In the early hours of January 31, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched over one hundred attacks across South Vietnam in what would become known as the Tet Offensive. The lynchpin of Tet was the capture of Hue, Vietnam’s intellectual and cultural capital, by 10,000 National Liberation Front troops who descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. Within hours the entire city was in their hands save for two small military outposts. American commanders refused to believe the size and scope of the Front’s presence, ordering small companies of marines against thousands of entrenched enemy troops. 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 viewpoints. Played out over 24 days and ultimately costing 10,000 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. Hue 1968 is a gripping and moving account of this pivotal moment.
Mark Bowden is the author of thirteen books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down. He reported at the Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and other magazines. He is also the writer in residence at the University of Delaware. His most recent book is The Three Battles of Wanat: And Other True Stories.
“An extraordinary feat of journalism . . . Through his scrupulous day-by-day reconstruction of this battle, Bowden encapsulates the essential lessons of the Vietnam War . . . Hue 1968 is also an exploration of what is common to all wars: humankind’s capacity for violence, cruelty, self-sacrifice, bravery, cowardice and love. Mr. Bowden undertakes this task with the talent and sensibility of a master journalist who is also a humanist and an honest man . . . the book is full of emotion and color . . . You will find the reading gripping.”—Karl Marlantes, Wall Street Journal
“Bowden . . . applies his signature blend of deep reportage and character-driven storytelling to bring readers a fresh look at the 1968 battle in the Vietnamese city of Hue . . . [A] compelling and highly readable narrative . . . A meticulous and vivid retelling of an important battle.”—Linda Robinson, New York Times Book Review