Numerous people asked for a handy quick reference sheet for ‘Nam and the ‘Nam victory points score sheet from the back of the ‘Nam rulebook. So we have made PDF versions of them for you to download and print out, and perhaps have it laminated.
By early 1965, South Vietnamese forces had suffered a series of significant defeats. Despite spending much of the already decade-long war fighting an irregular opposition, the tide seemed to be turning, culminating in resounding defeats at the Battles of Bình Giã and Đồng Xoài. As a response to this shift in the fortunes of war, the United States unilaterally deployed 3500 Marines to South Vietnam. Initially, these Marines were tasked to assist in the defence of the American ally and ensure neither Viet Cong (VC) nor the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) could conduct success conventional operations against the South. These troops were quickly reinforced, and over 200 000 Marines would be on the ground by the end of the year. Army and other forces totaled thousands more. The American plan was fairly simple: initially, American forces, supported by her free world allies and South Vietnam, would commit enough forces to put a stop to North Vietnamese advances and seize the initiative. Following this, the US would conduct their own offensive operations, pushing the North Vietnamese forces out of key areas and reducing their strength. Finally, if necessary, American forces planned to hunt down remaining enemy combatants and destroy their ability to fight, ensuring the conditions for a safe and secure Vietnam. As we know, these plans did not unroll exactly as the United States would have liked.
By May of 1966, an ad hoc demilitarized zone (DMZ) had been established dividing North and South Vietnam. This did not stop a company-sized force of reconnaissance soldiers from PAVN Division 324B from slipping across the DMZ in the early morning of 17 May. Their mission was to act as scouts for the ten-thousand strong division as it readied for an advance into Quang Tri province, at the time part of South Vietnam and defended by the 1st Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s (ARVN) I Corps. An ongoing conflict between Buddhists and government forces in the South that paralyzed military forces in the province convinced Division 324B’s commander, General Nguyen Vang, that the time had come to strike. In order to set the conditions for a successful advance, VC units local to Quang Tri had been contracted to establish stores of food and ammunition around the province. When his reconnaissance elements arrived, General Vang learned that the supply caches were few and far between. With Division 324B poised on the border, the attack was held up by a matter of weeks to allow food to be requisitioned from North Vietnam.
OAs the North Vietnamese held just shy of the DMZ, American and South Vietnamese elements monitored and speculated on their intentions. While the logic of a large-scale assault into Quang Tri was acknowledged, General William Westmoreland, then commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), demanded a better picture of the North’s actions and intentions, and, in his words, “…there was no better way to get at it than by sending in reconnaissance elements in force.” There were also concerns at tactical levels about the feasibility of PAVN logistical support to a division-sized offensive and theories that the 324B’s build-up may be a feint designed to vex Quang Tri-based ARVN and US Marine forces. On the evening of 1 July, a small Marine reconnaissance force was sent to observe suspected enemy locations a few miles south of the DMZ. After coming into contact almost immediately upon arrival, the Marines received air support from A-4 Skyhawks and UH-1C Heavy Hogs, allowing them to escape. Further reconnaissance of the area confirmed large masses of soldiers, as well as a host of fortifications. The 324B had entered South Vietnam.
As the North Vietnamese held just shy of the DMZ, American and South Vietnamese elements monitored and speculated on their intentions. While the logic of a large-scale assault into Quang Tri was acknowledged, General William Westmoreland, then commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), demanded a better picture of the North’s actions and intentions, and, in his words, “…there was no better way to get at it than by sending in reconnaissance elements in force.” There were also concerns at tactical levels about the feasibility of PAVN logistical support to a division-sized offensive and theories that the 324B’s build-up may be a feint designed to vex Quang Tri-based ARVN and US Marine forces. On the evening of the 1st of July, a small Marine reconnaissance force was sent to observe suspected enemy locations a few miles south of the DMZ. After coming into contact almost immediately upon arrival, the Marines received air support from A-4 Skyhawks and UH-1C Heavy Hogs, allowing them to escape. Further reconnaissance of the area confirmed large masses of soldiers, as well as a host of fortifications. The 324B had entered South Vietnam.
In response, MACV and the local Marine commanders quickly created and launched Operation Hastings on the 7th of July. It was designed to locate, engage and push PAVN forces back across the DMZ. The operation would be the largest in Marine Corps history at the time and included the mobilization of over 8000 Marines and 3000 ARVN soldiers, supported by a wide array of artillery, naval gunfire, air, and aviation support. Task Force Delta, the task force executing Operation Hastings, would be led by then Brigadier General (later General) Lowell English, at the time Assistant Division Commander of 3rd Marine Division and would see four Marine infantry battalions and one Marine artillery battalion under his command. These Marines would advance across a series of mountains, foothills and jungle, ending in the shadow of The Rockpile, a large and solitary hill dominating the plateau north of the Cam Lo River. Aggressively taking The Rockpile, as well as trailheads leading from Quang Tri across the DMZ into North Vietnam, were deemed the highest priority objectives, in order to quickly and assertively weaken the grip of PAVN forces on the area and set the conditions for American forces to maintain momentum and push them back across the DMZ.
In preparation for the assault, B-52 strategic bombers dropped countless loads of explosives on suspected PAVN positions. Meanwhile further south, American transport aircraft dropped pallets of supplies to supply the Marines that would soon be on the ground. Supported by A-4 Skyhawks and F-4B Phantoms, the Marines inserted via CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters on the morning of the 15th of July. Landing in two drop zones, the first wave of Marines inserted quietly, with the second wave coming under sniper fire from PAVN forces. It was the third wave, though, that represented the first significant losses of the operation. While trying to land in the dense jungle, two CH-46s collided with each other in mid-air and crashed. When a third took evasive maneuvers to avoid them, it hit a tree and also crashed. Later, another helicopter was hit by PAVN anti-aircraft fire and went down in the same area. What was previously known as the Song Ngan Valley had become known, to the Marines of Task Force Delta, Helicopter Valley.
Despite the dark beginning, upon reaching the ground Marines immediately began executing both the task to take The Rockpile and to deny enemy movement through the trail-heads. Movement through the low-ground of Helicopter Valley towards the trail-heads was fairly quick, but those moving to take The Rockpile were hampered by dense, wet vegetation, and progress slowed. Meanwhile, by that evening Marines from the force moving through Helicopter Valley had been surrounded by PAVN forces, and were forced to employed artillery and fast air fires to drive the aggressors off. To reinforce this beleaguered force, the movement to The Rockpile was abandoned and those Marines moved to aid their comrades. By that night, both groups were under fierce PAVN attack, and fighting devolved in some cases to hand-to-hand combat. Despite this, the Marines again held their ground and pushed the North Vietnamese back, inflicting significant casualties in the process.
To compensate for their casualties and delayed progress, another battalion of Marines was deployed, while a reconnaissance force was inserted onto the top of The Rockpile. This capability proved invaluable, supporting surrounding allied efforts by reporting artillery targets throughout the battle. With this support firmly established, the Marines were able to consolidate their forces and establish a blocking line and an assault force, and began moving towards their new objectives on the afternoon of 18 July. As the Marines attempted to bring the fight to the enemy it was instead the PAVN who brought the fight to them, attacking the rearguard which had been left behind to destroy the CH-46s that had been downed in the previous days. Faced with around 1000 charging PAVN soldiers, the Marines held the line, but not before they took around 50 casualties. After having finally driven off the assault through the use of danger-close conventional and napalm airstrikes, the Company was able to withdraw, with both their Officer Commanding and First Platoon Commander being awarded Medals of Honor. The main Marine force was recalled and set up another block to turn back the large PAVN force.
The following week saw many smaller engagements, generally initiated by PAVN forces, and often following procedure first involving artillery and mortar strikes, followed by a fierce assault, then withdrawal. While this frustrated some American commanders, the casualty count was overwhelmingly in their favor. By the end of the month, the bulk of Task Force Delta would be withdrawn from the Area of Operations, predominantly due to poor terrain for helicopter insertions. However, reconnaissance patrols would continue to operate in the region, and the outpost at The Rockpile would continue to be an important artillery observation post. By 3 August, patrols found that the 324B Division had seemingly retreated back across the DMZ, and Operation Hastings was officially brought to an end. Despite at times heavy losses, the Operation proved a tactical, operational, and strategic success for the United States, and was instrumental in the adoption of several new tactics and techniques.
Over on the ‘Nam Facebook Group someone put together list of books they had read about the Vietnam War. This kind of background reading from the period is great for helping you get into the mood of the setting, learn more about the events and battles of the Vietnam war and can even help you get some inspiration for building a ‘Nam force. We decided to put the list up here for more people to see:
Pleiku – The Dawn Of Helicopter Warfare (J.D. Coleman)
Incursion (J.D. Coleman)
A Life In A Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam (James Ebert)
We Were Soldiers Once… An Young (Lt. Gen. Hal Moore & Joe Galloway)
Wings Of The Eagle (Gary Linderer)
Chickenhawk (Robert Mason)
Platoon Leader (James McDonough)
Warriors (Robert Tonsetic)
The 13th Valley (John Del Vecchio)
If you’ve got a book about the Vietnam war you think should be on here feel free to jump into the ‘Nam Facebook Group and share it.
With Shane Lindley
It all started one rainy day back in April. I was enjoying the latest podcast for No Dice No Glory on my daily commute to work and listening to my good friend, Tom Mullane espouse the latest version of Flames of War: Nam. Little did I know that one hour and twenty-six minutes later, it would be another project that I had become inspired to undertake.
A few texts here, and a bit of Googling there and the plan was set. I would be putting together the American force, while Tom would seek a more enlightened Communist path, building an absolute horde of PAVN.
This was not my first foray “In Country”. A few years ago I took advantage of Battlefront’s 40% off sale on the Vietnam model range, and had bought small starter forces for both PAVN and Americans (Because, Huey’s!), but suffering from another case of shiny model syndrome, meant they had sat waiting on the shelf until their moment for battle came around. That time was now, but first I’d have to establish what other models I needed to properly field my army.
Being something of a wargames butterfly, I knew I wanted a force that was varied, as well as fitting in with the picture of a typical American company in Vietnam that I had envisioned. This meant I would take an infantry company at the core of my army. I couldn’t resist bringing them to the fight in Huey’s, so I took a few helicopters to transport them too.
One of my favorite scenes in Full Metal Jacket is the infantry advancing on the city using the tanks as cover. I wanted enough armor in my list to make a difference, but not so much that it became the central theme of my list, so I opted for three Sheridan’s. With a few different tank options to consider, they seemed the most tactically flexible to me – well armed but cost-effective from a points value perspective. I’d envisioned using them as a handy threat to keep in reserve, hoping they could use their speed to get to where the action is fast
Until the Sheridan’s arrived, however, the infantry would have to rely on calling in artillery support when coming into enemy contact. This would come in the form of a squad of mortars and a battery of 3 105mm gun pieces. I knew I’d be facing large amounts of enemy infantry and having the ability to drop a couple of artillery templates on them would be an effective countermeasure.
Continuing to enjoy the benefits of Free World firepower, I rounded out my helicopter contingent with a couple of gunships. I already had a Hog, which I would field as a Gatling-armed copter, then added another Cobra.
The final piece of air support I took was a pair of Skyhawks. I love the models, and again, chose them because I find them emblematic of the Vietnam War. I just hoped that I’d have better luck with them than my German Stuka dive-bombers in Mid-War!
With the army selection done, and models ordered (taking advantage of Battlefront’s great promotional offer!) it was time to start painting. With such a varied force, choosing which historical division to base them on was a tough decision – I did my research and pondered on whether I wanted to field the army as Black Horse, Electric Strawberry or even something else. Eventually I decided to let visual aesthetic win over historical accuracy and made a mixture, basing units in a way that would represent a truly combined arms force.
Some people may frown at this, but if I embark on a new project that I am determined to see through to completion, I make myself a chart that tracks various stages of progress. You can see an example of the one I used to build this army, below. I find that not only does breaking the process down into manageable chunks make progress seem more achievable, but also checking a box off each time I complete a milestone becomes a satisfying reward unto itself. It may not be for everyone, and I’m sure it seems quite a rigid process to some, but I do find the results beneficial.
The infantry were the most complex minis to paint – who knew adding three different colors of blobs onto a hundred or so helmets would take so long! The extra time it took was certainly worth it and I found the final result rewarding. The sculpting is incredibly detailed. As I moved through the painting line, I was delighted to see little details on the webbing, and the quality of the guns.
Special mention has to go to the Special Forces unit that I included – there were only 12 of them so I decided to try something a little special that I’ve never attempted before on a mini of this scale. Looking at a lot of historical images for reference, I noticed that “the men with green faces” had noticeably defined eyes, so I attempted to paint them – a task certainly not for the faint of heart or shaky of hand! The results were mixed, but I got a couple to look good, and they all pass the three-feet test on the tabletop!
Clothes may make the man, but a good base makes the miniature. With everything painted, and the infantry attached to their bases, I set about adding textured pumice gel to give a dirt effect, followed by a custom flock recipe I concocted specifically for the occasion. Having amassed a wide collection of flock, static grasses and ground texture over the years, I like to create my own mix for new armies, so I mixed four different types together, and applied it liberally, followed by some judiciously placed tufts.
Starting the project in February and continuing at a fairly relaxed pace of a few nights every week, I’ve just been able to finish the project by the beginning of the summer – roughly five months. The miniatures are now ready to play their first game against Tom’s PAVN. Although, the idea of painting my own Vietnamese force does sound appealing. And I do think some APC’s would be a good addition. On to the next project! ~Shane
With Alan Graham “Operation Buffalo was a motherf***er” , … Cpl John D. Musgrave, Medically Retired (Rifleman, 3d Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 1967-1968)
Operation Buffalo saw the worst casualties inflicted upon a single Marine Rifle company in a single day throughout the entire Vietnam war. B Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines which had started the day with approx. 150 men, lost 60 KIA, 60 WIA leaving less than 30 troops fit for duty.
Background Just south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone or the Dead Marine Zone as the Marines themselves called it), Con Thien was a United States Marine Corps base intended to form a strongpoint on the McNamara Line.
The McNamara line was supposed to be a wide (approx. 600m) protected strip of land that stretched several miles from strong-point to strong-point containing obstacles, minefields and sensors and was constructed to prevent the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) from infiltrating large forces across the DMZ. Construction started in the Spring of 1967 and actually limited the Marine’s combat activity due to the resources required to build this defensive system. This area was known as Leatherneck Square because of the Marines situated in the surrounding bases at Con Thien, Gio Linh, Dong Ha and Cam Lo.
The 324B NVA Division had tried several times already to infiltrate across the DMZ and the Marines had managed to thwart these attempts formulating a series of operations including Operation Hastings, Prairie I-IV, Cimarron to name a few and, at the beginning of July 1967, Operation Buffalo.
2nd July Early morning, Companies A and B of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines headed North on Highway 561, moving in parallel to each other at about 1000 metres apart. As B Company were close to a set of ruined buildings (known by the Marines as ‘the Market Place’ or just ‘the Market’) they made contact with the 90th Regiment 324B NVA Division and began to take sniper fire. As they responded by pushing forward to find the snipers the Marines were being sucked even deeper into an ambush and the enemy fire intensified. This was then backed up by coordinated enemy mortar and heavy artillery (from across the DMZ). The NVA also used flamethrowers to set alight to terrain, forcing the Marines back onto the road and exposing them to their fire. A Company who were slightly further West had tripped two booby traps which had slowed them down and now they were taking fire themselves as they were trying to get to B Company. B Company’s Staff Sergeant Leon R. Burns called in air strikes which slowed and disrupted down the enemy, “I asked for napalm as close as 50 yards from us, some of it came in only 20 yards away. But I’m not complaining.”.
Click on the maps to see a larger version of them.
Back at Con Thien, the Command Post was listening to the battle as it unfolded and a first reaction rescue force was hastily assembled consisting of two forces, one from Con Thien which was made up of D Company and a platoon of four M48 tanks, the second was C Company (in Dong Ha) and would be helicoptered in to help. The Con Thien rescue force soon came under fire as it approached the cut-off troops but they managed to fend off an NVA unit that was trying to encircle B Company with some help from helicopter gunships. As C Company arrived on their LZ they to immediately came under heavy artillery fire and 11 men were wounded.
Despite the casualties the combined rescue force pushed on and soon met with the remaining Marines from B Company and started to organise a withdrawal. As many of the dead and wounded as possible (but not all) were brought back and were loaded up on the tanks, who then despite still being under attack from infantry and artillery set off South to the evacuation LZ. Two tanks hit mines which further slowed down their progress. Once at the LZ yet more artillery caused more casualties and in the confusion almost 50 people headed back on foot to Con Thien, eventually these were picked up in the Trace and headed back to relative safety.
More reinforcements were also arriving, K Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines which was the battalion’s Bald Eagle Company, on standby at Dong Ha to reinforce any battalion who was in need, were dropped by helicopter in the Trace and made their way North to support A Company.
A Company meanwhile still remained in contact with the enemy and after successfully medevac’ing its first set of casualties, found their LZ being mortared then assaulted. However, by holding a defensive position and with K Company and artillery support they held their ground until the evening when the enemy finally withdrew.
At the end of the day, the battalion counted the total number was 53 KIA, 190 WIA and 34 missing (eventually leading to a count of 84 KIA).
3rd to 5th July From the Combat After Action Report, Operation Buffalo, “…The NVA Forces appear to be fully aware of the Marine tradition to remove all wounded and dead from the battle field. Evacuation efforts were covered by enemy artillery, mortar and small arms-fire…”
More men were brought forward to recover the MIA. Companies I, K and L, 3/9 and a Battalion Landing Force 1/9 along with a couple of M48 tanks were moving back up to the Marketplace.
Continuous airstrikes the previous day had prepared for the attack, but heavy resistance was still met by the Marines, resulting in another 15 KIA and 33 WIA. Finally, there was relatively little ground contact and so the MIA could be searched for and almost all were found and returned to Con Thien.
6th and 7th July There were still several significant actions within Operation Buffalo, one of which was the establishment of a patrol base by Alpha-Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marne Division. This base was over 1km forward of the battalion line, just less than 2km South of the DMZ, in a hamlet called Thon Phong Xuan. While on early morning patrol A-C company discovered an unoccupied NVA Bunker complex which they then themselves occupied with a three-sixty perimeter and waited. Towards early evening, lookouts spotted approx. 400 NVA marching in column to the bunker complex and radioed ahead. The Marines then sprang their ambush and immediately caused significant casualties among the NVA, the rest immediately ran for cover to the sound of their bugle. The NVA soon re-organised and had mortar rounds coming down on the Marines, and were pushing forward through the bushes, and a series of repeated assaults were attempted which were pushed back throughout most of the night.
In one instance, Lance Corporal Stuckey’s crater was being attacked by the NVA who were throwing Chicom grenades into his position, Stuckey responded by picking them up and throwing them back, until one finally exploded in his hand and took it off. Unable to continue fighting. Stuckey initially refused to leave his companion but eventually had to pull back, and in doing so was shot in the leg and then concussed by more grenades before feigning death until morning where he was discovered and returned to relative safety. Lance Corporal Stuckey was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions. A-C1/9 then left the patrol base early the following morning and just 30 minutes after they had left the NVA started bombarding the base with mortar rounds.
8th July The last significant fighting took place South-West of Con Thien when G Company BLT 2/3 discovered a bunker complex, after taking a small amount of fire, artillery and air support was immediately called to attack it. The follow up operation still found some NVA continuing to fight, eventually the bunker complex was cleared with 2 Marines KIA and 29 WIA. G Company reported 39 dead NVA.
9th to 14th July There were no more significant ground operations, only harassing artillery fire.
The operation ended on the 14th July.
The Marines reported enemy dead at 1,290 KIA and 2 captured. Marine losses in contrast totaled 159 KIA and 345 wounded.
Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ by K.W. Nolan 1992
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