January 31, 1968 – In the pre dawn hours of January 30, 1968, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars and Vietcong (National Liberation Front – NLF) guerrillas launch surprise attacks up and down the length of Vietnam. A cease-fire had been declared for the Tet festivities (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), but the Vietcong broke the peace with a series of small attacks. On the 31st, the attack begins in earnest, most notably in the Hue, the former capital located midway on the coast between the North and South. The Battle of Hue lasted for more than a month during which the NLF executed thousands in the Massacre of Hue. The battle for Khe Sanh, a remote US Marine outpost near the Laotian border, would last till April. Also on the 31st, the recently completed U.S. Embassy in Saigon was overrun by 15 Vietcong combatants and held for over 6 hours.
The Tet Offensive would be the turning point in the war. The initial surprise and success of the attacks disillusioned Americans who had been told that progress was being made and we were “winning”. Heavy casualties on both sides sickened many who grew weary of the carnage now broadcast into their homes nightly. Eventually, the communists were beaten back and took heavy losses, but psychologically they scored a victory. What had been viewed as a campaign against communist domination was now viewed as a hopeless quagmire that would never produce victory and consumed “the flower of our youth, our finest young men”.