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The Tet Offensive of 1968

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  1. The North Vietnamese Strategies and Objectives
    1. The strategy behind Tet and the goals of the North.
    2. The North Vietnamese leaders and the Allied leaders.
    3. How the North Vietnamese Army prepared for the offensive.
  2. The Tet Offensive 1968.
    1. Why US military intelligence failed to detect the large scale build up of troops and arms.
    2. The initial attack and the allied response and counter attack.
  3. Analysis of the Battle
    1. Did North Vietnam accomplish its goals?
    2. Impact of Tet on South Vietnam-American relations.
    3. Impact of Tet on American Society.
    4. Analysis

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. [...]


[...] How the Tet Offensive impacted the American policy in Vietnam is something different altogether. President Johnson was distraught at the news of the powerful unpredicted onslaught of the cites. With Tet, it was Johnson's popularity, not support for the war, that plummeted. During the weeks that followed the initial attack, public approval of Johnson's performance dropped from 48 percent to 36 percent. More dramatically the support for his handling the war fell from 40 percent to 26 percent. "The country's trust in his authority had evaporated. [...]

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