Monday, May 28, 2018

Blood & Guts, Tunisia, Fight #12

All,

It's now 0700 on 18 April 1943, eight days since the battalion turned back a German armored counterattack.  Everyone can see the enemy in Tunisia is defeated; everyone, except the Germans, apparently.  The Yanks, now blooded, just can't see why the enemy won't give up.  Ultimately, about a month from now, they will, but at this point they continue to fight desperate rear-guard actions to allow as many of their comrades to escape as possible.  Yesterday the battalion came up against a stiff defensive line.  After heavy artillery barrages and air strikes, infantry supported by tanks went in, three times, getting their butts handed to them each time.  And each time they pushed a little further right (south), though no one could find the end of the enemy line.  Every American attack saw the Germans channelize them, companies separated from each other, then platoons, until ultimately it was jus squads of men doing what they could to advance, unsupported.

Ultimately the battalion pulled back for the evening, while air and arty pounded the enemy-held ridge all night.  The pounding continued into the morning as the squad moved up to the line of departure, but as soon as they stepped off, about 0630, the terrain and enemy mortars began channelizing them.  SGT Cherry, back from convalescing, led the squad forward.  They ended up in a rare, cultivated field surrounded by wooden fencing, a German machine gun atop Hill 45 sending occasional burst their way, enough to keep them pinned down.  SGT Cherry kept the boys in cover as he scanned, and it didn't look good: "Men, it looks like all the air and arty either hit further north, or on the back side of the ridge, these positions are untouched!  And it's not just a machine gun position, I see rifle trenches to the north and south.  I'm gonna call for help."  Several minutes went by with SGT Cherry conversing on the Walkie-Talkie: "Sorry boys, no tank are available for this section of the line, but the battalion gonna toss some 81s up there on the hill, and when they're done we're going over the top!"


Overview, north is up.  Hill 45 is at top right, with the MG position at the very top right, rifle trenches at top center and far right.  The squad is sheltering in the field at bottom left, waiting for the battalion mortars to hit.

The opposing forces, with Americans at left and Germans at right.  The Germans had been getting screwed with not very many troops in each fight (I'm using a version of Joe Legan's "Platoon Forward," using blinds to determine who and what shows up to each battle for the bad guys), but not this time!  These photos are actually staged after the game is over because before the Americans hit the table I don't know how many enemy troops will show up, or where they'll be.

The figures are all 15mm troops from Battlefront, and I've graduated from using Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men in Normandy" rules (used for the first couple/few gunfights in this campaign) to his "Five Men at Kursk."  No real reason other then 5MAK is a bit faster paced than 5MIN, and I've grown accustomed to it.  And love it ;)

The Yanks, led by SGT Cherry (bottom right), his assistant, CPL Hackett (to his left), the BAR gunner and his assistant (next two guys to left), PFC Burress and PVT McGovern, then the grenadier (top right), PVT Porter, and three riflemen (right to left), the heroes CPL Saxon and PFC Graham, and PVT Eatman.

And the damn Germans have almost as many men as the attacking Americans!  They have a Leutnant (bottom right) and MG-42 team on the bottom row, and four rifleman in the top row.

The map, with troops.  You can see the squad pinned down at bottom left, waiting on the battalion mortars, while the German Leutnant and MG team are at top right, supported by two riflemen each in the north and south trenches.

The squad, from left: Eatman, CPL Hackett, McGovern, SGT Cherry (inset), Burress (top right, then working down), Porter, CPL Saxon, and Graham.

Looking from behind the German position.  The Germans do have a couple problems, which are 1) I didn't give their MG position enough room, so negative morale results can cause guys to run straight off the map, and 2) it's going to be very, very difficult for the German positions to support each other, or the Leutnant to do so, by rallying each other, due to all the open ground between the three German positions.  This would turn out to have a big impact on the game, with indecision costing the Germans severely.

That damn MG-42 (top right) is raining fire on the squad...

Until the battalion 81mm mortars come in, each tube dropping two rounds, fired so quickly that all eight rounds land almost simultaneously.

And with that, a sudden quiet descends suddenly over the battlefield!  SGT Cherry and his battle-tested men waste no time in jumping into action.  The base of fire element (McGovern, Burress, and Porter) sit tight in the center, while CPL Hackett and Eatman circle left (far left) and SGT Cherry leads CPL Saxon and Graham right (far right).

In retrospect, the Americans should have gone for an envelopment, rather than a double envelopment, and simply sought to isolate one of the trenched by fire, rather then simply butt straight up against both of them.  C'est la guerre...

The German MG team, spurred by their officer, shake out of their mortar-induced stupor.  They can't see too much due to all the smoke, debris, and head-fog caused by the explosions, but the traverse and elevation is already locked in on the field (top center left), so the gunner simply begins squeezing off bursts, pinning Burress, the BAR gunner.

On the German right, the rifleman pop up and spot CPL Hackett and Eatman dashing their way (top center).  They begin firing as fast as they can work their bolts...

Suppressing CPL Hackett and felling PVT Eatman!

Then those same bastards turn on the base of fire element (top center) and open fire...

They (top left) miss, and McGovern (bottom center, next to the pinned Burress) returns fire, missing too.

On the German left, CPL Saxon and Graham have made it behind the hill at center left, but the Germans can still see SGT Cherry (top center) and they open fire on him...

SGT Cherry goes down (again, bottom right), as Porter (bottom center left) opens up, suppressing one German rifleman and pinning the other (top right)!

Being dashing and brave a Prussian aristocratic, the German Leutnant sees his left set of riflemen (far left) in trouble, so he immediately vaults out of the MG position (bottom right) and begins sprinting downhill to help them (in the trees at left).

Just as Porter (bottom left) sends a rifle grenade up the hill...

The grenade smashes right into the German MG position, knocking down both the gunner and his assistant!!!

This should be a piece of cake, now!  Not only was that a helluva shot, but being knocked down means those two Germans can only get back in the fight by a non-knocked down comrade coming over into base-to base contact to rally them, and Herr Leutnant just left!

Burress (yellow bead at bottom left, with Porter to his right and McGovern to his left) turns the BAR on the trench.  He can't see anything, but he wants to keep their heads down for CPL Saxon and Graham (off camera to right, where you can just see the casualty figure for SGT Cherry).

CPL Hackett (red bead at far left) is able to get his marbles back as McGovern (bottom center) continues popping away at the left trench with his Garand...

Suppressing both enemy riflemen there!

Look at this, all three German positions are out of the fight!  And I thought this was gonna be a tough fight...

McGovern slides over and rallies his gunner, no sweat.

As McGovern is doing that (bottom left), CPL Saxon moves up (far right, with Graham below him).

The bad guys fire at CPL Saxon and miss...

While Graham dashes over and joins CPL Saxon, where they both cut loose with their M-1s...

Knocking one of the riflemen down!  The pinned guy (yellow bead) crawls over to check his friend, but he's still unconscious.

Back on the German right, both suppressed enemy rifleman manage to rally themselves.  But back on the left, the German officer is frazzled: what does he do?  Does he continue down the hill to help the two men in the trench that are seemingly about to be overrun by CPL Saxon and PFC Graham, or does he dash back up the hill to help the knocked down machine gun team???

Of course, he needs to get the machine gun back in action, he should have never left to begin with.  He begins running back uphill, but as soon as he breaks the cover of the stand of trees...

Porter (bottom center right) spots him (top left) and begins hammering away with his Garand, knocking the Leutnant down!!!

Now the Germans have both guys of the MG team AND the Leutnant knocked down, and there is absolutely no way in hell any of the four guys from the trenches can get all the way back up there to check those guys, so I decide to start cheating for the Germans.  This is the last fight of the campaign in North Africa, it can't be no pushover!  I will roll each turn to see if the German officer comes to, and if/when he does, I'll just say he was only wounded and he can crawl the rest of the way into the sandbagged position to help the downed gunner and assistant.  I'm largely a solo gamer, gotta be flexible ;)

On the US far right, with the Germans in the trench to their front hugging the dirt (top right), but the Germans in trench on the other side recently rallied (top left), Graham (bottom right, with CPL Saxon at bottom center) begins popping away with his Garand.

Dropping a German rifleman with his enfilading fire!

CPL Hackett (bottom left) sees the German go down, so he decides now's the time to move.  He leans in and opens fire with his Tommy Gun...

The remaining enemy soldier is pinned (top center), and while CPL Hackett moves left (far left), McGovern moves up (bottom center, from the field), firing as he goes.

Burress (bottom left, with Porter to his right) continues laying down suppressing fire on the right-hand trench, in support of CPL Saxon and Graham (far right).

Graham (far right) covers as Burress (far left), Porter (just to his right), and CPL Saxon (right) move up to clear the right-hand trench.

In all the confusion, somehow the German in the left-hand trench (bottom left) manages to take off uphill at a sprint (top center, just left of the sandbagged position).  Will he make it???  Meanwhile, I roll to see if the German Leutnant comes to, turns out he bled out (casualty figure just right of the sandbagged position)!!!

Back on the US right, the GIs continue pouring covering fire at the trench, while the pinned German rifleman again tries to check his knocked down buddy, and again the knocked down guy stays knocked down as CPL Saxon (bottom right) creeps closer.

On the left, McGovern (bottom center) spots the German left-hand rifleman running up the hill.  He takes a knee, calmly sights in, and fires one round.  And guess what happened?  Yep, the guy was knocked down!

The poor Germans can't catch a break ;)  Now I decide to let the German machine gunner roll each turn to see if he comes to.  But it turns out that's not where the problem would be...

McGovern (bottom right) keeps firing as CPL Hackett dashes forward and clears the left-hand trench!

And everyone else is focused on clearing the right-hand trench; one German soldier is already knocked down in the trench, and Burress and Porter (bottom left) continue pouring fire into the trench, suppressing the other guy.  The time is ripe, right?

CPL Saxon preps a frag, dashes up, hits the deck (bottom right), and rolls the grenade (blue bead) into the German trench...

But the suppressed German tosses it back out.  CPL Saxon just has time to realize his own grenade came back to him...

Before it detonates, killing him instantly!!!

When the grenade went in, I rolled 2K 3S, and didn't get a single damn result!!!  So that means it has to go somewhere else, and it came back to CPL Saxon, killing him on 1K 2S...

"Nooooooooooo!!!!!"  Graham screams, dashing forward (far right) with tears in his eyes, blazing away with his Garand.

The suppressed German is no longer suppressed and he raises up (bottom right) and fires on Graham (top center), the two exchanging fire at point blank range without hitting anything...

Meanwhile, back up the hill, the German assistant gunner is wounded, but comes to....

Back in the trench, the German rifleman fires to his right, missing Burress and Porter...

They (bottom left) return fire, missing too...

The German manages to crawl over to his buddy and check him, but for the third time in a row they roll a '1' and he's still 'man down'!!!  "Helmi, wake up, I need you!!!!"

He's still sobbing as PFC Graham runs up and jumps in the trench with them!

But the German busts out his E-tool and hammers Graham into a bloody pulp!  Now it's Porter's (left, with Burress to his left) turn to scream: he keeps firing his rifle, missing...

As he (top center) jumps into the trench.  The German fires his Mauser...

But misses, rending a hole in Porter's fatigue jacket as the 29-year old aspiring novelist reaches the enemy soldier.  They tussle and fall to the floor of the trench...

But only Porter gets back to his feet, after finishing off the German rifleman that killed CPL Saxon and wounded PFC Graham, then finishing off his knocked down buddy!

The German assistant gunner has come to in the machine gun position (top right), but he so far hasn't been able to help his gunner or the nearby rifleman, as the Americans begin to close the noose.  With both trenches secured, CPL Hackett (top center, just under the trees), McGovern (left), Burress (center), and Porter (right) begin moving up the hill, as it's strangely quiet.

CPL Hackett (bottom left) spots the assistant gunner (top right) moving to help the gunner, and cuts loose with his Thompson SMG...

The assistant is pinned (yellow bead), but he's able to rouse the knocked down gunner from his slumber!

Burress (center) gets the BAR going, suppressing the assistant gunner (top center).

As Porter (bottom center) adds his rifle to the mix...

Causing the assistant, already suppressed, to run off the map!!!  Shaking out the cobwebs, the enemy gunner pulls the MG-42 off the tripod and swings left, opening fire on Porter, suppressing him (top center left).

With the German machine gunner (far right) otherwise preoccupied, CPL Hackett moves up on the far left, eliminating the knocked down German rifleman from the left-hand trench (top left)...

Then hopping into the machine gun position...

And machine-gunning the occupant.

The remaining Americans swarm over the German machine gun position, consolidating their defense, counting noses, and redistributing ammo before, dispatching men back down the hill to check the casualties and report back to 2nd Lieutenant Pelluer.

PVT Porter was awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry in clearing the right-hand trench after CPL Saxon and PFC Graham went down, while CPL Hackett was awarded the Bronze Star with 'V' for clearing out the German machine gun position.  But the fight was very costly: CPL Saxon and PVT Eatman were both killed in action, while PFC Graham, beat to hell by a big German with a shovel, was wounded bad enough to be out of the line for over a month.  Oddly enough to the men, SGT Cherry, who went down almost as soon as the battalion mortar barrage ended, was found to be without a scratch, though you could definitely tell something was not right with the man.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't going over well with the remaining members of the squad.  SGT Cherry had talked plenty aboard ship, before the Torch landings, about how he was going to get revenge for what the Nazis did to Czechoslovakia, but so far he wasn't really holding up his end of the bargain.  In the first fight he chickened out.  In the second fight he did very well, but in the third fight he was hit, nothing you can do.  So he missed a couple fight, then comes back for the last fight in North Africa and lays an egg.  Not only are the boys not happy, the good Sergeant, himself, is rather in a doubting mood about his own abilities.

But that was it, the last fight.  Less than a month later the Germans would surrender Tunisia, thus ending the vaunted Afrika Korps.  All the survivors of North Africa were promoted, except SGT Cherry.  Seems the Lieutenant wasn't impressed by the Sergeant's performance either, and so non-rec'ed him for promotion, which made things kinda strange in the squad.  The Army changed its structure, so the squad was now supposed to be led by a Staff Sergeant, but SGT Cherry wasn't promoted, and CPL Hackett was, so now the squad had two Sergeants.  On a side note, McGovern, the salty old Private, was promoted to PFC, but got caught drinking and fighting with the Mess Sergeant in Morocco, and busted back down to Private.  Also, the boys weren't too happy with old Private Lowery, who was hit in the first fight and never made it back for any of the later ones.  The boys felt like he was dodging, should have been back in the line.  The Lieutenant didn't promote him either.

The battalion immediately moved back to Morocco for a little R&R, then took on replacements, and set about training up for its next action: Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily!

V/R,
Jack