Marines suffered casualties of 17 dead and 88 wounded and reported over 220 enemy dead. In the righting, three of the U.S. Marine advisors were among the wounded. These included both the senior and assistant advisors of the 4th Battalion, Major William P. Eshelman and Captain John J. Hainsworth, and the senior advisor to the 1st Battalion, Captain Jerry I. Simpson. All three of the Americans recovered from their wounds although only Major Eshelman returned to his battalion.63*
Beginning on 3 February, the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff began its official counteroffensive in Saigon, codenamed Operation Tran Hung Dao, and General Cao Van Vien, Chief of the Joint General Staff, took personal command. According to the plan, Vien divided Saigon into five zones and gave them letter designations A through E. He later added a sixth zone, Zone F, in the outlying southern suburbs that became the responsibility of U.S. forces. South Vietnamese Airborne, Army, police, and Ranger units were given Zones A, C, D, and E to clear. Task Force Bravo assumed control of Zone B, containing the Gia Dinh sector which included the northeastern part of the city and its suburbs. The 2d Battalion remained under the operational control of the Capital Military Command going wherever it was needed until 18 February when it rejoined Task Force Bravo.64
Task Force Bravo remained committed to Operation Tran Hung Do in the Gia Dinh sector until the operation came to an end on 11 March. While action flared up occasionally during this period, by 7 February, the Vietnamese forces supported by U.S. forces had broken the back of the enemy offensive. Never fewer than two battalions, more often with three. Task Force Bravo and the individual Marine battalions in the operation reported over 700 of the enemy dead, captured 54, and detained over 2,000 suspects. They recovered 44 crew-served and 241 individual Communist weapons. The cost to the Marines was also high, 49 dead and 227 wounded.65
While Task Force Bravo and at least one other Vietnamese Marine infantry battalion attached to the Capital Military Command remained in Saigon, Task Force Alpha deployed to Hue and took part in the retaking of the Citadel in that city. From its initial commitment to II Corps, at the start of Tet, Task Force Alpha and its battalions had returned to Saigon to be in position to reinforce Task Force Bravo if needed. After losing operational control of two of its battalions, on 9 February, the task force headquarters and the 1st Battalion departed Tan Son Nhut Airport by air for Phu Bai. By 14 February, the initial units were reinforced by two more battalions, the 4th and 5th. After some initial misunderstandings, the commander of the 1st ARVN Division, General Ngo Quang Truong, assigned Task Force Alpha to clearing the western Citadel. Taking part in some of the heaviest fighting in the war. Task Force A remained under the operational control of the 1st ARVN Division and in Hue or its environs until 27 March when it relieved Task Force Bravo in Saigon. In the fighting for Hue, the Vietnamese Marine task force sustained casualties of nearly 90 dead and 350 wounded." All told, for the period 30 January through 27 March which included the battles for both Saigon and Hue, Vietnamese Marines reported killing over 1,300 of the Communists and captured another 82 while detaining nearly 2,000 suspects. The entire VNMC suffered 128 killed, 588 wounded, and l missing in action.66
For the rest of the year, the two Vietnamese Marine task forces and individual battalions would be committed to combat situations without hardly any reprieve. While encountering little of the ferocity of Tet during most of the remaining months, the intensity of the fighting that flared up in Saigon again in May and June for the Vietnamese Marines almost matched that for the earlier period. For the entire year, including Tet, the Vietnamese Marine Corps conducted 196 battalion-size operations or larger which resulted in 2,761 reported enemy killed, 352 prisoners, and 1,150 captured weapons. While on operations 98 percent of the time, the Marines sustained losses of 369 killed, 1,651 wounded, and 4 missing in action. According to Lieutenant Colonel James T. Breckinridge, who relieved Lieutenant Colonel Rodney in April, "the Vietnamese Marine Corps is the best unit in RVN for the amount of money spent to support it. If these Marines are
*Lieutenant Colonel Simpson remembered thar the enemy could have used "the 105mm howitzers in the artillery compound .. . to shell the entire Ton Son Nhut area." He recalled that in the enemy attack on the artillery compound, the Vietnamese Marine 1st Battalion closely coordinated fires with the only American in the artillery compound, a U.S. Army major. The ARVN artillerymen lowered their howitzers "to O elevation and were firing point blank at the VC." The resulting shelling hit a gasoline station north of the 1st Battalion and provided "excellent illumination of the entire area." LtCol Jerry I. Simpson, Comments on draft, dtd 10Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File). Lieutenant Colonel Hainsworth noted that he had just joined the 4th Battalion. Hainsworth Comments. **For description of the battle for Hue City see Chapters 9-12.