The Worldwide D-Day Challenge Part Four – Completing The Invasion

June 22, 2015 by crew

At last we come to the end of our Worldwide D-Day Challenge (WWDDC), where BoW members from six countries came together to mount their own 71st anniversary commemoration of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944.

For those just joining us, please take a look at Parts One through Three of our series, (planning, assembly, and opening results for this epic project. But for now, let’s get the final results and ultimate outcome!

Tanks Forward

In our last article, we covered most of the paratrooper actions in the predawn hours of June 6, 1944. Now we move to the beach landings, where six INITIAL Allied divisions hit German-held beaches, carried by the largest invasion armada the world had seen at that time.

PANZERS AT SWORD

We’ll start with Sword Beach, where Daniel (@pedmore) and his friends ran a titanic game of Flames of War. Not only were elements of the British 3rd Infantry Division represented, but also the follow-on 7th Armoured. He also had paratroopers in place behind the beach that the seaborne troops had to reach as one of their objectives.

Beach Assault

As for the Germans, they had elements of the 716th Infantry, along with reinforcing units of the 21st Panzer Division (thanks to German wins at both Pegasus and Horsa Bridges). Just to make the game truly epic, they also took a little historical license and threw in some units of the 12th SS Division. This may have been just “a touch much,” since the game ultimately wound up as another German victory!

SLAUGHTER AT JUNO

The next beach over was code-named Juno, where the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division landed against more elements of the German 716th Infantry. We had two games here, the first being in Panzer Leader, run between Ben (@amphibiousmonster) and myself.

This was basically a “1/6000” hex-and-counter game recreating the entire three-mile assault beach, three brigades of the 3rd Canadian infantry, the historical locations for the all the German bunkers on a custom-drawn map, and all the constituent units of the German 716th Infantry who were there.

Map Attack

In all, our game included some 11,500 men and 380 armoured vehicles. The landings, however, did not go according to . Despite some initial successes with the naval bombardment, Canadian infantry still took a horrific pounding as they came ashore.

This was no surprise, as historically Juno was the bloodiest of the three “Commonwealth” beaches. In our game, however, Juno degenerated into a “Canadian Omaha.” Things were especially bad on Nan Beach, where the Queen’s Own Canadian Rifles (historically taking the worst losses on Juno), was effectively destroyed as a fighting force.

But as the Germans focused on the Canadian infantry, the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse and 1st Hussars managed to force wide breaches on both German wings and eventually collapse the centre. It just took too much time, and the Germans walked away with a bloody, narrow win.

Full details are available on the Juno Beach WWDDC thread in the Historical Forums, here.

Pushing Through

Meanwhile, BoW Canadian Derek (@hauptmanncanuck) and Kris were taking a closer, more intimate look at Juno Beach through the eyes of Bolt Action. This game was focused just after the landings, when the Canadians pushed into the dunes and the heavily-shelled towns that were RIGHT on the beach.

But German reserves rushed to the meet them, including a PzKpfw IV tank of the 21st Panzer. Once the Canadian Firefly was taken out, the game was also more or less wrapped up as a German victory.

BREAKTHROUGH AT GOLD

The next Normandy beach to be invaded was Gold. We had three games here, played by Sven (@neves1789), Marc (@wendren), and Piers (@piers). Sven asked if he could write his own account of Sword Beach, so here it is below!

Sven’s dispatch from Gold Beach, King Sector…

Gold Beach, King Green sector, 7:30. The men of 6th Green Howards (69th Brigade, 50th Division) began their assault upon Fortress Europe. A strong current immediately delayed more than half of the battalion as the first platoons fought their way ashore.

The well-entrenched German defenders held their ground, and the first three waves were all but wiped out. Allied aircraft failed to find their marks and the armoured support that made it ashore immediately came under fire from the Mont-Fleury Battery. This reduced their impact to a minimum and left the fighting to the poor bloody infantry.

Check out the photo and caption below for the rest of this story!

Gold Beach

Meanwhile, Marc also ran a game of Bolt Action on another sector of Gold Beach, code-named “Jig.” Here the game exploded as a decisive German victory, with the British troops never really managing a foothold at all. So with Sven’s British win and Marc’s British defeat, the final result on Gold Beach would come down to Piers’ tiebreaker!

Armoured Push

Piers’ game in 20mm Battlegroup took place some miles inland, at a town called Fresney le Crotteur. Historically, the British landings at Gold went so well that part of the German reserves originally slated to stop the Americans at Omaha were instead detached and sent to Gold!

This is the “Kampfgruppe Meyer” force Piers features in his game, clashing with the 7th Greens Howards (part of the British 69th Brigade, 50th Northumbrian Division), backed up by the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards. Piers’ historical detail, superlative painting, and stunning tables all made this one fan favourite. Plus, this was played in Battlegroup, one of the best games out there for World War 2 tactical gaming.

Hunker Down

Fortunately, this game shook out as a convincing British victory. This broke the Gold Beach tie and won this sector for the Allies – a win they sorely needed after setbacks on Sword and Juno. For more detail, please see Piers’ thread in the Historical Forum, here.

BLOODY OMAHA

One of the bloodiest spots of D-Day was Omaha Beach, where the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions came ashore against deadly resistance of the German 352nd Infantry Division. As such, when I made up my mind to attempt a “Dog Green, Omaha” game, I wanted to make sure I did it right.

The board was a challenge because part of what made Omaha so bloody was its topography, namely the high bluffs against which the tall German bunkers (historically, “widerstandnester” #70, #71, and #72) were built. But once we finally started rolling dice, all the work was worth it.

Off The Beaches

Dog Green was the sector that marked the far western wing of Omaha Beach. Our game featured the leading elements of the 116th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 29th Infantry, attacking dug-in Germans of the 916th Grenadier Regiment (352nd Infantry).

The game was a nightmare, and rightly so. Ever see the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan?” This was that exact same stretch of beach. Our game turned out pretty like the movie did, with one exception. The Americans, despite all their casualties and courage, did NOT open the “Dog One” Vierville draw quite in time.

This resulted in the narrowest of possible German victories. For full details (and about 25 more photos), please check out the Dog Green, Omaha Beach live blog we uploaded as the game played out on June 6.

The Bloody Assault

REDEMPTION AT UTAH

So far the Allies had suffered some serious setbacks in our WWDDC, and the outcome of our campaign was far from certain. Fortunately for democracy, we now come to Utah Beach, where the Allies finally managed to shove the balance of fate firmly in their direction.

First, the 4th US Infantry division had to get ashore. Historically, this was relatively easy because a happy accident landed much of the division on the wrong beach – where they found comparatively light German resistance. But in the Bolt Action game played between Chris (@chrisg) and Victoria, the Germans managed a tougher fight.

Landing Craft

The final blast of an American flamethrower, however (and the well-timed arrival of air support), finally set the seal on this victory, and got things moving I the right direction for the allies at Utah Beach.

Chris and Victoria also ran a last-minute game recreating part of “Mission Detroit,” part of 82nd Airborne Division’s landings near the famous village of near Sainte-Mère-Église.

The Americans quickly got the upper hand on this one, taking the high ground that allowed them to pour a withering fire on the Germans.

The Germans eventually managed to close the distance, only to learn (much to their regret) just how good the Americans were at close quarters and hand-to-hand combat.

Skirmish

The Americans weren’t winning all the airborne-themed games, however. Up in Wisconsin, Scott (@smithsco) was pitting a force of the 101st Airborne against a German counterattack along the Douve River. The roughly marked the eastern boundary of the Utah assault zone, and holding bridges along this river was crucial to protect the American flank.

However, Scott’s game of Bolt action, (played in 20mm), saw German paratroopers and “Osttruppen” conscripts inflict terrible losses on the “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st.

The Americans held the bridge at La Porte, but paid a far higher price than was seen historically. The game was thus chalked up as a German victory, as the east flank of Utah was now far from secure.

At last we heard from Mitch (@mc1gamer), however, who set the final seal on American victory at Utah with his game of Bolt Action. This game was set late in the afternoon on D-Day, with elements of the 4th US Infantry, backed up by elements of 70th Tank Battalion.

The Team

The American mission was to achieve a breakthrough, as they were pushing inland from Utah Beach and trying to link up with airborne troopers of the 82nd and 101st. The ran into elements of 919th Grenadier Regiment (709th Infantry Division), but not only defeated the Germans, but also got significant forces successfully off the far end of the board. For full details, please see Mitch’s video battle report on YouTube.

The Assault

Once again, I am doing a grave injustice to the meticulous work and detailed battle reports submitted by so many of the WWDDC members. Please check out the battle report threads linked above, or visit the WWDDC Thread for more detail on all the work, creativity, and imagination our players put into the success of this project.

Also, Chris Goddard and I have made our contributions to Combat Stress in the UK and The Wounded Warrior Project in the US.

If you’ve enjoyed what we’ve done here, please take a moment to click on these links and consider making a small donation to these great causes. For too many people “on both sides of the water,” wars and conflicts are anything but a game, and our veterans deserve our support.

Final Map

Lastly, Chris and I would like to send out an “88mm-sized” THANK YOU to the 30-35 people in 19 groups (six countries) who wound up participating in the WWDDC.

Huge thanks also go out Warren and the Beasts of War team for facilitating our “Pegasus Bridge” kick off at the Bolt Action Boot Camp, and of course our amazing editor Ben (@brennon) who always makes these articles look so amazing. Thanks as always, and here’s to the next project!

James Johnson

If you would like to write an article for Beasts of War then please contact me at ben@beastsofwar.com for more information!

"Here the game exploded as a decisive German victory, with the British troops never really managing a foothold at all..."

"If you’ve enjoyed what we’ve done here, please take a moment to click on these links and consider making a small donation to these great causes..."