January 31, 1968 - Low clouds cover the sky, early on Wednesday morning, when the Tet Offense begins in Saigon. Five
enemy battalions of between 2000 and 2500 had infiltrated into the Saigon area. Attacks are spearheaded by the C-10 Sapper
Battalion. The plan calls for 35 battalions of 4000 locals to attack the following six major targets:
- The Vietnamese Joint General Staff
- The Independence Palace (President Thieu's
- The American Embassy
- Tan Son Nhut Airport
- The Vietnamese Navy Headquarters
- The National Broadcasting Station
The 716th MP Battalion, with approximately 1000 men, was responsible for the security of the 130 American installations in the
greater Saigon area. Only one third were on duty, even though they were warned of trouble. Flak vests had been issued and
they were doubled up on shift.
Only 25 of the 300 Vietnamese MP's in Saigon were available.
The following chronological account is partially taken from the Staff Duty Log of the 716th MP Battalion:
1:30 a.m. Three vehicles, including one truck loaded with explosives, drive up to the National Palace staff entrance on Tu
Do Street. They commence their attack with 34 sappers.
A B-40 rocket is fired against the staff entrance gate. An MP patrol responds to the palace, and the two MP's are killed.
Their M-60 machinegun is stolen by the VC. The VC are forced across the street to a half completed hotel complex. The
VC hold out for 15 hours, and 32 are killed. Two are finally captured.
2:00 a.m. Sappers begin an attack against Gate Number Five, at the Vietnamese General Staff Headquarters, just east of
Tan Son Nhut Airport. They attack from the Long Hoa Pagoda across the street from Gate #5.
An American MP jeep appears on the scene and the MP's engage the enemy. The security force now has time to close
the gate. Additional MP's respond and defend the compound.
The assault collapses and the enemy retreats back to the Long Hoa Pagoda.
2:40 a.m. Nguyen Van Muoi drives a black Citroen sedan past the six story American Embassy on Thong Nhut Blvd. He
carried a samuri sword in the back seat for luck.
2:45 a.m. Mortar fire drops into city. Muoi drives by again. This time he shouts, "Tien" (forward)! A Peugeot truck and a
taxicab drive west on Thong Nhut Boulevard along the south wall of the four acre compound and stop. The sappers
begin unloading weapons and equipment as others step out from the shadows.
Two military police, Specialist 4 Charles L. Daniel, 23, of Durham, NC., and Private First Class William E. Sebast, 20, of
Albany, NY., both from Company C, 716th MP Battalion, are at the east side entrance on Mac Dinh Chi.
2:46 a.m. At the Embassy rear fence Commandos appear in civies and black pajamas, with red armbands. Carrying
new AK-47s, three B-40 rockets and explosives, they climb into the compound.
2:47 a.m. Part of the commando team attacks the side gate. SPC Daniel and PFC Sebast close and secure the gate and
radio "Signal 300" (enemy attack). The VC then blast a hole in the ten-foot wall, at the front of the Embassy, with a 3.5
inch rocket (B-40).
Daniel radios, "They're coming in! They're coming in! Help me! Help me!" They manage to kill two Viet Cong leaders
before they are gunned down on the Embassy grounds.
Nguyen Thai Ba, a night chauffeur, attempts to stop the VC and is shot down. The lead element of VC blows the lock off
the side gate and the telephone lines are cut.
MP Sergeant Jonnie B. Thomas, 24, of Detroit, MI., and Specialist Owen E. Mebust, 20, of Lynwood, CA., of the 716th MP
Battalion respond to Daniel's call for assistance and drive east on Thong Nhut Boulevard. As they reach the main
entrance they are ambushed and killed, by automatic rifle fire. Other military police and US Marines are now also
On the Embassy roof, Marine SGT Rudy A. Soto Jr., 25, of Selma, CA., fires six .38 rounds at the commandos. Once he is
out of ammo and with his shotgun jammed, he watches and radios situation reports.
Marine SGT Ronald W. Harper, 20, of Cambridge, MN and CPL George B. Zahuranic, 20, of Uniontown, PA., secure the
main doors. A B-40 round hits the door and window wounding Zahuranic. A second B-40 round soon follows.
2:55 a.m. The National Broadcasting Station is attacked. A jeep and two Toyotas stop in front of the station and a group
dressed as Vietnam Riot Police attack. At the front gate they kill a police guard. A machinegun on the roof across the
street kills a platoon of ARVN paratroopers sleeping on the roof of the station. The attackers hold the station for six hours.
At the Vietnamese Naval Headquarters, at Bach Dang Quay, 12 sappers attack by blowing a hole in wall. Within five
minutes 10 are killed, and the other two are captured.
3:00 a.m. BOQ #3, near Tan Son Nhut Airport, reports enemy action. The MP's here are engaged with the enemy force
which is retreating to the Long Hoa Pagoda after being driven from the Vietnamese General Staff Headquarters.
Rockets and mortars begin falling on the Long Binh complex, fifteen miles north of Saigon. A local VC battalion launches
a diversionary attack against the eastern bunker line, while the 275th VC Regiment attacks the northern perimeter.
Sappers begin infiltrating into the ammunition depot just north of Long Binh.
The VC 274th Regiment also attacks the Bien Hoa Airbase just north of Long Binh.
3:15 a.m. The American Embassy is under attack.
3:16 a.m. Explosion at the Phoenix City BOQ.
3:17 a.m. Explosion at the Townhouse BOQ.
3:18 a.m. BOQ #1 under attack.
3:19 a.m. MacArthur BOQ under attack.
3:20 a.m. Marine CPT Robert J. O'Brien, 36, of Marshfield, MA., arrives with a six Marine "reaction force," at the east
side Embassy wall. They get pinned down by fire and retreat across the street from the side gate.
3:21 a.m. Rex BOQ under attack.
Three battalions of VC attack the western side of Tan San Nhut Airport, which houses MACV and Seventh Air Force
headquarters. They attack from positions they have occupied since midnight at the Vinatexco mill, just across Highway
#1 from Gate #51.
The consolidated VC attack takes place by the 269th VC Battalion attacking from the northwest, the 267th VC Battalion
attacking from the southwest and one battalion attacking from the east. They manage to overwhelm the ARVN defensive
force and enter the airfield.
MACV headquarters guards and members of the US Air Force 377th Security Police Squadron stall their advance until
reinforcements arrive from the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi, at 6:00 a.m. The final enemy soldiers are not driven out
until approximately noon.
3:25 a.m. Explosion at BOQ #2.
3:40 a.m. Automatic weapons fire and attack at BOQ #3.
3:41 a.m. MPs at the Embassy want an urgent resupply of ammunition.
3:42 a.m. Sniper fire at Metropole BEQ.
3:50 a.m. Incoming mortar rounds into the Montana BOQ.
3:58 a.m. The Saigon port area reports automatic weapons fire.
3:59 a.m. Mortars and rockets are fired at the Embassy, and reinforcements requested.
4:00 a.m. US Marines and MP's are dispatched to the Vietnamese National Police station to escort them to the US
Embassy to assist. They refuse to leave their station.
4:07 a.m. MP Unit C9A reports that a 716th MP Battalion alert force in two escort jeeps and a 2 1/2 ton truck loaded
with 25 military police, have been ambushed by a B-40 rocket and machinegun fire in a narrow alley. They were
responding to the reported attack at BOQ #3. Heavy casualties are reported.
4:08 a.m. Unit C9A is hit. Both MP's are killed.
For the next sixteen hours the VC will battle these MP's and the two additional MP rescue teams sent to assist the initial
alert force. In this one battle alone 16 MP's die in the alley and 21 are wounded.
The following are some excerpts from the radio traffic:
UNKNOWN UNIT 1: "Waco 6-0, that alert force is laying down there in the alleyway. They're pitched up against the
wall if any of them is still alive..."
WACO 60: What are the chances of getting an ambulance in there or near there and taking out injured by foot?"
UNKNOWN UNIT 1: "We can try it..."
MPDO TWO: "Number One, I've got an ambulance here, could you use him up there?"
MPDO ONE: "We need him bad. I don't know how you're going to get in here. We need him at the main gate of
BOQ 3, but I don't know how you're going him in here without being hit."
MPDO TWO: "OK, I'm taking him up...We'll see how far we can get without being fired upon. He's willing to go.
MPDO ONE: "Be extremely careful..."
MPDO ONE: "Duty Officer Number Two, this is Number One...We need that ambulance bad."
MPDO TWO: "This is Number Two (sighs)...We'll try to get her into you."
MPDO ONE: "10-24, Tango Yankee."
MPDO TWO: "Have that ambulance still, we'll cover it."
MPDO ONE: "10-24, baby..."
MPDO TWO: "I'll start 'em moving out. Make sure you cover this man now..."
[A little later]:
MPDO TWO: "Number One, this is Number Two (puffing). "We tried to go down the alley (catching his breath).
They blew up a claymore on us. We're going to hold tight right here. It's about the best we can do. Over"
MPDO ONE: "10-24 (near tears). I know you can't help it. Just keep trying. Do the best you can..."
4:19 a.m. BOQ #3 requests more ammo.
4:20 a.m. At MACV Headquarters General William Westmoreland orders the 716th MP Bn to clear the Embassy
compound as the "first priority."
4:30 a.m. Request for armored vehicles and helicopters for an Embassy assault. A reaction team is appointed.
4:45 a.m. At the Phu Tho Racetrack an MP unit radios, "The driver caught a slug in the gut, and I'm under heavy
automatic weapons fire. Can you give me some help?" Before help arrives, both MP's are killed by the attacking force,
the 6th Binh Tan VC Battalion.
4:49 a.m. Cleveland and Columbia BOQ's request ammo and assistance.
5:00 a.m. At the Saigon Motor Pool, three claymore mines are detonated. Booby traps are discovered.
5:16 a.m. Explosions and small arms fire at the Royal Oaks BOQ.
5:30 a.m. Two platoons of 101st Airborne Division infantry, led by MAJ Hillel Schwartz, 33, of Tacoma, WA., attempt twice
to land on the Embassy roof from helicopters. Each time they are driven off by VC fire.
5:35 a.m. Automatic weapons fire at the Butte BEQ.
5:42 a.m. MP shot in an attack at the Denbigh BOQ.
5:46 a.m. Claymore detonated at the Flint BOQ.
6:00 a.m. Camp Red Ball under attack.
6:02 a.m. MP machinegun jeep captured by VC.
6:13 a.m. Claymore mines detonated at several BOQ's.
6:15 a.m. The area near Ambassador Bunker's home is hit by mortars and automatic weapons fires.
At the US Embassy a Medivac helicopter lands and deposits three cases of .223 ammo, none of which is usable by the
Marines. It departs with Zahuranic, Soto and Army PFC Charles M. Fisher.
6:18 a.m. Tent City B at Ton Son Nhut under attack.
6:45 a.m. Mission Coordinator George Jacobson, on the second floor of his villa, at the northeast corner of the US
Embassy compound, spots blood on his first floor. He calls for assistance.
7:00 a.m. Marine LT Case shots the lock off the front gate at the Embassy. It takes six rounds. MP's crash through the
gate with a jeep.
At the Joint General Staff Headquarters, a second unit, the 2nd Go Mon Battalion, attacks Gate Number Four. They enter
the compound, attack and seize one building before they are routed.
7:05 a.m. At the Embassy front gate, MP PFC Paul V. Healy, 20, of Holbrook, MA, leads a counterattack with a small
group of MP's. Healy kills five VC with grenades and an M16. For approximately one hour they clear the compound
grounds of the remaining enemy.
8:00 a.m. Troops of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade attempt to take the Phu Tho Racetrack. They will fight all day until
they finally capture it at 4:30 p.m.
8:35 a.m. MAJ Schwartz, in seven helicopters with his platoon of paratroops from C CO, 502nd Infantry, lands on the
9:00 a.m. The lone remaining VC is wounded and trapped in the villa by MP. PFC Healy, crosses the lawn and throws up
a gas mask and .45 caliber pistol to Jacobson. MP's fire at the lower windows and toss tear gas. The tear gas drives the
VC upstairs. He shoots three times at Jacobson and misses. Jacobson shoots the VC with the .45 caliber pistol thrown
up to him.
9:15 a.m. The US Embassy is declared secure. From this one action four Vietnamese and five American MP's are
killed. Seventeen VC are killed and two VC, Nguyen Van Sau and Ngo Van Giang are captured.
Throughout the rest of the day the Viet Cong attack several targets in the Saigon area. Eventually military police of the 716th MP
Battalion, including their attached units; the 527th MP Company; Company C, 52nd Infantry; and the 90th MP Detachment,
respond to many more of these attacks, along with back up forces from the 92nd MP Battalion.
On this first day, after an estimated nine separate attacks are over, 20 military police have been killed and 21 are wounded
from the 716th Military Police Battalion.