Ten days of furious patrolling but no contact. Then, on 22 Oct 1967, 2nd Battalion gets itself into a sh!t sandwich up at Hill 475, northwest of Dak To. By mid-afternoon 2nd Bn was spent, and 3rd was lifted out there and conducted a relief in place, facing NVA on the east face of the hill. Brigade is concerned it's bitten off more than it can chew, and the next morning, 23 Oct 1967, it commits Bravo Company, 1st Bn, who helos out and approaches from the SE but rapidly runs into a buzzsaw, an NVA bunker complex. Alpha Company is called to the rescue; Bravo identified the right (southern) flank of the NVA bunker line, but can't get there themselves. Alpha helos out, with 1st Squad, 1st Platoon in the lead, bustin' brush in a hurry to relieve the pressure on Bravo, and, in turn, 3rd Battalion. The squad must find and eliminate the enemy bunker anchoring its defensive line on at the base of Hill 475.
SSgt Bleier, Sgt Russell, and Spec4 Harris are all convalescing, while Blount finished his stay with the medics, but is not present in the field. This is because he decided to exercise his option due to the '3-time Loser' rule. That is, any man that's received three Purple Hearts can request a transfer out of the field, so PFC Blount is now working at the Brigade laundry, but the squad has not yet received a replacement...
The NVA in the bunker try to spot Holmes, but fail three times. I only gave each of the three NVA in the bunker one action against the squad as they should be focusing on Bravo Company, off table, and hadn't yet actually seen the squad. Once they see the squad they will devote more attention to their right flank.
Real quick note regarding Banaszak and Holmes. Those two have been solid, so I bumped their "Skills and Drills" rating up from 3 to 4. Everyone else in the game, enemy and friendly, is S&D 3. Technically speaking this means Banaszak and Holmes can activate first, before everyone else. I don't know if I'm playing this right, but I'm playing it where, because of their superior S&D, they can activate anytime they want. They can't interrupt someone's activation, but sometimes (hell, in these jungle games, a lot of times) you want the enemy to activate first, then you can move up, spot them, and take a shot. so that's how I'm playing this game. Those two are superior troopies and so it makes sense to me that they use their better S&D to their advantage.
Then the first unbelievable thing happened: both the fallen NVA's buddies took some stress because of the guy going down, and had to test morale. They both ran! Left flank secure!
Banaszak asked Stallworth, "what'd ya see up there on the hill?" Stallworth replied, "there was one NVA up there, real bad off, so I finished him. Also saw a few blood trails leading north." Banaszak: "Doc, prep Greenwood for MEDEVAC, I'll call it in. Ham, do me a favor, go find Swan..."
The NVA suffered four KIA, four WIA that escaped, and one WIA that was captured (NVA leader). Two others ran off into the jungle. The squad only had one man hit, Pvt Greenwood, is real bad off. Three 7.62mm rounds to the chest did tremendous damage; he was MEDEVAC'ed immediately out to the Hospital Ship "Comfort," then to Okinawa, then back to the World. His tour in 'Nam is over.
But the squad still has work to do. Banaszak and the troops sat tight the rest of the day with no contact while the remainder of Alpha Company rolled up the NVA's flank, which started out tough at first but then got real easy due to the enemy falling back, up the mountain. Bravo had remained in place, primarily working on evacuating their casualties and running resupply, while Charlie had remained in reserve. With the bunker complex emptied out, the battalion fell back a few hundred meters south of Hill 475 and dug into company-sized night defense positions. It would really suck if the NVA reoccupied the bunkers during the night...
When the resupply birds came out to the NDP with water and ammo they also brought two FNGs as replacements for Blount and Greenwood: Privates Fuqua and Webster were brought into the fold.
The LT had spoken with the Company CO and took care of some admin issues. First off, he busted Swann back to Private for running away today (at least Harris had grabbed a wounded man). Then he converted Ham from a Specialist to a 'hard-stripe' Corporal (still an E-4). Stallworth was promoted to Spec4, while White and Holmes were promoted to PFC, all paperwork official for 1 Nov 1967. Also, Doc White was recommended for a Bronze Star for sprinting ahead under fire to pull Greenwood to safety, patching him up, then manning the M-60.
So far Doc is the only one to be recommended for an award, and it's happened three times! From a gameplay standpoint, it's kinda cool and kinda strange, all at the same time. He really is Johnny on the spot, just pure luck that he's always the one closest to a wounded guy to pull him in, and always passes his morale tests (without me cheating!). To be fair, he's usually well back in the formation, so he doesn't generally take a lot of stress, certainly not as much as guys up front. The M-60 team, regardless of who's in it, has been a magnet for fire, and has suffered tremendously: Harris hit once, Swan hit once, and Greenwood (carrying the Pig in Harris' absence) hit twice, with Harris and Swan both running away under fire as well.
I really was thinking that Holmes and Banaszak would have a chance to do something cool/heroic this fight, but the NVA center (Hill 475) melted away under M-79 and M-60 fire, while Ham's errant grenade cleared the NVA left (bunker)...
If you notice, the guys have been doing real well, and I keep ramping up the bad guys, giving them more and more people each fight. Once again I thought this would be a pretty ugly fight, with Greenwood going down and Swan running away right off the bat, but the NVA had some real bad luck with casualty rolls and morale tests, and it was almost kind of a walkover in the end. Still fun though ;)
This fight for Hill 475 is now being referred to as Operation Apple Cobbler. 2nd Bn is back at Dak To refitting, word is they'll be back out here tomorrow by noon.