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The Tet Offensive

The Vietnam War was going strong; American troops thought they were in the lead and nothing could stop them. However, this was all about to change when the North Vietnamese considered a surprise attack. They decided to seek revenge and destroy the South Vietnamese and their allies, the Americans. The head of the North Vietnamese military, General Vo Nguyen Giap, was ready to attack and can be considered one of the smartest and most creative military leaders who was trained to fight against French imperialism. He was intent on destroying the South and taking them over under a harsh dictatorship. He also knew that the war was straining the American public. The Americans would hold peace rallies and anti-war protests. However, in retrospect, there where many Americans who supported the war, which led to conflict and tensions between the doves, anti-war activists, and the hawks, pro-war supporters.

On January 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese coordinated with the Viet Cong to plan a surprise attack on the South Vietnamese and the U.S. troops. This was the first of two major surprise attacks. On January 21, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong bombed a few important American bases in South Vietnam. This was a total shock to America and was a major blow to its confidence. The North Vietnamese destroyed much of the American artillery and supplies. However, this attack was actually a decoy in order to distract the South for an upcoming attack which would be much more destructive. The American leaders had a inserted a certain confidence within the soldiers to think that the third world country of Vietnam would not be able to defeat the world power of America. They will soon be mistaken. The Vietnamese fought with Guerilla war tactics and had home field advantage. The American soldiers fought very hard to defend their allies, the South Vietnamese. The Vietnamese had a larger drive to win the war, because they were fighting for their freedom, along with fighting for their leader.

The real Tet Offensive began on the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. This was supposed to be a time of peace and armistice, in compliance with celebrating the holiday. This is a very important holiday for the Vietnamese; the New Year was a time for resolving problems between family and friends, a little ironic for one of the most catastrophic attacks in the Vietnam War. The North attacked over 100 major towns and cities in South Vietnam. They actually took over the U.S. Embassy of Saigon, and the United States didn’t gain back control for 2 weeks. The major city of Hue took a whole month to free it from the communists grasp. This was a turning point for the war; America then realized that this war was going to be a struggle. The Tet was won by the American force, who dominated North and the Viet Cong. This attack was a major blow to Lyndon B. Johnson. Later Nixon introduced the idea of “Vietnamization,” this tactic was to draw the American troops out of Vietnam and replace them with armed South Vietnamese. In the end of the war, 58,000 American soldiers were killed and 45,000 North Vietnamese where killed. However, this “military conflict” can be considered a loss for the Americans because they did not succeed in stopping the spread of communism.

Written by Lindsay Boshak
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School

Whitney, Craig R. “1968 the my Lai massacre: forty years ago, in one of the lowest points of the Vietnam War, U.S. troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians and the Army tried to cover it up.(TIMES PAST).” New York Times Upfront 140.10 (Feb 25, 2008): 16(7). General OneFile. Gale. Chesterfield County High School. 20 May 2008 .

“Wars and Battles.” Travel and History. U-S 21 May 2008 .

Woods, Alan. “The Tet Offensive: the turning point in the Vietnam War — Part One.” The Defense of Maxism. 01 January 2008. 21 May 2008 .

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