The Gift of Villainy, Part II
The second battle revolved around a Warsaw Pact attempt to continue their offensive towards Nuremberg. Other than taking the city, there was a nearby NATO airbase which held an experimental jet that was a joint effort between the Americans and their European allies. The jet had no aviation fuel, i.e., it couldn’t just fly away, and keeping it out of Soviet hands was essential to the West. A nearby train held the supplies of aviation fuel being routed to the airbase.
Early in the battle, a column of trucks carrying Hungarian refugees drove down a central road towards the city, under the control of the gamemaster. The NATO commander considered this a hindrance as he apparently planned to use this key road to counter-attack my Czechs or at least he wanted the option open. Rather than send out an officer and some men to redirect the refugees or even have someone fire a pistol in the air to turn them off the road in question, he instead had a tank fire a tank round into the road ahead of the refugees. The gamemaster ruled that the drivers of the lead trucks panicked and lost control of their vehicles, crashing them into nearby buildings just off the road.
This was also the battle in which the first West German train got derailed. Derailing trains became something of a thing to my opponents. They rammed a heavy tank into the train’s engine and ignited a fire which reached the tanker cars of aviation fuel it was carrying. I think the gamemaster’s plan was that NATO should try to get the aviation fuel to the airbase in order to fuel the experimental jet and have it fly out but that didn’t happen.
Long story short, they derailed the train and I wiped out most of the Americans tanks, but they had about three heavies left in defence of the airbase. I drove my mediums to set up a line of assault in front of the airbase. As Colonel Han Tesarik (we were encouraged to not only name our officers and units but write letters and reports of the campaign in character), my Czech forces were short on heavy tanks but I didn’t mind that at all, we had a three-to-one numeric superiority over NATO forces tank-wise, that my tanks were lighter in armour and faster was fine with me so long as they had guns that could kill American heavies and they could.
If you’ll permit me a short historical aside — the situation with the tanks was a complete reversal from what I understand to have been the situation during the Second World War. The Germans held the advantage in heavy tanks then, with superior armour and firepower. American tanks, comparatively, were lightly armoured mobile pillboxes with popguns. Often an American tank couldn’t penetrate a panzer’s heavy armour from directly ahead and they had to maneuver for side or rear shots. I attended a historical symposium where a German panzer officer said that he had run out of ammunition before the Americans had run out of tanks. Our light tanks suffered tremendous casualties but defeated an army with much superior equipment. During the Cold War, both sides took this to heart but learned different lessons. The Soviets cranked out tanks like there was no tomorrow, achieving a ten-to-one superiority against NATO forces in parts of the European theatre. The Americans abandoned their own WWII strategy of massive conventional forces and strove to be second-to-none in technical quality. I, for one, think the Warsaw Pact would wiped the floor with us in a conventional fight in Europe back in those days but I guess we’ll never know.
Back to the battle — I had my medium tanks lined up to assault the airbase and the last American tanks were there — behind the aircraft — ready to defend the base. Rather than assault and risk the destruction of the aircraft, I opened negotiations. I offered safe passage to the Americans if they left the field. The NATO commander had seen too many of his men die and knew the remainder had no chance of survival if combat resumed. He agreed. His heavies backed away from the airbase as my mediums moved up to place themselves between the experimental jet and his heavies. The Americans reached the edge of the airbase and kept going and we let them go having captured both the town and the experimental aircraft.
When the Americans retreated, the plane’s test pilot was still seated in the aircraft in case the plane could be fuelled and he could attempt a take-off. Neither the plane nor its test pilot were ever mentioned in the official record by either side. The pilot was never released during the eventual exchange of prisoners after the ceasefire and the jet was quietly shipped off by my Czechs to Moscow for dissection and analysis. Both during the fighting and after the eventual cease-fire, the return of their captured pilot was never specifically requested nor even mentioned by NATO forces.
My after-action broadcast:
FLASH — PRAVDA REPORTS CZECH PENETRATION OF NUREMBERG, GERMANY
Bringing you proud paternal greetings from your comrades in the Soviet Union, Pravda now reports that dawn saw the 2nd Czech Army’s 1st Armoured Division, led by its elite 33rd Guard Tank Battalion, the Stormwolves, entering the city of Nuremberg at high speed just in time to see cowardly Yankee imperialist troops firing on innocent Hungarian refugees seeking only food and medicine. As the Yankee mercenaries opened fire on the Hungarian refugee column, a second force of the American imperialists attacked a local train presumably with the intention of denying its use to Warsaw Pact forces. The American attack on a train loaded with aviation fuel started a forest fire and led to the deaths of several West German nationals. The Czechs, led by Colonel Han Tesarik, quickly drove off the Yankees and seized the nearby American airbase with no friendly casualties.
Colonel Tesarik had this to say about the Americans’ actions: “The Americans seemed less concerned with victory or even with their own safety than with inflicting punishing blows on the civilian populace. While we had orders to seize the junction in any case, it became imperative to do so quickly when it became apparent the Americans had no consideration for the lives or property of their so-called allies. I can only hope this is not the beginning of a scorched earth campaign by the imperialists’ lackeys. We will not be dissuaded by such hateful and cowardly tactics and will do our duty to save these brutalized people from capitalist tyranny.”
Pravda salutes the brave Colonel Tesarik and his elite Stormwolves for having brought tens of thousands of innocent Germans into the loving arms of the People’s Revolution! Carry on the fight, brave Czechs!
The American commander’s report:
CZECH/SOVIET CAPTURE OF NUREMBERG, GERMANY
My beloved Betty,
Many years have passed since I first fought the Nazis in the African desert. I know you waited for me to come home and begged me to get out of the Army, but I love my country and felt it needed me still.
I know I keep promising you a return trip to Havana, and with only three months to go on my deployment, I fear my return home is going to be further out than planned.
Things are getting bad over here, you know I cannot say much, but make sure our parents’ bomb shelters are stocked. Be ready yourself, another war is coming, one larger than the last big one I fear. I hate to worry you but you know how much of a realist I am. I tell it to you straight.
Remember my good friend Al, that sergeant who served with me after my battlefield commission in ’44? That crazy sob ran into a train with his tank, he was always a bit paranoid. I figured today was it for both of us when I watched his tank get destroyed today. I am sure I will catch some heat for hitting some refugee truck that was in my way. Cannot understand why people insist on driving crazy around tanks.
I will be getting another commendation for what I did accomplish, but no awards can replace good friends.
I don’t know what has kept you around this long, but I thank you for being the one good thing I can count on in this world gone mad. So until my battlefield days are done…
Major Franklin Bradley
Fighting Jaguars Armoured Cav division
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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.