Crisis at Chemenot

The days of retreat from Normandy were over and by September our valiant forces were once again reforming for offensive action. Flush with reconstituted forces, new equipment and refreshed determination our forces prepared to engaged the Americans in a series of critical battles in the Lorraine. One of the first actions was that around the small town of Chemenot where elements of Lieutenant General Wend von Wietersheim 11th Panzer Division clashed with 377th Infantry Regiment drawn from Major General Harry L. Twaddle’s 95th Infantry Division.

The 1st Battalion of the 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment was by noon well deployed in hasty defensive positions around Chemenot. The defence was centred around woods and a small hill some 500 yards to the west of the town with further detachments a similar distance to the south. The latter being all that held our left flank. The battalion’s right was to be held by the regiment’s 2nd Battalion which was advancing from its forming up position to its defensive position centred on the east end of a long ridge.

Above, 1st Battalion of 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment deployed around Chemenot. Below, 2nd Battalion advances to the right of Chemenot where it will deploy into defensive positions on the Patrounal Ridge and woods.

As a result of these dispositions, and despite a number of key terrain features existing in our area of operations, only two were able to be secured immediately. In contrast the Americans were expected to advance with three reinforced battalion sized formations before unleashing a significant attack on either our relatively undefended left near Chemenot, or our right around Patrounal Ridge.

Lieutenant General Wend von Wietersheim was however clear, holding the Americans was not sufficient. Instead while bolstering the defence he ordered a Kampfgruppe Münchhausen to attack in a wide sweeping flanking action against the enemy right. However, the attack was to be delayed until all American forces were engaged. Then Kampfgruppe Münchhausen would roll up the American forces from south to north. Once in the area of operations speed, Münchhausen was told, was critical.

As the two battalions of the 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment were to engage the enemy, without significant support for some time, they were reinforced with a number of assets. The 1st Battalion, deployed around Chemenot would be supported by a company of Jagdpanthers and a company of Jagdpanzer IVs while 2nd Battalion would be supported by a Stug company. Further, both battalions would be supported by support fires from divisional artillery.

Wietersheim Division had suffered at the hands of the American Jabos too often. As a result he hoped to neutralise their impact them in some way. He believed the deployment of the powerful Jagdpanthers in the central sector, where ample fields of fire existed. Here he believed they would draw the attention of the enemy jabos, possibly reducing the likehood of them being able to interdict his manoeuvre elements.

Soon after 1pm American formations indeed were detected advancing in three battalion sized combat groups in 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment’s sector.

Below, viewed from the north, the town of Chemenot is visible on the left centre while the 2nd Battalion of 4th Panzer Regiment advances in the left foreground, from the east, towards its defensive position on the east of the long Patrounal ridge. On the right three American battalions can be seen advancing towards three key positions. One American battalion is not yet fully visible in the right foreground. These immediate American objectives are the central ridge as well as the two villages north and south of the ridge. The village of Patrounal is in the foreground, at the base of the Patrounal ridge. That in the top right is the village of Ossé.

Below, the American 1/377th Battalion as it advances towards Patrounal supported by a company of Sherman’s from 738th Tank Battalion.

It was however in the centre where the forces first clashed. Here the 2/377th Infantry Battalion advanced astride a small ridge. On the south infantry supported by M-10 Tank destroyers provide flank protection while infantry, supported by the battalions heavy weapons company, advanced on the north of the ridge.

The advancing M-10s were soon engaged by an advanced Jagdpanzer IV platoon firing from a spot height while German infantry manoeuvred to a reverse slope position on the ridge line. It was hoped that such a position would force the advancing Americans to deploy early so they could be engaged by long range fire from the Jagdpanthers.

Above, the advanced Jagdpanzers engage the American centre. Visible in the top left the 3/377th Battalion which has just secured the village of Ossé. The German left is visible in the left foreground and comprised only three platoons. An attack by the American 3rd Battalion against the German left would have been difficult to withstand.

As the accurate fire by the Jagdpanzers halted the M-10 advance the American advance in the centre now switched to that by the infantry supported by artillery, heavy machine guns and Jabos.

Above and below American Jabos are committed in unceasing attacks. The deployment of the Jagdpanthers in woods, supported by limited AA, reduced vehicle casualties but the rocket armed Jabos caused a number of casualties amongst the German infantry. This in turn made the German Jagdpanthers susceptible to infantry attacks.

While the desperate battle in the centre developed, on the German right flank where the 2nd Panzergrenadier Battalion was subjected to a sustained and concentrated attack by two American battalions. The 1/377th, having secured Patrounal advanced down the Patrounal ridge while elements of the 738th Tank Battalion conducted a limited flanking movement.

Above the American flanking action arrives. It was intended to catch any advancing Germans in the flank but instead caused initial confusion among advancing American 1/377th Infantry Battalion. Soon however it reoriented and advanced through the woods as can be seen below.

Both the German centre and right flank were now heavily engaged and were fighting desperately to maintain their defensive positions. However it was now the Kampfgruppe Münchhausen entered the battle area behind the American right flank.

Advancing at speed Münchhausen’s Panzers and Panzergrenadiers raced forward while the Americans desperately tried to face this unexpected threat so far from any objectives. While some Panzers overran mortars, HQs and anti-tank guns others aided by Panzergrenadiers engaged M-10 Tank destroyers and infantry. Then with the American 3/377th battalion all but destroyed as a fighting force, though still holding the village of Ossé, Münchhausen order the advance to continue while support units completed the mopping up.

Above elements of Kampfgruppe Münchhausen engages the 3/377th around Ossé while below advanced elements have already seized their next objective in the American centre. From here Münchhausen would press further north to Patrounal Ridge.

Yet despite such a rapid movement events have overtaken Münchhausen. Ever growing casualties had resulted in both Panzergrenadier battalions breaking, simultaneously with their American attackers! The butchers bill was indeed terrible with two German battalions and three American battalions combat ineffective.

The scenario was developed using the Scenario System. Each player used an Attack List. The scenario provided the Americans a free Option A while the German commander selected an Option B despite the significant victory point penalty. At the conclusion of the engagement the Germans held two objectives for four points. They gained a further six points for casualties on American battalions, less three points for their reinforcement option giving them a total of seven points. In contrast the American held three objectives, though Ossé was contested, providing five victory points. They inflicted crippling casualties on two German battalions providing a further four points. This provided the Americans a total of nine victory points and a winning draw in what was another fascinating game.

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