In the early hours of January 31 1968, nineteen specially trained Vietcong soldiers leapt from a taxi cab and a truck to attack the American Embassy in Saigon. At the same time all across South Vietnam, urban centers, providence capitals, and military installations were all coming under surprise attack by North Vietnamese and Vietcong soldiers. This was the Tet Offensive of 1968. The Tet Offensive was a meticulously organized and planned surprise attack launched during a cease-fire at the very start of the Tet Lunar Holiday through out all of Vietnam. The battle was a military defeat for North Vietnam but at the same time it was a political and psychological victory. The actual goals behind the Tet offensive and the out come of it greatly differed.
[...] For more than twenty years of civil strife, the Communists had done little to disturb the security enjoyed in Saigon. With the exception of occasional acts of terrorism, Saigon had remained untouched; untouched that is until early in the AM of January 31. The Communists had committed thirty-five battalions to the attack on Saigon. The onslaught was led by General Tran Do, one of the highest ranking officials in COSVN (Communist headquarters in South Vietnam). The attack on the city was broken down to individual missions and objectives: to take and hold the presidential palace, the United States Embassy, the National Radio Station, the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff headquarters, and military targets such as the Tan Son Nhut Airport, the Navy headquarters, Armored Command headquarters, and Artillery Command headquarters. [...]
[...] Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that "it is entirely possible that there may be a Communist thrust similar to the desperate effort of the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II." On December 20, President Johnson confided to the Australian Cabinet that he foresaw "kamikaze" attacks by the North Vietnamese in the weeks ahead. The very same day General Westmoreland cabled Washington that he suspected the enemy "to undertake an intensified country wide effort, perhaps a maximum effort, over a relatively short period." Yet despite all of these accurate suspicions, the attack still came as a surprise attack. [...]
[...] The thousands of refugees that had fled the war in the country side to seek shelter from the blood shed in the cities now had no where left to flee. With the Tet Offensive, the Vietnamese people realized that they could not escape the war. The impact that Tet had back in the United States varied depending upon what group you were talking about but generally the offensive did not impact the American people's view of the war as Giap had hoped. [...]
[...] the impact the offensive had on the American policy in Vietnam was so great that it made Tet a pivotal battle if not the most decisive event of the war. North Vietnam had spent months of planning and preparation that led up to this complete surprise attack. The NVA (North Vietnamese Army) felt that the south was ripe for revolution, that the people in the cities and across the country side were on the verge of uprising and that all they needed was a display of force from the North and Vietcong forces and they would all take up arms and dispose of the Saigon Regime. [...]
[...] Without the Tet Offensive there would have been no request for more troops. And without the request for more troops there would have been no investigation and no change in policy. Indirectly the Tet Offensive became the most decisive event of the war. Endnotes 1Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking Penguin, 1984) Dougan Clark and Stephen Weiss, Nineteen Sixty-Eight (Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1983) Ibid. 4Karnow 5Clark 6Ibid 7Ibid 8Karnow 9Clark 10Karnow 11Ibid 12Clark 13Ibid. 14Ibid. 15Ibid. 16Ibid. 17Ibid. [...]
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