Sunday, December 30, 2018

Strategy and Tactics Magazine Variant for Avalon Hill's Battle of the Bulge Game

Screenshot from Strategy & Tactics' first magazine. The table below is from a variant of Avalon Hill's Battle of the Bulge game.  Even at the dawn of the hobby, folks were modding and striving for greater realism.

Of interest to this current series of posts are the factors given to the units:

  • Each unit is the division (e.g. 106th Infantry Division).
  • The unit is divided by regiments (i.e. the playing pieces). 
  • Each playing piece is assigned a combat and movement factor (e.g. 293 VG Regiment 3-3).
The 18th VG Division's three regiments are rated  3-3 (3 combat / 3 movement factors).
The 62nd VG Division's three regiments are rated  3-3.
The Führerbegleitbrigade or Fuh. Es. Brigade rated 12-5.

The 106th Infantry Division three regiments are rated  5-4.
The 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment rated 6-6.




My guess is that the ill fated 442 and 443 Infantry Regiments have higher combat factors than the VG regiments that decimated them is due to difference in artillery support available.

I am not familiar enough with the battle to guess why some of the VG regiments are rated over twice as effective (the 26th VG Division's regiment rated 7-3) than the regiments from the 18th and 62nd, both of which destroyed the 106th. The 26th was unable to take Bastogne but they may have been better equipped or closer to full compliment of personnel.  Something I'll look out for. My best guess is that both the 18th and 62nd VG Divisions were green.  One was formed the year before from Luftwaffe and naval personnel and the other was rebuilt after being destroyed in Russia.

I found this when looking for another S&T article in which a game designer listed the different data points that make up the abstract combat factors.


Battle of the Bulge: OOBs for the Battle of the Bulge

Below are copies from two of George Nafziger's OOBs which I will reference in the upcoming update of the Bulge scenario series over at the Castalia House blog.

The German OOB can be found under file  # 944GLAA and the American under 944ULAA:


German LXVI Corps



Notes from the original:
2 - The 18th VG Division was formed during 9/44 in Denmark from the cadre of a Luftwaffe field division and drafts from the Luftwaffe and Navy. At full strength and two months experience on the defensive in the Eifel.
3 - Numbers date from 12/1/44 and are "ist starke" (total), "Gefecht stärke" (action), and "Kampfstärke" (battle strength).
4 - 62nd VG Division rebuilt after being destroyed in Russia. Heavily composed of Polish and Czech conscripts who spoke no German.

And a couple of additional notes at the end of the document:

Jung provides a statement at the bottom of his return for 12/1/44 that indicates the "Ist staäke" (total strength) of a Type 44 infantry division would probably be at 54% (6,708 men) and that a Volksgrenadier division would probably be at 58% (6,410 men) of their total authorized strengths.

Note on Equipment:
Jung and Parker are frequently at odds about the numbers of tanks, sturmgeschutz, and guns assigned. Jung is using official records and appears to be more accurate, but there is no apparent reason as to why Parker indicates a Jagdpanzer IV and Jung indicates only heavy anti-tank guns (PAK).

Parker, D.S, Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's Ardennes Offensive, 1944-1945, 1991, Hong Kong, Combined Books Inc.

Jung, H., Die Ardenne Offensive 1944-1945, 1971, Frankfurt, Musterschmidt Gottingen.

American 106th Infantry Division



No notes.

Sources:

Stanton, S.L., Order of Battle, U.S.Army, World War II, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1984.

Parker, D.S, Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's Ardennes Offensive, 1944-1945, 1991, Hong Kong, Combined Books Inc.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Finding Aid for Nafziger's OOBs

Today I'm researching OOBs for this Wednesday's Battle of the Bulge post and found a useful tool for those referencing George Nafziger's extensive collection of OOB files.

More information and an interview I conducted with Nafziger can be found over at the Castalia House blog. In that post you can find an alternate hosting site for the OOB files which is usually easier to access than the Army hosted server. At the alternate hosting site link you can also find Nafziger's explanation on why he made his OOBs publicly available.

Link here to the Army's Combined Arms Research page with follow on links to the OOBs and the Finding Aid.

By the way, George Nafziger is still translating, producing and selling military history books here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Project 1944

Hiwi with yellow armband (recruited
or forcibly drafted from the East Front). 
While looking for information on Volksgrenadiers I came across Project 1944

They can be categorized as reenactors but what strikes me is that they have taken the diorama aspect of military modeling and brought it into real life ("living history"). 

Take a look at this series on German horse drawn artillery and the minute attention to historical detail. On the first page there is a discussion on keeping the horses warm during winter: "When standing outside, the "Woilach" (this is the German Army saddle blanket) was used to cover the horses back and fixed with the "Deckengurt" (blanket strap)." 

The post then goes on to highlight "freiwillig-gezogener-Hilfswilliger (HiWi)" troops. We are told that since many of them came from rural backgrounds they were often assigned to horse drawn units.

Other projects include refugees fleeing the German advance in 1940, deploying a Vickers machine gun in WW1, and even one on Russian partisans.

Too much good stuff to list and next thing for me to do is add them as a permanent link to this blog.


Battle of the Bulge: 18th and 62nd VG Divisions Day 1


Intro

This post is the second in a series covering the advance on St. Vith during the Battle of the Bulge.  This post will discuss the starting positions of the opposing forces and the terrain.


Start Map and Terrain

I have created the map below using satellite imagery. No doubt, there are differences from the 1944 battlefield but the hilly and wooded terrain remains relevant if you choose to drive, hike, or decide to invade Belgium with an mechanized force.



The blue line is the Google Maps direction feature for a vehicle between the key villages of Krewinkel, Weckerath,Manderfeld, Schönberg (and its vital bridge), then St. Vith. This is not necessarily the main axis of my intended advance but serves to give the reader an idea of the distance to be covered to the main victory point hexes at St. Vith.

The 18th Volksgrenadier (VG) Division is in the northeast corner of the map and scenario starting positions are show for its three regiments. The 62nd VG Division is concentrated just west of Prum on the bottom of the map. They are opposed by the 423rd Infantry Regiment.

Update 1/1/19: The bottom most VG Regiment, was actually the 183rd.

The 422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments were stretched thin across the front line and are in entrenched positions along a diagonal line between the two green regimental icons. They hold a good portion of the Schnee Eifel; the dark green wood covering a high ridge.

The Führerbegleit Brigade (Fuhrer Escort Brigade) lurks n the NE corner, ready to exploit any opportunity created by the VG regiments.

Hard to see unless you blow up the map but two red marks at Schönberg (middle of the blue line) and to the SW at Steinebrück designate vital bridges over the Our River. The Americans have many engineers available so it will be a race against time to take the bridges before they are blown.

My overall strategy is simple and has been dictated by the terrain. The 18th VG Division will attempt to get to the bridge at Schönberg the fastest with the mostest while the 62nd VG Division will push towards Schönberg and Steinebrück.

The blue car route on the map also gives a rough idea on the course of the Our River near Schönberg. On the game map the river is impassable to the east of Schönberg.  My engineers can build foot bridges but not vehicle bridges. If I send any armor to the north of that blue line from Manderfeld south west to Schönberg they will not be able to support any force south of the line until Schönberg is taken. There are fords in the town and elsewhere but the two bridges in red are key for relatively fast mechanized movement.

From Hugh M. Cole's book The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge a chapter on the initial dispositions of the 106th Infantry Division can be found here.

Update 1/7/2019: As research continues I discover differences between the scenario's start positions and the historical deployment.  For the map above the 424th Infantry Regiment was actually on the front line further to the south and not in St. Vith.  In the scenario the 422nd Infantry Regiment has about half the regiment stationed in the Losheim Gap, especially in vicinity of Roth. Actually, the 14th Armored Group was spread thin throughout the Losheim Gap and according to Charles B. MacDonald in A Time for Trumpets the Germans found an undefended area of more than a mile between Weckerath and Roth. A battalion of VGs pushed through this gap in the defense towards Auw, cutting off the defenders.  In the scenario there is at least a company of infantrymen in those woods who do a good job of holding back the attackers.

Next 

Orders of battle (OOB) for the forces involved and I hope to draft a side bar on the Volksgrenadiers. 






Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Liechtenstein: Part III


Link to Part I, Part II and the first Castalia House WW post here.

Uniforms of the 1866 Campaign

The following are from a 1991 series of stamps: The Last Action of the Royal Military Contingents of Liechtenstein 1866. 
Sharpshooters, Officer & Private

Uniform tunic and trunk

Non commissioned officer and private.

Italian Uniforms during this time period

Route of March from Liechtenstein to Italy

In this German language article, historian Peter Geiger describes the campaign and details the route of march:

"It took six weeks to complete the mission. But the walk over the Arlbergpass, the Reschenpass, the Stelvio over the Wormserjoch to Santa Maria was exhausting. The cold, wet and snow hindered the soldiers."

The article continues: "In Bormio, the Liechtensteiners faced the enemy: "Despite the troops in sight, it was unexpectedly not to fight," said Geiger. Without losses, the soldiers returned. But there were still one or two injured: a horse had missed a hoof stroke. "

The troops initially head east, into Austria and do not take the shorter route south then south east through Switzerland. Geiger mentions an exhausting march to Santa Maria but that town is located north of the passes and deep in Switzerland.  A guess is that after the war the Swiss let the Liechtensteiners take a direct route home.



Above is the approximate route of the Liechtensteiner troops. I used Bing maps and the hiking direction feature. I'm afraid the route follows modern highways as the blue route marker travels along the ridge lines and not through valleys and over passes. After creating this view,  I'm not sure if they passed through Santa Maria on the way to or back from the Stelivo Pass.

End Notes

I'll continue research on Liechtenstein and new research for a "Microstate Military History Series".  Next up: San Marino.

Interesting article on Field Marshal Joseph Wenzel Liechtenstein's efforts to modernize Austrian artillery found at Weaponsandwarfare



Sunday, December 16, 2018

Massive Battle of the Bulge Scenario

As discussed in the CH Wargame Wednesday post play testing for the scenario was hampered by the lack of German mobility.  Something needed to be done as during game play the American side would always fall back in good order after inflicting heavy German casualties.  Eventually, the front line American regiments would succumb but they held their ground until American reinforcements arrived with the front stabilizing well to the east of Bastogne. 

The game engine and scenario conditions would not allow the German player a chance to repeat the historical outcome of two surrounded American regiments. I was able to find a U.S. Army Atmospheric Sciences Laboratory report titled Weather Effects During the Battle of the Bulge and Normandy Invasion by Marvin D. Kays.

Table 1 is copied below and allowed the scenario designer to adjust the weather conditions.  First day (6 turns) is foggy with limited visibility while the weather clears a little the 2nd day.


The amount of work needed to create the giant game map is phenomenal. Click on each picture below for a larger image. The map is at extreme zoom out and I've highlight German units by Corps so that they will stand out in red.

Here are the maps:

I'm playing the role of General Lucht and have the 66th Infantry Corps. This is the sector in which the Battle of St. Vith was fought. The Losheim Gap is in the NE part of the map.


The 58th Panzer Corps has the center:



And the 47th Panzer Corps has the south:


The map is so large that the American and German players taking the southern sector also have the road to Ettlebruck and the advance of the German paratroopers to consider:


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wargame Wednesday: Liechtenstein Part II

This post to supplement my CH post.

Initial French advance, March 1799


French advance into Liechtenstein on 6 March, 1799.

The main areas of battle in Liechtenstein in 1799.  Top arrow is the path to Feldkirch and bottom arrow is the direction the French took after crossing the Rhine to take a vital mountain pass.


The map is an excerpt taken from the 2nd Military Survey of the Austrian Hungarian Empire, 1816 - 1821.  Per General Thomas Graham in his A Contemporary Account of the 1799 Campaign in Germany and Switzerland, "Masséna caused a bridge to be thrown over the river at Azmooz, opposite the narrow pass of Luciensteig, and marched to that point with 5,000 or 6,000 men".

If I had to guess the bridge was probably built to the left of the arrow and place name of Trubbach.

Graham continues: "The Austrians, though not surprised, yet not having sufficient time to make every preparation for their defense, stood firm. They checked the enemy by a well continued cannonade at Balzers (located east of the top arrow) and near Mayenfeld (off map to the south of Luziensteig in the SE corner of the map), and bravely defended the approach to the Steig".  Despite a strong defense the fortifications at St. Luziensteig were taken on the evening of 6 March.

Above is an excerpt from a map published in 1797. North is to the right and the Rhine is on top of the map.  Balzers is just north of the woods and mountainous terrain.  I added this map as it shows the open nature of the terrain around Balzers, less built up than it was on the 1816-1821 map above. If you open the map and zoom in you can see the French may have had to contend with marshy terrain, funneling their advance in places and with limited cover from Austrian artillery.


Below is a map excerpt showing Feldkirch in 1797.


The top of the map is not true north.  The French advanced eastwards along the red road starting in the top left corner.  A good description of both battles for Feldkirch and another map can be found here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wargame Wednesday: Liechtenstein

The pictures from a recent trip to Liechtenstein are related to my CH post here.

Border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein south of Balzers. 


Swiss border gate at St. Luzisteig Pass 

Update: When researching the War of the Second Coalition for a Wargame Wednesday post (will link to in on 12 DEC) I found that this narrow pass was strategically important one of the main north / south roads passed through it. The French under Masséna crossed the Rhine at Azmooz and then rushed to take this pass.

After the French defeat at the 2nd Battle of Feldkirch the Austrians soon retook this position.  I have come across references to a fort in this location and the two gates mentioned below may be part of the old fort.


Imagine the continuous ringing of cow bells while viewing this picture. Imagine loud cow bells as a lot more are grazing off camera.

The gate and facilities are about 1.5 km inside of Switzerland but the military aspect of this picture is too good to pass up.

Notice the old gate house purposefully left guarding the road, narrowing two lanes to one.  Further on, there is another small, one lane, gate. The glass windows to the right of the gate are a restaurant's but I believe the other buildings are a military facility, maybe for reserves.

The cows do a good job in keeping the ditch clear and any armored force trying to force its way between the cliffs off camera to the left and small mountain off camera to the right will have a hard time with that steep embankment up ahead.

A bunker complex is off camera on the mountain to the right.



Burg Gutenberg Castle
 More info here.

Cows roam the high mountains in summertime.


If you want to visit the ski resort you'll pass through the village of Steg. More in a future post but if you click on the picture for a larger view you'll notice the houses form a large rectangle with a common field in the middle. Not sure if this is the traditional layout of the village.

Update: while searching for maps I found a map from around 1816 that shows the houses in Steg making a rectangular perimeter. Guessing the homes were first places along the river closest to the main road then along a stream right below the mountain.  Still interesting that the field in the center was never built upon.

Steg circa 1816 - 1821


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Screen Shots for Wargame Wednesday Post Extreme Modding - Kaiserreich

I'll try something new and supplement my Castaliahouse WW posts with information here.

This is the link to the Extreme Modding - Kaiserreich post.

Click on the image below for a larger image.

Oswald Mosley's Government
Austrians in control of Morocco.



Argentine event.

Battle of the Bulge: 62nd Volks-grenadier Division

A companion post to the 18th VG Division . Reference is MS # B-026 , Report on the Ardennes Offensive. The 62 VGD by Brigadier-General ...