The TET Offensive: 21 Facts You Should Know

The fact is: war sucks! But it is sometimes a required situation.

There are many who claim it was not required for United States forces in the mid to late 1960’s when we deployed troops to the country of Vietnam. The objective was to help our South Vietnamese friends keep their democracy. The South’s northern zone had been swept with a communist system integrated from Chinese influence.

If communism spread into South Vietnam, could it start spreading all throughout Asia? President John F. Kennedy along with multiple other figures in American authority were quite concerned with this possibility.

The draft was instituted and United States forces were sent to Vietnam. In this writer’s opinion, the U.S. Government never truly committed completely to defeating the communist threat, but helping the South’s military, they did hold their own… until TET.

I recently wrote a post about the mistakes made by the U.S. in Vietnam. You can find it here.

Probably the biggest turning point in the Vietnam War was the TET Offensive. This offensive move by the communist forces resulted in blood flow that could probably fill a large lake. Death and destruction created an overwhelming desire for this War to be done. Anti-war protests filled United States streets and airwaves.

Did the North Vietnam communists achieve what they desired with the TET Offensive?

Here are 21 facts you should know about the TET Offensive

 

1: It was called TET because…

The Tết holiday is the Vietnamese New Year. This is a major holiday for both North and South Vietnamese.

2: The launch…

The communist North Vietnamese launched the TET Offensive on January 30th, 1968. Planning was done well before.

3: The debate…

The communists in North Vietnam did not rashly decide to perform the TET Offensive. For many months, key political figures in the North debated whether they should commit to this all-out attack or if they should negotiate. Some of the political figures involved in the debate were:

4: 7 day truce announcement

Leading up to the holiday, Hanoi announced it would observe a 7 day truce for the Tet holiday. While some relaxation was granted, General Westmoreland put no trust in the appearance of a truce. He called no truce to his troops and attempted to have the South Vietnamese Army do the same, but it fell on deaf ears.

5: 3 Phases

The communist North had a 3 phase plan for the TET Offensive.

6: Border battles

The lead in of the TET Offensive had Viet Cong attacking seemingly worthless border areas. They hoped by doing so, it would draw U.S. troops away from major cities and towns in a diversionary tactic.

7: Intelligence recognized

Military intelligence noticed the communist forces moving massive amounts of equipment. It was believed they were planning a major operation, but the information was not handled correctly.

8: Over 100 cities and towns

The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces attacked over 100 cities and towns in a massive offensive operation.

9: Largest operation

The TET Offensive was the largest military operation in the Vietnam War.

10: Battle of Hue lasted…

The Battle of Hue was devastating and lasted approximately 1 month. By the end, the city was nearly completely destroyed.

11: The Hue Massacre

Originally lost to the communists, Hue was recaptured. After doing so, mass graves were discovered. It is believed upwards of 2,800 South Vietnamese civilians were executed…some thrown in the graves partially alive before suffocating.

12: The order of attack was…

  1. Nha Trang

  2. Ban Mê Thuột, Kon Tum, Hội An, Tuy Hòa, Da Nang, Qui Nhơn, and Pleiku

  3. Saigon, Cholon, and Gia Định

  4. and many more cites and towns including Hue, An Khê and Biên Hòa

13: Battle of Khe Sanh lasted…

The Khe Sanh area was very important to the U.S. military. When the communists attacked Khe Sanh, it did not end for approximately 3 months.

14: General Westmoreland thought all else was diversion.

Many believe that the General was thinking back to when the Vietnamese defeated the French. Even when the communist North was attacking all these cities and towns including Saigon, he assumed it was all a diversion, and Khe Sanh was their primary target. The General was mistaken.

15: The primary Saigon targets.

The communists knew that trying to take all of Saigon at once would be nearly impossible. They set their sights on 5 primary targets. They were:

  1. Headquarters of ARVN Staff at Tan Son Nhut Air Base

  2. National Radio Station

  3. Independence Palace

  4. Vietnam Navy Headquarters

  5. The United States Embassy

16: Phase 1 figures

During phase 1, it is believed 32,000 communist troops were killed and nearly 6,000 captured. The South Vietnamese reported 2,788 killed, and over 8,000 wounded. The U.S. and allies reported over 1,500 killed, and over 7,500 wounded.

17: Phase 2 attacks

In late April, the Northern communist forces began another series of systematic attacks. These were more expected than the 1st Phase, but they were still deadly. The Battle of Dai Do was intense. They also pounded Saigon again along with a few other areas. The communists had many killed, but they did cause some chaos. Kham Duc was given up to the communists. The U.S. suffered over 1,000 deaths.

18: Phase 3 attacks

In mid August, the communists again asserted heavy pressure. They again attacked Saigon, but the worst was at Bu Prang against U.S. Special Forces.

The North had huge losses, but in many ways they made their point. There was a statement issued in April of 1969 by the communists that said: 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 campaigns.”

19: The communists lost

Or did they? By death count they did, but when the U.S. pulled out, the communists soon took over Vietnam. They won by getting people waging war against the war.

20: South Vietnam devastation

Just some key stats:

  • Over 14,000 civilians killed

  • 24,000 civilians wounded

  • Over 1,000,000 refugees. At the end of 1968, 1 of every 12 was a refugee.

  • 70,000+ homes destroyed

21: The picture that lost the war

The media painted ugly pictures of what was happening in Vietnam. One that many will remember is called the picture that lost the war. I am posting this pic below. It is used courtesy of Wikipedia.

Assassinating a Vietnamese communist

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

Final Thoughts

Looking back at this disturbing time in the history of War, have you ever considered what side you would have been integrated with if you were of the age to be drafted.

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments about the TET Offensive. Just post them in the comment section below. Thank you.

References

  1. Tet Offensive on Wikipedia

  2. Tet Offensive on History

  3. U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968
  4. http://vietnam-war.commemoration.gov.au/tet-offensive/

  5. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/the-tet-offensive/

  6. TET: Who Won?
  7. The Tet Offensive: the turning point in the Vietnam War

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