How the Tet Offensive Changed the Vietnam War

The 1968 Tet Offensive was an event which effected a marked change on the almost certain outcome of the Vietnam War. When a temporary peace was called for the Lunar New Year, it seemed there would be a period of rest during the tragic conflict. This brief peacetime was ripped away, however, when the Viet Cong and the armies of North Vietnam enacted the Tet Offensive against around one hundred cities.

The assault did not just affect the American or South Vietnamese military. Many of the targets were in actuality radio broadcast stations. On the other hand, there were still many important military outposts which found themselves on the other end of the assault, including the American Embassy. The Tet Offensive targeted just about any major location which could be considered useful to the Viet Cong’s enemies, and the effects were wide reaching. Even though most of the targets were successfully defended in less than a day, America lost one thousand men and began to see the war as a futile effort.

While there were many American losses, the Viet Cong lost many more. Still, President Lyndon Johnson felt that it was time to start pulling troops out of Vietnam. This continued after Nixon became President. Then, in a strange move, Nixon responded to the Tet Offensive by signing off on a mission to discover the enemy HQ, yet recalled the troops before they could mount an assault, the reports.

American assaults against Vietnamese civilians made the failure to attack their military even more offensive. With so many people firmly against the war, a potential chance to end the conflict had been avoided. This was, in all fairness, due to the discovery of the very mission that Nixon had authorized. Still, following the Tet Offensive, as well as potential war crimes committed by Americans, many civilians were more than ready to see the conflict come to an end. Protesters against the war grew steadily in number over the coming years.

Prior to the Tet Offensive, many believed that the Vietnam War was coming to an end and that the Viet Cong was most certain to lose; however, even losing twenty times as many soldiers as their enemies did not dissuade them. The politics of the war, as well as those carrying it out, came under heavy questioning in America as a result. Not only did the Tet Offensive continue the war, but it also made it worse for those in Vietnam as well as those safe at home who wanted simply to know that their patriotism was not misguided.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE