The attack on Saigon was unsuccessful and produced astronomically high numbers of North Vietnamese casualties. The attack took the US-led forces by surprise in spite of the intelligence intercepted prior to the offensive; intelligence which, if heeded, would have placed US and South Vietnamese forces in the exact positions that would have completely thwarted the attack. The images sent home to the United States failed to tell the whole story but aborted the US war effort nonetheless. The Battle of Saigon is a perfect microcosm of the entire Tet Offensive: what happened in the capitol happened countrywide.
Aftermath of the Tet Offensive In the two months that saw the most fighting, over 50,000 NVA personnel, commandos, and political cadre were killed; and, the main objective (provoking a “General Uprising”) failed. Despite a comprehensive tactical defeat, the North Vietnamese achieved a strategic victory far beyond their hopes. Four years later, the Communists defeated the South Vietnamese (now devoid of American air support) and “united Vietnamese under the banner of Communism” (Lanning, 2003).
Lessons …show more content…
The report, only declassified in 1997, highlighted the warning provided through human sources (Human Intelligence, or HUMINT) as “no small achievement” (Smith, 1968); but, diplomatic decision-making overrode the military strategy and in many places degraded the US’s ability to prepare and then timely react to the Offensive. Although the report found “cooperation and exchange” of relevant intelligence to be “remarkably good,” it also stated that the “nature and extent” of the Tet Offensive was “almost totally unexpected” (Smith, 1968). What good does intelligence gain from interceptions and interrogations do, if it is ignored or misinterpreted? Signal and communications intercepts detailed the massive build-up of North Vietnamese forces, and aerial reconnaissance clearly showed a sharp increase of traffic on the Ho Chi Minh