Operation Merkur

Version: 1.01 (August 2005)

Engine: Battles in Italy

Turns: 36


Author: Brubaker

Download Operation Merkur

By April 27, 1941 the catastrophic defeat of the Commonwealth forces on mainland Greece was complete as the swastika was ominously raised over the Acropolis. In a blinding 3 week campaign the German forces has destroyed nearly a quarter of the 52,000 Allied Expeditionary Force – many due to the unerring accuracy of the Luftwaffe.

But more than 35,000 managed to escape, many taking refuge on the last bastion of Greek territory, the ideallic Agean isle of Crete. For Hitler, the Balkan campaign would not truly be completed until the island had fallen - the sooner the better. The much vaunted Luftwaffe air amadas were needed in the coming invasion of Russia. Time was of the essence.

On May 20, 1941 the expected invasion took place. Four regiments of paratroopers were airlifted to the island, backed by a division and a half of mountain troopers. And though there spirits were high and their training higher, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the war surprise was not on their side.

The battle for Crete ended for the most part some ten days later. Though again they managed to defeat the Allied forces and force them to retreat, the costs were near intolerable. Nearly half of the elite 7th Paratroop Division had been killed or wounded; 1,000 in the Sturm Regiment alone. Some officers considered the losses of Germany’s promising young leaders so high it was the Wehrmacht’s first defeat. Indeed Hitler told Student at his award ceremony that “Crete has proved that the days of the paratrooper are over.” The battle was indeed a Phyrric victory.

Operation Merkur recreates the battles around the Maleme and Canea are in the west of the island. The scenario is set at battalion level with a scale of approx 1 mile (1.2 km) per hex. 2 day and 1 night turn make up each 24 hour period with the scenario running for 12 days. Players will find the going extremely hard for the Germans in the first few days until supplies and reinforcements are secured. After that only time is their enemy. Allied players will have a numerical superiority for a short time, a period they should use to their advantage, before slowly becoming overwhelmed by superior forces and supply conditions. Evacuation is available for most units but should be used carefully – the longer you hold the island the more chance you have of winning.

All comments and suggestions are welcome – brubaker@aanet.com.au

Have fun.

Key features
-Day and Night turns
-Constantly evolving units for both sides
-Luftwaffe ground attack units present
-Many newly designed game counters including kettenkrads and partisans
-Nightly briefings for both sides by intelligence officers
-Evacuation available for Allied troops if needed

Battleset 1 - The Löhr Plan

As the principal theorist and originator of Operation Merkur, General Kurt Student was persistent in his theory that the best way to apply airborne power was to have multiple parachute drops that would in effect ‘bewilder’ the enemy in its deployment. These drops would then be reinforced and consolidated to achieve the overall goal. This is how the 7th Flieger division had been used thus far in the war – and to great effect and this was how they were employed (in theory) in the invasion of Crete.

But Student’s plan was not supported by all Generals involved in the invasion. In fact General Alexander Löhr, commander of Luftflotte IV and Student’s commanding officer, was opposed to such use of the troops. His plan was to concentrate all available forces in one large drop in the western area of the island, attacking eastward from there to capture the island once the vital objectives (Maleme, Canea, Suda) had been taken.

Löhr’s plan was supported by the commander of VIII Air Corps, General Wolfram Freiherr von Richtofen, who argued successfully that whichever plan was adopted, that his aircraft could only drop two regiments in the morning and two in the afternoon.
The Löhr Plan Battleset for Operation Merkur is based on this alternative invasion. Two regiments of the 7th Flieger Division, the 3rd Fallschirmjager and the Sturm Assault Regiments, are deployed into battle in the morning turn of the 20th May 1941. Their positions are near historical. The 1st and 2nd Fallschirmjager Regiments are deployed in the afternoon turn of the same day (as in real life), but this time they are dropped into the same battle zone of their sister regiments. This gives the Germans a critical numerical superiority in the first few turns of the battle.

The mountain troops can be expected to land at the Maleme airstrip as soon as it is free to do so and additional forces of the 5th Armee will attempt to land on the coast once it too is freed up.

Of course the Allied commander of Crete, the steadfast New Zealander Major General Bernard Freyberg, is not going to sit on his laurels while this is happening. As soon as the German’s intentions become apparent, Freyberg can be expected to rally all the troops at his command, which include parts of three Australians brigades from the 6th Division as well as a strong 14th Infantry Brigade from the UK. These troops will begin to make their way from Heraklion and Retimo from the first evening onwards…

Additional features
-Greatly improved aggressive AI
-Additional German and Commonwealth units
-Greater emphasis on entire map area
-Alternate landing/evacuation zones for Allied troops
-New briefing screens
-Beach landings for additional German units

As always comments and suggestions are welcome – brubaker@aanet.com.au
Have fun.

Download the self extracting EXE from the Run5 Scenario area. Double click on the Operation Merkur.exe to run the installer. Default directory is …\Battles in Italy\Scenarios\Operation Merkur but may be changed during installation as required.
Operation Merkur Scenario and Löhr Plan may be selected from Battles in Italy scenario listings.

Version 1.01 August 2005