- At the end of January 1968, the North Vietnamese Army coordinated with Viet Cong forces to launch an unprecedented offensive that would turn the tide of the war.
- The Tet Offensive began with the invasion and occupation of Hue City.
- US Marines spent nearly a month engaged in a brutal battle to retake the city.
- The chaotic urban battle saw unprecedented heroism – and resulted in five Medals of Honor.
At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.
The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city – which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.
An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.
But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades – and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.
During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.
“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.
Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.
Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.
When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight – twice – to carry them to safe positions.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.
Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.
- Richard Nixon Library/YouTube
Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.
He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.
His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.
Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez
- Cpl. Tessa Watts/US Marine Corps
Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.
Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.
Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.
Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.
- National Archives/YouTube
Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.
Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.
Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.
- National Archives
During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.
Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.