|“||In the Baltics, the Soviet 1st Baltic Front reaches the Gulf of Riga, cutting off the German Army Group North from Army Group Center.||„|
Burning Baltics is the ninth campaign in the Army General mode in Steel Division II. It has a level 2 difficulty/complexity. When the Soviet 1st Baltic Front finally reaches the Gulf of Riga in Latvia by the end of July, it is a spent force and dangerously overextended. Having separated Army Group Center and Army Group North, the Red Army turns to besiege Riga, presenting the Germans with an exposed flank and an opportunity too good to miss. Operation Doppelkopf foresees a powerful armored counter-offensive breaking through Soviet lines and re-establishing the vital link with the beleaguered Army Group North.
On August 16th, Operation Doppelkopf commences, with the 3. Panzerarmee’s counteroffensive taking the Soviets by surprise. The first attack is on the western side of the 1st Baltic Front’s salient that extends towards the Gulf of Riga. The concentrated armored firepower of two Panzerkorps is unparalleled, but it is still slow going with the Soviet troops putting up fierce resistance.
While unprepared, by this time in the war, the Red Army knows how to react to a German armored offensive: a strong anti-tank screen is deployed, while local commanders reorganize their forces in preparation for their own armored counter-attack. After only a few days, by August 19th, the German offensive seems to lose steam fast. However, the next day, a breakthrough is made in an unexpected place.
North, along the shores of the Gulf of Riga, the ad hoc armored battlegroup Panzerverband Strachwitz manages to capture the critical crossroads of Tukums with fire support from the Kriegsmarine. In a feat of tactical ingenuity, several Soviet infantry battalions and the equivalent of a tank brigade are destroyed, with a substantial amount of equipment and stores falling into the hands of the Germans.
The road to Riga had been opened. The battlegroup under Strachwitz’s command doesn’t lose any time: racing along the coast, they reach the city an hour before the 21st of August, effectively linking Army Group Center and Army Group North once again.
Operation Doppelkopf turns out to be one of the last major victories of the Third Reich on the Eastern Front.
The 1st Baltic Front has successfully severed the link between the two Army Groups, comrade commander.
...first and foremost, capture Riga...
...but be aware: reconnaissance patrols have warned about a German build-up near the Siauliai Jelgava highway. We must hold this road.
The garrison at Tukums is also being harassed. Such a key logistical crossroads cannot fall into enemy hands, commander. Defend it at all costs!
After weeks on the march, the 5th Tank Army is spent. We need to wait for replacement troops, tanks, and equipment.
It won't be available soon, comrade, but once back on active duty, use this formation to counter any fascist threat. Good luck!
The objectives of the 3rd Panzerarmee, under your command, are twofold...
...reopen and hold the Siauliai Jelgava highway...
...then push to Riga to reestablish contact with Army Group North.
Quickly capturing the garrison at Tukums, a key logistical hub, would greatly hamper the Soviets' ability to hold their corridor to the Gulf of Riga.
Panzerverband Strachwitz, with 52nd Sicherungs Division in support, will advance from Courland.
The beleaguered Army Group North is holding the line until relieved.
They can only provide a few forces: The veteran 81st Infanterie Division and the 11th SS Division Nordland.
Intelligence reports indicate that the Soviet 5th Tank Army is completely worn out...
...however, with each passing day, the chance increases that this Red Army formation will successfully rally and oppose Operation Doppelkopf.
Time is therefore of the utmost essence, commander!
Operation Doppelkopf has been a success. While the German divisions involved didn't enact a complete breakthrough, contact with Army Group North has been restored after 12 days of combat. The counteroffensive represented a rare concentration of armor this late in the war. Despite being outgunned and overextended, the Red Army resisted fiercely, making good use of the terrain to hold up the German attacks and limit the enemy gains.
- Located far to the north, Tukums can be somewhat challenging for the Axis player, since there's not a lot of units available. However, the Soviet units are spread thin, so a determined attack and good maneuvering, coupled with a flanking attack using units stationed at Riga can be very effective at seizing Tukums early and denying Soviets a good number of reinforcements.
- However, while the Soviets have a limited number of units available up north, they can yield ground in a controlled fashion and try flanking the advancing force, which might very well contain the northernmost prong of the offensive.
- Riga and Jelgava
- Connected by a highway and divided by a Lielupe river, the two objectives are hidden instant win conditions. If the Nazis grab Jelgava, they win. If the Soviets grab Riga, they win. Jelgava can turn into a meat grinder, as the only crossing over the river is a bottleneck that can be effectively shut down with any artillery unit, preventing any sort of advance and forcing to go around. It's a little easier for the Nazis, as once Grossdeutschland or Strachwitz achieve penetration, they can make a beeline for Jelgava with multiple veteran battalions and succeed where the Nazis have failed in real life.
- Riga is actually quite vulnerable to a Soviet attack, as you have the benefit of attacking from three points at the same time (particularly the wide-open eastern approach), and crossing the Jelgava when you have several heavy artillery units in range of the opposite shore is quite a bit easier than it might appear).
- A target of opportunity to the south, Siaulai was never taken by Grossdeutschland in reality, but it's possible to achieve here. GD's advance units can punch through Soviet lines before they can react and put up a fight and entrench themselves in the city, amassing cheap victory points. This also forces the Soviets to divide their forces. It might actually be easier to pull back and draw Grossdeutschland in and temporarily surrender Siaulai, then try for flanking and encirclement maneuvers, rather than a bitter straight fight for the city.
- Victory: The German spearhead managed to break through and relieve a besieged Riga, giving critical respite to the local forces of Army Group North. It was the Panthers of Panzerverband Strachwitz who made their victorious entry into the capital. With the contact restored between the two Army Groups, much-needed breathing space was given to the Axis forces on this part of the front. The Soviets were forced back, their defenses giving way - but not breaking down completely. Despite all their efforts, the Germans were unable to clear more of the Riga-East Prussia highway.
- Victory: The Red Army successfully beat back all German attacks, delivering a crushing defeat to what started as a surprisingly powerful armored offensive. Preventing the re-establishment of the link between Army Group North and Army Group Center allowed local Soviet forces to continue their siege of Riga. With fresh reinforcements and replacement tanks and equipment, the Latvian capital was liberated only a few days later. With Axis reserves depleted, the only thing left for the Red Army in the Baltics was a simple mopping-up operation. The Third Reich's frontier of East Prussia was ready to be breached much earlier than anticipated.
- See Burning Baltics campaign order of battle and Burning Baltics campaign unit organization