- Term Papers and Free Essays

The Tet Offensive

Essay by   •  August 22, 2010  •  1,472 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,524 Views

Essay Preview: The Tet Offensive

Report this essay
Page 1 of 6

The Tet Offensive was unquestionably the biggest occurrence of the Vietnam War. While the military success of the Viet Cong in mounting a sustained revolt in cities across South Vietnam was virtually non-existent, the psychological impact it had on the American public was quite simply phenomenal. This effect was partially due to the reporting of the war by the media. To completely understand the impacts of Tet, we must first understand the goals of Tet. The execution of Tet was a failure on the battlefield; however, it proved to be an astounding success on college campuses across America.

The main objectives of the Tet Offensive of 1968 were to mount numerous uprisings in cities that were supposedly secure. The cities focused on in Tet were Saigon, Hue, and Danang. The idea originally came about around 1966. The reason being was that General Westmoreland's continuous pressure constantly harried the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong (Ford 33). The US armed forces were depriving their Vietnamese aggressors of what they needed most, time to plan. Around this time General Nguyen Chi Thanh was being reprimanded for his failures in using large-scale unit operations against the devastating firepower of US forces. Basically, if Thanh continued the war under these circumstances he would have no army to continue the revolution. The decision from Hanoi was that their only hope was to use a Protracted War Strategy and outlast the Americans (Ford 33). In 1967 Thanh died and was replaced by General Giap. This gave the decision makers in Hanoi a solution to their problem of adopting a sound strategy. It wasn't hard to make a decision, they decided on fighting a long and drawn out guerilla war. Hanoi also expanded the debate to consider the views of others (Ford 34). Psychology was a factor in this war, the leaders in North Vietnam made sure of it. They realized that Vietnam was a political war for America. In fact, it was not uncommon for the North Vietnamese leaders to tune in to American broadcasts to see how the media handled the war.

On January 30th, 1968 the Tet Offensive came into being. Nineteen Vietnamese sappers blew a hole in the eight-foot wall surrounding the US embassy in Saigon. Initially the dozen military police and Marine Corps guards were taken by surprise, by dawn the wall was secure and all nineteen sappers were dead. But, because of confusion and haste, the first reports made it seem that the foe had succeeded, not failed, in seizing his objective: the embassy chancery (Braestrup 75). Many reporters were too willing or eager to believe the worst stories. Fueling the turn in support of the war was the 13-hour time lag between Vietnam and New York City and Washington, D.C. This made it very difficult for the network news producers to report on the situation. There was no available footage, and news anchors sometimes had to read the reports coming off of the wire services. The only media sources that were not under pressure for deadlines were weekly magazines, although they did not submit all their stories until the last possible moment. The combined effects of confusion and reporting of unverified news led to many Americans thinking that Vietnam was now impossible to win. Tet contradicted every claim of progress made by President Johnson. Needless to say the morale of society at home was in a state of decay.

The damage done by the media with their shoot from the hip, first draft is the last draft style was enough to counter any possibility of regaining the trust of the American people after Tet. When footage was transmitted back to the states it did not paint a pretty picture. It did show the savages of war. Americans were not ready to see their sons die on the 7 o'clock news broadcast. Vietnam was a war unlike any other war the United States had been involved in before. There wasn't a clear face for the enemy to have as opposed to World War II in which you could be shown a picture of Hitler, Mussolini, or to lesser extents Hirohito and realize that is the bad guy. There was also no real distinction between civilians and soldiers. A majority of the fighting during the war took place away from urban areas, in small villages and hamlets were the residents were sometimes Viet Cong guerillas. The only real way to pick out the enemy combatants in Vietnam was to look for their weapon. Even so, the usual non-combatants (women and children) were quite frequently combatants or in worse cases weapons. It was not unusual for the children to be booby-trapped and approach a group of soldiers to kill them. The manner in which this war was fought was not good. Not only were the armed forces fighting the war with one armed tied behind their back, but also they often had a hard time knowing who was the enemy. The fight was never brought to the enemy. The only action that took place in North Vietnam was bombing, and even then it was the bombing of targets picked for political reasons, not strategic reasons. It is reasonable to think that if the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force were given free reign to fight



Download as:   txt (8 Kb)   pdf (105 Kb)   docx (11.8 Kb)  
Continue for 5 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 08). The Tet Offensive. Retrieved 08, 2010, from

"The Tet Offensive" 08 2010. 2010. 08 2010 <>.

"The Tet Offensive.", 08 2010. Web. 08 2010. <>.

"The Tet Offensive." 08, 2010. Accessed 08, 2010.