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Old 05-22-2015, 02:18 PM   #191
Icelander
 
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Default The Nature of the Foe - Totenkopf Stormtroopers and SS Sonderkommando Jäger

The major objective of Percival, the SOE commando team to which the PCs belong, in the first stages of Operation Brünnhilde was to mislead the defenders near the Brandenburger Tor sufficiently to avoid the gliders and parachutists of the Allied assault being shot down by flak and smallarms on approach. This they did using their disguises and papers representing them as senior SD men and telling flak gunners and unit commanders that the Luftwaffe was preparing a supply drop to relieve the defenders of the Zitadelle sector and that reinforcements in the form of elite fallschirmjäger might even be coming.

Lt. Lizzie St. Clair, in her disguise as Hauptführerin Katrina Kötterheinrich, allegedly a telegraph operator and assistant to extremely senior men of the OKW Amt Ausland/Abwehr, even spread a wild tale that a German counter-attack led by Armeeabteilung Steiner had by now closed the jaws on the Soviet Red Army, trapping them around Berlin as the Wehrmacht had been trapped around Stalingrad. The Führer had bravely remained in Berlin as the bait for a massive trap, but now that it was sprung, he was needed elsewhere to direct the counterattack.

The incoming supply drop, according to her story, was merely the beginning of a massive Luftwaffe effort in the relief of Berlin. She and the SD men she was accompanying were assigned to coordinate a most important special mission. Fallschirmjäger of the secret Luftwaffe Kampfgeschwader 200 were about to come down around the Brandenburger Tor to stiffen the defence and give heroic pilots of the KG 200 time to land and spirit the Führer away.

This deception worked very well, with the German defenders on the 29th of April apparently ready to believe nearly anything that offered hope. The PCs were nearly certain that one Helmut Wust*, a very old Oberst der Reserve who was commanding a mixed force of artillerymen, flak gunners and Volksturm did not believe a word of what they were saying, but he nevertheless encouraged them to spread their news to his men. "Glaube, es wird meine Kindern nicht schaden" (Hope, it will not do my children any harm').

Even with this deception, some operatives from Percival, Lancelot and Merlin had to resort to force before the gliders landed. While the smooth-talking secret agents among the teams spread disinformation, direct-action commandos in the units fought a number of quiet and ruthless skirmishes in the Tiergarten to avoid having German patrols stumble on the radio operators directing the planes in or the mission specialists carving mystical symbols around the landing zone.

During these exciting minutes, the PCs and their allies stabbed, shot (with suppressed Sten guns), bludgeoned and decapitated** individual members of the Volkssturm and Heer, as well as Vichy French Waffen-SS men from the Charlemagne division. None of them exhibited any unusual powers or appeared to be anything but young boys, old men and wounded veterans forced by circumstance into defending what was rapidly becoming a very small final enclave of the Reich.

Even once the assault force had landed and fought a pitched battle in the Ministergärten north of the Reichkanzlei, their opposition mostly appeared to be members of the Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS. That's a new unit at this time and while the Allied assault force took catastrophic casualties, they did better than they'd have done against veterans from the Eastern Front.

The PCs have seen some uncanny soldiers among the enemy, though. The night before the 29th, the day before that set for Operation Brünnhilde, two of them saw what appeared to be hundreds of stormtroopers, wearing gas masks, winter clothing and ponchos, taking up position in strangely neat ranks and files in the Ministergärten. Other German troops, also with gas masks and a lot of protective rubber gear, were wrestling with a Nebelwerfer rocket-launcher, which then proceeded to keep up a fairly heavy fire at the advancing Soviets on the south side of the Landwehrkanal all night.

Other PCs later heard several hundred troops march by, to the south, apparently goose stepping in uncanny unison. Smallarms fire indicated contact with advancing Soviets, but within a few hours, it died down until the next morning. To all appearances, the Soviet advance from the south and south-east has stalled at the Landwehrkanal and the Potsdamer Platz, with no further advance on that front being noticed by the PCs during the day of the 29th of April.

The PCs later exchanged shots with troops dressed in this manner and discovered more peculiarities about them. Their helmets are decorated with a Totenkopf crest and their uniforms are apparently Waffen-SS. Some of them appear to be wearing very old gear, with none of them wearing the late-war lighter uniforms or helmets. Some even seem to be wearing Pickelhaube. Their armament is heavy on automatic weapons and a significant part of them appear to be armed with flamethrowers of some kind. A rifle shot through a flamethrower tank failed to produce an explosion, however, but did produce grayish*** mist around the wounded stormtrooper.

Strangest, however, is that these stormtroopers apparently never stop advancing once the order to charge has been given. They never take cover, hesitate or retreat. While the first two 2nd Lt. Garner Lane Hadley engaged with his Garand fell to a pair of perfectly aimed center mass shots, he also noticed that all too many others continued to run even after taking several .30 caliber bullets to the torso. It was with relief that the PCs broke contact and maneuvered to avoid these Totenkopf stormtroopers.

Probably the worst unit the PCs have encountered so far, however, have been clad in Waffen-SS camouflage battle dress, but without the SS runes. The only unit insignia are crossed rifles on the collars. They all carry automatic weapons, except the odd specialist with a scoped Gewehr 43, with the most common weapon among them being the Sturmgewehr 44. The evidence suggests that they might have a close connection to Himmler's bunker and the ordinary German soldiers appear afraid of them.

As it happens, in setting, SS-Oberfuehrer Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger was transported to Himmler's secret bunker under the garden of the Reichskanzlei after being gravely wounded in action near Brandenburg in February 1945. On the Potsdamer Brücke, the PCs actually met him and a dozen of his men rigging traps for the approaching Soviets.

Havildar Kharak Bahadur Rai experienced a sensation that he described as his 'witch sense' screaming when he looked at the officer in charge of the small detail. There was something profoundly wrong with this man, on every level, psychologically and existentially, and Rai's professional judgment as a hereditary witchfinder was that shooting him immediately would in the long run be the safest course.

Sadly, doing so would have blown their cover as important SD officials heading for the Zitadelle sector escorted by retreating German soldiers. It would also have resulted in a firefight with twelve men at close range, with the odds good that the Waffen-SS and Volkssturm men defending the bridge would join in on the side of the trap-laying detail. The PCs weighed the odds and then decided that continuing on to the objective, which supposedly entailed saving the world, must take precedence over shooting people because there was something off about them.

Later on, it was soldiers from this unit who became suspicious of the PCs as they were walking around the defences, spreading rumours of incoming Luftwaffe supply drops to flak gunners. Eventually, the PCs were forced to deal with a small patrol of them, which they were fortunately able to do in a way that made the other German defenders believe Soviet snipers were responsible.****

*A fictional character, 70-year-old veteran of the Great War, where he was an artillery officer, now in charge of a mixed unit of reservists and boys manning flak guns, mortars and light artillery near the Brandenburger Tor.
**Havildar Rai, reporting for duty.
***In the dark, everything is one shade of gray or another.
****Using a DeLisle carbine, Starszy Sierzant Jan Wojcik shot them from a sniper's nest he'd constructed on the upper floor of the half-ruined former American embassy. The rest of the PCs reacted to this by shouting that they saw shooting from the Tiergarten, firing at imaginary Soviet snipers and generally running around in apparent confusion while making it thoroughly impossible for any of the local commanders to know what was happening.
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Old 05-22-2015, 02:37 PM   #192
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Default First Contact - Ambush of the SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger

Even with several PCs adeptly confusing the situation further, the destruction of the patrol of special SS troopers merely gave the Allied infiltrators a few minutes of grace. Their positions as accredited Waffen-SS or SD officers with immaculate forged papers were not sufficient to protect them once someone in direct contact with senior RSHA officials or even the Reichsführer-SS started asking them questions. References to secret plans or threats of higher authority were kind of pointless if the questioners turned out to be from Himmler's personal retinue.

So after a tense minute or two of discussion among the Allied commandos, the decision was made to concentrate all Allied operators who had already landed, those from teams Percival, Galahad and Merlin, in an ambush position near the edge of the Tiergarten, to the east of Hermann-Göring-Straße, and prepare to engage any other members of the odd SS unit that approached up the street toward the landing zone in front of the Brandenburger Tor. As it might be as long as ten minutes until the gliders landed, no one was really happy about shedding their disguises and potentially end up fighting hundreds of Germans, but as they saw it, they had no choice.

Better a confused situation become even more confused a few moments before the gliders landed and the parachutists of Gawain start dropping than have the supposed SD officials with Percival be exposed in front of the flak gunners as frauds. That would certainly ruin the carefully cultivated rumours which had spread among the flak gunners and result orders being given to engage the gliders and Ju-52 as they came in for the drop.

As it turned out, the SS unit sent a platoon-sized force to ascertain the fate of their lost patrol and the Allied commandos were forced to ambush them before they could start talking to the flak gunners or other defenders near the Brandenburger Tor. The ambush succeeded perfectly and the platoon ceased to exist as an organised force in some thirty seconds of intense automatic weapon fire, explosions and white phosporous.

Close engagement with the SS troopers, however, revealed disturbing things. For one thing, the men of the special unit appeared capable of rapid and organised advance, in small units, despite the almost complete darkness for much of the route they selected. For another, while they crossed an area lit up a burning self-propelled artillery piece, the PCs could swear that a number of the enemy were not only running in that strange half-crouch men adopt during artillery barrages, they were somehow misshapen or hunchbacked.

As the Allied commandos launched flares and WP grenades during the ambush, flickering images and firelit horrors seared themselves into uncertain memory. An impossibly big and blocky man still screaming obscenities in a voice burbling as he drowns in blood, trying to bring his machine gun to bear even after having taken three carefully aimed bursts of 9mm bullets in the thoracic triangle. A man running toward the ambushers, entirely on fire, with one hand holding his Sturmgewehr and the hand, ruined by the fire, still trying to insert the obviously ruined magazine into the rifle. Emerging from his torso, what appear to be a pair of misshappen vestigal arms, one of them desperately reaching for the magazine as the cartridges cook off.
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Old 05-22-2015, 08:59 PM   #193
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Default The Third Root Race vs. the Red Army

Entirely hypothetical, but would there be any way for a platoon of German commandos* with access to the best man-portable weapons in the German armoury and accompanied by four special operatives of... say, an unusual kind, to delay the advance of the Red Army in the Zitadelle sector for a day or so?

The Reichsführer-SS and his inner circle have a plan that they believe can still turn the fortunes of the Third Reich around, but it will all be for nought if the bunker below the Ministergärten falls before midnight of the 30th of April. As night gathers on the 29th, the Landwehrkanal still hasn't been effectively bridged by the Red Army and the Potsdamer Brucke is still a strongpoint of the German defence. Soviet tanks had made it to the north side of the canal from the east, but were stopped at the Potsdamer Platz.

With commendable Kadavergehorsamkeit, the counter-attacking stormtroppers of SS-Sturmkapfgruppe Totenkopf, supported by volley after volley of tabun-tipped rockets from a single 15 cm Nebelwerfer 41, appear to have managed to stop the Soviet advance to the south and south-east. WWII-era tanks offer little protection from gas attacks and the frontoviki did not make a habit of carrying what had hitherto been useless weight, like gas masks, with them into combat.

On the other hand, the Soviets are already streaming across the Spree from the north, throwing thousands of men ahead almost heedless of losses, aiming to take the Reichstag before May 1st. If they are not stopped, they'll take the Reichkanzlei as well as any bunkers in the neighbourhood within a few hours, let alone a whole day.

The commandos have had the previous three days or so to rig traps, using liberal reserves of tabun as well as conventional explosives, poisoned spikes, wires and even cursed rune-sticks. They'll engage in direct combat with advancing Red Army frontoviki if they have to, but 30-40 men, no matter how formidable and well armed, are not likely to stop the entire Soviet 3rd Shock Army in a firefight.

On the other hand, if they can somehow prevent the Soviets from bringing up artillery over the Moltke bridge during the night of the 29th to 30th of April, it will mean that the unsopported infantry have a very tough time advancing from their initial bridgehead.

If there existed beings that in GURPS terms were very much like Black Bears (p. B456), but with +10 ST, +1 DX, +4 IQ, +2 Per, +2 Will, +2 Move; No Fine Manipulators replaced with Bad Grip 1 and Ham-Fisted 2, Chameleon 3, Fearlessness 5, High Pain Threshold, Silence 2, racial Strangler Talent (inc. Camouflage) 4, trained Experienced Talent 2**, Regeneration (Slow)***, and all the skills you'd expect of cunning guerilla fighters of TL3, could those provide any meaningful assistance in delaying the Soviet advance during the night?

Or is not being able to use guns effectively such a huge disadvantage when facing troops hardened in TL6/TL7 urban warfare that sending these exotics along would only be a way to provide the frontoviki with some very surprising pelts to send home?

The four shaggy beasts have Camouflage -15 and Stealth -18, with +10 to each when still and +5 when moving. That's not invisible, but it's pretty damn sneaky. They have no compunction about swimming in the Spree if necessary**** and if they have to do sentry removal, they can do it with Brawling -24 or Wrestling -22, doing 2d+4 cr with their claws or rolling against trained ST 39 when using Neck Snap. Or they can use Knife -16 (inc. Bad Grip penalty) to do 2d+1 imp / 4d+4 cut with heavy kukris.

Ranged combat could be done, but since they are not really trusted with grenades yet, they'd be throwing non-explosive missiles. Granted, a javelin at 2d+1 imp will ruin a frontovik's day, but against a PPSh-41 and a satchet of grenades, it's a bit silly.

*All extremely vigorous and quite willing to endure any injury short of death, confident that upon return to base, they could be returned to full health in short order.
**Gives +1/level to all combat skills.
***Regeneration (Regular) within a 100 yards of the Weltmittelpunktbunker and Regeneration (Fast) and Regrowth within it.
****Though it fatigues them extremely to swim, as they are dense creatures. Aquatic adventures would definitely be last on their list of favourites, but these four are honour-bound to obey any order and tough enough to muscle over the Spree even if they hate it.
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Old 05-23-2015, 06:10 AM   #194
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Default Re: [WWII/TS/Covert Ops/Weird War II] Götterdämmerung on Walpurgisnacht

They can't stop the Soviet advance with small-unit actions close to the bunker, unless they can do something so spectacular that the Soviet HQ feels it has to pause the advance and get more information. That is fairly unlikely, given their priorities.

What could work better would be something like Operation Greif. The intent would be to slow and confuse the Soviet advance by giving out orders to "move the artillery over there", "Battalion B, do not attack until A has done so", "Battalion A, do not attack until B has done so", and so on, plus attacks on headquarters units, probably with gas.

The people doing this will have to be in Soviet uniform and will be shot when they are caught, but the situation is desperate.
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Old 05-23-2015, 09:49 AM   #195
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Default Third Root Race vs. The Red Army

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
They can't stop the Soviet advance with small-unit actions close to the bunker,
Agreed.

On the other hand, real-world units of Germans in our world, sometimes numbering only a few men and having very few weapons, did succeed at defending strongpoints and bridges for hours or sometimes days.

In the real world, the Soviets took the Moltke bridge over the Spree in the early hours of the 29th of April, but they couldn't advance further until the morning of the 30th, almost 24 hours later, because they couldn't bring up artillery to support their advance until their engineers had repaired the damaged bridge.*

Delaying the repair of that bridge is the most plausible way to delay the Soviet advance. Without artillery or tanks, the strongpoints in front of the Soviets, defended as they are with all the remaining German flak guns and artillery, are almost impossible to take. Certainly enough to warrant an extra day.

In this setting, the Soviets have still seized the von Moltke bridge in the early hours of the 29th, but they took more casualties doing so and the bridge is slightly more damaged, for one thing because of the sorcerously aided traps that were prepared on and around it and for another because a couple of platoons of Jäger who have Night Vision 2-5 and are led by officers and NCOs with Tactics (Guerilla) 16+ can perform some harrying nighttime attacks.

The repair work of the Soviet engineers during the day was not helped by two volleys of sarin-tipped 15cm rockets guided to their temporary HQ and then fairly regular volleys of tabun-tipped rockets at the north side of the von Moltke bridge.

If the SS men from the bunker had any mustard gas, they could easily interdict the bridge until the Soviets brought up protective gear, but their gas supplies were not gathered to be used as defensive weapons against the Red Army, but are offensive weapons for quite another front. So they only have gas that dissipates fairly quickly.

The SS men from the bunker know that counterattacking during the night of the 29th/30th, hard enough to dislodge the Soviets from the south side of the Spree at the von Moltke bridge, is pretty much the only way to delay them. In addition to the platoon of trap-laying commandos and four shaggy beasts, they have another platoon of Jagdverbande troopers with special gifts. Those went north of the Spree to hunt officers, headquarters personnel, communications and engineers.

After the commandos and shaggy beasts have wreaked as much havoc as they seem likely to manage, the SS will counterattack with some 200 men from SS-Sturmkapfgruppe Totenkopf that they were able to scrounge up, led by at least three knights and supported by as much battlemagic as they can spare.

The Totenkopf troopers pretty much ignore wounds unless they are mortal wounds to the brain or major organs, so they are ideal troops for marching through an artillery barrage where fragments cause most of the casualties. Plus, of course, they feel no fear, pain or remorse, so they'll charge until they are all dead or the Soviets on the south side of the Spree break.

At that specific point in the battlefield, the Germans have direct-fire artillery support, but the Soviets have not. And while the Soviets do have enormous masses of indirect fire artillery to support them, the two sides are close enough to each other that it's almost impossible for howitzers or rockets to give support to the frontoviki on the south shore without hitting them.

I suppose the goal of the Totenkopf charge is to force the Soviets to call for artillery fire near the von Moltke bridge and eventually force them to fire on the bridge, as the SS stormtroopers and whatever unfortunate regular troops ordered to support them try to establish new defences there and move up artillery to fire over the Spree.

*It goes without saying that this was done under fire, albeit not very accurate artillery fire during the night.

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
unless they can do something so spectacular that the Soviet HQ feels it has to pause the advance and get more information. That is fairly unlikely, given their priorities.
That's what happened to the south and south-east. The first strike with nerve gas was pretty spectacular to the troops facing it, especially as almost none of them had training for it, they didn't have protective gear and none of them had experience with gas.

Six hundred troops without fear, immune to pain** and with Infravision didn't help, either. Especially as about 100 of them were distributing chlorine-phosgene gas from tanks on their backs.

The advance to the south and south-east is stalled while something that helps against gas attacks is brought up.

**They actually have Supernatural Durability, limited in that all types of attacks work, but they won't be stunned or rendered unconscious by anything less than causing them to fail a death check (which is 15+ at best) or reducing them to -5xHP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
What could work better would be something like Operation Greif. The intent would be to slow and confuse the Soviet advance by giving out orders to "move the artillery over there", "Battalion B, do not attack until A has done so", "Battalion A, do not attack until B has done so", and so on, plus attacks on headquarters units, probably with gas.

The people doing this will have to be in Soviet uniform and will be shot when they are caught, but the situation is desperate.
Unfortunately, none of the people in the bunker were chosen for their Russian linguistic prowess. If someone there speaks Russian, it will be incidentally. And they'll speak it as someone speaks a normal foreign language, i.e. with an accent and be unlikely to know the form of orders in the Red Army.

On the other hand, spreading confusion by cursing areas with fog, forgetfulness, fear or blinding anger is a possibility. The commandos who have been laying traps have been accompanied by runecasters who curse the enemy who will come across them with inattention.

And the gas attacks have benefitted from sorcerers able to command the wind, not to mention that a sorcerous forward observer combined with a psychic Nebelsoldat aiming the rockets means that even at night, the rockets found valuable targets.

Edit: So my question is, considering the goals of the SS inner circle and the means they have to achieve their delay, would the four shaggy beasts be of any appreciable help outside as nighttime guerillas sowing havoc before the Totenkopf stormtrooper assault?

Or should they retain them in the bunker itself, where they'd be holy terror to anyone trying to get through to the inner sanctum?
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Old 05-23-2015, 10:14 AM   #196
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Default Re: [WWII/TS/Covert Ops/Weird War II] Götterdämmerung on Walpurgisnacht

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
couple of platoons of Jäger who have Night Vision 2-5 and are led by officers and NCOs with Tactics (Guerilla) 16+ can perform some harrying nighttime attacks. ...
If you have any of those left, putting them in good sniper positions for the critical night is important.

Demolishing the bridge would be a great help, but it seems pretty sturdy, given what it's already survived. Is there anyone who can get to it in the river? Are there any tanks around that could be parked on the bridge and disabled? That won't stop infantry, but it will slow them down and make them more vulnerable as they climb over.
Quote:
I suppose the goal of the Totenkopf charge is to force the Soviets to call for artillery fire near the von Moltke bridge and eventually force them to fire on the bridge
That seems like a decent tactic. If you can carry the bridge with Totenkopf and get some commandos across to go to ground and harass enemy commanders and artillery spotters, you may be able to accelerate that process.

Edit: And do the Soviets have any motive to get infiltrators near the bunker?
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Old 05-23-2015, 10:35 AM   #197
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Default Exotic commandos and the Third Root Race vs. the Red Army

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If you have any of those left, putting them in good sniper positions for the critical night is important.
These were all fine on the evening of the 29th, but as to how many come back from their raiding, that remains to be seen. The odds are pretty good that many of them will, given that none of them are prone to letting a minor wound or two keep them from limping back home and once there, they have their own ways of recovering pretty fast.

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Demolishing the bridge would be a great help, but it seems pretty sturdy, given what it's already survived. Is there anyone who can get to it in the river?
No amount of explosives that the SS commandos could reasonably carry will suffice to bring it down. Many attempts have been made to blow it up, but it just didn't work.

I suppose that a team of demolition men from the SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger might achieve something if something with ST 24 was carrying the explosives, though...

On the other hand, realistically, something so dense that it needs almost all of its strength just to stay above water, is not going to be good at carrying encumbrance in water. And while rigging a flotation device of some sort is not that hard, that's going to stick out like a sore thumb, entirely ruining the point of having an infiltrator with Chamelon 3 and Silence 2.

It still might be worth trying, especially if sorcerous mist and mental confusion could be arranged among the closest Soviet troops.

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Are there any tanks around that could be parked on the bridge and disabled? That won't stop infantry, but it will slow them down and make them more vulnerable as they climb over.
I'm guessing that the gas attacks left a few T-34 tanks near the bridgehead, with all their crew dead.

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
That seems like a decent tactic. If you can carry the bridge with Totenkopf and get some commandos across to go to ground and harass enemy commanders and artillery spotters, you may be able to accelerate that process.
The men of Jagdverband Wehrwolf are great athletes. They don't mind swimming the Spree twice a night.

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Edit: And do the Soviets have any motive to get infiltrators near the bunker?
As it happens, yes. A total of three factions within the Soviet Union are trying. Two of them are SMERSH* and the third is less official.

Fortunately for the SS inner circle, the Red Army is notoriously uncooperative with SMERSH and NKVD, giving them the very worst of vehicles when instructed to provide them with transport and delighting in throwing all kinds of wrenches in their plans.

The SMERSH unit with the 3rd Shock Army coming over the Spree is trying to get to the bunker, of course, but the regular Red Army officers are adamant that they'll not waste any men in attacking past the Reichstag until it has been taken.

There is another group of SMERSH infiltrators to the south, clad in a mixture of civilian refugee clothing and tattered German uniforms, pretending to be fleeing the Soviets, but they were stopped at the Landwehrkanal. No one disbelieved that they were German, but Dirlewanger and his men turned away anyone they could get away with. If it wasn't an organised military unit with plenty of weapons, they instructed them to go west and try to get over the canal there.

Which is what they did, but they found the Red Army already bridging it and as the regular frontoviki were not briefed on their mission, this forced them to stop and hide. As the PCs are fighting now on the night of the 29th, this SMERSH team is trying to swim over the Landwehrkanal.

*Different branches and working ultimately for different chiefs.
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Old 05-25-2015, 03:57 AM   #198
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Default Re: [WWII/TS/Covert Ops/Weird War II] Götterdämmerung on Walpurgisnacht

Can the Soviet senior political officer be mentally/mystically convinced that the senior military officer needs to be removed/shot asap. That should cause some confusion. IIRC the Societs considered large units as replaceable units so they might need to replace the whole unit not just the senior officer.
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Old 05-25-2015, 07:41 AM   #199
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Default Soviet Chain of Command Confusion

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Can the Soviet senior political officer be mentally/mystically convinced that the senior military officer needs to be removed/shot asap. That should cause some confusion. IIRC the Societs considered large units as replaceable units so they might need to replace the whole unit not just the senior officer.
After Stalingrad, political commissars lost a large measure of their power to military officers. Summary shooting of senior officers was not within their power and removing Marshals like Zhukov was functionally only within the power of Stalin himself. The political commissar with Zhukov, Lieutenant General Telegin, was not only his clear subordinate, he was also loyal enough to Zhukov for Stalin to resent it and arrest him after the war for his 'disloyalty'.

The senior general officer in the Soviet Red Army who actually was present within central Berlin, near the Zitadelle sector (government sector) of the defences, was Lieutenant General Chuikov, the hero of Stalingrad. Considering that he was Hero of the Soviet Union two times over, only Stalin would have dared gainsay him, let alone shoot him.

All the same, one of the most significant weaknesses of the Soviet assault on Berlin were the rivalries between different army commanders and lack of cooperation between formations. Stalin deliberately encouraged competition between the general officers and their armies as to who would be the first to reach Berlin and after that, who would command the unit that had the honour of raising a flag over the Reichstag and thus symbolising Soviet victory over Germany.

The chain of command within Berlin was confused, given that units from more than one Front were operating extremely close to one another, and some sources say that the Soviet artillery inflicted heavy casualties on Soviet units from other chains of command, because there was no system in place to verify their positions and rate of advance. Some even contend that units deliberately blocked the advance of other Soviet units, delaying their breakthrough to increase the odds that they might be first to reach the Reichstag.

In the real world, the confusion caused when elements of Lt. Gen. Chuikov's 8th Guards Army* advanced into areas that blocked the path of units from Marshal Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front (Colonel-General Rybalko's 3rd Guard Tank Army) delayed their advance from the south and south-east for more than a day. The end result was that all units from the 1st Ukrainian Front were ordered out of the city, along with a furious Marshal Konev.

In my setting, this confusion was only exerbated by subtle magical influences from Tibetan Bönpo sorcerers in the service of Gyanggu Chhashup Pönpo, the legate of the Secret Masters. As the SS-Sturmkampfgruppe Totenkopf counterattacked to the south and south-east, the 8th Guards Army was under heavy artillery fire from the 3rd Guard Tank Army and the 5th Shock Army under Colonel-General Berzarin were attacking the advance units from the 3rd Guard Tank Army.

That alone might have stopped the advance while the confusion was sorted out, but the fact that the German counterattack used nerve gas against them and none of the front-line Soviet units were prepared to deal with that at this late stage in a war which has not seen any poison gas attacks, meant that the Soviets hastily pulled back beyond the Landwehrkanal and sent for protective gear.

This has given the SS inner circle respite from the advance to the south and south-east. Those 'surviving' from the 600 strong Totenkopf detachment sent south hold a defensive line anchored at the Potsdamer Brücke over the Landwehrkanal to the west and at the Prinz Albrecht Palais and surrounding houses at the Wilhelmstraße to the east.

But none of that slows down the 3rd Shock Army to the north. They belong to Zhukov's 1st Byelorussian Front and Colonel-General Kuznetov has no illusions about his precise place in the chain of command. And elements from the 79th Rifle Corps (150th Rifle Division and 171th Rifle Division) have already seized the bridgehead on the south side of the von Moltke bridge over the Spree, meaning that no natural obstacles are now between them and the Reichkanzlei and Ministergärten.

If the Soviets manage to move artillery and tanks over the von Moltke bridge during the night of the 29th/30th, they are likely to batter down all resistance during the day of the 30th. The inner circle of the SS cannot allow that, as their ceremony must take place on the night of the 30th. Hence, they are throwing units that were raised for an entirely different purpose into action to try to prevent the Soviets from repairing the von Moltke bridge sufficiently to bring tanks over and/or bridge the Spree somewhere else.

*Technically subordinate to Marshal Zhukov's 1st Byelorussian Front, but Chuikov believed himself to be a superior general to Zhukov and felt that his achievements at Stalingrad were not recognised as they ought. He and his men had been transfered under Zhukov's command for symbolic purposes, so they'd been on the forefront of the Soviet attack on Berlin as they'd been the foremost defenders of Stalingrad, but Chuikov had little loyalty to Zhukov and operated very independently during the Berlin campaign.
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Last edited by Icelander; 05-25-2015 at 08:58 AM.
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Old 05-25-2015, 09:32 AM   #200
johndallman
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Default Re: Soviet Chain of Command Confusion

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
And while rigging a flotation device of some sort is not that hard, that's going to stick out like a sore thumb, entirely ruining the point of having an infiltrator with Chamelon 3 and Silence 2.
OK, so we need to try something that doesn't involve them swimming. How much junk is floating down the river? Would the Soviets be likely to ignore, say, an upside-down boat? If so, that can conceal a sizeable amount of explosives, and a couple of normal men. They need a silent way to attach it underneath the bridge, and then they need to get away.
Quote:
I'm guessing that the gas attacks left a few T-34 tanks near the bridgehead, with all their crew dead.
In which case, once the fuss starts around the bridge, driving one or two of them onto the bridge, hoping to help it collapse, and if not, to just impede traffic, seems worthwhile. A couple of thermite grenades in the right place will make them un-drivable once they're in place.
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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
After Stalingrad, political commissars lost a large measure of their power to military officers. Summary shooting of senior officers was not within their power and removing Marshals like Zhukov was functionally only within the power of Stalin himself.
I think dcarson was thinking more about the political officer with the Major or Lt Colonel who'll be in charge of the bridge area, but that fellow won't have the power to remove his commander either.
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