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Introduction

For many participants and historians, the Tet Offensive was the pivotal event of the American war in Vietnam. During the Tet Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January 1968, the North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the military forces of the National Liberation Front (NLF) in South Vietnam, known as the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) or Viet Cong (VC), staged daring attacks across South Vietnam on over sixty district towns, thirty-six of forty-four provincial capitals, and the major cities, among dozens of other targets. So began the Tet Mau Than, the New Year of the Monkey. In the end, the attacks were beaten back by the Americans and South Vietnamese, along with Free World Military Forces from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines, but not without dramatic consequences for the United States, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam. Despite the apparent military success in stopping the broad offensive, the Tet attacks left an indelible mark on South Vietnam, the American public, and American politics. By the end of March 1968, American strategy in the war had changed and President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for reelection and to seek peace, finally admitting that the war could not be won on American terms alone.