From: Living in the fair city of Melbourne, Australia
I have thought that I'm certainly too defensive-minded. Because I do consider putting together small, mobile groups to do more adventurous things (believe me, to detach 4 Stuarts form TF Kane and send them way east as a screen was adventurous for me! - and, as you will find out as things progress, it was a bad idea - (a) they missed the crucial night movement of his armour, (b) they ended up cut-off and surrendered!), but I always end up, in this kind of situation, rejecting the loss of essential front line power.
As I commented before, that's unfortunate and I shouldn't deter you from detaching forces to do what I have suggested above. "Adventurous" as it might sound, I see it in the following terms:
You stay concentrated along your main lines of resistance. The enemy has no problem whatsoever flanking you or cutting your supply lines, therefore forcing you to (a) abandon the position, or worse, (b) force you to fight a breakout battle to clear the path of retreat of your forces. I say worse because you can't rely on a supply line to support the breakout assault and you may be as unlucky as seeing that your enemy has timed his main assault on your position at the same time you're engaged in your breakout battle. This usually means your force is destroyed or badly mauled, and then the enemy achieves two things: to occupy the valuable location you were defending and damaging your forces.
There's an option (c), which is to bunker down and fight an all-around defense. This is a very good option if there's the possibility of relieving your isolated force and it has significant amounts of supply to support a defensive battle. (c) when feasible opens up a number of interesting possibilities, since your opponent advance will suffer from the need of keeping an "inner ring" to keep your isolated forces in place, and an "outer ring" to defeat relieving forces. The needs of an encirclement battle might well stall his advance for a significant amount of time. On the other hand, your isolated force is for all intents and purposes, pinned down and unable to defend other objectives or cooperate with the rest of your forces.
You send detachments to cover flanks and keep a reserve (sitting on your rear, by definition). Then things get less deterministic, as outcomes of your opponent actions vary.
It might well be the case that he defeats in detail your small detachments. But unless you have bad luck or struck by massive odds, you should be able to withdraw any detachment falling back in a controlled way. This gives you two things: time and knowledge of enemy dispositions. Having more time allows you to decide whether or not to fight an encirclement battle as the defender: you might well retreat before he can cut retreat routes.
So you can see this is a trade-off between having more liberty when deciding what to do/making more difficult your enemy's operations and suffering losses. While you state that you're fighting a flexible defense, I see you too committed to particular positions.
You should answer the following question to yourself: If you know those positions aren't tenable in the mid term, why committing so much to them?
As a little "historical note". All these ideas are in reality as old as the hills, mate. The earliest and more famous recollection of a campaign I can remember featuring anything like this dates back to the Second Punic War, where Fabius, rather than keeping his army together to fight a pitched battle, kept it in small detachments harassing Hannibal's advances and foraging parties, never allowing himself to fight a pitched battle he wasn't sure he could win (which, translated to modern terms, becomes fighting an encirclement/breakout battle). Another Ancient example is that of belligerents in the latter stages of the Peloponese Wars, where the appeal for pitched hoplite battles (or naval battles) was past and due after significant attrition.
A more modern example is that of Napoleonic campaigns, especially the 1805 French campaign against Austria. The Man kept his Corps separated along different routes, interdicting supply routes and eventually forcing battles where he wanted to, against forces with low supply, tired and little faith in their commanders' abilities. In general, it took a great deal of time for his opponents to counter adequately this (and doing this to Napoleon as well, when they were on the offensive). "Doing a Napoleon" and getting away with it, makes me feel like Hannibal from the A-Team when he takes out his cigars
I can take an example of historical usage of detachments, in this campaign, to defend aggresively from Fishbreath's excellent AAR:
The situation, in his opinion, was still developing, and he didn't want to commit his reserve before he had a better picture of it. Cota did release the remainder of 707th Tank Battalion, two companies of Shermans; the battalion's other two companies were already committed with the 112th Regiment to the north and the 109th Regiment to the south. Those two companies, still in the 707th's assembly area along the Clerve, were only two miles away from Hosingen, and so a platoon quickly got under way to bail out the artillery. They arrived shortly, and with their help the artillerymen resolved the day's first crisis.
Fuller, who had far too many crises on his hands to employ his two tank companies as a single unit, sent two platoons to Marnach to retake the south end of the village, while at the same time Paul dispatched his reserve, C Company, from Munshausen to carry out the same task. The two groups were supposed to meet, but C Company came under fire along the road and had to abandon it. The tanks made it to Marnach, though, and were able to clear the Germans from the town. Lt. Col. Paul sent one platoon to retrace its tracks, locate C Company, and defend Munshausen, while dispatching the other to drive south on Hosingen, which Paul thought had fallen. The first platoon did come across C Company and reach Munshausen, and the second swept the Skyline Drive between Marnach and Hosingen clear of Germans, and, to Paul's relief, found Hosingen still in American hands.
So, I have only 15 Stuarts in TF Kane. Detach a platoon for bravery and adventure and I have 11 left. 15 is pretty grim, 11 is worse. Ditto the 9 Shermans in TF Brewer. And as far as useful mobile assets against his armour go, that's it, for now. The US Infantry may have some strength, as you say, but sending 9 Shermans against 7 stugs and 12 (or so) Panzer IVs (as I did at Malempre) resulted only in the loss of 3 Shermans.
That engagement is quite a fifty-fifty thing, phoenix. It could have played out quite differently. The PzIV has a hot gun but flimsy armor. Pretty much the same story for the StuG. The Shermans have decent armor and their gun can defeat StuG's and PzIV's from practically any aspect. You did there what you had to do, even if you didn't win.
If it was a "meeting engagements", even more chancy. I'd not be quick to draw too many conclusions out of that.
Sometimes the TacAI has some trouble placing stuff. So in the defense, as soon as the force arrives and deploys, I detach assets whose placement I'm not happy with. This doesn't cause a replan for the defending force.
Plus, I think that daring as his advance detachments are, they are very risky manouevers with important materiel. I'm sure he knows this, thinks the risks worth it - but I would like to try to prove that wrong. Already (beyond the posts I've done above) I think I may have succeeded in cutting off his advance armour for a while. He's very vulnerable when behind my lines.
Exactly That was one of the two things I was suggesting: denying the security of his supply lines to those forward detachments.
Plus, one thing I have got coming in this scenario is significant arty. So, in this long scenario, where I have to wait for so long before getting significant men and machines to play offensively, I'm still not sure - depsite the attractions - of the value of detaching from so small a force in order to get behind his lines. Clearly I will have to detach to deal with his infiltrations (if reinforcements don't arrive on time), but that's necessary because otherwise my supply lines remain cut.
See my remarks above the difficulties of fighting an encirclement battle for both the attacker and the defender. Can you setup a place to stay put, with plenty of supply at hand, while keeping a screen to avoid him from easily exploiting deeper behind your lines?
Think of setting up a "Bastogne"-like battle :-)
< Message edited by Bletchley_Geek -- 3/27/2013 1:24:22 AM >
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