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Map, as seen from the German perspective

The panzergrenadier recon platoon for Kampfgruppe Engel had arrived at the small maison earlier during the day. A bridge over the small stream was one of the points where the Amis might try to cross and battalion commander had sent his east front veterans to secure the area. Their task was simple: either to stop Amis cold or blunt their advance and then withdraw in good order. Hauptsturmführer Gudelius had two platoons of veteran panzergrenadiers and a small platoon of armoured recon. A section of 81mm mortars were on call a kilometre behind the lines. His only concerns were the platoon leaders. Obersturmführer Ernst Kaltwasser leading the first platoon while having a long service record, had not previously been leading front line infantry, while Untersturmführer Arno Rost was straight out of the school, way too keen to impress everyone. At least Dieter leading the armoured platoon was an old hand, veteran of countless battles and most of his infantry squad leaders had already earned at least their bronze close combat clasps.

His plan was a simple one: infantry in the front would stop the Amis and armour would provide a mobile reserve ready for a counter attack. Intelligence had no idea what kind of forces where facing them, but the Allies rarely lacked tanks or artillery. Rost had volunteered to lead the right flank with the expected main approach for enemy. He did not still trust the blue-eyed youngster enough, so Klatwasser took the forested hills, and Rost was tasked with defending the bocage in a line stretching from the stream to the maison.

Main line of defence, from the wooded hill to the stream

Achtung, enemy armour!

To the Amis' credit, their attack came in hard and fast, spearheaded by Greyhound armoured cars and jeeps. Kaltwasser's zug was well camouflaged and but their leader too inexperienced - Obersturmführer revealed his position by staying too exposed with binoculars. He had just given the orders for everyone to open fire and then at his mark withdraw deeper. The mark never came, as the first burst from the .50 cal AAMG from the leading Greyhound neatly decapitated him. His men returned fire, driving one Greyhound back and causing some casualties to the leading jeeps and their teams. One Greyhound tried to flank the defenders, but a fireball caused by a 'schreck rocket hitting the side of a paper-thin armour quickly discouraged the rest of recon platoon.

Panzerschreck hits, US big man plays hero

By the streamside, another US recon platoon, on foot was slowly advancing, when their patrol came running back. A some sort of tank with a huge gun had been sighted at the field by the next gate. Cries of "Tiger! Tiger!" went up as a German vehicle rounded the corner. 2nd lieutenant Cork's assuring "Hey, boys, that is just an armoured car!" fell on deaf ears as SdKfz 234/2 Puma opened fire with 50mm gun, thoroughly suppressing the first squad, driving men to ground. Cork saw his chance and started running forward with the second squad. His platoon lacked proper AT weapons, but the hunting cat did not have that much armour and might be taken out from close. Unfortunately for him, Untersturmführer Dieter Leimbach had plenty of practise with human waves and a few bursts from co-axial machine gun pinned Cork's squad. His new driver's screams of "They are going to overwhelm us, we must withdraw!" was met with a laconic "Greenhorn, this is nothing compared to Kursk."

"Just a Puma, boys. Nothing to worry about!"

On the other side of the field, Kaltwasser's platoon was eagerly waiting for the signal that was not coming. .50 cal machine guns and 60mm mortars were hammering their positions and now two 75mm howitzer carriages had passed the Amis column and were adding their considerable punch to the fray. One rifle gruppe took the initiative and withdraw to a better position, but the MMG team and two other squads stuck to their positions. Their fire only slowly slackening and more and more vehicles came forward. Where was the promised artillery support?

Beginning of the end: the HMCs arrive

As the panzerschreck team abandoned their position and weapon after receiving several almost direct hits, another Greyhound felt brave and came forward, only to find out that the long stretch of road was guarded by an eight-wheeled SdKfz 231 armored car. Service was long overdue for the gun and sights of the old recon car, but the first burst found its' mark and the Greyhound disappeared in a ball of fire, taking the whole crew with it. Later the commander of SdKfz 231 swore that a very strange sound came from the sights mechanism as the recoil struck, jamming the optics to a weird angle.

"Hans, what was that sound?"

The ever-present Amis Jabos also arrived to the field, making a strafing run against Rost's platoon, fortunately not causing any damage. As soon as the Jabo disappeared, Rost left his position and ran to his second squad, ready to take control of the mortars. Stopping the Amis advance with a brave dash and well-placed mortar barrage would surely earn him the Iron Cross so many of his men and officer comrades were already carrying. "Sir, too much incoming, come down. You want to water that Iron Cross with only a drop of blood, you'll get wooden cross by drowning things with blood." was met with "Nonsense, motherland demands courage! Now, give me the rangefinder." And then the bocage wall shook with a direct hit from 75mm howitzer. Gefreiter Schmitt shrugged with a "told you" and pushed what little remained of his platoon leader to side, so the corpse would not block machine guns line of sight. He could not even remember the name of the youngster, did not really care.

Tempting target for a would be hero

While on the left defenders were slowly attritioned by overpowering firepower, on their right flank the Amis were faring much worse. Cork and his men were pinned down and when they rose to close assault the tank, most of the second squad was cut down and the whole platoon ran as the survivors lost their bottle and ran past their comrades. Leimbach kicked his driver and told him to reverse back: "This truly is not Kursk, there they came by battalions, did not run. Let's go hunt some Amis tanks, shall we." A sharp eared listener might have heard a muttering to the effect of "Kursk this, Kursk that." from the direction of driver's seat.

Nothing compared to Kursk, only a company of them

After the Puma disappeared between the bocage, some running survivors from the American recon platoon reached their company commander and the Stuart platoon in reserve was ordered to clear the riverside, while the attached armoured infantry was committed to the main road.

Stuarts arrive by the riverside. A plan to bottle them up by killing the first fails.

 

At this point, seeing even more Amis emerging from the sunken road, the remaining troops from Kaltwasser's platoon decided that they had done enough and withdrew, abandoning heavy equipment to carry at least few wounded friends back with them.

A well oiled machine starts to work

On the both sides of the field, the disrepair of the defenders' equipment was starting to show. By the riverside one SdKfz 231 has a clear shot at the approaching Stuart platoon, but despite frantic corrections, all burst missed and the leading Amis tank calmly put shell after shell through the armoured car's front, knocking both gun and engine out. And by the main road, the other SdKfz 231 was keeping the fire up, but only succeeded in hitting the barn behind approaching American vehicles. The Germans used few turns, several cards, upwards of 15 actions to fire and aim. Odd of rolling at least one 5+ on 2d6 on 10 or so tries are bad when dice are against you. Leimbach's own Puma was calmly gunning down targets of opportunity, but did not want to risk a gunnery battle with multiple targets at once.

When the 60mm mortars, after cutting down Rost's second squad, zeroed on his armoured reserve of light Luchs tanks and SdKfz 251/10 with a 37m AT gun, immediately immobilizing the halftrack, Hauptsturmführer Gudelius called the battalion and asked for a permission to withdraw. He had not yet suffered too bad casualties, but his capability of stopping the enemy's armoured might was nearing zero. And after a long agonizing moment, Engel came back on line, granting the permission to withdraw.

Last reserves, already under fire

This was done in good order, with Hauptsturmführer Gudelius ordering mortar barrage to cover the bent on the road by the maison, infantry withdrawing in bounds through the bocage.

Withdrawal in a good order

A clear victory for the attacker. Defender had a solid plan of stopping the attack at the jump of point, using the crossing as a choke. Mortars would drop barrage on bunched up attackers and light tanks would then counter attack. This unfortunately did not work, as the infantry Big Men died as soon as they came to view. This combined with German player's complete inability to hit any armoured target with his tanks meant that the game was over. A good game, this time decided by the lady Fortuna. Of course, it did hurt even more that the attacking player was moving slowly and methodically after first explosions, utilizing his firepower to the fullest. After the American machine started rolling, enemy squads in cover disappeared in a turn, first pinned by .50 cals, then pummelled by 75mm and finished by multiple 60mms mortars. Infantry just walked behind the barrage.

This was a modified first scenario from the Blenneville or Bust! campaign for IABSM - we are still building forces for the theatre, so had to use what was available. We were not sure if light mortars, 60mm in particular, should be allowed to shoot at armoured targets, but after a brief discussion ruled so that they can shoot at soft skins and open half-tracks, using the artillery die to check if they actually hit.

The modified OOBs were:

 

Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop/21st Armored Division

Recon HQ

BM1: Major Herbert Cartwright (Level IV) 

1 x Jeep with AA 0.50cal HMG

Recon Platoon 1 

BM 2: Captain John Fontanelli (Level III) 

3 x M8 Greyhound armoured cars 

3 x Jeep with non-combatant driver and 0.30cal MMG 

3 x 60mm Mortar Team (2 crew) 

1 x Bazooka Team (2 crew)

Recon Platoon 2 

BM 3: 2nd Lieutenant James Cork (Level II) 

3 x Scout Squad

Cavalry Assault Gun Platoon 

BM 5: 1st Lieutenant Chris Townsend (Level II) 

2 x M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC)

1st Platoon / C Company, 830th Armored Rifle Infantry Battalion 

1st Lieutenant Erroll Allen (Level II) 

2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each) 

1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each) 

2 x M3A1 Halftrack with 0.50cal HMG 

2 x M3A1 Halftrack with MMG

Light Tank Platoon/Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (reinforcements) 

BM 6: Sergeant William Salisbury (Level II) 

5 x M5 Stuart Light Tank 

Air Support 

Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: strafing fighters with MGs

Aufklärungs-abteilung, Kampfgruppe Engel 

Kompanie HQ 

BM 1: Hauptsturmführer Heigel Gudelius (Level IV) 

1 x SdKfz 251/10 

2 x Panzerschreck Team (2 crew) 

1 x MMG (5 crew)

Erste Zug 

BM 2: Obersturmführer Ernst Kaltwasser (Level II) 

3 x Rifle Gruppe (each 8 men with two LMGs)

Zweite Zug 

BM 3: Untersturmführer Arno Rost (Level II) 

3 x Rifle Gruppe (each 8 men with two LMGs)

Schwerer Spahwagen Zug 

BM 4: Untersturmführer Dieter Leimbach (Level II) 

1 x Panzer II Luchs 

2 x SdKfz 231 or 232 

1 x SdKfz 234/2 Puma

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