Sorry for the delay, but this has turned out to be a huge update. What was only a few hours of game-time ended up taking me a couple of days to prepare to post!Operation Pendulum
Given the invaluable feedback on the proposed courses of action, the final plan is a variation of option #2 with major landings conducted by 2nd Army at Naples and Taranto, with 1st Army focused on the bulk of enemy units at Messina.
4th Corps departs Sardinia in late September, arriving off Naples on 1 October. Unfortunately, pounding rainstorms over the last week have turned the landing grounds into a muddy mess. The transports, escorted by 4 Surface Group, hold position off Naples, hoping for a break in the storms for a chance to launch the invasion.
For the next two weeks, the heavy rain persists, giving us no ideal opportunity to attack. While the task force waits for a break in the weather, my tactical bombers hammer the enemy positions at Messina, targeting supply and infrastructure. If and when the defenders redeploy north, theyíll struggle to navigate cratered roads, and will be that much slower to reorient themselves against my landings.
But on 14 October, Italian naval bombers spot the task force and makes an attack run. 4 Surface Group puts up enough AAA to beat them bombers away, but the transports have taken damage.
As the Ďjigí is up, itís either attack now or abort. Agropoli looks like an ideal landing ground: weakly held with good access to Naples through Salerno. 4th Corps lands on 15 October without incident and immediately attacks Salerno with good success.
Meanwhile, 6th Corps takes up position off Taranto, and launches their assault near Brindisi. They land successfully, and, after a short battle with two garrison divisions holding the port, seize Taranto.
The timing of our attack could not be better: as our troops are hitting the beaches, the Germans finally launch their much-anticipated attack on the Soviet Union. I donít particularly wish any great harm on the Soviets, but this move will certainly make things complicated for the Germans once my offense gets underway in Italy.
Back in Italy, our units are fully landed. 4th Corps seizes the port of Salerno, and is in a good posture to strike at Naples. Likewise, 6th Corps is lodged in Taranto and goes on the full offensive.
Oh, guten tag Fritz! Remember us? Weíre back!
Good success in our first major engagements breaking out from Salerno and Taranto. Both 4th and 6th Corps are able to form lines from coast to coast, successfully enveloping a large number of Italian divisions between them.
As 4th and 6th Corps attack inwards to close the noose around the Italian divisions, the second part of the plan is put into effect: 3rd Corps of 1st Army lands at Lauria, just north of Messina, and begins a southward charge towards the defenders across the strait.
With the airfields secured at Taranto, Iím able to rebase my close air support groups closer to the action to make better use of them. The pocket between 4th and 6th Corps continues to narrow as it is hammered by planes from Nos. 1, 2, and 3 RAF Dive Bomber Groups.
Enemy units defending at Messina are attempting to redeploy as 3rd Corps makes quick advances down the peninsula. Due to the handiwork of my tactical bombers at the start of the campaign, the roads there are in pieces, so the Italians are quite slow to reorient themselves to face north.
Back near Naples, the Italians in the pocket are completely encircled at Agropoli. Cornered between armoured units of 4th and 6th Corps on land and the guns of 4 Surface Group at sea, the Italians put up a brief defence. 11 exhausted divisions surrender on 16 November, and approximately 75,000 Italians are taken prisoner.
With those units in the pocket obliterated, 4th and 6th Corps reform on the line facing northward, and throw their combined weight into an advance up the peninsula. With a solid frontline established, I am somewhat nervous that the Italians will now be able to put up a cohesive defence. However, the coastal plains make for fantastic terrain to let my armoured divisions prove their worth. We knock 40,000 Italians out of Naples on 24 November, and begin a steady advance northward.
Around the same time, a rather climactic battle is taking place at Messina, where 3rd Corps is attacking the last Italian stronghold south of Naples. The combined Italian-German defending force is starving, out of supply, and subjected to aerial attacks out of Sicily: they hold out for a few hours before another 50,000 prisoners are taken.
With all territory secured in the southern sector, 1st Army will be redeployed to the frontline at Naples. From there, the unified 1st Army Group will push as far north as they can. Beginning this operation, I had no clear idea of how much success to expect, and thought the most I could hope for was to make a few gains in the south and dig in for a long stalemate. We canít afford to do anything but exploit the disorganization of the Axis defenders. Weíll push all the way to Rome and beyond, if we can. Here is an overview as of 27 November, about six weeks into the campaign.
The next few weeks are fairly uneventful; the Italians put up a running defence, but my armour is continuing to shine in the plains and foothills near the coasts. 1st Army Group has mastered the art of Ďbypassí attacks, where tanks blitz along the coast, bypassing large clusters of defending divisions in the centre and encircling those clusters around the rear. Infantry advancing up the centre then attack and destroy those miniature pockets formed by armour encirclement. Itís not very long before Rome is within sight.
The unfortunate risks of letting armour move so far ahead: sometimes, quick-acting mobile Italian divisions can cut off my armourís own lines of communication back to the main army. Situations like this might only last for a few hours, as friendly divisions close behind attack and re-open the supply routes.
By early January 1942, Rome is totally surrounded and under siege by the 1st Armoured, Guards Armoured, and 45th Wessex Infantry. Fierce fighting in the city streets lasts for a few days, but by 8 January the Italian capital falls, and another 40,000 enemy soldiers surrender.
The northward push continues into February. I guess by this time, the Italian army on the peninsula has been completely destroyed, because all my boys are facing now are third-rate expeditionary forces from Hungary and Romania. Still no sign whatsoever of the massive German counter-attack I was expecting; I guess much of the German army is engaged against the Soviets for the time being.
I had apprehensions about attacking so far into Italy that the front would become too wide to properly defend against counter-attacks. But, as we advance, I realize that the Germans do not yet have a full transit agreement with Vichy France, both Vichy France and Switzerland are officially unaligned. Therefore, any counter-attacking German units will have to come directly through Germany herself, giving us a much more narrow front (from Switzerland to the Adriatic) to defend if necessary Onward!
The march into northern Italy is somewhat slower than hoped; spearhead divisions have moved out of range of our own air cover and into the range of Axis dive bombers. The air raids force us to fight on the defensive for a bit, but there are no serious losses to report.
Finally, on 17 February, the 45th Wessex rolls into Venice. Italy is done
. The remnants of the Italian army surrender, the Mussolini government goes into exile, a military occupation government is installed in Rome, and Operation Pendulum comes to a close Ė victory beyond our best predictions.
With Italy knocked out of the war, the options for our next step in southern Europe are wide open. Consolidate here and hold what we have? Into the Balkans perhaps? Or take our chances with a straight thrust to Berlin?Other Developments
The biggest update to report on is the Japanese declaration of war against both the United Kingdom and the United States on 15 November. The Japanese have made a few small gains in southeast Asia so far, but nothing serious. Now that the Mediterannean campaign is winding down, itíll be necessary to redeploy some of our naval task groups into the Pacific. The Germans have been applying pretty heavy diplomatic pressure to the US, and have so far stayed out of the war with Japan. As a result, US interest in becoming involved in the war in Europe is still minimal. We havenít yet been able to establish a formal alliance with the US, but weíre working on it.
As far as the war between Germany and the Soviets, I have no reliable information about what is happening on the front lines. We do know that the Germans have made big gains so far. Itíll be interesting to see how well they do now, as we settle into the coldest months of 1942.