The battlefield. US approaching from the bottom, Germans would be deployed in the top half of the table. P-47 overflying pre-battle.
This was an ‘End of the Rat Race' scenario from Fall of the
Reich, with the Germans dug-in defending as the Americans probed along the farm lanes
towards the rural village of Pfalingen. The scenario begins as the American
road column comes under attack, its forward recce (here an M5 Stuart) being hit
as it approaches a road block on the edge of the village.
The German defenders (600 pts of them) consisted of an ‘Atypical
‘platoon of regular SS panzer grenadiers, dismounted and dug-in to two 10” lengths
of trenches. Supporting them was a dug-in Pak40 (with loader team), a HMG-42
team, a squadron of 3 Panzer IVs, a 222 armoured car and an OP team spotting
for an off-table battery of two 120mm mortars (ubiquitous these days it seems).
They also had a few timed barrages up their sleeves. BR total 34.
The American column consisted of a platoon of three M26
Pershings, an armoured infantry platoon in their M3s, an artillery spotter with
three 2nd priority requests, an M4A3E8, an extra infantry squadron
in a truck, a Sherman ARV (as I was bound to lose a tank early doors) and the
forward HQ also in an M3 halftrack. They also had a timed airstrike from a P-47
arriving on turn 7 (hopefully the deciding factor late in the game). BR total
42. They had to enter the table in march column order, up the road.
The US would take the first turn, but the Germans were all
waiting on ambush fire.
The Germans dug-in on their right.
In the centre, the Pak-40, in the background is the burning M5.
US march column arriving and deploying off the road for the attack.
Oh dear, German mortars, werfers and the Pak-40 reap havoc in the first turns...
Well, I won’t got into a blow by blow account of this game.
But it started very badly for the arriving Americans. Accurate 120mm mortar
fire saw a direct hit lucky knock out the lead Pershing (drat!), and then
destroy the following M3 half track, leaving the rifle squad cowering in the
ditch, pinned. The mortar fire was followed by the screech of a timed ‘werfer
barrage, which added a lot more pinning. The road was suddenly packed with
pinned vehicles. The distant PaK40 flung some extra HE area fire at long range,
aided by a busy loader team. Shells were going off left and right as the US
struggled to get on the board.
The US, unable to get clear of the road for pinning, tried
to do what they could as more units arrived behind them, pulling off the road
to avoid the inferno of HE.
Grenadiers move up into the hedgerows to get a few early shots in.
Under return fire they fell back to their trenches again.
The Americans bad start didn’t get any better when a long
range hit from the Pak 40 rolled an 11 and knocked out the second Pershing, so
much for the heavy tanks! On the bright side, the German’s lone panzer ran out of
fuel, and seeing the Americans massing up the road for the assault the crew
lost their bottled and abandoned it. The first German loss and counter.
The deployment was a real struggle through the first few
turns, under repeated mortar fire, then a timed 105 barrage, but luckily then
the 120mm mortars just ran out of ammo (another special counter) - a blessed rest-bite
for the hard hit Yanks. Now they could get on with the task of taking the fight
to those trenches.
ARV makes it's way through the smoking wreckage on the road to salvage an M26.
The M3s broke into the open fields to the right and raced
for cover in the hedges, with the FHQ getting into position to see the trenches
and call in his own heavy guns - only to be turned down for 3 turns (the officer
must have been screaming for his fire support by then – I was!). The last M26
got into position to see and engage the German’s first reinforcements, their
second Pz IV, but their gun battle was inconclusive as we exchanged AP rounds
at range. So far, the yanks had taken 9 counters, the Germans 2. Not good.
But now the game started to turn, good US command and
control got the infantry moving, debussing and hitting the hedgerows, .30 cal
MGs in place to lay down area fire ahead of the advance on foot. The Germans
were struggling for orders, and their mortars fell quiet. The game went into a
lull as the German reinforcements arrived and the US got into position to maximize
their firepower. The scream of the first 155mm shells finally smashed into the
German lines, leaving pinned infantry in trenches and a destroyed 222. The Pz
IV behind was lucky to survive the heavy shelling.
First German reinforcements arrive.
US infantry work their way up the road, under scything MG fire.
On the left, the M4 Easy8 exchanged fire with the last Pz
IV to arrive, and lost... ho-hum... Shermans continue their poor performance. Meanwhile
the M26 was out of AP ammo and withdrew to the ammo truck, the last of the US road
column to arrive, along with the ARV which hooked up a knocked out and tank and
dragged it off the table (getting rid of a counter for the US). Now it looked a
bit more even... just 12 counters to 7.
Things took another bad turn for me when the PaK40 found its
range against my forward HQ half track, some 53” away! Not being out of range (something of a
surprise that) meant the HQ halftrack became target number one (it was doing
the arty spotting) and a lucky 6 rolled was a hit that saw the halftrack
destroyed, and all 3 men inside with it become casualties too. That was 3
counters (1 for the M3, 2 for the senior officer), lost me an officer and my
re-roll (every turn) for my command dice and the man in place to call in the
big guns. Still, the forward observer was now almost in place at the forward hedge
to take over that job.
Seeing the Pershing withdraw to re-arm, the two panzer IVs
pressed forwards on the left and right, hoping to catch it without any return
fire. On the American right the panzer crew didn’t realise that the lurking US
infantry squad in their M3 (it had raced forward, seen the tank coming and
swerved off behind the woods to get out of the line of fire), still had a
bazooka. Now, the half track emerged from hiding and deployed the squad, who
scrambled forwards into the hedge and lined up the bazooka on the approaching panzer.
Whoosh – boom! A hit and scratch one tank...
The panzer IV on the American left emerged from around a
hedge to line-up the rear of the re-arming Pershing, but rolled a 1 to hit and
the heavy tank survived. In its turn, re-arm complete, the M26 crew quickly
swivelled round and returned fire, and another duel of AP rounds began. To be honest, the resupply truck was an easy
target for the panzer’s MGs, and it hadn’t reloaded the Pershing yet, so destroying
that would have left the Pershing a sitting duck, so I caught a break there.
Lining up the Pershing's rear-end... and missing - phew. Previous victim still burning.
US armoured infantry debuss and take cover behind a hedge, then let the panzer
have it with their bazooka. One shot, one kill.
General Pershing scores a kill. The ammo truck behind was a sitting duck of a target
but mercifully wasn't targeted.
With only one tank left on each side the Germans were down
to just their grenadiers in trenches, blazing away with their many MGs, whilst
the US infantry used their M1 Garands and BARs to suppress them back, and a blazing
firefight began, in which the US infantry held their own, thanks to ‘Fire
Superiority’ from their semi-auto rifles.
When the Pershing finally scored a hit and knocked out the last panzer
IV, the battle had definitely switched. The Germans were in trouble. Then it
got worse for them, not only did the timed P-47 air strike arrive (but its bombing
run went wild and missed the Pak-40 dug-out by so much the bombs landed off the
table!), another P-47 also arrived, this time with rockets. Its first attack
run saw all its rockets miss though... those flyboys were shooting very wild
today. But still it was another counter for being under air attack (a 5 my opponent
revealed by his groans), and now the German’s BR total looked dangerously close
to breaking. There was nothing in it! It turned out the Germans were just 4 pts
from breaking, as were the Americans.
But I had a tank, and an aircraft, and artillery to call in - he had
just infantry and a single PaK-40.
The USAAF arrives in force, hitting nothing but the ground! Damn them flyboys.
That gun became target number one for my next artillery request
from my observer who had crawled into position on the front line. His incoming
105s shells thundered into the area, destroying the gun with a direct hit which
its dug-out failed to save. Hurrah, but the Germans didn’t break! The P-47’s
next attack run saw it miss with all its rockets again (how realistic!) and
then take a hit from smalls arms AA fire, which the aircraft’s morale roll of 1
saw it return to base – useless, useless, useless!
US infantry on the front line. The panzer IV is abandoned due to lack of fuel.
The M3 was another Pak-40 victim.
On target. 105mm shells wreck the Pak-40 dug-out - at last!
The German player’s gloomy demeanour perked up, the air
threat removed, and in his turn an MG team’s concentrated fire wiped out one of
my rifle squads in the hedge. Disaster, I drew a 4, and my battle rating was done.
The Americans began to withdraw, the back road to Pfalingen had held (by just 2
BR it turned out – 1 more counter).
Well it was a really close and hard fought battle for 3
hours. The US got off to a terrible start, and then came right back into it. Another
turn and they would have won, I’m sure... but such are the fine margins. Those grenadiers could thank their entrenching
tools for victory, the trenches had saved them and kept them in the battle way
longer that the mere hedges my infantry had for cover. Still, if either of my
aircraft had hit anything, then maybe it would have been a different outcome,
so I blame the USAAF.