The Road to Brest: Sniper’s Last Stand


Mission Photo Album

The town of Landerneau as seen in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

The town of Landerneau, France, as seen in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

In August 1944, Allied troops were in the midst of a concerted push into France, determined to force the Germans back across the Rhine. This would not be easy.

About a month earlier, Adolf Hitler had ordered his soldiers in France to wear the enemy down and force them back, using “every method of guerrilla warfare.”

Following his intelligence-gathering mission at the German command post, our fictional hero Lt. Mike Powell faces one of the most dangerous weapons employed in this type of warfare: snipers.

Sgt. Hammon and T/4 Medic Glenn, members of the tank crew, await orders from Powell.

Sgt. Hammon and T/4 Medic Glenn, members of the tank crew, await orders from Lt. Mike Powell.

Dropped in the outskirts of Landerneau, a town about 10 miles from the port city of Brest, Powell must find a veteran tank crew hiding in the area, lead them to a King Tiger tank, and steal it to help capture the harbor. Between Powell’s insertion point and the tank’s location at the city hall is a rubble-filled wasteland populated only by German snipers hidden in the ruins.

These unrealistically deadly marksmen are armed with the Kar98k bolt-action sniper rifle, a popular weapon for German sharpshooters during World War II. Between the two parts of town – the outskirts and the city hall area – there are about 100 enemies, most of them snipers. As AI, these snipers react as soon as Powell or any of the stranded soldiers come into their view, rarely missing a shot, even when their target is moving.

Despite their inhuman agility, their psychological effect is real. Powell is forced to pick his way through town, scanning every window, doorway, and roof line around every corner with his Springfield sniper rifle. This is not a mission that can be rushed.

At the time of Powell’s actions, the Allies had already captured one major port city (Cherbourg), and had their sights set on Brest. The Germans, meanwhile, were digging in and preparing to make the Allies fight as hard as possible for every inch of land.

A map of the Allies' actions in Normandy up to August 1944 as shown in the mission briefing.

A map of the Allies’ actions in Normandy up to August 1944 as shown in the mission briefing.

The snipers in Landerneau would’ve been aiming to slow the Allied advance as much as possible, something they certainly achieved in the game. However, as of this post’s publication, I couldn’t confirm any sniper deployment in the real town during WWII, or the degree of the town’s destruction during that time.

According to Matthäus Hetzenauer, most successful German sniper of the war (345 confirmed hits), snipers could delay the enemy’s advance with only one or two hits without revealing his own position, as the enemy would stop moving to take cover and/or try to locate the sniper.

Hetzenauer was one of three highly-skilled German snipers interviewed by Capt. Hans Widhofner in a 1967 edition of TRUPPENDIENST, the magazine of the Austrian armed forces, along with Joesf Allerberger (257 confirmed hits), and Helmut Wirnsberger (64 confirmed hits), who all fought on the Eastern Front as members of the 3rd Mountain Division.

The three snipers told Widhofner that they were in their battalion‘s sniper group, of which Wirnsberger was the commander (he was wounded and later served as an instructor at the sniper training area in the Seetal Alps, where the other two also trained). It’s an interesting note that they said the group numbered up to 22 men, and the number of possible sniper locations in the outskirts of Landerneau is 22. Whether this was coincidence or intentional is impossible to tell.

A German sniper takes aim at Powell from a tower in Landerneau, France.

A German sniper takes aim at Powell from a tower near the city hall in Landerneau, France, as the soldiers close in on the King Tiger tank.

The three discussed various sniping strategies, including from a strong defensive position and while attempting to delay the enemy as much as possible. Given the situation in France during August 1944, it’s likely that any German snipers in the area were acting defensively, especially so close to a major port.

All three said that they’re fire one to three shots at most from a secure position, and, while defending, had been ordered (at different times) to fire at any target or only worthwhile targets. They listed important targets as observers, snipers, anti-tank and machine gun crews, and officers.

During delaying action, they said one to two shots from one position were fine, since the snipers were usually not alone. Both Hetzenauer and Wirnsberger said that in most such cases between four to six snipers were ordered to serve as a rearguard and eliminate any appearing enemies. Wirnsberger said his best results came during extended positional warfare and delaying action.

The fact that the AI snipers open fire as soon as Powell and his comrades are visible fits with either of these strategies, especially since Powell is both an officer and a sniper.

The terrain of the town also means that the snipers will not be firing long distances, and all three former snipers said they preferred their targets to be closer than 400 meters.

Once Powell escorts the three surviving members of the tank crew and whatever other soldiers managed to survive the ordeal (it’s possible to save all five from the outskirts) to the King Tiger tank, it’s time to take the “armored behemoth” and head out on the road towards Brest.

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~ by John on October 13, 2014.

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