"How Many More Times" - A Vietnam 1965-1975 Game Diary

#1

How Many More Times

A Vietnam 1965-1975 Game Diary

“I’ll give you all I’ve got to give, rings, pearls, and all! I’ll give you all I’ve got to give, rings, pearls, and all! I’ve got to get you together baby, I’m sure, sure you’re gonna crawl!”

Please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow

How many more times?

Evidently, many.
Many.
Many times.

So I rhapsodized deeply about this game in an intro to a game diary that @Brooski and I began here in late 2016. And then real life happened. I got ill. Very ill. And began a long recovery I am still in the process of undergoing.

But regardless of how busy I am, with various other projects. Like The Operation Attleboro successor to Silver Bayonet, another Wargame project that is not ready for idle chatter, the Empires in Arms Play By Forum I am moderating, Qt3 Movie Club, rehab, doctors, and other real life nonsense this game calls like a siren’s song.

My friend Curt Chambers had a game slot open (he plays this game damn near professionally at this point, I think) and we started emailing and decided to play, yet again. I’ll try and convince him to sign up here at Qt3 and do this Game Diary with me, but if he can’t, or just decides to post AARs at BGG, I’ll certainly link those here.

Again? Why?

To me, a great historical wargame (or historical game, for that matter) is one that lets you create an Alternate History while playing it. Now this may vary for many people, depending on what depth of knowledge they have regarding that history. To paraphrase Joe Walsh the depthier you go, the complexier you get. The guy who read one 200 page book on the American Civil War needs less grit, depth and detail to envelop himself in a carboard created Alternate Universe than does the guy who has read many, many dusty tomes.

And Nick Karp? He makes me write stuff like this.

“Well, they call me the hunter, that’s my name! Call me the hunter, that’s how I got my fame! Ain’t no need to hide, ain’t no need to run! 'Cause I’ve got you in the sights …of my gun…”

Thread Bookmarks - Seasonal Turns

Can I Get a Witness. Pregame History, Point of Departure and Setup

Nowhere to Run. Politics, Policy, Plans & Contingencies, Exposition

The ‘In’ Crowd. Summer Interphase, 1965

I Can’t Help Myself. Summer Operations, 1965

Turn! Turn! Turn! Fall Interphase, 1965

Farewell, Angelina. Fall Operations, 1965.

Uptight (Everything’s Alright). Winter Interphase, 1965

California Dreamin’. Winter Operations 1965.

Love is Like An Itching In My Heart. Spring Interphase 1966.

Thread Bookmarks - In-Depth Answers to Poster Questions

Along Comes Mary. Question Prompted Primer 1 - Builds, Air, and Air Defenses

#2

Yum. Bring it :D

#3

Moar Exposition!

#4

Can I Get a Witness

Vietnam 1965-1975

1964 Pregame History, Point of Departure and Setup

“I love too hard, my friends sometimes say. But I believe, I believe, that a woman should be loved that way. But it hurts me so inside, to see her treat me so unkind. Somebody, somewhere tell her it’s unfair.”

Please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

Gaye, Marvin. “Can I Get a Witness.” , Tamla, September 20, 1963

Background

McNamara

After the US-instigated coup which toppled the Diem Regime, unstable and isolated in the throes of the Buddhist Crisis, various military governments had come and gone as the Republic of South Vietnam spiraled into chaos and paralysis. This allowed the Viet Cong to make significant gains in the countryside and encouraging the hawkish faction of the Politburo in Hanoi to push hard, committing North Vietnamese Troops to South Vietnam and ordering an escalation in attacks by the Viet Cong Main Force elements in the South. The hope was that the unstable regime in the South could be toppled quickly, pre-empting any deeper involvement by the United States to save its ally, South Vietnam.

Simultaneous to the above, in 1964, with tensions high as a result of US Covert and Intelligence activities in North Vietnam, an attack on a US Destroyer conducting Electronic Surveillance in support of these activities had resulted in President Lyndon Baines Johnson securing a “blank check” from the US Congress, regarding the future use of military force in support of its South Vietnamese ally.

So South Vietnam is destabilizing in steps, the North Vietnamese are escalating and the President is running for reelection, and wants to appear strong on Foreign Policy, is aware that if South Vietnam is to survive, it will likely need greater US involvement. But he doesn’t want his Campaign haunted by the specter of committing US Ground Forces to aid South Vietnam.

Point of Departure

However, this time, 1964, with no war wider imminent, is where our point of departure in this Cardboard-created Alternate Reality occurs.

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson had been offered four candidates to succeed Paul Harkins as Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Besides Westmoreland, the others were Harold K. Johnson (assigned instead to be Army Chief of Staff), Creighton Abrams (who was made Vice Chief of Staff), and Bruce Palmer Jr. (posted as Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations).

—Sorley, Lewis. Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011.

Westmoreland’s selection historically was no sure thing. He’d been thought by some to be the wrong man for the job, when selected.

Brigadier General Amos “Joe” Jordan made a valiant attempt to head off this appointment. He had heard that Westmoreland was being considered for the position. “I was so concerned about this that I went to the Secretary of the Army, Cy[rus] Vance,” he said. Jordan knew Vance well and felt that he could approach him on such a matter. He also knew Westmoreland well, having served at West Point as a permanent professor while Westmoreland was Superintendent. “I had extensive contact with him during those years,” Jordan told Secretary Vance, “and can tell you it would be a grave mistake to appoint him. He is spit and polish, two up and one back. This is a counterinsurgency war, and he would have no idea of how to deal with it.” Vance heard Jordan out, then replied, "Joe, you’re too late. We’ve already made the decision.”

—Sorley, Lewis. Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011.

So here, General Abrams was selected as MACV Commander for 1964, while Westmoreland was elevated to Army Vice Chief of Staff. This will dictate a different approach when the crisis occurs, and the US must respond. To wit, what I choose to do now, during setups, and far more so when the game actually begins, and I must decide a commitment strategy for the US in Vietnam.

Setup

Take a breath, get a drink, and then please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

Owens, Buck. “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail.” , Capitol Records, December 1, 1964

So Abrams’ strategy in building the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) is already starting to bear fruit, regarding how they will be constructed to complete my Setup. The way setup works is the Free World Allies (FWA- The Free World Military Forces, The United States and South Vietnam, aka Me) Player builds 100 South Vietnamese Supply Points’ worth of ARVN Forces and sets them up. Then I choose the ARVN Leaders.

Then the NLF Player (NVA and VC, Curt) then may place 90 VC Supply Points’ worth of VC units on the map along with four Political Sections (decoys, but they move, hurt Pacification and obstruct movement just like military units). He also gets a division of NVA troops that he may deploy on map anywhere in Laos or North Vietnam. This deployment of NVA regular formations is precipitating the crisis that will lead both sides to choose to escalate the war, by the way.

ARVN Setup

ARVN%20Supply%20Depot

Available:

100 SVN Supply

217 SVN Manpower

Builds:

18 INF BNs Augmented (6M/12S/12S 24S Total)

11 DIV Armored CAV SQNs (11S/11S 22S Total)

6 Independent Armored CAV SQNs (6S/6S 12S Total)

12 Independent Armored BNs (12S/12S 24S Total)

1 Airborne Brigade (1M/2S)

1 Marine Brigade (1M/2S)

4 105mm Artillery BNs (16S)

4 Replacement Point (1M/2S)

Total Spent: 9M/100S

My concept already revolves around building a strong ARVN from the start. Historically, the US neglected ARVN training and equipment until after 1968, focusing on the US taking the lead in combat operations after the commitment of ground troops in 1965. Abrams, here in 1964 is trying to get the South Vietnamese ready to fight for their country. The US will help and try to stay involved as long as possible to aid in crisis situations, but the ARVN must shoulder a load from the beginning.

Having said that, 100 Supply is about enough to just cover the Provincial capitals and large cities, but here is no choice in that matter. So, I build 18 Independent Battalions, 12 Armor Battalions, six Independent Armored Cavalry Squadrons, and augmented them. Here’s an example of Augmented versus Augmented (the values are Combat, Arty, Movement). I also built four Independent Artillery Battalions (105s) to just make sure I could cover enough places/have a bit of firepower in some more remote capitals.

I also built exactly one element from each of the ARVN’s 11 Divisions, the cheapest from each (usually an Armored Cavalry Squadron and a Brigade in the case of the Paratrooper and Marine Divisions, respectively). And these are built Unagumented. Why?

The ARVN Training/Leadership Strategy

The ability of the ARVN to actually do things each Season is dependent upon the quality of the Corps and Divisional Leadership. We’ll go into more detail later, but the lower those numbers, the greater the chance that the nice ARVN units you built can’t do anything but sit around each season.

But buying any element of a Division allows the Divisional Commander to be placed. If he stinks, that unit can be withdrawn and rebuilt the next season. When withdrawn the leader goes away and when rebuilt a new leader is drawn. This can be time consuming, but it prevents you from throwing good money after bad. So, by doing this in setup, I get to see which leaders are worth building a full augmented division under.

So, what about those leaders? All are randomly chosen and a 2d6+2 is rolled for loyalty (to the regime…more on that later).

My “Three Star Leader” (Head of Government) Nguyễn Cao Kỳ is pulled. This is haunting. In the last 6 or 7 games he has been pulled EVERY DAMN TIME. And he was historically the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam at this juncture. This is History teasing me. And haunting me. Ky gives a -2 to South Vietnamese Morale every Season and no effect on US Morale (more numbers we’ll talk about later).

Cao Văn Viên the Chief of Staff

Cao%20Van%20Vien

My Corps Leaders are a mixed bag. The Chief of Staff is great (important because he controls the Marine and Paratrooper Divisions as well as all ARVN Independent Artillery Units in Country). I and IV Corps leaders are good, which is where the greater amount of the population resides. II and III Corps leaders are atrocious. The Air Force and Navy Two Stars are there purely for regime Loyalty purposes when we see if a Coup happens in a season during the game.

Dư Quốc Đống the Parachute Division Commander

D%C6%B0%20Quoc%20Dong

My Division Leaders are a mixed bag too. The 1st, 22nd thru 25th, and Marine and Paratrooper Division commanders are fine. The rest…”meh” to “uggh”. Divisional effectiveness each season is determined by rolling 1d6. If the number is equal to or below the Division Commander’s Effectiveness Rating + His Corps Commander’s rating, he can do stuff. If not, they are ineffective and can’t do much of anything. So, if I keep these divisions where they are, about Four have a shot of doing anything. As well, I and IV Corps give the best chance for any operations at present. So I’ll have to do a combination of moving some divisions around, standing some Divisions down and working to replace the II and III corps commanders. Easier said then done. But it’s starting to look like I want to expand efforts in the Delta and up in I Corps (where most of the population is) tread water and use the Chief of Staff’s Divisions in III Corps to make up for the bozo of a Commander there and stay defensive in II Corps; holding on to the populated Coastal areas and giving the rugged interior to the VC…for now.

And the NLF setup reinforces my pre-conceived notions. I have no Idea what The NLF built. They just show up as hidden VC Counters. So let’s look at the maps shall we?

I Corps, the Communist Challenge

The NLF have put a lot of Strength threatening I Corps to start. The 1st PAVN Division is in Con Thien, threatening to roll South into Quang Tri Province. And I will be weathering a storm here.

II Corps is bereft of many VC at present, but they are there, in the hard to reach Southern Part. The II/III Corps “Seam” is always an issue.

IV Corps, the other Communist Challenge

Again, the NLF has gone light in III Corps, relatively speaking, but has invested units in IV Corps. As have I.

He is heavy in the Delta, keep an eye here, this is where it will get hot, early.

Next: Pre-Summer 1965, Commitment, Politics and Strategic Decisions.

“Well, I thought the day I met you, you were meek as a lamb; Just the kind to fit my dreams and plans. But now, the pace we’re livin’ takes the wind from my sails; And it looks like I’ve got a tiger by the tail”

#5

Fascinating @Navaronegun, let’s see how far can the old tanker push the ARVN.

#6

Yeah, fascinating is the word. Looking forward to more.

#7

Awesome.

#8

Note significant edits to the last post. I had failed to deploy my 6 Augmented ARVN Independent Armored Cavalry Squadrons. The NLF then got to redeploy after that correction.

Pro: Da Lat is not Captured by the NLF at game start.

Con: There will be a rumble in the Delta, and the NVA threatens to Roll South from the DMZ.

#9

Holy crap! I am SO in for this! Nice work!

#10

The amount of drool coming from my mouth is legendary.

#11

Eww. I mean I get it. But eww. :)

#12

I love this game so happy to see this Diary keep up the outstanding work.

#13

This is great!

#14

Nowhere to Run

Vietnam 1965-1975

1965 Spring Politics, Policy, Plans & Contingencies, Exposition

“I know you’re no good for me, but you’ve become a part of me. How can I fight a lover, that shouldn’t be, when it’s so deep.”

Please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

Martha and the Vandellas. “Nowhere to Run”, Gordy. February 10, 1965

Politics and Policy

As 1965 arrived, South Vietnam continued to unravel. When General Nguyễn Khánh, head of the Armed Forces Council, overthrew the current Prime Minister in response to continued Buddhist unrest, it was the fifth military coup or attempted coup since the downfall of Diem in late 1963. In response to the coup, National Security Council director McGeorge Bundy and Secretary of State Robert McNamara wrote a memo to President Johnson. They gave the President two options: use American military power to defeat the insurgency or negotiate thus attempting to "salvage what little can be preserved." Bundy and McNamara favored the first option; Secretary of State Dean Rusk disagreed. Johnson accepted the military option and sent a telegram to Ambassador Taylor in Saigon saying, "the U.S. will spare no effort and no sacrifice in doing its full part to turn back the Communists in Vietnam."

NLF military efforts and terrorist attacks continued with the Attack on Camp Holloway in February finally leading to US Airstrikes on North Vietnam, airstrikes that would be expanded and continued as the year wore on. Finally, in late February, concerns about attacks on US airbases in Da Nang, led General Abrams, the MACV Commander, to request the deployment of elements of the III Marine Amphibious Force (MAF-3rd Marine Division) in Okinawa to Da Nang to ensure that no attacks occur, or that they would be repelled.

Nguyen%20Cao%20Ky

In late-February, General Khan was overthrown by a vote of no confidence by the Armed Forces council (a Junta of ARVN Military Generals) after another coup attempt. After deliberations, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was named President (Head of State, a relatively powerless position) and Nguyễn Cao Kỳ was named Prime Minister (Head of Government, and in charge of almost all policy and military decisions). This gave Washington hopes, at least of finally having a stable government running the Republic of Vietnam, one that it could work with, but the military situation was precarious.

Conference

On March 26, General Abrams said in a report to Washington that the South Vietnamese armed forces had "begun to show evidence of fragmentation and there is no longer an effective chain of command”. He departed for Washington D.C. the next day for meetings with Secretary McNamara, Ambassador Taylor, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to determine exactly what was to be done regarding South Vietnam, and the President’s directive to use the military option.

As General Abrams boarded his plane in Saigon, he had one plan with three contingencies in his briefcase, that he had been working on with US Pacific Command and General Johnson, the Army Chief of Staff, that they would present at the meeting. Nothing in war is certain, he’d learned that first hand in France. But this plan might, just might have a chance of turning this thing around.

Plans and Contingencies

Operation Freedom Partner is the overall concept.

Lines of Effort:

  • Partner - The plan calls for an intensive expansion of the ARVN Military. Abrams knows that the ARVN Chief of Staff is outstanding and the I and IV Corps Commanders are good. As well, there are good division commanders in 1 ARVN Division, 22 ARVN Division, 23 ARVN Division, 25 ARVN Division, and the ARVN Marine and Parachute Divisions. These must be expanded and augmented with the latest military equipment.
  • US Focus - US Ground Troops are needed to deter NVA aggression in the north, but also to aid the ARVN in degrading Viet Cong Capabilities in the South. However, after degrading capabilities and clearing regional areas, ARVN forces, with limited US Combat assistance, must keep areas cleared of Viet Cong. So, the ARVN Leadership must continue to be reformed and ARVN Forces expanded. As well, One Corps, possibly two at the most, of US Ground Forces will be committed to country, with one Corps being the “Steady State” presence to aid the ARVN after the current emergency is dealt with and the ARVN reach full capacity.
  • Clearing - The Operation will begin with a defensive US Presence in the North and Central Highlands, but the commitment of the 101st Airborne (Airmobile) Division to IV Corps along with three Augmented ARVN Divisions there. One Division will be Augmented in I Corps along with a US Mechanized Brigade (1/5th Infantry Division) that will be arriving in Da Nang, replacing the Marines there who will re-deploy back to Okinawa. The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate), another Airmobile trained and equipped element, will deploy to II Corps from Okinawa, where is has been training for Airmobile Warfare. Finally, the ARVN Marine and Parachute Divisions will be expanded and augmented in the Saigon area to protect it from VC attacks, but also to engage in operations in III Corps as the year moves on.
  • Follow on Forces - for the US “Clearing Elements” will be the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
  • Holding and Overwatch – After IV Corps is cleared, the 101 Airborne Division, the 1st Air Cavalry Division and the 173rd will move to clear other areas of the country. A Light Infantry Division will be formed from three Light Infantry Brigades in the United States, and formed into the 23rd Infantry Division, “Americal”. This until will continue a presence in the North, aiding and providing overwatch to ARVN operations, and facing down attempts by the NVA to launch an attack there. The US Navy will prepare the I Marine Amphibious Force (1 Marine Division) for Operations in Vietnam and will eventually assume the Hold and Overwatch mission in IV Corps. By that time, the Clearing Force (I Field Force, Vietnam) should be limiting its operations to II and III Corps.

Army Reorganization and Activation for Holding and Overwatch:

The 197th Infantry Brigade, consists of a composite artillery battalion (105 mm and 155-mm howitzers and Honest Johns), an armor battalion, a mechanized infantry battalion, two infantry battalions. It is ordered from Fort Benning, GA to Fort Ord, CA…

The 11th Infantry Brigade (at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii) is ordered to prepare for deployment to South Vietnam.

The 196th Infantry Brigade is ordered to Fort Irwin, CA from its current home at Fort Devens, MA.

The 11th Airborne Division will be formed with it’s base headquarters as Fort Benning, Ga.

US Army Active Duty personnel and 4 Artillery Battalions (2 of 155mm and 2 of 175mm) are sent to Fort Irwin, CA and the US 23rd Infantry Division (“Americal”) is stood up there, though at present it still lacks any maneuver Brigades.

  • Support – Large amounts of US Artillery, Airpower and Helicopter support will be deployed to Vietnam to support these operations. The US Navy will endeavor to provide Riverine support in IV Corps to the ARVN and 1st Marine Division there. 5th Special Forces Group will deploy en masse to Vietnam, and full expansion of ARVN Ranger and Special Forces will occur soonest.
  • Sustainment – The Draft Call will be expanded for only 180 days. Three National Guard/Reserve Divisions will be called up to provide a “bridge” of battalions for the Overwatch and Deterrent forces in 1966. This will be a long war, better to rotate units in and out of theater to sustain operations by deployed Divisions rather than replace individual soldiers. The Marines will do the same with II and III MAF units in Okinawa and Stateside rotating under I MAF’s command. As well, a cadre of the 1st Air Cavalry will continue as the 11 Airborne (Airmobile) Division at Fort Benning, GA to have Airmobile trained units ready to rotate into theater.

Guard and Reserve Activations for Holding and Overwatch and Sustainment:

36th and 71st Airborne Brigades (TX NG) (to Okinawa, Japan) – These units will begin training in Airmobile Tactics and made ready for deployment to South Vietnam. Estimated Time on Active Duty – 18 Months.

30th Infantry Division (NC NG) (to Fort Benning, GA) - This Division will be held as a US Strategic Reserve, replacing the 1st Air Cavalry Division until the Draft can allow another US Active Duty Division to be mustered. Estimated time on Active Duty – One Year.

37th Infantry Division (OH NG) (to Fort Campbell, KY) - This Division will be held as a US Strategic Reserve, replacing the 101st Airborne Division. Estimated time on Active Duty – One Year.

63d Infantry Division (Army Reserve Division encompassing Army Reserve units in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.) (to Fort Irwin, CA) – This division will prepare units for rotation to South Vietnam in the next 60 days. Estimated Time on Active Duty – 18 Months.

There are three Contingencies for Freedom Partner.

Figure%201

Band Sapphire is the draft code name for the above and assumes a stable South Vietnamese government.
Better Silver is the draft code name for a contingency that deals with an unstable South Vietnamese Government. It is similar to the above, but increases the US Forces and decreases the ARVN Expansion at this early point.
Best Bauble is the contingency for an Unstable South Vietnamese Government or a Coup, coupled with a Communist Offensive. This involves committing the US Army’s Strategic Reserve from the continental United States (The 1st, 4th, and 25th Infantry Divisions). This is a “use only in emergencies” contingency.

Exposition

Take a breath, get up, stretch, get a drink, and then please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

James Brown. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, King. June 1965

These are the parameters of the Campaign Game.

This is how you win (or “win”).

This is the terrain chart.

Oh, on all counters the strengths are Ground Strength, Firepower/Artillery Strength and movement. The little number to the left of the Unit Designation in italics is the pursuit value of a unit. Oh, and the units with white boxes on their movement values are Heavy Equipment/Armored/Mechanized and can’t be “Airmobilized”. Don’t worry about all these things too much now, we’ll talk more about that another time.
This is an example smattering of US Units.

From Left to Right: the first four rows are a typical US Division (the 1st Infantry Division in this case). The HQ and Divisional assets followed by the three Brigades. The Brigades have three deployment profiles. At the top you see the unit as a Brigade. This rarely is utilized. Below that you see the Brigade HQ and three Battalions. This is the most usual deployment profile use by the US in the game. There is a third, parceling out the Brigade Artillery to the Battalions, but it is rarely used too. The fifth row are some other US Unit Types. Going down; a 175mm Independent Arty BN, Independent 155mm Arty BN and a Independent 105 mm Arty BN. The Artillery have ranges varying from adjacent (no dots) to three hexes (two dots). The dots are the number of hexes they can fire over.
Continuing, we have an Airmobile battalion, a Marine Battalion and an Airborne Battalion. The Airmobile Battalion (and it’s parent HQs) are permanently Airmobile. The move at a cost of ½ a Movement point per hex (with some weirdness for landing that we’ll talk about another time). The Airborne units use their feet; there were no airdrops in Vietnam. But any infantry unit can be Airmobilized at the cost of one point per Battalion. They come from a pool you purchase. Then they can move just like that Airmobile unit. The US is VERY mobile in this game
The last row are some example Free World Allied units. From top to bottom; South Korean, Philippines, Thailand, Australia and the ANZAC Battalion.

These are NLF units.

You see in the first row an NVA division, Unaugmented. Next an NVA Division, Augmented. They all look like that. The NVA also have independent Regiments that look like those 7-2-7’s but are 7-3-7’s.
The third row is a VC Division (yep, they had ’em). Bear in mind with ALL VC units, the US player just sees a blue counter with a yellow star.
Next row you see a Supply Conduit (more later), a Political Section (a decoy essentially, but they hurt pacification in a province just like any combat unit and inhibit enemy movement like a regular unit). Finally there is a VC Independent Regiment.

Lastly there are some examples of VC Battalions, the meat and potatoes of the VC forces. They are all randomized, there are more combinations of values similar to those you see in the force pool. When deploying them the NLF player grabs them at random and places them before seeing what they look like. He just knows it’s a Battalion. This creates a lot of variation in what the NLF player plans to do and what he ends up doing. Oh, and those little blue squares with the yellow stars? Those tell you in the Vassal Module, as the NLF Player that your unit is hidden.

Here we see ARVN Unit types.

The first two rows are typical divisions, unagmented and augmented. Next two rows are, going down, an Independent Armored Cavalry Battalion, an Independent Armored Battalion and an Independent Infantry Battalion, one row is unaugmented and the next augmented.

The last row has, going top to bottom, an ARVN Ranger Battalion (they are special, there are only five, but you can get from 0-5, if they are all built, added to any Search and Destroy Operation). And then you see an ARVN 105mm, 155mm and 175mm Artillery Battalion. They can’t be augmented, they are what they are. Firepower.

Vital Statistics

This is what I start at.

The first thing about this game that drives everything are two values. Commitment and Morale. US Commitment can never exceed US Morale. Same for North Vietnamese Commitment and Morale. Everything action involving; sending troops or supplies into Vietnam, Bombing the North, Invading Laos or Cambodia, costs Commitment or incurs a Morale penalty.

Morale is also impacted by new commitment, South Vietnamese Coups, NLF Battlefield successes…darn near everything.
South Vietnamese Morale goes up when the US commits herself to the war, provides aid, bombs the North. It goes down when bad things happen. South Vietnamese Morale being high is VERY important to pacification and population control and being low is VERY harmful.

The North Vietnamese Morale…just goes up.

VC have no morale, but all their “stuff” comes in the form of supply (bought with North Vietnamese Commitment) that is sent down the Ho Chi Minh Trail or via Sea Supply. And it can be interdicted and degraded while doing that. Also, the South Vietnamese and the VC need Manpower (using controlled population) to build their stuff as well as Supply (South Vietnamese supply comes from…US Commitment). But the South Vietnamese, when they run out of manpower, can’t build a thing anymore unless controlled population increases. The VC can also get Manpower (bought with North Vietnamese Commitment, again) and send that down the Trail.

These are the Build charts.

FWA

NLF

Oh, and all the US Commitment and Supply Decisions occur publicly. The NLF decisions are secret. You can kinda figure out what the NLF Morale and Commitment levels might be, but you are never sure.

The NLF “Politburo”, inaccessible to the FWA Player.

I think that’s enough for now. Just get the basics out of this. We’ll dive into the details later.

Next: What will the President say? What will He do? The Pre-Summer Seasonal Interphase.

“Come here mama and dig this crazy scene. He’s not too fancy but his line is pretty clean. He ain’t no drag. Papa’s got a brand new bag.”

#15

This is going to require more popcorn.

#16

My experience playing the NLF in this game showed me a lot of the dilemmas in their strategy- splaying out weak battalion sized forces is very effective in winning the pacification war and gives you the maximum benefit of the shell game of VC forces but it also allows the FWA player to have easier operations as they more rarely have to deal with strength and take fewer casualties. The importance of the pacification war is that it affects the controlled population and has a follow-on effect on SVN morale. Population is very important to the NLF player because they have a limited pool of manpower- they never run out, but eventually they start having to use more and more inefficient commitment exchanges to put down VC units once the SVN manpower runs dry.

The other approach is to put down bigger, fewer units- the bigger units are more dangerous and effective in offensive action. Offensive action is very important in this game because the NLF player is the one who actually has to win the game- they need to push down both US and SVN morale as the game goes on- if they don’t, the US will generally be able to work in a leisurely way and will not have to pull out.

You might see the deployment of few VC units in the Central Highlands- the reason for that is that it’s the easiest place for the VC to reinforce their position- they can much, much more easily place units near the border with Cambodia ad Laos than they can elsewhere(the commitment-supply conversion rate is much, much better on the Trail than by sea).

#17

The ‘In’ Crowd

Vietnam 1965-1975

1965 Narrative, Interphase Exposition and Summer Interphase Resolution

“We breeze up and down the street. We get respect from the people we meet. They make way day or night. They know the in crowd is out of sight.”

Please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

Ramsey Lewis Trio. “The ‘In’ Crowd”, Argo. Recorded May 13, 14 & 15, 1965

The President Decides

In mid-April, after two weeks of meetings with The Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ambassador Maxwell Taylor and General Abrams, President Johnson approved Operation Freedom Partner. The President was reluctant to spend political capital on a limited call-up of the National Guard and Reserves but was mollified by the ability to enunciate a limited increase in the Draft Call for a defined six-month period. The more difficult discussions revolved around the integrating the bombing campaign against the North into Freedom Partner.

The Joint Chiefs and General Abrams were emphatic that direct, unfettered bombing of North Vietnamese military-industrial infrastructure was essential to hampering Communist efforts in the South, as well as giving a signal to the newly formed, but fragile, South Vietnamese Government that the United States was serious and determined in countering the North’s aggression. As well, such efforts would boost the morale of the ARVN Command infrastructure, shaky after a year of coup and counter-coup. However, Secretaries McNamara and Rusk were proponents of “gradualism”, the thought that the threat of more intensive Bombing could be used as leverage to push the Politburo to the negotiating table, thus taking the stance more limited Bombing of the North be undertaken, as had occurred to this point. National Security Adviser Bundy was ambivalent on this point.

Coup%20Shit

Finally, a compromise was reached. Intensive, unrestrained bombing of the North would begin and continue until the Spring of 1966, as this would enhance the chances that the Band Sapphire (stable South Vietnamese Government) contingency could be used for Freedom Partner. To attempt to minimalize any potential increase in tensions with the Chinese or Soviets, Covert Operations in the waters off North Vietnam would be suspended, which would, for the time being, hamper US Navy Efforts to interdict sea infiltration of supplies from the North. President Johnson would also travel to San Francisco for meetings with Ky and Thieu in Fall 1965 in an attempt to use his prestige to shore up their government, saying to the final meeting of the group, “I don’t want to hear any more of this coup shit!"

Strategic Warfare

Per SECDEF EXORD you are hereby ordered to degrade all military, transportation, POL and industrial infrastructure targets in North Vietnam to inflict maximum impact on North Vietnamese military and war-making capabilities until otherwise directed.

Cable from CJCS to CINCPAC, April 29, 1965.

The 2nd Air Division and Task Force 77 launch nearly all available bombers against targets in North Vietnam. The Thanh Hóa Bridge , Haiphong Railyards and Port were hit particularly hard, as were Vinh’s seaport and industrial center and the city of Đồng Hới, targeting depots thought to house supplies headed south via sea and the Trail, respectively. The strikes were determined to be effective in degrading capabilities given the force applied, but more precise targeting could have inflicted greater damage. There were no aircraft losses and the strikes were determined to be an unqualified success.

Reactions to the bombings were mostly met with a muted reaction in he United States, with some protests at UC Berkley, the University of Michigan, and a sit in at the Jefferson Memorial by Concerned Clergy for Peace. Governor George Romney of Michigan, when interviewed about the Ann Arbor protest said, “Those kids up there would complain if we dropped flowers on them {North Vietnamese].” However, the Chinese embassy lodged an official protest when one of its commercial freighters was damaged and 10 crew members were killed.

Operation Market Time seized a record number of supplies by sea, to include 2 freighters spotted and seized unloading supplies off the coast of Go Cong and Kien Hoa Provinces. A total of 300 tons were seized. Unfortunately, the suspension of covert activities in the waters off North Vietnam’s coast would likely hamper Market Time in the Fall.

South Vietnamese Politics

Ambassador Taylor, upon returning to Saigon in late April, requested a meeting with Prime Minister Ky and what senior ARVN Commanders who could attend the meeting at short notice; Nguyễn Chánh Thi (the I Corps Commander), Đỗ Cao Trí (the II Corps Commander), Vice Admiral Chung Tấn Cang, (the commander of the navy) and Trần Văn Minh (Commander of the Air Force). He asked the four officers to sit down and then asked "Do all of you understand English?". The ambassador then angrily denounced the commanders. According to Stanley Karnow, Taylor "launched into a tirade, scolding them as if he were still superintendent of West Point and they a group of cadets caught cheating". He said "I told you all clearly at General Abrams’ dinner we Americans were tired of coups. Apparently, I wasted my words." He decried the reports on intrigues by the ARVN Senior Commanders as "totally illegal" and said that "… you have made a real mess. We cannot carry you forever if you do things like this."

He then informed them of the decision to bomb the North, commit US Ground Forces and greatly increase aid and training to the ARVN “…but only if this plotting ceases, now. Full stop.” He then informed Prime Minister Ky privately that the President wanted an official state visit by Ky and President Thieu in late September, in San Francisco, where they would discuss the future of US aid and assistance to the Republic of Vietnam. In his memoirs, Ky recounted, “I had never been so pleased, at the possible redemption of my country, and so insulted, that the representative of one nation would speak in such a fashion to representatives of another, both at the same time.”

General Abrams, upon his return met with the ARVN Chief of Staff, General Cao Văn Viên, and worked hard to get the II Corps commander and Nguyễn Văn Mạnh, the 18 ARVN Division Commander replaced. The former was retained through personal connections to President Thieu, but this evidently this, and the scolding by Ambassador Taylor had put an end to any coup plotting on his part, and he reaffirmed his loyalty to the regime, redoubling his efforts in II Corps. General Manh, however was replaced by General Lê Văn Hưng.

Abrams%20SVN%20Navy

As a result of these collective efforts, the ARVN Military and Government seemed stable, as stable as it had been since before the Buddhist Crisis of 1963, and Ambassador Taylor and General Abrams both recommended the implementation of the Band Sapphire contingency of Operation Freedom Partner. There was still some risk though, as the military situation was still shaky in the countryside and Prime Minister Ky’s dismissal of several of General Thi’s loyalists in the Ministry of Defense created some murmurs that perhaps he was too impulsive to lead South Vietnam in such difficult times.

North Vietnamese Politics

Le%20Duan

In Hanoi, the bombings of the north were used by Lê Duẩn to strengthen the hand of his Aggressive War faction against Giáp’s Revolutionary War faction. He utilized the death of several Chinese officers and the damaging of a Chinese freighter to persuade the People’s Republic to increase aid shipments, and the Soviet government did the same, lest it fall behind China in its competition for influence in Hanoi. Lê Duẩn was now seen as the man who could get the Socialist “Big Brothers” to deliver tangible support.

The US Arrives and the ARVN Build

In South Vietnam, on May 10, the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) arrived in Cần Thơ in IV Corps, where the 1 and 23 ARVN Divisions were augmented, while the 25 ARVN Division was augmented at Mỹ Tho. 4 Battalions of ARVN Artillery were upgraded to the latest US 155mm howitzer models.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) arrived in Cam Ranh Bay, as the Headquarters element and two Brigades of the ARVN Parachute Division (aka Thien Duan Sat Cong – “Angels in Red Hats”) were augmented in Qui Nhơn. While these elements were now preparing for operations in II Corps, the 1st Brigade of the ARVN Parachute Division and the entire ARVN Marine Division were augmented and readied in the Saigon area.

The 1st Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division (Mech), consisting of an Armored Battalion, a Mechanized Infantry Battalion and an Infantry Battalion, supported by a Battalion of 155mm Howitzers were diverted from their original landing location, Da Nang, to Huế. Commanded by BG Bernard W. Rogers, here they met with the 42d and 47th Regiments of 22 ARVN Division, as well as its Headquarters, augmented. The 40th Regiment of the Division was augmented in Da Nang. The 1st/5th (Mech) deployed as a Brigade, preparing for operations against the 1 PAVN Division in Con Thien.

As Abrams prepared US and ARVN Forces for partnered operations in the Summer, one thing became apparent, the II and II Corps Commanders had to b dealt with and soon. While all augmented ARVN Divisions and I and IV Corps assets were ready for operations, along with ARVN-level assets commanded directly by the Chief of Staff, all units in those two Corps were completely ineffective as Summer began, useless in the upcoming test.

Viet%20Cong

The Viet Cong appeared to increase its presence in II and III Corps overall, with a slight increase in IV Corps as well. Especially troubling was the concentration of units that formed in Bình Định Province, along the coast in Northern II Corps, a populous agricultural area.

Interphase Resolution (and Exposition)

Take a breath, get a drink, stretch a bit, pet the cat or dog, and then please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

Bob Dylan and members of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. “Maggie’s Farm”, Recorded Live at the Newport Folk Festival, July 25, 1965

At Start

U.S. Morale - 520

U.S. Commitment - 25

SVN Morale - 65

SVN Draft level - 8

SVN Controlled Population - 217

NVN Morale - 10

NVN Commitment - 0

VC Draft Level - 0

NLF Controlled Population – 143

Recordkeeping is an ongoing process and Pacification doesn’t happen in this first, game-starting Interphase.

Strategic War Phase

A. Mission Declaration Segment: I declare what I want to bomb, North Vietnam (Restrained or Unrestrained) and/or the Trail and how many Air Points I allocate. I allocate 19 of my 21 to Pound the North Unrestrained and Unflinchingly. Curtis LeMay, baby.

B. Strategic Bombing Segment: rolled a 4 for 19 Air Points conducting Unrestrained Bombing of the North. You take the number of Air Points and cross reference to the Row that corresponds with it given the low (‘0”) NVN Air Defense Levels at present. That’s row 9. The 4 I rolled moved it to Row 13. 2 NVN Commitment lost (1 away from 3, the maximum I could have gotten, given my Air points committed!). The I rolled a 1d6/2 (rounded down) +1 for its harm to US Morale. Rolled a 3/2=1+1, -2 Morale. No losses when Curt rolled again to see if I lost any Air Points. SVN Morale gets boosted +4 to 69.

C. Blockade Segment: 5 NVN Commitment was sent. That puts him on row 96. I have one Naval Point and rolled a 6. That move it down to Row 90. So 30 Supply was reduced to 27. Then he gets to add 2x the base number of NVN Commitment that he sent as supplies, so he gets a net 37 Supplies via sea (that he can use to build units 5 hexes or less from an all-sea hex).

D. Trail Status Segment: Didn’t happen, I didn’t bomb the trail and he didn’t spend to upgrade it. His stuff gets through at a ratio of NVN Commitment to VC Supply. He can use this to build 8 hexes from a SVN Border hex. In this case whatever number he sent (probably 5 or so Commitment x 9, the multiplier in Box 4 (the little number to the left on the right side).

Trail%20Example

Politics Phase

A. SVN Officer Replacement Segment: I must attempt to replace the guys on the bottom in the dark areas and can attempt to replace the guys in the light shades area. I opt to just do the guys I have to do. You need to roll less than a 7, and if you roll a 9-12 that guys (if he is a two star) becomes Pro-Coup and all subordinate Divisions and Battalion assets are ineffective. So on the II Corps Commander I roll a 7. His loyalty goes to the Bottom of the Barrel but no other ill-effects, though he’ll probably be Pro Coup After the Coup Roll. The 18 ARVN Division Commander gets a roll of 6, he’s gone, and replaced by a B2 (effectiveness is the number, the letter is his faction) and he gets a good initial loyalty roll of 11. We may have just found our Division Commander for the 18 ARVN!

B. Coup Determination Segment: You roll 2d6 and compare it to the Two Star Loyalties. If the roll is less than their loyalty, they are Loyal. Same as their Loyalty, they are Wavering. Greater than their loyalty, they are Pro-Coup.
If there are more Pro-Coup Leaders than Loyal Leaders, there is a Coup. The Three Star gets put back in the Three Star pull and a new one is randomly pulled (it could be the same guy). The loyalty of every Loyal Two-Star Leader goes down by one. The US takes a -3 Morale hit and the SVN take a -8 Morale hit. Coups are bad.
If the Wavering and Pro-Coup Leaders combined are equal to the Loyal Leaders, the Government is Unstable. The US takes a -1 Morale hit and the SVN take a -3 morale hit. Unstable sucks.

If the Loyal Leaders Outnumber Wavering and Pro-Coup Leaders combined, the government is Stable. Lower the Loyalty of Pro-Coup Two Star Leaders by 1.

I rolled a “3”! Even Mr. Sunshine, the II Corps Leader is loyal. I guess Ambassador Taylor’s dressing down of the “cadets” worked!

C. SVN Morale Adjustment Segment: You implement and calculate all the Morale adjustments for the SVN first. I am at 69 (up from 65 from the Unrestrained Bombing of the North). -2 for KY and -1 for Population level. 66. Ky…
Leader Loyalty Adjustment Roll-Now I roll on this table to see what wackiness happens with the ARVN Factions:

I roll, an 8! No Effect! This has been a storm-free SVN Politics Phase. I am giddy!

D. US Morale Segment: we already went down to 518 from 520 because of the Strategic Bombing. No other loss Occurs now.

E. NVN Morale Adjustment Segment: They go from 10 to 15, because they are dedicated Communists and Nationalist Revolutionaries. No other impacts this turn.

Recruitment Phase

A. US, ARVN and FWA Placement and Withdrawal Segment

Withdrawals come before Placements. Anything Withdrawn can’t be placed that same segment.

Withdrawals:

ARVN

2 ARVN Cav Squadron (My Tho) – His leader stinks, and I am going to build new units there, so, off you go, your poor victim of the ARN Leadership Strategy.

US

1 Cruiser (1C)

1 Naval Point (4C)

All 6 Marine Division Battalions (6C) (the HQs stay in Da Nang)

This gives me a deficit of -11 Commitment, applied to any new commitment I bring in.

Placements:

US

196 ARVN Supply (28C)

2 Economic Aid Packages (2C) (these will help boost SVN Morale next Season)

101st Airborne Division in Can Tho (10C)

173rd Airborne Brigade in Cam Ranh Bay (4C)

1/5th Infantry Division in Hue (3C)

10 Airmobile Points (5C)

15 US Replacements (5C)

12 Air Points (4C)

61C

-11C (From Withdrawals)

50C

ARVN

Build and Augment Full 22 ARVN Division (4M/21S)

  • 40 Regiment in Da Nang
  • 42 Regiment in Hue
  • 47 Regiment in Hue
  • HQ in Hue

Build and Augment Full 25 ARVN Division (4M/21S)

  • 46 Regiment in My Tho
  • 49 Regiment in My Tho
  • 50 Regiment in My Tho
  • HQ in My Tho

Build and Augment Full 1 ARVN Division (5M/26S)

  • 1 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 3 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 51 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 54 Regiment in Can Tho
  • HQ in Can Tho

Build and Augment Full 23 ARVN Division (5M/26S)

  • 41 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 44 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 45 Regiment in Can Tho
  • 53 Regiment in Can Tho
  • HQ in Can Tho

Build and Augment Full ARVN Marine Division (3M/18S)

  • 2 Brigade in Saigon
  • 3 Brigade in Saigon
  • HQ in Saigon

Build and Augment Full ARVN Paratrooper Division (3M/18S)

  • 2 Brigade in Qui Nonh
  • 3 Brigade in Qui Nonh
  • HQ in Qui Nonh

Build 4 155 ARVN Independent Artillery Battalions (28S) (two in My Tho, two in Can Tho)

Build 3 Ranger Groups (15M/27S)

Build 20 ARVN Replacement Points (5M/10S)

B. NVA and VC Placement: We save the game file Curt places a lot of stuff I can’t see offline.

C. Infiltration Segment: There isn’t anything on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in terms of units that can move on it. We’ll save this for another day.

D. Offensive Declaration Segment: Costs 10 NVN Commitment and can only occur if US Commitment is 150 or higher. We’re not there yet.

Curt sends file to me, I start a Vlog to record one roll to complete this diary entry

Unit Status Phase

A. US Organizational Segment: I can alter my Brigades’ deployment Profile if all elements are stacked together. I do. Based on Curt’s builds (we’ll see maps in a second here) I turn the 1/5 Infantry (Mech) Brigade into the reason I brought it in this turn.

From this (a versatile Battalion grouping with great Brigade dedicated 155s):

1-5%20Profile%202

To this:

The Road clearing, NVA-Huntin’ Bringer of Pain.

B. ARVN Effectiveness Roll: I roll 1d6 on the below table and compare with my current Leaders. This is the big enchilada, who can do what for the next two loooong game turns of Summer ’65 for the ARVN. I am counting on the ARVN and have made a lot of effort and planned around the fact that I could use them. This is a bit of a gamble.

I roll a 4.

I get this. I can live with it.

I and II Corps at End of Interphase. Note Curt’s increase in Binh Dinh in Northern II Corps and the slow spread of more overall units in II and III Corps.

III and IV Corps at End of Interphase. Note the Tower of Doom in Can Tho. That is what one US Division and two ARVN Divisions, just arrived and loaded for Bear look like.

At End

U.S. Morale - 518

U.S. Commitment - 75

U.S. New Commitment - 50

SVN Morale - 66

SVN Draft level - 53

SVN Controlled Population - 217

NVN Morale - 15

NVN Commitment - ? (Probably 15).

VC Draft Level - ?

NLF Controlled Population – 143

Next: What exactly are the VC doing? What will happen in IV Corps? Summer Operations begin.

“Well, I wake up in the morning, fold my hands and pray for rain. I got a head full of ideas that are drivin’ me insane. It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor. I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”

#18

I Can’t Help Myself

Vietnam 1965-1975

1965 Summer Operations Narrative, Operations Exposition and Summer Operations Status/Commentary

“When you snap your finger or wink your eye, I come a-running to you. I’m tied to your apron strings and there’s nothing that I can do. I can’t help myself. No, I can’t help myself.”

Please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

The Four Tops. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, Motown. Released April 23, 1965. Number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 June 12 to June 19 and from June 26 to July 3 in 1965

Tấn Công Mùa Hè và Nổi dậy Lê Độ Mậu Thân 1965 (The Summer Offensive and Le Do Uprising of 1965)

Thanh%20and%20Le%20Duan

At the end of March, during its 11th Plenum, the Party Central Committee in Hanoi resolved to accelerate the decisive campaign, with the objective of winning the war by means of a summer-fall offensive. Lê Duẩn, leader of the Aggressive War faction, and Nguyễn Chí Thanh, General Secretary of COSVN and Political Commissar of the Liberation Army of the South, had both overcome General Giáp’s objections and dominated the meeting. Nation-wide attacks would be conducted in the hopes of toppling the criminal regime in the South, with the goal of seizing provincial capitals and inflicting maximum damage upon the South’s military before the Americans could arrive in force. While US Ground troops were disembarking and preparing for operations at their respective disembarkation ports, attacks were launched against: Quang Tri and Tam Kỳ in I Corps, Tuy Hòa and Pham Rang in II Corps, Xuân Lộc and Phước Loc in III Corps, Cần Thơ and Mộc Hóa in IV Corps.

The attack on Quang Tri, conducted by elements of the 1 PAVN Division, staging from the communist-occupied abandoned hamlet of Con Thien, just south of the Demilitarized Zone, was an unqualified success. The Armored Cavalry Squadron of the 3 ARVN Division was destroyed, and the provincial capital was taken.

The attack on Xuan Loc went similarly, the attack, launched at 0300 on June 5 was conducted by the 165 PLAF Regiment and the 3 Xuan Loc Provincial Battalion. The Armored Cavalry Squadron of the 21 ARVN Division was caught in its barracks, and the capital was overrun. Most of the Squadron survived, but 40+ armored cars and M113 APCs were destroyed in their vehicle depots.

The other attacks were repulsed, as the ARVN forces staved off initial attacks, sometimes by two PLAF Regiments, but took minimal losses in the initial days’ combats, and defensive reserves rushed to the defense of the locations, resulting in later losses by the VC. Notable among these was Operation Coastal Angel, a deployment of 2 BN and HQ Elements of the 173rd Airborne to Pham Rang from their arrival port in Cam Ranh Bay, 4 days after landing. As well, the Divisional Artillery elements of the ARVN Airborne Division was airlifted to Tuy Hoa where it defied an attack by the 1 PLAF Regiment and two PLAF Battalions with heavy losses for the VC.

However, these successes and setbacks were minor in comparison with the rocket and artillery attacks on Can Tho. In April and May nine North Vietnamese trawlers, illegally flagged as Indian ships, departed Sihanoukville, where they had rendezvoused to pick up a special cargo: enough Soviet and Chinese 122mm Artillery pieces, 160mm Mortars and Rocket Launchers to provide the artillery component to three VC Divisions as their Artillery Regiments. The freighters successfully evaded US and South Vietnamese Naval Patrols and were able to unload their cargo into the waiting hands of PLAF logistics units on the beaches of South Vietnam. Six trawlers unloaded in Vinh Binh Province in IV Corps and the other three in Quang Ngai province in I Corps. Simultaneous to these efforts, advance crews and support personnel in Vinh Binh and Quang Ngai were trained in use and operation using mock-ups and similar, older equipment. By early June two Artillery regiments were positioned in range of the embarkation port at Can Tho in IV Corps, and another near Da Nang in I Corps.

On June 4 the 1 & 23 ARVN Divisions joined the 101st Airborne Division in Can Tho. The 101st had arrived on June 1, and just disembarked, organizing itself for the summer campaign. As well, eleven ARVN replacement Battalions were gathered in tents and Quonset Huts, ready to provide replacements for losses expected in the upcoming campaign in IV Corps.

At 0330 on June 5, the two PLAF Artillery Regiments began shelling the ARVN facilities. Large petroleum storage tanks and ammunition depots were set alight, causing massive explosions and fires quickly spread to the ARVN replacement encampments near the Mekong River. The fires lasted all day and began to subside, with great exertions by firefighting teams, by evening. However, in the shelling and fires, approximately 1,500 ARVN soldiers were casualties. Some estimates placed the losses as high as 2,000.

Can%20Tho%20aftermath

Civilian casualties were unknown as well but were estimated at 5,000. After what the International press termed “Dresden in the Delta” and the country-wide offensive, hopes for the Summer were dampened in the eyes of some MACV Staff Officers. Would the ARVN be able to effectively contribute to the upcoming Operation Bastogne/ Hổ Giận ( Angry Tiger ) in IV Corps?

A Cautious Summer North of Saigon

In I, II and II Corps, US and ARVN Forces stayed mainly on the defensive in the Summer of 1965. The exceptions was Operation Independence/Operation Cảnh Báo Quyết Lliệt ( Fierce Warning ) conducted in I Corps and Operation Big Express, a US Road Clearing and Security Operation focused East of Saigon along National Route 1 in Long Khanh Province in III Corps.

Operation Independence/Operation Cảnh Báo Quyết Lliệt ( Fierce Warning ) was a combined Search and Destroy operation involving the 1st/5th Infantry (Mech) and the 22 ARVN Division in the vicinity of Phong Dien. near the border of Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces. On July 1, the 42 RGT/22 ARVN, supported by ARVN Rangers and the divisional Artillery based in Hue, launched an attack against the patrolling VC 5 Quang Tri Provincial Battalion 5 Miles Southeast of Phong Dien. While the VC were pinned by the Regiment, and interdicting fire forced them to fight, they suffered light casualties, as did the ARVN. However, the Battalion was forced to retreat northward into communist occupied Quang Tri Province, near the DMZ, opening the way for further operations along National Route 1. On July 3, the 22 ARVN Divisional Artillery supported a combined ground and air assault against an unknown patrolling VC Unit 5 miles Southeast of Phong Dien.

The enemy force avoided contact and retreated Northeast, joining the 1 RGT/1 PAVN Division in Grasslands South of Quang Tri. Finally, on July 4, the 1st/5th Infantry (Mech) moved North of Hue and, provided close air support by A-4C Skyhawks, attacked the positions of the 1 RGT/1 PAVN Division and the now identified 27 PLAF Battalion south of Quang Tri. In a sharp battle that lasted until after dusk, the US took 62 casualties, and forced the communist units retreat Northwest, away from Thua Thien Province, fulfilling MACV’s ultimate objective for this operation. The 1st/5th Infantry (Mech) rebased to refit at Phong Dien, by July 8, guarding against any further movement south by the PAVN.

After refitting, on July 22, the 1st/5th Infantry (Mech) was tasked by MACV to speed southwards from Phong Dien, and then inland, West via National Route 19, through Kontum Province in II Corps and then South via National Route 14 near the Cambodian Border, then through Saigon and to Xuan Loc from the East. On August 5 the Brigade, assigned close air support by newly arrived F4E Phantoms, encountered a roadblock 5 miles east of Xuan Loc, manned by VC elements identified as the 165 PLAF Regiment. A cautious engagement ensued, and after two days, the PLAF withdrew to the North, after which the Brigade returned to Phong Dien by August 16. Two F4E’s were lost to Air Defense Fire.

Operation Bastogne/ Hổ Giận (Angry Tiger) I

Operation Bastogne/ Hổ Giận was a Summer-long operation in IV Corps with Sa Dec Province as the focal point, involving the 101st Airborne Division, the 1 ARVN Division, the 23 ARVN Division, IV Corps Subordinate Battalions and ARVN Chief of Staff Independent Artillery Units. The operation’s concept was divided into two Phases: ARVN Attack, US Cordon in Bastogne I/ Hổ Giận I and ARVN Cordon/US Attack in Bastogne II/ Hổ Giận II. The goals of the operation was to disrupt and if possible destroy Viet Cong concentrations in the Central Mekong Delta, but primarily to divide and push these concentrations into pockets; in the Southern Delta and near the Cambodia border, where they could be eliminated or cleared from South Vietnam in the Fall, when more support and follow-on clearing forces (the 1st Air Cavalry Division) arrive. The Operation began June 10, 1965.

Bastogne/ Hổ Giận I opened with the 1 RGT/1 ARVN making contact south of Can Tho with the 2 Sa Dec Provincial battalion, which engaged the Regiment, inflicting light casualties and then retreated Southward. Elements of the 3rd Brigade/101st, supported by ARVN Rangers then conducted a Ground/Air Assault operation targeting VC elements in Vinh Long Province. The operation uncovered a large supply depot, containing equipment, stores and documuments, which when exploited indicated the planning and dispositions of units infiltrated into the Delta for the VC attack on Can Tho. This intelligence enabled the operating forces to conduct follow-on operations into northern Sa Dec Province, adding to the cordon line being established there. Other elements of the 3rd Bde/101st then conducted Clear and Secure Operations against VC unit concentrations north of Can Tho, clearing these units and establishing patrols, continuing to create the cordon line in this area.

Jitterbug%20Delta

The 1st Bde/101st then conducted a Clear and Secure Operation in An Giang Province, against enemy concentrations there. No enemy contact was made, but the enemy was cleared and again, US Battalions conducted patrols after the operation, continuing the cordon. These operations were replicated by elements of the 101st until a cordon line was established reaching from the coast of Vinh Binh Province in the Southeast Delta up to Long Xuyen in An Giang Province, and then West-Southwest to Rach Gia in Kien Giang Province, roughly crescent-like in shape. Then a second cordon line extended Southeast from Rach Gia to Ba Xuyen Province on the Eastern Delta coast by June 20.

On June 22, 1 ARVN and 23 ARVN elements, based out of Can Tho engaged VC targets noth of that city in a Search and Destroy Operation and destroyed the 9 PLAF Divisional Artillery Regiment which had shelled Can Tho earlier, after a 3-day running assault that began in Sa Dec Province and ended in Vinh Long Province. Several Combined Us 101st/1 ARVN/23 ARVN Search and Destroy operations of 2 Battalion strength were conducted against a VC target in Vinh Binh Province suspected of being the 8 PLAF Divisional Artillery, but he target evaded contact. By the end of June the 25 ARVN Division, based in My Tho had fanned out to a line extending from western Dinh Tuong Province to Moc Hoa, near the Parrot’s Beak on the Cambodian border.

COSVN Reactions, Bastogne/ Hổ Giận (Angry Tiger) II

COSVN%20Responds

PLAF and Provincial VC forces then began to spread out nation-wide, the offensive having been completed. In the Delta, enemy concentrations attempted to move south, into the Cau Mau Peninsula or Northeast, toward the Cambodian border. In I and II Corps, VC units made either for undefended coastal agricultural areas or to defensive territory inland. Of note, however, the 165 PLAF Regiment and several unidentified Viet Cog Battalions in Long Khanh Province moved into the Provincial capital, Xuan Loc and prepared to defend it.

ARVN and 101st Airborne Units switched roles as Summer Operations ended. For Operation Bastogne/ Hổ Giận (Angry Tiger) II, the ARVN established firebases and Patrol cordons in IV Corps, relieving the 101st of those duties. The 101st conducted Search and destroy Operations in Chau Doc Province and Kien Phong Province near the Cambodia Border and inflicted moderate enemy losses for minimal casualties, uncovering the 62 PLAF Regiment in Kien Phong and the 1 Chau Doc Provincial Battalion in that province.

MG%20Seaman

As Summer ended the NLF and the ARVN had taken serious losses, and the US had lost approximately 300 casualties. The Summer NLF Offensive had successes but did not achieve its ultimate goals of taking provincial capitals MACV wasn’t willing to sacrifice at this juncture, other than the Xuan Loc success. As well, their operations in the Delta had taken significant blows and severe disruption. However, the weakness imposed upon the ARVN ability to take casualties by the Attack on Can Tho, combined with the need for ARVN and US forces to situate and position themselves for effective operations had placed a finite limit on what they could accomplish. In Fall, the real test would begin, and Abrams knew it. “This is just a preseason game, a scrimmage.” He told Major General Seaman, his MACV J3 Operations Officer.

Summer Operations Resolution (and Exposition)

Take a breath, get a drink (hard or soft, your choice), and then please hit play before reading and turn to the maximum volume your brain or household will allow.

The Beach Boys (and The Wrecking Crew). “Help Me, Rhonda”, Two weeks at number one on the Billboard 100, from May 29 – June 12, 1965.

The Operations Sequence

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time” – General Creighton Abrams

I’m going to hold off on operations snapshots this Season and give an overview of operations and combat. Then I’ll walk through some game events and statuses. Later, each season, I’ll go into each type of operations (one or two a Season in-depth). When that is done, and every type of operation has been covered, I’ll stick to some operational snapshots each Season highlighting unusual things or Operations that really show the flexibility of the system.

For the Season’s Operations, you do this twice, in two Game Turns.
1 – Support Phase -Self Explanatory. The US player make sure all Air, Airmobile, and Riverine Points are all accurate and reflected properly on the record tracker.
2 – Special Operations Designation Phase: US Player indicates all units on Hold or Patrol. Then the NLF Player does the same. “Hold” doubles the combat and support strength of a unit for defense, for the Game Turn, but makes the unit ineligible for any other operations that Game Turn. Units on Hold also have no Zone of Control – ZoC (ZoCs inhibit enemy movement). “Patrol” doubles the ZoC effect of the Unit on Patrol; it really inhibits enemy movement. Any units that do either are Operations Complete (OC) for the rest of the turn. The only units that can’t patrol are ARVN Battalions and Headquarters (also, they have no ZOC). Everyone can go on Hold. ARVN Ineffective units can do nothing at all except Strategic Movement the whole Season). Note that either player can also place any unit(s) on Hold or Patrol later in the Operations Phase.
3 – Strategic Movement Phase: The US Player (only) may conduct Security Operations, Strategic Movement and/or Naval Movement with any of his units. The US Player may also conduct Security Operations, Strategic Movement and/or Naval Movement later on in the Operations Phase. The NLF Player may conduct Strategic Movement later on in the Operations Phase (the NLF cannot do Security Operations or Naval Movement). Ineffective ARVN Units may only conduct Strategic Movement and may only do so in this Phase. Basically, Strategic Movement allows any FWA unit unlimited Road movement, paying only costs to exit enemy ZOCs or to move off road. A Security Operation is a Strategic Movement, but on the ARVN or US (only, and not together, and only one stack at a time already on a road) then may fight any enemy unit on the roads with impunity. If the NLF retreat, the operation continues. If the US retreats, op over. The US can keep doing them as long as he has movement points. Since he just pays ZOC costs this could occur from the DMZ to the Delta and back again, theoretically. Naval Movement is from port to port in country or from a port to a non-enemy occupied beach. A FWA unit may move it’s full MP allowance (and may be airmobilized) to reach a Port. Then it moves to another Port or Beach. Note- Reaction Movements – Any unit that ends its movement adjacent to an enemy unit or Units), during any of these operations, can trigger a Reaction movement. This allows the unit(s) to then move their full movement allowance.
Any unit can also do any of these operations during the Operations Phase. NLF Strategic Movement allows them to move a unit up to three times its movement value.

4 – Operations Phase – This is the Heart of the Game Turn. First, the NLF decides who is going to Operate. Then the Operating player may do any of the operations outlined above, as well as:
Search and Destroy Operation (both Players): Basically, movement and then Attack by designated Units.
Clear and Secure Operation (US Player Only): A Search and Destroy, sacrificing some mobility, where the units can end the Operation on Hold or Patrol, at his choice.

Note – Next Season we will highlight an S & D Operation step by step.

Bombardment: US Air Points, US Naval Units or either players’ Artillery Units (that have not moved) may bombard an enemy unit.

Offensive Reserves (US Player Only): Units may join a Search and Destroy or Clear and Secure Operation already in progress.

Defensive Reserves (US Player Only): Units may join the defense against an NLF Search and Destroy Operation already in progress.

Note- any operation could conceivable have all that side’s units and all it’s support allocated to it. If a Player wants to do that. Your only limit is yourself.

Oh, by the way, this is how Combat works. Odds are determined, and then a d6 rolled with appropriate modifiers. You add your manpower and the enemy’s firepower. Attacker Casualties to the right, Defender to the left. An Air Point or Helicopter picture basically means that if any were assigned to the operation, they are lost. The Pursuit modifier is then granted. The Defender retreats (if he wants) and the attacker may pursue, using his organic pursuit modifier added to the roll result. Unused pursuit is a bonus to the next round’s attack (or a penalty). If you had 3 units pursuing, for example, and they end with 3, 4, and 5 pursuit points, respectively, and they all attack you use the lowest modifier (3, above). Sometimes, it’s better in later rounds to take a low odds attack with a unit hot-fulla tactical advantage (a high pursuit modifier).
5 – Game Turn Indication Phase: This is Just the End of the Game Turn. This occurs when the NLF Player Declines to Operate, the US Player Declines, and the NLF Player Declines again. Theoretically, every single Unit on Map May conduct/participate in any of the above before this occurs, but they do not have to.

Support At Start of Operations

The NLF Summer 1965 Offensive

I and II Corps at Beginning of Operations.

III and IV Corps at Beginning of Operations.

Attacks

Battle of Quang Tri

Capture of Quang Tri

Battle of Tuy Hoa

Battle%20of%20Tuy%20Hoa

Battle of Xuan Loc

Battle of Xuan Loc-Captured

Battle%20of%20Xuan%20Loc-Captured

Battle of Pham Rang

Battle of Phouc Loc

Battle of Phouc Loc -Defended

Battle of Moc Ha

Battle of Moc Ha-Defended 3 losses for VC

Battle%20of%20Moc%20Ha-Defended%203%20losses%20for%20VC

Bombardment of Can Tho Part 1, 8 ARVN Replacements lost.

Summer%20Ops-VC%20Bombardment

Bombardment of Can Tho Part 2, ANOTHER 8 ARVN Replacements lost.

Summer%20Ops-VC%20Bombardment%202

I and II Corps at End of Summer NLF Offensive

III and IV Corps at End of NLF Summer Offensive

Commentary – The NLF Offensive didn’t take me by surprise. I had written off Quang Tri for now, and for a few seasons. I also knew he’d take another capital, and it was an easy decision; if there were no Defensive Reserves in range, I’d just lose the ARVN Cav or Armor Battalion for 2 or 2 Supply cost total (1/7 or 2/7 of a US Commitment point each, but no manpower lost).

My limits were: I wouldn’t let him get three capitals (-1 to US Morale and SVN Morale next interphase) or get a Capital in IV Corps. So basically, Quang Tri and one other. That is what happened. So, I was pleased.

What I fully did NOT expect was That he would build Artillery in range of Can Tho, after I had arrived in country with the 101st and built two FOUR REGIMENT ARVN Divisions there. Now, the ports of Hue, Da Nang, Chu Lai, Qui Nonh, Nha Trang, Cam Ranh Bay, Vung Tau, Saigon, My Tho and Can Tho are
The only places new US Units can arrive.
The only places new ARVN Units can be built.

So, if I was going to do any operations in IV Corps, I have to arrive in My Tho and Can Tho. And Can Tho is central. So I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, based on what I wanted to do this Summer. Sure, I could have Strategically moved them all out in the countryside, but then I wouldn’t have done any operations in the first Game Turn of Summer Operations.

What Curt did was build Supply Conduits (more later) in the Delta. Basically these allow him to exceed provincial build limits for him each Season (the NLF are limited by the number of population they control in a Province for their builds there). So he expended a LOT of resources to make this happen. And a LOT more to build all these Regiments. Funnily enough I went Regiment heavy early in the last game we played and surprised him (and lost the game as the NLF).

So, there is no way for me to describe how shocked and aghast I was at losing 16 (??!!??) ARVN Replacements to the first two NLF Operations, taking me from 24 to 8. Now I was going to have to worry about every ARVN Replacement loss I took for the rest of the Season. If I run out, he can just ding a Regiment, and it pops like a balloon – the whole Regiment would be lost.

Now what this is a testament to is how damned engaging and interesting this game is as a game. Two players, very experienced with the game, other players, and each other, and one can still spring a complete, pants-filling surprise on the other.

That is a good game.

End Summer 1 Cordon in IV Corps

End Summer 2 cordon in IV Cops

After C & S Operation

Commentary – At the end of Summer, things are bearable. Now that I am in position, and he has emptied his shot locker for that Offensive, he has a lot of big, fat juicy Regiments out there…. he might break them down into Battalions, but that expends an extra cost; as it was more expensive to build them. He took a lot of Replacement losses and the units he lost are expensive.

NLF%20Units%20Eliminated

As well, I have the locations of all the Regiments and the two divisional Headquarters seared in my brain. With the arrival of the 1st Air Cav next Season and more support and all my units in the field, it’ll be time for the counteroffensive.

Another down side to going Regiment heavy is that he’ll impact the Pacification Struggle (which we’ll be introduced to next Season) far less than he would if he had gone “Giap” and just built battalions. Sure, I’ll pay for my Free Fire Zone and the captured Capital there in Quang Tri, as well as in Xuan Loc, but Pacification modifiers will be about as good as they can be for me at this stage. That is all based on NLF Presence and SVN Morale. Better to herd the VC to a Few provinces and succeed elsewhere and then deal with a few problem provinces later. Oh, BTW, all US Firepower is halved, unless a Province is declared Free Fire…which hurts Pacification there. And if an NLF unit is on the border of two provinces, and one is Free Fire and one isn’t, guess who gets to choose where that Battalion is? You guessed it….

I and II Corps at End of Summer Operations

III and IV Corps at End of Summer Operations

Support at End of Season

“Well since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head. I come in late at night and in the mornin’ I just lay in bed. Well, Rhonda you look so fine (look so fine) and I know it wouldn’t take much time for you to help me Rhonda, help me get her out of my heart.”

Next: What will Pacification Bring? What will happen when LBJ meets Ky at the Presidio of San Francisco? What will the next stage of Operation Freedom Partner bring to South Vietnam? What is ARVN Morale like?

By the way, if anyone has any questions about the game or the narrative: rules, why who did what, what’s happening in the History, stuff about the music, really anything, feel free. It won’t disturb or “clutter” anything, and the initial post will be updated with bookmark quick links from time to time. I’m happy for this to be an interactive, discursive experience. If I wanted this diary chiseled on impenetrable stone, I would have blogged it. Talking about stuff here, well, it’s fun.

#20

Why didn’t you just land the heavy stuff and end the war?

#21

I’m sorry, I think you have me mistaken for someone else.