Great explanation of a military victory/politcal defeat,
This review is from: Tet!: The Turning Point in the Vietnam War (Paperback)
Contrary to the previous reviewer, I think Oberdorfer tackled the Tet subject comprehensively and covered all bases in explaining the turning point of the Vietnam conflict.
Oberdorfer begins the book by fully explaining what really happened at the American Embassy that fateful January night in 1968. Although most Americans today believe the Embassy was 'overrun,' Oberdorfer explains the true story of a platoon of Viet Cong blasting a hole in the wall to enter the compound but never being able to enter the Chancery building. I believe the reason Oberdorfer starts his book off with the subject is to dispel the 'overrun' myth of VC running through the building capturing documents and, even though it was a minor military skirmish compared to the street-by-street fighting in Hue and siege at Khe Sanh, the American Embassy attack was the paramount event which woke America up to what was happening in SE Asia.
Also, the previous reviewer complains the book focuses too much on the politics and media coverage of Tet, not realizing Oberdorfer's main point of the book is that Tet might have been won on the battlefield, but it was an epic defeat on American televisions and in world newspapers. The Tet offensive's primary aim was to cause political upheaval in America to give the Communists a victory exactly like what defeated the French a decade earlier. In a 1947 tract by Hanoi called "The Resistance Will Win", it states "...as a result of the long war the enemy troops become weary and discouraged, and are tormented by home-sickness. The French economy and finances are exhausted; supplying the army is difficult, the French people do not want the war to go on any longer. The movement against the diehards in France goes stronger and more fierce. World opinion severely condemns France...world movement for peace and democracy scores great successes, etc. ...
Subtract France from the quote and insert the US and there is the political reasoning for starting the General Offensive. Also, Tet not only caused US and ARVN troop casualties, but it ended a presidential administration and forever changed how the news is presented to the American public by the media. A study of Tet not involving the White House, LBJ, McNamara, Clifford, or for that matter Cronkite, the Wall Street Journal and Time, would be like reading about the light bulb and failing to mention Edison.
Oberdorfer's does a great job balancing his information by devoting whole chapters to subjects like the history of Vietnam, pre-Tet America, the shockwave that hit the US after the attack, the 'shot seen around the world' of the Saigon police chief shooting a VC prisoner on the street, the military disaster of Tet to the Viet Cong ranks, the battle of Hue and a section on one of the most decisive months in US history - March 1968.
My only gripe is that the book was first written in 1971, which interestingly gives the reader an unusual perspective as the war was still going on, but is begging for a complete Afterword section to fill in the gaps as more information on the North is now available. BTW, there is a great Chronology at the end of the book which makes it easy to follow the play-by-play and would be a student's dream in helping research information.