World War: Campaign for Surprise
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
Scratching his head in puzzlement, General Francis Duval of Franka was in his command headquarters looking over the aerial photographs of the dug-in positions of the Misera Army. Standing beside him, General Argenti was shaking his head in disgust. They weren’t the only ones in the room who were confused by what they were looking at.
“What are they doing there?”
“I don’t know.”
“They’ve got to have the dumbest generals in history,” General Argenti said staring at the photographs.
“I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the photographs right after they’d been delivered this morning. I sent a couple of our intelligence assets who are inside the country over there to see if we hadn’t taken pictures of cardboard models. Those are real tanks parked there.”
“On the stupid scale, this is right up there at all fingers on both hands.”
The photographs showed an extensive dug-in position along a five mile stretch of road leading to the second largest military base in San Troph. Saying it was extensive was almost an understatement. They had dug ditches along the road, built concrete bunkers overlooking the road, and set up blockades every two miles on the road. There were tanks parked in the ditches. There were trucks for transporting infantry parked halfway between the defensive position and the base. Anyone expecting an army to survive moving through that stretch of highway without getting chopped to pieces was a fool.
The only problem with the Misera preparations was that the road they should have been defending was sixty miles closer to the coast. That road led directly to the capital. The aerial photographs of that road showed one police car parked along the side with a car pulled over in front of it. Obviously the officer was giving someone a speeding ticket. That was the entire defense between Niella and the capital city of San Troph.
General Duval said, “Maybe they aren’t so dumb. Maybe they want to get rid of Jade Force and are pretending to be stupid while we do their dirty work for them.”
“That could be.”
“Our troops are ready to move out.”
“So are ours.”
“We’ll wait until sunset, and then start moving them north. They should reach the border about ten. We’ll refuel there and then head up the highway to the capital. We should reach there around four in the morning. It shouldn’t take more than two hours to take control of the capital.”
“Good Morning, San Troph!”
General Duval laughed. He said, “Yes, indeed. Good morning, San Troph!”
Sword Manela walked into the bunker where the commander of the tank forces had set up his command center. There was a small table with a radio. Next to the radio was an unfolded gasoline station road map of the San Troph highway system on it. Seated on a wooden chair was Colonel Gast. He had the chair tilted back on two legs with the back of the chair supported by the wall of the bunker. His feet were on the table.
Sword Manela asked, “Anything interesting happen today?”
“It has been real quiet except for a couple of tourists who drove past.”
“With all of the rubber necking they were doing while driving by our tanks, they’d have to be tourists,” Colonel Gast answered in a lazy drawl.
Sword Manela said, “How did they get past the road block?”
“I guess we forgot to tell the guys there to stop tourists.”
Colonel Gast gave the Jade Warrior a wry satisfied smile.
“Amazing how oversights like that happen,” Sword Manela said with a grin. “Are your guys ready?”
Suddenly much more serious, Colonel Gast said, “They’re as ready as they’ll ever be. I’ve got everyone taking naps.”
“Is your cell phone charged?”
“Yes, it is. I’ve got it plugged in over there.”
“Have you got a good signal?”
“That’s good enough,” Sword Manela said.
“Do you think they’ll make their move tonight?”
“Yes. They flew over early this morning. I figure they’re studying our fortifications and have figured out how to get past us without taking too much damage. I’m expecting our company to show up around eleven tonight.”
“How many of them do you think there will be?”
“About twenty five thousand of them. Our intelligence says that they’ll have fifty or more tanks and two dozen mobile artillery guns. They’ll have thirty multiple launch missile systems. Franka brought in seventy five gunships. The Niella Air Force has thirty fighters and twenty bombers sitting on their airfield.”
“Jesus. You’re expecting them to send all of that against us.”
“That’s just the beginning. Their fleet will be sailing into port with just about that many men within twenty four hours.”
Colonel Gast said, “I feel sorry for those poor bastards.”
“Don’t feel too sorry for them. They are invading us.”
“I know. It’s going to be like feeding baby ducks to alligators.”
“It is going to wake the world up to the fact that war is a dirty business.”
Private Fourth Class Krauss dipped the paint roller into the large tray holding tan paint. He turned and started spreading the paint. As was natural in such a situation, he was grumbling as he worked. Back when he joined the Misera Army, he didn’t imagine that his duty would involve painting a water tower. He was to put two coats, possibly three if necessary, on the tower. After painting for two days, he knew that this wasn’t a job he’d want after leaving the Army.
A lot of towns took a great deal of pride in their water tower. It was often the tallest structure around and was visible from a long distance away. Vandals liked to paint graffiti on them. That wasn’t a big deal since a little paint would cover the dirty words and pictures. The real problem was the weather. Weather could wear away the paint, leaving the tower to rust. Rust streaks would start running down the sides of the water tower. That was when real painters would come out, sandblast the old paint off, and put on new coats of paint.
It was getting close to quitting time and he couldn’t wait to get down on the ground. He was to paint from sun rise to sun set so long as the weather was nice. It was going to be dark in another hour. He was supposed to start packing up his equipment a half hour before sunset.
He looked around at the activity off in the distance. There sure were a lot of tanks and trucks parked over there. Men were milling around while others were loading stuff onto the trucks. It looked like a lot of people were planning on leaving the area a little later.
After checking his watch, he went back to work spreading paint.
Although they weren’t to move out for another hour, Colonel Turpin of the Franka Fifth Infantry Division was convinced that God hated him. At the moment, he was still getting the troops in his command into the vicinity of the trucks in which they were assigned to ride. Getting that many men onto trucks and then having the trucks form up into a convey was going to take a bit of time.
Colonel Turpin was convinced that too many of the young officers in his command didn’t have a single braincell. He’d come across a group sitting in their truck. There was something strange about them. It took him a minute to realize that they didn’t have a single weapon amongst them. The Lieutenant didn’t know that he was supposed to take the men by the armory to be issued weapons and had blithely informed the Sergeant who had brought the matter to his attention that if they were to have weapons, then weapons would have been issued to them. Colonel Turpin had quickly disabused the Lieutenant of the idea that the gun fairy would come along passing out weapons like he was handing out candy.
Equipment always brought its own challenges. He’d been informed about trucks with flat tires, trucks that needed gasoline, and trucks that wouldn’t start. He wondered if officers had the same issues back in the good old days when carts were pulled by horses and mules.
There were always idiots in any division and he had his share. Five men had been missing, but were found playing cards in the barracks after thirty minutes of searching. As soon as everyone was together, someone would run off to take a leak. It was worse than herding cats.
Supplies were a great source of problems. No one had located the gasoline trucks that were to be part of his portion of the convoy. He just hoped that when they found them that they would have gasoline in them.
As part of a multi-national effort, just talking to each other was an issue. In some cases, it was just a matter of heavy accents. In other cases, it required a translator. That made coordination almost impossible. Someone would say something and it would be repeated a half dozen times in different languages. He was always left wondering if everything got translated correctly.
He had talked to Colonel Gonzales from the Espa contingent earlier. Colonel Gonzales was in charge of the armored assets. He wasn’t having a good day either. One of his tanks had thrown one of its tracks while being loaded onto a carrier. Another of his tanks wouldn’t start.
He had visited the Niella commander expecting to find that group running around like clowns at a circus. Much to his surprise the situation wasn’t quite that bad. Sure, they were having the same problems as the other groups. At least, their problems weren’t worse.
He ran into the contingent from Morga, all one hundred and one of them. They had just been standing around looking lost. No one had thought to provide them with trucks. He’d sent a Major off to deal with the problem. The only solution his man had found at this late date were three buses. He could live with three buses following his men.
The Ecqua contingent hadn’t had any major problems. They were in charge of hauling supplies. Their trucks had been loaded two days ago and their guys were just sitting around waiting for orders to move out.
Satisfied that the chaos had been brought to a minimum, he went over to the command center hoping to find a hot cup of coffee. The front room of the command center was hopping with officers from various countries all stopping by for one last snack and cup of coffee. The real activities of command were being performed in the back room. He poured a cup and took a long sip of the hot beverage.
General Duval walked over and asked, “How’s it going?”
“We’ll be ready to leave on time. We’re still sorting out the regular BS that happens when you try to move so many people.”
“I hate these multi-national efforts. I swear that I can’t understand a single word the guy from Yuranga says.”
“I don’t think the folks from Yuranga know what a clock is. They haven’t been on time for anything,” Colonel Turpin said in disgust.
“Come with me,” General Duval said.
Colonel Turpin followed the general over to a quiet part of the room. He said, “When you get to within ten miles of the San Troph border, have the Espa folks unload the tanks from the carriers. We could give a shit about the damage they do to the San Troph roads. I want them to lead all of the way to and into the city. If they get fired on, they can fire back a hell of a lot better than your guys with rifles.
“Put the guys with supplies between your part of the convey and the rest of the infantry convoys. Distribute your APCs along the whole convoy. If anyone gives you a problem remind them that I’m in overall command of this operation.
“Niella has volunteered to hold the rear of the convoy. It’s a polite way of saying that they are more than happy for us to bear the brunt of an attack so that their troops can come in after the fighting ends and clean up. Since they are our hosts, I agreed to it. Their general is a lot more competent than I thought he would be, but he’s about as trustworthy as a viper. Watch your back.
“Based on our intelligence, you won’t have any resistance until you hit the city. Believe it or not, the Misera Army is guarding the wrong road. None the less, I want your folks ready to fire back at a moment’s notice. For all we know, Jade Force could be defending the route we’re taking. So once you hit the border, lock and load.
“Good luck,” General Duval said.
Colonel Gast was hunkered over his meal of stew served in a bread bowl. He had to admit that Jade Force did provide good meals for the men when they were in the field. Unfortunately, this was the last real meal he would get to enjoy for the next few days. Once the fighting started, he was going to be eating field rations.
The tone signaling that he had a text message sounded. He leaned over to look at his cell phone and read the message – ‘Bad boy called home.’ There were three more messages like that within a minute. Unconcerned, he turned back to his meal. He’d answer when the time was right. For now, it was dinner time.
Private Fourth Class Krauss had finished putting away his painting equipment. He looked up at the water tower knowing that he’d have to make one more trip up to it before he could quit. Rather than use the lift, he went over to the ladder. It was odd, but he felt a lot safer climbing the ladder than riding the lift. Maybe it was because the lift swung around when ever the breeze changed.
It took him a couple minutes to make the climb to the catwalk that went around the bottom of the water tower. He took a quick tour to the back of the water tower and paused to look around. All of the trucks off in the distance were pulling out. He watched them leave while making little tick marks on a page of his notebook. He was counting vehicles as they drove out the gate.
Once the last vehicle left the gate, he pulled out a cell phone. He carefully dialed a number and waited for someone to answer.
“Colonel Gast, here.”
“Private Krauss, reporting. The enemy has left the base.”
“Do you have a count?”
“I missed a bit of the front of the column with the tanks, but I have an estimate for that based on earlier observations.”
“Okay. Give me the numbers.”
Private Krauss read out the numbers that he had scribbled in his notepad. Just thinking of how many troops were headed towards San Troph made him queasy in the stomach. He had no idea how his Army could face so many troops from so many countries.
“Good job, Private Krauss. Head on back to the base using the base road. I’ll leave some folks here to meet you.”
“Thanks. I’ll be a little late. I’m going to stop by the office here and quit. I figured I’d demand my pay. After all, they owe me four hundred bucks for climbing over all over this bastard for two days.”
Colonel Gast laughed. He would probably do the same thing if he were in Private Krauss’ situation. “You earned it, Private. Tell them you slipped on some wet paint and nearly fell. No job is worth taking a header off a water tower.”
He slid down the ladder and reached the ground in a matter of a few seconds. He got into his bright orange car and drove off. It was strange. He’d been up on the water tower for three days. Hundreds of people watched him, but no one looked at him. He was just the guy on the water tower. Now that he was driving the orange car, people watched the car and never looked at the driver.
Colonel Gast played with his phone for a minute, going through the various functions it provided before finding the one he needed. He returned a text message in reply to the messages received earlier. It was a simple message stating, “Bye bye bad boys”. A minute later, four gunshots echoed in the quiet night. Prying eyes had just been permanently closed.
He walked out of his bunker and shouted, “Start ‘em up. We’ve got sixty miles of travel ahead of us.”
Now that the enemy was in motion, it was time to get on with the real mission. All of the planning had been done, and now it was time to put the plan into action.
Men calmly walked out of the bunkers and entered their tanks after making a quick walk around the machine. Five minutes later, there was the low roar of tanks starting up and idling. The noise got louder with each tank that started. He smiled. That sound just tickled his ears.
He made a phone call. “This is Colonel Gast. We’re leaving. Wait fifteen minutes and then start pushing dirt and planting trees.”
Once he was settled into his seat, he grabbed the radio and said, “We’re taking the south road. We can get there in an hour and twenty minutes, but that will drain us of petroleum. Let’s head out at fifty klicks per hour. We’ll save a little gas for maneuvering when we get there, but we’ll still arrive early enough to get in position.”
In fifteen minutes, bulldozers parked along the main highway to the capital would start digging revetments for concealing the tanks and protecting them from return fire. By the time the tanks reached the other road, there would be defensive positions dug in along the highway. It was going to be a nasty little surprise.