Torch PBEM: Axis Nov I 42 Turn
Already Hanging by My Fingernails
Before I begin, I would like to say a few words about the Vichy setup.
I think I had a dyslexic moment when I put the mixed transport counter in Casablanca and the H75-A2 (also known at the P-36 Hawk) in Marrakech. The fighter should definitely have been in Casablanca.
Alan was also correct in that I missed an opportunity to destroy one of the Vichy D.520 fighters at Algiers when I declined to intercept. I don’t think in terms of “I have got to make sure as much of the Vichy armed forces are destroyed before they join the Allies”. My line of thinking was more along the lines of preserving as much of the air force as I could on the off-chance the Vichy declared war on the Allies. Small chance, but a chance all the same.
Redeployment of the Foreign Legion to Algiers was a no-brainer. It stopped the Americans dead in their tracks, because the Vichy would have killed them had they proceeded into combat, so don’t believe any of that garbage about the Americans wishing to preserve the Vichy armed forces.
But the Vichy did about as well as could be expected on their redeployment rolls. It’s not like they are allied with the Axis.
That said, the end of the Allied turns leaves the Axis in a very desperate situation. The Allies took a gamble and slipped past the wolfpacks and into Bone, at the extreme eastern end of Algeria, near the Tunisian border. From there, they were able to slip into Bizerte.
The Axis start with one supply terminal at Tripoli in Libya. Since Rommel’s forces are due to arrive and abandon Tripoli in January 1943, the Axis need more supply terminals. The only two potential sites are Tunis (dot city) and Bizerte, and Bizerte has already fallen to the Allies.
To counter this, the Axis provide three units and several aircraft. The Germans provide an unsupported parachute regiment and a gilder-engineer battalion, while the Italians send an unsupported marine regiment that can’t make amphibious landings. Because these units are unsupported, they can only attack and defend at half strength.
The Dirty Dozen they ain’t.
I spent well over an hour studying my options (which is unusual for me) to determine my best course of action.
Throughout our Narvik games, Alan kept harping about rear area security (with good reason), so that was at the front of my mind as I considered my options. So, for my first plans, I had intended on landing the glider engineers at Pantelleria in order to discourage any shenanigans from the Allied airborne forces.
Fortunately, the rules prohibit airborne drops into Sicily, Sardinia, Lampedusa and Pantelleria. It also appears that the Allies cannot perform amphibious operations beyond the North African landings. I’m not talking about landing units amphibiously at Vichy ports, I’m talking about amphibious landings at Sardinia or Pantelleria. Just trying to head off the comment before he makes it. I’m sure he will be scouring the rules looking for a way to screw with me. =D
The Italian marines can’t make an amphibious landing, because they are not part of the “Axis Special Forces Pool”, which is designated for landings on Malta only. I could attempt an airborne drop on Bizerte, but that is very high risk. There are one hundred American Spitfire Mk Vs at Bizerte, and a short distance away, in Bone, sits fifty Beaufighter Mk. VI fighters, with a range of a whopping 24 hexes! Patrol range is limited to a third of that range, but that is sufficient to cover Bizerte. So, there is an Allied aerial umbrella of 150 aircraft defending Bizerte, and a group of British Blenheim Mk. V bombers providing defensive support. Not that those bombers are that big a threat. Flying at extended range, they are only providing 1/3 of a point of defense to go along with the 1/2 point the 756th tank battalion has for itself (it too, is unsupported).
I could attempt an airdrop there, but patrol attacks could turn them back, and interception could just kill them outright.
Night operations are a possibility, but there would have been -3 in die roll modifiers, due to dropping at night onto an enemy unit. A drop could have been attempted in an adjacent hex, but the odds, in the best of circumstances, would have been 4:1, assuming the parachute unit was not disrupted and could attack. Compound this with the Beaufighters in Bone. They are night fighters, and could intercept the transports, easily destroying them. There is also a fort in Bizerte, creating a -1 DRM for the attack, making both an exchange or half exchange results a real possibility, a 1 in 3 possibility, the parachute unit would have been destroyed. No, a night landing is not feasible.
Alan has all of his bases covered.
Other considerations were the possibility that the transports would crash upon returning to Sicily, and the Italian marines could not reach Bizerte to support the attack. They only had 3 movement points left (2 were eaten up in shipping, and there was one harassment hit placed on Tunis), and four hexes to cover, and no attack supply. With only three units to work with, I decided that attacking Bizerte was too great a risk.
So, both units ship to and land at Tunis. they were almost detected by Allied anti-shipping forces, but slipped through in the darkness. Immediately upon landing, the Axis disarm the 1T/Tunisia infantry brigade (1-2-6*) and the single point of heavy antiaircraft, while capturing the supply depot. The Lioré-et-Olivier LeO.451 bomber tried to escape, but was also captured and destroyed. Tunis is immediately declared an Axis supply terminal, going into effect the Allied Nov II 42 turn. While we do hold the port, it is by the thinnest of margins. The Axis have a whopping 2 defense factors holding the port, and there are Allied units lurking in the area. (for those who are not familiar with Europa terminology, the asterisk at the end of the number sequence denotes the unit has artillery support, meaning it can attack and defend at full strength, provided it is in supply)
The 11th glider-engineer battalion is flown into Sousse, a standard port a little south of Tunis. The port is safely out of patrol/interception range, so the battalion arrives without any hassle, and the transports turn around and head back to Sicily. They attempt to disarm the Tunisian cavalry brigade, but they mount their horses and skedaddle as soon as they spot the transports coming in for a landing.
The only close port remaining is Sfax, situated between Sousse and Tripoli, a bit north of the Mareth Line. If the Allies choose to take the risk and ship a unit(s) there, there is nothing I can do. Attempting to hold Tunis is a higher priority than Sfax is.
In light of the Allied capture of Bizerte so early, and the Allied fighters in the area, all strategic bombers are marshalled for a raid on the port facilities of Bizerte. Two He-111H, two Ju-88A and an Italian SM.84 bomber fly to Bizerte escorted by Me-109Gs, Fw-190As, Ju-88C heavy night fighters, Italian MC.202 and Re.2001 fighters. The “brave” American pilots decline to intercept, and the bombers evade their patrols, placing two hits on the port.
The Allies can only use 4 REs of the 8 RE capacity of Bizerte this turn. While I tried to knock out that capacity, we fell short, and the port can still accept 2 REs of combat troops. These are definitely not the veterans of Norway.
The Ju-87D dive bomber transfers to Pantelleria to get it out of Sardinia. It was not included in the bombing raid, because it is a tactical bomber, not a strategic one. I do not want to base it at Tunis yet. I want to make sure Tunis is secure before basing bombers there. It is also out of range to make decent defensive support, and cannot stage from Pantelleria (too far away). So, it has to transfer, and will be closer to Tunisia for being assigned these kind of missions.
The Fw-190s and the Italian MC.202 are landed at Tunis in order to discourage the Allies from flying ground support. It is a bit of a risk, considering that Tunis is not held with the strongest of units, but I have to have some sort of fighter umbrella. The Me-109 G is left in Sardinia to protect against marauders, and some fighters are left in Sicily as well. The Ju-88C night fighter is assigned to Pantelleria.
The reality is not promising for the Axis. Bizerte has fallen, and Tripoli in Libya will fall in January 43, as the Axis are required to abandon Libya. Tunis is the only supply terminal the Axis have, and if it falls, the Axis army in Tunisia surrenders. End of game.
There are still a few turns before that happens though. The Germans are sending panzers. Maybe we can drive the Americans out with them. I just hope I am not forced to use my +2 DRM for American command disorganization before I am ready to.
Obviously I am still looking for a camera that can take decent pictures. I am going to try my wife’s camera phone and our video camera next. The video camera might work, if I can figure out how to take still pictures on it.