Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Two Brothers' First Tour Prologue/2nd Tour Preamble

 All,

So, the first tour was an absolute blast, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  To be sure, 24 fights was a lot of battles, probably too many, particularly given the time period 1965-1966, where things were 'relatively' quiet compared to '67, '68, and '69.  I loved the way I played out patrol actions using the cards to dictate the action, timing, enemy force, and random events, it worked awesome (or at least I think so).  I also loved the way I was able to interweave real history into the various tabletop operations and games, without getting too bogged down (I hope).  I suppose I'll never find a perfect set of skirmish rules, but my variation of Five Men at Kursk sure seems to give an exciting fight.  The only problem is that it still can seem a bit disjointed; I forget the actual quote, but Ed Texeira of Nuts!/Two Hour Wargames has written something along the lines of the challenge of skirmish games is having leadership matter, that it's a military op, not a gang fight.  And if I'm having a hard time with true skirmish (a handful of guys per side), I'm REALLY having a hard time finding a set of platoon-level rules I like.  My modifications of KR-16 did a pretty good job for Operation Hastings I think, but there's just still something missing.

The squad started out with fights against the Viet Cong, and then things really ramped up with Operation Utah and the first fights between the USMC and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which the squad ran into again during its first trip to the DMZ for Operation Hastings.  The Operation Utah fights were the most fun of the entire first tour for me, just a ton of great action and great scenarios, pulled straight out of the official US Marine Corps history books for Vietnam.

Regarding the troops, of course I was invested in the boys, and I tried to develop other characters, but then typically they would get killed or medically evacuated.  Corporal Little started off very slow, and I didn't thin much of him, but once they got into Operation Utah he became an absolute stud, to the point that I'm taking him with me into the 2nd tour.  I really liked how LCpl Jackson developed as well, and I thought about taking him to the 2nd tour as well, but I didn't want to overplay the fact of Marines extending for multiple tours as the vast majority of Marines served their one tour and then took their butts home like normal, well adjusted humans ;)  So I let Jackson rotate back to 'The World,' but the Correa came on right at the end, so I ended up taking him into the 2nd tour as well, and now he's turned into some sort of  'crack shot,' so I'm really looking forward to seeing how that plays out in future games.

So our four characters will join a squad that already has a bunch of Marines (and a Corpsman), and a whole bunch of South Vietnamese militia members.  I plan on starting them off as totally inept, but as time goes by the Marines are able to get them trained up and have them performing as a competent fighting force, before handing them off to the next CAP platoon and going back to the grunts, just in time to head back up to the DMZ for Operation Buffalo, which I have an affinity for because I met General Libutti while I was in the Marine Corps and he was a Lieutenant with Charlie 1/9 during Operation Buffalo and is mentioned quite a bit in the book of the same name on the first day of fighting, which sees 1/9 pretty much cease to exist (Bravo was completely overrun and then Alpha and Charlie took so many casualties they had to be combined just to form one understrength company).  I have no idea what will happen after that as I'm not sure who will survive the meat grinder up there in Leatherneck Square...

Regarding the squad itself, it was rated to consist of a squad leader, a grenadier, and three four-man fireteams, for a total of 14 men.  During the time period of 5 Oct 1965 to 5 Oct 1966 a total of 36 Marines and Sailors were cycled through the squad's roster.  During that time a total of:
-4 men survived to extend their tours and go to different units
-6 men survived their entire tour and were able to rotate back to the United States
-13 men were wounded and evacuated to the United States
-9 men were killed in action
-4 men were left in the squad with at least six months remaining to carry on their tour

These men were awarded:
-1 Medal of Honor

-2 Navy Crosses
-1 Silver Star
-3 Bronze Stars w/V device
-3 Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals w/V device
-1 Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal w/V device
-54 Purple Hearts (not including KIAs)

Nikki led the league with a whopping FOUR Purple Hearts, while Doc Johnson (who won the Medal of Honor) and Lamont Jackson were the only two guys to survive and entire tour and rotate home without being hit.

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So, to wrap up the boys' first tour, we last saw the Danny coming out of the field and going to visit Nik in the hospital.  Danny left Nik in the hospital and went back to his barracks, and returned to see Nikki the following day, but Danny couldn't keep it light anymore, time was growing too short, and thus began three straight days of arguing about whether to sign on, or not sign on, for a second tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam.  Being so close to the end of the his tour, Danny had been pulled out of the field, so he had nothing to do but sit alongside Nik's hospital bed and argue all day and all night about shipping over.  The night of the third day's arguments ended with Danny yelling at Nik that they only had a few days left to ship over, and Nikki replying that Danny was asking him to choose between him and his own mother; "I'm all she's got, and she's the only family I got left on this Earth, Danny."  Danny hissed "she's not all the family you've got, @#$hole," and began walking away, to which Nik responded "If you walk off right now, I don't ever want to see your stupid ass ever again!"

Danny was aggravated enough that he actually didn't go back and see Nikki the next day, and Nik was aggravated enough that it wouldn't have gone well if he had anyway.  But the following day Danny walked into the hospital and was shocked at what he saw; Nik was lying there, staring off into space, eyes red, tears running down his face.  Danny felt a sudden urgency and moved close to his brother, and asked what was wrong; Nik opened his mouth to reply but no words came out, he simply pointed to a document lying on the bed.  Danny's heart jumped into his throat; it was a Red Cross message.  Danny picked it up, looking to scan it, but it was only two sentences long.  "Nik, I'm so sorry..."

Danny sat down and held his friend's hand, and all through he rest of the day the two sat there in silence.  Finally, the sun nearly down, the walls purple, Nikki's voice croaked: "I can't believe she's gone, that I didn't get to see her again..."  Danny, feeling more helpless than any other point during his life, just nodded silently, and the two boys sat there until a nurse came in to check on Nik a couple hours later.  The nurse took care of whatever it was she was there for and departed, looking as if she wanted to say something, but not, and then Nik finally spoke again: "Let's go."  "What?" Danny replied.  Nik achingly sat up and began pulling bandages off and needles out (which is INCREDIBLY painful when you don't know what you're doing, by the way), with Danny exclaiming "what the hell are you doing?"  "Well, I figure we gotta get over to S-1 and sign our papers to ship over," Nik replied.

"What are you talking about?  Now?" Danny asked.  "Well, why not?  You're all I've got left."

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So that's it, that's the end of the first tour, and now we've set up the second tour.  The nurse came back over and got Nikki to lay back down and put everything back in, but Danny went to Admin and got the paperwork drawn up the next day, and was followed back to the hospital by a Staff Sergeant who dutifully witnessed the boys sign their extension paperwork for a second tour.  They were on the spot promoted to Corporal, and granted a 30-day R&R, which was tacked on to Nik's Bereavement/Emergency Leave, and the Battalion Commander graciously signed off on a weeks' worth of Annual Leave for Danny to accompany Nik back to Texas to bury his mother.  

Following that they returned to Vietnam and then began their 30-day R&R, choosing to go party in Hong Kong.

Before they left though, they had several discussions with the Career Planner, the Battalion Sergeant Major, the Ops O, and the Admin O; Nik was convinced they needed to do something different for a bit, and the boys had both really enjoyed Operation Golden Fleece (at least up until the point Nikki got shot), where they were working hand in hand with the local Vietnamese to protect them from the Viet Cong and make their lives better.  In these discussion they learned about the 9th Marines' 'Combined Action Program,' where a squad of Marines would live in a local village and form a 'Combined Action Platoon' with local militia from that village to safeguard the villagers from the VC.  This sounded right up the boys' alley, so they immediately signed up and were accepted; they even took it back to the platoon to see if anyone was willing to come with them.  They'd become very tight with Sergeant Rob Little and LCpl "Poncho" Correa, who both extended their tours in Vietnam in order to go with Nik and Danny.

Rob and Poncho remained with the squad until the boys returned from R&R right after Thanksgiving 1966, and then all four attended mandatory CAP training during the month of December.  The training consisted of education on Vietnamese key words/phrases, culture, and customs, and because the US Marine squad operates relatively autonomously, they were given focused training on leadership, communications, fire support, intelligence collection, weapons, and combat first aid.  Following completion of their training, the boys, Rob, and Poncho, were given a few days off for Christmas, the moved south to Quang Ngai Province to check in with local US Marine forces in the area and get a turnover, arriving at their assigned CAP location on 2 January 1967.  They were assigned to (fake) CAP 7-7-9, in the (fake) village of Duc Pho Linh, where they joined 11 other Marines, 1 Navy Corpsman, and 35 Popular Force Militia troops assigned to the defense of the village.

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So, there's the plan.  I've got some other wargaming stuff to tend to, but I plan on getting back to this as soon as I can.  

V/R,
Jack

EDIT: Adding a few pics of my WWII Pacific project for a buddy.











9 comments:

  1. A fascinating campaign to follow and interesting to hear your thoughts on some of the challenges with finding suitable rules.

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    1. Thank you Peter, I appreciate the kind words. And yes, rules are my particular bugaboo; don't misunderstand, I've played tons of rules that I really like, just can't seem to find the 'perfect' set. If there is indeed such a thing ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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  2. Hello Jack

    Good wrapup and looking forward to the next the next tour.

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    1. Thanks, Shaun, but a bit to get to before I head back to the 'Nam. Here's where I'm at:

      Americans and Germans for the Bulge – Done, played a few games already
      Americans and German FJ for Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy – Ready to go
      British/Canadians and Germans for Normandy – Ready to go
      Troops and Gear for Two Brothers 2nd Tour – Ready to go
      Marines and Japanese for Guadalcanal – Close, maybe another two weeks of painting/basing
      British Airborne – 75% there, hopefully by end of summer
      Soviets and Germans for Barbarossa – Almost there, probably by end of summer
      Soviets and Germans for Typhoon – Close, but sort of back burner
      Commonwealth, Italians, and Germans for Western Desert – About 75%, back burner
      US Airborne – About 50%, back burner
      US for Normandy – About 50%, back burner

      I also bought into the Warlord ‘Epic Scale' ACW stuff and I'm dying to dive into that, but staying disciplined to at least finish up the Marines and Japanese before I tear open the box.

      I've also got pretty big mountains of Napoleonic and AWI lead languishing in their boxes…

      So that's what my wargaming projects look like, what about you?

      V/R,
      Jack

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    2. Hello Jack,

      I see you have a dozen different WW2 projects, and then some. So nothing unusual happening then.

      Me? You did ask. I have the four 3x4 grid ww2 games I played in March to write up. Still need to tidy upthe Campaign spreadsheet to send to you. And also play more games. The campaign is not over!

      I am tweaking my rules I was using for ungridded 6mm WW2 to work with 20mm, In parallel also going over the next 6 or so Operation Jupiter games to get them ready to just setup and play. I have some 20mm terrain out of storage for a few months now but have not had the chance to actually find time to setup the table for a weekend and play, other than the one Rapid Fire Reloaded game.. But! I mentioned to a friend I had got these rules - One Hour Skirmish Wargames - that use only cards for activations and combat. I was thinking of setting it up and seeing how it played. He said why not play we me and my son. This is the same son who I played a few games against when he was 12 and 14. He is now 17. So he, his son, me and my son (12yo) have had three games over the last four weeks. It is fun but we are still learning how the games works - not the mechanisms that we had down pat on game 2 but what you can do in the game and how things all interact. Good fun. No pictures (except a few my friend posted on Facebook).

      I am also tweaking my ancient rules and at the moment vacillating between various combat result tables. Spending hours on it (over many many days - just a bit of time here and there). And also creating army lists and auto generating scenarios. Having lots of fun doing all of this but I do need to play a game with them! I even dragged out two Sumerian War Carts I bought 10 years ago and am painting them - first time getting the brushes out in about 9 years.

      And did write up some simple SF skirmish rules for quick results with about 2-4 a side. A bit like the latest THW 5150 "battle board" games. I even tested them in April over around 30 combats (they really only take a couple of turns and a few dice rolls a turn) but then wanted to create a campaign framework. I started to rewrite my SF RPG spreadsheet to generate the campaign scenes but got distracted by the previous mentioned projects. I even bought some BattleSystems Cyberpunk terrain box to use with the Heroscape figures I will be using. One of my map drawers is all set up ready to go with the terrrain and figures. But WW2 and ancients are the priority. At least today anyway :-)

      Oh and Machinas (post-apocalyptic car racing). Streamlined the THW rules and played a couple of quick games but want to try them out again. but it is last on the list.

      I find I have little time. I am anywhere from 3-10 days behind in reading blogs. I am catching up on a few TV shows with my wife and/or children in the evenings when I should be gaming! But hey, i got in 3 games with other people and have lots of projects on the go at once, and so what more can a wargamer ask for.

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    3. I absolutely did ask, always curious what you’re up to and how things are going. I was confused that there were so many things in your list that weren’t WWII, but hey, if you want to waste your life it’s up to you, I guess ;)

      I’m very glad to see Operation Jupiter coming back around the bend, and I really want to see your 6mm British in Normandy concept.

      On a side note, ever seen/played “Fistful of Lead”? I’m growing interested, looking to give them a shot ASAP.

      And quit watching so much television, it’ll rot your brain! Having said that, my boys have found the Aussie cartoon “Bluey” and been watching it lately, and I must say it’s hilarious ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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    4. I have heard of "Fistful of lead" and follow the authors blog, but do not have them nor played them. They do seem interesting.

      And Bluey is classic Oz. It is huge over here. I have seen the first series but my children are just a bit old for it now.

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    5. Forgot to mention Bluey is set in Brisbane and a suburb similar to ours only a suburb or two away. We live in a house very similar to that of Bluey's!

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    6. Shaun,

      Sorry, not a lick of wargaming stuff this weekend, barely time to breathe, pretty much every minute was taken up by the boys’ baseball.

      Yes, I’m becoming quite taken with the rules, or at least as much as one can having only read and not actually played them! I’m hoping to get them on the table this weekend, but we’ll see, quite a bit of painting still needs to get done…

      And Bluey is indeed classic, it’s constantly got me cracking up, to the point I get angry at the boys when they watch it while I’m at work! ;)

      Similar house and suburb, eh? If you’re trying to hint that you’re the real life inspiration for the dad then I’m gonna need to see some proof! ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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