Marines In Hue City – A Portrait Of Urban Combat, Tet 1968, by Eric Hammel

(Zenith Press, 2007; 168 pp., $34.95 – ISBN 9780760325216)

In this pictorial history of the battle for Hue during the communist Tet offensive of 1968, the author’s narrative and the photographs provide the reader a visual record of that battle and urban warfare. Prior to January 1968, the former imperial capital of Hue had been spared the destructiveness of Viet-Nam’s wars. However, Tet 1968 broke the mutual cease-fire between South Viet-Nam and North Viet-Nam to observe the Lunar New Year and pause in celebration.

The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong forces attached throughout South Viet-Nam and Hue was almost captured in its entirety by the 4th, 5th and 6th NVA regiments. Each regiment was “reinforced by numerous combat-hardened VC infantry and sapper units.”

The only forces available to counterattack were Marines from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Fifth Marines and, later, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. For the next four weeks, fewer than 2,000 Marines of Task Force X-Ray fought street-by-street, block-by-block and building-by-building to retake the city. There was virtually no air support and restrictions, at times, were placed on firepower because of Hue’s political and cultural importance. The author writes, “For reasons of culture and politics, the palace was considered sacrosanct by the government of Viet-Nam forces… NVA and VC firing down from the palace walls could be engaged by only small arms.”

For the Marines, the battle for Hue ended when the end of Operation Hue was declared by Task Force X-Ray on 12 March. A more detailed account of the battle for Hue can be found in the author’s book, “Fire in the Streets: The Battle for Hue, Tet 1968.”

The book contains an index, six maps and 300 photographs — 117 in color. Among the color photographs is one of NVA soldiers at a guard post that was used by Life magazine on its 16 February 1968 cover (page 36).