The Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968. Immediately thereafter, Americans began to see the results of fighting and gruesome combat footage on their television screens. "The News" became more and more upsetting. This image, by photographer Warren K. Leffler, depicts a couple watching televised news about Vietnam on February 13, 1968. Online via the Library of Congress.


If Americans could point to a single event that turned the country against the war in Vietnam it would, undoubtedly, be the coordinated attacks of the Tet Offensive. With television transmitting the sights and sounds of war into American living rooms, anyone who looked saw an escalating, damaging conflict.

Worse, people saw pictures that enraged them - like the infamous execution of a Viet Cong officer in Saigon. Americans wanted to know: Is this what our boys are dying to protect?

As it happened, though, the American public was not told key facts about the execution photo.

The individual, in the picture, had killed the family of one of General Loan's men.  In turn, the South Vietnamese General (who was also national chief of police) pulled the trigger of his Smith & Wesson .38 revolver when he saw the killer on the street.  Eddie Adams, the photographer, snapped the picture as events unfolded.

Did a lack-of-facts extend to what the American public knew about happenings at Hue (which was massively damaged during the Tet Offensive)? What, exactly, happened in Hue during Tet?

According to a Vietnamese account, a massacre of South Vietnamese people by the North took place after both sides had agreed to a New Year's break in the bombing and fighting. North Vietnamese leaders, however, broke that agreement.

It wasn't just the citizens of Hue who died. In addition to residents and visitors who had gathered in Hue, for the Tet holiday, it is estimated that 210 Americans were killed and 1,360 were wounded in the fierce battle to free the former imperial city.

We can step back in time to view images, and hear audio clips, from the Tet Offensive:

  • A Marine carries an injured Vietnamese woman to the hospital during the battle for Hue.
  • Resting on his tank during the Battle for Hue, a Marine takes a break.
  • For Marines, "Home is where you dig it."
  • Hue city officials, responsible for identifying victims of the Tet Offensive, arrange coffins before the funeral services.
  • Not much is left of Cholon, a suburb of Saigon, when the fighting finally ends.

  • "Would appreciate it if you could shoot it now!"
  • A Viet Cong base camp goes up in flames.

Nothing was the same after the Tet Offensive.

As more and more U.S. men received draft notices, the voices of American protesters grew louder and harsher.

Lyndon Johnson - the President who had once opposed American involvement in Vietnam but escalated the conflict during his administration - faced significant opposition within his own political party. On the 31st of March, 1968, LBJ requested national broadcast time. He was ready to tell all Americans:

I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

Perhaps Tet had also defeated LBJ.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 29, 2018

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"THE TET OFFENSIVE" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2001. Feb 17, 2020.
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