Saturday, November 12, 2011

Brief Kursk Book Review: Demolishing the Myth

 "Demolishing the Myth" is a book that I've been waiting to get my hands on for a few months now.  As those who follow my blog know, I have been deeply involved in designing a Field of Battle: World War II (FOBWW2) scenario to simulate the LAH 1st SS Panzergrenadier Division's attempt during the Kursk battle to capture Prokhorovka Station.  FOBWW2 is a Piquet-family game that puts you in the seat of a division commander.  The smallest units are companies.

"Demolishing the Myth" was written by Valeriy Zamulin in 2005.  Zamulin was the Director of Research at the Prokhorovka Museum and only recently has this book become available in English.  Stuart Britton did an excellent job translating this book to English and the transition from Russian to English is flawless.  The book offers a Soviet perspective of the fighting around Prokhorovka and gives a fresh look at a battle that previously has been described mostly from the German point of view.

The book is 630 pages and each page has a nice, glossy feel to it.  The book is extremely heavy and I actually weighed my copy in at 4 pounds!  It contains 38 contemporary color photos taken by the author of viewpoints from the battlefield (BELOW).  Black and white photographs of action scenes and important leaders are present throughout the book.

 There is an excellent map section (9 maps) that clarified for me the different units involved in this very confusing battle (BELOW).

 And there are tons and tons of charts recording the strengths and casualties by vehicle type and troop rank of the German and especially the Soviet units involved (Example BELOW).  Everything you wanted to know to develop a wargaming scenario.

The author writes from a Soviet perspective and often refers to the Germans as "the enemy" and Soviet units as "our"  units, but I hardly cared.  I was too blown away by the insight he gives into the different brigades, the conflicts between the leaders, the mistakes made and heroes proven on the battlefield.  Zamulin combines tactical descriptions of the action during the battle with personal accounts of the men who fought there.

I was particularly moved by a passage where the book described  how the uniforms of the tank crews became soaked with fuel and grease while they worked on their tanks.  Then when they entered combat, direct fire and artillery would hit the T-34 and often puncture the oil and gas tanks.  Gas would drain into the interior of the tanks and soak the crews.  Only the slightest flame or spark would  ignite the uniforms of these brave crews.  Horrifying.

I recommend this book greatly, but I will warn buyers that it is very focused on the Prokhorovka portion of the Kursk battle.  If you're into Prokhorovka like I am, this book will become your bible.  When it arrives, you will thumb through it like a hungry wolf, trying to decide which chapter to devour first.

Demolishing the Myth Amazon Link

So using this new knowledge, I made some adjustments to my own "Drive on Prokhorovka" scenario.  I will post in a few days on this current play test of the scenario.

(BELOW) Germans prepare their initial assault on Hill 241.6.  Prokhorovka is on the horizon.   I added the small villages along the Psel valley to the left of the table.  The 99th Tank Brigade is now ensconced in those villages and the 26th Tank Brigade is on Hill 241.6.  The village of Storozhevoe is tucked into the woods now (defended by the 169th Tank Brigade) and the rail line is now curved.

(BELOW) Dead German markers ready for deployment, sir!

 (BELOW)  Only half of the Germans are deployed!  The rest show up on the next morning.

(BELOW) I've started using these neat Litko explosion markers for suppression and to mark when a unit was eliminated...I'm very happy with them.   I always try to avoid using beads and other markers to represent things on the table.  I'm now using smoke for unloaded, the explosions for suppression, and dead guys to represent stand losses on both sides.

 (BELOW) The German dismounted panzergrenadiers benefit from the Superior Firepower card.  Two Soviet infantry units are destroyed and another one is suppressed.

(BELOW) A normal Firepower card results in general fire from the tanks and infantry of 1st LAH Division.  More suppressions and casualties are the result.

(BELOW) This panzergrenadier group thought it might be able to clear out the 99th Tank Brigade units along the  Psel River, but just like their historical counterparts, the Soviets responded with a hail of effective fire, suppressing all of the infantry in the group.  Not so easy, eh, Hitlerites!?

(BELOW) A German Command and Control card drops a spotting round on the Soviets and the on the next card, in drops the Nebelwerfers!!!  Stalin's organs eat your heart out!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Drive to Prokhorovka : Kursk Project Part 3

Above is the deployment map for Turn 1 of the Drive For Prokhorovka scenario.  The Guards Airborne regiments are frozen in place until they are attacked or 11 July 1943 AM (Turn 3).

I thought I would post the data I've gathered for this scenario.  Please feel free to evaluate my info and make comments in the Comments section of this post.

Here are the basic TO&E strengths I developed for the units involved during this period.  The most shocking thing is the weak tank strengths the Soviet tank brigades had.  Apparently, the Soviets didn't give their brigades the third tank battalion until after the Kursk campaign.  Bummer.

Soviet Tank Corps Kursk 1943
  • 3 Tank Brigades (4 T34 companies, 3 Infantry companies each)
    • 1 Motor Rifle Battalion
      • 3 Infantry Companies (Trucks)
    • 2 Tank Battalions (4 T-34 each)
      • 2 T-34 Tank Companies
  • 1 Motor Rifle Brigade (9 infantry companies, 9 trucks each)
    • 3 Motor Rifle Battalions (3 infantry companies each)
      • 3 Motor Rifle Companies (trucks)
  • AT Battalion
    • 2 SU-76 Companies
  • Recon Battalion
    • 2 AC Companies
  • Motorcycle Battalion
    • 2 Motorcycle Companies
    • 1 Motor Rifle Company (trucks)
Mechanized Corps Kursk 1943
  • 3 Mechanized Brigades
    • 3 Motor Rifle Battalions
      • 3 Motor Rifle Companies (trucks)
    • Tank Regiment
      • 3 T-34 Companies
      • 1 T-70 Company
  • 1 Tank Brigade
    • 3 Tank Battalions
      • 2 T-34 Companies
    • 1 Motor Rifle Battalion
      • 3 Tank Rider Companies
  • AT Battalion
    • 2 SU-76 Companies
  • Recon Battalion
    • 2 AC Companies
  • Motorcycle Battalion
    • 2 Motorcycle Companies
    • 1 Motor Rifle Company (trucks)
Heavy Tank Brigade
  • 2 Tank Battalions
    • 2 KV-1 Companies
  • 1 MTR Battalion
    • 2 Tank Rider Companies
AT Artillery Regiment
  • 1 76mm AT Company
SP AT Artillery Regiment
  • 2 SU-76 Companies
  • 2 SU-122 Companies

1st SS Panzer Grenadier Division

1st SS Panzer Recon Bn
  • 2 armored car companies (233 and 222)
  • 1 recon infantry company (halftracks)
1st SS Assault Gun Bn
  • 3 Stug Companies
1st SS AT Bn
  • 3 Marder III companies
1st SS Panzer Regiment
  • I/1st SS Panzer Bn
    • 4 tank companies MK IV
  • II/1st SS Panzer Bn
    • 4 tank companies MK IV
    • Tiger company
1st SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment (18 Infantry, 3 halftracks, 6 trucks)
  • I/1st SS Panzer Grenadier Bn
    • 3 PzGren companies (halftracks)
  • 2 Panzer Grenadier Battalions
    • 3 PzGren companies (trucks)
2nd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment (18 Infantry, 9 trucks)
  • 3 Panzer Grenadier Battalions
    • 3 PzGren companies (trucks)
And here is the OOB for the campaign.  This is the first version.  

Companies from underlined units are independent and can be commanded by any command stand.

2nd SS PGR REGIMENT (9 Infantry companies, 3+1 command stands, 6 trucks, 3 halftracks)
1st SS PZR REGIMENT (8 Panzer IV companies, 2+1 command stands, 1 Tiger I company)
1st SS RECON BN (1 233 company, 1 222 company, 1 infantry company, 1 halftrack)

HILL 241.6
99TH TB/ 2ND TC ( 4 T34 companies, 3 Infantry companies, 2 command stands)
  • 1502ND AT REGT( 1 76mm AT bunker company)
  • 48TH AT REGT ( 1 76mm AT bunker company)
  • A BN FROM 11TH MRB/ 10TH TC (3 Infantry companies, 1 command stand, 3 trucks)

169TH TB / 2ND TC ( 4 T34 companies, 3 Infantry companies, 2 command stands)
26TH TB/ 2ND TC ( 4 T34 companies, 3 Infantry companies, 2 command stands)

1st SS PGR REGIMENT (9 Infantry companies, 3+1 command stands, 9 trucks)
1st SS AG BN (3 Stug III companies)
1st SS AT BN (3 Marder III companies)

(23rd, 26th, 28th GAR 9 infantry companies, 1 command stand each)
26th astride Prokhorovka road to Oktiabrski State Farm, 23rd with 2 BN's south of 26th and 1 BN in Prokhorovka suburbs, 28th in reserve north of Prokhorovka.
  • 57th HEAVY TANK REGT (3-4 KV-1 tank companies, 2 infantry companies, 1 command stand)
  • 301st AT ARTY REGT (1 76mm AT bunker company)

( 12 T34 companies, 9 Infantry companies, 6 command stands), 2 SU76 companies, 2 SU85 companies.
  • 53RD GDS TANK REGT (3-4 KV-1 tank companies, 2 infantry companies, 1 command stand)

  • 1000TH AT REGT ( 1 76mm AT bunker company)

53RD MR BN/29TH TC AT A6 ( 3 Infantry companies, 1 command stand, trucks)


GERMANS Combat Defense Speed Notes
Panzer Grenadier C12+1 D10 Slow 8” When mounted = Fast 16”, D4 DD; halftrack-mounted can fire DOWN1. Superior Firepower when dismounted.
Panzer Grenadier C12+1 D10 Slow 8”
Pz-IV tank C12 D10

Tiger tank C12+1 D12 Slow 8”

Stug III assault gun C12 D10 Normal 12”

Marder III SP AT gun C10 D8 Normal 12”

Sdkfz 222 AC C8 D4 Fast 16”

Sdkfz 231 AC C8 D4 Fast 16”

Stuka C10 D8

SOVIETS Combat Defense Speed Notes
Infantry C8 D4 Slow 8”

Guard Infantry C8 D6 Slow 8”

T-34 tank C10 D6 Fast 16”

KV-1 tank C10 D8 Slow 8”

SU-76 assault gun C10 D4 Normal 12”

SU-85 assault gun C10 D6 Normal 12”

AT gun bunker C10 D6 N/A

Minefield C10 - N/A Minefields are either AT or AP. C4 vs wrong type.
Sturmovik C10 D8

1st SS Recon Battalion at Kursk

 I've been steadily working at painting up all of the 10mm Pithead miniatures I need to field the 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Division for our Kursk "Drive to Prokhorovka" campaign.  Here are some photos of the 1st SS Recon Battalion or Aufklarungsabteilung.  Two armored car companies and a halftrack-mounted infantry company.  They are backed up by two Stug companies from the division's assault gun battalion.

All I have left to do for the Germans are 4 Pz IV's, 2 Stugs and the 6 Marder III's from the AT Battalion.  They are in the mail right now!  Then maybe a few halftracks and trucks to represent the grenadiers when they're mounted and travelling in style.
I hand-painted the German crosses on the armored cars, but I have 10mm decals that I plan to use on the Stugs.  I'm just waiting for my decal solvent to arrive in the mail before I apply them.  I'm also waiting form some brown, dirt-colored Vallejo pigment to arrive to weather the tanks a bit.

I also replaced the antennas with smaller thinner brush wire which I think really looks great for radio antennas. 

In a week or so, I'll probably be able to post a picture of the entire division.   I've also finished my first version of the OOB for the campaign which I'll post in a few days.