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Cold War Files: All Units: Events: Viet Cong Troops and American Public Devastated by Tet Offensive

January 30 - 31, 1968 two days
Viet Cong Troops and American Public Devastated by Tet Offensive

On the Tet holiday, Viet Cong units surge into action over the length and breadth of South Vietnam. In more than 100 cities and towns, shock attacks by Viet Cong sapper-commandos are followed by wave after wave of supporting troops. By the end of the city battles, 37,000 Viet Cong troops deployed for Tet have been killed. Many more had been wounded or captured, and the fighting had created more than a half million civilian refugees. Casualties included most of the Viet Cong's best fighters, political officers and secret organizers; for the guerillas, Tet is nothing less than a catastrophe. But for the Americans, who lost 2,500 men, it is a serious blow to public support.

January 31, 1968

The turning point of the war occurs as 84,000 Viet Cong guerrillas aided by NVA troops launch the Tet Offensive attacking a hundred cities and towns throughout South Vietnam.

The surprise offensive is closely observed by American TV news crews in Vietnam which film the U.S. embassy in Saigon being attacked by 17 Viet Cong commandos, along with bloody scenes from battle areas showing American soldiers under fire, dead and wounded. The graphic color film footage is then quickly relayed back to the states for broadcast on nightly news programs. Americans at home thus have a front row seat in their living rooms to the Viet Cong/NVA assaults against their fathers, sons and brothers, ten thousand miles away. "The whole thing stinks, really," says a Marine under fire at Hue after more than 100 Marines are killed.

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