Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive: We the People by Mary Englar, Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2009.
This book does more to tell this story than I had ever heard before.  I remember the Tet Offensive as I was growing up, was the first indication that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were a dangerous opponent and even had an opportunity to win the war.  I remember we all thought they were pretty much crushed and defeated, and the Tet Offensive changed all that in our minds.  However, the Tet Offensive ended in an American, South Vietnamese victory.  Their enemies were not able to maintain a single city (they attacked 100).  Except for two northern battles, most of the fighting was concluded within a day.  I guess the victory was in the fact that they did attack. 
Places attacked included the U.S. embassy, radio station and presidential palace in Saigon.  Two Marines were killed in the attack on the embassy.  100 cities throughout South Vietnam were attacked.  On city was completely destroyed and the people fled.  However counter attacks cleared out the attackers.  In the northern part of South Vietnam, the American base of Khe Sanh where the American Marines were cut off, and much of their ammunition destroyed in an artillery barrage.  However they would hold on, and eventually the siege would be broken, but not for over a month.  This was done by carpet bombing the North Vietnamese held positions.  The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese would lose over 50,000 troops as part of the Tet Offensive. 
The other trouble spot was a city close to this battle, Hue.  This had been the Imperial Capitol at one time, and there was a large citadel.  The North Vietnamese were able to get into this citadel, and held a strong defensive position.  They executed many people, including soldiers, but also teachers and government officials.  The Marines had to retake the city a block at a time with very tough fighting.
This book gave me more information about this even in history than I previously had.  One warning, it does have some graphic pictures of war dead, including the Marines killed defending the U.S. embassy. 

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