June 15, 2015 by crew
Enough planning. Enough preparation. For two weeks now we have rambled about getting ready to launch our Worldwide D-Day Challenge, or WWDDC. If you’re just joining us, please see Part One and Part Two of our series (Planning the Invasion and Assembling the Invasion) to see how we’ve come this far.
At last, D-Day has arrived. H-Hour has arrived. Around the world, no less than twenty-one Beasts of War gaming groups stood poised to hurl their miniatures into the jaws of destiny. How would D-Day turn out this time?
As General Dwight D. Eisenhower broadcast at the outset of the invasion…
“Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Today you embark on the great crusade, toward which we striven these many months.
“The eyes of the world are upon you.”
Launching The Invasion
As many of you know, D-Day began just minutes after midnight on June 6th, 1944, with airborne drops behind the imminent invasion beaches. One of the most crucial of these was the British assault on Pegasus Bridge, which in the WWDDC ended in a stunning German victory at the Bolt Action Boot Camp! Right off the bat, our D-Day was off to a rocky start.
Meanwhile, another British airborne assault was headed toward Merville Battery, an important German fortification and artillery position a few kilometres northeast. This was the game run by Greg, Simon, and Nick (@lateo), who’d built a meticulous Bolt Action scenario to recreate the historical attack.
First, the gliders had to land. Whereas many games have complex, clunky rules regarding wind speed and scatter charts, Nick’s game simply had paper airplanes carefully tossed from six feet off the table. Where the “gliders” landed, they landed!
The Germans heard the crash, however, and opened a deadly fire on the British, some of whom were injured in the landings. Additionally, the British had to deal with minefields, barbed wire, even attack dogs! Despite steep casualties, the gun bunkers were finally attacked and a key German leader killed, leading to the eventual German surrender.
I wish we could include a full article for the detailed after-action report for every one of these games. Fortunately, Nick has posted a complete (and highly-recommended) AAR and forum thread with many more of his photos here.
Another key battle fought by British airborne troops was at Ranville, a tiny village just southeast of Pegasus Bridge. Having taken the town, men of the 13th Para Battalion soon found themselves heavily counterattacked by German grenadiers and armour. This was the engagement recreated by Chris Goddard (@chrisg) and his wife Victoria in 28mm Rapid Fire.
One interesting change to history was the mechanic Chris devised that would govern when additional German armour might come into play. This was to account for enhanced communication and coordination on the part of 21st Panzer Division since the Germans still held Pegasus Bridge.
Again, I deeply regret that I can’t put in nearly enough detail here. But suffice it to say that playing the part of the British paras, Victoria put in a great performance using the buildings, narrow streets, and PIATs (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank, sort of a British bazooka). She resolutely smashed the German counterattack and won the day for the British.
We all know the story of Pegasus Bridge. But many people don’t remember that the Orne River and Caen Canal run more or less parallel in this part of Normandy, and so British paratroopers also had to take a SECOND bridge just 400 yards east along the same road as Pegasus.
Both these bridges had to be taken and held to protect the British troops soon to be coming ashore at Sword Beach. Officially called “Ranville Bridge,” this objective would go down in history as “Horsa” Bridge for the British gliders that landed near it.
This battle was recreated by Kevin (@panzermonkey1) and his crew in Bolt Action, and it proved to be another “historical upset.” While the Germans more or less abandoned Horsa Bridge historically, here they put up a fight and actually held the bridge.
Just to make sure the victory stuck, Kevin and his team then ran the historical (failed) German attempt to retake the bridge, but the Germans won this game, too! Needless to say, we chalked up Horsa Bridge as a German victory in the WWDDC, and with both Pegasus and Horsa bridges still in German hands, the flank of Sword Beach could be in serious trouble.
BRIDGES AT BURES
Yet another part of the British airborne mission was against bridges further east, all the way to the River Dives. These bridges had to be seized or blown up in case elements of the German 15th Army, deployed in the area from Le Havre to Calais, got wise to the Normandy landings and hit the Allies in their eastern flank.
This was the mission recreated by Simon and John (@skeld1980 and @johnp) in Bolt Action, played on a 6×4 board that featured both a railroad and road bridge at the town of Bures. Using night fighting assault rules from the Warlord website, they worked up some house rules for demolishing the bridges and kicked off their game.
Things didn’t start out well as the British naval barrage almost landed on their own troops, pinning their own paratroopers as they headed for the road bridge. But in the end both bridges were blown, resulting in a resounding victory for the British.
EASY COMPANY – NIGHT ACTION
About fifty miles to the west, meanwhile, on the other wing of the planned invasion zone, the Americans were dropping two airborne divisions of their own. These were the 82nd and 101st Airborne (“The Screaming Eagles”) Divisions.
As famously seen on “Band of Brothers,” many of these drops were badly scattered, resulting in small, vicious firefights as both the Germans and Americans struggled for the upper hand…and to get some idea of what was going on.
Ollie and Callum (@olliep and @prosthetics) ran such a battle using Bolt Action with none other than “Easy Company” of the 101st Airborne (Lieutenant Richard “Dick” Winters in command). The game began very quietly, with a stealthy approach by the paratroopers on a German-held village with a StG-III in the town square.
Once the shooting started, though, things got nasty with horrific speed. The firefight would claim the lives of both the German command and Dick Winters himself, but in the end “Easy Company” pulled out a hard-fought victory.
82ND AIRBORNE AT LA FIERE
As we’ve seen in the British airborne zone, no sooner had the American paratroopers landed and taken their first objectives, then they found themselves under fierce German counterattack. One of these was at the La Fiere Manor, where German flooding of the Merderet River had turned a nearby road to Sainte-Mère-Église into a vital causeway.
Paratroopers of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division were strongly attacked by German Infantry of the 1057th Grenadier Regiment (709th Division), backed up by tanks. This historic battle was recreated by TWO of our WWDDC games, one run by Blake (@spottedlaughter) in 28mm Bolt Action and one in Panzer Leader by Ben (@amphibiousmonster).
Blake’s game started with the lead German armored car being struck by a 57mm antitank tank gun landed with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. With the causeway blocked, German infantry began fighting through the surrounding swamp to get at the Americans. Their assault broke down once their lieutenant was taken out by a well-placed mortar round.
Snipers traded shots, a lucky bazooka round “brewed up” the supporting panzer, and soon the Americans were pushing the Germans back down the causeway. The game was finally declared an overwhelming American victory. For full details, please check out Blake’s blog.
SCREAMING EAGLES AT ANGOVILLE-AU-PLAIN
Once they’d made it to the ground and fended off the first German counterattacks, the paratroopers had to consolidate and push for their larger objectives. This meant taking key towns and crossroads the Germans would need to mobilize against American forces trying to come ashore from Utah Beach.
One such key town was Saint-Côme-du-Mont, assigned to the 101st Airborne (again, the “Screaming Eagles”). To get to it, elements of 3rd Battalion, 501st Parachute infantry Regiment had to pass through the village of Angoville-au-Plain. Here the Germans actually stopped the paratroopers briefly. But our New Zealand gamers Scott and Steve @kiwiscott and @tigerfeet) had other ideas.
The Americans pushed in, supported by a Sherman of the 70th Tank Battalion (attached to 4th Infantry Division, having recently landed at nearby Utah Beach). The Germans were also supported by two tanks, one of which was parked in the town square until it was ambushed by the Sherman firing at point-blank range.
The game wound up a narrow American win, upsetting the historical result that actually had the Americans halted here for the better part of two days. For more details and more photos, please see the WWDDC thread (page 43) on this beautiful game.
RANGERS AT POINTE DU HOC
Probably the most epic feat undertaken by the Americans on D-Day, however, was that undertaken at Pointe du Hoc by three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Pointe du Hoc is a promontory on the Normandy coast, sited atop 100-foot cliffs and perfectly situated for German artillery to hit both Utah and Omaha Beaches with a heavily-fortified battery of huge 155mm coastal guns.
To take the cliffs, Rangers had to scale the 100-foot cliffs under fire, while Allied destroyers fired desperately to keep the Germans pinned down. Finally reaching the top, the Rangers then took the massive blockhouses, only to find the German guns had been removed months before.
In the game played between Russell (@naznarok) and I, the Americans took the position at the cost of just two squads, a resounding win for the American Rangers.
Once again, I am doing a grave injustice to the meticulous work and detailed battle reports submitted by so many of the WWDDC members. I can only apologize, there just isn’t room to include the full details of each battle. Please check out the battle report threads linked above, or visit the WWDDC Thread to see how our overall campaign is going.
Stay tuned, we have one more article coming next week, where we’ll find out once and for all whether our D-Day invasion has succeeded!
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"Around the world, no less than twenty-one Beasts of War gaming groups stood poised to hurl their miniatures into the jaws of destiny. How would D-Day turn out this time?"
"Probably the most epic feat undertaken by the Americans on D-Day, however, was that undertaken at Pointe du Hoc..."