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River while on board the Navy craft, the Marines landed at the ferry
landing north of the city without incident. As the troops were about
to start their march to the Citadel, Major Thompson later related that
"villagers warned me that the NVA had set up an ambush along the route
I had chosen." The Vietnamese civilians guided the Marines along another
road. Upon entering the northern gate into the Citadel, the battalion
was met by Captain Fernandez Jennings, Jr., the Company B commanding
officer, who had arrived the previous day, and some ARVN officers. After
some misunderstanding, the battalion commander convinced the South Vietnamese
to permit the Marine battalion to come into the 1st Division compound.30

After his arrival at the Mang Ca compound, Major Thompson
met with General Truong and the staff of the 1st ARVN Division. According
to Major Thompson, General Truong "was very eager to accommodate our
plan of attack or anything we wanted to do, for that matter." The staff
briefed Thompson on the situation, advising him that "an ARVN Airborne
battalion was holding a position in the vicinity of where we wanted
to launch our attack from and that they would hold that position until
we passed through that morning."* Thompson then prepared his plan. He
remembered several years later that he proposed "to move from our assembly
area [in the division compound] at first light the next morning in a
column of companies to make contact with the Airborne battalion which
was to serve as our line of departure [LOD]." The battalion would then
advance "with two companies abreast" and one company in reserve.

Again the actual situation differed from what was supposed to be.
Apparently when the one Vietnamese Marine company came into the Citadel
the previous day, the Vietnamese airborne units departed for Phu Bai
and Saigon. Unaware of the interruption in the airlift of the Vietnamese
Marines, Major Thompson radioed Colonel Hughes late on the night of
12 February that he had no information on the whereabouts of the two
Vietnamese Marine battalions but, "unless directed otherwise, intend
to commence attack at 13 [February] 0800 . . . ." Thompson also did
not know that the Vietnamese airborne had departed the Citadel.

The Fight for the Tower

As planned, on the morning of 13 February, the 1st Battalion, 5th
Marines moved out of the Mang Ca compound with two companies abreast-Company
A on the left and Company C on the right. Company B would remain in
reserve. From the outset, the Marines encountered "enemy elements of
squad and platoon [size] in well prepared positions and bunkers dug
in built up areas and along the Citadel walls." In Major Thompson's
words, "[within] fifteen minutes . . ., all Hell broke loose. There
was no Airborne unit in the area and Company A was up to their armpits
in NVA." Under fire from automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades,
B-4O rockets, mortars, and AK-47s, Company A, within minutes, sustained
35 casualties. Among the wounded was Captain John J. Bowe, Jr., the
company commander.31


At that point, Major Thompson ordered his reserve, Captain Jennings' Company B, to relieve Company A. First Lieutenant Scott A. Nelson's Company C resumed the attack with Company B on its left flank. With two tanks in the lead. Company C advanced about 300 meters before heavy enemy fire from an archway tower along the Citadel's eastern wall leading to the Dong Ba Bridge, once more stopped the Marines. The NVA had dug in at the base of the wall there and "tunneled back underneath this structure." While protected by the thick masonry from allied supporting fires, the enemy could use the archway to bring further reinforcements into the Citadel. With the Marine battalion about 75 meters short of its original proposed line of departure, Colonel Hughes radioed Major Thompson to hold his positions, "reorganize and prepare plans for continuing attack indicating type fire support deemed necessary and desirable."32


Unable to budge the enemy with his present resources, Major Thompson replied that he required the entire arsenal of allied power to support his attack the next morning. Thompson wanted "to walk the artillery in front" of his advancing troops and close air support missions to soften the enemy defenses. He also asked that his Company D, still in the southern city, be returned to his operational control in the Citadel.33


On the morning of the 14th, the battalion resumed the attack. Offshore, Navy cruisers and destroyers


*In a copy of a map that Colonel Thompson received in his briefing
and which he in turn provided Keith Nolan, three ARVN airborne battalions
are shown attacking south in the eastern sector of the Citadel. The
four battalions of the 3d ARVN Regiment supported by an armored cavalry
company are attacking towards the western wall. Another armored cavalry
company, the division headquarters, the Black Panther Company, and the
division reconnaissance company are in the Mang Ca Compound.
The 2d Battalion, 4th ARVN Regiment is outside the Citadel protecting
the northern approaches. Map attached to Col Robert H. Thompson Itr
to Keith W. Nolan, dtd 16Sep80 (Nolan Papers, MCHC).





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