by W.S. McCallum
As part of a provincial search and destroy operation that has been running since January 28th, ROK and ARVN troops are moving northwards up TL 02-07, a few kilometres south-west of Anh Khé:
Reports from fleeing civilians are that a withdrawing Viet Cong unit occupied a road junction along the highway on February 27th. Aerial reconnaissance of the area was conducted by the USAF shortly before dusk that day:
There are no signs of VC from the air, yet the absence of any sign of local community life is indicative that something is up.
What lies up the road?
At 6 am on February 28th, a platoon of Tiger Division ROKA troops and a platoon of ARVN Rangers, with an ARVN tank and armoured car in support, arrive on the scene.
Their mission is to clear and secure the area as far as the road junction by the Blue Angel bar by midday....
While the armour waits on the start line, behind them the troops begin fanning out to secure the roadside:
The ROKA platoon cautiously edges its way through some woods to the left of the highway, and pushes up to the edge of a rice paddy.
While the ARVN Rangers deploy to secure the woods to the right of the highway.
The Koreans then cautiously send out a squad to cross the wide open expanses of an empty field.
The VC sniper lurking in a nearby ruined building waits until they are right out in the middle before taking shots at them with his rifle. The Koreans duck for cover but the fire is otherwise ineffectual. Seeing another squad advancing, the sniper decides to head for the hills.
The lead Korean squad pushes on to the far edge of the field and is about to duck into the adjacent rice paddy when they receive more fire, from another sniper.
Worse lies in store: a VC squad lying in wait in the old French farmhouse opens fire with its LMG.
While another squad that has hastily moved forward to occupy the ruined house waits to open up on the squads further back.
The leading squad loses three men to LMG fire and others are suppressed. In response, the Koreans call in artillery fire from a US battery of 105mm guns at Anh Khé.
The opening salvo falls marginally short of the farmhouse but demolishes a VC-requisitioned 2CV parked in the courtyard.
Back on the highway, the ARVN armoured car decides to move forward and crash through a road block....
... only to run into a VC land mine. After the dust has cleared, it becomes apparent there is no damage, but the shaken crew decides not to push its luck.
With progress along the road stalled, the ARVN Rangers decide to move up the right-hand side of the road and start clearing the area to enable to armour to advance.
Their resolve shaken, the armoured car crew decides to duck down a side road, only to expose themselves to fire from a 57mm recoilless rifle.
The result is a KO and the armoured car is left smoking.
While this is happening, the ARVN Rangers are cautiously moving through market gardens behind the houses, stepping carefully for fear of further land mines and snipers.
The Walker Bulldog begins by spraying the recoilless rifle team with MG fire.
It is not long before the threat is eliminated.
The ARVN Rangers are then stalled when VC 82 mm mortar rounds begin falling on them.
And a VC squad surges up out of concealment and opens fire. Unfortunately, their aim is too erratic and they find themselves under a withering hail of LAW, grenade, M60 and M16 fire.
The whole squad is wiped out and the VC flank collapses.
A VC forward observer lurking nearby brings down more 82 mm mortar fire on the Rangers in an attempt to halt their advance.
A VC squad makes a dash across the highway in an attempt to plug the collapsing flank.
A couple of stragglers are pinned down by MG fire from the Walker Bulldog as they attempt to cross the highway, but most of the unit makes it across the road to a hooch and sets up to lay down heavy fire on the ARVN Rangers.
Meanwhile, the view from the Blue Angel bar is not looking good: another ARVN squad is sneaking through a large paddy field, completely unimpeded.
Another squad joins it in the cover provided by the tall rice plants: they pivot and await orders to advance towards the objective.
The clock is now reading 10.30 am, and although the Free World forces on the right-hand side of the highway have a couple of squads within striking distance of the objective, they are out on a limb with no support. The Koreans, who have gone to ground in the fields on the left-hand side of the highway, are now ordered to attack.
They sweep past the sole survivor of the lead squad and press their attack against the French farmhouse. The bold gamble pays off: no fire comes from the ruined building to their flank.
The farm building is subjected to sustained M1 rifle and BAR fire which rips up the plaster walls and shuttered windows. The VC squad inside is decimated and the 3 survivors run for their lives.
Things then heat up as the ARVN hiding in the market gardens decide to break cover and move forward. The VC forward observer brings down more mortar fire on them, and the VC squad that took up position in the hooch opens up with LMG and RPG fire, which causes major damage.
An entire squad is wiped out.
To deter the Walker Bulldog from joining the assault, a VC RPG team opens up from the corner news stand. Two rockets miss and one bounces off, but it is enough to dissuade the tank crew from taking any further chances.
With a rain of mortar shells coming down on them, the ARVN Rangers are pinned down in the open and take losses. Unfortunately for the Free World player, the clock strikes midday at this point and the VC player declares a victory, although with only 1/3 of his infantry force left, and a mortar unit on the edge of the board, which ran out of ammo just as the clock struck 12. There is no doubt he would not be able to hold the road junction for much longer and the ultimate outcome will be a quick VC withdrawal into the jungle before the Koreans and South Vietnamese cautiously advance early in the afternoon, only to find the road junction deserted.
It was a very close game, with the VC hanging on by a thread and rushing units around frantically to plug holes, while the Free World forces were too hesitant in the early stages of the game due to a fear of sniper fire and land mines and should have pushed their numerical advantage and advanced more boldly. Their final rush in the closing stages was too little too late.
© W.S. McCallum 1st September 2013
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