Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Not since his New York Times best seller Black Hawk Down has Mark Bowden written a book about a battle. His most ambitious work yet, Huế 1968, is the story of the centerpiece of the Tet Offensive and a turning point in the American War in Vietnam.
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 Huế, 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 Huế 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 reenter Huế 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 US 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 24 days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Huế 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 Huế 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American War in Vietnam.
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|Listening Length||18 hours and 45 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 11, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #26,871 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#10 in Southeast Asian History
#27 in Vietnam War
#43 in Southeast Asia History
Reviewed in the United States on July 10, 2017
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Top reviews from the United States
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I thought the book was carefully researched, and well written, and as honest as he could be. My criticism is only that the author glosses over the fact that journalists did have a staggering effect on the fighting, and often their stories did fuel the anti-war movement back home.
It occurs to me that if journalists had written about the Battle of the Bulge in the same tone that Walter Cronkite and others portrayed Hue, we would have sued for peace with Germany.
However, the book is painfully accurate about what it was like to be in Vietnam, in the Tet of 1968, and what it was like to be in a firefight. I took no exception to his portrayal of those in leadership as being both competent and incompetent because it’s true of any organization. And I appreciate the portrayal of marines and soldiers who might not have ever gotten a thank-you back home, but who proved themselves hero’s every day.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the battle.
Reviewed in the United States on July 10, 2017
If you only ever read one book about Vietnam, you could do a lot worse than Bowden’s “Hue 1968.” Other good choices would be Karnow’s “Vietnam: A History” and Sheehan’s “A Bright and Shining Lie.” However, Hue 1968 delivers not only the facts of the American tragedy in Vietnam , or even a particular point of view of the facts, but it also accurately depicts the feelings of the Americans serving in Vietnam, as well as those of Americans at home, and the Vietnamese who could not escape the war.
I was a young marine in Vietnam at the time of the Tet offensive in 1968. I was not an officer and had no strategic view of the conflict. I didn’t even have a clear tactical view of the events in which I was directly involved. That said, Mr. Bowden’s book is such a profound telling of the events that I can almost smell the rice paddies. It is exactly this ability of Mr. Bowden that allows us the readers to either relive events from our own past or experience them ,as nearly as possible, as events that are worlds apart from our experience. He did it in “Black Hawk Down” and and again in“Guests of the Ayatollah.” And now he may have written the best book of his lifetime.
If you haven't read this book yet I recommend skipping Part One. This is as dry as a college text book and fairly soon I started finding technical inaccuracies. I hate to be nit picky, but here are a few examples: NVA pith helmets were not made out of steel (or any other type of metal). The NVA/VC did not use "bazookas," they were equipped with RPGs, i.e., RPG-2 and RPG-7s. These weapons fired B-40 rockets and later the B-50, but the book mentions a
"B-41" but I don't believe any such animal exists. As another reviewer pointed out, there were no "AR-15s" in Vietnam; an AR-15 is a contemporary commercial civilian assault rifle. In 1968 the two most common rifles were M-16s and M-14s; there were some carbine versions of the M-16 called "CAR-15s." but they were not commonly found in line units.
From Part Two on in the book, though, the pace picks up and each chapter provides gripping accounts of the battle, and, uniquely, also from the enemy perspective. But here again, there are so many statements that don't pass the common-sense test. For example, the sappers who placed their satchel charges under the ARVN tanks at Tam Thai would not be using "dynamite," but plastic explosives or TNT. When Marines were flown in helicopters, they would never have "sat on their helmets for protection from bullets." Any grunt can tell you that steel pots do not stop bullets, not to mention that they would have been very uncomfortable to sit on. One reference is made to a chaplain approving R&R. I can't speak for the Marines, but in the Army R&Rs are approved by the chain-of-command on an allocation basis, i.e., you had to wait your turn until you had enough seniority, i.e., time-in-country. A chaplain might recommend a soldier/Marine for R&R, but he would never have the authority to approve/disapprove.
Bowden's description of conditions inside the MACV compound contained one vignette that I literally found incredible, i.e., he claims Marines continued to use the latrines (heads) even though they didn't flush, until the mound of feces reached "5-6 feet high." I wished he had provided a footnote for this incredible claim. He also describes parachute flares being dropped from "high-flying aircraft." Again, this sounds like conjecture, because illumination flares primarily came from artillery and mortars; any aircraft-delivered flares would have been dropped by USAF gunships, e.g., the AC-47 "Spooky" gunship, but they didn't fly at high altitudes since they are a close-air support platform. On page 321, the book describes an Antos firing and said ". . .the vehicle would rock so far backward it looked like it might tilt." This is physically impossible; the Antos was armed with 106mm recoilless rifles, and, as the name implies, there is no recoil since the breech is vented to allow the gases to escape. Noisy as hell, but no recoil. On page 369 the book is describing the 4.2 inch mortars as weighing "650 pounds" and having a range of "four miles." As a heavy mortar platoon leader in a former life, I can tell you that a 4.2 inch mortar weighs 331 pounds (half what the book states) and has a range of 4,000 meters (2.5 miles), not four miles.
These may seen like minor points in an otherwise well-written book, but for me they were distractions. If these errors were not found during proof reading, how many other errors were there?
Top reviews from other countries
The analysis of how this battle changed the political mind set in the States is also very thorough and objective. It is a pity the political elite no longer lead their people into war in person like Kings of old. There would be a lot less conflict and more understanding and compassion if they did.
If, like me, you were baffled by the urban combat portrayed in Full Metal Jacket, this is what it was all about.
Think what you like about American intervention in Vietnam, this book documents just how brave these young draftees were, thousands of miles from their homes.
Along with ‘Unheralded Victory’, this is a must read book about the conflict.