As the latest Communist offensive in South Vietnam sweeps across the Central Highlands, the old imperial city of Hue -- third largest city in South Vietnam -- stands in danger of falling to the advancing Viet Cong.
GV Hue street (1972)
SVS Refugees and children in streets (3 shots)
GV Soldier runs across street past tank (May 1968) (2 shots)
LV Soldier firing rifle
GV Soldiers running for cover (2 shots)
GV Tanks rumble past (2 shots)
SV Soldier fires rifle from back of truck PAN TO GV Troops walking under cover of vehicles
SV Troops firing from behind moving tank (4 shots)
GV Building surrounded by scaffolding
SV TILT UP Front of building and man at work on building (2 shots)
SV Woman mixing cement
SV AND GV Other side of building with scaffolding (2 shots)
VARIOUS GVS Reconstruction (4 shots)
GV Shell-shattered building
GV Tank past camera
GV Devastated street (2 shots)
SV PAN Crowd of refugees and children along road (T/R)
GV Control tower Hue airport TILT DOWN TO Soldiers marching past
GV Sign Aerial Port Hue/Phu Bai
SV Soldier packing machine gun belts TILT UP TO Crowd of soldiers
SV Tractor unloads pallets of supplies from aircraft
Initials CL/1720 CL/1743
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: As the latest Communist offensive in South Vietnam sweeps across the Central Highlands, the old imperial city of Hue -- third largest city in South Vietnam -- stands in danger of falling to the advancing Viet Cong.
Refugees have been leaving the city at a steady rate over the past few days, although there has been no official order for evacuation. Those leaving are soon replaced by the thousands of people streaming southwards from the province of Quang Tri -- abandoned earlier this week by the South Vietnamese Government of President Nguyen Van Thieu to the advancing Communist forces. But even these refugees are only using Hue as a staging-point on their long journey towards the capital, Saigon.
According to those who have already reached Saigon, Hue now resembles a "ghost town" ... despite official reports from the city that only about 50 percent of the inhabitants have so far chosen to leave. Refugees say that the Hue authorities are giving assistance and guidance to those leaving ... but are determined to prevent the city falling into Communist hands.
In a radio speech on Thursday (20 March), President Thieu confirmed the loss of Ban Me Thuot, the biggest city in the Central Highlands, and pledged that South Vietnamese troops would not retrench further but would "defend our territory to the end".
Abandonment of Hue -- regarded as the cultural and spiritual centre of all Vietnam -- would have a profound effect on the morale of the South Vietnamese. The old imperial capital -- with its riverside temples, lotus ponds and beautifully ornamental palaces --would be an enormous boost to Communist hopes during the current offensive.
During the major Tet Communist offensive of 1968, Hue was the scene of bitter fighting until Government troops backed by the Americans regained firm control of the area. City authorities have spent much time and money rebuilding the city since then. But in 1972, the pattern of events was repeated and now, Communist rockets are again scoring hits within the city itself.
As the Communist forces dig in only ten miles (16 kilometres) north of Hue, Highway One -- the major road to the capital, Saigon -- is once again filled with refugees in the biggest exodus in South Vietnamese history. The new Communist successes in the north and centre of the country could change the whole shape of fighting in South Vietnam, according to observers. The are controlled by government troops has dwindled considerably in the past week ... and the South Vietnamese authorities are watching anxiously the situation in the neighbouring Khmer Republic, where the Khmer Rouge anti-government forces are pressing hard on the capital, Phnom Penh.
Meanwhile, the battle for the Hue continues. Both the Government and the City authorities are adamant that they will never abandon the city. The fall of Hue would represent for more than simply another success for the Communist offensive ... it would mean a blow for President Thieu's Government that only the fall of Saigon itself could surpass.