- the American counter attack to clear Hill 318 from the Germans for the last time,
the final day of the tank battle at Arracourt, September 29
To try the Big Chain of Command version of the Chain of Command ruleset from TwoFatLardies we played two tank heavy games in a day awhile back, both using the struggle for Hill 318 at the end of the Battle of Arracourt in 1944 as the setting.
This battle took place in the greater context of the Battle of Metz, in Lorraine, where Patton’s Third Army - having swept across France - started to lose momentum, in September 1944. Metz was surrounded by several forts and strong points and was also situated where several rivers - most notably the Moselle river and further east the Sielle river - made bypassing the city very difficult.
|The situation, early September 1944.|
Metz and Arracourt are marked on the map.
Awhile back we played two scenarios (Game 1 and Game 2) based on an early American beachhead across the Moselle river at Arnaville, south of Metz, in mid September.
This time we are a few weeks later in September 1944, and a bit further south where the US 4th Armoured Division have managed to cross the rivers and reached as far as the village of Arracourt, to the southeast of Metz. The Germans tried to contain the US effort to flank Metz by throwing newly formed tank brigades forward. What then happened was the largest concentrated tank battle for the Americans of the war: the Battle of Arracourt.
For more information of the Battle of Arracourt and our earlier game, please see out previous AAR: Game 3.
|The second Big Chain of Command game was|
like the first played on a 6x6' (180x180cm) table.
The Forces and the Scenario
We played the Attack and Defend scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook where the attackers have to drive the enemy off the table while not having a Force Morale lower than 3. The counter attacking Americans were the attackers in the scenario.
The Americans had one platoon of Armoured Infantry from the 51st Armoured Infantry Battalion and a full Sherman platoon of five tanks from the 8th Tank Battalion. All Regular troops. The latter platoon had two 75mm Shermans and three 76mm Shermans. In addition the Americans had access to an Adjutant, a Preliminary Bombardment and a 60mm Mortar Team.
The Germans fielded a platoon of Panzergrenadier from the 11. Panzer Division (NB: lacking Heer grenadiers we used miniatures for SS Grenadiers instead) and an understrength platoon of three Panther aufs D. To keep things simple we played them all as Regular troops. They had access to an Adjutant, a Sniper and an Additional Grenadier Squad.
|American Jump Off Points in blue, German in red.|
Under cover from a barrage hitting the German assembly area, the Americans advanced quickly. On the right they established a fire base of medium machine guns and a squad of infantry covering the crest of the hill, waiting on overwatch for the Germans to appear.
The Americans added more pressure as the US Platoon Sergeant led two squads on their left, up amongst the buildings, quickly catching a German forward jump off point. Some German infantry did manage to deploy through the US barrage and took up position centrally amongst the hedges. They immediately took fire however from the watchful Americans.
|The Americans trade fire at short range with the Germans |
as the US machine guns keep an eye on the hill crest for more.
|The Americans begin their flanking move.|
In response the first German Panther tank appeared across the battlefield trading shots with the American tank but initially to no effect.
|The first tanks appears. Initially with limited effect.|
The Americans advancing on the flank sent a squad up into the main building, getting av excellent flanking position looking down on the Germans below. To add even more pressure the second US squad rounded the corner to take position amongst some trees to add even more fire into the exposed Germans.
|An American squad flanks the German and start to pour fire from the windows.|
|Yet another US squad flank the German squad.|
Shock and casualties were mounting for the exposed German squad but it also had managed to get some return fire back as the American advanced. Also, with the US barrage coming to an end the table was about to turn quickly.
First a second and then a third Panther tank appeared up on the hill crest putting heavy fire on the Americans. Also, more German infantry revealed themselves having their double machine guns firing at close range on the US flanking squad.
|German reinforcements arrive over the hill crest, |
turning the tables on the flanking US troops.
The first Panther also opened fire again, this time hitting its American counter part down the road causing it to explode. The German firepower quickly made the American force moral go down. The flanking US unit went from having been the top of the spear firing on the exposed Germans to now being overexposed and getting shot to bits. The rest of the Americans didn't fare much better. The combined firepower of the Panther tanks and all those German machine guns stopped the American attack in its tracks and eventually made US Force Morale so low the attack had to be called off all together.
|The Sherman Tank Platoon Commander is hit and explodes.|
|The last US remnants break and flee.|
As in our previous game at Hill 318 the Germans had won.
The Americans now had to rely on the Tactical Air Command to save the day.
Another fun game. It was a game of two halves really. In the first part the Americans took up some good positions and then quickly advanced on their left flank, catching the Germans off guard. When they closed down one of the German jump off points they also consolidated their advance. As the flanking Americans all but surrounded the forward German squad it looked grim for the Germans.
Then the tables turned completely. The American preliminary bombardment ended and Germans poured onto the table from their jump off points deep in their table half. With that the American flanking force found itself very exposed, in close range of some severe German firepower. The leading US squad was all but wiped out. With a Sherman exploding and some other casualties the American force morale quickly dropped so that the Americans no longer could win but had to call off the attack.
Having now played two games of Big Chain of Command we can say that we enjoyed it alot. For future such games we might try other scenarios than Attack and Defend as other scenarios might encourage movement of the tanks abit more. Also, the US was at a disadvantage by using a full five tank US tank platoon as you only have one Senior Leader to lead them, so they really couldn't use their superior numbers to full effect. A lower number of tanks (or six of them, granting another Senior Tank Leader) would maybe have been better. Instead the high quality of the Germans tanks and infantry weaponry made its mark.
The excerpt below is from an article by Arnold Blumberg on Warfare History Network, please read it all HERE.
It is a suitable end to our gaming at Arracourt for now but not the end of our Battle of Metz gaming, to which we we return shortly.
"On September 29, the 111th and 113th Panzer Brigades, as well as portions of the 110th Panzergrenadier Regiment, made a coordinated assault on the objectives. The early morning attack, in dense fog that limited observation to a few dozen yards, pushed the 51st Armored Infantry back 500 yards. This gave the Germans control of the forward crest of Hill 318 by late morning. In response, Clarke sent a company of Sherman tanks from the 8th Tank Battalion to retake the hill, and the fighting reached a new level of intensity. The fog lifted just in time for P-47 Thunderbolts of the U.S. 405th Fighter Group to foil the next German attack. The air strikes forced the German tanks into the clear where they were systematically picked off by American artillery and tank fire. In the afternoon, the Germans were forced to retreat from Hill 318 after a loss of 23 tanks.
The fighting on September 29 marked the last major attempt by the Fifth Panzer Army to cut Third Army’s armored spearhead near Arracourt. The failed effort of the previous four days cost the Germans 36 tanks, 700 killed, and 300 wounded.
The end of September 1944 found the fighting in Lorraine at a stalemate. Deprived of supplies, Patton could not switch to the offensive. As for the German Army, its panzer force had been so badly mauled that it was incapable of further offensive action against Patton’s Third Army."