Azure Three Bezants: Return to Italy

In which two offensives fail, and the end is not yet.

The Balkan fighting being seriously bogged down, my next step was, once again, to look for some water to cross, either to outflank the lines facing me or to create a new front. With command of the Eastern Med now somewhat secure, the obvious target was Italy: The Po plain is my industrial core, if we managed to take the Alps we would be threatening Germany’s heartland, and if we were pushed back from there then the narrow peninsula is readily defensible.

The NWO navies are now quite firmly in control of the Eastern Med; the Germans have pulled their precious capital ships out and are attempting to dispute the passage of our troop convoys with a swarm of destroyers, while the English try to run our blockade of the Adriatic, without any very noticeable successes.

However, the Commonwealth players had by now gotten garrisons into all their ports – in truth I’m rather surprised it took so long – and it was no longer a question of simply walking into Venice. Instead I planned broad-front landings around several ports, so that forlorn hopes would attack the port defenders in the flanks and hope that it fell before their three days of supplies were up. In Apulia, where I landed two divisions north of the port on the southmost province in the heel of the Italian boot, this worked; the Danish division defending that port ran out of supplies itself – nothing was getting through the blockade very easily – and I had my toehold, or perhaps heelhold, on the peninsula. Likewise Fox managed to land in Sicily, and Japan took Sardinia and Corsica. Further north, however, my landing in Venice was defeated, and although I got divisions ashore at Aquila and for a while it looked like I might get the port, eventually heavy Commonwealth reinforcements showed up and my supplies ran out. As the Commonwealth got a fighting line into place south of Naples, this meant that we were on the other end of that easy defensibility of the peninsula, and faced with, sigh, a grinding attritional struggle through mountains if we were going to get anywhere. That might not have been impossible; Italy is not as mountainous as the Balkans, and the Commonwealth lines hadn’t had time to coalesce – a good push to take Naples might dislocate the defense and make it possible to run up the peninsula, perhaps with landings here and there to attempt encirclements. Unfortunately, we failed to coordinate between ourselves, and both Venice, Fox, and Japan poured troops into the beachhead, each of us attempting to overmatch the Commonwealth. This led to something on the order of sixty divisions occupying a place whose ports could reliably feed twenty; so all those sixty divisions were constantly out of supply, and taking immense attrition when they weren’t actively losing fights. (I have to give some credit to the HoI4 supply system here; this is exactly what should happen. In SP these pieces of good modelling are overshadowed by the immense badness of the AI, but with humans on both sides logistics actually matter.) We were pushed back to just a sliver of Calabria before we realised the problem. There are prewar fortresses in a mountain province there, converted from Victoria to defend my border with English Sicily; but the real solution to our problem was just pulling out the surplus troops. The line is stabilised now, but doesn’t look likely to move north in the near future.

The plan for the invasion of Italy. Most of these landings were defeated.

Propaganda leaflet dropped in preparation for the landings, in the hope of causing widespread popular risings against the occupation.

Landings around Aquila, initially successful before being driven into the sea by Danish reinforcements, without taking the port.

In Apulia I landed north of the port, cutting it off from supplies, and thus fought on an equal footing; this, and the distraction of the Aquila landing to the north, gave me a supplied beachhead in Italy.

The Italian Front at the height of its success. The Commonwealth counterattack is about to drive our brave, but badly-supplied, troops south into Calabria, where the fortified mountain line at the prewar border will hold, protecting Sicily.

While this Mediterranean fighting was occupying the attention of Venice, Japan, and Fox, our opponents were by no means idly awaiting our attacks. Early in June, the German army launched a massive attack on the Ural Front, which NWO strategic discussion had more or less written off as irrelevant: The mountain line was too strong for us to overcome with the supplies we could get there through Siberia, while conversely if the enemy launched a successful attack there, all they would get would be hundreds of miles of, well, Siberia. This analysis was, I think, reasonably correct; nevertheless it was quite worrying to see German grey driving far into Kazakhstan, and worse, the Indian army being driven back in disarray. Losing Siberian territory is one thing, it’s not very valuable; but to lose a large part of the Indian army would be a serious problem, since that army was the only thing preventing Germany from reaching actually valuable areas like India and China. Concerned messages went back and forth discussing the possibility of a fallback line in the Himalayas. I pulled strategic-reserve troops off the Caucasus front, where they had been digging in and fortifying behind the main line in case of a sudden assault there, and sent them to shore up the defense between the Caspian and Aral seas; and it was I who saw the opportunity there. In their zeal to advance, the German player had left an opening – there were six divisions in the Caspian/Aral gap, but they were all sitting in one province, and the gap is three to four provinces wide. I may have gotten a little excited in chat. My reinforcements had not arrived yet, but the Indian player did launch an attack into the Gap, initially with great success.

The initial German breakthrough.

Position in early July, showing the northern part of the Indian line falling back from the siege of the Urals to avoid being rolled up by the breakthrough.

The position mid-August; the German attack shows no signs of running out of steam. Here you can also see the Italian front being pushed back for lack of supply, and our attempt to slide along the Aegean coast towards the Black Sea – which did succeed in taking the strategically-important Thessalonika airport, another blow at Commonwealth power in the Eastern Med – not going very well.

The Caspian-Aral Gap, with the Indian attack gathering steam and pushing for the wide-open steppe, and the German supply lines.

The Summer Offensive at roughly its maximum extent, with Indian cavalry galloping towards its lines of supply.

The German counterattack has reached the Caspian shore, cutting off the cavalry spearheads. Nevertheless their sacrifice has bought time for the main fighting front, where the Indian army is about to start pushing back through the winter storms. This image also shows my plan for landings along the Italian coast, in the rear of the Commonwealth armies pushing down the peninsula; the plan would be to close off the peninsula on the three-day supply grace, and hope to crush the suddenly-unsupplied Commonwealth front and take a port before the newly-landed armies could be destroyed. I never launched this attack, as the Italian front’s retreat was too rapid and we would have needed to take several ports to fully cut off the enemy army from supply. In hindsight our control of the Med was perhaps sufficient that it should have been tried anyway.

The first Venetian troops have reached the Caspian-Aral gap; a powerful Indian counterattack is stretching tendrils towards the Aral, threatening to cut off the panzers fighting east of the Aral Sea.

November, and the Summer Offensive is in full retreat, aided by powerful kicks in the pants from newly-arrived Foxy reinforcements.

Awakening to their mistake, the Germans then pulled troops off their virile and manly thrust into Mongolia, and launched a powerful counterattack along the Aral shore, eventually cutting off the Indian cavalry spearhead. However, while several divisions were lost in this way, the main German attack was dislocated and the Indian army was able to first stand, then push back, and at last, in bitter winter fighting, restore the frontline almost to what it had been in summer. As of November 1938, the fighting on the Asian front remains mobile; there have been several encirclements of panzer spearheads who got too far ahead of their infantry support, and we have some hope that we can keep them on the run long enough to get past the Urals. The 1938 Summer Offensive, then, may prove in the end to be the undoing of the German army; it’s hard to see what else they should have done, though. They can’t win by staying on the defensive, and where else can they attack? Constantinople has been withstanding siege for more than a year now, and even if it should by some miracle fall there are backup fortifications on the other side of the strait. Likewise I have been building a fallback line of forts in the Caucasus, and the mountains there don’t lend themselves to rapid advance; same for the Balkans and anyway they don’t lead to any other objectives – we now hold enough ports there that an evacuation should be quite easy. The NWO controls the Black Sea and, with the fall of the Morocco holdouts, the Med is quite firmly in our grasp. That leaves the Ural Front, or attempting a landing in the Americas or the west coast of Africa; both would be quite difficult in the face of the Foxy Navy’s carriers. The Commonwealth players took their best shot and did it well; that it didn’t work is down to fundamental geographic reality and no lack of skill.

The short-lived London Landing; also note the occupation of Ireland, which so far has proved permanent.

On the other side, the fall of Morocco, in addition to closing the Med to Commonwealth surface ships, freed up considerable numbers of our troops. Consequently the Foxy Navy was able to support an invasion of Ireland, which is now freed of its ancient English yoke – of course, it remains to be seen if an American yoke is any improvement; nobody knows what the Fox says. A landing in the mouth of the Thames, however, was thrown back by the county militias in spite of reaching London. Heavy street fighting has left the industries there badly damaged, and the extensive real-estate portfolio of the Shrewsbury dynasty in and around the City has dipped severely in value. Nevertheless neither King Robert XIII or the power behind his throne, Ms Jorgenson (currently possessed by the Jackal) were captured, and England remains in the fight.

Eurasia, November 1938. Morocco has fallen, the Mediterranean islands are in NWO hands, and the 1938 Summer Offensive has been driven back almost to its starting lines. Ireland in Foxy hands is a dagger aimed squarely at England’s kidneys.

Venice’s surrender progress, at 40%, is now lower than England’s 42%.


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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, One With Nineveh and Tyre, Recessional

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