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Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American…
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Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (original 2017; édition 2017)

par Mark Bowden (Auteur)

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398947,551 (4.27)11
In mid-1967, the North Vietnam leadership had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the effort included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Huế, the country's intellectual and cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, the first day of the Lunar New Year (called Tet), ten thousand National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and -- led by locals like eighteen-year-old village girl and Viet Cong member Che Thi Mung -- surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Huế was in Front hands save for two small military outposts. The American commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front's presence. Captain Chuck Meadows was ordered to lead his 160-marine Golf Company in the first attempt to reenter Huế later that day. Facing thousands of entrenched enemy troops, he reported: "We are outgunned and outmanned." After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II. With unprecedented access to war archives in the United States and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing more than ten thousand combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate over the war was never again about winning, only about how to leave.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:BruneCoombsBookshelf
Titre:Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
Auteurs:Mark Bowden (Auteur)
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2017), Edition: First Edition, 608 pages
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Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam par Mark Bowden (2017)

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While Max Hastings attempted to do the impossible and cover the entire 14 years plus of the American War in Indochina, Mark Bowden humbles himself before the historic edifice and accepts that a focus on Hue alone will convey all you need to know. He’s not far wrong.

Hue is in many ways a microcosm of the entire farcical episode. It contains incredible perseverence from both sides. From the Vietnamese fighting to liberate their country from control by a foreign power, it shows their dedication, courage and commitment in the face of overwhelming odds. For the US and South Vietnamese forces it shows dedication and courage in the face of overwhelming hubris, self-aggrandisement and prejudice. For both, it was fought in the face of overwhelming self-deception that their cause was in any way actually allied to the propaganda they spewed forth.

Hue had, until January 1968, escaped the conflict relatively unscathed. It was chosen by the Viet Cong because of its historical significance as a major target in the meticulously planned and executed Tet Offensive. They very nearly captured the entire city in 24 hours.

Crucially, however, they failed to completely eradicate two small bases belonging to the South Vietnamese and the US military despite having the forces to do so. It was from these two small bases that their enemies mounted campaign after campaign that eventually, after 31 days’ of fighting managed to drive them into retreat. By that point however, the US government had suffered such a pounding in its national press that their withdrawal from the entire conflict was inevitable.

The strength of Bowden’s work is the detail in the telling of individual stories. You follow people from both sides, civilian and military, young and old. You see what they suffered, you follow how they have suffered since and understand that they suffer still. Bowden builds the battle out of these intimate episodes and thus gives a perspective you never quite get from Hastings’ tome.

The book is an excellent read; don’t pick it up at bedtime if you’ve got to be up early the next day. I’d recommend a couple of things to supplement it: firstly, make sure you get yourself a good supply of photography from the web. The images in the book are good, but Hue provided some of the very best war photography including the not-to-be-missed works of Don McCullin. Secondly, when you get to the part where Walter Cronkite visits, it’s worth pausing to watch his documentary on YouTube. There aren’t many films which have been so influential in world politics as that one ultimately was.

If there’s a weakness in Bowden’s book it’s that it is balanced more heavily in the telling of the US story. This is inevitable not only because of the simple fact that it’s a tale in English, but from the fact that the vast majority of stories from the Viet Cong side are very hard to get hold of.

Despite this, in comparison to Hastings’ Vietnam, the reader gets far more insight into what the battle was like for the Viet Cong. This is essential to redress the balance in English literature of the US side of the story (critical or otherwise). As it was the Viet Cong who were the underdogs and the ones who had a legitimate cause, the fact that some, like veteran Nicholas Warr, condemn Bowden for this seems ludicrous to me.

That the ironically named Warr has the ability to correct any errors in his story by publishing on his own website only serves to illustrate the reason why Bowden’s telling of the socialist side of things is important. When those who fought with the Viet Cong do tell the truth of their experiences, even today they risk ostracism in a nation that has fought and died for its own choice of socialist ideals. Bowden admits as much in his epilogue. Vietnam chose national freedom over freedom of the individual. Warr’s vocal criticism only serves to illustrate the lack of genuine desire US forces had to actually liberate the voice of the individual Vietnamese from socialism. If he truly wants them to experience democracy, he would applaud any efforts to tell their own tale ( )
  arukiyomi | Jan 3, 2021 |
Mark Bowden's recently published Hue 1968 is a first rate history of the battle for Hue City during Tet in 1968 that also provides quite a solid context for the overall war. Bowden is an excellent writer and the book is accessible and engrossing. Charges that the work is too "scholarly" or "academic," are flat out wrong. Hue 1968 is better than that. It also employs a journalistic methodology of focusing on multiple individual storylines that are, in a word, captivating.

Best of all, this is a fair history of the battle for Hue, giving ample time to participants on both sides. For example, it gives space to understanding the self delusions of the leadership of both sides, the American generals and politicians as well as the North Vietnamese. While Gen. Westmoreland had prepared for an assault in all the wrong places, the North Vietnamese fooled themselves into believing their own propaganda that the Tet offensive would generate a general uprising among the populace that would push the United States out of Vietnam.

If there is one fault with the book it is that much of the good information given in the endnotes should be included the main text. Bowden's decision to avoid or gently introduce the myriad acronyms and source details is understandable. Vietnam, for the Americans, was a war unmatched in its use of official acronyms and military slang. And Bowden doesn't want the reader to get bogged down in them and lose interest. But as a result, he also leaves much important information to be lost in the endnotes, which 99 percent of his readers will never touch. The best example is AP photographer Eddie Adams' famous photo of South Vietnam's national police chief shooting a handcuffed Viet Cong prisoner in the head. As Bowden explains in the notes, the executed prisoner had himself just killed "scores" of innocent civilians, including an 80 year old woman. This is information I would bet has never been given to almost every person who has seen the photo since it was first delivered to worldwide audiences in 1968. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
This book by Mark Bowden is an absolutely stunning one. I am not familiar with the details of the Vietnam war, and this book brings the crucial battle at Hue to life.

It brings it to a life that makes the horrors of war immediate and very real to all of us. The writing is vivid. While he does write from an American perspective, he does show considerable respect for the Vietnamese.

Through the telling of the tale of American bravery, we come across some heroic characters and are reminded of the perfidy of politicians of all hues.

A bullet wound, as one soldier mentions, is not a neat round hole that we see in movies. It is mangled limbs, shattered lungs, skulls blown off. War is shitting in the trenches, not bathing, shaving, living in constant fear that the next minute will be your last.

The men who fight are the ones who deserve glory and respect. They are, sadly, expendable.

This is a brilliant book. ( )
  RajivC | Feb 25, 2020 |
A monumental effort. The first Vietnam analysis I have found which reflects the three parties to the conflict: the National Liberation Front; South Vietnamese and Americans; and the civilians caught in the crossfire. ( )
  jigarpatel | Jan 9, 2020 |
The Battle of Hue, one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, was characterized by intense urban fighting by Marines who were not well trained for urban combat and as a result they improvised tactics and weapons as they went. It was the inspiration for Full Metal Jacket, for example the scene with the sniper who left victims alive in the street as bait actually occurred. Like most everything about Vietnam it was cruel and surreal. It was a civil war inside a civil war, inside a cold war, a war of civil rights and generational conflict. Bowden does an excellent job placing it into broader context politically. His thesis is that the battle led directly to LBJ declaring he would not seek reelection for a second term, and Walter Cronkite's now-famous report the war was not winnable, which for the first time made opposition to the war acceptable. The book is long and I found the first half a slog. Once the battle is fully in motion it's a montage of scenes and people that together enforce the chaos and relentless fighting. This is a good book for understanding the battle and the war. ( )
1 voter Stbalbach | Oct 14, 2019 |
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Hours before daylight on January 31, 1968, the first day of Tet, the Lunar New Year, nearly ten thousand North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietnam Cong (VC) troops descended from hidden camps in the Central Highlands and overran the city of Hue, the historical capital of Vietnam.
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In mid-1967, the North Vietnam leadership had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the effort included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Huế, the country's intellectual and cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, the first day of the Lunar New Year (called Tet), ten thousand National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and -- led by locals like eighteen-year-old village girl and Viet Cong member Che Thi Mung -- surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Huế was in Front hands save for two small military outposts. The American commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front's presence. Captain Chuck Meadows was ordered to lead his 160-marine Golf Company in the first attempt to reenter Huế later that day. Facing thousands of entrenched enemy troops, he reported: "We are outgunned and outmanned." After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II. With unprecedented access to war archives in the United States and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing more than ten thousand combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate over the war was never again about winning, only about how to leave.

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