I got the following ship from Hobby Lobby (wait until it is on half-price sale, which it is on a regular basis). A large fishing trawler, very handy for Interwar to present.
First, I cut it down to waterline. That wasn't easy. I don't know what wood it is made of but that and the junk they put in the make it heavy (some kind of plaster I think) made it a hard job. I mounted it on a board cut to match the hull, and patched the ragged sections with wood putty. I then removed a lot of the excess deck detail, because that detail would gotten in the way of moving the figure around (I do the same with my sailing ship and leave off the yards and sails on the bigger ones, otherwise it is too hard to move figures around with my big fat fingers). In doing so I unseated the superstructure leaving me with this....
I put the superstructure back on and place a few miniatures on it. Yes, they look about right for the size of the ship. I don't know about the superstructure though. The funnel looks a bit too modern for Interwar or Pulp.
A close up of the miniatures on the trawler.
OK the superstructure is going to have to go. I can't place a miniature on each side sothe figure stands flat on the deck. You can also tell I didn't do a perfect job cutting it down to waterline. There is a slight lean to the port.
I'll need to redo the superstructure, a little smaller with a more rounded funnel. More in a much later post.
Illinois National Guard
Newly elected Illinois Governor Henry Horner (the first Jewish Governor of Illinois) barely made it home to Chicago from Springfield at the start of the VACW. There he called out the Illinois National Guard, but only those units based in and around Chicago. The other Guard units were eventually called out by Supreme Commander General MacArthur. With two notable exceptions, the Guard units didn't completely show up. Many members decided they didn't want anything to do with the upcoming Civil War, for reasons ranging from not wanting to shoot their fellow Guardsmen to their unit being under control of someone they opposed. In most cases the Guard who didn't show up were allowed to stay home (most leaders didn't want soldiers who weren't interested in fighting). As time passed, many of the Guard who sat out the early battles found themselves convinced to join up or in some cases were in drafted.
Governor Horner called out the following units.
33rd Division Headquarters (which since every National Guard Division was suppose to have a company of tanks, would have included a number of M1917 Tanks (30% strength)
131st Illinois National Guard Infantry Regiment (60% strength)
132nd Illinois National Guard Infantry Regiment (50% strength)
The 2nd Squadron of the 106th Cavalry, including the famous Chicago Black Horse Squadron (Troops E and F- 40% strength).
The 122nd and 124th Field Artillery (75mm guns). They were combined together to give one full strength unit and an extra battery.
Company A of the 108th Engineers (70% strength)
The 8th Illinois National Guard (it must have had a proper number but I couldn't find one in my resources). This was one of the few all negro National Guard units in the country and had served with the French Army in WWI. They were at 110% strength, as former members and combat veterans turned out in droves, after refugees reported what the Black Legion had done in Detroit (while the Jews had been beaten and driven out, at least 100 Negros had been lynched in Detroit, their bodies left hanging for over a week). They are far more motivated than the average National Guard unit, and with so many combat veterans they are one of the best in the region (though white people, even those on their side, are loath to admit that).
108th Observation Squadron (equipped with PT-1 airplanes- 70% strength).
202d Coast Artillery (while I cannot prove it I believe they were an AA unit). 60% strength until the first bombing raid by Ford's Air Force, then 95% strength.
The 131st, the 132nd, the 106th Cavalry Squadron and the Field Artillery (except for the extra battery that was left to protect Chicago from an attack from the east) moved toward Rock Island in order to seize the Arsenal there. On the way this force picked up scattered soldiers and two full companies from the 129th National Guard Infantry Regiment. Other units of the 129th that sought to stay out of the conflict were left to protect their home towns.
When this force (now known as the Western Chicago Army-WCA) reached Rock Island (which took the better part of two weeks) they found themselves up against some daunting defenses. Besides facing a 155mm battery, two 75mm batteries, and eight very assorted tanks (various prototypes that had been built at the Arsenal during the 20's) they found that the Arsenal soldiers had dug a series of entrenchments containing more machineguns per yard than any place on the Western Front in WWI every had. The soldiers at the Arsenal had drug out and emplaced every automatic weapon they could find. There were Lewises, BARS, Brownings (.30 and .50 caliber), old Colt "Potato Digger" machineguns, pre-war Maxims chambered for .30-06, Benet-Mercie light machineguns, and some of the WCA soldiers even claimed they were fired upon by a Gatling. The first assault on this fortified line was thrown back with such heavy losses that WCA was forced to dig in, and form their own lines of trenches. This ended up being one of the few true cases of trench warfare in the whole of VACW. As time passed the Regular Army managed to feed a few more troops in from the west, while the Western Chicago Army was joined by Wisconsin Guard units as well as most of the tanks that had been initially left behind in Chicago.
I don't plan on doing this battle. It is too large for 28mm (except maybe as the occasional trench raid) and trench warfare doesn't appeal to me.
In addition to the one battery of 75mm Field Guns, the eastern approaches were defended by the Illinois 8th, and various independent armies. The units formed by the Unions (more on those in a later blog) were placed on the eastern approaches and intentionally kept away from the white National Guard Units (too much bad blood between them from the Guard having been used to bust up strikes in the teens and twenties). Since no one had ever used the Black Guard to bust up strikes, they were not seen as the enemy by the Union units.
The downstate units formed up (130th Infantry (50% strength) and 123rd Field Artillery (40% strength)) but mainly stayed in company or battery sized units to deal with local problems. They found themselves battling local coal miner unions, which was made harder by the miners having successfully captured and looted the Mt. Vernon Armory. In the middle of the state the Union forces (who faced nothing more dangerous than the 130th Infantry Headquarter unit) took over Decatur and waged a sporadic battle with the various forces holding the state capital Springfield.
THE JEWISH DEFENSE FORCE
After gaining the backing of Ford the Black Legion drove the Jews out of the Detroit area (much to Ford's dismay). There were beatings, the Temples were closed, property and money was seized (which helped fund the Black Legion as much as the money from Ford did). Some fled to Canada, others to Chicago. From these refugees and the Jewish population of Chicago the Jewish Defense Force was created. It was the creation of a group of respectable Jewish leaders, and some very un-respectable Jewish gangsters. Detroit had been the home of the Purple Gang, a group of Jewish American gangsters who were involved in bootlegging, gambling, the protection racket, and other types of organized crime. When the Purple Gang showed up in Chicago Capone's outfit (which had previously gotten along with the Purple Gang) grew concerned about them muscling in on their territory. To skim off the younger hotheads from the Purple Gang, Capone funded and supplied arms to the newly formed JDF. Suddenly, guys who had been looked down on as hoodlums found themselves cheered as champions against anti-Semitism.
Unlike many other newly formed "armies" (such as the Unionmen or the Negro Defense Force) the JDF is well equipped with automatic weapons. Every "squad" has at least two Tommyguns and frequently a BAR. They were the first of the irregular "armies" in the region to carry grenades, and their grenades were regular issue ones (the other irregular armies of the region had to make do with homemade grenades and bombs that often didn't work right). They lacked much in the way of heavy weapons, but were well supplied with cars and trucks. This mobility caused them to be regularly used as a fire-brigade, to reinforce threatened positions. With so many of the members having suffered at the hands of the Black Legion they were very dedicated, if not all that well trained or competent. No actual uniforms at first, just regular clothes and armbands (the former members of the Purple Gang going in for fine suits when work clothes would have made more sense).
My VACW Campaign
I've decided to set my campaign in Northern Illinois and Indiana, southern Michigan and Wisconsin. You'd have Chicago, and the Progressives and Socialists of Wisconsin, hemmed in by the Army in the west at Rock Island Armory (which could make tanks and artillery) and Henry Ford on the east. Both sides would have plenty of people and industry.
I could do land battles of all sizes (for our European friends the territory this area covers is about the size of France), air battles (Navy fighters vs. Ford Tri-Motor Bombers escorted by Army Fighters), even small sea battles in Lake Michigan (motorboats and armed merchant ships). Land, sea, and air the region has it all. Don't forget the winters that can be as bad as Russia. OK maybe not that bad but plenty of opportunity for ski troops and aerosans (I've been looking for an excuse to buy some of those from Warlord anyway).
THE BLACK LEGION
The Black Legion was a real organization that had splintered from the Ku Klux Klan. The organization was Founded by William Shepard in east central Ohio. The group's total membership, estimated between 20,000 and 30,000, was centered in Detroit, Michigan, though the Legion was also highly active in Ohio and one of its self-described leaders, Virgil "Bert" Effinger, lived and worked in Lima, Ohio. After a high profile murder in 1936 that saw some leaders go to jail (they made the mistake of killing a white man who wasn't a union organizer or even a leftist) the Legion quickly declined. Humphrey Bogart starred in the movie the Black Legion loosely based on that murder in 1937.
The Associated Press described the organization on May 31, 1936, as
"a group of loosely federated night-riding bands operating in several States without central discipline or common purpose beyond the enforcement by lash and pistol of individual leaders' notions of Americanism."
The Black Legion was organized along paramilitary lines and had five brigades, 16 regiments, 64 battalions, and 256 companies. Although its members boasted that there were one million Legionnaires in Michigan, it probably had only between 20,000 and 30,000 members in the state in the 1930s, one third of whom lived in Detroit.
Members wore black Klan-style outfits with skull-and-crossbones insignia, and were allegedly responsible for numerous murders of alleged communists and socialists.
Those robes have got to go (in the early 20s in Southern Illinois when the Klan was fighting the gangs controlling the speakeasys and gambling they wore regular or paramilitary clothing). Robes would be a bit silly in real combat (OK for intimidation and beating up or killing unarmed, outnumbered victims, not so good when their opposition can fight back) so I'll use BUF figures from Musketeer for most of their regulars. Maybe I'll have the leaders and their body guards might dress up in robes (I have some leftover cultists I can greenstuff that pirate hat on). Now, I just have to find a source for small skull and crossbones transfers. Since they so strong in Michigan, I'll let them get support from that everyone's favorite anti-Semite and union basher, Henry Ford. This is a bit of a slander (only a bit), but otherwise they'd just be nothing but a bunch of guys with rifles and shotguns (and the occasional SMG and Light Machinegun).
So the regular Black Legion would be a fast truck-born (thanks to Henry) mobile strike force, well equipped with small arms, LMGs, BARs and SMGs. No artillery, but some air support (Ford Tri-Motors converted into light bombers). Usually equipped with a couple armored vehicles, there would be a 10% chance (each) that they won't be available for a battle (worker sabotage). Note, the air support and armor belongs to Ford and is manned by "his" mercenaries. He just lends it to the Black Legion (more on Ford's Army in a future post).
They'd have access to plenty of weapons, but would not well trained (maybe a few combat veterans of WWI), with leadership determined by personal charisma and political abilities rather than military skill. That will be true of many of the non-military armed groups. The leader is good at making speeches and is dedicated to certain political beliefs, not necessarily good at tactics or other military skills. As the war goes on these political "generals" will be replaced by the competent, if their factions want to survive (early in the war you will have to roll for some of your leaders, they might be good, possibly great, possibly utter cowards who run at the first shot).
The Browning Automatic Rifle (aka the BAR)
No VACW battle is complete without at least a couple of BARs in the hands of the troops.
The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) is an automatic rifle (or machine rifle)/light machinegun used by the United State. The initial variant of the BAR series was the M1918, chambered for the .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge. It was designed by John Browning in 1917 for the U.S. Expeditionary Corps in Europe as a replacement for the French-made Chauchat machine gun (a favorite entry in the worst machinegun in the world contest). The BAR was designed to be carried by advancing infantrymen, slung over the shoulder or fired from the hip, a concept called "walking fire"—thought to be necessary for the individual soldier during trench warfare. However in practice, it was most often used as a light machine gun and fired from a bipod. The problem was it really wasn't a light machine gun. Between the limited magazine (only 20 rounds) and a non-detachable thin barrel, it really didn't compare to a true light machinegun like a Bren or even a Lewis. However, with over 100,000 available (plus the Colt Monitor version, which lacked a bipod, which was used by the FBI, prison guards, police, etc.) in the early 30s in the United States they will be a common item in VACW battles. Every armory would have them in it, even major warships had up to 200 per ship for issue to naval landing forces. The version (M1918) available for VACW is capable of full- and semi-auto fire, and can be shoulder fired (don't try that with a regular light machinegun).
Depending on the system you use, you'll have to modify it down from a regular Light Machinegun.
A VERY AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
History Lesson 1
The Reality of 1930's National Politics.
The following is a simplification. I'm sorry, I don't feel like writing a 100 page essay on the way politics used to be. While gamers might know their history, I think it is better if I state the obvious for those younger people who don't know what things used to be like, and for foreigners might not know this stuff about the United States to begin with. Hell, I wasn't born until 1959, and things just started to change in the
In the 21st Century saying Republican is like saying Conservative.
In the 21st Century saying Democrat is like saying Liberal.
That was not at all the case in the 1930s.
In the south, most white people were conservative and Democrats. They were referred to as Yellow Dog Democrats (they'd vote for a Yellow Dog before voting for a Republican). The solid South was solidly for the Democrats (not like now when it is solidly for the Republicans). Roosevelt didn't get a majority of black votes (where blacks could vote) until 1940. Though from a later time period Robert Byrd (who served as a Democratic U.S. Representative from 1953 until 1959 and as a Democratic U.S. Senator from 1959 to 2010) had been a Klansman. Yes, white Southerners were conservative, but it was an anti-banker/Wall Street kind of conservatism that didn't keep them from accepting government help. Given the economic state of the Old South during the Depression (remember most poor sharecroppers were white) it was help they needed.
Also there was a strong stream of liberalism in the Republican Party. Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts. Western Republicans like Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. and his sons in Wisconsin (from about 1900 to 1946), and western leaders such as Senator Hiram Johnson in California, Senator George W. Norris in Nebraska, Senator Bronson M. Cutting in New Mexico, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin in Montana, and Senator William Borah in Idaho supported the New Deal and Unions. Starting in the 1930s a number of Northeastern Republicans took liberal positions regarding labor unions, spending and New Deal policies. They included Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in New York City, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, Governor Earl Warren of California, Senator Clifford P. Case of New Jersey, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. of Massachusetts, Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut (father of George H. W. Bush), Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania, and Governor George Romney of Michigan.
And needless to say moderates abounded in both parties at the time, but what fun are those in a Civil War.
I have been following with interest the Very British Civil War games that various gamers have been running. Here's a good link to what I an talking about http://vbcf.freeforums.org/) so I an working on a version for the United States. Here's what I have come up with so far....
A VERY AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
FEBRUARY 15, 1933
ROOSEVELT CRITICALLY WOUNDED BY ASSASSIN
MARCH 4, 1933
ROOSEVELT STILL IN A COMA
WHO IS THE PRESIDENT?
MARCH 8, 1933
HEBERT HOOVER RESIGNS AS PRESIDENT, CITES THE ENDING OF HIS TERM AS REASON
MARCH 10, 1933
VICE-PRESIDENT CHARLES CURTIS SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT QUOTE "THIS COUNTRY MUST
HAVE A PRESIDENT TO COMBAT AN ANARCHIST AND COMMUNIST COUP"
MARCH 11, 1933
PRESIDENT CURTIS APPOINTS GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR AS SUPREME HEAD OF ALL THE UNITED STATES MILITARY
MARCH 12, 1933
VICE-PRESIDENT ELECT CATCUS JACK GARNER SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
MARCH 15, 1933
PRESIDENT-ELECT ROOSEVELT AWAKENS IN NEW YORK CITY AND IS SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT
MARCH 20, 1933 ROOSEVELT SLIPS BACK INTO
COMA, ROOSEVELT ADVISORS MEET WITH NAVY ADMIRALS
MARCH 26, 1933
NAVY BACKS ROOSEVELT AS LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT, NATION IN TURMOIL
APRIL 1, 1933
AMERICAN ARMY TROOPS BATTLE US MARINES FOR CONTROL OF WHITE HOUSE
CONGRESS FLEES WASHINGTON
MARINE MAJOR GENERAL SMEDLEY
BUTLER CLAIMS THAT A GROUP OF BUSINESSMEN APPROACHED HIM BEFORE THE ELECTION TO LEAD A COUP IF ROOSEVELT WON
IS THE COUNTRY IN A CIVIL WAR?
THE REAL WORLD
On February 15th, 1933 Giuseppe Zangara attempted assassinate FDR. He instead fatally wounded Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. If he had shot FDR (especially if he had badly wounded him) there would have been a constitutional crisis. The U.S. Constitution did not cover what to do when a President, let alone a President-Elect, was unable to perform the duties of the office, but wasn't dead (that change did not happen until the 25th Amendment in 1967).
In 1933 the President wasn't sworn in until March 4th.
FDR had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920 and was well thought of by the Navy during his period in office (FDR was a died-in-wool Navy buff and collected many items of US Navy memorabilia such as 2 ships logs books from the USS Constituion from 1815). While Assistant Secretary he supported having a bigger navy.
In 1934, Major General Smedley Butler became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt. The purported plotters wanted Butler to lead a mass of armed veterans in a march on Washington and then become a dictator.
The Head of the Supreme Court does not have to be the person who swears in the president. It doesn't even have to be a Judge. In 1923, President Coolidge was sworn in as President of the United States, by his father a Notary Public while staying at his father's house in Vermont.
The competition between the Navy and Army for funds and priority is well known. There wasn't a joint chief of staff for the entire United States Military until 1942 (there had been a Joint Board since the Civil War but it had little legal authority).
As far as the actions of Vice-Presidents Curtis and Garner, that's just fiction (I've got to have somebody causing problems, though Garner once said that being vice-president wasn't worth a "Bucket of Warm Piss").
Yes, I am not a big fan of MacArthur, so expect him, and probably Henry Ford to be the chief bad guys in this little exercise.
As the Communists moved a French heavy tank (a Char B1) into position to shell Wembley, the Royalist Airforce responded with an attack by two light bombers protected by two biplane fighters.
An Avia B-534 (that's me) guarded an Osprey.
While a Gloster Gladiator escorted an A-8 Shrike.
The Tank was protected by a I-15 bis and I-153 with an armed Autogyro spotting for the Tank's big gun.
While the Osprey descended towards the Tank the Avia shot up the I-15 bis. The I-153 began descending to follow the Osprey.
The I-15 bis elluded the Avia and descended in pursuit of the Osprey. The Osprey missed the tank with its bombs.
The Shrike came in low from the side and knocked out the Tank by machinegunning the side mounted radiators, then blew it up with an accurate bombing run.
This was followed by a general furball in which everyone but the Autogyro took part.
The end result was the I-15 bis got on the tail of the Gladiator and it began to smoke from the damage inflicted. Meanwhile, the Avia shot down the I-153.
The I-15 bis and the Gladiator went head to head, resulting in the Gladiator breaking out in flames. The Shrike ran for home while the Osprey bravely, but foolishly, stuck around for more dogfighting. While pushing the plane at minimal altitude, the Opsrey pilot lost control and spun into the ground.
Th Avia and I-15 bis continued to dogfight with little result. Note the Osprey on the left sprialling into the ground.
The Gladiator attempted to flee the battle, but smoke begat fire, fire begat more fire.
And down it went in flames.
This left the Avia to face the I-15 bis and the Autogyro by itself. Fortunately, they collided after ending up in the same hex. The I-15 survived, the Autogyro (which had been badly damaged earlier in the game) didn't. The two surviving planes fought for another turn or so. Then I pushed my Avia, and ended up in a spin that I didn't recover from until the last minute. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, I sprinted for home, as did my last opponent (who I hadn't realized was out of ammo). After surviving a landing with damaged landing gear (the only damage I took the whole game) the Royalist survivors toasted their victory (we got the tank and I shot down a plane and survived) and their dead. The people running the game had planned on using Canvas Eagles for rules, but decided that the four machineguns on each fighter made Warbirds a better set of rules for the fight.
I've been gaming since the 1970's and even wrote some RPG adventures in the 80's for the Judges Guild. It seems that I can only get in miniatures is gaming at cons, but I do regularly play boardgames and RPGs.