Chapter 3 – Breakthrough at Batumi
The opening phases of Operation Grom are met with surprise, as Germany did not inform the Czar about his adventures in Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, a similar tact will be taken with regards to the invasion of Turkey. Not since the Crimean War have the Turks and Russians picked up arms against each other, but now that will change as the battles of this war swing into full tempo. Within hours, Benito Mussolini is offering to send some of his finest soldiers to aid in our fight. We would be fools not to accept, and upon hearing that the Legions of Italy shall be joining the invasion of Turkey, the Tsar was overjoyed.
Turkish air power is about as present as sunshine in a rainstorm. We quickly dominate the skies, with airbases in Armenia and Georgia sending their fighters quickly into enemy airspace.
Within days – Turkey realizes that the fight alone against Russia and Germany is futile. They turn to the open and welcoming arms of the Allies, something which can only be seen as a sign of weakness, if the Turks cannot defend their own country, surely they must feel heartened that the French can support them.
The Spanish, not to be outdone by their Italian brothers, seek to match their military commitment, and are quick to send their battle-hardened soldiers to aid us in our struggle.
Seven divisions are sent forward into the Black Sea for the beginning of Operation Frog. Due to the fact that the Marines fought valiantly for the Soviets during the Civil Unrest, thousands of them were sent to Siberia to populate the gulags. As such, the Army shall uphold the burden of an amphibious invasion.
However – one of our divisions is caught at sea but the Turkish surface fleet. The remaining six carry on, knowing that theirs is a mission too important to wait for those poor souls caught by Turkish submarines and cruisers.
The Battle of the North Black Sea quickens to a tempo as both sides invest more and more of their surface fleets. Meanwhile, the divisions assaulting the beachheads for Operation Frog move quickly to their assault destinations.
The first engagement of the war takes place as a multi-frontage attack undertaken by the 3rd and 6th Corps attempt to make a breakthrough after a week-long series of artillery barrages designed to weaken and degrade Turkish forces across the border.
Leading elements of 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division assault Turkish positions during a dawn advance-to-contact on October 25th, 1938.
Landings against a battered Turkish infantry division on the beaches between objectives Red and Blue proceed well, with the heavy assault troops of the 2nd Corps making good progress in their amphibious assault.
The Battle of the North Black Sea heats up – with Turkey committing more and more if its fleet, matched equally by the Russian Black Sea Flotilla attempting to stem the losses to infantrymen travelling in the convoy that was part of the Operation Frog Assault Force.
Landings successful – the 2nd Corps now dashes to grab the pair of deep water ports necessary for their survival and resupply. The bulk of losses seem to come from the 2ya NKVD, an old Soviet Civil War formation that was kept during the purges as it switched sides to fight for the Tsar, as did most of the other NKVD units. Of the 11,000 men it landed with, approximately 1,600 were killed.
The Battle of Batumi rages on, with over 25 divisions participating, the two beleaguered Turkish ones begin to reach their breaking point after four days of continuous bombardment and assaults by infantry. Yet the hold on, desperately clinging to the vain hope that reinforcements will son come.
The beachheads have been cleared, and panic sets in as the Turks realise that between the Russian Amphibious forces and the capital of Ankara is a single under strength Infantry division . A deliberate act, as the Staff and Planning Office had debated and eventually decided that by threatening to capture the capital the Turkish High Command would scramble to move divisions from the front to the landing areas.
Hungary’s aid is appreciated, but the Imperial War Council doubts that they will provide much assistance considering the ferocity of fighting coming from reports on the front.
Finally – the Battle of the North Black Sea comes to a resounding finish. The Turkish losses are heavy, and their forced withdrawal proves this. Submarines, destroyers, and even a pair of light cruisers litter the bottom of the Sea, and while Russian surface ships are equally feeling the pain, the battle is a victory, as the Turks are sent back to Istanbul, tails between their legs.
In France, the Maginot line is causing problems for the Wehrmacht, but they continue to throw themselves at the thick and deep defensive works created by the French. With Belgium and the Netherlands still neutral, there is no easy soft areas for German jackboots to flank their Franco counterparts, they must instead fight head-on.
Every passing day Russo-German cooperation deepens, and the addition of a rather redundant non-aggression pact seems to confirm Germany’s willingness to keep the Bear at their back content.
The pact signed,the world reacts accordingly, knowing that there is now no way of bringing the Russians to the table to fight Germany as before in 1914.
Reconnaissance overflights by Imperial Air Force planes reveal that a large part of the 3rd Corps’ frontage is now completely undefended by the Turks. They have withdrawn half a dozen divisions previously dug in along these lines, presumed by the Staff and Planning Office to mean that Operation Frog is having its desired effect. Meanwhile, to the North the Battle for Batumi still rages on, coming close to a full month of fighting.
The situation is by no means a dire one. The Italian and Spanish divisions landed in Sevastopol and after a brief period of re-organization began their march to the Caucasus, and have joined their Russian counterparts at the raging battle. Reinforced by six more infantry divisions, the exhausted Turkish defenders finally hung on for the much needed extra manpower, and now it seems more Russian blood must be spilled for the ground to be taken. However, to the South, the push from Yerevan yields the first ground taken, as the 3rd Corps storms West to take and hold the ground South of the Batumi salient.
Operation Frog bears more success than was initially estimated. Across the frontage, 16 Turkish divisions have been moved to contain the pocket around the two deep-water ports. Attacks and counter-attacks by the 2nd Corps ensure that the frontline is maintained, and the men dig in for what is soon to become a legendary battle for the Russian Army.
Stretched to their limit, and outnumbered 3:1, the divisions of the 2nd Corps being to give ground, only on the condition that it is littered with dead and dying Turkmen before they concede their well dug-in positions.
Two months have passed since the beginning of the Battle of Batumi, and worn down the 3rd and 6th Corps begin to re-plan their attacks and slow their advances with the inset of winter. In the South, near Yerevan, the attacks against stiff resistance are met with as much, and the Russian forces there are forced to take an operational pause.
Due to a surprise drive by spearheaded by Turkish mountain troops, Russian soldiers become cut off from their own forces, and a desperate assault begins to try and relieve them, while in other areas the Turkish forces fall onto the deeply entrenched Russians like waves against a rocky cliff.
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 6th Corps rest during a pause during a Turkish counter-attack at the Batumi salient.
Trying to seize on the fact that Russians are natural winter fighters, a renewed offensive seeks to smash Turkish forces in and around the Batumi salient. 3rd Corps drives hard West, aiming to reach the Çoruh River and cut off the forces engaged near Batumi.
Thrity-two thousand dead. Thirty-two thousand Russian sons, fathers, brothers and uncles who will never again see their farm, apartment, or woman. The Tsar sees the winter casualty figures and is deeply saddened, remembering the losses of the Great War, and flies into a rage at the Turkish resistance, and begins demanding that more action be taken to destroy the Ottoman menace, he declares, using the classical term for Russia’s newest enemy.
The 2nd Corps has been pushed back deeply, with their forces growing more tired of the constant fighting every day. Although statistically the Battle of Batumi has caused the most casualties, per capita by division those units on the beachheads in Northern Turkey have seen significantly more dead soldiers.
The Staff and Planning Office reshuffles frontline units, aiming to crack the Turk’s centre.
The 2nd Corps, under the pressure of so many Turkish forces begins to retreat to the sea.
The initial frontline situation reports are not heartening. The Czar personally chews out the Western Military District commander for gross incompetence. After a brief argument the former cavalrymen, General Vladislav Kebrosky is relieved of duty. In his place, General Mikhail Tchekoslo is appointed to senior command of the Western military district. His first actions are to re-emphasize the places from which the 3rd and 6th Corps will attack, and it is not full-frontal attacks against the Turks.
Reinforcements begin to arrive at the Frog beachheads. But with the battles raging so hot around Objectives Red and Blue, it is a surprise to many that forces will continue to be thrown into the coastal meatgrinder. This is considering that the sixth division that had landed was overrun after previously being cut off.
Yet last minute Turkish reinforcements prevent the reinforcements from landing, as the beachhead areas are overrun with more infantrymen than anticipated. Separated from their parent forces, the remaining five divisions hold onto Objective Blue dearly, fighting to keep their avenue of attack open, hoping a major breakthrough by their brothers in the 3rd and 6th comes to fruition soon. All across the front, solemn Christmas songs are sung as the men celebrate the Christian holiday in their foxholes and dugouts.
The 7th Corps is assigned to the Romanian border, as General Tchekoslo is preparing for a new war. Under directive from Nicholas II, the Army Staff and Planning Office (SPaO) begins to draw up the initial estimates and requirements for an invasion of Romania.
Aside from the Batumi salient continuing to suck more and more men into its graveyards, remaining areas of the front remain eerily quiet, as the new District commander re-assigns divisions to new areas of the region.
The Tsar notifies the Romanian government that should they not bend the knee and give up part of sovereign Russian territory, they will suffer much the same fate as their Turkish neighbor.
And the fools in Budapest choose to bend over for our demands rather than stand and fight! This move only puts Russian soldiers dozens of kilometers closer to the Romanian capital, so that when the time comes to demand more of their territory, the means to apply force in the form of the 7th Corps will be there. Hitler also rallies Mussolini to our side, the great Regia Marina moving to enter the Bosphorus and begin harassing the shipping of the Turks.
And with the winter of 1938 moving towards the new year of 1939, the 2nd Corps is still fighting on its on. Meanwhile, in the East, the 3rd and 6th Corps prepare to charge across their front lines in a new spring offensive. Supplies, and soon reinforcements will be sent to the operational areas of the 3rd Corps, as the previous tactics of en masse attacks will soon be replaced with the more dignified and academic touch of General Tchekoslo.