We thought it would be a bloody scrape. It was.
July '44, Belarus. The Soviets have crushed the entire Army Group Center front and some units have been able to retreat in good order to preprepared positions. Captain Johannes von Finnhelm had only two platoons and two 75mm AT guns to hold his prepared position.
The position was a strong one: a cliff like ridge straddling a road gap squeezed between a river on his left and a swamp on his right, and therefore seemingly secure on both flanks. Barbed wire and an unmarked continuous band of mixed anti tank and anti personnel mines made his front formidable. One platoon was upfront in trenches and the reserves were in the village. The AT guns were in the woods beyond the gap and in the village. The reserve platoon was partially composed of the engineers who helped devise this position and blew the bridge to their left.
Captain Boris Bederov was ready to run headlong into the front gate with his five T-34/85s and recce armored infantry platoon and MMG platoon but not until he snuck in the side door and unlatched it for his armored force...he had already snuck a full company of veteran Russian infantry through the swamp with the help of the local partisan guides and was ready to hit the Germans in the flank and rear and roll up the ridge and clean out the town to boot. He could expect some air support, especially if any German armor made an appearance.
The Russian attack opened with a big preliminary barrage on the ridge and gap and immediately the Russians sent all 3 hidden platoons in the swamp across the creek into the hills on the German right flank. One platoon came in right behind a German AT gun and looked like they'd capture it and sweep into town.
The surprise was total and it looked like it might be a short day, but the German reserve platoon was concentrated nearby, charged right at them and won a decisive close combat victory. They were still flanked and out numbered. An epic battle raged on the German right all day as the reserve platoon and the Russian company pushed, pulled, charged, and counter charged, while the unlucky AT gun crew tugged their gun toward cover in town.
Meanwhile the Soviet armor pushed onto the field toward the ridge firing their potent 85 millimeter cannons at the German squads entrenched on the ridge. One platoon from the swamp crept up to take the ridge by close assault in flank, as planned. The Soviet machine gun platoon deployed and along with the 50 cals on the Scout cars, helped break the back of the forward platoon as well. Soon the main ridge belonged to the Russians.
Soviets felt they could push the gap with their armor, having almost cleared one half of the gap. They soon discovered they had rolled right into a minefield. The first tank in blew sky high. The second third and forth blew treads and became immobile. A couple of them remained useful by firing down the road into town or at the remaining Soviets on the uncleared side of the gap. One conducted an unbelievably long and mutually fruitless dual with the AT gun in town.
Only one of the tanks remained mobile after passing through the mine belt. It sat out a few more turns as the situation progressed, waiting for its chance to blast through the gap.
It was at this point that, to the amazement and irritation of the Russians, a rare but deadly Stuka and its escort came down with a mission of dropping bombs on the Russians swarming the ridge. It came by again but neither time was able to drop its bombs on anything but open earth. An air attack does keep everyone's head down so it did have the effect of slowing the infantry advance but only for a bit.
In the chaos of the German air attacks, the German captain decided to pull his last remaining squad off the left side of the gap and consolidate everybody in the village. At this point the last flames of the Soviet infantry close combat attempts on the German right flank flickered out. The gap was open, which meant the Russians had won their objective. But Captain Boris couldn't help himself and just had to push that last tank through the gap covered by a Soviet medium machine gun crew on the ridge.
The Germans were down to a mere two battered squads a medium MG team, and two diminished AT gun crews. The Soviets were down to perhaps three functioning squads, two medium MG teams and one mobile tank (and a couple of armored cars that were on the wrong side of a very dangerous mine belt, and therefore out of the action). In the last desperate action of a desperate day, the Germans ran one of their remaining two squads hard up the left with Panzerfausts in hand. They took a shot from the middle of an open field, blew a tread off the tank and were promptly slaughtered by the Soviet machine gun on the ridge. The day was over. There was no more blood to spill. And then, finally, and without any effect on the defenders, the much vaunted Sturmovik showed up and sent a few rockets into the battered town.
The Russians took a heavily fortified and mined road gap and won the day. But they had absolutely nothing left after doing so, and the remnant of the almost entirely annihilated German force was able to hitch up their shot up anti-tank guns and escape a couple more miles down the road for the next fight. Great job Bernie and John. It was a real seesaw and very well, aggressively, and dynamically played by both commanders!