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Hue 1968

By January 1968 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. 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.

Freedom Fighter

Evening Standard‘s January 2019 Book of the Week

The gripping story of one woman’s war against ISIS on the frontlines of Syria.

Joanna Palani made headlines across the world when her role fighting ISIS in the Syrian conflict was revealed. She is one of a handful of western women who joined the international recruits to the Kurdish forces in the region and this is the first time her extraordinary story has been told.

Inspired by the Arab Spring, Joanna left behind her student life in Copenhagen and travelled to the Middle East in order to join the YPJ – the all-female brigade of the Kurdish militia in Syria. After undergoing considerable military training, including as a saboteur and sniper, Joanna served as a YPJ fighter over several years and took part in the brutal siege of Kobani. Despite her heroism, she was taken in to custody on her return to Denmark for breaking laws designed to stop its citizens from joining ISIS, making her the first person to be jailed for joining the international coalition.

In this raw and unflinching memoir, Joanna not only provides an eye-witness account of this devastating war but also reveals the personal cost of the battles she has fought on and off the frontlines.