South Flank Preview:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
For reasons unremembered by me, we never finished posting the scenario previews for Panzer Grenadier: Kursk, South Flank. That wasn’t the best plan: this fifth and final section includes most of the Prokhorovkha scenarios, you know, the ones with gigantic tank battles that are going to sell the game.
Here they are. You can see the other previews here, here, here and here.
11 July 1943
With its left flank finally secured, II SS Panzer Corps’ headquarters still believed a breakthrough was imminent. Both of Death’s Head Division’s Panzergrenadier regiments were ordered to reorient themselves to support the drive on Prokhorovka. Eicke Regiment was to advance along the north bank of the Psel River while Thule Regiment advanced adjacent to them on the south bank. The one fly in the ointment was the division of battle-proven Guardsmen facing them.
Thule made no progress at all on the north side of the river. Things were somewhat better on the south side where Eicke managed to secure Vasil’evka. Fortunately that was as far as they could advance, which left 1st SS Lifeguard Division exposed to heavy enfilade fire as they themselves moved forward.
This is an infantry scenario; mostly infantry anyway, as the SS have just one assault gun platoon and it probably won’t last long in the face of three deadly 76.2mm batteries and a 57mm anti-tank gun. The Germans have artillery on their side, but the Soviets have good numbers and are prepared to defend. The German bar for victory is set high here and it will be tough to meet.
The Day the Tigers Died
11 July 1943
Manpower shortages had become critical, and SS Reich Division was ordered to use the bare minimum to guard the corps’ open right flank. All other available forces were to clear out Ivanovskii Vyselok and push on until Vinogradovka was secured. The “Germany” Regiment was pulled out of line to spearhead the attack supported by the few panzers available. With the lack of infantry, a great deal of pressure would fall on the division’s Tiger company.
Ivanovskii Vyselok was secured, but stiffening Soviet defenses made further gains impossible and ensured that Vinogradovka remained safely in Soviet hands. The major story of the day was the carnage inflicted on the Tiger company. Early in the fighting the company commander was wounded in the arm, leaving command to Hauptsturmfurher Lorenz who perished a few hours later. The strength reports at day’s end show no Tigers remaining battle-worthy from the thirteen that had taken the field at dawn, and none would be available the next day.
Things get pretty intense as both sides pour armor, infantry and masses of support weapons into a very tiny space. The Tigers are impressive beasts, but in these close quarters they can’t avoid the swarms of angry RKKA riflemen and their 76.2mm close-support artillery.
They’ll Take Your Life
11 July 1943
Corps commander SS Obergruppenfueher Paul Hausser had supreme confidence in his men. As the best the master race had to offer, he felt once the orders were given there was nothing they could not accomplish. Today he expected a depleted 1st SS Lifeguard Division to secure both Storozhevoe and Iamki in addition to cutting the Prokhorovka-Oboian road. Once that was accomplished they were to proceed to Prokhorovka. All this had to be achieved against overwhelming odds.
Despite Soviet spoiling attacks against both German flanks, the fury of the German attack quickly drove the Soviets back to the Oktiabr’skii State Farm. There the Soviets managed to stall the attack, and a German call went out for assistance. Rushing to the scene were the Tiger company and recon battalion of Lifeguard Division plus other units. With the additional manpower, both Oktibr’skii State Farm and Storozhevoe were soon subdued. Major D.I. Borskin, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 26th Guards Airborne Regiment, claimed that the German soldiers assaulting the state farm had been supplied a liberal amount of schnapps. Despite or because of this, his battalion was driven from the farm.
This is a big scenario, with lots of tanks battling it out amid hordes of infantry and dangerous anti-tank guns. And then fresh waves of tanks pour onto the board – this is one of those classic wargame moments to remind you why you play these things.
12 July 1943
Shortly before 0800 hours, 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment advanced north from Oktiabr’skii State Farm under the Luftwaffe’s blanket of protection. Waiting there was a well-dug-in elite regiment of enemy paratroopers. When the advance finally resumed, a deep purple haze began filling the air.
The panzer regiment had already started to exploit the grenadiers’ success when the purple smoke appeared. It was the Luftwaffe dropping purple flares to warn of approaching enemy armor. According to Rudolf von Ribbentrop they were “all along the crest . . . farther right at the railroad embankment.” It was apparent a major counterattack had commenced. The Zugführer of an armored halftrack gun platoon reported “They were around us, on top of us and between us. We fought man to man . . . lobbing magnetic hollow-charge grenades at the enemy tanks, leaping on our Schützenpanzerwagen to take on any enemy vehicle or man we spotted. At 0900 hours the battlefield was once again firmly in our hands . . . greatly helped by panzers . . . my company alone had destroyed fifteen Soviet tanks.” First SS Lifeguard Division displayed a tactical mastery over their adversaries. The Soviet 170th Tank Brigade lost half its armor as well as its commander during the fighting. For the day, the Lifeguards claimed (and declassified Soviet documents support) 192 enemy tanks destroyed against loses of fewer than 40 tanks. They captured 292 prisoners and admitted to 48 killed, 321 wounded and five missing.
This is another massive tank battle approaching “throw all the pieces in the box onto the board” size: 20 tank platoons for the Germans, 36 for the Soviets. The Germans are on the attack, but both sides have copious artillery support plus air power and both are going to have to be aggressive to win.
Struggle at Storozhevoe
12 July 1943
The day dawned hot and muggy, foreshadowing the heavy thunderstorms that would develop later. This would work against the combatants, especially the tired SS men who had been fighting constantly for over a week. The first order of business today was the securing of Storozhevoe. Once that was accomplished the northward advance was to resume until Iamki had fallen.
After forcing the Soviets out of Storozhevoe, 1st SS Lifeguard Division left a small garrison there and then sent the majority its forces northward. The Soviets promptly counterattacked and reoccupied the village, and then the Germans promptly counterattacked again to regain the village in seesaw fighting that lasted all day.
The Germans have a force of mostly infantry in this mid-sized scenario, with some armor support, but the Soviets bring many tanks to the table in an effort to eject the Germans.
With Reckless Abandon
12 July 1943
The “Germany” Regiment’s records state they were attacked with a reckless abandon the moment they started their own attack. Complicating matters for them was the fact that Colonel A. K. Brazhnikov's 4th Guards Tank Brigade was spearheading the counterattack, and as a commander Brazhnikov had few equals on either side. The only saving grace for the Germans was that 2nd Guards Tank Corps had been whittled down to 120 tanks in the previous days fighting.
The Soviets drove right through the “Germany” Regiment's 3rd Battalion and overwhelmed the 1st Battalion. They then pushed aside 1st Battalion of Der Führer Regiment and reached Iasnaia Poliana itself. Much cursing in II SS Panzer Corps HQ did little to help the situation, but the reinforcements sent by SS Reich Division did. They reported driving the enemy from the field despite heavy losses. Unknown to the Germans, heavy rain and events farther south had forced the Soviets to pull 26th Guards Tank Brigade out of the fight and send it south immediately.
Once again, we bring the tank battle: 16 Germans, 29 Soviets. The German will pray for rain, which will cause some of those tanks to veer off the board to another sector. Otherwise, this is another of those true-wargaming classic encounters.
Do or Die
12 July 1943
Things looked grim for II SS Panzer Corps as its advance south of the Psel River had stopped and been thrown back. That left all German hopes for Operation Citadel resting squarely on Death’s Head Division’s advance north of the river. On the previous day, when the defenders of the two nations’ ideologies had squared off, the Guardsmen had prevailed. The Germans understood there was no tomorrow, and ordered every man and machine available into the fight.
The fury of the German attack drove the Soviets from Hill 226.6 in just an hour, all but destroying the depleted 52nd Guards Rifle Division in the process. Ninety-fifth Guards Rifle Division fared little better but managed to retain their integrity. It appeared to the men at the front that despite the Soviet Union’s best efforts, the blitzkrieg was unstoppable. Meanwhile, Stavka had matured enough to know that today’s breakthrough was not a strategic disaster but only a tactical setback. That evening, forces were already moving forward to counter any threat tomorrow might bring.
The Nazi hordes fling waves of tanks at a genuine Soviet PAKfront: line after line of potent 76.2mm guns, plus lighter anti-tank guns and, to shoot up the large number of German half-tracks, plenty of anti-tank rifle platoons. The timetable’s pretty short here so the Germans are going to have to move fast if they want to win.
Watching Those Old Raindrops Fall
12 July 1943
Elements of the Red Army’s 29th Tank Corps rolled over the German recon detachment sent to stop them, and continued on unmolested towards the Komsomolets State Farm. Just before reaching their goal they surprised some artillery batteries that quickly took up the challenge.
Upon breaking though the German recon battalion’s positions, 53rd Motorized Rifle Brigade raced southward. This much is agreed upon by both sides. German sources speak of driving the intruders back northward while Soviet sources claim increasingly heavy rain made a withdrawal to more secure positions advisable. That explanation doesn't ring true, as it seems strange to just abandon hard-won positions due to rain.
The Soviets get a maul a smaller German force, matching T34’s against armored cars, but the path to victory is steep and they’re going to have to do a lot of mauling to win. Even so, it’s always a good thing to make Nazis cry.
12 July 1943
The Germans still felt confident of success on the night of the 11th, and the next day would see 1st SS Lifeguard Division trying to provide enough artillery support for Death’s Head Division to advance far enough to cover the Lifeguards’ exposed left flank. Hopefully, the Soviets could then be leveraged from Prokhorovka without any costly urban fighting. Advancing south of the Psel River around noon, Death’s Head ran into more than it bargained for.
The Germans rolled over the weary 11th Motorized Rifle Brigade, and things went their way until Soviet armor entered the fray around noon. By 1800 hours, Soviet tankers including the 170th Tank Brigade that had been savaged by 1st SS Lifeguard Division earlier in the day entered Vasil’evka. With the situation rapidly deteriorating, the panzergrenadiers called for assistance. The Tiger Company responded promptly and drove the Soviets all the way back to Andreevka.
The Germans are trying to eject the Soviets from a long, narrow piece of property, but the Red Army of Workers and Peasants is having none of it. Until the Tigers appear.
Dueling with Death’s Head
13 July 1943
After netting Polezhaev on the 12th, Death’s Head Division was ordered to cut the Prokhorovka-Kartashevka road on the 13th. It was a tall order, as both of the division’s flanks were hanging open and the Soviets had deployed significant armor reinforcements during the night. Nevertheless, the concentration camp guards felt confident in their own superiority and moved forward undaunted by mere facts.
Despite massive Soviet reinforcements, Death’s Head Division managed to reach and secure a good portion of the Prokhorovka-Kartashevka road before noon. Unfortunately for them it was all for naught, as with SS Lifeguard Division unable to advance Death’s Head was forced to recall its panzers later due to mounting pressure on both its flanks. However, Death’s Head had at least reinforced its misguided belief in its own superiority by performing extremely well.
Huge forces jammed into a tight space make for intense combat action. The tanks can’t hide from each other here, but neither can the Tigers stand off and use their long range to advantage.
13 July 1943
The leaders of both sides knew the outcome of Operation Citadel was a foregone conclusion, but to those on the battlefield the issue remained in doubt. While the German steamroller had been slowed it had not been stopped, and the Soviets had suffered horrendous loses on the 12th without inflicting comparable losses themselves. Field Marshall Erich von Mainstein and General Hausser firmly believed they were on the verge of a great victory, and ordered 1st SS Lifeguard Division forward at noon. After a short advance they were stopped, and soon the Soviets took to the attack
As soon as the men of Lifeguard Division attempted to move forward, they were heavily engaged by the defenders. Ignoring mounting causalities, they inched forward as best they could. They finally managed to secure one small hill before they were counterattacked, and finally reported ". . . this enemy attack collapsed at our main battle line." After the previous day’s shellacking, the Soviet celebration lasted well into the night.
I can’t believe I let that scenario title slip through the editing process; Hendrix is one thing, but you have to draw the line somewhere. And it’s attached to a very fine scenario, where the Germans come on the board to attack the Soviets only to find themselves out-gunned by the Red Army’s tankers and thrown onto the defensive.
13 July 1943
Upon learning of Death’s Head Division’s unsuccessful attempt to move forward, corps command ordered 1st SS Lifeguard Division forward. As the panzers advanced from the Oktiabr’skii State Farm, Lifeguard’s recon battalion moved north along the Psel River. Their objective was to establish secure contact with Death’s Head. They advanced unmolested until reaching Mikhailovka.
At Mikhailovka, the Soviets ambushed the weary recon men. According to General P A Rotmistrov, at a distance of 500 to 600 meters the Soviets opened fire and destroyed many enemy tanks. The 80th Guards Mortar Regiment then let loose a volley which “always instilled terror in the Fascists.” The Germans were forced to leave their dead and destroyed vehicles behind as the 18th Tank Corps drove them back. General Rotmistrov claims the enemy was driven all the way back into Vasil’evka, but this is not borne out by the facts.
And we end with a small scenario, as a Soviet tank brigade shoot sup a German recon battalion. The Germans can win just by hanging on, so the Red Army will want to put them hurt on them early and often.
And that wraps the scenario set for Kursk: South Flank.
Play the game! Order South Flank right now!
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.