The Battle for Hue City

YES! The photo above is not real. It is a dramatic and very detailed dio constructed by Steven Zuleski. He was inspired to create this piece by reading a book called “Phase line Green” written by Nicholas Warr, a Veteran of Vietnam and Hue City, which reads a very detailed occurrence of the battle in the Citadel that month of February. The diorama by Zuleski actually depicts the “Delta 1/5 Marines”, at the entry of the Tower, where they fought and finally took the Dong Ba Tower on Feb.15th. The piece took ten years to complete and with lots of help from Nick Warr to get it all into perspective. It is a Marvelous piece and it has inspired me during the construction of this site. Thank you Steven Zuleski and keep up the great work! Please check out his work at Track-Links.com below in the links section…..DRippberger / Semper Fi!

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Alpha Company in the Citadel

September 11th 2012 – Damian Rippberger

It’s been two weeks into the TET Offensive in Hue, and the fighting continues north of the Perfume River inside The Citadel. The Battle for
the Ancient City of Hue was being fought by ARVN (The South Vietnamese Army). After eleven days of fighting, The Marines have now secured the southern part of hue south of the Perfume River. But ARVN is still unable to secure the city north of the river in the Citadel, which was now being overrun by the NVA and the Vietcong. It was at this time, that the decision was made to move in the First Battalion Fifth Marines (The 1/5) to clear out the Citadel along the Northwest Wall. On February’s 10th and the 11th, the 1/5 and its commanding Officer, Major Robert Thompson started moving into the City. My dad’s Company (Alpha, 1st Platoon) arrived in Hue’s new city the afternoon of the 10th by Vehicle Convoys. They departed, and soon crossed the ruined An Cuu Bridge which was earlier destroyed by the NVA on February 4th. That night Alpha Company settled in at the MACV Compound, while meetings took place for a plan of attack. The plans were soon set; they were to launch a three Company attack southward along the inner wall down towards a secure line that ARVN had secured earlier. This line extended from the Dong Ba Gate (halfway down the wall) along Mai Thue Loan Street to the Northwestern corner of the palace’s wall. The next day the 1/5 boarded LCU Naval Crafts, and moved up the Perfume River to the Northeastern corner of the Citadel.
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 Charlie Company on the right flank with Captain Fern Jennings’s Bravo in reserve. Alpha Company was in the front, leading the way down Dinh Bo Street. When they got to Tinh Tam Street, First Platoon turned left towards the Southwest wall with the tower right in front of them to their right. The two other Platoons behind them proceeded forward towards the ARVN Line. Once first Platoon reached the wall, they turned right and started maneuvering along it towards the “The Dong Ba Gate/Tower.” When the Point-man reached the base of The Tower, All hell broke loose and the enemy had begun pouring grenades from on top of the wall onto the Marines below. At this moment it was obvious the enemy was waiting. The enemy continued and opened fire on the men with automatic weapons and rockets. They were fixed in from concealed positions at the top and at the base of the Wall and Tower. All the Marines could do was cling to the wall and fire blindly over the nearly 20 foot high wall. The deadly missiles continued raining grenades for nearly fifteen minutes. Within this time, several Marines from A Company were lying in the street dying or wounded.
Another squad from A Company led by Corporal Walter Rosolie of 2nd Platoon had moved up to move the wounded back from the line. As they stepped in to collect them, NVA Soldiers on-top of the wall leaned over the edge trying to shoot them.  Alpha’s 1st Platoon Squad Leader quickly unloaded fire into this VC who was trying to kill the Marines below, and then continued into the Battle. Still, Alpha Company tried to move up, but was again cut off by the rain of rockets and grenades. As this happened, several Marines took cover in nearby houses and buildings. My father recalls; “I was forced to take cover from nearby grenades, dropping my M-16 in the street. Everyone was scattering, trying to take cover wherever they could. I ran and took cover alone in what looked like an old station building full of diesel fuel containers, just opposite of the tower. From this building I can see NVA soldiers moving inside the towers entry. Not having my M-16, I was still equipped with my Law which was strapped around my back. I remember in the midst of everything jumping out of the doorway and firing the law at the tower. Unfortunately the missile over shot the entryway to the Tower by a long shot.” Meanwhile, another Marine from” A” Company, Garry Senkbeil  “The FLY” as they called him, was equipped with an M-79 Launcher in the building next to him yelling out that he was also going to fire onto the tower. It was at this time that my dad remembers running out into the Street once again to fetching his rifle. Also I would like to note that at this moment Corporal Walter Rosolie climbed the Wall and assaulted the enemy and was accounted for ten enemy soldiers confirmed killed and enabled his units to move the casualties from the street. By his courage and superb leadership, Corporal Rosolie received the Silver Star.

Map of Alpha moving in Feb.13,1968

Map of Alpha moving in Feb.13,1968

During the initial moments of this fire fight, “A” Company alone sustained one casualty and over 35 wounded. Captain Jennings with “B” Company was now ordered to move up and relieve the badly torn “A” Company, while First Lieutenant Scott Nelson’s “C” Company resumed the attack with “B” on its left flank. Again the 1/5 advanced a little more but once again, was stopped dead in their tracks. My father recalls; “We were all getting shot up! Alpha Company was being wiped out around me. I remember it was around this time, that I noticed that I had been wounded. I remember being treated by the “Doc” from Shrapnel I received to my hand, arm, and to the back of my head. I was quickly looked at and thrown back into the battle. At this point, nothing was going our way. I can also remember we weren’t allowed to fire heavy artillery on the older buildings because they didn’t want us to tear them up. I think the boss made a call and ripped someone a new ass, because I remember shortly after, they brought in a tank and poured fire into that damn tower nearly leveling it to pieces.” “There was also an incident were the enemy fired on the Tank just missing it. The Rocket came down and went right by our Squad Leader and nearly burnt another marine’s face. Thankfully it was a dud and it never went off.” By the end of the day of February 15th, Captain Myron Harrington’s Delta Company had come in and helped finish the job, taking control of the Dong Ba Gate/Tower. After days of fighting and working their way south in the Citadel, on the 21st of February, the 1/5 had finally reached the Southwest Wall, and the next day the Thong Tu Gate was taken. Alpha Company was now divided into teams, and sent out to capture key facilities around the Palace. “A” Company did not participate in the taking of the Imperial Palace, because of political reasons, and by the 27th day they moved out of Hue.
After leaving Hue City, my father spent the next few months in and around Phu Bai carrying out search and destroy missions. He was wounded for the second and last time on April 28, 1968 just outside of Phu Bai, in the vicinity of Thua Thien, about 500 meters from Hwy one. He can’t remember much of what happened that night, but recently he has been in touch with a fellow Marine who was there with him that night, and also wounded alongside him. This is what happened according to PFC Luis “TJ” Maestre and David Rippberger. “It was about two in the morning and “Rip”, Maestre, and Davis were out on patrol setting clay-mores on a small hill facing an empty dark field. Davis was in front to the left and “TJ” and “Rip” stopped to place the explosive to the right. While “TJ” was setting up, “Rip” walked a few feet in front to listen around because it was so dark. Just at that moment they both heard VC chatter in front of them. “Rip” immediately took a step back yelling for “TJ” to blow the Clay-mores! As “Rip” stepped back, he tripped and fell over “TJ”. “Rip” was immediately shot in the leg before hitting the ground. “TJ” was also hit in the leg around this same time. Everything happened so fast. “Rip” got his rifle half way up, but before he could get a shot off, they were again sprayed with automatic gun fire. More shots rang out, hitting and ricocheting off of “Rip’s” M-16, knocking it out of his hands. Yelling for Davis, he was unable to get an answer. It was about this time “Rip” remembers looking down at his hand and noticing two of his fingers had almost been blown off. The next thing they knew, flares were popped and gun fire rang out all around. It was the 1/5, and now with the flares, they can see all around them. One thing my dad remembers was seeing the “Doc”. This was Mike Turley, a corpsman with the 1/5 and a good friend of his. He was the first to get to them. This is when they received word that Davis was shot and killed and another Marine named Washington was wounded. Soon after the engagement my dad remembers lying in a bed in Phu Bai with the “Doc” next to him. He had been hit too in that same battle. Doc Turley helped him write a letter to his family and soon after a short chat, he was sent to Guam Naval Hospital.”
My father spent about a month at Guam Naval Hospital till he was flown out to a Naval Hospital in San Francisco, California. Soon after on June 16th, my father arrived in Jacksonville, Florida only a few hours from his home in Orlando. L.Cpl. David Emmitt Rippberger served his country the best that he could, and with the finest marines around. He entered Vietnam in October of 1967. He was in Operations Junction II, Denver, Bald Eagle, Hue City, and Houston I. There are probably more but he doesn’t remember. He received two Purple Hearts, one on February 13th in The Battle for Hue City and another on April 28th in the skirmish outside of Phu Bai. His Division was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by President Richard Nixon in 1971 for their extraordinary heroism. It’s been almost 45 years since he left Vietnam and it was just recently that he has started talking about the War again. David Rippberger now lives in Orlando Florida. He has been married for 36 years now and has worked for The Walt Disney Company for over 20 years. He has just recently been in contact with a few veterans from “A” Company and hopes to have a small reunion with them in the near future.

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PFC David Rippberger 1967
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David Rippberger – Disney Animation 2006, Online Photo








Videos


The Battle for the Citadel in Hue City P.1 The Battle for the Citadel in Hue City P.2 - Feb. 1968


Books


Pase Line Green by Nicholas Warr
Fire in the Streets by Eric Hammel