The Tet Offensive ’68–Battle Won, Victory Lost

 The Tet Offensive ’68–Battle Won, Victory Lost

by: john harrison

Although the majority of our training was for combat patrols in the jungle, the majority of the fighting we actually did during Tet '68 was street fighting in the cities and towns of Vietnam.

Although the majority of our training was for combat patrols in the jungle, the majority of the fighting we actually did during Tet ’68 was street fighting in the cities and towns of Vietnam.  This is B/3/506th in Phan Thiet during the battle. Photo: Jerry Berry PIO 3/506th.

The largest battle of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive ’68, was also among the two or three biggest infantry battles that American armed forces have ever fought. In spite of all the bad press, we clearly won that battle. The Tet Offensive ’68 was a bigger battle and a bigger victory in pure military terms even than the justly famous Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

While these numbers are subject to some dispute, it appears that there were about 500,000 Americans actively involved in both the Tet Offensive ’68 and in the Battle of the Bulge.  During the Tet Offensive there were about one million total allied soldiers involved and they suffered a total of about 75,000 casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA).  At the Bulge there were about 720,000 total allied soldiers involved and they suffered about 90,000 casualties.  The German casualties during the Battle of the Bulge have been estimated at 67,000 to 100,000.  The corresponding estimates for the Tet Offensive are that the VC/NVA casualties totaled at least 125,000 dead, wounded and missing and more likely as many as 150,000.*  Most of the VC/NVA casualties were dead.

The differences were that in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, the Army, Marines and allies were engaged in almost continuous combat throughout the country for a much longer period of time, and Khe Sahn was a true killing field, leaving stacks of NVA dead.

In addition, while in Bastogne itself at the Battle of the Bulge there not was a rear area, for the majority of units fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, there was a rear area,  Even during the height of the battle, there were always American troops that were not directly engaged with the enemy surrounding Bastogne.  They were behind other troops in support, or reserve, or were on their way to the front and thus were not yet actively engaged by the enemy.

However, like Bastogne itself, there was no “behind” anywhere in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.  For example, a battalion of Vietnamese paras in transit at Tan Son Nhut airport were called in to repel an attack on the airport itself before they could leave.  The only reserve during Tet ’68 was the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fayetteville, N. C., which was all in the air within hours after the battles started, and engaged on the ground within hours after they landed in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, the issue as they say in the history books was never in doubt during the Tet Offensive. Even while the VC/NVA were attacking, allied counter attacks were meeting them, sometimes before they even made it to their lines of departure. It was a fight, a big, hard, ugly at times, fight, but it was never in doubt who would win that fight.

Literally the NVA and particularly the VC never recovered from that battle. Many of the VC that had fought for years were now dead, and that meant that even the Main Force NVA units now blundered about the county because they no longer had knowledgeable local VC guides.

While the Vietnam War is still portrayed as an insurgency, a guerrilla war, the battles during the Tet Offensive was a straight up, conventional, mostly infantry, slugfest. Since, the Tet Offensive does not fit the story line that was told to America at the time and since, i.e., that we lost a guerrilla war to General Vo Nuguen Giap and those fellows in black pajamas, other than dwelling on the brutality of war in cities full of civilians, the actual Allied military victory during the Tet Offensive has been almost completely ignored, both in 1968 and since then. Other than the picture of General Loan executing an NVA franc-tireur on a street in Saigon with his revolver, or the one of the great seal of the United States of America lying broken on the embassy grounds, or the street fighting in Hue, the real battles of the Tet Offensive and their outcome still have been largely discounted by historians even today.

Moreover, it was not VC guerrillas that ultimately defeated the South Vietnamese government over two years after all of the American troops had left Vietnam. After the Tet Offensive the VC were mostly broken or dead laying on a street in Phan Thiet or Hue or Saigon. It was not the NVA units that had been infiltrated in country that did it either. They were lost in the jungle, and literally dared not come out of the jungle even assuming they could find their way, or most likely, they were hiding in sanctuaries in Cambodia or Laos.

Contrary to what most people believe, what finally toppled South Vietnam was a traditional, full-scale, tank-led, conventional, combined-arms invasion from North Vietnam essentially using its entire million man army. Ultimately, this army went right down Route 1, the “street without joy” in Bernard Fall’s felicitous phrase, all the way to Saigon in 1975.

In addition to the wide spread ignorance about the Tet Offensive it has always been very curious to me that for a while much was made of the fact that in Vietnam the army required a 12 month tour, the Marines required a 13 month tour, but WW II service was for the duration. Few have tried to find out why this was so. Moreover, most Americans are unaware that the war in Europe was over about 11 months after the landings in Normandy at D-Day. During that 11-month period every American division was pulled out of the line for a time and “rested” in a secure area.

The Army had long ago determined that 12 months of combat was about all a sane person could really take and remain sane. Therefore, it limited the tours in Vietnam to 12 months and it used rotation of units to achieve the same end, for the same reason in Europe during World War II. According to some reports, and while some served for a longer period, because of constant rotations of units, the average time in combat for an infantryman in the Pacific for example during World War II was about 40 days. On the other hand, mostly because of the mobility provided by thousands of helicopters, the average time in combat for an infantryman in Vietnam was about 240 days during his year of service.

Personally, I am not sure which is more stressful, combat or the anticipation of combat. You feel it on the way in to combat, but once the shooting starts you are too busy to notice. However, I doubt that being too busy to notice is a real protection from stress. When it was over I would always be unbelievably tired, others were euphoric, either way and every way in between it was a reaction to stress, experienced but not yet fully felt.

Two statistics will serve to bring this issue into focus: the 101st Airborne Division suffered almost twice as many casualties in the Vietnam War as it did in World War II, and the United States Marine Corps also suffered more casualties in Vietnam than it did in all of World War II. In the case of the 101st Airborne Division, this was in spite of the fact that only about one-third of the Division, the First Brigade, was deployed in Vietnam from July 29, 1965 until the rest of the division came over at the end of 1967. This was a hard fought, a really big war.

This information is readily available, but I have not seen it in the mass media, only sometimes the implied slur that the infantry in Vietnam had it easier because they only served for a year while in World War II they served for the duration. Like the idea that the Vietnam War was fought mainly by draftees while World War II was supposedly fought mainly by volunteers, it is not only wrong, the exact opposite is true. Vietnam was a big, violent, long war fought mainly, about 66%, by volunteers. While World War II was a big violent, fairly short war, at least for America, fought mainly, again about 66%, by draftees.

And, later when the Wall in Berlin fell, and the Cold War was won very few paused to remember as hearty congratulations were passed around that it had been a hot war for a while in Korea, and that it was hotter still, and for much longer in Vietnam.

Also generally unknown, both the Soviet Union (3,000) and China (320,000) had troops stationed in North Vietnam during the war, as did North Korea and Cuba. In addition to these troops, all during the Vietnam War the Soviet Union required its satellites to provide for free much of the war material for North Vietnam’s war effort. Other than some food and a lot of soldiers, there was almost nothing produced in North Vietnam that was actually used in the war by North Vietnam.

There were guns and ammunition from the justly famous Skoda Arms Works in Czechoslovakia. There were field glasses from East Germany’s Steiner and ships from Gdansk, Poland to carry it all to Haiphong, North Vietnam or to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and then into South Vietnam.

Anyone that has studied economics knows that this support of North Vietnam’s war effort was highly inflationary for the captive nations of eastern Europe. While Moscow may have thought that it was making its “allies” carry some of the economic burden of helping North Vietnam, it was actually helping create the economic conditions in those satellite countries that ultimately led to the downfall of communism.

Given this, it should be no surprise that the beginning of the end for communism started among the shipyard workers of Gdansk, Poland. These workers had made a great deal of money from the Vietnam War that they could not spend in the state controlled economy of communist Poland.

Contrary to general belief, revolutions usually happen when things are getting better, but the improvements are not progressing fast enough for a lot of people. These were the conditions in the captive nations of Eastern Europe when the rumblings of change started, and the result was as predictable in coming as it was unpredictable and surprising that it would succeed essentially without violence.

I think, because we can now see the Cold War as an immense, sustained act of American moral courage and leadership that we should also be able to see that the bloody sacrifices in Vietnam, and Korea were a significant part of that moral leadership and sacrifice. Those two brutal conflicts played a substantial role in the containment policy’s ultimate success in the Cold War.

However as yet, we do not recognize the very real contributions made by American fighting men in these wars. America still does not generally recognize even the valor of those that fought so well for so long in Vietnam, just as it ignores that their significant contribution in this hot war led in part to the successful, ultimately peaceful, end of the Cold War.

While Vietnam may not be our best example of Americans at war in the sense that many of the policies and strategies pursued over the 8 years of the conflict were seriously flawed, e.g. the claiming of progress in war on the basis of “body counts” is squalid, stupid and worse, often misleading, or that allowing the murder of Diem and his brother demeaned the brave soldiers that were fighting the war at the same time it made their job more difficult. There are many other bad examples from the Vietnam War, including the tragedy at My Lai.

Unfortunately, it is these bad examples that received most of the attention then. Therefore, these bad examples often continue to receive most of the attention from historians even today because this is what they see in their research of the war years. Finally as historians continue to dig deeper, this is beginning to change.

The use of “body counts” in an insurgency situation in modern times began with the British in Malaysia. Malaysia is one of the relatively few historical situations in post WWII times in which a major insurgency, using guerrilla tactics which was extensively supported and supplied by an outside force was nonetheless defeated.

The components of success were that the communists in Malaysia were generally limited to the ethnic Chinese minority living in Malaysia and most important the British and Malaysians were able through the use of superb intelligence work to identify the insurgents. Much of this intelligence work was conducted by Metropolitan Police Forces on loan from London and Hong Kong, who not only found out how many communist insurgents there were in Malaysia, but also in many cases they knew who they were.

A large part of the success in Malaysia came from treating the problem as a police/political problem as much as possible. This limited the contact between the civilians and soldiers to only those times where it was absolutely necessary and thus forestalled the unfortunate effect of aggressive, often violent, anti-terrorist military operations which tend to generate more new terrorists than they eliminate. Thus, the use of body count in Malaysia indicated a real diminution in the number of terrorists and was therefore a meaningful number.

When the use of body counts as an indicia of progress was applied to Vietnam such numbers were meaningless, or worse, misleading. Unlike the British in Malaysia who could identify their enemy, except for the NVA who generally fought in uniform, and during Tet ’68 as well as other times when the Viet Cong were caught with their weapons, we were often not absolutely sure that the dead body reported after a firefight was that of an insurgent.  We were only certain that it was dead.

The British tried very hard to identify who it was that they had killed in Malaysia.  Only if they had reliable information that the body was that of an active terrorist did the British add it to their body count in Malaysia.

Unfortunately where the insurgency is constantly fed new fighters from abroad, like in Vietnam from North Vietnam and today in Iraq and Afghanistan from radical Islamic groups mostly from Saudi Arabia and Iran, an increase in the body count would not necessarily mean that you are winning, rather it could mean that the other side has the people and the will to engage in an increasing amount of direct, violent action. This is simply not a good sign, it is entirely the opposite. But few noticed this reality in the Vietnam War.  They just counted the bodies.

Worse, historians that should know better often still repeat the lie that these body counts in Vietnam were inflated. They continue to repeat this base canard even though the North Vietnamese admitted years ago to the essential accuracy of the American body count figures; that is, North Vietnam officially stated that about one million, one hundred thousand VC/NVA were killed during the war. This North Vietnamese figure actually exceeds by a little the numbers reported by MACV during the war. The essential accuracy of the MACV and North Vietnamese casualty figures have also been confirmed by objective, academic, research. (See: Rummel, R. J. “Statistics of Vietnamese Democide”)

Thus, the overall casualty statistics for the VC/NVA were originally reported by the military, they were later officially confirmed by government of Vietnam after the war, and later by independent scholarly research. Against this, some still say that they “disbelieve” the total casualties reported, but they have no absolutely objective basis for that disbelief other than some anecdotal stories reported by the media at the time. Of course, some still disbelieve that the earth is round, and using similar unscientific methods some still deny global warming.

Similarly, most histories of the Vietnam War, mainly the ones written soon after the war, do not recognize, in fact they simply ignore the many American successes in that war, in particular they ignore the tremendous feat of arms that was the American, allied nations and South Vietnamese response to the Tet ‘68 Offensive. While almost all of the more recent Vietnam War histories now pay at least lip service to the idea that Tet ’68 was a “tactical win” for the Allied forces, there is always a “but” and then a much longer reference to later political changes in America which they attribute to the aftermath of Tet ’68.

However, in 1968 there was no Dien Bien Phu at Khe Sahn. In spite of news reports to the contrary, the VC sappers never got into the American Embassy itself in Saigon, only into the embassy compound where they were all captured or killed early that same morning. Only in Hue, Saigon and Phan Thiet did the first waves of the Tet battles last for more that a few days. Moreover, everywhere in Vietnam there were literally piles of enemy dead and stacks of captured enemy weapons that told the real story of the outcome of the Tet ’68 offensive.

The Tet Offensive was a textbook example of American courage, American mobility and the use of firepower and maneuver to absolutely dominate a battlefield that stretched up and down the entire country of South Vietnam. In a word it was: victory. It was a classic military battle of annihilation, a victory of truly historic proportions. Unfortunately it is also a victory that is still almost unknown to the American public.

Although some were wiped out, I do not believe that even a squad of Americans, much less a larger unit, ever surrendered during the Vietnam War, even during the Tet Offensive when the communist attacks were at their fiercest. There is no question that during the Tet Offensive that the VC/NVA attacks had some local successes, particularly at Hue and in Cholon in Saigon. However, the Americans fought, then they died or they retreated still fighting, and then they counter-attacked.

Years after the Vietnam War was over, after the real historians started looking at the numbers for the Tet Offensive and began attacking the clearly wrong reporting about the Tet Offensive, many like Walter Cronkite pointed out that they had said at the time that it while appeared technically to be an Allied military victory, politically it was a disaster. Cronkite and others also pointed to the sheer size of the Tet Offensive both in numbers and in its breadth and then they recalled that both President Johnson and General Westmorland had just told everyone that we were winning this war just before the Tet offensive broke.

However, they forgot that in the Fall of 1944 people were talking about the European part of the World War II being over by Christmas. They forgot that then the pundits were all declaring NAZI Germany to be beaten and its army to be in full, irreversible, retreat. Finally, Walter Cronkite forgot that in his famous “stalemate” speech that he stated that the people saying that we had won the Tet Offensive were the same people that had said that we were winning the war on the ground and that they were wrong both times. Of all of the reporters Cronkite is the one should have recognized the Tet Offensive for what it was, a last ditch attempt by a beaten but still dangerous enemy to change the battlefield equation because he had been there when Hitler had tried the same thing in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

It is important to remember that while during the Battle of the Bulge some 23,000 Americans were captured by the Germans or were declared missing after the battle, in Vietnam in the entire year of 1968 including the Tet Offensive, there were only a total 158 Americans declared to be captured or missing in action. No American, nor significant South Vietnamese Army unit surrendered during the Tet Offensive. They fought. They fought well and ultimately, they won that battle and completely destroyed the Viet Cong in the process.

The numbers when compared show the very similar totality of the two victories in stark detail, but only one is thought of today as an American victory—Why?


Description                                                      Battle of the Bulge              Tet Offensive

Total US strength 541,000 540,000
Total US KIA 19,000 7040
Total US WIA 62,500 31,204
Total US captured, missing 23,500 158
Total German-VC/NVA strength 449,000 500,000
Total German-VC/NVA casualties 67,459-125,000 125,000-150,000
Total NVA/VC captured, missing (included above) 5,070


Most of the South Vietnamese Army was a draftee army. Literally, it was a cross section of the sons of the people of South Vietnam.  While it often suffered from bad leadership and high desertion rates, during the Tet Offensive the South Vietnamese Army fought and they often fought hard for their country, particularly their elite Ranger, Marine and Airborne battalions and brigades.  Contrary to the expectations of the North Vietnamese Politburo not a single ARVN unit defected to the enemy during the Tet Offensive. These startling facts are routinely ignored by many histories of the war.

The truth, that the Communists attacks during the Tet Offensive were bloodily, speedily, crushed, still has not been generally acknowledged by Western historians of the war. Most Americans still do not know the extent of the American, Allied, Tet Offensive victory.  Unfortunately, most Americans probably still do not even know that it was our victory, not theirs.

The picture, you may remember it as well, that stands out in my mind from the Tet Offensive is the one of an MP, probably named Paul Healy, throwing a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol up to Col. George Jacobson, USA, Ret., an Embassy officer, who was hanging out a window at his house in the US Embassy compound so that Jacobson could turn around and use it to kill the VC/NVA that was banging away at his bedroom door. This was the last VC/NVA that had made it into the embassy compound that morning.  All of the other VC/NVA that had made it into the Embassy grounds in Saigon were dead or captured the very same morning that they blew their way through the Embassy compound’s walls. It took longer in Cholon, Hue, and Phan Thiet to root them out, but the outcome was the same.

The VC/NVA took their best shot during what they called the “Tet Offensive“, and they lost miserably. They literally achieved none of their military objectives. While after the battle the NVA rapidly infiltrated replacements for their horrific losses during the Tet Offensive, many with “Born in the North, To Die in the South” written on the helmets, the Viet Cong simply never recovered from their extraordinarily bloody defeat during the Tet Offensive.  The Viet Cong were never able to replace their appalling losses from the battles up and down Vietnam, and all of their units, including even their elite Main Force Viet Cong units, soon contained far more NVA than Southerners.

As a result of the severe battle losses among both the VC and NVA units General Giap even took the extraordinary step to reassure the surviving VC/NVA units that these types of stand-up, slugfest battles with the deadly Americans would never be attempted again. Based on the results of the battle General Giap thought that this was necessary to try to restore his soldiers’ morale which had truly been shattered by American and allied steel during the Tet Offensive.

However, in spite of all the news coverage it received, when I returned from Vietnam in the fall of 1968 after all of the battles of Tet Offensive were over, and there had been ample time to judge their results, I was not asked once about our great victory in the Battle of the Tet Offensive, but I remember being repeatedly asked, how many people I had killed. My answer never varied:

“More of them than they did of me.”

Read the numbers. We really kicked their ass. You would have thought that someone would have noticed; that someone would have cared.


The full story of my time in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive can be found in my new book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive which is available on Amazon both as a paperback and on Kindle. Please give it a look. See;

❋ For example the Tactical Department, General Staff, NVA, reference: No. 124/Tgi, document No.1103, dated February 14, 1969 reported a total of 123,394 casualties from stages 1 and 2 of the Tet ’68 Offensive. There were three stages.


67 thoughts on “The Tet Offensive ’68–Battle Won, Victory Lost

  1. tom croff

    The fire power that we had was more that they were expecting. We just overwelled them in most areas. What do you think John?

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I think we brought colossal firepower to the table, but they knew that from the time of We Were Soldiers Once and Young, so that was not a surprise. I think the believed their own propaganda, they really thought that the people in the South would rise and that if they did we would leave. I think they were right in that, if they rose we would have left. I think we were very very good at what we did as well.

    2. Frank Gilbert

      I taught exactly what you wrote in my History classes at the University for 10 years. My fellow Prof’s taught just the opposite. They never served in the military and bought into the same liberal press of the 60’s and 70’s, which wrote the Tet Offensive as a big military loss. Even the college text books still lean to their liberal view as the Tet Offensive being a military defeat for our Country. It’s a political thing. Look at what’s happening to the War in the Gulf today? How quick did all the flags come down after 911? At least modern troops are respected better than our generation when they returned home.

    3. Bob Mumblow

      I was attached to 3/506 when they came I Country as a FO/Liaison for the 2/320th during TET, great Unit, came from the 1/327 as a FO also attached at one time to SF Mike Force out of Da Nang. Never trusted the media then and not now, Welcome home brother, Bob Mumblow

    4. jim Crowe.

      I remember TET 68 very well, Fighting while driving through Pleiku to get our loaded trailers and taking supplies to Doc To to resupply 4ht Division and the 173rd Airborne. We all were heros then and now,

    5. Mike Meadows

      Some day someone will look into the battle of Kontum during TET68 where we (4th ID) destroyed a regiment plus (24th NVA) in and around Kontum.
      There is quite a story if a good writer would look into it.
      Especially my company’s (C co 1/22 Inf) attack to save the MACV compound.
      Saigon and Hue were no more important as the NVA would have cut South Vietnam in half if they took Kontum.

      1. JohnEHarrison Post author

        I have the same problem with the battles that my unit, 3/506th, fought around Phan Thiet. If you read a history of Tet ’68 somewhere it will say “the battles were soon over, except in Saigon, Hue and Phan Thiet.” Then they will tell the story of the battles in Saigon and Hue but ignore Phan Thiet.
        Ach! Welcome home. If you write it, I’ll read it.

  2. Vernon Cole

    Don’t forget the Montagnards from the CIDG unit’s und Der Special Forces. They saved cities all over 2 Corp. Ccities like Pleiku, Nah Trang, Kontom, Ban Me Thout, and others. Vietnam had a lot to do With bringing down the Iron Curtain. Today the U.S is a bigger trading partner with Vietnam than either China or Russia.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I was in A/3/506th at Phan Thiet. We worked closely with the Special Forces and Australian SAS Mike Forces particularly during Tet. I know II Corps, and I agree with you. Thank you for the feed back. You may want to take a look at “The Day Smith Died” or “Cone of Violence”.

      1. Patrick

        Dear Sir : Very well written I enjoyed reading it . I believe TET was a important victory stolen by the media who made it look like we lost . The American population was mislead each night by Walter Cronkite and others like him . It seems Americans weren’t smart enough to figure out the real story . As a military brat at the time of TET I knew we beat the NVA and VC but paid a high price . Overall our forces and ARVN did a great job with no credit given . To this day our media does not show our military in a positive light . I do have one question Westmoreland wanted to pursue the enemy into Cambodia and Laos and hammer them . I think that would have been a great idea but I believe LBJ wanted nothing to do with this . What do you think ? Thank you , Patrick .

      2. JohnEHarrison Post author

        The problem with pursuing the enemy lies in a wider war. There were already 320,000 Chinese in North Vietnam and likely would have been many more if we had invaded Laos. Cambodia was a different matter. I would like to have seen a blockade of the port of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Nobody with a brain in their head wants to mess with the US Navy in open waters, and that would have cut the flow of supplies in half for very little risk or cost. That seems to me to be a better solution than adding another nation to the war.

  3. Van Pacey

    I came home in April 68, many of my friends kept asking me about our defeat during the Tet Offensive. When I tried to correct them they would simply tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. The news media put forth disinformation as fact and effectively took our victory away in the minds of the American public. We kicked ass, we may have been bloodied but we killed the NVA and VC wholesale.



  5. Gerry Gudinas

    Very well written John– I fought with the 1st Cav during the TET around Quang Tri the Cav and the 101st Airborne kicked butt we stopped doing body count there were just to many to count. The NVA were stripping there uniforms and trying to blend in with the population the Cav captured 5 NVA that had on nuns dresses. Gerry Gudinas A Co 1/12th 1st Cav Div April 1967 to Feb. 1968.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Gerry Gudinas. My Tac Officer in OCS, Lt Mike Mantagna, had served in the Ia Drang battle with the 1st Cav. Good man. Good unit.

  6. Dan Dantzler

    I was in Camp Enari at Pleiku during Tet ’68 as a 7th Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry AeroRifle Platoon Leader. The first night of Tet was the only time out of three tours in RVN that i spent the whole night in a bunker. We lost about a dozen aircraft that night but the next day we went back to bringing havoc on the VC and NVA. The longer I live, the more I learn about what went on elsewhere in RVN. Thank you for your research, analysis and promotion of the truth about our war.

  7. Dena Anderson

    Amazing info. Had many friends and family members serve, but never knew much of this. Are there any books that would give better understanding? We have avid history readers in the next generation who would love to understand ‘the rest of the story.’ I will share your writings with them.

  8. David E. Marley

    I was a senior in highschool during the Tet. God blessed me in some miraculas way and my # was never pulled. But I lost many friends. Too me you all were the most awesome fighting force. I could never understand anyone who felt any different. You all have always had my utmost respect! I have talked to many friends who came back and I have no idea how you could endure on a daily basis what you all went through. You all are my true HEROES!! WELCOME HOME!!!!!

  9. Jim Young

    Though we were support troops fixing weather equipment all over Vietnam and Thailand, often traveling alone, in my case, half the time, we did get to see a lot more of the the guys doing the fighting, and got to drive through parts of Saigon, I think the second day of Tet 68 to pick up our guys billeted in town and a returning R&R troop. The former active duty Marine that led us in pointed out the people looked afraid as they looked at our pick up load of non-combatants, and told us not to worry unless they also looked somewhere else like at VC/NVA trying to get out of Dodge. He quickly realized what we later learned was the General Offensive had failed, because the General Uprising never started, the “people” did not join them. With our limited ammo (and training), he said our recovery mission took precedence and we would avoid any fleeing enemy as much as possible, not pick any fights, but be ready to aid others if they were trapped. We were almost too relaxed, as we realized who was on the run.

    Some (like me) in our small group would drink with the ARVN Paratroopers when they were in from the field. For me and my friends, they were one of the best Vietnamese units, at least partially because they had the highest ratio of advisers (including Red Hat 6, “Storming Norman” Schwartzkopf, back when, uninvited, they mopped after Ia Drang). Since we operated from in the 7th AF compound, we often overheard bits of what the brass thought was important intel, like captured VC information (within a month or so), that they thought they lost 80,000 troops, and the war. I won’t comment on some of the brass, but my favorite was Gen Weyand, whom I saw in action at Hotel 3 with some very worn out troops.

    We could sense a bit of what Weyand did, and our little group would simply buy a round for the 101st, without a word said, at the appropriate times. Same, on occasion, for the ARVN Paratroopers, 19 of them had been killed by “friendly” fire as they defended the cemetery from some of the 2,655 VC/NVA attacking TSN.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      You really have a story to tell I wish you would write more. I am also sorry that you did not stop by Phan Thiet when we were there.

      Thank you so much for your comments, and I mean it you should write more. You have a story to tell.

  10. Michael Amato

    When I arrived in Cu Chi Base Camp in March of 1968, we were still getting some residual rocket & mortar attacks. I asked the guys who were here during Tet if Cu Chi had received a ground attack. They replied that what Cu Chi received were very heavy rocket & mortar attacks only.

  11. Ed Tucker

    I was in Saigon as part of the only US combat unit (artillery) in the Saigon circle. We were assigned as support to the ARVN, who defended Saigon, which was highly symbolic. At that time no artillery or air strikes were allowed within the Saigon circle, which the enemy obviously knew and relied on. We had been moved in just before Tet based on intelligence. I was a liaison officer to Capital Military Districe, a joint US/ARVN coordination/command center.

    Shortly after Tet started, Major General Keith Ware took over the command center and ordered me (recent first lieutenant) to write procedures to approve artillery and air strikes within the Saigon Circle in support of infantry. I wrote simple but safe procedures which General Ware approved and which we immediately communicated to artillery, infantry, and Air Force. These procedures eliminated the superfluous and delay-prone checks with local civilian authorities and stayed within US/ARVN military structure, relying solely on what the infantry wanted. The firepower we brought was in my view unexpected and devastating to the enemy. Yes there was collateral damage.

    A dramatic run from Cu Chi by the 11th Armored Cav into the Cholon area with a devastating counterattack was a key turning point there.

    I later learned that General Ware was killed in a helicopter shoot-down about a year after Tet 68′ and that he had earned a Medal of Honor in Germany in WWII. I can attest from my short time with him that he was a hell of a leader and that his decisive action in Saigon made a huge difference in the outcome there.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and extensive reply. I learn so much from my readers. There were many battles whose story is still untold. I am doing my best to change some of that. Thanks for your help in that.

  12. Stan Homiski

    Extremely well written, I fought with B Troop 3/4 Cav 25th Inf Div at TSN and even the NVA General Giap said that the Tet Offensive was a terrible loss for the NVA/VC forces and if the US had made one more major push the North would have folded. I still blame Walter Cronkite for making that asinine statement that the US Forces could not win this war.

  13. Daniel L. Hobart

    I was at “The Battle for Khe Sanh,” we lost a lot more men then any of your books or reports. There were more bombs dropped on us than the total of Korea. We were told to hold the base at any cost. We did, but what we didn’t know was, if we were not going to hold the base, Atomic bombs were going to be used on us. “Papers from Washington.” We held the base at a cost of over I,ooo men KIA.” LET THAT NOT BE FORGOTTEN.” SEMPER FI

  14. James Compton

    I was wondering if you have ever heard of the battle of Newport Bridge? I was their in 1967@68and was at this location when we were attached buy VC.and N.V. A. In a firefight on the bridge trying to get into siagon?

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I spent most of my time in II Corps James Compton. There were a couple of famous bridge fights, one in Hue in particular, but no I have not heard of that one. Welcome home.

  15. susan nicolai

    Welcome HOME ALL !! Thank you all for serving for us all ,,the ones who did not make it home Rest In Peace,, you are saddly missed. I was in highschool when this was going on my heart ached than and still does for all that you had to witness and go through. Salute to you all!!

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      Well, your real problem is that you should have had Marines on board. Then, you would have gotten very favorable press, and a lot of it. Ken Burns has also forgotten all of the AID workers and others that worked behind and sometimes on the battle line to do their job. Seriously the Marines constituted about 25% of the troops deployed, but not in the reporting. It is still the same years later.

  16. Neil Newcomb

    My DEROS was 13Feb68 and a Valentine’s Day discharge, so I was pretty well packed up when TET blew up. An Army journalist assigned to IV Corps PIO in Can Tho, I soldiered up along with everyone else and fought in the fight that was largely finished within a week. The trip home, the layovers at Okinawa and the sleepless night at Oakland before outprocessing the next day held plenty of conversations about the Tet fights and the routs and slaughters of VC that resulted. A few days later at home, I turned on the news and found out how wrong I’d been to assume anything other than the worst. Then I watched General Loan cap the VC, for whom the newscaster appeared some degree of sympathy. It was the first few days home to a very different country that I’d served for two years.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      That was a salty Deros. I would not like to have flown out of Tan Son Nhut Airport on 2/13/1968 even to go home. It was still dangerous. Coming home was a real culture shock for me as well. Welcome home. I’m glad you made it.

      1. Neil Newcomb

        Thanx…even though I thought I deleted this email…and rewrote it today , as you can see a couple of mails down this strand. It’s just my re-write.

  17. Slater Davis

    Mr. Harrison. Just read your article on TET. Thank you so much. I was there in 1970-1971 and was the beneficiary of all the hard work done by you and others who came before me. Given your historical knowledge you might find a presentation by Don Richardson interesting. He has a DVD that discusses how our involvement in Vietnam actually stopped (destroyed) the Communist movement in Indonesia…another little know historical part of the demise of the “Iron Curtain”.
    Thank you and Welcome Home!

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      Thank you for the thoughtful additions. I may have seen Don Richardson’s work because I recall reading of the positive effects of the Vietnam War in Indonesia and other countries in South east Asia. Welcome home. I am glad you made back.

  18. Neil Newcomb

    John, I was in Can Tho when Tet blew up…biding time til my 13Feb DEROS, almost finished with my Army journalist assignment with IV Corps PIO. But I, along with everybody else, soldiered up and fought our part of the fight that was all but mopped up within a week. Along the way home, in air and through layovers, throughout the sleepless night at Oakland waiting on the Army to let us go home the next day: most of the talk was about Tet…and our our overwhelming slaughter of Mister Charles…and some new respect for the ARVN performance in the fights. Home by Valentine’s evening, I watched the evening news a day or so later and was puzzled by the idea that we’d pretty much lost the battles, since the Cong had punched a hole in the concrete fence around the American embassy. The tone of the news slid downhill from there…then General Loan capped the VC and ABC showed it like a movie. I was horrified…had no idea that my mother’s evening news (what with me in the Delta and my Marine older brother in I Corps, she watched as faithfully as your’s , if you’ll permit that assumption; taken by the story about your “…mother’s machine gun”) included such carnage. And those samesuch journalists’ often admiring intonations granted antiwar children the obligation to make certain we deserved and received the scorn of our country. Like the truth and it’s information about the Battles of Tet, the fight over our roles as inherently respected, legitimate defenders of our nation goes on.

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I just saw you comment. I wish you would write it up. The news media really did blow the story. Unfortunately, some historians, but fewer every year, repeat that crap. There is a reckoning coming and it has only taken 50years or so.

      Welcome home.


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