The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive


The Tet Offensive of 1968 was perhaps the key incident in the War for Vietnam. But the debate surrounding the offensive continues: Was it a failed last-gasp effort by the defeated North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies? Or was it part of a larger plan that led to victory for the North Vietnamese and their allies? The essays in this volume are among the very first to seek to dispel the wishful thinking, analytical dogmas, and political agendas that have obscured past efforts to master this key turning point in Vietnamese and American history. They reveal that we can look at the truth--and learn from it.


Marc Jason Gilbert and William Head

At 3:00 a.m. on January 31, 1968, Viet Cong sappers entered the U.S. Embassy compound in Saigon. Thus, began a two and one-half month struggle commonly known as the Tet Offensive. On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who, in 1964, had won one of the greatest landslide presidential election victories in U.S. history, declared he would not seek reelection and that he would offer America's enemies in Vietnam a negotiated peace. It was the beginning of the end for U.S. involvement in the Second Indochina war.

Why did Tet become such a watershed?

This book explores this question not with a view to providing a final answer, but to act as a beginning from which serious scholars and students of the Second Indochina War can attempt to explain the phenomenon called the Tet Offensive. To be sure, in spite of all the disagreement over the meaning of Tet, one consensus has evolved over the years: it was the climactic event of America's involvement in the Indochina wars. For that matter, if one event can be said to have been the single defining moment for the entire Vietnamese struggle for national unity and independence, Tet is that event. But why? The following articles begin the search for that answer.

In composing such a work, the editors must have the support of many people. In this case, we wish to express our appreciation to all the authors for their patience during the editorial process, and to David Palmer for his yeoman service as Production Editor. We would also like to express our gratitude to Professor Harry Basehart of Salisbury State University, Maryland, who began the process of collecting the papers which make up much of this anthology, and to Randee Head for her assistance in preparing the . . .

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