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60 percent of the Citadel, including the imperial palace, was in the
hands of the NVA. At 0800, North Vietnamese troops raised the red and
blue Viet Cong banner with its gold star over the Citadel flag tower.10


Across the river in southern Hue, much the same situation existed. U.S. advisors to the 1st ARVN Division in the MACV compound, a complex of several two- to three-story buildings, including a former hotel, awoke in the early morning hours to the sound of bursting mortar and rocket rounds. The Americans grabbed any weapons that were at hand and manned their defenses. Like the 1st Division staff, the advisors successfully repulsed the initial enemy ground attack. While not mounting any further ground assaults, the NVA maintained a virtual siege of the compound with mortars, rockets, and automatic weapons fire.11

The 4th NVA Regiment with the 804th NVA Battalion,
supported by local force companies and elements of the Hue City
Sapper Battalion
, had launched its offensive against the modern
city. Divided into several attack groups, the enemy sought out key civil
and military facilities. Even according to the North Vietnamese official
account, the enemy actions and preparations in the new city lacked the
cohesion and timing of those in the Citadel. The North Vietnamese author
wrote: "The attacks on southern Hue were carried out by many forces
which employed many very different forms of tactics." One unit lost
its way in the darkness and did not arrive in the city until 0600. Despite
confusion and some reverses, that morning, the NVA had control of most
of southern Hue except for the prison, the MACV compound, and the Hue
LCU (landing craft, utility) ramp on the waterfront to the northeast
of the compound.12

In the Citadel, on 1 February, the embattled General Truong called
in reinforcements. He ordered his 3d Regiment; the 3d Troop, 7th ARVN
Cavalry; and the 1st ARVN Airborne Task Force to relieve the pressure
on his Mang Ca headquarters. Responding to the call at PK 17,
the ARVN base located near a road marker on Route 1, 17 kilometers north
of Hue, the 3d Troop and the 7th Battalion of the Airborne task force
rolled out of their base area in an armored convoy onto Route 1. A North
Vietnamese blocking force stopped the ARVN relief force about 400 meters
short of the Citadel wall. Unable to force their way through the enemy
positions, the South Vietnamese paratroopers asked for assistance. The
2d ARVN Airborne Battalion reinforced the convoy and the South Vietnamese
finally penetrated the lines and entered the Citadel in the early morning
hours of the next day. The cost had been heavy: the ARVN suffered 131
casualties including 40 dead, and lost 4 of the 12 armored personnel
carriers in the convoy. According to the South Vietnamese, the enemy
also paid a steep price in men and equipment. The ARVN claimed to have
killed 250 of the NVA, captured 5 prisoners, and recovered 71 individual
and 25 crew-served weapons.13

The 3d ARVN Regiment had an even more difficult time. On the 31st,
two of its battalions, the 2d and 3d, advanced east from encampments
southwest of the city along the northern bank of the Perfume River,
but North Vietnamese defensive fires forced them to fall back. Unable
to enter the Citadel, the two battalions established their night positions
outside the southeast wall of the old City. Enemy forces surrounded
the 1st and 4th Battalions of the regiment, operating to the southeast,
as they attempted to reinforce the units in Hue. Captain Phan Ngoc Luong,
the commander of the 1st Battalion, retreated with his unit to the coastal
Ba Long outpost, arriving there with only three clips per man for their
World War II vintage M1 rifles.* At Ba Long, the battalion then embarked
upon motorized junks and reached the Citadel the following day. The
4th Battalion, however, remained unable to break its encirclement for
several days.


South of the city, on 31 January, Lieutenant Colonel Phan Huu Chi, the commander of the ARVN 7th Armored Cavalry Squadron attempted to break the enemy stranglehold. He led an armored column toward Hue, but like the other South Vietnamese units, found it impossible to break through. With the promise of U.S. Marine reinforcements, Chi's column, with three tanks in the lead, tried once more. This time they crossed the An Cuu Bridge into the new city. Coming upon the central police headquarters in southern Hue, the tanks attempted to relieve the police defenders. When an enemy B-40 rocket made a direct hit upon Lieutenant Colonel Chi's tank, killing him instantly, the South Vietnamese armor then pulled back.14

Redeployment at Phu Bai and Marines Go to Hue


The first U.S. Marines to bolster the South Vietnamese in the city were on their way. They were from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, part of Task Force X-

* Although the U.S. was reequipping the South Vietnamese Army units with
the magazine-fed automatic 5.56mm M16, most South Vietnamese Army units
in February 1968 were equipped with the semi-automatic, 8-shot, 30-caliber
clip-fed M1. See Jeffrey J. Clarke, Advice and Support: The Final
Years, 1965-1973
, United States Army in Vietnam (Washington: CMH,
1988), p. 284.




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