The Tet Offensive 1968

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  • The Tet Offensive 1968:
    • Started on the 30th JAnuary 1968 - targeted 6 of SV's largest cities (including Saigon and Hue) and 36 of the 44 provincial capitals
      • Around 84,000 NVA and VC took part. Westmoreland (as Giap intended) was deceived into thinking the main attack was on Khe Sanh (US forces were taken by surprise)
    • Communist failures
      • Many attacks were on positions that could never be held e.g. US Embassy in Saigon. They had been defeated in most places in a few days, and at most 3 weeks
      • Huge number of Communists killed by superior US firepower e.g. Khe Sanh - 10,000 Communists killed by massive bombing raids (US losses: 500)
        • In total the VC lost 45,000 dead, over 60,000 wounded and 5,000 captured - US and SV losses combined were no higher than 10,000 dead
      • So many Southern VC killed that they had to rely on the NVA and recruit northerners into the VC who didn't know the South
      • Communists were dissapointed to find that their attacks didn't prompt a rebellion by the population - huge losses among VC caused major problems in the future
    • US failures
      • Saigon: VC even got inside the US Embassy - forcing Ambassador to flee to safety in his pyjamas - made headline news all over world - caused massive embarrassment to US
      • Hue: took 3 weeks to dislodge the VC - causing massive loss of life - US forces lost 4,000 dead, ARVN 5,000 and 14,000 dead civilians. Casualties: 1968 was worst year of war for USA
      • Ability of VC to strike so fast plus failure of US and SV to foresee showed poor intelligence and that the VC had much more support than previously suspected.
        • Rebels had mixed with the holiday traffic: able to smuggle weapons in fruit and veg carts and even in mock funeral processions
      • Massive propaganda defeat - undermine public support for war and confidence it could be won. Media reaction was crucial
        • Most respected and influential TV journalist Walter Cronkite now called for a negotiation settlement - LBJ said if he'd lost Cronkite, he'd lost America. 20 million Americans saw TV pictures of the shooting of a VC prisoner in cold blood by the SV police chief in Saigon
      • Had an impact on Congress and public opinion - LBJ's claims that the war was being won now looked dishonest and ill-judged.
        • March 1968: LBJ's public approval rating had plummetted to only 26%. End of 1968 both LBJ and Nixon were talking of "peace with honour" rather than victory
      • Westmoreland called for over 200,000 more troops to be sent to Vietnam: new Defence Secretary (Clark Clifford) advised LBJ to reject this request and call for peace negotiations instead
        • He was supported by the "wise men" and Dean Acheson. LBJ thought Clifford was too pessimistic, but was concerned by the growing opposition to the war - shelve the military request for large troop increases


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