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The Tet Offensive Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 March 2017

The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive is often referred to as the turning point of the Vietnam War where the war’s momentum would shift towards the North Vietnamese. This is not necessarily accurate as critical errors on Johnson and, to a greater extent, McNamara’s part early in the conflict would make victory next to impossible. However, it is Tet that is often considered the turning point in th war and not for the positive.

To a great extent, the Tet Offensive was a disaster for the North Vietnamese troops as the casualties for the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were significantly more than what the American troops had experienced. However, the problem here was that the American and South Vietnamese were taken shockingly by surprise showing that there were clear deficiencies in intelligence gathering abilities. Also, a great deal of the negative public sentiment about the war derived from the fact that there was very little presented on the part of the administration to show to the public that the loss was not as bad as was being reported.

The major newspapers in the United States all reported the Tet Offensive as a loss for the United States and Walter Cronkite publicly proclaimed that th war was lost. President Lyndon Johnson famously acknowledged that Cronkite’s proclamation ( a proclamation that was opinion and not fact) has wrecked his presidency. Shockingly, Johnson never rebutted the press’ condemnation. This is bizarre as Johnson was a very effective, passionate and moving public speaker who could be incredibly effective when motivated. In this instance, Johnson simply sat idly by and did not address his detractors. Since the Johnson Administration never made a serious attempt to refute this, what other opinion could possibly be formed?

Many critics of the war felt that the slow escalation of bombing campaigned designed (micromanaged according to some) by Johnson and McNamara was a flawed strategy and that the alternative – escalating bombing in the North – would have placed the North Vietnamese on the defensive as opposed to giving them time to strategize and plan an all out assault.

However, it is difficult to ascertain if this is true or whether it would have increased Viet Cong activity in the South. (Although, the relationship between North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was at times tumultuous and uneasy at times as well) Under the Nixon Administration, the relentless bombing did have an effect, but it did not have the effect that it would have had early in the course of the war when the eradication of the “Ho Chi Minh trail” would have given the United States a strategic advantage. Of course, this is all speculation on what could have happened and speculation is exactly that – speculation.

Additionally, the United States military was primarily trained to deal with Soviet expansion into Western Europe and not with insurgency campaigns. Hence, a greater preventive insurgency campaign against the Viet Cong could have circumvented the offensive. Also, who was monitoring North Vietnamese troop movements towards the South Vietnamese border? Why had no one noticed the thousands of troops encroaching? If it was noticed, why was it not taken seriously? American and South Vietnamese troop numbers at the border should have been increased, but were not. Such incompetence is appalling. The Tet Offensive was an event that never should have happened.

Scheikart, Larry. A PATRIOT’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. New York: Penguin, 2007.
Harper’s, 2007.

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