all the enemy troop casualties, while local Norwegian port and infrastructure had been pulverised and supply choked off.

    sxjnag.jpg


    ******

    5. The West

    Of course, the vast majority of fighting in WW3 was conducted in Europe, where consideration of ground combat will be divided into three broad sectors and the general air war summarised.

    ******

    5a. Prussia and North Poland

    The fighting was heaviest in this sector, with the main Soviet offensive efforts still directed at cutting off as many Allied units as possible in Königsberg and Cranz as possible by taking Braunsberg. It was there the heaviest air support was directed throughout the month and repeated Soviet attacks were launched.

    From 1-26 January, eleven successive battles were fought over Braunsberg, as the Allies kept slipping in new divisions to hold it even when defeated, and beating off a number of attacks in between. A total of 15,163 men died in these frontal assaults, 8,889 by the attacking Soviets and 6,274 by the Allies. Soviet air strikes killed even more: 16,114 during many raids from 3-28 January, when the final Red Army victory was won. Though the province was not yet occupied before the end of the month.

    At Braunsberg and in Königsberg, Allied supply remained difficult throughout the period, hampering the enemy defence despite their large numbers. [For example, during one major battle for Königsberg, at 1900hr on 7 January the six defending Allied divisions had combat penalties of 20%, 4.50%, 8.7%, 0%, 0% and 12% due to lack of supplies.]

    On 11 January, the fighting continued in both key provinces, but many disorganised Allied divisions had managed to extract from Königsberg to Braunsberg (and then from there to Elbing), protected by one organised French division.

    qltTVJ.jpg

    That battle for Braunsberg was lost on 12 January (Soviets 2,436/16,777; Allies 2,224/111,285 killed) but more attacks would come relentlessly as fresh units made their way to the front. But the attack on Königsberg was finally won by 1200hr on 14 January (2,889/64,887; Allies 1,935/67,916 killed). Königsberg at last fell into Soviet hands by late morning on 25 January – and after all the bombing and fighting over the last three months, it was a devastated pile of rubble and almost 9,000 men had died fighting over it.

    SJ3oCu.jpg

    This trapped about four Allied divisions in Cranz – the only troops cut off during the whole Prussian campaign so far, as the staunch Allied defence of Braunsberg had allowed most to escape west – though all badly disorganised. Almost 9,000 men from both sides died fighting for the city (including Allied attacks after it had been taken) in ten battles from 4-26 January.

    Another main focus of Soviet attacks in January was Marienwerder, to the south-west of Braunsberg and part of the grinding push towards Danzig. Even though Allied supply there was poor by 16 January [from 35.8 to 43.7% penalties among four defending divisions], it would prove a tough nut to crack and a cruel killing ground for the Soviet attackers. Of the 14,952 men who died there in 12 battles from 1-31 January, the Soviets lost 10,762 and the Allies only 4,190, with VVS air strikes killing another 4,845 defenders. But the last battle on 31 January was another Soviet victory: they had won the last seven after losing the first five, the largest an expensive victory on 22 January (Soviets 3,167/33,817; Allies 794/38,455 killed). The Red Army was still trying to occupy it as the month ended.

    Other largest battlefields over the month were defensive for the Soviets. In Ostroleka only three battles were fought, ending on 10, 15 and 18 January – all Soviet victories. But 12,485 men were killed in a mirror to the attacking carnage in Marienwerder: 2,830 Soviet and 9,655 Allied casualties. The other large battle site was in Zambrow, where 10,705 men (4,396 Soviet, 6,309 Allied) died in four battles from 19-31 January (two losses and two wins for the Soviets). Fighting was also heavy in Mlawa, where the Soviets won four defensive battles from 2-15 January after taking it on the 1st (1,957 Soviet, 7,531 Allied casualties).

    Cranz was cut off when Königsberg fell on 25 January, at which point it was attacked. After a hard battle, on the morning of 29 January over 35,000 Allied troops (mainly French and German) surrendered.

    mc4VMu.jpg

    Note: and 11 Abn Div is still lurking in Königsberg four days after it fell and no enemy transport planes had been at the air base. They just sit there, doing nothing. :confused: "They like to watch!" :eek:

    Fighting was heavy all across the front and there were also some sporadic but deadly Luftwaffe bombings during the month, particularly on Bartenstein (to spoil the attack on Braunsberg – 2,734 Soviet casualties) and Allenstein (975). But most of the time, Soviet interceptors were able to disperse them quite quickly (see air summary below), the Soviets attacking in the north and largely defending in the south of the sector.

    QxHE9Y.jpg

    The Prussian and North Polish sector, 1-31 January 1948.

    ******

    5b. Central Poland and Hungary

    The enemy was having supply problems in Poland too: for example, a French division in Biala Podlaska (in front of Brzesc Litewski) being attacked late on 1 January [at a 23.9% supply penalty]. It may well indicate the Allied problem related more to supply production than infrastructure or distribution.

    Brzesc Litewski itself was liberated at 0300hr on 3 January. Later in the month, the VVS would begin to use its air base again as it became clear it would be held.

    The Soviet armies in this sector all had defensive stances, but they would still make limited offensives, especially when trying to retake lost ground for which objectives had been assigned. Of the larger battles fought, both attacks and defences, some would be won by the Soviets and some lost.

    Jaroslaw was successfully defended on 5 January (Soviets 936/26,237; Allies 4,838/34,978 killed), but the province of Skole occupied by the enemy the next day after lost battles on 1 and 3 January. Skole would become a focus for Soviet counter-attacks and [AI directed] air raids with an attack lost on 13 January but then a victory on the 17th, while VVS raids killed 4,845 enemy there in support of the attacks between 10-17 January.

    The heaviest fighting in the sector was over Drohobycz, which began the month occupied by the Allies but (like Skole) would be retaken by the end of the month. A major battle for Drohobycz was lost on 10 January (Soviets 3,577/32,860; Allies 3,672 ground plus 3,976 air raid casualties) but after losing the first two battles for it, the last three would be won by the Red Army. In the end, 13,144 men were killed there during the month in ground fighting (5,599 Soviet, 7,545 Allied) plus another 7,193 Allies (from 6-18 January) and 1,652 Soviet troops killed in on-and-off defensive air strikes on Sambor.

    There was heavy fighting in Krasnystaw during an Allied breakthrough in that part of the line, with the Soviets defeated there on 16 January (3,765/19,990; Allies 2,523/27,983 killed). The Allied spearhead would eventually reach Zamosc, two provinces north of Lwow.

    Overall, territorial advancement on both sides was roughly even, with Soviet gains around Brzesc Litewski and the reclamation of Drohobycz, balanced by the Allied incursion to Zamaosc.

    MBdopc.jpg


    ******

    5c. Romania

    There are two main stories to be told of fighting in Romania during January 1948: the reduction and destruction of the pocket that trapped the troops of the Soviet 12th Army in western Romania, and an Allied offensive and Soviet counter-offensive in eastern Poland, in which heavy VVS air support played a key role.

    On 1 January, the main Soviet resistance in Bran was broken, despite the Allies taking heavy casualties. But the troops involved had more fighting ahead of them before the tale was over.

    fjtEnK.jpg

    The defence of Filiasi was overpowered on the afternoon of 3 January (Soviets 1,032/9,000; Allies 416/37,327 killed), though the Allies wouldn’t occupy in until the 12th. All Soviet troops in the pocket were now retreating to the mountain stronghold of Tirgu Jiu.

    By 16 January, some troops had filtered back into Bran, so its would resist for a while yet. All 12th Army units were out of supply by that point. By 18 January, Tirgu Jiu was under attack, but still resisting strongly, with 18 divisions and HQs trapped in the pocket.

    0bAjmn.jpg

    The battle for Tirgu Jiu was lost after days of fierce resistance at 0600hr on 20 January – one of the fiercest battles of the war so far (4,314/89,078; Allies 4,615/102,389 killed). After this, only small skirmishes occurred in Bran (lost late on 23 January) and Tirgu Jiu. More stragglers from Bran had made it to Tirgu Jiu by the afternoon of 26 January, but by this time most 12th Army divisions had surrendered. The final act of the drama ended on the 30th, with the last stragglers surrendering at 1100hr and the province occupied by midday.

    nm9IUK.jpg

    In eastern Romania, Allied advances meant any rescue mission to save the 12th Army never really got off the ground, though they did try. Suceava was a focal point for Soviet offensive efforts, winning a major battle there on 6 January (Soviets 1,868/16,984; Allies 3,064/18,884 killed) and another attack on the 12th, but then being repulsed by arriving Allied divisions with losses later on the 12th and again more heavily on 21 January.

    Alarm bells were rung early on 11 January, when an Austrian division managed to take the Soviet border province of Illichivsk, despite heavy aerial bombardment as it passed through Cetatia Albia (5,919 killed from 7-10 January by the Sevastopol based bomber group (2 x INT, 2 x TAC) that would prove so devastating in eastern Romania during that month.

    By 20 January, a STAVKA-directed Soviet division had retaken Illichivsk without opposition from the battered Austrians, but Ermoclia had been retaken after a sizeable fight by the Allies from the Soviets who had themselves seized it earlier in the month. A Soviet counter-attack on Ermoclia would be won on 31 January (1,333 Soviets and 2,206 Allied ground and another 6,438 killed by the VVS from 28-31 January).

    Another target of fierce Soviet attacks on the ground and from the air was Artyz, with a Soviet attack succeeding there on 24 January (Soviets 2,242/25,918; Allies 3,323/30,800 killed, 3,223 air casualties).

    Fighting was spread throughout the old Romanian border areas and in the pocket over the month, with thousands of Allied troops killed in defensive and offensive air raids in eastern Romania during the month, including a total of 12,707 in Artyz, 11,027 in Kilia and 8,610 in Ermoclia alone.

    K0p7yI.jpg


    ******

    5d. Air War in the West

    The first week of January saw heavy aerial combat, with Soviet interceptors doing their best to suppress Allied air strikes, especially by the very destructive Luftwaffe TAC bombers, over Allenstein, Osterode (where a single unescorted German TAC was destroyed on 1 January) and Ostroleka. Hungarian fighters challenged Soviet air raids over Drohobycz and Jaworow on 2 January, but a Soviet INT group was called in and saw the Hungarians off, while other took on unescorted Polish bombers trying to attack Jaroslaw.

    Alas, Luftwaffe fighters (3 x INT) managed to single out one of two an escorting VVS M/R wings over Bruansberg on 3 January and managed to shoot it down, though the Germans also took some heavy damage and the VVS escort was replaced from the ‘repair pool’. Elsewhere over Prussia and Poland VVS Int managed to repel attacks by German and Polish bombers, with one Polish CAS wing presumed destroyed over Sanok on 4 January. The same day, two VVS INT did heavy damage to a French bomber group over Sambor (1 x M/R, 2 x TAC).

    Much of the recent Allied air activity in the south seemed to be emanating from Bucharest, with 20 wings from many countries based there, crowding the undamaged repair facilities, which a V2 battery was soon directed to destroy early on 5 January.

    ZGEIKF.jpg

    Heavy air battles followed in and around Romania over the following days, which VVS interceptors were able to largely repel – and hopefully crowd out the now non-existent repair sheds in Bucharest.

    With the toll taken on VVS wings during this time, its commanders attempted to withdraw units before they became at risk of destruction, send them back to depth air bases for repair and bring stronger wings back (though not normally much above 75-80 strength when they returned, such was the demand for their services). Periodic V2 strikes were made – sparingly, to preserve the capability, as industry was being directly increasingly to maintaining supply production as the month wore on. The three new fighter wings currently in production would not be ready before May.

    With continued Allied air forays over Romania, Hungary and southern Poland continuing up to 9 January, more likely Allied repair hubs, which could be seen to contain operating Allied aircraft, were sought out. Varna (Bulgaria, on the Black Sea Coast) was discovered to be operating seven French wings (3 x M/R, 4 x TAC) which had been active of late in the south. V2s struck in early on 10 January, destroying most of is level 6 repair capacity.

    After a period of suppression, the Luftwaffe returned to strike Labiau (689 casualties) and Bartenstein (801) in one raid each in the early morning of 10 January, while Czech fighters intercepted an (escorted) Soviet TAC mission on Marienwerder. This provoked a savage response from the VVS the next time the German bombers ( 1 x M/R and 2 x TAC in each case), with three INT wings assigned to protect both Labiau and Bartenstein, both in action from 1100-1300hr on the 10th. Both sides suffered damage and some one of the VVS wings had to be rotated back for repairs, but the raids were stopped for some days, as was a separate unescorted German TAC raid on Osterode on the 11th, which was purned back without releasing its payload. And the German air base at Stettin was hit again with V2s when it was discovered to have been fully repaired (level 4) with 7 German wings operating from it.

    But the Luftwaffe INT were also active, managing to destroy an escorting Soviet Yak-15 INT wing over Braunsberg on 12 January and forcing a CAS wing back for repair. A search revealed the large (level 10) air base at Berlin had been fully repaired, with 16 German wings operating from it (8 x CAS, 2 x INT, 2 x M/R, 2 x NAV, 2 x TAC). V2 reduced most of the repair facilities to rubble on the 12th. After this intense period, air-air combat activity lulled across the western front, as VVS bombers started to wreak greater havoc all along the line.

    The next serious challenge came on 17 January, when a German raid on Bartenstein (1 x M/R, 2 x TAC) was met by two VVS INT wings, then three Luftwaffe INT wings joined the dogfight and the raid killed 804 on the ground. One VVS wing had to be taken off-line for repair. A part-repaired wing was brought forward to replace it, while an hour later the three enemy fighter wings – led by Adolf Galland - fought a Soviet raid over Braunsberg. The Soviet raid still struck home and both sides had fighter wings heavily damaged after a further engagement over Danzig Bay between 3 x German INT and 2 x Soviet counterparts late that morning. No more Soviet raids were challenged for the rest of that day or the next.

    The Germans did return to intercept a mixed VVS group (one each INT, M/R, CAS and TAC) over Braunsberg (where the battle was coming to a head and air support remained key) early on 19 January. A different group of 3 x German INT attacked, but the VVS was ready, with three Yak-15 wings joining in soon after. The raid went through and more damage was inflicted on the German fighters. This was repeated later that morning, this time two German and one Soviet INT wing were heavily damaged. The Germans backed off and the raids on Braunsberg continued through to 28 January, when the battle was won, with over 16,000 Allied troops killed from the air that month.

    The Germans tried bombing sorties against Bartenstein on 24 and 26 January, but both were met by VVS fighters. The first killed 633 Soviet troops but saw the bombers heavily damaged, the second raid a few days later was savaged and turned back before it could strike. Attempted German strikes on Lezajsk (central Poland) on 27 January and Allenstein (29 January) met similar fates.

    The French Air Force was active in the last week of January across the front, with mixed success. Their interception of a VVS raid on Braunsberg on 29 January stopped the raid, but cost two of their INT wings heavily.

    All in all, despite some losses during the month, the VVS retained air superiority over most of the front for most of the month and inflicted enormous casualties on Allied ground forces and prevented similar being inflicted on the Red Army – a decisive factor in keeping the slim hopes of eventual Soviet victpory alive into the new year.

    fh2TlS.jpg

    While the number of battles won and lost by either side in the West was broadly even, Allied casualties had been almost twice those of the Soviets there and over all theatres, thanks largely to the concerted and heavy VVS effort in the west, after winning the skies in the first five days of the month (and inflicting almost four times the ground casualties they had in December, and nearly halving those caused by the Allies).

    Also, it seemed Soviet ground commanders had been quite judicious in their tactics in the defence, while Allied supply problems probably did them great damage in the great Prussia-North Poland battles. The figures above do not include captured troops (eg the 12th Army in Romania, Allied forces captured in Cranz).

    The big news overall was Allied losses in all theatres topping 220,000.

    ******

    6. Research

    As the month was drawing to a close, fuel demands had increased significantly, to the extent that the Soviets finally had to start investing in oil refining improvements – something their vast oil reserves had made unnecessary to that point. Leadership was taken out of officer training to allow an extra research project so it could start immediately.

    3lHJD2.jpg

    Otherwise, the month saw eight projects finished. Attention finally turned to progressing to ‘human wave’ tactical options. An increasing need for supply production had constricted new unit production, so better industrial techniques (production and efficiency) became a renewed priority. The rest of the new research focused on fighter improvements, better bombs to increase TAC lethality and a new area of research into naval strike tactics.

    wFUEGH.jpg


    ******

    7. Industry and Strategic Warfare

    Three new SS-6 (V2) missile batteries began construction on 1 January to replace anticipated use (more would have been built, but IC remained at a premium).

    By 6 January, the supply stockpile had fallen under 52,000 with net usage of over 3,000 per day. Supply IC allocation was increased to 100 IC (30.21% of total IC), at the expense of upgrades (now 83/179). Reinforcement (currently around 69 IC) was always kept maxed and production left at 60 IC.

    Supply production was ratcheted up to 110 (33.54%) on 8 January, then 120 (36.58%) the next day and 130 (39.51%) on the 10th as the stockpile continued to fall below 48,000. It then went to 140 IC on 14 January and 150 (45.04%) on the 17th with the stockpile under 40,000.

    At this point, VVS technicians observed that many aspects of Japanese fighter design were ahead of the Soviets’. Had there been the spare IC, they would like to have licensed some Japanese INT wings then upgraded them with Soviet jet engine and A2A missile technology. But that would have to wait – if it ever became possible or necessary as Soviet design tried to keep pace with world parity.

    RrlT93.jpg

    On 23 January the supply stockpile had eroded to under 38,000 and production was increased to 160 IC (48.05%). Finally, on 28 January, with the stockpile falling to under 35,000, all upgrades were ceased (0/123 IC) and supply production maxed to 192.79 IC. At this point the fuel stockpile (as noted above) was also in free fall prompting some hasty oil refining research. STAVKA was beginning to appreciate the supply problems the Allies had been having since the war began – it was likely they were far less able to support their troops and planes in the field.

    As January ended, the three new SS-6 batteries became available for deployment and the three new INT wings (most of the 60 IC production queue) were due for delivery on 2-3 May. All upgrades remained halted and supply production at 198.55 IC, not quite stabilising the stockpile at around 36,700. At current usage, fuel supplies (64,524) would last less than another 20 days.

    Mercifully, the RAF had conducted on four STRAT bombings during the month.

    omr5mQ.jpg

    But the Allies – especially the US - had stepped up their war against Soviet convoys (some for trade, some supplies, all auto generated).

    3syyZP.jpg


    ******

    8. Intelligence

    As noted above, spy notifications were turned off for most of the month. The abbreviated report below still provides the key info on the missions in Turkey and Spain. With Turkey now subdued after the heavy Soviet spy losses of the month before, in February the effort would switch back to covert ops. Communist party support in both countries had decreased a little, but remained quite high. Once covert strength became high enough to try a coup, all efforts would be thrown back in that country to build political support ahead of an attempted revolutionary coup.

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    Chapter 41: February 1948
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    Chapter 41: February 1948

    Introduction

    January 1948 saw the Soviets concentrate on trying to force their way through to Danzig, in the hopes of unravelling the Polish defence and then using nukes to bludgeon them into surrender. Stalin hoped this Polish ‘domino’ would in turn lead to a breakthrough into Germany and the seizure of Berlin. If Germany could be forced to surrender, the whole complexion of the war in Europe might change.

    The other key offensive objective in Europe was to wrap up the large but poorly supplied Allied presence in the north of Norway, not only wiping out tens of thousands of enemy troops, but perhaps more importantly freeing up many more divisions for other theatres. Defensively, the Allied offensive in Romania was proving hard to contain, requiring more and more direct STAVKA involvement to stem the tide.

    The limits of current possibilities appear to have been reached in the Middle East at the Suez Canal, while Afghanistan was in dire straits. The bright spot continued to be in the Far East, where the campaign against Mengukuo was now progressing well.

    ******

    1. The Far East

    The supply situation in the Far East seemed reasonable and it was hoped the westward movement of the main armies across Manchuria would shorten supply lines and improve the overall supply deficit the Soviets had been struggling with through January.

    Q7pJNC.jpg

    The dotted green line depicts the front at the start of the month.

    The Mengukuo capital of Taibus Qi was taken on the morning of 4 February: it was hoped this would disrupt enemy supply as the new capital was established in Hohhot (also the single VP province) to the south-west.

    A series of small skirmishes backed by Soviet air power based in Beiping saw a steady advance over the following weeks, with Hohhot attacked at 1600hr on 19 February. Victory came at 2300hr the same day, but it would take until 25 February to occupy it.

    In the meantime and the campaign virtually won, a large proportion of the eastern VVS wings was transferred to the west on 22 February, where the need was greatest and the toll was wearing down the endurance of their comrades.

    Bq5R65.jpg

    Some wings and the NAV groups would be kept in the east, including for air operations against Communist China, the next target for ‘liberation’.

    Hohhot fell early on 25 February, but the government of Mengukuo took until the beginning of the next day to formally surrender and be forcibly admitted into the Comintern. They were at truce with the Allies, but some French and NatChi troops remained in the vicinity and would need to be chased out of ‘tidied up’.

    luijiZ.jpg

    The Far Eastern front had seen only small skirmishes, but the Soviet air presence had been heavy, inflicting by far the heaviest casualties in the fighting. The only direct front with the Allies now was with ComChi (yellow dotted line).

    dKPCpP.jpg

    The main scenes of the advances are illustrated by the battles and air strikes shown below.

    W7cm81.jpg

    Another tweak to the icon system again, trying to show the total size of battles in each province both graphically and with numbers (in thousands), something similar for air strikes and combat from each side. Let me know if it works any better for campaign summary. No arrows here, because of the Mengukuo capitulation – everything between the green and yellow lines was occupied.

    ******

    2. The Middle East

    The continuing British logistic raids on Misfaq were ended on 1 February, when the three newly arrived INT wings in Tel Aviv Yavo engaged two RAF STRAT and 3 x INT early that morning. No great damage was done to either side, but the British STRAT did not return again that month as the infrastructure in Misfaq was slowly repaired.

    The overall supply situation in both the Middle East and Central Asia on 2 February is shown below.

    Zm1pT9.jpg

    On 2 February, two unescorted RAF CAS wings were jumped in Hebron twice by the VVS and destroyed completely after the second dogfight that night. No more Allied air activity occurred in the Middle East for the rest of the month.

    The attack on Ismâ’iliya that had started in January continued until 1 Tank Div reinforced at 1000hr on 4 February. Despite the unsuited formations and difficulty of the cross-canal assault, they had the armour advantage while the Egyptians were at about 66% organisation.

    But by 1600hr on the 6th the attack was discontinued as it had virtually no chance of success (Soviets 679/16,982; Egypt 13/10,364 killed). Apart from that battle, the rest of the combat was scattered skirmishes where the Egyptians tried to slip across the Canal, to no avail.

    ******

    3. Central Asia

    An early investigation of the main Pakistani RAF air base in Karachi showed it was out of range of the 630km range of an SS-6 (V2) strike from the nearest Persian (Bandar e ‘Abbas, 739km) or Soviet (Stalinabad, 833km). And the range of the three Persian INT wings in Bandar e ‘Abbas was too short to contest RAF raids in eastern Persia or western Afghanistan. Comintern forces would remain at the mercy of RAF strikes for the rest of the month, to considerable Soviet loss.

    The results of the battles for Kabul and Herat that occurred over the next few weeks were unrecorded by the Soviets, as only Afghan Army forces were involved. If they did fight back, it was to no avail: Afghanistan surrendered at midnight on 16 February 1948.

    Ee5T8G.jpg

    The three Soviet units still trapped in Afghanistan at that point (two GAR and one MTN division) were eventually destroyed or surrendered, leaving a huge gap on the Afghan border, which the Soviets eventually hoped to rectify by reinforcements being transferred from Norway (begun in January) and the Middle East.

    By 27 February, Stalinabad’s air base expansion was completed. It was considered worth defending (including for its factories) and a mountain division transferred from the Persian border was on its way to hold it.

    9esSIW.jpg

    Later on the 27th, a further expansion to its air base was ordered, plus the construction of a basic radar station and land fortifications. An INT wing was flown in to join the CAS wing still in place from earlier attempted air operations.

    The largest battle in the sector came towards the end of the month, where a heavy tank division arrived in the desert province of Khash (eastern Persia) in time to repel an attack (Soviets 143/11,000; Pakistan 1,021/8,995 killed). It was one of the first Allied reverses in the sector for weeks, though the defenders also took over 2,600 casualties from RAF air strikes from 26-28 February.

    Also of note was an Allied attack on Iranshahr that started on the morning of 28 February – led by two Thai divisions! It showed how far Allied support was now coming from and why the situation had been steadily deteriorating.

    By the end of the month, the Allied push had extended into the fringes of eastern Persia, as well as up to the Soviet-Afghan border. The RAF’s toll on the Soviets had been heavy.

    gB4gPT.jpg


    ******

    4. The North

    Logistic raids focused on Kirkenes from 7-9 February in support of the continuing huge but slow battles for Polmak and Kirkenes that had begun in late January. They were suspended when there was nothing left to destroy by 1100hr on the 9th.

    Despite the high hopes for it, the attack on Polmak was abandoned (spontaneously) by the troops conducting it on 16 February. The hope that the incessant combat and lack of supplies would shatter Allied organisation, allowing Kirkenes to then be surrounded, were dashed for now.

    RxUEJv.jpg

    The losses had been huge, especially for the Allies: the loss of men was of little concern to Stalin, who had over six million in reserve. The attack on Kirkenes limped on, but progress had not improved in over two week and losses were mounting. Periodic air raids from Murmansk and the destruction of supply dumps by STRAT bombing seemed to have little impact on Allied organisation.

    A day later, the attack on Kirkenes was called off by STAVKA (Soviets 6,919/97,962; Allies 4,882/90,780 killed). Troops were rested and repositioned for a later attempt, but for now Stalin’s hopes for a victory dividend of spare troops was frustrated.

    Logistic bombing of Kirkenes restarted on 24 February, to ensure supplies were kept at a minimum, and would continue through to the 28th. Softening up ground attacks were also recommenced on Kirkenes on the 26th, then transferred to Polmak on 27-28 February when a local (AI) commander initiated a new attack there at 1900hr on the 26th. It was just a single division, but he had seen Allied organisation had deteriorated further and thought it worth another try. Further ground support was also ordered in (by STAVKA) to join the attack.

    By the end of the month, the attack was making quite good progress, with a second division joining and waiting to reinforce. At this stage, a renewed attack on Kirkenes would probably only be launched once Polmak had been taken, cutting them off.

    pjJu1s.jpg


    ******

    5. The West

    At midnight on 1 February, three new SS-6 batteries were deployed in air bases along the front: they would take a while to work up organisation and be ready for use, but others were still in position.

    A ‘special’ [non-intel based from quick info-tags, but which I considered interesting for the readership and fair game in general terms, not top secrets] report on German and French military industry on 2 February showed Germany continued to have severe problems producing enough fuel and supplies, while crude oil and rare materials stockpiles were empty. They did have plenty of manpower, however: attrition would not be exhausting that in a hurry. The main industrial effect of this was to limit their economy and only implement a tiny proportion of their possible upgrades, which would flow through into operational effectiveness not reaching the full potential their technology would have allowed. Unsurprisingly, they were getting considerable lend-lease support from the US.

    BwiqYm.jpg

    A quick readout from France showed they also had no rare material stockpile, but otherwise had sufficient resources and ample supplies and fuel. But their weakness was probably in manpower, where the reserve was down to about 160,000 men.

    The Soviet supply network on 2 February is shown below: it seemed to be holding up well enough for now.

    ApoV0G.jpg

    The month witnessed periods of Allied air activity over the Western Front, with the VVS maintaining a steady barrage of raids throughout, while also intercepting most Allied bombing raids fairly quickly after they would begin. SS-6 strikes were also used judiciously when worthwhile targets were discovered, with active Allied planes and repaired air base facilities were discerned.

    In general terms, by the end of the month, the constant activity had begun to wear down the VVS somewhat, though this time careful management ensured no more fighter wings were destroyed, though there were a few close calls (down to 6 or 9% strength a couple of times at the end of big dogfights). The repair and rotate system was kept working hard and by the end of the month the wings transferred from the Far East on 21 February were starting to regain an operational level of organisation. [More air stats and graphs at the end of the section.]

    ******

    5a. Prussia-Poland Sector

    An SS-6 runway strike on Breslau on 3 February was launched when 16 German and French wings (11 x INT, 1 x M/R, 4 x TAC) were found using its rebuilt 7.33 wing capacity repair facilities, with 6.1 of that knocked out.

    The [AI led] push through to Danzig was making good progress, with Braunsberg finally occupied at 0700hr on 4 February and an attack on Elbing launched immediately. Elbing sat on the east bank of the Vistula, with Danzig on the other side. The two defending German (-27%) and Italian (-40.3%) divisions were both short of supplies and progress looked promising. Three hours later, Marienwerder (to the immediate south of Elbing, also on the Vistula) was occupied.

    The battle for Elbing was won and it was occupied by advance Soviet units at 0100hr on 6 February. The operation to cross the Vistula and take Danzig now began as the [AI] army commanders mustered forces and STAVKA ensured heavy air support was available. And the Allies also did their best to hit the mustering Soviet forces in Elbing.

    The initial attack over the Vistula on Tczew (immediately south of Danzig and the best place to attack it from) met little resistance, with victory won by 1500hr on 9 February after a short fight against a weakened French division.

    But as often happened, the Allies were able to reinforce Tczew before the Soviets could get across. At 1800hr on 11 February, the Soviet attempts (each by a single division) to force the Vistula on a three province front at Danzig (Soviets 33, Allies 6 killed), Tczew (Soviets 45, Allies 18 killed) and Laskowice (Soviets 257, Allies 10 killed) were all defeated at the same time [AI break-offs] due to unfavourable odds. Stalin was not amused.

    Impatient at the field commanders’ lack of ‘vision’, STAVKA intervened on 12 February to initiate a massive attack on Danzig across the Vistula, hoping to blast the Allies out before they could establish themselves. But it was too late: an exhausted German garrison division would have proved easy enough pickings, but a fresh British Royal Marine division was now defending the city with its heavy fixed fortifications and the breakthrough attempt was quickly defeated.

    TGFSQ5.jpg

    Air raids continued to pound away at all three west bank Vistula provinces, but the Allies had begun a spoiling attack on Marienwerder. The local commanders had overstacked Elbing, but left only one division to defend Marienwerder.

    Logistic strikes began on Danzig on 13 February to try to destroy infrastructure, supplies and fuel dumps with the four STRAT wings based in Finland, with VVS INT cover provided from Suwalki and Minsk. But the Luftwaffe contested the raids throughout 14 February and the bombers were soon running very low on organisation, which had not been high to start with and had to be suspended after moderate damage had been done. The SS-6s were held back for now, as they were not held in great numbers and were being reserved primarily for airfield interdiction.

    Another attack was tried on Laskowice on 16 February, but it was now heavily defended and it too failed (Soviets 346/25,708; Allies 35/54,467 killed). The same day, the Germans managed to force the withdrawal for repair of one of the VVS TAC group (1 x M/R, 2 x TAC) that had been pummelling Tczew, leaving a fresher mixed group (M/R, TAC, CAS) on the task.

    By mid-month, the front remained fairly static from the Baltic to Brzesc Litewski, but the Allies were steadily driving a salient in towards Lwow, which was now under threat. Their defences along the northern Vistula had now hardened up, their supply situation seemed to be better and there now seemed little immediate prospect of taking Danzig any time soon. And the Allies were advancing on a broad front in eastern Romania, threatening the Soviet border.

    At that point, with the push in Norway and the Middle East stalled and Afghanistan collapsing, Stalin lost patience. “No more mister nice guy” was his attitude. “The Poles refuse to be liberated – well, we will teach them a harsh lesson”.

    A specially assembled task force formed under the guise of 12 CAS Group, with four wings of Yak-16s flying air superiority, took off for Warsaw from Kaunas at 0100hr on 17 February with a shocking payload. The two Luftwaffe fighter wings sent up to intercept hit the INT rather than the bomber group and made little impression. At 0400hr, Warsaw disappeared under a huge mushroom cloud.

    C9dZB9.jpg

    It would not force the Poles to surrender, but it was hoped it would destroy valuable supplies and help cripple their ability to produce more for months to come. Perhaps it would ‘shake something loose’ on the front line.

    By 1500hr that evening, the latest attack on Tczew (including two Guards and four infantry divisions), still with reasonable air support, seemed to be making some progress [though only 27%] against three partly disorganised German and French divisions.

    Alas, the heavy concentration of Soviet troops east of the Vistula seemed to be creating some supply problems for the attackers, who had enjoyed quite good service over the whole front to that point. The attackers in Elbing remained in supply, but some units to their east were beginning to run out and Marienwerder was looking under-supplied.

    RucrkY.jpg

    Note: 11 Abn Div remains ‘ghosting’ in Königsberg: it’s doing nothing for now and I can do nothing to it.

    The situation on the Vistula was deteriorating by the morning of 18 February. Marienwerder was lost with heavy casualties and the attack on Tczew was now withering under an effective spoiling attack from Danzig, including the well-suited British 4th Marine Division. And Brodnica, seized by the Soviets earlier in an attempt to widen the salient towards the Vistula, was also coming under heavy Allied pressure. The Allies had earlier retaken Mlawa, though a Soviet counter-attack was gaining ground there, at least.

    Rq0tqb.jpg

    In the Lwow sector, the Allies had steadily pushed forward in recent days. By early on 19 February, they had taken Przemsyl, bordering Lwow itself. They had Jaworow under heavy pressure and were attacking Zolkiew as well. The VVS had been running heavy interference throughout the month, but it was not proving enough.

    i2C82v.jpg

    Dissatisfied with the sense of urgency of the local commanders, STAVKA was forced to step in here too to even up the defensive line to save Lwow. Fortunately, the line south from there along the Hungarian border had been stable and was holding easily enough, even if their southern flank was coming under threat in Romania, so a few divisions could be redirected.

    Back up north, the Allies retook Marienwerder at 0700 that morning. At 1600hr the following day, a large [AI directed] counter-attack on Marienwerder with nine divisions in Osterode hit three Allied (two British and one German) divisions. At odds of three-one, STAVKA was hopeful. But the local commander called it off just an hour later (Soviets 99/79,535; Allies 52/24,079 killed)! Stalin was almost apoplectic when he heard this. The Commissars were sent to find scapegoats.

    But Stalin had something more severe in mind by way of retribution – and not against his own men. Having discovered (via a previous experiment) that 3-4 German INT wings could shoot down an SS-6 flying at 5,000kph [gnashes teeth at the HOI3 designers, but it is what it is in-game], three INT wings were sent to conduct air superiority over Berlin at 1700hr on 20 February. When the designated SS-6 missile arrived [and then hung suspended in the air for three hours while the Germans shot at it, as per usual], the VVS fighters were able to clear its way through. Atomic destruction had been visited on the German capital, in a blow designed to not just dent national morale, but exacerbate their already difficult industrial and supply situation. As well as making a complete mess of their large air base.

    wm6SfY.jpg

    Then, having dropped its nuke, the SS-6 happily returned to base, still at 58% strength!

    I rationalise this as the battery only needing to send one of its however-many missiles to do the job. Rather than the Soviets having developed a remotely piloted hypersonic rocket drone in 1948! But this sequence is as clear a demonstration as you would need to show a not very well worked through mechanic. And that's being kind about it.

    The next morning, the Germans responded with a heavy air raid on Elbing, which killed 1,180 of the massed Comintern troops in a single strike before the VVS could subsequently disperse them. The attack on Tczew was re-assessed and deemed too wasteful of troops even by callous Soviet standards (the single largest Soviet loss in one battle so far in the war) and with little chance of success. Even as the Allies were striking north at Bartenstein from Marienwerder, which threatened to cut Elbing off, though another Soviet spoiling attack on Marienwerder itself was showing promise. Brodnica was holding and Mlawa being attacked again.

    OFeKnD.jpg

    As the prospects of a breakthrough continued to dim, 8th and 26th Armies of the South West Front (operating in Prussia and northern Poland) were also put onto defensive stances.

    German attempts to raid Elbing again on 22, 23 and 24 February were beaten off, but early on 25 February the latest outnumbered Soviet attempt to retake Mlawa was defeated heavily (Soviets 4,328;/25,985; Allies 3,767/84,758 killed). That was followe dup almost immediately by a new large Allied attack on Brodnica with a mix of German, French, Italian and Czech troops.

    SRuwmo.jpg

    By that evening, the enemy had at least been repulsed from Lwow, which had come under attack that morning, as the Soviets strove to seal off the Allied breakthrough.

    Good news came at 0100hr on 26 February with an expensive but important victory in the attack on Marienwerder (Soviets 4,190/125,683; Allies 3,377/40,128 killed). Balanced the next day at 0600hr with news of defeat in hard-won Brodnica (Soviets 4,448/44,955; Allies 2,730/86,988 killed).

    The concentration of battle casualties, air raids and aerial engagements across the Prussian-Polish Sector in February showed where the fighting had been fiercest, with each side making a few limited gains in key areas where breakthroughs were contained. It was really starting to resemble WW1 rather than WW3 on the front line, even if nuclear weapons launched in the Allied rear had seen a different order of destruction.

    4uG0Gs.jpg


    ******

    5b. Romania

    The month began with an active nest of French and Hungarian wings operating out of Debrecen against targets in Romania, where the air base had been fully repaired (4.0). An SS-6 strike at 1000hr on 1 February soon sorted that out, destroying the base facilities and runways all over again.

    By mid-month, the Allied offensive had penetrated all the way to the Soviet border, where local commanders, with STAVKA ‘assistance’, were desperately trying to establish a defence along the natural obstacle of the Dniester River. Air power had been used heavily to try to blunt the offensive, but was not enough alone to stop the Allied advance. The big, powerful French armoured divisions were particularly hard to stop.

    lqkzDo.jpg

    By the early morning of 16 February, a Greek division had crossed the Dniester to Rybnica, though a counter-attack was on the way and they came under heavy air attack. But more enemy units were making their way to the line and fanning out from Iasi. The French armoured division in Balti was under heavy VVS attack.

    KS4iGS.jpg

    The Soviet attack on Rybnica ended in victory at 0000hr on 17 February, but the line was still paper thin in the sector. And just seven hours later, a French motorised division had lodged itself across the Dniester just to the north in Kodyma. STAVKA had to organise another counter-attack, even while Allied pressure increased to its west as well on Soviet troops trying to hold the west bank at Soroca against French heavy armour, where the defence failed at midday. At 2100hr that night, an Allied crossing attempt was at least heavily defeated at Tiraspol. But Soroca was occupied by the French an hour later.

    Czech troops would then reinforce Rybnica before the Soviets could reoccupy it and had to be fought again on 21 February. The province was finally secured before the end of the month.

    Throughout this period, Balti was assailed relentlessly by the VVS in an attempt to wear down a heavy concentration of Allied formations: from 14-28 February, VVS raids caused an estimated 15,800 Allied ground casualties. Occasional Allied efforts to intercept the raids were generally beaten off successfully. Heavy air battles continued over Radauti for a few days and less so over Cernauti (both of which were briefly lost and regained during the month), as was Vendychany on the east bank of the Dniester.

    The map of engagements during February illustrates the steady flow of the Allies across eastern Romania and where the Soviets managed to halt and in some places turn back the advance. On the map below, blue flags represent provinces taken by the Allies during the month but regained by the Soviets before it ended. The red flags indicate Allied attempts to cross the Dniester that were hurled back by the defenders. An uneasy line was holding for now, but remained vulnerable to increased Allied pressure until it could be further reinforced.

    kGqXm3.jpg

    In general, the West had again been a bloodbath, especially for the Allies: they had suffered some fewer ground casualties than in January, but VVS raids had killed an extra 35,000 in the west in the shorter month of February than they had in January. Total Allied casualties topped the quarter-million mark for the first time.

    YwwLxT.jpg

    Wear on VVS bomber wings had seen the rate of effort drop steadily from a mid-month peak of 6-7,000 casualties per day but was just starting to increase again as the month ended, with some units returning after repair and the transferred wings from the Far East starting to be worked into the picture (after their re-basing org hits).

    ******

    6. Research

    Research projects didn’t start to mature until 18 February, after which nine were finalised in a rush – with some increases to the upgrade bill resulting, including for the next generation of jet engines. Artillery and AT development had become a priority, while the latest rocket engine advance was balanced by starting research on increasing their payload.

    6jCWVt.jpg


    ******

    7. Industry and Strategic Warfare

    The month started with the supply stockpile hovering at around 43,800. With the Soviets keen to get the upgrade program going strongly again, so on 1 February upgrade expenditure was maxed once more, production kept capped at 60 IC, while reinforcements continued to be maxed. The effect would be gauged with the aim of not letting the supply stockpile fall below 30,000.

    Fdeoss.jpg

    As things settled down and the stockpile declined, supply spending was increased to 100 IC on 3 February, upgrades down to 108/121. By the 4th, the stockpile was down to just over 35,000 and still dropping.

    The RAF’s strategic bombing campaign resumed on 3 February and continued through to the 6th. With the scratch fighter group recovering in Sevastopol up to base operational status, at 0800hr on 6 February it was ordered to patrol on a ‘cone corridor’ to cover as many of the RAF’s targets as possible.

    e6oyEX.jpg

    Meanwhile, the first six days of February saw a heavy toll on Soviet convoys and escorts, mainly from USN interdictions: 12 transports and three escorts were sunk. Both these forms of Allied strategic warfare naturally had an effect on national unity, as did espionage to a lesser extent, but overall NU remained very strong. Some badly affected convoys were cancelled – but then seemed to restart of their own volition and kept having to be cancelled (even without auto-generated convoys selected).

    J3QzkN.jpg

    The first interception of British STRAT came over Batumi at 1800hr on the 6th. No damage was done on the ground, and the fighters were able to chase the bombers and re-engaged over the Coast of Abkhazia, almost destroying one of the wings.

    LMyc9f.jpg

    Another new spare air base was commenced and prioritised on 7 February, as the lack of them in the southern USSR around the Afghan border, which would be needed in the future.

    By 10 February the supply stockpile was still decreasing, but remained above 35,000. Production had been inched up to 65 IC to account for the recent new projects, upgrades were at 77/99 IC, supply inched up to 105 IC. Reinforcements were demanding about 60 IC.

    On 18 February, the RAF sent a tactical bomber group through the Black Sea to an unknown target (unclear whether they were transiting or on a bombing mission): but the Sevastopol VVS INT detachment found them, evading their escorts to practically destroy one TAC wing as they were chased from the Coast of Abkhazia to the Central Black Sea that night.

    0DfOmt.jpg

    On 20 February, as Soviet plans to take Danzig were thwarted, northern Norway stalemated and Afghanistan lost, a mass building of new missile batteries (10 x V2s at a total of 20 IC) was commenced. They would take about a month to be delivered and a little longer to become fully operational. The idea would be to use them to create a logistic ‘desert’ on a selected Allied area of the line prior to a new offensive against either Danzig or perhaps even Warsaw, depending on the situation at the time, probably some time in April if success had not been found before then.

    By 23 February, with the supply situation roughly stabilised at just 57 IC and new upgrades required (including new jet engine retrofits), the upgrade allocation was maxed back to 117 IC. Reinforcements were up to 73 IC and production kept at around 66 IC, with the missile batteries placed at the top of the queue, temporarily relegating some new armoured divisions to ‘below the line’.

    And the Soviets were still trying to stop unauthorised convoys, especially on the Archangelsk-Al Kuwait supply and fuel route. [I thought, perhaps this time I will get it to stick by keeping the convoy on but zeroing out the commodities instead. But no, a new one popped up anyway. There must be some setting I can tick to stop it! Hmmm.]

    From 8-28 February, the rate of convoy destruction slowed, but another 14 transports and six escorts were lost.

    7HSZ9x.jpg

    As the month ended, supply production had been lowered as far as possible with the demand seeming to drop back, upgrades and reinforcements were still maxed and production had been increased to above the 100 IC mark. After the nuking of Warsaw and Berlin, as at 0000hr on 1 March, three bombs were left in the arsenal and the next was 60% complete.

    a9pQHY.jpg


    ******

    8. Espionage

    With things now relatively quiet for Soviet agents in both Turkey and Spain, the Spanish mission was also changed to 100% covert operations on 5 February. By the end of the month, Allied spy activity in the USSR had increased almost back to pre-war levels, with the UK, US, Germany and Italy having half the spies caught shared between them.

    There had been just one Soviet spy lost in Spain. Despite no active Soviet agitation, the Communist party support in Spain had rocketed up to 26% and increased slightly in Turkey to 17%. The groups of covert teams in both countries had increased healthily. The plan remained for the effort to switch back to political agitation once enough local covert operatives were in place to launch a coup, the timings of which would be determined based on circumstances.

    C7nscV.jpg
     
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    Chapter 42: March 1948
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    Chapter 42: March 1948

    Introduction

    In February 1948 the main Western Front tightened up even further as the Soviet drive to Danzig was halted on the Vistula. The Allied breakout in Romania was finally contained at the Soviet border. Across the front, Soviet air power took an increasingly heavy toll on Allied formations, but both that and nuclear strikes on Warsaw and Berlin were not enough to break the deadlock.

    The Far East continued to see the Soviets advance comfortably enough, though the effort seemed to be placing ever greater strain on the supply network: the shamefully pro-Allied Communist China was the next target for Soviet retribution.

    In Central Asia, ground continued to be lost to a broad Allied push, with a wide range of Asian divisions being bolstered by some British and now French divisions, while the RAF provided heavy air support. More Soviet forces would be needed to contain the situation before it got out of hand: some were coming from the Middle East (which remained largely static now), but most would have to be shipped all the way from the Northern Front.

    Speaking of the North, hopes of an early collapse of the large and poorly supplied Allied forces on northern Norway had been frustrated in February, but a new push began as the month was drawing to a close: a ‘victory dividend’ here was sorely needed to supplement other theatres – mainly now in Central Asia.

    On the intelligence front, covert teams large enough to engineer pro-Communist coups in Spain and Turkey were well under way, but the timing of any operations would need to be carefully considered.

    Special note: I hope @nuclearslurpee will be pleased to see that for this AAR, I have reversed the colour scheme so that Soviet/Comintern units are marked in red and the Allies in blue!

    ******

    1. The Far East

    After a few skirmishes in the first week of the month against stragglers in Mengukuo and Manchuria, the (AI) army commanders in the Far East were proving somewhat dilatory in prosecuting the war against the ComChi. And all the movement was no doubt exerting pressure on the supply network, as noted above.

    By 7 March, most formations had not yet closed up to the new front and those that had showed no sign of attacking the ComChi, despite orders to the army commanders to do so.

    vJTcdo.jpg

    On 17 March, Mengukuo began mobilising, but diplomats advised it would be the best part of two years before their truce lapsed and they would be available to fight the Allies.

    For Japan, the truce wait was probably a good thing: after their already low national unity was pulverised by three nuclear strikes, it had only just recovered a very little (to 2.8% by 18 March).

    With still no attack executed on the ComChi by 23 March, Stalin lost patience and exercised direct command over five divisions across the river from Mao’s capital of Yan’an, then garrisoned by one regular division (noting they had been slow to re-mobilise after being defeated by the Japanese in WW2 and then ‘liberated’ by the NatChi).

    The battle commenced shortly afterwards, with in essence a human wave with heavy air support being used to overwhelm the well-positioned defence. No detailed battle report was received, though by the time the victory was won (on 26 March) 4,187 of the 8,000 Chinese defenders had been killed by air raids alone. Yan’an was occupied early on 27 March.

    C7Bmtq.jpg

    The attacking effort on ground and in the air then switched against the NatChi in Hancheng, which would be an easier prospect after the Soviet troops in Yan’an had reorganised and were able to join in from the west bank of the river.

    Communist China surrendered on 28 March and now they (rightfully) were members of the Comintern.

    8leGnZ.jpg

    A day later, the strategic effect of this realignment delivered some welcome benefits to Soviet supply production and air organisation.

    IKRafq.jpg

    The thrust of Soviet efforts now went into a push through the narrow gap past Hancheng into northern NatChi. The hope was to get past the river lines and into Xi’an first, then try to roll the Chinese line up from west to east in a blitzkrieg-and-encirclement campaign (these units had also been commandeered under Stalin’s direction – ie player control).

    uRk27B.jpg

    Communist China was the next to announce its mobilisation on the 30th. Another two-year wait for any direct support.

    On 30 March, direct STAVKA (human) control was exerted over all units in the East. All that supply consumption had to be delivering some benefit, and quickly. At the same time, all divisions were detached then reallocated to the nearest corps HQs to fix mixed up command chains. Some (AI) control may be reassigned later, to army or corps level, but for now the strategic stalemate of WW3 needed to be shaken up if possible (or this will become a very boring AAR indeed).

    Gains for March were modest and casualties light. This would doubtless change as the Chinese army (and any Allied running-dogs) were increasingly engaged.

    psbFZG.jpg


    qF5rnh.jpg


    ******

    2. Central Asia

    In Central Asia, the slow and broad Allied push against eastern Persia continued, while Stalinabad (the only nearby air base and a significant industrial centre) became the main focus in the north of the sector. With it left undefended and Allied forces advancing on it, on 3 March the desperate measure was taken of deploying the latest new division (30 Tank Div) there straight from training, despite it being not at all well suited to mountain warfare.

    That afternoon, the partly-repaired CAS group based in Stalinabad (1 x INT, 1 x CAS) attacked the enemy advancing from Khanabad, even if it was more of a symbolic than significant effort. But on their second raid that might, they were intercepted by two RAF INT wings. The VVS INT took the brunt of the damage (down to 27% strength, CAS 65%) and had to call the mission off for repairs, after inflicting just 207 casualties on two raids.

    On 5 March, it was a French militia division that attacked Stalinabad, with RAF air support. 30 Tank Div was in by far the superior tactical position on the ground, but as yet had only worked up minimal organisation. They were delaying the enemy while 28 SD – a mountain division – continued to make its slow way across from Karshi.

    55s7Z7.jpg

    There was no battle report when 30 Tank Div was forced to retreat on 8 March, but they had suffered a net loss of around 1,434 casualties – virtually all from air attacks.

    x6SKUB.jpg

    In response to the deteriorating situation and lack of air base coverage, a new desert air base was established in Cheshme on 10 March. The infrastructure there was quite good and it would allow partial coverage of eastern Persia as well. A radar station began construction, work to expand the air base started and infrastructure upgrades commenced.

    oFRewA.jpg

    On the 11th, the three fighter wings formerly sent over to Israel were transferred back to Central Asia, this time at the new ‘bare bones’ Cheshme air base, from where they could cover Stalinabad, northern Afghanistan and the north-eastern frontier of Persia.

    oM3nbe.jpg

    28 SD won the race to Stalinabad, getting there a little earlier than anticipated on 20 March. They soon came under attack by an Indian division and were in a very strong tactical position, even though it was a hasty defence.

    WplY3S.jpg

    The RAF started raids on 28 SD that afternoon, killing 384 defenders. The VVS soon scrambled to intercept any further attacks.

    The RAF returned early the next day and a fierce dogfight resulted at 0300hr. 10. IAD suffered some damage, but one of the RAF TAC wings was badly savaged. The RAF returned at 0700hr, this time with two additional TAC wings but just the one M/R escort wing, but were intercepted over Bamian before they could reach their target.

    yvxSOw.jpg

    10. IAD had to be withdrawn for repairs, but the remaining two wings were more than enough to see off the two RAF TAC wings that returned that afternoon. That night, the RAF made one more try but were heavily defeated by the Yak-15s: no more Soviet ground casualties were suffered after the first raid. The new presence in Cheshme had proven a success so far.

    The battle for Stalinabad was won by 26 March (Soviets 122, India 1,378 killed). By then, the Stalinabad CAS group had returned to the air under the protection of the new INT wings, causing another 2,000 Allied casualties as the enemy advanced from north-western Afghanistan.

    d4ShGN.jpg

    Note: red target icons represent Soviet casualties, blue the Allies.

    ******

    3. The Middle East

    The relief of 9 Tank Div by 149 SD on 10 March allowed a ‘round-up’ operation to clean out the Sinai of Egyptian forces to begin.

    6XUmvR.jpg

    Infrastructure view shown – had to go around Jabal Budiyah.

    On 12 March, the RAF bombed infrastructure supply stockpiles in Misfaq once more. As the fighter group in Tel Aviv Yafo had been sent east by then, two largely repaired (84% strength each) wings from the rear of the western front were sent down to form a new two-wing fighter group at Tel Aviv.

    They were in action the next day after the Allies bombed Misfaq again, but were instead themselves intercepted by three RAF fighter wings, coming off second best (down to 71% and 19%). The stronger wing was left on intercept, but it was then attacked again over Misfaq by two different RAF INT wings. They survived, but both wings had some long repairs in front of them: though they seemed to have scared off any more bombings of Misfaq, anyway.

    The sweep around the Sinai to Thamad ended in victory on 18 March (Soviets 120/10,000 killed, Egypt 837/9,924 killed, remainder captured). The Soviets would tidy up the remaining enemy HQ on the way back before returned to Bir Gifgafa, where the Egyptians were launching a long attack over the Suez that was making gradual progress.

    An attack on Dayr az Zawr in Syria by a Guards division ended in failure on 20 March (Soviets 915/7,995; Syria 802/9,000 killed). Pacifying the rest of Syria would not be easy with the bulk of 13th Army’s armour now on its way to Persia.

    9 Tank Div’s return to Bir Gifgafa on 30 March brought the enemy attack to an end (Soviets 792, Egypt 903 killed). Despite being poorly equipped for the crossing, 9 Tank attacked Ismâ’iliya anyway, hoping to take advantage of the enemy’s exhaustion after their own prolonged attack.

    0EhwWS.jpg

    Modest advances had been made, in Sinai and southern Syria, by the end of the month.

    LxfZ0C.jpg


    ******

    4. The North

    As the battle for Polmak progressed well through early March, logistic strikes resumed on Kirkenes, just to ensure supply remained minimal in the trapped enclave or northern Norway. Strikes continued on and off from 2-8 March to keep things suppressed.

    The main battle for Polmak was won on 6 March (1,876 Soviet, 1,603 Allied casualties) and it was occupied on the 9th, after which a couple of Allied probes were easily fought off during the rest of the day as the dislodged units fled north and more Soviet divisions advanced to reinforce.

    i0sKwy.jpg

    As soon as Polmak settled down, STAVKA resumed command of all remaining Soviet divisions on the eastern and southern flanks of Kirkenes and threw them into a massive frontal assault against the now encircled and barely supplied 43 trapped Allied brigades (of many nationalities). Stalin wanted the battle done as soon as possible, whatever the cost in manpower.

    8wI6Ah.jpg

    Logistic strikes on Kirkenes resumed that afternoon until there were virtually no supply dumps, fuel depots or infrastructure to destroy. The next morning, the TAC group from Murmansk started with a port strike, to ensure few supplies could get it, then switched to ground attack missions while the logistic strikes continued. The same routine lasted throughout the 11th as well.

    Despite this pummelling, the Allied forces fought on. By 24 March, all but five divisions had surrendered but an assortment of troops from France, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Germany still held out – barely (96% progress). By then three divisions were also attacking from Polmak.

    It ended at 1000hr on 25 March and Kirkenes was secured an hour later. The casualties on both sides were huge, with up to a further 72,000 Allied soldiers taken into captivity (though maybe some of the difference was taken up by the additional 3,900 Allied soldiers killed from supporting air strikes or attrition).

    rQFWWh.jpg

    That evening, troops began to redeploy on the long rail trip south: six divisions to Bukhara and another five to eastern Persia. More should follow once the rest of northern Norway was tidied up and a garrison established.

    Vadso fell to the Soviets on 27 March as the remaining troops, out of supply and barely able to resist, were herded into a smaller and smaller area (hemmed in by the infrastructure barrier). At 0500hr on the 29th, the remaining troops under 17th Army were reverted to direct STAVKA control to complete the operation as quickly as possible.

    JkKNiV.jpg


    ******

    5. The West

    After the disappointment of the failed offensive to take Danzig and the vindictive nuking Warsaw and Berlin, early March saw the gradual shutting down of remaining local attacks in the Prussian sector, except for the retaking of Marienwerder. Most of the armies in the sector were given purely defensive objectives and put on defensive stances.

    In the centre, the entire Polish and Hungarian sectors were also focused on defending current lines. The focal point there would be a concerted Allied attempt to remove the small Soviet bridgehead in Biala Podlaska, opposite Brzesc Litweski.

    In Romania, the last Allied attempt to advance was along the western side of the river border with the USSR, in and around Cernauti. Soviet air power in turn looked to pound those lead elements to suppress their offensive ability and inflict heavy casualties – especially on French units, given their traditionally limited manpower reserves.

    Some renewed Allied air activity at the start of the month saw two more missile strikes on key Allied air bases on the afternoon of 1 March. Breslau (11 German and French wings, 4 repair capacity) and Stettin (10 German and French wings, 4.6 repair capacity) were both struck and their facilities essentially destroyed all over again.

    From 1-3 March, as series of Soviet attacks on Zolkiew, Brodnica, Mlawa and Marienwerder were defeated, while Allied attacks on Biala Podlaska and Cernauti were also repelled. A long-standing Allied attack on Elbing continued for some days, with the VVS lashing the attackers mercilessly in return.

    The attack on Marienwerder was renewed with fresh forces, with another expensive defeat on 6 March (3,446 Soviet, 2,643 Allied casualties) being quickly followed up by a fresh attack, which finally succeeded on 8 March. Marienwerder was reoccupied by Soviet forces at 2000hr on 10 March, after which the Allies counterattacked but were beaten back on 13 and 17 March.

    The long defence of Elbing was won at 1400hr on 13 March, but alas no detailed casualty report was provided (irritating, as it went for over two weeks; I assume the Allies would have taken the heavier casualties).

    On 18 March, the 3rd STRAT Group was rebased from Vladivostok to Königsberg, so it could work up and be ready in case some longer range nuclear strikes might be launched in mid-term. The two other wings, sans escorts, were still based in Oulo (Finland) and conducting logistic strikes in northern Norway and were in various stages of ‘wear and tear’.

    Biala Podlaska had been successfully defended on 1 and 3 March, but a new and concerted Allied attack from three provinces was taking an increasing toll on the defenders, even though they were regularly reinforced from across the river and despite very heavy VVS suppression of the attackers. By 19 March the odds had turned such that the benefit of maintaining the bridgehead was no longer considered worth the cost. STAVKA ordered a withdrawal back to Brzesc Litweski at 1600hr on the 19th (Soviets 4,688/41,986; Allies 2,667/130,391 killed). Dwarfing these battle casualties, the VVS attacks on Wlodawa, Siedlice and Lukow during the attack, then on Biala Podlaska after the Allies occupied it, totalled over 25,500 over the month.

    The Suwalki air base (used as a fighter hub) was expanded to level 4 on 20 March and another level commenced. And by 22 March, one of the two bomber groups (2 x INT, 2 x TAC) operating from Kaunas on Prussian sector targets needed to be rested after constant missions and an Allied interception, the two escorting INT wings absorbing the heaviest damage.

    On 23 March, the ten previously ordered new missile batteries were ready, deploying initially to Moscow for work-up (to avoid over-crowding the front line bases). These were to be used for the proposed interdiction of supplies into Allied provinces in support of the next major offensive in the west.

    jYF1Mr.jpg

    At around this time, to rest tiring VVS wings in the lead-up to a new Spring Offensive, bombing operations were suspended across the Western Front.

    At the same time, Stalin met with STAVKA to discuss Soviet prospects for the war. While things were progressing poorly in Central Asia but well enough in the Far East and the North, those theatres would never decide the war as a whole. The West -as ever – was the key. And that was stalemated in a seeming re-run of WW1.

    Stalin decided that to wrap things up in the North, decisively defeat China in the East, stabilise the situation in Central Asia and crucially break through in the West, more direct control must be exercised of key formations involved in those operations. The alternative was to acknowledge the stalemate and start negotiating terms with the Allies – a status quo armistice, in all likelihood. [That is, call it a day and end the AAR in a ‘peace with dishonour’.]

    Stalin opted for ‘one last shot’ to be taken and the equivalent of a Brusilov Offensive attempted in the West, aimed either at Danzig or Warsaw. Missile strikes would be used to interdict enemy supplies and concentrated air power to suppress defences. The Polish sector began a redistribution of forces to shore up defences while detaching and transferring most of the armoured and mechanised formations there to the breakthrough area. Hence also the command changes in the North and Far east around this time.

    After the loss of Biala Podlaska on 19 March, the only two battles fought in the West by either side were an Allied on Ostroleka (won by the Soviets on 30 March, 149 Soviet and 1,064 Allied casualties) and an Allied probe on Kodyma on the border with Romania, defeated on 31 March.

    These Allied attacks in the south brought a limited resumption of Soviet bombing in that sector and triggered a number of fierce dogfights as Allied bombers were intercepted. One such dogfight occurred over Balti early on 31 March, where Allied INT and a bombing group became entangled with a large Soviet raid.

    CT46j3.jpg

    A new Allied probe on Vendychany began on 31 March, this time with Allied air support, while VVS fighters rushed to repel the Allied bombers. The Prussian, Polish and Hungarian fronts remained relatively quiet.

    The Western Front had barely changed over the month – only Marienwerder and Biala Podlaska had changed hands. With far fewer ground battles fought, those casualties were radically less than in previous months. But the VVS compensated for this by making the attrition very one-sided through the heaviest tactical bombing campaign in history killing over 170,000 Allied troops in the West alone, even with a week-long bombing pause at the end of the month.

    gAGpuU.jpg

    On top of the total casualties could be added the 70-odd thousand Allied troops captured in Kirkenes, meaning total Allied losses from air and ground combat would have been around 300,000 men.

    The effects and tempo of the air campaign in the West described above are reflected in the figures below. When it resumed, the Soviets hoped for a repeat of the first three weeks of March, concentrated largely in whatever breakthrough zones were decided.

    7bGWes.jpg

    The concentration of fighting around Elbing and Marienwerder are reflected below. Laskowice had come in for especially heavy attention, with over 27,000 Allied troops killed there alone in the two weeks from 8-22 March!

    KlDVzx.jpg

    Remembering, Soviet moves plus casualties from Allied air raids in red now, Allies blue.

    The along the Polish and Hungarian sectors was focused on the battle for Biala Podlaska, from 1-19 March and then ‘revenge attacks’ from 19-23 March on the Allied formations that occupied it.

    P6oy9n.jpg

    The largest VVS effort for the month came against the large Allied troop concentrations in north-east Romania. The single largest ever monthly toll for a province came on Balti, where over 38,000 Allied troops were estimated to have perished, with Dorohoi and Suceava also heavily punished. Otherwise, the area saw only isolated and light fighting during the month.

    S6Wcwm.jpg


    ******

    6. Strategy, Industry and Research

    Supply became an increasing concern from 7 March when the stockpile fell below the 30,000 benchmark and supply production was increased to 70 IC at the expense of the general production queue, at a time when the upgrade bill had also increased. Progressive supply production increases came in the following days as the stockpile continued to dwindle, now at the expense of upgrades and maintaining an increased production schedule.

    GWP6wE.jpg

    But even 143+ IC per day by 13 March could not prevent the stockpile falling below 20,000 and fears supplies would start to dry up at the various fronts. On 17 March the upgrade program was completely suspended as the stockpile continued to plunge, then further increases to supply production were necessary on 23 and 26 March as the stockpile edged down towards the 10,000 mark.

    After a slight apparent stabilisation, the stockpile plunged even further and looked just a few days away from exhaustion by the 29th, when crucial reinforcement expenditure was suspended and project expenditure limited to just 13.5 IC. This seemed to stabilise the stockpile on 30 March at just over 6,000.

    wsqWN3.jpg

    Then, for unclear but welcome reasons that may have had something to do with the ‘Sino-Soviet NAP’ in the Far East, a sudden reclamation of surplus supplies in the network saw it rocket back to almost 46,000 on 31 March. Relief was palpable as all IC allocations returned to equilibrium.

    Even though the fuel stockpile had continued to erode, supply production remained stable by midnight on 1 April, allowing a good range of important projects to continue, including new INT wings and a couple of armoured divisions, though the bulk of the queue remained ‘below the line’. The nuclear stockpile was now back to four bombs.

    PVWwVS.jpg

    Losses on the Archangelsk-Kuwait convoy route were heavy during the month: no matter how often they were suspended, insubordinate officials in the Transport Ministry kept reinstating the supply and fuel run, unless the Politburo remembered to check and cancel them! [Is there anything that can be done to stop them regenerating? I’ve tried everything I can think of, including things that work on all the other convoys I’m trying to suppress.]

    G9CE7z.jpg

    Fourteen convoys and seven escorts were lost during March, but the Allies were deterred from even attempting any more strategic bombing raids by the successful INT patrols out of Sevastopol.

    There were just five technical advances during the month. Other than the completion of the light tank upgrade program, new projects were aimed at areas that improved morale, organisation or tactical efficiency, to take some of the industrial demand off the upgrade program, given persistent supply issues and the delayed project queue.

    GpXYNF.jpg


    ******

    7. Intelligence

    On 26 March, with enough covert teams assembled to launch a coup if desired in Spain, the mission there was switched to Communist Party support, to hopefully improve the chances if launched.

    bUwf4A.jpg

    The next day, one of the spy teams in Spain was apprehended. And counter-intuitively, the renewed focus on party support in Spain was followed by a sharp decrease in Communist support from 26% to 21% by 31 March, but the effort would continue.

    But overall, Soviet spy attrition was drastically reduced this month, and seven fewer foreign spies were apprehended in the USSR than in February. Germany and the UK led that list, followed by Italy, France and the US. The covert team presence in Turkey had climbed to 19, so that mission too should soon switch to political influence in anticipation of a later coup attempt.

    CQwejv.jpg
     
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    Chapter 43: April 1948

    Introduction

    With the crucial Western Front at a virtual standstill during March 1948 and Allied unit numbers heavily outweighing those of the USSR, a fork in the hypothetical road was reached. In this ‘branch’ of the alternate time line of the AAR, rather than coming to armistice terms with the Allies at the end of March based largely on the status quo, the Soviets decided to fight on. Human control down to division level will be used in all key combat zones, but in return the difficulty rating has been set to very hard.

    The AAR itself will no longer record the detailed stats for all battle and air raids casualties as had been the case previously, nor for intelligence operations. We’ll just follow the action in each front and see where it takes us. We will cycle through the theatres as previously, finishing with the main fight on the Western Front, which will include any intelligence or diplomatic developments with Spain and Turkey.

    Note: A reminder that the map symbol colour scheme has been reversed from its original format, so that Soviet/Comintern units and actions are now marked in red and the Allies in blue.

    ******

    General

    The first effect to note of the switch to the very hard setting is that it takes 25% off industrial capacity. Fortunately, by that stage supply demand had decreased and would largely remain lower for the rest of the month.

    zqGqlx.jpg

    The combat effect was to imposed a 40% penalty on all land, sea and air units.

    ******

    1. China

    By the morning of 3 April, the Red Army had broken out of ComChi, territory outflanking the NatChi defenders. The lead 15 Mot Div (MD) ignored Xi’an and made straight for the Chinese capital of Chengdu, hoping to cause the Chinese some severe supply problems if it could be captured quickly.

    JBzi0q.jpg

    81 MD, following up, took Xi’an early on 6 April and they too made for Chengdu in support of 15 MD.

    Chinese bombers made their first appearance on 8 April, hitting Wienan. But they only caused 17 casualties in the first raid and even though a few more would be killed in sporadic raids in the coming days, it was never enough to warrant a VVS response: all the INT had long been sent to the west and the only fighters in theatre were escorting the bomber wings operating out of Beiping, which were active throughout the month pounding Chinese positions.

    The first Chinese INT sighting came on 15 April, one wing briefly tackling the escorted VVS TAC group over Xinyang (1x M/R, 3 x TAC). They did little damage and sustained far more themselves, not disrupting the bombing mission. They were only seen one or twice again.

    Chengdu fell to the bold Soviet dash late on the 15th, with huge supply and fuel dumps seized. After this point, the Soviet supply situation improved radically and built quickly without any more new supply production being required as the month drew on. Meanwhile, the Soviet encirclement of the Chinese forces on the northern frontier with the at-truce Japanese occupied China swept east, with one Soviet division attacking from the eastern end of the line from Japanese territory. The Chinese establish their new capital in Changde.

    8Zvc2I.jpg

    Just over three days later, the encirclement of China’s northern border army was complete as the Soviets began to squeeze into a smaller and smaller space while also pushing down to its west towards Ankang and Chongqing.

    ZI4ar4.jpg

    By the afternoon of 20 April, the battles against the Chinese were becoming noticeably heavier, for example the Soviet victory at Wanxian, just north of Chongqing, south-west of the border pocket (Soviets 694/16,992; China 629/7,323 killed). Two days later, another hard battle was won at Shangcai, within the pocket, with heavy VVS support (Soviets 632/15,948; China 777/13,750 killed).

    The Soviets closed up on Chongqing on 25 April and began a difficult cross-river attack against a single Chinese infantry division with 81 Tank Div and 239 MD (progress 31%). Combat there would continue until the end of the month.

    At 2300hr on 27 April, the final battle to eliminate the border pocket began in Zhoukou. The battle would last until 0700hr on the 30th, with 420/48,456 Soviet troops killed, 2,081/22,383 Chinese killed in the ground fighting, more from the air and the remainder taken prisoner.

    By month’s end, great progress had been made in China, where there were fewer enemy troops than anticipated and only a few Allied (French) bomber wings appearing late in the month in support. They were up against the Soviets’ most experienced and battle-hardened army, in circumstances where the devolved tactical control could help to overcome the tactical penalty now being applied.

    Xj0OGG.jpg


    ******

    2. Central Asia

    Tracking west, the situation in Central Asia started bad and continued to deteriorate throughout the month. On 5 April, the full-strength but badly outnumbered 30 Tank Div was attacked in Karshi. They were soon under heavy pressure and would eventually be forced to retreat, opening up the western flank of Stalinabad.

    MN3IPE.jpg

    At 0900hr that same day, STAVKA requested the forces of Mongolia and Sinkiang, neither of which had shown any interest in the Chinese campaign so far and were now not needed anyway, to rally units to Angren, just east of Stalinabad, if willpower and infrastructure would allow. No great hope was held, but it had to be tried: the Allies were certainly benefiting from their minor Asian supporters on that front.

    The air base at Stalinabad got its level three expansion at midnight on 20 April: once fully functioning, it would be able to fully support the two Soviet and one Mongolian wing based there. The construction team was rolled straight into level four works.

    On the afternoon of 23 April, the first cooperation of VVS and Persian fighters was recorded over Kerman, where the VVS INT group out of the new base at Cheshme had responded to a (rare this month) RAF ground attack. The bad news was that it meant the fighting had finally come in range of Persia’s old fighters based to the south.

    227ig4.jpg

    The Cheshme air base got its level two expansion on 28 April, with level three commenced immediately.

    ******

    2. Middle East

    Each side traded blows over the Suez canal over the month, but neither managed to pull off a crossing, though both came close at different points.

    A second RAF attack on Romani on 13 April prompted the (largely repaired) VVS fighters based in Israel to respond, but despite causing significant damage to the RAF planes, 7 IAD was badly cut up, forcing the VVS to break from the battle early lest the wing was destroyed [the effect of the 40% penalty was really felt in the aerial combats this month across the board].

    fZAhuU.jpg

    7 IAD was detached and the other two wings returned to the fray that evening but they could not make any real headway against the well-protected RAF bombers. By the time they returned to base at 0100hr the next morning, 32 IAD was down to 20% strength and zero organisation, with 125 IAD at 68% strength and about 60% organisation. The whole group was rested for repairs with the infantry defending Romani having to be left to bear any further RAF raids unprotected.

    By 15 April, 16 Tank Div had replaced the defeated guards division in eastern Syria and was trying to push into Ash Shaddadah, the temporary Syrian capital. But [under the new combat penalty and two nasty terrain debits] even a single leaderless Syria militia brigade was able to put up a credible defence against a Soviet medium tank division, even though 16 Tank Div would be taking very few casualties.

    L3c9xu.jpg

    It took until the morning of 20 April for Ash Shaddadah to be taken and again, as in China, a large stock of supplies and fuel was found.

    tvbQtO.jpg

    Overall, the Allies made broad gains in Central Asia over April, in both eastern Persia and into Soviet territory north of Afghanistan. The Soviets made some small and strategically rather insignificant gains in Syria, where they were trying to hold the Middle East and wrap up Syria with a skeleton force. The forces sent from the Middle Eastern, Northern and Western Fronts earlier and then in April had a long trek to make it to the Central Asian Front and only a couple of divisions had arrived that month – not enough to stop Allied progress, where at least one front line French armoured division had now been sighted in southern USSR.

    5qZIlQ.jpg


    ******

    4. Northern Norway

    The Norwegian Front had once more subsided into a minor theatre, with at least half of the large Allied army there already defeated and captured, the rest demoralised, out of supply and fleeing into the Norwegian ‘infrastructure trap’. Most Soviet forces began redeploying south during April, with only a couple of small corps left behind to do the slow and laborious tidy up. The TAC group based in Murmansk was also relocated to the Western Front and the STRAT groups in Oulo would start doing logistic bombing runs in northern Poland before long.

    Most skirmishes resulted in either no casualties or fewer than 20 on each side at the most. On 5 April, the Allies were pushed out of Lakselv without loss, while the bulk of their remaining troops retreated towards in from the north-east. Those remnants would be encountered there in dribs and drabs over coming days, sometimes fighting briefly, usually fleeing without shots fired.

    By 26 April, Lakselv and then Hammerfest to its north had been taken, with most of the remaining Allied units and HQs having been taken prisoner by then, but 38,685 enemy in five divisions still needing to be pursued south to Alta from there, where they were attacked again on the 27th.

    0AZ9ae.jpg


    ******

    5. Western Front

    5a. 1-12 April: On the Back Foot

    As usual, the heaviest and most important action, militarily and diplomatically, occurred in Europe, on the Soviets' Western Front. It began early, with a coup attempt launched in Spain by the local Soviet-backed Communist Party at midnight on 2 April 1948. To the chagrin of Moscow it failed, with all Soviet spies and most of its covert teams wiped out.

    S2IeR4.jpg

    Giving it up as a lost cause, the diplomatic influence mission in Spain was also ended, with the leadership effort directed into rebuilding reserve spy capacity.

    As a result of the tactical difficulties applied to balance the change to distributed operational command, Soviet units across the Western Front were at a sudden disadvantage. And unlike in China, there was no real room to use the increased initiative now possible at division, corps and army level.

    In fact, the month that was meant to bring about the new Soviet offensive in northern Poland heralded a series of Allied attacks on Soviet lines in the west. One example was at Osterode, where even superior Soviet numbers and prepared defensive positions were not enough to give them the advantage against first line French armour and German infantry.

    OMg6mN.jpg

    There and elsewhere along the Polish front from Danzig to Lwow, the Soviets would spend much of the month rotating troops in and out of the line to desperately hold positions or to counter-attack (where feasible) after they were lost. It was becoming more and more like the WW1 Western Front every day.

    Another big enemy attack began on Jaworow on 3 April, which would be the start of a Somme-like Allied offensive in the Lwow sector in coming days. The battle for Jaworow was lost at 0500hr on 4 April (2,474/26,996 Soviet; 309/106,306 Allied ground casualties) and it was occupied at midday.

    aQxzvP.jpg

    The new Soviet tactical penalty also meant the Allied air forces were a lot more competitive and their greater numbers and the heavier wear and tear on VVS aircraft gradually began to erode Soviet air superiority in coming days, though in the first half of the month heavy Soviet air strikes for both defensive and offensive missions were maintained. But their INT capacity was quickly reduced, with the Luftwaffe in particular being able to strike more and more freely in Prussian and northern Poland and the other Allies elsewhere as the month wore on.

    This was followed by a heavy loss in Osterode that evening.

    I9GeWz.jpg

    A counter-attack on Jaworow was mounted at midnight on 5 April, hoping to evict the initial Allied occupiers before they could consolidate and dig in. But the Guards and tank divisions sent in made little progress and heavy Allied reinforcements could be seen approaching just to the north.

    lkKu6n.jpg

    Later that morning, with Jaworow unlikely to be regained (though the attack continued), the salient to its west in Sanok was deemed untenable and the two divisions there began to withdraw at 0700hr.

    Osterode was occupied by the Allies at 1300hr on the 5th but a big Soviet counter-attack was already heading towards them, striking an hour later. Despite outnumbering the single defending Allied division by more than five-to-one, progress was disappointing [some of which may have been from an over-stacking penalty as well]. An Allied spoiling attack on Ostroleka did not help either. The Soviets would have to grind it out, while air support was also called in.

    12ox6W.jpg

    By the end of the day, the Allies had hugely reinforced Jaworow – more than the Soviets had been able to even after more divisions from Sambor were thrown in – and the now hopeless counter-attacked was halted.

    lB4jfS.jpg

    The ten new missile batteries were organised by the morning of 6 April and were brought forward from Moscow to be well within range of the front line.

    gzxUrc.jpg

    The counter-attack on Osterode was proceeding well by 1300hr on 6 April [74%], even after all the Ostroleka divisions had been withdrawn to concentrate on their own defence and decrease the confusion caused by overcrowding. The single French light armoured division had not been reinforced and was now fading steadily.

    Unfortunately, the extra focus on defending Ostroleka came too late and the battle ended in a heavy Soviet defeat by 1900hr that evening. The very stepping-off points for the proposed Soviet offensive were being lost, even after they had been heavily reinforced in preparation for the attempt.

    SoijpF.jpg

    But in part to aid the counter-attacks now or soon to be under way and to help a possible future Soviet offensive, the missile strikes on infrastructure in four Allied provinces began on the morning of 7 April. It was hoped this in turn would make Allied resupply and field repairs more difficult. The initial effects were fair, but not quite as devastating as had been hoped.

    9jHYtQ.jpg

    But at least in Osterode, victory came three hours later, even after they had managed to slip in another division for the defence (857/104,024 Soviet, 1,301/29,698 Allied casualties).

    Two more infrastructure missile strikes were launched later that morning, which hit home even as the Allies took Ostroleka. These would be followed up with a program STRAT logistic raids from the four wings based in Oulo and two in Konigsberg.

    6n0qt1.jpg

    At 1900hr on the 7th, a large Allied attack [-55% initial progress] began on Marienwerder from Brodnica and Grudziadz (thus not across the Vistula River) that would last for the rest of the month in a massive meat-grinder of a battle. The Soviets would repeatedly rotate new units in for broken ones in a desperate defence, while the Allies did the same, later being forced to attack across the Vistula as the days dragged on.

    An assessment of Allied supply in front line provinces (including the four hit by the V2s at Grudziadz, Brodnica, Mlawa and Plock) was made that night. It was not enough yet to be causing any Allied combat penalties.

    g4TE33.jpg

    Down in the south on the Romanian border, a heavy Allied cross-river attack on Vendychany could not be resisted, with the battle lost and bridgehead occupied by the Allies on the morning of 9 April. Two Soviet tank divisions which had been on their way already counter-attacked straight away and offensive air support was called in, but the initial odds were difficult.

    eZClvb.jpg

    Another large Allied attack had been played out in Maloryta over the last few days, but here the Soviets were able to hold out, though it had taken numbers around five-to-one in the Soviets’ favour, entrenchments and a river defence to help secure the victory (Soviets 3,805/111,961; Allies 6,395/24,330 killed).

    More good news came on 12 April, with a Soviet counter-attack on Ostroleka succeeding at 0800hr (Soviets 554/43,567; Allies 1,272/37,579 killed). And that evening, some more reinforcements had arrived to help the counter-attack on Vendychany succeed, though it was a bloody fight for the attackers (Soviets 2,783/26,982; Allies 1,795/22,967 killed).

    A Soviet attack on Brodnica – the opening gambit of the delayed and now watered-down planned Soviet offensive in northern Poland – was ended at 1900hr on the 12th after it failed to make progress (Soviets 3,917/45,650; Allies 2,319/34,284 killed).

    In the first 12 days of April, the story had been one of the Soviets under heavy pressure, barely able to retake territory lost in heavy Allied attacks: not about the bold breakout into northern Poland that would allow either a drive on Warsaw or a hook around to Danzig, which ever had looked more vulnerable. The mood in Moscow was general glum, despite successes in China and Norway progressing to mopping-up operations by that time.

    In an attempt to help turn things around and with enough covert operatives now in place, a coup attempt was triggered in Ankara late on the night of 12 April 1948. And this time, it met with success! Sefik Hüsnü was installed as President and Pertev Naili Boratav as Prime Minister, though a number of conservative former regime figures were kept in place, including Ismet Inönü as Chief of Staff, Sükrü Kaya as Security Minister, Sükrü Ögel as Head of Intelligence and Ali Örlungat at Air Force Chief! [Some familiar names there for Talking Turkey readers.]

    lmnUyW.jpg

    Communist Party (PCP) popularity was increased, though certainly not commanding a majority of popular opinion. Turkish alignment [57.77 distant, less than 50 needed] was not quite enough to allow an invitation into the Comintern, but the success of the coup certainly boosted flagging morale in the Kremlin. Unfortunately, the Turks still considered the USSR to be their largest threat, with most of their army remaining deployed on the Soviet border, though with some divisions on the Syrian and European frontiers.

    ******

    5b. 13-22 April: Regaining the Initiative

    Just a day after the coup in Turkey, their diplomatic alignment was quickly moving in Moscow’s direction [down to just 51.99 distant]. Then the next day, a message was received from the Turkish Embassy in Moscow that they were now amenable to being invited into the Comintern.

    There was a short debate in the Kremlin about whether to call them in straight away or wait for a while. Perhaps some Soviet forces could be used to help bolster Turkey’s European defences. But there was now just one garrison division left on the Soviet border with Turkey, the Middle East theatre had been stripped bare and the ‘victory dividend’ troops from Norway were not only earmarked for the failing Central Asian theatre, but were weeks away from being available anyway. Meanwhile, heavy Allied pressure in Europe made withdrawing forces from there problematic.

    In the end, Moscow went for the ‘short term sugar hit’ of bringing Turkey into the war, in part to distract the Allies and also in case the opportunity might slip away if left too long. The call to arms was issued and the pact concluded at 0600hr on 14 April. Turkey then immediately declared war on the Allies.

    n44ZEo.jpg

    At the same time, with spy number rebuilt over recent days and with the encouraging success of the Turkish coup, an entire team of ten spies was reintroduced into Spain.

    The Turks reported their current dispositions upon entering the Comintern. It confirmed that the bulk of the army remained deployed along the Soviet and Syrian frontiers. They had some defences in place around the Sea of Marmara and a division in Izmir: the rest of the army would clearly take days to make it west. But the Allies had obviously not been expecting this move and had no forces deployed along the European border.

    dIXylt.jpg

    By 0800hr that morning, the vast majority of Turkish forces in the east were on the move towards Istanbul. At 2200hr, the Soviets sent a cable suggesting defensive positions be arrayed along the European border, in Istanbul and Gelibolu-Canakkale. Even though Sofia looked open, STAVKA did not rate the chances of Turkey being able to take it quickly. Their judgement would be vindicated even more quickly than they had anticipated. [No ‘R.A.W.’ blitzes from a hardened and modernised Turkish Army in this ATL, even though its 1948 and they’ve had 12 years of peace to prepare.]

    By the evening of 15 April, a significant number of Allied divisions could be seen beginning to head south from their lines along the Hungarian and Romanian borders. The distraction seemed to be working!

    In the northern part of the front, Soviet attempts to press forward were meeting with heavy resistance, including in the air. By the morning of 16 April, increased Allied INT concentrations had required most Soviet INT groups to be pulled off line for repairs, putting greater pressure on the INT and M/R escorts for the TAC, CAS and mixed bomber wings. The three STRAT groups had been operating for a couple of weeks with near impunity to increase the infrastructure damage to the three frontier provinces in northern Poland previously hit by those missile strikes. By 0800hr that morning they all had to be pulled off line as well after taking some heavy damage (one STRAT wing was reduced to 8% strength and nearly destroyed).

    Early on the 17th, ever greater numbers of Allied divisions were seen streaming south towards Turkey – and the lead elements were making rapid progress, with some already approaching southern Romania. But even with those withdrawal, their line remained far stronger than the Soviets’ all along that sector. And Allied attacks remained regular including the continuing Lwow offensive, ensuring the Soviets could not switch any forces easily. Though another large Allied attack on Maloryta was heavily defeated at 0700hr on the 17th (Soviets 1,172/59,170; Allies 7,645/32,982 killed).

    A Soviet defensive victory was won at Osterode at 2000hr on 18 April (Soviets 2,170/67,313; Allies 4,406/24,780 killed), but almost constant Allied attacks across the sector made any Soviet attacks difficult, sometimes impossible to launch and when they were, Allied spoiling attacks soon followed from other troops stationed nearby (at that time, in Marienwerder, Ostroleka and Zambrow, for example, even with the Osterode attack defeated).

    By 1000hr on 20 April, the first Allied divisions (at least four, including Australian marines under French command) were first seen on the Turkish European border. At 1100hr, a Soviet attack on Brodnica from Osterode, made after it was freed up to do so by its earlier defensive victory, was called off with no good progress being made and the troops in Marienwerder still unable to support it (Soviets 1,704/21,726; Allies 1,005/34,158 killed).

    A few days later, at 1100hr on 22 April, the largest Soviet victory of the month was won after the long defence of Zambrow (just south-east of Ostroleka): the parallels to WW1 were becoming ever more relevant (Soviets 8,180/80,786; Allies 14,272/92,549 killed).

    ******

    5c. 23-30 April: A Reality Check

    A day later, a big Allied river-crossing attack went in on Sambor (south of Jaworow, west of Lwow). Here, the Soviets had four divisions dug in, in forests and behind a river. They had hopes of holding this position, but initial Allied progress was strong [-57%] and both sides had air support available, with VVS attempts to drive the Allied bombers off unsuccessful and the Allied force including three medium and one heavy tank division to over-match the Soviet light armour and AT guns in Sambor.

    Over Marienwerder, the VVS tried to contest heavy Luftwaffe raids with a reconstituted and largely repaired group of three INT wings early on 25 April, but the Allies mustered six German and Czech fighter wings and ended up inflicting enough damage on the Soviet fighters that they had to withdraw after two dogfights and let the German TAC have their way with the still hard-pressed defenders, who had now been under constant attack for weeks. Many of the other VVS escorted bomber wings (many with two INT, M/R or a mixture allocated directly) by this time were wearing out and also had to be withdrawn for repairs under heavy Allied fighter pressure.

    By 1300hr on the 25th, the first Allied inroads had been made into Turkish territory and a very large column of enemy divisions was spotted approaching from Burgas in Bulgaria. Alarmed, STAVKA initiated ground strikes from the hitherto very successful 3rd Tac Group based out of Sevastopol, which had inflicted tens of thousands of casualties in Romania and had been rested recently for just such an intervention.

    oKwOUr.jpg

    In addition, a large but somewhat desperate diversionary attack was launched on Dorohoi with forces that had been gathered for a possible limited offensive in north-east Romania. Despite attacking from three directions with almost double the forces, an armour advantage and with some Allied units suffering supply problems, even this partly thinned enemy line showed no early signs of buckling, with entrenchments and, on two of the flanks, a river to defend behind.

    DMAOs3.jpg

    Early on 26 April, the air support for the Dorohoi attack had to be cancelled after Allied fighters savaged their escorts (44 IAD M/R reduced to 46%, 129 IAD-PVO INT wing almost wiped out, to just 1% strength). But the Soviets pressed on in Dorohoi [now 62% progress]. Despite the fact that by then, the Allies had begun spoiling attacks on Radauti and Chotinu. The Soviet response was to double down, by throwing another five divisions into a cross-river attack on Soroca, from where one of the Allied spoilers was being mounted.

    Unfortunately, the VVS bombing of Burgas had run into problems. Masses of Allied fighters rose to contest it and the accompany INT group out of Sevastopol, which had ben sent for some added protection, was ravaged: 47 IAD to 32%, 105 IAD-PVO to just 4% strength by the time they were hastily extracted at 0600hr.

    At that stage, the large Allied offensive was making rapid gains against Turkey, with an estimated eight divisions engaged in European Turkey and at least another 20 rapidly approaching through southern Bulgaria. Stalin now had a cold chill running down his spine.

    The mood was not improved that evening when the defence of Sambor had to be called off (Soviets 4,137/44,989; Allies 1,983/51,736 killed). This despite more troops having been thrown into the defence and an initially promising Soviet spoiling attacking being made on the huge Allied force in Jaworow, from Lwow with Guards and armoured divisions earlier. That was also halted (Soviets 1,678/28,992; Allies 1,589/103,546 killed) and Sambor was lost to the Allies at 2000hr.

    This news was balanced a little at midnight on 27 April with another huge defensive victory in Ostroleka (Soviets 6,347/74,968; Allies 10,042/64,396 killed). The thin hope in this sector was that exhausted Allied troops could be counter-attacked quickly with the freshest of the Soviet defenders.

    This was done with a four-division purely infantry Soviet attack on Mlawa at 0300hr from Ostroleka. Of the five defending Allied infantry divisions (a mix of German, Belgian, Italian and Polish troops), three were significantly disorganised after their own recent attack. Another parallel to WW1’s Western front. At that time, Marienwerder was still under heavy Allied pressure [-66%] while the Soviets in Osterode were both attacking Brodnica [41%] and being attacked from Mlawa [-51%]. The attack on Mlawa was designed to both spoil that and see if a gain could actually be made on the month’s starting positions.

    But – of course – within an hour a new Allied spoiling attack on Ostroleka was launched from Brok infantry divisions from Poland and Greece plus a Dutch cavalry division! Not their strongest line up perhaps, but still a distraction.

    The Soviet garrison division on Turkey’s border had been put on trains to Istanbul as soon as they joined the Comintern but was still a good way off. As a longer term move, a mountain division in Prussia was entrained at 0200hr on 28 April and dispatched to the mountains of Kandira, two provinces east of Istanbul, with a German SS division now on the outskirts of the great city and only one Turkish infantry division there to try to defend it.

    Drohobyscz, south of Sambor, had been isolated by its loss and was subsequently abandoned. The Allies attacked soon after but the Soviets kept retreating, the much fought over Drohobycz falling at 0800hr on the 28th. In better news, the Allied spoiling attack on Osterode was defeated (albeit rather bloodily) at 1500hr that afternoon (Soviets 2,317/71,954; Allies 1,313/12,991 killed), allowing the Soviets to concentrate more focus on their attack on Mlawa.

    The Allied pressure stayed on in central Poland, with another ‘WW1 attrition style’ attack going in on one of their favourite targets, Maloryta (south of Brzesc Litewski) beaten back again with heavy losses (Soviets 1,094/49,886; Allies 5,867/26,952 killed) at 0700hr on 29 April. On the other hand, a battle to retain Skole was given up at the same time when it became clear it could not be held [-85%] and the casualties were mounting (Soviets 1,185/16,992; Allies 305/49,966 killed). By then Stryj to its north [-58%] and Krasne north-east of Lwow [-65%] were also under sustained Allied attack, as the vice tightened on Lwow itself.

    A new Soviet attack with five mainly armoured and mechanised divisions hit a mixed bag of four Allied divisions in Ostrow at midday on 30 April [33%], in part to see if the latest enemy attack on nearby Ostroleka [-64%] could be relieved. Marienwerder looked to be nearing defeat [-82%], but the attack on Brodnica was progressing reasonably [69%].

    The Allied attack on Lwow started at 1500hr, with four Allied armoured and two infantry divisions (German, French and Italian troops) attacking five well-prepared and full strength Soviet divisions, (two tank, one Guards, two infantry) entrenched and with city fortifications. Even so, initial Allied progress, with the attack coming from three directions, was quite strong [-44%]. To rteleive some pressure on Krasne, a cross-river spoiling attack had been put in on the Allies in Zolkiew [52%] from the east.

    In general, the posture in this sector was to slow down the enemy advance and try to hold a new river defensive line with Lwow anchoring its north-western end. But the Allied pressure seemed unrelenting and they seemingly had many divisions still in reserve.

    The news came like a hammer blow in Kremlin at 1600hr on the last day of April 1948: Istanbul had fallen to SS troops. Gelibolu was in the hands of an Italian mountain division, but Canakkale was still in Turkish hands, to block a crossing of the Sea of Marmara there. Near Istanbul, Üsküdar remained undefended though, meaning the Allies could possibly slip across the Bosporus without a fight.

    But there was even worse news: far worse, in fact. It seems the Turkish coup earlier in the month had considerably sapped Turkish national unity, unrecognised by the Kremlin. So badly that it seemed just the loss of Istanbul would be enough for the new government to collapse and for Turkey to surrender to the Allies!

    PHxnuA.jpg

    In retrospect, the apparent benefit of finally, after years of trying, getting Turkey into the Comintern camp had backfired horribly. The greatest diplomatic stroke of recent years could well have sounded the death knell for the entire Soviet war effort. The Allies, with vast numbers of divisions to spare, may now soon be able to pour through Turkey freely.

    At this point, a significant minority of my internal electorate wanted to scum load back to before the Turks were brought into the Comintern so this whole situation could be properly managed. But apart from all the time played since, I decided it would not be in the spirit of the AAR and my game-play policy, so the temptation was manfully resisted. Part of me still regrets that. ;)

    And the Soviets had nothing close to form a new defensive line somewhere in the Caucasus, with troops that might be spared still distant and already earmarked for the defence of the imperilled Central Asian Front. Few if any troops could be spared from the Polish, Hungarian or Romanian sectors. Even where troops numbers were greatest in Prussia and northern Poland, some defences there were still sorely tested, Soviet attacks were making slow headway if any and the VVS was substantially grounded. Trying to retrieve troops from the Far East would take months.

    The Kremlin was now seriously considering making a hasty peace deal with the Allies for an immediate in-place armistice, before midnight came and the imminent collapse of the Turkish government became clear to the Allies. Basically, the return of occupied territory in Norway, Prussia and China would be traded for the preservation of Turkey and the return of its European enclave and a pledge of supervised free elections there within a year, plus the return of Allied-occupied land in Central Asia. Afghanistan and Romania would fall into the Allied sphere, while all recently enforced Comintern conversions in Asia and the Middle East would be preserved. The Sinai would be handed back to Egypt, where once the Soviets had hoped to make it a DMZ.

    This decision to seek an immediate armistice would need to be taken before midnight and the dawn of the auspicious first day of the next month: May Day.

    In the final hours of 30 April, the Soviets won a tough attacking victory in Brodnica (Soviets 3,466/42,764; Allies 6,395/52,616 killed) at 2200hr, while they had also won in Mlawa earlier in the day. So a possible limited advance in northern Poland strengthened their bargaining hand with the Allies and showed they were still capable of inflicting damage on the Allies where it counted. Brodnica was strongly occupied an hour later, but Marienwerder was on the verge of succumbing to the Allies [-87%], which an attack from Brodnica on Grudziadz might avert, but at the risk of squandering any further breakthrough opportunity.

    In general, the peripheral gains in northern Norway and this last gasp occupation of Brodnica were the only gains (other than retaking of seized provinces) the Soviets made in the West all month. The Allied offensive in the Lwow sector had gained a handful of provinces. But otherwise, despite both side trying a tens of thousands of casualties on both sides, these were the only changes in the line all month.

    xw8ILW.jpg

    After some setbacks earlier in the month, the Soviets had slowly reclaimed two lost provinces then advanced tentatively into northern Poland, but remained under severe pressure in Marienwerder and could no longer rely on the air superiority it had developed in recent months.

    nZYELm.jpg

    From central Poland to Romania, fighting had been hardest in the Lwow sector, where the Allies had slowly rolled back strong Soviet defensive positions and now threatened Lwow itself. The diversionary attack on Dorohoi was not making meaningful progress and it had led to Radauti now coming under threat of loss. The attack would prove useless if the war continued and Turkey surrendered, and redundant if an armistice was declared.

    qo7S29.jpg


    ******

    6. Research, Industry, Intelligence and Strategic Matters

    Eight research projects were completed in April 1948, including the whole new INT upgrade program. In most cases, new projects were still aimed at doctrine, training and technical areas that would not over-inflate equipment upgrade costs, which had come back down somewhat to 136 IC by the end of the month, even with the INT upgrades working their way through.

    8p1Ozy.jpg

    As the month ended, the USSR had four atomic bombs and 290 IC total production. In addition to the 136 IC upgrade bill, 57.48 IC was being spent on reinforcements, 17.4 IC on essential consumer goods and 79.12 IC on production. The supply stockpile remained maxed at 99,999 and fuel was at 70,363 after windfalls and returns to stockpile over the course of the month, so there had been little or no expenditure on supplies for some weeks.

    Some more convoys had been lost earlier in the month, but those had now been reduced to minimal levels. A few RAF strategic bombings had been conducted earlier in the month but then discouraged by VVS INT in Sevastopol – the same fighters later devastated in southern Bulgaria in an attempt to aid the Turks.

    The Allies retain 14/15 of their (game assigned) assigned victory conditions, the Comintern just 4/15.

    ******

    Feedback Sought

    I know this update has been a little long (what with the end notes as well) and involved, but the vast majority of detail has been left out. The fighting in the West was epic and more widespread than the major battles I picked out to mention and the air war fierce. The campaign in China great fun and more complicated than it looked in summary. I also wanted to give a thorough enough feel for what the new combat vibe was like: more flexibility but a heavy difficulty setting penalty. Then there was the pleasure of the successful coup in Turkey, followed by the epic horror of its denouement: the new regime was destined to last less than three weeks!

    Anyway, this is not a vote but I would value the readership’s views on both my game predictions (see endnotes below for those interested) and whether you think it’s now time for a peace with honour (on the basis detailed a little earlier in the narrative). Or to damn the torpedoes and fight it out, in which case the chapter treatment will indeed be cut right back, which I held off doing for this first one under the new game settings. Over to you guys.

    So, dear readAARs, it is pretty much as I had expected. Allied numbers were just too big for much to be done in the West, especially after the very hard setting emboldened the Allies to start attacking early and not letting up, on the ground and in the air.

    The logistic missile strikes in the west did less than hoped, while human direction in China allowed us to run riot somewhat there, though they are starting to firm things up a little and China’s interior can be notoriously hard to negotiate. However, the broader war is not going to be won or lost there.

    The coup in Turkey was a poisoned chalice in the end, and I botched their entry into the war, though that was in part from the circumstances. If I’d had a nice army nearby on the border, I’d have considered just negotiating military access (presuming they’d have agreed) and delayed getting them into the Comintern. But I had nothing much to send them anyway: I thought now or never and misjudged how quickly the Allies would send so many troops south.

    And then also, I hadn’t checked to see the effect of the coup on Turkish NU, thinking they probable loss of Istanbul would still allow the rest of their army to come west in time to keep them in the war and divert the Allies. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that a coup of that nature would lower NU, but duh, I’d never executed one before, so didn’t think of it. And I did want to try the mechanic out.

    Now, the Allies, with all their excess numbers, may well pour through Turkey (which itself will be in a truce with the Comintern), with the Middle East, Central Asia and even the Caucasus left badly vulnerable. Stopping the bleeding will probably mean any thoughts of more offensives in the West are but pipe dreams, unless we trade time and ground in the south for possible (rather fanciful) knock-out blows first against Poland and then Germany, via Warsaw/Danzig and Berlin. But with the profusion of Allied forces and now the very hard setting, I don’t think that is at all likely.
     
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    Chapter 44: May 1948
  • Bullfilter

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    Chapter 44: May 1948

    Introduction

    After some soul-searching following the last chapter, here we go again with a third phase of adjustment (having acknowledged stalemated losses against the venerable Allied AI in normal difficulty/AI Army control and then very hard/full human army control). Now, having seen the USSR backed into a difficult position in the West and with Turkey unexpectedly on the precipice after the loss of just Istanbul, we will see how we do from here with normal difficulty and human army control … and just a little cheese ;)

    Note: I finished the session at the end of 30 May after another of the regular game crashes, so as not to re-boot again after just a day’s more play. 31 May will be tacked onto the start of June 1948. I’ll continue the practice of only reporting major battles (relative to each Theatre). There were some heavy air raid casualties on both sides, more caused by the VVS as the month wore on and they recovered somewhat, but I’m not counting them any longer. Overall, there was more to report than I had anticipated, so the overall chapter length remains at previous levels (long), but the whole month is covered.

    ******

    1. Turkey and the Middle East

    An urgent cable from Ankara revealed the new pro-Communist President of Turkey, Sefik Hüsnü, to be in a panic. The loss of Istanbul to the Allies on 30 April was threatening to see his entire regime fall after barely three weeks in office. In order to boost Turkish resolve, Stalin immediately promised a massive economic injection of lend-lease, a large force of Soviet divisions (some diverted from travel to Central Asia, the rest from the Western Front) to assist the Turks resist an Allied breakout, the automatic approval of all Turkish trade requests and the promise that the Turkish claims on Iskenderun would be enforced, and finally that Syria would be made a Turkish puppet state after its conquest [will enforce this by map edits if/as necessary on conquest]. Soviet air power would also continue to be deployed out of Sevastopol in support of Turkish defensive operations.

    wQLzde.jpg

    This deal [with +2 NU for every IC provided in LL] was accepted by the Turkish Government, reassuring the general population and giving them renewed will power to fight on. [So they got +40 NU via a save game edit and, as a house rule, if that amount is reduced, then a commensurate subtraction of NU will be applied the same way.] The ‘May Day Deal’ would keep Turkey in the war for now, but had no effect on the fighting itself – Turkey could still fall to the Allies, but this would now require the bulk of its key cities to fall first.

    The three divisions just approaching the north of the Caspian Sea by ra,il headed for the dire Central Asian front, were redirected to Ankara as part of this deal. The diversionary Battle of Dorohai in northern Romania was halted immediately (Soviets 2,302/96,950; Allies 3,264/44,268 killed), with two fresh divisions from there also placed straight onto trains and sent to Ankara. At 0400hr on 1 May, the nearby Battle of Soroca was also halted (Soviets 2,981/46,983; Allies 2,456/31,810 killed), which would soon allow more troops to redeploy to Turkey.

    The aid being sent to Turkey now equalled the entire amount being spent to maintain Soviet consumers goods supply and reduced the amount then available for the production queue from 120 to 100 IC (340 IC total economy, with the bulk being spent on upgrades and reinforcements).

    By 0900 on 1 May, VVS air raids revealed an SS and a powerful French mechanised division were in Istanbul. An Italian alpine division was attacking across the straits at Canakkale, while other Allied infantry divisions were approaching through European Turkey. By that evening, Greek TAC was bombing Canakkale and the bulk of the Turkish Army remained distant from the front. The 11 wings of the Turkish Air Force were based forward at Eskisehir and the fighters at least had clearly already been in action against the Allies. Two more Turkish TAC were based in Ankara (the other three wings shown were VVS aircraft reserve-hopping north via Ankara to southern Russia).

    Nj2meJ.jpg

    By 1000hr on 3 May, the Allies were across the Bosporus and advancing on Kandira against no opposition as the VVS TAC based in Odessa hit them relentlessly, day and night, every day.

    By 4 May, Turkish industry had been well boosted by the Soviet LL [IC base 21 +20 LL = 56 IC after tech, leader and legislative bonuses]. This left new production of 23 IC after the Turks fully supported their upgrade, reinforcement, supply and consumer goods requirements. They had a manpower reserve of 134,000 men.

    The Allies were across to Canakkale by 9 May and had expanded their breakout from Istanbul. But 158 SD had arrived at the VP location of Düzce and started to dig in, the first new Turkish divisions were beginning to filter in from the east and a small garrison had been established in Izmir.

    M5WhMC.jpg

    The situation in Syria was as complex as ever, with the Turks having begun to secure their interests and the Soviets trying to tidy things up using one armoured division and a couple of slow-moving garrison divisions (the rest having been sent to Central Asia previously). It needed to be wrapped up to stop diverting Turkish forces from the main fight against the Allies, but that would require every Syrian province to be occupied.

    GyaRJZ.jpg

    The first ‘free’ Turkish trade request, for energy supplies, was received and honoured at midday on the 11th. The latest Syrian capital of Al Raqqah (!) was taken on 13 May as the Allied invasion of Turkey gradually expanded.

    T3T3N2.jpg

    Another Soviet symbol of support came with the arrival of HQ 3rd Corps in Ankara on 17 May, establishing itself ahead of the influx of divisions slowly making their way from other fronts to assist the Turks.

    By 21 May, the Allied bridgehead in Asia Minor had linked up, stretching from Kandira in the north-east to Edremit in the south-west. At least 13-14 Allied divisions could be seen as Turkish units continued to draw closer to the front.

    On 24 May, two RAF INT wings were mauled after tangling with the VVS over Tarakali, the bomber group 92 x M/R, 2 x TAC) being reinforced by their INT support (2 x INT) also based in Sevastopol. Izmir [1 VP, Turkey to 67% surrender progress] was lost to the Allies on 26 May, while the last two vessels of the Turkish Navy (the BC Yavuz and a DD flotilla) were almost destroyed by a 6 x NAV RAF port strike on Antalya, where they had tried to take cover.

    By the evening of 28 May, the Allied advance was still creeping forward while VVS and Turkish fighters combined over Cukurhisar to take on Allied TAC being escorted by a French CAG wing. Meanwhile, the first wave of six Soviet divisions transferred from the Romanian Front had all passed onto Turkish territory.

    Un1Iae.jpg

    In Syria, the long-running Battle of Buhayrat al Asad was won by the Soviets on the morning of 29 May (706/8,000 Soviet; Allies 1,717/9,994 killed). At the end of 30 May the Allies continued to push the Turkish army back, more quickly now in the south than the north, where Düzce still held – it hadn’t been attacked yet. Sixteen Soviet divisions were in various stages of transit to Ankara, including three mountain divisions that had been combed out of various Western Front sectors in recent days.

    PjsKPR.jpg

    Turkish Front summary as at 2300 hr on 30 May 1948. NB: the top group of units on the right is closer to Ankara than the bottom one.

    ******

    2. Central Asia

    The poor state of affairs in the sector north of Afghanistan continued, with Cheshme – thought to be far enough behind the lines when the new air base was built there – now under a powerful attack by two French divisions at 1000hr on 3 May. The Soviet infantry and cavalry divisions trying to defend it were already in some trouble, despite their elastic defence [-68% progress at start].

    The defence was failing by 2200hr the following day, after the French added a third division to the attack. The three VVS INT wings were evacuated to Stalinabad and the defenders pulled out north-east before they were completely disorganised (Soviets 1,574/15,987; France 499/36,189 killed). The infrastructure, air base and radar builds there were cancelled at Cheshme was eventually occupied by the French early on 10 May.

    The VVS CAS wing in Stalinabad was in constant operation against the French armour in Turkmenabat for days. Then on the 12th, the recovered 30 Tk Div, which had pushed forward to Samarkand to secure the northern flank of Stalinabad, essentially massacred an Indian attack (a rare with in that sector) and then immediately counter-attacked them in Navoi.

    RQE5bF.jpg

    It would take until 20 May to win the victory in Navoi and occupy it, but it was another heavy defeat for the Indian infantry (Soviets 120/9,997; India 1,495/12,440 killed). But at 1800hr the same day, 183 SD was thrown out of Tedzhenstroy (just west of Cheshme) after a hard battle with more than three times as many French and Indian troops (Soviets 1,250/8,998; Allies 1,169/34,740 killed).

    But as the month drew on the line on the Soviet border with Persia was stabilising as a few new divisions arrived from the Middle East. A victory in the desert at Ashgabat on the 26th saw the Indian advance halted, for the time being by 1 Tk Div (Soviets 163/9,000; India 981/9,000 killed).

    As the month ended, the enemy advance had largely been halted in Persia and slowed down a little in the Soviet border area, as the first northern reinforcements approached. Stalinabad held firm for now and had not been attacked.

    VQaJMP.jpg

    Central Asia summary as at 2300 hr on 30 May 1948.

    ******

    3. China

    China was finding it very difficult to contain the highly experienced and heavily equipped Soviet Far Eastern Army as it drove in on them mercilessly from the north, including through neutral but Comintern held Japanese territory. Two VVS bomber groups were continuously active throughout the month. By midday on 1 May, the Soviets were celebrating a May Day victory in Chongqing, which they captured an hour later after a difficult river crossing assault that had taken some days.

    0AsaTF.jpg

    The next major objective was the new capital of Changde, with the first step coming with victory at Yichang (two provinces to its north) on 2 May (Soviets 174/23,904; China 1,095/8,999 killed). By 0400hr the next day, 8 Tk Div was in Enshi and advancing on Changde from the north-west, which was guarded by a Chinese militia division. A victory was won by 2100hr that night, but it would take a few days for the tanks to complete their advance.

    To the north-west of Chengde, the Chinese line was being pushed back in some fairly heavy fighting (for this theatre), first at Tianmen (Soviets 355/24,291; China 1,797/13,990 killed) at midnight on 5 May, then to its immediate south at Xianning at 1000hr (Soviets 34/31,990; China 772/19,993 killed), in an attack from Yichang. That evening, a new battle started for Changde, with an Chinese infantry division defending against two Soviet tank divisions with an expert ambush that completely counteracted their attempt to break through.

    The VVS was called in, but the defence remained stubborn. Two days later, Changde was under heavy pressure but still resisted [+79%], with a separate Soviet attack in Jinshi to its north. The Jinshi attack succeeded at 1400hr on 8 May (Soviets 91/15,949; China 714/5,714 killed). The second battle for Changde was not won until 1100hr on 9 May after further Soviets reinforcements were added from Enshi (Soviets 124/33,993; China 1,205/7,999 killed). Changde was soon occupied, dealing a heavy blow to Chinese national unity.

    XmQMOm.jpg

    In the mountains to the west near Chongqing, the advance was heavy going. The battle of Fuling was won on 10 May (Soviets 296/45,982; China 811/11,175 killed). The Chinese defence in this area was all by regular infantry divisions defending mountain strongholds, which took time to blast out (and the mountains, poor infrastructure and enemy territory was often causing 3% attrition to regular Soviet units).

    North-east of Changsha (the next VP objective south of Changde), victory came in the key forested province of Yueyang on the afternoon of 14 May (Soviets 113/31,977; China 886/16,596 killed). It was soon occupied and this assisted in seeing victory in Changsha that night and its occupation by 2300hr.

    ksHpLN.jpg

    This pushed China to the brink of surrender, but the next nearest VP city was at Guiyang, which would require fighting through rough terrain from the Chongqing-Fuling line. Operations to the east were slowed down somewhat as most available formations in the Chongqing-Changde sector were thrown at an overwhelming drive on that last objective.

    Meanwhile, a few days later a determined French attack attempted to retake Changsha but was finally defeated early on 18 May (Soviets 201/23,906; France 1,582/12,984 killed). Other Soviet attacking victories came to east Changsha at Zhuzhou (Soviets 260/24,984; China 1,067/7,904 killed) and to its south in a tough mountain battle at Hengyang (Soviets 656/31,989; China 687/32,447 killed) over the following day.

    Another interesting battlefield report came on 25 May, with a defensive victory in Liling (on the eastern edge of the advance) against a US Marine division fighting under Chinese command (Soviets 255/17,000; US 936/9,992 killed).

    But there were only minor skirmishes in the west as the Soviets advanced on Guiyang, 81 MRD taking the mountain stronghold at 0800hr on 29 May. At this point the Chinese leadership sent emissaries to negotiate a surrender [80% occupation v 73.2% NU]. For now, Chiang Kai-Shek still headed up a right-wing Nationalist government, with NU at about 44% and the standard two-year truce with the Allies.

    qw5ugR.jpg

    The bulk of the Soviet Far Eastern Army began to advance on its newly won coastal concession through now neutral Chinese territory, with their sights set on Hong Kong and the narrow border with French Indo-China, plus some mopping up of Allied units in eastern China. But a large swathe of divisions in the west of the sector were put on trains and began the long trip to Central Asia, where these veteran troops should eventually make a big difference.

    P4Srj0.jpg

    China summary as at 2300 hr on 30 May 1948, with arrows showing the advances that had been made up to the armistice at midnight on 30 May.

    ******

    4. Norway

    This sector was now just down to chasing and mopping up the last Allied divisions running out of places to hide. Alta was taken on 5 May, after which three more divisions were put on trains for Central Asia, leaving just two to root out the remaining unsupplied enemy formations (about four or five divisions).

    There was a short skirmish in Suolovuopme on 12 May, after which the chase would continue on towards Kautokeino – from which there would be no more escape (it is the end of the navigable territory, with low infra surrounding it to cut off any more escape).

    y4M8b8.jpg

    On 22 May Suolovuopme was taken and the final act of the northern campaign began. The 2nd Indian Division surrendered that evening as 25 SD attacked Kautokeino, 7,733 prisoners taken without further fighting. The rest of the Allied forces were still on the road from Suolovuopme and would likely be encountered piecemeal as they retreated in early June.

    ******

    5. The West: Lwów-Romania Sector

    As we saw earlier, the Soviet diversionary attacks on the northern USSR-Romanian border were called off early on 1 May as a number of divisions were also diverted to that front. A defensive stance would be maintained in the Romanian sector for the rest of the month.

    The heavy Allied pressure around Lwów continued into May 1948. The first battle resolved on 1 May was an expensive Soviet defensive victory at Krasne, just north-east of Lwów (Soviets 4,397/34,988; Allies 2,532/19,377 killed). A Soviet spoiling attack on Zolkiew (from where the attack on Krasne had emanated) continued and would be won on 2 May (Soviets 2,944/57,652; Allies 4,253/44,617 killed), with Zolkiew retaken at midday.

    The frequent Allied target of Maloryta (between Lwów and Brzesc-Litewski) was successfully defended again at midday on 2 May against an under-powered assault (Soviets 366/49,560; Allies 4,928/22,848 killed).

    The tough defence of the exposed Radauti was finally abandoned at midnight on 3 May to help shorten the line following the transfer of troops to the Turkish front (Soviets 4,006/25,932; Allies 3,003/40,400 killed).

    A huge Allied attack on Lwów itself was defeated on 5 May with heavy enemy casualties (Soviets 1,015/45,076; Allies 6,774/165,550 killed). But at the same time, a victorious Allied attack on Zolkiew (directly north of Lwów, briefly retaken by the Soviets a few days earlier) threatened to open another attacking flank on the key city (Soviets 3,212/34,509; Allies 2,717/36,161 killed). It was taken two hours later.

    On the southern end of the ‘Stanislawow Salient’ centred on that air base, the mountains of Jablonow proved a frequent Allied target after the Soviets were forced to withdraw from Radauti early in the month. The first major attack was beaten of on 7 May (Soviets 1,594/15,994; Allies 2,516/21,581 killed).

    With the loss of Skole, Stryj was the next target to come under Allied pressure. A concerted Soviet effort to hold it lasted for days, but the task proved beyond them. A retreat of the final defenders across the river was ordered on the evening of 9 May. Its loss a couple of hours later would put increased pressure on both Lwów and Dolina.

    Hg6Qxi.jpg

    Dolina fell to the Allies by the evening of 10 May, signalling the start of a major attack at 1900hr on the large and very busy air base of Stanislawow (10 capacity, fully occupied with active air groups), which the Soviets would also try to hold with four well-entrenched divisions.

    Two days later, the defence of Stanislawow continued but was starting to wilt [-55% progress], but a major defensive victory was won in Maloryta, at great Allied expense (Soviets 258/50,626; Allies 5,208/21,986 killed). However, that evening the situation in Stanislawow deteriorated rapidly and it clear the big air base could not be held. The wings were ordered out to new bases and the last defenders ordered to retreat to Kolomyja, where other troops would be sent to try to establish a defence to preserve the now reduced cross-river ‘Jabolonow Salient’, while the rest of the tired divisions went to strengthen the new river defensive line south-east of Lwów.

    dlpq3A.jpg

    Stanislawow fell at 0100hr on 15 May and by the following day had eight Allied wings in place (repair capacity 8.25 after damage taken during the battle). But no V2 strike was ordered then, as the Soviets hoped to retake it some time in coming days or weeks.

    By 19 May, a strong defence had been established in Kolomyja while the Allies battered away at Jablonow in a large attack, which again resulted in a Soviet victory at 1100hr (Soviets 909/15,517; Allies 1,971/47,400 killed).

    Things remained quiet along the rest of the sector as the Allies once more stubbornly hammered away at Jablonow, taking even heavier casualties when they were defeated again on 24 May (Soviets 741/14,874; Allies 3,007/35,717 killed). Yet another attack was beaten back there late on 30 May (Soviets 534/14,003; Allies 1,240/27,781 killed).

    Strong Soviet river defences around Lwów had proven a good deterrent against further Allied advances in the sector, though the loss of the heavily developed Stanislawow air base had been a bitter blow. Also, a small but steady flow of assorted Allied divisions had been seen heading south to the Turkish front during the month, perhaps detracting from further Allied attacks in Romania, but increasing the threat on that new southern flank.

    f7sRww.jpg

    Lwów-Romania sector summary as at 2300 hr on 30 May 1948.

    ******

    6. The West: Prussia-North Polish Sector

    6.a Contest for the Initiative, 1-11 May

    We now come to the crucial sector for WW3: the Soviet effort to break down Poland, to sow chaos in the Allied lines and open up the way to Berlin. This campaign had taken a blow in April 1948 with Soviet tactical disorganisation (ie very hard difficulty setting) when ‘devolved responsibility’ (ie full human army control) was applied at the front. It had also seen the previously dominant VVS badly damaged with most wings having to be taken off line for rest and repair.

    The first battle resolved on May Day 1948 was the massive fight in Marienwerder that had persisted through much of April, both sides throwing in forces to rotate through the battle. It had come to resemble the WW1 Battle of Verdun more than anything else, with the addition of heavy defensive and offensive air support from both sides on and off. By the time the Soviets finally lost that morning, ground combat casualties alone well exceeded 30,000 for both sides combined in a battle that had involved over 270,000 men over its duration.

    Yxh60n.jpg

    In another similarity to WW1’s Western Front, no sooner had the Allies taken the province than a prepared Soviet counter-attack using largely fresh units in Allenstein launched a big counter-offensive. Victory would come at 1500hr that afternoon (Soviets 254/50,718; Allies 1,218/8,446 killed), before the Allies could reinforce it. The Soviets retook the key province at 0500hr the following morning.

    Another defensive victory came at 1100hr on 3 May at Ostroleka (Soviets 3,144/62,122; Allies 5,404/71,918 killed), despite repeated and uncontested Luftwaffe ground attacks (most VVS INT groups were still off-line at this point). Battlefield intelligence at this time indicated that Poland and Germany were having supply problems, while the French had plenty of supply but were now in a manpower deficit.

    Despite continuing Allied attacks on Brodnica and a new attack on Ostroleka, the Soviets were attempting to regain some initiative with a shock attack on Grudziadz from Marienwerder at 2100hr on the 3rd adding to a well-progressed [92%] assault on Mlawa, both designed to spoil the Allied attack on Brodnica, which sat between them.

    By the morning of 4 May, Soviet CAS (1 x M/R, 4 x CAS) was back in the air to support these attacks, but was intercepted by the French (3 x INT) over Przemysl, the VVS escorts taking some heavy damage. But the battle to defend Brodnica had been won (Soviets 2,208/36,172; Allies 1,676/25,702 killed).

    Things remained very active on both sides on 5 May, with the Soviets winning attacks on Ostrow and Mlawa at 0300hr, while the Luftwaffe struck Marienwerder and Brodnica with impunity and a new attack had been made on the latter from Plock. The Soviet attack on Grudziadz continued, with good progress: the battle would be won by 1500hr (Soviets 1,675/47,287; Allies 2,045/51,040 killed) and occupied by 1300hr the following day.

    S5QEbc.jpg

    With the latest attack on Brodnica brushed off, the Soviets attacked the tired Allied troops in Plock at 0200hr on 7 May, where only one of the assortment of six defending French, German, Italian, Belgian, Bulgarian and Greek divisions had any appreciable organisation left.

    But the Allies were not willing to surrender the initiative easily: at 1000hr on 8 May they launched a major attack to regain Grudziadz with three divisions each from the powerful German and French armies. This would become another of the ‘meat-grinder’ battles along the Vistula in the west of the sector.

    The Allied attack was supported by a heavy Luftwaffe bombing mission, which the VVS sought to prevent, even though their INT wings were not yet fully operational again at that point. The Germans then escalated, sending in another six INT wings of their own to add to the escorts already on station, resulting in a huge air battle.

    zsUamp.jpg

    In better news, to the east the attack on Mlawa was won handsomely at midday (Soviets 1,810/77,079; Allies 4,774/38,330 killed) and it was occupied an hour later. The battle had been won easily a short time earlier, meaning a slow Soviet push towards the northern bank Vistula above Warsaw was now on, though against heavy Allied opposition. During this period, VVS bomber groups (CAS, TAC and mixed) were re-entering the fray, but German fighters still regularly opposed them, so strong escorts were vital.

    No major results or moves were reported during 10-11 May as the fighting in Grudziadz continued and the Soviets attempted to consolidate recent gains and divisions conducted post-attack reorganisation and a new attack on Plock had to be organised after a fresh Allied division managed to insert itself.

    ******

    6.b The Drive to the Vistula, 12-18 May

    The second clearing attack on Plock was won at 2300hr on 12 May (Soviets 279/32,245; Allies 1,245/8,982 killed). Mlawa and Ostroleka now had large Soviet build-ups, though some divisions were still reorganising as they prepared to renew the Vistula Offensive.

    The next phase began just after midnight the next morning against a mix of fresh and tired Allied defenders in Modlin, where they had the advantage of old set fortifications to aid them, balanced by some units being in poor supply. Plock had been occupied first by 7 Tk Div, so they joined in from the flank to support the main attack mounted from Mlawa. Even so, the Allied attack on their western flank at Grudziadz was gaining ground, threatening the advance.

    t3DgDn.jpg

    By the evening of 14 May, the battle for Modlin had been won and the province occupied. Reinforcements had arrived to bolster the defence of Grudziadz, though its defence was still in peril. And a new attack was unleashed to broaden the advance into Pultusk from Mlawa and Ostroleka.

    f02wUM.jpg

    The air war continued to be hard, with an attack on Torun to provide defensive air support for the imperilled Grudziadz suffering heavy damage from 3 x German INT wings, even though the two VVS TAC wings involved had two INT wings escorting them and another two were then called in. The mission would have to be aborted.

    The attack on Pultusk had been won by the morning of the 16th, so this was followed up by an attack on Brok to its immediate east from Ostrow, the aim being to secure the whole northern bank of the Vistula on a four province frontage.

    As frequently happened, the attack on Pultusk had to be renewed at 0200hr on 17 May when the 31st Canadian Division slipped in to set up a hasty defence, slowing down the Soviet advance. But the battle for Brok was won and it was occupied by 0600hr the same morning, leading the Canadians in Pultusk to call off their hasty defence at the same time, with the lead Soviet 14 Tk Div completing the occupation of the northern river bank from Plock to Brok.

    While the Soviets began to build up and reorganise their forces on the northern bank of the Vistula, the bombing of Warsaw began. It was a cruel necessity, as the city had just begun to rebuild some of its infrastructure after the nuclear strike on it earlier in the war. The only battle currently in progress in the sector was at Grudziadz, where the Soviets had managed to stabilise their perilous position through constant troop rotations.

    eJwPr1.jpg

    But even as the attack on Grudziadz continued into 18 May, a new Allied attack across the Vistula on Elbing began, accompanied by heavy Luftwaffe air raids the VVS was largely unable to prevent [-49% progress]. This would turn into yet another WW1-style meat-grinder battle as the days dragged on, even though the Soviets defended behind a river, fully entrenched and with local fortifications.

    ******

    6.c The Battle for Warsaw, 19-30 May

    An Allied attack on Pultusk had prevented the now reorganised formations there from launching any attack of their own until it was defeated at 1300hr on 19 May. The troops were now free to attack and the much-awaited attack on Warsaw itself began just an hour later.

    4hqajJ.jpg

    Divisions from Modlin and Pultusk would participate, though some were held back to prevent more serious overcrowding than was already occurring. And it would be a difficult assault, the tactical odds heavily in the Allies favour, while the Soviets had greater numbers, better supply and continuous air support. The Allies had increased the pressure on Elbing, to which the Soviets would have to divert troops that had been earmarked to support the Warsaw Offensive, while Grudziadz was not yet out of the woods either.

    An analysis of the factors applying in this battle showed that for the defenders, only one French division was out of supply [-50%]. Three were entrenched [from +2-20%] while overcrowding was a small problem [stacking penalties 7-10%].

    For the Soviets, the biggest problem was the river crossing [-42.5% for a division with engineers attached, the rest a 50-62.5% penalty]. The urban terrain was also a real problem [38.5-60% penalty], as was overcrowding [15% stacking penalty]. It would be a test of numbers, morale and persistence for both sides.

    A typical Soviet air raid caused around 600-630 casualties, three times a day, throughout the battle. These were not generally contested by the Allies.

    The Allies launched a spoiling attack on Pultusk early the next morning, while the attacking odds in Warsaw remained low [just 19% progress]. In reply, the Soviets in Brok launched their own spoiling attack on Praga at 0400hr on the 20th and also called in air support. Meanwhile, at 1000hr the vicious attack on Grudziadz was finally called off by the Allies. The odds in Warsaw had deteriorated a little over night and the defence of Elbing remained in peril. The Soviet concentrations in Brodnica, Osterode and Mlawa were made up of recovering troops weakened and disorganised in previous fighting, principally in Grudziadz and Marienwerder earlier in the month.

    6iPff6.jpg

    The spoiling attack on Pultusk was defeated at 1600hr that day, but the odds for Warsaw gradually sank further [down to 15%], though the Allied troops had started more disorganised than the Soviet attackers and suffered from constant air attack.

    At midday on 21 May, some tired divisions were culled from the Soviet attack on Warsaw, which at least removed the stacking penalties as reserve formations sought to reinforce the front line. More fresh troops would be rotated in later, as the need arose. The situation in Elbing was deteriorating [-78% progress] as under-strength INT were again sent in at 1800hr to try to discourage the Luftwaffe bombing runs.

    22 May brought victory in Praga at midnight (Soviets 809/40,616; Allies 1,682/77,881 killed) and its occupation would open up another flank on Warsaw, even if still across the river from the east. Two hours later, in Warsaw all the committed Soviet divisions had reinforced the front line, but progress was even slower [13%]. Praga was however taken at 0700hr by two tank and a mechanised division.

    With the skies again being contested by VVS fighter groups, two hotbeds of French and German air operations were identified in Breslau and Stettin, previous rocket targets where facilities had been largely rebuilt, though both were overcrowded with aircraft. Both were flattened again that afternoon, by two of the few remaining rocket batteries, which should make the sustainment of Allied strikes on targets in Prussia or interception of Soviet raids along the Vistula a more difficult proposition.

    5LysGm.jpg

    The Allies were not done in the west of the sector, with yet another though smaller diversionary attack on Grudziadz defeated at 0600hr on 23 May (Soviets 349/24,155; Allies 2,887/17,583 killed). The fighting in Elbing ground on [-62%] as sometimes only partly recovered divisions were cycled through the defence.

    Then at 1100hr, the three armoured divisions in Praga had finished reorganising and joined in the attack on Warsaw [16%] from that eastern flank. The Allied defenders were beginning to tire and one division had now pulled out, with the Praga flank attack boosting the progress somewhat when it hit home at midday. An hour later, the Allies countered with new spoiling attacks on both Modlin and Praga.

    8xHKtK.jpg

    The Soviets countered that soon afterwards with a multi-flank attack on Siedlice to take the pressure of Praga, though it was disadvantaged by being entirely across rivers into a forest (which is why nothing had been launched earlier).

    v4SUHI.jpg

    Progress in Warsaw was improving by 2100hr on the 23rd [31%], but Elbing was beginning to fail again as more troops were desperately despatched to assist the failing defence and the Allied spoiling attacks on Modlin and Praga continued.

    It took until 1800hr on the 24th for the Praga spoiler to be defeated. Only three Allied divisions were left in the front line of the Warsaw defence by 2000hr [41% progress]. At 1000hr the next morning, it was only two (Italian mountain troops and a French light armour division), but both retained reasonable organisation. The grinding assault continued thus, with just the French tank division left in the fight by 0000hr on 26 May [about 50% org] and no new Allied reinforcements having been brought in to assist them.

    The Allied spoiling attack on Modlin was finally defeated at 0500hr on 27 May with heavy Allied losses (Soviets 349/66,892; Allies 4,544/24,867 killed). At the same time, the increasingly expensive Soviet spoiler on Siedlice was also called off (Soviets 1,900/59,683; Allies 1,891/35,606 killed). The final shot was fired in Warsaw at 1900hr that evening and the city occupied by the lead troops of 189 SD an hour later.

    f8Gzhf.jpg

    It was once again in complete ruins after the ground fighting and bombing had destroyed any initial repairs made after its previous nuclear devastation. The Polish will to fight was sapped but was as yet quite far from failing. A large Allied fuel dump was discovered, which should eventually aid the falling Soviet fuel stockpile which recent global operations had caused to shrink considerably.

    One of either Kraków or Danzig would at least have to be taken to force a Polish surrender (short of another nuclear strike, which Stalin was loath to launch) and maybe some other reduction of their national unity to force them over the edge. A high price had been paid for Warsaw, but it was now finally in Soviet hands.

    28 May was spent building up forces in the Warsaw bridgehead and others in Modlin reorganising after the attack, while preparatory air strikes began on Tomaszów, which was designed to expand the bridgehead and also prepare the way for an attack on Lódz, which was at present still lightly defended.

    The attack on Tomaszów came at 0500hr the next day and found all the defending multi-national Allied divisions in varying degrees of poor supply and disorganisation, many having only just retreated from Warsaw. They only resisted for ten hours before breaking.

    3yTs1H.jpg

    Tomaszów was occupied by 14 Tk Div and 218 MRD at 0900hr on 30 May, allowing troops to start crossing the Vistula from Modlin as well.

    The month had seen some very heavy fighting and heavy casualties. As it ended, the Vistula-Warsaw offensive had been the greatest Soviet success on the Western Front since early in the war. The Soviets began gathering forces and reorganising for the next phase while the Allies pecked away at the flanks, the battle for Elbing now stabilised but not yet over and Allied formations flowing into Lódz. The VVS had grown in operational capacity during the month and was now operating widely and without heavy Allied opposition. It was theorised that supply problems and air base strikes, plus returning VVS fighter strength, had started to turn the tide in the skies again.

    N5ue7i.jpg

    Prussia-Northern Poland sector summary as at 2300 hr on 30 May 1948.

    Overall, in the West, Turkey and Middle East, Comintern and Allied advances had largely balanced themselves. Syria was a side-show and losses in the Lwów sector could be absorbed with ground traded for time if necessary. The two crucial sectors remained the grinding offensive in Poland and the attempt to stop the collapse of Turkey.

    noKjEe.jpg


    ******

    7. Research, Industry and Strategic Matters

    The new Yak-15 INT wings were completed during the month, deploying on the Western Front for work-up training on 3, 7 and 20 May. A new heavy infantry division deployed in Allenstein on 9 May and would later be thrown into Elbing – and spat back out again – before it was fully ready.

    S4KDbn.jpg

    On 11 May, three new rocket batteries (V2s) were put in the production queue.

    Five technical advances were made during the month, with the next 1948 research upgrades begun on infantry equipment. Other new research was directed at doctrine improvements, given the pressure on IC expenditure.

    kko9Uc.jpg


    ******

    8. Espionage

    On 4 May, a full team of ten spies was sent into Poland, where their starting NU was determined to be 60.9%. They were all in place by the 5th, with six Polish teams identified and the Soviet mission set to counter-espionage.

    By 10 May, steady losses were being taken in Poland, strength down to eight agents with just two in reserve. But with the offensive in Poland beginning, some progress in disrupting NU was desired, so the mission was switched 100% to that task.

    But from 11 May, both Polish and foreign Allied teams (including from the infamous and prolific Guyanese Intelligence Service!) were taking a heavy toll on the mission. On 12 May it was the Egyptians taking out Soviet agents. More of the same followed on 13 and 14 May, with the Soviet mission down to six agents (none in reserve), the Poles up to seven and an undetermined number of other Allied agents messing around. The Soviets were withdrawn from active missions and numbers rebuilt.

    By 29 May, KGB strength in Poland was back up to ten, with a reserve of five: the estimated Polish strength was back down to five agents, so the NU disruption mission was revived. The next day, the continuing Spanish mission remained at full strength after one agent lost during the month. The rebuilding of the covert ops teams saw seven now to hand, readying for another future coup attempt. Spanish Communist Party strength stood at 22%.
     
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    Chapter 45: June 1948

    Note: This update also covers 31 May, which was omitted from the last chapter … another long chapter, but a whole month of major action on many fronts has been included.

    ******

    1. Turkey and the Middle East

    A foolhardy carry-over attack by the Egyptians over the Suez on Români was called off at 1500hr on 31 May (Soviets 78/14,988; Egypt 724/8,999).

    The Turks and Soviets (who retreated first, so no report) lost the battle to hold the VP province of Düzce late on 31 May as the Allied breakout spread out into Anatolia.

    d61Q2U.jpg

    Tadmur, the last unoccupied province in Syria, was taken at 0100hr on 1 June by 16 Tk Div. They were strategically redeployed immediately to Ankara, along with 9 Tk Div. Syria formally surrendered at the beginning of 2 June, completing the Soviet campaign to take the Middle East and puppet their governments.

    NbqPZL.jpg

    The following evening, the Syrians optimistically announced they were mobilising ‘and would soon have a strong army’, but would remain at truce with the Allies for two years.

    The first division of the main Soviet redeployment to Turkey arrived in Ankara at 1000hr on 9 June. They were ordered straight to the plains of Gerede and ordered to defend it as Turkish forces fell back in front of them from the Allied onslaught in the mountains around Mengen and Bolu.

    But they were not quick enough: The German 1. Infanterie occupied Gerede at 1100hr on 11 June and 7 Tk Div attacked [52% initial progress], to prevent the Allies gaining access to Ankara. Gerede would be fought over fiercely for the rest of the month. The Soviets would find victory at 0800 on 13 June (Soviets 163/7,998; Germans 432/8,994 killed).

    The French took Güdül, south of Gerede and also bordering Ankara, on 13 June. By then, 209 MRD had arrived in Ankara. They counter-attacked the first-line 1ère Cuirassiers at 1200hr, but broke off straight away when the fight proved too one-sided (Soviets 31/8,991; France 0/10,620 killed).

    A more deliberate Soviet attack on the 1ère Cuirassiers in Güdül was soon prepared by 209 MRD (Ankara) and 23 Tk Div (recently arrived to the south in Polati), which went in at 0300hr on 14 June. Victory was won after two and a half days of hard fighting at 1800hr on 16 June (Soviets 1,232/24,998; France 899/10,863 killed).

    A serious Allied attack had gone in north-east of Gerede on a recently arrived Soviet motor rifle division in Orta [-61% progress] on the morning of 14 June. 7 Tk Div had won in Gerede and retaken it by 0700 on the 14th, but was still reorganising so could not yet spoil the attack on Orta by hitting Karabük, but the VVS TAC group in Sevastopol pounded away at the enemy attackers there day and night.

    By the evening of 16 June, the southern half of the front, which was entirely manned by the Turks, was steadily retreating through the mountains of southern Anatolia, falling back towards Antalya on the southern coast, like a door swinging shut on the pivot point of the southernmost Soviet division holding just south of Ankara.

    In the north, by the morning of 17 June, the Soviet line was beginning to solidify, building from the south in Gerede up to the Black Sea coast north of Ankara around Küre and Daday to the south of that. It was a race as German infantry and panzer-grenadiers closed on the same places from the south-west.

    The Soviets retook Güdül at midnight on 17 June after their earlier victory. The battle for the defence of Orta was won on the night of the 17th after another Soviet division arrived to reinforce. And 7 Tk Div defeated a German attempt to retake Gerede by 1000hr on 19 June. The race to shore up the northern part of the line, a little reminiscent of the ‘Race to the Sea’ in Belgium in August 1914, was drawing to its final stages.

    Duu6Nl.jpg

    By 1700hr that evening, the two Soviet divisions had reached the mountains of Küre and Daday and began digging in as the Germans closed up to the front of them. As that was happening, a group of three (partly worn out) Luftwaffe INT wings made their first recent intervention against the VVS bomber group based in Sevastopol, over Bolu.

    After something of a lull in the Soviet-run sector over the next few days, a Soviet attack was put in on the morning of 23 June to close a gap in the line that had be created by an SS division in Aksehir after the earlier defeat of its Turkish defenders. It was retaken on the evening of the 24th, only for German heavy panzers to counter-attack the following evening. 9 Tk Div would fight hard, but ultimately be forced to retreat by the morning of 28 June (no battle report).

    wQkJpg.jpg

    Meanwhile, the Germans had attacked Orta again, but that too was defeated by 1100hr on 25 June (Soviets 880/23,992; Germans 2,132/8,926 killed).

    The Turks were defeated in the mountains of Yunak on 27 June and the Soviets decided the location should not be surrendered, as it was the anchor point between them and the Turkish sector in the south. A counter-attack was put in by 47 Mtn Div and 139 SD at 1500hr that afternoon against the German 196. Infanterie.

    But as the battle for Yunak was being fought (and eventually won by early on 30 June), the Allies were beginning to reassert the pressure against Güdül and Gerede in the centre, west of Ankara. The fight for Güdül would be lost by 1200hr on the 30th, with a Soviet spoiling attack on Beypazan (begun on the evening of 29 June) called off an hour later. The battle by 7 Tk Div to hold Gerede was still in progress as the month was ending.

    csLcRZ.jpg

    Yunak was attacked again by the Allies on the 30th, with fighting there and in Gerede continuing as the day ended, with the situation in the latter starting to deteriorate for 7 Tk Div. In the south, the Turks were now falling back on Alanya, as the line shortened. Just in case, a Soviet garrison division had been stationed back east in Adana since earlier in the month, after the surrender of Syria.

    AyaBsW.jpg

    A large portion of the German Army and a number of French units were now committed to this front, which was causing the Turks in particular problems, but it had also sucked in the Allies to stripping many units away from the main Western Front, where the Soviet hammer was striking again.

    ******

    2. Central Asia

    An initial radar station was completed in Stalinabad on 4 June and the next level commenced immediately. This was followed by the first hard land fortifications on 6 June, with the next level again begun.

    The building program at Stalinabad was interrupted by the loss by the Iranians (defended by an exiled Afghan militia division serving under their command) of the air base and port of Bandar e ‘Abbas on the 6th – the only remaining Comintern air base anywhere near that sector of the line. A hasty counter-attack by the Soviet 7 HArm Div from Jiroft was quickly called off when it showed virtually no prospect of success due to the terrain.

    o2hXFR.jpg

    The Stalinabad air base was built to level 4 on 8 June and the expansion continued. If it could be held, it would form the jumping off point for an eventual counter-offensive to regain lost parts of the USSR and Afghanistan.

    On most of the front, the line remained largely static up to 13 June, when the new 31 Tk Div (LArm, 3 x mech, 1 x SP RArt) was deployed in Tashkent (just north of Stalinabad). A deployment on the Western Front would have been preferred, but this sector was the most threatened and the investment in Stalinabad needed to be protected until reinforcements arrived.

    And by late on 23 June, with no more ground lost, the divisions sent from the distant Northern Theatre did start to arrive, with 23 SD getting off the trains in the desert at Gazli.

    As the month ended, little had changed in Central Asia and a few more divisions had slotted into the Soviet part of the front. And the first forces from Sinkiang, responding to an objective set weeks before by the STAVKA, had finally crossed over into the USSR, heading for the Central Asian Front. Further behind them, some Mongolian divisions followed and behind that, those sent from the Soviet Far East Theatre after the fall of China.

    cgBSQy.jpg


    ******

    3. China

    Following the collapse of China and the ceding of territory to the USSR on its southern coast, the bulk of the Soviet Far Eastern Army was rushing down to Hong Kong, while Allied forces based in the French concession in Zhanjiang – British and US Marines – started to fan out to occupy the undefended concession. Hong Kong was being held by a US 13th Airborne Division under British command. And a couple of US airborne division was holding in the now neutral port of Fuzhou, while a marine division was making its way south inland.

    China made its pro-forma mobilisation announcement on 2 June, but nothing useful could be expected from them for another two years.

    While looking at the French expanding north from Zhanjiang, the port of the main Japanese fleet was discovered in nearby Kaikou. It included 8 x CV, 3 x CVL, 1 x BB, 3 x CA, 5 x CL, 9 x DD and 1 x SS.

    By 17 June, the Soviets were ready to attack Hong Kong – and in doing so discovered its ‘garrison’ was another of those ghost airborne divisions that ‘wasn’t there’. It was taken unopposed. By that time, Soviet ground forces were beginning to push back the two advance Allied divisions west of Hong Kong, with heavy air support. Hong Kong itself was occupied at 2200hr.

    Zhanjiang itself came under assault late in the month after the initial Soviet quick attack was halted and then counter-attacked by 52ème Div. Zhanjiang was then hit from the flank late on 27 June, leading to the sortie on Maoming being defeated on the morning of 28 June. By the end of 30 June, more Soviet divisions had caught up. Some reinforced the attack on Zhanjiang, while others prepared to head along the jungle towards the border with French Indo-China.

    exmuPF.jpg


    ******

    4. The North

    The month saw the final mopping up of the previously large Allied presence in northern Norway. The last five Allied divisions and HQ were trapped in Kautokeino and surrendered without a fight when attacked early on 5 June. Almost 39,000 more prisoners were taken.

    qz4mo0.jpg

    One Soviet division stayed to occupy the last provinces in the northern Norwegian ‘infrastructure pocket’ while the other began its long redeployment to another theatre. That mopping up was finished on 28 June and the last division in the north began redeploying to Kirkenes, where it would remain as the sole northern garrison.

    ******

    5. The West – Lwów-Romania Sector

    This sector remained quieter in June, though the Allies kept trying to take mountainous Jablonow at the tip of the cross-river salient. The first attempt was defeated late on 1 June (Soviets 110/13,166; Yugoslavia 1,686/13,558 killed).

    The VVS was called in to help disrupt a new attack on Jablonow that was making ground by 3 June. The Allied response indicated that, although the Soviets generally maintained air superiority in the West during June, the Allies air forces – especially those of Germany and France - often contested the skies. Many VVS wings would be damaged and require rest, while one M/R wing was shot down over Poland some days later.

    VcM3Br.jpg

    The large-scale dogfights over Stulpicani would continue into the next day, with the Allied wings taking heavy damage, but some VVS fighter and CAS wings also needing to recuperate. But the bombing could not prevent the defence of Jablonow failing, with 102 SD retreating to Cernauti at 1000hr on 4 June. This had been anticipated however, with two divisions previously ordered from neighbouring provinces.

    Hz2Eu1.jpg

    The first to arrive was 182 SD four hours later, establishing a hasty elastic defence. After an hour, the Canadian, British and French attackers called off their advance, perhaps due to their poor supply situation and approaching Soviet reinforcements. Jablonow had been saved yet again – though only just.

    Later that evening, STAVKA decided to exert some pressure on Stanislawow, where a massive build up of 22 Allied (mainly Luftwaffe) wings had been taking advantage of the almost fully functional former Soviet air base (9.81 repair capacity). Although the Soviets still hoped to recapture it, such a large and active enemy air presence could not be allowed to continue interfering so easily with VVS operations in the sector. It was struck by a missile (V2) battery and by 2200 hr on the 4th was reduced to just 0.27 capacity.

    The sector saw only minor action on the ground and in the air for the next few weeks, but by early on 22 June, it was observed that the Allied lines from Lwów right through the Romanian border to the Black Sea had thinned considerably. In a number of places, especially south of Lwów towards Stanislawow. In many places, only one or two Allied divisions held the front line. It was assumed some had been diverted to Turkey and perhaps others due to supply issues or events in Poland, which will be discussed in the next part.

    In any case, at 1300hr on 24 June, the Soviets launched an attack to retake Stanislawow and widen the bridgehead lost during the Allied offensive in April and May. The previous garrison of three Allied divisions had been reduced to a single British motorised division, well dug in but essentially unsupplied, it was discovered on contact. The shock of the Soviet attack partly offset the river crossing penalty four of the six attacking divisions suffered, while the VVS had returned to strike their former base. British resistance lasted for just over a day, but they were forced to retreat with substantial casualties.

    x6Z9U9.jpg

    Stanislawow was liberated at 2300hr on the 26th, but the air base would take more repairs before it would be able to effectively host a singe VVS group (2.37 capacity). A determined but futile Yugoslav counter-attack was heavily defeated by 1100hr on 28 June (Soviets 54/17,991; Yugoslavia 1,322/7,992 killed).

    This allowed the next phase of the limited offensive to begin, with a four-division attack from Stanislawow on Dolina starting at 0400hr on the 29th. It ended in Soviet victory by 1600hr the same day (Soviets 162/33,956, Allies 819/9,959 killed) and Dolina being occupied the following day. By then, an new attack on the now isolated Stryj had already begun and was making good progress, with the Allied defenders still suffering supply problems.

    YSwIZN.jpg

    This would be the state of the play as the month ended: the Soviets, whose lines in Romania had also been thinned to help defend Turkey, did not risk a broader offensive there.

    ******

    6. The West - Poland

    6.a The Battle for Lódz

    The main Soviet focus in early June remained on taking Lódz in the hope Poland could be forced to surrender, after both Warsaw and Danzig had been flattened by nuclear bombs and then Warsaw occupied. By 2 June, the long and heavy Allied attack across the Vistula on Elbing continued, sometimes with heavy Luftwaffe bombing support which patchy VVS INT cover could not always prevent. An Allied holding attack on Tomaszów was also preventing an attack from there on Lódz, the next significant Soviet objective.

    At 1000hr on 2 June, four Soviet divisions attacked an equal number of Allied formations in Kutno, east of Torun on the north bank of the Vistula as it bent east. The Allies seemed to have no supply problems there, but two of the weaker minor ally divisions were still almost completely disorganised from earlier fighting and the full-strength British marines and German medium panzer divisions withdrew after only three hours, to the surprise of the attackers (Soviets 83/33,307; Allies 100/35,870 killed). Perhaps they were more interested in setting up a defence on the other side of the river.

    At 1100hr that morning, during the battle for Kutno, the long and bloody defence of Elbing finally ended in a tough Soviet victory, with the casualties reported not including the many taken from air attacks during the defence. Over 20,000 of the over 125,000 troops from both sides that had participated had been killed.

    ON60vh.jpg

    Even before Kutno could be occupied, the end of the spoiling attack on Tomaszów allowed the long-awaited attack on Lódz to begin, four divisions attacking with VVS support. The city looked to be strongly held, with the Allies entrenched and behind fortifications and with no apparent supply problems. Taking Kutno, which presented an open approach to the north of Lódz, was key to widening the attack.

    ZZKbit.jpg

    And the Luftwaffe was not willing to concede the skies over Lódz without a fight either, though a lack of supplies seemed to be impeding their effectiveness, while VVS mission efficiency was reaching new heights after the concerted doctrine development in recent years.

    fuacI5.jpg

    An indicative air battle during the VVS mission against Lódz.

    At this time, Polish surrender progress was assessed as 64.8%, with 40% of their key cities occupied against a national unity of 61.7%. Taking Lódz would bring this to 60% - not quite enough. If NU could not be reduced appreciably by the espionage mission, either Danzig would have to be taken to finish them off, or more … drastic … measures imposed.

    7 MRD rolled into Kutno at 0500hr on 4 June an immediately added its weight to the attack on Lódz, but the odds remained heavily in the defenders’ favour [13%]. By 1500hr that afternoon, one of the attacking divisions had been pulled out of the battle due to disorganisation, while the Allies were down to two divisions in the front line, but both were at full strength – German medium panzers and British marines., with only HQs or disorganised Polish divisions in the reserve line [17%].

    The Luftwaffe remained active over Lódz, with two different groups of 3 x INT wings in operation on 5 June. It forced the VVS CAS group to withdraw for rest and repair after damage to their escorts, replaced by a TAC group (2 x INT, 2 x TAC) from 0900hr. And at 0700hr, a heavy Allied spoiling attack hit Tomaszów in the flank by two French infantry divisions incorporating heavy armour [-54%], though the Soviets held around a dozen divisions there at that time, as tired divisions were rotated out of the punishing attack on Lódz [21%]. This prompted the VVS to hit the attackers in Skierniewice with a TAC group as the assault on Lódz continued simultaneously.

    On the 6th, the Allies also commenced a spoiling attack on Kutno which held five Soviets divisions by that time, with three full-strength but partly-supplied infantry divisions at 0200hr. The attack on Lódz ground on [still 21%]. At 0400hr, yet another Allied spoiling attack on Plock, to the north of Kutno, was defeated (Soviets 138/44,984; Belgium 1,769/7,995 killed), which freed up two divisions that had been trying to cross the Vistula to reinforce Kutno for a few days.

    They arrived later that morning, sparking an end to the Allied spoiler on Kutno (Soviets 157/51,597; Allies 1,598/27,987 killed). And that in turn meant two more divisions could be thrown into the attack on Lódz at 1000hr. Leading to two of the most worn divisions attacking from Tomaszów being pulled back at 1500hr to make room for them to reinforce (and prevent the over-stacking penalty).

    At 0900hr on 7 June, the Allied spoiling attack on Tomaszów was finally defeated, but it had been a bloody affair for both sides (Soviets 2,036/99,175; Allies 3,179/33,975 killed). Lódz still resisted after five days of constant fighting and air strikes, but some progress was being made [33%].

    It was then that the front east of Warsaw sprung into action again, the Allies trying a different way to pressure the stalled Soviet offensive on Lódz [back down to 29% progress]. The two armoured divisions that had been helping to defend the Praga bridgehead had been withdrawn a day or two before to reinforce the Lódz attack: the minute they crossed into Warsaw, the Allies attacked Praga in great force and were soon making progress.

    YA7kPE.jpg

    The two armoured divisions continued onto Tomaszów: taking Lódz must come first. Instead, a big spoiling attack was launched on Siedlce to try to preserve the bridgehead. They were all cross-river assaults, but the shock tactics did counteract that disadvantage a little.

    XoMcrr.jpg

    But the position in Praga proved untenable and a withdrawal was ordered at 0200hr on the 8th (Soviets 1,710/16,988; Allies 435/65,754 killed). The spoiler on Siedlce was also halted (Soviets 636/50,982; Allies 262/42,534 killed). A new spoiling attack on Tomaszów [-52%] had also commenced by that time.

    The air war continued over Lódz [up to 47% progress] on 9 June, as the Luftwaffe sought to stop continuing VVS air raids. On the 10th, the latest Allied spoiling attack on Tomaszów was defeated at 0200hr (Soviets 1,016/111,783; Allies 1,935/19,405) as more progress was made against Lódz [61%]. The Allies reoccupied Praga that afternoon.

    It was not until 1600hr on 11 June, after more than nine days of house-to-house fighting, that the Soviets won the battle for Lódz: of the 123,334 attacking troops that had taken part (many on rotation) 6,353 had been killed. The Allies lost 4,855 out of the 85,845 who had tried to hold the city. The three leading Soviet tank divisions secured Lódz just an hour later.

    DrnD0e.jpg

    As suspected, it was not quite enough to force a Polish surrender. Their national unity had actually increased slightly since the beginning of June, despite Soviet espionage efforts. More stringent methods would be required, as the Allies tried to peck away at the flanks of the Soviet offensive at Kutno and Brok. At that time, Danzig and the three provinces stretching south to Torun were all heavily held by the Allies, sitting behind the Vistula or (as in Torun) in fortifications and forested terrain. The Vistula line had proven impervious to previous major Soviet attempts to breach it.

    At 1100hr on the 11 June, a group of three VVS INT wings established an air superiority patrol over Danzig. When their presence was uncontested, the heavy bombers of 3rd Strategic Group took off that evening from Königsberg to strike the key Polish city.

    j9H3Ya.jpg

    Rather than destroying a still intact city such as Kraków, it was hoped a second nuking of Danzig, which had slowly begun to recover from its previous devastation, would be enough to force Poland out of the war. In the event, it was just enough.

    Poland surrendered at midnight on 12 June, 1948. A previous Soviet territorial claim meant that only the single province of Cesky Tesin (seized many years before from Czechoslovakia, before WW2 began) remained in the hands of the new Polish puppet government. It also took all of the Polish Army out of the war, including a significant number of Allied expeditionary forces, which suddenly became neutral until they could be reclaimed by their parent countries.

    mxZMAm.jpg

    Shortly after the surrender, the Allies (under French auspices) had taken control of many of the provinces that had been technically ceded to the Soviets, given they were under Soviet rather than neutral Polish control. More of those in the rear of the Allied line would be so occupied as the month wore on, though the disruption must have made the Allied supply situation even worse than it had been.

    ******

    6.b The Battle of the ‘Polish Corridor’

    The Soviets now sought to take advantage of the initial Allied disruption following the Polish surrender. Their primary objective became striking west across the Vistula towards Berlin, the seizure of which was vital if the Germans were to be taken out of the war – the original plan when Stalin had first initiated WW3.

    The Allies quickly called off their cross-river attack from Praga on Brok at 0300hr on the 12th (Soviets 337/16,677; Germany 808/17,418 killed) after the two Polish divisions that had been assisting ‘sloped arms’ and began marching south to Cesky Tesin, though the Germans persisted with another from Praga on Pultusk (due west of Brok).

    The forcing of the Vistula began at 0500hr on the 12th, with Soviet attacks on Tczew and Laskowice in a test of Allied preparedness. These were the first of the WW1-style ‘bite and hold’ attacks that would typify the Soviet approach in following days. Despite recent events, there were still too many Allied divisions to allow breakthrough type sweeping offensives.

    hRCvdN.jpg

    The defence of Tczew was strong, but that of Laskowice was surprisingly brief. With the French force withdrawing immediately after barely a fight in the face of a strong assault from Marienwerder and Grudziadz.

    Soon after, an attack was made on Sieradz, to better secure Lódz and widen the Vistula bridgehead to the south. And it seemed the motley Allied defence was unprepared: three divisions were already retreating and took no part in the battle, leaving a largely disorganised Italian division to the mercies of five full-strength Soviet counterparts attacking from Kutno and Lódz.

    nFlYBt.jpg

    Interestingly, a battered Polish division retreating from Lódz had been designated as a Soviet expeditionary force after the surrender. It would later ‘bounce’ back to Lódz from the Allies occupying Piotrkow, then be left to recuperate.

    A preparatory attack on Lipno (on the near bank of the Vistula, south-east of Torun) was launched at 0200hr on 13 June and was won four hours later (Soviets 507/16,900; France 586/8,090 killed). Laskowice was occupied by 55 SD at 1800hr as the assault on Tczew gained ground [50%]. By 2200hr, 136 SD had joined 55 SD and both launched a flanking attack on Tczew, greatly improving the odds [to 79%] by being able to attack over open ground rather than the river assault conducted up to that point.

    The next ‘bite and hold’ target was Kolo, a province jutting west from Kutno and Sieradz (occupied by the Soviets by then). The battle lasted from 0600hr until midnight, when victory came over a group of five Allied divisions from Greece, the UK and Yugoslavia (Soviets 116/25,560; Allies 1,218/34,859).

    Lipno was occupied on the morning of 15 June, leaving only to fortress of Torun in Allied hands east of the Vistula, but it was very heavily held. A couple of hours later, a hard-fought victory was won at Tczew at 0900hr (Soviets 1,724/55,830; Allies 2,778/32,129 killed), which was occupied at midnight. The occupying divisions crossing the Vistula from Elbing would require around another day and a half or more to reorganise following their successful attack.

    For some reason, the Allies had persisted with their attack on Pultusk for some days, but finally called it of at 1300hr on 16 June after taking casualties they surely could not afford (Soviets 895/16,708; Germans 3,234/15,788 killed). The VVS continued to pound away at Praga, which they had been doing for some days now.

    The front was comparatively quiet on the 17th except at the now heavily reinforced Tczew, where an Allied counter-attack was defeated at 2300hr (Soviets 198/55,405; Italy 1,271/7,994 killed).

    By 18 June, the Soviets then had enough reorganised troops in Tczew to begin an assault from there and Elbing on the twice-devastated wasteland of Danzig [37% initial progress]. VVS TAC bombers started to soften up Torun late that night.

    Leaving the large Allied force in Torun otherwise undisturbed for now, hoping to encircle it, at 0800hr on 19 June a successful skirmish was won at Inowroclaw, to Torun’s south on the far bank of the Vistula, by Soviet forces that had since occupied Wloclavek without serious opposition early that morning. Three Soviet divisions now to the south in Kolo were unable to assist, as they found themselves under Allied counter-attack [-21%].

    The Luftwaffe had remained periodically active during this time, an example being an attempt by a damaged TAC group to disrupt the continuing attack on Danzig, which was met by Soviet interceptors: they were still able to cause heavy casualties whenever a raid struck home (usually more per aircraft than their Soviet TAC counterparts).

    113Ftv.jpg

    The next phase of the attempt to surround Torun saw a murderous (for the Allies) skirmish in Inowroclaw from 1000-1700hr on the 19th, with two Soviet armoured divisions catching a single Yugoslav infantry division in open ground, not entrenched and running short of supplies (Soviets 5/17,985; Yugoslavia 444/8,979 killed).

    The now large Soviet build-up in Kolo defeated a French holding attack at 1000hr on 20 June (Soviets 603/33,616; France 1,957/10,959 killed), followed at 2100hr by another victory attacking Yugoslav and Hungarian troops that had slipped into Inowroclaw (Soviets 24/17,991; Allies 500/13,819 killed). Inowroclaw was secured by 7 MRD an hour later.

    Now only Bydgoszcz connected Torun with the rest of the Allies lines west of the Vistula and the Battle of the Torun Pocket began. Two Soviet divisions attacked Bydgoszcz from Chelmno late on the 20th. Two hours later, realising their peril later than they should German, French and British divisions began trying to break out of Torun by attacking Inowroclaw. To pin the Allies in Torun and make their breakout more difficult, a holding attack was launched by two divisions from the east at 0700hr on the 21st, all while the VVS continued to pound away at the large Allied force(over 64,000 men) now almost trapped there.

    lBrqHU.jpg

    The attack on Bydgoszcz was won that afternoon and the Allied attack on Inowroclaw stopped two hours later. The attack on Torun continued, while a bloody victory was won in Danzig that evening, advance elements securing it soon after. From midnight, the benefits of having secured the ‘Polish Corridor’ began to flow through for the USSR.

    5lBBdZ.jpg

    The Polish military bravely proclaimed their mobilisation for the Comintern that evening.

    ******

    6.c Torun and Operation Bagration

    With Danzig and the ‘corridor’ (excepting Torun) secured, the next phase of the Soviet offensive was directed to driving west on a front sufficiently wide to hopefully create a breakthrough towards Berlin – the start of Operation Bagration.

    Now Torun needed to be cleared out. By 0400hr on 22 June, the Allies were beginning to suffer supply problems (two of the three front line defending divisions with -6 to -7% supply penalties) after Bydgoszcz was taken that morning, completing the encirclement. Soviet divisions now began to feed into the assault on Torun from other directions [progress to 45%].

    The Allied lines in front of Brzesc Litewski had also begun to thin by this stage, with a VVS TAC group tasked with preparing Siedlce from 0400hr on the 22nd. Four hours later, the defence of Torun was strengthened by the reinforcement of two strong and relatively fresh French divisions from the reserve lines, but the Soviet attackers were also being reinforced, with four divisions against four [58%].

    To the west of Danzig, reorganisation was sufficient for a new attack to deepen the bridgehead to the forests of Koscierzynal. The attack began at 0900hr on the 22nd and would be won by 0700hr the following day (Soviets 430/22,980; Allies 764/19,627 killed).

    A new attack on Siedlce at 1000hr on 23 June found just a single under-strength, disorganised and out-of-supply Italian division in place, facing six rested and full-strength Soviet divisions attacking across the river with strong air support. They were soon fleeing after a short fight.

    Meanwhile, by 1600hr on the 23rd, the Allies fought on in Torun but were weakening, while their attack on Bydgoszcz to try to break their colleagues out was being reinforced [though only -15% progress]. When the latest VVS TAC raid on the attackers in Rognozno was launched the Luftwaffe responded with a hornets’ nest of INT wings, with nine eventually joining the dogfight, while the Soviets called in their own additional cover, ending up with five INT wings defending the two TAC wings.

    By early on 24 June, Allied supply in Torun was deteriorating [penalties of 37.7% to 43.8% among the four defending divisions, progress 87%] and their best formation, MAJGEN von Manstein’s 3 Pz Div, was almost out of organisation. Koscierzynal was occupied 1700hr as the Soviets tried to convert ‘bite and hold’ into a genuine breakout in the now shaky looking Allied line on the Baltic coast west of Danzig.

    The crucial two-day period of the Vistula breakout came between the morning of 25 June and the afternoon of the 27th. In this period, Gniezno in the south would be attacked and eventually occupied. The Allied attack on Bydgoszcz was disrupted by a Soviet attack from Inowroclaw at 1500hr, and then abandoned after the key moment: the surrender of the remaining forces in Torun on the night of 25 June, where over 90,000 Allied prisoners would have been taken by the time the battle ended and Torun was occupied at 0100hr on the 26th.

    2vGoaY.jpg

    The attack on Rognozno against troops already worn out from their own attack on Bydgoszcz was won by the Soviets early on 26 June, then again on the morning of 27 June when newly arrived Allied troops were also pushed out. Then at 1600hr on the 27th, Chelmno was successfully held when an Allied attack was defeated. A significant bridgehead over the Vistula was now secured with Soviet troops beginning to close on the German border and even crossing it on the Baltic coast.

    Siedlce had been liberated on the afternoon of the 25th, with VVS air preparation now switching to Praga, while Soviet troop strength built up in Siedlce and divisions completed post-attack reorganisation.

    This was complete by 1800hr on the evening of 27 June, with four divisions from Siedlce, supported by one each attacking across the river from Brok and Pultusk in support against an all-German force of three entrenched and supplied divisions in Praga [68%]. By that time, the Soviets had Rognozno but it was under fierce Allied counter-attack [67%].

    Chojnice, west of Tczew, was the next short-term Soviet objective, with the battle for it lasting from 1000-2200hr on the 28th (Soviets 274/49,324; Allies 495/28,045 killed), the Soviets winning again.

    But the VVS air support being provided came at a cost, with determined Luftwaffe resistance almost destroying a VVS INT escort wing, forcing one of the CAS groups (2 x INT, 2 x CAS) off-line for repairs on the morning of 29 June. However, the other escorting VVS INT group (2 x INT) remained to fight the Luftwaffe INT group (two of their three wings heavily damaged) over Schiedemuhl, where they were supporting the defence of Rognozno [now improved to -33%, with more reinforcements after at least one division had been forced to retreat].

    Three more battles were won by the Soviets from 29-30 June. In the north, Bütow had fallen to the Soviets by midday on the 30th as they advanced further onto German territory. In the centre, the battle for Wiecbork was won on the evening of the 29th, while the defence of Rognozno continued. A major victory was won at Praga early on the 30th, with the Germans taking over 4,400 casualties from ground fighting alone. It had been retaken before the day ended.

    IxKshl.jpg

    Other than some ‘tidying up’ around Praga and Siedlce, the fighting by late June was focused on the western drive, with more divisions (especially armoured and mechanised) from the vicinity of Warsaw-Lódz-Kolo being shuffled there to reinforce the offensive. The next drive forward would probably be from the line between Rognozno and the Baltic coast, where open terrain beckoned.

    7jFbRA.jpg

    Gains on the Northern Polish Sector in June, as at 2300hr 30 June 1948.

    On the Western and Turkish Fronts, June had seen important territorial gains in northern Poland and of course their withdrawal from the Allied war effort. But Turkey had conceded much ground, with the Allies now approaching the outskirts of Ankara, where the initially promising Soviet intervention had begun to lose ground again, with most of the designated reinforcements now already on the line.

    MBZvOM.jpg


    ******

    7. Industry, Research, Logistics and Espionage

    With missile strength running low again (about 2-3 V2 batteries in place) three new batteries were deployed in Odessa, Nowogródek and Brzesc Litweski on 8 June, working up to full operational capacity for the rest of the month.

    On 19 June, the perennial problem of unwanted convoy generation was solved when the correct department was finally found in the impenetrable Soviet supply bureaucracy to prevent them being automatically generated. Only the four that could still be maintained and did not seem to be subject to Allied interdiction were maintained.

    47E7tc.jpg

    In Poland, despite their surrender and the Soviet KGB operatives being reassigned to Communist Party support, agents were still being lost (though not replaced) by residual Allied spies still lurking in Poland. The four remaining Soviets spies left by 20 June were told to lay low.

    On 21 June, Soviet fuel stock were running very low, with only 6,106 left and a daily deficit of 1,324. But two days later, a miraculous return of over 13,100 to the stockpile from the network brought this up to 11,248. The stockpile was at 10,545 as the month ended – still a bit shaky, but just enough to keep going.

    By 24 June, lower upgrade costs allowed an significant increase in IC assigned to production. A new fast mech division was commenced, with various navy, air force (NAV and STRAT) and infrastructure production shifted below the line to fit in the large new expenditure at 100% effort.

    3G2pIA.jpg

    Another major round of builds was commissioned on 30 June, after a new heavy infantry division finished initial training and was deployed to the Op Bagration front for work-up training. A dozen ‘loose’ brigades of various types being started, which would be used to bolster many of the three-brigade divisions which still operated in the West and in Turkey. Then two ‘standard’ all-round infantry divisions were also begun, for use in either securing the gains being made in Europe or to reinforce the Turkish front should that be necessary in the four months it would take to complete them.

    q5yD2V.jpg

    Nine research projects were completed during June, some being continued (radar, CAS pilot and ground crew training), others moving into different areas; for example, with the completion of the latest round of light tank improvements, with the equipment effort shifting to completing the same for infantry equipment. Recent conquests had also begun to gradually increase the leadership pool – though the nuclear devastation of Danzig and Warsaw had probably not helped there.

    HP0slX.jpg

    The espionage focus was now solely on Spain, where there were now 12 covert ops teams again.
     
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    Chapter 46: 1-17 July 1948
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    Chapter 46: 1-17 July 1948

    Note: A lot happened in July and across a number of theatres and actually got quite interesting, to play at least. The Allies have been putting up a real fight and it’s been up and down across the globe. So I’ve decided to break for now again with the one-month-per-episode pattern, as a conscious decision to tell that story and in the hope it interests the honoured readAARship too. I’ve kept the same chapter format and have not gone back to recording all the battle and air raid casualties and omitting most minor battles, but didn’t want to compress some important operations and events too heavily, making some things seem easier or harder than they were.

    ******

    1. Far East

    The month began with victory in the last Allied enclave in China at the French port of Zhanjiang, occupied a little less than a day later. At that point, the rest of the mechanised and armoured divisions were beginning their long strategic redeployment to Central Asia, Turkey and perhaps the Western Front eventually.

    8YE40s.jpg

    The infantry divisions would mainly stay in southern China and gather at the four ports now available to them, from Hong Kong to the border with French Indo-China at Fanchenggang [where there is an infra blockage across the border at Mong Cai].

    The other possible approach by land, through Guangxi, was blocked diplomatically. Though aligned close enough to the Comintern, the neutrality of them and the other Chinese warlord states prevented them granting military access.

    The radar installation in Vladivostok was upgraded to level three on 13 July.

    ******

    2. Central Asia

    The steady trickle of reinforcements into the north of this theatre of recent days continued in early July, allowing the front to be further stabilised, except in eastern Iran, where the Allies still pressed ahead with a modest offensive.

    Persistent RAF CAS raids supporting a ground assault on Murzechirla (in Soviet territory east of the southern Caspian Sea) in that first week finally prompted the VVS to relocate a two-wing long range MR fighter group from the West to Baki, as Murzechirla was out of range of the VVS INT group based further east in Stalinabad. They engaged two RAF CAS wings at 0100hr on 7 July just after arriving and that stopped further air attacks on Murzechirla.

    Despite serious resupply problems in Stalinabad, the fighters there were able to jump some unescorted RAF STRAT making logistic raids early on 8 July, first over Stalinabad and then chasing them to Khanabad, where one of the STRAT wings was almost shot down, ending their depredations.

    QNGer7.jpg

    Victory followed in the defence of Murzechirla against the Bhutanese attack late on 9 July, once the RAF had been taken off their backs.

    mS34Vz.jpg

    A couple of days later, the Soviets had enough strength and line coverage after recent arrivals to launch a strong assault on Bukhara, against another Bhutanese division, though poor supply hindered the efforts of 30 Tk Div somewhat.

    sAGYlE.jpg

    The weaker Soviet-Iranian line to the south was successfully attacked by Thai and Indian troops on 12 July, forcing the Soviet 154 SD (Garrison) to retreat from Kerman at 0900hr on 14 July (Soviets 575/6,999; Allies 196/16,993 killed). That in turn led to 7 HArm Div to withdraw from Jiroft, to prevent them being isolated.

    But the Soviet attack on Bukhara ended in victory at the same time (Soviets 213/27,975; Bhutan 1,422/7,999 killed). The centre Soviet division was still advancing to secure it by the end of the 17 July.

    ******

    3. Poland-Romania

    The deliberate Soviet offensive in the Lwów sector continued after its initial success in June. The attack on Stryj to expand the bridgehead was won early on 2 July (Soviets 390/33,625; Allies 1,963/35,524 killed). VVS air preparation was then switched to the next target, at Skole, while forces got into position and reorganised for the next attack.

    The shock attack on Skole struck at 2000hr on 3 July, completely wrong-footing the Allied attempt to delay them, with four Soviet divisions (one each of LARM, MOT, GDS and INF) taking on two French infantry divisions. The battle was soon over and Skole taken by 1900hr on the 5th, with air air attacks switching next to Sambor, directly across the river from Lwów.

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    A corps-strength attack hit Sambor the next day, this time the 1st Indian Div suffering severe supply problems, which seemed to be patchy for the Allies in this sector. Strong initial progress was made.

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    Victory came in Sambor at 0600hr on 8 July after a decent fight (Soviets 532/49,730; Allies 2,229/46,019 killed). It was liberated at 1700hr on 9 July and then promptly counter-attacked by the Allies, including from Drohobycz. The latter was then strongly attacked from Skole and Stryj, ending the short Allied attack quickly as the Soviets sought to secure the next part of the expanding bridgehead.

    OJGMio.jpg

    The fight for Drohobycz was a tough one, but the Soviets had won it by 0000hr on 11 July (Soviets 1,238/60,977; Allies 1,604/39,032 killed), occupying it just an hour later.

    That evening at 1900hr, the Allies tried a cross-river attack on the strongly defended Illichivsk, immediately west of Odessa [-20% progress]. It never looked like succeeding, even when Allied air support was called in with a German escorted TAC group (1 x MR, 2 x TAC) early on 15 July. Even though the Soviets easily won the ground battle that morning (Soviets 665/24,993; Allies 4,278/25,769 killed), the Luftwaffe kept attacking that afternoon, with two more Hungarian INT wings joining in.

    Odessa-based fighters (2 x INT) saw all these threats off by 1700hr on the 15th, possibly shooting down a Hungarian wing, but suffering enough damage (down to 60% and 44% strength) to have to rest and repair themselves afterwards. This was typical of the challenge the VVS was facing throughout Europe and Turkey by mid-month.

    Back north, the hills of Svalava had been taken without a fight on the morning of 12 July, as the Allies withdrew there – but not elsewhere. They had launched an attack on Krasne, north of Lwów, the previous day but that was defeated comfortably by 0500hr on 13 July (Soviets 125/30,991; Germany 1,364/8,994 killed).

    The big Soviet air base at Stanislawow, badly damaged by a Soviet V2 strike in June then retaken towards the end of the month, had been sufficiently repaired by 0000hr on 14 July to host a CAS group (1 x INT, 2 x CAS) brought back up again from where they had been previously evacuated to Kyiv, plus a new CAS wing deployed at the same time, which began its work-up.

    A forlorn Allied attack on Svalava was beaten off with heavy casualties at 0600hr on 14 July (Soviets 2/15,991; France 447/5,929 killed). Battlefield intel officers speculated that French manpower shortages could now be weakening their front-line units. Another ill-advised and expensive French counter-attack on Drohobycz was also defeated heavily that afternoon at 1300hr (Soviets 149/60,992; France 1,079/9,136).

    The nextb Soviet ‘bite and hold’ attack went in with VVS CAS support (from Stanislawow) on the hill province of Uzhorod at 1300hr on 15 July and was won at 0900hr the following morning (Soviets 205/34,984; Allies 939/12,660 killed) and reoccupied at 1700hr that afternoon.

    ******

    4. Northern Poland and Germany

    1 July saw the Soviets occupying two provinces in the ‘Polish Corridor’ which they had successfully attacked at the end of June: Chojnice (at 0500hr) and Wiecbork (1100hr). A determined Allied attack on Rogozno continued for the rest of the day.

    But the battle for Rogozno was won at midnight, with thousands of casualties on both sides (Soviets 3,803/74,054; Allies 4,218/41,505 killed) that had seen the Soviets send in fresh divisions to replace those ‘burned off’ in the difficult defence. Stolp, just over the German border on the Baltic coast, was occupied at 1000hr, with 22 Tk Div pushing on towards Köslin in an attempt to outflank the Allied line in the north.

    2 July also saw VVS (3 x INT) working hard to repel Luftwaffe TAC bombers (1 x MR, 2 x TAC) from Rognozno in the morning then again that afternoon, with the German escorts severely and one TAC wing moderately damaged.

    22 Tk Div occupied Köslin at 0400hr on 3 July but were then halted by an Allied probe and the Germans rushed troops into Kolberg, in front of them. Their rapid advance had also left Stolp unoccupied behind them, as slower moving infantry followed them up whilst also be attacked by the Luftwaffe. Heavy German raids finished at 0500hr on Bütow (507 casualties) and Chojnice (625), prompting a VVS response. A dogfight over Chojnice from 1000-1200hr almost destroyed the German MR escort wing, though the two German TAC were barely touched. It did halt their raids for now, anyway.

    In the meantime, the Allies had been attacking Rogozno again, the latest heavily repulsed at 1200hr on 3 July (80/63,158; Allies 1,327/8,995 killed). Simultaneously, the Germans kept using their TAC aggressively, this time in Bütow again, but without their escorts (perhaps shot down last time). The VVS hit them hard and they did not return.

    A heavy Soviet attack on Neustettin, which had been going for the last few days, ended in victory at midnight on 4 July (Soviets 1,416/52,040; Allies 4,029/67,715 killed) as the Soviets tried to grind their way to the Elbe and Berlin. At 2200hr that night, with an Allied counter-attack on Neustettin in progress and their continuing attritional effort in Gniezno, 33rd CAS Group (1 x MR, 2 x CAS) was brought up from Nowogródek to the partly repaired airbase at Lódz, to get them closer to the action.

    Allied resistance remained fierce. By early on the morning of the 5th, they’re assault on Neustettin was gaining strength as the Soviets waited for reinforcements and the Luftwaffe was striking it. The Italians had managed to slip a division into Stolp, cutting off 22 Tk Div in Köslin. Despite being short of supplies, 119 SD’s attack (previously an approach march) on Stolp was showing some promise.

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    The VVS (3 x INT) did manage to catch two unescorted German CAS wings in Deutsch Krone on their way back from Neustettin at 0800hr however, damaging them heavily but not ending the raids.

    The Soviet counter-attack on Stolp succeeded at 1800hr (Soviets 114, Allies 147 casualties) and it was retaken two hours later. Schneidemühl was also taken a that time, but the French 41ème Armoured Division quickly counter-attacked 14 and 15 Tk Divs, who initially occupied it. Three hours later, at 2300hr, the Soviets attempted to widen this breach with an attack from Rogozno on Wronki [52% progress], which was held by an entire (albeit under-strength) Allied corps of Belgian and French troops.

    6 July began with the suspected destruction of the last of the German CAS wings still striking at Neustettin in support of the Allied attack there by the hard-work fighter group based in Suwialki (4, 106 and 144 IADs) at 0300hr. This was followed at 0600hr by another punishing Soviet defensive victory in Gniezno, with constant VVS defensive air support, where the Allies kept hammering away at the southern end of the Soviet breakthrough (Soviets 1,542/33,768; Allies 3,078/33,758 killed).

    The Allies were not done with attacking Neustettin on the ground or from the air: at 1000hr, the VVS interceptors providing air cover there were assailed by a French TAC group (1 x MR, 2 x TAC). Three hours later, another VVS fighter group (3 x INT) was engaged against the German TAC group (1 x MR, 2 x TAC) over Rogozno, which was trying to hamper the building attack on Wronki [64% progress].

    It was not until 0800hr on 7 July that the Allied attack on Neustettin, which had been delaying Soviet momentum, was defeated (Soviets 961/51,053; Allies 2,881/24,071 killed). The Allied counter-attack on Schneidemühl [-26%] continued, as did the Soviet attack on Wronki [57%]. A new (but weak) Allied attack had begun on Gniezno.

    By that evening, the freed-up troops in Neustettin were able to spearhead a new attack on Belgard, using VVS air support to assist their mission. They also discovered the Allies were having some supply problems there. Fighting in Schneidemühl and Wronki continued, but the latest Allied attack on Gniezo was defeated, though it had forced the Soviets to increase their presence there, while ‘burned off’ divisions recovered behind them in Inowraclaw. The Allies were putting up a stubborn fight to halt this slow rolling offensive in the north.

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    Victory came in Belgard on the morning of 8 July at 0600hr (Soviets 376/30,500; Allies 459/33,926 killed), but by 1000hr all the six divisions in Neustettin were out of supply and unable to move, significantly slowing Soviet momentum. Supply across the breakthrough area was fair at this point, including in Neustettin, but it would take a little while for resupply to be completed given the concentration of divisions there, their recent exertions in the attack and defence and infrastructure damage caused by the recent heavy fighting.

    The Allies were also trying their best to disrupt VVS air strikes supporting the CAS attack on Wronki (1 x MR, 2 x CAS, plus 2 x INT additional escorts). Three Czech INT wings intercepted them at 0200hr on 9 July, then another three German INT wings joined in an hour later, though the VVS raid continued. It did show that the VVS was operating in a highly contested air space throughout this period.

    By 0600hr on 9 July, the Allies had made another determined attack on Gniezno, were gaining the upper hand in Schneidemühl , where despite Soviet reinforcements and ambush tactics, their continued participation in the attack on Wronki didn’t help their defence. The enemy were still holding strongly (progress estimates conflicted) in Wronki and the troops in Neustettin remained out of supply, as the Allies tried to strengthen their line in the north.

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    The Germans 93 x INT) again contested the Soviet CAS strike on Wronki at 0900hr and the damage was starting to accumulate one one of the CAS wings and their MR escort. Then that evening, another -full-strength and fully rested – Luftwaffe fighter group attacked the VVS in Kreuz, where they were flying defensive air support for Schneidemühl . After a second dogfight that night, and with no additional VVS INT support available (they were either engaged or under repair) the VVS TAC group was heavily damaged and had to be withdrawn, with 38 IAD almost destroyed. They would be out of action now for many days.

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    During 10 July, the Soviets did their best to maintain momentum. Supply had been restored in Neustettin, leading to a successful attack on Deutsch Krone (won that night). The great battle for Wronki was won at 1400hr and it was occupied an hour later, but was immediately subjected to a strong Allied counter-attack by four German infantry divisions (fighting under French command). Schneidemühl remained in the balance, with spent Soviet divisions being forced out as fresh ones were fed into the meat-grinder. Gniezno remained under constant assault.

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    Belgard was occupied by the Soviets at 0300hr on 11 July, leaving an Allied salient in Falkenburg and Deutsch Krone between there and the shattered hell-hole of Schneidemühl . By 1900hr, the Allies were counter-attacking Belgard from Falkenburg, when the Soviets struck their flank from Neustettin, a battle which would later halt the attack on Belgard and end in a Soviet victory by 1600hr on 12 July (Soviets 391/23,609; Allies 1,098/47,259 killed).

    Deutsch Krone was taken by the Soviets at 0900hr on 12 July, while in Schneidemühl the odds had shifted slightly in the Soviets favour [-47%], as they did in Wronki too [-43%], though both battles were far from over. By 1700hr that evening, a whole corps of exhausted Soviet divisions that had been forced to retreat from Schneidemühl and Wronki in recent days was trying to recover, with the supply of fresh units to replace them drying up.

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    Meanwhile, a new Allied attack on Belgard was making progress, prompting a spoiling attack on Kolberg by 22 Tk Div in Közlin. And Soviet divisions were still being regularly pushed out of Gniezno in exhaustion as that attack continued. The spoiling attack on Kolberg worked, with the beset defenders of Belgard relieved when the Allied attack on them was halted just an hour later (Soviets 1,805/25,311; Allies 863/42,617 killed).

    At 0700hr on the 14th, the attack on Kolberg showed promise and continued [81%], but the defences of Wronki [-77%], Schneidemühl [-76%] and now Gniezno [-48%] were all deteriorating and in some trouble. Another attempt to provide defensive air support for Schneidemühl in Kreuz was made with a new TAC group that afternoon, with a full INT wing provided when the Luftwaffe intercepted.

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    The German fighters took their toll on the TAC and their MR escort, forcing them out of the fight after a second dogfight ended that night, the attack being hastily aborted after 78 IAD was almost destroyed and 8 BAD heavily damaged.

    By then, the mammoth battle for Schneidemühl had been lost. The eclipse of previous VVS offensive and defensive air superiority on the German front was taking its toll on the ground as well. Even as the VVS was hitting Kreuz that afternoon, the last Soviet defenders broke at 1500hr. French and German mechanised divisions retook it an hour later, then were themselves immediately counter-attacked by Soviet heavy armour which had been moving up to reinforce the now failed defence.

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    Another recently arrived division (from the eastern Polish sector) advanced from Rogozno to Wronki, where the Soviet defence was now getting desperate. Falkenburg had been taken even as Schneidemühl fell, while more reinforcements from the now static Polish sector had steadied the defence of Gniezno. The attack on Kolberg pressed on.

    Air action intensified further over the whole sector early on 15 July, with three separate aerial engagement in simultaneous progress over Wronki (INT v INT), Krotoszyn (defensive VVS support for Gniezno) and Rogozno (VVS CAS caught on take-off by Luftwaffe INT). VVS intel officers searched for where all this interference may be coming from. A heavy air concentration was spotted in Berlin, where the air base had been partly repaired.

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    But a later V2 (one of three batteries remaining) strike there [we’ll assume a recon plane was sent to do BDA afterwards] revealed none of the wings that had been contesting the VVS was operating from there, where all the Luftwaffe wings were completely disorganised (the JG 52 there is a duplicate, one INT, the other MR). This would ensure their repairs were delayed indefinitely, but those Luftwaffe fighters must be coming from somewhere else.

    The next suspected location was Breslau, where the air base had been repaired to almost 80% efficiency. A second V2 strike there soon afterwards confirmed that at least some of those active fighters were indeed based there. Hopefully, this latest strike would put a big dent in their repair capacity, allowing the VVS to wear them down in the air.

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    And this was desperately needed, after the VVS bombing expedition was intercepted by the Luftwaffe over Rogozno that morning, 144 IAD-PVO barely escaping destruction and their CAS charges suffering some damage. With the VVS INT shortages, the Germans had managed to start hitting Köslin again (where 22 Tk Div was still attacking Kolberg).

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    Then disaster struck, later that morning: a badly damaged TAC group was being evacuated to the rear for repairs from their base in Brzesc-Litweski when, most unexpectedly, that Breslau-based Luftwaffe INT group ambushed them, destroying 38 IAD, which sacrificed itself in allowing its two TAC wings to escape to Nowogródek.

    Two new V2 batteries were ordered that morning and put at the top of the queue, to replace the two just used on Berlin and Breslau. Only one currently remained, based to the south in Odessa.

    More bad news came at the same time, with the battle for Wronki lost after an epic fight at 1000hr (Soviets 3,839/25,450; Allies 3,385/52,102 killed). The Soviet attacks on Kolberg and Schneidemühl and the Allied one on Gniezno went on. That night, the remaining operational VVS assets were flying again, this time trying to support the counter-attack on Schneidemühl, with additional INT escorts. But they were once more intercepted, one TAC wing badly mauled, although the German INT were also taking damage. The VVS also caught some unescorted German CAS over Köslin early on the 16th.

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    At 0100hr on 16 July, the Allies retook Wronki and the Soviets immediately counter-attacked with units that had already been advancing to reinforce the lost defence, making good initial progress. At 0500hr, the great battle for Kolberg, where 22 Tk Div had been progressively reinforced in recent days, was won, with the tired but triumphant tank division claiming it at 1000hr.

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    In the centre, the Soviet counter-attack on Schneidemühl was won at 1500hr and it was reoccupied an hour later. The fighting in Gniezno went on as both sides became increasingly exhausted: by that evening, only one Soviet infantry division remained there to contest it.

    On 17 July, more slow progress was made. The Allies were trying to retake Falkenburg with a forlorn and badly outnumbered attack by one Yugoslav division from Arnswalde. In response, a four division blitz from Deutsch Krone crashed into Arnswalde at 0300hr and another big battle begun that was still going that night, though now in the Soviets favour. The battle to retake Wronki was won at 0600hr, but it would not be reoccupied until 2200hr that night. The Yugoslav attack on Falkenburg had lasted until 1000hr until it was called off.

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    By that evening, a large pool of recuperating divisions was resting in Rogozno, all having been forced to retreat from fighting in Schneidemühl and Wronki over the last week. Only two of the 12 divisions were fresh and being sent up to the front line. And worryingly, the Allies were counter-attacking Schneidemühl yet again and making good initial progress as the day ended. The Allied attack on Gniezno was still going too.

    All in all, on the ground and in the skies, the first 17 days of July had been gruelling, with real progress made towards the Oder despite heavy losses and considerable troop exhaustion, with the hold on Schneidemühl, Wronki and Gniezno remaining shaky. This was matched by the near exhaustion of the VVS, balanced by that of the Allied air forces: only sporadic VVS ground support would be available for a while, though they now seemed to have suppressed the Luftwaffe’s own ground attack program.

    ******

    5. Turkey and the Middle East

    The epic fighting in the Polish Corridor and the Oder approaches was almost matched in this period by intense operations in Turkey, where mainly crack German and French divisions battled those of the far weaker Turkish army and their better-equipped Soviet allies.

    The Sevastopol-based VVS TAC group (usually 1 x INT, 1 x INT, 2 x TAC) provided pretty constant defensive air support during the entire period. Typical of this was a raid on Mengen on 1 July, causing 550 German casualties, a dose normally given three times a day, casualty rates varying. The next raid caused 708 casualties, but despite this the Soviet defence of Gerede, north-west of Ankara, was failing by 0800hr [-72%]. The defence of Yunak (south of Ankara) was going better [-19%], while the Egyptians were trying another attack across the Suez on Români [-1%]. Statistics for Turkish-only battles, on the south of the line, were not available, but they tended to be in a gradual but steady retreat.

    The battle for Gerede was lost at 2100hr that night when the by now heavily outnumbered Soviet 7 Tk Div withdrew to Ankara to avoid further casualties (Soviets 1,112/7,998; Allies 533/36,012 killed) and ready the defence of the Turkish capital.

    On 2 July, the Luftwaffe put in an appearance with two CAS wings hitting Yunak at 0400hr (334 casualties). But they were in range of the two INT wings in Sevastopol and were badly mauled in a dogfight from 0800-1000hr, stopping their raids. The Egyptian attack on Români was heavily defeated at 1500hr (Soviets 86/14,987; Egypt 688/8,993 killed: what were they thinking?).

    Early on 4 July, two rather battered Hungarian INT wings tried to prevent a VVS TAC raid on Mudurnu but were heavily defeated by their escorts. Later that morning a four-division attack on the mountain province of Küre began. The initial defence of the dug-in 63 Mtn Div was strong [-30%], but they were heavily outnumbered (8,997 v 32,990) and no ground reinforcements were available.

    Simultaneously, a strong German attack ( three v two divs) was launched on the plains province of Orta, just north of Ankara [-63% progress]. The fighting in Yunak continued [-37%]. Heavy VVS air strikes (600+ casualties each) were hitting the Germans in Karabük but could not halt alone the attack on Orta. So 7 Tk Div in Ankara (still recovering from pervious fighting in Gerede) was thrown into a spoiling attack on Gerede at 1500hr, but it met with limited success [only 19% initial progress].

    At 1100hr on 5 July, five of the mech/armoured divisions being transferred from the Far East were earmarked for the Turkish Front, but they would of course take many weeks to get there. The attack on Gerede was failing [9%], and the defences of Küre [-52%], Orta [-63%] and Yunak [-68%] were all deteriorating. The futile Gerede attack was halted before 7 Tk Div became completely exhausted (Soviets 413/7,016; Germany and France 291/35,048 killed).

    That afternoon, the long-dreaded and prepared for Battle of Ankara began with the (former?) LSAH SS division leading a Franco-German attack, met by a skilful Turko-Soviet elastic defence. The battle for Orta was lost as the beleaguered Soviet defenders were withdrawn to try to form a fall-back line in Cankiri.

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    And Yunak was lost that evening after a long and hard fight, one division forced out and the other then withdrawing to defend Sülüklü. For the Soviets, this just left the defences of Küre and Ankara in progress. The whole Turkish Air Force (16 wings) was crowded into the air base in Ankara and there was evidence some missions were being flown by them against the Allies.

    The defence of Küre failed on the morning of 6 July, breaching the three-province mountain line the Soviets had hoped to hold indefinitely, but German numbers had built and become too much. The defence of Ankara was holding steady for now.

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    At 1700hr, 16 Tk Div attacked Güdül from Polatli [-15%] in another attempt to spoil the attack on Ankara.

    The following day, ground was being lost in Ankara as HQ units and the two weakest defending divisions were ‘thinned out’ to start forming fall-back lines (and hopefully recover to be recommitted) east of Ankara. After that, the defence of Ankara was entrusted to two Soviet and two Turkish divisions, mainly garrison troops. (NB: at this point the Soviet medium tank in service was the T-54.)

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    The spoiler on Güdül was making no headway and was called off at 1300hr. Three hours later, they were themselves under attack, though their defence was strong to start with [-12%]. 16 Tk Div was therefore withdrawn from Polatli to Ankara in anticipation of the increasing pressure there. If Ankara was lost, it was a toss-up as to whether Turkey would surrender: it must be defended ‘to the last man – no step backwards!’

    In the south, a badly weakened Turko-Soviet force in Konya came under German attack at midday on 8 July. The mountains of Arac, north of Ankara, were now under sustained attack and the defence of the capital itself was in trouble.

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    The two intact divisions (67 SD and 32 Kav) that had earlier retreated to Cankiri now launched another spoiling attack on Orta at 1900hr on 8 July [16%] to try to relieve the pressure on Ankara [-76%], while the VVS continued to pound away at the Allied attackers in Gerede. But the attack on Orta was futile and was called off at 0700hr the following morning (Soviets 339/14,744; Germany 85/23,517 killed). The defence of Arac, including dug-in mountain and rifle divisions, was lost at 1600hr on 9 July, where the Germans also fielded a mountain division (Soviets 1,289/16,985; Germany 997/25,751 killed).

    The last remaining province in the mountain defence line at Daday came under attack from Küre at 0400hr on 10 July, but initial Soviet resistance was strong. But the battle for Ankara was almost lost [-90%].

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    By 0700hr, 16 Tk Div had arrived in Ankara to retrieve the situation, but had yet to reinforce. 23 Tk Div and the Turks’ 3 Garnizon Tümeni barely held on, while the German attack on Daday had been reinforced [-34%]. Polatli held, but Konya was in trouble.

    By 0000hr on 11 July, 23 Tk and 3 Garn divisions had been forced out of Ankara – but 16 Tk Div had reinforced in time to continue the fight [-63%] against a now all-German attack. 198 MRD was sent to reinforce Ankara from Cankiri – they would reach the now ruined Turkish capital at 1900hr that evening, where Mitrofanov’s elastic defence now thwarted the German attackers and returned the battle to parity.

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    Unfortunately, Daday was becoming isolated and the odds were worsening, so 31 SD was withdrawn at 2100hr to Ilgaz Daglari while it was still largely intact. Konya had been lost, but Polatli still resisted strongly.

    In the south, the Soviets were trying to avoid encirclement as the Turkish defences collapsed around them. At 1500hr on 12 July, the spent and retreating 9 Tk Div was bounced out of Karaman (Soviets 152, Germans 81 killed) as the Germans slipped in there ahead of them after defeated the Turks there. 9 Tk Div, stuck in Konya again, now turned north-east to try to escape to Soviet held Eskiil (the two Turkish divisions there were already withdrawing).

    The early morning of 13 July saw Ankara still resisting, the battle still evenly balanced. Eskiil was under attack but resisting strongly, holding in place until their comrades could retreat there from Konya. And good news came at the same time with victory in the defence of Polatli.

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    But that news turned to ashes in the mouth as a fresh attack struck the almost exhausted 69 MRD just three hours later. The shock of the assault disrupted their delaying defence: there was little point in staying, so they immediately withdrew for the apocalyptic showdown in Ankara while they still had a little organisation left.

    Late that night, Ankara still held [-51%] and 7 Tk Div had recovered a little in Sulakyurt – enough [about 50% overall org] to see them ordered back into the cauldron of Ankara, which they should reach a day hence.

    At 0100hr on 14 July, the Germans attacked Cankiri [-43%], perhaps a holding attack to prevent one of the two rifle divisions defending it from reinforcing Ankara if needed. In the south, the battered 47 Mtn Div had relocated to the mountains of Icel, to protect the depth defensive stronghold of Adana, where 148 SD (garrison troops) had long been preparing a last line of defence. The odds in Ankara had improved a little [-45%] as the attackers finally seemed to be tiring a little.

    In the north, by 2100hr the Soviets were trying to establish a fall-back line in the line of hills starting at Kastamonu on the Black Sea coast. But the position in Ankara had deteriorated again [-56%].

    On the morning of 15 July, the Germans attacked attacked Sülüklü from Polatli and won that battle by 1800hr. By that time, the estimated odds in Ankara had deteriorated again, but the actual position was worse: only the now almost spent 198 MRD held the line, with 69 MRD and 7 Tk Div, neither in top shape themselves, not yet having reinforced.

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    But they would never make it: the massive battle for Ankara was lost early on the morning of 16 July. The Turkish government had had enough and began to negotiate an armistice for midnight, even as fighting continued across the front, including in Cankiri where the Soviets also lost by 1700hr that evening.

    With focus on Germany and Turkey at this time, the British managed to slip a marine division into Sudr in the Sinai at early on the 16th. It was not known if it had been a landing, or just a push across an unguarded crossing of the Suez Canal from El Suweis. The Soviet screening forces attempted to counter-attack, but the early signs were not promising. Throughout this period, the RAF had been conducting TAC regular (though not constant) raids on Români and Bir Gifgafa.

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    By the close of the day, the front line had split Turkey in two, north/south through Ankara, which had been occupied by the Germans that evening.

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    A map showing the extent of Allied gains in Turkey from 1 July until the Turkish surrender at 0000hr on 17 July.

    When the surrender came into force, Ankara resembled the target of a nuclear strike. The immediate effect was to isolate the Soviet formations still in the field, as they tried to rebuild supply lines and find somewhere to establish a new defence in the Turkish hinterland. Fighting continued in Kastamonu and Eskiil, where at least 9 Tk Div had reached the latter and continued their withdrawal to the north.

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    Having performed its delaying role, 156 SD was withdrawn from Eskiil at 0100hr on the 17th, falling back south-east towards their colleagues still holding Karapinar. The Soviets were also falling back south of Ankara, while a probe by the battle-weakened LSAH Division against Kirikkale made little initial headway, as 209 MRD tried to hold long enough for their comrades still withdrawing from Ankara to reach relative safety there. The coming days would be a constant Soviet struggle to delay the Allies while extracting divisions from potential pockets and trying to rebuild supply lines.

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    At 0700hr, the one constant during this time in favour of the Soviets in this theatre, the VVS air support from Sevastopol, was also temporarily removed when a Luftwaffe INT group suddenly turned up to contest a raid by 3rd TAC Group (reinforced by an extra TAC wing) over Orta and then again that afternoon. They were damaged enough that they would take some time to recover operational capacity.

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    NB: all these moves were confirmed as being strategic redeployment after the screen shot was taken. The closer units are mainly HQs still on their way from earlier redeployments.

    Also at 1500hr, the last group of Soviet infantry units being redeployed from the now peaceful Norwegian Front to Central Asia (since stabilised and with more forces coming from the Far East) were diverted to the Turkish border, to help rescue their trapped colleagues and see if they could prevent an Allied breakout into the Middle East and even eventually reclaim Turkey.

    So ended the tumultuous and ultimately doomed attempt to keep Turkey in WW3.

    ******

    6. Industry and Diplomacy

    Other than the builds already noted above, the air bases in Kyiv and Odessa were expanded again on 2 July. And the 20 IC lend-lease program to Turkey was terminated on their surrender. Two research programs were completed, but they will be summarised at the end of the month.

    One diplomatic development was the entry of Paraguay into the war on the side of the Allies on 13 July 1948, joining their South American partners in Brazil and Guyana.

    TJ5qYA.jpg
     
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    Chapter 47A: 18-31 July 1948 (The West)

    Note: I’ve taken on some previous suggestions from the readAARship and am splitting this into Part A and B chapters, by subject: the west first, then the east. A very busy second part of the month and you will see why it was split: stuff happening everywhere, with essentially five different campaigns to follow.

    ******

    1. Turkey

    After the disaster of the Turkish capitulation at the start of 17 July, the now isolated Soviet divisions there were back-pedalling, needing to re-establish supply lines and see if they could first avoid encirclement and then perhaps find a tenable defensive line while reinforcements were diverted.

    From early 18 July to the morning of the 19th, the Allies continued to push forward. The key defensive battle of Kastamonu was lost at 0500hr on 18 July after a tough fight, blasting a hole in the defensive line along the Black Sea coast. An initial skirmish for Kulu in the south was won shortly afterwards, but a day later the Soviets withdrew for fear of being cut off.

    Pu8mol.jpg

    In the centre, there was a heartening defensive victory in Kirikkale on the night of the 18th, providing cover for the rest of the retreat. But an enemy probe on Sulakyurt on the morning of the 19th was not contested as the former defensive line continued to erode, most Soviet divisions streaming east to hoped-for safety, resupply and then later defensive consolidation.

    At that time, 178 SD still held strongly in Karapinar while their comrades tried to retreat to through them from Eskiil in the north-east. By the evening of 21 July, the job in Karapinar was done, an orderly withdrawal ordered to Aksaray after a hard fought but successful delaying action.

    S20MZB.jpg

    By early on 23 July, the Soviet retreat had progressed and more rear-area provinces were being brought back under Comintern control, mainly by retreating HQs which were being used to reopen supply lines to the rear in both the north (to Batumi) and the south (to Syria). The potential pocketing of four-five divisions in the north was of particular concern, as Belgian and French lead elements south to cut them off.

    Oj5jUl.jpg

    A key moment came in the south early on 24 July, when HQ 14th Corps secured Osmaniye, reopening communications with Syria. It would take a little time for the supplies to begin flowing through again in quantity, but it improved the chances of being able to hold in the vicinity of Adana.

    lMpOGr.jpg

    Later that morning, supply remained variable across the front as reserves were consumed and supply through Syria not yet substantively re-established. The escape attempt from the northern pocket continued, while HQs worked in the rear to rebuild supply lines to Batumi and also to the Black Sea port of Terme.

    nNbSpE.jpg

    On 26 July, what would become an epic battle for Amasya began, as the under-strength French 3ème Cuirassiers tried to break through the hasty defence 32 Kav Div had just managed to establish, to re-open lines to the pocketed troops to their west.

    9mOGO2.jpg

    And during the action, a raid by Bulgarian TAC was intercepted by the VVS, operating out of Sevastopol, to try to give the defenders the best chances they could. To the north, the Belgians appeared to be concerned about getting isolated themselves and were now pulling back from their advance position in Samsun.

    HQs advancing from both directions had almost reopened a line of communications in the north through to Batumi as the fighting in Amasya continued on 26 July. Shortly afterwards, Terme had been reoccupied and the next wave of forces relieved from the Norway campaign and diverted now to Turkey were on their way by rail.

    WCTVHx.jpg

    The northern supply line was reopened two days later, as the supply situation across the front was closely monitored by STAVKA and the defence of Amasya was held increasingly firmly.

    cxr38A.jpg

    That evening, a French attack on Ilgaz Daglari was only briefly contested, the Soviet retreat through Duragan to Amaysa (now reinforced) only briefly interrupted as the pocket was emptied.

    zD5six.jpg

    Supply was still somewhat patchy late on 29 July, but was starting to flow through north-western Syria and towards the front from Batumi in the north. Without this, it would be foolhardy to plan a defence on the Termi-Amaysa-Adana line.

    xmEDBv.jpg

    On the afternoon of 30 July, the enemy still stubbornly maintained their attack on Amaysa. At 1500hr, a quick spoiling attack on Osmancik by 31 SD in Duragan was enough to finally end it, the spoiler being called off straight away with minimal casualties on either side.

    XHtv67.jpg

    The victory in Amasya had been strategically significant, ensuring the formations to its west were not encircled and destroyed, as had been feared some days earlier. It may even prove to be an anchor point for a new line to be formed as the promised reinforcements from the north made their way to the front.

    By the end of July, that help – fourteen fresh divisions, including three Guards divisions – was getting closer as more lines of supply were established.

    cQ4rrf.jpg

    The Turkish Front as at 2300hr, 31 July 1948. The green line was the start point on 1 July, the solid arrows and yellow line show Allied advances and the front line on the Turkish capitulation on 17 July, with dotted blue lines showing Allied gains since then.

    ******

    2. Poland

    The hills of Uzhorod, three provinces south-west of Lwów, was taken early on 18 July. This line of hills would be the furthest extent of advances from there south for the rest of the month, as the Lwów Offensive now focused on securing the western and northern approaches to the city and gradually pushing to the west and north from there – into central Poland and away from Slovakia and Hungary.

    The next key attack came in Turka that afternoon, with a diverse mix of Allied defenders being struck from three different directions (including recently secured Uzhorod) and lasting just over a day before being defeated.

    qZFJIo.jpg

    In northern Poland, a determined Allied attack on Sieradz (directly west of Lódz) began at 1500hr on 20 July. The Polish 6th Division, serving as a Soviet EF, was recovered enough from earlier fighting to be sent in from Lódz to reinforce the two Soviet divisions under attack by three strong Allied divisions.

    Turka would be occupied early on 20 July, preparing the way for an attack on Jawowrow that began at 0800hr on 21 July and ended in a Soviet victory by midday against the outnumbered, unsupplied and disorganised defenders (Soviets 32/52,972; Allies 583/20,746 killed). It would be liberated at 0400hr on the 22nd.

    Uzhorod came under Allied counter-attack on 22 July, but was held easily by 0800hr on 23 July (Soviets 50/15,981; Allies 1,522/8000 killed). That evening the next Soviet attack was launched on Przemsyl [74% initial progress] on the north-western outskirts of Lwów. Again, they found the Allies defending in strength, but unsupplied. This attack was followed up just afterwards with a strong attack on Zolkiew (east of Przemsyl) by six Soviet divisions – including three medium tank divisions – against just two (fully supplied) German counterparts [68%].

    Up in Sieradz, the Poles had reinforced by the morning of 24 July, but Allied pressure remained heavy had increased [-56%]. The attack on Przemsyl was running into increased resistance [-44%]; perhaps Allied supply had been resumed, with a recovered CAS group being brought back in to support the attack.

    At 0000hr on 25 July, a big victory was won in Zolkiew (Soviets 398/66,979; Germany 3,568/16,190 killed), which had also been given are support by then. But at the same time, the defence of Sieradz was still slowly failing [-57%], with 8 SD the next ordered into the line from reserve in Kutno.

    Sanok was occupied at 1700hr that evening and then Zolkiew three hours later. Przemsyl fell at 1500hr on the 26th, meaning Lwów was now surrounded by a buffer zone on all sounds. These recent gains allowed the next attack, on Rawa Ruska, to be launched a few days later.

    9L0Z0J.jpg

    The VVS air support for this attack drew a Hungarian fighter response, which also chased them to their base at Brzesc Litewski but came off second best against the VVS escort fighters. The battle was well won the following morning. Simultaneously, a subsidiary attack on Zamosc found only one division of poorly supplied defenders, who were quickly defeated.

    The grinding attrition on Sieradz had continued, with a VVS TAC group trying to hamper the Allied attackers in Wielun while more reinforcements were summoned as the defenders’ position deteriorated [-86%], but three German fighter wings intercepted (organised, but under-strength) very early on 29 July. At the same time German panzer and panzer-grenadier divisions attacked Luboml, from Chelm [-12%], an attack that continued at the end of the month.

    Grim news came at 0500hr on the 29th: the battle for Sieradz was lost and the Allies occupied in an hour later. But an hour after that, inbound Soviet reinforcements from Lódz became counter-attackers. Though outnumbered, the recently arrived Allied defenders were understrength and some of them very disorganised. Yet another Allied attack on Gniezno was in progress, but had almost run its race.

    tm7N13.jpg

    After the earlier victories there, Zamosc was liberated at 0000hr on 30 July and Rawa Ruska two hours later, as the Allies continued their attacks on Sanok and Luboml.

    The counter-attack on Sieradz was reinforced at 1100hr on 30 July by the 10th Guards Division [87%] as the Allied defence weakened and would fail at 2200hr on the 31st, the province regained by the Soviets an hour later. The latest determined but under-powered Allied attack on Gniezno was defeated at 1300hr on the 31st [Soviets 448/34,986; Allies 2,426/7,305 killed).

    In the main Lwów sector fighting, advances from earlier in the month had been built upon since 18 July. The Allied attack on Sanok had been repelled, but the attack on Luboml lingered on. There were hopes that the offensive may eventually be able to punch through to Krakow and perhaps form a pocket of Allied troops to the north – or at least force their retreat.

    da1kV4.jpg


    ******

    3. Germany

    As always, the most crucial sector for the overall war effort was to the north, in Germany, as the Soviets drove beyond the Elbe and sought a bridgehead over the Oder River and in a hard-fought approach to Berlin.

    The skies were quite fiercely contested in the coming days as both sides launched and tried to intercept bombing attacks as the fighting raged on the ground. For example, early on 18 July three German INT wings contested a VVS raid on Kreuz, from which the Allies were attacking Schneidemühl, which had two TAC and five fighter wings to escort them, the bombers still managing to cause 444 ground casualties. At the same time, three VVS INT wings were intercepting two German TAC wings over Schneidemühl itself, to useful effect.

    A couple of hours later, the ‘show’ was on again over Arnswalde, three Czech INT wings contesting a VVS CAS group raid. But the Czech effort could not prevent an important Soviet victory in Arnswalde by 0900hr on the 18th (Soviets 856/52,913; Allies 2,504/51,291 killed).

    Between 1500hr on the 18th to 0300hr on the 19th of July, four battles were decided. The successful defence of Wronki came first and other Allied counter-attacks on Schneidemühl (following a successful spoiling attack on Kreuz) and yet another big Allied attack on Gniezno was thwarted.

    aw1Z3Y.jpg

    The latest major Allied counter-offensive had been blunted and one offensive gain made in Arnswalde, which was occupied at 1600hr on the 19th. That led to a big attack on Griefenberg (on the Baltic coast) at 1700hr, ending in victory when the defenders were blasted out three hours later (Soviets 11/30,991; Allies 175/7,419 killed).

    The next phase of the drive to the Oder began at 0600hr on 21 July, when a major attack on the key province of Kreuz from Arnswalde prompted another defensive victory in Wronki an hour later. A heavy victory was won in Kreuz later that afternoon after nine hours of savage fighting. Griefenberg was occupied at 0800r.

    ekoVsi.jpg

    But during the attack on Kreuz, the Luftwaffe had managed one of their heaviest single raids so far in the war on Arnswalde, killing 837 Soviet troops in one hit at 0400hr on the 21st. This led to aerial clashes over Arnswalde as the Luftwaffe sought to press home more attacks and the VVS to protect their troops attacking Kreuz.

    5Qq3m7.jpg

    The next German raid would be repelled that afternoon, though the Luftwaffe then sent up their own fighters to duel with their VVS counterparts that night, when 148 IAD-PVO was taken off line for repairs.

    The Soviets took Kreuz at 0200hr on 22 July while recently arrived divisions attacked Stargard from Arnswalde to deepen the Oder Salient. Victory was won in Stargard after a short skirmish, with a new attack launched from Griefenberg on the key port and air base of Stettin soon after.

    gq3Ccl.jpg

    The French Air Force would try to stop the VVS ground attack on Stettin but were defeated by INT reinforcements later that morning. The battle was won late that night. The next morning, two unescorted Dutch TAC wings tried to strike Griefenberg but were repelled by three VVS INT wings.

    Late on 23 July, a new attack, this time on Landsberg, was launched to broaden the northern advance to the Oder. The next morning, Stettin and Stargard were occupied in quick succession. With the far bank of the Oder currently unoccupied, two divisions began to cross the river to the west into Schwedt an der Oder, while 91 SD turned south to reinforce the attack on Landsberg.

    F62puZ.jpg

    That battle would be won mid-afternoon, while another ineffective Allied counter-attack petered out against Kreuz: but while they may not win it, it had at least delayed the massed Soviet formations there from being able to join the offensive on Landsberg. And Berlin itself was now coming into Soviet reckoning.

    The Allies still tried to strike Kreuz from the air, with a single Italian TAC wing intercepted by two VVS wings and mauled at 1000hr on 24 July. The defensive victory was won in Kreuz at 0300hr on the 25th (Soviets 295/63,490; Allies 2,047/16,985 killed).

    Later that afternoon, the Hungarian division defending Prenzlau was attacked and would be defeated by 0800hr the following morning. Two new Soviet attacks began at 2300hr: first a Danish division slipped into Schwedt an der Oder while the Soviet attackers ran out of supplies and had to halt their attack a few hours later.

    oLqWR5.jpg

    And a quick attack was also put in on Küstrin, after Landsberg was secured at 2100hr on the 25th. 218 MRD was later reinforced and the Soviets were victorious by the afternoon of 26 July. They were closing in on the east bank of the Oder, but had yet to force a crossing.

    That evening, the column in Stargard was still immobilised for lack of supplies, but most of the front in the north had sufficient supplies to continue, though no battles were current in progress.

    HzP6HF.jpg

    Küstrin was taken at 1900hr that evening, bringing the advance guard to the banks of the Oder from their to its mouth on the Baltic, and to within two provinces of Berlin. Two hours later, another Allied division – Germans this time – slipped into Prenzlau after the previous defenders had been seen off, requiring another quick assault by MAJGEN Remizov’s column of three divisions. The defence would prove stubborn and was not overcome until the morning of the 28th.

    grbK1H.jpg

    Meanwhile, 8 HArm Div had been advancing on an unguarded Reppen, encountering a disorganised German division at 0200hr on 27 July that had been retreating from Landsberg. They could only resist for five hours before being swept out of the way.

    During the battle for Prenzlau, the Czechs tried to prevent VVS CAS raids but were overpowered when additional INT wings were brought in. And the Luftwaffe struck the attackers in Stettin early on the 27th causing almost 400 ground casualties, after which the VVS intercepted further raids at 0800hr, preventing further ground losses.

    38XuD2.jpg

    In another skirmish in Reppen at 1400hr on 27 July, a fully manned and organised an SS panzer-grenadier division put a halt to the opportunistic Soviet advance, forcing 8 HArm Div to halt in Landsberg.

    jeC0gy.jpg

    With fighting continuing in Prenzlau at that point, supply was re-established in Stargard and a new attack on the Danes in Schwedt an der Oder began at 1500hr on the 27th.

    The Luftwaffe kept up its attempts to strike the Soviet front lines, but again the two CAS wings they sent against Küstrin at 1900hr on the 27th were unescorted and easily turned away by two VVS INT wings.

    Other than the victory in Prenzlau (mentioned above) there was little more to report on 28 July. The VVS had continued to strike the retreating Allied forces in Prenzlau into the morning of the 29th, when the Luftwaffe rose to challenge them. Despite an extra group of VVS fighters bolstering the escort, the Germans also sent in additional planes.

    iMpVcV.jpg

    In the series of furious dogfights that lasted all morning, both sides took heavy damage. At midday, 12th CAS Group had to be brought off-line for repairs.

    The latest Soviet attack on Schwedt an der Oder succeeded at 1400hr on 29 July (Soviets 301/23,278; Denmark 692/5,979 killed). The race was on to see if the Soviets to gain their bridgehead before more Allied forces arrived.

    They did, in Prenzlau, at 0300hr on 30 July, though an Allied counter-attack began at 1100hr and would be ongoing at the end of the 31st. As that began, the Soviets widened their bridgehead into Schwedt an der Oder. They too were counter-attacked soon afterwards, but saw off their attackers by 2100hr that same night.

    VEXxI4.jpg

    Also that night, a persistent Allied counter-attack that had been tying up troops in Landsberg was also defeated. It seemed the Soviet presence across the Oder would not be easily dislodged.

    As the month drew to a close, an attack was made on strong Allied defences in Frankfurt an der Oder. Interestingly, one of the Allied HQs was commanded by Marshal Smigly-Rydz – who the Soviets thought should have been fighting with his Polish brethren for the Comintern by now. The battle would continue as the day ended.

    xLcOT5.jpg

    At 0100hr, the Soviets in Küstrin had advanced on the unoccupied Lübben – like Frankfurt an der Oder, on the approach to Berlin. A strong-looking panzer-grenadier division appeared there at 1000hr, but only delayed MAJGEN Pushkin’s column for a couple of hours before they fled and the Soviets pushed on to the capital of their most hated enemy.

    The month had seen a large Soviet salient formed across the north German plains on the approach to Berlin, with Lübben being taken (and then counter-attacked by the Allies) late on 31 July. This further broadened the Oder bridgehead and brought the Red Army to the outskirts of Berlin.

    u2PD9i.jpg

    More broadly, the Western and Turkish Fronts were characterised by broad Allied advances in Turkey, with the major German and secondary Polish offensives by the Soviets standing out clearly. Elsewhere, neither side had the reserves for any significant offensive operations.

    8frDBM.jpg


    ******

    The next part will describe busy operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East and summarise strategic events in research, espionage, production and diplomacy for the second half of July 1948.
     
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    Chapter 47B: 18-31 July 1948 (The East)

    Note: As mentioned earlier, here is the continuation of the last update – section numbering follows on from that.

    ******

    4. The Middle East

    The surprise British marine landing in Sudr had been attacked by the Soviets, but this failed by 0700hr on 18 July. This was quickly followed by a cross-canal attack on Români and then two hours later by the 1st RM Division on Bîr Gifgafa, supported by RAF air strikes, where Soviet resistance was soon faltering.

    Aa5o3z.jpg

    A day later, the RAF had switched their efforts to Români as the Soviets lost in Bîr Gifgafa. But the Allied attack on Români was hopeless and soon called off, despite the air support.

    bxOkdH.jpg

    This released the 1st Gds Div to continue its move to Bîr Gifgafa, where it arrived at 0600hr on the 20th, before the British could occupy it. But the RAF switched back to attack support there the next day and the Soviet quick defence was again under pressure on the 21st [-54%].

    Late on 22 July, the Egyptians tried another attack on Români, which lasted until the morning of the 24th but was also beaten back with heavy casualties. Meanwhile, the RAF continued to pound Bîr Gifgafa. By the evening of the 24th, the Guards could not hold out and they retreated, having suffered horrendous casualties to ground and air attacks in recent fighting.

    913dQj.jpg

    As they retreated back to Români, it was clear some fighter assets would need to be diverted back to the Middle East lest the whole sector collapse. Two M/R wings finished a ‘reserve-hop’ transfer to Tel Aviv Yafo at 2200hr on the night of the 24th. Another – 141. IAD-PVO – arrived at midnight, but unlike the others was not yet at full strength [77%]. It joined them to form a new fighter group anyway.

    As 141. IAD-PVO flew in, Bîr Gifgafa was lost to the Allies. At 0200hr 36. IAD-PVO was added to the new fighter group and the Royal Marines were attacking Români strongly, as was the RAF. But this time, the VVS could help …

    dNNtVf.jpg

    … which they did, savaging the RAF bombers of the Middle East Group.

    To the pleasant surprise of the defenders, the Marines broke off their attack on Români late on the morning of 26 July: the neutralisation of the RAF air support had probably been crucial in achieving this. And – again to the surprise of STAVKA – the Egyptians seemed to be pulling out of Bûr Sa’id.

    XfrzMe.jpg

    By the end of the month, the British had disappeared from Bîr Gifgafa and the Egyptians from Bûr Sa’id. The still worn but somewhat rested Soviet divisions in Români decided to probe forward to see if they could take advantage of this unexpected Allied fall-back.

    OadhCV.jpg

    Movements in the Middle East: 1-31 July 1948.

    ******

    5. Central Asia

    On the morning of 18 July, the first Sinkiang Army divisions were approaching Stalinabad and the north-east border of Afghanistan. How much assistance they would provide remained to be seen.

    ALHu4u.jpg

    Further west, the limited Soviet offensive between Stalinabad and Cheshme continued, with a victory and occupation of Bukhara on 22 July, shortening the Soviet line.

    YCEZt9.jpg

    The position in Persia – where Soviet reinforcements had not yet been sent – continued to slowly deteriorate with the loss of Ashgabat on the 23rd.

    vTN4Eq.jpg

    As the first Sinkiang units were reaching the front on the afternoon of 26 July, the first wave of Soviet reinforcements sent from the Far East (five HQs, two tank, one mechanised and six infantry divisions) were strung out in trains in central and eastern Mongolia.

    The busy air base in Stalinabad was expanded to Level Five facilities at 0000hr on 27 July, where the radar and ground fortifications were still being upgraded.

    As the month ended, the Allies ground forward in Persia, but the northern sector had been stabilised.

    thGv97.jpg

    And the next tranches of Soviet divisions were making their way through China on troop trains.

    uHwwtW.jpg


    ******

    6. The Far East

    The Far Eastern front was quiet until 20 July, when that night the small remaining Pacific Red Banner Fleet (the old battleship Parizhkaya Kommuna, two DD flotillas and a good number of troop transports) headed from Vladivostok to Toyohara.

    They arrived there on the morning of the 22nd and embarked the entire marine landing force and follow-on infantry divisions who had seized the port back when Japan had been defeated and most of the fleet destroyed in the effort. They were bound for the big Japanese port of Haikou.

    rqWIzV.jpg

    Four days later, having arrived in Haikou and established new supply arrangements, the fleet and landing force were off again, headed for Beibu Wan. The aim was to bypass the ‘infrastructure block’ at Mong Cai in northern Vietnam through a large naval landing aimed at seizing Hanoi. This would be done at the considerable risk of Allied naval intervention.

    The fleet was anchored offshore by 1600hr on 26 July, with all five divisions beginning to disembark over a three-province-wide front.

    2tTeXg.jpg

    The fleet came under French attack the next morning: two battleships and one aircraft carrier exchanged fire with Kuznetsov’s small battle fleet. But the Red Navy’s big advantage in the case was three groups of VVS naval bombers (6 x NAV in all) based in Hong Kong and Haikou, which soon joined in the action. The troops were only just past the half-way point of their landing.

    uXiO2B.jpg

    Within just an hour, the Provence was in a bad way from air attack and naval gunfire. By 1600hr, the French had lost the battle and the Provence was at the bottom of the ocean! A gallant victory for the remnant of the Red Navy, allowing the invasion to continue. The remaining French ships limped into port at Haiphong.

    The whole VVS NAV force was soon striking them in Haiphong, where the French warships had joined four flotillas of landing craft: all of them sitting ducks. But the Dixmude’s CAG also raided the Soviet fleet, which had not escaped recent action unscathed either. While that was happening, the invasion force stormed ashore having found no opposition, the port of Haiphong secured and units starting inland to Hanoi.

    tGoi5q.jpg

    The landing in Haiphong forced the French fleet out of port – and into combat again with Kuznetsov and the VVS NAV. After a four hour battle, the French escaped south, but not before having an LC flotilla sunk.

    vtda6N.jpg

    As the retreating French launched a CAG raid in Beibu Wan that got mixed up with one of the VVS NAV groups, other NAV bombers struck the French in the Gulf of Tonkin on the morning of the 28th.

    YErgoI.jpg

    By 2100hr that night, the French were holed up in the port of Quang Ngai: in NAV range of Haikou, but not Hong Kong, so the other two VVS groups were soon transferred there to carry on operations, as the forward group struck the French fleet in port that night. Recently arrived Soviet subs (2 x SS) patrolled off shore in the Annam Coast.

    The 1st Marine Corps HQ was ashore late on 28 July, at which point the battered Soviet fleet headed back to Haikou for some much-needed repairs. The two DD flotillas and some of the transports had been heaviest hit.

    wabslI.jpg

    At midnight, the new 7 MBAD (NAV) wing deployed in Vladivostok and began its work-up training. It may well have plenty of business in the future, if recent combat was anything to go by.

    The port strikes on Quang Ngai continued, with another LC flotilla sunk early on 29 July and a second left on its last legs.

    mWNV3R.jpg

    The next raid destroyed the last of the LCs, leaving only the Lorraine and Dixmude afloat, but damaged.

    pNU9kV.jpg

    By then, the Soviet fleet was back in Haikou, where the three most damaged units (1 x DD, 2 x TP) were split off for long term repairs. The rest moved up to Zhanjiang, where a large force of Soviet divisions were holding. And more Soviet sub squadrons were sent south from Haikou to patrol off the coast of southern Vietnam, to search for convoys but mainly to provide early warning for any additional Allied fleets that may come to assist their beleaguered French colleagues.

    Soon afterwards, the reduced and still-damaged Pacific Fleet had picked up four infantry divisions from Zhanjiang and was steaming towards a new amphibious landing target – the heavily beset Quang Ngai. It was pushing things, but it was calculated that the Allies were likely to be sending naval reinforcements sooner rather than later, so this may be the last opportunity for a leap-frogging naval landing.

    2C4O52.jpg

    The VVS kept on pounding away with port strikes on Quang Ngai a bit later that afternoon – in part to ‘keep an eye on things’ in the invasion zone. Another began that night, showing the Dixmude to be almost done for.

    GBmKC9.jpg

    And the good news came in quick succession that night: Hanoi fell to the USSR and it was reported the Dixmude was sunk in port just two hours later after the latest raid finished.

    k0ei6T.jpg

    This was very timely, as the invasion began at 0400 on 30 July, even as the VVS kept up the effort on the port in Quang Ngai.

    BUm0RY.jpg

    As the troops were gradually ferried ashore, more Soviet subs arrived in the Annam Coast in the early afternoon to bolster the meagre surface escort for the landing craft and transports. A welcome by-product was the sinking of a French convoy trying to make its way in to resupply Quang Ngai at 1700hr.

    After another port strike that night, the last French LC flotilla in Quang Ngai made a run for it, but was destroyed by a combination of a NAV strike and submarine attack three hours into their doomed voyage. Only the now gravely damaged and disorganised battleship Lorraine remained afloat in the harbour as the troops made their way ever closer to shore.

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    Then at 0500hr on 31 July, reports were received from the screening submarines of a British fleet of unknown size and strength making its way north from Phan Rang Bay. The troops were very nearly ashore in the unopposed landing at Quang Ngai, while two submarine squadrons were sent to investigate, report on and intercept the approaching threat.

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    Indeed, all the troops had landed by 0800hr, even as the VVS hit the Lorraine in port for one last time. Another NAV group had been sent south to scout and strike the approaching British fleet and at 1000hr they reported on its strength: three modern battleships with an escorting heavy cruiser and DD flotilla. More than enough to cause havoc for the meagre Soviet warships on station.

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    Not knowing when the Royal Navy task force was due to arrive, Kuznetsov did not want to risk being caught in the open seas so headed straight for the thoroughly bombed out port in Quang Ngai, which he reached safely at 1400hr, as the VVS began striking the British in Vung Van Phong.

    The 2nd Soviet Sub Squadron reached Vung Van Phong at 1200hr, as the VVS was hitting the British task force. The 3rd Soviet Sub Squadron was on station to the south of that in Phan Rang Bay an hour later.

    Meanwhile, the Lorraine had slipped out of Quang Ngai after the landing Soviet troops forced them out, but had avoided interception in the Annam Coast. She was not so lucky that afternoon as first the VVS then 2nd Sub Squadron found and sank her.

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    Simultaneously, different Soviet subs and NAV were tangling with the Royal Navy in the Annam Coast. As it happened, the Soviet fleet had escaped interception by just one hour!

    This encounter was far more difficult. The 4th Soviet Sub Squadron engaged first as two NAV groups struck from above. Even though they were reinforced by another sub squadron during the evening, the 28th Flotilla was sunk and the 32nd withdrew at 2200hr. For the British, the heaviest damage had been taken by the HMS Norfolk, followed by the destroyers and some light damage on HMS King George V.

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    The month had seen action in the Far East only relatively late in the piece, but it had become busy and the Soviets were ashore in both northern and central Vietnam.

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    ******

    7. Intelligence, Diplomacy, Production and Research

    By 23 July, Communist Party support in Republican Spain had risen to 25%, with 16 covert ops teams in place and ten Soviet spy teams opposed by four Spanish counter-espionage teams.

    Then the turning point of the war was surely reached when, in the early morning of 26 July, a flash cable heralded the inclusion of a new Comintern member to take the fight to the Allied imperialist running dogs in South America. Take that, Paraguay!

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    Two new infantry brigades were put into production on 30 July, when a little spare IC became available. They would eventually be used for ‘topping up’ existing divisions. Alas, the rest of the increasing IC output (54.27 IC – 16.25% of overall capacity) had to be invested in supplies once more, which were running low again; as was fuel (both down to around 22,000 in stockpile and falling by 6-7,000 per day).

    As the month ended, reinforcements, upgrades and supplies were again occupying the bulk of Soviet industrial output. The nuke stockpile sat at 4.6 completed devices, but fuel and supply were again increasing in net terms.

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    The intelligence picture had improved in Spain, with both covert teams and Communist support having increased further.

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    There had been five research advances during the entire month, with new projects being spread around a range of different areas – including (belatedly) on jungle warfare equipment.

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    While the Allies still approached achievement of all their victory objectives, the Soviets were also now gaining ground, having achieved seven of their own after recent gains.

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    NB: while Poland is a Comintern puppet legally, the Allies still control a number of their key cities. The same applies to Romania and Turkey, only more so.
     
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