Chapter 10 – Unto the Breach Once More
The SPaO opens a directive for Operation Zmeya II, for the invasion of the Sudan and Southern Egypt, to wrest control of it from the British, and to take it before the Italians had a more ample opportunity to relocate forces to East Africa. With the weight of the war going decisively in favor of the Axis, it is decided that the time for a landgrab is now.
Pliyev’s 3rd Corps, well rested and reinforced, and fielding the newest equipment given to the Imperial Army, takes the 2nd Corps under Konev under its wing, and begins the march South, using the Nile River as their guide deeper into the African continent.
The Cyprus operation concludes, and the British forces on the island are discovered to have abandoned it, fleeing to the port and then to the sea as they were caught totally unawares by the Tsar’s Skytroopers.
The Vozdukh are loaded back onto transports for a quick jaunt back to Damascus, ready for their next mission, many of the men now sporting two stars reflecting their two combat jumps made into hostile territory. Hitler commits a reserve infantry Division to guard and garrison Cyprus, freeing up massive amounts of the Tsar’s elite manpower.
The surface fleet in the Black Sea and Mediterranean have been conducting convoy defense operations for the length of the campaigns in Iraq and Egypt, and now with the Suez a high priority, the Tsar orders an additional four submarines added to the burgeoning fleet, to augment the current veteran Light Cruisers and the Battleship Kommuna.
Surface contacts with British and Allied convoys are inevitable – but in this case the Kommuna defends the Skytroopers as they make their journey home across contested seas.
In a surprise move, the Office of the Tsar sends word to the SPaO to move both Guard Corps to the Baltics, and to have them begin rehearsals for the invasion of Sweden under Operation KZ.
As part of the preparation for Operation Red Dawn the Skytroopers make consistent practice drops on adverse terrain in adverse conditions. The first series of drops are conducted from Damascus in the vicinity of Konya, with the main objective being the seizure of airfields and key strategic objectives such as bridges, port facilities, and radio stations. The preparations are a success, and all 6 Divisions are dropped with just a 6% loss in manpower.
The consistent exercises culminate with a Corps-level attack on Konya, simulating a massive urban battle in a built up urban environment. Lessons taken from the brutal butchering in Basrah are taken to heart, and the veteran Skytroopers know full well that tactics such as mouseholing and the precision use of anti-tank weapons for anti-structure demolition will be key components to future urban operations.
The 2nd Guard Corps is given a fresh batch of 8 new Land Pattern Divisions to provide more Corps-level weight for the upcoming offensive.
The two Guards Corps are given key objectives, the 1st Guards attacking across the Baltic to ports South of Stockholm, and the 2nd with their new grouping of infantry given the much more difficult task of an amphibious assault on the Swedish capital, with the aim to capture two ports within the first few days.
3 new divisions of green Skytroopers are raised in Estonia, and are slated to support the 2nd Guard Corps in their bid to seize the Swedish capital off the cuff of the invasion.
The Baltic Fleet begins its own preparations to secure the Baltic, to allow the amphibious invasions to cross unmolested, and with 21 submarines it consists of the bulk of the Russian surface and sub-surface inventory.
In the Spring of 1941, Hitler invites Hirohito, Tsar Nicholas, and Mussolini to the Vienna Conference. The April meeting discusses the future of their alliance, as well as contemporary military operations, with the aim to deconflict strategies and plan for the theater-level operations occurring that had started without the knowledge of other nations. Italy is given permission to continue running amok in West Africa with the help of Germany, and Hitler promises everything East of the Nile to the Tsar, save for India. The ongoing German operations there mean that it will firmly remain the Reich’s territory. Tsar Nicholas also unveils operation Krasnaya Zarya, much to the surprise of Hitler and Mussolini. They tentatively approve it, well aware of the fact that the Russian Empire is expanding much faster than themselves, and modernizing at an astonishing rate.
In Africa, Italy’s long slog to the Atlantic continues, but finally Italy’s ground troops now control territory from the Libyan Coast to the Gulf of Guinea.
Spain – for some unknown reason, aggresively pursues an invasion of North America, against the directives of all other Axis leaders. The Tsar asks his Prime Minister, Rodzaevsky the reasoning. He simply shrugs, stating “Spain has an artificial intelligence when it comes to planning. Its entirely unnatural.”
Another massive amount of Land Pattern infantry divisions are added to the 2nd Guards Corps, as the breakout from Stockholm will be a key point of contention within the campaign.
Hundreds of tactical bombers, heavy fighters, and other fixed wing aircraft are sent to the Northern Shores of Estonia, to support the airborne operation, and the jump is scheduled finally for the 29th of May, 1941.
The Prime Minister, long silent due to the emphasis on the Tsar’s generals begins the process of denouncing Sweden, and beginning to rally public support behind the subjugation of Swedish rule. Much is said of the Great Northern War, and how it is time again for the Russian Empire to show Sweden that it deserves to be but a province under the Tsar.
The 10th Corps under General Andrey Vlasov is stood up in Northern Finland, using reservists and a collection of veterans of the Finnish and Baltic campaigns since discharged from service and recalled for bonuses and promotions. However, the majority of troops are yet green soldiers, despite being reinforced by 3 armoured divisions the newest Corps is considered wildly inexperienced.
The 10th is sent to the Coast to reinforce the 4th as the night of the invasion is just over 2 weeks away. The Skytroopers prepare for their final checks, and the Guard Corps begin loading supplies onto their transports.
The Prime Minister’s claims reach a head, and the people clamor in the streets for an end to Swedish sovereignty.
10th of May, 1941 – People gather outside the Russian Parliament demanding that Sweden be made to answer for the crimes and insults it has committed by not bending the knee and submitting to the Tsar’s demands.
The Tsar green-lights a new initiative, wherein every service eligible male is now responsible for a set period of service, quickly increasing the number of eligible fighting men from one million recruits to a pool of over five million.
The Baltic fleet is put to sea, with the orders to begin patrolling and to deny the Allied fleets use of the Baltic, in order to secure it for the amphibious invasions slated to begin in just 12 days.
The 29th of May arrives, and a new enemy of Russia is now to be put to the sword.
The first amphibious assault goes off without a hitch, with the advance elements of the 1st Guard Corps taking the port, and with some minor air losses, they catch Sweden’s military completely unaware, with barely any troops in the South defending. The element of surprise has been achieved.
The 2nd Guard Corps however does not get so lucky, and the Baltic Fleet clashes with the Swedish Grand Fleet, with the aim to put as many troop transports and convoy ships on the bottom of the sea before the day is done.
With the majority of Sweden’s fleets occupied, the scramble to get reinforcements across begins, with 4 more infantry divisions slated to land now that the port has been captured.
The battle of the Baltic Sea rings out loud, with the defense of the 2nd Guard going poorly for the Russian Navy. Over a dozen vessels are initially lost, and even as the 1st Guards fans out quickly, there is little that can be done against the vastly larger and superior firepower the Swedes bring to bear.
In the North, Operation ZK is being met with quick success, as the 4th and 10th charge down the coast, and Swedish divisions are trapped and at risk of being encircled, the vastly superior Russian forces closing with, engaging, and destroying the enemy wherever he is found.
Battered and shattered, the Baltic Fleet returns to Leningrad, destroyed and quite ashamed at the humiliation it suffered at sea. Enraged, the Tsar orders a full investigation into the lack of surface fleet assets and how the Swedes could jeopardize such a critical piece of Operation ZK. The Naval Attache at the SPaO is hauled away in chains by the Okhrana, and rumored to currently be serving as an ammunition bearer for the 4th Corps.
While the situation at sea is grim, their counterparts in the sky are far from defeated. Russian Air Power is unmatched, with 100% control of the skies being asserted within just hours of the campaign beginning. Airfields are strafed, bombed, and fighters intercepted as they take off, crippling the Swedish and Allied air power over Scandinavia.
A month into the operation, the Skytroopers have not been dropped, as the Tsar is hesitant to commit such elite troops with such a thin beachhead. In the end, a direct assault on Stockholm from the sky is dismissed, and instead the Vozdukh are reassigned to reinforce the 1st Guards.
19th of July, 1941 – Russian Skytroopers board aircraft as part of the airborne relief effort to Guards forces stuck on the beachhead near Stockholm.
The initial drops are a success, and the additional elite troops are a great help to the fight to get off the beachheads. Swedish forces now have a critical choice to make – defend the capital and surrender the Northern areas of the country to the rapid advance of the 4th and 10th Corps, or the inverse and sacrifice the political and cultural center of their nation to slow the massive majority of Russian forces.
With the additional forces, the 1st Guards and the Skytroopers are easily able to fend off the advances of rear echelon and reserve Swedish units, and the mass of Russian Airborne forces prepares to further drop their veteran units into the beachhead, and the soon to be famous ‘Baltic Highway’ of Russian transport aircraft becomes a realization as the sea route of air resupply is unavailable.
27th of July, 1941 – Guardsmen of the 105th Infantry Division conduct defensive operations in the vicinity of Norrköping.
2 Armoured divisions are risked by the SPaO, who send the battered Baltic Fleet out to screen their crossing.
While one of them makes it to the safety of the port, the other, the 4th Guards Armoured, is caught by the Swedish Navy after it becomes lost in a rain squall. Only God can save those brave men now. Yet even now, with summer in full swing, the Tsar’s men close even closer on Sweden’s capital, and soon Stockholm will be the property of the Tsar.