The Battle At The Newport Bridge/Terminal Tet 1968

Below is my brief account of the firefight at the Newport Bridge during the second night of the 1968 Tet
Offense. Others who were also there that night may have a somewhat different description, depending
upon their location on the port.
Al Furtado 154th Tc

For a few weeks before the 1968 Tet Offense, we kept hearing that something big was going to happen.  A
few days before the actual Tet holiday, we were told to bring all of our combat gear to Newport with us.  
Prior to that, the only armed men there were the MP security guards from the 720th MP Battalion  and a  
group of about 40-50 guards from the Companies of the 71st Trans. BN. (154th TC, 368th TC, 372nd TC,
551st TC, 561st TC, 567th TC) who were assigned to protect the port.   Later we heard that they didn't want
the entire shift to bring our weapons so the VC would think we might be less adept to defend the port. We
knew there was probably VC in the port reporting back to the leaders about the strength and ability to
defend the port.

On the eve of February 1st 1968, we were told to take a position outside the maintenance building, where I
worked, looking up at the Newport Bridge.  We were actually the closest men to the bridge, except for the
guards at the front gate.  I decided to climb up on top of the cab of a track crane to get a better look at the
bridge.  Just after midnight, we heard small arms fire toward the north side of the bridge.  There was an
ARVN guard bunker located there, and we were sure they were getting hit.  The fighting seemed to subside
for a while.  A short while later, I saw some movement on the bridge, and more small arms fire started
coming in on us.  We returned fire.  I heard a round whiz past my head, it must have been only inches
away.  I remember thinking it sounded just like a war movie, hearing the bullets whizzing around, but this
was real.  I was off the cab of that crane in about a second and on the ground next to my friends Frank
Carletta and Bill Siller.  They said, "I told you not to go up there."

In a little while, the LT came over and told us to take a position right up to the chain link fence, with no
protection from enemy fire at all, and that more men were coming down from the docks to help reinforce
our position.  He also said the VC could be coming across the river, which was only about 25 feet on the
other side of the fence.  Remember, there were only about eight to ten of us in this area, the rest of the men
were way down at the docks and ramps.  Now it started getting really hot.  The VC had set up mortars on
the bridge.  The Newport Bridge was four lanes wide.  All they had to do was stay in the middle and there
was no way we could hit them from our lower position on the ground.  The mortar rounds were landing in
front of us, then to the left and right, and then to the rear.  At about this time, the men from the docks had
moved in about 50 to 75 yards behind us, which I was unaware of, and they never knew we were in front of
them.  They started shooting over our heads.  At first I didn't know who they were--VC that got past the  
guards at the front gate or our own guys.  Thank God they were our guys.  At this point, there seemed to be
total confusion, the noise was deafening, and I was sure I was going to die.  After a while, the firefight
calmed down, and I couldn't believe I was still alive and had made many promises that I would never be
able to keep.  Later I found out the GI's behind us actually ran out of ammo and that's why they stopped

Now we could hear the VC yelling down to us, "Kill GI, send home in body bag", in good enough English so
you could well understand it.  I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand straight out.  I looked over
at Frank and Bill and I knew we were thinking the same thing, those guys didn't care if they were killed
trying to take the bridge and port.  We were now into this battle for about three hours and things weren't
getting any better.  I was thinking now that the 71st security guards and MP's were doing a good job
keeping the VC from completely crossing the bridge.  The problem for the VC was, once they started going
down to the end of the bridge, they were open targets.  If they ever got in behind us, that would have been a
big problem.  They would have been able to mix in with our guys who were scattered around.  We probably
would be shooting at each other.  This thought had been on my mind all night, and was very unnerving.  I
was thinking, in about three hours or so, it would start getting light out.  It would be good to see clearly
what was happening.  Just then I heard a tank, it was going slowly up the south side of the bridge, firing its
machine guns and stopping to fire its cannon.   It sure looked pretty.  At about the same time, two or three
helicopter gun ships came in firing their mini guns and shooting rockets at the VC on the bridge.  Now the
bridge that was protecting them became their demise.  They had no where to go.  In about forty-five
minutes, it was all over.  It was one hell of a night.   We kidded around later and were calling ourselves
combat mechanics for one night.  Later I learned it was the 3rd Battalion of the 273 VC Regiment, led by
Colonel Chin May who was responsible for the attack on Newport Terminal.

When the day shift finally arrived, they came over to us and asked us, "What the hell happened here last
night?  There are dead VC all over the bridge."  We just said, "Yeah it was a long night."  To my knowledge,
that was the only night the Newport Terminal completely closed down normal operations.  When we
crossed over the bridge to go back to Long Binh, there were still many dead VC scattered over the bridge.  
Got my first lesson in human anatomy.  All I could think was, I'm glad it's them I'm looking at and not our
guys, or I would have been sick.  Seventy-two KIA and 12 missing, and who really knows how many dead
and wounded they carried away.
Full Speed Ahead