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With his other companies in blocking positions, Cheatham hoped to
catch the enemy against the Truoi River. While inflicting casualties,
the events in Hue were to interfere with his plans. At 1030, 31 January,
Company G departed for Phu Bai as the Task Force reserve. Later that
afternoon, the battalion lost operational control of Company F. Captain
Downs years later remembered the company "disengaged . .. where we had
them [the NVA] pinned up against a river, moved to the river and trucked
into Phu Bai." With the departure of Company F about 1630, the NVA successfully
disengaged and Companies H and E took up night defensive positions.
According to the casualty box score, the Marines of Second Batalion
5th Marines in this engagement killed 18 enemy troops, took 1 prisoner,
and recovered sundry equipment and weapons including 6 AK-47s, at a
cost of 3 Marines killed and 13 wounded.25


While the fighting continued in the Truoi River and the Phu Loc sectors, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines had begun to move into Hue city. In the early morning hours of 31 January after the rocket bombardment of the airfield and the initial attack on the Truoi River Bridge, Task Force X-Ray received reports of enemy strikes all along Route 1 between the Hai Van Pass and Hue. All told, the enemy hit some 18 targets from bridges, Combined Action units, and company defensive positions. With Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as the Phu Bai reserve, Colonel Hughes directed Lieutenant Colonel Gravel to stage the company for any contingency. At 0630, Colonel Hughes ordered the company to reinforce the Truoi River Bridge. All Captain Batcheller recalled several years later was that "we were rousted up about 0400 on the 31st and launched south on trucks to rendezvous with and reinforce . . . [ARVN] forces about a map sheet and a half south of Phu Bai."26

According to Captain Batcheller, the truck convoy carrying his company
was escorted by two Army "Dusters," trucks armed with four .50-caliber
machine guns, one at the head and the other at the rear of the column.
When the convoy reached its destination, there were no ARVN troops to
meet them.* On their way south on Route 1, the company had passed several
Combined Action units, whose troops told them "'boo-coo' VC moving towards
Hue, but none had been hit, and all bridges were up." Batcheller then
received orders from Lieutenant Colonel Gravel to reverse his direction,
either to reinforce an Army unit north of Hue or, on the other hand,
to go to the assistance of a Combined Action unit just south of Phu
Bai.** In any event, whatever the case, this new mission was short-lived.
About one-half hour later, about 0830, the company again received another
set of orders, presumably from Task Force X-Ray, "to proceed to the
Hue Ramp area ... to investigate reports that Hue City was under attack."27***


Up to this point the fighting for Hue had been entirely a South Vietnamese affair. General LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, actually had very little reliable intelligence on the situation. All he knew was that Truong's headquarters had been under attack, as was the MACV compound. Because of enemy mortaring of the LCU ramp in southern Hue, the allies had stopped all river traffic to the city. As LaHue later wrote: "Initial deployment of forces was made with limited information."28

With this "limited information," Company A continued north towards
Hue. As the convoy proceeded along Route 1, it met up with four tanks
from the 3d Tank Battalion. The tanks had been on their way from Phu
Bai to the LCU ramp at Hue for embarkation and transfer north to the
3d Marine Division at Dong Ha. These tanks had happened upon some of
the burnt-out hulks of the 7th ARVN Armored Cavalry Squadron and had
decided to return to Phu Bai when Company A "came up behind them." Batcheller
remembered that he talked over the situation with the major in charge
"and he agreed to join us as we moved towards the MACV compound." According
to the Company A commander, a short time later, Lieutenant Colonel Edward
J. LaMon-tagne, the 3d Marine Division embarkation officer,


* These trucks were not actually "Dusters," which refers to the Army M42 tracked
vehicle mounting 40mm antiaircraft guns. Battery D, 1st Battalion, 44th
Artillery, U.S. Army at Phu Bai was equipped with both the trucks equipped
with the quad .50-caliber machine guns (M55) and the M42s. The Marines
referred to both vehicles as "Dusters." See 1st Mat AAR, Opn Hue City,
p. 12 and Shelby L. Stanton, Vietnam Order of Battle (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. News Books, 1981), pp. 104, 278, and 355.

** Batcheller remembered that Gravel told him to reinforce the Army
division, which would have had to have been the 1st Air Cavalry Division
located at Camp Evans, 12 miles north of Hue. On the other hand, the
1st Marines Command Chronology states that at 0805 "Bald Eagle (A/1/1)
[was] diverted from Truoi Bridge to the location of CAP A-3 ... to investigate
reports of NVA activity." Batcheller Comments and 1st Mar ComdC, Jan68,
p. III-A-4.


*** Batcheller later wrote that he had "never heard of Task Force X-Ray, or General LaHue." As far as he knew, he "was working for Mark Gravel and Major [Walter D.] Murphy," the battalion operations officer. Batcheller Comments.




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