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The Tet Offensive In The Vietnam War

1086 words - 4 pages

January 31, 1968 marks the new lunar year for the Vietnamese and also the start of the Tet offensive. This crucial offensive is considered the turning point of the Vietnam War. This series of battles can be best understood by examining the events that led up to the conflict, the strategies and principles applied in the battle, and end results of the movement.
Throughout the second half of 1967 the government had become anxious due to 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”. The US, already suffering from doubt about the war, was about to receive a crushing blow at the hands of Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap. In late 1967, US forces along with its allies, and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), had established themselves in the six major cities of South Vietnam. Their forces consisted of 331,098 Army personnel and 78,013 Marines in nine divisions, an armored cavalry regiment, and two separate brigades to South Vietnam under the command of William Childs Westmoreland. They were joined there by the 1st Australian Task Force, a 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 local militias. These NVA forces consisted of about 85,000 men. Chains of small attacks continually drew more and more US troops away from the six cities they had so well entrenched themselves in. This maneuver by the enemy put the allies in a position of disadvantage. Eventually, on the first day of the Vietnamese New Year the Vietcong (VC) and the North Vietnamese (NVA) under the authority of Four-star General Vo Nguyen Giap, about 85,000 strong, launched a major offensive throughout South Vietnam. The NVA and VC were able to overcome five major cities in South Vietnam along with over 50 small villages and a number of the countries capitals.
The objective of the strike was to assault military and civilian command and control centers across South Vietnam, igniting an uprising among the population, who would then collapse the Saigon government, thus ending the war in a single blow. Giap organized a bold push on two fronts: the US Marines' firebase at Khe Sanh and, concurrently, attacks on the majority of South Vietnam's major cities and provincial capitals. Utilizing the principle of surprise, Giap realized if the allies chose to defend Khe Sanh, they wouldn’t be able to properly defend the other cities being raided. The plan would make allied forces endure a multitude of losses which would add up to an overall catastrophe. Khe Sanh...

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