On the last patrol the squad moved to the downed UH-1 Huey, destroyed equipment, and recovered the friendlies, also managing to give the NVA a bloody nose in their first contact with regular forces. While performing their recovery mission, Sgt Banaszak noticed numerous large holes in the aircraft, the kind made by a 12.7mm heavy machine gun. The Brigade focused the bulk of its patrols west for a few days, hoping to find and fix the NVA, or at least eliminate the HMG(s), but no luck, no contact by anyone.
It's 13 October 1967. The squad has been out all night on night ambush, again no contact. They had been set up just north of the village of Con Quan 9, southeast of Dak To, about a klick north of the village, overlooking a major north-south trail network. The squad was just packing it up for the hump back to base when Battalion came on the horn: seems the S-2 just got word the Regional VC tax collector was in Con Quan. The squad was ordered to move south and see what they could see. The squad is down Bleier (Okinawa) and Blount (China Beach).
If you look closely, between Banaszak, Doc, and Russell is a very suspicious looking individual, who has just approached from the left. He's shocked and bewildered to find Yankees in the village, but he stays cool. He's further shocked and bewildered that he can't find his three travelling companions; perhaps he should have told them he was staying with a friend last night... He's really, REALLY shocked and bewildered when the village chief, talking to what looks to be the American leader, spots him and his eyes bulge almost out of their sockets. The tax man has been made, and stumbles back a couple steps, almost running into another American. Crap!
To tell you the truth, this sequence of events changed the dynamic of the game. Once the Yanks got Harris and Russell downed I started looking to make an exit before things got really out of hand. But then the mortar rounds didn't hit anyone, and my guys, if not passing their morale tests with flying colors, at least managed to just drop prone, nobody ran. Even after a couple lucky hits roughed up both the VC in the treeline and the VC on the trail, my intent was still to bring on more about five more VC on the northern trail, to which the only real option would be to grab the wounded and fall back and call in air/arty. But then the VC suffered some terrible morale rolls and three healthy guys ran for the hills, so it made more sense narratively for the VC to give ground, rather than the Americans.
That's the end of the turn, and the VC win the initiative for the next turn, meaning the tax man activates first. He hops up and sprints into the jungle, he got away, mission failed...
Banaszak is pissed; we secured the village, but hell, we're not staying, so as soon as we walk away it'll be back in VC hands. Not only did we let the tax collector get away, but we only captured one old man with an ancient, WWII Japanese mortar, we only got one confirmed kill and few blood trails, and we got Harris and Russell both shot up pretty bad! Not a good day!
The only good news is that the squad continues to account itself well under fire, though losing Russell in particular hurts. Banaszak asked Harris what the hell he was thinking, taking off after the tax collector: "Sarge, you just reamed me for running away from the enemy, now you're reaming me for running at them? I was trying to make up for the way I acted on Lamyai Ridge." Damn...
Ultimately, the VC lost one KIA, one captured, had three seriously wounded, and two lightly wounded. The squad had:
Spec4 Harris: two rounds hit him in the right arm, breaking it. He was evacuated to the hospital at China Beach, will return in two months.
Sgt Russell: took a round in the thigh, sent to MASH at Dak To, will return in 18 days.
Sgt Banaszak recommended Doc White for a Bronze Star for getting those civvies into cover, then rushing out into the exposed, fireswept trail to drag Sgt Russell to safety. He also wants to recommend Holmes for an award, but the Lt's giving him flak about it. The Lt's right, Holmes hasn't done anything particularly heroic, that is, not a single event or action displaying extraordinary bravery; having said that, he's the most dependable member of the squad, just solid, and a fantastic pointman. His talents as a pointman have saved the squad twice, allowing them to get into superior position to whack the enemy, and, just like this last fight, he's always in the right place at the right time, delivering timely and accurate fire.
Because Banaszak and Holmes have been so steady, I'm upgrading their S&D ratings to 4, while everyone else in the squad, as well as the enemy, remains at 3.
Pretty cool, yes? I'm having a really good time, can't wait to play again. I wish I had better terrain for Vietnam, particularly houses and rice paddies, but I don't want to sink a bunch of money into this, I have too many other projects on my plate and/or planned ;)