First light was breaking as the US armour began their assault…
The Volksgrenadier deployed first, holding the line along the edge of Hulsa, 105mm Flak on their right, covering the roads, HMG bunker doing likewise on the right. Fortified buildings were designated (the church and a building on the right), minefields and PRTP placed (on roads and on the bridge).
The battered edge of Hulsa, the German end of the table. The white building with an orange roof, at the back, is the hotel on the edge of town.
The Rinnebach stream, all quite at dawn. The American end of the table.
The US then deployed Recon Team Able-12 around the bridge, with the Piper Cub spotter circling overhead. The US took turn 1 and the GIs began to advance on foot, M8s rolling along side, until an ambush fire shot from the 105mm Flak wrecked one if them with a long range blast of nowhere, with the first shot of the game, kaboom! Bad start.
The Piper Cub swung over the town, and recieved MG and rifle fire from the ground and was pinned, preventing it calling in any artillery fire on turn 1. Behind the initial recon troop’s advance, the Priest and attending supply truck of Combat Team Harris rolled on to take up a firing positon on the far river bank. The first P-38 swooped in, unleashing its bombs on the 105mm’s dug-out, but they deviated wide and had no impact… beyond forcing another early counter on the Germans. Their stack was racing up, adding to the US objective held and the ‘dispirited enemy’ special rule.
P-38's first bombing run on the 105mm Flak gun. Behind the Piper Cub pinned by heavy ground fire.
GIs of Recon Team Able-12 make their away across the fields towards Hulsa, to meet a lot of MG fire from the hotel area. The then fell back to the same bushes they started from, and hunkered down here out of trouble.
An early move, the second M8 Greyhound takes up station by the woods to call in mortar fire on the town and bunker. Unwittingly, he is just 6" from the junction, which is mined out to 5". A far better use of the armoured car than getting it killed in a fruitless attack.
The Germans got back onto ambush fire, sprayed a few MG shots into the fields to cause some pinning, but held fire with the potent off-table Nebelwerfers until better targets arrived. More ground fire hit the Piper Cub and damaged it this time… pinning it again. It was having a tough day. Also, some 120mm harassing mortar fire hit the bridge area, pinning a few units, including the forward radio halftrack hidden in the woods.
The US advanced continued, with infantry now in the woods and hedges. The last M8 Greyhound took up position short of the road junction (and fortunately just short of its hidden mines) to start calling in 82mm mortar fire on the edge of town. The five Shermans of Combat Team Harris started to roll over the bridge, whilst from the south, two M26 Pershings nosed onto the table, to recieve instant fire from the 105, which missed. Their return fire pinned the gun crew in their dug-out with multiple HE shells. Now the 155mm artillery began to fall, the Long Toms thundering into the edge of town around the church, which proved its worth as a fortified building, and the Priest joined in the barrage. It all had little immediate effected. The second P-38 skimmed in to unleash more bombs, but again the church proved too solid a defence (althoug it was being turned into rubble). Taking it, held by elite Hitler Youth, was going to be a very costly fight.
The German repsonse was to immediatetly tactical co-ordinate to get the 105mm Flak firing again, and its first shot hit and destroyed the lead Pershing… new tank, same result as ever! On the right, the HMG-42 in the bunker began to area fire into the woods, now full of cautiously advancing enemy infantry. It's constant pinning, for 7 consequtive turns, would stall the GIs advance all game, with no response for them against its firepower and 2+ cover save. It looked another tough nut to crack. The Germans then let loose the Nebelwerfers at the bridge, its big stonk smashed down to destroy the US Forward HQ in his M20 armoured car with a direct hit, and pin some Shermans. Ouch, his loss would be felt, no command and control re-roll every turn, or tactical co-ordination either!
GIs hug the hedgerows under long range MG area fire from town.
Pinned in the woods, this GIs never got any further, facing a blazing HMG pillbox... with nothing heavy to hit back with. A few rounds of area fire back did nothing.
The enemy bunker, it fired every turn and cut the woods, and then the infantry in it, to shreds. It was still untouched when the Germans pulled back.
Turn 3 and the US rolled very well for their reinforcements, the rest of Combat Team Harris arrived, infantry in their half tracks, and most of Combat Team McCarthy in the south too. The fight was on. More 155s smashed into the town (called in by the infantry platoon HQ), and the Volksgrenadier’s own Platoon HQ caught one shell and was wiped out, the Germans had lost a precious officer. Meanwhile, the church continued to be a rock, protecting the men (and boys) inside (obviously hiding in the crypt from the barrage overhead). The 105 Flak, the subject of the American’s ire, was pinned again. Next turn, its inexperienced crew failed to rally on another tactical co-ordination attempt.
Volkssturm Platoon HQ, before a 155mm shell killed them all, costing the Germans a valuable officer.
The first M26s of CT McCarthy arrive to face the 105mm Flak, on ambush fire...
McCarthy's forces all arrive together. The lead Pershing was whacked by 105mm Flak fire straight away, but the others swiftly removed that threat.
The Germans first reinforcements now arrived, armour in the form of a Panther and the Jagdtiger, which found the going hard (the town’s rubble strewn roads were counted as off-road). With the off-table Nebelwerfers reloading, they threw out some more harassing 120mm mortar fire, and more area firing MGs, which kept the US infantry well pinned and going nowhere. The 105 Flak was pinned in heavy fire all around, but still a threat if it could just survive a turn.
A lone Panther moves up to take up position on the edge of town, as ever, my Panthers performance was, well, less that amazing... but both survived, if with a few extra dents.
First reinforcements, the Beast of Hulsa, my Jagdtiger's first ever run out on a battlefield. One scary monster.
It didn’t, desperate to see the gun silenced, MG fire raked the dug-out, killing the crew until the last man ran. Things looked bad on the German right. With the US troops closing in, could the Volksgrenadier hang on for the reinforcements behind? The US artillery was putting them through the mincer turn after turn.
McCarthy's men deployed to face the church. Note, the red dice of doom, well, suspiciously high rolling... cover saves... no problem.
CT McCarthy's Pershings advance towards the church.
More Volkssturm await on ambush fire, next door to the church, as the GIs keep up the pressure.
Those needed German reinforcements were arriving in dribs and drabs, but two half tracks were on the way, as was the Jagdtiger (slowly). The supporting 251/17 arrived and immediately engaged the Piper Cub with its 20mm Flak, 2 hits saw the spotter shot down… to cheers from the Germans. One of the resulting 2 chits was another aircraft, and with a forward air controller on the table, a bomb-armed P-51 Mustang raced in low... to groans from the Germans.
The USAAF returns... P-51 Mustangs in close support, the first of two to arrive over Hulsa this morning.
As the firefight on the edge of town continued, MG42’s melting their barrels and piling up spent brass high, the Combat Team Harris began its main push forwards, all the tanks and halftracks now over the bridge and swinging into the fields in the centre, HE rounds flying to try and pin those MGs and relieve the infantry ahead, which was still largely stuck in the hedges and woods and unable to get much effective return fire off. The Sherman’s fire helped, as did the Mustang’s two bombs and more Priest and mortar stonks on the church.
Sherman's lead CT Harris into the attack.
Armoured Infantry following close behind. The ARV sat awaiting an order all game, but there was always other demands... so it just sat.
CT Harris on the move over the Rinnebach stream.
Moving up at just 5" per move, the Beast found getting into the battle the hard bit.
At the chuch, with a Pershing directly in front, the Volksgrenadier readied their panzerfaust and, judging that it was just out of range, made the bold decision to advance on the tank, into the open, to get an anti-tank shot. This might seem like madness, but the plan was actual well thought out. Return US fire would devastate the squad, but they could Fall Back!, losing just 1 man and become pinned, but then be back into the church’s 3+ cover save. Well, the plan seemed sound, except the panzerfaust missed on a 1. OK, at least the squad could be saved… but no, the first US area fire from the engineer’s half track .50 cal pinned them. Now they were in the open and not able to fall back, ot-oh! Now MG fire from Pershing tanks swept the Volkssturm squad away in the blaze of bullets until the last man was pinned and thus removed. One more chit to the ever growing stack.
Rash Volkssturm advance into 'faust range. The plan was sound(ish), until the dice were rolled.
With the church defenders all pinned the US combat engineers now made their advance, dismounting to close on the church (and the prospect of flamethrowing child-soldiers in a church looked highly probably!). But this plan didn’t work either, the Germans used more tactical co-ordination to get their squad shooting again, and pinned the engineers outside, now also stood in the open. In a desperate measure to hold the edge of town the artillery observer in his bunker called upon the reloaded Nebelwerfers. He was also in the blast zone as the big 210s screamed in, wiping out the US engineers, pinning both Pershings and the infantry squads following behind them. The observer’s bunker saved him from his own fire. The bitter fight for the church had reached stalemate, the US all pinned down, the Gemans almost out of troops, until the 2 Panzer Grenadier squads debussed from their half tracks into the church again, before their Hanomags retreated off the table to save the chits. The new infantry’s MG fire would then sweep away the last US infantry to their front and, when a lurking Panther at the edge of town glanced a shell off the lead Pershing, its already pinned crew abandoned their tank and the fight for today. It was now obvious the church would not fall to the single M26 left and a lone half track, which was returning MG fire for all its worth. Combat Team McCarthy had shot its bolt in the southern flank of the attack, it was down to Harris’ men to win the day in the centre.
McCarthy's attacking infantry move on the church, engineers in the fore.
Ouch, well placed 210mm Nebelwerfer strike causes havoc... and effectively ended the southern attack.
The attack in the centre rolled on in great force, Shermans blazing HE and MG fire into the town buildings, whilst the armoured infantry debussed and advanced on foot to take the lead. Overhead the P-51 circled round and came in strafing, but ran smack into accurate 20mm AA fire which drove it off pinned and damaged. The SdKfz 251/17 20mm flak crew were proving their worth waiting on ambush fire.
Here comes Harris' armour, thundering over the fields, MGs and 75mm HE blazing away. The infantry are still close behind in a well co-ordinated combined-arms attack. Artillery, then tanks, then close assault by infantry racing forwards and dismounting... the Volksgrenadiers couldn't match them and were overwhelmed at the hotel.
Light armour reinforcements take cover (hide) from the approaching Shermans.
At the hotel in the centre the last Volkssturm and their HMG had finally been destroyed by artillery and Sherman fire, and the first US infantry moved up into the objective buildings, before spotting the Volkssturm panzerschreck team which had been trying to sneak up through the alleys unseen. A blast of area fire from their M1s and BAR saw the enemy pinned, and lose a man to a rolled 1 for its cover save. 1 man, pinned, and the ‘schreck team had seen enough too. Also, an obejctive was in US hands. 2 more counters on the stack.
The battle looked increasingly desperate for the Germans, but one ‘panzer ace’ Panther was now in position and lurking on ambush fire for Sherman targets to appear. The Jagdtiger was manouevring behind the church, now on reserve move ready to pop-out and take down the last Pershing, which was itself now dueling with the other Panther, glancing an anti-tank round of its glacis and taking a glancing hit in return (to-hit rolls were good, but penetration rolls shockingly bad).
Panzer Ace on ambush fire, behind the Tiger is knocked out... just scenery. He kept the Shermans cautious.
Panther and Pershing meet head-to-head and trade big blows, both unable to penetrate on rubbish dice throws.
The SdKfz 250/9 hiding in town moved to bring some 20mm area fire onto the hotel and pinned the US infantry inside, but exposed itself to a tempting long range Sherman shot, if it moved to the road junction on the German left to get a line of sight. It duely did, trying to lined up the little armoured car, only to find itself on the hidden minefield. The mines went off and Sherman was left a smoking wreck by the road. Straight after this, the US found the second minefield as well, as an infantry squad advancing down the lane from the barn walked into it, lost 2 men and was also pinned down.
Oops, a Sherman finds the minefield... hoping for a sneaky long shot. M8 still calling in the mortar stonks.
There were now 12 pinned US units on the tabletop. Next turn, they took 2 chits for unpinning and rolled 2 on 2D6.. eek! Half the force just wasn’t fighting. But, in compensation, one of the chits was another aircraft and, with the forward air controller still busy on his jeep radio at the back, another P-51 Mustang buzzed in, this time rocket-armed. The USAAF was having a busy day.
The fourth air attack of the game saw the next P-51 target its rockets on the, well what else? … Jagdtiger. The lurking beast hadn’t fired a shot when four 5” rockets screamed down at it, and 3 hit (on sixes)! In a massive fireball the Hunting Tiger was gone… left a burnt-out hulk. The German players looked glum as another chit landed on the pile. Looking at the large stacks, it seemed even on numbers taken (it was actually pretty even on BR inflicted too), but the Germans were much closer to breaking.
And then break they did, when the next US chit taken turned out the Endkampf counter, and forced the German to take 4 extra counters… with the loss of the Jagdtiger the fight had just gone out of them, under relentless 155 fire, repeated air attacks and with the US troops now in the hotel in force and Shermans grinding into the streets. The Germans pulled back, obviously saving the two Panthers and most of the panzer grenadiers to fight another day. The Volkssturm had been slaughtered, only 3 men left from the platoon and its support units.
The attack in the centre, heavily pinned but still coming as best they can. The lead Sherman has nosed out to try and pin the ambushing Panther panzer ace...brave boy! The 75mm L70 ambush fire missed it, and the area fired HE did nothing, but when the smoked cleared, the Panther had gone... pulling back to fight another day.
By midday, Hulsa could be reported to be in US hands… one more small step on the road to victory in Europe.
It was cracking day, I enjoyed umpiring and watching it all unfold. The late war US forces looked a formidable beast, the Germans felt it had been a forlorn fight against too powerful an enemy, but a balanced game non-the-less. The USAAF and the US artillery firepower had blasted the Germans all game and even their great cover save rolling had, in the end, succumbed. Luck can't last forever. Thanks to all the joined in, 9 players in all throughout the day.
Tactically, the Germans forward deployment didn’t help, it exposed them to too much artillery fire early on, perhaps a deeper deployment in the town, and a swift counter-attack at closer quarters might have worked, and cut down the long-term effect of the US artillery. The US attack had been rather slow, an attritonal meat-grinder, in the south Combat Team McCarthy had been stopped and had very little left, a M26, a Sherman artillery spotter, a M3 and the forward air controller was it. But, Combat Team Harris’ determined drive had cracked the Germans open and secured Hulsa.
Hope you enjoyed the write-up and have a Merry Christmas all. Hopefully Santa will bring the toy soldiers you need... I know there is a parcel with almost 200 Early Imperial Romans in it under our tree.