Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #22


1930 Local Time
16 July 1966
Ngan Valley, Quang Tri Province, RVN
Operation Hastings

The boys are with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (K/3/4), on their first trip up to the DMZ.  Yesterday they were helo'ed into the area, then found themselves in a sharp firefight trying to cross the Ngan River which saw them repulsed with two Marines badly wounded.  The Company tried twice more to cross the river, but the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars of the 90th Regiment threw them back both times.  Kilo Company then fell back approximately 200 meters to the north and dug in, but the NVA pursued them, harassing with mortars and snipers, and by 1930 Kilo's commander reported to battalion that the company was entirely surrounded.  At approximately 2015 the NVA launched a full-scale assault on Kilo Company's hilltop, which the Marines threw back owing to some brutal close-in fighting buttressed by supporting fires, with both sides suffering significant casualties.

This morning the Marines of Kilo Company pried themselves out of their holes with the sunrise, and were greeted with an NVA mortar barrage for their efforts.  It didn't last long and there were few casualties, so the rifle company got itself in order and not long after was back on the move, proving south towards the Ngan River.  There was good news in that 2/4 had been told to hustle up and move west with all practical speed in order to effect a linkup with 3/4, owing to the tough resistance the Marines were running into, and radio traffic reported that 2/4 arrived at LZ Crowe* at approximately 1400.  So there was a strong base behind Kilo Company, to the north, but it kind of left Kilo as the lone, dangling appendage to the south, still under orders to find and force a crossing to the south side of the Ngan River.

Needless to say the Marines were none too happy to be flung out so far to the south, without support, to an area they'd already gotten a good bloodying in, but order are orders, and so Kilo Company again attempted a crossing of the Ngan River, and again they were repulsed with casualties, by NVA on both sides of the river!  The beleaguered company beat feet back to the hill they spent the previous night on and dug in, and it wasn't long before the NVA were making their presence felt...

*With three helos already grounded there from damage caused by collisions, then the NVA shot down a Marine CH-46 yesterday evening, the LZ Crowe area was now being referred to as "Helicopter Valley."

Overview, north is up.  Another night-time hilltop defense battle by the Marines, where they are dug into the top of the hill at bottom left, a bend of the Ngan River visible to the northeast (top right).  As usual, this is the DMZ, so lots of grass, some scrub, and pockets of trees in places the wind couldn't blow them out of.

A couple admin notes: I'm playing this game using a modified version of Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men at Kursk" rules and 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 and North Vietnamese Army troops 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 US Marines on the left and NVA regulars on the right.

The squad continues to see its numbers dwindle; please recall that they began Operation Hastings with 19 men

1st Row, Squad Command Section (left to right): Sergeant Little and Doc Eakle (Corpsman)
2nd Row, 1st Fireteam (left to right): Cpl Benavides, Pvt Connor, Pvt McCaffrey (Grenadier), LCpl Jackson (RTO)
3rd Row, 2nd Fireteam (left to right): LCpl Danny Thomas, LCpl Nikki Jacobs, LCpl Correa, and Pvt Holland from the attached machine gun team

The NVA unit consists of an understrength platoon with two six-man rifle squads and an attached .30-caliber machine gun.

Overview, now with troops.  You can see the Marines dug into three bunkers atop the hill (bottom left), while the NVA are infiltrating the hill in an arc from the northwest (top left) to the southeast (bottom right, with their MG team in the northeast (right top).

Once again I have not provided the Marines Claymores or wire.

The squad is spread thin; in order to have some sort of reactive capability (as well as to keep the radio next to him), Sergeant Little has pulled McCaffrey (Grenadier) and Jackson (RTO) back into the Command Bunker with him (bottom left), leaving only three Marines in each of the two fighting bunkers (top left and far right).  

Corporal Benavides is in Bunker 1 (top center) with Holland (and his M-60 machine gun) and Connor, while Danny, Nikki, and Correa are in Bunker 2 (bottom right).

Looking northeast (bottom left) to southwest (top center right) at the NVA deployment, where they have broken their rifle squads down into small groups to infiltrate as closely to the Marines lines as possible before the fight begins (far right, center, left, top left).

In broad terms, the NVA machine gun team is set up (bottom center) to fire on all three bunkers on the hill (top center), with their infantry infiltrating up each flank (right and left).

Looking south to north at NVA infantry spread out on their left flank, with their MG Team just visible at right top.

And looking south to north at the NVA infantry spread out on their right flank, the MG Team off camera to bottom left.

The NVA have crossed the line of departure and reached their assault positions, where the infantrymen halt and check their time pieces, waiting silently in the dark for H-Hour... 

The time is struck and the NVA machine gun opens fire on Bunker 2 (top left, with the Command Bunker at top center and Bunker 1 at top right), suppressing Correa.

And then on the NVA right, a rocket is fired uphill at Bunker 1...

It misses, but hits immediately behind the bunker, suppressing Corporal Benavides.

Then back on the NVA left, the NVA open up with an RPD light machine gun, pouring the entire contents of a 50-round drum uphill into Bunker 2 (top left), pinning Danny.

And with their LMG (bottom right), laying down fire, a pair of NVA begin pushing forward (left top, from right top, with another pair at top left)...

But Nikki (bottom left) spots them (top right) and opens fire with his M-14...

Further up the hill, Sgt Little and Jackson (bottom left) spot the movement, too (top right), and open fire.

But the night erupts as all four NVA (right) return fire at point-blank range, suppressing Nik!

And they're doing the same thing on their right, firing uphill on Bunker 1...

And pressing ahead (center top, from far right).

But Connor (bottom right) spots them (top left) and Holland opens up with the M-60, suppressing all three NVA!

But while those guys got suppressed (top right), two more have inched in closer (center right bottom) and open fire

But McCaffrey (bottom left) spots the muzzle flashes from this new threat (right, in the trees), raises his M-79, and fires...

And he puts the round right on the money, dropping one NVA and suppressing the other!

While back on the right, Danny (bottom left) pops up and engages the four NVA creeping up the east slope (top right) with his M-14...

Sergeant Little (bottom left) opens fire on them (top right) too, as does Jackson, firing bursts then trying to raise help on the radio.

One NVA rifleman goes down and another is suppressed.

McCaffrey breaks down his M-79 (bottom right), reloads, and pumps another 40mm HE round downhill, this time targeting the NVA Holland had pinned down with the M60 (far left).

But the round is log, landing behind the suppressed NVA.

But the heavy fire coming out of the Marine Command bunker (top center left draws the attention of the NVA MG Team (bottom right), which shifts fire and walks a steady stream of green tracers up the hill.

McCaffrey looks on in horror, pinned and spattered in blood, as a round comes in and hits poor Doc Eakle right in the face, killing him instantly!  Jackson, still on the radio, paused for a second, then got back to rolling through call signs and freqs, as Sergeant Little peered back and grimaced; "Ed, pick up your blooper and get back in the fight.  We need ya, there's dinks all over the damn place.  Jackson, we gotta do something about that @#$%in' machine gun."

"I'm working on it, Rob," replied Jackson.

Down in Bunker 1, Corporal Benavides (bottom left) was thinking the same thing; he ordered Holland to shift fire, and the big Marine moved his M-60 over, resting on the sandbags, and opened fire on the NVA machine gun (top right).

As Connor (bottom right) continued banging away down hill.

But the NVA grenadier downslope rose (bottom left) and launched a rocket up at Bunker 1 (top right)...

The rocket slammed into the sandbags with a thunderous crash, knocking Connor down, panicking Holland, and pinning Corporal Benavides!

And with Holland's M-60 out of action (in Bunker 1, top right), the enemy MG Team (bottom left) went back to raking Bunker 2 (left top, with the Command Bunker at top center)...

And the NVA LMG in the east (bottom right) also got back in the game, laying into Bunker 2 (top left), suppressing Danny.

Sgt Little and Jackson (bottom left) immediately engaged the enemy LMG in the east (top right) rounds streaking directly over Bunker 2 (center), suppressing the enemy gunner and his assistant, as Jackson finally makes contact with an artillery battery able to support!

But then an NVA rifleman just outside Bunker 2 pops up (bottom right) and opens fire, pouring rounds from his AK into the firing port...

Dropping Correa and suppressing Nikki!!!

More NVA advance to fire into Bunker 2 at point-blank range (right) as the enemy soldier that shot Correa dashes forward, grenade in hand (left bottom, from bottom right)!

Which is enough for Danny and Nik to decide to get out of Dodge!  They each grab Correa under an arm and fall back, behind a nearby hedge (bottom left, from center), as the nearby NVA rally.

Nik and Danny (far right) get their marbles back as Sgt Little (bottom left) continues banging away with his M-14...

Dropping the NVA that shot Correa (bottom left).

But that damn NVA machine gun (bottom left) continues hammering away at the Marine Command Bunker (top center), suppressing McCaffrey and pinning Jackson.

Pissed but powerless, Sergeant Little yells at Jackson to get arty working for them then, realizing he hasn't heard anything out of Bunker 1 (top left) since that rocket exploded over there, he bounds out of the bunker and heads that way (left, from bottom right)...

Just as Corporal Benavides (bottom left) recovers and gets back in the fight, firing his M-14 downhill and pinning the NVA RPG man (top center right).

Sergeant Little (just off camera to bottom left) is relieved to hear Bunker 1 back in the fight, but is now feeling quite exposed, for no particular reason...  And then he sphincter tightens as he hears incoming mail...

But then it relaxes as the round screeches overhead and crashes down in the northwest.  "Phew," Rob murmurs to himself, "it's ours.  But why the hell did Jackson call it in on the north slope, I told him we gotta get that damn MG under control...   JACKSON!!!"

With a 105mm HE round having just landed behind them, the NVA on the north slope have a new sense of urgency: the grenadier (bottom center right) rallies, and the three riflemen on their far right dash forward (top left, from center).

And with those men moving up (top right), an NVA rifleman further left (bottom right), having recovered from McCaffrey's grenade effects, pops up and unloads into Bunker 1 (top left)...

Then dashes forward (left bottom, from far right, with the other group just visible at top center right).

And as that rifleman moves up in the center (top center), the two NVA up near Bunker 2 (center left, with Bunker 2 just off camera to far left) rally back into the fight.

Then open fire on Nik and Danny, behind the hedge at top left, suppressing Danny!

One of the NVA runs up and jumps in Bunker 2 (far left, from bottom right) as his partner continues laying down fire.

But Nik (bottom left) spots him and cuts loose...

Causing him to fall back and dive for cover behind the sandbags, pinned (left).

As the NVA machine gun (bottom left) continues to rake the Command Bunker (top right)... 

Suppressing McCaffrey and Jackson (bottom left), and halting Jackson's communications to adjust the arty's spotting round!  Meanwhile, on the Marine right, Nik (far right) continues laying down fire with his M-14 on full auto, as fast as he can reload.

Forcing the NVA at Bunker 2 to fall back (right, from left), with both riflemen suppressed.

While over on the Marine left, Sergeant Little yells out "coming in!" and dives into Bunker 1 with Corporal Benavides and Holland, rallying both of them back into the fight.

Holland lifts the feedtray cover and slaps a fresh belt into the M-60 as Corporal Benavides reloads his M-14 and fires downhill on the NVA in the center...

Dropping him!

And then Holland gets the M-60 back into action, ripping off a burst of at least 35 rounds, threatening to melt the barrel...

But dropping two more NVA!

The NVA LMG team in the southeast (bottom right) continues firing uphill (top left)...

As does the NVA MG Team (bottom center).  The NVA have lost a lot of impetus for their attack due to taking so many casualties, but it's not over...

Back on the NVA right, a trio of soldiers is creeping up the back side (just visible above trees at right center bottom) as their grenadier (bottom left) launches another rocket uphill at Bunker 1 (top right)!

But actually it is over, as the rocket misses and only manages to suppress Corporal Benavides, while Jackson, back in the Command Bunker, has rallied...

And is bringing the arty down directly on the NVA attacking in the north, breaking the back of the enemy assault!

The Marines went through their now normal post-perimeter fight shuffle: push out aggressively in all directions in the immediate area to finish off any enemy survivors and make sure they're not planning anything else, fall back, treat the wounded, reorganize as necessary, redistribute ammo, and go to 50% while waiting for dawn.  

The Marines, to a man, were saddened to hear Doc Eakle was dead, but were pretty lucky otherwise, as Connor and Correa suffered only light wounds and were evacuated.

Aside from being jittery from the attack and at the prospect of their possible being another enemy attack, the Marines not on watch had a hard time sleeping due to all the yelling coming out of the Command Bunker, where Sergeant Little and Lance Corporal Jackson were still arguing about whether the arty fire mission should have been called on the NVA machine gun position or the troops coming up the north slope, with neither Marine giving an inch...

Nik and Danny looked at each other and softly chuckled, each cupping a cigarette.  "See there, Nik, this stuff ain't so bad," Danny chuckled.  "Yeah, that's not what I remember when we were bailing out of the bunker, carrying Correa up the slope, NVA hot on our heels!"  "Admit it man, you love this @#$%, and we're getting pretty good at it."  "The only thing I've gotten good at is scraping the fur off my nuts and letting the dinks poke holes in me.  I don't know that that really counts as a skill..."  "And what would you be doing if we were back home?" Danny asked.  "Cruisin' in my '55 Chevy, listening to Booker T's 'Green Onions,' chasing some skirt ponytail, while chowing down a cheeseburger and slurpin' a chocolate malt, that's what I'd be doin'!"  "Friggin' hippy," Danny retorted.  "Kiss my ass!" Nik replied.  "And why do you keep bringing @#$% up like that? And don't tell me 'no reason'," Nik followed up.  "Well, like you said, we only have about two and a half months left and...  And I'm not ready to go home," Danny said, staring at Nik, who was looking out the bunker.  Nikki's eyes got wide, then he slowly turned his head and looked at Danny, frozen in time for a moment, then looked back out over the sandbags.  "I suppose we can discuss it later," Danny joked.

So Kilo Company again held the hill, settling in for the remainder of another long, hot, restless night on the DMZ.  They were ordered to hold fast the next day (17 July 66), sitting in their holes all day as Lima Company, 3/4, was dispatched from LZ Crowe to move south and reinforce Kilo on the hill just north of the Ngan River.  Lima Company arrived that afternoon and dug-in, taking over a share of the hilltop perimeter, which allowed Kilo to pull some men back into reserve, which meant more sleep for the beleaguered company as they finally had a relatively quiet night in the bush.

*I hope you guys liked the fight; I was having fun with KR-16, but had to go back to 5MAK as KR-16 doesn't work right (to me) if you don't have enough men in enough elements, and 5MAK is designed for each man to activate on his own.  And I was worried about the map setup; it wasn't until I was typing this batrep up that I realized how much this table and fight resembled the previous NVA night attack on the Marines' hilltop perimeter.  Having said that, this type of fight was certainly a feature of the Vietnam War, and I'm not sure how much different I can make it...

Intel came in that the NVA, who had suffered their fair share of casualties too, had withdrawn from the Ngan Valley, so the new plan was for 2/4 and 3/4 to move out and exit the valley to the northeast, sweeping back towards the coast.  So on the morning of 18 July 1966, Kilo and Lima 3/4 packed up, stomped in their holes, and trudged back north to LZ Crowe, arriving just as Mike 3/4 and all of 2/4 stepped off to the northeast.

But the NVA in the Ngan Valley hadn't left, and they were not done with the Marines of K/3/4.  Coming soon!