Takeover of Hue during the Tet Offensive

SR 2068/4
509, Take 1
Interview with a political commissioner in charge of Hue during Tet 1968.
Nguyen Van:
I was the political commissioner in charge of the Hue area. I will briefly describe to you the offensive and uprising during Tet 1968. The order given us from above was as follows: Organize an offensive and an uprising against Hue, which was the nerve center of the enemy and a strategic enemy base, with a view to helping the general effort in defeating the American aggressive design and forcing the Americans to de escalate the war and to sit down at the negotiating table.
When we began to carry out the above order by dispatching our forces to the appropriate places, we made the following observation: The Americans and the puppet troops were more than 30,000 strong in the Hue area, comprising the American Third Marine Division which was stationed at the Phu Bai military base about 14 kilometers from Hue, the American 101 Paratroop Division at Da Le, about six kilometers from Hue, and the American First Cavalry Division stationed twenty-two kilometers to the north of Hue in Dong Lam.
In addition, there were the puppet security forces, the civilian defense forces, and the secret police forces which were thickly posted inside Hue and in the surrounding areas. On our side, we had two armed battalions and fifteen special forces units inside the city. These forces were stationed in various areas in the city and in the outskirt. But we also had about three thousand guerrilla fighters and political cadres inside and outside the city. Each guerrilla fighter and each cadre in turn led ten to fifteen local inhabitants who were our good supporters.
In our thinking, when we started attacking these forces and inhabitants could stage an uprising, amounting to some forty to fifty thousand persons. Hence, our armed and political forces were quite large. Moreover, our armed forces were very well trained and they had fought their ways into Hue many times. They had also rehearsed their attack on the Huong Giang Hotel and had overrun many targets around Hue. Therefore, on January 31, 1968...
510, Take 1
Nguyen Van:
By January 31, 1968, all our forces had been in place and were ready to attack. And yet we were able to keep completely secret on this. The enemy was not able to find out anything at all. The reason why we were successful in keeping things secret was because we mounted an offensive in Phu Loc, which was forty kilometers south of Hue and on the route between Hue and Da Nang. We occupied a long stretch of road of about 20 kilometers as well as the Phu-loc military base.
The enemy thought that our main campaign was in that area and so they tried their best to confront us there. Secondly, on Route 9 we fought very hard and so the enemy thought that our main objective was on Route 9. As far as the population was concerned, we told them that there was serious contradiction within the enemy's ranks and so there could be a coup d'etat. And should this happen, we would stage a general uprising in order to occupy the urban areas and to liberate the rural areas. For this reason, we were able to prepare the population for an uprising as well as to deploy our armed forces in a secret manner into the area around the city. The enemy was unable to detect anything at all.
At 2:33 a.m. on February 1, 1968, the firing started. We attacked simultaneously 30 different targets, concentrating our fire on the nerve centers from the very beginning. For example, we stormed the Mang Ca military base, which was the command post of the puppet First Corps and the First Division. Then we attacked the regional command headquarters of Thua Thien at the Thuan-ba hotel, paralyzing the command capacity of the enemy for the entire province. And we attacked the areas where the Americans were living such as the areas on Dong Da, Ly Thuong Kiet, Le Dinh Duong and Duy Tan streets.
We surrounded every building, making it impossible for the enemy to mount any kind of counterattack. As far as the military bases in Da Le, Phu Bai and Dong Lam were concerned, we lobbed a lot of mortar shells in there and created a lot of confusion. At the same time, we destroyed all their communication centers, making it impossible for them to communicate with each other and to respond to each other's call for help. Therefore, from the very beginning the enemy side was in utter confusion. They were unable to come to each other's aid and to coordinate their activities. Therefore, we became the master of the city and the entire outskirts in the very first night.
By the third day, we became the complete master of the city and the surrounding areas, except for the Mang Ca military base, which was the command headquarters of the enemy First Division. We occupied it at first, but then we pulled back and surrounded it. Then we tried to overrun it again. Hence, all the main targets had been destroyed or put under our control. These included the base camp of the Seventh Armored Regiment in the Ngu binh area, the Tay loc airstrip inside Hue, the command headquarters of Thua Thien province, the command headquarters of the provincial security forces, the provincial headquarters of the provincial pacification program, the command headquarters of the city police force and the various command posts in the first, second and third districts of the city.
All the police posts and isolated military forts were all destroyed and occupied. By the seventh day, over 10,000 enemy troops had surrendered. Hence, we met our objectives during the first few days of the campaign. On their part, the city inhabitants also rose up and surrounded the various military posts inside and outside the city, ordering the enemy troops therein to surrender. Many enemy units surrendered and handed over their weapons. Others just ran away. And the population occupied the posts and collected the weapons. Therefore, over 100 units of enemy security forces and civilian guards disintegrated. Over forty villages and about 230 hamlets, comprising over 200,000 inhabitants, were liberated.
511, Take 1
Please tell us the situation from the 25th on...
Nguyen Van:
After twenty-five days of fighting, we were able to meet our objective of creating heavy damage to the enemy main mobile forces and destroying the administrative structures of the puppet regime from top to bottom. As a result, our forces increased significantly and 230,000 inhabitants were liberated. So when we were ordered to withdraw from the city, we were able to do so in complete secrecy. The enemy had no idea that we had withdrawn safely out of the city. When we withdrew, our friends asked us what our feelings were. And I said that although we had few weapons, we fought with the power of a people's war. And I thought that the people's war was invincible.
And I was sure that we would win in the end. The Americans had high technology and a very large amount of weapons, but they could never defeat the invincible people's war. And hence we went ahead to reinforce and increase our troops, preparing for all eventualities. We were ready to liberate Hue completely whenever there was an order to do so from above. And the Spring 1975 Campaign proved that we were able to mount a second offensive and uprising and were able to liberate completely the city of Hue.