Paestum Landing – Salerno 1943

Second in a multi-part series of Flames of War 20mm Salerno invasion scenarios, this scenario features the beach landing at Paestum Italy conducted by the trained but inexperienced 141st RCT, part of the Texan 36th Division. Landing ashore in the middle of the night, without any preliminary naval bombardment, unlike the later British invasion up north, the Texans quickly found themselves under the German loudspeakers, then bright flares overhead, followed by accurate German machine gun fire, while struggling to cross the beach dunes, shrubbery, minefields and barbwire defenses. Key German “strongpoints” like the old Torre di Paestum hampered the American beach expansion while well positioned German assault guns roamed the near beaches. At morning light, the German pressure intensified with addition German panzergrenadiers and their Panzer IV’s approaching the beach landings. Pushing inland, the American GI’s soon were “armed tourists” with hostile unfriendly German “tour guides” in the nearby old Greek-roman town of Paestum, with its ancient temples and ruins.

After securing the island of Sicily, the Allied commanders had a decision to make. Go directly onto the Italian mainland, invade another Mediterranean island like Sardinia or Corsica, invade the Greek islands region, or shift the entire war effort into an earlier Normandy invasion. With the pending negotiated Italian government surrender, the only option quickly became the invasion of mainland Italy and Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion at Gulf of Salerno. The invasion at Gulf of Salerno was in two zones, the northern British sectors near Salerno proper, and the southern American sector on the southern end of the Gulf of Salerno, near Paestum. Full details of the invasion plans in both Allied sectors can be read online or in one of the noted books below.

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Overall Salerno invasion map with both the northern British landing beaches and the southern American landing beaches along with the slow beachhead dated expansion.

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Current day view of the same beaches at Paestum. Viewed from the south with Blue then Yellow beaches northward. The beach dunes have since become overgrown with small trees and heavy bush.

Closer view of the American landing zone and the four-color coded beaches diagram below. The outlined scaled down Flames of War (FOW) 20mm scenario below covers the southern two American beach zones… Yellow and Blue, where the 141st RCT (36th Infantry Division) landed. The two other beaches zones, Red and Green, had the 142nd RCT (36th ID) landing there, while the 143rd RCT (36th ID) provided reinforcement landing after the first two RCT’s landing later that September 9th morning. Alongside the three RCT’s of 36th Division were the typical support companies and units for a typical US infantry division. Off-shore the Allied fleet was to provide naval gunnery support during the daylight hours while dodging and defending against the German aerial onslaught and long-range German artillery. Allied airpower for the carriers nearby and the island of Sicily provide air cover from the German Luftwaffe, breaking up German waves of bombers and fighter bombers, Still several warships were hit, while the smaller landing craft and ships nearer the beach suffered from direct observed artillery shelling. Burning ships and craft dotted the coastal seas.

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The Flames of War (FOW) 20mm scenario: The scenario covers the fighting between the 141st (First Texas) RCT of 36th (Arrowhead) Division, and Kampfgruppe Doering formed from elements of 16th Panzer Division, on September 9, 1943. The coastal defenses on the beaches and on the inland plain were not well-organized, since the German had just recently arrived and occupied the Italian army positions. The Germans relied most heavily on small groups of tanks that could rove east of the beaches to throw any landing operation into confusion. Teller mines, however, were laid at random 10 to 15 yards from the water’s edge in a belt extending 60 to 100 yards inland. Barbed-wire obstacles were placed to the front and rear of numerous machine guns, sited to cover the most likely landing spots. A few trees had been felled and the stumps wired to obstruct movement. German artillery sited in the nearby high ground hills with artillery observers.

paestum-beach-landings-map

The planning map for the invasion shows the planned beaches, the actual landed points, and the later supply depots created inland. Clearly shows the roman town of Paestum. The RR station on right hand of map was a primary objective for the morning invaders.

Key to the Allied planning was how to deal with the German ability to oversee the entire Allied invasion from any artillery officer’s dream heights behind the beach zones. Simply, the Allied invasion plan was to invade and quickly seize the nearby heights before any serious forward, and soon reinforced German defense, prevented the seizing of the heights. Overall, the plan succeeded with tense moments during the first beach invasion day (Sept 9th).

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A great view of the Green and Yellow beaches at Paestum. Look closely, you can see the Torre di Paestum near the creek entering the sea, and the Greek – Roman temple ruins in the distance.

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Stylized map of the 141st RCT landing from the regimental history site. The drawn map seems to shift the beach landings further south from the Torre di Paestum as Yellow beach was directly in front of the tower.

Salerno, Italy -- September 9, 1943 The U.S. Army's longest World War II campaign began in Italy on September 9, 1943, when the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division landed at Salerno, south of Naples. Operation AVALANCHE was the first Allied thrust onto the European continent. The "Texas" Division, federalized in November 1940, shipped out two and a half years later for North Africa. The "T-Patchers" did not take part in the Sicily campaign of July-August 1943, but instead were selected as the American VI Corps' assault division for AVALANCHE. On September 3rd, the British Eighth Army landed at Calabria on the toe of the Italian boot. Allied planners hoped that this would pull the Germans south, away from the main landing at Salerno but Field Marshall Albert Kesselring was not fooled. The 16th Panzer Division, many of its officers and NCOs veterans of the Rusian Front, remained at Salerno. Over the objections of his naval task force commander, Fifth Army Commander Lieutenant General Mark Clark vetoed a pre-invasion bombardment in favor of a surprise landing. Unfortunately for the Texans, the Germans saw them coming. Landing craft carrying the first waves of the 141st and 142nd Infantry were 300 yards from shore at about 3:15 a.m. when German shells began falling. Landing craft took direct hits, spilling men into the sea; disabled boats created a logjam. Machine gun fire greeted the men who made it to the beach, but in small groups the T-Patchers began fighting their way inland. At 5:30 a.m., much-needed artillery landed, and the 155th Field Artillery and the 143rd Infantry's Cannon Company repulsed an armored attack. During the next two days German attention turned to the British sector, allowing the 36th to consolidate and move inland as reinforcements, including parts of Oklahoma's 45th Division, arrived. But Kesselring was gathering units for a counterattack, and by September 12th six panzer divisions faced the Allies, wh

Unlike Normandy, the American nocturne landing at Paestum had no preliminary naval bombardment, no specialized tanks (DD Sherman), just trained but inexperienced Texan GI’s with lots of courage. Painting by K. Rocco.

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Torre di Paestum, a medieval watch-tower, is a 50-foot stone structure with excellent view of the VI Corps beaches.

The Torre di Paestum, foremost in the defense of the Paestum beaches. Held by the German into the morning hours, the balcony at its top had German machine gunners and snipers firing on the troops of the 36th Division with deadly effect. The “attached” two-story building has since been removed and a modern roadway occupies its former location.

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Paestum tower viewed from the beach shore pine grove.

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Recent photo of the same Torre di Paestum without the two-story building since removed. Note the tower is undamaged and shows little major damage from the battle.

Another aspect of Operation Avalanche – the Salerno invasion, was the lessons learned when attempting a beach invasion against only a weak German Panzer Division. Later at Normandy, when faced with the possibility of several German panzer divisions erupting on the beaches, the offensive and defensive capability of the German armor was learned and respected from Salerno, then Anzio later on in some regards. Allied Normandy planning paid close attention to the Panzer divisions positioning and the Allied efforts to neutralize their movement and delayed arrival. Still, the best help the Normandy invasion received was the delays caused by the German High Command and Hitler, delaying the panzer forward movement against the beaches early on June 6th.

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Later in the morning, having secured the beaches, additional men and supplies, including tanks, land on the beaches. Note the steel matting rolls to create vehicle roadway off the beach.

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Paestum beach later during the morning under shellfire. Note the steel matting.

The Scenario:

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Paestum Landing scenario map. Each square 12 inches for table of 6×8 feet.

Paestum Landing scenario notes (.doc) file below has complete OOB, scenario rules, deployment, reinforcement arrival, weather, terrain notes, and victory conditions:

Paestum Landing Salerno 141st RCT scenario notes (original).

Update: Link to original Paestum Landing Salerno scenario AAR

Since original play test and AAR posted above, WR has slightly revised the forces , landing craft 1st wave rules, and reinforcement schedule for a Paestum Landing – Salerno 141st RCT Scenario notes revised file.

Americans: The 36th Infantry Division, composed of the 141st, 142nd and 143rd Infantry Regiments, landed in North Africa, 13 April 1943, but saw no major action during the Tunisia campaign. Using the October 1941 triangular reorganization for the 36th Infantry Division, the division had at Salerno:

141st Infantry Regiment, TXARNG (Texas Army National Guard)
142nd Infantry Regiment, TXARNG
143rd Infantry Regiment, TXARNG

HHB, 36th Division Artillery, TXARNG
131st Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
132nd Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
133rd Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
155th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm), TXARNG

HHC & Special Troops, 36th Infantry Division, TXARNG
36th Military Police Platoon
36th Signal Company
36th Quartermaster Company
36th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment
36th Mechanized Reconnaissance Troop
736th Ordnance Company (LM)
111th Engineer Battalion (CBT), TXARNG
111th Medical Battalion
141st-infantry-regiment

Representing the 141st RCT (36th Division) in “Paestum Landing” reduce scale scenario, the following American Rifle Company HQ’s and platoons are used based from Battlefront’s FOW North Africa book organization tempered with the D-Day book (Utah) for amphibious assault. Two American Rifle companies, one on each half of the Yellow and Blue beach sector zones, represent 1st and 3rd battalions of the 141st regiment in reduced scaled format. The scenario notes (.doc) file has complete organization details and tabletop deployment zones. [Approximately 3550 FOW points].

Yellow Beach First wave (3rd Btn 141st RCT):

Company HQ, 1st and 2nd Rifle platoons, Weapons platoon.

Yellow Beach Reserve pool (3rd Btn 141st RCT):

Regiment HQ 141st RCT base (in scenario acts as extra Company CinC team for both beach zones). 3rd Rifle platoon, Cannon 105mm platoon, partial SP A/A M13 MGMC platoon, Engineer platoon with military bulldozer, M4 Sherman platoon (5 tanks), Field Artillery battery 105mm lands via DUKWs and not landing craft.

Blue Beach First wave (1st Btn 141st RCT):

Company HQ, 1st, 3rd Rifle platoons, Weapons platoon.

Blue Beach Reserve pool (1st Btn 141st RCT):

Mortar platoon, partial SP A/A M13 MGMC platoon, SP A/T M3 75mm platoon (tank destroyer rules), M4 Sherman platoon (5 tanks).

Aerial and naval gunnery support arrives during the scenario for both beach sectors.

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Highway 18 or known as Via Magna Graecia from roman times.

Germans:  The 16th Panzer Division, except for about a dozen infantry platoons drawn from the division’s four infantry battalions manning the beach strongpoints and some supporting StuG III along the lengthy Gulf of Salerno coastline, had the bulk of its strength grouped in four Kampfgruppen ([KG). Three KG’s north of the Sele-Calore region (Dornemann, von Holtey, and Stempel) and von Doering’s south near Paestum. On 9th September, the day of the Salerno invasion, the southern KG von Doering formed at least four groups, each roughly of a company of infantry and a company of tanks, to probe and harass the American landing while the northern KG’s did the same, mostly directed at British 56th Division. In summary, 16th Panzer Division formed four Kampfgruppen (KG) for the defense of Gulf of Salerno region:

KG Dörnemann (Ausfklarung.16 plus subordinated units) N and NW Salerno;
KG Stempel (Pz.Gren.Rgt.64, 2./Pz.Pioneer.16, III./Pz.Art.Rgt.16, III./Pz.Rgt.2) between Salerno and Sele river;
KG Doering (Pz.Gren.Rgt.79 plus subordinated units) Paestum-Agropoli area;

KG von Holtey (II./Pz.Rgt.2 (less two companies) plus an artillery battery and engineer platoon in reserve at Persano. Sort of a divisional reserve.

II./PzRgt2 was equipped with Panzer IV (4 companies with 22 PzIV each)
III./PzRgt2 was equipped with Sturmgeschütze (3 companies with 14 StuGs each);

From Nafziger the supportive OOB files: 943gima943gimb

16th Panzer Division 1/,2/,3/2nd Armored Regiment, 16th Panzer Grenadier Brigade 1/,2 (halftrack)/64th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 1/,2/79th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 16th Panzerjäger Battalion, 16th Reconnaissance Battalion, 1/16th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 2/16th Panzer (self-propelled) Artillery Regiment, 3/16th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 274th (mot) Flak Battalion, 16th Signals Battalion, 16th Pioneer Battalion, 16th Feldersatz Battalion, 16th Divisional Support Units.

Additional Salerno 1943 16th PzDiv notes: As of 8th September the operational / non-operational armored strength of 16th Panzerdivision was:

Panzers: 7/0 Flammpanzer III
, 12/0 Panzer IV (k), 
86/6 Panzer IV (l), 
37/3 StuG III.

Its artillery strength was: 14x 7.5cm leIG, 11x 15cm sIG Sfl, 10x 10.5cm leFH, 8x 10.5cm leFH Sfl
, 4x 10cm K, 8x 15cm sFH, 5x 15cm sFH Sfl, 5x 8.8cm Flak. No wonder the off-shore Allied fleet and landing craft spent the morning under heavy artillery bombardment.

german-division-panzer-16

Representing the 16th PzDiv Kampfgruppe Doering in reduced scaled format, the following German Panzer Company HQ’s and platoons are used based from Battlefront’s FOW North Africa book organization. The scenario notes (.doc) file has complete organization details and tabletop deployment zones. [Approximately 3550 FOW points].

Kampfgruppe Doering deploys at start:

Torre di Paestum defense post consisting of two HMG teams and one sniper team.

Quad 2cm AA and single 2cm AA in beach dunes.

PzGrenadier Company HQ with attached 8cm mortars, PzGrenadier platoon, PzGrenadier Heavy platoon, PzGrenadier Mortar Platoon, Assault gun StuG IIIG platoon, Two sniper teams. Artillery observers teams.

German arriving reinforcements during scenario play:

2x PzGren motorized platoons, PzPioneer platoon, Light A/A gun Sd Kfz 10/5 2cm, Panzer IV G platoon (4 tanks), Panzer IV G platoon (3 tanks).

German Luftwaffe presence overhead starts on scenario turn six.

Off board Motorized Artillery battery (Cmd, Staff, 4x 10.5cm LeFH18 howitzers, 2 obs.) positioned in the local hills on call with observed fire anywhere on the scenario battlefield at start. Cannot be counter-bombarded during scenario. Artillery battery observer teams start on tabletop with their kubelwagen transport available.

american-spitfire-mk-vc-307th-fighter-sqn-on-paestum-beach

American Spitfire mk V shot down over the beaches, crash landing along the beachfront. Allies didn’t have air superiority during the landings unlike the later Normandy invasion.

Print sources used for the scenario:

Salerno: American Operations From the Beaches to the Volturno (9 September-6 October 1943) is one of a series of fourteen studies of World War II operations originally published by the War Department’s Historical Division and now returned to print as part of the Army’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of that momentous clash of arms. These volumes, prepared by professional historians shortly after the events described, provide a concise summary of some of the major campaigns and battles fought by American soldiers. The skillful combination of combat interviews with primary sources, many of which are now lost, gives these unassuming narratives a special importance to military historians.

Salerno

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Other books found on the warren library bookshelves along with the older Flames of War editions to generate the forces for the scenario:

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BF FOW North Africa bookcover

9780958275521

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting account of the U.S. Navy’s 4th Beach Battalion at Paestum – Salerno landings (.doc): 4th Beach Battalion at Salerno

From FReeper Foxhole pages the article: Salerno – Foothold in Europe

Scenario for Paestum Landing found on the Internet: The 36th Infantry at Paestum, Italy from the Shermon Armony blog. Seems to be a FOW scenario based upon units and points.

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American GI’s walking past the Temple di Nettuno.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guarding the new WR warren. Gi’s on guard outside the Temple of Nettuno.

 

Taking a little sightseeing walk past the romanized warren. If interested in Greek / Roman towns, look up Paestum on the internet. The Paestum illustration below came from the J. C. Golvin site. Great work and worth a visit. Looks a bit large matched to the archeological ruins footprint but… it’s Rome and everything is large to showcase the power of Rome. Note the roman city wall in illustration foreground and compare to the modern drawing of the same wall following.

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Paestum in its heyday. Image from the excellent J. C. Golvin site with many detailed illustrations of the ancient world.

paestum-roman-town-wall

Still does a good job stopping any WWII vehicle and firing over its height would be a problem using direct fire. Infantry can climb up a bit and then fire over.

Published and future Salerno 1943 scenarios (American sector) planned with historical date and scenario title name:

Sept 9th 1). Paestum Landing (night landing of 141st RCT)

Sept 11th 2). Calore River crossing (179th 2nd Btn.) covered by this blog article

Sept 11th 3). Ordeal of the 179th RCT (179th RCT)

Sept 11th 4). 1st Battle Tobacco Factory (157th RCT)

Sept 12th 5). Hill 424, German Counterattack (142nd RCT)

Sept 12th 6). 2nd Battle Tobacco Factory (157th RCT)

Sept 13th 7). Retaking Altavilla and Hill 424 (142 & 143 RCT)

Sept 13th 8). Storm breaks at Tobacco Factory (157th RCT and elements of 179th RCT)

Sept 14th 9). Holding the Last Line

 

WR

P.S. Other stillborn Mediterranean – Italian invasion plans. Salerno wasn’t the only Allied plan for the invasion of southern europe early in 1943. Operation Brimstone makes for a light reading for the issues Allied theater commanders had during 1943. Also, worthy of thought, was Operation Mincemeat, more commonly known as “The Man Who Never Was” story of a successful British disinformation plan during the Second World War.

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3 thoughts on “Paestum Landing – Salerno 1943

    • Thanks Phil.

      We will have to see how the scenario plays out to the actual exposure of gamers and dice rolling. Scheduled for the HMGS-PSW convention next weekend so the AAR soon afterwards.

      Michael aka wR

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