Flames of War: Breaking the San Fratello Line; Sicily 1943 Part II

The friday night HMGS-PSW 2012 Winter convention game was Flames of War 20mm: “Breaking the San Fratello Line; Sicily 1943”. Starring elements of the U.S. 3rd Division vs. elements of German 29th Panzer Grenadier and the Italian 26th Assietta Division on the northern Sicilian coast.

Flames of War force rosters, game set up descriptions, victory determination, terrain notes, and 20mm FOW gaming notes can be found on my previous San Fratello preliminary post. Link

To the game AAR. After several days of fruitless assaults on the San Fratello ridge. the American 3rd Division received reinforcements of it’s 7th Regiment. Along with some armor support, another attempt was made to break the line concurrently with beach landing behind the German lines. Hopefully, the German-Italian forces would be caught between the two American groups. That was the general plan….but plans are only good till the first shots are fired.

General table view with the Italian commander reviewing his positions…(WR’s son Daniel). Germans have already started their withdraw back to the next position (San Marco ridge) and find themselves along the coastal road except for a reinforced rearguard Pz. grenadier platoon on hill 171.

General view; San Fratello game showing San Fratello ridge & ruins, trenches, minefields, barbwire and German-Italian defenders.

Italian infantry on San Fratello ridge and in ruins. German Pz. grenadier platoon with some HHG and 7.72cm Pak 36(r) entrenched on hill 171. Minefields and wire to front.

San Fratello line defense closeup. Minefields and some barbwire positions along with trenches.

German starting positions along the coastal road. Pz. grenadier platoon and HQ at building in foreground (Acquedoici). Next along the road with the Pz. grenadier pioneers with their halftracks, captured Bofors 40mm AA platoon, then the MkIV G (late) platoon. In Saint Agata was another Pz. grenadier platoon. Vineyards, stream bed, steep hillsides and some rocky ground complete the table.

German reserves positioned along the road, soon to retire eastwards.

Turn one: After some light bombardment…and air cover overhead, the first wave of American platoons cross the open ground below the San Fratello heights. They have done this before….and the same events happen again. The Italian light 47/32mm guns and HMG’s cut down several teams before they can reach the “rocky ground” BP terrain. Not shown…the entire wipeout of a combat engineer platoon by the German hill 171 defenders…wasn’t a pretty sight. Call up grave registration.

Americans enter the table under heavy HMG fire and light artillery. The rocky ground will give some bullet proof cover….if they make it.

After wiping out the American engineer platoon, the hill 171 defenders look pretty cozy. Their A/T 7.62cm Pak36(r) look for targets of opportunity.

29th Pz Grenadier platoon looks well entrenched with foreground minefields.

Turn two: Beach landing!!!. Only one American platoon lands, the other platoon seems to have lost their way and failed to land this turn.. Maybe that was due to the near miss bombing conducted by the valiant Luftwaffe. Note: the German player could select a landing craft, before they come ashore, as a target for bombing each turn if air support is rolled. American air may perform combat air patrol over the naval group. If a random choice landing craft was hit, it was sunk with all onboard lost. During the game, three bombing runs were made, each was a one die roll near miss (skill roll)…the American GI’s were soaked before hitting the beach. As it was, the American landing craft crews failed several times to land their charges or equipment on time and location. Naval gunfire was readily available as the Germans found out.

Beach landing in rear area. The “end-around” landing starts with an American platoon splashing ashore into a lemon grove. Germans in Saint Agata and starting assembly areas.

Friday night before the main convention weekend. Some early gaming action to warm up the dice.

Daniel (WR’s son) commanding the Italians, fires upon the advancing Americans under Rob (at right).

Turn three: The reduced American platoons rush the rocky ground terrain. At least they now have some cover (BP) from the Italian infantry guns and HMG. But assaulting up that slope is never going to happen. Call in the artillery….both sides start a process of shelling each other.

With thinned ranks, the American GtG in the rocky ground. Both sides call in and lob artillery shells. Artillery ranged in gray smoke markers.

Italian perspective as the artillery battle rages.

Three three at the beach: More platoons arrive and disembark. The Germans in Saint Agata lay very low….as naval shells arrive with limited effect. In the background, the Germans realize their path eastward is being cut…so they react with typical germanic speed….panzers to the front!

Support arrives as the Germans near Saint Agata react to the landings.

Turn four: American thought they had an easy landing…..but what is that dust? Over the radio comes the news…..panzers heading towards the beach. Quick firing leads to no results.

M4 Shermans splash ashore and are faced with the rapid German counterattack of Pz. MkIVs. Pz. Grenadier platoon hunker down in Saint Agata as occasional naval shelling lands in area.

The radio warning is heard above….some P40’s attempt to reduce the panzers to smoking hulks. they missed…but it was close.

From the sky, a flight of American P40’s attempt to straff the MkIVs.

Turn five: The M4 shermans are smoking hulks. German gunnery was excellent, American gunnery…..well lets say they skipped training on how to operate their cannon. Wet American G.I.’s suddenly feel that this beach landing is a “bad idea”.

Pz. MKIVs, after two rounds of firing, finally defeat the Shermans. Three destroyed, two bugged out.

Turn four: We have skipped head on the storyline. Back at the San Fratello ridge front the Americans receive their main force reinforcment….7th Regiment has arrived with two M4 sherman platoons. Hill 171 is their target and the engagement with the entrenched 7.72cm Pak36(r) battery is hot. Artillery fire rains down on the same hill as German soldiers duck for cover.

American main body arrives….7th Regiment with armor support. Shermans advance shelling the hill and A/T guns.

Italian infantry give as they receive in the defense of San Fratello ridge and ruins. Another Italian platoon works its way to the front from the rear position.

Italians still hold tight on the ruins of San Fratello.

Turn five: One 7.62cm cannon destroyed…then another….shellfire ranged in, the pounding continues. Last Pak36(r) destroyed. Where is the panzerknacker?

With last 7.62cm Pak36(r) gone, the determined Pz. grenadier platoon with HMG teams man their trenches for the forthcoming American assault.

Turn six: The American armor advances around the nicely staked out minefields. They are still firing their cannon at the reduced defenders of hill 171. This rearguard action is holding up the American advance.

The assault goes in….one tank bogs on the very steep hillside (skill test), so the remainder shift to the level ground and overrun the trenches (ordinary bog test).

Here they come! The American armor advance to assault. Will they bog on the very steep hillside… or go for the lower trenches?

Turn seven: American armor rolls over the trenches and breaks into the position. The determined Pz. grenadiers still hold morale and defend the hill 171. American armored rifle  support is seen following the M4 shermans.

American armor grinds over the trenches. Support is soon to follow. Pz. grenadiers hold tough on hill 171 after passing morale.

The minefields and 1st turn loss of the American engineer platoon is cause traffic problems. The hill 171 Pz. grenadiers platoon just wouldn’t go away…

Wouldn’t be Americans without overwhelming support. Another tank platoon with one Armored rifle platoon trailing.

Back at the beach landing, things look bad. The company commander orders a platoon to rush the MkIVs. Are you nuts shouts some unknown veteran NCO? Just then a naval salvo arrives on target and two of the MKIVs are scrap iron. Another is bailed out, so the platoon rushes out of the lemon grove and aims two bazooka shots. Sucess…burning MKIV. The advancing German pioneers in their halftracks are stunned. Stray German artillery shells land in the grove and destroy one of the landed Priest SPG (off picture).

Naval gunnery and some “lucky” bazooka team action destroy the Pz MkIV platoon.

Halfway between San Fratello ridge and the beach landing, the German captured Bofors 40mm platoon awaits orders. Never saw a plane all day nor some tasty enemy infantry teams to have target practice.

German “captured” Bofors 40mm AA platoon never saw a plane all day. “D” marker denotes dug in status.

Turn eight: With the Armored rifles hung up in traffic, the M4 shermans assault hill 171 to clear the heights of it’s defenders”. Skill bog checks are passed, the armor clears the height in one rush.

Shermans charge up the very steep slopes (skill test) to rub out the last defenders.

Seeing M4 shermans on hill 171, the German AA platoon bolts for the safety of retiring towards the east. A short distance down the road….a salvo of naval gunnery destroys the transport of the leading team. German Pz. grenadiers look on, still holding Saint Agata as the pioneers work themselves up the hillside in the distance and destroy the exposed American platoon with MG fire.

The German AA platoon, sees advancing shermans, bugs out but finds the road is shelled by naval gunfire.

Turn nine: American armor is rolling forward, but they will be behind the timetable to join up with the beach landing group.

Hill 171 defenders rubbed out, the American advance continues to save the beach landing force.

Italians are still holding the ridge position. Battered, they continue the fight and hold the American infantry firmly below the heights. But the break through along the coastal road will force their withdraw across the mountains or surrender.

Italians still hold the shelled ruins of San Fratello ridge and town.

As the American armor advances, the pinned down American beach company is reduced to the lemon grove position. With their armor and Priest SPG battery destroyed, platoon of infantry shot up and destroyed, German artillery fire raining down, they fail their company morale check. Game over with an advantage for the German-Italian forces.

Back from bombing the naval landing group, a token german flight makes an appearance.

A good friday night warm up for the convention. Thanks for Rob for some of his German and American miniatures. WR’s provided his captured Bofors battery, German pioneers, American landing group, and the Italians. Terrain from the collection of WR. Don’t forget to review the preliminary post for San Fratello for additional game set up details.

WR & Son Daniel


2 thoughts on “Flames of War: Breaking the San Fratello Line; Sicily 1943 Part II

    • Lots of action on the ridge front. Daniel had the Americans firmly in place till the end. His Hill 171 fight forced the Americans to keep throwing more and more equipment on the narrow frontage. Meanwhile, I was pounded by naval gunfire….while containing the beach landing forces.

      P.S> Thank you again for the universal terrain comment. As long as I have “PVC or white glue” available with flocking, I keep resurfacing the gaming board tiles.

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