In 'Bitter Victory'
Scenario One: 'Operation
Part 3: 'By the Skin of Our . . . '
By Doug McNair
General Patton gets one more chance to break
out and race Monty to Messina in today’s
installment of my Bitter
night fell on July 14th, 1943, two of General
Montgomery’s tank brigades were spearheading
a drive west from the beaches south of Syracuse
that has pushed Axis forces to the banks of
the river south of Catania. The German positions
along the river are weak, and Montgomery’s
southern flank has linked up with the Americans.
But Patton’s advance from the southern
beaches has gained little ground. He made
a bold effort on Turn 2, sending his just-landed
2nd Armored Division north to attack the Hermann
Göring Division head-on. But the Germans
made an orderly withdrawal north to Piazza
Armerina, leaving Patton’s forces reduced
and his western flank dangerously exposed
to the now full-strength Italian 4th Motorized
Division and the twice-as-powerful German
15th Mechanized Division.
With both sides operating with an exposed
left flank, whoever gets the initiative on
Turn 3 will have a chance to inflict crushing
damage on the enemy. The battle for Sicily
continues. . . .
Turn 3: July 15 –
Initial Segment: The weather clears,
so both sides get their full air power allotment,
which is one point for the Axis and three
points for the Allies (they control four Sicilian
airfields now, but two of those are too close
to Axis units to fly in fuel and other airbase
supplies without danger from flak).
The Allied player rolls on the replacements
table and gets one U.S. infantry replacement
— a very good thing for Patton’s
battered forces. He uses it to bring 2nd Mechanized
Division’s infantry regiment back up
to full strength so they can have another
go at Göring’s men.
The Americans land two supply point markers
on their LSTs at and east of Gela, and the
British land supply point markers on all three
of their LSTs at and south of Syracuse. The
Americans leave their remaining LST and Port
counter open to receive reinforcements and
move away from the exposed American left flank.
The German 4th Fallschirmjäger Regiment
flies into the airbase just across the river
from where 3rd Fallschirmjäger is holding
the line against Montgomery’s northern
advance. The 2nd Mechanized Infantry Regiment
of the Hermann Göring Division arrives
in Messina, meaning Patton must destroy the
division’s other two regiments at Piazza
Armerina before the third can link up with
them and double their combat strength through
Happy for the help but still worried about
Monty breaking out, the Axis player rolls
for optional reinforcements and hits the jackpot
with a 6. Both regiments of the Italian 135th
Armored Division arrive at Messina. This unexpected
commitment of extra defense forces drops the
Italian victory point total by 10VPs (–23
total), but it does a lot to bolster the Axis’
chances of keeping Montgomery from crossing
the river and taking Catania (which would
be a blow to Italian morale).
For their part, the Allies receive the Canadian
1st Tank Brigade (reduced strength) and the
American 39th Infantry Regiment as reinforcements.
They keep the Canadians in the Units Available
box since all LSTs in the British zone are
busy taking in supplies, but the Americans
land the 39th on their LST just east of Licata.
Per scenario instructions, the British must
withdraw the 40th and 41st Commando Battalions,
but that does little to reduce their reserves
Finally, the Allies pull their Port counter
out of the exposed American left flank at
Licata and relocate it to the British-controlled
major port at Augusta (just northwest of Syracuse).
Having a Port counter there will greatly increase
British supply and reinforcement intake capacity.
Patton will have to hope he can secure his
left flank and flip his LST counter at Gela
to its Port side to increase his own intake
This is the first turn that all units must
check supply status. The British and Americans
spend one supply point counter each to put
their HQs in combat supply. They then put
Out of Supply markers on all units outside
their HQs’ range. All British units
are within range of their HQ and are supplied,
but the American units of the extreme left
and right are out of range and unsupplied.
Lots of Axis units are unsupplied since it’s
a big island and there are only two Axis HQs,
but the just-arrived German and Italian reinforcements
are supplied and can move at full speed to
join the battle.
The Allies don’t want to plan any amphibious
landings with just one reduced-strength tank
brigade in the Units Available box, so the
players go straight to putting chits in the
cup. All HQ chits go in plus the Allied AMPH/PARA
The first drawn is:
Italian XII Corps: This is worst-case
scenario for Patton. The full-strength Italian
4th Motorized and German 15th Mechanized divisions
charge out of the hills and smash into Patton’s
exposed left flank, two hexes southwest of
Piazza Armerina. Both Axis divisions have
divisional integrity, and with some extra
support their attack on the American 15th
and 30th Infantry Regiments is at 5-1 odds.
The Axis player rolls a 5, meaning three
hits on the Americans to one on the Axis.
An Italian recon unit dies (–2VPs),
a U.S. infantry regiment takes a step loss,
and the Americans have a very tough choice
to make. They can satisfy the remaining two
hits by retreating two hexes, but that would
let both Axis divisions advance two hexes.
The German 15th Mechanized could move right
into Patton’s rear and become the anvil
to Hermann Göring Division’s hammer,
while Italian 4th Motorized could keep pursuing
the fleeing Americans. No good.
Holding their ground would force the Americans
to take two more step losses, wiping out one
of their regiments and leaving the other weakened
and not exerting ZOC, so one Axis division
could run around it to hit the LSTs on the
beach while the other destroys it with an
overrun attack. No good either.
The Americans split the difference and take
a second step loss (leaving both regiments
reduced), and then retreat one hex southeast
to maintain the ZOC line guarding the beaches
from German attack. German 15th Mechanized
crosses the river from the west and advances
into hex 0518, and in the Mechanized Movement
Phase it overruns the Americans.
the overrun wipes the Americans out, the Italian
4th can exploit the breach and move down to
threaten the LSTs on the beach. The Germans
overrun the Americans at 3-1 odds . . . and
the Americans hold! The Germans roll a 2,
which means no hits on either side, so they
have to retreat back to the hex where they
came from and stay there.
Instead of following the Germans into the
breach, the Italians turn around and drive
southwest through Caltanisetta and Canicatti
to pin down the three American infantry regiments
still on the beaches around Licata. There
are now three Axis divisions strung out along
the American left flank . . . but it’s
Italian XVI Corps: The other Axis
HQ activates, and the Axis defenders make
an orderly retreat across the river south
of Catania. More units move in to establish
a strong river defense, including the just-arrived
Italian 135th Armored Division, which takes
up position on the coast just south of Catania.
In the Mechanized Movement Phase, the last
regiment of Hermann Göring Division joints
its brethren at Piazza Armerina, and the Axis
line is just about as strong as it can be.
. . .
U.S. II Corps: Patton activates. He’d
really hoped the 82nd would have airdropped
that damn regiment behind Axis lines by now,
but he’s gonna play the hand he’s
been dealt. Even with three Axis divisions
breathing down his left, holding position
is not an option!
Patton does the ol’ switcheroo, telling
his infantry and commandos to get the hell
out of the way so he can attack the bastards
northwest of Caltagirone. Most of the battered
grunts move south and west to reinforce the
American left flank (a commando unit stays
behind to screen for the attack), and then
Patton’s tankers move one hex southeast
(out of Göring Division’s ZOC),
then one hex northeast — right into
the hex the commandos just left!
Second Armored attacks the weakest point
in the Axis line: two Italian recon regiments,
the Brac motorized infantry regiment, and
the German 504th Heavy Tank Battalion. After
all modifiers the attack goes in at 5-1 odds,
and Patton gets a 1/2 result. The American
commando unit dies (+3 VPs), but so does an
Italian recon unit (–2 VPs), which means
the Italians have now lost eight units and
get a further penalty on their morale roll
(meaning more than just coastal divisions
can surrender now). The three remaining Axis
units retreat one hex northwest, Patton advances
northeast to hold the door open for the Brits.
XIII Corps: The Brits give Patton a cheer
as they flood in behind him (Monty’s
back at HQ so he has plausible deniability).
Six infantry brigades and the 4th Tank Brigade
surge across and around the river behind him
and hit the fleeing Axis units from the west
and southeast simultaneously. The Canadians
come up from the south to link up with 23rd
Tank Brigade and hit the next Italian position
northeast on the river line, and four more
infantry brigades move opposite the two Fallschirmjäger
regiments at the airfield northwest of Lentini
while the Royal Navy gathers off Catania.
The main British attack on the fleeing German
goes in at 6-1 odds after all mods, and rolls
a 3, scoring two unanswered hits! Preserving
the ability to exert ZOC is all important
to the Axis now, so the German heavy tank
battalion dies (–4 VPs) and the remaining
Italian regiments retreat northwest across
the river and maintain the line.
Three British infantry brigades and the 4th
Tank Brigade advance into the vacated hex.
Then 23rd Tank Brigade and the Canadians attack
the two Italian regiments across the minor
river just to the east. The 4-1 odds attack
rolls a 2, scoring one hit per side. The Italians
cannot afford to give ground — that
would breach the river line and give the Allies
the back road to Catania — so the two-step
108th Motorized Infantry regiment takes a
step loss, as does a Canadian regiment.
The British have used up all their air and
supply points supporting attacks, and the
Fallschirmjäger-held airfield is outside
battleship range, so the northern British
units decide to hold the line rather than
attack. With Axis ZOC still intact in the
center of their line, the British tank brigades
can’t advance in the Mechanized Movement
Phase. Monty joins his front-line units (putting
him two hexes closer to Messina than Patton),
and . . .
AMPH/PARA: The airborne units finally
decide to join the party. British 2nd Airborne
Brigade drops on target into hex 1123, right
behind the Fallschirmjägers and the Italian
135th Mechanized Division manning the northeast
end of the river line. It doesn’t take
damage from drop disruption, so it will be
in a position to outflank the river line next
Then the American 504th drops on target into
hex 0821, which was behind Axis lines before
Patton’s switcheroo — but is now
right on top of an advancing British infantry
brigade just to Patton’s right, and
(even worse) in full view of Monty! General
Montgomery sends the paratrooper colonel his
compliments, the brigadier offers him a cup
of tea, and Patton sends him an invitation
to a tongue-lashing.
All chits have been drawn, so the turn ends
with Patton having just barely held off an
overwhelming flank attack while executing
a right hook to the Axis center. With British
help he pushed back the Axis line but it just
barely held, at a huge cost in lost units
(the Axis VP total is now –28).
With the Axis center and the Allied left
weak and battered, whoever gets initiative
next turn will have a chance to smash through
enemy lines and drive deep into their rear.
Who will it be? The answer awaits in our next
here to order Bitter Victory today!