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By January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate.Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which 'the end begins to come into view.' The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensiv By January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate.Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which 'the end begins to come into view.' The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the Tet Offensive included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Hue, the country's cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 10,000 National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Hue was in Front hands save for two small military outposts.The commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front's presence. Captain Chuck Meadows was ordered to lead his 160-marine Golf Company against thousands of enemy troops in the first attempt to re-enter Hue later that day. After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II.With unprecedented access to war archives in the U.S. and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave. In Hue 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American war in Vietnam.


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By January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate.Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which 'the end begins to come into view.' The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensiv By January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate.Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which 'the end begins to come into view.' The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the Tet Offensive included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Hue, the country's cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 10,000 National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Hue was in Front hands save for two small military outposts.The commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front's presence. Captain Chuck Meadows was ordered to lead his 160-marine Golf Company against thousands of enemy troops in the first attempt to re-enter Hue later that day. After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II.With unprecedented access to war archives in the U.S. and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave. In Hue 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American war in Vietnam.

30 review for Huế 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”It would require twenty-four days of terrible fighting to take the city back. The Battle of Hue would be the bloodiest of the Vietnam War, and a turning point not just in the conflict, but in American history. When it was over, debate concerning the war in the United States was never again about winning, only about how to leave. And never again would Americans fully trust their leaders.” The Tet Offensive took the Americans completely by surprise. The way the NVA and Viet Cong were able to move ”It would require twenty-four days of terrible fighting to take the city back. The Battle of Hue would be the bloodiest of the Vietnam War, and a turning point not just in the conflict, but in American history. When it was over, debate concerning the war in the United States was never again about winning, only about how to leave. And never again would Americans fully trust their leaders.” The Tet Offensive took the Americans completely by surprise. The way the NVA and Viet Cong were able to move thousands of troops through Southern Vietnam and lead a coordinated attack against major South Vietnamese targets was baffling. Intelligence had alerted General William Westmoreland that there were enemy troops massing for an attack against Khe Sanh; so even when reports started filtering back to him that the Marines at Hue were in the middle of a shit storm, he just simply wouldn’t believe it. It was precarious politically for Westmoreland to even admit there was a problem. As word started getting out about the assault on Hue and reporters began dispatching stories, it became apparent that, for a battle that didn’t exist, it was producing way too many American body bags. Mark Bowden tells the story of Hue not only from the perspective of the American Marines and the ARVN but also from the perspective of the NVA and Viet Cong survivors. The Communists fully expected when they took the Citadel at Hue that the population would rise up and join their cause. They saw the South as subjugated people under the yoke of Saigon and the Americans. It was shocking to discover that the population of Hue was afraid of them and certainly did not see them as liberators. Well, then the executions started. Almost 5,000 Hue civilians were executed by the NVA and Viet Cong for being perceived supporters of the Americans. What a wonderful way to win friends and influence people. By the end of this battle, over 80% of this beautiful, historic city would be in ruins. The civilian population would be moving like refugees in their own city as the battle swept them from one side to the other. Neither side was very discriminate about who they shot. As the Marines experienced more and more casualties and watched their friends being zipped up in body bags, the Vietnamese, whether enemy or ally, were beginning to be seen as Gooks. ”They got plumed. They were erased from the earth. One minute they were there, living and breathing and thinking and maybe swearing or even praying, just like him, and in the next second two hale young men, both of them sergeants in the US army, pride of their hometowns had been turned into a plume of fine pink mist--tiny bits of blood, bone, tissue, flesh, and brain--that rose and drifted and settled over everyone and everything nearby. It --or they-- drifted down on DiLeo, who reached up to wipe the bloody ooze from his eyes and saw that his arms and the rest of him was coated as well.” The fighting wasn’t what the Marines were trained to do. As an organization, they had not fought a battle in a city since Seoul back in 1950. Colonel Ernie Cheatham dug through several footlockers that traveled with the Fifth Marines looking for any booklets that might help teach him how to fight a block by block street fight. Fortunately, he found a couple of old pamphlets that would prove helpful. The United States population was already becoming weary and distrustful of the war in Vietnam. The Battle of Hue in 1968 was the point when those for the war started to become outnumbered by those against the war. ”On February 27, Walter Cronkite ended a special CBS News documentary with commentary bolstered by his own reporting at Hue: ‘We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and in Washington...It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.’ Weeks later, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.” I don’t know if there has ever been a newscaster before or after who had as much influence on the American people. If you lose Cronkite, you lose America. After the bloody conclusion of Hue and the NVA and Viet Cong were stumbling back north with a fraction of the troops they sent south, there was an opportunity for the US to possibly put an end to North Vietnam incursions. The Marines who made it out of Hue were packing up, ready to head North to continue to push the advantage they had won. Politically, this was the beginning of the end of the war and this advantage, so obvious to the soldiers on the ground, was not exploited. ”Many of those who survived are still paying for it. To me the way they were used, particularly the way their idealism and loyalty were exploited by leaders who themselves had lost faith in the effort, is a stunning betrayal. It is a lasting American tragedy and disgrace.” Maybe if the Marines had been allowed to keep rolling North after Hue, Saigon would look like Seoul or Tokyo. Those two cities benefited greatly from being allies with the Americans after the war. I hope my review has shown that this book is about more than just a battle. It is about a series of mistakes that actually led to the promise of an end to the war. The NVA and Viet Cong finding out that the South was not going to rise up to help them was demoralizing and certainly had those soldiers questioning some of the politically motivated beliefs that had been part of their doctrine. Bowden will introduce you to the soldiers who fought at Hue. He will show you what tactical decisions were being made on both sides of the conflict. He will show you the influence of politics and the impact that a decision made in Washington or Hanoi had on the men and women in the foxholes on the front line. He will show you the growing distrust of leadership that ultimately turned Vietnam into a quagmire. He left me with much to ponder. Highly Recommended! If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “The Battle of Hue has never been accorded the important position it deserves in our understanding of the Vietnam War, or what the Vietnamese call the ‘Resistance War Against America.’ By January 1968 public support for the war in America was eroding, but actual opposition remained on the fringes of American politics. It had entered the mainstream by the end of February. The pivot point was the Tet Offensive and this battle, its most wrenching episode. After Tet, there was no more conjecture tha “The Battle of Hue has never been accorded the important position it deserves in our understanding of the Vietnam War, or what the Vietnamese call the ‘Resistance War Against America.’ By January 1968 public support for the war in America was eroding, but actual opposition remained on the fringes of American politics. It had entered the mainstream by the end of February. The pivot point was the Tet Offensive and this battle, its most wrenching episode. After Tet, there was no more conjecture that the war could be won swiftly and easily. The end was not in view. The debate was never again about how to win but about how to leave. In a larger sense, Tet delivered the first in a series of profound shocks to America’s faith in its leaders…” - Mark Bowden, Huế 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam Mark Bowden has a striking talent for describing a street fight. In Black Hawk Down, Bowden told the story of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, pitting an outnumbered task force of Army Rangers and Delta Force operators against thousands of Somali fighters. By extensively interviewing participants on both sides, he delivered a gripping, graphic masterpiece on the multidimensional hell of urban warfare. The result was one of the best – if not the best – nonfiction books about warfare ever written. In Huế 1968, Bowden returns to a familiar tableau: a blasted cityscape swarming with soldiers and civilians caught in a deadly, nose-to-nose encounter. Here, though, the canvas is bigger, the armies larger, the casualties higher. Despite the higher level of difficulty, Bowden once again delivers an instant-classic of military history. The Battle of Hue took place over the course of approximately one month. It began as part of a series of coordinated strikes launched by North Vietnam to coincide with the Lunar New Year, at a time when North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States were supposed to be observing a holiday truce. Instead of a party, around 10,000 National Liberation Front (NLF) troops poured into Hue, the cultural and intellectual center of South Vietnam. It did not take long for these troops to capture the entirety of the city, save for two small garrisons. Responding with what can only be called willful blindness, American military leaders – starting with General William Westmoreland – downplayed the Tet Offensive as a whole, and the invasion of Hue in particular. As a result, the early efforts to recapture Hue were made piecemeal, with small American and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units being thrown against hardened NLF positions, like eggs against a sidewalk. Poor weather and rules-of-engagement restrictions initially prevented the United States from bringing to bear its overwhelming aerial advantage. This – along with disbelief that Hue was actually under North Vietnamese control – led to the odd predicament of soldiers from the world’s greatest military machine scrabbling to cobble together bits and pieces of weaponry before heading into harm’s way. By the time it was over, Hue would be the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War. Aside from the thousands killed – including many civilians, caught in the maw – more than eighty percent of the old, beautiful city of Hue was destroyed or seriously damaged. Bowden, in his typical, journalistic fashion, plunges you right into things. This is not a standard historical tome, where you might have two or three or four chapters carefully setting out the strategic and political background. Bowden definitely provides the overall the context – which, in any event, is not hard to summarize – but he does so while focusing on the people living through the event. Thus, on the first page, you are introduced to a female North Vietnamese infiltrator, and just like that, the tale is off and running. The result is a blisteringly paced narrative that belies Huế 1968’s hefty 539-pages of text. Military encounters are inherently chaotic. As such, firsthand accounts of battle tend to be nonlinear and fragmented, with the senses of eyewitnesses dulled by noise and smoke, and their memories distorted by extreme stress. Thus, it is difficult for a writer to piece together tactical descriptions, even under the best of circumstances. In the tight, stone confines of Hue – especially the Citadel, a massively-walled 19th century fortress – that difficulty is magnified. Bowden’s ability to place some sort of order on this vicious, confused, house-to-house dogfight is remarkable. (The reader is aided in this regard by a number of helpful maps). Bowden has first-rate literary skill. He is one hell of a good writer. But for me, his true calling card harkens back to his days in journalism, and his interview process. He has a seeming ability to get his subjects to talk and talk, providing him with a level of detail that allows for a near-novelistic presentation. By focusing on individual recollections, Bowden is able to give you a better sense of the Battle of Hue than any mere recitation of troop movements. His descriptions of the battle are layered, pungent, graphic, and unforgettable. The ease of his storytelling, his masterful weaving of multiple story threads, can make it easy to forget that Huế 1968 is a huge accomplishment. I don’t know Bowden as a person, but the overwhelming sensation I got from both Black Hawk Down and Huế 1968 is his concern for humanity. Within the arena of Hue, where the stakes are life, the consequences death, he provides generous, near-judgment-free accounts from all sides. Bowden follows both men and women, soldiers and civilians. He gives a platform to all sides, including the North Vietnamese Army, the Vietcong, the ARVN, and the U.S. Marines (for obvious reasons, the Marines make up the bulk of Huế 1968). All are given the chance to have their say, providing a tremendous diversity of viewpoints. Several chapters of Huế 1968 are almost entirely divorced from the overall story of the battle, instead focusing on the arc of a single participant. These chapters are among the most effective – and powerful – in the book. (Unsurprisingly, given his background, Bowden follows several journalists who covered Hue, and gives the press his full-throated support). One of the things that made Black Hawk Down so popular was its apolitical stance. It concerned itself entirely with the immediate sensation of battle, leaving political questions off the page. That kind of commitment is simply not possible in a story about the Vietnam War. For Americans, after all, the political aftershocks lasted for decades. To this day, the historiography of America’s war in Vietnam is distorted by competing camps. There is Rambo on one hand, Jane Fonda on the other. At the end of Huế 1968, Bowden clearly states his opinion – widely shared – that America never could have “won” in Vietnam. There are many reasons for this proposition, chief among them the illegitimacy of the South Vietnamese regime. Despite this view, he is rightly skeptical of North Vietnam’s professions to being non-ideological freedom fighters, and spends time discussing the NLF’s hit-lists and purges during their occupation of Hue. In other words, this is a book without an axe to grind. There is no separation of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Rather, there is the acknowledgment that there were mistakes, atrocities, and unthinking cruelties on both sides, with noncombatants suffering the most. Huế 1968 works so well because the story is driven by the men, women, and children who lived and fought and often died in Hue. The battle was a historical turning point, but also an intensely human experience, one which the fortunate never forgot, and which the unfortunate never got to remember.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Beware of men with theories that explain everything.” ― Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam I told my kids the other day that they were both indirect results of Vietnam. My wife's father, now dead, had a draft number of one, so enlisted so that he would have a better chance of chosing HOW he would enter the Vietnam War. He came in at the end of Vietnam and became a professional soldier and officer (green-to-gold). The Army trained him with helicopters and tanks, “Beware of men with theories that explain everything.” ― Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam I told my kids the other day that they were both indirect results of Vietnam. My wife's father, now dead, had a draft number of one, so enlisted so that he would have a better chance of chosing HOW he would enter the Vietnam War. He came in at the end of Vietnam and became a professional soldier and officer (green-to-gold). The Army trained him with helicopters and tanks, and he retired a decade ago as a Colonel. My own father, concerned too with the draft, enlisted in the Navy. He also made a career of the military and we met my wife's family when our families were both stationed in Izmir, Turkey in the late 80s and early 90s. I doubt very much if either of our fathers would have become officers and made careers out of the military without Vietnam. It is weird to think of the imacts of Vietnam 50 years+ after the fact. The Battle of Huế was fought 50 years ago in Jan/Feb of 1968 as part of the Tet Offensive. It was the biggest, bloodiest, and most pivitol single battle of the Vietnam War. Both sides claim success and both claims can probably be easily criticized. It was the turning point for the US in both our perception of the War. Bowden captures, through exensive interviews and research, the claustrophobia, filth, and horror of door-to-door combat. If anyone walks away from this with less stature, it is probably General Westmoreland who went to his grave over-estimating those NVA soldiers killed, and underestimating US casualties, and ignoring the civilians killed. One of the sharpest, deadliest quotes of the book summarizes my feelings about General Westmoreland: “Never had a general so effectively willed away the facts.” I have brothers who fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Everyday, I wish we paid closer attention to Vietnam so we would have avoided getting ourselves into another protracted war in a country most of our citizens know little about. Understanding Vietnam (and understanding what got us and kept us there) requires knowing DETAILS. Bowden helps to uncover aspects of this war I knew about, but at a granular level I appreciated. If this book did anything else, it made me start planning a trip to Vietnam. I'd love to see Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and of course -- Huế.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    Janurary 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the “Tet Offensive” in the Vietnam War and the ensuing battle of Hue. This battle is significant because it marked the beginning of the end to the Vietnam War, although troops wouldn’t leave until the spring of 1973. It was a brutal battle, maybe the worst of the war because of the street to street and the house to house fighting, and the terrible toll it took on the citizens of the city. Mark Bowden’s work is impressive here. Even if you don’t like Janurary 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the “Tet Offensive” in the Vietnam War and the ensuing battle of Hue. This battle is significant because it marked the beginning of the end to the Vietnam War, although troops wouldn’t leave until the spring of 1973. It was a brutal battle, maybe the worst of the war because of the street to street and the house to house fighting, and the terrible toll it took on the citizens of the city. Mark Bowden’s work is impressive here. Even if you don’t like books about war you can’t help but acknowledge the effort. The research and attention to detail is exceptional, and he tells the tale from the perspective of both sides. One of the striking things was the extent of coverage by international journalists on the ground during the battle. These journalists brought the impact of the battle to light of the world, which in many cases was in direct conflict with the account of the American military and the US Government. The effort of these journalists to get the truth out to the world was one of the things that helped turn the tide of public opinion, especially in the United States.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Outstanding narrative history of perhaps the largest and costliest battle in the Vietnam War in terms of lives lost, an unusual urban battle rightly deserving of the moniker as a “turning point” for the notion that the war could not be won. This was the third year of President Johnson’s intensive ramp up of the U.S. war commitment, and the commander of American forces there, General Westmoreland, had just completed a lot of PR pushing the concept that the end was in sight. The Tet Offensive, esp Outstanding narrative history of perhaps the largest and costliest battle in the Vietnam War in terms of lives lost, an unusual urban battle rightly deserving of the moniker as a “turning point” for the notion that the war could not be won. This was the third year of President Johnson’s intensive ramp up of the U.S. war commitment, and the commander of American forces there, General Westmoreland, had just completed a lot of PR pushing the concept that the end was in sight. The Tet Offensive, especially its success at Hue, put a lie to that propaganda. In this peaceful city, during Tet, it was traditional to send cups of paper with lit candles floating down the Huong like flickering blossoms, prayers for health, for success, for the memory of loved ones away or departed …The ritual was Hue’s emblem and signature, a gesture of beauty and calm, of harmony between the living and the dead, an expression of Vietnam’s soul, a place far from the horrors of war. Not this year. Tet involved a well-planned simultaneous attack of targets in over 100 cities and towns throughout South Vietnam beginning on the Chinese New Year (Jan. 30). It was a huge risk and incurred large losses in the counterattacks marshaled in response. In nearly all other sites of Tet activity, occupation of buildings or territories were brief. However, the takeover of the large and ancient city of Hue (140,000 residents) by nearly 10,000 North Vietnam Army (AVRN) and Vietcong soldiers was to take nearly a month of desperate fighting, incurring upwards of 10,000 casualties of combatants and civilians to return it to the dominion of the corrupt government of the Republic of South Vietnam. In the process, the combined destructive power of tanks, artillery, aerial bombing, and naval bombardment turned the beautiful ancient capital and majestic cultural center on the Perfume River into rubble. The optics on this and the daily flow of American body bags were bad. Intrepid journalists were finally able to portray how many Vietnamese saw the war, as a continuation of recurrent colonial invasion by foreigners over the generations. As a result of his five years of research on the battle, Bowden brings the motives, strategies, and actions of combatants on both sides, civilians, and journalists alive in a vivid way by tapping into their journals and reports and conducting many interviews of the now aging survivors. For the military events, he usually tracks the situations of company or platoon level engagements. This is Bowden’s special strength, portraying ordinary soldiers doing extraordinary feats against bad odds. Most had little conception of what the war was about. They risked their lives primarily for their own band of brothers. They were used to small-scale actions against VC guerilla action in the jungles and rice paddies, but no one up and down the line of command was expecting a house-to-house and block-by-block type of fighting against the large, well-equipped enemy they were dealing with. The Marines hadn’t experienced such World War 2-type of fighting since the battle for Seoul in the Korean War. Although there were many attempts at the beginning to preserve the city’s infrastructure and architecture, such restraints soon crumbled. Bowden balances such an “action” account with plenty of interludes with the colonels and generals calling the shots from the region and less frequent forays into the planning process in the rarefied ether of Hanoi and Washington. Mistakes were made. Lots of them. Many Marines and AVRN allies paid the price, usually related to overconfidence of commanders and underestimation to their enemy. For background, the map below shows how Hue is close to the DMZ with North Vietnam and both near the Gulf of Tonkin, communist infiltration routes through Laos, and within 20 miles of the American base at Phu Bai (and its long-range guns). In the map below, we see with red arrows the attack of the communist forces that took both the old city within the 2-mile square walls of the Citadel, containing the old imperial palace and stately residents of the well-to-do, and, across the river, the triangular “New City”, containing many government facilities like the police , the prison, embassies, the university, hospital, markets, Catholic cathedrals and Buddhist shrines. Both the AVRN headquarters within the Citadel and the Marine MACV compound (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) somehow held out in the early onslaught and served as a toehold to reinforce and strengthen in the days to come. The former were cut off until one of 11 bridges across the moats to gates through the Citadel’s 26-foot high walls could be retaken. The major bridge across the river near the Citadel (and route of connection to Phu Bai) was destroyed early, along with the depot of AVRN tanks and assault vehicles. To assure a means for supply, reinforcement, and evacuation of the wounded, the Marines in the New City secured at high cost a boat launch on the river and a clear space on the river bank for helicopter landings. The blue boxes show the sites of eventual build-up of rescue forces, with U.S. forces initially concentrating on retaking the New City and AVRN with embedded U.S. troops and advisors on the Citadel. Much slaughter of Americans took place at ambush sites on their way from Phu Bai. The counterattack was slow to develop and to have an impact. Back at the ranch, Westmoreland kept painting the situation as one of suppressing a limited number of snipers and justified holding back troops due to a fantasy that the real objective was the U.S. base at Khe Sanh close to the DMZ. In the meantime, the political commissars serving the communist regime in Hanoi instituted a terrible purging and execution of Vietnamese tagged as collaborators or benefactors of Thieu’s regime. Estimates range from 3,000 to 6,000 killed, dwarfing the nearly 900 killed in the fighting. The fantasy of the main architect of Tet, General Thanh, was that the bold and broad actions of the attacks would inspire the people to rise up in rebellion and complete the liberation and unification of their country. In Hue, a large fraction of the civilians were educated students, teachers, merchants, and professionals of every stripe and thus not fertile ground for such propaganda. They were more concerned with survival than with ideology. Marines at Citadel perimeter wall John Olson’s iconic photograph of American wounded and a medic being transported from a combat site in Hue on the top of a tank Civilians flee fighting near the destroyed Truong Tien Bridge Civilian deaths were collateral damage that leaders on both sides neglected in their plans. Bowden covers the stories of several. One is of a teen-aged girl who joined the militia tasked with helping to bring in caches of supplies and weapons before the attack and guide the hiding of advance infiltration of soldiers. Another featured a poet from Saigon in Hue to visit his family on the holiday and caught up in helping them keep safe. Another tale is of a young woman who had just married an American with the diplomatic corps, a situation making her a clear target for the brutal purging. Sadly, when the communist forces were finally forced to withdraw, the civilian population was subject to a counter-purge of all those judged to have helped with the takeover, willing or not. Bowden notes that these executions (one to two thousand according to Wiki) were sanctioned by an unidentified American official. I enjoyed most of all Bowden’s focus on a cadre of brave journalists and photographers who covered the battle and helped shape public perceptions of the war with its grave realities. His own mentor from his days with the New York Times, Eric Roberts, get significant air time, excelling at telling the human stories of those caught up in the battle and sustaining the miserable crowded living conditions available to them. Michael Herr, author of the wonderful memoir “Dispatches”, is another interesting addition. Another notable figure is the French reporter, Catherine Leroy, who though only 5 foot tall and 85 pounds bravely sought out coverage of the communist forces and interviewed the civilians they took into custody. Finally, we get the story of Walter Cronkite, the trusted voice of America, slowly coming to the feeling of being betrayed by the lying of Westmoreland and coming to Hue as part of a fact-finding tour of Vietnam. His resulting documentary cast doubts upon the whole war effort and shocked Johnson enough with its undermining of public support of the war that he soon announced he would not seek re-election. Westmoreland was sacked. His defense secretary, Robert McNamara, was also soon let go after advocating cutting back on American troop levels. Despite the growing knowledge that the war could not be won, the Domino Theory still lived for Nixon, and it took another five more years for the war to reach its inevitable conclusion. For those who like me appreciated the Burns-Novick masterful PBS TV series on the war, this book is for you. It honors well those who sacrificed so much to serve while revealing the tragic outcomes and folly of the whole enterprise.

  6. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    I finished Mark Bowden's book; Hue 1968 and found it a very good story. It was interesting to read accounts from both sides of the fighting and the civilians trapped in the middle. The author is critical of Westmoreland for his fixation on Khe Sanh at the expense of Hue and he is also critical of the way the US military high command drip-fed its troops into the battle leading to excessive casualties. I really felt for the poor soldiers/Marines and the platoon and company commanders fighting not I finished Mark Bowden's book; Hue 1968 and found it a very good story. It was interesting to read accounts from both sides of the fighting and the civilians trapped in the middle. The author is critical of Westmoreland for his fixation on Khe Sanh at the expense of Hue and he is also critical of the way the US military high command drip-fed its troops into the battle leading to excessive casualties. I really felt for the poor soldiers/Marines and the platoon and company commanders fighting not only very brave and resourceful NVA who were dug in and prepared for the American response, but also their own commanders who were blind to the scale of the Tet offensive in Hue. However the USMC is known for being resourceful and doing more with less. Like this account on the use of the Ontos armoured vehicle in confined street fighting in conjunction with tanks in the built-up areas of Hue: "The Ontos was more vulnerable to enemy fire, but it was smaller, was faster, and had more firepower. Cheatham kept it behind the tanks as each day's advance began. The heavy fire directed at the tanks exposed the enemy's firing positions. Cheatham would then calmly stand on the street alongside the Ontos - with his helmet on he was almost as tall as the vehicle's top hatch - and point out targets for its six big guns. Then the vehicle would speed out in front of the tanks, use tracer rounds from its spotting rifle to zero in, and fire one or more of its guns. The vehicle would rock so far backward it looked like it might tilt over, but then it settled back and sped in reverse to safety. It was a very useful weapon. Its six big guns knocked down even thick walls completely, or blew big holes in them. In time the enemy was seen to flee as soon as the Ontos's spotting rifle was fired. Few waited for the blast to follow." There were numerous accounts of bravery and self sacrifice on behalf of the Marines and also harrowing accounts from the civilians trapped within the maelstrom of modern urban warfare. The author also follows some of the soldiers on both sides and some of the civilians and provides details of what happened to them after Hue and the end of the war. Overall its a good story which is easy to read and flows like a well-written novel. It is well worth the time and I doubt many will be disappointed in Mark Bowden's account of this famous battle. It offers a grunts eye view of the fighting and then if you feel like more you can go onto Eric Hammel's account which is more a standard military history. (According to the blurb at Amazon; "Fire in the Streets spent many years on official U.S. Marine Corps professional reading lists as the best example of modern military operations in urban terrain.")

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I think that Bowden's Blackhawk Down is the only book that, as soon as I finished reading it, I turned it over and immediately commenced to read it again. It was just that good. This book is almost as good, maybe lacking the immediacy of BHD, but one should bear in mind that the Somalian conflict was closer in time and memory than the Vietnam war, and I imagine participants from the fighting in Somalia would be easier to track down. I really appreciate the fact that Bowden interviews fighters f I think that Bowden's Blackhawk Down is the only book that, as soon as I finished reading it, I turned it over and immediately commenced to read it again. It was just that good. This book is almost as good, maybe lacking the immediacy of BHD, but one should bear in mind that the Somalian conflict was closer in time and memory than the Vietnam war, and I imagine participants from the fighting in Somalia would be easier to track down. I really appreciate the fact that Bowden interviews fighters from all belligerent agencies when gathering data for his books. This one drags a bit at first, like the begats in Genesis, but this is a thick book and there is a lot of room left for the good stuff. Once he is done with the obligatory background history and plottings of politicians and gets into the house-to-house fighting you won't want to put the book down. This was the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam conflict, and it brought out the best and worst character traits of combatants on both sides. All except mercy...there was damned little of that on either side. The book is furnished with maps of the conflicted areas and lots of photos of the men and equipment involved in the fray. I found it beneficial to watch the PBS miniseries The Vietnam War, particularly the episode titled Things Fall Apart (Episode 6, I think). I just happened to be watching the series as I read the book and it struck me that people being interviewed for the documentary were recounting some of the same incidents that Bowden had written about. I went to his Index and, sure enough, they were the same people. It was very beneficial to get to see some of the characters in the book interviewed for the screen. I think anyone interested in world history will enjoy this offering from Bowden. As long as he keeps writing them like this, I'll keep reading them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    For those who enjoyed Mark Bowden’s works such as BLACK HAWK DOWN, GUESTS OF THE AYYATOLLAH, and KILLING PABLO, his new book HUE`, 1968 should be prove to be just as satisfying, if not more. Bowden relies on the same assiduous research, exemplified by his interviews with all sides of the conflict; American Marines and decision makers, North Vietnamese soldiers and commanders, in addition to civilians caught in the conflict. Bowden’s fluid writing style along with his in depth knowledge of what t For those who enjoyed Mark Bowden’s works such as BLACK HAWK DOWN, GUESTS OF THE AYYATOLLAH, and KILLING PABLO, his new book HUE`, 1968 should be prove to be just as satisfying, if not more. Bowden relies on the same assiduous research, exemplified by his interviews with all sides of the conflict; American Marines and decision makers, North Vietnamese soldiers and commanders, in addition to civilians caught in the conflict. Bowden’s fluid writing style along with his in depth knowledge of what transpired in Hue` has created the preeminent account of the 1968 Tet offensive, concentrating on the seizure of the ancient city of Hue`, and the American/ARVN (South Vietnamese) retaking of the city that came at an extremely high cost in terms of casualties and treasure. Bowden zeroes in on the major players in the war as well as the ground troops who were the main combatants and the civilians who were caught in the crosshairs of the battle. Bowden correctly excoriates General William Westmoreland, the American commander in charge of the war. Westmoreland became obsessed with kill ratios and/or body counts to measure American progress. By the end of 1967 he grew very encouraged that the war was close to an end and instead of taking into account the facts on the ground and cracks in American intelligence he continued to see battles in terms of numbers rather than the ability to maintain control of territory, and who the Vietnamese civilians actually supported. Westmoreland was convinced that an attack was in the offering, but that it would come at Khe Sanh, and was caught completely by surprise at the strength of the offensive and the fact that Hue` had fallen to the enemy. At the outset he had shifted US forces around depleting certain areas, thus facilitating the success of Tet. Westmoreland suffered from the same tunnel vision that most American commanders and politicians, in that they equated indigenous nationalism with communism throughout the Cold War, resulting in the war in Southeast Asia. Personal stories abound be it Che The Mung; an eighteen year old girl whose sister was killed and father imprisoned by the ARVN who became a member of the Viet Cong at age twelve. Her role was to help prepare for a general uprising in Hue once the offensive began and lead soldiers into the city which she knew like the back of her hand. We become familiar with a number of American commanders and lesser officers in addition to the “grunts.” Their personal stories are told and many stick out like Lt. Andrew Westin who enlisted after being married eleven months and found that his efforts to avoid Vietnam were dashed when he was ordered to join the 7th Cavalry. Bowden makes good use of the daily letters he sent to his wife Mimi back in Ypsilanti, MI and they afford the reader a clear vision of what it was like for American troops. Richard “Lefty” Leflar, an eighteen year old who grew up outside Philadelphia who had difficulties staying out of the courts, joined the Marines and was dropped into the battle to retake Hue` in mid-February 1968. We witness the carnage and the brutality of the battle to retake Hue` through Leflar’s perspective and it is not pretty. Commanders like Colonel Dick Sweet and Lt. Col. “Big” Ernie Cheatham who helped command “on the ground” the US effort to retake Hue will find their stories told in depth, as are reporters like New York Times Saigon bureau chief Gene Roberts whose writings were the first to educate the American people with what was actually happening in Hue. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite visits the battlefield during the Tet Offensive and after learning the truth of what was occurring on the ground changes his view of the war – with the most trusted man in America reporting events President Johnson was shaken. Bowden has done a masterful job in recreating the North Vietnamese preparation and assault on Hue`. The reader is provided an excellent assortment of maps to follow and understand troop movements. His narrative is enhanced as he tells the story, in part, through the eyes of Nguyen Van Quang Ha and his team who lived in a hole with a thatched cover that made them invisible to US air assets. As Hue` became the one place in South Vietnam that most directly contradicted Westmoreland’s assurances, President Lyndon B. Johnson began to question his commander’s conclusions. Clark Clifford’s description in his memoir COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT aptly describes Westmoreland’s request for 206,000 more troops in February 1968 and Johnson’s reaction that led to his withdrawal from his presidential reelection campaign at the end of March. As a result Westmoreland would finally be fired by the president. Bowden recreates American preparations to retake Hue` very carefully. His analysis is based on interviews with the participants from both sides. The difficulty in retaking the city was captured by the phrase, “learning by trial and tragically bloody error…..[as] they all grew accustomed to the smell of death,” civilians, enemy soldiers, and fellow Marines alike. After reading Bowden’s account of the urban warfare in Hue one wonders about events in Mosul, Iraq today as American forces were not well trained or equipped for street to street warfare. American Marines had not confronted this type of “room to room, hand to hand” combat since Seoul in 1950. In fact Bowden is quite correct in stating that the American command was caught completely flatfooted as they believed that such “ a swift and cunning coup was unimaginable.” When confronted with the enormity of Tet, and how severely they underestimated what they were up against as they tried to retake the city with many Marines being sacrificed. Bowden stresses the ignorance of American commanders who gave many orders without any real knowledge of the actual situation in Hue` No matter the carnage to US troops many commanders, especially Westmoreland “seemed almost oblivious to the largest single battle of the Tet Offensive, if not of the entire war, underway in Hue`.” What the Tet Offensive showed was the ability of the enemy to prepare a clandestine attack that was a remarkable feat of planning and coordination, and that the enemy could reach any part of the country it wished, but in the end the invaders made no lasting gains. What they accomplished was providing fodder for the anti-war movement in the United States, creation of doubt in many Americans and their politicians as they achieved a psychological victory, not a military one as the expected “rise of South Vietnamese civilians” against the Diem regime never occurred. Bowden also explores the uglier aspects of war. American atrocities are described as is the racism that existed by both sides. Substance abuse is also discussed as for many soldiers it would have been difficult to survive without using drugs. One of the most haunting aspects that Bowden addresses is the issue of grief, something that there was not time for in Hue. Death hovered over each combatant and was a daily occurrence, and when one soldier went down, their compatriots did not have the time to deal with it properly – a price that would be paid on the battlefield, and if they were lucky enough to survive, when they returned home. If there is one major criticism of Bowden’s work it is that the author is determined to include almost every experience the combatants were involved in. The result is that at times the flow of the narrative becomes somewhat disjointed. However, this should not detract from the overall quality of his work as he has produced a prodigious account of what occurred in Hue`, particularly in the context of the overall war itself. Bowden has produced the most complete account of Tet and the Battle for Hue` that has been written and his approach should satisfy historians and the general reader alike.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    This is a detailed, precise view of the Vietnam war, Tet Offensive, and specifically the battle of Hue. It is an in depth close up, focusing moment by moment on the battle, like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. It is meticulously researched (or appears so) with mini biographies, often no more than a paragraph or two, of the soldiers in the heat of battle, and often accompanied by a vivd description of their deaths or maiming. The Book is titled a turning point, but it is not the macro s This is a detailed, precise view of the Vietnam war, Tet Offensive, and specifically the battle of Hue. It is an in depth close up, focusing moment by moment on the battle, like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. It is meticulously researched (or appears so) with mini biographies, often no more than a paragraph or two, of the soldiers in the heat of battle, and often accompanied by a vivd description of their deaths or maiming. The Book is titled a turning point, but it is not the macro story of the war. There is some description of why it is a turning point, but very little of the history of the war, how we got into it, why exactly this turned the tide, and what happened afterward. This is the micro story of who got a bullet in their head, and why. You are a witness to the brutality and futility of war. If you ever want be a soldier, or encourage your son or daughter to be a soldier, particularly if there is any chance of war (as there always seems to be) read this first, and make them read this. While perhaps out of date in our time of drones and precision bombs, nothing is as brutal or horrifying as hand to hand combat come alive and accompanied by the tragic stories of those who suffered and died.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Formidable blend of military history and historical reportage, by veteran journalist Bowden (Black Hawk Down) focusing on the Tet Offensive's largest and longest battle, the bloody Siege of Hue in February 1968. Bowden employs the multifaceted immediacy of his other works to brilliant effect, alternating between the NVA and Vietcong soldiers assaulting the city, the ARVN soldiers (some courageous, others less so) defending it, the American Marines who painstakingly retook the city over the cours Formidable blend of military history and historical reportage, by veteran journalist Bowden (Black Hawk Down) focusing on the Tet Offensive's largest and longest battle, the bloody Siege of Hue in February 1968. Bowden employs the multifaceted immediacy of his other works to brilliant effect, alternating between the NVA and Vietcong soldiers assaulting the city, the ARVN soldiers (some courageous, others less so) defending it, the American Marines who painstakingly retook the city over the course of a month's savage fighting - not to mention the reporters observing it, civilians caught in the crossfire and incredulous audiences watching in the US and abroad. A wealth of interviews and gut-wrenching accounts of street fighting and atrocities (especially the Communists massacring at least 2,800 civilians, depicted in gruesome detail) brings the battle home in the tradition of classic narrative history. It's a testament to how far Vietnam historiography has come that Bowden, rather than lapsing into polemic or revisionism, achieves something like balance; he's able to square the courage of the Marines and the Communists' tactical failure with the simple fact that Tet, and Hue, were emblematic of a war that American policymakers misunderstood from the beginning, and never failed to prosecute incorrectly - at great cost to their own men and the Vietnamese they were ostensibly protecting. A brilliant work that's a must-read for any Vietnam buffs.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Consider: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-bloo... Here's reviewer and Vietnam vet Karl Marlantes: "For me it brought back many memories, most of them angry, of my time as a Marine in Vietnam. I remember one night a fellow lieutenant radioing from a jungle hilltop on the Laotian border to battalion headquarters, over 20 kilometers away, saying that he’d sighted a convoy of trucks. The battalion commander radioed back that it was impossible: There were no trucks anywhere near him. There was a long p Consider: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-bloo... Here's reviewer and Vietnam vet Karl Marlantes: "For me it brought back many memories, most of them angry, of my time as a Marine in Vietnam. I remember one night a fellow lieutenant radioing from a jungle hilltop on the Laotian border to battalion headquarters, over 20 kilometers away, saying that he’d sighted a convoy of trucks. The battalion commander radioed back that it was impossible: There were no trucks anywhere near him. There was a long pause in transmission. Then, in a very slow Texas drawl, the lieutenant said: “Be advised. I am where I am and you are where you are. Where I am, I see goddamned trucks.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steve Sarner

    “Pockets of resistance” were actually bundles of lies. Hue 1968 is a complicated, tragic and phenomenal story – extraordinarily well told. Mark Bowden has out done himself on researching a terrible time during a terrible and, in hindsight from many perspectives, senseless battle in a senseless war. The book shares stories from all sides in an absolutely riveting manner. I particularly appreciated the contribution of the many journalists, including Walter Cronkite, who risked it all to be on the gro “Pockets of resistance” were actually bundles of lies. Hue 1968 is a complicated, tragic and phenomenal story – extraordinarily well told. Mark Bowden has out done himself on researching a terrible time during a terrible and, in hindsight from many perspectives, senseless battle in a senseless war. The book shares stories from all sides in an absolutely riveting manner. I particularly appreciated the contribution of the many journalists, including Walter Cronkite, who risked it all to be on the ground in Hue to see the situation for firsthand. In 1968, it seems America was essentially accepting of whatever General Westmoreland said as fact. Fortunately that is not the case today. Hue 1968 is an incredible read. Disclosure – Grove Atlantic provided me a complementary Advance Reading Copy and being a fan of war history I gratefully accepted it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    The story of the surprise North Vietnamese assault on Vietnam's old Imperial capital as part of the notorious Tet Offensive of 1968; the city was rapidly virtually overrun (with the exception of a few enclaves) in a surprise assault, the majority of forces being stood down for New Year celebrations. The book follows a number of combatants on both sides throughout vicious street fighting, and equally importantly it also follows some of the civilians trapped in the city and suffering through it's r The story of the surprise North Vietnamese assault on Vietnam's old Imperial capital as part of the notorious Tet Offensive of 1968; the city was rapidly virtually overrun (with the exception of a few enclaves) in a surprise assault, the majority of forces being stood down for New Year celebrations. The book follows a number of combatants on both sides throughout vicious street fighting, and equally importantly it also follows some of the civilians trapped in the city and suffering through it's recapture. Although the U.S. Marines had not fought in an urban environment since the Korean War I was impressed by their initiative and inventiveness in overcoming the shortfalls of their training. In the face of a well entrenched and prepared enemy their tenaciousness was impressive. The book is critical both of the senior U.S. command, who fail to realise and then continually play down the scale of the problem facing their forces, which they then exacerbate by denying those same forces the use of the firepower necessary to prevail without heavy casualties, and the North Vietnamese leadership, whose over-ambitious plans fail to foresee that the Vietnamese population would not rise up to greet their communist "liberators", who then turn on the population in a series of massacres. Overall, a well written, even handed and compelling account of a hard fought battle and one of the iconic events of the American involvement in Vietnam. Well worth a look.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The Tet Offensive, named for the start of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, was a well-executed surprise attack by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Vietcong guerrillas, and local Communist militia on more than 100 targets held by the Americans and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). More than 80,000 enemy troops attacked Saigon, South Vietnam’s six largest cities and most of the provincial capitals. The bulk of these attacks were repelled within a few days. However, this was not the case at Hue The Tet Offensive, named for the start of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, was a well-executed surprise attack by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Vietcong guerrillas, and local Communist militia on more than 100 targets held by the Americans and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). More than 80,000 enemy troops attacked Saigon, South Vietnam’s six largest cities and most of the provincial capitals. The bulk of these attacks were repelled within a few days. However, this was not the case at Hue (pronounced Hway). The NVA focused considerable firepower to taking Hue as it offered a unique symbolic prize—it was Vietnam’s capital until 1945 and had been the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty. The communist National Liberation Front (NLF) was under the impression that their efforts would be hailed positively by the South Vietnamese and that the people would join them in fighting against the Americans. That did not happen. It didn’t help their propaganda effort when the NLF rounded up and summarily executed nearly 3,000 residents of Hue—teachers, bureaucrats, and government officials. Bowden interviewed dozens and dozens of people associated with the battle that took the Americans and ARVN 24 days of hard fighting to regain. He even went to Vietnam and with the help of translators, interviewed former communist soldiers. The accounts from former ARVN soldiers were pretty sparse. Is this because the communist victors killed them? One wonders. Bowden recounts the actions of a number of the key players in the battle. There is Jim Coolican, a Marine adviser to the Hac Bao, an elite Vietnamese unit, who played a major role in the initial defense of the small command compound in the city center. One of my favorites is Marine Ernie Cheatham, battalion commander, whose companies were getting chewed up in Hue. He scrounged through pamphlets of older wars in order to develop a battle plan for close-in urban warfare. Apparently, one does not go through doors—you blast through the walls instead. But mostly, Bowden focuses on the personal stories of the men who did the fighting—particularly the Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. These men fought without adequate artillery and air support. And, at one point, the Americans held just two square blocks in a city of 140,000 inhabitants. And why weren’t they being supported? Because the regional commander at Phu Bai, General Foster LaHue and the head of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), General William Westmoreland, refused to believe that they had lost control of the city. They firmly believed that this was a feint and that the real battle would be at the marine outpost at Khe Sanh in northern Quang Tri provence. Ironically, Khe Sanh was the one place that the communists did NOT attack. [But the NVA did have thousands of troops operating along the Khe Sanh-northern Quang Tri front, so there was a threat present.] LaHue dispatched just two under-strength battalions, about 1500 men, to push out 10,000 North Vietnamese. In the end, Hue was a bloody mess. It is estimated that over 10,000 combatants and civilians were killed and the roughly half of Hue’s buildings were destroyed. I have not read previous books covering this horrific battle, but Bowden does an impressive job in this one. I do disagree with his assessment that it was a true turning point in the war though. The war continued for another seven years and Nixon increased its intensity with copious bombing. Highly recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Karl Marlantes, the guy who wrote Matterhorn, which I think is the best fiction about the Vietnam War, calls this book "extraordinary," and I couldn't agree more. It's beyond me how someone who wasn't there could have so immersed himself in research to come up with what feels as immediate as a first person narrative. Hue 1968, is historical and battlefield journalism at its finest. I'm fond of believing war stories haven't progressed all that much in the 5,000 years since the Iliad, and that the Karl Marlantes, the guy who wrote Matterhorn, which I think is the best fiction about the Vietnam War, calls this book "extraordinary," and I couldn't agree more. It's beyond me how someone who wasn't there could have so immersed himself in research to come up with what feels as immediate as a first person narrative. Hue 1968, is historical and battlefield journalism at its finest. I'm fond of believing war stories haven't progressed all that much in the 5,000 years since the Iliad, and that the best war stories are extensions of that epic. Homer nailed it with the reasons men go to war, the camaraderie of war, its horror, and ultimately the idea that any glory won is hollow, and any honor gained false. Even Achilles, the great hero come to the conclusion that a life without glory would be preferable to eternity in gray Hades. Hue 1968, doesn't stray too far from Homer's ancient conclusions. Mark Bowden has taken huge strides as a writer since his excellent Black Hawk Down. I think Vietnam gave him a much larger canvas, even in a book focused on one battle, and he takes us into LBJ's White House, the halls of Congress, the Pentagon, the command HQ's and bunkers, and most importantly, and effectively, the ever changing front line of urban, close-quarter combat. So close it comes down to hand-to-hand. The battle for Hue took place during the Tet offensive. Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, was traditionally a time of unofficial cease-fire. Not in 1968. In a mind-boggling, almost superhuman feat of logistics, tactics, and secrecy the Viet Cong launched simultaneous attacks organized to the nth degree, and 80,000 troops assaulted 100 cities. Hue, and ancient and beautiful show case city, was the one city the Viet Cong captured and held for any length of time. They knew they wouldn't keep it, but they also knew the Americans and ARVN forces would be forced to shed a lot of blood in order to take it back. The VC held on for a month, and casualties, albeit inflated by both sides, were high on both sides. Civilian deaths were compounded as the VC political teams used the opportunity to cleanse the population of suspected collaborators. In that respect, mass graves were the order of the day. The battle for Hue was like most others. The top brass had no idea, but plenty of opinions that caused them to disregard their field commanders, demand the ridiculous and impossible, and deflect blame and responsibility when things went wrong. Gen Westmoreland, (read: Waste More Land, which is what us anti-war types called him,) was the commander of all US forces in North Vietnam, and at least in that role, an incompetent. His command decisions focused on preparing for a battle that had yet to happen, rather than fighting the battle at hand. He made the fighting more miserable than necessary in Hue by keeping troops and material in Khe Sanh in the belief that would be the next big battle of the war. That battle never happened. Westmoreland is also the guy who came up with body counts as the best measure of who was winning. That was also a way for him to polish his own brass. We killed more VC than they killed us, or ARVN troops, but it didn't matter. The VC never had to win, they only had to not lose. Oh, Westy also gave us the "light at the end of the tunnel," quote - too bad it was a fully armored train. Oh, every once in a while a big shot Colonel would helicopter in, and try to take charge, but for the most part the fighting and dying was done by Captains, Lieutenants, non-coms, and grunts, and those are the stories Mr. Bowden gives us. Death in war is arbitrary. Your buddy could be lighting a cigarette one second, left faceless by a well aimed round the next - even while handing you his lighter. We get as close to that as good prose can get us, and we feel a shock every time somebody goes. Mr. Bowden is as good as Homer in showing us what wounds and death are like. He's better than Homer, or most others, in taking us into the hearts and minds of US and VC forces alike by choosing a few whose back-stories he relates even while following them through the fight. That's why we're shocked as events unfold in personal and human ways. Combined forces of the US Army, Marines, and ARVN successfully recaptured Hue, or at least recaptured the rubble that was Hue, and the war raged on. "Westy," that Hollywood good looking General is reassigned, but sticks to his story of high command success and brilliant strategies until the day he dies a peaceful death. This is a helluva good book. My review can't come close to telling you how good. I suggest you find out for yourself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A riveting account of the battle that changed American perceptions of the Vietnam War. Bowden is a wonderful journalist and historian, bringing readers into the horrific house-to-house street-fighting, but also placing the story of the civilians and soldiers in the context of the whole conflict.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bullington

    this is a great book. I read it because my relative, James Bullington and his wife Tuy Cam were in Hue during this horrific time. then as I read the book I found out they are prominent characters in this book. That made it even more real to me since I had heard some of the stories when we visited them in Williamsburg, Va. I had heard of this battle all my life but I never knew the full story. Highly recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim Mercer

    This is a very well researched account of the largest battle of the Vietnam war. It provides a good background of the situation prior to the Tet offensive. with an overview of the total offensive. There is extensive interviewing of survivors from both armies as well as civilians who survived the battle. At times the book backs away to the political side looking at the actions of LBJ and other senior figures as well as General Westmoreland. Westmoreland starts with continuing his massively inflat This is a very well researched account of the largest battle of the Vietnam war. It provides a good background of the situation prior to the Tet offensive. with an overview of the total offensive. There is extensive interviewing of survivors from both armies as well as civilians who survived the battle. At times the book backs away to the political side looking at the actions of LBJ and other senior figures as well as General Westmoreland. Westmoreland starts with continuing his massively inflated body counts as well as claims that the offensive was a complete failure and the city hadn't fallen. As the battle continued it attracted many journalists who reported to the world a more accurate picture of the ongoing battle. This was in effect Westmoreland's swan song as he lost all credibility with the government. The author is also very critical of the state of denial that the senior American leadership lived in which no doubt led to much higher casualties for the Americans, prolonging the battle and contributing to civilian suffering and deaths. Not believing the report coming out of the city reinforcements were fed in piecemeal with many counterattacks into the city at company strength. Accompanying this were orders that were impossible for the small forces to fulfil with constraints restricting how they were to fight. For example, they were forbidden from using artillery to support their assaults in the city as US authorities did not want to be seen destroying the historic city. This resulted in lightly armed marines assaulting multi story brick and stone buildings and consequently whole companies were destroyed for minimal or no gain. Due to the speed of the assault there was no chance for the civilians to flee the city. They had to try and hide or flee through the middle of the fighting resulting in 1,000's of casualties. Additionally, as the first large city to fall to the NVA this is give a sign of what awaits anybody who was part of the South Vietnamese administration. The best conservative estimate is that 2,000 civilians were executed in the 2 week purge before the NVA and VC withdrew from the city. Included in this were elderly and babies. Admittedly I am not a Vietnam expert but by the time I finished this book I had learnt a lot. The detail here can be very graphic and confronting however the writing itself is very readable. I read this on a normal sized iPad and as a bonus the accompanying maps were easy to read on the screen. 4.5 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This short review is accompanied by a lot of paragraphs from the book. I listened to this book in the Audible format while following along with the e-book. I have read a lot of books about Vietnam since in some ways that is my war, The war I avoided by becoming a father in college and thus exempt. I have never read anything about Hue and wondered how I had missed this book. It turns out it has just been published. Every book I have read about Vietnam led me to believe that it was totally a war fo This short review is accompanied by a lot of paragraphs from the book. I listened to this book in the Audible format while following along with the e-book. I have read a lot of books about Vietnam since in some ways that is my war, The war I avoided by becoming a father in college and thus exempt. I have never read anything about Hue and wondered how I had missed this book. It turns out it has just been published. Every book I have read about Vietnam led me to believe that it was totally a war fought in the jungle. But this battle was fought in the second largest city in Vietnam and was truly urban warfare. It was seized and held by the North Vietnamese for nearly a month. It was regained by the Americans after an intense battle that was waged as urban warfare often is Block by block and building by building. The stories are as personal and as bloody as any you will read about Vietnam. It is a story about the nearly total destruction of a historic city as well as the author insists the belief of the American people in the war. The US government and the military basically lied to the US about what was happening in Hue for 25 days. The news media in the city gradually exposed the truth. This is a long but very readable book. It includes many eyewitness accounts of people who were there on both sides of the battle. Well I would definitely classify this as an antiwar book, it does give some very credible glimpses about how the people doing the fighting got into that situation. But it is hard to understand even in retrospect how the war went on so long. I would not claim much ability in evaluating and reviewing Audible books but since the majority of books I am reading these days are in the audible format, I should try to improve my skills. I think this book is very well done by a single reader. Lyndon Johnson appears occasionally and his quotes do have his recognizable southern twang. I was impressed anyway and thought the performance overall was very good.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    A powerful work on the Tet offensive in Vietnam in early 1968. If you were following the war then, you would know that the official word from the American government is that we were doing well, degrading Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) ability to mount significant actions. What sets this book apart is its "human perspective" on the battle at Hue, the great success of the Viet Cong-NVA-local volunteers rising in cities across South Viet Nam. Then uprising in most other places was squelch A powerful work on the Tet offensive in Vietnam in early 1968. If you were following the war then, you would know that the official word from the American government is that we were doing well, degrading Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) ability to mount significant actions. What sets this book apart is its "human perspective" on the battle at Hue, the great success of the Viet Cong-NVA-local volunteers rising in cities across South Viet Nam. Then uprising in most other places was squelched rather quickly. The story here is told through the words of people on both sides of the combat, providing interesting contrasts in point of view. One sad commentary is that the American forces were unable to comprehend the number of NVA-Viet Cong-local participants (relatively small in number) and sent too few reinforcements. They literally could not believe the power of the opposing forces. This led to unnecessary casualties as American troops fought against superior numbers and got bloodied on many occasions. The story told in this volume is the drudgery and hellishness for all involved in he close order combat in a city slowly being destroyed by bombs, mortars, artillery. . . . Civilians dies in large numbers as did combatants. The reader gets s sense of some of the combatants--and their death leaves one with a sense of loss. A powerful book. A reminder of the brutality of war. A reminder of the courage of those taking part in desperate fighting for their cause. . . .

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    Having read Nicholas Warr’s excellent book “Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968” I contemplated reading another on Hue. Due to the general public’s overwhelming acceptance and positive reviews of this new book that coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the TET Offensive (January 30, 2018) I decided to join on. The author stresses the significance of the city of Hue with a geographical location midway between Saigon in South Vietnam and Hanoi in North Vietnam that made it Having read Nicholas Warr’s excellent book “Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968” I contemplated reading another on Hue. Due to the general public’s overwhelming acceptance and positive reviews of this new book that coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the TET Offensive (January 30, 2018) I decided to join on. The author stresses the significance of the city of Hue with a geographical location midway between Saigon in South Vietnam and Hanoi in North Vietnam that made it a natural site for a prominent tug of war battle. He seemed to portray the U.S. Army and Marine boots on the ground favorably, whereas the reporters seem to be a mixed bag and General Westmoreland along with Commander-in-Chief Lyndon Johnson do not fare as well. Wars are very brutal and ugly and at times I had to hold back from being drawn to close to the subject. Today Vietnam is a curious tourist destination for many American’s. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the past conflict I feel it’s important to comprehend Mr. Bowden’s epilogue statement: “And while the Communist Party has relaxed its hold on the economy, to great effect, Vietnam remains a strictly authoritarian state, where speaking your mind, or even recounting truthful stories from your own experience, can get you in trouble.” I wished the author had capitalized Marines rather than using the small “m”. Additionally, the history book was very comprehensive but to my surprise it was void of an index, which I always find useful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ctgt

    Beware of men with theories that explain everything. Trust those who approach the world with humility and cautious insight. I've always been aware of the Tet Offensive as an overall event in the Vietnam War and it's place in history as a tipping point for the war. And while I was familiar with Hue and the battle I never realized how brutal and devastating it was to both sides of the conflict as well as the civilian population trapped in the city. With viewpoints from both sides, Bowden tells pers Beware of men with theories that explain everything. Trust those who approach the world with humility and cautious insight. I've always been aware of the Tet Offensive as an overall event in the Vietnam War and it's place in history as a tipping point for the war. And while I was familiar with Hue and the battle I never realized how brutal and devastating it was to both sides of the conflict as well as the civilian population trapped in the city. With viewpoints from both sides, Bowden tells personal stories of grunts on the front lines being thrown into nearly impossible tactical situations and of the upper echelon with their distorted views of what was happening on the ground. Infuriating and heartbreaking. 8/1o

  23. 5 out of 5

    Francis

    Now that I have finished the book I will express my final opinions concerning the book. Initially I wrote that it appeared that Mr. Bowden is a commie lover but that I would give the book a chance. Here is what I think. We have Hanoi Jane, now we have Hanoi Mark. He expresses sympathy throughout the book for atheistic communists and gives the impression that they basically were nice patriotic people. Many of the Americans and South Vietnamese on the other hand were corrupt blood thirsty killers. Now that I have finished the book I will express my final opinions concerning the book. Initially I wrote that it appeared that Mr. Bowden is a commie lover but that I would give the book a chance. Here is what I think. We have Hanoi Jane, now we have Hanoi Mark. He expresses sympathy throughout the book for atheistic communists and gives the impression that they basically were nice patriotic people. Many of the Americans and South Vietnamese on the other hand were corrupt blood thirsty killers. Mr. Bowden expesses all of this not in so much of a straightforward manner but the insinuations are throughout the entire book with few exceptions. Whose fault are the deaths of so many civilians and the destruction of so much property? Why, it is the fault of the South Vietnamese and the US according to Mr. Bowden. Who were we to think we had a right to fight back against an aggressor? The communists INVADED the city of Hue. The South Vietnamese and the US simply repulsed that invasion. When that happens innocent people get killed, property gets destroyed. Evidently Mr. Bowden's knowledge of war is limited to Mogadishu (I liked that book) and this one. He is shocked that some US soldiers, perhaps many, called the Vietnamese, north and south, gooks. Has he ever heard the terms Japs or Krauts? That happens in war. The difference in Vietnam was that one did not know friend from foe so human nature tends to generalize especially when one's life is at stake. He is horrified at the destruction of property. Again, evidently he hasn't looked into World War II. War isn't won by playing patty cake. As he himself states the US held off in using artillery and airpower, but once they realized that the communists were not going to be dislodged without causing very high American casualties by attacking with small arms fire, larger more destructive weapons were used. Mr. Bowden had the habit of depicting communists as sympathetic characters, like the nice teenage girl who noted down the addresses of South Vietnamese officials who later were targeted for assassinations along with their entire families. Nice girl. There is also the poet. Another sympathetic character. Many including it seems Mr. Bowden have lost the notion that communism is an intrinsically evil officially atheistic, totalitarian system of official brutality and enslavement. There is no doubt that the US and South Vietnam made mistakes in that battle. Guess what? That is the nature of war because human beings are not perfect. Because mistakes were made on our part does not justify the invasion of Hue and the mass executions of so many. Mr. Bowden does acknowledge that the assassinations and executions did take place. How could he not, it has been overwhelmingly documented. For me he doesn't have much credibility as an historian as far as this book is concerned, however were he to deny that he would lose all credibility. While he mentions the executions of course he has to bring in and insinuate that the US and ARVN were at least if not more responsible for so many civilian deaths. I recently watched an interview of two Vietnam veterans who were asked about US atrocities in Vietnam. They acknowledged they did occur, however when the perpetrators were caught they were punished and, such crimes were in opposition to US and Army policy. The communists on the other hand practiced mass executions and genocidal acts as part of official government policy. One small cookie that Mr. Bowden throws out that even he had to acknowledge is, none of those who engaged in the mass assassinations executions were ever held to account. One of the I believe reporters(?) mentioned in the book was troubled that a wounded NVA soldier was asking American soldiers for help and to his horror not only did they just walk by, they said insulting things to the POOR man. Guess what, he was the enemy who may have just a few minutes earlier tried and maybe even succeeded in killing Americans. I hate to break this, but in war American lives come first. Maybe he was eventually taken care of. That is not noted. If we was taken care of it would have been much better than the Hanoi Hilton. Mr. Bowden accepts as a given that the entire South Vietnamese government was corrupt. I'm sure some were. I don't know what planet Mr. Bowden lives on but in every country there are corrupt government officials. That doesn't change the righteousness of the cause, namely freedom, something we obviously take for granted these days. I was tempted on multiple times to just stop reading the book because of the pro-commie slant, however I did decide to finish the book as painful as it was. The only parts of the book that interested me were the day to day accounts of action during the battle. The Vietnam war was lost by weak kneed politicians. If you decide to go to war, you have to go all the way, half measures do not work in war, the enemy only takes that as half hearted interest in the war. Had we fought WWI that way that we fought in Vietnam we would have lost that war. Iraq was another haflhearted war, not at first, but our politicians succeeded in losing the peace that our military had won. The fall of South Vietnam lead to the fall of Laos and Cambodia. Mr. Bowden I'm sure would find some way to blame the US for the genocide of millions that took place. Those countries fell because we weren't there to protect them. I don't recommend this book unless you are able to see through the lefty propaganda and are interested into day to day accounts of the battle.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    With 10,000 combatants and civilians dead, the Battle of Hue was the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, and both sides claimed victory. This comprehensive book tells the story of this battle for each side in a detailed and readable approach. Maps and photos lead each section, and a comprehensive index is available online. This battle was described as the turning point of the war, and the outcome of this offensive likely led to Johnson's decision not to seek reelection, along with the removal of With 10,000 combatants and civilians dead, the Battle of Hue was the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, and both sides claimed victory. This comprehensive book tells the story of this battle for each side in a detailed and readable approach. Maps and photos lead each section, and a comprehensive index is available online. This battle was described as the turning point of the war, and the outcome of this offensive likely led to Johnson's decision not to seek reelection, along with the removal of General Westmoreland. The latter provided consistent false reports about this battle, sending small groups in to "clean up pockets", when in fact the forces of the north held the city in strength. It is also likely that less lives would have been lost, and extremely possible that less negative reaction would have followed stateside. In a reaction vote, 1968 saw the election of Richard Nixon, who stated he had a secret plan for winning the war. I must compare to a similar recent reaction vote and secret plans, as history repeats itself - to my great disappointment. Mark Bowden is also the author of Black Hawk Down, which received much acclaim. I find I must now add it to my reading list for the near future. Hue 1968 was really an excellent read, and I highly recommend it to students of recent history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    Riveting account of the battle that was a turning point in the Vietnam war. Mark Bowden meticulously writes of one battle in the Vietnam War. His argument is that this battle, the American fight to take back the city Hue from the Vietcong was the battle that showed America that they were fighting a futile war. Bowden treats the subject with sensitivity and objectivity. His chapters rotate from members of the Vietcong, whose stories he got years later, to the American marines who fought them and t Riveting account of the battle that was a turning point in the Vietnam war. Mark Bowden meticulously writes of one battle in the Vietnam War. His argument is that this battle, the American fight to take back the city Hue from the Vietcong was the battle that showed America that they were fighting a futile war. Bowden treats the subject with sensitivity and objectivity. His chapters rotate from members of the Vietcong, whose stories he got years later, to the American marines who fought them and the hapless civilians who were getting slaughtered or left homeless by both sides. Bowden's description of the war and the individual battles and individual experiences of several of the men who were there pulls the reader in and this reader was as horrified as much as she was enthralled. The author makes you feel as if you were there and you suffer along with each person as we learn their story. The only negative I would give is the occasional use of raw language. Not so much when he is quoting marines. If anyone has the right to drop some "F" bombs it's marines who serve in wars. My objection is the gratuitous use of the word, as when he uses it in his chapter titles. That does not come across as honest, but rather like the author is trying to prove how edgy he is, which I find rather juvenile. But that one objection aside, I really liked this book. I learned so much about the Vietnam war, particularly this battle in a key city and all the individuals involved. Yes, that is what I liked most. This war was not fought by "armies". It was fought by individuals, each with a life that was and is sacred as all life is. There was a lot of waste of sacred life and, thanks to Bowden's realistic descriptive narrative, I felt those lives deeply.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This fresh history is so moving: a deeply researched and confidently written telling of the messiest of urban battles of the Vietnam Tet Offensive. Highest recommendation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    One of the best books I have ever read about the Vietnam War. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the war. Opening quote: "Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good."--Gabriel García Márquez. From the introduction: "Hours before daylight on January 31, 1968, the first day of Tet, the Lunar New Year, nearly 10,000 NVA and VC troops descended from hidden camps in the Central Highlands and overran the city of Hue, the historical capital of Vietnam. They took all of Hue except for One of the best books I have ever read about the Vietnam War. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the war. Opening quote: "Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good."--Gabriel García Márquez. From the introduction: "Hours before daylight on January 31, 1968, the first day of Tet, the Lunar New Year, nearly 10,000 NVA and VC troops descended from hidden camps in the Central Highlands and overran the city of Hue, the historical capital of Vietnam. They took all of Hue except for two embattled compounds: an ARVN base in the north and a small post for American military advisors in the south. Both had no more than a few hundred men and were in danger of being overrun. It would take 24 days of terrible fighting to take the city back. It would be the bloodiest battle of the war. From then on, talk was never again about winning but about how to leave. And never again would Americans fully trust their leaders." The Huong River through Hue was known as the Perfume River. The communist party by definition is the will of the people, so no one can disagree with it. Some western young people foolishly never understood that. And it was First Secretary Le Duan, not Ho Chi Minh, who controlled the Tet Offensive. They really believed the Vietnamese people would fall in line. Ho was more willing to be patient. The Tet campaign may have been more of a nod to the Soviet Union than to Mao's China. Le Duan really expected a "decisive victory." Basically, they risked everything "on one roll of the dice." President Thieu's violent repression of Buddhists led many over to the communists. That included the poet Nguyen Dac Xuan, a follower of the Hue monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a peace activist who fled to the US. The irony of Buddhist thought is that under communism, they are completely controlled. Foolishly, Americans were more focused on Khe Sanh than on the cities. That left Hue mainly unprotected for such an enormous attack. One of the few ARVN commanders fully respected by the American military was General Truong. Unfortunately, many of the other commanders were chosen for political reasons. And speaking of bad generals, there is nothing positive to say about William Westmoreland. At Phu Bai, the American commanders could not understand what was wrong in Hue. It took them way too long to understand the size of the attack. They could not get why the few marines "could not flatten anything between them and the fucking Citadel and rescue poor general Truong." Enemy soldiers shouted in English at some marines, "Fuck you, marines!" So Sergeant Gonzalez told a marine who spoke Vietnamese to shout something back. He shouted in English, "Fuck you, NVA!" Gonzalez said, "Good." It took one day for Hue to fall. It took a hell of lot longer for the American chain of command to get it. Many gains were quickly reversed in many cities. But it would be several days of fighting in Kon Tum, Buan Ma Thuot, Phon Thiet, Can Tho, and Ben Tre. In Saigon, it was the significance of the targets that made an impact: the HQ for the army and navy, the Independence Palace, the US Embassy, and the national radio station. Westmoreland wrote, "The enemy has [about five hundred men] in the Hue Citadel." He was off by a factor of twenty. The "liberators" promised a large textile plant with jobs for the citizens. Sounds like Donald Trump. Several foreigners were executed, including doctors and missionaries. The orders given to the soldiers were impossible to do. But they were orders, and the squad leaders tried to follow them. Young men do what they are told in combat. And the orders came "from above" by people who didn't get what was happening. I can remember being told to guard the school where I worked when it was my turn. The sergeant said to get my gun and let him know if anything happens. I thought, "If anything happens, I'm going to be fucking dead." As the dead and wounded were sent down to Phu Bai headquarters, men were told to "meet personally with the Task Force X-Ray command staff and tell them in the bluntest terms possible what the hell was going on in Hue." The famous Saigon photograph of South Vietnam's national police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a handcuffed VC prisoner in the head and showing the moment of impact was just out. What was not shown was how this prisoner had spent the morning slaughtering the families of South Vietnamese soldiers in cold blood. The photographer always regretted the picture. Loan forgave him and shook it off. He would eventually be shot and lose a leg. Here is a link to his story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguy%E1... Many of the soldiers fighting in Hue had never been trained in city fighting. The last big urban battle was in Seoul in 1950, a grinding fight that lasted almost a month and killed more than 450 marines. They had to learn a crash course. For example, stay off the streets. And make your own doors through walls, which can be both an enemy and a friend. And flatten a building with an enemy combatant in it. Before I was sent to Saigon, I was trained in jungle warfare by someone who had no clue about what could happen in a city. Soldiers in tanks, urinated and defecated into their helmets. Then they opened the hatch under the seat on the driver's side and dumped it out. The interior stunk, but it was the safest place to be. Once a soldier's foot was accidentally run over. A soldier named Anderegg had a serious neck wound. He was morphined up. When a chopper was not able to airlift him out, he ripped off the tag a doctor gave him and said, "Fuck this," and went back to his tank. Compounds under siege had no way to flush overworked toilets. Some stalls had mounds of shit five and six feet high since soldiers climbed to the top to defecate. Don't expect that scene to appear in the movie version. Some non-combatant soldiers from the Armed Forces Network radio and tv stations were held prisoners of war for five years. One soldier describes how an explosion in the next foxhole over vaporized the men in it and sent a plume of fine pink mist over everything. He had to wipe it out of his eyes and saw it all over his clothes. That same soldier had the top of his head shot. When he came to, a sergeant showed no sympathy and told him to "Keep the integrity of the perimeter!" One major mistake on the part of the North was the decision to hold on to Hue. There was no way to keep it permanently, so the result was the destruction of the city and the civilians in it. The Front rousted "known enemies of the people" from their homes for retribution. Orders called for "a wave of assassinations of enemy thugs, spies, and secret police in the area." A 22-page, single-spaced list was made of who to kill. Once the purges started, they picked up speed. Blood lust grows. Arguments occurred about hanging flags. When a compound was taken over, marines wanted an American flag. That went against orders, so it had to be taken down and replaced with a South Vietnamese flag. I read that after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the VC were very unhappy that a North Vietnamese flag was used instead of the VC flag. One chaplain asked God to "bless those who were going to die." The Captain nearly threw something at him. He told someone to keep the chaplain the hell away from his men. The elite South Vietnamese unit Hac Bao, known as the Black Panthers, was down to a few men. Their marine adviser was Jim Coolican. Their was no way any ARVN force could take back the fortress without American help. There seemed to be very little concern for the masses of civilians trapped by the fighting. The main concerns were about the historical treasures. Even today, I have heard people talk about what a shame it was to destroy some buildings. Trinh Cong Son was a young Vietnamese folksinger, poet, painter, and composer known as the "Vietnamese Bob Dylan." Chris Jenkins was an international aid worker hiding in a house. A marine knocked on the door and shouted: "Are there any VC in there?" Jenkins identified himself. The marine: "You're lucky we didn't throw a grenade in the window before asking questions." A captain later asks Jenkins in disbelief: "Did a marine really ask that question?" Jenkins nodded. The captain: "It's a great war." Front snipers were deadly accurate. Guys would be sitting on the floor not realizing the tops of their heads were visible through the window. The next second the tops of their heads were gone. One marine was hit in the head and toppled out a second window but got his foot caught on something. His body hung upside down while the contents of his skull emptied. I hate napalm. Here is one main reason why it was used. Bombs left piles of rubble for the enemy to crawl in. With napalm, the flames sucked all of the oxygen out of underground bunkers, suffocating anyone inside, while incinerating everything above that wasn't made of stone. Dogs were shot by reflex. Once you saw one rooting into a dead body, it became second nature. Whenever the soldiers moved a few blocks, behind the firing lines were children peddling beer in 16-ounce bottles. Isn't that amazing? People survived in holes. One family of ten lived in a hole for 2 or 3 days. General Westmoreland at no point acknowledged that Hue had fallen into enemy hands. He persistently downplayed the battles. The brunt of the battle was borne by civilians. The death toll is estimated at around 5,800, which is almost certainly too low. More than 80% of the city's structures were destroyed. The Front's purges killed somewhere between 300 (the NLF's number) to 4,856 (the ARVN's number). The truth may be closer to 3,000. There were also probably executions by the Saigon regime after the battle. 250 American marines and soldiers were killed and 1,554 wounded. 458 ARVN soldiers were killed and 2,700 wounded. The NLF lost between 2,400 and 5,000. The total comes to well over 10,000 for all killed: the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam war. Walter Cronkite famously ended a newscast with a speech. The final words were, ". . . But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then would be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to there pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite. Good night." Westmoreland was relieved of his command. The move was a promotion, but it was really a rebuke. A month after the battle ended, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. The iconic photograph of the battle of Hue is the man (or men) on the tank. Here it is with an excerpt from the book. If it doesn't break your heart, you may not have one: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a very good book. I had heard a lot about it but had yet to plunge in because the Vietnam war has not been high on my priority list recently. Then I watched the Burns/Novick documentary on the war (which I highly recommend) and thought that the new Bowden book would be a good follow-up. Let me start with the elephant in the room - the politics of the war and of revisionist history. I remember the Vietnam war and how contentious it was - and remains. It was from working through some of the This is a very good book. I had heard a lot about it but had yet to plunge in because the Vietnam war has not been high on my priority list recently. Then I watched the Burns/Novick documentary on the war (which I highly recommend) and thought that the new Bowden book would be a good follow-up. Let me start with the elephant in the room - the politics of the war and of revisionist history. I remember the Vietnam war and how contentious it was - and remains. It was from working through some of the memoirs from that era that I first realized the difficulties of trusting memoir accounts of contentious conflicts, however well intentioned. In the fifty years since the battle of Hue, there has been time for great lessons to have been learned from Vietnam by the military as well as for lessons once learned to have been unlearned (for example on counterinsurgency warfare). I appreciate the developing perspective on the war that has come with time and reflection. This is reflected in Bowden’s book on Hue. I think the historians and journalists are doing their work well. That some may disagree with more recent perspectives on the war is just fine with me. It is the criticism and discussion that adds value rather than the pointed repetition of well worn perspectives. Now about the book. The hook here for me is how Bowden takes a deep dive into this remarkable battle and then uses what he finds to reexamine the context and broader narratives of the war following the Tet Offensive. Accounts of war far too often tend to hang out around one level of analysis or another. This puts a conceptual strain on a reader seeking to understand how the war could look one way on the ground and a quite different way from headquarters. This is an extremely valuable perspective that is used to good purpose in this book. Bowden’s book is also valuable as part of another literature of sorts that shows how the tactical details of a battle and its immediate outcomes may prove highly divergent from the influence of the battle on a broader theatre of war or political context. This is the literature of winning battles but losing wars. He excelled at this in his earlier book “Blackhawk Down” and is very effective at telling a similar story about the Tet Offensive and Hue. Reality is nuanced, of course, and calling a winner or loser from the battle of Hue at a tactical level is challenging. The broader effects of the battle on the American war effort were very clear. The book reads well, although it is a bit long. There are lots of pictures - many quite powerful. There is always a tension in how the various accounts that are woven together actually fit and are interpreted. That is a problem for any journalistic account and readers need to be critical. I did not see many problems, however, and thought Bowden to be very effective. Overall, I really enjoyed the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    May I add a fresh perspective into the debate about the Vietnam war ? I believe as a person who has lived this war , even though in a non-combattan role and a Vietnamese whose voice was dismissed or ignored or molded to fit the reporter's preconception most of the time I believe my view is very unique and will offer you a very difference angle to view this tragic blunder of many honest players but also to see through the smoke screen the evil agenda of the wicked few on the top of this human hea May I add a fresh perspective into the debate about the Vietnam war ? I believe as a person who has lived this war , even though in a non-combattan role and a Vietnamese whose voice was dismissed or ignored or molded to fit the reporter's preconception most of the time I believe my view is very unique and will offer you a very difference angle to view this tragic blunder of many honest players but also to see through the smoke screen the evil agenda of the wicked few on the top of this human heap. Check out my review of THE VIETNAM WAR :An Intimate History by Geoffrey C Ward in this website. Thank you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Igor Ljubuncic

    Another excellent book by Mark Bowden. I enjoyed reading Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, so when I saw this one on a shelf, I got it, and found it to be extremely well written. The book is about the Tet Offensive, the surprise series of attacks by joint Vietnamese forces across all of Vietnam during the Tet holiday in 1968, focused on the taking of the historic capital city of Hue in a masterpiece mission over a single night. Stunned by the ferocity of the enemy action, the American forces moun Another excellent book by Mark Bowden. I enjoyed reading Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, so when I saw this one on a shelf, I got it, and found it to be extremely well written. The book is about the Tet Offensive, the surprise series of attacks by joint Vietnamese forces across all of Vietnam during the Tet holiday in 1968, focused on the taking of the historic capital city of Hue in a masterpiece mission over a single night. Stunned by the ferocity of the enemy action, the American forces mounted a counterattack to retake the city, thrown into battle by politicians who refused to accept the reality on the ground. At first, the American establishment refused to believe that the Vietnamese forces could must such strength and deliver such a well-planned outcome that they sent individual marine companies piecemeal into the city, against overwhelming odds. The tragic denial of facts in the first few weeks of the fighting led to tragic losses and great civilian suffering in Hue. The book follows multiple narratives - US marines and their officers, a Canadian priests, French journalists, Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, an odd lost soul here and there. Each view point is told in a vivid, personal way, and each one adds to a colorful, sad story of a pointless war. Mark's signature style is evident everywhere, and even though you're reading a history book, it feels like an action thriller. But it's not senseless Gung ho. Far from it, it focuses on the irony of the conflict, on cynicism and political games, on the humans who were just tiny cogs in a giant machine. Mark also goes into details on the combat elements, the tactics, the blunders, and heroics, and it's very interesting to see how history repeats itself. The most amazing element in this story - and many others of similar nature - is the obtuseness of leaders, who simply ignore facts and just go with nonsense that reinforces their beliefs. This is true in the IT in 2010s as much as it is in the military in 1960s or 1980s or anytime. If you'd like to read a compelling book told by those on the ground about one of the more senseless conflicts of the last century, Hue 1968 is an excellent piece, full of combat, tragedy, sacrifice and deep insight. Igor

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