It's July 1942 and the Russians need to break the siege of Leningrad. A new batch of brand new American lend-lease armor has made its way through  U-boat infested waters to Murmansk and down by rail to the battle area. Into the maelstrom it is thrown.

Captain Mike, assisted by Lieutenant Brandon, commanded a platoon of 3 big boxy America M3 Lee medium tanks and 3 teeny tiny M3 Stuart light tanks. 4 large Soviet infantry platoons will  attack along with the tanks. The assault is intended to seize a small bridge over a stream with the goal of pushing some armor into the rear areas of the German line. The attack will be preceded by  2 stonks of artillery bombardment. The small village on the Russian side of the stream may still be occupied by Germans as it has not yet been scouted. The Germans and the Soviets know that neither side has air superiority so either can expect a visit from enemy air units.

The German Right

the german right opens up

Hauptmann Lee and Lieutenant Tony have a capable but smaller force. They have not had time to fully dismantle the bridge nor mine the approaches. They had the option of leaving a two squad reconnaissance platoon of elite Panzer Grenadiers and their SdKfz 250s on the far side of the stream but elected to move this force back behind the low rolling hills on their side and let it act as a mobile reserve force. They put a strong platoon on their right flank, supplemented with a medium machine gun crew, all well dug in. In the center near the bridge they dig in another platoon along with the tank killer anti-tank rifleman. On the rise on their left flank they anchor a medium machine gun and a small platoon, also entrenched. On the rise in the middle of their line they have two 37 mm AT guns well dug in as well. On their right behind the rise the Germans have a ersatz tank platoon of a Pz IV with a short 75mm and a Pz III with a short 50mm. They are ready to shoot Russian armor in the side as they cross, or they can sally forth if conditions warrant. Since the defenders are relatively sure that any Russian armor attempting to across the stream other than at the bridge will bog down, they know they will win they jam the armor up at the bridge.

the russian right

russians in the cabbage patch

One preliminary bombardment hit the center of the (unbeknownst to them) vacant village. The other squarely hit the German right platoon. The Soviets pushed three of their four infantry platoons toward the village and one to the left through the cover of the wheat along. Their armor also went left. They searched in vain for Germans and got fairly far forward before the defenders opened up and put some damage on the Russian left wing infantry. The Russians swiftly corrected and continue to push through what they were beginning to realize was an empty village. They swung their infantry hard to the right. Then, they boldly pushed all 6 tanks forward on drawing the allied armored advance card. That's when the German 37s opened up on them in flank and the German tanks took the front of the Soviet armoured vanguard under fire as well. 

In the course of a long gun duel one of the Lees was soon immobilized before its powerful sponsor mounted 75 couldbe turned toward the enemy and  its crew bailed after many more hits. Another one of the Stuarts similarly suffered a number of hits and the crew bailed out. Another of the Lees was immobilized. The other two Lees gamely kept on piling 75mm HE on the 37mms on the hill while the Stuarts in the front fired back and forth with the German armor peeking around the hill.

The pre registered 8cm mortar targets laid out by the German defenders were well considered but they weren't stopping the gigantic Russian infantry force pushing up the right side of the bridge. The MMG on the German left was being whittled away by sniper fire and brave Russians pushing into the stream bed. Close assualt killed one of the anti tank rifle teams. Tank fire drove off one of the 37 AT gun crews in the center.

The Germans were starting to get frantic. They pushed their tanks out further to deal with the rest of the Soviet armor force across the stream, fearing that if their left gave way the tanks would have an easy crossing. They had to jam them up on the other side. Unfortunately for the Germans, they began to lose the tank dual as the Pz III went up in flames. The Germans were not having success in getting reserves swiftly enough to their left flank from their right. And just at that moment, the Soviets got the armored advance card again and pushed their 2 functioning Stuarts across the bridge. It was a bold move but it soon paid off.

At this point, with Russian tanks on both sides of the stream, the Soviet Air Force finally decided to show up and begin a bombing run. Because this scenario is modeled on a real event in which the Soviet Air Force bombed the heck out of a bunch of tanks they did not recognize (Lees and Stuarts) we gave them a 50 50 chance of bombing Russians or Germans. On the first attempt they did attempt to bomb the German armor but missed it by a wide margin. On the next turn, they came back and attempted to bomb the Russians this time, but missed and hit a trench full of German infantry.

stuarts rush the bridge

stuart crushes 37mm anti-tank gun

The lead Stuart that charged over to the German side of the stream was manned by the platoon commander himself...and my oh my was he irritated when his vehicle was hit by anti-tank rifles, MMG fire, and Pz IV tank fire, eventually causing his crew to bail out. He lept out shaking his fist. In the meanwhile, the Lees (one immobilized and one slightly damaged but mobile) on the other side of the stream  knocked out the Pz IV with their mighty 75mm bow guns. Moments later, the dismounted tank commander was highly gratified to see the second Stuart drive by him and up the hill, grinding its treads into the remaining AT gun. By this point, the Soviet right flank had crossed the stream, turned the Germans on the hill, and  pushed off the forward observer and threatened the road into the German rear.

With three tanks bailed out, and one immobilized, the Soviets only had two tanks to exploit the victory—but it was a victory nonetheless. It turned on the narrowest of chances indeed! Great job by all commanders.

Joe Patchen

the victors press on!