Banner Courtesy of Ray Komoski, 318th ASA Battalion
Graphic by Doc's Patriotic Graphics
These are eyewitness accounts of the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
Send your memories to Chui and they will be added here
Roger L. Wightman, 7th RRU/101st RRC
First, we (MACV) knew the NVA/VC planned a "Tet Offensive." That had never been a well kept secret on their part. We were following their troop movements and had all sorts of indicators. So early, in fact, that Westmoreland had planned a III Corps counter-offensive to forestall the NVA. It was a five division operation that included a brigade sized airborne drop of the 101st Abn. (Third platoon people probably can speak to this.) The counter-offensive was cancelled when a VC courier was captured with several copies (burn copies) of the operation order. The serial number of the original copy was also reproduced, so we could trace it back to a 1LT that had left it in his jeep at a Ba-Moui-Ba stand. It seems the division wanted to keep the loss in house and did not report it. There was not enough time to revise the plan so it was cancelled. All said and done, most everybody thought (me included) that the NVA would attack immediately after Tet due to their plan to use so many VC. That they would also want to celebrate and use the confusion to move more troops during the ceasefire that usually went with Tet was the rationale. As we know that was wrong. As for the 101st RR Co, we knew that the attacks were underway "up country" and wondered why the fools attacked before Tet instead of after.
We were not issued weapons or ammo before the fan was hit. Of course, those of us that went TDY a lot had our M-14s and ammo in our wall lockers. When the sirens started, I first thought someone was jumpy, but then the first incoming went off, and I was in sixth gear. Most folks left their bunks and headed to CRCS while trying to pull up their pants, tie their boots, put on their flak jackets, etc. I thought I wasn't going to die out of uniform, so I dressed completely, including blousing my boots, got my gear on and then took off. Because of that, I passed all the others, flashed my badge to the gate guard and was through the arms room and back for the second load of ammo before any of the others got there. We did not get to go back to Davis Station itself for 10 days. By that time we could walk from CRCS to Davis Station easily. The line of fire was down our company "main street" from a new power station the Air Force had under construction.
We were under strict orders to NOT shoot back. "Pacifying" the area was the responsibility of the Air Force Security Police. I always though it extremely ironic that we had Air Force "infantry" protecting the Army. The bunker I was in had a field of fire into the old Vietnamese cemetery just between our fence and the VNAF pad with the A-1D's. If we shot at anything we would have wiped out half of the Tan Son Nhut VNAF force and the Navy SIGINT aircraft. The reason the mess hall was closed is that it was close to that line of fire on the other side of the 509th Group motor pool.
As soon as possible, in a day or so as I remember, we began operations AND stood guard. That is to say, we analyzed and reported as long as we could and then slept in the bunker for a couple of hours in rotation. We had to hand deliver the reports to HQ MACV by driving up the flight line and use Westmoreland's personal entrance to the HQ. I still vividly remember the doors in the hallway opening and the staff watching us march down to J-222 and the look of relief when we came back with him and passed their door. The poor sods who we did visit were VERY worried indeed. Several times we gathered more folks and marched back to Westy's office. No smiles there at all.
All in all, it was so exciting that several of us re-enlisted. As I remember. Lonnie Duval and Ron Wright were the first ones. We actually had more damage done to us in the aftermath when the 122 mm rockets came in. They hit the supply/arms room, the group motor pool (that one put some shrapnel in Lane Hightower) and other sensitive places. Several senior NCO's at group were isolated in their hotel in Cholon until the Army and Air Force troops swept their area. They had some excitement as well. Larrymore Combs could speak to that in detail, for one.
Of course, this leaves out all the bitching and moaning about not being able to shoot back and what fools let these insane people get this close to us peace loving ASA people in the first place, etc. As I remember, with all the grousing, tempers stayed calm even if the decibel rose. They were pretty high all the time anyway, both tempers and decibels.
We were also packing equipment and getting load lists so we could evacuate if necessary. Our C-130 was pulled to our end of the flight line instead of where they normally parked. I thought that was dumb since we were under fire and the aircraft would be reachable as well. For some reason, the VC did not shoot up the aircraft. We were to be sent to Bangkok. I was ready. There was talk about whether we would beat Ms Spring there until we found out that she had left the day before the attack.
Warren "Skip" Galinski, 2nd Platoon,101st RRC, TDY at Dalat
The night that Tet started we were just finishing up a Monitor Mission
and we were due to fly out of Dalat the next day. We were staying in
downtown Dalat at the Modern Hotel. I remember we had a lot of beer
left over and we were making a good attempt at getting rid of it. The
Hotel was in a little valley and the center of town was above most of
the building. If you walked out onto the flat roof you could look out
at the main part of town. I know there was a large movie theater, a
bunch of restaurants and a market. There was a large concrete set of
steps that ran from the base of the hotel up toward the theater. That
evening the Vietnamese were doing a lot of celebrating by shooting off
I remember someone shaking me awake in the middle of the night. They were all excited that we were being mortared. I sat up in bed and was trying to tell them that they were crazy, nobody ever did any fighting in Dalat. This was a resort town for both sides. Just after saying that, a round went off just
outside the hotel and I new it was not fire crackers. I quickly got
out of bed and we went up onto the roof to check it out. On hind site
that was not the smartest move because the roof was lighted and we were
easy targets for anyone in the area. For a few minutes we watched the
airport (a few miles away) being shelled, and it was quite a light
show. I believe a mortar round went off in the market that made us
realize we should not be on this roof. The rest of the night's activities are lost to my memory, including who was there on that mission. I do know for a fact that Dick Spinner was one of the members but I don't remember who else was there.
Well as morning arrived we soon realized that there were a lot of NVA troops all around the hotel. It appeared they just drove in and took over the town.
They had to know we were in the hotel because our truck was parked out
side in plain sight. We discovered that we were not the only Americans
in the hotel, and to our delight found out a couple of Majors with a
radio had booked rooms and were there with us. We were in their room
while they were talking to MACV HQ. Word was spreading fast that
something big had happened and we were not the only place under attack.
MACV wanted us to watch the enemy and keep them posted as to what was
going on in the center of the city. Since the enemy was not showing
any interest in trying to take us on we were asked not to start a
firefight. So we did what we did a lot of in the Army, we sat around
and waited and watched.
It was during this time period that we witnessed the enemy troops shooting at civilians in the street. I remember this poor kid riding his bike up the main street that ran parallel to our hotel and straight toward the Movie Theater. At this time the movie theater was filled with NVA troops and I believe was one
of their main strong points in the city. As the boy rode his bike
toward the theater, the NVA troops yelled at him and he stopped his
bike and got off. There was some conversation between the troops and
the boy. He than left his bike in the middle of the street and walked
to the side and sat down on the concrete steps out of the line of fire.
He stayed there for awhile but must have worried about his bike being
in the middle of the street. He got up and walked back to his bike,
picked it up, and was about to wheel it to the side of the road when
the NVA yelled at him to stop. Instead of leaving his bike and going
back where he was safe, he instead sat down next to his bike. For some
reason he did not want to leave his bike, and this cost him his life.
He was not sitting there but a few minutes when one of the bastards in
the Movie Theater fired one shot and killed this kid for no reason.
It was a short time after the boy's death that a group of 4 ARVN white
mice drove up the same street toward the movie theatre. They acted
like they did not know the city had just been taken over by the NVA. I
remember we had one of our guys watching the street and he tried to
warn them of the danger on top of the hill. They just waved at him and
continued up the street. They came along side the body of the dead boy
and stopped to look out at him. I was watching from my window and I
just knew they were in a world of trouble. All of a sudden the jeep
with the 4 Vietnamese cops in it just blew up. At first I did not know
what happened, but soon realized they had just been hit with an RPG
round. I thought to myself, there is no way anyone survived that
blast, but I was wrong. From out of the smoke came 3 guys running like
hell straight back down the street in the direction they came from.
Needless to say, the NVA opened up on the 3 men with automatic weapons
and I witnessed bullets striking the pavement all around the 3 runners.
To this day I don't know how they managed to avoid all the lead that
was hitting around them, but they did. They never stopped running
until they were out of sight. It seems the driver of the jeep took all
the blast from the RPG. As the smoke cleared from around the jeep you
could see that the shell had folded the jeep like an accordion. The
driver of the jeep was not killed immediately. He laid in that tangled mess for a long long time and just screamed. I was hoping the NVA would at least put the poor guy out of his misery, but the bastards just let him scream until he finally died. I know a lot of us in that hotel were getting real mad and frustrated because we were under orders not to shoot.
As the morning went on we were told by MACV that they were going to launch a counter attack with a force of ARVNs and some armored scout vehicles. The armored scouts had twin 30 caliber machine guns mounted on a revolving turret. We informed MACV that the NVA in the Movie Theater were armed with RPG launchers. MACV informed us that when the attack started it would be up to us to pin down the gooks in the Movie Theater so they could not use the RPG's against the scouts. Before the attack started, one
of the majors assigned each of us a target to kill when he gave the
order. I was given the job to shoot a
NVA soldier who was standing next to a building about 150 yds away from
me. I was stationed in a bathroom and was looking out a small window.
I remember we had to wait for what seemed like forever before the order
to fire came.
Being in the ASA meant we did not do a lot of shooting
with our weapons. I for one could not remember the last time I even
fired my weapon, and I had been in county for over a year and half.
Well the order came and I fired my first shot at a real live person.
Not surprising, I missed. I hit the wall of the building he was
standing next to. I only missed by a few inches but that gave him
time to bring his rifle up and point it in my direction. My next shot
did not miss, and I was relieved that he did not get a shot off. I
remember looking around for other targets after my man went down, but
could not find anyone still standing. A minute ago the streets where
full of NVA and now nobody was around. I was pumped up and looking for
something to shoot at when I saw a NVA soldier lying down on some steps
leading to the local market. At first I thought he was dead but took a
shot at him anyway. My bullet hit the cement steps right next to his
head and he immediately set up. I believe a lot of us in the hotel saw
this guy sit straight up, and a bunch of us fired about the same time.
This was the first time I ever saw what a bullet from an M-14 could do
if it hit someone in the head. I had trouble sleeping for a long time
after tet. I kept picturing someone shooting me in the head. Not
We did a lot more shooting that day, and we killed a lot of NVA when
they tried to escape the attacking ARVN. When the shooting was
over and we were being evacuated from the hotel, there was a funny
moment. The owner of the hotel had put a chain with a padlock
around the two main glass doors. An Arvn soldier ran up the steps and
tried once to open the two glass doors. The owner of the hotel was
waving at him to wait until he unlocked the chain. The Arvn did not
want to wait and instead used the butt of his rifle to shatter the
doors. I thought it was funny at the time, but I'm sure the hotel
owner did not see the humor in it. I'm sorry I was so long winded, but even after 35 years something's
are hard to forget, while other memories are long gone. The one
memory that anyone who ever worked in the Dalat area will remember are
the pine trees.
"Skip" Galinski was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with V and
Dick Spinner earned the Bronze Star Medal with V for their actions
during Tet, 1968.
Tino "Chui" Banuelos, 101st RRC
I was a member of the monitor team assigned to the MACV Compound in
Quang Tri City. The compound was located on one side of the river with a
bridge connecting to the highway which led to an airfield midway
between Quang Tri and Dong Ha. The month had been a busy one with an
Australian General visiting the compound and many transmission security
violations which were not well received by the Col. in charge of the
detachment. VC and NVA activity was increasing to the north and west.
Tragically, the Col. would be killed as he led a rescue force of ARVN
Marines towards a Special Forces camp which had been under attack for 2
or 3 days. Reports coming from the SF Camp indicated large numbers of
NVA regulars marching south. The Col. had broadcast in the clear his
intention to land a force near an old French fort close to the SF camp.
Some 2 or 3 hours later, the choppers landing the ARVN troops were hit
by concentrated mortar fire as they hit the LZ. Later that night, the
SF Camp reported receiving radio transmissions from the rescue force
asking to be let into the camp. They were advised by the TOC that there
were no survivors from the ARVN force and not to let the anyone
approach the camp. Within one or two days our team leader requested
that the team return to Danang so that we would not be caught in Quang
Tri City if the bridge across the river leading to the Marine air base was blown. The night of the actual
attack, we were in Danang City as rockets and mortars hit the Danang
airbase, the Marine bases, and other targets around the city. We found
out later that the bridge crossing the river at Quang Tri had been blown
and that there was major fighting in and around Quang Tri City.
Dan Cotts, 101st RRC
I've often wondered if the Army's lack of prior knowledge of Tet was
disinformation. I was at Long Binh with the 3rd Plt then. A day or so
it started I was briefed by our Spec 6 about which units were coming our
I have no idea of his sources of information. Had run into them in Apr
'67 at An Loc so was impressed beforehand. The day before Tet
additional slit trenches were dug with a backhoe. They managed to sever
the main commo connection back to Saigon. The 303rd also called in
some of their guys who supported the 11th Armored Cav. They brought a
track - which drew the most fire from Mr Charles on the front bunker
line. They were there long before the 11th showed up after Tet kicked
off. Also a few days before Tet we were visited by a group from Company
Headquarters in Saigon. First and only time. We had a rifle inspection
the First Shirt made a fool of himself by not knowing that the gas plug
on an M-14 slid back and forth when the breach was open. Side story;
They asked if we had any questions. Howard Hopper complained that we
were still in tents while the 303rd had buildings. (More like metal
ovens) After Tet we were transferred to Bien Hoa AFB to bunk with the
175th. Hearsay was that the XO and Supply Officer of the 303rd had sold
the buildings meant for us. Money was for personal gain - not for the
good of their unit. Most likely the penalty ruined their day. Further
that a dud 122mm rocket hit our bunker after we left. If so, I am glad
that they stole those buildings and Howard spoke up. I have heard
(again hearsay) that LRRP units tracked the VC units from Cambodia.
Robert N. Jikaku, 101st RRC
I was on the Team TDY to Phu Loi, MACV Compound, just before TET. We
completed most of the mission, but had it cut short. We were told to
pack it up and get back to Long Binh before TET. Well, we made it
back....after that rifle inspection from the 1st Shirt....as I don't
recall that inspection. Hours before TET, I was drinking with the
Aviation guys just beyond the 303rd ASA Bn. The Aviation Commander
called all of the aviation folks out of the club and gave us a briefing
about being ready for an attack that night. He told everyone to sleep
in their fatigues and go to bed.....no more drinking. I came back to
the tent and told everyone in the tent about that Aviation briefing (no
one believed it as being credible). I got my flack jacket and rifle
next to my cot and slept in my fatigues. I think I was the only one in
the tent that did that - that night. Well needless to say, all hell
broke loose, as predicted. Bottom line....someone higher-up knew of the
Phil Panuco, 374th RRC
I was with the 374th RRC at Camp Enari (4th Inf Div base camp) next
to Pleiku. When I was not doing COMSEC on the R-390, I would walk to
the Manual Morse hut and watch them work the NVA circuits. Prior to
the Tet 68 offensive, our own COMINT analysts were tracking the NVA
units moving throughout the II Corps area, especially all around the
4th Inf Div and the outlying brigades.
This analysis was reported up the ASA chain of command (313th, then
509th, then Big Daddy). We even shared the info with our sister
COMINT unit located at Pleiku which reported directly to Big Daddy. We
were getting feedback from Big Daddy and the 509th that what we were
seeing was not really happening.
Our General Stone (4th Inf Div) had doubts of what Big Daddy was
selling, but accepted their analysis because they had the computers,
100's of highly paid analysts (GS-30 and above), and a large net of
outlying DF/COMINT stations. While our 374th RRC analysts were only
SPEC-6's (E-6) and below (no hard stripes).
Naturally after we were attacked on Tet 68 our General Stone blew his
stack at Big Daddy for giving him bogus analyst, so he turned around
and directed the CO of 374th to provide him with their analysis.
Len Nagel, 101st RRC
I was in the 3rd plt. TDY in Vung Tau when Tet hit. I went from a hotel
room in the resort city to a bunker in Long Binh in just one day. There
was VN troop movement in Vung Tau but no action.
Roger Wightman, 101st RRC
Len, that movement was out of the Vung Tau area to the battles. VC/NVA
troops used the area just to the North of Vung Tau as their R&R in
country. I always figured they didn't do anything to Vung Tau in order
to save it for themselves.
Steve Zawacki, 374th RRC
I was out with Det 2 /374th at LZ Baldy (somewhere between Hoi An &
Chu Lai). Americal RRC had a PRD-1 team bunking in with us. We took 4
mortar rounds in
our mini-compound, all of which were delayed fuzes. One blew up almost
all our 20 5-gallon gas cans (all but 2 were empty, thank God!), another
(encased) took in its side, and the others detonated about 12-18 inches
underground but did ruin the wiring from the generators to the commo and
COMSEC vans. The only injuries were frazzled nerves, some scrapes and
bruises, and "ventilated" equipment.
ARDF data the day before was "routine," no special intel came via our
USM line, and the MID had nothing! So, at the Brigade level (where only
the Brigade CO
and the S2 had SI tickets), information was sorely lacking. Another
shining example of information never getting "south" to where it could
be used, instead being kept by the privileged to be philosophically
Ken Wilks, 7th RRU, 101st RRC
My thoughts when I heard about it (I was home on leave en route to
Korea) were of you guys back there. Didn't know how to contact any of
you. Really didn't know what had happened until I hooked up on this net.
Dick Field, 408th RR Det/Americal RR Co (Prov)
Chu Lai, 67-68
Our traffic analysis swing trick was settled in and busy doing its T/A
thing in our brand-new, frame ops building, which was nice and roomy
compared to the Marine "black bubble" fiberglass module that preceded it
(windowless, dark, and more like a submarine). We were on yellow
alert, as I recall, and had hauled in our steel pots and flak vests but nobody thought too much of it. After all, we were on the Ky Ha
peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides, north of the airfield
(the obvious target of opportunity), and a short walk from the Americal
HQ compound, mess hall, clubs, and PX. A loud hissing overhead was
heard. Tim Kimball had just enough time
to get out, "Those damn guys on the perimeter are shooting flares back
this way!" We thought it was a prank! That immediately ended with the
loud detonation of the 122mm rocket directly across Hwy 1 in the
Americal HQ area. We scrambled pretty fast, leaving steel pots and flak
jackets behind, to the nearest light-duty bunker. Hey, we were spooks -
and we were definitely spooked! We soon elected to move to the
beloved "Sand Castle", more substantial protection that we had built
with our own hands. On the way, several more red rocket
streaks came over our compound, followed by loud booms in our Americal
neighbor's yard. We eventually collected our gear when it became
apparent that t-shirts were pretty skimpy under the circumstances.
After the salvo in our area, we spent the night philosophizing about
life (like good ASA troops do) and listening to more distant thuds
around the airbase to the south. With the light of dawn, it was over but we never felt quite as secure on our "protected peninsula" again.