Southern France 3rd September 1944
An earlier version of this scenario appeared in an issue of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers (SOTCW) magazine The Journal
Like the cavalry regiments of old, the wheeled units of the 117th Cavalry charged down quiet French mountain back roads skirting the town on Bourg-en-Bresse. Their orders were the “Relentless Pursuit” of the German 19th Army, speed was of the essence to prevent the Germans forming a defensive line. The US main force was left behind in their mad dash, unbeknown to them, disaster awaited the young men from South Carolina!
On 15th August 1944, the Allies began their invasion of Southern France. Allied commander General Patch knew he had to avoid the mistakes of the campaign in Italy, his forces must prevent the Germans from forming blocking positions in the mountain passes during their retreat. He also wanted to destroy as much of the German General Heinrich Wiesse`s 19th Army and not allow it to withdraw to the German border at its own pace.
7th Army would leave the capture of the French ports to its French allies. The US divisions would advance northward toward Grenoble and continually outflank the German positions thus preventing a solid front from being formed.
VI Corps (General Truscott) formulated a plan to send a recon cavalry force to skirt around Bourg-en-Bresse then seize and hold the village of Montrevel and hold it.
Lt. Col. Hodge and his 117th Recon Cavalry Group are to seize and hold the village of Montrevel 10km north of Lyon.
I decided to change history just a touch and made Montrevel a forward supply base for 19th Army, thus giving the American cavalry someone to fight whilst taking the village. They then form a blocking position against Germans coming from the south - along the same road they just used! So depends how the first half plays out this may end up and another 2-part game.
117th Cavalry Group
All trained with good morale
Lt. Col. Charles Hodge
Radio half-track – 2 officers, NCO, 2 RTO, 2 riflemen
2 Jeeps – officer, NCO, RTO, 3 men
3 Recon troops with:
2 Jeeps (one with .50cal) – officer, NCO, RTO, 3 men
Dodge 6x6 - 8 men (BAR, Bazooka)
2 x M5 lt tanks
HQ elements of Supply Company 716th Infantry Division with
CO, 2IC, NCO, 2 telephone operators, 2 runners
1 platoon 716th Feldgendarme (10 men)
1 platoon 716th Light Supply Company (10 men – LMG, 1 Panzerfaust)
2 platoons 532th Supply Command each with: 10 men – LMG, 1 Panzerfaust each
Luftwaffe flak section – 20mm flak + crew
Various trucks, trailers & wagons with supplies
The US cavalry must try and secure the village by turn 20, before elements of 11th Panzer alerted by radio arrive:
11th Panzer battle-group
All veteran with good morale
Elements of 11th Panzer recce battalion
SDKFZ222 armoured car
Sdkfz 250/9 armoured car
Sdkfz 232 armoured car
Sdkfz 233 armoured car
12-man recce infantry platoon carried in 2 Sdkfz 250 half-tracks (2 LMG, 2 Panzerfaust)
Recce Swimwagon – officer, RTO, Driver
2 x Panzer IVH, 1 x Panther
1 platoon of panzer grenadiers carried in an Sdkfz 251 (10-men LMG, Panzerfaust)
1 platoon of panzer pioneers carried in a Sdkfz 251/7 (flamethrower)
Wesp SP 105mm battery (can be directed by the recce swimwagon)
The US can call an airstrike on a roll of 5-6 (1D6) which will arrive 1d3+1 turns later –
A single P47 carry 2 50lbs bombs
Elements of 45th Infantry Division
Experienced with good morale
Radio half-track, Jeep – CO, 2IC, officer, NCO, 2 x RTO
2 x rifle companies in trucks each with:
HQ – officer, RTO, NCO, driver
3 platoons – 10 men (BAR)
Support platoon - .30cal, 60mm mortar, bazooka plus crews
Sherman company – 3 tanks
2 x 105mm batteries (can be directed by battalion or company HQs)
The 117th landed at St Tropez on 15th August as part of Operation Anvil. Placed under the command of Task Force Butler, they advanced north attempting to prevent the Germans from retreating into Germany. By 31st August VI Corps found itself facing 11th Panzer Division in and around Lyon, Gen. Truscott decided to skirt the city and envelope the German forces there.
The 117th arrived at Montreval on 3rd September they captured around sixty Germans – administrative and supply personnel who had been sheltering from the poor weather; They then established their blocking position. Wietersheim upon hearing of the American move dispatched Major Karl Bode and his Aufkl Abt.11 (11th Panzer Recon Battalion) reinforced with some Panthers, SP artillery and panzer pioneers,
At 11.00 the Americans began to receive artillery fire and then a probing attack by elements of 11th panzer recon battalion supported by Panthers! By 16.30 Hodge`s command had been overrun and the survivors forces to abandon Montrevel, all the commands M8 SP howitzers and M5 light tanks plus a number of armoured cars, trucks and Jeeps had been destroyed and “B” troop was almost wiped out to a man! By the time leading elements of 45th Infantry Division arrived it was too late! The failure to block the route north meant that the experienced German combat formation (11th Panzer) managed to hold open a corridor which allowed large parts of 19th Army reach the Belfort Gap, which helped prevent 7th Army reaching and crossing the Rhine for some time.
Lt. Col. Hodge later received a personal message from Generalmajor Wietersheim praising the courage and tenacious defence put up by his men at Montrevel.
Looking north toward the village
German supplies hidden among the trees
The US commander decided to deploy his cavalry as follows:
“A” troop plus an M5 straight down the road, followed by “B” troop (also with an M5), but “B” would head down the back road once at the village, hopefully flanking any German defences. HQ troop would follow “A” troop straight into the village.
Meanwhile “C” troop accompanied by the M8HMC would proceed cross country down the left flank, again hopefully outflanking any German defenders.
The Germans were spread among the village in 5-man groups, the majority at the far end around the building being used as the HQ and the various supply dumps.
“A” troop advances“C” troop going cross country on the left
These field police are about to have a nasty surpriseThe Germans do have one nasty surprise with this 20mm AA in the village square
The first couple of turns were just movement then “A” troop blasted through the police road block followed by “B” troop, the field police and some supply troops were just blasted away by machine guns and 37mm cannon fire, the survivors just surrendered.
On turn 4 the lead Jeep of “A” troops is machine gunned losing its driver, the troop commander and his RTO take cover, whist the M5 and M8 spray ambush site.
By turn 5 the Germans withdrew having taken 50% casualties, "A" troop slowly pushes forward now with its infantry element dismounted giving the light armour close protection.
On the back road, “B” troop advance without meeting any Germans, the M5 in the lead spots a supply truck and gives it a 37mm shell – boom!!Turn 6 “C” troops advancing on the left run into an ambush, their lead Jeep is taken out by a panzerfaust! Return fire plus the fact they were flanked by “B” troop on the back road below broke the Germans morale and survivors surrendered!
Turn 7 The M5 leading “B” troop spots another German truck (the tow for the 20mm) and blows it up!In the village “A” troop slowly advance along the main street, firing at every house and possible ambush site
The M8 HMC spots another cargo truck and lays a 75mm HE round smack on target
The next 3-4 rounds saw “B” troop flanking most the remaining Germans in the village, fire from the M5 scared the Luftwaffe gunners off their 20mm! The M8HMC with “C” troop dropped several 75mm rounds around the German HQ building and the M5 with “A” troop destroyed another supply truck!! The Germans either surrender or flee!!
Unfortunately for the Yanks the M5 with “A” troop moved ahead of its infantry hoping to catch the escaping Germans, and took a panzerfaust round!!