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How to attack like a German - sample forces


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How to attack like a German in large CM MEs or Attacks

5000 Point Panzer forces

13 Panther

2 SS Mot. Pz Gdr Company

2 SS Arm. Pz Gdr Platoon

6 Schreck

4 SPW 251/9

3 105mm FO

Tasking - Use 8xSPW 251/1 from the Arm. platoons to transport the heavy weapons. Make 2 support groups each with 2x251/9, 4x251/1, 2xHQ, 4xHMG, 2x81mm (using company HQs). These can operate full strength or in half sections. Use the dismounted Arm. Pz Gdr platoons for battlefield recon, each with 2 half squads backed by a "patrol" of 2x8 men plus HQ. Use the "patrols" to KO enemy half squad scouts. One Panther can support these scouts. The 6 Mot. platoons each pair with a team of 2 Panthers and form your main body. Keep at least 2/3rds, as much as all of it in a "fist", on a frontage of no more than 2 platoons. Follow the most promising avenue of attack found by the scouts. If you detach 1-2 of these platoons, use them for a fixing action or a feint before the main attack. The heavy weapons can go on either flank of the main body or participate in the fixing action. Wait on the artillery until you have driven the enemy into a contained space, then fire with the full battalion of 105s.

Or

14 Tiger I replace the Panthers

Add one veteran Mot. Pz Gdr Platoon

Only 2 SPW-251/9

Task as above, with a 7th platoon with 2 Tigers, may be used as a reserve or to add punch to the scouts.

Or

As original, but

4 King Tigers

8 Panthers

For tanks. Drop the SPW 251/9s. Upgrade one FO to 150mm or +3 schrecks or 81mm FO for smoke.

Don't mess around with the armor war in such large engagements, take a full company of high powered armor and just win it.

3000 Point Panzer Forces

12 Pz IV

1 SS Pz Gdr Company

1 SS Pz Gdr Arm Platoon

3 SS Pz Gdr Mot Platoon

2 SPW 251/9

4 Schreck

1 120mm FO

Less potent tanks but still a full company worth, working 2 per infantry platoon. Smaller heavy weapons section and limited artillery support. The last thing to cut is tank infantry teams.

Or

8 Panther or 8 Tiger instead of 12 Pz IV

-1 Mot. platoon with the Panthers, -1 schreck

Only a half company with heavier armor at this point level, so 1-2 platoons of infantry do not have tanks. They can lead or act as a reserve etc.

3000 Point Infantry Forces

10 StuG IV

Infantry battalion

12 schreck

3 105mm FO

Or

9 StuG IV

VG Battalion

Security Company

6 Schreck

3 105mm FO

A full StuG company supporting a full infantry battalion or more. You will need decent artillery support and infantry AT to suppliment the firepower of the StuGs. Fix the enemy with one company supported by 2-3 StuGs and your limited heavy weapons, and then attack on a 2-3 platoon frontage in depth with the main body on the other wing. Fire the artillery, massed, ahead of the main attack. Do not try anything too fancy on the maneuver and exploitation side, as your infantry may not be robust enough under fire to manage it. Just execute a wing attack, meaning break the enemy's left or right half of the field, while merely screening the remainder in front.

2000 Point Panzer Forces

12 Pz IV

4 SS Mot. Pz Gdr Platoon (2 veteran or +2 vet schreck)

Or

10 Jagdpanzer IV

5 SS Mot. Pz Gdr Platoon

3 Schreck

1 81mm FO (use for smoke)

Or

8 Tiger I

4 SS Mot. Pz Gdr Platoon

2 Schreck

Everything goes but tank infantry teams, in half company armor strength or greater, with 2-3 AFVs per infantry platoon. You can trade in one tank for 1 artillery module if you feel you must have some indirect fire support. Spend leftovers on schrecks.

2000 Point Infantry Forces

6 StuG III

3 StuH

3 VG Company

5 Schreck

2 105mm FO (or 120mm)

Again a company of armor but less capable types, and again with a full battalion's worth of infantry, and some sort of artillery support. The basic method of attack is as described earlier for infantry. Scout and fix with the VG rifles and one StuG platoon, fire the artillery ahead of the main attack, then hit them with everything else on a narrow front.

They all have in common using armor in company or at least half-company strength. (Combat AARs often show half company armor forces, often due to depletion of the parent unit). Tank infantry teams in a ratio of 1-2 AFVs per infantry platoon as the core of the force. A focus on winning the armor war, and then having enough ordinary squad infantry depth to overpower limited portions of the enemy force. Narrow fronts for the attacks help bring that about at first. Armor war victory brings it about later on, as surviving uncontested AFVs prevent portions of the enemy force from maneuvering to aid each other. Artillery limited in amount, and what there is used in focused, large missions tied to the maneuver plan, not dissecting the enemy position with a scalpel. Reasonable artillery support when the infantry arm is expected to attack.

With much smaller forces, let alone the point limits of combined arms force types, you can't realistically fight the way the Germans attacked. You need an armor force type, or unrestricted, and a large enough fight for AFVs to be on the field in at last half-company strength. You will only see the sense of it at the right scale.

When only a few tanks are present, they do not dominate areas the way they can when massed. When you are down to one tank platoon, it can do so if you keep it united, but that devolves into a straight firepower attack by that platoon. That is too tactical for the maneuver aspect - by which I mean the ability to fight only parts of the enemy force due to local or global armor war victory - to show up.

Note that none of the above are meant to be gamey optima in CM. They are realistic and they can show why the methods worked. Players often throw in a grab bag of items, dissipate their points over a half dozen vehicle types, etc. Way too complicated and unnecessary. 1-2 AFV types will serve, but massed, and the squad infantry is more important (on the attack, mind) than the twiddles of this or that foot team or gun.

[ June 25, 2002, 04:35 AM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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And I can see why a posse of Typhoons/ Thunderbolts would also work to cut this attack column down before it got close to doing much damage! That and a front of 17 lb'ers/ 76mm.

Seriously, I look forward to trying this with PZIII/ PZIV in CMBB, or with IS2/ T34-85 going the other way.

Question (from this and the other thread on German tactics) Did the Germans learn much between 1942/1944? It appears that they persisted with "schwerpunkt" tactics, incredibly effective against fragile opposition, but by mid 1942 or so it seems that the Allies had mostly learnt to deal with it. The Germans then just try to do the same with thicker armour & bigger guns...

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They managed to get the initial break-in easily enough, even against later Allied defenses. The problems they encountered typically had to do with breakdown of combined arms when infantry got stripped off the tanks by artillery, or getting lost in a deep defended zone and hunted by reserves while buttoned, or having roads cut, mined, bridges blown, etc.

Sometimes they attack well prepared all arms defenses and just get their tanks shot out from under them. Thick front plates probably protected them from a lot of mistakes. Close terrain, poor visibility, etc, often evened the armor quality odds and then they generally did poorly when attacking.

But it is not like such techniques got them killed at the start line (at 17-pdr PAK fronts or otherwise - there weren't any, really). On the contrary, they virtually always made it through the front line. Just attacking on a narrow enough frontage with tactically serious amounts of armor can bring that much about. ATGs tend to be in penny packets, battery strength at most, all along the line, and are relatively easy to suppress or knock out.

Early in the war achieving an initial break-in was a more important thing to achieve, because the defenders against it mostly didn't know what to do about it. Early war Allied defenders did try armored counterattacks, but usually poorly coordinated ones with limited (if any) all-arms support.

German infantry coming through the breach in depth stopped those easily enough and turned a crack into a big tear. That didn't happen later on in many cases, because the Allies could "countermass" with artillery fire on the narrow breakthrough areas. Allied fire support and fire responsiveness increased drastically from early war to late. The German infantry could not shoulder through the holes to widen them. Once the tanks were stripped, they were hunted rather than hunters.

The only real counter to that the Germans had was scale, and operational surprise. If the attack was wide enough, the Allies couldn't mass fires everywhere to stop them. The Germans developed the idea that a whole panzer corps was the minimum force to launch a serious breakthrough fight, and two working together was considered much more sound.

They could also try to mass their own artillery beforehand and bring enough infantry depth to the attempt. They rarely were "rich" on the latter score after 1941, however, as the length of the front exploded and forces were needed to really hold them, not just screen them. If you look at early war operations, the infantry is in deep column behind the attack. In later war ones, everybody has frontage and too much of it.

Peiper and the attempt to take Bastogne both failed primarily due to not enough infantry with the lead units. By the end Peiper faced 10 to 1 infantry odds. In the attack on Bastogne by an entire corps, the guys inside the perimeter had as many infantry battalions as the attackers, and they were fresher. The break ins were one thing and there the doctrine worked well. Making something of, and sustaining a penetration was a taller order, and needed overall odds.

[ June 25, 2002, 06:18 AM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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How to Fight Like an American

5000 Point ME or Attack

All units Green

Infantry Battalion

2 extra rifle platoons (12 all told)

4 TDs

8-10 Shermans

6 105mm or 155mm FOs (yes, 6)

1 8" FO or Fighter Bomber

Jeeps (or HTs) for the 57mm ATGs

(Opt) 2 M-20s to spot for TDs

The main ideas here are (1) bring 800 men (2) bring more HE support than you can shake a stick at, preferably big caliber (3) fight the armor war on a shoestring with a few good TDs and an oodle of zooks.

Find him with infantry scouts. Blow the heck out of his infantry. When he goes for your armor, hunt them back with TDs kept out of sight until then, and pull back your tanks behind your infantry "shield". Don't let his infantry live to get through yours.

Broad front, reserves behind the line (in "second line") because some will break. Let them run if they won't stand the heat, seperating the forces with arty, or doing a relief by reserve forces.

At this point level, you have simply scads of teams. Use them to suppress everything in "up" deployments from range. Stay out of the 100m automatic weapon window. Interiors of woods, drop your endless supply of indirect HE on. Buildings, drop with plain Shermans.

Methodical, slow, chew through him. Keep the pace of battle at the pace of rallies, feeding troops back into the furnace after they recover from the last bout. If you lose the armor war, position zooks to block him and call down "final protective fire" from the off board guns. If the tanks come on alone, you ambush; if the infantry tries, it gets shredded; if he waits, you retreat and regroup.

Win the infantry and HE war, over time. If you waste your arty on inessential targets you will lose. If you put your HE on his infantry, he will run out long before you do.

3000 point level -

Still greens

2 companies

plus 3 platoons (9 all told, 2 weapon)

add 6-12 more bazookas (more if you like)

4 TDs

5 Shermans

4 big FOs, 0-1 smaller ones

Don't go under 9 platoons. Don't go under 3 big FOs (105mm or 155mm). Take the TD platoon and plenty of zooks. It is the depth of your vanilla tank support that is the first to go. You also have far fewer weapon teams, but still a lot of ordinary squad infantry, and some higher level HQs for rally purposes.

2000 point level -

6-8 platoons (e.g. company + 5 platoons)

4 TD

Shermans can be 0 to 5

2-3 big FOs

2 bazookas per platoon.

The armor drops, the FOs gradually get less godlike, the infantry stays numerous. The anti armor force - a TD platoon and lots of zooks - never goes away or gets any weaker.

I hope this is interesting.

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Very interesting indeed JasonC.

Wisbech__lads' comment also hints as to why the Germans failed to sustain any of their breakthroughs, and links with you comment on their lack of infantry 'durability' in the face of artillery fire.

I think people overstate the effectiveness of Allied Jabos in hindering German AFV movement, (or at least certainly in destroying AFVs) and miss the more devastating effect on the German war machine of removing its airborne artillery.

In denying the Germans tactical air superiority, the part played by Stuka type aircraft was greatly reduced, thus removing this element from the Blitzkrieg 'formula'. I think one of the tasks of this element was interdicting enemy artillery situated well behind the front line.

Special thanks for the American 'TOE' for CM fights. I wouldn't mind fighting as the allies once in a while, but more often than not, my research leans heavily towards German matters, and leaves me somewhat bereft of knowledge on the Allies.

Rgds

[ June 25, 2002, 02:03 PM: Message edited by: Paul T. Gardner ]

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Originally posted by Paul T. Gardner:

I think people overstate the effectiveness of Allied Jabos in hindering German AFV movement, (or at least certainly in destroying AFVs

Yep, that's quite possible, but how often did the total air superiority help to unveil the forthcoming German attack and thus removed the surprise/shock effect? Meaning that the defending Allied land forces were already in full battlestations when the blow came. Or at least forewarned.

Ari

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Originally posted by Chris Knapp:

How would that look for a British/Canadian force?

Similar to the US?

Chris

Lots of 25 pounder FOs, perhaps a squadron of tanks (15) for every infantry battalion, or a troop (4) of tanks for every infantry company? The tanks would be Sherman III or V, with every fourth one a Firefly (or 2 out of 4 being Fireflies late in the war).

After Normandy, throw in some WASP flamethrowers liberally.

Jason, you should change this to "How to attack like 5 or 10 percent of the German Army", since that is what the number of panzer and panzergrenadier divisions amounted to - and the number of those panzergrenadier battalions that actually had amoured halftracks was 50% or less.

How about a treatise on how the other 90 to 95 percent of the German Army attacked? I would be sincerely most interested in that. Didn't most infantry divisions have StuGs for support? How would they deal with anti-tank crises that arose? Or did regular infantry divisions simply not mount major battalion sized attacks on the western front after June 1944, leaving the assault role to the armoured units?

EDIT - ok, I now see you have regular infantry stuff in there. Very interesting. But my question still stands - how often did German battalions mount local offensives between D and VE Days? And how often were they "pure" divisional attaks and how often were they battlegroups from units across several formations?

[ June 25, 2002, 09:14 AM: Message edited by: Michael Dorosh ]

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Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

Jason, you should change this to "How to attack like 5 or 10 percent of the German Army", since that is what the number of panzer and panzergrenadier divisions amounted to - and the number of those panzergrenadier battalions that actually had amoured halftracks was 50% or less.

Well, question is how many of all attacks did these few percent carry out?

Even if you change the count to consider divisions actually being in or in reserve behind active frontlines, the ratio changes drmatically.

Also, the Germans in general had more combat on the shoulders of fewer formations than other nations (I think they rotated the actual people more).

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Very, very interesting, as usual, JasonC. I've always thought arty was under-represented for the US forces in most scenarios (and if you put this much into a QB you'd probably be called gamey?)

My one observation is that US troops would eventually not be Green. They tended to acquire experience pretty fast in the ETO crucible.

Jason, any observations on typical defensive forces at each of these levels?

Also, I don't usually do QBs, but I'm wondering if anyone would like to try one with one of these force-mixes?

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One thing I find interesting is the Jagdpanzer IV usage and unit size. From my reading they were pretty parceled out, with only pairs operating in one area, when on defense. The only use of bigger units I stumbled across were when they were abused for attacks, like in the Ardennes.

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Ari Maenpaa,

I understand your point, though from what I've read I don't think the 'unvieling' of German attacks was a particularly widespread occurance in terms of Allied tactical air superiority.

Sure, if you imagine swarms of Jabos over the front you might logically think that they are going to spot any 'attack' as soon as it kicks off. However, I think that most allied tactical airpower was fairly concentrated, and mostly flew CAP, or in the vicinity of a FAC once contact had been made.

Thus, although labelled as an constant threat by moaning German landsers, it was not quite as omnipresent as one might imagine. Importantly, it often arrived on the scene once a serious attack was identified, and in this respect, it was an important part of the Allied artillery response.

The point I'm coming to is that the chance of a German attack sliping under the 'Jabo net' were actually quite high, though once the attack was under way the Jabos would arrive on the scene quite quickly and contribute to the Allied riposte.

With regards Aliied alertness, I think from what JasonC is saying, ther Germans would often break through regardless. Therefore, if you couple this with my reasonably educated hypothesis, I think that Allied Tac-Air was not especially important in revealing German attacks.

Rgds

[ June 25, 2002, 02:26 PM: Message edited by: Paul T. Gardner ]

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I like, and have already asked if someone would be willing (at the BoB)to do this in a simultaneous/simultaneous attack/defend from both sides (something like 4 games at once).

Given the attacking forces you postulate are amassed to create/exploit-- what would the defenses look like against such juggernauts? I'm not looking for balance or even a fighting chance in the defender-- just something such an offensive force might be arrayed against.

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To Paul Gardener - I do think the effect of Jabos on the Germans are overstated. But I also think the role of the Stukas early is also overstated. Of the two, I think the former made more of a difference (negatively). There are actually quite few examples of close air-armor cooperation in the early war successes. There was certainly no system of the tankers calling for air support, as later developed by the Allies.

The one standout where it was done right and seriously made a difference was the Meuse crossing at Sedan in 1940, where the Luftwaffe's mission was indeed to suppress artillery fire. They accomplished that by continuous, extended attacks by small formations (to keep it up). Which intimidated batteries into not fire "until it was over" (the air raids to them, in reality the crossing). That intimidation "multiplier" was critical to it making a difference, because the actual bomb-load the small air forces of the time could deliver in a day or two was very limited.

The Luftwaffe spent at least half its time in the early war period on other missions. Bombing of cities (Warsaw, Rotterdam), forward airfields to gain air superiority, attacks on communications. There was remarkably little early theorizing of the role of air power. The Meuse crossing use, for instance, was due to Guderian's personal role in the planning, and his close coordination with the air unit involved. Guderian's superiors in the army tried to get the Luftwaffe to do it differently, more in line with the "big raid" attacks the Luftwaffe normally used. It only went off as originally planned because later orders did not come in time. (See page 104 of Panzer Leader, paragraph begining "During the night I telephoned Lorzer...") Considerable advanced planning was absolutely required. It was not something they could do on the fly.

The Allies certainly got the impression that use of air was tightly coordinated with the tanks. That was largely an illusion created by overall success and by a few such cases. Guderian wargamed the Meuse crossing with Stutterheim (chief of close support planes, the Stuka guy) and with Lorzer, who commanded the air group used to support the operation. It was the wargame that convinced them suppression of artillery was the right mission. Nobody but them knew that bit of doctrine prior to the event itself. Guderian taught many of the leading armor guys, notably Hoth and Model. That spread the ideas somewhat.

But the leading German armor was still bombed by its own planes, lacked air cover once it got deep into enemy territory, getting strafed because of it. German HQs were hit by Allied air (in 1940) until they learned to stay out of the nice looking big houses. It was hardly the picture the Allies drew of tankers talking to dive bomber pilots on radios and calling them in where needed. In reality, the weak radio sets in the tanks often couldn't raise division. Truly tight air ground coordination, by modern standards, was not created until the Korean War CAS system.

To Chris Knapp - Sorry about having no Brits. The truth is I don't know their doctrines well enough to apply them parallel to these. I know what they had in what unit types, sure. But how they translated that into useful tactics on the ground at the tactical scale is another question. My general impression is that their armor forces typically tried to fight in something like the "German manner" depicted above, but with tanks less suited to it in gun armor terms. While their infantry formations fought more like the Americans above. But that is probably something of an illusion created by my understanding of those two "ideal types", and my using them as points of reference. I'd be interested in a British doctrine expert showing parallel forces and methods.

To Ari Maenpaa - YOu asked how often Allied air revealed a German attack and so deprived a German offensive of surprise. The answer seems to be "practically never". Some examples - when Rommel counterattacked as Kasserine, there was total operational and tactical surprise. They overran the forward regiment. When HG Panzer counterattacked in Sicily, there was tactical surprise. They overran a battalion. When the Salerno beachhead was counterattacked, there was tactical surprise. They overran one battalion and rolled up another on its flank. When Lehr counterattacked in Normandy in July, there was tactical surprise. They broke through the first line battalions in three different places. Mortain was known about beforehand, but not because of air. That one was compromised by Ultra intercepts. The force involved was still large enough to overrun most of the front line regiment, cutting off one battalion for days. The Lorraine counterattacks east of Nancy achieved tactical surprise. But still lost a number of the armor duels, in fog. The Ardennes Offensive achieved operational and tactical surprise. They destroyed the bulk of two US infantry divisions (106, 28) and tore multiple holes. The Nordwind attacks, delivered piecemeal in sequence and after the Ardennes, still were a surprise initially.

There is thus essentially no evidence that air superiority enabled the Allies to notice German offensive moves before they happened and be waiting for them. The only major armor attack they were truly waiting for was Mortain, and that was because of Ultra, not air power. "Waiting for" in that case meant 2 extra TD battalions ordered to the scene, an infantry division coming in on the northern flank of the attempt, and an armor division coming in on the southern flank. There was also a corps artillery grouping behind the point of attack, in part because of warning time. But none of those things stopped the initial break-in. The American line held at the "reserve combat team" line (penetrating all reserves prior to that). The amount of warning was a matter of days, because the whole attack was put together in a matter of days from conception to jump-off.

To Michael - The mobile divisions were well more than 5-10% of the German army. There were about 50 of the things by the end. 1/3rd of the formations that fought in Normandy were mobile formations. Yes, the infantry army was bigger, but most of it had defensive roles (and in Russia; we are talking about fighting the western Allies here). Infantry did counterattack and often. The doctrine was local counterattacks at every break in, and it was applied quite literally in scores of cases, by the infantry to. E.g. when a river was crossed, or any line breached, or a hill taken. The general method was wing attack or turning movement on one flank by roughly 2/3rds of the available force, in depth not on-line.

I showed those forces as you noticed later in your post. They typically did rely on assault gun support when used offensively. Sometimes they did not have them, or the terrain made them less than useful. In that case they did the same sort of thing - wing attack in battalion strength being typical, sometimes a regiment with one battalion doing a holding attack and 1-2 others the wing attack or turning movement. The last is a bit above the scale CM handles easily. If there were no assault guns, obviously more artillery would help. But they often did not have it, and short preparations were the doctrine anyway (for surprise).

To Combined Arms - Not green. By the meaning of the term, yes for most, although there were a lot of infantry replacements - on both sides - in the fall especially. In CM it is arguable that green quality depicts who average men behaved better than regular does. But also in CM QBs, you can go for quantity over quality by using greens, and that fits with a focus on winning the infantry-HE war because it gives you numbers. Large numbers of big FOs are also a lot more affordable as greens, and American artillery is fast enough that their greens still get missions down in reasonable times. On defense forces, I've written about German infantry&gun based defenses extensively before. For the Americans, more teams rather than squad infantry, and fewer supporting Shermans, but otherwise not far from the above types.

To Seanachai - I've obviously been heavily influenced by La Isla Bonita. But rumor has it that Walk Like Me by Blondie is more my cup of tea.

To Redwolf - Jagdpanzers were certainly used in company strength for attacks. They were pressed into this role due to a shortage of turreted tanks. Examples are the middle prong of Panzer Lehr's July Normandy attack, based on 2 Jagdpanzer companies (20 AFV), the right wing of the Bulge attack toward Elsenborn (identifiable Jagd-70s in company strength AARs). It was also apparently common to attach one company, sometimes more, to the divisional recce battalion when attacking, to give it punch, then use its light armor to attack through the enemy small arms and artillery zone. In US side AARs, you will often see "self propelled guns" or "SP 88s", or "mobile 88s" in sectors where the meaning has to be Jagds, given the units actually present on the German side.

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Ideally such attack forces would be directed at a single company of defenders, at the front line anyway. Up-back deployments would put additional forces in their path, and send reserves scurrying into their sector. Though a large attack of 2-4 such groups side by side might limited the number of reserves any one prong encountered. On the downside, sometimes attacks were directed as much denser forces than expected, giving each prong like the above more like a battalion of defenders, even in the front line.

Suppose the target of one of the German forces are American infantry units, in mostly attack formations not really expecting a counterattack. And suppose the frontage the attack was delivered on was right. Then you'd expect (all greens) -

Front line force - 1350 pts (on map, dug in, forward positons)

US company

+ second Wpns Platoon

+ 2 MMG (6 total)

3 57mm ATG

1 81mm FO

3 105mm FO

2 TRP

Second line 350 pts (on map, dug in, "back" positions)

US Company minus one rifle platoon

+1 zook

Then the following "reaction forces" would arrive as reinforcements from the back edge of the map. Randomized arrival orders and times, from 5 minutes after the start onward. E.g. put all at 5 minute earliest with a 20% chance per turn. Or some at 5 minutes with 20%, some at 10 minutes with 30% or 50%.

TD platoon 500 points -

4 TDs

3 cavalry scout vehicles

With M10s, 1 Greyhound and 2 Jeep MG. Hellcats, 3 M20. Jacksons just 3 Jeep MG

Battalion Reserve 500 pts -

2 Rifle platoons

8 zooks

8 trucks

Artillery 200 pts -

1 155mm FO

1 Jeep

Sherman platoon 450-700 points -

4-6 Shermans (5 plain M4A3 a typical case)

Use the supporting Shermans only against the largest 5000 point attacking forces - when all arrive the odds will still be about 3:2.

Use everything but the Sherman platoon against a 3000 point force - when all reserves arrive the odds will be about even.

For a 2000 pt attack, use just the front line force, without the second line, plus the TD platoon and half the battalion reserve force as reinforcements later (platoon, 4 zooks, 4 trucks). The initial odds will be 3:2 and will fall to even when the reserves have arrived.

That will show the typical "layering" and response of the defense such a force could expect, when launched at the proper enemy force size along a properly narrow frontage.

Obviously, you can also just put the typical attack forces up against each other in a meeting engagement instead. But if the idea is to see what a German attack looked like and how it worked, then the above layered defense, with reasonable good initial odds and reinforcements rushing to the scene, will give a more accurate picture.

As you will see, the strong tendency to keep AFVs off the immediate front line (to use their mobility in reactive defenses, and to avoid drawing fire) made for comparatively weak AT defenses at the immediate front line early in the engagement. That was one of the things the armor-heavy German attack ideas were meant to exploit.

Thus the comparatively easy initial break-in, if enough armor is used on a narrow enough front. ATGs don't change this because they are necessarily penny-packeted all along the line.

Once into the defended zone, however, reserve armor arrives and bazooka teams stalk. Then it become important that the attacking infantry keep up with the tanks, because they will be needed for spotting vehicles, clearing bits of cover, etc. And that can be harder, because the "soft", anti-infantry side of the defense is considerably stronger (FOs, TRPs, dug in MGs, eventually plenty of squad infantry too).

I hope this helps.

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To Skipper - "When you have more than 150 arty tubes per kilometer..." Massing enough artillery was certainly used by the Russians too. But the relevant measure of artillery support is not the number of tubes (which as they calculated such things included all the mortars etc as well), but the number of rounds per day.

Ammo is the limit on artillery support, not tube numbers. A few battalions can fire hundreds of tons per day if they have the supply. Once the number of guns is decent, the rate of support "determiner" moves back to the transport links bringing shells to those guns. All the tubes in the world don't throw additional rounds at the enemy.

One battalion of divisional artillery can throw about a ton a minute. For 3-4 battalions that comes to 4000 to 6000 tons per day if they fired continually (which would burn out the tubes, of course). Even at sustained rates of fire, a division can throw 1000 tons of ammo in one day.

Nobody was able to move that kind of tonnage up to the guns, so the number of tubes was not what limited firepower. Actual levels of divisional supply typically ranged from 100 to 600 tons per day; the Germans considered 250 generous for attacks and as little as 100 adequate for defensive operations by infantry divisions. For everything, not just the artillery. Individual US artillery battalions sometimes threw 50-100 tons per day in intense combat.

Attrition warfare is not primarily about artillery, that is just the final delivery system. It is mostly about logistics, transport links, and applying overall economic capacity. The tubes are the hoses. The water is ammo and for practical purposes is made out of - and moved by - money, or overall wealth.

[ June 25, 2002, 06:25 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Yes it is realistic. Each battalion had a platoon of 3 57mm, and then there was an additional company of 9 of them at the regimental level. That makes 6 per battalion average, which were typically in 2 up, 1 back deployments. 3 per front line company is therefore standard. In some units, the divisional AT was towed 76mm rather than self propelled TD. Those could distribute 12 per regiment and thus 4x76 per battalion in addition.

You don't see them that often for the same reason you don't always see the battalion MG assets (here shown in the extra weapons platoon etc) and "spare zook" infantry AT platoons (shown in the battalion reserve force) - because the US was usually attacking rather than defending.

Some armor units cannabilized their 57mm platoons for added riflemen, because they were so short of infantry (only 3 battalions of it per division) and because they had plenty of equally capable AT weapons in the form of short 75 Shermans. Infantry formations did not have so much AT capability, and generally kept and used their 57mms.

[ June 25, 2002, 06:32 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Originally posted by JasonC:

I do think the effect of Jabos on the Germans are overstated. But I also think the role of the Stukas early is also overstated. Of the two, I think the former made more of a difference (negatively). There are actually quite few examples of close air-armor cooperation in the early war successes. There was certainly no system of the tankers calling for air support, as later developed by the Allies.

JasonC, the two cannot really be directly compared. Published accounts often speak of 'close air support' missions flown by Stukas during the Blitzkrieg campaigns early in the war. Most of these authors are ignorant of the true nature of this type of operation however.

Close air support operations are those mounted against targets in the battle area and in close proximity to friendly forces. Due to spotting difficulties experienced by Sturzkampf pilots from their nearly mile high vantage points (5,000 feet was the average start altitude for dive attacks), there was always a risk that bombs might fall on the very troops they were supposed to assist - as in your example.

Thus, in truth, for most of the time the dive-bomber's objectives were well behind the battle area - what would now be termed 'battlefield air interdiction targets', such as artillery and supply lines.

I've often wondered what the results would have been if Germany had regained control of the skies with its jets, and built a serious strategic bomber force such as the allies had. I think Overlord might not have been possible, and many Allied storage parks would have been bombed to hell. However, 'what if' threads can be very frustrating, so I shall stop there...

Rgds

[ June 25, 2002, 06:39 PM: Message edited by: Paul T. Gardner ]

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Paul T. Gardner and JasonC,

thanks for replies. And for the interesting thread.

For a change I dug into the excellent online Carlisle library and glanced through General Depuy’s interview file. Depuy served in the American 90th Infantry Division and begun his combat service in Normandy 1944. His comments seem to correlate with what you said about the Jabos. Although it’s good to note that his POV is limited to that one division only.

Depuy: "Well, generally, we didn’t have any close air support. They didn’t have a system back then like we have now. There was no tactical air control system. When we first went to Mayenne and to Le Mans, they had Air Force officers in trucks with radios with our two lead battalions. That was the only time in the war that I saw that – the only time! They talked to the fighters, the P-47s and P-51s, and got them to attack the German tanks and troops that the column ran into. It worked pretty well. In fact, it worked very well."

On the other hand he really emphasizes the power of artillery:

"I really believe, based on my experience, that the combat power provided by the artillery, I’m sorry to say, probably represented 90 percent or more of the combat power actually applied against the enemy. That’s why I say that getting a forward observer to a high piece of ground and protecting him was the most important function that the infantry performed in that war. That’s not to degrade the infantry, it’s just objective analysis."

And the American artillery particularly:

"The artillery was good. It was technically very sound; more so than the Germans. It could mass more quickly and had better communications. I think the command and control and the fire direction techniques of the American Army were superior to the German Army."

"We had a lot of artillery. It was very good and we could always get lots of it. At the Saar and afterwards, it was not unusual for me as a battalion commander to be supported by five or six battalions of artillery anytime I really needed it. If I had a problem I could get it. Now, I didn’t use it all the time, but if I really had an emergency and I really wanted a lot of firepower, it was there. They could mass it and I could get all of it through my direct support battalion."

IIRC some time ago there was a discussion about Bazooka’s overmodelled performance in CMBO. This is Depuy’s take on the thing:

"The 2.36-inch bazooka could defeat a King Tiger only by a shot into the engine compartment from the rear, which was a difficult thing to do. The 75mm tank gun and 3-inch gun on the tank destroyers could not penetrate the turret or the front of the King Tiger. At short ranges they could penetrate the side armor."

Very interesting interview. Can't remember who initially recommended it here on the forum. Thanks to him anyway.

Ari

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