The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

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The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  Piers on Thu Jun 09 2011, 09:43




4th September 1967

Final confirmation that BLACKJACK is go arrived this morning. This would be the first operation in the new area of operations - The Ap Lao Valley. Since the bloody fight for Hill 228 back in March, the battalion was moved from Bing Doung Province to a quieter region. It gave the unit time to absorb the replacements and lick our wounds for a bit. Now six months later we are gonna drop right in on what could be little hornets nest. The Ap Lao Valley is used by Viet Cong supply units moving items south to other VC units. Most of the villages in the valley are VC supporters, though their are a few exceptions.

We go in tomorrow morning by helo. Landing Zone Zulu is a clearing in the jungle between Phu Noi 1 and Phu Noi 2, and was cleared by US personnel last year during previous attempts to tie down and destroy the VC. The opening phase of BLACKJACK is for the company to establish a base of operations. Zulu has been chosen as the LZ and also the site for the FSB in the valley. My platoon was picked to lead the assault and secure the LZ. Intel reported likely opposition to be weak local force guerillas, I just hope this is true.

I met with the squad commanders this afternoon and briefed them and the LRRP team on the operation. With the available assets for the next morning we can land the platoon in two waves and maintain gunship cover. We also have the guns of FSB Odin in support. The LRRP team is landing the area tonight and proceeding to the LZ by foot to provide ground support as we land.


- From the diary of Captain Hannigan


C Company are to move into a new location north of Saigon to interdict communist supply lines. They will establish a FSB in the locale and from their conduct sweeps of the area. 2nd Platoon under Captain Hannigan has been detailed to take and hold the initial LZ.





To conduct this assault Captain Hannigan has assembled three of his sections along with some of the men from weapons platoon. The platoon has six huey slicks for transport along with gunship cover and arty support in the form of six 105s.

Captain Hannigan with Medic, RTO, Observer, Blooper Grenadier, M60 Gunner and two ORs.

Sgt. 'Skip' McAffee leading 1st Squad split in two fireteams with one with an M79 Grenadier and the other with an M60.

Sgt. Walsh leading 2nd Squad split in two fireteams with one with an M79 Grenadier and the other with an M60.

Sgt. Bryan leading 3rd Squad split in two fireteams with one with an M79 Grenadier and the other with an M60.

Sgt. 'Tex' Wade leads the six-man LRRP team.




Meanwhile out in the valley of Ap Lao the American activity has not gone unnoticed and the Americans have failed to grasp how vital the area is. The valley forms a main artery for communist supplies moving south for the Tet Offensive. It has become a key lifeline for the Viet Cong in the south and must be held at all costs. The local commander has recently been replaced by Commander Cy Li and with him has arrived several platoons of main force VC from the 211th VC Battalion. Cy Li is a cunning commander having previously fought US troops in Bing Doung Province. When he arrived he improved and extended the local tunnel network and took time to lay traps around prospective LZs.

Cy Li has two VC platoons, one Main Force and one Local Force with some light mortars and a couple of MGs in support. Most of the local Force are also armed with bolt-action weapons or other older weaponary.





The first wave of US slicks touched down in the clearing without harm and the first three fire teams, each with an M60 gunner, dived into the grass. With no enemy fire the US troops picked themselves up and as the Slicks lifted off they began to spread out to cover the clearing and make for the treeline and some cover as the Huey Gunship circled above...








But the VC may not have fired but they had certainly arrived. The VC had emerged from their tunnels and ringed the LZ in several locations. As the US soldiers moved off and the slicks vanished, the VC opened fire. One of the VC MGs opened fire on one of the US teams moving towards a jungle trail and pinned them down. Then Sgt Skip and his team made a mad dash for the safety of the treeline. They had hardly moved when one of the riflemen trod on an anti-personnel mine killing him instandly and seriously wounding soldier. Undercover of their M60 and taking fire from VC units and another MG the unit was forced to fall back towards the rest of the US force. The Huey gunship let rip with a salvo of rockets into one treeline that killed several VC and then peppered one of the VC MG teams with gunfire but to little effect. All the US forces were under heavy fire and pinned down in the clearing. Luckily the LRRP Team under Sgt. Wade made a wide flanking move to try and get behind the VC along the edge of the clearing.













Now the second wave of slicks arrived along with Captain Hannigan. Three of the slicks landed in the clearing, while the slick containing Sgt. Walsh and his second fire team hovered above the southern village, seemingly to be looking for a place to land.





As more US troops leaped into action more VC fire erupted and the clearing was swept with gunfire from end to end. Several of the newly arrived fire teams went straight into action with one Blooper gunner firing a flechette round to clear part of the treelin and open a gap in the VC line. The US pushed the opening on the flank and one of the teams cautiously headed down a faint jungle trail. The LRRP team entered the village and brought fire onto another VC forcing it to pull out of the south village. This also had the effect of turning both flanks of the VC defence. Captain Hannigan set up a command point in the clearing and also called in a medevac to get his wounded out. Within moments of landing however the Forward Observer was hit by MG fire and seriously wounded. Captain Hannigan took over control of the arty support but failed to make contact with the battery.









The US now tried to push out of the clearing to the north, but the VC had also brought up more men and mortar fire began to crash into the clearing but with little effect. As the Slick carrying Sgt Walsh managed to land in the village his teams was able to move to attack the rear of the VC line. He didnt make it in time to stop the VC badly shooting up his other fire team leaving three of the men seriously wounded. The survivors edge back to wards the CP dragging their wounded buddies with them. The seeming respite that turning the VC line had offered was rudely ended with the VC funnelling several main force cadres to counter-attack the US troops.











Still unable to call in arty support Hannigan organised a defence around the wounded as the Medevac arrived. The first wounded were loaded on and as it lifted off another US soldier fell seriously wounded and a grenade trap killed another. Despite the confusion the US were organised enough to start returning fire, concentrating their fire teams on one VC unit after another as the gunship swooped in giving fire support. With the LRRP team and Walsh and his men attacking from the rear several VC cadres were cut down in a crossfire. Again the US pushed out with one of Sgt Byran's teams pushing into the jungle to turn the VC line at the other end.

They ran into three main force cadres waiting in ambush.

The first burst of fire from the VC shot down four of the US fire team and as the remaining two men blasted away with their M16s the other VC units assaulted their position. Within seconds the entire team was wiped out.








As the VC surged forward int the north, south of the clearing Sgt. Walsh and his team discovered a VC tunnel entrance, that was booby-trapped and seriously injured on of the men, so they lobbed some CS Gas and C4 into the hole to neutralise it. Hannigan still couldnt get through to the Arty... and the VC seemed massing for a counter-attack. With casualties mounting the US were on the ground but heavily engaged. The VC having suffered heavy losses among his local force troops but with their Main Force units reasonably intacted decided to pull back from the engagement. They had given the US troops a bloody nose and could now fall back and consilidate with other VC forces. His Main Force units would be key to a long campaign so the VC commander was wise to disengage to conserve his men.











So the battle ended and the VC melted away. The US, battered and bruised with several men killed had no interest in chasing them and started to dig in around the clearing and await reinforcements.



Captain Hannigan estimated a body count of around 50-75 Viet Cong, but losses in his command had been heavy and operation BLACKJACK could well be under threat before it has really begun... He had lost eight men KIA and a further seven WIA.



The first campaign game ended with a Viet Cong victory. They won within the turn limit on points with 85 points to the US 71 points. A small win but a well fought one all the same. It was a real knife-edge game with both sides gaining and then loosing the upper hand.

So Hannigan has secured the LZ but with seriously losses. Hopefully he will get some replacements before the next engagement!
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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  Piers on Thu Jun 09 2011, 09:43




Having secured Landing Zone Zulu at heavy cost, Captain Hannigan was now ordered to press on towards Hill 330, a suspected VC main base. He had received a few replacements to make up his losses from last weeks engagement, but he was still four men short in the platoon. However, with the LZ now under construction into a permanent FSB, he did have the battalion mortar teams on close stand-by.

Hannigan was ordered to move north, through Phu Noi 2 that had been secured by B Company, cross the Route Nationale 75 and head over a small stream towards the jungle treeline in search of a route to Hill 330. Captain Norris of B Company had tried in vain to push into the jungle further to the east and had run into several enemy held bunkers, and after taking several casualties and with night falling, had decided to withdraw back to the defensive perimeter. Hannigan is now tasked with driving a path through the suspected enemy positions - if they extend this far west.





Hannigans platoon elected to use a few Slicks to insert the command, the LRRP team and one of SGT. Walsh's fire teams onto the road while the rest of the platoon advanced on foot.

All went very smoothly. The slicks dropped off their human cargo with no problems and as the rest of the platoon moved up, nothing happened, though one soldier narrowly avoided a booby-trap. As the rest of the platoon crossed the RN75, Hannigan moved into the small hut beside the paddy-field to give himself a good vantage point of the treeline. As he did so a couple of mortar rounds came down in the rice fields, doing no damage. Still it remain silent as the rest of the platoon moved up...





Without warning a group of VC appeared behind the dyke of the Paddy-field. They were however quickly caught in a crossfire by several of the US teams and cut-down only injuring one US soldier in the process. With nine dead VC strewn across the paddy-field, Hannigan felt more confident and began to advance his men towards the stream. As they did so, all hell broke loose!







From in the treeline two hidden VC bunkers opened up, both spraying machine-gun fire at the advancing US troops, soon joined by Main Force VC firing all their weapons. As the US troops dived for cover and tried to return fire a number of men dropped to the ground hit. As the Huey gunship dove into to provide cover, it too took several hits from a 12.7mm HMG and with its weapons systems damaged and malfunctioning, was forced to leave the fight. With his men under fire Hannigan called in smoke, and the barrage landed along the treeline, giving the US troops respite from the gunfire. In this lull, several of the US teams were able to improve their positions and get into cover.







As the smoke cleared, Hannigan requested more... but failed to get through on the radio. Once again for most of the battle Hannigan would suffer yet another day of not getting through on the radio to his supporting arms. Without any support the US now tried to bring enough weight of fire on the bunkers to force a gap. As they did so, more VC sprang into life and two more MG bunkers opened up. Then Hannigan's command platoon took the full force of the VC line. Within a few moments, all but Hannigan and his medic were left dead or seriously wounded, only the grenadier managed to get a round off in reply and managed to silence one of the VC machine-guns. With the command squad dead or dying, Hannigan once again barked into the radio for support. This time he was answered by an ARVN air controller at a not too distant airbase. He promised to send some support asap!







Fortunately Hannigan's position was saved by the well placed fire teams of his subordinates. Sgt. Walsh leaped frogged his team either side of the paddy-field, while the newly arrived Sgt. McCambridge did the same down the centre of the paddy fields, his M60 team setting up a covering position for the rest to advance from the safety of the dyke wall. This base of fire was supported on the other flank by Sgt. McAffee's men who also got their M60 set-up and poured in fire as the LRRP team closed in and nuetralised the flank MG bunker. But losses still began to mount. In seconds all of one of Sgt. McCambridge's teams went down... But miracuously, all but one stood back up and resumed firing pouring fire at the enemy, but still the VC stood their ground and returned deadly fire.







Then, out of the grey morning sky the drone of an engine was heard. The LRRP team popped purple smoke onto the main reinforced MG bunker that had withstood all the US firepower just as the ARVN Skyraider zoomed into view... As AA fire arched towards it the plane came in low and fired off a complete salvo of rockets into the bunker. With a huge explosion it was obvious to all that several direct hits had been caused, and as the Skyraider peeled away, the smoke cleared to reveal the bunker completely destroyed. With this the VC fire began to lessen and their men slipped away from the battle. As the first US troops reached the bunker line, they found it deserted apart from a few corpses...








The second battle in the Ap Lao campaign was very close. The VC scored 50 victory points, and the US scored 51! The US suffered 3 KIA and 7 seriously wounded, again not a good day for Hannigan and his platoon, more losses to deal with. Once again the VC commander pulled out his Main Force troops before they were destroyed, though his Local Force units were wiped out.

The campaign results were varied. The Viet COng commander found that his Local Force were now 'disillusioned', probably due to being used as cannon fodder and this would go some way to countering his 'Improved Troops' bonus from the last game.

For the US, several teams qualified for experience. The result was a mixed bag. One of the teams got a reaction bonus, another failed to get anything and one of Sgt. McAffee's teams was to be found suffering from combat fatigue. Not a great result for a hard fought encounter where once again Hannigan had little artillery support due to his dodgy radios!

Results so far...

Game One - VC Major Victory
Game Two - US Minor Victory



As the game ended with a US victory (just) the US forces were able to link up with an advancing US armoured column heading from the West...

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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  cthulhubruce on Thu Jun 09 2011, 11:13

.............................................................. Flag

and that......................is an after action report........!

excellent, looked like a lot of fun!

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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  Ironwolf on Thu Jun 09 2011, 18:13

wow...............

that is very impressive

rik

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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  BloddshotDAVE on Thu Jun 09 2011, 19:58

very nice report.
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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  Velsharoon on Thu Jun 09 2011, 20:18

Nice terrain and models, you guys have a great setup. Cant wait to get my hand on a copy of FoF!

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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

Post  johnkell on Thu Jun 09 2011, 20:21

As always great stuff
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Re: The Ap Lao Valley 'Operation Blackjack' - An Ambush Valley Campaign

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