Part two of the AAR as Keating and Ford struggle to accomplish their battle plans. Can Steve Ford prevent the (almost) numberless Russian hordes from inflicting a crushing defeat?
Russian Turn 4
Its breakthrough time again as Keatingski hurls tank and cavalry units in the gap in von Ford’s lines above KHARKOV, another breakthrough is made south of the same city and other Russian units are breaking into the salient south of CHUGUYEV.
Click here to see Shot 12
Meanwhile, the defenders of KRASNOGRAD are almost encircled. However, many of the encircling units are low strength two step cavalry regiments, which have already proved quite fragile. The Russian 21st Tank Corps is involved in the battle for KRASNOGRAD but its partner in crime, the 23rd Tank Corps is yet to join the fray. Shot 13 shows the front from KRASNOGRAD to ZMIEV.
Click here to see Shot 13
German Turn 4
Von Ford’s airpower and artillery, plus the efforts of the newly arrived 305th Infantry Division remove many of the Russians around KRASNOGRAD and LANNAYA, a nearby town is retaken from the Russians. However, nothing is really done to re-establish the line just north of KRASNOGRAD and there is now a 4 hex gap in the lines. Shot 14 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 14
On the northern front, von Ford has conceded that the breakthrough cannot be stopped and has withdrawn. CHUGUYEV is abandoned and a somewhat ragged defensive line established running through KHARKOV itself. It won’t be easy for the Russians to blast German defenders out of urban terrain, but its not clear how von Ford will prevent the whole city from being encircled and then besieged. Shot 15 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 15
Russian Turn 5
Keatingski must be feeling reasonably happy with progress so far. He should enjoy this feeling now, as the German southern offensive is due to kick off. Right now, however, Keatingski has KRASNOGRAD surrounded and KHARKOV almost surrounded. A unit from the 226 Rifle Division has actually fought its way into a KHARKOV city hex and is only two hexes away from the center of the city. Surely a promotion to Guards status awaits the formation who can formally claim the city. Shots 16 and 17 show the remarkable Russian progress.
Click here to see Shot 16
Click here to see Shot 17
German Turn 5
Von Ford pries open the encirclement of KRASNOGRAD but makes no effort to withdraw. Instead Von Ford reinforces what must surely turn into another pocket. While von Ford’s no retreat policy at KRASNOGRAD will certainly win favor with Hitler, it is to be hoped that he has powerful relief forces somewhere in prospect, otherwise things could turn ugly. Shot 18 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 18
Around KHARKOV itself, von Ford is offering no real defense west of the city, and seems willing to likewise accept the looming encirclement of KHARKOV itself. Defenders along the river line that previously ran ZMIEV to KRASNOGRAD have fallen back towards BORKI but again a large gap exists between ZMIEV and KHARKOV to the north. Shot 19 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 19
Perhaps von Ford is willing to accept pockets forming because he believes they will be temporary. His own offensive has just kicked off and ineffectual Russian defenses swept aside. In just one day, von Ford’s mechanised forces are on the outskirts of BARVENKOVO with another strong drive heading straight towards IZYUM itself. IZYUM is currently defended only by Colonel-General R.I. Malinovsky and his staff and regardless of their zeal in defending the Motherland, they cannot reasonably expect to long delay multiple German divisions. Shot 20 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 20
Russian Turn 6
Keatingski’s forces now surround KHARKOV in a sea of red, so Keatingski has fulfilled the first part of Stavka’s plan and this would normally involve a measure of job security. The problem for Keatingski is that dug in Germans are very hard to dislodge. Will he have the combat power to keep reinforcing Germans from breaking through while at the same time eliminating those Germans currently cut off? Shot 21 shows the scene.
Click here to see Shot 21
KRASNOGRAD is likewise surrounded but again Keatingski faces a similar problem. The areas north and south of KRASNOGRAD are totally devoid of Russian forces. If he can’t take KRASNOGRAD very quickly then the tables could quickly be turned by any fresh German formations. Shot 22 shows the scene.
Click here to see Shot 22
It is hard to know how much Keatingski knew of the German build up in the south, but the awful results are there for all to see. BARVENKOVO is abandoned to its fate and a thin defensive line assembled from those units of 9th Army not (yet) selected for slaughter by the Germans. Even though the nearest German unit is only 36 km away, Colonel-General R.I. Malinovsky remains as the only defender of IZYUM. It’s impossible to be too cynical about the political environment in the Red Army, so if Malinovsky dies in a hopeless defense of IZYUM he posthumously becomes top candidate for the unenviable but inevitable position of scapegoat.
Meanwhile, communications from Stavka are sure to be flooding in to Keatingski, probably demanding the impossible while denying him any resources to achieve it. The job security that Keatingski seemingly secured in the north may well be evaporating in the south. Shot 23 shows the situation in the south.
Click here to see Shot 23
An overall shot of the battlefield will show just how far the Russians have advanced. Experience shows that they will be hard pressed to hang on to what they have. See Shot 24.
Click here to see Shot 24
Axis Turn 6
Except in the south, von Ford’s forces do very little except hunker down and await relief. Von Ford’s forces have been splintered into several groups, isolated from each other but still holding out, faithful to the Fuhrer’s orders. Gruppe Kharkov clings to urban hexes in KHARKOV, including the all important city center, and extends south of the city, incorporating of ex-defenders of CHUGUYEV. Gruppe Borki is formed by the remnants of the original ZMIEV – KRASNOGRAD defensive line. Gruppe Krasnograd is also completely surrounded, but continues to hold KRASNOGRAD itself and some adjoining hexes. Help is surely coming from the south, but can it arrive in time?
The south is all action, as 14th and 16th Panzer divisions along with several Infantry divisions carve their way towards IZYUM. Advance forces are also close to taking PETROVSKOYE and only 32 km at the narrowest point separates von Ford’s southern spearhead from the remnant of the CHUGEYEV salient. Keatingski might be regretting his failure so far to clear this salient completely, which would only have taken one division with sapper support. This would make the task of supplying his western forces much easier as von Ford inevitably pushed north. Shot 25 shows the scene.
Click here to see Shot 25
Russian Turn 7
Keatingski splits Gruppe Kharkov, further fragmenting von Ford’s forces. However, there are no major movements in the main areas. By now the Soviet forces have been in continuous combat for six days, and this must be taking its toll on them. Russian logistical services will definitely struggle with the challenge of replenishing forces that have advanced so far, especially with large groups of as yet undefeated enemy in the way.
In the south, alarm bells are also ringing and Keatingski has finally heard them. The various survivors of 57th and 9th Armies form a thin and not very convincing defensive line south of IZYUM. This doesn’t look like it will hold the Germans for long. Shot 26 shows the rapidly changing situation in the south.
Click here to see Shot 26
German Turn 7
Von Ford’s cavalry starts to arrive. The 389th Infantry Division, having swept through PERESHCHEPINO is advancing on KRASNOGRAD from the south. The only Russians between the 389th and the beleaguered defenders are those in the thin line of encircling units. Unless they can they can take KRASNOGRAD itself very quickly, the besiegers are likely to be caught and swallowed up. Shot 27 shows the situation.
Click here to see Shot 27
In the south, only a thinly defended river line now stands between von Ford’s panzers and IZYUM itself, all defenders south of the river having fled or been destroyed.
Russian Turn 8
Keatingski takes another few blocks of KHARKOV, but progress there is agonisingly slow. Keatingski has managed to detach the southern defenders from this in the city, essentially creating Gruppe Kharkov North and Gruppe Kharkov South. Unfortunately for him, Stavka will have expected Keatingski to have crushed the nest of German-Fascist invaders and retaken the entire city by now. Keatingski is also making heavy work of reducing Gruppe Borki, a fact that will also be the subject of adverse comment in the committee rooms of Stavka.
Keatingski will be needing to line up a few scapegoats of his own, especially as the approach of a single fresh German infantry division, the 389th, has compelled him to give up the siege of KRASNOGRAD and go over to the defensive throughout the Krasnograd sector. Shot 28 shows the situation. Red Aviation would be a good candidate for blame allocation, the Luftwaffe having cancelled its Crimean vacation and descended on Kharkov in strength.
Click here to see Shot 28
South of IZYUM, the defensive line is somewhat strengthened, but after the slightest of pauses, a fresh onslaught can be expected from von Ford’s panzers.
German Turn 8
The 14th and 16th Panzer divisions blast through Keatingski’s flimsy defenses and elements of 14th Panzer end up adjacent to IZYUM itself. Further to the west, infantry from 1st Mountain and 101st Light divisions make a second breakthrough. Shot 30 shows von Ford’s progress in the south.
Click here to see Shot 30
Released from encirclement, elements of Gruppe Krasnograd promptly retake LANNAYA. This illustrates the difference in abilities between the two armies. A single German infantry regiment, when hedgehogged, is a very tough nut for the Russians to crack, unless they have overwhelming artillery support. However, the Germans were able to eject two Russian regiments, even though they were dug in, from the town of LANNAYA with a single attack. It is pointless for Keatingski to try and emulate von Ford’s defensive tactic of toughing things out. He will have to form a proper defensive line, preferably in depth, and rely on attrition and counter attacks to wear down any German offensive effort.