German Player's Report
Full report to follow, but suffice to say that the 1057th Grenadiers with support from the 100th Panzer Replacement & Training Battalion drove elements of 507th and 508th PIR of 82nd US Airborne Division off the West end of the La Fiere causeway and the riverbank to the South. Casualties were light in the 1057th thanks to good training and use of combined arms against the lightly armed paratroopers, but two panzers were lost and another disabled whilst much valuable time was wasted mopping up before the assault could be continued across the causeway. Every minute brings fresh waves of allied troops ashore: the attack must continue!
American Player's Report
The hamlet of Cauquigny is an unremarkable cluster of buildings at the Western end of the la Fiere causeway on the Merderet River. It's just a church and a few farm buildings set amidst a chequerboard of typical Norman orchards and fields bounded by those towering hedgerows. North West past the church runs a small track to some local farms whilst due West runs the road to Amfreville. The Amfreville road forks South West towards Etienville and another road loops South alongside the river before rejoining the Etienville road.
On the afternoon of D Day, June 6 1944, a tiny blocking force consisting of a dozen men from various units of the 82nd Airborne under command of Lieutenants Levy and Kormylo of 507th PIR found themselves all alone as the scouts came in reporting the approach of German tanks and infantry along the Amfreville and Etienville roads. The following account is built up from the post action interviews given by the surviving participants on June 9th.
Lt Levy: "Our CO, Lt Col Timms was North of us holding positions in an orchard he had retreated to after bumping substantial German forces outside Amfreville during the night. Cauquigny was none of our business really, we had moved in at daylight to facilitate the crossing of the Merderet river by a bunch of our fellows who had been forced back over the river during the night whilst trying to retrieve equipment bundles. Timms had called for reinforcements, so most of our boys had headed out, and, when Schwartzwalder had crossed over with his men, he had taken most of the rest of ours with him, including our bazooka team.
Knowing there were tanks coming I took four of the men under my personal charge and we took all the Gammon grenades off the rest of them and took cover in the orchard just where the road forks. This way we could engage tanks coming up either road. The other six men took up station around the buildings at the other side of the fork under Lt Kormylo. We had two fellows with a 30 cal Browning but since ammo was scarce they were going to have to take it easy. They set up in the gateway of a farm pointing straight down the Etienville fork; Fritz wasn't going to come strolling in that way.
Orders were for everyone to hold until outflanked and then to fall back on the church hard by the causeway. If the position was hopeless we were all to head North for Col Timms' orchard. We expected the 505th to push across the causeway and take over at any minute. Those fellows were forever telling us that it took two whole regiments of us cherries to take the place of the 504th and that the only reason they'd kept the 504th in Italy was that there weren't enough parachute regiments in the US Army to replace the 505th so they'd been the ones to come back for D Day."
Lt Kormylo: "It was pretty nervewracking peering through the hedgerows whilst the screeching and clattering of tank tracks grew louder and louder. From behind us the 30 Cal suddenly started firing and we could hear shouts and screaming from beyond the orchard on the Etienville road. Meanwhile the tanks are getting so close you could feel the ground trembling and then there's a wild whooping and hollering from the orchard as Levy leads the anti-tank group in a charge. There were a couple of huge bangs and I saw a sprocket wheel off a tank go sailing up above the hedge not 50 yards away."
Levy: "We saw the kraut tanks through the hedge and reckoned it was now or never. We set the Gammon grenades and raced along the hedge and tossed them over the top at the tanks. We blew the track and a couple of wheels off the first one and the second started spewing smoke from the engine cover on the back. We missed the third one and saw a huge, square tank bringing up the rear. I thought `Tiger!' and pulled the boys back into cover."
PFC Ball (30 Cal): "We could hear all Hell breaking loose to our right with explosions and shouting, but we just concentrated on making the Etienville road unhealthy for Germans. We had opened fire on a line of krauts advancing up the road and they had dived straight through the hedges into the adjacent fields. Next thing we know a couple of our guys who we didn't even know were there came wandering out into the road with a bazooka. Well we sure needed one of them so we hollered to them to get over to our position."
Levy: "Judging by the shouting and our machine gunners firing that way, we realised that the Germans were behind us on the Etienville road. Trusting in the smoke and confusion from our ambush on the tanks, I led my team back over the road to join Kormylo. We made it without anyone firing a shot at us! However, thanks to those damned hedgerows we now couldn't see what was going on so I decided to take a personal reconnaissance with the last of the Gammon grenades to see what Fritz was up to on the Amfreville road."
Kormylo: "That Levy is a crazy man. He waved his four men into position with my boys and then hotfooted it straight through the gateway in the lane and on into the field alongside the Amfreville road saying he wanted to see what the krauts were doing. Seeing as how we could clearly hear tank engines gunning, this seemed like a suicide mission to me."
PFC Ball: "Dukeman, my loader, slapped my shoulder and pointed to the causeway. It looked like the 505th had finally decided to help us take their objective. They were well spaced out along both sides of the road and double-timing. Me and old Duke started grinning and saying as how we'd have no trouble now when those sons of bitches turned straight onto the riverside path and headed South without even waving goodbye. I don't mind telling you, we felt real lonesome all of a sudden."
Sgt Wiggum, B Co 508th: "I was bringing up the rear of Baker Company as we hurried across that darned causeway and headed South. Our orders were to hot-foot it down to Hill 30 where a bunch of our guys were in sore need of assistance. We made smart time with hedgerows towering up on each side and the floodwaters of the river glistening through the hedge on our left. A gateway opened on each side of the track and there was a farm building on our left. Suddenly there's this ripping sound off to our right and the air is filled with buzzing and leaves started showering down off the hedges. Five guys crumpled to the ground including our second in command, Lt Hibbert. Everyone was shouting but nobody could see where the firing was coming from."
Levy: "I approached the hedge, climbed the bank and stuck my head over. Down below is the tank with the track blown off and behind it is the one that seemed to be on fire before, but it wasn't smoking anymore. Perhaps more importantly they both turned their turrets towards me and as I threw myself back down the bank I was showered with dirt as they blew gaps out of the bank. With my ears ringing I looked up and saw the Tiger squeezing through the gate and into the field with me. This seemed to bring out the quarterback in me because I straightened up and threw our last remaining Gammon grenade straight and true and damned near blew the turret off the SOB. Smoke and flames spewed from the turret and it began to be wracked with explosions from the ammo inside going off. Some guardian angel tipped me off that I wasn't alone as I became aware that the road behind the tank was filled with men in coal-scuttle helmets so I put my head down and sprinted back to Kormylo's position."
Kormylo: "You gotta hand it to those krauts, they didn't let the little setback of seeing their armoured support go up in flames set them back any, they chased Levy back through the gate and another full platoon of them started firing on us from the orchard across the road. It got pretty hot real quick. When you've got sixty or so guys shooting at you and a couple more tanks clanking up the lane and there's only twelve of you, it's no longer a case of being first-est with the most-est but just getting the Hell out of there alive. Two of our boys went down and the krauts in the orchard charged. We hightailed it back into the farmhouse and started heading for the church."
Levy: "Kormylo led the squad back through the farmhouse whilst I slipped down the side to get Ball and Dukeman to fall back. When I reached them I found a pair of guys with a bazooka with them. `Where the Hell were you when I was fighting Tigers, Goddammit?' We could hear the Germans pounding along the lane so we shouldered our gear and hauled ass down the side of the barn."
Sgt Wiggum: "We had altogether too many guys in too little space so I ordered my squad to follow me though the hedge to the bank of the river. A couple of other groups had the same idea and the fellows back on the road started evening the score with BARs, M1s and carbines. Iffen we'd only managed to salvage some 30 Cals from the river where most of the bundles ended up thanks to the Air Corps coming in too fast, we'd really have made them pay."
Kormylo: "The surviving eight boys and myself raced across the yard and into the barn. There was krauts shouting on both sides and we could hear tank tracks screeching as one of them turned into the lane behind us. Now there was no way through to the church; we were trapped! Footsteps pounded down the lane toward the causeway and we could hear orders being shouted in the yard outside. A tank roared down the lane towards the church and causeway. Next thing the doors were blown in by grenades and the Germans stormed in in a rush. I've never been so scared in my life, it was like a slaughterhouse. We forced them back out again but there were only three of us still standing. "
PFC Ball: "Levy led us straight over the road and into the church yard. Behind us in the lane came a squad of krauts with a tank in support. `Just as well we've hot a bazooka' thinks I when I realised that they hadn't come with us. We hurdled the wall into the churchyard and turned to make a last stand when the tank pulled up by the wall and the Germans surrounding it were filling the air with lead. Levy was blazing away with his Tommygun and Duke started feeding the last belt into our MG. Suddenly there was a whooshing sound and the tank started blazing fiercely. Guess the bazooka guys waited by the barn and shot it right up the tailpipe. We dropped five of the krauts and fired off our last ammo before joining Levy in a run for Lt Col Timms' position. As we rounded the church we were joined by the bazooka team and further off saw Kormylo and a couple of guys running for their lives. Shots sounded from the hedgerow behind them and the two riflemen went down."
Levy: "Six men left out of sixteen, especially when we hadn't even know two of them were around, is a pitifully small number of survivors. However, we'd managed to knock out two tanks and disable a third. Even the fourth tank had been smoking at one point so that one was probably damaged too. We'd also killed or wounded more than a dozen of them but they were good soldiers, they just wouldn't let us settle and kept outflanking us and keeping us on the run. Kormylo was damned lucky to get out of that barn alive and he is a great fellow to fight alongside. Ball and Dukeman deserve recognition for the steady way they went about their work despite the fearsome odds. Next time some big mouth from the 505th starts talking down to the 507th or 508th I'll bust him right in the chops, even if he's Jim Gavin himself!"
Sgt Wiggum: "We pushed on both alongside the river and on the road. Lt Jones, our CO, kept shouting for everyone to push on. The first platoon cleared a squad of Germans out of a hedgerow with grenades and tommyguns and had just come level with an orchard on their right just near to the turn in the road which would have led us out of the flanking fire when they were flayed by fire from the orchard from a couple of MGs and some infantry support. We were trying to work out how to deal with this since a flanking move wasn't an option when the guys in the road were bracketed by mortar bombs which came whistling down. Everyone hit the deck except Jones who was hollering for everyone to get up and charge the krauts or we'd all die there. A bomb went off right next to him and he was gone. We tried pushing forward but the fire was too strong from those MGs. If you held up a skillet you'd have had bullet stew. I was the senior ranker left and when a tank nosed around the corner behind us, I realised that the causeway had fallen and we could do no more good out here. I called for every man to swim for it as best he could. Fourteen of us made it into the marshes but I saw some of the guys who had been caught in the road putting their hands up. Can't say as I blamed them, Baker Co was wiped out."
A hugely enjoyable game in a freezing garage in Northumberland. It's a testament to a great ruleset and wonderfully researched pack of scenarios that I couldn't stop until the survivors of B Co ran for the river: 23 turns!
The game almost exactly mirrored historical events although Levy's force suffered fewer casualties on the day. The Germans did exactly what the 91st Luftlande were trained to do and "drove straight into the teeth of the paratroopers". The 100th Panzer battalion's Renaults and obsolete PzKw III (no Tigers) did just as badly as you'd expect against motivated and resourceful opposition. The big surprise was that Levy and Kormylo ended up using their flexibility of four cards with a tiny force not to conduct defensive fire but mostly to get away from an overwhelming foe who was prepared to use movement instead of firepower to do the job.
Baker Co had an uphill struggle since they were without LMGs and therefore unable to perform like the elite troops they were unless they could get to close quarters. The one time they did, they made mincemeat out of the defenders but once the German MMGs had them enfiladed and the FOO got all his cards in order, it was just up to the surviving Renault to administer the coup de grace and take 6 shocked prisoners. I'm sure that all the survivors of Levy's party would have received decorations whilst the 1057th Grenadiers took the Western end of the causeway and had the 505th to face at the other side. Who knows how things might have turned out had the German Big Men suffered as badly as those with Baker Co.