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Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  4,949 ratings  ·  647 reviews

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

Kindle Edition, 608 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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David I agree with SunriseBoy below. The book requires some effort. It is a long book, but well worth the effort. Bowden has written his best book since Bla…moreI agree with SunriseBoy below. The book requires some effort. It is a long book, but well worth the effort. Bowden has written his best book since Black Hawk Down. This is a wonderful history told from both sides. Having lived through the era, I find his descriptions and analysis fascinating. This is the way history ought to be written; history with the touch of a journalist. (less)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, nonfiction
”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
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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,
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
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 ...more
'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
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Steven Z.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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 ...more
Peter Tillman

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
Steve Sarner
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star, non-fiction, war
“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
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
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jim Bullington
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tim Mercer
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Larry Bassett
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, audio, kindle
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
Steven Peterson
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Mortensen
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usmc, vietnam
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
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Brent by: this fine author and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System
Shelves: history, journalism, war
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.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-vietnam
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
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
It's almost exactly 50 years from the Tet Offensive, one of the most decisive and misunderstood campaigns in history. Tet was based on delusion on both sides. The Communist leadership believed that the people of South Vietnam were primed to join a general offensive and overthrow the puppet government. General Westmoreland and MACV were sure that the Communists were on the ropes, and that the key battle was at the remote firebase of Khe Sanh. On the Vietnamese New Year, Jan 30 1968, VC units back ...more
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Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American writer who is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1973 graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979-2003, and has won numerous awards. He has written for Men's Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone over the ...more

Articles featuring this book

From Black Hawk Down to his new book on the Vietnam War, Bowden is known for his insightful writing about conflicts. Here is his recommended...
9 likes · 14 comments
“He knew the sound of an AK-47. It made a high-pitched, more mechanical crack than the American rifle, the M16, which made a deeper, rounder sort of pop.” 2 likes
“Never had a general so effectively willed away the facts.” 2 likes
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