Vietnam – Ken Burns Review 3

by Daniel Russ on November 12, 2017


The Tet offensive was the undisputed turning point of the war in Vietnam. In the face of bravado on party supporters and military leaders the story disaster unfolded to the American public like a slow moving wreck. Feckless and dilatory reporting only made matters worse for the public. It felt as if a teenager was suddenly beginning to tell a difficult truth. After years of being told we were on the verge of delivery a crushing blow to the Communists, the story of Tet grew worse by the day. Tet was a plan that could not be defeated. It was not designed to defeat the US militarily. It was designed to make a point that the Viet Cong and the NVA would not cease hostilities until the US left the country.

That all said, militarily it was a massive defeat for the NVA and the VC. 58,000 out of 84,000 Communist insurgents died in face of massive US and ARVN firepower. Furthermore, the Communist zealots who portended that the people would rise up and join them were wrong. The people most certainly did not rise up. The ASRVN most certainly did not switch sides. No ARVN units were wiped out.

The Communistas also committed an atrocity or two. One was the systematic execution of members of the South Vietnam government,2300 in all and buried in a mass grave.

The US exploded in violent protests and so did the rest of the world. Berlin, London, Paris, Prague, and other major towns around the world erupted in loud dissent of the west’s invasion and occupation of Vietnam. Suddenly for America, the task of eliminating a monolithic Communist enterprise wasn’t worth it to the families back in the US. More than 20,000 Americans were arrested in protests.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy quipped that the battle “…finally shattered the mask of official illusion. Unable too defeat him or break his will, we shall seek peaceful end.”

He was assassinated soon afterwards.

Then there was another countrywide attack on South Vietnam targets called ‘mini-Tet’ on May 1st. About 120 towns and targets were hit, and by March 5, 1968 36,000 new casualties were added to the Communist attackers. They were mowed down in ill considered attacks on forces that were geared up and ready to fight.


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