30 August 2000. Sandomierz.
The Krol never showed up to his own party.
He’d whipped up his fellow bandit kings holding nearby towns into an impressive force, including 4 tanks from Stalowa Wola, all aimed at sacking and looting Sandomierz. They were all deserters from the same Soviet 38th Tank Division, Ukrainians who wanted to return home with some wealth.
Without the Krol, recently killed by the party along with most of his men in Tarnobrzeg, the horde decided to attack Sandomierz anyway.
The Vistula River blocked their path, with only the Sandomierz bridge for dozens of kilometers in either direction. The two sides fired across the river at each other. The Sandomierz ORMO held the bridge, and were annoying resistant to infantry assault, so the marauders decided to storm the bridge with their tanks. The ORMO checkpoint was slagged in short order by the lead tank, but not before an ancient AT-3 Sagger missile streaked across the river, wrecking the second tank. The ORMO sergeant who fired the missile was soon martyred by return fire. However it was enough to startle the marauders into pouring fire on the far shore.
The lead tank pushed forward, but two more Sagger missiles lanced out from Sandomierz, farther up the bank. Neither hit.
The Wisla Krolowa chugged upriver quietly into the action. The tug had been commandeered by the Sandomierz ORMO when the magnitude of the problem became apparent. The Krolowa had been as far as 2km downriver, running down marauder rafts and leaky boats radioed in by civilian spotters. However, the WK was called back; marauder tanks were at the bridge.
Incredibly, the Krolowa got to within 150 meters of the nearest tank, unnoticed. The marauders were focused on the far shore, playing whack-a-mole with Sagger teams. All the Krolowa had was an M40 106mm recoilless rifle. It had no hope of penetrating the frontal armor on a T-72, but they were presented with the tank’s side. The picked ORMO NCO ranged the tank with the recoiless’ .50 spotting rifle, and fired.
Nothing happened. A dud. It was combat, and the usual procedure for misfires was ignored. The NCO cringed and ejected the dud round; other crewmembers hefted the heavy shell over the side of the boat into the river. Another 106mm HEAT shell was loaded, and the breech locked.
They still apparently hadn’t been noticed. The NCO fired the gun again. This time the M40 boomed; its HEAT round impacted on the hull side of the T-72. The tank’s fuel caught fire, and soon crewmembers bailed out of hatches.
Not wanting to push their luck – they’d definitely gotten their attention now – Adam told the ORMO lieutenant he was turning the boat around to gain some distance from the action. The LT shrugged; he knew full well what a tank gun could do to the boat’s thin hull. The tug moved swiftly downriver.
Not quickly enough however. The lead tank on the bridge pivoted its turret around, but the commander found he couldn’t depress the main gun sufficiently to engage the tug down on the river. It was close, and getting easier as the boat steamed father away. He ordered his driver to turn the tank, and back it up on the opposite side’s railing supports. It was a reckless move on the old span, but it worked. The 125mm main gun of the T-72 thundered, and scored a direct hit on the Krolowa.
The round didn’t detonate – it was a non-explosive penetrator, or perhaps a dud – because the shell went in one side and out the other. The relief was short-lived. The exit hole was gaping below the water line and the tug was taking on water fast. Adam barked at his crew to beach the boat on the west side of the river.
The marauder tank never got a follow-up shot. With its rear exposed at the south side of the bridge, it made a perfect target for the newly-arrived American-crewed T-72, a kilometer away, upriver on the same bank. DeAngelo Pratt fired an AT-8 Songster out the gun tube, which had little trouble penetrating the thin rear armor of the marauder tank. The burning wreck partially blocked the old bridge.
Maks had fueled the T-72 they’d seized in Tarnobrzeg, and the party drove it downriver to the action. There were few rounds in storage for the main gun, mostly HE. But they did have two AT-8 Songster missiles, a curious stop-gap measure the Soviets used to deal with the poor range of their tank guns. The missiles were meant to be fired out the main gun. They couldn’t be auto-loaded, and so it was a slow process.
It was an open question whether the missiles would function at all, given their age and poor handling. So, the party cheered when the first Songster destroyed the lead tank. Maks ordered the second AT-8 loaded, and had the driver shift the tank’s position.
The remaining marauder tank commander was suffering information overload. They’d been trading fire from the far shore, snuffing out Sagger missile teams. Then a boat engaged from downriver, knocking out one of their tanks, and taking return fire. Then the tank on the bridge exploded from the rear. The commander craned his head around, scanning the far shore for the enemy missile launcher, when he saw movement to his left. A missile incoming… from their side of the river! He barked orders, but it was too late. The Songster impacted the turret side, incinerating the crew.
With all their tanks now burning wrecks, the marauder coalition retreated and disbanded, each unit returning to their constituent captive towns. Sandomierz – the one trading hub in the area – had won a reprieve.
The party had the gratitude of the city. Which was fortunate, as the Wisla Krolowa required extensive drydock work in the city’s ersatz boatyard.
The Battle of Sandomierz is directly from Pirates of the Vistula.
1985 … William H. Keith, Jr. 40 pages + centerfold charts/map … GDW 502