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Tech Boom Innovations That Changed Air Warfare
Laugh-In a breakout
role for Goldie Hawn
The War’s Brutal Turning Point
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+ Attack-counterattack at U.S. base
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On the cover
The 1968 attacks shocked
the troops, the president
and the public hoping for a
clear victory in VIetnam.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN WALKER;
HELMET, BUTTON: ISTOCK; LBJ: FRANCIS
MILLER/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/
GETTY IMAGES; INSET: MICHAEL OCHS
The Communists’ Tet Offensive
in January 1968 changed the way
many Americans viewed the war in
Vietnam. By James H. Willbanks
Today In the News
Voices David S. Ferriero
Arsenal - * :[HYÄNO[LY
THE NVA’S PLAN FOR
A GREAT ESCAPE
North Vietnamese soldiers attempted
to free Viet Cong prisoners to boost
their numbers in Tet battles.
By Erik Villard
Homefront January-February 1968
Battlefront @LHYZ (NV PU [OL >HY
Hall of Valor Leo Thorsness
U.S. Marines raced
to help a besieged
By Mark Bowden
THE LAST STAND
OF DETACHMENT 5
KILLER TECH: AVIATION
Military broadcasters fought hard to hold their
ground in a Tet attack. By Rick Fredericksen
The United States brought an array of
innovative weapons to its war in the skies.
MICHAEL A. REINSTEIN CHAIRMAN & PUBLISHER
DAVID STEINHAFEL PUBLISHER
DOUG NEIMAN ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER
ALEX NEILL EDITOR IN CHIEF
FEBRUARY 2018 VOL. 30, NO. 5
CHUCK SPRINGSTON EDITOR
DEBORAH STADTLER SENIOR EDITOR
JERRY MORELOCK SENIOR EDITOR
JON GUTTMAN RESEARCH DIRECTOR
DAVID T. ZABECKI EDITOR EMERITUS
HARRY SUMMERS JR. FOUNDING EDITOR
STEPHEN KAMIFUJI CREATIVE DIRECTOR
BRIAN WALKER GROUP ART DIRECTOR
PAUL FISHER ART DIRECTOR
GUY ACETO PHOTO EDITOR
JOE GALLOWAY, ROBERT H. LARSON, BARRY McCAFFREY,
JAMES R. RECKNER, CARL O. SCHUSTER, EARL H. TILFORD JR.,
SPENCER C. TUCKER, ERIK VILLARD, JAMES H. WILLBANKS
This issue commemorates the
50th anniversary of the 1968 Tet
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fought in one of America’s most
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Vietnam UIOIbQVM Q[ I^IQTIJTM
WV BQVQW 3QVLTM IVL 6WWS
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Eagle emerges on the hour
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body with golden
stars and James Dietz
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By federal law, licensing
fees paid to the U.S. Army
for the use of its trademarks
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Trademark Licensing Program,
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Welfare and Recreation
programs. U.S. Army name,
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I am the Marine veteran
with sunglasses in the
picture on Page 8 of the
December 2017 issue
(“Home Base Clinic Teams
Up With Red Sox to Aid
Vietnam Vets”). That
ceremony in Fenway Park
[honoring Vietnam veterans
IVL \PMQZ NIUQTQM[ WV \PM ÅMTL
before a baseball game] was one
of the proudest moments in my
life. The Boston Strong folks
gave us a standing 20-minute
ovation as we left the baseball
ÅMTL 1 ÅVITTa NMT\ OZI\Q\]LM NWZ
serving that I had never felt
1 [MZ^ML I[ I ZQÆMUIV QV 4QUI
Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th
Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at
combat base An Hoa west of Da
Dang in 1969. I know that you
have heard many Vietnam veteran
stories and probably a majority of them not so
positive. Well, I am one of the luckiest of all
After being severely wounded November
1969, I was medically retired in 1970. I went
to the Florida Institute of Technology on the GI
Bill and the vocational rehabilitation program.
After graduation in mechanical engineering in
1975, I started to work at the Kennedy Space
Center. I recently retired from 40 years there
with 150 rocket launches including every
space shuttle launch. I have a wonderful wife
and two great kids. Not bad for an old Jarhead.
Praise for Gen. Pace and His Battlefield Philosophy
back together and enabled our
nation and its values to survive
in a very dangerous world.
He is correct that “if you leave
\PM JI\\TMÅMTL \WW [WWV [WUM\PQVO
you do not want is going to come
in.” Winning the peace is as
important as winning the war.
Wherever the U.S. military goes
and stays, things get better.
When it leaves, things get worse.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Send letters and email:
1919 Gallows Road, Suite 400
Vienna, VA 22182-4038
BILLIE WEISS@RED SOX (2)
Peter Pace [retired Marine
four-star general and former
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
;\IЄ QV\MZ^QM_ML QV \PM
December issue] learned a lot
from his Vietnam service and put
those lessons to good use during
his 40 years in uniform. He, Colin
Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and
a lot of others put the military
TO HONOR VIETNAM VETERANS
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CC#: __________________________________________ Exp. Date: ____ / ____
Card Security Code (CSC):________ Signature: __________________________
Conceal Carry Feature (Add $30)......................................... $__________
Miitary Service Patch* on right sleeve (Add $20)................ $__________
Enclosed is my check payable to Veterans Commemoratives for the Total Due
Charge my credit card for the Total Due
Charge my credit card in two equal interest-free monthly payments
(We CANNOT ship to P.O. Boxes) Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.
City___________________________ State_____ Zip ______________________
Phone # (_________) ______________________________________________
(In case we have any questions about your order)
By federal law, licensing fees paid to the U.S. Army for use of its trademarks provide support to the Army Trademark
Licensing Program, and net licensing revenue is devoted to U.S. Army Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
*Service Branch Patches are purchased from Officially Licensed suppliers.
© ICM 2017
By Deborah Stadtler
A ﬂight into the past
The Air Force’s Vietnam-era A-1
Skyraider, inset, has features that
ofﬁcials would like to replicate in
a new group of aircraft. One of
the options, a Beechcraft AT-6
experimental plane, is shown ﬂying
over White Sands Missile Range in
New Mexcio on July 31, 2017.
The U.S. Air Force is looking back at the Vietnam War as
it explores options for future low-cost, slower-moving
aircraft that can be deployed for counterinsurgency,
close-air support or reconnaissance missions against the
Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the Middle
East and Africa.
1V \PMQZ Y]M[\ )QZ .WZKM WЅKQIT[ IZM ÅVLQVO QV[XQZItion in the single-seat, propeller-driven A-1 Skyraider,
an agile, slow-speed attack aircraft that could loiter over
>QM\VIU JI\\TMÅMTL[ IVL WЄMZ \PM \aXM WN KTW[M̆IQZ XXWZ\ \PI\ NI[\̆UW^QVO RM\ ÅOP\MZ[ KW]TL VW\ XZW^QLM Air
Force Times reported.
The new low-end aircraft would reduce the wear and
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demonstrations at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. After the data is evaluated, a possible second phase
would be a combat experiment in the Middle East, perhaps
in early 2018, said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
The Skyraider and its daring missions were featured
in the August 2017 issue of Vietnam magazine. You can
ÅVL \PM IZ\QKTM WVTQVM I\ 0Q[\WZa6M\ KWU ;MIZKP ¹5WZM
Than Just a Prop.”
U.S. AIR FORCE/ETHAN WAGNER; INSET: U.S. AIR FORCE.
WAR PLANE AGAIN ON
AIR FORCE’S RADAR
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Mrs. Mr. Ms.
Name (Please Print Clearly)
Vietnam Exhibit Opens at
New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society unveiled a new exhibit, The Vietnam War
1945-1975, on Oct. 4, 2017. The exhibit features artifacts, video, audio and
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Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975.
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also showing the perspectives of anti-war protestors and supporters of the
war. The exhibition is accompanied by an interactive website and runs
through April 22, 2018.
SHIP NAMED FOR
WAR HERO TO BE
The Navy League of the United States announced that
a new ship named after a Marine Medal of Honor recipient killed in Vietnam will be commissioned in
March 2018, The Associated Press reported.
The USS Ralph Johnson, an Arleigh Burke-class
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from Charleston, South Carolina, who threw himself on a grenade that landed in a group of three
men participating in reconnaissance patrol during March 1968. His act of
valor saved the life of another Marine. The ship will be commissioned in
Charleston and based in Everett, Washington.
President Trump presented
the Medal of Honor on Oct. 23,
2017, to retired Army Capt.
Gary M. Rose, a Special Forces
medic who risked his life multiple times to treat wounded
comrades in 1970 while on an
operation in Laos.
His actions occurred during
Operation Tailwind, a military
venture—not revealed to the
American public—initiated to
attract the attention of North
Vietnamese Army troops in
Laos and draw some of them
away from a CIA and Laotian
force battling the NVA elsewhere in the country.
During the four-day mission
that started on Sept. 11, 1970,
the 22-year-old sergeant
treated and carried out the
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more than a third of his company was wounded, and Rose
had gone without sleep or food
for days. When the men were
picked up by helicopter on the
fourth day, the copter carrying
Rose was shot down. Despite
his own wounds, he pulled others from the wreckage and administered aid until another
The Medal of Honor has now
been presented to 262 men for
actions in the Vietnam War.
AP PHOTO/ HENRI HUET; TOP LEFT: AP PHOTO; BOTTOM: U.S. NAVY; INSET: COURTESY RALPH H. JOHNSON VA MEDICAL CENTER
At the exhibit
U.S. troops battle Viet
Cong northeast of
Saigon on June 15, 1967.
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Dickey Chapelle with South
Vietnamese troops in 1961.
DICKEY CHAPELLE MADE
Georgette “Dickey” Chapelle, an acclaimed photographer who died
KW^MZQVO \PM >QM\VIU ?IZ PI[ JMMV VIUML IV PWVWZIZa 5IZQVM IKcording to Marine Corps Times <PM IKKWTILM _I[ IXXZW^ML Ja +WUmandant Gen. Robert Neller and presented at the Marine Corps
Combat Correspondents Association annual dinner in August 2017.
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QV KWUJI\ +PIXMTTM _I[ SQTTML WV 6W^ ! Ja [PZIXVMT _PQTM WV
patrol when a Marine near her tripped a booby trap. She was buried
with full military honors.
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published in National Geographic, 4QNM and Reader’s Digest, among
others. She was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of
Fame. Her life is the subject of a recent book and documentary.
John W. Lewis, critic of the Vietnam
War and China expert, died at 86
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the Vietnam War. In The United
States in Vietnam, he and Cornell
professor George McTurnan Kahin
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to accept “an outcome in Vietnam
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the balance of political forces that
Richard Pyle, a chief of The Associated Press Saigon bureau during the
war, died Sept. 28, 2017. He was 83. Pyle went to Vietnam for AP in 1968—
working alongside Pulitzer Prize winners Peter Arnett, Horst Faas and
6QKS =\¸IVL [XMV\ Å^M aMIZ[ \PMZM [MZ^QVO I[ J]ZMI] KPQMN NWZ \PM TI[\
half of that period before taking a Washington assignment in 1973. The
1971 death of AP photographer Henri Huet, killed while riding in a
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that he returned 20 years later to search for the crash site, described in
the book 4W[\ 7^MZ 4IW[.
FROM LEFT: ROD SEARCEY/STANFORD NEWS SERVICE; AP PHOTO; TOP: WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY IMAGE ID 75425 DICKEY CHAPELLE COLLECTION
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Born: Dec. 31, 1945, Beverly,
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Residence: Washington, D.C.
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University, bachelor’s and
master’s degrees in English
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literature, 1972 and 1976;
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Simmons College of Library
and Information Science,
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master’s degree, 1974
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Military service: U.S. Navy,
May 1967-February 1971;
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highest rank, petty ofﬁcer
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In Vietnam: Hospital
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corpsman, assigned to 1st
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Marine Division, FebruaryLWK]UMV\[ IVL UISM
March 1970; USS Sanctuary,
March 1970-January 1971
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Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, 1965-67 and
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1971-96, rising to associate
director for public services and \W KZMI\M [XMKQIT M`PQJQ\[
acting co-director of libraries;
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Duke University, university
librarian and vice provost for
library affairs, 1996-2004;
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New York Public Libraries,
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Andrew W. Mellon director and
chief executive of research
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Today: Archivist of the United
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States, since Nov. 13, 2009
E X C L U S I V E LY D E S I G N E D R I N G S H O N O R Y O U R M I L I TA RY S E RV I C E T O C O U N T RY
VIETNAM SERVICE CAREER RINGS
HANDCRAFTED IN AMERICA FEATURING YOUR SERVICE AND CAREER INSIGNIA
A1 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION
BIG RED ONE - 100th Anniversary!
Air Force Ring shown with
AF8 TACTICAL AIR COMMAND
our personalized Vietnam Service Career Ring
will be handcrafted in America, with a solid 10 Karat
Gold Service Emblem on a polished capstone. The ring body
combines Sterling Silver and 24 KT Gold plating!
• Thank you priced at just $239*
with an affordable payment plan
available (See order form for details.)
• Your Service Branch emblem is cast in solid 10KT Gold, mounted on
a polished capstone and surrounded by the words VIETNAM
VETERAN in bold lettering.
• Your satisfaction is guaranteed 100% by Veterans Commemoratives,
and by America’s finest maker of quality Military and fraternal jewelry.
You may return your ring within 30 days for replacement or refund no questions asked. So, order today with confidence.
• Your Vietnam Medal & Ribbon in official colors is sculpted & handenameled on one shank. Your Career/Division Insignia is featured on
the opposite side (see choices below.)
YOU HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO WEAR THESE SPECIAL RINGS.
• Inside of band is engraved with your initials and years
of service and is solid and smooth for maximum
comfort. Our rings are never hollowed out.
ADDITIONAL CAREER / DIVISION EMBLEMS AVAILABLE! CALL OR VISIT WWW.VETCOM.COM FOR DETAILS.
NAVY & COAST GUARD
By federal law, licensing fees paid to the U.S. Army for the use of its trademarks provide support for the Army® Trademark Licensing
Program, and net licensing revenue is devoted to U.S. Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. U.S. Army name, trademark
and logos are protected under federal law and used under license by Veterans Commemoratives.
WITH EVERY ORDER!
10TH MOUNTAIN 1ST CAVALRY 1ST ARMORED 82ND AIRBORNE 101ST AIRBORNE
FREE FLAG PIN
1ST INFANTRY 2ND INFANTRY 3RD INFANTRY 4TH INFANTRY 25TH INFANTRY
Or, Mail to: Veterans Commemoratives™ Military Career Service Rings, Two Radnor Corporate Center, Suite 120, Radnor, PA 19087-4599
YES. I wish to order the following exclusive Vietnam Veteran Career
Service Ring, personalized with my initials and year dates of service.
I Need Send No Money Now. I will be billed in four monthly
installments of $59.75* each with the first payment due prior to shipment.
PLEASE SEND ME A FREE AMERICAN FLAG LAPEL PIN!
Coast Guard (not shown)
Career Insignia: Enter emblem #. See pictures & numbers above: ________
(We CANNOT ship to P.O. Boxes) Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.
Call or visit www.Vetcom.com for additional Career and Division Insignias.
Ring Size: ___ Initials (3): ____ ____ ____ Svc. Yrs: _____to_____
City:_______________________________ State:______ Zip: __________
(Use ring sizer below or check with your jeweler.)
Phone #: (_______)____________ Email: __________________________
(In case we have questions about your order.)
*Plus $19.95 for processing, shipping & handling.
PA residents add 6% state sales tax. © ICM 2017
FOR OTHER FINE MILITARY RINGS, WATCHES & COLLECTIBLES VISIT VETERANS COMMEMORATIVES ONLINE AT WWW.VETCOM.COM
That ship was used to treat wounded? AM[ 1\ [XMV\ \PM
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For someone whose medical experience had been
with psychiatric patients, what was it like to see
seriously wounded patients on the Sanctuary? ?MTT
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How did you deal with that? AW] R][\ OM\ ][ML \W Q\ 1
WN\MV \PQVS IJW]\ \PI\ _PMV 1 K]\ Ua[MTN WZ [WUM\PQVO
AW] R][\ OM\ ][ML \W Q\
Anything else about Vietnam that particularly sticks
out in your memory? <PMZM Q[ IVW\PMZ \PQVO 1 \PQVS
IJW]\ 1 _I[ VM^MZ INZIQL 1 _I[ QV I _IZ bWVM *]\ 1 _I[
QV I ZMTI\Q^MTa [MK]ZM IZMI 1 _I[ WV Ua _Ia \W \PM PMIL
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1 [PW]TL PI^M JMMV [KIZML *]\ 1 LQLV¼\ SVW_ _PI\ Q\ _I[
Fifty years later, you are helping to share the memories
of other veterans through the archives’ Remembering Vietnam
exhibit. Out of millions of docuUMV\[ UQTM[ WN ÅTU IVL PW]Z[ WN
audio, how did you decide what to
display? <PI\¼[ \PM ZWTM WN \PM M`PQJQ\QWV [\IЄ IVL \PM K]ZI\WZ[ _PW
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How were those interviewees chosen? )TQKM 3IUX[
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As you know, the Vietnam War is a contentious topic.
<MTT UM IJW]\ Q\
There’s probably some skepticism about a government-sponsored exhibit on the war <PI\¼[ \PM JMI]\a
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Some of the material in your exhibit is recently declas[QÅML 0W_ U]KP WN \PM >QM\VIU ?IZ Q[ [\QTT KTI[[QÅML' 4W\[ TW\[ <PMZM Q[ [WUM [\]Є \PI\ XZWJIJTa _QTT
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When message would you like exhibit’s visitors to
leave with? 1¼U ZMITTa NWK][ML QV ITT WN W]Z M`PQJQ\[ WV
\PM 3 \PZW]OP KWUU]VQ\a _PW QV \PQ[ XIZ\QK]TIZ KI[M
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QV OMVMZIT IJW]\ \PM LM[\Z]K\QWV \W P]UIV K]T\]ZM[ IVL
TQNM IVL _Ia WN TQNM \PI\ _IZ[ JZQVO _Q\P \PMU V
COURTESY DAVID S. FERRIERO
left in my enlistment to go through the
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! <PM XMZ[WVVMT WЅKM I\ +PMT[MI
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<PM NWTS[ QV \PM XMZ[WVVMT WЅKM QV
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TWWS ]X +PQMN ,][\a :PWLM[ )VL [WV
WN I O]V PM _I[ \PM WVM _PW KPMKSML
UM QV <PM ÅZ[\ _WZL[ W]\ WN PQ[ UW]\P
_MZM ¹?PI\ QV \PM PMTT IZM _M OWQVO \W
LW _Q\P aW]'º <PMa KW]TLV¼\ [MVL UM
\W \PM ÅMTL JMKI][M 1 LQLV¼\ PI^M ÅMTL
\ZIQVQVO 0M OI^M UM ITT WN \PM[M ]VQNWZU[ [QLMIZU ÆIS
RIKSM\ PMTUM\ M^MZa\PQVO \PI\ 1 VMMLML IVL [QVKM 1 PIL
X[aKP \ZIQVQVO PM \WTL UM \W ZMXWZ\ \W \PM X[aKP _IZL
<_W UWV\P TI\MZ 1 OW\ WZLMZ[ NWZ \PM =;; ;IVK\]IZa hosXQ\IT [PQX
David S. Ferriero, left, enjoys shore
leave with shipmate Jim Maroney at
Subic Bay in the Philippines in 1970.
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A probe was inserted into the
basketlike receptacle of a tanker
aircraft’s hose during in-air refueling.
Extra fuel tanks were installed
on the wings to extend the
Starﬁghter’s range and could
be dropped after use.
Razorlike wings were
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ﬂight. On the tarmac, shields
were placed on the wing edges
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loaded on each wing.
By Carl O. Schuster
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pounds of thrust
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design on Oct. 31, 1952, as Model 83. The Air Force ordered two prototypes for testing
on March 1, 1953.
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IMPORTANT CONSUMER INFORMATION: Jitterbug is owned by GreatCall, Inc. Your invoices will come from GreatCall. 1Monthly fees do not include government taxes or assessment surcharges and are
subject to change. Plans and services may require purchase of a Jitterbug Flip and a one-time setup fee of $35. Coverage is not available everywhere. 5Star or 9-1-1 calls can only be made when cellular service
is available. 5Star Service will be able to track an approximate location when your device is turned on, but we cannot guarantee an exact location. 2We will refund the full price of the Jitterbug phone and the
activation fee (or setup fee) if it is returned within 30 days of purchase in like-new condition. We will also refund your first monthly service charge if you have less than 30 minutes of usage. If you have more
than 30 minutes of usage, a per minute charge of 35 cents will be deducted from your refund for each minute over 30 minutes.You will be charged a $10 restocking fee. The shipping charges are not refundable.
There are no additional fees to call GreatCall’s U.S.-based customer service. However, for calls to a Personal Operator in which a service is completed, you will be charged 99 cents per call, and minutes will
be deducted from your monthly rate plan balance equal to the length of the call and any call connected by the Personal Operator. Jitterbug, GreatCall and 5Star are registered trademarks of GreatCall, Inc.
Copyright ©2017 GreatCall, Inc. ©2017 firstSTREET for Boomers and Beyond, Inc.
Jan. 22 Dan Rowan
and Dick Martin’s 4I]OP̆1V
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new type of the variety show
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humor, psychedelic sets,
whacky characters and
silly phrases such
as “sock it to me.”
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Goldie Hawn and Lily
Tomlin to stardom.
Jan. 14 Bart Starr and the
National Football League’s Green
Bay Packers pound the Oakland
Raiders of the American Football
League 33-14 in the NFL-AFL
World Championship Game
(later dubbed Super Bowl II).
Jan. 21 Paul Simon and
Art Garfunkel release their
soundtrack to The Graduate,
\PM ! ,][\QV 0WЄUIV̆
Anne Bancroft movie about a
confused college graduate’s
seduction by “Mrs. Robinson.”
Feb. 3 The Lemon Pipers, a pop band formed in 1966,
land the top spot on the Billboard charts with “Green
Tambourine.” It was the only big hit for the group,
which disbanded in 1969.
Feb. 8 Moviegoers
are introduced to
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and humans are
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Jan. 21 The Battle of Khe Sanh
begins as North Vietnamese Army
gunners in “neutral” Laos begin
shelling the U.S. Marine base in the
northwest corner of South Vietnam.
The siege lasted 77 days until relief
Feb. 12 More than 1,000
black sanitation workers
strike in Memphis,
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and union recognition
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to death in a truck
compactor. A negotiated
agreement ended the
strike on April 16.
Feb. 19 Mr. Roger’s
its run on National
Educational Television (merged into
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emotions and events
in their lives.
Feb. 28 Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge is published. Considered
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Jan. 31 An NVA and Viet Cong
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Lunar New Year holiday called
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throughout South Vietnam with full
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WV 2IV )T\PW]OP \PM +WUU]nists were soundly defeated over the
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the head. Associated Press journalist
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became an iconic image of the war.
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necessary to destroy the town to save
it.” Arnett attributed the quote to an
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as “We had to destroy the village in
order to save it.”
Feb. 26 )N\MZ \PM TWVOM[\ ÅOP\ NWZ
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is declared “secured” and cleared of
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March 7. U.S. and South Vietnamese
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JAN. 14: HISTORYNET ARCHIVES; JAN. 21: GUY ACETO; JAN 22: AF ARCHIVE/
ALAMY AND HISTORYNET ARCHIVES (BUTTON); FEB. 3: GUY ACETO;
FEB. 8: 20TH CENTURY FOX; FEB. 12: AP PHOTO/CHARLIE KELLY;
FEB. 19: PHOTOFEST: FEB. 28: AF ARCHIVE/ALAMY
Communists attacks in January 1968, and the reaction to
them, dashed U.S. hopes for an all-out victory in Vietnam
By James H. Willbanks
In a staged February 1968 photo for U.S.
News & World Report, a couple look at a
scene from Vietnam, illustrating the weeks of
ﬁlmed carnage during the Tet Offensive that
changed public perceptions of the war.
An inﬂuential voice
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite interviews a
professor at the University of Hue in February 1968.
In a broadcast later that month, Cronkite described
the war in Vietnam as “mired in stalemate.”
A C-47 Skytrain, struck by
rocket and mortar shelling
during Tet, is just a pile of
wreckage at Tan Son Nhut
Air Base outside Saigon.
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2IV ̆ .MJ !
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Ban Me Thuot
Bien Hoa/Long Binh
The North Vietnamese
Army and Viet Cong
attacked 36 of 44
ﬁve of six autonomous
cities including Saigon
and Hue, 64 of 242 district capitals and more
than 50 hamlets. Some
attacks were limited to
long-range artillery ﬁre
or commando raids,
such as the hit on Cam
Ranh Bay, about 200
miles north of Saigon.
The major ground
attacks (involving at
least one enemy infantry
battalion) are shown
on the map.
TOP: GETTY IMAGES; BOTTOM: EVERETT COLLECTION INC./ALAMY
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the South Vietnamese and their U.S. allies. Their new
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that the war was unwinnable.
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View from the ground
The top U.S. commander
in Vietnam, Gen. William
Westmoreland, visits his
troops in the aftermath of
Tet on March 23, 1968
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Johnson’s deteriorating public support would get worse
over one of the most controversial issues to develop in the
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2WQV\ +PQMN[ WN ;\IЄ [MV\ I UM[[IOM \W ?M[\UWZMTIVL I[SQVO QN PM VMMLML ZMQVNWZKMUMV\[ ?M[\UWZMTIVL ZMXTQML
\PI\ PM LQL VW\ VMML IVa\PQVO M`KMX\ \PM IXXZW`QUI\MTa
\ZWWX[ ITZMILa XZWUQ[ML <PM VM`\ LIa ?PMMTMZ
More troops needed?
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Earle Wheeler,
here at a July 1965 meeting with President
Lyndon B. Johnson, wanted the president to
mobilize more troops after Tet.
+ZWVSQ\M KTMIZTa ZMÆMK\ML \PM _QLM[XZMIL LQ[[I\Q[NIK\QWV
_Q\P \PM ILUQVQ[\ZI\QWV¼[ XWTQKQM[ 8ZM^QW][Ta RW]ZVITQ[\[
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IVL OW^MZVUMV\ I]\PWZQ\QM[ J]\ TQSM UIVa W\PMZ )UMZQKIV[ \PMa _MZM [PWKSML Ja \PM JTWWLa ÅOP\QVO IVL \PM
IJQTQ\a WN \PM +WUU]VQ[\[ \W TI]VKP KP I JZWIL WЄMV[Q^M
2WPV[WV¼[ XWTQKQM[ _MZM IT[W ]VLMZ I\\IKS QV +WVOZM[[
,MUWKZI\QK ;MV :WJMZ\ . 3MVVMLa WN 6M_ AWZS KTIQUML
\PI\ <M\ PIL ¹ÅVITTa [PI\\MZML \PM UI[S WN WX\QKIT QTT][QWV
with which we have concealed our true circumstances,
M^MV NZWU W]Z[MT^M[ º *]\ Q\ _I[ I :MX]JTQKIV [MVI\WZ
/MWZOM )QSMV WN >MZUWV\ _PW M`XZM[[ML \PM ^QM_ WN
UIVa QV +WVOZM[[ _PMV PM [IQL ¹1N \PQ[ Q[ I NIQT]ZM 1 PWXM
\PM >QM\ +WVO VM^MZ PI^M I UIRWZ KKM[[ º
<PM XZM[QLMV\¼[ XWTT V]UJMZ[ XT]UUM\ML *a TI\M .MJZ]IZa ! Z^Ma[ [PW_ML \PI\ WVTa XMZKMV\ WN
)UMZQKIV[ MVLWZ[ML 2WPV[WV¼[ PIVLTQVO WN \PM _IZ LW_V
NZWU XMZKMV\ QV 6W^MUJMZ !
TOP: NATIONAL ARCHIVES (2); LEFT: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES; BOTTOM: GETTY IMAGES
A city in ﬂames
Smoke marks enemy positions
bombed on Jan. 31, 1968, in response
to the Communist attacks on Saigon.
At right, the ﬁres around the city
continue to burn as night comes.
DICK SWANSON/THE LIFE IMAGES COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES
sent a message saying the president was
considering diversionary attacks north of
the Demilitarized Zone or in eastern Laos to
relieve pressure on the nearby Marine base
at Khe Sanh, which had been under siege
The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam,
since Jan. 21.
Ellsworth Bunker, with hands in
After another exchange of messages,
pockets, sees the dead body of a Viet
Wheeler again urged Westmoreland to ask
Cong, among those who breached
for troops if he needed them. This time Westthe U.S. Embassy grounds during
moreland said he could use more men to reTet but were killed or captured
plenish his forces after the Tet battles.
before they got much farther.
Although the enemy had lost some 40,000
troops, it still had a large force that threatened the provinces just south of the DMZ,
and intelligence reports indicated Hanoi was
sending in more soldiers to restock its ranks. Even so, Johnson did not mention his plans to use the second and
Westmoreland thought he had the Communists on the run third increments other than in Vietnam.
Johnson was taken aback by Westmoreland’s request
and more troops in pursuit could drive them from border
sanctuaries in Cambodia and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail for 206,000 more troops. The president realized an inwith a thrust into Laos. He also believed calling up addi- crease of that size in Vietnam would require a call-up of
tional troops would convince the North Vietnamese that the reserves—a move that would not only energize the
anti-war movement but also threaten the American econthe United States was serious about achieving a victory.
Wheeler’s concerns about troop levels extended be- omy and the future of his Great Society programs in civil
yond Southeast Asia. With 30 to 50 percent of the Army, rights, health care, education and the “war on poverty.”
5IZQVM[ 6I^a IVL )QZ .WZKM KWUUQ\\ML \W ÅOP\QVO WZ <PM KW[\[ WN Z]VVQVO \PM _IZ QV >QM\VIU IVL ÅVIVKQVO
supporting the war in Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs chair- the Great Society agenda were more than the United
man had told Johnson he was worried that the U.S. might ;\I\M[ KW]TL IЄWZL <PM XZM[QLMV\ PIL XZWXW[ML I XMZVW\ JM IJTM \W ZM[XWVL \W I ÆIZM̆]X MT[M_PMZM ]VTM[[ cent surtax on income in 1967, but Congress had refused
more reservists were mobilized and combat-ready. He to pass the legislation until the tax hike was accompanied
[I_ \PM ÅOP\QVO \PI\ KWV\QV]ML IN\MZ <M\ I[ IV WXXWZ\]- by cuts in domestic spending.
2WPV[WV I[SML VM_ ,MNMV[M ;MKZM\IZa +TIZS +TQЄWZL
nity to persuade Johnson to call units of the reserves
into active duty to strengthen the “strategic reserve”— _PW PIL \ISMV WЅKM 5IZKP \W NWZU I \I[S NWZKM _Q\PQV
forces kept readily available to react to any global threat. the Defense Department to evaluate the situation in
The president sent Wheeler to Saigon to confer with South Vietnam and make a recommendation on WestWestmoreland. Upon his return to Washington on Feb. 25, UWZMTIVL¼[ ZMY]M[\ <PM XZM[QLMV\ \WTL +TQЄWZL ¹/Q^M UM
?PMMTMZ XZMLQK\ML I ZMVM_ML +WUU]VQ[\ WЄMV[Q^M IVL \PM TM[[MZ WN \PM M^QT[ º +TQЄWZL PIL KKMMLML :WJMZ\ 5Kcontended that more troops were necessary unless the Namara, who had quietly turned against the war and deUnited States was “prepared to ac- XIZ\ML QV 2IV]IZa ! +TQЄWZL LQZMK\ML 2WPV[WV¼[
cept some reverses.” On Feb. 28, election campaign in 1964 and been a leading supporter
Wheeler presented Johnson with a WN \PM _IZ MЄWZ\ J]\ TQSM 5K6IUIZI PM _I[ VW_ PI^QVO
request from Westmoreland for doubts about U.S. involvement.
+TQЄWZL¼[ \I[S NWZKM I[[M[[ML = ; [\ZI\MOa QV >QM\VIU
206,000 more troops (in addition to
the small increase promised ear- and reviewed the proposals for additional troops. The
lier). There were more than 515,000 group examined the implications of any new escalation
and concluded that the existing policy in Vietnam was
U.S. troops in Vietnam at the time.
The 206,000-troop increase NIQTQVO +TQЄWZL _PW XZW^QLML \PM OZW]X¼[ ÅVLQVO[ \W
would be accomplished in three Johnson on March 4, believed an increase in U.S. forces
[\MX[ <PM ÅZ[\ QVKZMUMV\ WN XZWUQ[ML ¹VW MIZTa MVL \W \PM KWVÆQK\ VWZ IVa KKM[[ QV
108,000 troops would go to Vietnam I\\ZQ\QVO \PM MVMUa WZ MZWLQVO 0IVWQ¼[ _QTT \W ÅOP\ º
Shunning a large troop increase, the task force adby May 1. And the remaining 98,000
would be sent in two increments, on vised the president to send about 22,000 additional
Sept. 1 and Dec. 1. However, Wheeler troops to Vietnam and approve a call-up of 245,000 reLQL VW\ XTIV \W LMXTWa \PM ÅVIT \_W servists “to improve our strategic reserve in the United
increments to Vietnam unless the States,” but link any further troop increases in Vietnam
NVA launched another successful to the performance of the Saigon government and its
WЄMV[Q^M 1V[\MIL PM QV\MVLML \W IZUML NWZKM[ 8ZQ^I\MTa +TQЄWZL \WTL \PM XZM[QLMV\" ¹<PM
use them to bolster the stateside re- major concern of the people is that they do not see victory
serve forces. Wheeler’s report to ahead. The military has not come up with a plan for vicFEBRUARY 2018
tory. The people were discouraged as more men go in and
are chewed up in a bottomless pit.”
The situation for the Johnson administration worsened considerably when The New York Times ran a story
on March 10 revealing Westmoreland’s request for the
206,000 troops. NBC News reporter Frank McGee told
the nation that the additional troops would only result in
more destruction, not peace and victory.
.WZ U]KP WN \PM )UMZQKIV X]JTQK \PM <M\ 7ЄMV[Q^M
battles in January and February had been a rude awakening to the realities of the war and prompted a re-evaluation of the nation’s commitment. And now in March,
after being repeatedly told by political and military leaders that the Communists were fading, Americans were
[PWKSML \W ÅVL \PI\ ?M[\UWZMTIVL IVL 2WPV[WV _MZM
considering a troop increase in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, television, newspaper and magazine pic\]ZM[ WN KTW[M̆Y]IZ\MZ ÅOP\QVO ZMUQVLML NIUQTQM[ WVKM
again of the escalating human costs of the war. It seemed
to them that no matter how many troops we sent in, how
many of the enemy we killed, the Communist leadership
would replace them with large numbers of more men,
regardless of the huge cost in North Vietnamese lives.
And the war would go on without end.
By late March, a new poll on the Vietnam War revealed
that 78 percent of the surveyed Americans felt the United
States was not making any progress in the war, and only
26 percent approved of Johnson’s handling of the war.
On March 12, two days after news broke about the
proposed 206,000 additional troops, the Democratic
presidential primary was held in New Hampshire. Sen.
Eugene McCarthy, relatively unknown outside his state
of Minnesota and running on an anti-war platform as the
“Peace Candidate,” astonished the nation by coming
within a few hundred votes of defeating Johnson.
Four days after the New Hampshire primary, a potentially much stronger Democratic candidate, Robert KenVMLa¸[MMQVO \PM ZMIK\QWV \W \PM <M\ 7ЄMV[Q^M \PM
president’s low poll numbers and the results of the primary—announced his decision to enter the race. Ken28
Johnson was shocked by this shift in opinion among
these solidly anti-Communist elder statesmen and military leaders, some of whom had helped shape the policies
that had gotten the United States involved in Vietnam in
\PM ÅZ[\ XTIKM ) ^Q[QJTa IVOZa 2WPV[WV KWUXTIQVML ¹<PM
establishment bastards have bailed out [on me].” Nevertheless, the Wise Men’s recommendations, clearly a reX]LQI\QWV WN PQ[ _IZ XWTQKQM[ OZMI\Ta QVÆ]MVKML \PM
president. He wrote in his memoirs that he had asked
himself at the time, “If they [the Wise Men] had been so
LMMXTa QVÆ]MVKML Ja \PM ZMXWZ\[ WN \PM <M\ WЄMV[Q^M _PI\
must the average citizen in the country be thinking?”
On Sunday, March 31, Johnson spoke to the American
people in a nationally televised broadcast. He said the Tet
7ЄMV[Q^M PIL JMMV I NIQT]ZM NWZ \PM +WUU]VQ[\[ J]\ PM
LQL VW\ WЄMZ IVa WX\QUQ[\QK XZMLQK\QWV[ 1V[\MIL \PM XZM[ident announced a halt to the bombing raids in North
Vietnam except for an area north of the Demilitarized
No end in sight
Secretary of Defense Clark
Clifford led a task force that gave
a bleak assessment of prospects
for a U.S. victory in Vietnam.
nedy, like McCarthy, made opposition to the
war the central issue of his campaign.
Johnson also faced a more hostile Congress. Sen. J. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat who chaired the Foreign
Relations Committee, opened new hearings
on administration’s conduct of the war. In
the House, 139 members signed a petition
asking Johnson for a complete review of
Vietnam policy. These responses reinforced
the administration’s belief that additional
escalation would prove increasingly divisive.
A beleaguered Johnson called for a meetQVO WN ]VWЅKQIT [MVQWZ IL^Q[MZ[ PM ZMferred to as the Wise Men—former Cabinet
WЅKMZ[ XZM[QLMV\QIT IQLM[ IUJI[[ILWZ[
generals and others. They included former
Secretary of State Dean Acheson, former Ambassador to
South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, former national security adviser McGeorge Bundy and three retired generals, Omar Bradley, Matthew Ridgway and Maxwell Taylor.
Johnson had gone to the Wise Men for counsel as recently as November 1967. They had recommended that
the president stay the course in Vietnam and press ahead
with his current program. Now in the wake of the Tet Offensive, Johnson turned again to the group for advice.
The Wise Men met on March 25, joined by Secretary
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that even with reinforcements it might take an additional
Å^M \W aMIZ[ \W LMNMI\ \PM +WUU]VQ[\[ QV >QM\VIU
After two days of discussion, the Wise Men met with the
president and told him they had concluded that the war
was unwinnable with current policies. Though there was
some disagreement, the Wise Men had reached a general
consensus on America’s role in South Vietnam. No additional troops should be sent. The bombing of North Vietnam should be halted. And the United States should move
toward a negotiated settlement and disengagement.
LEONARD MCCOMBE/THE LIFE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; BUTTON: DAVID J. & JANICE L. FRENT/GETTY IMAGES
TET’S CASUALTY COUNT
Zone and called upon North Vietnamese leaders to join
the United States in peace talks. And at the end of the
speech Johnson paused and said: “With America’s sons
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= ; )ZUa KPQMN WN [\IЄ 2WPV[WV PIL UILM \PM LMKQ[QWV
\W ZMXTIKM ?M[\UWZMTIVL _Q\P PQ[ LMX]\a /MV +ZMQOP\WV
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LMTIaML IVVW]VKMUMV\ MVIJTML ?M[\UWZMTIVL¼[ KZQ\QK[
to maintain that the president had become disenchanted
_Q\P \PM OMVMZIT NWZ ZMI[WV[ ZMTI\ML \W <M\ IVL ¹SQKSML
PQU ]X[\IQZ[ º
1V \PM IN\MZUI\P WN \PM <M\ 7ЄMV[Q^M IVL 2WPV[WV¼[
LMKQ[QWV VW\ \W Z]V NWZ ZM̆MTMK\QWV \PM =VQ\ML ;\I\M[ JMcame embroiled in a bitter election campaign. Former
Vice President Richard Nixon received the Republican
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¹[MKZM\ XTIVº \W MVL \PM _IZ QN MTMK\ML 5MIV_PQTM \PM
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XXWZ\ 3MVVMLa _I[ I[[I[[QVI\ML QV 2]VM IN\MZ _QVVQVO \PM +ITQNWZVQI XZQUIZa IVL 0]UXPZMa _WV \PM VWUination in August at a chaotic Chicago convention marred
Ja JTWWLa [\ZMM\ JI\\TM[ JM\_MMV IV\Q̆_IZ XZW\M[\MZ[ IVL
TWKIT XWTQKM 0]UXPZMa _I[ \WW KTW[MTa
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Nixon began to implement
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>QM\VIU¼[ IZUML NWZKML _Q\P
improved training and a vast modMZVQbI\QWV MЄWZ\ +WVK]ZZMV\Ta PM
JMOIV I _Q\PLZI_IT WN )UMZQKIV \ZWWX[
that continued until almost all U.S. ground
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! = ; IL^Q[MZ[ IVL UI[[Q^M )UMZQKIV
IQZ XW_MZ PMTXML \PM ;W]\P >QM\VIUM[M JMI\
back a North Vietnamese invasion.
)N\MZ [MKZM\ VMOW\QI\QWV[ _Q\P \PM 6WZ\P
Vietnamese and a stepped-up U.S. bombing
KIUXIQOV \PM KWUJI\IV\[ ZMIKPML IV IOZMM-
2IV ̆5IZKP !
“Other allies” category includes troops from Australia, South Korea and Thailand.
“Enemy forces” number encompasses soldiers from both the North Vietnamese Army and
NOTE: Published casualty counts from Tet frequently differ from each other for various reasons.
The enemy death toll is an estimate, as are the wounded totals for both sides. Additionally, the
date range may vary. Jan 30-March 5 incorporates the periods of most intense ﬁghting. Other
tabulations extend the date to March 31, for example, and get a U.S. death toll of 3,895.
SOURCE: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968: U.S Army Combat Operations
in Vietnam, U.S. Army Center of Military History
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level set into motion the events that culminated in the
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0Q[\WZa X]JTQ[PML QV
Sen. Eugene McCarthy,
running for the 1968
nomination as the “peace
candidate,” gets an enthusiastic
response at an airport stop.
THE NVA’S PLAN FOR
A GREAT ESCAPE
A North Vietnamese Army battalion was ordered to free
captured Viet Cong so they could join the ﬁght during Tet, but U.S.
gunships and the 173rd Airborne had other plans for the intruders
By Erik Villard
LARRY BURROWS/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; RIGHT: U.S. AIR FORCE
n a clear and moonless night, about 200 soldiers from the North Vietnamese Army’s
5th Battalion, 95th Regiment, crouched in the
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\ISMV 4M VWLLML \W PQ[ UWZ\IZ KZM_[ <PM ÅZ[\ \_W ZW]VL[ [TQL LW_V
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<]a 0WI PIL JMO]V
The NVA 95th Regiment \ZIKML Q\[ TQVMIOM \W I ]VQ\ QV 0W +PQ 5QVP¼[
>QM\ 5QVP IZUa \PI\ NWZUML QV <P]I <PQMV XZW^QVKM QV ! 1V )XZQT
An AC-47 “Spooky”
gunship, like the one
shown here and at right,
unleashed its rapid-ﬁre
miniguns on units of the
battalion that attacked
an artillery base and
prison camp at Tuy Hoa.
1962, the 95th Regiment was established as part of the
NVA 325th Division. Its troops completed their training
in the southern panhandle of North Vietnam and in
neighboring Laos before crossing the Demilitarized Zone
separating North and South Vietnam in October 1964.
Consisting of 2,000 soldiers organized into three battalions, several support companies and a headquarters element, the 95th Regiment headed to the Central
Highlands, where it operated in Kontum, Pleiku and Darlac provinces until September 1965.
With more NVA regiments scheduled to arrive in the
highlands that autumn, Hanoi shifted the regiment to the
central coast to become the primary NVA unit in Phu Yen
province. The 95th Regiment reported to the Southern
Sub-Command of Military Region 5, a headquarters that
The armament at the American
artillery base at Tuy Hoa included
M42 Dusters with twin 40 mm
anti-aircraft guns. This Duster is
near Saigon in February 1968.
also controlled the NVA 18B Regiment in neighboring
Khanh Hoa province to the south. The 95th coordinated
its activities with several Viet Cong units, most notably
the 85th Local Force Battalion and the 30th Main Force
Battalion, operating under the control of the Viet Cong
Between 1945 and 1965, Phu Yen had been a Communist stronghold, and most of its population (350,000 residents in 1965) knew only one government—the one
represented by Ho Chi Minh’s political commissars. Only
the provincial capital in the seaside city of Tuy Hoa and
a handful of district towns were beholden to French
and later South Vietnamese authority. When the NVA
95th Regiment arrived in late 1965, it enjoyed wide freedom of maneuver because the main South Vietnamese
unit in Phu Yen—the 47th Regiment, 22nd Infantry
Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam—and local
security units stayed close to Tuy Hoa and the settlements near Highway 1, the main north-south road
through the populated lowlands along the coast. The 95th
established several base camps in the hills overlooking
the Tuy Hoa Valley. From there it could easily reach the
lowlands when it chose to raid government targets or obtain food and intelligence from local Viet Cong units.
That favorable situation changed in early 1966 when
the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, one of
the elite American mobile units in Vietnam, moved into
OPPOSITE: GENEVIEVE CHAUVEL/SYGMA/GETTY IMAGES; MAP: PAUL FISHER; THIS PAGE: TOP: GETTY IMAGES; RIGHT: U.S. AIR FORCE
Enemy troops attacked Tuy Hoa with Soviet
RPD light machine guns and B40 rocket
launchers, being ﬁred here in a 1972 battle.
Phu Yen province. Supported by a battalion of U.S. helicopters, the airborne brigade managed to locate and
engage the 95th Regiment nearly a dozen times in the
coming year, reducing the Communist unit from 2,000
men to around 900 men by the end of 1966. The 95th
retreated deep into the hills of Phu Yen province during
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After receiving a large contingent of North Vietnamese
replacements, the regiment returned to the populated
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the NVA unit sustained several hundred casualties in
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earlier in the year.
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The North Vietnamese stayed out of sight through the end
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a monthlong deployment.
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in company- and platoon-size groups throughout the interior mountains, moving frequently to avoid detection by
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team of Viet Cong agents in the city. The
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its commanders decided to commit their
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4th and 6th battalions to reach a strength of around 200
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the handful of South Vietnamese outposts that lay along
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Tuy Hoa district headquarters and a counterbattery
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Robust air support
An F-100 Super Sabre ﬁghter-bomber
rests at the Tuy Hoa airﬁeld in an
Force Battalion were to penetrate the heart of Tuy Hoa
by moving west along the bank of the Da Rang River and
then overrunning the small downtown area where the
province headquarters was located. They would hopefully
be greeted by hundreds of civilians who had been mobilized by Viet Cong agents and were ready to participate
in a popular uprising. Perhaps even some South Vietnamese soldiers would decide to join the revolution.
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as Tuy Hoa South that lay a few kilometers south of town,
as well as the base camp of the 173rd Airborne and the
South Korean 26th Infantry Regiment just beyond, near
the hamlet of Phu Hiep. Hanoi’s objective was to decapitate the South Vietnamese government. If all went according to plan, Le’s forces could grab a victory before
U.S. and South Korean troops were able to bring their
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When the base camp of the ARVN 47th Infantry came
under mortar attack at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 30, the deputy
province senior adviser, Lt. Col. Vernon J. Walters,
alerted the 173rd Airborne that the city was under assault. The province chief, Lt. Col. Nguyen Van Ba, sent
word to the South Vietnamese regional headquarters in
Pleiku City and then ordered the 47th Regiment commander to muster all the troops he had in the city for its
defense. The shelling lasted for 20 minutes. When it
ended, the U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers in Tuy Hoa
braced themselves for a ground attack. What followed
instead was a strange, pregnant silence.
Le and his 200 men strained their ears, hoping to hear
the sounds of battle as the Viet Cong of the 85th Local
Force Battalion began their attack. Ten minutes passed,
and then 20. The silence stretched on until two hours and
UQV]\M[ PIL MTI[XML 4M ÅVITTa OI^M \PM WZLMZ \W I\tack at 4 a.m., knowing that the coming daylight would
soon expose his position. Unknown to the North Vietnamese battalion commander, the 85th Local Force Battalion
turned back for home after running afoul of a South Vietnamese outpost on its approach to the city. The Viet Cong
ROBERT WHITAKER/GETTY IMAGES
The North Vietnamese hoped they could
knock out Tuy Hoa’s artillery pieces, which
included 8-inch howitzers, such as this one
in northern South Vietnam in 1970.
agents in the city chose to remain in hiding,
knowing that it would be suicidal to emerge
without the 85th to support them. The
5th Battalion was on its own.
One of Le’s companies headed for the U.S.
artillery base, while the remaining two companies veered south to attack the prisoner
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managed to penetrate the western side of the
artillery base despite taking severe casualties from the U.S. perimeter guards and the
twin Dusters. The North Vietnamese attackers seized one of the outer bunkers and
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damaging its barrel with a grenade before
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soldiers of Battery C created a new defensive
line to contain the enemy, holding them to a
30-meter pocket and preventing any attackers from
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About 200 meters to the south, the main body of the
5th Battalion was having problems as it tried to overrun
the POW compound. A few NVA soldiers got into a guard
tower at the northwestern corner of the facility, but none
of the attackers penetrated the jail itself. Under constant
ÅZM NZWU \PM ;W]\P >QM\VIUM[M LMNMVLMZ[ \PM +WUU]nist troops took cover in a drainage ditch along the western side of the compound. Le ordered his men to hold
their position in hopes that the 85th Battalion would still
make its appearance and break the stalemate.
That decision sealed the fate of his unit. At 5:10 a.m.,
an AC-47 “Spooky” gunship arrived from Nha Trang, and
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Le had left his mortar crews. Ninety minutes later, two
CH-47 Chinook helicopters and a group of UH-1D Iroquois
“Huey” helicopters began arriving at Tuy Hoa North with
two platoons from Company D of the 4th Battalion, 503rd
Infantry Regiment, the 173rd Airborne’s ready reaction
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helicopters, but all of Company D landed safely. Le and
his men were now trapped on the northern edge of Tuy
Hoa City, unable to retreat to the mountains with the
Spooky and several Huey gunships prowling overhead
and ARVN troops from the 47th Regiment moving into
blocking positions to the west.
Company D’s commander, Capt. Jim Jackson, sent his
2nd Platoon into the artillery compound to push out the
North Vietnamese attackers. As the American troops advanced on the enemy salient, one of the Dusters used its
40 mm cannon to demolish the machine gun bunker the
attackers had seized earlier that morning. Grenades and
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soldiers who clung to the western perimeter of the compound, but not before an enemy bullet mortally wounded
Lt. Col. Robert E. Whitbeck, commander of the 173rd Airborne’s 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment,
Binh Tinh hamlet
U.S. radar site
U.S. artillery compound
LEFT: NATIONAL ARCHIVES; RIGHT U.S. ARMY
Lay of the land
The North Vietnamese 5th Battalion, striking from a
position to the right of the frame, attacked the artillery
and prison compounds, until a vigorous American
response forced the battered unit to retreat to Binh Tinh.
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Enemy riﬂe ﬁre stuck Lt. Col. Robert E.
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Manning the wall
Hard ﬁghting rocked the
city of Hue from the initial
Tet attacks of Jan. 31, 1968,
until the end of February.
On Feb. 4, these Marines
crouched behind a wall
near an old fortress, called
the Citadel, respond to
heavy sniper ﬁre.
After enemy forces stormed the city,
U.S. Marines were dispatched to relieve
a besieged American base
By Mark Bowden
hen the shooting started at 2:30 a.m. on
Jan. 31, 1968, during the Tet celebration of
the Lunar New Year, U.S. Army radioman
Frank Doezema was on guard duty in the
northwest tower of the Hue compound that
housed Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, a Saigon-based organization that directed American combat forces in the country.
Below was Duy Tan Street—the stretch of Highway 1 that passed
through the city. To the north on a clear night you could see past the
white walls of the two-story Hue University to the Huong River, the
Truong Tien Bridge, and across the water the Citadel, a walled fortress that was once the seat of a Vietnamese empire.
Doezema saw North Vietnamese Army soldiers moving in the
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rocket tubes, Doezema raked them with an ear-shattering blast of
his machine gun. Those who did not fall dragged the others back. A
few minutes later they came again, he raked them once more, and
once more he drove them back.
The shooting shocked the sleepy compound awake. Some of the
roughly 400 men staying there were combat veterans, but most were
not. The compound was considered a rear post, a transit stopover for
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troops in the 1st Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. It
Excerpted from Hue 1968: A Turning
Point of the American War in
Vietnam. Copyright 2017 by Mark
Bowden. Reprinted with the permission
of the publisher, Atlantic Monthly
Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic Inc.
All rights reserved.
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Capt. (later Col.)
OMVMZIT PIL WVTa I [SM\KPa
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“saddled up” for
J]\ PM _I[ LM\MZUQVML IVL
J]VSMZ IVL LZWXXML I OZMVILM QV[QLM <PM M`XTWthe drive to Hue.
KWVÅLMV\ PM KW]TL ZMOIQV \PM
[QWV [QTMVKML \PM J]VSMZ¼[ O]V[ *ZM\P [\IZ\ML
TOP: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; LEFT: U.S. MARINE CORPS
Casualties of Hue
A tank rolls past two
Vietnamese bodies and
the remains of a cart.
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]XZQ[QVO 1N \PI\ PIXXMVML _PI\ PWXM _W]TL \PM[M ZZW]VLML )UMZQKIV[ PI^M'
The Truong Tien Bridge across the Huong
River (Perfume River to Americans) was
destroyed by Communist ﬁghters leaving Hue.
These Vietnamese walk down the damaged
span toward transports to the other side.
M45 Quadmounts—the Marines called them Quad 50s—a
standard 2½-ton cargo truck with four .50-caliber machine
O]V[ WV I [\MMT \]ZZM\ \PI\ KW]TL ZW\I\M I N]TT KQZKTM IVL ÅZM
an astonishing 1,800 rounds per minute. The men rode in
“six-by-sixes,” rugged six-wheel drive trucks painted with
OZMMV IVL JZW_V [XTW\KPM[ WN KIUW]ÆIOM _Q\P I ÆI\ UM\IT
JML IVL ZMUW^IJTM _WWLMV [TI\[ WV JW\P [QLM[ \PI\ WЄMZML
little protection; the slats were there mostly to keep loads
NZWU ZWTTQVO WZ JW]VKQVO WЄ
They rode for two hours in wet, cold darkness and then
stopped in the middle of nowhere. There was no sign of the
needy ARVN unit. Batcheller’s commanders in Phu Bai told
him to turn around and head in the opposite direction, back
through the base and up Highway 1 through Hue to a point
farther north, where they were to link up with an Army unit.
Rapid ﬁring support
Marine relief units headed to Hue
traveled with Quadmounts, trucks
carrying four .50-caliber machine guns.
TOP: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; INSET: U.S.ARMY; MAP: PAUL FISHER; BOTTOM RIGHT: BETTTMANN/GETTY IMAGES
i ve e r )
g R iv
on me R
H r fu
initiative with whatever forces were at hand.
Batcheller received an order to “saddle up” his company on trucks, pronto, and head south. An ARVN unit
on the way to Da Nang needed help. Pvt. John Ligato
hadn’t even had time to dry his socks. He had been
walking around with wet feet for days, so as soon as he
OW\ \W I PWW\KP PM PIL \ISMV WЄ PQ[ JWW\[ _I[PML IVL
wrung out his socks, and hung them up to dry. He was
told he’d be back by noon, so he left them.
<PMa ZWTTML W]\ QV LIZSVM[[ I KWV^Wa WN ÆI\JML
\Z]KS[ ÅTTML _Q\P \QZML LQ[OZ]V\TML UMV TML IVL NWTlowed by two Army Dusters: light armored vehicles with
\_QV UU O]V[ \PI\ KW]TL ÅZM P]VLZML[ WN PQOP̆M`plosive rounds per minute. They also had two Army
Lance Cpl. Mike Anderegg was farther up Highway 1. He
_I[ LZQ^QVO I 8I\\WV ÆIUM \IVS I BQXXW _PQKP QV[\MIL WN
I ! UU O]V UW]V\ML WV \PM NZWV\ PIL I XW_MZN]T ÆIUM\PZW_MZ ?Q\P PQU _MZM IVW\PMZ BQXXW IVL \_W O]V̆
mounted Pattons. They were on their way to the boat ramp
in Hue, where they were supposed to be loaded onto boats
and shipped north.
But as the tanks approached the southern tip of the triangle, they came upon the column of incinerated ARVN
\IVS[ R][\ W]\[QLM <IU <PIQ ) 5IZQVM MUJIZSI\QWV WЅKMZ
Lt. Col. Ed LaMontagne, who had hitched a ride with them,
some cover for
ﬁghting in the
streets of Hue.
was in charge by default. He didn’t like the look of those
destroyed tanks and had about decided to return to Phu
*IQ _PMV *I\KPMTTMZ¼[ KWV^Wa ZWTTML ]X <PM WЅKMZ[ KWVsulted with LaHue’s command center. They were to proceed to the MACV compound, which was under siege.
They started north again, more cautiously now.
Batcheller stood behind the turret on one of the tanks.
He saw what appeared to be enemy soldiers in the distance
moving parallel to the road. Tanks were vulnerable unless
surrounded by infantry to prevent attackers from getting
\WW KTW[M [W PM WZLMZML PQ[ UMV WЄ \PM \Z]KS[ 1V \PM OZIa
LZQbbTM TQVM[ WN PMTUM\ML UMV QV ÆIS RIKSM\[ IVL LQZ\a
green fatigues began walking alongside, behind and in
front of the tanks. The captain swiftly changed his mind
_PMV [M^MZIT WN \PMU _MZM PQ\ Ja [VQXMZ ÅZM 1V \PM ^MPQcles, they could move faster. So they reboarded the trucks.
The convoy sped up.
) [PWZ\ LQ[\IVKM IPMIL _I[ \PM )V +]] *ZQLOM 1\ PIL
big holes in it from the satchel charges that had failed to
bring it down. The Marines drove across warily, and a
short distance farther, in the city now, they approached a
cluster of two-story houses close to the road on both sides.
<PMa IL^IVKML \W_IZL I JQO \ZIЅK KQZKTM )ZZIaML IZW]VL
the circle were six ARVN tanks and an armored personnel
carrier, remnants of the stray ARVN column. All of them
were empty, and most were badly damaged.
<PMa _MZM [\QTT QV \PM \ZIЅK KQZKTM _PMV [PWW\QVO
started from all sides. A man walking behind Batcheller
NMTT KT]\KPQVO PQ[ TMO <PMV KIUM IVW\PMZ J]Z[\ WN ÅZM SQTTQVO \PM _W]VLML UIV IVL SVWKSQVO \PM KIX\IQV WЄ PQ[ NMM\
He tumbled from the impact and came to rest at the base
of the tree, tangled in a coil of barbed wire. He had been hit
with three rounds in his right arm and leg. A bullet had
gone straight through the leg, breaking his femur and leaving a great open gash. Tangled in the wire, he could not
move. He shouted to his men to stay clear.
Batcheller bellowed to his gunnery sergeant, John
Canley, that Canley was now in command. Most of the
[PWW\QVO _I[ KWUQVO NZWU \PM PW][M[ QV \PM ÅMTL J]\
\PMZM _MZM U]bbTM ÆI[PM[ QV \PM ZQKM XILLQM[ WV MQ\PMZ
More than half of Alpha Company was dead or wounded.
<PMV KIUM PMTX .ZWU JMPQVL QV I RMMX KIUM 4\ +WT 5IZcus Gravel, their battalion commander, with his opera\QWV[ WЅKMZ 5IR ?IT\MZ 5]ZXPa# IVL I +I\PWTQK 6I^a
chaplain, Richard Lyons. Behind them was a long convoy
of trucks. Gravel had thrown it together and headed north
after hearing still more alarming reports from Hue.
Capt. Chuck Meadows’ Golf Company was not part of
Gravel’s command, but it was available. Gravel said,
¹+P]KS 1 _IV\ aW] \W OM\ aW]Z KWUXIVa WV \PM[M \Z]KS[ º
0M OM[\]ZML \W \PM MUX\a \Z]KS[ TQVML ]X W]\[QLM ¹?M IZM
OWQVO ]X \W 0]M ?M¼TT JM JIKS Ja \PQ[ IN\MZVWWV º
Meadows told his men to travel light. Soon out of the
OI\M PM VW\QKML [WUM\PQVO Å[Pa <PMZM _MZM VW XMWXTM
moving on Highway 1. Ordinarily during Tet the road by
that time of morning was busy with people on bikes or
walking. Then they came across the burned-out ARVN
\IVS[ .IZ\PMZ ]X \PMZM _I[ JTWWL WV \PM ZWIL IVL JWLQM[
on the street where Batcheller’s convoy had been.
They came to an abrupt halt when they caught up to
)TXPI +WUXIVa ]VLMZ ÅZM [\ITTML WV \PM M`XW[ML ZWIL
/ZI^MT¼[ RMMX [SQLLML KZW[[_Q[M IVL M^MZaWVM LQ^ML NWZ
KW^MZ <PM KZIKS IVL XWX WN O]VÅZM _MZM M^MZa_PMZM <PM
Dusters and Quad 50s were still roaring. There were dead
and wounded scattered about.
?PMV 4aWV[ [I_ *I\KPMTTMZ K]ZTML ]X IVL \IVOTML I\
the base of a tree, badly wounded, he forgot his spiritual
UQ[[QWV IVL TQN\ML I LQ[KIZLML ZQÆM 0M JMOIV KZI_TQVO
\W_IZL \PM _W]VLML KIX\IQV ÅZQVO WV I]\WUI\QK QV\W \PM
opposite rice paddy. Batcheller waved him back.
/ZI^MT [MV\ PQ[ LZQ^MZ JIKS NWZ \PM RMMX IVL \WTL PQU
to move it alongside the downed captain, enabling four
Marines to reach him. Navy hospital corpsman Michael
Ker and Ligato, the Marine who’d left his socks behind,
and two others knelt alongside the big captain, freed him
from the wire’s barbs and eased him onto a poncho.
Ligato saw Batcheller go white and close his eyes. He
U.S. MARINE CORPS
On the count of three
Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez led his men on a charge
into houses ﬁlled with enemy shooters.
side too. The Dusters and Quad 50s were blasting away,
but there were too many targets. The men of the 3rd Pla\WWV _MZM ITT ÆI\\MVML \W \PM OZW]VL )TNZMLW ¹.ZMLLaº
Gonzalez, a wiry Texas sergeant, their acting platoon
leader, stood beside a tree looking down at them. He signaled that they were going to charge.
The houses sheltering the enemy were to their left.
Gonzalez was not going to charge straight at them; he
wanted his men to get to the ditch on the far side of the
road and sprint north until they were outside the sweep
of the machine guns. Then they could reach the houses’
VWZ\P ÆIVS Ja Z]VVQVO IKZW[[ \PM ÅMTL 1\ [MMUML Qcidal. But on Gonzalez’s count of three, the men got up
IVL [\IZ\ML Z]VVQVO ,M[XQ\M \PM TW[[M[ WN [WUM UMV ÅZM
from the Quad 50s and the Dusters enabled most of
/WVbITMb¼[ XTI\WWV \W OM\ IKZW[[ \PM ÅMTL IVL IZW]VL \W
\PM [QLM WN \PM PW][M[ <PM [MZOMIV\ _I[ \PM ÅZ[\ \W MV\MZ
the closest structure, and his squad must have taken the
gunners inside by surprise because he emerged with an
IZUN]T WN ZQÆM[ IVL I JQO OZQV WV PQ[ NIKM
TOP: GETTY IMAGES; BOTTOM: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES
thought the captain was dying. They lifted
him and ran. They set Batcheller down behind Gravel’s jeep, and Ker splinted his right
leg with a shovel.
5MILW_[ \WWS IL^IV\IOM WN KW^MZQVO ÅZM
to race into an Esso station at the roundabout.
He found a city map on a wall inside and
Enemy soldiers could be seen moving
across the road behind them, and, worried
\PI\ \PMa UQOP\ KTW[M Q\ WЄ /ZI^MT WZLMZML
all the wounded to be put on one truck, and
all of the dead on another. Bloody men torn
to pieces, missing limbs, conscious or just
barely conscious, were hastily loaded. Gunny Canley, who
had a shrapnel wound to his face, arrived carrying Patrick
Fraleigh, a private whom he had dragged to cover, shielding him partly with his own body. He went to work packing
.ZITMQOP¼[ _W]VL[ J]\ LM[XQ\M PQ[ JM[\ MЄWZ\[ \PM aW]VO
man stopped breathing.
After making a U-turn, the two trucks made a run for
it. When they barreled back through the gauntlet, the pas[MVOMZ[ _PW KW]TL [\QTT [PWW\ ÅZML WV I]\WUI\QK
Gravel and Meadows watched the two trucks disappear
QV\W \PM LQ[\IVKM [W]\P_IZL <PMa _MZM QV I JQOOMZ ÅOP\
than they had anticipated. Checking the gas station map,
they saw that the MACV compound was close. Up ahead
_MZM \PM ÅZ[\ ]ZJIV JTWKS[ WN 0]M *]\ QV \PM LQ[\IVKM \PMa
could also see many uniformed enemy soldiers. For all his
time in Vietnam, Meadows had only rarely laid eyes on
M^MV I [QVOTM 6>) WZ >+ ÅOP\MZ <PW[M PM PIL [MMV TWWSML
ragged, poorly dressed and poorly armed. These were wellequipped and clearly had plenty of ammo because they
were using it at a good clip. As the convoy started forward
WVKM UWZM \PM TM^MT WN ZM[Q[\IVKM [\QЄMVML
The convoy was stuck. There was an enemy spotter and
machine gun in the spire of a Catholic church to the west
R][\ ZIQVQVO ÅZM LW_V WV \PMU ;KI\\MZML WЄ \PM ZWIL
Alpha and Golf companies did not dare remount the vehicles, but it was also too dangerous to stay where they were.
One of the tanks slowly aimed its gun and took one shot,
which removed the top of the spire.
Gunning for the enemy
Marines walk behind an M48 tank whose guns
are aimed over an outer wall of the Citadel.
On the move
Marines are trucked to a
command post in Hue.
LaMontagne, who recognized the increasingly urban
streets and had been to the MACV compound before, recommended to Gravel that he be allowed to take two of the
tanks and sprint ahead. They could bring back help.
A cheer went up inside the compound when LaMontagne
and the tanks sped through the front gate. It was as if the
cavalry had just ridden over the hill. But as he quickly
explained to the compound’s commander, Adkisson, it was
the rescuers who needed rescuing.
Coolican, Breth and Fred Drew, an Army lieutenant,
commandeered trucks and with hastily recruited volunteers raced back down Highway 1 with LaMontagne, takQVO PMI^a ÅZM I[ \PMa _MV\ 1\ _I[V¼\ NIZ \W _PMZM /ZI^MT
and Meadows and the remnants of Alpha and Golf were
XQVVML LW_V <PM ILLQ\QWVIT XXZM[[QVO ÅZM MVIJTML \PM
Marines to move again. The able-bodied heaved their dead
and wounded aboard the vehicles and then climbed up
themselves. On the short drive to the compound they saw
many bodies to the west of the road, where they had been
LQZMK\QVO UW[\ WN \PMQZ ÅZM 1\ OOM[\ML IV ITUW[\ QVM`haustible number of enemy soldiers, since shooting from
that direction had hardly slowed.
The convoy limped through the front gate of the compound, the shattered remains of the two convoys that had
left Phu Bai hours earlier. Meanwhile, at Task Force
X-Ray’s headquarters, the two trucks Gravel sent back
_MZM IT[W IZZQ^QVO *I\KPMTTMZ _I[ WЄ̆TWILML _Q\P \PM
others at the base hospital and then lost consciousness.
Fraliegh, the Marine whom Canley had tried to rescue,
was placed with the other dead outside the morgue, until
an orderly happened by and the corpse spoke up. “Good
afternoon, Marine,” Fraleigh said.
“We’ve got a live one!” the man screamed, and Fraleigh
was hurried into surgery.
It was just past 3 p.m. The bloodied Marines of Alpha
and Golf had seen more combat than any of them had ever
before encountered in Vietnam. And their day wasn’t over.
C<PM QV\MV[M ÅOP\QVO QV 0]M KWV\QV]ML ]V\QT \PM KQ\a
_I[ ÅZUTa QV )UMZQKIV IVL ;W]\P >QM\VIUM[M KWV\ZWT WV
Feb. 25 after the NVA had retreated.] V
Mark Bowden is the author of 13 books, including New
York Times best-seller Black Hawk Down.
THE LAST STAND
OF DETACHMENT 5
A small band of military broadcasters in Hue
fought gallantly against the Tet onslaught
By Rick Fredericksen
Eight broadcasters with American Forces Vietnam
Network’s Detachment 5 playfully pose for a
photograph in front of their Hue TV station in
1967. The ﬁve standing on the right were attacked
in their quarters during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
They are, starting at far right, James DiBernardo,
Courtney Niles, John Anderson, Harry Ettmueller
and Don Gouin.
ARMY PUBLIC AFFAIRS HALL OF FAME
Forces TV station
was in a compound
that also housed
the Tet attacks.
Left in ruins
The sleeping quarters
of the American
broadcasters was the
scene of a ﬁve-day
standoff culminating in
a 16-hour ﬁnal assault.
Sgt. 1st Class Don Gouin
takes a break outside
Detachment 5’s TV
trailer, which housed
a transmitter and
small news studio.
Spec. 4 John Bagwell
works the dials in the
1st Cavalry Division’s
radio studio in An Khe.
A few weeks later he
was transferred to Hue.
TOP: LEFT, RON TURNER; RIGHT: DON GOUIN; INSETS: U.S. NAVY; BOTTOM: JOHN BAGWELL
ntroducing television to South Vietnam’s
northernmost provinces was doomed
from the start. For the pioneers assigned
to build the American Forces Vietnam Network’s most
remote broadcast facility, there was trouble even before
they arrived: While still in Saigon, an AFVN engineer was
badly injured in a grenade attack and evacuated out of
7V 5Ia ! ).>6 WЅKQITTa WXMVML Q\[ VM_M[\
]XKW]V\Za IЅTQI\M LM[QOVI\ML ,M\IKPUMV\ QV 0]M
South Vietnam’s third largest city. The Viet Cong
IV[_MZML LMÅIV\Ta _Q\P I UWZ\IZ I\\IKS ;Q` _MMS[
later, the TV tower collapsed when a fuel truck backed
QV\W I O]a _QZM SVWKSQVO +PIVVMT WЄ \PM IQZ NWZ Å^M
_MMS[ <PM QVI][XQKQW][ JMOQVVQVO WN \PM 0]M <> [\I\QWV
foreshadowed the detachment’s tragic demise in a
Communist assault, which would seal a poignant place
for AFVN in broadcasting history.
By the time of the Tet holiday celebrating the Lunar
6M_ AMIZ QV 2IV]IZa ! I [\IЄ WN [Q` UMV _I[
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(Airmobile) to help begin the detachment’s new radio
service. Spec. 5 Steven Stroub and Spec. 4 John Bagwell,
who had been working at the 1st Air Cav’s own radio
station at An Khe in the central part of the country, were
reassigned to AFVN, assuring that American radio would
be there for the troops when the division moved to Camp
-^IV[ R][\ VWZ\P_M[\ WN 0]M
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alert by Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, which
oversaw military operations throughout South Vietnam.
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of only two survivors of the attack still living, remembers
the ominous signs. “With all my contacts, they kept telling
me you don’t want to be here for Tet,” he said. “You need
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have been ABC’s Combat and The Fugitive, according to
a published TV schedule.
The station’s eight-man team of military broadcasters
and a visiting civilian engineer, Courtney Niles, an Army
veteran employed by NBC International, worked out of
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Vietnamese television station. It was the former residence
of the U.S. consul.
The Americans were sleeping in their billet, a villa one
[\ZMM\ W^MZ I\ 6W <ZIV ,]K ;\ _PMV ¹ITT PMTT JZWSM
loose” in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 31, recalls Bagwell,
the other remaining survivor. “We had a pretty good view
from our back door,” he said. “We could actually see the
attack going on.”
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Cong guerillas, who took control of large sections of
Enemy gunners targeted the television station on the
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said. “They told us to stay put. Fighting, they thought, was
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We were on our own at that point.”
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“We could see them out there every now and then
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others were armed with a hodgepodge of weapons that
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in limited quantities.
In addition to Ettmueller’s M14, the defenders had a
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.45-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun, a heavy M60
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never issued its M79 grenade launcher, Ettmueller
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didn’t need it because we were in the city.”
The men took up positions inside the house to secure
the entry points. They had C rations, drinking water and
even a transoceanic radio that was their link to the
outside world as they listened to AFVN radio broadcasting
from Saigon. Bagwell was guarding the window in the
bedroom where he slept. “We eluded them for a couple of
days and actually thought that we would eventually be
rescued,” he said.
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“As far as they knew, the whole city had been taken,”
Ettmueller said. “They came buzzing over, and the door
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With no warning, an enemy soldier appeared in front of
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kid, probably 10, 11, 12 years old,” Bagwell thought. “I
could hear one of the bullets go by my right ear, and a
second later another bullet went past my left ear and the
kid was shaking.” Poor marksmanship saved Bagwell.
“When he shot at me I realized I’ve got to kill this kid or
he’s going to kill me, so I shot him and he fell in front of
Marine riﬂemen and
tank crews watch for
Army troops in Hue
on Feb. 4, 1968.
Fighting rages among
the rubble of Hue’s historic
fortress, the Citadel.
As the radio played, Bagwell heard an AFVN newscast.
“Someone they were interviewing, I think it was [MACV
commander Gen. William] Westmoreland, said, ‘Oh yes,
we knew that this was going to happen in Hue.’ We looked
at each other and thought, ‘We wish you’d told us.’”
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hostile soldiers outside surrounded them and gathered
for a mass attack. A salvo of three or four rocket-propelled
grenades signaled the start of the assault. “One B40
[rocket] went right through the window,” Ettmueller said,
¹IVL JTM_ \PM JIKS _ITT IXIZ\ KZI[PML LW_V WV \WX WN UM
crashed down on top of Tom Young,” a Marine sergeant
and the station’s newscaster. The other men in the villa
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attacker, carrying a satchel with explosives, tried to get
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explosion splattered the parked AFVN pickup truck.
Army Sgt. 1st Class John Anderson, the noncommissioned
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Anderson, Marine Cpl. John Deering and Army Sgt.
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The most potent weapon the Americans possessed,
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and was promptly discarded. Ettmueller picked apart
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took up a shielding position at the
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“They were coming up and trying to
throw grenades in the window,” he
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with my M14. I had it on rock ’n’ roll
[fully automatic].” After daylight,
Ettmueller discovered a dud enemy
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The 16-hour assault had extended
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day. Injuries were mounting for the
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of food and water were now exhausted.
LEFT ABOVE: AP PHOTO: BELOW: BETTMANN/GETYY IMAGES
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Killed in action
Thomas Young, [MZOMIV\ 5IZQVM +WZX[
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Courtney Niles, )ZUa ^M\MZIV <> MVOQVMMZ NWZ
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Donat “Don” Gouin UI[\MZ [MZOMIV\ )ZUa
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James DiBernardo, UIRWZ 5IZQVM +WZX[ WЅKMZ
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John Anderson, UI[\MZ [MZOMIV\ )ZUa
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Harry Ettmueller, [MZOMIV\ ÅZ[\ KTI[[ )ZUa
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John Bagwell, [XMKQITQ[\ )ZUa ZILQW
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Bombs blast a moat
that goes around the
walls of the Citadel.
married. I want to have kids. I want to get out of this.” He
slipped out of the church and was slogging through rice
paddies when danger appeared overhead. “An American
helicopter started shining a light on me. I would stop, and
I would move, and they would move their light.” That catand-mouse pursuit continued for more than an hour. “I
thought, I’ve made it this far, and the Americans are
going to kill me thinking I’m a Vietnamese.” The chopper
Wounded and cold, Bagwell crawled to a ravine and
waited across from a U.S. Army unit until morning came.
“The sun comes up, I sneezed, and these guys have no
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kind of waved it in the air, jumped up and said, ‘For God’s
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challenged whether he really was an American. “With this
Okie [Oklahoma] accent you can’t tell? I’m John Bagwell.”
The soldiers said they thought he was dead and had been
looking for his body.
7V \PM [M^MV\P LIa IN\MZ \PM <M\ 7ЄMV[Q^M [TIUUML
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Mike Larson, who worked with him at the 1st Air Cav’s
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Evans right after the ordeal. “I think he was probably a
little shell-shocked, as you can imagine,” Larson said. “We
were soldiers. We carried a weapon, but pretty much did
our shooting with cameras.”
Bagwell said he counted a dozen times when he should
have been killed. His good fortune continued in the days
after his escape. A nurse told him his leg would have to
be amputated because of his untreated foot injury, but it
healed. Months later, Bagwell learned from a friend that
on the night he left for Saigon, his tent was shelled and
the soldier who took his bunk died instantly. “God has
allowed me to live for some strange reason.”
Back home in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Bagwell discovered
that his mother had saved a Newsweek magazine with an
article about a Vietnamese priest executed in Hue for
hiding an American. “I’m pretty sure that would have
been him and they were referring to me,” Bagwell
presumed. “I could have been a prisoner of war easily.”
Ettmueller and the other four survivors of
,M\IKPUMV\ _MZM 87?[ NWZ Å^M aMIZ[ [\IZ\QVO _Q\P I
harsh, barefoot march up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They
endured the squalor and abuse that was common for
Americans held in North Vietnam’s most infamous
prisons. Ettmueller came home with nightmares and
what he called war souvenirs: “Every now and then a
piece of shrapnel will pop out of my leg.”
Deering, the detachment’s program director, survived
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perfect radio station entirely in his mind, according to
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it and managed it. The imaginary project became the
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WN JZ]\IT +WUU]VQ[\ KWVÅVMUMV\
Anderson, the NCO in charge at the station, conducted
a similar mental exercise in solitary. “He built a radio
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windows, even installing the wiring and equipment,”
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were released with a group freed in March 1973,
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Niagara Falls, New York.
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of the remaining survivors are more than 70 years old,
and some pleasant memories of Vietnam emerge.
Ettmueller recalls using a 16 mm projector to show
movies on a wall for the kids in Hue: “They liked Combat
and Batman.” Ettmueller returned to Hue in 2017 but
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gone back to college to study history.
Bagwell talked about his DJ days when he was a
BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES (2)
Brothers in arms
Marines assist a wounded
comrade in a Hue courtyard
after a Viet Cong attack.