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Some estimates held that over 80 percent of the structures in the
city sustained damage or were destroyed. Out of a population of about
140,000, more than 116,000 people were homeless and 5,800 were either
dead or missing. According to most reports, Hue was a devastated city.34*

From the allied perspective, the struggle for Hue was a near thing,
especially in the first few days. Only the failure of the North Vietnamese
to overrun the Mang Ca and MACV compounds permitted the allies
to retain a toehold in both the Citadel and the new city. With the holding
of these two positions, the Americans and South Vietnamese were able
to bring in reinforcements to mount a counteroffensive. The battalion
commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Marcus
J. Gravel, observed that the enemy had oriented his defenses to fend
off forces coming into the city: "When we got in and were able to stay
in there in strength ... we fought him from the inside out." Even then,
if the enemy had blown the An Cuu Bridge across Route 1 on the first
day, the Marines would not have been able to bring in their initial
battalions and supplies into the city.35

Fortuitously for both the Americans and the South Vietnamese, the 1st
Air Cavalry Division had arrived in northern I Corps before Tet and
was in position to commit eventually a four-battalion brigade to the
battle. Overcoming strong enemy opposition, including elements of three
separate regiments, on 25 February, the 3d Brigade reached the walls
of the Citadel, closing out the enemy avenues of approach to the city
from the west. By this time, the American and South Vietnamese forces
had overwhelming superiority and the North Vietnamese units, fighting
a rear guard action, abandoned the struggle to hold on to the city.
Major General Tolson, the 1st Cavalry commander, remembered that General
Truong told him that if "I could ever get the Cav to the walls of Hue,
the enemy would 'bug out.'" The problem was that it took 22 days for
the 3d Brigade to fight its way there. Major Talman C. Budd II, the
U.S. Marine advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Task Force, later wrote
that if the 1st Cavalry had been reinforced or replaced "to enable sealing
off the west wall sooner,. . .[it] would have shortened the struggle
to reach the south wall."36

Although the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese harassed ship traffic in the Perfume River and the other water routes into the city, they made no serious attempt to close the waterways. Even with the An Cuu Bridge closed for over a week, the Marines had stockpiled and brought in enough supplies by LCU to support operations in both the Citadel and southern Hue. By 14 February, with a pontoon bridge in place over the canal, the road network into the new city, at least, was once more open. On two occasions, nevertheless, because the NVA sank one LCU and temporarily shut down the boat traffic on the Perfume River, Major Thompson in the Citadel stopped his battalion's advance because of a shortage of 106mm and 90mm rounds for his recoilless rifles and tanks.37 If the enemy had made a stronger effort to cut both the water and land lines of communications, the outcome of the struggle for Hue would have been less predictable.

Despite marginal flying conditions that curtailed resupply missions and the haphazard attempts of the enemy to cut the lines of communications, the Marines eventually built up their logistic facilities in Hue. Marine helicopters eventually lifted more than 500 tons of all types of supplies into Hue while five Navy LCUs brought in another 400 tons. After the opening of Route 1 on 12 February, Marine trucks from Company B, 7th Motor Transportation Battalion carried the bulk of the resupplies into the city. More than 100 truck convoys made the round trip from Phu Bai to Hue.38

The 1st Marines first established its logistic support area (LSA) in the city next to the LCU ramp. Because of the LSA's exposure to enemy mortar fire and snipers, the Marines moved it to a South Vietnamese government complex next to the MACV compound. With the stockpiling of supplies resulting in a premium for space, the 1st Marines then relocated the LSA to the Tu Do Soccer Stadium several blocks to the east of the MACV buildings. On 22 February, Force Logistic Sup-

* Former Washington Post reporter Peter Braestrup, an eyewitness to
the battle, cautioned in his book against overdramatic comparisons that
appeared in the media of the Hue battle with World War II battles. According
to Braestrup, "to the uninitiated or imaginative observer on the ground,
it [Hue] suggested Seoul or Stalingrad. . . . Actually Hue got off fairly
lightly by World War II or Korean War standards for three-week urban
battles." Braestrup, Big Story, vol. 1, p. 202. For contrasting
views of the Hue "massacres," see Douglas Pike, "Viet Cong Strategy,
New Face of Terror," and D. Gareth Porter, "The 1968 Hue Massacre" in
Hue Tet Folder, A&S Files, Indochina Archives. William D. Ehrhart a
former Marine who served with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines in Hue
and has written extensively on the Vietnam experience, commented that
he personally saw a lor of dead civilians, killed not by intent, "but
only because they were in the midst of some of the fiercest fighting
of the war." While admitting he did not know "what actually happened,"
Ehrhart believes "there is more room for doubt than your account (and
most others suggest)." William D. Ehrhart, Comments on draft, dtd 23Nov94
(Vietnam Comment File). The authors of this work feel no need to change
the description in the text.

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