Logline: This is the true story of the U. S. Marines and Sailors who were pitted against a force of 11,000 battle-hardened North Vietnamese regulars who overwhelmed the city of Hue during the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, signaling the great offensive that hit over 100 cities and towns throughout the entire country we called South Vietnam.
Stunned and surprised by the scope of this all-out war against the cities of the Republic of Vietnam, U. S. and R. V. N. leadership were slow to understand the nature and scope of what they were confronting. The N. V. A. nearly succeeded in seizing the entire city of Hue, the ancient imperial capital of all of Vietnam, in a single night. Coming out of the mountains and jungles in force for the first time in the war, this offensive was nearly perfectly executed by the North Vietnamese leadership during the traditional truce during the Tet holidays, Only the MAC-V Compound, defended by only 200 combined force soldiers on the south side of the Perfume River in what they called the “New City,” and the 1st ARVN Division Compound in the ancient Citadel Fortress on the north side, held out against this unprecedented onslaught. Most of the ARVN soldiers in the 1st ARVN Division were home on leave when the offensive was launched. The enemy’s timing was perfect; their plan was fundamentally solid; they executed the plan vigorously. And, worse, they were aided and abetted by the leadership of U. S. and ARVN forces, who established Rules of Engagement that severely limited the use of heavy weapons during the counter-attacks, in a futile effort to save the historic and iconic buildings in Hue that were sacred to all Vietnamese, North and South.
The initial reaction force thrown against this huge enemy force now in control of both the New City and the Citadel was one under-strength infantry company, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, who numbered only 70 Marines. They mounted up on a small convoy of 6-by trucks and were hastily sent north from Phu Bai to reinforce the MAC-V Compound, which was now fully under attack. The convoy managed to run a horrific gauntlet of enemy gunfire and reached the compound, reinforcing and saving that critical combat base. Over the next few days, Marine reinforcements from 1/1 and 2/5 continued to arrive, but while under those terribly restrictive rules of engagement, no progress was made, and casualties mounted rapidly. Finally, for fear of losing an entire Marine infantry battalion, the artificial rules were lifted and the 1,000 or so Marines fighting in the New City quickly and soundly defeated the 5,000 NVA and VC defending the city, but at a terrible cost.
Two weeks into the battle, the 1,000 Marines of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines passed through the New City and entered the Citadel, under the same restrictive ROE, with the same results – no progress and high casualties. Finally, on the 4th day of this fight, rules were lifted and again the Marines prevailed.
There have been many documentary films produced about this historic battle, but most of the stories are told from a high-level command perspective. This film focuses exclusively on those who pounded the streets, who crossed those narrow streets under fire, and fought room by room, house by house, street by street – these stories are told told by the grunts who did the fighting.
The Film: This documentary film focuses on Operation HUE CITY, the Battle for Hue City, on the Marines and Sailors who fought during that battle. While facing overwhelming negative odds and fighting hardened NVA regulars, pitting about 2,500 Marines against over 11,000 NVA soldiers waiting for them in this beautiful city, their mission was to attack and destroy the NVA, but the Marines’ hands were tied behind their backs.
The focal point of this film is the human aspect – the young Americans who fought that battle, the Marines and Sailors who died and suffered from enemy bullets, rockets and bombs, but also from the horrible disadvantages placed upon them by their own leaders.