Tet Offensive

1968 military campaign during the Vietnam War

The Tet Offensive was a military campaign during the Vietnam War that started on 30 January 1968. It was fought by the communist forces of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, which were aided by North Vietnam, against the South Vietnamese government, aided by the United States and other allies.

Tet Offensive
Tết Mậu Thân
Part of the Vietnam War

Some Communist targets during the Tet Offensive
DatePhase 1: January 30 – March 28, 1968
Phase 2: May 5 – June 15, 1968
Phase 3: August 17 – September 23, 1968
Result US and South Vietnamese tactical victory[1]
North Vietnamese propaganda, political, and strategic[2] victory
Depletion of Viet Cong leading to replacement by North Vietnamese
 South Vietnam
 United States
 South Korea
 New Zealand
South Vietnam Viet Cong
Vietnam North Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
United States William Westmoreland South Vietnam Hoàng Văn Thái
~1,000,000[3] ~323,000 - 595,000[4]
Casualties and losses

In phase 1: South Vietnam South Vietnam:
4,954 killed
15,917 wounded
926 missing
United States South Korea Australia New Zealand
4,124 killed
19,295 wounded
604 missing
Total casualties in Phases 1:
Approximately 45,820 casualties
(9,078 killed, 35,212 wounded, 1,530 missing)[5] [6]

Total 3 phases: unknown

In phase 1::
Est. 17,000 killed and 20,000 wounded

To August:
75,000+ casualties[7]
Total 3 phases: 111,179 casualties (45,267 killed, 61,267 wounded, 5,070 missing)[8]
Civilian: 14,000 killed, 24,000 wounded

Its purpose was to surprise the enemy with attacks against military and civilian commands and control centers in South Vietnam.

Eventually, the Americans and the South Vietnamese managed to fight off the communist forces for a military victory. However, the massive fighting during the Tet Offensive made most Americans go from supporting the fighting in Vietnam to opposing it. The military and the government had told the Americans that the their country was close to winning. After that was disproved by the offensive, the US was said to have won the battle but to have lost the war.[9]


  1. Smedberg, p. 188
  2. "Tet Offensive". HISTORY.
  3. Hoang, p. 8.
  4. South Vietnamese government estimated communist forces numbered 323,000, including 130,000 regulars and 160,000 guerrillas. Hoang, p. 10. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam estimated that strength at 330,000. The CIA and the U.S. State Department concluded that the communist force level lay somewhere between 435,000 and 595,000. Dougan and Weiss, p. 184.
  5. Tổng công kích, Tổng nổi dậy Tết mậu thân 1968 (Tet Offensive 1968) - ARVN's Đại Nam publishing in 1969, p. 35
  6. Does not include ARVN or U.S. casualties incurred during the "Border Battles"; ARVN killed, wounded, or missing from Phase III; U.S. wounded from Phase III; or U.S. missing during Phases II and III.
  7. Includes casualties incurred during the "Border Battles", Tet Mau Than, and the second and third phases of the offensive. General Tran Van Tra claimed that from January through August 1968 the offensive had cost the communists more than 75.000 dead and wounded. This is probably a low estimate. Tran Van Tra, Tet, in Jayne S. Warner and Luu Doan Huynh, eds., The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993, pgs. 49 & 50.
  8. PAVN's Department of warfare, 124th/TGi, document 1.103 (11-2-1969)
  9. "Tet Offensive: How Lyndon B. Johnson Won the Battle but Lost the War" (PDF).

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