Pavel Zaudin was relieved. Literally. He had been there in the Kloster with the men of 1/172nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment when the fighting stopped. In the morning he was gone, and a Starshiye Leytnant from the 3/172nd was ordering his men into trucks, bound for the rear to “regroup.”
To the west, Hauptman Martin Goertzka had scarcely slept 90 minutes when battalion web sparked up.
ENEMY AFVS OBSERVED IN NEIGHBORHOOD OF PADERBORN. EXPECT SUPPLIES AND REINFORCEMENTS FROM PZAUFKLBTN 7 BEFORE DAWN. DEPLOY SO AS BEST TO DETERMINE WHETHER ENEMY WILL PROCEED PAST RHEDA-WIEDENBRUCK VIA THE A2 OR 64.
Reinforcements before dawn? At Rheda? That meant they needed to get back on the road, and be careful. If there were Russians in Paderborn, they could be coming down the 1. Rheda was only 15km to the north, but best not to delay. Looking at his maps, Goertzka replied:
PROCEEDING NORTH VIA 55/58 AND STROMBERGERSTRASSE.” Goertzka replied.
WILL IDENTIFY DEPLOYMENT AREA AND WELCOME REINFORCEMENTS. RECOMMEND TRAVEL VIA HELLWEG/VELLNERSTRASSE. MEETING POINT OELDE. GOERTZKA OUT.
Out of the Teutobergerwald, the Ruhr region opened into wide valleys and flatlands. Definitely not recon country! Oelde at least had a forested park that might channel the enemy, but upon arriving there around 03:15, it was clear this would only allow him to cover the A2. What if they enemy went north, along the 64? There were rumors of heavy fighting around Amsterdam. Why would the enemy proceed into the industrial Ruhr when available troops could be used to reinforce success?
Oberleutnant Gessler arrived at 04:20.The idea of being reinforced by recon, rather than frontline armor was both a relief and a worry to Goetzka. He’d lost most of two recon companies just like Gessler's facing the Soviets in the days before. But if Division (now the 7th Panzer Division) was only sending recon elements, perhaps it meant the threat was not immanent? Gessler had pull, though. In addition to his full complement of Leopard Is and 6 Luchs, he'd brought nearly half of PzAufklbtn 5's Panzerjaegers and their Fuchs, plus FOUR Gepards and access to some BA-105s from III. Korps Aviation Brigade.
After consultations, Gessler sent some of his relatively fresh Luchs patrols to scan the gap between the A2 in the south, and the 64 in the north. The men "rallied" to the task, as Spahpanzerpiloten usually do! ;)
Möhlen. A tiny old mill town midway between two chokepoints that could decide the fate of their country. It was little more than a speck on the map, but it was here that Gesser and Goetzka agreed they should base their effort for the new day, now barely an hour away.
Gessler took one of his Panzerjager units to Herzebrock, holding two Luchs companies in reserve in the suburbs of Clarholz to avoid detection by forward elements of the Russian breakthrough. Likewise, Gessler held the company’s Gepards for an ambush, if needed.
Outranking Gessler if only slightly, Goetzka insisted on commanding the remainder of the force around Möhlen. He kept one company of Leopards and the BO-105s in reserve. Yet as dawn broke, it was clear that sneaky Russian Spetnaz troops had established an objective presence in the fields just north of Möhlen and in the town square of Herzebrock. Gessler was forced to the eastern suburbs, and Goetzka denied the chance to organize in Möhlen. Instead, his troops were forced to dig in to the fields to the south, with his one Leopard I company on overwatch from behind the chemical factory.
Kapitan Lukerny Tsiplenok’s advanced troops had already scouted out the important objectives for the morning, but they hadn’t expected to see a platoon of enemy tanks watching over their route when morning came. Seeing little to no other resistance, and lacking reserves to start the offensive, Tsiplenok decided to engage the enemy directly.
Tsiplenok’s T-72s rolled down the A2 and turned north to engage the Leopards, while his BMPs rolled to the north of the chemical factory with infantry marching behind. When they encountered Goetzka’s dug in Jägers, they unleashed all they had! Though they reduced the opposition by 50%, it was not enough to break them. Tsiplenok’s tankers were not as effective, burning only one enemy tank! The morning was not off to a great start.
Goetzka had not expected enemy tanks! They were supposed to be in Paderborn. The enemy had more fight in him than high command was letting on. Rather than stand and face even greater losses, he decided to concentrate all he had to save his Jägers guarding Möhlen. Gessler’s flyboys could help with the tanks!
FUCHSEN VOR! He barked into his headset. He then took his own tanks north of the chemical factory to engage the Russian infantry.
As he did, two BO-105s popped out from behind the Rheda skyline, the red sun rising behind them. Before the enemy could get off shots, they unleashed their HOT missiles into the back decks of two T-72s. One burst into flames. The other halted, stunned, but appeared to survive. With the tanks distracted, Goetzka and his Jägers unleashed a hail of machine and main gun fire into the advancing Russian infantry in the fields ahead of them. Dozens fell, yet it was impossible to tell if all had died, or merely been pinned by the hail of fire.
It was almost too easy! Was it a trap? The Leopards had fled behind the only hill for miles to engage his infantry. Tsiplenok was sure he could catch them, and so he ordered his tankers to pursue. His infantry would rebound.
As the tankers rounded the hill, they found the enemy’s three surviving tanks engaged, but not in vulnerable flanking positions. No matter. With four shots, he dispatched all three including what appeared to be the enemy commander. Lucky, perhaps, especially since his infantry decided to wait this fight out, and remained hidden in their field.
As Goetzka attempted to escape the burning wreck that was his command tank, the last thing he saw was another volley of HOT missiles flying from the east. The BO-105s had survived the BMP’s attempt to catch them as they popped up, but what the result was, Goetzka would not know. His tank burst into flames at the same time as that of the enemy.
Sensing a deteriorating situation in the south, Gessler’s Gepards jumped in from the woods just south of Herzebrock. Once again, enemy infantry fell. Gessler then began to move his own Jägers deeper into Herzebrock to hold town square.
For the Jägers holding on outside of Möhlen, the situation was getting dicey. The surviving infantry and Fuchs opened up once more on the enemy infantry, and with devastating effect. When the dust cleared, there appeared to be but a single enemy fire team left in the field. Yet to the German’s surprise, they remained standing!
Things were not going as well as they should be in the south, but no matter. What the Germans weren’t expecting was that both of his advance BMP companies were consolidating around Herzebrock to cover the pass through of the armor. Gessler’s Fuchs took the first casualties when they met in town, but the long range and cover made it hard to hurt his Gepards.
Down to 3 T-72s and a single team of infantry with BMP support, the T72 commander decided to risk it all and attempt to overrun the enemy infantry holding on south of the small village. This proved to be a bigger gamble than expected. A hail of fire proved insufficient to pin down the enemy infantry, and left one team standing. The brave Jägers fired their panzerfausts and bailed one of the tanks, forcing a withdrawal. Embarrassment was only temporary, however, as the enemy team then opted to surrender.
The small village was now clear, and his infantry were swarming Herzebrock. It might be a Red dawn after all.
Now in sole command, Gessler wasted now time in calling upon his reserves from Oelde. The Luchs would need to dash to prevent the Soviets from dividing his force, and the Leopards would make short work of the remaining enemy tanks. From the gas station on the edge of town, he could indeed watch two more T-72s erupt in flames, but was once more surprised to see the last tank remain engaged in the fight.
The BMP threat to divide his force was real, and one Luchs platoon was not going to avert it. Fully expecting that the Soviet threat in the south would crumble, Gessler ordered his Gepards to charge the enemy BMPs. Three out of five exploded in flames, while the other two were clearly stunned by the sheer volume of fire. Feeling this threat neutralized, he ordered the BO-105s to turn on the BMPs to the south, hoping to drive them off. And yet, the enemy stayed!
It was not scientifically possible, yet Tsiplenok was not so doctrinaire as to knock a gift horse in the mouth. His initial BMP company was down to one team, but it mounted up and rolled north, right into the enemy’s anti-aircraft vehicles. The results were devastatingly in his favor, with three of the four Gepards destroyed. That should be the end of that, thankfully. He had only one T-72 left from his initial attack force, but it’s lone gun was not enough to harm the enemy’s Leopard reinforcements.
It would be up to Tsiplenok's infantry in Herzebrock. They pushed, deeper into town, up to the town square, and delivered heavy fire before charging in but the enemy would not yield. The assaults went back and forth, and back and forth again, and his men were sorely thinned with no obvious effect on the Germans. Suddenly, however, the Germans fell back, down to one team hunkdering in the woods. His men held the Herzebrock town square, but could they hold it long enough, and what would be left to pass through?
Gessler listened in horror to the struggle over his headset, and knew he had one asset alone that could tip the balance. That Gepard in the woods had stood it’s ground for a reason, and now its reason was clear.
His orders went out: GEPARD MARSCH! IN DIE STADT!
The lone FlaKPanzer did as ordered, springing from the woods and rolling into town on the Wösterweg. It unleashed all it had in a fury of fire, but the weakened enemy infantry remained, tucked within the safety of their new defenses.
Gessler then ordered one of his Luchs patrols out of Clarholz to try to hit the enemy from the flank, but instead encountered their BMPs. While he could kill one, it left too much for the patrol to face, and so it scooted back into the cover of the town.
In the south, now freed from the threat of tanks by the effective fire of the BO-105s, Gesslers reserves turned north. The Luchs patrol engaged, and bailed, another BMP, while the Leopard I’s caught the enemy’s newly arrived Shilka battery unawares, and brewed it up before it could play a role.
Tsiplenok had lost his tanks, and now his air defence, would he lose more? Apparently not! Though down to one team, his initial BMP company was earning their medals and kept rolling north in pursuit of the last Gepard. This they dispatched with ease!
His advance companies now securely held Herzebrock’s town square with infantry and BMPs, and though his was the last BMP among his infantry south of town, his men had established enough of a defensive perimeter that the enemy could not contest his control of the area. The BMPs in Herzebrock unleashed their Spandrel’s, stopping the Leopard I advance in its tracks. His men stood ready for one last attack.
Gessler had done what he had come to do. With the enemy infantry and BMPs so evenly deployed there was no way he could even approach the Russian objectives, let alone throw them off. Still, he had stopped the Russian advance and stripped it of all its tanks. Division HQ would put the loss of the battle on Goetzka’s posthumous record, and credit him for escaping with 6 Luchs and 3 Leopards. He was a recon officer, and the decision was obvious. When the Leopards remounted, he ordered the withdrawal.
Technically, the game should have gone til turn 6, but the result was clear, if costly to both sides. Suvorov ended up holding both objectives and had established a perimeter of men using the 2" rule that made it impossible for me to reach the objectives on Turn 5, and thus likely Turn 6. Sure, the initial BMP Company might finally have broken (afterall, it successfully made FIVE Sole Survivor checks!), but that wasn't likely to turn the tide. Those Ivans clearly deserve a Hero of the Soviet Union! I'm just glad I have a new Team Yankee opponent up in Northern Colorado. Goetzka may be gone, but my Panzeraufklarer will be back for "STRIPES" in December.