Narvik II: The Invasion of Norway (April 9 to April 11, 1940)
After Alan and I finished up our Narvik games nearly 18 months ago (neither of which were won by the German side) I wrote a piece on how the Germans may be able to win the campaign.
Alan believes that landing German troops in Narvik is a losing proposition. I’m not completely convinced of this. Historically, the French did take Narvik back from the Germans near the end of the campaign (May 28, 1940), but failed to push them out of the area. Thus, in game terms, the Germans denied the Allies 100 victory points for clearing out the Narvik area. In order to distract French forces in the Narvik region, the Germans attacked France.
I had a lot of fun playing against Alan. Playing a live opponent is always more fun than playing by ones self, and I have been kind of obsessing over this ever since and wanting to get back to it. Although we finished those games up nearly 18 months ago, I’ve been researching the history behind this game.
This research led me to study the German invasion plan. This was not easy, because most resources, while they do tell where the invasion forces landed, they do not tell which units were assigned where.
While I was reading Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940 [Henrik O. Lunde], I found this order of battle:
- Task Force 1 (Narvik): 2,000 troops from the 3rd Mountain Division embarked upon ten destroyers, accompanied by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. (1 regiment (139th)) But were they the 6-8, or 9-8 flavors of the regiments? Lunde calls the regiment “reinforced”, which leads me to believe that the full strength version of the unit was used.
- Task Force 2 (Trondheim): 1,700 troops from the 3rd Mountain Division embarked upon the cruiser Hipper and four destroyers. (2 II of the 138th/3rd mountain division, 1 x eng I, 1 x arty I)
- Task Force 3 (Bergen): 1,900 troops from the 69th Infantry Division and naval artillery units embarked upon the cruisers Köln and Königsberg, two service ships, three torpedo boats (or two, depending on the source), and five motor torpedo boats. (2 x II/159th III/69th infantry XX, 2 eng I, 2 x naval arty I)
- Task Force 4 (Kristiansand-Arendal): 1,100 troops from the 163rd Infantry Division embarked aboard the cruiser Karlsruhe, a service ship, three torpedo boats, and seven motor torpedo boats. (1 x II + 1 company of 310 inf III/163rd infantry XX, 1 mc squadron, some naval artillery)
- Task Force 5 (Oslo): 2,000 troops from the 163rd Infantry Division embarked upon the cruisers Blücher, Lützow, and Emden, 3 torpedo boats, two armed whaling boats, and eight minesweepers. (2 x II 307th III/163rd infantry XX, 1 II 138th mt regiment, some artillery)
- Task Force 6 (Egersund): 150 troops from the 69th Infantry Division embarked upon four minesweepers. (mc squadron)
From the looks of it, the Germans may have sent the full regiment of mountain troops (9-8) as opposed to the stripped down regiment (6-8), but it is hard to tell.
But at some places, like Trondheim and Bergen, the Germans landed with fewer troops than I would have felt comfortable with in this game.
I was reviewing the post that I wrote, and found a few mistakes and typos that need to be corrected. I have been curious for some time how well this strategy would work. I think it is well past time to find out.
Two battalions, 2nd/138 & 3rd/138, of the 3rd Mountain XX land at Mo. Both battalions have 2.5 MPs available to them on landing, and the 2nd battalion immediately moves to capture MC 14 to the south. The Norwegian battalion that is scheduled to appear as a reinforcement will still arrive on turn 1, but it will appear in an adjacent hex. Seizing the 14th MC, however, denies the Norwegians the possibility that a second mountain battalion could mobilize here.
Two more battalions, this time the 2nd/139 and the 3rd/139 of the 3rd Mountain Division, land at Namsos. 3rd battalion comes close to being sunk in transit, but still makes the landing. The three capacity airfield is immediately placed in the hex. These units also have 2.5 movement points left, so they steal a train and race down to the hex adjacent to Norwegian mobilization center 13.
There is no rail capacity in this game, nor any prohibition against riding trains through enemy held territory. One needs to take advantage of these loopholes (assuming it is a loophole).
The 388th Regiment of the 214th Infantry Division lands at Trondheim, barely making the sunk in transit roll. The Norwegian 5th Infantry Brigade HQ successfully makes its stand/retreat roll and chooses to retreat to the airfield, assuming the other unit will fails its roll. The 2nd battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment fails its roll and retreats to the airfield as well.
The trucks at Trondheim are captured by the Germans.
The 236th Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division lands at Bergen, coming close to being sunk as well, but it makes it through. Both the 4th Infantry Brigade HQ and the I battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment retreat before combat. The 236th has captured the port and the airfield, and most importantly, the trucks.
The plan calls for the 334th infantry Regiment of the 163rd Infantry Division, but this is a typo. There is no 334th Regiment. It should be the 324th Regiment.
The 324th lands easily, but these Norwegians are feeling froggy and stand their ground. There will be a fight here.
Now that the initial landings have been made, air missions are assigned. Although I had set forth a series of missions on the first turn in my initial writeup, they have to be dynamic to take into account events on the ground.
As a result of the review, I have to modify some of the air transport missions. It looks like I may have (for whatever reason) inflated the number of air units that can be at an airbase, or the amount of cargo they may carry at extended range. I’m not sure how I came to those conclusions (18 transport squadrons, for a total of 216 transports, on a frozen lake airfield), but I cannot find justification in the rules.
I also call for 3 x Ju-52 floatplanes to fly to Namsos, when in reality these are He-115 floatplane transports.
The three He-115 floatplanes, flying at maximum range, fly a supply depot into Trondheim (instead of Namsos), returning to Germany after the depot is offloaded.
The Ju-88s fly bombing missions against the units at the Trondheim airfield, attempting to disrupt them.
Six Ju-52s fly at extended range and land at Bergen with a supply depot.
The I/112/3 mountain artillery battalion breaks down into three batteries. One is flown by three Ju-52 transports into Namsos.
Three Me-110Cs, flying at extended range and accompanied by six He-111s, bomb the Norwegians at Kristiansand. The original plan called for them to bomb hex 4415, the airfield adjacent to Kristiansand, but from the wording of the entry, I obviously meant 4416, Kristiansand itself. The Me-110Cs only have 1 tactical bombing factor each at extended range, and the He-111s bomb at full strength. Total bombing strength is 15, which is the best that I can do to ensure the Norwegians at Kristiansand get disrupted.
In all previous games, I took huge, undue risks with my parachute companies (and some aircraft), that for this game, I decided to use them a bit more conservatively. I am still going to use them, but I am going to try to do it in a manner that protects them better.
Two Luftwaffe Ju-52s carry the 4k/I parachute battalion to Haugesund, where a jump will be attempted. The thought behind this is because the town is so far out of the way, and takes awhile to close that hole, that it is better to try and close it early. Plus, it will provide a garrison if the landing troops arrive so they can move down the road towards Evje.
The last Luftwaffe Ju-52 carries the 2k/1 to the hex containing the rail line just SE of Sola Air Station (Stavanger). This is just outside of interception range of the Gladiators.
The Allies choose not to intercept the only hex they can intercept at.
Neither parachute company can make their jumps due to adverse weather. They return to Germany instead.
Kristiansand bombing: 15 TBF, miss the target only on a 1. The Luftwaffe hits with ease, disrupting the Norwegians. During combat, they will be fighting at half strength.
At Trondheim, The Ju-88 bombers have a total of 12 TBF, and miss only on a 1 or 2.
This group hits as well and disrupts the II/12 mountain infantry. This is to force the units off the airfield, as there is no attack possible coming, but units from Trondheim will be advancing to the airfield.
The attack at Kristiansand, at 4:1 odds results in the defenders being disrupted again, and forced to retreat east across the Topdaselva River (I believe that is the correct river). The unit is now badly disrupted.
So far, everything is looking good.
The followup wave hits the shores.
At Åndalsnes, the 730th artillery battalion attempts a landing. This battalion is broken down into 3 batteries. and each is sunk on a roll of 4, 5, or 6. Amazingly, all three make it to the port (1, 2, 2). MC 11 is now under German control.
The bulk of the followup wave lands at the opening of the Oslofjord, at the ports of Larvik, Fredrikstad and Horten.
- Fredrikstad: 1 & 2/362/196 battalions land in conjunction with the I/233/196 artillery battalion. The 2nd battalion is sunk in transit. Allies: +2 VP.
- Larvik: 1 & 2/349/181 infantry battalions land, along with the I/222/181 artillery battalion
- Horten: 3/349/181 infantry battalion and the 399/181 infantry regiment, along with the II/222/181 artillery battalion land here.
Finally, the 307/163 infantry regiment lands safely at Haugesund.
Lastly, the forces that landed in Bergen and Trondheim can move one hex since the Norwegian units retreated before combat. Both regiments break down into battalions. One battalion remains at the ports while the other two move forward.
So, why did I attempt to drop parachutists onto Haugesund when I knew that I was going to land troops there in the follow up wave?
There was no guarantee the troops landing at the port would make it, and they would have been there to keep the port closed from Allied troops possibly landing there.
For the next few turns, the Germans only have a limited amount of shipping (presumably until transport returns from further north). Currently staged for transport is 1 panzer company, 2 artillery batteries, 2 supply depots, two mountain artillery battalions (II & III/112/3rd Mountain) and two mountain infantry battalions (I/138 & I/139).
The mountain units are called in to try to force passage through the mountains north to Trondheim and establish a link there. They can move through the mountains faster than any other units.
Things worked out pretty well this time. I only gave up 2 VPs to the Allies, where in other games I had given up at least 25 in the first turn alone! (It could have been as high as 37). Complete incompetence in those games. I have spent hours pouring over this, taking as much care as I could to ensure the success of the mission. The Germans have a strong foothold. Can I now make the right decisions to push forward and link up with the Trondheim forces without making silly mistakes?
Every non-arctic port that the Allies could land at is now occupied, except Stavanger. If the allies want to land at Stavanger, it would put their supply base within easy reach of German airpower, and easily destroyed. All that is left open to them is the ports in the arctic; Bodo on north.
Because of this, the Norwegian sea lift capability is severely restricted, and the Germans only have to fight Norwegian troops south of the arctic.
The down side is that the Allies are being given time to set up defenses in the Narvik region, and it will be very difficult to take. It is actually probably the safest place for the Allied ground and air forces.