March 18, 2013

FOW AAR - Fallschirmjager 'Hold the Line' vs US Paras

The Normandy village of 'Blancmange' was awoken in the early hours of the morning by the familiar sound of German voices.  Since the 6th June the villagers had waited for the Anglo-American invasion forces to liberate them. Near the end of 1944 hopes were raised when the small garrison of Wehrmacht troops stationed in Blancmange fled the village.  Liberation seemed close at hand and so far the village had avoided any damage.  But now more Germans had arrived and unlike previous garrison these were not old men and frightened boys.  The villagers watched in silence before retreating to their homes as tough, hard faced and cold-eyed veteran Fallschirmjager began digging in amongst the village's vineyards.  More Germans led by a heavily scarred blue eyed Hauptmann had occupied the village Tavern and Anti-aircraft guns were also being dug in along the west-east road.  The fighting would be coming to Blancmange after all...

The battlefield looking North - US forces massing at the top of the board, Fallschirmjager dug in at the bottom.
The house to the right of the X intersection is the Tavern and home to a Squad of FJ and the CHQ. 

Hauptmann Richter looked on with satisfaction at his troops efforts.  Amongst a small vineyard a series of defensive positions had been dug complete with sandbag and wooden reinforcing, while 3 2cm AA guns were ready to see off any roving Allied Jabo's, ammunition stockpiled close at hand.  The damn allied air power had already cost him half his force - a Platoon of FJ and a section of Rocket Launchers 'appropriated' from a local Heer unit were going to be late arriving at the village - forced to take side roads to avoid air attack.  Richter was not sure when they would arrive, but it needed to be soon as forward posts had returned reporting the presence of US infantry & armour just north of the village.  Richter's orders were to Hold a Line anchored on the village delaying the US advance so other forces could fall back to better positions.

Hauptmann Richter & his Fallschirmjager dig in around the village Tavern & vineyard

Fallschirmjager complete their prepared positions just in time as US Parachute infantry and armour - including several larger Shermans not seen before with bigger guns and thicker armour emerge from woods to the North of the village.  The US Paras also seemed to have more officers than would be expected from such a small force - the Paras were in fact the veteran Easy Company led by Captain Richard Winters - 2 Platoons of Parachute Infantry, a Mortar Platoon, a Platoon of Shermans and Air Cover.

The opening salvos of the battle began as a barrage of mortar fire landed amongst the dug in Fallschirmjager, although to no effect.  US armour moved closer and begin to pound the German positions and to the villagers it seemed that the small German force would quickly be overwhelmed.  But Hauptmann Richter had a couple of trump cards.  The first of these a Platoon of Assault Guns now emerged from hidden positions just south of the village, entered the vineyard and began firing on the advancing Shermans. 

FJ Assault guns emerge hidden positions to ambush the approaching Shermans.

One Sherman begins to burn furiously while the crews of two others bail out as their vehicles take several hits
Hauptmann Richter smiled grimly as a Sherman tank exploded several hundred metres from his position in the village Tavern.  The StuGs were a welcome asset to his force but were not the armoured troops he really wanted to see.  Along with the missing FJ Platoon and Rocket Launchers also delayed in arriving were 2 Tiger Tanks from the 634th Schwere Panzer Battalion.  Richter wished he had pressed for them to arrive ahead of the StuGs but the StuGs seemed to scoring several hits on the advancing US armour.

US tanks return fire and 3/4 StuGs are destroyed in minutes
Those damn super Shermans seem impervious to AT fire!!! Only a single Sherman has been knocked out and now US return fire destroys 3 of the 4 StuGs in quick succession.  US Paras quickly advance on two sides one Platoon heading toward the Tavern, a 2nd flanked by the Shermans, heading for the vineyard.

The last StuG is destroyed as US Mortar fire begins to take its toll on the dug in Fallschirmjager,
Where are my reserves??  Hauptmann Richter ducked again as another salvo of Mortar shells hit the Tavern and village vineyard.  Casualties were mounting and his forces were now surrounded on 3 sides and also heavily outnumbered.

US parachute infantry moves into assault positions
The first of three unsuccessful assaults is launched
Pinned down by constant tank and Mortar fire the few remaining Fallschirmjager clung on grimly convinced they were alone their reserves too far away too help or already destroyed by allied airpower.  Under an intense barrage of covering fire US Parachute infantry assaulted the Fallschirmjagers positions.  But despite the best efforts of the US officers and non-coms the first, second and third assaults were beaten back with heavy losses.  The US commander had failed to notice how close the German AA guns were to the vineyard positions and the quick firing 2cm Flak guns stopped all 3 attacks cold.
The all important AA gun

Now the reserves arrived - Richters 2nd combat Platoon and his 2 Tiger tanks were spotted south of the village.  The Tigers quickly knocked out one of the Shermans while the FJ moved to assault a 2nd - but without Richters presence they baulked at the last minute overcome by tank terror.
Reserves finally arrive and in perfect position to take out the US Shermans

By this time Hauptmann Richter had been forced to abandon the burning Tavern, and when his AA guns were destroyed by US tank fire even the destruction of another Sherman could not stop a 4th and then 5th assault from overruning the vineyard.  More US mortar fire then began hitting the vineyard and shrapnel pierced Richters side and he fell amongst the last of his men.
With the US forces firmly in control of the village and their commander dead the remaining Fallschirmjager try one half-hearted attempt at retaking the vineyard.  But without the support of AA guns the Tiger commander decides to withdrew as US aircraft begin circling overhead.  The few remaining Fallschirmjager fall back with them and Blancmange is liberated.  Total casualties in the short lived battle were a Platoon of Fallschirmjager, 3 Flak guns and 4 Stugs on the German side and 1 1/2 Platoons of US Parachute infantry and 2 Shermans on the US side.

Always good to get some practice in before a tournament, especially as this was my first game of FOW since August last year.  One more game next week and possibly one the Thursday after that and then its off to Wellington for 3 days of wargaming and 8 games of LW-FOW..


Scott said...

Tough game John!

Never fun to have to suck up a loss. On the positive side, what did you learn from it? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, what could you have done differently?

Hold the Line is a tough one for the defender as you are waiting for delayed reserves, but you have the possibility of two ambushes...

What if you had one FJ deployed, then ambushed with Stugs and Tigers, with the rest coming on in reserve? You didn't give us a force breakdown of the opposition... did they have air?

The AAA did a good job stopping the early assaults... but the Tigers or Stugs could have spat out some def fire too and forced a tank terror test... and both could have been shooting up the Shermans from turn one...

Hopefully by this time reserve FJ could have arrived to reinforce the rear objective?
I am no genius though, just some other thoughts to consider.

Thanks for the report, I always love reading AARs :-)

John Murrie said...

Putting the Tigers on in ambush would have been better. Could have sat them back in cover and fired at long range.

AA needed as opponent had Limited AIr support but it only turned up once and failed and got shot down.

Thinking I might be too afraid of the air power factor. With the StuGs my initial thought was to deploy them west of the village and then swing around and attack the flank of the US infantry ignoring the tanks. The US paras were in the open at this stage and would have been sitting ducks.