To Roza Yedilova, the best part of attending veteran events were the buffet tables. Here her children, grandchildren, doctors and nurses didn’t dare tell her what she could and could not eat. At the moment, her gaze was locked on a crostini covered with an interesting blend of melted forbidden cheeses.
As she reached with a pair of tongs to pluck one – maybe two, crostini from the platter, she heard a veteran behind her remark “The whole war could have been won without political officers. I never saw a ‘commissar’ who wasn’t an elitist arrogant zealot.”
His friend replied “Surely, Sergei, there were some who weren’t?”
“Bahh!” Sergei answered, “Name one, I dare you. You can’t because there was no such thing as a political officer who gave a damn.”
Turning away from the appetizer table with the prized crostini, Roza smiled at the two men and quietly said “I knew one.”
The early days of the offensive were simple – advance until you ran out of munitions; halt in place until you were provisioned; then continue advancing. The problem for Junior Lieutentant Kirillovna’s 3rd Platoon was that being women, they were going to be among the last to be resupplied. Indeed, over a week had passed since they had halted in place and they now found themselves in the third echelon. To keep the platoon busy, the Lieutenant rationed out the remaining bullets and sent out patrols. The patrols would provide grave registration where dead bodies were found, report the location of damaged equipment and bring in “lost” soldiers.
It was just after noon one day when Sergeant Tarasenko’s patrol returned escorting six “lost” men. Everyone knew they really weren’t lost, but were deserters. The haggard men were lined up in front of the Lieutenant. She examined each man and then said “There can only be two reasons for men found where you were found, you are either ‘lost’ or you are deserting. So I ask, who among you was ‘lost’ and would like to return to your unit?”
Only two men raised their hands. The Lieutenant pulled out her pad and began writing. “Sergeant Tarasenko, please escort these two men to the quartermaster section so they can be sent back to their units; bring back any supplies, especially ammunition.”
She ripped a sheet from her pad and barked “Sergeant Dimitievna! Pick a detail and escort these traitors to the NKVD section. Now, it is very important you give this note to whoever is in command there, understand?”
Sergeant Dimitievna nodded and soon her detail marched the deserters away. An hour later, Sergeant Tarasenko returned. She apologized, all she could get from the supply depot was soap and sanitary napkins. The quartermaster assured her that was all which was available to “females”. This news put the Lieutenant into a sour mood, which lasted late into the afternoon when a truck arrived.
A smiling Sergeant Dimitievna leaped out of the back of truck shouting “Come, unload supplies, we have cartridges!” A cheer went up and nearly everyone in the platoon pitched in to distribute the much needed ammunition. Meanwhile, a dark-haired woman with a sullen expression stepped out of the truck and approached us. The Lieutenant saluted and I stiffened to attention.
The woman returned the salute and said “Ahh, Junior Lieutenant Kirillovna, I am Lieutenant Anna Timurovna, NKVD. I am assigned to you, here are my papers.”
Lieutenant Kirillovna’s eyes grew wide, “Are you here to take command?”
“Oh no, comrade Kirillovna,” replied the commissar pulling a small silver case from a pocket, “I’m here to assist and advise, cigarette?”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand” replied Lieutenant Kirillovna taking the offered cigarette.
“It was your note” said Timurovna replacing the case in her pocket. As Kirillovna struck a match, the comissar continued “‘Please dispose of these traitors, I have no cartridges to do it myself. If you are short on cartridges, send them back and I will gut them like fish.’ Our general got quite a laugh from your note, but when he shared it with high command, General Maslennikov bellowed ‘Why isn’t that unit at the front?’ So they sent me to assist you in returning to the front. I am most looking forward to working with you.”
Lieutenant Kirillovna exclaimed “That’s good news, with these supplies, we can be at the front tomorrow afternoon!” She unfolded her map and began plotting a course to rejoin our company.
Commissar Lieutenant Timurovna looked up from the map, took a puff on her cigarette and smiling she pointed. I looked to where she was pointing and only saw the truck. She asked “Comrade Kirillovna, how long will it take us to reach the front by truck?”
The Lieutenant answered “By truck we would be at the front late tonight, but we would need more than one truck.”
“By now everyone has heard of General Maslennikov’s outrage,” said the commissar, “who would dare defy the army commander and keep you from the front? Getting trucks will not be a problem. We leave at once!”
“Is that an order comrade Lieutenant?” asked Kirillovna.
Lieutenant Timurovna turned to Kirillovna, “No, no, excuse the excitement. Like you, I’m eager to get to the front. As I said earlier, my role is to advise.” There was a lengthy pause and then she added “Just think of me as your second-in-command, who happens to outrank you.”
The game begins with the Soviet campaign morale at 6 and the German campaign level at 2, This is an attack mission for the Soviets and a defend mission for the Germans – this gives the Soviets an investment level of 4 and the Germans now have an investment level of 2.
The fighting continues in the heavily wooded terrain west and south of Rzhev. Table sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 are wooded; section 5 contains a wooded hill; only sections 8 and 9 are clear. The Red PEF is in section 5, the White PEF is in section 4 and the Blue PEF is in section 6, all in cover and hidden from sight.
Kirillovna has deployed her platoon with 2nd squad on her left flank; next comes 4th squad with the MMG section and commanded by Lt. Timurovna; Kirillovna commands the 1st squad and the HQ section; the right flank is anchored by the 3rd squad.
The Germans win the activation roll. Red PEF moves. White PEF moves and comes in sight of 4th Squad. The PEF resolves into a German defensive position with an infantry squad.
Soviet 4th Squad and MMG section win in-sight test and begin firing. When the in-sight firing is finished, the German LMG is OOF, 4th Squad LMG is OOF and 4th Squad leader is OD. The remaining Germans have all ducked back out of the trench and 4th Squad LMG Assistant has ducked back.
The only action available to the German White Squad is to recover from duck back, which they do.
The Blue PEF moves ending the German activation.
Soviet 2nd Squad advances, with no Germans in sight, 4th Squad and MMG advance, Asst. LMG recovers from duck back. Medic advances toward OOF LMG. 1st Squad fast moves.
The 3rd Squad also fast moves and comes into sight of Blue PEF. Blue PEF resolves into German infantry squad, Soviets win the in-sight test. After the firefight, the German Blue squad has ducked back and 3 Soviets have ducked back. There were no casualties.
Germans win the activation roll. The Red PEF advances into sight of 1st and 4th Squads, the PEF resolves into an infantry squad. Both Soviet squads score higher on the in-sight test than the Germans. When the smoke clears, Each Soviet Soviet squad has had a member go OOF. The Germans have also lost 2 members to OOF and most have ducked back.
The German White Squad moves back into the trench, but loses the in-sight test to the Soviet 2nd and 4th Squads. The fire is costly to the Germans suffering 3 OOF and 1 OD, the remaining squad duck back out of the trench. Second Squad has a riflewoman go OOF and 4 ducked back.
The German Blue Squad recovers from duck back, except for 3 members who hunker down.
Soviet 3rd Squad advances and wins in-sight against German Blue Squad. German LMG goes OD and the Blue Squad is again forced to duck back; 2 Soviets were forced to duck back.
Soviet 1st Squad fires at the only Red Squad member who hasn’t ducked back and the German goes OOF.
The medic reaches a fallen soldier and begins treatment. Both 2nd Squad, 4th Squad and the MMG Section advance to the German trench.
The Germans fail to activate. The Soviet 3rd Squad advances and the 3 hunkered down Germans surrender. The remainder of the Soviet platoon advances, but with the Germans all in duck back, no Germans are seen.
A Green PEF is generated and placed in Section 3. The Soviets receive reinforcements, a Combat Engineer Section arrives in Section 8. Soviet squads consolidate and advance. Wounded LMG recovers and medic moves toward another fallen comrade.
Green PEF move into sight and does not resolve into troops. The German squads recover from duck back.
The Germans fail to activate, but do receive reinforcements – an infantry squad (Yellow) and a HMG section.
Soviet 3rd Squad advances and wins in-sight test resulting in 3 German casualties (2 OD & 1 OOF). One Soviet ducks back.
Soviet 1st Squad renews its attack on the German Red Squad. Rifle fire and a grenade eliminates all but one of the Germans who ducks back.
The Engineering Section advances. The MMG Section opens fire on German White Squad behind the trench, the Germans take casualties and the remaining German surrenders to the advancing 4th Squad. The 2nd Squad advances without incident.
Again, the Germans fail to activate. Soviet 3rd Squad advances.
The advancing 1st Squad captures the remaining German of the Red Squad and comes in sight of the Yellow Squad and HMG. First Squad’s LMG fires killing one member of the HMG team and forcing the rest to duck back. In the return fire the LMG goes OOF.
The 4th Squad comes in sight of German Yellow Squad, Yellow Squad takes casualties. Medic is unsuccessful and wounded Soviet remains wounded. Engineers, MMG and 2nd Squad advance.
Germans activate, HMG opens fire on 4th Squad sending the political officer and a riflewoman OOF; 2 Soviets duck back. Yellow Squad advances causing in sight test with 2nd Squad. The firefight results in German casualties and duck backs.
Soviets activate. Third squad advances and last remaining German of Blue Squad surrenders. Advancing 1st Squad fires eliminating the German HMG. Medic moves toward next wounded soldier. Combat Engineers fast move; MMG, 4th Squad and 2nd Squad advance.
Soviets fail to activate and Germans remain in duck back.
Soviets win activation, 2nd Squad advances and Germans surrender.
This is the first game I’ve played where both sides received reinforcements. It seems like a lop-sided victory for the Soviets. The Germans failed to activate in 3 turns, while the Soviets only failed once. I think the size and fire power advantage of the Soviets (2 of the Soviet Squads had additional LMG and the Germans never dealt with the MMG) kept the Germans in a perpetual state of duck back.
Going forward, Lt. Kirillovna faces some challenges – she lost another squad leader and Lt. Timurovna in this battle and 2 LMGs.
The Soviet campaign morale is now at 7 and the German morale is at 1. If I win the next mission, I will advance to the next Campaign Specific Area Map. I need to decide if the next mission will be an assault on German defenses on the Desna River or if my platoon is diverted to reinforce the 29th Army by attacking Rzhev from the Southwest. To be honest the decision rests on how much terrain I can build in the upcoming weeks.
So comrades, the early days of the offensive are giddy and successful beyond belief. Please, please, your comments, criticisms and support are most welcome!