"Little Bird to control, we have a spot on the target. Over."
"Go ahead, Little Bird. Over"
"Four nine three four north, one zero four west. Repeat four nine three four north, one zero four west. Two self-propelled guns, with supporting infantry. Over"
"Got that, Little Bird. Message received. Over"
"Roger, control. Over and out."
Pulling the stick gently left, the pilot smiled to himself. Job done, they'd found those guns, and no ack-ack this time. Its twin engines roaring against the headwind, the P38 accelerated as it banked, beginning to turn a wide circle, heading for home.
The duty officer saluted, turned smartly, and walked back to his desk, leaving the small written note in his senior's hand. Despite the success of his men at Arthenay, the Colonel remained troubled. Cota had been lucky, but now there were more damned 88mm guns on the flank of his tanks. That was not what he needed, not at all. And there was no question about it, there would be no further advance until those German guns were silenced. Too many good men had died on the beach at Omaha and he wasn't going to have more unnecessary deaths on his conscience. Not this time. He picked up the phone to give the order.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee beckoned Lieutenant Cooper, George Company, 3rd Battalion, 175th Infantry, towards the tent at the top of the hill, where an older, heavily moustached man stooped above a field table, poring over a map with two other officers. But for his helmet, and the colour of his uniform, he might have been mistaken for a commander in the US civil war.
"Major Foster?" he asked the group.
"Be with you in a moment, Lieutenant", the older man replied, apparently without even looking in his direction. "Sinclair, get this man some coffee".
In moments a steaming metal mug of black liquid was forced into his hand by a fussing, subservient lackey, who scurried away as rapidly as he had arrived, before Cooper had even registered from where he had appeared. The coffee was strong, burnt and bitter, but still very welcome.
"Lieutenant Cooper". The Major spoke his name as a statement, not a question. "Good of you to join us."
Not as if he had any choice, he thought.
"You'll be aware that we've been ordered to halt again," the Major continued. "Well, you and G Company are going to get us on the move again".
D+4, 10th June 1944
Now the attention moves away from the main attack towards Isigny. Concerned about the vulnerability of their flank, and aware of the presence of a Marder battery around the village of St Germain-du-Pert, the Americans halt until they are able to outflank this German position. The fresh German force defending this position comprises as infantry platoon supported by two Marder IIIs, and begins the game with a Force Morale of 9. American forces comprise a platoon with support points spent on two Shermans, a forward observer and 81mm off table mortar battery, a medic and additional BARs for each team. They start the game with a Force Morale of 10, so begin with the initiative. This is Scenario 5 from the rule book. After the Patrol Phase, German jump-off points are concentrated around the church and houses of St Germain du Pert, with three of the US jump-off points at their starting table edges. One of their jump-off points ends up within the village, dangerously close to the German positions and allowing American troops to deploy in one of the houses.
|Dangerously close jump-off points|
Stealthily crossing the fields, shielded by a herd of cattle that barely registered their presence, they reached the edge of the building easily and entered without a sound. A bombed-out ruin, its roof collapsed, the outlying building offered no shelter and understandably had been left abandoned. Finding good defensive positions, so close to the enemy that they could hear at least one man snoring, they waited in silence for the attack to begin.
Turn 1, Phases 1-5
The US deploy their forward observer and one Senior Leader behind a hedge with a clear view of the whole village. Squad 1 with their Junior Leader are deployed in the house at the rear of the village. The Germans deploy infantry squads in two houses and the church, where they also deploy their Panzershreck team. The Americans deploy their remaining infantry teams close to the forward observer and one Sherman along the road. They successfully request mortar support.
Lieutenant Cooper checked his watch. It had been an hour already, plenty of time for Franks to have gotten his men in position. In the silence, Cooper could hear distant metallic squealing; the wheels and tracks of armour - the movement of those Nazi self-propelled guns, no doubt.
Squinting into the distance, towards the church, he just caught a glimpse of one of the Marders before he was caught unprepared by the sudden explosion. Slate tiles on the church roof and the western side of the steeple flowered out amongst a cloud of dust as the mortar barrage began, covering the area around in smoke. Behind him the he could now hear American tanks behind his position. Shermans of the 747th, announced by the unmistakeable, reassuring drawl of their Detroit motors.
US infantry squad 1 advances tactically along a hedge line towards the village, as the Germans deploy both Marders in the village close to the church. An immediate mortar barrage is slightly off target but hits troops in the church, killing one man, and one of the Marders, to no effect. The Sherman advances and another appears along the road behind, as the second US Senior Leader deploys.
|The 29th Infantry advance|
Turn 1, Phases 8-12
One Marder moves around the church to face the Shermans, and shoots inflicting 1 shock, while the other shoots at US troops in the house, killing 2 and causing 1 point of shock. The troops in the house shoot back and a firefight develops between houses over several phases, killing 1 German, but with the US troops taking the worst of it, with 2 men killed, 5 more points of shock accrued, and its Junior Leader wounded such that he may not activate again this turn. US squad 1 continues its cautious advance, and US squad 2 crosses the hedge and moves tactically across the field beyond towards the church.
As soon as he had shouted the order and fallen face-flat in the damp earth of the field, he realised he and his men were not the target. Another German shell whistled overhead, missing, with two coming back in response. Cooper looked up. The house was still there, just about, though its front wall had largely collapsed, and he could see the movement of men from Franks's section leaving the building from the rear, and Germans advancing to the front. The advance position had been lost - and there was nothing that Cooper could do about it.
Cooper ducked instinctively, cursing as he bit his tongue in the moment of the explosion. He hadn't even seen the shell, but there was now a crater in the road behind, with one wheel and some tracks of the lead Sherman in it. The tank wouldn't be going anywhere, but those men were lucky it hadn't been any worse.
The Marder shoots the Sherman again but fails to hit, and both Shermans return fire causing 1 shock. The firefight between the houses continues, the Americans suffering a further 4 kills and 6 points of shock, and they break. The mortar barrage kills 2 Germans in the church. German infantry leave one of the houses and capture the US jump-off point at the edge of the village. German infantry leave the church to take up positions along the hedge line. Finally, the Marder returns fire successfully and the lead Sherman is immobilised.
A young man had rushed to his position, thinking the Lieutenant injured.
"I'm OK son," Cooper reassured, "Just bit my tongue. Nothing serious."
It was time to get the men moving. There was confusion ahead and behind and he knew this was the situation the Germans would take advantage of to counter-attack. As if on cue, as their advance began, they could make out the enemy at the edge of the smoke ahead, and opened fire. Caught by surprise, the Germans tried to take cover, but the firepower of Cooper's men, alert to the danger all around, vengeful of the friends they had seen killed, was more than they could take. As the Americans ran forward, a young German officer turned, desperately attempting to hold them back, disappearing into the smoke as Cooper opened fire in that direction with his Thompson.
"Forward", the Lieutenant ordered, gritting his teeth as his men advanced toward the German armour which had once again found itself beneath the smoke of the mortar barrage.
The mortar barrage shifts, killing two Germans now caught in the open and causing 2 points of shock, while the US infantry continue their advance, despite German harassing fire. The Marder is about to fire, but the Americans use a Chain of Command die to interrupt, and the Sherman fires first. Shots are exchanged but miss. The German platoon opposing the US infantry advance takes heavy fire and is wiped out, and its Junior leader is also lightly wounded. The Marders shift position to oppose the advancing US infantry and the one remaining effective Sherman.
|The end of the Marders|
"Damn, Sir, that was close," Peterson stuttered, and then fell to the ground as a single shot rang out. Cooper swung round instinctively, firing back at the shooter, the German officer, the one who had previously disappeared into the smoke. This time he fell to the ground, dead.
"Damn it to hell," Peterson yelped, holding his leg where the bullet had torn a hole in his ODs and opened the skin; complaining, but knowing his luck - this wound wan not serious.
Cooper smiled. The guns were destroyed and the Germans had fallen back again. Major Foster could rest easy, the job had been done.
Phases 21-31; Turn 2 Phases 1-4
One Marder is hit by the continuing mortar barrage and takes sufficient shock to be abandoned by its crew. US infantry are close enough to attack the other Marder with grenades, which they do over several turns. The Marder tries unsuccessfully to run the infantry over, and is finally destroyed by a shot from the Sherman against its side armour. Finally the wounded German Junior Leader is killed and German force morale is reduced to 0, though the result is close with the Americans ending the game at Force Morale 2.