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Posted on Nov 19, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

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

By John Antal

So far, Stone feels he has made the right decisions. His Abrams tanks crushed the first North Korean attacks. However, he must now decide how to meet this new threat, and the responsibility is wearing him down. He reviews the tactical possibilities in his mind, trying to determine his next move in this deadly game of action and counteraction that is combat.

In the past four hours, the platoon has been in almost continuous battle. It successfully blunted the North Korean assault by withdrawing and defending the western exit of the valley between hills 575 and 555. The North Koreans must have believed that Stone’s tanks had retreated, and they raced for the western exit with little regard for their own security. When the North Koreans piled out of the valley in column, Stone’s tank platoon was waiting in ambush. The tanks destroyed the oncoming enemy until the battlefield was a mess of exploding North Korean junk.

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Then the enemy regrouped and sent dismounted infantry up the hills. Stone acted decisively, charging forward with the guns from his four M-1A1 Abrams blazing away. The North Korean infantrymen were offloading from their armored personnel carriers (APCs) and were caught off balance. In the pitch-black night, using the technological advantage of the thermal sights, the American tankers slaughtered the unprotected enemy infantry as they tried to dismount their APCs and climb the barren hills. After destroying the few remaining enemy tanks and a company of APCs, the American victory was complete. When the charge was over, the Abrams were back at their starting point at the eastern end of the valley, overlooking the Route 51 bridge that crosses a deep north-south running stream.

The calm voice of Platoon Sergeant Buckner suddenly sounds over the radio. “We need to use this time to take a position and reallocate ammo,” he says. “It won’t be long until they hit us again.”

“Cross level within sections,” Stone orders. “I’ll issue instructions in a few minutes.”

“Charlie Two-One, this is Charlie Red-Leg, over,” the voice of Captain Braddock’s artillery sergeant announces over the radio.

“Red-Leg, glad to hear from you,” Stone radios back. “I need all the artillery you can give me near the Route 51 bridge.”

“I can provide you with one strike of about 30 rounds of HE [high explosive] … that’s all the ROKs can spare us. I’ve allocated three targets – AF99, AF100 and AF101,” the artilleryman continues, sending Stone the grid coordinates of each. “It’s been tough getting the South Koreans to respond because they are hard pressed, but they can fire for effect on one, and only one, of these targets. You need to tell me which one you want in the next five minutes or we may lose their support.”

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Image Credit: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
An M-1A1 Abrams main battle tank fires its 120 mm gun during Exercise Reforger 85.

“Understand,” Stone acknowledges. “Give me a few minutes and I’ll decide.” Nothing is ever easy in Korea, and the strains of combined operations in combat make things even tougher.

Stone checks his map and quickly jots down the locations of the targets. He realizes that the artillery will not be enough to stop the enemy, but it might make a difference if he chooses the right target.

Suddenly, he hears one of his tanks firing a 7.62 mm machine gun somewhere outside. After only one night of combat, he’s learned the distinct differences in the sounds of friendly and enemy machine-gun fire.

“Charlie Two-One, this is Charlie Two-Four,” Buckner radios. “I just took out three North Korean ground-pounders – probably survivors from our counterattack. I don’t think there are any more in the valley, but my gunner observes infantry moving near the east side of the bridge. We better get moving and take up positions. What are your orders?”

[continued on next page]

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