Scenario Preview, Part One
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Not many projects come out of our workshop smoothly; while we’ve ditched the needless drama that once ruled around here there are still always little problems that crop up in publishing.
Panzer Grenadier: Marianas 1944 was an exception: it pretty much sailed through every step. At the heart of it are the scenarios. Here’s a look at the final ten; you can read Part One here and Part Two here.
The Last Fight for Fonte
29 July 1944
The Marines reached their Force Beachhead Line along the entire front except for a small area in front of the 9th Marine Regiment on Fonte Ridge. Would the preparation of the previous night pay off, as the Japanese were using the small gap as a basis for counterattacks? The 9th Marines attacked on the morning of the 29th.
From two sides the Marines hit the depression where the Japanese hunkered down. Deploying bazooka, machinegun, and point-blank tank fire, the Devil Dogs pounded every cave and entrenchment thoroughly, followed by assault teams that systematically cleaned out all these positions. The Marines hardly suffered a casualty while the Japanese lost an estimated 50 men.
A small scenario on just the Guam board, with a Marine combined-arms team trying to winkle some determined Japanese out of a pretty stout position. The Marines have no artillery or air support, just their own firepower, so the scenario’s probably going to be a good bit tougher than the actual battle.
Patrol North: Barrigada
1 August 1944
On July 31st the indigenous Chamorros reported to the Marines that the Japanese had abandoned the south half of the island and moved north. This confirmed reports from U.S. patrols. To wrest the north from the Japanese, the Army’s 77th Division planned to drive north on the east side near Mt. Santa Rosa and Mt. Barrigada where they expected the enemy to be digging in their defensive lines. The 3rd Marine Division planned to advance parallel to the 77th Division's left flank until meeting the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in the far north. There they would combine to hit Mt. Machanao where more Japanese strong points clung. The 77th Division sent out armor patrols to scout the planned Mt. Barrigada offensive.
The light tanks of the 706th scouted ahead finding an abandoned casemate before running into a small convoy of Japanese trucks stalled on the road. The Japanese soldiers open fire, and in response the lead M5 took out about 35 defenders before the tanks turned their guns on the trucks. Further up the road, when one of the tanks became hung up on a stump, the jungle came alive with 20mm cannon and heavy machinegun fire. The tank crews quickly recovered from their surprise and drove the attackers back into the protective heavy foliage. The 14 light tanks made it back shortly before the general advance to capture Barrigada got under way. The assault upon the mountain met little resistance. In additional good news, the 77th Division liberated a large concentration camp filled with Chamorros. The move north continued with less-than-expected resistance, though the Marine casualties continued to slowly climb.
It’s an odd little scenario, with two platoons of American light tanks trying to scout out some hidden Japanese in pretty inhospitable terrain. The Japanese, of course, want to ambush the tanks and engage them in assault combat.
Armored Reconnaissance Group
3 August 1944
Headquarters wanted a recon mission to explore the Finegayan-Mt. Santa Rosa Road area, but it took so long to organize the Reconnaissance Company and find available trucks that the unit requested to postpone the run until morning. Headquarters denied the request, and ordered the recon to proceed immediately and return by 1800.
Confused by the road markings, some vehicles missed the left fork of RJ 177. They stumbled into an ambush and under heavy enemy fire they lost one halftrack, abandoned one truck, one tank suffered damaged, and the men suffered one killed and 14 wounded. However, they dealt some damage in return destroying two 75mm guns, one tank, several machineguns, and an undetermined number of enemy soldiers killed before making it back to camp that night. These armored recon missions were common practice for both the Marine and Army units in northern Guam, as neither could figure out where the bulk of enemy lay hiding.
This one’s a little like the previous scenario in concept, but the Marines have to travel twice as far and this time have a balanced recon force. The Japanese are slightly stronger and have some artillery this time. The scenario doesn’t recommend use of the hidden rules, but they would give the Japanese something much closer to an even chance of victory.
The O-3 Line Objective
5 August 1944
After the 9th Marine Regiment reached the vicinity of a new objective area called O-3, Companies B & C received orders to begin the second phase of the operation, securing the O-3 line and linking up with the 21st Marine Regiment. This task, if successful, would open the RJ 177 road as a supply route through the thick jungle. However, since the 4th of August enemy 75mm and 105mm gun positions and heavy foot presence in the thick brush retarded progress in the dangerous thick foliage. In one case, 15 yards was all that separated a Sherman tank from an unseen Japanese medium tank, but the assault went forward anyway.
Company B ran into heavy opposition immediately and called for help. By noon Company C attempted to flank the strongly-defended area. The accompanying tanks received heavy anti-tank fire and the general advance slowed. The Marines had destroyed one enemy 75mm gun position, but Battalion committed Company A to close the gap between Companies B and C. The tired units stopped in the area of a road junction in the vicinity of Liguan for the night, but still Japanese artillery rained shells on the Marine positions into the next day.
Both sides have been worn down by the fighting (the ratio of infantry-to-support-weapons is much lower than usual) but these are the U.S. Marine Corps and the Imperial Japanese Army – that means their morale is still very good. The Marines are out to destroy the Japanese artillery; the Japanese need only prevent this from happening in order to win. That’s not as easy as it sounds.
Road Block and Company C
6 August 1944
Many smaller engagements happened throughout the Mariana Islands campaign, and Guam had its share. Often the Americans played the role of aggressor in the daytime hours, taking advantage of their weapon and manpower superiority, while the Japanese became the aggressor at night when those advantages were blunted: classic asymmetric warfare. But every generalization also has its exceptions. In this case, Company C set up a routine road block per their orders, and the Japanese sent out patrols to probe and keep contact with the enemy.
The 9th Marines continued to receive scattered resistance from the remaining Japanese in the Finegayen area. When an enemy patrol led by a tank tried to break through a roadblock set up on the division boundary, the defending elements of the 2/9 Marines destroyed the Japanese tank and scattered the enemy infantry. They then pursued the remaining enemy units. While keeping everyone on their toes, these attacks did nothing to slow the Marine capture of the island.
It’s a very small meeting engagement, with both sides fielding small mixed forces. The Japanese are trying to get across the board, and in their starved and exhausted state their high morale has finally broken down. There aren’t many Marines, though, and the Japanese could pull off a win if they sacrifice part of their force to pin the Marines and let the rest escape. But pinning down that Sherman tank isn’t going to be easy.
Yigo and the Approach to Mt. Santa Rosa
7 August 1944
In the early morning hours of August 6th two Japanese medium tanks drove through the 305th Infantry Regiment's lines. The tanks caused considerable damage that night, both entering the lines and coming back the other way a few hours later. Before falling victim to antitank fire the two rogues killed 31 men and wounded another 63. The 305th paid a high price for not being dug in and prepared that night. Perhaps they would learn their lesson prior to the major offensive planned against the village of Yigo on the 7th of August. This attack would prepare the way for the 77th Division's follow-on thrust against Mt. Santa Rosa. The Japanese had fortified Yigo village and surrounding area into a formidable defense.
The Army fought most of the day around the Yigo area. Initially the tanks rapidly outdistanced the infantry until they ran into strong resistance in the form of anti-tank guns and machine guns that knocked out two light tanks and set a medium tank afire. But together, the 307th Infantry and their assigned armor, along with timely air and artillery support, cleared the area and controlled the high ground so the 77th Division could attack Mt. Santa Rosa on time.
The other notable event that day was the death of Colonel Douglas McNair, killed by a sniper. His father, Lt General Leslie McNair, had been killed 12 days earlier by inaccurate U.S. bombing at St. Lo, France. Although the war seemed to be going in favor of the Americans by this point, many homes on both sides continued to lose their loved ones.
This time the U.S. Army is on the attack, on a narrow but very long front. They have pretty strong forces, but not nearly the overwhelming firepower of similar Marine units. The Japanese have good numbers and support weapons, and the incentive to infiltrate past the advancing Americans and occupy their rear areas. That can make for a very fluid game if the American player is not careful.
Mt. Santa Rosa
8 August 1944
The offensive that began on the 7th continued in the north the next day. All units of the 77th Infantry Division sought the enemy in their hiding places, pushing them back. The Japanese continued to use their night-attack tactics with a few tanks and infantry here and there to slow the American advance, but they did not reap the results they sought. The Mt. Santa Rosa offensive ground forward and the 307th Infantry Regiment led the way to the prize.
By 1100 the 306th captured Lulog, the 305th achieved its objectives, and the 307th captured Mt. Santa Rosa, having killed 35 Japanese and eliminated a few caves in the area. The soldiers still felt the resistance they were encountering was less than anticipated, though two days battling for Mt. Santa Rosa they'd accrued 30 killed, 104 wounded and 11 missing in the 77th Infantry Division. The Marines counted 528 enemy bodies, five tanks, and dozens of guns in the area destroyed or captured, but it looked like a large enemy group had escaped.
A small scenario on just the Guam board, with the Japanese dug in and awaiting a U.S. Army assault. The American edge in firepower isn’t as great as in other similar scenarios, but Japanese morale is waning in these last days of their doomed defense. They probably would benefit from use of the Hidden rule.
Night of the Tank
9 August 1944
During the hours of darkness one unit reported organized enemy activity. Units of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines came under attack from enemy infantry and tanks, and unfortunately for the Marines, they still possessed no antitank guns or other supporting weapons. They called 3rd Division headquarters for instructions.
The Marines destroyed or dispersed the enemy foot soldiers but had no answer for the enemy armor. So the battalion commander ordered a withdrawal into the jungle to protect them from the Japanese tanks. The Marines waited until daylight for armor and anti-tank weapons to show up.
The Japanese are on the attack, backed by tanks. The tanks aren’t very good, but the Marines have no anti-tank weapons with which to stop them – but they can assault them if they get a chance, which isn’t likely to go well for the tanks given massive Marine direct-fire capabilities. That will keep the tanks tied to their infantry. The Japanese don’t have to accomplish a whole lot in order to win, which is fortunate for them.
The Last Japanese Tanks
10 August 1944
On the night of August 9th the Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment ran into five enemy medium tanks and supporting infantry. They drove off the Japanese infantry but had to pull back into the jungle as they had no anti-tank weapons or tanks of their own. At noon the next day bulldozers plowed a way for the American tanks to join the Marine Infantry, making a trail to the Salisbury area. The search for the last Japanese armor was on, and the Japanese were running out of ground in which to hide.
The Marines renewed their effort held up the previous day by enemy tanks, and about 400 yards up the trail, two enemy tanks opened fire on them. This time the Marine tanks following closely behind the infantry quickly disposed of the opposition. In the post-battle search of the area, the Marines discovered seven more Japanese medium tanks abandoned and out of gas. To make the scenario interesting, we gave all of them gas (since the Marines didn’t know that). The Japanese only possessed one Shinhoto version of the Type 97 on Guam, unlike Saipan where they fielded more of the newer tanks. These tanks represented the last Japanese armor on the island, for a total of 59 tanks claimed during the Guam campaign.
The Japanese have just about had it, and are out to inflict a few more losses before the island falls. That makes them dangerous to the Marines, even with their low morale and crapulent armor. These Marines do have anti-tank capability, and if the Sherman’s not up to facing Panthers and Tigers in Europe, it can certainly smoke the Shinhoto Chi-ha without breaking a sweat.
10 August 1944
Reports filtered into V Amphibious Corps headquarters on August 8th of an enemy underground headquarters. Units of the 77th Reconnaissance Troop moved into the area to seek out the hidden fortress. They discovered numerous ambushes en route and concluded that the job required a stronger force. Two days later, the 306th Infantry drew the straw for the attack. They took their flamethrowers into the cave-riddled area.
The Japanese opened up on the Army troops with rifle and machine gun fire from caves that lined a depression. The battalion lost eight men killed and 17 wounded before they withdrew for the night. The next morning, with armor and stronger artillery support, they cleared all the caves without too much difficulty. Inside one cave they discovered an elaborate command post along with 60 bodies, including the island commander, General Hideyoshi Obata.
More minor engagements continued but the anticipated larger Japanese force never materialized, mostly because they died earlier in the banzai wave attacks in the south. The fall of their leadership disorganized the remaining resistance though many chose to fight a Pyrrhic delaying action until few of their forces remained. At 1131 August 10th General Roy S. Geiger announced that organized resistance on Guam had ended. Day-to-day survival and the search for food was all that was on the minds of the Japanese stragglers as the Marines continued mopping up. Guam was back in American hands at the cost of 1407 killed and 6010 wounded.
I had to alter the title on this one, just as an excuse to use “Hidden Fortress” even if there is no gold or Princess Yuki involved. The scenario is pretty straightforward: the American needs to wipe out the Japanese; the Japanese need to hold their fortified positions. Losses mean nothing.
And that’s the final third of the scenarios from Marianas 1944.
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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.