Lost Victories; The Battle of Stalingrad: Jan II, 1943 (Axis)
The Stalingrad front has collapsed. Only a few remnants of the 14th Panzer Army have survived. At this point, all the Axis wants to do is delay, delay, delay.
The reality is that the Axis front is shattered. There are gaps in the line miles wide, but fortunately, the Soviets are unable to exploit them.
Reinforcements continue to arrive, including the Das Reich SS Panzer Division in Valuyki, broken down. The Adolf Hitler SS Panzer Division also arrives in Voroshilovgrad.
The Axis choose to try to close some of those gaps. Attacks are limited to the Soviet armor trying to escape German armor closing in on them.
The German Panzers overrun the Soviet armor and artillery that had to be left behind. They move north and east to destroy the two largest tank corps on the battlefield, but…..
The Germans fail to completely surround the easternmost Soviet tank corps. I don’t know why the Germans pull up short. It is like Dunkerque all over again.
To the north, the Germans completely annihilate the Soviet armor, but do not attack the armor fleeing east.
German transports fly a desperate night air drop mission over the surviving units of the 14th Panzer Army, but all of the supplies are scattered and lost. That was the last attempt to hold out.
The Axis have reset their front line, but while the gaps have been closed, they are still very weak. The task of holding some of these areas has fallen onto the Italians and the Hungarians. Unfortunately, these forces are not strong enough to hold these sectors.
The only thing going well for the Axis at this point are their air forces (with the exception of the ill fated supply drop). The Soviet fighter force is taking a beating at the hands of the German pilots, and the fighter forces are getting thin. So thin that the Axis are able to attack Soviet airbases with little resistance, damaging not just the airbases, but bombers as well. The VVS is the one weakness the Soviets have in the scenario, and the Luftwaffe is taking full advantage.
In the south, however, the Germans still do not finish surrounding the Soviet armored corps. While the Soviets are isolated and out of supply, there is still hope of escape. On the northern end of this line, the Axis are content to back off instead of engaging the Soviet lines.
As the Soviet player (and as one unable to read thoughts), I have no explanation as to why the Axis did not attempt to cut off that armored corps. I can understand why the Germans never attacked. That could have been disastrous. (Idiot rules! The Germans should have attacked! Der Führer would have insisted!!!!)
The last half of January, and the Axis are now starting to play to run out the clock. Time is against the Soviets. While the Soviets have made great strides during this counter offensive, the VVS has nearly been crippled. So much so that the Soviets don’t even fly Defensive Air Support missions any more.
Unfortunately, the Axis reports are so short because I have no insight into Axis plans. At this point, however, I am beginning to suspect that the Soviets are going to lose the scenario because they have been held up. That’s a credit to the Axis.
Nest turn, January comes to a close, but it is still pretty cold out there!