The Tet Offensive

By Marc Jason Gilbert; William Head | Go to book overview

Introduction

Marc Jason Gilbert and William Head

The Tet Offensive caused one of the deepest and most lasting of the many rents that the Vietnam or Second Indochina War made in the fabric of American life: hence the reputation of that campaign as the Vietnam War's Vietnam. Americans have since come to regard it either as defining the moment when the United States seized defeat out of the jaws of victory, or as the wake-up call that finally alerted America to the unwinnable nature of the Vietnam conflict. Such struggles within a body politic usually possess the redeeming virtue of inexorably leading to the broad synthesis that awaits even the most heated of historical debates. Yet, such are the political stakes and personal passions that swirl around this aspect of America's defeat in Vietnam that the integration of the competing interpretations of the Tet Offensive has proven elusive.

To most former allied military officers, some scholars of American history, and much of the American public, the Tet Offensive launched in January-February 1968 was a "last gasp," a failed all-or-nothing bid to win the Vietnam War on the ground, which, though stymied in the field, succeeded, largely by accident, in persuading America to throw away the fruits of a major allied victory and start down the road to defeat and humiliation. As they also believe that the high casualties incurred by the Vietnamese foe during the offensive increased the potential of the allied pacification program and Vietnamization, many adherents of this approach to the Tet Offensive translate its results into a stab-in-the-back thesis: while American forces defeated the enemy on the battlefield and stood on the brink of success in the war for the loyalties of the Vietnamese people, they were betrayed on the home front by a meddling news media and their own weak- willed leaders.1 To these students of the American war in Vietnam, the only

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The Tet Offensive
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms ix
  • Preface xiii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • Notes 15
  • 2 - The Tet Offensive 17
  • Notes 43
  • 3 - The Tet Offensive and Sino-Vietnamese Relations 45
  • Notes 59
  • 4 - The Nlf and the Tet Offensive 63
  • Notes 69
  • 5 - Giap and Tet Mau Than 1968: The Year of the Monkey 73
  • Notes 85
  • 6 - The Tet Offensive and Its Aftermath 89
  • Notes 119
  • 7 - My Recollections of the Tet Offensive 125
  • Notes 134
  • 8 - The Tet Offensive and Middletown: A Study in Contradiction 135
  • Notes 141
  • 9 - The Warning That Left Something to Chance: Intelligence at Tet 143
  • Notes 163
  • 10 - Don't Bother Me with the Facts; I've Made Up My Mind: The Tet Offensive in The Context of Intelligence and U.S. Strategy 167
  • Notes 179
  • 11 - Tet Beyond the Wire: TCK/TKN, the General Offensive/General Uprising 181
  • Notes 189
  • 12 - The Battle of Khe Sanh, 1968 191
  • Notes 210
  • 13 - President Johnson and the Decision To Curtail Rolling Thunder 215
  • Notes 228
  • 14 - The Myth of Tet: American Failure and The Politics of War 231
  • Notes 249
  • Selected Bibliography 259
  • Index 269
  • About the Authors and Editors 283
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