"War is a drama, not a game of chess."
Gen Eisenhower

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interlude and Paranoia

Suffering over 50% casualties in one battle is enough to take the stuffing out of any unit. So, it was not surprising when the dice told me that it would be about 3 weeks before the next engagement. That should be enough time to get the replacements in, and at least teach them which end of a rifle to point at the enemy. Once again, it was consolidation time within the company. As each platoon is now down to basically one squad each, it only made sense to group the survivors together into the new 1 Platoon, and send the replacements into 2 Platoon. That gives 1 Platoon almost a full strength TO&E, with 2 squads of 10 and one of 8. 2 Platoon now has a squad of 10 men and a squad of 7, all of which are replacements. While going through the casualty figures, I discovered that the 50mm mortars had not been completely wiped out. There was 1 soldier left alive out of the two crews, so he went into 2 Platoon. That gave the second squad 8 men. 3 Platoon has ceased to exist. Oddly enough, this might benefit the company, as the attentions of the (too few) leaders will not be as divided among the company subgroups.

Since this is September 1941, there is a definite shortage of Junior and Senior Lieutenants out there to assign to the company. So, it is time for Captain Karpov to reach into the ranks for another big man. He does just that, and comes up with Junior Sergeant Zinoviev. Zinoviev is a scholarly type, whose motivation is religion. Maybe his family wanted him to go into the priesthood, or maybe he comes from a background like Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky did. Either way, it’s not something that is going to help him go far in the Red Army. As a squad leader, he is only a Level I leader, but has a D4 ability, which is better than both of the officers he is replacing. Apparently that scholarly personality, combined with some practical experience, has taught him a little bit about handling troops. He has an even temperament, and comes from an average background, so it seems obvious that Capt. Karpov has chosen him for his ability. Surely this is a relief instead of having to deal with what he was given, as was the case with Bartov and Lobachevsky. Since he is a Junior Sergeant, Zinoviev can only influence one squad within the platoon; however, that is all you can do once the shooting starts anyway so it shouldn’t be that much of a negative.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the 1941 RKKA without the paranoia mentioned in the title. Captain Karpov might not be in disgrace, but he is surely under a cloud. It doesn’t matter that he was outnumbered, undermanned and in a bad position. What matters is that he did not carry out the combat task assigned to him. While there is no evidence (yet) that he is a traitor to the Motherland, it seems clear to the upper echelons that the reason he lost this last engagement is that there was not a Commissar to provide the men with the proper fighting spirit. So, regimental HQ has sent one of their political officers down to ‘assist the Company Commander until Comrade Vlasov returns to duty.’ Enter Regimental Commissar Klimkinov. He is a generous type, just like Vlasov. However, he is motivated by the Government, so this political officer is one of the ‘true believers.’ He is a better leader than Vlasov, being a Level II officer but that is probably expected since he is higher up the political chain of command. He has an even temperament, and comes from a military background just like Karpov does. Klimkinov probably thinks this will help him get along with Karpov, since they have something in common there. I don’t think that is the case, though.

Let’s look at things from Karpov’s view. He lost half his command in the last battle, and lost the battle. He got reinforcements, but instead of more leaders he got a commissar from regimental to ‘assist’ him. For Karpov, there is no way this could be good. The flip side of this is that if Karpov can get past his paranoia, he might realize that having a contact on the regimental staff could be a good thing, even if it is on the political end. Since Klimkinov’s assignment with the unit is a short one, it will be interesting to see if Karpov comes to this conclusion, or continues to look for the NKVD squad to show up.

The next mission will be a screening of friendly engineers while they do some roadwork. Karpov will probably see this as a slight against his unit as well. After all, a regimental commissar looking over his shoulder AND a ‘milk run’ type of mission for the company’s return to combat can only add up to one thing. The obvious conclusion is that regimental HQ doesn’t trust him or his men. Given that he is an aggressive, revenge motivated type, there is no doubt that he will drive his troops hard in the next engagement. That way, he will get his revenge against the Germans, and prove to the new commissar that he is not a traitor. October 1, 1941 (the date of the next action) should be an interesting day for all concerned.

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