Shortly after the amphibious landings at Salerno the 179th Regimental Combat Team was tasked with securing Highway 19 by taking the river crossing at Pt. Serra and the surrounding high ground. While trying to secure their objectives, a German counter-attack swept down Highway 19 from Eboli, took Persano, and cut the 179th off.
On September 11, in order to rescue the 179th, 5th Army sent the 191st Tank Battalion west of the Sele River, into areas not yet patrolled, in an attempt to threaten the German supply route from Eboli. What the tankers found was a plateau of high ground that, if secured, would dominate the German reinforcement route. Unfortunately, that plateau was defended by elements of the 16th Panzer Division, including a bivouac of 16 Mark IV panzers and the 79th Paner Grenadier Regiment. Dug into a Tobacco factory and a farm, the Germans destroyed all but five of the 191st's Shermans.
With the Shermans burning, the task of taking the Tobacco Factory fell to 1st Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Preston J.C. Murphy. While Company C peeled off to protect their left flank, Companies A & B advanced up the Eboli Road against the Factory.
I used the historical situation as inspiration for Crossfire terrain setup that I played twice:
I chose to play it as the "Bridgehead" scenario from the Crossfire rulebook, with 85 points for the attacker (Americans) and 80 points for the defenders. That gave the defenders one company of Panzer Grenadiers (79th Panzer Grenadier Regiment) and 3 Panzer Mark IVs. The Americans had two companies of green leg infantry (Companies A & B of 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment). The German defenders set up as follows...
First Platoon (with the +2 Platoon Commander and an attached Heavy Machinegun) set up in the partially-ruined building complex looking south toward the tobacco fields:
Second Platoon, also with an attached Heavy Machinegun, set up in a tobacco and wheatfield so as to intercept any Americans attempting to approach the Tobacco Factory through the draw.
Third Platoon set up in another building complex, on the other side of the factory, covering the courtyard, the Sele River, and the woods beyond:
You can't see in that picture, but the third squad of Third Platoon set up in a farmhouse directly behind the Factory. The Farmhouse also contained the Company Commander and the forward observor for the Company's 81mm mortars.
The first panzer parked itself in front of the farmhouse on the Eboli road, dominating that approach as well as the river crossing with its machinegun:
The second panzer covered the interior of the Factory's courtyard:
And the third panzer protected the rear of the Factory:
The defenders thus set, the Americans began their attack. You can see in those photographs how I set up my first attack...with two platoons of A Company trying to come through the draw and the third platoon, with the Company HMG, trying to push through the hedges. First platoon of B company infiltrated into the southern most Factory building, and the rest of B Company occupied the woods east of the river. That attack was a disaster. Although smoke allowed the platoons coming out of the draw to enter the fields, they were immediately cut down by first platoon's crossfire. The same thing happened to the platoon trying to push through the hedge. By the third initiative A Company was completely whiped out and the Germans hadn't taken a single casualty. A Machinegun and 3 Rifle Squads, operating as a crossfire, even firing into cover, were easily able to remove two squads per initiative.
So I tried a second time. This time I set up closer to the German defenders, activating reaction fire during set-up. This turned out to be better for me because even though I was taking fire, a German "suppression" result didn't mean I'd lose the initiative, because the game hadn't started. But a German "no fire" did result in a loss of fire, since I started with the initiative.
The second game started off promising, with Third Platoon, A company, unloading on the German First Platoon in Factory and taking out both the Machinegun and a Rifle Squad on the first initiative. I thought that would leave the way open for Second Squad, who I had again set up in the draw. I successfully dropped smoke and had them again push in through the hedge. Unfortunately, the German second Platoon reacted with a Group Fire from two Rifle Squads:
They suppressed the first squad coming through, seizing the initiative. Their Machinegunner and third Rifle Squad re-deployed to the hedges next to them, and completely cut apart my Second Squad, before moving on and starting to cut apart my First Squad, too. Again I was facing a three Rifle Squad, one Machinegun Squad Crossfire and I was paying the price. My attack on the southern front was a disaster.
So I shifted my focus to the east, where most of B Company was waiting across the river. I successfully dropped smoke the Panzer covering the woods and the road. I group-fired with three Rifle Squads and suppressed the Germans defending the Farm. And then, miracle of all miracles, I scored a rally roll, unpinning one of my own Rifle Squads. They charged across the river, behind the tank, and took the farm:
My remarkable good fortune didn't end there. I rolled two more consecutive rallies, so that I had two full platoons on their feet. They crossed the river, joining their compatriots in the farm, and blew up the Panzer with anti-tank mines and grenades. They then moved on rear of the Factory:
Numbers prevailed over leadership and discipline as the Americans bayoneted the hapless Panzer Grenadier defenders. Now I controlled the entire rear of the Factory. I used control to move into the woods and behind the Second Panzer, blowing it up just like the first:
I could have tried for the third Panzer, but that would have exposed me to a German Rifle Squad in the open. Instead I occupied the main building complex of the Factory:
Still holding the initiative, I moved B company's machinegunner into the Factory, too:
I then lost the initiative trying to machinegun some of the Panzer Grenadiers occupying the corner building complex across the courtyard.
And on the German initiative, reinforcements arrived. Two more platoons of Panzer Grenadiers occupied the Farmhouse, taking back control of my rear:
But I now controlled 4 terrain objectives and it was suddenly the Panzer Grenadiers who had to attack. And I'd taken out their forward observor in my mad rush of close assaults, so they had to attack without smoke.
The Germans decided to circle around their hero squad, Second Squad, taking out a few orphaned American Platoon commanders on the way. They also took out my last forward observor, which was a blow. They had to leave behind a pinned squad, but didn't want to risk a rally roll from fear of losing the initiative. They managed to work their way all the way around to the hedge lining the Eboli road before I finally suppressed them and halted their advance:
From this point, the Germans tried to shoot me out of my positions, but lacked the firepower. They no longer commanded the full platoon with attached machinegun crossfires, and the best they could muster was a tank main gun + machinegun group fire. They continually lost the initiative, and shortly thereafter I had won the second game by surviving the required 5 initiatives.
But my win came at high cost. I'd lost 9 Squads, including a Heavy Machinegun Squad, plus a Company Commander and two Forward Observors. The Germans had only lost about six Squads, but they did lose two tanks.