Lost Victories: The Battle of Stalingrad; Dec I, 1942 (Axis)
Wow. This month has really gotten away from me. I did not realize that it has taken nearly a whole month to take this turn. It’s my fault. Lee is pretty good about getting his turns done, while I always seem to have something new popping up.
When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had broken the back of the Romanian army. Soviet armor was pushing deep into the Axis rear, overrunning armor cadres at Millerovo and cutting the supply line of Sixth Army and elements of the Fourth Panzer Army inside the Stalingrad salient.
Soviet T-34s, accompanied by Soviet Guards Cavalry, pushed deep into German held territory towards the city of Rostov. Their mission is to delay Winter Storm as long as possible. To this end, they moved as far as their supply tether would allow them, pushing to the crossroads outside of Novoshakhtask.
The German Sixth Army is out of supply, but not yet isolated. By rule, they could try to force their way out. Sixth Army is bound by rule to not voluntarily move away from Stalingrad if the unit was originally assigned to Sixth Army AND it did not begin the turn isolated. Since the units in the salient are not isolated, they could conceivably withdraw from Stalingrad and attempt to reset the front, attempting to prevent the entire force being surrounded and isolated.
In the northern sector, the Soviets are preparing to swing northwestward. The Soviets still have to force the Axis off of that northbound rail line.
As I had hoped, German Panzer reinforcement and replacement formations are drawn to the Soviet 26th Tank Corps like moths to the flame. They see the opportunity to destroy a Soviet Tank corps, then possibly push east to try to rescue Sixth Army.
My expectation was never that the Soviet units would survive, but that they may be able to delay the German Panzers for a short period of time. What I mean by this is that the Panzers would not be able to move east and attack the Soviet Guards formations cutting the Stalingrad supply line on this turn. Even with exploitation, they would not be able to open the supply line, but may have been able to surround the Guards Armor Corps. In war, sometimes sacrifices must be made.
To the north, the Germans just try to hold the line against the Soviets, not making a lot of attacks, seemingly trying to prevent a breakthrough. The Germans attack at the very top of the playing area, and at the lone Soviet hex west of the Don River (minor river). Both attacks result in a Defender Half Eliminated and a retreat by the surviving Soviet units. Luftwaffe formations again (as in the last game) attempt to deep strike rail lines and airfields, an attempt to slow the Soviet reinforcements from reaching the front as long as possible. Unfortunately for them, they don’t hit a single one of their targets.
German transports fly supplies into the Stalingrad pocket, but one group of transports is shot down during the attempt. Still, 12 general supply points are successfully landed in the pocket. This will not change the supply status of the units in the pocket, but can put up to 4 divisions in supply. By the second half of December, the Axis will start feeling the supply pinch. Towards the end of January, they will begin to surrender, if the Germans can’t break through.
The third attack, on the northwestern edge of the Stalingrad pocket results in a Half Exchange (Soviets lose 15, Axis lose a minimum of 7.5).
The attack on the surrounded 26th Tank Corps, shockingly repels the mass of Panzers surrounding it (Attacker Retreat). As many Soviet bombers as could reach the target hex to help defend the advance Soviet units are called forward. They have to fly unescorted, because the target is far beyond escort range. Unfortunately, the Soviets lost the B-25 Lend Lease bombers trying to help save the Soviet tanks (a total of two Soviet bombers are shot down).
Although the Germans are forced to retreat, they return during exploitation and surround the 26th again, but leave an opening through which the Soviets could possibly escape. Lee said that the result of the attack really threw sand in his gears. Winter Storm has been postponed until further notice.
The 26th Tank Corps has now been renamed the 1st Guards Heroes of the Motherland Tank Corps.
Vodka and medals for everyone!
Some alert Luftwaffe bomber units attempt to bomb an airfield after some bombers return from saving the 26th, after they have landed and have become inoperative. Fortunately for the Soviets, they also miss their targets.
The Stalingrad pocket retracts. Instead of trying to escape, they decide to hold their ground and hope Manstein can break through to them. The Germans return to surround the 26th Tank Corps, again, but leave an avenue of escape. Surprisingly, none of the bombing runs are successful.
The Germans had limited success this turn. Some success to the north, limited success near Stalingrad. Everywhere else was a failure. Sorry, Lee. There’s just no way to sugarcoat it.
In the second half of the month, the Soviets have 3 objectives: Finish isolating the forces at Stalingrad, force the Axis forces in the northern sector to back away from the needed supply line, and attempt to rescue the 26th Tank Corps (and never forget the 6th Guards Cavalry Division!) by creating a new frontage. As the Stalingrad pocket is liquidated, more and more units will be freed from this sector to move to the Rostov front.