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the treasury compound and within minutes produced a huge chemical
haze. With the gas permeating the building and under the protective
fire of 81mm mortars and 3.5-inch rockets, goggle-eyed Marines of Company
F pushed forward in their gas masks. According to Captain Downs, once
the Marines got inside the building, "the NVA wanted no part of us and
they exited the building as quickly as they could."29


Until 4 February, the An Cuu Route 1 bridge over the Phu Cam Canal still stood and permitted the Marines to reinforce the troops in Hue. On the morning of the 4th, Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines arrived in a "Rough Rider" armed convoy and joined Lieutenant Colonel Gravel's command. That night, however, North Vietnamese sappers blew the bridge, effectively closing the land route into the city. This left the Marine command only two alternatives to resupply the Hue forces-river traffic and helicopters. With the continuing mist and overcast, every helicopter mission was a hit-and-miss venture. More than once, heavy enemy 12.7mm antiaircraft fire forced Marine pilots to jettison their loads of ammunition slung underneath their low-flying helicopters. The river route also presented problems. Taking advantage of the narrow ship channel up the Perfume River from the sea, the enemy subjected allied craft to both mortar bombardment and automatic weapons fire.30

In the interval, nevertheless, Task Force X-Ray had taken advantage
of the reprieve to build up the combat stocks of the 1st Marines in
Hue. On the 4th, Marine trucks from Company B, 1st Motor Transport Battalion
brought in enough rations to sustain both infantry battalions in Hue
for two days. The following day, a Navy LCU from Da Nang braved the
NVA crossfire from both banks of the Perfume River and docked at the
LCU ramp in the city. In Hue, the 1st Marines now had enough rations
to last through 16 February. With the arrival of a second LCU on the
5th, and another landing craft three days later, the regiment experienced
no shortage of ammunition despite its expenditure at 10 times the normal
combat rate in Vietnam.31

Block by Block 5-8 February


The Marines in Hue began to adapt to the street fighting, so different from the paddies and jungle of the Vietnamese countryside in their previous sectors. As Captain Christmas of the 2d Battalion later observed, "street fighting is the dirtiest type of fighting I know." Although one Marine fire team leader agreed with Christmas that "it's tougher in the streets," he also remarked, "it beats fighting in the mud .... You don't get tired as quickly when you are running and you can see more of the damage you're doing to the enemy because they don't drag off their dead."32

One of the immediate problems caused by the change of locale from
the countryside to the urban was in orientation. Both Lieutenant Colonels
Gravel and Cheatham complained about the inadequacy of their maps. Originally
their only references were the standard 1:50,000-scale tactical maps
which showed little of the city detail. As Captain Meadows, commander
of Company G, observed, "you have to raid the local Texaco station to
get your street map. That's really what you need." Both battalions eventually
obtained sufficient maps, which numbered the government and municipal
buildings and prominent features of the city. Cheatham and Gravel and
their commanders used the numbers to coordinate their activity.33*


Prior to that time, Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham and his commanders used colors to designate their positions. Captain Christmas later related some of the resulting confusion. He would radio Captain Downs and yell, "Hey, I'm in a pink building." Downs would reply, "Hey, that's fine. I'm over here in a green building." Then Captain Meadows would chime in with "Good! I'm in a brown building." At this point, Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham would come up on the network and ask, "Where the hell are the green, brown, and pink buildings?"34


By this time, Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham had a firm idea about the extent of the task that his battalion faced. The 2d Battalion had an area of operations about 11 blocks wide and 8 to 9 blocks deep. As the battalion commander later declared: "It wasn't that big [but] it looked plenty big at the time." He recalled that he "attempted to ... attack with two companies up and keep that third company of mine back, protecting our left flank." Cheatham admitted that usually he had to commit his reserve: "The area was just too large for one infantry battalion, minus a company, to attack."35


* General Downs commenced on the map situation as follows: "Chuck Meadows
may well have taken a map off the gas station wall but the ones we used
were 1:12,500 AMS [Army Map Service] maps. They were most valuable.
Initially, I think there were only three in the battalion with only
the company commanders having one." Downs Comments.




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