The Tet Offensive of 1968
Saved By a West Point Classmate
My name is Michael D. Miller. In the spring of 1968 I was a captain in the US Army in charge of an engineer task force in South Vietnam. We were located in the small village of Rach Kein that was located about 20 miles SW of Saigon. There were 60 engineer troops under my command.
When the January Tet offensive hit we found ourselves, as did so many other units, cut off from the outside world. The battle for Saigon was raging away, and we could see the smoke of the burning city. After several days of small unit attacks (mostly squad-sized VC units), we got surrounded by an NVA regiment (normal strength of 5000 soldiers). They were maneuvering in the afternoon so as to overrun us that night. Five thousand NVA soldiers against our small base camp. Things didn't look good!
We braced for the attack. The night came and went. In the morning the enemy was gone.
Some captured documents later revealed that they had been a unit that was held in reserve for the battle of Saigon. Overrunning us was their secondary mission. Had they not been needed in Saigon, we would have been hit. But they were called into Saigon, where they were destroyed while attacking a perimeter defense of the Ton son Nhut airbase.
I later learned the whole story. Captain Michael Wikan was the CO of Company C, 2/27 Inf. Bn.of the 25th Infantry Div. His company had been sent out to patrol an area about 25 miles NW of Saigon. While patrolling their designated sector, one of Mikeís lieutenants asked if he could check out a nearby bamboo forest. Although it was out of Mikeís designated patrolling area, Mike gave him the OK. The lieutenant then proceeded to walk right into an NVA regiment that was hiding out in the bamboo thickets. Gutsy Mike Wikanís company took the NVA regiment on in a rigorous firefight which pinned the NVAs down for over a day.
This NVA regiment was in the process of marching at night to Saigon where their mission was to attack the Western perimeter of the Ton son Nhut airbase. When Mikeís company took them on and kept them tied up in a firefight, they were unable to get to Saigon in time to complete their mission. Then the NVA plans were changed, and the regiment which surrounded my engineers in Rach Kein was diverted to attack the Western perimeter of the airfield. And thus we were spared.
Mike Wikan and I were from the West Point Class of 1964. We were on the rifle team together at West Point.
Mike Wikan wrote a book about his Vietnam experiences. Quite a story. I read the manuscript. I can tell you that he was seriously considered for the Medal of Honor.
I lived in Orlando near Mike for about 10 years. We frequently got together for lunch. I always picked up the tab. It was an honor. Mike Wikan is my hero!
Michael D. Miller
US Military Academy
Class of 1964