Tuesday, May 29, 2012

June Approaches

The month of June is one of those "lost months" hobby wise. Trips have been planned and time is being frantically applied to attempting to sort out the last minute details before they arrive.

I have been able to do some work. Progress is continuing on my project for the 80th Roma Regiment campaign on the East Front. A friend has kindly gotten some information for me from the Italian Official history of the campaign. Most of my work on it for the past 2 weeks has been attempting to translate it.

I did get to a Hobby Lobby and bought some materials for a few buildings I am thinking of scratch building for the Ukraine.

Likely there will be few updates between now an July.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More on the 53rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment AEF

I have found some information on the 53rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment.

First, the regiment was at the front in combat within 90 days of the majority of their elements donning their uniforms for the first time. (O. W. Coursey - "Who's who in South Dakota: Volume 3" - Page 70)

They were used in the Advance during the Muese-Argonne Offensive. They had three platoons of the 2nd Battalion within the lead battalion advancing in the American column. (Robert Laplander - "Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legend of America's Famous WW1 Epic")

In addition, once the Lost Battalion was found, the 53rd PI was used to inter their dead. (Thomas M Johnson & Fletcher Pratt - "The Lost Battalion")

The History of the 82nd Division tells that an entire battalion of the 53rd was detailed to bury the American dead from the Muese-Argonne Offensive. (James J Cooke - "The All Americans at War: The 82nd Division in the Great War, 1917-1918")

There is also a very good description of what the role of the few platoons of the 53rd were doing at the van of the attack (http://www.longwood.k12.ny.us/history/upton/302eng/craw8.htm).

Hopefully, I will have more details soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Closing in on Memorial Day

As we close in on the Memorial Day weekend, I find myself once again diverted from my current projects to something different.

My great Uncle served in the Army during World War One. Until this week, I knew very little about his service other than shortly after the war, he died in France due to illness. He was a Postman in Charleston before volunteering for service during the war and miraculously was employed as a postman by the army during his service time. That was the extent of what I knew. Now however, I have been provided with additional information on this long lost family member that has led me along to take a closer look at the Western Front during the final year of the Great War.

Henry Emil Stoesen was 30 years old when he volunteered for service in the Great War. He was living in Charleston, South Carolina and employed by the Postal Service at the time he enlisted.

Henry by his tent.

He was sent to Camp Wadsworth and assigned to the 53rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment for his training. The 53rd Pioneer Infantry was formerly the 47th Infantry regiment of the New York National Guard that was nationalized as the 53rd Pioneer Infantry. Prior to their arrival in South Carolina, they had been deployed on the Mexican border to deal with Pancho Villa.

Collar disk of the 53rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment (D Company). From http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/wwi-co-d-53rd-pioneer-infantry-collar-disk.
When the 53rd arrived at Camp Wadsworth, they had a mere 31 officers and 927 enlisted personnel. Their ranks swelled to over 3,500 men while at Camp Wadsworth. There is a good map of the Camp here.

A search of Pioneer Infantry gave me a nice site defining them (http://www.militaryheritage.org/DARNGWWI.html). This site defined them this way: "The pioneer regiments included such specialists as mechanics, carpenters, farriers and masons. They were supposed to work under the direction of the Engineers to build roads, bridges, gun emplacements and camps "within the sound of the guns." They received standard infantry training so that they could defend themselves, but there are very few documented instances of any pioneer troops unslinging their rifles." In late July, the 53rd was sent to France and arrived in early August 1918. I found a book online "How America Went to War: The Road to France" that listed the troop convoys at this time. It is possible that he was in the convoy Group No 53 that left New York on July 31 and arrive in France on August 12. The troop ships were the Maui, the Siboney and the Orizaba. The last two were sister ships and the Siboney served in both World Wars. The convoy was attacked shortly before docking in France but none of the ships above took damage but did have to evade torpedoes.

The regiment was not assigned to a division at this time but served with the 1st Army Corps. They were rushed to the front to participate in the Allied offensive at St Mihiel and then again for the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It is uncertain if Henry ever saw the front or not.

Apparently, Henry survived all of the above only to contract spinal meningitis in LeMans, France. He passed away on January 21, 1919.

Henry's grace marker in LeMans.

Several years after the war, the family had his body returned to the family plot in Charleston.

Hopefully I will learn some more.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More things learned by reading

I have been slowly working my way through an article about the defense of Dnepropetrovsk in August and September 1941. The neat part is that it is from the Russian perspective and provides some different insight than the normal German Centric views on the early months of the war in the East.

The article is titled "In the Battle for Kiev" and is by Major General J. Zamertsev and originally appeared in the Russian publication Military History Magazine (No 11, 1964). You can find the article here.

Now granted, I do not read or speak Russian and translating this has been largely through the kind services of Google but it is rather fascinating. One claim made in the article was that the initial defensive positions made by Soviet troops were a "cell system of trenches" that were used outside of Dnepropetrovsk that the article calls "unsuitable in practice." The drawback was that the commander could not affect all of his men. A soldier or group of soldiers would be isolated from one another and not feel the impact of their commander. This would lead to troops hiding in the "well of his trench." To my mind, this paints a picture of a series of disconnected spider holes that the platoon would be deployed into. The article goes on to describe high losses to company and platoon commanders who were attempting to motivate their men.

The article also relates that the defensive structures would change during this period to platoon trenches. This kept the men in touch with one another and enabled the commanders to move within the safety of the trench to communicate with their men. The defensive system became closer to the trench systems that were encountered in World War One. With dugouts for the men, communication trenches to connect the various platoon trenches and observation posts.

This just begs for testing out with company or platoon level rules. Being the fan of TooFatLardies rules that I am, this can easily be modeled with either the Troops, Weapons and Tactics rules or even the company level IABSM rules. For example, a Big Man in TW&T has a command radius of 18 inches. A platoon deployed in spider holes rather than trenches would be dispersed so that a number of the men would be beyond the 18" command radius of the Platoon leader. Given the core assumption of TW&T that "we presume that troops left to their own devices will quite happily spot, take cover, fire and generally defend themselves, but will not act in a dynamic fashion," we can see that the troops outside of the command radius would not act on their own. They would act defensively and generally attempt to not get killed. Or behave as described in the article by hiding in the well of their trench.

Once deployed to platoon trenches, the dynamic changes as the big man is able to move to motivate his troops without exposing himself unnecessarily to enemy fire. I am planning on using the differences in defensive postures in my scenarios with the CSIR.

Among the other items that I discovered are some articles about river crossings in the Ukraine. Given that the Ukraine has some 3000 rivers, this should prove to be interesting. Now all I need are some really good period maps of the Ukraine. http://www.wwii-photos-maps.com has a bunch including a number of maps detailing the Dnieper River that are proving useful. But these are 1:50,000 scale. I would love to find some that are 1:10,000 but I won't hold my breath.

Well back to the books.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Painting Again

I have finally gotten a chance to paint some more. With an undercoat on two Peter Pig packs, I started to work on 8 more Russian infantry and three machine gun teams.

Once these are done, I will get to finish off my Britons as well. I managed to get an undercoat on my remaining Britons.

Something happened and I just ran out of steam without even finishing one figure. Not sure what has happened to my motivation.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Back on Target - Fun things you learn by reading

Well, I went back to working on my IABSM scenario pack for the CSIR in 1941. A great reference is Patrick Cloutier's Regio EsercitoL The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars 1935-1943.

I was reading on the Pasubio Division supporting the German Advance on Petrikova. It seems on September 18th, 1941, while crossing the Vorskla River on a pontoon bridge, the Russians opened fire on the pontoon boats and damaged the bridge. So far, this seems rather ordinary. Now for the fun part. The unit firing on the Italians was a concealed and noise suppressed tank in a hull down position. The spotting for the tank was being conducted by shepherds who moved their sheep around until they spelled out letters to a circling Soviet aircraft overhead who radioed the information to the tank. Once the Italians figured out what the shepherd was up to, he was captured, the tank spotted and dealt with through an air strike.

So what I want to know is, did the Soviets indeed have "silencers" for their tanks? What tanks would/could have such a device? How on earth do you make a scenario using shepherds and their flocks as a forward observer (for any rules)?

Anyway, I was amused by this small tidbit and wanted to pass it along.

Friday, May 4, 2012

New Distractions: Spanish Civil War Aviation

Having just finished the Falcon and the Gladiator, one theme that kept coming up was the large number of veterans from the Spanish Civil War that flew in North Africa. This sent me looking up more information about the SCW and the beginnings of a SCW supplement have started.

In reading up on the Aviazione Legionaria (Italian Aviation Volunteers), I stumbled upon some really interesting books. The first was by Frank Tinker who was an American mercenary serving with the Republicans. He wrote a biography of his time there called "Some Still Live." He was anti-fascist but interestingly, he was anti-communist as well. He spent the large part of his service in Escuadrilla de Lacalle, a Spanish unit flying Russian I-15 fighter aircraft.

Each of the Spanish Squadrons had 12 aircraft that were divided into four patrols or Patrulla. Each patrol flew in a 3 aircraft vee formation. Frank's patrol was labeled "Patrulla Americano" as the original four members were all American citizens: Charlie Koch, Whitey Dahl, Frank Tinker and Manuel Garcia Gomez. Whitey Dahl was also a mercenary like Tinker. Both were former military. Dahl would later serve with the American Volunteer Group in China during WWII. Manuel claimed to be from Guatemala but Frank believed he was actually from Paraguay. But Paraguay had recognized the Nationalist government and it would not be politically convenient for him to admit his home country. Also in the squadron was Ben Leider, another American who actually knew Spanish. Ben was an avowed communist and in some ways was separate from the other Americans. Charlie Koch fell ill prior to their deployment and was replaced with Jose "Chang" Selles. Jose was part Japanese who spoke English very well and was placed in the Patrulla Americano.

Tinker claimed that the American volunteers were better pilots than their Spanish comrades. The explanation was that the Spanish pilots had very few flying hours before being posted to fighter aircraft while the Americans had each been experienced pilots prior to Spanish service. He went into action with Escuadrilla de Lecalle in February of 1936.

I am thinking of changing the format of this scenario pack and concentrate on a couple of squadrons and organize them by squadron rather than historically. Any interest?