Sunday, January 10, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #2


0130 Local Time
23 October 1965
Phu Gia Peninsula, RVN
Operation Red Snapper

Yesterday the boys kicked off Operation Red Snapper, attached to Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines (G/2/3).  They came ashore via landing craft as the Marine driving enemy forces into the ARVN anvil.  There were only ashore a few hours before they participated in their first firefight of the war, with each of them performing admirably.  They had completed their missions of escorting a Forward Observer (FO) into an old French Colonial building atop Hill 65.  They were relieved a few hours later and returned to their platoon, where they grabbed some chow and dug-in for the night.  But it wasn't long before their squad leader, Corporal Rob Little, came running up, talking about a SNAFU...

Cpl Little briefed the squad: another screw up!  As it began getting dark, the FO and Marines from G/2/3 fell back off of Hill 65 for the night, but now HQ has realized there is a gap in the US perimeter.  The Platoon Commander, Lt Ward, has ordered Cpl Little to take 3rd Squad back up Hill 65 and to occupy the old French colonial building.  "This is not good, Marines.  We've got to hustle over there, and we won't get there until after dark, so we won't be able to dig in, string wire, throw out Claymores, nothing.  Hell, let's hope Charlie ain't already occupying the damn place!  The only good news is that they're sending a machine gun team with us."

The Marines quickly collected their gear and re-packed their packs, filled in their holes, then reported in to the Command Post (CP), where they met up with the attached MG team and set off for Hill 65 in the failing light.

Overview, north is up.  The French colonial building atop Hill 65 is at center, with the bunker the squad knocked out in the previous fight at left bottom.  At top right is a village, at far left is a rice paddy, and there is a trail running out of the northwest (top left) down to the French colonial building.  Other than that, nothing but a lot of grass, some hedges, bamboo thickets, and a whole lotta jungle.

A lower level look from southwest (bottom left) to northeast (top right).

A lower angle look, to show the elevation of Hill 65.

Another low angle shot of Hill 65 (French colonial building at top center), this time from the village in the northeast, looking southwest.

A low angle shot looking west to east from the village (foreground) at Hill 65.

The opposing forces, with the squad at left, the attached MG team at center, and the enemy at right.

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...  The previous game I played as the umpire, controlling the VC force, with my two boys controlling the US Marines, but this time I'm playing solo.

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 squad:
Top row, left to right, is PFC Nelson (M-79 grenadier) and Corporal Little (Squad Leader)
Middle row, left to right, is Pvt Nikki Jacobs, PFC Griffin, and LCpl Devers 
Bottom row, left to right, is Pvt Danny Thomas and PFC Marks

The attached machine gun team:
Team Leader (with binos): Cpl Irving
Gunner (with the Pig): LCpl Light
Assistant Gunner (with M-14): Pvt Peeks

The Viet Cong, consisting of an NCO, a machine gunner (with RPD), a grenadier (with RPG), and four riflemen.

The table, with everyone in their starting positions.  The main Marine defensive position is, of course, the French colonial building.  The Marines have flankers out to each side (in thicket at far left and right), and a small reserve in the rear (bottom center, on the road).  The Viet Cong have a base of fire element in the rear (LMG at top left and RPG at top right), while their assault element is crossing the rice paddy at far left).  

Yeah, not their greatest plan to try and cross the rice paddy, but that's how the dice shook out, so we'll see how it goes.

In the French colonial building is Cpl Irvin's machine gun team (left), with the squad leader, Cpl Little, and the grenadier, PFC Nelson, behind them (right).

Out on the right flank, Cpl Little has stationed Danny (bottom right, with the French colonial building at top left).

While Nikki has been thrown out on the left flank (bottom left).

And Nikki (bottom center right) finds himself closest to the bad guys (bottom left).

Back down the hill in the south, the reserve is chilling on the road.  The reserve is Devers, Griffin, and Marks (bottom center, with French colonial building at top center left, the VC assault element just visible beyond it and to the left.

So the MG team in the building is at 33% (one man awake while two sleep), as is the reserve, while the squad command group is at 50% (one man sleeping while the other is on watch), with the flankers just sort of left to their own devices...

Yeah, Cpl Little really screwed the new guys, throwing them out on the flanks by themselves, with no relief scheduled.

Looking west to east at the enemy starting positions, you have the assault element crossing the rice paddy (bottom center), their LMG at far left, and their RPG behind the wall at top center.

The VC in the northeast with the RPD light machine gun.

Looking northeast to southwest you can see the RPG gunner (bottom right), the VC assault element in the rice paddy (top center right), and the French colonial building (top left).

All is set: it's 0130 in the morning and the Marines, though uneasy, have settled into their positions for the night, with the boys struggling to keep their exhausted bodies awake, to the point Nikki thinks he's beginning to hallucinate.  He'd swear there were men moving in the rice paddy in front of him, but can't be.  Nobody would be dumb enough to advance on the hill from the left, through the open rice paddies!  He'd even screwed with Danny about drawing the short straw by being sent out on the right, near the village, which the enemy was certain to use as their avenue of approach.

But all thoughts of sleep and hallucinations and whatever else were quickly wiped from the young Marine's mind when the still air of the night was suddenly shattered by the loud 'pop' and hiss of a rocket being fired!

The RPG is on target and slams straight into the French colonial building, shaking the Earth!

As the dust and debris begins to settle, it's ugly: the MG team was thrashed, with Light and Peeks both down and Cpl Irving suppressed (red bead at left), while Nelson is pinned (yellow bead at center).  Cpl Little (bottom center right) is now awake, but it's taking a moment to shake out the cobwebs.

But it's a moment he doesn't have as almost immediately following the detonation of the VC RPG, their light machine gun in the northwest (bottom left) opens fire on the building with a long burst.

On the Marines' far right, Danny (bottom left) spotted the enemy RPG gunner (top right) and takes him under fire, steadily ripping off three and four round bursts from his M-14.

The VC asault element moves up in the rice paddy (bottom left) and begins firing on colonial building...

Forcing Cpl Irvin, the MG Team leader, to fall back (red bead at bottom left, from in the building. Cpl Little is above him, and Nikki is just visible above him, while the VC assault element is at top right)!

And that's when Nikki (far left) cuts loose with his M-14, on full auto...

He drops one enemy rifleman and suppresses another.

Back up the hill, Nelson pops a flare, and for a few seconds everything goes quiet.

But it doesn't last; Cpl Little (bottom center, with Nelson next to him) fires down into the VC assault element (top left).

As Nikki (bottom right) slaps in a fresh magazine and continues pouring fire into the nearby Viet Cong.

On the backside of the hill the reserve, consisting of Devers, Marks, and Griffin, aren't sure what to do.  They haven't received any orders from Cpl Little, but know things aren't going well.  "Guys, I hear AKs close on the left, and I don't hear the Pig (the M-60 machine gun), we'd better get up there," said Devers, so the three Marines begin moving up the hill (center, from bottom right).

While on the right, Danny (bottom right) keeps firing ont he enemy RPG gunner (top left), suppressing him.

With things relatively quiet on the right, Danny decides to press the issue, so he takes off, flanking right (far right, from bottom right, with the enemy RPG gunner at top left).

The VC LMG (bottom left, with their assault element pinned down in the rice paddy at far right) continues hosing down the colonial building with his RPD...

Suppressing Cpl Little (red bead at bottom left, with Nelson pinned above him (yellow bead at top center) and Cpl Irving suppressed to his right.

Pinned in the rice paddy, the VC assault element turns their guns on Nikki, who's in the thicket at top center, holding down the left flank by himself, but the fire is accurate and he's suppressed.

Two Viet Cong break cover (left, from far left), looking to finish him (far right) off...

But he escapes, falling back through the thick foliage, back to the bunker they knocked out in their fight yesterday (falling back from top to bottom).

But more bad news for the beleaguered Marines: another enemy squad arrives as reinforcements in the northwest!

But Nelson (far right) spots them and fires a 40mm HE round from his M-79...

Which drops the 1st Squad's light machine gunner and suppresses one of the newcomers (red bead).

On the far left, Nikki has had enough of being hung out on his own and begins falling back (center bottom, from bottom left) to the center.  He can see movement ahead of him (far right); unsure if it's friend or foe, he raises his rifle and waits.  Luckily the young Marine doesn't fire, it's Devers, Marks, and Griffin coming up the hill!

While on the far right, Danny keeps pushing, dashing down the hill (bottom right, from far left, with the colonial building visible at top center).

Devers turns to Marks and Griffin (bottom right): "you two hang tight, let me go see what the hell is going on," and with that he moved up to the colonial building, finding Cpl Little (far left).

The VC assault element (bottom left) spots the movement (top right) and shift fire there...

But Devers and Cpl Little (bottom right) stand tall and return fire.  Devers signals Marks and Griffin to come up...

They hump up and join Cpl Irvin on the right side of the colonial building.  "What's going on, Corporal?"  "I dunno man, they hit us square up with a B-40, they hit Light and Peeks, and they opened up with an MG and I had to get out of there.  Light and Peeks are still in there!"

But as they're (top left) discussing what to do, the RPG gunner (bottom right) opens fire on them with his AK...

And they (bottom left) take cover and return fire.

"I'm going back in," screamed Cpl Irvin as he dashed back into the colonial building and began checking on his wounded team members (top right, from bottom left).

But no sooner had Cpl Irvin got back into the building then the enemy reinforcements (bottom left) opened fire, suppressing him again.

The RPG gunner launches another rocket at the colonial building...

Again he finds his mark, suppressing Nelson (red bead at center) and again forcing Cpl Irving to fall back out of the building (far right)!

The VC reinforcement squad (bottom left) continues firing on the colonial building...

Cpl Little is suppressed (red bead at bottom center) and Nelson is forced to fall back (red bead at far right).

And now the enemy assault element (bottom center/left) pours fire into the Marines atop the hill...

Devers goes down (far left bottom) and Cpl Little is forced to fall back (bottom right)!

Marks and Griffin (bottom left) return fire on the RPG gunner (top right), suppressing him.

Having gotten his second wind and/ quite frankly, realizing being up on top of Hill 65 isn't actually as cool as it seems, Nikki gathers himself and creeps back forward, into position on the left flank (far left, under the palm frond, from bottom center, with the VC assault element visible at top center/right).

Marks and Griffin (bottom center) keep firing on the VC RPG gunner (top center).  "Ed, where's Danny?" queried Griffin.  "I dunno man, I heard him firing earlier, back when we were down the hill.  He mighta got zapped...  Hey, what was that?"

Marks let out a chuckle; "well I'll be damned."  In the eerie, uneven light of the flares, he could just make out the the form of Danny creeping up on the right, towards the VC RPG gunner.

Then Griffing moved left to check on Cpl Irving and Nelson, helping them get back in the fight, as Marks (bottom right) kept popping rounds at the RPG gunner.

But the VC assault element (bottom left) had been slowly creeping up the hill, and they opened fire at short range...

Griffin slammed his body flat into the ground as the incoming rounds narrowly missed his head (top left, with Marks to his right), and Nelson and Cpl Irving fell back down the hill, joining Cpl Little!

The VC RPG gunner (bottom right) cuts loose with his AK on the colonial building...

As does the enemy reinforcement squad (bottom center, with their assault element at right).

In the northwest, the VC reinforcements split up: they peel off their LMG and a rifleman (far left) to lay down covering fire as their NCO leads the rest of their squad up the trail (center top, from far left).

Simultaneously, the VC assault element rises and begins charging up the hill (bottom center)!

But Nikki (bottom left) is in the right place at the right time!  He cuts loose with his M-14 on rock'n roll...

Two VC go down in a hail of bullets, and the other two are suppressed!

Back on the hill, Nelson charges back up to Griffin (top left)...

Then pops another flare.

As Griffin and Cpl Little move left (top left).  Cpl Little moves to check on Devers (casualty figure at far left)...

As the enemy LMG (bottom left) again rakes the colonial building.

But Cpl Little and Griffin stand tall and fire downslope at the remnants of the enemy assault element...

Forcing them to fall back (top left, from right)!

And with the immediate threat to the left flank subsided, Nikki hauls ass up the hill to join his comrades (top right, from bottom left)!  "Good to see ya, Jacobs," said Cpl Little, "and nice job out there holding down the flank."
"Sure, you bet Corporal.  It's good to see some friendly faces.  Where's Danny?  Is he alright?"
Marks (far right), still popping off rounds at the RPG gunner, laughed.  "Yeah man, come look!"

Marks (bottom left) kept firing ont he RPG gunner (top right, with the VC reinforcements at top left).  "What? I don't see him," replied Nikki.

"Look, there he is."

The enemy LMG team in the northwest (bottom right) continues plastering the colonial building, suppressing Cpl Little and Griffin (top left), but the rest of their squad is feeling a bit exposed on the trail (left)...

So they move right, joining the remnants of the assault element in the rice paddy.

While on the enemy left, the RPG gunner (bottom center left) is feeling a bit like something's off, so he puts down his rocket launcher, grabs his AK-47, and begins moving left...

Where he rounds the corner and runs straight into Danny!

Danny quickly dispatches the enemy soldier.

As Danny is having his close encounter (top right), Nelson has gotten back into action at the colonial building and bloops another 40mm grenade out...

Suppressing the VC LMG team.

The rest of the Marines atop Hill 65 get back into action and begin firing down on the VC in the rice paddy, pinning them down.

And while that's happening Nikki dashes back into the building (right center)...

And gets to the M-60.  He picks the weapon up, takes a couple minutes to clear a really bad jam, then arranges the spare barrel and ammo cans and belts around him for easy access.

Marks moves up on the right side of the colonial building.

Takes up a good kneeling position, and begins delivering accurate rifle fire onto the enemy LMG team (top center).

Having taken care of the RPG gunner (bottom left), Danny begins moving right (center left).

The VC get the LMG back into action, despite Marks' fire.

But Danny (bottom right) gets into position up on the trail and begins plugging away as well.

And now the Pig comes roaring back to life!  Nikki (bottom right, with Danny at top right) finally gets the gun back in action.  He spots the VC in the rice paddy just as they were preparing to make another push up the hill and begins raking them with long, 12-15 round bursts keeping them pinned down.

Nelson (center left left) keeps popping flares as Cpl Little, Cpl Irvin, and Griffin retrieve the casualties.  Cpl Irvin begins treating them as Cpl Little is reporting in to HQ and requesting support on the radio.  "How we looking, Rob?" Griffin asked.  "It's about 0300, Company say they can't send anyone until dawn, so we gotta sit tight for a couple more hours.  They said we got arty standing by for a fire mission, but I told them to hold off, I told'em we look to have things contained, with a platoon (always exaggerate the threat!) pinned down in a nearby rice paddy, situation under control.  The dinks are danger close anyway, I don't need them dropping arty on us in the dark.

So the standoff continued for another couple hours, largely filled with the sounds of Nikki on the M-60, keeping the bad guys pinned down.  Just as the sun was coming up it got real quiet and Cpl Little sent Marines out to see what was going on.

The Marines swept the rice paddy where the VC "platoon" had been pinned down, nothing there but some spent brass and a few blood trails.

Nikki was sitting back (bottom center), smoking a cigarette, gun still in his shoulder, watching his comrades sweep the rice paddy, when he heard "Devil Dog! Devil Dog! Devil Dog!"  He almost pissed his pants, but once he recovered his composure he let out a chuckle.  "Danny?  Come on in, brother!"*

*That little exchange is what we call a 'running password,' what you yell out when coming back into friendly lines so you don't get lit up by friendly fire.

The reunion was interrupted by the sound of large, heavy engines propelling large, heavy vehicles.  Reinforcements had arrived!  True to their word, Company had dispatched a tank and a track carrying a reinforced squad at dawn.

SSgt Dunn, the Platoon Sergeant, led the reinforcements up Hill 65.

"Good morning, Staff Sergeant, good to see ya."  The Docs immediately got to work tending to the casualties.

LCpl Devers and LCpl Light were both okay, just light wounds and would be back in action in less than 10 days, but the M-60 Assistant Gunner, Pvt Peeks, nearly died and was on his way back to the big Naval hospital in Japan.

The Marines moved the wounded downhill and loaded them aboard the Track.

"Well, that was a helluva night, eh?"  "Yeah, Nik, you had me scared as hell.  When the VC pushed up the left side I thought you were a goner."  "Hell, for a second there, I thought I was a goner!  But you too man, it got real quiet out there on the right for a long time!"  "Shoot, if it's quiet, you ain't got nothing to worry about me for.  I still ain't even really been shot at."  "Well, I think I've already had my fill of it, and like I said yesterday, it's not nearly as cool as it sounds.  You know, I saw ya out there with that VC with the rocket."  "Oh yeah?  It was nothing, he came around that corner, I was just as surprised as he was."  "Well, looks like we both had a close encounter with the enemy then, difference being that in mine them boys brought a few of themselves to get ol' Private Jacobs, and I lit outta there like a jackrabbit!!!"  And with that, both boys had a helluva laugh!

And with that, everyone loaded up on the tank and the Track and began moving back south.  "Hey Corporal," said Nikki.  "Yeah Jacobs, what's up?"  "So we're all just packing up offa Hill 65 and leaving?"  "That looks to be the long and the short of it, Marine."  "But Corporal, if we're all just packing up and leaving, what the hell was the big idea behind having us hump up there and fight all night for it?"  Danny snorted and whispered, "better watch yourself, Nik."  "Jacobs, ever hear of 'Ours is not to reason why'?"  "Yes, Corporal.  And hey, Corporal, it seems Corporal Irvin ran off and left without his machine gun."  "And it seems you've taken a liking to said machine gun."  "Why yes, Corporal."  "Wait - Jacobs, where the hell is your service rifle???"  "Don't worry, Corporal, I got it stowed below, in the Track."  "Okay then.  Well, I would suggest you make sure to hold on to that rifle, but as far as I'm concerned, Corporal Irvin losing a machine gun is Corporal Irvin's problem."  Nikki and Danny let out a laugh, "Gear adrift is a gift!"

So the squad got back to the Company area and was given 20 minutes to clean up and grab some chow before the Marines were saddled up and back out humping the bush, chasing phantoms.  They walked for two more days but never had another contact.  It seems the ARVN took heavy contact and the 1st Viet Cong Regiment was able to make its escape.  Thus ended Operation Red Snapper for the boys.  

They were trucked back to Da Nang, got a couple days off shower up, eat some real chow, even go down to the beach and have a couple beers.  But it wasn't long before they were heading back out; on 2 November 1965, Cpl Little came strutting into the squadbay.  "3rd Squad, on me!  We got a Warning Order for Operation Black Ferret."  "What the hell is a ferret?"  "Doesn't matter."  "When are we going out?"  "Tomorrow morning."  

The good news was that Devers, Masterson, Hendricks, and Ryder had all recovered from their injuries during Operation Red Snapper and had returned to the squad.

More to follow.



  1. Great looking game.....good effort on the rocket and weapon trails look very effective 👍

  2. Fascinating account, Jack! I sold off my 20mm Vietnam collection many years ago but your excellent reports have me rethinking that decision. I still have a number of unbuilt slicks.

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Jonathan, thanks! I know what you mean about regretting a sale, but c'est la vie (guerre?). but it's a blessing in disguise; if I had it to do all over again, I'd game Vietnam in 1/72 using the plastic ESCI dudes from my youth!


  3. A brilliant little game Jack. I love the way you get so much out of a handful of figures and some simple yet stunning terrain.

  4. What a splendid looking game. Brilliant terrain!
    Regards, James