New WWII units.

24 October 2021

Fall of Shot

WWII Assets Pack

Hitting the beaches - Operation Overlord begins

By mid-August 1944, the bow waves of the colossal Allied invasion force that had hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944, were breaking against Axis forces south of Caen. These included German Army Group B; German 7th Army; and Fifth Panzer Army. An estimated 400,000 troops along with their armoured vehicles, guns, transportation and other equipment were concentrated in and around the town of Falaise under the command of Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.

WWII Assets Pack

Panzer V tanks defending Caen

While it had taken them much longer than anticipated, United States (U.S.) forces under the command of Generals Bradley and Patton had pushed south and cleared the enemy from most of the Cotentin peninsula. Following the success of Operation Cobra, the mass Allied bombing and assault on German forces around the town of Saint-Lô that began on July 24th, Patton’s army groups raced further south past Avranches, then hooked back up east and north towards Falaise.

WWII Assets Pack

Shermans repelling Panzer attack

British, Canadian, Polish and Free French forces under General Bernard Montgomery had found the going equally tough as they fought their way south from Gold, Juno and Sword beaches towards Caen. Determined to push them back into the sea and with their backs against their homeland, enemy troops had fought with demonic fury. But as the Allies kept on pouring more men and materiel into the battle for Normandy, and as Allied air superiority grew ever more decisive, German forces began to crumble.

Micro-managing as so often to adverse effect, Adolf Hitler ordered von Kluge to launch ‘an immediate counter-attack between Mortain and Avranches…to annihilate the enemy and make contact with the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula.’ Codenamed Operation Lüttich, it began on 7th August. Forewarned by ‘Ultra’, the British intelligence intercepts of Axis communications, U.S. First Army was ready and waiting. Almost before it began, Operation Lüttich failed.

As the defeated enemy units retreated back east, Allied commanders realized that the great majority of German forces in Normandy were being squeezed into what would become known as the ‘Falaise pocket’. If they could be encircled by the U.S. divisions to the south and the British, Canadians and Poles to the north, then almost all surviving Axis forces in north-western France would be caught in a giant killing zone. Not one to miss a golden tactical chance when it came begging, General Omar Bradley said: ‘This is an opportunity that comes to a commander not more than once in a century. We're about to destroy an entire hostile army and go all the way from here to the German border.’

On 8 August, Montgomery ordered the Canadian First Army and Polish First Army Division to advance south and take Falaise. Codenamed Operation Tractable, the assault began on the morning of 14th August with a massive artillery bombardment. This included a smokescreen to make things as difficult as possible for the defending Germans.

WWII Assets Pack

U.S. 90th Divn battery firing at Falaise

Patton’s divisions had meanwhile kept up the fast pace of their advance, taking Alençon and then Argentan to the south and east of Falaise on 13th August. With the Canadians and Poles pressing south, the jaws of the trap should now have been closed. But in a decision that still causes controversy among historians, Patton’s troops were ordered to halt. For four days.

The Canadians continued slogging towards Falaise, taking the town on 16th August. Hitler ordered an immediate counterattack, which von Kluge refused to initiate. He was sacked and replaced the next day by Field Marshal Model. Model ordered II Panzer Corps to hold the north face of the only available German escape route out of the pocket – to the east via Chambois and Trun, through what was quickly dubbed ‘The Falaise Gap’; XLVII Panzer Corps was told to hold the southern perimeter. Model then ordered 7th Army, Fifth Panzer Army and any remaining units to retreat immediately via this route.

Driving south, two Polish battlegroups met up with the U.S. 90th Infantry Division and French 2nd Armoured Division at Chambois, to the east of Falaise, on 17th August. That same day, a Spitfire hunting for targets nearby shot up a staff car. Caught in the attack, Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel - the architect of the ‘Atlantic Wall’ defences that had been intended to counter an Allied invasion - was seriously injured.

WWII Assets Pack

Allied air power starts to tell

Despite all the setbacks, and despite being constantly depleted by Allied artillery and air strikes, German forces were still escaping east through the Falaise Gap. To seal the Pocket, the Polish battlegroups now drove north-east and took Hill 262. Nicknamed ‘The Mace’ and properly known as Mt Ormel, this ridge lay to the east of Trun. From this vantage point the Poles had a clear view – and a clear field of fire – on the columns of retreating enemy. They began shelling them. On 19th August, Model ordered various of his remaining units to retake the heights. In a firestorm of attack and counterattack, a key battle of the Falaise engagement now erupted.

WWII Assets Pack

German firepower: Wespes join the battle

The next day, units of 10th, 12th and 116th SS Panzer managed to open a narrow corridor through the Polish lines while 9th Panzer held off the Canadians. This gave an estimated 10,000 more German troops the chance to escape. But the Poles were not about to give up the game. Holding onto parts of Hill 262 despite heavy losses, they directed repeated, accurate artillery bombardments onto the fleeing enemy.

WWII Assets Pack

Going down with a fight

The following abridged extract from the account of Captain Pierre Sévigny, a 4th Canadian Medium Regt. Forward Observation Officer (FOO) who called in artillery strikes for the besieged Poles gives a sense of the carnage: ‘Sunday, August the 20th 1944. Daylight came. A lull. The major had been hit in the chest by a shell splinter. We had exhausted our rations, there was scarcely half a bottle of water left per man; ammunition was scarce. Suddenly, over on our left, we heard numerous tanks. The Canadians. At last! We looked for the green flares. Nothing! We crashed back down to earth. They were German tanks. Advancing on us.

WWII Assets Pack

Falaise: Battle of the big guns

‘The Major decided that the best defence was still attack. We set off to meet the enemy with 12 tanks. We saw the silhouettes of 16 enormous German Tigers. Within three minutes, we had lost six tanks to one of theirs. Only the artillery could save us. I used a portable radio to relay my orders to the guns. I waited: had I studied my map thoroughly enough? Had I marked the targets well enough? Would the guns fire in time? The steel monsters were still coming, firing with all their weapons. I saw the sparkling of their machine-guns. Their 88s whistled over my head. What were our gunners doing? The leading tank was only 500 metres away…, 400, 300, 250, 200, 100. It was all over…I dived into the bottom of the foxhole, pressing my face to the earth. I was sure death would come to me in seconds. I murmured a prayer…Suddenly, a hurricane: rolls of thunder, the ground trembling! Was it possible? Our guns were firing! And there, in that foxhole, I laughed and I cried. Stupidly, I raised my head for a moment...With unparalleled accuracy and at a prodigious rate of fire, clouds of our shells were bursting over the enemy.

WWII Assets Pack

Calling the shots

‘The Boche hesitated. Five (of their) tanks were burning like haystacks. I had ordered my gunners to fire all their ammunition. The attack was broken: the Germans retired, pursued by the Poles who destroyed another three tanks…Nevertheless the attack was soon renewed. Our losses mounted constantly…and now I could not believe my eyes: the Boche were advancing towards us, singing, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.” We let them come within 50 yards, then we mowed down their ranks… More waves followed... When the fifth came we ran out of ammunition. The Poles charged them with bayonets! During that day, we suffered eight attacks like this. What fanaticism! One of the wounded near me looked like a child: I read the date of birth in his pay book: April, 1931 - he was thirteen years old.’ (Captain Pierre Sévigny, Polish Order of Virtuti Militari, Croix de Guerre and Bar.)

Polish casualties on Hill 262 were 351 killed and injured with the loss of 11 tanks. Estimated German losses on the ridge were 500 dead and 1,000 taken prisoner. Dozens of Tiger, Panther and Panzer IV tanks were destroyed on and around the hieghts, along with scores of other armoured vehicles and dozens of artillery pieces.

The battle of the Falaise Pocket ended in a crushing and overwhelming German defeat – and helped shorten the course of the war. Visiting the area in the immediate aftermath, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower said: ‘The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest "killing fields" of any of the war areas. Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.’ (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

We are pleased to announce the additions of the following units to the WW2 Asset pack

M2A1 105mm Howitzer

WWII Assets Pack

The M2A1 was the workhorse of US Army field artillery in WW2, with over 8500 produced throughout the conflict and a further 2000 after 1945. Serving in all major theatres of WW2, the M2A1 was appreciated for its accuracy and powerful punch, later going on to serve in Korea and Vietnam.

Purchased by 67 countries, including Argentia, Iran and Lebanon, the M2A1 has seen service worldwide, and is still used today by the US forestry service as an avalanche control gun at various ski resorts.

Did you know? - 1 in 5 shells fired by the US Army in WW2 was a 105mm HE round?

Pak 40 75mm AT Gun

WWII Assets Pack

Punching steel

The 75mm Pak 40 German anti-tank (AT) gun was first produced in 1942 and was the cornerstone of German AT guns during the later war years. At a range of 500 yards, the 75mm shell was able to penetrate 115mm of steel. It was not until near the end of the war that the Allies built tanks that could resist the shells of the Pak 40.

LeFH 105mm Howitzer

WWII Assets Pack

Bites chunks out of armour

Developed in 1942-43 by Rheinmetall, the LeFH 18/40 entered service in 1943, and was able to fire a HE projectile out to a range of over 12,000m. It was developed from the earlier LeFH 18, with the intention of making the weapon lighter and easier to produce, and shared many components with the Pak 40 AT gun. The LeFH became the main German field howitzer in the later war years, with over 10,000 produced.

Yours sincerely,

Eagle Dynamics Team