Thursday, January 31, 2019

Venezuela: Ejército Nacional Bolivariano de Venezuela

The map below displays the location of Venezuelan Army brigades taken from the Venezuelan Army web page.

This page will be a work in progress as I will add more information.

For now, the struggle between the Maduro government and the opposition backed by the United States is one of propaganda and pressure. My feeling (and hope) is that this latest crisis will not be decided by a large scale invasion or prolonged unrest and the struggle is determined between a significant part of army remaining loyal to Maduro or switching to support Juan Guaido's claim to an interim presidency and a relative bloodless transfer of power.

  • Most brigades consist of 3 battalions plus various specialist and support companies.
  •  The numbers to the right are the brigade numbers.  
  •  The 91st brigade is called armored cavalry but I give them the old cavalry designation (one diagonal line) as I believe they have a significant number of actual cavalry (i.e. horse borne) units.
  •  A few brigades are designated "Caribe". They are named after the ferocious Caribe tribe and are counter-insurgent troops (more below). 
  •  The Army's web page does not list the location of the Combat Engineer Brigades.

Two interesting links below.  I have yet to dive in deep but they will help me flesh out information on some of the brigades.

Caribe explanation from a Aviacionargentina post:

"These troops were called previously, Tropas de Cazadores (Hunters), and were counter-irregular troops, but with the change of designation, to Caribes (the most ferocious of the tribes that existed in Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea, hence its name), its function was changed. Today they are still counter-irregular troops, but now they are also irregular troops, framed in the new Venezuelan Military Doctrine, of ambivalence between the Symmetric and the Asymmetrical, between the Irregular and the Regular.  There are four (04) brigades, the following: 12, 32, 92, 93, and 25 but the latter, apparently is being transformed into another brigade."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: Weapons of the 106th Infantry Division

Just like its Volks-Grenadier counterpart, this post will be updated with more weapons as the series moves on.

                                                       Infantry Weapons

This link describes what is on display at various museums around the Ardennes and I will use this as a reference until I find a reference for the 106th's specific weapons. 

M3 /M3A1 Sub-machine gun

M3/M3A1 from Infogalactic article.
The M3 was developed using a design study of the British Sten and the first models were in development at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.  The development project was then given higher priority and the M3 rushed into production. Nicknamed the "Grease Gun" due to its unusual design the newly issued guns were easily damaged, especially the cocking handles breaking off and bending stocks. The M3A1 was produced in 1944 using a simpler design that was easier to use (for example getting ride of the easily broken cocking

The M3 used a 9mm round, weighed 4.65kg/10.25 pounds and had a relatively low rate of fire at 350-450 rpm. The M3A1 was phased out of front line service by 1957 but remained in inventory for tank and truck drivers up to 1992.

Front line troops in Europe preferred the Thompson M1 or captured MP38 or MP40 guns allowing insight into its effectiveness versus other infantry weapons.


Note: I cannot recall first person accounts of bazookas being used by 106th ID infantrymen so, for now, listing the bazooka as a comparison with the VG's Raketenpanzerbüschse (Rocket tank rifle) 54.

First used in North Africa, this simple weapon (open tube and electrical firing mechanism) was used by the Germans to develop their Raketenpanzerbüchse after one was captured on a North African battlefield in 1943. Despite the Germans answering with larger caliber weapons, the bazooka used the 60mm caliber rocket to the end of the war.

The length of the tube was 1.384 m / 4ft 6.5in and weighed 6.01 kg / 13.25 lb while each rocket weight 1.54 kg / 3.4lb.

Maximum range was 594 meters.

                                                  Overall OOB for the 106th

Note: to be used to add equipment notes to units.
From Nafziger OOB (944ULAA).

106th Infantry Division: Major General A.W.Jones

422nd Infantry Regiment 
423rd Infantry Regiment
424th Infantry Regiment     

589th Field Artillery Regiment 
590th Field Artillery Regiment 
591st Field Artillery Regiment   
592nd Field Artillery Regiment     

81st Engineer Combat Battalion
820th Tank Destroyer Battalion (towed) 
14th Cavalry Group, Mechanized         

275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
634th AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion 
563rd AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion     
333rd Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers)
559th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm guns)   
561st Field Artillery Battalion (155mm guns)     
578th Field Artillery Battalion (8" howitzers) 
740th Field Artillery Battalion (8" howitzers) 
770th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers)
771st Field Artillery Battalion (4.5" guns)       
965th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers) 
969th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers) 

Index to the Battle of the Bulge, V Panzer Series

The following is a series of links serving as an index to my V Panzer / St. Vith series of posts. When complete, this wills serve as an e-book of sorts. I can foresee one weakness of this format will be orphaned links as time goes on but for those interested in military history and the discerning wargamer can enjoy this potentially ephemeral format as the samurai looked upon blossoming sakura.


Intro Bulge Series Post.
Part 1: Starting positions, terrain, game design considerations and Q&A with scenario designer.
Part 1: Map with starting positions.
Part 2: 18th VG Division Advances.
Part 2: Fighting at Afst and Krewinkle.
Part 2: Fighting at Bleialf.
Part 3: Cannae in the Schnee Eifel
Part 4: German forces approach St. Vith
Part 4: Approaching St. Vith next day


      German - Report on Army Group B's General of the Artillery.

Medical care:
       U.S. - general and some Bulge related material. 
       German - general medical care and veterinary services for German infantry divisions.

       Kochen im Feld - Cooking in the Field

Weather chart during the Battle of the Bulge.

Geographic locations

88 Corner - near Bleialf.
Afst - fighting 16 Dec.
Andler - fighting 17 Dec.
Bleialf - fighting 16 Dec.
Engineers' Cut Off - near Bleialf
Heuem - rear guard position and fighting 17 Dec.
Krewinkle - fighting 16 Dec.
Prumerberg Heights near St. Vith - defense by the 81st Engineers 17 - 21 Dec. Go to memorial section.
Schönberg - break out attempts 17  - 19 Dec.
St. Vith
      - tour of the battlefield.




18th Volks-grenadier Division

62nd Volks-grenadier Division

OOBs for both sides here (general) and here (unit level). 


Col. Thomas Riggs, 81st Engineers. 
     - obituary
     - defense at Prumerberg Heights near St. Vith

References (Publications)

A Time for Trumpets Charles B. Macdonald.
Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's Ardennes Offensive, 1944-1945 D.S. Parker. One of the main sources for Nafziger's OOB.
Das Heer 1933-1945, 1956 Vol I & II, Verband der Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS 1939-1945. Mueller-Hillebrand.  Cited by Nafziger.
Die Ardennen Offensive 1944-1945. H. Jung.  One of the main sources for Nafziger's OOB.
St. Vith: Lion in the Way, Ernest Dupuy. The 106th at the Battle of the Bulge. Paperback edition here. Note: there is a cheaper Kindle edition for 99 cents but does not contain maps or photos.
The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge Hugh M. Cole.
The Battle of the Bulge, Charles B MacDonald. Cited by Nafziger on his OOB.
The 106th: The Story of the 106th Infantry Division .pdf file of 1945 U.S. Army pamphlet
Verband und Truppen der detuschen Wermacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945. G. Tessin.  Cited by Nafziger.
Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp, Douglas E. Nash. Detailed unit history of a Fusilier Company of the 272nd VG Regiment.  Best resource available on the Volks-Grenadiers.

References (Links)

14th Cavalry in the Losheim Gap
106th Infantry Division Association.  They have a reunion planed this September.
324th Medical Battalion.  Unit history. During the Bulge they were at Jalhay, Belgium, north of Malmedy.
424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Personal account by Sgt Maurice Kunselman
     - first hand account of fighting from 23 to 30 December.
Battle of the Bulge Memories. Comprehensive web site from Belgium. Highly recommended.
Panzerworld Self explanatory.  Good info.
Project 1944. Military historians practicing "living history".
The 106th Infantry Division.  Nice section on the battlefield today.
WW2 Armed Forces OOBs and Organizations by Dr. Leo Niehorster. Not much available for the Bulge but otherwise, an excellent resource.


Related Games

A Time for Trumpets  GMT Games.  Board game.
Battles for the Ardennes SPI Games.  Board game. Four games in one.  Simulations of both the Bulge in 1944 and Sedan 1940.
Battle of the Bulge.  Shenandoah Studios. Computer Game. Available on Steam.
John Tiller's Campaign Series Matrix Games. Computer game.  Using a scenario from this game for this series of posts. Currently, on sale for $9.99!
Panzer Leader Avalon Hill. Board game.  Along with Panzerblitz (East Front) on of AH's best games.
The Ardennes Offensive SPI Games. Board game.
The Battle of the Bulge Avalon Hill. Board game.
The Blitz Wargame Club Eventual home for the updated (after this play test) V Panzer Army Campaign scenario.
Winter Thunder Tiny Battle Publishing. Operational level game designed by Brian Train.

Related Fiction

Fight to Survive: A Novel of the Battle of the Bulge, Book I, Steven Wheeler.
Behind Enemy Lines: A Novel of the Battle of the Bulge, Book II, Steven Wheeler.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Al Nofi's Combat Information Center

Al Nofi, longtime wargamer and game designer and the one whose $100 loan got SPI off the ground, has a long running column over at which is called his Combat Information Center.

The CIC format begins with military trivia then continues with a series of random military history articles, some longer, some in depth, others just a paragraph or two of interesting items.

Highly recommended for the interesting topics presented from a lifetime of gaming and game design.

Despite the lack of visual appeal of the web site and no index to content of over 400 posts there is a wealth of goodness in here that can be used by game designers and researchers.  You just have to dive in and find it.  Example on the next page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

April 9th & Dane Military History Links

April 9th

Over at Castalia House I have a  post on the excellent film, April 9th. The film begins with a last minute recall of reservists and a feeling of trepidation as the troops await the invasion. I was intrigued with how the film portrayed the initial meeting engagement, then a running skirmish between two reconnaissance forces.

Not many war films focus on the reconnaissance phase of a battle and due to its swift capitulation, Denmark was spared the horrors of full scale combat.  There is a scene in which the Danes prepare to defend a town. The platoon commander directs his troops into defensive positions and instead of fortifying buildings has his troops take cover behind stairways. His riflemen have better line of sight down the road from which the Germans will approach but pay for this with less concealment (though one can argue that cement stairways offered more cover than mostly wooden buildings).

I love the film's emphasis on historical accuracy. Danish soldiers are referred to by number, not by name and an avuncular Capt. Tom Hanks with that right mix of command and empathy is missing. On a movie message board I noted a comment mentioning the lack of character development and how addressing soldiers by their service numbers detracted from the film's enjoyment. I admit it is jarring to hear that with modern years but applaud the historical accuracy and insight into life of a 1940 Danish solider.

Danish Military History Links

It is hard to find information on the unit and battles depicted in the film. While researching I found the following links relevant to Danish military history with an emphasis on WW2:

Overall campaign

Trivia section has some comments on Danish weapons.

Nice picture and some info on the Dane's most effective weapon in the war, the 20mm cannon plus Forgottenweapons is going up as a permanent link on this blog.

German Occupation Dane National Museum.


Discussion on Danish armed forces.  Some OOB information.

Great site on Danish military history.

The war wasn't over for the Danes in 1940.  There was varying levels of resistance, some overt such as the Danish Navy's refusal to turn over fleet units to the Germans.

Operation Safari - German attempt to neutralize Danish fleet assets

Scuttling of Danish subs 1943

More on the 1943 "mutiny"

Hungarian regiments training in Denmark as the Soviets had entered Hungarian territory.

Small post on German invasion

Danish fortifications

April 9th Availability 

For those with AMZN Prime, it is free to view. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: Volks-Grenadiers

I highly recommend Douglas E Nash's Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp for anyone seeking
information on the Volks-Grenadiers. The subject is the 272nd Volks-grenadier Division which fought in the Battle of Hürtguen Forest and concentrates on Füsilier Company 272, the division's reconnaissance company.

The Volks-Grenadier divisions were Germany's answer to an ever decreasing pool of manpower by trading troops for firepower. The success of these divisions depended on the experience of the founding cadre and time available to train green, or in the case of drafted Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel, reluctant recruits.

Chapter 2 of this book discusses how the Volks-Grenadier divisions came into being, the politics behind them, and has a wealth of organizational information. So far, this chapter contains the most comprehensive coverage in the English language I can find on the Volks-Grenadiers and I will share some interesting facts from the book below.

For anyone interested in the administration of a German company in WW2, this book is a must. Much of the book's information came from records recovered from a suitcase containing a treasure trove of Füsilier Company 272's records which the dedicated Kompanie Schreiber (company clerk) carried with during the retreat into Germany to be left long forgotten in a small village in the Harz Mountains.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest

Statue in Nottinghamshire, England.
When sending me a game turn a friend made me aware of a little known fact of WW2 history.

I had no idea that there was oil production in the U.K. during WW2. By late 1942 Britain needed around 150,000 barrels of oil daily and oil supply routes were under threat by U-boats and the Luftwaffe. While seeking solutions to the oil shortage Britain's Oil Control Board was surprised to discover that England had it's own productive oil field, in Sherwood Forest, no less.

The English oil field only produced 300 barrels a day so American help was requested to expand production. The outcome was a team of 42 volunteers, drillers and roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma embarking for England in early 1943. All made it to England safely but of the four National 50 drilling rigs sent, one was lost to U-boat attack.

Production at the oilfield soon surpassed all expectations.

Here is a good overview from the American Oil and Gas Historical Society.  In that article there is to another article on Operation Pluto, the laying of secret petroleum pipelines across the English Channel.

The photo of the statue is from this Atlas Obscura article which also has a good summary.

A book on the subject is Guy Woodward's The Secret of Sherwood Forest

Saturday, January 5, 2019

S&T Magazine Library

Volume 1, No. 1.
Recently, I've been diving into the back issues of Strategy and Tactics (S&T) Magazine looking for the "comparative quantified units" features. More on the CQ's later but over at Strategy and Tactics Press I highly recommend the S&T Premium Membership.

The benefit of this membership is access to the extensive magazine back catalog. For those unfamiliar with S&T Magazine, it ranks up there with Avalon Hill as one of the hobby's vanguards.

S&T started as a fanzine discussing AH games and offering mods but evolved into a military history magazine accompanied by a folio game.

A good history of AH, S&T and the board game hobby can be found in Greg Costikyan's article A Farewell to Hexes (SPI Died for your Sins). This highly recommended article also discusses issues faced by the game publishing industry.

The back issues contain a wealth of information and I strongly agree with the following quote from Costikyan (who incidentally, was no fan of their games):

"The historical articles were of the highest quality, and quite unlike anything being published in the historical magazines of the period, since SPI, befitting its gaming orientation, tried to quantify almost everything, providing copious tables of comparative data on, for instance, the merits of World War II-era tanks. Other journals tended to be far more descriptive. As a result, S&T acquired a readership even among military history devotees who had no interest in the games."

It was those copious tables I remembered from my dad's old S&T magazines that prompted me to subscribe to the Premium Library.

I am biased as somewhere in those back issues I have four or five published articles but the real bias comes from S&T being a constant in my wargaming career.

Currently, all the back S&T issues up to #294 (SEP-OCT 2015) are available. The earliest issues are scans copied into a .pdf file, some with highlighting and notes. The later issues are all printed to .pdf (i.e. ability to search within the document for keywords, unlike the scanned versions) and are magazine quality.

Also included in the library are back copies of World at War and Modern War magazines and for the oldest of the old school, all the Moves Magazines (an in house organ equivalent to AH's General magazine). I spent the past couple of days digging into the Moves back copies and there is a ton of goodness in there I never appreciated as a kid.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Strategy and Tactics Standard Unit Factors

I'm interested in how game designers come up unit factors. The counters from the earliest board games usually had two factors, combat and movement.  

During the research process at Strategy & Tactics, Standard Unit Factors (SUF) were compiled to quantify a unit's combat power and allow comparisons between other types of units.  Eventually, S&T changed the designation to Comparative Quantified Units (CQ's). The CQs served as unit templates across many games. The SUF chart below from a magazine on the war in North Africa (S&T 21).

First number is combat factor and second number is movement. The two middle numbers for the British tank Divisions are for defense. Other tank divisions attack and defend with the same factor. The lower defense value was a function of poor tactics.

More after the jump.

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