Alpha Co., 1st Tank Bn. in Hue City Feb. 11-13 1968


 

At 2200 on 11 Feb., 2d Pit, “Alpha” Co, 1st Tank Bn landed at the LCU ramp. The tank company commander, Captain Conwill Casey, accompanied the platoon and set up his company CP in south Hue.
On 12 Feb., Major Robert H. Thompson’s 1st Bn., 5th Marines were helilifted into northern Hue, the Citadel. The helilift coincided with a platoon (5) of M48 A3 90mm gun tanks from Alpha Co, 1st Tanks moving through the Trong Dinh Gate and into the adjacent 1st ARVN Division compound.
 

1st Tk. Bn. arrive at ARVIN Div. Comp. W/ 1st Bn., 5th Marines – 2/12/1968

106 mm recoilless rifle-armed Ontos

 
 

Photo top left: An M48A3 named “The Original Flower Children”, supports 1/5 Marines. Note: Name on Gun Barrel “MAD HARLOT”

The platoon was a cobbled-together blend of Capt Casey’s company headquarters’ tanks along with tanks from each of the three tank platoons. Many of the tankers met each other for the first time on the LCU ride up from Da Nang. None had experience in urban fighting. However, there was no doubt that they were Marine tankers led by a superior tank officer, First Lieutenant Ron Morrison, and would fight like no others.
Once in the ARVN compound, 1stLt Morrison and Maj. Thompson agreed that the supporting tanks, with infantry squad protection, would fight the battle together. Included in this Marine combat team was the 106 mm recoilless rifle-armed Ontos. Each of these elements- infantry, tanks and the Ontos -brought to the party unique capabilities that, if worked together, would ensure the best chance for success in winning the battle for the Citadel.

Cpl Mario Tamez said that most every night, as the day’s Citadel battle wound down, the tanks came clanking back to the ARVN compound. Later in his career, Thompson stated “They reminded me of knights returning to the castle after fighting the dragon all day.”
The infantry squad leaders, who provided the eyes and ears to their tanks as they worked through the confined streets, met with the tank and Ontos crewmen to critique the day. After the evening meal, the leathernecks would plan the next day’s attack while the tanks topped off with fuel and ammo for continuing the attack.
Tamez estimated that the tanks took more than 63 RPG/B-40 hits during the nine days they battled the NVA/VC. Another tank crewman, LCpl Dennis Martin, agreed. The tanks usually led the attack down the narrow streets. Streets in some sectors of north Hue were so narrow that the end connectors on the side of the tank treads made contact with the buildings on both sides. They were always surrounded. Within a few days fighting, the tank crews were reduced to three men. The tank commander was often a lance corporal, and two privates first class made up the crew.
Retired Colonel Bob Thompson, when asked, “What would you have done without the tanks?” said, “Oh, we would have won; it would have taken us longer and we would have sustained greater casualties- greater than the 60 percent we did.”
At one point during the battle, Thompson’s force had gone four days without resupply. Because so much of the success of the battle was dependent on tank and Ontos support, Thompson would not continue the attack until they were rearmed.
The toughest north Hue objective was the massive Dong Ba Tower, which looked down on and controlled access to the Dong Ba Gate. The tank 90 mm HE rounds turned the tower into a very large pile of rubble that seconded as an early grave for the NVA occupants.
 

 

These are photos of an M48 Tank of Alpha Co. 1st Tank Bn., with Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. They are coming up to the Dong Ba Tower on the left (Tank is aimed at)

 

On February 13th at 0800, the 1/5 moved out of the Mang Ca Compound (The 1st ARVN CP Division Compound) with two companies, one on each flank. Captain John Bowe’s and his Alpha Company was on the left flank and First Lieutenant Scott Nelson’s “C” Company on the right flank with Captain Fern Jennings’s “B” Company in reserve. Alpha Company was in the front, leading the way down Dinh Bo Street. When they got to Tinh Tam Street, Alpha Co. turned left towards the Southwest wall with the tower right in front of them to their right. The two other Companies behind them proceeded forward towards the ARVN Line. Once Alpha reached the wall, they turned right and started maneuvered along it towards the “The Dong Ba Gate/Tower” – More than half of Alpha 1/5 was wiped out that morning…..SF
 

3rd Platoon 1st Tank Bn., D/S Task Force X-Ray (Phu Bai)
H&S – Maj. L.A. Gildersleeve
A Co. – Capt. C.R. Casey
B Co. – Capt. R.E. Roemer
C Co. – Capt. R.D. Gunselman
A Co. 1st AT Bn. – 1st Lt. V.C. Davis

Vehicle #’s
A-51 = 202161 / Hue City
A-52 = 202138 / Hue City

1st Lt. Ronald C. Morrison, Awarded S.S. – Alpha 1st Tank Bn.

Lance Corporal Jimmie Michael Couto, A CO., 1ST TANK BN, 1ST MARDIV, KIA February 13, 1968 – Panel 39E, Line 19

 

 
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Comments (23)

  1. David Rippberger - Alpha 1/5, 1st Platoon 67-68, May 10, 2013
    You are correct on that Damian.....I followed along the Wall with a lot of other brothers....we separated our movement away from the tank along that snow wall ...ended up running into Hells back yard. A time I'll never forget. Lost a lot of brave warriors …….David Rippberger – Alpha 1/5, 1st Platoon 67-68 Reply
  2. David Rippberger - Alpha 1/5, 1st Platoon 67-68, May 10, 2013
    That's the tank that Vic had the rocket shot at and went between his legs...did a hop skip……. Reply
  3. David Rippberger - Alpha 1/5, 1st Platoon 67-68, May 10, 2013
    Also the tank was later hit with rocket fire. The .50 cal. Gunner was killed. Tank knocked out of commmision. A few of us that were being pulled back due to heavy losses. Climbed up on top and saw the gunner laying inside……. Reply
  4. Travis, June 5, 2013
    I really like this website. I visit often to get updates and learn new things about the military and veterans. I have come across many other great websites that are very informative. One website is U.S. Veteran Compensation Programs (http://www.veteranprograms.com). On this website I frequently learn about the latest money available to veterans, benefits for veterans and their families, where to get discounts for veterans, and I get free things from their veteran giveaway program. Keep up the good work. I will pass the word about your website and I will visit again. Thanks! Reply
  5. danny wilderman (wildman), January 2, 2014
    i was platoon mechanic but served as crewman on lt. morrisons tank during opperation hue city. I was driver of tank that tex hodges was kia. I was one of the few that made from start to finish. Like to hear from anyone who was there. Reply
    • Bill James, January 8, 2014
      Are you on FB? If you are I would be happy to add you as a member of the 1/5 Vietnam Veterans group on FB. There are a number of Hue City veterans on board, and quite a few will be attending the USS Hue City memorial service over the Feb 1 , 2014 weekend in Jacksonville FL. Reply
    • Dennis Martin, February 1, 2016
      Danny.I hope you remember me. I was part of A22 crew. do you remember when that huge pig chased us. we climbed on top of a car roof and the damn thing tried to get up there to get us. i guess it was hungry. Please get in contact with me. phone number is 734-425-1804. Semper Fi my old friend. Dennis Reply
    • Dennis Martin, February 2, 2016
      Danny: i hope you remember me from Hue City and Phu Bai. I was on A22 in Hue. e-mail me so i can send you some pictures. Call me 734-425-1804. Reply
  6. Bill Cain, March 25, 2015
    I was the tank commander of A-31, in Hue. My tank was unique because I had a M60 mounted on the top of the cupola. I didn't have a 50 in the cupola. Long story. I remember Capt. Casey, very well. The only other Marines I remember were my driver Bates, and my best friend Dennis Cook (KIA) who was a driver on another tank. Reply
    • Jim arend, February 5, 2016
      Found your entry on the 5th marines web sight. I crewed with you at the bridge below hill55. Jan 31 1968 we shined the Zeon on ha lost patrol and we caught 122mm rocket on the turret. You Saved our platoon commanders life when you got him to close the cupola before it hit. Remember Tony trobucco ? I thought they surveyed A-31! Reply
      • Bill Cain, April 11, 2016
        Jim Arend, WOW! Talk about your blast from the past! Sorry Jim, I don't remember you. Chalk it up to old age. Obviously you were on my crew, because you recall the night we got hit with the rocket. The LT's name was Carroll. Yeah, I remember Tony T. I only remember two other names, Bates (last name,who was my driver) and Capt. Casey. Were you with me in Hue? It was only today, 11 April 2016, that an e-mail showed up in my inbox. Otherwise I would have responded sooner. The e-mail was from Word Press. Basically all it said was that I had a reply on Alpha Co............. I'd like to hear from you. If you see this, is there some way I can get your e-mail address? Bill Cain Reply
      • Bill Cain, April 12, 2016
        Jim, You're correct. I didn't have the original A-31 in Hue. And at this point in time I don't remember if the tank I had in Hue was numbered A-31, or if the tank I commanded in Hue had some other number. Hell, that was nearly 50 years ago. Hell, you were obviously on A-31 the night the rocket hit it, but I can't even remember your name. I'm 71. I must have 'Old Timers' disease. I can remember insignificant events that occurred in Hue, but other things have disappeared from my memory. E.g. The RPG that almost hit Bates when he was standing in front of my tank in Hue. Or talking to Capt. Casey, when a mortar attack started. I was in my cupola talking to him as he stood on the street, when the mortars started hitting near us. Reply
    • Peter Usher, April 11, 2016
      Hi I have just finished a model of an M48 in Hue city. which has a M60 mounted on the Cupola. I am happy to send you a picture. The model is going into a global magazine and a bit od background for the article would be great. Speak soon Pete Reply
      • Bill Cain, April 12, 2016
        Pete, I was the tank commander on A-31. One night, during late 1967, A-31 was hit by a 122 mm rocket. The rocket impacted the left side of the turret, neat the range finder. The explosion damaged the 50 cal. When I was given another tank, there wasn't a replacement 50. So I was given an M-60. I used sandbags as a base, and wired the legs to the cupola. I'm pretty sure that the tank I had in Hue was the only one with a 60 mounted on the cupola. In the late 80s I met a guy that was a semi-professional model builder. I met him through a project/job I was working on. I had a few pictures of A-31 after it was hit. Gary (the model builder) spent several weeks building an exact replica of A-31. And when I say exact, I mean he included details such as a broken strap hanging down from the rack that held the 5 gallon water can on the right side of the turret. For Gary it was a labor of love. He only charged me for the price of the basic M-48 model kit. The detail work on the model has to be seen to be appreciated. Yes, I still have the model. Bill Cain Reply
      • Bill Cain, April 12, 2016
        Note: I recalled that the rocket hit in late '67. Jim Arend stated that it was Jan. 31st, 1968. Jim's probably correct about the date. I say that he's probably correct because all I remember is the actual event, and not the date of the event. Reply
        • Peter Usher, April 14, 2016
          Thanks for getting back to me Bill and thanks for the background info. The model I have made is an M48 on the outskirts of Hue city, The tanks crew and surrounding Marines are all looking up at F4 Phantoms flying overhead to bomb the enemy as they retreated out of the city. Im not sure I can add a picture on this forum. please email me on peter.usher@ntegra.co.uk if you would like to see the dio. thanks again for your help Pete Reply
        • Peter Usher, April 14, 2016
          Thanks for getting back to me Bill and thanks for the background info. The model I have made is an M48 on the outskirts of Hue city, The tanks crew and surrounding Marines are all looking up at F4 Phantoms flying overhead to bomb the enemy as they retreated out of the city. I'm not sure I can add a picture on this forum. please email me on peter.usher@ntegra.co.uk if you would like to see the dio. thanks again for your help Pete Reply
  7. Marwin Albertema, November 13, 2015
    Does anyone have more information about blade tank A52 (HQ section, Alpha company, 1st Tank Battalion). It is the tank in the famous pictures of wounded marines being evacuated on the fenders of the tank. I am looking for pictures, markings, crew members etc. Reply
    • Jason Wilderman, April 13, 2017
      Were you ever able to find any information about the blade A52 tank? Larry Mobley made a post about it below. Danny was my dad. I would love to hear any stories about it. Thanks Reply
  8. Steve Cramar, March 14, 2016
    I was a combat engineer,I got there right after Hue's fighting in the city was finished. I joined up with either Charley Or Delta Company I can't remember which but we had an ontoas & 2 tanks with us. One of the tanks had Ho Chi Minh Sucks on the barrell of the 90mm gun. We were sent on the other side of Hue down this long streech of sand trees on both sides. We passed a amtrack that had hit a mine made from one of our bombs. I have been trying to find that crew. That tank also made it to Ganoi Island & on returning to Libert Bridge hit a mine In the elephant grass. Does any of this ring any bells? Reply
  9. John Wear, April 5, 2016
    All of your Alpha Co, 1st Tankers: You may not know about the USMC Vietnam Tankers Association. Please contact me (email: johnwear@yahoo,com) so we can get you information about us. I need your mailing address and we'll send you a copy of our award winning 48 page trimester magazine and a membership application. OOO-RAH!!! Reply
  10. Larry Mobley, July 17, 2016
    I was the other mechanic with the five tanks in the Citadel. The story on the blade tank A 52 was it took a hit to the turret and wounded the three men in the turret. The driver was going to take them to the aid station so they piled the wounded onboard to get them to the aid station in the MACV compound. We got a call to go to the aid station because something was wrong with a tank. Lt Morrison sent Danny and Me to check on it. When they had removed the wounded out of the turret, they say many 90MM rounds were damaged by shrapnel. The driver would not get in and move it. Danny walk in front to watch for me while I drove it away from the aid station. I made him promise to catch me if I got blown out of the drivers hatch. Reply
    • Jason Wilderman, April 13, 2017
      Hi Larry, This is Jason Wilderman, Danny's son. I would love the chance to speak with you about my Father. Thanks Reply

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