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At 0700, Gravel launched a two-company assault supported by tanks
towards the jail and provincial building. As a M79 grenadier from Company
G, 5th Marines recalled: "We didn't get a block away [from the MACV
compound] before we started getting sniper fire. We got a tank .. .
got a block, turned right and received 57mm recoilless which put out
our tank." The attack was "stopped cold" and the battalion returned
to the MACV compound.2


By this time. General LaHue realized the enemy strength in Hue was much greater than he had originally estimated. Shortly after noon, he called in Colonel Stanley S. Hughes of the 1st Marines and gave him tactical control of the forces in the southern city. In turn, Hughes promised Gravel reinforcements and provided him with the general mission to conduct "sweep and clear operations in assigned area of operation ... to destroy enemy forces, protect U.S. Nationals and restore that portion of the city to U.S. control."3

North of the Perfume River, on the 1st, the 1st ARVN Division enjoyed
some limited success. Although the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 3d ARVN
Regiment remained outside of the Citadel walls unable to penetrate the
NVA defenses, the 2d and 7th Airborne Battalions, supported by armored
personnel carriers and the Black Panther Company, recaptured the Tay
Loc airfield. About 1500, the 1st Battalion, 3d ARVN reached the 1st
ARVN command post at the Mang Ca compound. Later that day, U.S. Marine
helicopters from HMM-165 brought part of the 4th Battalion, 2d ARVN
Regiment from Dong Ha into the Citadel. One of the pilots, Captain Denis
M. Dunagan, remembered that the call for an emergency trooplift came
in about 1400. Eight CH-46 "Sea Knights" made the flight in marginal
weather with a 200-500 foot ceiling and one mile visibility, arriving
in an improvised landing zone under enemy mortar fire. The deteriorating
weather forced the squadron to cancel the remaining lifts with about
one-half of the battalion in the Citadel.4

In the meantime, Marine helicopters had completed a lift of Captain
Michael P. Downs' Company F, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines into southern
Hue. Captain Downs, whose company had relieved Company G as the Task
Force X-Ray reserve the previous day, remembered that on the 1st he
reported to Major Ernest T. Cook, the 1st Marines operations officer,
who told him he was going into the city and be under the operational
control of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Although coming under machine
gun fire from the Citadel walls across the river shortly after 1500,
the Marine CH-46s carrying the company landed south of the LCU Ramp
"with minimum difficulty." Upon arrival, Lieutenant Colonel Gravel told
Downs to relieve a MACV communications facility surrounded by a VC force.
Downs remembered that nothing he had been told back in Phu Bai prepared
him for the situation he encountered. The company "spent the better
part of the afternoon" trying to reach the isolated U.S. Army signal
troops and "never made it." According to personal records that he kept,
Captain Downs stated his company sustained casualties of 3 dead and
13 wounded.5


Company F then returned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines command post at the MACV compound. Lieutenant Colonel Gravel prepared to renew his effort to reach the jail and provincial headquarters. At 2300, Lieutenant Colonel Gravel requested air support "to suppress heavy resistance . . . ." The tactical air observer reported that the low ceiling precluded any aviation support. Gravel received orders to remain in his night positions.6*


At Da Nang, General Cushman continued to discuss the situation with General Lam. The two commanders decided against the employment of fixed-wing aircraft or artillery in Hue. As Cushman later related, "I wasn't about to open up on the old palace and all the historical buildings in there. I told Lam he was going to have to do it." While the South Vietnamese would remain responsible for the Citadel and the Marines for the southern city, Cushman made plans to cut the enemy lines of communication to the west.7


With the concurrence of General Westmoreland, the III MAF commander made arrangements for


* Former captain and now retired Brigadier General Downs remembered
that he received orders after returning to the MACV compound to take
his company and a couple of tanks to the jail. He stated that he "found
the order no more reflective of what the situation was in the city at
the time and questioned the sensibility of it." Lieutenant Colonel Gravel
agreed with him and sent a message drafted by Downs to Task Force X-Ray
suggesting that the order be rescinded. The order was rescinded. As
far as the air support, General Downs probably correctly observed that
the rules of engagement at the time probably would have prevented any
use of air support in the city. BGen Michael P. Downs, Taped Comments
on draft, dtd 11Dec92 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Downs Taped
Comments, Dec92 and BGen Michael P. Downs, Comments on draft, dtd 19Dec94
(Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Downs Comments, Dec94. Lieutenant
Colonel Gravel described the order to go take the provincial jail slightly
differently. He stated that when Company F arrived he was given "another
stupid mission. Go down and secure the Provincial prison. Well I didn't
go, I finally convinced them that we didn't have the power and that
the prisoners had been released on 30 January." LtCol Gravel Itr to
Capt Gordon D. Batcheller, dtd 24Feb68, End to Col Gordon D. Batcheller,
Comments on draft, dtd 10Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).





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