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Washington Post carried one story describing Marines holed
up in a residence that obviously belonged to a wealthy man. The house
contained a fully stocked liquor cabinet, furniture, television set,
and various other furnishings. About 0700, as the Marines sat around
eating their breakfast of cold C-Rations, the owner's servants arrived
with a note asking permission to remove the household goods. It took
four servants three round trips to carry out the items. The only things
that were missing were the beer that the Marines had drunk and one broken
bottle of Johnny Walker whisky. In another report, an American volunteer
worker, who had been visiting Vietnamese friends in Hue when the offensive
erupted, described his rescue by Marines from Company B, 1st Battalion,
5th Marines. His friends provided him with sanctuary in their house
while the North Vietnamese held the city. As the fighting intensified,
the "family heard soldiers firing nearby" and hid the American under
one of the beds. According to the newspaper account, one Marine reached
the side of the house and shouted: "Are there any VC in there?" The
volunteer scrambled outside and identified himself. An unbelieving Captain
Per-nandez Jennings, Jr., the company commander, wondered aloud about
the Marine asking if there were VC inside. When assured that was the
case, Jennings muttered to himself, "It's a great war."51


The suddenness and the extent of the enemy offensive in Hue caught both the South Vietnamese and American commands offstride. At first underestimating the strength of the enemy in Hue, the allies sent too few troops to drive the attackers out. Although the South Vietnamese and U.S. commands in I Corps eventually deployed additional units piecemeal into the Citadel and the southern city and inserted the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division to the west, command and control and coordination remained a problem until the last weeks of the operation. In a sense, Task Force X-Ray, the 1st ARVN Division, and the 3d Brigade all fought their own battles in isolation from one another. Outside of General Cushman of III MAF and General Abrams, MACV (Forward), there was not even an overall American, let alone single commander of the Hue campaign. Both Cushman and Abrams were at too high a level and distracted by Khe Sanh to focus much of their attention, except periodically, to the Hue situation. From his headquarters at the Mang Ca compound, General Truong, the 1st ARVN Division commander, did control the South Vietnamese effort in the Citadel. Major Talman C. Budd II, the U.S. Marine advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Task Force A, observed, however, that the lack of an overall commander resulted in no general battle plan and competition for supporting fires, air, and logistic support. A Task Force X-Ray staff officer sardonically remarked that by the time Army Brigadier General Davis of the 1st Cavalry Division became the Hue coordinator, "he didn't have anything to coordinate, but he had the name." The command relationships in northern I Corps under MACV (Forward) were tenuous at best.52*


With the date approaching for the end of his stay at Phu Bai in early March, General Abrams provided General Westmoreland his assessment of the enemy situation in the north. Abrams was less concerned about Khe Sanh, but worried about the NVA using the A Shau Valley and Route 547 leading from the valley to "turn our flank." He also expressed some anxiety about the recent move of the 803d NVA Regiment into the Hue vicinity. Abrams stated that and the "continuing movement of [NVA) replacements to coastal plains supports my belief that Hue is the objective he [the enemy] would most like to have." The MACV [Forward] commander acknowledged, however, that the NVA might "settle for an objective of less importance should the opportunity present itself." He believed both sides were fighting for time and that "both sides require time to overcome manpower and logistical deficiencies." In the long run, however, he believed that time was on the allied side. General Cushman and General Westmoreland concurred in Abrams assessment. All three American commanders believed that the recapture of Hue was only a lull before the North Vietnamese launched another wave of attacks.53


*See Chapter 13 for further discussion of command relations in northern
I Corps.




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