by W.S. McCallum
Tet 1968 has proven to be an ugly surprise for the Free World with the ancient capital of Hue being taken over in a lightning assault by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units. On the south side of the city, the 1st Sapper Battalion has infiltrated and is now defending this area in depth, ready for an assault by various US Marine units thrown into the breach.
On the dawn of 1st February 1968, the city is quiet, but this will not last for long....
Various buildings are on fire and the effects of bombs and artillery fire have already been experienced by the southern part of the city.
There are no signs of movement in the streets as the sun rises. Civilians have fled and the VC have gone to ground, not wishing to attract attention from US air support.
The VC are expecting an American riposte from the MACV compound....
These empty streets are soon to be full of action...
This particular corner of Hue’s huge MACV compound is a hive of activity as the Marines are marshalled to clear the surrounding blocks.
In this sector of the assault, they have armoured support from 2 of the 4 M48s deployed on 1st February 1968.
House clearance proceeds from house to house, with one advance squad and tank working southwards and another advance squad and tank working westwards.
They have an eerie feeling that they are being watched, but the VC Sappers lurking in the shadows do not reveal themselves...
A third squad slips out of the compound and starts working its way through the urban maze towards the south-west.
More units roll out - there’s a lot of movement, but where are the Cong?
The feeling of being watched persists...
The M48s advance cautiously, expecting an RPG attack at any moment...
The Marine squad clearing in-between the streets keeps moving forward, expecting to draw fire from every new obstacle in their path.
The urban maze is so big that another squad is thrown in to clear houses.
The units advancing westwards are getting increasingly edgy too.
The units advancing on the southside are also getting jumpy.
The Sappers are showing great fire discipline as the Marines approach ever closer...
They choose their moment well, waiting until an M48 is right beneath them.
And then they open fire: The RPG team KOs the tank straight away.
The US Marines in support take cover at street level in the shelter of the buildings whilst trying to work out where the fire came from.
Meanwhile, the units to the north keep advancing, although they are aware that the shooting match has now started.
They too are about to run into trouble.
An advance team is hit by crossfire from the house in front of them and from nearby trees.
There are no survivors.
The Sappers’ fire turns to the Marines who were following them, who have ducked back into the cover of a building but still sustain losses.
The Sapper fire team in the building in front of them take the opportunity to make a hasty retreat.
The Marines however spot them and cut them down as they are crossing open ground.
Reinforcements are on their way...
Seeing the Marine units distracted by what is happening on their right flank, a Sapper fire team on their left opens fire....
... but is cut down by MG fire from the M48’s alert commander.
The Marines that sought shelter in the building are finding that it is not offering as much cover as they would have hoped: LMG and RPG rounds are now bouncing around inside - they decide to bug out.
Even as reinforcements occupy the now empty building in front of them.
Then the Sappers in the trees shift fire and began raking them:
The M48 moves forward to circle around behind the Sappers in the trees, wary of the building from which it drew rooftop fire.
The tank then makes a turn...
... exposing its flank to an RPG attack:
But the shot misses! The tank commander once again opens fire with his turret MG, taking out the RPG team:
All the while, the Sappers sheltering under the trees keep hitting the Marines who have taken up a forward position in the abandoned building.
They are not happy to see the M48 come clanking around the corner of the building.
But there is more activity on the M48’s flank:
A recoilless rifle opens fire....
.... but misses!
It only had the one chance to hit its moving target. The tank, now out of line of sight from the recoilless rifle, machine guns the Sappers lurking under the trees.
The Sappers lose most of their men from the tank’s fire....
... leaving just the squad NCO to run for his life.
By this point, with less than half of the allocated area cleared, and having lost one tank and slightly more than 20% of his Marines, it was clear that the US commander was not going to reach his objective within the timeframe allocated, so play came to an end. The VC commander, having lost just a small portion of his force, was clearly going to be too difficult to dislodge without further ground and air support.
It was a realistic result. The outcome of the game was similar to what happened in real life that day - the Marines had to regroup after taking heavy losses and it took them several days to clear the area in the vicinity of the MACV compound. I also ended my winning streak over the last 4 games that day so I now have proof that my scenarios do not always result in me winning
© W.S. McCallum
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