Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #16

All,

1330 Local Time
5 March 1966
Near Hill 50, Quang Ngai Province, RVN
Operation Utah

Earlier this morning 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines pulled back and the boys humped over to join 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, which was now charged with securing Hill 50.  The squad linked up with 3/1 and was briefed on the plan to assault Hill 50 from the northeast, with ARVN units attacking further west; as a matter of fact, the ARVN were claiming they had already secured Hill 50.  However, preliminary recon by 3/1 proved that was not the case.  So the battalion marched south, to its jump-off positions, where the Marines flopped down in the grass to enjoy a nice C-ration lunch and enjoy the show put on by the 105mm howitzers of 12th Marines and assorted airstrikes by Marine A-4 Skyhawks and F-4 Phantoms.  The Marines even joined in with the occasional 'oohs' and 'ahs,' as napalm sent flame and roiling black clouds into the sky, as Willie Pete burst on the slopes, sending its white tendrils in every direction, or a string of 500-pound bombs went off, sending shockwaves across the valley.  All a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend one's lunch hour.

"Look at all that," Rivera exclaimed.  "This'll be a walkover, nobody could survive all that pounding."  "Don't kid yourself, Rivera," Cpl Little replied. "Don't any of you kid yourself, there'll be plenty of dinks up there waiting for us, and they'll be plenty pissed of, just like yesterday.  So you keep your @#$% wired tight, we're gonna be in for another helluva fight, and we're gonna need everyone pulling his weight," said Cpl Little, shooting a glance at Contreras.  "And I do mean everyone."

Overview, north is up.  The northeast corner of Hill 50 is visible from far left to bottom center, with two NVA bunkers present, linked by communications trenches and otherwise dotted by patches of jungle and craters from the Marine artillery and airstrikes.  Too the southeast is the western end of the village of Chau Nhai (3), which is known to be fortified and occupied by the NVA as well.  The squad will be entering from the northeast (top right), looking to make use of the few hedges and thickets of jungle offering cover amongst the slew of rice paddies.

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 trenches are from Battlefront.
The bunkers are from... I can't remember.  The company is still in business but they no longer do 15mm terrain.

The opposing forces, with the Marines on the left and NVA on the right.

The squad, again down to eight warm bodies!  They lost White and Floyd during the raid last night, but they got Danny back from surgery, and Contreras was found after running away, so hopefully he's turned over a new leaf and is looking to make it up to the squad, rather than revert to form.  The squad is so small now that once again Corporal Little has simply broken them down into two teams, a base of fire element and an assault element.  

Top (left to right): Cpl Little and HM3 Johnson (Corpsman) 
Middle (left to right): LCpl "Danny" Thomas, PFC Rivera, and Pvt Contreras
Bottom (left to right): PFC "Nikki" Jacobs (M-60), Pvt McCaffrey (grenadier), and LCpl Jackson (RTO)

Cpl Little had given Contreras back his helmet, pack, and web gear for the hump from 2/7 to 3/1, but had kept his rifle, ammo, and grenades.  Cpl Little had sat behind Contreras, keeping an eye on him the entire time they sat eating lunch, watching the air and arty work over Hill 50.  It wasn't until they were on their feet, checking their gear, preparing to cross the Line of Departure, that Cpl Little approached Contreras.  He handed the young Marine his rifle, ammo, and frags, saying "look man, I don't want to have to tell you what will happen to you if you run away again.  Look around, look at the faces of these Marines.  These are your brothers, and they're counting on you.  Every one of us is trusting the man next to him with his life, so I'm asking you to do the same, and hold up your end of the bargain.  We're Marines, and we do what needs to be done to take of our own.  The slate is clean, Contreras, today is the first day of the rest of your life, now go out there and be one of us, I know you can."

Then Corporal Little turned, locked eyes with Danny and Nik, and motioned both to keep an eye on Contreras...

The NVA occupying the defensive positions in this section of Hill 50 consist of an NCO, an RPG/B-40, a light machine gun (RPD), and seven riflemen with AK-47s.

Overview, this time with troops.  The NVA have both bunkers occupied with troops, men in the trenchlines in the west, and several men manning the trenchline in the ville (bottom right), while the Marine squad is in its jump-off position (top right), ready to launch their assault.

Another look at Hill 50, from southwest to northeast.

The NVA have two men in each bunker, a rifleman on their left (west) flank, their grenadier in the trench between the two bunkers, and their NCO behind the West Bunker (left, with East Bunker at bottom right).

The NVA have three riflemen in Chau Nhai (3) village.

The squad, waiting to launch the attack.  Nik, Jackson, and McCaffrey are the base of fire element (bottom center), while Cpl Little, Danny, Rivera, Contreras, and Doc are in the assault element (center, with Hill 50 off camera to top center left and the ville off camera to far left).

From about a klick back, the squad could hear the cough of Marine 81mm mortars; "hear we go, boys," said Corporal Little.

Five 81mm HE rounds crashed into Hill 50...

And three more into the village.

Not much happened on the hill; most of the NVA were in the bunkers, but their NCO (bottom center) and their grenadier (center) outside in the trenches were suppressed.

But things were better in the village: the trenchline was plastered by the Marine mortars, killing two NVA (in trench) and forcing the third to fall back (bottom left), suppressed.

There was brief moment of silence following the mortar blasts, and then Cpl Little (center) yelled "Let's go!" as Nik opened fire with is M-60 and McCaffrey began blooping out 40mm HE rounds (bottom left) at Hill 50 (top center/right)...

The Marines' fire was very accurate, suppressing the NVA in the West Bunker and forcing their NCO to fall back (far left, from the trench at bottom right)!  The NVA rifleman (far left, in trench) popped up, found the source of the incoming fire...

Shouldered his AK (bottom right), and began firing out across the rice paddies at the Marines (top left), pinning Jackson...

The rest of the squad, led by Cpl Little (bottom center) opens fire on Hill 50 (top center left) with their M-14s...

And they deliver very accurate rifle fire, suppressing the NVA rifleman on the far left (top left) and forcing the two soldiers in the West Bunker to fall back (bottom right)!

Nik keeps hammering away with his M-60 (bottom right) as Cpl Little leads the assault element forward (center, from right), looking to get into that stand of trees below the hill (far left).

The NVA on Hill 50  are attempting to rally, but their NCO is cowering (far left) and the heavy volume of incoming fire, particularly the M-60 and M-79 grenades, are keeping them pinned down.

Nik and McCaffrey (bottom right) continue hammering away at Hill 50 (top center right) as Cpl Little and the assault element reach the stand of trees (center) and begin working left, around it, towards the village (top left). 

They're not receiving any fire from the village, so Cpl Little is thinking they can hug the base of Hill 50, below the East Bunker's (top center left) line of sight, and scale the hill, working east to west (left to right) to clear the enemy defenses atop Hill 50.

But they (just right of the trees at center top) don't realize there is still one NVA alive in the village, and he has rallied and is moving right (bottom right, from the left end of the wooden retaining wall, the slope of Hill 50 leading up to the East Bunker visible at far left).

While back on the enemy left, their NCO gets back in the fight, dashing forward to rally his two soldiers that retreated out of the West Bunker.

The enemy NCO (bottom left) looks on as his two men rush back into the West Bunker...

Where they (far right) sight in and open fire on the Marine base of fire element (top left)...

The fire is heavy, pinning Nik and Jackson and causing McCaffrey (bottom right) to drop his M-79 and hit the dirt, panicked)!  Nik ignores the impact of the incoming rounds and calmly returns fire...

As Cpl Little and Rivera (bottom right) cover Danny and Contreras, who dash forward (far left), reaching the edge of the ville.

But they've gotten away from the base of Hill 50 (center left top), far enough that the NVA in the East Bunker can spot them and open fire...

Danny (bottom left) and Cpl Little (top right) both curse as Contreras is hit and goes down!  Doc (also top right) screams out, "Danny, how bad is it?"  "I dunno Doc, he took one in the chest, he's definitely in a bad way!"

Doc dashes forward  and jumps into a nearby crater as more AK rounds slam into the earth all around him and Contreras.  "Hang in there, Contreras, I'm coming."

Danny returns fire as Doc crawls towards Contreras (bottom right), as the East Bunker (far left) continues raining down fire on them, while Cpl Little grabs Rivera and leads him through the thick stand of trees (far right), reaching a dead zone at the base of Hill 50.

And as this firefight develops (East Bunker at top left, assault element at top center right), the lone NVA rifleman in the village continues to creep forward (bottom center, from bottom left), in behind the Marines.

Suddenly the Marines here a semi-hollow 'pop' and B-40 rocket comes hissing in from the west!

The rocket strikes the north end of the village, suppressing Danny (left bottom, with Doc and Contreras above him, Cpl Little and Rivera at far left, and Nik, Jackson, and McCaffrey at top right)!

As the NVA in the west (the West Bunker, far right, and their far left rifleman, bottom center right) sight in on the base of fire element (top left) and cut loose...

The heavy NVA fire suppresses Nikki and causes Jackson to panic, joining McCaffrey in trying to bury his head in the dirt.  Nik realizes they're in big trouble now, that without their fire pinning down the NVA to the west the enemy will be able to reinforce the east and put a hurtin' on the assault element, who's already getting bogged down in the village.

"Gotta do something," Nik mutters to himself.  He tries to raise his head up to return fire, but rounds snap close overhead, burrow into the nearby hedge and one strikes an ammo box he'd laid out in the grass next to him.  "Dammit!"  He rolled on his side, fished a smoke grenade out of his cargo picket, and tossed it out into the field between him and Hill 50.  There was a 'pop,' a 'hiss,' and then white smoke began billowing out of the canister, obscuring their position from the NVA on the west end of Hill 50.

While back on the Marine left, Doc scooted forward on his belly, grabbed Contreras, and dove forward into cover behind some clay pots, next to Danny.  "You alright, brother?" Doc asked Danny.  "Yeah, man, thanks," Danny said.  "How is Contreras?"  "It's bad, he's got a sucking chest wound.  Hang in there, Contreras, you gotta fight man, stay with me Contreras!"

Doc's movement (right) drew more fire from the East Bunker...

But it was high, and Danny was able to pop up (bottom center) and return fire with his M-14...

Doc got Contreras' chest wound sealed so he could breath properly, and sat him up against one of the clay pots to keep his lung from collapsing.  "Damn Doc, ain't you supposed to just roll him on his side?" asked Danny, as he continued to squeeze off aimed shots uphill.  "Yeah, but we're in a hurt locker and need all the help we can get!  Contreras!  Contreras!  Are you with me?"

"Yeah, Doc, I'm okay, thanks."

"Then here, take your rifle, and bust some caps uphill at that damn bunker!" Doc yelled, as Contreras got back in the fight!

Cpl Little (top left) realizes he can't go straight up, he and Rivera will pop up right between the two bunkers and will get cut to pieces in the crossfire.  "Gotta go around, come on Rivera, follow me!"

Doc looks on as Danny and Contreras (bottom center right) pour fire into the East Bunker (top left) and Cpl Little and Rivera dash south (far left, from far right), looking to get in behind the it.

The East Bunker continues firing down on the assault element...

As Cpl Little and Rivera (bottom right) exchange ineffective fire with the bunker.  They are close enough to the slope that neither side really has a good shot at the other.

But as the assault element is totally focused on the defenses on Hill 50, the last NVA rifleman in the village dashes forward and jumps into the trench, next to his fallen comrades...

Where he (bottom left) opens fire on the Marines (Danny, Contreras, and Doc at top right, Cpl Little and Rivera at top center)!

Danny is suppressed but Contreras (far left) is able to swing left and return fire on the NVA rifleman (far right).

The NVA in the west are slow to grasp the threat to their right flank, continuing to hold down the west end of their defensive line, engaging the base of fire element (top left), despite Nikki's impromptu smoke screen.

Jackson and McCaffrey are still panicked, but Nik holds it down (bottom right), returning fire on the West Bunker (top left).

Back on the left, Contreras continues laying down fire (far left), suppressing the NVA rifleman (far right), as Doc dives into cover beside Danny.

Danny (top left) can't really see anything, but he begins firing on full auto, back through the straw hootch, as Rivera moves up and jumps in the trench (center, with Cpl Little at bottom left).

The East Bunker spots Rivera in the trench (top right) and opens fire...

But Rivera ignores the incoming fire and lights up the NVA rifleman in the trench...

Dropping him!

As Danny (bottom right) and Cpl Little (center) resume firing uphill at the East Bunker (top left).

The NVA inside are suppressed and when fire ceases spewing forth out of the bunker, Cpl Little (left) and Danny (center) go charging up the slope!

But the NVA in the East Bunker aren't finished, and they spot the movement, opening fire on Danny (right top, with Cpl Little at bottom right) at point blank range...

Suppressing him (bottom left) and Contreras (top right), further downslope!

The NVA in the East Bunker saw movement go off to their right and realized they are being outflanked, so they fall back out of the bunker and come left to meet the threat...

Where they run straight into Cpl Little, who immediately levels his M-14 and opens fire on full auto!

One NVA falls and the other ducks back, suppressed!

The enemy grenadier, further east in the trench, hears firing cease from the East Bunker and the sudden burst of fire very close on their right flank, so he moves right (top center left)...

Entering the East Bunker.

While on the NVA left, the two soldiers in the West Bunker rally and the rifleman on their far left (bottom left) continues firing on the Marine base of fire element (top right).

The incoming fire has considerably slackened, so Nik is able to move over and coax Jackson and McCaffrey back into the fight!  "Let's go, @#$%birds, nap time is finished, grab your weapons and bust some caps!"

Doc makes sure Contreras can still breath and isn't bleeding out (top right) as Rivera dashes uphill, checking on Danny (far left).  "You alright, brother?" asks Rivera.  "Yeah, I'm okay, but man, that was a close one!"  "Yeah, I saw that, thought you'd bought it there for a second!"

The enemy grenadier, now occupying the East Bunker, peers out the firing port and curses, plenty of Yankees down there!  He opens fire with his AK, pinning Doc (top right)...

But Contreras (bottom right, with Doc), Danny, and Rivera (left, with Cpl Little at far left top) return fire...

Corporal Little moves up, running into the suppressed NVA rifleman outside the entrance to the East Bunker!

Cpl Little guns him down...

The dashes into the East Bunker, where he runs into the enemy grenadier, still firing his AK out the firing port, but he notices the movement behind him and turns to meet...

Cut Corporal Little guns him down before he gets turned all the way around!

Corporal Little then dashes out of the bunker, into the trenchline...

The NVA NCO (bottom left) spots him (top right) and opens fire with his AK..

Corporal Little (bottom right) returns fire...

The enemy NCO (left) is hit in the head and goes down!

The NVA rifleman on the far left finally comes running east (center, from far left), hearing the gunfire of an American rifle inside their defensive position!

Nik finally has the base of fire element (bottom left) fully back in the fight (Jackson and McCaffrey were down panicking for quite some time), and thy spot the movement in the trenchline to the west (top right) and open fire...

As Dann and Rivera move up to the East Bunker (center, from far right, with Cpl Little at far left top, just below the West Bunker).

Cpl Little creeps forward cautiously, pulling a frag out and pulling the pin.  He lets the spoon fly and holds onto the grenade, cooking it off for several seconds, before tossing it into the West Bunker...

There was a sharp crack as the grenade went off, smoke and debris pouring out of the bunker's firing port and entrance!

Cpl Little waits a few seconds, then dashes into the West Bunker, rifle at the ready, but both NVA inside are dead.  He looks out the bunker, to the west, and spots an NVA cowering against the wall of the trench, suppressed by fire from Nikki's machine gun...

Corporal Little steps out into the trenchline to finish the NVA rifleman off...

Just for good measure.  Cpl Little then fires a flare into the sky, signaling the squad to check fire and come up, the objective was taken.

The rest of the squad hurries up the hill, occupying the NVA's former positions.  Cpl Little calls Jackson over and gets on the radio, informing battalion they'd seized their objective.  The Platoon Commander ordered Cpl Little to consolidate on the objective, the rest of the battalion's assault on Hill 50 was going well and the Marines were mopping up stragglers.

Doc, Danny, and Rivera carried Contreras up the hill and set him down next to the East Bunker, where Doc continued tending to him.  Cpl Little strolled over; "how is he, Doc?"  "He'll make it, Rob, but we need to get him out of here, back to a hospital, he's had a sucking chest wound and I sealed it up, but it won't last forever."  "Gotcha, Doc, the rest of the platoon is on the way, and then we'll be able to work him back down the hill for MEDEVAC."

Then Corporal Little kneeled down next to Contreras; "how ya doin', buddy?"  "I can hack it, Corporal."  "That was good work out there, Contreras.  Sorry you got hit man, that wasn't part of the plan," said Corporal Little as he and Contreras let out a quick chuckle, which clearly caused the wounded Marine a spike of pain, "but you hung in there, moving up under fire, and staying in the fight even after you'd been hit in the chest. You did real good, Marine, just like I knew you could.  Hang in there, we'll get you out of here ASAP."  "Thanks, Corporal."

Contreras was hit badly and taken to the hospital at China Beach, but he refused evacuation out of the country.  "I gotta return to my squad, I won't let them down again."

"Well, how's that for exhilarating?" Nik asked Danny.  The two smiled at each other.  "Not too bad, I suppose.  I've had better," Danny replied, both of them busting out into laughter.  "How's you chest, Danny?  "Not bad, a little sore, but don't even notice it once the shooting starts."  "So what's up, little brother?  You gonna keep letting Rob charge in and hog all the glory?"  "Yeah, no kidding man, what the hell got into Rob?  That cat just went full on dinky dau, charged all the way up the hill all by his lonesome, just laying'em down.  He zapped what, seven of them bastids?"  "Yeah man, didn't I tell you, he did the same @#$% last night.  We were under heavy fire, pinned down in the open, Floyd and White both wasted, and he just hopped up and jumped in the trench with the dinks, blew'em all away."  "Yeah, well he better tone that stuff down, lest we find ourselves zippering him up in a body bag..." Danny said, his voice trailing off.  "Hell," Nik replied, "I thought you were looking to be a John Wayne out here, too!"  "Well, I am, I just ain't looking to get zapped while I'm doing it, and from what you're telling me, Rob is taking too many chances."

"I dunno, little brother.  Today wasn't quite as bad as last night, but if Rob didn't do his thing last night, I promise you I wouldn't be standing here right now..."

Following the end of Operation Utah, at the ceremony honoring the Marine fallen and to distribute awards for valor, Corporal Little was already being awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in attacking the NVA anti-aircraft position on the night of 4 March 1966.  But several days later, another formation was held, with General Walt, the III MAF Commanding General flying in.  The Marine CG was on hand for one reason: to award Corporal Little the Navy Cross, for actions above and beyond the call of duty in leading the final assault on Hill 50.  Corporal Little single-handedly broke the back of the enemy defenses on Hill 50, personally eliminating seven NVA soldiers and two enemy bunkers.

The battalion secured Hill 50 by 1500, leaving one company (Lima Co, 3/1) up there to keep it secured, while the other two fell back to the north to replenish ammo and evacuate the casualties.  Fire was still coming in from the east, from the village of Chau Nhai (3), pinning down Mike Company, as India Company was sent around to the north, attacking the NVA-held village from the east.  Even so, things were not going well, and so the boys and their platoon next found themselves being sent to reinforce M/3/1 in an direct assault on the village.

Coming right up!

V/R,
Jack

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Very exhilarating action, Jack! As always, super storytelling, dialogue and game photos.

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  2. Excellent game report which is supported with some splendid photos. I am curious what is the size of your tabletop?

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  3. Wow! It reads like a real after-action report. Great job.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Steve, but wait, what are you doing here!? ;) Does this mean you finally went and created a blog?

      V/R,
      Jack

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