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

By: Mark Bowden


Imprint: Atlantic Monthly Press

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780802127006

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Electronic | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 608

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A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in History Winner of the 2018 Marine Corps Heritage Foundation Greene Award for a distinguished work of nonfiction. The first battle book from Mark Bowden since his #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down, Hue 1968, "an instantly recognizable classic of military history" (Christian Science Monitor), was published to massive critical acclaim and became a New York Times bestseller. 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 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 inter-views with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple viewpoints. Played out over twenty-four days and ultimately costing 10,000 lives, the Battle of Hue was 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.
Bowden employs the same detailed reporting to dissect what went so horribly wrong in Hue, which proved to be a pivot point in the massive Tet Offensive in 1968.... Bowden writes about the guerrillas and especially Hue's residents, who suffered casualties in the thousands. But the bulk of the book recounts the ingenuity and grit of the American forces.
—Denver Post
In a 539-page narrative, Bowden delivers a work of grand ambition: impassioned, powerful and revelatory at its best, and the most comprehensive yet on the Tet Offensive's bloodiest confrontation. In Bowden's hands, the battle of Hue (pronounced Hway) unfolds as in real time: sprawling, confusing, pulsing with actors and action, with drama and heartbreak.
—Dallas Morning News
Bowden revisits the historic battle with the same character-driven, grunt-level reporting style that made “Black Hawk Down” a bestseller. He lends a sympathetic ear to surviving soldiers on both sides, as well as guerrillas and civilians, and gives a vivid account of courage and cowardice, heroism and slaughter.
—Los Angeles Times
Mark Bowden, the author of the best-selling “Black Hawk Down,” 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 few flaws mar an otherwise stellar book. The stories of the Vietnamese pale in comparison with the dramatic stories of American soldiers.... And a reader may begin to experience fatigue, since the power of the narrative is diluted by too many stories, and stories that are not fully told or connected.... All that said, “Hue 1968” is a meticulous and vivid retelling of an important battle. It brings an old war to life for young Americans, and perhaps it will prompt a wider reflection on how to apply the lessons of Vietnam to our wars of today.
—New York Times
Based on hundreds of interviews, news accounts, histories and military archives, the book combines intensive research with Bowden's propulsive narrative style and insightful analysis.... What sets Bowden's account of the battle apart is his skill at moving from the macro — the history of the war, the politics surrounding it, the tactics of the battle — to the micro: the individuals, American and Vietnamese, who fought it and tried to survive it.... Bowden's descriptions of the battle are packed with facts about tactics, weapons and troop movement, and as breathtakingly compelling as the best fiction. One of his gifts is sketching portraits of individuals, giving the reader in just a few words a vivid sense of their lives — and then, all too often, a jarring view of their deaths.... Hue 1968 is a book of history, the history of an era when a nation was lied to by its leaders and thousands of young Americans in uniform were sacrificed for no clear reason. Bowden brings that history to life — and makes clear how painfully timely it remains.
—Tampa Bay Times
Bowden's account of the battle delivers gut punches from start to finish — no surprise given his long resume of vivid military histories, including the 1999 National Book Award finalist “Black Hawk Down.” With scrupulous attention to detail drawn partly from dozens of interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans, Bowden weaves a day-by-day, sometimes minute-by-minute, account of the initial communist takeover of Hue and then, in the book's most powerful sections, the grueling block-by-block struggle by US Marines to recapture it from an enemy hunkered down in a labyrinth of ruined buildings and debris-strewn streets. Most impressive of all, Bowden deftly blends clear descriptions of complex troop movements with careful attention to the human impact of the fighting.... Bowden deserves enormous credit for calling new attention to an often-overlooked battle and especially for recovering the experiences of those who fought amid otherworldly horrors.... It's hard to imagine that any of them will surpass Bowden's in sheer drama and readability.
—Boston Globe
...vivid and absorbing, if not entirely convincing... There is a potent immediacy to [Bowden's] narrative, an almost cinematic vividness, and the momentum seldom flags, even over more than 500 pages. Given especially the multiple armed forces involved in the battle and the sprawling cast of characters, this is no small feat.... If some of Bowden's broader claims are questionable, what remains is still impressive. In “Hue 1968” he has given us an engrossing, fair-minded, up-close account of one of the great battles in the long struggle for Vietnam.
—Washington Post
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.... "How is this a victory?" Bowden asks. "It makes more sense to consider the ways both sides lost." It's likely an eternally debatable question, and fortunately, the magnificence of "Hu� 1968'" as a work of history doesn't depend on settling it. Rather, the focus here is on telling for the first time the widest possible selection of personal stories - the soldiers, the commanders, and most of all the civilians who were caught in the streets and buildings of the lovely old city as powerful forces tore it apart.
—Christian Science Monitor
In “Hue 1968,” Mark Bowden, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of, among other books, “Black Hawk Down,” draws on dozens of interviews with Vietnamese and Americans who were there to provide a masterful blood-and-guts account of the decisive battle in the Vietnam War.... The heart and soul of “Hue 1968” lies with its vivid and often wrenching descriptions of the “storm of war” as soldiers and South Vietnamese citizens experienced it.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
...[a] meticulously analytical and multiperspective book... The author uses eyewitness accounts from both sides to guide us through the invasion and its aftermath. The story puts readers inside Marine and Army battalions and the clandestine teams of Northern invaders.... In America, despite shelves of books written about the war, Vietnam eludes understanding. Bowden's excellent Hue 1968, however, gives us the clearest picture yet of what happened in Vietnam and in Hue, where today tourists casually shoot pictures where murderous shots once were fired.
—USA Today
Mark Bowden's account of the Battle of Hu��� — “the bloodiest of the Vietnam War, and a turning point not just in that conflict, but in American history” — is an extraordinary feat of journalism. Like all battle histories, it concerns military units, their movements and casualties. Like the best of such histories, it makes brilliant use of contemporary records and of previously untapped archives.... One reason I call this book an extraordinary feat of journalism is that Mr. Bowden makes events vivid and easy to understand for a reader with no military experience and only limited knowledge of the Vietnam War. The results are in every way worthy of the author of “Black Hawk Down” (1999), Mr. Bowden's meticulously reported account of the Battle of Mogadishu.
—Wall Street Journal
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