Every now and then I like to sit and research and then write a piece which – whilst relevant to the game (WOT™) – goes beyond the screen and the fantasy (so to speak) and into the reality.
Why? Well for a couple of reasons really.
Firstly and above all else, because whilst sitting in your armchair driving CGI based tanks is great fun, I believe that we should never forget and should always honour those who offered their lives in service to their country.
And secondly because as a clan we have many members – some of which have a very real interest in history and/or military history.
And thirdly because as the more seasoned or experienced WOT™ players may know, but newer players may not know, the maps which feature in the game are actually based on real battle arenas.
And Dukla Pass – which this article focuses on – is no different in this.
September 8th, 1944 saw the start of a battle which would last some thirty three days or more. A battle which would also see some 120.000 casualties before it ceased.
Chilling statistics aren’t they?
They are in fact statistics reported concerning the battle of Dukla Pass – a borderland between Poland and Slovakia. (Although I should perhaps point out that the numbers of reported casualties vary according to what specific stats you read and the dates and thus the duration of the operation depends on the area’s included.)
It was a battle – as the above picture of a Dukla Pass battle monument situated near Ladomirova, on the slovak side of the Dukla Pass and featuring a German Pz-IV J (left) together with a Soviet T-34-85 (rigfht) indicates – primarily between the Germans and the Soviets & Slovaks. Although Hungarians also featured on the German side. The Czechs or Slovaks – whose territory this was after all – featured on the Russian side.
And let’s be clear here. The battle for Dukla Pass was an important and bitterly fought one.
Now, in terms of ‘Game Play’ – depending on the battle type – spawn points are generally around the J&K 1&2 points and the A & B 1 & 2 points.
The terrain effectively consists of two low hills with light to moderate cover around which there are two main flanks and of course there is the dividing central pass.
Personally, (and I qualify this statement with the general caveat that I am by no means a great player) I find this map very much suits lighter, faster and more agile tanks – and in fact I really like playing my Czech tanks on this map.
But of course unlike in real warfare arenas – where terrain would very often factor into a commander’s choice as to what types of tanks to send in – in WOT™ normal game play one never gets to choose the tank according to the map.
Which of course is not the case in respect of team training where the map is set prior to your tank needing to be chosen and thus you can consider terrain in making your choice. But I digress.
As far as I understand it the background to this battle was that the Nazi’s had a very tight grip on and where oppressing the Slovakians. In Summer of 1944 the Slovakians rebelled and the Czechoslovak government requested help from the Soviets.
Now for all you general history or combat history buffs out there, the following description of the ensuing battle(s) is taken from ‘reenactment-sk.szm.com‘ and full credit is given to them for it.
“The main goal of the Operation was to capture the town of Prešov at the territory of Slovakia within 5 days and this manner to help the fighters of Slovak National Uprising which began at the territory of Slovakia on 29th August 1944 (more information in the section “Facts about Slovak National Uprising”).
After sharp bombardment the first wave of attack was focused to capture the town of Krosno but this goal was not achieved which caused a lot of following difficulties on the side of Allied units. Soviet and Czechoslovak forces advanced toward first German defense position established on the hills near of villages Wrocanka and Machnówka where took place the fist serious combat with German forces. Especially, the 3 rd Czechoslovak Infantry Brigade suffered serious casualties caused by counter-attacking German infantry and tank units.
Moreover, one of the biggest clashes of the Operation happened around and on Hill 534 in the northwest from the town of Dukla . This hill had big strategic value for both sides involved in the Operation. The battle to capture this hill lasted from 10th September to 20th September 1944 . During these days the hill changed its “owners” more than 20 times. On 20th September 1944 Germans retreated to the town of Dukla . The next strategic point of German defense was Hill 694 “Hyrowa Hora”.
1st Czechoslovak Infantry Brigade supported by 4 tanks of 1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade in order to capture this hill carried out marvelous attack on 22nd September 1944 with a positive result. Germans were surprised by the attacking tanks because their usage was not expected in terms of a severe terrain. The town of Dukla was seized on 21st September 1944 by 3rd Czechoslovak Infantry Brigade supported by tanks of 4th Soviet Guard Tank Corps and 140th Soviet Infantry Division on the left flank.
After a short rest and reorganization of Allied troops the Operation continued by the attack straightforward to the former Czechoslovak State Border. The combat to seize the Dukla´s Pass directly at the former state border began on 27th September 1944 . At the state border Germans built up the second defense position with many of trenches, wooden bunkers, minefields and obstacles against infantry, armored vehicles and tanks. The state border and Dukla´s Pass was captured on 6th October 1944 .
From the state border German units retreated to the third defense position which was established 6 kilometers in the south behind the state border with the centre of defense on Hill 532 “Obšár”. This defense position was prepared the best way within the Operation with many of wooden bunkers and machine guns´ pillboxes and foxholes. German artillery batteries were very effective used because their spotters were dressed in civil clothes equipped the radio and they were infiltrated in local population living in the small villages near Dukla´s Pass. All roads and paths were heavily mined. During this Operation in the fist time of history WWII were massively used German anti-tanks weapons famous under the name “Panzerfaust” and “Panzerschreck”.The battle to capture Hill 532 “Obšár” started as soon as Allied forces crossed the state border. The Operation finished on 28 th October 1944 bellow the summit of Hill 532 “Obšár” because of Slovak National Uprising failed. The hill was definitively secured as late as on 25th November 1944 , too late.”
But what does interest me – especially in respect of game play – are the statistics in terms of the strengths of the different forces. Putting aside, for one minute, the fact that the German and Hungarian forces included some 100.00 soldiers whilst the Russians had some 120,00-150,00 soldiers allied with the 16,700 Czech soldiers. Its actually the statistics in respect of the tanks and artillery which really are very impressive.
In terms of tanks it is reported that the German/Hungarians had some 350 tanks whilst the Russian/Czech allies had some 1,000 tanks. They (they Russian/Czech allies) reportedly also had some 1,724 mortars.
So – as you can plainly see – the Russian/Czech allies far out weighed – in terms of strength – the Germans. And yet the strength and determination of the German resistance was much harder than the allies expected.
Now, (switching back to game play mode for a moment) more recently there seems to have been a trend where WOT™ battles seem to have included a high number of artillery on each side. Something which seriously changes the whole feel and enjoyment factor of the game for many players and something which has understandably become the hot topic of many conversation or forum thread. And I for one – despite the fact that I do admittedly quite happily play artillery and despite the fact that when I am not quite happily playing artillery I am gleefully hunting the beggars down and destroying them – don’t believe WOT™ should allow battles to include more than one or two (perhaps three at a push) artillery units per team.
But one of the statistics which makes the Battle for Dukla Pass very interesting for me is – and Liam (much loved and valued illustrious leader of our’s) you might need to sit down and prepare a stiff drink before reading this next part – that in this campaign the Germans employed some 2,000 artillery units and the allies employed some 1,517 artillery units. Meaning that the Germans used some 1,650 more artillery units than tanks.
(Liam, are you sat under a coffee table gently rocking back and forth whilst nursing a stiff drink at this point?)
As a player, I personally play the game primarily just for fun. I love the game and I love the comradery of being in a platoon and more importantly of being in a clan. When it comes to a tank’s armament, gun depression, hit points, horsepower or any of those kind of stats I am about as much use to you as a chocolate fire guard. And I have absolutely no problem admitting that to anyone.
But I understand that some players are really into that kind of thing and that many players are really keen on the game being as ‘realistic’ as possible in it’s portrayal and presentation.
And if that is your thing, then my cap comes off to you and I fully respect your passion in this regard. [Just as long as you aren’t one of the whiny, miserable so and so’s who sits on the mic each game telling people how badly they are playing and how much better you could have done – even though your already dead in the game because sadly you are only a legend in your own mind and not in anyone else’s reality, and calling people offensive names and trying to suck every last ounce of enjoyment out of other player’s games. Ok rant over – and yes I feel better for it, thank you.]
But I personally am not able to take in and remember such statistics and I am certainly not skilled enough as a player to be able to offer any great advice when it comes to game play.
I do however have a passion for history and I so I offer this article to you as a way of sharing a bit of that passion and indeed a bit of the history behind the Dukla Pass map. And for those interested the following reports to be a short video (visuals only) of the real battle for Dukla Pass.
And in terms of Game play advice, I close this article by leaving you with some game play advice provided by the real experts when it comes to tank warfare and Dukla Pass. And more specifically the central pass between the two hills i mentioned earlier. It’s a picture of another of the memorials of the Dukla Pass battle, and it commemorates a major tank battle in what became known as ‘The Valley of Death’