History of War



The Tet Offensive of January 1968 had been an enormous blow against the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies, but not necessarily in the way the North Vietnamese had anticipated. While the Americans and South Vietnamese had lost heavily, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) itself had been mauled and the Viet Cong irregulars in the South had been decimated. Coming out to fight the Americans in the open had proven extremely costly. From now on, the Viet Cong would focus on preserving its strength. Similarly, several regiments of the NVA regular troops had been horribly battered in combat and had needed rebuilding.

It was in the realm of public opinion, however, that communist North Vietnam, studiously working to eject the Americans and topple the South Vietnamese government, achieved its greatest results. Never-ending American casualties for little measurable gain turned the Tet Offensive into a political victory for the communists in American public opinion, which became increasingly negative towards the war.

Among the Americans, there was a change of strategy too. General Creighton Abrams was named the new chief of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in June 1968, replacing General William Westmoreland in the post. That same year, US forces in Vietnam reached a wartime high of 535,000 military personnel. Despite this huge force in-country, the US and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) had come no closer to achieving victory over the communist insurgency than when American involvement had begun years earlier. Abrams introduced a different objective for American forces. Instead of Westmoreland’s ‘attrition strategy’, which focused on finding and destroying the enemy’s ‘Main Force’ units, Abrams emphasised ‘pacification’ of the Vietnamese countryside, which included the protection of the civilian populace. The strategy started to bear fruit, and it caused the communists severe

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