Monday, February 15, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #11


1330 Local Time
1 February 1966
Song Ve Valley, RVN
Operation Double Eagle

Danny was severely unhappy; first Sergeant Garcia had split he and Nik up by putting them in different fireteams, and yesterday Nikki got hit and MEDEVAC'ed to the rear.  Despite being in country with the squad for three and a half months now, he felt completely alone without his best friend.  After the helos came and resupplied the company, then left carrying their wounded safely away, the company dug in and occupied its night defense positions, posting OP/LPs and going to 50% in the holes.  Danny found it impossible to sleep, it was the first time in the field that he and Nik weren't sharing a hole.  The company was up before dawn, and after a quick piss, brushing of the teeth, and some cold C-rats, they stomped in their holes, hoisted their packs, and began sweeping north up the Song Ve Valley.

It was the squad's turn on point when Sgt Garcia called them to a halt, told them to take a knee while he checked the map and checked in on the radio.  They were currently atop a finger of Hill 133, but about to come down into some relatively open terrain, with ridgelines to their left (northwest) and right (southeast), as they pressed ahead to check out a fishing village in the northeast.  "Alright, Thomas, you take point, and take it easy, take your time, I got a bad feeling about this one."  "Roger, Sergeant G," replied Danny.

Overview, north is up.  Hill 133 is in the southwest (bottom left), while ridgelines dominate to the northwest (top left) and southeast (bottom right).  There's a hardball road running north-south through the center of the area, with a cluster of rice paddies across the center/left, while thick stands of trees screen the approaches to the village, which sites in the northeast (top right), as well as box in the rice paddies to the west.

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 rice paddies are from Battlefront.
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 railroad tracks are cheap, plastic jobs from Target.
The craters, burned out areas, and rubble piles are from Battlefront.

The squad is down to seven effectives:

Top (left to right): Sergeant Garcia  
Center (left to right): Cpl Little, PFC "Danny" Thomas, and Pvt Rivera
Bottom (left to right): PFC Nelson (Grenadier), Pvt Jackson (RTO), and Pvt Holmes

The squad, conducting its security halt atop Hill 133 (bottom left).

The squad covers (bottom right) as Danny steps off, walking point (center left).

Danny slowly moves downslope (far left) as Cpl Little and Rivera begin picking their way down after him.

Danny reaches the rice paddies (left) as the squad continues to slink out behind him.

Danny nears the road (center) as the squad winds its way in behind him.

*I've got a real talent for not pulling the 'enemy contact' card until the very end of the mission...

Danny cuts left, paralleling the road (center) rather than walking on the road out of fear of booby traps, as the rest of the squad reaches the road.

Danny pushes up, reaches the edge of the village (left top).

The squad is paralleling the road as Danny breaks cover, stepping onto the road (top right).

The enemy finally shows themselves!  At the entrance to the village the Viet Cong have an earthen bunker with three men inside, and a single rifleman outside to watch their flank (since they let the Marine pointman pass).  

The VC bunker (bottom right) opens fire on the main body of the squad (center top to far left, with Danny at top right), suppressing Cpl Little and pinning Sgt Garcia!

*The exclamation point is because I gave them 5K and 7S dice and they didn't hit anyone, and only pinned/suppressed two guys.  They need to schedule a little range time...

While the VC flanker (bottom left, just right of the bunker) sights in on Danny (top right) and fires...

Danny dives off the road into cover behind a hedge, suppressed!

The Marines on the road, led by Sgt Garcia, return fire on the VC bunker (in the trees at top right).

Holmes (bottom left, with Sgt Garcia at left top) lays down fire as Nelson and Jackson fall back into a nearby stand of trees (bottom right).

Further left, Rivera (far left, with Cpl Little rallying below him and Danny suppressed at top left) fires into the bunker (top right)...

But gets the worst of it as the bunker (bottom right) shifts fire to him (top left), pinning him.

But then Holmes (bottom left) does the same thing, exchanging fire with the bunker (top right) and not accomplishing anything but becoming pinned...

The bunker (bottom left) shifts fire to Nelson and Jackson (in thicket at top left), but the fire is ineffective.

As the lone VC rifleman outside the bunker (far right bottom) engages Cpl Little and Rivera (top left), pinning Cpl Little.  The Viet Cong then decides...

To dash right, in an earthquake!  Sorry for the horrible photo; you can see the VC bunker at bottom center and Danny suppressed at top left, while the VC rifleman ran right (far right, behind the hootch).

Jackson is on the radio providing a SITREP and requesting support as Nelson (bottom right) bloops a 40mm HE round at the bunker...

But it's short (white puff at left, bunker at right) and has no effect on the enemy...

Sergeant Garcia, Cpl Little, and Rivera (center) go cyclic, pouring fire into the enemy bunker (top right), suppressing two of the VC inside...

But the third man returns fire, panicking Rivera and suppressing Cpl Little (center top, in the hedge) as his partners rally.

And he lone VC rifleman continues right (bottom right, from bottom left), looking to get on the Marines' (top left) flank and into an enfilading position.

Nelson quickly breaks down the M-79, drops the empty casing, replaces it with another grenade, and fires...

But he misses again, left...

Cpl Little rallies (red bead at left) as Sgt Garcia (just below him) and Holmes (bottom left) deliver accurate fire into the bunker (top right), suppressing two of the VC.

But the bunker's (bottom center) return fire is again ferocious, panicking Sgt Garcia and suppressing Cpl Little!

Meanwhile, further up the trail, Danny has rallied and crosses the street (on road at center left, from bottom left), unaware of the VC flanker (top right, with bunker just visible at bottom left).

But the VC flanker (bottom right) spots Danny (far left, in hedge) and opens fire...

And Danny goes down!

The VC sees Danny go down (behind hedge at left top) and moves up (top right, from bottom center).

Jackson (bottom center, next to Nelson, who is reloading his blooper) was looking north and saw Danny go down, then a second later a VC popped out on the road (top left); Jackson quickly shouldered his M-14 and opened fire, suppressing the enemy rifleman.

But Jackson's fire (top right) drew the attention of the bunker, which opened fire, but again the thicket proved to be solid cover!

"Dammit!" exclaimed Jackson (far right, with Nelson to his left and Holmes at bottom left), "I got arty on the horn..." 

"...but we're too close (bunker at top center left), and we can't fall back, Danny is down, on the trail up next to the village (off camera to far left top)!"

Cpl Little (bottom left) sees Danny (top right) is down and decides something needs to be done ASAP!

Holmes (bottom left) continues to deliver accurate fire with his M-14 into the bunker (top right), suppressing one of the VC.

As Nelson takes a third shot at the bunker, but he misses again.  "Dammit!, I ain't accomplishing anything like this, I gotta get a better look.  Cover me, I'm going forward!"

Jackson and Holmes (bottom left) look on incredulously as Nelson goes dashing out into the road (center)...

The bunker (bottom left) spots him (top right) and opens fire...

But he makes it, diving through the hedge and out of the bunker's (top right) field of fire!

Jackson (bottom right) continues firing at the VC in the village (top left, near Danny)...

Forcing the VC to fall back (bottom right, from center)!

"Hang on, Nelson, I'm coming too!" And with that, Jackson dashed out into the road (center, from bottom left, with Nelson at right)...

The bunker (bottom left) spots him, too (top right), and opens fire...

But Jackson makes it, diving through the hedge and landing right next to Nelson (bottom right)!  The two look at each other for a moment, in shock, then bust out into uncontrollable laughter.  "I can't believe you crossed the damn road!"  "I can't believe you followed me!"

The bunker (bottom left) can no longer see Nelson and Jackson (in the bush at center top), so it shifts fire to Holmes (in hedge at top right, with Sgt Garcia, Cpl Little, and Holmes below him).  The 7.62mm rounds slam into the hedge, dirt, and hill all around him, causing Holmes to drop his weapon, dive to the ground, and begin burrowing in to the earth, panicked!

Cpl Little takes a deep breath, then pops up (far left, between Rivera and Sgt Garcia) and opens fire, pouring fire from his M-14 into the bunker's firing port (top right)... 

Suppressing one of the VC inside (bottom left, as the VC in the village (top right) rallies himself back in to the fight.  But then...

In the northeast, a squad of reinforcements arrives for the VC (bottom left, with VC in the village at center right bottom the bunker at center left top, and the Marines at top center)!

Further south, Nelson and Jackson push through the treeline and pop out (right, from bottom left) behind the VC bunker (just above Nelson at right top)!

Jackson (bottom left) opens fire on the bunker's firing port with his M-14 as Nelson fires a flechette round, loosing a horde of metal darts at the bunker, but the angle is bad for both of them and all they manage to do is strip away a bunch of the foliage camouflaging the bunker...

Back across the road, Cpl Little (bottom left) keeps pouring fire into the bunker...

Then crawls left: "dammit, Rivera, we're in a bad way and you gotta perform!  Now pick up your weapon and bust some caps!"

The three VC in the bunker (top center) rally as their reinforcements begin crossing the river (bottom center, with Marines at top right).

Sergeant Garcia (bottom left) finally gets his marbles back as Cpl Little and Rivera (far left) exchange fire with the bunker (in trees at right top, with Nelson visible at far right).

Jackson (bottom left) flinches as the bunker returns fire...

Rivera (far left) keeps firing as Cpl Little takes off at a sprint, moving north (top center)!  The bunker spots him and fires...

But he makes it into the cover of a nearby hedge, diving, then crawling forward and peering through.  "Danny!  Danny!  Dammit, Marine, I see ya (far right), now answer me!"

And while the bunker is distracted, Jackson and Nelson rush it!  Nelson sets down his M-79 and fishes a frag out of his pocket, removes the clip, and pulls the pin; "fire in the hole!"

He cooks it for three seconds, tosses it in the entrance, then hunkers down as the ground shakes and smoke and debris comes flowing out the entrance and firing port.  

Jackson looks on as Nelson draws his sidearm, moves up, and enters the bunker, blasting away all seven rounds in about three seconds.  Nelson emerges a few moments later; "no sweat man, it's clear."  Jackson signals the rest of the squad. 

Sergeant Garcia responds; "yeah, no @#$%, Jackson, you got the bunker.  I was wondering why they quit firing..."

Sergeant Garcia, Holmes, and Rivera move up to support Cpl Little.  "Where's Thomas?" asked Sgt Garcia.  "There," Cpl Little replied, pointing out to Danny lying in the road.  "Damn..."

The Marines held fast (bottom left), exchanging fire with the VC reinforcements in the northwest (top right).

Even Nelson and Jackson (bottom center left) got in on the act, though they didn't have a very good look at the VC to the northwest (top right).

"Alright, cover me," Cpl Little said (far left), I'm going to get Danny.

Sgt Garcia, Rivera, and Holmes popped up and fired at the cyclic rate as Cpl Little high-crawled through the hedge and out into the road...

He tried to drag Danny, but he was too heavy.  "Look out, I gotta pick him up, this big bastard's too heavy to drag."  "Roger, come on!"  Cpl Little rolled Danny over and worked him up to a fireman's carry...

Then hauled ass back into the cluster of Marines.

Before gently laying Danny down in the grass and checking him over.  "What the hell?  I don't see anything, I can't find a wound.  It looks like... no, he's breathing.  Looks like he's just unconscious.  (Taking Danny's helmet off) Yeah, he took one in the helmet, got one of those Yosemite Sam lumps on his noggin and a helluva furrow in his helmet, I think he's just knocked out.  Like what happened to you, Sgt G!"

"Yeah, well wake his ass up!  And good, now I can prove to the Gunny I ain't the only one..."

The Marines (far left, bottom left) continue exchanging fire with the VC (top right) as Jackson works on getting that arty battery back on the radio.

But suddenly incoming begins impacting around the Marines.  Holmes hollers to Jackson, "Hey, Jackson, check fire, check fire, you called the arty in on us!"

"Shut the @#$% Holmes, that ain't ours," replied Sergeant Garcia, "that's Commie mortars, now get down, and keep an eye across the road in case the dinks come at us."

But no sooner did the VC mortars cease firing then the cavalry arrived, the rest of the platoon riding Amtracs and escorted by a tank!

The VC had no desire whatsoever to tangle with the Marine armored vehicles and didi-maued back to the northwest.

The Marine reinforcements flowed north and secured the area, which allowed Jackson and Nelson (far left) to rejoin the rest of the squad.  "How'd we do, Sergeant G, and how's Danny?  Anyone else get hit?"  "Negative, just Thomas, and looks like he's..."  

Corporal Little let out a shout as suddenly Danny's eyes popped open, clearly disoriented and bewildered.  "Why am I lying on my back, looking up at the sky?  And why are you hovering over me?"  Danny, seeing Cpl Little's face and finally recognizing it, cracked a broad grin.  "Rob, are you trying to kiss me?"  "I can't believe I risked my neck for your sorry ass..."

Danny was okay (no, I didn't cheat, that's what was rolled up, he was just knocked out, just like what happened to Sergeant Garcia a couple fights ago) and they quickly got him back on his feet, handing him back his pack and rifle.  "What's this, Sergeant?"  "Yeah, nice try, wise-ass.  Saddle up, Marines, the war ain't over just cuz Thomas got his bell rung..."

The sweep and clear mission continued, though Danny found it hard to focus, probably had a concussion.  He was kinda amazed at his luck, getting hit in the helmet and not being dead, and by the fact this was the first time he could remember the squad being in a firefight and not suffering any casualties, he still felt a deep, irrational, aggravation towards Sergeant Garcia for having split he and Nikki up, placing them in different fireteams, and he couldn't help but feel like Nik wouldn't have been hit, and neither would he, if they'd have been together.  "That don't make any kinda sense, Lance Corporal Thomas," Danny muttered to himself, but still, it was there.

But it all worked out, the squad spent another sixteen days in the field but didn't have another contact, didn't even hear another shot fired in anger for the rest of Operation Double Eagle.  By 3 February, when 2nd Bn/4th Marines exited the south end of the Song Ve Valley, linking up with the Army's 1st Cav Division and ARVN, it had become clear to higher headquarters that the VC had pulled back, so the Marines pushed north, back up the valley, moving all the way back to Red Beach.  They patrolled the local area until 17 February and never saw anything, the only contact being when one of 3rd Recon Battalion's teams caught a VC battalion in the open and pounded them with air, arty, and naval gunfire, killing about 100 of them.

So the squad was loaded back up and got back to Da Nang in the wee hours of the morning  on 18 February 1966; Danny was let down when they walked in the squad bay and Nik wasn't there waiting on them, but he was still recovering in the hospital at China Beach.  Which was alarming for another reason: no sooner had the squad gotten back to the barracks then HQ began working themselves, and the Marines, into a frenzy.  Rumors had been floating around for awhile now that the North Vietnamese had been infiltrating regular Army units across the DMZ; hell, that's what Operation Double Eagle was all about, but all the contact was with the VC, not a single NVA regular was seen.  But now HQ was absolutely convinced they'd got a whole bunch of NVA regulars hemmed in and there was going to be a huge fight.  New gear, huge stocks of ammo and supplies, and veritable boatloads of replacements came rolling in.  Hell, the squad was actually going to go into combat overstrength!  But Danny was worried; time was marching on, they'd been back in garrison a couple weeks, the big op was set to go down any minute now, and still there was no sign of Nik!

On a positive note, back in garrison, Rocky Nelson was awarded the a Navy Comm w/V and meritoriously promoted to Corporal for taking out the enemy bunker, while Lamar Jackson was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal (NAM) with /V and meritoriously promoted to Lance Corporal for his part in taking out the enemy bunker.  And Corporal Zamora, now sporting wild scars on both sides of his face and his chest and neck, was back, with seven boot replacements following him.

Corporals Little and Zamora took their places as 1st and 2nd Fireteam leaders, and the newly promoted Cpl Nelson took over 3rd Fireteam.  As promised, Sgt Garcia put Danny and Nik back together n 1st Fireteam (whenever Nikki got his sorry ass back to the squad), and they picked up a boot, Jimmy White.  2nd Fireteam picked up two boots (Malcolm Floyd an Eddie Contreras), as did 3rd Firteam (Ed Dombrowski and Shawn Stidham).  Since Cpl Nelson was a fireteam leader now, he turned the blooper over to one  of the boots, Ed McCaffrey, who formed the squad's command group with Sergeant Garcia and LCpl Jackson, the RTO.  The Marines were looking mean and were ready and raring to go, just issued new uniforms and boots, ready to face off against the North Vietnamese Army.  

As soon as Nik would get his ass back to the unit...