[BlackICE 8.6] Republic of China AAR - Episode 9: Operation Ox

Author: bigwoods
Published: 2017-03-18, edited: 1970-01-01

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[BlackICE 8.6] Republic of China AAR

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Game: Hearts of Iron III

[BlackICE 8.6] Republic of China AAR - Episode 8: Cleaning House

Images: 68, author: bigwoods, published: 2017-03-18, edited: 1970-01-01

Hey buds welcome to Episode 9 of my Republic of China AAR in the BlackICE 8.6 mod for Hearts of Iron 3. If you missed the previous episodes, you can find links for them below:

Episode 1 - Prelude:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5p14j8
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/hdPRd

Episode 2 - Southern Expedition:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5pe5b9
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/NfIPE

Episode 3 - Buildup, Betrayal, and the Drums of War:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5px153
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/6Gg7m

Episode 4 - The Onslaught:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5t02ux
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/P97vc

Episode 5 - One Foot Forward:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5ttevv
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/K5J6r

Episode 6 - And One Foot Back:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5v4r4r
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/pwyGE

Episode 7 - Summer Miracle:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5wgn2a
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/4Aejw

Episode 8 - Cleaning House:
Reddit | https://redd.it/5xudky
Imgur | http://imgur.com/a/wdxmT
Previously, our brave troops of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) have killed or captured over 500,000 men of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the heroic defense of the Eastern Coast. The men of the 5th and 6th Route Armies have also pushed the communist CPC back to the gates of their stronghold in Yan'an. The Japanese have exhausted themselves on our Northern trenches, and our generals have decided to push for a rash and quick attack on the Japanese line.
A swift advance by our T-26 tanks forces collaborationist troops out of the town of Jining, which had been lost to the Japanese nearly a year and a half ago. Our troops are also putting pressure on Japanese positions north of the Hai River, in order to expose the capital of the puppet Mengjiang government, Zhangjiakou.
In the West, elements of the 6th Route Army have crossed the Yellow River and are now in a position to liberate the former lands of the Ma Warlords. Shortening our blockade of the communist stronghold of Yan'an will allow us to transfer another army to the Northern Front, where more men are desperately needed.
Manchurian troops, exhausted from constant attacks on NRA trench positions from the winter, are cut down as our troops begin to clear out the countryside. Many of these collaborationist troops have been treated as second-rate troops by Japanese commanders, and suffer from low morale and equipment shortages. It does not come as a surprise when entire companies flee or surrender at the sight of NRA troops.
Generalissimo Chiang (pictured) and Marshal Gu Zhutong had not yet planned their offensive into Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, but thanks to recent reforms within the military structure and the aggressive decision making advocated by the general staff, our corps commanders have struck a decisive blow to the Japanese defenders manning the front lines. The general staff works day and night to draft up plans for further advances.
The US ramps up its assistance in our effort, by providing supplies and the necessary transport vessels. The Japanese Navy had previously eviscerated our merchant marine with their air and naval superiority, but find their hands tied when American and British vessels begin to unload supplies at Chinese ports. Chiang, however, does not expect this charade to last long. Sooner or later the Japanese will try to cut off the lifeline of foreign support.
Disclaimer: BlackICE only gives unique HQ events, and other research events, like "Officer Recruitment" to major nations that most people play (Germany, Italy, Soviet Union, etc.). So in order to get these events to activate, I modded the files of BlackICE to allow these events to fire for me as well. The Officer Recruitment event would still not fire for me, so instead I cheated to get the intended effect (the event gives 10,000 officers, so I just added 10,000 officers via. console command).

I also talked last episode about potentially cheating for MP, as it's my opinion that China starts out with a pathetic amount of MP considering it's population at the time. Long story short, I've decided to hold off for now - this will also force me to choose my battles wisely and not to drain my MP too quickly.
The general staff drafts plans for advances into Manchuria, tentatively named Operation Dragon Rising. Most of the officers and high command colloquially refer to it as the "Grand Offensive", meant to take back the rest of the mainland from the Japanese.The first phase in red, Operation Ox, has the primary objectives of cutting through the edge of Inner Mongolia, and surrounding Japanese forces to the North, and those around Beiping.
The cities of Beiping and Tianjin are too well-defended by the Japanese still, and the general staff estimates that an army sized contingent of the Kwantung Army (est. 250,000 soldiers in 30-35 divisions) are guarding the cities and along the Hai River. Operation Ox calls for a breakthrough to the north of Beiping, and then a drive to the Bohai Sea to the east. The city of Tianjin is to be taken first, in order to starve the Japanese of supplies and material, and Beiping will come soon after.
Operation Ox also calls for the destruction of Japanese forces guarding the mountain passes south of the Mongolian border, on the Siziwang Qi mountains. Secondary objectives are to ford the Xiliao River and to open up more frontage along the border of Manchura.
The NRA is nearing complete officer coverage, but over 10,000 NCOs and commissioned officers are still needed in our ranks. Generalissimo Chiang, and other traditional generals in the Army had petitioned for more time to prepare an offensive, but the general staff overwhelmingly advocated for a strong and opportunistic strike at the beginning of the new year. The NRA will have to make due with its officer shortage at least for now.
The Kuomintang pushes more funding into universities in Taiyuan and Changshu. Not only will this next generation need to succeed on the battlefield, they will need to succeed at home as well. Our new research centers will let China catch up to the rest of the pack.
More puppet troops are evicted from the front line. Where are the Japanese regulars? Have they abandoned their allies? Our generals have little time to ask or wonder, as they supervise the main attack on the Mengjiang capital of Zhangjiakou. Prince De Wang, the leader of Mengjiang and a shameless Japanese puppet, refuses to leave his city as he almost did before, and promises to fight to the death.
With the northern and southern flanks secure, our troops burst into the city and the panicked defenders strip off their uniforms and try to blend in with the populace.

The message to Prince De Wang and the collaborationists is clear: surrender yourselves and the punishment will be less severe. Regardless, a few holdouts still defend their positions throughout the city, including De Wang and his band of cronies in the city's palace.
Chiang and the general staff continue their wartime policy of open recruitment. More KMT officers are sent to the countryside to drum up support for the war. Some reports come in of unethical and forced recruitment into the NRA by these recruitment officers, but they are swept aside by the state media. To carry a rifle for China is a great honor - one that no real countryman would refuse!
Regardless, many troops previously seen as unfit or too young for combat are pressed into the frontlines. Young volunteers are given clerical or support roles if possible, but there are simply too many vacancies in our companies and platoons to fill.
The communist presence in the mountains of Shanxi is still a problem for the commanders on the Northern Front. The 5th and 6th Route Armies are given the best equipment and combat veterans, while the trench lines are frequently manned by second-rate troops of the NRA. Generalissimo Chiang refuses to ease the pressure on the CPC until they are sufficiently contained in Yan'an, and until then, China's best troops will not be able to fight the Japanese invaders.
More landings are attempted by the IJA and IJN, in order to divert resources our from Operation Ox. Luckily our Coastal Guard, now boasting a strength of over 1 million men, guards almost every inch of the Eastern Chinese coastline. Mobile task forces have also been assembled behind the coastlines, to respond to multiple invasions such as these. We will not fall like we did a year before!
After two weeks of heavy fighting, our forces have purged the resistance in the puppet city of Zhangjiakou and killed Prince De Wang after the palace was stormed by the troops of the elite 200th Division. All across Inner Mongolia, conscripted collaborationist troops and citizens defect to the Kuomintang. The Japanese used these soldiers as cannon fodder on the front lines, and they are relieved to finally be fighting for a more worthy cause.
Japanese front lines are thrown into disarray as their former allies become enemies. The offensive is pushed forwards with full force!
Our light tanks secure the valleys of Siziwang Qi and trap a number of Japanese divisions on the mountain sides. With no escape to their rear, and NRA soldiers in their teeth, they will be crushed.
A large contingent of the Mengjiang officer corps has launched a coup at one of the Kwantung Army headquarters deep behind enemy lines, but they have failed to assassinate a higher ranking Japanese officer, and have barricaded themselves in a local fortress. We must save these heroes, before it is too late!
Unfortunately, the officer corps surrenders before our troops can relieve the fortress of Duolun. All perpetrators of the crime are imprisoned or executed on the spot. These officers knew the risks of revolting, but they did so anyways, and with pride. The NRA needs more men like these!
Some of the Kwangtun Army's best troops were trapped in the mountains of Siziwang Qi, and they will now be crushed by the NRA. Destroying this pocket will also free up more troops for the frontline.
Chiang and Kuomintang officials continue the endless drive for industrialization and modernization in the countryside. More machines in the fields means more men for our armies in the North.
The supply situation in the North, for Operation Ox is surprisingly holding up quite well. Our investments into traditional horse and oxen drawn supply lines are proving hardy and resilient in the face of Japanese air assaults and poor terrain. Although the fact that many of our forces are not yet motorized seems like a disadvantage, it allows our troops to move and operate well beyond where the roads and railroad tracks end.
Operation Ox falters north of Beiping, as an attempt to break through Japanese strongpoints at Chengde fails, with massive casualties. Our troops are ordered to temporarily halt their advance and regroup to prepare for a Japanese counterattack.
In other, better news, 40,000 Japanese troops surrender in the mountains of Siziwang Qi, and more troops are pushed to the Northern Front.
... and Japanese marines retreat back into the sea after another failed invasion attempt at Cangzhou.
The NRA is increasingly equipped with heavy equipment, such as infantry guns, mortars, and small caliber howitzers, that they could not even dream of back in 1936. The recent Japanese landings at Cangzhou and Kenli are mercilessly barraged by artillery and direct fire from this new equipment.
For every 10 infantryman in the NRA, there is one artilleryman who has his back behind the lines. If the Japanese will not fall to the rifles and swords of our front line troops, then they will be blasted to pieces by the artillery corps of the NRA!
We begin the training of two naval infantry divisions, which will be needed in the future for breaching defenses across the many rivers of Northern China and Manchuria. Heavy 88mm Flak guns, originally purchased from Germany but now in production in the forges of Taiyuan, are also being ordered by the general staff as dual purpose anti-aircraft and artillery guns.
The 30th Route Army is formed north of Taiyuan, out of newly acquired Mengjiang troops who had switched allegiances weeks earlier. These former puppet troops will be allowed a month of refitting and resting before they will be sent to fight their former masters in the North.
The recent troubles in Operation Ox have forced our commanders to adopt better operational breakthrough and exploitation doctrines. If our troops are to make another puncture in the Japanese lines, they must be able to exploit their advantage before the enemy has time to regroup.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Spanish Civil War rages on for its fourth year. The war is quickly becoming a proxy war between the fascists in Germany and Italy, and communist brigades from the Soviet Union. Although the front lines remained mostly unchanged for two years, it seems in recent months the nationalists have been making steady progress and have nearly pocketed a number of republican troops in the north-western corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
More bloody battles end as Operation Ox is stopped in its tracks. Japanese reinforcements from the Soviet border have moved back south in order to contain the new offensive, and it is proving extremely bloody for all sides involved.
Our exhausted troops retreat back to regroup after their defeat at Xuanhua.
Chiang and Admiral Ge of the Republic's Navy requisition a large number of ships from the civilian fleets, and these are quickly pressed into the merchant marine and as transportation vessels for the Navy.
A major aircraft factory opens up in the interior, at the cities of Wuhan and Changde. The Republic's air force, ROCAF, has grown from a motley force of foreign equipment, to nearly 30 air wings with almost 1500 light interceptors between them.
Our interceptors are usually older and outdated models, such as the Polikarpov I-15. Although these fighters are slower and less maneuverable than their Japanese counterparts, they prove to be very effective at stopping Japanese ground attack aircraft and bombers, and are a welcome sight to any troops under an air attack from the Japanese.
Our forces have not been able to carry out the rest of Operation Ox, but the Japanese are suffering immensely in their effort to contain our advance. They do not have many healthy divisions left in the Kwantung Army, and more are being spent every day on the Northern Front. We only have to the weather this storm before our offensive can commence again.
The second landing at Kenli finally ends with 30,000 Japanese dead and another 20,000 captured on the beaches. Japanese amphibious operations have become less frequent, but much more fierce as the desperate IJA attempts to get a foothold on China's coast.
Higher quality anti-tank gun designs are approved by the general staff, and plans to manufacture them domestically are underway. Our factories have also been recently producing HVAP (high velocity armor piercing) rounds for our light tanks and AT guns. This ammunition is exceedingly rare on the front lines, and has become a prized commodity among our troops for its reputation of tearing apart enemy armor.
The second wave of American and British lend-lease equipment is consolidated into another 5 divisions of the 30 Division Plan.
The US has also sent over general Joseph Stilwell to assist in our operations against the Japanese in the North. Chiang strongly dislikes the loud and rude American, but sees the importance in maintaining the American supply line for his army. Stilwell will be tolerated for now.
The First Battle of Tomortei ends with nearly 150,000 casualties on both sides. The Japanese, seeing the possibility of their forces being encircled and destroyed in the mountains bordering Mongolia, had thrown all they had at our forces there in order to stop the advance.
A counterattack on Japanese positions is ordered...
...but it is quickly thrown back after huge casualties are sustained by our infantrymen. Our troops had only advanced around 100-150 km, before the Northern Front once again devolved into attritious and horrific trench warfare.
In other news, NRA cavalry divisions are being sent into the interior in order to quell the increasingly severe communist rebellions taking place across the countryside. In Fujian, Sichuan, and Qinghai in particular, communist cells are allowed to operate freely and without resistance. NRA troops in these rural areas are told to step up their anti-communist campaigns.
The lack of NCOs and commissioned officers in the NRA is once again becoming a big problem. The recent offensive has cost the lives of many of our most skilled leaders, and more effort will have to be put into training new ones.
In Indochina, our engineers have been unable to break through the thick forests on the southern border, and instead have been laying down roads and tracks along the Mekong River into Japanese territory. Once this construction is completed, our troops can start to open up a new, Southern front against the Japanese, to strain their resources even further.

Authors Note:
BlackICE has made the China-Vietnam border impassable (i.e., infrastructure < 2) because of supply and AI priority issues. This is reallllly urealistic, and I considered cheating to remove this artificial barrier, but I was too late to realize it (should've done so when Indochina was first occupied by the Japanese). I'm going to leave the border alone for now, and just build infra so I can go around it. Just another artefact that results from no one playing China in BlackICE :)

I think that one of the border provinces will gain some infra following a Japanese event, so I will still need to station some troops on the border once/if the Japanese try and mount an offensive from the south, like they did historically
Another one of our counterattacks has been repelled with great losses. Our commanders on the Northern Front have been told to halt all offensives, and to wait for better conditions before mounting the next attack.
The United States ramps up its involvement once again by sending three air wings (9 squadrons and 180 planes total) of volunteers to help contain Japanese air forces operating around Mengjiang and Manchuria.
These brave volunteers are equipped with Curtis Kittyhawks and Seversky P-35 interceptors, which are much more effective than the ROCAF's force of biplanes. These new planes will be able to equally square off with the Japanese interceptors.
Our gracious treatment of General Stilwell (juicy dumplings, a real nice hotel room, etc) has paid off. The diplomatic corps has focused much more of its effort on lobbying the US government for more aid, especially in the form of military "advisors" and "volunteers" for the ROCAF. Pictured above are Chinese and American pilots meeting each other at an airbase after a recent sortie into Inner Mongolia.
Chiang has also welcomed elements of the Western press to document our struggles with the Japanese. We will let the whole world know of the treachery and barbarism of the Japanese, and this war, unlike the last conflicts, will not be forgotten!
Our refineries and steel mills have been going constant improvements, with the help of American industrialists and Chinese entrepreneurs from the coast. The protection provided by the NRA Coastal Guard has allowed much more of our industry to move back to the coast, and many more of our citizens are now able to participate in the modernization of China's industry.
In the wake of the major battles in the North, the NRA has started to build a dedicated medical corps, as well as medical detachments for every division in the field.
With doctors and medics at their back, our troops will become even more fearsome and brave on the field of battle!
Several engineers and Kuomintang officials have taken the initiative to open a near ball-bearings plant in the interior. This will allow us to construct vehicles, such as tanks and airplanes, with greater efficiency, and also allow to us quickly repair damaged vehicles in the field.
More victories are scored in the West, where the communists are fighting a losing war, and retreating from position to position as they make their way back to the fortress of Yan'an. Like their storied "Long March", we will make sure that only a fraction make it back to safety!
On the afternoon of the 23rd of June, 1941, Germany declares war on the Soviet Union, and quickly bursts through the border defenses of the Russians in the former lands of Poland. Chiang is not surprised by the German's treachery, but we will watch with bated breath. The Japanese and the Soviets had previously signed a non-aggression pact, so we should not expect help from the Soviets any time soon.
The NRA has grown yet again, to a formidable force of 3 million. Over 1 million are guarding our coasts, while an estimated 1.2 million are operating on or in support of the Northern Front in Operation Ox. 550,000 troops are still tangled up with the communist insurgency, but soon they will be free to participate in other operations.
Longxian is captured and the southern road to Yan'an has opened up. CPC forces north of Xi'an are also soon to be trapped and destroyed by the 6th Route Army.
The doctrine of "Hedgehog Defense" is starting to be utilized by a few of our field commanders on the Northern Front. The basic premise is that NRA troops, when overwhelmed with an enemy assault, will instead form small defensive pockets known as "hedgehogs". They will tie up enemy troops, while our reserves can prepare counterattacks to relieve the small pockets. The tactic is already showing promise on the steppes of the North, where Japanese armor will pass through our lines, and then be systematically destroyed by infantry and anti-tank guns when our forces mount a counterattack.
The Japanese counterattacks begin to fail one after another. A particularly bloody battle ends at Miyun, in a series of quick but bloody infantry engagements, taking place 50 km north of Beiping.
The Northern Front is now officially the bloodiest battlefield in modern, or perhaps all of history, to date. Nearly 2.5 million Japanese or collaborationist troops have been killed on the front, while the Republic of China has suffered around 1.5 million casualties themselves - the majority being lost to artillery or air strikes by the Japanese. In addition, an estimated 500-750,000 civilians have died in the areas around the front, mostly from Japanese atrocities and their merciless campaigns against partisans.

So much death, and yet the world around us barely blinks an eye. The United States has given us generous aid, but now their attention has focused to the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. Even General Stilwell has failed to bargain for more aid for the NRA.
Our armored and motorized divisions have moved the front line about 75 km forwards, but at a massive cost. Each kilometer was taken with thousands of lives from both sides, and the battle lasted nearly a month.
The general staff orders the commanders of Army Group North to halt all major offensive operations until our reserves and officer pool can once again be built up. Our troops begrudgingly pull back fro their assault on Duolun, as the gains they have spent weeks making are abandoned. Operation Ox has failed to achieve its primary objectives, but we have once again forced the Japanese into attritious trench warfare.
And in Europe, Germany has pushed deep into the Soviet Union, destroyed an army group around Kiev, and is on the verge of launching an attack on Moscow - just 400 km from the German lines. The world is in flames - but we will emerge victorious!
Post-mortem on Operation Ox:

I think it's pretty clear that Operation Ox failed, because I only managed to destroy 4 Japanese divisions and additionally now hold positions that are more indefensible than the ones I started at months before. With my manpower shortages, this position is even more unsustainable. Reasons why it didn't work:

1) Lack of mobility

Even though I was able to punch through the Japanese lines and gain operational freedom for a week or two, I was not able to exploit this advantage and encircle more divisions. The NRA only has 5 light tank divisions (which by now are horribly outdated, and arguably less combat effective than our light infantry divisions), and only 4 motorized or semi-motorized divisions. The lack of air support, in terms of CAS and logistical bombing, also ensured that Japanese divisions had no trouble in regrouping and reforming the front line after the initial breakthrough.

I definitely have to come to terms with the fact that I have a completely defensive army and air force - and that any operations keep movement to a minimum. Even if I do achieve a breakthrough, I just don't have the resources to properly exploit it.

2) Underestimating enemy strength

I estimated that the Kwantung Army was at around 500,000 strong at the frontline, with an additional 300,000-400,000 in reserve and unable to join the battle for at least 2-3 days. In reality, the strength of enemy forces was around 1,000,000 at the front line and nearly 800,000 in reserve. The Japanese do not have any other fronts to focus on, and because of this, are focusing all of their efforts onto this front. I've relied on superior numbers the entire game so far to even the odds, and on the Northern Front the Japanese outnumber me about 2:3. The puppet troops are now significantly weaker than ours, but their numbers certainly affect the outcomes of battles.

Once new battlefields are opened up in the Philippines, Indochina, and Indonesia, the forces in Manchuria may be thinned out. At the very least I will be able to conduct more naval and air operations - as the Japanese air force and navy will be spread out all across the Pacific.

3) Holding territory unnecessarily

I've maybe grown too attached to the provinces that have taken hundreds of thousands of men to capture (literally), even though they hold little to no strategic or operational value for the war. Given the fact that breakthroughs are unrealistic, fighting over my foothold in Inner Mongolia is useless and disadvantageous for me. Most of the land south of Mongolia and around Beiping has barely any IC or LC, and would not affect the homefront if I was to lose it.

Based on the above points, I've accepted that any attempt to encircle the Japanese offensively will fail. The front line is simply too small and saturated for any of these attempts to succeed to a large degree. I will need to get comfortable with sacrificing land, and maybe even divisions, in order to thin out their line.
Thanks for reading! Check back on Mondays for new episodes. As always feedback on history, gameplay, and the AAR itself is appreciated. Next time I will try not to make the same mistakes.

Next chapter:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

[BlackICE 8.6] Republic of China AAR - Episode 10: Kesselschlact

Images: 70, author: bigwoods, published: 2017-03-20, edited: 1970-01-01

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