Hue Ngoc Tran
“When I was a kid in Hue after World War II, I witnessed the French and Viet Minh doing bad things. The Viet Minh ambushed the French, captured prisoners, took their possessions and buried them alive. On the other side I saw the French burn houses, kill civilians, rape women-in front of my eyes. Those scenes were carved in my mind and I decided when I grow up I will serve in the Army. I was admitted to the National Military
In 1968 I commanded the Black Panther Company, Hac Bao, 1st ARVN Division Reaction Force. We were in Hue during the first Tet Offensive when all 44 provinces of South Vietnam were under attack. They wanted to occupy Hue at any price. We had the 1st ARVN Division in Hue but the NVA still tried to get into the Citadel. The battle lasted 25 days. We fought using new tactics, in the street, block by block. I’m telling you this in a few words but in those days each minute, each second would last a long time. You would advance just a few feet. It was bloody. We fought with hand grenades, bayonets-close combat.
First night we saved some US soldiers. They were security at the small airfield at Hue City. The airfield was overrun by NVA and they ran to my unit. We took care of them. They had a language difference, big guys, and could have been killed by friendly fire. I received a Silver Star from General Abrams, US Military Commander in Vietnam. My government presented me with the Medal of Honor for the Battle of Hue.
In 1971 during the Battle of Lam Son 719, our regiment’s mission was to protect Highway 9 from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh. The ARVN Airborne and Marine Divisions were assigned the front axis across the border in Tchepone, Laos, but they were attacked and cut down. I was ordered to take my battalion, drop into the main operation and attack the NVA.
Before we landed B52’s had dropped bombs. We controlled the main road to Tchepone and after a couple of days we were headed south to help two battalions surrounded by the NVA. We helicoptered in and secured an area for them to withdraw back to Vietnam. My battalion went to help 1st Battalion 3rd Regiment but then we were surrounded by the NVA. Three times helicopters came to try to get us but a lot of choppers were shot down-we couldn’t get out. It was summer and there was no water-we could not survive without water.
I’m left-handed. When my battalion was surrounded I was holding the handset in my left hand communicating with Cobra helicopters. I called them to counter attack. One mortar hit between me and my radio operator. I was thrown backwards and hit with many pieces of shrapnel. Finally I was captured and spent the next 13 years in prison camp.”