Tet ’68 Starts in Saigon – A Civilian View. by Paula Spears

If my memory still works right, that evening Jim Spear, branch chief OP-33, MACV-SOG, and I (govt. civilian), attended a rooftop gathering for Robert Komer, head of CORDS/Phoenix,* amid warning flyers posted everywhere. We treated those warnings seriously, but still this event had been planned for Bob Komer. Got it? We went and an absorbing evening followed. No surprise there.
Afterward we returned to my place, watched Tet’s celebratory fireworks and small b onfires from the roof, then I turned in. It was late, so Jim went to a room in my building, one of several that SOG maintained around the city.
Less than two hours later, a knock sounded at my door and Jim declared “Those are no longer fireworks you hear; that’s the real thing.”The foreign embassy within view across the street soon exploded with running soldiers and loud exchanges of gunfire in its open air corridors, as similar sights and sounds erupted on the streets below. The targeted and attacked Presidential Palace was just a block away. Jim quickly situated me in the hallway with others huddled there (some crying!!). Then armed he ran outside to help the lightly manned guards at our entrance. He later disappeared to rejoin his SOG group. I spent the next few hours hunkered down with others before returning to my place, as the nearest combat sounds faded and became more distant.
Jim finally resurfaced, though briefly, after days of my confinement, a lot of watching street action from inside, and finally some vigilant venturing out, solo. Together, we drove through the destruction in newly secured Cholon that had been the scene of fierce fighting – Jim checking out something. Then he was gone again. I returned to work. Deadly battles and engagements still were going on elsewhere in the city and country.
I was less than 10 weeks in RVN, meeting Jim and SOG the first few days, and I had just had an indelible initiation into the nearly two years to come. (Followed later by 44 years with Jim)
*Phoenix planners about that time asked me to provide them with illustrations of the mythical phoenix for use as a logo for their ‘new program.’ Can’t remember if they used one of several that I gave them.
My photo taken shortly before Tet.

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