By William E. Welsh The crackle of small-arms fire on the night of January 30-31, 1968, alerted the South Vietnamese troops at an outpost three miles south of Hue City that the enemy was nearby. They were hearing a firefight between friendly regional militia and the vanguard of two North Vietnamese battalions moving into position to invade the city. The several-dozen South Vietnamese soldiers manning the outpost reported the enemy troop movement at 2:00 am. The firing of North Vietnamese rocket launchers in the mountains to the west of the city ninety minutes later heralded the communist attack on the sleeping city. On the north bank of the Perfume River lay the sprawling citadel of Hue, with high walls and moats built by the French military and the Vietnamese emperor in the 19th century. The headquarters of the 1st Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was on the north bank, and so was Tay Loc airfield, which doubled as the base camp for the elite Black Panther ARVN ranger company. Situated on the south bank of the river was the residential sector of Hue, where a U.S.-run Military Assistance Command Vietnam compound was located. The NVA had sent substantial forces, the equivalent of an entire division, to capture Hue and overrun the ARVN-U.S. forces in the city. First Sergeant John L. Canley played a crucial role in the Marine Corps' reactionary force sent into the city to contain the well-


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