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zle from its landing zone, some 10 miles northwest of Hue. With the
mission "to move towards Hue, make contact with the enemy, fix his location,
and destroy him," the battalion advanced southeastward along a route
paralleling Route 1. About 1000, the American troops saw a North Vietnamese
battalion setting up defenses in Que Chu, about 500 meters to their
front. A tree-lined and thickly vegetated hamlet in a model Revolutionary
Development village called La Chu by the South Vietnamese and the La
Chu Woods by the Communists, Que Chu extended 200 meters north and south
and was about 75 meters wide. Armed with machine guns, AK-47s, and recoilless
rifles, and supported by mortars, the North Vietnamese occupied positions
originally prepared by ARVN troops. Under cover of rocket fire from
especially equipped helicopter gunships of the division's Aerial Rocket
Artillery (ARA) Squadron, the American infantry attacked. Finally after
several hours, the 2d Battalion cracked the enemy defenses and established
a night perimeter in northern Que Chu.7

After a relatively uneventful night disturbed by an occasional enemy
mortar round, the 1st Cavalry unit faced a fire storm early the following
morning. Under cover of darkness the enemy had moved up reinforcements
in regimental strength and, after a heavy mortar barrage at daybreak,
launched a counterattack. Surrounded and outnumbered, but supported
by artillery and the ARA helicopters, the 2d Battalion repulsed several
of the enemy efforts. Forced into a shrinking perimeter, the 2d Battalion
had sustained casualties of 11 dead and 51 wounded in the two days fighting
for Que Chu. The battalion had accounted for eight known enemy dead
and captured one prisoner. In assessing the situation that night, General
Cushman's III MAF headquarters informed MACV, "it is believed that the
2/12 Cav is blocking a possible exfiltration route for the [NVA] forces
involved in the battle of Hue City."8

At this time. Lieutenant Colonel Richard S. Sweet, the commanding
officer of the 2d Battalion, more concerned about the enemy overrunning
his positions rather than blocking any exfiltration route from Hue,
held a hasty conference with his staff and company commanders. Although
the 3d Brigade headquarters and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Vaught's
5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry had arrived in the landing zone to the north,
the 2d Battalion could not expect any reinforcements until the next
day. Sweet and his officers decided upon a night march to elude the
enemy and set up their defenses in a more favorable terrain. Believing
the North Vietnamese would expect a breakout toward the north, Sweet
decided to move to the high ground, 4,000 meters to the southwest, overlooking
a secondary road and the Song Sao, one of the tributaries of the Perfume
River. Under the cover of darkness, the battalion slipped out of Que
Chu at 2200 unnoticed by the North Vietnamese. Slogging its way through
the wet paddylands, the battalion arrived at the hill mass, Nha Nhan,
by 0700 the next morning. Dominating the approaches to Hue six kilometers
to the east, the exhausted men of the 2d Battalion established their
new perimeter. As one of the troopers later related: "We had gotten
less than six hours sleep in the past 48 hours. We didn't have any water
and the river water was too muddy to drink."9

While the 2d Battalion remained on Nha Nhan, the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry advanced into the Que Chu sector on the afternoon of the 5th. Patrolling the area west of the hamlet, Lieutenant Colonel Vaught's men encountered only token resistance. In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Sweet's 2d Battalion believed it stopped all enemy daylight movement "by calling down artillery on the plains before them." Major General Tolson even gave thought to move the 2d Battalion back to Camp Evans. Tolson later stated: "At this point, ... I was faced with a couple of situations that strained my resources.... when Hue was occupied, my main land supply line was out." Concerned about protecting Camp Evans and his helicopters and supporting his 1st Brigade at Quang Tri City, Tolson believed it "obvious at the time I was told to attack towards Hue that I already had at least three missions that I felt had to be carried out."10

For the time being. General Tolson dismissed any idea about bringing the 2d Battalion out of the fight for Hue. On 7 February, just northwest of Que Chu, Lieutenant Colonel Vaught's 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry encountered a strong NVA force that had reoccupied Que Chu. Unable to push the NVA out, Vaught called in ARA helicopters and artillery. The next morning, the Army troopers renewed the attack, but were forced back in the face of NVA automatic weapons fire, RPGs, and mortars. In frustration, the American battalion dug in for the night.11

At this point, the 3d Brigade commander ordered Sweet's 2d Battalion to deploy off its hill and come in behind the enemy, squeezing the NVA between the two American units. On the morning of 9 February, the 2d Battalion troops departed their positions only to bump into a North Vietnamese battalion in the hamlet of Bon Tri, about 3,000 meters south of Que Chu.

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