with him, but was unable to contact either Harper or Zahuranic and presumed that the VC had entered the building. He then radioed Marine House and informed them of the situation as he knew it.
By this time, Captain O'Brien was on his way. The duty noncommissioned officer at Marine House had awakened him with the news about the attack almost as soon as it had occurred. The Marine captain with Sergeant Richard G. Frattarelli, his driver, jumped into the sedan that had a radio and departed for the Embassy, some five blocks away. Three other Marines, two sergeants and a corporal, followed in a jeep. Reaching a South Vietnamese police check point about a block away from the Embassy and hearing that the VC were still there, O'Brien decided that the Marines should leave the two vehicles at the police station.39
Covering the rest of the distance to the Embassy compound by foot, O'Brien and his small entourage arrived at the northeast gate unseen by any of the VC attackers. He called out to the MPs who were supposed to be there, but instead of the Americans, he saw five or six of the VC who still had their backs to the Marines. Captain O'Brien remembered being, "momentarily stunned by the abrupt.. . confrontation with the VC," but quickly recovered, ordering the one Marine with the Beretta submachine gun to open fire. As the Berretta gave a long burst, the other Marines shot their .38-caliber pistols at the enemy inside the gate. A sudden automatic weapons fusillade forced O'Brien and his men to take cover behind the compound wall and some nearby trees.
At this point, Captain O'Brien directed Sergeant Frattarelli to return to the sedan and radio Marine House for reinforcements. Frattarelli ran down the street about a half a block, when some frightened South Vietnamese police opened up upon him. The Marine sergeant took cover in an entrance way and "called out American" and the police let him through. Reaching the radio, he requested the additional men and ammunition and then retraced his route back to O'Brien.40
Back at Marine House, Gunnery Sergeant Alien Morrison had taken charge of the situation there. Although not in contact with Captain O'Brien until Frattarelli had radioed him, Morrison had communicated with both Sergeant Soto and the Marine sergeant with the Ambassador. The Ambassador was safe and had moved from his residence to the house of one of the Embassy security officers. According to Morrison, the Ambassador had delegated the defense of the Embassy to him in that he not been able to reach anyone else. Even before hearing from Sergeant Frattarelli, Gunnery Sergeant Morrison had sent a reaction team consisting of Staff Sergeant LeroyJ. Banks and five other Marines in a vehicle to the Embassy.41
On the way, U.S. Army MPs stopped the Marines about 300 yards from the Embassy compound and told Staff Sergeant Banks to take his men out of the area as the VC were attacking. Banks told the MPs that they were Embassy Marines and "our job and orders were to get to the Embassy and save it." The Marine staff sergeant then directed his men to leave their vehicle and the team went the rest of the way on foot reaching the Norodom building, housing the Consulate and other U.S. government offices, on the southwest side of the Embassy. Banks' Marines then tried to maneuver north using the compound wall to find an entrance into the Embassy compound itself. They almost reached the police station where the first group had left their vehicles, but like Sergeant Frattarelli, came under fire from the edgy Vietnamese policemen. Unable to advance any further, Banks led his men back to the Norodom Building and joined the Marine guards already there.42
In the meantime, at the northeast end of the Embassy, Captain O'Brien and his group placed as much fire upon the VC inside the compound as best they could. They tried unsuccessfully to shoot off the locks of one of the gates. Joined by six MPs about 0330, the Marines continued to lay down a base of fire and two of the MPs took positions in a nearby building. The Marine captain also told Sergeant Prattarelli to return to the sedan and radio for more assistance and weapons. The Vietnamese police again shot at Frattarelli, who once more yelled out that he was an American, but "this time it didn't work, they just kept firing." While taking up new positions, O'Brien and his Marines would remain out of radio contact until daylight .43
At the Norodom, Staff Sergeant Banks positioned his men in defensive positions and placed several on the roof where they could fire down on the VC in the compound. Banks and a small group made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Embassy compound through the Norodom gate, but were forced to fall back as the VC had all the gates covered with automatic weapons. Although reinforced by an Army MP lieutenant with seven MPs under him, the Americans with a few Ml6s, three Beretta submachine guns, and .38 caliber pistols, were badly outgunned by the VC armed with machine guns, rocket launchers, and