7 Jun 1944
Dear Mom and Dad,
I'm sitting here waiting for my turn (you'll find out why in a bit) and wanted to write you a quick note and tell you about what happened today. The last two days have been hectic to say the least. I've been thrown into a meat grinder, spit out and then thrown back in. The Normandy countryside is beautiful, but the Germans have tainted it with corruption. Where there were once rolling hills and verdant farms there are now flooded bogs and cement pillboxes, gun batteries and burned out vehicles. There is still beauty here, though, and I see more of it every day as we work to drive the enemy back to Berlin.
We still haven't linked up with the Airborne units that dropped here on the night before the invasion (they were dropped all over the countryside and we've ran into a few that were lost...and a few that were hanging from trees, never having survived the drop.
Anyway, this morning we approached the village of Torqueville from the east and were ordered to clear it out. Reports indicated that elements of the 795th Orst Batallion was there (most of them are Georgians and before you ask, there is a place in Europe called Georgia. These guys ain't southerners!). We split ourselves into three battle groups. I was led by Major Davis. We had two platoons of infantry and a heavy machine gun team. There were two other groups, one of similar makeup led by Captain Chadwick and another comprised of two platoons of men along with two officers, a 1st and 2nd lieutenant. We snuck through the thick hedges lining the fields and worked our way towards town. About 15 minutes after we set out, I could hear fire to the south of my position. The two LT's and their men were coming under fire. One of the platoons was disrupted as the Germans spotted them hustling across the field and a few men went down but nothing serious, I'm glad to say.
Well, 1st Lt Kenworthy spotted the Krauts that fired on his men and ordered in a barrage of artillery rounds courtesy of Uncle Sam. The rounds plowed right into the German ranks, disrupting two half-platoons guarding a 50mm gun battery. The Grenadiers tried to rally but were still pretty shaken up from the artillery. The shells kept coming and the whole gun battery was knocked out and both half-platoons were demoralized and ready to run (they ain't German so why die for the 'Fatherland'?). They fled towards Torqueville and the LT's ordered their men to open fire at the fleeing enemy. One of the half-platoons, about 20 men, were shot down but the rest managed to hit the edge of town and avoid our fire.
Captain Chadwick ordered his men to burst through the hedgerow in preparations for an assault on Torqueville. As soon as the men cleared cover, they came under a hail of fire. It was a nightmare for our guys and I only hope that their sacrifice will bring about a swift end to this war. They were hit from two directions and our men were cut to pieces. Roughly 65 men paid the ultimate price and went down in the fields of France just to gain a few hundred yards of ground. I know it had to be done (heck, it might have been my platoon that was called upon to make the advance) but the loss stings. I knew a lot of those guys and some had wives and children. Mortars landed all around the survivors and they were severely demoralized and ready for help.
Major Davis had seen enough and he ordered us to break cover and advance upon the enemy and we came under fire as well. It seemed like everywhere we turned, there were German rifles aimed at us! We ran hard and came through ok and were ready for a little payback.
The artillery barrage kept coming, but this time the target was Torqueville itself. Whole buildings came crashing down from the blasts, The half-platoon that ran there for safety got leveled by the dozens of explosions!
Well, some of the men that had sustained the heavy losses approaching town tried to rally but the sounds of battle drove them to run instead! They fled into the hedgerows and sought cover. They needed help, badly!
The Germans charged the men that had stayed and came face to face with the courage of the infantryman. They managed to disrupt the HMG fire we were laying down but not before we hammered them, disrupting their chain of command and demoralizing the Grenadiers! 2nd Lt Barnes came to Kenworthy's aid along with a platoon of infantry and they went after the Germans at close range. The assault was a tremendous success and they overtook the German HMG position, shot the defenders and sent 20 Grenadiers to meet their makers.
Some ineffective mortar fire suddenly came my way but it went long and we were glad. However, it managed to pin us down long enough for the Germans who shot at me before to fire again and this time we weren't so lucky. My platoon took the heaviest losses and I was injured, but I am ok. Got that mom? I am ok. It's just a scratch, really. Anyway, it's something to write home about, so here goes. One of the guys in front of me was hit hard by rifle fire. I went out to grab him and pull him back to cover when I felt something hot sting me right in the calf. I reached back to swat it away and felt something warm. It didn't register that it was blood for a few seconds (I had blood all over my hands from dragging my buddy back to safety) and then I saw the fast-growing stain on my uniform. I pulled open the fabric and saw that it had gone in and out and the wound was clean. I could still move my foot and more importantly I could still walk, and run if I had no choice. Anyway, that's my badge of courage. I consider myself fortunate after all the guys around me were getting the worst of it, many losing their lives. We were pretty shaken up but Major Davis is a great leader and he had us on our feet in no time.
Meanwhile the Germans started to abandon ship, notably the HMG unit holed up in Torqueville. Boy was I glad to see them high-tail it out of there! The artillery kept coming, this time pounding the guys who had just shot me. It forced them to quit shooting at us and I was glad for it!
Meanwhile, the two sides locked in close combat came to a finish. Some of the Grenadiers retreated (that's the technical word but they fled, no doubt about it) and the rest were demoralized and ready to run.
We came under fire one last time and I won't lie, I was scared. I was already bleeding from one wound and wasn't quite ready for another. Still, Major Davis rallied us, who had taken the heaviest losses, only to see the other platoon make a run for cover behind the hedgerows! Mortar rounds were falling around us which doubtless played into the 'retreat' but Major Davis kept us in position, even as a round exploded near him, showering him with dirt.
At this point several of the demoralized German units started to flee the battlefield. It came as a suprise, especially since we had taken some heavy losses and it didn't look like the Germans were planning on leaving Torqueville any time soon. With their defenses weakening all around them, the Germans threw down their arms, all too glad to end the fighting. I sat back against my friend and started laughing, partly out of shock and partly out of joy. Somehow we'd won this battle!
Well, the medic is here to patch up my leg so I'd better go. I'll write more when I can. Thanks for raising me right. I don't know why, but I think it saved my life today. I did what Major Davis told me and everything was ok. Tell Mark, Jeannie and Eileen that I miss them. I miss you both as well.
Historically, the Georgians had fought with some resolve and eventually surrendered, led by their officers. This battle progressed similarly. They put up a stiff resistance but eventually surrendered (see special rule #3) after the losses and demoralizations piled up.
So why did the German forces surrender? They had lost 4 units (you count units and leaders, not step losses) and by the 7th turn had 3 units that were demoralized, two of which had fled to the edge of the map. Were it not for special rule #3, I think the Germans would have won this battle. The only had to hang on for five complete turns and there was no way I would be able to get them all at least 5 hexes from town in that amount of time.
What worked in this scenario:
The German Opportunity Fire was simply devastating, especially when multiple units fired one after the other (at one point my advancing units were hit by Opp. Fire from three separate German positions reasulting in three step losses and demoralizing the rest, except for the Leader.
The American artillery was relentless. It disrupted, demoralized and vaporized several German units. Used effectively, it can turn the tide of battle.
The American assault defense was very effective and the counter offensive reduced a disrupted/demoralized enemy by two step losses.
What didn't work in this scenario:
The opening placement of American troops was poor. I ended up with one group lagging behind (you try running an HMG and gear through a hedgerow!) and that slowed the attack, leaving some Germans available for opportunity fire.
Overall, this was a crowded battle. More than once I accidentally knocked over a pile of chits and had to go back through my notes to get things sorted out properly. I think a map with larger hexes overall would be nice, just to prevent bumping units while marking others.
What did I learn from this scenario? The Germans had superior numbers and excellent positions but low morale was their downfall. If they can't rally, they can't fight effectively and end up succumbing to a smaller foe.