Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #6


1230 Local Time
10 December 1965
Que Son Valley, RVN
Operation Harvest Moon

While the boys were cavorting on Operations Red Snapper, Black Ferret, Blue Marlin I, and Blue Marlin II, the Viet Cong 1st Regiment had reconstituted itself, dodged various US/South Vietnamese sweeps, and concentrated in the Que Son Valley, which comprised the west end of the area of operations for Blue Marlin I.  During Blue Marlin I, the Marines swept east of Route 1 and the ARVN swept west, extending their area of control out to Hiep Duc, where they established a Ruff-Puff base.  The Marines pulled out on 12 November and pushed south, and that is when the 1st VC Regiment struck.  On 17 November the ARVN base at Hiep Duc fell; the ARVN counterattacked the next day and by 19 November 1965 they had retaken Hiep Duc, killing 141 Viet Cong while losing 33 of their own.

The two counterattacking ARVN battalions were pulled on 20 November to go deal with another emergency; the security situation in the Que Son Valley immediately deteriorated.  III MAF met with ARVN commanders and began planning a joint operation to neutralize Viet Cong forces in the Que Son Valley. US Marine forces would be 3/3 and 2/7, while the South Vietnamese would contribute the ARVN 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment, and the 11th Ranger Battalion.

Operation Harvest Moon kicked off on 9 December 1965, and it was a disaster right from the start.  The Viet Cong launched attacks on the ARVN 1/5 and 1/6; the latter was repulsed, but the former overran the ARVN infantry and killed their regimental commander.  The ARVN 11th Ranger Bn was also ambushed and lost over a third of its strength in less than an hour.  The US Marine 3/3 was lifted in and set off to assist them but ran into a battalion-strength strength defensive position that cost the lives of 11 Marines before the VC withdrew.  The boys had gotten their first helicopter ride, landing further west with 2/7, and walked all day without seeing anything or firing a shot.

Because things were going poorly, the US Marines committed 2/1, which attempted to land near Cam La, but the LZ was hot and the helos were shot up badly enough that only one rifle company (Fox Company) was landed and the remainder were put down in alternate LZs further west.  The rest of the day was spent trying to link up and cost 20 more Marines killed in action (I would loved to have gamed this but I cannot find any H-34s in 15mm-1/100 scale...  If someone can point me in the right direction I'd greatly appreciate it).

On a side note, prior to deploying for Harvest Moon the squad received three replacements straight out of Boot Camp/SOI: Privates Leon Washington, Jose Deleon, and Bob Holmes.  This led to an interesting discussion on the helo ride in.  Sgt Garcia found himself sitting next to Pvt Washington and decided to strike up a conversation: "How ya doing, Washington?"  I'm doing well, Sergeant, thank you."  "Why you always so quiet, Washington?"  "Because I don't want to be here, Sergeant."  "What da @#$% you mean, you don't wanna be here?  We all volunteered for this @#$%," Sgt Garcia laughed, looking around the helo to see who else was laughing."

"I didn't volunteer, Sergeant."  "Dammit, Washington, what the @#$% are you talking about you didn't volunteer?  We're all volunteers."  "I'm telling you Sergeant, I'm no volunteer."  "Ah, shut the @#$% up Washington, this is your first helo ride and your first combat operation.  You might be regretting it right now, but we all asked to be right where we're at."  "No Sergeant, I didn't.  I didn't volunteer for this, I was drafted."  "WHAT??? What the @#$% did you just say?  That's bull@#$%, you weren't @#$%ing drafted, Washington, the Marine Corps doesn't take draftees, we're all volunteers!"

Cpl Zamora interjected: "Hey, G, that's not true man, the Corps is taking draftees now, been doing it for awhile now."  "That's bull@#$%, ya'll are bull@#$%ing me, and that's enough of your nonsense!  Washington, get the @#$% down there, get away from me, a @#$%ing draftee, what the @#$%?!"

Deleon and Jackson didn't have the heart to tell Sergeant Garcia they were draftees, too.

Overview, north is up.  The Marines are entering via the road at bottom center left, with the Song Ly Ly on their left flank and a couple hamlets on their right.  The hamlets are separated by some rice paddies, and there are several more in the north end of the area.  The squad is on the far left flank of the company, with the entire company on line (off camera to bottom right) extending to the southeast; one could argue the company should be in a bit more of a tactical stance, but they have a lot of ground to cover, a lot of areas to search, and so far they haven't run into any contact, despite what happened to the ARVN yesterday and what 2/1 was currently going through on their LZs at Cam La.

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, now sporting 13 members, one short of full strength.

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), Pvt "Danny" Thomas, and Pvt Deleon
Middle (left to right):  Cpl Zamora, Fireteam Leader, PFC Griffin, Pvt Jackson, and Pvt Washington
Bottom (left to right): LCpl Marks, Fireteam Leader, LCpl Murcia-Jimenez, and Pvt Holmes

1st (bottom right) and 3rd Fireteams (far left) pull security as 2nd Fireteam finishes up searching the sampans for any VC contraband.  "Alright boys, let's head across the street here and see what's what.  And keep your eyes peeled, I got a bad feeling, I ain't seen a single civilian in the area."

Again 1st (right) and 3rd Fireteams (top left) pull security as 2nd Fireteam searches the hamlet.

They spend another thirty minutes searching the village and then, content there are no VC or weapons present, Sgt Garcia steps off to the north with 2nd and 3rd Fireteams as 1st Fireteam pulls security (bottom right).

3rd Fireteam moves up behind a hedge (top left) to pull security as 2nd Fireteam steps off to the east, through the rice paddies (center top), approaching the other village (top right).

1st Fireteam (bottom center) looks on as 2nd Fireteam, followed by Sgt Garcia and Nelson, enters the ville (top right).

2nd Fireteam pushes deeper into the village (top right), nearing the well.

Sgt Garcia and Nelson enter the ville (left) as 2nd Fireteam pulls security facing north (across the center top). Sgt Garcia calls 3rd Fireteam to hold in place as 1st Fireteam comes up to the village.

2nd Fireteam (top right) pulls security in the village while 3rd Fireteam does the same to the west (far left) and 1st Fireteam begins crossing the rice paddies (center).

1st Fireteam reaches the village (center).

1st Fireteam fans out and begins searching the village for VC/contraband.

3rd Fireteam displaces slightly north, into a treeline (far left).

It takes about an hour, but 1st Fireteam has now completed its search of the village (without finding anything).

1st Fireteam begins pushing north (on either side of the fish pond), passing through 2nd Fireteam (running left to right across the center), with Sgt Garcia and Nelson falling in behind them.

The Viet Cong have decided to make an appearance, with a four-man team in the northwest (bottom left, with 3rd Fireteam in the thicket at far right and 1st and 2nd Fireteams at top center right)...

A three-man team in the southwest (bottom left, with 3rd Fireteam in the thicket at top center and the village containing 1st and 2nd Fireteams just off camera to top center).

And, most disturbingly, a five-man team in the paddy in the northeast, less than 15 meters from 1st Fireteam's pointman (center left).

The ambush begins with the closest enemy team opening fire at point-blank range on the Marines' main body, led by 1st Fireteam...

The VC fire rips through the Marine formation, dropping Deleon, who was hit multiple times, and suppressing Danny, Nikki, Cpl Little, and Sergeant Garcia!

*I cheated here, for the bad guys!  I actually rolled 6K 7S and didn't roll a single '6' on the Kill Dice, but I figured it was so implausible that no one was hit that I converted one of the suppressions to an 'out of action.'

And then the VC in the northwest (bottom left) fired a rocket at the village...

Griffin is hit by shrapnel and goes down, while Jackson was suppressed and Cpl Zamora and Nelson were pinned!

And then the VC in the southwest (bottom left) opened fire on Marks' 3rd Fireteam (top right), suppressing MJ and Holmes.

Marks stumbles left (bottom right) and returns fire to the southwest with his M-14.

While back in the village, Washington is the only Marine not hit, suppressed, or pinned (bottom right)! The lanky Marine draftee stands tall and returns fire on the enemy across the road, sweeping back and forth with his M-14 on full auto.

Washington's shooting pulls Cpl Zamora out of his stupor and he adds his rifle fire to Washington's, as Nelson fires a 40mm HE round from his M-79.  The VC are so close he has to aim the tube almost vertical in order to allow the grenade time (revolutions) to arm...

The Marines' 7.62mm rounds chop the thick foliage as the 40mm grenade lands and explodes amongst the ambushing Viet Cong.  All told, one enemy soldier goes down and three more are suppressed.

The one VC still in the fight (bottom right) returns fire...

As Sergeant Garcia, Danny, Nikki, and Cpl Little fall back into the village (the four red beads at far left, from right) Nelson is hit (casualty figure at center), leaving only Cpl Zamora and Washington in the fight (center right), and Deleon laying in the street (top right)!

Back on the left, Marks (bottom right) continues laying down fire as MJ and Holmes rally.

And the Viet Cong in the southwest (bottom left) exchanges ineffective fire with the 3rd Fireteam (top center).

The VC in the northwest launch a rocket at 3rd Fireteam...

The B-40 slams into the thick jungle screening the Marines, but Holmes is suppressed again.

As Marks and MJ (bottom right) continue firing into the bamboo sheltering the southwest VC.

Back in the village, the ambushers (bottom right) continue to exchange fire with Washington and Cpl Zamora (top left).

Cpl Zamora is suppressed and Washington continues firing as fast as he can get his M-14 reloaded.

Further left, Jackson (bottom center, with Washington and Cpl Zamora at top right) gets into the fight, suppressing one of the VC across the road.

Washington mumbles to himself, "we can't just leave Deleon out there, gotta do something..."

Washington sprints up and dives into the fish pond (right, from bottom left), taking cover as VC (top center) rounds slam into the muddy berm!

Seeing Washington (top right) and Jackson (far left) helps Sgt Garcia, Danny, Cpl Zamora, Cpl Little, and Nikki (all the red beads) realize they need to get their asses in the fight...

Back on the left, Marks and MJ (bottom left) continue their duel with the VC in the southwest (top left), suppressing the enemy soldiers long enough...

To allow the three Marines to fall back into better cover.

*It's better from the standpoint that it keeps the VC in the northwest (off camera to top left) from having a line of sight to them, and it places the hedge between the VC in the southwest and themselves.  One could argue that they can't really have any impact on the ongoing fight, but I would reply that they weren't really having any impact on the ongoing fight, they were simply fighting for their own survival.

Another rocket comes in from the northwest...

And slams into the village, suppressing Jackson and Danny and pinning Sgt Garcia and Cpl Zamora!

"Dammit, we gotta do something about those B-40s!  We need arty!  I need the radio!  Where's Griffin  Griff, I need the radio," screamed Sergeant Garcia.  Jackson (red bead at far left) responded: "Griff is down, Sergeant!" (the casualty figure just above the explosion from the rocket, which, incidentally, shared some more shrapnel with him).  "@#$%!!!"

The VC across the road (bottom right) continue firing into the village, pinning Cpl Little (top left)...

Washington (far right), laying on his back in the fish pond, lifted his M-14 up out of the muck and began firing blindly into the jungle across the road.  Nikki (bottom left, next to Cpl Little) was impressed; "that cherry's got moxie.  I s'pose I oughta give him a hand," and with that, Nikki finally got the Pig into the fight, laying down a thick stream of tracers, suppressing three of the VC across the road.

Which buys Washington enough time to roll out of the fish pond and grab Deleon.

The VC in the northwest (bottom left) spot Washington popping out of the fish pond and cut loose on the young Marine (top center)...

But somehow Washington manages to grab Deleon and pull him into the fish pond without being hit!

"Holy crap, that cat's going to get himself killed!" exclaimed Nikki, after watching Washington dash out and drag Deleon into the fish pond (top center right).  Nikki grabbed his M-60 and dashed forward (far right, from bottom left).

But on the other side of the village, Jackson has had enough of eating rockets and so he authorizes himself to fall back (bottom center, from top left), though he left Griffin laying there (top center left)...  Danny (just below the well, with Sgt Garcia next to him) rallies again.

He (bottom right) begins laying down fire as Sergeant Garcia low crawls over to Griffin (left).

"Griff?  Griff?  You alright, buddy?"  Griffin moaned in reply, his voice coming out as a croak: "I'm still here, Sergeant, just not feeling so hot."  "I gotcha buddy, you're gonna be alright, I'm gonna get you outta here.  First, let me check on the radio; yeah, it's still working, I'm gonna get us some help."

Sgt Garcia couldn't raise the platoon, but was able to reach the company command group; turns out the whole company was in a major fight!  Sgt Garcia's request for air or arty was added to the queue, his request for MEDEVAC was denied as all the LZs were too hot to bring helos in, and his request for reinforcements was denied because... there weren't any, the whole damn company is engaged!

"I gotcha Skipper, we can hack.  We're gonna pull back and consolidate, treat our casualties, I'll keep you updated" Sgt Garcia responded, thinking to himself, 'easier said than done.'

"Roger, Echo Five Golf, good luck, Spartan Six out!"

Back on the Marine left, Marks was having an easier time of it.  He, Holmes, and MJ low-crawled it out from behind that hedge (far right) into position behind a nearby retaining wall offering much better cover.  The firing in the west had almost completely died out.

But the VC in the northwest (bottom left) kept pumping rounds into the village (top center)...

And this time Corporal Zamora was hit, falling next to Nelson (center), suppressing Sgt Garcia (far left, next to Griffin), and pinning Washington (top right, with Delen) and Nikki (far right)!

On the Marine left, the VC in the southwest (bottom left) continue to engage Marks, MJ, and Holmes (top right), but neither force is really in position to do damage to the other.

Back in the ville, Jackson (bottom left) and Sgt Garcia (red bead at left) rally as Danny  (just below and to Sgt Garcia's right), Cpl Little (bottom right), and Nikki (far right) lay down fire on the VC across the road (top center)...

Suppressing all of them and causing one to flee (far right)!

In the fish pond, Washington grabs Deleon and hoists him onto his shoulders in a fireman's carry...

Washington leans and lurches towards the rear (top center) as Nikki (bottom left) lays down fire with his M-60...

The volume of fire out of the VC in the northwest (bottom left) reaches a crescendo, absolutely pouring fire into the village (top right)!

But somehow Washington runs between the raindrops without getting wet (center left, from bottom right), making it into the village!!!

*I rolled 5K and didn't score a single hit, he legitimately made it. I did everything I could to get him whacked, he just refused to go down.

Along those lines, this fight really struck me as odd (at least in the village), in that all the battle-hardened veterans were continually hit or suppressed and it was the rookies (Washington and Jackson) that carried the fight for the Marines.  So you know, when incoming fire racks up hits and suppressions, I typically weight it towards getting the rookies, but the dice were just against the vets.

Cpl Little (bottom center) lays down fire as Washington continues carrying Deleon to the rear (left, from right).

Washington splashes into the nearby rice paddy (left)...

There he sets Deleon down and then collapses into the mud next to him, exhausted!

Nikki continues laying it down with the M-60...

Covering for the rest of the squad as they move to the casualties and begin collecting them up.

Cpl Little, Danny, and Sgt Garcia carry Nelson, Griffin, and Cpl Zamora to the rear...

Reaching the rice paddy...

And laying them down next to Deleon.

Sgt Garcia retrieved Marks, MJ, and Holmes and brought them back in (top center) as Jackson and Nikki joined the squad in the relative safety of the tree-lined rice paddy, where the squad set about pulling security, stabilizing the wounded, and radioing for help.  As he listed to Sgt Garcia talking on the radio to a Forward Air Controller (FAC), Nikki looked at his watch; they'd been pinned down in the village for the better part of an hour.

About 20 minutes later the Marines were heartened to hear propeller noises and look up...

To see a Bird Dog overhead.  It seemed like an eternity (about fifteen more minutes) of Sgt Garcia talking the FAC onto target before he finally winged over and launched a spotting rocket.  "Shot!"  "Shot out!"

"Splash!"  "Splash out!  I gotcha Bird Dog, 01.  You're just below the ridge, I need up the ridge, west 50 meters, and north 100 meters, then we're dead on target."

"Roger, standby, fast movers ten mikes out," replied the FAC.

"Never mind that Charlie is probably gone right," muttered Sgt Garcia to himself, checking his watch.

Ten minutes later, Sgt Garcia warned the squad: "heads up boys, here they come, Skyraiders."

And the boys got to see their first airstrike, which ended all fighting in the local area, the air was dead quiet but for the squelching of the radio.  

Later, after the squad was was linked up with the rest of the company and wounded were evacuated, Sgt Garcia led the squad back to the area to make sure all their gear was policed up and to check out the enemy defensive positions.  They found nothing but spent brass in the southwest and north, and in the northwest, where the airstrike had come in, they found one, single, solitary charred body.  Sgt Garcia snorted out a chuckle, "he was probably already dead..."

Speaking of the wounded, Pvt Washington's heroics saved Deleon's life; Deleon was shot three times and was bleeding out on the road outside the village, would have surely died if Washington hadn't scooped him up, brought him back in, and stopped his bleeding.  It was still bad enough that Deleon had to be evacuated to the Naval Hospital in Okinawa, where he lost a kidney, his spleen, his gull bladder, and his left arm below the elbow.  Sixteen months later he was shipped back to the States and medically retired as an E-4 (Corporal).

Sergeant Garcia immediately relayed the story of Private Washington's actions to the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant, recommending Washington for the Navy Cross.

Griffin and Nelson were hit badly enough be evacuated to China Beach, though Griffin would return to the squad shortly before Christmas, still picking shrapnel out of his ass from the two rocket blasts he'd absorbed, and Nelson would return shortly after Christmas, still limping from the 7.62mm round he took in his left thigh.

The surprise of the day was Cpl Zamora, whom everyone was sure was dead.  Back in the village, when they were still under fire, Sgt Garcia rushed forward to pick up Cpl Zamora and carry him to the rear, but when he spotted him lying there in the mud, face mangled, blood caked on his face and in his hair, Sgt Garcia's eyes welled up with tears thinking his old friend from Gitmo was dead.  But when the Docs got to him they called Sgt Garcia over for help; it turned out Cpl Zamora was not only alive, but he was refusing to be evacuated with Deleon, Griffin, and Nelson!!!  The Corpsman explained: the round came in on Cpl Zamora's left, perfectly creasing the left side of his head, from his chin, laying open his cheek so that his teeth and gums were showing through the left side of his face, on to the upper left side of his head, where it took off half of his left ear!  But, all told, it was a superficial wound, nothing serious once it was stitched up and healed!  But Cpl Zamora didn't want to leave, insisting he could still fight and wanted revenge for what the Viet Cong did to his comrades and his face; Sgt Garcia and the Docs pleaded with him to get on the damn MEDEVAC helo, but he refused!  "Z, you're not going to be able to eat out there, and the pain's gotta be terrible, and you can't take any meds while we're out in the bush!  And if that gets infected they're going to have to lop your whole damn head off!"  

But he refused, made the Corpsman stitch him up right there on the spot using some local anesthetic and gear gotten off the MEDEVAC chopper, as well as some antibiotics.  Corporal Zamora refused to leave his buddies and toughed out the next ten days in the field with his entire head covered in big, white bandages!

Sgt Garcia led the squad back to the company area and they settled down for the night, where the Marines dug in to their night defensive positions and ate their evening chow.  The boys spent a long, uneventful night, including being out together for a couple hours on OP/LP.  The next morning the Marines got up, pissed and brushed their teeth, ate morning chow, stomped in their holes, and set off in search of the Viet Cong again.

The next day the Marines were walking along a ridgeline and saw their first 'Arc Light.'  Suddenly the entire company came to a halt, the radios squelched, officers and NCOs fidgeted, and everyone was told to take a knee.  "Check it out," said Sergeant Garcia, "it's an 'Arc Light,' B-52 bombers coming in to pound the valley."  Shouts went up and down the line, "bombers inbound, take cover!"

"Where are they, Sergeant, I don't see anything?" asked Nikki.  "They fly too high, you can't see them, you're just sitting there and then, all of a sudden, the world goes wobbly and horizon just disappears.  Wait, there!" Sgt Garcia exclaimed, pointing skyward, "contrails.  They're close!"

Suddenly there was a low and the very earth seemed to move sideways and back.  The boys watched as a wall of smoke, dust, and debris rose on one side of the valley and began marching across to the other, blocking out the horizon, just like Sgt Garcia said.  They could see the shockwaves coming off the blasts and, even three klicks away, they could feel them a few seconds later, and then the sound reached them as well, the vicious crack of a thousand thunderheads.  It seemed to go on forever, and then suddenly it was over and just a grayish-brown pall hung over the valley.  The Marines, most of whom had unconsciously risen to their feet, let out a collective sigh, then straightened their helmets and packs and got back to humping the bush, searching for the enemy.  Later that day the squad found an abandoned VC base camp, with weapons, ammo, food, uniforms, and medical supplies still lying around, indicating the VC had left in a hurry.  

The boys got to walk around for another week looking at abandoned VC base camps before somebody finally realized the Viet Cong had pulled out of the Que Son Valley and were now inhabiting the nearby Phuoc Ha Valley.  III MAF committed 2/9 and had them enter one end of the valley whilst 2/7, whom the boys were still attached to, entered from the other end.  Both battalions soon found themselves in the fight of their lives.

Coming soon.



  1. You write a thrilling battle report, Jack. Great stuff!

    1. Thanks Jonathan, I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  2. Washington definately deserves that medal! A great report as always Jack.

    1. Thank Jim, and I agree on the medal. I did everything I could to get him whacked, but the bad guys just kept missing!


  3. great looking table and batrep, jack!

    1. Thank you, QC, this fight was one of my favorites of the first tour.


  4. A really engrossing game and report Jack. Your figures, terrain, photography and narrative take us there. It's really effective and affecting.
    Regards, James

    1. Thanks, James, this was definitely one of my favorite fights, glad you liked it.