Tanks part 2: A Black Ice AAR. Lake Burgas

Author: Yoper101
Published: 2017-02-02

Part of the campaign:

Tanks, A Black Ice AAR

Previous part:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

Tanks: A Black Ice AAR. Operation Unity

Images: 10, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-02-02, edited: 2017-02-06

Lake Burgas
Notes on this AAR:

I'm playing using Black Ice version 8.4 for Hearts of Iron 3 Semper Fi edition. I've used a custom start option to lower my neutrality to the point where I can declare war at a reasonably early start time.

After two weeks of holding position at Varna, Nikolic had finally met with men of the Second Infantry Corps to hold our delicate supply lines in place and I had been ordered south to the city of Burgas.

The Bulgarians did not even attempt to hold the city. Capturing it was a simple matter of driving in from the north. As with Varna, many of the locals had fled the city, leaving house and home behind them.

By some stroke of luck the fuel dumps here had not been touched, so I gave the men a day to refuel the trucks and tanks from the cities supplies. I wasn't really needed, so I spent a few minuets walking along the shore of Lake Burgas, enjoying the quiet. The weather was overcast and calm, so the lake looked to be a large grey puddle, huddled before the city.

Then from behind me I heard a dull crash, like a door slamming. My hand automatically went to my pistol, holstered at my hip. I turned but could see nothing. I walked down the road a little, checking between the houses. In the fourth alley I came to, I saw one of my men holding a woman in an apron against the wall. She spat at him, and he hit her.

I drew my gun, walked a little closer to be sure of my aim, and shot the soldier in the temple. The woman ran off.

I dragged the soldier's body over the road and dumped him into the lake. He'd go down as 'missing, presumed dead.' It would be much nicer, I thought, for his family to think he had died in service to his country.

Two days later orders came through to proceed to Simonovgrad and help the Third Infantry Corps in their siege of the city.
The siege of Simonovgrad
Simonovgrad was a small town built north of the river Maritsa. From my vantage point on the hilly fields to the north of the town, I could make out explosions from artillery shells as shots were traded across the river. The Bulgarians had taken out the bridge in the early days of the siege and the fighting had ground to a halt.

If possible, I wanted to take prisoners, but my scouts had informed me that a second Bulgarian force was holding the roads west to Sofia. My tanks could probably take them in a fight, but I didn't want to split my forces with so many Bulgarian soldiers holed up in the nearby Balkan mountains.

I put down my binoculars, turned to my five brigade commanders and began to issue orders; 'The tanks are to take the lead. Have them concentrate on flushing the enemy towards the east road. Have half the infantry transports accompany the tanks to the town. Then, the infantry are to proceed on foot and support the tanks in capturing the town. The rest of the infantry will proceed to rout 663 out of the town and set up an ambush in this hamlet here,' I pointed at a small collection of houses about half a mile from the town.

'Any questions?'

After a chorus of 'no sir', I gave the order to attack.
Thwarted ambush
In hindsight I should have expected that the enemy would have scouts along their only escape rout. The tanks managed to flush the enemy from the city almost too quickly. Shortly after the retreat had been reported, I heard over the radio that the half of my infantry supposed to be setting up an ambush had come under heavy suppression fire from machine gun posts along rout 663.

I called them back to the town, content that the siege at least had been a success.
Foolish attack
My hands shook as I emptied the fuel drum over my the maps and orders I had set up in my command post. I knew this attack was going to fail.

Headquarters had ordered us to attack into the Balkan mountains, supposedly to relieve pressure from the infantry divisions in the north. This didn't seem a great idea to me at the time and Broz Tito, my superior officer, for once had agreed with me. However, the order was there and I had to obey it.

The beginning of February had been unusually cold and the snows had been deep. The tank treads could deal with it just fine, so long as the snow was not too deep, but the infantry trucks and scout motorcycles were practically useless. And now we'd been lead into an ambush by what had seemed to be an exposed enemy artillery post, but had been in fact defended by soldiers wearing special white uniforms to hide in the snow. I'd lost dozens of men to snipers already and then enemy soldiers had sprung up all around my command centre.

Needless to say, I ordered an immediate retreat over the radio. We didn't have time to pack away the command tent however. Hence the fuel.

I climbed onto the side of one of the tanks as the last men evacuated the command post. A grenade was tossed inside and the whose structure went up like a bonfire. My frozen fingers gripped the cold metal of the tank as we sped away from the advancing enemy. I'd probably left at least a hundred of my infantry soldiers to die in the enemy encirclement, but I suppose it was better than them capturing me and my command staff.
Second attack
High command ordered my division to a new position after the disaster in the Balkan mountains and told me to wait for further orders. I heard nothing after that for three weeks.

Then news began to come in from elsewhere. Apparently Nikolic had been involved with a battle in the east and the large town of Stara Zagora was now in Slavic hands. I let the rumours slip into the ranks and a good cheer came over the men. They seemed to think that an attack was imminent, and I secretly agreed with them. The snow had mostly melted, except on the highest of the mountains and the enemy must have been running low on supplies.

It came as no surprise then when orders came through to attack into the mountains again, with the objective of taking Chirpan, a small town on the Trakiya highway.
The capture of Chirpan
The Bulgarians fought bravely, but without the weather on their side, they failed to delay our attack for long. The Slavic flag was flying over the town after a three week push to reach it.

All four Major generals involved in the attack met in the town hall to discuss how to proceed. To my great joy, Nikolic was there also, having participated in the attack from the north. In fact, it had been his tanks that were the first into the town, chasing the Bulgarians out. We all swapped stories late into the night.

The siege of Sofia begins
With the fall of Chirpan, Bulgarian command had pulled their armies back to Sofiya. A few breakthough attempts were made, but none succeeded. On the 2nd of May, the siege formally began. Nikolic was given overall command of the battle and I found myself placed third under him. Re-enforcements had been trickling in from the north, so it was in fact a Slovenian division from the Alpine Corps that lead the assault on the city from the north.

My tanks attacked in the south, but we found ourselves held back by relentless enemy fire. The artillery batteries of supporting infantry divisions did help, but our advance had to be slow and methodical. The tanks would clear out a machine gun nest and then the infantry would move up with their own machine guns to support the next stage of the advance. Several tanks had to be brought back for repairs after taking direct hits from artillery shells.
The fighting reaches the suburbs
This afternoon, the first suburbs of Sofia fell to my tanks. Progress is even slower now. We're finding barricades have been erected in the streets and a network of tunnels has been dug, allowing enemy soldiers to suddenly spring up behind our lines. I feel that our attack will succeed. It will just take a while.
Trenches in the park
Yesterday the fighting reached the Borisova Gradina park. The enemy have entrenched across it, but Nikolic is heading down to take direct control of the divisions concentrated here. He knows how to deal with trenches.
The end of the battle
Most of Sofiya is now held by Slavic forces. Now only the National Assembly building remains under enemy control, defended by a few hundred beleaguered enemy soldiers. Nikolic will have the honour of leading the final attack on the building and capturing King Boris, whom had been moved from his palace probably because it was too close to the edge of the city and had been captured fairly early on in the siege.
Peace
I sat down on a piece of stone that had been blown off some building or other. Much of Sofia had been reduced to rubble by artillery from both sides of the war. I twiddled my thumbs and, seeing nobody paying attention, chewed at my left thumbnail also.

The King's dream of a united Balkan nation was drawing closer. Bulgaria was completely under Slavic control and soon would become just another province of Yugoslavia.

I gazed towards the sunny sky. There would be medals of course. All of the commanders would be rewarded. Probably some of the ordinary soldiers too. I could not be overlooked, my family would see to that. But for once, I felt that I'd earned something. I'd reached my stony perch in Sofia, not through family connections and money, but rather through hard work and skillful command. I'd made decisions that saved lives of civilians and I'd brought great honour to my people. I'd done myself proud.

A week after the battle, many soldiers were returned to Belgrade for a victory parade. The King himself led three hurrahs for the victorious soldiers of the Slavs. His speech praised in particular Lieutenant General Broz Tito and Major Generals Nikolic and Ivetic for their masterful command of Yugoslavias' mighty tank divisions.

But behind the jolly facade, more trouble was brewing. Slavic and Italian diplomats were preparing ultimatums and the staff at Headquarters were drawing up new battle plans. Yugoslavia had tried war and found that she liked the bitter taste. Peace would not last.

So ends part 2 of Tanks.

Does anyone here know much about WWII military tactics on a brigade level? If so, am I describing the battles correctly? I've tried reading around the internet as much as I can, but all I can find (about WWII) is Blitzkreig tactics. Infantry tactics in particular are usually discussed in a modern context.

Next chapter:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

Tanks part 3: A Black Ice AAR. Attack on Greece

Images: 14, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-02-02, edited: 2017-02-06

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