It was one of those unexpected last minute opportunities to get a game in so the scenario was kept simple. Set in eastern France during November 1944 the terrain was heavily wooded but broken with game trails and firebreaks that wandered in all directions. The only distinguishing features were a table wide ridge about a third of the way from the US entry side and a small hamlet about a third of the table length from the German side.
Company G was tasked with crossing the ridge and passing on to the opposite side of the forest. Golf was a veteran company but casualties had reduced it to regular status. The US was experiencing a shortage of trained infantry replacements, not because there was any shortage of manpower but due to placing too many men in “technical services”; AA, artillery, armor, and various other support branches. Some AA units were disbanded with the men transferred to provide replacements for the infantry. In spite of this the company was still short of “dogfaces”.
The Germans had always placed an emphasis on good leaders and training in all branches and the infantry was not neglected but by 1944 they had suffered heavy manpower shortages and training was attenuated.
Just as G Company began moving out the captain was killed in a freak accident when a truck skidded in the mud, pinning him to a tree. The exec, Lieutenant Lemke took over and battalion told him to get moving.
- Golf Company HQ: Lt Lemke (BM II) and three two-man bazooka teams
- 1st and 2nd platoons: Lieutenants Scott and Remly (each a BM II) with two squads each, 10 men per squad
- 3rd platoon: Lt Czignow and Ptn Sgt Alvarro (BM II) with three squads of 10 men per squad
- Weapons Sgt Wolanski (BM II), with two .30 MMGs with four crew each
The heavily wooded terrain and narrow trails made mortars next to useless so they would be brought forward later. The platoon bazookas were left with the mortars and the men used to fill out the rifle squads. Limited armor usefulness on the narrow, muddy forest trails made it an infantry fight.
Jerry wasn’t in any better shape. The 6th Kompanie was also under strength. It had good leaders but poorly trained men.
- 6th Kompanie HQ: Leutnant Rudorfer (BM III), two 8cm mortars with five crew each
- 1st Zug: Feldwebel Zigler (BM II), three 8-man gruppes with two Panzerfaust 30 each
- 2nd Zug: Feldwebel Brunowski (BM II), two 8-man gruppes with two Panzerfaust 30 each
- Attached: Feldwebel Asch (BM II) with four MG42 with five crew each
- A Pz 17R/730f armed with a 37mm with a crew to man it had been found somewhere. Gefreiter Wohlhaus (BM I) and a driver.
Third platoon led off with Lt Lemke navigating. A mist made visibility poor (all spotting and command distances were halved) and the trail was ankle deep in slippery mud (Blinds only moved with three dice). Surprisingly the platoons didn’t become separated and when faced with trail junctions the correct one leading toward the hamlet was chosen (we checked for each of these possibilities, the Lt’s navigation was good).
Golf Company entered the forest at 0700 hrs. An hour and a half later they had slopped, slipped and cursed their way about 100 yards along the trail. By 0900 platoons were beginning to straggle and contact with the scouts was lost.
Willie to Joe “Somebody’s got it wrong, dis fairy tale dark an’ gloomy forest has to be Germany.”
Then the scouts were found halted. Movement was seen in the trees ahead to the left of the trail. Third platoon moved off the trail into the trees but the Germans spotted them and opened fire causing some shock. Second squad quickly shook off their shock and the platoon moved forward but Jerry had disappeared. Lt Lemke reached the edge of the trees with 1st squad and saw several buildings. The CO got another squad forward, spotted Germans in the nearest building and his two squads opened fire.
Brunowski had his men in the building return fire. Suddenly 2nd and 3rd squads took fire from their left and a man went down. Despite taking shock, 3rd squad faced left, moved forward and returned fire. Zigler calmly continued to direct fire into 2nd and 3rd squads, dropping a man in 3rd.
Meanwhile Sgt Wolanski got his MGs off of the muddy trail into the trees where the going was less sticky. They were a few yards behind 3rd platoon. Unknown to the Yanks Feldwebel Asch with two MMGs was behind their left. Asch had his guns prepared to move in behind the Yank 3rd and Weapons platoons but his men were slow in packing up. It was just as well for them as 1st platoon moved into the trees behind Wolanski’s guns.
A terrific firefight developed between 3rd platoon and the Germans in the building while 3rd squad exchanged fire with Zigler’s men on the left. At first it looked as though 3rd squad was getting the upper hand but then two more men went down.
To Lt Remly it seemed that the whole company was being crowded into a small patch of woods so he decided to take 2nd platoon into the trees to the right of the trail. He hoped to flank the German defended building and get a good look at the whole hamlet.
The CO ordered 3rd platoon to withdraw to Wolanski’s MMG’s but 2nd squad was slow in acting and 3rd didn’t get the word. Zigler broke the 3rd squad and Lt Czignow with it while 2nd squad was pinned with more men down.
First platoon took Asch’s MG’s under fire with little effect. Asch calmly got his two guns set up and returned fire forcing 1st platoon back with heavy casualties. Remly’s 2nd platoon brought heavy fire on the German occupied building causing shock and casualties and wounding Brunowski (now a BM I). Half of 2nd zug was now suppressed. Force morale on both sides was dropping.
With the Ami’s pushed deeper into the trees, the ever aggressive Zigler led 1st zug across the trail after the retreating Yanks. Lemke, Czignow, and Scott were frantically trying to restore order to 1st and 3rd platoons when Zigler assaulted Wolanski’s MG’s from the flank. Czignow led a squad in support of the guns and both he and Zigler fell in the melee but the Germans were driven back.
The Germans started to bring their 8cm mortars into the fight, targeting 2nd platoon and the PZ 17 wobbled into view but we were out of time and called the game.
Looking the situation over we decided that the Germans had held the hamlet while the US was confined to the forest to the west. Ranges were close due to thick forest and mist. The US approach was confined to muddy trails until contact was made because we gave a greater chance of getting lost and separated among the trees. Even on the trails there was a chance that the column would take a wrong turn or the platoons might lose contact with each other.
The card draws came about even and the dice failed or rewarded each side about equally. The decision to pull 2nd zug back into the building probably saved them, allowing them to punish 3rd platoon with the help of Zigler’s 1st zug on the flank. First platoon’s ineffective fire on Asch’s MG’s and his calm reaction ended Scott’s attempt to flank 1st zug.
Germans: 6 men; plus one Big Man (Brunowski) with a light wound and one Big Man (Zigler) KIA
US: 17 men; plus one Big Man (Czignow) seriously wounded
For us an interesting game with conditions reminiscent of the Hurtgen Forest fighting (though we were really thinking 7th Army in southern Lorraine).