Friday, 7 August 2015

Red Steel the Red Dragon Strikes

A simple set.with the hardest of  scenarios. In this taster Steiner from 'Cross of Iron' became a legend and the soviets brought terror on the Germans with the surprise of the T34; probably the best medium tank of WW2. In this tester we tried to replicate the impact of the T34 on the Wehrmacht and that contrary to much opinion the Germqns did not quite have it all their own way in the first phases of Barbarossa, most notably on the southern front, the focus of our investigations. Recent readings suggest the soviets fought very resiliently in the frontier battles and the southern front was a very tough campaign for Army group south which was where  most of the strong soviet mechanised forces were concentrated ( the bloody triangle). Moreover , the battle of Brody proved to be an enormous shock for Germqn high command and some diaries of the time report that many Germqn commanders became highly sceptical about the campaign outcome following this, no matter what other false euphoria was percolating at higher levels.

The T34 was to shock the german panzer and landers;  it's impact along with the KV series should not be underestimated on Wehrmacht morale along with the sheer tenacity of the soviet soldier in which so many German accounts state their bravery and refusal to ever submt drained their fighting spirit ( see kershaw war without garlands). This also indirectly generated further desperate hatred of this stubborn enemy whom the Germans just could not fathom, following their successes in Poland, the Low Countries and France who just would not surrender and accept their defeat.To quote one German junior officer " there is always resistance.....they just do not accept they are beaten".

Importantly, previous and  future comics  are not about the glory of war but about understanding the history and allowing others to explore it through this unique medium. I am a teacher and military archaeologist by trade and because of this project have read, researched and explored this conflict and will one day take my studies to Russia a country I so want to explore.

The invasion of the Soviet Union was in the main the largest conflagration in history and pitted two
totalitarian systems against one another in a bitter battle for the father and motherland. It is without equal in scope in history and the post war conclusion deeply has affected our present.

In this game the Russians were commencing their massive armoured counter offensive with a huge part of all their mechanised forces in the southern sector. The soviet strategy in simplicity was to pincer  from the North and South and sever the German main axis of advance, encircle and destroy the Germans approach the Germans perfected up-to 1943.

A T34 platoon in advance of the rest of its brigade, lead by a Russian Hero FT spots the german march column and charges into the attack drawing the rest of its forces with it. The Germans whom were fresh non tested confident trained infantry are hit in the flank as 10 T34 tanks supported by 20 BT 5 tanks, motorised infantry and combat engineers with off table mortars, assault.

The T34 tanks gained a spearhead move at the double before starting and one tank broke down later repaired. The Russians attacked  thereafter with a fresh platoon arriving each turn. The Germans were in March column with only PAK 36 AT guns, which although hit the T34s the crews (forced to roll to hit) watched in horror as 9 hits bounced off the T34s, doing no damage. From turn three the Germans could roll for air and reserves but these were limited historically to 8 panzer twos and three panzer fours, again ineffective against the T34. The german infantry did however have the stug assault guns with Witmann the tank ace  in ambush and a last reserve of an 88 which arrived far too late. Historically this AAA GUN was soon quickly put into service as an AT asset following this typical incident when T34 fear became manifest throughout Russia for Heer and Axis forces.

The field Wagon and the cooks were destroyed first by the T34s as the Russian infantry poured through the wood driving in the Germans. The Germans tried an extemporised defence digging in
successfully but were strung out diagonally across the 8x5 table and stretched damn thin. Steiner's recce platoon on foot FV screening the column from the start was to fight in this action and he was everywhere ultimately saving the Germans from annihilation  when single handed  he assaulted and destroyed two t34 tanks using our single man team rules and drove the T34s back, thus saving the weapons platoon from destruction. Whitman took out four BT tanks and broke the platoon, which had been deployed to pin them and this flank but his two other tanks were destroyed by Russian sappers later when they failed to storm trooper trying to knock out the second T43s on the flank.

Ultimately the Germans held desperately using smoke and guile until turn twelve but corporal Steiner could not prevent company morale failure following the death on the One IC at the hand of the T34s but saved the flank, the 2IC already dead in the woods. The Russians only just took the two objectives thereby severing the road but the Germans did well in awful circumstances for an untested company.

The Germans lost one engineer and infantry platoon, all the pak 40s and four Panzer twos. Steiner's platoon was reduced to 50% and Whitman lost two stugs. The AAA was pulled ...ran...and the transports escaped. The soviets list two T34s tanks and eleven BT tanks and a motor platoon. An outstanding examination and one we hope if you follow the pictures you will interpret and perhaps engage with a little light reading.

As a PostScript Steiner would have been awarded a high decoration but with no validation, as no living officers unlikely that said he goes into myth with his regiment and we will use him to explore some interesting perceptions of German landers after " War without Garlands" by Kershaw a damn good read.

Enjoy Hengist