Saturday, October 4, 2008

German Counterattack Repulsed at La Fere.

General Ridgeway, USA, is happy.

Major General Matthew B. RIDGWAY (CG) conferring with“All American” staff– at left is Brigadier General James M. GAVIN (Asst Div Cdr)wearing Randall knife … *

Generalleutnant Falley, German Army, is not unhappy, but then again, he is dead.

Generalleutnant Wilhelm Falley, CG 91st Infanterie (Luftlande) Division **
KIA 6 June 1944

HQ finally gets through to our valorous forces in Cauquigny.

“Ja, we have cleaned the American falschrimjagers out of Cauquigny, but there is still a pocket of them across the Mederet river. Losses in Cauquigny have not been heavy but we have lost all of the forces on the other side of the river. I can muster a company and maybe some of the panzers of the 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung if they can start their engines. They aren’t proper panzers. I am also out of ammunition for the mortars.”

Long pregnant pause.

“You want me to counterattack and retake the bridge now? Is this smart? I don’t have any indirect fire weapons to pin the Americans and the causeway is narrow. It will be easier than shooting Russians on the Eastern Front if I attack across that. Does Herr Generalleutnant Falley concur with this?”

Short pause.

“Of course I understand the need to retake St Mere Eglise. And Herr Generalleutnant?”

An even shorter pause.

“Dead?! When? Where? But I thought he was in Rennes for the Korps kriegspiel? Ambushed in his car? Ja, ja, of course I will attack immediately before the filthy Americans can dig in. The poor general . . .”

A reinforced German company from 1057th Grenadier Regiment, 91. Infanterie (Luftlande) Division is attacking across the causeway over the flooded lowlands next to the Mederet river at Le Fere. They have a platoon of old French R-35 tanks from the 100. Panzer Abteilung to assist.

Opposing them on the other side of the causeway is another scratch force of approximately two American platoons from the 82 Airborne Division with a couple of bazookas and a 57mm anti-tank gun.

German troops and tanks mass to throw back the upstart American Paratroopers.

Germans: (all Confident Trained)

- Company HQ (II Battalion, 1057th Regiment, 91. Infanterie Luftlande Division) with an attached HMG s

- Three Infantry Platoons Full Strength

- Panzer Platoon with 3 R-35 tanks (100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilungtand).

Americans: (82nd Airborne Division, all Fearless Veterans)

- Company HQ with an attached 57mm AT gun
- Two Infantry Platoons both of which are missing the 60mm mortar stand. One platoon starts the game dug in at the bridge; the other is on the hill just to the south and west of the bridge

- The Americans have a minefield at the western edge of the bridge over the Mederet River. I haven’t finished my minefield markers, so we just had to “pretend” on this one. Objectives: The Germans have to get across the causeway and take the bridge and the manor house next to the bridge in six turns.

German Objectives for the D-Day counterattack at La Fere Bridge. Note the minefield at the west end of the bridge. German grenadiers certainly did.

Turn 1:

Germans: This doesn’t look good, no matter what division says. There is only one avenue of attack, there is no room to maneuver due to the swamp (Thanks a lot Field Marshall Rommel!), I don’t have overwhelming force or pioneers to clear the mines, and I don’t have any indirect fire to pin the Paratroopers. I do have the old tanks of 100. Panzer Abteilung, but they aren’t worth much. Yep, sometimes life really is bad.
Anyway, the Germans start moving across the causeway. It is a traffic jam and it’s not going to get better. The HMG on the far side of the swamp fires but can’t hit dug-in, gone to ground, fearless veterans.

Americans: The Americans chew Wrigley gum from their K-rations and wait anxiously.

American antitank gunners sight in their guns at the bridge at La Fere.

Turn 2:

Germans: The Germans continue to stream across the causeway. The Panzers get to the invisible boundary of the minefield and stop I am not moving too fast trying to not outrun the slow, unreliable panzers. The panzers fire at the Americans, but since they moved and have a one man turret, they do no damage. The HMG fails again to do anything.

Here comes the Wehrmacht! Led by the brave and intrepid Panzertroopen of 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung, these Confident Trained Grenadiers are the best in the world!

R-35s from 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung maneuver to get a shot before they get annihilated. It is going to be close . . .

Americans: The Americans chew harder as the Germans get closer. They load their bazookas and AT guns, not very concerned with the creaky panzers. The AT gun fires at the tanks, obliterating one R-35 and bailing out the crew of another. I am not surprised, but not very satisfied either. Oh well, they were going to the junkyard anyway.

Chaos on the causeway as R-35s explode and burn, not helping the morale of their comrades from the 1057th Regiment.

American Paratroopers open fire on the German attack, wishing they had a single piece of artillery to hit the German infantry on the causeway.

Turn 3:

Germans: The Germans move even closer and get to the invisible boundary of the minefield and stop. The bailed out tank stays bailed out. The Germans open fire with everything they have. The combination of tank, HMG and rifle fire from the 1st infantry zug on the causeway amazingly enough pins the 1st Paratrooper Infantry Platoon dug in at the west side of the bridge. The company commander is amazed anyway . . .

Hung up at the minefield, with burning panzers, the Germans manage to pin the 1st Paratrooper Infantry Platoon at the bridge. Is there a chance for victory and to avenge Herr Generalleutnant?

Americans: The 1st Paratrooper Infantry Platoon unpins and with the other cowardly Americans in their foxholes, shoots back with fervor. They destroy the bailed out R-35 and kill two infantry teams from the 1st zug, pinning the platoon as well. The 2nd Paratrooper Infantry Platoon moves down toward the bridge, but not in any great hurray. The 1st platoon has the situation in hand.

American Paratroopers appreciate the easy targets being provided by the Germans.

As the second R-35 cooks off, the pinned 1st zug looks for any cover. They don't find it.

Turn 4:

Germans: The 1st zug unpins, and try to pass a motivation test and cross the minefield. They fail. Morre Germans cram in behind the 1st zug. Everyone in range fires at the Americans but fail to do anything but expend more ammunition. It’s a good thing the Americans don’t have their mortars.

Americans: The Americans continue to fire at the Germans, killing another two teams from the 1st zug. The zug has to take a morale check, but passes. This is better than a turkey shoot back on the farm in Virginia!

Turn 5:

Germans: Another attempt to cross the minefield, and another failure. More shooting leads to the first loss for the Americans, a rifle/MG team killed by the HMG team across the swamp. Good shooting! The 2nd and 3rd zugs bunch up behind the burning panzers, using them for cover.

Americans: More shooting, more dead Germans. The first zug take some more hits and loses another two teams. It passes its motivation test somehow but there isn’t much left except the command stand. This is really easy. The 2nd Paratrooper Infantry Platoon is within supporting range, but doesn’t have anything to do.

The 2nd zug tries to gain ground where the 1st failed. This may be a bad idea.

Turn 6:

Germans: Can we just end this misery now? The 1st zug moves back down the causeway away from the Americans. The next zug tries to cross the minefield and fails as well. Everyone shoots at the Americans and the HMG kills another American team, but it is to no avail.

Americans: The Americans start showing the 2ng zug why they should have stayed where they were, killing three teams. This is really easy.

There is now NO WAY that the Germans can even contest the objective as they never even got there. The Germans admit defeat and stream back across the causeway in some disarray. The Americans put another clip in their Garands and watch the Germans pull back. Killing Germans is a growth industry, but it is better to save your ammo for now. Anybody got some Lucky Strikes left?

The agony of defeat. Burning panzers and bunched up greandiers are good indications that this counterattack didn't work out.

Not all historical scenarios are a good match for Flames of War. I tried to use the third scenario from the board game “Against All Odds,” to recreate the first German counterattack at La Fere on the afternoon of D-Day. Historically, the Germans were repulsed after the accompanying tanks of the 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung were destroyed, but it appears that it was a near run thing. Not so in this game. The Germans never even made the Americans sweat the least bit. The burning tanks did look neat, but the overall affect was a recreation of the charge of the Light Brigade, without the pageantry of horses or Tennyson. The minefield was also a pain. I may have to tweak the rules a little to allow the German infantry to pass unimpeded, but force the panzers to take a motivation check to pass. Wait ‘til next game when the Germans will get some artillery and mortars. With these, the Germans may be able to keep the Americans pinned long enough to get across the causeway and do some damage. Otherwise, it’s going to be a slaughter once again. Herr Generalleutnant, may he rest in peace, would not be pleased.

One German HMG teams did more damage than a full infantry company. And the 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung too!

* Photos from Testimonies – Sicily & Normandy, “Strictly GI,” (accessed 4 October 2008).

** Photos from Generales caidos en Normandi, “In Memoriam,” (accessed 4 October 2008).

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