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By Wes Eubanks
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | The Tet Offensive was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War, launched on Jan. 30, 1968, by forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam against the forces of the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States Armed Forces, and their allies. It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The name of the offensive comes from the Tết holiday, the Vietnamese New Year, when the first major attacks took place.
The Communist logistical build-up began in mid-year, and by January 1968, 81,000 tons of supplies and 200,000 troops, including seven complete infantry regiments and 20 independent battalions made the trip south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This logistical effort also involved re-arming the Viet Cong with new AK-47 assault rifles and B-40 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which granted them superior firepower over their less well-armed ARVN opponents.
South Vietnamese and U.S. military intelligence estimated that North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam during January 1968 totaled 323,000 men, including 130,000 North Vietnamese regulars, 160,000 Viet Cong and members of the infrastructure, and 33,000 service and support troops. They were organized into nine divisions composed of 35 infantry and 20 artillery or anti-aircraft artillery regiments, which were, in turn, composed of 230 infantry and six sapper battalions.
When the main North Vietnamese operation began the offensive was countrywide and well-coordinated, eventually more than 80,000 North Vietnamese troops striking more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals. The offensive was the largest military operation conducted by either side up to that point in the war.
Though initial attacks stunned both the US and South Vietnamese armies, causing them to temporarily lose control of several cities, they quickly regrouped, beat back the attacks, and inflicted heavy casualties on North Vietnamese forces. During the Battle of Huế, intense fighting lasted for a month. During their occupation the North Vietnamese executed thousands of people in the Massacre at Huế. Around the U.S. combat base at Khe Sanh fighting continued for two more months. Although the offensive was a military defeat for North Vietnam, it had a profound effect on the U.S. government and shocked the American public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the North Vietnamese were being defeated and incapable of launching such an ambitious military operation, whereupon the U.S. public support for the war declined and the U.S. sought negotiations to end the war. Allied forces lost: 9,078 killed, 35,212 wounded.
We remember these men, and salute them.