The Tet Offensive

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

The Warning That Left Something to Chance: Intelligence at Tet

John Prados

Two meanings of the word "chance" are relevant to our present purpose. One is chance as a random factor--for this subject the accidental conjunction of chance occurrences that could have furnished warning of a large- scale nationwide North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (VC) offensive in Vietnam at Tet in 1968. The second relevant meaning is chance as risk. I believe the reasons for the continuing controversy over whether there was a "surprise" at Tet have much to do with these forms of chance.

"Surprise" is a loaded word in the intelligence business, and is but slightly less pejorative when applied as historical interpretation. Thus, whether the attack at Tet represented a surprise--and intelligence failure-- has ever after remained a fervid question, often lurking in the wings of Vietnam discussions, provoking numerous arguments, even forming part of a court case, when the Tet intelligence question became enmeshed in the larger dispute over whether falsification occurred in compilation of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and VC order of battle.

The extremes of the Tet intelligence controversy are represented by senior army officers themselves; there is no need for looking under rugs for perverse, so-called revisionist historians purportedly trying to overturn some conventional wisdom. At one extreme is General David R. Palmer, who in a text used at West Point held that Tet had been an intelligence failure comparable to Pearl Harbor.1 At the opposite end of the spectrum are the officers who held command and intelligence posts in Vietnam in January 1968, arguing that Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) knew all about the Tet Offensive. For the moment we can take as representative of this view a statement before a congressional investigating committee on December 3, 1975, by General Daniel O. Graham, who at Tet had been a


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Tet Offensive


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 288

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?