Our book last night was Hue 1968: a turning point of the American war in Vietnam by Mark Bowden. Up until the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue, fifty years ago, the American war in Vietnam was a question of jungle trained American troops fighting against bands of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong partisans with the aid of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN). In the winter of 1968, coinciding with the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, the North Vietnamese launched a huge general offensive in the south, centering on the ancient city of Hue. Their plan was to generate a general uprising in the South, destroying ARVN and driving the Americans from the country. They captured and occupied Hue, but the general uprising they’d planned did not happen. The American troops and their allies fought back, taking and delivering heavy losses, and eventually drove the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong from the city. The city was destroyed, as was the American war effort. Even Walter Cronkite, the venerable newsman, conceded and broadcast that the war could not be won. President Johnson conceded that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost America. Hue was the turning point. It revealed shortcomings in American intelligence, tactics and strategy. After Hue and the Tet Offensive, Americans stopped talking about victory and began to speak of negotiations with the North and of peace with honor. It would take several more years until Nixon and Kissinger were able to extricate America from the war and the North Vietnamese conquered the South. Watergate was one result. Hue changed American history.
Our next meeting will be on October 18th, 2018. The book to be discussed, Sons and Soldiers: the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U. S. Army to fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson, is available at the Circulation Desk. All are welcome.