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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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loki100

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"Our Interview - was transient", Soviet-British negotiations December 1941

By early December, the Red Army was fending off a renewed German attack in the Ukraine and re-organising its front lines at Moscow for the planned counterblow. However, Stalin was already looking beyond the results of the immediate counterattack.

In a series of meetings with the British in late November and early December he made it clear what were the Soviet Union's war goals. At the core of the problem was Poland, and Stalin was insisting that any post-war Polish-Soviet border would be the '1939' frontier. This dispute exposed all the flaws at the heart of Soviet-British relationships and this mistrust was worsened when the British sponsored a rising by Polish partisans loyal to the exiled Government.



Neither side trusted the other. Equally if the Red Army was fighting in an arc stretching west, north and east of Moscow, at least the Soviets still held their capital. The only part of the UK not held by the Germans was the Shetland Islands and the Italians had just commenced their offensive that was to carry them to the gates of Cairo and to the shores of the Red Sea.



Not only did neither ally trust the other, neither was sure that the other was likely to survive. However, they did have a mutual foe.

The Soviets urged the British at least to try and bring the US into the war. This would provide a global counterweight to the steady expansion of the axis, but at the moment seemed content to avoid all entanglements.



The other area of mutual suspicion was over Japan. The Soviets had reduced their forces in the Far East to a level that might, just, resist an attack by the Japanese troops in theatre.



However, the scale of the Japanese offensive into Central Asia was becoming clear.



The Soviets urged the British to use their control over SW China (they had occupied Guannxi in March 1940) to at least interdict Japan's supply lines.

On the other hand, the British were deeply suspicious of the ongoing scale of Soviet activity in Mexico. A Soviet ally in that region presented a direct threat to Britain's colonial empire in the Caribbean.



Finally even as the Soviets and the British bickered, the Germans brought more and more countries into the Axis. Yugoslavia and Bulgaria had joined in November [1], and the first of their troops were adding to the renewed pressure in the Ukraine. Of less immediate concern, Peru joined in January.



Of more direct concern to both parties, Persia was to join in February, although, at this stage, it declined to take part in the war.



Equally the Soviets remained deeply worried at the prospect of Finland joining the Axis.

The meetings broke up by 5 December, with both sides disatisfied and suspicious of the other. As had been the case since 7 June, for the Soviet Union, success on the battlefield would resolve many of the areas of difference with the British, especially if it was Soviet troops who liberated London.

[1] - it was at this stage I'd patched to 2.03c, the problem was it reset my message pop-ups to default so I missed this bit of bad news till Yugoslav strat bombers hit Kharkov & my subs started to sink Bulgarian convoys.
 

Darth Moose

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The war expands... I'm glad you are getting in some good tactical deceptions. This is proving to be a very interesting game indeed.
 

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Maybe you must pay Finland to keep it neutral?
Like give them Karelia? :D
 

Stuyvesant

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Maybe you must pay Finland to keep it neutral?
Like give them Karelia? :D
Aren't the choice bits of Karelia in German hands by now? Makes it hard to bargain away...

loki, didn't even consider your explanation for the bridge builders. Ah well, topic closed for obvious reasons.

I keep forgetting that Britain's been utterly mauled. When/if you succeed in besting the Hun, Europe will truly be your oyster...

PS: I was going to make a puerile comment of you climbing on top of assorted geriatric communist leaders (hur hur), but seeing as I'm all mature, I won't. Instead, I wonder: do those mountains still have their Marxist names?
 

loki100

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The war expands... I'm glad you are getting in some good tactical deceptions. This is proving to be a very interesting game indeed.

By the time the Germans have finished collecting a disparate band of allies, this does become a genuinely global war, with all sorts of local confrontations in addition to the main course.

Maybe you must pay Finland to keep it neutral?
Like give them Karelia? :D

ah, you mean if the USSR had been less agressive to its neighbours it might have had more friends ... good advice but a bit late, so I end up worrying and worrying about when the Finns will finally join the Axis

Aren't the choice bits of Karelia in German hands by now? Makes it hard to bargain away...

loki, didn't even consider your explanation for the bridge builders. Ah well, topic closed for obvious reasons.

I keep forgetting that Britain's been utterly mauled. When/if you succeed in besting the Hun, Europe will truly be your oyster...

PS: I was going to make a puerile comment of you climbing on top of assorted geriatric communist leaders (hur hur), but seeing as I'm all mature, I won't. Instead, I wonder: do those mountains still have their Marxist names?

The mountains mostly had kept their Soviet era names when I was there in the late 90s. The Kyrgyz had tried to get people to accept new names for some of the bigger ones (Probeda was renamed Genghis Khan) but since the bulk of the local mountaineers were ethnnic Russians this made little difference in practice - esp as such maps as existed were all old USSR ones. Also in the Tien Shan there are masses of unnamed and uncliimbed 4000+m peaks, so the old names stuck for the ones that had actually been climbed. But yes, I was amused to stagger to the top of Fidel Castro, esp as we had a wierd encounter with some Americans (who made little attempt to hide they were CIA) a few days later.
 

morningSIDEr

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The expansion of the Axis is a bit worrying. Far more worrying however, is that it seems as if it will be quite some time before America will join in the war against the Axis. Japan's mobilization of her forces is also cause for concern. Well, it is cause for concern for you, good reading for me!
 

loki100

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"Red – Is the fire's common tint", The Soviet Winter Counteroffensive

"If they want a war of extermination, they shall have one". One goal of the Soviet winter offensive was to turn Stalin's threat on the 24th anniversary of the revolution into reality.

However, the front was not static nor was it clear to STAVKA just where the blow should fall. In the end, the dynamics of war left STAVKA with no real alternatives. The bloody failure of the Smolensk offensive in late November confirmed first that to drive west, before the front was shortened, merely meant the last Soviet reserves would be expended in providing flank support for an offensive that lacked real power. A second, unintended, result was that in order to defeat the Smolensk offensive, the Germans on the Rzhev-Rybinsk front had been forced to shift their reserves to the western side of this sector. This left the vital area north of Kalinin held by Yugoslav formations - completely ill equipped and ill prepared for the ferocity of a Soviet offensive.

Once the decision was reached, the next stage was to build up 1 and 8 armies so that this time, the offensive would not buckle under the first German counterattack. The need to delay to allow reinforcements to reach the front, and the assault troops to recover after the November battles, meant the Germans were able to abandon Rybinsk without a fight. This was a welcome indication that OKH was suspending offensive operations [1], it was unwelcome when those divisions had been seen as the first down payment on Stalin's threat.

The Soviet offensive saw 7 Rifle and Tank corps concentrated on a relatively narrow front


(2 corps from 1 Army were in action to east of the Rybinsk reservoir)

and almost all the offensive strength of the VVS was allocated to the offensive – either to fly ground support or to interdict the German supply lines, some 800 Pe-2s and 400 Sturmoviks protected by 500 LAGG-3s were to overwhelm the Luftwaffe and inflict constant air attacks on the German defenders.

The Soviet plan was to use the Rybinsk reservoir as a natural barrier and to seek to trap as many German forces on its icy shores as they could. Then the offensive would shift north-west aiming to regain the gap between Lakes Onega and Ladoga. This would isolate the Germans besieging Archangelsk and restore land communications to Leningrad.

More immediately, once 8A had broken the German front, 13A would attack to the west of Kalinin to stop the Germans reinforcing and also to extend the scope of the offensive. If it suceeded then the winter offensive would end with a secure new front line stretching from Rzhev to the Volkhov and with over 250,000 Germans pinned without supply in the region behind this new front.



Soviet artillery opened fire at 6am on 23 December across the front from Mednoye to the Rybinsk Reservoir, turning the dark dawn sky into a sea of red On the western flank, 33 Corps tried to eliminate the persistant, and dangerous, German bridgehead at Mednoye while 2 Corps pushed across the Volga and drove into the ill-prepared Yugoslav forces holding that sector.


(the Mednoye sector, this small town was to become a German strong point, severely disrupting the overall Soviet offensive)


(Soviet infantry at Mednoye, poor roads added to their problems in this sector)



The two tank corps (2nd and 4th), together with 25 Corps attacked from the bridgeheads over the Volga at Sonkovo and Kazin. The 4 Soviet Tank Divisions hit 5 Panzer Divisions (2, 4, 3SS, 10 and 19) in a maze of burning villages, Soviet infiltration and German attempts to shore up the front by shifting troops between sectors.




(SU-76 moving through the deep snow north of Sonkovo)

The VVS had already seriously degraded this armoured mass by hitting their fuel and supply dumps.



By 26 December, the front was broken and as Soviet armour pushed forward, the Germans lauched their inevitable counterattacks.



These were fended off by 2 January and the offensive was renewed with 9 Tank Division hitting 4 and 10 Panzer again at Gnezdovo on 28 December




(Soviet infantry attacking near Gnezdovo)

and at Bruzovo Soviet armour hit the hapless Yugoslavian divisions again.




(The newly arrived Yugoslav formations weren't just lacking winter clothes, they were also overwhelmed by KV1s)

For the first time, a Soviet offensive had not just made immediate gains, it had ridden the initial German counterattack and managed to renew itself.

However, just as STAVKA saw the possibilities of a clear breakthrough, the Germans responded. First, the attack on Mednoye faltered,



exposing the flank of 2 Corps pushing north from Kalinin. Second, German resistance strengthened at Gnezdovo from 28 December to 13 January. Finally on 8 January, the fresh 25 Pzr hit the weakened 2 and 6 Tank Divisions at Maksatha.



The Soviet offensive slithered to a halt.

[1] - you can see when the Theatre AI is on the offensive or defensive from this sort of thing. If it feels overwhelmed, it'll pull out of salients and not attack weak gaps in the front. If its confident, it'll look for weak spots and try to keep hold of salients. In this case, the German AI clearly saw itself as going over to the defense in the Moscow sector.
 
Last edited:

loki100

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The expansion of the Axis is a bit worrying. Far more worrying however, is that it seems as if it will be quite some time before America will join in the war against the Axis. Japan's mobilization of her forces is also cause for concern. Well, it is cause for concern for you, good reading for me!

America has a very isolationist view in this game. I think the problem is in the scenario file where they start with the same neutrality in the 1939 scenario as they have in the 1936 scenario, so that leaves the UK AI so much less time to influence them. Not helped as the USA sees the peace loving fraternal USSR as the global bad boys, not the Germans.

Japan & Finland both were a constant source of worry and checking the intelligence screen ... my problem was a complete lack of leadership to engage in any sort of diplomacy.

Of course, if I do handle the Germans, I have the longer term problem of dealing with Peru, but I'll worry about that later (somewhere around 1947 on current progress)
 

Darth Moose

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Too bad the offensive lost steam with only a small gain. Nothing as spectacular as the real 1941 events - but it does shadow the breaking of the armies in the winter of '42-'43 with the performance of the Italian and Yugoslavian formations.

You confused me with that SU-76 picture at first. It is one of those rare conversions based on a Pz.Kpw. III or IV chasis, which they sometimes call SU-76i or SU-76g.
 

morningSIDEr

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Interesting stuff, the first few battle results made the Soviet attack seem very promising, unfortunate then that the Axis managed to finally bring the advance to a halt. Still, some ground has been gained which has hopefully lessened the pressure on other areas. Do you plan on continuing this offensive? Or are the Axis forces now too numerous?
 

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Looks like you mauled a bunch of Greek divisions, in addition to the pain inflicted on the Yugoslavs and the Germans themselves.

Successful offensive, even if the end result was less than hoped for. As you said yourself, you managed to push through the first German counterattack, clearly a good sign. Plus, I doubt that the Germans will be able to soon push you out of your gains, a la Kharkov.

I'm sure that the true Man of Steel would've been happy to see his real-life view of Tito as a traitor to the Communist cause mirrored in HOI3. ;)
 

Alfredian

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What is happening with the Persians and your oilfields?
 

loki100

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:eek:
Some real advance!
Did the German AI panic enough? :p

not yet, but keeping notes and screenshots as I've had to do for this AAR has given me a bit of a grasp as to how to interpret its opinion of the state of the front. Every time its gone back on the sustained offensive its done real damage so its obviously a pretty reasonable judge of the overall balance of forces. Its just that on the offensive its still too keen on taking vacant provinces rather than concentrating on what should be its core targets. Hopefully that'll come in the next patch/expansion.

Too bad the offensive lost steam with only a small gain. Nothing as spectacular as the real 1941 events - but it does shadow the breaking of the armies in the winter of '42-'43 with the performance of the Italian and Yugoslavian formations.

You confused me with that SU-76 picture at first. It is one of those rare conversions based on a Pz.Kpw. III or IV chasis, which they sometimes call SU-76i or SU-76g.

Bah, yee of little faith, one German counterstroke and you write off the whole enterprise.

It could well be a PzIII chassis. The Soviets took a load after Stalingrad and used them for TDs and self-prop artillery, and both the SU-76 and zis-30 were effectively a top bolted onto a bottom. It wasn't till the SU-85 that Soviet TDs were built as such.

Interesting stuff, the first few battle results made the Soviet attack seem very promising, unfortunate then that the Axis managed to finally bring the advance to a halt. Still, some ground has been gained which has hopefully lessened the pressure on other areas. Do you plan on continuing this offensive? Or are the Axis forces now too numerous?

I really have no choice, this is my one chance to inflict serious damage. I daren't lunge west as if the front stretches I'll have to deal with more and more attacks onto my flanks. This operation potentially allows me to shorten the front (the Rybinsk reservoir being a great natural barrier) &, hopefully reach the base of Lake Onega. If I do that then the axis troops besieging Murmansk become mine for the taking once their supply evaporates. So this has to work to some extent, or come the spring my fear was the Germans would just overwhelm me.

Looks like you mauled a bunch of Greek divisions, in addition to the pain inflicted on the Yugoslavs and the Germans themselves.

Successful offensive, even if the end result was less than hoped for. As you said yourself, you managed to push through the first German counterattack, clearly a good sign. Plus, I doubt that the Germans will be able to soon push you out of your gains, a la Kharkov.

I'm sure that the true Man of Steel would've been happy to see his real-life view of Tito as a traitor to the Communist cause mirrored in HOI3. ;)

There are dynamics in this game to confirm all the prejudices of Stalin in the post-war era. Tito unmasked as a leader of fascist Yugoslav forces trying to capture Moscow and Mao is playing footsie with the axis over in China (but is too cowardly to actually be prepared to join).

Its like most of this game has so far been ... intermittent bouts of serious manouvering (by both sides) followed by a real tussle once the other side has recovered, sometimes with a real tussle to clear the ground for any offensives. It is genuinely brutal stuff in the main.

What is happening with the Persians and your oilfields?

At this stage, quiet. They join the axis in early Feb 42 but don't actually accept the call to arms immediately. Rather fortunately when they do, the Shah is more impressed by the potential to occupy deserts and cotton farms than he is in oil - obv reckons he has enough of this own! Some of the various axis recruits join in the war once they join the axis, others seem to turn down the German call to arms till a bit later. If I recall, Peru sits out till the end of 42 but Brazil when it joins the axis also joins in the war at once. Damn British are meant to be doing the diplomatic stuff, they ain't doing much on the battlefield.
 

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There are dynamics in this game to confirm all the prejudices of Stalin in the post-war era. Tito unmasked as a leader of fascist Yugoslav forces trying to capture Moscow and Mao is playing footsie with the axis over in China (but is too cowardly to actually be prepared to join).

Tito shouldn't be in charge of Yugoslavia at this point, the boss should still be the Serbian king?
 

loki100

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"With hammer, and with blaze" The Kalinin Offensive Jan-Feb 1942

The successful German defence of Mednoye, the fierce fighting at Gnezdovo, and their counterattack at Maksatha , all combined to hold Koniev's offensive in an almost perfect balance. And like all such situations it was far too brittle to last. Either 1 and 8 armies would snap the German cordon or be forced back to their start lines.



This operation was critical to STAVKA, they had committed all their reserves and it was the one chance to use Winter conditions to badly damage the Wehrmacht.


(poster reads - Defend Moscow)

Mednoye started to assume an almost hypnotic aspect to STAVKA. It had now beaten off two major assaults and it gave the Germans control over one of the few major roads in the sector as well as a major bridge over the Volga. To reduce it, 13A allocated a corps and 4 Tank Division was detached from the main offensive. From 4 to 11 January , Soviet troops hammered at the German defense to no effect, except to add to the fields of corpses surrounding the German strongpoints.



The main offensive was thrown back in the bruising tank battle at Maksatha from 8 to 19 January, where 25 Pzr hit the flanks of 2 and 6 Tank.




(although Maksatha was a German victory they had faced constant problems coping with a Russian winter)

By the middle of the month, it looked like the Soviet offensive had not just been held but was being forced back. In the midst of the bitter cold, deep snow and fierce battles, STAVKA reorganised and reinforced. First 13A started another generalised offensive on the Mednoye-Rzev axis on 18 January.



Weeks of bitter fighting with heavy losses on both sides followed and, finally, these towns fell on 13th and 2nd February respectively.



13A had not just gained vital ground it had wrecked 3 and 24 Panzer as well as engaging the bulk of the German reserves in the sector.


(T-60 in operation near Rzev)

Secondly the VVS, partisans and NKVD detachments renewed their assault on the German supply lines in the Rybinsk sector.


(partisans ambushing a supply convoy)

Slowly the Germans were starved of fuel and ammunition even as 1 and 8 Armies found the strength to go back over to the offensive.

On the east side of the offensive, Maksatha was regained on 27 January from 11 Panzer.




(T-34s leading counterattack at Maksatha)

The Soviets finally secured the north bank of the Volga at Krasnyi Holm on 31 January.



In the meantime, 8 Army pushed both north and west from Kalinin.


(emergency refueling)

This saw the fall of Likoslavl on 27 January



and a German counterattack beaten off at Brusovo on the 28th.


(Soviet defense at Brusovo)

The German strongpoint at Mednoye started to look less like a bridgehead and more like a trap to OKH. Finally OKH abandoned the town on 13 February and the ruined town with its destroyed bridges over the Tverska was back in Soviet hands.

These gains in turn started to change the whole dynamic of the front in this sector. Soviet troops started to push both north and west, and again, all sorts of strategic possibilities opened up to STAVKA.

Here, however, lay a major weakness. In his airless map rooms to Stalin the front looked simple. Soviet formations were apparently bunched, German formations splintered. Gaps appeared on his maps where on the ground was little but frozen marsh. All the assault formations had badly mauled divisions and the tank divisions were operating independently. The armoured fist of december was broken up into individual fingers stabbing into the still coherent German defense. Not for the last time, STAVKA's orders were to force the RKKA to overreach itself in trying to achieve too much.


(Soviet riflemen moving forward to reinforce the front lines)

However, for all the losses inflicted (26,088 German and 1,202 allied dead) and sustained (29,174 Soviet dead) in this sector alone, the German front remained intact, battered but intact.

The Red Army had found the power to inflict severe pressure, it still lacked the finesse to find gaps and encircle their opponents. At this stage it looked as if the winter offensive would achieve its lesser goal of regaining terrain but fail to inflict any lasting damage on the Wehrmacht.
 

Enewald

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Except that the Germans had to rush in reserves, preventing them from using those at a offensive somewhere else.
 

loki100

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Tito shouldn't be in charge of Yugoslavia at this point, the boss should still be the Serbian king?

ah, no, its more a case of he's leading a division of Yugoslav Royalist troops threatening the capital of the Socialist Motherland ... so, its true that a bit of national-chauvinism and opportunism can lead you to some very bad ends ...
 

Stuyvesant

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I see you employed the talents of Gen. Bagramian. He always looks like such a cheerful fella in HOI3. :)

So, is this the end of the Soviet Winter Offensive? Pushing the Germans, but not breaking them? I don't think that's the case, since you've hinted at better things to come - but perhaps you were speaking of 1942.

Are we going to see more appearances by the national-chauvinist Yugoslav army commander?