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Guards Tank: Battle at Kursk | Hurtgen Forest | Manchuria: Japan’s Last Stand

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Red Armor at Kursk, July 1943

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The Strategy & Tactics
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13 | AUG-SEP 2010

6 25



6 18 • What If: Pearl Harbor Invasion

Guards Tank: Design Corner • Greek Civil War: Prequel to Cold War
The Soviet Army at Kursk Guards Tank: Prokhorovka, 1943 • Bzura Counteroffensive, Poland
Kursk is often considered the decisive by Joseph Miranda • Japanese Production Strategy
clash of the Russian Front, but the real
victory was won off the battlefield. 52 Have a question or comment for our editorial staff? Visit our
free bulletin board at
by Joseph Miranda Game Preview
Leningrad ‘41 PUBLISHER
20 Christopher Cummins
Super Ships: 53 SENIOR EDITOR
Bigger Isn’t Always Better Observation Post Ty Bomba
Some of the largest combat vessels EDITOR
ever constructed fought in World • I Remember: William Scott Joseph Miranda
War II, but they didn’t do it well. by Andrew Hind DESIGN
by Stefen Styrsky • On the Seas: C.J. Doherty
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25 by Mark N. Lardas Jason Burnett, Lewis Goldberg, Eric Harvey

The Battle for Hurtgen Forest • Mysteries Revealed: MAP GRAPHICS

The Allied dash across France The Battle of Cape Lookout Meridian Mapping

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6 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010
Guards Tank:
The Soviet Army at Kursk
by Joseph Miranda

Chronology of the Campaign Background

15 April 1943: Hitler authorizes Operation Citadel, an offensive The year 1943 opened with the
to be launched against the Kursk salient. stunning Soviet victory at Stalingrad,
4 July: the preliminary stage of the battle begins. where the Red Army surrounded and
5 July: the Germans begin their full-scale offensive. Ninth Army (of Army destroyed the German Sixth Army, while
Group Center) attacks from the north; Second Panzer Army and Army also destroying the Romanian, Italian
Detachment Kempf (Army Group South) attack from the south. and Hungarian forces on its flanks.
11 July: the northern German pincer effectively stopped by Soviet defenses. In the aftermath, the Soviets drove
12 July: in the south, II SS Panzer Corps breaks through and engages Soviet armor at Prokhorovka. into the Ukraine, stopped only after
Meanwhile, the Soviets launch their counteroffensive against the Orel salient (Operation Kutuzov). a desperate German counterattack at
13 July: Hitler allows Manstein to continue a limited attack to attempt to destroy Kharkov in March. As the spring thaw
Soviet reserves. In the north, Ninth Army goes over to the defensive. set in, operations ground to a halt. Both
17 July: Hitler orders an end to Citadel. sides’ armies rebuilt, and both sides’
25 July: II SS Panzer Corps is shifted away from the Kursk front high commands planned for a new
to deal with a Soviet offensive elsewhere. and decisive battle in the summer.
3 August: Soviets launch Operation Rumyantsev against Army Group South. In the Kremlin there was debate
5 August: Soviets recapture Orel. about the strategic direction for the
23 August: Manstein abandons Kharkov. remainder of the year. One faction
called for a two-pronged offensive, the
first driving into Byelorussia via Orel,

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 7

and the second moving deeper into the
Ukraine where the Dnepr River could
be crossed by the end of the year. That
course of action was also expected to
preempt any German summer offensive.
Another faction, headed by Marshal
G.K. Zhukov and Chief of Staff A.M.
Vasilevsky, advocated temporarily
standing on the defensive. They believed
the experience of the 1941 Moscow
battle, as well as that of Stalingrad,
showed the best way to deal with the
still tactically and technically superior
Germans was to allow them to attack
first, waiting until their divisions became
pinned down against Soviet defenses,
and then — once the “correlation of
forces” had clearly shifted in the Reds’
favor — launch a massive counterattack.
Stalin was at first a proponent
of the former position, but he came
around to accept the latter. The reason
for his change in attitude was Soviet
intelligence showed the Germans were
indeed planning a major summer
offensive for 1943, called Zitadelle
(Citadel). It was to be launched against
above — The commander: Leonid Brezhnev (left) consults with an officer
below — Predecessor to Kursk: Soviet infantry fighting in Stalingrad the salient centered on the city of Kursk

8 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

in the middle of the front. The German The 1941 German invasion of the fought, keep up morale, and suppress
plan was to concentrate powerful panzer USSR had seen the Soviet Union hold any signs of dissatisfaction. The com-
units on the salient’s north and south together despite suffering some of the munists also used appeals to traditional
shoulders, break through there and greatest military disasters in history. Part Russian patriotism to mobilize support.
envelop all the nearby Soviet forces in a of that was due to the ruthless discipline All of that was then given further impe-
battle of annihilation. Hitler’s objectives imparted by Stalin and the Communist tus by Nazi atrocities that pushed the
were limited: Citadel’s main purpose Party. Massive propaganda work was rank and file into supporting Moscow.
was to eliminate sufficient Red forces, conducted among the armed forces, via As the war progressed and the
especially armored reserves, to prevent the commissar system, to explain the question of simple national survival
the Soviets from attacking later in the purposes for which the war was being continued on page 11 »
year. Unlike the 1941 and 1942 German
campaigns in the east, Citadel was not
intended as a war-winner. Given that
it would be fought in the summer, in
range of German air cover, and well
within reach of German lines of supply,
Citadel seemed to favor the Wehrmacht.
The Soviet high command sought
to think beyond the coming battle: they
wanted to turn the fighting around Kursk
into an operation that would serve as the
opener for their own counteroffensive.
They would let the Germans wear
themselves down in attritional fighting,
then counterattack on the flanks toward
Orel and Kharkov. Accordingly, orders
were given to fortify all around Kursk
and, beyond that, to prepare reserves
for the coming counteroffensive.
There were several factors favoring
the Soviets as the summer approached.
One was the overall balance of forces
on the eastern front in the aftermath of
Stalingrad. The Germans had lost their
Sixth Army in that campaign. Also lost
were numerous Hungarian, Italian and
Romanian divisions, amounting to the
equivalent of several more armies. While
those Axis-allied forces hadn’t been at
the level of their German equivalents,
they did hold down considerable
sectors of the front in 1941-42. Those
divisions wouldn’t be there in 1943,
and that made a difference when the
Germans themselves needed to provide
the manpower to hold all 950 miles
(1,500 km) of the front. That situation
also lends some credibility to Hitler’s
motivation to launch Citadel for political
purposes: he believed he had to show
Germany was still capable of gaining
victories in the east in order to keep his
already battered allies from defecting.
Stalingrad had also provided a
tremendous morale boost to the Soviets.
It showed the Germans could not
only be held, but also outmaneuvered
and destroyed. Stalingrad, in fact,
had been the first time since the
Napoleonic wars an entire German
army was completely destroyed in
the field. That also enhanced the
reputation of Stalin’s regime by
demonstrating it was capable of fighting
and winning major campaigns.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 9

Soviet Organization

The “Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” was the official increasing numbers of Lend-Lease trucks from the US, their rifle divi-
name of the armed force of the USSR (the title would be changed sions became increasingly mobile, at least more so than their German
to the “Soviet Army” in 1946). As described in the main body counterparts, which increasingly suffered from fuel and vehicle shortages.
of the article, the Red Army went through much reorganiza- Soviet rifle divisions were considerably weaker than their Western
tion in the two years following the German invasion. counterparts. Their paper strength was 9,600 men in 1943, as compared
When first organized in late 1942, each new tank corps had three to the roughly 13,000-man strength that was the on-paper norm for the
tank and one motorized infantry brigade, with little in the way of Germans (though those numbers were rarely seen once combat losses
supporting units. By 1943, tank corps had received some powerful began to be suffered). Soviet divisional artillery relied on direct fire 76mm
support elements, including assault gun, rocket launcher, anti-tank and 122mm guns. The German divisions used 105mm and 150mm guns,
and mortar regiments or battalions. Unlike German panzer divisions, and they had a much more efficient fire control system. That was one rea-
tank corps didn’t have central divisional artillery pools that could make son for the high ratio of Soviet to German casualties. Even when winning a
concentrated fires. That was because the Red Army lacked sufficiently battle, the Red Army could expect to suffer more losses to German artillery
trained personnel to coordinate such fires in mobile situations. than the enemy would be taking from Soviet guns. The Red Army concen-
To bolster the tank corps on the defensive, the Red Army created trated its indirect fire artillery in non-divisional brigades, divisions and
mechanized corps. They consisted of three mechanized and one tank bri- corps. In that way the scarce technically trained artillery personnel could be
gade, plus a mix of support elements along the same lines as a tank corps. concentrated for the coordination of powerful indirect fires. While German
The mechanized brigades were similar to motorized brigades, except they divisional artillery gave them another tactical advantage, the Soviet
also had assigned a tank regiment within them. That made mechanized non-divisional artillery proved effective as an operational arm of war.
corps powerful formations, with both defensive and offensive capabilities. When comparing the Soviet and German orders of battle, a
Tank armies constituted the next higher level of Soviet organization. caveat must be kept in mind. That is, the numbers often weren’t so
They generally consisted of two tank and one mechanized corps, plus dramatically in favor of the Soviets as they would at first appear. That
other strong armored and artillery formations. On paper, they were the was due to the Red Army practice of designating units by a higher
equivalent of a German panzer corps; in reality, they had both advantages echelon term than its size would warrant in Western military parlance.
and disadvantages when compared to those German formations. A As mentioned, tank and mechanized corps were about the size of
primary advantage of the tank armies came from the fact they were Western armored divisions. Similarly, Red Army tank and assault gun
kept under the direct control of the Soviet Military high command. regiments were actually the equivalents of small panzer battalions.
That meant they were held in reserve and committed only for critical That has interesting implications for the analysis of campaigns on
operations. (In some cases, individual tank and mechanized corps were the eastern front. For example, in 1943 the Germans deployed about a
temporarily detached to lower command echelons for lesser operations.) dozen panzer corps in the USSR. The Red Army had five equivalent units
Tank armies were intended to fight the deep battle: once the (tank armies); so the Germans had the edge in numbers of corps-level
breakthrough had been made on the front by the infantry, the tanks would armored formations — and yet, the Soviets clearly outmaneuvered
drive deep, destroying enemy reserves and logistical installations. The the Germans that year. What that indicates is the actual deployment
mechanized corps would follow along, holding ground and waiting for of units was more critical than mere numbers, and by 1943 the
the infantry divisions to catch up. Incidentally, as the Soviets received Red Army was demonstrating superiority in that regard.  ★

10 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

» continued from page 9 sized units. In 1943 they followed up by pools they would be committed for
receded into the background, the building tank armies (Western corps decisive actions, such as counterattacks
Kremlin implemented some intelligent equivalents), each generally consisting against enemy breakthroughs, or for
policies to maintain morale while of two tank and one mechanized corps. counterattacking deep into enemy rear
further enhancing their armed forces’ The doctrine behind those units was area echelons. On the offensive, infantry
efficiency. By 1943, much of the power critical: the tank armies and their armies (confusingly termed “combined
of the political commissars had been component corps were to be employed arms armies” in Soviet military parlance)
cut back, and officers were allowed as independent maneuver units. In would make the actual breakthrough
to use some tactical initiative in the order to perform that mission, they were of the enemy front. That was done in
field. Another move was to recognize to be held in reserve at the strategic or order to avoid unnecessary attritional
the achievements of individuals and “front” levels (army group), from which continued on page 14 »
units that performed well in combat
via promotions and awarding medals.
Units with a demonstrated record of
proficiency were given the honorific
of “Guards,” after the elite units of the
old Czarist army. Guards units were
provided with an upgraded organiza-
tion along with better equipment and
the best of the recruits. Thus there
soon came to be Guards regiments,
brigades, divisions, corps and armies.

Command & Intelligence

One reason for the disastrous

performance of the Red Army in 1941
was the abysmal state of its command
control. Stalin’s purges of the late
1930s had eliminated many of the best
leaders in the USSR’s armed forces,
including innovative thinkers such as
Marshal M.N. Tukhachevsky, a pioneer
of deep operations theory (which was
a correlate of the German blitzkrieg
doctrine). To make matters worse,
Soviet armored forces were going
through one of series of reorganiza-
tions when the Germans struck.
For example, though the mechanized
corps in June 1941 looked strong on
paper (consisting of two tank and one
motorized infantry division each) their
commanders and staffs were almost
entirely inexperienced, logistics were
inadequate, and combined-arms
training non-existent. Those units fell
apart in the face of the well-coordinated
German assault. As a result of that
experience, the Soviets broke up their
surviving mechanized corps, using
their equipment and manpower to
form smaller tank brigades which
were employed almost exclusively
for infantry support. That effectively
made it impossible for the Red Army
to conduct large-scale armored
operations for over a year, thereby
giving the panzer corps an easy run at
the operational and strategic levels.
By mid-1942 the Soviets felt confi-
dent enough to again organize larger
armored units. They were termed tank
and mechanized “corps,” but by Western
standards they were actually division-

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 11

The Germans in 1943

By the time of Citadel, the Germans’ pan- the tactical side at that time. That is, both their its age at Kursk; the upgraded version with
zer arm had undergone fundamental changes panzer (armored) and panzergrenadier (armored an 85mm gun didn’t appear until 1944.
from the force with which they’d begun the infantry) divisions were much more heavily The improved panzers were one reason for
war. In 1939-41, the Germans utilized “panzer armed compared to previous years. That was the high AFV kill ratio at Kursk. That kill ratio
groups,” each consisting of several motorized especially true when it came to armored was also due to superior German training, and
or panzer corps. Panzer groups were committed fighting vehicles (AFVs). The panzer divisions the greater initiative allowed to lower-level
as theater-level and army group-level maneu- had dropped their obsolescent inventory of commanders, though continuing experience
ver units. Starting late in 1941, the panzer Mark I and II tanks, with which they’d fought in the field was allowing the Soviets to begin
groups were upgraded to panzer armies. While throughout the war’s early stages. Both of to catch up in those areas. On the technical
theoretically that should’ve led to an increase those machines were little more than prewar side, German guns had superior optics, which
in their strength, it actually degraded their effi- tank prototypes, but the Germans had been allowed their weapons to engage at longer
ciency because — as “armies” — they were forced to use them in 1939-41 out of necessity. ranges and more accurately. The Germans
expected to hold sectors of the front rather The main German tanks at Kursk were Mark also had superior and more numerous
than simply being on hand for exploitations. IIIs and IVs. While the III was showing its age, radios, which enabled better communica-
Panzer armies also came to have ever it was reliable and armed with an upgraded tions and enhanced command control.
increasing numbers of non-motorized infantry 50mm gun. The IV had a high-velocity 75mm The real shortfall among the Germans at
divisions assigned to them, further limiting that was one of the best tank guns of the that time in the war wasn’t in their panzers,
their overall mobility. Meanwhile, the panzer war. There were also small numbers of Mark but their infantry divisions. From January
divisions tended to be parceled out as mobile VI Tigers on the field with their 88mm guns. to June 1943 the German forces in the east
“fire brigades” to meet emergencies both The Mark V Panther made it debut at Kursk, received 370,000 individual replacements to
within and without the panzer armies. During though they were rushed to the front before all cover 690,000 losses. The infantry divisions
Kursk, Second Panzer Army, which was holding its mechanical “bugs” had been worked out. had a lower priority than the panzer and
the front east of Orel, had no panzer corps Aside from the better tanks, panzer units in panzergrenadier units. The inevitable result
assigned to it, while Ninth (Infantry) Army, 1943 had assigned to them numerous assault was infantry units came to be habitually
which was making the assault against the guns, tank destroyers (such as the massive under-strength. The Germans attempted to
northern face of the salient, had three. Of Porsche Ferdinands), and self-propelled artil- deal with that through reorganization. Infantry
course, the exigencies of the war increasingly lery, as well as a much more lavish equipage regiments were reduced from their 1942
gave the Germans little choice but to keep their of armored personnel carriers (halftracks, organization of three battalions each down
panzer armies in the line, since they lacked though there never were enough of them). to two. There were similar cuts in strength
the infantry divisions to defend the entire That was a reversal of the tactical throughout other divisional units. That was bal-
front. That situation can be compared to the situation of 1941 and 1942, when the Red anced, in part, by assigning heavier weapons
Soviet practice of employing their tank armies Army had the armored edge with its T-34 to the divisions, including assault guns. The
as front-level maneuver units. Effectively, by and KV tanks. Moreover, in 1943 the Soviets problem was that the increase in firepower
1943 the Germans had lost the advantage in still fielded many light tanks, such as the couldn’t make up for the lack of riflemen to
operational and strategic maneuver warfare. T-70, which were vastly inferior to new hold the line. That meant, when the Soviets
Ironically, the Germans were gaining on German AFVs. Even the T-34 was showing went over to the offensive, the German front

Into the east: SS Panzer troops prepare for an assault

12 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

was inevitably brittle, lacking the manpower
and depth to stop breakthroughs. Often, it
was only the timely intervention by panzer and
panzergrenadier divisions that prevented the
front from collapsing altogether. That, in turn,
meant the mobile units were being tied down
and suffering increasing attrition, and thus
couldn’t be employed for major operations.
All that reflected the even bigger picture.
As the Soviets rationalized their army organiza-
tion in 1943, the Germans were going in the
opposite direction. With the manpower crisis
generated by the losses on the eastern front in
1941 and 1942, the German Army took a step
backward. In late 1942 the German Army (Heer)
requested the Air Force (Luftwaffe) turn over
200,000 personnel to be retrained as replace-
ments to rebuild depleted divisions. Hermann
Goering was loathe to give up his service com-
mand’s manpower. Instead, he came up with an
alternative plan by which Air Force personnel
would be formed into Luftwaffe Field Divisions
and committed to the front to fight as infantry.
Despite the objections from the Army
high command, Goering won Hitler’s
consent for his scheme. Twenty-two of those
divisions were formed and sent to the front,
where they proved to be generally useless
in combat. They lacked both experienced
combat leaders and unit cohesion. As a result,
they fell apart in sustained fighting. The
experiment wasted both time and resources
the Germans couldn’t afford to lose.
While much has been made of the Waffen
SS as being the elite fire brigade of the
German ground force, in mid-1943 it was still
a relatively small part of the armed forces. The
Waffen SS had but three beefed-up panzer-
grenadier divisions involved at Kursk. A fourth
division was in Army Group South reserve and
defended the Kharkov front against Soviet
attacks. Overall, there were less than a dozen
SS divisions fully active in mid-1943. Several
of those units were composed of volunteers
(more or less) recruited from the Germanic pop-
ulations that then still lived in various areas
around Europe. At Kursk the II SS Panzer Corps
gave a good accounting for itself, making one
of the few major breakthroughs of the battle.
But there would prove to be more to that
picture. In the latter part of the war, the SS
would recruit various non-German nationalities
on a large-scale, but that had yet to go into
high gear at the time of Kursk. Oddly enough,
that move was an error on the converse of the
decision to build the Luftwaffe field divisions.
That is, the SS recruiting campaign in Nazi
occupied countries didn’t impact on the Army’s
replacement pool in Germany. So, had the
SS buildup begun earlier, it could’ve created
a pool of divisions that could’ve effectively
bolstered the front, but the Germans did not
seize on this opportunity until too late.   ★

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 13

» continued from page 11 measure was to temporarily eliminate then, sufficient numbers of qualified
losses to the tank armies by not having the corps organization. Divisions officers were on hand to allow the
them involved in frontal assaults. came to be directly con ed by army Soviets to restore the corps echelon in
As for the Soviet infantry armies, headquarters. That elimination of the the combined arms armies. That consid-
the standard 1941 structure had corps echelon also meant the small erably improved their level of efficiency.
consisted of two to four rifle corps, each pool of trained officers could be better A further advantage the Soviets built
of three or so divisions plus numerous concentrated at one level. While that up by 1943 was in communications. In
sub-divisional units. As with the 1941 wasn’t as efficient as the former division- 1941 the Red Army had relied mainly
mechanized corps, those infantry armies corps-army system would’ve been had on landline networks, but telephones
suffered from inexperienced leadership, it been properly manned, it nonetheless couldn’t keep pace with mobile opera-
politically mandated rigid tactics, and worked well and long enough to allow tions. Moreover, the Luftwaffe made a
abysmal logistics. There simply weren’t the Soviets to rebuild their officer ranks. priority of attacking communication
enough well trained commanders and One way that process was facilitated centers, often completely knocking out
staff personnel to effectively plan and was by Stalin ordering the release of telephone exchanges. By the time of
control combat operations. As a result, numerous officers from the gulag and Kursk, however, the Soviets were fielding
armies often went into battle with restoring them to rank. Another was increasing numbers of radios while add-
their components uncoordinated and via the rapid promotion of men who ing numerous communications units to
disjointed. The Soviets dealt with that, as showed their worth in the field. That was their tables of organization. To be sure,
best they could, by the use of emergency accompanied by the removal of many they still weren’t up to the technical
expedients. One was to reduce the untalented “party hack” officers, often level of the Germans, but it was enough
size of their infantry (“rifle”) divisions. by the simple expedient of transferring to make mobile warfare possible.
That made them easier for the officers them to behind-the-line jobs in which There was also the intelligence war,
on hand to maneuver them. Another they couldn’t do much damage. By 1943, in which the Soviets made good use of

Between battles: Soviet unit receives new tanks in the field

14 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

espionage networks, such as the Rotte intelligence believed the Soviets’ Steppe the average German soldier understood
Kapelle (Red Orchestra) and the Lucy Front, in reserve behind the Kursk there was really no safe rear area until
Ring. There was also intelligence from salient, contained only a total of five the Reich’s frontier was reached. That
the Anglo-American ULTRA program tank or mechanized corps when it actu- imparted a sense of isolation to the men
the Allies passed on to Moscow. As ally had twice that number. The request at the front, and aided in undermining
a result, the Soviets were aware of by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, German morale when the Red Army
major German operations ahead of commander of Army Group South, to attacked, since there was an enemy
time and could plan accordingly. Hitler to be allowed to continue the both in front of and behind the lines.
On the front line, the Soviets also offensive after the Battle of Prokhorovka
increased their tactical intelligence on 12 July was predicated on that Tactics
capabilities. Reconnaissance and aerial officer’s mistaken belief the Soviets
photography gave them a good picture had no powerful reserves available German armored doctrine called for
of German positions and potential to counter his panzer spearheads. mobile units to make the breakthrough
axes of advance prior to Citadel. They Further aiding Soviet intelligence and then to drive deep into the enemy
exploited that information to build were the partisan formations operat- rear, destroying headquarters, artillery
defenses arrayed so as to channel the ing in the German rear areas. They and logistical installations, thereby
anticipated German advances directly passed on information about enemy causing his front line to collapse for lack
into preset kill zones. The Soviets also dispositions, as well as conducting of command and support. Combined
proved adept at maskirova (deception) sporadic raiding. By 1943, German arms tactics were emphasized. Tanks
operations, which ranged from simply security operations had contained the attacked in combination with motor-
camouflaging tactical positions up to direct threat from the partisans, but ized infantry accompanied by anti-tank
concealing the identity and location their primary impact was more subtle. guns, artillery and flak in support. That
of entire armies. For example, German With a large partisan force in the field, doctrine proved its effectiveness in

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 15

the 1941 and 1942 campaigns in the accomplish their primary mission of defense. Conceivably, had the Germans
USSR. By 1943, however, the Soviets had making breakthroughs. While the Red destroyed sufficient Soviet armored
also learned many doctrinal lessons. Army lost several times more tanks formations at Kursk, they might thereby
In preparation for Citadel, the at Kursk than did the Germans, that have regained the operational advan-
Soviets built successive belts of didn’t really matter when the Germans tage, allowing them to contain the
fortifications within the Kursk salient, found themselves unable to continue ensuing Soviet counteroffensives. Kursk
each held by infantry heavily reinforced their advance. The Soviets had devised demonstrated, however, that German
with anti-tank guns. Artillery was a system that thwarted the blitzkrieg. tactical and technical superiority over
pre-registered on its target areas. The the Soviets was no longer enough.
intent wasn’t so much to instantly stop Conclusions The Battle of Kursk also had a
the Germans, but rather to disrupt further tremendous effect on Soviet
their tactical formations. Artillery What happened at Kursk was that morale. It proved the Red Army could
fire would force the non-armored the Germans lost the strategic initiative defeat the Germans in a fair weather
units in the panzer divisions to halt on the Russian front. The Soviets were campaign, which did much to sustain
and take cover, thereby causing the also able to prepare a counter-cam- the willingness of the “Ivans” to fight
tanks to advance without support into paign that was soon to engulf the entire on until total victory was achieved.  ✪
positions where they could be picked front. They launched the northern
off by anti-tank teams. Further, if their arm of their counteroffensive against Sources
infantry couldn’t keep up with the Orel on 12 July, and in the south on 3 Barbier, M.K.
panzers, the Germans couldn’t securely August. Those drives made the entire Kursk: the Greatest Tank Battle.
Heasham: 2002.
hold whatever ground they did take. German position around the Kursk Dear, I.C.B., ed.
Once the Germans had been salient untenable, as the Reds advanced The Oxford Companion to World War II.
Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1995.
weakened and disrupted in that way, to threaten the deeper flanks of both Dupuy, Col. T. N. & Paul Martell.
the Soviet high command would com- German army groups involved. The Great Battles on the Eastern Front.
New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1982.
mit tank and mechanized corps to a Germans then had to shift their mobile Glantz, David.
decisive counterattack. That approach units and air support to deal with those Colossus Reborn.
Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 2005.
also took advantage of an often threats, making it impossible for their Von der Heydte, Friedrich.
overlooked point about German tanks. spearheads at the salient to exploit even Modern Irregular Warfare.
That is, most of them were designed for the limited successes they’d gained. Manstein, Erich von.
mobile warfare, moving deep into the In the end, Hitler had no alternative Lost Victories.
St. Paul: Zenith, 2004.
enemy rear area to destroy command other than to shut down Citadel, Muller, Richard.
and support echelons, but they were which he did officially on 17 July. The German Air War in Russia.
Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation, 1992.
not intended to act as the primary tank The Soviets won at Kursk because Murray, Williamson.
killers. Destroying enemy tanks was the they were better prepared than the Strategy for Defeat.
Maxwell Air Force Base: Air Univ. Press, 1983
job of Germans’ anti-tank guns and the Germans for the campaign that was Newton, Steven.
88mm flak pieces. To be sure, by 1943 actually fought. They had a strategy Kursk: The German View.
Cambridge: DaCapo, 2002.
the Germans were fielding numerous that translated into an operational Zalaga, Steven & Leland Ness.
self-propelled armored tank destroyers advantage that negated German tacti- Red Army Handbook, 1939-45.
Gloucestershire: Sutton, 1998.
and assault guns, and also had tanks cal superiority. They also employed a Zetterling, Niklas & Anders Frankson.
such as the Mark VI Tiger as dedicated more effective operational doctrine. Kursk 1943.
London: Cass, 2000.
tank killers; but even so, the Soviets At Kursk, the Germans attacked on
structured their defense so the mass ground of the Soviets’ choosing,
of German tanks wouldn’t be able to thereby ceding the advantage to the

Ready for action: T-34 tanks

16 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

The Numbers:
1943 Production of
Selected Weapons Systems service by whichever side held the field at the end of a day’s fighting.
The Germans had an efficient organization for doing just that; however,
Soviet German
as they were forced back during ever more continuous retreats, such
Tanks & Assault Guns 24,090 12,060 recoveries became more and more difficult for them to accomplish.
Artillery Pieces 130,000 46,100 On the technical side, German AFVs were better engineered than
those of the Soviets in 1943, with superior guns and armor. That made
Aircraft 34,850 25,530 them more effective in the field, but it also meant German tanks took
Trucks 45,600 74,180 longer to produce than an equivalent number of Soviet vehicles. The
Soviets went in for numbers, but not simply to overwhelm the Germans.
One explanation for the German defeat on the eastern front Their main battle tank, the T-34, was a good general purpose AFV, and
is the Soviets had superior numbers; however, what often gets was efficient off road. Its mass production meant the Soviets could
missed is that the reason the Soviets had those numbers was create a reserve of tanks with which they could quickly rebuild depleted
their system for mobilizing manpower and industrial strength was units. After a few weeks of combat, German panzer divisions were
superior to that of the Third Reich. As 1943 opened, Hitler had often worn down to a couple dozen surviving AFVs. That meant the Red
control of all of Europe from the Pyrenees to the Ukraine. Yet his Army could sustain its offensives, while the Germans couldn’t. So, while
Reich couldn’t produce the number of weapons constructed by one superior tank might be able to outfight three mediocre opponents,
the USSR — and that despite the fact the Germans were also one operational, though inferior, AFV is certainly better than none.
holding some of the industrial areas of the Soviet Union. Then there was the population numbers. While the population of
The chart above shows the 1943 production of several types the USSR was larger than that of Nazi Germany, what’s often overlooked
of major military items. Actually, there is more to those numbers is Hitler’s allies included Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland.
than meets the eye. For example, equipment that was damaged and Of those countries, only Finland conducted a full mobilization and
returned to the factory for repair was sometimes included among commitment of forces to the eastern front for the entire war, nearly
“new” production statistics. At the same time, simply because a vehicle wrecking the Finnish economy in the process. Romania came close, but
was produced doesn’t mean it actually made it to the front. Many after their losses at Stalingrad they, as well as the Hungarians, would
were lost on the way due to enemy air action, while others had to be be a negligible presence on the front in 1943. The Italians collapsed
diverted to training units, or broke down and were simply abandoned. over the summer when the Western Allies invaded their homeland.
The chart also doesn’t show the employment of In 1941-42 the Germans could also draw on their divisions
captured equipment, or of materiel confiscated from occupied garrisoning western Europe as a strategic reserve, rushing units
countries. For example, the Germans captured thousands of Red to the east in emergencies. With the Allied offensive against first
Army 76mm guns in 1941 and used them in the construction of Sicily (July 1943) and then the Italian mainland (September), that
a tank-hunter AFVs. The Soviets meanwhile received numerous was no longer an option. The panzer divisions, and newly reformed
armored vehicles and trucks from the US and Great Britain. airborne corps, stationed in the west had to be committed to the
Yet another point to consider when looking at the numbers is AFVs Mediterranean Theater to keep it from collapsing. What that meant for
that were knocked out in battle could often be repaired and returned to the Germans in 1943 was they were on their own in the east.   ★

Spearhead of victory:
Soviet combined arms
forces advance

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 17

Design Corner
Joseph Miranda

Guards Tank:
Prokhorovka, 1943

ne of the reasons for playing edge in the non-material sense. For Red Army had become a reasonably
wargames is to figure out what example, each German division in the effective combined arms outfit.
happened historically. That can game has more headquarters than its Then there’s airpower. At the high
be seen in this issue’s game, Guards Soviet counterpart. That represents point of Prokhorovka, the Germans
Tank: Prokhorovka, 1943, which is the greater efficiency of command- pulled out several of the Luftwaffe
set within the larger Battle of Kursk control on the German side, as well formations that were supporting the SS
in July of that year. Kursk has gone as various logistical issues. What that panzers in order to help the deteriorat-
down as the archetypal tank battle means is, if the German player sets ing situation around Orel. Of course,
between the Germans and Soviets, up his formations correctly, he will that had an impact on the ground
with a wide range of claims made get more out of those units than a battle, and it shows how aspects of the
about its outcome and its significance. simple examination of their combat larger Kursk battle fought elsewhere had
Some historians state the battle was factors would otherwise indicate. their effect on the tactical situation here.
the death-ride of the panzers; others Combat factors are based on relative As with any other battle, fog of war
say it was a German tactical victory firepower and training, but they also and friction also had impact. They’re
that was then overturned by events represent tactical organization. For modeled by the Random Events Table,
elsewhere. Guards Tank covers the example, Soviet armored brigades and can include things like units
Battle of Prokhorovka, which was a have low attack factors compared to running into unanticipated enemy
major turning point within the Kursk those of the Germans, due to the fact defenses, to changes in the weather.
campaign. It has the SS Panzerkorps that the former included a lot of light Using a table was the easiest way to
taking on a Soviet tank army. It also tanks that could no longer hold up well integrate all those factors without a lot
shows where both sides were, in terms on mid-war battlefields. At the same of special rules. Weather represents not
of combat efficiency, at the mid-point time, though, those formations get an only meteorological effects, but also the
of the overall war in the east. extra point or two in defense factors, impact of dust and smoke rising above
When designing the game, I looked representing the organic submachine- the battlefield, all of which diminished
at how the armies actually fought on gun battalions assigned to them. visibility and command-control.
this level in order to be able to model Supply is handled in unobtrusive Overall, Guards Tank shows how
their grand tactics. That’s where the ways. One, as mentioned, is with the two different military systems engaged
game’s first and second wave combat headquarters units, which are assumed one another at the mid-point in the
phases come in. They reflect both to be coordinating logistical support. war. That way, gamers can come to
tactical doctrine and the actual Another way is in the replacement their own conclusions about which
execution of armored tactics at the rule. Most tank losses were due to school of historical interpretation is
time, when there would be an initial breakdown or damage that left the correct concerning Kursk and this
penetration and then a follow-on vehicle repairable. Such vehicles could battle-within-a-battle at Prokhorovka.
fight. Both sides executed attacks be returned to combat if pulled off This is the first in a series of
using that echeloning; so I made it the the battlefield and repaired. In the east front battle designs using
centerpiece of the combat system. game, the Germans have an edge in this system. Future games will
Despite that similarity, there were replacements owing to their superior cover scenarios drawn from differ-
also differences between the Red repair organization. As for the Soviets, ent years, and will show how both
Army and Germans, both material and you can see, by examining the game’s German and Soviet forces changed
non-material. The Germans had an order of battle, how the mid-war over the course of the war.  ✪

18 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Guards TANK: Prokhorovka, 1943
Guards Tank: Prochorovka, July 1943 (GT), designed by To purchase the game that covers the battles featured
Joseph Miranda, is the first of our new East Front Battles Series. That in this issue send your name and address along with:
series will present operational simulations of medium-to-large-sized $30 US Customers
battles fought during World War II on that front. There will be $36 Canadian Customers
two players in each game, and solitaire play is easily doable. $38 Overseas Customers
The action in GT is focused on the Kursk offensive’s southern front,
as the SS Panzer Corps breaks through the Soviet main line of resistance, All prices include postage for first class or airmail
held by elements of 6th Guards Army. The German spearheads are then shipping. CA residents add $1.98 sales tax. Send to:
met by a counterattack from 5th Guards Tank Army. What followed Decision Games
was one of the more controversial battles of World War II. There’s still ATTN: WaW Game Offer
historical debate about its significance. Some historians claim German PO Box 21598
tank losses here made it the turning point of the war in the east. Others Bakersfield CA 93390
say German losses were exaggerated; it was the Red Army that suffered
massively, and the Germans actually called off the offensive for strategic
reasons. Here is your chance to explore those interpretations.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
by Stefen Styrsky

ne of the lessons taught by Underwater Cruiser the captives she was expected to pick
World War II was bigger up after sinking enemy vessels.
isn’t always better. That was The submarine Surcouf was built Problems plagued Surcouf from the
especially true for naval forces, where in 1929 and commissioned in 1934. start. The ship rolled badly in high seas
the race to larger size seemingly always She was 361 feet in length, carried and took two minutes to dive to 40 feet,
came with an immediate payoff: the 110 crewmen, and could sail 10,000 making her vulnerable to anti-subma-
larger the vessel, the larger could be its nautical miles before refueling. At the rine patrols. Amazingly, she was never
guns, with their associated greater range time Surcouf was the largest submarine outfitted with radar and, because she sat
and increased destructive power. Even ever built, and she still rivals many so low to the water, her main battery had
so, that desire to outclass opponents by modern-day craft for length. For an effective range of only seven miles.
constructing “super” vessels resulted example, the current US Virginia-class Surcouf escaped to England just
from an inability to anticipate changing ballistic submarines measure 377 feet. ahead of Germany’s conquest of
tactical needs (especially how aircraft Surcouf was essentially a submersible France. The British tried to put the
and radar would alter the nature of naval cruiser. She mounted two eight-inch boat to use as a convoy escort in the
combat), and the belief that unique guns in a forward watertight turret — North Atlantic, but found her useless
weapons could be war changing. the same size guns employed on in that role; so they transferred her to
Three particular standouts in this French heavy cruisers — along with two patrol duty around Bermuda and the
category are the French submarine anti-aircraft cannon, four anti-aircraft Caribbean. Throughout her wartime
Surcouf, Germany’s battleship machineguns, and six torpedo tubes. career, she functioned only as a surface
Bismarck, and the Japanese Navy’s She even carried a spotter plane that vessel, having lost the ability to dive
twin super-battleships Yamato and was transported stowed in a compart- due to mechanical problems. Her
Musashi. All serve as counter-examples ment behind the conning tower. That most notable combat mission was
to the “bigger is always better” argu- plane was intended to direct fire for as part of a four-ship group of Free
ment, and demonstrate how grand Surcouf’s main guns, which had a range French vessels sent to take control of
ambition often succumbs to wartime of 15 miles. The sub’s role was to be three undefended pro-Vichy islands
reality. They were actually all more as a commerce raider, a terror of the off the coast of Newfoundland.
notable for their dramatic failures world ocean. She even contained a After Newfoundland, the Free
rather than any particular success. brig meant to hold up to 40 prisoners, continued on page 22 »

20 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

(below) Musashi
Length (overall) 863', 263 m
Length (waterline) 840', 256 m

Length (overall) 823', 251 m
Length (waterline) 794', 242 m

(page 22) Surcouf

Length (overall / waterline) 361', 110 m

Emperor Hirohito of Japan (front row, center), with officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, on board the Japanese battleship
Musashi off Yokosuka Naval Base on June 24, 1943. Admiral Osami Nagano is sixth from left in the front row.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 21

» continued from page 20 Her size and armament meant she could German ships sank the venerable British
French government ordered Surcouf to confront typical merchant vessel escorts, heavy cruiser Hood and damaged the
proceed to Tahiti via the Panama Canal. as well as dealing destruction with her new Prince of Wales, the Bismarck found
On the night of 18 February 1942, the long-range guns among enemy convoys. herself on the run rather than hunting
US freighter Thomas Sykes struck an German naval commanders origi- merchant convoys. During several days
object in the water believed to have been nally imagined Bismarck running amok in the Atlantic she came under torpedo
Surcouf. Neither ship possessed radar, among the Atlantic convoys, effectively attack from planes off the carriers Ark
and both were running without lights cutting off supply routes to Britain and Royal and Victorious. A single torpedo
to avoid German U-Boats. It’s thought bringing the island nation to its knees. hit on Bismarck’s stern jammed the
the impact badly damaged Surcouf, Bismarck’s first and last mission control rudders. After that the ship
making her unable to avoid local anti- was Operation Rheinubung (Rhine could only steam in a huge circle.
submarine patrols. The next day the Exercise), meant to divert British forces Unable to maneuver, Bismarck was
US 6th Heavy Bomber Group, operating away from Germany’s invasion of Crete relentlessly pounded by British warships
out of Panama, sank a large submarine and temporarily halt critical shipping until her captain, Ernest Lindemann,
in the same area where the Thomas to Britain. She set sail on 18 May 1941 gave the order to scuttle. Bismarck
Sykes reported striking a vessel. Since with only one escort, the heavy cruiser went down on 27 May 1941, nine
no German U-Boats were ever recorded Prinz Eugen. Other potential support months after her commission, along
lost in that vicinity, it’s supposed the vessels were either in for repair or with 1,995 German sailors, including
vessel was Surcouf. In any case, the undermanned at the time. German Lindemann — the pride of the German
submarine that was once the pride of Fleet Commander Adm. Gunther Navy undone by a single torpedo.
the French fleet vanished along with her Lutjens had requested a delay to ensure
entire crew before reaching Panama. additional support, but the timing of Last Voyage of the Yamato
She never fulfilled her intended role and the Crete invasion made it necessary
never once fired her guns at an enemy. for Bismarck to leave port before those The greatest instance of outsized
other ships could be made ready. ambition compared to relative
Sink the Bismarck The key to Bismarck’s success was for effectiveness were the Japanese Navy’s
her to break out into the open waters of twin super battleships Yamato and
A nobler end came to Bismarck, the Atlantic where she could move about Musashi. They were true behemoths,
Nazi Germany’s super battleship. That undetected; however, British aerial and the largest battleships ever built.
ship displaced 50,000 tons and was improved radar surveillance spotted the Yamato and Musashi sported 16-inch
the world’s largest battleship when two warships sailing from Denmark, thick armor plating and nine 18.1-inch
commissioned. Bismarck was meant and a screen of cruisers successfully guns as primary armament. That was
to be faster and better-armed than any located Bismarck before she and Prinz a full two inches larger than anything
British warship, though her main use Eugen slipped into the wider Atlantic. else afloat, capable of firing shells
was to have been as a commerce raider. Despite a terrific battle in which the over 25 miles. Secondary armament

22 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

consisted of a dozen 6.1-inch guns, transport. During the Solomon Islands Her last mission was Operation
another dozen 5-inch guns, and campaign, she was forced to remain in Ten-Go in April 1945, another sortie to
two-dozen 1-inch anti-aircraft guns. port at Truk because her enormous fuel disrupt an Allied landing, this time on
A refit in 1944 — after it had become needs simply made her impractical for Okinawa. The plan called for Yamato’s
apparent carrier-based aircraft were use against American forces landing at captain to beach the ship at Okinawa,
the war’s most effective anti-ship distant Guadalcanal. Japanese crews turning the vessel into an unsinkable
weapons — increased Yamato’s anti- assigned to cruisers and destroyers in gun platform that would pound the
aircraft complement to 162 such guns. the area nicknamed her “Hotel Yamato.” invaders with her heavy weapons. Since
They were meant to outclass all Her only combat against enemy it was to be a one-way trip, the Yamato
other enemy warships and thereby vessels occurred late in October 1944, carried only enough fuel for the journey
make up for Japan’s inability to keep at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese to Okinawa; retreat was impossible.
pace with American production. attempt to thwart a US landing in the On 7 April 1945, American subs
While the US Navy might field a Philippines. Spotted on the way there, spotted Yamato en route, and alerted
greater number of ships, Yamato and Yamato, Musashi and their escorts American carriers. For over two hours,
Musashi were believed able to confront were attacked by American warplanes. waves of attack aircraft, totaling almost
multiple foes at once, thus negating The Musashi sank after hits from 17 400 planes, pounded Yamato and her
numerical superiority. Since the torpedoes and 19 bombs. By simple escorts. At the end, having suffered
Panama Canal couldn’t accommodate good luck, the Yamato and her escorts 10 torpedo and seven bomb hits,
anything as large as Yamato or Musashi, later slipped through the US line to sink Yamato’s forward magazine detonated.
Japanese planners also assumed three destroyers and an escort carrier — The explosion sent up a cloud visible
the Americans, forced to patrol two hardly the devastation of which she was from the Japanese island of Kyushu
oceans, would never build a ship that supposedly capable. Further damage 100 miles away. With her went 2,500
could only effectively operate in one. to Allied forces was prevented when crewmen, fleet commander Vice
Despite impressive armament torpedoes forced Yamato to maneuver Adm. Seiichi Ito, and the final hope
and armor, the Yamato spent most of away from the battle. She fled before of a proud navy that once dreamed of
the Pacific War as an escort and troop American forces could counterattack. dominating the Pacific Ocean.  ✪

The Surcouf

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 23

The Battle of Britain, 1940
England stands alone against Germany,
defended only by the Royal Air Force.
Hitler orders his Luftwaffe to destroy
the RAF in preparation for the invasion
of England. You command the RAF
or Luftwaffe in history’s greatest air
campaign — the Battle of Britain.
Improving on his award-winning solitaire
classic, designer John Butterfield ramps
up the historical accuracy, tension and
play options with three complete games.

RAF: Lion puts you in control of

Fighter Command, responding to
German raids. The game’s system
generates targets and forces, which
remain hidden until you commit your
squadrons. Scenarios range from one
day, taking an hour to complete, to the
full campaign, playable in 12 hours.

RAF: Eagle puts you in control of

the Luftwaffe raiding England. You
schedule raids and assign missions to
your bombers and fighters, attempting
to deliver the knockout blow. The
game controls the RAF response.

RAF: 2-Player allows for two-players,

one controlling Fighter Command
and the other the Luftwaffe.

Features include: German priorities,

close escort, free hunt, the Channel
Patrol, day and night bombing, radar,
the Observer Corps, weather, ULTRA
intercepts, squadron patrols, “big
wings,” altitude advantage, ace
squadrons, and flak. Each game turn
equals a “raid day” with six two-hour
segments. Units are British squadrons
and German groups. On the map, one
inch equals 20 miles (32 kilometers).

176 Die cut counters, 165 Cards, three
34” x 22” Map, Rule booklets, Historical
Study Booklet, Player Aid cards &
display, 2 Dice and Storage bags.

Retail price: $75.00

PO Box 21598 | Bakersfield, CA 93390 | (661) 587-9633 |

The Battle for Hurtgen Forest
by Ken MacFarlane

Mobile firepower: US self-propelled artillery battery takes up position

Sprint to the Border British armies were assigned the sector Allied armies should be destruction of
flanked by the sea. They therefore also German combat forces. The seizure of
The Allied armies had roared across became responsible for capturing the geographic objectives was only to be
France in the late summer of 1944 Channel Ports, especially Antwerp. Those considered second to that goal (other
finally coming up against the Westwall, ports were key to landing supplies and than the vital supply ports). Because
sometimes called (erroneously) the other logistical support sufficient to German combat formations appeared
Siegfried Line. The Westwall was a line maintain the strength of the offensive. to be scattering everywhere across
of defenses that stretched across the Without the ports, any Allied drive France, ‘victory fever’ began to take
German frontier from the Dutch to the would exhaust itself before the war hold in the Allied camp. Nevertheless,
Swiss border. It consisted of mutually could be won, because the Allied base in Eisenhower remained more wary of the
supporting concrete bunkers and tank Normandy was too far away to provide recuperative capacity of the Germans.
obstacles built mainly during the sufficient support to the formations He continued to demand a broad front
pre-war years. Allied leaders recognized at the ever more distant front. strategy that would keep pressure
the necessity of getting past those US First Army, under command on the entire front. Of course, such a
fortifications before the Wehrmacht, of Gen. Courtney Hodges, was strategy also dispersed Allied strength
which had been shattered in Normandy, assigned a sector of the front from and prevented concentration in any
could recover and properly man the the Belgium-Dutch border through one spot. The only exception permitted
line. Yet the Allies didn’t have enough the Ardennes to Luxembourg. First was the Market-Garden operation, the
troops or supplies to break through the Army was tasked with protecting the airborne landings in Holland that were
Westwall on a wide front. They had to southern flank of Montgomery’s army supposed to fully and finally breach the
choose specific regions that seemed to group from any German counterof- German northern flank. Market-Garden
be most favorable to their offensive. fensive. Simultaneously, it was to failed, though, to achieve its objectives
The Twenty-First British Army close on the German border and, if in the face of strong German resistance.
Group, commanded by Field Marshal Sir possible, prevent the enemy occupa- As US First Army drove toward
Bernard Montgomery, was given the task tion of the Westwall in that area. the German frontier, Hodges and his
of attacking across Belgium and Holland SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters superior, Gen. Omar Bradley of Twelfth
into the north German plain. Because Allied Expeditionary Forces Europe) Army Group, selected the ancient city
they’d been advancing on the Allied left commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower of Aachen and the open terrain east of
since Normandy, those Canadian and also specified the primary focus of all it as their first objective upon entering

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 25

German national territory. Since terrain that passes north of the Hurtgen behind the Westwall was mostly open
Roman times that area had served as Forrest, extending to the cities of Duren plain dotted with towns and villages.
a staging area and invasion route for and Julich and then spreading out Due to heavy and relentless autumn
armies heading east. Two formations across the Rhineland to the Rhine River. rains in 1944, that normally ideal
were assigned the task of encircling tank country was boggy. Two rivers
Aachen and then advancing beyond Green Hell crossed that part of the Rhineland,
it to the Rhine. The VII Corps, com- the Wurm — about 30 feet in width,
manded by Gen. J. Lawton Collins, The area known as the Hurtgen and the larger Roer to the east. The
was to screen the southern part of the Forest lies at the northern extreme Wurm had been incorporated into the
city and advance through Stolberg of the Ardennes-Eifel massif (high Westwall as a natural tank obstacle.
to Duren. The northern flank was plateau), terminating just south of The Germans initially considered
covered by the newly formed XIX Aachen. The forest is crisscrossed the Hurtgen a low priority during their
Corps, commanded by Gen. Charles with deep draws and gorges filled with retreat in front of the Allied advance.
Corlett. It was made responsible for old-growth conifers, dense forest litter Their focus was on the city of Aachen,
linking up with the British at Maastricht and spongy soil. The largest gorge is where a breakthrough of the under-
and screening along the Wurm cut by the Roer River, which rises near manned Westwall could lead to loss
River from the transport hub of the Belgian-German border town of of the Rhineland and, soon thereafter,
Geilenkirchen south to Aachen. Monschau. Flowing north and east to the industrial Ruhr. In September,
The VII Corps was comprised of the Rhine River, the Roer marks the therefore, only weak and inexperienced
the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, 3rd southern and eastern boundaries of units were fed into the forest to act
Armored Division and the 4th Cavalry the Hurtgen Forest. Prominent along as roadblocks, because the Germans
Group. Following a hard-fought battle the medium-sized river were the felt their enemy wouldn’t waste any
near Mons, Belgium, where remnants of massive dams at Schwammenauel serious effort in such bad terrain.
five German divisions were surrounded and Urft, which together restrained When First Army crossed the
and destroyed, early September found 123,000 acre-feet of water. Spreading German frontier, American morale
VII Corps crossing the Meuse River. across the forest like the fingers of a hit a high pitch. Unfortunately,
Liege, Spa, Eupen and Rotgen fell to the hand are ridges that run southwest supplies weren’t keeping up. In spite
Americans after only light opposition. to northeast, the largest of them of appropriating trucks from every
Rotgen, on the western edge of the being the Monschau corridor, which source (including newly arriving
Hurtgen Forest, was the first German extends from Monschau to Duren American divisions that were stripped
town to be occupied by Allied forces. on the other side of the forest. The of their transportation), supplies
Task Force Lovelady, of 3rd Armored ridges are largely composed of open became so scarce at the front that
Division, took it on 12 September, meadows with villages sprinkled troops were relying on captured
while 1st Infantry Division advanced throughout. That 10x20-mile forest food. Gasoline was the commodity
northeast to the outskirts of Aachen. presents an atmosphere that’s been in greatest demand, while artillery
That was the first large German city to likened to the mood of the frightening ammunition received lowest priority
be reached by the Americans. It sits at fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. due to the low level of combat.
the western side of a corridor of open The terrain north of Aachen and The truck convoy system, the

At the Reich’s frontier: American GI at the West Wall

26 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

famous Red Ball Express, was a historic Enter Ninth Infantry Division commander. As each division burned
innovation to try to keep the frontline out, it was replaced by a new one
troops supplied; however, it fell short As the southernmost division of VII whose headquarters cooked up a totally
of delivering what was needed for a Corps, 9th Infantry was assigned the task new plan. As higher-level American
continued full-blown offensive. Gen. of clearing the Hurtgen to shield the commanders focused their attention
Hodges therefore ordered his divisions offensive units in the Aachen corridor to the north, they provided little
to hold at the border to allow the troops from counterattack. Little was known direction or support to the effort in the
to rest, refit and resupply. The orders to about the forest at that time other forest, resulting in failure and wasted
stop before breaching the Westwall dis- than the fear it might hide large enemy combat units. The 9th Division was the
turbed the subordinate commanders formations from easy detection. Allied first victim of that deficient strategy.
so much that Gen. Collins requested airpower ruled the skies; so German for- The 47th Infantry Regiment of the
permission to continue the advance mations tried to stay out of open terrain. 9th Division was ordered to move to
under the guise of a reconnaissance in The forest offered sanctuary from air the high ground in the north of the
force. In that capacity, then, Task Force attack while also denying the Americans Hurtgen abreast of Task Force Lovelady,
Lovelady was allowed to continue into their mobility advantage. It was an so that unit could resume its attack
the Hurtgen, along the Rotgen-Stolberg infantryman’s environment with few on 16 September. While the task force
road, in order to flank forces opposing trails or roads. Bunkers and minefields was roughly handled by some German
the 1st Infantry Division near Aachen enhanced the defensive capability of assault guns, the 47th managed to slip
and open an additional supply route. poorly trained and equipped Germans. through the fringe of the forest and
The task force consisted of tanks The American army and corps take Schevenhuette, a village four
and armored infantry from Combat commanders had little interest in the miles to the east. That proved to be
Command B (CCB) of 3rd Armored Hurtgen, beyond denying it to the the largest single advance of the entire
Division. Once concrete dragon’s Germans out of a vague fear they might battle. The sudden advance surprised
teeth and road crater obstacles were otherwise use it as a base from which to the Germans. A colonel on forward
eliminated, the unit moved north until launch a counterattack. They therefore reconnaissance from the 12th Infantry
it encountered a Panther tank. The assigned a series of single divisions Division was surprised to find the
German crew destroyed four Sherman the task of taking the forest, but left Americans so far into the forest. The
tanks before the GI’s eliminated it. TF the planning as to exactly how to do arrival of his division was intended to
Lovelady left the knocked out vehicles that up to each succeeding division plug the hole in the German lines.
behind as they continued about two
miles into the forest before stopping
for the night. In that way, the first of
two bands of the Westwall had been
penetrated on 13 September, less than
a month after the Battle of Falaise.
Meanwhile, CCA of the 3rd Armored
Division shad penetrated the Westwall
just south of Aachen. Both combat
commands were losing tanks and half-
tracks at a prohibitive rate, however,
considering their replacements were
100 miles behind the spearheads.
The Germans were scrambling to
man their fortifications before the
Allies made irrevocable penetrations
through them. In Aachen itself, 116th
Panzer Division attempted to hold the
city as well as an escape route out of
it to the east. The battered 9th Panzer
Division was tasked with holding off
3rd Armored’s penetration to the south.
Many of its replacement armored fight-
ing vehicles went into combat as they
unloaded from the trains that brought
them directly from German factories.
Hitler had appointed Field Marshal
Walter Model, skilled in desperate
defenses in Russia, to take charge of
the west front defense. Hitler devoted
the full production output of armor
to rebuilding West Front units. Home
guard, training, naval and Luftwaffe
units were also dispatched in a desper-
ate race to man the defensive works
before the Americans overran them.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 27

To the south of 47th Regiment the
Allied Strategy Assessed remainder of the 9th Division had to
advance through the forest on a front
When the Allied armies were racing across France in the summer of of 18 miles. The 39th and 60th Regiments
1944, an air of victory began to infect the troops with a belief the Germans were first assigned to clear the area
wouldn’t be able to stop them; however, Gen. Eisenhower respected this south of Monschau and then move
recuperative ability. He insisted the Allies maintain a broad front, which was onto the Monschau corridor to the
the strategically conservative but safe approach. Montgomery was then able, east. Those GIs were forced to halt at
however, to tempt Eisenhower with a gamble to use First Allied Airborne the forest edge, where dragons teeth
Army to jump the Rhine River at Arnhem, Operation Market-Garden. prevented vehicles from continuing.
The decision to bet everything logistically on a single-road attack Pillboxes spouted machinegun fire that
exposed the Allies to delay on their other advances, most notably that of forced the Americans to become expert
clearing the Scheldt Estuary so supplies could be delivered via Antwerp. at combined-arms bunker busting
Supplies were siphoned from other armies and vital transport had to be tactics. The advance was effective but
devoted to Market-Garden. The Airborne Army was thus drawn into a fruit- slow, requiring every bit of regimental
less sideshow when it represented the only Allied strategic reserve. manpower and armored assets. There
First Army commander Gen. Hodges chose the Aachen corridor, a traditional were no reserves remaining to enter the
invasion route into Germany, as his main objective. The 9th Infantry Division unoccupied forest in the gap between
was assigned to screen his southern flank by occupying the Hurtgen Forest, the 39th and 47th Regiments; so the
a reasonable strategy. Since the Germans were still in full retreat, the Allied next day elements of the 353rd Division
generals hoped they could slip through the forest without meeting substantial were able to occupy those defenses
resistance, but Model was able to place just enough troops into the Westwall without interference. That pattern of
defenses to stop the weakened American effort. Terrible autumn weather and managing to get reinforcements where
forest terrain denied the Americans their trump advantages of airpower and they were vitally needed “just in the
armor. Artillery support was further hampered by wet radios and grounded aerial nick of time” characterized German
reconnaissance. So the battle became an infantry fight with the defenders in operations for the rest of the battle.
prepared positions, armed with numerous automatic weapons, and well aware Opposing the American regimental
of the restricted avenues of approach. That allowed the Germans to mine, booby thrusts in the south was the 89th
trap, and set-up artillery or infantry ambushes along those few trails and roads. Infantry Division and units of LXXIV
Division after attacking division was gutted of infantry while their command- Corps, led by Gen. Erich Straube.
ers ordered one more push in operations reminiscent of World War I. Veteran With a cadre of veterans, the 1056th
troops disappeared from the units as casualties, and most replacements in turn Regiment acquitted itself well by
became casualties after a few hours of combat. Whole divisions became combat holding the American advance to the
ineffective in that way within a couple weeks, and then were replaced with fresh west slope of the gorge. Even so, that
units to repeat the process. American higher-level commanders failed to provide a German unit was so poorly equipped
coherent strategy for the battle and were piecemeal in their commitment of force. it had but a single old Italian artillery
Another glaring omission of the Allied planners was the Roer River dams. piece, which quickly ran out of ammo.
Control of the dams allowed the Germans to flood the Roer at their discretion to As a ruse, they dragged the useless
create a water barrier that lasted for weeks. Any Allied unit unwary enough to cannon back and forth to impress
be caught on the river at that time the Americans. The attack stalled
could be trapped and annihilated after five days of heavy casualties.
within the flood zone. With the dams In the north, 12th Infantry Division
in Allied hands, the tables would went into counterattack immediately
be turned and the Germans would upon arrival. Assisted by some anti-
have to withdraw to the east. There tank units, the fresh troops managed
they would have to defend in open to stall the progress of 3rd Armored’s
terrain, exactly where they were most task forces. The battle on the northern
vulnerable. The German Ardennes fringe of the forest devolved into a
counteroffensive would thereby also slugging match, a situation that would
have lost its north shoulder and all remain unchanged until after the
chance for success. By the time the fall of Aachen. The Americans had
Allied generals finally organized to await reinforcements, consolidate
an operation to take the dams in and re-supply. By adroit generalship,
mid-December, they’d almost lost luck and desperate reinforcement, the
the 2nd Division while it was mired Germans held the Allies at the Westwall.
deep in the forest. Gen. Robertson By late September the front started
barely saved his command from being solidifying. Gen. Collins of VII Corps
surrounded in the opening days of the still believed he could make progress
Battle of the Bulge. Since the dams in the forest. He therefore ordered 39th
went unsecured, the autumn battle for Regiment to cross Weisser Weh Creek,
the Hurtgen Forest was a monumental seize the village of Germeter along
waste of American blood.  ★ the Simmerath-Duren road, and then
move east to take Vossenack, a village
Gen. Collins stretching along a windswept ridge.
That was actually an overwhelming

28 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

assignment, considering the terrain first half of October, 9th Division lost Aachen Encircled
was cut by gorges and sprinkled with some 4,500 total casualties. German
bunkers and minefields. Only muddy losses were estimated at 3,300. 1st Infantry Division and 3rd Armored
trails and firebreaks provided vehicle It was time to regroup for both Division of VII Corps penetrated
access. A portion of the 60th Regiment sides. The Germans were able to place the Westwall south of Aachen and
was also to strike southeast across the 275th Volksgrenadier Division in attempted to rush through the Stolberg
the Kall River gorge toward a ridge the center of the forest, get the 272nd corridor to take Duren on the Roer River.
northwest of Monschau. The American Volksgrenadier Division into the Kall The 1st Infantry made a shallow penetra-
command didn’t expect significant Gorge, and pull out the 9th and 116th tion east of Aachen, to the town of
opposition; otherwise, so small a force Panzer Divisions for refitting. Just Verlautenheide, while the combat com-
would’ve only been tasked to screen as importantly, supplies, mines and mands of 3rd Armored made a deeper
the area, not conduct a full assault. artillery arrived to support those units. move, taking Solberg before running
Automatic weapons fire confronted Gen. Hodges was able to bring XIX into stiff resistance. By 20 September,
the GIs at every turn. A steady rain of Corps into the line north of Aachen in American progress was halted by a heav-
mortar rounds fell as defenders fought hopes of developing an attack through ily reinforced LXXXI Corps, lead by Gen.
from log-covered positions that were that corridor. That corps was instead Friedrich Kochling. The 12th Infantry
all but invisible to the attacking troops. forced to merely deal with its open Division launched several counterat-
The US infantry also got their first taste northern flank as the British moved off tacks in cooperation with some leftovers
of another dangerous weapon: artillery in that direction during Market-Garden. from 9th and 116th Panzer Divisions.
rounds set to explode on impact with Brest, a major German-held French port Model, recognizing the direction of the
the tops of trees. Those “tree bursts” in Brittany, finally capitulated, which main American thrust, rushed reserves
caused severe casualties to anyone released VIII Corps to take station in the to the Stolberg area as fast as he could,
without shelter as the shrapnel and Ardennes, thereby allowing V Corps to including newly arrived King Tiger tanks.
splinters rained down. Merely going slide north into the Monschau area. The By 25 September, 3rd Armored had been
to ground, as the soldiers were trained 28th Infantry Division replaced the 39th forced to go over to the defensive.
to do, did nothing to decrease the and 60th Regiments, while the 47th was The XIX Corps was reinforced with
chance of being wounded. Instead, attached to the 1st Infantry Division. the 7th Armored and the 29th Infantry
they had to hug tree trunks and hide Food, gasoline and ammo started to Divisions, which went into the line in
under their helmets to survive. Attrition catch up to the units at the front. the north. The 30th Infantry Division
among small-unit leaders was high.
Privates sometimes found themselves
in charge of platoons that were
reduced below 50 percent strength.
It took all of October for the attack
to take Germeter and, even then, the
GIs could go no farther. Groups of
Germans roamed the forest, sometimes
encountering American headquarters
and supply troops. Firefights broke
out unexpectedly, as the lines were
fluid and many became lost in the
woods. Counterattacks and ambushes
were the order of the day. For a gain
of a mere 3,000 yards during the

Field Marshal Walter Model

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 29

was assigned to cross the Wurm River, on the road to Duren. The LXXXI Corps strategies and plan new operations.
penetrate the Westwall and close front began to tear apart at the town The Americans brought their Ninth
the ring around Aachen by making of Alsdorf, so Kochling rushed every Army into the line between the British
contact with 1st Infantry. Meanwhile, 2nd unit he could find to mend the break. in the north and the First Army near
Armored made a deeper penetration As XII and VII Corps closed the Aachen. The Ninth took control of XIX
to the left and attempted to close pincers on the east side of Aachen, Corps, with the 29th and 30th Infantry
with the 3rd Armored in the Stolberg Model and Kochling assembled Divisions, 2nd Armored Division and
corridor. Facing the Americans, LXXXI forces to attempt to hold open the the 113th Cavalry Group. The 7th
Corps still controlled five infantry last road to the beleaguered city. Armored Division, along with the 84th
divisions, even as 9th and 116th Panzer Panzer units were paired with local and 102nd Infantry Divisions, were
Divisions were withdrawn for refitting. infantry battalions to stop the American also assigned to the new XIII Corps to
The 30th Infantry Division launched advance and push them back from cover the northern part of the front.
a textbook river crossing and fortified the Stolberg corridor. Stolberg was Simultaneously, Model decided
line assault on 2 October. Using boats, recovered and a battle shaped-up in to assign Gen. Hasso von Manteuffel,
ladders, log mats and culverts, they the town of Bardenberg, where the in command of Fifth Panzer Army, to
pushed across the 30-foot river behind men of the 30th Infantry replayed the take responsibility for the front from
a massive barrage to close with the gallant stand they’d made during the Maastricht to Duren. As both sides built
bunker line. Well rehearsed teams summer in the Battle of Mortain. The up their forces along the Rhineland
destroyed the bunkers while other 1st Infantry was also hard pressed to frontier, it had become evident Seventh
infantry and armor overwhelmed the hold its positions. Curiously, the army Army couldn’t by itself control the
supporting trench system by fire and command seems to have remained long front that stretched from the
assault. By end of day the area was in oblivious to the strength of the German Dutch border to south of Luxembourg.
American hands. As expected, a strong commitment, and those American Additionally, because most of the pan-
counterattack was conducted the next generals continued to harangue their zer formations were in the north, they
morning using two battalions from the units to close the gap and renew the would benefit from Fifth Panzer Army’s
49th Infantry Division and one from the offensive. By 16 October, the gap was mechanized support formations. During
246th Volksgrenadier Division. A curtain closed by 30th Infantry, three days the respite, thousands of mines were
of artillery fire helped turn back the after an attack into Aachen itself had laid and buildings across the front were
attack on the newly won American been launched by the 26th Regiment. converted to strongpoints. Hundreds of
positions. The next day, task forces from A stalemate settled over the front in panzerfausts and many anti-tank guns,
2nd Armored passed through the 30th late October, giving the leaders on both the latter both self-propelled and towed,
Infantry’s lines to capture Waurichen sides an opportunity to reevaluate their were distributed to the frontline units.

German assault gun: Stug IIIs on the move

30 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

28th Infantry Repulsed battalion bogged down as well. unprepared by the sudden surge of
The 112th Regiment, with armor sup- American troops through their line, but
In early November the 28th Division port, captured the town of Vossenack in several senior German commanders
was assigned the objective of securing order to establish a line of departure for were conducting a wargame a few
the town of Schmidt. In addition, it was the move across the Kall River gorge to miles from that part of the front. In
also assigned the tasks of capturing the the village of Kommerscheidt and then fact, they were examining what actions
town of Hurtgen and the fortification up the hill to Schmidt. The next day, they should take against a renewed
zone west and south of Schmidt. The that regiment launched its main attack American offensive into the Roer
division’s attack plans called for its 109th with two battalions into the gorge, River valley. Field Marshal Model, who
Regiment to take Hurtgen, its 110th across the swift, chilly little river and sponsored the wargame, was one of the
Regiment to capture the western and up the steep hill to Kommerscheidt. GIs few senior officers aware of the plans
southern fortified zone, and its 112th routed a small group of German service for the upcoming Ardennes counterof-
Regiment to take the main objective of troops and then continued uphill to fensive, set to start in six weeks. The
Schmidt. Inexplicably, it was the only move into the largest Hurtgen Forest Schmidt area was the linchpin on the
First Army offensive action planned settlement of Schmidt. After clearing north flank of that offensive. Its loss
for early November, which allowed some snipers, the exhausted soldiers wouldn’t only threaten the defensive
the Germans to concentrate to defeat established their defensive perimeter; line all the way north to the Dutch
it. Planning was left to the division however, instead of digging foxholes as border; it would unhinge Hitler’s
staff, with little guidance coming from ordered, the squads simply nested in great gambit. That threat demanded
above despite the fact the operation the warmer houses. None of the com- a strong and immediate reaction,
had huge strategic implications. manders thought to send out patrols which was made easier because there
The attack on Hurtgen succeeded that night, which was a disastrous were no other threats along the whole
after a vicious struggle, but the 109th oversight. A battalion of engineers was Seventh Army front at that time.
Regiment was then frozen in place by assigned the daunting task of convert- The 116th Panzer Division was
strong counterattacks. The attack by the ing the only supply route through the refitting after its recent tour of duty in
110th stagnated with heavy casualties, Kall River valley to Schmidt from a the Aachen area north of the Hurtgen
primarily due to lack of fire support wagon trail to a road, so it could accom- Forest. It was ordered to counterat-
for the infantry attacking the bunkers. modate tanks. The 112th Regiment was tack the 28th Division and restore the
The division reserve was committed fully committed with no reserve. fortification line. The 89th Grenadier
to reinvigorate that effort, but that The Germans had been caught continued on page 33 »

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 31

Miracle in the West

The recovery of the Germans on the west front at the needing detailed guidance. Most of the headquarters staffs were
end of summer 1944 puzzled and surprised the Allies. able to escape from France while the frontline soldiers bore the
Following the Wehrmacht’s collapse in France, the Germans brunt of the Allied attacks. Those staffs provided a core of talented
were able to cobble together a new line of resistance along leaders who were able to direct reinforcement troops and survivors
the Westwall in time to halt the victorious Allies at the into a coherent defense. The generally excellent quality of German
border. Long a topic of speculation, this recuperation, known field grade and non-commissioned officers was instrumental
as the “Miracle in the West,” had several sources. in rebuilding the frontlines using under-trained manpower.
Beginning in 1944, the German economy went to a full There was also another factor that’s often gone overlooked.
wartime footing directed by its organizational genius, Albert Speer. That is, Gen. Friedrich Fromm and Maj. Gen. Herrmann von
Production of advanced armor, aircraft and infantry weapons Tresckow had increased the strength of the Replacement Army
peaked that year in spite of supreme efforts by Allied bomber to a previously unknown level. That army was responsible for
forces to suppress German industry. Most of those weapons were providing trained units and replacements to the depleted front
of new designs that often out-classed their Allied counterparts. lines. That increased strength had been kept secret from other
Perhaps the greatest factor of all was the German soldiers’ German officials, including the Fuehrer, as part of the July Bomb
psychological imperative to defend the Fatherland. Coupled with Plot to assassinate Hitler — Operation Valkyrie. The expanded
a call of devotion to the Fuehrer, embodied by mandatory sworn Replacement Army was to be used by the victorious plotters
allegiance to Hitler, propaganda programs had distorted the take charge of the country following the Fuehrer’s demise.
German psyche into unquestioned service to the Reich. Wonder Fromm was the commander of the Replacement Army, within
weapon programs also promised to revive the dreams of German which recruits were trained and organized into replacement groups
dominance. Germanic cultural affinities for organization and for front line service. His chief of staff, Claus von Stauffenberg,
service contributed to social fidelity and unit cohesion. Friendly the key man in the July Bomb Plot, was also instrumental in
populations living near the frontlines were used to provide increasing the size of the Replacement Army so it could overwhelm
labor for defensive works, while internal security organizations domestic Nazi organizations to take control of Germany. Fromm
like the Gestapo prevented any expression of dissent. became aware of Stauffenberg’s conspiracy, yet permitted it to
Because of Allied air and naval superiority, Luftwaffe and develop in hope of reaping power and credit if the plot succeeded.
Kriegsmarine manpower became available to ground commands Maj. Gen. Herrmann von Tresckow was a key organizer of the
as their original missions became superfluous. Those men resistance effort against Hitler. He assisted in several plans to
were already accustomed to military rigors; so they required assassinate the Fuehrer culminating in the July Bomb Plot. One
minimal time for additional infantry training to qualify for of his major contributions was to organize the enlargement of the
defensive roles. Nazi use of forced labor and foreign workers Replacement Army and plan for its role in the government takeover.
also freed native manpower to be mobilized for military duty. Following the failure of the Bomb Plot, the engorged
Loss of substantial territory during the summer of 1944 allowed Replacement Army constituted a trained force that
German armies to contract their defensive lines, concentrating enabled formation of many new divisions. Those divisions
remaining troops along a shorter line. The Westwall marked a comprised a substantial portion of the reinforcements
rally position to which scattered remnants made their way without that stabilized the German defense that autumn.  ★

Finale for the Desert Fox: Rundstedt attends Rommel’s funeral

32 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

» continued from page 31 in its attack on Germeter through the Their rear area communications were
Division and smaller German forma- Wild Sau minefield. But the 12th was drastically affected, as roads were
tions were also ordered into the attack. also caught in an attack by elements clogged with rubble and bomb craters.
Before dawn on 4 November, of the 116th Panzer Division, and The 1st Infantry Division, with the
Kommerscheidt and Schmidt were sub- was surrounded for several hours. attached 47th Regiment, was given the
jected to an intense artillery barrage. As task of clearing the northern Hurtgen
the shelling lifted, tanks and German November Offensive Forest to protect the southern flank
infantry attacked from both sides of the of the offensive. From 16 November
town. The American defenses crumbled The Allied November offensive through the end of the month, those
as tanks fired directly into foxholes and opened with a carpet bombing veteran GIs struggled to clear the
buildings. The stunned Americans were mission, Operation Queen, which towns and hills to advance their lines
simply overwhelmed by the attacking employed 1,204 American and 1,188 two miles to the eastern edge of the
force. Remnants of the battalion fell British heavy bombers along with forest. A particularly nasty battle was
back on the village of Kommerscheidt, hundreds of medium-bombers fought with the 12th Volksgrenadier
where their sister battalion had dug in, and fighters. On 16 November, sev- Division for the town of Hamich. That
while the rest of the Schmidt defenders eral Rhineland cities and towns were fight turned into a cat and mouse
were killed or captured. The defenders reduced to rubble as over 10,000 tons battle, with the US troops taking
were forced out of Kommerscheidt two of bombs were dropped on Eschweiler, the upper stories of each building
days later in another overwhelming Langerwehe, Julich, Heinsberg and while the Germans slowly retreated
attack that routed the remaining GIs Duren among others. Extensive through tunnels dug among their
who scattered down the hillside. precautions allowed the Allies to basements. Many veterans of the
The 28th Division as offensive had avoid friendly casualties, and artillery summer fighting claimed that, other
ended with its infantry battalions barrages suppressed German flak. It than Omaha Beach, it was the worst
shattered. It had to be withdrawn for was the largest such support operation fighting they’d experienced in Europe.
rehabilitation along a quiet sector of of the war. While some German units Opposed every foot of the way by
the Ardennes Forest. Gen. Hodges were disrupted, though, most of their the 47th Volksgrenadier Division, the 1st
ordered the 12th Infantry Regiment of strength was well protected due to their Infantry Division had to bash its way
4th Infantry Division to relieve the 109th experience with Allied air supremacy. through the final forest villages before

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 33

emerging onto the Roer River plain. Fighting was as strenuous as it had into Linden, where they caught 3rd
The weather continued to deprive the been in Normandy five months earlier. Panzergrenadier during its withdrawal,
GIs of their favored method of attack: Both sides made maximum use of capturing an entire battalion. That
strong tactical air support combined their artillery and mortars, which put loss alarmed von Rundstedt so
with armor and infantry assaults. every soldier not under cover at great much he released 9th Panzer and 15th
While clouds grounded aircraft, risk. On 22 November, by conducting Panzergrenadier Divisions to move to
muddy trails often caused the armor a night assault, the 104th Division limit the new American penetration.
to be late or useless. The one asset was able to slip into Eschweiler On 21 November the Luftwaffe
remaining to the Americans was used and advance about two miles. That sent 45 aircraft to strafe and bomb
to full advantage: as many as 30 bat- was the single biggest gain for the the advancing Americans in order to
teries of artillery were targeted against corps during the whole offensive. buy time for the defenders. Engineers
single resistance points, and with Farther north, XIX Corps made fair were hurriedly building a new fortified
devastating results. Nevertheless, both initial headway, except at Wurselen, line on the east bank of the Roer
sides suffered staggering losses. The where 3rd Panzergrenadier Division River for the next fall-back position.
1st Division suffered 3,993 casualties stopped cold 30th Division’s attack. The Battle for Geilenkirchen
while the entire 47th Volksgrenadier The next night the Germans had to started on 18 November, as Gen. Brian
Division effectively ceased to exist. withdraw due to danger from the Horrocks’s British XXX Corps took
The troops of VII Corps had to south caused by the 104th Division’s charge of the US 84th Infantry Division
claw every yard from the Germans. advance. The 30th Division then surged in its debut attack. Though the 183rd
Volksgrenadier Division had weeks to
prepare, they didn’t fight with enthu-
siasm, retreating into their pillboxes
Bunker Busting as the Allies drew near. The Americans
seized the center of town the next
As the Americans approached the Westwall, they recognized modifications had to day, while troops from the British 43rd
be made to their tactics for reducing enemy bunker systems. Existing doctrine called Infantry Division took towns to the
for frontal assaults by infantry/engineer teams covered by artillery barrages. Just prior north. Unfortunately, a counterattack
to the attack on the Westwall, formations like the 30th Infantry Division found they by 15th Panzergrenadier Division and
had to retrain their troops because the old tactics weren’t effective and they were part of 10th SS Panzer Division then
short of experienced infantry, due to casualties suffered in the battle for France. trapped and destroyed the Duke of
Typical Westwall bunkers measured 25 by 40 feet and were 25 feet in height. They Cornwall’s Light Infantry Battalion. GIs
were constructed of reinforced concrete with three to eight foot thick roofs covered with from the 84th Infantry were unable to
soil and flora. Half of the structure was underground. There were rooms for ammunition break through to rescue them in time.
storage and sleeping quarters for 20 troops. A steel door was located in the back, with two The 4th Infantry Division was
or more firing embrasures in the front and sides. Several hundred German bunkers were brought in to bolster and then replace
scattered along the French and Belgium borders, organized to provide mutual protection. the 28th Division, once the severity
The new tactics also had to deal with numerous German defenders who occupied sup- of its casualties became evident. The
porting positions among the bunkers. The new doctrine therefore called for combined-arms 4th Division moved into the deepest
attacks using artillery, armor and infantry assault teams. In addition to their normal weap- portion of the forest, aligning with
ons, each 20-man assault team would carry six satchel charges, a bazooka or flamethrower, Weisser Weh Creek as a jump-off point
two additional automatic rifles and smoke grenades. Weapon and mission cross-training for their mid-November offensive
was an essential aspect for the teams. Armor support would consist of tank or tank destroy- to take the villages of Hurtgen and
ers that would provide suppression fire on supporting positions and bunker embrasures. Kleinhau. The key objective was to
Artillery and mortar fire would conduct pre-assault bombardments, followed by providing a control the road through the forest
curtain of fire beyond the bunker line that would isolate them from enemy reinforcement. to the city of Duren on the Roer
Sometimes self-propelled 155-mm guns could be positioned for direct fire into the bunkers. River. Rather than considering the
The moment the preparatory artillery fire lifted its curtain fire mission, the infantry potential threat of the dams, the Allied
teams would go forward to take the supporting entrenchments while the armor provided leadership was still focused on gaining
suppression fire on the bunkers and fighting positions. Flamethrowers and bazookas supply lines to break through to the
would contribute to keeping the Germans from targeting the assaulting infantry. Rhine. The forest and the Germans
Once the supporting entrenchments were taken, four-man demolition teams would once again disappointed their hopes.
set their satchel charges at the rear entrances of the bunkers, the weak point of the The regiments stumbled along,
structures. Usually, when the doors were blasted open, the occupants would surrender. encountering more minefields, log
Barring that, grenades and flamethrowers overwhelmed remaining resistance. bunkers and automatic weapons,
A further critical modification to the earlier assault tactics came into play after marking their gains in feet before run-
a bunker line was taken: the assault troops had to take up defensive positions just ning out of riflemen. Support troops
beyond the bunker line to repel the inevitable German counterattack. Colored smoke were pressed into service to fill out the
grenades would mark the new American positions, so air and artillery fire could be decimated rifle companies, but those
directed against counterattacks while the armor would move forward in support inexperienced soldiers weren’t enough
as minefields were cleared. When the German counterattacks could be broken, the to tip the scales in favor of the offense.
Americans would make further advances because the local enemy strength would then They confronted fighting positions
have been exhausted. The Westwall could thereby be busted through careful planning so well disguised the Germans could
and the use of trained soldiers operating under aggressive tactical leadership.  ★ hold their fire until the GIs came
within a few feet. Once again, using
continued on page 36 »

34 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Roer River Dams

There were two major dams on the upper Roer River and its of that water. If the Germans released the flood after American
tributaries. The Urft Valley Dam regulated the flow of the Urft River units crossed the Roer, the Germans could counterattack and wipe
and provided hydroelectric power to the cities of Aachen, Duren out those exposed formations. Similarly, if the Americans gained
and the surrounding towns. The more massive Schwammenauel control of the dams, the Germans would be forced to withdraw
Dam was built in the 1930s to regulate the Roer River. Fifty across the Roer. The Germans also had to worry about losing
yards high, it was constructed of earth over a concrete core and a staging area vital to their upcoming Ardennes offensive.
contained an 81,000 acre-foot reservoir south of Schmidt. The first offensive that intentionally targeted the dams
The first written American report, filed by Maj. Jack Houston was conducted by the 78th Infantry’s assault on Kesternich,
on 2 October 1944, identified the dams’ great importance to the 9th made in conjunction with an advance from the south by 2nd
Infantry Division. He noted that, “demolition of the dams would result Infantry Division in mid-December. The timing of that attack was
in great destructive flood waves which would destroy everything in unfortunate, as the German Ardennes counteroffensive almost
the populated industrial valley as far as the Meuse and into Holland.” isolated the 2nd Division while it was deep in the forest. The dams
Houston’s report was largely ignored by First Army then had to wait until the Battle of the Bulge was resolved.
headquarters, though XIX Corps engineers estimated the release In early February, the 78th Division captured Kesternich and
of the reservoir would cause a flood up to 500 yards in width. cleared the area west of the upper Roer River to the town of
The Americans launched two attacks in the fall of 1944 that Schmidt, assisted by elements of 7th Armored Division. The 9th
could’ve gained access to the dams even though their objective Infantry Division struck south of the reservoir to take the Urft Dam
was actually to capture road networks. The first, made by the 60th on 5 February, while the 78th struggled to break through Schmidt.
Regiment of 9th Division in October, was too weak and barely got up The final assault was conducted by the 309th Regiment of 78th
to the Westwall fortifications. The second attempt, by 28th Division Division on the night of 10 February, when the 1st Battalion, along
in early November, penetrated to the town of Schmidt, near the with some engineers, rushed the Schwammenauel Dam amid the
dams, but was then repulsed by alarmed German defenders. noise of rushing water and artillery fire. Though the attack was
Only at the end of November did the American leadership successful, the Germans had demolished the control valves, releasing
finally come to recognize the importance of the dams for their future a steady torrent of water from the reservoir. The dam itself was
strategy. They realized whichever side controlled the dams could made safe and secure, but high water hampered the American
flood the Roer valley and isolate units caught on the wrong side operations to cross the lower Roer River for two weeks.  ★

A half track of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, makes its way through a
muddy road in the devastated Hurtgen Forest at the end of the battle, 15 February 1945.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 35

» continued from page 34 open-topped M10 tank destroyers. ridge. The 121st Regiment attacked
the difficult terrain and murky weather As part of the US V Corps, the north and east to the fringe of the
to maximum effect, the Germans 8th Division’s attack began on 21 forest as the 28th Regiment advanced
were able to prevent a breakthrough November with strong artillery prepa- to the bank of the Kall River in the
to the open plains of their country. ration; however, most targeted bunkers south. It was a slender US victory: 8th
The next infantry division to be and minefields remained intact and Division resorted to sending hospital
called north from Luxembourg was the as lethal as ever. Veterans complained dischargees to the town who were told
8th. Traveling in open trucks through the dense forest muffled their combat- to pick up weapons from the dead.
rain and sleet, those troops had to be bred sixth sense, which contributed To supplement the devastated
summoned when the weakness of the to an increase in casualties. Their units, the 2nd Ranger Battalion was
28th Division became apparent. Fresh reaction time suffered as the sound brought forward to take the final
soldiers were called on to once again of incoming fire was reflected by the position, Hill 400 (Castle Hill), which
make what was once more hoped trees. November 23 was Thanksgiving overlooked the junction of the Kall
would be the final push through the Day. Turkeys had been sent forward to and Roer Rivers. A barrage preceded
forest to the Roer River plain. This time the front line in fulfillment of political the attack, but the Germans countered
an armored division was to help the promises to parents that all soldiers with a mortar barrage of their
infantry push through to the east edge would be treated to a traditional own. Two Ranger companies fixed
of the forest and then exploit onto the dinner. The Germans, with intelligence bayonets and charged. They arrived
plain beyond. The assignment of CCR gleaned from American radio broad- as the American artillery fire lifted
of 5th Armored to help take Hurtgen casts, treated the front-line troops to and carried the position, albeit with
and the Brandenberg-Bergstein Thanksgiving artillery barrages. The GIs substantial casualties. The Germans
ridge still demonstrated how little recalled with disdain how they spent didn’t give up the hill. They conducted
understanding the American generals the day in their foxholes watching as six major counterattacks, which were
had of the battlefield. Tanks and tank just out of reach thawing turkeys were each defeated by American valor
destroyers were tasked to negotiate splattered with mud and shrapnel. supported by 18 battalions of artillery.
narrow, muddy trails through forest On 28 November, Hurtgen finally
and villages teeming with panzer- fell, followed by Kleinhau the next day. The Bulge
faust-armed German soldiers. Mines At last those villages were in friendly
claimed an extraordinary number of hands after defying capture by four The newly arrived 83rd Infantry
vehicles because trees prevented them other US divisions. 8th Division and Division exchanged positions with
from leaving the trails. Tree bursts CCR 5th Armored then turned east the weakened 4th Infantry Division,
were a constant threat to crews in to clear the Brandenberg-Bergstein continued on page 38 »

A brief interlude: American soldiers eat a meal in the field

36 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Battle for Aachen

Aachen, the ancient capital of Charlemagne, the north. Desperate counterattacks by 116th A platoon would be responsible for taking
was the first major German city the Americans Panzer Division were brushed aside as 1st Infantry houses on a single street, staying aligned with
came upon as they closed the frontier on 12 Division moved into Aachen’s eastern suburbs. units to either side. As the tanks would blast any
September 1944. The city was virtually undefend- Over the next three weeks, 30th Infantry spotted machinegun nest or sniper, the troops would
ed as 1st Infantry Division of VII Corps approached Division (XIX Corps) crossed the Wurm River and toss grenades through windows and then move
from the southwest. Residents of Aachen had closed the gap with 1st Infantry Division to pull in to clear every room. They found it was safer to
been ordered by their Nazi leaders to evacuate, within site of those VII Corps soldiers. In spite blow holes between buildings, using bazookas or
while the city itself was designated as the first of multiple division-sized counterattacks, those explosives, and then work from the upper stories
“fortress city” inside the Reich. The commander troops were able to complete the encirclement down to the basement. Defenders forced below
of the unit then responsible for the city’s defense, and seal off German access to the city. ground were less dangerous and more liable to
116th Panzer Division, Gerhard Graf von Schwerin, The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of 26th Infantry surrender. Progress was steady, but methodical and
countermanded the evacuation order. He then Regiment, backed by the 634th Tank Destroyer slow. Help from self-propelled 155mm guns assisted
offered surrender of the city to the Americans Battalion and the 745th Tank Battalion, in overcoming positions impervious to tank shells.
if they would guarantee good treatment of the launched their attack from the eastern portion The strongest German counterattack overran
occupants. His offer was intercepted by Nazi of Aachen on 13 October. The 2nd Battalion’s Observatory Hill in the 3rd Battalion’s zone when
officers and never reached the Americans. objective was to sweep the south side of the a few panzers and the 1st SS Battalion attempted
Gen. Clarence Huebner ordered his 1st Infantry city while the 3rd attacked in the north toward to break the encirclement to make contact with
Division to work around the south side of the city the hills inside of it. Col. Gerhard Wilck then 3rd Panzergrenadier Division to the northeast.
to the high ground to the east. He was trying to held responsibility for defending Aachen with The 3rd Battalion was able to seal the breach,
avoid a frontal attack into the built-up urban area two depleted regiments from the 246th VG assisted by some M10s that destroyed the
until the city was encircled in order to prevent Division (689th and 404th), 1st SS Battalion, panzers. For two days SS men used sewers and
German reinforcement. Ironically, 1st Division 600th Sturm Pioniere Regiment, a fortress underground passages to infiltrate past the front
could’ve probably taken the city then with few battalion, an assault gun brigade, and a few line, dragging out the battle for the hill. Severe
casualties, as it had few defenders at the time. miscellaneous troops and artillery pieces. losses finally spelled an end to the German
The 16th Infantry Regiment screened the city while That amounted to about 3,000 defenders, who resistance as American soldiers in other parts of
the other two regiments of the 1st fought through were short on ammo but had good morale. The the city squeezed the defenders onto the heights.
the fortified lines to reach the eastern high ground. attackers were actually outnumbered by the On 19 October, Gen. Collins ordered elements
Meanwhile, 3rd Armored Division penetrated the defenders; however, the GIs had substantial of 3rd Armored Division and a battalion from
fortified lines farther to the east and south in a futile quantities of artillery, armor and air support. 28th Infantry Division to aid in the final effort
effort to take the Roer River town of Duren. The The Americans advanced into the city to capture the city. Col. Wilck surrendered his
XIX Corps, northernmost of 1st US Army, had the using tanks and tank destroyers to suppress forces on 21 October, commenting: “When
task of crossing the Wurm River north of Aachen, enemy fire while the infantry worked the Americans start using 155s as sniper
then completing the encirclement of Aachen to behind them from building to building. weapons, it is time to give up.”  ★

left — City fight:

American infantry in support of a tank

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 37

» continued from page 36 the towns of Kesternich and Schmidt Regiment 980th to backstop the nearly
moving north from Luxembourg as the northern pincer, while the 2nd destroyed 982nd Regiment. Fighting
to the northern Hurtgen Forest would approach the dams through in the town of Kesternich was
alongside the revitalized 9th Infantry the wooded terrain in the south. brutal, as the adversaries struggled
Division. Their objectives were The untried 99th Division was to amid houses and a strong German
the towns of Gey and Strass in the provide flank protection for the 2nd, position (Bunker 47) on the east
northeast corner of the forest, just since it would be vulnerable with edge of town. Emergency (“alarm”)
shy of the Roer River and a mere four just one trail as a supply line. companies made up of cooks and
miles from Duren. Cold rain and sleet The novice 78th Division set out auxiliary troops were rushed into
added to the misery of the GIs as they on 12 December to take Kesternich combat along with a battalion from
repeated the desperate combat the from the experienced but battered the 326th Volksgrenadier Division to
earlier divisions had endured. They 272nd Volksgrenadier Division. The stem the American advance on 15
persevered until the northern reaches 78th’s baptism of fire began well when December. Grenadier Regiment 981
of the forest fell to American control. they captured the border town of was also called forward, even though
Bitter struggles were also taking Simmerath, surprising Germans who it hadn’t yet replaced the troops
place in the south, where Allied lead- didn’t expect the fresh Americans to lost in the defeat it suffered from 4th
ers had finally realized the flooding attack so soon after they’d arrived at Division at Gey the previous week.
threat the Roer Dams represented the front. The Germans were once The Kesternich counterattack was
to the units about to cross the river again fortunate, though, in that conducted with great violence and
farther north. The 78th, 2nd and 99th they were in the process of moving skill. The grenadiers were supported
Infantry Divisions were designated to assault troops forward for their big by tank destroyers and armored
mount a pincer attack on the dams, Ardennes counteroffensive and flak guns as they overwhelmed two
with the 78th approaching through were thus able to divert Grenadier companies of the 310th Regiment,

38 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

capturing 300 prisoners and retaking Sources
the town. The unseasoned Americans Doubler, Michael D.
had been caught in warm houses, Closing with the Enemy:
How GI’s Fought the War in Europe. Lawrence, KS:
without having set-up observation University Press of Kansas, 1994.
posts; so they were trapped in base- Fussell, Paul
Wartime: Understanding and
ments and out of communication Behavior in the Second World War.
with their artillery. A similar disaster New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989.
MacDonald, Charles B.
had happened to the 112th Regiment The Battle of the Hurtgen Forest.
the month before in Schmidt. New York: Jove Publications, 1983.
MacDonald, Charles B.
An important result of the The Siegfried Line Campaign.
78th Infantry’s attack was to Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History,
United States Army, 1963.
spoil the German Ardennes MacDonald, Charles B.
counteroffensive’s north flank attack A Time for trumpets:
The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge.
against Monschau by significantly New York: Morrow, 1985.
weakening two of their divisions. McGinnis, Major Thomas Michael.
Unit Collapse: A Historical Analysis of
To the south the 2nd Infantry Two Division Battles in 1918 and 1944.
Division had to channel its attack School of Advanced Military Studies: United States
Army Command and General Staff College, 1987.
up a single dirt road through the McManus, John C.
forest to the Wahlerscheid customs The Deadly Brotherhood:
The American Combat Soldier in World War II.
post and on to Hofen. The single Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1998.
supply route was so limiting that Miller, Edward G.
A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest
division commander Gen. Walter and the Roer River Dams, 1944-1945.
Robertson assigned all his engineers College Station, TX: Texas A & M Press, 1995.
Nash, Douglas E.
to improve the road and restricted Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp:
access to vital vehicles. The 9th With the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division from the
Hurtgen Forest to the Heart of the Reich.
Infantry Regiment moved cautiously Bedford, PA: The Aberjona Press, 2008.
down the forest road until it met Rush, Robert Sterling.
Hell in the Hurtgen Forest.
resistance on December 15th. The Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001.
following dawn a massive barrage and Troup, Major Paul A.
The Operations of the 112th Infantry in the Hurtgen
infantry attack on the neighboring Forest, Germany, 2 November — 14 November 1944.
99th Division marked the beginning of Fort Benning, GA: The Infantry School, 1948.
Whitaker, W. Dennis & Whitaker, Shelagh.
the Battle of the Bulge and an urgent Rhineland: The Battle to End the War.
withdrawal of the 2nd Division regi- New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Whiting, Charles.
ments from their exposed position. West Wall: The Battle for Hitler’s Siegfried Line.
Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount Ltd, 1999.
Epilogue Yeide, Harry.
The Longest Battle: September 1944 to February 1945
From Aachen to the Roer and Across.
St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2005.
Following the defeat of the
German Ardennes counteroffensive
in January, the 78th Infantry Division
renewed its attack on Kesternich.
Planning was so detailed the troops
were given assignments to take
individual buildings. Starting on 30
January 1945, the attack broke though
the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division’s
lines and, over the next week, rolled
toward the Roer dams. The 311th
Regiment seized the west bank of the
reservoirs to the Paulushof Dam. The
310th Regiment, backed by CCR of 7th
Armored Division, blitzed through
the town of Schmidt and rolled to
the west bank of the Roer. The 309th
Regiment drew the task of taking the
huge Schwammenauel dam. A nearly
flawless night attack on 9 February
secured it, but not before the gate
controls were damaged beyond repair.
High water would restrict operations
along the Roer River for the next
two weeks; but the Hurtgen Forest
had finally been conquered.  ✪
Cross for the victims of the Battle of
Hurtgen Forest in Vossenack, Germany

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 39

Near Duren, Germany, American Infantrymen, carrying heavy weapons on their backs, give one another a
helping hand as they climb a steep trail. Co. I. 3rd Bn., 8th Regt, 4th Armored Div., 18 Nov. 44.

40 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Introducing the Decision Games
Folio Game Series
The Folio Game Series provides dozens of games using the same 8-page Standard rules
(Musket & Saber for 19th century battles, Fire & Movement for 20th century battles) with a short
Exclusive rules sheet for each individual game to capture the unique aspects of each battle. Each game can
be played in about 90 minutes allowing for multiple games to be played in an afternoon or evening.

Chalons: The Fate of Europe | Marengo: Morning Defeat, Afternoon Victory

Leipzig: Napolean Encircled | Chickamauga: River of Death | Stones River: Turning Point in Tennessee
Frayser’s Farm: Wasted Opportunity | Shiloh: Grant Surprised | Arnhem: The Farthest Bridge
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First to Fa ll AR II BATT
Before October
1944, no large FOLIO GA
had been direc
tly assaulted
German city
army. German
fight stubbornly
soldiers were
by any Allied
continuing to
throughout Europ
after Germany’s e, even
defeat became
so US comm a certainty;
worr y resistance rs had every reason to
on German soil
tenacious. In would be
the city of Aach

street fighting en itself, the
was expected
just as it had to be severe,
been in other
cities. The situa hard-fought
tion along the
was even wors border itself
e; the infamous
loomed in front West Wall
of Aachen, enclo
the city with sing
miles of conc
casemates and rete bunkers,
“dragon’s teeth
of foreboding
the attack, as
generals, was
among the GIs
.” The sense
well as their comm ned to First to Fall
evident and warra anding
Aachen utilize
s the new Fire
combat syste & Movement
m that’s desig
can augment ned so players
their units with
fire” during the “support
course of the
mortars to self-p turns. From
ropelled artille
receive support ry, units can
assets to enga
positions and ge
formations, allow enemy
to develop at ing combat
all levels. A singl
battalion, for e
example — perha recon
by tanks — could ps supported
enemy paratroopebe tasked to assault a lone
landing zone. r battalion defen
As that attack ding a
however, the gets underway
recon battalion ,
itself strafed may find
by enemy fighter
More support -bombers.
will be necessary
the landing zone to take
, but assets are
In Aachen, the
attritional desig
new Combat n of the
Results Table
true nature of simulates the
are typically two- s in Europe. Units
sided formation
can incur casu s that
alties without
eliminated, accu being
rately replicating fully
realities of comb the
at and the high
sustained by
both sides durin losses
fighting aroun g the actual
d the cauldron.
the battle is thus Winning
a matter of mane
firepower and
asset manageme uver,

Game Conten
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• 17 x 22” (43 x 56
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2 mi (3.2 km)
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SOLITAIRE ••••• rn. Quick to pla
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2010, Decisio
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d. Made & Printed in U.S.A.

Each game under $25 (most under $20)

P.O. Box 21598 | Bakersfield, CA 93390-1598 | (661) 587-9633 phone | (661) 587-5031 fax |

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 41

Manchuria, 1945:
Last Stand of the Japanese
by John Walker

42 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010


When World War II broke out in Europe

an uneasy calm settled in the Far East,
broken only by an occasional skirmish
along the Manchurian frontier, or fighting
deep inside China. In April 1941, Moscow
and Tokyo signed a five-year neutrality
pact. That occurred because, the Japanese
had come to believe a war with the Soviet
Union would accomplish little after their
force in Manchuria, the Kwangtung Army,
suffered heavily in border clashes with
the Red Army in 1938 and 1939. Tokyo
thereafter changed the direction of its
territorial ambitions to the south and
east. Stalin, anticipating the Soviet Union
would become involved in a major war in
Europe, wanted no distractions in Asia.
above — Lieutenant Colonel Ishihara (center); Leader of the Mukden Incident in 1931
Both Tokyo and Moscow remained
scrupulous about keeping the agreement, below — Soviet propaganda poster: “Joseph Stalin”
at least until 8 August 1945. For example,
the Soviets required American B-29
bombers that force-landed on Soviet
territory after bombing targets in Japan
to remain in the USSR in accordance
with international conventions on
neutrality. The Japanese wouldn’t allow
the Germans to conduct long-range
flights between their two nations if
they had to over-fly Soviet territory.
By 1944 the pact no longer suited the
United States. The million-plus Japanese
soldiers deployed to garrison Manchuria
and to sustain the occupation of eastern
China constituted 45 percent of Japan’s
total fighting forces. The concern was
they might be deployed against the
Allies in their drive across the Pacific.
An invasion of Manchuria by the Red
Army was the best way to deflect that
threat. Through the winter of 1944-45,
with increasing urgency, Washington
solicited Soviet participation in the war
against Japan. That war was expected to
end with a cataclysmic invasion of the
Japanese home islands in which divisions
shifted from Manchurian and Chinese
bases would make their weight felt.
In September 1944, Stalin promised
the Allies he would invade Manchuria with
60 divisions 90 days after the Germans
were defeated in Europe. At the Yalta
Conference in early February 1945, Stalin
presented territorial demands for his com-
mitment to the war on Japan: the Kuril
Islands, a mostly uninhabited chain that
ran from the USSR’s Kamchatka peninsula
to the northern tip of the Japanese home
island of Hokkaido; southern Sakhalin
Island; the lease to Port Arthur; access
to Dalian as a free port; control over the
southern Manchurian railway; and the
recognition of Soviet suzerainty over Outer
Mongolia. Stalin’s purpose, beyond simply

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 43

territorial gain, was to erase the ignominy
of Russia’s 1905 defeat at the hands of the
Japanese. He was prepared to have the Red
Army pay heavily for a new victory. After
abrogating the neutrality pact in April
1945, the Soviets made medical provision
for 540,000 casualties in their Manchurian
incursion, including 160,000 dead, a
forecast almost certainly founded on an
assessment of Japanese on-paper strength.

Tokyo’s View

On 15 March 1945, with the

Americans in control of Iwo
Jima, Japanese Imperial General
Headquarters (IGHQ) issued orders for
the withdrawal of all remaining elite
divisions from Manchuria to the home
islands, including 1st Tank Division,
the last remaining armored division
in Manchuria. The Kwangtung Army
was thus reduced to a shadow of its
former self, with its most seasoned
remaining division having been
formed only in the spring of 1944. To
accommodate that steep decline in
above — Somewhere in the Far East: Red armor advances combat effectiveness, IGHQ drew up
new plans in May 1945 to counter a
below — Warm water port: Soviet naval infantrymen raise a banner continued on page 46 »

44 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Geo-Strategic Manchuria

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 had placed Manchuria, also known as the Northeast
Chinese Provinces, within the Japanese sphere of influence, though it remained nominally
part of China. In 1931, extremists in the Imperial Japanese Army staged an incident on
the Manchuria railroad as an excuse to take full control of the province. Japan announced
Manchuria’s official transformation into a client state the next year. Called Manchukuo, it was
nominally ruled by the last Manchu emperor, Pu Yi. Covering almost a million square miles,
Manchuria was by virtue of its location and natural resources an area of strategic value. It
had long been coveted by Japan, China and Russia for its coal, iron ore, lumber, industry, rail
lines and warm water ports. When the Japanese took over, they moved in administrators,
colonists and the Kwangtung Army. In 1937 Japan extended its mainland empire by occupying
most of the Chinese coastline. That gave them China’s ports and industrial cities, but the
Chinese resisted, leading to endless war on the Asian mainland for Japan. During World Into Manchuria: Soviet SU-152mm self-
War II, Manchuria continued to be a major center for the Japanese war economy.  ★ propelled gun with a column of infantry

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 45

» continued from page 44 reached that Tunghua redoubt. to be mobilized only 10 days prior
possible Soviet invasion. These plans That final plan was issued only in to the Soviet offensive (eight of 24
called for a delaying action along the June, which proved too late to allow divisions and seven of nine brigades).
border by a fraction of the Kwangtung, for completion of all the required rede- Ammunition and weapons were
while the main body withdrew to ployments and fortifications. Making in such short supply, the Japanese
prepared defensive lines. The main matters worse, the Kwangtung Army’s resorted to arming some troops with
stand was to be made in a stronghold lower-echelons of command were kept bamboo spears. Of the 24 divisions
area near Tunghua, in southeastern ignorant of the new plan, and neither in Manchuria, the Japanese rated
Manchuria. The Japanese hoped the were the millions of Japanese civilians only eight as combat effective. By
inhospitable terrain, the long lines in Manchuria warned they were to be August 1945 the Kwangtung Army
of communication involved, and abandoned when the army withdrew. had patched together a force with
determined resistance would exhaust On top of that, more than a fourth of a strength of 1,155 tanks, 5,360
advancing Soviet forces before they the entire Japanese combat force was artillery pieces, and 1,800 aircraft.
Discounting Japanese forces in South
Sakhalin, Korea and the Kuriles,
The Kwangtung Army the Soviets faced an inexperienced
army totaling about 710,000 men.
Opposing the Soviet Far East Command was the Japanese Kwangtung Army, backed by
its Manchukuoan and Inner Mongolian auxiliaries. (Kwangtung means “East of Shanhaiguan,” The Attack
one of the passes on the Great Wall and a gateway to Manchuria.) Responsible for all of
Japanese-occupied Manchuria after 1931, the Kwangtung grew into a formidable force of On the morning of 9 August 1945
a million men by 1941. Though Moscow had concluded a neutrality pact with Tokyo, Soviet the Red Army crossed the Soviet-
concerns about the Kwangtung Army led Stalin to keep over 40 divisions in the Far East. Manchurian frontier and attacked,
The Kwangtung was originally an efficient force with an aggressive leadership; however, it as per plan, from the west, east and
eroded in numbers and quality as the requirements of other theaters drew off veteran soldiers northeast. Japanese outposts found
and modern equipment. Many experienced formations were replaced by units formed from draft themselves under heavy shelling, then
levies, reservists, and cannibalized small units.As the end of 1944 approached, the strength of attacked by infantry and tanks. The
the former vanguard of Japanese military prowess had been reduced to some 700,000 second- Red Army quickly broke through with
line troops. Gen. Otozo Yamada’s Kwangtung Army was severely deficient in aircraft, engineer tank and motorized formations while
support, communications, anti-tank weapons and armor, and was suffering crippling shortages columns of horse cavalry advanced
of ammunition, including both artillery and small arms. What few tanks the Kwangtung Army along multiple axes across a broad
possessed were armed with 57mm guns and were grossly overmatched by Soviet T-34s. When front of more than 2,730 miles. The
Japanese forces on Okinawa were annihilated in March 1945, IGHQ withdrew all remaining advance was further supported by river
elite divisions from Manchuria, including 1st Tank Division, the last major armored unit in flotillas, air fleets and guns in the tens of
Manchuria, leaving the Kwangtung Army a shadow of its former self. The Soviet invasion of thousands. In all, the offensive traversed
Manchuria would therefore pit a modern, fully mechanized force of over a million men against every type of terrain from the arid
an occupation force of 700,000 light infantry operating under a 16th century samurai mentality. deserts of Inner Mongolia to the densely
IGHQ hadn’t heeded the lessons of the 1939 Battle of Nomonhan. The absence of armor forested shores of the Sea of Japan.
and modern anti-tank weapons in Manchuria was the result of their pre-war decision to IGHQ issued an emergency
weight the production of aircraft over the procurement of tanks. Five years after its defeat statement, reporting the Soviet Union
at Nomonhan, the Japanese had done little to modernize its infantry divisions to make had declared war and the Red Army
them capable of engaging modern Soviet rifle divisions, much less tank or mechanized had begun entering Manchurian
corps. Whether through complacency or overconfidence, the Japanese demonstrated territory, absurdly concluding: “The
a tendency to underestimate the Soviets, dooming the defenders of Manchuria. scale of these attacks is not large.”
Facing a Soviet juggernaut whose arsenal numbered 28,000 artillery pieces and 3,704 The initial Japanese response
main battle tanks, the Japanese had only 1,155 total armored vehicles – armored cars and verged on self-delusion. They had
light tanks – and 6,700 artillery weapons, most of which were obsolete, and light field guns. convinced themselves the USSR
The Kwangtung Army fielded only two weak tank brigades. The Soviet air force totaled wouldn’t be ready to attack Manchuria
3,800 aircraft against the Kwangtung Army’s 1,800. The latter, however, were mostly training until the autumn 1945 or, most
aircraft and obsolete types. The Japanese had 50 front-line aircraft and quickly lost control likely, not until the spring of 1946.
of the skies over Manchuria. The Soviet Navy (Pacific Fleet and Amur River flotilla) also had Meanwhile, advanced elements of
superiority on the seas due to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s total absence from the theater. the Soviet Trans-Baikal Front (army
The Kwangtung Army’s senior officers were clearly unprepared to face their Soviet group) forces crossed the Manchurian
counterparts. David Glantz, one of the foremost experts on the Soviet invasion, has been border at 12:10 a.m. on 9 August with
especially harsh in his assessment of senior Japanese leadership, charging them with neither artillery nor air preparation in
engineering the army’s overall mediocre performance. For whatever reasons, Japanese order to gain surprise. Experiencing
commanders failed their army. Confusion reigned at the top, and orders from various scant resistance from the Japanese,
higher-level headquarters often conflicted. Thus, some units withdrew from combat who believed heavy armor formations
while others allowed themselves to be swallowed up in desperate static defenses. couldn’t operate in such rugged terrain,
Supporting the Kwangtung Army was the 170,000-strong Manchukuo Defense Sixth Guards Tank Army advanced in two
Force, composed of eight under-strength, poorly equipped and indifferently trained columns 60 miles apart as the spearhead
Manchukuoan divisions. That force consisted of local Chinese collaborators, possessing of the front’s offensive. Each of that
neither the will nor the means to give ardent support to the Japanese. Also backing army’s component corps advanced in
the Kwangtung Army were 44,000 cavalry troopers in Inner Mongolia.   ★ four to six columns, presenting a front
of armor eight to 12 miles wide. They

46 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

swept aside small detachments of Inner vicinity of Hailar. The 80th Independent infantrymen rushed forward and fired
Mongolian cavalry, and by nightfall for- Mixed Brigade (IMB), consisting of five pointblank into the embrasures. Still the
ward elements had reached the foothills infantry battalions and support units, attackers had trouble breaking through.
of the Grand Khinghan Mountains, 90 and the 119th Infantry Division, backed Finally, on 18 August, 3,827 shell-
miles inside the border. By 11:00 p.m. by cavalry units of the Manchukuo shocked survivors surrendered at Hailar
on 10 August, Soviet armored columns Defense Force, defended the Hailar On the southern front in Mongolia,
reached the highest point in those fortified region. Bypassed and isolated by on 15 August a Soviet Outer Mongolian
mountains and began to move down the Soviet first echelon, those Japanese cavalry-mechanized group ran into
toward the central Manchurian plain. fought a stubborn but losing battle heavy opposition from three Inner
Due to the rapid Soviet advance and against follow-on units. Though rated Mongolian cavalry divisions at Kanbao.
hurried Japanese redeployments, two IJA only 15 percent combat effective, the After two days of fighting, Gen. Pliyev’s
divisions in the area never engaged the Japanese 80th IMB required the strength southern column defeated the
Soviets. The only significant resistance of two Soviet divisions and an imposing pro-Japanese Mongolians, took 1,634
took place on the front’s left flank, where arsenal of artillery to pound it into prisoners, and occupied the city. On 18
Thirty-Sixth Army’s route of advance submission. Red Army sappers crawled August, Soviet Mongolian units reached
traversed fortified border installations. forward to lay charges on Japanese the outskirts of Kalgan. Though the
The bold strike by the Trans-Baikal emplacements. As they exploded, Japanese had by then announced the
Front enabled the Soviets to obtain their
objectives on the central Manchurian
plain by the fourth day of the offensive, a
full day ahead of schedule. By that time,
however, their supply lines had to run
almost 500 miles to the rear, and all units
began to suffer fuel shortages. The Trans-
Baikal Front therefore halted its advance
on 13 August to re-supply by airlift. Late
that day the Soviets resumed operations,
hindered only by weather and some
desperate Japanese suicide attacks.
On the front’s left, Japanese defend-
ers continued fierce resistance in the

right — The far horizons:

Soviet infantry observe a barrage

below — Last stand of the Samurai:

Japanese truck-borne infantry

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 47

capitulation of the Kwangtung Army, the
Red Army Planning resistance offered by the defenders of
the fortified region northwest of Kalgan
In the summer of 1945, Stalin reinforced the army and air forces he already had in wasn’t snuffed out until 21 August.
the Far East. Three thousand locomotives sped along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, as men,
tanks and guns fresh from victories in Europe were loaded onto trains for the month-long August Storm
journey. Moscow took great pains to disguise the significance of the buildup. As units
approached the frontier, elaborate camouflage and deception schemes, as well as night Sixth Guards Tank Army continued
movements, were employed to mask the deployment. After traveling 5,600 miles from its advance against desultory opposition,
Europe by rail, some units marched the last 200 miles to the Manchurian border across capturing Mukden and Chanchun on
the treeless Mongolian desert in blazing heat. During the months of May, June and July 21 August, two days after the arrival
1945, more than 40 infantry, tank and mechanized divisions, plus artillery and combat there of Soviet airborne detachments.
support units, were transferred. Sixth Guards Tank Army, which would spearhead the Movement to Port Arthur and Dalian
Soviet invasion from the west, left behind all its tanks, self-propelled artillery and vehicles, was made by rail due to fuel shortages.
picking up new equipment manufactured by Soviet Ural factories along the way. In that Organized Japanese resistance in that
way, almost completely unnoticed by the Japanese, Soviet Far East forces were increased sector effectively ceased, after which
to a total of 1.6 million men, 26,137 guns, and 5,556 armored fighting vehicles. The air the Soviets busied themselves collecting
forces numbered 3,800 aircraft, while the Soviet Navy added more weight at sea. prisoners, disarming enemy units,
The Soviets created a separate theater of operations for the first time in the war. In and occupying the remaining areas of
June 1945, Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky became coordinator of overall operations in the Far central and southern Manchuria.
East and Trans-Baikal regions. His plan was simple but massive, calling for envelopments Marshal Kirill Meretskov’s First Far
of the Japanese defenses on three axes of attack, followed by the capture of Sakhalin East Front faced conditions far different
and the Kuril Islands, and then possibly a move onto northern Hokkaido. The huge pincer from those of the Trans-Baikal Front. Its
movements would be carried out by the 650,000-strong Trans-Baikal Front, commanded 435-mile area of operations was shorter,
by Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, from the west, while the First Far East Front, commanded but the enemy’s border districts in eastern
by Marshal K.A. Meretskov and numbering 586,589 men, attacked from the east. Manchuria were more heavily fortified,
The Trans-Baikal Front would attack across the Inner Mongolian desert and over the including some sophisticated reinforced
Greater Khinghan Mountains, secure the city of Mukden, and link up with the First Far East concrete emplacements. In darkness
Front in the Changchung area of south-central Manchuria. Once the city of Changchung and under a torrential downpour, the
was captured, those fronts would turn south and attack the Liaotung peninsula and First began its advance at 12:30 p.m. on
seize Port Arthur. Thirty-Sixth Army, on the Trans-Baikal Front’s left (northern) flank, 9 August, again attacking over terrain
would also attack from the west, but would link up with forces of the Second Far East the Japanese believed impassable by
Front at Harbin and Tsitsihar. The First Far East Front’s First Red Banner Army, Fifth Army large formations. Backed by tanks and
and 10th Mechanized Corps would strike toward the vital road junction of Mutanchiang. self-propelled guns, three corps of the
Once that city was secured, the advance would continue toward Jilin, Changchung Fifth Army had by nightfall torn a hole 25
and Harbin. The First Front’s secondary objective would be to prevent Japanese forces miles wide in the defenses and exploited
from escaping to Korea, and then would itself invade Korea up to the 38th parallel. That 15 miles beyond the enemy front line.
latter move would lay the basis for what would become the nation of North Korea. The First’s primary objective was
In the northeast, Gen. M.A. Purkaev’s Second Far East Front, 337,096-men strong, would the heavily fortified road junction of
launch supporting attacks against the center. The Second Front’s objectives were to link up Mutanchiang, the First Area Army’s
with other Soviet units at the cities of Harbin and Tsitsihar and to prevent an orderly with- headquarters and a vital communication
drawal of Japanese forces to the south, where the main offensives were taking place.  ★ center. Supported by the First Red Banner
Army’s advance on its right, advanced
units of Soviet Fifth Army approached
the outer fortifications of Mutanchiang
on the night of 11 August, setting the
stage for one of the few multi-division,
set-piece battles of the entire campaign.
Two Japanese divisions, waiting behind
a barrier of heavily forested terrain, were
unaware they’d recently been ordered
to withdraw and instead they fought to
the death. After heavy fighting that raged
for four days and accounted for half of
the campaign’s Soviet casualties, the city
was cleared on the night of 16 August.
On 20 August the First Red Banner
Army arrived at Harbin and linked up
with Soviet airborne forces as well as
amphibious units of the Second Far East
Far east Front. When the announcement of the
mastermind: Japanese capitulation arrived soon after,
the Soviets deployed to receive and pro-
cess surrendering units. Meanwhile, in the
southern sector, combined-arms Soviet

48 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 49
forces attacked to the west and southwest, forces deployed along three axes, with the and preventing them from intervening
one objective being to cut IJA communi- main assault coming in the center where in the main attacks farther south.
cations from Manchuria to Korea. Soviet Fifteenth Army crossed the Amur River The Japanese air force in Manchuria
ground forces reached the 38th parallel, and overwhelmed the fortified positions numbered only 50 combat-ready
the agreed-on demarcation line for a near Fuchin after vicious fighting. The aircraft and never became a factor
shared occupation of the Korean penin- Fifteenth then advanced along the in the campaign. With most of their
sula with the US, by the end of August. strategic Sungari River to Harbin, via a fighters deployed to the south to counter
The Second Far East Front’s support- gap in the mountains, linked up with American B-29 raids, the Japanese
ing missions took place over a broad units of the First Far East Front, tying up mounted minimal reconnaissance flights
area and a wide variety of terrain. Those Japanese units in northern Manchuria and almost no attack missions. Their
maximum effort took place on 12 August
with 184 sorties flown, resulting in 27
enemy guns and 42 trucks destroyed
and 500 enemy soldiers killed. Soon
thereafter, the air force ceased operations
altogether. The Imperial Japanese Navy
contributed nothing to the defense of
Manchuria, the occupation of which it
had always opposed on strategic grounds.
The emperor’s surrender decree was
issued over the radio on 14 August. IGHQ
didn’t issue a formal ceasefire for the
Kwangtung Army until 17 August, result-
ing in continued fighting in some areas,
surrender in others, and confusion every-
where. The Japanese finally capitulated in
Manchuria on 19 August. As the occupa-
tion of Manchuria was taking place, Soviet
amphibious units assaulted the Pacific
The victory: Soviet infantry
islands promised to Stalin at Yalta. Some
8,000 untested troops – the Soviets knew
little of opposed landings from the sea
Soviet Logistics and possessed no specialized amphibious
equipment – were dispatched over 500
The phenomenal Soviet build up in the Far East required maximum utilization sea miles to the Kuriles, a chain of some
of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Some 136,000 railroad carloads moved the assault 50 islands northeast of Japan. The north-
force from Europe to Asia. That extraordinary endeavor resulted in the Red Army’s ern Kuriles were garrisoned by 25,000
fielding a force comprised of 11 combined-arms armies, one tank army and three air Japanese soldiers, of which 8,500 were
armies.Providing adequate logistical support to that far-flung and often overextended deployed on the northernmost island
force was the most serious challenge facing Soviet commanders. The length of the of Shanshir. A Soviet division assaulted
western sector facing the Trans-Baikal Front was a staggering 1,428 miles. there on 18 August and encountered
The Far East Command and its subordinate fronts had anticipated the problems of severe resistance; assault craft were
balancing their operational capacity against logistical support limitations. Fuel shortages sunk and others were set aflame from
headed the list of problems, particularly for the forces operating in the empty regions of the fire of shore batteries. It took until
western Manchuria. Sixth Guards Tank Army, whose vehicles guzzled fuel at an enormous the night of 21 August for the attackers
rate, ran low even before it began crossing the Grand Khinghan Mountains. After that to overwhelm the Shanshir defenders,
crossing, the shortages persisted until the army reached Mukden. Other units, including who surrendered after losing 614 killed.
the Trans-Baikal Front’s Thirty-Ninth Army and the First Far East Front’s Thirty-Fifth Sakhalin Island represented a less
Army, experienced similar problems. The Soviets also found themselves dealing with difficult challenge. Its nearest point lay
the problems of shortages of water containers and motor transport for supplies. only six miles off the Asian coast, and
The main elements of Sixth Guards Tank Army had crossed the mountains faster its northern half was already Soviet
than planned and captured two towns over 270 miles from the army’s main supply base. territory. The Japanese had expended
Those spearheads desperately needed fuel, lubricants and water. Since motor transport considerable resources to fortify the
couldn’t deliver over that distance or match the pace of the advance, two air transport area, all of which was inhospitable;
divisions flew in tons of needed supplies, allowing the tank army to continue its advance. swamp-ridden, mountainous, densely
Problems also surfaced regarding the supply of river-crossing and ferrying equipment to forested. The Soviets began their advance
the Second Red Banner Army, Fifteenth Army, and 5th Separate Rifle Corps. Shortages on 11 August but made scant headway.
of bridging equipment led to lengthy crossing times and piecemeal commitment of Only after heavy fighting were they able
forces to battle. It took five days for the Amur Flotilla’s ships to transport all of Second to take the key strongpoint of Honda,
Red Banner Army’s assault forces across the Amur River. Subordinate commanders whose defenders fought to the last man.
were forced to commit their units piecemeal as they reached the south bank. Harsh weather inhibited air support
Despite it all, the Red Army demonstrated it had the logistical skill to and many tanks bogged down, obliging
conduct a mobile campaign across an entire theater of operations.  ★ Russian infantrymen to struggle through
on foot to outflank enemy positions.
Though the Japanese surrender had

50 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

already been broadcast, the defenders
launched human-wave counterattacks, Soviet Blitzkrieg
allowing the Soviets to inflict appalling
losses. Yard by yard, Soviet soldiers forced The Soviet blitzkrieg of Manchuria in 1945 provides a classic example of what the Soviet high
passages through the forest, battering the command could do in the way of high-speed ground operations: armor-heavy columns making
enemy with artillery barrages. Though lightning-fast movements along several axes of advance without undue concern about their
isolated garrisons continued to resist, on flanks. They were supported by airborne forces dropping into the depth of the theater. Surprise
17 August the local Japanese commander attacks were intended to rapidly split the enemy’s forces and destroy them piecemeal.
in the frontier sector surrendered and The Red Army that attacked into Manchuria in 1945 had been hardened by four years of unrelenting
Sakhalin was secured on 26 August. warfare across Europe. The German invasion of 1941 had shattered the Soviet force structure, forcing
In Manchuria and the island opera- them to reorganize. Heavy losses in manpower and materiel, and the inability of commanders to control
tions the Soviets claimed to have killed, large formations, drove them to simplify their force structure. The program worked; the Soviets survived
wounded, or captured 674,000 Japanese the winter of 1941-42, and during that latter year they began including new tank and mechanized
troops at a cost to the Red Army of 12,031 corps in their force structure. They also created tank armies using a common table of organization and
dead and 24,424 sick and wounded. equipment (TO&E). Throughout 1944 the Red Army expanded its ability to execute complex operations.
Stalin’s massive Far East conquests thus The number of tank corps, mechanized corps and tank armies grew, and Soviet forces
incurred about the same human cost as developed a capability absent in the war’s first two years: to fully implement a doctrine of strategic
the Americans had suffered during the offensive operations. By 1945 the Soviet army had matured, turning to firepower, mobility, and
seizure of Okinawa. The First Far East machine warfare to compensate for the growing shortage in manpower. (Losses from four
Front bore the heaviest losses with 6,324 years of fighting the Germans had taken their toll.) Nowhere was all of that more evident than
dead; the Second Far East Front lost 2,449 in Manchuria, where final adjustments to the force structure were implemented.
killed; the Trans-Baikal lost 2,228, and In August 1945 the basic formation subordinate to the front was the combined-arms
the Soviet Pacific Fleet lost 9,987 naval army. Those armies usually each contained three rifle corps totaling seven to 12 rifle divisions,
infantry. The Japanese admitted to having one or two artillery brigades, a tank destroyer brigade, an anti-aircraft division, a mortar and
21,000 of their own killed, though the signal regiment, an engineer brigade, two or three tank brigades or regiments, and a tank
true figure is probably closer to 80,000. or mechanized corps. Each such army ranged in strength from 80,000 to 100,000 men, with
320 to 460 tanks, 1,900 to 2,500 guns and mortars, and 100 to 200 self-propelled guns.
Aftermath The experience in Manchuria also demonstrated the Soviet tendency to tailor the size of
armies to the conditions and missions they faced. In Manchuria, they deployed their largest
The Soviets withdrew from Manchuria armies in the main attack sectors or against heavily fortified Japanese positions. Those
between January and May 1946, after assault units received massive amounts of firepower in support. Conversely, small armies
having systematically pillaged the tailored to suit local conditions operated on the secondary axes. The tank armies, along
region for every scrap of industrial plant. with the separate tank and mechanized corps, provided the mobile offensive punch.
Claiming their booty was not Chinese The tank armies of 1945 consisted of two tank corps, a mechanized corps, a light
property but, rather, Japanese-owned, artillery brigade, two mortar and two anti-aircraft regiments, a self-propelled artil-
the victors took home everything they lery brigade and signal, transport and logistical units. Each one’s 21 tank battalions
could move. They dismantled steel mills and 15 motorized rifle battalions totaled 808 tanks and self-propelled guns.
and other industrial plants, and used the The Red Air Force quickly established air superiority in the sky over Manchuria. The Red
Manchurian railway to ship the spoils to Air Force flew reconnaissance and re-supply missions for the most part, providing close air
the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands support during the breakthrough. Air superiority allowed the Soviets to take greater risks on the
of Japanese captives, civilian and military ground, dropping battalion-sized airborne formations to seize cities and vital communication
alike, found themselves laboring in centers. Soviet airborne forces often captured airfields in advance of their land forces, and
Siberia for long periods of time, enduring then opened them for air transport to ferry fuel to units that had outrun their supply lines.
harsh conditions on substandard rations. Later in the campaign, airborne landings brought Soviet paratroopers to major Manchurian and
With the Soviet departure, Chiang Korean cities and against Japanese command installations. In Manchuria those airborne detachments
Kai-shek rushed Nationalist Army units ranged in size from 150 to 500 men. All were landed without reconnaissance, and sometimes in an
into Manchuria transported by American atmosphere of uncertainty about enemy reactions. The landings were as much a form of psychological
aircraft. Confronting them were Mao warfare as they were military in their aims, in that they sought to hasten the surrender of often recal-
Tse-Tung’s communists, who would citrant Japanese units and to establish a general Soviet presence across Manchuria. The Manchurian,
soon be on the offensive. The end of in turn, became the basis for much of Soviet military doctrine during the ensuing Cold War.  ★
World War II in Manchuria thus hastened
the renewal of civil war in China.  ✪

Coox, Alvin D.
Nomonhan, Japan Against Russia, 1939.
Stanford Univ. Press, Palo Alto, 1985.
Frank, Richard B.
Downfall, The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.
Random House, NewYork, 1999.
Glantz, David M., Lt. Col.
Leavenworth Papers Nos. 7 & 8.
Combat Studies Institute,
US Army Command and General Staff College, Rolling on:
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1983. Soviet troops
Hastings, Max.
catch a ride on a
Retribution, The Battle for Japan, 1944-45.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2008. self-propelled gun

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 51

Game Preview

Leningrad ‘41

he game appearing in issue
number 17 will be an alternative
history design by Joseph Miranda
titled Leningrad ’41: What If Manstein
had Attacked? (L’41). It’s a two-player
game of intermediate complexity that
simulates a hypothetical German
attempt to seize the city of Leningrad in
late July through August 1941. To control
complexity and present an overall-
force-commander’s-view of the battle,
the game uses a tactically scaled map
and units of maneuver coupled with an
operationally scaled game turn length.
The German player is generally on
the offensive, trying to clear the Soviet
defending force from the city prior to
the end of the game. It uses an evolution
of the system originally presented in
Manila ’45: Stalingrad of the Pacific.
Each game turn of L’41 equals three
days. Each large-size hexagon on the
34x22” mapsheet represents 0.3 miles
(0.5 km) from side to opposite side.
The units of maneuver in the game for
the Germans are mainly battalions,
while those for the Soviets range from
battalions to regiments and brigades.
There are 228 medium-sized NATO-
style counters (iconic markers).
The rules contain fewer than 10,000
words. Two players can finish a match
in about four hours. Rules cover such
things as: defensive and offensive fire,
fog of war, command-control, German
divisional organization, indirect fire,
air support, leaders, optional airborne
assault, variable reinforcements, Soviet
gunboats and the cruiser Aurora, the
city’s Komsomol units, the Metro,
fanaticism and much more.   ✪

52 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Observation Post

I Remember east coast with Coastal Command, B-24s in my case — became available.
Number 10 Bomber Reconnaissance At first I was flying out of Gander,
Air War Over the Atlantic (BR) Squadron. The big battle at the Newfoundland. At that time the enemy
time was against submarines in the was in the ascendancy. We couldn’t
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, Atlantic. The Germans were starving cover the convoys during the entire
on December 13, 1919. My parents England to death, and we had to Atlantic crossing because of the limited
emigrated to Canada less than a help the Navy escort merchant ships range of our aircraft, and we were
year later, when I was still a baby. through to keep her fed and in the fight. often grounded by foul weather.
Upon arriving in Canada, my parents Initially we flew ad hoc bombers, which The mechanics did a tremendous
settled in Haileybury, a small town were commercial airplanes that had job keeping our planes airborne, but
in northern Ontario. There they been hastily modified into maritime most were older than we were and
survived harsh weather and a fire patrollers. They weren’t suited to the they began to break down. That’s when
that destroyed most of the town, job; They had limited range and carried they sent us down to Dartmouth, Nova
while my father found backbreaking a small weapons payload, but they Scotia, to do harbor patrols around
work in the area’s silver mines. filled the role until true bombers — Halifax. We’d clear the entrance of
During the depression, I left high
school in search of employment.
I found part-time work, first as a
butcher’s assistant and then a delivery-
man. I also enlisted as a reservist in
the Algonquin Regiment, drilling two
nights a week for one dollar. The money
came in handy at the time, and it also
gave me my first taste of the military
and prepared me for things to come.
The outbreak of World War II gave
me new direction. When the war
started, my regiment made ready
for overseas duty. Unfortunately for
me, a routine physical examination
discovered I lacked a particular
muscle in my upper chest, and it
was determined I couldn’t physically
perform the duties of a soldier. My
regiment shipped out without me.
I still wanted to do my share,
though. When the Germans kicked us
out of Dunkirk in 1940, everyone got
excited about joining up. The army still
wouldn’t take me, so I thought perhaps
the air force would take me. In June
1941 I went to Toronto and enlisted
in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
They were eager for replacements to
make up for losses among bomber
crews; so they overlooked my medical
condition and sent me for training in
wireless radio operation and gunnery.
I completed my training early in
1942. We were really still only partly
trained when we deployed, but the
need was so great we did a lot of on the A Consolidated B-24 Liberator from Maxwell Field, Alabama, four engine pilot school,
job training. I was posted to Canada’s glistens in the sun as it makes a turn at high altitude in the clouds

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 53

Observation Post

subs, flying out five miles, across seemed to hit. The submarine appeared amounted to two. In Coastal Command,
five miles, and back again. It was the to be listing, so we came around again it was 100 trips per tour, simply because
most monotonous thing you could and dropped a second torpedo, pulling the danger and stress were less intense.
do. Our planes would literally begin up hard in case the sub exploded At any rate, I wasn’t looking forward to
falling apart while we were in the air. below us. The sub either sank or crash a desk job at Training Command; so I
That’s when we got our “Libs” dived — it was hard to tell when you’re jumped at the chance to fly as a chief
(B-24 Liberator bombers). We trained 100 feet in the air and flying 150 miles instructor with American crews. It kept
on the aircraft in Montreal, but per hour — but the amount of debris me flying, and I enjoyed my time with
only got about six to eight hours of convinced us something had happened. the Americans. They were nice guys,
flight time before we were sent to It was up to the Navy to determine and I enjoyed the luxuries they had.
operational duty. We were losing if we had a kill, because they would I flew in a lot of different planes
the submarine war; so two weeks of investigate with surface ships and get during the war. Our first planes were
training was all they could allow. As a a better view of the remains. It wasn’t Digbys, lend-lease commercial planes
result, once again we were only partially simply a matter of looking for debris, that were converted into bombers.
trained and learning on the job. because by then the Germans had got Everything on them was manual. To
I returned to Newfoundland foxy and would shoot garbage out of the drop a radio antennae, you had to reel
again. As soon as we got the Libs, the torpedo tubes to simulate wreckage. To it out by hand. It was time-consum-
submarines’ days were numbered. We verify a kill, the Navy would look for a ing and kept you from other tasks.
could cover the entire Atlantic, carry combination of bodies, debris and oil. They just weren’t modern aircraft.
a huge payload, and bomb accurately That wasn’t the most frightening Flying Liberators was like buying
with the new equipment. German incident I went through, though, a new car. Everything was so new and
subs usually wouldn’t remain on the not by a long shot. While attacking modern, especially after the primitive
surface to fight it out with a four-engine submarines could be frightening, far planes we’d been flying. The B-24 was
bomber. As soon as they saw us, worse was the prospect of getting lost. a first-class plane all round, a real
they’d almost always crash-dive. We didn’t have the best navigation then; pleasure to serve on. The endurance
We flew 12-hour patrols over the so we often relied on radio bearings to of a Digby was typically eight to 10
North Atlantic. It was an experience of determine our course. There were times hours, but with the Liberator we could
boredom and monotony interrupted when that wasn’t possible, however. fly 17 hours and at twice the speed.
by seconds of terror as you flew low On one occasion we were south of Everything was automated, which
over a surfaced submarine to drop Iceland when we ran into a storm. The made it easier to perform numer-
your bombs. We were only 150 yards antennas became thick with ice and ous jobs. The Lib was by far the
above the subs; so they’d be shooting broke off, meaning we couldn’t broad- best anti-sub plane of the war.
at us with their machineguns, and at cast far. We were lost and in trouble, I wasn’t excited about the Flying
that range they really couldn’t miss. and fuel was running low. I began Fortress. It was no good for accurate
I was involved with four encounters transmitting to anyone who could hear. bombing, and it was unsettling to see
with submarines, including one If we were forced to ditch in the sea, the wings bouncing up to 14 inches
probable kill. We’re sure we got him; our chances of survival would be near in turbulence, as they tended to do.
there were sounds of explosions zero. Finally we got a reply, but it took Looking back today, it seems
and I saw debris, but the Navy guys a while to verify it wasn’t a German the work of Coastal Command is
wouldn’t include it as a verified kill. because they would send out false radio less-remembered by the public than
The story of our probable kill was broadcasts to run us off course. When other arms of the military. There’s no
one of the highlights of my war. It began we finally arrived at Gander, we had doubt people forget about the air war
when we picked up signs on radar of a only 20 minutes of fuel left. It was my against the submarines. I think it was
submarine running on the surface, and closest brush with death in the war. one of the most important battles of
we dove down through the clouds to get After about 600 hours in the the war. If we’d lost, the war would’ve
visual confirmation. We made a pass Liberator and 500 in earlier planes, been lost; there would’ve been no stra-
over the sub but they remained on the I had done my two tours and was tegic bomber offensive and no D-Day,
surface, deciding to fight it out with us. destined for an administrative job. because England would’ve surrendered.
They were firing at us with machine- Keep in mind that the duration of tours I think it’s forgotten today because even
guns and we were firing back. We for Coastal Command and Bomber during the war we didn’t have a whole
passed over the conning tower so low Command were different because of lot of publicity. That was a matter of
they couldn’t help but fill the plane with the nature of their tasks. In Bomber operational security. We didn’t want
bullets, but we released a torpedo and it Command, 30 trips was one tour and 45 the enemy to know our tactics or the

54 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

capabilities of our equipment. Publicity
would’ve given away a lot of that type
of information. So, to win the war we
had to remain in the background.
But regardless of how the war
against the U-boats is remembered,
I’m proud to have served. I wouldn’t
have missed it for a million bucks.
It was something that had to be
done. The fact is we went out, did
our job to the best of our ability,
and tried to come home again.
The end of the Second World War
didn’t spell the end of my military
service. When the Korean War began,
I was offered a six-year commission in
administration and public relations.
During that time I worked to create
and coordinate a Ground Observer
Corps that used civilian volunteers
to watch the skies for enemy aircraft.
Though no enemy planes were ever
spotted, the corps played a vital role
in the search and rescue of several
downed aircraft. Later I rejoined the
Algonquin Regiment as a first
lieutenant; so I did four years in the
Army on top of 10 in the Air Force.

 — William Scott
as told to Andrew Hind

On the Seas

Pre-Dreadnoughts in
the WW2 USN

The American battleship Oregon is

best known for her service during the
Spanish-American War. Newly commis-
sioned, it raced from the builder’s yard
in San Francisco sailed around Cape
Horn, and joined the American fleet off
Cuba. There it was one of the victors of
the Battle of Santiago. Oregon saw lim-
ited service in World War I as a training
ship, but by the 1920s was as obsolete
as the wooden frigate Constitution.
The majority of other US Navy
pre-dreadnought battleships were
scrapped or used as gunnery targets
during the 1920s. Sentiment, especially
in its namesake state, spared Oregon Bow view of the Oregon (BB-03) on the day of sailing for Cuba on 19 March 1898

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 55

Observation Post

that fate. Instead, in 1925 the Navy then, the ship continued to exist in where it was anchored in Port Merizon.
turned the ship over to the state of administrative limbo, while the need Landing craft made visits to the ship
Oregon on permanent loan for use for scrap iron became less acute. every night, unloading the next day’s
as a museum and monument. By September the Navy, embar- worth of dynamite from its bunkers.
To comply with the naval treaties rassed by the continuing uproar, Fifteen tons of explosives were unload-
of those times, the ship’s propellers revoked the sale. By then, however, ed daily, always at night when it was
were cut up and its engine disabled. some of the Oregon’s machinery and cooler. While not as glamorous a task as
She was then towed to Portland, superstructure — including the fighting the enemy fleet, it was just as
Oregon, to be the centerpiece of a gun turrets — had been removed. vital to an ultimate American victory.
projected Battleship Oregon State Park. Nevertheless, the Navy placed Oregon By the start of 1945, Oregon’s maga-
Progress toward building the park back on its rolls as the IX-22. zines were empty and its usefulness
had gotten no further than anchoring The “IX” category was for “unclas- ended. As the war moved west, Oregon
the ship at Portland when the Great sified ships,” which included historic remained moored at Port Merizon.
Depression intervened. From 1928 to relics such as the Constitution. It was After the war ended, Oregon was
1941 the ship itself was simply open also used for miscellaneous utility placed under the command of Naval
for visitors at the Portland waterfront. ships: test beds, fuel and ammo barges, Operations Base Apra. Various uses
By 1938, a basin and channel were and barracks ships. The classification were proposed for her — most of which
dredged for the ship at the site of the permitted the illusion Oregon would be involved sinking it as part of a breakwa-
still-projected park, and the Oregon restored to its old status, which helped ter — but nothing was actually done.
was moved in. Plans called for the the public relations furor to die down. In November 1948, Typhoon Agnes
channel and basin to be filled in, with Reality was different: the old battleship struck Guam. When the winds died
Oregon thus permanently landlocked. was little more than a gutted hull bereft down, Oregon was gone. The ship had
That work hadn’t yet started, of engines, turrets and superstructure. snapped its moorings and had been
though, when the US found itself in Restoring it to its 1940 appearance was swept out to sea. It was presumed
a new war in the Pacific in 1941. impossible. Oregon might well have sunk, as the 50-year-old hulk had
In the surge of patriotism that ended the war at some stateside naval been untended. A month later, a
followed the Japanese attack on Pearl base, but then a mission came along patrol aircraft spotted Oregon, still
Harbor, Oregon offered the ship back to for which she was ideally suited. afloat, 500 miles southeast of Guam,
the Navy. Even as just a floating battery, Airfields were a major reason for drifting toward the Philippines. A tug
though, Oregon’s utility would’ve been taking the Marianas, as bases there was sent to recover the wayward ship,
limited. Her main battery of 13-inch would allow B-29s to reach the Japanese and it was towed back to Guam.
guns used ammunition of a size and home islands. Those bases did not The escapade once again drew
type long since abandoned by the Navy. then exist; nor did the port or other attention to Oregon, especially from
In 1942 the need for scrap iron facilities required to protect, support its namesake state. Over the next few
became acute; so that October the and supply the B-29 fields. All would years, efforts were made to have the
Navy revoked the loan of the ship and require construction when the islands ship returned to Oregon and restored
ordered her sold as scrap. In December, were taken. Such construction used to its former state. It came to nothing
Oregon was purchased by a pair of dynamite — lots of dynamite. Since the because only the hull was left. In 1956
Portland businessmen for just $35,000. military would be building facilities in the Navy again sold Oregon for scrap. It
The foremast was removed and left wholesale lots, construction required was towed to Japan and melted down.
at the stillborn park as a monument. hundreds of tons of dynamite. The Japanese appreciated the
Oregon then was towed to Kalama, That dynamite needed to be moved historic significance of the ship, and
Washington, for disassembly. to the Marianas, preferably in a hull they preserved the anchor chain.
News of the sale sparked outrage. designed to store large quantities of In 1957 the mayor of Yokosuka,
The historic value of the vessel far explosives in armored magazines. The Japan, presented the links, as a
exceeded the utility of the 10,000 IX-22 fit that profile. Additionally, it was monument to Oregon, to the United
tons of steel she would yield. The sale expendable. If a Japanese bomb pen- States Naval Base at Yokosuka.
itself also struck people as having etrated the magazines, the loss of the Oregon was not the only pre-
been dodgy. Bids had been limited, ship would not impair naval operations. dreadnought battleship that survived
and the final selling price worked out In July 1944, Oregon therefore went into World War II. Four others were
to only about $3.50 per ton. (In 1942 to war for a final time. Ballasted with still in existence at the start of the
scrap iron and steel sold for nearly gravel and loaded with 1,400 tons war: Kearsarge (BB-5), Illinois (BB-7)
$19 per ton.) As 1943 stretched on, of explosives, it was towed to Guam Mississippi (BB-23) and Idaho (BB-

56 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

24). Two survived into the 1950s. served in the Royal Hellenic Navy as Flattery. The next day the I-25 appeared
Kearsarge, built only a few years after first-line warships through the 1920s. off Astoria, Oregon, and shelled Fort
Oregon, survived the 1920s massacre of Both ships went into reserve in 1932. Stevens. That coastal defense instal-
pre-dreadnought battleships because Lemnos was demilitarized and was lation received some minor damage.
she had been converted to a crane ship used as an accommodation ship, while To counter the threat, the US Navy
in 1920. Her guns were removed, as Kilkis became a training ship in 1935. began building a new design of sub
was much of her superstructure, and Both were still in the RHN, stationed chasers designated the PC-class. The
a massive crane, capable of lifting 250 at Salamis, when Germany invaded new ships were steel hulled and 173 feet
tons, was placed amidships. Kearsarge Greece in April 1941. They were sunk by long. They replaced the SC-class, which
was chosen for conversion because Stuka dive bombers on 23 April 1941. were smaller and had wooden hulls.
the ship was militarily obsolete, but The PC-class were powered by twin die-
the hull was still sound and capable — Mark N. Lardas sel engines and capable of 20 knots. The
of mounting the crane. For the next main armament consisted of one three-
20 years she was used as a mobile Mysteries Revealed inch gun forward, one 40mm Bofors,
crane. Among its accomplishments three 20mm Oerlikon cannon, and
was refloating the Squalus, after that The Battle of Cape Lookout depth charges. They were also equipped
submarine sank off New Hampshire. with the latest sonar. Five shipyards
In 1941, Kearsarge was renamed In response to the Doolittle raid produced 362 of them during the war.
Crane Ship No. 1, to free the name on Tokyo, the Imperial Japanese Navy The USS PC-815 was built at the
for new construction. She assisted ordered its submarines to operate Albina Engine and Machinery Works
in the construction and repair of along the California and Oregon coast. in Portland, Oregon. Fitted out and
many of the Navy’s warships during Japanese submarines I-25 and I-26 commissioned on 20 April 1943, her
World War II, surviving to 1955 soon thereafter began patrolling off skipper was Lt (j.g.) L. Ron Hubbard.
when she was sold for scrap. British Columbia and Oregon. On 20 Lt. Hubbard received orders to sail to
Illinois also escaped scrapping June they shelled the lighthouse on Bremerton, Washington, to receive
in the 1920s because she had been Estevan Point on Vancouver Island some additional equipment. After
transferred to the New York Naval Yard and damaged a freighter off Cape participating in a rescue operation the
for use by the New York State Naval
Militia in 1922, before the Washington
Naval Limitation Treaty was negoti-
ated. To keep Illinois under those new
treaty limitations, the navy removed her
weapons, machinery and much of the
superstructure. The ship was converted
to an accommodation ship, with a
barn-like barracks structure added.
Renamed Prairie State on 8 January
1941 to release her name for a new
battleship Illinois, she served as Navy
Reserve Midshipman Training School
through World War II, and served as an
accommodation ship for a naval reserve
unit after the war. She, too, was finally
struck from the Navy Register in 1955,
and was broken up for scrap in 1956.
Idaho and Mississippi, the last
pre-dreadnought battleships built for
the US Navy, proved so unsatisfactory
they were sold to Greece in 1914. The
money from the sale was used to build
a new dreadnought, BB-42 Idaho.
Respectively renamed Lemnos and Loading a depth-charge launcher aboard the USS PC-548.
Kilkis, those two pre-dreadnoughts The scene aboard the USS PC-815 would have been much the same.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 57

Observation Post

PC-815 was ordered to San Diego. At 7:00 a.m. on the 21st the PC-815 ship, and cooperation. He acts without
At 3:40 a.m. on the morning of 19 reported a submarine was attempting forethought to the probable results.”
May, the night was moonlit and the to surface, and then also reported Fletcher concluded with by
sea calm. Suddenly the sonar operator a second submarine contact. The writing: “Recommend duty [for
on the PC-815 reported a suspicious ship opened fire from 50 yards on a Hubbard] on a large vessel where
contact. Lt. Hubbard listened to the report of a periscope breaking the he can be properly supervised.”
contact and declared it was an enemy water. The periscope disappeared. Hubbard was relieved of command,
submarine. He ordered the crew to The PC- 815 and SC-536 made but he maintained throughout the rest
general quarters. At 4:50 a.m. a lookout another depth charge run. A fourth of his life the submarines were real.
spotted something in the water and sub-chaser, the PC-788, arrived but The US Navy, though, also continued
Hubbard ordered the crew to open fire. couldn’t detect any submarine contacts. to deny that claim, and no awards or
After repeated hits, the crew deter- The other commanders began battle stars were awarded the ship.
mined they were firing on a floating log. suggesting the search be discontinued. After the war a review of Japanese
The PC-815 then made six depth charge After 96 hours the PC-815 was naval records indicated no submarines
attacks. By dawn they had expended ordered to return to port. The Battle were operating or lost off the Oregon
all of the depth charges on board. of Cape Lookout was over, but the coast during the period in question.
By early afternoon a second sub controversy and colorful career of the Hubbard, of course, went on to much
chaser and two Navy patrol blimps were PC-815 and her captain continued. greater success after the end of his
on the scene. The second sub chaser, Hubbard submitted a detailed report Navy career, becoming the founder of
SC-536, reported it couldn’t make any on the incident that was reviewed the Church of Scientology in 1953.
sonar contacts. Hubbard told the SC- by Adm. Frank Fletcher. Fletcher’s
536 to begin dropping depth charges follow-up investigation revealed the — Roger Mason
according to his directions. Soon all of other commanders and sonar crews
SC-536’s depth charges were expended. at the scene couldn’t substantiate any Strategic
At 4:00 p.m. the US Coast Guard patrol sightings or sonar contacts of any Backwaters
boat 78302 arrived with 27 more depth submarines. None of the customary
charges. Hubbard maneuvered along- debris or oil normally recovered from Midget Sub Action
side and reloaded for additional attacks. a destroyed submarine was found. at Diego Suarez
Shortly thereafter another sub Another revelation came from the fact
chaser, SC-537, and Coast Guard that the seabed in the area had large On 20 February 1942, the German
patrol boat Bonham arrived. Hubbard magnetic deposits that could generate Ambassador in Tokyo, Gen. Eugen Ott,
was frustrated by his reinforcements’ mistaken sonar contacts. Fletcher’s cabled Berlin that Tokyo was consider-
lack of enthusiasm for continuing conclusion was there had been no ing taking over Madagascar from the
the fight. The inability of the other submarines in the area at the time. Vichy French. In March, German Adm.
ships to locate any sonar contacts The PC-815 was ordered to San Raeder reported to Hitler the Japanese
caused their captains to suspect there Diego. On arrival there, she was appeared to have recognized the great
were no submarines in the area. assigned patrol duties protecting strategic importance of Madagascar
A sudden report of a submarine sur- the entrance to that bay. On 28 and were planning on establishing
facing nearby resulted in a high speed June, during a training exercise, bases there. Hitler’s only comment
run by the SC-53, but it turned out to be Lt. Hubbard anchored off South was that the French wouldn’t agree to
a local fishing boat. The search contin- Coronado Island southwest of San such a scheme. Therefore, prompted by
ued through the night and day. During Diego. As the exercise concluded, he German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop,
that time the PC-815 received its first decided to take the opportunity for Japanese Ambassador to Germany
battle damage. The crew was exhausted extra gunnery practice and began Oshima Hiroshi promised to obtain
after being at general quarters for shelling the island. Unfortunately, clarification on his government’s
nearly 24 hours. One of the 20mm that island is Mexican territory; so the intentions in regard to Madagascar.
cannon malfunctioned: it was pointed gunnery practice resulted in a formal Ribbentrop conveyed to the Japanese
at the bridge when it discharged its protest by the Mexican government. ambassador that, if Japan did attack
entire magazine. The executive officer A second board of inquiry was Madagascar, presenting it to the
of the PC-815, Lt. Thomas Moulton, was convened, again chaired by Adm. Vichy French as a fait accompli,
on the mast as the cannon went off, Fletcher. His recommendation was: Germany would back Japan. He
and he narrowly avoided being killed. “[I] Consider this officer lacking in the also took the opportunity to request
The ship’s radio antenna was shot off. essential qualities of judgment, leader- Japan launch offensive operations

58 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

against Allied convoys in the Indian At least one midget submarine was to submarines I-16 and I-20 to launch
Ocean in order to help relieve lost during that training. By April it their midget submarines on 31 May for
pressure on the Kreigsmarine. was decided the midget submarines an attack, scheduling it for 2:30 a.m.
On 8 April, the Japanese Naval would be sent to the African coast. Launching approximately 10 miles
Attaché in Berlin, Adm. Kichisaburo In the wake of Vice Adm. Chuichi east of the harbor entrance, midget
Nomura, told the Germans that, Nagumo’s brief fleet carrier operations submarine M-16b, off the I-16, headed
while there was as yet no set date for in the Bay of Bengal (carrier air strikes toward Diego Suarez, but was never
Japanese operations against Ceylon against Trincomalee and Colombo on heard from again. An unidentified body
or Madagascar, they certainly would Ceylon, and the sinking of HMS Hermes, was found on 1 June, washed ashore
be attacked if evolving Axis strat- Cornwall, Dorsetshire and HMAS on a beach just outside Diego Suarez,
egy required it. The Japanese further Vampire), IJN Submarine Squadron 8 and some remains of what appeared to
studied the feasibility of attacking (Subron 8) was detached from Kwajalein be the aft section of a small submarine
Madagascar during March and April and assigned to Penang, Malaya, for were located on a reef in an area of
1942, but postponed the project due operations in African waters. The violent turbulence and surf. The M-20b,
to a lack of forces. Then, on 5 May, midget submarines were sent to Penang launched from I-20 approximately nine
both Germany and Japan learned aboard the tender Nisshin, where miles east of the harbor entrance, took
the British had beaten them to the they were attached to Subron 8 as “A three hours and 15 minutes to cover
punch and invaded Madagascar. The Detachment.” On 30 April, five I-class that distance and penetrate the harbor.
Germans were disappointed in the lack submarines sortied west from Penang; At 8;25 p.m. M-20b launched a 17.7
of Japanese action, pointing out the three were loaded with a midget inch torpedo, hitting HMS Ramillies,
British had substantially improved the submarine, and two carried recon- and then fired her second torpedo at
Allied position in the Indian Ocean. naissance aircraft to seek out targets. the 6,993-ton tanker British Loyalty.
Concurrently, they acknowledged By 10 May the three midget-carrying The battleship suffered significant
the British position on Madagascar submarines (I-16, I-18 and I-20) learned damage, with a 30-by-30 foot hole in the
was still weak, as the Vichy French Diego Suarez had been captured by the port bulge forward of turret A, losing
continued to hold much of the island, British. On 29 May, the floatplane from power throughout the ship. The tanker
and that offered favorable prospects I-10 reconnoitered that anchorage, was even less fortunate, and sank.
for a Japanese counter-measure. spotting the battleship HMS Ramillies The M-20b was subjected to depth
The Japanese felt they had to do and nine other vessels. That night the charging, but escaped the bay heading
something to appease the Germans. Japanese submarine flotilla command- north/northwest. Its battery depleted,
Fortunately, the British naval ship- er, Capt. Noboru Ishazaki, issued orders the craft commander, Lt. Saburo Akieda,
ping currently anchored within the
Madagascar harbor of Diego Suarez
offered potential for just such an action.
The British believed that anchorage
was safe from attack, precisely
because of the difficulties they had
encountered when they planned their
attack there; however, those Royal
Navy planners had never envisioned
action by midget submarines.
As early as 18 December 1941,
Japanese Combined Fleet headquarters
had authorized planning for a midget
submarine operation designated
“Divine Dragon Operation No. 2,”
and targeted the British Far Eastern
Fleet. The operation was projected to
occur sometime between 20 May and
10 June 1942. Intensive training took
place in Hiroshima Bay, emphasizing
night operations, penetrating net
defenses and negotiating narrow straits. Japanese submarine I-10 (A-class), at Penang Port. April 1942.

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 59

Observation Post

grounded his submarine at Nosy Antali British Loyalty, sunk in 65' deep water, that, the “Strike South” faction, led by
Keli islet, where he attempted to scuttle was later refloated. The submarine I-18, the Imperial Navy, became ascendant.
it but the charge failed to explode. using its last midget submarine (M-18b), The exceptional tactical successes of
He and Petty Officer 1st Class Masami sank the Norwegian merchant steamer the Soviet commander on the scene in
Takemoto managed to contact some Wilford on 9 June, then scuttled the 1939, Lt. Gen. Georgi Zhukov, would be
natives, who assisted them to the main- midget submarine before returning. replicated by other Soviet commanders
land. On 2 June 1942, the two Japanese during the devastating Soviet invasion
sailors were intercepted by a patrol of — Vernie Liebl of Manchuria in August 1945.
Royal Marines from No. 5 Commando, Deficiencies that severely hampered
48 miles from where they’d come ashore. On the Battle Line the Japanese in 1939 — poor logistics and
During the ensuing gun battle, one communications, lack of heavy weapons
Marine and both sailors were killed. Nomonhan, 1939 and armor — wouldn’t be corrected by
“Divine Dragon Operation No. 1945, with disastrous consequences for
2” was over. For the loss of two For five months in 1939 the armed that nation. Indeed, Japan’s Kwangtung
midget submarines and four sailors, forces of the Soviet Union and Japan Army in Manchuria was scarcely better
the Japanese sank an oil tanker and clashed over a disputed sector of the equipped to conduct mobile warfare
significantly damaged a battleship. The Mongolian-Manchurian border near in 1945 than it had been in 1939.
HMS Ramillies was declared seaworthy the Khalkin Gol River and the village The Kwangtung Army’s command-
on 9 June and departed for Durban, of Nomonhan. The enormous losses ers had insisted the border between
South Africa, for temporary repair. suffered by their ground forces there had their client state, Manchukuo, and the
That done, she departed in August a profound effect on Japan’s ruling clique. Mongolian People’s Republic (backed
1942 for Plymouth, England, where she The faction that had dominated strategic by the Soviet Union) was the Khalkin
underwent full repair, finally completing thinking up to mid-1939, the so-called Gol River. The Mongolians claimed an
those in September 1943. The tanker “Strike North” group, fell from favor. With area some 12 miles east of the river,
including the village of Nomonhan. In
early June, the aggressive Gen. Zhukov
arrived and immediately put his forces
on the offensive. Soviet armored thrusts
quickly secured the area and threw
Japanese ground units across the
river. A Japanese counterattack failed,
in large part because the Kwangtung
Army lacked adequate anti-tank
weapons. The Japanese then resorted
to suicide attacks, with squads of men
hurling satchel charges and Molotov
cocktails; however, they still couldn’t
stop the wedge of Soviet armor.
Between late May and 25 July, the
Japanese suffered 5,000 casualties
along a 19-mile front. Soviet losses were
higher, but the Red Army could call on
greater resources. The real battle was
logistics, at which Zhukov excelled. His
nearest base was on the Trans-Siberian
Railway, some 465 miles away over dirt
roads. Over time, though, Zhukov built
up a fleet of 2,600 trucks, including
1,000 fuel-transporting vehicles. The
Japanese supply system, meanwhile,
was badly managed. Soldiers went for
days without water in temperatures that
Happy Japanese army veterans with captured Russian gear (Nomonhan 1939) reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The

60 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

Japanese were never able to overcome aircraft, and now paid the price, as Soviet was set up to resolve disputes along
the difficulties created by the 200-mile T-26 and T-28 tanks ravaged them. the length of the border. As World War
distance to their supply base in Hailar In savage fighting the Red Army II engulfed Europe, Stalin was free
and their lack of motorized transport. columns turned both Japanese flanks to focus his attention on the west.
By early August the Japanese had and got behind the Japanese forces, The Japanese failed to learn from their
committed 75,000 Imperial Army and linking up at the village of Nomonhan defeat. The vital lesson, that modern war-
Manchurian auxiliaries, the Soviets per- and trapping the Japanese 23rd Infantry fare depended heavily upon supply and
haps 100,000. The Kwantung Army reor- Division. The Japanese fought back equipment, was ignored. The suicidal
ganized its forces and planned an offen- viciously but in vain. Soviet tanks, bravery displayed by Japanese infantry in
sive to begin on 24 August. Soviet dictator equipped with flamethrowers and the Nomonhan fight would be witnessed
Josef Stalin meanwhile made a crucial supported by infantry, shredded one again on battlefields in Manchuria in
decision: alarmed by Hitler’s threats strongpoint after another. Soviet armor 1945, but so too would the Kwangtung
against Poland, Stalin wanted to free halted all Japanese counterattacks. On Army’s critical deficiencies in heavy
himself from distractions in the Far East. 27 August the Japanese 23rd Infantry weapons, organization and logistics. The
In early August, therefore, he sent Zhukov Division made a last attempt to break out Japanese conviction that willpower could
an additional 1,625 trucks, thus giving to the east but was defeated, suffering overcome even profound material disad-
that commander the logistical where- over 70 percent losses. By 31 August the vantages wouldn’t finally be discredited
withal necessary for a decisive strike. Japanese had been driven from all dis- until the end of a much larger war.
All through early and mid-August, puted territory with massive casualties.
Zhukov quietly moved up reinforce- Those figures are still disputed: the — John Walker  ★
ments. By mid-August he’d massed five Japanese acknowledge almost 9,000
divisions and four armored brigades killed and 9,000 wounded, while the
in positions fronting just over two Russians claim they had inflicted at
Japanese divisions. At 6:00 a.m. on 20 least 60,000 casualties. The Russians
August, Zhukov struck. Supported by concede having suffered a total of 9,284
500 tanks and 216 artillery pieces, his casualties of their own.The Red Army
Soviet and Mongolian soldiers moved could have pushed into Manchuria,
forward along a 30-mile front. Surprise but Zhukov halted and dug in instead.
was total. Japanese artillery batteries, Aware the Japanese wanted a rapid
short on ammunition, were outgunned. end to the fighting (thanks to spies in
Some 200 Soviet SB-2 bombers, heavily Tokyo), the Soviets offered a cease-fire.
supported by fighters, struck Japanese Meanwhile, on 23 August the Soviet
defenses and lines of communication. Union had signed a non-aggression pact
The Japanese had been hampered with Nazi Germany, agreeing to divide
by a limited manufacturing base and Poland. On 15 September, as German
were unable to build both aircraft and armored columns closed in on Warsaw,
tanks in sufficient quantities at the same the Japanese and Soviets agreed to a
time. They had opted to concentrate cease-fire in Manchuria. Prisoners were
on the development and production of exchanged and a joint commission

Khalkhin Gol. Soviet offensive 1939

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 61

Mega Feedback

Results from issue 11

The Mega-Feedback survey we effectively will do six regular Below is a listing of the issues articles in the long run.
for the games to be added to the issues plus one Special Edition and topics. Newly added games are In other questions, we asked
schedule out to issue 37 ran in issue each print cycle. This schedule in italics. They have been grouped about interests and were surprised
11 and concurrently on the S&T will also make it possible for the into fours following the category to see how much interest there
Press web site. We appreciate all 4% who responded they did not rotation (East, Pacific, West/Med, is in travel. We also see the
of the feedback about what readers want Special Editions to subscribe Other) with a Special Edition increasing use of computers and
would like to see in the magazine, for six issues and skip the Special inserted every seventh issue. At the the internet as a primary means
the frequency and content of Special Editions and for the 9% who bottom of the page is a schedule of productive and leisure activity.
Editions, and it was especially help- wanted a choice to make their by year and month of release. Yet book reading continues to be a
ful to update our demographic data decision with each Special Edition. We asked about articles types and strong leisure time activity as well
and reader interests. Thanks again The other question we asked frequency. Those that garnered the with over half reading one book
for all the feedback responses, sug- in regard to Special Editions was strongest interest were Strange or more per month. Finally, it was
gestions, and letters of encourage- format: should we favor two-map Facts, Leader Profiles, and Military not a surprise to learn an amazing
ment. We appreciate your support! games (such as Cobra) or multiple Equipment. We already do these as 77% of respondents have kept their
Before we review the updated scenario games (such as French either FYI/OP pieces or sidebars, but back issues for over 10 years.
game schedule, let’s look at the Foreign Legion). The response was with the interest in shorter articles, Thanks again for your support
results regarding Special Editions 46% said either was fine, with a we will work on developing these and taking the time to respond.
(double-map, double counter range of 10-15% for exclusively types into regular short feature We do read every response and use
sheet) since it impacts the updated one format or the other, or mostly articles. The Letters to the Editor these surveys as our primary guide
schedule. An overwhelming 70% one format or the other, so we garnered the least interest and so to the direction of our magazines
of respondents wanted Special will continue to present a range this will be a rare type of article. and games. We will continue to run
Editions to appear once a year and of topics and formats. Based First Person account was on the additional feedback surveys on our
another 17% every two years. On on this round of feedback, the fence and so we’ll run one of those web site:
that basis, we are adjusting the Special Editions that were added perhaps once a year. As indicated
schedule to have one Special Edition to the schedule include Famous previously, we expect to add another so please stop by and
every seventh issue. Why seventh Divisions: Gross Deutschland 16 pages to the magazine later complete these surveys.
issue instead of every sixth issue? (20), Operation Downfall: Olympic this year and the expectation is for We expect the next
Mainly because we gang print & Coronet (27), and Famous an evolution towards 3-4 feature Mega Feedback will appear
counters in groups of eight and so Divisions: Guards Armour (34). length articles and 2-3 shorter in 19 or 20.  ★


13 AUG 2010 East Guards Tank (the first of the East Front Battles series)
14 OCT 2010 Pacific Invasion Pearl (What-if the Japanese followed their raid with a landing?)
15 DEC 2010 West / Med Soft Underbelly (1943 Italian Campaign)
16 FEB 2011 Other Partizan! (Resistance is not futile!)
17 APR 2011 East Leningrad (Miranda gives us Manila on the Baltic)
18 JUN 2011 Pacific South Seas Campaign (using the Red Dragon system from S&T250)
19 AUG 2011 West / Med Hardest Days (John Butterfield focuses on the critical period of the Battle over Britain)
20 OCT 2011 — Famous Divisions: Gross Deutschland (Special Edition)
21 DEC 2011 Other Rhineland (What-if the reoccupation had been opposed?)
22 FEB 2012 East East Front Battles 2: Minsk
23 APR 2012 Pacific Guadalcanal (first of the Pacific Battles series)
24 JUN 2012 West / Med Sedan (the decisive battle of the 1940 French campaign)
25 AUG 2012 Other Savoia (battle of Keren)
26 OCT 2012 East Race to the Reichstag (now a two-player Battle for Germany style format)
27 DEC 2012 — Operation Downfall (Special Edition with an update of Olympic plus Coronet)
28 FEB 2013 Pacific Green Hell (two battles drawn from Admin Box, Imphal, Operation Thursday, and Meiktila)
29 APR 2013 West / Med Norway 1940 (Miranda design based on Red Dragon Rising system)
30 JUN 2013 Other 1939: Hinge of Fate (Bomba looks at the alternatives)
31 AUG 2013 East East Front Battles 3
32 OCT 2013 Pacific Pacific Battles 2 (Nomonhan)
33 DEC 2013 West / Med Operation Accolade (solitaire game of the Dodecanese Campaign)
34 FEB 2014 — Famous Divisions: Guards Armour (Special Edition)
35 APR 2014 Other Strike North (What if Japan attacks the USSR in 1941?)
36 JUN 2014 East Stalingrad: The Pocket Battle
37 AUG 2014 Pacific Bloody Ridge (Bomba looks at this turning point in the struggle for Guadalcanal)

62 World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010

: Battle at Kursk
Japan’s Last Stand

World at War magazine provides a sharp focus on WWII,

with the same in-depth format as Strategy & Tactics.
The Strategy &
Tactics of World
War II

#13 AUG-SEP 2010

Going beyond the usual narratives, the articles focus

on the “how” and “why” of conflicts and are illustrated
liberally with maps, charts, tables and pictures.

Each issue is packed full of:

In-depth analysis | Detailed maps | Orders of battle


(661) 587-9633 phone
(661) 587-5031 fax
Red ArmR
or at Kurs K: k, July 1943

Strategy & Tactics Press
P.O. Box 21598 | Bakersfield, CA | 93390-1598

Complete list of issues, including World at War, available at

(661) 587-9633 | (661) 587-5031 fax | P.O. Box 21598 | Bakersfield CA 93390 |

World at War 13 | AUG-SEP 2010 63

Introducing the Decision Games
Folio Game Series
The Folio Game Series provides dozens of games using the same 8-page Standard rules
(Musket & Saber for 19th century battles, Fire & Movement for 20th century battles) with a short
Exclusive rules sheet for each individual game to capture the unique aspects of each battle. Each game can
be played in about 90 minutes allowing for multiple games to be played in an afternoon or evening.

Chalons: The Fate of Europe | Marengo: Morning Defeat, Afternoon Victory

Leipzig: Napolean Encircled | Chickamauga: River of Death | Stones River: Turning Point in Tennessee
Frayser’s Farm: Wasted Opportunity | Shiloh: Grant Surprised | Arnhem: The Farthest Bridge
Cauldron: Battle for Gazala | Kasserine: Baptism of Fire | Saipan: Conquest of the Marianas (below)
Bastogne: A Desperate Defense | Aachen: First to Fall | Crusader: Battle for Tobruk AVAILABLE
Naktong Bulge: Breaking the Perimeter | Golan: The Last Syrian Offensive | DMZ: The Next Korean War
Showdown: The Coming Indo-Pakistani War

Conquest of AR II BATT
the Mariana
Saipan was a
Navy’s “islan
critical objective
d hopping” camp the US
in ES
Pacific; its two aign in the
airfields were
for heav y bomb suita
ers. Hence three ble
divisions were US
on 15 June 1944 duled to invade Saipan
two- dozen battle supported by nearly

ships that had
bombardment begun a
two days befor
30,00 0 fanatic e. More than
Japanese were
on the island, entrenched
formidable defen into caves and other
sive positions.
battle for Saipa The
n proved to be
fiercest battle one of the
s of the Pacifi
deadliest up to
that time for
c War, and the
Conquest of th
e Marianas
both sides.
Saipan utilize
s the new Fire
combat syste & Movement
m that’s desig
can augment ned so players
their units with
fire” during the “support
course of the
naval bombardm turn.
ent to bazookas From
can receive supp , units
ort to engage
positions and enemy
formations, allow
to develop at ing combat
all levels. A singl
battalion, for e engineer
example — perha
by flamethrow ps supported
ers — could be
assault a lone tasked to
enemy infantry
defending atop regiment
a plateau. As
underway, howe its attack gets
ver, the engin
may suddenly eer battalion
come under fi
mortars. More re from enem
support will be y
take the plate needed to
au, but asset
s are limited.
In Saipan the
attritional desig
Combat Resu n of the new
lts Table simu
nature of the lates the true
are typically two- s in the Pacific. Units
sided formation
can incur casu s that
alties before
fully eliminated becoming
, accurately replic
the realities of ating
combat and the
losses sustained high
by both sides
the actual fightin during
the battle is thus on Saipan. Winning
a matter of mane
firepower and
asset manageme uver,

Game Conten
• 17 x 22” (43
x 56 cm)
• 80 die-cut coun terrain map
• One Standard
ters Saipan
Rules booklet
• One Exclusive for this series
Rules booklet PLAYERS
for this title


mi (536 m)
1-2 hrs
Each counter repres
formation from among an individual historical COMPLEXITY
that fought for Saipa the Japanese and US forces •••••
1611 n, including armor
marine battalions,
engineers, amtra
Minutes to lea
cs and more. SOLITAIRE ••••• rn. Quick to pla
y. Historicall
A product of
Decision Games
y Accurate.
Copyright © ,
2010. All Rights Inc.

1/6 th Actual Size Copyright ©

2010, Decisio
n Games, Inc.
All Rights Reserve
d. Made & Printed in U.S.A.

Each game under $25 (most under $20)

P.O. Box 21598 | Bakersfield, CA 93390-1598 | (661) 587-9633 phone | (661) 587-5031 fax |