Tet: First In . . .


We retraced our course up Highway 1 with me in the lead and “23” covering my tail. By now the adrenalin dump was past and had been replaced by the inevitable jitters, which is like an adrenalin hangover. My heroic door gunner was beginning to show the first signs of shock brought on by loss of blood and needed more medical attention than we could give him. Time was on our side however, since we were now only minutes away from LZ Evans. I diverted directly to the Medivac pad while the chief landed at our company area to report on the hornet’s nest we had run into at Hue City.

That hornet’s nest erupted in every major urban area in the Republic of Vietnam that day. By the time the evening news came on back in the States, it was already known as the Tet Offensive. The capture of the Imperial City of Hue by the North Vietnamese army was the high-water mark of that offensive. During my three tours of duty with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in the Republic of Vietnam, I fought in many engagements—some far more intense than the one described here, yet forgotten or ignored in the histories of an unpopular war. But the Tet Offensive of 1968 changed the course of that war. Probably one of the most ironic campaigns in the history of warfare, it was both a smashing U.S. military victory and a crushing political defeat, and as far as I know, I flew the first gunship into the Imperial City of Hue on the first day of the Tet Offensive of 1968.