D-Day Behind the Beaches
Airborne - IE #21
|(Defender) Germany||vs||United States (Attacker)|
|Germany||91st Air Landing Division|
|United States||12th "Red Warriors" Infantry Regiment|
|United States||4th "Ivy" Infantry Division|
|Overall Rating, 7 votes|
|Scenario Rank: 343 of 586|
|Parent Game||Airborne - IE|
|Visibility||Day & Night|
|Layout Dimensions||43 x 28 cm
17 x 11 in
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|Airborne - IE||maps + counters|
About two weeks before the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, after months of preparation, Allied airborne planners realized that their drop plan just would not work. The plan was too ambitious; the drop zones were well beyond easy reinforcement from the landing beaches. Besides, intelligence had just learned that the German 91st Airlanding Division had just been posted to the proposed drop area. "Rommel's Asparagus" were popping up all over the Cotentin!
Consequently planners rushed to alter the plan to be a shorter cast. The new landing areas would have to be more easily reached by the forces coming up from the beaches and the paratroopers would have to be dropped in a better position to help to cover the invading troops from German counterattack from inland. After months memorizing every hedgerow, crossroads, bridge and identifiable enemy position in the central Cotentin, all that was now scrapped and a whole new set of objectives were hastily chosen.
Those objectives are familiar to the student of the American airborne invasion of Normandy today: Ste. Mere Eglise, Pouppeville, La Barquette, Manoir de la Fiere and many others. Like many of the Pacific islands at the time, few besides the local residents had ever heard of them. But soon, as with their Pacific cousins, that would change.
Because of the haste in which the plan had to be altered, mistakes were made. The most notably, despite some claims to the contrary today, the Allied planners had totally missed the fact that the Merderet Valley had been flooded. Photos taken from aircraft show the flooded areas as large grass fields next to the river. For a perfect example, see page 124 of "Utah Beach to Cherbourg" American Forces in Action Series Facsimile Reprint 1984 (Center of Military History, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.) The aerial photograph shows La Fiere causeway and bridge and the surrounding "fields". It is easy to see how the mistake was made after viewing this photograph.
The Germans had opened the locks in 1940 soon after occupying the area. The areas around the river bank had slowly filled and tall grass grew up through the shallow water making them look like grassy pastures from the air. This was not picked by Allied planners because they did not begin to study potential invasion areas until late 1942 and it wasn't until 1943, when the invasion plan was expanded, that the Merderet Valley was even looked at.
Consequently the 1st Battalion of Colonel Howard R. Johnson's 501st Regiment, 101st Airborne Division was assigned the mission of capturing the locks at La Barquette so that they could not be manipulated by the Germans to flood the already flooded Merderet Valley! In fact, when Col. Johnson's group arrived at the lock the first thing they did was check the lock's winding station to see if the equipment still worked.
Finding the Path
Other than the lock itself there are no other important terrain features in the immediate area of this section of the lower Douve River. There are no bridges, villages, causeways, crossroads, or battery positions in the area, nothing but the locks and a large swamp.
This seems to be proof that the Allied planners had no clue that the Merderet Valley was already flooded. How could the Merderet could be affected by a lock on the Douve? The Merderet is a tributary of the Douve and part of the same river system.
La Barquette Locks also controlled water flow into the Douve River and its estuary the "Prairies Marecageuses." Flooding here could potentially effect movement over the Carentan Causeway. This was a terrain feature airborne planners did know about. But they under estimated the time that the waters would take to rise in the Douve system, and thus overestimated the lock's tactical value. Even if Allied planners had a less hurried appraisal of La Barquette as a strategic and tactical objective it still may have been slated for capture because other than the bridges on the Carentan Causway it is the only other solid crossing of the lower Douve River.
Although no drop or landing zones were mistakenly planned for inundated areas, many were in close proximity to the floods. This, combined with intense flak, too-high air speeds, bad navigation and either early or late green jump lights in the transport planes, caused many hundreds of paratroopers to land not only off their mark, but in the drink - including 82nd Division Assistant Division Commander James Gavin.
All this happened despite the fact that for the first time the Allies were using specially trained "Pathfinders". Men who would drop before the main assault to mark the drop zones with special assembly lights that follow up troops could rally on. This came as a result from the widely scattered drops in North Africa and Sicily where men were scattered all over the map, making assembly the date from hell.
The problem was so bad in North Africa that when 2nd Lt. Dan A. DeLeo's Paratroopers of the 509th Battalion were dropped for a raid on the El Djem bridge not one reached their objective. In Sicily the situation improved but things were still terrible. The then-Col. James Gavin landed 20 miles from his objective and was not sure he was even on Sicily when he landed. His location was confirmed by an Italian prisoner who could only repeat "Mama Mia, Mama Mia" over and over again when, under questioning, Capt. Ben Vandervroort threatened to rearrange certain parts of his anatomy with a jump knife. Gavin did get to Biazzo Ridge in time to blunt a German counter attack by elements of the Herman Goring Panzer Division. But that is another story.
The problem with the Pathfinders was that they were not dropped any more accurately than anyone else. Some were on the mark, most were not. For some the light failed to work, some could not light their light due to the proximity of German troops. Some were lost. Some were killed. But most Pathfinders made the best of their situation (as did most troopers that night) and lit their lights were they could, figuring that the troops would have to gather wherever the light is, and they did.
Many troopers simply just ran into each other or the enemy in the dark in chance encounters that were often comical and sometimes deadly. General Maxwell Taylor, 101st Airborne Division commander, landed totally alone in a field. After milling around for a while and falling flat at every sound and shadow, he finally met up with a private who was equally spooked. Once they had identified each other, a process which had nearly caused both a cardiac arrest, they hugged, the private and the general, like old girl's-school chums at a class reunion. All of this occurring in the dead of night in the middle of a Normandy cow pasture.
Then there was Maj. Vaughn, the S-4 of the 101st's 502nd Regiment. He and Capt. Buker, the regimental S-2, had met Lt. Colonel Robert G. Cole, 3rd Battalion Commander, and some troopers. Discovering that they were more than five miles from their drop zone they set off toward their objective. As they moved along their numbers swelled. Not many of the men were from Cole's Battalion, there were even a few 82nd strays tagging along. After several hours they bumped into a German patrol and Vaughn was instantly killed. After years of training and preparation his combat life lasted only long enough to march several miles down a French lane.
Many didn't even get that far. They drowned in the swamps, entangled in their risers, loaded down with gear, and disoriented. They succumbed to waters that in daylight, under normal conditions, would not have been nearly as deadly. The first concern of those who did rise out of the swamps was to get to the nearest dry ground, regardless of the direction. Objectives could wait. In addition, the herding instinct took over and men tended to follow the crowd, wherever it went.
Despite the difficulties of the swamp, lost equipment bundles, missing and jump injured men, scattered drops, mixed units, and a few shrinking violets, the U.S. paratroopers won through. Throw in bad or no communications, and their achievement becomes even more impressive. In fact rumors were rampant on D-Day behind the beaches that the seaborne landings had not even taken place! No one including top airborne leaders knew if that was true or not until after daylight, when seaborne units appeared at places like the Pouppeville Exit. Even then it was just a "local" event. Lesser men of all ranks would have folded with the strain.
The Germans had their moments, too. Much is made about Lt. Turnbull's magnificent stand at Neuville-au-Plain, but at La Fiere just 24 Germans held off six separate but uncoordinated assaults before giving up the Manor grounds late on D-Day afternoon.
Both airborne divisions fought with a minimum of seaborne help for the first few days of the invasion. Some seaborne help did come up into the airborne areas of operation, but the heavy lifting was done by those troopers who had dropped, rose from the swamps, assembled, and moved on their objectives, regardless of all obstacles and despite friendly or enemy numbers.
U.S. airborne doctrine had units move on objectives without waiting to come to full strength. This worked out, as many objectives were taken by under-strength and mixed groups from all units. Because of the scattered nature of the drop and the multiple objectives, and the fact that the paratroopers usually fought the Germans where they found them, confused the German command as to just what the paratroopers were trying to accomplish.
It was not pretty, but the revised plan had worked. German batteries were destroyed, key terrain was occupied and held, and German counter thrusts were blunted.
Can players do as well with their "revised plan"?
No conclusion given.
This is a free scenario from AP: Behind the Beaches
PG-HQ Backup Copy: AirI021.pdf
|AFV Rules Pertaining to this Scenario's Order of Battle|
|7 Errata Items|
Two 105mms (ID#s 1204, 1205) have "16-31" fire values in black (direct fire), when they should be in white (indirect fire).
The reduced direct fire value of the Heer HMG became 5-5 starting with Fall of France.
(plloyd1010 on 2015 Jul 31)
The morale and combat modifiers of German Sergeant #1614 should be "0", not "8".
Strongpoints are single step units and can be eliminated with X results like any other single step unit.
The standard mix of strongpoints may be downloaded from Avalanche Press:
This is the standard mix found in Airborne, Airborne-IE, and Edelweiss Expanded. The strongpoint mix in Cassino '44 is different from that of other PG games.
(plloyd1010 on 2012 Feb 01)
Strongpoints are affected by the terrain in their hex just like any other unit.
Even though they can't move, they can attack using Assault Combat if an enemy unit moves into their hex.
They may not dig in or benefit from entrenchments.
(rerathbun on 2014 Apr 21)
The movement allowance on the counters in Airborne is misprinted. It should be "3."
(rerathbun on 2012 Jan 30)
|According to Plan|
This scenario has drawn me to it for some time now. The concept of the drop disruption, etc. was one that had a good feel to it and the gradual recovery of strength as "lost" paratroops found units rings true to the accounts of the drop. I therefore went in expecting a substantial amount of time between the drop and any positive movement by the Americans.
Imagine my surprise when only two platoons scattered, only three lost steps (two of which were recovered quickly) and the bulk of the American first drop was in coherent action only one and a half hours after the drop. Forget my surprise, consider the German surprise.
The Americans needed to knock out the 105 battery and take two towns on the inland side of the map. One of the towns was vacant and close by the drop zone. It was occupied by the Americans within one hour of their drop. What followed was a slow and grusome rooting out of various German units throughout the inland side of the causeway, highlighted by a German armored attack along the causeway which was successfully assaulted by the Americans and which left burning tanks and armored cars just beyond the inland exit.
This one was over only half way through as the Americans eliminated the battery through DF and took the final town needed for victory through an assault with just the airborne troops. The arriving troops of the seaborne assault would have found the causeway completely under American control and no impediment to a rapid movement inland.
The scenario itself and the special rules are quite interesting and a tremendous addition to the Airborne-IE game. Many of the other scenarios seem to hinge on close quarters fighting but miss the need for the airborne to collect themselves in some fashion prior to engaging the enemy. This one provides for a good deal of insight. I give it a "4".
|Patience with Paratroops|
The last scenario in Airborne that I need to play. Long holiday weekend make it a perfect chance. On initial look 96 turns seems like a multi-month project, but with this one the unit count is low so the turns move fast. As you have a variable start to the scenario, mine started at 3am.
The goal of the scenario is variable as well. I needed to have the Americans knockout an 105mm gun and hold two town hexes. Seems reasonable, but after the initial drop I fear this would be impossible, more on that later. For the Germans they must stop the Americans.
As for the setup the Germans have some specific hexes and some variable. Most setup in the towns and awaited the drop. Per the SSR, the Americans dropped in, rather all over the board. only two units made it to the drop zone. The others were all over the board, with 3 platoons off board to arrive later. Several were reduced and all disrupted or demoralized.
The Germans went on the offensive by capturing a 10-2-1 Captain that landed to close to the German towns, as well as German GREN's overrunning a reduce PARA platoon and chasing others into the swamps before the second group arrive. Most of the first was able to recover. The American Major gathered up troopers and start an attack on a pillbox in town 0412, eventually reducing it. Others gathered themselves up and waited for reinforcements.
The second "drop" were the gliders and this was a disaster too. Two PARA platoons destroyed as well as the supporting mortars. But they did land on the drop zone and as the Germans were chasing the survivors of the first drop had left the town next to it open. Dashing over to it the PARA's secured one objective as well as drawing back the Germans hunting the other units.
The Germans moved back to cover the open towns and set up a defense as they were now out numbered and dawn was fast approaching. This would mean that reinforcements would be on the way to try and crash the Americans. Shortly after 6:00 German motorcycle platoon and armor car appeared. They were dispatched to help defend the 105mm gun that American PARA units were inching toward. This stopped the American advance and they dugin to hold their positions and let other units recover troops as well as try to weed out some stubborn German troops.
About an hour later the other German reinforcements appeared and moved up to the gun position. This gave the Germans an edge at this point, so they went on the offensive to try to break the American hold on town 0604. The Americans had fortified it with a PARA HMG and PARA unit as well as good leader to give them a morale of 10. Tough to break. The Germans had the 105 plus HMG and armor car support. The first advance was stopped with disruption and demoralizations. The Germans continued the advances but were not able to make any gains.
To the south the Germans held town 0509 and the Americans were assaulting it. Two hours passed before the Germans disrupted, but a German leader managed to infiltrate the American assault and help recover the unit. By mid-day the scene was the same the Germans pushing in the west and holding in the center while the Americans were holding in the west and pushing in the center.
The last reinforcements arrived for the Americans. Linking the invasion forces with the airborne troops. This give the American tanks and OBA as well as some welcome infantry to push the assaults. These troops move to help the attack on 0510 and their presence is immediate. The M4's move into help the assault and they get a step loss on the GREN. The remnants demoralize and the German leader is killed. Soon they would be running and the Americans would take them prisoners.
Moving to the west the situation is a little more desperate for the Americans. During the time the PARA HMG was reduced on a double demoralization. This allowed for GREN's to move up but they could not assault as their leader demoralized. But heavy fire on the town was causing morale checks on very shot. An American infantry leader was moved up for OBA which stopped the German attack cold. INF platoons and the M4 followed.
The American PARA's had time to recover and the Germans time to setup a defense as now they were on the defensive. The Americans looked to destroy the German armor car so the M4 would have free reign but it back off and let the infantry hold the line. Regrouped PARA's move to the west to try to flank the town at 0803 but heavy fire from a 20mm AA gun stopped that. The the east the INF tried to work in through the hedgerows, but German fire stop that.
At this point night was falling on the scenario and the fight would be into the night. The Germans dugin to their positions around the 105mm gun. The Americans positioned for a fight to get the gun. Several American assault failed to break the German line and by midnight the Germans held the gun and the Americans lost two more platoons. In the end a German win.
Generally, I liked the scenario, but the one down side was all the SSR's required to play. In the beginning the game started slow as I needed to make sure I had understood the rules properly. It was also a bit disheartening when the Americans were almost wiped out when they dropped on the board. But once the game settled down into the PG rhythm, the scenario played out well. It is a good one to try once, possible solo, but as a FTF make sure both parties understand all the SSR's otherwise I can see a lot of time spent reviewing.
|D-Day Behind the Beachs or Pathfinders, Pathfinders. We don't need no stinkin Pathfinders|
The Axis setup the 105 battery + a Gren platoon + a Lt. in hex 0904. In addition 1 gren & 1Hmg (reduced) and a Lt in Hex 0506. The 20mm Flak battery and a Gren + a Capt. in 1013.
The Allied objectives were 1013-0613-0412. All on the same side of the river. Due to this victory condition the Allies chose 0615 as the assembly point. The drop went in 15 minutes late being scheduled for 0300. But the pathfinders were on target and the serials began to disgorge their cargos. The drop was somewhat scattered with two platoons landing on the far side of the river and a Para Hmg right on the causway. But everyone else landed on the north side of the river. Even if they were out of the drop zone they were in the general area and on the right side of the river and swamp. One of the two leaderless platoons on the south side of the river were eliminated by the Axis. The other took up defensive positions in the hedgerows near the causway. Meanwhile the Hmg on the causway was still holding out and preventing the Axis from crossing to get to victory hex 0412. In the mean time the Paras were reorganizing on the ground and were able to get a 2 platoon force off to attack the RR bridge.
The bridge fell at 0800 and the strongpoint in 0412 fell shortly after. Now all territorial objectives had been captured. Now for the Allies it was playing defense. The PHmg was still on the causeway blocking the Axis advance. Finally after repeated attacks the PHmg platoon failed a morale check and routed into the swamps. The Axis were somewhat disorganized at this point and could not occupy the village on their far side of the causway. Just then a lone Allies Sgt. who had drifted off board during the drop decides to make his appearence close to the lone one step Para Inf hiding in the hedgerows. Once united this unit then occupied the village on the far side of the causway blocking further Axis reenforcement attempts across the causeway. Just then an Axis staff car appeared on the south side of the board and tried to advance accross the river. It did not get far. One shot from the force in 0412 eliminated the car and it's occupants.
The para platoon's arrival in this village was too late to block the Axis attack across the causway. With a combination of daring, luck, and firepower the Axis were able to take the village at 0412 in a series of vicious assault and counter assault. This fight lasted most of the morning with the axis eventually pushed out of the village. The Axis just ran out of fresh steps to feed into the fight. The Allied reserve pool was bigger. Once pushed out the Axis found it difficult to recover All units and keep them recovered. Dispite having a artillery advantage the Axis could not mount another attack across the causway mostly because of the position of the "lost" platoon, which by now had successfully rolled to collect a step and so was now a full strength. The only Axis reenforcement due was the S35 platoon which ultimatly did not show. But the Allied reenforcement from the beachs did show at 1:30 pm. This sealed the Axis fate. The burdon of attack was on Axis. The Allies already had all their victory hexes. The only path across the swamps was heavily defended by a superior force. An attack across the swamps was also out of the question, with the swamp direct fire modifier and the fact that the Allies could counter any Axis cross swamp attack because of the road net on the south side of the river. So at 01:30 the Axis retired.
This scenario turned out well. I have played it many times and have never seen it turn out quite like this one. Once the Allies had captured their victory hexes the burdon of attack was on the Axis. This is just the opposite of what usually happens. The Allies were very lucky to have a vast majority of their units land on the correct side of the river. Even though many were reduced a number of steps were recovered thru the assembly process. To top it off the Allied Hmg on the causway held out for HOURS. Unbelieveable. In addition the Allies only lost one step during the glider landings at 0615. When the Axis reenforcements arrived on the south side of the river it limited the Axis options to just one, a frontal assault across the causeway. No other attack could get there on one turn or avoid the one right direct fire column shift attacking through the swamp. At one point the Axis did capture the village. Within an hour they had been repulsed never to return. Now in a weakened state all they could hope for was the S35 platoon. But the Allies got their armor first. End of scenario
|Paras finally make their mark|
For a while I balked at playing this one because of the many special rules and the potential 96 turn/24 hour length of it. However, before the conclusion of the 37th turn and without the aid of seaborne reinforcements the American paras had pretty much secured a win. At that point here were very few functionable German units left on the board which were scattered and in general disarray. The Germans had been pushed back by an American assault from out of the objective town hex 0412 and into the swamps. The other two hexes, 0516 and 1013 were also undisputed.
The initial drop was scheduled for 03:00 and went on time. Surprisingly only two para steps were lost and none of them drifted off-board. Two of the para units not only made it to the drop zone but also landed with leaders. The only real misfortune was that the best rated leader, a Captain with a 9-1-1 rating, landed in an enemy occupied hex and was captured. Also, one para that scattered away from the drop zone landed adjacent to an occupied strongpoint that was reinforced by other German foot units. Luckily that unit was able to recover from intial disruption and break away after two turns of adjacent DF fire without any losses. The only real problem with the drop was that two units were isolated without leaders and would be stranded until the glider units arrived. The 2nd drop, or glider landings, were 30 minutes late and those did not go as well. The jeep along with the 81mm were lost along with a whole platoon of paras and two steps of HMG units. However, since they were able to land in any hex they arrived right where the two stranded paras had fled to and they helped make up for the units lost in the landing.
The first real action took place on the embankment/road hex 0516 which changed hands a few times during the course of the battle; from American to German and back to American control. Hex 1013 was only guarded by a 20mm AA gun and was easy prey since it's strongpoint turned out to be unoccupied. The bulk of the airborne units had landed on the west side of the river and were able to quickly assemble and gather strength. With relative ease they were able to take the objective town/bridge hex 0412 in a bold assault with no losses. The first German reinforcements did not arrive until 07:00/turn 11. Their entry point was at hex 0106 and their way was blocked by American units left behind in the rearguard. An armored car and a motorcycle unit could not accomplish much on their own since they could not traverse hedgerows or swamp hexes so they remained static trading DF waiting for the next wave of reinforcements. Those reinforcements arrived at 8:00/turn 21, complete with the S.35 armored unit and it looked as if the Germans had a good shot at breaking through and re-taking the town. However, the American rearguard was very stubborn and they resisted for quite a while, delaying the German advance. Eventually the Germans pushed towards the town and triple-stacked but could not wear-down the town's defenders with DF. The Americans had plenty of units to relay in the town; as soon as one unit became disrupted it got traded out with another good order unit. After hex 0516 was secured and under American control again, the town and surrounding hexes were further reinforced. The main problem with the Germans were their motorized and mechanized units as they could only attack the town from the road hexes with swamp on either side so they were kind of bottlenecked. The Germans had taken a lot of losses from their foot units that were needed for taking the town. Eventually two very good bursts of American DF from the town forced an ENG step loss on the German stack and even the S.35 tank, along with the Sdkfz222 had failed their morale checks. This left the attacking stack in shambles and ripe for an American counterattack. The para units in the town made an assault into the adjacent, German occupied swamp hex while other units moved in and took their place within the town. The Germans got the first fire advantage and did manage to force a step-loss but even then the Americans were able to shake that off with just one reduced step disrupted and still managed to assault on the 9 column and cause further loss and demoralization. It was at this point, shortly after 12:00/turn 37, that the German cause was deemed hopeless as they were about to get attacked from behind by other American forces that manuevered around them from the other end of the map; the Germans were about to get sandwiched in. The Americans had 10 full, good order units at their disposal now and seaborne reinforcements due at any moment. The only good ordered German unit left was the 81mm mortar.
As die-hard as I am about completing scenarios until the last shot is fired I called it quits here. Maybe play could of gone on 10 more turns before all German units were wiped out but there was no chance of the Germans mounting any kind of attack that would breakthrough and take the town. They had been boxed in and bottled up. This scenario was a nice way to end 'Airborne' and no two plays will ever be the same with all the different variables; from the paradrops and randomly selected objectives to the entry time and randomly generated entry points of the German reinforcements. The special events table was used but didn't really have too much impact on play but could have. The one event that may have benefited the Germans was the one with General's staff car having to attempt to drive from one end of the board to the other, without getting eliminated or surrendering; then the germans may have recieved some OBA and/or additional units. This event did occur but the way was blocked by American units when it happened so the German General ended up surrendering since the road was occupied with only hedgerows and swamp adjacent. I think this one definitely has replay value with all the randomness about it but the pages of special rules and modifiers make it kind of cumbersome to get it rolling. A few special rules may be disputed or misinterpeted and that it borrows so much from 'Airborne' scenario 11 it leaves a lot of paper cluttered aroung the gaming area. It gets a "3" from me but a second time around, perhaps in shared match maybe better.