Sunday, January 24, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #5


0130 Local Time
18 November 1965
Near Hoi An, RVN
Operation Blue Marlin II

Following the end of Operation Blue Marlin I, the boys re-boarded the amphibious shipping and sailed to Chu Lai, where 3/7 was offloaded.  They went ashore and to a couple days of rest, before it was time to re-board the ships for Operation Blue Marlin II, this time with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.  They sailed south and landed 22 miles south of Da Nang on 16 November 1965, where they wheeled right and pushed north towards the confluence of the Song Truong Giang and Song Cua Dai (Song = River).  The Marines have spent two days humping the bush east of the Song Truong Giang without contact, while two battalions of ARVN Rangers have done the same west of the river.

And there have been changes to the squad.  Prior to the kick off of Blue Marlin II, the platoon received a fresh slate of replacements, including some NCOs.  While at Chu Lai, the Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Dunn, called Corporal Little into his hooch to talk.  "Rob, sit down, I need to talk to you.  We got a load of replacements in and some are coming your way.  But I wanted to you to hear it from me, Sergeant R.A. Garcia is coming in, and he's going to take over the squad."

"You're taking my squad away, Staff Sergeant?"  "No Rob, just I gotta put him somewhere and 3rd Squad has a Corporal running it."  "2nd Squad has a Corporal running it, too, Staff Sergeant."

"Look Rob, you're a good Marine, and a good leader, but you need more time in the bush before you're running a squad."  Corporal Little opened his mouth in protest, but Staff Sergeant Dunn cut him off: "You're not hearing me Rob.  Sergeant Garcia is a great leader, knows what he's doing, and I want him to take you under his wing and teach you the ropes.  You've been on your own since Sergeant Oxland went down, and you've done good, but I need better.  In Red Snapper you took your squad charging straight up the road and ran straight into a bunker, and then I ask you to hold the hill and you put two FNGs out on the flanks by themselves..."

"But I was..."

"All night, Rob, you left two FNGs out there all night!  No relief!  We're lucky those two didn't fall asleep and wake up with their throats slit!  Last week I asked you to escort the Combat Engineers while they sweep the road and you didn't put out flankers...  And in Black Ferret, you run into a couple snipers and the After Action Report says...  what did it say?  You were knocked out, didn't even participate in the fight?  I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but that's a bit damn strange, don't you think?  Anyway, it doesn't matter what you think, Sergeant Garcia is coming in here and you're going to follow his lead and you're going to learn from him, do you understand?"

So Sergeant Garcia took over the squad.  A solid leader, he'd come ashore in March of 1965 and led a squad for several months in a different company before taking over as Platoon Sergeant.  During Operation Starlite his platoon was ambushed and he single-handedly pulled their chestnuts out of the fire.  He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions, and though he was wounded badly enough to be brought back to a staff job at battalion, now he is all healed up and ready to get back into the field.

With him he's bringing Corporal Zamora, a seasoned NCO just arriving in country from the States, and LCpl Murcia-Jimenez (they call him "MJ"), a seasoned non-rate just arriving in country from the States, both of whom Sgt Garcia had served with in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Additionally he was bringing a two cherries straight out of Boot Camp/SOI, Mike Albergo and Lamar Jackson.

Overview, north is up.  A tributary of the Truong Giang River runs north and south, with a few sampans moored at the northern end.  There are hamlets present in the northeast (top right) and southwest (bottom left), a finger of Hill 275 protrudes south in the northwest (top left), there's a rice paddy in the southeast, and thick patches of jungle dot the landscape.  The bridge is not fortified, but there are sandbagged emplacements surrounding it.

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 playing this game 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 sampans are from Flashpoint Minis.
The rivers are from Wargamers Terrain.
The bridge is from Novus Design Studios.
The sandbagged emplacements are from JR Miniatures.

The Squad is as big as it's been since it first landed in March, sporting 11 members.

Top (left to right): Sergeant Garcia, Squad Leader, and PFC Nelson, Grenadier
1st Fireteam (left to right): Cpl Little, Fireteam Leader, Pvt "Nikki" Jacobs (sporting his new M-60), and Pvt "Danny" Thomas
Middle (left to right):  Cpl Zamora, Fireteam Leader, PFC Griffin, and Pvt Jackson
Bottom (left to right): LCpl Marks, Fireteam Leader, LCpl Murcia-Jimenez, and Pvt Albergo

The enemy: a full Main Force NVA platoon of three seven-man squads, two of which sport RPGs, and all three have RPD light machine guns.  This is an attack/defend scenario, which is why I know the enemy strength prior to us taking to the table.

The Platoon Sergeant, SSgt Dunn, briefed Sgt Garcia on his squad's mission to babysit a bridge tonight.  "The bridge was previously guarded by an ARVN detachment, the squad wouldn't be receiving any attachments, arty would be on call, though no one is expecting any trouble tonight.  The Company Gunny was out there right now with a squad from 2nd Platoon.  You now stand detached; go forth and do good things!  And good luck, Sgt Garcia."

It was 1630 on 17 November 1965 when the squad rounded the bend and the bridge came into sight.  There was no sign of the squad from 2nd Platoon (they were across the river looking around), but the Company Gunny was standing on the bridge.  As they arrived, Sgt Garcia ordered his men to drop their packs and take five while he headed up onto the bridge.

"Good afternoon, Gunny."
"Good afternoon, Sergeant Garcia, it's good to see you back in the field.  How are you doing?"
"#$%@ that, Gunny, what the @#$% is this bull@#$%???  Sandbagged bunkers with no overhead protection?  No wire, no Claymores?  The fields of fire suck, the dinks could be in our perimeter before we even know what hit us!  This is some serious bull..."
"I see you haven't changed, Sergeant Garcia."  The Gunny cracked a smile.  "Nevertheless, it's good to see you back in the field again.  I understand your concerns, and I remind you that we are taking over these positions from our ARVN allies, so... do what you can to improve them, and hold the bridge."
"Aye-aye, Gunny."

Weighing heavily on Sgt Garia's mind was the fact there were no real materials to improve the defenses, and no time even if they had materials.  By the time the Marines got settled into the position it was less than a half hour from sunset...

The Marines moved into the defensive positions; Sgt Garcia and Nelson took the small bunker at left, while 1st Fireteam went into the SE bunker (bottom right), 2nd Fireteam went into the West bunker (far left), and 3rd Fireteam went into the NE bunker (top right).

The Marines settled in for the night, with each bunker going to 33% and the command bunker going to 50% (only two of them in the bunker).

It wasn't long after night fell that the VC begin infiltrating into their assault positions.  The VC 1st Squad moved up in the northwest, into a thicket on the finger of Hill 275 (far right, the command and West Bunkers visible at far left).  This is the base of fire element and contains an RPG.

The VC 2nd Squad took several hours to move down the river towards the bridge, coming out when they reached the moored sampans.  This is the assault element and is carrying satchel charges to destroy the bunkers.

The VC 3rd Squad took the longest to get into place (bottom right), taking about five hours to circle around to the east, being careful to stay well away from any prying eyes in the northeast village.  They took up positions in the southeast (bottom right), opposite the SE and NE Bunkers.  They will begin the battle as a base of fire (they possess the other RPG), but they must be very careful to avoid striking the assault element with their fire.  They are the exploitation element and carry explosives to destroy the bridge once the assault element has neutralized the enemy bunkers on the east end of the bridge.

The VC platoon sat tight for another couple hours, studying their foes in the pale moonlight, waiting for the time to attack.  The Viet Cong commander glanced at his watch and smiled to himself; 0125.  Five more minutes and the support platoon will rain down mortars on the Americans, and then we attack!

And everything went exactly according to schedule; at exactly 0130 the cough of distant mortar tubes could be heard to the northeast, and approximately thirty seconds later five 82mm HE rounds rained down around the bridge's defensive positions.

Luckily for the Marines there were no direct hits, so the other than Albergo becoming pinned (yellow bead in the NE Bunker (top right), the mortars served no other roll than to wake all the Marines up.

But immediately following the mortar impacts, the VC 1st (off camera to left) and 3rd Squads (top right) launched rockets at the Marine defenders...

The first rocket slammed into the dirt a few yards short of the Command Bunker, showing Sgt Garcia and Nelson with dirt and debris, but they were otherwise fine.

Griffin (off camera to bottom) immediately get on the radio and calls in flares.  He also requested a fire mission and the spotting round went out but he couldn't see it, so he dropped it.  They were in heavy, close-in fighting so he really didn't have time to keep messing with it, not to mention he was deathly terrified of giving the wrong coordinates (and he clearly was off, or he'd have been able to see the spotting round) and dropping arty on top of his own men.

*This is early in the war and the Marines kind of think of themselves as invincible, particularly against the VC.  As the war matures, the quality of Marine training goes down (Boot Camp/SOI shortened, draftees begin showing up), and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) shows up, this will change.

But on the east side of the bridge, the rocket slammed into the SW Bunker, suppressing Cpl Little and Nikki.

The VC 3rd Squad then opened fire on both eastern bunkers...

Marks goes down (far left) and MJ was pinned, while Danny (bottom right) was suppressed!

Simultaneously, the VC 1st Squad (far right) opened fire on the western bunkers, suppressing Sgt Garcia and pinning Griffin.

And then the VC 3rd Squad, on the river (right), opened fire on the NE Bunker (top left) from point-blank range...

Suppressing Albergo and MJ!

Things are looking grim on the east end of the bridge: Marks is down and everyone else is completely suppressed...
The 2nd VC Squad leaves its LMG to provide covering fire (just off camera to right) while the remainder of the squad pushes south towards the NE Bunker (top left).

The VC Platoon Leader gets ahead of himself; there is a pregnant pause of total quiet following the Viet Cong fusillade, with no American return fire, so he decides to get his men moving up on the bridge.  Three sharp blasts on his whistle signals the platoon to make a general advance!  

The VC 3rd Squad Leader signals his men, leading four of them forward while leaving the RPG and LMGs as a base of fire (just visible in the bamboo at far right).

The VC 1st Squad follows suit, leaving their RPG and LMG as a base of fire (far right) as their leader and four soldiers move downslope (top center), closing on the west end of the bridge (far left).

But the Marines aren't finished yet, it just took them a moment to respond after surviving the mortar barrage, rockets, and torrent of small arms fire directed at them.  From the West Bunker, Cpl Zamora and Jackson (bottom center) sight in on the VC 1st Squad's men moving down the hill and open fire, suppressing three of them.

In the Command Bunker (far right), Sgt Garcia rallies as Nelson (far right) sends a 40mm HE round uphill at the VC 1s Squad's base of fire...

The grenade puts the RPG out of action (far left) and causes the LMG to run (far right)!

Nelson quickly breaks the M-79 down, shakes out the spent casing, tosses in another HE round, whips it back shut, and fires another grenade...

It lands a little a little short, but still manages to suppress two VC, as Cpl Zamora, Jackson, and Griffin all fire at them...

The VC 1st Squad has been driven off!  2nd Fireteam's fire drops one bad guy and suppresses two more...

The VC melt back into the jungle (top right, from bottom left)!

With things suddenly quiet on the west side of the bridge, Cpl Zamora realizes he doesn't hear the M-60 or any M-14s firing on the east side of the bridge, so he takes off to go check (center, from bottom left)...

But VC from their 3rd Squad in the southeast (bottom right) spot him (top left) and open fire...

Suppressing him (bottom center)!  From top left, Albergo, MJ, Nikki, and Danny all rally.

That's all the red beads.  The white bead is Cpl Little and means he is panicked, so he can't self rally, he has to be rallied by another Marine moving into base contact with him.  Cpl Zamora is in that same boat now...

In the north, the VC 2nd Squad assaulters are continuing to press forward, firing on the NE Bunker as they go

Albergo is suppressed again as MJ stands tall and returns fire...

Dropping one man and suppressing two others!

But then the enemy light machine gunner, sensing his squad's attack faltering, rushes forward, levels his RPD, and rattles off a long burst into the NE Bunker...

MJ falls next to Marks, and Albergo breaks and runs, heading back over the bridge!  Danny yells at him, "Get back here, Boot, get down!"

The rest of the VC 2nd Squad rushes the NE Bunker.

Sgt Garcia (bottom left) spots the VC rushing the NE Bunker (top right) and opens fire, suppressing one of them.

The other two (bottom right) fire on Albergo (top left) but somehow miss.

While in the southeast, the VC 3rd Squad's base of fire element lays into the SW Bunker with their RPD and the RPG gunner's AK (he's afraid to fire another rocket for fear of hitting 2nd Squad, just off camera to right top), suppressing Nikki and pinning Danny.

The VC 3rd Squad's assaulters fan out and move on the SW Bunker, firing as they go and suppressing Danny.

The situation on the east end of the bridge continues to deteriorate: the NE Bunker is empty and about to be occupied by the VC 2nd Squad, and the VC 3rd Squad is bearing down on the SE Bunker, which is occupied by three suppressed Marines.

Albergo continues his mad dash to safety, nearing Cpl Zamora on the bridge...

But the enemy's skirmish line in the southeast (bottom right) spots him (top left) and fires...

Sergeant Garcia looks on as Albergo is hit multiple times and goes down, dead before he hit the ground...

Nelson reloads his M-79 and launches a 40mm HE round at the VC closing in on the NE Bunker...

The round lands among them, lightly wounding several of them and suppressing three enemy soldiers.

Which is enough to convince them to melt away back into the jungle!

*If you're curious about the VC's seeming lack of resolve, please understand that this is 1965 and so I'm playing them much more conservative than we'll see in later years, particularly once the NVA arrive.

Nelson reloads (bottom left) as Sgt Garcia leaves the Command Bunker and moves onto the bridge (center) to check on Cpl Zamora.

The VC 3rd Squad's LMG (bottom right) spots Sgt Garcia (top left) and opens fire...

But Sgt Garcia stands tall and opens fire on the enemy skirmish line approaching the SE Bunker, suppressing two of them.

Griffin and Jackson move right (bottom center, below Sgt Garcia and Cpl Zamora) and open fire on the VC moving on the SE Bunker (top right0, suppressing three of them!

The enemy NCO takes another few steps (right) forward and tosses a hand grenade at the SE Bunker...

The frag lands between Nikki and Danny; both men see the grenade, look at each other, and then roll away from it, curling up into the fetal position in a feeble attempt to protect their faces and vital organs.

Precious seconds tick by, like an eternity...

The enemy's 3rd Squad melts back into the jungle.

"Hey Nik," yelled Danny.  "Yeah?"  "Are we dead?"  Both boys broke out into raucous, uncontrollable laughter.

Cpl Little rolled over and looked at the unexploded Chinese grenade lying n the dirt; "what the hell?"

"I'm pretty sure we're not dead," Nikki quipped, rolling over and staring at the dud grenade.  "Well, lookee there, a dud.  That poor Viet Cong, a victim of poor Chinese quality control standards.  'Buy American, I always say.  And to think, that poor devil ran all the way out there in the open, risking his precious life just to throw that thing in here with us," he said wryly.

"Hey Nik, we almost died again, didn't we?"  "Yeah, brother, a few times tonight.  Thank God those fellars at the other end of the bridge pulled this way, they really saved our bacon!  Hey, Corporal, what do you figure we should do with this dud?"

"Grab it and toss it out of there, over there, at where the VC came at us from.  And you two can call me Rob, I think you knuckleheads have earned it."

Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Zamora cautiously crept across the bridge, peering down into the bunkers.  "You guys alright down here?"

"Yes, Sergeant, not a scratch.  We did have quite a scare, though," Nikki said, pointing at the dud grenade.  "Yeah, I bet you did.  Get rid of that thing, then Jacobs, you pull security, Cpl Little and Thomas, you guys get over here and and help us with Marks and MJ, they're both hit."

Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Zamora jumped down into the NE Bunker, looking at the detritus of war: the bodies of Marks and Murcia-Jimenez, the rifles, empty magazines, spent brass, C-rat cans, spilled packs showing spare socks, cigarettes, and letters from home.  Sgt Garcia and Cpl Zamora were nearly scared out of their wits when suddenly Marks sat up and MJ rolled over; "what the hell happened?"

"Damn it, Marks!  I nearly shot your dumbass!" yelled Sgt Garcia.  "And I think I let out a little pee," laughed Cpl Zamora.

"Where's Albergo?" asked Marks.  "He's dead, the @#$%er broke and ran and the dinks caught him running across the bridge, filled him full of holes.  How are you?"

"I'm alright, I think.  That round hit me in the shoulder, but I don't think it got the bone," replied Marks.  He was right, a relatively superficial wound.

"Me, too," said MJ.  "They hit me in the side, above my hip, but clearly didn't get me in the guts or I'd be dead already."

The Marines begin policing up the battlefield and bring Marks an MJ back for treatment.

"Good grief, Nik, we gottta quit doing this."
"Yeah man, I definitely feel like years are being shaved off our lives at a rapid clip."
"You wanna hear something funny? I never even fired my rifle last night."
"Yeah, I know, I was right there next to ya!  I didn't shoot, neither!  And them Viet Cong were right there, close enough to toss a frag right into our laps!  Speaking of that, I still can't believe you didn't jump on that grenade to save me!" Nikki said coyly, a silly grin crossing his face.
"I was just thinking the same thing!  I love you, brother, but I ain't jumping on a grenade for nobody!"
"Well Semper Fi, Mac!" And both boys busted out into laughter again.

About 0830 a Track showed up with a Doc and another squad and loaded up their wounded and dead.

Meanwhile, Sgt Garcia had the squad split up and go search the area for any signs of the Viet Cong.  They searched up on the finger of Hill 275...

They searched in the north, up near the sampans...

And they searched the thickets in the southeast, but not a single body was found, just a couple blood trails, a bloody bandage, and plenty of spent brass...

About 1000 the squad got back on the trail, carrying out the last sweeps of Operation Blue Marlin II.  By 1600 they were re-boarding the landing crat to be carried back to their home in Da Nang.  The next operation, Harvest Moon, was already being planned, but it was a big one and was taking a long time, so it wasn't set to kick off for a few more weeks.  The Marines got their normal period to screw off and get some R&R, but it didn't last long; a few weeks ago the Viet Cong had staged a daring raid into the Marble Mountain Airbase, destroying thirteen aircraft on the ground, so they were called on for some aggressive patrolling in the local area.  It kept them pretty busy, but luckily there was no contact and no casualties.  By the time December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day!) rolled around, the squad was chomping at the bit to get back into some 'real' action.

Coming right up.



  1. Great read Jack, visually very atmospheric.

  2. Did not know of Flashpoint prior to this report. Very tempted, Vietnam only 'modern' period to tempt me. Like to hear more about the rules you use - will check out other Vietnam posts here. Agree, visually well done - pleasantly 'animated'.

    1. Thanks, C-i-C, I appreciate it. Flashpoint Minis are great, and the proprietor, Jimmi, is a great guy, super helpful. Regarding the rules, which part are you looking to learn more about? The gaming rules are 5Core from Ivan Sorensen, while the solo mechanics are Platoon Forward from Joe Legan. I’d love to answer any specific questions you have.


  3. Another great looking game...terrain is really nice 👍

  4. Catching up on these. Your written report and excellent photos tell the story really well.
    Regards, James

    1. Excellent, I hope you enjoy them! And thanks!