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US Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year

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Page 192(The Struggle for Hue-Stalemate in the Old City )


CHAPTER 11

The Struggle for Hue-Stalemate in the Old City

A Faltering Campaign-Going into the Walled City-The Fight for the Tower-Continuing the Advance

A Faltering Campaign

While the Marines cleared the new city, the South Vietnamese offensive in the Citadel had faltered. In the first days of the campaign, the 1st Battalion, 3d ARVN Regiment had cleaned out much of the northwest corner of the old city while the 1st ARVN Airborne Task Force, just south of the 1st Battalion, attacked from the Tay Loc airfield towards the western wall. To the east, the 4th Battalion, 2d ARVN Regiment advanced south from the Mung Ca compound toward the former imperial palace grounds, enclosed within its own walls and moats.' The battalion made excellent progress until enemy resistance stiffened about half-way toward the objective. By 4 February, the 1st ARVN Division reported that it had killed nearly 700 NVA troops in the Citadel.1

At this point. General Truong, the 1st ARVN Division commander, decided to make some readjustment in his lines. On the 5th, he moved the airborne task force's three battalions into the northeast sector, relieving the 4th Battalion, 2d ARVN. Assuming responsibility for the airfield, the 4th battalion, on the following day, pushed forward all the way to the southwest wall. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 3d ARVN Regiment recaptured the An Hoa gate in the northwestern corner of the Citadel. South of the Citadel, just north of the Perfume River, the remaining three battalions of the 3d ARVN Regiment, furilely butted against the southeastern wall of the old city in an effort to roll up the enemy defenses from that direction.2

On the night of 6-7 February, the NVA counterattacked. Using grappling hooks, fresh North Vietnamese troops scaled the southwestern wall and forced the 2d Battalion, 4th ARVN to fall back with heavy losses to the Tay Loc airfield. That afternoon, the cloud cover lifted enough for South Vietnamese Air Force fixed-wing aircraft to drop 25 500-pound bombs on the now NVA-occupied southwest wall of the Citadel.3

With the NVA pouring reinforcements into the old city, General Truong once more redeployed his own forces. He ordered the three battalions of the 3d ARVN Regiment south of the Citadel to give up the apparent hopeless effort to force the southeastern walls and move into the city. On the afternoon of the 7th, the 3d ARVN Regimental headquarters and the three battalions embarked on South Vietnamese motorized junks which landed the troops at a wharf north of Hue. The 3d ARVN units then entered the Citadel through the northern gate and took up new positions at the 1st Division Mang Ca compound. By that evening, General Truong had inside the Citadel four airborne battalions, the Black Panther Company, rwo armored cavalry squadrons, the 3d ARVN Regiment with all four battalions, the 4th Battalion from the 2d ARVN Regiment, and a company from the 1st ARVN Regiment.4

Despite the ARVN troop buildup in the old city, General Truong's forces made almost no further headway against the enemy. For the next few days, the ARVN ran up against dug-in NVA who refused to be budged. The North Vietnamese still controlled about 60 percent of the Citadel. Infiltrating well-fed and well-equipped replacements each night into the old city, the North Vietnamese continued to hold their own against the ARVN.5

To the west, the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was having about as little luck as the ARVN forces in the Citadel against the North Vietnamese. Major General John J. Tolson, the division commander, recalled, 'I was to seal off the city from the west and north with my right flank on the Perfume River.' Tolson observed, however, that the weather and low-ceiling of 150-200 feet combined with the enemy antiaircraft weapons 'made it impractical and illogical to contemplate an air assault by any unit of the Division, in the close proximity of Hue.'6

As the vanguard of Colonel Hubert S. Campbell's 3d Brigade, the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry starred out on foot the early morning of 3 February in a cold driz-


*Col Arthur J. Poillon, the operations officer of Task Force X-Ray, recalled that the term Citadel caused some initial confusion as it was 'sometimes used to identify' the old walled city and sometimes to identify the palace grounds.' Col A. J. Poillon, Comments on draft ms, 30Oct69, Donnelly and Shore, 'Ho Chi Minh's Gamble' (Vietnam Comment Files). In the present text, Cicadel is used co refer to the entire old walled city.



Page 192(The Struggle for Hue-Stalemate in the Old City )
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