Franvielle Ridge – 1944

After the relative success of the previous day the commander of 11th Panzer Division, Generalleutnant Wend von Weitersheim ordered urgent reinforcement and replenishment of the advanced Kampfgruppes of the division, now under command of Oberstleutnant Kirchner. By noon of the following day Kirchner’s Kampfgruppes were on the move preparing to exploit the tactical situation, which was now fluid. Weitersheim however advised Oberstleutnant Kirchner that the Tiger company that had been available previously was withdrawn from his command for employment elsewhere.

The tactical situation and Kirchner’s command objectives for the 14th can be outlined generally as follows. In front was the 2nd Infantry Regiment from the US 5th Infantry Division. An advanced American infantry battalion was 2400 yards from the regiment’s start lines and deployed in various woods forward of the Franvielle Ridge some 1000 yards in length. To the American right a small hill further dominated a relatively open plain between it and the German start lines. These two positions would be the final objectives of 11th Panzer. Kirchner expected American forces to consist of an infantry regiment of three battalions supported by M36 tank destroyers and an unknown number of Sherman tanks. These forces were expected to advance through the deployed battalion towards the German lines. In the process they would attempt to secure high ground on the German left, and a tactically important bridge in the German centre. This would secure four of the five objectives. Kirchner did not believe the small village on the German right would significantly influence American planning. He therefore determined to hold two objectives, possibly three, while conducting a deep flanking movement to attack the advancing Americans from the flank and rear. By noon the various forces were in motion.
  

Above, the general area with German forces advancing from the left and Americans from the right. German initial objectives were a village (left foreground), a bridge (centre left) and a ridge (top left). American initial objectives are a the Franvielle Ridge (centre right) and a hill (top right).

On the right flank KG Richter, comprising dismounted grenadiers and ten Jagdpanzers, advanced rapidly to secure the first of two small villages. Kirchner deployed his Regimental HQ with this Kampfgruppe to maintain tactical flexibility. After securing the first objective elements of the KG Richter moved forward and left to secure a bridge towards the German centre. The Kampfgruppe now went into a defensive posture while the plan unfolded elsewhere.

Above, KG Richter advances. The first objective, a small town has been secured. Elements of the Kampfgruppe will soon swing left to secure the bridge while Jadgpanzers take up over watch positions, shown below.

Simultaneously KG Coblenz advanced to secure the high ground on the German left. This Kampfgruppe was based around a battalion of grenadiers who advanced on foot supported by some 15 Stugs. Like the previous Kampfgruppe it was supported by an artillery battalion some distance to the rear. The Stugs were to secure the high ground and provide over watch for any further advances. Unfortunately one Stug platoon was decimated by long range fire from M36s deployed in a wood firing at extreme range as it moved onto high ground.

Above, KG Coblenz secures its initial objectives. The Stug on the extreme left was spotted advancing on to an area of rising ground and later eliminated by long range fire by M36 tank destroyers drawn from the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The Stugs on the two contour hill were not located and dominated the plain in front. American infantry from the 2nd Battalion are advancing on the left and centre screened by light recon elements. American infantry from the centre to the right are from the 1st Battalion and were deployed forward prior to the battle.

Two hours after the advance began three of the Regiment’s objectives had been secured and the burden of attack had theoretically moved to the Americans. Yet the American commander, Col. A. Worrell Roffe, seemed hesitant. Of the expected American battalions were in the area only one was moving forward and this was behind a screen of recon vehicles. This is when KG Foelkersam was unleashed. The Kampfgruppe, comprising some 40 PzIVs a company of grenadiers in half tracks and various recon elements, arrived to the American right flank.

Advancing in a deep flanking movement KG Foelkersam was to move rapidly into the American rear, over running American infantry in the open and generally bypassing those in woods. The arrival of the Kampfgruppe caused chaotic scenes on the American right flank as the panzers advanced. However, the friction of combat slowed the advance. Some platoons became bogged down in firefights with enemy infantry while others pushed forward into the enemy rear areas. American armour near the Franvielle Ridge were now ordered to the right to halt the rampaging panzers. Further, a third American infantry battalion was moved from reserve to form a hasty blocking force. KG Foelkersam was now engaged with, or soon would be, elements of three battalions.

To reinforce the attack Kirchner ordered his other formations forward.

Above, American armour are ordered to the right flank. The column is led by several 76mm Sherman Jumbos which halted the Panzers, yet were themselves unwilling to advance.

On the German left the dismounted grenadiers of KG Coblenz, supported by Stugs advanced to provide direct support. While some progress was made the battalion was to suffer heavy casualties by artillery fires by 155mm artillery. Before the attack could effectively support the Panzers of KG Foelkersam the grenadiers were forced to retire. At the same time, facing heavy opposition KG Foelkersam refocused its efforts. Manoeuvring, it disengaged from combat with American Shermans, the under strength 737th Tank Battalion which contained several Jumbo Shermans, deployed on tanks Franvielle Ridge to destroying elements of the American infantry on the extreme left. Unfortunately lacking artillery and only limited infantry this was a difficult task.

On the German right KG Richter also advanced. Sweeping wide it advanced on the Franvielle Ridge from the American left. In this movement several grenadier platoons were subjected to American artillery strikes causing heavy casualties.

A member of the Jadgpanzer company describes the action. “We bypassed the woods and pressed on…Suddenly we saw movement ahead. The Panzers angled to the left and one fired its main armament…The artillery fire became stronger. Then there was a new tone in the explosions – a harder, drier whipcrack. Two shells exploded in front of our tank…A tank was knocked out in front of us…It was almost a relief when we were hit ourselves…When the smoke cleared I saw that my hatch was gone.”

Despite the artillery fire, and direct fire of American tank destroyers, advanced elements of the Kampfgruppe were soon within 700 yards of the Franvielle Ridge, as shown below. Again the Germans had flanked the American positions.

As a result the American commander was again forced to react, switching his armour from his right to the left and organising a scratch company to provide protection for divisional mortars that were at risk of being overrun. Prisoners later indicated this attack caused great concern to the Americans.

Alas, darkness had once again intervened as both commanders accepted a stalemate existed. Yet again 11th Panzer had failed to gain the significant breakthrough desired.

The scenario was an “Advance to Contact” developed using the Scenario Generation System. American forces, commanded by Jim, comprised 650 points with one battalion deployed on table. The Germans, commanded by myself, comprised a 650 point force reinforced by a free 50 point Option A. At the end of play the result was a 6-6 draw. The Americans held two objectives and had forced one German battalion to test morale. The Germans held three objectives but had caused no American battalions to test morale. No objectives were contested. 

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2 thoughts on “Franvielle Ridge – 1944

  1. Great looking game Keith. As we found with last night’s GWSH game, the SH system captures command dilemmas, and the intensity of action, so well.

    R

  2. Indeed it does capture the command dilemma you mention Robin. There was a very interesting game within a game featuring in this scenario.

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