Golden Journal No. 49:
Our Golden Journal is pretty much a designer’s playground, where we get to publish unusual, gonzo stuff that might not be quite right for the general wargaming public (like a Napoleonic-era Byzantine Empire). For Golden Journal No. 49: Storm Division, I decided to stick to a straight historical approach, giving the Gold Club some additional pieces and scenarios from the fighting just north-east of Ponyri Station during the Battle of Kursk in early July.
Panzer Grenadier: Kursk Burning Tigers has a brief chapter highlighting the actions of the German 78th Storm Division, with three scenarios and a battle game. I decided to delve into that fight more thoroughly in the Journal, and added six more plus a new battle game to tie all nine scenarios together. These are all battles that really happened.
The Golden Journal is an exclusive for members of our Gold Club, which means it’ll only ever be seen by the hard core of dedicated players. So I usually feel less constrained about pulling in pieces from other games to construct scenarios for the Journal. I didn’t need to do that this time to build the scenarios as I wished; all of them are playable with the Journal plus Burning Tigers alone. Let’s have a look at them.
6 July 1943
The village of Protasova, by itself, had little to no strategic value, without a road junction and no high ground. But it did stand between the 78th Storm Division and its objective of Maloarkhangelsk, a town that did host a crucial road junction. Seizing that junction would go far to protect the left flank of the German divisions assaulting Ponyri Station in what would become a grinding, exhausting battle. But first, the Storm Division had to get through Protasova.
Despite the Storm Division’s title, it wasn’t really built for storming things. The fighting for Protasova took most of the morning, as the German infantry had to clear each individual house of its stubborn defenders. The Storm Division eventually secured the village, but the fighting would be even tougher before it could take Maloarkhangelsk.
The Storm Division is on the attack, and while they have firepower on their side, the Red Army is in no mood to yield ground. The Soviets have a very strong position, good artillery support and the will to hold on.
6 July 1943
Before the Storm Division could gather itself to advance out of Protasova, it found itself on the receiving end of an assault. The Soviet 13th Army had no intention of yielding its positions around Ponyri Station, and committed fresh reserves and copious artillery fire to restore its positions. That included the shattered village of Protasova.
The Storm Division was much better at defending than it was at storming, and held its ground against a determined Soviet attack. The Soviets took about half of the village, but in a repeat of the morning’s house-to-house fighting the Storm Division took it back, using its anti-tank guns to smash enemy-occupied houses at point-blank range. By evening the Storm Division could declare Protasova secure, but it was no closer to Maloarkhangelsk.
The Soviets come back, with plenty of artillery fire and stout morale, but the Storm Division was built for this very mission. It’s going to be tough to knock them out of their positions, but the Soviet side has plenty of force to get that done.
Drive on Lunika
7 July 1943
Night fell with Protasova in German hands, and in the morning the 78th Storm Division attempted to resume the drive on Maloarkhangelsk. The first milestone would be the nearby village of Lunika, itself strongly-held by well-prepared Soviet troops. The attack went forward shortly after dawn, heralded by a heavy artillery bombardment.
The German advance barely got out of Protasova, and never even approached their objective. The Soviets smothered the slow-moving attackers with artillery fire, giving them little opportunity to bring up their massive firepower to overwhelm the defending infantry. In the afternoon, the Soviets would return to their own attack.
This time we have the Germans attacking and the Soviets conducting a very active defense – in other words, they’re attacking them right back. It makes for an unusual scenario, with both players having the sort of objectives that usually are only held by one side or the other.
8 July 1943
Like a bloody whirlpool, the grinding battle for Ponyri Station inexorably drew nearby formations closer and closer. While the 78th Storm Division kept most of its focus to the east and north-east as it tried to gain a flank guard position, Ninth Army ordered it to also take Hill 257, a rise directly in front of the Storm Division’s far right flank that had so far defied the neighboring 86th Infantry Division.
The Storm Division successfully stormed Hill 257, aided by plenty of artillery fire and additional assault guns (described in some accounts as “tanks”). The Soviets awaited them on the opposite side of the hill. Direct fire from the 837th Artillery Regiment claimed 23 tanks destroyed, but for the moment, the Germans held the high ground.
David Glantz writes clearly (in Soviet Defense Tactics at Kursk) that 78th Storm Division conducted this attack, but other secondary sources indicate that it was 86th Infantry Division. We gave it to the Storm Division, because this is a Storm Division scenario set, and it’s a tough one. If they can take the hill, they’ll be exposed to a lot of Soviet field guns firing at them over open sights.
Back to Hill 257
8 July 1943
While the Storm Division tried to fend off 74th Rifle Division’s attack on its left flank, Col. I.F. Gorbunov of the 1021st Rifle Regiment brought up the battalion he’d held in reserve for just this eventuality. Covered by the field guns of 837th Artillery Regiment, they stormed up the reverse slope of Hill 257 to take it back from the Storm Division.
Gorbunov’s attack ejected the Germans from the rise, giving cover once again to the artillery positions behind it. But even as the Soviet infantrymen seemed within reach their prize, new and even more furious German attacks on Ponyri Station a few hundred meters to their south-west drew everyone’s attention away from this relative sideshow. The Storm Division held onto the heights as night fell.
The Soviets charge up the hill with a lot of direct-fire artillery right behind them; the Storm Division meets them with all of that infantry firepower (but have not managed to drag their anti-tank guns up the hill just yet).
Those Deadly Hills
9 July 1943
Having taken Hill 257, the Storm Division next moved to secure Hill 253 a few hundred meters to its south. The meat-grinder of Ponyri Station continued to churn, and possession of this rise would keep Soviet reinforcements from approaching the station from the east. By this point, both sides had suffered heavy losses, with the remaining troops thoroughly exhausted. But accompanied by the six remaining Ferdinand tank destroyers, the Storm Division went forward again.
While the Storm Division took the hilltop, allowing the Germans to bring the road from Maloarkhangelsk to Ponyri Station under direct fire, the Soviets had poured in fresh troops from the southern approach. A Guards Airborne division and another tank brigade moved up to aid 307th Rifle Division at the ruined station along with an armored train. But while the Soviets had fresh divisions to feed into the slaughterhouse, the Germans did not.
The Storm Division is called on to storm again, but they’re tiring out and the Soviets seem to just keep getting more artillery support every day. Once again, we see that the Storm Division probably should have been named the Vertidigungsdivision, but that’s not nearly as evocative as “Storm Division.”
The Golden Journal is only available to the Gold Club (that’s why we call it the Golden Journal).
Click here to join the Gold Club.
See your Gold Club Insider newsletter for ordering information.
Sign up for our newsletter right here. Your info will never be sold or transferred; we'll just use it to update you on new games and new offers.
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.
Want to keep Daily Content free of third-party ads? You can send us some love (and cash) through this link right here.