TET 1969

North Viet­namese forces at­tacked south Viet­nam one year after the orig­i­nal tet of­fen­sive to test the will of Pres­i­dent richard Nixon

History of War - - A VISION OF HELL -

The Tet Of­fen­sive of 1968 was one of the largest cam­paigns of the Viet­nam War, and although it was a mil­i­tary de­feat for North Viet­nam, the of­fen­sive caused heavy ca­su­al­ties and shocked the US gov­ern­ment and pub­lic. What is less well known is that the North Viet­namese re­peated their of­fen­sive in Fe­bru­ary­march 1969.

The North Viet­namese con­sid­ered ‘Tet 1969’ to be a test of the re­solve of the newly in­au­gu­rated pres­i­dent Richard Nixon, who had promised to de-es­ca­late the war in Viet­nam. From 22 Feb­ru­ary 1969, NVA and Viet Cong forces con­ducted a se­ries of 125 sap­per at­tacks and 400 ar­tillery and rocket bom­bard­ments against mil­i­tary tar­gets in South Viet­nam.

Tet 1969’s con­cen­trated, small-scale at­tacks in­cluded strikes against mil­i­tary tar­gets near Saigon and Da Nang. How­ever, there were a few risky op­er­a­tions to seize and hold ground, such as the Siege of Hue or the as­sault on the US Em­bassy in Saigon the pre­vi­ous year. Amer­i­can and South Viet­namese forces re­pulsed the of­fen­sive, but they suf­fered 2,640 fa­tal­i­ties dur­ing al­most a month of fight­ing.

As a re­sult of Tet 1969, Nixon con­cluded that North Viet­nam had no in­ter­est in de-es­ca­lat­ing the war to reach an honourable set­tle­ment with the United States. The of­fen­sive also con­vinced him that at­tack­ing com­mu­nist sanc­tu­ar­ies in Cam­bo­dia would pro­vide the best se­cu­rity for South Viet­nam against North Viet­namese ag­gres­sion.

From March 1969, Cam­bo­dia was sub­jected to US airstrikes, which desta­bilised the coun­try and in­ten­si­fied the an­ti­war move­ment in Amer­ica. Nixon would later write that the great­est mis­take of his pres­i­dency was not in­ten­sively bomb­ing North Viet­nam in the wake of Tet 1969.

Richard Nixon’s con­tro­ver­sial es­ca­la­tion of the Viet­nam War into Cam­bo­dia was a di­rect re­sult of Tet 1969 A ma­rine car­ries a shred­ded Viet Cong flag after an at­tack west of Da Nang

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