Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel, offers a review of Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968 for the Washington Times.
A few years ago, I was lecturing my students on strategic surprise. I asked each of them to write paragraph on how surprise was used at Hue in 1968 based on what they knew of it. With few exceptions, the reply was that Hue was the battle where the Viet Cong won the war in a general uprising. These were graduate students, and their woeful knowledge of the Vietnam War was gained through the state of education in our high schools and undergraduate college programs. Their ignorance is more a comment on the “liberal” in liberal arts than in any defect in my students.
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 points out that the Tet Offensive campaign, of which Hue was the major battle, was a strategic surprise that ranks along with Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11 as a colossal American intelligence failure. However, it was not planned and fought by peasant Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas. It was planned by the North Vietnamese general staff and political leaders in Hanoi and fought largely by regular regiments of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA); the VC were relegated to being scouts, guides, suicide sappers, and cannon fodder.
The NVA and Viet Cong lost every tactical engagement and failed to achieve their primary objective, a popular uprising that would topple the South Vietnamese government and force the Americans out of the war. However, Tet was the turning point of the war because America’s leaders were discredited by the surprise and lost the confidence of a significant portion of the American public. Tet ruined Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. There was no “light at the end of the tunnel.” Although the last U.S. bombs would not fall until 1973, the North Vietnamese had irretrievably gained the psychological advantage.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link: