Below is an After Action Report for The Last Hundred Yards Mission 5.0, “Action at Hatten”. Enjoy!
Lt. Edgar Wood did not know he would win a combat citation that day, as he led Company A of the 48th Tank Battalion towards the outskirts of Hatten. After a long ride, Lt. Wood and his two Platoon Leaders had stopped on a small rise approximately 750 meters from the village of Hatten.
I lowered my binoculars, and looked around my O-Group. “Pip, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see anything resembling a German on that hill.” I looked at the map and pointed to our objective, a small village called Hatten. “That means the Germans are either here in the village,” I shifted my finger to the Woods behind the river that curved past Hatten, “or in the woods on the other side of the river. The way I see it, we’ll need to establish a fire base on the top of the hill with one platoon while the other goes through the gap between the hill and the river and takes the village.”
“Okay. I’ll go with 1st platoon up the left flank here, and Jim, you take your platoon up the middle, making max use of cover of the Woods when you can, and then into the gap between the hill and the river.” Jim, the Platoon Leader for the 2nd platoon had been with us less than a week while Pip, my first Platoon Leader had taken over my platoon when I was bumped up to CO. I waited for Jim to nod before continuing, “The crucial thing here is timing Jim, make sure you don’t get into that gap before Pip and I are in position on top of that hill. We’re gonna’ be really exposed up there, so Jim you need to get into the village quickly to flush any out.” Another nod. I stopped and paused a moment to make sure there were no objections from my two platoon leaders. “Questions?” Both platoon leaders nodded their agreement. “Okay. Mount up. We move out in two minutes.” Jim and Pip scrambled back to their tanks, as I mounted mine.
“Where we off to, Boss?” asked Willie, my driver. “We’re gonna’ move up the left flank through these Woods here,” I said, pointing to the Wood line on the map. “Try to keep behind those trees, just in case some Krauts are on that hill.” I pulled on my headset, checked the radios to be sure everyone was on net, then counted down the time to jump-off.
“Alright, move out.” I called over the net at zero-hour. Our initial advance was easy, with no opposition to either 1st or 2nd platoon. I was getting a little anxious, because the Intel folks said there were German tanks here, and I was having a tough time believing we could advance so freely. But in spite of no opposition, we moved way to slowly due to brief loss of contact with second platoon. The damn radio net went down briefly and we were delayed. Finally, after twenty-five minutes we were ready move into our final positions.
“Everyone ready?” I called. “Roger,” said Jim. “Ready, Sir,” answered Pip. “Okay. Let’s do this,” I ordered.
Jim led 2nd platoon into the gap a fraction of a second before I led 1st Platoon onto the crest of the hill, scanning for targets in the village and the Woods on the far side of the river. Just as we set up to halt on the crest, I saw a muzzle flash from the Hill to my left across the river, and quickly identified the StuG III. Jackie, my gunner and the rest of the 1st platoon immediately opened up on the StuG. As we fired, I heard Jim frantically calling on the net that he was taking fire from a Pz IV in the Woods on the far side of the river.
I responded immediately, “Forget the village then Jim and take out the Panzer in the Wood to your front.” “First platoon, get that damn StuG,” I barked. With the concentrated fire from our six tanks, the StuG didn’t have a chance. But suddenly a tremendous flash caught my eye on my right and I watched in horror as Jim’s tank took a direct hit. The turret blew straight up into the air and all you could see were flames where his tank had been. No one managed to get out and I knew they all were dead.
I immediately called out to Simmons, Jim’s second in command, “Simmons, take over the 2nd and concentrate your fire on that Panzer in the woods. Under the determined fire of the remaining tanks of the 2nd platoon, the Panzer was destroyed.
After a brief pause and just as we began to relax after the encounter with the two German tanks, the Wood line across the stream suddenly erupted in muzzle flashes. The initial volley, from the now revealed German tanks, was ineffective except for Ed Rain’s tank, which took a hit in the running gear – busting a track. Fortunately, Ed and his crew were able to bail out and take cover without any losses. Our return fire wasn’t any better. Being occupied by the Stug we had not seen the second group of Tanks in the Wood line on the other side of the stream. As a result, we were caught by surprise and I don’t think we scored a single hit against the German tanks in the tree line.
The smell of cordite was strong in the tank. We finally got a clear look at one of the panzers in the tree line. My group was spread out on the hill crest, six abreast, basically in three groups of two, with numbers 1 and 2 on my left, 3 and 4 on my right, and myself and 5 in the middle. Ed had even managed to get his crew back into their tank. “Keep firing,” I ordered. “Tanks 1 and 2, engage the Panzer the left of the bridge. 3 and 4, target the panzer furthest right from the bridge. I’ll take the one in the middle. Continue firing!”
Although there were only three German tanks, the Germans continued to fire furiously. But quickly our superior numbers began to have their effect. One of Ed’s rounds strike home and the panzer in the middle immediately burst into flames, “Good Shot Ed.” I said with a grin. Then I heard screams over the radio and looked to my left just as Pip’s tank began to burn.
“Get out!” I called, but even as I did, I knew it was hopeless. Pip was gone, along with his whole crew. After that, the action ended shortly. Taking multiple hits the Panzer on the right suddenly exploded dramatically, followed by the one on the left. As the firing stopped, I heard another curse over the net. It was Bill in number two, his Sherman had its track blown off, but Bill and his crew were ok. To this day, I still don’t know why the Germans didn’t just shoot and scoot their butts out of there. Maybe they were hoping to kill more of us, but I still think it would have best for them to get out of Dodge.
“Second platoon…Status?” I called.
“Simmons here, Sir,” came the reply. “Three runners.”
“Roger that,” I replied. “I think all the Kraut panzers are done. Proceed into village and secure.”
“Affirmative,” came the reply.
At the end of the day we cleared the village and secured the bridges but the cost was steep. I lost two platoon leaders and another two tanks while the Germans lost five. Unfortunately, all the Germans tanks brewed up and any Intel we may have gotten from them had been destroyed. What always amazes me, once the action stops, is just how weird the lapse of time appears. I would have sworn that the entire action from jump-off until we secured the village took no more than ten minutes. But when I checked my watch, I found thirty-seven minutes had passed. I will never figure out why that happens in combat, but it always does.