Forty years ago today, following on the heels of premature attacks the day before, the infamous Tet Offensive began with co-coordinated strikes across South Vietnam.
From a military standpoint it was a blessing in disguise for the South, as in hindsight both sides agree the attack was a military disaster for the Communists.
It inspired no general uprising against Saigon - on the contrary, it inspired a wave of anti-VC sentiment. It did not lead to the disintegration of the ARVN (South Vietnamese forces); they fought some of their most successful actions during Tet. Casualties were high, virtually eliminating the Viet Cong as a military force and morphing the action from a perceived civil war into a blatant inter-nation conflict as the North was forced to assume the brunt of combat duties.
Of course, the perception was that the North was alarmingly successful, and in all things perception is 80% of the battle. The media and the American public came to the conclusion the war was a quagmire and, right or wrong, that victory was not possible.
It was the beginning of the end, for both American involvement and the nation of South Vietnam.
My father was there with the Air Force, stationed at Phu Cat airbase. From my understanding he arrived in-country not long before the attack and spent the majority of the next few weeks helping supply Khe Sanh.
On admittedly short notice I asked him to compile a few memories of his experiences. He has yet to get back to me, but when/if he does I’ll post it here, in this entry, and I’ll let folks know of its arrival via a quick new entry.
The anniversary of the attack garnered no media attention that I saw, heard, or read, not even a mention on Refdesk.
I suppose as a nation we don’t feel the need to look backwards or dwell on the past, and dredging up memories of Vietnam probably isn’t very popular in light of our involvement in Iraq. Besides, I doubt the media is eager to admit they altered the course of history by abandoning their role as objective or reasoned observers. Best all around to forget.
Well, I remembered. And to all the servicemen, US, ARVN, Australian and ROK, who held the line and turned back the Offensive, granting South Vietnam seven more years of precious freedom, . . . Thank you. Your sacrifice, even in light of Saigon’s fall, was valuable and honorable.
Again, thank you.