Mattis said in a statement that the strike, which consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Shayrat air field on April 6, was a “measured response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
In a break from his predecessor, President Donald Trump quickly authorized strikes against the Syrian government — a first for the United States.
According to Mattis, it was meant to deter future chemical weapons use, while showing the world that the U.S. would “not passively stand by” when such atrocities are carried out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there could be “no doubt” that Assad’s troops carried out the attack, and autopsies have showed that sarin gas was used. The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have vigorously denied responsibility.
Russia said that instead, the Syrian air force perhaps carried out a conventional attack that hit a chemical weapons cache controlled by the rebels.
However, as chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta explained to Bellingcat, sarin in storage consists of unmixed components, and dropping a bomb on them would not turn them into a nerve agent.
Meanwhile, Mattis’ statement revealed some details of a damage assessment at the air field. It said the Tomahawk strikes destroyed or damaged fuel and ammunition sites, air defenses, and 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft.
“The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis concluded.
The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.
Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.
1. Learn To Negotiate
It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.
Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.
For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.
2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind
Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.
3. Request Special Liberty
Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.
Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.
The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.
Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.
4. Volunteer for day time events
Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.
The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?
5. Put on a serious face
Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.
Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.
6. Have a lookout
Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.
Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.
Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.
7. Roll Call
Another one that calls for some backup.
The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.
As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.
When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.
This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”
Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.
8. Get your driver’s license
Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to “yes.”
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
“I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans,” said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC’s success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC’s second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
“After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week,” said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. “This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully,” he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. “Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that’s why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits,” said the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office explained, “Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation’s Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population.”
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson had strong words for the National Guard and the Pentagon after allegations emerged that the DoD is forcing California Guard troops to reimburse the government for enlistment bonuses it paid in error.
“It is beyond the bounds of decency to go after our veterans and their families a decade later,” he said in a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty. “These are rounding errors to the Pentagon, but these demands for repayment are ruining lives and causing severe hardships for service members whose sacrifices for the nation can frankly never be adequately be repaid.”
Johnson was referring to a Los Angeles Times story that alleges the National Guard is forcing nearly 10,000 guardsmen from California to repay reenlistment bonuses they were awarded 10 years ago.
According to the paper, more than 14,000 California Guardsmen were awarded the reenlistment bonuses as a result of the Army’s incentive program to retain soldiers during the height of the Iraq war.
The U.S. government investigated the California Guard reenlistment bonuses and found a majority of the requests had been approved despite the soldiers’ not qualifying for the bonus. There has been no suggestion that any of the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses were aware that they did not qualify for them.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe was the California Guard’s incentive manager at the time, and that after the Pentagon discovered the overpayments 6 years ago, Jaffe pleaded guilty to fraud. She was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three other officers associated with the fraud also pled guilty, receiving probation after being forced to pay restitution.
Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of the California Guard, accused the nearly 10,000 soldiers of owing a debt to the Army.
In his statement to The Los Angeles Times, Beevers claimed that the soldiers were at fault and that the Guard couldn’t forgive them. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law,” he said, not addressing whether the Guard was breaking the law by reneging on the contracts.
Several of the Guardsmen went on to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom sustained injuries as a result.
Military Times reports that the Pentagon is searching for ways to overcome the issue. “This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.
A host of lawmakers have stepped forward to condemn the Pentagon for harassing the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses, calling for congressional investigations into the matter. Though as of publication, no presidential candidate other than Johnson had addressed it.
Calling on President Obama and Congress to act immediately on the impacted Guardsmen, Johnson said, “The Pentagon needs a good dose of common sense far more than it needs these dollars, and making our service members pay for the government’s incompetence is beyond the pale.”
On Tuesday, April 17, U.S. Navy veteran Tammie Jo Shults landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after her aircraft ripped apart mid-air. One passenger was killed and seven more were injured, but it could have been much worse.
After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander before separating. After her service, she became a Southwest pilot, joining the 6.2 percent of female commercial pilots in the United States.
“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults told Air Traffic Control. “It’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing. They said there’s a hole, and — uh — someone went out.”
Cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but BBC reported that, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board, officials found evidence of metal fatigue where a fan blade had broken off
As of this writing, Shults has yet to make a formal statement, but passengers have taken to social media and mainstream news to hail her as the hero she is:
“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew, ” wrote Diana McBride Self.
Armenian soldiers take positions along the border with Azerbaijan (Armenian Defense Ministry Press Service)
For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.
Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.
Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.
Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.
Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.
On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.
To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.
The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.
On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.
Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.
July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.
As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.
An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)
From World War II to today, Boeing products have been the backbone of America’s strategic bomber force. That long tradition got started, though, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which was best known for flying the daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War II.
The ultimate form of the B-17 was the B-17G version, which had 13 .50-caliber machine guns, including a twin Bendex turret under the nose, twin turrets on the top, belly, and tail of the bomber, as well as five single machine guns, including two in the wait, two in the cheeks of the plane, and one for the radio operator.
With all that firepower and ammo, there was still enough room to carry a large bombload (up to 9,600 pounds). The B-17 also had a lot of reach, with a maximum range of 3,750 miles. With four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines, it could hit 287 miles per hour when running flat-out.
The Flying Fortress saw action from the start of the war — B-17s flying in to Hickam Field on Dec, 7, 1941 came under attack from the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. After that day, B-17 production was ramped up until 12,726 of all types were produced until May, 1945.
Today, only 12 of the thousands of B-17s that were built are still airworthy – with another 27 either in museums or being restored. Among those being restored is the only surviving B-17D, “The Swoose,” as well as the famous “Memphis Belle.”
United States Seventh Fleet has new damning controversy worse than everything else the “Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club” has had to deal with this year. This time it isn’t about a Petty Officer 3rd Class hiding in an engine room, disastrously low morale among lower enlisted, or another collision.
At the time of writing this, 440 active-duty and retired sailors, to include 60 Admirals, are being investigated for ethics violations in connection to Leonard Glenn Francis and Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Formal criminal charges have been field against 34 personnel, 19 of whom have already stood in Federal court. All of them pleaded guilty.
The Singaporean contractor, known as “Fat Leonard,” was arrested in September 2013 for bribery and defrauding the U.S. government through falsified service charges. He is serving 25 years and forfeited $35 million from his personal assets. $35 million is the amount of money he admits to swindling out of the Navy.
Francis managed to con the Navy for over ten years by bribing Navy officials to look the other way and worming his way into meetings with Admirals to gain insider knowledge. His bribes included alcohol-fueled parties, private vacations, pure cash, and many other luxuries. The bribery with the worst optics still remains the six figures worth of prostitutes he would bring to those officials.
Capt. Daniel Dusek, the former commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard, received a 46-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $100k in fines and restitution for connections to the scandal. Dusek admits to “succumbing to temptations before him” and gave classified information to “Fat Leonard.”
Francis received a decommissioned British naval vessel, RFA Sir Lancelot, and converted it into a party boat, rechristened as the Glenn Braveheart, to entertain top U.S. Navy officials in 2003. Once there, he would entice the Naval officers with the bribes and prostitutes to gain unfettered access into the inner workings of the Navy, use the intimate knowledge and access to secure valuable contracts, and then overcharge the Navy for his fraudulent invoices.
The true scope of “Fat Leonard’s” corruption is still not known and the number of involved Naval officials isn’t known at this time as investigations continue.
Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.
Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.
It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.
(West Point Athletics)
This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.
The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.
On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.
Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.
Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.
“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.
His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.
The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.
American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.
Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.
It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.
Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.
“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.
The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.
Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.
If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.
The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.
The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.
Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.
The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.
The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.
Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.