AKA, the first fight in the Battle of Mar Gush
It's 28 March 1948 in the Palestine Mandate. Times have been rough in recent years between the Jews and Arabs, but now, with the pending British departure from the territory, the violence has escalated. As the Brits prepare to leave, both the Jews and the Arabs jockey for position, with former neighbors picking up weapons against each other. To add to the volatility, Arab volunteers from the nearby Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon are arriving in the area, while the Jews are added to by refugees from war-ravaged Europe seeking asylum.
There are a number of Jewish paramilitary organizations charged with defending Jewish settlements and carving out a homeland for the Jews, mainly the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi. While ill-equipped, they are growing in number and sport a large collection of WWII veterans, mostly former British soldiers. But their ability to project power is weak and their enemies many, and so many villages and kibbutzes are left to their own devices to ward off attacks. And this is the situation we find ourselves in: not far west of Jerusalem lies the (fictional) Jewish village of Mar Gush, along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road, which was the only artery for bringing supplies to the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.
In early March 1948, members of Haganah visited Mar Gush, delivering weapons, ammunition, and supplies. They met with village elders to discuss the situation, making them aware of the threat to their village, and brought in a man, a kibbutzim and former Jewish Brigade member by the name of Avi Peled, to help the men of Mar Gush organize a defense. Among the villagers Avi was able to find 25 able-bodied men, aged 17 to 54, and to this the Haganah was able to provide another eleven men, European survivors of the Holocaust recently arrived. The 26-year old Avi set about training and organizing the men of Mar Gush; weapons were distributed and the men set up makeshift ranges to test fire their weapons, and took to the nearby countryside to work on rudimentary tactics, part of which was figuring out means of communication with the new arrivals.
After two weeks' training, a Colonel from the Haganah returned to Mar Gush to look in on the situation: he was obviously pleased, and to mark the occasion the Colonel officially recognized the fighters of Mar Gush's infantry company, and made Avi Peled a Captain of the Haganah.
Following the Colonel's departure, Avi immediately set about making the village ready. First up was the construction of shelters for the civilians, and then the men moved to the east end of the village, where they created a roadblock, three slit trenches, laid some barbed wire stripped from the fields, and topped it all off with three homemade land mines! But time was short, and unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Mar Gush, men who wished them harm were already on the way. Though he couldn't have known it was coming, on the eve of what would become known in Mar Gush as "The Confrontation," Avi called his men together, the entire company, around a set of campfires. Avi laid out what he foresaw as their task in defending their village, and his understanding of how the odds were stacked against them. He told his men he would understand if they wished to take their families and flee for the safety of Tel Aviv; when none took him up on his offer, Avi stood and pledged his life in defense of the village, and he was followed by each of the 36 members of his company.
Once concluded, the men returned to their families, but Avi requested Baruch Eitan, Danny Tzur, and Dor Peleg remain behind. Avi brought them in close; "you are my friends, and the only family I have left. And, from here on, you are my Lieutenants. I trust you with my life and, more importantly, I trust you with the lives of our men. You will sell them dearly, or you will answer to me. Now go, I will stand watch tonight, go and be with your wives and children."
-Lieutenant Baruch Eitan, age 33, former member of the Palmach returned home, MP-40
-Aaron Chaplin, age 44, a refugee from Belgium, Sten
-Dagan Narkiss, age 17, a village youngster, Mauser
-Gal Dayan, age 19, a village youngster, Sten
-Chaim Sharon, age 28, former Corporal in the British Army, Lee-Enfield
-Guy Rabin, age 40, village metalsmith, Springfield 03
-Eliyahu Rabat, age 31, former Sergeant of the Jewish Brigade, Sten
-Avigdor Galil, age 18, village youngster, Mauser
-Dov Cohen, age 37, a refugee from Poland, Sten
-Elijah Davidoff, age 49, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, MP-40
-Abel Landau, age 54, a refugee from Germany and veteran of the German Army in WWI, Mauser
-Asaf Horowitz, age 19, a village youngster, Mauser.
All the figures are 15mm troops from Peter Pig, and I'm playing these fights using Ivan's "Five Men at Kursk," modified slightly.
The fight is begun.
Yeah, I'm using modern US Marine casualty figures for the Jordanians...
Once the villagers were squared away, Avi went and found Baruch. "That was great work today, I'm proud of you, and I will make sure the entire village knows about what you did today! And the Colonel, too! You fought like a lion today, Baruch, and you saved those villagers. How are your men?" Baruch relayed the medical status of Avigdor and Dov; Avi stated "we were lucky today. I think the enemy was a bit surprised by the ferociousness of your counterattack, at how determined you were. They could not match your determination, nor your aggressiveness. Trust me my friend, we will not have the best training, or the best weapons, but we have the best men, and so long as we act aggressively we cannot fail! In any case, they're gone and it's getting dark, but mark my words, Baruch, they'll be back. Go and get some rest; I am going to feed 3rd Platoon into the line, and will hold 2nd Platoon as reserve. You're platoon will be the reserve to the reserve!"
Well, a resounding victory! I must admit, I was shocked as hell at the result of this fight. With me running the Jewish unit out there like a bunch of fans at a rock concert, I was expecting to take a bunch of casualties and be pushed out of the northern edge of the village. And certainly when the Jordanians had two men fire and dropped two of my guys I figured that's where we were headed, but my dice were hot and the Jordanians' were cold. So cold I had to bring in reinforcements just to try and make it a fight, and even that didn't really work as they couldn't get anyone into the center (The Copse of Death) to buddy check their knocked down guys.
The Jewish soldiers and villagers waited anxiously all the next day, but the Jordanians did not come back. But the next night, in the wee hours of the morning on 30 March 1948, the sounds of enemy troops moving up in the pre-dawn darkness could be heard, again on the north side of the village. Stay tuned, coming right up!