Tuesday, December 13, 2011


            The Tet Offensive was one of the biggest turning points of the Vietnam War.  Although from a purely military standpoint the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces emerged victorious, it was a strong psychological victory for the Northern Communists (American History). 
            The Original concept for the Tet Offensive came from General Vo Nguyne Giap of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam.  He knew that since the U.S. entered the war on the side of the south, the communists had been on the loosing end of the battle.  So he concocted a three point plan with the hope of neutralizing the overwhelming American advantages in Firepower and mobility.   He planned to combine the Chinese element of General Offense with the Vietnamese element of General Uprising.  The plan was based around three points: that the South Vietnamese army would not fight but would collapse from the shock of the initial strike; that the people of South Vietnam would rally with the communist cause; and that the American morale would break from the “one two punch” (Zabecki).
Giap planned to launch the attack on the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, which was so important that a ceasefire had been called in order to celebrate.  He did not tell his generals of the exact timing of the attack, however, until the last possible moment, in order to maintain secrecy.  Because of this, the timing of the attack was off by 24 hours, launching a day early.  The U.S. and Southern Vietnamese forces immediately stopped their ceasefire and met the offensive head on (Zabecki).

            Before the attack, Giap attacked the marine base at Keh Sahn, near the 17th Parallel, using it as a feint to draw U.S. attention away from South Vietnam.  The deception worked, drawing thousands of troops away from their primary objective (American History).  However, Lieutenant Genral Frederick C. Weyand was not fooled.  He noticed an increased amount of DRV radio traffic around Saigon, but a small amount of contacts for his patrolling troops.  He convinced General William Westmoreland, the Commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, to let him pull more American Battalions back to Saigon.  For this reason, there were 27 battalions in the Saigon area instead of the original 14 when the attack came (Zabecki). 
            During the attack, the DRV attacked five of South Vietnam’s cities, most of its provincial capitals, and about 50 smaller towns.  In Saigon, they attacked several high value targets, such as the palace and the airport, and the U.S. embassy.  But because of Weyands’ forsight, the U.S. forces pushed the DRV out of Saigon.  However, Hue, another extremely important city in South Vietnam, was completely leveled, leaving thousands dead and 100,000 without homes (U.S. History).
            Giap was ultimately wrong on two of his three assumptions.  The people of South Vietnam did not rally to the communists, and the South Vietnamese army did not collapse, but fought well.  Giap was however right on his third assumption.  The U.S. did not have the will to do what was necessary to win.   The United Stated defeated the communists decisively, but at the same time handed them a strategic victory.  After the Tet offensive, the American public turned against the war, thinking it un-winnable.  This  change of heart damaged soldier moral greatly, giving the DRV a big advantage (Zabecki). 


  1. I thought it was unique that the attack was planned to take place on a holiday when its usually a rule that no attacks should place on a holiday. It seemed almost unfair in some ways but from a military stand point, they had to do what they had to do.

  2. I think what was interesting about this topic is that they would take place in holidays when everyone would be happy and united and with attacking on holidays it would take everyone for surprose.

  3. It found it interesting that the attack was planned to take place on a holiday, which would be a day the South Vietnamese and the US wouldn't expect. If the timing of the attack wasn't off by 24 hours though, the US and South Vietnamese wouldn't have been able to fight off the North Vietnamese as quickly, and there probably would have been much more damage.

  4. I find this entire attack very disrespectful. They agreed to a cease fire for the holiday but instead, the North Vietnamese planned a huge attack. Also, the surprise attack barely went according to plan, except for the fact that it was a surprise and discouraged the American home-front.

  5. I like how you had a great summary and how I learned that the Vietcong attacked on Tet which was a holiday where no fighting was to take place. It was a surprise attack which caught the South Vietnam off guard.