Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #19


1230 Local Time
15 July 1966
Ngan Valley, Quang Tri Province, RVN
Operation Hastings

This morning Marine A-4 Skyhawks and F-4 Phantoms pounded LZ Crowe, followed by an artillery barrage, before the CH-46s carrying 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (3/4) descended into the valley and began disgorging their heavily-laden Marines.  The LZ was too small and quickly three Marine helos were down, badly damaged; two collided, and the third hit a tree while trying to avoid the other two.  Even worse, the incidents left two Marines dead and seven more injured, all before the enemy had even fired a shot.

Nevertheless, 3/4 formed up and began setting about its tasks: India Company was charged with holding the LZ's perimeter, while Lima Company marched off to occupy a nearby hill, Hill 200, which it took after some light skirmishing.  Meanwhile, the boys set off with Kilo Company, which was charged with moving south to cross the Ngan River and establish blocking positions for 2/4, which was being lifted into LZ Dove a few klicks to the east and was scheduled to sweep west, into K/3/4 and Hill 200.  As Kilo Company moved south there was a brief firefight as they encountered some lightly-armed North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars performing a rearguard action; when the dust cleared the Marines were hardly prepared for what they found: a building containing a 200-bed hospital, and an ammunition dump containing 1200 rounds of small arms ammunition.  "Hold up," Nik begged.  "How the hell did they get all this stuff down from North Vietnam, and how's it just sitting here, unmolested, like they're not in somebody else's country?  And how many of them must be out there right now if they're comfortable enough to build permanent-ass buildings up here?"

The Marines destroyed all they found and then continued their trek south towards the river.  Kilo Company halted and sent out scouts locate a river crossing, and that's where the squad ran into trouble.

Overview, north is to bottom left.  This is my first attempted rendition of the geography up near the DMZ; lots of hills, cuts, saddles, ravines, heavy forest in the draws, small, shallow rivers, with clumps of bush clinging to the hillsides/hilltops.  It's hard to see here, but there are significant elevations in all four corners of the table, with forested draws at left, top center, right, and bottom center.

The hills are: Hill 110 at top left, Hill 155 at top right, Hill 142 at bottom right, and Hill 160 at bottom left.

A couple admin notes: I'm playing this game using a modified version of Michael Stockin's "KR-16" 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.

In narrative terms, Higher HQ knew this was a big op on the DMZ and so plussed up a lot of units beyond T/O) strength, just like what happened prior to Operation Utah.  In game terms, I had a hankering to play some games using KR-16, which works better with more troops than I was using, so I deployed more troops ;)  And I'm happy that I did, the rules worked very well and I'll probably use them for platoon- or company-level games later on during the boys' adventures in Vietnam.

The replacements weren't the normal influx of boots; in fact, only one of the new Marines was coming to the squad straight out of Boot Camp/SOI, a guy named Connor.  The other three had been in the service for at least a little bit: Corporal Benavides had been in the Corps almost four years already, having served his first three years as ship's company aboard one of the big fleet carriers.  Lance Corporal Correa had been in almost three years already, having served in Security Forces down in Puerto Rico.  And Doc Eakle had spent his first three years in the Navy ashore at a Naval Hospital in Virginia.

The 'squad,' now plussed up to have a full (overstrength) command section, three complete fire teams, and an attached M-60 machine gun team.
1st Row, Squad Command Section (left to right): Sergeant Little, LCpl Jackson (RTO), Pvt McCaffrey (Grenadier), and Doc Eakle (Corpsman)
2nd Row, 1st Fireteam (left to right): Cpl Benavides, Pvt Dombrowski, Pvt Mixon, and Pvt Connor
3rd Row, 2nd Fireteam (left to right): LCpl Danny Thomas, Pvt Burrows, Pvt Stidham, and LCpl Correa
4th Row, 3rd Fireteam (left to right): LCpl Nikki Jacobs, Pvt Contreras, Pvt Fitzgerald, and Pvt Higgins
5th Row, MG Team (left to right): LCpl Tomlinson, PFC Eusabio, and Pvt Holland

The NVA are sporting a reinforced platoon consisting of four five-man squads (three with RPG, one with RPD light machine gun), a .30-cal MG team, and an 82mm mortar team.

Overview, now with troops.  The Marines are clustered on the hill in the north (Hill 160, bottom left), while the NVA are clustered on the hill to the south (Hill 155, top right), across the river, though they have pushed a squad north across the river (in the trees at far right bottom, near Hill 142).

The Marine command element is at the top of Hill 160 (bottom right), the MG Team set up near them (center left bottom), the three fireteams moving downhill, with Nik's 3rd Fireteam on point, followed by Cpl Eusabio's 1st Fireteam and Danny's 2nd Fireteam.

A look south from the Marine Command Element's position on Hill 160.  You can see the MG Team at far let, the fireteams in column moving down the hill and up to the river at right, and even some NVA on the far hill, Hill 155.

Up on the hill you have the Marine Command Element (left), the MG Team (right), and the tail end of 2nd Fireteam (bottom).

Nik's 3rd Fireteam is crossing the river, with Dombrowski of 1st Fireteam visible at far left.

The NVA defenses on the opposite hill, Hill 155, where you can see their mortar and MG teams at bottom left/center and two rifle squads at center/bottom center), near Nik's 3rd Fireteam (top right).  They also have two rifle squads at far left/top left.

Hill 155 proper, with a rifle squad (left), an MG team (center), and a mortar team (right).

While they have a rifle squad down at the base of Hill 155 (bottom right), watching the crossing.

And two rifle squads on their far left, one at the base of Hill 155 (bottom right), and one across the rive (far left), moving on Hill 142 (top left, with 1st and 3rd Fireteams visible at top right).

It's hot, and the air is dead silent and heavy...

As the sound of small arms fire reverberates throughout the valley!  The NVA squad near the river crossing (bottom right) opens fire at point-blank range on Nik's 3rd Fireteam (top left)!

Nik and Higgins are suppressed as Contreras and Fitzgerald are hit and go down!!!

The enemy MG Team atop Hill 155 (bottom right, with the guys that just fired at far left) opens fire, as does the squad just below them (right)...

And then a rocket comes screaming in from the west!

Nikki goes down, and Higgins (bottom left)...

Falls back, near Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam!

With the NVA in west (bottom right) laying down fire, their partners move out north of the river, climbing Hill 142 (far left).

Sergeant Little (bottom left) tries to assert control: he gets Jackson on the radio to call for support and directs Doc Eakle to move downhill to help 3rd Fireteam's casualties as he fires on Hill 155 with his M-14 and McCaffrey fires his M-79...

Tomlinson gets his MG Team (bottom left) into action.

As Cpl Benavides gets 1st Fireteam on line (bottom right) and returns fire, all directed at the NVA squad at the base of Hill 155 (top left), but the cover is thick and the Marine fire only manages to pin a couple men.

Cpl Benavides realizes they need to get out of the kill zone, so he moves his team right (far right, with Higgins below them), up Hill 142.

As Danny and 2nd Fireteam (bottom left) open fire...

Then moves up behind 1st Fireteam (center, in the draw, with Doc Eakle just below them, the MG Team at left, the Command Element at bottom right, and 3rd Fireteam decimated at left top).

The NVA at the base of Hill 155 (left) rally as their MG Team (bottom left) continues dueling with the US MG Team (top right)...

And the Americans come off worse, with Tomlinson being hit!

As the NVA on their left flank (bottom center) fire on 1st Fireteam (top center), pinning them down...

Which allows the NVA squad across the river to move up Hill 142 and take up positions (top center)!

They immediately begin firing downslope at 1st Fireteam...

And the FNG Connor is hit!

Sgt Little and McCaffrey (bottom left) continue firing on the NV at the base of Hill 155 (far right top, with 2nd Fireteam visible at right bottom).

And one of the NVA soldiers goes down!

Doc moves left to the MG Team to check on Tomlinson...

Tomlinson is hit pretty bad and will require evacuation, but he's able to sit up, so Eakle hands him his M-14 and tells him to get back in the fight!

On the Marine right, Cpl Benavides is able to get his team into cover, but not much else as they're caught in a crossfire from the NVA atop Hill 142 (off camera to right), across the river (off camera to top right), and from Hill 155 (off camera to top center left, with 3rd Fireteam's wounded lying in the river at top left).

Danny's 2nd Fireteam (bottom left) is still firing on the NVA at the base of Hill 155 (right top), but he hears Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam (right) in trouble, so he orders his team to move in support...

And they quickly move through the trees at the base of Hill 142 (left bottom, with 1st Fireteam at right).

The NVA atop Hill 142 (bottom left) hear movement below them (2nd Fireteam is off camera to their left) but can't see anything, as the NVA at the river (far right) rally.

There is a momentary lull as the NVA on Hill 155 pause to rally and re-group; they're having some sort of issue with ammo for their 82mm mortar tube, it hasn't fired a single round yet!

*The NVA are having a helluva time, failing lots of activation rolls, as is the US MG Team.

Danny (left) calls over to Cpl Benavides (right) and tells him to cover his team, they're going up Hill 142.  Cpl Benavides rallies his men and fires uphill...

1st Fireteam (far left) lays down fire as Danny leads 2nd Fireteam uphill (center), still unseen by the NVA (top right).

Sgt Little and McCaffrey reload (bottom left, failed activation roll) as Jackson keeps calling for arty (fail), and Tomlinson can't get the M-60 cleared and back into action (center, failed activation roll)...

But Doc Eakle goes charging downhill (right, from left) to help 3rd Fireteam.

The NVA push a squad of rifleman up on their right (center, with MG Team at bottom right and the squad watching the crossing at far left).

But Higgins (bottom right) spots them (top left) and opens fire.

Meanwhile, Sgt Little and McCaffrey (bottom left) shift fire and cut loose on the NVA atop Hill 142 (top right), a dangerous proposition with Marines so close to the enemy (2nd Fireteam is just below the NVA)..

But the fire is dead on target and drops two NVA regulars!

2nd Fireteam immediately follows up with a devastating fusillade at point-blank range...

Killing (left) or driving off (bottom right) all remaining NVA atop Hill 142!!!

Hill 142 being secured by Danny's 2nd Fireteam (far right) allows Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam (center bottom) to shift their fire back to the NVA at the base of Hill 155 (far left)...

Which zaps another NVA soldier there!

As Tomlinson finally gets the M-60 (bottom left) back into action.  They target the NVA steaming down Hill 155 (top center, the ones Higgins, far right, had just engaged) and send a steady stream of red tracers that way...

Dropping an NVA rifleman and suppressing the squad!

The enemy mortar team atop Hill 155 (bottom left) finally hops into the action, targeting Tomlinson's MG Team on Hill 160 (to center right)...

The first 82mm HE round lands (right) about 25 meters downslope from the Marine MG Team (far left).

But the second round lands right behind them, suppressing the team!

The NVA MG Team (bottom right) also fires on Tomlinson's MG Team (top left), to no effect, as the NVA Squad further downhill (center) tries to rally but can't!

Jackson finally gets arty on the horn, ready to fire a fire mission, as Sgt Little and McCaffrey (bottom left) continue pounding the NVA at the crossing (top right)...

And another bad guy goes down!

And the Marines lay down fire as Doc Eakle dashes out into the river to check 3rd Fireteam's wounded.

Over on the Marine right, atop Hill 142, Danny's 2nd Fireteam (bottom right) fires on the NVA across the river from them (top right), as Cpl Benavides checks Connor's wounds (bottom left)...

Turns out he's okay (bottom right), just a bit shook up, as Doc keeps working (top left) under fire.

Turns out Nik was just knocked out by the concussion from the RPG, but Contreras and Fitzgerald are hit pretty bad...

So Doc and Nik drag them back to the north side of the river, taking cover behind a nearby hedge.

The fight is already over, the NVA just don't know it yet.  Jackson (bottom center) has got everything straight with an arty battery, and drops the spotting round (top center) right on target...

So he immediately rolls to the "Fire for Effect!" on Hill 155.

Nik lays down covering fire as Doc and Huggins carry Contreras and Fitzgerald back to Marine lines atop Hill 160.

And 1st and 2nd Fireteams leapfrog back off of Hill 142, ending the squad's attempted river crossing.

"Damn brother, I'm glad to see you, I thought you was a goner for sure," Danny cried to Nik.  "Yeah, well, I gotta say that I surely appreciate the way you came flying up to save me," Nikki replied, more than a trace of resentment in his voice.  "Hey!  Hey man, I'm sorry, alright!  This is what sucks about being a damned team leader now, we're not together, and I had to get up Hill 142 or the whole damn squad was gonna get wiped out," Danny begged.  "Yeah, I gotcha," muttered Nik.  "I'm serious man, there was nothing I could do, but I swear, I wasn't going anywhere without you, I swear!"  "Well, thanks then little brother, my Ma would surely appreciate you bringing my dead-ass body back to her, I guess.  Yeah, I feel a lot better now, thanks," Nikki hissed.  "Nik, I-," Danny trailed off, then grabbed him by the shoulders and locked eyes with him.  "I'm sorry, Nik, you are my brother, and I will never leave you out there like that again."

Nik looked down at the dirt, took a long drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and looked back at Danny; "it's okay man, I understand, just a little shook up is all.  I was out of it man, I don't even really know what the hell happened back there, I just know it felt...  it felt like I was out there for years, all by myself, and there was nothing I could do, and I just kept thinking to myself, Danny's gonna come pull me outta this mess, but then I'm thinkin' the dinks are gonna get me and string me up and cut my privates off and put'em in my mouth and all sorts of other horrible @#$%, but then help finally gets there, but the first face I see is... that ferret-faced bastard Eakle," he choked out, with both boys letting out a pensive chuckle.  Nik let out another big breath, then looked up, "it's okay man, I'll be alright.  Let's get outta here, Rob's trying to rally us up."

And with that, the squad fell back to evacuate its wounded, re-form, and check water and ammo; Fitzgerald's war was over, he'd lose his left leg at the knee and be medically retired, but Contreras would be back in a couple months, and the machine gun team leader, LCpl Tomlinson, was hit pretty bad and had to be evacuated, too..  Meanwhile, Kilo Company made two more attempts to get across the Ngan River but failed both times, taking moderate casualties, before receiving permission from battalion to fall back a couple hundred meters and dig in atop another hill to the north.  But things were not well; Kilo was receiving the occasional mortar round beginning in early afternoon, then snipers moved up and began taking potshots, and by 1930 local time Kilo's CO reported to battalion that the entire company was surrounded...

Coming right up!



  1. Thanks Jack, great narrative with superb photography. I like the inclusion of terrain suppliers. A ton of work (I know) thank you.

    1. Thanks Norm, and no problem, just trying to head off an issue, it seems folks are always asking so I figured I’d preempt it ;)


  2. Excellent game report and interesting to see larger unit sizes.

    1. Peter,

      Yeah, I’m trying to find a set of rules I’m happy with for platoon-sized actions.


  3. Hello Jack

    I have been busy for a few weeks and catching up on blog posts. You have changed rules (well, for three posts anyway it seems)! I have read the discussion on TWW about your thinking on KR-16.

    I too thought soldiers were going down very quickly and someone mentioned it on TWW so it is not just me.

    Great writeup! I will continue on catching up on the next three of so I need to catchup.

    And before you ask, I have not done any gaming in the last 3-4 weeks. I played 4 games (first 4 of a campaign - I have improved my spreadsheet to make it easier to run) on my A4 page 6mm 3x4 grid back in March but no time to write them up yet :-(

    1. Hi Shaun, hope all is well! Regarding KR-16, yeah, I’m still looking for the ‘Holy Grail’ of platoon-level skirmish gaming, can’t seem to find it. They gave a good game, but very (too) bloody, and still not exactly what I’m looking for in terms of command and control.

      As always, I’m very much looking forward to your batreps; still WWII Soviets, I assume? And I wouldn’t mind seeing that revised spreadsheet, if you’re willing to share and satisfied it’s ready.


    2. Brits Vs Germans in 1944. I will send you the spreadsheet over the next few days - May need to add in some instructions, even if it is much easier than before.

    3. Shaun,

      Brits vs Germans in '44!!!??? That's the best news I've heard in ages, right up my alley! I'm dying for some Brits/Canadians vs Germans around Caen. And regarding instructions, of course instructions are required if you're going to share with simpletons such as I ;)