|Rearguard elements of the 352nd Division deploy to defend the former HQ at Osmanville|
This week saw the ninth and final game of our Chain of Command Campaign recreating the battle by the US 29th Infantry Division to break out along the coast from Omaha beach and force a link up with US forces landing further west at Utah beach at the base of the Cherbourg peninsular.
The uniting of the two beachheads required the capturing of two important towns, Isigny and Carentan where it was hoped a link up could be established with the 101st Airborne Division dropped in the area to secure key crossing points.
From the German perspective, the battle was one of defence looking to delay and hold up US advances out of their beachheads to allow time for German reinforcing divisions to arrive from the interior to seal off further advances and to eventually allow a German counterattack to destroy the allied beachheads.
|Planner map showing the position of the respective tables throughout our campaign|
Thus far Ian's determined elements of the 352nd Infantry Division have been giving the 29th a real battle to press forward, and managed to inflict two defeats on the US troops with a corresponding delay on their advance.
However the US troops turned the tide in games seven and eight and now find themselves at the road junction outside the village of Osmanville on table 5, astride the main road to Isigny having driven the German forces back to their former HQ.
The area is held by a rearguard force hoping to join the rest of the division that, thanks to the two game delay, has fallen back over the key bridge at Isigny which they intend to destroy once this rearguard force has managed to push the Americans back and fallen back themselves securing an outright German campaign victory.
If you haven't followed the games played in this campaign, you can pick up the story in the series of links below covering events from game two onward and the final link to 'Welsh Wargamer in Devon', Jason's, our Gamemeister's, personal blog, where he neatly summarises the overall casualty rates and gives the umpires overview of how the whole series of games developed from his perspective.
Games Two (US Victory) & Three (Bloody Draw)
Game Four (US Victory)
Game Five (German Victory & Pushback)
Games Six (German Victory & Hold) & Seven (US Victory)
Game Eight (US Victory)
The map below illustrated the position outlined in the briefing with close country crisscrossed with low hedgerows and roads lined with drainage ditches. In the large northern field anti-glider poles topped with mines add further to the restriction on movement.
To reflect the surprise element of US troops rapidly moving up in the wake of their last win the German defenders will be deploying from the HQ building at the rear of their position after the US patrol markers have taken a D3 number of extra moves before they are able to react.
The mission objective for the US troops was to capture the HQ building, by either occupying and holding it at game end or by breaking the German defenders in the battle that would facilitate the same outcome.
|Our table recreating the map in the briefing|
|US and German JOPs in position at the end of the Patrol Phase|
With the dominance of mortar attacks in two recent games it was perhaps not surprising that both sides took medium mortars as an option and used them practically from the get go.
The cagey deployment by both sides reflected this anticipated troop type selection and the fact that both sides came with a poor force morale of eight for the US and ten for the Germans leaving little wriggle room to soak up bad events.
|Down comes the mortar fire from both sides. The US Shermans are on and about to move up under the cover of this barrage|
The Americans beat the Germans to the drop with the mortar barrage but only by one phase of play, by simply calling for an immediate fire for effect rather than taking the spotting round the German troops adopted, which with their follow up barrage, would have blocked the US observer from seeing the target area in the following US phase.
Thus the centre of the table and the forward most German JOP was engulfed in exploding mortar bombs.
The US made the most of this large display of exploding ordnance to move their tanks forward and in the wake of the two barrages to close on the German positions with a plan to advance the US JOP's closer as well to allow a close assault of the nearest German JOP once the mortar fire ceased.
|The first units deploy, with the Germans hoping to defend their forward JOP (right). Whilst the Sherman burns in the background down by the stream|
Needless to say the moves rattled by as the focus shifted to getting the armour up together with accumulating as many Chain of Command dice as possible and, by the time the turn ended, the US had a distinct advantage with three to one in accumulated dice.
When the mortar fire ceased the game changed completely as the US closely followed by the Germans lost contact with and further support from their mortars.
With a Sherman tank threatening the German position from the south close to the stream and having managed to bog itself, the Germans deployed a Panzerschreck that missed and was caught in the return fire causing it to break and seeing both sides move level with eight force morale points with the German reaction test.
|Perhaps the standout unit in this final game, the trusty Sherman tank|
With the German troops keen to defend the front of the orchard they were in and their forward JOP, that Sherman had to be dealt with and so with the failure of the Panzerschreck a Panzerfaust was turned to from a German squad close by and this time the German bomb found its mark, completely destroying the tank, but with the US force opting to burn a CoC dice with their lost vehicle and avoid the loss in force morale.
Then the German forward squad attempting to defend the orchard forward JOP was caught deploying by a US squad on overwatch in the nearby house supported by the remaining US Sherman.
The combination of close range HE, machinegun and small arms fire, quickly shredded the German unit and saw another two point drop in German force morale.
The battle was getting fierce and extremely tense as units started to deploy at close range and with little room to absorb losses both forces strove to keep in touch with the other by getting in damaging blows.
The German response to losing a section of infantry was to deploy a tripod MG42 in a dug in position that enfiladed another US squad close to the burning US tank and sheltering behind a hedge.
The German machinegun returned the compliment shredding the US squad which managed to hang on long enough to go tactical before becoming pinned, waiting for the other Sherman to come to the corner of a nearby house and fire on the offending German weapon.
The US rifle squad broke under the onslaught and this time the US force morale took a hit, but not before the American tank knocked out the German machinegun forcing another German force morale loss.
In response that daring Panzerschreck, now rallied, returned to the fray, firing off another rocket towards the lone Sherman peeking out from among the houses. The cover proved its worth causing the Germans to miss and this time the US tank finished the job, yet again, killing the remaining German operator and forcing yet more morale loss and lost command dice.
|The US infantry advance across the road up to the hedge bordering the orchard. The forward German JOP has now been withdrawn to the back table edge near the HQ building|
The battle was getting fiercer and more desperate reflected in the combined attack by another German tripod MG team firing on the US squad in the lane opposite the orchard and followed up by a second German squad operating in the orchard to come charging out of the trees to attack it.
Hand grenades heralded the German assault and, as always, close combat is often unforgiving to both sides, but in this case the US got the better of it, just managing to win and not break, but seeing the German section smashed with its loss and its leader killed dismantling the German force morale to within two points of breaking and reducing the German command dice tally still further.
|The German squad in the orchard (top centre) is about to come forward to assault the US rifle squad lining the hedge on the lane by the houses. Note the German JOP bottom left soon to be approached by a US recce team.|
The Sherman tank was being kept busy and the second German MG42 was dealt with by a quick round of HE and machinegun fire, which left one more German section still undeployed and so, to try and force the German hand, the third US quad, so far untouched and held in reserve amid the houses, sent forward a recce team towards the German JOP on their left flank.
The manoeuvre worked and the recce team were driven back amid a hail of German small arms fire but managed to only loose one of the two man team and were close enough to run back to the parent squad, sharing the shock and see the German section receive a return volley together with some tank HE as the Sherman brought its turret to bear.
|The surviving US units at the close of a very bruising encounter|
The US fire was enough to so badly hit this last German squad that the defenders broke leaving just one practically intact US squad, less one man and the remaining Sherman to mop up.
What a last battle to end our campaign on, with massive swings of fortune throughout and the US looking at times to be on their way out with low force morale, tanks burning and mortar support lost.
However as has happened a few times in our campaign, when the going has got tough it has been the trusty Sherman tank that has often proved to be the winning difference between the two sides often surviving anti-tank and mortar attacks to deliver knock out punches with well delivered HE rounds that has literally shot the US rifle squads onto the position and so it was rather fitting that they played such a prominent role in this final game.
Ian threw everything at the Americans to try and close out the ninth game that would have secured an overwhelming German win, but his forces did enough in the campaign to ensure that the bulk of their forces have survived to fight on.
We have really enjoyed playing this series of games and Tuesday nights wont seem quite the same, and from the comments I have received some of you have to, with many comments about wanting to play more CoC but not having quite got around to it.
All I can say is, that was me a couple of months ago, but following this series of games, I can highly recommend the time investment into these rules and I am looking forward to playing them again.
Thanks to Jason and his wife Tina for providing our venue for our gatherings and for Jason's tutoring and provision of some fine tables and figures that have really added to the fun. Thanks also to Steve and Ian for playing the games - great times.
I'm off up to Newark this weekend for our annual DWG Beano to Partizan 2019 as well as our usual gathering at Wargames Foundry for a pre show big game where we are planning to play Dux Bellorum again, so will aim to post on both those weekend activities, plus I have a book review from Mr Steve coming up so lots to come here on JJ's.