Friday, September 29, 2023

Grumble Jones Halloween Special "The Eagle Has Landed"


I will assume that most if not all my readers are very familiar with the outstanding movie, The Eagle Has Landed. It is in the top 5 of my favorite movies of all time. And I can watch it again and again, and often take it with me during business travels. It's a great movie to pass the time in airports and is of course PG rated. The story itself is fascinating. The idea that German special forces would attempt the kidnapping or murder of Winston Churchill is fairly fanciful, but not beyond consideration by the Third Reich. Operation Panzerfaust would be a similar type of action, whereby Otto Skorzeny and Grenadiers of the SS Maria Theresa Division would secure the leadership of the Hungarian government. Certainly less dramatic, but clearly shows that the Germans were capable of getting their hands on foreign leaders. That said, I doubt seriously that grabbing Churchill in England was ever a possibility...but Casablanca, Tehran...might have been possible scenarios where the Germans could have nabbed Churchill and even Roosevelt had they known in advance of these meetings.

And of course, The Eagle has Landed occurs during the Tehran Conference as we discover at the end of the movie (spoiler alert) after Col. Steiner has successfully killed the man he believed was Winston Churchill. It at that moment that we discover that the deceased man was in actuality a double for the British Prime Minister.


One of the reasons, the Eagle has Landed is such a good movie is the number of separate stories that are all interconnected. The movie begins with Oberst Radl (a highly decorated/wounded veteran with Gebirgsjaeger affiliation) is given the task of evaluating an operation to kidnap Winston Churchill. A dedicated soldier, Radl takes the direction from Abwehr head Admiral Canaris to heart and comes up with a workable plan. And here we are given an insight into the internal struggles that were at the heart of leadership in the Third Reich. Canaris was an opponent of Nazism and worked at cross purposes to Hitler's and Himmler's plans. He would eventually be brutally executed at Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp. In the movie, upon discovering that Radl has taken the absurd and made it operational, he attempts to shut him down. It is then that Radl is approached by the SS and finds himself in front of Heinrich Himmler. Himmler had long suspected Canaris' loyalty to the Third Reich. 


Himmler takes Radl and his operation under his wing and provides Radl with all the rope he will need to hang himself by the movie's end. So, we see how the absurd becomes reality and the lives that will ultimately be lost for nothing.



It's at this point in the story that we meet the movie's tragic hero...Oberst Kurt Steiner of the 12th Special Parachute detachment. Steiner and his men have cuff bands from North Africa, Crete and appear also to have been at Narvik. During a movement from the Eastern Front into Warsaw, they run afoul of SS busy liquidating the Jewish Ghetto. Steiner's sense of honor and outrage at the senseless slaughter of civilians lands him and his men in an Atlantic Coast Penal Battalion. Here, they are slowly killed off as human torpedoes. 


And when approached by Oberst Radl to take up the plan, it's a no-brainer for Steiner and his men to willingly join the operation and regain their former ranks.


It is a rare thing for Hollywood to give movie viewers a sympathetic look at German soldiers of the Third Reich. The historical demonization has always made such portrayals difficult. But this movie nails it allows us a glimpse at veteran German Fallschirmjaeger dedicated to their cause no matter the right or wrong of it in the end. In many ways, their story and sacrifice are the most tragic. At the end, they all perish in an operation that never had any chance of success and will never be recorded by history...by either side.




Another interesting side story is that of IRA member Liam Devlin. Devlin's interest in the operation is simply a desire to harm the "bloody" British Empire. 

Devlin will land ahead of the German force and set things in order. 

In the process, he provides the single moment of romance as he enjoys the attention of Jenny Agutter's character. And of course Jenny Agutter is another great reason to enjoy this movie.

Devlin's character is the story's single survivor and we know he ended up the way he chose.



So, let's talk ASL and the Eagle Has Landed. Many years ago now, I uploaded another The Eagle Has Landed scenario. It's still available on the ASL Scenario Archive...but is admittedly a bit of a mess. It attempts to do waaaay to much, especially in the context of an ASL game. I recommend avoiding it. 

This time around, I wanted to be a bit less ambitious and instead developed two scenarios that allow players to recreate the combat moments depicted in the movie. There are two primary combat sequences. The first is the head long rush to Studley Constable by US Colonel Pitts (Larry Hagman's character). Pitts is clearly a 6+1 Leader and and sends his men right into a devastating ambush by German Colonel Steiner and his "Polish Paratroopers". The scene fits nicely into a small scenario.


After Pitt is killed by yet another character,  (the German spy Jeanne Gray), the Germans retreat to the church in Studley Constable. 


St. Mary's All the Saints church in Studley Constable.

The church figures prominently on the map of Studley Constable. 

And one again, our good friend Rick Reinesch would apply his skills to creating a printable map for this year's Grumble Jones Halloween special.


Jack Higgins' book The Eagle Has Landed comes with a map of Studley Constable, the location for the events of both the book and movie. I asked Rick, if he could produce a single printable page version of the map for use in two ASL scenarios. 


As usual, Rick would produce a beautiful map to accompany this year's production. I am indebted to Rick for his gracious assistance with this project and others over the year. Thank you Rick! There is also a PDF version of the map, which unfortunately is quite large in size (29MB). So I will need to work on that in order for the PDF to be available. I'm not sure I can upload it to the Scenario Archive given that size.

Anyone needing help with the PDF version, feel free to email me at ozarkoutrider@gmail.com and I'll see what we can do to get the PDF version to you.



The first of two scenarios is The Ambush. In this scenario, the Americans head into the village not knowing where the Germans are hidden. Col. Pitts will also make a trip to Jeanne Gray's house just as in the movie. It's a tough fight for the Americans.



The defending Germans are favored in this scenario, and it should play out as ambushes do..





The second scenario - Captain Clark gives the American player a chance to get some revenge. This scenario favors the Americans and the Germans will have to hold out for as long as possible in order for Steiner to escape the church and complete the operation.

Please remember that these scenarios are really just for fun and not to be thought as serious ASL. It's just a small chance to step into the scenes from this great movie.

So, there you have it, this year's Halloween Special. We skipped the zombies and paranormal..and dinosaurs this year. They'll be back next year for a very special Halloween Scenario to be played out in Subterranean Quarry. Expect some Partisan fun with undead creepy crawlies in a tunnel filled madness.


As always, these monthly "Basement Quality" Scenarios are offered for fun only and as a thank you to the readers of this blog.


Remember to open pictures in a new window in order to maximize the size. 


All Grumble Jones scenarios are available from the ASL Archive website. 

(Just search on Grumble Jones)




Wishing everyone a very Happy Halloween!!!

2 comments:

  1. It is definitely one of my favorite movies. Thank you for these two scenarios. But I must remark that the aftermaths of the two scenario charts are the same and, in fact, are the aftermaths of the first scenario. Perhaps you want to correct that... Best wishes, Lluís

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  2. I've never seen that map before, I guess it was only in the hardcover edition of Higgins' book? You can, however, find Mapledurham on Google Maps, it's where the movie was shot.

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