History Wars Vietnam War

The history of the Battle of Hue City

Jessica Evans Avatar
battle of hue city
U.S. Marines wounded during the battle.

The Battle of Hue City was one of the bloodiest and most brutal engagements of the Vietnam War. Fought over a period of 26 days in early 1968, the battle saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war as Communist forces attempted to take control of the city of Hue from the South Vietnamese Army and allied American forces. In the end, the city was successfully defended. However, the defenses came at a high cost. There were over 5,000 casualties on both sides, with more than 2,500 of those being South Vietnamese soldiers.

For years after the war ended, the battle remained something of a mystery. Neither side was entirely sure what had happened or who had won. However, recent new information has helped reignite the conversation. Accounts from survivors on both sides suggest that it’s one of the most significant battles of not just the Vietnam War, but of the entire 20th century.

Here’s one take on why the Battle of Hue City was so intense.

Here is the history of the Battle of Hue City

The Battle Begins

On January 30th, 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched a coordinated series of attacks across South Vietnam in an offensive known as the Tet Offensive. One of their primary targets was Hue City, located in central Vietnam; if they could take control of Hue, it would be a major victory, both militarily and psychologically.

For almost a month, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops waged a fierce battle for control of Hue. They managed to capture much of the city, including key strategic points like hospitals and government buildings. The fighting was brutal and merciless. Artillery reduced whole city blocks to rubble, and civilians were caught in the crossfire.

But despite being outnumbered and outgunned, South Vietnamese and American forces slowly began to turn the tide. With help from Navy helicopters and Marine Corps infantry units, they were able to drive North Vietnamese troops out of Hue city by February 24th.

U.S. Marines fighting at Hue City.
U.S. Marines fighting at Huế.

The Aftermath

The Battle of Hue City was a turning point in the Vietnam War. It was one of the largest engagements of the conflict, with some estimates putting total casualties at over 10,000. But more importantly, it showed that Communist forces were not invincible; after years of steady defeats, South Vietnamese and American forces finally had something to cheer about. While there would be many more bloody battles before the war finally ended in 1975, Hue showed that it was possible for South Vietnamese and American troops to not just hold their own against Communist forces—but to win outright.

This is what service members recall of the battle in their own words.

How is the Battle of Hue City Observed today?

There are no formal observances of the Battle of Hue City. Marine units generally discusss and reflect on the battle. It’s one of the most infamous in Marine Corps history.

Memorials to the Battle of Hue City

There are no specific memorials to those lost at the Battle of Hue City. However, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the National Mall serves as a memorial for those who lost their lives in this and all other battles of the Vietnam War.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Battle

How long did the Vietnam War last?

The war lasted from 1964 until 1973.

Did America activate the draft during the Vietnam War?

Yes, America used a draft system to staff the military during the war. 

Who was president during the Vietnam War?

There were five presidents during the war – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

Why did America get involved in the Vietnam War?

America’s involvement started after WWII in a very limited capacity in an effort to push back the communist government in the country. 

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