Lost Victories: The Battle of Stalingrad; Dec I, 1942 (Soviet)
Now that the German counteroffensive has been stopped before it even got started, the Soviets now face the difficult task of exploiting that victory. Even with the addition of the roads, the supply situation is still very tricky. The bulk of the units south of Stalingrad are very thin on supply, as there are no roads across the Volga lowlands.
The objective for the Soviets this turn is three-fold: 1: seal off the Stalingrad pocket; 2: Pull the 26th Tank Corps out of its predicament and establish a frontage; 3: Continue to force the Axis off the rail line in the northern sector.
Several Soviet air units are repaired, and the bulk of fighters are placed in the Stalingrad sector, giving them air superiority. If the Germans try to fly supplies in again, there will be a high price extracted from the German transports.
Reinforcements and replacements fly down the rail lines towards the front. The Soviets have to spend a resource point to increase capacity, because there are only low volume rail lines available in the area that I want the reinforcements to reach, and a number of combat motorized formations are moving into the breach. Non divisional units are also moved via rail to reinforce Soviet corps in need of support.
A large number of Soviet units are now poised in the breach, ready to move forward.
The Luftwaffe has been committed to slowing down the Soviet advance as much as possible. Several harassment missions are flown, particularly in the breach where the Soviet hordes are pouring through. There is one hex where the Germans are flying a multi-hex harassment mission, and it is here that the Soviets focus their attention. Soviet interceptors manage to prevent the multi-hex harassment bombing from being successful (limiting it to just a single hex by returning a Ju-88 bomber), but lose one of their two Yak-9s in the process (shot down by escorts). Ugh. Soviet pilots.
As harassment has been successfully limited, Soviet reinforcements move through the area relatively unimpeded and encircle German forces in Stalingrad. The encirclement is still not completely closed at this point, but German forces are now out of supply and isolated, making Stalingrad officially a pocket.
This frees up some armored forces to move west to the aid of the 26th Tank Corps. Two arrive to assist, with one more on the way (which will arrive during the exploitation phase). The 26th, meanwhile, backs out of its own predicament to try to form a frontage in the area along the Donets River.
The Soviets also attempt to eliminate the last remnants of the Romanian Army. To this end, the Soviets moving onto the map from the south score a Half Exchange (Axis lose 8 combat factors, Soviets lose 4). A little further to the north, the Soviets are only able to drive the Romanians away (Defender Retreat).
Results in the Stalingrad area are mixed. On the banks of the Don, at Kalach-na-Donu (the town where Soviet forces historically linked up at the end of Operation Uranus), the Soviets attack elements of the 14th Panzer Division (it starts the game broken down, and has not been reassembled at this point), the Soviets destroy two regiments of tanks (Defender Eliminated) and move into the town, just outside of the airfield where German supplies have been stored. The attack on the 60th Panzergrenadier Division results in a Defender Retreat, forcing them deeper into the pocket, but unscathed. An artillery regiment is destroyed in the retreat. On the north edge of the pocket, also on the banks of the Don, the Soviets are unable to move that corps (Attack Stopped).
Still no attacks within Stalingrad itself.
The 26th Tanks Corps, and friends (28th & 1st Guards Tank Corps), attack the 297th Infantry Division, supported by the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion. Soviet Armor proves its superiority by completely destroying both units (Defender Eliminated; the infantry cadre has nowhere to retreat to that is not in a ZOC) . Now that the 26th has successfully retrieved, the Soviets reform on the northeastern side of the Donets River.
In the northern sector, the Romanian cadre is overrun, and the Soviets form up to take out the Hungarian corps that has arrived from Kharkov and newly arrived German corps. There is also an Italian construction regiment constructing fortifications. It could be overrun if the Soviets had enough movement left, but alas, they do not. They also choose not to attack it, choosing to go after bigger game instead.
The German Corps, comprised of the 24th Infantry Division (5-7-6) and a Panzer battalion (2-1-10) are attacked, but the Hungarian Corps is ignored for now. The infantry is reduced to its cadre strength with a Defender Half Eliminated result. The cadre and the Panzer battalion retreat, but are later overrun in a low odds overrun attack.
The Soviets choose to attack the 298th and 62nd Infantry Divisions, hoping to wear down the Germans and bring them closer to breaking through Axis lines. The attack successfully drive the Germans back (Defender Retreat), but they are forced to retreat through Soviet Zones of Control, reducing the infantry to their cadre strength. The heavy AA battalion, being combat motorized, escapes northwest, unscathed.
The final attack is aimed at a Hungarian corps, reinforced with a German reserve infantry division (5-6). Even though this attack is across the northern Don River, the prospect of success is very good, with only a 1 in 6 chance of the attack being stopped. So of course, the Hungarians and reservists stop the attack from crossing the river.
The Hungarians won’t be so lucky next turn.
Total losses aircraft:
- 1 x Yak-9 (shot down)
- 2 x Il-2 (1 shot down, 1 aborted)
- Il-4 (shot down)
- Hungarian Re-2000 (aborted)
- Romanian He-111H (aborted)
While I believe that I can absorb losses better than the Axis can on the ground, I cannot continue to take these kinds of losses in the air.
The Axis lose 23 in unisolated losses, 16 in isolated losses, and the Romanians lose a total of 10. The Soviets lose 4 combat factors.
By the end of the turn, the Stalingrad pocket is completely sealed off and being squeezed. The Germans will begin their second turn out of supply, and will be significantly weakened. The C/M forces have little fuel, and are not very mobile right now. Twelve GSPs do not go very far, and the Soviets have air superiority over the pocket. Air supremacy is only a couple of weeks away.
The time for the assault on Stalingrad is growing nearer.
The Soviets have also blocked the German Panzers well away from Stalingrad. I cannot stop the flow of troops returning from the Caucasus Mountains, but I can certainly slow them from reaching Stalingrad, and more troops will be on the way next turn.
In the northern sector, it looks as though southern flank is beginning to crack. The Axis are obviously operating under ‘stand and die’ orders. They are giving up little ground, and the ground they give is very grudgingly. The southern flank is being rolled up, and the Axis are throwing troops in front of me as fast as they can to slow the Soviet juggernaut down. They are not going to simply back up and give me that line.
However, now that Stalingrad is surrounded and shrinking, troops should be released to move west and start pouring through Axis defenses. The Soviets do not have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for Sixth Army to surrender. The Soviets must force that surrender, and force it as quickly as possible.