Yes, here we go again…
Don’t blame me, if sieges are simply loaded with storytelling material!
Hitler was faced with two very real problems, one was the impending invasion of the Russians in Berlin; the second was the lack of gasoline and refined oils that the Reich desperately needed to continue fighting. Albert Speer had thoughtfully stockpiled raw materials to continue fighting through all of 1945, but oil and gasoline were in desperately short supply. The Russians had taken or were about take most of the oil fields in Hungary, and to keep fighting, Hitler absolutely had to have them.
- Everyone loves to have their strategic stockpiles fat and happy!
But could a fast & furious high-tech unit do something about that?
- Some things can’t be stockpiled, at least not easily. Fuel here: but in other settings, it can be potable water, it can be spare parts, it can be power supplies, it can be medicine (ie anti-radiation pills), it can be food or oxygen…
Even though the Americans and the British had bombed them into the earth, the wily Germans were still able to pump and refine oil within the still smoking ruins using scaled down and damaged equipment.
- Raw determination and cunning can sometimes make up the loss… but not always.
Hitler also did not believe his intelligence officer Gehlen’s assessment of the Russian armies and equipment, which happened to be spot on. Both he and Göring believed the Russians outside Berlin were a paper army and would be incapable of actually taking Berlin.
- Sometimes, the intelligence is worthless. And other times, it’s the leadership.
- “Maybe we should let the PCs choose this time!”
During the early part of 1945 the Russians encircled Budapest, which is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, cut by a river.
- Interesting geography for both defenders and attackers.
Within the city were two crack German divisions and the elements of many burned out German and Hungarian forces.
- What does a burned out army look like? PC mercenary teams can find out for themselves!
Unlike Stalingrad, civilians were not allowed to leave the city.
The Russians pounded the city relentlessly.
- As per usual.
As part of the operation to secure the oil fields, Hitler planned to relieve the garrison in the city. No quarter was given by either side and the fighting was brutal and bloody.
- I have no idea what “brutal and bloody” means with TL 14 battledress troops with FGMP-14’s and I really don’t want to find out…
- … but I suspect that you can often replace the word “bloody” with “charred”.
The Hungarians capitulated and turned on the Germans who suddenly had the additional task of fighting their former allies who were armed with German equipment. It was very hard all around because there were many Hungarian units who hated the Russians and still were loyal to the Germans. It made formulating battle plans very tricky. Germans could never trust the Hungarians and never knew when they were going to be stabbed in the back and in fact, many turncoats killed Germans in their barracks or led Russians through the sewers to assault the Germans from behind.
- “It’s starting to look like the Middle East/Empty Quarter around here, when you start keeping a closer eye on your supposed allies than on the enemy.”
At the same time there was a large number of Jews imprisoned in Budapest and used as slave labor. Much is said about the brutality of the Germans, but the Hungarians were worse. At one point, the leader of the Jewish prisoners actually appealed to the Germans for relief from the Hungarians.
- “There are worse things for aliens in Imperial uniform, than capture by the Solomani Confederation Army. Much worse.”
As spring arrived, the Germans completed their battle plans and attacked strong Russian positions. The weather worked against the Germans and despite superhuman efforts, the first attack failed. The Russians stepped up their attacks on the city while inside the German defenders waited for relief that would never come.
- “I wonder when the PCs will realize that the promised reinforcements are never going to arrive.”
“I wonder how many PCs are still left alive!“
The city was in flames, people were eating their pets, water was drawn directly from the river for drinking and firefighting as the water mains were destroyed.
- Grim, as always. But hey, they have a river… it could always be worse.
The Germans launched a second attack. This time the terrain was even worse, the snow had melted and everything was mud. The Germans were forced to use roads already registered by Russian artillery.
- That phrase, “roads already registered by Russian artillery.”
It really needs it’s own personal theme song.
I have zero familiarity with hard rock, but AC/DC’s “Highway to hell” immediately pops into my mind for some reason.
The second biggest tank battle in history was fought outside the city, but the Germans, short of artillery support, air support and gasoline, had to retreat once again.
- Strange, that the second-biggest anything is almost completely forgotten… except for those who are personally involved in it.
The German high command appealed to Berlin, stating that it was fruitless and that they could not continue. Hitler ordered another attack. The German 6th Army made one more valiant attempt and got within about 12 miles of the city before being stopped. The defenders could hear the furious fighting outside the city and organized for a breakout, but the relief attack failed yet again.
- A really, really good Referee can describe the NPCs as they load up for the breakout… and the grey despair as the sounds of the relief units fade away…
The commander of the German garrison in Budapest radioed Berlin that the ability to continue the defense of the city was no longer possible, and then he shot himself. A few strong German units assembled and tried to fight their way out of the city. They were all killed or captured within a few days.
- Could the PCs do better, against a similarly tough opponent?
- We really should have a good set of Traveller/Slammers mercenary scenarios, on a range of tech levels and typical small-unit PC setups.
The Germans divided Vienna into defensive quarters and planned to make a last stand, but before the final Gotterdämmerung, the war ended and the 6th Army surrendered for the third and final time in 3 years. Four hundred and fifty thousand men were marched into captivity. Less than half would ever come home.
- Of course, the PCs should play out a Last Stand at least once… with throwaway characters.
- Surviving the peace can be as hard as surviving the war.
In the West we don’t hear much about the Battle for Budapest because the Russians were very stingy with that kind of information after the war, and there are very few books on the subject.
- Victors of a war can sometimes arrange for a proper news blackout. Something that Imperial War Crime investigators should carefully consider…