The imperial city of Hue has for centuries played a significant role in Vietnam and even so during the Vietnam War. Where emperors lived and died. This was the seat of the Nguyen dynasty. Hue’s university has for centuries played an important role in Vietnam. Hue’s history stretches back all the way to the seventeenth century so history is always present for those visiting regardless whether it is the imperial intrigues of the eighteenth century or the wars of the twentieth century.
Today the university still plays an important part in the city and it has become a major tourist destination. The tourist areas now offer walking streets during the weekends and a large selection of restaurants catering for tourists who wants to sample the delicious Hue cuisine. Those more interested in genuine local food has to venture outside the tourist areas.
Please click images for slideshow
During the Vietnam War, Hue made its mark in history during the Tet Offensive 1968. In the early morning of the 31st of January a barrage of rockets of mortars started hitting the ARVN camp in the north east end of the Citadel, marking the start of the attack. Thousands of PAVN and VC troops went in to action overrunning more or less the whole city.
Inside the U.S. MACV compound south of the river at the east end of town adjacent to the university, there were about 200 American and Australian personnel. Many were advisers to the ARVN units and primarily combat troops. The closest U.S. combat troops were posted about 10 kilometers south at the Phu Bai Airport in the shape of the U.S. Marines.
Before any relief could come, the MACV advisers were left to fight back the enemy attacks on their compound. Repelling several assaults the advisers called for reinforcements which the Marines responded to. After having met heavy resistance as they fought their way in to town the Marines finally reached the MACV Compound to relieve the beleaguered defenders.
The compound would now be the launch point and base for the Marines as they continued the fighting to clear the city. The battle would last more than 3 weeks and take a heavy toll on both sides. Many of the buildings in and around the MACV Compound are still there and used today so visiting the area is very rewarding for the history traveler. One can follow in the footsteps of the Marines where they fought their way west through the city and then across the bridges.
There are still battle damage on some older buildings and walls on the south side of the river and on the north side of the river the citadel was more or less destroyed due to the fighting and airstrikes. In the north eastern corner of the citadel, the ARVN had a large compound which today is an army compound. The ARVN put up a fierce fight, standing their ground and eventually forcing the PAVN and VC fighters out of their part of the citadel. There was also an airstrip in the about the center of the Citadel, the site is easily found and one can walk down the airstrip which today is one of the streets in the city.
For the war history traveler it is well worth buying a ticket to the old imperial part of the citadel. Not only is it a historically interesting spot, but one will also get a good view of the level of destruction that was the consequences of the fighting.
Walking across the Truong Tien bridge towards the citadel is a must. This is one of the spots where the US Marines saw some heavy fighting as they were working their way across the water in to the citadel to continue drive back the enemy.
Further reading: Bunker Hill just outside of town.
How to get there
Hue is located about 100 kilometers north of Da Nang over The Hai Van Pass along the main road QL1. One can fly in to Phu Bai airport from all the major cities in the country or go by road from Da Nang and Dong Ha. We recommend those interested in exploring the DMZ to stay here instead of Dong Ha as there is a wide range of hotels and restaurants available and most of the tour operators have offices here.