TET Offensive: 7 Valuable Lessons for Military Leaders

Today, we’re going to share 7 valuable lessons for military leaders from the TET Offensive

tet offensiveWell over 40 years ago, devastation and destruction began on what many thought would be a peaceful and happy day. It was the start of Tết. This was the Vietnamese New Year, and it seemed that many people were not prepared for what was about to happen.

Leaders in North Vietnam working with strategists in Communist China were hatching a plan in 1967 to create havoc with the United State’s forces who they felt illegally invaded their country. Their plan was to cause upheaval in South Vietnam. The idea that they could damage the more superior military through media, propaganda and political means was the goal.

On January 30th, 1968, the TET offensive began. Both politicians in Washington and the United State’s military leaders in Vietnam were taken by surprise as Vietcong attacked multiple locations in South Vietnam. They probably should not have been surprised, and that is what today’s post is going to delve into.

Top 7 Lessons from the TET Offensive

Today, we are going to share the top 7 lessons learned from the TET Offensive.  These are helpful lessons that will benefit civilian and military leaders.  They are listed in no particular order.  Enjoy.

1: Do not allow the media free reign.

As much as we all feel the media needs to cover the news and report it accurately, this was not the case in Vietnam. In many ways, the media became as much an enemy to the U.S. as was the North Vietnamese. Reporters were allowed to film and picture everything which was then broadcast to the American public. The enemy also saw this and used the media to their advantage.

The media’s coverage endangered the lives of service people. As a writer, I am firmly pro-freedom of the press, but I also believe there needs to be measures of common sense. Common sense was not used, so the best action is that the U.S. government and military control the forms of media coverage during wars and missions.

2: Transparency to the public.

This may seem to contradict #1, but no, it doesn’t. It actually works hand-in-hand with it. If the government would have been more honest with the American public, the TET Offensive would not have created such a fire-storm of anti-Vietnam actions.

President Lyndon Johnson was busy telling the American people that the war would soon be over with an American victory…. It was either a lie, or just plain ignorance. The North Vietnamese being led by General Vo Nguyen Giap were planning the TET Offensive.

If Johnson had told the American public the truth, I believe there would have been more support for our troops.

3: Heed intelligence reports.

Whenever there is a war or conflict, the amount of intelligence reports can be overwhelming. I say this because there may have been a good reason that military minds and government officials failed to heed the intelligence reports showing that the North Vietnamese were preparing for a major attack.

While I defend them, I must say that the military, and our government should have learned that they had the reports and didn’t do anything about them.

Did they learn from it?  I ask because there were many reports about the Twin Towers, but somehow terrorists still managed to fly jets into them.  Intelligence reports need to be examined much closer.

4: Guerrilla warfare training.

The Vietcong did not use conventional methods to fight this war. The United States attempted to beat guerrilla warfare with conventional means. It didn’t work.

This is a lesson we should have learned from the Revolutionary War. It was the United States who used guerrilla techniques to defeat the British. The North Vietnamese hid in tunnels, under rocks and in trees. They knew how to ambush in ways that could devastate.

In modern times, terrorists try to use these methods, but the military is trained to fight guerrilla warfare. This is one lesson we learned from.

5: Show respect to the natives.

This was a major lesson from Vietnam. When the military treat the natives with disrespect, they soon will think that the other side is better.  This happened in Vietnam. Soldiers did not actually know who their enemy was.

I believe the U.S. military has learned from this. I have noticed a different approach in Iraq and Afghanistan.

6: Determine assault locations and defend accordingly.

There were many locations during the TET Offensive that should have been protected better. If the Vietcong would have been just slightly stronger, they probably would have taken the embassy in Saigon.

The North’s forces attacked the Presidential Palace, the airport, ARVN Headquarters and the embassy. If these locations would have had the proper defenses, the attacks would have been diminished quickly, but they did not have the proper security in place.

I do believe we have learned a lesson from this, and the areas that are prime for attacks are secured much better.

7: Communication with the enemy.

It is much better to use all forms of communication and talks before going to war. I do also think that the United States has used this lesson. If we communicate before escalating to violence, often there are concessions that can be made that will divert death and destruction.

Final Thoughts

Vietnam was full of major lessons. Did our politicians and military leaders learn from them? I believe they did in some ways, but in others, they have fallen short.

We would like to hear your opinion. What other lessons do you think the United States should have learned from in the TET Offensive? Do you agree or disagree with the lessons I put here?  Please provide your comments below. Thank you for visiting, and have a great day.

1 thought on “TET Offensive: 7 Valuable Lessons for Military Leaders”

  1. Herbert Auger

    Well, it seems that the Vietnamese commander Giap is the first general in history who managed to win a war by suffering a complete military disaster! As the Americans were so frightened by his fancy New Year offensive that they lost heart and abandoned the war, instead of sending in some decent reinforcements and win it; so the nature of the enemy does matter: For had Giap tried this folly against a foe like the Romans, Mongols or the Chinese, he would have lost the war by it.

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