The Gathering Storm, Redux - Gameplay Thread (End of 1937)

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  The Gathering Storm, Redux - Gameplay Thread (End of 1937)
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« Reply #375 on: October 26, 2022, 03:22:51 AM »

Sino-Japanese War
Bloody siege at Shanghai ends with Japanese victory,
Zhang surprises with Manchurian offensive, counterattack blunted,
Signs of internal disruption within the ROC, naval blockade established

Following the conclusion of the first few battles of the newly reignited Sino-Japanese conflict – this time featuring the Chiang-Zhang duo jointly resisting Tokyo -, both sides geared up for what promised to be a major, long-term conflict. Partly due to high civilian and international casualties, most of the eyes of the world were forced on the city of Shanghai, in which the sizable Japanese garrison remained hard-pressed facing a siege from much larger NRA forces. The siege or battle for Shanghai was to last for several months and up to the end of the year, with staggering casualties on both sides. The initiative remained with the Chinese for the first few weeks, launching mass assault after mass assault and slowly gaining ground – fighting over every single house and street – in the process. Indeed, it took far longer than expected for the defenders to solidify their frontlines, with high Chinese morale overcoming severe attrition from battlefield casualties. Whilst the battle for Shanghai raged, other units of the IJN proceeded to establish a full military blockade of Chinese ports, virtually cutting off the flow of weapons and supplies to the Chinese Nationalists.

The Imperial Japanese Navy, meant to have played a larger role in the initial stages of the battle at Shanghai, was kept out of the fighting whilst the Chinese air force – bolstered by recent French training – kept up fierce resistance. It took the intervention of the much feared Japanese aircraft carriers – one of which, Akagi, was heavily damaged by a lucky hit – and their highly trained crews for aerial supremacy to be finally established, after which naval gunfire only amplified enemy casualties. Near the end of the year, and with thousands – or dozens of thousands – dead across the battered streets of the metropolis, Japanese forces executed a complex yet highly successful series of landings, threatening to outflank the Chinese positions and forcing their withdrawal. Although Japan has paid a dear price for the city, the Chinese forces retreat in far worse shape, conceding a key logistics hub for future operations and leaving the capital of Nanjing vulnerable to attack. Simultaneously, the IJN struck across the Chinese coastline, resulting in several fierce battles for control over the remaining seaports as Japanese troops prepared to land.

Despite a heavily publicized blunder at Qingdao and Fuzhou, the sole remaining ports – other than Guangzhou, under warlord control - to remain open after costly landings failed, all other Japanese attempts managed to overcome local resistance, enabling Tokyo to establish multiple bridgeheads. Surprised by a further lack of resistance, the Imperial Japanese Army was able to expand all bridgeheads over the next two weeks, only to discover that retreating enemy forces had done their best to plunder and burn abandoned ground. Although the route for further expansion thus remains open, Japanese forces will undoubtedly face a logistical hurdle to secure more ground. As these battles continue within the Chinese mainland proper, morale at the ROC has been significantly hit by battlefield setbacks, controversy over the suspension of land reform in certain zones – with unrest being fueled by mysterious propaganda – and an unexpected underperformance by Chinese currency, as counterfeit bills appear to be flooding into major cities. On the other hand, observers report that anti-Japanese sentiment remains at an all-time high, particularly as – in spite of public efforts by Tokyo to pursue restraint – tales of savagery in the field by the IJA have not subsided.

Ultimately, the most dramatic events of the first year of the war were to take place in Manchuria. Recognizing the apparent futility of their southern push following grievous losses and glaring material inadequacies, ROC and Northern Coalition commanders jointly suspended the advance, resorting instead to defensive warfare as large lines of trenches and fortifications have emerged across the new border. Over the coming weeks, both the Chinese and Japanese forces have done their best to bait each other into assaulting defensive positions, all while trying to cut their respective supply lines through the use of the Japanese air force or Chinese guerrilla units. Thus, only limited amounts of ground have been traded, most assaults – usually the result of local officers taking the initiative – ending in costly, failed ventures. Up north, the Young Marshal himself took the initiative, gathering his best units to lead an offensive into Jehol Province and Inner Manchuria itself. Despite the seemingly unsurmountable logistical challenge, Zhang showed proof of ingenuity by using a large labor corps of carriers, with thousands of civilians – and animals – keeping a manual supply line open to keep the Northern Coalition armies moving.

This offensive seemingly coincided with Tokyo’s strategic interpretation of the war, for the IJN repeatedly ceded ground to Zhang and enabled the Young Marshal – who led his own forces in the field – to overrun Jehol and come dangerously close to breaking out into Manchuria proper. This, in turn, was to be followed by a carefully prepared Japanese counteroffensive, with the planned objective of isolating and encircling its seemingly overextended enemy. This proved to be challenging from the start. Although a planned pro-Zhang uprising to paralyze Manchukuo failed – with heavy casualties for the militiamen -, militia units were able to execute a raid against Japanese commander Hideki Tojo, heavily injuring the General and disrupting the enemy command structure. The Japanese air force, so successful in Shanghai proper, found it difficult to hit Zhang’s supply lines due to their autonomy from mechanization, forcing pilots to overexert themselves trying to identify supply columns as Zhang’s own airmen – lacking suitable planes but not skilled pilots after an influx of foreign volunteers – made their own aerial kills.

By the time the Japanese counteroffensive started, initial battlefield success was clear as Japanese tanks – many of them German-made – proved efficient at overcoming Chinese firepower, bringing Zhang’s advance to a halt. Unfortunately, the same terrain that enabled the Chinese to fight unconventionally made the use of tanks a logistical nightmare, with vehicles breaking down over the sand and rugged terrain. Oddly enough, it was Japanese ingenuity – matching that of Zhang – that turned the counteroffensive’s failure into a mere stall, with bicycle infantry overcoming the limitations of mechanized units. In the end, the onset of winter forced a temporal lull in fighting. The IJN had kept Zhang out of the larger cities in Manchuria, but Inner Mongolia had been lost and the Young Marshal’s forces, at least for now, were nowhere near encircled.

As Prague recovers, Bucharest plunges
Unprecedented international action salvages Czech economy,
Despite averting continental disaster, Romanian economy crashes next,
Resulting fallout leads to government defeat at polls, King Carol loses influence

Whilst the Prague Stock Exchange plunged further into disaster and the Czech society, paralyzed by government gridlock, into further despair, many economists feared the crisis could well spiral into a repeat of 1930, a blow whose consequences – particularly as many nations are yet to fully recover – were terrifying to consider. Their fears were largely answered through unlikely diplomatic cooperation, with the failure of recent efforts – particularly in terms of influencing US economic policy towards Europe – being suddenly reversed following the so-called Krakow Conference. In an unprecedented effort – which, insiders claim, almost led to President Koc toppling Daladier for the Nobel Peace Prize -, four of Europe’s main powers were to join forces to establish the so-called “European Monetary Fund”, an organization that would provide the necessary loans to salvage Czechoslovakia and, arguably, most of Central Europe in the process.

Although an attempt to recruit a high-profile economist to lead the EMF was to fail and the exclusion of Germany caused controversy, the organization had sufficient clout through the variety of its backers – Daladier, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Koc – to overcome the sheer novelty of its mission and goals. Despite local controversy – squaring off those relieved by international action to those decrying the EMF as a “humiliation” -, the minority Petka government was able to push an economic recovery plan relying on the EMF through parliament with the unexpected support of the local Fascist deputies, enabling the rescue loan – governed by a series of limitations and regulations – to go through. In spite of a general belief that a general election is inevitable, the Prague Stock Exchanged slowly recovered some of its lost ground, and the Czech economy, while still crippled, has successfully avoided a US-style collapse.

The foundation and first mission of the EMF has undoubtedly raised the international clout of all four of its founding members, though at the cost of not-insignificant domestic blowback over spending being routed to Prague. Whether the organization has a future beyond its Czech operation is likely to be tested in the near future, as the same scenes of drama that took place in Prague have now gone over to Bucharest. Already heavily damaged by the Depression, the Romanian economy was further hurt by the Third Balkan War, the US embargo and an apparent lack of a clear economic direction, a problem that only grew larger and larger until it burst. The cause, in this case, was the prospect of war between Romania and Britain as a result of the Middle East oil crisis, a prospect that, through eventually eased through the Treaty of Istanbul, sparked sufficient fears to provoke a panicked reaction at the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

The resulting fall in stocks immediately spiraled into a full-blown crash all too reminiscent of Prague, an economic crisis that soon engulfed the country and drove already high unemployment into socially explosive levels. This, unfortunately for the incumbent government, was to coincide with the General Election, right at a time in which the ruling PNL had not yet decided on a firm economic policy or taken sides on the debate over autarky. The PNL subsequently crashed at the polls, delivering a large and previously unexpected victory to former PM Iuliu Maniu and his - also relatively centrist – PNT. Not coincidentally, the crash has also greatly empowered local far-right leader Codreanu, whose Iron Guard almost outpolled the PNL. In the aftermath of the election, and as local politicians debate on whether to impose austerity, and whether to seek a bailout either from Ankara or the EMF, likely PM Maniu seems set for a conflict with King Carol, whose authority has been greatly weakened by recent events.

1937 Romanian General Election:

Party   Votes (%)   Seats
National Peasants Party34% (+22)143 (+116)
National Liberal Party29% (-26)116 (-184)
Iron Guard21% (NEW)75
Magyar Party5%15 (+7)
National Christian Party4% (NEW)8
Total387 MPs

Incoming Prime Minister:

Incoming Government:

The Protectionist Revolt
Rise of free trade diplomacy sparks backlash in Europe,
Agrarian parties on the rise as rural areas turn towards protectionism,
Trade unions and workers incensed, strikes and protests in urban areas,
France at the center-stage, Central Europe also faces blowback

As recently as 1933, attempts in Western Europe to liberalize trade and overturn the wave of protectionism that had emerged – with substantial popular support – after the Depression, were met with significant backlash both in France and the UK, even causing friction within the Commonwealth. As nations – most of them – have continued to recover at least to some degree, this push for free trade and less restrictions have only deepened as 1937 moved on, resulting in an odd combination of crowning trade achievements coupled with political consequences particularly felt in France and across Central Europe. The Polish Republic proved to be the lesser affected country, having both contained some of its multiple trade deals to industrial goods and having enacted – just in time – a highly ambitious agricultural plan which, while enormously expensive – and only partially implemented -, contained resentment in the agricultural sector over a loosening of restrictions. On the other hand, similar measures were not as successful for the industrial sector, coinciding with an unexpected revival in activity – for unknown reasons – in the Polish opposition. As a result, though President Koc remains popular, a combination of industrial strikes and opposition marches offers a first sign of dissent.

Matters escalated further in Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey, all of which subscribed separate agreements that sparked protests in major industrial and urban centers, protesting what many workers or trade unions have dubbed an “unfair” economic strategy. Hungary would have likely seen such protests, were it not for the distraction offered by the crowning of the new Hapsburg King and, perhaps more crucially, the economic despair and hope for a German lifeline outweighing long term concerns. Ultimately, it was in France that the political storm erupted to its harshest level. What was to be a crowning, historical achievement by President Daladier in the signing of the Franco-Belgian-Luxembourg Customs and Currency Union, a near unprecedented – only matched by the defunct Latin Monetary Union – effort that would link all three economies in drastic ways. The news, strongly championed by Daladier’s Radicals and by pro-business leaders, met with outright disdain from French farmers – none too keen to see trade barriers gone – and even from French workers, a movement that had proved previously crucial for the government.

The National Assembly, already heated due to debates on police crackdowns, the far-right, and other highly controversial issues, became a space almost devoid of calm, with previously supportive independents and even several SFIO – and/or leftist – deputies turning against Daladier. The same protests and strikes seen in Eastern and Central Europe were matched across Paris, Lyon and other such cities, with the added complexity of rural mobilization and intense pressure being exerted on government and opposition deputies, scenes which were also seen in Brussels as well. And although the separate oppositions to incumbent governments have done their best to side with either workers or farmers, or champion economic protectionism – those not previously bound to side with free trade -, public frustration has been enough to warrant the formation or growth of so-called “Agrarian” parties, as well as far-right or far-left organizations.

With the Hungarian and Romanian elections having already featured electoral growth of such groups, and with the so-called “Protectionist Revolt” – thus dubbed by Hearst Media correspondents -, many wonder just how much it will grow, and whether incumbent governments will double down or back down on the free trade approach.

Borah’s First Year
FDR trial in progress, Washington DC on edge,
President charts moderate course, New Deal down but not out,
Concerns over long-term agenda, questions arise over Borah’s vision

Although not as joyful and crowd-packed as FDR’s inauguration back in 1933, William Borah and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. could be well said to have had a respectable opening to their Administration, a surprisingly civic act between Borah and outgoing President Garner in light of the contentious election and impeachment trials. Crucially, President Garner’s postponement of a decision on whether to pardon Roosevelt – in effect outsourcing the responsibility to the incoming administration – led to Borah’s firm decision not to pardon the controversial former President, resulting in a bribery trial starting in the middle of the year and attracting heavy involvement from the media. While in the short term, the refusal to pardon FDR has been bitterly criticized by moderates in both parties – citing a desire to spare the country from a painful trial -, anecdotal evidence suggests the decision may not have been badly received by the electorate, a large part of which appears to remain resentful over FDR’s perceived “betrayal” of the public trust.

For the most part, newspapers have proved willing to portray the President as someone keen to restore such trust, but there has been no shortage of accusations that a pardon was only denied to further embarrass the beleaguered Democratic Party with the trial. Recognizing the difficulty posed by being on the legislative minority, Borah has surprised observers by refusing to take on Congress head on, proving instead to be a reasonably effective negotiator while portraying his Administration as keeping Congress in check. This lack of controversy and major political fights, in turn, has helped the Borah Administration avoid major missteps thus far, while raising future issues of its own. Thus far, Borah has seemed content to let the Supreme Court take the lead in moderating – some would say emasculating – the still popular New Deal, focusing on addressing inefficient programs rather than, as many conservative Republicans – chief among them former President Hoover – attempting to destroy the program as a whole.

Despite a popular – if risky – refusal to partake in attempts to bail out European economies, foreign policy has proved a source of headaches, with refusals to restrict the power of the arms industry and opposition to constitutional amendments further empowering Congress disappointing isolationist groups, many of which expect Borah to be more strident in the cause of taking America away from “foreign adventures and war profiteering”. Perhaps more importantly, a relatively calm first year in office is yet to reveal a clear motivation – for the public, that is – and vision that sustains the Borah administration, the more evident downside of the President’s extremely measured approach. With 1938 approaching, and it with, the midterm elections, Borah will face a difficult decision on whether to maintain the moderate approach or undertake a more ideological agenda, with the Republican Party not yet convinced on which course of action might prevent the usual losses experienced by every President.
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