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Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

2 September 2017

Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, Mark Bowden, 2017, ISBN 978-0-8021-2700-6, 610 pp.

Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden

Not another, nor ordinary book, Vietnam War book and not another battle book. Huế 1968 is both a book about this pivotal battle as well as a book bringing the reader into the fight with all of its sweat, fear, valor, dishonor, pain and brotherhood. We’ve see Mark Bowden do the same in the Somalian War with Black Hawk Down and he brings the same spellbinding style.

Some reviewers opine the book has unwanted detail but the story is mesmerizing. Learning how the NVA and Viet Cong altered the rhythm of the war with their urban warfare strategy. Learning how 75 yards saved a U.S. Army battalion from annihilation after 50% casualties. Learning how a USMC Colonel saved the fight by reading old manuals from a resource trunk. Learning how the NVA and Viet Cong scouted as well as infiltrated the city with men and weapons. The list goes on with none of the story seeming to extraneous or repetitive.

Bowden does well to have readers understand the mind sets of combatants as well as civilians—with a lot to understand. The military strategies are simple enough to comprehend but Bowden also delves into the minds of draftees in U.S. military service as he does into the motivations of Viet Cong.

Bowden scratches the surface in regard to the NVA and Viet Cong preparation, tactics and successful withdrawal (for that understanding read H. John Poole’s Phantom Soldier: the Enemy’s Answer to U.S. Firepower) but is engaging as well as remarkably informative in all other dimensions. This is more than okay since this is not a tactics manual. This is an understanding of the human dimension work, however, and in this Bowden also excels—along with his historical accuracy and objective writing. He often writes of the people behind historical photos taken during the battle and these stories are compelling. Readers will be surprised to find that out of the combatant population of a small town so many achieved leadership positions, both military and civilian.

Get this book to understand the Battle for Huế for its military, political and social effects since this single battle was so costly to both sides. If there is room for only one title on how people think and act in battle, whether military or civilian, this is the book to have.

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