Hu? 1968 is expertly researched military history ... 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 ... Mr. Bowden treats both sides with impeccable fairness and shows the bravery and cruelty of each. There is no 'enemy side,' no sinister force of the kind that lesser journalists and historians sometimes use like the antagonist in a novel to hold the reader’s attention ... Hu? 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 ... To understand what it is to be human, you must understand war, which is unique to our species. In Hu? 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.
...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.
...[a] compelling and highly readable narrative ... Bowden renders the grunt-level view of this reality with painful clarity: Junior officers futilely attempted to dissuade their superiors from issuing suicidal orders to proceed into enemy-laced streets where snipers lay in wait ... Bowden does not neglect the uglier aspects of war, including racism, substance abuse and atrocities committed by both sides ... A few flaws mar an otherwise stellar book. The stories of the Vietnamese pale in comparison with the dramatic stories of American soldiers. This is perhaps inevitable. Not only did Bowden have to rely on translators, but he also spent less time in Vietnam ... 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.
To understand why, Mark Bowden’s searing Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam takes us deep into the bloodiest single battle of that bitter conflict, tracking Americans and Vietnamese as they fought house by house for a city that came to symbolize the folly of the war ... 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 ...doesn’t pull punches about the cruelty on both sides ... This book leans heavily on American accounts of the fighting.
Hue 1968 will burnish that reputation and 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 ... 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.
Bowden’s account of the battle delivers gut punches from start to finish. 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 could have done more to illuminate the experiences of Vietnamese troops and the civilians caught in the crossfire, and he has surprisingly little to say about communist executions of suspected political opponents in Hue, the most controversial aspect of the battle over the years. But 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.
...vivid and absorbing, if not entirely convincing ... 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 ... As befitting a battle history of this kind, the book has relatively little to say about the broader political and military context in which the encounter in Hue occurred. When Bowden does venture into this terrain, he is not always sure-footed ... 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.
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 ... Those individual stories, many of which Bowden records here for the first time, will haunt readers long after they've finished the book.
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.
On the ground level, Hu? 1968 makes for compelling, at times even difficult, reading. The killing is relentless. As Bowden raises his sights, however, he relies on overworked clichés that expose a limited grasp of the larger strategic and political issues in a long and complicated war ... Bowden excels in describing the horrific urban warfare that consumed Hu? throughout much of February 1968. As in his earlier book Black Hawk Down, which told the story of the US military experience in Somalia through a single battle, he pulls the reader into the cross fires of combat with breathtaking results ... Bowden skillfully weaves the Vietnamese communists and civilians into his narrative, demonstrating that far more than just US soldiers and marines sacrificed and suffered in Hu? ... Demonstrating authenticity through vivid combat stories surely hooks readers at the ground level, but Bowden then leads them astray on the larger questions of military strategy. If the author is sympathetic to the young combatants unable to make sense of the battle in which they were engaged, he is uncompromisingly critical of the American generals apparently caught flat-footed by the Tet Offensive.
Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam is Black Hawk Down author Bowden's worthy effort to give the battle its due. 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 … Journalists, too, assume prominence in Bowden's narrative: Correspondents such as Gene Roberts of The New York Times, one of the first reporters on the scene, broke the unwelcome news of a much bigger battle than top U.S. commanders would concede … Throughout, Bowden is unsparing in his criticism of the U.S. military command in Vietnam, with Gen. William Westmoreland singled out for opprobrium. The critique is justified, as Westmoreland biographer Lewis Sorley and others have documented.
...a thoroughly researched and compelling new account ... Bowden clearly did what journalists are supposed to do when conducting these sorts of interviews: He listened. Very closely. 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 ... 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, where primordial violence and fear mix with courage, audacity, desperation, elation, and devastating loss ... 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. It offers readers a deeply informed exploration of the experiences and thoughts of commanders and ordinary troops, and of their non-combatant supporters.
Today, we are chronologically as far removed from Vietnam as my generation was from World War I in 1968; and its lessons are in danger of being lost. Mark Bowden tries to remedy this with his excellent new book, Hue 1968 ... Mr. Bowden has done a superb job of telling the story as he did with Blackhawk Down. One can sometimes get lost in the plethora of Vietnamese names, but as in war the individuals are less important than lessons imparted; and in Hue, there were lessons aplenty.
A stirring history of the 1968 battle that definitively turned the Vietnam War into an American defeat ... 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.