Saturday, 11 April 2015

Six Block War: finding your way around the Hue Triangle

Although it is completely atypical of the war, the battle of Hue during the 1968 Tet offensive has long been of particular interest to me. This may be because the very first serious Vietnam wargame I played (way back when Salute was held in Kensington town hall) was a participation game set in Hue although my lacklustre performance as a USMC platoon commander would probably have ensured that I was put in charge of the latrine digging detail after the first day. More seriously, what I find particularly interesting is the "pocket Stalingrad" nature of the Marines' fight south of the Perfume river during the first week of February. This was fought over a surprisingly small area of weel groomed European-style streets which makes it possible to have a good idea of the terrain (the second part of the USMC's battle in the Citadel is far harder to reconstruct).



Several books contain good sketch maps of the Triangle but I find that it is always difficult to have a real sense of scale and distances with highly simplified maps. Thankfully, we have three things to be thankful for when trying to get a better handle on the lay of the land in Hue: the pervasive use of helicopter in Vietnam, the development of cheap Japanese cameras and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. As a result, there are some very clear aerial photographs of the city and an absolutely gorgeous 1/12500 map of Hue from 1968 which is reproduced in the Perry-Castañeda Vietnam map collection and can be freely downloaded (warning: it is a 12MB file). The map identifies major structures all over the city but sadly, the guide to numbered features which was printed on the reverse isn't available.

Reproduced below are two of these aerial photographs, on which the numbered features from the NIMA map have been added. I have tried not to obscure the buildings but the original photos are also reproduced at the bottom of this post, along with a larger extract from the map.

Note: all the images on this page can be expanded to their original size by right clicking and opening either the image or the link in a new tab.

One thing which these aerial photographs vividly illustrate is the extremely up close and intimate nature of the block to block fighting where simply crossing a street to assault a small group of buildings became a hugely difficult undertaking.

Extract from 1:12,500 Hue map, Edition 3-AMS (29 ETB), Series L909, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 1968
Aerial photograph of Hue, ca. 1965, copyright unknown

Note: in this early photograph, the MACV Compound (8) lacks the personnel accommodation and the chapel which was built to the south-east of the two buildings.

Aerial photograph of Hue, 1968 (post Tet), copyright unknown

Aerial photograph of Hue, 1968 (post Tet), copyright unknown
Guide to numbered features 
(some of these are outside the area photographed)

8: Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) compound
24: LCU Ramp
44: Esso Gas Station
50: Post Office
51: Thua Thien Province Prison
52: Public Health Offices
57: Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours Cathedral (Nha Tho Duc Me Hang Cuu Giup), just South of the road across from 57
65: Thua Thien Province Headquarters
66: Police Compound
70: Treasury
72: US Consulate
73: US Consul's Residence
81: Antituberculosis Centre
101: Hue City Officers Mess (Closed)
102: Le Lai Military Camp
111: Chemistry Lab and Music Room
133: Doc Lao Parc
134: French Cultural Centre
143: Cercle Sportif
149: Tự Do Stadium (Freedom Stadium)
171: Saint-François-Xavier (Phanxicô Xaviê) Church
179: Hue Municipal Power Station
186: Hospital Training Centre
187: University administration building
189: Hue University Library
191: Jeanne d'Arc High School
192: Le Loi Elementary School
210: Phu Cam Church
222: Student Centre

Below are the original unnumbered photos and a larger extract from the Hue map (click to enlarge).
Extract from 1:12,500 Hue map, Edition 3-AMS (29 ETB), Series L909, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 1968
Aerial photograph of Hue, ca. 1965, copyright unknown



Aerial photograph of Hue, 1968 (post Tet), copyright unknown
Aerial photograph of Hue, 1968, copyright unknown



2 comments:

  1. do you have the full numbers list?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nope, never found it. Still have my fingers crossed though...

    ReplyDelete