The “Battle of Hue” was a surprise attack which began on the morning of January 31, 1968 in the South Vietnamese city of Hue, and proved to be one of the most costly and time consuming battles during the Vietnam War. It was also known as the “Tet Offensive,” because of its occurrence during what was supposed to be a truce due to the celebration of “Tet” or “Vietnamese New Year.” The Battle of Hue proved to be one of the most costly and time consuming battles during the Vietnam War. Hue was used as a United States naval supply base, and contained five U.S. military battalions with an estimated 3,000 U.S. Marines, 2,000 U.S. Army soldiers, and about 11,000 South Vietnamese Army (A.R.Vn) soldiers.
North Vietnamese forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and The Viet Cong were around 12,000 strong. Viet Cong forces targeted the Tay Loc Airfield and the headquarters for the 1st A.R.Vn Division, located in the “Citadel”, and the U.S. Military Assistance Command Center of Vietnam or MACV which was located south of the Huong River. At 2:33 in the morning, an NVA flare was shot off and lit the sky giving North Vietnamese forces the “go ahead” for the attack. At that time the 6th N.V.A. Regiment commenced an attack on the western flank of the Citadel, while the 4th Regiment made an attack on the Military Assistance Command Compound located in southern Hue.
Immediately, 1st Ordnance Company of the A.R.Vn linked up with B.P.Co. (“Black Panther” Company) and halted the 800th NVA Battalion’s advance for several hours later in the morning. During that time the 802nd NVA battalion proceeded to attack A.R.Vn’s 1st Division headquarters at the Mang Cu. Compound. Around 200 men, comprised of officers and civilian defensive forces, managed to keep 1st Division’s headquarters secure until Black Panther Company was able to reach and assist them in fending off enemy attacks.
Around 8 a.m. N.V.A. troops raised the symbolic flag of the Viet Cong over the Citadel. U.S. Marines Commanding Officer in Hue, Colonel Stan Hughes, was stationed at the Phu Bai Airfield ten miles from Hue City, along with three Marine battalions. During the same hours in the beginning of the “Tet Offensive,” Marines were dealing with their own attacks. Heavy rocket and mortar rounds were going off and platoons of combination forces, including civilian-soldiers and Marines, were confronted by N.V.A. Infantry.
On the morning of January 31, at 7 a.m. the Marines, C.A.P. and three tanks attempted a counter-attack in Hue. They made it no further than about a quarter mile before they started taking heavy sniper fire. A tank was then destroyed by an RPG, and the offensive came to a halt. All forces had then proceeded to make their way back to the Assistance Command center.
For three weeks Marines, along with U.S. Army and ARVn forces, rigorously battled their way to the Citadel. One street at a time, Allied forces eventually pushed North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops out of Hue. On February 24, 1968, the City of Hue was completely void of Communist forces. When it was all over both fronts had seen heavy losses. North Vietnamese forces suffered over 8,000 casualties; about half of those were killed just outside of the Hue, and 98 were taken in as prisoners of war. Allied forces saw a loss of about 670 killed in action, and a staggering 3,700 men wounded in the fight. The Military Assistance Command Compound reported that over 2,800 civilians were executed, and that 3/4 of the city was destroyed in the process, which began to dampen U.S. public support of the war even more. From then on U.S. forces and funding started to decline. The last American forces stepped out of South Vietnam in early March of 1973.