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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nathan Madien

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Well, just be careful not to wear yourself out too much in the Balkans.
 

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Sorry for the delay. I've just started up Volume 2 of my Book of St John series over in the EU2 forum. Hopefully I'll be able to run two aars at once without slowing updates too much.


Chapter XI: Scotch and Whisky
Aug 1942 - Dec 1942​

By the time the autumn of 1942 arrived in the Balkans Greece had produced two divisions that it had lent to Australia for the war effort. With this added manpower as well as the arrival of the 12th Corps after the abandoned invasion of the Truk Islands General Bingham White felt like he had the strength to launch a new offensive without leaving a gaping hole in the front for the Germans to counterattack. On September 1, Operation Scotch was launched with the goal being Plovdiv. One of the two flight squadrons took time out of their continuing naval bombings runs to assist the operation which saw action for the 6th, 8th, 12th Corps and the 1st Greek Corps. The initial advance was successful but a combination of the terrain and defiant German defences it took 12 days to capture the city.


Operation Scotch, Sep 1 1942

The capture of Plovdiv was good win for the Australians as it allowed them to reduce the front from five provinces to four. This meant that the defences need not be so spread which allowed more troops to be present in each province and therefore make it harder for the Germans to advance. So when Plovdiv was taken the Germans didn’t even attempt to launch a counterattack as the Australians had all moved forward systematically and Plovdiv was almost immediately as strong a defensive position as any other along the front. Given the success of Operation Scotch, the General allowed his men to take some time out before attempting any further assaults.

In the meantime another division was shipped over from home whilst Japan annexed the Philippines. This was disturbing news for Prime Minister Menzies but Australia was too stretched to do anything about it. In October the Japanese would begin landing in Sumatra and start the invasion of Indonesia and Borneo and it was only once they fell that Japan would truly be a threat to Australia. There was some good news though, the Truk Islands had been regained by the USA whilst resistance had begun in German-owned Norway leading to widespread revolts. Over on the Eastern Front the Soviets managed to contain the German advances, in fact little had changed there in the last 9 months with a rough front extending from the just south west of Leningrad and along the Dniester River to Odessa.


Greece, Nov 1942


Europe, Nov 1942


Pacific, Nov 1942

Two months passed before the General decided to launch another attack, the last before the arrival of another winter. Named Operation Whisky, the General’s plan was to take Varna thereby creating a continuous front from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. He hoped that since the Turks were remaining completely neutral, the port in the Black Sea could help open trade between the Russians and the rest of the Allies. It might also catch the German’s Left off guard and might allow the Australians to advance up the Black Sea Coast to meet up with the Russians; a best case scenario. Operation Whisky began on November 15 with a convincing assault on Varna with aerial support. The defence in Varna was a combined force of Germans and Bulgarians many of the same men who fought in Plovdiv however they were outnumbered by the AIF and routed. The 12th and 8th Corps advanced through to Varna, leaving the 6th and 1st Greek Corps in Plovdiv, but then had to deal with the following German counterattack. The General then made a crucial mistake, he recklessly decided to attack Pleven using the troops from Plovdiv but not Sofia to try and defeat the now centralised German counterattacking force. Had the Sofia troops been utilized it might have prevailed but it didn’t and the troops in Varna were defeated and then hours later the same enemy in Pleven turned on Plovdiv and defeated those troops as well. From a potential gain of Pleven the Australians were now looking at losing both Varna and Plovdiv.

On November 25 the Germans marched into Plovdiv thereby cutting off the troops in Varna. It was then that the General decided to involve his men in Sofia; the Germans could not be allowed to advance further beyond the lines. The Germans in Plovdiv were immediately defeated and the 12th and 8th Corps recalled from Varna before they could be encircled. The Germans kept pushing men into Plovdiv until the 2nd of December when the 6th, 8th and 12th Corps returned to Plovdiv. A final attack was launched on December 3 at the now weakened Pleven position. Most of the Germans were still in retreat and it was the Bulgarians who were left there to defend. Initially the attack was successful but on the 8th the Germans returned to the province and quelled the attack.

The guns fell silent once more. Operation Whisky had been a failure and in reality the AIF was lucky not to lose Plovdiv and find two Corps encircled. The frontlines had returned to the pre-Whisky positions which would allow the Australians to hold a relatively easily defendable front over the winter. Meanwhile the Greek army kept producing divisions and the Mediterranean was beginning to show a safe passage of transportation. After this winter, the Australians would be able to come out firing as the fatigue of war would soon begin to take its toll on Germany. General Bingham White was able to sleep easy, but Prime Minister Menzies was back in Australia where the Japanese threat would continue to get nearer and nearer.
 

Nathan Madien

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I am sorry to hear about Operation Whisky and the encroaching Japanese threat. Hopefully things will turn around after the snow thaws.
 

caffran

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too far too soon man. time to dig in and await some reinforcements.

do you have a tank division or two on the way?

some extra CAS squadrons wouldn't go amiss either.

good update.

later, caff
 

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Hmm, i really like this AAR. Forward Australia.
 

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No screenshots this time (not a lot happened) but here's the next update:

Chapter XII: Nauru
Jan 1943 - Feb 1943​


It was January 1943 and the war was entering its fourth year and peace still seemed an eternity away. The Balkan front was frosted over and even if it wasn’t both sides were dug in so much it was like World War One again. There was little that the Australians could do except build up more troops ready for a push when spring came. In the meantime though there were a few courses of action that the AIF could launch. Not long after the independence of Greece, the Italians had landed on Crete once again. Their occupation of the island did not pose much of a threat since the bombers from Italy could already reach the Australian troops in the Balkans and the front in North Africa was no more. Nonetheless, allowing the enemy to occupy any island isn’t good for publicity and so on January 6th the General decided to launch Operation Anchor. The latest batch of troops from the homeland, the 13th Corps had just arrived in Alexandria ready to make the crossing to Greece but instead they were shipped to Crete. The AAF took some time out from bombing the Italian navy to assist the invasion. The island was only lightly defended but even so it was too much for the 13th Corps and they were returned to Alexandria. However the General was not content with giving up on Crete or Operation Anchor. After allowing them to rest or a couple of weeks, and continuous bombing runs, he ordered the 13th Corps to board the ships again. The second attempt provided for encouragement as the Italians began to take significant casualties but once again the Australians could not get off the beaches and were forced to turn back. On Jan 30th the General pushed for a 3rd and final attempt, if it could not be taken this time the 13th Corps would be shipped to Greece instead. However this time, after much experience in beach landings, the 13th Corps was able to climb the dunes and breach the Italian line. Soon enough the Italians found themselves surrounded and forced to surrender. Operation Anchor had been successful finally and now with Crete returned to Greece the 13th Corps could be sent to the Balkan Front. With the AAF now dominating the Mediterranean Sea, the Australians were content that the Italians would not be able to send another invasion force. However this would not be the last time the Italians set foot on Crete.

Meanwhile back in Australia the HMAS Adelaide had been built, a new heavy cruiser. Since the start of the war the Australian Navy had increased dramatically, it started with just two heavy cruisers and two light cruisers but had now extended to include the HMAS Vengeance light carrier, HMAS Brisbane, HMAS Hobart and now HMAS Adelaide, all heavy cruisers and several flotillas of destroyers. Despite this increased size the Australian Fleet had not seen any action. However with the completion of HMAS Adelaide and the encroaching threat of the Japanese Prime Minister Menzies decided it was time to put the navy to the test. The Japanese had recently landed troops on the British colony of Guadalcanal which was just a hop skip and jump across the Coral Sea from Australia, too close for comfort. The Prime minister decided on a joint operation between the navy and new 14th Corps to deal with the threat codenamed Operation Barton. As this operation was seen as the first one of homeland defence it was named after Australia’s first Prime Minister. The 14th Corps was deployed in Brisbane and loaded on a brand new transport flotilla. The transport flotilla then crossed the Coral Sea with support of the Australian Fleet. Guadalcanal was found to be undefended and the 14th Corps landed on the island uncontested and control of the island was returned to the British.

After the ease of Operation Barton, Menzies decided to continue with the amphibious landings on the outlying remote islands of the pacific. The next one on the list was Nauru which was labelled Operation Deakin, after the 2nd Prime Minister. The Australian Fleet and the transport flotilla arrived in the South East Marshalls on February 1 and once again found the island unoccupied. On the 3rd the 14th Corps landed and reclaimed the island for the British however as they were returning to their ships and plans were being made for the next invasion the Japanese arrived. The time had arrived for the Australian Fleet to be tested, and tested it would be. The fleet that had arrived at Nauru was one of the Japanese main Pacific fleets consisting of a Carrier, two battleships and 24 ships in total; double the force of the Australians. The battle carried on for six hours during the night but by the time the sun dawned the Australians were defeated and left three ships fewer. The HMAS Sydney heavy cruiser, HMAS Canberra light cruiser and a destroyer flotilla had been sunk and the Australians had been lucky that the 14th Corps decided to stay on the island and that the transport was not hit. The Australians retreated back to Australia after the Battle of Nauru having learnt that the Japanese had superiority on the waves. All plans for island hopping were abandoned and the Australians would return to inactivity against the Japanese for over a year. Nonetheless despite the Coral Sea campaign being a tactical loss it was a strategic victory for Australia as Guadalcanal and Nauru returned to British hands, neither would be recaptured by the Japanese during the rest of the war.

It was now February and the ice was melting in the Balkans. The General could now plan his 1943 Campaign. It seemed as though the frontline was a deadlock and so the General decided to come up with a bold new plan. Since the start of Operation Seadog the Italian fleet had been pretty much destroyed but furthermore the flights over Taranto had provided reconnaissance over the Italian countryside. To the Australians disbelief the region was only lightly defended. The location of the main Italian armies were not known although it was later assumed that they had been mounting in Sicily because once Vichy France decided to join the Axis in March the Italians would launch a new campaign on North Africa.

Armed with this information on Southern Italy and the growth of troops defending the four provinces long frontline the General decided to invade Italy. Preparations were made during February with the reallocation of divisions along the front to free up an invasion force. Twelve divisions were scrounged and sent to Tirana from where the invasion, known as Operation Hurricane would commence. This would be the biggest naval operation ever conducted by Australia involving over 100,000 men, more than twice the size of Operation Typhoon into Athens. Taranto would be the landing beach as the bombings had scared the army away and from there they would block the Strait of Messina and move north. This would be a real turning point for the war.
 

caffran

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they're taking a HUGE risk invading the Italian mainland:eek:

i fear the results of 'Operation Anchor' will be repeated on a horrifying scale......:eek:


brave(stupid?) move?

only time will tell.

later, caff
 

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Well let's just say I thought better of it...

Chapter XIII: Breakthrough
March 1943 - July 1943​


In March 1943 the Australians were planning their largest ever operation which would involve the navy, air force and 12 divisions of the AIF. Their destination was Taranto and their goal was the conquest of Italy. Operation Hurricane was ready, the men were loaded into the transports and reconnaissance has performed their final flyovers, all that was waiting now was the final go ahead from Prime Minister Menzies. However on the 11th hour Menzies changed his mind. He decided that Operation Hurricane was a no-go. It would be too risky. The buildup of forces and organisation involved with Operation Hurricane had shown to Menzies that the Australians had the force to continue pressing in the Balkans. With these 12 divisions they could surely upheave the Axis powers from their defensive positions and it would be far less risky than starting a whole new invasion.

So on March 24 the invasion was called off and the troops unloaded from the fleet. They were then sent back up to the frontline as a new course of attack was planned. General Bingham-White still thought that the Bulgarian front was the weaker position and would be less easy for the Germans to reinforce. The 5th and 6th Corps which had formed part of the invasion force were relocated to Plovdiv as Operation King was drawn up. It had been five months since the failure of Operation Whisky, the last major land offensive of the campaign but yet the objective of Operation King was the same. The Axis had changed little to defence of Varna but the Australians now had more men and the support of the Greek army and the General would not allow what happened in Operation Whisky to repeat itself. On Apr 14th the attack was launched and was an overwhelmingly easy success. Within a day the city was captured and within a week its control was no longer contested as the 5th, 6th and 12th Corps dug in.

On April 29 the newly trained 9th Corps arrived in Sofia ready for the next offensive. Pleven was the obvious choice as the Australians could attack it from three sides but unfortunately it was stronghold for the Germans and Bulgarians. Instead further west, the Germans left the defence of Vraca to the Bulgarians alone. The AAF had been bombing the region for several weeks now and on May 2 the land offensive was launched from Sofia in Operation Prince. It was a tough battle for Vraca that took three days to settle but the Australians were victorious and marched towards the city. As the 3rd Corps approached the city the General decided to launch an attack on Pleven from Plovdiv and Varna. The attack was never intended to be successful, it failed within hours, but rather it would act as a diversion allowing the 11th Corps to dig in in Vraca without being counterattacked. It worked to a degree, no counterattack was launched from Pleven, it came from across the Danube in Craiova. The 11th Corps was routed but two days later the 3rd Corps arrived in Vraca and the Bulgarians cancelled their counterattack.


The front in May 1943

With Vraca now relatively safe and no counter offensives being launched by the Germans the Australians could now regroup and prepare for a full scale assault on Bulgaria now that they had Pleven almost surrounded. Now that a puncture was evident in the frontline the General reallocated his men to take advantage, the 8th corps was moved to Varna whilst the 10th and 15th Corps were shipped in to Plovdiv. In the meantime the Australian Air Force launched twice daily bombing missions on the garrisons in Pleven. This went on for over a month as the Australians prepared for the Summer Offensive of 1943. Meanwhile back in Australia the navy was slowly regrouping after its defeat in Nauru, HMAS Sydney heavy cruiser was completed in June which added to the replacement destroyer flotillas which were still under construction. Little did they know it at the time but this new HMAS Sydney would be the oldest Australian vessel to see out the war with the ship experiencing over ten years of warfare.

By June 18 the Australians were finally ready to launch Operation Duke, a full scale assault on Pleven involving 23 divisions. The combined German and Bulgarian defence of 8 division were hopeless and easily overcome. The 15th Corps arrived to take the city on the 27th and the frontline had been pushed to the Danube river.

It is important to note that this breakthrough occurred simultaneously to a major push by the Soviets, they too were approaching the Danube and soon the Balkan and Eastern Front could be merged. The General took advantage of the situation and launched Operation Count with the intention of merging the fronts. A day later and an attack was launched on Constanta, the last Bulgarian outpost. This Black Sea coast was far too remote for the Germans to defend and the garrison there was minimal. By the end of the month Constanta had fallen and this was followed up with a march on Tulcea. On July 2 the city fell and the Australians reached the Danube mouth where a foreign army could be seen across it. It had been done, the frontlines had been merged and the Germans were on the back foot.
 

Nathan Madien

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A good decision on not invading Italy you made.

So is Bulgaria done for now?
 

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cooler heads have prevailed;)

excellent result linking up with the Soviets, just try not to get sidelined by the steamroller.

later, caff
 

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Interlude 3

Time for another song to enter the ThundAAR from Down UndAAR songbook. This one, titled "Curl the Mo Uncle Joe" is more upbeat than traditional war songs as it is set in a swing/jazz style. Surpisingly, despite being and Australian song is it praising the Russians and refers to Joseph Stalin. I had to look it up but 'curl the mo' is old Australian slang for 'terrific'. I thought it was apt to add this song now as the Russians are starting their big push and will from this point on will work closely with the Aussies. Next update soon.

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=6K0rK6L6a1w

==="Curl the Mo, Uncle Joe"===

Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.
We've got the Hun on the run Uncle Joe
Churchill and Roosevelt and we know it too
That the Reds helped to keep the red in the Red White and Blue
Light your pipe, you're alright, Uncle Joe.
Though the going may seem mighty slow
From the Volga to Berlin, you're an odds-on cert to win
Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.
big twist
Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.

Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.
We've got the Hun on the run Uncle Joe
Aussies and Yanks know you're a great chap
while you're smashing the Hun they're busy thrashing the Jap
Light your pipe, you're alright, Uncle Joe.
Though the going may seem mighty slow
From the Murray to the Don, all the war cries carry on
Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.
big twist
Curl the mo, Uncle Joe, curl the mo.​
 

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caffran said:
excellent result linking up with the Soviets, just try not to get sidelined by the steamroller.
Indeed, but first we need stop a steamroller named Rommel...

Nathan Madien said:
So is Bulgaria done for now?
Nothing will really be secure until peace is declared but yes, for now.


Chapter XIV: Blitzed
Jul 1943 - Oct 1943​


By July 1943 the war in Europe appeared to be going well with the tables turning in favour of the Australians. The AIF had just reached to mouth of the Danube and thereby combining the Balkan and Eastern Fronts. Surely now with the assistance of the Russians who were getting on top in their sector too, they would be able to push the Germans back to their homeland.

Things began as they left off with the AIF finding Eastern Romania too remote for any sizeable German resistance. Having said that the Australians’ frontline was now well stretched which meant even slight resistance could only be met with a small attack. After capturing Tulcea, the General ordered an attack on Bucharest, the capital of Romania and whilst the initial assault was successful the Australians were driven back by July 7th. They would need more firepower to crack the Romanians. So the general planned to manoeuvre around from the north and get behind Bucharest with his 5th and 6th Corps that were in Tulcea. These divisions were armoured divisions and would make light work of the Danubian plain but first they needed to cross the river and defeat the Germans guarding Braila on the other side. The 5th and 6th Corps only had four divisions which was the same as the Germans guarding Braila and with their defensive positions an outright assault would be devastating on the tanks. The General told them wait for the moment and sent the bombers to work over Braila.

By mid-July the Russians were attacking Ismail, just to the north of Braila and this gave the Australians the first chance to work with their allies. The AAF diverted from Braila to Ismail hoping to bomb the embattled Germans thereby drawing reinforcements from Braila. The plan not work and the Russians could not break through but just a few days later the German garrison started moving anyway, into Tulcea. The 5th and 6th Corps had no trouble preventing them from crossing the Danube and then chose this point to counterattack into Braila with the AAF in support. It was a crushing success and by the 22nd not only had Braila been taken but also Ploesti. The tanks were in position to attack Bucharest.

The General not only had planned to envelope Bucharest from the North but he had also relocated two more corps to Pleven for the assault, the 15th Australian Corps and the 1st Greek Corps. On July 23rd the Battle of Bucharest commenced involving 13 Australian divisions versus 4 Romanian divisions. This time the number would prevail in just two days and the Romanian capital fell on July 26th.


Balkan Front, Aug 1943

After Bucharest was secured the frontline quietened down somewhat as the Australians approached the Carpathian Mountains. The tanks were forced to head north to Braila when the Romanians retook the province temporarily but aside from that progress slowed. As the progress slowed the AAF was busy scouting out the Carpathian region to plan a new assault. It was on one of these flights on August 5th that the headquarters of the German Commander in Chief of the Balkans was spotted, that of Field Marshal Von Leben in Timisoara. His HQ was on the move and understandably rather preoccupied when the Australian bombers launched a damning raid. The headquarters was almost defenceless to this sort of raid and Von Leben’s base was all but destroyed, intelligence reported that Von Leben himself had been injured in the raid. Soon after this attack he was stood down as Commander in Chief of the Balkans and whilst a new man was sent to replace him Prime Minister Menzies decided to shake things up a bit.

On the same day as the bombing raid Menzies finalised the paperwork for the independence of Albania and Bulgaria. After the successful material support from Greece after its independence Menzies hoped for similar from these two new puppet nations. With the breakthrough into Romania and the German chain of command in tatters it seems safe enough to allow these nations autonomy once again, the Bulgarian situation was little more than a change of government from a pro-Axis one to an anti-Axis one as they were actually annexed and liberated in the same action.

By mid-August skirmishing in Braila had began to spread into Tulcea and Ploesti with the Germans making an attempt to keep the fronts split. The attempts need not worry the General as a patrol of tanks ensured the Germans were kept hopping around the region without maintaining control over any province for more than a couple of days. On August 20 these tanks decided to support a Soviet attack on Iasi, the northernmost Romanian province and succeeded and were able to reach the city first and claimed the province for Australia, however the Soviets didn’t like this steal and when the Romanians returned a few weeks later they offered no support and the province was lost.

It wasn’t until September 2nd that the Australians launched another proper attack, over a month since Bucharest fell. The General hoped to crawl his way up the Danubian valley and the remote Carpathian Mountains leaving the Serbian stronghold for later. They attacked Pritesti and took the province before clambering up the mountains to take the undefended Brasov as well. Preparations were being made for an attack on Craiova when the new German commander in Chief arrived with a bang. It was Field Marshal Rommel who had arrived in the scene on September 10th and immediately he had his presence felt by launching a surprise attack on Pristina. If ever the Australians were caught offguard it was now, the Germans had amassed 22 divisions with which to attack Pristina and under Rommel’s guidance there was no half-heartedness about it. Pristina had always been a keystone of the region but in recent months the Australians had continually drawn men away from the province to further the assaults further East. Rommel’s assault obliterated the garrison there and began the operation called Rommel’s Blitz.

For the next month, the Australians would lose every single battle south of the Danube against Rommel’s blitzing armies as he progressively captured Pristina, Sofia, Tirana, Vlore, Skobje, Ioannina, Edessa and Agrinio. In just one month Rommel had succeeded in undoing everything the Australians had achieved in the past two years as his men came within a stone’s throw of Athens. The Australians just had no reply, well no reply that was quick enough for the blitz as the AIF had been mounting in northern Bulgaria to attack Craiova and would take ages to cross the mountains and return to Greece. Even Sofia which was close to the main conglomeration of men could not be held. The General attacked it with 22 divisions that were on their way south but Rommel had packed Sofia full of 14 division of his own and the Aussies couldn’t even breakthrough to get to Greece. It was a disaster that was only halted by Rommel’s own lack of men. He had sent the majority to Sofia leaving himself with only a couple of divisions with which to skirt the Ionian coast. His run would be halted as he headed towards Larisa by which time the Australians had managed to setup a defence. Even so Albania had been annexed and Sofia was still dominated by Germans. If Rommel could set up a perimeter a lot of the Australians hard work would be lost.

Meanwhile back in Romania the attack on Craiova had gone ahead simultaneously to Rommel’s attack on Pristina and succeeded. General Bingham-White decided to continue pushing in Romania with limited forces whilst the rest headed south hoping Rommel’s southward blitz would leaving Romania weaker. On September 27th Romania was annexed and it was just a matter of ridding the region of the Germans who still occupied Timisoara, Arad and Iasi. At least there was some good news for the General to ponder as October approached. The Balkan front was never looking so threatened.
 
Last edited:

Nathan Madien

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Wow, Rommel’s Blitz really took a lot out of you. Hopefully something good will come out of your current situation.
 

Le Jones

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Have just read and enjoyed this AAR to date. Perfect sized updates, wonderful explanations. Look forward to you dealing with Rommel. Am I right in thinking that apart from the AIF and the Greeks, you're on your own in the Balkans?
 

The Swert

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Am I right in thinking that apart from the AIF and the Greeks, you're on your own in the Balkans?
Well we have Bulgaria building some units now but yes. The UK, NZ and Iraq are busy fighting Italy and Vichy France in the second African campaign. The USA is just arriving in Morocco about now too.
 

caffran

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any sign of an update on the way??

later, caff