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screaming on the radio." The enemy had received a direct hit on the
moat bridge, killing a high-ranking (possibly a general) North Vietnamese
officer and blowing several enemy troops into the water.5*

About midnight, the ARVN intercepted another enemy message from the
commander of enemy forces inside Hue to his immediate superior. The
NVA commander in Hue announced that his predecessor had been killed,
that he had assumed command, and that "many other men had either been
killed or wounded." He recommended that his troops be permitted to withdraw
from the city. The senior officer denied the request and "ordered the
new cmdr [commander] to remain in position and fight."6**

An Estimate of the Situation and Mounting the Offensive

At the same time, the U.S. command feared a buildup of NVA forces
in the Hue sector. Earlier on the 16th, General Abrams, the MACV (Forward)
commander, had talked to Major General Tolson, of the 1st Cavalry Division,
and then flew over the Army division's objective area west of the city.
According to his observations and information, the NVA had at least
three battalions still in the city: "They are resupplied nightly from
a base camp 18 kilometers west of the city, generally through the west
gate. They have plenty of 60mm mortar and B-40 rocket ammo." Moreover,
allied intelligence now identified a new enemy battalion west of the
city and a new regimental headquarters two kilometers north of the city
with at least one battalion. Abrams radioed General Cushman to expect
"a renewed attack in the Hue area at any time" and that "we must seek
every means to reinforce the 3d Bde [Brigade] of the 1st Air Cav [Air
Cavalry] Div to bring additional forces to bear north and west of Hue."
According to the MACV (Forward) commander, "we should make every effort
to move against the enemy, now, straining our logistic base to the maximum
to include air supply if required."7


Later on the same afternoon at Phu Bai, General Abrams hosted a meeting with Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky and Lieutenant General Hoang Xuan Lam, the I Corps Commander. Lieutenant General Cushman, the III MAF commander, and Brigadier General LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, also attended the conference. The MACV Forward staff and General LaHue briefed the Vietnamese dignitaries on the Hue situation. According to Abrams, Vice President Ky stated that his intelligence sources concurred with the American assessment of an enemy buildup west of the city. Ky voiced the opinion that the North Vietnamese were willing to sacrifice "thousands of men to win a slight political gain." The South Vietnamese Vice President declared that the U.S. forces should not allow the enemy use of pagodas, churches, and other religious symbolic buildings to deter their advance and that he would "accept responsibility" for any destruction.8


The following day. General Westmoreland, the MACV commander, met with both Generals Abrams and Cushman. Westmoreland concurred with their belief that the enemy was about to launch a major operation with Hue as its target. He also accepted the judgment of both of his field commanders in I Corps upon the need for further reinforcements. The American commanders decided to place under Task Force X-Ray the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division with two battalions. They also agreed to reinforce the 3d Brigade of the 1st Air Cavalry Division with two more battalions. According to the allied plans, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines would continue mopping up in the modern city and expand operations to the east and south of Hue. The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne would block avenues of retreat to the south and southwest, while the 3d Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division pressed the NVA from the northwest.9


In the Citadel, itself, General Truong, the ARVN 1st Division commander, prepared for the final thrust against the entrenched and determined enemy forces. He assigned the Vietnamese Marine Task Force, now


* Wells was convinced that the 155mm howitzers hit the bridge since the enemy message about the attack "came just after I heard arty rounds coming in." Wells, "Excerpts from Combat Report."

** According to a recent Vietnamese history, the Communist Central
Party Military Affairs Committee issued instructions that the Citadel
must be held until 18 February. On the 20th, the local Tri Thien
Region Party Committee
suggested to the Central Party committee
that it permit the withdrawal from Hue. The Central Party then instructed
the Communist military region headquarters to: "Strive to hold, you
will be supplied, including by air." The Vietnamese account then goes
on to state "From the night of the 20th through the 23d of February
IL-14 aircraft of our Air Force flew parachute resupply to our forces
in Hue. Although the effectiveness was low, the resupply by our air
force stimulated the fighting morale of our troops and people on the
battlefield." Tuan Khu No. 4 [Military Region 4], Lich Su Khang
Chieu Chong My Cuu Nuoc (1954-1975) [History of the War of National
Salvation Against America (1954-1975)]
(Peoples Army of Vietnam
Publishing House: Hanoi, 1994), pp. 236-38. The authors are indebted
to Mr. Robert J. Destatte of the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing
Personnel Office, U.S. Department of Defense, for the above translation.
The authors know of no source that confirms or mentions the Vietnamese
claim of an airlift to the NVA forces in the Citadel.





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