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Posted on Jun 6, 2011 in Electronic Games

D-Day Brecourt Manor AAR – Combat Mission Battle for Normandy

By Jim Zabek

Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy.  A D-Day AAR. Publisher: Battlefront.com 

Brecourt Manor

D-Day. I never cease to be amazed by the undertaking of D-Day. As a former docent at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans I have a special appreciation for the men who stormed those beaches on June 6th.

I have spoken with a number of World War Two vets and always awed and humbled by the experience. Heroics, large and small, are a common theme with them. As one vet told me, “Medals? I’ve got a chest full of them. They don’t mean nothin’.” It’s the guys who didn’t come back who were their heroes.

No game can be a proper tribute to the men who served. Having many times walked the halls of the museum and interpreted the artifacts there I can still barely imagine what it must have been like on that day and the days that followed. How can one pay tribute, how can one properly honor such sacrifice and bravery?

It is impossible.

No words or deeds can aspire to match those who served during that conflict. The best we can hope is to preserve their legacy, share the lessons of their sacrifice, and teach it to future generations so that they might have some understanding of what was given that we might live without the specter of fascists dominating Europe. Whatever we attempt will be inadequate. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the attempt.

So on this June 6th as most people go about their lives unaware of the significance of the day, or barely aware because of a blurb on the TV before they headed out the door, I will make a small contribution to accolades already heaped upon them. Wholly inadequate it may be, but I will do what little I can to reinterpret history and share a glimpse into the challenges that would face America as it fought across France in the summer of 1944.

“There’s fire along that hedgerow. Take care of it.”

The Mission Briefing.

The actions of Dick Winters are still taught in military classrooms. Given little intelligence, and orders so vague as to almost be meaningless, he assembled an ad-hoc force and conducted a textbook maneuver which succeeded in eliminating a number of German artillery pieces and more importantly – captured a map of German defensive positions all over the peninsula. What better scenario to choose from Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy on this day?

I fire up the game.

Sizing up the map it’s clear Winters did exactly the right thing. I move my men up along the hedgerow to see if I’m facing the same historical German deployment. It’s a good bet I am.

Advancing toward the guns.

My initial orders are to advance behind the tree line so as to remain out of sight until we’re ready to open fire. As my two MG squads approach the tree line I order them to crawl forward and deploy their guns at the edge. My infantry squads will continue to advance cautiously.

My MG squads creep into position.

Nine and a half minutes into the engagement and I have safely advanced all my troops and brought their guns to bear on one German 88. I would love to assault but none of my squads is very large and I think a good dose of prep fire should be used before I do anything hasty.

Taking the first 88 under fire.

Another minute goes by and now that 88 is pinned. Here’s the break I’m looking for. I order two squads to advance. They get into the trench and succeed in taking out the 88, but as I order one of my MG squads to advance, both the scout squad and Capt. Winters’ command squad take casualties and retreat.

Already my game is departing from history. But as I look again, Capt. Winters’ squad still has all three men. We’re good. But I still want to bring up one MG squad and get back in those trenches.

Twelve minutes into the game and Lt. Spiers arrives. Just in time. I order his men up.

As Spiers approaches I order my HQ support squad to try and take another 88. No dice. Two men get shot up and the remaining man retreats. Fortunately Spiers has arrived, and I order his squad to Assault down the trench. I bring up my MGs and issue suppressing fire on the MG nests across the field.

Lt. Spiers advances along the rest of the trench. Ultimately he succeeds in finding the German intel. I then begin to withdraw and return to the exit point.

Lt. Spiers assaults along the trench.

The end of the game finds I have achieved a Total American Victory, but not done as well as Capt. Winters. In fact, as I look around, it appears as though the Captain was lost in battle. Six casualties, and his squad was entirely wiped out, probably by the German machine-gun nests across the field while I was occupied with Spiers’ assault on the other guns.

One gun at the edge of the field near Brecourt Manor was abandoned but not destroyed; I only took out those in the trenches.

Total American Victory.

While not as thorough a trouncing as history unfolded, nevertheless I am pleased with the result. This was a tough fight and I was never certain the outcome would result in success. Pleased though I am, I know I still have not measured up to Captain Winters, and once more I am impressed with the skill and bravery of the men who landed in Normandy.

About the Author

Jim Zabek has been wargaming for over 30 years. Before moving from Louisiana he was a Docent at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

2 Comments

  1. I don’t know if this error was made by mistake or if the game has it this way but Winters was a LT at the time of the invasion, he had not made CPT yet.

  2. Hi Jason,

    That’s a great point. I should have double checked my history books because I thought the same thing. In the game his unit has captain’s bars attributed to it but as I have gone back and checked his name is clearly “Lt. Winters.”

    I’ll own up to the error as I should have double-checked before going to print. My apologies.

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