After a few weeks Col.Bourne and I once more met at the Bourne Bunker to have another go at the Breakthrough at La Cambe.
Scraping together what’s left of their platoons, B Company prepares for another attack with everything they got. They called in fresh tanks as well and they got a 81mm mortar battery in their backs for support.
Will it be enough to break through La Cambe hamlet or will the German platoon under the command of Unterfeldwebel Claus Zausel hold their position for a fourth time?
This AAR will deal with things from a German perspective (since I play the Germans in this campaign). You can find the AARs from the US point of view over on Col.Bourne’s blog Lead Poets Society.
Nothing changed about the platoon structure or how it is put together. As per the scenario I’m allowed 12 levels of support, plus one more this time due to the positive impression Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s performance left on his commanding officer. For this, and after reports of heavy fighting at La Cambe, battalion HQ sent over a Medical Orderly, Dr. van Nostrand, a Dutch doctor who joined the German army in 1940. Ever since the last game, communication with battalion HQ in Isignybroke down though.
The support they get hasn’t changed (as usual), and reflects the tactical situation: 3 Entrenchments, 1 Adjutant, 1 section of barbed wire obstacles, 1 Medical Orderly (Dr. Van Nostrand), 1 Pak40 anti-tank gun with 5 crew and Junior Leader (Gefreiter Zéman).
The US side got a fresh platoon and six extra support points for their next breakthrough attempt.
The US support is as impressive as ever: 3 Sherman tanks, a Forward Observer team with a battery of 81mm mortars on hold, 1 .50cal HMG team, 1 .30cal MMG team, 1 Flamethrower team and an additional BAR for each infantry squad.
Map 1 – Probe at La Cambe
“8. Juni 1944 (Continued)
After the third attack on our position today the men are holding together alright. We probably would be exhausted if we had any time do allow us to be. Gefreite Rauch and Lohse raise concerns about the ammunition situation, especially the MG ammunition may run low if the Americans keep up their attacks as fiercly as they do. Overall the man are in good spirits though. I haven’t informed them about the communication breakdown with battalion HQ yet.“
US troops advance against the German positions once more. To win the game, they (played by Col.Bourne) have to move one team across the German table edge. The Germans (played by yours truly) have to stop them from doing this by forcing the US troops to withdraw.
…unsurpringly hasn’t changed much either.
On the Jump-Off Points there is a bit of a change though:
Right after the last attack, Unterfeldwebel Zausel had sent a scouting party down the left flank to have a look at the situation around the building next with the barbed wire obstacle next to it. So far this had been an important base for the US attack against the German-held orchard. The scouts were very surprised to find the building abandoned. Maybe the Americans are to change their approach?
The German scouts work out a secure way to get to the building. If the enemy doesn’t want it, it should be put to good use.
US Force Morale: 9
German Force Morale: 11
With manpower in B company dwindling, the re-organized squads feature several men who partook in prior attacks. This experience shows, and US side is remarkably quick to dvelop their forces.
The German Jump-Off Point in the building right at the US frontline is identified as a possible problem, and a full section is sent over to capture it.
This takes some time, but my defenders don’t do anything about it (not really worth it), and at least it ties up a US squad and pulls them over to the flank opposite the orchard. Once the job is done they stay in the building for quite a while.
The focus of the US attack seems to lie on the other flank though now. They deploy their .50cal, the Forward Observers team, an infantry squad, and a flamethrower team behind the hedges. They are backed up by three Sherman tanks, one on the main road, two circling towards my right flank.
A scouts team of two particularly unlucky individuals is sent across the ploughed fields to lure out the defenders.
They even get horrifyingly far towards my right JOP. At this point in time I regretted having bascially wasted one JOP in the building to the front, but the unexpected option was just too tempting.
I’m forced to use one Chain of Command die to ambush the scouts team, otherwise they would have had my flank collapse before I even deployed anything.
The US scouts are gunned down eventually, but force me to depoy Lohse’s squad in the building as well due to highly inaccurate fire by my ambushing team.
Now that the German positions are clear, it’s time to bring up the tanks.
This in turn forces me to deploy the Pak40 once more. They open fire at the Sherman which advances right towards them, but the shells just bounce off the tank’s front armour! With time the crew take some shock, but Zémans gunners are not able to land the decisive hit.
“Granatwerfer!” The scouts and tanks have done their job – several German teams revealed their position and provide a target for the US mortar battery. This time there is no ranging shot; they fire for effect right away. The barrage deviates at first, but moves right on my guys eventually.
The mortar shells do bad things to my teams and the Germans suffer three casualties. At this point in time I have two Chain of Command dice, but so does Col.Bourne. So if I ended the turn (and thus the mortar barrage), he could have it continue. Then – as so often – disaster strikes for the Americans:
The turn ends, and so does the barrage. Col.Bourne could keep it going by spending Chain of Command dice, but I could just as well use mine to end the turn again and again.
At least my foremost Jump-Off Point is finally captured now, so there’s a small victory in it for the US side. The Forward Artillery Observer instantly rings up the battery commander to ask what’s wrong. They’re having some supply troubles right now, but should be available again later (try again next phase).
Meanwhile the US tank on the main road advances again. 8,8cm (from off-table) and Pak40 shells zip by, but eventually the Pak40 hits and the tank explodes in an impressive display.
Col.Bourne, who saved up his Chain of Command dice, cleverly advances his centre Jump-Off Point right behind the burning husk of the vehicle. You know that somebody’s got a plan once they start moving Jump-Off Points.
Suddenly there’s a lot of movement in the US ranks. The platoon sergeant deploys right behind the still burning tank, along with the third infantry squad. The squad who captured my silly Jump-Off Point earlier run across the open field to the main road as well. This instantly has Obergefreiter Stanischewski’s squad in the orchard (by now Stanischewski’s favourite spot in the world) open fire at them.
At the far side of the other flank .50cal fire and the occasional 76mm tank gun shell have taken their toll on the gun crew. By sheer luck the crew of the Sherman with the impenetrable armour lose their nerve and bail out.
It looks like the enemy is attempting to break-through along the main road. Finally, Unterfeldwebel Zausel deploys and gets hold of the team who ambushed the US scouts in the beginning of the game. Since then they’ve been hit in the open by the mortar barrage and have been hiding since. Pulling them back into the action, Zausel leads them around the buildings and back to the road.
Realizing the situation, Stanischewski urges his squad on to get to the road as well. Problem is that if you’re dug in really well …well, you’re dug in. The men stumble to their feet, but barely get a move on (three 1s on the movement roll).
This gives the US infantry ample time to just sprint down the road. German MGs hammering at them from one building (Lohse’s squad) and stops the BAR team, as well as taking out the junior leader. The rifle squad carries on and gets within spitting range of the German table edge, as the little LMG team, sent out by Zausel, open fire.
Just so you get a better overview, because at that point in time a LOT of things happen. It’s not just the squad moving along the road that’s advancing. At the same time the US infantry squad who took the forward Jump-Off Point earlier – seeing how the German squad haphazardly tumble out of their position – go for it.
They scale the hedges, and advance through the orchard. Stanischewski is up in arms – all of a sudden there’s Americans all over their position!
Not pictured: The third US squad come running across the open fields towards Lohse’s position and the Pak40, which at that point is only manned by Gefreiter Zéman. The rest of the crew got killed.
The MG fire stops the rifle team in their tracks, they break and run off (back towards their own lines).
With this part of the situation defused, Stanischewski’s squad swivel around and fire at the US squad running through the orchard towards the German table edge. Likewise, they break and flee back across the hedges. They also got up to 3″ to my table edge. Phew.
Now for the third squad. Largely unhindered, they run for my right flank. Gefreiter Zéman, formerly commanding the gun crew, now on his own, sitting in the gun emplacement, is the only obstacle in their way.
Zéman’s heroic last stand is short and bloody. He is killed in close combat. However, this buys Lohse’s squad just enough time to rush out of their building and open fire at the remaining US squad, pinning them in place.
Once more, the US attack is thwarted and they have to retreat.
US Force Morale: 0
German Force Morale: 8
Hooray, another victory. This time the US troops came within an inch of victory though, and pretty much at the same time they got within 3″ of victory elsewhere too, so it was as close as you can get really.
What hurt that US attack in the end was the lack of command dice. In the end Col.Bourne just couldn’t roll the required 1s to activate teams (Junior Leaders down, one team of each squad was either separated or broken).
The Turn End after two phases of mortar barrage of course was unlucky as well. What worked well this time was the tanks. The one in the far right was majorly unimpressed with the Pak40’s shells. In the end though it comes down to the number of activations you get. You can get as many support units as you want, the number of activations is always limited.
Other than in prior games though I found chain of command dice to be exceedingly rare and I barely dared to use any in case there’s another mortar barrage or a tank breakthrough and I have to ambush with the Panzerschreck team.
After the game we had a little chat about the scenario. It is tough on the US side due to how the German defenders have so much open space to deal damage on, and once that’s done they can disappear behind the hedges or into the building. And losing a scout team or a vehicle to lure out German units will also cost the US side in force morale. Sure, they can use chain of command dice to avoid rolling once, and the lower US force morale hurt them as well this time.
Either way, it was really close this time. Moving the Jump-Off Point, along with deploying the second Senior Leader with the third squad on there was an excellent plan.
Campaign Phase and Aftermath
The Germans lost all of the Pak40 crew this time, along with three casualties from the main platoon due to the mortar barrage and some small arms fire.
No problem though, as the difference in Force Morale in the end makes up for that. The German wounded are back in the game right away. During the latter phases of the game, Unterfeldwebel Zausel and his men took a US NCO prisoner, but by crazy coincidence he managed to escape! The other two prisoners (taken in the prior game) have been picked up by Lt.Gruber and his little tank and taken to a prisoner camp in Silesia.
The campaign phase is shorter than usual because there will be no roll for the commanding officer’s opinion of Zausel due to clipped radio lines. The Men’s Opinion of Zausel changes by +1 to a total of 4. Despite the close call, Zausel’s outlook on the situation remains Cheerful.
“8. Juni 1944 (Continued)
The fourth attack today was repelled. Good Zéman and his men were lost to a furious US attack, which almost led to a breakthrough. The men stood firm though and the enemy was thrown back. Things look good right now. Going by the evacuation plan I got yesterday two companies of the 726th and at least one battery of AR 352 should have been evacuated across the bridge now.”
I hope that you enjoyed this battle report, make sure to have a look at Col.Bourne’s take on the events on his blog. Until then, thanks for reading and see you soon!