The Bloody Tet Offensive Marked A Turning Point In Vietnam

By | September 14, 2021

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The South Vietnamese took the worst of the Tet Offensive. (history)

The Vietnam War bore witness to endless brutality but the Tet Offensive of 1968 probably saw the worst of it. On the most important holiday on the Vietnamese calendar, the North Vietnamese and their allies, the Viet Cong, attacked over 100 cities and villages with more than 70,000 troops. The bloodshed spilled that day would fill rivers, especially for the Communists. However, despite the massive losses, the North Vietnamese completed their objective of deflating the American war effort and sowing discontent among the South Vietnamese.

When the news of the Tet Offensive broke in America, it was the first time the public began to question the United States’ involvement in the war. This offensive became the turning point in Vietnam.

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Marines at Khe Sanh in 1968 (Smithsonian Channel)

Months In the Making

Early in 1968, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong began their planning for the Tet Offensive. As a diversion tactic, General Vo Nguyen Giap ordered the bombardment of the U.S. Marine garrison at Khe Sanh. That installation also happened to sit on the main road from northern South Vietnam into Laos. Naturally, President Lyndon B. Johnson and General William Westmoreland ordered troops in the defense of Khe Sanh. Meanwhile, 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong moved into position for the all-out offensive.