Sunday, 11 March 2018

Battle of Hue - The Dong Ba Bridge

Hue - a helicopter's view over the city
I'm working on some ideas for gaming the battle for the city of Hue in Vietnam in February 1968, 50 years ago! I'm going to be using the Force on Force rules from Osprey. This is a platoon level engagement and is loosely based on the fighting in Hue between US Marines and Viet Cong.

The strategic situation in the city in early February 1968 was that the communists had managed to capture most of it via a surprise attack (apart from a small ARVN garrison in the north-eastern district and some US troops still in the MACV compound across the Perfume River from the old city).

The Marines were assigned the job of rooting the enemy soldiers out, street by street, house by house. They were initially hampered by the ban on using artillery or air support in the city, because the government of South Vietnam did not want to damage the many historic buildings from the country's imperial past.

I'm working on an idea of a 'rolling battlefield' concept - each scenario advances the Americans further into the city. The action is focused on one platoon, and represents one day's fighting. The next day they pick up with a new scenario from where they left off. Some of the features of the first day's board will be shared with the new scenario. In addition, the platoon could receive limited reinforcements, but not necessarily.

It is important to note that the progress made by the Marines in Hue was very slow. It was extremely dangerous work.

"Not since the fight to retake Seoul, South Korea, in September 1950, had the Marines engaged in house to house combat. Seoul had been tough, but the North Korean soldiers holding the capital had had little taste for extended combat and yielded easily. The NVA and VC occupying Hue had no intention of just fading away. The Marines would pay dearly in blood for every step they took down Hue's tree-lined boulevards."
Edward F. Murray - Semper Fi Vietnam (1997)

The Dong Ba Canal Bridge

Here's the first scenario. This is fictional, but I think it would make for an interesting game. The duration of game is 10 turns. The US starts with the initiative, but tests on subsequent turns. There is normal Fog of War and a medium air defence environment. The Viet Cong should be treated as irregular troops - see pp 112-113 of Force on Force. There are no hot spots in use in this game.

In terms of support, the US player can call on a Huey UH1 gunship. The VC player gets light artillery with an artillery FO.


The Marine objective is to force a crossing of the bridge, which has been partially destroyed by VC sappers, before it is completely annihilated - see photos. They are to clear the buildings on the opposite side of the canal and establish a perimeter which will allow reinforcements to cross. Note: the terrain board that represents the enemy-held portion will be re-used in Scenario #2. The Marine player gets +10 VPs for establishing his bridgehead with at least one fire team on the opposite bank of the canal before the end of turn 10; +4 VPs for keeping casualties to less than 10%.

The Marines are Confident, with d8 initiative, normal supplies and 1d of standard body armour. They have d8 TQ and d10 morale. Use the USMC platoon organization in Ambush Valley, p.42. Apart from the HQ squad with one corpsman, give them two rifle squads plus an LMG consisting of three marines with an M60 (note the rules for M60s on p14 of Ambush Valley). They also have a two man sniper team and have been equipped with CS gas grenades.

US Marines enter from the bottom of this picture.


The Viet Cong mission is simple - stop the Marines from getting a foothold on their side of the canal by the end of turn 10, for which they receive +10VPs. They also get +1VP for every Marine killed, captured or seriously wounded in the course of the operation.

The Viet Cong are Confident, with d6 initiative and normal supplies. They have d6 TQ and d12 morale. They are classified as irregulars and benefit from out of contact movement.  They have a forward observer (NVA officer - d6/d10) who can call on off-table mortars. For the purposes of this scenario, the NVA spotter can allocate designated targets - see p13 for limitations to NVA off-board artillery. The VC in this scenario can use the NVA special rules Ambush, Lack of Initiative, Battle Plan and Determined to Win. All the communist RPGs are designated AP2.

Optionally give the VC a three man HMG or recoiless rifle team. Ideally, they should have a minimum of 30-40 soldiers operating in 6-7 man squads with at least two RPGs and two LMGs divided between them. They should have a three man HQ squad led by an NVA officer (TQ d6/ morale d10) who can also spot for artillery in the same way as the FO.

Suggested set up from the VC / NVA side of the table

1 comment:

  1. Quick clarification - to reflect the damage done to the bridge already by VC sappers, soldiers cannot rapid move (12") while on the bridge. Needless to say, it is impassable to vehicles. This is one for the foot sloggers.