Sunday, February 7, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #9


1430 Local Time
13 January 1966
An Hoa, RVN
Operation Mallard

Some old faces, Nelson and Griffin, had returned to the squad, and some new faces, Rivera and Tate, were picked up as replacements, bringing the squad strength to twelve Marines, nearly their T/O strength.  They'd been patrolling in and around Da Nang for a little over a week when Sergeant Garcia walked into the squadbay and gave them a Warning Order: they were heading about 20 klicks south of Da Nang to support a sweep by 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (1/3) and 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines (3/7) in and around a village named An Hoa.  It seemed An Hoa was a burgeoning industrial center (or at least he South Vietnamese government hoped so), with the country's only functioning coal mine and a newly completed railway spur located there.  But the Viet Cong R-20 Battalion, recently reinforced by the 5th Main Force Viet Cong Battalion, was causing big trouble there for the ARVN assigned to protect An Hoa, so the Marines were being sent in find, fix, and destroy the VC forces in the area and evacuate about 300 villagers from small hamlets in the surrounding area into the (allegedly) better protected An Hoa village proper.

The Marines kicked off Operation Mallard on 11 January 1966, having been trucked into staging areas the previous night.  The first two days and nights were relatively uneventful, the Marines following the long established routine of humping all day before stopping about an hour before sunset to dig their night defensive positions, eat their evening chow, then spend a long, uneventful night interrupted by standing watch and sometimes a couple hours out on OP/LP before getting up the next morning to piss, brush their teeth, eat morning chow, stomp in their holes, and set off in search of the Viet Cong again.

But on the third day of the operation they were humping the bush when local Ruff-Puffs (members of the ARVN) reported Viet Cong had occupied Hill 108 looking down on the western end of An Hoa.  The boys' platoon was attached to a company from 3/7 and dispatched to destroy the VC threatening An Hoa from Hill 108, the fear being the VC would infiltrate An Hoa and damage or destroy (again) coal mining infrastructure in the village.  As the company moved west on Hill 108 it took contact from the north; the main body of the Marine company wheeled to deal with this contact, but the boys' platoon was ordered to continue west at the double in order to cut off and prevent the VC from entering An Hoa, taking Hill 108 in the process.

Overview, north is up.  The southeast corner of Hill 108 is visible running across the top of the battle area, from top left to top center right, with the An Hoa railway spur running just below it, with a river bend in the east and southeast (bottom right).  A portion of the northwest corner of An Hoa Village is visible in the southwest (bottom left), to include a concrete refinery building VC sappers had previously snuck in and blow up.  The center of the tactical area is dominated by rice paddies, devoid of cover.  The Marines are hustling into the area from the southeast (bottom right), where they were patrolling east of the river bend, so they'll have to require that large open area at center.

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 Squad, now reinforced by Marines returning from convalescent leave and replacements. 

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

The Marines enter the area, with 1st Fire Team crossing a footbridge, followed by Sergeant Garcia.

1st Fireteam presses towards the road, the rest of the squad in tow.

The Marines wheel right and begin crossing the rice paddies in skirmish line, each one of them in nervous anticipation of that first shot ringing out.

"Damn Ni, I don't know if my bunghole's ever been this puckered before!"
"Hell little brother, I didn't know you still had the capacity to pucker after our wetdown out in the ville!"  Danny shot daggers from his eyes at Nikki, then smile.  "I thought we agreed we weren't gonna bring that up." 

But Sergeant Garcia was hot on their tails, "police it up that bull@#$%, morons, and keep it moving, we gotta get across these paddies most rikki-tik!"

The Marines continue their stroll in the sun...

And they keep pushing...

Danny cracks a smile in relief as 1st Fireteam reaches the railway spur.  "Hell, Nik, we got this made in the shade!  If they was gonna hit us they'da already done it back when we was in the middle of the fields."

"I dunno brother, stay frosty."

And Nik was right, they weren't alone, a six-man squad of Viet Cong was sitting atop Hill 108.

And they (bottom left) decided now was the time to open fire, unleashing a torrent of 7.62mm rounds downslope at the exposed Marines.

But apparently the Cong (top right) had spent too much time in the ville consuming Tiger Beer, because they didn't manage to hit a single Marine!  They did, however, manage to panic Nelson and Griffin, suppress Jackson and Rivera, and pin Sergeant Garcia, as the remainder of 1st Fireteam (far left) returned fire upslope, with Nikki getting the M-60 going...

2nd Fireteam (far right) also came online and began firing uphill (top left).

Nik (bottom left) slapped a fresh belt in and began hammering away at the Viet Cong, suppressing several of them...

But return fire from the VC hilltop position (bottom right) ended up suppressing Nik (far left, second Marine from top).

With his brother feeling the heat, Danny popped up and emptied a whole magazine uphill.

Then grabbed Nikki and dragged him back towards cover, as Cpl Little (far right) lays down fire.

The VC (bottom right) return fire (top left)...

But miss Nik and Danny as they dive behind the hedge!  Meanwhile, Cpl Little (top left, with Rivera next to him)...

Grabs Rivera and drags him back into cover, too!  Sergeant Garcia (yellow bead at right), takes cover with Griffin behind the railway embankment and returns fire.  "Let's go Marines, bust some caps!"  Danny couldn't help but reply "Aye-aye, Sergeant," which caused Cpl Little and Sgt Garcia to bust into a laugh, despite the steady rain of lead coming down all around them.

On the Marine right, Cpl Zamora, Holmes, and Tate push across the railroad tracks (far right), where they take cover behind a hedge and fire up the hill (top left).  Their fourth man, Jackson, is suppressed back in the rice paddies (red bead at right bottom, with Nelson panicked - white bead - to his left).

With everyone in cover and now rallied back into the fight, 1st Fireteam (bottom left) begins laying down a tremendous volume of fire on the VC atop Hill 108 (top right).

Jackson moves over to help Nelson and Griffin get back in the fight; "yo dawg, looks like the time off in the hospital has made you guys soft," Jackson joked with the two suppressed Marines.  "Yeah, I suppose you're right, Jackson," replied Nelson.  "Alright, Griff, it's time to earn our pay!"  Griffin and Nelson checked their weapons and got into the fight.

But no sooner had Griffin shouldered his M-14 then he was struck in the chest by a VC bullet!  Griffin sort of shook, then went down, croaking, "dammit, they got me again," as Jackson looked on.  Unfortunately this sent Nelson (far right) diving right back into cover, dropping his M-79 and pulling his helmet down as far as he could...

With all that going on (bottom left), Cpl Zamora, Holmes, and Tate moved off to the right (far right), looking to envelop the VC position (top left).

The VC (bottom left) continue firing downhill, suppressing Sergeant Garcia (top right).

Cpl Little's 1st Fireteam (bottom left) continues laying down heavy fire, keeping several of the enemy soldiers suppressed, though return fire manages to pin Danny down.

Nelson finally gets his act together and pops a 40mm HE round uphill at the VC...

Dropping the enemy squad's NCO!

As Jackson grabs Griffin (center)...

And drags him back into cover...

Were Jackson gingerly removes the PRC-25 off Griffin, checks it, slings it over his back, and gets to work providing a SITREP to Company and requesting supporting fires and MEDEVAC.

Nelson begins working to stop his buddy Griffin's bleeding as Sergeant Garcia finally grows tired of drawing so much enemy fire and crawls back behind the cover of the hedge. 

Cpl Zamora, Holmes, and Tate work their way (far right) around the right flank as fast as they can, but it's so slow moving through the rough terrain and worrying about more VC suddenly appearing to open fire on you...

*On an admin note, it's just occurred to me that it's been quite a few fights since we've seen a random event that brings on enemy reinforcements, or mortars, or a booby trap.

As Nik (far right) has to reload the Pig there is a significant drop off in the Marines' volume of fire, which allows the VC (bottom left) to reassert themselves, opening up with everything they've got...

Suppressing all of 1st Fireteam (left) and Sgt Garcia, and pinning Jackson and Nelson (yellow beads at top right).

As 2nd Fireteam (bottom center) rounds the bend to begin moving into Indian Country, Cpl Zamora hears the increase in fire from the VC position (top right) and the corresponding slackening of fire from the Marine position (top left), which is enough to give him pause.  For a moment he doubts himself and actually slows 2nd Fireteam's rate of advance at exactly the moment the rest of the squad needs them to pull out all the stops!

But here comes the cavalry to save the day!  It seems Jackson's work on the radio (top center) has proven quite fruitful; Company command elevated Jackson's request, and though air/arty wasn't available because of other contacts, reinforcements in the form of a tank and platoon of Marines from Kilo 3/7 riding Amtracs were dispatched to pull the squad's chestnuts out of the fire.

The M-48 pulls off into the rice paddies, followed by a skirmish lines of Kilo Company Marines.

The Marine tank lurches to a halt and opens fire, sending 90mm HE and beehive rounds into the VC positions atop Hill 108.  Enemy fire immediately drops to zero...

The Kilo Company Marines reach the squad (center) as Cpl Zamora, Holmes, and Tate (bottom center) work up the hill.

They reach the VC position, but find only spent brass, a bloody boonie cover, and blood trail leading off to the north.

Back at the squad's position, a Doc form Kilo Company begins treating Griffin.  "Dammit, man, I'm sorry for getting you back up, it's my fault."

"Nah, don't sweat it, Jackson," smiled Griffin, faintly, "I'm heading back to The World, man."  And he was; the round hit him at the base of his neck, broke his left clavicle, and exited out his shoulder, destroying the joint.

Nik and Danny sat up and lit cigarettes.  "Well, I'll be damned if that weren't just like Rin-Tin-Tin, the damned cavalry comes to the rescue!  Thanks for pulling me back off the tracks Danny, I surely appreciate it.  I owe ya one, brother!"  "One???  You owe me a whole lot more than one!  It's nice having you around, nonetheless."  "You see Griff got hit?"  "Yeah, but he's good bro, he's going home."  "Yeah, @#$% that!  Going home with no use of his damn left arm!  And MJ going home and never gonna walk again!  You gotta promise me something man..."  "Don't say it, Nik."  "No man, I'm serious.  Do not let them send me home like that, you...  You know, you finish the job!"  "I...  I know man.  I gotcha brother."

The Marines spent another four days in the bush, the first three on further search and destroy missions and the last one escorting about 300 villagers from the surrounding areas into the relative safety/protection of An Hoa.  Following the evacuation the units were loaded up and trucked back to Da Nang, where they received a few days to rest and recuperate before heading back out into the local area for more patrols.  On 26 February 1966, Sergeant Garcia walked in and gave his Warning Order: "Listen up, Marines.  In two days we're heading back out to the bush for about three weeks.  They're calling it 'Operation Double Eagle,' another multi-battalion op, this time up in Quang Ngai Province, while the Army and ARVNs are running a similar op down below us in Binh Dinh Province."

"Sergeant, where the hell is Quang Ngai Province?  Or Binh Dinh Province?"

"Now the @#$% would I know, Holmes?  And what the @#$% does it matter?  It's a section of jungle, just like any other jungle we been in, 'cept this one has apparently got more dinks in it!  So get yer @#$% squared away."

Coming soon.



  1. Another ‘lovely’ brutal day in the jungle. Given the relatively small number of figures you have created a lovely narrative around these games 👍

    1. I agree completely, Matt! Jack, you have built a fascinating narrative. Soon there will be enough material for an historical fiction novel. Very well done.

    2. Thanks Matt, that’s certainly been my focus with this campaign!

      I appreciate it Jonathan, and so I hear. A buddy of mine keeps trying to link me up with a buddy of his to turn these into a graphic novel. I dunno, I’m just playing toy soldiers and having a good time. We’ll see.


  2. I was wondering how the squad was going to get out of a bad situation. For a moment I thought they were going to have to retire. Lucky the cavalry turned up :-)

    1. Shaun,

      Yeah, the cavalry arrived just in time, and part of the problem was the inability to pull back, with nothing but rice paddies behind them! But that’s where this style of gaming, following a single squad, sort of benefits: help from the platoon or company can never be too far away.


  3. A brilliant little scenario..great to see some armour too.

    1. Thanks Jim, and sure, even if it’s just window dressing ;) And I got to put railroad tracks down, too!