My Recollections of the Tet Offensive
Ambassador Bui Diem
Time flies! The Vietnam War ended almost twenty years ago, the Tet attacks occurred twenty-eight years ago, and here I am, looking back at what happened then. I am, along with so many others, still trying to learn more about that war and the momentous event known as the Tet Offensive. In the process I hope something useful for the future may come out of this effort.
During the past few years, I have had the opportunity to participate in many seminars and conferences on the Vietnam War. I am convinced that with more facts, more research, more perspectives from each of us, historian, scholar, researcher or writer, all of us now have a better understanding of the many "whys" and "hows" of the war. But, as all of us know, facts are not all that count. In politics, quite often perceptions count more than facts and contribute in no small part to the making of history. The Vietnam War is not an exception in this respect, and the Tet attacks of 1968 are a perfect illustration of this particular fact of life. My brief chapter is about this special aspect of the war.
In 1968, during these critical days, I was a Vietnamese who happened, due to the circumstances of his professional career, to be an eyewitness to the actions and reactions of American leaders in Washington and Vietnamese leaders and citizens in Saigon. As such I would simply like to offer the reader some of my personal recollections on this episode of the war. I sincerely hope that, in some way, my memories will contribute to our quest for wisdom that, according to Henry Kissinger, "America owes to itself if Vietnam is to leave any useful legacy."1
This chapter is divided into three parts. First I will try to present briefly some facts about Tet I consider irrefutable, given the many books and