By MCSN Michael Lopez
NPASE Detachment Southeast
USS Hue City (CG 66) hosted a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Hue aboard Naval Station Mayport Aug. 28.
Hue City, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, is the only ship named after a battle of the Vietnam War. Each year the ship holds a memorial service to honor the Marines who fought at Hue City and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice there.
"In one way or another, the veterans of Hue City completed their military service," said Capt. Daniel Gillen, commanding officer of Hue City. "I would tell the fallen their spirit continues to serve as Hue City cuts through the sea at 30 knots with all of her fire power and crew around the world to provide for America's national security.
The Battle of Hue began Jan. 31, 1968 during the Vietnamese holiday of Tet when the North Vietnamese Army launched an all-out offensive against the United States and Republic of Vietnam forces throughout South Vietnam. One target of the attack was the ancient Vietnamese imperial city of Hue. U.S. Marines launched a counter-offensive called operation Hue City. The ensuing struggle resulted in a significant American victory.
"It's been an honor the meet the veterans, and learn more about the battle and their experience and see their pride in our ship," said Gillen. "These veterans and their fallen comrades proudly served their country. Their strength, dedication and bravery is another great example of the American fighting spirit."
Many highly decorated veterans were in attendance including Silver Star Awardee Col. Myron Harrington, Lt. Col Hue Tran of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and a prisoner of War to North Vietnam for nearly 13 years and guest speakers such as Col. Robert Thompson, (then) commander, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines shared their thoughts and experience with the audience.
"The battle of Hue City is generally considered the bloodiest battle in the Vietnam War," said Thompson. "As a cultural center of Vietnam, it was a prime objective during war."
The battle was the longest of the Tet Offensive filled with house-to-house fighting that left more than 116,000 civilians homeless.
"I don't know the percentage of casualties, but one reporter wrote we suffered a casualty for every yard we traveled, and I wouldn't argue with that," said Thompson. "We fought inch by inch while death lurked behind every corner."
Ens. Loc Huynh, an administrative officer aboard Hue City, and a Sailor who wasn't alive during the Vietnam War, shares why this particular battle is so important to him.
Huynh's father lived in Hue City and was only six-years-old when the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive, which massacred more than 5,000 people.
"The Vietcong would round up your entire family and execute them to instill fear and obedience in the people if they had the slightest idea that you supported South Vietnam or US Troops," said Huynh.
During this time, Huynh's father was safeguarding his family underground hoping not the get caught by the Viet Cong before the American forces arrived.
Huynh said that throughout all the history books he's read, he sees a repetition of quotes that say this was a war that should never have been fought.
"Allow me to say it was not for nothing," said Huynh. "Thanks to you all, my father is still alive and well and I am standing before you today giving my deepest gratitude to you all. Because of the Brave actions of you men, Vietnamese people around the world can enjoy the freedom that we take for granted," he added. "Let me represent the Vietnamese communities when I was that we are grateful for all you have done and thank you very much."
The ceremony concluded with a wreath presentation and the playing of taps to honor the fallen.
Hue City's mission is to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea in support of a carrier battle group or amphibious assault group. Hue City has been designed to defend against coordinated saturation attacks involving enemy surface ships, submarines, aircraft, and missiles. Additionally, Hue City is able to engage in offensive actions against the enemy through employment of long range anti-shipping missiles, land attack missiles, and naval gunfire.