Giap and Tet Mau Than 1968: The Year of the Monkey
Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap has long been credited as the major architect and proponent of Tet 1968, the most famous attack during the long years of America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Some still maintain this view. Giap's most recent biographer, Peter MacDonald, describes Giap as determined to "take the battle into the South in unprecedented force. To this end in October 1967 the Politburo in Hanoi had agreed in principle to his winter/spring campaign, part of which involved a widespread attack in the South at the time of the Tet festivities that on January 30, 1968 would inaugurate the Year of the Monkey."1
The irony, misunderstood by MacDonald and so many others, was that, for as long as possible, Giap stood in systematic opposition to this offensive, repeatedly clashed with his opponents over this issue, and only reluctantly carried out orders to plan an attack. Giap's objections to what came to be known as the Tet Offensive and his struggles with colleagues over its form and content were rooted in disagreements within the northern Politburo between Giap and his powerful rivals that date back to the founding of the Viet Minh. Although Western writers tend to view Giap and his associates as monolithic in their views, willing myrmidons to the whims of Ho Chi Minh, leading members of the northern Politburo argued long, often, and sometimes bitterly over the course of action they should follow. They did so over Tet with great ferocity and fateful results.
Janos Radvanyi, a Hungarian diplomat, visited Hanoi in April 1959. During his stay he met with Giap, who told him how thoroughly the battle at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 had exhausted the North. It was "the last desperate exertion of the Viet Minh army" and the country itself. The military was on the verge of complete disintegration. "The supply of rice was run-