Nightmare at Hue

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An informational article, written and edited by The Ghost-Bull, about the chaotic attack launched in a Vietnamese city, occurring in 1968, during the New Year’s celebration of Vietnam. As the country was divided into North and South, South Vietnam spun out of control in the early morning of January 31st—after many attacks were made from the army of the North and the Viet Cong, of the South.


Nightmare at Hue




In 1968, the population count of the city—known as Hue—carried nearly 140,000 residents. Pronounced “Hway”, she was Vietnam’s capital for nearly a century and-a-half, from 1802 to 1945. Hue City, now, sits as the capital of the Thua Tien Hue Province. Control of the ancient city and the newer end of the city was by the 1st Division of the ARVN(Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) and the United States’ MACV(Military Assistance Command, Vietnam), in 1968, while the country was facing a civil war.

Approximately, the very first, couple, hours into the morning of January 31st, belonging to the exact year, Hue went under attack by a sizable force of enemy troops. Soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army charged through the city in a surprise attack, of which occurred on Tet—the Vietnamese New Year. A ‘cease fire’, for Tet, was agreed upon from North and South Vietnam, though it was falsely compromised as, over, a hundred cities and towns of South Vietnam suffered surprise attacks from the Viet Cong and Northern army. The series of attacks throughout the country was, soon, called the “Tet Offensive”. The city of Hue was away from the Demilitarized Zone—dividing Vietnam—by only 62 miles, just about.

Celebrating Tet, streets were crowded by civilians, who had no idea what was about to occur. The Viet Cong—communist fighters of the country’s Southern divide—had already been in the city, waiting to engage as they disguised themselves in ARVN uniforms. Battalions of the “6th NVA Regiment” waited, just, outside the city. Beginning the attack was followed by a signal flare—brightening the dark sky, leaving others to believe it was included in the celebration—at 2:33 A.M.

Approaching the gate of Cua Chanh Tay, a sapper team of 4-to-6 men, in ARVN fatigue, killed the guards, sending a flashlight signal to the awaiting battalions after providing them an opening, into the Citadel. Rushing into the gate was the 800th Battalion, 802nd Battalion, and the 12th Sapper Battalion. A tremendous count of South Vietnamese citizens and foreigners were killed by execution within the first day, from the battle of Hue, ending on March 2nd, 1968. Targeting the headquarters—to the 1st ARVN Division—at Mang Ca, the Tay Loc Airfield, MACV’s advisory compound, the radio station, the national imperial museum, police stations, provincial buildings, and the prison, were a part of, over, 200 objectives set by the enemy. Added to the list of the enemy’s targets would be the home of a Vietnamese National Party member, Huang Huu Pha, who was also a school-teacher.

A U.S. soldier—manning a machine-gun in a 20-foot guard tower, at the MACV compound—fired upon a police station overrunning with enemy soldiers of the “4th NVA Regiment”. The military privileged him to a “Distinguished Service Cross” and a “Purple Heart”, but he was unable to receive either, dying from unstoppable bleeding after his lower legs were blown apart by an explosion the very morning. The machine-gun took handling by another soldier as comrades escorted him to the MACV dispensary. A Huey med-evac, commonly nicknamed a “Dust-off”, was called to evacuate the soldier to Phu Bai, but enemy snipers prevented the helicopter to touch ground, leaving him to bleed to death.

The defense position was, later, referred to as the “Frank Doezema Compound” to honor his bravery. For saving the compound, he was respected by many. Frank Doezema was ranked a “Specialist-4”, serving in the U.S. Army. Born February 4th of 1948, he died days away from his birthday, sadly. Frank Doezema was a drafted soldier from Kalamazoo, Michigan, beginning his deployment in ‘Nam on March 9th of 1967—killed in action just a month prior to his one-year mark of tour. As a radio operator, he was tagged to MACV’s “Advisory Team 3”. The name of the Army specialist can be seen on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 36E, Line 6.

MACV was located South of the Perfume River, East-side of Hue, by a bridge leading to the ancient citadel. A former hotel annex housed the compound. To the West corner was a 3-story building sitting as an officer’s billet, with the 1st floor’s dining room used for meetings. A 2-story building, East of the compound, housed the Trail FACs. Behind the 2-story building, sheltered the enlisted in 3 single-story huts—also called a hooch.

“Advisory Team 3” was the primary unit sheltered in the compound, commanded by Colonel George Adkisson, but they were supported by Trail FACs(Forward Air Controllers) as well. The highlighted duty, carried out, had been to provide fire support and logistics to the division of ARVNs—headquartered across the Perfume River.

The Tay Loc Airfield was defended by the reconnaissance company, “Black Panther”, of the 1st ARVN Division in ’68. It was located inside the Citadel’s perimeter, also, where their division headquarters nested. With the entire city out of control, the Black Panthers received the command to retreat to Mang Ca—North-East of them—while struggling to defend the airfield against NVA battalions entering from the West gate, Cua Chanh Tay. All aircrafts—including 2, recently delivered, O-2s—grounded at the airfield were destroyed from the battle between the ARVN recon company and battalions of the 6th NVA Regiment.

West of the Citadel, “Highway 1” ran vertical, where the 806th NVA Battalion, under the 6th Regiment, crossed. Alongside was an ARVN check-point, getting attacked, then occupied by the battalion to wall-out any possible reinforcements approaching Hue from the North. Meanwhile, troops of the 5th Marines Regiment, under the 2nd Battalion, sent themselves on a suicidal mission to rescue the endangered units of allies. 8 kilometers South, the 2nd Battalion’s “Golf Company” were getting convoyed from Phu Bai as Hue City grew into complete chaos. On February 2nd, Fox Company—of the 5th Marines’ 2nd battalion—went to reinforce the MACV compound as well.

Alpha Company—of the 1st Marines’ 1st Battalion—eventually showed up near the compound, getting into a firefight with the enemy upon arrival. From Phu Bai, they marched up “Highway 1” with the assistance of “M-48” tanks. Taking charge of Alpha Company and the two companies, there, from the 5th Marines was Lieutenant Colonel Marcus J. Gravel—of the 1st Marines’ 1st Battalion.

Through the internet, an image can be discovered of a marine—in Golf Company—firing an M-79, grenade launcher, out a window. Targeted was a Viet Cong, or NVA, sniper at a nearby building. Hue University is where the soldier was posted in. Marines, inside Hue University, even set-up a 106mm recoilless rifle, meant to attack an NVA machine-gun nest they knew about.

The reinforcements were definitely a savior, but, before then, MACV weakened out, facing mortar rounds and rocket strikes. It is known that an Australian suffered a brutal wound, following a direct hit to a hooch—housing a group of Aussies in the compound. The neck of the Australian soldier was punctured by shrapnel, dying from the bloody cause.

A nightmare in Hue is what the 31st came down to, though Vietnam, itself, fell into an all-out nightmare. Disturbing the city of Saigon, 35 battalions—of the Viet Cong, alone—attacked the U.S. Embassy, the nation’s official radio station(Radio Vietnam), the presidential palace, and more. The capital city of Vietnam became Saigon after the final emperor, who lived at Hue, was no-longer due to abdication. The fighting at the capital city lasted, up, to March 7th of ’68. Involved, allied forces consisted of the U.S. military, the ARVNs, and the Australian Army—bringing in support. The death toll of the communist killed in Saigon rose to 11,000 by the end of the month-long battle, falling to a great defeat.

Leading to, what became, the “Battle of Hue”, the regiments of the NVA were already known to be in the area weeks in advance, collected through intel’. Hills, near the city of Hue, were used for jungle camps, hiding the 4th, 5th, and 6th NVA Regiment. A high percentage of youths in the territory were, either, drafted into the ARVN or fled to the join the Viet Cong “Guerillas”—on the hills. The enemy on the hills weren’t engaged due to the worries of a possible not-so-well outcome.

Carrying 35 soldiers, Lieutenant Nguyen Th? Tan patrolled the ARVN’s recon company many kilometers West of Hue, where they happened to eye a large scale of the NVA. By whisper, Lt. Tan radioed to the Command Post about what he visualized. Shortly, after, 2 NVA battalions pushed pass the company’s position. The occurrence took place the night of January 30th, towards the ending hours.

Clearly, a red flag was given, but taken lightly due to the ‘cease fire’ agreement. Around 10 P.M., the 6th North Vietnamese Army Reg. left their jungle camp to proceed North and West of Hue. It was during the evening when companies of Guerillas sneaked into the city, covered in civilian clothing—hiding uniforms and weapons in baggage, boxes, and under street clothing.

Other battalions from the Northern army took part in firefights, such as the 4th NVA Reg.’s “K4B Battalion” and “K4C Battalion”. The “810th”, described to be a battalion under the 4th NVA Regiment, didn’t squeeze their way into the battlefield until noon, on January 31st. From my understanding, the “804th” inflicted the most of damage from the regiment, attacking MACV’s South-Eastern end of the compound.

Just about 200 Australian and American advisors were housed at the MACV compound during the time. The compound would be one of the only two areas uncaptured throughout the month-long battle. About 40 percent of the buildings, in the city, were destroyed in the process.

Of the “20th Tactical Air Support Squadron”, at Hue City, were the Trail FACs as their unit was stationed inside the Da Nang Air Base. Unable to travel to the Tay Loc Airfield, for them to fly their planes, they were trapped at MACV. Many of them escaped to the LCU(Landing Craft Utility) Ramp on February 11th, which was Hue’s river patrol station—located South of the Perfume River. Leaving Hue the next day, their destination was to Da Nang, arriving by 1 A.M. Tom Eigel, of “Trail 32”, explains the dreadful feeling of getting attacked by an enemy’s recoilless rifle while he and others were on their way out of the city. Making it to the Da Dang Air Base, they hopped in “O-2” planes to perform their duty, joining in on the battle from the sky.

By February 11th, as well, the 1st Battalion, from the 5th Marines Reg., made their arrival to the mini “Mang Ca” citadel, headquartering the ARVN division. More than half of the 1st ARVN Division were on ‘leave’ for the holiday, causing them to be light-handed; only their “3rd Regiment” remained in the area, though, none had actually occupied the city limits. Commanding the ARVN division was Brigade General Ngo Quang Truong, who had much of his men spread along “Highway 1”. The 3 battalions of the “3rd Regiment” were 5 miles West of Hue.

Staff officers and clerks, of nearly 200 men, defended Mang Ca before getting reinforced by their recon company, “Black Panther”, and the 5th Marines. The plan of a 40-man NVA team was to head through a sewer system, leading a route to the Mang Ca citadel. Causing them to face a detoured path, the entrance to the sewer was blocked. An ARVN manning a machine-gun, there, gunned down 24 from the offensive NVA team.

General Truong’s 2nd and 3rd Battalion, from the 3rd Reg., traveled the direction of Hue City to reinforce, though, they were shoved back from enemy forces after their camp departure. This took place on the early morning of January 31st. The ARVN battalions, backboned by the “7th ARVN Armored Calvary Squadron”, took-on a long stand-off, the next morning, with the “810th NVA Battalion”. Over 130 casualties were sustained on their end as the North Vietnamese Army suffered great loses, too. Following the fire-fight, they marched East, along the Northern end of the Perfume River, attempting to get in the Citadel. By them, control at the Tay Loc Airfield was regained for the ARVNs on February 3rd.

A rough estimate of 10,000 Viet Cong and NVA soldiers attacked Hue the 1st morning of Tet, in ’68. The amount of enemy troops in the city were under-estimated by allied forces. But, as weeks passed, the more U.S. troops began to gain control of the city. A tower to the East-side of the Citadel was, soon, captured by the 5th Marines’s 1st Battalion on February 15th, then, Alpha company—of 5th’s 1st Battalion—led a successful attack, around 3 A.M., on the 22nd of February.

Damage inflicted from the communist would include the bridge laying, front and center, between Hue University and MACV—which ran North, where the Citadel stands. The bridgeway is named Cau Truong Tien, happening to get destroyed during the battle. She was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the French architect who designed the Eiffel Tower, and built in 1899. Originally named “Cua May”, the bridge blew-up the night of February 3rd, or 4th, after Viet Cong sappers swam to the bridgeway, using marine skin-diving equipment underwater. Following the destruction, a temporary bridge was built towards the collapsed area of the structure—crossed by a great number of refugees from the Northern end of the Perfume River.

Not only was the Cau Truong Tien bridge destroyed that night, the bridgeway within the South-Western end of the Hue City perimeter, Cau Da Vien, was, too. The two bridges were all the city had, connecting across the river, besides the Cau Bach Ho bridge—used for pedestrian traffic on one side, with train tracks on the other. Surviving, the Cau Bach Ho sided with Cau Da Vien by meters apart. After the war in Vietnam came to an end, in 1975, the bridges were rebuilt.

Hue University sheltered up to 17,000 civilians as a Catholic church, in Hue, sheltered nearly 5,000 while a large scale of residents were trapped along the battlefield, fighting for survival. Civilians were even trapped in their own homes, scared for their lives. The battle at Hue was so horrifying, a reporter stated, by writing, that a child laid crushed by a fallen roof, a woman knelt to her death, and detailed about many bodies turning black—getting their exposed flesh gnawed on by rats. More than 1,800 civilians were hospitalized. There were 844 civilian deaths known as the after-math of the battle.

Around the city, mass grave sites were discovered months and years after the war, where 4,062 bodies were buried. Men, women, children, and infants were executed. Before their deaths, a large amount had been tortured, horribly—and buried alive, even. Bodies from the sites have been found with their hands tied behind their backs, and some with cloths inside their mouths.

Bringing in brightness, Hotel Company, of the 5th Marine’s 2nd Battalion, captured an enemy command post, housed at the capital build of the Thua Tien Province—standing 2 stories, high. The assault occurred on the 6th of February, when 1st Platoon—of Hotel Company—rushed through an iron gate, proceeding to an open courtyard, facing the capital building. The front door was charged, into, by Leo Myer’s platoon after an assisting tank destructed the walls of the building. Gunnery Sergeant Frank Thompson made a name for lowering a Viet Cong flag from the pole, there, replacing it with the United States flag.

A yellow, 5-point, star surrounded with a red background, upper-half, and the lower-half in blue would be the flag of Victor Charlie—another name for the Viet Cong. The flag of the NVA would consist of a yellow, 5-point, star surrounded entirely by a red background. The NVA flag is, modernly, the flag of Vietnam after Saigon fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army, in 1975.

Running the NVA and Viet Cong attacks at Hue, Tran Van Quang had been a Major General at the time. He was nicknamed “Bay Tein”, reaching to a Lieutenant General in ’74, then a Colonel General in ’84. The year of 1917 is when he was born, dying at 96 in 2013.

December 13th was the birthday of General Ngo Quang Truong, born in 1929. His place of birth was Cochinchina, French Indochina—renamed into Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. From 1954 to 1975, he served in the ARVN, later, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1983. Falls Church, Virginia became his home, eventually relocating to Springfield of the state. The former commander of the 1st ARVN Division found himself holding a career as a computer analysis for “Association of American Railroads”, retiring in 1994, after going to “Northern Virginia Community College” to study Computer Programming.

Suffering from cancer, General Truong passed away in the Inova Fairfax Hospital of Falls Church, Virginia. He lived to see 77, stepping into his final year, of life, in 2007. The former ARVN commander died January 22nd. Making it to a Lieutenant General, in the South Vietnamese Army, was his highest accomplishment.

Colonel George O’Neil Adkisson—who was the commanding officer of “Advisory Team 3”, during the siege of Hue—passed at 90. He was born in Greenville, Texas on September 16th of 1924. His life came to a stop on June 3rd of 2015. Rewinding to 2003, he published a book, titled “Unstable, Stars, Gravitational Collapse, Black Holes” under the name “G.O. Adkisson”.

To greater explain to Citadel—which can, often, be confused—it has 4 walls, nearly 2 kilometers, long. To the outer layer is a trench of water, with short bridges leading to the gates. The Citadel is split in half by a canal flowing horizontal majority of the way through.

With Imperial City being centered South, she is surrounded by a smaller trench of water, on all sided. The primary route into it is the Meridian gate, also known as Ngo Mon, located South-East within the Citadel. The Northern center of the Imperial City is where the “Purple Forbidden City” sat—with a slimmer trench of water and a set of walls as a perimeter.

The ground-level of the Meridian is built of stone bricks. Roofed with a yellow and burgundy structure—“Belvedere of the 5-Pheonixes”—miles high, the gate has 5 entrances. From the main hall, troop movements were observed by the old emperor. It was constructed in 1833, under Minh Mang, once, an emperor of ‘Nam. A dragon stands apex of the structure.

Anciently, the home and work-place of the emperor was the “Purple Forbidden City”. It stretched approximately 305 meters, wide, on all sides of the squared perimeter. It was a mini-citadel, of a royal city, inside the Imperial City as that citadel stood inside the citadel of the entire historical city. Most of the buildings from the “Purple Forbidden City” were destroyed by U.S. air strikes during the battle. The citadel of the entire, ancient, city was constructed in 1804, with 160 significant buildings, though, surviving the battle were only 10 major structures.

Named after Vietnam’s former capital city, there is a vessel—in the United States Navy—called the “U.S.S. Hue City”, built by Huntington Ingalls Industries. The “CG-66” is currently homeported at “Naval Station Mayport”, in Florida, moving on from her original port at Norfolk, Virginia. She serves as a Guiding Missile Cruiser.



Written by Troy “The Ghost-Bull” Powell

Submitted: February 01, 2022

© Copyright 2022 The Ghost-Bull. All rights reserved.

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Sat, March 19th, 2022 12:53am


That’s a good story

Sat, March 26th, 2022 4:18am

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