Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign


By late June the situation in the Balkans had become critical. The Soviet Union had initially relied on the massive defences that the Little Entente of Romania, Yugoslavia, and Greece had built up to repulse a Drakian attack over the past twelve years. Soviet experiences in the initially Drakian Caucasian campaign had suggested that strong fixed defences would easily hold the Dominate. In Central Asia intense combat had been confined to the lines of supply by the rugged terrain and lack of infrastructure; the deserts saw proper manoeuvre warfare but it was not on what the Soviets considered to be a decisive scale.

To date the Soviets had been content to stand on the defensive. Their war plans had always been predicated on the assumption that they would fight the Domination alone. With this considered they had made serious efforts toward upgrading their infrastructure in Central Asia to allow for a counteroffensive after the initial Drakian blows had been absorbed. This was critical in repulsing the Drakian efforts to advance beyond Almy-Ata which took place there is the “border skimishes” of 1936 – 1938, and improvement in the infrastructure had continued at a constant pace since then.

Soviet plans assumed that eventually the Dominate would be attrited sufficiently, and their own forces and infrastructure built up sufficiently, that a series of counterattacks could be made, focused on central asia, which would eventually allow the Soviet Union to drive the Dominate back to Suez in what would be a protracted and costly struggle. Though Trotsky had believed it possible for the offensive to continue into Africa, his plans had assumed a growth of communism worldwide as Soviet successes emboldened revolutionary movements in other countries. War plans from the late 1920s when Trotsky was still Commisar of War in addition to the Premiership indicated, furthermore, an expectation that Soviet ranks would be bolstered by a large commitment of Chinese troops.

Ivan Krasnov had made Marshal Frunze—the defender of Almy-Ata during the 1921-1923 campaigns—Commisar of War on his assumption of power. At the time the tide had turned in the Third Balkan War and the Little Entente was being steadily driven back onto Europe soil. Frunze had a grimmer appraisal of the situation than Trotsky and adopted strictly defensive planning during his tenure in charge of Stavka. The Soviet forces developed extensive fortifications relying on a defence-in-depth plan against the Dominate of Drakia. Industrialization was continued at a maximum pace.

In 1936 the young and brilliant Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky replaced an ailing Mikhail Frunze as Commisar of War. This appointment by Krasnov indicated his great willingness to support the military reform efforts that had become largely as a result of Tukhachevsky and his supporters in the early 1930s. Frunze had supported them in terms of material and tactical doctrine but had never changed his interest in a primarily defensive combat. Krasnov, however, believed that the offensive would ultimately be necessary (an opinion which developed over time, it is now thought, as he was definitely in the anti-interventionist clique during the Third Balkan War) and supported Tukhachevsky wholeheartedly in his reforms to create an improved Soviet military.

The army still had serious problems however. Though the occupation of Estonia and northeastern Latvia following the Danzig Accord of 1938 proceeded without serious difficulties, the invasion of Finland proved much more difficult and costly. Several tank designs were proven obsolete or poor in conception and the Soviet army was shown as unprepared for a large-scale conflict. Tukhachevsky, however, retained Krasnov's support, and with the knowledge of the Winter War combined with the lessons learned in the battles around Almy-Ata, launched a massive and fast-paced revamping of the Soviet Armed Forces.

Drakia took the wrong lessons from these conflicts. They regarded their failure to make major gains during the border battles of 1936 – 1938 in central asia as a logistical failure. They saw the failure of Soviet arms in Spain and against Finland has an indication of the inherent weakness of the Soviet army and, taking in mind the logistical lessons of the Central Asia fighting retargeted their offensive toward the Caucasus mountains. This decision was made in combination with that to deploy large forces of paratroopers, ironically in imitation of Soviet doctrine of the time in regard large aerial forces in support of offensives.

The Drakian offensives of 1940, however, proved to be ultimately futile in their efforts to make large gains. The Drakian Supreme Command failed to understand the limitations of paratroopers, deploying them in mountainous terrain to disastrous effect. Much of the Drakian paratrooper force was annihilated, though the sheer size of the corps was sufficient to allow for their utilization in the offensives of 1941. Though Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia were essentially overrun, any effort to break through the Caucasus mountains was stopped immediately. The line held, and in fact was held with relatively few troops. The situation in Central Asia furthermore ended up largely identical to that experienced in the border battles of the 1930s.

Tukhachevsky began to mass large forces for a counteroffensive as Soviet industry was put on maximum production. Economically the main deficiency was in oil and this was remedied by trade with the west; by this point the NEP was sufficiently entrenched as to produce certain surpluses in non-military goods that could be used for foreign purchases, and the industrialization of farming through the system of “Individual ownership, collective mechanization” had restored the pre-WWI grain surpluses. (This system was in fact largely an imitation of that which developed through the Grange in America in the 1880s and 1890s with small farmers using local co-operatives for collective bargaining and purchasing of expensive industrial machinery which could then be shared among all the farmers of a particular co-opt. Krasnov, indeed, actually encouraged American populists with experience in this system to come to the Soviet Union to supervise its development during the detente that formed with America in the New Deal era.)

The entrance of Finland as a co-belligerant for the Dominate against the Soviet Union was taken more seriously than it otherwise might have been due to the experience in the Winter War. The Soviets immediately detailed large forces to defend Leningrad from the Finnish advance. Their goal here was for the moment, however, defensive. The buildup for a counteroffensive against the Dominate retained first priority, and at any rate Finland was isolated and counterattacking in terrain where there had been no time to build defensive fortifications after the Winter War. The Drakian surprise attack on the Little Entente was totally unexpected by the Soviet leadership on a strategic level, but after they had recovered from the intial shock, preparations to meet it were swift.

By the time of the Drakian invasion of the Little Entente in May of 1941 the Soviet Army had more than 9,000 modern tanks in reserve, not counting those deployed to the combat fronts (Central Asia, Caucasus, and Finnish). Several thousand additional obsolete tanks were deployed in the Far East, and many more had been sent to Taiping China as military aide against Japan. Tukhachevsky immediately grasped the possibilities for a counterattack in the Balkans and proposed to Krasnov that an immediate offer be made to the Little Entente for Soviet troops. Forces which had not been mobilized during the Drakian invasion of the Transcaucasus to keep the men in the industrial production lines were now ordered to be brought up, and tanks were concentrated in the west along the Romanian border.

The Drakian forces invading the Little Entente only had 2,000 modern medium and heavy tanks. They were, however, supported by a total of more than 10,000 additional tanks, which included Security Directorate light tanks for “support” of Janissary units, Janissary light scouting tanks, and several thousand Janissary medium tanks and tank killers (which the Dominate tallied as tanks). All of these vehicles were of old designs, however, which had not been updated due to the desire for bulk in the Janissary forces. A new Janissary tank destroyer with a 90mm gun was being produced based on experience in Georgia and Azerbaijan, but for the moment had only seen action in Central Asia. A new Janissary medium tank was still only in planning stages. This meant that the heaviest gun available to the Drakian Janissary units was a 75mm gun mounted on a tank destroyer, making them heavily reliant on the Citizen armoured forces for “breakthrough” efforts.

By late June these forces had largely succeeded. The armoured units of the Yugoslav and Romanian armies had been defeated in fighting in Macedonia and Serbia and Drakian paratroopers had seized the Iron Gates. A Greek effort at a counterattack had failed completely and there was now intense fighting in the outskirts of Thessaloniki. Italian armoured forces, arriving through Durrazo to reinforce the Little Entente, had proven barely comparable to Janissary equipment and useless against Citizen forces. Despite this the Romanian government absolutely refused to allow Soviet troops onto their territory, deeply fearing that like in Republican Spain the government would be overthrown in favour of a communist puppet state as part of the “aide”. The Soviets continued to build up massive forces on the Romanian border, but these buildups, despite the rapidly changing strategic situation, were still intended for an offensive.

Three days after the fall of Bucharest, on 26 June, the Romanian government (which had fled to Brasov in Transylvania) finally appealed to the Soviet Union for aide. The terms, however, remained stern. The Soviet troops were only to be allowed into Besserabia, Moldovia, and Wallachia. Any penetration by Soviet forces into Transylvania was absolutely forbidden. This was not done simply to preserve a base for the government, but on the genuine fear that the Hungarian and German minorities in Transylvania would use the presence of Soviet troops to revolt. Nobody at this time had fully realized the magnitude of the Drakian threat and many considerations which were ignored later in the war due to the absolute necessity of confronting the Dominate first and foremost were not taken at this stage.

Tukhachevsky immediately ordered his forces into action. The Soviet troops along the Romanian border were given the directive to move into Romanian territory with the clear goal of defeating the advancing Drakian armies in a meeting engagement. Almost 9,500 Soviet tanks had been massed on a narrow front in what was the largest concentration of armoured forces in history to that date. The vast majority of these tanks were of the excellent T-34 design which had proven itself so well in the border battles of 1936 – 1938 but had been relegated to a secondary role in the fighting in Central Asia and the Caucasus as the new IS-type tanks became available. It was believed, however, that they would still remain highly effective against heavy citizen armour on the open plains of eastern Romania where speed and manoeuvre would count for more than weight of protection, and the 85mm gun was still considered sufficient for such operations.

On 28 June massive columns of Soviet tanks could be seen crossing the Romanian border into Besserabia, racing ahead at maximum speed with regimental standards and the Lenin Banner carried by the lead units. The incredible depth of the advancing Soviet formations defied the imagination: There were eight mechanized corps leading ninety-six infantry divisions participating in the counteroffensive, more than one and a half million troops of the RKKA. When news of the Soviet intervention reached the capitals of the western powers many decided that the war in the Balkans had already been decided. It remained for the Soviets to simply drive to the Bosporus. The annihilation of this army and the way in which it was accomplished ultimately turned into a major inducement for the decision of the European nations to commit to combat against the Dominate enmasse following the Rape of Rome in September of that year, and shall now be covered in detail, as well as the operations which followed it up to the commitment of major allied forces in October of 1941.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part One

The Dominate received the first indication of the Soviet commitment during a series of air engagements on 28 June in which Soviet aircraft shot down their reconaissance and forward patrols over eastern Romania. That evening a large-scale raid by twin engine medium bombers operating out of the Ukraine hit Drakian supply dumps being established on the Romanian side of the Danube in the south, albeit to very little effect. The next day rumours that the Soviets had crossed the border in force were confirmed. The Dominate was quick to grasp the scale of the invasion; the Soviets were committing nearly the whole of their strategic reserves in an offensive classic to their doctrine and conducted on a scale which indicated no aim less than the destruction of Drakian power in Europe.

In all areas the Drakian forces in Europe were numerically superiour to the Soviet army that was invading. Technologically, however, the majority of their equipment was poorer and their troops, likewise, largely Janissaries of low morale. Furthermore they were already involved in a severe conflict with the Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, and Romanians. This meant that the actual forces available to meet the Soviet advance were quite insufficient. Fortunately, terrain provided a key advantage to the Drakian forces. The Soviet advance was necessarily taking place in two parts, divided by the Danube river. The southern advance was primarily limited to infantry, for it had to cross the entanglement of the Danube delta. The Soviets therefore concentrated sufficient forces in the northern advance for flanking operations across the Danube to support the southern advance. This put to much of their force in to small of an area; logistical considerations became severe.

By 1 July the Drakian High Command had formulated an initial plan to deal with the Soviet forces. Fighting had begun in the Delta area by this point, but only by advanced Soviet forces. Contact had not yet been made by the northern forces. In the south the Janissary and Citizen forces were closely integrated to halt the Soviet southern advance by pinning it up in the Delta. On the other hand, in the northern sector Citizen forces were pulled back while the Janissaries were concentrated forward and prepared to fight a defensive battle. Orders were specifically issued for the destruction of supply dumps to not be undertaken in the event of a retreat; the Drakian defensive posture was cemented with those orders to one of deception and a concerted effort to lure the Soviets into overextending themselves. Reserves were ordered into the southern area.

On 2 July heavy fighting began in the Danube delta area. The Soviets had air superiourity but found their efforts to advance seriously hindered. On that day the Soviet forces in the north had established themselves across the Prut. Their began to drive immediately toward the Ialomita River, where the Drakian forces were establishing their defensive lines. Soviet intelligence reported that the refineries at Ploesti were intact and these became the immediate initial objective of the advance. With complete air superiourity the Soviet supply lines were not hindered, but the sheer size of the force that had to be maintained on them demanded that the seizure of a forward supply of fuel was absolutely necessary.

The collapse of the Romanian Army had been precipitous. There had not been time to blow the bridges on the Danube, and the Soviets themselves wanted them intact so that they could cut into the flank of the Drakian forces on the south bank of the river, which mean that after 29 June there were no further attempts to take out the bridges. The Dominate did not wait for the Soviets; they began to infiltrate forces across the bridges into areas where the movement of tanks along the north bank of the Danube had been impeded by haphazard flooding efforts on the part of the Romanians. At the same time the Drakian forces which had been ordered to take Ploesti and those which had pursued the government toward Brasov were detailed east, around Ploesti, to make the appearance of an effort to encircle the city.

Soviet intelligence reported on the continuation of the Drakian advance in the Ploesti area and it was concluded from this that the Dominate sought to seize the oil refineries and destroy them before the Soviets could reach them. Soviet forces were by the 4th of July holding crossings on the Siret River in conjunction with local Romania forces. A drive to the Ialomita appeared open despite some slowness in the advance caused by logistical difficulties. The principle effort was then being directed toward the seizure of Ploesti. Traveling across friendly terrain, and even considering the logistical difficulties, it was thought that the RKKA might be in Ploesti within five days. Tukhachevsky accordingly concentrated armoured, mobile forces on the extreme front of the right flank; ironically these orders somewhat delayed the offensive, but it was felt that sufficient strength to break through the Drakian forces around Ploesti must be guaranteed.

By now the combat in the Danube Delta was at its ferocious peak. The Soviets were advancing steadily, the majority of their bridging equipment there and aiding in the effort. Their northern force was, as expected, drawing much further ahead. The advance of the Soviet infantry in the delta was however considered sufficient to tie down the Drakian forces there, and with the assistance of naval gunfire support and a series of Naval Infantry landings the southern force was steadily outflanking the Dominate along the coast and then pressing in up through the Delta. With the RKKA making steady, if bloody, progress in the south it was felt that the offensive was still proceeding in altogether excellent order.

The first signs the Soviets had of the Drakian countermoves were on the 6th of July, when the fact that sizeable Citizen forces were moving into the Transdanube. Additional reports were soon coming in from the Triple Entente forces and Italy that Dominate attacks throughout the Balkans had slacked off and they appeared to be undertaking defensive preparations. It was clear that the Dominate was now responding to the Soviet offensive in a large way. However, many felt that the Dominate had abandoned any intention of holding Wallachia and that these forces were intended to defend a line on the Danube only; evidence for this was pointed out in the fact that bridges across the Ialomita had not yet been destroyed, suggesting that a serious attempt to hold the area was not being contemplated.

By 8 July these bridges were in fact blown, ending the retreat theory for the high command (which combined with further intelligence data which confirmed that forces in the Ploesti area were in fact advancing and not retreating, which would have been required if they were to avoid being cut off should there have been a general retreat), but by then an infectious overconfidence had swept through the Soviet Army—rumour suggested that the Drakian forces were fleeing before them without a fight. The positive reception by the citizenry only further increased the overconfidence of the whole Soviet force. Many of the survivors recall these days of advancing through Romania as being more like on the set of a movie than in a fighting army on a military campaign. The tanks raced forward unimpeded down the roads, the skies were filled with friendly plans, the peasants cheered from their fields. The illusion would quickly be shattered.

Three Soviet mechanized corps were the spearhead of the force, driving on the extreme right toward Ploesti. Beyond their right flank, however, was nothing more than a no-man's land, for the lack of formal coordination between the Romanian and Soviet armies and the ban on Soviet forces operating in Transylvania meant that there was no clearly defined operational command for the area of the lower Carpathian foothills. The Romanians, for that part, were establishing defensive lines in the Carpathians as though the Soviet offensive was not happening at all! (Certain post-war documents have suggested that the Romanian Army command, believing the victory of the Soviets was certain, were taking steps against a theoretical Soviet collapse which 'coincidentally' would protect Transylvania from any possible Soviet aggression against Romania following the ejection of the Dominate from Europe.)

On 9 July the advanced Soviet armoured columns came in contact with the Drakian forces which were roughly surrounding Ploesti. They immediately attacked, driving forward at maximum speed to the attack without any serious attempt at reconaissance or preparation, relying purely on speed and shock. Drakian forces in the area were light and hardly equipped to face the numerical mass of the charging Soviet T-34s. The Dominate's units in the area fought on valiantly through the night, suffering sixty percent casualties while doing very little to halt the Soviets. A final thrust on the morning of the 10th punched open a road to Ploesti and the Drakian forces south of the city rapidly collapsed after that. Ploesti was entered late that day—it had been besieged but not occupid by the Dominate—to the relieved jubilation of the citizens. By that time the majority of the Drakian forces in the area were withdrawing; these comparatively light forces did not fall back to the Ialomita line, however, but instead remained in the ill-defined lower Carpathian region between the Soviet main line of advance and the Romanian defences.

By the 10th the main Soviet armies were coming to the Ialomita. Along most of the southern course of the river the bridges had been blown but several along the central and northern courses of the river had not been, presumably out of a failure of the Drakian defenders to insure their destruction. Additional armoured forces were concentrated here to seize this bridges, further weaking the armoured forces on the left wing of the Soviet northern advance. Unlike before the Soviets here encountered fierce resistance; a Citizen armoured division was in place to the south-west of Ploesti across the bridges, apparently to cover the withdrawal of the retreating forces from the Ploesti area. In earlier reconaissance reports it had been misidentified as a Janissary force. Fighting from prepared defenses this unit held a full Soviet Mechanized Corps which launched a major attack against it from the 11th onwards, despite the seeming danger of being outflanked to the north as the Soviet forces in the Ploesti area drove on from the city.

With the supply situation for fuel alievated by the seizure of Ploesti, the Soviets were now planning to launch an immediate assault crossing of the Ialomita, which was not regarded as a major barrier. Though the Dominate had been preparing defences on the west bank of the river for some time the Soviets had extensive engineering support, the river was not large, and it was fordable at several places. The best place for an assault would have been in the north, where the river was easily crossed; but here the banks were steep and presented a formidible barrier to tanks, while the Soviet tanks were ironically concentrated in that exact area. Still, they were ordered to continue advancing there on the understanding that there were still significant Drakian forces on that bank of the river in the area.

Drakian resistance in the air was becoming significantly greater. From the 10th onwards more and more high-end Drakian fighters were seen in the air until by the 12th they were contesting the skies about the Ialomita and holding their own against the Red Air Force. In part this was due to the fact that here the Drakian fighters were operating from their own bases in northern Bulgaria, whereas the Soviet bases in the western Ukraine were now a considerable distance from the front, and there were few sutiable fields for the operation of fighters anywhere in Romania at all. This meant that Soviet efforts to use air power in support of operations in the Ialomita area had become considerably constrained.

Tukhachevsky was becoming increasingly concerned as, on the 13th, reports reached his headquarters that significant opposition along the north bank of the Danube was being encountered by the flanking units of the northern force as they approached the bank of the river. There were no significant mechanized units on the north bank, which made the deployment appear strictly defensive, but they were holding their own against a left flank of the army which had itself been stripped of tanks to support the operations on the right. It was at this time that the idea of a possible Drakian counterattack from the Transdanube was seriously proposed. Deciding that the best strategy for the moment was to secure the ability to fall back on the Carpathians should one take place, he recommended to Krasnov that the Soviet leader demand from the Romanians permission for the RKKA to conduct operations throughout Romania.

The Romanians did not reject the proposal out of hand, but it caused extensive debate in the government, and a reply either was not quickly forthcoming. In the meanwhile it was felt that the frontal advance was to important for the timetable of the crossing of the Ialomita to be pushed back, and forces lacking tanks on the left flank were not a great concern at the moment. The Drakian forces on the right flank that were still beyond the Ialomita were judged to be a much greater issue, and the Soviet mechanized forces continued to press forward against them, with the Drakians falling back as much as possible and the combat that was encountered consisting of purely a series of light delaying actions.

In the central Ialomita valley, however, the Dominate continued to maintain a toe-hold by the resistance of that single Citizen armoured division across the river. Now supported extensively by Drakian aircraft and artillery in defensive positions along the river to the south, it continued to resist the Soviet forces against it and held its ground. In the end the Soviet commanders decided to concentrate on the crossing of the Ialomita further south and, if possible, outflank and cut off the Citizen division rather than divert more forces from that attack to press against it immediately. This decision proved to have serious consequences. On the 14th of July the rest of the Citizen mechanized corps which that division belonged to began to cross the river, driving directly for Ploesti with that armoured division effectively forming the cover for its right flank. The forewardmost Soviet mechanized corps still pursuing the Drakian forces into the Carpathian foothills in the north were now in danger of having its supply lines cut, and the oil supplies for the army were once again in danger of being interdicted. Additional forces were once again dispatched toward the right. The crisis was now beginning to develop.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Two

Let us review the situation for a moment. Soviet First Ukrainian Front with seven mechanized corps and sixty-four infantry divisions was operating north of the Danube river, pushing against the Drakian lines on the Ialomita. Three mechanized corps were the primary fighting forces on the right flank of the army, being backed by increasing reinforcements of infantry as well. The other four were being concentrated for the assault crossing of the Ialomita. A significant number of infantry divisions were posted all along the Danube and were engaged with Janissary infantry there which were clinging to a thin strip of flooded land on the north bank of the river. The remaining divisions were concentrated to support the armoured breakthrough forces in the center and on the right.

Soviet Second Ukrainian Front with thirty-two infantry divisions supported by a single mechanized corps formed the southern force of the advance. It was steadily pressing through the Danube delta where it faced a significant force of defending Janissaries, but due to the need to cover the whole of the Danube's north bank there had recently been the dispatch from it of a force of infantry divisions to keep in touch with the extended right flank of the First Ukrainian. It was later speculated that had the Soviet commanders not decided to hold the Second Ukrainian's mechanized corps in reserve for an advance down to the Transdanubian plain that was to never take place, and instead had dispatched it to cover the north bank of the Danube, the disaster could have been averted.

At the time the decision was made to dispatch only more infantry forces, however, it appeared that the operations along the north bank were largely successful. There was only enemy infantry being encountered and the Soviets were holding their own despite the forces there being rather light across a long front. Furthermore, the flooding of the river valley by the Dominate had created a geographical situation which appeared completely impassable to tanks. Last, but hardly least, the Soviets fully expected to succeed in punching through the Janissary defences, at which point the mechanized corps would be fully required for the victory to be exploited.

Defensively the Dominate had concentrated fifty Janissary divisions to the Ialomita to cover an eighty kilometer front. Both of these figures are however deceptive. Firstly, the Janissary divisions were hardly at full strength; quite the contrary, they had been in combat for two months and were universally understrength, in some cases badly. Though the Dominate was continuously sending reinforcements forward these were not detailed to units but entered entirely as fresh units; the initial units simply fought until exhausted and then were rotated to the rear (and it was entirely possible that a Janissary unit could take 70% casualties before being relieved). Furthermore, the effective coverage of the front was more broad, for the Ialomita was not a straight river, though it still made the best available defensive barrier.

During the past two weeks the Janissaries had been occupied continuously building up defensive barriers here, but no equipment or materials had been made available due to the need to bring up reinforcements as rapidly as possible—there was no space for defensive supplies—meaning that the Ialomita defences were strictly hand-dug earthworks, lacking even barbed wire. Because of the lack of artillery the Janissary tanks and tank destroyers were positioned in the lines to fight hull-down as little more than glorified pillboxes; this would cause incredibly heavy losses among those units during the battle, even considering their great inferiority vis the Soviet tanks opposing them.

Against this force the Soviets had concentrated fourty rifle divisions, four artillery divisions, and eight each tank and mechanized divisions. The attack was to take place in the early morning of the 18th of July, following a massive night-time artillery barrage with eight thousand guns. By this time the Soviets had managed to get 8th Mechanized Corps in a blocking position outside of Ploesti. It was hit by two Drakian Citizen divisions, one tank and one mechanized infantry. The fiercest fighting came on the 16th. More than one hundred and fifty Soviet tanks were destroyed by the Drakian forces for the cost of some fifty of their own, but with the Drakian attackers outnumbered two-to-one that effort was still sufficient to save Ploesti for the second time, particularly when they did not seem to press their advantage to hard (this reluctance to risk Citizen casualties had been observed before, and surviving Drakian documents are not clear as to whether or not this attack was actually intended to take Ploesti or was merely a feint).

Following the results of this fighting, Tukhachevsky was now confident that the Ialomita offensive could go forward. On the morning of the 17th he ordered the attack to proceed as planned. Operationally the goal was to break through the Ialomita line and then send two mechanized corps driving deep into Drakian-held territory to sweep around Bucharest while two more mechanized corps swept into the rear of the Drakian forces on the northern Ialomita, creating a situation where the primary Drakian forces in Wallachia would be cut into two pockets which the infantry could then reduce. This would effectively destroy all Drakian operational forces on the north bank of the Danube. First Ukrainian Front would then be able to aide Second Ukrainian Front in the occupation of the Transdanubian plain and concentrate forces at the leisure of the RKKA for the assault on the Drakian defensive lines in northern Bulgaria.

As ordered, the barrage began at 20:30 local time on the night of the 17th and continued for ten hours of constant firing. At the principle attack points the divisions were concentrated on mere 1,000 meter fronts. The Janissaries had prepared excellent earthworks in depth, but the vast strength of the Soviet artillery barrage locally overwhelmed them, and the attackers exploited confused and weak units, exhausted by months of fighting and weeks of defensive effort; after the vast barrage infiltration units went forward first and after beach-heads were established on the far side of the river, fighting in the trenches and clearing them with bayonet, submachinegun, and grenade, the main bulk of the infantry went across. Fighting raged throughout the day.

The heaviest hour for the fighting was from 12:00 – 13:00 local time when an estimated 6,000 – 7,000 casualties were suffered by both sides, two men every second. This was not a brief surge, however, for the casualty rate did not fall below 2/3rds of that level during the whole of the main effort. The Soviets did very well, assaulting with only a 25% numerical advantage against prepared defences and suffering slightly fewer casualties than the defenders, but the advantage of the Janissaries was never in their quality, and the lack of mines and wire seriously hampered the defensive effort. Soviet use of RPGs against the hull-down Janissary armoured fighting vehicles proved exceptionally effective and most were knocked out without ever sighting an opposing Soviet tank.

It has been estimated that by midnight there were 90,000 casualties suffered by both sides, the highest figure in history to that date (and the highest figure in the war until the assault crossing of the Suez Canal), slightly exceeding the figure for the first day of the German Michael Offensive on 21 March, 1918. The fighting raged throughout the night and into the next day, the Soviets making steady process and the Janissaries desperately resisting under threat of decimation should they break. At 14:40 hours on the 19th the bridges had been established and the Soviet mechanized corps were sent forward. They cut through the Janissary armour like it was butter. By nightfall breakthroughs in four attack sectors had been achieved, cutting off three sections of the Janissary defenders and all but insuring the destruction of thirty Janissary divisions. Eight battered divisions swung to the north as the Soviet forces pushed against them; six fell back against the Danube bridge south of Fetesti. The rest of the defending force was either cut off or routed and in a pell-mell retreat.

On the 20th the pursuit of the retreating divisions was continued. The Janissaries rallied around Fetesti and fought along the bank of the Borcea arm of the Danube. In the center, however, the Janissaries were completely destroyed. There were soon only twenty-eight desperate and attrited divisions, entirely cut off by the Soviet armoured columns and under heavy assault by Soviet infantry. These units, already low on ammunition, suffered the death of most of their Citizen officers and rapidly lost cohesion. One after the other these pockets surrendered, with the last falling on the 22nd. The Soviets by that point had 175,000 Janissary prisoners in their custody, creating additional logistical difficulties. Soviet losses over the six day period from 18 July to 23 July were less than 100,000 killed, wounded, and missing altogether. The Soviets had lost less than 300 tanks. Drakian losses certainly exceeded 275,000 Janissaries, and nearly 1,000 Janissary tanks and tank destroyers had been destroyed with twice that number captured (including those lost in the preparatory artillery barrage on the 17th).

Reports of the battle if Ialomita affected the planning of Italy and all the members of the Little Entente. Now that the attacks against their forces had ceased for more than two weeks they were well on the way to regrouping, and offensives were planned by all four countries. The Romanians in particular were already planning an offensive in western Romania so as to prevent as much of the country as possible from coming under effective Soviet occupation. The mood in Europe's capitals was complacent, often reflecting more concern about Soviet penetration of the Balkans than with the Dominate. The second-rate colonials were finished; after their blundering attack on the Soviets they'd overextended themselves. It was more a question of whether or not they could rally and hold Bulgaria than of their ability to resume the offensive.

Tukhachevsky, in possession of all facts available to Stavka, was far less sanguine about the military situation. The victory at Ialomita had been costly, and he now had a tremendous number of prisoners and wounded alike to deal with, and significant Drakian resistance continued in the north. Furthermore, the victory painted the Soviet request to operate in Transylvania in a dangerous and political light to the Romanian government, and on the 24th, Tukhachevsky was informed by Krasnov that it had been rejected. The Soviets were winning; why did they need to send forces into the Carpathians? This decision forced the Soviets to conduct operations on the right flank of First Ukrainian Front without support or coordination from Romanian forces in the area and a clear limitation on the extent of the area in which they could operate. The result was an unnecessarily large commitment of forces on the right flank and the corresponding weakening of the left flank which allowed the Drakian counterattack to take place.

Furthermore, the Second Ukrainian Front was still hung up in the Danube delta, with its progress remaining highly impeded, all the moreso for the loss of six rifle divisions on the right flank sent to help cover the Danube along the route of advance of the First Ukrainian. Its supporting mechanized corps remained useless in the delta and no breakthrough of the Drakian defences there, as hoped for, had materialized to date. Tukhachevsky felt it necessary to dispatch several further infantry divisions from the main line of advance to cover the Danube. These divisions were slow to move, however, for they were those units which had suffered the highest casualties in the battle of the Ialomita and were not fully combat-ready so short after that engagement. Thus they were not in position when the Drakian counterattack began.

On the 25th of July the Drakian plan was put into operation. The main executor of the plan was to be a force of three Citizen mechanized corps concentrated in the Transdanube. Reinforcements were still being rushed into the area. Janissary divisions were sent into Wallachia and flung at once toward the front to slow down the Soviet offensive and attrite their striking arm. Air superiourity was used to good effect to attack the Soviet supply lines and hamper their movement, proving to be a constant harassment to Soviet operations as they pressed on toward Bucharest. An additional three Citizen mechanized corps were being sent into the Transdanube but would not be ready for the initial operations. Two more were still in Anatolia, but with the railnet working all out to bring them forward it was hoped that they could be committed in Wallachia in time to see action.

Despite all these reinforcements being brought forward the Dominate would have to attack with only seven heavily attrited Janissary corps which had been fighting the delaying action on the north bank of the Danube for weeks now, the six Janissary divisions which had fallen back into the flat lands between the two branches of the Danube near Ialomita, and those three fresh Citizen mechanized corps, which had yet to see action during the whole of the Balkan campaign. The later, at least, were crack veterans of the border battles in Central Asia and the invasion of Azerbaijan in 1940, equipped with the latest Drakian tanks of the highest quality, each one fitted with a radio and navigational equipment.

More importantly, the tanks of the seven Janissary corps had not been committed across the river. Though these corps were primarily of infantry they did have tank support, and so the some 1,200 Citizen tanks were supported by some 1,350 Janissary tanks and tank destroyers, plus an equal number of large armoured cars. The combined Citizen-Janissary force along the Danube outnumbered the Soviet defenders along the whole length of the waterway by a mere two corps, and three Soviet corps—even if they were noticeably attrited ones—were already in the process of redeploying to make up that numerical deficiency. But though the forces were essentially numerically equal along the Danube, the Dominate had created a massive local superiourity in armoured forces and would now proceed to exploit it, aided by aggressive air attacks which hampered the Soviet aerial reconaissance operations. The Soviets knew that the enemy forces were along the Danube in strength, but never discovered the vast superiourity in tanks which the enemy had actually concentrated there while succeeding in leaving the appearance of a largely infantry force in a holding action, even if one of large scale. The disastrous situation which resulted in the encirclement and destruction of the whole Soviet First Ukrainian Front was now fixed.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Three

On the 22nd of July the four Soviet mechanized corps forming the spearhead of the assault force raced onward toward their objectives in Wallachia even as the fighting around the pockets of Janissaries to their rear continued. They were essentially unopposed, and formed two forces, each of two mechanized corps. One of these forces was swinging immediately north to cut the link between Bucharest and the Citizen Corps still on the east bank of the Ialomita. The second swung around farther to the south and west to encircle the Drakian troops in Bucharest itself. On the 25th the attack began on the Drakian forces along the Bucharest-Ploesti road and the attack on the Drakian forces between Bucharest and the Arges was expected for the 27th.

Tukhachevsky was increasingly concerned about the prospects for a flank attack by the Drakian forces in the Transdanube. Abandoning his own plans for a flank attack there, he at last ordered on the 25th for the bridges over the Danube to be bombered. The Red Air Force was unprepared for this and had to reorient and concentrate assets for an attack on the bridges. With the strong aerial opposition now being encountered, fighters also had to be concentrated for escort. There was no real sense of urgency on the part of the Air Force to take out the bridges; major strikes were planned for no sooner than the 28th. It is doubtful that strikes before that doubt could have been successful since they would have entailed a complete lack of preparation, so the exact blame which may be accessed to the Air Force commanders has been subject to heavy debate. Several high-rank generals were, however, sacked for their failures in the Prut campaign.

Throughout the day on the 25th the Soviets attacked the Drakian defences on the Bucharest-Polesti Road. These consisted of ten Janissary divisions including five hundred Janissary tanks; nine Soviet divisions including four tank divisions were involved in the attack. The Janissary tanks were wiped out by the end of the day for the loss of only a hundred Soviet tanks and the lines broke. It was not a complete rout, however. Over the night the Drakian officers managed the difficult task of extricating the Janissaries from the advancing Soviet forces, leaving a very strong force in the pocket to the north and west of Ploesti with four Janissary divisions holding the west side of the Ialomita and six Janissary and four Citizen divisions on the east side.

With the second Soviet mechanized force due to strike to the west of Bucharest in only two days—though there the opposition would be heavier, and the attacking force lighter, for the Soviet armour was advancing to rapidly to be supported by the Rifle Divisions there and fresh Janissary divisions were entering the area—it appeared as if the campaign was a masterful success. More than 150,000 Drakian troops, a third of them Citizens, were cut off, and the possibility of another 100,000 Janissaries in Bucharest being cut off loomed. It appeared as though more than half a million troops would be lost to the Dominate by the time the Soviet offensive ended on the banks of the Danube.

Relatively rare for Drakian operations, with so much of their records lost in the brutal fighting in Africa in the late 40's, we have the name of the Drakian commander of the offensive force—The Army of Varna—in the Transdanube. Strategos Marcus Hildebrandt, from the Northmark, was in overall command of the operations here. He was a veteran, like the majority of his Citizen troops, of the border battles against the Soviets in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. His attack opened on the morning of the 26th with a strong counterattack by Janissary forces on the north bank of the Danube supported by a brief suppressing artillery barrage.

The Janissary tanks were soon seen crossing the south channel of the Danube, heading north to the front in great numbers. Tukhachevsky's worst fears were realized and yet the full magnitude of the attack was not yet revealed, for the Citizen Corps were still in reserve, waiting the order to go forward once a gap had been torn in the Soviet lines. Throughout the first day of the offensive the Soviets held, but the full strength of the Janissary armoured forces was not yet upon them. The Dominate also began a very large air offensive in the area aimed at suppressing the Red Air Force from any attempts to interdict the advance.

Tukhachevsky immediately ordered two mechanized corps in the Ploesti area to the Danube. This force was under the command of General Koniev, who would survive the battle and rise to the rank of Marshal. The remaining mechanized crops there was tasked to defend against the entrapped Citizens making a breakout effort, aided by infantry to pin down the Janissaries. The mechanized corps of Second Ukrainian Front was also at last detached from providing a reserve to exploit a breakthrough in the Danube Delta and also ordered to move immediately to the Danube line. Shifting these forces through an area clogged with supplies, refugees, and POWs and wounded would take time, however, and it was time that the Dominate was now exploiting to the hilt.

On the 27th the Soviet forces to the west of Bucharest commenced their attack. Seven divisions struck home at the defenders. The battle was waged on the outskirts of the burning city of Bucharest from which thousands of survivors now fled to the south and east, risking being mowed down by the Drakian troops in the area to escape the orgy of raping, looting, burning, and slaughter that had taken place on the fall of the city. They would soon once again be in danger, but for the moment it appeared as though God had delivered a miraculous salvation in the form of the Red Army. Before long the Drakian troops to the west of Bucharest were near to cracking from the relentless assault, despite resisting valiantly and destroying more than a hundred Soviet tanks even though they had very little armoured support of their own.

Simultaneous to this battle being waged, however, the Soviet troops fighting along the north bank of the Danube were giving way. They came under ferocious artillery, aerial, and tank attack through the whole of the day. The Janissary tanks made vulnerable targets from the air moving down narrow corridors of land through the sunken fields, but the Drakian air force was able to protect them. They struck home hard against the Soviet infantry in the region. Anti-tank guns and RPGs were used, along with what limited tanks were in support. They inflicted grevious losses on the Janissary armour, men bravely waiting in concealment for the Janissaries to overrun their position and then getting up within a few meters of the tanks to fire their RPGs or dash to point-blank and toss satchel charges.

Throughout the night of the 27th – 28th the fighting raged on. By morning more than 400 Janissary tanks and armoured cars had been knocked out, but at this stiff cost the Janissaries had succeeded in breaking through the Soviet defences at every single point demanded of them by Strategos Hildebrandt. The three Citizen mechanized corps were already coming up to exploit these gaps. They burst out of the ongoing fighting and drove northwards at maximum speed, cutting through the rear areas of First Ukrainian front. Ahead of them was only a force of nine understrength rifle divisions without tank support, and Koniev coming up behind them in turn.

Late on the 28th the Soviet forces to the west of Bucharest also achieved a breakthrough, but it was a worthless feat. Tukhachevsky ordered one mechanized corps detached from the western and eastern striking forces each and sent east at once to try and deal with the threat that had materialized in their rear areas. He also turned to his last source of troops, the Parachutist Corps which was being mustered to support the planned attack against the Bulgarian forts. Instead of their planned offensive role, they were ordered to deploy immediately into the path of the advancing Drakian armour to try and slow it down. The forces at the points of the breakthroughs were ordered to stand their ground and keep the two Drakian forces—which the Dominate was now trying to resupply with aerial drops, only intensifying the great air battles being waged over Wallachia—seperated, while simultaneously leaving up paths through which the Soviet troops might escape into the Carpathian foothills in the worst case scenario. That scenario would take place. In the east, Tukhachevsky grimly ordered the three rifle corps which for the moment were the only force in place to defend against the onrushing citizens to “hold your position until the enemy is repulsed.”

On the 29th the three Citizen corps hit the Soviet infantry. Outnumbered and completely lacking in armoured support the Soviets still fought like madmen, obeying Tukhachevsky's order one and all. They knew that they were the only force standing between the Soviet army and utter ruin, and that if they held out long enough that Koniev might arrive to relieve them and save the day. The Soviets performed broadly the same tactics as before; they waited until the tanks had overrun their positions and then sprung from cover to attack the rear armour of the tanks with RPGs at point-blank range. They fought with concealed antitank guns and artillery firing down the iron-sights at the oncoming Honds. In some cases the Drakian troops were forced to spray their comrades' tanks with machinegun fire to clear the Soviet troops which had leapt up onto them, trying with their shovels and with grenades to jam the turret, destroy radio antennae, and so on. In this fashion the Soviets fought on for the whole of the 29th and on into the 30th.

On the 30th the Drakian troops finally broke through the Soviet rifle divisions just to find Koniev coming up behind them. For all that the Soviet infantry had served to slow them down for a precious twenty-four hours, those three veteran corps were still fighting fit. There was some initial fighting that night, but it would be the day of the 31st which saw the heaviest tank battles of the war to date. Koniev's two mechanized corps flung themselves at their three Drakian counterparts in a desperate effort to halt them. By evening there were 600 burning tanks littering the plains to the southeast of Bazau; Soviet T-34/85s going up against the newest Honds, they suffered five-to-one losses in their headlong assault.

Even as the battle was being fought, however, the corps-strength paradrops were being made in the Bazau area. With better coordination it is possible that these forces could have fought with Koniev the next day; instead the paradrop just turned out to be worthless, and costly, though a corps of light infantry would not have done much in the tank battle of the 31st. It did, however, aide Koniev somewhat on the next day. Recognizing that it was impossible for the encirclement to be avoided he did his best to extricate his own forces through the roads to the east of Bazau. Managing a superb fighting retreat with the aide of the parachutists, he succeeded in extricating his forces, the paratroops, and the remnants of the easternmost corps of the rifle division force that had been overrun on the 29th. In this fashion Koniev saved 300 tanks and 76,000 men.

On the 2nd of August the Drakian forces took Bazau. They could not move to relieve their large pocket around Ploesti immediately, however, for at the same time the mechanized corps of the 2nd Ukrainian front was coming in while the two mechanized corps detached from the offensives in the west raced back to try and force a breakthrough of the encirclement. A scratch force of about 2,200 Janissary tanks and armoured cars with limited infantry support was sent west to halt the mechanized divisions coming from inside the pocket, while two Citizen mechanized corps were able to double back and hit Koniev—who was incredibly trying to put together a fresh attack with his battered forces--and the 2nd Ukrainian's mechanized corps, the later in their right flank.

On the 3rd of August a battle was fought to the east of Bazau where Koniev was defeated again, the combat capability of his force essentially destroyed despite his best efforts, though again in retreat he avoided disaster. On the 4th the 2nd Ukrainian's mechanized corps had some initial success, tearing through the Janissary infantry in its path on the same day; the sheer depth of the formation impeded progress, however. Even as the Soviets had this success, the task of closing the break in the pocket to the west of Bucharest had begun, with a massive Janissary force from the west—at least two reinforced corps--attacking the singled mechanized corps and single rifle division holding it open. For the moment it held, but the forces in the area were now running low on ammunition. Fuel was still available from Ploesti. Tukhachevsky ordered the Red Air Force to begin running ammunition into the pocket in whatever ways possible, with return flights evacuating wounded. The majority of these aircraft were shot down, and the few that got through were insufficient to maintain the fighting capability of the forces for any length of time.

The Soviet mechanized corps from 2nd Ukrainian Front had received information of an opposing Drakian mechanized corps coming down from Bazau to face it; it swung north to meet the threat and on the 5th the battle was fought north of the major rail and road junction in the area at Faurei. Though the forces were equal in strength the Drakian Citizens were far better equipped, trained, and coordinated with their radios, facing a foe which had yet to face serious action. The Soviet corps fought bravely but poorly, and in two days of fighting lost 320 tanks and was driven out of Faurei and back toward the east.

This now left a single force able to attempt the breakout. Two mechanized corps, which had been fighting or driving hard almost continuously since the crossing of the Ialomita, were attrited, low on ammunition, and exhausted, flung themselves in a desperate breakout attempt against the large Janissary tank and armoured car force that had been shifted west to oppose them after recovering from the fighting in their own breakout from the Danube. This battle started on the 6th even as the battle around Faurei was still being fought, and lasted until the 9th, when the third Drakian citizen corps swung down into the Soviet right flank and finished off this last force.

By the 7th, however, it was clear that no breakout to the east would be possible, and Tukhachevsky grimly ordered that every unit do its best to make its way through the gap to the east of Bucharest that Soviet forces had created in the Drakian lines. The gap to the west of Bucharest was already nearly closed, the forces defending it incredibly attrited. Here Tukhachevsky ordered the defenders of the gap to try and extricate themselves to the north; at least they would be saved even if no other troops got out through that gap, and in fact some 18,000 men did succeed in ultimately escaping out of this Soviet force. They would have the grim distinction of being the Soviet troops who had fought the furthest west against the Dominate and lived to tell about it, until the post-Bagration operations of late 1944.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Four

We may now briefly review the wider situation in the Balkans. On the sixth of August the Italians and Yugoslavs commenced an offensive directed toward Stip. The advance was initially unopposed, and the two armies—with their limited mechanization—quickly outran their supply as they regained the Vardar valley and carried onward. The next day a second Yugoslav offensive began toward Nish and the Greeks counterattacked around Thessaloniki, driving the Drakian forces away from the battered city. For a time it seemed as though these offensives would be a success, and a return to the pre-war borders was even dared.

News of the Soviet situation in Romania was at first understated—in part justly—and even as the Balkan powers and Italy understood that the strategic outlook had become much worse, there was no immediate desire to halt their offensives. The Romanians themselves had an immediate and better appraisal of the situation. They cancelled their own offensive in western Wallachia scheduled for the 10th and instead used their interior lines of communication to begin reorienting troops against the danger of a general Soviet collapse. Drakian intelligence of the situation was poor and thus the troops they had stationed in western Wallachia remained there on the defensive for the some time.

As it turned out the 11th of August was when the Drakian counterattacks began. Though it is generally agreed that the initial Greek successes in the Third Balkan War of the 1920s were genuine and not a tactical manoeuvre on the part of the Dominate, the Drakian military had certainly applied itself to developing operational procedure on that line following the experience there. After WWI—where the policy was direct frontal assaults and “not one step back”--and their dismal showing against the genius of Colmar von der Goltz with his tactical withdrawal and counterattack in Mesopotamia, the Dominate had been increasingly interested in such manoeuvres. With the experience of the inadvertant application in the Third Balkan War on a large scale, they had ultimately entered the tactical doctrine of the nation's military.

In a sense the whole operation against Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front was an operation on such a broad scale, but in truth it was more complex. The Soviets had experience with such tactics, as they were used by the Dominate in Central Asia in the 1930s and again by Finland in the Winter War, where such an operation by the Finnish Army saw them inflict 30,000 casualties on Soviet forces, capture sixty-five tanks, and completely destroy two divisions. The Soviets had learned from this, and despite everything that had gone against them in their offensive into Wallachia, it is quite possible that had the Dominate not—like Hannibal at Cannae with his Gauls and Spaniards being sent to the slaughter to allow the encirclement to proceed—sacrificed more than 250,000 Janissaries to the Soviet Army that caution would have prevailed and the encirclement would have been avoided.

Nobody, not even the Soviets, truly understood the willingness of the Dominate to sacrifice their slave-soldiers on such a vast scale until this point. It has now become clear that the Dominate's rulers were quite content with trading Serf lives for those of foreign troops at horrific rates; the conquest of foreign lands provided more serfs, and the ones at home could always be bred more (a scarcity of males hardly providing a problem there because of Drakian social behaviours which were impressed upon the Serfs).

As it happened the now relatively sparse and entirely Janissary forces holding the line against the Yugoslavs, Italians, and Greeks had been drawn back and concentrated into two groups. One hit the left (landward) flank of the Greek advance as they rushed forward to the old border, tearing through it. The Greeks clung on fiercely in the terrain but after three days they fell back in danger of being encircled. The second force struck between the lines of advance of the northern Yugoslav and southern Yugoslav-Italian forces. Exploiting this gap they hit the flanks of both advances and drove them back. In the north the Yugoslavs were stalled, but held onto limited gains; in the south the Yugoslav-Italian force was forced to retreat back to its old lines as the Janissaries pushed down the Vardar valley from the north.

These operations were concluded by the 20th of August at which point the Monastery of Mt. Athos was cut off from the Greek lines, resulting four days later in the infamous plundering of the Monasteries which aroused the Orthodox world as the Rape of Rome two weeks later did the Catholic world. Save for limited gains by the Yugoslavs in the north they generally resulted in the Entente being pushed back to the pre-offensive borders; the Greeks actually lost some territory and the Drakian forces there pushed into the center of Thessaloniki, where the Greeks rallied and continued to fight for two more months before finally being driven out. In the meantime the encirclement of 1st Ukrainian Front had been completed and it is to that which we now turn.

Tukhachevsky's order to begin the evacuation had been issued on the 7th of August. The situation was not impossible at this moment. Sizeable forces with reserves of ammunition and fuel remained intact and able to fight. Indeed, the pocket might even be held if the Drakian forces could just be driven back across the Ialomita in the north. Units furthest south were sent to the conquered earthworks of the Janissaries on the Ialomita; other corps were mustered for a major pushed against the Ialomita bridgehead near Ploesti that the Drakian forces held. 15th Army was ordered to attack this position immediately, even as other forces were being evacuated, the first being a single corps late on the 7th which made it through the gap and headed toward the Carpathians.

15th Army attacked on 9th. It faced six Janissary divisions backed by a single Citizen division of mechanized infantry. Suffering heavy losses the Soviet troops nonetheless pushed forward steadily. The path for the evacuation was widened and it proceeded apace. Tukhachevsky now hoped that the situation might after all be saved; if the bridge could just be taken or destroyed the Soviets might not only succeed in evacuating their whole force but might annihilate a Citizen division on the banks of the Ialomita. The Dominate's Air Force intervened, however.

A massive air offensive was commenced against Soviet First Ukrainian Front. The Red Air Force by this point was powerless in Wallachia. The retreating columns were strafed relentlessly and much equipment lost. The attack on the northern Ialomita forces of the Dominate was severely hampered by the considerable air support they were receiving. Thousands of aircraft flying countless sorties stayed overhead, shooting at any Soviet formation they could find. It worsened an already dismal logistical situation and made morale even worse, but still the Soviets fought on.

On the 11th of August the Draka had been driven back to a toehold around the bridge on the west bank of the Ialomita. A night attack was planned on the bridge to avoid the interference of the Drakian airforce. It came just to late. The advanced Soviet troops were nearly upon the bridge when the first Honds of an arriving Citizen Armoured Division appeared and drove them back. Throughout the 12th of August 15th Army fought a desperate action to drive back the Citizen forces—which had been trapped in the pocket nearly Ploesti since early July and had only been relieved with supplies and fuel from the arriving Drakian forces near Bazau three days prior--were advancing after their tanks had been fueled up and ammunition restocked. They had orders to close the pocket and finish the entrapment of the First Ukrainian.

Already the Soviet forces in Ploesti were cut off and completely surrounded. These forces included a mechanized corps and two rifle corps, the former being the last fully intact mobile formation, along with some Romanian paramilitaries. They had ample fuel from the Ploesti refineries, which were still intact. The decision was made for these armoured forces to attempt a breakout into the Carpathians, taking advantage of the detailment of their opposing Citizen tanks to the west. On the evening of the 13th this breakout effort commenced. An artillery barrage was followed by the charge of the Soviet tanks against the Janissary lines, with every kind of vehicle that existed in Ploesti and the pocket jammed full of as many troops as possible following the tanks through.

The Soviets broke through and raced north, under constant fire from both flanks; the artillerymen gallantly stayed at their posts and laid down a covering fire along the breakout corridor to give some measure of protection. Still, they immediately came under heavy attack from the Drakian airforce, which inflicted severe casualties. As night fell, however, the attacks ceased. About 27,000 Soviet and Romanian troops and some civilians thus escaped, and though many of the tanks and vehicles were destroyed the next day in air attacks the majority of the men managed to make their way by foot into the Carpathians and to safety. More than 60,000 troops remained trapped in Ploesti. Most of the civilian population was long gone and they had ample food supplies and the large industrial complexes of the refineries to fight in; the siege would prove costly for the Domination.

In a great battle to the west of the Ialomita on the 13th the 15th Army was defeated by the advancing Citizens in conjunction with supporting Janissary forces. Completely lacking tank support it maintained resistance throughout the day before collapsing at the continued onset of the Drakian Honds. The escape from the pocket was now in grevious danger. A last reserve of tanks was sent in to attack the Drakian forces the next day, but it was annihilated by aerial attacks from the constant assault of the Dominate's Air Force before it could show any effect against the advancing Citizens; a scratch infantry force had to try and hold, and nothing else was left.

Miraculously these two attacks, followed by a stern defence by whomever in the area could be mustered, held the Drakian forces off for eleven hours. As the sun set on the 14th of August, the Drakian Citizen tanks met up with Janissaries which had been grinding slowly east from Bucharest. The pocket was closed, and close to 300,000 Soviet troops were trapped inside of it (many of them Army- and Front-level support personnel, as the evacuation was carried on by the corps). Very few of them would survive. The fighting was hardly over, however, for numerous attempts by the desperate Soviet troops still trapped inside to break out in various numbers would continue until the pocket was entirely overrun, and many would indeed succeed in escaping to join Romanian guerrillas in the countryside.

13 corps plus a last 14,000 mixed troops from the defences of the escape road who managed to pivot to the north as the Citizen troops closed it had succeeded in escaping from the pocket. These troops were already under a merciless and constant aerial attack, however, and now the Citizens themselves swung toward the north and began a pursuit. The combination shattered most of their cohesion and killed many men, but the vast majority of the bedraggled, hungry survivors reached the safety of the Carpathians. In most cases they had only their rifles and sometimes not even them, but 450,000 men from the Ialomita and Ploesti pockets would thus survive to fight another day.

Drakian attention now turned to the elimination of the pockets with Janissaries even as they began to concentrate Citizen troops in the east. Second Ukrainian Front, Koniev's mechanized force, and around 12 Romanian divisions were now being mustered in a force of approximately 1,400 tanks, several Danube river monitors, and 48 infantry divisions in Moldavia and Besserabia. This would be the force that would have to defend eastern Romania and the Ukraine from the coming Drakian offensive. It was sufficient in numbers, and on good defensive terrain—but the disaster in Wallachia meant that it was outnumbered more than two-to-one by the excellent Citizen tanks alone and six-to-one altogether in armour against the Dominate.

On the 16th of August Krasnov asked for, and received, the resignation of Marshal Tukhachevsky as Commisar of War and Director of the West Ukrainian Military District. He was sent to Central Asia and demoted to command of the 2nd Turkmenistan Front there; the larger and more prestigeous 1st Turkmenistan Front at Almy-Ata being commanded by the rising star of Gregory Zhukov. In 1942 Tukhachevsky would be rehabilitated after the famous meeting of his army with the armies of Taiping China and Britain in the northern Iranian city of Mashbad; but for the moment his career was in ruins and he would never return to the position of Commisar of War. AlexanderYegorov was made Commisar of War and Boris Shaposhnikov was giving command of the West Ukrainian Military District.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Five

Shaposhnikov understood that it would be very hard to hold even the Siret-Danube Line with the decimated tank formations of the RKKA. He therefore began preparations for a deep battle strategy, using the Siret-Danube Line only to buy time while as many armored assets as remained were concentrated for deep battle operations in the Ukraine. This proved to be a very difficult, for much of the armour available was obsolete, and the only high-quality armoured units were mostly fighting in the Caucasus. He immediately made plans to shift these units to the west and replace them with larger numbers of obsolete tanks which would be sufficient for infantry support in such an extremely rugged area. This, however, would take time.

In an effort to buy as much time as possible for the Soviet Union Shaposhnikov arranged for all necessary defensive preparations and in particular paid attention to the sort of tank traps which had been refined in the Caucasus and were suitable for quick installation. Airplanes with anti-tank capabilities were also ordered to be concentrated forward with all possible haste, and air-superiourity established in the area of the Siret-Danube Line so that the Red Navy could operate effectively in support of the Second Ukrainian Front—and if necessary evacuate troops should they be cut off. Last, but hardly least, he authorized the use of poison gas.

This was not the first use of poison gas in the war. The Dominate had used it on some pockets in Tblisi and Baku who were holding out against all expectations, and it had seen some similar limited use against local counterattacks in the caucasus. But there was a longer history than that to the use of gas. The Greeks had actually opened the Third Balkan War with a massive chemical weapons bombardment (blood agents purchased from France, primarily) and it had been used extensively throughout that conflict. During their abortive offensive in May-June of 1941 after the Drakian surprise attack, they again extensively used blood agents. The Dominate retaliated by laying down massive Yperite/Diphosgene barrages on Thessaloniki during the first of the two battles for that city in 1941.

The Soviet chemical arsenal included Yperite, Lewisite, Phosgene, Diphosgene, and experimentally the German insecticide “Zyklon B”, which had been produced in the USSR for agricultural usage since the early 1930s. The majority of these gasses were available in both aerial bomb and artillery shell forms, and all stockpiles in the immediate area were rushed forward to be supplied to the artillery and to the Red Air Force units facing the Drakian forces. Drakia had all of these weapons except for Zyklon B, but they did have Cyanogen Chloride, a blood agent which at the time was being produced only by France and the Dominate. The majority of the Dominate's stockpile was of Lewisite and Cyanogen Chloride, which were regarded as the agents most suited for use in modern war. This would come at great cost to the Dominate, for when the British developed BAL (British Anti-Lewisite) in 1942 nearly 40% of their chemical stockpile and production lines would be rendered useless.

As it turned out, Zyklon B was an ineffective chemical for weaponization, but this was not known at the time. Gas became in general a very important part of the Soviet strategy because it was hoped that it would become a force multiplier for their artillery. This would allow more artillery pieces to be detailed forward for emergency use as anti-tank weapons. This included a large naval landing contigent with several hundred light naval cannon stripped from coastal forts and older ships—these weapons were useful because they had existing supplies of armour-piercing shells in great quantities which would be effective against tanks. Though Shaposhnikov put all of these orders into quick effect, the time taken to initiate them was much longer, and despite the greatest efforts of the Soviet Union much of this material did not reach the front in time.

Shaposhnikov's pessimism with the strategic situation led him to conclude it would be impossible to stop a Drakian advance before the Dnepr. Therefore he concentrated on a strategy of delay while units more capable of dealing with the Citizen armour which had proven so deadly were concentrated deep to the rear or shifted from the more defensible Caucasus front. He did not expect to hold more than the major cities on the west bank of the Dnepr, if that; preparations for guerrilla warfare were made before that point, and the cities themselves fortified. The coast might also be held as long as the Red Navy maintained supremacy on the Black Sea.

Koniev's command had all the armour concentrated at it, which consisted of roughly 1,400 tanks of all types plus other assorted armoured fighting vehicles. Of this force much of the armour was inadequate, and in many cases damaged. Only about two hundred assault guns and tank killers which arrived later were capable of going up against Citizen Armour, with appropriate support from the remaining T-34/85s to cover their flanks. Several prototype T-41s also arrived in time to see action. This whole armoured force was stationed back from the main lines of defense to provide a mobile reserve for the whole Siret-Danube Line.

Most importantly for the defensive strategy, however, the Romanian government finally assented to coordinate efforts. Shaposhnikov was not put into the position of an allied commander (which meant that coordination was still hampered), but he at least had an exchange of staff officers with the Romanian Army in Moldavia, and a joint defensive strategy was agreed up. Understanding that difficulties could still arise, Koniev's force was placed to the north to cover what appeared to be the weakest point in the defences.

Shaposhnikov had some time to prepare his defences. Though the Drakian citizen forces were quickly pulled out of the fight and reoriented toward him, they did not proceed to attack alone, being reequipped from their losses and prepared for the attack, and also without support. The Janissaries were entirely occupied with the reduction of the pockets, a process which took a great deal of time. Gas of all types in the Drakian arsenal was used to aide in the reduction of the Soviet pockets. The Janissaries attacked vigorously, preventing them from gaining the balance to regroup or launch a counterattack.

More Janissaries were rushed to the front so that the offensive could continue as quickly as possible. Particularly in the area of the Bucharest—Ialomita, mass aerial bombing was used to reduce the pocket, including further aerial use of gas. The Dominate also attempted to start large-scale fires using a variety of incendiaries to destroy the countryside into which the Soviet troops were increasingly compressed. They were constantly attacked, and the Janissaries pushed forward to evict them from earthworks the moment they were thrown up so that effective cover could never be gained. This naturally resulted in very severe casualties among the Janissaries.

The attacks and, essentially, massacre, continued in this fashion for no less than nineteen days. Despite the best efforts of the Domination several tens of thousands of men managed to escape in this period in small groups; the exact figure is unknown, as most of them joined resistance movements in Wallachia among the native citizens and perished there in the next three years. Others reached the safety of Transylvania throughout that same period, again in small groups. And a sizeable number, perhaps seven thousand men in all, and possibly more, were still alive and fighting as rebels when Soviet and Allied troops liberated Wallachia in late 1944. On September 4th the last organized resistance in the pocket ceased. Approximately 250,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in it, or massacred after capture, or worked to death in Drakian mines as prisoners of war. The exact figures for each category will never be known, and no POWs from this action were found alive during the conquest of the Dominate. There were certainly in excess of 100,000 Janissary casualties in the destruction of this pocket.

By the time the pocket fell, the assault on the Siret-Danube Line had already begun. But even after it fell—indeed, even after the Rape of Rome and after the fall of Kiev—another battle raged without end. The siege of Ploesti was a very interesting case, for the troops inside the Ploesti pocket were much fewer in number than those in the large Bucharest-Ialomita pocket. However, they had more food, much more ammunition, and excellent large supplies of fuel for their remaining vehicles in the form of the refineries, which continued to operate for the first two weeks of the siege on a limited basis. Furthermore, the large availability of petrochemicals allowed them to use fire as an effective barricade and improvised combat weapon in many different ways and forms throughout the defence of the city, and of course the industrial works themselves were formidable defensive barriers, as had been shown by the now famed defence of the Tblisi Traktor Factory in 1940.

60,000 Soviet troops with perhaps another 40 – 50,000 Romanians of all types (including women and children who were able to fight) were trapped in the Ploesti area. For the first thirty-three days they held out very well, repulsing every attack and even receiving limited resupply from air (ammunition and food dropped by airships and aircraft during the night to the light of burning oil as aim points). After this time the food began to run scarce, however, and the Dominate's successes in the east meant the end of aerial assistance. The troops in Ploesti fought on, despite the increasing hopelessness of the situation.

We know little of the fighting in this hopeless pocket, save that every inch of ground was contested with great bitterness. We only know that in the end the defenders were down to using a variety of improvised weapons, ancient blackpowder arms, bayonets, and captured Drakian equipment: All the ammunition for the Romanian and Soviet arms had been used up. Oil was used skillfully to create barriers of fire and incinerate advancing Janissaries. The rubble of the refineries, battered by massive artillery fire, proved a maze of death for the attacking forces. Massive amounts of Yperite was used in the bombardments to smother the defenders, and in the end it just served to hamper the efforts of the Janissaries.

In the end Ploesti stood a siege of ninety days. There are no known survivors, though surely a few escaped the siege to carry on as franc-tirauers as was the case for Bucharest and the Bucharest-Ialomita Pocket. The Dominate never attempted to rebuild the city or the refineries on account of the awesome damage suffered by them in the siege, and no reliable Janissary casualty figures are known for the battle, though reasonable estimates suggest that there were at least more than a hundred thousand casualties and probably tens of thousands killed in the fighting, if not even more than that. Thus was the destruction of Soviet First Ukrainian Front concluded in early November of 1941.

Even as these grim spectacles unfolded, however, more janissaries were being brought forward. In these early days of the war they seemed an inexhaustible resource to be thrown forward in human wave attacks and overwhelm the enemy with the charges of their primitive and unprotected AFVs; it was only later that the Dominate would realize that even their vast and fast-breeding slave population would be greatly strained in the tremendous mechanized slaughter of the Second World War. By November of 1941 it is entirely possible that one-half of one percent of the male serf population of the Dominate had already been killed or maimed (and thus rendered useless as a combatant) in a year and a half of fighting. Gradually the Dominate would grow more cautious with the expenditure of their Serfs, but for the moment they simply brought up additional reserves to bolster the Citizen force for the assault on the Siret-Danube Line.

All necessary preparations were made as the fighting in the pockets continued to rage. 4,050 Citizen tanks were mustered—a total 9 Armoured and 18 Mechanized Infantry Divisions in 9 mechanized corps—some 365,000 Citizen troops in all. An additional 3 Divisions of Citizen Paratroopers were concentrated. Once the Siret-Danube line was broken they were to be deployed to seize the fortresses along the Romanian-Soviet border to prevent the defensive forces from retreating to that line and attempting to hold a second time. They were supported by 45 Janissary leg infantry divisions and 11 Janissary Armoured divisions with 6,200 tanks and heavy A/Cs in all, totalling 760,000 Janissaries; another 300,000 unarmed Serfs formed much of the manpower for the supply arm of this force (the use of unarmed and much less reliable Serfs for the supply elements would prove disastrous in Russia, where they would frequently desert to guerrilla bands and convoys had to be posted with many additional troops to defend against guerrilla attacks).

At that time there were probably 4,000,000 combat-ready Citizen troops and 8,000,000 combat-ready Janissaries in the whole of the Dominate out of a population of 31 million and 260 million respectively: One out of every twelve active-duty soldiers in the Dominate were concentrated for this offensive. On 5 September the Drakian high command received word that the Bucharest-Ialomita Pocket had fallen. The primary thorn in the rear of the assault force was removed and it was now considered safe for the assault to proceed. The assault was ordered to commence on the 7th of September.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Six

At 00:01 on 7 September 7,000 Drakian artillery pieces opened fired, laying down a massive barrage all along the front, but with an especial concentration on the Siret. The heaviest fire from several thousand guns was specifically pointed toward the meeting place of the Romanian and Soviet armies. The Soviets were waiting for them. Within five minutes a total of 5,000 Soviet and Romanian artillery pieces had begun an intense counter-fire. For more than six hours the tremendous artillery duel continued, the guns on each side firing as rapidly as they could. At 06:30 hours a force of 200 medium bombers attacked using HE/Gas bombs; it was followed by an equal force of Rhino attack aircraft, going in low to strafe and bomb the area of the main thrust.

At 07:00 the main barrage ceased, and restarted fifteen minutes later with a gas barrage that lasted for thirty minutes. The Soviets immediately began to counter-fire with gas as well, using the persistant Yperite instead of the Diphosgene and Cyanogen Chloride being employed against them. At 07:45 the Drakian switched their fire-pattern back to a barrage of conventional explosives and thousands of 75mm and smaller cannon and automatic cannon opened up a direct-fire barrage concentrated on a 20km portion of the middle course of the Siret. The Soviets continued to a fire a mix of HE and Chemical shells the entire time. At 08:00 the order was given and along with 20km length of the Siret the first waves of 18 Janissary infantry divisions started across the river. One minute later the artillery began a creeping barrage. Direct-fire from the lighter guns continued until the individual gunners saw the janissaries in their line of fire.

The Janissaries stepped off into hell. As they began to hit the beach on the far side of the Siret they were hit with every kind of infantry weapon firing point-blank from the survivors of the forward trenches. These men were unsupported as the creeping barrage kept the heads down of their mortar support and reserves in the second line and trenches to the rear; but those who had survived the ferocious barrage on the front were necessarily now able to fight back, and they did with a vengeance. Wave after wave was pinned down on the beach in a tremendous slaughter.

Throughout the day this merciless slaughter continued. By nightfall no Janissary division had advanced further than sixty meters off the bank of the Siret and no division had suffered less than 25% casualties; several had suffered close to 40% casualties and the average was 30%. Many of the amphibious craft, small boats, and rafts used in the crossings were lost, which made the situation quite severe. A large number of casualties were inflicted by gas, which strained the limited Drakian medical system for their Janissary troops to the breaking point; fatalities were, however, proportionately lower.

During the night the situation improved. The Drakian officers recognized the desperation of their situation. They led the Janissaries forward personally; this resulted in further heavy casualties concentrated among the officers of the Janissary units, which ultimately reached 70% of all officers during the fight on average—some battalions lost every single officer. In the brutal night-fighting the progress against the deep Soviet and Romanian defences was measured in inches. Landmines and barbed wire impeded the progress of the Janissaries between each line of trenches and machinegun nests were emplaced everywhere and often provided converging fire from three sides against a particular advance. Gas was omnipresent, and the Soviets fought tenaciously, demanding a price in blood for every foot of soil that they were forced out of in the confused hand-to-hand trench fighting.

For twenty kilometers the Drakian troops hung on to a thin strip of land on the east bank of the Siret. In no case was it more than seven hundred meters deep by the morning of the 8th. The Soviets now did their best to drive the Janissaries back; they directed thousands of guns on the Drakian position, pounding it with high explosives and carpeting it in phosgene. The sky above the battlefield the Red Air Force hit back against the Drakian domination of the sky with everything that it had, virtually halting air support for the embattled Janissary positions. Many men of the initial advancing divisions were still unable to cross due to the lack of crossing vehicles and the intense packing of men into the small space on the fire side of the river; they were sent across only as replacements for the men who were steadily killed. The situation was in many ways analogous to that which the British forces at Gallipoli suffered in terms of the concentration of men into a small area of frontage on bad terrain.

On the night of the 8th – 9th the Soviets and certain Romanian elements counterattacked, using the infiltration tactics that the Drakians themselves had used the night before. For the most part they were savagely repulsed, but in many sectors made real gains which threatened to cut the Drakian beachhead into a series of isolated pockets. As a result a general counterattack was ordered for the day of the 9th; the Drakian aerial elements made a grand effort to regain the skies which just saw more bloody and indecisive fighting in the air. The Janissary divisions once more pressed forward under the cover of a creeping barrage on a massive scale.

They had successes, but at a terrible cost. Most of the original attacking divisions completely lost cohesion by this point, and toward the end of the day on the 9th they consisted of officers leading whatever Janissaries they could collect until the officers were killed and the men pinned down. Yet, through all of this the Drakian troops did manage to push forward in some places to a kilometer beyond the river, where the greatest and last fortifications of the Soviet-Romanian land stopped them cold. To forestall a counterattack the reserve divisions were ordered forward at that point. They arrived over the night even as the Soviets once more counterattacked in the darkness, just in time to push back the RKKA once more from the gains it made in counterattacking. The first pontoon bridges were now successfully erected, earlier attempts having been knocked out.

Massive attacks were conducted along the whole length of the front by the fresh troops on the 10th. The allied lines held, and the Janissary reserve divisions were badly attrited. Strategos Hildebrandt at this point made a crucial decision; his reserves had suffered heavily and the losses among officers were again atrocious, leaving much of the Janissary forces in the pocket with little cohesion. One more big push could be made, but if it failed the Soviets might well drive the Janissaries into the Siret. He ordered a crack Citizen infantry force to cross the river, some thirty thousand infantry troops in all. They would spearhead the next attack using stormgruppen tactics.

On the 11th of September, the same day that the Rape of Rome was taking place on the freshly opened Italian front, the Drakian Stormtroops went to work. Infiltrating into the enemy trenches as professional, cohesive teams they wreaked havoc. A massive artillery barrage was laid down just ahead of them, including the now omnipresent use of gas. It was followed up by a massed attack of the Janissaries, who fought better than usual knowing that for a change it was the Citizen troops clearing the way for them. The allied lines finally collapsed, but even as the Romanians began to fall back the Soviets organized scratch reserves and manned the communications trenches in a last ditch effort to hold the lines. It succeeded throughout the night and onto the day of the 12th; on the morning of the twelfth the Drakian troops along the line were informed that their comrades in had conquered Rome and Italy was on the verge of being knocked out of the war. With this knowledge they pressed home the attack and by the evening of the 12th had broken through. Citizen tanks were immediately moved up to exploit the gap.

Koniev immediately received orders to move forward and hold the gap, but Shaposhnikov was already making preparations to extricate his forces should it become necessary. Behind, in the western Ukraine, the evacuation of industrial machinery deep into Russia had been continuing on his advice for some three weeks already, and many citizens—denied use of the railroad system and good roads—were treking toward the east with what belongings as they could carry across the dusty roads of southern Russia. Koniev's forces initially had a numerical advantage as they came into contact with the enemy late on the night of the 13th and the heavy fighting began on the 14th. Throughout that day it appeared as though he might succeed in plugging the gap.

By the 15th, however, his inferior tank forces had suffered very severe casualties and more and more Drakian tanks were driving forward toward the east. The Romanian right flank was in the process of collapsing and the Drakian forces were pushing him back, trying to seperate Koniev from the infantry forces of Second Ukrainian Front and achieve a double envelopment of the RKKA's mobile forces. Koniev worked tirelessly to extricate his forces from this danger, and on the 16th succeeded in swinging them south and halting the Drakian effort on his left flank. But a gap had now been successfully torn between the Romanian and Soviet armies.

The Citizen forces poured through this gap at once, even as Janissary armour was brought up to press the flank attack and keep Koniev from interfering. The Romanians were now in general retreat, their generals barely keeping control of the poorly trained second-line troops on their portion of the front who were now badly pressed. They succeeded in somehow maintaining their cohesion for a retreat back into the Carpathian foothills. The gap was steadily widening, and on the 18th with the Drakian airforce having regained the advantage in the skies, a division of Citizen paratroopers were ordered to deploy along the Prut as planned. These drops, unlike the disastrous failures of 1940, proved to be excellently executed, and several bridges on the Prut were captured intact.

With the danger of being encircled still quite real for Second Ukrainian Front, Shaposhnikov conducted a brilliant fighting retreat, drawing his forces back toward Odessa along the coast and using Koniev's remaining mobile forces quite skillfully, holding off the Janissary armour directed against them and succeeding in keeping the coastal plain clear long enough for the whole of the Front to escape. But the seizure of the Prut bridges had destroyed any chance of establishing a second line of defense; the Western Ukraine was now open to the Drakian troops, and they raced forward with little opposition. On the 19th columns of Drakian tanks reached the Citizen paratroopers along the Prut and crossed it into Besserabia.

Immediately the two remaining divisions of Citizen Paratroopers were now ordered to deploy to the Dniestr. Again the drops were successful and the Drakian forces raced on, reaching the Dniestr in three days. On the 23rd they were ordered to turn south to effect the encirclement of the retreating Second Army. Koniev managed to redeploy to Tiraspol before the Drakian units could succeed. There he held, bolstered by the valiant efforts of many Komsomolets units from the area which had been armed with old Mosin-Nagant Rifles and sent to the front at this critical crossing of the Dniestr. For four days he held, allowing eight full rifle corps to escape with their now-precious equipment. After he was driven out of his position the remaining Soviet troops, though without equipment, were successfully evacuated in small boats and Red Navy ships; only a few thousand volunteers who held a rear-guard action were lost.

The southwestern Ukraine is a much preferable climate than most of Russia. Despite October fast coming on the weather was not bad, the roads were not particularly muddy, and the Drakian troops made excellent time. After crossing the Dniestr the rate of advance of the Citizen forces reached 75km a day in some cases. There was no opposition, but the Soviet government destroyed everything in the western Ukraine, or evacuated it. Scorched earth was the policy, and they had had more than enough time to make the necessary preparations. Even before the Drakian troops entered an area, it already resembled a wasteland. By the time it would be recaptured in 1944 it would be little better than the surface of the moon.

Shaposhnikov settled into defensive positions around Odessa and detailed his troops along the coast so as to prevent an encirclement. He understood that the coastline there could not be held forever, so preparations were made to evacuate the machinery and even the populace of the coastal cities to the Crimean, and then beyond, up the Don river by ship and river barge. He believed that he could hold the coastline long enough for this effort to be accomplished and then for his own troops to also be evacuated. The effort to hold the Dneper, however, seemed less certain. The Citizen troops and their supporting logistical elements showed their brilliance here has the incredibly rapid advance continued. On 31 September Drakian troops entered Vinnytsya. On 3 October their northern and central columns met at Uman.

By 6th October the Drakian Citizen troops of the northern and central forces, consisting of 6 armoured and 12 mechanized divisions, had taken Bila Tserkva. Two days later their reconaissance forces were within sight of Kiev. Over the next three days engineering equipment was brought up; despite the danger of overextending themselves it was demanded that the Drakian troops get across the Dneper at all costs before an organized defensive line upon it could be fully established. Drakian troops pressing against the outskirts of Kiev on the west bank of the river found themselves facing heavy resistance from inside the city. Exactly one month after the Rape of Rome the siege of Kiev had begun.

The assault crossing of the Dneper was begun on the 12th. Citizen troops were this time the spearhead, and they were facing a light but determined opposition. On the 14th they broke through it, suffering stiff casualties but tearing through what seemed to be the only line of defence in the area, perhaps left in the rest of Russia. The day before, however, another Drakian force had been halted four kilometers south of the city of Mazyr in Byelorussia. As it turned out, Drakian troops would never once advance further into Byelorussia than that. But nobody recognized it at the time; the Drakian High Command had been beset by “Victory Disease”, and the extremity which their logistical system, along with the dangers of winter as they pushed further north into winter, were now essentially entirely ignored. Additional Drakian troops were being concentrated for an offensive into southeastern Poland even as most of the Janissary forces were pinned down fighting with Shaposhnikov in the south and partisan warfare was already beginning against the Drakian supply lines. A dangerous situation developed where the stunning advances after the breakthrough on the Siret led the Drakian High Command to appear to, for all intents and purposes, believe their own propaganda. Reversals would follow.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Seven

On 5 October Drakian troops had entered Chernivtsi. The center, considered the cultural center of Romania, had been declared open by the Romanian government in recognition that they could not defend it. To demonstrate an open contempt for such gestures the Draka proceeded to burn, rape, and slaughter their way through the city for a week. An estimated 50,000 people in the city were killed and more in the surrounding area. As the initial forces completed the desecration of Chernivtsi, however, more powerful forces were being brought into the area for a general offensive against Poland.

Despite the horrendous behaviour of the Drakian troops their government did not fully comprehend the response that it behooved. Though they were now at war with the United States of America and many of the nations of Europe they still had hope of gaining temporary allies who could later be betrayed. The German invasion of the Netherlands appeared to bear this out, and there was much debate in Drakian circles about how to proceed; eventually the 'conquest now' faction won out, which led to the invasion of the Dutch Gold Coast. For the moment, however, the last effort of the rationalists—led by the General Staff and in particular Strategos Eric von Shrakenburg—argued for an attempt to bring Hungary onto their side. They were ultimately overruled by the politicians.

It was hoped that it might be possible with a Hungarian declaration of war on her neighbours—she had territorial claims against every single bordering nation except Austria, and all had declared war on the Dominate—to completely encircle and destroy the Balkan nations on a strategic level. It was furthermore believed that the protestant sympathies of Hungarian nationalism might allow for this despite the Rape of Rome. Drakian attempts to make arrangements with the Hungarian government failed miserably; the Ambassador's promises were regarded as ludicrous and impossible. By this time the Hungarians themselves, though they had never joined the Little Entente, had no illusions about the Dominate and furthermore regarded the territorial gains proposed as simply to good to be true, though the Hungarians did remain neutral until after the monarchist coup of 16 November.

While these negotiations were going on, however, it was planned to launch an offensive which was expected to overrun southern Poland and punch through Transcarpathian Ruthenia. This would bring the war directly onto the soil of the highly industrialized Czechoslovakian Republic, destroy the Polish armies in the field and force the Germans to defend the country, and threaten the total collapse of Romania.

The forces provided consisted of three Citizen mechanized corps, and two Janissary tank corps and one of motorized infantry (on steam trucks, which were proved worthless for a troop mobility role by this very campaign). Four janissary leg infantry corps provided the intial breakthrough force, and a third Citizen mechanized corps (with one Mech. Inf. Div. detached to the south to add in the fight around Odessa). The attack was to consist of two prongs pushing toward Ternopol from the south and east, and additional forces would be sent into the area from the strategic reserves if they were successful to exploit their gains. They faced Polish defenses which had been prepared for a month, but had a preponderence of artillery and tanks over the Poles.

15 October was the date set for the attack. On each thrust two janissary infantry corps moved forward, following a six hour artillery barrage and gas bombardment, and under the cover of a creeping barrage. In both attacks they seized the first line of Polish defenses in a stiff fight that lasted until the night, when the Poles extricated their forces toward the second line. Each Janissary division involved in this fighting, however, suffered an average of three thousand casualties. On the second day the Janissary armour was sent in. Again the Poles fought hard, but they were on the last line of their defence on a front not conductive to extended defensive warfare, and the enemy was using tanks in great quantity; the Polish forces had few tanks of any quality (all of them recently purchased Czech models), and these were mostly committed in the south where they could fight hull-down to use their guns defensively to better effect.

By 17 October the Drakian forces had cleared the second line in the area of the eastern advance. But in the south the Poles held on, driving back the Janissary armour. This prevented the encirclement of the Polish forces and allowed them to successfully conduct a fighting withdrawal over the next week. During that week the Drakian troops pushed forward much more slowly than expected, finding the countryside laid waste before them and the population having mostly been evacuated to Lvov. On 23 October the Dominate's forces finally took Ternopol. The Polish troops were falling back in the south, and here the Citizen forces were unleashed, operating in conjunction with the Janissary tanks and motorized infantry (which was mostly left behind as their vehicles broke down or simply failed to keep pace) in an effort to drive a fatal wedge between the Polish army and Lvov.

The Citizens drove southwest from Ternopol, making good time. They appeared on the verge of cutting off several Polish corps in a pocket around Ivano-Frankivsk when they ran into a surprise force guarding the upper reaches of the Dniestr. There were many fords in this area across the river, but it was the best defensive barrier available. Even so, the Dominate's commanders had not expected it to be defended; the Poles didn't have enough troops, with many positioned along the border much further north. The troops were not, however, Polish, but rather Soviet troops which had escaped from the Bucharest-Ialomita pocket. Inside Transylvania the Soviets had succeeded in getting together enough arms and equipment from the mass of hundreds of thousands of men who had escaped, but were disorganized, to create a cohesive Army of six rifle corps and a single brigade each of tanks and artillery (both somewhat understrength). Fortunately for the Soviets, the SVT-38 used the 7.62 x 54mm round, exactly the same as the Mosin-Nagant, and there were supplies of such ammunition available among the Balkan powers.

From 26 October onwards the combined Soviet-Polish force held against repeated attacks by the Drakian forces pressing against them, and many additional forces which were ultimately detailed into the area piecemail as the Drakian commanders asked for more troops as each breakthrough effort failed. Gradually the Drakian flanking effort against Lvov became the primary focus of the campaign, beginning with the first probing assaults on the 28th which were soundly repulsed.

The scale of the defences of Lvov was stunning. Here was where the Poles had decided to make their stand, just outside of this major city, and the preparations were requisite. Ever since the 16th of September they had been going on. The first Sunday after the declaration of war on the 15th the Archbishop of Krakow had read the following message from the Pope over radio, which was also read from the pulpit of every single Parish:

“It is the sacred duty of the Polish people to defend their soil from the Drakian invader. The snake, the symbol of evil, of untrustworthiness and of deception, of cowardly attack from treachery, is approaching the territory of the free Polish Republic. It is her duty as a Christian nation to repulse this attack, as she repulsed the Mongols so many years before. As God ordained then that Poland should suffer, yet stand proud as the defender of Christendom, so it has been ordained today.

“Do not let this verdict turn your hearts, however, for the effort We have sanctioned against the Snake is a Holy Crusade; and the Polish Catholic Army is now necessarily a crusading Army, who's members are, by the act of taking arms against the Snake, fighting as crusaders. The promise given to all crusaders extends to them: the Crusade is an act of penance that absolves one of all sin, and to die on a Crusade is simply to gain heaven. This We affirm.

“No-one is left out of this message. Every man who takes up arms against the Snake in Poland is a crusader, fighting as part of the effort of the whole Polish nation and indeed the Catholic faith. We hereby affirm that any act which serves the Crusade militarily is to serve in that Crusade; a woman who helps dig the trench in which a man shall fight against the Snake has performed her Crusading duty as much as the man who himself fights. Let everyone perform their ordained role, full of faith in God and confidence in the Final Victory of the Lord Jesus the Christ. Thus shall the Snake be repulsed. Deus Vult!”

By the time of the first Drakian attacks the defensive preparations around Lvov had been going on for fourty days without ceasing. Old women had come out with shovels, even with their bare hands, to help with the defences upon the appeal of the Priests and the reading of the Pope's message. Young boys and old men had armed themselves with any weapons available, and worked with shovels tirelessly in digging a vast network of entrenchments in the area. From the industrialized regions of Poland and from Germany and Czechoslovakia arrived barbed wire, the steel for tank traps, and supplies of land mines. Moreover, the French Expeditionary Force had arrived. It consisted of 1er Groupement Cuirassé with two armoured divisions, XXIe Corps d'Armée, and XXIIIe Corps d'Armée. They assumed the defence of the flat areas to the north of the city and allowed the Polish forces to concentrate on defending the city itself and the areas to the south up to the junction with the Soviets.

From 29 October onwards a series of attacks were launched directly at Lvov, primarily with the troops of a single Janissary corp and tank division which were soundly repulsed. Divisional-level reinforcements were fed in over the next two weeks to little avail before the attacks were finally called off due to their total failure to make any impression on the defences of the city. The major attack came on 5 November, however, when seven Citizen Divisions hit the French positions to the north of the city. The vast defences which had been established proved to be an excellent position for the French to defend. Despite the preponderence and superiour quality of the Citizen armour the French succeeded in checking their advance. The defence in depth meant that though the Citizen troops did push forward and have successes they never succeeded in breaking out, despite more than a week of heavy fighting.

During this period the French suffered very badly, and most of their formations were entirely torn up and largely combat ineffective by the time of the end of the battle. But they clung tenaciously to their positions and fought on despite inadequate equipment, receiving the reinforcement of two Polish infantry corps on the 10th which allowed them to make a series of counterattacks and regain about a kilometer. After this, however, the Drakian forces once again drove forward, and finally on the 13th it seemed that a breakout for the Citizen troops was, despite being outnumbered and the exhaustion of the long fight, finally possible. It was not to be.

Other Drakian forces had been in this period pushing to the north through Poland, nearing the Pripet Marshes. They took Lut'sk on the 9th and on the 13th were nearing the outskirts of the critical rail junction of Kovel. Until this time the Drakian Air Force had ruled the air over Poland, facing no signficant opposition. On the 13th, however, they ran headlong into the Luftwaffe, which had been preparing forward airstrips in southeastern Poland and parts of western Byelorussia. Fw-190s shot the Drakian ground support aircraft out of the air and brushed outside the light fighter cover the Drakian forces had bothered to provide. Stuka tank-busters came in next, savaging the Drakian columns.

Soon contact with troops was reported by the forward patrols. German troops. By evening an all-out attack had developed, here on the edge of the Pripet marshes where the Dominate had not been expecting one. Though the marshes themselves provided a natural barrier, a German force from East Prussia—the famed 2nd Panzer Army of Heinz Guderian, at this time called simply “Panzergruppe Guderian”—had deployed through Brest-Litvosk and now launched a general counterattack with great concentration of force. By the evening of the first day the Drakian forces in the area were already in serious trouble, facing the Tigers and Panthers of Guderian's Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions. Many of the German troops were armed with the Mkb-42, precursor to the Assault Rifle, and support was provided by the MG-41 machinegun, both in their first operational uses.

By the end of the next day the Drakian forces in the area had been routed and were in headlong retreat to the south. The attacks around Lvov were called off as the Drakian forces found themselves under massed attack from the Luftwaffe and with a full Mechanized Army storming through their weak right flank. On the fifteenth a general withdrawal was ordered by the Drakian High Command. On the 17 Guderian's forces had retaken Lut'sk and had destroyed all resistance in the north. They raced south, averaging more than 30km a day. The Drakian citizen troops retreated from Lvov, and the only thing that saved them from destruction was that the severe pounding they'd given the French and Poles prevented a pursuit from that quarter.

On the 20th, scouting forces from Panzergruppe Guderian occupied Rivne, which they would hold for two weeks before being driven out. In the meanwhile, Guderian's charging Panzer columns, supported by the Luftwaffe's air superiourity in the region, were racing toward Ternopol, and the Drakian Citizen troops were still in grave danger of being cut off. In a hard fight on the 21st and 22nd a single Citizen Armoured Division was tasked to try and hold off Guderian long enough for the rest of the Citizen forces in the area to get clear. They almost succeeded, and nine Citizen Divisions succeeded in escaping (under constant air attack the entire time), but after a fierce tank battle to the north of the city the shattered Citizen armoured division was shoved aside and Guderian's Panzers retook Ternopol, cutting off the trailing battalion of the last of the nine divisions and trapping the majority of a tenth in the rapidly closing pocket.

Panzergruppe Guderian continued to drive south, and met up with advancing Polish-Soviet forces somewhat to the northwest of Chernivtsi on the 26th after fighting off a desperate attempt by the trapped Citizens to escape. Thirteen Janissary divisions were also caught in the pocket, and a second and final breakout effort was attempted between the 28th – 30th of November, which again failed. The loss in Citizens trapped was comparable to that which had been suffered during Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz's great victory at Samarra in 1916, and never again did the Dominate of Drakia attempt an offensive into Poland.

With the coup in Hungary on the 16th the tenuous strategic reasons for the offensive had at any rate been lost, and immediately after this failure the civilian leadership of the Dominate ordered the invasion of the Dutch Gold Coast, effectively acknowledging that they desired no more allies than they already had, namely, their co-belligerents in the form of Finland (which was already contemplating seeking peace) and Japan, and that even the interests of these allies mattered little in comparison with the ideological purity of the Race in carrying out their mission of Conquest. Further reversals within the USSR would mark the end of the year, and it is to these operations which we now turn.

Anatomy of a Disaster:
The Prut Campaign

Part Eight

With the coming of the second half of October, the rains began to fall. From 16 October onwards they were almost continuous, turning the bad roads of the northeast Ukraine and southwest of Russia into a mire of deep, thick mud. From here on the advance would be a grim slog into the worsening winter. By this time Kiev was entirely invested and batteries had been established to prevent boats operating on the Dneper from bringing in supplies. The city was thus without resupply, save limited and dangerous efforts by the air, from 17 October onwards. Much of the noncombatant population had been evacuated, and the buildings were fortified; the defence had been extensively prepared, with many factories with stockpiled materiale operating continuously through the siege until these were expended.

The Drakian advance now bogged down into a general state of confusion. Strategic goals in advancing past the Dneper were unclear, and the army commanders essentially pursued the aims of grabbing as much territory as they could. Alternatives were variously considered. The push into Poland was the first and, despite the impracticality of many aspects, perhaps the best option strategically. The next alternative was clearly to push on toward the Caucasus and effect a union with the Drakian forces fighting there; this would put the Soviet Union in a desperate condition and overrun much of its industrial centers and the coal-fields of the Donbass region in the eastern Ukraine. The least practical idea was to push on toward Moscow, for it entailed leaving very large flanks open to enemy counterattack. It had, however, the best return—it was believed that taking Moscow would knock the Soviets out of the war, especially if the planned Finnish Winter Offensive succeeded in carrying on to the outskirts of Leningrad.

In reality, however, the Finns knew they did not have the capability for such gains, and were in fact planning the offensive purely to establish favourable lines for negotiations in a peace treaty; in short, they hoped to hold enough ground that they could extricate themselves from their co-belligerency with the now-reviled Dominate without losing to much territory, or possibly even their political independence. The Drakian troops sent to fight in Finland were little more than a bargaining chip for the Finns politically, now, not a strategic asset with which the Dominate could realistically hope to effect a union with. Another concept was to advance to take Minsk, but this had the disadvantage of having to pass through the Pripet Marshes in winter, and worse yet, still had the flanking difficulties of the attack on Moscow.

The initial goal of the counteroffensive to advance to the Dneper all through the Ukraine was not even completed, thanks to Shaposhnikov's stern resistance in the south. But having pinned him down Janissary units were used exclusively to contain his forces. Wasn't it better to advance as far as possible and leave the Janissaries to grind down this force which was clearly trapped? It seemed that the Soviet Army had been destroyed or pushed aside, that for all intents and purposes the Ukraine was being occupied, not fought over. Unfortunately the truth of the matter was quite different for the Dominate.

On the 24th Drakian troops took Pryluky. From here they drove east toward Konotop and Sumy, while a flanking column of Janissary armour pushed on toward Shostka. A total of two Citizen corps and four Janissary corps were involved in these operations, with additional Janissary infantry following to hold down the countryside. Konotop fell on the 27; Shostka on the 28th. Sumy did not fall until the 2nd of November. Supply problems were increasingly appearing as full-scale resistance warfare developed in the western Ukraine. Many arriving Janissary units were diverted for operations in anti-guerrilla warfare, which in the case of the Dominate of Drakia meant mass torture and slaughter for the slightest of provocations.

Due to the problems with resupply the Dominate issued orders for less food to be brought in; the troops would live off the land and the conquered Ukrainians would be starved as necessary to support this. It turned out that this wasn't nearly as effective of a source of food. The Soviets had burned most of the stockpiles of food, and much of the rest was contaminated intentionally. The partisans lived off the land, and everyone else was doomed to die, unless they had a hidden stash (possession of which was of course punished by impalement should it be discovered by the Drakian authorities) or could otherwise scavenge enough to survive on. In the lands west of the Dneper several million people perished from famine in the first winter.

A vast majority of the population of the western Ukraine succeeded in fleeing; either into the security of the Pripet marshes, or beyond the Dneper and then further east in successive waves, or south to the Black Sea coast and then east of the Dneper, or to the Crimean. Many odd communities of refugees deep in the woodlands of Byelorussia developed, while refugees—treated callously by military officials who regarded them as a hindrance—were generally either drafted or put to work. Many of these people were without access to food as the USSR's most productive food-producing regions were overrun, and starvation afflicted many of those who succeeded in escaping from the Drakian terror. The end result is that a staggering depopulation of the western Ukraine took place; as little as 4% of the pre-war population remained when it was liberated. Fortunately this figure does not count refugees, west Ukrainians serving in the military, and partisans (who were counted as military forces).

Irregardless it shows the horrific nature of the Drakian advance and the movement of peoples that it produced. Here in the Ukraine it was certainly at its worst. The highly organized campaign of crop destruction, transfer of industry and assets, and general scorched-earth policy carried out by the Soviets, combined with aggressive and massive-scale guerrilla warfare which brought customary replies on an equally massive scale from the Drakian troops, all of these things combined to create a malestrom through which few of the innocent could survive; many of those who did were sent south as slaves during lulls in the fighting. This was not normally Drakian policy, but was undertaken as a further effort against the endless partisan campaigns in a conscious effort to denude the western Ukraine of people. Sadly, many of those enslaved perished in the rigors of slavery, or were killed by the Drakian government or private individuals for various offenses, or perished in the allied strategic bombing campaigns. Not more than 300,000 serfs from the USSR who were remanded to the police zone were then liberated (as distinct from those left in their villages, whom the Dominate would also consider serfs), and this is a tally from all areas of the country, not just the western Ukraine.

Sometimes the Soviet sabotage policy had disproportionate effect. For instance, the Dominate of Drakia did not have native Rye production, instead relying primarily on the growing of wheat and rice based on particular climatic region. This meant that they had no experience with taking precautions in regard to fungal infections of Rye. As a result, captured stockpiles of Rye were distributed to the Dominate's troops in the Ukraine. The result of eating it was invariably madness, gangrene of the limbs, or even death. It is thought that as many as 6,000 Drakian troops of all classes in the Ukraine may have died of Ergot poisoning over the first winter; the consumption of Rye was banned as the source of the infections was discovered and the effort to have the army “live off the land” had essentially failed. It was later revealed during the negotiations for the 1968 Contagious Disease Weaponization (CDW) Treaty—which banned research into and stockpiling of contagious biological weapons--that the Soviets had a programme researching the Ergot fungus as a potential biological weapon. Many authorities now believe that the Ergot epidemic in the Drakian ranks was an intentional biological weapons use by the USSR.

By the beginning of November these efforts were beginning to have a real effect on Drakian strategic planning. It soon became clear that the strong resistance behind the lines was going to make the rapid acquisition of additional territory impossible; the Dominate had to take steps for additional years of serious campaigning, and could not yet hope to knock out the USSR's industrial centres. Karl von Shrakenburg's operational plan for the forces pushing into the east Ukraine to concentrate, swing south, and cut off the Crimean by a drive down to the Black Sea coast south of Melitopol was accepted. The city of Poltava would have to be seized for such an advance to be successful, and four each Citizen and Janissary corps were concentrated for the drive. They were to be supported by a heavy attack on Shaposhnikov's position, aimed at Mikolayev, with the goal of severing his forces along the Black Sea in two.

Additionally, the concentration of the northern forces was attempted to avoid any possible attack which might defeat them in detail. Here, Shrakenburg was forced to agree to a limited additional advance, even though he did not think it necessary, to the minor city of Kursk, with the central and southern columns combining there and then holding that area; the northern column would move laterally east from Shostka in support. These evolutions began on the 6th of November, when it still appeared that the Polish campaign was going well.

On the 5th, Drakian troops had finally taken Kirovograd. This opened the way for advances on Kremenchuk and Mikolayev. Here in the southerly areas of the Ukraine the weather was better for combat operations and the Drakian forces—despite this being a strictly secondary advance—made better time than they did further to the northeast. With the advance of the main eastern force on Poltava the city of Cherkasy was cut off, and Drakian troops invested it on the 10th. Slow progress was being made toward Poltava and Kremenchuk; operations toward Mikolayev proceeded much more quickly, and the Soviet position in Odessa was now gravely threatened. Shaposhnikov's response was to abandon the effort to maintain a land link between Odessa and the east. By this point the civilian population of the area had been evacuated and much of the industry removed to the Crimean.

The Soviets held control of the Black Sea—as they would until late in 1943--and Red Navy and remnants of the Romanian Navy were utilized to supervise the evacuation of not only people but industrial equipment and other vital war materials from Odessa. The city that remained was a fortress, with extensive and reasonably modern defences that had begun when it was rebuilt after the Russo-British war of 1877 – 1878 when it had been seriously damaged by attacks from the then-Dominion of Drakia, which at the time had shocked the world with their callous disregard for the laws of war. The defences had been further improved in WWI and then again by the Soviets afterward, due to the nearness of the border with Romanian Besserabia. Work on further improvements had been proceeding on Shaposhnikov's orders since he took commnd in the Ukraine and it was felt that the city might hold for as long as it could resupplied from the sea.

In ancilliary operations the cities of Chernobyl and Chernihev were taken on the 8th and 14th respesctively. This destroyed all efforts at bringing in supplies to Kiev by air; the city would fall seventy days after the fall of Chernihev after standing one of the greatest sieges in the war without any hope of reprieve, and for more than two months receiving no supplies, ranking alongside the far longer stand of Odessa (which was, however, resupplied by sea until shortly before it fell). With Sevastopol, Rostov, and Kerch, they are counted among the five great sieges of the war in the USSR.

The Dominate did not expect Shaposhnikov to so readily abandon the land-link to Odessa, and were taken by surprise when the forces holding it reinforced Mikolayev. The resulting Battle of Mikolayev began on the 17th of November and lasted for nine days. The city was successfully held by the Soviets, Shaposhnikov's battered forces in the area having received new armour and anti-tank vehicles from the factories of the Crimean and Cherson which remained unimpeded by the Drakian war effort, and some of the equipment from further east. Yet they were now part of a secondary theater, though their successful holding of the great bend in the Dneper would do much to improve the Soviet position and give time for the industrial evacuations which would make its eventual fall irrelevant. Once again Koniev proved himself an excellent commander at the forefront of holding Mikolayev, and his tireless efforts throughout the whole of the Romanian and Ukrainian operations did not go unnoticed.

Meanwhile the secondary advance to the northeast was continuing. On the 24th the Drakian central and southern columns combined at Kursk, and a force of nearly four corps pushed into the city. The result was a four days' battle with a surprisingly strong Soviet defence in the region. This gave further concern to the military leadership of the Dominate, but it was not fully realized just how serious the situation was, as there was little armoured support for the defenders. By the end of the third day of the battle they had more serious concerns, anyway. The main column of the eastern force had reached Poltava, to find the city exceptionally heavily defended. Third Ukrainian Front under Constantin Rokossovsky was dug in with about four hundred thousand men around Poltava, facing a roughly equal force of Citizens and Janissaries if one counts the unarmed supply elements, otherwise having numerical advantage. On the 28th the Drakian forces attacked.

The Soviets were ready for them. The defences included more than 6,000 artillery pieces (including 2,000 of the Soviet's favoured 122mm guns), half again as many rocket launchers and heavy mortars, and close to 2,000 tanks—including many KV-series heavy tanks fulling capable of taking on the Drakian Hond IIIs they faced. Persistant agents were used copiously by the Soviets in this defensive role, forcing the Drakian troops to fight essentially without leaving their chemical weapons gear for the entirety of the battle, even the rear-area forces. The result was a nightmarish attrition battle around Poltava with all flanking attempts met by the Soviet armoured reserves, which stopped them cold. As the Drakian forces spread their lines to try and break through somewhere further on the flanks, local counterattacks threatened their position. Janissaries were sent in against the prepared centre defences to little avail.

For nine days the bloody fighting raged; both sides suffering more than 7,000 casualties a day. The large presence of Citizen troops active in the fighting seemed to change nothing. Before them, the vast Soviet defences rendered their supposed superiour combat skills useless. One of every six Citizens or Janissaries was frittered away in the bloody stalemate. Soviet losses were somewhat heavy, but they held the entrenchments, and had much better resupply than the Drakian troops, who were now enduring the worst of the Russian winter. Then on the 6th the Soviets counterattacked in the north.

The German training and cooperative corps (a full mechanized corps) which had been in the USSR since the mid-30s attacked under the command of General Mannstein against the Janissaries on the extreme northern left flank; his force was supported by a division of ski troopers. These forces were under the overall command of General Fedor Tolbukhin, who commanded Orel Front and had ample supplies of modern heavy tanks which had been concentrated for the defensive operations—two whole mechanized corps with their full tank compliment of KV-series vehicles! These two corps were supported by an artillery division and four infantry corps, as two more ski divisions threatened the right flank of the Drakian forces in the Kursk area.
Thousands of tanks and aircraft clashed in the winter weather, and there was left blood upon the snow. Further north than Poltava, the colder weather rendered gas largely useless; this was a slogging action, with the Soviet tanks driving forward steadily supported by massed artillery, and the Citizens defending, hull-down, the weather conditions largely negating the superiour speed and manoeuvrability of their tanks. The numbers concentrated against them were completely unexpected, completely in armoured vehicles, and showed that not only was Soviet resistance far from broken, but in fact their strength under arms despite the disaster in Romania and the occupation of the western Ukraine was only growing. Inexorably the Drakian troops were pushed back, their supplies were eroded, and their situation became critical.

The Drakian troops held on for as long as they could, with very poor supply leaving them starving and without ammunition in the winter, for which most of them—recruited from tropical areas—were quite unprepared. Four days of fighting had taken Kursk; three days were sufficient for the Dominate to be driven out again. The KV-series tanks were slow, but they could stand up to the Honds in battle, and the Soviets had much more experience in winter combat, having taken the bitter lessons of the Winter War with Finland to heart. Steadily more Soviet troops were committed to the battle, and when a tank brigade of old T-31s was reported to have gotten behind the right flank, the Dominate gave up; they withdrew from Kursk over the night of the 8th-9th, leaving behind 30,000 dead, missing, and prisoners from the six corps. Second Kursk was a hard-fought but clear Soviet victory. At this point the Drakian High Command finally ordered a withdraw from Poltava; the battle had lingered on there for three more days, stubbornly continued while Kursk was yet in doubt, and thus cost the Dominate another senseless 20,000 casualties. Both sides remained confident of victory, but any ideas of an “easy” war were now gone.


On 22 December Soviet forces retook Sumy. Shostka was liberated (only for a few months, ultimately) on the 23rd. The Dominate retained control of Konotop. There was little other combat activity until the spring, and it was focused primarily in the south. Over the following months the cities of the Bend in the Dneper were reduced by the Dominate but no more progress was made. Mykolayev, Kryviy Rih, Dneperpetrovsk, Nikopol. By March only Kherson held out west of the Dneper. But it was a steady grind that cost many troops for the Dominate, including Citizens who had to be used as infiltration assault troops to break through the Soviet defences, lest tens of thousands of Janissaries die in every single attack. Kiev fell in mid-January, but Odessa held out for another eighteen months.

The Finnish Winter Offensive had a degree of success, finally retaking Vyborg, but stopped on the isthmusian defences before getting near enough to threaten Leningrad, and kept well away from the Murmansk railroad by the effort of Soviet troops guarding that route, though it was largely unnecessary with the transhipment of lend-lease aide through the great German ports of Hamburg and Konigsburg. The Finns did not try again as summer came, though; they settled back on the defensive and began to open peace-feelers. Ultimately Krasnov would, as far as most of the world and his populace was concerned, go easy on the Finns, offering a good peace to quickly open up the docks of Leningrad to allied ships, though this peace was not secured until January of 1943. An odd note of this ending to the Continuation War was that several coastal defence vessels of the Finnish navy served as Nile monitors under the Soviet flag after being handed over as reparations.

In March of 1942 a new Drakian offensive finally dislodged the Soviets from Poltava. Kremenchuk fell two months later, while the main Drakian forces drove on to Kharkov. The city was taken in early June, and a drive northward culminated in the third Battle of Kursk later in that month (after Shostka was retaken by the Dominate); battles over Bryansk and Orel followed, and then the battle of the Beograd Salient. Battles around Stariy Oskol and Yelets came after the destruction of the Beograd Salient; here the Soviets hold, but their purpose was only to secure the flank of the main drive.

Homel and Mazyr were the targets of the flanking drives, which served only to pin down the First and Second Byelorussian Fronts and took neither city. The final drive culminated in the great defensive battle around Tula as the Drakian troops made a lightening thrust toward Moscow, hoping that the sack and destruction of that great and ancient city would lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This decision, against the wishes of most of the General Staff because of the vast flanks it would leave exposed to counterattack, was spurred on by the surprise entrance of Britain into the war in mid-1942 with a series of surprise attacks. This, combined with a Taiping offensive in Central Asia, served to completely collapse the Drakian position there, and the Moscow Offensive was a calculated gamble to restore the initiative and knock out their main opponent.

It failed. Though the Drakian forces broke through at Tula against the Soviet Central Front, it was an empty victory. Steppe Front held in the east, and Kalinin Front in the west. Moscow Front had vast infantry reserves dug in before the city itself in elaborate defences which proved impenetrable. An effort at breaking the stalemate by a thrust toward Vyazma was defeated by Kalinin Front outside that city in a great battle; then Third Byelorussian Front, including German and American contingents, counterattacked as winter came on from the direction of Smolensk and succeeded in the second encirclement of Citizen troops in the war. The Dominate fell back, and Koniev—the commander of Third Byelorussian Front at that time, having been given command at its formation after his efforts at First Mykolaev—was promoted to Field Marshal for his victory.

Ultimately Soviet forces would drive back to Orel and Bryansk, retaking both, and fight the Fourth Battle of Kursk, just to see the Fifth Battle of Kursk lose the city again during the Drakian Don Offensive of 1943. When in early 1944 the Drakian forces in the eastern Ukraine and Don Basin were encircled in the now famous counterattack which led to the Third Battle of Kharkov, yet a sixth battle of Kursk would also be fought before that city found peace.

For his actions in Central Asia, Tukhachevsky was ultimately rehabilitated, and went on to command the whole of the Caucasus Front and later the Soviet contingent for the crossing of the Suez Canal (Zhukov was the supreme allied commander by this point). In the postwar period he was remembered not for his failure in Romania but for the eternal image of the Taiping, British, and Soviet columns meeting in the square of Mashbad, Iran, in what was the first great victory for the allies in the whole of the war with genuine and great strategic gains. By the end of 1943 the allies would reach the Zagros Mountains of western Iran before the front there stabilized once more.

Strategos Marcus Hildebrandt remained commanding troops in Russia until 1944 Operation Bagration. He was sacked for his failure to meet the American offensive in Moldavia, having been lured into believing that the Germans under Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck would comprise the main thrust down from Transylvania. He was reinstated late in 1945 to take command of the rapidly retreating Drakian forces in Asia and fought a desperate action during the so-called Battle of the Nations in western Syria, being killed by an allied air-raid when retreating in the aftermath of the battle. Arch-Strategos Karl von Shrakenburg, by far the strongest voice of sensible operations in the Drakian General Staff, who stood up to the civilian leadership and their irrational ideas many times, would survive the war to stand trial for war crimes.

After Operation Bagration the Allies succeeded in fighting off the last great Drakian counterattack of the war in the winter of 1944 during the deserate Battle of the Don. This was fought over almost exactly the same terrain as the battles during the Romanian Offensive of the Soviet Army in 1941, but here the allies triumphed. When it was concluded and Wallachia was liberated, several thousand Soviet soldiers from that ill-fated offensive were found to still be alive, fighting as guerrillas in Romania. The final victory in what been colloquially, and improperly, called The Prut Campaign, was surely to these men, who fought and survived against the worst atrocities of the Dominate for more than three years, without hope of a rescue which nonetheless came.