Dishonor Before Death:
Scenario Preview, Part Four
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
December 2020

I don’t like playing very large games myself, since I tend to ignore the parts of the game board outside my immediate view and only pay attention to what’s right in front of me. So a game where everything’s right in front of me, like a Panzer Grenadier scenario with just one or two maps in play, is a very welcome thing. To play.

They’re much harder to design. The huge scenarios with lots of maps and scads of pieces are forgiving of mistakes; one extra piece here or there won’t make that much difference. When you only have ten of them, you need them all.

Panzer Grenadier: Dishonor Before Death has thirty scenarios, and all of them are relatively small: just one or two maps in play, usually a battalion’s worth of units. Let’s take a look at some more of them:

Chapter Four
Fresh Formations
Just to the east of the VII Corps sector, the American XIX Corps pressed its attack over the Vire River and into the dense bocage terrain. The Iowa National Guard’s 113th Cavalry Group, the “Red Horse Cavalry,” had so far seen only limited action in Normandy when the corps staff used it to lead the attack along with Combat Command A of the 3rd “Spearhead” Armored Division. Both formations were well-equipped and well-trained, having been activated years before, but no amount of training could replace the hard-won lessons of actual combat.

Scenario Thirteen
Red Horse Cavalry
8 July 1944
The 113th Cavalry Group took five and a half hours to cross the Vire-Taute Canal using a bridge captured by the 120th Infantry Regiment, finally assembling at 0200. The cavalry would cover the right flank of the 30th Infantry Division, and advance westward to cut off a German force between the canal and the Taute River. The inexperienced cavalry lacked the firepower for infantry combat, but XIX Corps believed the area held only by a battalion of former Soviet prisoners of war who would eagerly desert their Nazi overlords. The enemy they actually encountered was only slightly more capable.

American intelligence had identified a “639th Ost Battalion” in the line, a unit the U.S. Army’s official history describes as made up of Polish and Russian recruits but one that appears not to have actually existed. Instead the cavalry found a regiment of SS militia who, though not particularly good troops, offered stouter resistance than the unwilling foreign “volunteers.” Before advancing a mile, the cavalry encountered heavy resistance and fell back to Le Mesnil-Veneron. Once back into the town they parked many of their vehicles and the men dismounted to fight as infantry for the rest of the afternoon. By 1600 the advance had petered out.

The Americans are attacking, with a recon force not really suited to an offensive in dense terrain. Leading off with mechanized cavalry was a poor decision by XIX Corps commander Charles Corlett; they might have swept away the “Ost” troops they were expected to meet but the enemy has a say in war, too.

Scenario Fourteen
Tank Scare
11 July 1944
With the Americans gaining the upper hand in the fighting for the high ground around St. Jean de Daye, the Germans desperately needed to retake it or be forced to fall back once again. Spearhead’s Combat Command A had taken positions on the hills above Le Desert. While considered a well-trained division, 3rd Armored’s CCA had only seen actual combat at Villiers Fossard in late June. To lead the German effort the fresh Panzer Lehr launched a major effort through Le Desert to take St. Jean de Daye. To their east the under-trained and ill-equipped 15th Parachute Regiment with some armor from 2nd SS Panzer went forward as well.

According to the Spearhead division history, “Here a tank scare on July 11 upset division forward elements and caused some confusion. The counterattack was thrown back after enemy paratroopers worked into division positions under a hail of automatic fire and artillery air bust.” It goes on to credit the veteran 9th Infantry Division who they would soon be supporting with showing them how to retain their efficiency under enemy fire.

These are the early days of the Spearhead Division’s combat record, and they’re not very good yet. Fortunately, they’re mostly facing “paratroopers” who aren’t any better. The Americans have no tanks and have to fend off hordes of attacking Nazis.

Scenario Fifteen
Veteran Militia
13 July 1944
After nearly five years of constant warfare, even the SS party militia had gained a great deal of combat experience, though often at a profligate cost in lives. And so, despite woeful manpower shortages German formations of both the actual armed forces and the party militia often included a cadre of battle-hardened combat veterans. That often allowed them to put up bitter resistance long past the point when they should have collapsed and fled the battlefield.

The German tanks blunted the American advance, destroying three Shermans and scattering the supporting infantry. The American tankers did not yet have the experience of the battle-tested German crews, survivors of the harsh battlefields of the Eastern Front. But they would learn, and become survivors themselves.

It’s a tank battle, and the Americans have plenty of Shermans but this time the SS militia is pretty tough. The Americans have to fight their way past, and that Panther tank is going to be a problem if they can’t swarm it with Shermans in the dense terrain.

And that’s Chapter Four. Next time, it’ll be Chapter Five.

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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published countless books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold is a good dog.