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GeneralMiller

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This isn't a full AAR but a summary of a single battle in a vanilla campaign as Imperial Germany. I actually posted this to reddit a while ago and wanted to do a full AAR, but life got in the way. Now thanks to the Backstreet Boys Reunion Tour (kudos to those who get the reference) aka the plague I want to try again. It's in the style of a Wikipedia article since I made a wikibox for it so I figured I'd put my first foray into AAR writing and see what people here think. Criticism welcome so I know what to avoid if I manage to do this going forward. And yes some of the numbers for manpower and equipment lost seem crazy, but don't blame me for that one blame the AI.




The Saar Offensive was a French ground invasion of Saarland, Germany during the early stages of World War II. It took place from 23 June to the 4 August. The battle’s purpose had been to break through the Westwall while the majority of German ground and air forces were occupied trying to halt the Soviet advance in Eastern Europe. The French severely underestimated the strength of the German forces and were forced to withdraw after heavy losses led to revolt among the French soldiers.

Prelude

The Molotov-Duclos pact had called for France to be informed at least seven days in advance of a Soviet offensive into Eastern Europe. This was intended to give France time to mobilize for an offensive into western Germany simultaneously with the Soviet offensive thereby stretching German forces too thin to adequately defend both fronts. However, the Soviet Union didn’t send the notice until 19 June just three days before the planned start of Operation Mars. The communiqué had been held up due to a bout of paranoia by Stalin who feared the British and Germans had broken the Soviet code. As it happened the British code breakers at Bletchley Park had successfully broken the Soviet codes and passed information to the Germans, but there was no way for Stalin to have known that.

The late mobilization orders through the French Army into chaos. They had planned on at least a full week to mobilize and commander in chief of the French Army Maurice Gamelin insisted they would not be ready to attack on the 22 June and may not be ready until the start of July. French mobilization operated on an out of date system believing in World War I tactics of stationary artillery. This took time to transport especially as many pieces had to be retrieved from storage. This had the effect that only a quarter of the planned artillery force would be ready by 22 June.

Gamelin went to the French Politburo on 20 June and insisted that a postponement of at least a week was required, but a letter from Stalin to French President Maurice Thorez emphasizing France’s vital role during the coming days in ridding Europe of capitalist imperialism led to a delay of only one day being granted. Gamelin protested pointing out that while the infantry and armored divisions would be ready in time, without adequate artillery if German forces proved stronger than expected it would be difficult or even impossible to achieve their operational objectives. His concerns were ignored and he was threatened with dismissal for insufficient patriotism and cowardice. It was a somewhat empty threat as Gamelin was still seen as one of France’s most capable generals, but Gamelin unwilling to risk abandoning the army was cowed and silenced for the time being. He saw himself as one of the few at least trying to stand between the Politburo and its political officers total control of the military and didn’t want a more pliable officer appointed in his place who wouldn’t even try to resist political involvement in military affairs.

The Politburo for its part not trusting Gamelin to not try and find a delaying tactic of some sort assigned several hundred more political officers to 1st Army Group to ensure the offensive was carried out on time. The Politburo’s lack of concern came from initial intelligence reports that showed Germany only having 9 divisions in the Saar area with only one being an armored division. They also believed that most German forces would be drawn east to hold back the massive Soviet offensive. In actuality the Germans had nearly 20 divisions in the Saar area along with the 6 divisions of the 4th Panzer Army in reserve.

Saar Offensive

At 0300 on 23 June the French began a four hour long artillery bombardment to soften up German defenses. As the artillery barrage subsided 4 armored divisions and 16 Infantry divisions began advancing into Germany. From 23 June to 25 June the French divisions encountered little resistance and advanced as far as eight kilometers in some areas and occupying most of the Warndt forest by the end of day on 25 June. However, this had all been going according to the German prewar plans. Expecting the French to make their advance slow and methodical German artillery had been placed in hidden emplacements or kept out of range of French artillery with preplanned positions and rushed forward as the French advanced. The Luftwaffe had also made little showing only sending enough fighters to break up French attacks and intercept any reconnaissance aircraft.

Around noon of 26 June as lead elements of the 1st Mechanized Division approached the banks of the Saar dozens of anti-tank guns on the other side of the river opened fire on the French tanks. Simultaneously orders went down the line for the artillery to begin attacking the advancing French and for fighters and bombers to takeoff. French forces caught in the designated fire-zones were decimated. Over the next several hours the rest of the French 4th Corps rushed forward to support the 1st Mechanized Division and attempt a breakthrough of the German lines and hopefully gaining a foothold on the other side of the Saar River. The assaults were constantly harassed by German attack aircraft and despite numerous attempts to break the lines by nightfall the French forces were forced to withdraw.

On the first day of major combat operations the French suffered 16,574 casualties to the Germans 2,635. Gamelin criticized the political officers assigned to the units involved who, operating on orders from the Politburo, had forced unit commanders and soldiers to assault the German defensive lines despite the worsening tactical situation on the ground. The Politburo however quickly dismissed the criticism as incompetence by the commanders and lack of spirit in the soldiers. When many French officers heard this it sounded familiar as it was the mentality that had helped contribute to the slaughter of the First World War. Since news of the casualties would take time to leak past the government censors the communist government still enjoyed popular support among the citizenry the French officer corps had little choice but to follow the Politburo’s directions for the time being.

The next day 26 June a new assault was ordered to take place the following day. Again Gamelin protested requesting to wait a few days for more artillery support as German defenses appeared stronger than expected and again he was ignored. The assault on 27 June proved nearly as costly as the first one had with 14,691 French casualties to Germany’s 1,887. Over the next three weeks this process of assaults was repeated six more times all of them with casualty counts as lopsided as the first two assaults had been. Numerous smaller attacks were also ordered nearly every day during the three week period albeit usually with less casualties. Unfortunately for the French army the artillery support Gamelin had been waiting on never arrived in significant numbers as most of them had been taken out by the Luftwaffe on route and what did arrive had to replace what was lost from the many abortive attacks on the Westwall. The Luftwaffe had free reign to target French columns as much of the French Air Force was occupied protecting northern France from the RAF leaving the few fighter squadron near the border easy prey for the larger and better equipped Luftwaffe.

Morale plummeted among the soldiers over the weeks of the attacks as popular sentiment was that this was 1914 all over again. This feeling spread throughout the ranks as even officers and enlisted personnel conspired to make sure that if an attack order was received the political officers would mysteriously become the first casualties. The Politburo demanded Gamelin punish those responsible, but he just replied that the matter was being looked into, but that battle fields were chaotic and there was no example of foul play.

This drop in morale culminated in an incident on 22 July when one regiment after spending three days straight probing German defenses and losing over a third of its strength was finally preparing to move to the rear to recover. A new political officer arrived with orders to prepare for a major assault the following day. According to one of the soldiers in the unit there that day,

The lieutenant, all the higher ranks had been killed or wounded, he just sighed, pulled out his pistol, and shot the guy right between the eyes. I saw him go into his pack and pull a white sheet out and told all of us that anyone who was tired of fighting to follow him and he began walking towards the German lines and a bunch of us just started following him.

The Germans who were preparing for the next assault were surprised when 200 French soldiers came out of the wood line with their hands in the air. The Germans kept their guns ready just in case, but the French soldiers made it to the German lines without incident and surrendered. The Germans were shocked to see the state their French counterparts were in. Clearly hungry and disheveled many had a hard time believing this was the same army that many said was the finest in Europe as the thought of them surrendering outside of battle was inconceivable. The German generals decided to test French resolve in light of this incident and on 24 July ordered several probing attacks along the frontline. The French while having lost the stomach for the futile and costly assaults they had been doing were more than willing to defend themselves and ferociously fought off the German attacks. By 26 July von Rundstedt ordered further attacks halted as it became clear the Maginot Line wasn’t going to break without potentially committing to the same kind of costly attacks the French were engaged in right now. And at the moment every spare fighting capable man was needed on the Eastern Front to stop the Soviets.

Late on 23 July Gamelin had ordered a halt to further offensives for a week in order to let the army recover and to keep morale up as word of a regiment walking into German lines had spread rapidly. The Politburo was furious at the order and threatened to sack Gamelin again, but this time he knew they couldn’t carry out their threat. The communist government was in a tenuous position as many of the political officers they used to keep the army in line were dead and the remaining ones were stretched thin with many being transferred from other units in France to 1st Army Group. This led to many units throughout France no longer having any representative of the communist government, but the Politburo had decided the risk was necessary in order to fulfill their part of the Soviet war plans. The Politburo was still operating on incorrect intelligence due to a disinformation campaign by the British that German forces were weaker as units were transferred east and those that remained were close to breaking. The Politburo ordered another assault to take place on 1 August which would give time for the necessary political officers to be transferred in. For the next seven days from 23 July to 30 July every spare tank and artillery piece in France was gathered for the attack. Most were moved at night as the French had already learned that daytime movement was guaranteed to draw the attention of the Luftwaffe. Even with this reinforcement the French armored divisions only reached the strength they had been at during the beginning of the offensive. The artillery however had been bolstered with an additional thousand guns.

On the morning of 1 August the French artillery began a massive bombardment followed by a creeping barrage as nearly the whole of 1st Army Group advanced towards the German lines. The Luftwaffe operating on intelligence received from the British was ready for the assault and had bombers already in the air primed to pounce on the advancing French divisions. Despite this 3 French divisions managed to make it to the Westwall fortifications east of Saarbrücken and were close to breaking through when von Rundstedt ordered von Manteuffel’s 4th Panzer Army to reinforce the area. The panzer divisions had been held in reserve for most of the past month only seeing heavy fighting whenever the French looked as if they might breakthrough. As such the six fairly fresh panzer and panzergrenadier divisions were easily able to repel the three exhausted French divisions. The assault lasted late into the afternoon before the French were forced to halt the attack. By the end of the day the French had 18,182 casualties and the Germans only had 2,370 casualties. Ultimately they had only gained a few kilometers and still failed to break the German lines.

When late in the night new orders came from the Politburo criticizing the army’s failure and ordering a fresh attack in the morning Gamelin let copies of the order leak out to the local commanders. By the next morning word had spread throughout the army and the remaining political officers were facing a full on mutiny. Political officers were rounded up and in scenes reminiscent of the French revolution soldiers began holding mock trials and executing the political officers by firing squad or hanging. Many of their commanders who were as dissatisfied as their soldiers let it happen, though a few intervened and placed the soon to be executed men under arrest instead. At this point the Politburo and the rest of the government were in a panic, worried that the army might march on Paris and overthrow the government. Those in the government saying they still needed to aid their Soviet allies were quickly drowned out by those more concerned with stopping a military coup. Eventually late on 3 August the Politburo decided to give Gamelin permission to do whatever was necessary to calm the situation down and keep it from spreading. At 0800 on 4 August Gamelin gave orders for all political officers attached to military units in France to be removed and for 1st Army Group to pull back to French territory and to “suspend all further offensive operations for the foreseeable future.”

Aftermath

The end of the offensive came at a crucial moment for Germany. The German and Polish armies despite inflicting heavy casualties were having difficulty in slowing the Soviet Invasion. With the French halting their offensive, and clearly not planning another, Germany was able to transfer several corps to the Eastern Front where they would prove vital in stopping the Soviets and helping the Allies gain the initiative in the east.

In the following weeks after the end of the offensive Gamelin was able to remove all political officers from the military effectively ensuring its operational independence from the Politburo. The government gave its best efforts to censor the reports of the Politburo’s insistence on carrying out the offensive despite the Army’s objections and then ordering the continual attacks despite the casualties, but eventually word leaked to the public. This caused mass protests as the public was furious at the government for making the same mistakes as had been made during the last war. Eventually over several months public unrest died down, but support of the communist government had been greatly diminished. This was a major contributing factor for Paul Reynard to declare the Free French government and gain wide popular support when the French Commune declared war on and invaded Belgium in an attempt to circumvent the Westwall. The mismanagement of the Saar Offensive had lead to disillusionment among large swaths of the French people who began to want the return of the democratic government. Reflecting popular sentiment during the Battle of France, when Phillipe Pétain was asked for his opinion on which government the people should support the Field Marshall replied,

The communists are puppets of Stalin, and Stalin only cares about Stalin. He will bleed France dry for his own goals as he did to us on the banks of the Saar. The question is not who is legitimate, but do you want France and her children to live on or to die.
 
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Nikolai

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Wow, quite an interesting timeline. :) Is this alt history vanilla or KR?
 

GeneralMiller

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Wow, quite an interesting timeline. :) Is this alt history vanilla or KR?
Yeah I should have specified that, lol. It's vanilla
 

Le Jones

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Impressive work! Enjoying the attention to detail you've put into this battle account.
D'you know I couldn't have said it better. A captivating account - and how on Earth did you create that wiki box thing?
 

GeneralMiller

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D'you know I couldn't have said it better. A captivating account - and how on Earth did you create that wiki box thing?
https://n.bellok.de/wikibox/

This site makes it really easy and has some good examples already on it. You can usually get the little flag images and the like from real Wikipedia pages usually.
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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I like the focus on the single battle. The Wikibox and the individual detail gave it a nice feel. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing similar treatment for other battles in this conflict.
 

El Pip

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I echo the comments above. An interesting twist on the typical AAR and a very enjoyable read. It is also a timeline I would like to see more wiki-box articles about, because who doesn't like seeing Britain and Germany unite to bash the French ;) :)
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I'm afraid that in KR Britain went commie, Pip...
 

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I'm afraid that in KR Britain went commie, Pip...
I am hoping this isn't from KR. It seems far too good a quality to be associated with the nest of shame and awfulness that is KR.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I am hoping this isn't from KR. It seems far too good a quality to be associated with the nest of shame and awfulness that is KR.
Well, a German Empire and a Commune of France in 1941 seems to ring a bell to me...
 

El Pip

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Well, a German Empire and a Commune of France in 1941 seems to ring a bell to me...
Didn't think KR had a Soviet Union with Stalin, thought it was a Russian Republic of some kind. But as mentioned I tend to avoid KR on grounds of taste and aesthetics, so I'm probably not the best person to ask.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Didn't think KR had a Soviet Union with Stalin, thought it was a Russian Republic of some kind. But as mentioned I tend to avoid KR on grounds of taste and aesthetics, so I'm probably not the best person to ask.
Theoretically, there was a chance of a Soviet victory after Kerensky´s murder, provided than some events go in a determined way. But, IMHO, the presence of a "French Commune" is quite telling.
 

GeneralMiller

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I guess I worded it poorly, but this was a vanilla game where I opposed Hitler and joined the allies and France went commie, not a Kaiserreich game. I never really got into that mod as some of the alt-hist lore seemed a little much for me
 
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El Pip

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I guess I worded it poorly, but this was a vanilla game where I opposed Hitler and joined the allies and France went commie, not a Kaiserreich game. I never really got into that mod as some of the alt-hist lore seemed a little much for me
I knew it! This was enjoyable and far too interesting and high quality to be anything to do with KR. (You are also right about the lore)

I hope Kurtie has once again learnt the foolishness of doubting the wisdom of the British.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I knew it! This was enjoyable and far too interesting and high quality to be anything to do with KR. (You are also right about the lore)

I hope Kurtie has once again learnt the foolishness of doubting the wisdom of the British.
The KRprejudice are strong in thee, young Pipwadan...

To doubt about the wisdom of the British is quite sensitive. Just remember this moment and then all the possible doubts about the British wisdom are justified:

1594216952326.png


:cool:
 

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Very interesting and enjoyable. Although I agree with the sentiments expressed above about seeing more battles done this way, I would rather see you finish this as a complete aar done is this style, or a new one started.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Very interesting and enjoyable. Although I agree with the sentiments expressed above about seeing more battles done this way, I would rather see you finish this as a complete aar done is this style, or a new one started.
I can see this being doable. Wikipedia boxes for battles tend to have them as part of a series of key battles in a war or conflict, and they have them listed on the bottom.

So basically, each AAR chapter would be one of the highlighted battles, written similarly to this, with some introduction before the main article, followed by the concluding words that would lead into the next chapter.