Tet offensive Essay

This essay has a total of 1320 words and 6 pages.

Tet offensive

The Tet offensive was certainly the decisive campaign of the war, but lost in these set of
battles was the real underlying reason why the grossly underestimated NLF and North
Vietnamese army could actually succeed in this undermanned set of attacks. I think the
real success of this campaign was not the effectiveness and the planning of the NLF and NV
army, but the lack of preparation of the US forces. The NLF and NV army have received too
much credit on this suicide mission. The credit should actually be on the blundering
groundwork of the US and how they did not realize, from Vietnamese history, the vicious
repercussions of backing the strong people of Vietnam into a corner.

Ignorance is perhaps the single most effective way to lose a war (perhaps demonstrated in
our own revolutionary war). A quick glance into the history of Vietnam and one would know
that this enemy is not to be taken lightly. They have faced amazing odds and great
opposition throughout their history, defeating countries like China (on multiple
occasions), France, and numerous other Indonesian countries. War is etched in many, if
not most of the pages in Vietnam?s history.

In early 1968, General Westmoreland perceived the end of the war to be arriving soon, and
the US walking out the victor. He stated that, ?The friendly picture gives rise to
optimism for increased successes in 1968? (Gettleman 1995, 339). That was perhaps the
summation of why the US lost the Vietnam War. One might question, however, if the US
really just ignored the Vietnamese or the Tet offensive was a superior operation with
flawless execution. The execution was far from flawless. The NLF-NV army had to be well
equipped to make this attack effective. Supplies for 84,000 troops could not be moved
into major cities without notice. On quite a few occasions munitions and rations were
found in cargo containers. These hints of an operation were ignored by the US. General
Westmoreland thought that the opposing army was almost completely wiped out and could not
mount an offensive of that magnitude. While he perceived the opposing army to be fleeing
north and proceeded to attack closer and closer to the North Vietnamese boarder; the
Vietnamese were actually moving south in preparation for the offensive (Gettleman 1995,

The citizens of Vietnam also played a role in the success of the Tet Offensive. The US
was not kind toward the Vietnamese (even the southerners). In fear of North Vietnamese
agents in the South populace the US troops were very cruel to the citizens and even burnt
many of their villages. The US also moved many of the rural populace into urban areas,
over crowding the cities and providing a greater mask for the NLF-NV army to establish
themselves in these regions. Also, with the Tet holiday around the corner many of the
people who were not being forced into the cities were coming to visit family. It was not
only the over population, however, that made it easier for the NLF-NV army to move into
the cities. The US constantly mistreating the Vietnamese populace created resentment in
the people and probably fashioned many more individuals who helped the communist army
infiltrate into the municipality. Most of the people?s attention, however, was not on the
war (which they were so accustomed to), but on the coming holiday. Even the police were
affected by the holiday. They captured a few of the enemy?s crates, but failed to detect
(at least according to General Westmoreland) ?the magnitude of the enemy?s effort?
(Gettleman 1995, 346).

Though the US and General Westmoreland?s ignorance could be perhaps a major reason for the
success of the Tet offensive it is not the only one. There are many more minor reasons
that culminated into a greater explanation then the US blunder. The day of the Tet
offensive HALF the ARVN army was on leave for the holiday. This many troops being absent
from the protective forces in the cities made the capture of these urban centers much
easier than trying to take them on any other day of the year. Also, one must consider the
geography of Vietnam. The two hundred mile boarder gave easy access for armies and
munitions to be moved efficiently into the countryside. While General Westmoreland
perceived that he controlled the enemy?s major base near Saigon, along the Cambodian
boarder the enemy was establishing many more bases and collecting tons of munitions which
he was moving easily into South Vietnam along this massive boarder (Gettleman 1995, 345).
Because of this Cambodia became a major factor in the war. Although, they were neutral
and did not interfere for the most part, allowing North Vietnamese usage of the now famous
Ho Chi Minh trail was perhaps one of the greatest assets in the war. It made a small ten
to twenty mile boarder of the North to the South a two hundred mile open field for Ho Chi
Minh to use in his attack.
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