The Tet Offensive

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

8
The Tet Offensive and Middletown: A Study in Contradiction

Anthony Edmonds

Although much controversy still swirls around the Tet Offensive, most observers seem to agree on one broad proposition: Tet was probably instrumental in causing a major reassessment of U.S. policy, given the official perception that the offensive had caused a shift in public opinion. In other words, Tet helped push the American public toward a deepening pessimism about the war and America's role in it; this pessimism, then, was instrumental in causing an alteration in U.S. policy.

The journalist Don Oberdorfer, in his early and still valuable account of the offensive, argues that Tet "was a pivotal event, one of the great turning points of our day."1 He emphasizes Tet's "powerful impact on American public attitudes and governmental decision-making" and concludes that "the American people and most of their leaders reached the conclusion that the Vietnam War would require greater effort over a far longer period of time than it was worth."2

Writing two decades later, James Olson and Randy Roberts make the same point in their superb textbook, Where the Domino Fell: "Tet was an overwhelming strategic victory for the Communists. . . . Americans were no longer in the mood for more talk about victories."3 For Olson and Roberts, Art Buchwald's column entitled "We Have the Enemy on the Run, Says General Custer" aptly symbolizes the public's Tet-induced pessimism about the war.4

Finally, the most recent specialized scholarly account of Tet, James Wirtz' masterful The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War, echoes the views of Oberdorfer and Olson and Roberts. Wirtz proclaims at the outset that

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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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