Thursday, September 1, 2016

Panzer Battles Kursk The Southern Flank - AAR - No Smoke Can Silence the Cries of the Dying

This is an AAR for Panzer Battles Kursk The Southern Flank. The scenario is #0708_05 Teterevino South. Massive spoilers ahead. You are warned.

From the scenario briefing:
Teterevino South, South of Prokhorovka: July 8th, 1943. (Scenario Size: Regiment. Soviet Human vs German AI) Major Mikhail Konstantinovich Belov had been given very clear orders. His 158th Guards Rifle Regiment had regrouped at Tetrevino South and was to attack Luchki South from the East. Voronezh Front intended this to be a diversionary attack, hopefully pinning or dragging away reserves from other parts of the German line. The assault would not be easy. The Guardsmen had to cross a deep, kilometre wide valley before assaulting the defenders on Hill 210.7. After breaking through they were to move towards the town and capture the bridge crossing the Donets and clear the town of any remaining enemy. Voronezh Front had provided both air and artillery support in the hope that the attack would be considered a major thrust rather than the intended demonstration. 

Three kilometers east of the town of Luchki, 615 men of the 2nd Battalion, 158th Guards Infantry Regiment orderly occupied their assigned spots for the short walk to the line of departure. To their right, they could make out the hunched profiles and catch the muffled chatter of their 1st Battalion counterparts. Those lucky bastards got it easy today, one of the 2nd Battalion HQ staff noted, envious that the 1st Battalion was to attack west only after his men would open a gap in the defensive line of Hill 210.7 and envelop the center trenches. He could have thought the same of the 3rd Battalion in their left, which would exploit that gap beyond the hill and towards Luchki. But he could not muster hard feelings for men who were seemingly in a better combat posture. Hell, the 3rd even offered to bring their 2 AT guns up to support them with direct fire!

The 158th was a fine combat outfit. You could tell by the way they did everything. A veteran helped a younger comrade to secure his field blanket around his torso. It was like the chaplain they didn't have, delivering the last rites. The most miniscule omissions were punished and there was hardly anything out of place in the noon of July 18th. Except the conspicuous absence of attached armor.

The preparatory indirect fire opened on time, if one is to keep scores of what worked or not. The southern flank of the German defenses went out of sight under billows of smoke, dirt and rocks. It was like the curtain of a theater. And neither side knew who was the performer and who was the audience.A sergeant in the front platoons looked back at the commanding officer of his company. His arms open and slightly lifted in a shrug. When do we start to advance? Past a few meters, the sound of artillery didn't allow for anything else . Officers started to send runners back and forth. Finally, just plain gestures put the front troops in motion.

The 2nd Battalion lead the way through the valley east of Hill 210.7. They made good progress, but got stuck at the base of the elevation, just short of their assault objective. Hundreds of men stayed prone in different grades of disarray. The volume of fire uphill was good, one corporal noticed, but the one downhill was even better. The amount of casualties were egregious. The battalion commander finally made it to the front and sorted out the mess. In an uphill battle, the enemy defenses were finally cracked. The whole ordeal took around one and a half hours.

At around 1530, the southern flank of the German defenses at Hill 210.7 were open enough as to harbor the passage of two infantry battalions. The regimental artillery now shifted its tubes to the center, followed by the keen eyes of the weary men of the 2nd Battalion who were tasked on enveloping the German defenses.

The 3rd Battalion came to life in a out of synch march. Forward, forward! Men trotted, tripped on bushes, craters or battle debris and groaned when they dropped a machine gun's part or an ammo box. A couple of lieutenants were seen clearing off bodies to make a narrow path on the even parts of the hill. A couple of badly injured soldiers clung to these traffic-conscious officers, just to be shaken off to the side, along with other less alive heroes. It was chaotic and inhumane, but it was needed. They aimed straight for the crossing over the Donets at Luchki.

The crazy dash of the 3rd Battalion -up Hill 210.7, downhill and then towards Luchki- caught the Germans by so much surprise that they seemingly forgot to fire at them. The first company to arrive, a few meters off the bridge, had suffered just four casualties to some tenacious German trench dwellers back at the hill. They waited for straglers and even drank a few sips of water. But most importantly, they waited for the rest of the battalion. Nobody was to wander within Luchki so short of manpower. Little did they know that by controlling the bridge, they have isolated all German forces east of the river.

Indeed, the conditions were good for an assault on the isolated German forces on Hill 210.7. But nobody knew. The 2nd Battalion, tired and attrited to near oblivion, still moved north to further envelop the German trenches. The 1st Battalion waited immobile for the 2nd to complete its maneuver. Precious minutes, lives and opportunities were lost.

When the order to assault Hill 210.7 came to the 1st Battalion, their comrades across the valley -just a few meters to the rear of the Germans' position- were wondering if they wanted their hill served in a silver plate. Yet, the 1st Battalion assaulted with distinctive elan and cleared the German positions in Hill 210.7 with efficiency and without fear of losses. Some regimental assets -mainly sappers and submachine gun assault companies- were diverted for assistance but they were quickly re-routed towards Luchki, where help was immediately needed.

At Luchki, the 2nd Battalion had secured a tiny, company-sized toe hold across the bridge and was not able to expand it, let alone hold it. With their backs to the river, a handful of German assault guns were shooting along the battalion's entire frontage. Perceiving it as a major threat to the overall operation, the leader of the 2nd Battalion diverted the remainder of his command to deal with that armor. Runners were sent back to find where the battalion AT guns were located. A total of three German assault vehicles were destroyed by Soviet infantry at the expense of pretty much everything else, including a well planned assault on the objective inside Luchki.

Battalion and regimental runners crossed paths at Hill 210.7 and exchanged orders. The attack was off for the day. The most important objectives were not secured.


1 comment:

IckieStickie said...

I thouroughly enjoyed reading this thankyou,talk about get me in the mood for some JT!:)