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VFW Magazine January 2018 : Page 19

MARINE CORPS PHOTO VFW Washington Office executive direc-tor, hustled back to Hue after communist troops assaulted the city on Jan. 31. Wallace said once they arrived, “The shit hit the fan. As we started to go into the city, all that was heard was the sound of weapons being shot.” THE ‘FALLUJAH’ OF VIETNAM Initially, U.S. troops were ordered not to bomb or shell the city due to its religious and historical structures. However, that later changed due to the American casu-alties suffered in the battle. Wallace said the 106mm recoilless rifle was “indispensable” in Hue. He said the rifle was typically mounted on a mule, but “to be effective, we had to carry it.” “It was very heavy to haul around,” Wallace said. “It took a few of us to carry it. The shells also weighed 40 pounds.” Wallace said Hue was the first time Marines had fought in a city in a long time and referred to the battle as the Vietnam War’s “Battle of Fallujah” (the famous November 2004 fight in Iraq) for the Marine Corps. After 26 days of intense fighting, American troops, after suffering 216 KIA and 1,364 WIA, recaptured Hue. The 5th Marines accounted for more than half of those killed in the battle. Lance Cpl. Robert Wallace (left), of Headquarters and Service Company, along with Marines of Alpha Co., 1st Bn., 1st Marines, carries a 106mm recoilless rifle during the Battle of Hue. This photograph was taken moments before Wallace received his first of two wounds in the battle. communists in Hue. In total, during the Tet Offensive, 81,000 people died, including 3,895 U.S. troops and 14,300 Vietnamese civilians. Hue was one of the places that saw the most death and destruction. “Hue was a very defining moment for a lot of us,” Wallace said. “We saw a lot of things that we didn’t think we would ever see. It was just a life-changing experience.” Wallace, who earned two Purple Hearts while fighting in Hue, credits his experience in Vietnam and in the Marine Corps for inspiring him to be an advo-cate for veterans who “had it worse” than him. Wallace said he gives thanks to the Navy corpsmen who assisted him and his fellow wounded Marines. Wallace cred-its those corpsmen for giving him a “sec-ond chance on life.” “They are the true heroes of Hue and Tet, as well as all the battles in Vietnam and other wars,” Wallace said. Lehrack said his time in Vietnam also was “the defining experience” of his life. “I mostly wish I had done a better job, brought more of my Marines home,” Lehrack said. “I think that’s the reason I volunteered for another tour two years after I got back. I felt guilty ... I still feel that to this day.” Kent said he doesn’t agree with the common notion that the U.S. lost the Vietnam War because of the Tet Offensive. He added that “Congress” lost the war — “not the military.” “When all the smoke cleared, the American flag flew over every place that it had before Tet,” Kent said. “The NVA and Viet Cong didn’t control one piece of ground [in South Vietnam] when Tet was over. How in the hell did we lose?” J EMAIL JANUARY 2018   • WWW.VFW.ORG • THE WAKE OF TET According to Brutal Battles of Vietnam , at least 4,756 Vietnamese civilians were killed or went missing at the hands of the Operation Hue City Mar i nes and sold i ers tenac i ously defended V i etnam’s anc i ent cap i tal of Hue from t h e onset of Tet t h rou gh muc h of February 1968. Hero i c actions dur i n g t h e brutal h ouse-to-h ouse urban fi gh tin g produced rec i p i ents of t h e m i l i tary’s most presti gi ous awards. Medal of Honor • Mar i ne S g t. Alfredo Gonzalez * , A Co., 1st Bn., 1st Mar i nes • Army C hi ef Warrant Officer Freder i ck Fer g uson, C Co., 227t h Av i ation Bn., 1st Cav D i v. • Army Staff S g t. Joe Hooper, D Co., 2nd Bn., 501st Inf., 101st Abn. D i v. • Army Staff S g t. Cl i fford S i ms, * D Co., 2nd Bn., 501st Inf., 101st Abn. D i v. Distinguished Service Cross • Army 2nd Lt. T h omas Dobr i nska * , B Co., 2nd Bn., 12t h Cav, 1st Cav D i v. Silver Star • Army Maj. C h arles Kro h n, 2nd Bn., 12t h Cav, 1st Cav D i v. * posthumous 19

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