Neuville au Plain

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Jon Wimbush posted the following AAR and pictures from a game featuring the Neuville au Plain scenario from the "All American" D-Day Airborne supplement:

North of Ste Mere Eglise the third Platoon of Dog Co of 505th PIR found themselves doing the job originally set aside for whole of 2nd Battalion. Lt Turnbull had 3 full strength squads with extra LMGs and had 2 separate LMG teams formed from his mortar squad who had lost their 60mms but found a couple of unattended 30cals. The platoon's bazooka team was also beefed up thanks to Lt Col Vandevoort dropping off a 57mm AT gun and crew. The orders were to stop the Germans advancing South down the highway into Ste Mere Eglise if things got too hot he could call on Easy Co for support in pulling out. Without enough troops to form a solid line, Turnbull placed his 2IC Lt Michaelman in a farmhouse West of the highway whilst Sgt Niland held the East of the line in an orchard; he himself took up a central position in another orchard with the third squad. One LMG under Cpl Kelly was set to deny the highway to any infantry whilst the second one was in the attic gable window of a farmhouse South of Turnbull's position with a field of fire to the distant hedgerow bordering the flooded fields to the north. The 57mm was tucked into the mouth of a turning just East of the highway so that it covered the first few hundred yards of the highway; the bazooka was further ahead to the West set to hit any armour hugging the far bank to avoid the 57mm fire.

A company from the 1058 Regt of 91st Luftlande Division bolstered by 3 assault guns had been ordered to push through the flooded area and up the slope to Neuville Au Plain before sweeping down into Ste Mere Eglise to support the attack of the 1057th Regt. They were led by Haupt Hempentrager, supported by Lt Wiener and Feldw Bratwurst and had a FOO in contact with the company's pair of 81mm mortars. The assault guns consisted of a Stug III G and two Marder IIIs. Hempentrager led the column with 1st platoon with each platoon followed by an assault gun and the HQ section bringing up the rear with 2 MG42s.

Hempentrager and Plt 1 were immediately spotted as they left the flooded area. Cpl Kelly directed the fire of his LMG team from the west of highway tumbling several landser in the dust and sowing confusion in the ranks. Quickly recovering, two of the sections forced their way through the hedgerow and into the orchard beyond whilst Haupt Hempentrager tried to take out Kelly's team with the remaining section. The Heroic Leader card saw Kelly get carried away and lead his team into the centre of the road for a better field of fire and the remaining dice saw Hempentrager fall along with the bulk of his section. Beyond the crumpled forms a Stug III clanked its way off the causeway. Kelly pulled back but some quick footwork from one of the German sections who had burst through the hedge brought them up on Kelly's flank with enough dice left to mow the LMG and Kelly down. Meanwhile the 57mm crew let their inexperience get the better of them when they opened fire on the Stug at long range. 2 aimed shots and a desperate snap-shot saw a near miss and two shells bounce off the frontal armour. The Stug started blasting the end of the lane with HE and 2 of the crew were hit and they picked up 3 CRAP points (Cohesion Reduction and Panic). Turnbull's second in command, Lt Michaelman, was so incensed by Kelly's demise that he immediately led his squad in a counterattack on the orchard and their superior weight of fire sent the Germans reeling back with the whooping paratroopers hot on their heels.

A second platoon of Germans was spotted following the Stug and they immediately started heading East to outflank the position. Meanwhile they had to run the gauntlet of Turnbull and Niland's squads who with Big Men and extra MGs were laying down fire with 6 dice. From further South the LMG in the gable end began chattering away to add to the carnage. Even the hedgerow couldn't prevent this platoon with Feldwebel Bratwurst from picking up a steady drain of killed, wounded and disruption. The sharp crack of the 57mm was again drowned out by the blast of 75mm HE rounds which put paid to the last of the gun crew. Ominously another heavy diesel engine announced the arrival of another assault gun.

Michaelman chased the survivors of the German section who had killed Kelly, and butchered them like diseased pigs under the apple trees before the remnants of the surviving German section started blazing away through the hedgerow and two high velocity gun barrels pushed through the foliage and the stunning blast from the muzzles sent leaves and apples in all directions. Michaelman and his men desperately fled through the trees but splinters and shell blast knocked down the Looey and half the men. The survivors gratefully reached the shelter of the farmhouse they had so unwisely vacated a few minutes beforehand.

By now the third German platoon had moved up in support of the assault guns and began working their way through the shattered orchard. A second Marder also clanked off the causeway and started roaring up the road towards the abandoned 57mm whilst the Stug swung into the highway behind it. The first Marder ground around passed the orchard to the West in order to engage the farmhouse where the survivors of Michaelman's squad were taking up firing positions. At the base of the highway the German FOO began calling down mortar fire on Niland and Turnbull to try to give Bratwurst's platoon some relief. The first rounds whistled down beyond the farmbuildings and out of sight. The second batch caught Sgt Niland's squad along their hedgerow and they realised how those big earthen banks may be great for stopping MG fire, but they offered no protection to the vertical. Several troopers were hit and Niland was forced to pull back to the hedgerow behind. Turnbull was now advanced by himself with the squad to the West all but wiped out, the AT gun knocked out and the squad to his east forced to pull back whilst 2 assault guns were squeaking down the road and German infantry were turning both flanks; reluctantly he called up Lt Col Vandevoort to send him his promised reinforcements to cover his withdrawal.

At this point the Marder drove straight into a rocket from the bazooka team and burst into flames. The Stug rumbled up behind it and tried to fire through the smoke at likely hiding places. Bratwurst's second platoon took advantage of Niland's redeployment to race across the field and into the vacated orchard. The third platoon massed around the farmhouse whilst the FOO shifted his fire onto Turnbull's position. Behind him Lt Wiener led 2 MG42 teams up the highway. Suddenly the remains of Michaelman's squad began flinging grenades and blazing away with everything they had left, forcing the Germans back down the slope. The surviving Marder immediately began to shell the farm reducing the squad to 3 men.

Niland directed his squad's fire on the second platoon which had started infiltrating through the orchard to the east of the road and, realising that they couldn't match the firepower of the paratroopers, Bratwurst decided to trust in numbers and ordered his 3 sections into the assault. Only 2 sections managed to make it as Bratwurst himself was delayed kicking one of his sections out of the bushes where they had gone to ground. It was all over horribly quickly ("Gott in himmel! Hilfe! Aiiieeee! Argh!" Etc) as most of the Germans were killed and the dazed survivors were marched away under guard. On the opposite side of the battlefield the German third platoon shoved into the farmhouse but were amazed to be driven straight out again with casualties by Michaelman's 3 troopers not enough dice left to fire but still plenty of fight left when it comes to knife-work. Further East the bazooka team engaged the Stug. Their first shot was a shocker (snake eyes) as the rocket struck a branch in the hedgerow in front of them and careered off to the side but the second was a beauty (11) and the gun mounting was struck leaving the Stug unable to fire. Further shots convinced the crew to reverse down the highway and head back to the rear. The mortars continued to whittle away at Turnbull's squad while Lt Wiener directed the MG42s from the highway.

At this point 1st Platoon of Easy Co came up under Lt Peterson. He also had Sgt Samson with him who was widely considered to be an absolute genius at laying down fire with a 60mm mortar. As they moved up toward Michaelman's farmhouse the bazooka team began to work their way west along their hedgerow in order to engage the surviving Marder which had resumed blasting Miachaelman's squad. Niland crossed back into his orchard and chased Bratwurst's survivors out at bayonet point.

With full platoons on each side of Michaelman's farm it all came down to the draw of the cards. The Marder came up and the last survivors of Michaelman's squad broke and ran. Easy Co were next out and stormed the farm to engage the Germans beyond. In short order everything was either GI or dead with 4 shocked prisoners joining the other Germans from earlier in the cage. Samson announced his arrival with a row of mortar shells on the highway which wiped out one of the MG42 teams. The bazooka team finished their redeployment and stuck a rocket in the running gear of the Marder. This left the crew to high tail it after the Stug and Feldwebel Bratwurst. The remaining MG42, Lt Wiener, the handful of surviving infantry and the FOO chose to pull back rather than join Haupt Hempentrager amongst the glorious dead.

Lt Turnbull was left to ruefully apologise to Lt Peterson for calling on his aid. Everything had appeared so bleak until the bazooka turned the tables on the assault guns. Had he been a little more patient he could have swung across with Sgt Niland and taken the Germans in the flank without risking the ire of Vandevoort by calling for help when the Regiment was under pressure elsewhere.

Lots of fun. The American airborne carried out prodigious feats of arms and outdid the historical outcome. Hempentrager was lucky to die on the field as he would certainly have been shot by the Gestapo on this showing. Not really his fault though, they had done really well until the bazooka team stepped up and the fragment of Michaelman's squad continued to wrongfoot the German third platoon. The mortars did a fine job for both sides (so more realism there) but the incredible firepower US elite forces can lay down was the true difference. The Germans were just gradually degraded in a firefight and close combat was a complete nightmare so once their supporting armour was knocked out it was all over.

Jon Wimbush

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