Media & ‘Nam: Lessons For Iraq

Aside from those who served there, few now know what the Marines accomplished at Hue. After 40 years, it’s time to set the record straight.


Above all, the Marines suffered from strict rules of engagement that excluded the use of heavy artillery and air strikes within the bounds of the historic city until the very end. Apart from a handful of tanks, Marines had to retake Hue with the weapons they could carry on their backs.


By Feb. 24, the Marines had regained almost all of Hue, even as the NVA was throwing in the towel and withdrawing its last troops. On the 25th, Marine Capt. James Coolican led soldiers from ARVN’s elite Black Panthers in storming the last NVA stronghold, the Imperial Palace.

The city was declared secure after 147 Americans had been killed in action and 857 wounded, and more than 5,000 enemy had died.

For many, the sight of an American flag flying over the provincial administration building on Hue’s Le Loi Street was as inspiring as when it flew over Mount Suribachi during the 1945 battle of Iwo Jima.

But Americans at home learned nothing about it. The media was so set on painting Tet as a US defeat that they largely ignored how the Marines at Hue had achieved a stupendous victory. They also ignored the discovery of bodies of 5,000 civilians who’d been ruthlessly murdered by Viet Cong death squads: teachers, doctors, nurses, businessmen, students.


Forty years later, we still need to confront the powerful lessons of Hue. The defeatist narrative put out by today’s media may yet undermine military success in Iraq; it is certainly cheating our servicemen and -women of the recognition they deserve for their sacrifice.

What did the US media cover instead of the American victory at Hue? Among other things, the massacre at My Lai. Little has changed: In Fallujah in April 2004, US Marines armed only with rifles, pistols, hand grenades, and knives took on al Qaeda fighters room by room more than 200 times – and were totally ignored by a media obsessed by Abu Graib.


If our country continues to fail them in that, why think anyone is going to risk the same sacrifice for us again?

And it’s no mistake that the story prominently features a photo of Uncle Walter with this caption: “Cronkite: His misreporting cost lives.” This as the left is set to give us
Winter Soldier II. Will we ever learn?