Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Two Brothers, Fight #20


2015 Local Time
15 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.  They were helo'ed into the area this morning, 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.

The squad is tasked with holding a section of the company's perimeter on the northeast side of the hill, and it's gonna be a long night...

Overview, north is up.  The squad's section of the hill is at bottom left, with its highest point in that corner and fingers jutting out to the north (far left) and east (bottom), a steep draw pushing into their center (the cluster of trees at center marks the point where the draw comes together and the hill begins rising to the southwest (bottom left).  There's nothing but trees, grass, and some scattered brush out here.

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.

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 and Pvt Higgins, and then they picked up PFC Eusabio and Pvt Holland from the attached machine gun team

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

Overview, now with troops.  The Marines are set up thusly: Sergeant Little and his Command Element are in the center bunker, looking down into the draw (left bottom); Danny and the 2nd Fireteam are in reserve, not dug-in, just chilling behind a hedge further up the hill (bottom left), while Nik's 3rd Fireteam is holding down the northern finger (far left) and Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam is holding down the southern finger (bottom center).  I didn't put out Claymore or wire because 1) I'm stupid and 2) I wasn't sure how to handle Claymores, afraid of making them too powerful.  

The Marines are currently at 50% (half are sleeping, half are on watch), and they will have off-table arty support, subject to availability rolls.

The NVA are spread across the table from the northwest (top left) to southeast (bottom right), with rifle squads in their assault positions at top left, top center left, center, right bottom, and bottom right, while their mortar and MG teams are positioned atop the knoll at top right.

Yes, you could argue that the Marines should have their bunkers sighted further up the hill in order to make the NVA cross all that open ground on the fingers, and you could argue that the NVA should have concentrated all their rifle squads at one finger and ignored the other, but this is a game and I want it to be challenging for both sides, so this was the best I could do to 'balance' the fight; and is another reason I laid off the Claymores.  And on that note, this was actually my favorite fight from Operation Hastings, rip-roaring action with a helluva lot of stress and a great back-and-forth!

Another look a the Marine positions, giving you a better idea of the topography (the finger running to the north at far left, the steep draw at top center/right).

Another look to the north, from behind 2nd Fireteam's reserve position.  Nice and lumpy, starting to look like some real terrain ;)  Notice the fall off on the back side of the northern finger, far left.

Another shot from behind Danny's reserve position, looking northeast, where you can see a knoll at top left.

A look at the draw separating Nik's 3rd Fireteam (top center left, with the Command Element's bunker at far left) from Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam (bottom right).

The enemy deployment, looking northeast to southwest, with the NVA mortar and MG teams atop the knoll at bottom center/right and assault squads at far right, right, center, and two at far left.

The NVA have two squads in the southeast, looking to charge up the southern finger and overrun Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam.

The NVA have one squad moving all sneaky-like up through the trees in the draw (bottom center), splitting the defense (1st Fireteam's bunker is at far left, 3rd Fireteam's bunker is at top right) and heading straight for the Command bunker (center top, with 2nd Fireteam's reserve position at top center).

A view from further back, behind the NVA mortar (bottom let) and MG (far right) positions atop the knoll, with their center rifle squad visible in the draw (center) and the Marine positions visible at top left, top center, and top center right.

The NVA's right flank, where they have two rifle squads set to charge up the northern finger and overrun Nik's 3rd Fireteam.

And with that, the game is afoot!

The Marines (top center/right) either lightly dozing or peering groggily out into the darkness when the first coughs of mortar fire from the knoll (bottom left) were heard...

Wham!  The 82mm mortar round slammed into the top of the hill, between Danny's 2nd Fireteam (left) and Sgt Little's Command Bunker (center), suppressing the 2nd Fireteam!  Everyone's awake now.

But before the Marines (left) can even shake the cobwebs out of their heads, the NVA (bottom right) launch a rocket up the southern finger, targeting Cpl Benavides' 1st Fireteam...

The rocket slams into the bunker, pinning them down!

Sgt Little and Jackson (left bottom) return fire with their M-14s, and McCaffrey bloops a 40mm grenade downslope at the source of the rocket (top right)...

One NVA soldier goes down, and they are pinned!

The NVA MG Team (bottom right) begins raking the hill...

As the NVA on the far right fire a rocket up at Nik's 3rd Fireteam...

This rocket also slames into the the Marine bunker, pinning 3rd Fireteam.

The NVA that fired the rocket (far left) open fire with their AK-47s as their compatriots move up the back side of the north finger (bottom center) and open fire on 3rd Fireteam's bunker at close range (top right).

The NVA squad that fired the rocket immediately follows up the fire by moving up the finger (bottom center, from bottom right), as the other squad (top right) continues laying down fire. 

The NVA in the draw (far right) have become disoriented in the dark, apparently, while in 3rd Fireteam's bunker, Nik rolls to the north wall and peers over, ignoring the rounds zipping past his head and slamming into the sandbags.  "We got a problem, fellas, we got boo-coo NVA coming up the slope, get yer @#$% together!"  And thus 3rd Fireteam was rallied back into the fight.

Sgt Little and McCaffrey keep firing downhill, as Jackson is frantically screaming into the radio for support, but so far is unable to raise anyone in a position to help.  It seems the battalion is being hit along the entirety of its perimeter...

And as Jackson (left, with 3rd Fireteam above them and to the left, and you can see NVA moving up the slope towards them), neither Danny (bottom left) nor Cpl Benavides (far right) can get their teams rallied and back in action!

And now 1st Fireteam is in big trouble; despite Sgt Little and McCaffrey's best efforts to hold them at bay, the NVA in the southeast are now moving up the south finger and firing on 1st Fireteam's bunker at close range...

Mixon is hit and goes down, further encouraging 1st Fireteam's survivors to keep their noses in the dirt!

But the NVA are pushing forward (left, from far right).

While on the Marine left, Nikki and 3rd Fireteam are exchanging ineffectual fire with the NVA on the slope just below them (center), but Nik is worried because he knows there are more bad guys out there (far left).

Sgt Little and McCaffrey keep pouring fire downhill, Jackson still can't raise anyone able to help on the radio, and Doc Eakle goes bounding downslope (center left, from bottom left), intent on reaching 1st Fireteam's bunker (right), nervous after seeing NVA on the move (right top, between the trees); "damn, they're closer than I thought..."

And as Doc comes cavorting downhill (top left), 1st Fireteam is still under heavy fire, with Cpl Benavides, Dombrowski, and Connor unable to return fire.

With NVA (top center left) moving on 1st Fireteam's bunker (top center right), the NVA mortar (bottom left) fires in support...

And the 82mm HE rounds are on target, making life even more difficult for 1st Fireteam.

Sgt Little (in bunker at left) is bogged down in the fight, so it's on Danny to decide what to do with his team; he sees NVA coming up both fingers in force, but on his left he can hear Nik yelling and the M-60 spitting lead (off camera to far left),  while on the right he hasn't heard or seen anything of 1st Fireteam (bunker at right, with Doc just left of it), which is taking small arms, rocket, and now mortar fire, so Danny pushes his team right (center bottom, from bottom left), where they hop behind a hedge and begin firing downslope.

But on the Marine left, the two NVA squads on the northern finger (far left and bottom left) are delivering heavy, accurate small arms fire on Nik's 3rd Fireteam (right, with the Command Bunker at top right)...

Which is allowing the NVA to creep even further up the slope!  To make matters worse, the NVA squad in the draw (center, in the trees, just left and above the Marine bunker) is now finally getting into the action.

The NVA push up the slope(far right), firing as they go, closing in on 3rd Fireteam (top left) from the east, meaning Nik's Marines are now taking fire from three sides!

And Eusabio goes down, silending the M-60!!!

"Dammit!" Nik screams.  "You two, toss all your frags down each side f the finger, I'll take care of the dinks coming straight up the slope!" Nik yelled as he grabbed the M-60, lifted the feed tray cover, fed in a new belt, closed the feed tray cover, and charged the weapon twice, sending the handle back forward while locking the bolt to the rear.  "It's good have you back in my lovin' arms, baby," Nikki joked to himself.

Holland began tossing grenades down the west slope (left) as Higgins began tossing grenades down the east slope (far right), as Nikki rose up and began firing the Pig downhill, squeezing off 5-7 round bursts every few seconds.

On the left slope, Holland's grenades go too far and the NVA simply push past them...

But on the right slope, Higgins' grenades kill one NVA soldier and pin the rest of the squad.

And Nikki's machine gun fire kills an NVA and pins the squad coming up the slope from the north.

Back on the right, Doc Eakle reaches 1st Fireteam's bunker.  "Hi-ya fellas.  Not sure if you noticed, but the NVA are coming up here to overrun your bunker, you may want to do something about that.  Now who's hit?"  Corporal Benavides pointed to Mixon, and Doc went to work.

Mixon was hit in the shoulder but could still fight, so Doc patched hmi up, helpted him into a sitting position, and handed him his M-14.

With the three NVA squads closing in on 3rd Fireteam's bunker (top left) having suffered a bit of a setback due to Nik's M-60 and the frags from Holland and Higgins, the NVA MG Team (bottom right) throws their weight into the attack, hosing down Nik and the boys with a belt of 7.62mm rounds.

On the Marine right things get quiet for a few minutes as Cpl Benavides gets 1st Fireteam rallied (bottom left), as do the NVA squads nearby (behind hedge at center and trees at top right).

But back on the Marine left, things are getting even more bleak: the NVA coming up the north slope launch another rocket at 3rd Fireteam's bunker!

The rocket slams into the sandbags and Nik and Higgins fall next to Eusabio, leaving only Holland still in the fight!

But Holland can't take anymore and falls back (far right, from left), leaving the three downed Marines to their fate!

Like he was in the firggin' Army or something...

With the Marine machine gun on the north finger out of action, the NVA immediately exploit the situation, pushing up to 3rd Fireteams bunker (bottom left) and firing on Sergeant Little's Command Bunker (top right, with 1st Fireteam's bunker visible at top center), pinning him, Jackson, and McCaffrey!

The NVA mortar team (bottom left) resumes firing on 1st Fireteam (top enter, behind the two trees).

The 82mm rounds are again on target, suppressing Cpl Benavide's fireteam again!

As Doc Eakle braves the incoming to head back uphill (left, from bottom right) to the Command Bunkeer (far left).

Danny (bottom center, with the Command Bunker at center, all three NVA squads closing in on the north finger visible at top left, top center, and top right) hears the rocket slam into 3rd Fireteam's bunker (top left) and the machine gun go silent, then a torrent of AK-47 fire erupt from the area; he orders 2nd Fireteam to face about and open fire.

Two NVA go down and the enemy squad is suppressed, cowering behind the sandbags of 3rd Fireteam's bunker!

Danny leads 2nd Fireteam north (center bottom, just below the Command Bunker, from bottom right), looking to take back 3rd Fire Team's bunker (top left) from the NVA!  In the Command Bunker, Sgt Little, Jackson, and McCaffrey are still suppressed, but Jackson is finally able to get an artillery battery that's not already committed on the radio.

As the NVA in the east fire another rocket at 1st Fireteam's bunker!

Still under NVA mortar fire, the rocket slamming into the bunker doesn't do anything to help Corporal Benavides get a handle on the situation...

Which is made worse as an NVA squad dashes up and opens fire at Point-blank range!

But back on the Marine left, Danny leads 2nd Fireteam up, past the Command Bunker, and he and his Marines (far left) catch the NVA squad in the draw (top right) in the open...

And cuts them to pieces!  The NVA squad on the north slope (top right) look on as three NVA go down in a hail of fire (far left) and the lone survivor runs for the hills (bottom right)!

Doc Eakle dives back into the Command Bunker.  Jackson has arty on the radio, but he and Sgt Little are arguing about which flank is more desperate shape...

2nd Fireteam moving up (just off camera to bottom right) has served to fortify Private Holland, who shoulders his M-14 and begins firing on the NVA sheltering behind his bunker.

With things too confusing on the north finger (top right), the NVA MG Team (bottom right) shifts fire to 1st Fireteam's bunker (top left) and rakes it...

Dombrowski is hit and goes down, and Cpl Benavides' fireteam is once again suppressed.

While on the Marine left, the NVA at 3rd Fireteam's bunker rally and reinforcements flow up the slope.

Where they (bottom center) begin firing on the Command Bunker (top left).

"Alright, alright," Jackson concedes, "I'll put the arty on the north finger!"  "Well, no @#$%, and argue with me again and I'll shoot your dumbass," replied Sergeant Little.

"Fresh arty on th way," Jackson screamed, "heads down, shot out!"

Sergeant Little and Jackson (bottom center) looked on as the 105mm spotting round landed about 100 yards downslope (top right).  "Walk it back, walk it back!" screamed Sgt Little.  "I got it, Rob!  Redleg, Redleg, this is Blackhawk Echo Three Juliet, give me one round on adjust, drop 50!"

As the NVA in the southeast launched another rocket at Corporal Benavides' beleaguered fireteam...

A third rocket slams into 1st Fireteam's bunker, and this time Mixon takes the full brunt of the explosion, dead before he hit the ground.  Corporal Benavides slowly looked around, still dazed by the explosion.  "Why is my helmet lying on the ground next to me?  Connor!  Connor, are you alright?"  "Yeah Corporal, I'm still here."  "We gotta get outta here man!"

Corporal Benavides and Connor grabbed Dombrowski and Mixon and fell back (far left), abandoning the bunker (far right).

With 1st Fireteam's bunker (top left, the Command Bunker just visible above it) now completely silent, the NVA squad in the southeast boldly dashes up slope (center, from bottom right, with their other squad in the trees at top center left).

As the NVA squad in the trees (bottom center) opens fire on Danny's 2nd Fireteam (top right)...

Burrows is hit and the team is pinned...

As the NVA move (center, from bottom right) past 1st Fireteam's abandoned bunker (bottom left), heading for the Command Bunker (top left)!

With 1st Fireteam's bunker abandoned (top center) and NVA rifleman making good progress on the eastern finger, the NVA mortar and machine gun teams (bottom left and bottom right, respectively) both zero in on the Command Bunker (top center right) and open fire...

Pinning the Command Elelement.

But on the left, Danny is able to get his men rallied and back in action, firing on the NVA near 3rd Fireteam's bunker...

Killing two NVA soldiers and suppressing the squad!

As Sergeant Little gets his men back in action, and they begin pouring fire downslope at the NVA coming up past 1st Fireteam's bunker (top right)...

With Rob and Jackson firing their M-14s on full auto and McCaffrey firing buckshot rounds from his M-79 the fire is brutal: three NVA go down in a bloody heap (right), and the remaining two men of the squad flee for their lives (bottom left)!

Doc leaves the Command Bunker to go check out Burrows (center), as Jackson (left) talks in the arty...

The second 105mm round slams into the northern finger, right behind the NVA!  Danny calls out "be careful, Jackson, we've got wounded in that bunker!"  "Roger, gotcha Danny!"

But the NVA are veterans, have been through this before, and now that the second arty round has been walked up on them, they know the Marines are about to unleash hell on them, so they quickly fall back down the hill (right, from bottom left), content to live to fight another day.

And with the threat to the northern finger subsided (off camera to left), Jackson (bottom left) shifts the arty to the southern finger (far right), dropping the next spotting round squarely on the approach to 1st Fireteam's abandoned bunker.

These NVA decide to fall back (far right, from left) as well.

The Marines look on as Jackson puts the arty on the knoll, where the NVA had their mortars and machine guns set up.

"Fire for effect!"

Danny (center, with Doc Eakle at right) looks over at Jackson (bottom left), still on the radio, puts a hand on his shoulder, and thanks him.  "Good job tonight man, you saved our asses!  Doc, let's get down to Nik's bunker!"  

Danny led Doc and the Marines of 2nd Fireteam down to 3rd Fireteam's bunker. "Nik!  Nik!  You still in here brother, you okay?" Danny asked, fearfully.  "Well, no @#$%, it's about mother@#$%ing time, @#$hole!!!  You just @#$%ing told me you'd never leave me laying out here again, and look at ya!" Nikki screamed.  "What, but I..." whispered Danny...

Nikki let out a huge belly laugh, rolling in the dirt, rejoicing at being alive!  "Are you okay, are you hit?" Danny asked, "and quit your friggin' laughing, it's obnoxious!"  "Dammit brother," Nik exclaimed, closing in and hugging Danny, "we gotta quit doing this!  If I was a cat I'd be down to my last couple lives!"  Danny looked him over: "you are hit, look, you're bleeding down your back!"  A 7.62mm round had ricocheted off his helmet and shot down the back of his neck, coming to rest just under the skin, between his shoulder blades.  "Don't worry, buddy, I'm alright, I ain't goin' nowhere.  Doc can pull that sucker out, slap a fresh bandage on me, I'll be right as rain.  And don't sweat it, little brother, I was down, but I could hear ya comin,' just had to hold on.  I had Eusabio's pistol out, just waiting for them bastards to come over the sandbags."

"Damn, Nik, you seem... almost exhilarated!  What the hell is going on?"  "Well, I dunno man.  That fight earlier, I felt abandoned, all alone. This time, I just felt like it was over, 100%, no way was I getting out of that one alive, I was just laying there, hoping to take as many of them with me as I could, but then you guys showed up and...  Holy @#$% man, I'm alive!"  Danny lit a couple smokes and passed one to Nik; "well, here's to being alive then!"

The next morning Doc Eakle came over to talk to Nik.  "Hey man, I know you're plan is to stay in the field for this op, but do you want me to list you as WIA on the Morning Report?"  "It doesn't make any difference to me, Doc," Nik replied.  "Why are you asking?"  "Well, from what Sergeant Little told me, that will be your third Purple Heart."  "So?  Let's go, Doc, speak plainly man," Nik chided.  "Well, that makes you a three-time loser, that's your ticket outta here!"  "I get to go home," asked Nik.  "Well, no, you still stay in country, but if you get wounded three times you can get out of the field, go get one of them cushy REMF jobs back in Da Nang!"  Nik glanced over at Danny, who was listening intently, the shook his head, "nah, I'm good where I'm at, thanks."  "Gotcha Nik, just wanted to check," said Doc, walking away. 

Danny inched in closer to Nik, "so, if three Purple Hearts let you go home, would you have taken it?"  "Negative, and don't even give me that bull@#$%, I ain't goin' anywhere without you brother, so don't even screw with me about that.  I just hadn't thought of home in awhile, put all my mind into this crap.  I wonder how my Ma is doing is all."

But the news wasn't as good for everyone in the squad: a total of six Marines had been hit (Mixon was hit twice).  Higgins and Nik were okay, with Higgins just being knocked out and Nik just having a superficial wound, but Mixon was Killed In Action, Eusabio was hit badly enough to require evacuation to the States, and Dombrowski and Burrows were hit badly enough to require evacuation in country, meaning they'd be back with the squad at some point in the future.  The Marines evacuated their wounded and quickly policed up the area, finding thirteen enemy bodies and capturing a boatload of AK-47s, along with a couple B-40 rocket launchers.

Sergeant Little made sure and got good accountability for everyone in the squad, checked ammo and water, then got everyone back into the bunkers.  The squad went back to 50% and tried to get some rest, wondering how their second day on the DMZ would go...

Coming soon!



  1. Wow! Brutal. And a nail-biter. I can understand why it was one of your favourites. And the terrain looks fantastic with realistic looking undulations. This must be one of the few (if not the first) games in this campaign where the Marines start the game on the defensive.

    1. Shaun,

      Yeah man, ‘‘twas a helluva fight, lots of fun! I’m very happy with how the terrain has turned out, and yes, there are a number of defensive fights during the tour.