Thursday, June 26, 2014

"In Country," Game 19 (12 Jan 1968)


After their tremendous ass-whoopin' at the hands of the NVA during their last attempt to secure Kham Duc, the squad pulled back to the battalion position once again, east of the town.  There they sat and watched the steady rain of steel by US airstrikes and artillery as they cared for their wounded, cleaned their weapons, and topped off their ammunition.  They had suffered very heavy casualties, and ached for a chance to get back at their enemies.

But there they sat for the remainder of the day, and all the next day, watching the bombs fall and 105mm shells strike.  It was sunrise on January 12, 1968 when SFC Bleier roused the men.  As they ate cold C-rats for morning chow Bleier explained they were once again attacking into Kham Duc, but something was different.  Old Sarge didn't look right; dark circles under his eyes, his skin was sickly pale, and his hands were shaky.  "You alright, Sarge?"  "Yeah, I'm fine."  But the men picked up on this, and the heat of their anger and desire to re-engage the enemy in Kham Duc quickly dissipated.

The squad joined the platoon, which linked up with the rest of the company and met the attached armor at the line of departure, approximately a klick outside the town.  The whole company was on line, with a platoon of tanks interspersed.  The formation crept forward, waiting for the cough of incoming mortars, or the stutter of enemy machine guns, at least the crack of a sniper rifle, but nothing happened.  Once the formation was within 300 yards of the town the Company Commander called a halt and conferred with his platoon commanders.  1st Platoon, in the center, was ordered into double interval skirmish line, with the squad in the center, in order to advance into Kham Duc as the other two platoons and the tanks assumed supporting positions...

"I can't believe it's so quiet.  Maybe we got lucky, Sarge, maybe the flyboys and the cannon cockers wiped'em out!" says one of the new guys.  "Yeah, don't hold your breath Slick.  If old Victor Charles isn't in there, it's because he chose to not be in there," replied Bleier.  "Dammit, I bet they slipped past us again," muttered Malone.  "Yeah, well, that ain't all bad... What was that!?"

Overview of Kham Duc, north is up.  US forces are on right, VC are on left.  It appears the NVA, happy to have taken Kham Duc from the ARVN, and happy to have held it so long against the Imperialist Yankees, decide to save their strength for another day rather than allow the Americans to eliminate them, and so the NVA pulled out last night, slipping through holes in the US cordon scouted the previous night.

All that's left in Kham Duc are a few VC stragglers that didn't get the word, and now that they realize they've been left to die, they are didi-mau'ing to the north, just as the squad spots them.  These VC are in the northwest, three porter teams and three infantrymen.

With three more infantrymen in the southwest, moving north.

Looking east at the remains of the squad as it passes Tiger 1, still burning in the street.  From left to right: Lipps, Sgt Malone, Hoge (w/M-60), SFC Bleier, Nickerson (w/M-79, ran last fight), and Abercrombie.

Sgt Malone (foreground) spots the VC, sprints ahead into the ruins of a house, and opens fire.  He seriously wounds a VC rifleman (red bead at center) and lightly wounds the porter team above him.

Hoge sprints up with the M-60 (foreground, with Malone to his right) and opens up, also seriously wounding a VC (red bead at center).

A VC with a submachine gun (foreground) sprints into the ruins and spots Hoge (top center), opens fire, and lightly wounds him (yellow bead).

On the US left, Abercrombie (foreground) sprints up and fires, lightly wounding a VC (top left).

That VC (bottom right) tests and goes prone, firing at Abercrombie but missing, while Nickerson sprints up next to Abercrombie (top right) and fires an M-79 grenade, missing badly (bottom right, actually should have been off table).  The other VC rifleman sprints east (top), into the two-story building.  At left is the VC SMG gunner that lightly wounded Hoge.

On the US right, the sole remaining VC rifleman (top left, the other two are seriously wounded) tests badly and goes fetal, while Lipps sprints up (far right) and fires at him, missing.

In the center, SFC Bleier (bottom right, with Hoge above him and VC SMG gunner at bottom left) sprints up and fires at the VC, missing.

Back in the northwest corner, one VC porter team tests well and exits the table, while one drops prone and the other drops its stuff and runs off screaming into the jungle.  On right is the one healthy VC in the north (with black bead) and one of the serious WIA, with another WIA off-camera to bottom right.

Nickerson was at bottom right near the ruins Abercrombie is in, so he moved to his right in order to get a shot at the VC in the two-story building at bottom center.  Nickerson takes his shot, and, predictably, he misses.  This starts a flurry of shooting in which the two VC and Abercrombie all pass their morale tests, all use all three activations firing, and no one hits a damned thing.

And then the old Jack Luck strikes again: the VC SMG gunner passes his test and fires, opening up on Bleier (center, with yellow bead, and Hoge above him).  Bleier is hit and lightly wounded, but he was already shaky, so, without further adieu, he bolts to the rear like a frightened deer...

Hoge returns fire at the VC SMG gunner, but misses.

Back in the north, the remaining VC rifleman (bottom left) passes his test and fires at Lipps (top left), lightly wounding him.  The VC fires again, and hits Lipps again, seriously wounding him...

Sgt Malone is pissed; his 'leader' just won a foot race to the rear, Hoge is hit, and Lipps is down.  Enough!  Malone sprints ahead (far right) and opens up, putting the last VC rifleman down.  One of the porter teams (top left) exits off the board, and the other panics and drops its stuff and runs.

Determined that something drastic must be done before the squad crumbles, Malone double times south, all the way to the VC SMG gunner (the one that lightly wounded Hoge and Bleier, and caused Bleier to run).  Malone jams a foot into the wall, raises his rifle, and promptly misses (with a 1 on a D20).  The VC tests and goes prone, returning fire, which lightly wounds Malone...

Hoge (far right) sees Malone hit the deck: "Noooooo!!!"  Hoge fires a full belt of 7.62mm rounds at the VC, hitting nothing...

Nickerson, starting in the ruins at top right, fires canister out of his M-79, dropping the VC in the building.  Then Nickerson sprinted up the side of the building.  The last VC rifleman (bottom right, with SMG gunner and Malone at bottom left) miraculously passes his morale test and fires at Nickerson, lightly wounding him.  Abercrombie (still in the ruins) returns fire, misses everything.

Malone tests, but between the VC SMG rounds and Hoge's (top center) machine gun rounds, he drops into the fetal position.  Seeing this, Hoge keeps up the fire, still missing, but incredibly, the VC surrenders!

The final VC tests and goes fetal; Abercrombie (off camera to right) keeps firing, missing, of course, but covering Nickerson as he moved up.  Nickerson fired another canister round, and somehow missed again...

Malone secured the enemy prisoner, as Hoge (top right) moved up.

And the last VC surrendered (failed morale).

This squad has lost it's guts!!!  The squad leader ran, and even when Malone tried to do something heroic, it just didn't quite work out, did it?  The only good news is that I rolled well on the casualty rolls:
Malone was just nicked, he's on light duty for five days, and Nickerson is at BAS for seven days, though Lipps was hit bad enough to require evacuation to the United States.  Hoge and Bleier are good to go, but, after his cowardly showing, Bleier is being sent back to battalion.  The VC lost 3 KIA and 2 captured.

In the overall scheme of things, Operation Hearbeat City was a disaster.  It was a reaction to a massive infiltration by NVA troops across the border from Cambodia, missed by the US high command.  The US troops had a great time, partying it up for Christmas, then woke up to NVA nearly overrunning their bases, and taking over several ARVN posts and friendly towns.  The cost of repulsing the base attacks, and then evicting the NVA and VC from their newly conquered territories was severe, and made worse by the fact the enemy was not annihilated, but managed to slip away, back across the border to its sanctuary in Cambodia.

The Brigade pulled back to its combat base at Dak To, conducting a very limited schedule of security patrols, making sure to stay near its base while it reconstituted itself.  The enemy, while he escaped, was still badly bruised, and content to bide his time, also rebuilding his strength.  This period of minimal contact continued for two and a half months; the Brigade, once again near full strength and full of confidence due to a round of aggressive training at the company and battalion level, began early April determined to expand its area of influence.  The North Vietnamese began April 1968 determined to reassert themselves across the border...

To date our 11-man squad has permanently lost 21 members:
7 men Killed in Action
9 men Wounded in Action, severely enough to be evacuated to the US.
2 men Missing in Action
3 men transferred out of the squad (two "3-time Losers," one promotion)



  1. Jack, I finally got time to read it. It looks like it was supposed to be an easy town clearing that turned into a nightmare due to either not using the magic dice, or the magic has now turned to the dark side. I think you were lucky with the post-combat rolls - usually your rolls don't have that many recover so well!

    I did wonder what happened to the MIAs. i thouhgt you may bring them back in one of the missions. I remember one of their names - Farqua (guessing here)? but that is about it.

    How do you determine how long they are out for? Are you just making it up :-) ? I have a copy of Some Corner of a Foreign Field now at is does not have that in there. For my skirmish game, I am using Patrol:WW2 that has rules for what happens with light and serious wounds after the battle.

    I am assuming this game was pre-baby. Are there any more to writeup?

    Hope you are surviving well outside of gaming - all the best to your family.

  2. Shaun,

    Hey man, how the heck are you? We're hanging in, just real busy and real tired, you know how it is. You guys are killing me with the magic dice, though I sure could have used some! Yeah, I thought it was going to be relatively easy, and Malone almost pulled it off by himself, but when Bleier ran I almost threw my dice out the window!

    To tell you the truth, I hadn't really worried too much about the MIAs, that is, I didn't want it to turn into too much of a Hollywood-style deal with Chuck Norris heading out to rescue them, so I tried to stick with a more realistic (in my mind anyway) idea of "missing, presumed dead, or POW in Hanoi," that is, there isn't going to be any rescue mission, they're either dead or will be repatriated once the war is over.

    Regarding figuring out what happened to the guys that got hit, I made up my own table for that, which I'll try to remember to shoot you in an e-mail. I'll have to go look it up, it's not in electronic form, I just have it scribbled in a notebook upstairs.

    Sorry I didn't comment, but I did take a look at your Game 7 of 7 and your skirmish fight. I'm looking forward to more batreps from you Sir! All you guys are supposed to be playing more often now that I can't, sort of me living vicariously through you all! And yes, this game was pre-baby, it just took awhile to get around to posting it.

    Take care man, hope all is well.


  3. Jack,

    You maybe should not ask how I am! I have been quiet on the blogging and any forums as I have been busy with work. I am in a ICT team of about 12 and the director leaves and so they ask if I can step in for a little while. I think a little while is going to be 6 months. I have not managed staff for a while, it is not really what I want to do in the long term. I had to let two people go today (they had to go, they should not really have been employed in the first place but it sucks anyway to do it). And I am still doing my original job in the team. And I am also been seconded to work in another team part time. Lunch breaks are a thing of the past and I work a little extra each day, which eats into hobby time. And I have been catching up on some shows with my wife in the evenings and things just seem busier! You did ask. And it also explains why I have not played or posted anything since. Although I did get one more game in about 10 days ago but not put into Comic Life yet. I find the first games with 5 soldiers was about 2 hours (did not know the rules); the second game had 8 soldiers and I streamlined the rules it but it took two hours again (including setting up the table, getting out the terrain etc that seems to take about 15-30 minutes) but it was looking up all the stuff to do with PEFs in NUTS! that slowed me down the second time. My goal for the third game is 1 hour or less, excluding setup.

    I still cannot imagine having a newborn again. I think there is a reason we are so tired in the early days so we forget the first 8-10 weeks, which seems like just survival mode. So I still think you have it worse than me!

    Do not be too concerned about the table for what happens when someone gets hit as Patrol:WW2 does have something similar I am using.

  4. Shaun,

    Good Lord man, you need to learn to say 'no!' ;) Of course, it seems these days it's more a more prevalent for companies to cut back on the number of warm bodies but expect the same (or greater) results. Hang in there man.

    Yeah, we've discussed NUTS! before. I love the idea but can't seem to get it streamlined enough. I was going to work on streamlining it further, then saw the 5 Men in Normandy rules. Fighting it out with about a dozen total guys on a 2' x 2' is going pretty quick, the last game was about 30 minutes to set up and play.

    And yes, I'm definitely too old for this 'newborn baby' stuff! I'm so tired I feel like I'm from another planet and I can't seem to get both my eyeballs looking in the same direction.

    Take care.