Lieutenant Randy Buckmeir crouched down on the edge of the rubber plantation and scanned the village ahead. The path through the paddy fields was straight and true, and at a run he reckoned his platoon could be across the open ground in a matter of twenty seconds. But fresh to `Nam as he was, Randy knew that a lot could happen in that twenty seconds.

Across to his right he could see Merv Schultz's platoon sweeping through Gok Wan 1 and setting up their M60s to dominate the open ground between the ridge and the riverside hamlet of Gok Wan 2. Behind him he knew that the battalion's mortars were set up ready to provide support if things got tough. Twenty seconds.

The radio crackled into life.

"This is the Green Man; what the Hell is holding you boys up down there. I have Yellow Dragon on my back, he is in position and waiting for you to push Charlie on to his stop line. Now haul ass, you no good sons of bitches!"

Sergeant Biff Stone looked nervously at the young Lieutenant. Quietly he signalled his weapons squad to shake out on the edge of the paddy field and make ready to put fire into the village.

"Let's go!" Lieutenant Buckmeir leapt to his feet and began the run down the path towards Gok Wan 2. Ten seconds. Fifteen. My God, he was going to make it.

The crackle of several AK47 assault rifles was sufficient to confirm that Buckmeir was not going to make it after all. As the lead infantry squad was within yards of the entrance to the hamlet a hail of bullets came from the hooches. One man went down dead, but fortunately the raised berm that edges the paddy field gave them cover.

Instantly two M60s opened up in reply, their fire stitching erratic patterns in the leaf thatch and corrugated iron that made up the structure of the hooches. In seconds the firefight was over. Nine VC were dead or dying, and Randolph Buckmeir the Third counted his lucky stars that he was still alive and un-perforated. He could see his Corpsman moving among the men checking for wounds and the big Sergeant moving slowly forward to re-organise his unit.

"Move yo ass you muttahs"!". On the ridge Sergeant Leroy Burlesque spat out his instructions to keep his men moving through the dense undergrowth. He was sure that he had detected movement on the ridge and taking a chance and running forward on the edge of the open ground would allow him to outflank his foe. This was a sweep operation, and Leroy had every intention of sticking to the plan. If Charlie was here then Leroy would find him.

By the little yellow idol to the south of Gok Wan 2, near the little marble cross below the town, Charlie had placed an anti-aircraft MG (ZPU), on a rise from which he was now gazing down. Deployed against the US infantry moving in the open the heavy calibre rounds were devastating. Sergeant Burlesque would never play new New Orleans again, and two more of his men were literally torn apart in the first moments. The rest of the platoon tumbled into the tree-line and sought what cover it could.

In the observation position on top of the Gok Wan ridge the VC Company Comander, Pak Choi, watched the American infantry sweeping up towards him. Another minute and the way would be clear. He dropped down the access tunnel into the main complex. Forty men were assembled ready to move out. Pak Choi knew he had but one chance. He had seen the South Vietnamese Paras drop to take up their positions, he had watched as they set up their weapons and beat down the vegetation to create a field of fire before their positions. Then he knew that a sweep force would be coming to drive him on to this position.

Pak Choi's Company of VC mainforce had been operating from around Gok Wan for over a month now. A small barrack complex had been dug out of the deep red soil that made up the ridge. His plan had been simple. Deploy one of his platoons away from the barracks and attempt to draw in the US force. Once they were past him his remaining two platoons would attempt to break out and head for the rubber plantation. The chances were slim, but the alternative was to be trapped between the two forces.

On his command the first platoon rushed from the concealed entrance and ran towards Gok Wan 1. A lone US weapons squad was between them and safety and surprise was on their side. The fight was short and violent. The US firepower told as the first rank of VC was literally cut down, however had to hand fighting threw the US section out of the hamlet and saw then dropping back, badly shocked, to the edge of the rubber plantation. The tattered remains of the VC platoon dropped back to the concealed bunker, the body of Pak Choi dragged behind them. Meanwhile the more circumspect second VC platoon were making their way through the tall elephant grass, heading for freedom.

At this point we called it a day. One VC platoon had escaped intact. One other squad was attempting to lurk in the undergrowth near the yellow idol. The crew of the ZPU AAMG was dead around its weapon, largely put out of action by Biff Stone's M60s. The Americans had lost five men dead, which in reality equates to two dead and three badly wounded, whereas the VC had lost about thirty men. From the pure bodycount perspective this was a US victory, however the sweep had failed to catch all the VC, so the Communist players were claiming a victory too. A good fun game of Charlie Don't Surf, and more to come next week.

Richard Clark