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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Hue 1968

My latest check-out from the public library is Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden. You can read a New York Times review of the book here - The Beginning of the End in Vietnam: An Account of the Battle of Hue, by the Author of ‘Black Hawk Down’

I'm just a short way into the book but it's very interesting. I was in high school at the time of the Tet Offensive of 1968, when the Battle of Huế took place. It's strange to have lived through a war and to remember so little of the details, but still the book is bringing back a lot of memories.

At the time covered by the book - the 60s - Lyndon Johnson was president. He had inherited the war from Kennedy, but it was Truman who first got us involved by sending money, weapons, and military advisors to help France hang on to its then colony of Vietnam. The French were defeated in 1954 by the Communist North's Ho Chi Minh, the country was temporarily divided into North and South, and an election were planned in two years to unite the country, with the French taking off. In 1955 the prime minister of the South, Ngô Đình Diệm, rigged the election when it became clear he would lose to Ho Chi Mihn, and the two halves of the country were set against each other.

The US stayed involved, worried about a domino effect in Asia. By 1968, with Johnson president, there were half a million US troops in Vietnam and more bombs were dropped by the US than had been dropped on Europe and Japan in WWII. Yet still, the US couldn't seem to win the war. And meanwhile journalists like Morley Safer were bringing home from Vietnam stories that shocked America ...

Anti-war protests grew. I do recall this - my friends and I were very against the war and the 1968 Democratic national convention showed that we were not alone ...

The convention was held during a year of violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest, particularly riots in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4. The convention also followed the assassination of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, on June 5. Both Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been running for the Democratic Nomination at the time ....

[T]he National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (Yippies) had already begun planning a youth festival in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. They were not alone, as other groups such as Students for a Democratic Society would also make their presence known. When asked about anti-war demonstrators, Daley repeated to reporters that "no thousands will come to our city and take over our streets, our city, our convention." 10,000 demonstrators gathered in Chicago for the convention, where they were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen.

Sometimes when I despair about this Trump era, I remind myself that I've lived in interesting times before and we all (mostly) still made it through.

I'm just at the beginning of the book, so I may post more about it later.


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