The year was 1968, and the battle for Hue City, Vietnam was well underway. The mission at hand was to clear the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong out of the city by any means necessary. Marines went from house to house clearing the areas and engaging enemies in close quarters combat. Tank teams prowled the streets, searching for any resistance they could find while supporting infantry on the ground.
One man, Sgt. Edward Scott, was wounded during the fight, caught in the middle of the chaos.
Scott, now out of the Marine Corps for almost 50 years, finally received the Purple Heart at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 9, 2017.
“It feels good now to receive this award,” said Scott, a Patton M48A3 tank crewman and corporal at the time of the battle. “At the time it was totally chaotic.”
Scott was with a crew operating one of five tanks that were transported up the river to land in Hue City. After numerous losses of tanks and crewmembers the Marines consolidated to maintain their unit integrity and keep the fight alive.
Two tanks remained, as a final push was made in an attempt to take the citadel, a large complex that the NVA was using as their headquarters.
On the radio, Scott and his team were coordinating their fire with the
other remaining tank. The radio fell silent and after a short while his crew assumed the other tank had been hit. 30 minutes after no contact, Scott’s tank was hit by an explosive projectile.
Scott, who volunteered to be in the gunner position, was sighting in the main-gun as the projectile hit on the left side, where a Marine loading the gun was.
Shrapnel was sent all around the crew compartment, injuring all those inside. Scott sustained wounds to the shoulder, chest and face. A piece of shrapnel went through his shoulder, but a majority of it landed in his plate carrier, which Scott credits for saving his life.
“We had orders from the battalion to wear our protective gear,” said Scott. “We were all laughing about it because you had to figure, if something was going to punch through four to six inches of armor, a flak jacket probably wouldn’t help, but it saved my life.”
The driver of the tank remained unscathed due to being located in a separate compartment and managed to get the Marines out of danger. Once clear of enemy threats, Scott was evacuated to a nearby hospital and treated for his wounds.
“I cannot stress enough how important training was in all of this,” Scott said. “I saw some guys freeze up and they couldn’t move because they didn’t know what to do; Marines need to understand that no matter how redundant training may seem at the time, it will help you in a situation when you need it.”
After the battle, Scott was selected to receive a Purple Heart, for his valiant efforts and heroic display of courage in the face of certain danger. After two days in the hospital and two additional weeks of light duty, Scott continued his career and served one more year, progressing to sergeant before honorably discharging from the Marine Corps.
He never pushed to get the award, Scott said. After many years, he received a letter from Marine Corps Base Quantico, stating that they would like to hold a ceremony in his honor to award him the Purple Heart.
“It was not only an honor, but a privilege to present this award to a veteran,” said 1st Sgt. David Sanson, company 1st Sergeant for Fox Company, 4th Tank Battalion. “Just getting to meet someone who actually served through the battle of Hue City was very humbling and it’s one of my most memorable experiences I’ve had so far.”
“Marines are the greatest,” said Scott. “The Marines have extreme loyalty to their country and their Corps, Semper Fidelis, always faithful, we swear to that.”
Story by Pfc. Taylor Cooper