The American war effort in Vietnam was hit hard by the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, which ended on this day in 1968.

1968 Tet Offensive

Force KIA WIA MIA CIA
US Forces 1,536 7,764 11 unknown
ARVN 2,788 8,299 587 unknown
NVA/VC 45,000 unknown unknown 6,991

Source for chart: http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html

Legend for Chart:

ARVN – The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam or South Vietnam Army (SVA)

NVA/VC – North Viet Nam People’s Army or Viet Cong

KIA – Killed in Action

WIA – Wounded in Action

MIA – Missing in Action

CIA – Captured in Action

First a little background information:

The Tet Offensive was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War, launched on January 30, 1968 by forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam against the forces of South Vietnam, the United States, and their allies. It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian commands and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The name of the offensive comes from the Tết holiday, the Vietnamese New Year, when the first major attacks took place.

Who could ever forget this famous photograph. Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968. With North Vietnam's Tet Offensive

Who could ever forget this famous photograph.
Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968. With North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive

The North Vietnamese Army launched a wave of attacks in the late night hours of 30 January in the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack did not lead to widespread defensive measures. When the main North Vietnamese operation began the next morning the offensive was countrywide and well coordinated, eventually more than 80,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops striking 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.  The offensive was the largest military operation conducted by either side up to that point in the war.

Label on the shrouded remains of a Tet Offensive victim describing teeth, color of hair, foot wear, and other possessions found with the body.

Label on the shrouded remains of a Tet Offensive victim describing teeth, color of hair, foot wear, and other possessions found with the body.

The initial attacks stunned the US and South Vietnamese armies and caused them to temporarily lose control of several cities, but they quickly regrouped to beat back the attacks, inflicting massive casualties on North Vietnamese forces. During the Battle of Huế, intense fighting lasted for a month resulting in the destruction of the city by US forces. During their occupation, the North Vietnamese executed thousands of people in the Massacre at Huế. Around the US combat base at Khe Sanh fighting continued for two more months. Although the offensive was a military defeat for the North Vietnamese, it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the US public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the NVA were, due to previous defeats, incapable of launching such a massive effort.

 

Claims by President Lyndon Johnson that the offensive was a complete failure were misleading. Though the North Vietnamese death toll was 20 times that of its enemies, strongholds previously thought impenetrable had been shaken. The prospect of increasing American forces added substantial strength to the anti-war movement and led to Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek re-election.

The Tet Offensive brought on increased protests of the war. 5th May 1971:  Democratic Party representative Ron Dellums addresses an anti Vietnam war demonstration on the steps of the US Capitol building in Washington DC.  (Photo by Dave Watt/Keystone/Getty Images)

The Tet Offensive brought on increased protests of the war.
5th May 1971: Democratic Party representative Ron Dellums addresses an anti Vietnam war demonstration on the steps of the US Capitol building in Washington DC. (Photo by Dave Watt/Keystone/Getty Images)

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One response

  1. Birgit says:

    I have seen these photos and have heard of the Tet Offensive but you wrote it in a way i could better understand. It was such a horrible war-what does that say?? I think the people fighting there had to also fight big time when they came home since the U.S. role was so divided and unpopular

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