Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Myth of Krojanty, September 1, 1939

Situation Report

Krojanty, Pomerania Province, Poland, September 1, 1939: On the opening day of the war, German General Heinze Guderian led the 19th Panzer Corps into the Danzig Corridor (Pomerania), which separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany.  Early in the battle, Polish cavalry intercepted German infantry moving toward Gdansk and managed to slow their progress.  However, the Germans broke through the units of Polish Border Guards, which forced the Polish forces to retreat towards and secondary line of defense in the Tuchola Forest and at the Brda River.  The 18th Uhlan Cavalry Regiment was ordered to cover the retreat.  While the Polish units were moving into position as ordered they came across a large group of German infantry resting in a woods near the village of Krojanty.  Colonel Mastalerz decided to take the enemy by surprise, pulled out his saber and immediately ordered a cavalry charge toward the resting soldiers.

GAME LENGTH:  9 turns 

VICTORY CONDITIONS:  The Poles must eliminate the two German companies from the 76th Infantry Regiment, then get at least 2 of their Squadrons off the opposite table edge from where the entered. (the squadrons may be under strength).

Elements of the German 76th Infantry Regiment deploy within 18” of the village workshop (marked with a star).  The Poles get first turn and may enter from ANY one table edge.  (Note the fence that runs along a section of the road to the lower right.  The linear obstacle by the house on the left-hand road is a hedge.  

Reinforcements:  Beginning on Turn 4, roll a d6.  If the result is less than the current turn, the German 20th Motorized may enter the table from any one table edge that is not the edge the Poles entered from.

SPECIAL RULES:  The 76th Regiment is caught off guard and unprepared for a fight.  They are also not expecting a Polish counter-offensive from audacious horsemen.  Before either Company can fire, they must pass a Leadership test.  If they fail, they refuse to fight and are withdrawn from the table.

I found this rule to be a little harsh, as failing the roll essentially ends the game.  Therefore, I modified the roll so that if the Germans fail the roll, they are pinned and get downgraded from Veteran to Trained for the duration of the battle.

The German player won the previous scenario as an Underdog, therefore, as a Campaign rule, he gets an "advantage" until he loses a scenario,  For this battle that advantage is Sporadic Air Support. 

Elements of 76th Infantry Regiment
Confident                                Veteran
A Company
1 Command Stand
3 Rifle Stands
1 HMG stand

B Company
1 Command Stand
3 Rifle Stands
 Elements of 20th Motorized Division 
Confident                                Veteran
1 Command Stand in Kubelwagen
3 Rifle Stands
3 SdKfz 251 Halftracks
*The Halftracks are treated as having hull-mounted machineguns that must remain on the vehicle for the duration of the battle.

Sporadic Air Support                          
Ju-87 B Stuka
18th Uhlan Regiment
Fearless                       Veteran
1st Squadron                                       
1 Command Rifle team
5 Rifle Stands
2nd Squadron                                     
1 Command Rifle team
5 Rifle Stands

 3rd Squadron                                      
1 Comand Rifle team
5 Rifle Stands
1 Medic
All Polish units begin the game as mounted cavalry.
Both company commanders chose the workshop compound (marked with the star) as a safe place to rest and eat their rations with the HMG guarding the entrance and each command stand inside one of the buildings.  The rest were positioned along the fence inside the yard.

With the German deployment zone limited to 3 buildings and any small clusters of trees surrounding them, I opted to send one company on foot directly at the first shed.  I expected to receive fire from this location as soon as I moved onto the board.  The other 2 Squadrons would come in to either side, circling around the trees and converging on the workshop cluster from either side.  If all went well they would reach the compound simultaneously and give the Germans too many targets to fire upon.

After the Germans were eliminated, the goal was to separate the squadrons (making it more difficult for the reinforcements to take out more than one of them) and to send them off the opposite table edge at 3 different points.
Turn 1
The Poles sent one squadron dismounted (supported by their medic) directly onto the table using the shed & fence for cover.  The other 2 squadrons remained mounted and entered to either side, using the trees for cover from any potential fire from the compound.  Each of the flanking squadrons had a machinegun.
The dismounted 3rd Squadron advances on the first shed (in the background) while 2nd Squadron comes in on the left.
1st Squadron coming around on the right.  The compound occupied by the Germans is in the upper right.
As soon as they entered the table the Polish infantry spotted the Germans in the Workshop yard and popped off several rifle shots to no avail.  The German Heavy Machinegun attempted to answer, but immediately jammed.  Both German companies passed the initial morale tests they were forced to make.
Turn 1 Stuka attack on the Polish left flank is ineffective despite the number of good targets.  The Poles were able to minimize casualties from the air strikes by spreading out as they approached the German positiosns.
Turn 2
The Squadron on the Polish right dismounted as they reached the tree line and the heavy machinegun opened up on the Germans visible in the workshop yard; eliminating one squad.  The Germans passed the ensuing morale check and the Heavy Machinegun attempted to fire on the advancing Poles, only to suffer a second jam! They must've let it lie on the ground while they were eating lunch.
The Germans had the good fortune to have another air strike come in, but the Luftewaffe pilots pulled up as they weren’t sure where the friendly units were and didn’t want to hit any of their own men. (I have a house rule allowing aircraft to hit units closer than 16" to friendly troops, but there is a chance of friendly fire once the range is under 18").
Turn 3
The Poles on the left completed their encirclement, unlimbering the heir heavy machinegun and coming up to the trees behind the German compound. The combined attackers were able to gun down another rifle stand and would have eliminated the heavy machinegun, but for the presence of the medic who kept them in the fight (another House rule).  Never the less, the company occupying the workshop panicked and routed from the battlefield before the encirclement was completed.
Both dismounted squadrons assaulted the compound, converging on the defenders at the same time from two sides.  After losing a single squad, the Germans broke and attempted to flee, but found themselves trapped by the mounted squadron and surrendered.
1st & 2nd Squadrons assault the remaining Company in the compound; forcing them to abandon the position and run right into the mounted 3rd Squadon behind the workshop.
For the third time the Luftwaffe buzzes the battlefield.  This time they're able to pick out the mounted 3rd squadron, but only a single stand was eliminated.
Turn 4
The German reinforcements appeared promptly on Turn 4, entering the table where 2 of the Polish Squadrons were planning their escape.  
The 3rd squadron (that was already mounted) attempted to ride past the halftracks and lost one of their number to machinegun fire.  The squadron that had taken the compound chose to make the attempt on foot, while the 1st squadron called forward their horses.
Turn 5
As the cavalry attempted to get away, all 3 machineguns on the halftracks opened up and cut them down.  Only the command group and the heavy machinegun (which had been ordered to stay behind and cover their escape) were left standing.  The dismounted troops, who had been using the cavalry for cover, suddenly found themselves out in the open.
Mechanized infantry on Old School Cavalry.  3 mounted machineguns extract a toll on the Polish Cavalry as they attempt their escape.
Having mounted up, 1st Squadron attempts to escape the battlefield from another route to avoid the halftracks.
Turn 6
Feeling there was no other choice, the dismounted squadron ordered a charge and assaulted the German halftracks.  If nothing else, it would buy time for the rest of the squadrons to escape.
Brave action by desperate men:  3rd Squadron assaults the German halftracks.
The Assault proved suicidal as all 3 stands that assaulted the armored vehicles were beaten.  Watching their comrades get wiped out by the Germans, the rest of the squadron broke and fled from the battlefield. 
From this point, it was a quick mop-up as the machinegun-mounted halftracks mowed down the remaining command stand and heavy machinegun from the 1st Squadron. With only one of the Polish squadrons getting off the table, the Germans were able to chalk up another victory!
Although the tactic of a cavalry charge was not the main weapon of the Polish forces, the tactic took the Germans by complete surprise and routed them from the woods.  The sounds of the battle alerted the units of the 20th Motorized Division nearby and soon the Polish units were under heavy machinegun fire.  According to the memoirs of General Heinze Guderian, the Polish cavalry charge impressed the Germans so much that it sent panic among the officers and staff and it took the intervention of Guderian himself to get the invasion moving again.  
Never the less, the several hours’ delay was enough to allow the withdrawal of several Polish units from nearby Chojnice southward and to the defensive line in the Tuchola Forest.
The following day German war correspondents were brought to the battlefield including a reporter from Italy.  They observed the corpses of the Polish cavalry in addition to German Panzers that had arrived on the scene earlier in the day.  An Italian correspondent sent home an article describing the bravery and heroism of the Polish lancers who charged the German tanks in vain.  Although such a charge did not happen and tanks were not used in the assault, the Germans used the story for propaganda throughout the war and the Myth of Krojanty lives on to this day.
Battle Reenacted:  November 24 -  December 1, 2014

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