Round two of our Flames of War learning campaign got under way last week with a meeting engagement between my 6th Fallschirmjäeger and Kev’s US 101st Airborne. Once again I chose the road leading into Carentan as the scenario, the Grenadiers in round one having so successfully defended the outskirts I figured it will have given time for the Fallschirmjäeger to reinforce them to defend the road leading in properly.
Kev bulked up his Airborne with an engineer platoon, giving him access to two LMG teams, a number of anti-tank bazooka teams and four more Rifle/MG teams (which I provided out of my meagre US forces). Supporting these again were two squadrons of Sherman Vs and a platoon HQ, plus his regular US Airborne rifle platoon.
In defence of Carentan I chose a Fallschirmjäeger Kompanie consisting of three platoons, which I reinforced with a Bodenstandig Heavy Artillery battery and Assault Gun platoon of three Stug III G from the ‘Earth and Steel‘ 6. Fallschirmjaeger Kompanie list. The idea being that the heavy guns would soften the Airborne up whilst the veteran Fallschirmjäeger and Stugs delivered the counter punch.
Table wise I set up a small skirmish sized table again to handicap the advantage of my artillery slightly and gave plenty of tree cover. No buildings this time as I wanted it to represent the road leading into Carentan from the coast and gave all of the roads either bocage or low dry stone walls surrounding fields. Hopefully, by the time we get to the final stages of the campaign I will have had the chance to make some more bocage with more permanent undergrowth and hedgerow.
On to the battle. Kev won the dice off for the first turn, so my Germans started gone to ground. He tasked some of his Airborne to defend his northern objectives whilst the Shermans advanced down the road and across the fields and bocage to the east. Somewhat unluckily ‘B’ Squadron got a little bogged down and brought to a premature halt just shy of my outer marker. He tried a speculative shot with the remaining Sherman V and Firefly but both rounds went wide of the waiting Stugs.
In answer my Stugs responded to full effect being stationary, destroying the Firefly outright and forcing the crew of the bogged down Sherman to bail out. I advanced my Fallschirmjäeger north under the cover of trees and fields to screen my artillery and flank either side of the road leading into the town. I ranged in the artillery at the first attempt on Kev’s ‘A’ squadron of Shermans, but only managed to make one crew bail out from the barrage and pin the tanks down.
Kev tried to dig his engineer platoon in with defence from my artillery clearly in mind, but in a show of remarkable bad luck, his veteran Airborne failed their check and stubbornly stayed gone to ground. His rifle platoon advanced under cover of the trees whilst his tanks in the starting phase had continued their reputation from game one of not wanting to remount their vehicles; both bailed out tanks remaining as such. The platoon HQ manoeuvred past the bocage successfully onto the main road and advanced ahead firing on the Fallschirmjäeger in the wheat fields, but scoring no kills. The Airborne had a little more success taking out one of the German MG teams advancing to the west.
The Stugs responded with another stationary salvo, brewing up the remaining operational Sherman and effectively rendering the squadron out of action. With the eastern assault blunted I dug in to give me some defence against the advancing tank HQ and moved the rest of the Fallschirmjäeger into MG range of the Airborne (obviously for the sake of brevity I am reporting these events slightly out of sequence as clearly we moved before starting the shooting phase). The Fallschirmjäeger MG teams failed dismally to make any impression on the heavily concealed Americans and although my artillery continued their impressive display of ranging in on the very first dice (good spotters, they shall receive an iron Cross for that), the barrage was largely ineffective on the tanks destroying only the one.
In a somewhat desperate gamble, which almost paid off, Kev heroically charged his tank HQ straight up the road in an attempt to seize the objective, flanking my assault guns in the process. Having passed it’s pinning test, ‘A’ squadron had one operational Firefly, which it advanced in support of the HQ along the road to also put pressure on the Stugs. This was probably the pivotal turn of the battle and unfortunately Kev’s dice rolls let him down badly yet again! The HQ failed to score even a single hit on the Stugs vulnerable flanks and the Firefly fared no better. His Airborne however made a better account for themselves reducing one of the Fallschirmjäeger platoons by a further two teams.
In my turn I withdrew the exposed Fallschirmjaeger back out of range and into better cover defending the artillery. The assault guns turned to address the Sherman challenge and in a complete reverse of Kev’s dice rolling, they didn’t miss. The two Shermans both failed their armour checks and after the firepower was rolled both sadly went up in a huge fireball. A poor reward for their valiant assault. With the tank platoon now out of the game, Kev’s option were really limited at this stage as I still had the advantage of the heavy artillery and three still largely intact Fallschirmjaeger platoons with assault gun support. It was now time for the German counter-offensive.
Two more round followed in which Kev’s airborne stubbornly dug in on the objectives like an Alabama Tick, but able to call in barrage after barrage of artillery with impunity on his positions it was always going to be a battle of attrition he couldn’t win. Like all good commanders he knew when the odds were stacked and rather than sacrifice his veteran infantrymen needlessly, he withdrew.
Result: Axis 3 Allied 0
Once again, Kev really suffered from the most appalling bad run of luck with the dice. But also I think was in hindsight overly cautious with his Airborne infantrymen, effectively leaving his star team on the bench defending the objectives. In retrospect I would probably have kept the tank HQ back to guard the centre, it’s high mobility meaning it could reach either objective easily if threatened from from being captured. The bulk of his tanks and all those MGs could then have advanced in support of the veteran 101st and really put the pressure on my Fallschirmjäeger. Equally I was far to hesitant about getting into assault with the Airborne, even though I had significant numerical superiority on the west flank. I relied far too much on the artillery.
It is still a learning process for both of us and the primary objective that game was to introduce artillery and some new units into the mix, which we did successfully. So what are the plans for game three? I am thinking a counter-offensive game as the Germans have been doing so well denying the Allies Carentan. The next game Kev will have his entire LMG and Mortar tooled up Airborne in an entrenched position and it will be up to my current Fallschirmjäeger force to re-take it and see if I can drive them back to the beaches a bit and buy some more time for the forces across Normandy to reinforce their positions.
Despite the outwardly one-sided appearance, the game was a lot more exciting than it appeared. Although I won’t deny the damage those Stug’s did against the Sherman’s brought a smile to my face. If the weather wasn’t so darned hot I would do some more painting to get the next formation ready. As it is (and I am certainly not complaining) there are plans afoot to secure some transport for my Grenadiers. Until then have a great week.
Update: Since posting the battle report and registering it on the operation Overlord campaign map at wwpd.net, I had to make a small correction. As the map had moved on from the initial D-Day landings, Carentan was no longer available so the result had to be logged as a battle over Periers, a town to the south west. The site also wouldn’t allow me to post zero victory points for the losing side, so the Allies gained an extra point there, fair recompense for their valiant efforts in trying to secure the road in I feel.