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Tet 1968 - The Turning Point

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Tet 1968 - The Turning Point. Lesson Objectives. • Understand and summarize the military and domestic political situation on the Vietnam War in January 1968. • Describe and analyze the events of the Tet 1968 Offensive in Vietnam.

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Lesson Objectives

• Understand and summarize the military and domestic political situation on the Vietnam War in January 1968.

• Describe and analyze the events of the Tet 1968 Offensive in Vietnam.

• Describe and analyze the operational and strategic significance of the Tet Offensive.

slide3

Major Issues

Tet 68: The Turning Point

What was the Communist objective for the Tet 68 Offensive?

• How did this fit into their Strategy of Revolutionary War?

What was Tet (the holiday)?

• Why did the Communist choose Tet to launch their attack?

What happened during the Tet 68 attacks in Saigon? Hué?

How was the Tet offensive portrayed in the U.S. news media?

What were the results of the offensive:

• Politically (strategically)?

• Militarily (tactically)?

slide4

Review

Strategy of Revolutionary War

Generic: Used in Chinese Civil War, First & Second Indochina Wars

Phase I: Targeted state stronger militarily

• Revolutionaries avoid combat

• Guerrilla war: raids, ambushes, sabotage, terrorism

• Political conflict predominant

Phase II: Rough military parity

• Combined guerrilla and conventional war

• Military and political conflict equally important

Phase III: Revolution stronger than targeted state

• Revolutionary forces go to totally conventional war

• “General Offensive” linked to political “Great Uprising”

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Review

Strategy of Revolutionary War

General Characteristics

• It is a total war

• It is wage with total unity of effort

• It is, by necessity and choice, a protracted war

• It stresses gaining and keeping the initiative

• It is a changing war (shift between phases)

• It is a mosaic war (different phases, different areas)

Davidson

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Strategy of Revolutionary War

Timeline

1954-1965: Phase I(guerrilla warfare)

• 1961-1965: Heated Politburo debate on transition

1965-1967: Phase II (guerrilla & conventional warfare)

• Increased large unit actions (Ia Drang, Khe Sanh)

1968 (early): Phase III (conventional warfare)

The Tet Offensive

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Decision to Tet 1968

7 Jul 67

North Vietnam\'s Politburo makes the decision to launch a widespread offensive against South Vietnam

Transition to Phase III of Revolutionary War

Offensive planned with three components:

Diversion: Attacks against remote border areas in an effort to lure American troops away from South Vietnam\'s cities.

Main Attack (Tet Offensive): Attack against the cities themselves by Viet Cong forces aided by NVA troops in the hope of igniting a "general uprising" to overthrow the government of South Vietnam.

Follow-on : Conventional invasion to capture all of South Vietnam

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Timeline

NVA troops begin moving into South Vietnam

Early 1960’s

Tonkin Gulf Resolution

7 Aug 64

Operation Rolling Thunder (bombing of North) begins

2 Mar 65

8 Mar 65

Marines land at Da Nang

1967

North Vietnamese Army (NVA) increases pressure on South

Siege of Khe Sanh Begins

Spring 67

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Siege of Khe Sanh

Spring 1967 - March 1968

slide11

Khe Sahn

1966

1968

slide13

Tet Offensive 1968

Began January 30, 1968

Country-wide combined VC & NVA offensive intended to inspire popular uprising

Attack on Khe Sanh began earlier as a diversion

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Tet Offensive 1968

Began January 30, 1968

Country-wide combined VC & NVA offensive intended to inspire popular uprising

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Tet in Saigon

Video Pt 1 - 9:48

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Tet Offensive 1968

Battle of Hué Jan 30 - Mar 3 1968

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Hué

The Historic & Cultural Capital of Vietnam

In February 1966, LBJ asked Gen. Westmoreland, the US commander in Vietnam, what he would do next if he were the enemy commander

“Capture Hué,” Westmoreland immediately replied.

Hué Citadel

Almost two years to the day later, North Vietnam did just that

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Tet in Hué

Hué Citadel

= Areas not captured

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Tet Offensive 1968

Battle of Hué Jan 31- Mar 3 1968

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Tet Offensive 1968

Battle of Hué Jan 31- Mar 3 1968

Video (8:08)

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Battle of Hué

Video Pt 2 - 9:09

Pt 3 - 8:48

Pt 4 - 9:10

Pt 5 - 7:02

slide27

Tet Offensive

Military Results

US and Vietnamese Dead: 6,000

PAVN and Viet Cong Dead: 40,000 (estimated)

Viet Cong (NLF) essentially eliminated as a fighting force

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Tet Offensive 1968

Turning point of the war

… politically

Saigon police chief executes Viet Cong Terrorist

Photograph by Eddie Adams

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Tet Offensive 1968

Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News anchor, visited Vietnam Feb1968

slide30

Post-Tet

Walter Cronkite

Upon his return to the US, Cronkite delivered an unprecedented editorial comment on this trip (February 27, 1968)

“To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

LBJ’s reply on hearing this: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced he would not seek re-election.

Source

Video 5:04 - 5:41

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Tet 68 for U.S

Strategy of Revolutionary War

1954-1965: Phase I(guerrilla warfare)

• 1961-1965: Heated Politburo debate on transition

1965-1967: Phase II (guerrilla & conventional warfare)

• Increased large unit actions (Ia Drang, Khe Sanh)

1968 (early): Phase III (Tet Offensive) (conventional warfare)

• Military disaster (VC destroyed)

• “General Uprising” did not occur

• Strategic victory for the Communists none the less

Tactical Victory

, Strategic Defeat

slide33

What went wrong in Vietnam?

Those who cannot remember the past

are doomed to repeat it.

-- George Santyana (1863-1952), 1905

slide34

Next:

Vietnam: The Home Front

slide36

US Strategy in Vietnam

LBJ named McNamara to be President, World Bank

• February 29, 1968

Clark Clifford became SecDef

• Interviewed senior officials, military and civilian:

• none of them could tell him what constituted victory in Vietnam

• found that US had no military plan to win war

Summers

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