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A real life, unheroic AAR


JasonC
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This link will take you to a description of a CM scale WW II action, that you will never see happen in CM. Why? Because fog of war is thicker, troops far less aggressive and reckless, and in some cases far less willing to continue the war, than we are with our simulated heros. Above all, everything is much, much slower. I hope some find it amusing. Also notice how incredibly depleted US armored infantry forces are - the result of an big armor division trying to sustain combat with only 3 infantry battalions.

http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/smallunit/smallunit-singling.htm

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Originally posted by JasonC:

[QB]This link will take you to a description of a CM scale WW II action, that you will never see happen in CM. Why? Because fog of war is thicker, troops far less aggressive and reckless, and in some cases far less willing to continue the war, than we are with our simulated heros. Above all, everything is much, much slower. I hope some find it amusing. Also notice how incredibly depleted US armored infantry forces are - the result of an big armor division trying to sustain combat with only 3 infantry battalions.

OUTSTANDING link. All scenario designers should strive to keep such facts in mind when designing.

Frank

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I certainly can't just post the whole thing, it runs 34 pages. But here is the intro, so you can see what it is about in general. Understand, the main body is in much greater detail. This part is just setting the scene. There are maps, down to the location of every house in the village, and photos of locations, etc.

Lt. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein, Commanding General of the crack Panzer Lehr Division, was on a hill north of Singling on 6 December 1944, when tanks of the 4th Armored Division broke across the open hills to the south in a frontal attack on the town. After the war ended he remembered that sight and spoke of it with professional enthusiasm as "an outstanding tank attack, such as I have rarely seen, over ideal tank terrain."

General Bayerlein could afford a detached appreciation. At the moment when he saw the American tanks in motion, the attack was not his problem. His division, after ten costly days of trying to drive south to cut off the rear of advancing American forces, had just been withdrawn, relieved by the 11th Panzer Division. Bayerlein himself had remained behind only because some of his tank destroyer units had been attached temporarily to the relieving forces.

The attacks on Singling and Bining which General Bayerlein so admired were the last actions in Lorraine of the 4th Armored Division commanded (after 3 December) by Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey. For nearly a month the division had been fighting in the most difficult terrain and under the most trying weather conditions of its entire campaign in France. Casualties in men and materiel had been very heavy, largely because constant rains prevented air cover and because swampy ground either confined the tanks to the roads or so reduced their maneuverability in cross-country attack that they fell an easy prey to the enemy's prepared defenses.

Throughout the Lorraine campaign the division practice was to operate in small, flexible task forces (generally two to a combat command) which themselves were constantly broken up into smaller forces of company strength of tanks or infantry or both. These smaller "teams" were generally formed at need by the task force commander to deal with a strongpoint of enemy resistance which was holding up the advance of the main body, or to clean out a village or hold high ground to safeguard such advance. In this sense, the attack on Singling, though inconclusive, was typical of the campaign tactics. It shows some of the difficulties of the use of armor in terrain which naturally favored the defense, and which the Germans knew thoroughly and had ample time to fortify. In respect to weather, however, which all the tankers said was their toughest and most memorable enemy during the campaign, Singling was not typical. The day of the battle was overcast, but there was no rain. Mud, except during the assembling stage, had no influence on the course of the action.

One feature of interest in the detailed narrative of the action lies in the picture of battle confusion, which extends to higher headquarters. At Corps nothing at all was known of the engagement described in the following pages, and the day's events were represented to the higher command substantially as the realization of the original plan. The G-3 Periodic Report (XII Corps) Number 115, 071200 December 1944, reads:

4th Armored Division-Combat Command A began their attack on Bining around noon. The 38th (sic) Tank Battalion and 53d Infantry formed a base of fire to the south of town and the 37th Tank Battalion hit Bining from the west. As the attack on Bining (Q6549) progressed, Combat Command B passed Combat Command A and attacked Singling (Q6249). The opposition here consisted of infantry, tanks, and antitank fire from numerous pillboxes, and artillery fire which came in 30- to 40-round concentrations. The fighting at Singling and Bining was very difficult, but by night fall Combat Command A was in Bining and Rohrbach (Q6549). Singling was not clear as of 1730.

In actual fact, as the narrative will show, Combat Command A attacked Singling and secured the southern and eastern portion of the town before Combat Command B came up; the attack on Bining did not begin until late in the afternoon and was made by only the light tanks of the 37th Tank Battalion supporting a battalion of the 328th Infantry; and, finally, no elements of Combat Command A ever reached Rohrbach.

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Guest PondScum

This is the battle modelled in the "Singling Shootout" scenario on the CMBO CD - which always struck me as a bit too flat and muddy for the American tanks to stand much of a chance. It's very interesting to compare the real-life action with that you can see in the scenario!

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Superb link.

Couple of questions:

The enemy they now attacked included as the principal combat element all four companies of its 1st Battalion of the 111th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (armored infantry of the 11th Panzer Division), with a total strength three or four times as great as that of the attacking American infantry.
There were no major infantry engagements described. So where was all the german infantry except few captured?

I was under impression, that US Army at that time had the highest saturation of portable radios/walkie-talkies. But judging by the number of runners sent, there was none except some to communicate to HQ.

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Excellent link and reading, I agree with all of your points, especially the FOW, the slowness and the willingness to fight. "Disjointed" is the overall impression and a far cry from the chess-like precision of a typical CM battle. Too bad we don't have a viewpoint from the German side during that action, what they were thinking and planning.

Some observations...

As noted by others, communication and coordination was haphazard at best, runners, not portable radios, being the norm.

I have heard repeatedly on this board from some how US officers at the company and platoon level were *routinely* able to call for artillery independently, yet here, and from other reading, a dedicated FO was required and called to assess the situation.

A mention is made of a Sherman bogging and being assisted by another to free itself, though not how long it took to accomplish.

The Shermans firing on the northern ridge to get the 'range' is very interesting. Bracketing and accuracy anyone?

German armor *apparently* operating alone or with very weak infantry support in the village, as evidenced by the lone Panther blithely driving up between two houses and getting KO'd. Where were the 4 companies of German infantry operating? Only mention of German infantry in the village itself is the prisoners easily captured.

No mention of tungsten, just two Panthers being KO'd from the side and then 75/76mm shells bouncing off of a Panther's front armor.

And the most amazing is the extreme FOW throughout the whole engagement - everything from the Panther 'still' facing east while being attacked and KO'd from the south, the Shermans 'nosing' out and taking fire from who knows where and the duplication of effort in the US scouting parties trying to recon the SP gun's position. CM is a great game but we have a long ways to go to try and capture some of that reality.

Ron

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Yes, the mystery of the missing German infantry is certainly a large part of the affair. A number of things to notice about it, more or less at random -

1. Only about a dozen LMGs for 150-200 men, therefore only about 1 per squad despite being Pz Gdrs. Only 1 HMG. Not the uber-equipped force type that CM models.

2. 1/3 to 1/4 of the German infantry force surrendered in the course of the action. Half to 4 men who caught them in a cellar, the rest in dribs and drabs, or whenever tanks fired on their position. More would have surrendered but they were too scared or deterred by falling artillery!

3. Some of them were evidently exhausted - notice the last captive mentioned, who was sleeping in the middle of such a fight and indifferent to everything.

4. The US infantry force is so small, the Germans probably had little idea they were there, let alone their numbers or location. The only incidents that draw definite attention are (1) limited individuals rushing across open streets and (2) 5 bazooka rounds fired in succession from an attic. Spotting men in cover is evidently much harder than in CM.

5. The places German infantry are mentioned are pillboxes and cellars, an HMG and a PAK. Positional fighting, resting, staying down. Deeply suppressed, not just in a momentary sense. Recall the artillery prep before the US forces arrived - up to 18x105mm (2 SP artillery batteries plus the Sherman 105mm platoon).

6. The Germans evidentally reached for sustained artillery barrages to evict intruders as readily as the Americans. They did not show any great propensity to attack with infantry instead. Tanks probed following barrages. The tanks led, infantry did not lead them. Tactically unsound to be sure, but more sound than leading men forward to surrender.

7. German AFVs remained stationary for long periods, covering the same spots of ground. Rapid short movements to change the LOS picture not in evidence. When tanks did move forward, they often just exposed flanks to unseen American tanks. The caution shown may be learned behavior for heavy front plate AFVs, especially in a town. Notice how the Americans are crawling about far more - and lose more tanks.

8. The Jagdpanzer crews said their 74L48s ("old style", meaning not L70) could only penetrate the Shermans under 600 yards. Also, the crew of one Jagd abandoned the vehicle after one bazooka hit, evidentally not a very serious one. Not very confident. The Panthers that probed forward might have been a bit reckless, perhaps they were a bit overconfident.

9. We don't have the full story of the intel, coordination, planning, and discoveries of the German side. But from all of the above, it must have been even more bollixed up than the Americans - lol.

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http://www.dragonlair.net/combatmission/ hosts my attempt (called Struggle for Singling V1.00. With help from the reviewer I have V1.1 ready but haven't uploaded yet) to recreate this battle; the stock CD scenario felt completely different from the battle recorded in Small Unit Actions (where are all the infantry?)

I 100% agree on the "time compression" shown when playing CM. The battle recounted in SUA spanned several hours and ended more because the US forces decided to try again later than either side was completely destroyed. In my scenario (not that I'm stating it's THE authority!) one or both sides are usually combat-ineffective in 35 minutes.

DjB

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No, the site is not down. The CMH sites - which are run by the US Army's historical staffers - are sometimes temporarily unavailable while changes are being made, but if you try again they are back soon. I went there just now with no problems. Just try again.

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  • 9 months later...

Thanks for the bump, Silvio.

It's neat to see this again in the context of our recent experience with CMBB, where, as we have all noticed, "fog of war is thicker, troops far less aggressive and reckless, and in some cases far less willing to continue the war, than we [were] with our simulated [CMBO] heros. Above all, everything is much, much slower."

Nice to have JasonC back in the forum, too....

[ November 25, 2002, 02:34 PM: Message edited by: CombinedArms ]

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