1968 began in Vietnam

Issue section: 
(432)

It was the Vietnamese who kicked off, 50 years ago, what became one of the greatest years in recent history for political advance — 1968.

On 30 January that year an 80,000-strong combined force of the Viet Cong and the People’s Army of North Vietnam carried out surprise attacks on some 100 towns and cities, including 36 regional capitals, in South Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive, named after the Vietnamese New Year Tet holiday, was aimed particularly at the major command centres of the South Vietnamese Army and its then massive US military support.

For several days the offensive sent these forces into disarray, but they quickly regrouped and, after up to three weeks of overwhelming fire power, put down the attacks.

But although the North Vietnamese forces were defeated militarily, they had scored a major political victory.

The US administration had, for several years, told the US public that the Vietnamese were incapable of mounting serious military operations.

US support for the war began to not only evaporate but gradually transform into the massive anti-war demonstrations and collective draft burning of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This, alongside the tenacity and courage of the North Vietnamese People’s Army and the Viet Cong, eventually forced the US government to sue for peace.

There can be little doubt the Vietnamese victory was a factor behind encouraging many of the fantastic events that were to occur over the next 12 months.

Get ready for a great year of 50th celebrations, and let’s hope they have a similar Tet effect.

Alan Gibson
London