Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

PMZ Campaign: Le Mans 1

Report from General Eberbach,
commanding Fifth Panzer Army.
The battle for Le Mans, dated August 2nd 1944

I deployed on a line of hills in bocage country, with marshy ground to my right. The 709th infantry division was in fortified positions in the centre supported by a battalion of Jagd Pz 4s, this division was also holding a vital road junction. The 352nd infantry division was in fortified positions on the left, supported by a battalion of Panthers. My main concern was a turning attack by the Americans round my right flank so I stationed the 9th SS Panzer division there in light woodland, behind minefields. The command centre and supply dumps were in wooded ground to the rear of the infantry.

After our experience in late July, the Corps commander was expecting the arrival of American heavy bombers. They were much more accurate than the British, no bombs were seen to land on the American positions. Our losses were significant, mainly suffered by 9th SS Panzer who were almost forced to give up their position. During the battle, naval bombardment fell on the infantry in the centre but, protected by their bunkers, little damage was done.

American units then advanced all along our front, but more cautiously than the British had done. On the left some weak units stopped just outside our range. In the centre an infantry division supported by tanks moved into covered positions at long range and engaged in an ineffectual firefight with our infantry. Another division moved up to the far side of the marshes, keeping our line under fire and protecting their supply road. It appears that while Patton may be a good field commander, his administrative abilities are somewhat lacking, leaving a tank destoyer unit without fuel and failing to coordinate with his air support. A reconnaissance aircaft spotted the 9th SS panzers but no ground attack aircraft arrived until near the end of the battle.

On the right, the Americans were more aggressive, advancing with the 2nd Armoured and 90th Infantry divisions together with engineers, on the far side of the marshes. The attack reached the minfield, which the engineers started to clear, when an SS Panther battalion and the dug-in infantry battalions opened fire disabling many of the Shermans and forcing the infantry into cover. Nebelwerfers then landed on the engineers who promptly withdrew to cover. Having been refuelled, the tank destroyers arrived at last and moved forward cautiously in the woodland until they were within four hundred meters of the Panthers. They opened fire …. with very little effect. The Panthers replied and a few destroyers managed to retreat from the battlefield. Other Panthers were taking their toll on the remaining Shermans who followed the destroyers, leaving many burning vehicles.

Meanwhile in the centre, an infantry company had been suppressed so an American infantry battalion of the 1st Infantry division assaulted it. The Germans rallied and put up great resistance, while the American attack rapidly disintegrated, the battalion eventually retreating from the battlefield. On the right, the American infantry decided that they could make no progress without tank support so withdrew back towards their lines. The American commander decided not to commit his reserve division, possibly fearing our counter-attack. It was at this stage that squadrons of Lightnings and P47Ds appeared over the battlefield and proceeded to attack the 9th SS panzers. While disabling some of the vehicles, they could not affect the course of the battle, so the Americans ended their attack on 1st August. I decided not to advance out of my fortified line ……. I am expecting another attack soon.

A view from behind the left flank of 9thSS showing the marshy ground to their left. The Panthers are under air attack in the foreground while the retreating American units can be seen in the background.

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