Tet Offensive: Vietnam War Research Paper

Length: 7 pages Sources: 12 Subject: Drama - World Type: Research Paper Paper: #59068191 Related Topics: Political Cartoon, Lyndon B Johnson, Vietnam, Cold War
Excerpt from Research Paper :

Battle Analysis of the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive

The Vietnam War was one of the most costly conflicts in the history of the United States, with Americans fighting and investing resources in the region for almost two decades. Many consider this conflict to have been one of the best examples of proxy-wars fought as a consequence of the Cold War. With Russia and the U.S. being hesitant about challenging each-other directly, proxy wars were one of the most effective tools for each country to display its armament and determination. The Tet Offensive was among the most violent battles in the war, with an allied group of Viet Cong guerrilla fighters and People's Army of Vietnam soldiers organizing a large-scale offensive against South Vietnamese military, U.S. soldiers, and a series of other communities allied with South Vietnam.

Background

U.S. involvement in Vietnam has drawn a significant amount of criticism from people from around the world and from Americans at home in particular. In spite of the fact that American forces in South Vietnam were weakened both by the fact that the North received serious support from other communist countries in the region and in spite of the government having to deal with numerous protests on U.S. soil, the U.S. And the South Vietnamese had experienced a series of successes during the conflict.

While U.S. forces and South Vietnamese forces appeared to have the ability to hold their position throughout the conflict, the first months of 1968 made it possible for them to comprehend the gravity of the situation and the fact that the enemy was much more powerful than initially believed. The Tet Offensive represented the turning point of the war, as it involved a force of approximately 80,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces going against a series of strategic points in the south. The offensive also changed the way that many individuals perceived the war, taking into account that it demonstrated the vulnerability of American forces in the territory and the fact that the North was much better prepared than in previous years.

Lyndon B. Johnson's role in the conflict

Even before the major offensive actually began, American forces in South Vietnam had been pushed back in a series of locations and it was obvious that the North became more powerful. The American base at Khe Sanh was a key factor in the war as a whole: in the days previous to the Tet Offensive, a 20,000 strong NVA force under the leadership of General Giap attacked the base and trapped the 5,000 U.S. marines present there. In spite of the fact that Johnson was well-acquainted with the gravity of the situation, he was unhesitant about explicitly demanding his troops to stand their ground regardless of the costs of doing so. This was yet another demonstration of how the President acknowledged the significance of this conflict in the overall Cold War.

Many historians and military experts associated the American situation at Khe Sanh with previous French conflicts in Vietnam. The battle of Dien Bien Phu in particular seemed very similar to conditions at Khe Sanh -- the Vietnamese had the upper hand against a foreign power trying to establish itself on the country's territory. "I don't want any damn Dinbinfoo […] the eyes of the nation and the eyes of the entire world, the eyes of all of history itself, are on that little brave band of defenders who hold the pass at Khe Sanh." (Johnson in The History Place presents The Vietnam War) The U.S. responded to the critical situation at Khe Sanh by sending three B-52 bombers to neutralize some of the most important position held by the NVA army. The siege was part of a larger operation called Niagara II. "At the peak of the battle, NVA soldiers are hit round-the-clock every 90 minutes by groups of three B-52s which drop over 110,000 tons of bombs during the siege, the heaviest bombardment of a small area in the history of warfare." (The History Place presents The Vietnam War)

...

bombers to remove NVA influence from the area, it appears that the conflict was much more serious than the Johnson Administration was prepared to believe. This led to thousands of lives being lost for no reason whatsoever, as the government simply wanted to maintain its position in the international environment.

While many are inclined to blame Johnson and a series of other American presidents ruling contemporary to the Vietnam War, the reality is that the Cold War had a strong influence on countries around the world and the U.S. felt compelled to fight in order to prevent communism from expanding even faster. Johnson emphasized the way that communism spread across several Asian countries and across China in particular. This meant that the U.S. needed to act urgently and with a great deal of force in order to prevent the political ideology from threatening even more countries. Johnson related to China as being "a nation which is helping the forces of violence in almost every continent. The contest in Vietnam is part of a wider pattern of aggressive purposes." (Johnson, April 07, 1965) The American President further related to the promise that the U.S. needed to keep across the world, with freedom being one of the principal concepts that it had the mission to promote regardless of the effects that it had on the American public.

Surprise attacks

One of the principal reasons why the Tet offensive was so successful was the fact that communist forces took many American and South Vietnamese outposts by surprise. The North and the Viet Cong acknowledged the importance of securing important cities in the South and thus got actively involved in attacking and securing many of these respective locations.

The North Vietnamese chose to strike at the end of January because they knew this was a time of truce. Many Vietnamese traveled during this holiday with the purpose of seeing their relatives. This provided a great deal of individuals in the South Vietnamese Liberation Forces with the ability to reach their allies in the North. As a consequence, forces in the North were advantaged both because of their ability to launch a surprise attack and because they were able to increase their numbers by having numerous forces from the South join them (U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968).

The first stages of the Tet Offensive had a strong psychological impact on U.S. forces. Americans and Johnson in particular were inclined to believe that their forces dominated the conflict in the South. The fact that the NLF was unhesitant about attacking areas in the South where American presence was heavy made it possible for the U.S. To acknowledge the strength of their enemy (U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968).

The consequence of the offensive

Although the majority of people think that the Tet Offensive was the turning point in the conflict and that it symbolizes the power of the Vietnamese people in front of the U.S., opinions differ when regarding this particular set of battles. Walter Cronkite's report of the battles appears to emphasize the fact that none of the forces involved in the conflict actually won. To a certain degree, it seems that he considered that both forces were equally strong during the battle and that it was thus little more than a draw.

In spite of his support for American troops, Cronkite cannot help but to acknowledge the gravity of the battle. "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds." (Cronkite) Recent battles enabled communists to acknowledge that many of their strategies were ineffective and very unlikely to experience any success. Even with this, the fact that they outnumbered Southern forces and that they received significant support from the Soviet Union and China meant that it held the upper hand in the conflict. "This summer's almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle." (Cronkite) Cronkite obviously wanted his readers to understand that optimism alone cannot win a war, as the U.S. would have to invest much more resources and men in the territory in order to stand a chance and even in that case that would have been a slim chance.

In spite of the fact that U.S. And South Vietnamese forces regained most of the territory that was occupied during the Tet Offensive, it had become clear that the conflict was much more severe than people…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works cited:

"WALTER CRONKITE'S "WE ARE MIRED IN STALEMATE" BROADCAST, FEBRUARY 27, 1968," retrieved March 1, 2015, from https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/Cronkite_1968.html

"Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/psources/ps_against.html

"American Policy in Vietnam," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/psources/ps_policy.html

"Eisenhower to Ngo Dinh Diem," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/psources/index.html
Pohle, V. "The Viet Cong in Saigon: Tactics and Objectives During the Tet Offensive." Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2005/RM5799.pdf
"The History Place Presents the Vietnam War." Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1965.html
"U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/tet
"The Tet Offensive," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/beyond-the-textbook/24184
"Analyzing Attitudes on the Vietnam War through Political Cartoons," Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.teachingushistory.org/pdfs/vietnampoliticalcartoons.pdf


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