Academic journal article Military Review

The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War Story

Academic journal article Military Review

The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War Story

Article excerpt

THE CAT FROM HUE: A Vietnam War Story, John Lawrence, Public Affairs, NY, 2002, 864 pages, $30.00.

The cat from Hue was a filthy, forlorn, shell-shocked kitten that TV war correspondent John Laurence rescued during the savage battle for Hue in February 1968 and shipped home to the United States. In a sense, Laurence sees the cat as a metaphor for himself-a survivor despite the chaos of war.

The cat story is a major part of The Cat from Hue, but Lawrence's main objective is to relate his experiences during three tours covering the war for CBS. Lawrence evolves from being an idealistic, naive reporter when he first went to Southeast Asia into a hardened journalist determined to reveal what he saw as the real face of war. Little by little, he begins to question the methods and objectives of those in command. In the process, he becomes a thorn in the government's side.

Lawrence was present at such pivotal events as the early battles with the People's Army of Vietnam in the la Drang Valley in 1965, the siege of Khe Sanh, the fight for Hue in 1968, and the U.S. incursion into Cambodia in 1970. His descriptions of battle are vivid and filled with detail. For example, he describes the action at Hue as an "urban brawl between two armed and largely adolescent tribes, a street fight of fast action and merciless bloodletting."

Spicing his account with direct quotes gleaned from the audio and videotapes Laurence made during the fighting, he shows how the war affected soldiers and what they thought about their place in it. He describes those who fought the war as decent individuals caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Laurence is relatively evenhanded in showing their heroism and their brutality in times of great stress and danger. …

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