Following the battles in the Lorraine in September, where a number of hastily formed panzer formations were badly mauled, a number of other units were drawn into the area. One such was the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division under command of Generalleutnant Paul Schürmann. Now, in mid-November, the area came active again following minor American offensive. A small breakthrough developed and American armour moved forward. To counter this elements of 25th PzG Division manoeuvred to block the advance.
On the evening of the 14th of November the commander of 119 Panzer Grenadier Regiment , Lieutenant Colonel Hans Tellgiebel, had deployed his regiment as a blocking force over an area some 7km in length. A number of entrenchments were dug the positions mostly made use of the terrain to form defensive positions. Aware that that PzG Regiment faced elements of an Armoured Division the commander expected a turning movement likely on the more southern flank with a pinning action against his centre.
The northern and central battalions, 1st and 2nd PzG Battalions respectively, focussed their defence around one or two small villages. In each battalion area the villages were to become the pivotal battalion defence point, the control of which dominated the road networks critical to any American advance. Each village was garrisoned by one or two platoons of panzer grenadiers. Additional platoons deployed in nearby woods or were dug-in to further assist the village defences. Further back a reserve company was held in position to strengthen those areas of the battalion under attack or to provide local counter-attack forces. In the case of the 1st Battalion in the northern sector of the Regiments zone, it also acted as a flank defence in case of an American flanking movement from the north. The positions were finally reinforced by a company of self-propelled guns, either Stugs or Jadgpanzers. With an expected attack on the southern sector the 1st Battalion, in the north, was also expected to act as a battalion sized counter-attack. Indeed, Tellgiebel advised the 1st Battalion commander to be prepared to advance, southwest into the flank of those forces attacking the German centre rolling up the American line, at short notice. The 3rd battalion of the 119th PzG Regiment was the weakest and was deployed in the more open south. Here it was placed echeloned back as a flank guard to the other battalions of the regiment. The battalion was reinforced by a several Pak43 anti-tank guns. A weak company of this battalion, reinforced by the regiment’s recon platoon, was however thrown forward into the town of Montreuil. The regiment was further supported by limited divisional artillery assets, in the form of a 105mm artillery battalion, but was woefully short on anti-aircraft assets.
Above, the battlefield viewed from the German lines. Elements of the German 1st Battlaion are visible on the top right in the north of the battlefield. The German 3rd Battalion is on the left.
Opposite American forces drawn from the 7th Armoured Division, the “Lucky Seventh”, were poised for a rapid advance by Combat Command A. Forces of the combat command comprised two fighting battalions, 17th Tank Battalion and the 23rd Armoured Infantry Battalion. Elements were crossed attached to form an armoured heavy and infantry heavy formations. Each was supported by a company of M-36 tank destroyers from 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Finally, the CCA was supported by three artillery battalions. Two battalions of M7 Priests were allocated to directly support the fighting battalions with direct fire. A 155mm artillery battalion was retained general indirect support. The American commander determined to make a silent attack, which is, he would not allocate his artillery to prepared fires. Further, his battalions would advance in mutual support rather than risk the delays inherent in a major flanking manoeuvre. As such he would attack in the southern and centre. By late afternoon of the 15th the Americans advanced into the area of the 119th PzG Regiment.
The first American battalion, built around the 17th Tank Battalion, engaged was against the centre of 119th PzG Regiment’s position. Here the armour heavy battalion of CCA, while aware of the general German positions, pushed elements of 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron forward to uncover the German positions in detail. Soon these recon elements were under fire from German 120mm mortars and 105mm artillery suffering heavy casualties as a result. Undeterred, the American battalion commander continued to push his forces forward. Soon the first tank company was engaged by German Panzerfausts; and Jagdpanzers firing from concealed positions some 1400m away. American artillery now fired smoke in the vicinity of the Jagdpanzers while American infantry and armour attempted to deal with German infantry located in woods west of the village.
German panzer grenadiers, sensing they were gaining the advantage of the firefight in the woods as reinforcements began to arrive, pressed forward in a localised counter-attack. Unfortunately this attack was short lived as American artillery fire now broke up the attack and forced the panzer grenadiers back on to the defensive. Soon the American infantry, having recovered the initiative, began their advance again. However, this advance was now more cautious and was only possible due to the American artillery being “on call”. The American armoured advance remain stalled until the Jagdpanzers could be neutralised.
Above, German Jagdpanzers in the centre are screened by American smoke screens. The woods on the left were the scene of the local German counter-attack driven back by American artillery fire.
The second American battalion, under command of the 23rd Armoured Infantry and being infantry heavy, was advancing against the southern sector of the German positions. Below, the general situation in the south viewed from the German lines. The town of Montreuil is clearly visoble in the top left.
Soon advanced recon elements of the battalion uncovered the German defenders in the western section of the town of Montreuil. American armoured infantry and tanks were now directed at clearing this section of the town. Unfortunately, for the German commander, these tanks were out of effective range of the PAK 43s. As a result the German panzer grenadiers were forced to halt the Americans with Panzerfausts and small arms.
Below, the American attacks go in against the town of Montreuil, follow on forces can be seen in support.
In the ensuing combats American casualties were heavy and several Sherman tanks were destroyed. Falling back the Americans reformed and attacked again. Now more effectively supported by 105mm artillery the Germans were driven out of the western parts of Montreuil. Continuing their advance in to the eastern section of Montreuil the Americans were less successful. The recon platoon of the PzG Regiment fought with great determination and halted the attack inflicting extremely heavy casualties on the Americans.
Meanwhile other elements of the 23rd Armoured infantry had advanced towards the relative cover of woods some 700m from the German 3rd Battalion and 88mm anti-tank guns. In overwatch support was a company of M36 tank destroyers on a ridgeline to their rear. From these woods the now dismounted infantry were well positioned to observe the German centre, and in particular the Jagdpanzers. Soon American aircraft were overhead and a series of devastating rocket attacks engulfed the woods that previously had provided concealed positions.
It will be recalled that the commander of 119th PzG Regiment had planned to attack the engaged Americans opposite his own central battalion using his 1st battalion in his northern sector. However, a further company of M-36sas well as a supporting 105mm Priests would make such attack extremely costly. This combined with growing casualties in the centre, comprising panzer grenadiers and Jagdpanzers, now threatened to break the German centre. As a result, as dusk approached, the western village in the German centre was abandoned and German forces retreated. Below, the American forces press the German centre and German forces fall back.
From a game perspective the scenario was a Hasty Attack scenario developed using the Scenario Generation System. The results were that CCA of the 7th Armoured division had achieved two of its objectives, but the panzer grenadiers retained the three remain key areas in the regimental sector. But it is worthwhile considering some additional factors.
The base list budgets are 450 points for the defender and 650 for the attacker. The German player opted to take an optional reinforcement, and a victory point penalty, while the American made do with the basic points. The American commander could also have opted to make a deliberate assault, but decided on a hasty attack. A deliberate attack would have changed the points budget at some risk of losing momentum. Now, while the Americans did have only two battalions they were both of significant size and well supported. Further, unlike the Germans who were spread out, they were concentrated. The result was that against the German southern sector they achieved 4:1 odds and, I believe, around 3:1in the centre. They American force structure was also a little different to the two battalion lists I have seen before. This made me, as the German player, suspect that there was a small reserve battalion of recon or infantry somewhere. As it happens there wasn’t, but for several turns I considered this a real possibility.
As to scenario results the final result found the Americans on 4 points and the Germans on 5. If one more casualty was inflicted on the German centre battalion the battalion would have suffered 50% casualties and the American player gain more victory points. Indeed, the result would have become a 6 – 5 American victory. Given another turn or two potentially 8 – 3 American victory could have resulted, depending on the morale result of the German battalion and if it could continue to hold ground.