TET OFFENSIVE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR
The Vietnam War was a major Cold War era conflict in the country of Vietnam from its beginnings in 1955 until its end in 1975. The conflict saw the United States and South Vietnamese forces face off against communist forces in North Vietnam who were also supported by China and the Soviet Union. When Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States he was determined to prevent communism from spreading into Vietnam. In fact, his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, advised Johnson to try to overwhelm the communist forces of North Vietnam in order to cause their retreat. The war escalated quickly between 1965 and 1968 as during this time the United States deployed hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to the battlefield. For example, by the end of 1965, the United States had committed nearly 200,000 soldiers to Vietnam, and that increased to over 500,000 by 1968.
A major event in the continuation of the war was in 1968 when the Viet Cong and other North Vietnamese forces carried out the Tet Offensive. Beginning on January 30th, 1968, the Tet Offensive saw the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army combine to launch a series of surprise attacks against South Vietnamese forces and the United States army. In total, it is estimated that over 80,000 Viet Cong soldiers attacked more than 100 towns and cities in South Vietnam. At this point in the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive was the largest military operation carried out by either side. The initial attacks of the Tet Offensive were successful and the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army were able to capture many cities in South Vietnam. The fighting was brutal and lasted for several months, during which the Viet Cong carried out the executions of thousands of people at the Massacre of Hue.
However, within a few months the American forces were able to push back the offensive and ultimately crush the Viet Cong. The Tet Offensive came to an end near the end of September in 1968 and while American forces withstood and repelled the attack, it is generally viewed negatively within the United States. American citizens were shocked at the ability of North Vietnam to carry out such an attack after appearing to be nearly defeated. As well, American General Westmoreland reported that the army needed 200,000 more soldiers in order to defeat the forces of the Tet Offensive. This caused the protest movement against the war of the 1960’s to continue to grow in strength throughout the United States and caused many Americans to begin to question the leadership of Lyndon Johnson. Many Americans had already begun to question the validity of the Vietnam War and the draft system and as a result, many felt further resentment towards the overall war due to the Tet Offensive.