Scenario Preview, Part Four
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Taking the Panzer Grenadier series out of its usual Second World War settings into a new conflict also means taking its players out of their comfort zones, sort of like the guy to the left. With Korean War: Pusan Perimeter I think we have the mix of scenarios that will do that: 48 of them, many of a very manageable size, including a fair number of unusual ones.
Here’s a look at 10 more of them. You can see the rest of the scenario previews in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Five.
Scenario Twenty Nine
Taejon Street Battle
20 July 1950
As dawn broke, a handful of North Korean T34’s clanked into Taejon. Unopposed, they rumbled along city streets shooting up American field kitchens and headquarters and smashing flat a pair of crowded, fleeing jeeps. When an American bazooka team finally fired a 3.5-inch rocket at one tank, they instead loaded a white phosphorous rocket that hit a wooden building and started a massive fire that soon involved much of the city. Frustrated, Dean snagged another team with a 3.5-inch launcher and headed out to take care of business himself.
With Dean leading the way, the bazooka teams managed to knock out at least five of the six tanks spotted inside Taejon (possibly all five of them – one tank may have left the city and entered it again later). While not a recommended action for a major general, Dean’s participation helped bolster his troops’ shaky morale and prove that the new weapons could indeed destroy a T34.
It’s just a small scenario, that comes down to a cat-and-mouse game between a pair of half-strength North Korean T-34/85 platoons and three American bazooka teams toting the new 3.5-inch rocket launchers. Victory’s asymmetric, with the Americans trying to inflict casualties and the Norks trying to capture town hexes.
The Fall of Taejon
20 July 1950
Following his successful morning hunt – “I got me a tank,” Dean told his staff – the division commander planned an orderly withdrawal of his troops south from Taejon, unaware that while he was stalking big game most of his division had ceased to exist as a coherent force. When artillery spotters reported a large column of troops heading for the city, the division staff dismissed the sighting. Obviously, this was the 34th Infantry Regiment pulling back as ordered.
The American withdrawal from Taejon took place with the same panic and disorganization that had marked the U.S. Army’s efforts in Korea to date, mixed with selfless acts of individual heroism. When a battery of 155mm howitzers stood in danger of capture, Dean rallied his divisional headquarters staff to save them – but the drivers for the M5 high speed tractors (the only vehicles that could pull the huge guns) ran away, and none of the officers knew how to drive them. Dean’s continued efforts to lead from the front – risky, but probably necessary – this time led to his capture. When the 1st Cavalry Division replaced the 24th Infantry Division two days later, less than 3,000 troops remained even after stragglers had been gathered and returned to their units.
An American force of shockingly low morale – a rabble, really – has to fight its way past a series of North Korean roadblocks. They do have a tank, just not as good on the Norks’ one tank, and a 155mm battery that can wreck the T-34/85.
Scenario Thirty One
Yongdok: The Second Battle
21 July 1950
While the American 24th Infantry Division was pushed down the western side of Korea, ROK troops fought furiously to hold the peninsula’s east coast. The small port of Yongdok formed a bottleneck on the road and railroad south to Pusan, and Gen. Walker of 8th Army determined that it must be re-taken held. The local ROK commander at first refused to take orders from an American general, only relenting on a direct order from his high command. The North Koreans had no tanks in this sector, and Walker committed a flotilla of British and American warships to provide the ROK with copious naval gunnery support.
If the U.S. Army wasn’t ready for war in 1950, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy certainly were: the naval gunfire absolutely devastated the terrain and the North Koreans, with the cruiser Juneau alone killing at least 400 NKPA troops. The South Koreans took Yongdok during the day at the cost of enormous casualties, but lost the town again at night. North Korean efforts to move south from Yongdok evaporated in the face of the punishing offshore bombardments.
The ROKs are on the attack. Their morale is low but they have fire support from the Death Star. The Norks have almost as much firepower and they’re entrenched, but they probably thought they were in good shape on Planet Alderaan, too.
All So New!
22 July 1950
The first combat elements of the 25th “Tropic Lightning” Infantry Division entered the front lines on 20 July in central Korea, with instructions to assist the ROK forces there desperately holding back the North Koreans from the key town of Sangju. While both the 25th Infantry Division’s junior officers and the commanders of neighboring ROK divisions preferred to hold their own sectors, the 25th’s assistant division commander, Brig. Gen. Vennard Wilson, inserted American companies between ROK units. This would help stabilize the ROKs, Wilson insisted; both his juniors and his allies disagreed.
Just before the North Koreans attacked, the ROK units on either side of Company F pulled back. The Americans blamed the South Koreans for not informing them, but it appears that Wilson made no liaison arrangements with his allies. The North Koreans soon enveloped the American company and were firing on it from all sides; a platoon of American tanks intervened to help extricate them from the trap. The company escaped at the cost of heavy casualties.
This is another scenario of wild American panic – the Norks have flanked them on both sides, and they have to escape off the south edge of the map before they get wiped out. At least there are no T-34/85’s around this time, and the Americans aren’t all that badly outnumbered.
22 July 1950
In an attempt to integrate American and South Korean forces more closely, the American 35th Infantry Regiment and ROK 17th Infantry Regiment sent a combined force into the mountains northwest of Sangju to seal off a dirt road leading to the town. When the Americans leading the way came under enemy fire, the ROK commander told them to spread out and envelop the enemy from both flanks.
Coming under increasing enemy fire, the American company at the point of the advance panicked and fled, taking another American company with them. Other American companies proved similarly prone to panic, with many men apparently slinking off to hide rather than fight. The day after Easy Company’s stampede, the ROK 17th Regiment went back up the mountain without them and overran a position with about 30 enemy irregulars and two machine guns.
A small scenario, with the ROK/US mixed force on the attack against a small North Korean force. The South Koreans and Americans can’t cooperate very well, which is going to make their task even harder than the low morale and complete lack of artillery support might indicate.
Join the Cavalry
23 July 1950
While the North Korean 3rd Division moved south from Taejon toward Yongdong, having taken a day to rest, the American 1st Cavalry Division rushed northward to meet them. Douglas MacArthur had stripped the 1st Cavalry of its most experienced junior officers and sergeants to reinforce the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions; in their stead he sent 1,400 raw replacements, and helpfully emptied the Eighth Army’s stockades of another 100 men. When the cavalrymen arrived at Yongdong, an Eighth Army staff officer placed the first two of its battalions to arrive in widely separated positions, over the strenuous objections of the division artillery commander who commanded the division’s forward elements.
As the 1st Cavalry’s division staff had predicted, the North Koreans found the gap between the two forward battalions and made the most of it. The North Koreans slipped troops through to establish a well-fortified roadblock well behind the American positions. North Korean tactics continued to work well despite American advantages in firepower, though Eighth Army’s interference certainly helped the NKPA’s advance in this instance.
It’s another small scenario, with the Americans (still at pretty low morale) facing a strong North Korean attack led by tanks. The Americans will have to find a way to hold on; their casualties don’t count toward victory but the troops don’t seem to agree with that assessment.
24 July 1950
On the day after the North Korean penetration, the 8th Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion made repeated attempts to dislodge the roadblock in their rear. Weak infantry attacks spearheaded by a trio of M24 light tanks went nowhere. When 1st Cavalry headquarters became aware of their troops’ peril, they sent the strongest force they could muster to relieve their comrades.
The stronger effort also failed, and soon several of the division’s artillery battalions were under attack. The Americans suspected that North Korean soldiers were joining the huge masses of refugees flowing southward, and then peeling off to infiltrate American positions.
The Americans are trying to force their way along the length of two mapboards, with a force about twice the size of the defending North Koreans but with lower morale and of course no answer to the T-34/85’s. It’s going to be pretty tough for the Americans despite their numerical edge.
Scenario Thirty Six
Around the Bend
24 July 1950
East of Yongdong, the North Korean 2nd Division advanced southward toward the town of Hwanggan, on the Seoul-Pusan highway. If it reached the town, the 1st Cavalry Division would be cut off, and Eighth Army could not allow that to happen. The 27th Infantry Regiment would relieve the battered ROK units trying to hold the road and protect the cavalry’s lines of communication.
North Korean attacks had so far depended on their T34/85’s for success, and the NKPA command had split up its tank force to give several divisions a smidgen of armor support. Second Division had but eight tanks, and led this attack with them. While the Americans drove back the supporting infantry, they could not at first stop the tanks, which broke into the perimeter and shot up the battalion headquarters. Between bazookas, artillery and a timely air strike the North Koreans lost six of their eight tanks, though they did manage to force an American withdrawal.
There are just a few Norks this time, but they include T-34/85’s and they have better morale. They’re going to need them both, since the Americans have numbers and artillery on their side, plus air power, and they’re on the defensive.
Escape to Yongdong
25 July 1950
With their front lines thoroughly comprised, the 1st Cavalry Division attempted to withdraw but its forward battalions had to overcome the stout North Korean roadblocks in their rear areas. The Americans finally broke through and slipped most of the 8th Cavalry’s 1st Battalion back down the road to Yongdong, but the North Koreans re-took the position and cut off a mixed force of American units that now had to re-open the path to safety.
This time the Americans could not break through the North Korean roadblock, and they abandoned their heavy weapons (including seven tanks) and set out across the hills on foot. Most of the cavalrymen made it back to their lines unscathed but, aside from their personal weapons, unarmed. The North Koreans took Yongdong, but at the cost of heavy casualties, most of them inflicted by artillery.
This one’s going to be tough on the Americans, with a long way to go through Indian Country – and they’re outnumbered and out-moraled by the defenders. They do have good artillery support, but their cute little Chaffee tanks are no match for the T-34/85’s.
Hadong Road Junction
27 July 1950
The 19th Infantry Regiment had been reconstituted with two infantry battalions urgently shipped to Korea from Okinawa. Leaving behind all but their toiletries and the clothes on their back, and including hundreds of new recruits, the two battalions received brand-new weapons on the docks in Pusan. From there they were immediately sent to the front, with no time granted to test-fire the guns and mortars or even to clean off the packing grease. The new battalions’ senior officers protested, but Eighth Army assistant chief of staff Col. Allan D. MacLean – the same meddling micro-manager who had deployed the 1st Cavalry’s battalions so disastrously in front of Yongdong – refused to hear them out. Unaware of the state of his new battalions, the 19th’s commander, Col. Ned Moore, promptly sent one of them forward to seize the town of Hadong. The former ROK Army Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Chae Byung Duk, had appeared at Moore’s headquarters and pressed on him the urgency of securing the town, offering to guide the Americans there himself. With the ROK general in the lead, the absolutely green Americans set out for Hadong.
The Americans and North Koreans opened fire simultaneously, but the Americans took the worst of it, with Chae instantly killed by machine-gun fire and most of the battalion staff falling wounded. Intense close-range firefights developed on either side of the road, until the wounded American battalion commander told his men to fall back. The withdrawal did not go well, with many men becoming lost and some drowning in a fast-moving stream. The Air Force forward air controller apparently went berserk and attacked the North Koreans with a carbine, killing many before falling dead himself.
The Americans’ stated goal to make it up the road forces them to continue up the road until the Norks attack them, but otherwise doesn’t really matter in terms of victory. Once the North Koreans open fire, the scenario becomes a a close-quarters brawl with each side out to inflict casualties on the other.
And that concludes the fourth segment.
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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.