Like all other battles raging across South Vietnam as a part of the Tet Offensive, Hue was all about house-to-house, urban warfare. What distinguished the Battle for Hue was that it lasted for nearly a month. The imperial city of Hue, located just above Danang in Thua Thien Province, represented the whole of Vietnamese culture. Hue City was the site of the violent suppression of anti-government protests of Buddhist monks by the Saigon government. The NLF/NVA, therefore, found considerable support among that city's populace. This week, 48 years ago- the tide began to turn in favor of US forces at Hue City. The losses were mind-numbing for both sides.
"Situated in central Vietnam, Hue was the country’s cultural capital, a unique blend of French and Vietnamese influence. The Imperial City, it gracefully retained the glory of Vietnam’s past while its universities educated Vietnam’s brightest minds for the future. Hue was a symbol of everything the Vietnamese people admired and respected. For this reason, it was spared the terrible effects of war—until Tet 1968."a
The Battle of Hue City (link)
Killed In Action/Hue City/James Harkanson, USMC (link)
"One company (Delta 1/5) was pulled from the battalion and attached to 2/5 who had spent the brunt of the battle fighting their way throughout the city clearing buildings. That day the remainder of 1/5 crossed the Perfume River aboard LCUs loaded down with trucks carrying ammo and other supplies. Marines hunkered on the deck with weapons outboard could see the smoke and rubble along the banks as machine gun and rifle fire reverberated across the river. The occasional hum of stray rounds splashed in the water or passed overhead. By evening the Major Thompson’s 1/5 had liberated the ARVN Airborne Task force holding the northeastern Citadel Wall. From their 1/5 was to attack east. Uneasy over having the ARVN maintaining operational control over 1/5, it was agreed that the 1st Marines, who’d been fighting in Hue from the beginning, would maintain operational command over 1/5. After some negotiation and meeting, it was decided that the ARVN would stay in the area and remain operational along with 1/5." b
|US Marines, The Battle for Hue City|
At the end of January, the City of Hue had come under intense attack by two North Vietnamese regiments and eventually by three NV divisions. The main battle centered on the Citadel- a two-square mile fortress with walls 30' tall and 20' thick. It was virtually impenetrable. Built in 1802, the structure had been considered "off-limits" by both sides as an important symbol of Vietnamese history. That would end during Tet. It took 8 battalions of US Marines and troopers from the 1st Cavalry Division plus eleven South Vietnamese battalions to evict the NVA/NLF from the city. Reportedly, during the occupation by the NVA/NLF, Hue had seen the killings of numerous South Vietnamese government personnel and civilians while many civilians died in the US bombing attacks that heralded the "liberation" of the city, as told by US officials. With continued resistance by the NVA/NLF US forces crossed the Perfume River on February 20, 1968 in a fleet of assault craft aimed at bringing the fighting to a halt.
In Their Own Words, Through Their Eyes
On this date (February 24 in 1968, American leadership announces the "end" of the fighting of the Tet Offensive, but battles, skirmishes, and enemy encounters continue in some cities.
"In Tet's aftermath, President Johnson came under fire on all sides for his Vietnam policy. General Westmoreland requested 200,000 more troops to overwhelm the communists, and a national uproar ensued after this request was disclosed, forcing Johnson to recall Westmoreland to Washington. On March 31, Johnson announced that the United States would begin de-escalation in Vietnam, halt the bombing of North Vietnam, and seek a peace agreement to end the conflict. In the same speech, he also announced that he would not seek reelection to the presidency, citing what he perceived to be his responsibility in creating the national division over Vietnam."c
Each side reported very different figures with regard to deaths during the siege of Hue City. Often with civilians involved, the numbers are drastically skewed. North Vietnamese sources report the loss of close to 20,000 lives during the battle for Hue City.
US sources report the following:
US Army 74 KIA, 507 WIA, US Marine Corps 142 KIA, 857 WIA, ARVN 384 KIA, 1,830 WIA
NVN/NLF 5,000 KIA and countless WIA
NB: these figures are impossible to confirm but we are left with this. In 26 days of fighting, over 20,600 souls were lost while almost 10,000 were wounded. That equals almost 1300 human lives lost per day. PER DAY!
We have found exaggerated claims coming from both sides regarding casualty figures. So, if we cut those figures in HALF we still end up with a staggering number of loss of life. And these numbers do not include civilians.
to All Who Survived
Rest In Peace
to All Who Died
Glossary: NVA-North Vietnamese Army, NLF-National Liberation Front, ARVN-Army Republic of Vietnam, KIA-Killed in Action, WIA-Wounded in Action, LCU-Landing Craft, Utility
a "The Battle of Hue City", http.navysite.de
b "Killed in Action 45 Years Ago", http://www.usmilitariaforum.com
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