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Phong Dien District, 35 kilometers northeast of Hue, successfully
evading ARVN forces in the sector. American intelligence officers believed
the remaining battalion, the 802d, to be about 20 kilometers
south of the city or with the regimental headquarters in Base Area
114
. According to the best allied information, the 4th NVA
Regiment
was in the Phu Loc area near Route 1 between Phu Bai and
Da Nang.2

Unknown to the allies, both enemy regiments were on the move towards
Hue. The 6th NVA had as its three primary objectives the Mang
Ca
headquarters compound, the Tay Loc airfield, and the imperial
palace, all in the Citadel. South of the Perfume River, the 4th
NVA
was to attack the modern city. Among its objective areas were
the provincial capital building, the prison, and the MACV advisors compound.
The two regiments had nearly 200 specific targets in addition to the
primary sites, including the radio station, police stations, houses
of government officials, the recruiting office, and even the national
Imperial Museum. The target list contained detailed intelligence to
the extent of naming suspected government sympathizers and their usual
meeting places.3

On 30 January, some of the enemy shock troops and sappers entered the city disguised as simple peasants. With their uniforms and weapons hidden in baggage, boxes, and under their street clothes, the Viet Cong and NVA mingled with the Tet holiday crowds.' Many donned ARVN uniforms and then took up predesignated positions that night to await the attack signal.4

By this time the 6th NVA Regiment was only a few kilometers
rrom the western edge of the city. About 1900, the regiment had assembled
on a slope designated 'Hill 138' for its evening meal. According to
a North Vietnamese Army account, the troops ate a meal of 'dumplings,
Tet cakes, dried meat, and glutinous rice mixed with sugar.' The commander
and his officers inspected the men's gear and many of the soldiers


* Colonel John F. Barr,
who as a lieutenant colonel, commanded the 1st Field Artillery Group,
had recently arrived at Phu Bai as pan of Operation Checkers. (Sec Chapter
6) Barr remembered that on the morning of the 30th, he visited Hue 'to
effect command Coordination between the 1st Field Artillery Group and
the ARVN artillery commander in the Citadel. While into and through
the city, l noted the unusual number of young men in civilian cloches;
unusual in that most Vietnamese youths were either drafted by the ARVN
or off in the hills with the Viet Cong. I mentioned this upon arrival
at the ARVN artillery headquarters. I was assured by the artillery commander
that it was customary for local farmers to come into Hue to celebrate
the Tet holiday. Since he was a thoroughly professional soldier with
eight years combat experience in the province, I accepted his explanation-to
my subsequent regret.' Col John F. Barr. Comments on draft, dtd 24Nov94
(Vietnam Comment File).


Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A188251

Top, picture taken in February 1967. long before
the battle, shows the elaborate entrance and part of the surrounding
wall to the Imperial Palace grounds in the Citadel. This wall is separate
from the walls of the Citadel itself. Bottom, the Golden Throne of the
former Vietnamese Emperors is at the heart of the palace, which the
North Vietnamese used as a headquarters during the fighting for the
city.

Photo courtesy of Alex Wells, Jr.

 






Page 166 (1968: The Defining Year)