Shortly after midnight on 31 January 1968, 19 Vietcong sappers from the elite C-10 Sapper Battalion gathered at a Vietcong safe house in a car repair shop at 59 Phan Thanh Gian Street to distribute weapons and conduct final preparations for an attack on the US Embassy in Saigon. The unit set off in a small truck and a taxi towards central Saigon. As the vehicles came down Mac Dinh Chi Street with their lights off after curfew, they were spotted by a Vietnamese police guard post north of the embassy, but rather than trying to stop the vehicles, the police instead took cover.
As the taxi turned from Mac Dinh Chi Street onto Thong Nhut Boulevard, the occupants opened fired on the two MPs guarding the night gate. The MPs, SFC4 Charles L Daniel and PFC William E Sebast, returned fire, closed and locked the steel gate and radioed that they were under attack.
Hearing the firing on the side gate, Marine Sergeant Ronald W. Harper, who was in the rear of the embassy compound, ran back into the rear door of the Chancery across the lobby past Marine Corporal George B Zahuranic, who was calling for help. Harper pulled a Vietnamese night watchman into the building and closed and bolted the heavy teak doors to the Chancery.
Minutes later at 02:47 hours, the Vietcong blew a small hole in the perimeter wall on Thong Nhut Boulevard and gained access to the embassy compound. The first two Vietcong that crawled through the hole and into the grounds were shot and killed by SFC Daniel and PFC Sebast in their guard post at the Mac Dinh Chi Street entrance. Daniel radioed "They're coming in! They're coming in! Help me! Help me!" before the radio went silent. Daniel and Sebast were themselves shot and killed by the Vietcong.
On the Chancery roof, Marine Sergeant Rudy A. Soto Jr saw the Vietcong sappers coming through the wall and tried to fire on them with his 12-gauge shotgun which jammed after a few rounds. He then emptied his .38 caliber revolver at the hole, but such fire was unlikely to be effective at that height and range. Inside the embassy, the Vietcong opened fire on the Chancery building with Type 56s and RPG-2s. Several RPGs penetrated the walls of the Chancery, wounding Corporal Zahuranic and destroying the two radio sets in the guard post. Sergeant Soto tried unsuccessfully to contact the lobby guard post and, assuming that Harper and Zahuranic were dead, he called for assistance and waited for the Vietcong to reach him.
In the villa at the rear of the embassy compound, Colonel George Jacobson, the Mission Coordinator, was awakened by the firing; searching for a weapon, he found a single M26 grenade.
An MP jeep patrol responded to the calls for help from Daniel and Sebast but as they approached the embassy they were met by automatic weapons fire from the Vietcong that were outside the wall, killing Sergeant Johnie B Thomas and SFC Owen E Mebust.
In addition to the three Marines, there were two Vietnamese and six American civilians inside the Chancery building at the time of the attack. The Americans armed themselves with .38 revolvers, Beretta M12s and a shotgun and waited for the Vietcong to come inside.
Outside in the embassy grounds, the Vietcong were unsure of their next move as both of the sapper team's leaders, Bay Tuyen and Ut Nho, had both been killed early in the attack by Daniel and Sebast after they entered the embassy grounds. The Vietcong were armed with more than 40 pounds of C-4 explosive and could easily have blasted their way into the Chancery had they been ordered to do so. Instead they took positions in or near the circular planters around the Chancery and returned fire at the growing numbers of Americans shooting at them.
Here's a link to the set on flickr.
Edited by Rufus, 26 June 2011 - 03:10 PM.