It is February 14 1943, and the green, but well trained American 1st Armored Division troops are strung out on a wide front as they push into Tunisia to finally boot the Afrika Korps off the continent. On the ridge beyond, 88mm batteries peck at the isolated US Infantry dug in on low forward rises in front of the cross roads town of Sidi Bou Zid.
The Americans know numerous large columns of German troops are closing in because of their towering dust clouds. They know that an entire combat command of 1st Armored is driving hard to meet the threat so they can move back in order. They don't know that they are in the middle of two pincers, the 10th Pz Div. and the 21st Pz Div.
The Germans were commanded by Captain Biederman. His powerful force included four long barrel Panzer IVs, five long barreled Panzer IIIs and two almost invulnerable Tiger tanks. In addition to this was a scout car Platoon (two SDKFZ 251s) and, for the coup de gras, a small truck-borne infantry platoon. They could expect air support in the form of Messerschmitt fighters for air cover or Stukas laden with bombs .
The tactical problem was simple: cut off the forward US infantry and destroy any reinforcements pushing to relieve them. The Germans needed to come onto the board on either side of the small bluff occupied by a single US infantry platoon. They chose to bring their Pz.IVs and Scout platoon in on their left flank and their Pz. IIIs and Tigers on the right. The panzer grenadiers would wait off board for their moment.
The US armored Force was commanded by Captain Ritchie and Lieutenant Sopp and consisted of two platoons of five Shermans, a platoon of four Lee tanks, a scout platoon of two Stuart tanks and two M3 Scout cars. The infantry platoon up forward was unequipped to help in this armor heavy fight except for its one 57mm anti-tank gun tucked in behind the bluff — pointed, it turned out, at the avenue of advance of the Tigers.
The American forces came off Blinds fairly swiftly as they rushed to stem the German panzers. The two platoons of Shermans went left to face the Tigers and the Lees and Scout platoon went right discovering they were face-to-face with the very capable Pz. IVs. In spite of the heavy armament and armor on the Tigers, both of them swiftly succumbed to the fusillade of 75 mm and 57 mm fire.
At least two of these shots were Critical Hits. Soon both Tigers were dead and burning with no US tanks killed yet and only a couple tanks damaged.
Even though their heavies were dead, the superior morale of the Afrika Korps tankers on the right allowed them more action points/ shots which allowed them to kill or disable most of the ten Shermans they faced before all five Pz IIIs were knocked out.
Meanwhile on the German left front, the Panzer IVs shot up the light platoon, disabling the guns on the Stuarts but making no kills.
When the Lee tanks came up, the Germans flamed all four of them before any of the big boxy American tanks could get off a single shot.
The Stuarts and the Scout cars and a 105 battery did put some damage on the German tankers but they were all still mobile and still deadly. And it was lucky for them that they knocked out everything in front of them because at that very moment the German right flank was completely silenced.
It was at this point that the American infantry on the forward bluff finally made it into their halftracks and tried to run for it across the gauntlet of the German left flank Pz. IV gunners.
At this point, the Stuka finally heeded the call of the Forward Observer and attempted to bomb the Shermans. He missed the target but hit one of the fleeing infantry halftracks, disabliing the vehicle and killing some of the infantry.
We called the game at that point but most of the American forces had escaped. The superior remaining force on the table was the Germans. Nonetheless, I'd have to call it a Pyrrhic victory for the Germans. When I set up the scenario, I was sure I would have to apologize to the Americans for putting them in the position of ducks in a shooting gallery but the early defeat of the Tigers made this a very close game indeed. Well played by all!