cover image Huê´ 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

Huê´ 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

Mark Bowden. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (608p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2700-6

Veteran journalist Bowen (The Three Battles of Wanat) illuminates the gut-wrenching monthlong slaughter of one of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest battles, in which American and North Vietnamese forces fought in the streets of the storied royal capital of Huê´. Washington claimed a tactical victory, but Hanoi gained the psychological edge; the mismatch between official American claims and the dispatches emerging from American journalists undermined the already wavering resolve back home. This is grim storytelling at its finest; Bowen digs deep into the personal recollections of scores of participants to offer evocative portraits of beleaguered Marine grunts and the hapless commanders who sent them to their doom; stoic female Viet Cong commandos; and journalists who captured the unfolding tragedy that belied the infamously inaccurate body counts. But what grips the reader most are the stories of Huê´’s trapped civilians, who, during the year’s most festive holiday—Tet, the Lunar New Year—are hurled into an explosive maelstrom of fatal score-settling and destruction delivered by their own countrymen. Bowen confronts head-on the horrific senselessness of battle and the toll it takes on people, and he grants Huê´ the regard it deserves as a defining moment in a war that continues to influence how America views its role in the world. (June)