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JAMES R. ARNOLD
TET OFFENSIVE 1968. TURNING POINT IN VIETNAM

ARVN soldiers of the 30th Ranger Battalion tight in Saigon on 31 January.

The failure of initiative allowed an American helicopter to deliver President Thieu to the compound at about noon. Thieu used the command facility as an emergency headquarters. He bravely conducted meetings even while fighting raged about half a mile away. Eventually ARVN airborne and marine units rooted the Go Mon battalion out of the JGS compound. The attackers had come very close to achieving a striking success.

The hole in the embassy wall through which 19 VC entered the compound.

The South Vietnamese had always been sensitive about an American presence in the cities. Bowing to these sensitivities, as a gesture of confidence in ARVN competence, and because of a belief that the Communist threat had diminished, in mid-December the US Command had yielded to the ARVN full responsibility for the close-in defence of Saigon. Thus, only the 1,000-man strong 716th US Army Military Police Battalion (MP) guarded more than 130 American installations in the greater Saigon area. In spite of the alert, only some one-third were at their posts when the VC struck. A mere 25 of the 300 Vietnamese MPs were on hand to assist them.

Soldiers of the 716th Military Police Battalion across the street from the still-occupied American Embassy.

The 716th MP Battalion's Message Log for the first two hours of the offensive described the widespread, surprise VC attacks:

0300: BOQ No. 3 reports enemy action

0315: US Embassy under attack

0316: Explosion at Phoenix City BOQ

0317: Explosion at Townhouse BOQ

0318: BOQ No. 1 under attack

0319: McArthur BOQ under attack

0321: Report of hostile attack at Rex BOQ

0325: Explosion at BOQ No. 2

0340: Automatic-weapons fire and attack at BOQ No. 3

0341: MPs at US Embassy request urgent ammo re supply

The damaged side entrance to the embassy
and the symbol of tattered American prestige.

0342: Heavy sniper fire at Metropole BEQ

0350: Incoming mortars at Montana BEQ

0358: Saigon port area reports small-arms and automatic-weapons fire

0359: Mortars and rockets fired at US Embassy; reinforcements requested

0407: MP jeep C9A reports that 2-ton truck earning 25-man reaction team to BOQ No.3 hit by rockets and claymore mines. Heavy casualties

0408: Jeep C9A hit; both MPs killed

0419: BOQ No. 3 pleads for ammo resupply

0420: General Westmoreland calls; orders first priority effort to recapture US Embassy

0430: Request armored vehicles and helicopters for embassy assault

Combat sequence at Bachelor Officer Quarters No. 3. During the night the first reinforcements arrived via truck, hit a claymore mine and suffered heavy losses.

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