Category Archives: Hue
After Hanoi we flew Vietnam Airlines to Hue, pronounced whay. This is an absolutely beautiful city which has grown immensely and recovered and rebuilt totally after it was obliterated during the TET offensive of 1968. It is an ancient capital of central Vietnam both politically and spiritually. The city is now mainly on the western side of the Perfume River which separates old and new Hue.
We did the normal tourist stuff, like we always do.
Hue is the closest city to the old DMZ. Tours are available of such sites as Hamburger Hill and Khe San. My research said that these battlefields do not have much to show anymore, so we passed. But I wanted to see the DMZ area. Our guide kept mentioning something from the war that I was ignorant of. It is called the McNamara line. Simply put, it was a barbed wire and electronic sensor barrier which would forewarn the US Marines of infiltrators crossing the DMZ. When activated the Marines would call in air strikes. Our guide kept mentioning how much fun the Viet Cong had with this absurdity. They would do things like capture rats, set their tails on fire and send then through the barriers en-masse. Then they would go back to their bunkers and watch as the US navy came in and dropped hundreds of bombs, wiping out a section of McNamara’s line, and later just walk right through. This is another example that high tech tactics can always be defeated by low tech tactics, with a bit of ingenuity.
The Rockpile is located in northern Quang Tri Province in Hue. This particular place was used as the famous listening post and a guide port for bombers during the Vietnam War. From here the US troops were helicoptered in and out.
The Rockpile was also an artillery base during that time. This was a weaponry with a huge array of big guns, including 175 long Toms, 8-inchers on tracks, 105s and 155s.
From the rockpile it is a short trip north on what used to be the Ho Chi Minh trail (now a major highway) to the 17th parallel. This is the line of demarcation established at the Geneva conference in 1954 mostly along the Ben Hai river. The accords established that there would be an election in both North and South Vietnam for an overall government. But both the SVN government and the US government knew Ho would win, so the election was not held, leading to the Vietnam war.
Enough about the war for now. I want to show you some of Hue’s beauty.
We went out to dinner at a restaurant with authentic Vietnamese music played for authentic tourists.
But the food as usual in Vietnam was the best.
Hue, like all cities in Vietnam has a bustling trade in knock-off merchandise. I found a new model Rolex watch and bargained to US$8 for it. Yeah $8. It looks great, actually looks real and it keeps perfect time. At least it does now. When I was looking at it the vendor set it to the correct time. When I got back to the hotel, it had not moved. I walked back, and said “no workee dude”. He looked at me and said “Tha becuz you no buy Baturee”. Live and learn.
Hue is not anywhere near as hectic as Hanoi. Mary Ann actually said she could live there.
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Next, Danang and then Hoi An.
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.
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