On the morning of the Normandy Landings of June 6, 1944, taking the eastern sector of Omaha Beach fell to the United States 1st Infantry Division. Despite some missed targeted landing zones on the beach and heavy losses at the far ends, the exit “draws” were largely secured by mid-morning. As additional troops and supplies began to arrive, the push inland began.
(via US Army Center of Military History)
Moving toward the objective of Colleville-sur-Mer, probing forces from the 1st Infantry Division pressed forward through the seaside fields of Normandy and began to encounter German defenders in various states of disarray. Tired from the fighting at the beach, the first group of Americans on patrol moved cautiously into Cabourg from the north and east while the German force scrambled to hold against any additional headway by the invaders. After a couple of month hiatus, we jumped back into a 15mm World War II game at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend centering on the action at Cabourg. Using the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a post-D-Day scenario from the Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, all from Too Fat Lardies, our table was set to show the American advance and German defense at Cabourg.
Playing on the US side, my partner and I divided our force of three rifle platoons under blinds plus three false blinds. I swung two platoons and a false blind directly at the village from the east while my teammate took the other two false blinds and a single platoon around to the north behind a copse of trees. The mass of US blinds hiding a force only half the actual size provided a great simulation of the confusion the Germans felt that morning as they also lay hidden in and around the village in defense.
After a couple turns of US movement and prodding for Germans outside the town, the Germans spotted the Americans moving cautiously to the north. With two false blinds exposed, the third American blind revealed a rifle platoon armed with a mortar and two officers present. A false blind was also revealed near a farm at the eastern edge of the town as the Germans continued to burn up turn actions trying to find out where the Americans actually were.
In close proximity to each other to the rear of a barn at the farm, US and German blinds were exposed nearly simultaneously with American gunfire tearing into the outnumbered Germans. A close assault at a hedgerow quickly pushed the first German fire team to the rear and out the action for the game. The remainder of the German platoon stayed to continue on firing from within the first barn and a hede nearby.
On the other side of the farm, the final American blind revealed another rifle platoon hunkered behind a hedge lining a road to town. At long-range, shots were exchanged between German defenders in and around the barn and the Americans now shooting from both sides of the barn. The action at the east end of Cabourg settled into a stalemate of fire across the fields and around the barns.
Back to the north of town, the lone US platoon on the moved cautiously along a road and over fields, fences and hedgerows. With the Americans creeping toward Cabourg, the Germans opened up with MG 42s positioned in an upper story of a second barn and from the garret of a farmhouse near the entry road to town. With a cross-fire of heavy machine gun pouring into the Americans at the north and east, the US advance stalled somewhat until something could be done about the German fire ripping from building windows.
Back at the two barns, one US platoon swung around to the rear of the barn to assault the German machine gun crew inside. With the MG 42 crew thrown back into a retreat from the barn, the surviving German rifles on the other side of the barn retreated from fire into a nearby house. Firing from their new position, the Germans stalled the Americans pushing around the barns to the village. At the same time, the other MG 42 continued to fire into the other US platoon now pinned with dwindling numbers behind a hedge.
As the engagement progressed late into the scenario, the game’s referee announced the arrival of reserves on both sides. From the west, a fresh German rifle platoon joined the fight at the road and tree line at the northern edge of town. At full strength, two German platoons focused fire on the lone American platoon which had so cautiously moved toward that end of the village. Taking casualties, the shrinking US force began to fall back over the hedges and fields from where they had just come.
On the far end of the table, three more American platoons arrived from the beach to the east. Looking to advance quickly on the road straight toward town, the US reserves just couldn’t get in the fight fast enough. With the US forces already near Cabourg greatly reduced and in retreat to defensive positions, the game was called with the Germans holding Cabourg from the American assault.
At Normandy in 1944, the result was the same and the German defense halted the US advance which broke off by mid afternoon. The IABSM scenario at Cabourg is a great illustration of the dozens of small inland battles which raged after the morning’s landings along the Normandy coast over 70 years ago, and we’ll be returning to more follow-up actions in the weeks to come.