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VFW Magazine January 2018 : Page 16

Defense of Saigon Merits Recognition The 716th Military Pol i c e ( MP ) Battal i on, 89t h MP Group, 18t h MP Br ig ad e d i stin -g u i s he d i ts e l f on Jan. 31, 1968, i n Sa ig on. L i v i n g up to i ts m i s -s i on to “ figh t as i n f an -try w he n r e qu i r e d,” t he battal i on e arn e d a Pr e s i d e ntial Un i t C i tation f or i ts d efe ns e o f t he U.S. Embassy and ot he r locations around t he c i ty. L i st e d b e low ar e MPs, i n f antrym e n and a i r -m e n w h o e arn e d i nd i v i dual awards i n t he 13 -h our figh t. Distinguished Service Cross • Army P f c. Paul V. H e al e y, B Co., 716t h MP Bn., 89t h MP Group, 18t h MP Bd e . Silver Star E igh t f rom t he Army’s 716t h MP Bn. • P f c. Roland Bow e n * , A Co. • S g t. M i c h a e l Gr ie v e* , A Co. • Sp e c. 4 Ronald K e ndall, C Co. • Sp e c. 4 C h arl e s M i ll e r, B Co. • P f c. St e v e n S e ars, C Co. • S g t. Jo h n S h ook, B Co. • Sp e c. 4 Alv i n Troy e r, C Co. • 1st Lt. G e rald Waltman, C Co. Four f rom C Company o f t he Army’s 52nd In f antry R egi m e nt, w hi c h was attac he d to t he 716t h MP Bn. • Sp e c. 4 V i nc e nt G i ovann e ll i • Sta ff S g t. H e rman Holn e ss • S g t. 1st Class Jam e s R. Lobato • Sp e c. 4 Bruc e McCartn e y S i x f rom t he A i r Forc e ’s 377t h S e cur i ty Pol i c e Squadron, w hi c h d efe nd e d t he Tan Son N h ut A i r Bas e on Sa ig on’s outsk i rts. • Maj. Carl B e nd e r • S g t. Alonzo Co ggi ns • S g t. W i ll i am Cyr * • S g t. Lou i s F i sc he r * • S g t. Edward C. H e bron * • S g t. Ro ge r M i lls * * posthumous AP PHOTO Two MPs in Saigon aid a wounded MP during fighting at the U.S. Embassy compound on Jan. 31, 1968. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces ousted about 1,000 Viet Cong out of the city during the first week of the Tet Offensive. Viet Cong breached the Mac Dinh Chi entrance of the U.S. Embassy, according to Brutal Battles of Vietnam: America’s Deadliest Days 1965-1972, VFW’s official account of Vietnam’s major land battles. Spec. 4 Charles Daniel and Pfc. William Sebast, of the 527th MP Company, were among the first killed at the embassy. A few hours later, men of B Co., 716th MP Bn., launched a counterattack to retake the embassy from the invaders. Security forces were the only U.S. mili-tary units allowed in Saigon due to the pre-vailing status-of-forces-agreement. This included no U.S. combat units allowed in the South Vietnam capital. As a result, when called upon, the MPs and security guards were ready to fight as infantrymen. “We converted from an MP battalion to a tactical infantry battalion in less than three hours, and, in essence, we were unassisted for the first 12 to 18 hours,” said Lt. Col. Gordon D. Rowe, command-er of the 716th Battalion, according to Brutal Battles of Vietnam . Also according to the book, military police and security guards attached to the 716th MP Bn., 89th MP Grp., 18th MP Bde., were the “eyes and ears in the opening stages of the battle for Saigon,” said Lt. Col. Richard E. George, provost marshal in Saigon on Jan. 31. During the embassy attack, four sol-diers of the 527th MP Company and a Marine security guard were killed. A total of 27 Americans died and 44 were wounded. Though the Battle of Saigon was significant and covered extensively by Saigon-based American media, more casualties were sustained in a battle that had already been underway in Khe Sanh. VIETNAMÕS LONGEST BATTLE More than a week before the Tet Offensive, NVA troops began their siege on Khe Sanh. Located some 15 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and about six miles east of Laos, Khe Sanh was the site of the longest battle of the Vietnam War. According to Brutal Battles of Vietnam , about 6,000 Marines defended Khe Sanh, including 5,000 Leathernecks of the 26th Marine Regiment, the 1st Bn., 9th Marines, and the 1st Bn., 13th Marines. There, Marines faced off against some 20,000 NVA troops. An interrogator who was based at the Cam Lo Combat Base less than five miles south of the DMZ during the first days of the battle at Khe Sanh said there were omi-nous warnings in the days leading up to Tet. Marine Staff Sgt. Allen “Gunner” Kent said that through the interrogation sub-team in Khe Sanh he learned that commu-nist forces were preparing an attack. “We were getting indications that something was going to happen — we just didn’t know when,” said Kent, who at the time was a part of the 17th Interrogation and Translation Team. Kent, the VFW Commander-in-Chief from 1994-95 and Adjutant General from 2005-13, said he transferred to Phu Bai 16 • VFW  • JANUARY 2018

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