Books

Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Hue 1968

A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

by Mark Bowden

From “a master of narrative journalism” (New York Times Book Review), a riveting history of the biggest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 624
  • Publication Date June 06, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2700-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date June 06, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8924-0
  • US List Price $30.00

Not since his #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down has Mark Bowden written a book about a battle. His most ambitious work yet, Hue 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 Hue, 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 Hue 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 re-enter Hue 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 U.S. 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 twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue 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 Hue 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American War in Vietnam.

Praise

“A relentlessly immediate chronicle of the bloody, monthlong centerpiece of the Tet Offensive . . . This is the definitive account of a turning point in America’s Vietnam strategy and in public opinion about the war.”—Wall Street Journal, “top 10 nonfiction books of 2017”

“[A] skillful, gripping account of the turning point of the Vietnam War.”—Christian Science Monitor, “30 best books of 2017”

“An extraordinary feat of journalism . . . the result of four years of travel, investigation and, above all else, interviews with those who were there. In this last element—the first-person, human element—it’s a battle history alone in its class . . . Through the words and actions of hundreds of such people, and through his scrupulous day-by-day reconstruction of this battle, Mr. Bowden encapsulates the essential lessons of the Vietnam War, lessons that we seemingly forgot when conducting our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, lessons we need to go over now so that we never forget them again . . . Hue 1968 is also an exploration of what is common to all wars: humankind’s capacity for violence, cruelty, self-sacrifice, bravery, cowardice and love. Mr. Bowden undertakes this task with the talent and sensibility of a master journalist who is also a humanist and an honest man . . . the book is full of emotion and color . . . I urged several friends as well as my wife’s book club to read this book. I now recommend it to the readers of this newspaper. You need to know about this battle because you are citizens of this republic, because you can vote, and because some of you influence or make policy . . . Though stupidity and arrogance will always be with us, it is reasonable to hope that the more people who read and learn from books such as Hue 1968, the more will lend their weight in the war against folly . . . In Hue 1968, we read about humanity placed in a crucible, out of which comes both refined steel and slag. Here the best and worst of human behavior is exposed in glaring light. You will find the reading gripping.” —Karl Marlantes, Wall Street Journal

“A remarkable book.” —Dave Davies, NPR’s Fresh Air

“[A] magnificent and meticulous history, which tells, with excruciating detail, a story that is both inspiring and infuriating . . . Bowden’s interviews, almost half a century on, with those who fought, on both sides, have produced unexampled descriptions of small-unit combat.” —George F. Will, Washington Post

“Bowden . . . 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] compelling and highly readable narrative . . . A meticulous and vivid retelling of an important battle.” —Linda Robinson, New York Times Book Review

“An instantly recognizable classic of military history . . . Bowden tells this story with a power and a wealth of detail that no previous history of this offensive has approached . . . Those individual stories, many of which Bowden records here for the first time, will haunt readers long after they’ve finished the book.” —Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor

“A gripping, and timely, history . . . More than 40 years after it ended, America’s war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history. Mark Bowden brings it back into sharp focus in his powerful new book, Hue 1968 . . . [Hue 1968] is likely to claim a place on the shelf of essential books about the Vietnam War. 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 . . . 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.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“Bowden is one of the great journalists of our generation, and with this book he provides a captivating account of the pivotal battle that did so much to alter the trajectories of not just the Vietnam War, but also American politics and our nation’s global posture. With its capacious research that includes the perspectives of combatants and civilians, Vietnamese and Americans, presidents and privates, it epitomizes what a definitive account should be. This is also the type of military history that one wishes more academic historians would take up, but given the near extinction of military history in university history departments, it is left to skilled journalists like Bowden to fill the gap.” —Foreign Policy

“For readers who enjoy learning about battle tactics and bloody encounters, Bowden delivers, as he did in Black Hawk Down. The book offers so much more than that, however. For readers who care little about military strategy or precisely how each combatant died, Bowden offers copious context about why it matters what occurred in Vietnam at the beginning of 1968—why it mattered so much then, and why it matters so much in 2017 . . . Bowden is masterful in introducing characters whose names have often never appeared in the news but whose actions help explain the complications for the United States of becoming involved in faraway wars involving nearly invisible enemies.” —Steve Weinberg, Philadelphia Inquirer

“The best history of the battle for Vietnam’s imperial city of Hue.”—William D. Bushnell, Military Officer Magazine

“Nearly 50 years after the battle for the city of Hue, this history reads as fresh as today’s news . . . every page merits reading.” —Military Times

“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.” —Glenn C. Altschuler, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Mark Bowden’s book Hue 1968 is a must-read. Many lessons, including how government can lie and [the] role of an effective media in finding truth. Timely.” —Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA

“Dazzling . . . Bowden’s account of the battle delivers gut punches from start to finish . . . Most impressive of all, Bowden deftly blends clear descriptions of complex troop movements with careful attention to the human impact of the fighting . . . He masterfully captures the mix of bravery, fear, cruelty, generosity, and fatalism that swirled among the Americans who never knew where the next bullet would come from . . . 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.” —Mark Atwood Lawrence, Boston Globe

“A detailed, multifaceted account.” —Tirdad Derakhsani, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vivid and absorbing . . . A day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, reconstruction of events. There is a potent immediacy to his 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. Not the least of the book’s virtues is its author’s staunch refusal to speak in terms of heroes and villains . . . An engrossing, fair-minded, up-close account of one of the great battles in the long struggle for Vietnam.” —Fredrik Logevall, Washington Post

“Meticulously analytical and multiperspective . . . Bowden provides compelling insight into the North’s infiltration of South Vietnamese society and to the North’s planning and execution of the incursion—and how the South’s failure to support the invasion helped defeat it . . . Bowden’s excellent Hue 1968 . . . 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.” —George Petras, USA Today, 4 out of 4 stars

“A thoroughly researched and compelling new account of the most controversial battle of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam . . . Bowden . . . treats Hue as a microcosm of the Vietnam War. His account limns many of the ambitions, delusions, and misconceptions on both sides—those of key decision-makers, military commanders, and ordinary soldiers alike—that made the war such a vicious and destructive tragedy. The story of Hue, like the story of Vietnam, is awash in paradox, irony, and senseless destruction . . . Bowden reconstructs the battle with extraordinary skill and dexterity . . . This is as much a book about what happens to peoples’ hearts, minds, and bodies in the swirling chaos of urban combat as it is a history of a specific battle and an assessment of its strategic significance. We come to know a fair number of the participants quite well by the end of the story—one source of the book’s unusual power and authenticity . . . With a novelist’s eye for evoking the grim atmospherics of a hellish locale and the characters within it, Bowden reconstructs dozens of scenes of heart-pounding combat . . . Very few books about the Vietnam War aimed at a general audience paint a nuanced portrait of America’s enemy. Hue 1968 is one of the few . . . Bowden’s coverage of the ‘other side,’ which highlights the extraordinary level of commitment and dedication of the Revolution’s foot soldiers, gives this book a richer texture, and more balance, than any of the earlier books on Hue . . . Bowden’s account of the block-by-block fighting between the Communists and the Marines is graphic, disturbing, and powerful . . . Hue 1968 celebrates and commemorates all the men and women who fought in this harrowing battle . . . Anyone looking to understand what Vietnam was all about would do well to read Hue 1968. Without a doubt, it’s one of the very best books to be written about Vietnam in the last decade.” —James A. Warren, Daily Beast

“Searing . . . 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.” —Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times

Hue 1968 pulls off a rare feat: it takes a conflict of terrible scale and consequence, and allows us to see it unfold at the street level, through the eyes of Vietnamese and American soldiers engaged in the struggle, journalists and activists observing the chaos, and the civilians caught in the crossfire . . . His emphasis on firsthand accounts gives a vital heart to the unfolding events . . . Not only are the personal stories Bowden uncovers at turns deeply moving and horrifying, but they also pose uncomfortable parallels with current events in the Middle East and Afghanistan . . . The historical lessons that have a human face, that sicken our guts and tug at our heart strings, are more intuitive and more persuasive than dry scholarly formulations abstractly speculating about the victories that could have been.” —Sebastien Roblin, National Interest

“[A] master storyteller . . . Bowden, through myriad interviews, comprehensive documentary research, and painstaking cross-checking, tells this story of war, betrayal, hubris and idealism . . . Bowden offers no ideology. He sees what happened, and clearly tells what he sees, checks, and can cross-reference. He does this with a humanistic voice. He has an ear for the voices of suffering, of loss and pain; of fear and courage, of hope and frustration. His is a skill to find the exact quotations, the right anecdote, the resigned aside, which will help us understand how we came to be fighting in that faraway land.” —John David, Decatur Daily

“Powerfully told, and a vivid depiction of individual courage and national hubris.” —William J. Burns, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Veteran journalist Bowden illuminates the gut-wrenching monthlong slaughter of one of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest battles . . . This is grim storytelling at its finest; Bowden digs deep into the personal recollections of scores of participants . . . Bowden confronts head-on the horrific senselessness of battle and the toll it takes on people, and he grants Hue the regard it deserves as a defining moment in a war that continues to influence how America views its role in the world.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This Vietnam story reads like a movie but it’s all true.” —Courier-Journal (Louisville), “the hottest books of the summer according to Carmichael’s bookstore”

“A riveting, well-researched text that I predict will win the Pulitzer Prize for history for 2017.” —Newbury Port News

“An extraordinary account of the most important and costly battle of the Vietnam War.” —Don McCullin, legendary photojournalist who covered the Battle of Hue

“In this meticulous retelling of one critical battle, Mark Bowden captures the nuanced and often invisible threads of America’s political, military and cultural blindness in Vietnam. Hue 1968 is the new classic about America’s Vietnam War.” —Elizabeth Becker, author of When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution

“A stirring history of the 1968 battle that definitively turned the Vietnam War into an American defeat . . . Bowden delivers a series of brilliantly constructed set pieces, beginning with a moment of proto-social engineering in which a young, pretty Viet Cong learned about American troop movements in the city by flirting with GIs outside their compound . . . Building on portraits of combatants on all sides, Bowden delivers an anecdotally rich, careful account of the complex campaign to take the city. One of the best books on a single action in Vietnam, written by a tough, seasoned journalist who brings the events of a half-century past into sharp relief.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Hue endured one of the most prolonged, vicious, and politically decisive battles of the Vietnam War . . . Bestselling Bowden views this struggle through the experiences and recollections of combatants from both sides . . . An epic masterpiece of heroism and sacrifice, and a testament to the tragic futility of the American experience in Vietnam.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Excellent . . . [Bowden] uses a reporter’s concise style to tell both sides of the story from the president of the United States to a teenage VC scout/guide . . . Bowden has done a superb job of telling the story as he did with Black Hawk Down.” —Gary Anderson, Washington Times

“The harrowing story of the capture of Hue.” —Chicago Tribune, “The ultimate summer reading list”

“In his monumental new book, Bowden . . . gives voice to dozens, including Nguyen Quang Ha, whose five-man team emerged from underground caves to strike the first blow for North Vietnamese forces, Bob Thompson, a career marine officer charged with taking back the US stronghold at the Citadel, President Lyndon Johnson and General William Westmoreland in Washington, DC and reporters David Halberstam, Michael Herr, Gene Roberts, Walter Cronkite and others who changed the way Americans perceived the war.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

Hue 1968 unravels one of the great mysteries of our time—how a puny force of North Vietnam regulars and local sympathizers could without warning occupy South Vietnam’s second largest city, hold it for a month, then disappear into the mountains, beyond reach and largely unbloodied. It turns out the force wasn’t puny, but fanatical warriors who gripped their prey by the throat and wouldn’t let go. They were unfazed by waves of counter-attackers, Vietnamese and American soldiers, but mostly Marines rushed in to defeat them. Hue 1968 shows the enormous challenges facing both sides and how they overcame them, or tried to. Did the Battle of Hue end up as a victory or defeat? The answer depends on who’s asking and who’s telling. Bowden takes on both roles and does it well.” —Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Krohn (ret.), author of The Lost Battalion of Tet

Hue 1968 is, by far, the most comprehensive (and balanced) coverage on this battle I’ve seen. Like never before, I’ve come to realize how narrow a perspective we low-level participants unavoidably had. While giving due respect to the abilities, actions and fighting spirit of the U.S. and ARVN Marines and soldiers who participated, Mark Bowden brought clarity to the larger intelligence, political and strategic shortcomings that made the prosecution of this battle so much more challenging and costly than it needed to be.” —Brigadier General Mike Downs, USMC (ret.)

“The longest and fiercest fighting of the Tet Offensive took place in and around Hue in early 1968 where Communist North Vietnam suffered a terrible military defeat. Yet the fight for Hue became a political victory for the leaders of North Vietnam and a turning point for US involvement and support for the war. Through searing personal accounts of many on both sides who were there, Mark Bowden reveals the intensity of the fighting. Relying on archival documents now available after 50 years, he also examines the considerations and decisions of political and military leaders at the highest levels. This book is a tragic tale of misunderstanding but also one of great heroism and sacrifice by those who fought in the streets of Hue and in the nearby rice paddies and villages.” —Brigadier General Howard T. Prince II, USA (ret.), Commanding Officer, Bravo Company, 5/7 Cavalry, 1968

“In Hue 1968, Mark Bowden has clearly captured the nastiness, brutality and savagery of urban combat as seen through the eyes of those who found themselves in a daily personal fight for survival on the streets of that embattled city. He has extensively researched the Battle of Hue and interviewed the combatants from both sides who fought it. He has also captured the first-hand experiences of the journalists who closely covered the weeks of fighting that it would take to recapture the city. Equally, he has not forgotten about the Vietnamese civilians who suffered the destructive loss and regaining of their historic city. The book is a must-read for the military professional and their civilian leaders who send them in harm’s way. Not for the squeamish, the book does not glorify war, but honestly describes the reality of two opponents battling one another at close quarters. Most importantly, it reminds those in authority of the reality of combat when they send their sons and daughters off to war.” —Lieutenant General Ron Christmas, USMC (ret.), Former President & CEO, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

“Mark Bowden uniquely describes the battle from both sides of the front lines and vividly captures the remarkable courage and valor of those that participated in the crucible of war that was Hue City in January to March 1968. Surely to be an historical standard for the recollection of that Tet 1968 battle.” —Colonel Chuck Meadows, USMC (ret.), Former Commanding Officer of Golf Company 2ndBn 5thMar

“I am a US Marine Vietnam veteran who participated as a tank crewmen in the Tet 1968 battle for Hue City. I have read just about every written account of the month-long battle, and I have to say that all of the other well-written, well-documented accounts of the battle pale in comparison to Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968. There is no more complete, accurate and detailed book. It reads like a novel even though is it made up almost exclusively of very personal accounts.” —John Wear, president of the USMC Vietnam Tankers Association

“A masterpiece of intensely dramatic nonfiction . . . The brilliance of Bowden’s narrative, the achievement of interviewing hundreds of people on all sides and making the foundation their human stories, is why Hue 1968 rises to the emotional power and universality of For Whom The Bell Tolls and All Quiet On The Western Front.” —Michael Mann

“I really enjoyed reading it.” —Aaron Lammer, Longform podcast

Praise for Mark Bowden

“Amazing . . . One of the most intense, visceral reading experiences imaginable.” —Philadelphia Inquirer, on Black Hawk Down

“Mark Bowden has a way of making modern nonfiction read like the best of novels.” —Denver Post, on Killing Pablo

“One of America’s pre-eminent practitioners of long-form journalism.” —Dallas Morning News, on The Three Battles of Wanat

Praise for Mark Bowden:

“A Woodward that outdoes even Woodward.” —Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker

“Amazing . . . One of the most intense, visceral reading experiences imaginable. . . . The individual stories are woven together in such a compelling and expert fashion, the narrative flows so seamlessly, that it’s hard to imagine that this is not fiction.” —Philadelphia Inquirer on Black Hawk Down

“The reader can visualize the action, smell the dust and sweat and the reek of explosives, and even enter into the exultation, fear, rage, pain, confusion, and exhaustion of the combatants. . . . Because he was able to interview survivors on both sides relatively soon after the action, Bowden’s story has a vitality and freshness usually lacking in accounts of combat.” —The New York Review of Books on Black Hawk Down

“One of the most gripping and authoritative accounts of combat ever written.” —USA Today on Black Hawk Down

“A compelling, almost Shakespearean tale.” —Los Angeles Times on Killing Pablo

“Heart-stopping, and heart-breaking.” —New York Times Book Review on Guests of the Ayatollah

“Bowden has emerged as one of our best writers of muscular nonfiction.” —Edward P. Smith, Denver Post

“Mark Bowden is the reigning champion of narrative non-fiction.” —Alex Massie, Scotland on Sunday (UK)

Awards

One of the Wall Street Journal’s top 10 nonfiction books of 2017
One of the Christian Science Monitor’s best 30 books of 2017
A Military Times best book of 2017#9 New York Times bestseller (6/25/2017)
An Amazon Best Book of the Month in the history category for June 2017
#12 Indie bestseller (6/11/2017)
#7 Indie Bestseller (6/18/2017)
An Amazon best history book of 2017 so far

The Week, book of the week in “Review of Reviews” section
#11 Publishers Weekly hardcover nonfiction bestseller (6/16/2017)
#6 Washington Post bestseller (6/18/2017)
#10 New York Times nonfiction hardcover bestseller (7/9/2017)
#10 New York Times combined hardcover & ebook bestseller (7/9/2017)
#13 New York Times nonfiction bestseller (7/16/2017)
#10 New York Times combined print & ebook bestseller (7/16/2017)
#7 Los Angeles Times nonfiction bestseller (7/2/2017)
One of nine books on Rahm Emanuel’s summer reading list, Chicago Tribune
One of the Christian Science Monitor’s 10 best books of June
#10 Indie bestseller (7/9/2017)
#14 New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller (7/23/2017)
#12 New York Times Combined Print & Ebook Nonfiction bestseller (7/23/2017)
New York Times Book Review, editors’ choice, “10 New Books We Recommend This Week”
#14, New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction (7/30/2017)
#11, New York Times Combined Print & Ebook Nonfiction (7/30/2017)
#15, New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction (8/6/2017)
#14, New York Times Combined Print & Ebook Nonfiction (8/6/2017)
#11, New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction (8/13/2017)
#12, ABA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/6/2017)
#8, SIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/6/2017)
#17, ABA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/13/2017)
# 15, MIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/13/2017)
#5, SIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/13/2017)
#20, ABA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/20/2017)
#12, NAIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/20/2017)
#13, NEIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/20/2017)
#14, SIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/20/2017)
#19, ABA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/27/2017)
#15, NAIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/27/2017)
#15, NEIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/27/2017)
#7, SIBA Hardcover Nonfiction (8/27/2017)

Mark Bowden on War and Trump