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The November 2013 issue of Armchair General ® presented the Combat Decision Game “Polish Motorized Infantry Attack, 1944.” This CDG placed readers in the role of Major Wladyslaw Zgorzelski, commander of  10th Dragoons (Motorized Rifle Battalion), 1st Polish Armored Division. Serving as part of Canadian 1st Army in British General Bernard Montgomery’s 21 Army Group, the division was manned by Poles who had fled occupied Poland to fight for the Allies after their country’s defeat by Nazi Germany in September 1939. Zgorzelski’s mission in mid-August 1944 was to attack and capture the German-held town of Chambois, France, and then link up with American units advancing from the south, thereby blocking German 7th Army’s escape route from an ever-shrinking pocket formed by converging Allied armies.

After the D-Day landings in France on June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies finally broke through strong German defenses in Normandy’s daunting bocage terrain in late July. In early August, Allied armies swept forward, driving the battered German 7th Army into an area between Falaise and Argentan. Inside this Falaise-Argentan Pocket were 15 German divisions with a total of 100,000 troops desperately attempting to flee eastward and escape the Allies’ trap.

At the still-open eastern edge of the pocket sat the town of Chambois, a key exit point through which German forces were fleeing. Capturing the town – in particular the Dives River bridge that allowed German tanks heavy weapons and vehicles to escape – was a vitally important mission. Once the Polish force had captured Chambois and linked up with the Americans to close the trap, the way would be clear for Allied armies to advance eastward and liberate France.


Throughout the morning hours of August 19, 1944, 10th Dragoons accomplished the laborious and time-consuming – but absolutely necessary – task of refueling all of its halftracks and vehicles and re-arming the unit weapons to ensure the battalion was fully prepared to accomplish its mission. Zgorzelski meanwhile coordinated with Polish 1st Armored Division units to advance along his battalion’s flanks and provide security.

The battalion finally got under way at 11 a.m. and almost immediately began encountering pockets of enemy soldiers moving eastward. Some of the Germans put up a fight while others surrendered, requiring Polish soldiers to guard the increasing number of prisoners of war. Delayed by the succession of small firefights and POW roundups, the battalion at last approached Chambois at 6:45 p.m.

Zgorzelski decided to attack Chambois along three widely spaced axes of advance (COURSE OF ACTION TWO: BROAD FRONT). In the center, 1st Company advanced along the high-speed road (Route D16), followed by the headquarters element and the support company. Meanwhile, 3d Company attacked on the right flank and 2d Company assaulted on the left flank. (See Historical Outcome map.)

Upon reaching Chambois’ outskirts, Zgorzelski’s infantrymen dismounted from the halftracks and initiated their attack. Backed up by fire from the halftracks’ heavy .50-caliber machine guns and company mortars as well as the support company’s Vickers machine guns and anti-tank guns, the three attacking columns quickly moved through the town’s rubble-strewn streets. Fortunately for the Poles, many of the Germans’ heavy weapons (such as tanks and assault guns) visible on aerial photos had been knocked out or were abandoned by their crews. The Poles seized the Dives River bridge, and as they overcame the German resistance in Chambois, the first Americans from 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, arrived.

Although capturing Chambois proved less difficult than Zgorzelski had feared, his battalion and the newly arrived Americans were hit by a strong German counterattack on August 20. However, they defeated this last desperate effort by the Germans to break out of the pocket, with American artillery proving particularly deadly to the enemy.

By August 22, 1944, the Allied trap was firmly shut on German forces remaining within the Falaise-Argentan Pocket. About 10,000-15,000 German soldiers had been killed (most by Allied airstrikes and artillery) and over 40,000 were taken prisoner. Perhaps as many as 50,000 Germans escaped eastward, but they left behind nearly all their tanks, vehicles and heavy weapons. The tally of abandoned/destroyed enemy equipment included 300 artillery guns, 340 tanks and armored vehicles, and over 2,000 trucks.

The carnage wrought by Allied planes and artillery was horrific. Supreme Allied Commander U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, visiting the Chambois area shortly after the fighting ended, judged: “No other battlefield presented such a horrible sight of death, hell and total destruction.”


ACG judges based their selections for winning Reader Solutions and those receiving honorable mention on submissions that chose COURSE OF ACTION TWO: BROAD FRONT or those whose explanations demonstrated a solid understanding of the key principles of a World War II motorized infantry attack. By attacking along three widely spaced axes of advance, the Poles forced the Germans to spread their limited number of defenders and weapons over an area too vast for them to cover. Thus this plan offered the best chance for the battalion to fragment the German defenses beyond their capacity to resist effectively. This option also positioned Zgorzelski’s attacking columns in the best locations to block the escape of additional German troops and vehicles, capture the Dives River bridge, and link up with the Americans approaching from the south.

COURSE OF ACTION ONE: SINGLE THRUST not only allowed the enemy to concentrate defensive assets at the Poles’ only point of attack; it also restricted the attackers’ ability to maneuver by confining the Poles to one avenue of approach. This plan inherently lacked flexibility because it limited the opportunities for Zgorzelski’s subordinate commanders to exercise initiative in reacting to the evolving tactical situation once they engaged the enemy. Although by advancing along the main road (D16) the Poles effectively prevented additional enemy tanks, vehicles and heavy weapons from escaping eastward, the battalion’s single-axis attack frontage was not wide enough to block the continuing escape cross-country of German foot soldiers until after Chambois was finally captured and secured.

COURSE OF ACTION THREE: FLANK ATTACK restricted the battalion to one avenue of approach and thus had the same disadvantages as COA One. Furthermore, by approaching Chambois from the northwest, the battalion was in the worst possible position for quickly linking up with the Americans advancing from the south. German defenders therefore had the best opportunity to delay the linkup for as long as possible, which would have allowed many more enemy soldiers, tanks, vehicles and heavy weapons to escape the pocket.

And now for excerpts from the winning Reader Solutions to “Polish Motorized Infantry Attack, 1944.”*

JOHN GRABER JR., WISCONSIN: “Course of Action Two is best because we must keep the enemy spread out and unable to defend a single area. The open fields provide excellent flexibility for our troops that we can exploit.”

WAYNE LONG, MARYLAND: “Fire support commences preparation fires with high explosive and smoke on concentration points. Once the bridge is secured, consolidation to repel an enemy counterattack will be organized in the area of the bridge on an all-around perimeter.”

ERIC JOHN POLAND, OREGON: “COA Two forces the Germans to widely spread their defenses as our battalion approaches along multiple axes. Once all units are within a few hundred yards of Chambois, the infantrymen will dismount and execute a three-prong attack.” Thank you to everyone who participated in this Combat Decision Game. Now turn to page 56 and test your tactical decision-making skills with CDG #61, “Japanese Defense of Nomonhan, 1939.” This battle, which unfolds on the disputed boundary line separating USSR-backed Mongolia and the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, places you in the role of Major Tomiji Kajikawa, commander of 2d Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, in the Kwantung Army’s 7th Infantry Division. Your mission is to defend against an attack launched from multiple directions by a strong Soviet infantry and tank force. The enemy aims to destroy your battalion, continue east to capture the village of Nomonhan, and then re-establish by force the Soviet Union’s claimed boundary line. Use the CDG map and form on pages 59 and 60 to explain your solution and mail, email or fax it to Armchair General by February 28, 2014. Winners will be announced in the July 2014 issue, but those eager to read the historical outcome and analysis can log on to after March 3, 2014.  


*Editor’s Note: For each Combat Decision game, ACG typically receives numerous Reader Solutions that have selected the course of action that ACG judges have deemed the best COA for that CDG. However, our judges are required to choose winners and those earning an honorable mention from submissions whose explanations, in the judges’ opinion, best reflect an understanding of the principles and key points of the CDG’s tactical situation.

Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Armchair General.