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Paratroopers defend Carentan

Brian Cantwell sent me photographs of a war game that he put on for the Brazos Valley Historical Miniatures group in College Station, TX. He was also kind enough to give me the scenario itself, which can be found here.
Click on the Thumbnail for a full-size photo Description
From the South
From the South
View of the battlefield from the southern edge
From the North
From the North
View of the battlefield from the northern edge
Screaming Meemies
Screaming Meemies
150mm rocket artillery barrage falls on Carentan. The rocket barrage takes out 3 defenders.
First German blood
First (German) blood
The first German casualty of the game. A Truck towing PAK 40 falls victim to 81mm mortars.
Pioneers advance
Pioneers advance
View of Armored Engineers on the move. This unit was assigned to swing west of town and attack from the north. The stands moving up the road are US AA 0.50 cal stands who came onto the table amid the German advance and had to run for it.
.50s assault
.50s assault
AA 0.50 cal teams assault a German AT Gun as it passes after Artillery had disordered the unit. These two AA MG's were unable to make it into town and were cut off by the Germans flowing past so heroically died in delaying actions. Historically, Battery A of the 81st Airborne AAA Battalion received a unit citation for their role in the Normandy campaign.
Advance!
Advance!
Main Force of Germans moves out to attack the town. American artillery was very effective amongst the German traffic jam.
Looking for trouble
Looking for trouble
German Recon platoon moves out to the south of town.
Open Fire!
Open Fire!
Elements of the 81st AAA Battalion open up. Any American units firing from the edge of town were immediately targeted by German artillery concentrations.
Temporarily Stalled
Temporarily Stalled
Armored engineers are delayed by American artillery fire combined with command indecision (i.e. two lousy maneuver die rolls in a row).
Jabos!
Jabos!
StuG company comes under attack by bomb armed P-47s.
Pressing the attack
Pressing the attack
P47s flew through intense light AA fire to deliver their bombs. The StuG's took the brunt, but the AA prevented strafing passes that might have been really devastating amongst the attacking infantry.
Back to the town
Back to the town
Unable to complete their encircling attack, the armored engineers throw their weight in with elements of II Battalion in the attack on the town's western face.
Keep on attacking
Keep on attacking
A second company of III Battalion prepares to enter the fray. The paratroopers guarding the southern end of town inflicted heavy casualties on the first company in the attack.
Take the canal
Take the canal
The Recon platoon has their objective in sight. They have conformed to the railweay embankment in preparation of making a dash for the canal bridge just out of view to the right.
Fighting rages
Fighting rages
The Germans gain footholds in he town as the paras and glider troops fall back for a defense in depth. Here the engineers and elements of Battalion II gain the northwest edge of town.
Jabos redux
Jabos redux
A second flight of P-47s destroys a StuG as it prepares to cross the rail embankment.
Mortar fire
Mortar fire
A devastating attack by 81mm mortars thwarts the Recon platoon in their attempt to seize the canal bridge. These lost victory points swung the balance toward the Americans.
Final positions
Final positions
The Germans have troops in town, but the Americans control more sectors. The armored cars exit north to secure bridges for further attacks, but a link-up to the east has been prevented by the American mortar fire on the recon unit.

After Action Report

German counterattack at Carentan repulsed by 101st Airborne Division

Historical context

Saturday's Battlefront WWII game featured a counterattack by German units to retake the recently captured town of Carentan. Historically, Carentan was fiercely defended by units of the 6th Fallschirmjaeger Regiment from about June 9th to June 11th. By June 12th, most of the German Paras had been killed or exfiltrated out of the town leaving only a small rearguard. On June 12th, the 2nd Battalion of the US 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 3rd Battalion of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment liberated the town, while the 1st Battalion of the 506th PIR pushed to the southwest. The Germans had desired to launch a counterattack that same day, but typical of the Normandy campaign, delays in assembling the troops meant that the US was able to push out of the town and occupy the high ground to the SW of carentan, where the 506th PIR held off fierce attacks by the 17th SS Panzergrenadiers long enough for armor from the 2nd Armored to arrive from the beachhead. Our game was a hypothetical game that assumed the Germans had been able to get the 17th SS Panzer Grenadiers to the battle on time.

The Participants

U.S.
The US forces were commanded by Rob W., Mike, and Willis. Willis took the 2/506th PIR which was at about 2/3 strength and defended the southwest corner of the city. Mike and Rob each had a company of the 3/327th GIR defending the Northwest and east portions of the city. American reinforcements were parcelled out as they arrived.
German
The Germans were commanded by Sandy, who kept some SP 150mm infantry guns and AA assets with his HQ and strutted around issuing directives in a cheesy German accent. He also immediately claimed the outlying village of Le Billoniere as his HQ and set up in the chateau there. Rob, Paul, and Phong commanded the two infantry battalions, with Gar commanding the armored infantry engineer company, Jesse commanding the Recon platoons, and Alex in charge of the Stugs.

What Happened

The Germans opened up with a tremendous barrage of 150mm rockets that saturated the main road. Several US units were killed and there was a general delay in deployment of the US defenses (the US troops had just completed clearing the town when the game began, so were not deployed for defense and needed to reorganize). However, the German units were delayed in entering the table, so much of the effect was lost. Sandy's plan was commit his forces en masse, so arriving German units were held until the force was assembled. The Germans were finally assembled on about turn 7 or so, and entered the table...all at one road, creating an immense traffic jam and a definite target rich environment.

The US 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion reported in along with the 321st Airborne Artillery Battalion and battalion mortar platoons. Much indirect fire fell on the Germans, causing a few casualties but much delay in their advance.

Battery A of the 81st Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion arrived on the scene from the west, almost immediately in front of the first wave of Germans. The two 37mm AAA pieces towed by Jeeps went screaming past through a hail of enemy opportunity fire and reached the safety of the town. The CO and one 0.50 cal HMG stand also ran the gauntlet while the other two HMG's formed a delaying force in a nearby wood. The two 37mm guns fought throughout the rest of the day, as Mike used the streets of the town to rapidly deploy the guns from one area to another. He was able to do the same with the 57mm ATG's, effectively doubling the coverage he was able to achieve.

The first German misfortune befell Gar's armored engineers, who were attempting to sprint past the town to make an encircling attack on the north face. The unit came under artillery attack by a battalion concentration of the 321st and suffered some casualties. Gar then proceeded to (uncharacteristically) roll two one's on his next maneuver rolls and the armored engineers spent two turns panicking and taking arty fire. Mike had also brought the Stuart company around to the northwest corner of town and was sniping at the halftracks, but rapidly moved back as the StuG's approached.

The StuG's were subjected to two passes by Allied fighter bombers, despite numerous attempts to swath the FAC in smoke, losing one StuG and greatly slowing their advance on the Stuarts.

Jesse's two recon armored cars were able to scamper around the west of town and despite considerable fire from Mike's Stuarts, AA guns, and ATGs, were able to seize the canal bridge and exit toward St. Mere-Eglise.

During this time, the Germans had been trying to advance their infantry under a hail of artillery.

The Germans were liberally supplied with artillery, but the crafty Americans had excellent fire discipline, not firing and giving the Germans a suspected target to drop their artillery on. The few times they did so, they paid dearly as the Germans were able to drop 105mm battalion concentrations thickened with 150mm guns.

The German plan had been to assault primarily on the west face of town, with supporting attacks on the southern tip and northern edge. With time running down and the encircling attack bogged, the Germans opted to try and grab a part of the city and attacked the southwest part of the city from the south and west, with a supporting attack on the west face by the pioneers. The Germans were able to gain a portion of the city, but at heavy losses as Willis "my dice roll only 8+" Marti inflicted heavy casualties. After Sandy's departure, I had taken over the recon infantry platoon and was poised to make a dash for the eastern canal bridge when Mike landed a devastating 81mm mortar attack that disorderd most of my halftracks.

At the game's end, the Germans held part of town (but less than half by far) and had exited a platoon to the north, but Mike's barrage had prevented my capture of the eastern bridge. Without the bridge, the Americans had about 15-20 Victory points to the 10-12 of the Germans. With the bridge, the Germans would have had 20-22 and the Americans would have been cut off from resupply reducing their VP total to 5-10.

The game went really well and everyone seemed to have a blast. Thanks to everyone who scurried to paint up units over the last month. The minis and table looked great. The scenario set-up turned out to give the Germans a really tough task, as they had to cross too much ground with their infantry in too short of a time to be able to properly coordinate a good attack on the town. However, I think that Sandy's strict adherance to his Mass Action plan exagerated the effect. He had a number of armored and recon assets available earlier that he could have committed. This would have meant that the US would have been less free to deploy their defenses and would have created less of a target rich environment when the main force arrived. I'm willing to bet we can find takers to give it another try (with a few minor changes for suprises) in a couple of months.

Brian Cantwell

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