"Get the men together, I need to speak to them."
With a series of piercing whistles the interpreter managed to attract sufficient attention to at least give Fisching the impression that his troops weren't actively ignoring him. Casting aside his doubts he drew breath and gave one of the most inspiring speeches of his career. Below is an extract of that speech with the interpreter's translation in parentheses.
"Brave Georgian volunteers of the Greater German Reich!"
"The moment of glory we have longed for has arrived. Today we march against the enemies of the New World Order."
(Shit just got real!)
"Soldiers, St Mere Eglise must not spend another hour in the hands of our enemies!"
(The Germans want us Georgians to push the Americans out of some French houses)
"Your courage and determination is well known, today we will make the accursed Yankees fear our strength!"
(We've got to get close to the Americans if we want to surrender to them)
"Long live Greater Germany, long live an independent Georgia!"
(Last one to the PoW cage is a rotten egg!)
Fisching paused, he wasn't entirely confident about the quality of the translation but to be fair his men were shambling obediently in the direction of the village. Some of them still had their rifles. Fisching checked to make sure he still had his cyanide capsule and followed them.
This is an oldie but a goodie. Mike Sexton and I played the updated version of ASL Scenario 17 - Lost Opportunities over VASL today. This is set on D-Day and pits a force of elite American paratroopers trying to defend the recently captured village of St Mere Eglise from a large but distinctly unenthusiastic bunch of "Germans" who have been tasked with retaking possession. Mike, fittingly, will command the men of the 3rd battalion, 505th Parachute regiment. He has eight elite squads, a 57mm AT gun, two medium machine guns, a 60mm mortar and five bazookas. This lot are led by three officers headed by a 9-1.
For my sins I have been handed command of the 795th Georgian battalion comprising "recruits" who felt that serving the Germans was marginally preferable to dying in a prisoner of war camp. Warm bodies I am not short of; I have nineteen squads. But these are divided between ten second line squads and nine conscripts. Possibly to compensate for the lousy human material the Germans have showered this mob with support weapons in the form of two 50mm mortars, four light machine guns, two medium machine guns and one heavy machine gun. Supporting the distinctly lacklustre storm troops are a pair of crappy tanks the Germans pinched from the French and an early model Marder SP gun mounting an impressive 75L gun but protected by what appears to be reinforced cardboard.
The victory conditions are the fun part of this scenario. The Germans win immediately if they control five buildings on Board 1 but they lose immediately if they ever have less than nine unbroken squads. The German commander can't simply use a mass of arms and legs to swamp the Americans, something approaching finesse would be required. I decided to go for "mass of arms and legs".
Below is the at start set up. I have my Marder up on the hill to hopefully smoke out some of the American positions. For the rest I decided I would attack both flanks in force. In the centre I would put my kill stack comprising three squads, both mmgs and the hmg guided by the 9-1. Here I hoped to break some of the forward defenders and help my flankers forward. It's fair to say none of this happened.
Thing started well when I discovered that I'd left my smoke rounds in my other Marder. There would be no smoke to help the Germans forward (well not until the tanks started burning). Undaunted I banged away with the Marder and my mortars and gained some acquisition, then with artillery support at least attempted if not actually achieved I sent my flankers forward. On the left (bottom) I deployed a conscript squad and charged them across the open ground towards the trees that concealed his positions. On the right I armoured assaulted across the open ground and wound up in the trees next to a target building. I would also push my luck with one of the crappy French built tanks which rolled forward in support and promptly got fried by a bazooka squad in the foxhole behind. I looked in good shape after the first turn and fairness forces me to admit that this was largely due to Mike breaking his mortar and an mmg while attempting to shoot at me.
At the end of my first turn two buildings were under threat and my flanking attacks were developing nicely. That's about as far as the flanking attacks got. My super duper kill stack proved to be a disappointment, this monstrous stack only broke one halfsquad in the entire game. Meanwhile Mike's defenders would more than capable of shooting both flanking attacks to pieces. Strangely it was the handful of squads I had sent towards the centre that would cover themselves in glory.
In his first turn Mike started a trend by smashing up the squads attempting to flank on the right. His sole tool for doing so was the bazooka squad in the foxhole behind the building. Mike asked me to give a special shout out to these guys and they thoroughly deserve it. Singlehandedly they mangled a flank. I did manage to snatch the victory building but was promptly shot out of it again. Over on the left an ill advised attempt to support his flank defenders (who turned out to need no such support) broke one of his squads.
|End of Mike's turn 1|
Bizarrely it was in my almost neglected centre that success attended my efforts. Without smoke my Marder started dropping HE shells onto his defenders in the centre. The result was mixed, my first shot battle hardened a squad and Mike generated a hero into the bargain. The next round wounded the hero and broke his newly fanatic squad. What goes around, apparently, comes around.
With Mike's troops busy on the flanks there seemed to be an opportunity in the centre which was currently defended by only a wounded hero. At this point my Marder ran out of HE and the Georgian halfwits managed to load an AP round back to front and broke the gun into the bargain. Despite this less than stellar performance a conscript squad in the centre took a deep breath and, taking advantage of the fact that Mike was too busy slaughtering my flankers to intervene, charged up to the centre bulding. A second panted across the ground braving the wounded heroes fire. At which point Mike revealed his 57mm gun staring literally down the throat of my brave conscripts. Unfortunately for Mike his guys had forgotten to pack any HE ammunition as well and his AP shot did nothing. Conscript vengeance was coming and in the advance phase I jumped the gun crew and hero. I killed the hero in CC but the gun crew tied up my squad for three CC phases before I managed to dispatch him.
|Success in the centre, pity I haven't got anything to reinforce it|
Scenting an opportunity I swarmed around his defenders on the left, surely I could overwhelm them.
No, no I couldn't. Instead some accurate American rifle fire turned my left flank into a carbon copy of the right with various terrified Georgians huddled in the blood slicked trees desperately hoping the Americans would shoot someone else. I did manage to capture another building though which was important as I was about to lose the one on the right as Mike's heroes popped out of their foxhole and snatched it back.
While the melee raged with his gun crew my other squad chased his brokies out of the centre building. Hoping that I would eventually take out the damn gun crew the other squad pushed on and snatched another building. Meanwhile on the left things had entered a tedious pattern of "push forward, get broken, run away" and repeat. I rolled my now virtually impotent Marder forward to at least look like a threat, it's sole achievement was to take a bazooka rocket that Mike should really have saved for my other tank.
|The red circles indicate broken squads. That nine squad cap is getting very close|
I did eventually win the close combat in the centre but in the same time Mike managed to rally his fanatics and reinforce them with another squad taken from the left. These guys promptly mangled my recently victorious close combat squad and sealed Mike's hold on the centre building. Mike attempted to move another squad up to reinforce them but he had forgotten that my mortar had a line of sight to the road. I don't blame him, I'd almost forgotten it's existence as well but I remembered just in time to break a squad and 7-0 puffing to the rescue.
My turn four came around and I was sweating. I had precisely ten unbroken squads. If two more went down Mike had the game. I had plenty of time and leaders in rally positions I could have paused the attack, rallied some troops and tried again. Instead I went for broke. Mike had a squad and a half on the far left that had defied everything I had thrown at it but his reinforcement of the centre had left only a half squad in the stone building across the road and I had a conscript squad right next door.
In the centre my surviving conscript squad assaulted into the trees and would advance back to give me a fourth building. I muttered a prayer to whatever dark gods might be listening and sent my conscripts into close combat with his halfsquad on the left. This time, glory be, it worked. I rolled a three to wipe out his half squad and capture my fifth building.
|Victory, somewhat to my surprise|
Yes, victory. Not entirely deserved and slightly surprising but there it was and I'll take it. Both Mike and I loved this scenario. Mike felt the tension of having defend the buildings and not being able to fall back while I stared in horror as my troops melted under American fire and edged ever closer to running out of squads.
Major Fisching looked around at the shattered buildings of St Mere Eglise. He couldn't believe they'd done it. Now came the difficult part, persuading his troops not to sell their rifles to the prisoners. He looked around for his interpreter and found him in animated conversation with an American sergeant.
"Tell me," asked Fisching curiously, "what part of Georgia do you come from anyway?"
"Savannah born and bred," replied the interpreter.