Tet Offensive

objectives of North Vietnam, Tet offensive and its impact 

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  • Created by: mariamme
  • Created on: 29-04-12 18:00

Objectives of North Vietnam

  • Lure US troops away from cities and into rural areas, by diversionary attacks on remote outposts
  • focus on locations south of the demilitarized zone and along SV western border 
  • Open talks with US as distraction, while People's liberation army and Peoples army of Vietnam launched attacks, at the same time on major cities in SV to encourage/start uprising 
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Tet Offensive

1ST STAGE- Late 1967

  • PAVN attacked isolated villages, and were heavily defeated by American forces. Distraction gave opportunity for NLF to infiltrate urban areas
  • communist propaganda broaden rift between Saigon and Washington
  • Hanoi offer to tallk with US if it stopped bombing North
  • Giap besieged Khe Sanh Marine base as diversionary tactic
  • Johson feared that may turn into another Dien Bien Phu, ordered base be secured at all costs- OPERATION NIAGARA

2ND STAGE- Tet Lunar New Year 

  • Suprise as USA asumed New Year would mean ceasfire
  • CIA had uncovered some enemy plans but were convinced Khe Sanh key target and North not capable mounting broad offensive
  • 30th Jan 1968 84,000 PLAF and PAVN attacked 36/44 provinces
  • Foreward phase in communist military and political strategy, effective inflicting heavy casulties American forces 
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  • In Saigon 35 battalions attacked Presidential palace, General Staff HQ, and airport
  • Meanwhile 20 guerillas from VC broke into US embassy compound
  • fought 6 hour battle with US military police
  • all attackers killed without entering embassy
  • Shock as communist forces had got into heart American held territory
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Impact of the tet offensive

  • Judged as military defeat for communists by Westmoreland, but seen by many as psychological defeat for US
  •   This was how media portrayed it. American public saw it as humiliating that small  third world nation could mount such a forceful attack on territory defended by US forces
  •  Not a success for North either, attack not well co-ordinated some areas, too soon in other areas, allowing US forces to reinforce weak areas
  •    ARVN fought better than expected and local people didn’t offer as much support as expected
  •  PLAF and PAVN forces suffered heavy losses, 5000 in city of Hue, where communists executed nearly 3000 civilians
  •  Bombing so severe 100,000 refugees forced to flee



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Revolt of the 'wise men'

  • March 1968 Westmoreland judged that communists on defensive, requested 206,00 extra troops
  • Johnson decided to support demand, even though it ran against swell public opinion
  • Clifford (secretary of defence) advised against action, along with several of the 'wise men' that had previously advised escalation
  • McGeorge Bundy (special advisor on National security) spokesman for group
  • Cabot Lodge advised advised shift from 'search and destroy' to using US military power as a shield
  • might allow SV to develop stable society like NV
  • agreed time short and USA must begin to take steps to disengage, unable to build independant SV
  • only troops required should be in support of those already there
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The My Lai Massacre

  • 16th March 1968
  • one of most significant incidents in influencing US public opinion
  • men 'C' Company' part major search and destroy offensive to hunt down remnants of NLF battalion
  • Village My Lai suspected of habouring them
  • troops ordered to burn houses, kill livestock, destroy foodstuffs and close wells
  • enetered hamlet at time villagers expected to have left for market so rest would be expected to be NLF or sympathisers
  • went in shooting. Those remaining alive shot in a ditch
  • 347 unarmed civilians beaten and killed by american soldiers and officers
  • women beaten with rifle buts, ***** and shot
  • animals shot then dropped in wells to poison water
  • 29th March 1971, court martial convicted Lieuenant William Calley of multiple murders, caused split public opinion
  • some felt he was scapegoat and higher ranks had avoided responsibility
  • given life sentence, appealed, sentence reduced and released on parole after 3 years
  • only revealed to public when reported on in New York Times November 1969
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Jonhson's withdrawal from presidential election

  • March 1968 President disillusioned and broken
  • decided not to stand for re-election
  • met Soviet ambassador inform him change US policy in Vietnam
  • Troops along DMZ still protected, no further bombing above 20 th parallel
  • Felt USSR should use influence for conference to make peace 
  • Eugene McCarthy ran for Democratic presidential nomination supported by 'hawks', Bobby Kennedy enticed to stand (anti-war)
  • Johnson backed Hubert Humphrey, defeated by Richard Nixon (Republican)
  • Nixon promised 'peace with honour'
  • voting showed US opinion still divided on whether to continue Vietnam war
  • Paris peace talks that began May, soon stalled
  • During month 1800 US soldiers killed in Vietnam 18,000 seriously wounded
  • 3rd July Westmoreland replaced by General Abrams
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