|Axis and Allies Campaign|
|European Theater of Operations: Part 2|
|by David Devere & Tom Maertz|
ETO – Fall / Winter 1941. German forces reinforce their eastern front and complete the subjugation of Poland while Stalin orders a hastily organized offensive into Belorussia. Meanwhile the British find themselves outnumbered in Libya – counting on RAF support that went to the Royal Navy instead and the Royal Navy is tasked with suppressing Danish coastal defenses but find they are in a life and death struggle with the Kriegsmarine.
You can almost sense the panic in Europe. Germany is punching and jabbing at England and Russia and is landing punishing body blows. Without American support how can the British possibly continue to fight the battle of the Atlantic? Obviously they are losing it. The convoy routes in the Central and South Atlantic are now patrolled by Germany. Only the northern route to Archangel is still open. The Russians are hoping that they can take back Belorussia and the Baltic States, but Poland is lost to them; the soldiers there offering no more than token resistance. (In the campaign game once a territory is surrounded, like East Poland and Bessarabia, the units still in that territory can’t move or attack. This simulates out of supply issues.) The Mediterranean is a mess for the British. If they lose the Eastern Med sea zone and the attack into Libya, then the Germans will be given a free hand in the Mideast. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the inclusion of the Americans in the European war couldn’t have come soon enough for the British. The Russians would never admit to the need for assistance, but they too look fondly on American support. The Americans can start moving, attacking and reacting next turn - Spring / Summer 1942. Until then the British and Russians stand alone against Germany.
Battle No. 11 finds Belorussia at the center of Soviet attention. At 210 points each, this is the first major engagement of the war. To be sure, there will be bigger ones but this first big battle is for the heart of Russia. A look at the map reveals Belorussia’s importance to both German and Soviet strategy. With Belorussia, the Germans can threaten any Russian city. The Russians want the territory primarily to defend Moscow from attack. Russian High Command has cautiously attacked, utilizing two armored divisions, six infantry divisions and three artillery divisions. By a twist of fate (a die roll) the German defenders were able to move in enough reinforcements before the Russian attack to offer an even odds battle. The outcome of this battle will determine 1942 policy in Russia, but the outcome is far from certain.
Battle No. 12 is a side show to the larger battle in Belorussia. The Russian attack the Baltic states in nothing more than a feint to draw attention away from the main attack. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the Germans aren’t surprised and counter with enough forces to make the battle even. But an even battle could be won by either side and a loss of the Baltic States by the Germans would put undo pressure on the Wehrmacht to retrieve the territory. German High Command wants the province held at all costs. Stalin has issued that the territory be taken at all costs, Leningrad must not be surrounded. This might be a side show battle but this battle is strategically very important.
Battle No. 13 in Libya finds the British in a bit of a bind. In order to stop an impending land and sea invasion of Egypt from German ground units in Libya and amphibious units from Italy, the British High Command decided that they needed to strike first. Initial calculations (2 infantry, 2 artillery, 1 armor and 1 fighter =14 points) seemed to give the English an edge over the defending Germans (2 infantry, 1 artillery and 2 armor = 12 points). However, when the attack came, the British commander left the RAF squadron in reserve thinking that they could commit the unit later. They did commit the unit but to another battle. The tactical error was discovered only after it was too late to recall the squadron. Thus the English go into Libya underweight with 11 points to the German 12. The British were successful in Norway and their commanders are hoping they will prevail over the Germans in Libya too. The Germans are relying on their Italian allies to help plug the gaps. A successful defense of Libya almost guarantees the Germans a free hand in the oil rich Mideast.
Battle No. 14 is where that errant RAF squadron from Egypt was sent to defend. It could be their finest hour. The Royal Navy is up against a wall in this battle. Serious thought was given by the Admiralty to evacuating the fleet through the Suez Canal and into the India Ocean. But in the end, it was the promised air support, at the cost of the army, that convinced the fleet to stay. The British are outnumbered here but if they can possibly prevail they will prevent the landings of two different transports, one bound for Egypt, the other for Syria. The landings in Egypt are of particular concern for the English. If they lose the sea zone and the battle for Libya then the retreating English units would be forced to surrender as they would have no place to retreat. The Germans have them in a trap. It’s up to the Royal Navy to make sure they keep the Eastern Med open. It is up to the German and Italian Navy to slam the door shut. The situation couldn’t be more dire for the English. British High Command is anxiously waiting the outcome of this battle.
Battle No. 15 came as a bit of a surprise to the Admiralty. The plan was simple, take two units via transport (1 armor and 1 infantry division) to Denmark along with a battleship and naval bombard the coast defensives into submission so the attack can commence without hindrance. That was the plan, but the Kriegsmarine intervened by sending all the remaining surface fleet and a Luftwaffe squadron to meet the Royal Navy. The Germans have forced the British into a fight for the Danish Sea and the outcome will determine control of the North Atlantic. The land battle for Denmark will proceed. The troops landed before the German Navy attacked but the German attack interrupted the battleship’s naval bombardment so a successful attack on Denmark is no longer guaranteed. Also the Germans committed such a strong force to the naval engagement that the British had to recall the unit that was previously fighting in the Celtic Sea pursuing the fight for the Atlantic. This is an even fight too. Whoever comes out victorious will be able to dictate the fate of the Atlantic in ’42.
This could be a bleak turn for the Allies if all the battles go in favor of the Germans. The Germans are starting to strip their Western defenses to meet an ever growing number of casualties in the East. How long will it be before they feel the pressure to replace those western units? If the Allies win all of the battles the Germans will be forced to reevaluate their goals for 1942. Regardless of the outcome the need for men and material in Russia will be tremendous. Hitler’s gamble in Russia, once started, needs to be fulfilled. But ultimate victory can’t be won without help from the Japanese and initial reports from Asia don’t sound good for a completely successful Japanese offensive. Your battles will determine the outcome.
Remember to submit your After Action Reports to AAR@wizards.com. You have until 10:00 am Pacific Standard Time on June 4th 2007 for the battles of ETO2. This is a critical time in the war - fight hard, fight smart, use every available tactic to win, but most importantly, play and report.
Previously in the Axis & Allies Campaign: