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On the morning of 31 January 1968 NVA and VC troops launched a series of co-ordinated attacks on major cities throughout South Vietnam, precipitating what was to become known as the 'Tet Offensive'. One of the most important of these was the ancient walled city of Hue on the Perfume River. Often called the Imperial City, Hue lay less than thirty miles south of the DMZ but had remained relatively untouched by the war. At 3.30 on that January morning Hue's period of grace came to an abrupt end: by daybreak the blue and red flag of the NLF was flying over the Citadel. Three understrength Marine battalions were given the task of retaking the strategically and symbolically important city.
For the Marines, mostly short-term draftees, it was to be a new kind of war. Used to jungles and rice paddies, they found themselves involved in a vicious house-to-house fight. Areas of the city had to be taken street by street, one room at a time, from a highly motivated, well-entrenched enemy. The young Marines had to learn the lessons of street fighting from scratch; movement was limited to fire-team rushes always preceded by a storm of supporting fire. Initially every effort was made to preserve the beautiful old city, but by the time Hue had been retaken over 40 per cent of the city and its suburbs were in ruins.
The battle for Hue was fought in miserably cold and wet weather, and the Marines broke out a variety of foul-weather clothing. Most of this was organizational property - i.e. issued when needed - though many individuals possessed privately acquired items. The Parka - Wet Weather shown here was a Navy issue item often used by Marines. The parka was of a pullover design with a laced closure at the neck; the hood had an integral peak, and other features included slash side pockets and adjustable cuffs. This example is of 1950s vintage in a heavyweight cotton duck; later types also in use were of lighter rubberized fabric similar to the poncho. Though generously cut, all these types of rain jacket were worn underneath the body armour. Various waterproof trousers were also issued and worn, though often these quickly became shredded on the rubble that littered the streets and consequently were less in evidence than the jackets. Here a pair of third pattern tropical combat trousers are worn unbloused over tropical combat boots.
The rubber retaining band of the helmet holds a plastic bottle of Lubricant Small Arms (LSA) and a toothbrush for cleaning the M60.
Machine gunners were issued a .45 auto pistol, worn here in an M1916 black leather holster on the M1961 pistol belt. The method of wearing the K-Bar knife wedged between the belt and the holster was a peculiarity of Marine M60 gunners. The fighting for Hue included the use of a number of riot control agents such as the E-8 tear gas launcher, and the Marines found it necessary to wear their M17 protective masks, here carried in the correct manner on the left hip.
The Marine M1941 haversack is worn with an M1943 'E-tool' carrier attached to the flap. The helve of the tool itself is secured to the bottom of the pack by a buckled strap.
The 7.62mm ammunition for the M60 is carried in two ways. The cotton bandolier hung from the shoulder holds a waxed cardboard box containing 100 linked rounds. A further 200 rounds are worn as belts of disintegrating link draped around the torso.
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