This is part 1 of an AAR I'll put together as I go along. I'm trying out this article format to see how it works. The scenario is from the soon to be superceded game Command Ops 1. I'll be playing a scenario that covers 14 hours from Kursk, or Operation Citadel, the last major Axis offensive on the eastern front, during 1943.
The key day in the southern sector of the German attack was 12 July, 8 days into the offensive. On that day the 3 'crack' SS Divisions had already got past 3 belts of concentric fortifications and if they could get past the last Soviet resistance around the town of Prokhorovka then there was a fairly clear run left up to Kursk itself. If the northern sector had also managed such a break-through then the idea was that the armoured spearheads would meet at Kursk and seal off a bulge in the soviet lines, making a pocket of several Soviet armies. This might have have delayed the inevitable a bit longer....But, in fact, the advance in the northern sector had already ground to a halt.
This is the map:
It's a 1km grid. So roughly 11km by 15km. It's an accurate trace taken from a soviet era map of the area. Most major features from the battle are in fact still there today and clearly visible on google earth. The battlefield on google earth is part hi-res, part blurry, but the google street view car seems to have been driven by someone who knew what happened in the area some 70 years ago - I can't see any other reason for them driving along farm tracks that lead nowhere.
In this first article I'll cover the background, the terrain, the forces available.
If I put the forces on the map it looks like this:
The green/brown counters represent Soviet forces, whose ID and position is an intel estimate. The black/grey counters are the Axis forces.
There is a scenario briefing. Here's an extract of parts of it:
THUNDER AT PROKHOROVKA
July 12th 1943
A short, but large, 19 hour scenario - part of one of the biggest clashes of tanks in history.
OPERATION CITADEL: DAY 8: The Kursk offensive, southern shoulder. Both sides have been fighting without stop for almost a week, and are exhausted. But both sides sense a crushing blow is possible. The 12th July will be the decisive day.
The Axis seek to break past the last soviet defences before the open run to Kursk. Only the River Psel and the last defences approaching Prokhorovka stand between them and Kursk.
But as ever the Soviets have seemingly limitless reserves to call on....
Some units - particularly around the Psel - have been fighting all night and their fatigue reflects this. All units - as in reality - have had time to at least dig-in during the night hours, some have had longer and are entrenched or deployed using old Soviet defences.
The Axis player needs to decide whether to stay put and retain the benefit of soviet defences and dug-in positions, or go on the attack. This was the decision Hausser had to make on the morning of the 12th.
The Soviet opponent has an apparently crippling superiority of numbers, both tanks and men. But their quality, in terms of experience and training is very poor indeed compared to the Axis units.
Historically there were no Panthers (except perhaps in HQ units) and very few Tigers involved. LAH had 4 Tigers, TK had 11. The famous Michael Wittman commanded LAH's 4 Tigers on the day.
There is a 2 hour grace period as per orders delay, for both sides - to reflect the night time transmission of plans etc. You can launch main offensives earlier in the day than happened historically, with more tired men, or rest them - as happened historically - and launch off a bit later. Your choice.
There is also a shorter briefing for the Axis side:
Pre-dawn 12 July 1943.
We have broken through the third belt of fortified defences and only the natural barrier of the River Psel stands between the 3 crack SS Armoured Divisons and the vast, open, undefended plains between Prokhorovka and Kursk.
SS Totenkopf have established a bridgehead over the Psel and must try to extend it to take Hill 222.6 to protect the left flank of LAH.
LAH is gathering to attack Prokhorovka. Their right flank is protected by DF Regiment of Das Reich.
Rains have made ground and roads muddy. The weather is likely to be overcast.
BEWARE! There are this morning strong intelligence reports of yet another Soviet armoured build up. Tank engines have been heard. It is possible that the 5th Guards Tank Army is gathering to attack, probably in an effort to re-take Hill 252.6 and expel Totenkopf from their bridgehead. If a force this size is to attack then obviously we should consider cancelling our own attack and maintain instead our present defensive stance and dug-in positions, using the captured soviet defences around Hill 252.6. It's a difficult choice and will be made when more is known.
If the Soviets do attack it is imperative you allow them to exhaust their full strength before going onto the offensive yourself.
And on the map there are objectives, with points attached!
It's first light as the scenario starts - 5am. It ends at midnight.
A quick look at the points distribution shows, I think, that I have no chance of getting anything more than a draw unless I take Prokhorovka, Lamki and Hill 222.6, whilst also holding onto my own deep objectives.
I know what happened historically, of course. The Axis moved into the positions we see on the map and had a major assault planned to take those objectives, but intel reports (and the obvious noise of tanks) during the night convinced Hausser - commanding 2 SS Panzer Corps - that a major soviet offensive was planned. In fact, the last major Soviet armoured reserve - the 5th Guards Tank Army - had been rushed to the front. Hausser decided to go onto the defensive and moved significant artillery assets within range.
Between 6am and 8am a truly massive soviet armoured offensive began. The Soviets had at the very least a three to one superiority of tanks and men. But terrible communications and inter-force co-operation, combined with very weak and inexperienced crews and a soviet doctrine that crippled initiative and required a head-long rush to close with the enemy armour, produced a chaotic disaster for the Soviets and, by around 11am, for relatively light losses, the Axis had crushed the attacks from their defensive positions and left many hundreds of soviet tanks in flames.
During the afternoon the Axis then went onto the offensive, but didn't get very far because heavy soviet artillery stopped progress much as Axis arty had done during the morning. The result, at the end of the day was that - with the exception of Totenkopf Division (who made considerable progress north from their bridgehead) - the forces ended up much as they had been at the start of the day, with terrible losses of men and materiel. Tactically, this was a definite victory for the Axis. their losses were nothing compared to the Soviet side. But strategically, the Soviets had halted the SS advance by simply throwing lives and materiel at it, and without a doubt, for that reason, the ultimate victory was theirs.
In the game I plan to play the historical Axis battle plan, with very few changes.
The force I have available consists of 2 whole SS Divisions - the Totenkopf (TK), to the north, and the Liebestandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH), in the centre, plus, in the south, one Regiment - the Der Fuhrer Regiment - of the Das Reich Division (DF). These are the historical forces that were available, placed as they were historically. They have all either dug-in or got into pre-made soviet trenches or fortifications during the night, so they are well-placed to fight the first half of this day in the defence.
This shows their sectors:
The key thing to note here, I think, is the huge gap between TK and LAH (labelled 'The Corridor Gap'). I know that historically the Soviets attempted to flood tanks into this gap in an attempt to get round behind both TK and LAH. The key way in which I will change the historical plans is by trying to dedicate some units to plug this gap.
Here's the OOB, as it is presented in game (subject to my clumsy cut and pasting!):
To give an idea of the quality of my units, I have picked 5 representative units, 2 each (1 armour, 1 mech) from each of TK and LAH, and 1 from DF. This is where these units are on the map:
And these are their key stats:
I suppose we can sum up all this info by saying that these are highly experienced, powerful, well-trained, motivated and aggressive units with excellent leaders and equipment.
In the next part of the article I'll post a few more detailed pictures of parts of the battlefield.This scenario is available for download in the resources section at LnL
Kursk, ComOps 1, AAR, Part 1
Part 1 of an AAR played in CO1. A scenario covering part of Operation Citadel - the 12 July 1943 battle at Prokhorovka. Played as Axis