Bến Tre is located on Bảo Island, with the districts of Châu Thành, Giồng Trôm and Ba Tri. The city is oriented in a triangular layout and is bordered by the following districts:
The city of Bến Tre has 10 wards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Phú Khương, Phú Tân and 7 communes of Bình Phú, Mỹ Thành, Mỹ Thạnh An, Nhơn Thạnh, Phú Hưng, Phú Nhuận and Sơn Đông.
The French occupied Bến Tre in 1867.
A famous quote from the Vietnam War was a statement attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by AP correspondent Peter Arnett in his writing about Bến Tre city on 7 February 1968:
'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it', a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.
The quote became distorted in subsequent publications, eventually becoming the more familiar, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Victor Davis Hanson, writing for the conservative National Review Online, has called into question the accuracy of the original quote and its source.
Arnett never completely revealed his source, but he did say that it came from one of the four officers he interviewed that day. United States Army Major Phil Cannella, the senior officer present at Bến Tre, suggested that the quote might have been a distortion of something he had said to Arnett. At the time, The New Republic attributed the quote to U.S. Air Force Major Chester L. Brown.
In Walter Cronkite's 1971 book, Eye on the World, Arnett re-asserted that the quote was something "one American major said to me in a moment of revelation." However, American veteran Captain Michael D. Miller wrote in 2006 that he heard the comment being made by a Major Booris at a press briefing.