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The AO
  A Shau Valley
    • Hué Cit Airfield
    • MACV Compound
    • LCU Ramp
    • Hué Goose
  Tet 1968
    • Trail FACs
The Missions
  Visual Recon
  Close Air Support
Ranch Hand
Arc Light
  Hammer 51 SAR
  Search for Jolly 23



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The Tet Offensive at Hué
Trail FAC's at the MACV Compound

Major Tom Eigel
Major Tom Eigel
Tom Eigel at Phouch Vinh (III Corps), late 1968.

This page is dedicated to Lt. Col. Tom Eigel, USAF (Ret),
Trail and Bilk FAC, who died July 19, 2011, in Monument CO

Good friend, great mentor.   He helped us all keep things in perspective.

Major Tom Eigel was my predecessor as Trail 32.   He arrived at Hué just prior to the Tet offensive.   During the month we overlapped (May '68), I carried the callsign Trail 32 Alpha.   Tom is a great story teller, and I remember his tales of the Tet offensive at the MACV compound, particularly his departure from Hué.   What follows is an excerpt from his Vietnam diary.
23 Jan 68:   Arrive at Danang after O-2 checkout at Binh Thuy.   20th TASS will send me to Hue with 1st ARVN Div.   Got a ration card.  

24 Jan 68:   Met Col. Black (I DASC CC) [I Corps Direct Air Support Center commander].   Intel at I DASC says Khe Sanh is a feint, real attack will be along coast to isolate northern two provinces.

25 Jan 68:   Got maps of AO from I DASC.   (Do you notice that I did not have much to do with the TASS; all of my info and dealings were with the DASC!   The TASS provided personnel support only.   I never received ROE [Rules of Engagement] briefings at either place.)

26 Jan 68:  Ready to go to Hue but couldn't because they don't have room for me to stay.   I'll have to wait.

29 Jan 68:   Went to Hue at 1430 with Maj. Jorgenson.   There still is no room in the main building;   I have to stay in the hooches out back until Tompkins leaves on the 31st.

30 Jan 68:   Fly out to A Shau valley with Roy Jorgenson.   Put in two strikes on truck we found on road.

31 Jan 68:   0345 attack with rockets and mortars.   Ground attacks at 0700 and 1400.   In the bunker on the southern perimeter, I have my M-16 but only one magazine.   A young soldier comes by and passes out more magazines, so I now have six.   When the bad guys show up outside the wire, we defend ourselves and the American way so vigorously that I shoot up two magazines.   I see a sniper firing at us from the upstairs window in a school about two blocks away, and I fire a whole magazine at him.   Unfortunately, this magazine that the young guy had given me was all tracers.   I could see where my rounds were going, but everyone could see where I was shooting from, also!   You'd have thought I had started WW III!   If I ever find that young guy, I'll counsel on loading mags with all tracers with a baseball bat!   Marines show up at 1530 with four tanks; had 40% casualties getting here.   No word from House 8 where enlisted guys are living - they may have been overrun.   MACV goose came in about 6AM.   (This goose stayed in the compound through February and stood guard duty near the bunker in the front of the hotel.)

1 Feb 68:   All FACs but Lt. Col [Richard L.] Brown [1st ARVN Division Air Liaison Officer] and myself leave for Danang via helicopter.   No room in chopper for me, and Col Brown says I should stay to maintain an AF presence.   Thanks a lot.   Move into the hotel with Tutt, an Army Captain who works here with MACV.   Ground attack at 1500.   We start building a better bunker in front of the hotel;   I get to shovel sand for the sandbags.   House 8 comes up on radio.

2 Feb 68:   More Marines arrive; there now is a full Battallion here.   Another ground attack.   The tanks shoot flechette rounds whose dispersal is restricted by the concrete walls lining the street.   Many bad guys are wiped out.   NY Times reporter put in our front room.

3 Feb 68:   Out of beer and the PX isn't open.   War is hell.   Tutt and I have a case of old Granddad, though; maybe we'll survive.   Rocket and mortar attack.   One hits on the hooch being used as a hospital.   Little damage.

4 Feb 68:   Another ground attack, but another Battalion of Marines, too.   House 8 no longer answers on radio.

5 Feb 68:   Col Brown goes over to Div via chopper.   Marines tell me that they cannot get to House 8 yet; there are too many bad guys.   Mortars all day, off and on.

6 Feb 68:   People in House 8 are safe, no one even hurt.   During their walk over here to the compound, one of the radio operators is shoot in the arm by a sniper.   Mortars again.   It was very cold last night, only 42 degrees!

7 Feb 68:   Rockets this AM.   Marines blow down building with their Ontos (a light tank chassis with six 105mm recoilless rifles on top).   Great, except that they did it at 5AM!

8 Feb 68: Marine Chaplain says Mass today; seemed rather weird to go to church with an M-16, flak jacket and a .38. NY Times guy's article is rewritten in NY City.

9 Feb 68:   Sent two radio operators to Div to keep Col Brown company.   I keep one operator and the intel Sgt here.   We call DaNang on a jeep radio (the Marine maintenance guy fixed it for us as a rocket had banged up the jeep), and they ask for a vehicle status report!   The REMFs are still with us!

10 Feb 68:   Col Black calls and says for me to come down to DaNang; my vacation is over.

11 Feb 68:   Down to the LCU ramp to LCU #1614 for transport to Danang.   Can't go; weather too bad for air cover.   The Navy guys crying because thet have no Coke.   They have beer, though.   Me and the intel Sgt steal some Coke for them so they give us some beer.   What a trade!

12 Feb 68:   Leave Hue on the LCU at 1645.   Bad guys shoot 57mms [recoilless rifles] at us on the way down the river.   I'll remember that village and blow it away if I ever get the chance.   Those rounds are scary when you are hiding behind one inch steel on the side of a ship!   LCU Captain (a CPO) shoots at "VC" dog on the other side of the river because he says his Thompson won't hit anything in the village as it's too far.   Arrive at Danang at 0100 on the 13th.

Tom particiapted in the fighting around Hué after his arrival at Danang:

  I flew back to Hue on the 14th with Jenkins and on the 15th and 16th with Bob Dubois.   (I had had only one local sortie on Jan 30th, so I wasn't checked out yet.)   Then I was considered checked out, I guess because all the flights I had were solo.

Since our ARVN troops had disappeared after Tet, we worked with the Marines until 10 Mar when they went back to Phu Bai.   From Mar 12th through Mar 17th, I flew over the area east of Hue, covering the Marines whose mission was to clear the area.

We went back to Hue on Mar 20th to fly out of there but had to leave again on Apr 3rd.   Bad guys were after us fearless FACs, according to Intel.   Actually, they had mortared the airfield a couple of times and the VNAF wouldn't approve shelters for our airplanes.   We left to force some action out of the little people.   Went back to Hue on 19 Apr.   The Marines got their own FACs back sometime in late March as I never worked with again after Mar 23rd.   I worked with the SOG [Studies and Operations Group] out of FOB 1 at Phu Bai after Mar 25th until I left at the end of May.

Tom Eigel left Hué on 31 May 1968 for III Corps:

  After I left Hue and I Corps, I went down to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Phouch Vinh, about 35 miles NNE of Bien Hoa, flying O-1s as a Bilk FAC.   After four months, the Army swapped the 3rd/101st with the 3rd/82rd but left the TACPs in place.   So I ended up as a Gimpy FAC out of Saigon.   During my time with the 101st, we came uo with the idea of a "close support" briefing; we talked to all of the Brigade's leaders, down to the Platoon level, about CAS, with info on A/C, weapons and deliveries.   We had artillery, chopper and Naval gunfire guys brief on their weapons and capabilities. It helped a lot later on when things got tough.  

On 25 July, we had a big fight SW of Cu Chi.   I put in 7 airstrikes for the TIC [troops in contact] and ran "Super Spooky" (an AC-130 who was at Bien Hoa to brief the 7th AF on its capabilities) -- the callsign Specter hadn't been invented yet.   This was probably the first use of the AC-130 for troops in contact.   I logged 8.9 hours that day between 1130 and 2300!   That was a long day!

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