Another great evening at Guardian games – several players were out this evening with 2 players in a Flames of War desert battle and the other four of us duking it out on the neighboring table. Tonight was a real treat because I got to play against my friend ZEKE from CGR Painters and his absolutely stunning West German force with Barca as his deputy commander. Jeffrey served as my political officer this time around to ensure I upheld the honor of the Soviet Army.
Wednesday 7 August 1985
Despite our victory north of Hanover at Kröpke, NATO forces in that sector continue to stymie our advance. NATO air power has been far more decisive than the Red Air Force ever gave it credit for, and particularly hampered our efforts in that region. However, the glorious Red Army had greater success to both the north and south, and our forces have been ordered south toward Frankfurt to exploit our breakthrough at the Fulda Gap. Our forces are ready, and have been supplemented with ZSU-23-4 Shilka anti-aircraft tanks, and we have been informed we may call upon Su-25 Grach strike aircraft of the Soviet Air Force in the days ahead.
Thursday 8 August 1985
We have been ordered to secure the small town of Marburg north of Frankfurt and serve as a blocking force to run interference for units attacking Frankfurt itself. From our position at Marburg we can continue West toward Bonn, Cologne, and Düsseldorf or wheel north to pressure the positions near Hanover.
Marburg itself is lightly defended and most of the city is quickly pacified. It is an old city with a castle overlooking most of the town. The town itself is situated in a valley. We set up a command post just west of the ridge at the far edge of town and await further orders.
Thursday Night 8-9 August 1985
Our reconnaissance unit reports enemy units closing in on our position. A quick call to headquarters confirms that a Bundeswehr force is closing in on our position apparently with orders to retake Marburg and disrupt the overall advance towards Frankfurt. We are ordered to repel this attack at all costs to allow time for the units to secure Frankfurt.
I order our forward observer post to mine the immediate approaches around its position and await their report on the disposition of the enemy force. Unfortunately, it is an extremely dark night and we’re forced to rely entirely on night-vision equipment to assess the situation. Complicating matters is the fact that my own forces are currently scattered. The Gvozdika battery is in position along with its observer as are the Shilka and one company of T-72 tanks, but the other T-72 company is mopping up some stragglers south of town while the Reconaissance platoon is still making its way back to our lines. Who knows where the Air Force is – calls to them go unanswered.
I position my command tank alongside first company near a small wood to provide us cover until the enemy reveals himself. We are in a position to relieve the forward observation post if the West Germans venture too close. The Gvozdika battery and Shilka are just to the south around the artillery command and control area. Hopefully the Germans will be cautious and give us time to mount a proper defense.
Our scouts report the enemy is in sight. It appears to be a mechanized infantry company with armor support – including at least 3 of the Leopard 2 tanks – technical marvels that are extremely difficult to kill. The scouts also report hearing rotors, so there will be helicopters incoming as well. I immediately order the Shilka to be ready!
It appears as if the Germans are planning on advancing across a broad line. Their Leopard 2 tanks are positioned to attack 1st Company, while what appear to be the lighter Leopard 1 tanks are on the south flank working their way toward the anti-aircraft battery and artillery. If I were their commander I'd come in hard and try to push us back before we can mount a reasonable defense - I hope his intelligence is faulty and we're able to bluff him into giving us more time!
Given the whine of the German engines, it appears that the enemy commander knows that we're spread thin and is coming in at best speed. In the pitch black of night even their gunners will need to get close before they can open up on our forces, and the enemy commander is apparently wasting no time closing that distance. At this point all I can do is try to preserve my forces - moving the tanks out of cover would be suicide against the German 120mm guns, and all of these tanks will be needed to push back this force. The Leopard 1 tanks are meanwhile getting dangerously close to the artillery and anti-aircraft forces.
With enemy forces closing in rapidly, my political officer is getting nervous about my apparent inaction. I have received radio transmissions indicating that 2nd Company and its T-72 tanks should be here soon, but it can't be soon enough. As if two armored units bearing down on our position wasn't bad enough, we can now see those accursed anti-tank helicopters lurking about just out of range. Adding insult the Leopard 1 unit begins taking out the Shilka battery with the loss of one. The flashes of their main guns, however, allow the Gvozdika to range in and one of the enemy panzers is set ablaze!
All is not well however, 2nd Company has been further delayed allowing the West German forces to navigate around the minefields and threaten our forward observer post. German gunnery was also strong with one T72 from 1st Company destroyed when it peeked past the woods to begin lining up shots on the Germans. Our only hope is the dawn and reinforcements, else this will be a very uncomfortable debriefing - if we survive at all!
As dawn breaks across the battlefield, I can truly see how desperate our situation is - the West Germans have moved up to our forward observer post. Leopard 1 tanks threaten our southern flank as well as the Shilka and Gvozdika batteries - with two Shilka having already been lost and a third temporarily out of action. Attack helicopters are advancing up the center of the battlefield and will soon threaten our forces from all sides. Now is the time for desperate action! Just as I began to order the advance, I heard the roar of Soviet diesel engines heralding the arrival of 2nd Company's T-72 tanks. Now we may just have a chance.
Given the close proximity of the Leopard 1 tanks, I order the Gvozdika battery to fire directly at the encroaching panzers resulting in their destruction. The remaining active Shilka braves fire from all directions and draws a bead on the Wessi helicopters, destroying one and driving off the other.
With ten T-72 tanks at my command, we advance and bring the mighty Leopard 2 tanks under our guns destroying all three. I would have thought the Great Patriotic War would have taught Fritz that technological marvels alone can't win wars if they aren't fielded in sufficient quantity! Give me a rugged, simple tank with a hard hitting gun that is simple to maintain any day! The only concerning issue is that the Red Air Force continues to be absent from the battlefield.
Though the greatest threats to my force have now been eliminated, the enemy still has enough anti-tank assets to tear us apart if we don't tread carefully. Both the Gvozdika and Shilka batteries are wiped out by West German anti-tank rockets, though the T-72's manage to shrug off multiple hits! My focus now is to eliminate their anti-tank vehicles which will allow the battalion to mop up the infantry at our leisure.
In a final desperate bid to secure the rear command post, the Germans pushed their mechanized infantry transports forward, but the timely, though belated, arrival of the reconnaissance platoon made short work of them. And yet again, the Red Air Force was absent.
With their anti-tank assets effectively eliminated, the few remaining German infantry either withdrew or threw down their arms. It was a hard fought battle, and we were nearly pushed back by sheer weight of numbers - but the timely arrival of 2nd company allowed us to hold out, though the cost was very high.
We are now ready to advance further into Germany and then on to the English Channel! If only the Red Air Force would join the party!
There was a lot of credit to go around this time - the Carnation battery did well as did the T-72 companies. However, possibly the most spectacular result was the lone Shilka neutralizing the enemy air power. So in honor of that effort, here is a video of a Shilka firing!