IN PHASE 1:
TOTAL CASUALTIES IN PHASE 1:
Approximately 45,820 casualties
(9,078 killed, 35,212 wounded, 1,530 missing)
123 aircraft destroyed, 214 heavily damaged and 215 medium damaged
TOTAL 3 PHASES: unknown
IN PHASE 1:
Est. 17,000 killed and 20,000 wounded TO AUGUST:
TOTAL 3 PHASES: 111,179 casualties (45,267 killed, 61,267 wounded,
CIVILIAN: 14,000 killed, 24,000 wounded
* 1st Ap Bac
* Go Cong
* Hiep Hoa
* Long Dinh
* Kien Long
* Quyet Thang 202
* Bien Hoa Airbase
* USNS Card
* Nam Dong
* An Lao
* Binh Gia
* Camp Holloway
* Song Be
* Ba Gia
* Dong Xoai
* Ka Nak
* Deo Nhong
* Nui Thanh
* An Ninh
* Plei Me
* Marble Mountain
* Minh Thanh
* Dong Duong
* Cam Khe
* Gang Toi
* 1st Bau Bang
* Bushmaster II
* IA DRANG
* Masher/White Wing
* Bong Son
* Suoi Bong Trang
* Kim Son Valley
* New York
* Cocoa Beach
* A Shau
* Ha Vy
* Xa Cam My
* Davy Crockett
* Paul Revere
* Crazy Horse
* El Paso
* Hill 488
* 1st Dong Ha
* Minh Thanh Road
* Duc Co
* Long Tan
* Tan Son Nhut airbase
* Lam Son II
* SS Baton Rouge Victory
* Paul Revere IV
* Thayer II
* Deckhouse V
* CEDAR FALLS
* Tra Binh Dong
* Sam Houston
* JUNCTION CITY (1st Prek Klok
* 2nd Prek Klok
* Ap Gu
* Suoi Tre
* 2nd Bau Bang )
* Francis Marion
* Beaver Cage
The Hill Fights
* Malheur I and Malheur II
* Nine Days in May
* Union II
* Vinh Huy
* Hong Kil Dong
* Suoi Chau Pha
* Dong Son
* Ong Thanh
* 1st Loc Ninh
* 1ST DAK TO
* Tam Quan
* Thom Tham Khe
* Vuon Dieu - Bau Nau
* New Year\'s Day Battle of 1968
* KHE SANH
* TET OFFENSIVE
* 1st Saigon
* Ban Houei Sane
* Lang Vei
* Lima Site 85
My Lai Massacre
My Lai Massacre
* Toan Thang I
* Scotland II
* 2nd Dong Ha
* Allen Brook
* May \'68
* KHAM DUC
* Mameluke Thrust
* Duc Lap
* Maui Peak
* Meade River
* Speedy Express
* Bold Mariner
* Dewey Canyon
* Taylor Common
* 2nd Tet
* Purple Martin
* Massachusetts Striker
* Maine Crag
* Montana Mauler
* Oklahoma Hills
* Virginia Ridge
* Apache Snow
* HAMBURGER HILL
* Binh Ba
* LZ Kate
* Bu Prang
* Texas Star
* Chicago Peak
* FSB Ripcord
* 1st Cambodia
* Kompong Speu
* Prey Veng
* 2ND CAMBODIA
* Jefferson Glenn
* Hat Dich
* LAM SON 719
* Son Tay Raid
* Chenla I
* Chenla II
* FSB Mary Ann
* Long Khanh
* Nui Le
* 2ND QUANG TRị
* 3RD QUANG TRị
* 2nd Loc Ninh
* AN LộC
* 3rd Dong Ha
* 2nd Dak To
POST-PARIS PEACE ACCORDS (1973–1974)
* Cửa Việt
* Ap Da Bien
* Svay Rieng
* Iron Triangle
* Thượng Đức
* Phuoc Long
* BAN ME THUOT
* HUE–DA NANG
* Phan Rang
* XUâN LộC
* Newport Bridge
* Rach Chiec Bridge
* 2ND SAIGON
* Ranch Hand
* Pierce Arrow
* Barrel Roll
* Pony Express
* Flaming Dart
* Iron Hand
* ROLLING THUNDER
* Steel Tiger
* Arc Light
* Tiger Hound
* Shed Light
* Thanh Hoa
* Yen Vien
* Niagara II
* 1st Do Luong
* 2nd Do Luong
* Igloo White
* Giant Lance
* Commando Hunt
* Freedom Deal
* LINEBACKER I
* Enhance Plus
* LINEBACKER II
Tan Son Nhut Air Base
* New Life
* Eagle Pull
* Frequent Wind
* Yankee "> General
William C. Westmoreland , COMUS
Provided with an enemy intelligence windfall accrued during
Operations Cedar Falls and Junction City , the CIA members of the
group believed that the number of
Viet Cong guerrillas, irregulars,
and cadre within the South could be as high as 430,000. The MACV
Combined Intelligence Center, on the other hand, maintained that the
number could be no more than 300,000. Westmoreland was deeply
concerned about the possible perceptions of the American public to
such an increased estimate, since communist troop strength was
routinely provided to reporters during press briefings. According to
MACV's chief of intelligence, General
Joseph A. McChristian , the new
figures "would create a political bombshell", since they were positive
proof that the North Vietnamese "had the capability and the will to
continue a protracted war of attrition".
MACV attempted to obtain a compromise from the CIA by
Viet Cong militias did not constitute a fighting
force but were essentially low level fifth columnists used for
information collection. The agency responded that such a notion was
ridiculous, since the militias were directly responsible for half of
the casualties inflicted on U.S. forces. With the groups deadlocked,
George Carver, CIA deputy director for Vietnamese affairs, was asked
to mediate the dispute. In September, Carver devised a compromise: The
CIA would drop its insistence on including the irregulars in the final
tally of forces and add a prose addendum to the estimate that would
explain the agency's position. George Allen, Carver's deputy, laid
responsibility for the agency's capitulation at the feet of Richard
Helms , the director of the CIA. He believed that "it was a political
problem ... didn't want the agency ... contravening the policy
interest of the administration."
During the second half of 1967 the administration had become alarmed
by criticism, both inside and outside the government, and by reports
of declining public support for its
Vietnam policies. According to
public opinion polls, the percentage of Americans who believed that
the U.S. had made a mistake by sending troops to
Vietnam had risen
from 25 percent in 1965 to 45 percent by December 1967. This trend
was fueled not by a belief that the struggle was not worthwhile, but
by mounting casualty figures, rising taxes, and the feeling that there
was no end to the war in sight. A poll taken in November indicated
that 55 percent wanted a tougher war policy, exemplified by the public
belief that "it was an error for us to have gotten involved in Vietnam
in the first place. But now that we're there, let's win – or get
out." This prompted the administration to launch a so-called "Success
Offensive", a concerted effort to alter the widespread public
perception that the war had reached a stalemate and to convince the
American people that the administration's policies were succeeding.
Under the leadership of National Security Advisor
Walt W. Rostow
Walt W. Rostow , the
news media then was inundated by a wave of effusive optimism.
Every statistical indicator of progress, from "kill ratios" and "body
counts" to village pacification, was fed to the press and to the
Congress . "We are beginning to win this struggle" asserted Vice
Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert H. Humphrey on
NBC 's Today show in mid-November. "We
are on the offensive. Territory is being gained. We are making steady
progress." At the end of November, the campaign reached its climax
when Johnson summoned Westmoreland and the new U.S. Ambassador,
Ellsworth Bunker , to Washington, D.C., for what was billed as a "high
level policy review". Upon their arrival, the two men bolstered the
administration's claims of success. From Saigon, pacification chief
Robert Komer asserted that the CORDS pacification program in the
countryside was succeeding, and that sixty-eight percent of the South
Vietnamese population was under the control of Saigon while only
seventeen percent was under the control of the Viet Cong. General
Bruce Palmer, Jr. , one of Westmoreland's three Field Force
commanders, claimed that "the
Viet Cong has been defeated" and that
"He can't get food and he can't recruit. He has been forced to change
his strategy from trying to control the people on the coast to trying
to survive in the mountains."
Westmoreland was even more emphatic in his assertions. At an address
at the National Press Club on 21 November he reported that, as of the
end of 1967, the communists were "unable to mount a major offensive
... I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was
winning, today he is certainly losing...We have reached an important
point when the end begins to come into view." By the end of the year
the administration's approval rating had indeed crept up by eight
percent, but an early January Gallup poll indicated that forty-seven
percent of the American public still disapproved of the President's
handling of the war. The American public, "more confused than
convinced, more doubtful than despairing ... adopted a 'wait and see'
attitude." During a discussion with an interviewer from Time
magazine, Westmoreland defied the communists to launch an attack: "I
hope they try something, because we are looking for a fight."
Hanoi for a winter-spring offensive during 1968 had begun
in early 1967 and continued until early the following year. According
to American sources, there has been an extreme reluctance among
Vietnamese historians to discuss the decision-making process that led
to the General Offensive General Uprising, even decades after the
event. In official Vietnamese literature, the decision to launch the
Tet Offensive was usually presented as the result of a perceived U.S.
failure to win the war quickly, the failure of the American bombing
campaign against North Vietnam, and the anti-war sentiment that
pervaded the population of the U.S. The decision to launch the
general offensive, however, was much more complicated.
The decision signaled the end of a bitter, decade-long debate within
the North Vietnamese Government between first two, and then three
factions. The moderates believed that the economic viability of North
Vietnam should come before support of a massive and conventional
southern war and they generally followed the Soviet line of peaceful
coexistence by reunifying
Vietnam through political means. Heading
this faction were party theoretician
Trường Chinh and Minister of
Võ Nguyên Giáp . The militant faction, on the other hand,
tended to follow the foreign policy line of the People\'s Republic of
China and called for the reunification of the nation by military means
and that no negotiations should be undertaken with the Americans. This
group was led by Communist Party First Secretary
Lê Duẩn and Lê
Đức Thọ (no relation). From the early-to-mid-1960s, the militants
had dictated the direction of the war in South Vietnam.
Nguyễn Chí Thanh the head of Central Office for South
Vietnam (COSVN), headquarters for the South, was another prominent
militant. The followers of the Chinese line centered their strategy
against the US and its allies on large-scale, main force actions
rather than the protracted guerrilla war espoused by
Mao Zedong .
By 1966–1967, however, after suffering massive casualties,
stalemate on the battlefield, and destruction of the northern economy
by U.S. aerial bombing , there was a dawning realization that, if
current trends continued,
Hanoi would eventually lack the resources
necessary to affect the military situation in the South. As a result,
there were more strident calls by the moderates for negotiations and a
revision of strategy. They felt that a return to guerrilla tactics was
more appropriate since the U.S. could not be defeated conventionally.
They also complained that the policy of rejecting negotiations was in
error. The Americans could only be worn down in a war of wills during
a period of "fighting while talking". During 1967 things had become so
bad on the battlefield that
Lê Duẩn ordered Thanh to incorporate
aspects of protracted guerrilla warfare into his strategy.
During the same period, a counter-attack was launched by a new, third
grouping (the centrists) led by President
Hồ Chí Minh , Lê Đức
Thọ, and Foreign Minister Nguyễn Duy Trinh , who called for
negotiations. From October 1966 through April 1967, a very public
debate over military strategy took place in print and via radio
between Thanh and his rival for military power, Giáp. Giáp had
advocated a defensive, primarily guerrilla strategy against the U.S.
and South Vietnam. Thanh's position was that Giáp and his adherents
were centered on their experiences during the
First Indochina War
First Indochina War and
that they were too "conservative and captive to old methods and past
experience... mechanically repeating the past."
The arguments over domestic and military strategy also carried a
foreign policy element as well, because North Vietnam, as the South
Vietnamese forces, was largely dependent on outside military and
economic aid. The vast majority of North
Vietnam military equipment
was provided by either the Soviet Union or China. Beijing advocated
Vietnam conduct a protracted war on the Maoist model,
fearing that a conventional conflict might draw them in as it had in
Korean War . They also resisted the idea of negotiating with the
allies. Moscow, on the other hand, advocated negotiations, but
simultaneously armed Hanoi's forces to conduct a conventional war on
the Soviet model. North Vietnamese foreign policy, therefore consisted
of maintaining a critical balance between war policy, internal and
external policies, domestic adversaries, and foreign allies with
To "break the will of their domestic opponents and reaffirm their
autonomy vis-à-vis their foreign allies" hundreds of pro-Soviet,
party moderates, military officers, and intelligentsia were arrested
on 27 July 1967, during what came to be called the Revisionist
Anti-Party Affair . All of the arrests were based on the individual's
stance on the Politburo's choice of tactics and strategy for the
proposed General Offensive. This move cemented the position of the
militants as Hanoi's strategy: The rejection of negotiations, the
abandonment of protracted warfare, and the focus on the offensive in
the towns and cities of South Vietnam. More arrests followed in
November and December.
General Offensive And Uprising
The operational plan for the General Offensive and Uprising had its
origin as the "COSVN proposal" at Thanh's southern headquarters in
April 1967 and had then been relayed to
Hanoi the following month. The
general was then ordered to the capital to explain his concept in
person to the Military Central Commission. At a meeting in July, Thanh
briefed the plan to the Politburo. On the evening of 6 July, after
receiving permission to begin preparations for the offensive, Thanh
attended a party and died of a heart attack after drinking too much.
Hoàng Văn Thái with assumed name MUOI KHANG then, Viet
Cong leader, also
Tet Offensive main leader
After cementing their position during the Party crackdown, the
militants sped up planning for a major conventional offensive to break
the military deadlock. They concluded that the Saigon government and
the U.S. presence were so unpopular with the population of the South
that a broad-based attack would spark a spontaneous uprising of the
population, which, if the offensive was successful, would enable the
North Vietnamese to sweep to a quick, decisive victory. Their basis
for this conclusion included: a belief that the South Vietnamese
military was no longer combat-effective; the results of the September
1967 South Vietnamese presidential election (in which the Nguyễn
Văn Thiệu /
Nguyễn Cao Kỳ ticket had only received 24 percent of
the popular vote); the Buddhist crises of 1963 and 1966 ;
well-publicized anti-war demonstrations in Saigon; and continuous
criticism of the Thiệu government in the southern press. Launching
such an offensive would also finally put an end to what have been
described as "dovish calls for talks, criticism of military strategy,
Chinese diatribes of Soviet perfidy, and Soviet pressure to
negotiate—all of which needed to be silenced."
In October, the Politburo decided on the Tet holiday as the launch
date and met again in December to reaffirm its decision and formalize
it at the 14th Plenary session of the Party Central Committee in
January 1968. The resultant Resolution 14 was a major blow to
domestic opposition and "foreign obstruction". Concessions had been
made to the center group, however, by agreeing that negotiations were
possible, but the document essentially centered on the creation of "a
spontaneous uprising in order to win a decisive victory in the
shortest time possible."
Contrary to Western belief, General Giáp did not plan or command the
offensive himself. Thanh's original plan was elaborated on by a party
committee headed by Thanh's deputy,
Phạm Hùng , and then modified
by Giáp. The Defense Minister may have been convinced to toe the
line by the arrest and imprisonment of most of the members of his
staff during the Revisionist Anti-Communist Party Affair. Although
Giáp went to work "reluctantly, under duress", he may have found the
task easier due to the fact that he was faced with a fait accompli.
Since the Politburo had already approved the offensive, all he had to
do was make it work. He combined guerrilla operations into what was
basically a conventional military offensive and shifted the burden of
sparking the popular uprising to the Viet Cong. If it worked, all
would be well and good. If it failed, it would be a failure only for
the Communist Party militants. For the moderates and centrists, it
offered the prospect of negotiations and a possible end to the
American bombing of the North. Only in the eyes of the militants,
therefore, did the offensive become a "go for broke" effort. Others in
the Politburo were willing to settle for a much less ambitious
PAVN official history states that the objectives of the Tet
Offensive were to: annihilate and cause the total disintegration of
the bulk of the puppet army, overthrow the puppet regime at all
administrative levels, and place all government power in the hands of
the people. Annihilate a significant portion of the American
Military's troop strength and destroy a significant portion of his war
equipment in order to prevent the American forces from being able to
carry out their political and military missions; on the basis, crush
the American will to commit aggression and force the
United States to
accept defeat in
South Vietnam and end all hostile actions against
North Vietnam. In addition, using this as our basis, we would achieve
the immediate goals of the revolution, which were independence,
democracy, peace, and neutrality in South Vietnam, and then move
toward achieving peace and national unification.
The operation would involve a preliminary phase, during which
diversionary attacks would be launched in the border areas of South
Vietnam to draw American attention and forces away from the cities.
The General Offensive, General Uprising would then commence with
simultaneous actions on major allied bases and most urban areas, and
with particular emphasis on the cities of Saigon and Huế.
Concurrently, a substantial threat would have to be made against the
U.S. combat base at
Khe Sanh . The
Khe Sanh actions would draw North
Vietnamese forces away from the offensive into the cities, but Giáp
considered them necessary in order to protect his supply lines and
divert American attention. Attacks on other U.S. forces were of
secondary, or even tertiary importance, since Giáp considered his
main objective to be weakening or destroying the South Vietnamese
military and government through popular revolt. The offensive,
therefore was aimed at influencing the South Vietnamese public, not
that of the U.S. There is conflicting evidence as to whether, or to
what extent, the offensive was intended to influence either the March
primaries or the November presidential election in the U.S. Viet
Cong troops pose with new
AK-47 assault rifles and American field
According to General
Trần Văn Trà , the new military head of
COSVN, the offensive was to have three distinct phases: Phase I,
scheduled to begin on 30 January, would be a countrywide assault on
the cities, conducted primarily by
Viet Cong forces. Concurrently, a
propaganda offensive to induce
ARVN troops to desert and the South
Vietnamese population to rise up against the government would be
launched. If outright victory was not achieved, the battle might still
lead to the creation of a coalition government and the withdrawal of
the Americans. If the general offensive failed to achieve these
purposes, follow-up operations would be conducted to wear down the
enemy and lead to a negotiated settlement; Phase II was scheduled to
begin on 5 May, and Phase III on 17 August.
Preparations for the offensive were already underway. The logistical
build-up began in mid-year, and by January 1968, 81,000 tons of
supplies and 200,000 troops, including seven complete infantry
regiments and 20 independent battalions made the trip south on the Ho
Chi Minh Trail . This logistical effort also involved re-arming the
Viet Cong with new
AK-47 assault rifles and B-40 rocket-propelled
grenade launchers, which granted them superior firepower over their
ARVN opponents. To pave the way and to confuse the
allies as to its intentions,
Hanoi launched a diplomatic offensive.
Foreign Minister Trinh announced on 30 December that
rather than could open negotiations if the U.S. unconditionally ended
Operation Rolling Thunder , the bombing campaign against North
Vietnam. This announcement provoked a flurry of diplomatic activity
(which amounted to nothing) during the last weeks of the year.
South Vietnamese and U.S. military intelligence estimated that North
Viet Cong forces in
South Vietnam during January 1968
totaled 323,000 men, including 130,000 North Vietnamese regulars,
Viet Cong and members of the infrastructure, and 33,000
service and support troops. They were organized into nine divisions
composed of 35 infantry and 20 artillery or anti-aircraft artillery
regiments, which were, in turn, composed of 230 infantry and six
Suspicions And Diversions
Signs of impending communist action were noticed among the allied
intelligence collection apparatus in Saigon. During the late summer
and fall of 1967 both South Vietnamese and U.S. intelligence agencies
collected clues that indicated a significant shift in communist
strategic planning. By mid-December, mounting evidence convinced many
in Washington and Saigon that something big was underway. During the
last three months of the year intelligence agencies had observed signs
of a major North Vietnamese military buildup. In addition to captured
documents (a copy of Resolution 13, for example, was captured by early
October), observations of enemy logistical operations were also quite
clear: in October, the number of trucks observed heading south through
Laos on the
Hồ Chí Minh Trail jumped from the previous monthly
average of 480 to 1,116. By November this total reached 3,823 and, in
December, 6,315. On 20 December, Westmoreland cabled Washington that
he expected the
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese "to undertake an
intensified countrywide effort, perhaps a maximum effort, over a
relatively short period of time."
Lieutenant General Frederick
Weyand , commander of II Field Force,
Despite all the warning signs, however, the allies were still
surprised by the scale and scope of the offensive. According to ARVN
Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung the answer lay with the allied intelligence
methodology itself, which tended to estimate the enemy's probable
course of action based upon their capabilities, not their intentions.
Since, in the allied estimation, the communists hardly had the
capability to launch such an ambitious enterprise: "There was little
possibility that the enemy could initiate a general offensive,
regardless of his intentions." The answer could also be partially
explained by the lack of coordination and cooperation between
competing intelligence branches, both South Vietnamese and American.
The situation from the U.S. perspective was best summed up by an MACV
intelligence analyst: "If we'd gotten the whole battle plan, it
wouldn't have been believed. It wouldn't have been credible to us."
From spring through the fall of 1967, the U.S. Command in Saigon was
perplexed by a series of actions initiated by the North Vietnamese and
Viet Cong in the border regions. On 24 April a U.S. Marine Corps
patrol prematurely triggered a North Vietnamese offensive aimed at
taking the airstrip and combat base at
Khe Sanh , the western anchor
of the Marines' defensive positions in
Quảng Trị Province . By the
time the action there had ended in May, 940 North Vietnamese troops
and 155 Marines had been killed. For 49 days during early September
and lasting into October, the North Vietnamese began shelling the U.S.
Marine outpost of
Con Thien , just south of the Demilitarized Zone or
DMZ. The intense shelling (100–150 rounds per day) prompted
Westmoreland to launch Operation Neutralize , an intense aerial
bombardment campaign of 4,000 sorties into and just north of the
On 27 October, an
ARVN battalion at
Sông Bé , the capital of
Phước Long Province , came under attack by an entire North
Vietnamese regiment. Two days later, another North Vietnamese Regiment
attacked a U.S.
Special Forces border outpost at
Lộc Ninh , in Bình
Long Province . This attack sparked a ten-day battle that drew in
elements of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the
ARVN 18th Division
and left 800 North Vietnamese troops dead at its conclusion.
The most severe of what came to be known as "the Border Battles"
erupted during October and November around Dak To , another border
Kon Tum Province . The clashes there between the four
regiments of the 1st North Vietnamese Division, the U.S. 4th Infantry
Division , the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade , and
ARVN infantry and
Airborne elements, lasted for 22 days. By the time the fighting was
over, between 1,200 and 1,600 North Vietnamese and 262 U.S. troops had
lost their lives.
MACV intelligence was confused by the possible
motives of the North Vietnamese in prompting such large-scale actions
in remote regions where U.S. artillery and aerial firepower could be
applied indiscriminately, which meant that tactically and
strategically, these operations made no sense. What the North
Vietnamese had done was carry out the first stage of their plan: to
fix the attention of the U.S. Command on the borders and draw the bulk
of U.S. forces away from the heavily populated coastal lowlands and
Westmoreland was more concerned with the situation at Khe Sanh,
where, on 21 January, a force estimated at 20,000–40,000 North
Vietnamese troops had besieged the U.S. Marine garrison.
convinced that the North Vietnamese planned to stage an attack and
overrun the base as a prelude to an all-out effort to seize the two
northernmost provinces of South Vietnam. To deter any such
possibility, he deployed 250,000 men, including half of MACV's U.S.
maneuver battalions, to the I Corps Tactical Zone.
This course of events disturbed
Frederick Weyand ,
commander of U.S. forces in III Corps, which included the Capital
Military District. Weyand, a former intelligence officer, was
suspicious of the pattern of communist activities in his area of
responsibility and notified Westmoreland of his concerns on 10
January. Westmoreland agreed with his estimate and ordered 15 U.S.
battalions to redeploy from positions near the Cambodian border back
to the outskirts of Saigon. When the offensive did begin, a total of
27 allied maneuver battalions defended the city and the surrounding
area. This redeployment may have been one of the most critical
tactical decisions of the war.
Before The Offensive
South Vietnam, Corps Tactical Zones
By the beginning of January 1968, the U.S had deployed 331,098 Army
personnel and 78,013 Marines in nine divisions, an armoured cavalry
regiment, and two separate brigades to South Vietnam. They were joined
there by the
1st Australian Task Force , a
Royal Thai Army
Royal Thai Army regiment,
two South Korean infantry divisions, and a Republic of Korea Marine
Corps brigade. South Vietnamese strength totaled 350,000 regulars in
the Army, Air Force , Navy , and Marine Corps . They were in turn
supported by the 151,000-man South Vietnamese Regional Forces and
149,000-man South Vietnamese Popular Forces , which were the
equivalent of regional and local militias.
In the days immediately preceding the offensive, the preparedness of
allied forces was relatively relaxed.
Hanoi had announced in October
that it would observe a seven-day truce from 27 January to 3 February
for the Tet holiday, and the South Vietnamese military made plans to
allow recreational leave for approximately half of its forces. General
Westmoreland, who had already cancelled the truce in I Corps,
requested that its ally cancel the upcoming cease-fire, but President
Thiệu (who had already reduced the cease-fire to 36 hours), refused
to do so, claiming that it would damage troop morale and only benefit
On 28 January, eleven
Viet Cong cadres were captured in the city of
Qui Nhơn while in possession of two pre-recorded audio tapes whose
message appealed to the populace in "already occupied Saigon, Huế,
Da Nang ". The following afternoon, General
Cao Văn Viên ,
chief of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, ordered his four corps
commanders to place their troops on alert. Yet, there was still a lack
of a sense of urgency on the part of the allies. If Westmoreland had a
grasp of the potential for danger, he did not communicate it very well
to others. On the evening of 30 January, 200 U.S. officers—all of
whom served on the
MACV intelligence staff—attended a pool party at
their quarters in Saigon. According to James Meecham, an analyst at
the Combined Intelligence Center who attended the party: "I had no
conception Tet was coming, absolutely zero ... Of the 200-odd officers
present, not one I talked to knew Tet was coming, without exception."
The general also failed to communicate his concerns adequately to
Washington. Although he had warned the President between 25 and 30
January that "widespread" communist attacks were in the offing, his
admonitions had tended to be so oblique or so hedged with official
optimism that even the administration was unprepared. No one – in
either Washington or
Vietnam – was expecting what happened.
"Crack the Sky, Shake the Earth" — Message to North Vietnamese
forces who were informed that they were "about to inaugurate the
greatest battle in the history of our country".
Whether by accident or design, the first wave of attacks began
shortly after midnight on 30 January as all five provincial capitals
in II Corps and Da Nang, in I Corps, were attacked.
Nha Trang ,
headquarters of the U.S. I Field Force, was the first to be hit,
followed shortly by
Ban Mê Thuột ,
Kon Tum ,
Hội An ,
Tuy Hòa ,
Da Nang, Qui Nhơn, and
Pleiku . During all of these operations, the
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese followed a similar pattern: mortar or
rocket attacks were closely followed by massed ground assaults
conducted by battalion-strength elements of the Viet Cong, sometimes
supported by North Vietnamese regulars. These forces would join with
local cadres who served as guides to lead the regulars to the most
senior South Vietnamese headquarters and the radio station. The
operations, however, were not well coordinated at the local level. By
daylight, almost all communist forces had been driven from their
Phillip B. Davidson , the new
MACV chief of
intelligence, notified Westmoreland that "This is going to happen in
the rest of the country tonight and tomorrow morning." All U.S.
forces were placed on maximum alert and similar orders were issued to
ARVN units. The allies, however, still responded without any real
sense of urgency. Orders cancelling leaves either came too late or
were disregarded. U.S. Marines with M14 rifles battle in Hamo
At 03:00 on 31 January North Vietnamese forces assailed Saigon,
Cholon , and
Gia Định in the Capital Military District; Quảng
Trị (again), Huế, Quảng Tín ,
Tam Kỳ , and
Quảng Ngãi as
well as U.S. bases at
Phú Bài and
Chu Lai in I Corps;
Phan Thiết ,
Tuy Hòa , and U.S. installations at Bong Son and
An Khê in II Corps;
Cần Thơ and
Vĩnh Long in IV Corps . The following day, Biên
Hòa , Long Thanh,
Bình Dương in III Corps and Kien Hoa, Dinh
Gò Công ,
Kiên Giang , Vĩnh Bình,
Bến Tre , and Kien
Tuong in IV Corps were assaulted. The last attack of the initial
operation was launched against
Bạc Liêu in IV Corps on 10 February.
A total of approximately 84,000
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops
participated in the attacks while thousands of others stood by to act
as reinforcements or as blocking forces.
Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese forces also mortared or rocketed every major allied
airfield and attacked 64 district capitals and scores of smaller
In most cases, the defense against the communists was a South
Vietnamese affair. Local militia or
ARVN forces, supported by the
National Police, usually drove the attackers out within two or three
days, sometimes within hours; but heavy fighting continued several
days longer in Kon Tum, Buôn Ma Thuột, Phan Thiết, Cần Thơ,
and Bến Tre. The outcome in each instance was usually dictated by
the ability of local commanders—some were outstanding, others were
cowardly or incompetent. During this crucial crisis, however, no South
Vietnamese unit broke or defected to the communists. Quảng
Trị residents fleeing the
Battle of Quang Tri (1968)
According to Westmoreland, he responded to the news of the attacks
with optimism, both in media presentations and in his reports to
Washington. According to closer observers, however, the general was
"stunned that the communists had been able to coordinate so many
attacks in such secrecy" and he was "dispirited and deeply shaken."
According to Clark Clifford, at the time of the initial attacks, the
reaction of the U.S. military leadership "approached panic". Although
Westmoreland's appraisal of the military situation was correct, he
made himself look foolish by continuously maintaining his belief that
Khe Sanh was the real objective of the North Vietnamese and that 155
attacks by 84,000 troops was a diversion (a position he maintained
until at least 12 February).
Washington Post reporter Peter Braestrup
summed up the feelings of his colleagues by asking "How could any
effort against Saigon, especially downtown Saigon, be a diversion?"
Black smoke covers areas of Sài Gòn during
ARVN Rangers defending Saigon in 1968 Battle of Saigon
Although Saigon was the focal point of the offensive, the communists
did not seek a total takeover of the city. Rather, they had six
primary targets to strike in the downtown area: the headquarters of
ARVN General Staff at
Tan Son Nhut Air Base ; the Independence
Palace , the US Embassy in Saigon , the Republic of
Headquarters, and the National Radio Station. These objectives were
all assaulted by a small number of militants of the local C-10 Sapper
Battalion. Elsewhere in the city or its outskirts, ten Viet Cong
Local Force Battalions attacked the central police station and the
Artillery Command and the Armored Command headquarters (both at Gò
Vấp ). The plan called for all these initial forces to capture and
hold their positions for 48 hours, by which time reinforcements were
to have arrived to relieve them. Attacks on Saigon
The defense of the Capital Military Zone was primarily a South
Vietnamese responsibility and it was initially defended by eight ARVN
infantry battalions and the local police force. By 3 February they had
been reinforced by five
ARVN Ranger Battalions, five Marine Corps, and
ARVN Airborne Battalions. U.S. Army units participating in the
defense included the 716th Military Police Battalion, seven infantry
battalions (one mechanized), and six artillery battalions.
At the Armored Command and Artillery Command headquarters on the
northern edge of the city the North Vietnamese planned to use captured
tanks and artillery pieces but the tanks had been moved to another
base two months earlier and the breech blocks of the artillery pieces
had been removed, rendering them useless.
One of the most important
Viet Cong targets, from a symbolic and
propagandistic point of view, was the National Radio Station. Its
troops had brought along a tape recording of Hồ Chi Minh announcing
the liberation of Saigon and calling for a "General Uprising" against
the Thiệu government. They seized the building, held it for six
hours and, when running out of ammunition, the last eight attackers
destroyed it and sacrificed themselves using explosive charges, but
they were unable to broadcast due to the cutting off of the audio
lines from the main studio to the tower as soon as the station was
The US Embassy in Saigon, a massive six-floor building situated
within a four-acre compound, had been completed only in September. At
02:45 it was attacked by a 19-man sapper team that blew a hole in the
8-foot-high (2.4 m) surrounding wall and charged through. With their
officers killed in the initial attack and their attempt to gain access
to the building having failed, the sappers simply occupied the
chancery grounds until they were all killed or captured by US
reinforcements that were landed on the roof of the building six hours
later. By 09:20 the embassy and grounds were secured, with the loss of
five US personnel.
At 03:00 on 31 January, twelve Vietcong sappers approached the
Vietnamese Navy Headquarters in two civilian cars, killing two guards
at a barricade at Me Linh Square and then advanced towards the base
gate. The sound of gunfire alerted base sentries who secured the gate
and sounded the alarm. A .30-caliber machine gun on the second floor
of the headquarters disabled both cars and killed or wounded several
sappers while the Navy security force organized a counterattack.
Simultaneously a U.S. Navy advisor contacted the U.S. military police
who soon attacked the Vietcong from adjoining streets, the resulting
crossfire ended the attack, killing eight sappers with two captured.
Small squads of
Viet Cong fanned out across the city to attack
various officers and enlisted men's billets, homes of
and district police stations. Provided with "blacklists" of military
officers and civil servants, they began to round up and execute any
that could be found.
On 1 February General
Nguyễn Ngọc Loan , chief of the National
Police, publicly executed
Viet Cong officer Nguyễn Văn Lém
captured in civilian clothing in front of photographer Edward T. Adams
and a film cameraman. That photography, with the title of Saigon
Execution won the
1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and
it's widely seen as a defining moment in the
Vietnam War for its
influence on public opinion in the
United States about the war, even
being called "the picture that lost the war".
Outside the city proper two
Viet Cong battalions attacked the U.S.
logistical and headquarters complex at Long Binh.
Biên Hòa Air Base
was struck by a battalion, while the adjacent
ARVN III Corps
headquarters was the objective of another.
Tan Son Nhut Air Base , in
the northwestern part of the city, was attacked by three battalions.
A combat-ready battalion of
ARVN paratroopers, awaiting transport to
Da Nang, went instead directly into action and halted the attack. A
total of 35 communist battalions, many of whose troops were undercover
cadres who had lived and worked within the capital or its environs for
years, had been committed to the Saigon objectives. By dawn most of
the attacks within the city center had been eliminated, but severe
Viet Cong and allied forces erupted in the Chinese
Cholon around the Phú Thọ racetrack , southwest of
the city center, which was being used as a staging area and command
and control center by the North Vietnamese. Bitter and destructive
house-to-house fighting erupted in the area. On 4 February, the
residents were ordered to leave their homes and the area was declared
a free fire zone. Fighting in the city came to a close only after a
fierce battle between the
ARVN Rangers and
PAVN forces on 7 March.
Except at Huế and mopping-up operations in and around Saigon, the
first surge of the offensive was over by the second week of February.
The U.S. estimated that during the first phase (30 January – 8
April) approximately 45,000
PAVN soldiers were killed and an unknown
number were wounded. For years this figure has been held as
excessively optimistic, as it represented more than half the forces
involved in this battle.
Stanley Karnow claims he confirmed this
Hanoi in 1981. Westmoreland himself claimed a smaller
number of enemies disabled, estimating that during the same period
PAVN troops were killed and another 5,800 captured. The South
Vietnamese suffered 2,788 killed, 8,299 wounded, and 587 missing in
action. U.S. and other allied forces suffered 1,536 killed, 7,764
wounded, and 11 missing.
For more details on the battle for the city, see
Battle of Huế .
For more details on communist atrocities committed during the
Massacre at Huế . Huế and the Citadel
Burial of 300 victims of the 1968
At 03:40 on the foggy morning of 31 January, allied defensive
positions north of the Perfume River in the city of Huế were
mortared and rocketed and then attacked by two battalions of the 6th
PAVN Regiment. Their target was the
ARVN 1st Division headquarters
located in the Citadel , a three-square mile complex of palaces,
parks, and residences, which were surrounded by a moat and a massive
earth and masonry fortress built at the beginning of the 19th century
Gia Long . The undermanned
ARVN defenders, led by General
Ngô Quang Trưởng , managed to hold their position, but the
majority of the Citadel fell to the PAVN. On the south bank of the
river, the 4th
PAVN Regiment attempted to seize the local MACV
headquarters, but was held at bay by a makeshift force of
approximately 200 Americans. The rest of the city was overrun by PAVN
forces which initially totaled approximately 7,500 men. Both sides
then rushed to reinforce and resupply their forces. Lasting 25 days,
the battle of Huế became one of the longest and bloodiest single
battles of the
During the first days of the North Vietnamese occupation, U.S.
intelligence vastly underestimated the number of
PAVN troops and
little appreciated the effort that was going to be necessary to evict
them. General Westmoreland informed the Joint Chiefs that "the enemy
has approximately three companies in the Huế Citadel and the marines
have sent a battalion into the area to clear them out." A later
assessment ultimately noted three Marine and 11 Vietnamese battalions
engaged at least 8 NVA/VC battalions of the 6th NVA Regiment, not to
include the large number of forces outside the city.
Since there were no U.S. formations stationed in Huế, relief forces
had to move up from Phu Bai, eight kilometers to the southeast. In a
misty drizzle, U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division and soldiers of
ARVN Division and Marine Corps cleared the city street by
street and house by house, a deadly and destructive form of urban
combat that the U.S. military had not engaged in since the Battle of
Seoul during the
Korean War , and for which neither side were trained.
Because of the historical and cultural significance of the city,
American forces did not immediately apply air and artillery strikes as
widely as they had in other cities.
Viet Cong forces around Hue included six main-force battalions, while
PAVN regiments operated in the area. As the battle unfolded three
PAVN regiments redeployed from
Khe Sanh arrived as
reinforcements. The North Vietnamese plan of attack on Hue involved
intensive preparation and reconnaissance. Over 190 targets, including
every government and military installation on both sides of the river
would be hit on January 31 by a force of five thousand. Other forces
would block American and
ARVN reinforcement routes, mainly Highway 1.
Over half of the
ARVN 1st Division was on holiday leave and PAVN
commanders believed the population of Hue would join the fight as a
part of the General Uprising. U.S. Marines advance past an M48
Patton tank during the battle for Huế
Outside Huế, elements of the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division and the
101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division fought to seal
PAVN access and cut off their
lines of supply and reinforcement. By this point in the battle 16 to
PAVN battalions (8,000-11,000 men) were taking part in the fighting
for the city itself or the approaches to the former imperial capital.
Two of the North Vietnamese regiments had made a forced march from the
Khe Sanh to Huế in order to participate. During most of
February, the allies gradually fought their way towards the Citadel,
which was only taken after four days of intense struggle. The city was
not declared recaptured by U.S. and
ARVN forces until 24 February,
when members of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 1st
raised the South Vietnamese flag over the Palace of Perfect Peace.
During the intense action, the allies estimated that North Vietnamese
forces had between 1,042 and 5,000 killed and 89 captured in the city
and in the surrounding area. 216 U.S. Marines and soldiers had been
killed during the fighting and 1,609 were wounded. 421
were killed, another 2,123 were wounded, and 31 were missing. More
than 5,800 civilians had lost their lives during the battle and
116,000 were left homeless out of an original population of 140,000.
40-50% of Huế was destroyed by the end of the battle.
In the aftermath of the recapture of the city, the discovery of
several mass graves (the last of which were uncovered in 1970) of
South Vietnamese citizens of Huế sparked a controversy that has not
diminished with time. The victims had either been clubbed or shot to
death or simply buried alive. The official allied explanation was
that during their initial occupation of the city, the
PAVN had quickly
begun to systematically round up (under the guise of re-education) and
then execute as many as 2,800 South Vietnamese civilians that they
believed to be potentially hostile to communist control. Those taken
into custody included South Vietnamese military personnel, present and
former government officials, local civil servants, teachers,
policemen, and religious figures. Historian Gunther Lewy claimed
that a captured
Viet Cong document stated that the communists had
"eliminated 1,892 administrative personnel, 38 policemen, 790
tyrants." The North Vietnamese officer,
Bùi Tín , later further
muddied the waters by stating that their forces had indeed rounded up
"reactionary" captives for transport to the North, but that local
commanders, under battlefield exigencies, had executed them for
Ngô Quang Trưởng , commander of the 1st
believed that the captives had been executed by the communists in
order to protect the identities of members of the local Viet Cong
infrastructure, whose covers had been blown. The exact circumstances
leading to the deaths of those citizens of Huế discovered in the
mass graves may never be known exactly, but most of the victims were
killed as a result of
PAVN and NLF executions, considering evidence
from captured documents and witness testimonies among other things.
For more details on operations around the Combat Base, see Battle of
Khe Sanh .
The attack on Khe Sanh, which began on 21 January before the other
offensives, may have been intended to serve two purposes—as a real
attempt to seize the position or as a diversion to draw American
attention and forces away from the population centers in the lowlands,
a deception that was "both plausible and easy to orchestrate." In
General Westmoreland's view, the purpose of the Combat Base was to
provoke the North Vietnamese into a focused and prolonged
confrontation in a confined geographic area, one which would allow the
application of massive U.S. artillery and air strikes that would
inflict heavy casualties in a relatively unpopulated region. By the
end of 1967,
MACV had moved nearly half of its manoeuvre battalions to
I Corps in anticipation of just such a battle. Northern Quảng
Trị Province "> U.S. Marines move through the ruins of the hamlet
of Dai Do after several days of intense fighting
To further enhance their political posture at the Paris talks, which
opened on 13 May, the North Vietnamese opened the second phase of the
GENERAL OFFENSIVE in late April. U.S. intelligence sources estimated
between February and May the North Vietnamese dispatched 50,000 men
Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail to replace losses incurred during the
earlier fighting. Some of the most prolonged and vicious combat of
the war opened on 29 April and lasted until 30 May when the 8,000 men
of the 320th
PAVN Division, backed by artillery from across the DMZ,
threatened the U.S. logistical base at Đông Hà , in northwestern
Quảng Trị Province. In what became known as the Battle of Dai Do ,
the North Vietnamese clashed savagely with U.S. Marine, Army, and ARVN
forces before withdrawing. The North Vietnamese lost an estimated
2,100 men after inflicting casualties on the allies of 290 killed and
During the early morning hours of 4 May, communist units initiated
the second phase of the offensive (known by the South Vietnamese and
Americans as "Mini-Tet") by striking 119 targets throughout South
Vietnam, including Saigon. This time, however, allied intelligence was
better prepared, stripping away the element of surprise. Most of the
communist forces were intercepted by allied screening elements before
they reached their targets. 13
Viet Cong battalions, however, managed
to slip through the cordon and once again plunged the capital into
chaos. Severe fighting occurred at Phu Lam, (where it took two days to
root out the 267th
Viet Cong Local Force Battalion), around the
Y-Bridge, and at Tan Son Nhut. By 12 May, however, it was all over.
Viet Cong forces withdrew from the area leaving behind over 3,000
dead. Attacks on Saigon, Phase II, May 1968
The fighting had no sooner died down around Saigon than U.S. forces
Quảng Tín Province suffered what was, without doubt, the most
serious American defeat of the war. On 10 May, two regiments of the
PAVN Division attacked Kham Duc , the last
Special Forces border
surveillance camp in I Corps. 1,800 U.S. and South Vietnamese troops
were isolated and under intense attack when
MACV made the decision to
avoid a situation reminiscent of that at Khe Sanh. Kham Duc was
evacuated by air while under fire, and abandoned to the North
The communists returned to Saigon on 25 May and launched a second
wave of attacks on the city. The fighting during this phase differed
from Tet Mau Than and "Mini-Tet" in that no U.S. installations were
attacked. During this series of actions,
Viet Cong forces occupied six
Buddhist pagodas in the mistaken belief that they would be immune from
artillery and air attack. The fiercest fighting once again took place
in Cholon. One notable event occurred on 18 June when 152 members of
the Viet Cong's Quyet Thang Regiment surrendered to
ARVN forces, the
largest communist surrender of the war. The actions also brought more
death and suffering to the city's inhabitants. A further 87,000 were
made homeless while more than 500 were killed and another 4,500 were
wounded. During the second phase (5 May – 30 May) U.S. casualties
amounted to 1,161 killed and 3,954 wounded, while 143 South
Vietnamese servicemen were killed and another 643 were wounded.
Kham Duc during the evacuation
Phase III of the offensive began on 17 August and involved attacks in
I, II, and III Corps. Significantly, during this series of actions
only North Vietnamese forces participated. The main offensive was
preceded by attacks on the border towns of
Tây Ninh ,
An Lộc , and
Loc Ninh, which were initiated in order to draw defensive forces from
the cities. A thrust against
Da Nang was preempted by the U.S.
Marines on 16 August. Continuing their border-clearing operations,
three North Vietnamese regiments asserted heavy pressure on the U.S.
Special Forces camp at Bu Prang , in Quang Duc Province, five
kilometers from the Cambodian border. The fighting lasted for two days
before the North Vietnamese broke it off; the combat resulted in the
deaths of 776 North Vietnamese, 114 South Vietnamese, and two
Saigon was struck again during this phase, but the attacks were less
sustained and once again easily repulsed. As far as
concerned, the August offensive "was a dismal failure". In five weeks
of fighting and after the loss of 20,000 troops, not a single
objective had been attained during this "final and decisive phase".
Yet, as historian
Ronald Spector has pointed out "the communist
failures were not final or decisive either". During the same period
700 U.S. troops were killed in action.
The horrendous casualties and suffering endured by communist units
during these sustained operations were beginning to tell. The fact
that there were no apparent military gains made that could possibly
justify all the blood and effort just exacerbated the situation.
During the first half of 1969, more than 20,000 communist troops
rallied to allied forces, a threefold increase over the 1968 figure.
On 5 April 1969, COSVN issued Directive 55 to all of its subordinate
units: "Never again and under no circumstances are we going to risk
our entire military force for just such an offensive. On the contrary,
we should endeavor to preserve our military potential for future
A number of North Vietnamese targets during the
The leadership in
Hanoi was despondent at the outcome of their
offensive. Their first and most ambitious goal, producing a general
uprising, had ended in a dismal failure. In total, about
85,000–100,000 communist troops had participated in the initial
onslaught and in the follow-up phases. Overall, during the "Border
Battles" of 1967 and the nine-month winter-spring campaign, 45,267
communist troops had been killed in action. South Vietnamese
troops in action near
Tan Son Nhut Air Base
The keys to the failure of Tet are not difficult to discern. Hanoi
had underestimated the strategic mobility of the allied forces, which
allowed them to redeploy at will to threatened areas; their battle
plan was too complex and difficult to coordinate, which was amply
demonstrated by the 30 January attacks; their violation of the
principle of mass, attacking everywhere instead of concentrating their
forces on a few specific targets, allowed their forces to be defeated
piecemeal; the launching of massed attacks headlong into the teeth of
vastly superior firepower; and last, but not least, the incorrect
assumptions upon which the entire campaign was based. According to
General Tran Van Tra: "We did not correctly evaluate the specific
balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy, did not fully
realize that the enemy still had considerable capabilities, and that
our capabilities were limited, and set requirements that were beyond
our actual strength.
The communist effort to regain control of the countryside was
somewhat more successful. According to the
U.S. State Department
U.S. State Department the
Viet Cong "made pacification virtually inoperative. In the Mekong
Viet Cong was stronger now than ever and in other regions
the countryside belongs to the VC." General Wheeler reported that the
offensive had brought counterinsurgency programs to a halt and "that
to a large extent, the V.C. now controlled the countryside".
Unfortunately for the Viet Cong, this state of affairs did not last.
Heavy casualties and the backlash of the South Vietnamese and
Americans resulted in more territorial losses and heavy casualties.
Viet Cong guerrilla awaits interrogation following his capture in
the attacks on Saigon.
The horrendous losses inflicted on
Viet Cong units struck into the
heart of the irreplaceable infrastructure that had been built up for
over a decade.
MACV estimated that 181,149
Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese troops had been killed during 1968. From this point
Hanoi was forced to fill one-third of the Viet Cong's ranks
with North Vietnamese regulars. However, this change had little
effect on the war, since North
Vietnam had little difficulty making up
the casualties inflicted by the offensive. Some Western historians
have come to believe that one insidious ulterior motive for the
campaign was the elimination of competing southern members of the
Party, thereby allowing the northerners more control once the war was
It was not until after the conclusion of the first phase of the
Hanoi realized that its sacrifices might not have been
in vain. General Tran Do, North Vietnamese commander at the battle of
Huế, gave some insight into how defeat was translated into victory:
"In all honesty, we didn't achieve our main objective, which was to
spur uprisings throughout the South. Still, we inflicted heavy
casualties on the Americans and their puppets, and this was a big gain
for us. As for making an impact in the United States, it had not been
our intention—but it turned out to be a fortunate result".
On 5 May
Trường Chinh rose to address a congress of Party members
and proceeded to castigate the Party militants and their bid for quick
victory. His "faction-bashing" tirade sparked a serious debate within
the party leadership which lasted for four months. As the leader of
the "main force war" and "quick victory" faction,
Lê Duẩn also came
under severe criticism. In August, Chinh's report on the situation was
accepted in toto, published, and broadcast via Radio Hanoi. He had
single-handedly shifted the nation's war strategy and restored himself
to prominence as the Party's ideological conscience. Meanwhile, the
Viet Cong proclaimed itself the Provisional Revolutionary Government
of the Republic of
South Vietnam , and took part in future peace
negotiations under this title. It would be a long seven years until
South Vietnam was a nation in turmoil both during and in the
aftermath of the offensive. Tragedy had compounded tragedy as the
conflict reached into the nation's cities for the first time. As
government troops pulled back to defend the urban areas, the Viet Cong
moved in to fill the vacuum in the countryside. The violence and
destruction witnessed during the offensive left a deep psychological
scar on the South Vietnamese civilian population. Confidence in the
government was shaken, since the offensive seemed to reveal that even
with massive American support, the government could not protect its
citizens. Civilians sort through the ruins of their homes in
Cholon, the heavily damaged Chinese section of Saigon
The human and material cost to
South Vietnam was staggering. The
number of civilian dead was estimated by the government at 14,300 with
an additional 24,000 wounded. 630,000 new refugees had been
generated, joining the nearly 800,000 others already displaced by the
war. By the end of 1968, one of every twelve South Vietnamese was
living in a refugee camp. More than 70,000 homes had been destroyed
in the fighting and perhaps 30,000 more were heavily damaged and the
nation's infrastructure had been virtually destroyed. The South
Vietnamese military, although it had performed better than the
Americans had expected, suffered from lowered morale, with desertion
rates rising from 10.5 per thousand before Tet to 16.5 per thousand by
July. 1968 became the deadliest year of the war to date for the ARVN
with 27,915 men killed.
Moreover, in addition to the heavy civilian casualties inflicted in
the battle by U.S. forces to retake the cities from the NLF and NVA,
the presence of NLF fighters in the villages exposed their rural bases
to attack. Writes
Marilyn B. Young
Marilyn B. Young : In Long An province, for
example, local guerrillas taking part in the May—June offensive had
been divided into several sections. Only 775 out of 2,018 in one
section survived; another lost all but 640 out of 1,430. The province
itself was subjected to what one historian has called a "My Lai from
the Sky" – non-stop
In the wake of the offensive, however, fresh determination was
exhibited by the Thiệu government. On 1 February Thiệu declared a
state of martial law and, on 15 June, the National Assembly passed his
request for a general mobilization of the population and the induction
of 200,000 draftees into the armed forces by the end of the year (a
decree that had failed to pass only five months previously due to
strong political opposition). This increase would bring South
Vietnam's troop strength to more than 900,000 men. Military
mobilization, anti-corruption campaigns, demonstrations of political
unity, and administrative reforms were quickly carried out. Thiệu
also established a National Recovery Committee to oversee food
distribution, resettlement, and housing construction for the new
refugees. Both the government and the Americans were encouraged by a
new determination that was exhibited among the ordinary citizens of
the Republic. Many urban dwellers were indignant that the communists
had launched their attacks during Tet and it drove many who had been
previously apathetic into active support of the government.
Journalists, political figures, and religious leaders alike—even the
militant Buddhists—professed confidence in the government's plans.
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was the president of
Thiệu saw an opportunity to consolidate his personal power and he
took it. His only real political rival was Vice President Kỳ, the
former Air Force commander, who had been outmaneuvered by Thiệu in
the presidential election of 1967. In the aftermath of Tet, Kỳ
supporters in the military and the administration were quickly removed
from power, arrested, or exiled. A crack-down on the South Vietnamese
press also ensued and there was a worrisome return of former President
Ngô Đình Diệm
Ngô Đình Diệm 's
Cần Lao Party members to high positions in the
government and military. By the summer of 1968, the President had
earned a less exalted sobriquet among the South Vietnamese population,
who had begun to call him "the little dictator."
Thiệu had also become very suspicious of his American allies,
unwilling to believe (as did many South Vietnamese) that the U.S. had
been caught by surprise by the offensive. "Now that it's all over", he
queried a visiting Washington official, "you really knew it was coming
didn't you?" Lyndon Johnson's unilateral decision on 31 March to
curtail the bombing of North
Vietnam only confirmed what Thiệu
already feared, that the Americans were going to abandon South Vietnam
to the communists. For Thiệu, the bombing halt and the beginning of
negotiations with the North brought not the hope of an end to the war,
but "an abiding fear of peace." He was only mollified after an 18
July meeting with Johnson in Honolulu, where the American president
affirmed that Saigon would be a full partner in all negotiations and
that the U.S. would not "support the imposition of a coalition
government, or any other form of government, on the people of South
For more details on on the debate over the media's portrayal of the
offensive and the public response, see News media and the
§ The Tet Offensive, 1968 .
Tet Offensive created a crisis within the Johnson administration,
which became increasingly unable to convince the American public that
it had been a major defeat for the communists. The optimistic
assessments made prior to the offensive by the administration and the
Pentagon came under heavy criticism and ridicule as the "credibility
gap " that had opened in 1967 widened into a chasm.
The shocks that reverberated from the battlefield continued to widen:
On 18 February 1968
MACV posted the highest U.S. casualty figures for
a single week during the entire war: 543 killed and 2,547 wounded. As
a result of the heavy fighting, 1968 went on to become the deadliest
year of the war for the US forces with 16,592 soldiers killed. On 23
February the U.S.
Selective Service System announced a new draft call
for 48,000 men, the second highest of the war. On 28 February Robert
S. McNamara , the Secretary of Defense who had overseen the escalation
of the war in 1964–1965, but who had eventually turned against it,
stepped down from office.
During the first two weeks of February, Generals Westmoreland and
Wheeler communicated as to the necessity for reinforcements or troop
increases in Vietnam. Westmoreland insisted that he only needed those
forces either in-country or already scheduled for deployment and he
was puzzled by the sense of unwarranted urgency in Wheeler's queries.
Westmoreland was tempted, however, when Wheeler emphasized that the
White House might loosen restraints and allow operations in Laos,
Cambodia, or possibly even North
Vietnam itself. On 8 February,
Westmoreland responded that he could use another division "if
Laos are authorized". Wheeler responded by challenging
Westmoreland's assessment of the situation, pointing out dangers that
his on-the-spot commander did not consider palpable, concluding: "In
summary, if you need more troops, ask for them."
Wheeler's bizarre promptings were influenced by the severe strain
imposed upon the U.S. military by the
Vietnam commitment, one which
had been undertaken without the mobilization of its reserve forces.
The Joint Chiefs had repeatedly requested national mobilization, not
only to prepare for a possible intensification of the war, but also to
ensure that the nation's strategic reserve did not become depleted.
By obliquely ordering Westmoreland to demand more forces, Wheeler was
attempting to solve two pressing problems. In comparison with MACV's
previous communications, which had been full of confidence, optimism,
and resolve, Westmoreland's 12 February request for 10,500 troops was
much more urgent: "which I desperately need ... time is of the
essence". On 13 February, 10,500 previously authorized U.S. airborne
troops and marines were dispatched to South Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs
then played their hand, advising President Johnson to turn down MACV's
requested division-sized reinforcement unless he called up some
1,234,001 marine and army reservists.
Johnson dispatched Wheeler to Saigon on 20 February to determine
military requirements in response to the offensive. Both Wheeler and
Westmoreland were elated that in only eight days McNamara would be
replaced by the hawkish
Clark Clifford and that the military might
finally obtain permission to widen the war. Wheeler's written report
of the trip, however, contained no mention of any new contingencies,
strategies, or the building up the strategic reserve. It was couched
in grave language that suggested that the 206,756-man request it
proposed was a matter of vital military necessity. Westmoreland wrote
in his memoir that Wheeler had deliberately concealed the truth of the
matter in order to force the issue of the strategic reserve upon the
On 27 February, Johnson and McNamara discussed the proposed troop
increase. To fulfill it would require an increase in overall military
strength of about 400,000 men and the expenditure of an additional $10
billion during fiscal 1969 and another $15 billion in 1970. These
monetary concerns were pressing. Throughout the fall of 1967 and the
spring of 1968, the U.S. was struggling with "one of the most severe
monetary crises" of the period. Without a new tax bill and budgetary
cuts, the nation would face even higher inflation "and the possible
collapse of the monetary system". Johnson's friend Clifford was
concerned about what the American public would think of the
escalation: "How do we avoid creating the feeling that we are pounding
troops down a rathole?"
According to the
Pentagon Papers , "A fork in the road had been
reached and the alternatives stood out in stark reality." To meet
Wheeler's request would mean a total U.S. military commitment to South
Vietnam. "To deny it, or to attempt to cut it to a size which could be
sustained by the thinly stretched active forces, would just as surely
signify that an upper limit to the U.S. military commitment in South
Vietnam had been reached."
To evaluate Westmoreland's request and its possible impact on
domestic politics, Johnson convened the "Clifford Group" on 28
February and tasked its members with a complete policy reassessment.
Some of the members argued that the offensive represented an
opportunity to defeat the North Vietnamese on American terms while
others pointed out that neither side could win militarily, that North
Vietnam could match any troop increase, that the bombing of the North
be halted, and that a change in strategy was required that would seek
not victory, but the staying power required to reach a negotiated
settlement. This would require a less aggressive strategy that was
designed to protect the population of South Vietnam. The divided
group's final report, issued on 4 March, "failed to seize the
opportunity to change directions... and seemed to recommend that we
continue rather haltingly down the same road."
On 1 March, Clifford had succeeded McNamara as Secretary of Defense.
During the month, Clifford, who had entered office as a staunch
supporter of the
Vietnam commitment and who had opposed McNamara's
de-escalatory views, turned against the war. According to Clifford:
"The simple truth was that the military failed to sustain a
respectable argument for their position." Between the results of Tet
and the meetings of the group that bore his name, he became convinced
that deescalation was the only solution for the United States. He
believed that the troop increase would lead only to a more violent
stalemate and sought out others in the administration to assist him in
convincing the President to reverse the escalation, to cap force
levels at 550,000 men, to seek negotiations with Hanoi, and turn
responsibility for the fighting over to the South Vietnamese.
Clifford quietly sought allies and was assisted in his effort by the
so-called "8:30 Group" – Nitze, Warnke, Phil G. Goulding (Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs), George Elsey, and Air Force
Colonel Robert E. Pursely.
On 27 February, Secretary of State Dean Rusk had proposed that a
partial bombing halt be implemented in North
Vietnam and that an offer
to negotiate be extended to Hanoi. On 4 March, Rusk reiterated the
proposal, explaining that, during the rainy season in the North,
bombing was less effective and that no military sacrifice would thus
occur. This was purely a political ploy, however, since the North
Vietnamese would probably again refuse to negotiate, casting the onus
on them and "thus freeing our hand after a short period...putting the
monkey firmly upon Hanoi's back for what was to follow." ARVN
Rangers moving through western Cholon, 10 May 1968
While this was being deliberated, the troop request was leaked to the
press and published in
The New York Times
The New York Times on 10 March. The article
also revealed that the request had begun a serious debate within the
administration. According to it, many high-level officials believed
that the U.S. troop increase would be matched by the communists and
would simply maintain a stalemate at a higher level of violence. It
went on to state that officials were saying in private that
"widespread and deep changes in attitudes, a sense that a watershed
has been reached."
A great deal has been said by historians concerning how the news
media made Tet the "turning point" in the public's perception of the
Walter Cronkite stated during a news broadcast
on February 27, "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism
of the American leaders, both in
Vietnam and Washington, to have faith
any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds" and
added that, "we are mired in a stalemate that could only be ended by
negotiation, not victory." Far from suffering a loss of morale,
however, the majority of Americans had rallied to the side of the
president. A Gallup poll in January 1968 revealed that 56 percent
polled considered themselves hawks on the war and 27 percent doves,
with 17 percent offering no opinion. By early February, at the height
of the first phase of the offensive, 61 percent declared themselves
hawks, 23 percent doves, and 16 percent held no opinion. Johnson,
however, made few comments to the press during or immediately after
the offensive, leaving an impression of indecision on the public. It
was this lack of communication that caused a rising disapproval rating
for his conduct of the war. By the end of February, his approval
rating had fallen from 63 percent to 47 percent. By the end of March
the percentage of Americans that expressed confidence in U.S. military
policies in Southeast Asia had fallen from 74 to 54 percent.
By 22 March, President Johnson had informed Wheeler to "forget the
100,000" men. The President and his staff were refining a lesser
version of the troop increase – a planned call-up of 62,000
reservists, 13,000 of whom would be sent to Vietnam. Three days
later, at Clifford's suggestion, Johnson called a conclave of the
"Wise Men ". With few exceptions, all of the members of the group had
formerly been accounted as hawks on the war. The group was joined by
Rusk, Wheeler, Bundy, Rostow, and Clifford. The final assessment of
the majority stupefied the group. According to Clifford, "few of them
were thinking solely of
Vietnam anymore". All but four members called
for disengagement from the war, leaving the President "deeply shaken."
According to the Pentagon Papers, the advice of the group was
decisive in convincing Johnson to reduce the bombing of North Vietnam.
Lyndon Johnson was depressed and despondent at the course of recent
The New York Times
The New York Times article had been released just two days
before the Democratic Party 's
New Hampshire primary , where the
President suffered an unexpected setback in the election, finishing
barely ahead of Senator
Eugene McCarthy . Soon afterward, Senator
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy announced he would join the contest for the
Democratic nomination, further emphasizing the plummeting support for
Johnson's administration in the wake of Tet.
The President was to make a televised address to the nation on
Vietnam policy on 31 March and was deliberating on both the troop
request and his response to the military situation. By 28 March
Clifford was working hard to convince him to tone down his hard-line
speech, maintaining force levels at their present size, and
instituting Rusk's bombing/negotiating proposal. To Clifford's
surprise, both Rusk and Rostow (both of whom had previously been
opposed to any form of deescalation) offered no opposition to
Clifford's suggestions. On 31 March, President Johnson announced the
unilateral (although still partial) bombing halt during his television
address. He then stunned the nation by declining to run for a second
term in office. To Washington's surprise, on 3 April
that it would conduct negotiations, which were scheduled to begin on
13 May in Paris.
On 9 June, President Johnson replaced Westmoreland as commander of
MACV with General
Creighton W. Abrams . Although the decision had been
made in December 1967 and Westmoreland was made Army Chief of Staff,
many saw his relief as punishment for the entire Tet debacle. Abrams'
new strategy was quickly demonstrated by the closure of the
Khe Sanh base and the ending of multi-division "search and
destroy" operations. Also gone were discussions of victory over North
Vietnam. Abrams' new "One War" policy centered the American effort on
the takeover of the fighting by the South Vietnamese (through
Vietnamization), the pacification of the countryside, and the
destruction of communist logistics. The new administration of
Richard M. Nixon
Richard M. Nixon would oversee the withdrawal of U.S. forces
and the continuation of negotiations.
Battle of Quang Tri (1968)
Battle of Khe Sanh
Battle of Kham Duc
United States presidential election, 1968
Nguyễn Văn Lém
Viet Cong and
PAVN battle tactics , after Tet
* Tears of Heaven - A 2011 musical by
Frank Wildhorn set in the lead
up to and during the Offensive.
* ^ Macmillan Dictionary of Historical Terms. Chris Cook. Palgrave
Macmillan UK. ISBN 978-1-349-10084-2 . P. 316
* ^ Nationalism and Imperialism in South and Southeast Asia: Essays
Presented to Damodar R. SarDesai. Arnold P. Kaminsky, Roger D. Long.
Routledge; 1 edition (September 7, 2016). ISBN 1138234834 . P. 49
* ^ Smedberg, p. 188
* ^ "Tet Offensive". History . Retrieved December 22, 2014.
* ^ Hoang, p. 8.
* ^ The South Vietnamese regime estimated North Vietnamese forces
at 323,000, including 130,000 regulars and 160,000 guerrillas. Hoang,
MACV estimated that strength at 330,000. The CIA and the U.S.
State Department concluded that the North Vietnamese force level lay
somewhere between 435,000 and 595,000. Dougan and Weiss, p. 184.
* ^ Tổng công kích, Tổng nổi dậy
Tết mậu thân 1968
Tet Offensive 1968) – ARVN's Đại Nam publishing in 1969, p. 35
* ^ Does not include
ARVN or U.S. casualties incurred during the
ARVN killed, wounded, or missing from Phase III;
U.S. wounded from Phase III; or U.S. missing during Phases II and III.
* ^ Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for
Southeast Asia. Naval Institute Press, 2008. P 33
* ^ Includes casualties incurred during the "Border Battles", Tet
Mau Than, and the second and third phases of the offensive. General
Tran Van Tra claimed that from January through August 1968 the
offensive had cost North
Vietnam more than 75.000 dead and wounded.
This is probably a low estimate. Tran Van Tra, Tet, in Jayne S. Warner
and Luu Doan Huynh, eds., The
Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American
Perspectives. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993, pgs. 49 Harry G. Summers
in On Strategy, Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1982, p. 133; Leslie Gelb
and Richard Betts, The Irony of Vietnam, Washington, D.C.: The
Brookings Institution, 1979, pp. 333–334; and Schmitz p. 90. This
thesis appeared logical in hindsight, but it "fails to account for any
realistic North Vietnamese military objectives, the logical
prerequisite for an effort to influence American opinion." James J.
Wirtz in The Tet Offensive, Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1991,
p. 18. The second thesis (which was also supported by the majority of
contemporary captured Vietcong documents) was that the goal of the
offensive was the immediate toppling of the Saigon government or, at
the very least, the destruction of the government apparatus, the
installation of a coalition government, or the occupation of large
tracts of South Vietnamese territory. Historians supporting this view
Stanley Karnow in Vietnam, New York: Viking, 1983, p. 537; U.S.
Grant Sharp in Strategy for Defeat, San Rafael CA: Presidio Press,
1978, p. 214; Patrick McGarvey in Visions of Victory, Stanford CA:
Stanford University Press, 1969; and Wirtz, p. 60.
* ^ "U.S. Involvement in the
Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968".
United States Department of State. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
* ^ A B Dougan and Weiss, p. 8.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, pp. 22–23
* ^ A B Dougan and Weiss, p. 22.
* ^ Hammond, p. 326.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 23.
* ^ Hammond, pp. 326, 327.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 23. This Order of Battle controversy
resurfaced in 1982, when Westmoreland filed a lawsuit against
after the airing of its program, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam
Deception, which aired had on 23 January 1982.
* ^ Those in the administration and the military who urged a change
in strategy included: Secretary of Defense
Robert S. McNamara ;
Undersecretary of State
Nicholas Katzenbach ; Assistant Secretary for
Far Eastern Affairs
William Bundy ; Ambassador to
South Vietnam Henry
Cabot Lodge ; General
Creighton W. Abrams , deputy commander of MACV;
Frederick C. Weyand , commander of II Field
Force, Vietnam. Lewis Sorley, A Better War. New York: Harvest Books,
1999, p. 6. Throughout the year, the
Pentagon Papers claimed, Johnson
had discounted any "negative analysis" of U.S. strategy by the CIA and
the Pentagon offices of International Security Affairs and System
Analysis, and had instead "seized upon optimistic reports from General
Westmoreland." Neil Sheehan, et al. The
Pentagon Papers as Reported by
the New York Times. New York: Ballantine, 1971, p. 592.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 68.
* ^ Karnow, pp. 545–546.
* ^ Karnow, p. 546.
* ^ A B Dougan and Weiss, p. 66.
* ^ Schmitz, p. 56.
* ^ Schmitz, p. 58.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 69.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 67.
* ^ Karnow, p. 514.
* ^ Elliot, p. 1055.
* ^ Nguyen, p. 4.
* ^ Nguyen, pp. 15–16.
* ^ Nguyen, p. 20. See also Wirtz, pp. 30–50.
* ^ Wirtz, p. 20.
* ^ Doyle, Lipsman and Maitland, p. 55.
* ^ Nguyen, p. 22.
* ^ Contrary to Western belief,
Hồ Chí Minh had been sidelined
politically since 1963 and took little part in the day-to-day policy
decisions of the Politburo or Secretariat. Nguyen, p. 30.
* ^ Wirtz, pp. 36–40, 47–49.
* ^ Hoang, pp. 15–16. See also Doyle, Lipsman and Maitland, p.
* ^ Hoang, p. 16.
* ^ Nguyen, pp. 18–20.
* ^ A B Nguyen, p. 24.
* ^ Nguyen, p. 27.
* ^ Victory in Vietnam, p. 371.
* ^ Victory in Vietnam, p. 380. For years Western historians
believed that Thanh had died as a result of wounds received during a
U.S. air raid. Nguyen, fn. 147
* ^ Hoang, p. 24.
* ^ Ang, p. 352.
* ^ Doyle, Lipsman and Maitland, p. 56.
* ^ Nguyen, p. 34. Duiker, p. 288. Also see Doyle, Lipsman and
Maitland, p. 56.
* ^ Marc J. Gilbert Zaffiri, p. 280.
For a treatment of official statements predicting the offensive, see
Peter Braestrup. Big Story, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University
Press, 1983, 1:60–77. * ^ The first attacks may have been launched
prematurely due to confusion over a changeover in the calendar date by
North Vietnamese units.
Hanoi had arbitrarily forwarded the date of
the holiday in order to allow its citizens respite from the
retaliatory airstrikes that were sure to follow the offensive. Whether
this was connected to the mixup over the launch date is unknown. All
eight of the attacks were controlled by the North Vietnamese
headquarters of Military Region 5.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 323.
* ^ Stanton, p. 209.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 328. Palmer gave a figure of 70,000, p. 238.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 328.
* ^ A B Westmoreland, p. 332.
* ^ A B Karnow, p. 549.
* ^ Clifford, p. 474.
* ^ Zaffiri, p. 283. Clifford, p. 476.
* ^ Braestrup, p. 108.
* ^ Wiest, p. 41
* ^ A B C Willbanks, p. 32.
* ^ Stanton, p. 215. For a detailed description of U.S.
participation in the defense, see Keith W. Nolan, The Battle of
Saigon, Tet 1968. New York: Pocket Books, 1996.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 326.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 32–33.
* ^ Alvarez, Everett (1983). Vietnam, a television History: Tet
Offensive. Public Broadcasting Service. p. Time in video: 6:57.
Retrieved 31 January 2015.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 34–36.
* ^ Sherwood, John (2015). War in the Shallows: U.S. Navy and
Coastal and Riverine Warfare in
Vietnam 1965-8. Naval History and
Heritage Command. p. 284. ISBN 9780945274773 .
* ^ A B Willbanks, p. 36.
* ^ In the Jaws of History. Bloomington IN: Indiana University
* ^ Perlmutter, David D. "Just How Big an Impact Do Pictures of War
Have on Public Opinion?". http://historynewsnetwork.org. History News
Network. Retrieved 31 January 2015. External link in website= (help
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 37–39.
* ^ Hoang, p. 40.
* ^ A B Willbanks, p. 39.
* ^ Oberdorfer, p. 261, See also Palmer, p. 254 and Karnow, p. 534.
* ^ Department of Defense, CACCF: Combat Area Casualties Current
File, as of Nov. 1993, Public Use Version. Washington, D.C.: National
* ^ Willbanks, p. 46.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. xxiv, 43.
* ^ A B Willbanks, p. 44.
* ^ Willbanks, p. 47.
* ^ Palmer, p. 245. These units included the 12th
Viet Cong Main
Force Battalion and the Huế City
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 48–49.
* ^ Willbanks, p. 54.
* ^ A B Willbanks, James H. (January 25, 2011). "Tet - What Really
Happened at Hue". historynet.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
* ^ Schulimson, et al., p. 175. For a detailed description of U.S.
participation in the battle, see Keith W. Nolan, Battle for Huế, Tet
1968. Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1983.
* ^ Pike, COL Thomas F., Military Records, February 1968, 3rd
Marine Division: The Tet Offensive, p. 71, ISBN 978-1-481219-46-4
* ^ Willbanks, p. 48.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 50–51.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 28.
* ^ Willbanks, p. 49.
* ^ William, Thomas Allison, pp.51.
* ^ Willbanks, p. 53.
* ^ A B Schulimson, p. 213.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 52–54.
* ^ Willbanks, p. 154.
* ^ Schulimson, p. 213. A
PAVN document allegedly captured by the
ARVN stated that 1,042 troops had been killed in the city proper and
that several times that number had been wounded. Hoang, p. 84.
* ^ Schulimson, p. 216.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 54–55.
* ^ Tucker, Spencer (2011). The Encyclopedia of the
Political, Social, Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 515. ISBN 1851099611
* ^ Wiest, Andrew (2009). The
Vietnam War. Rosen Publishing. p. 42.
ISBN 1404218459 .
* ^ A B C Willbanks, pp. 99–103.
* ^ A B Willbanks, p. 55.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 35. This was the version given in Douglas
Viet Cong Strategy of Terror, published by the U.S. Mission
* ^ Lewy, p. 274.
* ^ Bui, p. 67.
* ^ Hoang, p. 82.
* ^ Stephen T. Hosmer,
Viet Cong Repression and its Implications
for the Future (Rand Corporation, 1970), pp. 72-8.
* ^ Hosmer, pp 73-4.
* ^ Karnow, p. 555, John Prados, The Blood Road, New York: John
Wiley the People's Army Publishing House released his next book in
* ^ Schmitz, p. 106.
* ^ Schmitz, p. 109.
* ^ Duiker, p. 296. This was mainly due to General Creighton
Abrams' new "One War" strategy and the CIA/South Vietnamese Phoenix
* ^ A B Smedberg, p. 196
* ^ According to one estimate by late 1968, of a total of 125,000
main force troops in the South, 85,000 were of North Vietnamese
origin. Duiker, p. 303.
* ^ Arnold, pp. 87–88.
* ^ Arnold, p. 91. See also Karnow, 534.
* ^ Karnow, p. 536.
* ^ Doyle, Lipsman and Maitland, pp. 126–127.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 118.
* ^ A B Dougan and Weiss, p. 116.
* ^ Arnold, p. 90.
* ^ Marilyn Young, The
Vietnam Wars: 1945–1990 (New York: Harper
Perennial, 1991), p. 223
* ^ Zaffiri, p. 293.
* ^ Hoang, pp. 135–6.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 119.
* ^ Three of the four
ARVN corps commanders, for example, were
replaced for their dismal performance during the offensive.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 120.
* ^ Hoang, p. 142.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 126.
* ^ A B Dougan and Weiss, p. 127.
* ^ Hoang, p. 147.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 128.
* ^ Clifford, pp. 47–55.
* ^ Clifford, p. 479.
* ^ Smedberg, p. 195.
* ^ Palmer, p. 258.
* ^ Willbanks, pp. 148, 150.
* ^ Zaffiri, p. 304.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 355.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 70.
* ^ Pentagon Papers, p. 594.
* ^ Westmoreland, p. 356.
* ^ Schmitz, p. 105.
* ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 72. See also Zaffiri, p. 305.
* ^ Zaffiri, p. 308.
* ^ Clifford, p. 482. See also Zaffiri, p. 309.
* ^ Westmoreland, pp. 356–357.
* ^ Lyndon B. Johnson, The Vantage Point. New York: Holt, Rinehart,
& Winston, 1971, pp. 389–392.
* ^ Johnson, pp. 406–407.
* ^ Clifford, p. 485.
* ^ A B Pentagon Papers, p. 597.
* ^ The group included McNamara, General
Maxwell D. Taylor , Paul
H. Nitze (Deputy Secretary of Defense),
Henry H. Fowler (Secretary of
Nicholas Katzenbach (Undersecretary of State), Walt W.
Rostow (National Security Advisor),
Richard Helms (Director of the
William P. Bundy (Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern
Paul Warnke (the Pentagon's International Security Affairs),
Philip C. Habib (Bundy's deputy).
* ^ Pentagon Papers, pp. 601–604.
* ^ Pentagon Papers, p. 604.
* ^ Clifford, p. 402.
* ^ Major General Phillip Davidson, Westmoreland's chief of
intelligence, reflected how the military men thought about Clifford's
conversion in his memoir: "Clifford's use of the Wise Men to serve his
dovish ends was a consummate stroke by a master of intrigue...what
happened was that Johnson had fired a doubting Thomas (McNamara) only
to replace him with a Judas." Phillip Davidson,
Vietnam at War. Novato
CA: Presidio Press, 1988, p. 525.
* ^ A B Johnson, p. 399.
* ^ Johnson, p. 400.
* ^ Pentagon Papers, p. 623.
* ^ President Johnson was convinced that the source of the leak was
Undersecretary of the Air Force
Townsend Hoopes . Don Oberdorfer
suggested that the Times pieced the story together from a variety of
sources. Oberdorfer, pp. 266–270. Herbert Schandler concluded that
the key sources included Senators who had been briefed by Johnson
himself. Herbert Y. Schandler, The Unmaking of a President. Princeton
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977, pp. 202–205.
* ^ Oberdofer p. 269.
* ^ Stephens, Bret, "American Honor", Wall Street Journal, January
22, 2008, p. 18.
* ^ Braestrup, 1:679f.
* ^ Braestrup, 1:687.
* ^ Johnson, p. 415.
* ^ Clifford, p. 507. The group consisted of
Dean Acheson (former
Secretary of State),
George W. Ball (former Under Secretary of State),
Omar N. Bradley ,
Arthur H. Dean ,
Douglas Dillon , (former
Secretary of State and the Treasury), Associate Justice
Abe Fortas ,
Henry Cabot Lodge (twice Ambassador to South Vietnam), John J. McCloy
(former High Commissioner of West Germany),
Robert D. Murphy (former
diplomat), General Taylor, General
Matthew B. Ridgeway (U.S. Commander
in the Korean War), and
Cyrus Vance (former Secretary of Defense), and
Arthur J. Goldberg (U.S. representative at the UN).
* ^ Karnow, p. 562.
* ^ Clifford, p. 516.
* ^ The four dissenters were Bradley, Murphy, Fortas, and Taylor.
Karnow, p. 562, Pentagon Papers, p. 610.
* ^ Pentagon Papers, p. 609.
* ^ Clifford, p. 520.
* ^ Zaffiri, pp. 315–316. Westmoreland was "bitter" and was upset
that he "had been made the goat for the war." Ibid. See also
Westmoreland, pp. 361–362.
* ^ Sorley, p. 18.
PUBLISHED GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
* Hammond, William H. (1988). The
United States Army in Vietnam,
Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1962–1968. Washington,
United States Army Center of Military History .
* Hoang Ngoc Lung (1978). The General Offensives of 1968–69.
McLean VA: General Research Corporation.
* Schulimson, Jack; Blaisol, Leonard; Smith, Charles R.; Dawson,
David (1997). The U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968, the Decisive Year
(PDF). Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, United States
Marine Corps. ISBN 0-16-049125-8 .
* Shore, Moyars S., III (1969). The Battle of Khe Sanh. Washington,
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Corps Historical Branch. CS1 maint: Multiple names:
authors list (link ) Part 1, Part 2
* Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theater, Volume 5: Concluding
the 30 Years War. Southeast Asia Report No. 1247, Washington, D.C.;
Foreign Broadcast Information Service; 1983
* Military History Institute of
Vietnam (2002). Victory in Vietnam:
A History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975. trans.
Pribbenow, Merle. Lawrence KS: University of Kansas Press. ISBN
* Library of Congress Country Studies:
Vietnam Smith, Hedrick;
Kenworthy, E. W.; Butterfield, Fox (1971). The Pentagon Papers. New
York: Bantam. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link )
* The 1968 Battles of Quang Tri City An Interim Study; April 8, 1968
* The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; The Joint Chiefs of
Staff and the War in
Vietnam 1960-68, Part 2, Section 48
MEMOIRS AND BIOGRAPHIES
Bui Diem ; Chanoff, David (1999). In the Jaws of History.
Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21301-0 .
Bui Tin (2002). From Enemy to Friend: A North Vietnamese
Perspective on the War. Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN
* Clifford, Clark ; Holbrooke, Richard (1991). Counsel to the
President: A Memoir. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-56995-4 .
* Johnson, Lyndon B (1971). The Vantage Point: Perspectives on the
Presidency, 1963–1969. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. ISBN
* Macdonald, Peter (1994). Giap: The Victor in Vietnam. London:
Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-107-X .
* Westmoreland, William C. (1976). A Soldier Reports. New York:
Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-00434-6 .
* Zaffiri, Samuel (1994). Westmoreland. New York: William Morrow.
ISBN 0-688-11179-3 .
* Ang Cheng Guan (July 1998). "Decision-making Leading to the Tet
Offensive (1968) – The Vietnamese Communist Perspective". Journal of
Contemporary History. 33 (3).
* Arnold, James R. (1990). The
Tet Offensive 1968. Westport,
Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-98452-4 .
* Blood, Jake (2005). The Tet Effect: Intelligence and the Public
Perception of War (Cass Military Studies). Routledge. ISBN
* Braestrup, Peter (1983). Big Story: How the American Press and
Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet in
Washington. New Haven CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02953-5 .
* Davidson, Phillip (1988).
Vietnam at War: The History,
1946–1975. Novato CA: Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-306-5 .
* Doyle, Edward; Lipsman, Samuel; Maitland, Terrance; et al. (1986).
The North. Boston: Boston Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939526-21-2 .
* Dougan, Clark; Weiss, Stephen; et al. (1983). Nineteen
Sixty-Eight. Boston: Boston Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939526-06-9 .
* Duiker, William J. (1996). The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam.
Boulder CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-8587-3 .
* Elliot, David (2003). The Vietnamese War: Revolution and Social
Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930–1975. 2 vols. Armonk NY: M. E.
Sharpe. ISBN 0-7656-0602-X .
* Gilbert, Marc J.; Head, William, eds. (1996). The Tet Offensive.
Westport CT: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-95480-3 . CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link )
* Hayward, Stephen (April 2004). The Tet Offensive: Dialogues.
* Karnow, Stanley (1991). Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin.
ISBN 0-670-84218-4 .
* Maitland, Terrence; McInerney, John (1983). A Contagion of War.
Boston: Boston Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939526-05-0 .
* Lewy, Gunther (1980). America in Vietnam. New York: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-502732-9 .
* Morocco, John (1984). Thunder from Above: Air War, 1941–1968.
Boston: Boston Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939526-09-3 .
* Nguyen, Lien-Hang T. (2006). "The War Politburo: North Vietnam's
Diplomatic and Political Road to the Tet Offensive". Journal of
Vietnamese Studies. 1 (1–2).
* Oberdorfer, Don (1971). Tet!: The Turning Point in the Vietnam
War. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6703-7
* Palmer, Dave Richard (1978). Summons of the Trumpet: The History
Vietnam War from a Military Man's Viewpoint. New York:
* Pisor, Robert (1982). The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sanh.
New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-393-32269-6 .
* Pike,COL Thomas F. (2013). Military Records, February 1968, 3rd
Marine Division: The Tet Offensive. Charleston, SC: Createspace. ISBN
* Pike,COL Thomas F. (2017). I Corps Vietnam: An Aerial
Retrospective. Charleston, SC: Createspace. p. 202. ISBN
978-1-36-628720-5 . www.tfpike.com
* Prados, John; Stubbe, Ray (1991). Valley of Decision: The Siege of
Khe Sanh. Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-395-55003-3 .
* Schandler, Herbert Y. (1977). The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon
Johnson and Vietnam. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN
* Schmitz, David F. (2004). The Tet Offensive: Politics, War, and
Public Opinion. Westport CT: Praeger. ISBN 0-7425-4486-9 .
* Smedberg, Marco (2008). Vietnamkrigen: 1880–1980. Historiska
Media. ISBN 91-85507-88-1 .
* Sorley, Lewis (1999). A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and
Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. New York: Harvest
Books. ISBN 0-15-601309-6 .
* Stanton, Shelby L. (1985). The Rise and Fall of an American Army:
U.S. Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1965–1973. New York: Dell. ISBN
* Spector, Ronald H. (1993). After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in
Vietnam. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-679-75046-0 .
Tran Van Tra (1994). "Tet: The 1968 General Offensive and General
Uprising". In Warner, Jayne S.; Luu Doan Huynh. The
Vietnamese and American Perspectives. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN
* Wiest, Andrew (2002). The
Vietnam War, 1956–1975. London: Osprey
Publishers. ISBN 1-84176-419-1 .
* Willbanks, James H. (2008). The Tet Offensive: A Concise History.
New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12841-X .
* Wirtz, James J. (1991). The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in
War. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8209-7 .
Wikimedia Commons has media related to TET OFFENSIVE .
* A Viet Nam Reappraisal Clark M. Clifford
* Bibliography: The
Tet Offensive and the Battle of Khe Sanh
* Cantigny First Division Oral History Project
* How Great Nations Can Win Small Wars YAGIL HENKINA Azure spring
5766 / 2006, No. 24
* "Saigon, Target Zero" (1968)
Tet Offensive film from the USA
National Archives and Records Administration