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Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter

Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter
with Jim Naughton

The second round of our Legions Pittsburgh Firestorm Stalingrad Campaign began on Nov. 16th and was completed on Nov. 30th. The extra week was caused by a resurgence of interest in Team Yankee on the day after American Thanksgiving. This round saw seven games completed. As with the first round, the two ‘extra’ battles were allocated by the controlling players to refight battles that had been lost at first attempt.

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To review, we used Battle Plans to determine the actual scenario played. The side controlling the battle arrow had to select ATTACK or MANEUVER while other side needed to choose either MANEUVER or DEFEND. A number of players selected MANEUVER to avoid minefields or deep reserves, producing situations where the game attacker might be the notional sector defender. Considering that Unternehmen Wintergewitter was marked by a series of mobile battles, it is interesting how our games imitated the battles on the steppes. It was even chilly in Legions’ facility during much of the crucial fighting, thanks to lots of visitors to the store, intermittent snow and rain outside mixed with odd spring-like weather. Fortunately our inclement conditions were fixed by a sweatshirt and hot pizza, unlike the historical weather of the Steppe in 1942.

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FM von Manstein (Rob) was not as lucky as his counterpart, with supplies sufficient for only three attacks. Further, MoSU Zhukov (Ben) was able to punch in with two attacks before Rob’s second offensive got underway. This allowed Ben to preempt some obvious moves.

Rob’s first attack (Arrow 1) was directed from Askoye north into the vital area of Chir Station. Clearly Rob intended to break into Stalingrad from the south.

Ben countered with flanking moves. His first attack (Arrow 2) was from Millerovo in the west heading east into Oblivskya. This attack would, if successful, secure Dubovka from a Phase III German counterattack. Ben also ordered another attack south into Savolnoya, outflanking expected German defenses along the Askay River (Arrow 3).

Rob ordered a supporting attack from Tshimiyanka into Chir Station (Arrow 4), thereby doubling his chances of taking the 5VP sector and reopening the supply line into Stalingrad.

Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter

In a reversal of the first phase, the first three battles went against the Germans. Jason D. was the only Mid-War German player present on Nov. 16th, thanks to other activities including the National Level Master’s Tournament and the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Jason faced off with his Pz III Company against Rob N’s American infantry in an attempt to break into Chir Station and was defeated 7-2 at Counterattack (Arrow 4).  Next he faced my Soviet Tankovy Battalion and went down in Encounter 8-1 in Oblivskya (Arrow 2). In both cases the issue was the effect of reserves on his structure. We spent some time reconfiguring his list and fought the 5th arrow for Betanovka, playing NO RETREAT as a result of my selecting DEFEND. With his full force in play from the start, Jason was able to eliminate 2 units but, unfortunately, his company broke in a desperate attempt to gain an objective. 7-2 Soviet victory.

After a week’s delay, Flames was again in the catbird seat at Legions on Nov. 30th. Rob G led another German attack (Arrow 1) into Chir Station but was defeated by Stefan A 8-1.

Ben I took on Tim, suffering a 6-3 defeat in a refight of Rob N’s earlier victory at Chir Station on Arrow 1. This brought the combined score to a 10-8 narrow Soviet win, repulsing the German drive.

Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter

Tim also played Jason, who had ‘switched’ sides bringing an American Army, and refought Arrow 5, this time in Bridgehead. This ended in a German 8-1 victory. In this sector the double battle combined score went the German’s way, ending in 9-8. Betanovka ended the phase in German hands.

Ben I next played Rich for the Soviet attack south out of Betanovka, Arrow 3, and won another Soviet victory, 8-1.

 

The German main effort had been blunted, but our Unternehmen Wintergewitter outperformed history as the Germans blasted a tenuous supply line through to the southern end of Stalingrad.  Overall, however, the Soviets had posted 5 new victories and now held 22VPs. The stage was set for Operation Little Saturn, the final phase of the Soviet 1942-43 offensive.

Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter

Zhukov ordered the continued offensive. 65th and 57th Armies were to thicken the bar in the rear of 6th Army, driving the enemy beyond the Don and occupying critical supply dumps along the rail and road connections to Rostov, as well as the rail yards at Chir Station. 1st Guards Army and 63rd Army were to open a new front, pinning the German 17th Army and driving toward the intermediate objective of Millerovo while 5th Tank Army was to break through the Chir River line heading for Oblivskya. 51st Army was ordered to pin the retreating elements of 4th Rumanian Army near Savol Noya. Other armies were to apply concentric pressure of 6th Army, forcing von Paulus to expend precious resources on holding actions. 

Firestorm Stalingrad Phase II: Unternehmen Wintergewitter

The German forces supporting the panzers included three newly-organized Luftwaffe Field Divisions and As 6th Panzer Division initiated its advance on 12 December, the plan almost immediately ran into trouble as Soviet First Guards Army turned east to strike the rear of XLVIII Panzerkorps. Armee Abteilung Hollidt was immediately forced to divert the main strength of XLVIII Panzerkorps to defensive operations, leaving only a single kampfgruppe of 11th Panzer to support LVII Panzerkorps.

6th Panzer and the Kampfgruppe of 11th Panzer suffered heavy losses trying to regain the Don River bridges that would reopen the northern supply lines. Shifting east, the LVII Panzerkorps struck again and again, to no avail until a Kampfgruppe engaged a mechanized brigade equipped with lend-lease vehicles. It proved unable to handle the veterans of 6th Panzer and the Aufklarung Battalion of the 6th was able to break into the Soviet ring around Stalingrad on 16 December. 51st Army, deprived of the support of 28th Army, proved unable to close the gap.

Unfortunately, fresh supplies had to wait on repairs to the rail bridge damaged by the Soviet offensive. The victory raised spirits in 6th Army, but clouds were gathering to the north. 5th Tank Army was now over the Chir River, and a battered 11th Panzer was effectively all that stood between it and Rostov. 22nd Panzer Divison’s tanks had disappeared in the snows leaving it with a handful of assault guns and anti tank guns. Equally dangerous, 3rd Guards Army had been released to the Don Front, and Manstein could reasonably expect that new force to take the lead in the western spearhead of the next Soviet push.    

Operation Saturn was about to begin.
~Jim


Last Updated On Thursday, January 10, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront