1045 Local Time
19 June 1966
5 Miles North of Phu Bai Combat Base, Thua Thien Province, RVN
Nikki and Danny were having a rough time, their first time back out in the field after being hit during Operation Utah, their bodies weak after their extended recuperation period. But here they were again, humping the bush for the past two days after having trucked up north of Phu Bai from Da Nang. Attached to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (2/4), the whole battalion had been scouring the area of operations without even a hint of the enemy, but that was all about to change. 2/4 was approaching a cluster of hamlets along the coast (dammit, I was supposed to use my beach mat, with dunes, but I was in a hurry and forgot!) and began fanning out to try and get in as quickly as possible, hoping to catch the Viet Cong before they'd made their escape. But the VC were crafty, had long played this game along the "Street Without Joy," and were already evacuating, leaving behind only a handful of fighters to harass the advancing Marines. And, or course, the squad was about to run into one such group of stay behinds.
Sergeant Little called a halt and motioned for his fireteam leaders to join him, briefing them on the situation. "So the El-tee wants us to split off to the northeast, so we are on the far left, there are no friendlies to our left. As usual, battalion wants us to rush in to catch Charlie before he dee-dees* outta the area, but we all know how that goes, so let's stay frosty and take our time on this." "Roger," replied Corporal Nelson. Sgt Little gave Cpl Nelson a furtive glance and murmured "I'm sorry brother, if there was anything I could do, I would..." "I know, Rob, and it's okay. Don't you jokers sweat me, I'm two days and a wake-up, I'll be back in the World in no time," replied Cpl Nelson. "No, it ain't alright," Nik erupted, "I can't believe battalion's got Rock out here humpin' with only days left in country! This is bull@#$%!!!" "Alright, alright, calm down, and get your @#$% together, we got a job to do, now move out!"
*"Dee-dees" is a bastardization of "di-di mau," which is Vietnamese for 'leave,' or something to that effect.
The Marines are from Jimmi's Flashpoint Minis.
The Viet Cong are from Martin's Peter Pig.
1st Fireteam (left to right): Cpl Rocky Nelson, Pvt Ed Dombroski, Pvt Kenny Mixon, and Pvt Ed McCaffrey (Grenadier)
2nd Fireteam (left to right): LCpl Danny Thomas, Pvt Shawn Stidham, Pvt Joey Burrows, and LCpl Lamar Jackson (RTO)
3rd Fireteam (left to right): LCpl Nik Jacobs, Pvt Eddie Contreras, Pvt Jerry Fitzgerald, and Pvt Jeremy Higgins
"Yeah Doc," replied Danny, "unfortunately we've had plenty of practice..." Jackson took a long pull on his cigarette and nodded silently in agreement, his eyes never coming up.
"You know," Danny said, "you're dumbass just might be right. For once. And notice that it's still only a 'might'," he quipped, as Nikki thumped him, knocking his helmet off, and both boys busted out laughing.
But the war continued as normal for the rest of the squad; Operation Dodge didn't end until 23 June 1966, so they spent another four days humping the bush, digging holes and filling them in, searching village and sampans, before loading up on trucks and heading back down Highway 1 to Da Nang.
The squad got to rest and relax for a couple days, then it was back to local patrolling and security operations around Da Nang, and it wasn't long before Stidham was back, returned to full duty after being wounded during Operation Dodge.
But once again things were heating up. Higher headquarters, III MAF, was surprised by the heavy resistance encountered during Operation Utah, where the Marines were pitted against North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars, not the peasant guerillas of the Viet Cong. Lots of intel work was being done to try and figure out how so many well-armed and well-equipped NVA regulars got so deep into South Vietnam without anyone knowing it, and they weren't liking the answers they were finding. As always, rea life is more complicated, but in the overall scheme of things, the North Vietnamese troops simply walked across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Vietnam. The decision was made to increase the permanent Marine presence at/near the DMZ (in the form of more/larger combat bases up north), but the DMZ is a big place, lots of area to cover, and so the decision was also made to begin a series of operations to flow in multiple Marine infantry battalions in order to find, fix, and destroy the NVA streaming across the DMZ.
The squad received its Warning Order on 10 June 1966 for Operation Hastings; Nik read part of the order aloud: "Well fellars, it seems the ARVNs been getting themselves into a pickle up there on the DMZ, says the NVA's got a whole division of troops across the DMZ, looking to 'liberate all of Quang Tri Province,' according to some prisoners they captured. And we are gonna... Proceed to Phu Bai Combat base... vertical envelopment into the Ngan Valley... we're attached to 3/4 again... be prepared to engage multiple regiment-sized North Vietnamese Army units... Holy crap!!! MULTIPLE REGIMENT-SIZED NVA UNITS???"
Danny leaned in and looked over Nik's shoulder at the Warning Order; "sounds ominous," he said. "Oh, damn, now I'm gonna have to explain what ominous means, aren't I?" Danny asked, taking off at a full sprint in the squadbay as Nikki chased him.
Coming right up!