Hue 1968Mark Bowden
6 June 2017
Published by Grove Press
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.
Meticulously analytical... excellent... gives us the clearest picture yet of what happened in Vietnam
An extraordinary feat of journalism... To understand what it is to be human, you must understand war, which is unique to our species. In Hue 1968, we read about humanity placed in a crucible, out of which comes both refined steel and slag. Here the best and worst of human behaviour is exposed in glaring light.Karl Marlantes
Wall Street Journal
Bowden tells this story with a power and a wealth of detail that no previous history of this offensive has approached - this is another instantly-recognizable classic of military history.
Christian Science Monitor
Hue 1968 is, by far, the most comprehensive (and balanced) coverage on this battle I've seen.Brigadier General Mike Downs, USMC (ret.)
Hue 1968 unravels one of the great mysteries of our time... Did the Battle of Hue end up as a victory or defeat? The answer depends on who's asking and who's telling. Bowden takes on both roles and does it well.Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Krohn (ret.), author of THE LOST BATTALION OF TET
This book is a tragic tale of misunderstanding but also one of great heroism and sacrifice by those who fought in the streets of Hue and in the nearby rice paddies and villages.Brigadier General Howard T. Prince II, USMC (ret.), Commanding Officer, Bravo Company, 5/7 Cavalry, 1968
There is no more complete, accurate and detailed book. It reads like a novel even though is it made up almost exclusively of very personal accounts.John Wear, president of the USMC Vietnam Tankers Association