Friday, 20 January 2017

29, Let's Go! - Turn 3: Arthenay

D+3, 9th June 1944

Stretching his arms and beginning to enjoy the morning sunshine, Lieutenant Carter's attention was suddenly seized by a jeep sending a cloud of dust up from the road verge as it sped around the halted tank column towards him, two men aboard, one of whom was almost certainly an officer. He corrected his helmet slightly and stepped forward as the vehicle pulled sharply nearby. A young man, who couldn't be more than eighteen, was sitting stiffly in the driving seat, his face betraying the nervous attention to duty of the junior-ranked assigned to the most powerful of the senior. Slouching in the passenger seat, the stub of a dead cigar between his teeth was an older man, a general, his face familiar to every man of the fighting 29th.

"Son, you need to get your men moving," General Cota stated, his tone firm and undeniable. "I don't care what orders have come down to you from Colonel Goode's office. The 29th are taking the initiative again."

"Sir, yes sir", snapped the Lieutenant, smiling, moving back to cascade that order to his men. Thank God there was someone in command who knew what needed doing and was doing his part.

General Cota wryly smiled as well, tossing away the dead stub of his cigar, patting his pockets in search of a new one. He sat back in the passenger seat of the jeep, hunting in another pocket for a lighter, and waved the driver forward further along the column to encourage other units.

"Run me up that road, son."

Colonel Goode's call for a halt at La Cambe has been overridden by personal order of General Cota. The US immediately seize the initiative and attack during Turn 3.

Just over a mile to the west, the Germans, retreating from La Cambe towards Isigny, had halted overnight at the hamlet of Arthenay, where they planned to fight a delaying action against the advancing Americans. They had had little sleep. The radio operator was frantically trying to make contact with HQ, but the lines were still down. On the western horizon the orange-red glow of Isigny burning persisted, as it had through the night. But there was a glimmer of hope; they had made intermittent contact with a self-propelled gun battery to the north-west, well-positioned to support their position.

Moving back after darkness fell at La Cambe had been essential, but Unterfeldwebel Lund was all too aware of the effect this had had on his men. Sullen, stern faces everywhere; but the NCOs were doing their best to bolster morale, keeping soldiers busy and even cracking the occasional joke, despite their lack of sleep. Here, at Arthenay, they would halt and attempt once again to slow the relentless American advance. A small farmstead, the woods and hedges at Arthernay seemed a reasonable defensive position, especially if they could get the support of those Marders to the north-west.

German infantry defend the hedge line at the edge of the orchard
The Germans are defending with a denuded force following the US victory at La Cambe. Their basic force finds itself nine men short, with six dead and three wounded, returning next game. The one man they were missing after turn 1 has now returned to duty. The Germans select two snipers and an MG42 on tripod mount as support. They begin the game with 8 Force Morale points.

The Americans are supported with two Shermans with Junior Leaders, a forward oberver with 81mm mortar batters, additional BARs for all rifle teams, and a medic. They begin the game with 10 Force Morale points.

By the time the first of his men had taken up positions, there were already signs of the American advance. Movement within an orchard, partly concealed by a hedge line, betrayed the presence of enemy scouts. Lund snapped the order for his men to move faster and they took up positions swiftly.

Turn 1, Phases 1-5
US deploy Forward Observer, Squad 1 and the front corner of the orchard and along the hedge line. With three consecutive turns the Germans deploy Squad 1 in the house 1 with Junior Leader, Squad 2 on left hand flank at small hedge line, a sniper in the front left hand building, Squad 3 at the front of the small orchard, their MMG team in the front left hand house and the Senior Leader in the front right hand building. The US deploy Squad 2 in the orchard and call for support fire from mortars.
The simple option would have been to stay in position, holding as long as possible, hoping to wear the enemy down. But that would not work today, Lund knew. Morale was low, and the enemy determined and numerous. A static defence wasn't going to hold for long, and he would simply lose more men if they sat still. Their only hope was to take the fight to the enemy, and Germans were strong in counterattack.

Obergefrieter Schmidt was given his order. "You four and you three with the machine gun", he shouted, pointing, "With me, now". He scrambling forward with his men, leading them to the opposite hedge, to draw the enemy towards them. Half-crawling, the soldiers worked their way across the muddy field to the opposite hedge line, as American mortar fire opened up on the German lines, hitting the house with a shower of roof tiles, a second shell landing nearby as the squad took cover in a field ditch alongside the hedge. As the noise of the shells subsided, they could make out the unmistakable sound of tanks moving along the road towards them.
German troops advance to take up forward positions
Turn 1, Phases 6-10
The Germans send a four-man rifle team around the small hedge moving tactically towards the Americans. The US mortar barrage  is on target and causes 1 point of shock to each of the sniper, MG team in left hand house and the rifle team in right hand house. The US then deploy the first Sherman. The German rifle team advance tactically with their LMG team and Junior Leader and reach the hedge line.

From the cover of the hedge the German squad watched the Sherman approach ahead of them, pursued by a jogging platoon of fresh-faced GIs. There were certain to be others in the column, following behind. Mortar shells flew overhead, exploding around the houses and the positions they had moved from only moments before, their sound interspersed with the screams of the injured and the shouts of NCOs trying to encourage their men to hold. Smoke from the mortar barrage obscured the landscape all around the houses, and then, suddenly, the barrage ceased.

In the comparative silence, the German officers tried to establish control, sending a Panzershreck team forward as more tanks and men appeared as the enemy column continued its relentless approach.  In support, American infantry on its flanks moved forward, leaving the cover of the hedgerows and moving cautiously across the open fields towards Arthenay, while a supporting squad provides support, waiting in the hedgerow, their weapons trained on the German positions.
US troops, supported by tanks, advance
Turn 1, Phases 11-13; Turn 2, Phases 1-2; Turn 3, Phases 1-3; Turn 4, Phases 1-2
US Sherman advances along road, while the US 3rd Squad deploys along the right hand hedge. The mortar barrage continues, delivering 1 point of shock to the MG teams in both houses and killing the Junior Leader in the right hand house. The German Senior Leader removes 1 point of shock from all the teams in the right hand house. Squad 2 MG team reaches the hedge. The Germans use a CoC dice to end end the turn, hoping to stop the mortar barrage, but the US use one of their own CoC dice to maintain it. The barrage is moved 6” towards their own lines to improve the smoke screen, causing 1 point of shock to the MG team, and 1 point of shock and 1 kill on the rifle team in the left hand house, and 1 point of shock on the MG team in right hand house. The Sherman advances. The Germans remove 1 point of shock from each team in the right hand house, and spend another CoC dice to end turn. This time the US mortar barrage ceases, and when requested again it becomes unavailable for the rest of the game. A second Sherman in deployed, as is the Panzerschrek team.

From the upper storey of the house, Lund could just make out the enemy troops moving in and around one of the farm buildings on the opposite side of the field. The radio operator beside him was attempting to make contact with the artillery battery to the north as he scanned the horizon. Seeing an opportunity, he gave the order to open fire. Gunfire burst through the air, smashing through the windows of the opposite building. In response, the Americans behind the hedge fired back at the German positions, killing the man standing adjacent to the radio operator, sending him tumbling backward into the furniture in the centre of the room. The enemy fire intensified, supported by the forward tank, and a shell burst through the wall, exploding, throwing Lund to the floor.

Deafened and bruised, as Lund came round, he became aware of the men lying dead and wounded beside him. Obergefreiter Steiger, a young, enthusiastic man liked by his men, was one of them. Another life wasted by this terrible war. The gunfire continued, peppering the room, but the radio operator was excited, alert, shouting co-ordinates to someone on the other end of the line. In moments, a shell, fired from a distant gun, whistled through the air and below, at the front of the column, the lead Sherman exploded with a direct hit. A momentary success, but the mood was clear, and in the ensuing firefight he saw another of his NCOs fall. Too many Germans lay dead or injured; they had failed to hold the enemy back or delay their advance, and the defences of Arthenay would soon be overrun by the enemy. Lund did not have to issue the order as his men fell back in disarray and the relentless American advance across this corner of Normandy continued.

Turn 4, Phases 3-8; Turn 5, Phase 1; Turn 6, Phases 1-7
German and US forces exchange fire over multiple phases, the Germans taking the majority of shock and kills and using command points to remove shock as a priority. American firepower is more intensive and more effective, helped by their having three successive phases. The Germans use a CoC die to shoot with the off-table Marders at the lead Sherman, knocking it out, and spend their final CoC die to end the turn, healing one of their injured Junior Leaders. Opening Turn 5, US Squad 1 shoots at German Squad 2 killing 3 and causing 1 point of shock and wound to Junior Leader. The German Squad 2 runs away. German Force Morale is reduced to 3. The Americans use a CoC die to end the turn, and German Force Morale is reduced to 1. With little to lose, the Germans continue shooting, but shock inflicted is easily removed by the US Leaders. US shooting wounds one of the German Junior Leaders in due course and German force morale is reduced to 0 and the game ends.

Campaign Movement at the end of Game 3
Again the Germans have suffered a loss, this time with 11 casualties, one of whom is Obergefreiter Steiger, who on a roll of 6 is not replaced. This means that when Lund's men next take the field they will be denuded by 10 mean and 1 Junior Leader dead plus 3 wounded. All others retired safely. With the German CO still out of radio contact, his opinion remains unknown. The attitude of the men moves from -1 to -4, which will affect future force morale, and Lund's own outlook remains Worried.

The 29th's successful breakthrough at Arthenay improves Colonel Goode's outlook to Worried.