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Bonus Scenario: Operation Avalanche
by Michael J. Canavan, Sr
Command Sergeant Major
US Army (retired)

This scenario was built to be playable with the units found in the Axis & Allies Miniatures Starter Set. It is quick and easy to play and provides a great way to teach a friend how to play the game. It was originally published in the October 2005 issue of Scrye Magazine.


Operation Avalanche was the code name given for the plan to land Allied troops near Salerno as part of the invasion of Italy. On 3 September 1943, as part of Operation Baytown, Montgomery’s Eighth Army crossed the straights of Messina and landed in the region of Calabria, meeting with little resistance from Axis forces. Six days later, additional elements of the Eighth Army landed unopposed at Taranto in Operation Slapstick. Although the Italians had secretly surrendered to the Allies on 8 September 1943, the Germans quickly disarmed their former comrades. On 9 September 1943, Operation Avalanche commenced and the main Allied force, General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army, landed at Salerno. They met with stiff resistance from the German Tenth Army. The 29th Panzergrenadier Division launched a series of devastating counterattacks which nearly succeeded in driving the Anglo-American force back into the sea. Fifth Army rear echelon forces were rushed to the front, while reinforcements from the 82 Airborne Division were dropped behind enemy lines to shore up the defense. The determined resistance, along with intense naval bombardment and air support, prevented a disastrous defeat. This allowed the Fifth Army to link up with Montgomery’s units advancing from the south.

The Allies began their push north and found a well-prepared and determined foe. The German Tenth Army, under the leadership of Heinrich Vietinghoff, fought with great skill and slowed the Allied advance to a crawl. The rocky ravines and river valleys of the Apennine Mountains enhanced the German rear guard operations. The terrain offered plenty of naturally defensible positions covering choke points in the Allies’ avenues of approach. Making use of the terrain, the Germans employed small units in counterattacks and other delaying actions. By hindering the Allied advance, the Germans bought much needed time for their comrades to strengthen the next defensive line in the series. The final defensive line was to be the Gustav Line, which was anchored on one end at Monte Cassino.

Although viewed as secondary to the impending D-Day invasion, Allied operations in Italy served a vital role of keeping many German divisions out of the Eastern front as well as tying up valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere.

Scenario: Operation Avalanche

In this scenario, elements of the 29th Panzergrenadiers have planned a counterattack against advancing Fifth Army units as part of German rearguard operations. Both forces have the same tactical objective; to control the road access into and out of the village. These roads are the only high-speed routes through this particular river valley since neither the river nor the pond is fordable. Blowing the bridge by either player would not be feasible because of time constraints and such action would still leave the alternate route around the pond wide open. The two objectives have the additional advantage of offering mutually supporting defensive positions and clear fields of fire. Although the number of Allied forces are greater than the Axis, the German fire power, if deployed effectively, more than makes up for the seeming deficiency. The Allied force is a match for the German equipment, particularly if the Allied player moves his units skillfully.

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