Part 2 of Hitler's last Big Gamble
Part one can be found here
Day 3– 18th Dec 1944 (turn 5-6)
5th FJ Div is continuing to drive down the route past Redange, almost reaching the crucial entry hexes there that Patton so desperately needs. They push back the spearheads of the 10th Arm, and cut the road to Bastogne. Overall, the entire line of the Allied VIII is pushed slowly but steadily back, securing the southern flank of the German attack.
5FJ gets the better of the US Arm, at least so far
Glory is to be made in the centre though. Lehr beats the Allied paras in their race to Bastogne and pushes token Allied resistance aside. Only the engineers in Houfallize manage to hold out a few crucial hours against Lehr’s second axis of advance. Peiper and advance elements of the 12th SS cross the Ourthe river uncontested, and cut around the end of the Allied line northwards towards Werbomont. A regiment of the Allied 30th Inf Div gets handled roughly on the way. No Allied units are in between the Germans and the Meuse, with Allied paras diverted from Bastogne further northwards to hope for the best.
The Germans win the race to Bastogne
The Engineer in Houfallize buy valuable hours
In the rear, the mixed assembly of units west of St Vith gets ground to dust, with nothing standing alive at lunchtime. St Vith itself still holds out with losses mounting in the desperate fight.
The morning of the 18th Dec goes to the German, but more and more Allied units are pouring into the area....
St Vith holds!
After lunch, the grinding, and racing and pushing continues in all parts of the theatre. The Allied VIII Corps is pushed to the last few hexes on the map. (For every entry hex occupied by the German, reinforcements get siphoned off later to block those positions first – i.e. Patton’s counterattack gets progressively neutered.) 10th Arm and 5th FJ have fought each other to a standstill – and this means the southern flank remains safe for the Germans.
The Southern flank is thoroughly secured by the German 7th Army
Elements of Lehr are pushing onwards from Bastogne, already 10 miles beyond where there historically struggled so much. Engineer ad hoc troops remain the heroes of the day. They repeatedly frustrate the German by holding or delaying the advance at crucial crossroads or bridges. Nonetheless, what was just spearheads in the morning is now the best part of two Pz divisions (1st SS and 12th SS) heading onto the west map. And 2nd Pz as well as 116th Pz are not far behind. There is just a thin Allied screen between them and the River Meuse, mainly a thin line of paras still sitting in their truck in the centre, or a few battalions of tank hunters towards Leige...
Only the Allied V Corps is up to the task so far, holding a solid front all along the River Warche, forcing the German to go around them, slowing that route of advance, and creating a long front they have to hold and secure – those units at least are not racing forwards. One could even dream of a bit of counterattack from the Malmedy position and surrounding woods – but this will have to wait a few more days...
The night is eerily quiet after a frantic day...
Day 4 – 19th Dec 1944 (turn 7-8)
Unnervingly, Peiper after his furious advance now reports that at a terribly moment his tank units are running out of gas!
As successful as the last day was, as frustrating was this one. Every attack and effort that could be thwarted, well, you guess what happened. It started off well, with further parts of the Allied VII Corps being pushed off the map – more blocking positions that need to be occupied. 5 FJ however has to give some ground as it was in danger of getting flanked by elements of the Allied 10th Arm Div. The road via Marteleange towards Bastogne is now back open to the Allied counterattacks.
Much effort was spent on eliminating pesky pockets of resistance in the rear consisting of bypassed units here and there. Some worked, but most didn’t...More time wasted, time the Germans don't have. Some rushed attacked against the paras as well brought no gain in the centre. While Peiper running on hot fumes managed to take the Hotton bridge – the last main natural obstacle westwards on the way to the Meuse, the 12th SS a few miles north was unable to bridge the river against only a weak defence (at least this is what the guys in the intel dept thought).
Peiper pushes onwards, with gas or without
The back roads are still a mess with traffic congestion everywhere. And the worst possible thing: St Vith still refuses to either surrender or die, and still fights on! More troops that are tied down and don't rush forward....
St Vith still refuses to fall!
Things are moving slower than I was hoping for overall, and while it is not the beginning of the end, there some doubts creeping in that the end of the beginning is not that far away any more. The next 24 – 36 hrs will have to bring better fortunes, or the big gamble despite a great start threatens to fizzle out.
The Allies are content with solidifying their defences wherever possible. The Ourthe River line as the main obstacle before the Meuse is receiving more troops, and at both extreme wings, some little counterattacks are started.
The days long battle between the Allied 10th Arm and the 5th FJ is further swinging towards the allied units, as the paras slowly have to give ground.
A duel that will last for days: 5 FJ vs 10 Arm
Fresh reinforcements in the northern shoulder see the 9th Inf Div actually push the Germans back into their starting positions, crossing the Westwall. This will require some attention by the Germans, as little local reserves are available.
Things stir in the forrests to the north
In the afternoon, things move, but only slowly. Blitzkrieg for now is over, slow grinding is more the overall impression. The line of the Screaming Eagles in the centre forests is pushed back a bit, but all crucial roads are still blocked. The same story at the furthest point of advance, west of Hotton, where only little progress is made with no true breakthrough. 12th SS near Durbuy manages to get across the river, but only at a point where a second line of defence is already in place.
The Allied lines are about to snap...again
Bringing more troops forward is a nightmare as the roads are thoroughly congested. A bright light is at least that eventually the last resistance in St Vith has been overcome. This should enable the strong reinforcements that have arrived in the area to make better progress. Other bypassed pockets of resistance however keep frustrating the Germans. It is actually quite difficult to eliminate units if one cannot surround them entirely here...
The allies continue to consolidate their screening positions. What looked quite fragile barely 24 hrs ago is by now a fairly comfortable screen, with improved positions being constructed and even small local reserves available.
Day 5 – 20th Dec 1944 (turn 9-10)
The logistics officers managed to get their fuel distribution right this turn, with the crucial units being well equipped at the expense of the ones that are not even in the theatre of operations yet.
The southern shoulder is holding, the northern needs and receives some reinforcements.
The place to be however is the centre. And guess what, who dares wins! The Germans launch increasingly low odd attacks to break the lines – and they succeed! Both Lehr as well as 2nd Pz take on the Allied crack paras with success, ending close to St Hubert and taking Rochefort. The Allies will struggle to contain those two Pz divisions, it will certainly require quite some effort.
A second area of success is near Stoumont where the Allied 7th Arm got a bit too cute. The long trail of Inf div that got their battle honours in and near St Vith and that are heading north take a little detour through the woods and overrun two American tank task forces. It is suddenly the Allied tanks that experience the drawbacks of the heavy woods. They had managed to significantly threaten the German flank, pushing almost into Werbomont. Now it is them who have to fall back in a hurry to avoid getting trapped on the wrong side of the river. The German flank that looked so vulnerable just the evening before is now solid.
Forrest suit the infantry and can get tanks trapped withnowhere to go (sorry for blurry pic)
The Allied are rushing everything that has wheels westwards to at least throw some picket defences in front of the Germans. A collections of tank hunters, individual battalions and what not. The other lines have to be thinned out to free up those forces. What change of events!
Everything that can drive or walk is trying to get between the Germans and the Meuse bridges
The afternoon sees Blitzkrieg as during the glory days. 2nd SS throws caution aside, and races hell for leather through the gap in the line south of St Hubert that was created in the morning. Lead elements cross the Meuse at Givet, and the bulk of the division is just 10 or 12 km behind!
The Givet bridge is secured, and an entire Pz Div is follwoing hot on heels
But that is not all. Near Rochefort, the Germans are pressing hard, squeezing small units forward inch by inch as not every position can me manned by the Allies in the area. And Lehr in the thick of things will help a lot when it reaches Rochefort in the morning hours after driving through the night. Slightly further NE, the 12th SS is doing their bid pushing hard north of Durbuy. The Allied 3rd Arm Div is surely a powerful force, but it cannot contain three threatened areas. It will have to block the short way to Huy, and leave the western problems to smaller elements that have been detached from a bunch of units.
The Germans give it all, and are making progress
The SAS, and fresh reinforcements arrive in time to at least delay and contest the bridge of Givet. The rest of the front in the area however is held by little more than screening units and scouts.
Just in time?
Hitler is exalted in joy about the crossing of the Meuse, and releases the 10th SS and 11th Pz Divs from his strategic reserve. Further strong formations like the 9th SS and 3rd PzGr Div are making their way through the area, having reached Houffalize. They will reach the Allied lines that are already bending and breaking in 12-24 hrs.
IF 2nd SS can take the Givet bridge and secure it properly before the Brits arrive in 24 hrs, and Patton’s strong forces hit the German southern flank, then the chance of a strategic German success is quite realistic!
Day 6 – 21st Dec 1944 (turn 11-12)
Moment of truth. The 2nd SS fights the highway clear, but there is still some infantry contesting the eastern shore of the Meuse river at Givet. Just behind these spearheads, near Rochefort, several bypassed pockets of paratroopers get eliminated, freeing up significant numbers of troops for the afternoon, and seeing elements of Peiper and the 116th Pz advance through the hole in the line towards and almost reaching Ciney.
Givet turns into a battlefield
9th and 12th SS near Durbuy push further to create a further threat to the line. While some scattered units in the Allied line lose their nerve and run, the 3rd Arm is standing solid, not giving an inch. Nonetheless, it appears to be too little, too late. Allied reinforcements are on their way, but I cannot see how all those holes and breakthroughs can get contained. If only the fuel for the panzers keeps coming...
Trying to tie down reinforcement, or even have a go at other bridges as well, the Germans are making progress towerds the NW
The flanks see only little action. The Germans are happy with the northern shoulder. And Fuh Gr and 11th Pz are heading towards Bastogne to counter the reported Allied tank formations heading that way over the coming 24-48 hrs.
Once again, the Allies create nothing more than a thin screen out of ad hoc units. What is encouraging though for the Allied High Command is that 3 regiments of infantry have made into the vicinity of Givet, now starting to contest the free flow of units over the bridge. They won’t be able to take the bridge back, but the Germans are reduced to a crawl trying to get over themselves. And maybe this is just enough for the Brits to make it in time...
The afternoon sees what was long in the waiting. The strenuous fuel supply had to eventually break down...to all the three crucial divisions....
With minor fighting on the flanks, once again it was the centre that drew the headlines. A further regiment of the 2nd SS makes it across the Meuse, into a tiny bridgehead that barely extends beyond the town.
Other units however now also almost reach the crucial river near Dinant, 10 km to the north. And with the fall of Ciney the 1SS is in good tank country. 15 km to go...
No free lunch at Givet for either side
Ciney falls as well, and good tank country is ahead
The other divisions keep pushing and pushing to soak off as many Allied reinforcements as possible. Surely but steadily they do gain ground in the process and throw the Allied units out of one good defensive position after another on their way to the Meuse or Liege. It is now more than 6 Pz and PG Div that are pushing the Allied lines to the breaking point. Gonna be tight I think – the optimism of last turn is gone for the Germans despite all their gains. The main Allied reinforcements are nearly there, and will arrive over the next 24-48 hrs. What isn’t gained in those crucial hours until will not never be gained....
The afternoon sees some relief for the Allies. Patton’s first real forces arrive on the scene, and though some are withheld to secure the flank (to cover the blocking positions further east), their presence is nonetheless felt in the area SW of Bastogne. The Germans will have to divert the arriving 11th Pz Div there to bolster the line, particularly once the mass of Patton’s army arrives tomorrow.
Patton makes his presence felt
Further to the west, the carpet of delaying units has done the trick. The bridgehead at Givet is getting better and better secured, a few Brit tank battalions have arrived to secure further bridges in the endangered area, and a quick rush breakthrough appears to be further and further away.
Things stat to clogg up a bit though
Note: The Germans had technically fulfilled the 6 turn scenario victory conditions, and checking now again, in fact again fulfil victory conditions by controlling 6 victory hexes on the west map. While I can understand that the game needs some realistically achievable conditions of the players, it does feel a bit like a cheat though, as the real objective – crossing the Meuse, and Antwerp has certainly not been achieved. A bridge too far maybe?
Day 7, 22nd Dec 1944 (turn 13-14)
Things are increasingly desperate for both sides, just in different ways. The Germans eliminate a number of pockets that have formed just east of the Meuse, whose only reason for existence was to delay the Germans just for another 12 hours or so. Some get overrun, but some even manage to hold against the odds with their determined stance. At Givet, the Germans clear the east side of the river, but their bridgehead is still just as small with more defenders arriving on the west side every minute. In the vicinity of Ciney, several Pz Div abreast push towards the river threatening multiple crossing points.
Towards the Meuse on a wide front
Givet gets increasingly desperate for the Germans
The 11th Pz arrives in Bastogne, not a minute too early... Patton’s counterattack is starting in earnest. While some of his forces are drained to cover the flank, there are still enough arriving to give the Germans a headache. But time is short, a number of elite paratroop regiments near La Roche en Ardenne are coming to the end of their ability to fight on and are close to surrendering.
The Brits are in the meantime arriving in strength, and will cover now half the western crossing points in force. Any crossing there will not happen in a hurry. There are still plenty covered only by bashed up troops though that will have to do for another 24 hrs before they are safe and dry...
Things are certainly getting more desperate for both sides as the day goes by. The Germans increase their lodging on the west side of the Meuse river near Givet, and manage to cross just a few miles north as well, threatening the main crossing at Dinant now from both sides of the river. The Brits however are pouring reinforcements into the area, and while the river has been breached, the Allied position on the west bank looks more and more comfortable (though with only 1 hex left to go for the Germans....).
The German Bridgehead across the Meuse
A morale victory goes to the Germans with the 501st regiment of the Screaming Eagles surrendering after being cut of f for days with no prospect of relief any time soon. If the 2nd regiment just bit further west would throw in the towel tomorrow as well, then north south traffic in the centre of the German position would become considerably easier.
Only little progress is made in the sector just a bit further east. Bypassed units fight to the last man and thwart any attempts to clear those cross-road positions. The east bank is in reach now on a wider front, with often just a few miles left; crossing will be a completely different kind of animal though. The skies are slowly clearing, and the weather forecast for the coming day is good for the first time. And in 1944 this means that the skies will be swarming with Allied jabos, making German attacks increasingly unlikely to succeed.
The Allied forces bled considerably, but it might have been juuuuust enough...
The price that had to be paid...
To be continued...
- Last edited Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:11 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:18 pm
Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
Wow, what a great session report! This really is nailbiting!!
Quite an amazing achievement for the Germans. January I will play this again as Germans and have taken notes. The US troops at the Monschau area seemed almost in a position to overrun the German starting lines?!
Thanks for the write up and pics!
Attaque! Toujours attaque!!
This was fun! Great AAR!!!
Really great camera work too. You make the game look very inviting.
Great read, cheers very much!
Very well, very inviting indeed. Very good game.
Re: The Hammer shall fall in the Ardennes - part 2