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Posted on Sep 10, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Interactive Combat Story: Korea: The Next War, Part II

By John Antal

There was no doubt that Stone’s tanks were more than a match for anything the North Koreans had, but the lieutenant knows that the North Koreans have much more on the way. The phrase, “Quantity takes on a quality of its own” will soon be put to the test.

Stone sits wet, cold, tired and scared in the pouring rain. The clock is ticking, though, and he knows it. The enemy wants this valley – badly. The Americans have stopped the lead North Korean battalion, but their opponent is willing to expend a regiment or more to take the valley. The enemy is determined and not about to give up and run back to North Korea after only one repulse.

“So far, so good,” Stone murmurs aloud to his crew. His mission is to block North Korean forces from moving west of Hills 575 and 555 along Route 51.


“Hooah, sir,” Sergeant Koslowsky replies over the tank intercom system. “Any idea when Captain Braddock and the rest of C Company will get here? I’d hate to fight this war all by ourselves.”

“As soon as I find out, you’ll be the first to know” Stone replies. “Now, let’s get ready for the next fight.”

Only an hour ago, Stone’s company commander, Captain Braddock, had radioed that he was on his way to join Stone’s platoon with the rest of C Company, 1st Battalion, 72d Armor. Since this initial report, however, Stone has not heard form anyone except the battalion scout platoon team manning an observation post on top of Hill 555.

An Abrams tank from the 7th Cavalry Regiment drives to the live-fire training range at the Korea Training Center, Republic of Korea. At the center, units rotate through training scenarios to meet yearly live-ammunition gunnery training requirements. Image Credit: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Although the enemy’s tanks and APCs are no match for his own tanks, Stone realizes that the gravest danger he faces is from North Korean anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Unlike the North Korean tanks’ antiquated guns, the ATGM teams are supplied with state-of-the-art Russian-made Kornet AT-14 ATGMs. These missiles, with their tandem explosive warheads, can penetrate the armor of the Abrams.

Suddenly, Stone’s radio crackles to life as a friendly scout team occupying an observation post on Hill 555 reports that enemy APCs have arrived between Checkpoints 1 and 2.

“They are dismounting infantry,” the scout reports. “It’s hard to tell how many grunts they have in the valley, but it looks like a lot.”

“Any word from C Company?” Stone radios.

“Negative. I don’t have contact with C Company, battalion, or anyone but you,” the scout reports. “And it’s getting too hot here for us to stay so we are going to get off this hill before the North Koreans find us. It looks like you are on your own.”

One vital question races through Stone’s mind: “What should I do?”

The pressure of trying to decide weighs down on Stone like a 68-ton tank. Should he disobey orders and withdraw the platoon to the south? Should he stay true to Captain Braddock’s directive and try to hold the pass between Hills 555 and 575 for a little longer?

Stone keys his radio transmitter and calls Platoon Sergeant Anthony Buckner. “Status report. Over.”

“We’re in good shape,” Buckner answers. “No killed or wounded and only minor damage to Tank Three. We’re also okay on main gun rounds and machine-gun ammunition. But we are running half-full on fuel. We’ll need to refuel in seven to eight hours.”

Stone winces. The gas turbine engines of the M-1s gulp JP-8 fuel like frat boys in a chugging contest. If his tanks run out of fuel, they will become glorified pillboxes, and no matter how effective the tank’s armor, they will be easy prey for the enemy’s anti-tank gunners.

“What’s wrong with Tank Three?” Stone asks.

“It took a couple of hits on the turret,” Bucker replies. “The ballistic computer is out, but the crew can still fire battle-sight with their telescope. Don’t worry, it’s still able to shoot, move and communicate.”

“Did you hear the scout report?” Stone asks.

“Yes, and my gunner is scanning for targets. We see no movement and cannot observe Check Point 2,” Buckner answers. “The North Koreans must realize that they can’t drive us back with tanks, so my guess is they will rush us with infantry.”

“Roger that,” Stone replies.

“So what are we going to do? Do we stay here and fight it out or move off to join C Company?”

“Stand by,” Stone answers as he ducks down inside the turret and grabs the commander’s override to scan the valley. In the green tint of his night vision thermal imaging system, he searches the valley for some clue as to what the enemy’s next move will be.

Stone continues using the thermal sight to see in the dark, but observes no movement. The only thing he sees is the glowing fires from the destroyed hulls of the first wave of North Korean vehicles.

[continued on next page]

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