“Plan of Battle” is an MS-Excel based tool I developed to help me get more out of solitaire wargaming. It effectively plays the other side against you. It does this by holding a bank of plans for units (in the form of pre-plotted movement paths) and is able to select these anonymously and drip-feed individual moves per turn for you to apply. The effect is that you see the enemy plans unfold as the game progresses, but you can only guess where these will lead. Plan of Battle (or POB) has been set up to hold pre-listed plans for both German and Allied units in Bitter Woods. In my playing I elected to be the Allied side. I allowed POB to anonymously select plans for both the opposing German and my own US units. For the first 2 days (4 turns) the US units on the map followed whatever plan and orders POB gave it. For the most part the starting US units had the choice of either holding firm on their starting positions, falling back a little or falling back a lot more. I elected to do this because I wanted to give myself as the Allied commander the real challenge of seeing my front line suddenly and unpredictably torn apart, leaving me with the challenge of repairing it whilst trying to stem the German onslaught.
This turned out to be a most challenging and interesting experience. This is the second wargame I have applied POB to. For interested readers, the first was Strategy & Tactics Operation Anaconda under the article “Showdown at Gine”.
15 December 1944. The Supreme Commander reflected silently at his desk. The operational tempo across Western Europe was slowing with the worsening weather. US 7th Army had completed the recapture of several towns in Eastern France but logistical pressures were making themselves felt across the Allied line of advance. Certain sectors had been deliberately thinned out such as US VIII Corps that his intelligence chief Kenneth Strong had drawn attention to. “That damned business in the Huertgen Forest”, Ike thought, coming soon after Market-Garden. “If only it was as difficult for Germans to get their armies out of Germany as it was for everyone else to get theirs in”. The papers on his desk included a short intelligence brief from the Army Air Corps: a plane carrying band leader Glenn Miller was reported missing over the English Channel.
Allied fuel dumps are placed at 1910 and 2818. Lots of German units start to move in the direction of Clervaux/1623. Big German build-up appears between 0609-0614. First direct fire is opened by GER150PG (Skorzeny) against US99ID/394 on 0712. The impetuous Skorzeny is beaten back. KG Pieper dislodges US99ID/394. GER 277ID pushes back and damages US99ID/393. GER 26ID forces back US28ID/110 west of Clairvaux. US 28ID/109 hold heroically at 1129. US 99ID/395 pushed south to Elsenborn Ridge.
US responds. US 2ID, 99ID, 106ID fall back. US 28ID/109 and 9/CCA fall back to 1431. Middleton and Hodges move to the centre to co-ordinate the defence. Losses: US 1 step / GER 0 step
GER 26ID turns south to 1230 instead of heading to Clervaux. GER 5PG/15 occupies Clervaux. GER 18ID heads south from 0815 towards 1431. GER 116PGD pushes back US28ID/112. The end of the first day. GER in the south crossing Oui River in strength. Middleton has moved to 1113 out of his corps area to help reorganise the defence at what he sees as a huge GER build-up. The gates to Malmedy are open but KG Pieper is moving slowly. US position is fragile however.
GER 116PGD pushes back US28ID/112 to 1923. 1SS inflicts 2 step losses on US Arm/Inf under personal leadership of Middleton in 1113. US pushed out of 1431. Air support being applied by both sides. US 17AM reinforcements arrive. US1ID/26 arrives and engages the GER726ID at 1006 but is driven back. At 1213 Middleton leads 9/CCB and 99ID/394 in desperate to squeeze back 1SSPD but CCB is destroyed and Middleton KIA. At 1822, US28ID/112 counterattacks 116PGD but is forced back with loss of 1 step. US28ID/110 is forced back further towards Bastogne. US28ID/109 and 9/CCA fail to retake 1431. Reinforcements are arriving in the north, but the bigger risk is arguably in the south.
The Germans break out in the south. GER 2PD reaches Martelange 2433 with GER 352ID trailing behind. A regiment of GER 5FJ and GER 62ID push US110/28 out of Longvilly 2126. GER 116PZG heads towards Houffalize 2221 which is undefended. In the North, traffic jams plague German advance but GER 12SS despite Allied air interdiction pushes back US99/394. US2ID fall back to around Malmedy 1510. US106ID falls back to 2320 in the woods north of Houffalize. US10CC drives north into the GER 26ID at 1632 but attack is inconclusive. US 1ID takes lossses attacking GER 388 ART but destroys it near Elsenborn 1009. US99/394 attempts to attack GER 12SS but is destroyed. US28ID/109 move north into 1831 cutting GER supply lines to the west into Martelange affecting GER 2PZ and 352ID. A bad turn for the Allies. Germans make gains in the south. In the south, there is little to stop a GER occupation of Bastogne. In the north German progress is slow but their advance seems to be aimed at the gap between Stavelot and St Vith. The Allied front line has been badly torn.
It is the end of Turn 4 and I will now switch to actively issuing orders to the Allies.
In the North the Allied HQ is content to screen the German advance while reinforcements build up. It needs to protect the Sauree fuel dump hence the positioning of the US106ID and rushing in southwest of it of the 82AB. The German advance is formed of 2 major thrusts and the minor one into 2433.
Massive German surge towards Bastogne. German elements in the North are still stuck in jams. US28/112 is destroyed. US28/110 takes losses and is forced into Bastogne. GER 26ID and 62ID with regt of GER 5FJ in pursuit.
US strikes back destroying a GER Rkt and ART unit. US 10CC and elements 4ID move north to impede supply lines for the GER southern axis of advance. US 30ID strengthens defences at Stavelot-Trois Points. US 7/CC occupies 2719 to defend fuel dump and react to German probes. US 106ID moves into Houffalize and destroys bridge at 2221-2222. Allied losses; 4 steps 99ID, 3 steps 28ID, 1 step 1ID, 1 step 4ID, Middleton, 2 steps 9/CCB. GER losses: 1 Rkt, 1 ART. Allied HQ now thinks the key struggle will be along the Ourthe River.
Allied HQ expects Bastogne to fall and so priority now is to prevent GER advance west of Ourthe River which 82AB and 101AB will do. US forces in the south, centred on 10/CC with elements 28ID and 4ID will try to interfere with GER supply before reinforcements arrive. In the North the US forces await the tidal wave of all that armour. The Allied best hope is to cut supply lines if they advance. The threat is in the south. Allied reinforcements are not expected for 4 days! The big 6 Panzer-Armee group is still making snail’s pace north east of St Vith.
A critical event: GER 116 PGD has orders to attack into 2719: does it punch through Houffalize or go around it? It goes around through the yawning gap in the US lines. One of 116 PGD's brigades is delayed exiting Houffalize but its panzers and remaining panzergrenadier regiment slam into 7/CC protecting the fuel dump at 2818. 7/CC is pushed back and the GER captures the dump! In another ominous move the GER 18ID swings northwest to 2622. Significant GER towed and rocket ART are moving to Bastogne. In a powerful combined arms attack, GER 26ID destroys US28ID/110 and occupies Bastogne. GER 560ID attacks US28ID/109 at 1831 forest but fighting is inconclusive and supply lines to the west are still blocked. US 82AD halts near Champion at 3023. The US lines have already been torn apart. US 101AD reaches 2729, too late to relieve Bastogne. GER capture of Bastogne allows resupply to reach 2PZ and 352ID at Martelange 2433.
The Allied situation is grim. GER capture of the Samree supply dump will aid its advance. The GER have torn a hole in the Allied lines along the Ourthe River. And 2SS and most of a PG division arrive this turn as reinforcements compared with a single US regiment. Allied commanders perceive 3 potential GER axes of advance.
1. In the south, driving due west towards Givet/4922 to Revin 5527.
2. In the North, through Trois Points 1913 and on towards Havelange/3812 before swinging NW for the Meuse.
3. Northwest from La Roche/2920 straight for the Meuse spearheaded by 116Pz and 18ID.
The Allied leadership discounts #1 and rates #3 as the greatest threat. It believes it needs to form and hold a line running NE-SW from Stavelot/1811 to St Hubert/3525. The Allied concept of operations is as follows;
- 101AD to defend bridges at 3126 and 3023
- 82AD move to woods in 2921 from which to attack and occupy La Roche/2920
- the US forces between the north and south GER axes, namely 9/CCR armour and 3 units of VII Corps ART are to withdraw west. 9/CCR is to link with 7/CC to attack 116Pz at Samree/2719
- the VII Corp ART is the take up positions in the woods between 2714 and 2816 and support defensive operations
- 106ID is to withdraw from Houffalize and join 7CC in halting 116 PZzG.
- 9ID is to take up positions around Vielsalm/2016
- 30ID is to defend Stavelot/1810 and Trois Points/2012 from west of the River Salm.
- 2ID is to hold Mamledy and prevent any GER move north towards Belgium
- 1ID is to move to Werbemont/2612 to be held as reserve as situation develops.
- 10CC is to attack GER 560ID in 1731
- 102Cav is to move to 1809 to await further orders
- 99ID is to occupy 1ID IP in 1008 and hold.
GER 3 PG reinforcement enters at R and moves southwest. In another moment of fate, Lehr gets orders to move to 3422 from its position south of Bastogne. It could move south or north of 82AD location at 3023 but after a 3DR6 it picked the direct route and smashed directly into the All-Americans. GER 9SS PD reinforcements enters at U and heads for 1212. GER 2SS PD reinforcements enters at W and head for 1212 traffic jam.US forces fall back west as per their plans. A failure in coordination between 99ID and 01ID means the IP at 1008 is left vacant and is lost. US101AD moves west catching 5PZG and 26ID in the rear but its attack is forced back 3 hexes with 1 step loss. Ridgeway elects to preserve his force in the hope of disrupting GER supply lines rather than get destroyed. Despite seeing Pz Lehr approaching at 3023, US82AD follows its orders to attack into La Roche at 2920. US10Arm and 28ID/110 push back 560ID in a welcome respite. Are there possibilities to close GER supply lines?
The battle is entering its critical phase. The tip of the GER advance is 116PGD at 3619 with 18ID following. 8 hexes southeast is a powerful 4 GER division force of Lehr/26ID/212ID/5FJ. Yet the Allied HQ sees opportunities to strangle GER supply lines. Ridgeway is ordered to hold 101AD at 2828 to exploit opportunities to hit GER supply lines as they stretch and possibly to recapture Bastogne. US82AD is to hold similarly at 2920/La Roche. US106ID, 10 Arm and supporting VII Corps ART are to head for Havelange/3812 to cut off the GER spearhead of 116PGD and 18ID. Critically, further to the east, US4ID is to occupy 1324 and 9/CCR 1318 to cut main GER supply lines. Pieper and Skorzeny destroy US recon forces holding Vielsalin and occupy it. Gen Hodges is persuaded by his staff to withdraw from Vielsalin. GER 1SSPGD joins Pieper looking across the river at the US9ID on the heights at 2016. The US attempted to blow the bridge but failed. In a further setback for GER, 12SS attacks other US30ID units holding Stavelot but is suffers 2 step losses to the panzergrenadiers. It will take a lot more to crack this position. Even worse, GER 560ID and supporting Nebelwerfer attack 10Arm at 1630 but are wiped out. US forces in the South East are now in a position to do serious harm to GER supply lines.
Allied commanders surmise that the GER spearhead is on a north or northwest trajectory through Rochefort/3819 to Marche/3518. The US has managed to withdraw 2 divisions and supporting ART to Havelange/3812 and has made progress cutting GER supply routes in the south. The Havelange forces may be able to interrupt any GER lunge west towards Dinant/4717 or Givet/4922. In the next 24 hours the US 3Arm will drive south from Liege (N). Seeing that the delicate Allied defence could fall apart if the SS offensive out of Vielsalin/1916 is successful, the Allied command decides to commit US1ID under the personal command of Hodges to its defence with orders to halt GER advance through 2015-2018 at all costs. The last regiment of the 28ID will occupy and fortify Ettlebruck/1431. 9/CCA will join 10Arm near 1731 to repel any attempts to reopen GER supply lines.
If the Allies can hold on for another 48 hours….
Allied intelligence has failed again to anticipate GER moves. In the NE, GER10SS PD prepares to move with FuhGd and 11PZ in the south, just where the US interdiction is position. In Vielsalin/1916 a huge GER concentration with Pieper / Skorzeny and 3 SS divisions with FuhGd presses against a regiment of US 9ID before 1ID can arrive. It bursts through with 9ID forced to retreat. The pursuing GER including 150PG in its US uniforms and US liveried vehicles encounter Gen Hodges near a farmhouse with his command staff. They are riddled with fire and Hodges becomes the second US general to fall. The GER 12ID is destroyed trying to force a crossing at Trois Points/1913. Most ominously for the Allies, PzLehr is only half its movement allowance from crossing the Meuse at 4919. Further setbacks when 9/CCR is destroyed at 1418 by GER 3PGD with Deitrich intervening personally. The US 1ID slams into the 1SS at 2217 but is driven back 1 hex. The door out of Vielsalin/1916 is open and with it the securing of GER supply lines to the west.
Monty's captured GER command vehicles is camouflaged under trees in a siding between Ouffet and Durbey (3211). A map is pinned to a flat board with bulldog clips. "Gentlemen, the German greyhound has left the traps with his customary early speed. The mistake made thus far has been to stand out in front of him in the hope of stopping him. He will lose momentum as he always does but before then he will cross the Meuse in strength. We have to entangle him in a net at that point to sap his advance." We need to get scratch forces to all the Meuse crossings ideally defending in towns. This will either block his crossing or his resupply west of the Meuse. We also need to deploy the 82/101 in a wide arc along La Roche-Champlon-St Hubert-Recogne-Nerfchateau. Reinforcements from the north and south will arrive in the next 4 days to compress the shoulders of his advance. We will ensnare the hound in a net, bring him to ground and deal with him". British officers grin at the sporting analogy. American officers including a liason for Matthew Ridgeway are appalled. "Sir, you are proposing we break our few large combat formations into penny packets. Gen Ridgeway wants to hold 101/82 for concentrated counterattacks towards Bastogne". Monty calmly replies to the American colonel. "The counterattack will happen, but not yet. To deal with the enemy we must fix him in place. You have your orders."
The US 106ID and 7Arm will rush to positions between Dinant/4717 and Givet/4912 to hinder the drive of 116PGD. 3Arm will block GER advance and resupply between Celles/4418 and Beauring/4622. 82AD will send half its strength to hold Champlon/3123 while 101AD will circle back clockwise from 2828 leaving a regiment in Recogne/3230 and using 3 regiments to take and hold St Hubert/3425. GER 2PD counterattacks west into 10Arm and 9CCA. 352ID assists it. GER 2PD has indecisive clash with 10Arm and both sides are locked in contact. 352ID is forced back 2 hexes. 9/CCR having forced back 352ID can now support 10Arm against 2PD. Unaware of US forces rushing to block their way across the Meuse, both PzLehr and 116PGD halt! GER 12SSHJ switches it attack from Stevelot/1812 to TroisPoints/1913. It is nonetheless forced back 2 hexes. GER326ID passes through Vielsalin into 1916 and collides with US 1ID trying to block the way across the River Salin. It is forced back east of the Salin.
11Pz on its way to link up with FuhGd at 1520 runs into the 4ID blocking position at 1324. The Americans are forced back 3 hexes and 11Pz crosses the Our River. GER 18ID advances just 1 hex to 4412. Even the GER 212ID halts at 3225. A massive tide of SS iron is bottled up at the Vielsalin crossing. A massive SS/Wehr attack on 2417 inflicts a 1 step loss on US 9ID/47r which falls back 3 hexes with Peiper and Skorzeny in pursuit. Dietrich's 6PA is on the cusp of a breakout. In the Allied turn, US 9ID/47r retreats from Peiper but hooks north and anticlockwise towards Manhay/2616. 3 US divisions, the 3Arm/7Arm/106ID take up positions along the Meuse west of the 116PGD. The GER rapier thrust looks like it may be blunted, but is 6 Panzer Army further north the looming hammer blow? In the south, US 10/9Arm battle unsuccessfully against 2PD losing 1 step and being forced back 2 hexes.
There is palpable relief at Allied HQ as 3 US divisions take up position along the Meuse and 82/101AD reach their new positions along the Rocogne/StHubert/Champlon/LaRoche line. The developing threat is however from 6PA most notably the GER spearhead at 2618 Peiper/Skorzeny/FuhGd). Behind them the US 1ID faces a very strong GER second echelon but this has to be slowed down. The crossroads at Manhay/2615, Werbomont/2612 and between these and the River Orthe represent the key positions to control if 6PA breakout is to be stopped.
The remainder of the US84ID with supporting ART/Arm moves south from Liege. GER 26ID clashes inconclusively with 3Arm near Dinant/4717. 116PGD and PzLehr bear down on 106ID/424 at 4720 causing it 1 step losses and forcing it back 3 hexes. US ART engaged in the area includes the 333, which includes African Americans finally allowed to engage in front line ground combat (and also in infantry and tank destroyer roles, where they would distinguish themselves).
US 82AD are unable to blow the bridge at LaRoche/2920 and then face an attack by KG Pieper and 1SS with Sepp Dietrich lending his own "weight" to the attack. The armour heavy Germans cannot force a crossing and both sides take losses. 3FJ slams into the second 82AD position at Champlon/3123 but is forced back 1 hex. 9SS and 277ID attempt to force US 1ID away from the Vielsalin crossing at 1916. 1ID is forced back 1 hex and 277ID advances. Ominously GER 12SSHJ is able to ford a badly defended crossing and flank the 30ID at TroisPoints/2013 but the fighting is inconclusive.
And in the south, GER 352ID links up with 2PD to attack US10/9Arm around 1531 but again the fighting is inconclusive. US ART in Namur/4909 beats back 18ID causing 1 step loss. 1ID counterattacks 277ID at 2016 but both side sustain losses. 10Arm loses 1 step in futile attack against 2PD/352ID. 3Arm forces back 26ID 2 hexes from 4618.
On the evening of the 21st Dec, Monty (from his field HQ with 3Arm), and Eisenhower (who has joined Bradley) are focused on 2 questions. First, can they blunt the tip of the GER advance, with PzLehr and 116PGD at 4720-4721? Second, what is the objective of the 6 Panzer Army? Their axis of advance appears to have shifted mainly west, but the 10SS and 12SSHJ could swing north or northwest.
Monty advises Ike that he plans to shift 3Arm to the western side of the Meuse and move additional ART into the area. If 116PGD and Lehr can be attrited the GER advance can be stopped. He also wants to pull scattered US forces out of Werbomont / Manhay / Vielsalin triangle back northwest to hinder GER movements in that direction. The Allied commanders can take some comfort in that Patton's forces will enter the combat zone from the south in the next turn whilst UK 30 Corps under Horrocks will drive from the northwest. Monty also notes that he believes the 82AD position at LaRoche/2920 may become the focus of significant GER attention as it hinders their follow-on echelons. He requests Ridgeway to shift forces from the quiet south (Rocogne/3530) to the LaRoche position.
Skorzeny's 150PG halts inexplicably at 3317. West of Vielsalin 9SS slams into US1ID driving it northwest 2 hexes. 2PD and 352ID attack Ettlebruck/1431 but are driven back. 3PGD (2 regt) seeking empty roads, leapfrogs forward to Rochefort/3820. Facing the choice of pressing the attack on La Roche/2920 against 82AD or finding an alternative route, KG Pieper loops northwest ending up at 3720. Dietrich with 1SS follows ending up at March/3518. At 4520, 26ID remains halted. The GER attack is clearly shifting towards Givet 4922. 3FJ attacks 82AD at Champlon but is driven back with losses. 116PGD forces 106ID/424 (1 step) west across the Meuse but elects not pursue. GER 18ID is able to force its way into Namur/4909 but 84ID cuts into its rear. 101AD and 82 AD complete their reallocations.
Surviving on especially strong coffee after 6 days of crisis management, officers at Allied HQ believe the situation is finally about to turn in their favour. Between Dinant/4717 and Givet/4922 stand the US 3/7Arm, depleted 106ID and support, ready to receive the attacks of 116PGD and PzLehr. More worrying still is the news of GER SS formations speeding west via Rochefort/3820. However, the GER westward attack is funnelled through a narrowing channel between Durbuy/3213 and LaRoche/3920. GER can resupply via Neufchateau/3232 but this is vulnerable to US attacks from the South. Generals Patton and Collins of the US Army and the UK's Brian Horrocks are bringing a total of 3 US divisions and 3 UK divisions with ample support to intervene decisively.
The Allied concept of operations is as follows. Gen Patton will send light forces to block to occupy Recogne/3530 and Neufchateau/3232. Gen Patton will take his main force entering 1435 and initially occupying 1424. From there he will also capture and hold 1319 and cut GER supply lines to the west. 99ID will come south from Elsenborn to take and hold the crossing at 1113. 2ID will send 1 regt to StVith/1316 and another to 1319 to await relief by Patton's forces. UK 30 Corps will move to defensive positions along a line from Nandrin/3407 to Ciney/4215 but UK53Div will hurry south to the US lines near Dinant as a backstop. Gen Collins will move south to command US forces in the NE with his HQ with the 1ID. Monty will command US forces between Dinant and Givet, blowing whatever bridges are necessary, fortifying and must hold at all costs. Help is coming and it comes in many forms. As British forces move into the northern shoulder of the bulge, US sentries halt a jeep carrying a British officer who would wear a uniform on the silver screen with more ease than most: David Niven.
US 5ID/10rgt is set to enter at 0916, moving to Diekirch/1230 to hold it. At 3rd Army HQ, Gen Patton's hand glides over a pearl handled pistol at his side: "Gentlemen, the GER advance sticks out all the way to the Meuse like a dog's ******. We are going to kick it very hard. But expect tough fighting when Fritz reacts and remember to we can't let him dig on his new gains. We will have to drag him out of Bastogne while 30 Corp hammer him from the North West."
The first surprise of the day is when the GER 116PGD instead of heading due west against US7Arm at 4919 swings north to attack Dinant 4717 (DR used to make choices). GER 3FJ at 2925 receives orders to get to 4221. It has 3 possible route and a DR selects the south roundabout one which is follows through Recogne /3530. Is the Airborne line being outflanked? PzLehr then swings north also at Dinant while Skorzeny bears down on Ciney/4215. The Allies are forced out of Dinant and Lehr/116 are across the Meuse! 9SSPD swings south and west towards 101AD at Champlon. The GER drive westwards is like a curling serpent. 10SS and 2SS stop at the Ourthe at 3317/3216. 12SS breaks off attacks against Trois Points and loops south and then northwest to 2811. Whilst powerful attacks are made against the Dinant/Givet line, the GER advance is fanning out in a way that worries the Allied planners. GER 26ID and 5FJ attack west from 4919-4920. GER 5FJ is forced back but 7Arm under direction of Monty take a step loss. GER 79ID attacks US4ID at Clervaux/1623 but is beaten back with losses. As it retreats it blocks the northern drive of the US 80ID under Patton which drives it back further into 1224. The action slows down the advance of Patton's 4Arm and 26ID. Further north the 2ID takes up its positions in StVith/1316 and 1319. The Allies have failed to close the trap however. At Ambleve/1113 the critical crossroads lie open, allowed GER a thin but critical supply line. Further to the south, Neufchateau/3232 also permits resupply to the west. The GER will have another turn in supply to widen the Meuse breakout. Will it be enough?
Allied optimism has turned to pessimism. GER has forced the Meuse in 3 places. The weakened OOS GER 18ID struggles on its own north of Namur at 5007. 116PGD is opposed by a regt of 106ID with the UK53ID at Mettit/5415 to it west. Lehr is on the cusp of exiting the west map edge if 26ID can destroy the US106/7Arm hindering Lehr at 5018. Monty must also take account of the intent of the powerful column of KG Pieper, 1SS and 3PGD believed to be heading for either Givret/4922 or Vireux/5223. Further reports have come in of hostile units in US uniform and markings in Ciney. And then there is the intent of the 2 fresh SS divisions at Hotton/3317 and the 9SS threatening the AD line at Champlon/3123. If the Allies can hold for another 12 hours they should complete the cutting of GER supply lines to the west. US 75ID with additional units is due to reinforce from the west.
The turn begins with GER 79ID engaging 80ID from 1324 and interrupting 3rd Army's northward drive. 3FJD marches to 4123 threatening Allied supply lines. 12SSHJ feints north and attacks 1ID at Aywaille/2609. It is forced back 2 hexes with a reduced SS mech regt destroyed by the resolute 1ID. GER 352ID leapfrogs the SS panzers to arrive at 3717 clearly en route to Ciney/4215. The full strength of PzLehr is piled against elements of 106ID/7Arm at 5018. The GER intent seems to be to widen rather than deepen the Meuse crossing. 7Arm/CCR is destroyed whilst thte 106ID is forced back 3 hexes. Lehr pursues into the remaining 7Arm positions immediately south on the Meuse west bank but 116PGD drives west to 5318. Can the gap be plugged? In another unexpected development, 116PGD swings south to join PzLehr in its attack. 9SS attacks the 101AD in its improved positions at Champlon/3123 but is forced back 2 hexes. 2PD/352ID continue their inconclusive slogging against 10Arm around 1531. 10 Arm withdraws to 1432. And then, just as it seems all is lost UK53Div71Brig marches into 5417, blocking the advance westwards of PzLehr. They are followed by US75ID moving into 5216-5217 with 2 of its 3 regts catching the lead elements of PzLehr in the rear and absolutely cutting its supply. Patton and his commanders oversee a strong combined arms attack of 26ID and 4Arm with 2 supporting Art regiments which forces back GER 79ID 4 hexes. US 9ID/39r occupies Ambleve/1113. With this, the Allies have cut GER supply lines with PzLehr lead elements 2 hexes from the western map edge. Watching his columns resume their march north, Patton observes to his staff "Gentlemen, we have our foot on the enemy's windpipe. I plan to stand on it."
Eisenhower sends a secure communication to Patton. To make his point he uses an American football analogy. "Enemy grounded 2 yards from the end zone. We are struggling to hold him. You must REPEAT must stop all enemy efforts to reopen their supply lines." From their respective locations, Eisenhower, Bradley and Monty pore over their maps. Bradley points out that UK43Div and 11/29 Tank could be diverted to the GER breakout west of the Meuse as US2Arm under its excellent CO Ernest Harmon can come south via Huy/3907 to take its place. Eisenhower agrees and sends his orders to Monty. Monty communicates by return. "General, I will shorten my own lines and feed forces into 5119-5019. I recommend if Gen Bradley agrees that 3Arm should drive into GER 116PGD from the woods at 5218. I must respectfully point out our continuing exposure at Vireux/5223 if 1SS/3PGD and that muscular battlegroup move against it. We may have time given the enemy's fuel shortage to reorientate towards such a threat but it will thin us out. If reinforcements can transit to this sector via Charleville-Meziere/5234 this would be most welcome. Respectfully, Monty".
Kenneth Strong, Eisenhower's intelligence chief and Walter Bedell-Smith look at each other having read the unusually formal and collegiate communication. They have the same thought. Even Monty knows how serious this is for all of them.
116PGD drives the brigade of UK53Div back one hex but is boxed in by the rest of 53Div and US 517 regt. 3Arm and 75ID close the road behind it. Much to Monty's relief the GER 1SS/3PGD/Pieper group halts at 4721 instead of swinging down towards Vireux/5223. There is a detectable reduction in the force of GER attacks as the supply noose tightens. East of Clervaux/1623 Patton's column is still being blocked by 79ID but Patton resolves to flex his orders to deal with them decisively. And around 1531-1532 the 2PD and 352ID are beaten back both with losses after an unsupported attack against the US forces in Ettlebruck/1431.
At this point I studied the objectives relative to the situation on the map. I had erred in introducing as German reinforcements the 10SS and 11PG divisions. This meant the 9PGD was not available on the 23AM turn leaving barely 2 weak infantry divisions and an ART regiment to break the American supply stranglehold. If GER could not recommence resupply the drive west of the Meuse would yield no gain to the GER side and I felt this meant an Allied tactical victory. The Allies could go on to claim a strategic victory for control of St Vith (already complete), Bastogne and Marche. At the end of Turn 15 Marche was unoccupied and it did not appear to be a GER goal. I felt the Allies (UK Guards division or even US101/82AD could slip units) int to it. Furthermore, strong allied reinforcements could reach it from the north. I felt Marche could be in Allied hands by the end of the game. That left Bastogne. It was occupied by a sole ART unit with the weak GER 62ID to its west. I felt that Patton could take 2 of his divisions with the remains of 4ID and take Bastogne. 5ID reinforcements would strengthen his blockade line so he could do this with confidence. Then on 26Dec the US 35ID and 6Arm could reach Bastogne from the south. The 11Arm division entering G/5235 on 23AM would also reach GER62ID positions at 2527 at 23PM (just). I concluded that US forces would comfortably control Bastogne by the end of the game. Given the loss of GER offensive power because of supply constraints and my inclination to box them in, I felt Allied losses if I played to the 26PM would not reach the 48 units necessary to demote the Allied victory level. On that basis I concluded (I think reasonably) that the Allies would by 26PM win a strategic victory.
Across western Belgium towards the Meuse the landscape was littered with German military vehicles. Many had been abandoned and blown up because of fuel shortage. Over the coming weeks the Allies would bag significant numbers of demoralised German prisoners strung out far from their start lines, hungry and without transport. Sepp Dietrich refused to surrender and managed to escape the encirclement. Early in January amidst worsening weather a Feisler Storch was able to snatch him back to Germany. Generals Brandenberger and Manteuffel surrendered to Gen Patton's forces near Bastogne. Asked about the consequences for his family, Manteuffel said calmly he felt no shame in surrendering to someone of Patton's stature, and he owed to his men not to abandon them. The methodical but painful reduction of the bulge would continue well into January 1945. It was only at a conference with Eisenhower and Bradley that Monty would permit himself a little strong refreshment to signify the end of a difficult chapter. "You know Ike, for a while I did wonder what this episode might mean for our employment prospects….". Behind the famous smile, the Supreme Commander pondered his own thoughts.
It wasn’t just the battle, bad as it had been. It was having to explain the deaths of 2 senior US commanders in the field. And then De Gaulle had questioned US / UK capability when GER forces had temporarily re-entered France. Eisenhower had met with recovering US soldiers, listened to their stories of fanatic 16 and 17-year-old youths thrown into battle against them and cut to pieces. Inwardly he shuddered at what he was required to ask of his men (and women).
"We press on Monty."
I designed Plan of Battle to attempt to introduce into the wargaming experience some of the real challenges faced by commanders. Incomplete information about enemy composition and intent; difficulties in communicating with and directing formations; conceiving and executing plans during chaos and violence. POB was designed to force me to make plans which I would then stick to, against an opposing force that was itself working to picked plans.
During this game itself I would write orders into POB at the start of each order in anticipation of what it would take to halt the enemy. I made several mistakes during the game. The main one was around Turn 8 when I tried to close the German breakout west of the Sauree supply dump and failed. All told, this battle as I oversaw it was a very close thing. I could have cut supply lines to the GER advance a turn earlier (but I also bungled orders to the US 99ID). At the same time, the advance of the German vanguard, in the form of 116PG and PzLehr whilst better then the historical performance, was still slowed up by occasional pauses. Yet these 2 divisions came very close to existing the western map edge whilst supplied.
Playing the game brought home to me the point that even 6-8 days after the initial German assault, the reinforcements which the Allies were able to bring against the shoulders of the breach were not of themselves especially overwhelming. The German assault forces packed and landed a very heavy punch. It is to the credit of all arms of the US Army that it kept punching back, every day, in every sector.
Owing to work and other commitments it has taken me 6 months to play out this campaign and it has been a thoroughly absorbing experience. With apologies to my US friends, my main reading on the battle itself has been through Anthony Beevor (“Ardennes 44”) with some other research from the books of Charles Whiting. I have not yet digested John S. D. Eisenhower’s “Bitter Woods” (although for a commander / political leadership perspective I greatly admire his “Allies: from Pearl Harbour to D-Day”) nor have I read (yet) “Dark December” by Robert Merriam. I did however make reference to Carlo D’Este’s “Patton: A Genius For War”.
There is something particularly awful about the Battle of the Bulge. The weather. The suffering of civilians. The treatment of POWs. The increased lethality of all weapons. Nazi Germany throwing teenage boys into a meatgrinder. The fighting through Christmas. The suffering of the ordinary soldier. One can only hope that the few left who went through this might experience some peace at last.
- Last edited Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:15 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Jun 10, 2018 11:23 pm
Re: Miracle on the Meuse (Bitter Woods played solitaire "Plan of Battle" aide)
Is the Plan of Battle aide available for download?
Re: Miracle on the Meuse (Bitter Woods played solitaire "Plan of Battle" aide)
I will upload the Excel file asap. I also hope to insert some images into the report.
As of Sat 16 June the POB Excel file has been uploaded here. I would add that having used this now for 2 quite different wargames I have completed a new and heavily simplified version of the POB Excel file which I am now going to test on a playing of Modern Warfare's 2017 Combat Veteran (specifically the 1967 Vietnam scenario).
Again best wishes,
- Last edited Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:25 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:34 pm