Sunday, August 11, 2019

Krasny Krym Favorite Donut of Soviet Sailors

Few warships in WWII had the colorful story of the Red Crimea (Krasny Krym.)  Laid down during WWI, towed to the safety of Petrograd during the Revolution, laid up for five years before completion and finally a harrowing journey around Europe to the Black Sea, the Krasny Krym was a quintessential Red Navy warship.

The Krasny Krym was classified as a light cruiser and bristled with 5 in (130mm) guns.  The Krym carried 15 in all and while such a weapon was considered primarily an anti-aircraft gun in more modern navies, for the Soviets it was a surface action gun as well as shore bombardment weapon.  In an attempt to keep the ship up to date a variety of anti-aircraft guns were installed--and worked because the Krym survived the war.  In fact, the Krasny Krym was the only Soviet Light Cruiser to shoot down a German aircraft during the war.

This is an important time to make a point about strategic surprise and Barbarossa.  It didn't work with regard to the Black Sea Fleet.  Other branches of the military may have been caught flat-footed, but the Black Sea Fleet was on alert and headed to sea that fateful morning in June.  Admiral Kuznetzov deserves some Kudosov for his foresightedness.

The Krym spent the first months of the war around Odessa both as an escort and providing fire support.  It was, most definitely, part of the fire support for the scenario They Fired on Odessa, even though on my version (there are several versions of this excellent scenario) it is listed as 80mm.  My version is from the original Tactiques, but there is also an Annual 95b version.

I'm not sure what the scenario designers were thinking, but there are excellent sources placing the Krasny Krym at this action so it should be 120mm NOBA, but we'll chalk it up to play balance.  This scenario definitely came out before the NOBA rules, so give the Romanians the balance and increase the NOBA.  After 1930, the Krasny Krym lost its capacity to launch float planes and depended on a tower to conduct its fire support.  As you can see from the picture, it was pretty high up and would probably count as a level 3 off board observer.

Other Odessa scenarios are also available, but none nearly so noteworthy.
After Odessa falls, the Krasny Krym moves on to Sevastopol.  I'll mention here that Critical Hit did a complete module (well, kind of complete, no campaign game) of the siege of Sevastopol called Maxim Gorki.  I highly respect Mark Pitcavage's reviews and he calls MG "intriguing."  A number of the scenarios have Soviet NOBA which no doubt at least in part comes from the Krasny Krym.  Is it worth $130?  I'll let you make up your own mind about that.

However, I will recommend Chapel Hill from LFT's Crimea edition, which is now out of print.  No NOBA in this one, but good Sevastopol fun.  I'll throw in a Special Ops scenario because it does have Soviet OBA, but I don't know if it is NOBA, Third Time's a Charm.

One thing to remember is that scenario design with NOBA reflects a great deal of historical research that needs to be undertaken on both sides.  It is hard to catch which ship is involved most of the time.  And game balance is an important issue.  Getting hit with five batteries of 120mm guns tends to make a scenario a little one sided.  So I'll say the Krasny Krym is here and don't get too wrapped up in the amount of firepower its putting out.

Next up came Kerch.  While the 1941 phase of this operation was a complete debacle for the Soviet Union, the December 29th attack by the Krasny Krym carrying reinforcements to the city of Feodosia and providing fire support was a bright spot.  The attempt to relieve Sevastopol not only failed, but turned into a German counterattack and drive toward the Caucuses.

Surprisingly, there are few Kerch scenarios and even fewer that are worth playing.  Here I will mention Land of Fire because it is also from LFT's Crimea edition.  However, there are none that feature the Krasny Krym.

So, I'll put one out there.

RED CRIMEA --  In an attempt to flank the German and Romanian units on the Kerch peninsula, Red Marines landed in the ancient Greek city of Feodosia.

Later, in January, the Krym landed mountain troops at the beach town of Sudak, a bit further West down the coast.  Here, too, there are no scenarios.
After the Kerch offensive was turned around and the Germans kicked off Fall Blau, the Krasny Krym was relegated to the uncomfortable and thankless job of evacuating Sevastopol.  Seaborne evacuations are never a very popular or smooth scenario, so there are none here as well and I'm not going to offer any.  However, this is notable because it was in the evacuation that Krasny Krym earned Guards status.

By August of 1942, the Krym was involved in another evacuation, this time Novosirisk on the Eastern coast of the Black Sea.  But some places along the Eastern coast stood firm.  The Krym did its part, ferrying troops and providing fire support to Tuapse and Gelendzhik and providing fire support there.

Krasny Krym and her sister, Krasny Kavkaz both took part in the landings at Novorossisk.  These landings ended up being a debacle and are notable for the lack of scenarios (only one from CH) and the presence (or alleged presence) of later Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.  I did work on a scenario for this but could never quite get it to work.

However, it was shortly after this when three Soviet destroyers were sunk interdicting a German withdrawal across a strait and the Soviets ended the use of flanking attacks using naval assets (much like the Western Allies did after Anzio, which occurred at nearly the same time.)

By the end of the war, the Krym was about thirty years old.  Russian ships prior to the war were not very well designed.  See the Russian monitor Novgorod as an example.  However, her fame and sentimental attachment for so many Soviet marines and soldiers gave her a reprise and she wasn't scrapped until 1959, acting as a floating barracks for most of those years.

Now, to be fair the Krasny Krym did not face any notable surface opposition.  The Romanian navy was composed of four destroyers, mostly of 1920's vintage and a bunch of other relics of the Balkan past.  Clearly, these were more valuable protecting Romania's coast.  However, it is fair to remember that the Germans had formidable air assets in the area.

In the meantime, to the sailors of the Krasny Krym and the soldiers and marines she took to battle:  Я служу Советскому Союзу!

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