Flames of War: Sint-Oedenrode 1944 Scenario

StOAB

Like many cities in the Low Countries, the Dutch city of Sint-Oedenrode was occupied by German forces after their invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the spring of 1940. The southern Netherlands and Belgium were the area of focus for the Allied Operation Market Garden in September 1944 which hoped to take several river crossings before the push on to Germany. At Sint-Oedenrode, the famed US 101st Airborne Division seized the bridge over the Dommel River but were met with a counterattack by German Fallschrimjäger regiments and other supporting forces. The battle that would take place at the crossing of the Dommel was typical of the action of the Allied push along what became known as Hell’s Highway. While Market Garden would ultimately prove to be a fiasco for the Allies overall, the grateful people of Sint-Oedenrode were liberated by US troops after a week of brutal fighting against the German occupiers.

StOMap

The Flames of War website has a scenario for the engagement at St. Oedenrode available in their list of historical scenarios on their website. The forces in the scenario were originally covered in the now out-of-print Hell’s Highway and A Bridge Too Far FOW books now available as Market Garden for the US, UK and Canadian forces and Bridge By Bridge for the Germans.

This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY we ran a modified Sint-Oedenrode scenario with the US 101st Airborne facing off against the German Fallschirmjägers. My paratroopers deployed in the fields and woods across the river with two rifle platoons and a light machine gun platoon. In reserve were US mortar and parachute howitzer platoons along with a delayed reserve Sherman and Firefly tank platoon from the Guards Armoured Division. The Germans started defending the two objectives at the bridges with a mortars, heavy machine guns and a rifle-machine gun platoon dug in around the town buildings.

IMG_2324In the first two turns, the Airborne units made way for the river and first bridge while avoiding shots coming from the defending Germans. The US light machine guns poured fire into the houses across the river, but shots missed on all accounts but did manage to pin the units. With little US progress toward the objectives, my German opponent remained solidly in control of the bridge points in the early third of the game.

IMG_2322By the third turn, the Germans successfully rolled on their a reserve rifle-machine gun platoon as well as their PaK 40 anti-tank guns. While the US lacked tanks of the board, the US platoon crossing the bridge took heavy combined arms fire from the German artillery outside of the town and the infantry platoons hidden among the town’s houses. Another US platoon made their way across the Dommel, through a small wood and attempted a quick assault on the Germans defending from the nearby buildings. Under heavy fire, the US charge was repulsed with some losses pushing them back into the treeline.

IMG_2326With the Airborne rifle companies pinned on the bridge and in the  trees over the river, I finally threw a successful roll for reserves on the fourth turn and brought in my mortars and howitzers. Firing at a distance from the fields, all my artillery missed their hard-to-hit German targets hidden in the buildings across the river. The platoon on the bridge took an additional round of combined German fire and fled the field. The US light machine guns to one side of the bridge likewise encountered heavy fire, finding themselves pinned and still unable to effectively knock the Germans from their defending positions in the town.

IMG_2328By turn four, things went from bad to worse for the Allies. With the Guards Armoured forces finally rolling in, they did quickly take out one of the German anti-tank guns. This was unfortunately quickly answered with two Allied tanks being destroyed with return fire from the crack shots from the German PaK 40s. With the beginning of the fifth turn, the US attempted a final series of artillery barrages and tank fire to chase the Germans from the town. Still at nearly full strength, the Germans had clearly overwhelmed the US and I conceded the game.

Even without their Panzer IVs on the table, the German position within the town proved hard to route. In retrospect, a concentrated Airborne end-run over the river and through the town might’ve proved more effective in chasing the Germans out of their defending positions near the bridge entry points. A lack of armoured and artillery reserves until late in the game also left the 101st outgunned and running on their own as German reserve strength mounted. Luckily for the Dutch people of Sint-Oedenrde things went much better for the Allies in 1944, but my replay of the attack just didn’t go my way this day.

Flames of War: La Fiere Causeway 1944 Scenario

lafiere1944

In the late evening of June 5th and pre-dawn hours of June 6th, 1944, a steady flow of Allied paratroopers began dropping throughout the French countryside to clear the inland way for the D-Day beach landings to come later that morning. Like elsewhere, scheduled US Airborne drops near Sainte-Mère-Église left paratroopers scattered around the countryside. To the southwest of the town’s target area, a contingent from the 82nd Airborne found itself near a quaint French farm compound and a small bridge over the Merderet River. Recognizing the river crossing as a key defensive line, the assembled paratroopers established a perimeter along the river. A few hours later, the US troops were met by a German Grenadier and armored battallion hoping to stall the Allied invaders from moving inland. The battle that erupted at the river would rage for three days until the German force withdrew in time for the arrival of US infantry and Sherman forces rolling in from Utah Beach on June 9th.

causewaygamemap

The Flames of War website offers a basic scenario of the encounter at La Fiere Causeway suitable for 1500 point forces on either side. This past weekend a visitor to Metropolitan Wargamers and I had a go at the scenario with my US Airborne facing off against his Germans. As with the historical record, my force held closely to the scenario’s outline with two parachute rifle platoons with plenty of bazookas supported by a platoon of light machine guns, parachute engineers, a glider artillery platoon and M18 tank destroyers. On the German side of the table, my opponent lacked the primitive French tanks that historically fought at the battle. Instead, he filled his force with a number of Grenadier platoons mounted in half tracks backed by two small platoons of Panzer IVs and a Nebelwerfer rocket battery.

IMG_2161

IMG_2163

As per the scenario rules, each of us chose half of our platoons to be held in off-table reserve. Beginning with the Germans, we alternated deploying our starting forces on the table. My American engineers took up position in the courtyard of the farm on my left flank, the machine guns lined the hedge on the other side of the bridge and a rifle platoon deployed on my far right flank. As expected, the Germans deployed a tank platoon at the road entry point and the rocket battery and a mounted Grenadier platoon in the field on their left flank.

IMG_2165With the Germans taking the first turn, the first Panzer IV platoon made way for the river crossing at the middle of the table while the half tracks rolled for the ford on the American right flank. Deployed in and around the farm buildings, the US engineers quickly laid down mines at the foot of the bridge and an Airborne platoon crossed the river to meet the approaching Grenadiers and the rocket battery beyond.

IMG_2169

IMG_2167With turn three, German tank and Grenadier reserves appeared on the table edge opposite the farm and pointed their way toward the French buildings and the nearby bridge. Four US bazookas bailed one Panzer in the clearing across  the river but three other Panzers made it across at the middle ford. US tank destroyer reserves came on the table and immediately poured machine gun fire into the half tracks across the river. The Grenadiers bailed from their transports and the half tracks raced to the rear while the Nebelwerfers failed to score effective shots in the hearty US Airborne troops.

IMG_2171With the Grenadiers on the run back to defend the rocket battery, the US tank destroyers turned their attention on the Panzers and quickly destroyed one while the others continued to push on unharmed due to the protection of their side Schurzen armor. At the farm, the approaching Panzer and Grenadier platoons exchanged fire with the engineers and riflemen defending behind the stone walls. Even with heavy casualties, the engineers repelled a direct assault by two Panzers as a fresh rifle platoon rushed to reinforce the farmyard strongpoint.

Alas, by the fifth turn the game was effectively over for the Americans as the late-arriving US howitzers once again failed to hit in one final volley against the Panzers rushing to seize the objective. The Americans had chased both Grenadier platoons from the field and destroyed a couple Panzers, but the Airborne focus on defending rather than seizing objectives allowed the Germans to take the table.

At the game’s outset, both of us shook our heads with the difficult mission ahead of us. The Airborne never effectively engaged in a close-quarters assault that might’ve taken out more of the tanks sooner on in the game, and artillery on both sides contributed nothing to the game. As with the last few FOW games I’ve played, the engagement at La Fiere once again pointed out the strength and tactical importance that infantry played in WWII. Keeping men moving and in the fight is key to victory, and this time around the German troops got the better of the day.