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Firestorm: Stripes

The Team Yankee Global Campaign

Into the Valley at Vockerode

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United States
VS Warsaw Pact


Captain Matthews took in a deep breath of the cool, crisp, morning air. He had always liked this time of year as the world woke up from a long winter. A devout Catholic, Matthews still held a deep reverence for the land, much like his Celtic ancestors a millennia ago. He was always awed by the Earth’s resilience and beauty.
Today was no different. It looked to be beautiful and sunny, not too cold, not too hot, but reminiscent of early spring back in Kansas. He breathed deeply again, detecting the scent of blooming flowers greening grass, reminding him of the smell of a freshly cut lawn back home. Today is a good day to die, he thought.
And Matthews felt certain today would be his last. The Big Red One had pushed the enemy relentlessly back towards Berlin, but at a high cost. So far, Comanche Troop had been relatively lucky, and Matthews, especially, had escaped Fate on more than one occasion. He knew his Irish luck had run out. He accepted it.

The Battlefield

First Brigade continued its advance up Route 9 with Comanche Troop leading the way. Ahead lay the Brigade’s next major obstacle—the Elbe River. Intelligence detected an East German Motorized Infantry Battalion across the river, north of the small village of Vockerode. After the highway passed through the village, it crossed the Elbe, then guided right to the east before turning back north and into Berlin. It was along the slow right curve that worried Matthews. This is where the Germans had positioned.
After crossing the Elbe, Route 9 was flanked to the east by a low ridgeline that sloped down to a forest that ran the length of the curve; to the west lay a horse-shoe bend of a canal that encircled a small farm and lined with trees; at the top of the curve lay another farm partially concealed by high hedges. Matthews was to advance up the highway to secure the northern farm—straight into a perfectly laid kill-box for his tanks. Tennyson-like imagery flooded Matthews’ mind.
Today is a good day to die.

Overall Deployment of both forces

In a very un-Custer-like strategy, Matthews decided not to rush full ahead with his tanks; he knew they would be waiting for that. Instead, he chose to push his infantry across the Elbe first to clear the woods to his flanks. To his right, Matthews sent Buchanan’s Mech Platoon and Stuart’s Scout Section to ford the river and engage any forces between the low Central Ridge and East Woods. To the left, Buford’s Scout Section, with Polk’s Light Platoon from 1-41 INF, raced across the bridge to clear the woods and canal to the west. Wilson’s Mortar Platoon and Monroe’s FiST-V emplaced near a low hill on the south bank to provide fire support. His tanks would also provide fire support from the south side of the river, moving up only when an area was clear. Once they were tied into the infantry, the process would begin again.

Mech Platoon knocks out a pair of BTRs

The carnage began with Stuart and Buchanan drawing first blood, knocking out two BTRs lurking in the East Woods and pinning down the infantry deployed along the Central Ridge. Buchanan called in a Mortar barrage but decided not to press his attack, suspecting an enemy minefield lay between him and his objective on the ridge when a few of the mortar rounds fell short and set off several secondary explosions.
The enemy responded to Buchanan with light machine gun fire and Spigot missiles. The volley was rushed and the Mech Platoon escaped with no casualties. A rocket and artillery barrage quickly followed, killing and wounding several of Buchanan’s men. Then, to add injury to insult, a lone RPG found its mark, knocking out Stuart’s Scout track.

Light Platoon's initial attack

To the west, Polk called for an artillery strike and conducted a Recon-by-Fire into the woods along the canal, but could see no enemy reaction. Adams’ 2nd Platoon of tanks pumped several rounds down the length of Route 9, but had no telling effect.
Polk’s position was also subjected to an artillery strike that, luckily, fell short. A well-aimed shot from a Spigot missile suddenly veered off target when its guidewires became entangled in low-hanging tree branches, sparing Buford’s ITV. Sporadic small arms fire from the western farm peppered the Light Platoon, causing minimal casualties.

2nd Platoon advances over the Elbe

Matthews knew he had been fortunate thus far—no enemy aircraft had made an appearance, but that was only a matter of time. Not wanting to get caught with his pants down, he ordered Natalini’s section into position on the south bank, effectively covering his troop with Stinger missiles. Adams pushed his tanks across the bridge to support Buchanan while Lincoln’s 1st Platoon of tanks remained in place along the south bank and engaging long-range targets near the northern farm.

Tanks in overwatch along south bank
The Light Platoon advances to the canal

Polk shifts the artillery fire toward the farm on the west side of the canal while advancing his platoon to the tree line. With his M-60 machine guns providing covering fire and his men firing as they moved, Polk made a push for the canal, killing an enemy team. Buford’s ITV, along with Polk’s Dragon team, claimed two BTRs on the opposite side of the canal. For inexplicable reasons, Polk found no enemy in, near, or around, the western farm. He knew they had been there—two burning BTRs and a dozen bodies attested to that—but nothing else. They had simply decided to abandon the position.

The Mech Platoon engages in a prolonged gun battle

To the east, Buchanan continued his duel with German infantry along the ridge, trading small arms and machine gun fire when artillery and mortars weren’t falling all around them. He could tell by the dwindling return fire, that he was getting the better end of the deal, be he knew his fortunes could change in less than a heartbeat.

Frogfoot Inbound!

Soon, Matthews’ premonition of enemy air manifested itself. Two Su-25 attack jets, approaching from the north, bore down on Adams’ tanks. Natalini was quick to engage, his Stingers swatting one of the planes out of the sky before it could fire and narrowly missing the second before it knocked out an Abrams.

Comanche Troop w/AA advances up Route 9

Hearing the heavy rotors of Hinds in the distance, Matthews knew the enemy’s next tactic—overwhelm his Stinger section with helos so his fast-movers could prowl unmolested. Matthews decided he was not going to play that game and ordered Quincy to move up with his Vulcans to cover the Stingers. Lincoln’s 1st Platoon moved across the river, tying into the 2nd Platoon’s left flank. Meanwhile, Natalini repositioned his section amongst the tanks, adding their .50cal machine guns to the Vulcans, bolstering his own section’s air defense.

Final positions along the canal

Along the canal, Polk and Buford secured the farm and dug-in along the canal’s northern bend. From this position, Polk could threaten the north farm, preventing the infantry company stationed there from reinforcing their comrades on the Central Ridge. Buford positioned his Scout Section to watch the approaches from the east along Route 9 and still support any action around the north farm.

Gun battle near the west woods takes it toll on both sides

Buchanan’s good fortune was beginning to wane. His prolonged firefight with the German infantry was taking its toll. Nearly half of his platoon had been killed or wounded, and the enemy would not budge. He didn’t know how much damage he was inflicting, but he did know he didn’t have enough combat power to evict a small troop of Boy Scouts, let alone a dug-in enemy with heavy weapons. The Captain had shifted all available fire support to the ridgeline to assist, but all he could do, for now, was sit tight. The focus of the battle had shifted to the west. He simply had to hold his position and wait. But for how long?

T-55 Battalion begins to arrive

From the cupola of his Abrams, Matthews could see confusion and desperation beginning to take hold in the enemy command structure. Part of a company of BMP-mounted infantry began moving south toward the Central Ridge while another part moved west toward the canal before stopping suddenly; a company of T-55 tanks, positioned along the eastern end of the Route 9 and ready to attack south, abruptly moved north toward the farm, becoming entangled with part of the BMP infantry company, while a newly arrived tank company moved into the positions recently vacated by the first company; the infantry holding the central ridge began to consolidate in preparation for an assault, moving their last three BTRs to flanking positions to provide fire support.

Hinds fly into a Venus Fly-trap

Then the Hinds came . . . and Matthews was ready for them. Every anti-aircraft gun in range swung into action to meet the threat. In seconds, .50cal fire brought one of the gunships crashing down as a volley of Stingers scattered another into thousands of metal pieces across the clear, blue sky. The surviving pair of Hinds managed to get off a volley of missiles that failed to do much more than scratch the paint of the Abrams.
There will be a day when the hearts of free men will fail, thought Matthews with a relieved grin, but it is not this day.

EG armor moves around the northern farms

Sensing the enemy about to collapse, Matthews decided to press his advantage. Bandit Troop of 1-6 CAV reported four Cobras on-station, but Matthews ordered them to hold back until he was satisfied the anti-air threat was minimal, and focused his attention on the traffic jam around the northern farm.
In a rapid succession, Matthews and his two tank platoons smash four T-55 tanks and a BMP parked around the farm. Polk and Buford added to the confusion by disabling the lead tank as it nosed around the west side, further bottling up the enemy. The Light Platoon’s machine guns and riflemen, meanwhile, had the enemy’s battalion HQ in their sights, killing a Gremlin team.

Matthews' tanks reek havoc on T-55s

Buchanan, seeing what was about to happen to his direct front, ordered what remained of his platoon to concentrate on the BTRs—destroying all three—as he directed the Mortars to fire on the enemy infantry, finishing off the last of their heavy weapons.

Mech Platoon holds the right flank
Last of the Hinds are brought down.

Matthews had the enemy on the ropes and his men were ready to assault. But before he could give the order, the enemy simply gave up the fight. The beaten and battered infantry on the Central Ridge crawled out of their fighting holes and sat down in the dirt; the fresh tank company halted, then reversed out of the AO, accompanied by a BMP company.


Matthews ordered a halt to secure the prisoners. His men had done well, despite being ordered into an obvious ambush. He had lost only 2 vehicles and the equivalent to half an infantry platoon—mostly Buchanan’s soldiers—while inflicting several hundred casualties on the enemy and destroying more than a dozen tanks and APCs.

Today had been a good day to die, but it wasn’t my day, mused an exhausted Matthews.

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