From: Cologne, Germany
Period = late 1942/early 1943
Battles = post Stalingrad Soviet offensives along the Chir river and the German counter-attacks that followed.
Map Area = see picture below.
According to the colored areas on the map, I'm guessing this would then cover operations of the Russian 5th Tank Army, and subsequent blocking actions/counter-attacks by the German 11th Panzer-Division (which started on 8th of December 1942, although the unit was supposed to be part of the relief force advancing towards Stalingrad), for example?
If so, including the following 3 scenarios would make for some nice action:
A) Panzer-Regiment 15's rapid advance on Sowchos 79 (crushing a looong column of Russian mot. Infantry, taking them completely by surprise along the way): Elements of the Russian 5th Tank Army had pushed their way past the defending German 336th Inf Div., taking the collective farm Sowchos, deep behind German lines, with the Russian 1st Tank Corp now forming up/preparing at and around Sowchos, in order to strike at the 336th Inf Div's rear. The 15th Pz.Rgt then basically bowled over the Russian 1st Tank Corps within 1 day (during daylight = within less then 9 hrs), knocking out 53 Russian tanks in the process.
B) With Kotelnikovo as starting point for the LVII Panzer Korps on 12th of December 1942, a scenario covering the operation involving elements of Army Group Hoth and their attempt to secure a jump-off point for the relief of the 6th Army being trapped in Stalingrad:
After being pushed back across and behind the Mishkova and Aksay rivers, Army Group Hoth's Northern elements are tasked to hold the Chir river line. By diverting the 11th Panzer-Division Hoth hopes to secure gaps where Russian motorized Inf units are pouring in on the left flank, from the Northern bank of the Chir river. Without waiting for the arrival of the 17th Panzer-Division, LVII. Korps launches its attack on 12 December and reaches the Aksay river in the evening hrs, preparing for crossing it the next day. After crossing the Aksay river, LVII Pz.Korps reaches the high terrain at Kumskiy, meeting heavy resistance. The 6th Panzer-Division reports the loss of 23 tanks and 8 field guns. The Corps had made an advance of 60km only, while suffering susbtantial losses in men and material, at that point. Even though the Russian 8th Tank Corps and the 3rd Motor. Gards Corps are severely tattered, German long range recon reveals that the Russians are freeing units from the Stalingrad siege front and moving them south, in order to rush them towards the relief force.
The Russians, though, and according to plan, perform that in a rather slow and careful manner, as they want to make sure Hoth's attempt is not a diversionary attack, plus they want to force the Germans to field all their reserves, by - if necessary - even sacrificing the units forming the blocking force. The defensive posture of 1942 (see David Glantz), which is more sophisticated than the one common in 1941, and the now more experienced leaders play a vital role. But with the arrival of the German 17th Panzer-Division the fanatical resistance of the Russian units can be overcome, even the Mishvoka river can be crossed and a bridgehead formed. The southern perimeter of the Stalingrad pocket is 55km away, and the Spearhead of Hoth's Army Group can see German flares that are being launched from within the southern Stalingrad perimeter. The trapped 6th Army prepares for breaking out, by pulling back forces and equipment from the northern strongpoints of the pocket and concentrating some forces in the southern tip, and also by destroying equipment that can't be exfiltrated. The fuel reserves inside the pocket will support an advance of 15 km, few transports are available, though. Will Hoth's group be able to widen the bridgehead and relief the comrades in Stalingrad?
C) What-If scenario assuming that the 11th Panzer-Division would have been been available for commitment as part of Hoth's relief force heading for Stalingrad, and also assuming that the 17th Pz.Div. would have been committed from the start (at Kotelnikovo).
I'd love to see these scenarios.
Or is that game going to cover even the subsequent Donbas and Khar'kov operations, with Mansteins counter-offensive that let entire Russian armies implode?
Whatever the case, the operations in the Chir area are less known, so they are - like the entire COTA scenarios - somewhat "exoctic", once again, imho.
Still, the subsequent missions mid-December to 22nd of December, when the Corps-HQ was ordered to leave the Chir front and move ninety miles to the West, with the German 11th Pz.Div. acting as fire-brigade and saving various units, while sealing several breakthroughs, until the Russian First Guard Army eventually poured through the gaps caused by the Italian Eighth Army's failure, offers plenty of (tank- and mot. unit-)manoeuvre warfare.
Imho, the following points will have to be considered, if you want to depict mobile/armored combat within that sector in a realistic and historically accurate fashion:
1) Major-General Friedrich W. von Mellenthin in his book "Panzer Battles 1939 - 1945, A Study of the Employment of Armour in the Second World War" pointed out that, until all was quiet on the 22nd of December on the 48th Panzer Corps' front sector, finally, mobile tactics had saved the Germans numerous times during their attempts to block or seal Russian bridgeheads, dealing heavy losses on the Russians:
"Before concluding this account of the battles on Chir, I must pay tribute to General Balck, a born leader of armour. Throughout the fighting his panzer division [11th Panzer-Division] had acted as the 'fire brigade', moving behind the two infantry divisions to quell one dangerous conflagration after another. When the infantry found it impossible to deal with the larger Russian bridgeheads, Balck came tearing down on the enemy with the whole weight of his armour in accordance with the old maxim: No stinting, but stunning. (Nicht kleckern, sondern klotzen). His brilliant achievements were the fruit of exemplary co-operation with the two infantry divisions and the Headquarters of 48 Panzer Corps. Balck never left a single tank in direct support of the infantry, as this was regarded as of no avail and a waste of much-needed armour. Mobile tactics of this kind retrieved dangerous situations on numerous occasions and inflicted huge losses on the enemy. During this period more than 700 tanks were knocked out in the sector of 48 Corps. I, the newcomer, saw and understood that the Russian masses of men and material could be successfully fought, if they were faced by men with steady nerves and by concentrated armour and artillery."
Von Mellenthin then added General Balck's own comments on these operations:
"...... For weeks on end the division moved by night, and before dawn was at the very spot where the enemy was weakest, waiting to attack him an hour before he was ready to move. Such tactics called for unheard-of-efforts, but saved lives, as the attack proper cost very few casualties, thanks to the Russians having been taken completely by surprise. The axiom of the Division was, 'night-marches are lifesavers'. It is true, however, that the question of when the men of 11 Panzer got any sleep was never clearly answered."
Such night-marches occured often, and - unlike with the strictly ordered night-movement of armor during the Ardennes offensive in December 1944 - were not hampered by massive fuel shortages (which occured in Summer 1942, though), at least in the main, or Allied uber-aggressive attacks from the air.
That said, fatigue (or whatever keeps units from moving at night and even during the day) has to be completely reviewed for the Eastern front game, in order to restore the game's level of realism for that matter.
2) General Balck also commented on issues such as order delay, planning and changing of plans in the field/during an attack:
"Orders were exclusively verbal. The Divisional Commander made his decision for the next day during the evening, and he gave the necessary orders verbally to his regimental commanders on the battlefield; then he returned to his main Headquarters and discussed his intentions with the Chief of Staff of 48 Panzer Corps. If approval was obtained the regiments were sent the wireless message: 'no changes', and all the moves were carried out according to plan. If there were fundamental changes, the Divisional Commander visited all his regiments during the night and gave the necessary orders, again verbally. Divisional operations were conducted from the forward position on the battlefield. The Divisional Commander had his place with the group which was to make the main effort; he visited the regiments several times a day. The Divisional Headquarters was somewhat farther back and did not change its location during operations. There information was collected and collated, supplies were handled, and reinforcements sent on their way. Communications between the Divisional Commander and his staff were maintained by R/T [radio/telephone]; there were few opportunities to make use of the phone."
That said, errr quoted, these procedures display the German fear that vital communication and planning could be compromised/intercepted, but also, since short-response times were/are required for this kind of (mobile) warfare, that regular message and order processing (ie. via telegraph or motorcycle messengers) was not feasible. Furthermore, Balck points out how he, as Divisional Commander, handled command and control: Balck was with the "group which was to make the main effort" and conducted operations from a forward position, which almost resembled Rommel's management style (who was sometimes right behind his Division's spearhead, well that's what the propaganda wanted the Germans to believe, at least ), and stayed in contact with his staff back at Headquarters. IMHO, this approach seems to be representative for a good number of German mobile units in and around the Chir sector, so this should be considered for orders delay of German armored units in the game: Radio was even used on the Divisional Commander level, who then - if necessary -, could intervene or who could fine-tune/change the Regiments' operations, as he inspected their performance personally several times a day. While - at first glance - it may sound cumbersome and slow to issue orders the evening before, actually being at the front with the main bulk and being able to assess the situation right in front of him (live and in color), gave him a definite advantage regarding flow/speed of infos/intel, if compared to an "armchair" general. The Russians lacked some of this flexibility.
A new feature would be nice here: say the user gives an attack order to a Div. HQ, and he wants to change the approach or target of one or another regiment without dumping the original plan, it would be nice to just be able to move the attack order marker, which would then produce a little window asking the user "do you want all regiments to shift to the new target?" and then have checkboxes where he can select or deselect the attached regiments. This would give the user the opportunity to say have the first Regiment stick with the original plan and attack the initial target, say south of a city, without him having to detach it (and replan), while the other Regiment will now replan and strike at the new position of the Attack order marker, say north of a city, to perform a northern pincer. This would save time (lengthy orders delay + planning + moving to FUP - cycle) and ensure that some momentum of at least a part of the attack (ie. south) can be maintained. I hope that made sense.
3) For a forum post on Battlefront.com, after TOW2 was released, I researched a couple of sources/facts to back up what Zaloga and few other authors wrote about superior German tank optics, because the programmers did not implement historically accurate tank optics in the game. In order to successfully simulate WWII tank warfare, you have to incorporate details about the superiority of German tank optics, which reached well into 1944, and with US tank optics, even well into 1945.
In short: American tank optics, just like Russian tank optics (until the IS-2 came up), were way inferior. In the first Shermans, fielded in 1942 in Africa, the tanks' optics would only produce a relatively blurry image at around 800 meters (if I am not mistaken), and total blur at and above ~1000 meters (again, IIRC), the lenses were not processed in the same way the Germans had treated their lenses for their optics.
The US faced (what I call) a "tank optics crisis" in 1943. Through their (tank) battle experience in Africa, they figured that a)their optics were inferior to the German ones, and b) that they had to take immediate counter-measures. So they installed a commission to overcome the bad situation for the tankers, consisting of scientists/physicists/engineers, to see what could be done. The result was that the production process was improved, but mainly the number of lenses (thus the level of magnification, from 3 to 5x magnification in 1943/1944, IIRC) was increased. The blur stayed or even increased (a physical effect, that added a certain percentage of blur with each lense that was added). The US Army/the commission could never completely solve this issue. In turn, the Russians could partially make up by copying some German tank optics successfully (to some extent), but did not have he knowledge (until really late in the war) to apply the same coating to the lenses as the Germans. As far as I know, only the IS-2 tank had optics that could keep up with German optics (at least halfway).
An example here would be a story relayed by Zaloga, where a US Sherman gunner (with German language skills), when asked to get to a radio that was still working inside a knocked out and abandoned German tank, to check out if he could pick up some of the chatter, looked through the gunner scope of that German tank and finally realized why even German PzIV tanks could fire and score a hit with the first round at distances of 1200 meters and even above, long before US Sherman gunners could identify/pick up the target, and where it then took up to 3 or 4 shots until the Sherman gunner had zero'ed in on an enemy at a distance of around 1000 meters (IIRC). The German sight delivered a very clear image, even at ranges where a Sherman gunner would just see a blurry picture (above 800 meters), giving the German gunners a definite advantage. Same can be said about the optics of the Russian T-34, afaik, they were not much better.
If I am not mistaken, the optics of Flak guns even delivered a pretty clear image of targets at distances of 1500-1700 meters.
This fact should be considered for the Eastern Front game, which means that basically German tanks (PzIV and above) can fire earlier (at bigger distances) and more accurately, without them having to move within the boundaries of the enemy's engagement range.
4) The possibility to mount and dismount motorized infantry. Especially in that theater, Russian infantry was able to cross rivers (often on makeshift rafts), to appear at even the most unfriendly river banks and form bridgeheads, and to just mount again once the pool of engineers (which got larger, as more engineer units were created in late 1942 and all through 1943) had built or repaired a bridge, so that the motor pool could follow.
5) General Balck's comment about the levels of training:
"On both sides newly established and poorly equipped formations were thrown into the fray. On the German side there were the Luftwaffen field divisions. After a few days they were gone - finished - in spite of good mechanical equipment. Their training left everything to be desired, and they had no experienced leaders. They were a creation of Hermann Göring, a creation which had no sound military foundation - the rank and file paid with their lives for this absurdity.
On the Russian side the tank crews, particularly Motorized Corps, had hardly any training. This shortcoming was one of the essential reasons for the German victory on 19 December."
"The fighting on the Chir river was made easier by the methods adopted by the command of the Russian Fifth Tank Army. They sent their various corps into battle without co-ordinating the timing of their attacks, and without the co-ordination of the numerous infantry divisions. Thus 11 Panzer Division was enabled to smash one corps after the other, until the hitting power of the Fifth Tank Army had been weakened to such an extent that it was possible for the Division to withdraw and start the game all over again with another Russian Tank Army."
My 2 cents
< Message edited by GoodGuy -- 12/17/2011 11:08:20 AM >
General Anthony McAuliffe
December 22nd, 1944
"I've always felt that the AA (Alied Assault engine) had the potential to be [....] big."
8th of August, 2006