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Tom Curtin

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43 years ago today  (January 31, 1968) I was fighting in the Tet Offensive in Vietnam as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.  It was our mission to capture the VC headquarters at the Phu Tho Racetrack in Saigon. 

 

I mention this because I am reading the book, “This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive,” by James S. Robbins. http://www.amazon.com/This-Time-Win-Revisiting-Offensive/dp/1594032297/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296484330&sr=8-1

 

I am only about  halfway through it but it is very accurate based on my observations.  Our battalion was scheduled to move to Song Be to relieve a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, which was to be redeployed to I Corps in the north.  We were in the “Rocket Belt” around  Bien Hoa airbase at the time.  Four days before Tet we were called to the 199th HQ and ordered to move the outskirts of Saigon on the southwest approaches to Cholon.  Our unit had been there before which was why we were given that mission.  We had an Armored Cavalry platoon attached to our lead company and  a 106 Recoilless Rifle detachment accompanied the  battalion.  Enroute to the racetrack the middle of the battalion took heavy fire from a building on the right.  The lieutenant with the 106s radioed me and told me the situation and asked for help.  I told him to put a HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round  in the building that the enemy fire  was coming from.  They did and eliminated the threat and it started a fire in the building which ended up burning down an entire city block with many VC/NVA occupants.

 

A day later a New York Times reporter named Joe Treaster was assigned to accompany me on the battlefield.  Years later, when I was a student at the Armed Forces Staff  College, I chose to do my major writing assignment on Treaster’s reporting and the paper’s editorializing.  From about February 2 to February 6, Joe Treaster got his bylined stories put on the front page, many of  them “above the fold.”  What he wrote was what I saw.  He was a true recorder of the battle.  About a week later, James Reston, a famous opinion writer at the Times, started editorializing about  how  the Americans were surprised by the offensive and how it showed that we were destined to “lose” the  war.  I concluded the Reston did  not even read his own newspaper.  “This Time We Win” points out that the group of people who were surprised  by the attack was the media.  MACV commanders could have briefed the media and it would have tipped off the enemy  that we were on to their plans for a conventional battle rather than an insurgent one.  Our conventional forces would  have the upper hand in a conventional battle, which we did.   This is an age old dilemma that commanders have, talk and compromise intelligence, or be mum and let the media have its way later.  For  the next few months our battalion was fighting squads because the enemy was so depleted.  On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson called off the bombing of North Vietnam, as well as taking himself out of the  1968 presidential race.  Within weeks we were fighting NVA regiments.

 

Look into reading this book.  I think you will be enlightened.  Happy New Year.

 

Regards,

 

Tom Curtin

Lt.Col., Infantry, USA, (Ret.)

RE/MAX Xecutex

Certified Residential Specialist

O)703-266-9143, C)703-338-4804

www.tomcurtin.com

 

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