Wargame Wednesday: Battle of the Bulge The 18th VG Division Advances

Wednesday , 6, February 2019 Leave a comment

Prelude

The 293rd VG Regiment at start. Scout cars spotted at one bridge and the two companies at top will encounter and destroy another Recon troop as they advance through the fog across the bridges over the Our River

From the In Front of St. Vith chapter of A Time for Trumpets: “Split seconds before 5:30 A.M. on Saturday, December 16, an American soldier from Company K, 110th Infantry, manning an observation post atop a concrete water tower along the Skyline Drive in the village of Hosingen (south of this battle’s AOR), telephoned his company commander. In the distance on the German side of the Our, he could see a strange phenomenon: countless flickering pinpoints of light”.  At the same time, 14th Armored Group sentries in various villages of the Losheim Gap saw the same flickers, almost immediately followed by a tremendous artillery barrage. “Amid the thunder the troops could make out the distinctive screeching sound of rockets (the Americans called them “Screaming Meemies”) from the Nebelwerfer, a multiple-barreled, electrically fired rocket launcher”.

MacDonald continues: “Yet little of the shelling hit the villages in the southernmost reaches of the Losheim Gap, the villages of Weckerath, Roth, and Kobscheid. That reflected the fact that German patrols had found an undefended area of more than a mile between Weckerath and Roth, and at the last minute General von Manteuffel decided to eschew an artillery preparation there while sending a column through the gap to gain a leg on the march to the valley of the Our. A battalion of Volksgrenadiers was soon pushing unhindered in the darkness toward the village of Auw…”.

A map showing the situation at the end of the German first turn on the next page.

Review the following screen shot taken at the end of the German player’s first turn, keeping in mind the mile of undefended terrain between Weckerath and Roth.

293, 294 (highlighted) and 295 are the VG Regiments, FB is the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade. The FB Brigade units are fixed in place until later in the game. Red explosion is where 14 Armored Group scout car platoons were engaged and destroyed. The Skyline Drive is the paved road (grey line) south of Auw.

In this version of the scenario infantry from the 106th starts the game in Roth and in the woods between Weckerrath and Roth.  According to MacDonald all these villages in the Losheim Gap were garrisoned by the 14th AG and the 106th’s sector was further south (down by Schlausenbach).  Historically, Roth only had a “platoon of cavalry” (not sure if this platoon consisted of recon vehicles or light tanks); Topp A’s headquarters personnel and two of the “virtually immobile” towed 3-inch tank destroyers. The Germans were able to exploit the gap in the defense, initially bypassing Roth and assaulting American engineers at Auw and then attack Roth supported by assault guns. Colonel Devine, commanding officer of the 14th Armored Group tried to send a platoon of light tanks to reinforce the defenders at Roth but were stopped by the Volks-Grenadiers who had bypassed Roth (probably at Auw).

I’m guessing the a-historical opening positions in this area, consisting of a battalion from the 422nd Infantry Regiment was done for balance or play-ability reasons but would prefer (and not just speaking as the German player) a historical set up. I played two prior versions of this scenario and the 422nd and 433rd Infantry Regiments were able to fall back intact towards the bridges at Schoenburg while making the Germans pay a very high price. Despite all that, I’m glad I have embarked on this project as this scenario was both the impetus and avenue towards deeper understanding of the battle.  It is one thing to read a good book such as A Time for Trumpets but a good simulation game definitely enhances reading, from reading for pleasure to historical research.

Well, I’m getting greater understanding all right, I went to research the push on Schlausenbach and the 295th VG Regiment. In A Tour of the Bulge Battlefield, I found the following:

“In the early morning hours of 16 December, 1944, here, high in the center of the Schnee Eifel, the 422nd Infantry missed the first rude shock of the pre-dawn attack. It was not part of the German attack plan to engage the 422nd by frontal assault. The enemy penetration just north of Roth during the hours of darkness, quickly brought the assault troops of the 294th Regiment of the 18th VG Division down the road to Auw and onto the American Regiment’s flank and rear (this is area unguarded portion of the line between Weckerrath and Roth mentioned earlier). At daylight, small groups of Germans began pressure against the forward battalions of the 422nd in an attempt to fix American attention to their front”.

The German advance on Schlausenbach would come from the north, not a push uphill by the 29th head on into strong defensive positions.

What’s more, I read that it was the 293rd Regiment of the 18th VG Division that attacked the village of Bleialf instead of just across the Our River from Manderfeld (the screen shot on the first page of this post).  Bleialf is off the map about 7km to the SE of Schlausenbach.  In the scenario, units from the 62nd VG Division are the ones that push up the road to Bleialf.  All I can do going forward is follow game play to the capture of St. Vith and cross post to content on the actual battles fought.

There is difficulty in researching German unit positions as the books I am referencing most write from the American perspective of the battle.

Without going into detail the screen shot below is a summary of the early morning battle in the 18th VG Division’s sector.

 

From top to bottom:

  • Krewinkel: Troop C of the 14th Armored Group and a platoon of reconnaissance troops repel two German assaults in the early morning inflicting heavy casualties (over 150 German KIA versus one American KIA and two wounded).
  • The situation becomes untenable and the 14th Armored Group is ordered to retreat.
  • MacDonald: “Company of 81st Engineer Battalion at Auw folded in mid-morning”
  • Roth: Sometime in the early morning the last radio message from Captain Porche stating that enemy self propelled guns were “seventy-five yards from the CP, firing direct fire. Out.” 90 Americans in Roth.  3 KIA and 87 surrendered.
  • MacDonald: “By 0830 there were reports of Germans infiltrating up a wooded draw between Kobscheid and Auw in the direction of Schlausenbach then another report of fifty Germans in white camouflage suits on high ground between Schlausenbach and Auw”
  • Receiving news that Auw had been captured the commanding officer of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, Col. Descheneaux (age 32), head quartered in Schlausenbach, was concerned that his artillery near the village of Laudesfeld would soon be overrun, ordered a counter attack at 1400.  This was called off as the Germans continued to advance south towards Schlausenbach.
  • The 293rd VG Regiment attacks Bleialf soon after the artillery barrage lifts.

 

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