Operation Wintergewitter (Winter Storm), the small-scale German-Italian 1944 Christmas offensive in the Appennines, was the last meaningful feat of arms of the dying Rome-Berlin Axis. Fought along the winter Gothic Line, one German and Italian division, supported by smaller formations, were divided into three columns intent on seizing several villages, which would improve their defensive line for the coming spring offensives, as well as bolster the morale of the dying Italian Republican Army. The San Marco marines had no problems in occupying the village of Molazzano and in pushing back the defenders, but the Regimental HQ Company suffered losses and could not take the village of Brucciano. The Cadelo Group, helped by the Intra battalion which was engaging the enemy in little diversionary attacks, occupied Calomini, but Vergemoli -- defended by troops of the 370th Infantry Regiment, and some partisan groups -- was a tough not to crack. A wide minefield, artillery shelling and intense machinegun and rifle fire faced the advancing Italian platoons.
Attacker: RSI Italian (Elements Cadelo Recce Group, 4th Alpine Division Monterosa & 2nd Btn, 6th San Marco Marine Regt)
I said it often as we were playing, but this ended up being one of the tensest games I've played in some time. The Allies don't have much, and have a lot of area to cover. They are also facing three Italian guns that will have a vantage over almost the entire battlefield. Add to this the four fanatic Italian commandos (which felt like they were everywhere) and I really did not see the 2:1 advantage the Allies enjoyed in the win/loss ratio. The Italians do have to descend from the snowy hills, and face a fair amount of wire and mines, so this will initially slow them down. What didn't give them pause was my OBA, as my radio red-chitted out on Turn 1. So much for keeping the gun crews' heads down, and this would make shuffling my defense very difficult. Turn 2 was a bit brutal for the Italians, as they lost 2.5 squads (including a commando) kicking off their assault on the V8 building. They would find breaking in difficult with mines in and around it. The wire, which I had mostly placed to make the ACs entry difficult, proved exceptionally well-positioned to also keep the infantry in check. And the smoke the Italians placed, which initially helped make their approach safer, proved detrimental in their attacks on the building occupants. An intrepid Italian HS managed to make its way into melee in V9, but a PSK ran out of ammo. One of the ACs bogged trying to cross the wire, another threatened the defenders in the west, while the third did an admirable job VBM freezing the 0.50 HMG squad and hero. To the Allies chagrin on their part of the turn, gusts blew away the Italian-placed smoke. Thankfully the cavalry had arrived though, as they were much needed trying to shore up the church and give the Italian ACs something to think about. To do this though they would have to put their OT bodies in harm's way of some fair Italian firepower and those damned guns. Turn 4 kicked off with a BAZ knocking out the western AC, the Italians able to win the V9 melee and start another in V8, and also make some inroads into the church - where another melee commenced. CC would play a big part in the carnage throughout the game. The bottom of the turn saw the Americans flame the VBM AC (providing some more much-needed smoke), but all three American vehicles would go down, leaving neither side with any mobile vehicles (the bogged Italian AC having immobilised). Turn 5 saw the American hero finally meet his maker, but a squad in V8 continued to hold its own vs 2.5 Italian squads and their hero. Meanwhile the church was also seeing its fair share of CC, but the Americans were able to position themselves in an almost unassailable position thanks to the steeple adding another location. But the Italians tried on Turn 6, blasting the X6 melee and upper level with a dual CH, with the end result killing 1.5 American squads and an Italian squad. A DC and some fine shooting took care of the ground and first level of W6, but a concealed 9-1 remained safe in the steeple. When the Italians still could not dispatch the 666 in V8 (only managing a CR), the Americans ended up holding all buildings by the merest of threads. A really nice game and fine scenario, that probably would've proved too difficult for the Italians had the Americans had their OBA to call down.
(A) Scott Sherer
(D) X von Marwitz
This is an interesting scenario featuring some Italians on steroids (some of them are elite, commandos, have underlined morale, assault fire capability, are fanatic, and can use PF as if German). The Italians have to capture 3 of 5 multi-hex buildings in a village, with the village church counting as 2. They have pretty good leadership and a hero to get them forward. As support, they have two 81mm MTRs and a 75mm Gun with SMOKE placing capability. Reinforcements consists of 3 Armored Cars. The defending US forces supported by some partisans can man a thin line. They have the advantage of good TEM and get some wire, trenches, foxholes and mines along with two fortified building locations to harden their defenses. A field phone can call in two 70mm+ OBA fire missions. An M8, an M20 and a Jeep with very little infantry will reinforce the US.
The Italians need to get going in this one, they will be short on time in any case. But with the smoke capability by means of their guns and their commandos on steroids, they have the means to create cover and to put pressure on the US. What is really significant in this scenario is the remarkably low number of blind hexes to the MTRs and Guns that will likely be placed on the level 4 hills.
My opponent was quite new to the game and, as is typical for new players, a bit cautious in his movement. Furthermore, he placed the 75mm gun in an awkward position. He attacked in force on the US left flank with a small force on the right flank. His mortars were evil, getting some nasty ROF tears throughout the game (6 and 7 shots...). By that means, my „main“ unit – a 666+MMG was broken on the left and in consequence I was quite thin for the onslaught. On the other hand, I managed to create a hero on a HoB roll.
My basic plan was to cover the woods on the right by the OBA and 60mm MTR (and to rely on any Italians caught in it to be broken and not coming back in time to have any impact on the game.) The forward victory building on the right was well equipped with fortifications to make it a tough nut to crack. The two buildings on the right would be eventually abandoned and time bought while falling back onto the village church. A 2.5 level building, it can be a pain to take if short on time – especially with a fortified location in it.
In general, the plan worked out. The MTRs had me on the tip of my toes, though, as I had to do with minmal fire power in good order on the right. Eventually, though, most of the forces rallied, the church was stiffened by the reinforcements and the Italian flanking force was caught in OBA harassing fire in the woods which broke all of them.
In the end, time was playing for the US defenders and the Italians would not have had any reasonable chance to capture the church AND the rightmost building after occupying the two leftmost ones.