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“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive

“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive
with Gavin Van Rossum
Rolling off the landing craft and fighting to breach Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, the Armoured forces of the United States of America had rapidly grown to become a modern fighting force. Now using reliable designs and constantly revising and improving their vehicles to be as deadly, fast and safe as they could. 

With a massive manufacturing presence across the Atlantic often there were delays in the latest enhanced designs getting to Europe in quantities that would help the brave forces in combat. As harsh lessons were learnt on the beaches, farms and streets of liberated France, the US inventors revised their earlier assumptions made from North African & Sicilian combats, especially considering the greater presence of the German later-mark Panzer IVH tanks, Panthers and Tigers.

The aim of these Breakout themed articles is to help new or returning players build up their understanding of the US Late War forces in D-Day: American, for use in Flames Of War Version 4 games. Although these forces already had experience in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, the US Army was a massive beast and that experience and learning had not had time to sift through to every Division or Battalion. Some forces can operate as truly Veteran Cautious Formations, ably performing battlefield tricks & tactics and efficiently looking after themselves and their equipment.  

“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive

Others were freshly shipped across from the US, or had been roughly treated by prior battles and rebuilt in full or from remnants via the Repple Depple (replacement depot) system, these remain Trained Aggressive.

Why pick this force, what makes it different or cool?
M4 Sherman tanks are the Western Allied workhorse that was just good enough at everything that it could keep contributing to the war effort right up to the end. It was efficient to build and provided a solid enough platform to upgrade and modify for other self-propelled guns and engineering vehicles or armoured personnel carriers. Compared to tanks that the Western Allies and Axis fielded in 1939 - mid 1942, the M4 Sherman is a beast, with great maneuverability, reliable armour, an excellent main gun, heavy .50 cal machine gun and multiple .30 cal machine guns. In Flames Of War Version 4 they remain a great choice and you can triumph with them in Mid and Late War. By 1944 their deadliness was waning in comparison to newer Panzer IV and Stug modifications, increasingly deadly Anti-Tank Guns such as the Pak40 and they were very vulnerable to the new Infantry Anti-Tank weapons such as Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust. There were few options for the US commanders other than to make sure their average Shermans were fielded en mass, with as much support from artillery and infantry to win the day, as well as recovering and repairing as many as possible to keep their tank battalions in good shape.

“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive

When you choose a Sherman force you don’t choose the top tier gear, you choose an average medium tank which can work well in combined arms forces. You choose to take this tank and have it triumph against over-engineered German super tanks by using grit, tactics, and a bit of luck. Battlefront helps you represent a very diverse range of Armoured forces from the USA, covering Confident to Fearless, Aggressive to Cautious, alongside various options of solid US armour, including the M4 Sherman, M4 Sherman 76mm, and M5 Stuart so you can choose to run your favourite flavours of Formations or Support.

Force composition A great place to start with US Armour (Armor) is the M4 Sherman Armoured Company (DDay American, pg57), using a mob of Aggressive ‘Is Hit On 3+’ tanks to overwhelm weak areas of your enemy’s defences and swarm for side shots or good angles for assaults. You will have a good number of tanks backed up by superior US Support. With the plethora of Firepower 3+ cannon & MG shots you can rapidly pin & reduce enemy Infantry and Gun strongpoints, making their job of retaliation very difficult to maintain under the hard rain of projectiles.

“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive

Start with your Company Headquarters, 2 x M4 Shermans, it is always useful to have a spare hull with your XO hanging around, waiting to hand over in case your own Sherman grows holes or catches on fire. In fact your Force is going to have tons of different vehicles to jump your Company Commander into should he encounter trouble, just make sure there are some within 6” and not also on fire. Then go for a full unit of 5 x M4 Shermans in a Tank Platoon, backed up by 5 x M4 Sherman (76mm) to also bring a solid amount of AT12 to the table. Combining these with your plain jane Shermans gives you a strong armoured force able to push a ton of firepower into a compact space. Now you need something to help get your force across the dangerous table, as well as help reduce enemy Infantry & Gun strongholds. Pick up an M4 81mm Armoured Mortar Platoon to help you out, they are Trained and very handy with HE if you can get their aiming point in a good spot from as early in the game as possible. They also throw out a smoke bombardment to cover your advance if you get a bit reckless, which will definitely be in the plan. The mortars are also generally in the rear trying to keep out of trouble rather than up in the enemies face, so as they are part of your Formation they are helping keep your tanks on the table.

This Formation fits into a neat 50 points of your Force and would sit well as a Hobby League starting force, especially with the great new plastic kits available. 

From here you can add more M4 Sherman platoons, slip in a very dangerous platoon of M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyers, add a heavier template from Priests. The most important utility item to add is a Reconnaissance platoon, to take advantage of Spearhead & Scout as well as increasing your board control without needing to use your Shermans.

“Spearhead”: US D-Day Shermans Aggressive

The biggest trick in the US Armor playbook is how you use the Stabilisers on your 75 & 76mm Shermans to best effect. For your Trained Aggressive M4 Sherman Armoured Company you can't rely on succeeding in a Blitz move to move from safety to good firing positions, you will often need to look for the best place to get your Stabiliser shots. This is where you get double the usual moving ROF shots with your main cannon, however both shots have a penalty of +1 to Hit so hitting Cautious forces on 5’s & 6’s. You could use this to move into close range and get more frontal shots on Panzer IVs, but the real treat is forcing your way forward to get side shots on Panthers or if you are desperate (or 76mm equipped) Tigers also. You can also try to use your movement to negate enemy Concealment, by moving to positions where they are more visible to your firing units.

As you get more games in with your Sherman force, you will find yourself removing a lot of your turrets & adding firey smoke markers, however if you make the right choices and roll good enough dice, you will also do the same to the enemy. Your platoons are well equipped for taking casualties and your Sherman (76mm) can kill anything in Fortress Europe with enough encouragement. So as it says on your cards, be Aggressive! 

Last Updated On Friday, August 23, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront