Sunday, 25 October 2020

Team Yankee: Germans - East vs West

 

The fierce fighting that took place around the tiny West German hamlet of Lutten during those fateful August days of 1985 have barely been captured in the official histories, recently declassified: 

" 9 August 1985...9. Panzer was reassigned to the Soviet 20th Guards Army where it joined the 11th Motor Rifles for the push south towards Osnabruck, Rheine and the Mittelland Kanal. Again they faced more of their fellow Germans from the Bundeswehr, who conducted a stubborn fighting withdrawal towards the canal. A savage tank battle broke out around the town of Vechta as 9. Panzer ran into the armoured rearguard of the West German Panzerdivision 3..."


This post attempts to recreate just a part of that intense fighting, the East German thrust across from Lutten to break through the Wessi defences and come at Vechta from the east.


The West German defenders of Panzerdivision 3 had a Mech inf force of 82 points, with a mere 3 Leopard 2 MBT's. A flight of 2 Tornado MRCA were placed on Alert 5 in direct support with AT cluster munitions...

However the NVA attackers of the 9. Panzer placed the emphasis on their tanks - 2 companies of T72 and 1 of T55AM2s:


Supported by 3 companies of moto-schutzen, one large and two small, and a large flight of Hinds: 


I can barely bring myself to mention the Soviet fast air that was supposed to support the brave sons of the working classes, since their political education was so lacking that it was a higher priority than making an appearance over the battlefield...


The Westies had a tough decision to make - the attacker enjoyed a good road network, and had correctly estimated their intentions as bringing on an 'annihilation' engagement...


The infantry and light forces made good use of the built up areas to set up good fields of fire for their Milan ATGWs...


However, unheralded by the expected artillery strike, the Ossi Moto Schutzen moved swiftly to screen and slowly engage the built up areas, here captured for posterity* sealing off Vechta itself...


whilst on their left flank, outside Bahnhof Goldenstedt, the Moto Rifles were lead by their T55s:


whilst the Panzers carefully formed up under cover...


Then erupted across the relatively open space in the centre of the battle area close by the now famous hamlet of Lutten...


But instead of being caught in a carefully planned NATO 'kill-sack' of Milan fire from the flanks... 


and dreaded Leopard 2 120mm tank fire to their front...


The Bundeswehr Panzer Grenadiers in both flanking built up areas... 


had some minor issues of their own to deal with...


Nothing daunted, the phlegmatic Leo2 crews settled down to their trade: demolishing T-72s...


In what was a target rich environment...


The Ossis called in some rotary support to deal with the dread Leopards...


But the Leo crews had plenty of nearby support themselves...


That particular threat soon dealt with, the big cats got on with it...


Getting a little help - well, actually quite a lot of help - from the Luftwaffe!


Things weren't going quite so well for NATO on the flanks though...The outskirts of Vechta saw a fierce exchange of missiles and cannon fire...


As the East German Moto Schutzen steadily inveigled themselves to cover all approaches - good infantry is like water - given a chance, it will get in anywhere!


The Panzer Grenadier defender's position in Vechta got steadily more untenable as numbers began to tell...


Until all threats to the main thrust from that flank were eliminated - in a socialist fraternal fashion, of course!


Meanwhile right across at the other flank at Goldenstedt


despite a heroic intervention by a lone Luftwaffe Tornado...


the story was depressingly familiar for the NATO defenders, fierce assaults only temporarily pinned before sweeping all before them a second time...


So that the fragile NATO defence now rested entirely a that lone Zug of Leopard 2s!


Having successfully seen off the first company of T-72s, but their positions now coming under annoying artillery fire, they jockeyed forward to new postions...


Hindsight is always 20/20, but historians now agree that was a significant tactical error...


Allowing the swarm of T-72s from the second 'welle' to get in flanking shots, 


the Leos gradually succumbed to the sheer weight of numbers...


Allowing the 9. Panzer Divisionen of the National VolksArmee to breakthrough and thus set the scene for the decisive 'thrust to the south' of the Soviet 20th Guards Army


Strange how the weight of history can balance on a handful of tanks - those fateful August days in 1985 were so well captured by the catchphrase of the time: 'optimists to the front'!


* Still photography courtesy of the fonds of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst of the DDR.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Victory at Sea: Inaugural game...


Having received my starter set for Warlord Games' Victory at Sea system, originally developed by Mongoose games, I set up a small game. The starter set is based around the 'Battle for the Pacific', so Ironbottom Sound off Guadalcanal would be the setting...However, whilst my painting is definitely of the 'OK at 3 foot' variety, fast it ain't - so I wheeled out some of my existing 1:2400 collection.

Above in the foreground is the later, seaplane friendly version of the Mogami in 1:2400, behind it her sister Kumano in the original iteration in 1:1800 from the starter set.

There's been a lot of negative commentary on the interwebs about the size and thickness of the Warlord bases, but I have to say that I don't have an issue with it, and appreciate the time saved in not modelling sea surface effects. As you can see in the previous scale comparison pic, the base isn't much thicker than the one I use for 1:2400 anyhow!

Keen to get into the rules, after a quick skim I set up the table with no particular scenario in mind, just a meeting engagement between a USN TF of 3 CA and 4 DD and an IJN force also of 3 CA and 4 DD, matching my existing models to the all important data cards. Noting that I didn't study the points value too hard, this seemed like a fair encounter battle, right? 


Rolling for initiative and manoeuvring seems straightforward enough, and I took the time to confirm that if a force is in Formation One - line astern of the Guide - you can save a lot of time by just tacking the next mover right behind the one ahead, no matter how intricately you manoeuvre. And one thing I did learn from this initial tryout is that manoeuvring is going to be very, very important with these rules - at least when up against the IJN!


My initial focus was on the Gunnery aspect, which works well and seems historically authentic, particularly with regard to the lethal effects of longer ranged plunging fire. I also like the way that whilst care has to be taken with main battery firing arcs, secondary weapons are much faster to work out. The only issue with larger games, particularly if playing solo, is remembering which ships have moved and fired...


Whilst the starter set comes amply furnished with DC tokens and markers, I recycled some old wake markers to mark units that had moved, and golf tee shell splash markers to denote which ships had fired that move. No doubt since VaS has been such a sell out, commercially astute marker manufacturers are tooling up marker sets already!


So went the day well? I was so focused on conning both forces for maximal gunnery - crossing the T - that both sides came of about even, although I was pleased to note that the rules reflect the lesser DC organisation and skills of the IJN compared to the USN. 


However the rules demonstrated their respect for history even more when it came to Torpedo actions - the USN DD's practically had to come alongside the enemy to have any hope of obtaining a hit, only to find their fish had wooden warheads!


The IJN Type 93 'Long Lance' torpedoes, however, were absolutely, historically devastating, with the Portland and New Orleans heading down to Davy Jone's Locker by move 3 and 4 respectively! Lest anyone think this level of destruction from torpedoes excessive, I'll just allude to the Battle of Tassafaronga off Guadalcanal whereby a force of 8 IJN DDs, surprised whilst offloading supplies, turned the tables on the far superior USN TF ambushing them with a salvo of Long Lances at a range far beyond that expected of torpedoes; sinking one Heavy Cruiser and writing off another two!


So, in hindsight, those points? USN 640:IJN 985 - hardly a fair encounter! D'Oh!


All in all, very impressed with these rules and pleased the Victory at Sea launch has been received so well. Looking forward to seeing the full ruleset come out early next year.