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Tet Offensive information

Tet Offensive
Sự kiện Tết Mậu Thân
Part of the Vietnam War

Map indicating towns and cities in which significant fighting occurred during the Tet Offensive of 1968
DatePhase 1: January 30 – March 20, 1968
(2 months)
Phase 2: May 5 – June 15, 1968
(1 month, 1 week and 3 days)
Phase 3: August 9 – September 23, 1968
(1 month and 2 weeks)
South Vietnam
11°N 107°E / 11°N 107°E / 11; 107
  • U.S. and South Vietnam tactical victory
  • North Vietnam and Viet Cong political and strategic victory[1][2][3][4]
  • (See aftermath for details and long-term consequences)
Tet Offensive South Vietnam
Tet Offensive United States
South Korea South Korea
Tet Offensive Australia
Tet Offensive New Zealand
Tet Offensive Thailand
Tet Offensive North Vietnam
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Viet Cong
Commanders and leaders
South Vietnam Nguyễn Văn Thiệu
South Vietnam Nguyễn Cao Kỳ
South Vietnam Cao Văn Viên
United States Lyndon B. Johnson
United States William Westmoreland
North Vietnam Lê Duẩn
North Vietnam Lê Đức Thọ
North Vietnam Văn Tiến Dũng
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Hoàng Văn Thái
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Trần Văn Trà
~1,300,000[5] Phase 1: ~80,000
Total: ~323,000 – 595,000[6]
Casualties and losses

In Phase One:
South Vietnam South Vietnam:
4,954 killed
15,917 wounded
926 missing
United StatesSouth KoreaAustraliaNew ZealandThailand
4,124 killed
19,295 wounded
604 missing
Total casualties in Phase One:
45,820 casualties:

  • 9,078 killed
  • 35,212 wounded
  • 1,530 missing[7][8]
    123 aircraft destroyed, 214 heavily damaged and 215 medium damaged[9]
Total for 3 phases: Unknown

In Phase One:
RVN/U.S. claimed:

  • 45,000+ killed
  • 5,800 captured[10][11]: 162 

One PAVN source (Saigon only):

  • 5,000+ killed
  • 10,000 wounded
  • 7,000 captured[12]

Phase One, Phase Two and Phase Three:
Trần Văn Trà reports (Phase One and Two):
75,000+ killed and wounded[13]
PAVN source (total for 3 phases):
111,179 casualties:

  • 45,267 killed
  • 61,267 wounded
  • 5,070 missing[14][15]
Civilian: 14,300 killed, 24,000 wounded, and 630,000 refugees[16]

The Tet Offensive[17] was a major escalation and one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) launched a sneak attack on January 30, 1968, against the forces of the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), the United States Armed Forces and their allies. It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam.[18] The name is the truncated version of the Lunar New Year festival name in Vietnamese, Tết Nguyên Đán, with the offense chosen during a holiday period as most ARVN personnel were on leave.[19] The purpose of the wide-scale offensive by the Hanoi Politburo was to trigger political instability, in a belief that mass armed assault on urban centers would trigger defections and rebellions.

The offensive was launched prematurely in the early morning hours of 30 January in large parts of the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack allowed allied forces some time to prepare defensive measures. When the main operation began during the early morning hours of 31 January, the offensive was countrywide; eventually more than 80,000 PAVN/VC troops struck more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns, and the southern capital.[20] The offensive was the largest military operation conducted by either side up to that point in the war.

Hanoi had launched the offensive in the belief that it would trigger a popular uprising leading to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. Although the initial attacks stunned the allies, causing them to lose control of several cities temporarily, they quickly regrouped, beat back the attacks, and inflicted heavy casualties on PAVN/VC forces. The popular uprising anticipated by Hanoi never happened. During the Battle of Huế, intense fighting lasted for a month, resulting in the destruction of the city. During their occupation, the PAVN/VC executed thousands of people in the Massacre at Huế. Around the U.S. combat base at Khe Sanh, fighting continued for two more months.

The offensive was a military defeat for North Vietnam, as neither uprisings nor ARVN unit defections occurred in South Vietnam. However, this offensive had far-reaching consequences due to its effect on the views of the Vietnam War by the American public and the world broadly. General Westmoreland reported that defeating the PAVN/VC would require 200,000 more American soldiers and activation of the reserves, prompting even loyal supporters of the war to see that the current war strategy required re-evaluation.[21] The offensive had a strong effect on the U.S. government and shocked the U.S. public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the North Vietnamese were being defeated and incapable of launching such an ambitious military operation; American public support for the war declined as a result of the Tet casualties and the ramping up of draft calls.[22] Subsequently, the Johnson Administration sought negotiations to end the war. Shortly before the 1968 United States presidential election, the Republican candidate, former Vice President Richard Nixon, encouraged South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu to be publicly uncooperative with the negotiations, making it obvious that Johnson was not likely to succeed in making peace anytime soon.[23]

The term "Tet offensive" usually refers to the January–February 1968 offensive, but it can also include the so-called "Mini-Tet" offensive that took place in May and the Phase III offensive in August, or the 21 weeks of unusually intense combat which followed the initial attacks in January.[24]

  1. ^ Smedberg, p. 188
  2. ^ "Tet Offensive". National Geographic. May 20, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  3. ^ "Tet Offensive |". Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  4. ^ "Tet Offensive | Facts, Casualties, Videos, & Significance | Britannica". Encyclopædia Britannica. July 16, 2023.
  5. ^ Hoang, p. 8.
  6. ^ The South Vietnamese government estimated North Vietnamese forces at 323,000, including 130,000 regulars and 160,000 guerrillas. Hoang, p. 10. MACV estimated that strength at 330,000. The CIA and the U.S. State Department concluded that the North Vietnamese force level lay somewhere between 435,000 and 595,000. Dougan and Weiss, p. 184.
  7. ^ Tổng công kích, Tổng nổi dậy Tết mậu thân 1968 (Tet offensive 1968) – ARVN's Đại Nam publishing in 1969, p. 35
  8. ^ Does not include ARVN or U.S. casualties incurred during the "Border Battles"; ARVN killed, wounded, or missing from Phase III; U.S. wounded from Phase III; or U.S. missing during Phases II and III.
  9. ^ Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia. Naval Institute Press, 2008. P 33
  10. ^ "These figures are for the period January 31 to February 29."
  11. ^ Moise, Edwin (2017). The Myths of Tet The most misunderstood event of the Vietnam War. University of Kansas Press. ISBN 978-0700625024.
  12. ^ Communist Leaders Stoutly Defend Tet Losses – The Washington Post
  13. ^ Includes casualties incurred during the "Border Battles", Tet Mau Than and the second and third phases of the offensive. General Tran Van Tra claimed that from January through August 1968 the offensive had cost North Vietnam more than 75,000 dead and wounded. This is probably a low estimate. Tran Van Tra, Tet, in Jayne S. Warner and Luu Doan Huynh, eds., The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993, pgs. 49 & 50.
  14. ^ PAVN's Department of warfare, 124th/TGi, document 1.103 (11-2-1969)
  15. ^ "Tết Mậu Thân 1968 qua những số liệu – Báo Nhân Dân điện tử". Tết Mậu Thân 1968 qua những số liệu – Báo Nhân Dân điện tử. January 25, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference DouganWeiss116 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ (Vietnamese: Sự kiện Tết Mậu Thân 1968, lit. "1968 Yang Earth Monkey Tet event", also Tổng tiến công và nổi dậy, Tết Mậu Thân 1968, "General offensive and uprising of Tet Mau Than"). The Vietnamese name 'Mau Than' uses the sexagenary cycle. 1968 was a year of Yang-Earth (Mậu) Monkey (Thân) in the traditional year-naming cycle.
  18. ^ Ang, p. 351. Two interpretations of the offensive's goals have continued to dominate Western historical debate. The first maintained that the political consequences of the winter-spring offensive were an intended rather than an unintended consequence. This view was supported by William Westmoreland and his friend Jamie Salt in A Soldier Reports, Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976, p. 322; Harry G. Summers in On Strategy, Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1982, p. 133; Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts, The Irony of Vietnam, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1979, pp. 333–334; and Schmitz p. 90. This thesis appeared logical in hindsight, but it "fails to account for any realistic North Vietnamese military objectives, the logical prerequisite for an effort to influence American opinion." James J. Wirtz in The Tet Offensive, Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1991, p. 18. The second thesis (which was also supported by the majority of contemporary captured VC documents) was that the goal of the offensive was the immediate toppling of the Saigon government or, at the very least, the destruction of the government apparatus, the installation of a coalition government, or the occupation of large tracts of South Vietnamese territory. Historians supporting this view are Stanley Karnow in Vietnam, New York: Viking, 1983, p. 537; U.S. Grant Sharp in Strategy for Defeat, San Rafael CA: Presidio Press, 1978, p. 214; Patrick McGarvey in Visions of Victory, Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1969; and Wirtz, p. 60.
  19. ^ "U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968". United States Department of State. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  20. ^ Dougan and Weiss, p. 8.
  21. ^ "Tet Offensive". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  22. ^ Fallows, James (May 31, 2020). "Is This the Worst Year in Modern American History?". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  23. ^ Baker, Peter (January 3, 2017). "Nixon Tried to Spoil Johnson's Vietnam Peace Talks in '68, Notes Show". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  24. ^ "The Myths of Tet". Archived from the original on March 11, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2020.

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