Operation Lüttich – August 1944

The following is a description of a recent game between my son’s Americans and my own Germans. This time situation was focussed on the area around the Mortain, here the pendulum of battle had swung to mobile engagements as both American and German forces conducted operations on a fluid battlefield.

American forces in the area of operations were drawn from 30th Infantry Division and specifically comprised the 119th Infantry Regiment supported by 743rd Tank Battalion. Additional assets supporting the division were three 105mm artillery battalions of the division as well as a small number of M10 tank destroyers drawn from the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.

In contrast German forces were drawn from the 116th Panzer Division. Elements from the division were formed into a Kampfgruppe and comprised Panzer Grenadier Regiment 156, which itself comprised two motorised Panzer Grenadier battalions, and one understrength Panzer battalion drawn from Panzer Regiment 16. Additional assets included two understrength self-propelled anti-tank companies. Further, artillery assets deployed to the rear included a 105mm artillery battalion, a werfer battalion and in general support a battalion of 150mm artillery designated for counter-battery operations.

The tactical situation found a German Panzer Grenadier battalion deployed forward with its various companies spread thinly from the centre of the area of operations to the German far right covering as it did two initial objectives. Other battalions of both armies would advance on to the battlefield. Above the battlefield viewed from The German right or American left. Below, a view centred on the German right flank where a portion of a German Panzer Grenadier battalion are deployed.

 

The Americans, sensing a heavy attack against their own right, advanced in two battalion sized groups. 1st Battalion would seize the town of La Sablonniere and deploy into defensive positions. This battalion was expected to face the main German attack and was reinforced with M10 tank destroyers. In actual fact it would see no action.

Below, a view of the American left flank from the German lines. La Sablonniere is visible and has just been secured by elements of the American 1st battalion. In the foreground German Panzer Grenadiers advance on the left flank objective denoted by a red dot on the high ground.

The American 2nd Infantry Battalion would advance in the centre to secure a gentle rising hill. This battalion would include a tank company and would have the support of fire from two artillery battalions as well as the direct support of aircraft if required. I was expected the battalion would draw the Germans, particularly that on the German right, into a battle and given it’s support allocations it was thought it would hold any German attack. As the Germans were drawn into an engagement in the centre the American 3rd Infantry Battalion would conduct a flank march and arrive late on the German right flank. Once deployed it would secure the objective on the extreme Germans right rear which it was hoped would be now undefended. Finally, the remaining elements of the 743rd Tank Battalion, with a cross-attached infantry company, formed a reserve.

The German commander however had other plans. He opted to hold his his first line objectives with two Panzer Grenadier battalions. The first was already on table, the second would advance quickly on the left, and centre left, and take up defensive positions. In support were two self-propelled anti-tank companies and the artillery assets. Finally, the Panzers of Panzer Regiment 16 – Abteilung II, would conduct a deep flank march against the American left, where there were no objectives and hopefully few Americans, and attempt to attack the American centre from the rear.

First contact occurred in the centre where the advancing American 2nd Infantry Battalion advanced on to the rising ground 1km from the Germans. Here one German company faced two American infantry companies, a tank company and support assets. However, the Shermans were clearly visible as they advanced and German Nebelwerfers were called in to disrupt the Shermans and supporting infantry. One of the results of this fire was the neutralisation of one American FAO which effectively silencing an entire 105mm artillery battalion. However, the Americans quickly recovered and infantry elements of the American battalion, having secured their objective, now deployed into nearby woods and engaged in an extended firefight with the now outnumbered Germans supported by the Shermans.

Below, and viewed from the American lines, the American 2nd Infantry Battalion advances on the German company deployed in a wood visible centre right.

Soon the second American artillery battalion opened fire and the outnumbered Germans looked likely to be overwhelmed by tank, artillery and small arms fire. However, German counter-battery artillery acquired the American artillery and soon neutralised the battalion. Now the fighting expanded and elements of the German left flank were drawn in to the centre. A company of Panzer Grenadiers, supported by Stugs and Jagdpanzers pressed the right flank of the engaged American battalion. However, operating at the extreme command range of the battalion the Stugs were unable to effectively deal with the Shermans who, while depleted in number continued to harass the advanced German company.

Above, a company of Panzer Grenadiers, supported by Stugs and Jagdpanzers, advance to support the hard pressed Germans defending the wood opposite the American 2nd Infantry Battalion. Eventually the American infantry were dislodged from the woods. To the right, and not shown, another German company attacked the American 2nd Infantry left flank. This attack was driven back with heavy casualties.

Meanwhile the German Panzers had arrived. Having conducted a deep flank march they now pressed forward with vigour against what was clearly an undefended American flank. The terrain was dense and villages delaid the advance allowing the Americans to commit their armoured reserve in an effort to block the Panzers.

In the ensuing engagement the PzIV’s slowly gained the advantage. However, by now the American forward air controller had repositioned and Jabos rolled in. The dense terrain now obstructed the supporting German flak and soon the Panzers began to suffer casualties. Still trying to counter the Shermans the German commander pushed some panzers into woods, without infantry support, in an effort to get more platoons engaged. Now American infantry, using cover to advance, close assaulted them causing further issues for the Panzer Battalion.

Above, American Jabos engage the German panzers while American infantry and armour engage with direct fire. However, the first battalion to break was the American 743rd Tank Battalion. This opened up the American rear and the panzers once more pressed forward, despite the Jabo’s continued attacks, as can be seen below.

It was now however the American 3rd Infantry Battalion arrived. Their flank march having been disrupted, by the German flank march, the American battalion arrived late on the American left rear. While the Jabos continued the attack on the German armour the adhoc German flank protection company was now overwhelmed by the advancing American 3rd Infantry. Despite being on the verge of overrunning the American centre from the rear the panzer attack collapsed. At this stage both combatants were exhausted. Both had lost their armoured formations and the Germans were now short on artillery and clearly unable to press their attacks further for risk of further casualties. The Americans meanwhile were near collapse in the centre. With little ability to press the battle further the forces disengaged and secured their positions.

The scenario was an Advance to Contact Scenario generated using the Scenario Generation System. Each side had 650 points of troops reinforced by a 50 point Option A. In game terms the final sitautaion was an effective draw. The Americans (Joel) maintained two objectives, though one was contested. The Germans maintained three, one of which was contested. Both had lost a battalion. Both commanders had reinforced their attacks with an Option A, but the German option came with a victory point penalty. The final score was therefore a 6-5 winning draw to the Germans, but only just!

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