Vietnam – December 1968

I have spent the last 18 months putting together my 20mm Vietnam collection and wanted to use as much of it as I could it in one big weekend wargame. We have been using Charlie Company rules on Friday night sessions which have been slighted adapted to play a very large game. Most of the players are the US forces and the VC / NVA are played by umpires.

I stretched reality quite a bit when I set up my scenario to have US marines in the Mekong Delta defending a fire base which were also rare in this part of the world. I set the game in December 1968, 11 months after TET the offensive. We were going to play this over a weekend starting Friday night in my “War Room” on a 22’ 4” x 6’ 1” table.

The fire base (about 4’ by 5’) was deployed at one end of the table. The rescue forces entered at the other end of the table (16’ away from the fire base) along a river at one edge (12’ long) and the other along a parallel road. There were 3 villages and a temple with areas of rice paddy fields and elephant grass. Most of the terrain was Forest but with areas of Jungle in parts, most along the river edge.

The briefing given to the US commander started as follows; Significant enemy forces, in particular large elements of regular NVA are massing to capture a US fire base held by one of our artillery batteries, to increase the pressure on the US public following the TET offensive earlier this year. We suspect they are trying to do a quick Dien Bien Phu on one of our units. They know you are coming and are waiting for you!!

The US players were split up into 4 team teams. the Command Team led by Paul (AKA Forest Gump) who controlled battlegroup reserves, air support and artillery. Team Foxtrot who are the Fire Base defenders with a USMC company (Juan, Kamall) and an artillery battery and supporting infantry, in particular 12 HMG squads (Brian). There were two rescue teams Team Bravo the Brown Water Navy (Phil) with a Game Warden elements (PBRs and minesweeper) and River Assault Section 91carrying an infantry company (Noel) and Team Mike with the Armoured Cavalry of 2 troops (Tim on Friday/ Simon) and a Mechanised Infantry company (Trevor) with various supporting elements such as engineers, bridge laying and ARVs .

All players were given individual packs with their own mission objectives and victory points. The US players were not quite aligned which was designed to cause a little of bit of friction on the US side. There were also terms of engagement issued in respect of civilians their property and a scared temple further restricting the use of artillery and air support.

I was chief umpire and very ably supported over the weekend by Piotr (Friday), Jonathan (Friday & Saturday), Pete (Saturday), Mark (Saturday), Tim (Sunday), and Pat (Sunday). Attacking the Fire base was 2 regiments of NVA a battalion at a time. Blocking the two rescue teams were 2 companies of main force VC and 3 platoons of Local Forces supported by numerous heavy weapons in particular heavy AA weapons, MHGs and Recoilless Rifles.

The Fire base was initially attacked by a large artillery bombardment from the NVA which included artillery, rockets and mortars before claymores and sections of barbed wire surrounding the base were removed by VC sappers during the night although one section was spotted and driven away. After this the NVA started the mass infantry wave attacks which lasted all weekend and were supported by snipers and heavy weapons. The umpires used up 4 battalions of NVA by the end of the weekend. What a body count! There were several occasions when “Broken Arrow” was called and with air support dropping 1,000lb bombs and Napalm along their front lines which caused several Blue on Blue casualties but wiping out attacks that were about to breach the perimeter. Just as the rescue forces arrived the NVA had again breached the walls but were about to hit with Beehive rounds from the 105mm guns in the Firebase.

Mike team had the by far the hardest slog along a road running parallel with the river close to two villages and the temple. The Armoured Cavalry troops led the way and soon discovered hidden VC with Recoilless riles and RPGS. They were brushed aside but one of their Sheridans hit a 1,000lb mine on the first ford destroying this and other vehicles. The Mechanised infantry moved parallel with the Cavalry and with bridge laying facilities created another crossing point led by their Patton tanks. They cleared the village of VC and recused an embattled LRRP team before using smoke to protect a n assault on a very heavily defended temple. The Cavalry were ambushed on the road and the ensuring combat hit another mine causing more problems. However, once the Beehive rounds and artillery started to fly the ambushers were decimated.

Bravo team started well clearing mines at the start with PBR and mine sweeper leading the way. They air support also started to uncover hidden VC waiting for them at the river banks. However, despite the smooth start all hell broke lose with the navy coming under heavy recoilless rifle fire and RPGs which caused extensive boat damage and casualties. The Navy lost control at one stage and sunk Sampans and killed some innocent civilians! Using artillery to subdue the heavy weapons they landed their infantry in a village. A lucky RPG shot hit a platoon of embarked troops causing horrendous casualties on board a Tango boat. Charlie was waiting for them when they landed in some Rice Paddy fields. Casualties were high until 155mm artillery shells subdued the enemy. The infantry reaching the firebase late on Sunday saving the day.

In terms of Victory points the Mechanised infantry (Trevor) got the most due to light casualties and a heavy body count. The highest body count goes to the Marines (Juan). The keeping cool under fire award goes to artillery (Brian). The infantry (Noel) saved the base, the best minesweeper award goes to Cavalry (Tim / Simon!!) and the dubious “My Lai” award goes to the Navy (Phil) and lastly the Blue and Blue award goes to the Command Team (Paul).

The figures and models come from a wide variety of manufacturers, but I want to make a special thanks to Andy Grubb at Britannia for being so helpful in supplying parts of his kits to enable me to do some conversations in particular for my Brown water Navy Minesweeper and Gun Truck. He also supplied all the Vietnamese crew for the Sampans!