Page 149

Page 149 (1968: The Defining Year)

morning, the infantrymen discovered blood trails and three NVA bodies
in the vicinity of the explosions.*

Colonel Franklin L. Smith, of the III MAF operations staff, remembered
that information about the attacks that night came into the headquarters
"in dribs and driblets." As he later explained, however, it soon became
apparent "that a general offensive was underway." In the Da Nang area
of operations, outside of attacks by fire on the Marine base and outlying
positions, and the two ground assaults on Marine command and communications
positions, the Communist infantry units largely concentrated on the
South Vietnamese units. In the Hai Van Pass area in the north, North
Vietnamese regulars attempted to cut Route 1. To the south of the airbase,
other enemy main force units attacked the District Town of Dien Ban
and the provincial capital of Quang Nam, Hoi An, on Route 4. At 0230
on the 30th at Dien Ban, elements of the R-20th and V-25th
struck the subsector headquarters defended by the 15th Popular Forces
Platoon and the 708 Regional Forces Company. Entering the town from
the southwest, the VC fired about 70 rocket propelled grenades at the
local forces, but never penetrated the defender's perimeter. About two-and-a-half
hours later, the enemy units "ceased fire and withdrew." The Vietnamese
militia suffered 1 PF killed and 10 wounded. According to the U.S. Advisory
Group at Da Nang, the PFs and RFs accounted for eight dead VC and captured
one wounded enemy soldier. In the town itself, 10 innocent people, caught
in the crossfire, sustained wounds, but no civilians died as a result
of the battle.28

About 5,000 meters to the east, in Hoi An, however, Communist forces
gained somewhat the upper hand. Beginning their attack about 0300, about
one-half hour after Dien Ban had been hit, two companies of the V-25th
used the noise of firecrackers set off and general firing
by Tet celebrants to cover their approach. One of the companies captured
a German missionary hospital in the city and the other hit the rear
base of the 51st ARVN Regiment, the Chi Long Camp, garrisoned by the
ARVN 102d Engineer Battalion. Surprised by the initial assault, the
engineers fell back, giving up half the camp to the Communist attackers.
Bringing up two artillery platoons, the South Vietnamese gunners lowered
their pieces and fired pointblank at the VC. By daybreak, the engineers
held their own and the situation in Hoi An was at a stalemate.29

The Korean Marine Brigade deployed six companies around the city and the South Vietnamese 51st Regiment prepared a reaction force. In addition, the 1st Marine Division alerted one company to participate in the relief of Hoi An, if needed. According to Communist documents, captured later, the two VC assault companies were to pull out at first light, but became bogged down in the city. The struggle for Hoi An would continue into the following day.

Still by daybreak on 30 January, the intentions of the Communists
were not entirely clear. While the enemy attacks were widespread in
the Da Nang area of operations, the intensity of enemy operations in
other areas of Vietnam varied. For the most part, the Communist offensive
appeared to be limited to its Military Region 5. Even here,
the assaults were largely confined to the Da Nang area in I Corps and
to five provincial capitals in II Corps. In II Corps, the enemy struck
the cities of Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, Ban Me Thuot, Kontum, and Pleiku.
According to some sources, the Communist high command had scheduled
a full nation-wide assault on the night of 29-30 January, but postponed
it for one day. Whether Military Region 5 never received the
word, or failed to notify some of its subordinate units is still open
to conjecture. Indeed, the Communist leaders may even have had other
ulterior motives. At MACV headquarters, at 0700 on 30 January, Brigadier
General Philip B. Davidson, the J-2 or MACV intelligence officer, briefed
General Westmoreland and predicted "this is going to happen in the rest
of the country tonight or tomorrow morning." He was right.30

The Fighting Continues

Outside of the Da Nang and Hoi An sectors, most of I Corps remained relatively quiet during the night and early morning hours of 29-30 January. At 0600, however, about nine kilometers north of Tarn Ky in Quang Tin Province, about 100 people gathered for an antiwar demonstration. A Popular Forces platoon attempted to disperse the crowd. According to an ini-

*Igor Bobrowsky, a former Combined Action Marine in CAP Delta 2, located near the Thanh Quit River bridge on Route 1 south of Da Nang, remembered that an enemy team fired from a "spot probably within a click of our positions .... We took them under fire . . . and cheered when one time, after just getting off/possibly two rockets, they were lit up by a chopper that had apparently been hovering in the dark waiting for them. A number of other choppers/airplanes/ then immediately blasted and raked over the whole area. We added as much machine gun and automatic fire into the mix as we could pump out." Igor Bobrowsky, Comments on draft, dtd 26Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Bobrowsky Comments.

Page 149 (1968: The Defining Year)