Chapter 12 – Good Kid, Tries Hard
Where we left off, the Baltic Highway was airlifting and sealifting thousands of Russia’s bravest sons and daughters over the sea towards Stockholm. The Skytroopers continue to carry the campaign’s momentum, and although casualties among them are high, they do not crack under pressure.
With the arrival of some crack Guards Divisions, namely the 1st-3rd, the assault on Stockholm is imminent. Cherevichenko’s 2nd Guards Corps will spearhead the assault, passing the frozen trenches sheltering the shivering Skytroopers.
On the sea, the Japanese continue to defend Russian convoys, as the sub-surface battle in the North Sea and off the coast of Norway rages.
The Tsar receives his daily update brief on the Swedish situation. Between the 12 Guards Divisions, as well as the nine Skytrooper Divisions, there is now sufficient weight to perform a breakout from the Southern Beachhead. The Guardsmen march North, to emplace themselves in staging areas for the assault on Stockholm.
And good news from the Imperial Research and Development Bureau is announced to the Tsar, as a new generation of tanks is available for production. The Tsar is pleased as he examines the first production models in the cold gardens of the winter palace, and orders them immediately into production to replace the aging T-34s fielded across the breadth of the Empire.
The Research and Development Bureau however go on to examine the potential for yet another new tank. The T-54, years ahead of its time, will be researched, despite the massive challenges in its design and engineering for the current technologies at hand. The Tsar however believes in the supremacy of Russian Engineering, and orders the research to begin.
Supported by beleaguered Skytroopers, the assault and onslaught through the suburbs of Stockholm begin, the veteran urban warfighters that usually drop from the skies proving that they are the penultimate infantry at fighting in built up areas.
11th of December, 1941 – Russian Skytroopers engage Swedish troops from rooftop level during the fighting on the outskirts of the Swedish Capital of Stockholm
With the rampant success of the 1st and 2nd Guards Corps, a 3rd Corps is authorized to be stood up. Markian Popov is withdrawn from his command of the defense of the Southern Beachhead, and promoted, being given command of the new flagship Corps. They are instructed to begin training immediately to prepare for a sealift to Stockholm.
The Tsar invited the newest Ace of the Empire to a formal banquet to celebrate the Air Force, as their presence and domination of the skies has proved pivotal in the past three campaigns, with Boris “Snowflake” Gurko as the guest of honour.
And on the 15th of December, despite the best efforts of American and Swedish soldiers, Stockholm is taken by the combined forces of the Guards and Skytroopers.
With the Swedes and Yankees on the back foot, a general offensive is ordered, and Kuznetsov orchestrates a breakout from Stockholm, not simply satisfied with just the city, as the risk of a counter attack is always real and lingering.
Yet another Hero of the Skies added to the Imperial Air Force’s ranks!
In the North, the pace quickens. As news of Stockholm’s fall comes from the skies, with leaflets of Skytroopers posing on the roof of the Swedish Parliament is circulated to the Swedish Army, with attempts to demoralize them.
Flailing American attempts at counter-attacks are thrown aside as Guards Armoured Divisions show their true colours, defeating the piecemeal pushes at their lines by a single infantry Brigade.
The Swedes attempt to hold river crossings and other key points to keep the weight of Russian forces from falling onto them, but sadly they just do not have the manpower now to defend. A pocket on the sea forms, trapping four Swedish infantry divisions, with little to no hope of escaping, and despite leaflet drops, they refuse to lay down their arms.
The Tsar is pleased by the news from Sweden, and his objective for Stockholm’s capture by Spring was met. This is coupled with the fact that they now have a strong carrier design to allow for better operations in the Baltic Sea.
The Southern Beachhead now has manifested itself more as a proper frontline, with breathing room along the width and breadth of the conquered territory clearly obvious when looking at the strategic situation. In addition, Mussolini has sent a crack unit of infantry to support,and they help fill gaps in the trench lines where Skytroopers can’t man due to casualties and attrition.
The Guardsmen live up to their elite mythos, driving the Swedes from the Tsar’s new lands wherever they seem to engage them, be it in the cities or woods of the new territory.
In the Baltic provinces, tens of thousands of Guardsmen wait anxiously for their sealifts to Sweden, to get a chance to prove their mettle and bring more glory to the Tsar’s Empire.
The 4th and 10th continue their drive, and with Spring fast approaching the Swedes are left with little chance, embattled on all fronts they continue to retreat, their divisions being pocketed and destroyed.
A telegram from the Ambassador to Germany, Dorian Vladveskedy announces the somber news, that the United States is no longer content to sit on the sidelines as Europe, Asia, and Africa burn under the bootheels of the Axis. Roosevelt orders his masses forward, and the Tsar receives the news with characteristic optimism, stating “We have beat the Americans in the East, in the Balkans, and in Sweden. One day we will beat them in America itself.”
The Southern Beachhead grows with every passing week, the forward trenches now hastily dug shellscrapes and foxholes as the T-34s and APCs of the Imperial Army surge forward.
Although the Foreign Briefs the Tsar gets daily are informative, they are far from his main focal point, however January 14th’s brief makes him blink.
It would appear that the Japanese have been busy in the South Pacific.
The Australians and New Zealanders have sent too many of their men to fight the Empire it seems, leaving their own homeland open to the Japanese.
The War goes well for the Axis. Clearly on the back foot, the Allies desperately hope the United States’ involvement will solve their problems with losing men and ground. Nearly 3/4 of a million sons of Russia have perished, compared to the nearly million Germans and a similar number of Italians. But the sacrifice is not without merit, as on every front the Imperial Army conquers.
Sweden however, stubbornly holds out.
Another cataclysmic naval battle begins as the Swedes try and sever the Baltic Highway.
The main aim seems to be to cut off the reinforcements being sent to Stockholm to link up with the 4th and 10th Corps.
The growing front in the South is fine for the armoured and mechanized formations of the Empire.
And on the 23rd of January, 1942 advanced scout elements of the Skytroopers link up with leading echelons of the 10th Corps. The unified Russian front has finally been formed.
23rd of January, 1942 – Russian Skytroopers (white fatigues) link up with soldiers of the 10th Corps (olive fatigues), receiving a captured Finnish flag as an exchange of gifts with the unification of the Northern Front and the Southern Beachhead.
Strategically, operationally, and tactically, the situation is dire for Sweden.
A surprise offensive in the South by the Swedish catches the garrisoning Skytroopers by surprise. They hold out, with the nearby 1st Vozdukh division, recovering, conducting a hasty reinforcement of the thin Russian line.
In the North, elements of the 1st Guard Corps push to the Norwegian border.
Meanwhile, elements of the 4th Corps mop up in the North, smashing aside resistance.
Backed up against the Norwegian border, panic begins to set into the Swedish Army.
Always at the front fighting like demons, Kuznetsov’s Skytroopers force the Swedes back.
Resistance in Sweden has already begun, with armed resistance quickly forming and threatening to become open revolt. The Okhrana brief the Tsar on imminent plans to send special police to the North to deal with the situation.
The Tsar announces to the SPaO that he wants the invasion of Sweden concluded no later than the start of May. He tells them that if they could seize Stochkolm with such daring, they should be able to mop up the remaining Swedish forces.
Pocketed, the Swedes are destroyed wherever they stand.
A massive offesive is planned, coordinating elements of the 4th, 10th, and 2nd Guards in addition to augments from Skytrooper Command.
Remaining elements of the 2nd Guards not already in Sweden are loaded onto ships to prepare for their sealift across the Baltic Highway.
They are to conduct amphibious landings to flank the remaining defenders in the South, in concert with the 3rd Guards. The Imperial Navy is to provide the surface and sub-surface protection necessary.
Meanwhile, the 1st Guards and Skytroopers drive to Göteborg, the temporary Swedish capital, to deal another blow to the morale and integrity of the country.
An accidental overstretch of Guardsmen lines results in the Swedes pocketing some elite Guards and Skytrooper divisions. Despite being surrounded, which the Skytroopers are used to, they come out of the encirclement swinging, looking to re-establish a solid logistical line.
The fighting in the South becomes more and more bitter, with American reinforcements flooding into Sweden in an attempt to salvage Swedish sovereignty.
Even Finnish soldiers attempt to assist, as the Free Finnish Legion lands again in Scandinavia from its exile in the United Kingdom.
With Sweden so close to capitulation, the Tsar demands a further drive to smash them in the South.
Thanks to the lack of armour or anti-tank weapons on the Allied side, the Guards push through.
In the North, the fight is over, the Swedes have been pushed all the way down to the country’s South, and for the first time in months the 4th and 10th have a chance to rest.
The Tsar decides that 48 hours of rest is enough, and immediately orders them South.
The Tsar also realizes that the Guards cannot alone take the brunt of the amphibious assaults, and orders the SPaO to begin making provisions for the formation of an Amphibious Corps.
With barely any logistical support, now the Swedes and the Americans must be familiar with the trope of being flanked, encircled, and destroyed.
Exhausted, the Americans are poised to lose one of their premier infantry units, the 3rd “Rock of the Marne” Division.
The heavy drive by veterans of a dozen offensives and multiple combat drops results in a predictable drive on the urban center of Göteborg. The Skytroopers are hardly worried, for fighting in sewers, alleys, and apartment buildings is now their niche role when not flinging themselves from aircraft.
The battle pits several under-strength Swedish divisions against their Russian counterparts, refreshed, rested, and well equipped.
The completion of Atomic Research means that the Tsar’s scientists can now begin to engineer nuclear reactors, to bring the Final Weapon into the hands of the Air Force.
The final pocket of Swedish forces is tightened as the 4th and 10th close in, sweeping Americans aside.
The Tsar’s deadline draws tighter as does the noose around the American Expeditionary units in Scandinavia.
With the spring thaw the situation around Göteborg is dire. However, in the South the entrenched American forces are opposed by a few recovering Skytrooper and Guards divisions, with neither side having enough weight to make a major push.
The bulk of defending forces are trapped, and the 1st and 2nd Guards prepare to clear out the enemy where they have dug themselves in.
No easy task, as the Tsar can see from his April 18th briefing.
The drive on Göteborg does not stop, with exhausted troops smashing at the defences, the Spring rains turning the city into a muddy, waterlogged hellhole.
20th of April, 1942 – A Skytrooper of the 3rd Vozdukh Division with his PPS-42 submachine gun hunts for Swedish and American soldiers in Göteborg’s Financial District.
The onslaught continues, with the Free Finnish Legion sending another division to the embattled city to attempt to help shore up its defences.
However, the Swedish Campaign is all but over. The Tsar chuckles as he reads his brief, seeing how close the Swedes are to breaking. When asked about the commander of the Swedish Army, and how he would rate his performance, Issa Pliyev simply comments plainly between sips of vodka, “Good kid, tries hard.”