The Tet Offensive

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

Vietnam War revisionists who believed that America had lost in Vietnam "because its warriors had been undermined at home." To Buzzanco, Bush's words do not constitute good history; they merely demonstrate that "control over the historical memory of Vietnam had become a foreign policy strategy as well, for, as George Orwell had warned, those who define the past can control the present and thus the future." To Buzzanco, "The legacy of Vietnam is so much more complex than the revisionists would have Americans believe."

One of the most popular of all Asian parables concerns the three blind men who, when led to touch a specific portion of an elephant's anatomy, described the whole animal in relation only to that which they knew: the man who grasped the trunk thought the beast was a type of snake, the man who grasped the tail thought it was a kind of rat, and the man who grasped the leg thought his arms encompassed a tree trunk. Unfortunately, many of the most knowledgeable teachers and most devoted students of the Vietnam War regard the Tet Offensive much as the blind men regarded the elephant of the ancient parable. So central is their interpretation of Tet to their vision of the entire war that they are unable to consider that the Tet Offensive may possess at least some of the characteristics of their competing visions or, perhaps, be another kind of animal altogether. Some scholars are so concerned with this development that they urge us to regard Tet not as a beacon illuminating the war, but as merely a dimly seen and elusive point of light.3 The problem, however, is not a want or excess of light, but an intellectual malaise that acts as a blinder limiting our range of vision. The authors' contributions to this volume are among the very first analyses 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, when conducted without such blinders, the debate surrounding the Tet Offensive can illuminate and improve our understanding of historical patterns and political and military policies that have shaped much of the recent past and may well help shape the future.


NOTES
1.
See Peter Breastrup, ed., Vietnam as History ( Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1984); Philip B. Davidson, Vietnam at War, the History: 1946- 1975 ( New York: Oxford, 1984); Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam ( New York: Oxford, 1978); Bruce Palmer, The Twenty-Five Year War ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985); Harry G. Summers, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1982); and General William Westmoreland , A Soldier Reports ( New York: Doubleday, 1976).
2.
See Eric Bergerud, The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991); David W. P. Elliot "Hanoi's Strategy in the Second Indochina War"

-15-

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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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