Hue, Vietnam (1968 AD)
The Battle of Hue was one of the centerpiece engagement of the Tet Offensive and one of the largest and most important battles of the Vietnam War. Part of an all-out surprise attack across South Vietnam, the effort to dislodge the American forces from their critical base at Hue nearly succeeded, but in the end the city was defended at terrible cost to both military personnel and civilians. Although a victory for the United States and South Vietnam, the now-proven ability of North Vietnam to carry out a major offensive, coupled with massive casualties, helped to turn the tide of American public opinion against the war effort. Thus, despite being an American victory, Hue was one of the decisive events that ultimately led to the loss of the war.
By the beginning of 1968, the war between the north and south Vietnamese had already been dragging on for well over a decade, and American involvement had been steadily escalating since the early 1960s. Although South Vietnam and its ally the United States had the upper hand in terms of military superiority, their inability to control the thickly jungled countryside resulted in a rough stalemate marked by bloody skirmishing in both cities and countryside.
The United States was becoming eager to bring the war to a successful conclusion, while the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were just as eager to prove to the Americans that the war was just getting started. In January of 1968 they launched what is now know as the Tet Offensive, a massive campaign hittin dozens of major targets across the country at once. The fighting began on the Vietnamese New Year despite a two-day truce which had been agreed to by both sides.
After smashing targets across the length of South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese turned their attention to the city of Hue on January 31, a highly strategic city and military supply center near the border of the two countries. Over ten thousand North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers swarmed into the city, taking most of it, before the American defense stiffened around several stubborn units of U.S. Marines.
Over the next few weeks South Vietnamese reinforcements began to arrive, and Hue was taken back block by block in bitter street fighting. By the beginning of March it was all over. However, most of the city was destroyed, giving rise to the famous phrase “destroying the town in order to save it”. The defenders took over four thousand casualties, while the attackers saw over eight thousand killed. This was in addition to the thousands of civilians in Hue that were killed, many summarily executed, during the battle.
Virtually Hue was spared the brutal house-to-house fighting in February of 1968, and though the battle is (not surpisingly) well commemorated, there are still scars from the battle extent throughout the city. The sites of most interest are at the bridges over the Perfume River, and around the “Citadel”, the heavily fortified imperial palace on the north side of the river, where most of the heaviest fighting took place.
Most of the battlefield sites are in the city center of Hue, approximately 200 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City and 200 miles south of Hanoi. As of this writing no other visitor information was available. Web: www.vietnamtourism.com (official tourism website of Vietnam).