Monday, July 25, 2016

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg - Assault Gun Tactics

Although it was clear to me that assault guns like the StuG IIIG are not the same as self-propelled artillery (Wespe, Hummel vehicles), I think I was utterly wrong about storming and breaking through a defensive line with a combined infantry-assault gun team moving up simultaneously.

The StuG IIIG has a narrow field of fire and lacks the ability to shift it rapidly as tanks do. Unexpected fire from the flanks is one of the most scary liabilities of these assault guns.

In this after action report, I placed my StuG IIIGs in a relatively safe support by fire position and let the infantry roll with the close assault.

The mission. This panoramic view shows my two platoons of German grenadiers (grey icons) and the enemy positions in the background (green icons, US). The enemy has staged a hasty defense centered in a relatively shallow depression cut by a stream. US forces include infantry, HMGs and 2 or more AT guns.

Splitting them up: one of my 4 StuG IIIs moving to a support by fire position. Infantry from 1st Platoon can be seen, moving forward for an assault jump-off position.
Maneuvering into position. Two platoons of German (grey icons) infantry on the left flank, a platoon of assault guns on the right.

Grenadiers from the 2nd platoon closing in with the enemy position while HE rounds from the assault guns pour into the enemy defensive line.
Wespe self-propelled artillery vehicles have showed up as reinforcements and they were ordered onto a ridge to attack by fire the US positions. Firing at a range of 760 meters in direct fire mode, these vehicles delivered very low accuracy fire. One round can be seen in the background, arching before impacting onto the ground.

Many of the rounds from the Wespe vehicles fell very short, some of them near the 1st Platoon Grenadiers.

The 2nd Platoon, meanwhile, tried to turn the US defenses with a wide left flank maneuver. Not even the cover and concealment offered by the dwellings and their backyards made these men immune to enemy fire.

The problem with the stream and the cut on the terrain was that it offered cover for the US troops from both sides. In this screenshot, a US cal 50 HMG opens up on Grenadiers of the 2nd Platoon which are approaching the defensive line from its flank.

Even an enemy AT gun tried to join the fight on an almost reversed front.

New fire missions are called for, and the assault guns response is very rapid (note the dirt lifted by the StuG IIIG shells). Unfortunately, the US MG continues to fire.

Eventually, after a lot of effort and bloodshed, the US flank falls.

And after a small break to regroup and catch their breath, the Grenadiers continue their way through the enemy defensive line.
Resistance pockets were found everywhere. Unfortunately, the US is still able to inflict casualties with these ad-hoc ambushes.
In a couple of occasions, the best protection against enemy fire was just speed. This lead to some peculiar situations like the one shown in this screenshot.
But the enemy's means to fight were already at their minimum. Surrenders spread all over the place.

Until the last hardcore defenders were killed.

The battle ended with a German victory. The US suffered 54 casualties, the Germans 22. All infantry.

The major battlefield killers were:
- For the German side the StuG IIIGs scored 37 infantry kills and two AT guns knocked out.
- For the US side, the .50 cal HMGs inflicted 11 casualties.

The Wespe vehicles failed to score a single victory. I know this weapon system is most effective in the indirect fire mode, but yet I was expecting a bit more from them. Due to their poor armor and open crew compartment, I didn't dare to move them forward.

The assault guns -which most of the time fired at target areas instead of identified targets- made the day. It is noteworthy that the StuG IIIGs have a limited amount of HE rounds, so it is advisable to use them wisely if a long fight is anticipated. I don't know how wise it was to keep them back in a support by fire position, but I'm guessing that if they would have accompanied the infantry, enfilade fires from the US AT guns would have been catastrophic.

It was not a cheap victory, but it would have been impossible to crack open this US defensive position without the help of the assault guns.



Anonymous said...

Well I would respectfully disagree on the notion that the StuGs were hard to turn their fire.
Actually it was quite the opposite. A good crew could make a 90 degree turn faster than it was possible for a 90 degree turrent turn on the Tiger. In fact good Tiger crews were rather making tank turn than the turrent turn as it was faster (and many crew members served in StuGs).
StuGs used properlly were a formidable enemies for their firepower and low profile. But they needed a good crew and tactics.
Chris Adamus

Unknown said...

Very interesting. What scenario ist this?

JC said...

Hello folks and thanks for your comments.

Chris, thanks for your feedback. Very interesting. Does it work that way in game?

TSS: is a custom scenario that a blog reader sent me for testing. It will be up in the repository, I think.


Anonymous said...

Terrain is a mitigating factor. Mud, tight spaces, walls, and slopes can definitely hinder the freedom of turning the hull. Get stuck and lose a track with no turret and you're screwed. In most cases, I wouldn't use these types of vehicles in a dogfight. I'd keep them back as far as possible and I'm sure that's how they were designed to be used.

Erich said...

Everything I've ever read says the lack of a turret was a big liability in anything but defensive ambush situations. I'll try to find some actual primary references but I know I've read this countless times. The ability to move and "cover" a certain direction is also lost with a turret-less vehicle.

Unknown said...

Erich, but a turretless tank is much, much cheaper and faster to build than a "real" tank. That was quite important for german economy at the time. The Sturmartillerie came also in being at a time when Germany tried to raise their Panzer Divisions. So there was a competition between tanks and Stugs.
If you can read german heres a nice thesis regarding Sturmartillerie

And here a very good YT video about Stugs

Anonymous said...

Not just a turret-A POWERED turret.

Anonymous said...

My CM is rusty but as far as I remember it was not well implemented.

@Erich and Anonymous
And when driver is knocked out then you cannot drive... I hope you get the point ;)

StuG was not a tank. It was a support weapon mainly. The lack of turrent was not a big problem as the knowledge of how to use StuG was there in 1943-44. It was a formidable enemy for Allied tanks as it had low profile and quite powerfull and accurate gun.

I know everybody has Tigers in front of their eyes but most of it it's just German war propaganda. Historically there were only used for offensive in numbers only couple of times.

And as to defence stance, well most of the aces (tank and Stugs) got their kill streaks in a defence stance.

RockinHarry said...

Wonder the original mission designer did not think to include the StuH 40 with same 105mm gun, instead of the highly unrealistic Wespe, which you´d rarely ever seen near the frontlines.