Tet Offensive

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Kunal Biswas, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Tet Offensive
    The Tet Offensive was a military campaign during the Vietnam War that began on January 31, 1968. Regular and irregular forces of the People's Army of Vietnam fought against the forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the United States, and their allies.

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    The operations are referred to as the Tet Offensive because they began during the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, Tết Nguyên Đán, the first day of the year on a traditional lunar calendar and the most important Vietnamese holiday. Both North and South Vietnam announced on national radio broadcasts that there would be a two-day cease-fire during the holiday. In Vietnamese, the offensive is called Cuộc Tổng tiến công và nổi dậy ("General Offensive and Uprising"), or Tết Mậu Thân (Tet, year of the monkey).

    The NLF launched a wave of attacks on the morning of 31 January in the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack did not, however, cause undue alarm or lead to widespread defensive measures. When the main NLF operation began the next morning, the offensive was countrywide in scope and well coordinated, with more than 80,000 communist troops striking more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns, and the southern capital. The offensive was the largest military operation yet conducted by either side up to that point in the war.

    The initial attacks stunned the US and South Vietnamese armies and took them by surprise, but most were quickly contained and beaten back, inflicting massive casualties on communist forces. During the Battle of Hue intense fighting lasted for a month and the NLF executed thousands of residents in the Massacre at Huế. Around the US combat base at Khe Sanh fighting continued for two more months. Although the offensive was a military defeat for the communists, it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the US public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were, due to previous defeats, incapable of launching such a massive effort.

    The term "Tet offensive" usually refers to the January-February 1968 NLF offensive, but it can also include the so-called "mini-Tet" offensives that took place in May and August.

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    According to General Trần Văn Trà, the new military head of COSVN, the offensive was to have three distinct phases: Phase I, scheduled to begin on 31 January, was to be a country-wide assault on the cities conducted primarily by Vietcong forces. Concurrently, a propaganda offensive to induce ARVN troops to desert and the South Vietnamese population to rise up against the government would be launched. If outright victory was not achieved, the battle might still lead to the creation of a coalition government and the withdrawal of the Americans. If the general offensive failed to achieve these purposes, followup operations would be conducted to wear down the enemy and lead to a negotiated settlement; Phase II was scheduled to begin on 5 May; and Phase III on 17 August.[51]

    Preparations for the offensive were already underway. The 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.[52] 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. To pave the way and to confuse the allies as to its intentions, Hanoi launched a diplomatic offensive. Foreign Minister Trinh announced on 30 December that Hanoi would rather than could open negotiations if the U.S. unconditionally ended Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam.[53] This announcement provoked a flurry of diplomatic activity (which amounted to nothing) during the last weeks of the year.

    South Vietnamese and U.S. military intelligence estimated that communist 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.

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  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Allied unpreparedness

    Signs of impending communist action did not go unnoticed among the allied intelligence collection apparatus in Saigon. During the late summer and fall of 1967 both South Vietnamese and U.S. intelligence agencies collected clues that indicated a significant shift in communist strategic planning. By mid-December, mounting evidence convinced many in Washington and Saigon that something big was underway. During the last three months of the year intelligence agencies had observed signs of a major communist military buildup. In addition to captured documents (a copy of Resolution 13, for example, was captured by early October), observations of enemy logistical operations were also quite clear: in October the number of trucks observed heading south through Laos on the Hồ Chí Minh Trail jumped from the previous monthly average of 480 to 1,116. By November this total reached 3,823 and, in December, 6,315.[55] On 20 December Westmoreland cabled Washington that he expected the communists "to undertake an intensified countrywide effort, perhaps a maximum effort, over a relatively short period of time."

    Diversions

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    On 27 October, an ARVN battalion at Song Be, the capital of Phuoc Long Province, came under attack by an entire North Vietnamese regiment. Two days later, another North Vietnamese Regiment attacked a U.S. Special Forces border outpost at Loc Ninh, in Binh Long Province.This attack sparked a ten-day battle that drew in elements of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the ARVN 18th Division and left 800 North Vietnamese troops dead at its conclusion. The most severe of what came to be known as "the Border Battles" erupted during October and November around Dak To, another border outpost in Kontum Province. The clashes there between the four regiments of the 1st North Vietnamese Division, the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade, and ARVN infantry and Airborne elements, lasted for 22 days. By the time the fighting was over, between 1,200 and 1,600 North Vietnamese and 262 U.S. troops had lost their lives

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    Before the storm

    By the beginning of January 1968, the U.S had deployed 331,098 Army personnel and 78,013 Marines in nine divisions, an armoured cavalry regiment, and two separate brigades to South Vietnam. They were joined there by the 1st Australian Task Force, a Royal Thai Army regiment, two South Korean infantry divisions, and a Republic of Korea Marine Corps brigade. South Vietnamese strength totaled 350,000 regulars in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.[68] They were in turn supported by the 151,000-man South Vietnamese Regional Forces and 149,000-man South Vietnamese Popular Forces, which were the equivalent of regional and local militias..
     
  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Offensive

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    Whether by accident or design, the first wave of attacks began shortly after midnight on 30 January as all five provincial capitals in II Corps and Da Nang, in I Corps, were attacked.[76] Nha Trang, headquarters of the U.S. I Field Force, was the first to be hit, followed shortly by Ban Me Thuot, Kontum, Hoi An, Tuy Hoa, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, and Pleiku. During all of these operations, the communists followed a similar pattern: mortar or rocket attacks were closely followed by massed ground assaults conducted by battalion-strength elements of the Viet Cong, sometimes supported by North Vietnamese regulars. These forces would join with local cadres who served as guides to lead the regulars to the most senior South Vietnamese headquarters and the radio station. The operations, however, were not well coordinated at the local level. By daylight, almost all communist forces had been driven from their objectives. General Phillip B. Davidson, the new MACV chief of intelligence, notified Westmoreland that "This is going to happen in the rest of the country tonight and tomorrow morning."[77] All U.S. forces were placed on maximum alert and similar orders were issued to all ARVN units. The allies, however, still responded without any real sense of urgency. Orders cancelling leaves either came too late or were disregarded.[78]

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    At 03:00 on the morning of 31 January communist forces assailed Saigon, Cholon, and Gia Dinh in the Capital Military District; Quảng Trị (again), Huế, Quang Tin, Tam Kỳ, and Quảng Ngãi as well as U.S. bases at Phú Bài and Chu Lai in I Corps; Phan Thiết, Tuy Hòa, and U.S. installations at Bong Son and An Khê in II Corps; and Cần Thơ and Vinh Long in IV Corps. The following day, Biên Hòa, Long Thanh, Bình Dương in III Corps and Kien Hoa, Dinh Tuong, Go Cong, Kien Giang, Vinh Binh, Bến Tre, and Kien Tuong in IV Corps were assaulted. The last attack of the initial operation was launched against Bac Lieu in IV Corps on 10 February. A total of approximately 84,000 communist troops participated in the attacks while thousands of others stood by to act as reinforcements or as blocking forces.[79] Communist forces also mortared or rocketed every major allied airfield and attacked 64 district capitals and scores of smaller towns.

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    In most cases the defense against the communists was a South Vietnamese affair. Local militia or ARVN forces, supported by the National Police, usually drove the attackers out within two or three days, sometimes within hours; but heavy fighting continued several days longer in Kontum, Buôn Ma Thuột, Phan Thiết, Cần Thơ, and Bến Tre.[80] The outcome in each instance was usually dictated by the ability of local commanders—some were outstanding, others were cowardly or incompetent. During this crucial crisis, however, no South Vietnamese unit broke or defected to the communists

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    According to Westmoreland, he responded to the news of the attacks with optimism, both in media presentations and in his reports to Washington. According to closer observers, however, the general was "stunned that the communists had been able to coordinate so many attacks in such secrecy" and he was "dispirited and deeply shaken."[82] According to Clark Clifford, at the time of the initial attacks, the reaction of the U.S. military leadership "approached panic".[83] Although Westmoreland's appraisal of the military situation was correct, he made himself look foolish by continuously maintaining his belief that Khe Sanh was the real objective of the communists and that 155 attacks by 84,000 troops was a diversion (a position he maintained until at least 12 February).[84] Washington Post reporter Peter Braestrup summed up the feelings of his colleagues by asking "How could any effort against Saigon, especially downtown Saigon, be a diversion?
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    A very readable account and a good find.

    What is the analysis?

    Any links?
     
  6. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Saigon

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    Although Saigon was the focal point of the offensive, the communists did not seek a total takeover of the city.[86] Rather, they had six primary targets to strike in the downtown area: the headquarters of the ARVN General Staff at Tan Son Nhut Air Base; the Independence Palace, the US Embassy, Saigon, the Long Binh Naval Headquarters, and the National Radio Station.[87] These objectives were all assaulted by small elements of the local C-10 Sapper Battalion.[87] Elsewhere in the city or its outskirts, ten Viet Cong Local Force Battalions attacked the central police station and the Artillery Command and the Armored Command headquarters (both at Go Vap). The plan called for all these initial forces to capture and hold their positions for 48 hours, by which time reinforcements were to have arrived to relieve them.

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    The defense of the Capital Military Zone was primarily a South Vietnamese responsibility and it was initially defended by eight ARVN infantry battalions and the local police force. By 3 February they had been reinforced by five ARVN Ranger Battalions, five Marine Corps, and five ARVN Airborne Battalions. U.S. Army units participating in the defense included the 716th Military Police Battalion, seven infantry battalions (one mechanized), and six artillery battalions.

    The US Embassy, Saigon, a massive six-floor building situated within a four acre compound, had only been completed in September. At 02:45 it was attacked by a 19-man sapper team that blew a hole in the 8-foot-high (2.4 m) surrounding wall and charged through. With their officers killed in the initial attack and their attempt to gain access to the building having failed, the sappers simply occupied the chancery grounds until they were all killed or captured by US reinforcements that were landed on the roof of the building six hours later. By 09:20 the embassy and grounds were secured, with the loss of five US personnel..

    Throughout the city, small squads of Viet Cong fanned out to attack various officers and enlisted men's billets, homes of ARVN officers, and district police stations. Provided with "blacklists" of military officers and civil servants, they began to round up and execute any that could be found.[92] On 1 February General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, chief of the National Police, publicly executed Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem captured in civilian clothing in front of a photographer and film cameraman.What was not explained in the wake of the distribution of the captured images was that the suspect had allegedly just taken part in the killing of one of Loan's most trusted officers and his family.

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    Outside the city proper, two Viet Cong battalions attacked the U.S. logistical and headquarters complex at Long Binh. Biên Hòa Air Base was struck by a battalion, while the adjacent ARVN III Corps headquarters was the objective of another. Tan Son Nhut Air Base, in the northwestern part of the city, was attacked by three battalions.[94] Fortunately for the allies, a combat-ready battalion of ARVN paratroopers, awaiting transport to Da Nang, went instead directly into action and halted the attack.[95] A total of 35 communist battalions, many of whose troops were undercover cadres who had lived and worked within the capital or its environs for years, had been committed to the Saigon objectives.[87] By dawn, most of the attacks within the city center had been eliminated, but severe fighting between Viet Cong and allied forces erupted in the Chinese neighborhood of Cholon around the Phu Tho racetrack, southwest of the city center, which was being utilized as a staging area and command and control center by the communists.[96] Bitter and destructive house-to-house fighting erupted in the area and, on 4 February, the residents were ordered to leave their homes and the area was declared a free fire zone. Fighting in the city came to a close only after a fierce battle between the ARVN Rangers and Viet Cong forces on 7 March.

    Except at Huế and mopping-up operations in and around Saigon, the first surge of the offensive was over by the second week of February. The U.S. estimated that during the first phase (30 January – 8 April), approximately 45,000 communist soldiers were killed and an unknown number were wounded. For years this figure was held as excessive, but it was confirmed by Stanley Karnow in Hanoi in 1981. Westmoreland claimed that during the same period 32,000 communist troops were killed and another 5,800 captured. The South Vietnamese suffered 2,788 killed, 8,299 wounded, and 587 missing in action. U.S. and other allied forces suffered 1,536 killed, 7,764 wounded, and 11 missing.




    Wiki, Sir..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet_offensive
     
  7. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.ushistory.org/us/55c.asp

    The Tet Offensive

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    During the Buddhist holiday of Tet, over 80,000 Vietcong troops emerged from their tunnels and attacked nearly every major metropolitan center in South Vietnam. Surprise strikes were made at the American base at Danang, and even the seemingly impenetrable American embassy in Saigon was attacked.

    During the weeks that followed, the South Vietnamese army and U.S. ground forces recaptured all of the lost territory, inflicting twice as many casualties on the Vietcong as suffered by the Americans.

    The showdown was a military victory for the United States, but American morale suffered an insurmountable blow.
    Doves Outnumber Hawks

    When Operation Rolling Thunder began in 1965, only 15 percent of the American public opposed the war effort in Vietnam. As late as January 1968, only a few weeks before Tet, only 28 percent of the American public labeled themselves "doves." But by April 1968, six weeks after the Tet Offensive, "doves" outnumbered "hawks" 42 to 41 percent.

    Only 28% of the American people were satisfied with President Johnson's handling of the war. The Tet Offensive convinced many Americans that government statements about the war being nearly over were false. After three years of intense bombing, billions of dollars and 500,000 troops, the VC proved themselves capable of attacking anywhere they chose. The message was simple: this war was not almost over. The end was nowhere in sight.
    Sagging U.S. Troop Morale

    Declining public support brought declining troop morale. Many soldiers questioned the wisdom of American involvement. Soldiers indulged in alcohol, marijuana, and even heroin to escape their daily horrors. Incidents of "fragging," or the murder of officers by their own troops increased in the years that followed Tet. Soldiers who completed their yearlong tour of duty often found hostile receptions upon returning to the states.
    General William Westmoreland
    Following the Tet Offensive, General William Westmoreland called for an additional 200,000 troops to help break the resolve of the Vietcong. But President Lyndon B. Johnson's rejection of the proposal showed that America's commitment to the war in Vietnam was waning.

    After Tet, General Westmoreland requested an additional 200,000 troops to put added pressure on the Vietcong. His request was denied. President Johnson knew that activating that many reserves, bringing the total American commitment to nearly three quarters of a million soldiers was not politically tenable.

    The North Vietnamese sensed the crumbling of American resolve. They knew that the longer the war raged, the more antiwar sentiment in America would grow. They gambled that the American people would demand troop withdrawals before the military met its objectives.

    For the next five years they pretended to negotiate with United States, making proposals they knew would be rejected. With each passing day, the number of "hawks" in America decreased. Only a small percentage of Americans objected to the war on moral grounds, but a growing majority saw the war as an effort whose price of victory was way too high.
     
  8. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/escalating-the-vietnam-war-the-tet-offensives-of-1.html

    Escalating the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensives of 1968



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    The Tet holiday is revered in Vietnamese society as a series of days to visit with and enjoy family and friends. It has also been a time of great victories over previous foreign invaders in Vietnam. Almost every year during the war, a Tet cease-fire was called and broken. So what made the Tet of 1968 so different? First was the extent of the attack. Most people in South Vietnam expected something to happen, but few expected the massive and coordinated NVA/VC (North Vietnamese Army/Viet Cong) assaults that took place.

    On January 31, 1968, more than 80,000 NVA/VC soldiers launched the Tet Offensives and simultaneously attacked more than 150 hamlets, district capitals, provincial capitals, and autonomous cities. They attacked Saigon and the old Imperial capital at Hue. While they attacked throughout the country, the NVA/VC hoped and expected that the people of South Vietnam would rise up and join them in overthrowing the government of South Vietnam along with (in their words) their puppet-masters, the Americans. The uprising never happened, leaving the NVA/VC at the mercy of superior American and ARVN (South Vietnamese army) firepower and mobility.
    Fighting in the streets: The battle for Saigon

    The fighting in Saigon was intense because the NVA/VC concentrated a significant force there in the hope of capturing the city and ending the war. The American Embassy even came under serious threat when a group of VC soldiers attacked the compound. VC Sappers (personnel who infiltrated the defensive perimeter and threw explosives into bunkers or buildings) killed U.S. Marines and MPs guarding the embassy, but the VC couldn't hold up against the American reinforcements sent in to secure the facility and were eventually all killed. Although the NVA/VC enjoyed some initial successes in Saigon and elsewhere, U.S. and ARVN forces quickly rallied and began turning them back until the hoped-for general uprising turned into a devastating defeat. As more American and ARVN forces entered Saigon and counterattacked, they had to engage the remnants of the NVA/VC in house-to-house street fighting. By the first week of February, the ARVN assumed responsibility for the remaining operations to clean up Saigon.
    Searching for a moral victory: The battle for Hue

    The city of Hue is the former Imperial capital of Vietnam, and the fighting there reached an intensity and ferocity not closely matched anywhere else during the Tet fighting. The battle for Hue lasted 25 days and, unlike most of the other city battles, resulted in NVA control over much of the city. The city had been previously off limits to U.S. soldiers, which meant that soldiers were not already in the area, so Americans had to be brought in to help defend the city and help push the NVA out.

    The fighting for Hue lasted until March when elements of the U.S. 1st Cavalry and 101st Airborne Division, 1st and 5th Marine Regiments, and numerous ARVN units finally forced the NVA/VC out of the city. All sides suffered heavy losses. The NVA lost 5,000 soldiers and had nearly 100 captured. The ARVN suffered more then 380 dead with nearly 2,000 wounded. American casualties were 210 died and 1,360 wounded. Hue itself suffered heavy damage as the battles destroyed and damaged nearly half the city.

    The most surprising losses, however, didn't occur among the fighting soldiers or in the razed buildings. Americans and South Vietnamese later discovered that, upon entering the city, NVA/VC leaders rounded up South Vietnamese teachers and government officials and killed them. In what became known as the Hue Massacre, the NVA/VC murdered nearly 3,000 residents of Hue and buried them in a mass grave in the jungle outside the city.

    Unfortunately, such horrific atrocities were not limited to Hue. Two weeks after the battle for Hue ended, U.S. forces committed what has become the most publicized, talked about, and politicized atrocity of the Vietnam War, the My Lai Massacre.
    Laying siege to marines: The Khe Sanh hill fights, part II

    While the fighting in Saigon started and ended rather quickly, the longest battle of the Tet Offensive occurred in the mountains overlooking the HCM Trail near Khe Sanh (see Figure 1). Although the initial hill fights had ended in May of 1967, the NVA/VC hadn't given up hope that they could deliver a devastating blow to the American effort by overrunning and capturing the U.S. base at Khe Sanh. During the intervening months, from May 1967 until January 1968, the NVA/VC built up their forces and supplies and prepared for a massive siege to capture this mountain outpost.

    Figure 1: Khe Sanh.

    The fighting and subsequent siege began on January 21, a little more than a week before the Tet Offensive began. General Vo Nguyen Giap, the North Vietnamese strategist who planned the attack on Khe Sanh and much of the Tet Offensive, hoped, along with the rest of North Vietnam, to accomplish several goals:

    * The NVA wanted to draw American and ARVN forces from the cities in preparation for the Tet Offensive.

    * If a general uprising did occur during Tet, those U.S. and ARVN forces would be forced to redeploy back to the cities in order to repel the many attacks throughout South Vietnam.

    * At Khe Sanh, either the U.S. would have to start withdrawing or the remaining NVA/VC forces would be better able to overrun the base camp absent the American and ARVN reinforcements who would have left to protect the cities during Tet.

    In this way, Giap and other North Vietnamese strategists hoped to repeat at Khe Sanh what they had accomplished at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the decisive battle that defeated the French and effectively ended the French Indochina War. The analogy between the two battles was apparent to Americans and at the outset of the battle for Khe Sanh, Johnson himself is quoted as saying, "I don't want any damn 'Dien Bien Phu!'"

    Fortunately for Johnson, Giap and the North Vietnamese overestimated the likelihood of a general uprising among the South Vietnamese people and underestimated the ability of the U.S. and ARVN forces to deploy and redeploy as necessary to deal with all the threats of Tet and still maintain a strong enough presence at Khe Sanh to protect and outlast the siege.

    The NVA/VC massed 40,000 troops in the hills of Khe Sanh in preparation for the siege and attacks. For their part, the U.S. Marines reinforced the Khe Sanh garrison with more than 5,000 Marines of the 26th Marine Regiment. As the battle and siege continued during January, February, and March, the U.S. and ARVN tried to reinforce the U.S. Marine garrison and brought in massive amounts of artillery, close air, and naval gunfire support. The U.S. Marines also received enough ammunition, food, and other essential materials through aerial resupply to help them outlast the siege.

    During the siege, the NVA bombarded the Marine base with artillery, mortars, and rocket fire and early in the process detonated much of the fuel depot and ammunition dump. They dug trenches and tried at one point to launch a ground assault, but the U.S. Marines repulsed the attacks. In addition to attacks on Khe Sanh, NVA forces also attacked and overran the Special Forces camp at Lang Vei, just south of Khe Sanh.

    The siege of Khe Sanh ended on April 8 after the 1st Cavalry Division reopened Route 9 and made contact with the Marines at Khe Sanh. Both sides suffered significant casualties: U.S. forces lost nearly 300 soldiers, more than 1,400 wounded; estimates show that the NVA lost somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers. By April, the siege of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive officially ended but the aftershocks resonated for months, even years.
    The Tet Offensives of 1968: And the winners are . . .

    Without a doubt, the U.S. and ARVN forces won the various battles involved with the 1968 Tet Offensives and repelled every attack except those on Lang Vei and Kham Duc. The NVA/VC lost more than 45,000 men and had nearly 1,000 captured. But the real surprise of Tet 1968 had nothing to do with the attacks throughout the cities, the siege of Khe Sanh, or even the horrific casualties suffered by soldiers and civilians on all sides.

    What no one foresaw was what became two of the most significant casualties of the Vietnam War:

    * The trust and faith of the American people in their government, also known as the credibility gap, as certain public officials lost their credibility with the American people because it appeared they had been lying about progress in the war.

    * The political and moral will of President Lyndon Johnson to continue fighting in Vietnam. On March 31, Johnson announced a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam north of the 19th parallel, and he told the world that he would not accept the nomination to run for reelection. Johnson no longer wanted to be president of the United States of America.

    This was so important because, until 1968, the majority of Americans supported the war and believed what the U.S. government told them regarding the war. Today, Americans looking back on the events, remark about how they lost faith in the government when Tet 1968 occurred and it appeared the government had been lying to them about progress in the war.

    Johnson's decision not to seek reelection was so important because the will of the American people flowed from and through the president, making him the symbolic embodiment of U.S. national will. When Johnson lost faith and gave up, it became difficult for many Americans to continue supporting a war the president no longer supported. Tet 1968 ultimately proved that the communist strategy of a protracted war designed to drain the will of the American people was a much better approach than was the U.S. strategy of attrition.

    Perhaps the greatest irony of the situation was that the U.S. and ARVN forces succeeded in destroying most of the remaining Viet Cong during Tet. This meant that after Tet, the NVA had to take over nearly all the fighting in South Vietnam. As a result, the U.S. and ARVN forces could put a more concerted effort behind fighting NVA units and building up South Vietnamese political, military, and social institutions. But American attitudes toward the war shifted remarkably after Tet, so the gains that the military netted during Tet 1968 were lost on their long trip across the Pacific to the U.S.
     
  9. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Battle of Huế[

    Battle of Huế

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    The Battle of Huế during 1968, was one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War (1959–1975). The Army of the Republic of Vietnam and three understrength U.S. Marine Corps battalions attacked and defeated more than 10,000 entrenched People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF, also known as, Viet Cong) guerilla forces.

    With the beginning of the Tet Offensive on January 30, 1968, the Vietnamese lunar New Year, large conventional American forces had been committed to combat upon Vietnamese soil for almost three years. Highway One passed through Hué and over the Perfume River (the river ran through the city dividing it into both northern and southern areas) creating an important supply line from the coastal city of Da Nang to the DMZ for the Allied forces. Hué was also a base for United States Navy supply boats. The city, considering its value and its distance from the DMZ (only 50 kilometres (31 mi)), should have been well-defended, fortified, and prepared for any communist attack.

    However, the city had few fortifications and was poorly defended. The South Vietnamese Army and U.S. Army forces were completely unprepared when the North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong failed to observe the promised Tet Truce. Instead, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army launched a massive assault throughout South Vietnam, attacking hundreds of military targets and population centers across the country, among them the city of Hué.

    The North Vietnamese forces rapidly occupied most of the city. Over the next month they were gradually driven out during intense house-to-house fighting led by the Marines. In the end, although the Allies declared a military victory, the city of Hue was virtually destroyed and more than 5000 civilians were killed, most of them executed by the PAVN and Viet Cong. The North Vietnamese forces lost an estimated 2,400 to 8,000 killed, while Allied forces lost 668 killed and 3,707 wounded. The tremendous losses negatively affected the American public's perception of the war and political support for the war began to wane.


    Attack


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    In the early morning hours of January 31, 1968, a division-sized force of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) soldiers launched a coordinated attack on the city of Hué. Their targets were the Tay Loc airfield at 16°28′35″N 107°34′7.8″E / 16.47639°N 107.568833°E / 16.47639; 107.568833 (Tay Loc), the 1st ARVN Division headquarters in the Citadel, and the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) compound in the New City on the south side of the river. Their strategic objective was to "liberate" the entire city to help sweep the Communist insurgents into power.

    At 02:33, a signal flare lit up the night sky and two battalions from the NVA Sixth Regiment attacked the western bank of the fortress-like Citadel on the northern side of the city. Their objective was to capture the Mang Cu Compound, the Tac Loc Airfield, and the Imperial Palace. The NVA Fourth Regiment launched a simultaneous attack on Hué's headquarters of the U.S. MACV Compound in the southern part of Hué. At the Western Gate of the Citadel, a four-man North Vietnamese sapper team, dressed in South Vietnamese Army uniforms, killed the guards and opened the gate. Upon their flashlight signals, lead elements of the 6th NVA entered the old city.

    North Vietnamese regulars poured into the old imperial capital. The 800th and 802nd Battalions pushed through the Western Gate and then drove north. On the Tay Loc airfield, the "Black Panther Company", reinforced by the division's 1st Ordnance Company, stopped the 800th Battalion. Although one battle account stated that the South Vietnamese "offered no strong resistance", the NVA report acknowledged "the heavy enemy ARVN fire enveloped the entire airfield. By dawn, our troops were still unable to advance."

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    The fighting for the airfield continued to seesaw, with first the ARVN having the upper hand and then the Communists, the 802nd Battalion struck the 1st Division headquarters at Mang Ca. Although the enemy battalion penetrated the division compound, an ad hoc 200-man defensive force of staff officers and clerks staved off the enemy assaults. General Truong called back most of his Black Panther Company from the airfield to bolster the headquarters defenses, which kept division headquarters secure.

    At 08:00, North Vietnamese troops raised the red and blue Viet Cong banner with its gold star over the Citadel flag tower. Three United States Marine Corps battalions were protecting the air base at Phu Bai (approximately ten miles southeast of Hué), Highway One and all western entrances to Hué, when there should have been two complete regiments. The Commanding Officer of the Marines in Hué was Colonel Stanley S. Hughes, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who had already been awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star for action in Word War II and was eventually awarded his second Navy Cross for Hue City.

    ARVN reinforcements

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    n the citadel, on February 12 through the 29th (it was a leap year), the embattled General Truong called in reinforcements. He ordered his 3rd Regiment; the 3rd Troop, 7th ARVN Cavalry; and the 1st ARVN Airborne Task Force to relieve the pressure on his Mang Ca headquarters. Responding to the call at PK 17, the ARVN base located near a road marker on Route l, 17 kilometers north of Huế, the 3rd Troop and the 7th Battalion of the Airborne task force rolled out of their base area in an armored convoy onto Route l. A North Vietnamese blocking force stopped the ARVN relief force about 400 meters short of the Citadel wall. Unable to force their way through the enemy positions, the South Vietnamese paratroopers asked for assistance.

    The 2nd ARVN Airborne Battalion reinforced the convoy and the South Vietnamese finally penetrated the lines and entered the Citadel in the early morning hours of the next day. The cost had been heavy: the ARVN suffered 131 casualties including 40 dead, and lost four of the 12 armored personnel carriers in the convoy. According to the South Vietnamese, the enemy also paid a steep price in men and equipment. The ARVN claimed to have killed 250 of the NVA, captured five prisoners, and recovered 71 individual and 25 crew-served weapons.

    The 3rd ARVN Regiment had an even more difficult time. On the 31st, two of its battalions, the 2nd and 3rd, advanced east from encampments southwest of the city along the northern bank of the Perfume River, but North Vietnamese defensive fires forced them to fall back. Unable to enter the Citadel, the two battalions established their night positions outside the southeast wall of the old City. Enemy forces surrounded the 1st and 4th Battalions of the regiment, operating to the southeast, as they attempted to reinforce the units in Huế. Captain Phan Ngoc Luong, the commander of the 1st Battalion, retreated with his unit to the coastal Ba Long outpost, arriving there with only three eight-round clips per man for their World War II vintage M1 Garand rifles. At Ba Long, the battalion then embarked upon motorized junks and reached the Citadel the following day. The 4th Battalion, however, remained unable to break its encirclement for several days.

    South of the city, on January 31, Lieutenant Colonel Phan Hu Chi, the commander of the ARVN 7th Armored Cavalry Squadron attempted to break the enemy stranglehold. He led an armored column toward Huế, but like the other South Vietnamese units, found it impossible to break through. With the promise of U.S. Marine reinforcements, Chi's column, with three tanks in the lead, tried once more. This time they crossed the An Cuu Bridge into the new city. Coming upon the central police headquarters in southern Huế, the tanks attempted to relieve the police defenders. When an enemy B-40 rocket made a direct hit upon Lieutenant Colonel Chi's tank, killing him instantly, the South Vietnamese armor pulled back.

    After this the Marines at Phu Bai were called and the first U.S. Marines to bolster the South Vietnamese in the city were on their way. They were from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, part of Task Force X-Ray.



    U.S. Marines

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    On the night of January 30 – January 31, the same time the North Vietnamese struck Huế, the Marines faced rocket and mortar fire at the Phu Bai airstrip and Communist infantry units hit Marine Combined Action Platoons and local PF and RF units in the region including the Truoi River and Phu Loc sectors. At the key Truoi River Bridge, about 0400 a North Vietnamese company attacked the South Vietnamese bridge security detachment and the nearby Combined Action Platoon H-8. Colonel Hughes ordered Captain G. Ronald Christmas, the Company H commander to relieve the embattled CAP unit. The Marines caught the enemy force beginning to withdraw from the CAP enclave and took it under fire. Seeing an opportunity to trap the North Vietnamese, Cheatham reinforced Company H with his Command Group and Company F.

    With his other companies in blocking positions, Cheatham hoped to catch the enemy against the Truoi River. While inflicting casualties, the events in Huế were to interfere with his plans. At 1030, January 31, Company G departed for Phu Bai as the Task Force reserve. Later that afternoon, the battalion lost operational control of Company F. Captain Downs years later remembered the company "disengaged . .. where we had them pinned up against a river, moved to the river and trucked into Phu Bai." With the departure of Company F about 1630, the NVA successfully disengaged and Companies H and E took up night defensive positions. According to the Marines, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (2/5) killed 18 enemy troops, took 1 prisoner, and recovered sundry equipment and weapons including 6 AK-47s, at a cost of three Marines killed and 13 wounded.

    While the fighting continued in the Truoi River and the Phu Loc sectors, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines had begun to move into Hue city. In the early morning hours of January 31 after the rocket bombardment of the airfield and the initial attack on the Truoi River Bridge, Task Force X-Ray received reports of enemy strikes all along Route l between the Hai Van Pass and Hue. All told, the enemy hit some 18 targets from bridges, Combined Action units, and company defensive positions. With Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as the Phu Bai reserve, Colonel Hughes directed Lieutenant Colonel Gravel to stage the company for any contingency. At 0630, Colonel Hughes ordered the company to reinforce the Truoi River Bridge. All Captain Batcheller recalled several years later was that "we were rousted up about 0400 on the 31st and launched south on trucks to rendezvous with and reinforce ARVN forces about a map sheet and a half south of Phu Bai."

    Up to this point the fighting for Hue had been entirely a South Vietnamese affair. General LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, actually had very little reliable intelligence on the situation. All he knew was that Truong's headquarters had been under attack, as was the MACV compound. Because of enemy mortaring of the LCU ramp in southern Hue, the allies had stopped all river traffic to the city. As LaHue later wrote: "Initial deployment of forces was made with limited information."

    As the Marines approached the southern suburbs of the city, they began to come under increased sniper fire. In one village, the troops dismounted and cleared the houses on either side of the main street before proceeding. The Marine convoy stopped several times to eliminate resistance in heavy house-to-house and street fighting before proceeding again. At about 1515 after bloody fighting the Marines managed to make their way toward the MACV compound. By this time, the enemy attackers had pulled back their forces from the immediate vicinity of the compound. Lieutenant Colonel Gravel met with Army Colonel George O. Adkisson, the U.S. senior advisor to the 1 st ARVN Division.

    Leaving Company A behind to secure the MACV compound, the Marine battalion commander took Company G, reinforced by the three tanks from the 3d Tank Battalion and a few South Vietnamese tanks from the ARVN 7th Armored Squadron, and attempted to cross the main bridge over the Perfume River. Gravel left the armor behind on the southern bank to provide direct fire support. As he remembered, the American M48s were too heavy for the bridge and the South Vietnamese tankers in light M24 tanks "refused to go." As the Marine infantry started across, an enemy machine gun on the other end of the bridge opened up, killing and wounding several Marines. One Marine, Lance Corporal Lester A. Tully, later awarded the Silver Star for his action, ran forward, threw a grenade, and silenced the gun. Two platoons successfully made their way to the other side. They turned left and immediately came under automatic weapons and recoilless rifle fire from the Citadel wall. The Marines decided to withdraw.

    This was easier said than done. The enemy was well dug-in and firing from virtually every building in Hue city north of the river. The number of wounded was rising, the Marines commandeered some abandoned Vietnamese civilian vehicles and used them as makeshift ambulances to carry out the wounded. Among the casualties on the bridge was Major Walter M. Murphy, the 1st Battalion S-3 or operations officer, who later died of his wounds.

    By 20:00, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines had established defensive positions near the MACV compound and a helicopter landing zone in a field just west of the Navy LCU Ramp in southern Hue. On that first day, the two Marine companies in Hue had sustained casualties of 10 Marines killed and 56 wounded. During the night, the battalion called in a helicopter into the landing zone to take out the worst of the wounded. The American command still had little realization of the situation in Hue.


    Counter-attack

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    he next morning at 0700, Gravel launched a two-company assault supported by tanks towards the jail and provincial building. The Marines did not progress further than one block before they came under sniper fire. A tank was knocked out by a 57 mm recoilless rifle. After that the attack was stopped and the battalion returned to the MACV compound. North of the Perfume River, on the 1st, the 1st ARVN Division enjoyed some limited success. Although the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 3rd ARVN Regiment remained outside of the Citadel walls unable to penetrate the NVA defenses, the 2nd and 7th Airborne Battalions, supported by armored personnel carriers and the Black Panther Company, recaptured the Tay Loc airfield.

    About 1500, the 1st Battalion, 3rd ARVN reached the 1st ARVN command post at the Mang Ca compound. Later that day, U.S. Marine helicopters from HMM-165 brought part of the 4th Battalion, 2nd ARVN Regiment from Dong Ha into the Citadel. One of the pilots, Captain Denis M. Duna-gan, remembered that the call for an emergency trooplift came in about 1400. Eight CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters made the flight in marginal weather with a 200–500 foot ceiling and one mile visibility, arriving in an improvised landing zone under enemy mortar fire. The deteriorating weather forced the squadron to cancel the remaining lifts with about one-half of the battalion in the Citadel.

    Shortly after 1500 Company F, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines made a helicopter landing into southern Hue. They were to relieve a MACV communications facility surrounded by a VC force. The company spent the better part of the afternoon trying to reach the isolated United States Army Signal Corps troops and never made it. The company sustained casualties of 3 dead and 13 wounded.


    Breakout

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    On February 1, General Cushman alerted the 1st Air Cavalry commander, Major General John J.Tolson, to be ready to deploy his 3d Brigade into a sector west of Hue. By 2215 that night, Tolson's command had asked III MAF to coordinate with I Corps and Task Force X-Ray its designated area of operations in the Hue sector. Tolson's plan called for an air assault by two battalions of the 3d Brigade northwest of Hue. The 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry was to arrive in the landing zone first, followed by the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry to be inserted near PK-17. Attacking in a southeasterly direction, the two battalions would then attempt to close the enemy supply line into Hue.

    Under difficult circumstances, the 'First Team' began its movement into the Hue area. In mid-afternoon on the 2d, the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry arrived in a landing zone about 6 miles (10 km) northwest of Hue and then pushed towards the city.' In southern Hue, on February 2, the Marines made some minor headway and brought in further reinforcements. The 1st Battalion finally relieved the MACV radio facility that morning and later, after a three-hour fire fight, reached the Hue University campus.' Although the NVA, during the night, had dropped the railroad bridge across the Perfume River west of the city, they left untouched the bridge across the Phu Cam Canal. About 1100, Company H, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, commanded by Captain G. Ronald Christmas, crossed the An Cuu Bridge over the canal in a 'Rough Rider' armed convoy.

    As the convoy, accompanied by Army trucks equipped with quad .50-caliber machine guns and two Ontos, entered the city, enemy snipers opened up on the Marine reinforcements. Near the MACV compound, the Marines came under heavy enemy machine gun and rocket fire. The Army gunners with their 'quad .50s' and the Marine Ontos, each with six 106 mm recoilless rifles, quickly responded. In the resulting confusion, the convoy exchanged fire with a Marine unit already in the city. About mid-day, the NVA, continued to block any advance to the south. An enemy 75 mm recoilless rifle knocked out one of the supporting tanks. By the end of the day, the Marines had sustained 2 dead and 34 wounded and claimed to have killed nearly 140 of the enemy. The battalion consolidated its night defensive positions and waited to renew its attack on the following day


    Battle for the Citadel


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    Heavy street fighting followed the Marines all the way through the city for more than three weeks. Marines of the 1st and 5th Regiments, fighting alongside the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s 1st Division, and also supported by U.S. Army 7th and 12th Cavalry Regiments drove the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces out of Hue little by little and retook the city one block at a time.

    Many of the Marines had little or no urban combat experience, and the US troops were not trained for urban close-quarters combat, so this battle was especially tough for them. Due to Hue's religious and cultural status, Allied forces were ordered not to bomb or shell the city, for fear of destroying the historic structures. Also, since it was monsoon season, it was virtually impossible for the U.S. forces to use air support. But as the intensity of the battle increased, the policy was eliminated. The communist forces were constantly using snipers, hidden inside buildings or in small holes, and prepared makeshift machine gun bunkers. They organised local counterattacks and, during the night, they prepared explosive booby traps. Sometimes booby traps were even placed under dead bodies.

    Finally it was only down to the Citadel and the Imperial Palace which was in the center of it. American A-4 Skyhawks dropped bombs and napalm on the Citadel. The Marines raised an American flag but shortly thereafter were ordered to lower it, for in accordance with South Vietnamese law, no US flag was permitted to be flown without an accompanying South Vietnamese flag. The Marines objected to this law and threatened to shoot a few American Army officers who were instructed to take down the flag, but eventually took it down themselves under an order from their superior officer.

    On February 24, 1968, the Imperial Palace in the center of the Citadel was secured and the elite Black Panther Company of the First South Vietnamese Division tore down the NVA's flag, which had flown since the battle's start on January 31. A few days later the NVA withdrew from the city completely
     
  10. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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