How far was the Tet Offensive a turning point in the Vietnam War? Learning objectives To identify the changes that the Tet Offensive marked in the Vietnam War. To explore the impact of the Vietnam War. What was the Tet Offensive? The Tet Offensive was a massive attack launched by the VC on over 100 towns and cities in South Vietnam during the New Year – or Tet – holiday on 31st January 1968. It marked the abandonment of guerrilla tactics by the VC and tackled the US and ARVN troops face to face. Why did the VC launch the Tet Offensive? The VC knew that the Tet was a public holiday and neither the US or the ARVN expected any kind of full-frontal attack. The VC hoped that an offensive would inspire more support from South Vietnam. The Vietnam War up to 1967 was a stalemate. This was the VC attempt to break this. A full-frontal attack on towns and cities may force the US to call for reinforcements. Public opinion may not allow for this. The VC knew that the war was becoming unpopular in the US and [public opinion would not allow for a military defeat. This might force the US to withdraw from Vietnam. How did the VC prepare for the Tet Offensive? A week before the Tet Offensive, the VC launched an attack on the US base at Khe Sanh. This turned into a siege which the US were determined to break. Although this had the effect of drawing US troops away from the cities. After secretly storing weapons in the tunnels running under the key cities for months, the VC launched the Tet Offensive on 31st January 1968. What happened in the early stages of the Tet Offensive? The Tet Offensive took the US troops completely by surprise and made many rapid advances into the towns and cities. All this was captured by the world’s media and the most dramatic events were in Saigon and Hue. Why were the events at Saigon seen as dramatic? A 15 man VC suicide squad fought their way into the US embassy in Saigon. They held out for six hours with the US forces having to fight to regain control room by room. This was shown on live television in the US reaching 50 million people astounding viewers. This was played out to a backdrop of 4,500 VC fighters in Saigon pinning down a much larger US and ARVN force for two days in Saigon. How did the VC control Hue? Hue was a major cultural city in Vietnam. The VC captured and held it for 25 days from the US and ARVN forces. While in Hue, the VC executed anyone suspected of collaborating with the US and ARVN. As many as 3,000 civilians were killed by the VC. This gave the US the justification of staying in Vietnam. What were the military consequences of the Tet Offensive? VC could not hold the early positions taken in the Tet Offensive. Most of the 45,000 VC fighters were killed. Compared with 4,500 deaths from the US and ARVN troops and 14,000 civilians. Very few from South Vietnam joined the VC. Most of the top VC fighters were killed and its organisation was severely weakened leading to control of the VC being taken by the North Vietnamese Communists. What were the political consequences of the Tet Offensive? Many in the US questioned the fact that the government spent $20 billion a year and devoted half a million troops to Vietnam. President Johnson was now convinced that the war could not be won militarily. He called off Operation Rolling Thunder and began to seek peace negotiations. In April 1968, he announced he would not be seeking re-election. It was at this point that the media turned against Vietnam and began to seriously question the government’s Vietnam policy.