Tet Offensive of 1968 - A Simpler Version


Tet Offensive -- Monica
what are the cause and effects of the TET offensive? and who won this campaign? I don't really get this event! can someone tell me the story in a easier version?  I am in the 9th Grade. Monica,   

Here is an answer to a very complex question.  The Tet Offensive of 1968 was an initiative of the North Vietnam Army to have the civilian population of South Vietnam join them in their offensive and efforts to overthrow the South Vietnam Government, forcing the withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces.  

The Tet Offensive of 1968 was conceived by General Giap, commander of the North Vietnam Army and his staff.  General Giap earlier in his career planned and executed the battle at Dien Bien Phu which drove the French out of Vietnam in 1954.  During the battle of Dien Bien Phu, General Giap stated  he was willing to lose 10 men for every 1 enemy soldier killed, which indicated that a person's life in Vietnam was cheap.

By the end of 1966, North Vietnam had suffered large causalities in manpower and supplies through the bombing of the North and the fighting in the South. They consider the war was at a stalemate. North Vietnam would need a major victory if they would continue on with the war. Thus the planning for what is known as the Tet Offensive began with General Giap (Commanding General of the North Vietnam Army) and his staff.

The battle of Khe Sanh (Jan. 21, 1968) was the prelude to the Tet Offensive of January 31, 1968.  The battle at Khe Sanh was similar to that of Dien Bien Phu in which the Vietnamese had surrounded their enemy and cut off all land routes for supplies and evacuation.  Khe Sanh had two objectives besides the obvious objective in defeating the Marines.

1. Diversionary tactic to draw American attention away from the cities of South Vietnam and more towards Khe Sanh.

2. Remind the people of South Vietnam of another battle that took place 14 years earlier at Dien Bien Phu, which would encourage South Vietnamese to join the VC in throwing out the Americans as they did with the French.

The North Vietnamese Army fought the battle at Khe Sanh and the National Liberation Front (VC) fought the Tet Offensive, which attacked the cities and provinces throughout South Vietnam.  

It should be noted that NVA units who were not participating in the Khe Sanh siege supported the VC in their attacks on the cities during the Tet Offensive.  

National Liberation Front - (Also Known As) Viet Cong or VC were comprised of South Vietnamese civilians and North Vietnamese advisors who lived in the cities and villages throughout South Vietnam.  They were part of the North Vietnamese forces in reuniting the two countries as one. 

A cease-fire began on January 30, 1968 for the Vietnamese new year of Tet, which falls on the first new moon of January. On January 31, 1968 the Viet Cong broke their cease-fire and attacked many cities and provinces throughout South Vietnam. In Saigon, a small number  of VC (19) were able to reach the American Embassy grounds, but did not gain entry into the embassy itself.

In the Northern part of South Vietnam, the city of Hue was taken over by the V.C. and executions of city officials and their families took place.  The initial reporting indicated the number of people executed was in the thousands (2,300 persons executed in and around Hue during Tet 68 - Time Magazine 31 Oct 69).

Saigon was the center for most if not all of the news agencies that were covering the war in South Vietnam.  Tet offensive of 1968 was the first time, during the war, that actual street fighting took place in the major cities.  Rear support personnel and MPís did the initial fighting by American troops until support from infantry and armor could arrive. These men did an outstanding job in defending the cities, airfields and bases along with the embassy. The news media were able to capture this street fighting on tape in addition to the attack on the American Embassy. This new offensive was immediately brought into the homes of American families through reporting by television and the press. The sensationalism of this reporting brought forth a misrepresentation of the actual facts that took place during the Tet Offensive of 1968. The reports led the American people to think that we were losing the war in Vietnam and that the Tet Offensive was a major victory for North Vietnam. This was not the case. The VC suffered such high casualties that they were no longer considered a fighting force and their ranks would have to be replaced by North Vietnamese regulars. The civilian population of South Vietnam was indifferent to both the current regime in South Vietnam and the Viet Cong. The civilian population, for the most part, did not join with the VC during the Tet Offensive.

The Wall Street Journal published an interview with Bui Tin who served on the General Staff of the North Vietnam Army and received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975. During the interview Mr. Tin was asked if the American antiwar movement was important to Hanoi's victory. Mr. Tin responded "It was essential to our strategy", referring to the war being fought on two fronts, the Vietnam battlefield and back home in America through the antiwar movement on college campuses and in the city streets. He further stated the North Vietnamese leadership listened to the American evening news broadcasts "to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement." Visits to Hanoi made by persons such as Jane Fonda, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and various church ministers "gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses." Mr. Tin surmised, "America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win." Mr. Tin further advised that General Vo Nguyen Giap (Commanding General of the North Vietnam Army) had advised him the 1968 Tet Offensive had been a defeat.

The military defeat of North Vietnam after the Tet Offensive of 1968 became a political victory for North Vietnam because of anti-war demonstrations and the sensationalism of the news media.   The North Vietnamese interpreted the U.S. reaction to these events as the weakening of America's resolve to win the war.   The North Vietnamese believed that victory could be theirs, if they stayed their course.

From 1969 until the end of the war, over 20,000 American soldiers lost their lives in a war that the United States did not have the resolve to win.  The sensationalism by the American news media and the anti-war protests following the 1968 Tet Offensive gave hope to Communist North Vietnam, strengthening their belief that their will to succeed was greater than ours.  Instead of seeking a successful resolution at the Paris Peace Conference following the disastrous defeat of the 1968 Tet Offensive, they employed delay tactics as another tool to inflame U.S. politics.  This delaying tactic spurned further anti-war demonstrations.  Those who sensationalized their reporting of the war and those who supported anti-war demonstrations are guilty of giving our enemy hope. Because of their actions, they must share partial responsibility for those 20,000 + Americans deaths. 

We won the war on the battlefield but lost it back home on the college campuses and in the city streets.


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