In order to christen my new games room I decided to have a good old IABSM scrap. I decided to make a new scenario based on the exploits of Lt Col Ballard's troopers of 2nd Battalion 501 PIR of the Screaming Eagles on D-Day.
2/501 usually rendezvoused quickly with the aid of a bronze bell and a green lamp, but both troopers carrying these were MIA during a scattered drop. By 03:30 Ballard had only gathered some 120 troopers fit to fight and was concerned that his objective of taking St Come-du-Mont was beyond them. Nor could he bypass the area and head straight for the locks and bridges on the Douvre since he had located a sizable blocking force at Les Droueries (half way between his staging area outside Angoville-au-Plein and St Come-du-Mont) which would be left to his rear. He decided to attempt to clear Les Droueries with what he had available.
Although many of his troopers had lost their weapons and gear whilst struggling out of the flooded fields around the drop zone, his men had collected a sizable quantity of weapons canisters so there was a good quantity of MGs, 60mm mortars and even a bazooka. He basically managed to kit out a platoon in place of each company and still had a fighting reserve in the shape of some mis-dropped 506 boys who were desperate to get in on the fight.
US forces available were:
- Dog Company, under Lieutenant Snodgrass and Sergeant Koller
- Three squads of ten men and a 2-man 60mm mortar team
- Easy Company, under Lieutenant Malek, Sergeant McClosky and Sergeant Haley
- Three squads of ten men and 2-man 60mm mortar team
- Fox Company, under Lieutenant Schmidt
- Three squads of ten men and 2-man 60mm mortar team
- Reserve, under Lieutenant Wood
- Two squads of ten men from 506 PIR (no MGs) and 2-man bazooka team
- Battalion Support
- FOO for a 75mm howitzer battery of four tubes
Two roads lead to enemy positions, so Fox will take left (East) and Easy will take right (West) road with Dog and FOO due to come forward three turns after firing starts. Lieutenant Wood is to send his men in a flanking attack to West three turns after any casualties are suffered to ease the deadlock.
Strung out along a line of hedgerows and the hamlet itself are a full company of II/1058 Regiment of 91st Luftlande Division. I/1058 was attacking from North of Sainte Mere Eglise, and one company of II/1058 joined the Georgians in attacking from South. The other two rifle companies were positioned here and further East on the Douvre with 6 Fallschirmjaeger Regiment in reserve at St Come-du-Mont and Carentan.
German forces available were:
- Platoons 1-3: each three sections of eight men with 1 x Big Man per platoon
- Support weapons: two MMGs, and an FOO with four 81mm mortars
- Reserve is one platoon with a Big Man off South East edge of map who will counterattack the turn after any of the buildings are captured
The table was laid out as per map in Koskimaki's "D-Day with the Screaming Eagles" and Google Maps (field boundaries have changed since 1944).
The usual unexplained delays meant that the paratroops didn't get moving until 05:30. They had six Blinds of which two were genuine to cover the jittery state of the defenders who had been fired on from all directions by individual troopers seeking their parent units since shortly after midnight. The plan was to get in fast and as such each Blind was using three movement dice and hoping for a lucky spotting roll with the fourth (you are looking at 11 or 12 in hedgerows and buildings). The dummy blinds and need to spot by the Germans was hoped to be the best protection and getting as close as possible would maximize the advantages of such well armed, aggressive forces if it came down to grenade range.
The plan worked until Easy Company was spotted and came under MG fire from an MMG upstairs and squad with Big Man downstairs in the first house in the hamlet. This left Lieutenant Schmidt and his three squads and 60mm mortar jammed together in the lane under the guns of known hostiles with dozens of potential hiding places around and the Germans very much on the alert. Despite being at long range for small-arms, the advantages of the MMG were a couple of casualties to the attackers.
This is where it started to unravel for the 101st. The US Blinds card stubbornly refused to come up whilst the Turn card popped up with regularity, so we soon had the reserve platoon of Dog Company and the 506 Assault Team jostling for position whilst the dummy Blinds were gradually whittled away as the Germans narrowed down the genuine areas of threat.
Meanwhile Easy Company, who only had the single Big Man, were the worried recipients of the Heroic Leader Card. This was perhaps just as well because Easy had attempted to shake themselves out into a firing line by hooking two squads to the right through the hedgerow but come up short on movement points thanks to the hedgerow penalty of one dice and one pip plus a couple of shock points. Caught in the open they were engaged by a squad in the small farmhouse to the West of the crossroads and another squad lining the hedgerow along the road beyond. Five more casualties and things were looking bleak when Lieutenant Schmidt decided to single-handedly storm the first building in order to take out the MMG. Twice the MMG fired at him with seven kills and five kills, and twice he managed to avoid being cut in two. Sadly, his gammon grenade hit the window frame and bounced back outside but he was able to leap back through the hedgerow to the amazement of his men.
Fox Company needed to help take the pressure off with a thrust down the East road but the troopers kept hitting the ditches every time the MG opened up on Easy (five and then six twice with three dice was hardly a good return on maximum speed). Dog Company moved up alongside Easy and Lieutenant Wood's 506 boys started an impressive assault course through the hedgerows hoping to flank the now revealed German platoon shooting up Easy.
At this point I was considering the Skelton gambit and voluntarily revealing all US forces to get the benefit of all those Big Men to keep the attack moving since the Blind cards was reluctant to show up before the Tea Break. However, some canny spotting from the Germans did the job for me and the German line blinked into view with small arms fire down the length of the hedgerow lining the East-West lane and more MMG fire from the large farm building at the crossroads as well as fire from the various windows. There was also the whine and crump of German mortars seeking out Fox Company.
It was maximum effort when for two turns on the bounce the last card out was Tea Break. Easy Company concentrated on the Western farm building whilst Dog took over engaging the North farmhouse where the initial fire came from and Schmidt had missed with his grenade. Fox began enfilading the main farm building whilst their 60mm and Sergeant McClosky's squad began chewing up the Easternmost German platoon along the lane. A "lucky 17" put the MMG in the main farm building out of action whilst Dog Company reduced the crew of the MMG in the North farm to one with four shock points. Easy had taken more casualties West of the road but Schmidt was doing a sterling job of geeing his men up and keeping them firing. The Germans had to send their two reserve squads forward to thicken the line as the shock from the 60mm mortars continued to mount and bazooka rockets began to shriek over the field into the Western farm building as the 506 boys prepared to assault the Western end of the lane. What could possibly go wrong?
Wheeeeee Bang!!! The German FOO finally got his mortars on target and the men of Fox found that those huge hedgerows are great at stopping ground fire but someone forgot to put the roof on and mortar splinters are Hell. They had been gradually softening up the Germans to their front and definitely having the best of the exchange since their Big Men concentrated on removing shock whilst the German fire slowly slackened and reduced in effectiveness. Now, however, each squad was in the kill zone and they were soon in too bad a shape to try charging in close to their tormentors to stop the mortar fire. Sergeant Haley fell with five of his squad. No choice but to pull back and regroup.
Easy took another hammering in the field to the West and were now down to half strength, whilst Lieutenant Wood decided to storm the German line and roll up the flank. Agonizingly his two squads each came up an inch short of instigating close combat and the 506 had to take some withering fire from their intended target on the turn of the Tea Break.
First card out was Lieutenant Wood who lifted four shock points from his boys and the 506 group were the second card so they really drove home the attack. Despite their many casualties groaning in the field behind they broke like a thunderclap on the German squad in the hedgerow with twenty-five dice to ten losing them two more troopers but obliterating the opposition. Dog Company started advancing up the lane taking advantage of this diversion and also cover from the battery of para-dropped 75s which started pounding the hamlet under the expert direction of the FOO who had come up with Dog. Fox limped back to their start line. However, the desperate German survivors opened up with everything they had on the 506 boys and the five shocked survivors were disarmed and ushered to the rear after seeing half their buddies and Lieutenant Wood fall.
Lieutenant Colonel Ballard recalled the remnants of his company-sized battalion: forty-four casualties and five MIA and he hadn't managed to get into the buildings at all. Still, Dog Company was intact so they might try pushing in along a different route. The 75s would keep the enemy from following up.
The Germans were pretty battered with twenty-three casualties, but they had held the line without even calling on the reserve platoon to counterattack. If this is the best the Amis can send then maybe we can throw them back in the sea after all. Mind you, if we run out of mortar ammunition we've no chance.
In summary it shows just how tough it is to shift regular troops from a strong position with decent support weapons available. It was the superior effective range of the MMGs and vertical attack of the mortars which disrupted a well co-ordinated assault. Historically Dog was not ordered into the line since Easy and the 506 took the farm buildings before being thrown out by an immediate counterattack (losing Lieutenant Schmidt whose lead representative had considerably more luck).
Fox had penetrated the German line to the East but been driven back by accurate mortar fire. Ballard had ordered a second attempt along the same axis of advance but the accompanying Navy signaller was dismayed to find that after dropping three smoke rounds exactly on target his FFE brought down a torrent of fire on Fox, Easy and Dog 200 yards behind him. The Battalion pulled back and then doubled back through the swamp for a last try which petered out under strong fire whilst they were flanked in the darkness by Von der Heydte's 6FJ Regiment moving forward. These pushed the engineers out of Angoville which is immediately off the North edge of the table and Ballard was forced to seek out the rest of the 501 Regiment further to the East.
A great first game in the new room and another demonstration of how on the money IABSM is as a rules system providing great entertainment and realistic results.