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)


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"In Country," Game 18 (10 Jan 1968)


It's mid-morning, January 10, 1968.  After their probe from the south yesterday, the squad was relieved by members of the 25th ID, then pulled back to their battalion positions in the east.  The remainder of the day and all night saw US air and artillery pound Kham Duc.  The squad replacements, but the Brigade is so short of bodies that SFC Bleier is sent back down to command the squad, and they're still two bodies short!

Nevertheless, they are on point once again, leading the attack into Kham Duc from the east (25th ID is pressuring from north, west, and south).  The squad has two M-48s and two M-113s attached, but that's because enemy resistance is expected to be very tough once again.  And it was...

Overview, north is up, squad enters on the right, NVA own the rest of the map.

NVA to the north of the crossroads; there is a 12.7mm HMG in the top building, and an RPG in the ruins just below it.  All other NVA in the picture have rifles.

NVA  to the south of the crossroads.  Position at top right has an RPG, all others are rifles.

NVA at the west end (far left): top left is an 82mm mortar, top right are rifles, and bottom center is a recoiless rifle.

Looking east at the squad, just coming onto the board.  From left: Nickerson (replacement that ran last fight), Sgt Malone (been here for about three missions), Hoge (with M-60, brand new replacement), Worley (brand new replacement), Kruczek (been around a few missions), Bradley (been around awhile, started as a Sgt, busted down due to cowardice, worked his way back up, very reliable as the M-60 gunner of late, just worked himself back into a team leader position), Brister (brand new replacement), and Lipps (brand new replacement).

Sgt Malone's spidy sense is up, so he moves quickly up to the wall (bottom center) and scans intensely (two actions), and sees... nothing.

On the left, Bradley, taking Malone's lead, does the same.  And I mean exactly the same: one action to move up, two actions to spot, sees nothing.

Then the enemy HMG (top left) spots Nickerson (far right center) and opens up, missing but adding a lot of stress.  The remaining NVA positions in the north go on overwatch (white beads).

Hoge (bottom right) tests and goes prone, crying for his mama.  Worley (left, with MG belts) tests and is good to go, moves up, spends two actions, and sees... nothing.  Nickerson tests, and runs!

Kruczek (bottom center) moves up in the center, spots twice, once again, sees nothing...

On the left (you can see Kruc at far right), the NVA (top left) spot Lipps (bottom left) and Brister (at left end of wall, next to Bradley), and open up, but miss.  Lipps sprints up and flops in a shellhole (when he was spotted he was actually off camera at bottom left), and, Holy Guacamole, we've spotted our first enemy trooops!  Brister was also off camera, and this is when he moved up next to Bradley and fired his M-79, missing badly (you can see the cotton puff 5 inches past the enemy emplacement at top left).

The NVA rifleman (at top center with black bead) opens up on Brister (far right, center, flanked by Bradley and Lipps), missing.  The NVA with the RPG (top left) moves back to remain unspotted (i.e., away from his AK-firing partner).

Then Tiger 1 and Tiger 2 come on, with SFC Bleier following immediately behind T1, talking on the phone to the tank commander.  Kruc is at bottom left, Hoge at top right, Worley to his left.

Then the enemy recoiless rifle (bottom center) fires, and hits T1, seriously damaging it (main gun KO, lotta stress).

NVA in building (foreground) on US left open up, missing Lipps several times (top right).  Then his partner fires, aiming at Bradley and Brister.

And this crap got ridiculous: Bradley is hit, seriously wounded (red bead), then Brister was hit, lightly wounded.  Then Brister was hit again, down...  In these rules you use a D20, and you roll to hit, then you roll to see how effective your shot was, higher is better (for the shooter) in both cases.  The die rolls were as follows: (on Bradley) 19, 13; (on Brister) 20, 5, then 20, 20.  I've never seen anything like it.  On the heels of six failed spotting rolls for the US, the recoilless rifle firing and hitting (needing a 15+) then getting serious damage (13+), and now this, something tells me things aren't going my way...

Then one of the NVA in the center (center left) opened up on Kruczek (just to the right of the tank): miss, miss, hit-down (19-20).

But at least the other NVA missed Bleier several times (behind the tank, with Kruc at bottom left).

Then the enemy 82mm mortar fired (blue beads)...

In the 'turnabout is fair play' department, a mortar round landed practically on top of Bleier, but he was uninjured.

Lipps (bottom right) fires a full mag at the guys at bottom left, hits nothing, while Bradley, himself badly wounded, starts dragging himself and Brister away from the fight.

Malone (bottom center at wall, on right) manages to spot the HMG and the RPG positions, fires, and misses.  Hoge (very bottom) tests and again remains in the fetal position.  Worley, just left of Malone, opens up on the HMG and gets a light wound, then fires at the RPG position, missing.

Bleier crawls out from behind T1 to Kruc, fires at some NVA up the street, missing.

One of the NVA in the building at top left fires at Bleier three times, misses three times.  His partner moves up to the corner of the next building, fires twice at Bleier, misses twice.

The NVA recoilless rifle fires, misses (top, next to Hoge), reloads, and fires again, missing (just behind T1).  The RR is spotted, and T1 crawls forward, firing its coax MG, missing.

Then the NVA RPG gunner on the south side steps into the street and blows a big hole in T1...

Tiger 2, a little scared of the RPG gunner that just took out Tiger 1, but also worried about room to maneuver with T1 blocking the road, moves right and fires its 90mm main gun at the HMG (top right), missing, then fires its coax MG at the RPG (to the left of the HMG), missing.

Apparently the NVA don't like being fired at by tanks, because the RPG tests and goes fetal, as does his rifleman partner, and the HMG runs for the hills!

Then the enemy mortar fires twice (for shame, I didn't paint under my tank's turret!)...

NVA in the building in the south (foreground) again go after Lipps (top right), the only healthy American troop on this side.  They miss five times, and the sixth hits him, light wound.  They're spotted.  Further forward, three NVA test: two go fetal, but one passes...

Charges ahead (bottom center), and throws a grenade at Lipps (blue bead).

The first track comes on and opens up with its .50 cal HMG, firing at the two NVA on the 2nd floor (top center): one is down, the other okay.

The other track comes on (far right) and fires at the RPG (far left center), missing the gunner putting the rifleman down.  At bottom left, one of the NVA goes prone while the other runs.

Then the mortars hit, and Worley is seriously wounded (red bead).

And the NVA rifleman's grenade rolls long, and Lipps is okay.

Lipps (bottom left) shoots the NVA, then sprints right to help Bradley and Brister (both badly wounded) into the track.

Then Lipps covers as Bleier drags Kruczek over into the track.

Then Sgt Malone throws Worley on the back deck of the tank, while Hoge (far right) watches dumbly...

Then the three armored vehicles slowly reversed out of Kham Duc, with Malone, Bleier, and Lipps walking beside them.  "What the @#$% happened, man, I ain't never seen some @#$% like that!"  Well, that was a common theme this day.  Ultimately it was as simple as the squad walked into a buzzsaw, a healthy, cohesive, well trained, well supplied, and well disciplined enemy unit in covered and concealed positions with ample anti-tank and anti-personnel capability.  The squad took horrendous casualties in very short timeframe (maybe 5 minutes?), then pulled back.  As soon as they were clear, US air and artillery once again pounded the town of Kham Duc, and it didn't let up for almost 48 hours.

In game land, I went too far in trying to create a tough scenario.  Ultimately the NVA had three leaders, an HMG team, a recoilless rifle team, an 82mm mortar team, two RPGs, and nine riflemen.  And they all started concealed, and in heavy cover.  A little too much, I guess.  That and the dice gods were smiling on the NVA with quite a run of hits and bad wounds.  In the end the NVA suffered 3 KIA and one WIA.  The squad:
Brister - KIA
Kruczek - Hit bad enough to be evacuated to the US, tour over.
Worley - Same as Kruc.
Bradley - Evac to China Beach, return 25 Jan 1968.
Lipps is good to go for action.
Oh, and we had a tank knocked out...

It's really funny because we've been having an interesting discussion on TMP regarding the use of supporting fires in my games.  To tell you the truth, I should have pulled the trigger a bit earlier on falling back and calling in air/arty, but it just felt too much like I was bowing to peer pressure ;)