Scenario Preview, Part One
Back in the last century, a ghost-wrote a memoir by a World War II veteran, a member of the 3rd Armored Division, who among other things told me how it came to be called “Spearhead.”
Those first Spearhead emblems only came into use in the weeks after the end of combat in Europe, as the troops relaxed and engaged in barroom fistfights with airborne troopers. When I had the opportunity, I decided that Panzer Grenadier needed a special set of pieces showing Spearhead units in their own color scheme, with that original symbol. And a book telling the Spearhead story, with scenarios so those Spearhead pieces could get more play.
Mike Perryman provided 25 scenarios for the book, and developers Matt Ward and Daniel Rouleau added five “battle games” to tie them together. Let’s look at the first chapter of Spearhead Division. You can see the rest in Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.
First Battle of the West Wall
The first Allied encroachment into German territory occurred near Aachen. As the Americans closed in on the city, the First Army staff decided to try to move around the city from the south and then isolate it by driving north, to the east of the city. As the first German city to face the threat of Allied occupation, American commanders expected that the Germans would fight desperately to defend Aachen.
In reality, the city was virtually undefended and the careful maneuvering to the south and east of the city permitted the Germans to move in units such as the 12th Infantry Division and replacements (especially for the 116th Panzer Division) which kept the Allies from capturing the city in mid-September.
Breaching the West Wall
13 September 1944
Though undermanned, the West Wall (also called the Siegfried Line) presented a significant obstacle to the advancing Allies. To make matters worse there were signs that the German Army was recovering from the summer's disasters and making a concentrated effort to fully man the West Wall before the Allies could rectify their supply problems and mount a proper attack. So on September 13th, despite a worrying low gasoline reserve, the Americans went forward.
Task Force Doan's first attack had been beaten back until the afternoon, when the Americans discovered a dirt road that had been filled in by locals because the dragon's teeth had been too difficult for them to traverse with their wagons. The tanks quickly exploited this opportunity but the infantry was unable to follow due to heavy small-arms fire. Another nest of pillboxes was soon discovered and the cover there allowed German infantry to work close to the Americans and destroy four of the tanks. The Americans endured more bad luck when the 394th Stumgeschütz Brigade chanced upon them while seeking to engage Task Force Lovelady. The assault guns quickly destroyed six more tanks, leaving the task force with only half of its original twenty. A call went out for assistance and soon two more platoons of Third Division tanks and a battalion from the First Infantry Division were on their way to help. In heavy fighting the Americans were able to push through the strongpoint and reach Nuetheim.
Spearhead needs to fight its way up a long, narrow battlefield against a deeply entrenched enemy. Numbers, firepower and morale are on the side of the Americans, but the Germans get some reinforcing armor support and they do have a strong position.
Enter the Buffaloes
16 September 1944
During the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa, the swift advance of the Twelfth Infantry Division had earned them the nickname “Wild Buffaloes.” In July 1944 the division had been destroyed while fighting on the Eastern Front. Pulled back to reform in August, the division returned to full strength. In addition to the new conscripts, a surprisingly large number of men assumed to be lost in Russia worked their way back to the unit. Their arrival gave the division 12,800 men, more than the tables of organization directed. In addition, another 2,000 men trained in three replacement battalions. As one of the German Army’s few full-strength units, the 12th Infantry Division rushed to the Aachen area to restore a rapidly deteriorating situation.
German battle plans called for the 12th Infantry Division to be committed as a complete unit in order to take maximum advantage of its combat power. Instead the troops were thrown into battle piecemeal, with the 27th Fusilier Regiment thrown into combat as soon as they arrived. Nevertheless the regiment’s two battalions had a huge effect on the day's fighting, evicting lead elements of the Big Red One from Verlautenheide, stopping Task Force Lovelady at Weissenburg and contributing to Task Force Doan's troubles.
This is a larger scenario, with the Americans once again on the attack in the face of bad weather, fortifications and ammunition shortages. Compounding their troubles, at some point the Germans will receive strong, full-strength infantry reinforcements to restore their positions or eject the Americans from those that have fallen.
17 September 1944
On realizing that his task force would not reach its objective of Schneidmühle, Col. Leander Doan pulled his infantry back for the night. After regrouping overnight, the colonel ordered his men to resume their attack on Schneidmühle in the morning. Around 0500 those orders were superseded by the Germans.
The Germans pressed home their attack and almost succeeded. Companies B and C saw the German spearhead wedge between them and come within fifty yards of the battalion command post. The Americans then stabilized the situation and according to Lt. Col. William Orr, “even the more hardened of (the) machine-gunners became literally sick at the way they had to mow the lines of men down.”
This time it’s the Germans on the attack, with a large and fresh force of infantry with a little artillery but no armor. The Americans have the weather working for them this time and a little bit of armored support (a very little bit), but still face ammunition shortages.
17 September 1944
With Task Force Lovelady bogged down, Third Armored Division’s staff sent Task Force Mills to take the high ground near Duffenter. This would allow American forward observers an unobstructed view of Stolberg from the east. Already short of infantry due to their tank-heavy organization, the Spearhead Division had been worn down to about half of its armored strength over four days of heavy fighting. Sending two task forces into combat meant that CCB had little reserve if things went wrong.
The dawn attack against the infantry of CCA started things off badly for the Americans, but the division staff ordered them forward anyway. Soon both Task Forces were under heavy fire and unable to advance. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hogan gathered up what few remaining men and machines he could find and tried to advance on Lovelady's right. It made no difference as the American forward progress was agonizingly slow. While all this was going on a probing attack by the Wild Buffaloes also failed to advance. The Germans reorganized themselves in some woods and managed to surround Company E from the Second Battalion of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment and scattered those they didn't capture. Only four men made in back to friendly lines during the fighting. The Germans still controlled Weissenberg and most of the high ground at the end of the day. Each side suffered enormous casualties during the fighting and both were eager to end aggressive action.
This is a big scenario, with two American attacking forces advancing against the combination of fortifications and low-grade defenders seen in previous scenarios of this chapter. The Americans have a lot of armor in this one, though the Germans get some too, and they get some help from the Army Air Force. But then a huge herd of Wild Buffaloes storms onto the map, and things get hectic.
Battle for the Supplies
18 September 1944
After the heavy fighting of the last two days the 12th Infantry Division’s staff informed their corps headquarters that the division no longer had the strength for full-scale attacks. Not only had loses in riflemen been high but their heavy weapons still had yet to arrive. With the Wild Buffaloes stopping and in some places throwing the Americans back, the Spearhead Division’s drive to the Roer River halted for the time being. This did not mean all offensive action had been canceled as First Army ordered some German supply dumps located around Weissenberg captured or destroyed.
With the American effort winding down for the time being the records are not as detailed as usual. Some supply dumps the Germans had desperately wanted to keep fell to the Americans but whether all of them did is open to question as is the exact composition of the opposing forces.
It seems every set of scenarios we published, whether in a book or a boxed game, has to have this sort of odd scenario. In this case the Americans are trying to find hidden supply dumps and blow them up; the Germans are trying to stop them.
18 September 1944
With both sides trying to buy time to recover from the heavy fighting, neither planned much aggressive action. Whether by design or due to overzealous local commanders, the heaviest fighting in the sector took place in and around a small hamlet named Diepenlinchen. The Germans started the day off by driving off the infantry company holding Diepenlinchen and quickly setting up their defenses.
The afternoon was growing short when the Americans had gathered enough troops for a go at Diepenlinchen. The first effort was repulsed but a second effort was able to drive the Germans out of the town. This enable a number of men from C Company of the 26th Infantry’s First Battalion who had been captured in the earlier fighting to not have to spend the night in captivity. Shortly after dark the German launched a fair-sized effort to regain the town but it was turned back after some anxious moments for the defenders.
Small forces on both sides, with the Germans trying to hold their ground and the Americans trying to coordinate troops from two different divisions. While the weather had improved, the Americans still haven’t managed to get adequate ammunition supplies to the front – according to an old Spearhead vet, the officer in charge was too drunk to recall where the reserve stockpile had been stashed.
19 September 1944
While the drive to the Roer River had been suspended, the fighting around Stolberg resumed its former fevered pitch after a brief lull. With the defense to the east of Stolberg proving able to stand up to all that was being thrown at them, Third Armored Division shifted its focus to Munsterbusch. Defending the area were a number of older reservists who entered combat wearing the uniforms they’d brought home from the Great War. These troops manned the West Wall fortifications while the Luftwaffe’s Seventh Flak Division supplied a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Mobile defense was provided by tanks from the 105th Panzer Brigade and 9th Panzer Division.
Again an early morning German attack put the Americans behind schedule. It was well past noon before the Americans moved forward in force. They reached but did not enter Munsterbusch before darkness curtailed operations for the day. Ninth Panzer Division characterized the fighting as severe in its after action report.
There’s a lot of ground in play, but the forces involved are not overwhelmingly huge. The Americans have air support and a lot of armor; the Germans have less armor but it is mostly of high potency. That balances out the large contingent of un-enthusiastic Landesschützen militiamen in the German ranks.
And that’s the first chapter.
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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 a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and new puppy. He misses his lizard-hunting Iron Dog, Leopold.
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