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Tet Offensive

Written January 2017, edited February 2019


30JAN1968 - 31MAR1968

Area of Operation: 

Over 100 cities across South Vietnam, most notably Saigon and Huế

Allied Units: 

US Army, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Navy, ARVN, VNMC

Allied Casualties: 

US 3895 KIA, ARVN 4954 KIA, other allies 214 KIA, civilians 14300 killed

Enemy Units: 


Enemy Casualties: 

Estimated 17000 KIA


  • A decisive victory to break the current stalemate and which could be used in negotiations with the United States

  • To inspire a “general uprising” among the South Vietnamese civilians

  • To destroy the fighting capabilities of South Vietnam

  • To extinguish the American will to be involved in South Vietnam


This map shows many of the larger attacks launched by communist forces during the Tet Offensive. Not all attacks are shown. 

Source: The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. Accessed 2Feb2019.


Though there are numerous details still debated among historians, the Tet Offensive is accepted as the turning point of the Vietnam War. The media is largely credited, in both positive and negative lights, for their portrayal of the battles of Tet. Called the General Offensive-General Uprising by the communists, they failed to hold any of the cities they attacked. Despite this incredible tactical defeat, they managed a strategic victory nonetheless as public disapproval in the US soared and President Johnson announced a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam. In the same address, he proclaimed, “I will not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Watch LBJ's address.

Also of note:

  • Between 30 Jan and 31 Jan 1968 the communists attacked: 5 of 6 autonomous cities; 36 of 44 provincial capitals; 64 of 245 district capitals; 50 hamlets

  • From September to December of 1967, multiple attacks occurred along the Cambodia and Laos borders with South Vietnam. These served to pull American troops away from the cities and towns; to mask the movement of North Vietnamese troops and supplies into South Vietnam; and to provide the opportunity for NVA and VC units to rehearse coordinated attack efforts. Most notable among these are the attacks on Cồn Tiên in September, Sông Bé and Lộc Ninh in October, and Đắk Tô in November. 

    • These border battles have long been discussed as being part of the Offensive. Some scholars (see Erik Villard) argue that because Vietnamese leadership was in disagreement over a course of action, the final decision to carry out the Tet Offensive did not occur until after these border battles. ​

  • The most well known events of the Tet Offensive were the Battle of Saigon (and the attack on the US Embassy there), the Battle of Huế, and the Siege of Khe Sanh.

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