Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Team Yankee: Marschendorf - the untold story


You may have seen my previous post where I wargamed the hitherto little known skirmish in the vicinity of Vechta fought between units of the former NVA and the Bundeswehr on the 11th August 1985 around the hamlet of Marschendorf: Team Yankee: Hasty Attack at Marschendorf



Well it seems I have opened up a can of worms - I have had indignant emails and photos from veterans of the Luftwaffe who were operating in the skies above Vechta that day, and there is photographic evidence that at least one sortie was flown against the East German attack down the E37 corridor: 


Indeed it was quite effective, disrupting a potential attack by modern T-64 tanks which might have turned the scales. 


So I apologise to, and thank, those veterans for putting me right and correcting this missing piece of the story! (My thanks to former Stabsfunkmeister Scali Bach of the Luftwaffenf├╝hrungsdienstkommando Nord for the correction and imagery.)



However, on a more positive note, my blog has prompted locals living in the area to send in some of their amateur photography - mainly of the approaching NVA columns - motor rifles above, and 122mm Self Propelled guns below:


Amongst these treasures sent it was this amazing sequence of stills developed from a damaged Super 8 reel, taken by a remarkable young lady, only 14 at the time, Innerscent Beistander, showing an engagement sequence in and around the hamlet itself - showing just how near the East Germans got to their objectives:



The sequence opens with a pair of Leopard 1s jockeying around the barn and farmhouses...


And then entering the village square...



Opening fire - and the grim and fiery result....a Soviet T-64 knocked out!


I also though you'd be interesting some of the photos sent in by former OberPanzerKanonier Schaut Lauda of some of the artillery batteries involved in the action - obviously these were taken as the batteries were arriving as Schaut was soon to become too busy for taking snaps!


Schaut was sent off up the hill adjacent to his batteries position to range in, and took this photo looking down on his battery of M109Gs of the 15th Panzer Artillerie Batalion.


He also snapped off some photos of the Division's MRL batterie setting up nearby - but he doesn't think their salvoes intervened in the fighting around Marschedorf - too busy fighting off the main thrust against Vechta - thems's the breaks when you're only involved in a 'skirmish'!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Team Yankee - Hasty Attack at Marschendorf


The standard histories of World War Three give you chapter and verse on the large armoured battles around the main Warsaw Pact armoured thrusts, and the subsequent NATO armoured counter attacks. Less attention is paid to the minor, less well equipped harassing battles that occurred on the flanks of these historic offensives.


What of the small scale, localised blocking actions and flanking attacks laid on by the mobile reservists of the Bundeswehr's Heimatschutzkommandos, usually just equipped with wheeled vehicles and a handful of Milan ATGWs, their mission to delay the point; or attrit the flanks; of major armoured advances? 


These older, but no less tenacious warriors had to make do with support from second generation tanks, reliant on their local knowledge to know when they had imposed enough delay, or distraction, and it was time to fall back...


But equally, it might be that such minor inconveniences to the Red Thrusts might only be facing retribution from second line formations themselves, also equipped with wheeled APCs and elderly tanks...


This game was set around one such side-show, fought as a backdrop to the main advance of the NVA's 9th Panzer against Vechta, covered in Volksarmee on page 7. What was beneath the historian's notice was the subsidiary attack by one of the division's BTR-60 motor rifle regiments on the western flank of the main thrust, which came up against a light screen deployed by the light troops of the Bundeswehr's PanzerAufklaurungs Batallion 1 of the 1st Panzer on the 11th August 1985...


From Vechta looking SW - the autobahn can be seen lined with trees on the far right
The latter's mission was to delay any hostile thrust south along the E37. The ground here was flat, but interspersed with ample cover for ambushes, both armoured and with ATGW - if the enemy were kind enough to oblige by bulling through in the open!


But to what extend did they achieve their mission? This would be a Hasty Attack scenario.


The Ossies had a total of 117 points, made up of the aforementioned Motorisiertes Schutzen, with the support of a small Soviet detachment centered around 5 T-64s - the remainder of a Motor Rifle Regiment engaged in Day 1 of the war, now re-fuelled, re-harangued, bombed up, and with carrying a double dose of caution!



The core of this forces were the Motor Rifle Companies, one large and two small, given some teeth with ATGW and automatic grenade launchers...


But backed up with a company of 10 T-55AM2s and two platoons of Spandrel missile carriers.


The West German force was similarly equipped with second line AFVs - a Fuchs Panzeraufklarungs Kompanie and a Leo 1 Panzerkompanie, suitably supported by aviation and fast air:



The armour component was heavily supported by artillery - a battery both of M109Gs and MLRS, but in keeping with the light nature of the force also well supplied with Luchs:


The Mech infantry formation had the air support, 4 each Tornadoes and PAHs. I knew the PAHs were formidable against armour, but had never used the Tornado area denial sub-munition KB44 bombs before...


Another first for me was my East German dice, supplied by a great Aussie entrepreuneur Adam Brooker at Dice of War:



As defenders the Westies got to deploy first, and threw their forces well forward on both sides of the table to create a kill zone on both sides of the autobahn. Two Leopard platoons in the woods above Marschendorf, one covering the entry road, the other forming one side of the kill sack:


With plenty of time to get nicely hidden away but covering all entry points...


The other front end of the kill sacks was the top end of town in Lohne, occupied by a Mech inf platoon and supported by the formation commanders Leo 1...


The long base of the U formation was formed by the other two mech inf platoons, Milans to the fore...


And backed up by the PAH flight making use of the tall cover provided by the hamlet of Marschendorf itself...the third Panzer platoon was in ambush...


Assessing the table from the Warpact perspective, both flanks were covered, one by a hilly forest, the other by a large town, whereas there was an inviting clear run down the middle. Sure it would be covered by fire, but the Hasty Attack scenario lends itself to judicious use of Spearhead moves and so overwhelming forces could probably be on top of the objectives before NATO fires had a chance to tell...


Indeed the BRDM-2 Aufklarung zug fully justified its cost of two points by opening up the WarPact deployment area to well over halfway across the table!


So that the NATO kill sack was predictably as full of targets as anyone could wish - or too many?



The ossies had managed to bring plenty of AA assets along with them - the flyboys were going to have to fly into the teeth of low and medium level rounds and missiles to do any damage...



Further more, rather than blunder straight into the noose, the wily NVA commander had requested his Soviet fraternal comrade to secure his flank against the wooded high ground with his handful of T-64s, while the Motor Rifles secured the home objective...


To add to his flank security, he also debussed some of his Spigot ATGW teams to conceal themselves arount the armour formation...they would become busy, but perhaps not against the targets they had imagined...


So the initial couple of moves saw the Crimson Tide massed close to two key objectives... 


- this could be a quick game... 


However, the mass of T-55s presented a perfect target for the Leopards in ambush to pounce upon...



And the PAHs attempted to join in too...



However, the fire from ZSUs, Gophers, and, yes, even a couple of quick thinking infantry Spigots teams shot down three birds and persuaded the other to depart!


Yet, the Leopards pounced hard and fast, and reaped a grim harvest of T-55s...aided by a couple of well aimed Milan shots from the edge of the town hitting the right of the formation...



Elsewhere, the T-64s perfunctorily cleaned up the Leopard 1s on the edge of the woods...


And the Westie survivors hastily retired through the woods to join in the main action...


Where the Leos were not having it all their own way...


But, with Leos hammering away in front of them, and Milans coming in from the flanks, the T-55AM company's future was looking bleak... 


Perhaps it was time for an infantry assault to close onto the nearby objective... 


Whilst the just arriving Soviet Motor Rifles could deal with those pesky Milans! Unfortunately, the Leopard commander had by now redeployed to the edge of town....



To be greeted by the flanks of a Soviet BMP company...or should that be EX Soviet BMP company!


The East German advance down the flank of the 9th Panzer division had now been well and truly stalled - a small victory in a big war. But where were the much vaunted Luftwaffe in all of this? - well they never got off the ground to support this side show - typical air force - obviously more fame to be had in the skies over Vechta itself!