There are so many wonderful experiences in Vietnam as a tourist these days that one could spend weeks there and never visit a war site. But I am a bit of a history buff so among many others, I was determined to visit the Citadel.
In January of 1966, President Johnson met with General Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam. Johnson asked “Wastemoreland” what the North Vietnamese would do if the wanted to truly win in South Vietnam. Westmoreland said quickly and simply “take Hue”. This was almost two years to the date before the TET offensive. Hue sits on Highway 1, the main link between the supply port of Danang and the DMZ. Therefore it was a critical city from a military standpoint. Hue is also a historically significant and sacred city to the Vietnamese people. One might think that it would have been fortified, and prepared for an attack. It was neither. When The TET offensive happened a division sized force of NVA and Viet Cong combined to quickly take the entire city. Hue is split into the new Hue, on the west banks of the Perfume River, and old Hue, comprised mainly of the Citadel, on the east side. The NVA swept in from the west and north and the Viet Cong just sort of rose out of the country side. They met with little or no opposition and quickly raised the NVA flag atop the tallest flag pole in Hue, in front of the Citadel.
The battle for Hue went on for a month. U.S. Marines were not trained in block to block street fighting. At first there was a combination of bad weather and a desire to not destroy the culturally significant buildings which prevented the use of air power. But when losses mounted and the weather cleared, they bombed the hell out of Hue, including the Citadel which is a moat and wall enclosed area of about 5 acres filled with ancient buildings.
That is it for the Citadel. There are many historical and first hand accounts of the battle for Hue on the internet and if you are a student of military history, it is worth checking out. This was the nastiest fighting the Marines ever had to do in Vietnam.
My next post will deal with the beauty of Hue.
Thanks for reading. Make a comment, tell a friend.