Axis troops are now on the verge of capturing Murmansk. The 18. PzG of XXXIX-B Panzer has cut off a chunk of the 33rd, 42nd and 5th Shock Armies, giving the enemy a three-sided attack path to the city. The Adm Sheer squadron of the Kriegsmarine is still blocking the shipping lane, meaning that not only can’t I reinforce the city, but can’t evacuate it, either. The British Royal Navy sent over a battleship squadron to help break the blockade, but that could take up to two turns to destroy the German squadron. Losing Murmansk will be a big blow to the Allied/Russian cause, but not as much of a mental shock as losing Leningrad. Archangelsk is a completely different (and unlikely) target for the Axis, which means the Lend Lease should continue to come in with only minor disruption.
Russian tanks actually penetrated two hexes into the German position immediately adjacent to Yelets. Having massed field artillery here, I feel confident I can replicate that kind of breakthrough in the upcoming turns. And now with the arrival of the 2nd Gds Tank and 3rd Guards Army, I’ll have more to support and follow up on any gains. I’m hoping this area can become a focal point for the front once again, as the northern and southern extremes have seen poor performance by the Russians.
The Germans are attempting something here, but I’m not sure the end game. The attack is being led by the XIV Panzer, supported by the XI Korps and other detached panzer and infantry divisions. This is a very hodge-podge offensive, at least in terms of formation cohesion. I noticed some units coming up from a local reserve, some of which looked like SS Panzer Korps divisions. They haven’t entered the battle as of yet, but it’s something to keep in mind here. The XI Korps and XIV Panzer divisions could be used to soften up my front lines (which they have so far) for the SS Panzer divisions to strike the fatal blow. Still, this offensive doesn’t seem to have the juice for a strike all the way to Astrakhan. My assumption right now is that it’s to keep my forces here pinned down and away from Grozny, since the Axis get a big bonus for holding that city for 24 turns after capture.
Speaking of which, this sector just got fun in a hurry, as the LW Airborne dropped a division plus two regiments on to the supply lines leading to Grozny. Mark mentioned this is an attempt to break up what’s quickly becoming a stalemate at Grozny. I’m not sure it will work. Considering how successful the Germans have been in the Caucasus so far, however, there’s no way I can rule out anything here. The 18th Army is stationed a few hundred miles to the south along the road to Baku. I’ll have to call them up to dispose of the LW Airborne units, as I can only dedicate maybe a few units right now from the Grozny sector. It’s about containment until the 18th Army arrives.
Sector: Black Sea Coast
Every time I think I’ve set up a decent defensive line, the Germans (supported by Italian mountain units) break through and force a withdrawal. It was not a big problem at first. But now I’m running out of time and land. If the Axis can get into the open, they will have a clear shot at T’Bilisi, as I don’t have nearly enough in this sector to protect the city or surrounding territories, including the oil fields.
Slow going here, but the Germans were able to sneak the 15. Panzer Division onto transports back to Italy. That was a big opportunity missed by the Americans, as the 15. Pz was running on fumes (on red) and could have been destroyed with a good push. The US V Corps is moving up on the II Corps’ right flank. The Canadians have landed their I Corps, and should be able to rail most of it to the front in the next turn or two. That will be the likely end to the Axis presence in North Africa, since the Canadians will be rested and full-strength from not having to march/drive all the way from Algiers. The Southern Exclusion Zone protecting the “Soft Underbelly” of Europe has been lifted, so capturing Tunis is now the last piece of the pie.
Libya - The British Eighth Army has cleared out all non-static Axis units in Libya, and is rolling quickly toward Tripoli.
NW Europe - The RAF and US 8th AF have increased bombing raids on the German industrial and supply centers along the Ruhr and Rhine. Increasing the EEV points will punish the Axis side.