I have read a number of superb books about the Vietnam War. Some of my favorites include David Maraniss’s They Marched Into Daylight, Stanly Karanow’s Vietnam – A History, and Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie. I’ve read so many that I honestly paused, thinking I don’t need to read anymore about this subject. Yet, something told me that “this one will be worth it.” So, I bought it.
Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968 – A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (2017 Atlantic Monthly Press – An Imprint of Grove Atlantic New York, NY — 540 pages) is UNEQUIVOCALLY one of my favorites on this topic. Bowden is the author of Black Hawk Down. Yet, Hue – 1968 may be his finest work (and should definitely garner the attention of a horde of movie producers). It’s a story that distinctly deserves being shared on the screen.
Bowden’s ability to describe the day-to-day of this historic fiasco was both captivating and unique. He displays his skills of creating context and dialog that rivet the reader in the midst of the action on each and every page. It’s uncanny. PERIOD!
The depth and breadth of the research that went into this work is absolutely mind boggling. Yet, the manner in which Bowden crafts the story line, and the way he introduces and breathes life and personality into the actors is awe inspiring and makes the story what it truly is: another human tragedy displayed in the context of war. Yet, the courage, bravery, patriotism and fortitude displayed by the combatants is unparalleled – even though “the way their idealism and loyalty were exploited by the leaders, who themselves had lost faith in the effort, is a stunning betrayal. It is a lasting American tragedy and disgrace.” p. 527. Bowden tells the story of all those involved in this battle reflecting the respect and dignity he possesses for all involved.
Don’t let the 542 pages (plus appendices) scare you away from this phenomenal story. It is a page turner in every sense of the word. You simply cannot put the volume down once you’ve started the journey.
Bowden’s Hue 1968 is an even-handed treatment of this historic battle. It is not one of those lopsided volume’s that clearly has some socio-political agenda to grind. I appreciated that.
The human dimension of this work – focusing on how the day to day reality affected individuals (combatants, civilians, politico’s etc.) brings the reader into an intimate relationship with all concerned. This is a monumental task for any author – one that Bowden accomplishes throughout the book.
You cannot pick up this book without being compelled to put it down – pause – contemplate – digest – breathe deeply – then pick it up again and keep reading. The sheer intensity of the reality that Bowden brings to life demands it.
Devour Hue 1968 – A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden. You’ll be glad you did. I certainly am. It is a significant contribution to the history of the Vietnam War – and much, much more. It has pertinent lessons and wisdom for the ongoing challenges faced by humanity in the 21st century. BUY THIS BOOK!!!