Higher Ground

GI's reform after an attack.

GI's reform after an attack

Saint Lô & Falaise, France, August 1944 – Light US forces press forward against the encircled Germans…

Historical Situation

Mid-August 1944, central France, the German front is collapsing (although they haven’t realised it) and Hitler is insisting on an armoured thrust west from Trun to counter the U.S. advance. The U.S. XV Corps has already broken through into empty country beyond Saint Lô and General Bradley has now ordered the Corps to swing east to hook round behind the German armour and trap it – preventing a retreat north & east to the Seine river. American forces are pushing forward as far and as fast as they can to keep the Germans guessing, and secure vital objectives for the ongoing advance!

General map of the situation, August 1944.

General map of the situation, August 1944.

Having secured Le Mans then turned north, the American XV Corps has sent a Task Force (consisting of a reinforced Motorised Infantry Battalion with some light-armour reconnaissance forces) north towards the south bank of the Orne river. Approaching Argentan they are ordered to secure some dominant high ground south of the town to cover the approach of heavier forces the next day, who are heading for Argentan themselves, and an Orne crossing. Falaise and the Canadians are just 25km away across the Orne to the north, in between are all or part of nearly 7 Panzer Divisions, 2 Tiger Battalions, several reasonably fresh German Infantry Divisions (by Normandy standards), and the last remnants of the German 7th Army.

The Germans meanwhile, with the Canadians finally entering Falaise itself, have suddenly realised the threat to their rear and have finally started to send forces south to secure their open flank… As the U.S. XII Corps approaches Orléans 100km to the south, the Task Force approaches it’s objective, unaware that the first significant German forces have already occupied the area south of Orne around Argentan…

Forces

M3A3 takes a near-miss from a German 75mm L/24.

M3A3 takes a near-miss from a German 75mm L/24.

Saint Lô & Falaise, France, August 1944 – Light US forces press forward against the encircled Germans… The leading U.S. elements consist of a part battalion of 2 Companies of Infantry (with a platoon of 81mm Medium Mortars as their heaviest weapon over and above their Company level HMGs & 60mm Mortars), but supported by platoon sized Recce (M8 Greyhounds & Jeeps) and Light Armour (M3A3 Light Tanks & M8 75mm HMCs) detachments. Defending was a part battalion of Germans, with  2 Companies of Infantry (incl. an 8cm Mortar detachment and Platoon of 2 HMG stands), and a small detachment of armour – 2 Light low-velocity 75mm or similar AFVs (we used Panzer IIIN, but Sdkfz 251/9 or 233 or 234/3 or similar with 75mm L/24 or such would suffice), and 1 Tiger I.

John was attacking with the U.S. and Kieran was defending with the Germans, and this was one of the first games we played our house rule that woods & orchards provide no cover from indirect HE fire (due to the tree burst effect and similar).

It would also be one of our last games with 15mm figures, as we decided about this time to change to 1/76th (20mm) scale (or revert back in my case as I already had large numbers of models for WW2 & Modern), our (Kieran & I’s) last 15mm Crossfire game would be about a year later, around the end of 2004 – Although I would play 1 final 15mm game to introduce another prospective player at the beginning of 2006 before my 15mm CF armies would be no more.

Objectives

U.S: Clear the area and obtain a vantage point on the high ground to observe the German forces to the North – this needs to be secured with a reasonable force (i.e. approximately 6 Squads, CC’s, and/or Heavy Weapons or AFVs). It has also been indicated that elements of German heavy armour have been seen in the area by aerial reconnaissance – if possible identify if they are present and/or eliminate them.

German: Hold the area at all costs – you are covering the souther flank of the Falaise pocket and it is imperative that enemy forces do not become established on the high ground to the North, as this will expose our forces to observation, interdiction, and the possibility of being encircled. Amerikan forces were reported only 20km away yesterday. Secondly a large store of ‘liberated’ valuable art treasures are located in the local Château, you must provide a guard and escort for these until they can be loaded onto the assigned transport and despatched to the North-East across the Orne River – once at the river (i.e. for game purposes off the North edge of the table) they will no longer be deemed your responsibility.

The Game

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Looking at this photo, you will see the objective of the US attack - the high ground at the right rear.

It’s the time of Falaise and US forces are streaming across France… The light armour and mechanised infantry are way-out in front… It’s expected there will be light German resistance in the area, and the high ground dominates a town and river crossing further North (behind the German position).

This photo shows the view from the German side...

This photo shows the view from the German side...

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Here is a shot from early in the game, two US platoons have advanced up the centre (on the left edge of the photo), while on the right the tank platoon has gingerly advanced up the road.

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part of a platoon having dashed into the crop field adjacent to the orchard blunders right into the front of a position occupied by a platoon of tripod mounted MG42s!

A platoon has dashed across the open on the extreme right heading for the hedged fields, however the first German defenders are about to open up on them before they reach the safety of those hedges! German troops appeared from the small copse beyond the farm on the right (at the end of the road), and promptly shot up the group moving US troops by the hedge!

This frustrated the U.S. as their main plan was to screen the centre and push round the right, but it turned out to be too exposed. To try and get at the enemy platoon covering the right they decided to risk rushing the main apple orchard in the middle… The picture on the right shows the poor sods sent to their deaths – part of a platoon having dashed into the crop field adjacent to the orchard blunders right into the front of a position occupied by a platoon of tripod mounted MG42s! Ooops, sorry boys…

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More Germans appeared at the right end of the orchard.

Heck! The U.S. player was struggling to get his head around attacking – having spent most of his previous games defending! More Germans appeared at the right end of the orchard. There was part of a platoon plus a PAT team… Having seen off the U.S. infantry they starting lobbing Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck rounds at the American light tanks!

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This photo shows the platoons coming under heavy fire initially, and you can see one group of Germans in the orange orchard in the centre of the picture.

Best policy – ignore the issue! The attackers decided to go over to their left flank and bought 2 platoons from a fresh company on – they crossed the stream into the wood alongside, and promptly came under heavy fire from multiple locations! This photo shows the platoons coming under heavy fire initially, and you can see one group of Germans in the orange orchard in the centre of the picture. There is another German platoon out of shot to the left of the US Platoon…

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As can be seen the light tanks are getting a pounding from the PAT (Panzerschreck AT) and integral infantry AT (Panzerfaust) in the apple orchard...

Back in the centre the lone survivor of the MG42 platoon ambush has retreat moved out of the crop field into the road. As can be seen the light tanks are getting a pounding from the PAT (Panzerschreck AT) and integral infantry AT (Panzerfaust) in the apple orchard… repeatedly being suppressed or multiple suppressed. Furthermore a Panzer III ausf N has come down off the high ground, and has also engaged the light tanks from a position on the road by the farm (centre rear of picture).

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This picture shows the situation at this time, the Panzer III has advanced further around the road, and the suppressed M8 HMC has rallied, but the M3 Stuart on the left is getting pounded from the orchard....

The U.S. response was swift and Marshal Foch would be proud! They sent another platoon from the centre across the crop field into the face of the MG42’s, believing they couldn’t possibly kill all of them? They didn’t! A single surviving stand managed to retreat move back onto the road to join the other stand there from the first platoon! Dduhh! The one small achievement was bringing up the FO for the (60mm) Mortars, into a position in the butchered platoon’s old position – although he did get pinned in the process… This picture shows the situation at this time, the Panzer III has advanced further around the road, and the suppressed M8 HMC has rallied, but the M3 Stuart on the left is getting pounded from the orchard….

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Now those Krauts were for it - do we need to bring up more support?

Then the Panzer III got a lucky hit and demolished the M3 Stuart, it brewed up instantly to the joy of the German infantry in the apple orchard!

Once the American’s regained the initiative they blasted the corner of the orchard with Mortar fire, taking out the bulk of the infantry platoon there… This then allowed the survivors of the MG42 holocaust in the field to rally and slip around the right of the field to the edge of the orchard… Aha! Now they were out of arc of the dreaded MG42’s and the other German rifle platoon in the area (to the right rear) missed as they entered the apple orchard… Now those Krauts were for it – do we need to bring up more support? Nah, it’s a crew served weapon, 1 squad can do the job! Oopps – maybe we should have…! Scratch one U.S. rifle squad… Damn!

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On the right 2 platoons in the crop field are getting absolutely hammered by just a single MG42 Stand!

Loss of initiative, and one of the MG42 stand’s has pivoted to cover the blind spot! Blast It! and other appropriate exclamations emanate from the U.S. command.

Okay, Foch’s rule is always good, the Americans charge another platoon across the adjacent field, straight at the MG42s! Yep, great idea! Oh dear, maybe not! On the right 2 platoons in the crop field are getting absolutely hammered by just a single MG42 Stand! Blast! They must be out of ammo by now? We’ll bring up another platoon, and the remains of one that lost 2 stands on the right, they can follow the two platoons up the centre. Yeah that’ll work think the Germans! But the American’s hoped that it might then skim round the right of the crop field and finally get into the apple orchard…

Err not quite... It gets stuck as it crosses the road, hit by fire from the pesky Panzer IIIN!

Err not quite... It gets stuck as it crosses the road, hit by fire from the pesky Panzer IIIN!

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This photo shows the situation from the extreme US left flank, looking towards the Americans from behind the German positions.

Well it’s pretty much been a disaster so far – best part of 2 U.S. Rifle Companies decimated! This photo shows the situation from the extreme US left flank, looking towards the Americans from behind the German positions.

Solution! Bring up some armour… On the left flank! The M8 Greyhounds slink up beside the copse that the left hand platoons are trapped in. They immediately come under PAT fire however, one armoured car getting suppressed.

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The Jeep Jockeys Arrive! Recce Platoon with M8 Greyhound Armoured Cars and 0.5" HMG armed Jeeps.

And they immediatley come under heavy fire!

And they immediately come under heavy fire!

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A photo of the mortar teams on the US baseline...

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Well, that's what happens when you poke your head out!

A photo of the mortar teams on the US baseline… By this stage they had long since ceased firing, as the FO hadn’t been able to move up to a new position with better observation; due to his current position being covered by heavy fire from German troops.

Well, that’s what happens when you poke your head out! The light recon platoon risks an advance from behind the copse, only to have the leading M8 Greyhound promptly brewed up! The armoured car brewed up after moving out from behind the copse to cover the retiring rifle platoons that had just finished withdrawing out of it… (They had moved there early in the game and got pinned down).

And the cause of the brewed up M8 – another Panzer IIIN, lurking on the extreme left flank of the American forces!

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The second Pz.IIIN in the orchard on the American left.

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It was time to try another move on the right, this time with a couple of platoons...

Well that killed that idea for the American’s so it was back to the right flank and the original plan! The Panzer III was knocked out by a lucky hit from one of the M8 HMCs, and the mortars resumed the barrage of the apple orchard and took out one of the MMGs. The other MMG stand then withdrew, leaving the 2 Rifle Squads in the wood off to the American’s right rear the only enemy troops left covering the right flank. It was time to try another move on the right, this time with a couple of platoons… A couple of squads got pinned by reactive fire, but the balance of the force made it into the hedges. The M8 HMCs could now move up and bombard the annoying German squads (eliminating them eventually) while the 2 pinned squads were rallied and the 2 platoons then prepared to assault the Northern wood.

The fire from the M8 HMC’s actually destroyed the Germans, and the right flank platoons prepared to rush the German position. It was a toss up whether to bring on the balance of the company to do it, or do it with the 2 platoons already in position. No time like the present, and the leading platoon stormed into the Northern wood occupying the German position! Kaboom! Tree bursts! Oh boy! What the hell was that! The platoon gets a nasty surprise…

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No time like the present, and the leading platoon stormed into the Northern wood occupying the German position!

The culprit! - "holy cow" as batman would say! "Tiggeerrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!".

The culprit! - "holy cow" as batman would say! "Tiggeerrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!".

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Only one option, straight up the hill, we'll see if we can out run the 88mm shells! This photos a bit fuzzy - its the action photography!

Only one option, straight up the hill, we’ll see if we can out run the 88mm shells! This photos a bit fuzzy – its the action photography!

Suppressed over and over – hit by direct fire 88mm HE and the German 81mm Mortars the platoons come a cropper in the open… Damn – that’s what happens when John Wayne is leading them! Not a pretty sight as they have already had heavy casualties (33%) and most of the rest of the force is suppressed… But they are up onto the high ground and close enough to use their Bazookas! The Germans have the initiative however and it doesn’t look pretty…

…oh dear, “where’s my Battalion?” Not much left now… 2 Companies completely decimated (all bar a couple of squads), one company reduced to 1 weak Platoon and one full strength one that’s trapped by heavy fire on the left flank, and the last Company still off table in reserve! Ddohh! I think someone’s getting a big reprimand for this SNAFU!

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...oh dear, "where's my Battalion?" Not much left now...

Oh Dear! The lone surviving CC becomes a prisoner of the Tiger crew.

Oh Dear! The lone surviving CC becomes a prisoner of the Tiger crew.

Decisive German victory – High ground was held and the Tiger survived! A lesson in how not to launch an infantry attack!

Posted in Crossfire, Europe 1944-45 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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