The battle near Hauts-Vents was a two-day affair between the US infantry and armored forces and German Panzer Lehr Division. After a day of intense combat on July 10, 1944, US forces were warned of local movements of the 902 Panzer Grenadier Regiment toward Hauts-Vents. With a German counterattack expected in the early morning hours of the next day, American infantry and armor prepared for a defensive fight under the cover of darkness and foggy, damp weather among the dense bocage hedgerows and under cover of the strong French buildings.
After a first game loss at Hauts-Vents by the Germans, we continued our campaign at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past week. The second game from the “Panzer Lehr Counterattack” mini campaign from the Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns is called ‘Morning of the 902nd.’
The game uses the same terrain set-up as the first scenario, but this time focuses on the German attempt to recapture Hauts-Vents on July 11 after losing key objectives to the Americans the day before.
The game begins under pre-dawn darkness over wet ground with US platoons in hidden positions at the north end of the table and the Germans advancing under blinds from the hill position to the south. The Germans must retake the field by capturing two of the three objective buildings at the center town.
The German advanced on blinds from Hill 91, making a hasty frontal push straight for the town. On the German left, mechanized Grenadiers mounted in Sd. Kfz 251s roared their engines and drove straight into a minefield at the bocage at the bottom of the valley outside town. Making matters worse, American machine guns hiding in the dense hedge sprayed the German line with fire. German infantry and half tracks fired back, destroying one US machine gun team and forcing a retreat of the other to the center of town. At the end of the firefight, the German commanding officer escaped but three fire teams in one platoon took heavy damage, forcing them to fall back.
On the German right, things didn’t go much better. A column of Panzer IVs drove on the main road for town, accompanied by a a Grenadier platoon closing in on a farmhouse they had lost the previous day. Waiting hidden at the stone cottage were two M4 Shermans which opened fire at the lead Panzer at close range , leaving it a burning hulk blocking the road forward. Closing in from behind, Grenadiers ran to engage the tanks with a Panzerfaust shot on their rear armor. Several turns of fire were exchanged between the Shermans and Panzer IV second in line as the two rear Panzers reversed direction back to the fork in the road. A few rounds later both Shermans were destroyed, and the surviving three Panzer IVs and the unharmed Grenadiers were heading for the east side of the town.
The Germans continued their advance up the road on the US left, looking to flank the town. The three Panzer IVs were slowed over the barbed wire blocking the road, and one bogged for the remainder of the action in soggy ground. German infantry spotted a Sherman platoon camped out around one of the objectives and then ran over and around the bocage looking to avoid fire in the field beyond.
Two remaining German blinds rolled to the field as US tank destroyer M10 Wolverines appeared behind the bocage at the town. The blinds revealed themselves as a Panzer III flame tank and Sd. Kfz. 124 Wespe and both turned to engage the Wolverines. Two quick shots from the flame tank failed to harm the open-topped Wolverines which returned fire and blew up the Panzer III. The German’s mobile gun fired back, destroying one of the Wolverines before subsequently being wrecked by US anti-tank fire. With German armor burning in the field, the Grenadiers continued to sprint over the open area and looked to swing into the town from the rear.
Back on the German left, several Grenadier platoons on foot and mounted in their half tracks moved to the US left in the town as the early morning darkness was lit up with a flare. Two fresh American rifle platoons revealed their positions in two of the objective buildings and gunfire was exchanged with the German platoons moving toward the town. Despite their cover in the stone building, the combined arms fire from the Germans ousted one US platoon from their building and the other took steady damage.
n the other side of town the two functioning Panzer IVs rolled across the field, shooting at and destroying the last American tank killer. Under continued cover from their Panzers, the Grenadier platoon continued slipping across the field, climbing over the bocage and looping around to the American rear.
With German infantry looking to encircle the town and two Panzers wheeling to engage the Shermans at the center of town, a German artillery barage hit dead center amid the objective buildings. As the smoke cleared, only two Shermans remained fully operational and the surviving US rifle platoons were on the run. As early morning light began to break, the Americans heard encroaching German voices from the hedgerows from every side of the town. The Panzer Lehr counterattack had been a success, and the Americans chose to cut their losses, regroup and fight again.