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Grossdeutschland at Nikolajenka

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Here is an excerpt from the book I am reading: The History of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland by Helmuth Spaeter.

As described by the executive officer of I Battalion/Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland:

The 100 kilometers were difficult, and we didn't arrive until evening. We had to assemble for the attack straightaway. The two villages lay one behind the other. They were called Nikolajewka and Nikolajenka. Nikolajenka had to be taken first, then we were to leave the village and defend Nikolajewka, which lay behind it. We didn't think much of that. Why take a village and then give it up? To what end the losses? We didn't understand and tried to have the orders changed.

Nikolajewka was taken on the evening of 26.9 in the face of weak opposition. Several enemy guns fired from the next village, Nikolajenka. -The Major again demonstrated his fine nose for battle: he refused to carry out the attack without first reassembling his troops. He therefore called off the attack. It was his view the following day's battle would not be so easy.

It was 04.30. Patrols had reported Nikolajenka free of enemy troops, but we didn't trust the quiet. Surely the enemy had been sleeping; also, it was rather foggy. The terrain over which we would attack was easy to describe:

Our village, in which we assembled for the attack -- 1,200 meters of absolutely flat stubble-field -- then Nikolajenka and to the right a railway embankment where the Russians had dug in. This terrain would not have been chosen for a peacetime attack exercise.

The plan of attack was not a simple one. We had to focus not on the village, but on the railway embankment which lay to the right; otherwise we would be running our heads against the wall at the village. The 'Third' [company] would have to set out first and occupy the embankment. On the left 'First' would attack the village once the way was clear. The 'Second' was stationed far to the right -- with the heavy weapons -- as security, and did not take part in this attack. We thus had less than a full battalion available. In this attack our spirit and training would have to win. On this day it was the only advantage we had.

The 'Third' deployed and left our village, while the 'First' lay well-camoflaged in readiness to the left. After 15 minutes the Russians noticed something was up. Their artillery began to fall on Nikolajewka, which we had just left. Soon afterward the Leutnant commanding the 'First' also set out -- somewhat early, but it was better than staying put under artillery fire.

Things were not going well on the stubble-field. Rifle and machine gun fire poured in from the railway embankment. There were at least four Russian machine guns. The 'Third' lay flat and dug itself in. There was firing from Nikolajenka; and it was a job for our infantry guns. They shrouded the whole village in smoke and dust. Part of the machine gun company joined the 'Third' up front. There was 400 meters to cross. We realized we could not silence the Russians at the railway embankment. That was a job for the machine gun company.

Things were going even worse for the 'First' farther to the left. They came under steady mortar fir, moved out of range and then came under Russian machine gun fire from the village. They advanced straight at the enemy, and many were brave against their will. On the stubble-field there was nowhere to hide or take cover from the bullets.

If Lt. Miede, the 1st Company's young Leutnant, had not acted, his company would have been shot to pieces in half an hour. His order was 'Fire!' The company was magnificent. Although there was no cover, every single man fired his rifle, machine gun or submachine gun at every Russian that appeared. The Leutnant watched this through his field glasses and listened to the music of the battle. After twenty minutes the Russian fire had lessened noticeably. The 'First' had gained the upper hand. Miede sprang forward to the company's foremost platoon and threw himself down in the front line. 'Up -- move -- move!! -- Hurrah!!' The Leutnant led the charge.

The company stormed towards the village with all guns blazing. At the same time the 'Third' took the railway embankment. There it was not a charge but a laborious effort which took the enemy position. The machine gun company went into position up front, where it could effectively cover the area to the left behind the village. Its four machine guns raked groups of Russians fleeing past the assault by the 'First.'

Following their initial confusion, the Russians turned around to escape the terrible machine gun fire. The 'First' ran headlong into the fleeing Russians, resulting in a very confused situation. One senior Obergefreiter Suddenly came face to face with two Russians in some bushes. Without a moments hesitation he stuck his flare pistol in the face of one of the Russians, as this was the only weapon at hand. The company took about 70 prisoners, much to the satisfaction of the Leutnant.

The battle for Nikolajenka was significant. What had turned the tide was the heavy fire laid down by the individual Grenadiers. On a completely level field, the companies had silenced the enemy with accurate fire from 400 meters. Several factors made this success possible: the Leutnant led his men forward under fire, and the Grenadiers found the courage to raise their heads and fire accurately with themselves under fire, and then get up and storm the enemy position.

Dead Russians lay everywhere, at the railway embankment and in their trenches. Many had been shot in the head or chest, torn apart by hand grenades or killed with rifle butts or spades. We seldom used the bayonet in storming an enemy position. Most fired their weapons until at close quarters and then used a sharpened spade or dagger. Unfortunately the spade was not always at hand, as we kept them in our belts with the blade in front of our stomachs.

The battalion’s losses in the assault were six dead and 20 wounded. Our combat assignment had been carried out...

I gotta say, I love this book. Every engagement the GD took part in is given one or two personal accounts by men present, the detailed examination by the author, and sometimes the official report. It also includes maps and OOBs. Buy this book if you can!

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I've made a scenario of this fight. It is a blast. I called in GD and NJ, the same as this thread. Winning as the Germans is perfectly feasible, and against the AI I can even keep the casualties about what they were.

I used Poles for the Russians, minus their PIATs. The map has the two villages, the railway, and bit of brush and scattered trees along the railway and near the villages. For the German troops, I used rifle 44 squads, to reflect the armament of earlier in the war. The German infantry guns are represented by a 75mm FO with plentiful ammo.

For place balance sake, I gave the Poles/Russians a 3" mortar FO, to represent their artillery fire. The 2" mortars reflect the kind mentioned as "sustained mortar fire" - you can tell, because they back up out of range, which they couldn't have managed with larger mortars. The 3" FO has somewhat lower ammo than normal, while the 2" ones have maximum ammo.

The German forces are 2 rifle 44 companies minus their HMGs, in each case with company HQ and 1 platoon veteran quality. They also get 2 vet sharpshooters (accurate ranged fire with rifles), and a weapons company HQ, weapons platoon HQ, and 4 HMGs. The 75mm FO has 98 rounds. I reduced the HMG ammo slightly and marginally increased that to the squads.

The Poles/Russians are all green, and have a rifle company (minus PIATs) plus 4th platoon, 2 Vickers MGs, and the 3" FO with 165 rounds - which might be too much for humans against humans. If you find any problem with play balance, just reduce the 3" ammo (120 rounds would be the next level to try I'd think).

As to what accounts for the successful attack across open ground into cover with just infantry, play it and you will quickly find out. Hint - the account mentions the firefight at 400 meters lasted up to 20 minutes.

Anyone who wants the scenario file, just mail me.

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