Ride of the Valkyries – Recreating the Nung River Assault

Today Lee takes a look at recreating one of the iconic scenes of the movie Apocalypse Now as the US Air Cavalry conduct an air assault against a VS stronghold.

Introduction

Apocalypse Now is generally considered one of the “great” war films of the late 20th century and certainly one of the best Vietnam films.  A retelling of Josepth Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, a Special Forces Captain Willard is sent to confront and eliminate a rogue US Colonel Kurtz.  To accomplish this, he commandeers a Patrol Boat and sets off on a journey to the Colonel’s lair in Cambodia.

The film has many great vignettes that capture the nature of the war in South East Asia, but the stand-out moment, the scene that arguably was the reason for the creation of DVD Scene Select, is the Air Assault on the river mouth.  Having found that the VC control the Nung river mouth that leads to Kurtz, Willard tries to convince Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore of the 1st Cavalry to clear the way.  Initially reluctant, Kilgore relents when he finds that one of the Patrol Boat crew is a surfing celebrity.

What follows is a full air assault on a coastal village.  Hogs and Loaches draw out and suppress the enemy infantry and air defences to allow air assault infantry to take the village, all set to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”.  Whilst the assault is successful, enemy mortars continue to harass the US troops (disrupting their ability to surf), leading to Kilgore to call in a flight of F-5 Freedom Fighters to napalm the surrounding forest, silencing the tubes.  A Huey airlifts the Patrol Boat in, and the crew can continue their mission.

It’s a terrific scene and, ever since Tour of Duty, came out I wanted to recreate it as an Airmobile Troop.  With the release of ‘Nam I want to see if it’s still viable.

The Cavalry

So, firstly we need to work out what the force should look like.  As it starts, we get some great panning shots of the troop.  A couple strategic pauses reveal the following:

A big heap of slicks!

  • At least 6 OH-6 loaches
  • At least 8 Transport slicks
  • At least 4 Hogs (long cabin UH-1H at a guess)

AH-1S Cobras. Maybe.

Looking at the force diagram for the Airmobile Troop that seems to line up with our possible selections;

  • Four of the Slicks will carry a full strength HQ Aerorifle platoon.
  • The six Loaches can be arranged into two platoons of three
  • The four UH-1 Gunships can form a single platoon of four to maximise the impact of the rockets.

Whilst the book only has the AH-1 Cobra, discussions on the forum have revealed that the UH-1B Hog ended up being similar in stats (having both a twin MG and a pair of rocket launchers) so we can either source some of the old resin UH-1B, or go German, and use them for our airborne artillery.

Never forget!

That does leave four slicks unaccounted for, but we can take a cavalry Airmobile Rifle Platoon and a slick flight as “formation support” as both are compulsory units of another formation in our force and not already present in the army.

What happens when design teams let the propulsion guys have too much control…

Later in the clip, we see an O-2 Skymaster (sadly not available as a unit, and even a proxy as a C&C is out without artillery), a “Dustoff” – actually just one of the slicks given the door guns, and then the finale; a quartet of F-5 Freedom Fighters dropping hot sticky death.

Rumours that this scene is the entire basis for the ‘Nam aircraft coherence rules are vastly exaggerated…

So, we have all the elements of the army that shapes up like this:

75pts!  Not a bad number for a game.  The far more likely A-4 substitutes for the contribution of the Philippine air force but otherwise that’s not a bad parallel to the film.

Charlie Don’t Surf!

Of course, we need the either side of the COIN for the scenario.

The force at the Nung mouth are described as being VC. Of course, that term gets used fairly liberally and incorrectly in a lot of sources but it seems reasonable here to take it at face value and use a Local Forces Battalion as the basis.

The Local Forces are shown to have AK-47 and at least two AA guns described as “0.5 cals” (one truck mounted.  So at least two Local Infantry Companies, both upgraded to AK-47 teams seems justified, as well as one 12.7mm platoon of 3 guns.

Plus it would be really cool to model them with the camo net covers

As the scene goes one we see two other aspects appear.  Firstly a local girl approaches the “dust-off” slick and throws a hidden grenade in, destroying the Huey and immolating the crew.  That would certainly seem grounds for some local resistance teams, but their “attack” is quite weak so I added some booby traps too.  Secondly, the US ground troops are sporadically suppressed by an undefined artillery unit until wiped out by the Napalm strike.  That could be easily represented by the Local Forces mortar platoon.

To use up the remaining points to match the Air Cav, I add a third infantry platoon and upgrade all RPG to the longer ranged B41 on the basis it may help with helicopters.

That leaves us with this 74pt force.  I couldn’t think what to put in for the extra point, both the HMG platoon and the recoilless rifle platoon are only 1 point but neither appears in the film.  I leave it up to the reader to decide!

Missions

Mission wise, two spring to mind:

  1. Search and Destroy – We see the VC clearing out a cache into a truck during the film – clearly they assume this is a Search and Destroy operation.
  2. Hot LZ – This also seems appropriate; the LZ was very hot!

Summary

In closing, it appears we can recreate the scenario and forces of the film quite closely!  Now all we need is a custom game board and two fully painted boards to play it all out on!

 

Category: Flames of WarList DiscussionmissionsOspreyRamblingUSVietnam

One comment

  1. Here is my take on this mission: Ride of the Valkyries – 50 pts a side

    Air Cavalry Troop – 50 pts
    HQ + Aerorifle Platoon
    9 x M60 MG team, 4 x UH-1 20pts
    OH-6 Aeroscout Platoon
    2 x OH-6 Loach 4 pts
    Gunship Aeroweapons Platoon
    2 x UH-1 HOGS 5 pts

    Force Support
    Airmobile Rifle Platoon
    5 x M16 team, 2 x M60 team 7 pts
    UH-1 Aviation Platoon
    4 x UH-1 2 pts
    Skyraider Air Support Flight
    2 x Skyraiders with Napalm 8 pts
    C&C OP Helicopter 1 pt
    Patrol Boat
    1 x PBR 2 pts
    Medevac Helicopter
    1 x UH-1 1 pt

    Local Forces Infantry Battalion – 50 pts
    HQ 1 pt
    2 x AK-47 1 pt
    6 x Guerilla Booby Traps 6 pts
    Infantry Company
    13 x AK-47, 3 x B40, 1 x LMG 10 pts
    Upgrade to B41 3 pts
    Infantry Company
    13 x AK-47, 3 x B40, 1 x LMG 10 pts
    Infantry Company
    13 x AK-47, 3 x B40, 1 x LMG 10 pts
    Anti-Air Platoon 1 pt
    Mortar Company 1 pt
    Formation Support
    Local Resistance
    3 x Local Resistance teams 6 pts

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.