Battle of Troina – Sicily 1943

After General Patton’s “end run” across the Island of Sicily, taking the western half and the old city of Palermo on the run, his II Corps headed eastward entering the mountainous northern half of the island. Quickly the pace of advance was reduced to a slow ridge line, or river line, or old hilltop town clearing process. Skillful German rearguard actions, holding the key terrain features, maximized German-Italian efforts to delay both the American and British advancing armies as preparations continued for the cross strait Messina final evacuation to mainland Italy.

The Battle for Troina was a week-long bitter struggle to seize control of the old Sicilian hilltop town and nearby “mountain” terrain. Being somewhat central on the endgame Allied frontal map lines of Sicily, with the Americans battling along the northern coastal road at San Fratello, and the British around the flanks of volcanic Mt. Enta to the southeast, the town of Troina was seen by both sides as a linchpin or hinge to stall or finish the Sicilian island campaign.

Linchpin or hinge on the military maps, the American 1st “Big Red” Division wanted the town and access to the eastern narrow highway SS120 beyond towards Cesaro and eventually Messina itself. The German 15th Panzergrenadier Division, their hilltop town and nearby low mountains having a view of the American advance, planned the defense with deadly precision. The Americans didn’t disappoint them, their August 1st first probing frontal attack was quickly rebuffed when launched by the 39th Regiment (transferred in from US 9th Division to support the 1st Division).

II Corps advance prior to the Battle of Troina. Map from the US Army history WWII MTO.

Troina as viewed from the American general approach during WWII. Lots of open hilly ground overlooked by the German defenders. (US Army photo)

The American viewpoint towards Troina and the 39th Regiment (attached 1st Div.) tried a direct August 1st assault up that slope. Compare modern-day Troina view with previous historical photo.

Historical WWII picture of Troina looking westwards. Another axis of American attack (16th Regt.) approached from that direction with little success before German retreat.

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Crossing Calore River 1943

The Salerno – Calore River crossing 1943 Flames of War 20mm scenario is based upon the efforts of 2nd Battalion, 179th RCT to advance across the Calore river, block German access to Highway 19 near Serre, and link up with the rest of their 179th RCT taking a different route towards Ponte-Sele and Serre. To this current day, the open fields around the battlefield are pretty much untouched except for the local farming. The road network, maybe gravel back in 1943 but paved now, is basically unchanged. The bridge has been replaced since the battle, the original one destroyed by the retiring German panzergrenadiers prior to the American arrival.


Google view: Current day Calore bridge crossing. Note the underbrush near the river across bridge. Hill 424 is short distance behind the camera. Modern day building at left.


Google view looking south: Center of battlefield with Hill 424 in distance overlooking  entire area with German artillery spotters. As seen, ground is flat with slight elevations and raised roadway.


Google view looking south from near the modern developments and cross-road junction. Basically farmland. the roadway looks the same except repaved since then. SP88 is the Italian route #.

After splashing ashore during the dark early hours of September 9th, the American beachhead steadily enlarged on the 10th and early morning hours of the 11th, beating back several local German counterattacks during the first days on mainland Italian soil. During the early morning darkness of September 11th, the American RCT’s (142nd, 157th, and 179th) advanced into the local Italian foothills and Sele-Calore river corridor inland from the invasion beaches, hoping to control Highway 19 near Ponte-Sele and Serre, plus occupy the valuable observation hilltop called Hill 424 and nearby Altavilla village. Unfortunately, the early arrival of the 29th Panzergrenadier Division, joining the defending 16th Panzer Division, soon stopped the American general advance cold, then changed the battlefields to desperate defenses, as successive German Kampfgruppe attacks impacted each of the three RCT commands that and following days.

Fifth Army Landing Beaches Salerno 9-13 Sept

Salerno beachhead enlargement from landing September 9th to September 13th, The RCTs are marked for their Sept 13th position… the 179th was pulled and sent west of 157th for example.

Concurrent at the same time of this Calore river crossing scenario, the three other significant events occurring on the American Salerno invasion battlefield: 1) The early stages of the battle for Altavilla town and Hill 424, 2) The efforts of the 179th RCT (1st and 3rd battalions) to secure the Sele-Calore corridor region and occupy Ponte Sele and Serre across Highway 19, and 3) The initial assault on the Tobacco factory by the 157th RCT, trying to take pressure off the beleaguered 179th RCT.

Left Flank Sept 11 179th & 157 RCT

Crossing the Calore river scenario lower right quarter of map. Map covers all the engagements fought by 142nd, 157th, and 179th RCT on September 11th and German movement / attacks.

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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.


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


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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Ordeal of 179th RCT

Days after the initial American landings along the Salerno coast, the American have finished consolidating their beachhead position and have started to expand with regimental (RCT) sized maneuvers to seize key high ground surrounding the American beach landing. The third in a series of linked scenarios based upon events around Salerno, “Ordeal of 179th RCT” deals with the American northeastern advance led by the 179th RCT between the Sele and Calore Rivers…. known as the “Sele-Calore corridor”, across the open farmland, to reach their September 11th evening objective, the German controlled Highway 19 at Ponte Sele and the village of Serre.

During the evening of September 10th and the early morning hours of September 11th, 179th RCT is tasked with seizing control of Highway 19 at two points on the map, Ponte Sele and the village of Serre astride Highway 19. German presence and opposition has been light in the American beachhead sector to date, compared to the battles faced by the British up north around Salerno. Advancing from the American beaches where they landed the day before, the 179th RCT (45th Division), joined that morning by the 157th RCT and, to the south by 142nd RCT near Altavilla (Hill 424), all hoped to secure the high ground surrounding the beachhead, thus reducing the accurate German artillery observation.

Left Flank Sept 11 179th & 157 RCT

September 11th. The 179th RCT advances along two axis, Across the Sele River then along the Tenuta Persano road eastwards and the failed flanking march to cross the Calore north of Altavilla on Highway 88. Map also shows the engagements by 157th RCT at the tobacco factory fought on September 11-12th. Map from “Salerno” CMH US Army.

Fifth Army Landing Beaches Salerno 9-13 Sept

General map of Salerno landings including the British northern sector. Like the Americans, September 11th has British battalions grimly holding positions, especially near Battipaglia.

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FOW Valmontone 1944 revisit

A first for WR’s son Daniel. Daniel ran his first convention scenario at Strategicon-GAMEX over the Memorial Day weekend (sunday). Basic and proven Flames of War 20mm action, the Valmontone Italy 1944 scenario has been played several times between WR and Daniel. Set during the Anzio breakout battles before the entrance of the Allies into Rome, the scenario has the US. 3rd Infantry Division against the tough opponents of the Herman Goring Division.

Scenario map for Valmontone Italy 1944. Each square is 1 foot for 6'x4' tabletop.

Scenario map for Valmontone Italy 1944. Each square is 1 foot for 6’x4′ tabletop.

Scenario notes and Allied or German forces has been covered in a previous WR post Valmontone 1944.  A previous Valmontone 1944 after action report can be read for a comparison of the basic scenario action. Valmontone 1944 AAR

For the convention scenario game. Daniel made two changes to the tabletop terrain and forces involved. He added one additional M4 Sherman platoon (5xM4) to the American roster and expanded the table width to 8 feet from the basic 6 foot set up. The expanded table width is common for WR’s FOW 20mm scenarios due to the increase 20mm base footprint on the tabletop (+25% adjustment for scenario width). The German entrance points along the Highway 6 were adjusted for the increased table width.

Before the narrative, a quick review of the American and German force deployment. For the Americans, the weight of the assault was placed on the right half of the table. Both M4 Sherman platoons, the M3 Stuart platoon (or M5), the armored rifle platoon in their M3 halftracks and the assault reinforced rifle platoon (in the vineyard). An observer from the M7 Priest battery (center table near back edge) joined the American Company HQ command group in the vineyard building. The remaining reinforced rifle platoon entered the central woods to hold the flank and threaten the German controlled center road junction objective.

The German deployment, completed before any American forces were placed, forced them to cover Highway 6 with interlocking fire zones. With both American objectives placed on Highway 6, one panzer grenadier platoon directly defended their placement, supported by the Pak40 75mm platoon with their anti-tank cannon and the German company HQ. On the German right the other HG panzer pioneer platoon, the NW41 Nebelwerfer rocket battery (6) and the heavy AA 88mm battery (2 cannon). Lastly, on their left, sort of by themselves, the Wespe artillery battery behind the tall hedge. Off table and placed in reserves, the StuG III assault platoon (3) and the mixed Panzer III / IV platoon (4), rolled to arrive each turn at either Highway entrance point 12″ from table edge. Unlike most American or German match-ups, both sides for this scenario are rated confident veteran.

With only six scenario turns, the American platoons must advance quickly across the Italian countryside. No time to sit back and shell the German positions to soften them up. Turn one has the American armor platoons race ahead across the tabletop followed by their armored infantry rifle platoon. The M7 Priest battery ranges in and shells the objective position on Highway 6, covering the German panzer grenadiers and their Pak40 A/T platoon under bombardment. The two American infantry platoons advance forward into the vineyard and central woods respectfully. In the shooting phase, the American tanks opened fire on the concealed Wespe platoon behind the hedge. Three of the Wespe armored 105mm vehicles quickly become burning torches but passed their morale test. Germans mostly stayed low in their prepared foxhole positions during their turn. The Pak40 75mm platoon drew quick blood, brewing up one M4 Sherman. Another Sherman quickly brewed up alongside from the distant 88mm battery zeroing in. No German reserves arrive.


Turn one completed. American opening flank movement with massed tanks, M3 halftrack rifle platoon, and two rifle platoons enter the central woods or vineyard. M7 Priests shell the objective road junction as the American tanks brew up the German Wespe platoon..

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Pointe du Hoc – Normandy 1944

Played a FOW 20mm Pointe du Hoc Normandy scenario last Sunday with Daniel (son). Before I post the After Action report (AAR) in next blog post, a bit of background material to set the stage for the scenario game.

During the planning of the Normandy D-Day beach assault, the strategic planners needed to destroy or neutralize several German coastal batteries mounting large-caliber canon just before the actual Normandy beach landing. The British landing sector had the Merville battery with Czech M.14/19 10cm guns which was airborne assaulted by the British 6th Airborne Division. The American beaches had the vintage GPF 155mm K418(f) guns battery emplaced at Pointe du Hoc battery assaulted by the US Rangers, featured in this scenario. Other inland German coastal batteries in Normandy were engaged by heavy US Navy and Royal Navy vessels, typically assigned a battleship and/or cruiser to engage during the landing phase of the operation. The St Marcouf-Crisbecq battery with Czech 21 cm Kanone 39 guns, the Azeville battery with 10.5cm guns, and the Longues-sur-Mer battery with its Skoda 15cm guns. Azeville battery defended itself from scattered American paratroopers during the daylight hours of June 6th while firing towards the shipping off Utah beach.  Maisy battery near the French village of Grandcamp-Maisy was not directly engaged by the Allied naval forces during June 6th and bombarded Omaha beach with its 155mm shells. After June 6th, the battery was engaged by naval forces and finally taken by the US Rangers supported by US 116th Regiment from Omaha beach on June 9th.

Point du Hoc today. The bombardment shell holes still very evident.

Point du Hoc today at low tide. The pre-assault bombardment shell holes still very evident.

Clearly shows the bombardment effect and the empty - wrecked battery emplacement locations.

Clearly shows the bombardment effect and the black circle empty – wrecked battery emplacement locations. the axis of approach reflects the misdirected approach from Pointe et Raz de la Percee.

Initial planning for the assault had US Rangers landing on both sides of Pointe du Hoc’s seaward protrusion. Due to the Rangers initial misdirection eastward towards Pointe et Raz de la Percée and efforts to shift westward back to Pointe du Hoc, the historical landing occurred only on the eastern side of Pointe du Hoc. For the scenario players can elect to land on either side of the seaward protrusion unless they elect to limit the initial Ranger platoon landing to the eastern side. Continue reading

Valmontone Italy – May 1944

This Flames of War Valmontone scenario is set in Italy during May 1944. General Clark, Commander US 5th Army has launched his breakout of the Anzio enclave, directing his breakout spearheads towards the Alban Hills and distant Rome. Task force Howze and the US 3rd Division are ordered to seize Highway Route 6 from the arriving elements of the Herman Goring Panzer Division. Highway Route 6 is a major German reinforcement and supply highway and route of retreat for the German 10th Armee from the Cassino front.

Scenario map and terrain notes. 6 foot by 4 foot tabletop girded off in one foot squares. American and German deployment zones marked for each side. Two objective marked positions A and B. Basic woods, vineyard, hedges, and difficult ground (slow going) area zones. For the actual scenario game it was a “Battle of the Dan’s.” Dan M. commanded the defensive Germans and Daniel took control of the advancing Americans in this novice player game. WR acted as the umpire and kept busy studying his FOW rules during the tabletop play.

Scenario map for Valmontone Italy 1944. Each square is 1 foot for 6'x4' tabletop.

Scenario map for Valmontone Italy 1944. Each square is 1 foot for 6’x4′ tabletop.

The American and German forces are found in Battlefront’s Flames of War (FOW) supplement Dogs & Devils or the later versions Road to Rome and Fortress Italy. The complete Valmontone scenario can also be found in Italy Battles booklet, posted file on the internet, or click on this (.pdf) link. Valmontone Scenario notes.  These scenario notes provide the set up, terrain comments, victory conditions, and German reserve platoons reinforcement arrival. The mentioned platoon point valuation [ xx pts.] below come from the Dogs & Devils supplement.

American and German platoons used in scenario. American on left, Germans on right.

American and German platoons used in scenario. American on left, Germans on right.

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