AAR Prologue

From: US Military Attaché Berlin
To: The War Department, Washington

Well, one month into Operation BARBAROSSA and the Germans are doing very well. Their radical new doctrine for using Armoured Divisions (though clearly inferior to ours) seems to work well against second rate military powers like the Poles, French and Russians. It probably would have worked against the British as well. Of course, we’ll never know how it would worked against us, as the only possible first rate opponent, as the President has flat out guaranteed that we won’t be joining a European land war.

This report deals with German operations aimed at SMOLENSK and VYAZMA, these major centres lying on the direct route to MOSCOW. As per the War Department’s policy of being extremely well prepared for other people’s wars, we have some quite detailed research findings.

General Keating is commanding Army Group Centre and we estimate that he will have around 35 Divisions available for this operation, most in very good condition and having excellent morale. His troops have already routed numerous Russian formations and taken vast numbers of prisoners. Yet even this overwhelming success has taken longer and cost more than expected. General Keating does not have the luxury of a considered approach, and each casualty costs him dearly.

Very little is known about Comrade General Trout, commanding the Soviet Western Front. His very obscurity may have saved him from the Tukhavchevskiite purges, though rumours of his previous employment in the Commissary Corps must surely be discounted. Comrade General Trout faces numerous problems. Most of his formations are poor quality, and many are remnants from the frontier battles. He is under strict orders from Stalin to counter-attack immediately and everywhere, and he knows that failure to follow Stalin’s orders, no matter how ludicrous, can have only one outcome. In order to maintain what Trout calls the ‘proper offensive spirit’, (and demonstrate his zeal to Stalin) most of his formations are forbidden to entrench, though he knows full well that will lower their already slim chances of survival to virtually zero.

We have prepared a map of the portion of the battle that will be most important in the early days (see Map 1). The terrain to the north of this is even more difficult, though both sides will have to be careful that a surprise concentration doesn’t tip the balance of forces. The eastern portion of the battlefield is also not shown, which itself illustrates the vast scope of these Russian Front battles.

General Keating will be wishing at all times to conduct his major offensive operations in Clear terrain, as illustrated on the map. Russian defenders in the Clear can be overrun with almost no attacker casualties, while those in Woods or Forest have to be blasted out at a much higher cost. There are very few bridges across the Dnepr, so seizing these will be critical for the German supply net. Finally, Keating will be under pressure to take the major Urban centres of Vitebsk, Orsha and Mogilev as quickly as possible.

Comrade General Tout has many problems and few options, but he does have a some things in his favour. Despite what he might tell Stalin, he is not expecting to stop the Germans, merely delay and wound them. His casualty levels are almost irrelevant, but each German unit that he destroys will be a massive propaganda victory, and will serve to prolong his career/life. Finally, he can call upon a massive 117 Soviet divisions to give their life for the Motherland.

We will report faithfully on operations as they unfold.