As was the case with the last report, the battle’s story is told from both sides, turn by turn. The narrators are Rangers and Fallschrimjägers for the Allies and Axis respectively. Below you can find an overview of the table, and intelligence maps used by Allies. There are also two images of the respective forces pre-deployment.
The date is June 21st and the front line runs across the Cotentin Peninsula. The Germans hold only the city of Cherbourg and the northern coast of the peninsula.
We advance northward, with the 9th Division in west, the 79th Division in the center, and the 4th Division in the east, closing in on the city. Our Ranger company (Dog) has linked up with a platoon of Stuarts to try to capture Chateau de Boullegans, in the countryside outside of Cherbourg. Intel reports the manor is being used as a makeshift divisional command post for whatever Nazi units survived the retreat northward.
1st Platoon advanced to the west, falling into formation with the three M5 Stuarts. 2nd Platoon moved up towards the houses. We hoped we could occupy them and get clear shots out the windows towards the manor grounds. To our rear, the 81mm mortar platoon started firing at the Tigers in position on the manor ground and hit them twice, but even the M56 Heavy HE rounds were no match against the Tigers’ armor and bounced off.
The Fuhrer had ordered us to form a line in front of Cherbourg without retreating any further and that was what we would do. A strong will was needed to hold back the wall of Americans advancing northward. Upon taking command of LXXXIV Corps, Generalleutnant Dietrich von Choltitz had been disappointed in other divisions’ defeatist attitudes. Indeed, 77th Infantrie-Division decided to disobey Hitler’s orders and retreat to the south, as did the 91st Luftlande-Division.
Not us, though. We were a motley mix of regiments and battlegroups from several divisions, many of which had already suffered heavy casualties fighting the American airborne troops in the first days of the landings. Most of our armored infantry had been destroyed, leaving us on foot. We were a Fallschirmjäger company augmented with left-over beach defense forces from the 709th. If we were lucky, we could expect armor reinforcements from Cherbourg, but for now we’d have to make the most our two Tiger Is.
As the Americans advanced down the road, we caught the east-most group under our mortars, and we managed to hit two. When the smoke cleared there didn’t appear to be any casualties but they’d have a tough time moving any further! Our Tigers opened fire on their light tanks but they were still too far away and tucked too deeply in the woods to land any hits. Our HMG42 in the farm field outside the manor grounds did manage to lay fire on the infantry on the west flank, but again, they seem to have survived it.
They had that cross-roads in their sights! It was critical that we keep moving and get into the buildings on the far side of the street. “Let’s go, get up, get the hell out of here!” the sergeant bellowed, but the platoon was in a daze, grey dust covered our faces, forming a dark paste where it mixed with blood. We were in no condition to move.
Thankfully, as our ears stopped ringing, we heard the roar of Shermans approaching from behind us to the southeast. They were 76-ers, ready to show the Krauts what’s what! We were going to need ‘em to get those Tigers sorted out. They opened fire and along with our 3” AT in the rear, landed a hit or two. Nothing seemed to be knocked out, but that should have the crews rattled!
On the west flank the Stuarts opened fire with their 37mm canons to try and mop up the paratroops in the fields, to no avail. To help ‘em out, Captain Boyd called in for a naval bombardment but those Navy boys apparently had better things to be doing!
No problem, though, it was only a matter of time before we turn that “Heil” into “Whatcha know, Joe?” as Bing Crosby would say!
The light tanks in the woods immediately became a secondary concern to us when a platoon of their medium tanks approached from the southeast behind the train tracks. Our Tigers opened fire and at least two of them got rounds punched straight through them. We watched the crews scramble out, holding our breath, waiting for the moment those tanks would burst into flame. But it never came. These must be the “wet storage” model the Ami’s had recently introduced. No matter, though: tanks with no crew are almost as good as dead!
From the fields we also fired on the west infantry and killed a team there, too, unfortunately none of the rocket launcher teams, though.
Our mortars kept firing away at the infantry on the crossroads near the houses. They were pinned down and after this second barrage we managed to kill three teams, one of them a rocket launcher team! Those rockets were really the only thing our comrades in the Tigers were really worried about, so after having bailed the two Shermans, they reversed further behind the manor to protect their sides and rear.
To the east, the 76mm Sherman platoon was not handling the Tigers’ firepower well. Two teams bailed out after being hit. They had wet ammunition stowage but I think too many tankers had seen their pals burned alive to get up the nerve to get back in. To our horror, we saw the teams climb onto the one operational tank and start to retreat at full speed, abandoning the other two tanks!
Frankly, we weren’t doing a whole lot better though. After losing three of our teams the whole platoon was face down in the dirt. We knew we had to move but half of the platoon that wasn’t in bad shape seemed frozen with fear and the half which wanted to get the hell out of there could barely stand on their own feet. Not a great day for the Rangers!
On the west flank, things weren’t looking quite as FUBAR. Another platoon of Shermans roared across the fields from the south, taking up a position behind the trees which 1st Platoon and the Stuarts were using for cover. 1st Platoon themselves flanked further west, Stuarts in tow, trying to swing around the Fallschirmjäger-infested field directly ahead of us, using the railroad embankment as cover.
Our Shermans and Stuarts both blasted away at the troops in the fields and sent crops flying, but no paratrooper helmets! It became clear that our mortars, which had been ranged in on the manor itself, were going to need to help taking out the paratroops first. They ranged in on them on their second attempt and managed to pin them down; that was something!
A whoop echoed through the trees from the direction of the company command. It sounded like the Captain had some luck with the Navy and a minute later the sound of thunder rumbled through the sunny skies. The battleships off the coast had opened fire! These were some big shells; we’d heard they could flip Tigers if you could land ‘em right! The manor was engulfed in a cloud of dirt as the shells landed and the landscaping was thoroughly re-arranged to the specifications of the U.S. Navy.
The Tigers had been showered in dirt but seemed otherwise unscathed. The back corner of the manor was another story though. Distressed shouts echoed from inside and we could see Jerry moving casualties from the second floor down the landslide of brick to the back of the house.
A steady stream of tanks had been arriving for the Americans and their Navy was shelling us hard. Where on earth were our reinforcements? Had more divisions surrendered to the Americans elsewhere on the front?
Our unit leaders bellowed at us; “This is not the end! Not a step back! Think of the fatherland!” With a surge of adrenaline, we lifted our heads and brushed ourselves off.
The Tigers, having dispatched the Shermans in the east, turned their attention back to the light tanks. They fired away, but the tanks were too small and too well hidden in the underbrush to be hit. We too fired away at the infantry around them and had better luck; we killed three of their teams, thinning their ranks considerably.
Our mortars kept firing round after round on the infantry pinned on the east flank. Soon they would finish the job. Another four teams were killed there. The Americans were faltering and we became confident we could repel them.
The beach defenders who had been behind the manor rushed in the damaged northwest corner as wounded were being carried out, taking up positions in the windows, ready to put a final stop to the Americans’ advance.
2nd Platoon had taken heavy losses. Only a single team—the platoon commander’s—remained. He could not seem to unpin himself and get back on the move, but he also didn’t run. They lay there in the rubble, frozen.
On the west flank, 1st Platoon crept forward into the fields with their remaining teams. They were in a tough spot, but even more Shermans arrived from the southwest. One of them, the company commander, was a duplex-drive tank, with its enormous snorkel saying, “How do you do?”. They joined up with the other Sherman platoon which had opened fire on the fields again. Neither they nor the Stuarts were able to kill any of those damned Jerries hiding in the crops.
Captain Boyd called for naval support again, but it looked like the last barrage was all we’d be getting today. So the mortars repeated their bombardment on the field, killing at least one team. We ourselves were hardly in a position to lay down fire until we got closer.
Where where those verdammt reinforcements?! With a bit more power we could crush this attack in minutes!
The Ami’s had gotten another of our teams with mortar fire, but we were not going to stay down for long! We rallied and kept on fighting!
The Tigers turned their turrets to the newly arrived Shermans. With binoculars it looked like the commander in the turret was issuing firing orders to the three which took shots at us, our Tigers decided to cut the company’s head from its body. A round hit each of the command tanks and both their turrets flew off. How’s that for headless?
We kept firing our HMG into the Ami’s in the field and took out another team. Over heads we could hear the whistle of bullets as the beach team in the house opened the manor windows and set up their machine gun on a dresser in the bedroom. A second team of the American’s infantry collapsed as well.
Their ranks were thin, but they continued to advance towards a supply dump just outside the manor grounds. If they were going to play the hero, we’d have to get our hands dirty too. The Tigers moved forward from beside the house to the hedgerow on the edge of the grounds, ready to crush anything that came close.
The mission had turned sour. 2nd Platoon was gone; the sergeant’s team finally got up but instead of moving into the houses turned tail and ran backward behind the line. We weren’t fairing a lot better ourselves, and it looked like our support would be reduced further: without their command teams, the three Shermans to our rear decided to pull back to division CP.
Our Stuarts didn’t manage to hit any of the paratroops in the field so in an act of desperation the boys manning the AT guns to the rear opened up fire down the length of the road as well. They were on target but the anti-tank shells weren’t worth a damn against dug-in infantry.
The only thing that seemed to do a lick of good was our stovepipe boys with their M56 Heavy HE mortar rounds. They managed to kill another three teams. We actually did stand a chance against those German paratroopers since they were beginning to be stretched as thin as us, but the damn Tigers were moving towards us as well and that was bad news. Thankfully we still had bazookas, so we dug in while we had the chance.
Finally! Reinforcements rolled in from the rear: a platoon of StuHs!
Having wiped out the infantry to the east, our mortars re-targeted the Ami mortars which had been giving us hell. We dropped hellfire upon them, hitting all of them, but only one was killed.
We and the forces in the house rained MG fire down upon the infantry in the field, but they had dug in and our bullets sunk harmlessly into the loose dirt.
The Tigers tried to hit the light tanks but those little things were well covered and hard to hit, so after firing they rolled closer, covering the supplies dump and bringing themselves into closer range for the next round of fire.
Thank God for our foxholes! We were pinned down, and stayin’ that way, but alive!
Our boys in the Stuarts advanced right up to the embankment of the train tracks in order to keep Jerry on his toes; they were less than 100 feet from the supplies dump so this battle wasn’t decided yet...
Our mortars didn’t manage to kill anything this time, nor did our AT guns (but bless ‘em for trying), and the 37mm canons on the Stuarts just didn’t quite have the firepower to take out the paratroops in their foxholes.
The captain did manage to get another round out of the Navy; their first attempt to range in missed but on the second they landed a barrage next to the Tigers. We though they might flip but no luck. The massive shells did blow a team of Fallschrimjägers sky-high though! It wasn’t much, but it was something.
Now that we had weathered the fight and were close to victory, of course the reinforcements begin to arrive in force. A platoon of 75mm StuGs as well as their commander rolled up the road from the direction of Cherbourg.
All our tanks now focused their firepower on the verdammt rocket launcher just meters from our Tigers. But those Amis kept their heads down, tucked away in their foxholes and survived the incredible onslaught.
At this point we spotted movement in the forest, straight ahead. Some distance in front of the mortars that were giving us hell was a smaller group of Ami infantry, some with radio backpacks, laying low, hidden in the underbrush. They looked like officers. Were these the ones responsible for bringing the American Navy down on our heads? We opened up fire with our MG and they went down. Hopefully that would be the end of that.
The other danger was the mortars behind them, but we took out another team with our own artillery, bringing their numbers down to two.
Bein’ truthful: the battle was lost. We already knew it, but as Rangers, we were not giving up. We turned to check Captain Boyd’s position but his team was gone. He would never abandon us so that damned MG must have got them.
We kept pommelling the Germans in the field with what firepower we had left from the Stuarts and the AT guns but Jerry knew all he had to do was keep his head down and hang on a little longer. Same as we were doin’.
Victory was at hand. All armor converged on the two American teams dug into the field adjacent to ours. It was the StuGs that each managed to land a direct hit on the Amis. Their positions exploded into fountains of earth. We stopped firing, waiting for dust to clear.
They were gone. On the opposite side of the tracks the light tanks which had been supporting them seemed to give up, and began retreating, and the surviving Ami mortar teams packed up and sprinted southward across the field.
We had won! The Americans would not be getting to Cherbourg by this road!