The Tet Offensive

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

13
President Johnson and the Decision to Curtail Rolling Thunder

Mark Jacobsen

Within two months of Tet, President Johnson ended the bombing of North Vietnam north of the twentieth parallel. His decision neither ended Rolling Thunder (the bombing of North Vietnam) nor reduced the weight of the air war in Southeast Asia. But, combined with his public decision not to run for reelection and his private decision not to send reinforcements to General Westmoreland, the decision on the bombing marked a watershed.

To some extent the well-known story of how Johnson decided against reinforcing Westmoreland and the decision to stop bombing North Vietnam above the twentieth parallel are one and the same. At the strategic and operational levels, however, the two decisions differed. The choice not to send reinforcements was conditioned by lack of American resources, military and financial. The separate but related choice to stop the bombing north of the twentieth parallel represented less of a departure in policy, because LBJ had already publicly offered to stop bombing North Vietnam. The previous September, President Johnson had declared in a speech at San Antonio that

The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed North Vietnam will not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.1

Having by this time chosen to mount the go-for-broke Tet Offensive, North Vietnam did not respond. As Tet wound down in March 1968, the president found himself, however, in a political box from which a curtailment

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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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