Currahee!

with Chris Potter, BF UK

For me nothing typifies Late War like the Normandy invasion. The largest seaborne invasion in history? Check. The largest airborne drop of troops to date? Check. And all this against a dug in and entrenched foe, led by none other than the Desert Fox himself: Erwin Rommel.

When the Late War journey was announced and the information about the books started to come to fruition, I was in my element like a kid in a sweet shop. I was at the front of the queue when we had the Late War sale clutching my list of ‘must haves’ begging the boss to let me get my blisters and box sets. Like a lot of others, I had to wait my turn, much to the better half’s relief as my list far outweighed my wages.

But boy did the factory deliver. I managed to bag myself two boxes of US Parachute Infantry, to get my Band of Brothers Airborne fix, as well as a box of 29th Infantry for the all important beach landings. This would be the start of my D-Day Force. Because on the horizon I was being tempted by the new plastic Airborne sprues and some rather tasty kit in the form of new plastic jeeps and rumours of 80mm mortars to rain fire on the enemy.

However, Matt managed to bring me back to the present as he reminded me that we needed to put together forces for Fortress Europe before I got carried away with the US D-Day book. Sorry boys of the 29th and 101st, you will have to wait whilst the glory boys of the 3rd Armored have their time in the spotlight.

I don’t want to reiterate what has already been said by a thousand others, but nothing screams US dominance on the Western Front like the wonderful Sherman tank. Whatever version of Sherman, you see a group of these coming, and you know that the rest of the US forces are not far behind. They are the breakthrough, the reason that prior to D-Day in 1944 the plucky Brits designed a Duplex Drive (DD) system to allow them to ‘swim’ up the beach to smash the enemy. They even fitted them with canvas flotation devices to literally float them through the surf.

From Omaha to Caen, throughout Market Garden to the German homeland, Detroit’s finest were leading the way and looking good doing it!

So when I saw that the new US Combat Command contained no less than 5 Shermans, which when combined with the 8 found in the Hit The Beach starter set, meant I had the solid core needed for a Fortress Europe Armoured Company. Add into that, the Priests for some artillery support and the M10 Tank Destroyers for some long range AT, all I need is some Armoured Rifles to take and hold objectives.

I am really excited to field Americans in Late War for V4. At heart this is all about getting as many models onto the table all at once. My usual modus operandi is to get what looks cool, then play a few games and work out the weaknesses before changing up the army composition. This time will be no different. My first game is against Gareth’s Germans. Let’s see how the Combined Arms list compares and performs!

Big Four of Late War: Victor

Victor “el Presidente” Pesch is the ring leader of Big Four, having come up with the entire concept of embarking on the Journey alongside our players. Known in the Studio for his painting prowess he spends his days wrangling Photoshop and InDesign working as a Graphic Designer, whilst his nights are spent working on whatever new project takes his fancy. He has his eyes set on an American force filled with Sherman tanks. For now…

You can follow Victor’s Big Four journey here…

Fortress Europe: Americans Spotlight

with Phil Yates

The US Army focused on standardisation to enable it to fight a war on a far-away continent. At the beginning of 1944, they had one type of medium tank, one type of light tank, one armoured infantry organisation and one infantry organisation.

This makes it easy if you are planning to field an American force. Your most important decision is how to combine these standardised components to win your battles. Do you want to go tank-heavy, with just a little infantry support? Do you want to field a solid infantry force with a few tanks for backup? Or do you want to field a balanced mix with the right tool for every situation?

M4 Sherman Tank Company

  • Uses same M4 Sherman tanks as Mid War, including the same T30 75mm assault guns and M3A1 armoured cars in the integrated support.
  • Cost-effective medium tanks with integrated support. A full company of 17 tanks with a recon patrol and self-propelled mortars and artillery for just 70 points!
  • Stabilisers for greater volume of fire on the move.
  • Flexibility. Can swap out a platoon of M4 Shermans medium tanks for a platoon of M5 Stuart light tanks.

M5 Stuart Tank Company

  • New upgraded M5 Stuart light tank. Just as fast as the Mid-War M3 Stuart, but better armour and not so reckless.
  • Exceptionally fast, ideal for flanking manoeuvres.
  • Cheap light tanks with the same integrated support as the M4 Sherman Tank Company.
  • Flexibility. Can swap out a platoon of M5 Stuart light tanks for a platoon of M4 Shermans medium tanks.

Armoured Rifle Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Armoured M3 half-tracks for battlefield mobility, even under fire.
  • A weapon for every occasion.
    • Platoons have riflemen, light machine-guns, mortars, bazookas, and half-track-mounted machine-guns.
    • Formation has integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and self-propelled artillery.
  • Massed firepower overwhelms the enemy when attacking and shoots down any attack.
  • Large, resilient platoons withstand a lot of enemy fire.

Rifle Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Cost-effective infantry with large, cheap platoons that can withstand a lot of enemy fire.
  • Platoons can be further reinforced with extra bazookas and light and heavy machine-guns for more firepower.
  • Formation has integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and self-propelled artillery.
  • American riflemen manoeuvre quickly at dash speed.

M10 Tank Destroyer Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Massed self-propelled anti-tank guns, with up to 12 in a company.
  • Integrated recon patrols for perfect initial deployment spearheading into No Man’s Land to flank enemy tank attacks.
  • Use Seek, Strike, and Destroy doctrine to blitz into position and then scoot back out of sight after shooting up the enemy.
  • As mobile as a medium tank, and almost as well armoured, but fewer machine-guns and no top armour, so stay away from enemy infantry.

Support

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Three batteries of towed 105mm or self-propelled M7 Priest artillery give American forces powerful artillery support on top of the integrated artillery in formations.
  • Time on Target rule allows supporting artillery to make enemy infantry and guns re-roll successful saves for extra deadliness.

How Do the Americans Play?
The American forces in this book represent the fresh divisions pouring into Europe ready for the D-Day landings. They are well trained and eager for battle, although still lacking in actual combat experience to polish off the rough edges and teach them the difference between training and life-or-death battle. Most are rated as Confident, Trained, and Aggressive. Their eagerness shows in their ‘Blood and Guts’ approach to warfare which gives their tanks a better Last Stand rating and their infantry a better Rally rating.

American tanks have stabilisers, so they can fire as quickly on the move as at the halt (although not as accurately). On the other hand, they are not heavily armoured and mount mid-range guns, so need to use weight of numbers and clever manoeuvring rather than frontal firefights to defeat enemy tanks.

Their infantry have Garand semi-automatic rifles and BAR automatic rifles, as well as half-track-mounted weapons, and can fire just as well on the move as they can when halted. They are fast moving and have plenty of fire support. Let their support pound the enemy while the manoeuvre, then swamp the enemy in fire and roll over them from an unexpected direction.
The American strategy can be summarized in the phrase mobile tactics. They win by using their mobility and numbers to outflank their opponents and keep them off balance, while applying massed firepower to overwhelm any opposition.

What to Expect in D-Day: American
Your Fortress Europe force will easily transfer to D-Day: American, gaining some useful new kit and skills in the process. Your tankers will appreciate upgunned M4 Shermans mounting 76mm and 105mm guns, and your infantry will find the new 57mm anti-tank gun an improvement over their old 37mm gun.

Some of your older equipment like the M3A1 armoured car and T30 self-propelled guns will be phased out, to be replaced with improved M8 armoured cars, M20 scout cars, and M8 Scott self-propelled guns.

D-Day Americans will also bring veteran American formations. These troops have been through the school of hard knocks. They’ve learned the hard way, so they aren’t as gung ho any more, but their tactics are much better.

There will be lots of totally new options for a whole new D-Day force as well.

As you’d expect these improvements come at a cost, and some players will elect to stick with what they have in Fortress Europe, preferring extra numbers over increased performance. Whichever way you go, your Fortress Europe force is a solid base for any future developments.

Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon Unit Card

with Jim Westerfield

From the mid-1930s until the late 1950s, U.S. Army infantry regiments in each division contained an Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) platoon as part of the regimental headquarters company. In 1939, the I&R platoon Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) authorized 10 infantrymen to make up the unit. This was expanded to 18 infantrymen in 1940 and the platoon TO&E, in 1941, was authorized to include 1/4-ton vehicles (Jeeps).

I&R Platoon of the 180th Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in WWII.

The I&R platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and two reconnaissance squads. Platoon headquarters consists of the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, driver, topographic draftsman, radio operator, and scouts and observers. Each squad consists of a squad leader, assistant squad leader, radio operator, drivers, scouts and observers. The platoon headquarters had one jeep while each squad had three jeeps, some of which carried radios.

     
The soldiers that made up the platoon are all infantrymen, given additional training by the regimental S-2, as there was no institutional military intelligence school at the time. Training of the platoon members focused on operating as scouts along with map and aerial photograph reading, conventional signs, military symbols and abbreviations, sketching, oral and written reporting, scouting and patrolling, theory and practice of observation, camouflage and the art of concealment, and the collection of information.

Individual equipment for members of the I&R platoon include standard infantry small arms and equipment, though individuals in the field often supplemented the standard issue as they saw fit. Each squad also had a prismatic compass, a 20-power monocular telescope and/or a pair of field glasses, and a watch. The platoon members carried notebooks and writing materials and colored pencils to pass along information and mark maps.

War Department FM 7-25, Headquarters Company, Intelligence and Signal Communication, Rifle Regiment, October 7, 1942 states:

“The principle mission of the regimental intelligence platoon is to serve as the special intelligence agency of the regimental commander, for the collection, recording, evaluation and dissemination of information, under the supervision of the regimental intelligence officer (S-2). The platoon is also charged with counterintelligence measures and surveillance. Actual operations of this platoon are conducted under the immediate control of the platoon leader. He may receive his orders directly from the regimental commander, S-2, or S-3. During training periods, it may be required to assist the S-2 in conducting intelligence and counterintelligence instruction within the regiment.”

The main function of the I&R platoon was to be the ears and eyes of the regimental commander. FM 7-25 describes the principle functions of the platoon as:

  • Gathering detailed information about the enemy and terrain in locations that are not readily accessible to the rifle companies of the battalions or regiment.
  • Assemble, evaluate and distribute information and intelligence gathered by the platoon and by subordinate, higher, or adjacent friendly units.
  • Provide early warning to the regiment on the presence, disposition, composition, and approach of enemy forces of all types. Operate well in advance of the regiment in order to gain and maintain contact with the enemy.
  • Maintain contact with reconnaissance and security formations of other, larger formations that are operating forward or to the flanks of the regiment.
  • Regain lost contact with adjacent, attached and assigned friendly units. Locate and maintain contact with the flanks of an enemy force when contact is gained by dismounted combat elements of the regiment.
  • Reconnoiter avenues of approach, routes, river crossings and complex enemy obstacles. Search suspicious, dominating and critical areas along the route of march to identify possible ambush sites, defended roadblocks, route classification and contaminated areas.
  • Establish and operate 24-hour observation and listening posts.
  • Conduct dismounted patrolling to the front, flanks, and rear of the regiment when terrain or enemy situation precludes the use of mounted patrolling.
  • Assist the regimental S-2 at the command post or at a tactical observation/tactical command post by maintaining the intelligence situation map, and/or keeping an intelligence log, taking and preparing reports, messages and sketches.
  • Carry out such counterintelligence measures as directed by the regimental commander or S-2. Provide instruction on the subject to other units of the regiment. Search undefended or captured towns and villages and captured enemy equipment and positions.

Some other missions performed by the platoon that were not specifically included in standard doctrine were;

  • Liaison between regiments of the division.
  • Messenger duties between battalions of the regiment.
  • Escort and security for the regimental commander as he moved forward of the main command post.
  • Serving as radio-telephone operators for regimental command in dismounted offensive operations.
  • Marking of route of march for the regiment and providing guides at traffic control points.
  • Accompanying a combat or reconnaissance patrol conducted by rifle platoons or companies from subordinate infantry battalions of the regiment in order to report on tactical progress of intelligence acquired directly to the regimental commander.
  • Conduct economy of force operations on a flank of the regiment in order to provide early warning and prevent the regiment from being surprised.

While being trained infantrymen, thus capable of getting involved in direct fighting against enemy forces, the primary duty of the I&R platoon is to support the front-line infantry and regimental commander by carrying out the above type of missions and not get directly into a firefight.  The MTOE did vary during the war but we will go with the 1942 organization.  

In Flames of War:
The I&R platoon is an additional platoon in the Rifle Company formation diagram.  To model the platoon, we will use the organization from V3 North Africa with a command carbine team of 3 figures and 2 carbine teams of 4 figures.  I used the dismounted armored recon platoon to build the unit. As the pick of the litter they are a little better trained than most of the rest of the guys in the regiment.  Very useful for calling in fire. For points we will use the rifle platoon as a benchmark. We will be adding recon and spearhead skills, but in compensation we will have worse Rally and Counter Attack ratings. At slightly less than one point per rifle team we, rounding up we get 1 point for the platoon.  

New Mid War Unit Cards

Over the course of Version 4, the Flames of War community has been very enthusiastic about particular units that did not make the cut for the new books. Units with significant fan clubs have found their fans sending us unit cards to allow those units to be fielded in your V4 forces.

During the launch, and in the future, we will share some of these cards with you. The launch day cards will be available on the Flames of War Website next week for download here…

These cards are neither ‘official’ nor ‘unofficial’, but have been researched and tested, so it’s up to you, your opponent, or your TO as to whether or not you can field them.

We know you’ll enjoy seeing some of these old friends on the battlefield again.

M3 Lees with Yellow Stars?

with Chris Townley

As I mentioned in a previous article I don’t have much to do for my Soviets under Enemy at the Gates so I’ve chosen to use the Live Launch as an opportunity to chip away at my M3 Lee Tank Company from Fighting First.Like a number of my colleagues I was quite taken with the US forces in Fighting First and there is something appealing about applying a large number of yellow decals to a tank. I am sure Soviet players get the same feeling when adding big red stars to their tanks.

My army is completely painted, excluding detail work like stowage, tools, wheels and vehicle interiors – so using the term completely is probably a little misleading? Over the launch I’m working in finishing up the decals – each Lee has something like eight different decals that need to be carefully attached. Next up is tools and stowage. I can never be sure how much I’ll actually achieve during one of our Live Launches as I seem to spend more time behind a computer screen than behind a paint brush.

I am really excited to get the army finished and on the table. It has been spending too much time sitting in limbo slowly being painted rather than running around the table shooting up Panzer IIIs (or whatever else my friends choose to throw at me).

~Chris