Like Vaught's unit, Sweet's battalion had little success against the
strong enemy defenses.12
For the next few days, the 1st Cavalry units west of Hue, like the ARVN in the Citadel, faced stalemate. They were able to hold their own, but did not have the wherewithal to push the NVA out.* During this period, the North Vietnamese command maintained its "own support area outside the western wall [of the Citadel] ... capitalizing on the failure of friendly forces to isolate the Hue battlefield." As Peter Braestrup, the Washington Post correspondent, later wrote, "sealing off an eight-mile perimeter [west of Hue} would have demanded far more troops . . . than were available."13
With the clearing of southern Hue by the 1st Marines, General Cushman prepared to bring more forces into the fight for the entire city. After the arrival of General Abrams and the formal establishment of the MACV Forward headquarters at Phu Bai on 12 February, Cushman met with the Army general the following day. They both agreed that the "successful conclusion to Operation Hue City was the number one priority in ICTZ." The III MAF commander relayed this concern to General Tolson, who still wanted to return the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry to Camp Evans. Cushman admonished the 1st Cavalry commander to give up any notion of withdrawing the 2d Battalion from the fight. The Marine general stated that the battle was about to reach a climax and ordered Tolson to keep his forces in position to prevent the enemy from escaping to the southwest.14
In the interim, General Westmoreland and the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff had sent reinforcements to I Corps. The 1st Battalion, 327th Airborne Regiment from the 101st Airborne Division had arrived at Phu Bai and came under the operational control of Marine Task Force X-Ray. Another battalion from the division was on its way by sea. The South Vietnamese flew the first elements of the Vietnamese Marine Task Force A to Phu Bai from Saigon to relieve the battered Airborne Task Force in the Citadel. At Phu Bai, on 9 February, Brigadier General Foster C. LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, had ordered his 1st Battalion, 5th Marines to prepare to move into Hue.15
Going Into the Walled City
At 0700, 10 February, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines departed the battalion's Phu Loc operating area south of Phu Bai for the latter base. Reaching Phu Bai about 1100, the company came under the direct operational control of the 5th Marines regimental headquarters. Colonel Robert D. Bohn, the 5th Marines commander, ordered the company into Hue city to reinforce the 1st Marines. Approaching the An Cuu Bridge that afternoon in a "Rough Rider" convoy, the Marine infantrymen dismounted from their trucks, crossed the broken span, and entered southern Hue on foot. At the same time, the 1st Battalion's Company B arrived at Phu Bai as did the lead elements of the Army's 1st of the 327th Airborne. The Army battalion made ready to relieve the remaining companies of the Marine battalion in the Phu Loc sector. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, in turn, was about to expand the Marine Operation Hue City into the old Citadel to reinforce the ARVN.16
Simultaneously, the Marine command attempted to improve the coordination for artillery, naval gunfire, and other supporting arms for the Citadel fighting. Earlier on 8 February, the 1st Field Artillery Group (FAG) at Phu Bai, the artillery command for Task Force X-Ray, deployed four 155mm howitzers of Battery "W", 1st Battalion, 11th Marines to firing positions at Gia Le, about 3,000 meters west of Phu Bai, to improve supporting fires for the forces in Hue. Two days later, the 1st FAG sent two 4.2-inch mortars from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines to the stadium in southeast Hue to provide CS (teargas) and heavy mortar support for the forces in the Citadel. About the same time, a 105mm howitzer battery from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines entered the city across the newly established pontoon bridge over the Phu Cam Canal. From its positions in southern Hue, the battery was in position to support the Marines to the north and to the west.17
On 10 February, the 1st FAG commander, Lieutenant Colonel John P.
Barr ordered two officers on his staff to the Citadel area as forward
observers. One of the officers. First Lieutenant Alexander W. Wells,
Jr., the S-2 [intelligence officer] on the FAG staff, remembered that
he received word that morning that the "colonel" wanted to talk to him.
Barr informed Wells that he had volunteered the young lieutenant "for
a 24-hour mopping-up mission [emphasis in the original]" to General
Truong in the Citadel to coordinate supporting fires. Wells, whose tour
in Vietnam was about over,
*As U.S. Army historian George L. MacGarrigIe observed, "the enemy
probably was content to contain him [the Army forces west of Hue], rather
than risk a major fight should the weather clear, giving the 1st Cavalry
an opportunity to 'pile-on.'" George L. MacGarrigle, Historian, CMH,
Comments on draft, dtd 5Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).