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HISTORIC ARTICLE

HISTORIC ARTICLE

Jan 30, 1968 CE: Tet Offensive

Jan 30, 1968 CE: Tet Offensive

On January 30, 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched the Tet Offensive against South Vietnamese and United States targets. The Tet Offensive became a major turning point in the Vietnam War.

Grades

8 - 11

Subjects

Social Studies, U.S. History, World History

On January 30, 1968, communist-affiliated troops from North Vietnam and the Viet Cong (a distinct political organization) launched what became known as the Tet Offensive against South Vietnam and its American allies. The Tet Offensive was one of the largest military operations of the Vietnam War, and became a key turning point in the conflict.

The Tet Offensive was a surprise series of attacks launched during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year festival. Many South Vietnamese troops were on holiday when the attacks began, and the military was caught off guard. The campaign initially targeted more than 100 cities and towns, including the strategic southern capital of Saigon, now named Ho Chi Minh City.

The Tet Offensive was a catastrophic military failure for the communists. Historians estimate as many as 50,000 communist troops died in the effort to gain control of the southern part of the country. The South Vietnamese and American losses totaled a fraction of that number.

Although a military loss, the Tet Offensive was a stunning propaganda victory for the communists. In fact, it is often credited with turning the war in their favor. The South Vietnamese began to lose influence as Viet Cong guerrillas infiltrated rural areas formerly held by the South Vietnamese government. The offensive frayed the relationship between the South Vietnamese and the United States.

The consequences of the Tet Offensive extended to the United States. Many Americans began to question military and political leaders who assured them the Vietnam War would be won soon. In the wake of the Tet Offensive, popular U.S. journalist Walter Cronkite said, “We are mired in a stalemate [and] the only rational way out, then, will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.”

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Writer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Producer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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