Scenario Preview, Part Two
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
At the heart of any Panzer Grenadier game are its scenarios, the individual battles that tell the story of a campaign. Jay Townsend’s crafted a great set of them that show the desperate defense of Guam against a well-trained, well-armed invader. As Dave Lippman illustrates so well in the historical background of our new Marianas 1944 book, the Marines could benefit from experience where the Japanese could not. Here’s a look at the book’s second group of scenarios:
Out of No Where
10 December 1941
The Governor of Guam, a 22-mile-long, 6-mile-wide American-ruled island int eh Central Pacific, did not receive the news concerning the attack on Pearl Harbor until the 8th of December. For the next two days Japanese aircraft from Saipan (about 100 miles northeast) bombed and strafed the Piti Navy Yard, Standard Oil refinery, and other locations throughout the island. The Marine barracks suffered in the attack, and the Japanese sank the minesweeper USS Penguin. On the 10th Japanese assault troops of various formations hit the island at four locations. Would the U.S. Navy and Marines, as well as the Guam Insular Force Guard, put up a fight?
The Marines, naval units, and Guam Insular Force Guards put up light resistance before surrendering to over 5,900 Japanese troops. The Marines lost five killed and 13 wounded, the Navy eight killed and the Guam Insular Force Guards lost four killed and 22 wounded, not to mention the loss of two patrol boats, one minesweeper and one freighter. Over 406 U.S. service members were captured. The Japanese losses were light with one killed, six wounded and one aircraft claimed shot down.
One of the greatest scenarios in the history of Panzer Grenadier. I have no idea if it’s the best-playing or the best-balanced but it’s right at the top for its sheer gonzo quotient. This scenario has the first naval battle in all of Panzer Grenadier’s roughly 1,000 scenarios. It has the entire Army of Guam. And an amphibious landing. If you’re not totally geeked for playing this, you need a different hobby.
21 July 1944
A little over two and a half years after losing the island to the Japanese, the Americans returned to reclaim Guam. The Marines assaulted four beaches north of Apra Harbor called Red 1, Red 2, Green, and Blue. More Marines landed south of the Orote Peninsula on beaches called Yellow 1, Yellow 2, White 1, and White 2. Each beach provided its own challenges, and days elapsed before the two forces could link up. The traditional naval bombardment preceded the Marine beach assault, this time on Blue beach.
The Marines needed to call in some armor to help with the overhead fire, but after that their swift advance threw the enemy off balance. During the move forward the Marines discovered three abandoned 8-inch naval guns in concrete emplacements. At what point in the battle the Japanese left them is not known. The Marines continued to push inland until they hit enemy occupied caves about 400 yards short of the D-2 line. All units then dug in for the night. The 9th Marines logged a successful first day, though they tallied 231 casualties, including 20 officers.
A big Marine amphibious landing force hits a fairly narrow beach and encounters a Japanese defense in depth which they must penetrate. The Japanese have some heavy artillery to support their cause and a well-fortified position; the Americans have naval gunfire and a rocket-firing gunboat but, oddly, no air support.
The Beaches of Agat
21 July 1944
The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed on the Yellow and White beaches on the southwest side of the island, right behind the final rounds of naval gunfire. A wide reef protected the shore, and the Japanese exploited the natural obstacles with a brutal mortar and artillery fire, pounding the approaching waves of LVT’s. The Japanese did not pull back here, contesting the Marine advance with numerous casemates and guns sprinkled across the beaches and coral outcroppings.
The Marines suffered considerable casualties coming ashore at Agat. They tried to push on to the D-1 line, but murderous enemy fire held them at bay the rest of the day. As dusk approached, the dogged Japanese defenders saw their enemy digging in across a wide but fairly shallow frontage. Tomorrow they'd give it another try.
Another big landing force hits a narrow beach, against Japanese defenders well-supplied with artillery and support weapons. There’s not a lot of subtlety involved: on the one side, land your troops and push incessantly forward. On the other, stop them at any cost.
Into the Night
22 July 1944
In preparation for the expected Japanese night counterattack, Brigadier General Lemuel Shepherd (later to become the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps) issued orders to his men to properly prepare their defenses. In the early morning hours of the 22nd, all along the front the Japanese hit the Marines hard. The most serious threat to the line occurred where one Marine rifle company held a road block on Harmon Road. Four enemy tanks rolled into the position, followed by guns mounted on trucks (portee) and charging infantry. The fight was on.
For many Marines in the regiment, this battle was the first time they employed bazookas in combat. Despite the lack of experience, Private First Class Bruno Oribiletti met the enemy column head-on with one and knocked out the first two Japanese tanks before enemy gunfire killed him. The Sherman tanks destroyed the remaining Japanese armor and vehicles. The discouraged enemy foot soldiers retreated behind Mt. Alifan. Other counterattacks on this front met similar results throughout the night. The American lines held firm and Japanese casualties mounted.
Panzer Grenadier fans have begged for actual portee pieces since we first published Afrika Korps forever ago. Now they can finally have them – and they’re Japanese! They’re not nearly as useful in the tight terrain as they would be in the desert, and they are no match for Sherman tanks.
22 July 1944
On this second day of the Allied invasion, the Marines pushed inland from both the north and the south. The 22nd Marine Regiment drew the task of seizing the hill positions northwest of Agat which held up the advance on Day One. However, the bridge across the Ayuja River had been destroyed and armor could not advance. So the call went out for LVT-As to move up and support the infantry.
The banks of the Ayuja River turned out to be steeper than first thought, and few of the LVT-As managed to cross. However, the advance continued until Company C ran into a wall of machine-gun fire from well-prepared positions that stopped them cold. Neutralizing the casemates resulted in heavy casualties for the Devil Dogs. Unable to regain the initiative, the company dug in for the night.
This is the first scenario to use the Guam Board (#100), which is one of the very prettiest in the entire Panzer Grenadier oeuvre. But while it looks good, it’s the terrain is highly treacherous. The Japanese are well fortified and while there aren’t many of them, there aren’t many Marines, either. The LVT-A1 is on about the equivalent of a Japanese light tank – which means it is in no way suitable for the modern battlefield. The LVT’s can provide useful support but players who mistake them for Shermans will be regretting it – in this scenario, their loss counts the same as tanks for initiative and victory purposes.
Those Small But Deadly Hills!
23 July 1944
The morning began with the enemy offering little resistance, but by afternoon the situation had changed. As the American front line tried to swing around the neck of the Orote Peninsula, assault units began to receive intense fire from a series of small hills surrounded by rice paddies and very mushy ground. Mortars and artillery fire added to the challenge posed by these defenses.
The Marine tanks moved forward to knock out the Japanese positions in the hills, but the wet ground in the rice fields forced the armor to stay on the roads and trails. While maneuvering along those roads and trails, one tank hit a mine and Japanese anti-tank fire put another out of action. One infantry company skirted the first rice paddies only to find another one covered by deadly automatic weapons fire. Finally, the Marines called on the USS Pennsylvania which laid down 14-inch shells for 30 minutes, pounding the hills. But as the smoke settled, so had the sun. Command ordered all units to pull back to better defensive terrain for the night.
A one-board scenario, with a small force of Marines trying to dig out a well-fortified and well-armed but also small defending force of Japanese. The terrain favors the defense, but the Marines have a tank and a flame-thrower.
24 July 1944
The first attempt to link up the Marines from both the north and south rested with the 9th Marine Regiment, who sent a platoon with some LVT-As in support down the Piti-Sumay Road. They made good progress until 1030 when they began to take rifle and machine gun fire from the jungle.
Under heavy enemy fire and observing friendly artillery fire falling nearby, the patrol requested permission to return to the regiment. Although the patrol did not accomplish the mission of contacting their southern partners, they gathered important intelligence information: the Japanese were withdrawing down the coast.
One board again, with a reinforced Japanese infantry company dug in and awaiting an even smaller Marine patrol backed by LVT-A1 armored carriers acting as light tanks.
Along the Agat-Sumay Road and the Drive to Orote
25 July 1944
With the Bundschu Ridge now under the Marines' control in the north, and Mt. Alifan in their control in the south, the turned their attention to the Orote Peninsula that jutted out of the island of Guam like a thumb. The pre-war Marine Barracks hunkered there, along with the famous Rifle Range and Orote Airfield. The Japanese did not plan to give up this symbolic piece of ground easily. The Army's 77th Division took over most of the beachhead in the south, freeing up the Marines for this pincer movement. The Marines referred to the 77th as the "77th Marines" because, unlike the 27th Army Division on Saipan, the 77th Division maintained an excellent relationship and open communications with the Marines throughout the campaign.
The Marines doggedly advanced in the face of a withering fire. Numerous machine gun nests in cleverly camouflaged emplacements, supported by concrete casemates, blocked their advance while destructive artillery fire rained down. Tank-led Japanese counterattacks drew Marine bazooka teams and Sherman tanks rushing forward in response. By the end of the day eight Type 95’s sat burning or in pieces. By late afternoon the Marines finished securing the area between Agat Bay and Apra Harbor. The main body of the Japanese found themselves confined to eight square miles of the Orote Peninsula. Later in the afternoon, some Japanese units tried to escape to the mainland by barge. That night the remaining Japanese launched a rather large banzai attack led by the 54th Keibitai, remnants of the 38th Infantry, and other service and labor personnel, but the Marines easily repulsed them, inflicting heavy casualties.
This time we have a lot more troops involved, with a good-sized force of Japanese defenders dug in and backed by support weapons and some lightweight off-board artillery. Many of them are high-morale Naval Landing troops. But the Marines have massive firepower including naval guns, aircraft, flame-throwers, tanks and a rocket-firing gunboat. This one’s going to be a bloody fight – there’s not a lot of room for maneuver on the narrow frontage.
The Guam Banzai Maneuver
26 July 1944
In the northern landing area Lt. General Takeshi Takashina, the island garrison’s commander, planned a coordinated counterattack on the Americans. In contrast to the disjointed, unorganized banzai charges encountered throughout the Pacific in previous campaigns, his plan provided detailed instructions to units, and coordination with reserves to exploit successful breakthroughs or gaps in the American lines. One of his main goals included penetrating into and disrupting the American rear areas.
Japanese flares lit up the sky both to help their soldiers to get to their assembly areas, and to light up the Marine positions so follow-on mortar and artillery concentrations could harass and suppress the Marine howitzer crews. The Japanese then exploited an 800-yard gap they discovered between the 9th and 21st Marines, driving deep into their sectors. Throughout the early morning hours, units of every sort fought to contain the Japanese, a significant portion of whom had penetrated into the rear areas. Marine command post personnel, cooks, clerks, and radio operators all picked up weapons to fight the Japanese assault. In the end, the momentum gained by the Japanese fizzled out and the attack became disorganized as the losses rapidly accumulated among the officers leading the assaults. After that, the total casualties began to mount as well as the Marines organized their own counterattacks. The butcher's bill tallied over one thousand Japanese by the time the last soldier hightailed it back into the trees. The Marines also suffered heavy casualties, but Marine training prevailed. The confused fighting ended by noon, and unknown to the American commanders, they had broken the back of Japanese resistance on Guam.
This is a big scenario, and gives the Japanese player the chance to shout “Banzai!” while moving lots of troops across the board to assault Marines all over the place. The Japanese must inflict as many casualties as possible, in particular targeting Marine artillery batteries.
Orote: Round Two
28 July 1944
The battle for the Orote Peninsula had been raging since July 24th. On the 28th of July Brigadier General Shepherd went forward on a reconnaissance of his front lines and quickly sized up the gravity of the situation holding up his 1st Provisional Brigade. His Marines' morning attack ran into trouble, resulting in a request to General Bruce, the 77th Division’s commander, to send tank destroyers and tanks to complement the Marine armor for a second attack. Shepherd then ordered Lt. Colonel Shapley to organize a tank-infantry attack with all available units to finally crack the Japanese fortified line of casemates and emplacements.
Between July 27th and July 28th the massive armor and Infantry attack cracked the Rifle Range defensive line. The Marines found the rubble of their former Barracks as well. Tired Marines counted approximately 250 enemy casemates and emplacements destroyed in the Orote Peninsula. On July 29th the assault continued against limited resistance, and that afternoon the Marines captured the Orote Airfield. Later that day the Marines held a flag raising ceremony to formally reclaim the peninsula. Some minor mopping up continued on July 30th. The Orote Peninsula cost Japanese another 2,500 troops against U.S. losses of 115 killed, 721 wounded, and 38 missing. On a side note, Japanese Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashima died this day from machinegun fire, and General Obata assumed command of the island defense.
The Marines bring a lot of firepower to bear on Japanese defenders badly eroded by the crazed banzai attacks. The American bar of victory is set pretty high, which is good for the Japanese because despite their high morale they’ll have a hard time stopping this tank-led assault.
And that concludes the second installment. More island action later.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.