How far was the Tet Offensive a turning point in the

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
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
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
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
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
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
government’s Vietnam policy.

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