Did the TET offensive (1968) impact the conflict in Vietnam – Controlled Assessment
The TET offensive was launched on the 31st of January 1968 by General Vo Giap as he believed the alliance between South Vietnam (S.Vietnam) and that the US was unstable; he hoped the TET offensive would “drive the final wedge between them” and persuade the US leaders to give up on defending S.Vietnam from communism. TET was a series of attacks by the Vietcong (VC) on major cities in Vietnam. The VC were defeated militarily but politically the TET offensive caused great uprisings and further eroded the support for the war effort in America.
The war impacted America militarily. The TET offensive showed a considerable degree of military preparedness, skill and bravery on the part of the Vietnamese; therefore shaking the morale of the US army, who were forcibly made aware of its own vulnerability. A US soldier from the Charlie Company said; "I had prayed to God that this thing was fiction" – this quote summed up the feelings and opinions of the soldiers who were being forced to fight in Vietnam. The army morale declined further when the anti-war movement grew in America as many soldiers knew that few people would welcome them back as heroes. Between 1963 and 1973 over 500,000 cases of desertion were recorded and there was also a big rise in soldiers who refused to obey orders. The US embassy in Saigon came under attack and the enemy had captured it for 6 hours, this made the people of America question their involvement, safety and prospects of winning. Despite being told by General Westmoreland that the NFL had taken “such heavy losses in open combat that they would be incapable of maintaining any military momentum” in 1968, the TET offensive provided evidence that America was not just dealing with any ramshackle of an army.
Secondly, the media played a large part in the conflict in Vietnam. For the first time in a major war, the power of television became apparent. Fifty million people watched the destruction brought on by the war. Consequently the US government was no longer able to portray the war as clean, simple and easy to win. This opinion was falsified by events during the attacks. America saw a well-known news reporter, Walter Cronkite, mouth “What the hell is going on? I thought we were winning this war” Due to his influential position, this statement firmly cemented to the US government what the whole of the US was thinking about this war. As media coverage increased, it ‘pulled back the curtains’ to reveal what was actually going on. During TET the Americans and the ARVN ally had suffered over 4,300 killed in action, some 16,000 wounded and over 1,000 missing in action. It is true that the enemy suffered far more but to an already sceptical US public this mattered little. Uncle Ho, a Vietnamese leader who later became N. Vietnams first president, was recorded saying “They can send hundreds of thousands, even millions of soldiers; the war can last ten, twenty years, maybe even more, but our people will keep fighting till they win” The war no longer had any definite, realistic objective. The scenes of slaughter and devastation in Saigon, Hue and other cities horrified the average US citizen to whom the conflict seems senseless. The media brought vivid scenes of what was going on, therefore the public began to become doubtful of the war.