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Monday, September 21, 2009

Iraq 1941 After Action Report

On 2 May 1941 (Turn 1) the British air force attacked the Iraqi airfield at Rashid. The results were less than hoped for as only one squadron of bombers was destroyed. The 20th Indian Brigade moved from Basra to a point north along the Tigris River before the Iraqi forces could react. During the intervening four days, the Iraqi air force attempted a retaliatory air strike on the British fortified cantonment at Habbaniya. The results were the disappointing loss of one fighter squadron to the British Gladiators flying above the field.

On 8 May (Turn 2) the British High Command Middle East reinforced the Habbaniya base with a squadron of Blenheim bombers, and the 21st Indian Brigade debarked at Basra. Again the British launched every bomber and fighter into the air to destroy the Rashid airfield. The Iraqi CAP was destroyed, and the bombers and fighter-bombers covered the airfield with high explosives; this time seeing the satisfying plumes of smoke denoting burning aircraft. The Iraqi scurried about attempting to save the aircraft that they could, but in the wreckage all but two fighter-bomber squadrons were destroyed. Following upon the air raid, the 20th Indian Brigade moved further north forcing the Iraqi 4th Division to shift positions from Diwaniya to block the Tigris threat. Meanwhile, the 21st Indian Brigade began moving along the Euphrates River in support of the 20th Brigade. Meanwhile, the Iraqi ground forces at Baghdad received a defeat when they invested Habbaniya, and were forced to retreat north of Baghdad.

From 11 May to 15 May (Turn 3), the British received more air reinforcements, and Habforce and Kingcol formed at the H4 base in Trans-Jordan. The British controlled the air, and concentrated the bombers and an escorting fighter squadron on the Iraqi Mechanized Brigade near Baghdad. The other fighter squadron continued to fly CAP missions or Habbaniya. Again the concentration of air power succeeded in producing flames and smoke from the burning Iraqi vehicles as two motorized battalions evaporated. The 20th and 21st Brigades concentrated on an attack on the Iraqi 4th Division forcing it to retreat toward Baghdad.

During this time, the Iraqi command received the promised German support as Sonderkommando Junke arrived at the Mosul airfield. The German Brandenburgers had also succeeded in organizing the Arabische Brigade, while the Syrian Volunteers and the guerrilla Fawzi el-Qawujki appeared on the Syrian border. KG Brecht split off into the desert to join the guerrillas trying to slow the progress of Habfoce and Kingcol, while the Syrians moved to support the Iraqi 4/2 Brigade at Kirkuk. KG Bergen and KG Krunbein moved to screen Baghdad from the southern threats, and the remnants of the Mechanized Brigade moved to screen Kirkuk, and the 1st and 3rd Divisions re-entered Baghdad. The Sonderkommando Junke launched a surprise attack on Habforce destroying the Arab Legion battalion as the trucks veered through the desert to avoid the low level attacks.

Habbaniya was reinforced on 16 May (Turn 4) with a squadron of Hurricanes. These were used to escort an air raid on the Mosul airfield where the Hurricanes made short work of the German Me 110 air cover. The British bombers echeloned in formations of fighter-bombers followed by level bombers through the German anti-aircraft barrage. The raid was disrupted by the air bursts and the aircraft not aborted were unable to find their targets. On the ground, the 4th Iraqi Division evaporated defending the approaches to Baghdad and the combined 20th and 21st Indian Brigades continued to slog their way toward Baghdad. Habforce and Kingcol destroyed the guerillas and KG Brecht. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arabische Brigade prepared for a grim defense of Baghdad and reassured Iraq that they would save the country. Sonderkommando Junke had received He 111s on 15 May, and the Germans launched a limited raid against three British targets with no effect.

On 21 May (Turn 5) the 20th and 21st Indian Brigades attacked the Arabische Brigade on the outskirts of Baghdad. The full airpower of the British bomber squadrons fell upon the German/Arab brigade and the brigade dissolved under the combined pressure. Meanwhile, Habforce and Kingcol relieved the Habbaniya garrison among cheers, and the garrison re-deployed north of Baghdad. The Iraqi command appeared to be paralyzed launching only the same ineffectual air raids earlier attempted.

26 May (Turn 6) opened with the Battle of Baghdad. This time the full weight of the British ground forces were combined with all of the airpower capable of bombing the defenders. Two brigades evaporated in the explosions from the low level bombs and two brigades were eliminated in the ground combat that followed. The Iraqi command attempted a bombing run at the British columns that failed. It was the last time the Germans and newly arrived Italians would fly in the Iraqi skies.

On 1 June (Turn 7), the Germans and Italians were ordered to evacuate Iraq, and the British columns successfully maneuvered into positions to launch an attack upon the defenses of Kirkuk while the British air power destroyed the remnants of the Iraqi Mechanized Brigade. On 5 June 1941 the British were in control of Iraq and had secured the vital oil fields and oil pipeline at Kirkuk.

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