War and Conflict

Vietnam War

What was the Tet Offensive?

The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the Vietnam War (1954–75). The assault began during Tet, a festival of the lunar new year, on January 30, 1968. Though a truce had been called for the holiday, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong issued a series of attacks on dozens of South Vietnamese cities, including the capital of Saigon, as well as military and air installations. American troops and the South Vietnamese struggled to regain control of the cities, in one case destroying a village (Ben Tre) in order to “save it” from the enemy. Fighting continued into February. Though the Communist North ultimately failed in its objective to hold any of the cities, the offensive was critical in the outcome of the war: As images of the fighting and destruction filled print and television media, Americans saw that the war was far from over, despite pre-Tet reports of progress in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive strengthened the public opinion that the war could not be won. It altered the course of the American war effort, with President Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973) scaling back U.S. commitment to defend South Vietnam.


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