The German Counterattack That Never Came


Mission Photo Album

Lt. Mike Powell approaches the inner gate to the German command post near St. Lô.

Lt. Mike Powell approaches the inner gate to the German command post near St. Lô.

We rejoin Lt. Mike Powell deep behind enemy lines as he works alone to complete a laundry list of objectives. He’s under the direction of Manon Batiste, who instructs him to infiltrate a German command post, send a shipment of Kar98k rifles into the hands of the French resistance, find German battle plans, determine the number of enemy troops in the area, and get any documentation on the King Tiger tank.

Batiste’s friend Henri drops Powell off at a barn just past the exterior gate and suggests he take cover “before the inspectors arrive” (I’ve waited. They never arrive. Henri’s truck then drives through the area and disappears in front of the main house).

Although Batiste tells Powell it’s “not a stealth mission,” there’s really no need to kill the roaming guards, the MG42 gunner, or anyone outside the inner gate, since it’s pretty easy to avoid being seen up to this point. If Powell decides to peacefully bypass the inner gate, there’s a hole in the fence behind a bush that will allow him to do so, while crates on the other side provide cover from a scanning spotlight.

A German officer stands near an alarm switch inside the manor house command post.

A German officer stands near an alarm switch inside the manor house command post.

However, if Powell wants to delay the inevitable blaring alarm, he needs to kill the guards at the inner gate (preferably with his suppressed pistol) because one will trigger the alarm as soon as he kills any of the three soldiers between this area and the house.

Regardless, once Powell sets foot in any of the three buildings, alarms will sound, spawning infinite pairs of MP40-toting Germans as long as the bells are ringing. Powell can turn off the alarms at their source, but they will be reactivated until he has completely cleared the area.

The small building closest to the entrance gate, has a King Tiger manual in the basement and the radio necessary to send the rifles to Courson on the second floor. The middle building holds the German battle plans (top floor) and some explosives, while the building closest to Powell’s exit contains the list of troops and supplies in the area. Two King Tigers are parked outside, and destroying them with the explosives will earn Powell the Good Conduct Medal.

As I noted in my first post about this mission, it’s unlikely the King Tiger was present in France at this time, though not impossible. The other objectives are, however, at least somewhat based in historical fact. The Allies did fear a counter attack, German troops were massing near St.-Lô, and the resistance occasionally armed itself with stolen weapons.

I took a close look at the “battle plans” before picking them up, and from what I can tell, they appear to be photos of ships near a coast, the bocage, and a train. These, along with the troop manifest, are expected to tell the Allies what to expect from the Germans.

The table where German officers were reviewing their battle plans.

The table where German officers were reviewing their battle plans.

For the most part, the German military was dug in, because, according to Gordon A. Harrison’s account of the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, Allied air superiority greatly hindered its movement.

“If the German Army could not hope to maneuver on anything like terms of equality with the Allies, its only chance for a defensive success was to fight from the strongest possible natural positions,” Harrison says.

Once the main line of defense – the Atlantic Wall – was breached on D-Day, the Germans continued to hold their positions, in part because officials believed the main attack had not yet come. By June 15, 1944, Harrison says, the Allies had slowed their advance to build up their beachheads, and the Germans were having difficulties moving troops to the front lines.

“Each opponent, viewing his own weakness, expected the other to attack,” Harrison writes. “The fact was that neither opponent had the strength to do anything but hold on.”

According to Harrison, The German difficulties were caused mainly by Allied planes attacking supply trains, and by June 13, the German Seventh Army decided that rail traffic between Brittany and Normandy were impossible.

Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt, from the German Federal Archive.

Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt, from the German Federal Archive.

However, on June 20, two days before Powell is briefed on his mission, the Wehrmacht command ordered Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt to prepare a counterattack with six armored divisions to destroy the Americans near Balleroy. Harrison says this action was to be preceded by an attack that would eliminate the British east of the Orne river, but it became clear that they’d have to happen at the same time.

Furthermore, Rundstedt wasn’t optimistic about this plan coming together, but preparations were made anyway. Two corps of the Seventh Army were also stationed to defend from St. Lô to the western coast (possibly the “two formidable German units assembling just outside St. Lô” mentioned by Col. Stanley Hargrove in the mission briefing).

The counterattack never happened, and on June 29, Adolf Hitler met with Rundstedt and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in Germany, where he advocated the army hold fast.

“The overpowering air superiority of the enemy… and his very effective naval artillery limit the possibilities of a large-scale attack on our part,” Hitler is on record saying. “Everything depends on our confining him to his bridgehead by building up a front to block it off, and then on fighting a war of attrition to wear him down and force him back, using every method of guerrilla warfare.”

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~ by John on October 6, 2014.

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