The Vietnam War: A Concise International History

By Mark Atwood Lawrence | Go to book overview

6
THE TET OFFENSIVE

“NORTHERNERS, SOUTHERNERS FACING THE Americans, advance! Victory is ours!” So declared Ho Chi Minh in a short poem he published in early 1968 to mark Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year.1 Communist leaders chose the holiday to launch a massive offensive throughout South Vietnam aimed at inspiring a general uprising to overthrow the Saigon government and bring the NLF to power. Just after the start of festivities, roughly eighty-four thousand troops launched surprise attacks against hundreds of cities and villages from the seventeenth parallel to the Mekong Delta. Most remarkably, a squad of NLF commandos briefly penetrated the U.S. embassy compound in Saigon, the symbolic epicenter of American power in the country.

Yet within days, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had beaten back the onslaught almost everywhere. Some Americans contended, in fact, that the attacks had resulted in a major U.S. victory—a claim repeated by many commentators since 1968. A more accurate appraisal came from CBS newsman Walter Gronkite, who glumly asserted a month after the offensive began that the United States was “mired in stalemate.”2 Neither the communist attack nor the U.S.-South Vietnamese counterattack did

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The Vietnam War: A Concise International History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Road to Revolution 7
  • 2 - Colon Ialism and Cold War 27
  • 3 - An Anguished Peace 47
  • 4 - Escalation 67
  • 5 - War on Many Fronts 91
  • 6 - The Tet Offensive 115
  • 7 - Ending the American War 137
  • 8 - Wars Unending 161
  • Notes 187
  • Index 205
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