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Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov

Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov
With Jim Naughton

On May 9th, our gaming session turned to the second phase of Kursk.  Zhukov (JimH) had rolled the dice for Battle Arrow allocation at the end of the preceding week, and the Soviets controlled the first and last pair of Battle Arrows on a 3+ die roll while conceding a single Battle Arrow to the Germans.

Zhukov focused in the north, allocating his first two attacks to reducing the Zolokutino pocket. The fourth battle arrow was a renewed offensive by Vatutin’s army into the western flank of Manstein’s penetration and his last attack was a drive on Briansk. Zeitzler (TimH) allocated a single attack to a renewed drive on Kursk from the south by 4th Panzer Army.  Both sides focused on the map sectors, leaving Prokhorovka to extra battles in (hopefully) the next week.

 

Plans were laid for one big battle, involving 5 players and 218 points.

The first outing saw RobG and me play the Briansk Front’s drive southwest into the Zolokutino pocket.  We played 150 points with my force consisting of a T34 battalion with Valentines and a Reconnaissance Company, with KV8s, SU122s and Sturmoviks in support. Rob played a Gepanzerte Panzer Grenadier company with a Ferdinand, Marders and Panthers in support. Rob ‘MANUVERED’ in hopes of getting a meeting engagement but my ATTACK put us on COUNTERATTACK.  Rob placed his Panthers in reserve while defending in moderately open terrain between two streams. I placed my objective in the center of town.I sent a Razvedki (Mechanized Scout) platoon supported by 6 BA-10s to the town and attacked Rob’s left and center with Valentines, T34s, and KV8s supported by the other Razvedki Platoon and their company HQ. Rob was forced to draw his Ferdinand to his left when my KV8s advanced rapidly against his 105mm battery, plus he committed his Marders from ambush.  The Marder ambush succeeded admirably, wrecking two KV8s, I assaulted with infantry and destroyed two Marders, threatening the nearby objective. Rob rushed forces to support, and this left one infantry platoon to contest the town, now swarming with infantry and scout cars. Fortunately, it seemed, two reinforcements arrived on the same turn, and they dashed forward to join the battle. The arrival of veteran Sturmoviks under V.M. Golubev shattered that hope, destroying one Grille and two Panthers. That was the decisive moment, ending any hope of recapturing the town.  8-1, Soviets.

Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov

We had a surfeit of German players, so two German players squared off.  A die roll determined the ‘Soviet’ player was RickB, with TimM’s Germans, being, well, Germans.  They played the 2nd Battle Arrow of this phase, from Ponry to Zolotukino. Rick ATTACKED and Tim MANUVERED resulting in FREE FOR ALL. Rick was playing Grenadiers and Tim was playing Gepanzerte Panzer Grenadiers, and the mirror nature of the forces led to a bloodbath.  This game was played at 109 points. Both players attacked aggressively to get an objective and both suffered heavy losses, leading to a 3-3 tie.

Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov

RobN brought his Americans and became ‘Soviets’ to play against StefanA’s Germans at 109 points. Rob’s Armored Rifle Company with support from Lees, Stuarts, and M10s played oddly (looked even more oddly) like a Soviet Razvedki Company with Lend-Lease tanks in support, with the M10s working like SU-85s.  Stefan MANUVERED to gain the opportunity to win the Soviet starting territory, but ended up in CONTACT. Rob used his early-arriving reserves and an American vehicle horde to put pressure on Stefan’s Panzer Grenadiers, and delayed German reserves gave Rob an 8-1 Victory.

This brought us to our big event – five players at 218 points!  Unfortunately, one of the chief instigators, TimH, was unable to attend, and so we scrambled to find a third German player.  Fitzi stepped up, joining MarkM and StefanA as German players. Then Stefan expressed a desire to roll Battle Plans randomly to avoid an obvious result, given the mix of forces.  So we placed this battle as a Prokhorovka track event, in effect making it an ‘advance’ on the extra battles likely to follow next week. Another decision was to limit minefields to 5, as on a 4x6 table 9 minefields would have led to a draw.

The German core list was Stefan’s Panzer Grenadiers, with Fitzi providing 2 Tigers and Mark throwing down with 4 Panthers.  The Soviets fielded 8 KVs, 12 T34s, 11 Valentines, 4 Su76s, 6 BA10s and 6 M3s and a slight edge in infantry. The Germans countered with 9 antitank guns.

The dice smiled on us, giving us a Soviet “ATTACK” against a German “Defend” resulting in BRIDGEHEAD, so everybody started on table.  Other than contending with the ‘Withdraw’ rule, the Germans had some straightforward decisions. The dominant terrain feature was a large European town with a perimeter wall. We ruled the wall a cross check but otherwise of the high garden wall variety – you couldn’t shoot through it, only over it. The town was bounded by two streams effectively channelizing any combat into left, right and ‘town.’  JimH placed objectives in the wings. Our Axis opponents countered with 3 minefields on the Soviet right (western) flank and two on the left (east). Then they deployed the Panthers, an infantry platoon, a unit of light flak supported by 8 cm mortars and MGs on the eastern flank objective, and protected the western flank with their Tigers.The second infantry platoon went into the town. The town was flanked by 75mm AT guns on the west and 50mm AT guns on the east. Finally, an entire 3-tube battery of 88mm guns were in ambush.

The Soviets concluded that the best approach was to drive the three infantry companies through the town as quickly as possible.  The separation between the Panthers and the western objective meant that they Panthers would have to show their flank as they moved west. So we positioned our T34s well-hidden to exploit that possibility. The Valentines, KVs and SU76s would support the attack on the town.

We opened the battle with my scouts using Follow Me to enter the minefields. The Razvedki are excellent compared to other Russians having a base skill of 4+. The teams took out two minefields for a loss of two stands. The KV-8s supported by one of my scout platoons and the Motor Rifle Company ejected the larger of the two Panzer Grenadier platoons from the town, killing 3 stands. Also on turn 2 V.M. Gulobov made the acquaintance of the Panthers, killing one and bailing the second

A game of hide and seek between the Tigers and the KV-8s and our infantry units followed.  The Tigers were tethered to the western objective and the Panthers couldn’t help, The Germans dropped their 88s on high ground to the southwest where, over time, they would account for five M3s and five Valentines trying to maneuver along the river to threaten the western objective. But while this was happening the Motor Rifles,

JimHs KV-1s and my KV-8s were wrecking the Panzer Grenadiers, caught in the open ground beyond the town and vulnerable to flame and machineguns. The Tigers tried to kill off the KV-8s and bagged two, but Krupp Gmbh will definitely be getting a strongly worded memo from the Wehrmacht on fuze quality – one KV-8 survived being double bailed and triple bailed by the Tigers on different turns thanks to low firepower rolls, and stayed in the game thanks to the close proximity of the Recon company commander.

Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov

The Germans finally decided to move the Panthers to center court, risking long range fire by no less than 12 T34s.  Our 12” tactical moves allowed several tanks to reach flanking positions, and two Panthers died to flank shots. The Germans resigned, 7-2 victory to the Soviets.

Next week brought the Southern Nationals, attended by three of our Flames crew. Work, Team Yankee and a ‘NAM game distracted other players. I played the remaining two battles.

Firestorm Kursk – Operation Kutusov

RobG and I squared off for Battle Arrow #5, the Soviet drive to Briansk at 150 points. Our forces were substantially the same as last week. We ended up in COUNTERATTACK (again).  Rob tried a different defensive strategy using his scout cars to spearhead toward the Soviet-placed objective on his right and placing his objective at the edge of his deployment area near the central brick factory complex. I sent the BA10s after his scout cars and massed my remaining tanks against his left. Using the dash speed of my T34s I was able to reach a tree line, and stopping just outside the edge. This both prevented him from placing the Marders there and  prevented his Ferdinand from getting any shots. Meanwhile my Razvedki moved up through the rubble of the town, keeping to bulletproof cover. Supporting M3s destroyed a 105mm gun in a hail of fire. Major Golubev’s airstrike wrecked a lowly scout car, doubtless reported later as a Tiger.  Otherwise my shooting was unproductive.

Rob tried to use his 105s in direct fire mode as antitank guns but against Valentines had no luck.  My attack pressed rapidly forward and the German position fell apart. Razvedki are awesome in assault, and 4 teams went into the German end of the brick factory killing three teams for no loss, and bagging a 105mm gun that couldn’t escape their 6” bubble. I was now contesting the objective. Rob ambushed the Marders and moved the Ferdinand to center court. Between them they killed or bailed 4 tanks. My turn 3 was decisive, even though the game had two more turns to run afterwards. The KV8s scorched the left flank infantry, pinning them again. My scouts assaulted from cover. The Germans failed counterattack and the 6” bubble forced the Ferdinand well away from the brick factory objective. Rob’s Panthers made a belated appearance, which was fortunate because my BA10s were about to seize the other objective. They managed to kill two BA10s from different units. Their supporting Grilles were shot up by surviving BA10s. Then I moved the second scout platoon into the last building of the brick factory, effectively ending any chance of an infantry counterattack. My T34s and Valentines wiped out his remaining 105mm gun and the remnants of his left flank, Rob conceded the game. 8-1, Soviets.

MikeS took the role of Generaloberst von Knobelsdorf.  XLVIII Panzerkorps had a different look for this battle, fielding PzIIIs, Marders, and a Ferdinand with no infantry. The Germans had Battle Arrow 3 and Mike chose ATTACK and I picked MANUVER. We ended up in COUNTERATTACK with me defending. I put my scouts in the unfamiliar role of defending and ambushed with my T34s, sending Valentines and KV8s into reserve. Mike adroitly maneuvered to seize the German-placed objective, keeping the central town between his tanks and the probable location of my ambush.  Major Gulobov managed three airstrikes in the five-turn game, destroying a Marder, two MKIIIs and a MKII. In contrast Mike’s Stuka pinned my scouts, and they stayed pinned the entire game – a decisive result. My T34s managed two kills on MKIII but despite the carnage, the kills were scattered over multiple units and failed to stop his panzers.  Germans won, gaining Oboyan, 7-2.

This completed Operation Kutusov. The Germans had gained Oboyan in the south, but the Soviets had cut off the spearhead much as had happened in the north.  9th Army’s Zolotukino pocket had been eliminated, and Operation Kutusov had reached the outskirts of Briansk. The Soviets had gained another bloody victory in Prokhorovka.The Germans gained two victory points but lost seven, and the Soviets had gained another VP on the Prokhorovka track.  The Soviet VP total was now 30.

Model’s isolated spearheads were struck again and again by 2nd and 3rd Tank Army. XLVII Panzerkorps was unable to maneuver, and despite a brave defense, was overwhelmed by swarms of Soviet tanks. As Operation Kutusov gained momentum, the wreckage of 9th Army’s Panzer Divisions fell back on 2nd Panzer Army, a Panzer Army in name only.  Rossokovsky committed his front reserves and Popov turned loose the 3rd, soon to be renamed 3rd Red Banner Shock Army, in a race to reach Briansk. Von Kluge committed his panzer reserve, 8th Panzer Division, to no avail. Soviet forces reached the outskirts of Briansk on 14 July.

In the south, Manstein stubbornly refused to give up, launching XLVIII Panzerkorps north against Oboyon once again. Despite heavy losses in material, Knobelsdorf had succeded in finally taking this intermediate objective. However, Vatutin now launched his carefully hoarded Front reserves, 2nd and 3rd Guards Tank Corps, into the flank of this new penetration. They succeeded where 1st Tank Army had failed, penetrating all the way to Belgorod. Now both Fourth Panzer Army and Army Abteilung Kempf were at risk of being cut off. Meanwhile, the Soviet Steppe Front mounted limited counterattacks around Prokhorovka, gaining back ground lost in the initial German penetration.

The situation was ripe for new Soviet counteroffensives as virtual destruction of three panzer divisions of Ninth Army had completely shifted the correlation of forces in the north.Yet Manstein considered the southern front fluid enough to play to German strengths. Who would strike first?
~Jim


Last Updated On Thursday, July 4, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront