port Group (FLSG) Alpha took over from the 1st Marines the running
of the LSA.
In his after-action report, General LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, observed that his command made few if any logistic innovations, but implemented some procedures "which were necessary and effective." According to LaHue, these usually "involved force feeding and preplanning." Because of the nature of the fighting, the 1st Marines and the committed battalions found it almost impossible to anticipate their needs in advance. The result was that their "requests escalated quickly from routine, to priority, to emergency." Based on the experience of the first four days of combat, Task Force X-Ray then prestaged a "balanced package of usually needed supplies. As soon as higher priority cargo was delivered, these would then be delivered without a request." The Task Force commander credited the logistic support with enabling the infantry battalions to clear the city.39
With the low ceilings limiting the number of helicopter flights, medical support and evacuation also operated under different and more difficult circumstances. It soon became apparent to the 1st Marines for the need of forward medical facilities. Colonel Hughes established the regimental aid station at the MACV compound with eight doctors. The regimental facility provided "definitive" emergency care and control and coordination of all medical evacuation. It also served as a battalion aid station for the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. The other two battalions, the 1st Battalion and 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, each had its own aid station. Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham, the 2d Battalion commander, declared that medical evacuation was "a throwback to World War II. [I] Had my doctor . . . one block behind the frontline treating the people right there."40
The Marines used trucks, mechanical mules, and any available transportation
to carry the wounded back to the treatment facilities. According to
the 1st Marines account, it averaged about two to three minutes to bring
a wounded man from the battle site to an aid station. It took another
two to three minutes from the aid station to the helicopter landing
zone for further evacuation if required. Eventually, the regimental
surgeon established two categories of wounded to be evacuated by helicopter-Class
I, emergency medevac, weather permitting; and Class II, immediate evacuation.
Army helicopters assisted in Class I while Marine helicopters had sole
responsibility for the emergency Class II, "which they accomplished
under severe weather conditions, and with great risk to the helicopter
crews, often times flying with a 100-foot ceiling and 0 visibility."41
On the south side of the Perfume River, only two casualties who arrived alive at the forward aid stations died. These were two men from the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines who died minutes after their arrival, one of gunshot wounds (GSW)to the head and the other of a wound to the neck with "severance of both carotid arteries." Across the river, where the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines was dependant upon air or water evacuation, six men died "after emergency care while awaiting helicopter evacuation during severely inclement weather." The battalion surgeon declared, however, that four "would have died regardless of evacuation because of the nature of their wounds, and of the remaining two it is equivocal whether they could have been saved if evacuated quickly." In the Hue City battle, like all operations in Vietnam, despite the problems with helicopter evacuation, if a Marine reached an aid station alive, his chances of survival were close to 99 percent.42*
One other problem that the allies faced was population control. With the widespread destruction in the city, the estimated 116,000 homeless had to be fed and temporarily housed. Much of the population just fled the city and took refuge with relatives and friends in the surrounding villages. After the initial confusion, both U.S. and South Vietnamese agencies began to set up refugee centers. U.S. Army Major Jack E. Walker, a subsector advisor, recalled that his superior about a week after the NVA struck told him that he was now the "CORDS 'refugee man.'" According to Walker, he surveyed the situation and discovered that he had 5,000 refugees in a Catholic church and another 17,000 at Hue University. Another 40,000 displaced people were in the Citadel sector. Walker initially concerned himself with three tasks: restoring city services including water and power; eliminating health hazards including burying the dead; and securing food. With the assistance of the local Catholic hierarchy and American resources and personnel, Walker and his people began attacking all of these problems. By the end of February, a full-time refugee administrator was in place and local government slowly began to function once more.43
* Brigadier General Michael P. Downs observed that the 99 percent chance
of survival after reaching a battalion aid station was probably true
after 4 February. He stated he had at least two Marines of his company
before that date die of wounds after being evacuated to an aid station.
Downs Comments. Those two Marines, however, may have been the two who
died referred to in the text.