Saturday, April 22, 2023

Korean War: Company on the Move

Another tale from my Father-in-law of his service in the Korean War. My notes in italics, all else in his own words.

                In September 1952, I joined Company D, First Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment of the Second Division. The Company Commander was a Reserve Captain. I was a shiny new Second Lieutenant. We were the only officers in the company. I was assigned a platoon but given nearly all of the other duties of running the company. One was Recon Officer, in charge of checking out our next assigned location ahead of the company move. 


                One winter day I was sent to reconnoiter  a reserve position a mile or two behind the lines. I found the position on my map and headed out with a detail of men to set up camp. It was extremely cold with a strong north wind. As usual, my jeep traveled with the top down and the windshield folded over the hood so it would not reflect the sun.  the dirt roads were in poor shape so my driver had to drive very carefully. He was from Kentucky, and drove moonshine for a living so he was a very good driver. (Side bar: he told me that in a shotgun wedding, he had to marry his girlfriend’s sister.)


                Our new bivouac location turned out to have been formerly occupied by a ROK (Republic of Korea) Army unit. There were three steel buildings with straw on the floor where they had been sleeping. The building was filthy inside. If the buildings were wood, I would have burned them down. My work detail had to rake out all the straw and burn it to kill lice and fleas, then disinfect the insides of the buildings.


                All the light fixtures had been removed by the ROK’s when they left, probably then resold on the black market. The tent area was left dirty and littered. That had to be cleaned up before I could stake out tent locations in neat rows.


                Worst of all, they had continued to use the latrine pits until they were overflowing and could not be bailed out. We had to dig new pits in another location. The ground was frozen over to a foot down so we had to “borrow” explosives from an Engineering unit and use ¼ pound blocks of TNT to get below the frost line.


                When the company arrived a few days later all was in order and a hot meal was ready to be served.


                I must add that the above was a very unusual way to find a temporary camp site, anywhere. American troops are taught from basic training on to “leave the place cleaner than you found it.” Cigarette butts were “field stripped”. In those days none had filters. A finished cigarette was put out with a boot heel, the butt opened, the tobacco dumped on the ground, and the paper rolled into a tiny ball.

As the drill Sergeant would tell his recruits, “If it’s on the ground, pick it up. If it’s too heavy, paint it. If it moves, salute it.”


Marshall Tharp Korean War 1952-1953

If you'd like to see more stories, please leave  a comment below. He likes to read them. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Valour & Fortitude, Village Assault, One More Time

Once again, the French attacked that town using Valour & Fortitude rules. The game took 5 turns in 53 minutes. I made a couple minor errors. Here it is: 


I do like game-testing, used to do it for board games at SPI back in the day.

And that’s all, folks until June. We are decamping to Maine. I might get to the Huzzah convention in South Portland, if things are auspicious.

Edit: a serious error - the Fate Card stops the other player from automatically activating a brigade. The brigade must roll 2+ to activate. The card does not just stop a brigade from activating. Aw shucks.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Valour & Fortitude, Village Assault (again)

Receiving the nearly complete latest version of V&T, I decided to run it through Norm’s simple test scenario again. My 15mm troops are double-ranked since there are so few units. 

Since the units were locked in combat at the village, both Prussian flank battalions advanced to give support to the garrison’s attack.

I may have messed up here, this perhaps should have been the Prussian phase. If so, the French got too many dice. 

It looks like I screwed up here. The dice look like the Landwehr won the fight, unless I knocked over a die while removing the cotton ‘smoke’. It’s the sort of mistake that wouldn’t happen with two players. But in a solo game, with much attention to photo ops, all sorts of mischief is possible. In any case, it was a close run thing. If the French legitimately won, they are in need of some serious R&R before standing off a counter-attack. If the Prussians had managed a win, they would be in desperate need of reinforcement before meeting a fresh enemy brigade.


Aside from errors about what phase it is, I think the only rules mistake made was allowing melee supports for attackers only. There is a slim chance I can try this once more before our seasonal migration to the north country. 

Why do I make all these errors? So you don't have to. 😉


The rules have an unusual feature: you can limit game length by the actual time, and there is a method to pick the winner that makes sense. Each time a unit becomes shaken or routs, the brigade CO gets a setback. Once the brigade fails a Fortitude test, the overall CO (none in my tiny test game) gets a defeat. Add the number of objectives held/taken and the number of defeats inflicted on the foe for your side’s score. Rather neat.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division Korean War Bowl

Another story of my father-in-law’s service in the Korean War, in his own words. Any notes of mine are in italics.

     The Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) is a unique award made only to certain solders. To qualify one must be assigned to an Army infantry unit which has been in combat, in which you have participated in ground action for at least 30 days. No other military member is eligible, in spite of Hollywood pinning the  CIB on such as Military Police. There is a similar award, the Combat Medical Badge, for those who served as Medics with the same qualifications.

       The CIB was established in 1943, a critical year during World War II. They  were made from silver probably because silver was plentiful and zinc and  similar medals were needed in the war effort. When the Korean war started the stock pile of WW II silver CIB medals was sent over along with nearly all of the WW II armament that we used during that war. That is were this story begins.

    On May 20, 1953 I was sitting in my command bunker on the front line when a messenger arrived with a long awaited order for me. I was to report back to 23rd Regiment Head Quarters for a lengthy dinner with the Regimental Commander. I, and three other officers were soon to start the long trip half way around the world back home. This was our farewell party and dinner.


    The dinner was held in the Reg. Officers Club which was a large tent. There was a bar in the back of the tent and tables in front. I had been there a number of times while back at regiment for showers, clean uniform exchange and other business. The Officers Club was the best place to find out how the war was going and exchange gossip. The bar open from 5 to exactly 6 PM. Drinks were free, many bottles to choose from but ice was never available.

     I  had heard stories about a legionary silver punch bowl but I saw it for the first time when I walked into the club three days before starting for home. It was huge, reputed to be the largest silver vessel in the world, 36 inches in diameter and 23 inches high. It included matching silver cups, one for each unit of the Regiment plus one for our attached French Battalion. Its true origin follows.

    In late 1951, a major had the bright idea and, with the approval of the then Reg CO, took all of the available silver Combat Infantryman Badges and Combat Medic Badges (total 5,610) to Seoul where they were melted down. It took 30 silver smiths four months to craft the punch bowl which they delivered to the 23rd Infantry Regiment in May, 1952.

    By then a new Regimental CO was in charge, Col. Joseph Stillwell, son of the famous General Stillwell. When he found out where the silver came from he was furious. He had the Major transferred to another division and ordered the punch bowl crated up and kept out of sight.


    A few weeks before my party, Col. Stillwell was transferred to a new assignment, probably because no one wanted to be responsible for his safety while he was under their command. His replacement, Col. Chester Dahlen, had the bowl brought out and shined up just in time for my farewell dinner.


    The official origin story is that all the men from the 23rd Regiment voluntarily donated their CIB’s so that the Regiment could have a lasting monument to their accomplishments in Korea. It goes on to say that the bowl had been presented to the 23rd Infantry Regimental Officers Club where it would serve as a reminder of the loyalty and admiration that the troops felt for their regiment.


   In any case, CIB recipient received the certificate of accomplishment but no badge during my stay in Korea. I purchased mine in Japan while there on R&R.


    Up to recently, the bowl was on display at the Second Division Museum. After the war it was inscribed with the names of the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service medal winners. One gold cup has been added for those killed in action. The bowl now sits on a huge tray that I don’t recall seeing in Korea. The set weighs 220 pounds of which 189 pounds is silver.


    At the dinner I was handed a silver cigarette box made to hold two packs of cigarettes, 4 x 7 ½ inches, two inches high. It is inscribed "Presented to Lt Marshall A. Tharp by the Officers of the 23rd Infantry, Korea” I was the only officer of the four about to rotate home that received a silver box. I might have been the only one who had been awarded the CIB. My box could be one of a kind, intended for presentation to some high ranking officer.


   I don’t use the box because I no longer smoke. Also, it tarnishes, dents and scratches easily . It is made of thin sheet silver over a wood box, total weight 15 ounces on my postage scale.                                                   

      It never occurred to me before writing this story, but what do you suppose those 30 Korean silver smiths did with the left over silver and scraps from making the bowl? Where else would a combat regiment find silver to make a cigarette box?


     Also at the dinner were three replacement second lieutenants. One told me that he had 75 MM recoilless Rifle experience, so I suggested to the Reg. CO that he be my replacement. Next day the new Lt. was delivered to my bunker. It isn’t often that a First Lt. Gets to pick his own replacement.


Lt. Marshall Tharp
Korea, Sept 1952- June 1953

April 7, 2023

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Valour & Fortitude, 1815 Village Attack

I played a solo game of the scenario today. Fast? You bet, 75 minutes, 7 turns.  There were 4 French regular battalions and a battery vs. 3 Landwehr battalions (1 militia status) and a battery. It was 58 French points to 30 Prussian points. The result shows the discrepancy.


Units become wavering after taking hits = to their tenacity. Brigades waver after having 3 setbacks (units waver and/or rout). Additional hits make wavering units take Valour tests. Failure means rout and removal. Additional setbacks make wavering brigades take Fortitude tests, failure resulting in the brigade’s removal from the game. The rules were designed for a larger game than this (as were Shadow of the Eagles in the previous solo game). In a normal game, the army CO can get one brigade to activate automatically. I decide to dispense with this and have both sides test their individual brigades to activate. Without this the game would have been over 3 turns sooner. This was my first time trying the rules on the table. Each turn, each player draws a fate card (from standard poker cards). The cards add some flavor to the proceedings. On to the game.

Some of the text on the next photo is wrong: I did use the right number of melee dice for the French. Errors in photo text are most apparent after hitting save. 

The game was fast. I like the rapid movement – no more “we should have started the two sides closer”. It is very easy to mass them as they advance. The rules say attacking units can get support. A French regular battalion has 4 melee dice, plus 1 for attack column, +2 for a flank support, +1 for a brigade rear support gives 8 dice. The odds call for 4 hits. This will force anything less than regular troops to take a Valour test. If the target has been softened up at all, regular units will also test. Hits scored by the enemy will be spread among the attackers and supports. It seems in a large game the attack will often break the line. The riposte to that must be counterattacks by reserves.


The previous game with Shadows of the Eagles (full disclosure: I helped game-test the rules on this side of the pond) saw the French brigade break one Prussian battalion and evict the Prussians from the town, but taking enough damage that they were incapable of pursuit and needed a bit of time to recover from the fray. A new enemy force would have them at a severe disadvantage right then.


This V&F game saw two Prussian units routed and one French. If the French had not failed to activate, the game would have been over 3 turns sooner, an easy victory. The French were capable of pursuit but probably should take a turn or two to adjust their lines in case of a potential counterattack.


I would have to see how V&F works for a larger game before coming to a final decision. It certainly is fast. I do like the fate cards. 

Normally I use 12 figure battalions in a single rank. With so few units on the table I opted for more figures two bases deep.

If you want to see the Valour & Fortitude rules, click here.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Shadow of the Eagles, 1815 village attack

Inspired by the 1815 campaign scenario of Norm S (link here scroll down), I decided to run my own solo with Shadow of the Eagles. A French brigade of 4 regular line battalions and a battery attacks a built-up-area defended by a Prussian regiment of 3 Landwehr battalions and a battery. 

I didn’t write down the time it started, unusually. I think it took 2 hours and 8 turns. I did get a little confused changing sides of the table and taking photos. Normally my battalions are 4 stands, 12 figures strong. I figured with so few units on the table I’d double them up. Casualty figures are used to denote weakened units. I hope to run this again with Valour & Fortitude. Neither rule set is designed for such a small fight. That's better than more units than the rules are designed for. I know that from hard experience. Don’t rag on Norm for having some unpainted figures while he tests things. I’ve tested new rules with cardboard units marked “infantry” and such.


Photos of the dust up follow. The Prussians are my only all-AB army. They deserve a better painter. There was no pussy-footing about outflanking the town. This was a straight-up knock-down fight.

The Prussian 2nd in command turned out to be a competent chap, looking much like his previous boss.

Since this is supposed to be part of a campaign, it seemed time for the Prussians to give up the town rather than risk loss of the guns and perhaps both remaining battalions.

The French were victorious but badly in need of some R&R.


I like the way the games flows, though running both sides and taking photos had me going. I think no rules mistakes were made but am not sure I registered every hit. Everything that happened made sense, none of that “how on earth did that happen” stuff. The charge was highly interesting, like things I've read about. If there had been a Prussian reserve unit on hand, the counter-attack would have been something.

Edit: I used the new rules, which tone down the skirmish screen a bit. Liked 'em.