FOW – Paras at Audoville la-Hubert
Recently Andy announced that he had finished his FOW US parachute rifle company, so I decided that our group’s next Flames of War game should feature his paras. Always a good plan to reward the painting efforts of your fellow gamers. So I put together a scenario loosely based around the action of the US airborne troops on the morning of D-Day to clear the beach exits from Utah beach.
The table map is based on the terrain around Exit 3, one of the four causways across the flooded lowlands inland from Utah beach. The original plan for the landings would have brought the US troops ashore directly across from Exit 3, which was more heavily fortified than Exits 1 and 2 that ended up being the primary route inland after the landings came in at the wrong part of the beach. If the landings had been successful, the efforts of the airborne troops at Exit 3 to clear the fortifications guarding the causeway and clear the town of Audoville la-Hubert would have been crucial for the rapid advance and relief of the paras fighting further inland at St. Mere-Eglise.
For our game we had Andy’s newly painted paras having recently landed and scattered about. Since it was their first time in action I chose to allow the units to remain at their full glory and not remove teams as lost or casualties of the jump. They did however, start scattered about the table or entering from reserve at random locations. One para rifle platoon started to the west of town while the LMG platoon landed in the north east nearest the fortifications. This was something of a tough blow for the paras as the LMG platoon contains only three teams capable of launching an assault, which was the only way possible to clear out the German bunkers covering the causeway exit.
The Germans defenders consisted of a company of the 709th Grenadier (Static) Division. This unit was one of the static formation the Wehrmacht scraped together to defend the Atantic wall and contained a large number of troops of dubious quality. One platoon was in their fighting positions at the game’s beginning while the others remained in their barracks in town. On the plus side for the Germans, they had a considerable array of fortification covering the beach exit, including minefields, wire, HMG bunkers, an AT gun bunker, and a Belgian gate blocking the road. To represent the surprise of the night landings, the Germans all started pinned down and could only roll to unpin if the enemy were within sighting range (using FOW’s variable night sighting rules)
The paras immediately went into action, moving aggressively to take advantage darkness and surprise. Andy’s platoon in the west moved up and immediately took the nearest houses under fire. The German units that failed to unpin were immediately assaulted and driven back. The mortar platoon fled to their firing positions behind the town and a Grenadier platoon was soon forced to fall back. The grenadiers were no match for the well trained and superbly motivated paras in this sort of house to house fighting.
Near the beach exits, the LMG platoon surged forward and while the machine gunners deployed to provide covering fire, the platoon command team and the two bazooka teams became the sole para assault force at the exit. A platoon of uncrewed PaK 38s was soon dispatched and the paras crossed the hedge to assault the grenadier platoon manning the forward trenches. Confusion reigned in the German ranks as this unit refused to unpin and move to repel the paras. However, the para’s assault detachment we caught in a crossfire between a couple of HMG bunkers and whenever the shifting light allowed the paras to be seen, a hail of MG42 fire kept their heads down.
Reserves of additional parachute rifle platoons arrived before dawn, one from the northwest and one across the causeway from the south. The northern reserve platoon began moving through the hedgerows toward the north edge of town and the 28cm rocket battery emplaced there. The platoon from the south moved across the causeway to reinforce the attack on the town which was steadily gaining ground. The church was taken and soon the grenadiers had been pushed back into two buildings in the northest part of the town.
The breaking of dawn brought the possibility of additional reserves to both sides. Soon a column of Shermans came motoring up the causeway. One of the open HMG bunkers was knocked out, but the other remained out of range. The fully enclosed ATG bunker in the center of the defense remained impervious to the 75mm rounds of the Shermans and was thoroughly covered against assault by overlapping fields of fire from the supporting HMG bunkers. The lead dozer tank attempted to push the Belgian Gate out of the way to allow the Shermans to maneuver through, but did not have any luck initially. The ATG bunker only bailed a couple of tanks, but until the gate could be cleared, they were sitting ducks.
Back in the town, the paras assaulted and pushed out the last platoon occupying a house along the road. However, some German reserves arrived in the form of a platoon of Marders. Around this time, the game ended. The paras controlled the town and the defending Grenadier company was in desparate shape, but for the time being Exit 3 remained closed. The Assault companies arriving from the beach, along with the still relatively strong para platoons would be able to open the Exit, but not in time to prevent the movement inland from falling behind schedule. It was going to be a long day for the paras in St. Mere-Eglise waiting for relief from the landing forces.
Another fun FOW game for us. We got in 9 or 10 turns in our 3.5 hours game and I thought the feel was spot on. The initial attack had the earmarks of the confused fighting on the morning of D-Day, with paras assaulting out of the dark against isolated and confused groups of Germans. Tom did a great job of making the most of an unfortunate intial deployment, turning the LMG paltoon into an assault unit. Unfortunately he just didn’t have the strength to take out the bunker complex I had put together. Bob and I were in a largely passive role, as our second-line Germans didn’t have the firepower, numbers, or morale to push around the paras. However, it still made for an interesting and exciting game trying to make the most of these crappy troops to delay and harass the All-Americans. I was able to make one aggressive counterattack, sending a couple of guys to attack Tom’s assault detachment. It failed, but still was a good gamble as any losses among those three teams would leave his assault capacity greatly reduced. The one mistake the Americans did make was not using their ability to double move at night to get their northern reserve into the fight sooner. With darkness and the hedgerows, they could have made double time for much of their approach march and been in position sooner.