A Day in Hell on the DMZ by Lou Pepi

Lou Pepi served in the Vietnam War in 1969 with Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 61st Infantry Regiment in the Army’s 5th Infantry Division. He displays life-long allegiance to that group with A Day in Hell on the DMZ: The Rocket Attack on Firebase Charlie 2 in Vietnam, May 21, 1971 (McFarland, 213 pp. $33.94, paper; $13.49, Kindle).

The book is based Pepi’s interviews with 20 men from Alpha Company. He recreates their actions prior to and following the May 21, 1971, event that killed 30 and wounded 33 when a 122-mm rocket caved in the roof of a recreational bunker. Eighteen of the dead came from Alpha Company. Firebase Charlie 2 was in Northern I Corps close to the Demilitarized Zone and easily within range of North Vietnamese Army artillery.

As a reporter, Pepi flawlessly did his homework. He follows the overall course of Alpha’s actions and includes interviewees’ comments at appropriate moments for each event, rather than record their recollections separately. Pepi shows the men in combat and the ways they developed as warriors. His account of an Alpha patrol trapped in an unmapped Con Thien minefield illuminates a nightmare of misguided intentions and disastrous results.       

Even though it was late in the war, Alpha and the 5th Infantry Division endured height-of-the-war demands. Alpha spent 70 consecutive days in the field shortly before the events at Firebase Charlie 2. The Company played a major role in Operation Dewey Canyon II that literally paved the way (constructing 80 kilometers of new roads) for Operation Lam Son 719, the move into Laos that began in February 1971. Alpha’s job was to keep the road open throughout both operations.

Pepi does an excellent job incorporating expert opinions about the planning mistakes of Lam Son that doomed the South Vietnamese Army mission practically before it began.

A Day in Hell on the DMZ pays tribute to all of the men in Alpha Company, with special recognition for those killed in the rocket strike. As Pepi shows, their courage and dedication went above and beyond.

Company Commander Capt. Robert Dean was the driving force in Alpha until he suffered a horrendous injury and was shipped stateside for eight months of hospital care. Unhappily, multiple wounds shortened his first Vietnam War tour as well. His combat career totaled 20 months that resulted in 22 months in hospitals.

5th Infantry soldier on patrol with an M60 machine gun

Dean’s feats in battle, as reported by Pepi, set a standard that his men admired: He asked nothing of them beyond doing what he would do himself. Dean’s pragmatic approach and success in desperate situations overwhelmed me. Pepi gives him the final word in nearly every situation, which he earned and deserves. Robert Dean died in 2018. He deserved to live to 100. I came to idolize the guy.

The book contains many pages of communication logs, plus 14 pages of after action reports dealing with the events of May 21, 1971. Their hour-by-hour accounts provide material for hard-core history buffs.

This book is Pepi’s second about the Vietnam War. He previously wrote My Brothers Have My Back, which centers on a three-day engagement known as the “November Battle,” in which he participated in 1969. During his time with Alpha Company Pepi served as a machine gunner, APC driver, and squad leader.  https://vvabooks.wordpress.com/2018/12/27/my-brothers-have-my-back-by-lou-pepi/

Episodes of counterinsurgency warfare fill A Day in Hell on the DMZ and give readers a treasure trove of facts over which to speculate what might have been, if only….

—Henry Zeybel

Fly By Knights Edited By Roger D. Graham

In Fly By Knights: Air Force A/B/RB-26 Air Commando Missions in the Vietnam War (McFarland, 290 pp. $39.95, paper; $17.99, Kindle) retired USAF Col. Roger Graham, with help from fellow Air Force flyers, has constructed a roller-coaster ride of stories about daring feats, successes and screw-ups, unimaginable events, close calls, and losses.

The book’s stories come from 35 Air Commandos (and three family members) in parallel with Graham’s account of the aircraft’s evolution from B-26B to A-26A. He interviewed pilots, navigator/copilots, maintenance and armament personnel, and civilian contractors. The men all expressed positive attitudes about the war and their role in it.

The Air Commandos took part in three Vietnam War operations: Farm Gate at Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam from 1961-64, and Big Eagle and Nimrod (Hunter) at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, 1966-1969. From 1964-66 Operation Farm Gate’s B-26s proved to be too old for their task.

The B-26 had excelled in World War II and Korea, and its availability led planners to use those light bombers for close air support and interdiction missions for the “Secret War” in Laos. After 1963-64 incidents in which three B-26Bs lost a wing during low-level pull-ups, headquarters grounded the plane.

Long before that happened, the aircraft had problems. It lacked up-to-date instrumentation. Systems frequently failed. Repairs depended on cannibalization because spare parts seldom were available.

The ancient war plane’s unpredictability grew almost humorous. As an old armorer put it: “The B Model was a maintenance nightmare. It would be just sitting on the ramp with no one around and suddenly decide to start dropping bombs on the ramp.”

Many Air Force units had flown the planes in many different roles and no two planes were alike. Some, for example, had been flown in support of the French at Dien Bien Phu. Despite those handicaps, B-26 crewmen rightfully exuded pride in flying them.

Convinced it was still the best machine for the task, the Air Force corrected the aircraft’s wing spar failures by having On Mark Engineering Company convert 40 B-26s to B-26Ks. Innovative technical and aerodynamic designs brought the airplane up to modern standards. 

With the new B-26Ks, the Commandos eagerly deployed to Nakhon Phanom in 1966. Focused on interdicting the Ho Chi Minh Trail, they destroyed or damaged more trucks than anyone else. They operated under the Nimrod call sign, but the plane’s designation was changed to A-26 for political purposes. Those flyers, too, found exceptional satisfaction in their mission and unit camaraderie. Increasingly intense and accurate North Vietnamese Army antiaircraft artillery eventually drove the A-26s from Laos.

Fly By Knights contains unit rosters, squadron history documents, and heart-touching reflections on war by members of flyers’ families. The well-written history documents provide insights on truck interdiction tactics.

Roger D. Graham is a 1963 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, and served on active duty as a navigator-bombardier and a judge advocate. As an editor, he definitely gets the most from other people’s stories.

—Henry Zeybel

Ghostriders 1968-1975 by William Walter

Retired Chief Master Sgt. William Walter has written the book that many of us have been waiting for since the last century: Ghostriders 1968-1975: “Mors de Caelis” Combat History of the AC-130 Spectre Gunship, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (Knox Press, 352 pp. $35, hardcover; $14.99, Kindle). In it, Walter describes a six-year battle matching the U.S. Air Force’s 16th Special Operations Squadron against the North Vietnamese Army’s 591st Anti-Aircraft Regiment. The two units clashed in Laos above the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Comprised of AC-130 Spectre gunships, the 16th SOS destroyed trucks and other vehicles along the Trail, while the 591st tried to shoot down the gunships. The 16th dominated the arena, but in the end, the 591st deployed a sufficient array of weapons to drive the gunships from the theater.

After crewing as a Spectre gunner from 1978-2005, Walter spent more than a decade researching this book. He recreates the multi-year battle based on information from USAF records, archives, and 16th post-strike combat reports; as well as interviews with former 16th crewmembers; and NVA commanders’ writings and other publications. In portraying turning points of combat, Walter provides nearly night-by-night accounts of the ploys and counter ploys employed by the gunships and by the NVA defenses. Anti-aircraft fire intensified in proportion to the number of trucks destroyed or damaged.

Walter tells his stories from crewmen’s viewpoints, and they overflow with authenticity. His narrative grows more off-beat and captivating as firepower and accuracy balanced out between the two sides. He shows us why and how Spectre crews performed over the Trail and shows how the enemy truck drivers reacted on the ground. He compares the responses of American and North Vietnamese combatants to the thinking of their higher-level decision makers.

Encounters over the Trail often became a take-your-best-shot situation. For the first five years of the battle, gunships took frequent survivable hits, but trucks suffered large numbers of fatalities. Drivers became demoralized and frightened by the gunships’ ability to locate them, a mentality that enemy leaders found difficult to deal with. Often, the mere presence of a gunship overhead caused drivers to stop, shut down their engines, abandon their vehicles, or do whatever else might save them from discovery.  Consequently, transportation of men and materiel ceased for the duration of a gunship’s overfly.

During the final year of battle, Trail defenses grew more prolific and powerful with the introduction of  85- and 100-mm guns, along with SA-2 and SA-7 missiles. The improved defensive structure forced gunships to fly higher and higher, thereby reducing the effectiveness and accuracy of their weapons. The NVA shot down four gunships, causing tactical changes that curtailed truck hunting. Spectre’s main task then became night protection of Saigon and, after the war ended in 1973, close air support for Cambodians fighting the Khmer Rouge.  

At length, Walter sorts out a controversy regarding the lethality of a gunship’s weapons. Studies showed that AC-130 practices for close air support, interdiction, command and control, and search and rescue developed through on-the-job training—meaning in combat.

Ghostriders‘ short final chapter records the 16th SOS’s role in the recovery of the U.S.S. Mayaguez in 1975. On that mission, Spectre flew 15 support missions during three days of utter confusion, its final combat role in Southeast Asia.

An AC-130 Spectre Gunship in action in Vietnam

The book is user friendly. In a brief Forward, Walter clearly explains the birth and evolution of the AC-130 structure, manning, and basic maneuvers. He tailored the book to ensure that a reader understands exactly what is taking place at all times by adding an event chronology, glossary, references, and index.

“Either by design or by chance,” Walter says, “the AC-130 earned a unique position in military history.” 

I operated sensors for Spectre during 1970-71 and found Walter’s accounts to be complete in every way. I believe a person unfamiliar with the aircraft will be spellbound by the facts Walter has accumulated. The book took me back to familiar places and taught me things I had not known.

Knox Press recently published Ghostriders 1976-1995: “Invictus” Combat History of the AC-130 Spectre Gunship, Iran, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia,”  Walter’s sequel to Ghostriders 1968-1975. The second book covers U.S. actions in areas less familiar to the public than those in the highly reported war in Vietnam.

—Henry Zeybel

Hispanic Medal of Honor Recipients & Jewish Medal of Honor Recipients by Michael Lee Lanning

Lee Lanning is a prolific author and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who served in Vietnam as a platoon leader and rifle company commander with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. His latest books—Hispanic Medal of Honor Recipients: American Heroes (Texas A&M University Press, 304 pp., $29.95) and Jewish Medal of Honor Recipients: American Heroes (Texas A&M, 247 pp., $29.95)—are companion pieces in every sense of the term. In them, Lanning writes about a select group of American servicemen, members of one of the country’s most exclusive and honored organizations.

Of the more than 40 million men and women who have served in the military since the formation of the Continental Army in 1775, the Medal of Honor—which was first awarded during the Civil War—has been bestowed on only 3,525. “It is the highest award for bravery given by the U.S .Armed Forces for combat against enemy forces,” Lanning writes. “It is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by gallantry and intrepidity beyond the call of duty at the risk of their own lives.”

All too often the award is bestowed posthumously. Of the MOH awardees, at least 17 were Jewish; 60 were Hispanic.

These books follow a similar pattern and complement each other. Lanning begins both with a brief description of the MOH—its history, significance, and exclusivity.

What follows is a rendition of the MOH citation for each recipient and a brief synopsis of the valorous actions the recipients performed in battle. Lanning also provides the background story for each individual; and for the living recipients, a description of their lives today.

Twenty-two Hispanic Vietnam War troops—including Army Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez and Army Spec. 4 Alfred Rascon—and two Jewish men–Army Col. Jack Jacobs and USAF Sgt. John Levitow—received the MOH. Lanning notes that newly presented information and records could mean that those numbers will increase.

These are good books filled with well-presented and informative stories.

–Tom Werzyn

SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars by John L. Plaster

What could be more blandly benign than an organization called the Studies and Observation Group? As anyone familiar with the history of the American war in Vietnam knows, though, SOG, which came into being in January 1964, did much, much more than just study and observe. SOG was a top-secret, multi-unit, special warfare MACV operation that mounted countless undercover missions into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

That included disrupting enemy activities primarily along the Ho Chi Minh Trail; undertaking prisoner snatches and other types of rescue operations; and mounting psychological ops. SOG teams were made up of U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Air Force Special Warfare Units, South Vietnamese Special Forces, and Montagnard volunteers.

SOG was “the only U.S. military organization [in the Vietnam War] operating throughout Southeast Asia with its own aircraft, raiding forces, recon units and naval arm,” retired Army Maj. John Plaster writes in SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars (Casemate, 456 pp., $49.95), a revised and updated examination of SOG with more than 700 photos, maps, charts, and sidebars.

First published in 2000, the book is a companion photo history to Plaster’s SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam, but could very well stand on its own as a history of SOG. Plaster—who served three years with SOG, leading intelligence-gathering recon teams behind enemy lines in Laos and Cambodia—writes about many operations and the men who took part in them, a group that includes eight Medal of Honor recipients.

Although Plaster doesn’t include footnotes or a bibliography, he has his facts straight throughout the book, including in his accounts of operations such as the Son Tay prison raid and Bright Light rescue missions of downed American flyers in enemy territory in North and South Vietnam. 

–Marc Leepson

U.S. Vehicles & Heavy Weapons of the Vietnam War by David Doyle

Rich in photographs and information, David Doyle’s U.S. Vehicles and Heavy Weapons of the Vietnam War (Pen & Sword, 238 pp. $36.95, hardcover; $16.99, Kindle) covers virtually every American vehicle and towed weapon used in the Vietnam War—from the little half-ton M-274 Mule to the M-48 Medium Tank.    

For those who served in the Vietnam War era, looking at the photographs in this book is a nostalgic journey. Reading Doyle’s description of the instability of the M-151 MUTT (AKA, Jeep) brought back scary moments when I served in Vietnam and the Jeep I was reading in nearly flipped over. For post-Vietnam War veterans, the book just may be an eye opener to see how much military equipment such as the Humvee and M-1 Main Battle Tanks have changed.

Beyond the approximately two hundred photos of vehicles and weapons—from ambulances to cargo, firefighting trucks to self-propelled artillery, and much more—the book includes extensive charts and tables on each piece in which Doyle lists details on electrical systems, turning radii, dimensions, and more. There is probably not a single question about the equipment that this book does not answer.

Here and there interesting facts appear that may surprise many readers. I, for instance, had either forgotten or never knew that some military vehicles built by Continental Motors contained multi-fuel engines that could run on gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.

This informative and interesting book is a great reference for anything that moved on wheels or tracks during the Vietnam War, including amphibious vehicles. For what might have been a dry subject, David Doyle, an accomplished military vehicle expert, has much to tell the reader about the Vietnam War—from the driver’s seat.

–John Cirafici

Tanks in the Easter Offensive, 1972 by William E. Hiestand

Osprey Publishing always produces quality books. True to form, William E. Hiestand’s Tanks in the Easter Offensive, 1972: The Vietnam War’s Great Conventional Clash (Osprey, 48 pp. $19, paper; $9.99, Kindle) is a very nicely illustrated concise history of the use of armor by both during the North Vietnamese Army’s 1972 Easter Offensive. The book includes details on every type of tank and armored fighting vehicle used by both sides the during five-month offensive, including their characteristics and limitations.  

The role of armor is viewed from tactical and strategic perspectives, as Hiestand, a Pentagon military analyst, analyses successes and failures on the battlefield. When properly employed by competent officers, the South Vietnamese armored forces were effective, as they were during the 1970 incursion into Cambodia. On the other hand, when poorly led by incompetent commanders, the South Vietnamese armored vehicles were of little of no value on the battlefield.   

As for the North Vietnamese Army, its armor acquitted itself well, but the tactical successes often did not lead to operational success because the NVA leadership was often slow to react to changing situations on the ground.   

What makes the use of armor by the NVA especially interesting is that during the American War they rarely employed armor in South Vietnam, and then only the PT-76s—thinly armored amphibious tanks—that attacked lightly defended sites such as Special Forces camps in the Central Highlands.    

By the time of the North Vietnamese 1972 offensive its military had become much better armed and was learning how to use combined armed forces using Soviet military tactics. The North suffered horrendous losses during the offensive due in large measure to effective U.S. airstrikes which destroyed some 250 tanks and AFVs. 

One important lesson from the battle was the very successful use by both sides of anti-tank weapons. The North employed a new type —the Russian AT-3 Sagger.  he ARVN at Kontum used an experimental TOW ATGM (anti-tank wire guided missile), and destroyed 24 enemy tanks.  

South Vietnamese troops near Dong Ha, April 11, 1972. AP Photo/Nick Ut

At An Loc ARVN tank killer teams armed with M-72 LAWs (light anti-tank weapons) also took a toll on NVA armor. When ARVN leaders misused their armor in static defense postures, they became easy targets for Saggers and other anti-tank weapons. Today anti-tank missiles are playing a major role on the battlefield in Ukraine, with the destruction of Russian armor by Ukrainian fighters armed with American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Tanks in the Eastern Offensive closes with an analysis of the long-term impact of anti-tank weapons, including the successful use of Saggers during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.    

This book is informative and timely in explaining the use of armor during the Easter Offensive, and in illuminating lessons that are applicable on the current battlefield—plus, it’s a handy reference book on the subject.

–John Cirafici

The Erawan War, Vol. 2 by Ken Conboy

Ken Conboy’s The Erawan War, Vol. 2: A Paramilitary Campaign in Laos 1969-1974.  (Helion 78 pp., $29.95, paper) is an account of the largest CIA operation of the Cold War, in which the agency fielded an army numbering perhaps eight indigenous divisions. This second volume of a two-volume history, seamlessly follows the first one in describing the evolving nature of operations during the last five years of American involvement in Laos during the Vietnam War.   

Although Volume 2 can stand alone, it is immensely helpful to have read Vol. 1’s 1961-69 history. Like the first, Vol. 2 captures much of the secret war in Laos, including its complexity. It focuses on CIA-trained guerilla units recruited from the hill tribes of Vietnam and Thailand. In operations against North Vietnam’s heavily guarded and vital Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos teams penetrated defenses, destroyed supply-laden trucks, and gathered intelligence. Equally impressive, they conducted attacks inside North Vietnam itself.

Although in the greater scheme of things these missions were pinpricks, President Nixon pushed for them as a means of applying pressure on Hanoi. The real test, however, came when guerilla regiments found themselves pitted against regular North Vietnamese Army (PAVN) divisions. Many PAVN units, known for their aggressiveness in South Vietnam, were also fighting in Laos.

The CIA out of necessity recruited increasing numbers of Lao tribesmen and Thai volunteers, and formed new battalions to fight in the rapidly expanding war. President Nixon was so pleased by their successes that he conveyed his admiration directly to the Thai prime minister. But the CIA-led paramilitary campaign could not stop the PAVNs steady advance.

Thai battalions became essential to operations in the Plaine des Jarres region, trying to stall advances made by the PAVN. It is evident that the large-scale war in Laos was in many ways as important as the war in Vietnam.  

The book details the significant amount of combat airlift flown by USAF helicopters in Laos. USAF Combat Controllers and Forward Air Controllers also played an important role supporting operations there. U.S. military assets based in Thailand and South Vietnam were crucial to successes on the battlefield, in particular when U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft conducted airstrikes.

Hmong fighters in Laos with an American military adviser

Conboy’s Erawan War books reveal the tragedy of this story: that men and boys recruited from the hill tribes by the CIA struggled against an enemy with seemingly unlimited manpower and weaponry. It’s to their credit that these irregular forces frequently working with Thai special forces, infantry, and artillery were able to resist for so long against the advancing PAVN and its Pathet Lao allies. The tragedy was that with the end of all American involvement in the conflict the hill tribes were left to fend for themselves and suffer the consequences at the hands of vindictive Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese.

This concise, heavily illustrated book contains much information about a part of the Vietnam War that little known to the American public. The two volumes are a necessary read in order to truly understand the immensity of America’s involvement in the Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

–John Cirafici

U.S. Navy Special Warfare Units in Korea and Vietnam by Eugene Liptak

Eugene Liptak’s U.S. Navy Special Warfare Units in Korea and Vietnam: UDTs and SEALS, 1950-1973 (Osprey, 64 pp. $20, paper; $9.99, Kindle) is a well-illustrated, concise look at Navy Special Ops in the two wars fought by the U.S. following World War II.  

The first two chapters focus on UDT (Underwater Demolitions Team) operations during the Korean War. Those small units conducted missions that had been refined during the Second World War: beach reconnaissance and demolition of obstructions and marking underwater mines and other potential landing craft obstacles. 

The UDT frogmen also found themselves undergoing highly dangerous Korean War missions inserting agents and guerillas behind enemy lines. Adding to the risks of landing on enemy beaches, the lightly armed teams were minimally able to defend themselves. There also were unusual missions that included destroying fishing nets.

Why were we destroying and capturing Korean fishing nets and sampans? Simply put, the nets were destroyed to curtail fish as a source of food for the North Koreans.

In the Vietnam War UDT units supported U.S. Marine amphibious assaults on Vietnamese beaches that attacked Viet Cong enclaves. As always, frogmen were the first to hit the beaches to evaluate approaches and mark safe channels. They also fought VC in the vicinity.

UDTs in the Vietnam War operated independently and in support of a new concept in U.S. Navy Special Warfare ops: SEAL (SEa, Air and Land) teams. Military historian Liptak discusses the primary UDT and SEAL missions in Vietnam, including intelligence gathering, senior enemy official abductions, and night ambushes.The primary areas of responsibility were the Mekong Delta and the Rung Sat Special Zone, a difficult region of thick mangrove thick swamps east of Saigon. 

Other SEALs led paramilitary forces of indigenous anti-communists organized into Provincial Reconnaissance Units.They conducted missions similar to those of Operation Phoenix that targeted Viet Cong troops and sympathizers throughout South Vietnam. Another task was rescuing prisoners of war and downed airmen.

A SEAL Team in country ready to move out on an operation

This book discusses the SEAL teams’ weapons, such as the Stoner 63A1 squad automatic rifle and the Swedish K submachine gun, as well as the vessels used for water transport, and SEAL platoon and squad organization.

This abbreviated overview of UDT and SEAL operations provides an informed, interesting, and fact-filled account of their work in two wars. It should be read.

–John Cirafici

The Battle of Hue 1968 by James H. Willbanks

The 1968 Tet Offensive was the Vietnam War’s watershed moment. Only months before MACV Commanding Gen. William Westmoreland had told Congress that victory could be just two years ahead. In the aftermath of Tet, President Johnson announced he would not run for re-election and sought the means to extricate America from an unwinnable war.     

North Vietnam was equally frustrated on the eve of Tet 1968 by the direction its struggle had taken following the big American troop building began in 1965. The longer the war continued on American terms the less likely victory could be achieved. Hence, the North was willing to take a huge gamble by fully committing to a general offensive.

With initial success, so the plan went, a general uprising would be sparked against the Saigon government. A key part of the plan was to seize the city of Hue and then, while firmly in control there, proclaim a revolutionary government in the South. That’s how the stage was set for one of the most important battles of the war.

In the summer of 1967 the North Vietnamese Politburo planned a major offensive that would attack provincial capitals and Saigon during the 1968 Tet truce when many South Vietnamese troops would be on leave. A series of attacks would be launched in the fall in remote regions to draw U.S.and ARVN forces away from the population centers. On the eve of Tet the largest feint was a sustained attack on the Marine outpost of Khe Sanh that drew away sizeable U.S. and ARVN forces. The General Offensive began on January 30 with the ancient imperial capital city of Hue seized the following day by a large North Vietnamese force.

In The Battle of Hue 1968: Fight for the Imperial City (Osprey, 96 pp. $24, paper; $19.20, Kindle) by the veteran military historian James H. Willbank gives the backgrounds of all the key players on both sides of the fighting. We learn that the NVA established a command structure (The Hue City Front) dedicated solely to taking and holding Hue and the surrounding area, as well as the avenues of approach. Initially the Front including 10,000 troops; it grew to some 20,000. They faced a large force of U.S .Marine and Army units and ARVN troops, including elite airborne and Marine units.  

U.S. Marines outside the Citadel in Hue, February 13, 1968

This concise, very well written and informative account carefully walks the reader through the battle from the moment that NVA soldiers, dressed in ARVN uniforms, took control of one of the city gates and opened it to advancing troops. Once inside, the North Vietnamese tenaciously held onto Hue for 25 days, the longest sustained fighting of the war.

Willbanks goes on to describe in detail the difficulties involved in urban street warfare and house-to-house fighting and the costly engagements that finally forced the NVA out of the city. During the occupation, the NVA and Viet Cong rounded up thousands of South Vietnamese civilians and executed them.     

This book is an outstanding account of one of the Vietnam War’s major battles. It is supported by detailed maps and by many excellent photographs. It is well worth reading.

–John Cirafici