January 31,1968 the year of the Monkey. It is Tet the Vietnamese new year. The most important holiday for the Vietnamese both north and south. There is a truce and South Vietnamese military and police units are at 20%. This it the date that North Vietnam decided to launch a general offensive. They hoped to spark a general uprising among the population and every single city and major military base was assaulted. Sgt. Mark Stryker and the MP’s of the 716th find themselves suddenly fighting off 35 battalions of VC and NVA. His MPs are now fighting as regular infantry and are the only thing standing in the way of a total Communist victory in Saigon.
The book starts with listing the names of the 27 MPs that gave their lives in the Battle of Saigon. The average age was 20. The MPs were the only American forces stationed around the capital and were therefore the ones that bore the brunt of the offensive. South Vietnamese forces were not only at 20% strength but were reluctant to join in because they thought that a coup was taking place and didn’t want to end up on the losing side. Cain gives a detailed and accurate account of the street battles that took place. Including the battle at the US embassy were the MPs and Marines contained the sapper team in the parking lot. Indeed the battle was a total disaster for the VC. They were unable to take a single objective and the population did not rise up as they hoped for.
This is the first of a trilogy in the Tet offensive and I find it an excellent source to get the feel of what it was like in Saigon.