On January 30th, 1968 the largest communist attack of the Vietnam war begins. The NVA and Viet Cong used the celebration of the lunar new year Tet, as zero hour to launch their attack. Attacking during a holiday was a surprise for the allied forces and showed how willing the NVA and Viet Cong were to use any means necessary to fight the war. The communist thought that a large scale attack would spark an uprising of the civilian population in South Vietnam.
The attack of over 80,000 NVA and Viet Cong happened simultaneously in over 100 different locations throughout South Vietnam. The loses for the communist where astounding, with over 40,000 being killed in action. The U.S. and RVAN troops fought off the surprise attack sustaining 3,000 KIA during the offensive. This large military failure and lack of civilian up rising for the communist did have one point of success that they could take from their large losses.
The media in South Vietnam was able to capture the events that unfolded as a result of the Tet offensive, and broadcast them to the American people who where being told that the abilities of the communist where weakening every day. This attack showed many Americans the reality of the war and that the idea of it ending quickly might not be as true as LBJ’s administration had hoped or projected it to be.
Then on February 1st, 1968 a Viet Cong Captain Nguyễn Văn Lém was captured and taken to South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, who then in the streets publicly executed him with a pistol. The execution was recorded by Võ Sửu, a NBC cameraman and an Associated Press photographer, Eddie Adam. The video and photo became widely showed and published in the United States which added resolve and fuel to the anti-war movement. Many believe this helped feed into the decision of LBJ not running for re-election.
The Tet offensive was in military terms a large failure for the communist and showed the strength and resolve of the American forces in South Vietnam. The impact it had on the political side of the war was by all means of measurement a success for the communist. In order for the communist to win Saigon they needed to win Washington, and the Tet offensive helped them do just that.