austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I'll look for you when the war is over

And now that I've finished 1949 in Hearts of Iron II: Doomsday let me recap how that year went. In the war between the Allies and the Comintern, following a crazy yet successful invasion from Archangelsk the prosecution of the war in European Russia was bogging down. Transferring surplus soldiers from the stalled Siberian front to Europe through transfer across the Pacific, convoy across the United States, and transfer across the Atlantic was just getting under way.

The transfer of divisions in this way would be long: it could take months to get units from the longitude of the Gobi Desert to coastal China, then a couple weeks for sea transport to bring them to Los Angeles or Seattle, then another month or more to get to Boston, and then another week to get to Leningrad, and then a month or more to get across European Russia to the new front. And yet the principle would work: not just at all, but work brilliantly. With the almost unlimited manpower of Chinese regiments, and the strength of the mechanized warfare the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Japan, and Germany could offer, under the strong defenses of the United States's Air Force, we had force able to grow and attack and keep a reserve, plus keep forces back so they could rebuild strength following combat.

And yet ... the Soviet Union is such a blasted huge place, too. The theme of the 1949 campaign would be ``peeling off bits of the Soviet Union, and discovering there's so much more to go''. The first liberated Soviet nation would be organized on 21 February 1949, with Byelorussia established as a free and independent American puppet state ready to join the Allies. Ukraine would be liberated on the same terms on the 4th of July --- it could have been organized slightly before then, but I can't believe anyone would have been able to resist the lovely symbolism of that.

All this was accomplished by pressing south from Moscow, pretty much, reaching the Crimean for what certainly look like practical strategic reasons. But it was in mid-July that finally an attack on Stalingrad broke through Soviet resistance, and the XIV, LVIII, LXXXVII, and 14th Corps simultaneously occupied the rump Soviet capital in the early morning hours of the 14th of July. This was the last province needed for the game to allow me to create the Second Russian Republic, and it joined the privileged set of free and liberated American puppet states that day.

The next Soviet state peeled off would be Turkmenistan, freed the 16th of October. Armenia would join the set of existing and Allied nations on the 1st of December, simultaneously to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Honestly, I had lost track of conquering enough territory to liberate new nations. And yet for all this success there was still a rump Soviet Union capable of fielding a lot of infantry and a respectable number of mechanized units, though by the end of the year their industrial capacity had collapsed dramatically.

This being war, weird things would carry on happening. For a real prize there was the decision of the Japanese to make a landing on the 6th of March in Köningsberg, the only spot on the Baltic other than Leningrad where a landing was possible. And so there's this little territory that's Allied Japanese, squeezed between Poland and Lithuania.

That's at least understandable considering I didn't take direct control of all Japan's armed forces. The most baffling decision of the war has to have come on the 23rd of May, when Rumania and Bulgaria decided to join the Soviet Union in their war against Yugoslavia. I had forgotten the Soviet Union was at war with Yugoslavia since neither party could get units to each other, but really, after two years of war that have seen the Soviet Union driven from the shores and fleeing Moscow, they want in on the Soviet side?

On the other hand, it would take months of fighting for the Allies to get anywhere they might attack either country. So it was probably too bad for them that on the 24th of June, Poland declared war on the Soviet Union. This was without joining the Allies, so we would not have mutual passage rights or the many ways allied nations can help one another; but it did mean the Poles would have their leave to attack Rumania and Bulgaria, which they were happy and skilled at doing. In fact, part of what kept me from Stalingrad was diverting units to the Balkans in the hopes of securing territory there and limiting Polish conquests. This would have mixed benefits: while the United States would occupy the Balkan states along the Black Sea coast --- reaching the Turkish border the 10th of August --- Poland and Yugoslavia (remember Yugoslavia?) would take the interiors.

The distribution of critical cities broke down, in fact, so that on the 23rd of August Yugoslavia was able to declare its annexation of Bulgaria. Because of the division of critical cities between Yugoslavia, Poland, and the United States, no one could claim the annexation of Rumania, so it has a shadow government with no territory, no armies, no navy, no air force, and no successor state.

In economic matters, the theoretical breakthrough of intercontinental strategic bomber technology made me realize the production program was misguided: with the influx of Allied units I did not need armies so much as I needed tactical bombers and close-air support. Planes do very well in grinding down armies, particularly during combat, and I shifted production away from tanks and into planes. This would pay off nicely starting in 84 days (as soon as it took for the new tactical bombers to come into service), and the acceleration of conquered territories was due largely to American air cover and Allied armies working very well together. We even began to penetrate the vast distances and huge dug-in armies on the Siberian front, moving west again.

There was a weird derangement of the supply chain following the liberation of Russia; for a short while, the game set up convoys sending off nearly all the produced supplies and overwhelming the transport infrastructure of the nation. Obviously I hit some weird little game bug, but I accept that as modelling the occasional derangement of economics in the light of rapidly changing ground conditions. Cancelling every convoy and letting them be re-established took care of that; before long supplies of all kinds were rebuilding to their proper stockpiles, and reinforcement and upgrading of existing units settled to reasonable levels.

And so 1949 ended: after a year of peeling off nation after nation from the Soviet Union, and balancing forces between those in western China and Siberia with those in a European Russia which has pressed well past the Urals. But there are still thousands and thousands of miles yet to go before eastern and western fronts converge, and still around a hundred divisions in place resisting the invaders from ever-more-compact supply lines. Perhaps in 1950 the war might end. Maybe.

Trivia: Following the surrender at Stalingrad, German state radio suspended normal broadcasting for three days, playing solemn music. Source: The Second World War, John Keegan. (Keegan says Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, although I'm not sure whether anything else was played too.)

Currently Reading: The Epic Of New York City: A Narrative History, Edward Robb Ellis.

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