A German Interlude: As Italy Betrays Me (End of T6)
Talking with Loki, he graciously agreed to allow me to post a few thoughts form the German side in his AAR. I caveat this up front with the warning that I am the raw-est of new players, whereas he has pretty much single handedly written half the AARs and advice on this forum. So…when in doubt, trust what he says, and assume my clever plan isn’t all that clever. That said, as it’s all over in Sicily except for the crying and my so called allies have abandoned me, this seems like a good time to interject.
Grand Strategy (or lack thereof).
I view the first round of invasions as a sort of opening prelude the war proper. As such, I went in with the deeply intellectual approach of “lets suss out how he likes to fight. Then lets pick a few of his tools and try to put some hurt on them before the big show. Oh, and not get slaughtered.” As I said, deeply intellectual. OKW should be calling me any moment now to offer me an honorary position on their general staff. Still, my reasoning was essentially that If I could narrow down his playbook early, it would pay dividends later.
The Northern Air War
The first reports I saw where that great swathes of the LW had been butchered over France and the Low countries. Obviously that had to be rectified, as it directly contrasted my goal of “not getting slaughtered.” More importantly, they told me that generally the early air war was going to consist of:
1) The B-17 Stomp, wherein 500+ B17s attack en masse.
2) Bomber Command doing its thing in the Ruhr.
3) Smaller special purpose raids with B-24s, B-26s, and Stirlings.
I figured I could try to kill B-17s all day and the bombing campaign would continue mostly unabated – and that I could afford to watch a few plants get hammered. It has become apparent to me playing Germans that even with strat recon, the WA picture of factory damage is often well off mark. Between that and the somewhat incredible resiliency and repair rates, I mostly passed on deliberately trying to kill the B-17 stomp.
Bomber command proves infuriatingly hard to inflict meaningful losses on unless they obligingly run into flak belts. Also, a foolish courier carried orders to my night fighters one week, telling them to fly by day. Given the British pushed a massive fighter sweep over the Ruhr the same week, I can only assume the courier was an Allied spy (also, be very careful when using the commander’s report tools to alter air groups -you can change a lot of squadrons round very quickly, but you might have a WHOOPS moment – Loki saw this ahead of time and generously offered to let me redo the turn as he sent the file with the killing in it, but I did not think I warranted such mercy for a technical error). Either way, Harris and the boys weren’t a good target.
But the special raids with B-24s and B-26s…well…they met all the criteria. A limited asset, with unique capabilities in terms of range, used on mission sets that weren’t being covered elsewhere. I figured special missions meant at some point they were coming through the Hamburg corridor to hit the U-boats. So I Jagdcorps got the mission to kill the B-24s and B-26s and piled the majority of their assets into the Hamburg/Denmark area.
So, we achieved what we set out to do. I Jagdcorps hurt the B-24 and B-26 squadrons heavily. They killed a lot of bombers, and hopefully will force Loki to either abandon some special missions or distribute out more of the 8th AF into killable packets. As for the technique, I used auto-intercepts set to 150%, feeling safe in knowing that they were operating in areas where the allies rarely sent large forces over. That will have to change very soon as I look to the next objectives in the air war, but I think it was the right tool for the job of killing smaller forces.
The question of course is whether it was worth giving the B-17 core of the 8th AF a relatively free hand. While they didn’t really do that much damage that couldn’t be brought under control, getting the vehicle and AFV plants back to functionality required precious AP and some are still above 30%. I’m sure when my trucks run out, I’ll look back at this and wonder if it was all worth it.
I set out in the med with the following goals:
1) Buy 7 Weeks in Sicily on a shoestring. I am of the opinion that there are a lot of ways Sicily can go wrong for the Germans, and not many ways it can go right. Seeing Loki had reserved two invasion forces, I decided to play it safe and use only token forces in Sicily so I could have a more favorable fight wherever those two forces were going.
Also because I was terrified of having my Germans units cut off with a landing, and then watching the Italians surrender on top of that. If you haven’t ever played the Axis, opening up the first week will cause you to hold your head in despair when you realize that you might spend the first month fighting with one real corps on hand. The urge to run away north is strong.
2) Hurt his naval air and the Strategic AF. As with the air war above, these two forces represented WA assets that are very useful, perform a distinct mission for invasion prep, but are limited in quantity. You might actually get something from putting the hurt on, whereas you sure won’t put a dent in the tactical air forces. I figured damaging these early would slow down his ability to break my rail network and sustain long range water movements. Like invasions.
3) Hurt his TFs and his supply ships. Because the real fight for Italy comes in invasion series two or three, anything that could cut some of the potency out ahead of time could only be a good thing.
How did that work out? A qualified “OK.”
The defining move in the Med was clearly the British invasion in the toe. On one side, it turned me out of Sicily and guaranteed an early Italian surrender. On the other hand, I was already running like a little girl to the Italian mainland, so I’m not sure it changed much in the grand scheme of things. Then again, Loki has far more experience with this than I do, and I am very likely blind to some knock on effects.
More importantly, it opened up a chance for a clean shot at the WA Strategic and Coastal air assets, as well as several TFs and British troops floating on boats.
The entire Regio Aeronautica and nearly 100 German fighters were brought into the area to capitalize while the Heer got to stabilize the line. The ground fighting was limited – he had a strong beachhead and the panzers were still arriving in dribbles, putting a stop my dreams of counterattack – and pretty much only consisted of a local attack on an exposed armor brigade, and the Allied response. Outside a couple thousand losses for both sides, there was no real effect.
The air was a different story. And the heroes of that story were the Regia Aeronautica (I guess the Allies will write a different version, but so it goes). It was Italian bombers that hit the sea lanes, Italian transports that supplied the ground forces as they moved into position, and even Italian fighters managed to get a few swings in. I mean, so did a bunch of German 109s, but any time an open cockpit monoplane kills a spitfire, call it a win.
While the invasion wasn’t cut off, that was never on the cards. The eminently heroic/expendable Italian bomber pilots put thousands of brits into the drink, and did reasonable amounts of damage to the allied stock of cargo ships. I’d like to think they also helped attrit the amphibious TFs and force them to spend time fighting for sea control rather than preparing invasions, but other than two weeks where I know the TFs stayed around, that is probably wishful thinking.
Air to air was less pleasing. I’m not sure if the Strategic air force was all that affected in terms of casualties, but I saw several naval patrol sorties by aircraft that would have otherwise been blowing the crap out of ports and railyards, so that has to count for something. Hardly a major triumph, but I guess it is better than nothing.
Coastal air effects were a bit better, but hardly decisive. I saw a lot of Wellingtons and other long range patrol aircraft go down, and now they won’t get a rest before the inevitable move to Sardinia and Corsica in support of the local Italian traitors. Maybe that will help lessen the sting of the next invasion series, or at least force more strategic air diversions.
Somewhat more worryingly, Loki is moving aggressively to get into position for a lunge at Rome, and despite his losses the VPs are creeping in the wrong direction. With the initial invasion taxes paid and three months till the weather starts really slowing down VP gain, he may very well finish out the year in a strong VP position. While I expect the killing will go up in the future, the prizes are getting much larger and the bombers are doing their part…