One of the true surprises of the 1968 Tet Offensive was the extent to which the Viet Cong had infiltrated Widow’s Village across the road from USARV Headquarters. Widow’s Village was the enclave of the women and children of the Vietnamese serving in the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN). Although most were not technically widows, few ever saw their husbands even though they were still alive. Thus, the name “Widow’s Village” stuck.
Viet Cong had taken up residence among the widows and orphans, and tunneled extensively beneath their homes where they stored arms and ammunition to attack the main U.S. base in South Vietnam. They kept the widows silent through threats and intimidation. Some even began to work within the base as clerks and janitors. Thus, it wasn’t difficult for sappers to plant satchel charges at strategic points. Some cut holes in the roofs of homes and began lobbing mortar shells at the American base.
When the Tet Offensive was launched, American and South Vietnamese combat troops were scattered around the countryside or rushing to defend key places. Thus, when the Viet Cong charged the base, Rear Echelon Mother F***ers (REMF) took up weapons and defended themselves. Bus loads of arriving Americans disembarking from planes landing at nearby Bien Hoa were hastily issued weapons, steel helmets, and flak vests, and thrown into gaps in the berm surrounding the base. Some died there, only hours after arriving in-country.
Other than the sappers who detonated their satchel charges in the ammunition dump during the initial assault, the Viet Cong failed to do any permanent damage. Although they were entrenched within yards of the base perimeter, REMF repelled every attack until combat forces arrived.
Back at Camp Bearcat, we began to notice a significant increase in activity at our airbase and I tried to find out what was happening. Unfortunately, the Adjutant General had gotten wise to my little “field trips” and I had to send one of my men. I’m not really certain why he objected to us substituting for exhausted and wounded door gunners (although I’ve always suspected that he was intimidated by our willingness to go in harm’s way).
My base camp reaction force platoon was frozen in place and we were limited in our ability to assist. We couldn’t know that we weren’t going to be attacked, and we had to remain ready to move into defensive positions. I called my sergeants together and had them visit each man in the offices where they worked to make sure they had plenty of ammunition and full canteens, and were ready to move out at a moment’s notice. Surprisingly, the attack never came, although the media announced to the world that Bearcat had been overrun.
I received a panicky letter from my mother about two weeks after the Tet Offensive began. She was desperate to know if I was still alive and well. Yes, I should have written to her sooner but I had no way of knowing that American correspondents were spreading misinformation. I became furious when I read the news clipping that she had included. No wonder she was upset. In truth, I have never forgiven the members of the Fourth Estate who put her through that. Their distortions served as a warning, and I wasn’t surprised when I returned home to find that the news media were instigating the antiwar movement there. They were like cowboys, recklessly stampeding the mob with lies and innuendo, to impose their ideology rather than disseminate truth. It is a proclivity that is recognizable in their activities to this day. Thank God, that Internet bloggers and other informal news sources are shining the light of fact and empirical data on their fabrications.