One of the Vietnam’s War’s Bloodiest Battles: Photos of Hue, Then and Now.

One of the Vietnam’s War’s Bloodiest Battles: Photos of Hue, Then and Now.

Above Photo: The Citadel in Hue comes under attack, as US planes drop Napalm on Viet Cong positions in the Imperial City.

Sometimes in Vietnam it can take a couple of days to reach remote, inaccessible battlefields or Vietnam War sites in the interior of the country, especially in the Central Highlands, and the inaccessible border regions.

Palace of Supreme Harmony, Hue Citadel.

Palace of Supreme Harmony, Hue Citadel. (Cllck to enlarge all photos).

A US soldier fires into the Imperial City  during the fighting in February 1968.

A US soldier fires into the Imperial City during the fighting in February 1968.

But modern-day tourism in Vietnam and visiting battlefields from the Vietnam War come together in the city of Hue like almost no other place in Vietnam, and yet most people wouldn’t think about it as they go around the stupendous buildings in the ancient Citadel and the Imperial Palace today

aA restored gateway in the Imperial City, Hue.

A restored gateway in the Imperial City, Hue.

A US soldier fires from the top of a building in the Imperial City, Hue, during the fighting in 1968.

A US soldier fires from the top of a similar building in the Imperial City, Hue, during the fighting in 1968.

Travelling over the Perfume River to the Citadel, which was built in the early 1800s for the Vietnamese Emperor and his court, you begin to see glimpses of the war on the shell and bullet-scarred walls and entrances into the Citadel.

A battle-scarred gate into the Citadel in Hue, showing bullet holes and rocket damage.

A gate into the Citadel in Hue, showing bullet holes and rocket damage, with more damage on the wall to the left.

A South Vietnamese soldier surveys the Imperial City from his machine gun post.

A South Vietnamese soldier surveys the Imperial City from his machine gun post.

In 1968, during the Tet Offensive, one of the bloodiest and most intense battles of the Vietnam War was fought in Hue. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) took the city from US-backed South Vietnamese troops, using some of their best and toughest fighting units.

A restored corridor inside the CItadel, which was obliterated during the Battle of Hue.

A restored corridor inside the Citadel, which was obliterated during the Battle.

A US soldier takes a break from the fighting inside a ruined building in the Citadel.

A US soldier takes a break from the fighting inside a ruined building in the Citadel.

During the war, the city of Hue had been vital for US supply routes: Highway 1 passed through it and the Perfume River itself was an important US supply line. Also, Hue was only 30 miles away from the Demilitarized Zone, which separated Communist North Vietnam and US-backed South Vietnam, so it was strategically important too.

A restored gate in the Imperial City, destroyed during the 1968 fighting in the Citadel.

A restored gate in the Imperial City, destroyed during the 1968 fighting in the Citadel.

Highly trained North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong soldiers fought against US troops in Hue.

Highly trained North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong soldiers fought against US troops in Hue.

But for some reason, Hue was poorly defended by (mostly) South Vietnamese troops, and when the NVA and the VC attacked, they quickly occupied most of the city, and then proved themselves very difficult to dislodge.

Another restored gate in the Citadel, destroyed during the 1968 fighting.

Another restored gate in the Citadel, destroyed during the 1968 fighting.

An American soldier fires at the NVA from the rubble of an old building in the Citadel.

An American soldier fires at the NVA from the rubble of an old building in the Citadel.

The Citadel was at the centre of the fighting. An NVA sapper squad, dressed in South Vietnamese Army uniforms, quickly killed the guards and opened the gates of the Citadel to their troops, who then poured in to take the Old City from the South Vietnamese Army.

The grounds of a restored palace in the Citadel.

The grounds of a restored palace in the Citadel.

American soldiers take cover and fire at NVA troops in the battle to retake the Citadel.

American soldiers take cover and fire at NVA troops in the battle to retake the Citadel.

The South Vietnamese forces in the Citadel offered little resistance to the attacking NVA and by 8am the following morning, a North Vietnamese flag hung from the Citadel’s flag pole.

The flag of the Communist North has been replaced on the CItadel's flag pole by the red flag and gold star of the winners of the Vietnam War.

The flag of the Communist North has been replaced on the Citadel’s flag pole by the red and gold of the victors of the Vietnam War.

Viet Cong fighters were heavily involved in the battle of Hue.

Viet Cong fighters were heavily involved in the battle of Hue, along with crack NVA soldiers.

Meanwhile, intense house-to-house fighting was going on all around Hue as US forces were called in to assist the South Vietnamese in retaking the city. The US Marines had little reliable intelligence on the state of the city as they deployed, and they suffered heavy casualties in the streets from NVA snipers.

The cost of the fighting on all sides was heavy, as the NVA and VC were fighting to the death.

Another restored doorway in a Citadel palace.

Another restored doorway in a Citadel palace.

American soldiers take cover from NVA sniper fire  in the ruins of an old building in the Citadel.

American soldiers take cover from NVA sniper fire in the ruins of an old building in the Citadel.

The street fighting went on for three weeks, and for US forces it was a particularly difficult battle, as they were untrained in urban combat. Also, because of Hue’s cultural and religious heritage, US planes couldn’t target the ancient Citadel, and the Monsoon season meant that close air support was often impossible due to cloud cover.

A wall showing battle damage in the Imperial City.

A wall showing war damage in the Imperial City.

 American soldiers take cover behind a battle-damaged wall in Hue's Citadel in1968.

American soldiers take cover behind a battle-damaged wall in Hue’s Citadel in 1968.

During the time the North Vietnamese held the city, thousands of Vietnamese inhabitants were rounded up and executed by the North Vietnamese for collaborating with US forces.

A battle-scarred wall of the CItadel overlooks the moat.

A battle-damaged wall of the Citadel overlooks the moat.

 An aerial photo of the Imperial City, Hue, shortly after the fighting had finished in 1968.

An aerial photo of the Imperial City, Hue, shortly after the fighting had finished in 1968.

Meanwhile, back at the Citadel, heavy fire from the NVA defenders meant the bridges across the Perfume River, which led to the Citadel, were treacherous to use and US forces lost many men trying to cross the river, until the bridges were finally secured.

A view over the moat and into the Citadel today.

A view over the moat and into the Citadel today.

Napalm explodes in the Imperial City during 1968 battle.

Napalm explodes in the Imperial City during 1968 battle.

Gradually, as Hue’s streets were retaken by US troops, the only place still under NVA control was the Citadel. The order not to bomb or shell the Old City with artillery was rescinded, given the scale of the losses in Hue and the difficulty of dislodging NVA troops without it.

Some buildings still bear the scorch marks of napalm dropped on the Imperial City during the 1968 Tet offensive.

Some buildings still bear the scorch marks of napalm dropped on the Imperial City during the 1968 Tet offensive.

US soldiers use flame thrower tanks to dislodge NVA and Viet Cong fighters during the battle of Hue, 1968.

US soldiers use flame thrower tanks to dislodge NVA and Viet Cong fighters during the battle of Hue, 1968.

Hue’s cultural heritage was about to become another victim of the Vietnam War, as napalm, bombs and rockets battered the Citadel around the clock.

Another restored gateway in Hue's Imperial City.

Another restored gateway in Hue’s Imperial City.

US soldiers assist refugees made homeless during the bitter fighting in Hue in 1968.

US soldiers assist refugees made homeless during the bitter fighting in Hue in 1968.

Although the Old City was quickly retaken, considerable damage had been done to it in the fighting. Out of 160 buildings inside the Citadel, only ten remained standing.

Rocket damageon the walls of Hue's Citadel.

Rocket damage on the walls of Hue’s Citadel.

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A US soldier hurls a hand grenade in the fighting inside the Imperial City.

The whole city of Hue was flattened by the bombing, not just the Old City. It was estimated that 80% of Hue was destroyed by air strikes alone, during the battle, as pockets of NVA and VC resistance and snipers were slowly dislodged.

Bombsites still attest to the severity of the bombing during the fight to regain the CItadel in 1968.

Bombsites still attest to the severity of the bombing during the fight to regain the Citadel in 1968.

US soldiers, wounded and medics take cover during the fighting in the Citadel in 1968.

Wounded US soldiers and medics take cover during the fighting in the Citadel in 1968.

Since the War, considerable rebuilding has gone on inside the Old City, but it is still possible to walk through the ruins and see bullet holes and shell damage on the walls, and scorch marks from napalm dropped during the battle to retake the Citadel.

the site of a Palace, destroyed by the fighting and bombing in the battle to retake the Citadel.

The site of a Palace, destroyed by the fighting and bombing in the battle to retake the Citadel.

US soldiers man a machine gun in the bitter street battles that raged in Hue in 1968.

US soldiers man a machine gun in the bitter street battles that raged in Hue in 1968.

Yet most visitors to Hue and to the Citadel wouldn’t even notice, nor would they believe they were walking around the scene of some of the most intense fighting and one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

An unrestored doorway in a Citadel palace destroyed by napalm during the battle of Hue.

An unrestored doorway in a Citadel palace destroyed by napalm during the battle of Hue.

US soldier  fires an M-60 machine gun from the top of a wall in the Imperial City, Hue in 1968.

US soldier fires an M-60 machine gun from the top of a wall in the Imperial City, Hue in 1968.

At the end of the fighting, even allowing for some propaganda figures by both sides, perhaps 10,000 people, including soldiers on both sides and civilians caught in the middle, died in the month-long battle for Hue, with another 10,000 combined injured – and they’re conservative estimates.

More mementoes of war on Hue's battle damaged walls.

More mementoes of war on Hue’s battle-damaged walls.

A bridge over the Perfume River damaged by North Vietnamese divers wearing American scuba gear during the fighting near Hue's Citadel in 1968. They were able to fix explosives to the bridge under the cover of night.

A bridge over the Perfume River damaged by North Vietnamese divers wearing American scuba gear during the fighting near Hue’s Citadel in 1968. They were able to fix explosives to the bridge under the cover of night.

Hue is now a wonderful place to visit. The people are incredibly friendly and the Citadel is one of my favourite places in Vietnam. Knowing what went on in Hue and in the Old City during the Vietnam War made my visit all the more interesting as I walked around.

I’d recommend it to anyone.

For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia, see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/

For POWs/MIAs in Laos, see:

The location of Hue, Vietnam.

The location of Hue, Vietnam. (Click to enlarge).

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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1 Comment

  1. Sp4 101air b Thomas grace

    I thank you all for what you did.

    Reply

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