The Battle of Binh Ba

Operation Hammer

6 June 1969

 

by W.S. McCallum

 

Binh Ba (Phuoc Tuy Province), 11.20 am 6 June 1969

 

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At 7.20 am a Centurion tank and its accompanying armoured recovery vehicle were passing through the village of Binh Ba, several kilometres north of the 1st Australian Task Force's base at Nui Dat, when the tank's turret was penetrated by an RPG. In response, the 1ATF Ready Reaction force was dispatched northwards and reached the vicinity of the ville by 11 am.

 

The Reaction Force's assault into the town is to be through the southern outskirts, where everything looks eerily quiet...

 

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A Bushranger helicopter scouting the vicinity is a portent of things to come.

 

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The fight

 

11.20 am

 

The Australian objective is to clear the outskirts and reach the far end of the central road by 1.20 pm so that the formation can push on to the town centre by 2pm.

 

Deviating from the assault in extended line formation that occurred in real life, the Australian commander decides on a spearhead assault parallel to just one road (but not along it, due to the risk of landmines 

 

 

 

 

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His immediate problem is overcrowding:

 

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Fortunately there were no VC RPG teams in the vicinity. A section is sent off to scout the intersection ahead:

 

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Not encountering any resistance, further troops and a couple of Centurion tanks advance to the road intersection:

 

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Two more Centurions advance and take cover in the trees on the other side of the road:

 

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Suspicious that the hooch adjacent to the intersection may be defended, the Bushranger helicopter conducts inconclusive recon by fire:

 

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Time's a-wasting. It is already 11.40 am. The recon section moves forward beyond the flank of the road intersection.

 

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More recon by fire from the Bushranger riddles the corner hooch with bullet holes and conclusively proves that the hooch is empty:

 

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A section moves in to search the hooch and its vicinity:

 

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A third section advances to search the barn on the far side of the intersection:

 

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The Bushranger does more recon by fire in the direction of the barn to see if it stirs anything up. There is no sign of movement:

 

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Two Centurions move forward while the Bushranger covers them:

 

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Having gotten themselves into position, the first platoon watches while a section moves forward to check out the barn:

 

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Contact!

 

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A detachment of the VC D440 Provincial Mobile Battalion catches the section in a carefully-prepared ambush:

 

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The section is wiped out. The VC commander now has two options: do they fight on and face certain death from the two Centurions pointing at the barn, or do they run away and try and dodge the Bushranger hovering overhead? The VC decide to do a runner:

 

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The response from the helicopter is immediate, but its gunnery is VERY erratic:

 

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Rather than being gunned down running away, the remaining VC stands turn and open fire at the helicopter:

 

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The Bushranger eventually finishes them off:

 

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It is now midday. The Australians move forward to secure the barn and are not taking any chances:

 

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Having finally secured the intersection, the second platoon on the far side of the road move forward:

 

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And the APCs move up:

 

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The other two Centurions cross the road ahead of the second platoon:

 

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And run straight into an awaiting RPG team:

 

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The round fails to penetrate and the team is machine gunned by the Centurion:

 

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The Bushranger's starboard gunner opens up on the rest of the VC unit accompanying the RPG:

 

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Spotting an opportunity, another RPG team concealed in the farmyard ahead of the hovering Bushranger decides to take a shot at the hovering Bushranger:

 

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Unfortunately they miss and the port gunner finishes them off:

 

 

The starboard gunner's aim is not what it could be, but he eventually finishes off the remaining VC behind the hedge blocking the advance of the second Australian platoon:

 

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The two Centurions behind the barn advance towards their objective, mindful of the fact that time is quickly running out. It is already 1pm. One of them triggers a VC landmine but it fails to cause any damage:

 

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More trouble: Another RPG team opens fire:

 

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And misses!

 

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The response from the Centurion is overwhelming:

 

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That's a KO for the RPG team:

 

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At this point the game ended because the clock had reached 1.20pm. Although in a commanding position, the Australians had not managed to secure their objective on time and were only 3/4 of the way across the table:

 

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The Australian player won on points, having managed to eliminate more units than the VC player, but it was only a qualified victory given his failure to reach his objective in spite of having overwhelming firepower.

 

In real life, the Australians used that force to clear a front twice the width and depth of that tabletop during the same time period. In retrospect, the idea of lining the troops up and sweeping a broad front was the right one for that initial advance. A spearhead assault just attracts the RPG teams like flies and leaves them with plenty of room on the flanks to hide in.

 

This game was an eye-opener for me. A classic case of hindsight: I couldn't see the logic of a broad sweep, but having done a spearhead assault; it did not really allow me to fully deploy my strength against a numerically inferior force. None of my APCs saw any action, and half of my infantry were not even in the firefight. And I am in awe of what the Australians achieved in 1969; they had very light casualties compared to what I experienced on the tabletop. Their level of skill and co-ordination is very impressive.

 

W.S. McCallum 18 April 2014

 

 

 

 

 

   

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