Skip to comments.THE TET OFFENSIVE -Jan. 31 1968
Posted on 01/31/2005 6:48:35 AM PST by Valin
This page is dedicated to all US Military Police killed or wounded during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
May they never be forgotten.
During the TET Offensive, the 716th Military Police Battalion became involved in the Battle of Saigon: the fiercest battle in which a military police unit has ever been engaged. At approximately 0300 hours, 31 January 1968, Viet Cong elements launched attacks within the Saigon area on such key targets as the United States Embassy, BOQ #3, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Annex Area, the Embassy Hotel, and in the vicinity of the race track on Plantation Road. Viet Cong units roamed the streets dressed in black uniforms or in civilian clothes with arm bands designating unit identification. Many also wore yellow handkerchiefs around their necks.
Shortly after 0300 hours, the MP guards at the Embassy were attacked and two MP were shot in the back. Patrols from the 716th quickly surrounded the area. The Viet Cong also set up a machine gun in a building across the street from the Embassy. When a two-man MP patrol stopped in front of the Embassy, both men were killed by automatic weapons and small arms fire. During the hours of darkness, choppers attempted to land a 101st Airborne element on the Embassy roof but were constantly repelled. At 0630 hours, the enemy machine gun was silenced and the MP crashed the main gate and stormed into the Embassy grounds. At no time had the Viet Cong gained entry into the Embassy building, but they were on the surrounding grounds. As the MP battled the Viet Cong inside the grounds, the 101st Airborne landed on the Embassy roof. The paratroopers then proceeded down the stairs at the same time as the MP were coming inside the compound. The enemy was armed with AK47s, machine pistols, and some rocket launchers. This engagement resulted in four MP and nineteen Viet Cong being killed in action.
At 0400 hours on the same morning, the 716th received a report that the Viet Cong had surrounded BOQ #3. A reaction force was dispatched to assist there. As the force approached the BOQ in four 1/4-ton vehicles and one 2 1/2-ton truck, they were hit by claymore mines and recoilless rifle fire. Initially, approximately thirteen MP were killed and thirteen others wounded in this action. An additional reaction force then was dispatched to help recover the dead and wounded. Heavy fighting continued for thirteen to fourteen hours while the MP, with infantry and armored support, cleared the area and retrieved bodies.
At 0530 hours, across from the Korean Embassy, a jeep with an officer and enlisted man in it from the 716th was hit by recoilless rifle fire, wounding both men. Soon after, a machine gun jeep from the 716th was hit by small arms fire. The two MP in it were killed and their machine gun was captured. The Viet Cong then took the machine gun to the Embassy Hotel roof and fired on MP patrols, Korean troops, and Vietnamese National Policemen who were in the area. The 716th responded by sending a 3.5 rocket launcher team to the area. At 1630 hours the area was cleared and the machine gun recovered.
At 0630 hours, an alert force from the 716th was pinned down in the vicinity of the race track and another alert force from the 716th was dispatched to its aid. As the vehicles proceeded down Plantation Road toward the race track, they came under .50-caliber fire. LT Braddock, C/52d Inf, 716th was killed by the automatic fire. The vehicle he was in then was hit by a satchel charge and burned. Another officer and two NCOs were wounded in a gallant but futile attempt to retrieve LT Braddock from the vehicle. Despite these loses the two alert forces linked up and engaged the enemy. Heavy fighting continued throughout the day. Additional assistance was requested and a mechanized infantry platoon was dispatched to the area. Fighting continued at the race track for an additional ten days.
Many other areas in Saigon were under attack during this period with BOQs, BEQs, and National Police Headquarters being primary targets. At 0330, 31 January 1968, a black civilian car came down the street toward the Presidential Palace. The vehicle failed to heed a warning stop by the MP and was engaged and destroyed by two machine gun jeeps. Around 0800 hours, Viet Cong elements penetrated Tan Son Nhut Airbase and attempted to attack the MACV Complex located there. A reaction force from the 716th engaged the enemy in the vicinity of the MACV Annex. Joined by a backup force from the 92d Military Police Battalion, MP cleared the area at 1500 hours.
On the 1st of February, 1968, United States and ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) tactical units moved into Saigon and assumed control of operations against the enemy. MP patrols then were set up at strategic points in the city and the MP also assisted in traffic control and maintaining security at US facilities and installations. Sporadic firing continued for several days. During the period from 31 January to 6 February 1968, the 716th Military Police Battalion suffered twenty-seven killed and forty-five wounded in action while serving in the Saigon area.
Another target of the TET Offensive of 1968 was Dalat. It was probably the scene of the heaviest fighting outside the Saigon area. Early in the morning on 31 January 1968 large size enemy forces began to attack Dalat. The Viet Cong soon controlled all the roads into the town. The MP villa was demolished by mortar and rocket fire. Two MP were wounded and communications were lost within the city. A military reaction force extracted the MP from their villa. As heavy mortar fire continued in the city, MP who had relocated in a medical villa came under ground attack. On 3 February 1968, the MP personnel who had been driven from the villa returned to retrieve items of equipment. They were able to recover vehicles, radios, and records which they had abandoned during the initial attack. Again, they received a small arms attack but sustained no additional casualties. As the remaining activity in the area began to center on the Dalat airfield, the MP in the area responded to the crisis by providing reinforcements to friendly forces at that location. As fierce fighting continued on 3 February, the city of Dalat became the only critical area in the II Corps tactical zone. With the airfield under Viet Cong control, the local defending elements, particularly the MP, began to run low on ammunition. Ammunition resupply was completed by air. With an enemy battalion believed still to be in the city on 5 February 1968, additional MP replacements were flown into Dalat. Viet Cong elements continued to hold two strong points in the city until 9 February when they finally were forced to withdraw.
The Viet Cong also launched mortar and rocket attacks against the city of Kontum during the early morning hours of 31 January 1968. An estimated two-battalion-sized enemy force continued bombarding the city as the day progressed. MP elements from B Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, provided early warning of enemy infiltrators and returned sniper fire throughout the city. Sporadic action continued there during the following week, marked by small unit contacts and exchanges of small arms fire. Activity finally subsided after one week and the MP resumed normal activities.
The city of Pleiku likewise began receiving mortar attacks during the morning of 30 January 1968. A battalion-sized enemy force launched a ground attack against the city immediately following the mortar barrages. MP from B Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, succeeded in transferring the provost marshal's office from Pleiku to Camp Schmidt during the initial stages of the encounter. Throughout the following week numerous incidents of sniping were reported and small pockets of enemy resistance reduced. Street fighting and enemy contact ceased completely on 7 February 1968, and normal MP operations resumed.
At approximately 0300 hours on 31 January 1968, the Qui Nhon Ammunition Supply Depot at Valley F received recoilless rifle fire. This area was secured by guards from the 93d Military Police Battalion. There were no personnel casualties, but two pads of ammunition were destroyed. During the same period enemy forces attacked the city of Qui Nhon and temporarily occupied the radio and railroad stations there. The enemy was routed that same day. On the morning of 1 February 1968, the 93d Military Police Battalion cantonment area received a mortar attack. Street fighting and resistance by enemy forces continued in Qui Nhon until approximately 7 February 1968. On 3 February 1968, LT Banks from the 127th Military Police Company was fatally wounded as he attempted to flush a sniper from a building in the city. At the time LT Banks was participating in combined police patrol activities with the Vietnamese National Police. The 93d Military Police Battalion was able to reinforce the defenses at the Valley F Supply Depot on 3 February 1968 with the addition of a 105-mm Howitzer Battery. By 8 February 1968, conditions were stable in the city and refugees who had fled from there began to return. The MP carefully screened them in order to prevent infiltration by the Viet Cong.
Enemy activity at the Ban Me Thout during TET consisted of major rocket and mortar attacks in and around the city including the local airfield. These attacks began on the morning of 31 January and continued until the 7th of February 1968. On the morning of 2 February, three MP sentry dog handlers were wounded by an explosion of unknown origin while working in the kennel area of the 981st Military Police Company.
Cam Rahn Bay experienced very little overt enemy activity during the 1968 TET period. On the morning of 31 January, a North Vietnamese Army frogman trained in demolitions and assigned the mission of sabotaging friendly vessels was captured in the harbor. The mayor of Cam Rahn Bay immediately placed the civilian population under strict curfew and limited water traffic by Vietnamese nationals in the harbor area. During the next week, there were numerous sightings of frogman activity in the Cam Rahn Bay area. Elements of the 97th Military Police Battalion, particularly those from the 981st Military Police Company (SD) assisted in the search for infiltrators in the bay.
On the morning of 30 January 1968, the city of Nha Trang and surrounding installations began receiving mortar attacks. A ground attack followed and large numbers of enemy troops entered the city. Street fighting was heavy, and resistance continued for the next two or three days. Several unsuccessful attempts were made by the enemy to seize the local railroad station. The element that invaded the city was estimated to be a two-battalion-sized force. One prong of the attack was directed at the 272d Military Police Company compound. By 3 February 1968, the civilian population began moving from the area. For several days, resistance was strong within the city, but it subsided gradually until approximately 7 February 1968, when operations returned to normal. The rapid reaction of the MP during this engagement succeeded in delaying the enemy forces and diverting the direction of their ground attack.
At approximately 0300 hours, 31 January, coordinated attacks were launched on the Bien Hoa Airbase, II Field Force Vietnam Headquarters, the Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot, and various other friendly installations in the local area. Following a mortar and rocket attack, the perimeter of the Bien Hoa Airbase was penetrated. The city of Bien Hoa, patrolled by elements of the 720th Military Police Battalion, also was infiltrated by large numbers of Viet Cong. All roads into and out of the city were controlled by the enemy. After the attackers had succeeded in destroying one building and two jet aircraft, friendly forces killed 101 enemy and reestablished the perimeter of the airbase. The Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot was penetrated by a company sized unit employing sapper techniques. Bangalore torpedoes and satchel charges were planted on several pads of ammunition in the area. Two security personnel, one from the 95th Military Police Battalion and one from the 212th Military Police (Sentry Dog) Company, were killed. One pad of ammunition was blown, producing secondary explosions by two additional pads. Ammunition loss was set at $1,677,000. The enemy capability for large scale attacks was quickly reduced by friendly forces using rapid ground counterattacks and supporting artillery and air fire. However, for several days, harassing incidents including light mortar and rocket attacks continued.
By 1 February 1968, refugees were leaving the area in large numbers. It was felt that many enemy soldiers would attempt to leave the area along with the refugees. Therefore, checkpoint operations were intensified by the local MP. Local barge and shipping sites began to receive isolated attacks. Retreating enemy soldiers were believed to be responsible for the burning of many homes in their path. In conjunction with an attack on the Cogido Barge site, secured by the 95th Military Police Battalion, enemy forces burned the village to the ground. Friendly forces from the battalion, who were responding to the activity in the area, were ambushed. While firefights and resistance continued in the area, sweep and search operations were initiated by friendly tactical units.
On 2 February 1968, the village of Thu Duo received an enemy ground attack. When the Thu Duo Highway Patrol Station was threatened, the 720th Military Police Battalion, equipped with M113 vehicles, reinforced the station and established critical checkpoints in the area. By 3 February 1968, enemy activity in Long Binh/Bien Hoa had been reduced to small pockets of resistance. Attempts then were made by the 720th Military Police Battalion to resume its normal operation of escorting replacement and rotatees to and from the Bien Hoa Airbase. However, the operation was postponed due to the still existing enemy threat. Facing a tremendous backlog at local docks, mail, and fuel sites, and other activities that had suspended actions during the hostilities, the 720th Military Police Battalion then began to restore convoy operations. Shortages in fuel and ammunition made it imperative that resupply convoys return to normal operations at once. The combined police patrol, utilizing part of the 720th Military Police Battalion, the national police, and the Vietnamese military police, resumed patrol activities on Highway 1A from Long Binh to Saigon. By 5 February 1968, normal operations had been reestablished in the Long Binh/Bien Hoa areas.
On 31 January 1968, Vinh Long was attacked by an estimated force of two enemy battalions. The assault began with mortar attacks followed by ground attacks. One MP from the 148th Military Police Platoon was wounded. On 1 February 1968, Vinh Long received additional heavy mortar and small arms attacks directed at the city and its airfield. The MP Villa was evacuated due to attacks on the site, and the personnel from it moved to the airfield. Several items of equipment had to be abandoned when they evacuated the area. Enemy forces then proceeded to occupy the military police billets. On 2 February 1968, attempts were made to reoccupy the villa, but the first ones were unsuccessful. The men of the 148th Military Police Platoon remained with personnel from the 212th MP Company (SD) at the airfield until they were able to return to their villa later that day. By 3 February 1968, the MP elements in Vinh Long were able to perform regular operations, although sporadic resistance was still in evidence within the city.
Can Tho City and airfield received mortar and ground attacks on the morning of 31 January. The airbase was penetrated but the attack was repulsed, resulting in six Viet Cong being killed in action. In addition, an estimated fifty to seventy-five Viet Cong were killed in the city as a result of street fighting. The MP Villa in Can Tho also received numerous small arms attacks. US civilians from the area were moved into the military police compound for security reasons. On 1 February, fighting in the city continued, and the MP station received small arms fire. By 3 February, MP operations were almost back to normal in Can Tho with the exception of highway patrols. They could not be resumed because Highway Four was closed to traffic. It was blocked by several blown bridges and other obstacles.
Soc Trang began to receive mortar and ground attacks on the morning of 31 January. While they were generally unsuccessful, enemy troops dug in around the airfield and offered substantial resistance for a time. Street fighting and sporadic resistance continued for the next two or three days, but by 3 February, operations were almost back to normal.
The employment of MP firepower, mobility, and communications during the TET Offensive in the Republic of Vietnam provided a first line of defense against enemy combat forces. On many occasions during that crisis, MP were the first to become aware of enemy threats and to become engaged in open combat in major cities and other built-up areas. During this general offensive the MP responded rapidly and prevented or delayed Viet Cong as well as North Vietnamese Army attempts to infiltrate major cities throughout the Republic. The ability of the MP to remain in direct contact with the enemy and to block their advance, pending the arrival of tactical units, attests to their close affinity to a combat arm. Even after the arrival of tactical units, the MP remained on the scene and performed a variety of direct support missions including escorting convoys carrying critical supplies and equipment, evacuating prisoners, and providing security at vital installations.
I attended the "Vietnam and the Iraq War" presentation given at the University of Chicago Law School by Professor Geoffrey Stone 20 January 2005. As a veteran of the Vietnam War from August of 1969 to January of 1971, serving as an infantry squad leader in a mechanized infantry company, and with another unit as a tank commander on an M48A3 tank; I was keenly interested in the form that the lecture might take. After a cursory reading of Professor Stone's curriculum vitae, I suspected that Professor Stone's take on the South East Asian conflict might indicate a general disapproval of the United States war effort. My suspicions were proven correct. The lecture was an attempt to paint the American war effort in Vietnam as misguided at best and an imperialistic effort to establish SE Asian capitalistic hegemony at worst. The antiwar left was portrayed as being noble and idealistic rather than populated by a hard core that actively hoped and worked for a US defeat, the US government as destructive of basic civil liberties in its attempt to monitor their activities, and the North Vietnamese and Vietcong as nationalists who wished to preserve their unique culture against an imperialistic onslaught. He described the South Vietnamese government in terms that were heedless of the South Vietnamese governments struggle to survive a relentlessly ruthless Communist assault while he stated the South Vietnamese government was engaged in an unwarranted assault on human rights. He neglected to mention ANY of the numerous genocidal atrocities of the Vietcong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). He described the Tet Offensive as a surprise for the United States in which 1100 American soldiers died and 2300 ARVN soldiers, and not much more about it.
I challenged Professor Stone on the following. The reason that the United States opposed nationwide elections that were to be held in accordance with the 1954 Geneva accords was due to the murder and intimidation campaigns carried out by Ho Chi Minh. This fact is in Professor R. J. Runnel's book Death by Government, in which he cites a low estimate of 15,000 and a high figure of 500,000 people in the murder by quota campaign directed by the North Vietnamese Communist Party Politburo that would have made the election a corrupt mockery. This campaign stipulated that 5% of the people living in each village and hamlet had to be liquidated, preferably those identified as members of the "ruling class." All told says Runnel, between 1953 and 1956 it is likely that the Communists killed 195,000 to 865,000 North Vietnamese. These were non combatant men, women, and children, and hardly represents evidence of the moral high ground claimed by many in the antiwar movement. In 1956, high Communist official Nguyen Manh Tuong admitted that "while destroying the landowning class, we condemned numberless old people and children to a horrible death." The same genocidal pattern became the Communists standard operating procedure in the South too. This was unequivocally demonstrated by the Hue Massacre, which the press did a great deal to downplay in its reporting of the Tet Offensive of 1968.
I pointed out that the National Liberation Front was the creation of the North Vietnamese Third Party Congress of September 1960, completely directed from North Vietnam. I pointed out that the Tet Offensive of 1968 was a disastrous military defeat for the North Vietnamese and that the VC were almost wiped out by the fighting, and that it took the NVA until 1971 to reestablish a presence using North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. I pointed out how the North Vietnam military senior commanders repeatedly said that they counted on the U.S. antiwar movement to give them the confidence to persevere in the face of their staggering battlefield personnel losses and defeats. I pointed out the antiwar movement prevented the feckless President Lyndon Johnson from granting General Westmoreland's request to enter Laos and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail or end his policies of publicly announced gradualist escalation. The North Vietnamese knew cutting this trail would severely damage their ability to prosecute the war. Since the North Vietnamese could continue to use the Ho Chi Minh Trail lifeline, the war was needlessly prolonged for the U.S. and contributed significantly to the collapse of South Vietnam. The casualties sustained by the NVA and VC were horrendous, (1.5 million dead) and accorded well with Gen. Ngyuen Giaps publicly professed disdain for the lives of individuals sacrificed for the greater cause of Communist victory. To this day the anti-war movement as a whole refuses to acknowledge its part in the deaths of millions in Laos and Cambodia and in the subsequent exodus from South East Asia as people fled Communism, nor the imprisonment of thousands in Communist re-education camps and gulags.
When he tried to say that United States should have known it could not put down a local popular insurgency, I pointed out that the final victorious North Vietnamese offensive was a multidivisional, combined arms effort lavishly equipped with Soviet and Chinese supplied tanks, self-propelled artillery, and aircraft. I pointed out to him that it was the type of blitzkrieg that Panzer General Heinz Guederian would have easily recognized. I said how I didn't recall seeing any barefoot, pajama-clad guerrillas jumping out of those tanks in the newsreel footage that showed them crashing through the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon. This spectacle was prompted by the pusillanimous withdrawal of Congressional support for the South Vietnamese government in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which particularly undermined this aspect of President Nixons foreign policy. It should be noted that a similar Communist offensive in the spring of 1972 was smashed, largely by US air power; with relatively few US ground troops in place.
There were legions of half-truths and omissions that this professor spoke to in his extremely biased lecture. When I asked him why he left out so much that was favorable to the American effort in Vietnam, he airily dismissed my argument as being just another perspective, but tellingly he did not disagree with the essential truth of what I said.
Professor Stone strikes me as just another liberal masquerading as an enlightened academic.
He was totally unable to relate how the situation in Iraq is comparable to the situation in Vietnam, so I volunteered a comparison for him. A seditious near traitorous core of anti-war protesters is trying to undermine U.S. efforts there with half-truths, lies, and distortions. I said that in that respect, the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam are very similar. A significant difference is that thus far the current anti-war movement has not succeeded in manifesting contempt for the American military on the part of the general U.S. public as it did in the Vietnam era.
When I was in Vietnam, I recall many discussions with my fellow soldiers about the course of the war in Vietnam and their feelings about it. Many, if not most felt that "We Gotta Get Outta this Place," to cite a popular song of the time by Eric Burden and the Animals, but for the most part they felt we should do it by fighting the war in a manner calculated to win it. I do not recall anyone ever saying that they felt the North Vietnamese could possibly defeat us on the battlefield, but to a man they were mystified by the U.S. Governments refusal to fight in a manner that would assure military victory. Even though there was much resentment for the antiwar movement, and some (resentment) toward career professional soldiers, I never saw anyone who did not do his basic duty and many did FAR MORE THAN THAT as a soldier. Nineteen of my friends have their names on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. They deserve to have the full truth told about the effort for which they gave their young lives. The U.S. public is not well served by half-truths and lies by omission about such a significant period in our history, particularly with their relevance toward our present fight.
challenged Professor Stone on the following. The reason that the United States opposed nationwide elections that were to be held in accordance with the 1954 Geneva accords was due to the murder and intimidation campaigns carried out by Ho Chi Minh. This fact is in Professor R. J. Runnel's book Death by Government, in which he cites a low estimate of 15,000 and a high figure of 500,000 people in the murder by quota campaign directed by the North Vietnamese Communist Party Politburo that would have made the election a corrupt mockery. This campaign stipulated that 5% of the people living in each village and hamlet had to be liquidated, preferably those identified as members of the "ruling class." All told says Runnel, between 1953 and 1956 it is likely that the Communists killed 195,000 to 865,000 North Vietnamese. These were non combatant men, women, and children, and hardly represents evidence of the moral high ground claimed by many in the antiwar movement. In 1956, high Communist official Nguyen Manh Tuong admitted that "while destroying the landowning class, we condemned numberless old people and children to a horrible death."
Thanks. We learn something new every day. I knew we opposed the 54 elections, just never knew why.
Great . . . GREAT info!!
I'm always humbled when I talk with a Warrior who has both talked the talk AND walked the walk.
I checked your homepage and saw you're from Illinois . . . do you ever do any public speaking about your experiences? Like at public schools?
I'm so afraid of our youngsters being brainwashed by idiots like your Professor Stone. I always explain to people that OUR MILITARY has never lost a war . . . the American people, the politicians, and, MOST OF ALL, the media lost the Vietnam War.
It would be a powerful presentation for someone like yourself to explain just EXACTLY what things were really like back then.
Some think I go overboard with my apologies but I humbly disagree with them . . . so I want to apologize to you personally for me not doing my part on the home-front as you were doing your patriotic part in Vietnam. I let you down. I'm sorry. It'll never happen again.
I hope you don't mind but I've copied your analysis in full and emailed it to the local school board members . . . with a request that they MAKE SURE both sides of the argument are presented when discussing the Vietnam Fiasco.
If you only knew how true that is.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.