I've finished the Spanish campaign, and I've made some wonderful progress. Without further ado...
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Part 3: We Can Get Away With Quite A Bit!
So as it stood, our first major roadblock had been cleared. Did I mention that this was going to take quite a bit of adjustment? Because it did, though I resolved not to be the dinosaur in the new modern Heer like some other General officers. I gave the men a bit of time to rest before we pushed forward, though since we hardly expended our stock of supplies or manpower, I decided to push forward quickly before the next town of Torija could become a focal point of resistance.
Guadalajara of course was still my target, and I was not going to stop until we got there.
As it happened, though, there was some resistance on Torja, but not close to what I was fearing. A single regiment of enemy panzers was parked inside and quite simply refused to come out. The reconnaissance detachment reported its presence to us in the command HQ now trailing behind in the freshly taken villages, but did not immediately engage. Now, I am certain to this day that Weiss and the other General staff officers (and perhaps a few of my soon to be opponents) would have loved to have seen a shootout between my Panzer IIs and the much more heavily armored Soviet tanks.
I, of course, am not an idiot. I sent in the Stukas, and the artillery regiment soon reported that they were also within firing range. I issued the 'fire at will' command and let the combined firepower do their work.
I moved up the fighting forces available, though I detached the Irish and Spanish to the wings to seize the outlying settlements. No sense in just leaving them be while allowing them to slip whatever supplies they felt they could spare. Besides, I rationalized that the more town names I submitted as taken, the better my resume would look, regardless of strategic value (or lack thereof, but every bit counted in my early days).
During the time it took my forces to join the frontlines, the Republican Spaniards frantically attempted to ship in more of the Soviet made panzers (which I grudgingly admitted, with my lack of armored wisdom at the time, was a fantastic piece of work), but whatever merits the manufacturers had their supply line and/or unwillingness to part with more doomed the Spanish panzer corp. They were scarcely able to replenish half of what the bombardments allowed before the Stukas made another visit.
I had one more surprise in store for them, however.
The pioneere regiment was itching for a fight, and after softening them up with further bombardment from the big guns and the flying artillery, I let them loose onto the town to see how well the tanks fared against dedicated close combat troops. The panzers fared rather poorly and were wiped out to a machine. I'm certain on the open they would have done much better, and if properly supported with more of their ilk, artillery support, and infantry accompanying them. As it was, however, the fight taught me an important lesson: leaving panzer units unsupported like that was not a good idea.
Incidentally I later approved recommendations from the officers for commendations of valor to the men who assaulted the machines with flammenwerfers, grenades and sheer bloody-mindedness worthy of a British bulldog, along with the unfortunate posthumous awards. Not that I ever said the bulldog analogy to their faces or in front of the General Staff. Though considering I'm writing my memoirs long after the war is over (several years shy of a decade now), I suppose I am speaking this in front of everyone's faces.
The reconnaissance detachment seized the town, then decided to push forward past Torija to report on the troop dispositions around Guadalajara, our last and ultimate objective.
There was quite an opportunity. The Spaniards had some infantry regiments clustered around, but apparently not considering the fact that Torija could or would fall so quickly, the horse driven artillery regiment was being dragged further north in a bid to support the now wiped out panzers. Sadly, the photographs seem to have been lost to history, but the newer Panzer II regiment (so new like the Stukas they had no official designation that I could find at the time) simply drove like maniacs down the road and overran the artillery guns while they were still mounted, and still had enough time to retreat up the road and secure the pass for the accompanying Spanish infantry and artillery.
That, along with the strategic map on Christmas Eve, solidified my opinions. I loved this new doctrinal combat.
Weiss was impressed enough with my progress that as an early Christmas gift, I was prestigious enough to receive a shiny and brand new artillery regiment of even bigger guns than the 10.5 cm guns. The new 15 cm guns would more than prove their worth to me in the upcoming battle for Guadalajara as you will see momentarily, and Weiss was even kind enough to provide them with motor transport. I later returned the favor to him after the campaign before New Years with a bottle of fine wine my troops liberated from the town. Herr Weiss was proving to be quite the helpful liaison, though his success was later shown to be linked directly to mine. In some convoluted political way.
As soon as more of the guns arrived to join the 10.5 cm guns, they began to open fire on the troops in the village in front of the town, but I made no effort to assault them just yet. After all, my men now needed to resupply their ammunition and fuel, and the Stukas still needed some time to return to the front after refueling and rearming at the rear airfield. I noticed that despite having one of their own, the Spanish did not have any sort of air cover or defense at all. If we could seize that field, it would prove to be quite the boon to my flying artillery pieces.
My only real concern, in fact, was the perennial worry of commanders in every age and time: the weather. The weather forecast section of my command staff were predicting overcast with chances of rain in the near future, which would put a stop to flying until it cleared. With or without them, however, I felt we could still press on. We certainly had more than enough ground based guns.
So I decided to actually launch the much wanted Christmas Day offensive that was so wanted. My forces certainly had enough time to rest and refit for a day and night, and the Stukas reported that they were ready to take to the skies again.
The reconnaissance moved forward first, though they skirted the open fields in favor of traversing through the rough terrain. They were capable of it, though later they requested more rugged machines. More than a few were feeling somewhat queasy after that ride. The infantry then moved forward to cover for the artillery guns that also were drawing ever so slowly forward after opening fire.
The Spanish panzers then joined the German panzers as they entered into a joint assault onto the forward town, its defenders more than dazed by the sheer volume of shells landing on their heads. Though I kept one panzer regiment in reserve, the Spanish were able to oust the defenders onto the river in a rout.
They made it no farther.
I was tempted to order the town seized, but then I remembered the lesson the Soviet panzers taught me, and I decided against it. I would let them retake the town, and then I would make them suffer for it.
They retook the town as I suspected, but I decided that an object lesson was in order. I gave the signal to the 15 cm guns to open fire.
They all but obliterated a flank infantry regiment, which the panzers simply rolled over -
- in some cases, I'm told, literally.
An infantry assault cleared out the village, and without much more threat, I allowed the town to be seized this time. Now we had a definite base from which to assault and mop up Guadalajara.
On December 26th, our progress was undeniable. And we still had plenty of time to clear out the opposition.
I began this by moving to take the airfield. I did not want the Stukas to waste precious time going back.
As it happened, my reconnaissance and panzers were proud to tell me that the Luftwaffe's representatives did not have to. The airfield was taken.
Soon, it ceased to be much of a challenge, and we began to enter the mop up mentality.
Resistance was still fierce, as our infantry still took casualties. But the campaign was now hopeless for the Republicans. We had struck too hard, too quickly for them to recover. Now they were starting to dig out militia, anyone who could hold a rifle the right way and pull the trigger.
But I was determined to make a show of force. They could rally as much power as they could muster, but they would be crushed. The Condor Legion would see to that.
It is not apparent from the photographs, but our firepower was so great that the overwatch fire from the three available artillery regiments were enough to wipe out an assaulting enemy infantry outright. ((No joke: three overwatch attacks later, one infantry just vanished))
I was far from the only man to make a name for myself in Spain, though now back in Germany my name was starting to make the rounds. A young commander in the Luftwaffe under my command, Osterwald, was becoming known as "that damned maniac leading the Stukas." Nothing would deter him, and he would make sure that his bombers would give 150% effort. I would come to rely on him as one of my most able officers and supporters in the coming years.
On December 27th, 1938, it was over. There simply were no men left to fight against us.
We had won.
That's it for now! Stay tuned for the interval between campaigns!