Chance meeting in Laval

As Patton's Third U.S. army was activated in August 1944, it had two missions.  One was to move along with the right flank of the First U.S. Army.  The other was to occupy Brittany and seize the German-occupied port of Brest.  Our game takes place during this race for Brest.

This is a look at the battlefield.  The American 4th armored division moves sourthward toward the French town of Laval.  Stuart light tanks can be seen on the road.  As with all of these photos, click on the picture to see a larger version.

Their mission is to get through Laval, crossing the small river there, and continue charging towards Brest.  The Germans, want to get out of this area, and move north-eastward towards the 7th German Army–and eventually towards home!

Phil Young, one of the American commanders moves his Sherman tanks along the direct road to the town.  His infantry in halftracks moves across the fields.

We played this game in Alex Kirk's home in Forrest MS. on August 16th 2014.  Alex has a special room, suitably elevated above the"regular"part of his home, in which wargamers may indulge in their "little wars." Alex's lovely wife not only tolerated this invasion of her home by the Jackson Gamers, but very kindly made a run for provisions, when the gamers began calling for rations.

Alex is shown here in action, moving his U.S. tanks toward Laval.  All of the armies and terrain were his, and parts of his formidable library can be seen in the background.

Another view of the 4th Armored division as it streams south towards Brest.  The town of Laval is where it met (n our game) the German 11th Panzer division.

Two of the German commanders, Sean Pitts (on left) and Jay Stribling (on right) move their panzers and supporting arms up toward Laval.  This is a good view of the town of Laval.  The small blue stream was unfordable to vehicles, in most locations.

Sean Pitts thinks hard about his move.  The rules were Alex Kirk's variant of Command Decision, and he proved to be a good teacher, for the Jackson Gamers seemed to understand them quickly.

Another view of the town, showing what a bottleneck for each side that it was.  The Americans got there "fustest with the moistest" as the saying goes, and while they could not advance out of the town, The Germans could not get into it.  On the extreme American right, near the edge of the battlefield, a ford was found across the stream, and the Americans got some forces across.  There was an obvious attempt to turn the German right, but the forces of Ed Sansing, the other German commander, resisted.

The victory conditions for both sides were to get off the other end of the table, but neither side could get through the town.  At the games end, there was a discussion along the lines of "well in another 4 turns, we would have turn the German right…" All wargamers are familiar with these little ego-boosting seminars, but in the end, we called it a draw.

The Shermans lived up to their reputation of being "Ronsons" which would "light up every time" but they and the American Tank Destroyers did considerable execution on the German Mark IV tanks.  Most of the German Panther battalion was on the left, and with no way across the stream, and no way into the town, did very little for most of the game.  The commander of this force Oberst von Stribling loudly calls attention to the fact that he had almost no losses!  The other gamers point to the fact that he almost was never engaged!

Another view of Laval showing the jam-up of the Germans.  On the last several turns, the Germans managed to bring up a "Brummbar" (Grumbling Bear) close support vehicle.  Its thick armor protected it from the Sherman's 75mm guns, and its 150mm howitzer began to chip away at the Americans in the town.

In the field beyond the town, Phil Young deployed his U.S. infantry. They moved toward the stream but had not attempted a crossing by the time the game ended.  Interestingly, Alex Kirk mentioned after the game that there was a hidden ford near the table edge on the German left flank (the American right flank) but neither Stribling's Germans, nor Young's American troops made any effort to search for a ford.

The center of the German side of the field, showing forces under the command of Ed Sansing.  Note that these are light forces.  The American troops and vehicles under Alex Kirk's command that forced the crossing on the German right, could have menaced these Germans, in another turn or two.  They would have entered this scene from the extreme left near the troop box sitting on the battlefield.

Another close view of the town of Laval.  More pressure, more carnage, and even less ways to get through the mess!  The way to win this game, obviously, was to flank the entire thing to the left or right, but only Alex managed to do that.

German Order of battle:

  • 11th Panzer Division (advance elements)
  • Panzer Aufklärungs Abtelung 11 (Pz Recon Bn)
  • 110th Panzer Grenader Regt Command group
  • Abtelung 1 (Gepanzer)/110th Panzer Grenader Regt
  • Abtelung 2/15th Panzer Regt.
  • Abtelung 1/119th Pz Arty Regt.

American Order of battle:

  • CCB 4th Armored Division
  • 8th Tank Bn
  • 27th Armored Infantry Bn
  • 35th Armored Infantry Bn
  • B/24th Armored Engineer Bn
  • C/704th TD Bn
  • 66th Armored Field Artillery Bn.

This was the christening battle for Alex's game room.  All the Jackson Gamers that were able to make the trip agreed that a great time was had by all!