Friday, April 9, 2010

Battle for Minsk 28 June-3 July Pt IV

Terrain and Kupkri Station Scenario


Google Earth is the first place I go for terrain study. Unfortunately, Belarus lacks the high detail imagery available for other areas. But looking at what is available, you can see that broad rolling hills fill in between the river systems and otherwise the terrain is flat. From maps in the reference books, the Berezina River had wide swampy areas on both sides with roads and towns located along the drier patches. Numerous streams. North of Borisov, the terrain is generally swampy and wooded. Not ideal terrain for off-road manuvering but this is where the CAV-MECH OMG crossed the Berezina, which indicates German resistance was fairly light.

Kupkri Battle, Evening 28 June

3rd Guards Tank Corps has a sharp engagement with the 505th Tiger Battalion. The fighting continued into the night and at 0700 29 June, the Soviets capture Kupkri Station. Leading Soviet elements skirted Kupkri but ran into the 89th Panzer Pioneer Battalion guarding the bridges over the Berzina at Borisov.

Forces are 10th Guards M/C Battalion, 18th Gds Tank Brigade (Turn 2), 1823rd SU Regiment (Turn 2) and for the Germans the 505th Tiger Battalion, 1./89th Panzer Pioneer Company, 2x Police Companies.

The battlefield will run NE (Soviet friendly edge) to SW (German friendly edge). Germans will occupy wooded and open positions up to 2/3rd of the tabletop back to their friendly edge. Their objective is primarily to hold the main NE-SW road/rail to Minsk and secondarily to destroy Soviet units and prevent their exiting off the SW edge. The Soviets will start close to their friendly edge and need to advance and exit off the SW edge. Their should also be a secondary NE-SW road with roads connecting the two routes. Numerous wooded patches, light and heavy, and a few hills should cover the tabletop. Kupkri Station should be represented as a small town on the railroad about the middle of the tabletop. A road should connect Kupkri Station to the South edge and to the secondary NE-SW road. The primary road/railroad will offer cover to units defending behind the road due to the railroad embankments but will not block line of sight.

The Soviets will have a tough time trying to stand up to the German Tigers with their Shermans. The SU-85's can hurt the Tigers but they will be primary targets for the Germans. But the Soviet objective is not to kill Tigers but exit the battlefield. Stretching the Germans out and making them cover multiple advance routes will help the Soviet player.

The Battle for Minsk, 28 June-3 July. Part III

And here is the Soviet Order of Battle for the forces opposing 5th Panzer Division. Quite an impressive list even with all the artillery left off. I neglected the artillery as most of it was back at Orsha and along the line of march. A minor amount of 76mm and 122mm artillery would be available to the rifle corps in a prepared attack. The SU's, mortars, and rocket artillery will the primary support available to all units. Note also the large amount of stuff attached to 11th Guards Army. This was typically Front level assets but attached to a single army. The Front, 3rd Byelorussian, still had its own full allotment of artillery, tanks, and SU's. In a straight up fight, this of course is more than the Germans could handle but the objective with the scenarios with the 5th Panzer Division is to capture the more fluid fights as the exploitation forces (tank and mech corps, m/c regiments) advanced. If the 5th Panzer holds in place too long, they get hit with a mountain of infantry, tanks, and artillery. If they strike hard and shift positions to strike again, they can halt and wear out the advancing armor.

Soviet Order of Battle

11th Guards Army
--8th Gds Rifle Corps
----5th, 26th, 83rd Gds Rifle Div
--16th Gds Rifle Corps
----1st, 11th, 31st Gds Rifle Div
--36th Gds rifle Corps
----16th, 18th, 84th Gds Rifle Div
--2nd Gds Tank Corps
----4th, 25, 26th Gds Tank Bde [T34/85]
----4th Gds Motor Bde
----401st Gds SU Rgt [SU85]
----1500th SU Rgt [SU76]
----273rd Mortar Rgt [120mm]
----1695th AA Rgt
----28th Gds Mortar Bttn [BM13]
----79th M/C Bttn [w/tank co.]
----51st Sapper Bttn
--120th Sep. Tank Brigade[
--35th Gds Hvy Tank Rgt [IS-II]
--63rd Gds Hvy Tank Rgt [IS-II]
--148th Tank Rgt [T34/76 & T70]
--517th Tank Rgt [Flame and Mine T34]
--345th Gds Hvy SU Rgt [ISU-122]
--348th Gds Hvy SU Rgt [ISU-152]
--1435tg Hvy SU Rgt [SU-85]

5th Guards Tank Army
--3rd Gds Tank Corps
----3rd, 18th, 19th Gds Tank Bde [T34/85]
----2nd Gds Motor Bde
----376th Gds SU Rgt [ISU-122]
----1436th SU Rgt [SU85]
----1496th SU Rgt [SU76]
----266th Mortar Rgt [120mm]
----324th Gds Mortar Bttn [BM13]
----10th Gds M/C Bttn
--29th Tank Corps
----25th, 31st, 32nd Tank Bde [T34/85]
----53rd Motor Rifle Bde
----1223rd SU Rgt [SU76]
----1446th SU Rgt [SU85]
----108th AT Rgt [76mm]
----271st Mortar Rgt [120mm]
----747th AT Rgt [85mm]
----75th M/C Bttn
----409th Gds Mortar Bttn [BM13]
----14th Gds Hvy Tank Rgt [attached IS-II]
--1st Gds M/C Rgt
CAV-MECH Operational Manuever Group [Front Subordination]
3rd Guards Cavalry Corps
--5th, 6th Gds Cavalry Div
--32nd Cav Div
--1814th SU Rgt [SU76]
--144th Gds AT Rgt [76mm]
--3rd Gds AT Bttn [85mm?]
--64th Gds Mortar Bttn [BM13]
--3rd Gds Mortar Rgt [120mm]
3rd Guards Mech Corps
--7th, 8th, 9th Gds Mech Bde [M4A2 Shermans]
--35th Gds Tank Rgt [IS-II]
--1510th SU Rgt [SU76]
--1823rd SU Rgt [SU85]
--743rd AT Rgt [85mm]
--129th Mortar Rgt [120mm]
--334th Gds Mortar Bttn [BM13]
2nd Gds M/C Rgt
271st Motor Bttn [amphibious vehicles]

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Battle for Minsk, 28 June-3 July


So looking at the front of the Soviet 11th Guards Army, here are the orders of battles for the German side. Paul Adair's book, “Hitler's Greatest Defeat” has a good outline of the battle groups formed by 5th Panzer. Still a rough estimate for the Gottberg Gruppe.

German Order of Battle, 28 June 1944

Kampfgruppe von Saucken
--Kampfgruppe von Gottberg group of security and SS units, included: 
          ---Kampfgruppe Anhalt (ad-hoc group of police and security units) 
          ---Kampfgruppe Flörke (ad-hoc unit based on remnants of 14th Infantry Division and others)
          ----Engineer Training Battalion
          ----Eight security, police, and alarm battalions
--Kampfgruppe Mueller [elements, XII Army Corps Commander]
         ----elements of 31st and 267th Infantry Divisions. 11Th Infantry Regiment of 14th Infantry Division

--5th Panzer Division
----13th Panzergrenadier Regiment
----14th Panzergrenadier Regiment
----31st Panzer Regiment [available 1 July]
----505th Heavy Panzer Battalion [attached, 29 Tiger I]
----89th Panzer Pioneer Battalion
----5th Panzer Recon
----Field Replacement Battalion

During the fighting the 5th Panzer formed kampfgruppe of changing compositions but on 2 July, this was their organization:
Kampfgruppe 1 (Krasnoe-Molodechno on 2 July)
--II/14th Panzergrenadier Battalion (halftrack)
--Field Replacement Battalion
--elements of 31st Panzer Regiment
--elements 89th Panzer Pioneer Battalion
Kampfgruppe 2 (Radoshkovichi on 2 July)
--13th Panzergrenadier Regiment
--main body 89th Panzer Pioneer Battalion
--elements of 31st Panzer Regiment
Kampfgruppe 3 (Logoysk on 2 July)
--14th Panzergrenadier Regiment (minus II/14th)
--505th Tiger Tank Battalion
--elements of 31st Panzer Regiment

Infantry companies in 13th and 14th Panzergrenadier Regiments were down to an average of 35 riflemen per company.

The Kampfgruppen of 5th Panzer Division were somewhat fluid as the units were just arriving on the battlefield. The 89th Panzer Pioneer, 5th Panzer Recon, 13th Panzergrenadier Regiment and 505th Tiger Battalion were among the first to arrive and de-train in the Borisov area. Some Panthers of 31st Panzer Regiment also de-trained at Borisov.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Battles for Minsk, 28 June- 3 July 1944 PART I

For my next Command Decision game, I want to put together a scenario of the German 5th Panzer Division desperately trying to slow the Soviet summer offensive as their columns closed on Minsk and entrapped several German divisions. Now normally you could hit the highpoints of a battle and put something together quickly and easily that is representative of the numerous clashes around Minsk. But I like to go a few steps further as I enjoy digging into the details of a battle. Out of the information I collect from various sources, I can build several “historically accurate” scenarios. But the big plus for me is that know I am more conversant on a series of key battles.

So, this lengthy article shows the process I use to build a historical scenario.
First reference up is Osprey's "Bagration 1944."  This work lays out the fighting between 29 June to 3 July as 5th Panzer covers the approaches to Minsk.  The German forces include 11th Panzergrenadier Regiment, 5th Recon Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment all of 5th Panzer and supported by elements of three SS Police Regiments, 505th Tiger Battalion, and 31st and 267th Infantry Divisions.  The Soviet forces include the 11th Guards Army, 3rd Guards Mech Corps, 3rd Guards Tank Corps, 2nd Guards Tank Corps, and 29th Tank Corps.

29 June:  elements of 11th Guards Army are encountering 11th Panzergrenadier Regiment in front of Borisov [Kostritsa area]
29 June:  29th Tank Corps tries to bounce the Berezina River [near Studenka] and is rebuffed by 5th Panzer Recon north of Borisov.
30 June:  11th Guards Army pushes across the Berezina in front of Borisov [Kostritsa area]. 3rd Guards Tank Corps exploits and Soviets are in Borisov by evening.
1 July: Tank battle north of Minsk near Pleshchenitsy to keep open rail lines. 31st Pz Regt, 505th Heavy Panzer Battalion vs. 29th Tank Corps and 3rd Guards Mech Corps.
1-2 July: Germans evacuating Minsk.
3 July: 4th Guards Tank Brigade [2nd Guards Tank Corps] with infantry on-board captures Minsk.
3 July: German troops are pocketed east of Minsk.

Terrain Notes: The vigorous defense by 5th Panzer along the Minsk highway prompted Chernyakovskiy to shift the bulk of his armored force [29th Tank Corps and 3rd Gds Mech Corps] through the forested but lightly defended area north of the city.

Troop Strengths: 5th Panzer with the 505th claimed to destroy 295 Soviet AFVs during the week of fighting. By 8 July, 5th Panzer had been reduced from 125 tanks to 18 and all the Tigers were lost.

Turning to David Glantz's translation of the Soviet General Staff Study, we find the following notes:

Troops involved: German troops mentioned; 5th Panzer Division, 24th and 26th SS Police Regiments, 2nd SS MG Regiment, 201st and 286th Security Deivisions, 260th Infantry Division's 470th Regiment

28 June: Cav-Mech Group arrives at the Berezina. New Stavka orders require 3rd White Russian Front to aim for Molodechno [right flank forces] and Minsk [center and left forces].

29 June: 3rd GMC crosses and advances 5-10km beyond the Berezina and turns South along road towards Minsk. About 50km North of Minsk, approaching Pleshchenitsy. 3Rd GCC having a tougher time crossing Berezina south of 3rd GMC and north of Borisov. Partisans cooperating with leading forces. 11Th Guards Army encounters covering forces on Kholopenichi and Krupki road. German covering troops consist of elements from 5th Panzer Div, 14th and 95th Infantry Divisions.

30 June: 35th Guards Tank Brigade [3rd GMC] captures Pleshchenitsy, 8th GMB 10-15km from Logoysk approaching from Zimbin. 3Rd GCC crossing Berezina in Studenka region. 11Th Guards Army reaches Berezina and crosses it on its southern wing. Enemy counterattacked several times in the Borisov region and further North. German aviation becomes more noticeable. Soviet aviation active along the Borisov-Pleshchenitsy and Borisov-Logoisk roads.
1 July: 11th Guards Army 83rd and 5th Guards Rifle Divisions enter Borisov in the evening from the south and southwest. Cav-Mech Group elements cutting the Pleshchenitsy-Logoysk highway.

2 July: 11th Guards Army captures Logoysk by attacking by the northeast with itsright flank. 2Nd GTC attacks and captures Zhodino and Smolivichi

3 July: 2nd GTC units supported by rifle corps of 31st Army, captured Minsk at 0900. Minsk pocket formed. 2Nd GTC advanced a further 10km west of Minsk. 5Th GTA units (29th, 2nd Guards, 3rd Guards Tank Corps) advanced NW of Minsk and halted on the Zaslavl and Ratomka line having encountered enemy resistance. 36Th GRC of 11th Guadrs Army is located in the Logoysk region.

From these sources and maps it is seen that 5th Panzer Division, operating in widely spaced kampfgruppes and poorly supported by ad hoc units and security battalions, fought a series of delaying and blocking actions northeast of Minsk and was either pushed back each day or “strategically relocated” to the rear as other Soviet forces outflanked them.

Mitcham's “German Defeat in the East, 1944” provides detail on the German forces and movements.

5th Panzer Division [Decker commanding] had seventy Panthers (though it is not clear the Panther battalion was with the division) and 55 Pz IV's. 505Th Tiger Battalion attached with 29 Tigers. Gruppe v. Sauken (former 4th Panzer Div commander and soon to be commander of rebuilt 39th Panzer Corps) charged with holding Minsk and its approaches open to allow troops to escape.

Elements of 5th Panzer posted at Kupkri Station. 31St Panzer Regiment had not arrived but v. Sauken did have the 505th Battalion, 89th Engineer, 5th Panzer Recon, 13th and 31st Panzergrenadier Regiments of the 5th Panzer Div. Gruppe von Gottberg (SS Lt. General) was also part of Gruppe von Saucken and consisted of police battalions, security units, strageelers and other odds and ends. Gruppe Mueller is part of Gottberg and has eight battalions, panzergrenadier battalion from 5th Panzer, and the 505th Tiger Battalion. Combat Gruppe Ahnalt with ten police and security battalions held a sector that reached out to Smolivichi and covered Minsk from the North. At Smilovichi, SE of Minsk, Gruppe Florke with three regiments screened Minsk from the south.

28 June: 3GTC ran into v. Sauken's force near Krupki station on the evening of 28 June. Tigers knocked out many tanks, including M4A2 shermans. Soviets kept attacking into the night.

29 June: 3GTC capture Krupki Station in the morning but at great cost. Soviets attempt crossing at Borisov and run into ambush by the 89th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Trying further North to cross the Berzina, the Soviets (29th TC) ran into the 5th Panzer Recon Battalion. 11Th Gurads Army leading detachments began arriving along the Berezina and were thrown into action near the village of Kostritsa held by the 31st Panzergrenadier Regiment. By nightfall, Soviet 29th TC and 3rd GMC had outflanked 5th Panzer Division and crossed the Berezina north of Borisov. Glantz shows attacks on 5th Panzer at Borisov by 32nd Tank Brigade [29TC], 25th TB [29TC], 2nd GMB [3GTC], 3rd GTB[3GTC], 19GTB [3GTC]. Decker orders 31st Panzergrenadier to cross Berezina at Borisov.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wargaming on the iTouch

Tall Ships - Age of Sail is an action-packed game simulating naval combat in the age of sail. The player commands his ship and fights in a series of campaign battles set in the Mediterranean Sea during 1805. As the campaign progresses, the player will take command of larger and more capable ships while fighting an even more capable enemy.