Friday, May 26, 2017

Prelude - Angola 1980 Fight #2


It's 1115 on 4 May 1981.  The members of 2nd Platoon, 1st Company, 33rd People's Revolutionary Battalion arrived in Luanda, Angola a week ago and are now embroiled in a fight to liberate the village of Mutanga.  Previously, 1st Squad assaulted across the Bulungtani River, seizing the bridge and neutralizing UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, backed by the US and South Africa) forces manning a watch tower and sandbagged mortar position.  Now 2nd Squad is skirting to the left, crossing a foot bridge to assault a UNITA bunker atop Hill 29 on the northern end of the village.  This will serve to eliminate the bunker and any UNITA forces there as a threat, to prevent UNITA reinforcements reaching Mutanga, to prevent UNITA troops in Mutanga from escaping, and to allow 2nd Squad to support by fire 3rd Squad's assault on the village.  

1st and 3rd Platoons pushed east and south, cutting off the enemy troops in the (fictional) village of Mutanga.  2nd Platoon followed in trace, then turned north to re-take the village.  Here is the plan for the overall operation to retake Mutanga:

North is up.  Here is my ConOps for the games; as in real life, this will get thrown off if (when) things go wrong.

1.  1st Squad assaults the tower and mortar position, taking the bridge over the Bulungtani River.
2.  2nd Squad crosses the foot bridge and assaults the bunker on Hill 29.
3.  3rd Squad begins crossing the open ground from the mortar position to the village, but is pinned by enemy fire from the palm grove.  1st Squad reorganizes and assaults the palm grove to clear it of enemy forces.
4.  3rd Squad continues its assault, securing the village of Mutanga.
5.  UNITA forces to the northeast counterattack the village, defended by 3rd Squad.
6.  2nd Squad leaves Hill 29 to mop up the enemy counterattack.

Well, that's the plan for Operation Lionheart, the counteroffensive to cut off and destroy UNITA forces north of the Bulungtani River and liberate the village of Mutanga. 

Overview, north is up, with the bunker sitting atop Hill 29 at top left, some huts from the village of Mutanga at top right, and the Bulungtani River and its foot bridge visible at bottom right.  The Cubans will cross the foot bridge, and disperse into the tall grass at center, where Team 2 will establish a base of fire on the right and Team 1 will close assault the bunker from the left.

The game is being played out solo on a 2' x 2' board using Ivan's "Five Men at Kursk," modified to make it a bit more modern (more firing dice, each troop in good fighting condition can act AND react in each turn, missed shots on troops in good fighting condition draws 'free' reaction fire), and I'm trying out the new "keep'em pinned" concept Ivan and I were discussing.

The Cuban forces consists of a single squad of ten men, broken down into a squad leader, an assistant squad leader, two RPG men, two light machine gunners (with RPKs), and four riflemen with AK-74s.  The figures are Battlefront Team Yankee 15mm East German Mechanized Infantry.

The squad is broken into two teams:
Bottom is Team 1, from left to right: Sgt Andrade (Sqd Ldr), PFC Habanera (RPG), PFC Ermera (RPK), Pvt Olejandro, and Pvt Elias.
Top is Team 2, from left to right: Cpl Galban (Asst Sqd Ldr), PFC Perez (RPG), PFC Fordesante (RPK), Pvt DeNostro, and Pvt Carreno.

The UNITA rebels, consisting of a boss (center, yellow shirt) and four rifleman with AKs of various type and manufacture.  The figures are Rebel Minis' 15mm African Rebels.

Overview, this time with troops.  You can see the Cubans spread from bottom left to center, while the UNITA rebels occupy the bunker at top left and have three men in the village at top right.

Here you get a look at 2nd Squad rushing towards the bunker (off camera to left), with Sgt Andrade leading Team 1 at bottom left, and Cpl Galban leading Team 2 at center.

Team 2's order of march, from right to left: Pvt DeNostro, Cpl Galban, PFC Fordesante, PFC Perez, and Pvt Carreno.

Team 1's order of march, from bottom right to top center (that's Team 2 at top left): Pvt Olejandro, Sgt Andrade, PFC Ermera, PFC Habanera, and Pvt Elias.

In the top right corner of the board, the bad guys have their Boss and two riflemen in the village.

While the bunker...

Is occupied by two UNITA riflemen.  It's a small firing port, but I will allow both to fire simultaneously for game purposes.

And it's game time!  I've already rolled to see how far the Cubans will get before contact begins (as per the pictures already shown), now I roll to see who starts the fight; the brother Dengue and Tengue are busy fighting over their last cigarette, when Dengue notices movement to their south.  He leans forward and peers, straining his eyes to make out what exactly is going on.  Slowly camouflaged helmets and uniforms begin to come into focus: "T-T-T-Tengue, I think we have a problem, brother.  I think that's the Cubans."  Tengue leans forward and takes a gander; the cigarette falls from his mouth: "Dengue, shoot!"

The still morning air is ripped by the rattle of two AK-47s on full automatic.  Dengue and Tengue (in bunker, bottom left) open fire on Team 2, still crossing the foot bridge...

But he's ill trained and ill prepared, and all his rounds do is pin PFC Perez, Team 2's RPG gunner (yellow bead).

Cpl Galban (bottom center) and Pvt DeNTostro (above him) return fire on the bunker, pinning Dengue.

In the village, the Boss and his two cronies move south, up to the edge of the village (far left, from center; the Cubans are at top left and the bunker is at top right).

Pvt DeNostro (center, with Cpl Galban at bottom left) continues pouring fire on the bunker (top right) as PFC Fordesante dashes forward (far left), drawing fire from Tengue.

Fordesante (far left, partially masked by tree) is suppressed by Tengue; Cpl Galban (bottom center left) returns fire ineffectually.  The two Cubans in bad shape (Fordesante suppressed at left, Perez pinned off camera to bottom center) are close enough in Dengue's field of fire to remain pinned/suppressed by him alone, keeping Tengure free to continue engaging other targets.

Pvt DeNostro (center) continues hammering away at the bunker (top left) as Carreno moves up (center right, with Fordesante suppressed just below DeNostro, Cpl Galban hidden by the trees just to Fordesante's right, and Perez is pinned at bottom right) and begins firing, but the rifle fire is having little to no effect on the heavily timbered bunker.
On the Cuban left, Sgt Andrade leads Olejandro (left) and Elias (bottom center) around the left flank while Habanera and Ermera (the RPG gunner and RPK gunner, respectively) push forward through the thick grass (center bottom).

Tengue and Dengue's AKs again rake Team 2, suppressing Cpl Galban (center) and Carreno (just above him), and keeping Fordesante (center bottom left) suppressed and Perez (far right) pinned.  Pvt DeNostro is the only one still retuning fire in Team 2 (far left).

Dengue keeps firing on Team 2 (right), while Tengue turns his rifle on Team 1 (bottom/left) pinning Ermera (yellow bead at center bottom) and suppressing Elias (red bead at bottom center).  Only Sgt Andrade and Pvt Olejandro (far left), and PFC Habanera (RPG gunner at center bottom, next to Ermera) of Team 1, and Pvt DeNostro (center right) are still in the fight for the Cubans!

And the three bad guys, still unseen by the Cubans, are creeping west (at center, towards top, where you can see the Cubans at top and far left).

Though pinned, PFC Ermera (yellow bead at bottom center) is able to get his RPK into action, adding its weight of fire to Pvt DeNostro's (center right).  They lay down fire at the cyclic rate, and manage to pin Tengue (meaning the two UNITA rebels can continue to fire during their phase, but cannot react fire)!

We're in business!!!

PFC Habanera dashes forward (bottom center right, with DeNostro at far right) and launches a rocket at the bunker...

BAM!!! Both UNITA rebels in the bunker are suppressed, ripe to be close assaulted off the face of the earth!  This also frees up Cpl Galban, PFC Perez, PFC Fordesante, Pvt Carreno, PFC Ermera, and Pvt Elias (all either pinned or suppressed) to attempt self rally at the end of the phase, due to the fact the UNITA troops in the bunker are no longer keeping them under fire.

PFC Habanera unslings his AK-74 (bottom center) and begins firing at the bunker to keep Dengue and Tengue suppressed, while Sgt Andrade attempts to seize the initiative by leading Pvt Olejandro forward to close assault the bunker (far left).

*As Dengue and Tengue are in a bunker, presumably lying on their faces and therefore pretty much invulnerable to Cuban fire, I have decided I will allow them to attempt to self rally at the end of the bad guy phase.  However, in order to begin firing on the Cubans they will have to stand up and present themselves as targets via the firing port, and will be subject to Cuban react fire.

Anyway, just as things are looking up for the Cubans (classic fire and maneuver there, bust the bunker with an RPG then close assault), it stops...

Looking east to west, we see the bad guy Boss and his two cronies at bottom center.  They hear the explosion at the bunker, which draws their eyes to the area, just in time to see Sgt Andrade and Olejandro (top center) dashing up the hill.  The bad guys open fire.

Olejandro is suppressed and Sgt Andrade is pinned!

The Cubans previously pinned/suppressed by the bunker attempt self rally: Cpl Galban, PFC Perez, PFC Ermera, and PFC Fordesante are all good, but Elias (red bead at bottom left) and Carreno (red bead at far right) remain suppressed.

The Cubans pour fire into the bunker, but Dengue and Tengue both manage to self rally back into the fight, though they will be subject to quite a bit of fire when they decide to stand back up.

The bad guys on the Cuban right flank (bottom center) keep firing at Sgt Andrade and Pvt Olejandro (top center), and they manage to suppress Sgt Andrade this time.  The last rifleman targets PFC Fordesante (look at the rifleman with the white hat at bottom center left, then trace up at 11 o'clock.  You should see the orange tracer on the stand, then an explosion just above it, with a Cuban RPK gunner standing in the tall grass; that's Fordesante).

The rounds zip and snap past him, but Fordesante (bottom left, with DeNostro to his left and Cpl Galban to his right) turns and rips off a burst at the UNITA soldier (top center).

But Fordesante (top left) misses his target as well (explosion at far right), and the enemy soldier darts through the undergrowth (center bottom, you can see his white hat below the twin palm trees). 

PFC Perez (just visible at far left, next to foot bridge) spots the UNITA rebel at the same time he is spotted; both men quickly fumble for fresh magazines.  Perez wins, but...

The UNITA Boss dashes forward (center); Perez (bottom center, with Carreno suppressed at far left) spots him and fires.

Perez (top center) misses, and the Boss (bottom left) unleashes a hellacious burst of fire from his AK...

Perez goes down (bottom center), while Carreno falls back and huddles next to Cpl Galban (left), who is now also  suppressed.

PFC Fordesante (bottom left) stands alone against the three bad guys on the right flank.  He can't see any targets clearly due to the dense foliage, but he shoulders his RPK and stands on the trigger, tracers flashing over Cpl Galban and Pvt Carreno, suppressing the enemy rifleman at top center right (you can just see his white hat to the right of the palm fronds).

Pvt DeNostro (dead center, with Fordesante just below him) faces a dilemma: the bad guys at far right have Cpl Galban and Pvt Carreno (at DeNostro's 4 o'clock) suppressed, and the bad guy at top right has Sgt Andrade and Pvt Olejandro (far left) suppressed.  DeNostro is going to stop firing at the bunker (which is okay, as Ermera and Habanera (in grass at center left) are still maintaining fire on it) to engage one of the right flank bad guys, but which one should he choose? 

I check LOS and figure he can't really see the guy at top right for all the grass...

So DeNostro (bottom left) pivots right and fires on the UNITA Boss (center top, with a suppressed rifleman at top right), knocking him out of the fight!

Cpl Galban (bottom center, next to Pvt Carreno) and Pvt Elias (off camera to bottom left) mange to self rally, but Carreno is still digging for worms.

Dengue and Tengue (in bunker, bottom left) decide it's time to pop up, so they do, and they receive quite a bit of fire from Habanera, Ermera, and Elias (top right), but it all misses, no effect!!!  The two UNITA brothers open up with a vengeance: first, Tengue fires on Team 1.  No one is hit, but Habanera is pinned and Ermera and Elias are suppressed again!

Then Dengue (in bunker, bottom left) fires on Team 2 (center top), pinning DeNostro (center left).

Dammit!!!  I had the Cubans in great shape, both bad guys in the bunker suppressed, pushed up, then get the enveloping element suppressed, Team 2 in a knife fight in the grass/trees on the right, and the base of fire is now suppressed by the bunker, who's back in good shape!

Back on the Cuban right, Cpl Galban screams out "cover me!"  Fordesante (bottom left) again lets rip with his RPK, as Cpl Galban dashes forward (center top, with bad guy's white hat visible at his 11 o'clock, and Carreno still cowering just above Fordesante).

Cpl Galban slams bodily into the suppressed UNITA fighter...

Putting him out of the fight!

Cpl Galban then slips around the back of the remaining right flank bad guy (top center, from bottom right, with the last bad guy at top left).

Fordesante (bottom center right) shifts his fire to the remaining bad guy on the right flank (top left, with Cpl Galban above him) and opens up, but the fire is ineffective due to all the trees and tall grass.  While things are shaping up on the right flank, the center is still under pressure from the bunker.

Though pinned by fire from the bunker, PFC Habanera quickly pops up (bottom right) and launches his second RPG at the bunker...

But it's not as accurate as the first, hitting a bit to the left, pinning Tengue.

Dengue and Tengue keep firing, managing to suppress DeNostro (red bead at right).  Fordesante (bottom right) stands tall and lets rip on the bunker, suppressing Dengue!!!

Back on the right, Cpl Galban creeps up behind the last bad guy on the right (who's still firing to keep Sgt Andrade and Olejandro suppressed, off camera to top left) and opens fire, dropping him.

Cpl Galban moves up (bottom center right).  Sgt Andrade and Pvt Olejandro (top left) are now no longer under fire and attempt to self rally...

But apparently they're both still a bit shaken up...

In the bunker (top left), Dengue is suppressed, but Tengue is only pinned, and he fires on that pesky RPG gunner, Habanera (bottom right), suppressing him.  No longer under fire, DeNostro and Carreno of Team 2 both self rally.

Dengue has Habanera and Ermera (red beads at bottom left) suppressed, but Fordesante, DeNostro, and Carreno come on line (bottom center/right) and pour fire into the bunker (top left).

As they (bottom left) do, Cpl Galban dashes up the right side (top right).

And Sgt Andrade gets himself back into the fight, though Olejandro remains suppressed.

Dengue is still firing from the bunker, keeping Ermera and Habanera suppressed (red beads at bottom center).  It's a hair outside the arc, but I let Dengue try to add Fordesante (bottom right) to the mix.  Dengue fires...

And my poor Fordesante, who's been so valiant, hammering away with his RPK, goes down (bottom center).

Olejandro (bottom left) finally self rallies, while Sgt Andrade (top left) and Cpl Galban (top center) cautiously close in on the enemy bunker.

Tengue can't seem to self rally in the bunker, while Dengue makes the decision to stop firing to keep Habanera and Ermera (far right) in order to engage DeNostro and Carreno (top right), but his fire has no effect.

The Cubans self rally and pour fire into the bunker, keeping Tengue suppressed and wounding Dengue!

Sgt Andrade signals his men to shift fire, then climbs atop the bunker and drops a hand grenade into the bunker...

Dengue and Tengue see the frag and sprint out the back door...

Only to be gunned down by Cpl Galban!

The Cubans close in on the bunker, securing the area and consolidating their position.

Cpl Galban moves back to check on the casualties, and it's not good.  PFC Perez, Team 2's RPG gunner, is KIA, and Team 2's machine gunner, PFC Fordesante, is severely wounded, so much so that he requires evacuation back to Cuba.  For him, the war is over!  The squad administers first aid to Fordesante, then loads him on a truck for the hospital in Luanda, then a boat ride back to Havana.

Well, that fight was brutal, and just when it looked like everything was going to plan, the bad guys showed up on the right flank and ruined it.  The Cubans quickly ended up in a very bad way, and if I'm honest I'll admit that for a moment there I quit thinking about how the Cubans might accomplish their mission and began thinking about how the Cubans might break contact to save the rest of the squad.  But the gambit on the right flank, with Fordesante laying down covering fire and Cpl Galban rushing ahead to roll up the right flank, worked like a charm, saving the day.

The Cubans lost one man KIA and one WIA, never to return during their tour in Angola (they may receive replacements, we'll see how it goes), while killing five UNITA rebels, capturing five AK-series rifles, and accomplishing their objective of seizing the bunker on Hill 29.  This fight saw a considerable amount of personal heroism from the members of 2nd Squad, and three were singled out for decoration:

Cpl Galban was awarded the Revolutionary Star, 2nd Class, for valor in establishing a base of fire, then charging two enemy soldiers to break the right flank of the enemy attack, then charging the enemy bunker and eliminating the remaining rebels.

PFC Fordesante was awarded the People's Cross of Gallantry, for demonstrating personal bravery by fearlessly exposing himself to the intense enemy fire from two directions, fighting the enemy's incursion on the right flank to a standstill, then working to subdue the enemy bunker by fire until he himself was stricken down.

PFC Hermera was awarded the Revolutionary Star, 1st Class, for gallantry demonstrated in charging through enemy fire to deliver two rocket propelled grenades into the enemy bunker.

Having said that, there were three soldiers that didn't exactly cover themselves in glory, remaining shaken for far too long after enemy fire was diverted off them by the heroic actions of their comrades: Private Elias, Private Olejandro, and Private Carreno, who will see an increased chance of them continuing on their cowardly paths in future fights.

Well, I'm having a great time, hope you are too!  Next up, 3rd Squad begins moving to assault the village, but ends up taking fire from the right flank, in the vicinity of the palm grove.  1st Squad, holding reserve at the bridge over the Bulungtani River, quickly mount up and move to assault the palm grove.