der gruffly stated, "if you're looking for any more, you aren't going
to get it. Move out!" He then softly added: "You do it any way you want
to and you get any heat from above, I'll take care of that."18
The Beginning of the Advance 3-4 February
Establishing his command post at the University, Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham ordered a two-company, tank-supported attack against a complex of buildings-the public health, the provincial treasury, and the post office-just across the street from his positions. While Company G remained in reserve, Company H was to capture the public health building and Company F, the post office and treasury facilities. Like Lieutenant Colonel Gravel before him, Cheatham discovered there was no quick solution. The thick walls of the treasury and postal buildings appeared to be impervious to the Marine bullets and LAAWs (Light antiarmor weapons).* According to Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham, the battalion tried to take the post office and treasury buildings about five or six different times: "That means mustering everybody's courage and energy up... . You'd assault and back you'd come, drag your wounded and then muster it up again and try it again."19
Although Company H reached the public health building by evening, it had to fall back to the University. As Captain Christmas later explained, the Marines just did not have enough men. The frontage for a company was about one block, and with two companies forward "that left an exposed left flank" subject to enemy automatic weapons fire. The battalion stayed in its night defensive positions and waited for daylight.20
In the meantime, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines maneuvered
to the southeast of the MACV Compound and captured an abandoned South
Vietnamese police station against nominal resistance. The Marines found
30 carbines, 2 Browning automatic rifles, 10 M1 rifles, 20 60mm mortar
rounds, and 40 cases of small arms ammunition. At 1900, the battalion
reported that the nearby International Control Commission (ICC) team
was safe and that "no USMC personnel entered ICC building," thus not
providing any grounds that U.S. troops violated the terms of the 1954
The following morning, 4 February, Colonel Hugh-es discussed the situation with his two battalion commanders. Lieutenant Colonel Gravel was not surprised to learn that the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines was "exactly where we'd left them" the day before. Believing "that there perhaps was some second-guessing down at headquarters on the inability of 1/1 to attack," Gravel now felt somewhat vindicated. In any event, Colonel Hughes decided to place the 1st Battalion on Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham's exposed flank and continue the push against the enemy defensive positions.22
As the 1st Battalion began to clear its objective area, Lieutenant
Colonel Gravel had only one infantry company, Company A, now under First
Lieutenant Ray L. Smith, who had relieved the wounded Captain Batcheller.
Lieutenant Smith recalled that from the 2d, when he arrived in Hue,***
until then, the battalion had basically held its own near the MACV Compound.
Now on the morning of the 4th its first objective was the Joan of Arc
School and Church, only about 100 yards away. According to Smith, the
building "was square with an open compound in the middle and we found
by about 0700 that it was heavily occupied." Smith's Marines found themselves
engaged in not only building-to-building, but room-to-room combat against
a determined enemy. Lieutenant Colonel Gravel remembered that in the
convent building "in these little cloisters that the ladies live in
... we went wall-to-wall . . . ." One Marine would place a plastic C-4
charge against the wall, stand back, and then a fire team would rush
through the resulting gaping hole.23
In the school building. Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez' 3d Platoon secured
one wing, but came under enemy rocket fire from across the courtyard.
The Marine sergeant dashed to the window and fired about 10 LAAWs to
silence the enemy. A B-40 rocket shattered the grilled pane and struck
Gonzalez in the stomach, killing him instantly. Lieutenant Smith credited
Gonzalez for taking out two enemy rocket positions before he was killed.
Sergeant Gonzalez was
* The M72 LAAW was a 66mm single-shot rocket-propelled antitank weapon with an
effective range of 325 meters. The launcher tube was discarded after firing.
It can penetrate 36 inches of concrete. Brigadier General Downs, who commanded
Company F, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines in Hue, commented that despite what
the manuals say, there was "no way" the LAAW could penetrate 36 inches
of concrete. Downs Comments.
** The International Control Commission was created by the Geneva
Agreement of 1954 to ensure the provisions of that treaty. It consisted
of Polish, Indian, and Canadian members. Although by this time, the
Commission was unable to enforce anything, it still retained facilities
and personnel in both North and South Vietnam.
*** Lieutenant Smith had arrived in Hue in the convoy with Company
H on 2 February.
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