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The Struggle for Hue- The Taking of the Citadel and Aftermath

The Struggle in the Western

Citadel-An Estimate of the Situation and Mounting the Offensive-Closing Out

Operation Hue City-A Summing Up

The Struggle in the
Western Citadel

While the American Marine battalion fought
for the Dong Ba tower and painfully inched its way forward, the Vietnamese
Marine task force also entered the battle. After several delays, on
13 February, U.S. Navy landing craft ferried the command group and the
remaining companies of the 1st VNMC Battalion and the entire 5th VNMC
Battalion from the LCU ramp across the Perfume River to the northern
landing site. At his Mang Ca headquarters, the 1st ARVN Division
commander, General Truong assigned the southwest sector of the Citadel,
west of the Imperial Palace, to the Vietnamese Marine Task Force.* According
to Truong's concept of operations, the following morning, the task force
would pass through friendly forces south of the headquarters and then
attack first to the west and then make a left turning movement with
the 1st Battalion on the eastern flank and the 5th Battalion on the

As planned, at 0900 on the 14th, the Vietnamese
Marines left their line of departure, but both battalions immediately
ran into strong enemy forces. From 0930-1200, the 5th Battalion engaged
in heavy house-to-house fighting until it reached its first objective.
In its sector, the 1st Battalion failed in its mission to secure a small
school, stubbornly defended by the NVA.2

According to a South Vietnamese

reporter who accompanied the 1st Battalion's 4th Company, a Vietnamese Marine

platoon leader, Third Lieutenant Nhut, led his men supported by a tank into a

pagoda from which to launch the assault on the school. After a supporting air

strike on the enemy positions, Lieutenant Nhut suddenly dashed forward toward an

abandoned house, halfway between the school and the pagoda. Enemy automatic fire

cut the lieutenant down. The company commander shouted over the radio: 'I never

told anyone to charge ahead yet. I told everyone to wait . . . .' He then

reported to the battalion commander 'the loss of a 'big child'' [referring to a

'comrade in arms']. During a lull in the fighting, a small group of Marines

recovered Nhut's body and equipment. On the helmet was the inscription 'Live

beside you, darling, die beside buddies.' The reporter later learned that this

was the slogan of the 4th Company. During the 14th, the 1st Battalion took

casualties of 9 dead and 24 wounded. Repulsing early morning probes on its

positions on the 15th, the 1st Battalion counterattacked and finally captured

the schoolhouse that afternoon. In two days of heavy fighting, the two Marine

battalions had advanced less than 400 meters.3

To the north of the Vietnamese

Marines, the 3d ARVN Infantry Regiment in the northwest sector of the Citadel

also met with setbacks. On 14 February, the enemy forces broke out of their

salient west of the Tay Loc airfield and cut off the 1st Battalion of the 3d

Regiment in the western comer of the Citadel. It took two days for the ARVN to

break the encirclement.4

By this time, the enemy also had

its problems. On the night of 16 February, the ARVN troops at the 'Alamo' with

Lieutenant Wells, monitoring enemy radio frequencies, intercepted a transmission

ordering 'an attack of battalion-size reinforcements into the Citadel through

the 'west gate' and over the moat bridge.' Wells immediately called upon the

Marine 155mm howitzers at Gia Le and all available Navy gunships on station to

''fire for effect' at the on-call targets around the gate and bridge.' According

to the Marine lieutenant, the howitzers 'and a 5-inch mount from one of the

destroyers responded simultaneously within three minutes and continued firing

for approximately 10 minutes.' Lieutenant Wells remembered that after

approximately 100 rounds, 'there was

*For purposes of control, Truong had divided
the Citadel into six zones or areas ofoperarions: Zone A was the Mang
compound; Zone B was the area immediately south of the headquarters
and under friendly control; Zone C was in the northwest sector and given
to the 3d ARVN Regiment; Zone D was the sector of the U.S. 1st Battalion,
5th Marines; Zone E was the Imperial Palace and grounds still occupied
by enemy forces; and the Vietnamese Marine sector was to be Zone F.
Pham Van Son, Tet Offensive, pp. 257-58.

Page 204 (The Struggle for Hue)