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Bushrangers: The Flying Kangaroo

with Hauke Kolle

Although not nearly as numerous or famous as their American counterparts, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also operated helicopter gunships in Vietnam. While waiting for the bureaucrats in Australia to approve the purchase of gunship kits, the men on the ground traded beer for weaponry and modified the first gunship on their own. Thus, ‘Ned Kelly’, the first of four Australian gunships was created. They were piloted by airmen of No. 9 Squadron, RAAF, who were flying Australia’s UH-1H ‘Hueys’. The ‘Bushrangers’ provided the RAAF with the firepower to escort their medevac operations, along with the ability to directly support the infantry. The RAAF operated under quite restrictive rules of engagement, giving the infantry the impression they were not as brave as the American helicopter pilots (who they considered insane anyway!)

A Bushranger door gunner blazing away with his twin M60s.

For day-to-day operations, out of the four helicopters, two ships would form a ‘Light Fire Team’, with the third helicopter held on stand-by and the fourth undergoing maintenance. The ships would cycle regularly between the roles, to guarantee their safe operation.

A Bushranger gunship undergoing maintenance. Notice the pylons’ forward positioning on the ship and the dual M60 gun mount for the door gunner.

Whereas the Americans mostly used the smaller UH-1B and UH-1C before introducing the AH-1 Cobra as a dedicated gunship, the Australians also converted the UH-1H, which was a transport-helicopter with a more powerful engine than the earlier D model. It was able to carry the same armament as the older models with ease, consisting of two M134 7.62mm ‘Miniguns’, each mounted beneath a pylons on either side of the aircraft and two M157 2.75″ 7-Tube rocket pods mounted beneath the weapon mounts of the two door gunners’
twin-M60 machine-guns. Yes, twin M60s! However any meaningful transport capacity was lost, since the passenger compartment was filled with ammo boxes for all those guns.

Looking at images of the different gunships you’ll notice that the miniguns aren’t always mounted in the same place. Some images show them mounted just behind the cockpit, while others have them mounted at the helicopter’s ‘waist’. You can find images of ‘Ned Kelly’, a UH-1B and the first Bushranger on the Australian War Museums excellent website and see that it carries all of its armaments in this compact manner. The H-model Huey gunships have their miniguns mounted on forward pylons, for easier ammo supply and less interference with the door gunners.
(For a short history of No. 9 Squadron, RAAF in Vietnam see:

How to make your own UH-1H ‘Bushranger’ gunships
Battlefront doesn’t offer a complete kit to build the slightly bulkier gunships based around the UH-1H, but we will not let that stop us. If you’re playing ‘Nam and/or Team Yankee, chances are you will have some of the spare parts needed for our little conversion on hand, anyway, or know someone who does. If not, take a lesson from history, grab a case of beer and find a US air base near you and do a trade!

What you’ll need:
1x VUSBX17 UH-1 Huey Aviation Platoon (Plastic) -OR- TUBX07 Huey Helicopter Flight (Plastic)
From this you’ll need the entire kit. Pay particular attention to the M60s!

VUSBX16 AH-1 Cobra Gunships (plastic) -OR- TUBX05 AH-1 Cobra (Plastic)
The Cobra sprue comes with 2 M157 rocket pods. If you know Team Yankee players who own Cobras, you might want to ask them, as they usually don’t use the small rocket pods for their 80’s-era gunships (they usually pack the larger, enclosed pods and TOWs).

1x VUSBX07 M113 Platoon -OR- TUBX03 M113 Platoon (Plastic)
From this sprue we’ll need the M134 ‘Miniguns’. Each M113 plastic sprue comes with one minigun, so we’ll need four sprues – the exact contents of a platoon box. If you plan on running ANZACs in ‘Nam, you can use the M113s for that (and since ANZAC M113 use special turrets, you won’t even miss the miniguns). If not, you might want to ask around for the bits.

For one Bushranger you should have these components ready: 1x Huey sprue, 2x M134 Minigun from the M113 sprue, 2x M157 rocket pod from the Cobra sprue, a modeling knife, a pair of pliers, some modeling putty. Not in the picture: some glue and a bit of water to dip your modeling knife into while modeling the pylons and mountings.

To get started all you need to do is build your UH-1 Huey as normal, but leave out Step 11 for now (adding the door gunners).
NOTE: I highly recommend priming and painting the door gunner models separately, paint the helicopters interior first and then glue them in, after.

Conversion #1: Twin-M60s and rocket pods
When assembling the doorgunners’ machine-guns, attach a second M60 to the gun mount, parallel to the first one. You can do this one of two ways. Method one: File or clip off the mounting of one M60 (I suggest the one with the grip modeled). Then file of the pins on both M60s, so they are easier to glue together and combine them into a twin-M60. Attach the twin-M60 as normal.

Alternatively you can clip of the mounting of both M60s, file off the pins, glue them together and then re-attach the mounting in the center and glue your twin-M60s in the middle of the mounting.

Then, add the armament to turn it into a gunship! The rocket pods are mounted beneath the door gunners’ M60 mounts. (Note: I used metal rocket pods from an old kit for my conversion, but going with the new plastic ones is even better, as they are easier to glue to the other plastic parts and weigh less.) The 7-rocket M157 rocket pods were later upgraded to 19-rocket M200 rocket pods; so if you want to use those, you absolutely can!

Conversion #2: Miniguns
The miniguns are a bit trickier to do right. The easiest way would be to simply file of the pins of the guns and glue them directly to the sides of the fuselage. However, ideally you model the pylons (sometimes called booms) and their mounting. The mountings you can attach with the model still on the sprue; put a bit of modeling putty beneath the windows, between cockpit and transport compartment. Dip the blade of your modeling knife in a bit of water (so the putty won’t stick to it) and cut away the excess putty. Then, use the pliers to carefully model two rails on either side of the mounting. Finally flatten the central portion, where the pylon will be attached later on.

The pylons can easily be made out of modeling putty like green stuff. Simply roll a small amount of putty into cylinders, 1-2 millimeters in diameter and 6-8 millimeters long. While the putty is soft, use the plastic minigun bits to form a socket to glue them into, later. The miniguns need to ‘hang’ down from the pylons’ tips. Once the putty has hardened, glue on the miniguns. They might not fit perfectly. In that case just glue them on and fix any open cracks and crevices with a bit of modeling putty.

For a final touch you might want to clip down the rear of the miniguns a bit and add the ammo belts. For these I once more suggest using modeling putty. After mixing it thoroughly, form a small ball of 1-2mm diameter (to get the right mass) and then roll it between your fingers, until you have a thin line. The ammo belts attach to the outer side of the miniguns and feed back into the helicopter through a slit in the door. I modeled mine slightly wrong (feeding around the door and to the inner side of the miniguns…), so keep an image of the correct ammo belt handy at all times!

To make modeling a little easier, use a hobby knife and pliers. Before modeling, dip these into water, so your freshly modeled ammo belts won’t stick to your tools. Use the pliers to flatten the top and sides of the ammo belts. When everything has thoroughly dried (over a few hours), prime and paint your new light fire team.

Painting the Bushranger
I am not much of a painter. Gaming takes clear preference for me, however I offer you this guide for painting the bushranger, so you have something to go on. I have no doubt, that your models will look a lot nicer than mine!

For most of the process you can follow the painting guide for helicopters in ‘Nam (pages 203 and 207-208) and this video guide for painting the Cobra

First I primed the model. I had glued everything together in one go, so that included the doorgunners. I painted the hull in olive drab (Vallejo Model Color 70.887 Brown Violet) and then drybrushed the model lightly with a mixture of VMC Brown Violet and VMC 70.886 Green Grey, to add some wear and tear.

Next I painted the helicopters interior and the rocket pods with Vallejo Game Color 72.050 Cold Grey. If you have VMC London Grey available, use that. Then I painted the windows (except for the one on top) with VGC 72048 Sombre Grey. A slightly darker fit would be VMC Luftwaffe Uniform or Colours of War Luftwaffe Blue. The top windows I painted with VMC 70923 Luftwaffe Camouflage Green, since I did not have the recommended VMC Flat Green available. You can see that I had a little accident with one of the windows; that’ll be cleaned up later.

The Hueys upper nose and the doorgunners’ boots then got some black paint. I used VGC 72051 Black, as I didn’t have the VMC variant available. All things metal then got painted with VGC 72155 Heavy Charcoal (alternatively VMC Worn Rubber).

Now the door gunners got their uniforms painted with VMC 70924 Russian Uniform, except for gloves, helmet and chest plate. Time for details. I started with the door gunners, painting their faces with VMC 70955 Flat Flesh. They later got a bit of Army Painter Strong Tone quickshade for added depth.

The rocket pods got light grey highlights and were done. Miniguns, ammo belts and M60s got highlights with VGC Cold Grey, then were dry brushed with VMC 70863 Gunmetal Grey. All windows and any surfaces I wanted to apply decals to got a coat of Vallejo Gloss Varnish 70510.

For a bit more shading I applied some Army Painter Strong Tone wash in the crevices. Finally I cleaned up any areas I had botched earlier with a fine brush and a steady hand. Almost done.

Decals and markings
Of course you’ll want to use the ‘RAAF’ decal instead of the US Army one on the tail boom. Place it roughly in the middle between the tail fins and the point where the tail attaches to the main compartment. Place the flag (red-white-blue) on the tail fin, directly above the area where it attaches to the tail. If you feel brave and have a steady hand, pick a very fine brush and some black paint, to paint the kangaroo onto the tail. Don’t worry, it’s a lot simpler than it looks.

When you paint the bright coloured rotor blades and tail fins do yourself a favor and carefully prepare them with a sand-tone base coat first. This will bring the colours out a lot brighter and easier (although you will still need a few layers for a nice, even look). I used VGC 72006 Sun Yellow and VGC 72009 Hot Orange, because I did not have the VMC alternatives at hand.

You’ll find images of bushrangers in various states online, some of them no “Danger!”-arrows on the tail boom, some have two broad stripes on one rotor blade, others have a single rotor blade in bright yellow, to mark their position to aircraft higher up. You can paint them as I have painted them or research your own variants for more variety!

One last thing
The Bushrangers have no official Unit Card and no entry in the force organization plan. The simplest solution is to just use the models as a stand-in for a US Gunship Aeroweapons Platoon (page 83 of ‘Nam) taken as a US Allied Support Unit. This Unit can have no more than two helicopters, neither of which can be upgraded to become Gatling Gunships. I created a Unit Card myself, if you want to use that.

Special thanks to Battlefront and my friend Emanuel, who sponsored the parts I lacked for this conversion!


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‘Nam Downloads

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.

‘Nam Quick Reference sheet – Two A4 Sheets

‘Nam Quick Reference Sheet pdf Download (right click save as)…

‘Nam Victory Points sheet – One A4 Sheet

‘Nam Victory PointsSheet pdf Download (right click save as)…


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Operation Hastings

With Carsten MacLean

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.



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‘Nam Recommended Reading

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.

Click here to go to the ‘Nam Facebook Group…

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Building a US Army for ‘Nam

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!

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Operation Buffalo

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.

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.

For an old US News Archive about Marine life in Con Thien see here…

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.

Click here to See Vietnam Tankers – Operation Buffalo Tank Crew Reunion interview for a fascinating first hand description of their actions that day…

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.


  1. Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ by K.W. Nolan 1992
  2. U.S. Marines In Vietnam: Fighting The North Vietnamese, 1967 by Gary L Telfer; Lane Rogers; V Keith Fleming.…
  4. Vietnam Tankers, Operation Buffalo, 2nd July 1967,…


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Hanoi’s Saigon Front: Vietnamese Forces in the Battle for Saigon

by Dave Wiggins
The People’s Army of Vietnam viewed the area around Saigon as critical to winning the Vietnam War. Their B2 Front commanded the North Vietnamese forces in and around Saigon and the Mekong Delta. The battles there were tough and hard fought. Both sides made major offensives like the American Operation Cedar Falls and the North Vietnamese Tet offensive, but neither side was able to decisively beat the other in combat. In the end it was the North Vietnamese willingness to take casualties and keep fighting that won the war for them after the United States finally withdrew from Vietnam after seven long years

The Forces of B2 Front
During the first stages of the war, the forces in the south were largely from the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) of the National Liberation Front (NLF). These were known to the South Vietnamese as VC or Việt Cộng, a contraction of Việt Nam Cộng-sản (Vietnamese communist). American soldiers referred to communist forces in general, both Vietcong and North Vietnamese, as Viet Cong. In 1965 B2 grouped its forces, supplemented by a big influx of regular army regiments from the North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), into three divisions: 5th, 7th, and 9th. These divisions were officially ‘Main Force’ PLAF divisions, disguising the presence of the PAVN regulars. The Main Force divisions were composed of three regiments, and each regiment had a designated combat speciality: mobile operations, attacking fortifications, or ambush operations, but were able to fight in any situation that might present itself. In addition to the three Main Force divisions, B2 Front also commanded up to 3 sapper battalions (assault commandos), 2 rocket artillery regiments, and an air defence battalion, and ‘Local Force’ guerillas operating at the district and village level.

Hanoi’s Saigon Front: Vietnamese Forces in the Battle for Saigon

B2 Front in South Vietnam
It can be very hard to find information on PAVN units, so I have summarised the main force divisions fighting under B2 Front. In late 1969, the Front also commanded three (4th, 7th, and 8th) sapper battalions, severa independent regiments, two rocket regiments, and an anti-aircraft battalion. By this stage the VC contribution had massively declined after three years of fighting the American forces and the losses in the Tet offensive. The main source was Chiangshan’s posts on
Sư Đoàn 5 (5th Division)
Formed Sep 1965. Operated in the Mekong Delta. Rebuilt with PAVN regiments after Tet offensive. These regiments had been formed for the First Indochina War against the French
Sư Đoàn 7 (7th Division)
Formed Jun 1966. Operated south of
the Mekong Delta. Created from 312th ‘Victory’ Division which then rebuilt its regiments as 141B and 165B.
Sư Đoàn 9 (9th Division)
Formed Sep 1965. Operated in the
Iron Triangle. First division formed in
the south. Created from independent
regiments. Suffered heavy casualties in Operation Junction City.
Trung Đoàn 4 (4th Regiment) until Apr 1968.
Name: ‘Đồng Nai’ (Name of province).
Trung Đoàn 33 (33rd Regiment) from Jul 1968.

Formed from 101B and 101C, 325th Division.
Name: ‘Trần Cao Vân’ (Anti-French leader).
Trung Đoàn 12 (12th Regiment)
Previously 165A Regiment, 312th Division
Name: ‘Lao Hà Yên’ (Name of province)
Trung Đoàn 1 (1st Regiment)
Previously 812th Regiment, then 271A
Regiment or Q761 of B2 Front
Name: ‘Bình Giã’ (Name of village)
Trung Đoàn 5 (5th Regiment) until Jun 1970.
Known to US as 275th Regiment
Trung Đoàn 3 (3rd Regiment) from Jul 1970.

Formed from 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment
Trung Đoàn 14 (14th Regiment)
Previously 141A Regiment, 312th Division
Name: ‘Ba Vì’ (Mountain range)
Trung Đoàn 2 (2nd Regiment)
Previously 272A Regiment or Q762 of B2 Front
Name: ‘Đồng Xoài’ (Name of town)
Trung Đoàn 88 (88th Regiment) from Sep 1967 to Sep 1968. Previously 88A, 308th Division
Name: ‘Tu Vũ’ (Name of village)
Trung Đoàn 174 (174th Regiment) from Oct 1968 Previously 174A Regiment, 316th Division

Name: ‘Cao Bắc Lạng’ (1949 campaign)
Trung Đoàn 16 (16th Regiment) until late 1967
Previously 101A Regiment, 325A Division
Name: ‘Trần Cao Vân’ (Anti-French leader)
Trung Đoàn 52 (52nd Regiment) Sep to Nov 1967

Previously with 320A Division
Name: ‘Tây Tiến’ (Western Progress)Trung Đoàn 209 (209th Regiment) from Jan 1968
Previously 209A Regiment, 312th Division
Name: ‘Sông Lô’ (Lô River)
Trung Đoàn 3 (3rd Regiment) until Sep 1968
Previously 3rd or 273rd Regiment of B2 Front
Trung Đoàn 3B (3B Regiment) from Oct 1968 to Sep 1969. Previously 88th, 5th Division

Name: ‘Tu Vũ’ (Name of village)Trung Đoàn 3 (3rd Regiment) from Oct 1969 Previously 95C Regiment, 325C Division
Name: ‘Nguyễn Thiện Thuật’ (Revolutionary)
PAVN divisions and regiments had a confusing variety of names. In part this was caused by the need to send reinforcements south to rebuild destroyed regiments. Regiments could be rebuilt with the letter B (or C or even D in some cases) after their number, or simply replaced with another regiment. As a result 33/7, 101/7, 101B/325, and 101C/325 all refer to the same regiment, which might also be referred to as 4/7 after the regiment it replaced.The Vietnamese also deliberately caused confusion by referring to units by different names, such as Công Trường 9 (Construction Site 9), a codename for the 9th Division.

Hanoi’s Saigon Front: Vietnamese Forces in the Battle for Saigon

The North Vietnamese were adept at concealing their true order of battle and the level of casualties they were sustaining. A continuous stream of replacement soldiers from North Vietnam followed the Ho Chi Minh trail south through Laos and Cambodia to replace on-going casualties. In the aftermath of major battles, whole PAVN regiments would be sent south to replace those lost in battle. These were replaced in the PAVN’s order of battle with new regiments with the same number, but with a B suffix, and on arrival in the south were renamed to replace the destroyed regiment. As you can imagine, this led to considerable confusion in American intelligence estimates which identified 308th, 312th, 320th and 325th PAVN Divisions as operating in the area


COSVN’s Strategy
The forces of B2 Front showed themselves to be fully capable of defeating the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) on the battlefield more often than not. Indeed, B2 Front’s dry season campaign of 1964 had as one primary objective the engagement and defeat of the most capable ARVN units, leading to the largescale intervention of the United States in 1965. Early defeats against the much better equipped and led US Army forced B2 Front’s leadership to re-evaluate their strategy.
General Tran Van Tra, commanding B2 Front, and his planners recognized that they could not expect to decisively

defeat the US forces in Vietnam. The US forces were more mobile, and could bring superior firepower to bear in almost any situation. Also, since the US controlled the skies of South Vietnam, resupply of B2 Front forces so as to maintain their combat effectiveness would be a considerable challenge. Thus, strategy shifted. Rather than fighting large battles to defeat US forces, B2 Front began a long war of attrition designed to inflict continuous casualties and ultimately demoralize the US forces

Hanoi’s Saigon Front: Vietnamese Forces in the Battle for Saigon

Despite appearances, the 1968 Tet offensive was not a departure from this strategy. While it was a large-scale offensive, both in numbers of troops and the area covered, they still avoided large battles whenever possible. The targets were individual towns, population centres, communications centres, and other important infrastructure. The speed and violence of the US Army’s response caught the Vietnamese off guard, leading to massive casualties, and ultimately another large influx of North Vietnamese regular regiments. Despite this setback, B2 Front’s strategy to end American involvement in Vietnam by making the Americans tired of the war and forcing them to leave Vietnam continued.

With the American departure in 1971, large-scale battles against the ARVN resumed, now supported by artillery regiments and even tanks. With these battles B2 Front was instrumental in bringing about the ultimate collapse of ARVN forces and the fall of South Vietnam.
~ Dave