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North Africa -- Tunisia, Pt 1
Happy Valley
by Patrick Graham

Background
Chouigui Pass, Tunisia, 26 November 1942 -- At the beginning of 1942, the Soviet Union was pressuring its allies to step up efforts to open a second front against the Axis. To this end, the United States had proposed an early invasion of Europe, which Great Britain had strongly rejected. An operation that would land American and British troops in Western Africa was accepted in its stead. The operation was launched on the 8th of November in 1942 landing soldiers at beaches in French Morocco and Algeria. Unfortunately, unexpected resistance from Vichy French soldiers and serious logistical problems hampered progress. In spite of this, Operation Torch would last just two days, as a combined force of American and British soldiers opened a second front in North Africa and sandwiched the Axis between forces in Algeria and Libya. There was hope that the newly landed army would be able to advance rapidly to Tunisia and strike a decisive blow to the rear of the Axis army. Tunisia offered many defensive opportunities for the Axis. The Atlas Mountains to the west would hamper large-scale offensives and limit them to just a few narrow passes. As Operation Torch was underway, reinforcements began arriving in Bizerte and Tunis for the beleaguered Axis. Five divisions were added to existing forces to create the new XC Corps. The newly formed corps was placed under the command of General Walther Nehring, and tasked with defending the new western desert front.

In spite of this infusion of fresh troops, by the third week of November, Italian and German frontline forces were still stretched precariously thin. Forward units were at an extreme risk of being surrounded and cut off if the American offensive continued. Already, American tanks were beginning to strike supposedly rearward formation and installations. A raid by the 1st Armored Battalion on the airfield at Djedeida had proved to lower German morale as much as it boosted that of the Americans. Panic was close to gripping the Axis front lines at the Allies moved within 25 miles of Tunis. However, the long drive had severely overextended the Allies. Crucial supplies and logistical units were well to the rear in Algeria. The Americans would have a difficult if not impossible task in maintaining momentum much further. General Nehring ordered a contraction of the front line to more defensible positions. While infantry formations moved several miles east to reposition themselves, armored and reconnaissance elements would keep the Americans off balance and drive them back where possible.

The Americans weren’t about to do more than move up to close the gap; there was no rush to charge at the retreating axis army. The center would not move at all and instead hold the Choigui Pass. An ad hoc formation of around 2,500 men, dubbed 'Blade Force' was to maintain the center of the Allied advance. In the pass itself was the 1st Battalion, an armored unit equipped only with light tanks and halftracks. The battalion was equipped with 52 Stuart tanks divided between three companies. Company C, which had executed the daring and successful raid on Djedeida Airfield just the other day, took up a position on the east end of the pass. Company A was encamped on the southern ridge of the pass within sight of the battalion quarters situated at St. Joseph Farm. Company B dug into the the north slope which gave a good view of both the farm and company A in case of an attack. Constant strafing, both enemy and friendly, encouraged the 1st Battalion to dub the pass 'Happy Valley'.

At dawn, on the 26th of November, the 1st battalion had settled into its new position and situated their command post by the olive groves astride the St. Joseph’s Farm. From the vantage point of the ridge, Major Siglin, in command of A Company, could see down the Tine River and beyond. Over the course of the morning he observed the movement of several German infantry companies, including crack paratroopers. At about noon, incoming shells from German panzers disturbed these observations. Major Siglin ordered his Stuarts to meet the enemy and defend the farm. With that began the first tank battle of the Second World War between the Americans and Germans.

At 1200 hours on November 26th, 1942 German panzers including the new long-barreled Mark IV rolled into Chouigui Pass east of St. Joseph's Farm. The 1st Battalion of Blade Force must hold the panzers at bay using one company to hold the farm while the other flanks the attackers.

Victory Conditions
Victory is awarded to the side with control (determined normally) of the objective at the end of turn 5. The objective is the farm hex controlled by Company A. If neither side controls the objective then victory is determined via the point value of remaining units.

Maps
This scenario makes use of map D1 and D3 from the North Africa: 1940-1943 Map Guide.

Allied Forces

Company A
Unit Set Cost
M3 Stuart (4) North Africa and Base Set 70
37MM Gun M3 (4) North Africa 20
Squad Total 90


Company B
Unit Set Cost
M3 Stuart (6) North Africa and Base Set 90
Squad Total 90


Axis Forces

190th Panzer Regiment
Unit Set Cost
Panzer IV Ausf E (2) North Africa 30
Panzer IV Ausf F2 (4) 1939-1945 88
Squad Total 118


Set Up and Game Length
Company A deploys at the beginning of the game immediately followed by the 190th Panzer Regiment Company B deploys at the beginning of Turn 4.

The game lasts 5 turns.

Special Rules

  • Camoflauge: Until they move, all American units are camouflaged and receive cover rolls at medium and long range regardless of the terrain they occupy.

Optional Rules

  • Company A: Add 1 Early M4A1 Sherman
  • 190th Panzer Regiment: Add 2 Autoblinda AB41. They may be deployed in any legal full hex adjacent to the 190th Panzer Regiment Deployment Zone.

Conclusion
When the panzers first surged forward, it was all A Company could do to keep from being wiped out entirely. Armor piercing rounds fired from the new high velocity cannons made short work of the hapless Stuarts. Even glancing blows carried enough force to tear turrets and armor from the hulls of the light tanks. Conversely, the Stuarts could not land a killing blow on the frontal armor of the new Mark IVs with their 37mm guns. In one case, a Mark IV absorbed eighteen rounds to its hull and turret without serious consequence. This first battle had quickly exposed a deficiency in American tanks that would dog them to the last days of the war.

However, the American tankers were far craftier than their German foes gave them credit for. While the panzers were engaged at the farm, Company B slipped down the north slope of the valley and circled behind the Mark IVs. Even the German tanks were vulnerable to fire from the rear. Before they had a chance to react, several Stuarts had driven up to point blank range and fired into the engines in the rear of the panzers. Surrounded, the remaining panzers blasted through the encirclement and retreated eastward to avoid being overwhelmed. As the battle drew to a close and the Americans mopped up stragglers, they counted seven allied tanks destroyed to six Axis tanks. While trading casualties, the Americans stood their ground and forced the brash axis tankers to retreat.










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