The Battle of Hue City
The Marines, the NVA and the Vietcong fought for 10 days over Hue City in the Tet Offensive. It was the bloodiest battle of the war for the US military. The battle began on January 31, 1968 and ended on February 25, 1968.
The Vietnamese celebrate their New Year as Tet Nguyen Dan or simply Tet. It is a time to welcome spring. In Vietnam, as in many countries, it is a time to visit family and friends. For many living in South Vietnam it was also a time to remember those who had died in past wars and those who were currently serving in this war.
It was also a time when Americans could put aside for a brief moment their differences over American policy in Vietnam. Flags were hung and bunting draped across the streets of American cities to welcome home those who were on leave from Vietnam during this holiday season.
In 1966 I was assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) at DaNang AB, RVN. At that time I was flying UH-1E helicopters with HML-367 which had its own airfield at Marble Mountain adjacent to DaNang AB. By 1968 my squadron had moved north to Phu Bai AB located near Hue City,
I have been working on a blog about the battle for Hue City during the 1968 Tet Offensive. This is a story about how the OV-10 Bronco and the AH-1 Cobra came to be and how they impacted that battle.
The AH-1 Cobra was a revolutionary design, as it was the first dedicated attack helicopter. The Marines also wanted to include an observation/light attack aircraft in their arsenal. They had tried using UH-1E gunships to fill this role, but they were not happy with them. They needed an observation aircraft that could carry more weapons and operate more efficiently. In 1965, the Marines began searching for an aircraft that would fit this role. Douglas Aircraft Company submitted a design for a twin boom pusher prop design called the OV-10 Bronco. The Marines chose this design and ordered 10 prototypes in 1966. The Marines deployed these aircraft to Vietnam in 1968, just in time for the Tet Offensive.
The Battle of Hue City: Helicopters and the Tet Offensive 1968
“THE OSPREY IS A FUNNY-LOOKING AIRCRAFT, with a fuselage like a helicopter, an upside-down Y-shaped tail and two propellers mounted on short wings. It has been called “the strangest aircraft to enter production since the Second World War,” but it is in fact a second generation descendant of the V-22 Tiltrotor.
Like the V-22, its rotor blades can be rotated through 90 degrees to form an aeroplane wing. Unlike the V-22, however, the Osprey has separate engines for rotor and wing thrust, which are not interdependent. The result is a helicopter as fast as a jet aircraft with greater range and payload than any existing helicopter.”
The battle for Hue City, South Vietnam’s third largest city, was the longest and bloodiest single battle of the Vietnam War. The Imperial City of Hue was located in Thua Thien Province, I Corps Tactical Zone, in northernmost South Vietnam. The climactic action took place within the Citadel, a walled fortress that dominated the city and its surrounds.
The main force of an estimated 400 VC attackers were drawn from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) 2nd Regiment. This unit had the reputation of being one of North Vietnam’s most elite units, entering combat only when holding victory was considered certain.
Within Hue, they were to be joined by an initial 500-man NVA sapper (assault) team and many others as the battle progressed. A Viet Cong civilian underground organization already existed in Hue as part of a communist political infrastructure established throughout Thua Thien Province over a period of years. These cadres led by their provincial leaders were soon joined by B-2 Front Headquarters personnel and additional NVA units that entered Hue with additional sappers to reinforce their comrades on February 3rd.
All of the CH-47 Chinook helicopters were taken out of service for maintenance and repairs. This left the Osprey without a helicopter for support. The crew was sent on a mission with no helicopter to back up the Osprey. There were two planes, one that would fly ahead of the Osprey and one behind it, both loaded with weapons in case they were attacked. The plane in front would shoot first, then the plane behind would take over while the other plane reloaded. This worked once, but then they realized there were more enemy forces than they had been told about. The Osprey was shot down and crashed into a building.
The first thing that you need to know about the Osprey is that it is a tilt rotor aircraft, which means that the rotors on the aircraft can tilt up, or down 90 degrees. This allows for the aircraft to take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but when in flight to move forward like an airplane. The Osprey (see picture below) was developed by Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems.
The manufacturer states that it provides twice the speed and range of existing helicopters, while still being able to operate from small ships, with greater reliability and less vulnerability. Basically, this is what the US Marine Corps has been waiting for since they entered the war in Vietnam.
The Osprey has been a long time coming. It was first conceived during the Cold War era, when both the U.S. Air Force and Army were seeking new ways of moving troops around Europe more quickly as an alternative to fixed-wing transport planes. In 1983, U.S. military planners decided on a common design for both services called V-22 Osprey, developed by Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems (now part of Textron). After years of delays due to technical problems with its engines, gearboxes and software controls