Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #23


1400 Local Time
18 July 1966
Ngan Valley, Quang Tri Province, RVN
Operation Hastings

The boys are with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (K/3/4), on their first trip up to the DMZ.  Yesterday they were helo'ed into the area, then found themselves in a sharp firefight trying to cross the Ngan River which saw them repulsed with two Marines badly wounded.  The Company tried twice more to cross the river, but the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars of the 90th Regiment threw them back both times.  Kilo Company then fell back approximately 200 meters to the north and dug in, but the NVA pursued them, harassing with mortars and snipers, and by 1930 Kilo's commander reported to battalion that the company was entirely surrounded.  At approximately 2015 the NVA launched a full-scale assault on Kilo Company's hilltop, which the Marines threw back owing to some brutal close-in fighting buttressed by supporting fires, with both sides suffering significant casualties.

This morning the Marines of Kilo Company pried themselves out of their holes with the sunrise, and were greeted with an NVA mortar barrage for their efforts.  It didn't last long and there were few casualties, so the rifle company got itself in order and not long after was back on the move, proving south towards the Ngan River.  There was good news in that 2/4 had been told to hustle up and move west with all practical speed in order to effect a linkup with 3/4, owing to the tough resistance the Marines were running into, and radio traffic reported that 2/4 arrived at LZ Crowe* at approximately 1400.  So there was a strong base behind Kilo Company, to the north, but it kind of left Kilo as the lone, dangling appendage to the south, still under orders to find and force a crossing to the south side of the Ngan River.

Needless to say the Marines were none too happy to be flung out so far to the south, without support, to an area they'd already gotten a good bloodying in, but order are orders, and so Kilo Company again attempted a crossing of the Ngan River, and again they were repulsed with casualties, by NVA on both sides of the river!  The beleaguered company beat feet back to the hill they spent the previous night on and dug in, and it wasn't long before the NVA were making their presence felt, and about 1930 local time the NVA mad their push.  The Marines were once again able to hold on, but Doc Eakle was killed, and two more Marines were wounded and had to be evacuated, bringing the squad down to a total of six bodies, seven including Holland, the attached machine gunner.

Kilo 3/4 was ordered to hold fast the next day (17 July 66), sitting in their holes all day as Lima Company, 3/4, was dispatched from LZ Crowe to move south and reinforce Kilo on the hill just north of the Ngan River.  Lima Company arrived that afternoon and dug-in, taking over a share of the hilltop perimeter, which allowed Kilo to pull some men back into reserve, which meant more sleep for the beleaguered company as they finally had a relatively quiet night in the bush.  At some point intel came in that the NVA, who had suffered their fair share of casualties too, had withdrawn from the Ngan Valley, so the new plan was for 2/4 and 3/4 to move out and exit the valley to the northeast, sweeping back towards the coast.  So on the morning of 18 July 1966, Kilo and Lima 3/4 packed up, stomped in their holes, and trudged back north to LZ Crowe, arriving just as Mike 3/4 and all of 2/4 stepped off to the northeast.

Lima 3/4 took off not longer after they got back to LZ Crowe, and the plan was for Kilo Company to hang around and blow up all the NVA weapons and ammunition that had been captured, as well as the three damaged helicopters still sitting on the east end of the LZ.  So that's what the Marines were doing, split up into squad-sized elements they were packing up gear and prepping stuff for demolition, when all of a sudden, at about 1400 local time, gunfire was heard from multiple directions.  Sergeant Little, with the squad at the far western end of the LZ and substantially distant from the rest of Kilo Company, further east, ordered the rest of the squad to grab their gear and get ready to move in a hurry!

*With three helos already grounded there from damage caused by collisions, then the NVA shot down a Marine CH-46 yesterday evening, the LZ Crowe area was now being referred to as "Helicopter Valley."

Overview of the west end of LZ Crowe (which actually extends further east, off camera to right-top), with hills and trees in the northwest (to left) and southeast (bottom right).  There is a cache of enemy weapons and munitions in the southwest (bottom left), which is where the squad was located when the NVA attacked, and the rest of Kilo Company, 3/4, is to the northeast (top right), which is where the squad needs to get.

A couple admin notes: I'm playing this game using a modified version of Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men at Kursk" rules and I'm playing this game solo.

I'm playing in lovely 15mm with individually-based troops.
The Marines are from Jimmi's Flashpoint Minis.
The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops are from Martin's Peter Pig.
The mat is from The Wargaming Company.
The roads are from Fat Frank.
The fields are from Hotz Mats.
The rice paddies are from Battlefront.
The villages are from Flashpoint Minis, as are the bamboo thickets and most of the trees.  The rest of the trees were bought off some cake decorating shop on Ebay.
The sampans are from Flashpoint Minis.
The rivers are from Wargamers Terrain.
The bridge is from Novus Design Studios.
The sandbagged emplacements are from JR Miniatures.
The railroad tracks are cheap, plastic jobs from Target.
The craters, burned out areas, and rubble piles are from Battlefront.
The trenches are from Battlefront.
The bunkers are from... I can't remember.  The company is still in business but they no longer do 15mm terrain.

This is the NVA weapons cache the squad was rigging for demolition, odds and ends I've picked up from various places over the years.  Some of it is model railroad stuff, some of it is from Jimmi at Flashpoint Minis, and some is from Anton at Flytrap Minis.

This is up in the top right corner of the map, where I've got a handful of Marines stationed.  These are Marines of Kilo Company, 3/4, and represent the southeastern end of Kilo 3/4's perimeter, which the squad must reach.  The rest of Kilo Company is under attack by the NVA, too, caught with their pants down as they went about the administrative tasks of tidying up LZ Crowe before leaving, but it's still much safer for the squad to be in Kilo's perimeter than to be caught out there all on their own.

And I'm not sure how I've done this 23 fights into the campaign, but I've screwed up my normal format, I don't have pictures of the Marine and NVA forces...  What the hell is going on here?

Overview, now with troops, and it's simple: the squad is in the southwest (bottom left), salvation (in the form of Kilo Company's perimeter) is in the northeast (top right), and there are NVA squads pressing in from the northwest (top left) and southeast (bottom right), meaning the squad has to run the gauntlet in order to reach safety.  

Here is the squad's initial dispositions: Sergeant Little and LCpl Jackson, the RTO, are at top center, with Pvt Holland, the machine gunner, just to their left.  Corporal Benavides is at far left, Pvt McCaffrey, the grenadier, is at bottom center, and Danny and Nikki are at far right.

Here is a look from west to east, with the squad at bottom right, Kilo Company at top left, and NVA approaching from far left and top right.

NVA hauling ass downhill in the northwest...

And the southeast.

And now it is time to fight!

Sergeant Little and Jackson (bottom center left) are standing there arguing about which targets rate priority of fire for fire missions as the rest of the squad wires captured enemy weapons and munitions for demo, when the rattle of gunfire to the northeast (top left) startles them both back to the moment.  Rob stops mid-sentence.  Looking to the east (top), he is taken aback when NVA soldiers suddenly pop into the LZ (left top and center right), between them and the rest of Kilo, 3/4 (top left)!!!

Nik and Danny (bottom center right) see them (top left), too, and immediately drop the detcord, fumble for their rifles, and open fire on the NVA on the right!

Two NVA go down (bottom right) and another is suppressed, but a fourth (bottom center left) returns fire n the boys (top left)...

Suppressing Nik (red bead at bottom center left), as Sgt Little and Jackson (far left bottom) open fire with their rifles on the NVA on the left (top right)...

One NVA regular goes down (bottom right), as two more return fire on the Marines (top left)...

Corporal Benavides and Holland are suppressed (red beads at far left) as Sgt Little is pinned (yellow bead just to their right)!  McCaffrey scoops up his M-79 and wriggles right, next to Nik and Danny, then bloops a 40mm HE round at the NVA on the left (top right)...

He drops it right in their shorts, putting two NVA out of the fight and suppressing another!

Danny (bottom left, with Nik and McCaffrey to his right) squeezes off several more rounds, then screams "we gotta move, let's go Marines!"

And leads Nik and McCaffrey towards the treeline on their right.

But the NVA in the north (bottom right) spot the movement (top left) and open fire...

Enemy rounds snap past and zip into the grassy LZ as Nik calmly takes a knee and begins sending 7.62mm rounds back at the NVA...

Sergeant Little (yellow bead at center bottom) kicks and yells at Holland (left) and Corporal Benavides to rally them as Jackson, propping his M-14 on a nearby barrel, fires with one hand while working the RT with the other, trying to raise an arty battery for some help.

Sgt Little (bottom left) lays down fire, screaming "go!", so Jackson leads Holland and Cpl Benavides forward (center, from bottom left).

In the south, the NVA rally, then push two men right (top right, from left) and two men left (far left and bottom left).

Danny (bottom left, with Nik and McCaffrey to his right) spots one of the NVA that went left (top center) and fires...

But he (top left) misses and the NVA (bottom right) returns fire, pinning Nik!

While in the north, the NVA rally, and push two men to their right (left top), towards the Marines (off camera to left bottom).

Holland (bottom left) spots them (top right) and opens fire with his M-60, as Jackson gets an arty battery on the radio!

The Marine machine gunner drops one NVA and suppresses another!

Danny grabs Nik by the collar of his flak jacket and pulls him forward (left, from bottom center), as McCaffrey (bottom center) loads a buckshot round in his M-79 and fires...

And the canister is absolutely devastating, shredding three North Vietnamese soldiers (one at far left and two just to his right, with McCaffrey just off camera to far left) and suppressing two more further back (bottom right)!!!

Holland, Jackson, and Cpl Benavides (bottom left) keeping firing to the north (top right), dropping another NVA solider, as Danny reloads and Nik gets his marbles back (bottom right).

Jackson, Holland, and Cpl Benavides move up (left center, from bottom left), firing as they go...

And as they move up (center left top, with Nik and Danny at right), Sergeant Little moves right, joining McCaffrey (right bottom, from bottom left).

In the south, the two NVA suppressed by McCaffrey's canister shot (far right, with McCaffrey and Sgt Little at far left) rally back into the fight as the other NVA in the south creeps west, looking to get in behind the Marines (left bottom, at the bottom edge of a clump of up/down running trees).

While in the north, one NVA creeps east (bottom left), one rallies (red bead at center right top), and one (center right) opens fire on the Marines (left top)...

Pinning Cpl Benavides and Holland (yellow beads at bottom left); Jackson takes a knee, swivels left, and begins banging away with his M-14, suppressing the shooter (top right).

With fire coming their way noticeably slacker, Jackson shuffles back to Corporal Benavides and Holland; "you guys okay?"  Corporal Benavides and Holland, eyes wide with fear, both shook their heads.  "I know we're in a bad way, but it's gonna get worse if we stay here, we gotta keep moving.  I got arty on the hook, but we can't fire'em, there's Marines spread all over the place and I don't wanna hit our own dudes, so we gotta get into Kilo's perimeter, ya dig?  Alright, let's go!"

Just as the three Marines (far left top) rose to get moving, another NVA (bottom right) opened fire on them...

"For @#$%'s sake," Jackson exclaimed, levelling his M-14 and firing on full auto until his magazine was empty, suppressing the offender (top right).

Jackson reloads and continues firing (left, with Danny visible at bottom right) as Cpl Benavides and Holland move up (center).

But as Jackson (left top) is laying down fire to the north (top right) and Cpl Benavides and Holland are moving up (center top), two NVA in the south (bottom center) spot them and open fire...

Holland looks on in horror as Corporal Benavides is struck and goes down!

Nik yells "dammit, Benavides is hit, cover me, but watch your fire, Lamont's still to our left!" then takes off (center right bottom, from bottom center, where Danny is sitting).  "Yeah, I hear him (firing)!  Hurry, Nik, this is dangerous business!" hollered Danny, as he begins popping rounds off to the north (top center left).

Danny's fire (off camera to top left) forces an NVA rifleman to fall back, suppressed (red bead at bottom left, from center).

Nik moved up (center top, with Holland and Cpl Benavides above him, Danny below him, and Jackson at far left), but he can't spot the NVA that shot Cpl Benavides (off camera to right top), as Sgt Little and McCaffrey catch up (center left, from bottom left).

And though Nik (off camera to left) can't see the NVA in the south (center bottom and far right bottom), the center NVA rifleman can still see Holland, and he reloads and begins firing bursts at him (top left)...

Holland dives into cover next to Nik, suppressed.  "Hey, dip@#$%, you left Corp'ral Benavides layin' out there," Nik hissed, checking his ammo.

Two suppressed NVA in the north (red beads at center and top right) rally, as their third man creeps east (bottom left, with the Marines off camera to left top).

While in the south, the lone NVA that moved west continues creeping up through the trees (bottom center), getting in behind the Marines (top center/left).  He raises his AK-47 and fires...

Danny hits the deck, pinned, shocked as hell at rounds suddenly coming in from behind them!  He slithers around to look that way and is horrified to see that both Sergeant Little and McCaffrey were hit!

Hearing the fire coming from his right, Nik (far left) has to ignore the debacle occurring behind him (bottom center left) and deal with the threat: he spots movement and muzzle flashes in the trees (top right) and opens fire...

Dropping the NVA soldier in his tracks!

Nik pushes into the treeline (center, from far left, where Holland is still cowering).  He and the NVA at top right don't spot each other.  "Here fishy, fishy, fishy," Nik whispers to himself, nervously.  "I know there's more of you in here..."

Danny bangs away with his M-14 (bottom right) as Holland rallies and Jackson dashes over to check on Sergeant Little and McCaffrey.

"Damn it, Rob," Jackson exclaims as Sergeant Little regains consciousness, sitting up, "you scared the @#$% outta me!"  "From being hit, or from coming back to life?" Rob quipped.  "Both, @#$hole!  Are you alright?"  "Yeah, Lamont, I think it just knocked me out for a minute.  How's McCaffrey?"  "Not got man, he stopped one with his chest, I'm having a hard time stopping the bleeding, and I don't hear any sucking, but I'm worried, his lung's gotta be hit.  And I had arty on the horn, but I probably lost them, been busy..."

One of the NVA in the north (bottom right) sights in and fires on the recently rallied Holland (center top, with Danny, Sgt Little, Jackson, and McCaffrey above him and Nik in the trees at top left), as his partner readies a rocket (bottom left)...

But Holland ignores the rounds zipping past his head (bottom left) and returns fire, suppressing the NVA rifleman (top right) with a long burst from his M-60.

As the NVA grenadier in the north fires a rocket at the Marines!

The round slams into the earth between Holland (center) and the rest of the Marines (minus Nik, who is in the trees at bottom right), suppressing Sgt Little and Danny, but Jackson (bottom left) again returns fire, suppressing him!

Hearing the B-40 explosion and figuring it meant things were looking up for his side, an NVA rifleman in the south creeps forward, searching for the Marines (Holland is behind the hedge at top left)...

But just as the NVA (top left) is about to open fire on Holland (bottom center), Nik (center) spots him and opens fire...

And the NVA soldier goes down (bottom center)!

Hearing a flurry of gunfire to his left, but not knowing what it meant (his partner was just gunned down by Nikki), the last remaining NVA soldier in the south continues moving east (bottom right, from left).

The only two NVA in the north left are at top right, a rifleman and a grenadier.

Holland (bottom left) continues pumping rounds from his machine gun into the treeline to the north (top right)...

Forcing the NVA rifleman there to fall back, suppressed (bottom right, from left).

With things gone relatively quiet for a moment, Holland cautiously moves out to check on Corporal Benavides.  "You okay, Corporal?" Holland asked.  "Yeah man, I go the bleeding stopped, but I can't walk.  Pull me into the bush over there, then you can send help back for me once you reach Kilo," replied Corporal Benavides.  "@#$% that, I gotchu Corporal."

Holland quickly scooped up Corporal Benavides and set off with him in a Fireman's Carry, heading towards the Kilo Company perimeter (off camera to top right, with the suppressed NVA grenadier visible there)!

"Let's go, Holland, I gotcha," said Nik (right bottom, with Holland carrying Cpl Benavides at left bottom), as he moved up and began laying down fire to the north (top left)...

Forcing the NVA grenadier to fall back, suppressed (right, from bottom left).

Nikki (far right) continues laying down fire to the north as Jackson moves up behind the lumbering Holland (center, carrying Corporal Benavides) and Sergeant Little covers Danny (bottom left), who lifts the wounded McCaffrey onto his shoulders and begins moving east.

It's relatively quiet at the west of LZ Crowe ad the squad labors east, into the gunfire, but into the perimeter where they figure there is safety in numbers...

And besides, more NVA are showing up now, advancing from the southwest (bottom left, with the marines visible at bottom right).  Sergeant Little hollers to Jackson, who gets arty on the hook...

And it's not long before a 105mm HE rounds slams into the earth nearby the newly arrived NVA.

The Marines keep moving east...

As the two NVA in the north rally (bottom right, with the Marines at far left).

Jackson adjusts 50m to the south and calls in the "Fire for Effect!"

The squad continues humping to the east, Marines of Kilo Company (top right) coming into view, everyone soaked in sweat, Danny and Holland breathing like locomotives, ready to collapse under the weight of the wounded men they're carrying.  "Danny, you alright brother?" Nik asked.  "Yeah, just keep going, and @#$%in' hurry, please!"

Suddenly, a rocket comes streaking in from the south!

And the two NVA in the north (bottom right) open fire on the Marines (top left) with their AK-47s!

Holland drops Corporal Benavides, then falls to the ground beside him (white bead at right), panicked, as Sergeant Little is hit by shrapnel and goes down (bottom left)!

Jackson (bottom left, just above the explosion) immediately drops to a knee and returns fire to the north as Danny sets McCaffrey down as gently as he can and joins Jackson in banging away to the north... 

Meanwhile, Nikki (at the head of the column) begins firing at the NVA to the south...

And then dashes forward (center, from far right), looking to take out the NVA soldier (far left)!

Danny (far left) lays down fire to the north as fast as he can reload, as Jackson crawls forward and rallies Holland back into the fight.

Jackson fires his M-14 to the north as Holland gets the M-60 going, and Danny (off camera to bottom left) grabs McCaffrey's Blooper and fires a grenade to the north (top right), driving off the two NVA up there...

While back on the right, Nikki charges straight through the trees, running square into the cowering NVA grenadier!  The two wrestle and fall to the ground, squirming and clawing, slippery with sweat...

*You might think that's a mistake but it's not, the NVA actually had an RPG in the north AND the south.

And it ends with Nik planting his Ka-Bar in the enemy soldier's chest.

Nik wipes the blade on the NVA's shirt (bottom left), then moves right (bottom right, with the rest of the squad at top center/right)...

Before linking back up with the squad.  Nik (far let) pulls security as Holland carries Corporal Benavides (top), Danny carries McCaffrey (far right), and Jackson helps Sergeant Little (left) limp ahead. 

The squad, bloodied and exhausted, limps into Kilo Company's perimeter.

Kilo Company was still in a bad way, but since the call went out they were in contact and needed help, Golf 2/4 had turned back and taken a nearby hill to the northeast, and were shooting in Lima 3/4 as they worked back into the valley to come to Kilo Company's aid, and now Kilo Company had air and arty slamming into every known NVA position, stopping their advance cold.

Lima Company 3/4 broke back through to Kilo Company at approximately 1700, forcing the NVA to fall back, and by 1900 2/4 and 3/4 had consolidated into one perimeter for the night.  Resupply was conducted by Marine helicopters, who also evacuated the wounded, and the Marines settled in for a quiet night.  Kilo Company had suffered so many casualties that it was no longer combat effective, so the next morning they were pulled out of the field, lifted back to Phu Bai, before the squad was trucked back to Da Nang.

Thus ending Operation Hastings for the squad, though 2/4 and the rest of 3/4 would remain in the field for another week, humping the bush, chasing the NVA, but unable to get to grips with them before finally coming out of the field on 25 July 1966.

The squad got off pretty light in this fight: Sergeant Little and Corporal Benavides were both lightly wounded and would return to the squad in a couple weeks, and McCaffrey was moderately wounded, would return in two months.

Nik and Danny, hanging out at LZ Crowe the next morning, waiting on the helos to come pick them up and carry them home.  "So whaddaya think, Nik?" Danny asked.  "I'm thinkin' these NVA fellars  aren't much fun to tussle with.  Not that the Viet Cong haven't given us problems, but we zap a couple of'em, they zap a couple of us, and we get to go home and drink some beers.  But each time we end up runnin' into these boys we end up fightin' for our damn lives, barely skatin' outta there, and with very few of us left."  "Yeah, I agree, but there's something kinda exhilarating about it, ain't there?  And it's the closest thing to the fights our old men were always talking about with WWII, ain't it?"  "Well sure, Danny, but I weren't here for no damn history lesson, and I wasn't hoping to re-live the living hell my Dad described about Guadalcanal, with the rats and the crotch rot and the dysentery and the Banzai charges and the starving," Nik griped.  Danny laughed, "we already got all that but the starvin'!"

"Well, that's a good point you make there, little brother," Nik grinned.  "I admit that the fight can be... not sure exhilarating is the right word, but there's something to it.  But I tell you what, I'm not found of fighting up here on the DMZ, too much open ground, I prefer the jungle where I can get at the bastards, and I'm gettin' damn tired of always being on the receiving end.  I don't know what it we could do to change it, but I'm tired of always walking until they decide to start shooting at us, only fighting when they want to fight, on their terms.  I wanna take it to them, make'em pay."

"So you're ready to ship over, then?" Danny blurted out.  "Now I didn't say anything like that, ya @#$%in' psychopath!  Are you outta yer mind???  After what we just been through???  And we ain't done yet, we could still get killed in the next couple months!"

The boys spent August and the first half of September holding down Da Nang, pulling security operations and running local patrols as multiple battalions were surged north to the DMZ for Operation Prairie.  When the Platoon Commander came in to give Sergeant Little a Warning Order in mid-September, Rob put up quite fight, reminding the Lieutenant that his squad was still considerably understrength, and that his two most steady veterans only had about two weeks left in country.  The  Lieutenant smiled and informed Rob that was exactly why he had chosen Sergeant Little's squad: Operation Golden Fleece is set to be a piece of cake.  Eleven days in the field, down south, with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and the ARVN, providing security in some village called Mo Duc for the annual rice harvest, no sweat! 

**So that's the end of Operation Hastings.  I hope you enjoyed it; all five fights were based on real fights that Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, took part in, to include the getting left at LZ Crowe and almost being overrun.  I really enjoyed the games using KR-16, particularly the river crossings and the first hilltop defense (and was proud of my DMZ tables), they were lots of fun, and it felt like I was able to still keep some personality in the games despite playing with elements, rather than individual troops.  It actually felt kinda strange going back to 5MAK after playing KR-16, but the next fight proved it didn't take me long to get back to normal.  And I say that because this fight...  well, I hope it was fun for you guys, but this particular fight was the least enjoyable/satisfying battle of the entire 24-game first tour.  I really like the concept of the 'on the run' type of fight, and I'll need to get it perfected if I'm going to play some games as Marine Recon, it just didn't seem to work right this time.  I'm thinking I need to give the bad guys a bunch more troops, and go back to Ben Lacy's "SOF Warrior" rules for that type of fight.  We'll see, and I hope I didn't taint anyone's opinion of this fight; if you loved it, please don't listen to me and continue loving it! ;)  It's kind of funny because, reading the batrep, the fight seems absolutely amazing to me, but I can just tell you that it didn't feel that dramatic as I was playing it.

Last fight of the boys' first tour coming right up!