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Page 186 (1968: The Defining Year)

Department of Defense (USMC) Photo


 A Marine from Company
H, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, holding a M60 machine gun inside the bathroom
of a private household, looks out the window for enemy forces in house-to-house
fighting in Hue. Strapped to his back is an apparent ammunition box.

With little room to outflank the enemy,

the battalion had to cake each building and each block 'one at a time.'

According to Cheatham, 'we had to pick a point and attempt to break that one

strong point. . . and then we'd work from there.' After a time, Cheatham and his

officers noted that the enemy 'defended on every other street. . . . When we

would take him oft one street, we would usually push through the next row of

houses fairly quickly and then hit another defensive position.'36

The close-quarter combat and the

low-lying cloud cover prevented both Marine infantry battalions from depending

upon air and artillery. Fixed-wing close air support was out of the question.

Both units used artillery only occasionally and then usually later in the

operation and for interdiction missions on suspected enemy approach and escape

routes. As Lieutenant Colonel Gravel explained, 'artillery in an area like chat

is not terribly effective because you can't observe it well enough. You lose the

rounds in the buildings, in the streets . . . and you

have a difficult time with perspective.'37*

Supported by the four tanks from the provisional platoon
of the 3d Tank Battalion which arrived with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines
on the 31st and a platoon of Ontos from the Anti-Tank Company, 1st Tank
Battalion, the Marine infantry advanced methodically against stubborn
enemy resistance. Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham had reservations about the
employment of the tanks in his sector. He later commenced, 'you couldn't
put a section of tanks down one of those streets. The moment a tank stuck
its nose around the corner of a building, it looked like the Fourth of
July.' The enemy opened up with all the weapons in its arsenal from B-40
anti-tank rockets to machine guns. According to Cheatham, one tank sustained
over 120 hits and another went through five or six crews. The battalion
commander observed that when the 'tankers came out ot those tanks . .
. they looked like they were punch drunk.'38

The Marine infantry commanders were much more enthusiastic
about the Ontos with its six 106mm recoilless rifles. Despite its 'thin
skin,' Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham described the vehicle 'as big a help
as any item of gear that we had that was not organic to the battalion
. . . .' An even stronger backer of the Ontos, Colonel Hughes, the 1st
Marines commander, later commented 'If any single supporting arm is to
be considered more effective than all others, it must be the 106mm recoilless
rifle, especially the M50 Ontos . . . .' Hughes believed that the mobility
of the Ontos made up tor the lack of heavy armor protection and that its
plating provided the crew with sufficient protection against enemy small
arms fire and grenades. From ranges of 300 to 500 meters, the 106mm recoilless
rifles rounds routinely opened '4 square meter holes or completely knock[ed]
out an exterior wall.' Even at distances of 1,000 meters, the recoilless
rifles proved effective. Because of the Ontos' vulnerability to enemy
RPGs and B-40 rounds. Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham

*Colonel Robert C. V. Hughes, who as a lieutenant colonel
commanded the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines in artillery support of TF X-Ray,
commented that while use of artillery was limited, especially the 105mm
howitzers, 'the heavier more accurate, 155mm and 8-inch were utilized
more effectively.' He declared that his battalion's fire support coordinator
with the 1st Marines 'from an OP [outpost] on the roof of the MACV Headquarters
building, called and adjusted fire missions. He was able to accurately
'walk' rounds along streets disrupting enemy troop buildup and sniper
emplacements.' Col Robert C. V. Hushes, Comments on draft, n.d. [1995]
(Vietnam Comment File).

Page 186 (1968: The Defining Year)