Hue of course, is as well known for the events that happened here in 1968 as for its Imperial past. Perhaps better known. There are quite a number of events that occurred during the Vietnam War that are referred to as 'turning points", but it is probably fair to say that none were more significant than the Tet Offensive.
To cut a long and extremely interesting story short, the Lunar New Year (Tet) celebrations were usually declared to be cease fire periods (used as re-supply periods by the Communist forces) and Tet 1968 was again declared as a cease fire period by both sides. Large numbers of American and South Vietnamese took the opportunity to go on leave and vigilance was generally relaxed - as intended! The extensive military preparations made by the NVA and Viet Cong were disguised in the Hue district as preparations for an attack on Khe San - a base set up in the Highlands by the Americans with the intention of luring the NVA into an attack they could not win.
The Tet offensive started in the early hours of 31 January 1968, with coordinated attacks all over Vietnam. The audacity of some of the attacks, such as that on the US Embassy in Saigon, prompted the American people to question whether the war they were told they were winning, was really being won at all. The most spectacular assault, took place here in Hue.
The Hue Citadel was held in January 1968 by Vietnamese troops commanded by General Truong, whose 1st ARVN Division headquarters were in the Mang Cu Compound, within the Citadel. The only American presence was the MACV Compound in the 'new city' on the south bank of the Perfume River, one block from the Saigon Morin Hotel that we stayed in. MACV stood for Military Assistance Command Vietnam, and their job was to provide assistance to the South Vietnamese, particularly in the form of fire support from artillery and aircraft.
At 02:33, a signal flare lit up the night sky and two battalions of the NVA Sixth Regiment attacked the western side of the Citadel. Their objectives were General Truong's Mang Cu Compound (in the part of the Citadel missing off the top of the map a couple of photos back); the Tac Loc Airfield (which was inside the Citadel and can be seen on the map as the diagonal road (the old runway) under the words King Thanh), and the Imperial Palace itself. A simultaneous attack by the NVA Fourth Regiment was made on the MACV Compound on the south side of the river. At the Western Gate of the Citadel, a four-man North Vietnamese sapper team, dressed in South Vietnamese Army uniforms, killed the guards and opened the gate, after which their comrades poured into the Citadel.
This photo shows one of the outer gates in the Citadel Walls (Cua Thuang I think, which opens towards the river in the south-east corner of the Citadel, and was one of the last areas retaken), battered by tank and artillery fire, with a napalm attack taking place in the distance.