Sunday, January 3, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #1


1130 Local Time
22 October 1965
Phu Gia Peninsula, RVN
Operation Red Snapper

Having patrolled for two weeks in the Da Nang area without finding even a hint of the enemy, the boys are excited out of their minds, taking part in their first combat operation.  It seems the Viet Cong (VC) have been making trouble up on the Phu Gia Peninsula, about 36 klicks north of Da Nang, hitting Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and Regional Force/Popular Force (RFPF, a type of South Vietnamese militia, commonly referred to as "Ruff-Puffs") base camps and threatening to cut Route 1 between Da Nang and Phu Bai.  So III Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) HQ decided to do something about it: in conjunction with four ARVN-RF/PF battalions, two companies from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment (2/3) and one company from 3rd Bn, 4th Marines (3/4) launched Operation Red Snapper.  The ARVN forces set up the anvil west of Route 1 while Fox Company, 2/3 (F/2/3) trucked up from Da Nang and G/2/3 came ashore from landing craft on Orange Beach, forming the hammer and pushing west to east, with a rifle company from 3/4 scheduled to helo down on G/2/3's right (northern) flank the following day.

The boys' platoon ended up being attached to G/2/3, getting quite seasick in the flat-bottomed landing craft before finally putting ashore about 0600 local time.  Excitement was high, very adventurous times for the two young Marines, with grunts running to and fro, landing craft and Amtracs zipping up to/along the beach, trucks and tanks coming up the road, helicopters thwacking and fast movers zooming past overhead.  Everything was there... except the enemy.  The Marines formed up and began pushing east, careful to mind their phase and control lines so as to avoid any friendly fire incidents, which is always a risk when units are maneuvering about without having been afforded the opportunity for reconnaissance (which couldn't be done, for fear of tipping the operation to the enemy).

At about 1045 the platoon was called to a halt.  Sweaty and breathing hard from the exertion of humping through the broken terrain with all their gear, they took a knee and rested.  And with that they could just hear it; the distant 'pop-pop-pop' of gunfire.  The boys inched closer to PFC Griffin, the squad's Radio Telephone Operator (RTO), who whispered updates to them: "Golf Company's 2nd Platoon is taking fire, about a klick up ahead...  Golf's CO is trying get a SITREP out of them, but the Lootenat pretty much told him to piss off, he's busy...  The CO is trying to get 3rd Platoon over to them...  The Lootenat says he's got four men down, needs MEDEVAC...  The CO says the LT's gotta get them outta the kill zone...  The Lootenat says he can't, they're pinned down...  Uh-oh!"

Nikki asked, "what's uh-oh?"  Griffin responded: "uh-oh is, they wanna call in arty on the VC, and Lootenat Ward (the boys' platoon commander) wants us to escort the FO (Forward Observer) team up there!"

And here came the Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Dunn, to confirm that.  He grabbed Corporal Little, the Squad Leader, and the two Fireteam Leaders, and briefed them up.  "As soon as the FO gets up here, you boys head out."  "Aye-aye, Staff Sergeant."  A few minutes later the FO, 1st Lieutenant Dyson and his two RTOs showed up.  "I hear you fellas are my escort?"  "Yes, Sir," replied Cpl Little.  "3rd Squad, saddle up!"

Overview, north is up.  The US starting point is in the southwest (bottom left), and the objective area is the old, bombed out French colonial building in the northeast (top right).  There's a dirt/gravel road that runs north-south, with a spur splitting off to run east-west just south of Hill 65, which the French building sits atop.  There is a medium-sized village in the northwest (top left) and a small village in the southeast (bottom right), with neither village showing any signs of life at the moment.  There are numerous treelines and bamboo thickets dotting the landscape, with a cluster of rice paddies dominating the center of the battle area.  I apologize, I don't have any real rice paddies, so I'm having to use cultivated fields to show them, with hedges denoting the dykes.  So please understand that the 'dykes' are not blocking line of sight or providing any sort of cover/concealment for troops that are moving/standing up.

A couple admin notes: I'm playing this game using a modified version of Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men at Kursk," but I've also modified Joe Legan's "Platoon Forward" to a card version to figure out the US mission, assets available, enemy location, strength, activity, etc...  I'm also playing as the umpire, controlling the VC force, with my two boys controlling the US Marines.

I'm playing in lovely 15mm with individually-based troops.
The Marines are from Jimmi's Flashpoint Minis.
The Viet Cong 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 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 "French Colonial Building" is from JR Miniatures.

The US force, no idea what the VC will have until we make contact.

Corporal Little, the Squad leader, is at right, while PFC Nelson, the M-79 Grenadier, is at left.

1st Fireteam is at top, 2nd Fireteam is at bottom.  From top right: LCpl Devers, the fireteam leader, PFC Griffin, who carries the squad's PRC-25 radio, then two riflemen, Pvt Masterson and Pvt Jacobs, AKA Nikki.
From bottom right: PFC Ed Marks, the fireteam leader, then riflemen Privates Hendricks, Ryder, and Thomas, AKA Danny.
So the squad's got nine M-14s, an M-79, an M-1911 (carried by the grenadier), and each Marine is carrying a couple frags.

The Forward Observer Team, consisting of Lt Dyson and his two RTOs, Cpl Lysoll and Pvt Dinkins. 

The American starting point: 2nd Fireteam is on the road, with (center right to left), followed by the Squad Leader and Grenadier, and then the FO team (top left), while 1st Fireteam is skirting the edge of the rice paddies (bottom center).

It would have been much more 'normal,' from a tactical standpoint, to have a fireteam leading and a fireteam trailing with the Squad Leader and FO Team in the middle, but the Marines are in an hurry and expecting trouble.

Cpl Little motions the squad to move out and the Marines push north.

That's the movement at the end of the Marines' activation in Turn 1.  Once they've activated I pull a card to see if the enemy shows up.  Nothing in Turn 1.

The two fireteams continue pressing north, off road.

Still no enemy for Turn 2.

Turn 3 sees the Marines begin breaking east, no enemy in sight.

And Turn 4 sees the Marines continue towards their objective (top right).  Nearly there, when...

Hendricks (far left) sees Masterson (bottom center, with Devers and Griffin behind him) freeze and slowly raise his hand, giving the squad the sign to halt.  But as he raises his hand he sees a barrel swing his way; knowing what's about to happen he screams out "bunker!!!"

The enemy has shown himself, and it's three men in a bunker (top right).

The VC in the bunker (bottom left) open fire on 1st Fireteam (top right)...

Rounds crack and snap past Griffin (far left) and Devers (left) as Masteron is hit and goes down!

Devers immediately returns fire with his M-14 on full auto...

Nikki (far left) lays down fire, suppressing one of the enemy soldiers, as Devers (right) picks up Masterson...

Then carries him into the paddy and drops him down behind the dyke.

The VC bunker (bottom right) then opens fire on 2nd Fireteam (top left)...

Marks is pinned down (yellow bead) as Hendricks is hit and goes down!

Ryder (bottom left) fires on the bunker (top right), suppressing another VC...

Then dashes forward to help out Marks and Hendricks.

Ryder picks up Hendricks...

And begins moving him out of the kill zone, as Danny (bottom left), instantly grasps what must be done: "my squad is pinned down and getting ripped to pieces! We need to flank that bunker and get some frags in it!"

Danny sprints past Ryder (bottom left), up into the village (top left, just below the goat pen), trying to get on the bunker's flank (top right).

Further back, Lt Dyson's FO Team takes cover (bottom left, with Cpl Little and Nelson above them on the road).

"Let's go, Rocky," says Cpl Little to Nelson, and the two dash forward (center), between 1st Fireteam (top center) and 2nd Fireteam (far left), "we gotta bust some caps on that bunker."

The bunker (bottom right) spots the Squad Leader and Grenadier (top left) and opens fire...

But Cpl Little (bottom right) begins firing his M-14 at the bunker (top left) as Nelson fires a 40mm HE round.*

*Yes, I know 40mm grenades don't trail smoke like that, but I just want to show what's going on.

And the HE round is on target.  While it can't kill anyone in the bunker, it does suppress one VC...

And cause another to bail out of the bunker!

But just as things seem to be shaping up, the soft cough of mortars several hundred yards away is heard and the call goes out: "INCOMING!!!"  Nikki and Danny both whisper to themselves, "what the hell???"

As five 82mm HE rounds slam into earth in and around the squad's positions!

That's two rounds down at bottom left, and this was a random event that gave the bad guys a five-round mortar barrage.

And catastrophe has struck!  Ryder had just picked up the wounded Hendricks and begun carrying him through the intersection (center left) when a mortar round landed right next to them, dropping him and suppressing Cpl Little and Nelson (red beads at bottom right).

The FO Team was also pinned by the two mortar rounds that landed nearby, but that's not a big deal as they're not in the fight in any case.

Up at the intersection, Marks (left) pours fire into the bunker (top right) as fast as he can reload, suppressing one of the VC, as Nikki dashes left (far left, from right) to check on the damage caused by the mortars.  He runs into Cpl Little and PFC Nelson and helps get them back into the fight.

Cpl Little immediately opens fire on the bunker as Nelson pops another 40mm HE round on it

While on the right, Griffin (bottom left) lays down fire, covering Devers as he sprints right (top right), looking to flank the bunker (top center left).

The bunker (far right) returns fire on Griffin (top left), to no effect.  Devers is in the bush at bottom left).

While on the left, Danny stalks forward (left, from bottom center left), M-14 at the ready, suddenly breaking into a cold sweat as he nears the bunker.

The bunker (far right) continues firing on Griffin (top left), suppressing him.

As Nelson (bottom left) pops another grenade on the bunker, a bit too close for Danny's taste (you can see him at top center right, between the fish pond and bamboo).

Cpl Little (bottom left) lays down fire n the bunker (top right) as Nikki sprints right (center, from far left) to help Griffin (far right)...

But the bunker (far right) spots him (top left) and opens fire, sending him diving into the paddy mud, suppressed!

On the left, Marks (bottom left) slaps a fresh magazine into his rifle and keeps laying into the bunker (top right), suppressing the VC outside the bunker.

And then Devers moves up on the far right (bottom left) to finish him off (top right)...

Which he does.

Danny (top left) sees the VC go down (far right); "well, this is it."  

He moves up to the bunker entrance, cooks both frags, and tosses them in!

He backs off and hunches down as the blasts toss dirt and debris out both ends of the bunker!

Danny and Devers dash in, clear the bunker, and drag out the bodies of two more dead VC.  Devers let out a big sigh and pushed his helmet back; "well, I guess that is that.  Good job, Thomas, damn good job."  

The squad rallied just south of the intersection, pulling security, consolidating water and ammo, and treating the wounded.  Danny and Nikki could hear Cpl Little on the radio with the Platoon Commander.

"Holy crap, Danny, that was awesome, man!"  
"Nah, it was nothing, just did what needed to be done.  Didn't really even get shot at, 'cept for by the damn blooper."  
"Well, let me tell ya, it's not all it's cracked up to be, that Charlie tried to give me a haircut!  And that getting mortared stuff is for the birds!"  
"Yeah, you did a good job, too, I saw ya laying down fire on the bunker then dashing back and forth to help out the guys in the intersection, then back in the rice paddy.  I guess that was your plan, looked kinda like a chicken with his head cut off!"
"Oh, you can kiss my ass, I'll..."

Up the road comes the Platoon Sergeant, SSgt Dunn, with Doc Johnson in trail (bottom left).

Doc immediately gets to work on the wounded as SSgt Dunn begins chatting with Cpl Little, but the Squad Leader is too preoccupied.  "I'm sorry, Staff Sergeant, but hey Doc, how are they looking?"
"Ah, don't sweat it Rob, these three are just gold-bricking!  Yeah, you three need to get your crap together, you're not going anywhere!"

It turned out all three were only lightly wounded; they'd be heading to China Beach for a bit, but all three would be returning to duty in less than two weeks!  Yes, that was a helluva series of casualty rolls; I actually rolled '31' twice on my D100 (using two D10s).

PFC Masterson: Light Wound, a 7.62mm round slammed into his rifle and ricocheted into the left side of his torso, injuring his ribs, will return in 10 days
Pvt Hendricks: Light Wound, took stone fragments in the face when enemy fire struck the village shrine he was taking cover behind, will return in 7 days
Pvt Ryder: Light Wound, took some mortar shrapnel in the back of each leg, will return in 5 days

Cpl Little and several Marines waited at the intersection as Doc treated the wounded (far left), while the rest of the squad grabbed the FO Team and set off for the French Colonial Building (top right).

The cautiously approached the old building...

Clearing it and then fanning out to provide security.

As the FOs fired up their radios and went to work.

Marines from Golf 2/3 showed up about an hour later, relieving 3rd Squad, which fell back to re-join the platoon.  By this time it was nearly 1400 and, due to SNAFUs in the op plan the company was already settling in, ordering up its daily helo resupply and digging into its Night Defense Positions (NDP).  Nikki asked Corporal Little why the company wasn't pushing harder to the west to chase the Viet Cong into the waiting arms of their ARVN allies; the Corporal responded, "look at you two, all fired up after getting your cherries busted.  Ya did good, and it's a good day: we zapped three Charlies and didn't lose any of our guys, so, now it's time to hurry up and wait, and that's okay.  Besides, I heard the ARVNs and Ruff-Puffs had some contact and ended up on a wild goose chase, so they ain't in the 'anvil' position anymore anyways.  It gets dark here real early so let's get in, get some chow, and get settled, we don't want to be screwing around once the sun sets, Charlie owns the night."

They did as told, humping it back to the company area, wolfing down some cold C-rats, then helping to dig-in, fill sandbags, and string wire.  At 1700 they were kicked back on their packs, partaking in their newfound smoking habit, when all of a sudden Corporal Little came dashing up: "3rd Squad, on your feet, there's been another SNAFU..."

Next fight coming right up.



  1. The tabletop looks great and an interesting game with only a few figures.

    1. Thank you, Peter. I aspire to someday play the panoramic games you put on (the Market Garden game was true art), but for now this will have to do.


  2. Beaucoup Da Nang! Beaucoup Da Nang!
    Wow - Five Men at Kursk works so well for the 'Nam Jack.
    Loving this. I must read those rules again - your post has the narrative that 'Nam rules seem to be missing these days . Great ideas.

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Darren. I'm definitely a fan of 5MAK for smaller, skirmish fights.


  3. Jack that's a beautiful table! My buddies have been wanting to start gaming in the 'Nam and Ive been resisting, trying to stick to my gaming plans! Your table is making it tough, buddy!

    1. Thanks, Steve, I've certainly put a lot of time and money into getting a decent looking jungle table. Stick to the plan, Vietnam will still be there later! I wish I could stick to the plan...


  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Norm, for the kind words.