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Tet offensief lei tot baie nuwe vlugtelinge

Tet offensief lei tot baie nuwe vlugtelinge

Amerikaanse amptenare meld dat, benewens die 800 000 mense wat voor 30 Januarie as vlugtelinge gelys is, die gevegte tydens die Tet -offensief 350 000 nuwe vlugtelinge geskep het.

Die kommunistiese aanval, bekend as die Tet -offensief, het teen 31 dagbreek begin, die eerste dag van die Tet -vakansiewapenstilstand. Viet Cong-magte, ondersteun deur 'n groot aantal Noord-Viëtnamese troepe, het die grootste en best gekoördineerde offensief van die oorlog geloods, na die sentrums van die sewe grootste stede van Suid-Viëtnam gery en 30 provinsiale hoofstede aangeval, wat wissel van die Delta tot die DMZ.

Onder die stede wat gedurende die eerste vier dae van die offensief ingeneem is, was Hue, Dalat, Kontum en Quang Tri; in die noorde is al vyf die provinsiale hoofstede oorskry. Terselfdertyd het vyandelike magte talle geallieerde vliegvelde en basisse beskiet. In Saigon het 'n 19-manse selfmoordspan van Viet Cong die Amerikaanse ambassade in beslag geneem en dit ses uur lank aangehou totdat 'n aanvalsmag van Amerikaanse valskermsoldate per helikopter op die dak van die gebou geland en hulle gery het. Daar word geglo dat byna 1 000 Viet Cong Saigon binnegedring het en dit het 'n week se intense gevegte deur 'n geskatte 11 000 Amerikaanse en Suid -Viëtnamese troepe geverg om hulle te ontwrig. Teen 10 Februarie is die offensief grootliks verpletter, maar die koste van groot ongevalle was aan beide kante.

Militêr was Tet beslis 'n geallieerde oorwinning, maar sielkundig en polities was dit 'n ramp. Die offensief was 'n verpletterende militêre nederlaag vir die Viet Cong en die Noord -Viëtnamese, maar die omvang en omvang van die kommunistiese aanvalle het die Amerikaanse en Suid -Viëtnamese bondgenote heeltemal verras. Die vroeë beriggewing oor 'n verpletterende kommunistiese oorwinning was in die media grootliks onkorrigeer en het gelei tot 'n sielkundige oorwinning vir die kommuniste. Die swaar ongevalle in die VSA en Suid -Viëtnam tydens die offensief - en die ontnugtering oor die vroeë, te optimistiese berigte oor die vordering in die oorlog - het die groeiende ontnugtering van president Lyndon B. Johnson se oorlog versnel.


TET: Wie het gewen?

Kort voor 03:00 op 31 Januarie 1968 het 'n groep Vietcong -guerrillas 'n gat in die buitemuur van die Amerikaanse ambassade in Saigon geblaas, twee Amerikaanse militêre polisielede doodgeskiet wat hulle probeer keer het, en 'n beleg van die liggies verdedigde hoofkwartier gelê gebou waar die vlag van die Verenigde State amptelik in Suid -Viëtnam geplant is.

As deel van 'n landwye golf van verrassingsaanvalle deur die kommuniste tydens die maan-nuwejaar en die vakansie Tet was die gevolglike stryd van ses uur militêr onbelangrik. Trouens, in streng militêre terme, was die stryd van twee maande, bekend as die Tet-offensief, 'n ramp vir die aanvallers. Dit het geëindig met die uitsetting van die Noord-Viëtnamese weermag en die opstandstroepe in die suide, in die Weste bekend as Vietcong, van elke plek wat hulle binnegeval het.

In die teater van openbare mening in die Verenigde State was die aanvalle egter 'n groot sukses vir die Noord -Viëtnamese. In die woonkamers van Amerikaners deur nuwe kommunikasiesatelliete oor die Stille Oseaan, het tonele van die bloedbad, veral by die ambassade, die nasionale vertroue in die oorlogsbeleid van president Lyndon Johnson ernstig beskadig, wat reeds onder skoot was van 'n gefrustreerde burger in 'n presidensiële president. verkiesingsjaar. Die dramatiese ontwikkelinge wat tydens Tet begin is, het uiteindelik gelei tot die onttrekking van Amerikaanse magte en die ineenstorting van Suid -Viëtnam.

Tet was 'n historiese anomalie: 'n nederlaag op die slagveld wat uiteindelik 'n oorwinning behaal het. Hierdie merkwaardige resultaat is verantwoordelik vir Tet se resonansie wanneer Amerikaanse militêre magte selfs tydelike omkerings ontmoet. In die 12 maande nadat Bagdad in April 2003 geval het, het meer as 200 verhale in groot Engelstalige koerante byvoorbeeld na die Tet-offensief verwys. En in die gesig gestaar deur 'n opvlam van aanvalle in Irak die afgelope Junie, het Donald Rumsfeld, minister van verdediging, aan 'n radio-onderhoudvoerder gesê dat hy geen twyfel het dat die opstandelinge 'gelees het oor Tet en die feit dat as hulle 'n groot genoeg plons maak nie, alhoewel hulle kry baie mense dood en ons slaan hulle, hulle wen sielkundig. ”

Byna vier dekades na die geveg ontlok Tet steeds skerp debat. Waarom het die aanval so 'n verrassing gekom? Het die Amerikaanse pers 'n Amerikaanse oorwinning as 'n nederlaag aangegee? Sulke vrae het meer as drie dosyn historici gelok, sommige ongebore toe die geveg plaasgevind het, om die Tet -offensief op hierdie jaar se vergadering van die Society for Military History in Bethesda, Maryland, te herevalueer. (As korrespondent vir die Knight -koerante tydens Tet en skrywer van 'n boek oor die onderwerp, is ek genooi om deel te neem.)

Ten tyde van die Tet -offensief het ek die Viëtnam -oorlog al drie jaar gedek, sedert Johnson die Amerikaanse belang in die oorlog dramaties verhoog het deur grondgevegstroepe in te stuur. Nadat ek op 1 Januarie 1968 in Saigon aangekom het vir my derde uitgebreide besoek aan die oorlogsgebied, het ek planne beraam om aan die einde van die maand na die naburige Laos te gaan om te ontsnap aan die joernalistieke leemte wat Vietnam waarskynlik tydens Tet, die Maan Nuwejaar en verreweg die belangrikste nasionale en gesinsvakansie vir Viëtnamese. Maar toe ek in Laos kom, het 'n Britse dokter vir my gesê dat "die Vietcong die Amerikaanse ambassade in Saigon oorgeneem het" (nuus wat 'n growwe oordrywing was). Kommersiële vlugte na Viëtnam is gesluit, maar ek kon drie dae nadat die geveg begin het, 'n stil en gedemoraliseerde Saigon op 'n Amerikaanse militêre vliegtuig bereik. Teen daardie tyd was die stad gevul met die reuk van verrottende vullis en hier en daar die stank van die dooies.

Gedurende die daaropvolgende weke het ek wyd gereis. In die voormalige keiserlike hoofstad Hue behandel ek die bloedige gevegte van Amerikaanse mariniers en Suid -Viëtnamese troepe en die Noord -Viëtnamese stamgaste wat 25 dae lank die vesting van die voormalige keisers van Nguyen gehou het voordat hulle verdryf is. Dit was in Ben Tre, 'n provinsiale hoofstad in die Mekong -delta wat ek op 7 Februarie besoek het, dat 'n naamlose Amerikaanse majoor aan Peter Arnett van Associated Press gesê het dat 'dit nodig geword het om die stad te vernietig om dit te red'. Byna oral waar ek gegaan het, was die gebrek aan paraatheid vir die buitengewone aanvalle 'n belangrike deel van die verhaal.

Ons het toe nie geweet nie en eers met die publikasie in 1988 van historiese dokumente in Hanoi geleer dat die Noord -Viëtnamese Politburo reeds in Junie 1967 besluit het om 'n beslissende oorwinning op die slagveld in 1968, 'n Amerikaanse presidentsverkiesingsjaar, te beoog. Die volgende maand het die Politburo 'n plan goedgekeur vir gelyktydige verrassingsaanvalle op Saigon en ander stedelike gebiede van die Suide. In Oktober 1967, volgens die amptelike geskiedenis wat in Hanoi gepubliseer is, het die Politburo besluit dat die aanvalle tydens die Tet -vakansie sou begin, dan net drie maande verder.

Alhoewel die kommuniste probeer het om die offensief geheim te hou, sou so 'n vermetele projek en#821267,000 troepe wat meer as 100 teikens aanval, uitlek. In die middel van November het Amerikaanse troepe 'n vroeë weergawe van die aanvalplan vasgelê, wat verklaar dat 'troepe op 'n ongespesifiseerde datum' die laaglande moet oorstroom ', insluitend Saigon en ander stedelike gebiede in samewerking met opstande van die plaaslike bevolking. Die Amerikaanse ambassade in Saigon het eintlik 'n vertaling van die Viëtnamese dokument versprei 25 dae voordat die ambassade aangeval is, het dit groot afslag gekry. Op die kopie wat ek uit die asblik by die perskantoor van die ambassade gepluk het, het ek my eie skeptisisme uitgedruk: "maanskyn." Alhoewel die Amerikaanse militêre bevel Amerikaanse magte op die vooraand van die vakansie op "maksimum waarskuwing" beveel het, het baie offisiere die bedreiging nie ernstig opgeneem nie. Om die waarheid te sê, presies die aand toe die Tet -aanvalle begin het, het ongeveer 200 Amerikaanse kolonels, almal by die intelligensie -afdeling van die Amerikaanse bevel, na 'n partytjie in die sentrum van Saigon gegaan.

Terwyl die kommuniste hul aanvalle voorberei, was die Withuis besig met 'n politieke ramp met 'n mislukte 'suksesoffensief', en beweer dat die oorwinning in sig was. Vanaf die vliegdek van die vliegdekskip USS Onderneming, Het president Johnson verklaar dat die oorlog 'nie veel meer nagte' sou voortduur nie. Die wonderlikste is dat genl William Westmoreland, die aantreklike, vierkantige bevelvoerder van die Amerikaanse magte in Viëtnam, voor die National Press Club in Washington, DC gesê het: "Met 1968 begin 'n nuwe fase. Ons het 'n belangrike punt bereik toe die einde begin sigbaar word. "

In hierdie konteks was die Tet -aanvalle 'n besondere skok. James J. Wirtz, 'n historikus aan die Naval War College wat die offensief van 1968 noukeurig bestudeer het, het tydens die Bethesda-konferensie verklaar dat Tet ''n aardskuddende, verwoestende gebeurtenis was wat die verloop van die oorlog verander het'. Alhoewel die Politburo in Hanoi nog nie die beslissende oorwinning op die slagvelde behaal het nie, of die opstand deur die Viëtnamese mense waarop hulle gehoop het, kon hulle, soos die leier van die Noord -Viëtnamese Kommunistiese Party, in 'n brief aan sy suidelike vegters voorspel het, 'skud' die aggressiewe wil van die Amerikaanse imperialisme, dwing dit om sy strategie te verander en die oorlog te laat eskaleer. ”

My vriend en voormalige Washington Post kollega, wyle Peter Braestrup, blameer die verkeerde pers deur die Amerikaanse pers vir die impak van Tet op die Amerikaanse publiek, met verwysing na ''n portret van 'n nederlaag vir die bondgenote' wat uit joernalistieke berigte voortspruit. Baie militêre amptenare op hoë vlak het Braestrup se siening gedeel, wat die pogings van die Pentagon na Viëtnam aangespoor het om die persdekking van militêre operasies te beperk.

Ek stem nie saam nie. Daar was ongetwyfeld 'n verkeerde verslag van Tet, veral in die verwarrende en onseker dae na die aanvalle. Terugskouend was sommige van my eie berigte te pessimisties, deels omdat ek mislei is deur 'n CIA -amptenaar wat probeer het om beheer oor die delta vir sy agentskap te eis.


Vietnam - Die Tet -offensief

In die middel van 1967 het die oorlogskoste daagliks gestyg, sonder enige militêre oorwinning. Teen hierdie agtergrond het die partyleierskap in Hanoi besluit dat die tyd ryp is vir 'n algemene offensief op die platteland, gekombineer met 'n volksopstand in die stede. Die hoofdoelwitte van hierdie gekombineerde groot offensief en opstand was om die Saigon -regime te destabiliseer en die Verenigde State te dwing om vir 'n onderhandelde skikking te kies. In Oktober 1967 begin die eerste fase van die offensief met 'n reeks klein aanvalle in afgeleë en grensgebiede wat ontwerp is om die ARVN en die Amerikaanse magte van die stede af te trek.

Die infiltrasie van troepe uit die noorde het teen die einde van 1967 tot 20 000 per maand gestyg, en die Amerikaanse bevel in Saigon het vroeg die volgende jaar 'n groot kommunistiese offensief voorspel. Die DMZ -gebied sal na verwagting die swaarste van die aanval dra. Gevolglik is Amerikaanse troepe gestuur om die noordelike grensposte te versterk, en die veiligheid van die Saigon -gebied is oorgedra na ARVN -magte. Ondanks waarskuwings oor die dreigende offensief, was einde Januarie meer as die helfte van die ARVN-magte met verlof weens die naderende Tet-vakansie. Tet was die feestelikste van die Viëtnamese vakansiedae. Voorheen het die vegters 'n skietstilstand tydens Tet waargeneem.

Op 31 Januarie 1968 begin die grootskaalse offensief, met gelyktydige aanvalle deur die kommuniste op vyf groot stede, ses-en-dertig provinsiale hoofstede, vier-en-sestig distrikshoofstede en talle dorpe. In Saigon het selfmoordgroepe die Onafhanklikheidspaleis (die woning van die president), die radiostasie, die ARVN se gesamentlike personeellid, die vliegveld Tan Son Nhut en die Amerikaanse ambassade aangeval, wat aansienlike skade aangerig het en die stad in beroering gebring het.

Amerikaanse magte en hul Suid -Viëtnamese bondgenote, ontspan en vier fees soos in die verlede, is heeltemal onkant betrap. Die resultate, skryf historikus George C. Herring (in die langste oorlog in Amerika), was die bloedigste gevegte van die oorlog: "in die eerste twee weke van die Tet -veldtogte het die Verenigde State 1100 doodgemaak in aksie en Suid -Viëtnam 2,300. Na raming 12 500 burgerlikes is dood, en Tet het tot 'n miljoen nuwe vlugtelinge geskep ".

Tussen 30 Januarie en einde Februarie 1968 het die Noord -Viëtnamese weermag 'n reeks verwoestende aanvalle op die groot stede van Suid -Vietnam begin, wat strek van Khe Sanh in die noorde tot Ca Mau aan die suidpunt van die land. Ses-en-dertig van 44 provinsiale hoofstede en 64 van 242 distriksdorpe is aangeval. Hulle het selfs toegeslaan op die Amerikaanse ambassade in die hoofstad, Saigon. Toe die skok en verwarring eers verby is, is die meeste aanvalle binne 'n paar dae verpletter. Gedurende die paar dae was die geveg egter een van die gewelddadigste wat nog ooit in Suid -Viëtnam gesien is. Vyftigduisend kommunistiese soldate is tydens die tet-offensief dood. Veertienduisend Suid-Viëtnamese soldate is dood. En tweeduisend Amerikaanse soldate is dood. Duisende Viëtnamese burgerlikes is ook dood.

Die meeste van die aanvalsmagte in die hele land het binne enkele dae ineengestort, dikwels onder die druk van Amerikaanse bombardemente en artillerie -aanvalle, wat die stedelike gebiede erg beskadig het. Hue, wat na raming deur 12 000 kommunistiese troepe in beslag geneem is wat voorheen die stad binnegedring het, het tot laat Februarie in kommunistiese hande gebly. 'N Berig van 2 000 tot 3 000 amptenare, polisie en ander is gedurende die tyd in Hue tereggestel as teenrevolusionêre.

Die Tet -offensief word algemeen beskou as 'n keerpunt in die oorlog ten spyte van die hoë koste vir die kommuniste (ongeveer 32 000 gedood en ongeveer 5 800 gevange geneem) omdat dit destyds klein winste was. Alhoewel hulle daarin geslaag het om beheer oor sommige van die landelike gebiede te behou, is die kommuniste binne enkele swakke uit alle dorpe en stede, behalwe Hue, gedwing.

Die Tet -offensief was 'n groot mislukking van die intelligensie van die Noorde. Hanoi het verkeerdelik geglo dat die skok van die offensief die Suid -Viëtnamese marionetregime sou laat ineenstort, en dit het nie gebeur nie. In plaas daarvan het die kommuniste die room van die Viet Cong -vegmagte verloor, en daarna is die oorlog deur troepe uit die noorde uitgevoer.

Die offensief het die Johnson -administrasie egter beklemtoon dat die oorwinning in Viëtnam 'n groter toewyding van mense en hulpbronne sou verg as wat die Amerikaanse bevolking bereid was om te belê.

Die anker van CBS Nightly News, Walter Cronkite, het 'n spesiale uitsending oor die onlangse Tet -offensief afgesluit met 'n seldsame, kort en kragtige hoofartikel wat daarop dui dat Amerika ophou om die Viëtnam -oorlog te beveg: "

Om te sê dat ons vandag nader aan die oorwinning is, is om in die lig van die getuienis te glo die optimiste wat in die verlede verkeerd was. Om aan te dui dat ons op die randjie van 'n nederlaag is, is om toe te gee aan onredelike pessimisme. Om te sê dat ons in 'n dooie punt is, lyk die enigste realistiese, maar onbevredigende, gevolgtrekking. By kans dat militêre en politieke ontleders reg is, moet ons in die komende maande die vyand se bedoelings toets, ingeval dit inderdaad sy laaste groot snak is voor onderhandelinge. Maar dit word vir hierdie verslaggewer al hoe duideliker dat die enigste rasionele uitweg dan sal wees om te onderhandel, nie as oorwinnaars nie, maar as 'n eerbare volk wat hul belofte gestand gedoen het om die demokrasie te verdedig en die bes gedoen het. "

President Lyndon Johnson, wat regstreeks in die Withuis gekyk het, het na berig word hulle tot hulpverleners gewend en gesê: 'As ek Cronkite verloor het, het ek Midde -Amerika verloor.'

Op 31 Maart 1968 kondig Johnson aan dat hy nie sy party se benoeming vir nog 'n ampstermyn sal versoek nie, verklaar hy die bombardement van Noord -Viëtnam (behalwe 'n smal strook bokant die DMZ) tot stilstand, en versoek Hanoi om in te stem tot vredesgesprekke . Toe die president op 31 Maart 1968 op televisie met die Amerikaanse volk praat, vertel hy van die aanstelling van 'n spesiale ambassadeur om vredesonderhandelinge te begin. En hy vertel van sy besluit oor sy eie toekoms:

Intussen, met 'n Amerikaanse troepesterkte van 525,000, is 'n versoek van Westmoreland vir 'n bykomende 200,000 troepe geweier deur 'n presidensiële kommissie onder leiding van die nuwe Amerikaanse sekretaris van verdediging, Clark Clifford.

Toe generaal Creighton Abrams in die lente van 1968 die bevel neem oor MACV, het die fokus van Amerikaanse grondbedrywighede op "strategiese gehuggies" gedraai, met bevolkingsveiligheid as doel.

Hanoi het 'n militêre nederlaag in die Tet -offensief gely, maar het 'n politieke en diplomatieke oorwinning behaal deur die Amerikaanse beleid na ontkoppeling te verskuif. Na die Tet -offensief het die kommuniste probeer om hul momentum te behou deur 'n reeks aanvalle wat hoofsaaklik op stede in die delta gerig was. Naby die DMZ is ongeveer 15,000 PAVN- en PLAF-troepe ook in 'n aanval van drie maande op die Amerikaanse basis by Khe Sanh gewerp. 'N Tweede aanval op Saigon, kompleet met vuurpylaanvalle, is in Mei 1968 van stapel gestuur. Deur middel van hierdie en ander aanvalle in die lente en somer van 1968 het die Kommuniste druk op die slagveld gehandhaaf om hul posisie in 'n geprojekteerde reeks vredesgesprekke met vier partye wat in Januarie 1969 begin is (wat vereis dat verteenwoordigers van die Verenigde State, Suid-Viëtnam, Noord-Viëtnam en die National Liberation Front in Parys vergader.


Die Tet -offensief: wat het hulle gedink?

Die Tet -offensief van Januarie 1968 is baie bestudeer vanuit die Amerikaanse perspektief, maar wat het die Noord -Viëtnamese daaroor gedink?

Die aanval deur die Noord -Viëtnamese weermag en die Viet Cong -guerrillamagte in Suid -Viëtnam, bekend as die Tet -offensief, het vyftig jaar gelede op 30 Januarie 1968 begin. Dit was een van die grootste en belangrikste gevegte van die lang Viëtnamese oorlog. Tydens die Tet-offensief is provinsiale hoofstede, dorpe en militêre basisse in die Republiek van Suid-Viëtnam ondersteun deur die VSA. Selfs die Amerikaanse ambassade in Saigon het kortliks 'n slagveld geword. Elders het brutale gevegte die stad Hue feitlik gelykgemaak tydens 'n maand van gevegte, en Amerikaanse magte was twee maande lank beleër op die gevegsbasis Khe Sanh.

Die veelsydige offensief, genaamd Tet na die Viëtnamese maanjaar, was 'n militêre nederlaag vir die kommuniste. Hulle magte is dwarsoor die land teruggeslaan met groot ongevalle. Die Suid -Viëtnamese opstand wat hulle gehoop het om op te wek, het nie gerealiseer nie. Tog het die gekoördineerde aanval Amerikaners verstom. Vir 'n oorlog wat net so polities as militêr was, het die vermetelheid van die kommunistiese magte Amerikaners tuis geskok.

Amerikaners is al jare lank meegedeel dat die oorlog gewen word. In November 1967 het generaal William Westmoreland, die bevelvoerder in Viëtnam, aangekondig dat die VSA vol vertroue was dat daar lig aan die einde van die tonnel was. tydens die onsuksesvolle poging van Frankryk om Viëtnam te herkoloniseer toe dit as Frans-Indochina bekend gestaan ​​het.)

Amerikaners het moontlik die gevegte van Tet gewen, maar die oorlog was 'n heel ander ding. Nie verrassend nie, is die Tet -offensief obsessief bestudeer vanuit 'n Amerikaanse perspektief. Maar wat van die Noord -Viëtnamese perspektief?

Die historikus Liên-Hang T. Nguyen kyk na wat bekend is oor hoe die Noord-Viëtnam se regerende Viëtnamese werkers en die Volksparty (VWP) die wat hulle die algemene offensief en algemene opstand noem, begryp. Vietnamese rekords is nog lank nie 'n oop boek nie, maar dit is duidelik dat die VWP deeglik bewus was van die Amerikaanse politieke situasie. Die omvattende aanval tydens Tet was in hierdie opsig suksesvol: president Lyndon B. Johnson het besluit om nie in 1968 weer vir herverkiesing te staan ​​te staan ​​kom in die lig van die groeiende politieke krisis oor die voortgesette oorlog. Hy het ook die bombardement van Noord -Viëtnam beëindig. (Die bomaanval sou weer begin word deur Richard Nixon).

Uiteraard het die leierskap van Noord -Viëtnam sy eie politieke verdeeldheid gehad. Die bekendstelling van die Tet-offensief het die einde van 'n bitter dekade lange debat binne die VWP beteken, ” skryf Nguyen.

Nguyen, wat as vlugtelingkind na die VSA gekom het, is nou professor in geskiedenis aan die Universiteit van Columbia, waar sy 'n uitgebreide geskiedenis van die offensief skryf. In hierdie diepgaande artikel begin sy met haar ontleding van die binnelandse en internasionale politiek van Noord-Viëtnam met die Genève-ooreenkomste van 1954. Dit verdrag was die einde van die herkolonisasie van Frankryk en die verdieping van Amerikaanse betrokkenheid na hul sterk steun vir die Franse.

Faksies binne die VWP het die hele verloop van die oorlog bespreek. Moet hulle Noord -Viëtnam eers ontwikkel as 'n sosialistiese staat (dit was die “matig ”) as 'n model om die uiteindelike hereniging met die Suide aan te dryf? Hierdie faksie was ook gretig om die onophoudelike terreur van Amerikaanse bombardemente te beëindig. Die meer radikale faksie (Nguyen noem hulle “hawks ” in 'n eggo van die terminologie van die valke en duiwe wat destyds so algemeen in die VSA was) was gerig op gewapende stryd in die Suide. Die groter konteks hier was die Koue Oorlog en die Sino-Sowjet-geskil.

Die Viëtnamese het baie probeer oor pogings van Beijing (wat die meer militante benadering aangespoor het) en Moskou (wat die gematigdes en onderhandelinge ondersteun het, maar ook meer wapens as China gestuur het) om dinge plaaslik te beheer. Die Sino-Sowjet-skeuring het die VWP in staat gestel om sy outonomie te handhaaf, maar met moeite. toe die tyd reg was. Die eerste nuwemaan van die jaar vyftig jaar gelede was klaarblyklik daardie tyd.


Bankrot hoop

Die Tet -offensief kom op die hakke van 'n reklame -blits van 1967 deur die administrasie van president Lyndon Johnson om 'n toenemend skeptiese Amerikaanse publiek te oortuig dat die Viëtnam -oorlog nie die dooiepunt was wat dit blyk te wees nie. Verdedigings- en militêre amptenare het 'n prentjie geskets van 'n verswakte vyand wat in duie stort.

William Westmoreland, bevelvoerder van die Amerikaanse magte in Suid -Viëtnam, het tydens 'n toespraak in die National Press Club in November 1967 gesê dat Amerikaanse magte 'n punt bereik het waar 'die einde in sig kom' en dat 'die vyand se hoop bankrot is . "

"Deur 1967 is dit moeilik om te oordryf hoeveel moeite die Withuis gedoen het - en dit het dit selfs genoem - die 'suksesveldtog' propaganda -veldtog om die Amerikaanse volk te oortuig dat die oorlog in die regte rigting gaan, selfs toe hulle intern glad nie seker was nie, 'het Appy gesê.

Die veldtog was miskien te oortuigend, gegewe wat die Noord -Viëtnamese in Januarie 1968 ontketen het, 'n omvangryke aanval wat beklemtoon het hoe ver die Noorde van die nederlaag was. Die Amerikaanse weermag het die groot vyandelike ongevalle as 'n Amerikaanse oorwinning beskou, maar die Amerikaanse publiek het gefokus op 'n vasberade vyand wat mede -landsburgers onaanvaarbaar verloor.

"Vir 'n Amerikaanse publiek wat toenemend deur hierdie argument oortuig word, blyk dit dat daar 'n afwyking is tussen wat hulle vertel is en wat hulle op die grond sien," het Daddis gesê. Kommunistiese vegters het ses strategiese teikens in die sentrum van Saigon gekies, waaronder die Amerikaanse ambassade, die presidensiële paleis en die nasionale radiostasie.

Mediabeelde was volop en skerp.

"Die kantore en huise van die Westerse perskorps was hoofsaaklik saamgevoeg in die sentrum van Saigon, op loopafstand van die paleis en die Amerikaanse ambassade," sê Peter Arnett, 'n korrespondent wat die oorlog vir The Associated Press behandel. Alhoewel die aantal opstandelinge te min was om hul doelwitte te lank te hou, het die mediabeelde die Amerikaners 'n blik gegee op 'n gruwelike nuwe soort geweld.

In Saigon op 1 Februarie het brig. Genl. Nguyen Ngọc Loan, hoof van die nasionale polisie, het 'n man in die openbaar tereggestel wat vermoedelik die hoof van 'n Viet Cong -sluipmoordgroep was. Die AP -fotograaf Eddie Adams en 'n NBC -televisiepersoneel het op film vasgelê die oomblik toe Nguyen die geboeide man deur die kop geskiet het.

Amerikaanse teenaanvalle in die Chinese distrik Cholon in Saigon het vermoedelik honderde burgerlikes doodgemaak. Toneel van verskrikte vlugtelinge wat uit die distrik stroom, straal regoor die wêreld.

Westmoreland het die mediadekking as te versot op "somberheid en ondergang" beskou, het Arnett gesê.

'Met ons kollegas wat destyds in Saigon werk, was ons bedoeling om die werklikheid van wat ons elke dag sien voor ons oë te rapporteer en te fotografeer,' het hy gesê. "Ons dekking was so professioneel as wat ons kon bereik onder moeilike omstandighede. Dat ons dekking gesê het dat die Amerikaanse publiek die siening van die oorlog polariseer, was nie ons bedoeling nie."

Ver in die noorde, net 30 kilometer onder die gedemilitariseerde gebied wat noord en suid verdeel, is die stad Hue oorval deur byna 8 000 Noord -Viëtnamese troepe. Die teenoffensief tussen die VSA en Suid-Viëtnam om die stad terug te neem, was die langste, bloedigste slag van die Viëtnam-oorlog.

Die vyand het ingegrawe in 'n massiewe kompleks genaamd die Citadel, wat omring was deur 'n grag en klipwalle, sommige so dik as 40 voet.

Meer as 200 Amerikaanse troepe sterf in die geveg van 25 dae, met 1,584 gewonde 452 Suid-Viëtnamese soldate is dood.

Nadat hy berigte gehoor het van ongekende vernietiging in dorpe in Suid -Viëtnam, het Arnett op 7 Februarie deelgeneem aan 'n persreis na die klein provinsiale hoofstad Ben Tre, wat hy slegs weke tevore besoek het. Daar sien hy die ruïnes van krotte, huise, besighede en restaurante wat erg beskadig is deur Amerikaanse artillerie en lugaanvalle tydens die poging om Viet Cong wat dit tydens die Tet -offensief beset het, te ontwrig. Honderde burgerlikes is dood.

Arnett het 'n onderhoud gevoer met 'n dosyn militêre adviseurs in die stad, wat verduidelik het hoe die Amerikaanse en Suid -Viëtnamese militêre verbindings amper oorskry is toe hulle uiteindelik die swaar beskieting versoek het.

'N Uitspraak van een van daardie adviseurs was die hoofrol van die volgende AP -versending van Arnett, wat in die 50 jaar sedert dit geskryf is, dikwels genoem word as die kern van Amerika se kiksotiese betrokkenheid in Viëtnam:' Dit het noodsaaklik geword om die stad te vernietig in beveel om dit te stoor. " subopskrif: Strategiese sukses

Die Noord -Viëtnamese is gedemoraliseer ná hul mislukking.

'Hulle het hulself oortuig dat hulle genoeg steun op die platteland het, dat as hulle die geweld daar verhoog, die mense opstaan ​​en by hulle aansluit,' het Willbanks gesê. Dit het nie gebeur nie. Die Viet Cong het veral groot verliese gely.

Willbanks, wat in 1972 na Suid -Viëtnam ontplooi is, het tydens sy toer nooit enige Viet Cong gesien nie. 'Hulle is in '68 uitgewis en is nie herbou nie,' het hy gesê.

Maar die Tet -offensief het wel ontwikkelings in die VSA aan die gang gesit wat uiteindelik 'n mislukte aanval in 'n strategiese sukses verander het.

Tet het 'n deurlopende interne debat in die Johnson-administrasie verdiep tussen diegene wat die oorlog wou verskerp-hoofsaaklik militêre leiers-en diegene wat veral die burgerlike adviseurs wou eskaleer, sê Mark Moyar, skrywer van "Triumph Forsaken: The Viëtnam-oorlog, 1954-1965 "en direkteur van die militêre en diplomatieke geskiedenisprojek by die

Sentrum vir Strategiese en Internasionale Studies.

Sommige militêre leiers het 'n kans gesien in die dae nadat Tet begin het, toe daar 'n 'saamtrek-om-die-vlag-effek' was onder Amerikaners, soortgelyk aan wat gebeur het na die Pearl Harbor-aanval in 1941, het hy gesê.

'Nadat Johnson dit duidelik gemaak het dat hy nie meer aggressiewe maatreëls gaan tref nie, het u die openbare steun gesien,' het hy gesê.

Johnson het die maag verloor wat hy vir die oorlog na Tet gehad het, en dit het 'n rol gespeel in sy besluit om die herfs nie 'n tweede termyn te soek nie, wat die weg baan vir Richard Nixon se verkiesing.

'Toe Nixon in die amp kom, het hy besef dat die Amerikaanse publiek nie meer hoë vlakke van Amerikaanse troepe of slagoffers sal ondersteun nie, en daarom kondig hy aan dat hy stadig troepe sal onttrek, selfs natuurlik, terwyl hy die oorlog na Kambodja en Laos uitbrei en die lugoorlog, ”het Appy gesê.

In 'n ontmoeting met die Suid -Viëtnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu op Midway Island in Junie 1968, het Nixon aangekondig dat 25 000 Amerikaanse troepe teen einde Augustus teruggetrek sou word en dat Suid -Viëtnamese troepe uiteindelik alle gevegsverantwoordelikhede sou aanvaar.

Voor Tet, 'was ons daar om die oorlog te wen', het Willbanks gesê. Alles daarna was daarop gemik om 'die Suid -Viëtnamese magte op te bou, die oorlog aan hulle oor te gee en te vertrek'.

'Ek dink dit weeg swaar op individuele soldate wat steeds gevra word om in die veld te veg,' het Daddis gesê. "Hulle begin die rasionaal agter wat hulle gevra word om op daardie eenheidsvlak te doen, bevraagteken. Waarom stel ek my lewe in gevaar as ons nie eers gaan wen nie?"

Appy is egter nie oortuig deur die bewerings dat "die oorwinning in sig was nadat Tet klaar was en ons het die taak net nie voltooi nie."

'Daar sou nooit 'n militêre oplossing vir die oorlog wees nie,' het hy gesê. 'My punt is dat die oorwinning nooit in Suid -Viëtnam sou gebeur nie, tensy die regering in Saigon die nodige ondersteuning van sy eie mense gehad het om dit te onderhou sonder massiewe Amerikaanse militêre ingryping,' het Appy gesê.

Daddis het gesê dat Tet grotendeels 'n oortuigende verhaal bly, omdat dit vir sommige die sentrale oomblik in die hele Viëtnam -oorlog bly, waar hulle vra: 'Wat as?'

'Dit is regtig een van die sentrale teenfaktore waarop sommige sal fokus, want dit blyk die oomblik te wees waarop die Amerikaanse poging werklik begin ontrafel.

'Dit bly die belangrikste storielyn, want dit lyk asof die oorwinning binne ons bereik was, ten minste vanuit 'n militêre oogpunt, maar polities weggeneem is deur politici, die media en die publiek wat net nie die ware oorwinning gesien het nie. 'n baie problematiese argument, maar ek dink dit is die rede waarom dit nog steeds 'n sentrale debatpunt is oor wat in Vietnam gebeur het. "

Maar oorlog, volgens Daddis, gaan nie bloot oor militêre oorwinnings en verliese nie.

'Ek is nie persoonlik oortuig van argumente wat daarop dui dat daar 'n militêre oorwinning was nie, maar 'n politieke nederlaag [met Tet], want dit skei onnatuurlik wat oorlog is,' het hy gesê. 'Oorlog is 'n baie meer politieke daad as 'n militêre daad.'


Militêre oorwinning, maar politieke nederlaag: die TET -offensief 50 jaar later

'N Eenheid van die 1ste Bataljon, 5de Mariene Regiment, rus langs 'n gehawende muur van die keiserlike paleis van Hue na 'n geveg om die sitadel in Februarie 1968 tydens die Tet -offensief.

As ek 'n halfeeu terugdink, toe hulle jong offisiere was, is hul herinneringe aan die Slag van Hue nog vars.

"Wat ek gesien het, was waarskynlik die mees intense grondgevegte op 'n volgehoue ​​basis oor 'n paar dae van enige ander tydperk tydens die oorlog," sê Howard Prince, 'n weermagkaptein wat saam met Suid -Viëtnamese magte gewerk het.

"Ons was onder vuur, onder swaar vuur," sê Jim Coolican, 'n marinekaptein.

Mike Downs, 'n ander Marine -kaptein, onthou: "Ons het nie geweet waar die vyand is nie, in watter rigting selfs."

Die vyandelike magte was oral. Binne huise en tonnels en in die rioolstelsel het hulle die sitadel verower, 'n massiewe kasteelagtige uitgestrektheid in hierdie stad wat eens die keiserlike hoofstad was, noord van Saigon.

It was the bloodiest battle of the Tet Offensive and also the entire war — and it all took American officials completely by surprise, says author Mark Bowden.

"You had the incredible rose-colored reports coming from Gen. William Westmoreland, who was the American commander in Vietnam," says Bowden, who wrote the recent book Hue 1968. "[He was] assuring the American people that the end was near, that the enemy was really only capable of small kinds of ambushes in the far reaches of the country."

Two U.S. military policemen aid a wounded fellow MP during fighting in the U.S. Embassy compound in Saigon, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive. A Viet Cong suicide squad seized control of part of the compound and held it for about six hours before being killed or captured. AP steek onderskrif weg

Two U.S. military policemen aid a wounded fellow MP during fighting in the U.S. Embassy compound in Saigon, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive. A Viet Cong suicide squad seized control of part of the compound and held it for about six hours before being killed or captured.

But then came Tet. North Vietnamese troops and their Viet Cong allies swept throughout cities and towns, into military bases, even breaching the walls of the U.S. Embassy grounds in Saigon.

Back in Washington, President Lyndon Johnson called his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, and asked for an explanation.

McNamara told him that the American people would realize that the enemy forces were stronger than they had been told, that the Pentagon was searching for targets but the Vietnamese enemies were still a "substantial force."

A substantial force. But just six weeks earlier, a top White House official had told New York Times reporter Gene Roberts the war was already over.

Roberts was heading off to Vietnam, so national security adviser Walt Rostow gave him a story idea. He told Roberts about a new U.S. agricultural program, Roberts recalls, "which would double the rice yields in Vietnam and would win the peace now that Americans had won the war."

Keeping his head low against North Vietnamese snipers, a medical corpsman scurries to help a U.S. Marine in Hue street fighting during the Tet Offensive. AP steek onderskrif weg

Keeping his head low against North Vietnamese snipers, a medical corpsman scurries to help a U.S. Marine in Hue street fighting during the Tet Offensive.

The battle for Hue

Far from winning, the Americans were barely holding on in Hue. Roberts saw terrified refugees, wounded Marines and heavy gunfire. His first story said the Marines controlled just two blocks of the city. Reinforcements were needed — not just troops but artillery.

That was slow in coming. Coolican, the Marine captain, said his own military superiors didn't understand how desperate the Marines were. The Americans were badly outnumbered.

"The reaction we got — and I'm paraphrasing now, but the reaction we got was that we were overreacting. It isn't that bad," remembers Coolican.

More reporters showed up at Hue, including some from NBC. The pictures showed a desperate scene, talking to a Marine under fire who said he just wanted to go home.

Still, Westmoreland downplayed the situation, telling reporters the real enemy objective was a large and remote Marine base at Khe Sanh.

"In my opinion," Westmoreland told reporters, "this is diversionary to [the enemy's] main effort, which he had planned to take place in Quang Tri Province, from Laos toward Khe Sanh and across the demilitarized zone."

A U.S. Marine carries a 155 mm shell at Khe Sanh in January 1968. North Vietnamese troops attacked the remote outpost to serve as a diversion in the leadup to the Tet Offensive. Rick Merron/AP steek onderskrif weg

A U.S. Marine carries a 155 mm shell at Khe Sanh in January 1968. North Vietnamese troops attacked the remote outpost to serve as a diversion in the leadup to the Tet Offensive.

But Prince, a young Army officer fighting at Hue, said Westmoreland had it backward: Khe Sanh was the diversion.

"Westmoreland and his staff, the people who were advising him, became fixated on Khe Sanh," says Prince, "to the point where they simply were not capable of entertaining other information."

Others were willing to entertain the importance of the Tet Offensive. Among them was Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchor who arrived in Hue and quickly realized he had been deceived by his official sources back in Washington.

What Cronkite saw on the ground led him to go on TV and say it was time for the U.S. to end the war.

"The only rational way out then," Cronkite said to a national audience, "will be to negotiate not as victims but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could."

Johnson is said to have told an aide, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

And maybe more than that. Bowden says Tet spurred not just a lack of trust about Vietnam policy but a more general disregard for government officials that continues to this day.

"On the heels of Hue," says Bowden, "on the heels of Tet then came the Pentagon Papers, came the Watergate break-in, a series of kind of catastrophic events in terms of the public's perception of its own leaders."

A month after the Tet Offensive, Johnson went on TV and said he would press for peace, stop the bombing in North Vietnam. Then, he dropped his own bombshell: He would not seek another term as president.

Members of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, raise the U.S. flag on the south wall of the citadel in Hue after weeks of fierce fighting and heavy casualties. John Lengel/AP steek onderskrif weg

Members of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, raise the U.S. flag on the south wall of the citadel in Hue after weeks of fierce fighting and heavy casualties.

Prince watched it from his hospital bed in Texas, recovering from wounds he suffered at Hue.

"I was ready to throw a bedpan at the television set," he recalls, "because to me what that was was an admission of defeat and a denial of the sacrifice that all those young men had made and that I had made."

The Tet Offensive was an American military victory, says Prince. And Johnson should have taken the fight to North Vietnam and gone after the enemy's safe havens in Laos and Cambodia.

"We're doing the same thing today with the Taliban in Afghanistan," Prince says. "We're allowing you to run over into the borderlands in Pakistan and do the same thing."

Bowden agrees that even today, there are military parallels to the Vietnam War.

"We often find ourselves mired in situations where we don't have the cultural understanding, we don't have the historical understanding," Bowden says. "We can't gain the support of the people whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it stems from a kind of an arrogance and a general ignorance."

For his part, Downs, another young Marine officer, will say only that he and his men did their best.

This week Downs will remember those from Fox Company who were killed or wounded. Their names are carefully written in a small notebook he carried during those days a half-century ago. And he begins to read the names.

"The killed were, I think he was a [private first class], Stanley Murdock. D.I. Collins. A corpsman by the name of Gosselin, Doc Gosselin. Cristobal Figueroa-Perez."

And Downs says they were killed in just the first few hours of the Battle of Hue, which would last for weeks. During that time the casualty rate for his company reached around 60 percent killed or wounded, a rate similar to the D-Day landings at Normandy during World War II.

Correction Jan. 29, 2018

A previous version of this story located Hue as just north of Saigon. It's actually more than 600 miles north of there. Additionally, a reference to Doc Gosselin's last name was misspelled as Gooslin.


Historical Declassification

The Tet Offensive, like almost all events in U.S. foreign affairs history, had a complex intelligence angle. To properly and fully understand intelligence supplied to political leaders and military commanders—including how, when and why leaders made decisions—students, authors of popular history, and professors alike must turn to declassified primary source intelligence records. The history of political and military decisions in 20th and 21st century events is incomplete without examining intelligence input to the policymaking process.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, intelligence agencies are reviewing their holdings to identify Tet-related documents for declassification and release. This is part of a broader IC effort to enhance public understanding of IC activities. The declassified documents will be released over a period of 15 months, in three installments, beginning in July 2018. Subsequent releases will take place in January and April 2019.


Looking Back On the Vietnam War Refugee Crisis

With the escalation of the Syrian Civil War as well as a number of smaller conflicts, the UN recently reported that the refugee population has spiked to surpass 25 million people. Countries that border conflict zones are struggling to accommodate waves of displaced people, and are calling upon the European Union and the United States to play a more active role in providing aid and accepting refugees. In the midst of this global crisis, we’re taking a look back at American involvement in the mass displacement of Southeast Asians in the wake of the Vietnam War.

On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese army launched a series of attacks on the South Vietnamese army, U.S. forces, and their allies that would signal a turning point in the Vietnam War. These attacks, known as the Tet Offensive, spanned multiple days and became one of the bloodiest campaigns in the Vietnam War. Media coverage of the offensive led many Americans to realize that victory in Vietnam was not, as President Lyndon Johnson had promised, imminent. Public support for the already controversial war began to further deteriorate, with many more Americans calling for the withdrawal of US troops.

By March of 1975—a month before the war ended—it had become apparent that the North Vietnamese army would soon seize control of Saigon. While most Americans in Saigon could easily evacuate before the arrival of North Vietnamese troops by simply going to an evacuation point, it was much harder for the South Vietnamese to leave. Some Vietnamese citizens obtained black market U.S. visas in order to leave the country, while others were smuggled out by American friends. By the time the city fell in April, over 100,000 Vietnamese people living in Saigon had fled, either through evacuation missions run by the U.S. army or of their own accord.

The Saigon refugees prefigured a wave of immigration that occurred after the United States left the conflict. People fled the communist government that had taken control of what was once South Vietnam. Cambodian refugees soon joined South Vietnamese refugees when the Cambodian Communist party declared war on the newly united communist Vietnam. The majority of refugees initially went to camps in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. From there, many of the refugees were resettled in Europe or North America.

Official documents now in HSP’s collection raise a number of concerns about the relocation process. One memo from the Red Cross questioned the state of the refugee camps in Southeast Asia, while another mentioned “several occasions where parts of families have been put on different planes leaving Guam and ending [sic] up at different camps in the United States.”

American politicians quickly devised legislation to accommodate this wave of refugees. The Vietnam Humanitarian Assistance and Evacuation Act of 1975 promised financial assistance, medical assistance, and social services to Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees seeking asylum. Around eight to ten thousand of these refugees ultimately settled in Pennsylvania alone, making it home to the third largest population of Southeast Asian refugees in the country.

At its core, the Humanitarian Act sought to assimilate refugees into American culture or, as one document put it, to provide the “adjustment and cultural blending necessary to self-sufficiency” in America. Under the Act, most refugees were matched with local sponsors who provided shelter, clothing, and food, as well as “assistance in finding employment and in school enrollment for children and covering ordinary medical costs.” Sponsors who took up this “moral commitment” included individuals, churches, civic organizations, and state and local governments. The Act also provided resources like language classes and vocational training in an effort to integrate the refugees, along with counseling. A document outlining the Indochinese Refugee Mental Health project states that the counseling for refugees was intended to address the “traumas of emergency evacuation from their homelands and relocation in this (to them) alien culture.”

The refugee crisis was often a point of tension between federal and state power. Papers on the counseling programs offered for refugees indicate that “in the areas of mental health and related service, not all states have taken the initiative or found the need to categorically design and/or fund Social Services for the Indochinese refugees.” A memorandum on refugee children meanwhile asserts that a state’s “refusal to accept unaccompanied minors infringes upon federal power to regulate immigration.”

Political disputes surrounding immigration and refugee resettlement continue to this day. California has upheld its sanctuary state policy rather than comply with the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The White House’s decision to cut dramatically refugee admissions has drawn criticism from those who lived through the mass displacements of the 20th century. 50 years on, the 1960s remain as relevant as ever.

Lourie, Norman V. Norman V. Lourie Papers. Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Lourie, Norman V. Norman V. Lourie Photographs. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. (From which these photographs of refugee camps in Guam come)


Die Tet -offensief

The Tet Offensive saw the North Vietnamese change their tactics in their war against the SVA and America. The Tet Offensive witnessed a huge conventional attack by the North. Every year on the last day of January, the Vietnamese pay tribute to their ancestors. The Tet New Year is a very important day for the Vietnamese and nearly all-normal day-to-day activities stop to allow those who can the opportunity to celebrate the lives of their ancestors.

In January 1968, the NLF had brought forward Tet by two days. On January 31 st 70,000 NLF soldiers attacked over 100 targets, including the capital in the South, Saigon.

The Americans had been fighting classic guerrilla tactics since 1965. Though the US had faced a number of conventional attacks in late 1967, most US military thinking was still oriented around the concept of guerrilla warfare. Therefore the Tet Offensive took them by surprise, especially the sheer scale of it.

The US Embassy in Saigon was attacked and a few members of the NLF got into the embassy compound. Five US Marines were killed but the attack was repulsed. The NLF also captured the main radio station in Saigon, which acted as a major shock to US morale. Though the station was only occupied for a few hours, it showed to the US military that they were not just dealing with a ramshackle army of amateurs.

However, in military terms, the US could claim victory in the Tet Offensive. The North Vietnamese could not afford major losses in terms of manpower. During the Tet Offensive the NLF lost 37,000 soldiers while the US lost 2,500 men. Yet the Tet Offensive was a major blow to US military pride. In late 1967 the US had been told by General Westmoreland that the NLF had taken such heavy losses in open combat that they would be incapable of maintaining any military momentum in 1968. Yet during the Tet Offensive the NLF had entered the US Embassy and occupied the main radio station for three hours before being repulsed.

The impact of the Tet Offensive is difficult to gauge. The NLF and the government in North Vietnam would have played heavily on their successes in Saigon – the very heart of US influence. Yet their losses would have had a major impact of their ability to fight. The impact of the Tet Offensive on America was stark. President Johnson was told by his advisors that the war could not be won and he was advised to negotiate a withdrawal from the region. In late 1968, Johnson announced to the US people that he intended to seek a negotiated peace settlement in Vietnam.


Die Tet -offensief

It is now generally recognized that Vo Nguyen Giap was one of the brilliant generals of the 20 th century. He was trained in the tactics of guerrilla war in the long struggle against French imperialism, in which his small forces were fighting against a bigger, well-trained and well -equipped force. Under these conditions Giap developed a strategy for defeating superior opponents. This was not to simply outmanoeuvre them in the field but to undermine their resolve by inflicting demoralizing political defeats through bold and unexpected tactics. His slogan was that of Danton: "de l'audace, de l'audace et encore de l'audace!" (audacity, audacity and yet more audacity!) Nowhere was this more evident than in the Tet Offensive.

Giap was also a ruthless general. He was always prepared to take a gamble, irrespective of the cost in lives. He must have known that in conventional combat he was at a disadvantage. Whenever they had met the American forces in open battle his divisions had been hammered. In the South the War was not going well. The guerrillas, though still active, were slowly being pushed back. By September 1967 Giap concluded that the war had reached a stalemate and that something needed to be done. On the other hand Hanoi could see the growing anti-war movement in the USA. Giap decided that what was needed was a coup de grace that would break Washington's will to continue the War.

This was the origin of the Tet offensive - a campaign of breathtaking breadth, speed and scope. It shook US imperialism to its roots and had a dramatic and lasting effect on US public opinion. He carefully planned the offensive, utilising techniques he had learned in the struggle with the French, where he had learned to approach his enemy's strengths as if they were weaknesses to be exploited. As early as 1944, Giap sent his tiny forces against the French army in Indochina. As with the Tet Offensive, he chose a moment to attack when it was least expected: Christmas Eve. In 1954 at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, Giap lured the overconfident French into a disastrous battle and won a stunning victory by means of brilliant deployments. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, in 1968, Giap was aiming for a quick and decisive victory to influence the result of the 1968 US Presidential campaign.

He prepared a bold offensive on two fronts. The first was to be an attack on the US Marines' firebase at Khe Sanh. Simultaneously the NVA and the NLF would stage coordinated attacks on South Vietnam's major cities and provincial capitals. This would present the Americans with a military dilemma. If they opted to defend Khe Sanh, they would be stretched to the limit when battles erupted all over the South. Giap had set the campaign's minimum and maximum objectives. As a minimum the Tet outbreak would force the halting of the aerial bombardment of North Vietnam and force the Americans into negotiations. As a maximum the offensive could drive the Americans out of Vietnam all together opening up the path to liberation and unification.


Quotations: From Gulf of Tonkin to Tet Offensive

This selection of Vietnam War quotations spans the period between the Gulf of Tonkin incident and US military action (1964) and the Tet Offensive (1968). It contains statements and remarks about the Vietnam conflict by notable political figures, military commanders, contemporaries and historians. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for this collection, please contact us.

“The overall situation in South Vietnam is extremely fragile. In the countryside the Viet Cong’s level of control and military buildup is significant. General Khanh is still having difficulties with the civilian population and does not have the complete loyalty of his own army.”
Central Intelligence Agency memorandum, May 1964

“The situation in South Vietnam has continued to deteriorate. A new couple led by disgruntled ARVN officers could occur at any time. South Vietnam is almost leaderless… There are strong signs that the Viet Cong has played a major role in promoting civil disorder through the countryside and especially in Saigon.”
CIA memorandum, October 1964

“In Asia, we face an ambitious and aggressive China but we have the will and we have the strength to help our Asian friends resist that ambition. Sometimes our folks get a little impatient. Sometimes they rattle their rockets and they bluff about their bombs. But we are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
Lyndon Johnson, US president, October 1964

“I believe we could and should have withdrawn from South Vietnam, either in late 1963 amid the turmoil following Diem’s assassination, or in late 1964 or early 1965 in the face of increasing political and military weakness in South Vietnam. We misjudged the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries (in this case, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong…) and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions… We totally misjudged the political forces within [Vietnam].”
Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defence, writing in 1995

“Our general view is very well known… Somebody is trying to take over by force a country to which we have a commitment. It should not surprise anyone to suppose that it is an elementary part of our view that that effort should stop.”
Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State, 1965

“The communist leaders in Moscow, Peking and Hanoi must fully understand that the United States considers the freedom of South Vietnam vital to our interests. And they must know that we are not bluffing in our determination to defend those interests.”
Gerald Ford, US House of Representatives minority leader, July 1965

“I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me. And we will meet his needs. We cannot be defeated by force of arms. We will stand in Vietnam.”
Lyndon Johnson, July 1965

“We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . .We could pave
the whole country and put parking strips on it and still be
home by Christmas.”
Ronald Reagan, US politician, 1965

“Men [in Vietnam] are dying, men named Fernandez and Zajac and Zelinko and Mariano and McCormick. Neither the enemy who killed them nor the people whose independence they have fought to save ever asked them where they or their parents came from. They were all Americans. It was for free men and for America that they gave their all, they gave their lives and selves.”
Lyndon Johnson, speaking on immigration, October 1965

“I am absolutely certain that, whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”
General William Westmoreland, November 1967

“There has been progress on every front in Vietnam. Military, substantial progress. Politically, very significant progress… There is no military stalemate. There is no pacification stalemate.”
Hubert Humphrey, US vice president, November 1967

“Khe Sanh was not that important to us… It was the focus of attention in the United States because their prestige was at stake, but to us it was part of the greater battle that would begin after Tet. It was only a diversion, but one to be exploited if we could cause many casualties and win a big victory.”
Vo Nguyen Giap on the Battle of Khe Sanh

“[The Tet Offensive was to] take advantage of a time that the American imperialists were confronted with a situation in which both advance and retreat are difficult, at a time when the United States was about to elect a president… We needed to inflict a decisive blow, to win a great victory, to create a great leap forward in the strategic situation.”
Tran Van Tra, NVA general, writing in 1978

“Our Tet plans required absolute secrecy and all soldiers took an oath of silence. Therefore when fighting began, our supporters did not know what to do. Most were afraid and confused and did nothing. They did not know about the Tet Offensive beforehand.”
Tran Van Tra, writing in 1978

“[The Tet Offensive] failed because we underestimated our enemies and overestimated ourselves. We set goals which we realistically could not achieve.”
Tran Van Tra, writing in 1978

“I must confess, the VC [Viet Cong] surprised us with their attack. It was surprisingly well coordinated, surprisingly impressive and launched with a surprising amount of audacity.”
John Chasson, US brigadier general on the Tet Offensive, February 1968

“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… For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in stalemate.”
Walter Cronkite, American news anchor, February 1968

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”
Walter Cronkite, February 1968

“If I have lost Walter Cronkite [then] I have lost Mister Average Citizen.”
Lyndon Johnson, February 1968

“Today the President has before him a request for another 200,000 men… All that would be changed would be the capacity for destruction… Laying aside all other arguments, the time is at hand when we must decide whether it is futile to destroy Vietnam in the effort to save it.”
Frank McGee, American news reporter, February 1968

“The country we are trying to save is being subjected to enormous damage. Perhaps the country we are trying to save is relying on the United States too much. When we look ahead, we find that we may actually be denigrating their ability to take over their own country rather than contributing to their ability to do it.”
Clark M. Clifford, advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, March 1968

“The reality of the 1968 Tet offensive was that Hanoi had taken a big gamble and had lost on the battlefield… Our powerful air force and navy air resources were poised and ready. We could have flattened every war-making facility in North Vietnam. But the hand-wringers had centre stage, the anti-war elements were in full cry. The most powerful country in the world did not have the willpower needed to meet the situation.”
Ulysses S. Sharp, US admiral and Pacific Fleet commander, writing in 1969

“Yes, I think I would beat him [Richard Nixon]. But it would be too close for me to be able to govern. The nation would be polarised. Besides, the presidency isn’t fun anymore. Everything has turned mean. No matter what I accomplish, the damn war infects everything.”
Lyndon Johnson, 1968

“I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved – the Great Society – to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home… But if I left the war and let the communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser, and we would find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe.”
Lyndon Johnson, reflecting on his presidency, 1971


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