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Chapter 199: Remembering Timisoara (1 to 8 May 1943) New

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Chapter 199: Remembering Timisoara (1 to 8 May 1943)

AuthAAR’s Notes: The War Cabinet meeting held in Istanbul on the morning of 1 May 1943 has already been reported upon in Chapter 198. This chapter describes a few events in its immediate lead-up, the dual commemoration of Timisoara/May Day and the first eight days of operations in May 1943.

What with May/Timisoara Day, extensive combat operations and end-of-month reports, there ended up being enough material for four decent sized chapters to cover May: I thought that better than trying to cut out too much detail or try to squeeze it into three over-long ones. It does mean the images have been largely curated for the next three chapters as well, so while this delayed the issue of this one, the subsequent ones will be significantly quicker to produce. So here goes …


---xxx---

Prologue: Washington DC, 28 Apr 43

“Mr President, Secretary Smith is here to see you,” announced President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s private secretary, Grace Tully [1], as she ushered the Secretary of State into the Oval Office.


FDR with his Private Secretary Grace Tully, April 1943.
Grace Tully (August 9, 1900 – June 15, 1984) was private secretary to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She succeeded the formidable Marguerite ‘Missy’ LeHand after the latter suffered a stroke in June 1941. Tully was not an intimate or romantic companion for Roosevelt in the same way as LeHand had been. She was working for the President at his "Little White House" in Warm Springs in April 1945, and was present at his death. Then she served as the Executive Secretary for the FDR Foundation.
Secretary of State Alfred E. Smith [2] took a chair next to the President. Theirs was a businesslike relationship - not a warm one.

“Ah, Secretary Smith, welcome. I wanted to talk to you ahead of your impending trip to Istanbul,” Roosevelt began. “Of course, it will not simply be a ceremonial occasion, so I wanted to ensure we are on the same wavelength when it comes to discussion with your Turkish and Soviet counterparts.”

“Of course, Mr President,” Smith replied. “I believe I am thoroughly briefed. Was there anything in particular you wished to discuss?”

“A broad discussion about our strategic interests – national and as part of the Comintern Pact we find ourselves in – at the moment.” The two then discussed issued such as explaining the United States’ limited involvement in the Pacific Theatre so far (to be explained as a capacity and capability issue), a desire to keep Turkey happy as the United States' ‘friend in the West’, the performance of the US Marine expeditionary force in the current Balkan campaign, lend-lease and equipment purchases, and so on.

As they finished, Roosevelt motioned for the note-takers to leave the room. “There is also the issue of our relationship with the Soviets and our lingering affinity with and support for the United Kingdom, despite our formal membership of the Comintern Pact. And letting you know about a specific intelligence matter that will occur during your visit.”

Smith merely raised an inquisitive eyebrow and allowed the president to continue.

“Major General [he had been recently promoted] Guildenstern, as you know, will be attending as our senior ‘Turkish specialist’ in his public role as chief of public affairs. He also has a task in his, ah, clandestine role. Rest assured, any risk to us is minimal and nothing will be done to needlessly risk your position or cause embarrassment. It is to be considered a favour for the ‘Former Naval Gentleman’.”

“Yes, Mr President,” said a rather diffident Smith, citing an old aphorism to keep things nuanced – neither disagreeing nor agreeing with the idea, simply acknowledging he would do whatever he must. “Of course, I serve the national interest at the President’s pleasure.”

He was then briefed into the task.

“It is a somewhat thorny issue, Alfred, but here it is in a nutshell …”


Roosevelt and Alfred E. Smith: “It is a somewhat thorny issue, Alfred.”
A short bio on Smith has been provided previously in this AAR: in brief, he was the Democrats' Presidential candidate in 1928 and in OTL he had a prickly relationship with FDR, though apparently they somewhat mended fences towards the end of their lives. Clearly, they are closer in this ATL! ;)
---xxx---

Istanbul, 1 May 43

Following the Cabinet Meeting that morning the in Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, Inönü met a very special guest – his fellow Head of State from the Soviet Union, Mikhail Kalinin [3]. Of course, Kalinin held no power and to all intents and purposes was a mere ceremonial figurehead for Stalin, but he had been the equivalent of President of the USSR since 1919 and had been sent by Stalin on a very rare foreign trip to preside with Inönü over a Turkish-Soviet May Day Parade in the old Turkish capital of Istanbul (Inönü did not wish to be too far from the front, so had sent Celal Bayar back to Ankara to officiate there as Prime Minister).

As the two Presidents stood at the reviewing platform, the two national anthems were played.

“Before the parade starts, Mr Chairman,” said a beaming Inönü, “I have a special surprise for you. The best singers from your Red Army expeditionary troops serving with us have been gathered. You may recognise this song.”


Inönü and Kalinin (right) in Istanbul, May Day 1943. “You may recognise this song.” [Photo thanks to @diskoerekto]

(2.44m)
Красная Армия всех сильней (Krasnaya Armiya vsekh siljney - The Red Army is Strongest)
Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (Russian: Михаи́л Ива́нович Кали́нин; b 19 November [O.S. 7 November] 1875), known familiarly by Soviet citizens as "Kalinych", was a Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet politician. He served as head of state of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and later of the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1946. From 1926, he was a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. From 1938, his title was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. He had been in that or its previous equivalent position since 1919.

He held little power or influence beyond receiving diplomatic letters from abroad. Recalling him, future Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev said, "I don't know what practical work Kalinin carried out under Lenin. But under Stalin he was the nominal signatory of all decrees, while in reality he rarely took part in government business. Sometimes he was made a member of a commission, but people didn't take his opinion into account very much. It was embarrassing for us to see this; one simply felt sorry for Mikhail Ivanovich."
The parade was necessarily limited in size and duration due to the heavy operations at the front. Once the two men finished their review, they went off for a separate, smaller Timisoara Day commemoration, where the Romanian Ambassador attended and Inönü’s battlefield address from two years before was reread.

For those interested in a recap, see here: Chapter 126: A Band of Brothers – Prologue (1 May 1941)

Around the country, May/Timisoara Day was being commemorated in towns and villages (there were few ‘celebrations’ to be had at that stage of the war). Below, at a primary school.


“The Turkish Revolution is Unique”. [Photo and translation thanks to @diskoerekto]

As Kalinin returned to the Soviet Consulate in Istanbul and Inönü to his 1st Army HQ at the front, two other guests were being welcomed by Foreign Minister Aras at the Dolmabahçe Palace. Both men had been at the short parade with the official party, but had then adjourned for the real business of the day: a foreign ministers’ meeting of the Comintern’s ‘Big Three’ powers. Litvinov and Smith joined Aras for classified discussions, including an abridged debrief of the key outcomes of the Cabinet Meeting that the Pact partners ‘needed to know’.


Soviet Foreign Minister Litvinov, right, behind Inönü before the 1943 May Day Parade.


US Secretary of State Smith arriving in Istanbul, 30 April 1943.

As the Ministers met, Major General B.J. Guildenstern was among a range of guests mingling at a morning tea in the gardens of the Palace. Among the others there was his old colleague and approximate counterpart, Persephonee Fotheringay-Phipps (or 'Fungifips' as she was styled in Turkey these days).

“Ah, Perse, delighted to see you, still in one piece,” he said with a broad grin which did not quite reach his eyes. Perse could see it was a hint of worry and concern underlying an outwardly relaxed display of joviality: she knew him too well from ‘the old days’.

“Quite, B.J., still tootling along as best I can,” she replied, matching his demeanour. “I hope your new job is treating you well.”

“Oh, it is, my dear,” then, dropping his voice but keeping up the relaxed façade, “I had a message from an old friend. Rosencrantz, if you please. Something Shakespearean, now what was it again? ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. And something about ‘Romeos being the death of Juliets’, even though it is never intended’. Nonsense, of course. He always was a romantic fool, I thought.”


B.J. Guildenstern: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

“Oh, the silly boy! He was always a thorn in my side. And no longer welcome in these parts,” she added wryly.

Both of them laughed lightly and parted ways. Inside, however, Perse’s mind was churning. Especially given her middle name happened to be Juliet!


Perse: “Oh, the silly boy!”

---xxx---

At The Front – Midnight, 1 May 43

At midnight, a report was received that one of four continuing battles – an Axis attack on Tuzla, which had started on 28 April – had just ended in Turkish victory. Fighting in Backa Palanka continued in the Comintern’s favour, while Turkish forces were still trying to reclaim Valpovo after a victory there to cut off two German divisions racing to escape being cut off in Bosanski Brod. To the north, Axis attacks on Vrnograc and Virovitica appeared to be failing, but fighting had not yet ended.


A summary of the key action and dispositions in Turkish sector west of Beograd as at the end of April 1943.

At midnight, a short report was received from the Eastern Front: 4 Cav Div had reached Chindagatuy to claim it for the Comintern, but had been immediately attacked by Japanese infantry and Manchurian militia, before their Comintern comrades could arrive to reinforce them.


An hour later, 7 Inf Div was the first to reinforce Osijek. Spotting an opportunity in Sombor, which the enemy had left temporarily unoccupied in the confusion of their retreat from the Sava River. The 7th was ordered to attempt a bridgehead across the mighty Danube, as a heavy Turkish column kept driving to secure the Drava in Valpovo. At last, it seemed a war of manoeuvre had begun as Turkey now threatened Hungary’s southern borders [Pécs being a Hungarian 2 VP location].


The good news kept coming, with MAJGEN Diskoerekto reporting a heavy repulse of the latest Axis assault on Vrnograc.


Three hours later, the same outcome came in Virovitica (Turkish 98 v 794 Axis casualties). For now, anyway, that part of the line was secure with no enemy attacks between the Drava River and the Adriatic.

In Beograd, which had been quiet for some time now though still showed the scars of previous heavy fighting, the local Soviet troops staged their own May Day Parade later that morning, with hope in their hearts … and guns in their hands.


There was good reason to celebrate, as by midday the quick-moving 3 Cav Div managed to secure Valpovo just before the first of the fleeing German divisions to the south was able to reach it. Completely cut off, the veteran but worn out 1st Infanterie surrendered soon after in Valpovo, followed by the otherwise fresh 3 Gebirgjäger the next day. In all, almost 10,000 German POWs would be rounded up. It was shaping into a great May Day!


By 7pm, the Cavalry Reserve had retaken Plovdiv from rebel occupation and headed to Sofiyah, where they would remain on counter-insurgency duty for now. At the same time, a new Axis attack by Italian mountain troops in Zagreb struck 1 Inf and 1 Mar Divs in Sisak. Orbay negated their assault with a counter-attack: there was little chance of Axis victory there; unless they threw more into the fight.

2 Armd Div bolstered the occupation of Valpovo at 11pm: it should now be secure against any counter-attack from enemy divisions beginning to muster along the north bank of the Drava River to its north.

Air Damage Report. The main air activity was in Brcko, where three Italian air raids killed 284 of the troops attacking Backa Palanka.

OTL Event: Tunisia. The Battle of Hill 609 ended as the U.S. Army's II Corps drove Germany's Afrika Korps from a strategic position. An author would note that the battle, the first clear cut victory of U.S. forces in the North African Campaign, was "the American Army's coming-of-age." [Comment: in this ATL, that has been achieved on the Sava and Drava Rivers during the Turkish Spring Offensive of 1943.]

---xxx---

2 May 43

The enemy attack on Sisak was indeed ramped up at 1am that morning, with a division each from Cakovec (German motorised) and Zagreb (Hungarian infantry) joining, making it notionally a 50/50 proposition, as enemy air raids commenced in support. This would not be allowed to go unchallenged: a Comintern spoiling attack was ordered immediately from Virovitica, which hit the Germans’ flank in Cakovec hard at 2am.


By 5am, the Germans in Cakovec had pulled out of their participation in the attack on Sisak, improving the odds there to a reasonably comfortable level. For now, the spoiling attack on Cakovec continued, though the Germans were now able to defend without distraction.

With more Soviet troops arriving in Valpovo, 2 Armd Div (commanded by MAJGEN Naci Tinaz – it is Turkey’s fastest formation) was now free to push into the developing breakout area, heading south-east to Osijek, where 7 Inf Div was attempting to cross the Danube to Sombor.

7 Inf Div completed an unopposed crossing of the Danube at 10am. They could not yet determined what enemy forces – if any – were around them on the far bank, other than those already known in Beli Manastir (to the north-west) and Backa Palanka (being attacked to the south-east).


However, they were met by US ‘Liaison Officer’ MAJ Tyler Durden, who had arranged a rendezvous there with his OSS handler, Edward Norton.

“We have caused mayhem behind their lines,” reported the somewhat crazed but exhilarated Durden. “They have some forces to the south in Kula, but not much else in front of you now. If you push forward now, it will be on an open door.”


Edward Norton and Tyler Durden in Sombor, 2 May 1943: “We have caused mayhem behind their lines.”

Alas, to Durden’s frustration, 7 Inf Div had been instructed to hold the precious bridgehead at Sombor while the faster breakthrough forces came through to exploit – and they were not yet in Osijek.

“Damn it, Norton! I’ve had enough of this. It's FUBAR. I’m going back out to look for a real fight!”

“Where will you be?”

“Not saying: remember, what happens in fight club stays in fight club!”

By 3pm, even though they remained under air attack, Orbay reported the Italian attack on Sisak had been heavily defeated (Turkish 86 v 710 Italian casualties). An hour later, victory was declared in Backa Palanka, which was occupied by three Comintern divisions soon after.


Air Damage Report. Four Italian air raids on Sisak killed 583 of Turkish defenders before they finished that night. They also began raiding Virovitica, which would continue until 4 May (where they were trying to break up the Turkish attack that continued on the Germans in Cakovec).

---xxx---

3 May 43

Although it was progressing reasonably, with the continuing air attacks, with Sisak safe it was decided the attack on Cakovec was a distraction and could not be exploited effectively even if it succeeded: the focus was elsewhere and Turkish troop reserves were already being reduced quickly enough (down to 69,000 by this point from 71,000 at the start of the month). It was broken off at 1 am (Turkish 253 v 402 German casualties). The enemy air raids on Sisak continued into the next day.

Nearby, a new opportunity would be exploited: The enemy had still not made it into Szigetvár, on the northern bank of the Drava River, west of Pécs. 15 Inf Div would attack from Virovitica and 4th US Mar Div from Slatina. Acting Lieutenant Metin Sadik readied his platoon in 15 Inf Div, while MAJ Kenny ‘Wraith’ Loggins attached himself to the relatively small (3 x MAR bde) 4th US Marines for what could become a bloody river crossing fight if the enemy got there first to deny the Drava bridgehead. The ultimate objective was to start nothing less than a drive on the Hungarian capital, which sat four provinces to the north of the border, which Turkey was now poised to cross.


2 Armd Div (8.5 kph movement rate) reached Osijek at 8am and was tasked with pushing over the Danube, through 7 Inf Div in Sombor and then continuing north-east to Subotica, which Turkish patrols had confirmed was not yet occupied by the enemy. If they could secure Subotica, that would take them to the banks of the Tisa River. Beyond which lay Timisoara! Which, assuredly, no-one in the Turkish Army had forgotten.

Way over on the Eastern Front, by 8am 4 Cav Div was still fighting hard but losing organisation in Chindagatuy. 47 SD had joined the battle, though it remained in reserve. But it did mean MAJGEN Marcinkevich was able to take command of the defence.

With the sector quiet and new garrison units gaining organisation, Toüdemür’s fast and powerful 2 Mot Div was sent across to the breakthrough area in Osijek from Vrnograc. They would be back-filled by Wehib Pasha’s veteran 1 Armd Div, shuffling up from nearby Ogulin.

The day finished with a short skirmish in Szigetvár: the Hungarian 4th Inf Div had reached it first, but a blitzing attack from 15 Inf and 4 US Mar Divs, who attacked at 11pm, the unprepared Hungarians retreating an hour later (Turkish 3 v 12 Hungarian casualties). But it would still take some time to complete the crossing over the Drava River and secure the Hungarian province.

Air Damage Report. The Italian air raids on Virovitica continued into 4 May.

---xxx---

4 May 43

An encounter battle began in Subotica at 2am, with 2 Armd Div launching a reckless assault on the recently arrived, under-strength and still somewhat disorganised 7 Pz Div, whose superior armour to that of the Turkish light tanks was employed in an attempted ambush. But the early odds [66%] were in the Turks’ favour. They wanted to brush the Germans aside before the line was consolidated.

This battle was closer to the major Turkish airfields in Beograd and, with an enemy armoured formation in open terrain, the long-withheld 1 Tank Avci Grubu (TAG) was warned to be prepared to try their hand in a ground attack. The two Sturmovik CAS wings were being escorted by the old Hawk III INT wing of 1 AF. Many of whose pilots were of the first draft of female Turkish fighter pilots, led by Atatürk’s adopted daughter [4]!


Sabiha Gökçen (second from left, with white scarf), Sahavet Karapars (centre, with goggles on her forehead) and other female fighter pilots in Beograd, on the morning of 4 May 1943, shortly before their first combat mission on the Balkan Front. Sabiha’s Hawk III can be seen in the background. [Photo thanks to @diskoerekto]
Per Wikipedia: Sabiha Gökçen (b. 22 March 1913) is a Turkish aviator and was the world's first female fighter pilot, aged 23. Others such as Marie Marvingt and Evgeniya Shakhovskaya preceded her as military pilots in other roles, but not as fighter pilots and without military academy enrolment.

She was an orphan, and one of the thirteen adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. After the introduction of the Surname Law, Atatürk gave her the family name Gökçen on 19 December 1934. 'Gök' means sky in Turkish and Gökçen means 'belonging or relating to the sky'. However, she was not an aviator at that time, and it was only six months later that Sabiha developed a passion for flying.
Sure enough, at 1pm 1 TAG was ordered to commence ground attacks on 7 Pz Div in Subotica. If they encountered enemy interceptors, more Turkish fighters would have to be sent from Beograd to assist. But to start with, 1 AF – which had a mix of male and female pilots – would have to give the IL-2 CAS wings what protection they could. Two raids were carried out that day, but no enemy interceptors appeared. However, escorted Italian TAC wings began bombing nearby Sombor that afternoon.


IL-2s of 1 TAG strike 7 Pz Div in Subotica on the evening of 4 May 1943.

To the north, the US Marines (4 US Mar Div, with ‘Wraith’ Loggins) were the first across the Drava into Szigetvár, securing it at 5pm. They had their bridgehead – and were now on Hungarian territory, well and truly in the Danger Zone! At 8pm the partly-formed 3 Mot Div (2 x MECH, 1 x TD) were ordered to join them from Slatina, while 15 Inf Div was still making its way across the river from Virovitica.

At 11pm, 1 TAK (with 2 x FTR and 2 x TAC wings at that stage) was added to the ground attacks on Subotica as Naci Tinaz sought to push 7 Pz Div (now confirmed as having a four brigade orbat of ARM/MOT/AC/TD) aside and deepen the Danube bridgehead towards Timisoara.

Air Damage Report. The Italian air raids on Virovitica from 2-4 May killed a total of 1,689 Turkish soldiers, while their attacks begun that day on Sombor would last a couple more days. The Turkish raids on Subotica would continue until early on 7 May: but the Turks were back in the ground attack business after a long delay, much to the appreciation of the ground forces.

---xxx---

5 May 43

1 Mot Div was considered recovered enough (to around 80% average organisation) from its previous fighting by 10am to reinforce the Sombor bridgehead after arriving in Backa Palanka from Osijek. They began moving north, while a strong column advanced on Kula, hoping to widen the Danube bridgehead.

At 3pm, it was decided to split the ground attack missions into a day (1 TAK) and night (1 TAG) routine, to try to avoid overcrowding and improve ‘productivity’.

Over in the fierce and drawn-out battle for Chindagatuy, 4 Cav Div had been forced to retreat, but not before 47 SD had joined the front line to continue the defence of the recently gained province. The two attacking enemy divisions were now losing strength [-14% progress]: it looked like the defence might hold after all after the valiant delaying action of the cavalry.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Subotica showed no signs of ending too soon. The superior tactics of the Turks were being balanced by the armoured advantage of the German panzers. But at least this time, both sides had to contend with air attacks. At 7pm, 6 Inf Div arrived in Osijek and was also ordered into the bridgehead battle.


A few hours later, 3 Mot Div (-) arrived in Szigetvár, with yet more troops being ordered up from Virovitica. 15 Inf Div were still making their way across the Drava.

Curious about developments in the Baltic breakthrough, Inönü had requested an update, which GRU Agent SkitalecS3 provided that night. It seemed the Germans had managed to re-open communications along a thin corridor after counter-attacking the point of the Soviet advance, with heavy fighting continuing.


In line with the recent discussions in Istanbul between respective foreign ministers, Inönü sent a cable to Moscow reiterating that Turkey would continue to push hard in the Balkan Spring Offensive, to ensure the Axis were kept occupied everywhere at once. The Soviet and Romanian forces north of Brasov would attempt the same.

Both sides kept up their damaging air attacks on Subotica and Sombor throughout the day and into the next.

---xxx---

6 May 43

By 10am, the Turks had seen enough and sent the largely recovered 4 AG (two FTR wings, La-5s and P-51s) from Split to intercept the enemy bombing Sombor. They were soon in action, taking some damage but, while they couldn’t deflect the raid in progress, they inflicted heavy damage on one of the Italian TAC wings. And ended the Italian air raids on Sombor – for the time being, anyway. All in all, the mission was deemed a great success.


But even as the dogfight was going on above Sombor, a large spoiling attack from three different direction hit Turkish positions Sombor. Fortunately, 7 Inf Div were partly dug in by then and one of the enemy divisions was attacking across the Danube, but 2 Armd Div was placed at a considerable disadvantage in its attack on Subotica.


In Szigetvár, 15 Inf Div were across the Drava by 2pm and, joined by 3 Mot Div (-) began pushing north to Kaposvár, where a gap remained in the Hungarian line. By then, 4 US Mar Div was holding the bridgehead while 11 Inf and 2 Mot Divs pressed into it.


With the situation in Sombor deteriorating under the heavy Axis attack, at 3pm a two-division Comintern spoiling attack struck Kula across the Danube from Backa Palanka. The Axis quickly responded with a two-division assault on Backa Palanka from Semska Mitrovica – across open terrain. MAJGEN Seven skilfully commanded both battles at once, managing a well-timed counter-attack on the assault on Backa Palanka. The now complicated battle expanded further when 97 SD ‘Shev’ launched a separate spoiling attack at 4pm on Beli Manastir from Osijek. It was now ‘on for young and old’ with fighting on multiple fronts!


To complicate the multiple-front battle even further, a major spoiling attack was then launched by the Turks from three different directions on the Axis troops attacking from Semska Mitrovica, led personally by Commander 3rd Corps, LTGEN Yamut.


And that evening, 1 TAK began bombing Semska Mitrovica (of their own volition, on the way to Subotica, where they were still tasked!), while 1 TAG continued its mission on Subotica. The spoiling attack on Semska Mitrovica soon worked, the Axis calling off their own spoiler on Backa Palanka (Comintern 31 v 112 Axis casualties) to concentrate on their own suddenly perilous defence.

But 2 Armd Div’s attack on Subotica was failing as casualties and disorganisation mounted. It was halted at 11pm (Turkish 825 v 433 German casualties). The Axis had managed to scramble a defence and seal a dangerous two-province gap in their line.

Air Damage Report. The Italian air raids on Sombor from 4-6 May killed a total of 1,006 Turkish soldiers before the Turkish interception mission stopped them that morning. Turkish air attacks on both Semska Mitrovica and Subotica continued into 7 May.

---xxx---

7 May 43

At midnight 156 SD was added to the spoiling attack on Beli Manastir after arriving in Valpovo. And at 1am 1 TAK’s efforts were switched to Bajmok, as the enemy attack on Sombor pressed hard.


The raid on Bajmok brought out the enemy interceptors – it must have crept inside their (shorter) range. 1 TAK managed to press their raids home three times, but by that night the heavy damage and disorganisation suffered by the Yak-4s in particular meant their mission was called off, with repairs, replacements and fresh aircrews called for.


In the East, word arrived at 7am that the Japanese-Manchurian attack had finally been beaten back from Chindagatuy after over six days of bitter fighting (Comintern 714 v 954 Axis casualties). The sacrifice of 4 Cav Div had not been in vain.

The push to break out north towards Budapest gathered momentum when 2 Mot Div got across the Drava at 2pm and joined the advance on Kaposvár, which remained unoccupied by the enemy, ensuring the Axis had to worry about two major Turkish axes of advance.

As fighting still raged in and around the Sombor bridgehead, at 9pm 1 TAG was finally switched from attacking Subotica to day and night raids on Kula, where the Turkish spoiling attack was bogged down. It was hoped that it would still be out of Axis interceptor range. But shortly afterwards, a review showed Seven’s 14 Inf Div was running short or organisation and supplies. The Kula attack was called off at 11pm (Comintern 594 v 260 Axis casualties).

A similar situation had developed in the spoiling attack on at Beli Manastir, which was halted at the same time (Soviet 301 v 185 German casualties) after 156 SD had been unable to reinforce their comrades from 97 SD in the front line. Both these decisions were made a little easier by the fact that Sombor had been reinforced by this time, putting the battle now in Turkey’s favour [-40% progress].

Air Damage Report. The Turkish raids on Subotica from 4-7 May killed a total of 760 German soldiers. A couple of isolated raids by 1 TAK on Semska Mitrovica on 6 and 7 May killed 221 and the three raids on Bajmok caused another 377 enemy troops. Meanwhile the Italians had launched a few raids on Osijek (139 casualties) and Valpovo (230) during the day, helping to break up the attack on Beli Manastir.

OTL Event: Tunisia. Tunis and Bizerte were liberated by Allied troops, with Bizerte falling to the Americans at 4:15 pm local time, and the Tunisian capital being conquered five minutes later by the British First Army. [Comment: in ATL, Vichy France remains neutral, with Operation Torch never having been conducted and Syria still in their hands.]

---xxx---

8 May 43

The Italians resumed its air attacks on Sombor on the morning of 8 May in support of their flagging attack on the Turkish bridgehead, but the long range fighters of 4 AG from Split intercepted again – and found the enemy bombers were without fighter escorts. Tally ho and vur ha! The first raid slipped through, but the second only had one wing, which was badly damaged and caused no ground casualties. The Italians did not reappear that evening – another successful interception.


The fast-moving 3 Mot Div (-) continued its ‘recon in force’ by occupying Kaposvár at 1pm. They were ordered to push on immediately as the rest of the breakthrough force followed up.


The great effort to save the Sombor bridgehead finally succeeded that night. By air and on the ground, the Turks had prevailed, with heavy casualties on both sides. With a large amount of Axis troops now heading to Subotica, two relatively fresh divisions now in Sombor – 1 Mot and 6 Inf – launched a quick attack on Bajmok. The aim here was to attempt to outflank the Germans in Beli Manastir through a (hopefully) relatively weak point in the line.


Air Damage Report. Two raids by 1 TAG on Kula that day killed a total of around 100 enemy soldiers and would continue into the next day. The single Italian raid on Sombor killed 165 defenders before being driven off by Turkish fighter cover. In the event they had been seriously discouraged: enemy bombers would not reappear on the Turkish front again until 16 May. But the Turkish Air Force would remain active throughout, starting to even up the score of casualties from air action a little over time [full casualty comparisons will be made in the end of month reports].

---xxx---

By that night, reports from the neighbouring Romanian front allowed a comparison of progress since the beginning of the month, eight days before. And the progress was quite heartening. In Romania, Cluj (a Romanian VP city) was coming under pressure. Turkey had won important bridgeheads over the Danube and Drava Rivers. And Inönü’s ambitions were bold: he wished to threaten both Budapest and Timisoara simultaneously. But much would need to be done before either of those objectives could prove even feasible.


The large attack on Semska Mitrovica (begun on 6 May) and the new one on Bajmok continued as 8 May ended. A summary of key actions in the Turkish sector for the first eight days of May is provided below, with the new front marked by the dashed blue line. The Turkish manpower reserve had shrunk to 68,000 men by the end of the month as casualties continued to outweigh new recruitment.


Campaign summary, Turkish Sector, 1-8 May 1943.

---xxx---

Coming Up: Guildenstern’s veiled warning to Perse on May Day caused her genuine concern, but not panic; what did it mean and what, if anything, would she do about it? And who exactly was she being warned about? Will the Italians continue to lay low and let Cennet, Vito Corleone, the Resistance and all their active operations run riot for the rest of the month, as they have done so far? What is ‘Calixte Charon’ (aka Giuseppe ‘Romeo’ Montague) up to – is he homing in on the presumed Soviet mole in Turkey? What collateral damage might he inadvertently do in his increasingly unhinged voyage into the heart of darkness? Will Callan’s patience finally run out?

At the front, Turkey and Romania have made some good initial gains in the first eight days of the month, but can they be continued? Does Turkey have the men and resources to maintain two major axes of advance? Or will Inönü’s ambitions again be brought short by reality, as they have been in the past?

Can the Soviets hold their ground in the north, let alone re-establish their pocketing of Axis forces in Army Group North, centred on occupied Leningrad? Of did the Soviet advance overextend itself, going too far, too fast? And what else is happening in the Far East, India and North Africa?
 
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stnylan

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Perse is getting quite riled it seems. I hope Guildensterm is prepared the consequences of her ire, for what is he but a minor Shakesperean foil against the Queen of the Dead? :D

I must confess I am surprised at how the Axis line appears to have suddenly fractured somewhat.
 
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nuclearslurpee

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Perse is getting quite riled it seems. I hope Guildensterm is prepared the consequences of her ire, for what is he but a minor Shakesperean foil against the Queen of the Dead? :D

I must confess I am surprised at how the Axis line appears to have suddenly fractured somewhat.
I second the surprise here. Nowhere in my strategic proposal did I anticipate that Turkey had, immediately, the formations and gumption to launch multiple immediate offensive thrusts into Hungary. I applaud this audacity and look forward to see what more may come of it! Vur ha!
 
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Bullfilter

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Perse is getting quite riled it seems. I hope Guildensterm is prepared the consequences of her ire, for what is he but a minor Shakesperean foil against the Queen of the Dead? :D

I must confess I am surprised at how the Axis line appears to have suddenly fractured somewhat.
Ah, I should perhaps have said Perse’s mind was churning, rather than seething. She’s not angry with BJ: she’s worried! I’ll fix it.
 
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Bullfilter

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I must confess I am surprised at how the Axis line appears to have suddenly fractured somewhat.
I second the surprise here. Nowhere in my strategic proposal did I anticipate that Turkey had, immediately, the formations and gumption to launch multiple immediate offensive thrusts into Hungary. I applaud this audacity and look forward to see what more may come of it! Vur ha!
It did go pretty well, though not one-sided. I think the improvement in the air situation helped a bit. Not quite parity yet perhaps, but in the south it’s easier out of apparent enemy INT range. Too far north and it’s the Danger Zone!

Killing a few units along the way is helping, and those five-brigade divisions are often worth almost two of theirs at current strengths. The pressure from the Soviets (including through their EFs in Romania) is helping too, I’m sure. Now that the Germans are fighting back in the Baltics, the conference in Istanbul confirmed the need for Turkey to keep pressing hard in return. Other than that, I’ve just been taking a few risks to see how much I can get away with ...
 
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Wraith11B

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I had thought that I might be the first to respond... Should have known that it would not happen that way!

Great to see that our forces have broken through the enemy lines. I'm certain that they're scrambling to reinforce at this point, and their cupboard must be feeling as if it is growing particularly bare for them! Bring in the pain!

Given the deployment of American Marines to this front, I wonder if 'Vur Ha!' as a rallying cry will enter the Marine lexicon the way 'Gung-ho' or 'Teufelhunden' did from their deployments in China and WWI... ;)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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The two then discussed issued such as explaining the United States’ limited involvement in the Pacific Theatre so far (to be explained as a capacity and capability issue),
a desire to keep Turkey happy as the United States' ‘friend in the West’, the performance of the US Marine expeditionary force in the current Balkan campaign, lend-lease and equipment purchases, and so on.
Clever diplomaking. Tell the Soviets that the Pacific is the amercians to deal with as they will (and there's nothing stalin can do about it) whilst extending multiple hands of friendship to turkey, and attempting to keep some goodwill/understanding with churchill, knowing that if they can keep him on side, he'll be supportive of them.

At last, it seemed a war of manoeuvre had begun as Turkey now threatened Hungary’s southern borders [Pécs being a Hungarian 2 VP location].
The ultimate objective was to start nothing less than a drive on the Hungarian capital, which sat four provinces to the north of the border, which Turkey was now poised to cross.
I concur. I don't think in anyones plans were we expecting the Hungarian line to collapse and germany not immediately move to assist. Perhaps they are panicking over the much greater danger in the baltic? If so, we must press the soviet advance, that we force the germans to choose who they want to save: a German army or Hungary.

Air Damage Report. The Italian air raids on Virovitica continued into 4 May.
The more things change...

After the war, we need to make sure the turkish army doesn't lynch the Italian air force. We'll need them, and yet they've single-handledly killed more than most of the axis armies put together.

It seemed the Germans had managed to re-open communications along a thin corridor after counter-attacking the point of the Soviet advance, with heavy fighting continuing.
Even if they keep the neck open, they will loose thousands running away through the noose. And what a catastrophic moral defeat! And yet, we still may yet bag all of them.

OTL Event: Tunisia. Tunis and Bizerte were liberated by Allied troops, with Bizerte falling to the Americans at 4:15 pm local time, and the Tunisian capital being conquered five minutes later by the British First Army. [Comment: in ATL, Vichy France remains neutral, with Operation Torch never having been conducted and Syria still in their hands.]
Well this does again raise the interesting question of when the comintern declares war on the collaborator frenchies. We want Syria and stalin wants his French communist state. And how will the UK in Africa respond? And how will the US?
 
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stnylan

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Ah, I should perhaps have said Perse’s mind was churning, rather than seething. She’s not angry with BJ: she’s worried! I’ll fix it.
A worried Perse is no thing to desire either - a worried Perse = winter, with all the hardship that implies for Mr Guildenstern :)
 

diskoerekto

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Great episode, sorely missed and was well worth the wait! The characters' stories are moving along, the front is at its most exciting! Thanks for doing this :)

Inönü and Kalinin (right) in Istanbul, May Day 1943. “You may recognise this song.” [Photo thanks to @diskoerekto]
I'm happy the pics are being useful :)

The good news kept coming, with MAJGEN Diskoerekto reporting a heavy repulse of the latest Axis assault on Vrnograc.
VUR HA!

There was good reason to celebrate, as by midday the quick-moving 3 Cav Div managed to secure Valpovo just before the first of the fleeing German divisions to the south was able to reach it. Completely cut off, the veteran but worn out 1st Infanterie surrendered soon after in Valpovo, followed by the otherwise fresh 3 Gebirgjäger the next day. In all, almost 10,000 German POWs would be rounded up. It was shaping into a great May Day!
Let's parade them on May Day!

with Sisak safe it was decided the attack on Cakovec was a distraction and could not be exploited effectively even if it succeeded: the focus was elsewhere
Good call, would be too difficult to hold if taken, and to make there safe the front must become too long. Focusing on northeast sector of the exploited area is better.

The ultimate objective was to start nothing less than a drive on the Hungarian capital, which sat four provinces to the north of the border, which Turkey was now poised to cross.
Things are getting even more exciting :)

To complicate the multiple-front battle even further, a major spoiling attack was then launched by the Turks from three different directions on the Axis troops attacking from Semska Mitrovica, led personally by Commander 3rd Corps, LTGEN Yamut.
I was about to say we should do this :D

The fast-moving 3 Mot Div (-) continued its ‘recon in force’ by occupying Kaposvár at 1pm. They were ordered to push on immediately as the rest of the breakthrough force advanced followed up.
They're losing the coherence of the line and defense in depth. Good for us!

By that night, reports from the neighbouring Romanian front allowed a comparison of progress since the beginning of the month, eight days before. And the progress was quite heartening. In Romanian, Cluj (a Romanian VP city) was coming under pressure. Turkey had won important bridgeheads over the Danube and Drava Rivers. And Inönü’s ambitions were bold: he wished to threaten both Budapest and Timisoara simultaneously. But much would need to be done before either of those objectives could prove even feasible.
If we manage to meet with Romanians in Timisoara, a LOT of axis divisions will be trapped between there and Beograd. And if we hit Budapest simultaneously, it's game over for Hungary!

Curious about developments in the Baltic breakthrough, Inönü had requested an update, which GRU Agent SkitalecS3 provided that night. It seemed the Germans had managed to re-open communications along a thin corridor after counter-attacking the point of the Soviet advance, with heavy fighting continuing.
From the looks of the map it seems the Soviets are coming with a swarm of divisions, this setback is no problem they seem to be about to hit the germans hard in the entire width of the theater.
 
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