Thursday, July 18, 2019

January, 1968: Keh Sanh, The Tet Offensive, and the Unraveling of an A

When President Johnson delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress on January 17, 1968 he spoke of the war in Vietnam with optimism. He listed the many military accomplishments to date, mentioned the word â€Å"progress† five times, discussed a â€Å"fruitful† visit with the pope, and spoke with a tone and tenor that suggested an imminent, peaceful resolution (â€Å"Johnson’s Annual Message†). Not three months later – in a similarly important speech to the American people – Johnson stoically announced that he would not be seeking reelection (â€Å"Johnson’s Address to the Nation†). What had seemed like an impending certainty dissolved into a distant dream. Public support for the war, and of Johnson, had deteriorated so swiftly in the winter of 1968 that he had no choice but to disband his efforts to seek a second term. What happened in the months between Johnson’s confident State of the Union and his more su llen speech in March of 1968 is no mystery. The Battle of Khe Sanh, combined with the more lastingly impactful Tet Offensive in late January, were devastating blows to American efforts in Vietnam. In hindsight, these events may have been militarily ineffective, yet the cultural ricochets they created throughout America can be seen as nothing short of a major victory for the North Vietnamese. These events were instrumental in turning the tides of the war. General Westmoreland’s hope, that superior American firepower would end the war with the North Vietnamese in the winter of 1968 was quickly foiled when U.S. Marines were bombarded with a rocket and mortar attack at their isolated base in Khe Sanh. The 76-day battle at Khe Sanh ended with both sides claiming victory, raising the question of why anyone found it strategic to engag... ...ent Lyndon B. Johnson's Address to the Nation Announcing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and Reporting His Decision Not To Seek Reelection: March 31, 1968.† LBJ Library and Musuem: National Archives and Records Aministration. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. . â€Å"President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union: January 17, 1968,† LBJ Library and Museum: National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 6 Apr. 2012 . â€Å"Shock and Awe of the Tet Offensive Shattered U.S. Illusions.† James H. Willbanks. U.S News. 29 Jan. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. â€Å"The Battle of Khe Sanh, 1968,† The Tet Offensive, Marc J. Gilbert and William Head, eds., Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996, ch. 12, pp. 191-213. Willibanks, James H. The Tet Offensive. New York: Columbia U P, 2007.

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