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Subject: Ramrod to Berlin, the final count rss

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J.D. Webster
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Ripped to Shreds

Our Bomber Squadron’s Trip to Berlin

This is a recap of the fate of 24 Boeing B-17s on the "Ramrod to Berlin" Mission Scenario of which I’ve posted two AARs already on the larger combats. The mission, which utilized all three scales of Over-the-Reich, and which was played using the updated Whistling Death level 2d edition FW rules, lasted 42 operational game turns and was interesting for the results it generated.

Of the 24 bombers on hand, one aborted on take-off and was removed from the mission. Of the 23 that penetrated into enemy territory, only 9 made it back, but one crashed on landing meaning only 8 survived the round trip. This represents a total loss rate of 66 percent; enough to knock this Squadron out of commission for several weeks, as it would have to receive new aircraft and train many new replacement crews and that would take considerable time.

Lead Squadron (67 percent losses):

01 – Returned to base, heavily damaged, 22 hits / 6 critical hits sustained
02 – Shot down by pair of Me-410s with 50mm cannon
03 – Returned to base, light damage, 2 hits / 1 critical hit sustained
04 – Shot down by rocket hits from Me-410
05 – Shot down by rocket hits from Bf-109
06 – Shot down by Me-410 with 50mm cannon

High Squadron (50 percent losses):

07 – Returned to base, moderate damage, 13 hits / 5 critical hits sustained.
24 – Shot down by Me-110 cannon fire
23 – Shot down by Me-110 cannon fire
10 – Severely damaged by fighter attacks, crashed on landing, all killed.
11 – Returned to base, heavily damaged, 20 hits / 8 critical hits sustained.
12 – Returned to base, heavily damaged, 22 hits / 9 critical hits sustained.

Low Squadron (67 percent losses):

13 – Returned to base, light damage, 3 hits / 1 critical hit sustained.
14 – Shot down by Bf-109 gunfire
15 – Shot down by Fw-190 cannon attack
16 – Shot down by Me-110 cannon fire
17 – Shot down by Bf-109 gunfire
18 – Returned to base, moderate damage, 13 hits / 5 critical hits sustained

Middle Rear Squadron (83 percent losses):

19 – Shot down by rocket hits from Me-410
20 – Shot down by rocket hits from Bf-109
21 – Shot down by heavy AAA guns over target.
22 – Tail End Charlie. Returned to base, totally undamaged.
(23 – Moved up to slot 08, shot down as indicated above.)
(24 – Moved up to slot 09, shot down as indicated above.)

Others
09 – Shot down by heavy AAA en route to target. Replaced by no. 23.
08 – Aborted mission during take-off, damaged. Replaced by no. 24.

The primary reason for the heavy loss rate was the very determined and ferocious enemy fighter attacks that occurred. This aggressiveness however, proved equally costly to the Luftwaffe side in that, despite savaging the American bomber squadron, their losses were so high as to result in only a marginal victory by the end of the scenario. See my fate of the Luftwaffe post, which follows.

The USAAF Human Cost (as simulated by the game)

Of the 23 bombers that crossed the coastline headed for Germany, 15 were lost. This involved 150 crewmembers. The heavy cannons and rockets used by the Luftwaffe had an effect on survival in that these weapons caused several bombers to explode limiting the chances of survival. In the eight bombers that returned, two crewmembers were wounded. As for the losses:

Three bombers had their bomb loads detonated on the way in to Germany with no survivors. Four others suffered exploding fuel tanks from which only 7 of 40 crewmembers bailed out. One crashed on landing at the end killing all aboard.

Of the seven others lost, three were abandoned in flight after having their fuel tanks set on fire. In all of these cases the planes eventually blew up, but not before their crews had successfully bailed out. In two cases, bombers were torn to pieces by rockets or heavy cannon fire and yet their surviving crewmembers all miraculously succeeded in bailing out. In the last two cases, one heavily damaged straggling bomber ripped its own wings off trying to dive away from an enemy fighter. Only 4 of its 10 crewmembers got out due to being at lower altitudes. The other succumbed to cumulative gunfire and nine crew bailed out, leaving behind a dead rear gunner.

In total there were 70 successful bailouts recorded (4 by wounded crewmembers). As the bailouts occurred mostly over enemy territory, though a few were over occupied France, a majority ended up as POWs. According to the fate rolls, 44 were captured, 14 managed to evade and escape capture (8 from one crew bailing out over France), and 12 went missing in action including 2 of the wounded (presumed either murdered on the ground, died of wounds, shot trying to avoid capture or suffering some adverse parachuting event like a fatal streamer).

In addition to the 70 bomber crew that bailed out, one Mustang pilot was shot down and bailed out into captivity.
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Morten Lund
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One thing intrigues me:

The loss rates on both sides seem extreme for a single mission (Not even the Schweinfurt raid was hit this bad, AFAIR).

Do you think this was a case of 'cardboard heroism', e.g. players pressing attack harder than their real-life counterparts would?
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J.D. Webster
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Cardboard Heroes?

Absolutely in the case of the Germans. Very little sense of self preservation. Players flew their fighters into the closest possible ranges for the best possible odds ("torpedoes be damned").

I don't think the game model is faulty - if real pilots pressed the issue to the same extreme, I think the results would have been similar.

There are historical cases of USAAF bomber squadrons being so ravaged on an individual basis even though the rest of the raid might have suffered much lighter casualties. It depends on where the Germans concentrated.

There are also cases where whole squadrons of German heavy fighters were wiped out by American escorts, so I don't think the combat results should be totally dismissed to unrealistic player actions.

But, that said, you do have to look at and consider what they did as gamers, choosing the biggest available guns, going for the best odds, trusting to the dice with no flesh and blood fear of actual death.

This is a situation in many games - the old, gamers versus real people actions conundrum. Squad leader is another example of a game system so infected.

:-)

JD
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J.D. Webster
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A fair question to ask is - should the designer care that the game system allows such behavior. To be honest, I'm not against it. If the gamer wants to experiment and take the risks of a berserk viking warrior flying with uncharacteristic heroism in the face of impossible odds, so be it. That's part of the fun of the game.

I'm against rules that try enforce historic results or behavior among gamers. At one point, back during original play testing, we had rules where recruit and green pilots might panic and be forced to flee the battle. Players rebelled and argued that they wanted to be able to "see" what would happen "if" and in the end I agreed with them. So these rules were dropped.

Other game designers have a different approach. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood is very much about modeling historical results and actions in his games. This is easier to do though, when the scale rises above the individual performance model.

JD
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