The Axis Highwater Mark - El Alamein (AAR Turns 21 - 30)

Proceeding with Turns 21 - 30 for The Third Reich 42 - 45

North Africa. The screenshot doesn’t do justice for the whirlwind of fighting transpiring just west of El Alamein, Egypt. A mix of British armoured and infantry brigades continuously baited Rommel’s forces to advance toward Montgomery’s massive Eighth Army. Then, using one of Rommel’s own tricks, the Eight Army swung out into the desert threatening to envelop the whole of the Afrika Korps and its Italian allies.

Knowing that my forces here were substantially outnumbered - events far to the west prodded a decision to be made at El Alamein. US and British forces landing at Casablanca and Algiers (Operation Torch) led to the immediate capitulation of Vichy French forces - a worthy article in the making here. Fortunately, two German light motorized divisions and a mix of five Italian divisions were pre-emptively stationed in Tripoli and immediately took up delaying positions in the coastal hills of eastern Algeria, Phillippeville, Kasserine Pass and Tunis, itself.

Doom to the Afrika Korps now a certainty, an effort regardless how futile had to be made to break the Egyptian lines at El Alamein. With the English reaching out on my right flank with three armoured and five infantry divisions, I saw the opportunity to cut off their supply lines by breaking the base of the penetration with 10th Panzer and Littorio just north of the Qatarra Depression - a virtually unpassable landmark. The English, then released their reserves, leading to the outright capture of both 10th Panzer and Littorio.

However, a quick airborne deployment by the Folgore Airborne Division succeeded in cutting off the English 1st and 10th Armoured Divisions from their main body - leading to their capture by the 21st Panzer Division supported by Ariete’s tanks. The British 7th and 8th Armoured Divisions almost fell to a similar fate; and while both heavily mauled, both managed to link up to the main body of the English Army. Concurrently, 15th Panzer ceased to be combat effective and the 21st Panzer was sent into reorganization due to the heavy fighting.

The screenshot depicts the last semblance of a stable line for the Afrika Korps - the first real Axis defeat. The effort from this point forward would be a race to secure Tunis.

Leningrad. While Leningrad was historically subjected to a lengthy siege, it was never taken by the Axis. Leningrad seemed a far more attractive target to me than attempting to repeat Stalingrad in any kind of historical manner. First, its defenders are on reduced supply. Second, the Soviet 8th Army which was in a position to relieve Leningrad withdrew, effectively eliminating any chance it had of receiving reinforcements. Once Manstein’s 11th Armee was finished with Sevastopol, his heavy rail artillery including the 800mm rail gun “Dora” and two infantry korps redeployed in support of Armee Group North.

The screenshot here speaks for itself. After 13 turns of relentless pounding and heavy casualties for both sides; Leningrad has been occupied. Some hard fighting against units in fortified positions remain, but by and large, reducing Leningrad frees up Manstein’s Eleventh Armee, over half of 18th Armee, plus the entire Finnish Isthmus Army — frees up over 180 kilometers of frontage. This gives hope for breaking the stalemate at Murmansk and reinforcing the flank of Armee Group South’s Grozny Offensive.

Astrakhan. The right flank of the Grozny offensive was light from the beginning of the offensive into the Caucasus. Reinforcements would trickle in very gradually while aerial recon watched the Soviets send army after army to Astrakahn. By the time the Red Army launched its offensive, sufficient reinforcements were already close to reaching their positions. As depicted in the screenshot, the offensive was largely contained with the help of a counterattack by 12th Panzer division and SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer.

Grozny. Over 1,000 tanks were hurtled into this offensive - to face off against the assembled, heavily entrenched Russian 8th, 51st, 54th, 60th and 67th Armies. I’m not a big fan of sending armor to do the work of an infantry division — rugged terrain, dense urban environment, forests, hills - fortified positions… Nevertheless, the assembled armor was able to break through the outer defenses and establish defensive positions of their own, buying time for infantry reinforcements to arrive - and hopefully finish the job. Most importantly for Grozny to be of value, it has to be taken and held. After a month, it will add +1 to Axis Supply. After 3 months, +2, and after 6 months, a maximum of +5 Axis supply.

The Allies have to reinforce Grozny by sea but Grozny is not the only concern. Two infantry and one panzer korps are continuing to fight along the coast of the Black Sea - taking Tuapse and Sochi, and now on the outskirts of Sokhumi.

Otherwise, the Red Army has started launching isolated attacks in Karelia - Finland and against the defensive line between Voronezh and Yeletz. American forces are driving on Phillippeville - held by the Italian 51st Sienna Division. Allied Air Forces are continuing to hammer away at Luftwaffe air bases and wreaking havoc along rail lines by blowing important bridges - which are hastily repaired.

Now, it is a question of how long can Rommel’s forces hold out in North Africa - or perhaps he should retreat to the mainland? As yet, there have been no major naval battles - but American and English Battleships have been spotted off the coast of Tunisia… along with a few aircraft carriers. Will the Russians be able to defend Grozny? We’ll see what develops over the next 10 turns. This brings us up to T30; we’re up to T44 in real time out of 156 Turns - the Axis are at their highwater mark… but a long, long ways from defeat.

Katyusha - A very popular Russian WW2 Song in English. Not the best version, but good for an English-speaking audience.

And just because, I do think this is one of the best versions… not sayin’ the best…

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