The Battle at Collecchio
Brazilians in Italy April 26 - 27, 1945
Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Forca Expedicionaria Brasileira) – FEB commanded
by General Mascarenhas de Moraes arrived in Italy in july 1944 and were
assigned to the US 5th
under General Mark Clark. They served with 5th Army until the end of the war (over 8
months and 239 days in continuous contact with the enemy). See my article on
the FEB which appeared in MW254, July 2004 for the complete history of this unit during the Italian Campaign, the only South American unit to fight in Europe during World War II.
On the morning of April 26th, whilst strengthening the defences around Parma (captured by the US 34th Division under Gen. Charles Bolte on April 25th); news came of German units fleeing north towards the city along highway 62. General Mascarenhas immediately ordered his recon squadron to move down the Taro River Valley to scout for the enemy. By early afternoon they had encountered the lead enemy units at Collecchio. The initial encounter was with armoured cars from 90th Panzergrenadier Division`s Recon Battalion, but soon infantry from the 281st Regiment (148th Division) were also discovered so the recon squadron called for help.
This help came in the form of the Division Commander himself along with the commander or II Battalion, 11th infantry - Major Ramagen and his 5th company along with the medium machine gun platoon from 8th company (also II/11th Infantry) all carried in a mixed convoy of trucks and jeeps which they borrowed from the Divisions Artillery Regiment!
Once contact had been established with the recon squadron Major Remagen sent the transport back to ferry further II Battalion elements to the town. Also the commander of 6th Infantry upon hearing of the Advancing enemy sent his 9th company (III Battalion/6th Infantry) under Captain Lemos to Collecchio too. By 1830 on April 26th all elements were in position and under the direct gaze of their division commander prepared for action against the enemy.
Major Remagen was given overall command and so ordered 5/II to advance into the town, whilst 6/II and 9th company (III/6th infantry) and the recon squadron supported by the machine guns of 8/II dug in to prevent the enemy moving north along highway 62. The attack commenced at 1930 hours and 5th company met intense fire from infantry defending the town outskirts; the Germans also had mortars and some artillery. At 2100 hours extra troops arrived in the form of 2nd company (I Battalion/6th Infantry) their 1st platoon riding into battle on American tanks. Still the Germans resisted and put in several attacks in an attempt to breakout northward. By 0200 hours (27th April) Brazilian troops and US tanks were fighting within the town. Just before dawn the Germans with artillery support made one final all out effort to smash through the Brazilians, this was unsuccessful and with this last effort ended the German resistance. By noon the Brazilians were in full control of the town and by late afternoon II Battalion/11th Infantry and US tanks were already pressing the enemy south towards Fornovo.
Initially the Germans have just light recon elements (the recon commander Capt. Pitaluga mentions German armoured cars with 20mm cannon). Then infantry elements of the 281st Infantry Regiment who defended the town (I would estimate about one weak battalion) supported by machine guns and mortars (they had at least one `88 too as it nearly decapitated Pitaluga in the Town Square!). The counter attacks should be short and sharp (platoon sized) until the last attack at dawn on April 27th when I would estimated the enemy strength to be about a battalion with artillery support. This last attack should be directed at 6th and 9th companies dug in across the valley. It was this battle and the following couple of day's patrol activity that convinced the German commander General Otto Fretter Pico that continued fighting was useless. This led to his unconditional surrender of all the forces under his command.
Now if you are using Rapid Fire! or another battalion level game you could run the entire battle in one go. Because we play at a lower level I decided to run it as two games - the battle for the town & the final German attempted breakout.
The terrain was very close due to the numerous heavy wooded areas that were spread unevenly around the hilly valley surrounding the town. I decided on a close town with lots of buildings and narrow streets with walled gardens. There was a cobbled square with a fountain in the centre with streets leading off from all sides.
I decided to concentrate on the evening attack by 5th company (II/11th infantry) and 2nd company (I/6th infantry) supported by the US tanks. The Brazilians had none of their organic artillery present due to a tactical decision where the artillery transport had been utilised as infantry transport to assist the divisions speed and movement during this pursuit phase. I allowed Lt. mortars from the dug in companies to be used in support of the initial advance into the town.
By evening the Germans had established themselves within the town and had set up defensive positions facing northeast up highway N62. Their artillery (what there was of it) was positioned in the south of the town in the groves and orchards. They have no tanks, but a few armoured cars from 90th PG, the `88 was positioned off the town square deployed without tow.
5th Company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry
Coy HQ – CO, RTO, NCO, 3 runners
3 – 10 man platoons (1 BAR)
Support platoon - .30cal, Bazooka, 60mm mortar (10 men)
2nd Company, I Battalion, 6th Infantry
As 5th Company above
Elements US 751st Tank Battalion
4 – M4 Sherman (75)
Only available until lead units get 12 inches into the town (at which point the mortar observers are out of line of sight)
2 x 60mm mortar
Recon Elements 90th Panzergrenadier Div.
Sdkfz222 armoured car
Sdkfz232/1 armoured car
Elements – 281st Infantry Regiment (148th Div.)
HQ – CO, 2IC, FOO, 2 X RTO, NCO, 4 runners, sniper
6 - weak 8 man platoons
Support – 3 - LMG, 1 MMG, 3 Panzerfaust, 1 panzershreck team (2 rockets), 1 Pak97/38
1 - 88mm Flak + some soft skinned transport
3 turns of 105mm artillery (2 guns)
5 turns of 81mm mortar (2 tubes
last desperate throw of the dice and break through to Highway 62 and the way
north. The Germans moved units around Collecchio through the thickly wooded
areas, then launched an attack against the dug in Brazilians above the town.
The victory conditions are simple – the Germans must break through and open the
highway for their comrades bottled up south of the town. The Brazilians must
hold the line preventing any German units escaping the valley.
Elements of 148th Infantry Division
Composite Battalion HQ:
CO, 2IC, 3 officers, 2 RTO, FOO, NCO, 4 runners,
8 man security platoon (LMG)
12 – Weak platoons with:
9 men each (weapons to be divided among
platoons – 7 LMG, 1 Panzershreck [1D3 rockets], 3
Panzerfaust, 1 Flamethrower [3 bursts], sniper rifle,
1 grenade rifle)
2 – MMG
2 – 81mm mortars (1D6 turns of ammo)
75mm IG (1D6 rds)
3 turns of 105mm fire (2 guns)
CO, 2IC, 3 officers, 2 RTO, FOO, 4 runners, 10
man security platoon (BAR)
6th Company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry
Coy HQ – CO, RTO, NCO, 3 runners
3 – 10 man platoons (1 BAR)
Support platoon - .30cal, Bazooka, 60mm mortar (10
9th Company, III Battalion, 6th Infantry
As 6th Company above
Elements of 8th Company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry
4 x MMGs
M8 armoured car
M3 half-track with 8 man platoon (BAR)
2 batteries 81mm mortars (8 tubes)
Figures and rules
We use Charles Grant`s old “Battle” rules, with modifications derived over years of play. This battle could easily be fought using Arc of Fire or Crossfire (or any other company/battalion level set). We used 20mm figures and kit from my collection from various manufacturers. For the Brazilians any US figures can be used as the FEB was totally equipped by the Americans - standard US Uniforms (M-41 Jacket, HBT Coveralls, OD wool shirts and trousers, service shoes, dismounted leggings, M-36 suspenders, the M42 double-breasted waterproof greatcoat was popular), I`ve also seen photos of Brazilians in the white snow camouflage suit too, but obviously not in April `45! In combat they wore the M-1 US standard helmet, but beanie caps and side-caps were also worn. It should be noted if you are going to paint up a unit specifically as Brazilians that there was a racial mix, unknown within the US Army of this period with coloured, Hispanic, white and even Asians present.
The Brazilian vehicles had a unique marking of the Southern Cross constellation within a circle in white.
News (Sept-Dec 1997, Volume 32, No3)
Militaria Magazine (No171)
list BZ1 (Mark Bevis)
Expeditionary Force Italy 1944-`45 (an orbat
in Command Post Quarterly No6 by Greg
Brazilian Expeditionary Force by its Commander -
J.B.Mascarenhas de Moraes (US Government
A Cobra Fumo! (Richard Baber – Miniature wargames
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II by C.C. Maximiano & R. Bonalume N. (Osprey Men-at-Arms 465)