Thursday, December 1, 2011

Banholz: 1 December 1944

The Army reports have little to say about the assault on Banholz. The American attacking force loses its impetus in the earliest moments of the push forward, and never regains it. The fight turns into an immobile slog, with infantry on both sides simply exchanging fire, gradually whittling each other down. While the American armor gets the better of the German panzers, the Americans suffer from significant mechanical difficulties which prevent the U.S. armor from making any real contribution to the attack. The American company commander, Captain Norman Fowler, is killed in action, as are all three of his subordinate platoon commanders. So deadlocked is the position throughout that there is little to report. What follows therefore is simply a list of the difficulties that beset the immobilized American force.

An overview of the battlefield

Deck 1, Turns 1-4

Preliminary U.S. artillery has virtually no effect.

An exchange of infantry fire begins in the center of the lines due west of Banholz, pinning units who then rally and are pinned again repeatedly. This continues through the rest of the battle and bears no further commentary.

The two Shermans run into ditches.

The crew of one M10 Wolverine is stunned by enemy fire.

From about the second turn, half to two-thirds of the US infantry remain pinned, while half to two-thirds of the US vehicles remain immobilized for the remainder of the fight. No further significant maneuvering occurs after the initial engagement.

End of Turn 1

Deck 2, Turns 1-4

The American M8 goes up in flames from German infantry AT fire.

The Americans get reinforced by an understrength rifle platoon (two squads) and an additional M8 scout car. These reinforcements are unbearably slow moving up, and will only reach sight of the enemy at the very end of the battle.

One Sherman drags itself out of the ditch and slides right back into it, again temporarily out of action.

Lieutenant Dowler (first platoon) is killed by a shell fragment.

A machine gun burst kills Lieutenant Pickard (third platoon).

An M10 Wolverine and a Sherman engaged with the two Panzers manage to send one PzIV up in flames.

Deck 3, Turns 1-3

One US squad gets pinned down in a minefield.

One of the Shermans gets hit by a panzerfaust attack and explodes.

Captain Fowler (company commander) is killed by a sniper.

Lieutenant Benedetto (second platoon) is killed by a mortar round.

The Sherman and the Wolverine bounce a total of six shots off the Pz IV's hull. [Game comment: each armor save has a 33% chance of succeeding. The chance of the Panzer making six armor saves in a row, as it does, is .0013 or just over 1 in 1000]. Finally three more hits destroy the enemy tank.

End of Game


Seeing their attack has petered out, the Americans pull back. The Americans suffer one Sherman destroyed, one M8 destroyed, and the loss of three rifle squads. The Germans suffer two Panzer IVs destroyed, and the loss of two rifle squads. Though the losses are fairly even, not a single G.I. even comes close to setting foot inside the town. The fight is a solid German victory.

Fox Company, effectively decapitated by the loss of its four commanding officers, is pulled out of the Hurtgen entirely. The unit is shortly thereafter disbanded, and its men reintegrated into other units shipping out to Belgium and Luxembourg as the snow begins to fall, to fight in yet another desperate campaign.

Game Notes:

I've got to say this was a terribly anti-climactic conclusion to the Hurtgen mini-campaign. The Germans drew more action cards than the Americans every turn of the game, except the final turn. In several cases the disparity in action cards drawn was extreme (11-4, 10-4, 11-5). The Americans could simply not overcome this deficiency, which was coupled with brutal random events – four officers killed outright, one tank blown up by a panzerfaust, and no fewer than four "mechanical breakdown" results keeping US tanks out of action, and a seemingly utter inability of US pinned and immobilized units to make successful recovery rolls. The US force – significantly greater in numbers – just lay there like a beached whale, passively taking fire for much of the game. So much so that writing a report (other than the list of things that went wrong provided above) was practically impossible, just because
nothing actually happened the whole game but a stagnant, immobile firefight that reduced the game to a pure dice-rolling contest. You can easily see that the photo at the end of turn one and the photo at the end of the game are not significantly different from each other.

Then again, that's pretty much how the Hurtgen forest campaign played out in real life too...


  1. Glad to see you carry the campaign to its conclusion inspite of the rough time

  2. Exactly but still a cluster feck for the Americans...great batrep, enjoyable to read.

  3. Yeah, agreed, you writ good reports mate

  4. Nice game report; - like the simplicity of the scenery

    -- Allan

  5. Cool game, must be a hell of fun there!!!


Two Up, One Back

"The dominant (though not the only) tactical formation for the infantry in both attack and defense remained 'two up, one back.' This was a product of the triangular organization that the infantry used from platoon to division level. Triangular units had three main 'maneuver' elements (weapons units did not count as 'maneuver' elements). Rifle platoons had three squads; rifle companies three rifle platoons; battalions, three rifle companies; and so forth. This encouraged commanders to place two of their maneuver units forward while keeping back the third so that it could relieve or reinforce a frontline unit."

--John Sayen, U.S. Army Infantry Divisions 1944-45 (28)