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Chapter 1: Combat in the Courtyard 

"Combat in a built-up area is close, personal and extremely violent."

Maj. Bob Thompson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, including Delta Company

On Jan. 31, 1968, communist forces had taken control of Hue, the third largest city in South Vietnam. U.S. forces began their counterassault at daybreak on Feb. 15 as the Delta Company moved quietly through the maze-like alleyways and courtyards of the ancient Citadel. The oldest part of Hue, this fortification was built to protect the city when it served as the imperial capital of Vietnam.

Troops familiar with fighting in dense jungles were disoriented by the combat in tightly packed streets. Sounds ricocheted off walls adding to the confusion of urban combat. Crumbled buildings and blind corners made perfect sniper nests and ambush points. It was chaos.

Listen to Thompson describe the difficulties of fighting within the Citadel.

Chapter 2: The Assault on Dong Ba Tower

"It was just absolutely utter devastation, burned out trucks and bodies on the road. The stench of death was there all the time."

                                                                                    Capt. Myron Harrington, Delta Company commander

By mid-afternoon of Feb. 15, Capt. Myron Harrington commander of Delta Company and his men regrouped at Dong Ba Tower.  One of the city's highest points, the tower was the main military objective for U.S. forces as it would give them a strategic vantage point within the city. The strategy was straightforward: Charge the tower, kill the remaining enemy soldiers and hold it. The reality would be far less easy. North Vietnamese army soldiers crouched in sniper foxholes within the tower and hid behind rubble to shoot U.S. Marines.

Later that day, Harrington's men launched their assault. Rocket and mortar fire cratered the ground, bullets found their targets and six Marines were killed. By nightfall, the U.S. Marines were in control of the tower.

Listen to Harrington reflect on the initial assault he commanded to take the Dong Ba Tower.

Chapter 3: Holding the Position

"It was a suicide mission."

                                                                                                       Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms, Delta Company 

Even after taking the Dong Ba Tower on the evening of Feb. 15, it would not be a peaceful night for the seven Marines in charge of holding the position. The enemy forces were able to regroup shortly after their defeat and launch a second attack on the tower before dawn on Feb. 16.  The occupying Marines were blasted off their position during the conflict as the tower was retaken by the communist forces. U.S. forces would now need to fight to regain control of the tower for the second time in two days.

Listen to Thoms describe the evening his command spent attempting to hold their position on the Dong Ba Tower.

Chapter 4: The Final Assault 

"I looked up and I did see a cross on his uniform, and I knew he was a chaplain. I didn't know how much time I had."

                                                                                                     Lance Cpl. Richard Prince, Delta Company

At 9:30 a.m. Feb. 16, twelve U.S. Marines launched their final assault on the Dong Ba Tower, nicknamed "the hill" because it looked like a pile of rubble after the initial combat. They fought the communist forces throughout the morning and by midday they had reclaimed the tower. By the end of the fight to take Dong Ba Tower, six Marines were dead and 50 others injured. Marines pulled 24 enemy bodies from the rubble after they consolidated their positions on the tower.

Listen to Cpl. Selwyn "S-Man" Taitt talk about the carnage he witnessed as he participated in the final assault on the Dong Ba Tower.

Listen to Prince reflect on being shot in the neck by a sniper after helping complete the final assault on the Dong Ba Tower.

Chapter 5: A Final Blessing

"He told us, he said, 'I don't know if you guys, some of you will make it to Sunday' and then he came out to where we were and said, 'I'd like to give you guys last rites.'"

                                                                                                                                      Lance Cpl. Richard Hill

U.S. forces had greatly underestimated the enemy's numbers and resolve.  Told by his commanders the mission was a "mop-up" that would take just a few days, Maj. Bob Thompson was chilled to see streets lined with dead bodies and burned-out vehicles as his troops made their way to the U.S. command post in Hue.

Tet was a turning point in the American public's support of the war. The U.S. government had justified the war as essential to halting the spread of communism in Asia. But by 1968, as American casualties continued to mount, public opinion against the war grew stronger.

Listen to Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms describe Catholic chaplain, Maj. Aloysius S. McGonigal, and his "wild man" pursuit to administer last rites to fallen Marines.

Listen to Lance Cpl. Richard Hill reflect on the anguish felt from receiving last rites before going off to battle.

Chapter 6: Fire in the Hole

"All I could hear people say, 'I'm hit, I'm hit, I'm hit.' And I kept thinking, when is a bullet going to hit me?"

                                                                                                                     Cpl. Selwyn Taitt, Delta Company

During the Marines final assault on the tower, Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms was attempting to draw the enemy forces out of their positions.  Thoms had tasked fellow Marine Cpl. Selwyn Taitt, nicknamed "S-Man," to "grab every grenade he could get a hold of," referring to fragmentation grenades. However, "S-Man" went out and collected every grenade he could find, including red-smoke and tear-gas grenades.  The various types of explosions caused the North Vietnamese forces to become disoriented and scatter. The ensuing chaos allowed the Marines to continue their assault up the tower.

Listen to Thoms describe how Cpl. Selwyn "S-Man" Taitt's misinterpretation of his instructions enabled them to blast their way up the Dong Ba Tower.

Chapter 7: A Marine's Dying Wish

"If there's anything close to hell, it had to be Hue."

                                                                                                       Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms, Delta Company 

Pfc.Jim Walsh was shot through both legs during the assault on the Dong Ba Tower, but managed to survive his injuries.  Decades later, he tracked down his platoon commander at Hue, Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms. "You led me through that and I made it," said Walsh, who revealed he was dying of cancer. "I want to go to heaven. I want you to lead me through this." Thoms enlisted the remaining members of the Delta Company to support Walsh in his final days as he was estranged from his family. Thoms sent Walsh a Bible and called regularly to discuss the verses. Walsh died three months after reconnecting with Thoms. Because he did not have a will, the remaining members of the Delta Company arranged for his funeral.  Walsh's hospice worker thanked Thoms and the Delta Company as she was the only person who was present for his three-volley salute.

Listen to Thoms discuss the remaining members of the Delta Company's contact with Walsh during his dying days.

Chapter 8: 'We're Marines, Let's Go!'

"I'm thinking about what we need to do, the seven of us, to survive on top of this tower."

                                                                                                    Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms, Delta Company

One of the seven men assigned to hold the tower the night of Feb. 15, an unidentified Marine nicknamed "Lurch" thought he was shot between the eyes. Staff Sgt. Bob Thoms soon realized his fellow Marine had been hit by a rock, not a bullet. "So we had some tape and he taped his glasses back together and he was so happy that he wasn't shot between the eyes," Thoms said. "We celebrated by lighting another cigarette. Even guys who didn't smoke would take a drag on this Salem cigarette and we'd wait for the next probe. And this went on all night." After eventually being blown off of the tower, "Lurch" urged his fellow Marines to battle the next day with the battle cry: "We're Marines, let's go!"

Listen to Thoms reflect on the first night he and his fellow Marines were tasked with holding the Dong Ba Tower.

Chapter 9: Casualties of Hue

"I went into the Hue City battle with approximately 120 Marines. At the end of the battle there were 39 of us that were still standing."

                                                                                 Capt. Myron Harrington, Delta Company commander

Although the Battle of Hue was a military success for U.S. forces, the casualties suffered and psychological effects felt from the combat far outweighed their victory on the battlefield.  Even after the Dong Ba Tower was secured on Feb. 17, fighting would continue in Hue until late February when the U.S. Marines seized full control of the city.  All told, 216 U.S. troops, more than 400 South Vietnamese troops and 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers were killed over the course of the month of fighting.  Counting civilian losses, more than 7,000 died, making it one of the deadliest battles of the Vietnam War.

Listen to Lance Cpl. Richard Hill share his experience from his ride on the tank after receiving shrapnel in both legs.

Listen to Capt. Mayer Katz discuss his time serving as one of only six surgeons at the Phu Bai Combat Base, which housed the closest U.S. medical facility to Hue.

Chapter 10: The Cost of Tet

"It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate."

                                                               CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite after his 1968 trip to Vietnam

By the end of the Tet Offensive in September of 1968, both sides had suffered heavy losses. About 2,500 American troops and 40,000 communist soldiers had been killed with even more sustaining injuries during the fighting.

The physical and mental scars from the Tet Offensive  particularly the deadly Battle of Hue  stayed with the returning Marines long after the Vietnam War ended. The stigma of participating in an unpopular war mixed with the horrors of bloody urban combat haunted Marines who were unable or unwilling to talk about their experiences. One look at a photograph or film clip from Hue would ignite the memory of chilly rainy days, the smell of death and the fear and anger of war.

Listen to Lance Cpl. Leon Dyes talk about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after he returned from Vietnam.

Listen to Lance Cpl. Richard Schlagel describe his experiences at Hue and how they changed his psyche upon returning home.

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