A Little History

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By Alan W. Dowd

Dec 18, 2017

In late January 1968, North Vietnamese forces and the Viet Cong launched a massive offensive throughout South Vietnam. Hurling 84,000 personnel at South Vietnam, the communists struck 36 of the South’s 44 provincial capitals and 100 cities, including Hue in the northern part of the country, Qui Nhon in the center and Saigon in the south. Timed to coincide with a Vietnamese holiday known as Tet, the operation came to be called the Tet Offensive. It was an unmitigated tactical-military defeat for the communists that turned into a strategic-political victory – and proved to be the turning point of the war.

WHAT IT MEANT What began Jan. 21, with an artillery bombardment on the U.S. Marine outpost at Khe Sanh, exploded into an all-out offensive against the whole of South Vietnam nine days later, as most Vietnamese celebrated the Tet holiday. Hanoi’s choice of Tet was no accident. “The communists had proclaimed a truce over this period,” President Johnson later recalled. But North Vietnamese commander Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp used Tet festivals and travels as cover for his audacious military-guerrilla operation.

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