We played one of Rob Avery’s excellent Anzio IABSM scenarios for the first time this weekend: Scenario 10, Highway 7, January 31, 1944. The US Third Division is trying to push out of the Anzio beachhead through tough Herman Goering Panzer Division vets. The Americans are loaded with armor and have a big, albeit green, infantry force, but have no off board artillery to pave the way across a very open, featureless battlefield. And worse yet, they have to take 4 fortified farmhouses on the far side of a virtual tank trap—actually a sharp below grade railroad cut across the entire width of the board. It is spanned by a single bridge, probably wired to blow up.
The US forces ably lead by Lee, Brandon, and Will have a plan: Use the creek bed and bold movement on blinds to run all their infantry to the below grade rail cut, cover the advance with smoke from their 60mm mortars and armor and rush the German left and roll up the defenders from that side, covered by their tanks from the far side of the cut. The Germans, ably lead by the crafty John and Mike, have four MMGs and five elite squads of infantry entrenched in and around the strongpoint houses, with a 50mm AT gun and a 75mm infantry gun dug in on the ridge behind the houses. Two StuGs lurked out of sight behind the houses as well. They have just discovered their explosive charges on the bridge will not “go boom” and have called for artillery to try and drop the span before the seven American tanks can creep on over.
The Germans had trouble spotting the US who managed to get into the ditch with little opposition and no casualties. The US mortars and tanks put down a lovely smoke screen on the right to blind the defenders….but it also screened them from any sort of preparatory fire, so they remained intact until the US infantry burst through the smoke clouds to launch their close assault. The 50mm AT gun opened up on the US tank destroyers during this build up and a dual ended with the gun missing the thin skinned M-10s over and over while their opponents whittled down the crew with HE to one man. At that point, the German commander himself, drawing a heroic action chit, ran over and helped sight and fire the last round…only to also whiff. He then ran back to the right flank to assist his MMG team, only to be driven out of the structure as tank fire set it ablaze.
Once all three US platoons were forward and ready to go, the 3rd platoon had its platoon card pulled. To it went the honors of being the first wave to run out of the smoke into the waiting arms of the defenders—one NCO, a squad and a MMG team, with a StuG peaking part way around the fortified house. All three squads and their lieutenant were wiped out first by fire and then finished off in close assault, but took out a few defenders as well, including the German NCO. All 3rd platoon was no more, that is except for their bazooka team who lingered in the rear. Next, the lieutenant for 1st platoon was drawn and he pushed his men into the fray. They took the house by close assault, but their leader went down in the process. 1st platoon then moved into the house, making the StuG uncomfortable through bazooka fire. But there they had to sit, leaderless, and too loaded with shock to do much but fire. Continuation of the assault would have to fall on 2nd platoon or HQ platoon far behind. The American Captain, realizing he needed to be up at the sharp end of the spear, soon ran forward in hopes of helping reorder 1st platoon.
Meanwhile, the US armor would not be moved to cross the perilous bridge and made good use of their time and position to reduce the other 3 farmhouses to flames, driving their occupants out into the trenches behind the buildings. The second German assault gun tried to come out and dual with the M-10s across the ditch, but it too couldn’t hit a thing and went up in flames. It was a terrible day for German optics. We called the game at that point. The defenders were still strong, but somewhat disarrayed: Most of their infantry was okay, their 75mm infantry gun was still in action, and their one slightly bazooka damaged StuG wasinching back to cover. The defenders were going to be hard to shift with the heavily depleted US infantry. Great game by all!