“The Tet Offensive and its Aftermath” by Edwin E. Moïse

Reference: Clemson University

By late 1967, the US command in Vietnam was issuing very optimistic statements about weakening of the Communist forces and the likelihood that the war would be won. However, these statements were based to a considerable extent on wishful thinking. In its eagerness to make the situation look hopeful, the US command was underestimating the actual size of the Communist forces.

In past years, a tradition had grown up of declaring a truce for a few days during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, to allow people on both sides to celebrate this very important holiday with their families. During Tet of 1968, which came at the end of January, the Communists announced a truce but then launched a stunning offensive, attacking almost every major city in South Vietnam. One Communist unit got inside the walls of the US Embassy in Saigon and remained for several hours before being killed. US forces had made some preparations for the possibility of an attack, but not enough. Most ARVN units were caught totally by surprise.

The Communist forces appear to have been trying to win the war at a single blow. They hoped that the ARVN would disintegrate in panic and confusion, and that the civilian population would join in a mass uprising against the government. They did not achieve either of these goals, although the ARVN may have come rather close to collapsing.

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