Following on from victories in the first two battles (Game 1, Game 2) on the 23rd November the Germans were threatening to separate off the whole left flank of the American XV Corps. They had pushed into the centre of Schalbach and were now endangering the American supply line. If the Panzer Lehr Division could separate off the XV Corp left flank their advance would stall, giving the Germans valuable time to prepare for the Ardennes counter-offensive (Battle of the Bulge) and prepare the Fatherland’s border defenses.
The final battle in the campaign is a Breaktrough with the Germans attempting to further disrupt the American forces. Figure 1, below, shows the terrain setup, deployment areas and objectives. The American forces would deploy in a defensive position in order to prevent the Panzer Lehr from breaking through to their objectives (in the south-west of the map). They had the night of the 23rd and early morning of the 24th to prepare their defense.
In order to represent how severely battered the German forces had been in the first two battles and the fact that the Americans had reserves in depth the battle would be fought with 1250pts of Germans versus 1500pts of Americans.
Figure 1 – Setup: Terrain, Deployment Areas and Objectives
Peter’s force remains similar to those he used in previous battles, but this time he had P47 Thunderbolts from the 9th Air Force to call upon. Recognising the danger the German offensive represented to the 44th Infantry Division they were assigned priority support.
- Company HQ (plus 3 snipers)
- 1st Rifle Platoon (9 teams)
- 2nd Rifle Platoon (9 teams)
- Tank Platoon (5 M4A1 Shermans)
- Tank Destroyer Platoon (2 M10 GMCs)
- Weapons Platoon (Light mortars and LMGs)
- Artillery Platoon (2 sections of M2A1 105mm guns)
- Priority Air Support (P47 Thunderbolts)
My German force consisted of fewer troops, but they were very well equipped veterans. I decided that creating another platoon (using the Kampfgruppe German special rule) was necessary to give my force a reserve to come on from turn three (using the Delayed Reserves rule). The way the scenario was designed this force would come on right beside their objective, giving them a good chance of grabbing it. The cost of this new platoon was to reduce the size of all of my grenadier platoons. I also added a small AA platoon to act as a mobile deterrent and planned to keep them close to my Jagdpanzers early in the battle. Here’s a list of my units -
- Company HQ (Company Command mounted in a 250 half-track)
- 1st Panzergrenadier Platoon (4 MG Teams and 2 Tank-hunter Teams mounted in 250 half-tracks)
- 2nd Panzergrenadier Platoon (4 MG Teams and 2 Tank-hunter Teams mounted in 250 half-tracks)
- 3rd Panzergrenadier Platoon lead by the 2iC (4 MG Teams and 2 Tank-hunter Teams mounted in 250 half-tracks)
- Tank-Hunter Platoon (3 Jagdpanzer IVs)
- Artillery Platoon (1 section of Nebelwerfer 41 Rocket Launchers)
- Anti Aircraft Platoon (2 Sd Kfz 25/10 AA vehicles)
Figure 2, below, shows the deployment of the forces. The Panzer Lehr have taken up an aggressive position with two Panzergrenadier platoons poised to strike towards their objectives. The Jagdpanzers deployed to their east setting their sights firmly on the Sherman tanks. Their AA chaperones stayed nearby in order to deter American aircraft. The Nebelwerfers set up in the north, hidden and spread out as best they could to avoid barrages and aircraft fire. The 3rd Panzergrenadier platoon (lead by the 2iC) were held in reserve and would come in from the south-west having flanked the American forces.
The Americans set up with their infantry in prepared positions and set to spring on the advancing German forces. Their tank destroyers were held in reserve in order to deal with the Jagdpanzers should they present a difficulty later in the battle. The awesome 105mm artillery had a commanding view of much of the battlefield. The weapons platoon consisting of devastating LMGs and Mortars deployed as a deterrent just to the north of the German objectives.
Figure 2 – Deployment
The map symbols used in this battle report are similar to those used in the previous reports (click to enlarge) -
All through the 23rd November 1944 the Panzer Lehr Division had clashed with the troops of the 44th Infantry Division around the French town of Schalbach. After a bloody day of fighting the Germans had pushed the Americans out of the town and were threatening the cut off the 44th Infantry Division and whole left flank of the XV Corps. This highly ambitious offensive was on the brink of dealing the Americans an embarrassing blow and severely stalling their advance towards Germany.
Overnight the American top brass, led by Major General Wade H. Haislip, hastily prepared defensive positions and arranged their troops to repulse the inevitable resumption of the Panzer Lehr offensive. They knew they had reserves in depth, but maneuvering in the mountainous Vosges was difficult and ensuring the reserves would be at the appropriate point on the line would be difficult.
Early on the morning of the 24th, the engine roar of 250s and their support vehicles could be heard by the entrenched men of the 44th Infantry Division. Bursting from a small group of farm building the mechanized German infantry launched themselves at the American line (Figure 3). In the centre bazookas screamed and a 250 transport exploded in flames, but the German troops pressed their attack. The close quarters fighting shook the American troops and they fell back from their foxholes, firing on the German troops as they moved off.
The Jagdpanzers had their sights firmly on the Shermans. In a devastating hail of fire three tanks were destoyed convincing the remainder of the platoon to flee. A lone Thunderbolt responded against the Jagdpanzers, but failed to hit. The American right flank looked in real danger of collapsing under such a heavy assault.
Elsewhere, the Panzergrenadier 1st platoon, lead by the company commander, lunged towards their objectives and the American weapons platoon moved up to a position where they could engage them. In the north the American 2nd platoon came under heavy fire from the Nebelwerfer rockets, but retaliated by taking out their observer.
Following the destruction of the Shermans the Jagdpanzer moved rapidly towards the objectives (Figure 4). This was a risky maneauver, but the only immediate danger they faced came from a return of the Thunderbolts, but the AA was well positioned to cover them. The severely mauled 2nd Panzergrenadier also moved towards their objective, but came under fire from snipers in the nearby farm. They were on the brink of destruction. The 1st platoon, now on their objective were hit by a sustained barrage of artillery fire and lost several teams. To add insult the American 3rd Rifle platoon rallied from the earlier assault and became to move to surround the Germans. Their aggressive early move towards the objective had put them in a vicious crossfire.
The 2nd Rifle platoon moved down towards the weapons platoon to provide support. The Thunderbolts returned in greater numbers and blasted a Nebelwerfer to oblivion leaving a large plume of dark smoke rising from its wreck. They aircraft will have no problems finding the others in their follow up sweeps.
The Germans luck had finally run out (Figure 5). Their 2nd platoon was destroyed to a man from sniper fire and the first platoon was reduced to breaking point, but the commander managed to hold his platoon in position. The Jagdpanzers, supported by the AA guns, moved to attack the 3rd Rifle platoon, killing several teams, but they tenaciously held firm.
The P47s returned and destroyed another rocket launcher causing the remaining crews to flee. The Germans could not count on long ranged artillery support any longer. The American 2nd platoon pushed forward in support to assist in defending the objectives.
The dogged 3rd Rifle platoon brought their bazookas to bear on the German AA guns destroying them and causing their crews to flee. The German force was now in dire straights and sustained artillery fire on their 1st platoon caused further casualties, but this time their commander failed to steady them and they fled. The Jagdpanzers and recently arrived 3rd platoon were left to attempt to hold the objectives, but the sight of the M10 GMCs was enough to convince them that the day was lost and they bugged out.
The Americans won the day on the 24th turning around their fortunes of the 23rd. The Germans had stretched themselves too far, but their losses and sacrifices will be seen as justified. Despite a loss at the end of this campaign the Panzer Lehr Division had succeeded in severely disrupting the advance of the XV Corps. The Americans would have to rethink their advance into Germany and with the Battle of the Bulge just around the corner the Germans are ready to show there is still some fight left in them.
I stretched myself too thinly in this final game. In retrospect setting up the 3rd platoon by weakening the other two meant the panzergrenadiers were not as durable as they have been in previous games. This was compounded by the fact that I forgot about the tank hunter teams, thus reducing the effective size of each (already small) platoon by two teams. That said, Peter played a solid game. He didn’t rush to engage the Germans and let me come into his kill zone. His 3rd Rifle platoon were amazing and sustained a huge amount of fire, but refused to flee. His artillery was also very impressive and he managed to get Time on Target (forcing me to re-roll successful saves) two or three times during the game. The Americans deserved to win this battle, but this small piece of the war was won by the Panzer Lehr.