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Broadsword56

Tunisia?

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CMFI's Panzer Aufklärung Battalion [motorized] has all your needed elements. The Aufklärung Company [motorized] has the same organization as a Kradschützen company, just mounted in Kubelwägens.

In fact on March 24th, Kradschützen-Bataillon 10 was renamed to Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 10.

http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gliederungen/KradschBat/KradschBtl10-R.htm

So they are! Thanks for the tip.

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This episode of Patton 360, "Rommel's Last Stand," covers the El Guettar battle of March 23, 1943 and makes a perfect briefing for the battle scenario I'm working on.

Here's a link to the relevant portion:

(Rommel wasn't actually in Tunisia anymore by then, of course...)

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Broadsword, hi,

Thanks for the offer to test, but I do not have the time to do a proper job. Would be saying yes under false pretences just to get a look at the scenario early ;).

All the best,

Kip.

PS do hope it will soon out there :).

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Appreciate the honesty, Kip!

Since so few have stepped up to test, I'm just soloing it in hotseat mode at the moment.

This at least lets me see how the basics of the scenario come together, and it gives me a chance to enjoy the North Africa ambiance...

I can already see most players would be bored and get sore mouse-fingers from the LOOOONNNNGGG German armor-infantry advance along the valley. I won't cut the map down because I want others to be able to re-use it for other Tunisia scenarios. But I'm likely to change the German deployment areas so that the forces start about 10-15 turns closer to the Americans than they do now.

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You can always release the full map separately. If you feel it isn't needed, it would help frame rates to get rid of it. Similar to the discussion on Pandur's scenario. Figure out the functional role and is it really needed. If it is fine, if it isn't it can help the overall experience to remove.

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Good point sburke.

About 17 minutes into the battle, with the map and forces on it now, I get a consistent 12-15 FPS on my old rig, which is completely acceptable. (Wouldn't be good enough for a flight sim, but for CM it still looks smooth).

I'm amazed it plays so well.

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Many strange things happened March 23 at El Guettar.

One of the strangest, to Cpl David J. McCarthy of Dipper Baker and Fitchburg, Mass... Asleep in his hole and overlooked when his battery was ordered to withdraw, McCarthy slept blissfully through the German occupation of the position and its recapture by the 16th Inf.

Rested after a good nights sleep, he awoke only after a salvage team from the battery had re-entered the area. Grabbing his messkit he whistled a cheery tune as he made his way to the small group of men gathered in the vicinity of the kitchen. Here, much to his consternation, he learned what had transpired.

Three days later his was still wandering around, scratching his head and muttering to himself, "It shouldn't happen to Rip Van Winkle..."

-- from the 18th RCT newspaper, "The Decoy Doughboy," May 1945

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Some fresh screenies from my solo hotseat test of the El Guettar scenario:

The most fun part of the battle, in the opening phase, is the cat-and-mouse game between the German armored columns and the American 75mm AT guns on the M3 GMC halftracks.

In particular, the northernmost German spearhead tries to sweep the foothills toward Hill 336 and secure the right flank, while not skylining themselves against the crest of the ridge...

GuettarATsequenceestablishing.jpg

But this opens opportunites for over 35 of the US AT vehicles, who can pop up like demonic prairie dogs all over the hill complex from hulldown positions.

In this sequence, three German Mark IVs unwittingly bypassed some GMCs to their right, who were hiding behind the crest of the hill. One popped up, and immediately three turrets rotate to try and kill it quickly. The middle panzer shoots first...

GuettarATsequencefirstshotmisses.jpg

...and misses high!

But the GMC not only has no turret; it can only focus on one tank at a time. And the green crew is slow to get a shot off. They ignore the middle tank that has just fired at them, and let loose at the rear tank...

GuettarATsquenceGMCscores.jpg

But now the trouble has only begun (continued next post...)

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With the rear tank knocked out, the GMC tries to withdraw.

But now the middle tank has corrected its aim...

GuettarATsequencebutmiddletanknowhits.jpg

The GMC is destroyed -- a 1 for 1 exchange the Americans can ill afford (actually, this GMC killed another Mark IV previously, but even 1 for 2 is not sustainable in the long run).

But the german column is in a difficult zone:

GuettarATsequencefinalsituation.jpg

Still behind the ridge are two other GMCs the Germans haven't spotted yet. Ahead of the Germans and to their right, off camera, are some more GMCs who may soon be able to pop up and distract them from the front.

There's a lot of German infantry about, so it's probably time to pick some 'faust teams and go HMC-hunting. This isn't so easy in the desert, though, with its lack of cover. Once they cross the ridge they'll be in the sights of many US machineguns. So it might be better just to try to keep moving quickly and count on the weight of numbers and momentum to prevail for the Germans in the end.

From the US side, getting coordinated shoot-and-scoot orders to work right is as much an art as a science. They seem to need a 20-min pause at the end of their HUNT order to give them enough time to adjust their gun and fire. But that's plenty of time for an alert German tank to rotate a turret and kill them. So it's best to have a number of ATs popping up simultaneously from several directions. Hard to time that, though. But when it works right it's a thng of beauty!

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Do you know whether in the real battle the American TDs engaged the panzers at range like this, or conducted a reverse slope defense?

I'm not a tank warfare god by any means (I'm hardcore infantry combat), but it seems like you'd use low-silhouette towed ATGs (if you have them) to engage at range and let the high silhouette TDs stick to reverse slope.... if they're only good for 1-2 shots anyway before getting popped, might as well let them do it at close range. Discussion?

Also, that first screenie is presenting some mighty fine mortar targets, clustered together in the open like that. Which relates to the first point -- are you slowing the overall German advance with this long range armour duel in spite of the unfavourable attrition math, and can you make the Hun pay for that fact?

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Good question, LLF.

They appear to have done both.

El Guettar was an unusual battle in many respects. The TDs didn't have time to prepare ambush positions, since they were actually preparing to go on the attack when their mission suddenly changed from attack to defense. They had no supporting infantry around (the nearest friendly infantry was dug in to the NW on the reverse slopes of Hill 336). At this point in the battle, the infantry's mortars are still out of range to this area. And there's no US offmap artillery available yet, because they were caught on the move and come in as reinforcements at an indeterminate time (maybe 15-30 min from the start of the battle). The only US towed AT pieces in this area 37mm ones, which I have deployed in safer ambush positions in/near the Wadi and supporting the US infantry.

Actually, I think my scenario is playing it pretty much the way it happened in this part of the battlefield. Ordinarily I'd want to position my TDs back in keyhole positions or full defilade and let the German armor come to them. But this is a desperate defense, and the Americans have to trade space for time. The more space the Americans give up, the closer the German spearheads get to their W and NW exits and the vulnerable infantry on Hill 336. Delaying the Germans also buys time for US reinforcements to arrive (another infantry Battalion, the offmap artillery, and much later the M10s of B/899th TD Bn). So it's important for the Americans to slow down and attrit as much of the German armor as possible, within reason...but not to lose too many precious TDs in the process. It's quite a dilemma.

Here's the relevant portion the real-life AAR by the CO of this very unit:

EL GUETTAR

By Lt. Col H. D. Baker, Commanding, 601st TD Battalion

It was just beginning to get light when the enemy launched his full attack. The Germans had over 100 tanks, more than three times our number of destroyers. They had infantry and artillery support.

Their artillery opened on our positions as soon as there was light enough to register, while their infantry advanced close behind the tanks in open formation, sniping, infiltrating, trying to get at the tank destroyers and the division artillery behind us.

Our division artillery was primarily concerned with covering the infantry advance in the flanking hills. It was, however, able to support us with concentrations against the tanks. We found that indirect fire against moving tanks had little effect other than to cause them to open their formations. The tank destroyers had no protection against the enemy infantry except organic security squads and small arms. We were too busy firing at tanks with the 75's to use small arms except occasionally.

The panzers were spread out abreast the Gabes road and advanced northwest on our positions in a general attack. Just out of range they split, some advancing on “B” and “C” "Companies while a main thrust of thirty tanks started around our right flank. “B” and “C” Companies started firing while the light was still dim, letting the tanks come within close range before opening up with armor piercing fire.(35)

The main thrust worked in but found itself canalized by “A” Company on one side and the soft ground on the other.

The German artillery laid a heavy concentration of smoke on “A” Company. When this lifted, the thirty tanks were still 2200 yards away and “A” opened fire. Eight tanks were knocked out despite the long range and plunging fire.(36)

The flank thrust withdrew at once, towing four of their eight casualty tanks with them.(37) They retired out of range, circled northeast across the Gabes road and reinforced the tanks that were attacking our left flank and center (see sketch). One destroyer had been hit and burned, but the enemy's main thrust was turned.

“B” and “C” Companies' action had been intense since daybreak. The companies had positioned themselves with two platoons abreast and one in reserve.

The destroyers were dispersed among the ridges and small rolling hills in full defilade. Forward observers warned of the approach of the tanks which attacked in groups of five and six. The destroyers approximated the range and direction, moved up to the top of their ridge and fired, then retired until another target came along.(38)

The tanks, however, came in so rapidly and in such numbers that the destroyers were often forced to stand and fire as rapidly as they could load, exposing themselves for a considerable time to enemy tank and artillery fire. By employing mutual support and fire and movement tactics (shifting positions), the destroyers were able to outmaneuver the tanks in most cases and prevent accurate registration by the enemy artillery which poured a steady fire into our positions.(39)

Besides maneuvering to fire on the tanks and ducking artillery fire, the destroyers were forced to fire continuously on infiltrating enemy infantry with small arms, machine guns, and 75mm high explosive ammunition.(40)

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LLF, if you find you've got the time and are so inclined, load up the scenario and give it a spin. You've got share access to the dropbox file, and I uploaded a revised version last night that's much better than the original (cut the German tank strength down to a more historically accurate 45 or so in this area, and sliced a lot off the E part of the map, so there's less approach marching for the Germans and first contact is usually within the first few turns).

Once I've played the battle through one time, I'll most likely post the Tunisia mod pack to the Repository so everyone can try it out. I just want to make sure the basic timings and victory points are right, and the thing more or less works. Not everyone will be into a battle as huge as El Guettar, but I'm hoping others will cannibalize the map to make their own, smaller NA scenarios too.

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Broadsword, this sounds really exciting. So far the game AAR is fascinating, and I really like the accompanying RL AAR which puts things nicely in context.

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Thanks Splinty.

I don't know how much fun it will be for people to play the actual scenario, in game terms -- but I made El Guettar as more of an experiment, to see how CMFI would handle NA settings and enormous-scale battles, and as a sort of "battlefield forensics" lab to see whether the historically accurate terrain and OOB might produce historical outcomes - if so, why? And if not, why not?

But the actual gameplay is turning out to be fun, too. Handling huge formations can work as long as I select and give orders to whole companies at a time -- at least during the move to contact.

The German spearhead in the foothills is just now reaching their jump off point for the attack on Hill 336. So the infantry are catching their breath and splitting into teams, out of US mortar range, while the HMGs come up and the FOs order a big round of covering smoke.

The German armor in the foothills will provide a base of fire and try to keep those pesky GMC 75mm half tracks at bay.

Meanwhile, the main spearhead in the valley keeps racing for the NW exit, and the mechanized spearhead on Highway 15 moves unopposed toward the bridge exit.

The way I set up the victory points, the German player has a dilemma with this highway spearhead: Since it's got little opposition, ideally it should all try to exit via the highway bridge and score the small pot of exit points. But the German player could also forgo those exit points and use the southern spearhead to reinforce the other two forces.

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The middle spearhead of 10th Panzer rolls across the El Guettar valley in the advance to contact. An American eyewitness to the real thing described it as a slow-miving "iron fortress." Interestingly, the tanks all maintain formation quite well when they're given company or battalion SLOW orders:

Guettarspearheadinformation.jpg

The armored car and half-track-mounted companies of 10th Motorcycle Battalion lead the southern spearhead W along Highway 15, the Gafsa-Gabes road:

Guettar10thmotoadvancesonHwy15.jpg

Cover is mighty scarce at El Guettar, except for the natural folds in the terrain. But some olive groves closer to the Wadi, bordering the highway, look like a good place for an AT ambush...

GuettarlandscapeolivegrovesandGMC.jpg

Well, maybe not. In Tunisia, even the foliage doesn't conceal much. Especially when we're talking about a high-profile vehicle like the M3 GMC 75mm.

Guettarolivegrovefailedambush.jpg

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How far back into 1942 would these mods be able to get eventually, considering module updates for CMFI? El Alamein? This would be limited because of vehicle types for that time period I assume? I really would appreciate a Gazala '42 time period mod at some point if possible. :)

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I'll let the Africa TO&E grogs answer that one in detail, but it seems to me that a great deal of pre-1943 action in NA is feasible once we have Commonwealth troops and kit in CMFI. Add a few more desert uniform mods, the adobe building mod, and "Bob's your uncle."

Of course certain specific battles might not be doable, if they used, say, the Grant tank and some of the earlier AFVs. But you could certainly do lots of early CW vs. Rommel battles where the Stuarts ("Honeys") fought German Mk II and III tanks or Italian stuff.

The major work would getting the OOBs right for earlier periods and formations. But remember: We can make any TO&E manually, save it as a scenario file, and then use the "import campaign units" function to get that into new scenarios without having to create it from scratch each time.

Once we have German paratroops in CMFI for mainland Italy, that also opens the possibility of Crete. I'd love to see that. Maps are already feasible with what we already have in CMFI. My only wish there would be a terrain mod to make Heavy Rocks a bit whiter instead of gray -- to get that authentic "parsley sprinked over feta cheese" look that the rugged Cretan hills have. And that NA adobe building, with a white paint job, would look right at home in Crete too.

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4...I'll probably post the scenario and mod pack to the Repository within a week or so.

Good stuff.

Will it be only H2H and Allied vs AI or did you make up some AI plans (Allied) to go along with it? I would like to use the Germans (always do) so...

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