Brandon Neff
United States
South Jordan
Utah
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12-Jun-1944

1515 hrs

Dear Clara:

I hope this letter finds you in good health and good spirits. By now you’ve read some of my recent letters describing the D-Day invasion and that nerve-wracking descent in the glider. I’m certain my fear came through in my letters, but I think the worst is over and this war might actually be over by Christmas. We’ve got the Germans on the run and there are numerous reports of surrenders all through the countryside.

We weren’t so lucky this afternoon when we heard reports that part of the German 352nd Infantry Division was holed up in the village of Le Mesnil. We were told to clear them out and most of us expected them to surrender. What we got was a tooth-and-nail fight.

We knew from our maps that the village was west of our current position through heavy hedgerow cover, something for which I was grateful. It allowed us to position ourselves just a few hundred yards from the village outskirts without being sighted. We had a couple of M4 Sherman tanks down the road ready to pounce when the strike was ordered, but for now we needed them out of sight. We had learned that the Germans had a 50mm cannon capable of penetrating the tough hides of the Shermans and we couldn’t afford to lose them. Our first order of business would be to flank the enemy and take out that gun!

It took us about 30 minutes to get everyone in position. That hedgerow gave us great concealment, but it is sure tough getting a whole platoon through there. Our battalion was split into several attack groups. To the south was 2nd Lt. Green along with two infantry platoons (including my own) and a heavy machine gun unit. Our job was to press the German Grenadiers holed up in the village. Once we had their attention and drew their fire, the Shermans would rush down the road and start firing. About 400 yards north of us was Captain Miller with 2 infantry platoons and another HMG unit. They would take out the 50mm gun and assist us should the German defense prove difficult. Another 400 yards north of them was Major Ricks along with two infantry platoons and some Airborne engineers. They would flank the enemy to the north and hold them while we pounded them.

Once the Major radioed the attack, we sprinted across the farmland towards town and immediately came under fire. The Germans had spotted us! That run was very costly and we came under HMG fire from the village. Nearly 50 men (I would call them boys but the things they have experienced has stolen their childhood) lay dead in the field before we were able to take up defensive positions near the town outskirts. My own platoon lost nearly 30 of those men. I knew everyone of them.

Suffice it to say, we were quite disrupted after that sprint across the field and we needed some help. I don’t think the brass expected such heavy losses right out of the gate.

The Germans pounded our position with heavy artillery fire, but most of the shots landed long and missed. Our 2nd Lt radioed in for a barrage of our own and we drilled that town with everything we had. The Germans must have been shaken by all those rounds because they stopped firing on us, if only for a few moments.

Because of the heavy costs incurred in our advance, Major Ricks sent his men in to take out the 50mm gun and ordered Captain Miller to support our attack. Ricks’ men took some fire while approaching, but that gun is designed to bust tanks and all the men made it through ok. With the gun under fire, the Shermans came pouring up the road and took up positions just outside town where we could mount a grand attack.

We came under fire again but the Germans were pretty disorganized. The Shermans started blasting away at the town, leveling several buildings. As the Germans ran for cover we hit them hard with rifle and HMG fire. The Grenadiers were pretty demoralized at the sight of the Shermans and our combined fire had them on the run. We sensed they might retreat at any second! They called in some more artillery on our position, but we held our ground. Green ordered another barrage, slightly reduced from last time, into town and all hell broke loose. Two rounds landed squarely in a makeshift command post the Germans had set up and killed out the German officer in charge of the town! The German soldiers were hit pretty hard and we estimated that roughly 20-30 Germans were incapacitated in that attack. Artillery can swiftly turn the tide of war and we sensed a breakthrough. Some of the Grenadiers recovered from the attack, even as the rubble collapsed around them.

With the tanks in position, that 50mm gun had to be destroyed. Major Ricks sent his men, including trained engineers, on a full assault and easily destroyed the gun with explosive charges. Unfortunately, their assault made them visible to German units defending part of the village just west of their position and they came under fire. Major Ricks and one of the infantry platoons were pretty shaken up by the attack, but they managed to hold their ground.

Captain Miller and his units gave us some supporting fire into town and knocked out half a platoon of Grenadiers and rendered their HMG ineffective. The machine gunners must have been pretty demoralized because they stopped firing for some time and when they tried to recover some morale, they took a look at the Shermans in front of them, two battle groups to the north and south and the threat of more artillery coming down at them and they decided they’d had enough. They picked up their rifle and bolted from their forward position!

They ran into part of the village to the north and we called in some artillery, but weren’t able to get the gunners before they took up a defensive position. A few German mortar rounds landed around Captain Miller and his men, but didn’t pose any real threat.

So here we were, dislodging the Germans, demoralizing them and killing them. By all accounts, the battle had shifted to our favor and a decisive victory looked assured. And then the next fifteen minutes were an exercise in futility. It’s just one of those strange quirks of war. You have the enemy on the run and for some reason you aren’t able to finish them off and they turn around and get you. Anyway, we called in a full artillery barrage to the German units in the northern part of the village and the rounds were all overshot and landed harmlessly in the fields to the west. Captain Miller combined fire with his men and the Shermans to finish off the remaining soldiers holed up in the portion of the village near us and were ineffective. The men under Major Ricks fired in there as well and were ineffective. Major Ricks himself attempted to rally and the catastrophic futility of these recent attacks prevented him from regaining his morale.

Just then the Germans hit my position with heavy artillery fire. My platoon was hit the hardest and I have to tell you, the sounds of descending rounds followed by the concussion of the impact is enough to make any man want to run for cover. We held our ground, but we were pretty demoralized by the attack. We rallied and managed to regain some battlefield composure, but we weren’t looking forward to another barrage!

The German mortars hit Captain Miller’s men and disrupted their attack somewhat, although there were no serious casualties. The Germans followed that barrage with rifle fire and really tested the morale of the Infantry following Captain Miller. Some of them looked like they had lost the will to fight and I could empathize with them.

The Sherman tank leaders decided to tip the balance. They buttoned up and headed towards town, taking fire, but coming through unscathed. An assault was imminent so we got ready to take the village. Captain Miller sent an HMG unit and a platoon of men to fight with the Shermans.

There is nothing so beautiful and terrifying as seeing a group of Shermans along with heavy machine gun and rifle fire take on an enemy position. I have a vivid image etched into my memory of a tanker standing at the 50 caliber machine gun firing round after round through walls to strike the enemy. The attack was brutal and quick and yet somehow the enemy persisted. Shaking his head in disgust, Major Ricks ordered an artillery barrage into town which again shot long!

After withstanding everything we threw at them and surviving, the Germans began to rally and prepare for the assault. The Shermans poured into town supported by infantry and overran the enemy, destroying the remaining German defense. A German Lieutenant was killed along with the HMG unit that had resisted every attempt to dislodge. Major Ricks ordered a full artillery barrage on the remaining units in the section of town to the north and the German leader there, a Lieutenant, was demoralized and eventually fled along the road out of town.

At this point, we controlled half of the village, had the German officers on the run, had disrupted the remaining Grenadier platoon and HMG unit and the Shermans were rolling through the streets looking for something to kill.

Wisely, the Germans conceded defeat and surrendered en mass!

When we arrived we weren’t expecting much of a fight, but the Germans are still capable of inflicting serious losses. Still, we managed to overtake our objective and our morale would be high, were it not for the dozens of dead Americans lying in the fields near Le Mesnil.

I’ll write more when I can, my dear. Give our son a kiss from his dad.

With love,

William


Historical Notes:
Historically, the advance went well until late in the day when heavy German artillery halted the glider infantrymen. The Americans would not stay halted for long, however. A day later they drove the Germans back.
This game wasn’t completely accurate in that the American side was victorious after two hours of combat operations but the German defense was incredibly stout and resisted multiple attempts to force them out. German artillery was effective, but not nearly as much as the superior American artillery.

Personal Notes:
This was a fun scenario. The addition of an AFV unit and an AT gun introduced some more complexity to the introductory game. I also focused on the tactical advantages of the hedgerow and was able to position the American attack very near to the defenses without being detected. Splitting the attack into three foot units and one mechanized unit worked well to keep the Germans occupied with opportunity fire as the other units took up position. The heavy losses (a 2X result) from the first opportunity fire was a bit shocking, but that was the extent of the losses incurred by the American side.
This was the first time I effectively combined fire from adjacent units into one strong attack using leadership (I purposely tried to keep the units close enough to allow this).
The artillery again proved to be the God of War by relentlessly softening the enemy. I played one turn poorly and didn’t use artillery early in the turn and ended up coming under direct fire that was stronger than it should have been (the artillery would have disrupted several units and reduced their combat strength).
The German defense was strengthened by occupying towns (the -2 column modifier stymied several attacks) and utilizing successful opportunity fire. In one instance, I had to make a game decision. Would the 50mm gun opportunity fire on advancing foot soldiers and allow the Shermans to approach unmolested or would they hold their fire and wait for the tanks to come into view? I decided (since this was a solo game) that the Germans knew tanks might be near, but had no idea when or where they might come from and opted to opportunity fire on the footmen. Had this been a FtF game, that might have played out differently and the M4’s might have come under threat of AT fire.

This scenario is highly recommended!
 
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Eric Landes
United States
Beaverton
Oregon
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Great writeup!
 
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Ronster Zero
United States
California
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Next scenario on my list to play. Great write up.
 
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Jon Badolato
United States
Connecticut
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You have a gift man ! Sweet writeup. Obviously much care and thought put in and I for one appreciate it. Makes me itch to pull out one of my PG modules and crank out some action. Gotta go now .. INCOMING .....
 
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Brandon Neff
United States
South Jordan
Utah
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Thanks guys. While I don't consider myself a talented author (it's a hobby, not my day job), I have been published recently. It's not related to Panzer Grenadier, but it IS related to gaming (here comes the shameless plug).
I wrote two SoloQuest books (Dungeons and Dragons type choose-your-own-adventure books) for Kenzer & Co.
If you're interested, you can find them here:
http://www.kenzerco.com/index.php?cPath=25_61

One is in print and the other is an ebook. There's even a free short adventure for download that I wrote and was published in the gaming magazine, Knights of the Dinner Table #93.

Again, thanks for the input and compliments. I intend to make more contributions to the Panzer Grenadier session reports.
Brandon
 
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Andre
United States
Connecticut
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Clearly, Jon yearns to be hammered by his much stronger opponent----me----and also better looking if I might add....Set the board up....and they will come....
 
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