Paul Weir : Did the 1st SS at The Battle of the Bulge have any Tiger Is?

One of the rockstars in the GameSquad ASL forums is the resident armor super-genius human Chapter H, Mr. Paul M. Weir. Mr. Weir has gratefully allowed the publication of his posts here.

pzvibThe Tiger II that accompanied 1SS belonged to 101/501 SS sPz Abt (heavy tank detachment). 101st got renumbered to 501st about Sept. ’44. 501st was a corps level unit (1ss Pz Korps), though originally built around the former 13th sPz Komp of 1SS Pz Rgt (1SS Pz Div). At full strength 501 had a HQ of 3 Tiger II and 3 14 Tiger II companies for a total of 45. At the start of Wacht am Rhein only 30 of the 45 took part in the initial offensive, the remaining 15 arrived after Peiper’s drive had long died, due to transport difficulties.

1SS had a Pz Regt with 2 Abteilungen (detachments/battalions). The 1st Abt should have had 76 Panthers and the 2nd 76 or 96 Pz IV with 3 Panthers and 5 Pz IV in Regt HQ. The Germans were only able to scrape up close to 37 Panthers and 34 Pz IV. That was sufficient for an Abt HQ (3 Panthers) and 2 each 2 companies of 17 Panther/Pz IV respectively. I can’t be arsed to check but I think it was 1st & 2nd (Pz IV) and 6th & 7th (Panther) that made up 1 Pz Abt. So they only had a single Abt’s worth of their own tanks and were loaned 501 SS SPz Abt to stand in for the missing 2 Pz Abt. 1SS Pz Div also had 21 Pz IV/70 aka JgPz IV L/70 but no StuGs, Marders, Wespes or Hummels. They did have SP 7.5cm (SdKfz 251/9) and 15cm sIG 33 on SdKfz 138/1 Grille.

pzvie1SS did get issued a company’s worth of Tiger I early in ’43, I think just during/after 3rd Kharkov. These were used through Kursk and until 1SS got sent home and rebuilding. The genesis of 101 SS sPz dates to the removal of 1SS, for West rebuilding, diverted to Italy. The 3 SS Pz divisions each had a Tiger I company but as 1SS and 2SS were withdrawn 3SS Totenkopf was the only one to retain Tiger I. Totenkopf and the Heer’s Grossdeutchland were the only divisions to finish the war with any type of Tigers and also both Tiger I not II. So 1SS had not had any Tiger on the books by the end of ’43. The SS Tiger I in Normandy belonged to 101 sPz SS Abt and 102 SS sPz Abt.

The only Tiger Is that I can think in WaR of belonged to sPz 301 (Fkl) which had 31 rebuilt Tiger I acting as command vehicles for RC demolition vehicles (Bogward IV) and that was a Heer (army) unit.

So 1SS only had the loan of Tiger II in 501 SS sPz Abt and had had no Tiger I since leaving Russia.

Were there any ‘Ferdinand’ TDs in the battle, at Bastogne, with Peiper, or at St. Vith? What TD or AG or SP, which looks most like a Ferdinand TD, was deployed with the VG divisions?

While I can’t recall the details, I’m fairly certain that KG Peiper was doomed by the time the last 15 arrived. With the demise of KGP, the 501 SS sPz Abt was in need of rebuilding. After the dregs of KGP escaped the 1SS withdrew for reorganisation and eventually reappeared near Bastogne. By that time 501 SS sPz Abt was no longer rigidly attached to 1SS and had reverted to being a corps unit, though obviously strongly associated with 1SS. So post KGP time would have been spent regathering scattered vehicles and repairs, including the 15 latecomers.

I don’t have a good number for the Tiger II losses in the initial offensive, but have a vague memory of only about 7 Tiger II pocketed with KGP. The buggers were just too slow to keep up and be pocketed. Allowing for recovered breakdowns 501 should have had about 2/3 of its official strength at least recoverable if not yet fit for combat by the time of the end of KGP.

pzjgNo Ferdinands/Elephants in Wacht am Rhein (WaR). The source of the confusion might have been the presence of sPzJgrAbt 654 which was one of the original two Elephant battalions, was in WaR but equipped with Jagdpanthers and the other, sPzJgrAbt 653 was involved in Nordwind and had Jagdtigers.

The VG divisions had a PzJg Abt with a towed 7.5cm PaK 40 battery (9, usually 12 guns), a SP light FlaK company (12 x SdKfz 10/5) and a SP battery with 10 (HQ 1, 3 platoons of 3) or 14 (2, 3 x 4) Hetzers or StuG III. All WaR divisions might also have had support from corps and army level StuG (usually 31 StuG, though up to 45) and sPzJg (45 Hetzers or 30-31 Hetzers and 14-15 Jagdpanthers) units. They also had either a Füsiliere (recon+assault) company or battalion which was mainly bicycled infantry and a few armoured cars (if they were lucky).

Pz IV/70 aka JgPz IV with 7.5cm L/70 gun were only issued to Panzer divisions PzJg Abt, typically 21 Pz IV/70 and 12 towed PaK 40.

Marder I/II/III usually equipped Pz and PzGren divisions but by then had practically disappeared, being replaced by JgPz IV and Pz IV/70.

StuG III could be in nearly anything; anybodies PzJg Abt, StuG Abt/Brigades or even Pz Regt, replacing the by now scarce Pz IV.

Paul M. Weir

(Note: I added the counter art, any error’s all mine.)

Paul Weir : What types of M4 Shermans did US forces use in Europe?

One of the rockstars in the GameSquad ASL forums is the resident armor super-genius human Chapter H, Mr. Paul M. Weir. Mr. Weir has gratefully allowed the publication of his posts here.

M4M4A1M4: The original design with radial petrol engine, M4A1 had the same engine but a cast hull, so I will deal with them together. Initially the preferred engine, both M4 and M4A1 (75) saw service from Torch to war’s end. They would have been the sole combat models until late ’43, early ’44 and between the two would still just have been the largest percentage of M4’s by VE day. Both later got better front hull armour (thicker at 47° vs older 56° from vertical). From early ’44 the M4A1 got the 76mm while some of the M4 were 105mm armed. From memory of photos the 105mm M4 always had the later 47° hull whilst many of those late 75mm M4 had a cast front (aka composite hull). A composite hull M4 would be a M4A1 in ASL terms. The 76mm M4A1 first saw service in Operation Cobra. Not sure when the 105mm M4 saw combat, but I suspect late French campaign. The British fitted 17lbr to M4 but not to M4A1. What looks like a 17lbr M4A1 is actually a 17lbr M4 (composite hull).

M4A2M4A2: Diesel twin engines. Starting with 75mm and 56° hull, they progressively went to 47° hull and finally 76mm. Used by the US for training, saw US combat service only with the USMC. Most LL to the USSR, Britain and France, in order of priority, indeed one of the USMC batches was “stolen” from a USSR allocation. Only the USSR used the 76mm versions.

M4A3M4A3: Ford petrol twin engine. Had all the variations of the M4A2, but also had a 105mm version. Indeed it is quite difficult to tell the 2 apart, only the different horizontal engine decks are a good guide. Though some may have been used mid-Italy campaign, it was really D-Day onwards when they would have seen much service. 75mm, 47° hulls, I suspect Cobra+ and the 76mm and 105mm versions only becoming common by the end of the French campaign. The USMC eventually switched to the M4A3 from the M4A2. The US switched from considering the M4/M4A1 engine as the preferred one to the M4A3’s Ford.

M4A3E2M4A3E2: Doled out in handfuls to (mainly) M4A3 battalions. I think they were preferentially given to separate tank battalions allocated to infantry divisions, though some saw use in armoured divisions. NW Europe only.

shervaM4A4: 5 car engines fused together!!! US training only, LL to Britain and possibly France. Only 56° and 75mm, though the British fitted their 17lbr.

M4A5: Not a Sherman, but a type designation for the Canadian Ram tank.

M4A6: Diesel radial engine. Training/development only.

Italy: M4 & M4A1 throughout the campaign. M4A3 starting to appear mid-’44, likely as new battalions fed in.

Northwest Europe: Initially mainly M4 & M4A1 with some M4A3. In the immediate post invasion many separate and armoured division battalions were shipped straight from the US. These seem to be mainly M4A3 variants.

Mixing: M4 and M4A1 were practically interchangeable, so while many units would have started as pure M4 or M4A1, replacements could have been either. Naturally the USA preferred that M4/M4A1 were not mixed with M4A3 but there were times like very late ’44 when the USA was running short due to losses. The British either offered or gave the USA some of their Shermans at that time. So you would see awkward mixes, especially when allocating 76mm and 105mm variants. The US could readily support logistically such less than optimal mixes.

Gun Mixes: From Cobra+ expect to see no more than 20% 76mm, the rest 75mm. By Bulge 40% 76mm and by VE 60%+ 76mm. The problem was that was not uniform. From memory, one of the post D-Day, direct from the US shipped armoured divisions came entirely equipped with M4A3(76) whilst most active M4A3 battalions could only dream of them.

105mm: Initially issued as a 3 tank platoon per tank battalion, later 1 was additionally added to each 17 tank M4-whatever company. So for 54 M4-? (75mm/76mm) tank battalion you could have 3 or 6 105mm M4/M4A3 in addition. They did not replace 75mm/76mm gun tanks. Production of M4A3(105) was roughly twice that of M4(105).

56° vs 47°: The early M4-? had 2″ at 56°, later upgraded (except M4A4) to 2.5″ at 47°. While almost the same effective horizontal line of sight thickness the 47° hull was a single plate without the driver/assistant driver hatch excrescences of the earlier 56° hull multi plate front, thus stronger. The 47° hulls also had bigger hatches allowing easier bail out.

As an addition to the above information I might as well complete the US battalion organisation by mentioning the light tanks and other lesser creatures.

A typical US battalion

The original OoB had a tank regiment with 1×3 company light tank battalion and 2×3 company medium battalions, each with 17 tanks/company and 3 in battalion HQ. The Battalion HQ had a 3 vehicle assault gun platoon and often a 3 vehicular 81mm halftrack MTR platoon. The assault gun platoon started with the likes of the T30 HMC (USVN 35), then the M8 HMC Scott (USVN 43) and finally by mid-late ’44 the M4(105) or M4A3(105) (USVN 17). The MTR platoon used the M4, M4A1 and M21 halftracks. That organisation was in effect until mid-late ’43 and indeed the 2nd, 3rd Armoured continued to use that “heavy” organisation until war’s end. In practice light and medium companies were often swapped to give 3 equal battalions with 1 light and 2 medium companies. A US “heavy” Armoured Division had 6 light and 12 medium companies total in 2 regiments. During ’43 the heavy organisation was replaced by the light version. That abolished the tank regiment and instead had 3 tank battalions. Each battalion had a similar HQ and 1 light and 3 medium tank companies, like before with 17 or 18 tanks for a divisional total of 3 light and 9 medium companies. The upside was the infantry component got beefed up at battalion level.

The light tanks started with M3 and M3A1 but by Sicily they started to or had been replaced by M5 and M5A1. By Wacht am Rhein tiny numbers of M24 had appeared but took some time to displace the M5A1s.

Now be aware that all the above is just an overall broad sweep picture. For designing scenarios always use AARs, TO&E unit details where you can lay your hands on them. You will undoubtedly find exceptions but the above should not lead you too far astray.

Paul M. Weir

(Note: I added the counter art, any error’s all mine.)

PS For more on Shermans, Witchbottles recommends the article “Wheels of Democracy” by Jeff Petraska from Avalon Hill Game Magazine vol 25 issue 3

A Tank Destroyer Christmas

Want a cool M36 Tank Destroyer t-shirt for Christmas?  I put one together for myself and left the design up in case you want one too, for yourself or your opponent.

This classic “Banzai” t-shirt is of course, still available.

 

Tanker Coins for Sale!

I got tired of having to look for the proper number on a d30 dice to track my MP usage everytime my opponent announces “I am shooting.”, only to have the d30 roll lazily away in the mist of the action.

So here we have the Tanker Coin, a much easier way to track MP usage:

Tanker Coins are selling for USD10+Postage, which I don’t imagine to be too much no matter where you are.

To buy one, send me an email at hongkongwargamer-at-speedpost-dot-net with your address & PayPal email and I will invoice you. It’s that simple!

Thanks

May 14 2019 Update : I expect to see the next batch of Tanker Coins mid June at the latest.  It will probably be the last batch I will sell at USD10 each.  There’s already an order list, please contact me if you want yours!

FrF2 Maczek Fire Brigade

This is September 4 1939, Poland.  The Poles rushed the Maczek brigade to plug gaps in the defense.  The Germans win this scenario by taking 12 buildings in 5.5 turns.

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Here are some of the AFVs involved by the way (from the wonderful site – Tanks Encyclopedia) :

Polish

Vickers Ejw(b)

vickers-mark_e_polish_jw

The Ejw(b) is armed with a 47* (TK8) and a FP6 CMG.  AF2/1.

Vickers Edw(b)

vickers-mark_e_polish_dw

The Edw(b) has twin turrets (6×2*), each with a wz.30 7.92 MG which can be fired independently of each other.  AF 2/1.

TKS

tks

The TKS is armed with a FP2 BMG and the TKS(L) with a 20L  (TK6).  AF 1/0.

German

Pz IIA

panzer_ii_ausfb

The Pz IIA was the main battle tank in Poland, spotting a 20L (TK 6 IFE 4) and a FP5 CMG.  AF 1/1.

Pz IB

pzkpfw-1_ausfb_france40

The Pz IB has a FP6 CMG that does 2 TK DRs per hit.  AF 1/1.

PSW 222

sd-kfz-222_poland1939

The PSW 222 is an OT armored car with 33MP.  It has a 20L (TK 6 IFE 4) and a FP6 CMG.  AF 1/1.

J43 3rd RTR in the Rain

Oi .. we are playing in the rain this time.  Heavy rain that adds +1 LV every 6 hex.  That’s also why all our VASL screens looks .. well, rainy.

The 9 squads of Queen’s Victoria Rifles are rushing in to grab 6 buildings out of 8 from 5 squads of Germans.  There are of course 5 AFVs helping the Brits out against the 3 German ones, well, 3 German AFVs AND an AT gun.

CH18 Raging Furnace

This week we started with an old design, CH18.  The Germans have to take 2 out of 3 hilltops and earn more CVPs than the Russians.  Aside from the standard CVPs, the Germans get points for clearing out the six hexes around the hilltops.  Likewise, the Russians get (a lot more) points if they can stay around the tops.

This scenario has a very interesting simultaneous setup with a die roll deciding who’d go first.  As my opponent quipped, going last might not be a bad thing as you can simply advance onto the hilltops.  The nature of this arrangement means opposing forces might “materialise” right in front of you at game start!  There’s an SSR that gives the defender in the first Prep Fire phase the ability to Gun Duel and shoot back.

The German entry edges are the top and the left.  However, since the Russians can only setup in the red circles.  Germans can attack from the right if they like, if they are comfortable with Russian reinforcements coming in behind them from the right and the bottom of the screen.

I am very mindful of a few things when I did my Russian setup.

  • I can’t win shootouts between the Russians and the Germans AFVs.
  • I can put my AFVs in trenches and thereby HD’ing them even to same level shots but that will condemn us to doing frontal shootouts (and the lost of all mobility) when the Russians really need to get in side shots to kill the German AFVs.
  • The high ground the Germans have on the top left will be used to sweep the hill tops, especially with the Tiger + Armour Leader
  • I can use my 76L artillery gun (s8!) and a combination of the Russian .50cal, the 10-2 (aka Jedi Master), the ATR and the Hero to setup a pretty good firebase on the bottom right of the screen to contest the hill tops a little.  That’ll be -3 out to 12 hexes and -2 out to 16 hexes.

img_3122Ladies & gents – don’t be like me.  I misread the SSRs to this scenario and thought that German reinforcements can only come in from the top and to the left.  No – the German reinforcements come in from the top and the RIGHT and the Russian reinforcements come in from the bottom and the left.

Let me elaborate further.  This scenario has a rather creative SSR which allows you to purchase half your lost CVPs as reinforcements.  The restriction is that you can only purchase half the # of each unit type in your OB.

While my 76L Artillery (hill top on the bottom right) finally fixed itself and did a number on a German deathstar, my deployment was oriented towards attackers coming in from the left and not the right.  *Horror*

The Germans sent a STuG up Y9.  Since it’s bypassing the woods, it’s considered on the upper level.  Non Turreted as it is, its TH after all the modifiers was comparable to mine, even though all I had to do is to turn my slow turret.  I fired and missed, APCR and all.  He fired and connected.

The Germans then sent a STuG up “behind” us on the right, looking to take out the KV1 with the 9-2 Armor Leader.   Fortunately its’ within reach of the Hero & his ATR on the hill on the bottom right.  He directed the pinned HMG to stun the STuG crew.  The KV1 then swung his turret around and Shocked him.

Unfortunately, the Germans got rid of that Shock immediately after.  The KV1 now faced a choice : whether to run or to shoot the STuG again.  If I run, it’s quite likely that I will be shot.   If I stay and shoot, my TK is 13(+1) vs his AF of 8.  I have a 3 CVP 9-2 armor leader in this thing.

I shot, connected and killed the STuG, much to our relief ..

img_3130img_3147

One more German move to go and all three hill tops are still under Russian control, Germans resigned.