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CMRT Campaign - Kampfgruppe "von Schroif"


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Part 2

The attack on the village appeared to be a success, but new dangers were now threatening Hpt von Schroif’s battle plan.  The Soviet push on the right flank, with what was probably scout cars, was especially vexing, as the enemy would have a clear line of sight down from the ridge, and possibly able to engage the somewhat exposed Zug 3, for the moment hiding behind the crest of the wheat field in the center.

Shortly after Zug 3 was ordered forward, more Soviet artillery dropped right where von Schroif expected it would.  This would have fallen directly on Zug 3, and probably would have caused multiple casualties.  As it was, only one mortar crewman was killed, although some others in the MG team were wounded. 

Hpt von Schroif had no further assets to shift to the right flank.  Everything was committed.  This was the most frightening time for a commander, as he no longer had options and had to trust that he put the right equipment and the right men in the right places.

In quick succession, OLt Gührs reported that possibly three Soviet BA-64 scout cars were approaching the small tree copse on the right flank ridge.  He also reported taking an AT gun round in the flank, when turning towards the scout car threats.  He was backing away to find cover.

Stummel commander Boedecker reported on the net that he was advancing to try and get line of sight on the enemy scout cars.  Shortly after his report, the sharp retort of the short 7,5 cm gun on the Stummel was heard.  Von Schroif strained to hear if there was a crash of a shell hitting steel, but his own SPW idling was too loud.  Shortly, Boedecker’s next in command reported a kill on one scout car, but Boedecker was down, they were taking enemy AT fire, possibly 4,5 cm caliber, and they were trying to evade up the knoll to find cover. 

It seemed there was a hush on the battle field, as if time was standing still.  Suddenly the 2,0 cm cannon on OFw Rannenberg’s SPW, located in the center of the battlefield, opened up with a vengeance.  It appeared he was shooting way off to the right flank, no longer engaging the tree line to his front.  Hpt von Schroif could only hope that the scout cars had aggressively pursued the wounded Boedecker’s Stummel and had now blundered into the sights of Rannenberg’s cannon. 

For what seemed like an eternity, the radio was silent, but then Rannenberg came on the air and announced, in his usual calm tone, that two scout cars were burning.  FO Wolter confirmed that now three plumes of black smoke were visible on the right flank.  

All attempts to raise Boedecker’s Stummel were answered with static. 

Oberleutnant Gührs reported that MG fire had possibly silenced an AT rifle position on the east end of the thin tree line, he confirmed the death of three Soviet scout cars, and he also added that it appeared that Boedecker’s SPW was either immobilized or knocked out.  He said there were survivors huddled against the side of the track.

More information came in from Ofw Lärmann, now ensconced in Osinnik.  He had sighted the AT PAK that had damaged or destroyed Boedecker’s Stummel.  It was hidden in the small farmhouse area, OBJ AZOtto.  He had also spotted a light machine gunner and a light mortar team, all located in and around the small farm.  Again, this is exactly where 2IC Erlichmann suspected an enemy PAK position.

Lärmann was in the process of calling in a mortar strike on the small farm at AZOtto.  As Hpt von Schroif was looking hard at the small farm, trying to will the enemy PAK into visibility, he saw movement of a half squad from 2 Zug.  They were working their way around the lower edge of the village, and it appeared they were using terrain to try and advance towards the small farmhouse.  He thought he saw a slight flash of silver around the collar of one of the men.  That had to be Pöppel, he reasoned, as he would be the one with the silver Tresse around his collar denoting an Unteroffizier or Feldwebel.  He hadn’t been cut down with the initial assault. 

A quick glance towards where the casualties had been, showed only the bloody area and no bodies, so aid had been given to the fallen.  Pöppel had gone back and cared for his wounded, and was now leading the remains of his squad in a daring attempt to flank the enemy in the small farm.

Hpt von Schroif looked at his watch.  It was now 50 minutes into the battle, his left flank was set with the taking of Osinnik, and his right flank might be secure with the destruction of three enemy scout cars.  His men had identified two enemy AT guns, one in the center at the small farm, and the other where the main track entered the thick woods around OBJs Koblenz and Munchen.  His center push was being held up by the AT guns.  He had lost his 7,5 cm support on the right flank, but still had 2,0 cm guns to cover that side, if more scout cars appeared.

There was now an imposed lull as mortars reached out with their deadly shells to try and eliminate the enemy AT guns.  Lärmann was having trouble getting spotting rounds to land near the farm, and an attempt to move up a half-squad with light machine guns, to bring suppression fire on the enemy AT gun, had resulted in two or three HE rounds from the farmhouse AT gun killing or wounding the men. 

Pöppel continued to move his half squad forward behind terrain, in an attempt to flank the farmhouse.  The sniper team was also moving in that direction, although no one could see them or know of their movements.  That was exactly the way they liked it.  They’d already caused havoc with several enemy positions in the tree line, and after seeing the AT gun at the farmhouse, they were now stealthily moving towards that position as well. 

Hpt von Schroif watched through binoculars as his remaining Stummel moved forwards to pair up with Rannenberg’s 2,0 cm cannon in an attempt to knock out the farther-located enemy AT gun.  The fire mission that had dropped on that position had not knocked it out. 

As Rannenberg put down suppression fire on the AT gun position, Otto moved up with his Stummel into hull down, and attempted to fire on AT gun.  They managed one round.  In quick succession, two 4,5 cm rounds crashed into the Stummel, killing the gunner and driver.  The commander and loader bailed out and took cover.  Rannenberg prudently backed away into cover.  Von Schroif slammed his hand down on the side of his SPW.  Dammit, now both his 7,5 cm support SPWs were gone.  What else could happen? he wondered.

Lärmann’s attempts to bring down mortar fire on the farm that concealed the other AT gun resulted in some rounds falling in and around the buildings, but he was not sure if the AT gun had been silenced.  Using the sporadic mortar fire as a distraction, Pöppel had managed to get his half-squad close to the farm.  Lärmann had motioned for one of the SPW in the village, to make a cautious approach and attempt to support Pöppel.  The SPW arrived in the dip that was concealing Pöppel and his men.

Belatedly, OLt Gührs now reported in from the right flank, advising that the Soviet artillery that could be heard in that area, was falling on the hapless survivors of Boedecker’s Stummel.  Despite their best efforts, huddling under their fallen vehicle, all were killed as the Soviets continued to shell the location with a vengeance.  Their identity discs were recovered from their bodies, found in a crater under the SPW.

Sheltered from the remains of the farmhouse area, Pöppel and his men came under flanking fire from a machine gun position in the raised wood area, OBJ AZDieter.  Again, Hpt von Schroif could only watch in helpless rage as more men were cut down by yet another hidden Soviet position.

His squad now reduced to one man and himself, Pöppel ignored the danger and desperately worked to save the rest of his wounded squad.  He was barely aware of the crack of a rifle, off to his right, as the sniper team opened up on the enemy machine gunner.  They had worked their way almost to where Pöppel was.    

No further fire came from that direction, allowing Pöppel to finish aiding his fallen squad members.  Von Schroif had also directed his machine gun teams to open up on AZDieter, further suppressing the enemy.

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Pöppel aids his fallen squad mates, hit from a machine gun position in the wooded rise on his left.  The dip in terrain conceals them from the remains of the farmhouse seen to the right of center.

 

After aiding his fallen comrades, Pöppel then moved forward with his remaining squad member, moving slowly to the crest of the rise, and then putting down vicious fire into the hedges and bushes around the farmhouse. 

Thinking this was sufficient to clear their advance, Pöppel and his partner advanced across the road, intending to use the cover of the hedge along the roadside.  A burst of gunfire ripped through his partner, and then into Pöppel, dropping both into the dust of the road.  Von Schroif saw all this through his binoculars.  He felt like he was bleeding inside.

Lärmann had been following Pöppel’s progress, and cried out when he saw his friend cut down.  With grim determination, he had one of his command unit summon the closest SPW, boarded it, and had the driver ease up to bring the area under machine gun fire.  He ordered the gunner to continue to fire at everything and anything in the farmhouse area.

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Lärmann's SPW gunner fires on the farmhouse directly in front of it.  The bodies of Pöppel and his squad mate are seen in the roadway where they fell.

 

Lärmann had also ordered a squad and SPW to work around the back of Osinnik, and try to eliminate the enemy infantry that remained there, occasionally firing on them in the village.  The SPW was one of the few that still had a gunner, and it worked around behind the high ground behind Osinnik, while a squad pinned down what turned out to be a Soviet heavy machine gunner, lugging his gun stubbornly with him, and refusing to surrender.  He was subsequently cut down without ceremony. 

Lärmann radioed to the SPW that they were to attempt to flank the woods at AZDieter and possibly provide fire into the small farmhouse from the flank, possibly dislodging the enemy there.  All the while, his machine gunner continued to tear apart the vegetation that had concealed the enemy that cut down Pöppel and his squad mate.

It was at this point that Hpt von Schroif came to the conclusion that Zug 1 had to swing in from the right flank, as Zug 3 was pretty much trapped in the center, held up by the enemy AT guns. 

Oberleutnant Altschüller had his SPWs advance fast while their gunners fired continuously into possible enemy positions.  It was risky, but the only way that Hpt von Schroif had left to get things moving again.  A flanking move was always a good way to dislodge a stubborn enemy. 

With that, Hpt von Schroif ordered his driver to rush them across the battlefield and rendezvous with Zug 2 in Osinnik.  Flw Erlichmann was anticipating this move, but the Hauptmann radioed him to divert and take control of the center advance. 

Hpt von Schroif also ordered his two left flank MG teams to load up and rush to the center push to aid them there.

Both command SPW then raced forwards into harm’s way.

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Part 3

Spoilers     Spoilers     Spoilers

As Hpt von Schroif used one hand to cling to anything to keep from being bounced out of his SPW, he kept the other hand on his headphones to hear what was happening on the right flank.  His impulse to stand up and look in that direction was strong, but he knew, from experience, that his crew would tackle him to keep him from exposing himself to enemy sniper fire, or worse, AT gun or AT rifles.  He followed the action through the radio then, trying to visualize what was happening.

OLt Altschüller was directing his SPW as they charged forwards on the right flank.  Immediately, with a clear line of sight down the poor dirt path that the map claimed was a road, an enemy light machine gun position opened fire.  As there were really no paths for evasion, all SPW gunners fired directly on the position as their SPWs bounced forward.  Altschüller added his SPWs 2,0 cm cannon to the rising cacophony of weapon fire, and the Russian gunner was pinned.

Then, other positions thought to have been eliminated in the tree line OBJ AZFritz opened fire, sporadically.  Clearly, those positions had been somewhat reduced earlier by the right flank MG teams, but not eliminated.  The right flank MG teams opened up again, hosing down the enemy foxholes that were now visible. 

Oberleutnant Altschüller directed one of the charging SPWs to divert towards the east end of the tree line and assault those positions.  At the same time, he veered his SPW off to the left, and began to drive up the backside of the tree line, putting 2,0 cm fire on the enemy positions.  They stopped firing, trying to avoid being chopped to bits by the cannon fire.  With the slackening of response fire, the men from the SPW that was driving straight for the enemy positions started leaping from their track and assaulting the positions.

Unteroffizier Diemers had two of his squad fall in the assault, but they took the first and second positions, firing at the backs of the Russians who were now fleeing in a panic.  This was no planned and orderly retreat.  Those men were fleeing for their lives. 

OFw Rannenberg was following the assault of 1 Zug on the flank, and as soon as he observed enemy troops starting to run from their positions, he ordered 3 Zug out of their holding position and into a full-on assault of the tree line.  As his SPW marked the farthest west position, and out of the line of sight of both enemy PAK, he ordered his SPWs to make sure they didn’t stray westward too much, and to focus on the tree line directly ahead of them.  The SPWs started a deliberate advance, all gunners in firing positions, and they eased over the crest line and started driving three abreast.  They were a moving wall of solid machine gun fire towards the tree line. 

The 2IC, Flw Erlichmann arrived to help coordinate the assault, and the two machine gun teams also arrived, bailing out of their machines and now forming hunting parties to assist Diemers in clearing the tree line.  The assault was deliberate and systematic, and all enemy soldiers were killed as they tried to hide or flee the dubious safety of the wood line.

Hpt von Schroif had arrived in Osinnik, and conferred with OFw Lärmann on how best to clear the small farm.  It was showing damage from some mortar shells that actually landed on target.  It was not clear if the 4,5 cm AT gun was still in business though.  It was clear that the further AT gun, in the heavy woods line was still operational, despite a second helping of mortar fire, this time longer, but still ineffectual.

The Hauptmann could see that the center push was now working well, and they would shortly have men on the west end of the tree line that could assault the farm from the flank.  He had his SPW ease up and start to spray the farm with machine gun fire.

Feldwebel Erlichmann ordered 3 Zug to move up and support the infantry that were sweeping the tree line of OBJ AZFritz.  The volume of machine gun fire from the SPW gunners was overwhelming, and the last survivors tried to flee.  Their escape into the thick woods around OBJs Koblenz and Munchen had been cut off by OLt Gührs and his SPW.  The enemy had no chance.  One by one, they were cut down as Feldwebel Diemers swept through the tree line, now assisted by the MG team of Uffz Gres. 

Feldwebel Erlichmann aggressively ordered his SPW into the wood line as well, and aided in herding the Soviet survivors to their doom.

The result of this action was observed by the remaining Soviet PAK and farmhouse defenders.  Under the continuous machine gun fire of both Hpt von Schroif and Flw Lärmann’s SPW, things were simply too hot for them. 

“Herr Hauptmann, they are pulling out!” called the gunner on von Schroif’s SPW.  The Hauptmann was immediately on his binoculars to confirm.  Yes, yes, he thought excitedly, the enemy was giving up the position and trying to retreat across the large wheatfield to the rear of the farmhouse.

“Karl, get that information to Erlichmann quickly,” von Schroif ordered his radioman.

Moments later, Hpt von Schroif saw Erlichmann’s SPW emerge from the tree line at OBJ AZFritz, and the other SPWs quickly swung to their left to take the wheatfield under fire.

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 SPW gunners pour fire on the fleeing PAK and infantry from the  farmhouse.  None made it out of the deathtrap.

The Russians kept running, ducking and hiding for a moment, and then running some more, all the while with deadly machine gun fire ripping into their midst.  They refused to surrender, continuing to try and evade until cut down by von Schroif’s men.

Hpt von Schroif silently gave respect to the Russians who, at this one position, had held up his advance for at least 30 minutes.  His attack was well behind the anticipated time table, but then again, the Hauptmann was not surprised by this.  Ivan had a reputation for being tenacious in defense.  What did bother him greatly, was that this was supposed to be a lightly held position, and reportedly thrown up in haste.

It was not a hasty defensive position.  The lines of sight were well thought out, and there was plenty of dedicated equipment assigned for carrying out a strong defense of the locale.  This did not bode well.

And, the attack was still in progress.  The right flank had to be anchored, the center AT gun had to be eliminated, and then there was the terrible business of clearing the large wooded objectives. 

His attention was quickly drawn to the loud thoom-thoom sound of a 2,0 cm gun firing rapidly and then the short crack of a Soviet PAK firing.  That had to be Gührs and his SPW behind the tree line, engaging the last AT gun, or, more exactly, the other identified AT gun.  There could always be more.

After the sharp retort of the guns, there was silence.  Hpt von Schroif started to reach for the radio microphone, when suddenly OLt Gührs came on the radio.  His voice was stressed but calm, and he reported that he believed one of his cannon shells had struck near or on the enemy AT gun.  He was not sure he had knocked it out, but a shell from the AT gun had killed his gunner and driver, as well as wounding several of his command staff, and he and his survivors were bailing out.  He left out the part that he himself had also been wounded. 

“That tears it,” exclaimed von Schroif.  He was almost out of his cannon-armed SPWs, with this loss.  And, the AT gun had not been confirmed as out of action.  They were still stalled.  The Hauptmann got on the radio and called for Erlichmann to try and confirm destruction of the enemy PAK.  There was a delay and he could hear more gunfire, but then Erlichmann came on to report that Diemers and Gres’ MG team had opened fire on the enemy AT gun team as they appeared to flee back into the woods.  Von Schroif breathed a loud sigh of relief. 

Then more machine gun fire erupted from the right flank, and he sought out additional information from Altschüller and Zug 1.

OLt Altschüller’s advance had been met by a light machine gun position, but his exposed SPW gunners put down such a hail of machine gun fire on the position that all but one of the enemy team were killed or wounded, and one man fled out of sight into a dip in the terrain.  No sooner had this position been reduced, when a second position, now in the woods by the “Handle,” had opened fire as well.  As all the SPWs were committed to the attack, the drivers kept driving right at the enemy while all gunners concentrated their fire in that area.  In this way, the enemy broke and melted into the woods and all SPWs were able to unload their squads without casualties.

Altschüller was able to report that his men now had consolidated a position in the woods on the right flank, and were starting to slowly push forwards.  It appeared that the right flank was solid, and the horrible business of clearing the large woods and objectives Koblenz, Munchen, Berlin, Aachen, and Cochem could begin. 

But first, the farmhouse.  Hpt von Schroif and Feldwebel Lärmann had their SPWs rush down the dirt road towards the farmhouse, with their machine guns blazing.  While they had seen many Russian soldiers fleeing from the farmhouse and into the death trap of the wheatfield, that didn’t mean there weren’t stragglers that had decided to give their lives for Mother Russia and wanted to take some more Germans down with them.  They were also taking the change that there wasn’t a third PAK lurking somewhere that had yet to open up.

Hpt von Schroif bailed out of his SPW once they were sure nothing had survived their onslaught.  The farmhouse position was secured.  The sniper team suddenly materialized out of nowhere, startling everyone.  They quietly slipped into the farmhouse and verified that there were no enemy left in the area.

The Hauptmann immediately began to give aid to Pöppel and his fallen squad mate.  Knowing that Lärmann was already distraught at seeing his friend cut down, von Schroif wanted to keep Lärmann focused on commanding Zug 2.  He ordered Lärmann to take his Zug and sweep the left flank, try to scout Line Eva, and possibly catch enemy survivors that might retreat from the heavy woods.  Lärmann could see that his men were getting proper attention, so he switched gears and immediately took his Zug out around the left flank.

As the tree line of OBJ AZFritz had now been cleared, and the AT gun reported as destroyed, 2IC Erlichmann directed all units into the wood line at OBJ Munchen, in preparation of the horrid business of clearing the woods.  He had no illusions of the carnage to come.

On the right flank, Altschüller’s men had already taken several casualties, despite a cautious and deliberate advance.  The Russians seemed to be part of the forest, and his men only discovered them when the sound of submachine guns erupted, accompanied by the screams of the wounded.

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A Russian solder, with hands held high, surrenders to Altschüller's men as they push forwards.  This was a rare occurrence.  He can be seen over the lead German soldier's left shoulder.

 

Now it was all hands forward.  Machine gun teams walked shoulder to shoulder with survivors of the infantry squads.  SPWs ground through the underbrush, trying to find paths forward that were not blocked by trees. 

No sooner had the squads taken an abandoned set of foxholes, when concentrated enemy submachine gun fire ripped through the trees and into the men.  Over half of Sehmel’s squad were cut down, including the veteran Unteroffizer himself, and Uffz Heise was the single survivor of his own squad.

Altschüller’s Zug, now diminished by their own casualties, were pushing in from the right flank, having struggled through the underbrush.  Altschüller’s 2,0 cm cannon had been invaluable in their clearing attempts, as the cannon shells shredded everything in their path.  The familiar thoom-thoom sound of the cannon was enough to guarantee that the Russians would break and retreat further into the woods.

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The men cautiously advanced, having had their numbers thinned drastically by the hidden enemy.

Feldwebel Erlichmann found himself shoulder to shoulder with his Hauptmann, as the two of them and their command squads tried desperately to stem the bleeding of the wounded and keep the men focused on the enemy before them.

More squads arrived in the woods, and some SPW with gunners also arrived.  The gunners kept spraying the trees and underbrush ahead of them, and Altschüller’s cannon kept shredding the woods where the enemy gunfire had erupted.  The men were then able to slowly advance once more.

The bloody struggle in the woods seemed to go on forever, but in reality, it was only around 15 minutes.  The attack was behind schedule, but von Schroif had to have the woods cleared for the mission to be a success, as this wooded area was to be the jumping off point of the next push.

And then, suddenly, it was over.  Altschüller’s men could see the Russian survivors fleeing from the woods and across a large wheatfield.  The woods took on an eerie silence, broken only by the cries of the wounded of both sides and the idling of SPW engines.  The dead made no noise, but looked accusingly at the survivors with open eyes, asking the silent question, why me and not you?

Hauptmann von Schroif was exhausted mentally and physically by the battle.  He had the blood of his men on his hands, both figuratively and literally, having helped to bandage up the wounded.

Hpt von Schroif heard his name called, and turned as he recognized Erlichmann’s voice. 

“Herr Hauptmann, I am able to report that all objectives have been achieved.  Ivan is fleeing from the back of the woods.  We are not organized properly to pursue.”

Hpt von Schroif could see how exhausted his 2IC was.  Blood streaked his uniform and dirt marred his face, with rivulets of sweat streaking through the dirt.  He realized that he must look the same.

“Danke, Hans,” he said softly.  “And casualties?  What is the butcher’s bill?”

Erlichmann took a long breath before speaking.  “Herr Hauptmann, we have lost both support SPW Stummel, a support 2,0 cm cannon, and many SPW gunners.  It appears that all our MG SPW have come through, but some with track or tire damage. “He paused again, knowing that Hpt von Schroif was really more interested in the human toll, and he was reluctant to be the bearer of bad news.

“And…?” pressed von Schroif.

Erlichmann said, “I am sorry to say that preliminary reports are at least 15 dead and less than 20 wounded.  These are not exact figures though, and could fluctuate up or down as the squad leaders reorganize their men, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Danke, Hans,” was all that von Schroif could manage at the moment.  He turned to stare at the deadly forest and his Feldwebel left him lost in thoughts.

The final tally was 22 KIA and 19 WIA.  Veteran squad leaders lost in the action were the following:

Pöppel     Winnings     Sehmel     Boedecker

As von Schroif had expected, the majority of casualties happened in the push to clear the woods.  He wondered what the butcher’s bill would look like after the next battle.

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You’ve excelled yourself mate. Totally hooked on your account which really brings home the human cost of combat. 
 

Good effort in securing the objectives though. And good luck with your next mission. 

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@George MC

Thanks so much for the nice comments.  I really appreciate them.  The work and effort you put into creating these gems for us to enjoy really lend themselves to the storytelling.  I'm glad you like it.  I'll try to include more screenshots, but I'm no Bud Backer, heh heh.

For some reason, the one picture didn't make it into the narrative.  Sorry about that.

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This happened on the right flank, as Altschüller's men bashed their way through the initial strong point, and then had to suffer further resistance up through the "handle" to eventually flank the enemy in the center of the woods that had caused so many casualties.  You can see the lone Russian soldier in the center with his hands up.  I think this was the only instance where a prisoner offered himself up.  Everyone else fought bitterly and to the bloody end, or managed to flee from the woods at the end.  The squad had taken two casualties minutes earlier, and this ambush position was finally overwhelmed when another squad on the left (out of sight here) laid down covering fire on the position as these men cautiously advanced.

I'm going to have to really study the next battle before starting.  There are way too many men with an * next to their name.   I see that Oberst Voss makes an appearance as well.  Interesting.  There might be some new character development in store. 

I also noticed that the two tanks that were stuck in the mud in the first battle are not appearing in this one.  I'll assume that any tanks immobilized by mud will not carry on into the next missions.

It will take a while to work through the next battle.  I'll need that luck you wished me, I think.  

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@Heinrich505

Its great seeing this campaign come to life. 
 

Re resupply etc. I’d have to check the detail but vehicles being repaired depends on a variety of factors and are set via the campaign script. It also ties in with the campaign timeline ie needs sufficient time between actions for units to be repaired/recovered. So you should get any immobilised vehicles back at some point. 
 

IIRC this next action is a tough one. Make sure others do the heavy lifting ;)

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