Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The Tet Offensive was a series of surprise attacks perpetrated by the North Vietnam Army and their rebel supporters, the Vietcong. Some have even called these attacks, a crucial turning point in the Vietnam War. The attacks were a surprise because there had been a cease-fire declared in observance of the Lunar New Year, or Tet. Tet is Vietnam’s most revered holiday. North Vietnam decided to strike then, when no one suspect it.
In late 1967, the North Vietnamese Army grew concerned with the progress that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the U.S. Armed Forces and other allies, were making. The Allied Forces were securely deep-rooted in six major cities at the time, and were also slowly taking the countryside. Up to this point, the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong had both suffered heavy losses and they knew that if this continued, then North Vietnam would no longer be under Communist rule.
Before Tet began, the Vietcong started to methodically attack places that would draw Allied troops out of the cities to meet the aggressors. Then on January 31, 1968, the first day of Tet, the North Vietnam Army, along with the Vietcong, approximately 85,000 strong, launched their offensive. They captured five of South Vietnam’s cities, most of the provincial and capital cities, numerous towns and hamlets as well. North Vietnam began to think that victory was within their reach.
However, the South Vietnamese army along with the U.S. forces, slowly regained control of the cities and towns, in a matter of a few weeks. One of the toughest cities to regain control of, was the now former Imperial City of Hue. The Vietcong managed to hold the city until February 24, 1968. It was this date that South Korea had Hue back, but by that time it was too late. The city had all but been completely destroyed. Thousands of civilians were killed and 100,000 people found themselves homeless. This would become to be known as the ”Massacre at Hue”.
Essentially, the Tet Offensive was a failure from a military viewpoint, as North Vietnam lost their stranglehold, but, it was a moral and a psychological victory for North Vietnam. It was then that the U.S. began to realize that this war was from over.