After we won the Tet Offensive in 1968, the Hippy Press here in America sank to new depths. Walter Cronkite, “the most trusted man in America,” made a perverse choice.
He told America that after what happened at Tet, surely the war was now lost.
So what happened at Tet? This 1995 interview by Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Young of North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin tells us pretty clearly:
Question: How did Hanoi intend to defeat the Americans?
Answer: By fighting a long war which would break their will to help South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said, ”We don’t need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out.”
Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi’s victory?
A: It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us.
Q: Did the Politburo pay attention to these visits?
A: Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor. America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.
Q: What was the purpose of the 1968 Tet Offensive?
A: To relieve the pressure Gen. Westmoreland was putting on us in late 1966 and 1967 and to weaken American resolve during a presidential election year.
Tet was designed to influence American public opinion. We would attack poorly defended parts of South Vietnam cities during a holiday and a truce when few South Vietnamese troops would be on duty. Before the main attack, we would entice American units to advance close to the borders, away from the cities. By attacking all South Vietnam’s major cities, we would spread out our forces and neutralize the impact of American firepower. Attacking on a broad front, we would lose some battles but win others. We used local forces nearby each target to frustrate discovery of our plans. Small teams, like the one which attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, would be sufficient. It was a guerrilla strategy of hit-and-run raids.