Abstracts from the War Diary of Heeresgruppe C

By Wargamer Staff 20 Nov 2014 0

Gary Grigsby's War in the West is due for release next month and so to whet the appetites of all the true grogs out there we have an extensive AAR of one of the major scenarios that ships with the game ? Battleground Italy. The game is based around weekly turns and this AAR has 2 screenshots for each turn showing the progress of the action. This is Part 1 of a series we will run up to the release of the game. Enjoy! 

Background Note - This after action report shows a play through of the ?Battleground Italy? scenario, which focuses on the Italian Front.  The player is the Axis, trying to defend against the AI-controlled Allies.  In this particular play through, the AI played a fairly conservative game, but the AI has a wide range of options available based on player choices and reconnaissance.  Played through multiple times, each scenario can lead to different results as far as the choices the AI makes on when and where to conduct amphibious and airborne invasions and how to commit its forces once engaged in the Italian peninsula. 

 

July 10th, 1943: at the HQ of Oberbefehlshabers Süd confused reports are arriving of an amphibious invasion along the southern coast of Sicily, around Gela and south of Siracusa. It appears that the enemy has landed in force with the help of paratroop drops inshore. Unfortunately the intelligence from Abwehr has led the OKW to believe that the landing would take place in Greece, so Generalfeldmarschall Rommel is there with three Panzer Divisions, too far away to be of help. 

July 13th, 1943: the Allies have taken the port of Siracusa and have advanced to Caltanissetta, with the clear intention to cut Sicily in two and isolate the units in the West of the island. The ?Napoli? Italian Division and two ?Costiere? units have shattered under attack between Modica and Comiso. Central Sicily is the target of very heavy interdiction by the Allied Air Forces, courageously countered by our fighters that are able to down some 50 enemy planes, although with an almost 1:1 losses ratio. 

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Heeresgruppe ?C? is established, commanding all German troops in Italy and with control capacity over Italian forces. Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring takes direct responsibility of the new Army Group. [Comment: technically Army Group C was established only on Nov. 26th Field Marshall Kesselring was ?Oberbefehlshabers Süd?, commanding the whole Southern theatre.] 

The situation in Sicily appears problematic: the Hermann Göring Panzer and the 15. Panzergrenadier Divisions, as well as the ?Schmalz? Panzergrenadier Brigade, are under the tactical control of Italian ?Sesta Armata? of General Guzzoni and are spread out throughout the island; the only other German unit in the area is the 1. Fallschirmjäger Division defending Catania. The Italian forces garrisoning the island are neither sufficient nor strong enough to even consider the possibility of a successful resistance. Furthermore the Allied absolute control of the seas (the bulk of the Italian fleet is at anchor in La Spezia, and the Allied air and naval superiority would make any intervention a suicide mission) could not exclude new landings in southern Italy, with the consequent isolation and loss of the units defending Sicily.

The Luftwaffe can count on roughly four Kampfgeschwadern and two Schlachtgeschwadern with relevant fighter escorts; furthermore the ?Regia Aeronautica? can contribute about one thousand combat planes. In mainland Italy, apart small units garrisoning the northern ports, we can count on only one Panzer and two Panzergrenadier Divisions, plus one Panzergrenadier in Sardinia and two Brigades in Corsica. The Italian forces have demonstrated that, apart from some brilliant exceptions, they cannot be considered to be at a reliable level of efficiency against the material superiority of the Allies. 

The strategic decision of the Army Group HQ is to withdraw from Sicily as quickly as possible, fighting rearguard actions to delay the enemy advance and trying to avoid encirclements and limit losses, but without neglecting possible opportunities to inflict losses to the enemy. The XIV Panzerkorps will take control of the German units in the island and General Hube will be in charge of the operations, in close cooperation with General Guzzoni.

 

July 17th, 1943: Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica air units in reserve or in northern Italy are moved to airbases in the south. The Italian ?Terza Squadra Aerea? launches attacks against the Allied shipping, while the Luftwaffe units are devoted to ground interdiction, under cover of air superiority missions flown by Italian ?Aeronautica di Sicilia?. 

The Italian ?Assietta? Division moves to Palermo, while the German units, supported by Italian units withdrawing from western Sicily, form a defensive line north of Caltanissetta and behind the Simeto River. The 29. Panzergrenadier Division moves by railroad to Reggio Calabria, to be ferried to the island to contribute to the defense. 

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Taking into consideration the expected loss of Sicily and the risk of future landings in southern Italy, it is agreed with Italian ?Comando Supremo? to prepare fortified resistance lines across the Apennines; the first defense line will be arranged behind the Sele and Ofanto rivers, the second behind Volturno and Biferno rivers, a third one behind Garigliano and Trigno rivers. Also the mountains east of Naples will be fortified. Reserve German and Italian units are moved to prepare these lines, although the Italians appear unwilling to move most of the Italian forces. The critical situation of Italian front is duly taken to the attention of OKW which promises to send reinforcements.

 

July 21st, 1943: strong Allied attacks in force cannot be contained; the enemy has taken Enna and forced the Fallschirmjäger Division at Gerbini to retreat, achieving a bridgehead over the Simeto and threatening Catania. The Italian attacks on Allied shipping have been practically ineffective, while our Air Forces have suffered heavy losses without noticeably slowing down the enemy. 

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July 24th, 1943: The LXXVI Panzerkorps of Generalleutnant Herr has arrived from France, and is sent to command the Sele-Ofanto defense line. The Luftwaffe continues its interdiction missions, assisted by the Italian ?Prima Squadra Aerea?, while all the rest of Regia Aeronautica is engaged in naval patrols to cover the possible sea evacuation paths from Palermo and Catania. The political situation of our Italian Ally is giving concerns, as the population appears exasperated and the will to resist on the part of the government seems vacillating. Troops are sent to support the containment of the Gerbini bridgehead, while all our units have abandoned western Sicily, including Palermo. 

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July 25th, 1943: the Italian political turmoil has caused Mussolini to resign as Prime Minister, being replaced by Maresciallo Badoglio.

 

July 28th, 1943: the enemy units have reached the northern coast of Sicily, at Termini and Cefalù; strong attacks are contained with difficulty in the northern mountains, while the Gerbini bridgehead expands taking Adrano. Our air losses are increasing dangerously. Intelligence reports signal the risk of armistice deals between Italy and the Western Allies. Orders are sent to our combat units to be ready to disarm Italian units should this happen. The 26. Panzer and the 2. Fallschirmjäger Divisions arrive as reinforcements and join the LXXVI Panzerkorps. 

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July 31st, 1943: Italian Air Force shifts its missions to ground attack and interdiction; the Luftwaffe hits the enemy bridgehead. General Hube launches a counterattack against the enemy bridgehead: the 29th Panzergrenadier Division with the 2. Hermann Göring Panzer Regiment, supported by the 1. Fallschirmjäger Division, manages to dislodge the British 50th Infantry Division from its positions at Gerbini, but fails to take Adrano. The northern front continues to withdraw, but the 1st Regiment of the 15. Panzergrenadier Division is delayed by its rearguard actions. 

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August 3rd, 1943: heavy enemy attacks have retaken Gerbini, whilst on the northern side of the Etna volcano the enemy attacks have been resisted by the other two Regiments of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, supported by the Italian ?Assietta? Division. Our units report heavy enemy losses. The enemy is focused on our front and advances very slowly in the abandoned western island. 

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August 7th, 1943: the 1. Fallschirmjäger Division again attacks Adrano, supported by the 2. Hermann Göring Panzer Regiment, and inflicts serious losses to the enemy, but cannot gain ground due to the stiff resistance of the US 1st Infantry and 2nd Armored Divisions. The 65. Infanterie Division has arrived from Germany and joins the LXXVI Panzerkorps. 

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August 10th, 1943: The enemy has attacked Catania without success, but our units have been forced to retreat along the northern coast. The front appears now reasonably stable, partly because the enemy air activity against our units has been drastically reduced. However, the passing time increases the concerns of Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring about the possibility of new enemy landings in southern Italy. The arrival of 10. Armee of General von Vietinghoff improves the chain of command of the Heeresgruppe: both the XIV and the LXXVI Panzerkorps are now attached to the new Army. 

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August 14th, 1943: The Regia Aeronautica takes a break in its ground interdiction activity to give some rest to its men. The XIV Panzerkorps again attacks the enemy bridgehead, forcing the 2nd US Armored Division to retreat behind the Simeto River. Smaller Italian units begin to evacuate the island by ferry to Reggio Calabria. 

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August 17th, 1943: a series of strong enemy attacks all along the front, well supported by their air forces, have managed to break our line north of Etna, forcing us to retreat the ?Assietta? Division and the Hermann Göring Regiments, while the rest of the front resisted. US units have occupied Palermo forcing the weak Italian garrison to surrender. 

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August 21st, 1943: the strategic situation calls for the withdrawal from Sicily: the Schmalz Brigade abandons Catania after damaging the port and the depots, and arranges a provisional defense east of Etna together with the 1. Fallschirmjäger. The 29thPanzergrenadier together with part of the Hermann Göring moves north and, together with the 15. Panzergrenadier, counterattacks routing the advanced British 4th Armoured Brigade Group. After the combat our units disengage from the enemy, beginning to withdraw towards Messina. The newly arrived 38. Sicherungs-Regiment prudentially takes position in Rome. 

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August 24th, 1943: unfortunately the Italian ?Livorno? Motorized Division and 137° Reggimento Costiero have been slow in retreating, and have been attacked by Anglo-American forces with heavy losses. On the contrary the units defending the eastern side of Etna resisted strong attacks inflicting losses on the attackers. The enemy has launched an air offensive against the ports and airbases south of Naples, and air battles have been fierce and bloody. Also Trapani and Marsala are occupied: the whole western Sicily is under enemy control. 

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August 28th, 1943: while the Kampfgruppen and the Italian bomber units affect interdiction missions around Messina, our fighter units leave Sicily and move to the airbases in southern Italy. Our units in Sicily retreat towards Messina, establishing a resistance line at Barcellona, but again some Italian units, being on foot, remain behind. 

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August 31st, 1943: the advancing enemy units have repeatedly attacked the Barcellona defense line, without success. 

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Continued on Page 2 ?

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