26 days since the Allied stormed the Normandy beaches. Allied forces have been trapped to their bridgeheads and Führer has given orders that they are to be destroyed there, thrown back to the Channel. In their credit it must be said that they fight on tenaciously and have started another big offensive to break out. Part of the attack comes along the Ribeaux river valley defended by the 750th Grenadier Division supported by the SS kampfgruppe Engel. This far the 750th has given ground and our forces in Pierrecourt are facing encirclement before our own counteroffensive can be launched to cut off the head of the allied attack. 1002nd regiment of the 750th has dug in around the Pierrecourt, with the 4th company defending the crossroads between Chemont and Pierrecourt.
Lacking motivation, poor leadership and insufficient trust in the general situation has weakened the morale of the company and Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg has been ordered to reinforce the company with a platoon of Panthers and assume command of the defence. Enemy attack was imminent, recon indicating that enemy attack is spearheaded by a tank company supported with at least a company of mechanized infantry. Weather was unfortunately clear, so strong enemy air activity could be expected before own air forces arrive and clear the skies.
Initial plans, Panther locations marked by ovals.
Young Hauptsturmführer was not very happy with his assignment, armour was not supposed to be committed piecemeal, nor support infantry in static defence. But one does not ask, one obeys. Upon arrival, he quickly readjusted the defence (as original defender has set up the defence in wrong direction, confused by French maps) and told troops to occupy more forward defence to lure attacker towards registered artillery targets and immediately received news that enemy scouts were sighted. The footsloggers were still running towards the church when first enemy tanks crested the nearby hill. So the plan required improvisation and aggressiveness. Infantry would pin the attacker while artillery and Panthers would deliver the finishing punch.
His own Panthers guarding the left flank immediately opened fire, brewing one Sherman and driving other 2 back with multiple hits. Enemy jabos were unfortunately awake, as one immediately swooped down and attacked his armour. Fortunately his troops reported no direct hits and no damage, so Panthers were still free to operate. Young commander's aggressive training took over and he told the Panthers to hunt forward, making sure that the infantry in church would be supported.
Shermans show themselves
Aggressive German recon by Blinds
On the other flank US infantry was spotted and as soon as they passed the last line of bocage, defending infantry opened fire, with one US squad gutted, platoon leader dying while trying to get his men advancing and rest of the unit suppressed behind the bocage.
Lead US platoon finds Main Line of Resistance (MLR)
Attacker tried to bring more of his troops forward, but unfortunately halftracks revealed themselves to the Panthers and half of the 2nd US platoon was soon withdrawing between burning halftracks. Better part of a US company was either burning or dead and this far Hauptsturmführer had suffered no casualties!
One shot, one kill! Halftracks start to wish their commander was not so aggressive
Stuck behind bocage, under 81mm barrage. Platoon had seen better days.
And supporting tanks suffer, too.
But the attacker pressed onwards, disregarding the mounting casualties. Jabos came screaming from sky time after time, but mostly failed to hit their targets. But slowly the amount of fire directed at the defenders started to tell. First Imgemberg's own tank lost its' main gun to jabo attack, next attack went wide and hit the PaK40 squarely, meaning that the right flank now had only on IG 75mm for long range anti-tank work. And the artillery observer in the church steeple was finally spotted and killed just before the spotting rounds from 150mm were to land.
Jabos! Where is the promised air cover?
And while the Panthers on the left flank were turning to unleash their fire at the newcomers, another platoon of Shermans made a glorious dash to flank them (the US player got exactly the right combination of cards and rolled very well for the movement, so suddenly the there were two Shermans facing the vulnerable side of Panthers). A vicious short range fire fight developed, with finally one Panther abandoned, two Shermans ablaze and one Panther with damaged main gun and broken track (the turn ended with neither having fired and all within 9", so we let them fire simultaneously).
Big cat prevails, just.
And to add to the insult, the original surviving Sherman had limped to the bocage, survived few hits from the IG with main gun barely functioning and finally shocked the remaining Panther out of action. With no AT assets remaining, Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg had no other course of action but to withdraw his troops deeper to the forest. American attack was bloodied and blunted, but there was no question that they had the control of the crossroads.
After FOO died, MMG tried to use church as firebase: bad idea with all those .50" hmgs around...
The 75mm infantry gun gave a good showing, but could not engage half a dozen Shermans alone. Until turn 12 it looked very clear that Germans would win a clean victory, but the US player kept pushing on, ignoring casualties and probing for weaknesses with great audacity. And that finally paid off, after the Panthers diverted their attention for a moment. It took just one turn whole the whole defence to crumble as all AT assets were disabled. We almost played the game along the wrong table axis, as it never occurred to us that the topside of the map was not north.
Halfway through the campaign and I must say I like it more and more. This campaign also shows that regular games combined with a short debriefing sessions actually make players better. It used to be that many of our games were decided when a player first suffered a serious setback or first (and only) defensive line was breached. So we are seeing players continuing as long as there is a chance (or as long as it is not silly o'clock) and there is at least serious thought for a reserve.