2300 Local Time
4 March 1966
Near Hill 50, Quang Ngai Province, RVN
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines had been in contact all day, for the first time in a stand-up, knockdown drag-out fight with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in and around Hill 50. The Marines had been in heavy combat, and while they'd certainly put a hurtin' on the NVA, they'd taken a pretty good beating themselves. They'd managed to break contact, fall back to the south, and establish a night defensive position, where they could treat and evacuate their wounded, replenish their ammo, and grab a bit of grub and rest. But while things were relatively quiet on the ground, Marine Air was having a helluva time, drawing heavy fire every time they came near Hill 50. Three helos and an F-4 Phantom had already been shot down, and approximately thirty more choppers shot up by NVA antiaircraft weapons, mostly Dshk 12.7mm heavy machine guns, which the Marines often referred to as ".51-cals".
But the Marines cut a lucky break; firing to the southwest drew the attention of one of the battalion officers, who grabbed a few Marines and headed over to check it out. "I'll be damned," he thought, somehow the NVA gotten a .51-cal HMG in behind them, dug into a trench and expertly camouflaged. The officer headed back into the Marine perimeter to inform the Colonel what they'd found. The decision was made to launch a raiding party to destroy the NVA anti-aircraft emplacement. Not long after, Corporal Little was informed he'd be leading the raiding party.
The Marines are from Jimmi's Flashpoint Minis.
The Viet Cong are from Martin's Peter Pig.
The squad humped it back to the battalion's NDP, being very cautious about re-entering friendly lines, not wanting to get shot up by their own side, but when they finally got in and reported to the Battalion S-2, the Battalion Commander, LtCol Utter came over and personally thanked each of them for taking on the dangerous mission and congratulated them on a job well done. The Colonel practically snapped and out of nowhere a couple HQ Marines arrived with fresh sandwiches (fresh as in 'not something that came out of a C-rat can') and hot coffee; as the squad rushed the chow/coffee and devoured it, Nik made his way back over to the Battalion Commander. "Sir, permission to speak?" "Go ahead son, what do you have?" "Well, I figured you ought to know how it really went down out there. It was all Rob, I mean, Corporal Little. We were pinned down in the open, two men already down, with no help on the way, and he just took it over. I mean, he popped up, guns a-blazin', and the next thing I knew he was in the enemy trench!"
The Colonel let Nik tell the story. "I see," said the Battalion Commander, "and I'll take care of this. It sounds like your Corporal did a helluva job out there, and I'll make sure he's recognized for it." "Thank you, Sir." "Now you Marines go get some sleep, plenty more work to do tomorrow!" "Aye-aye, Sir!"
And he did; following the conclusion of Operation Utah, Corporal Little would be awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in attacking the NVA's anti-aircraft position, entering the trench alone and personally dispatching six enemy soldiers and destroying the heavy machine gun position.
Meanwhile, Operation Utah continued apace, with much fighting yet to be done. The squad dropped in the grass right there next to the Battalion CP for a couple hours' sleep, rather than stumble in the dark back to their platoon position, but they were up before first light and quickly got back to the platoon. Once there it was quite a reunion: first, they were notified that 2/7 was pulling back to the north to provide security for LZs; they were pretty beat up, and the operation was expanding, so the LZs absolutely had to be secure. 3/1 was brought in yesterday evening, and 1/7 and 2/4 were on the way. With 2/7 moving north for the security mission, the platoon was now being attached to 3/1, so when the squad got back the rest of the platoon was busy stomping in their holes and hoisting their packs, getting ready to hump a couple klicks over to link up with their new battalion.
The next exciting reunion moment was getting back to their holes to find Danny was back! His surgery went well; the battalion surgeon was easily able to locate and remove the 7.62mm slug, which Danny gleefully showed everyone and stowed in his pocket. He also had a cracked rib, but he adamantly refused evacuation, so the Docs bandaged his wound, pumped him full of antibiotics, and wrapped his ribs as tightly as they could.
The last aspect of the reunion with the platoon was the Company Gunny and Platoon Sergeant waiting on Cpl Little. Nik hugged Danny but was only halfheartedly listening as Danny showed off the Commie bullet and told his surgery story. Instead, Nik was keeping his eye on Rob as the Gunny and Platoon Sergeant led him away. They halted about 20 yards to the rear, near a patch of woods, where two pissed-off looking Marines in full gear were sitting with a filthy, lumped up Marine. The sad sack was just sitting there on his ass, legs outstretched, no weapon, no gear, staring at the ground, his face swollen, dried blood everywhere. Clearly he'd been worked over... And then, as Rob, the Company Gunny, and the Platoon Sergeant approached him, it dawned on Nik what he was looking at. As the two pissed-off looking jarheads snatched the sad sack to his feet and shoved him forward at the three advancing NCOs, Nik realized the sad sack was Contreras! Apparently they'd found him, and looks like the platoon was none too pleased to see him, either. Well, serves him right, Nik thought, how the hell could you run off and leave your buddies in the middle of a fight? Nik watched as Cpl Little stepped closer to Contreras; Nik couldn't hear what he was saying, but Rob was saying something to Contreras, very demonstratively, punctuated by quite a few finger pokes to the chest and face.
It went on for about five minutes before Cpl Little turned to the Company Gunny and Platoon Sergeant, spoke for a moment, and then they and the two pissed-off looking Marines walked off. Rob bent over, grabbed a rifle and gear, then carried it back over to the squad, with Contreras dejectedly following him. "Let's go, Marines, saddle up, we're heading out to link up with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines," was all Cpl Little said.
The Marines trudged off in silence, across several kilometers of open rice paddies and grassland, the sun beating down on them. The platoon reached 3/1 a little after 0800, joining their perimeter, the NCOs and officers hurrying off to attend a briefing by the Battalion Commander. Cpl Little returned about 45 minutes later; "alright boys, circle up. Well, I got good news and bad news. The bad news is, we're going back up Hill 50. The good news is, we're coming from a different direction." "Damn, Corporal," exclaimed Jackson, "you really need to have your 'good news' meter adjusted." Cpl Little laughed; "sorry, fellas, that was as close as it got to good news. So, let's go, saddle up. We're moving up to our jump-off positions, I'll brief you before we cross the line of departure."