.. Army fought one of the largest battles of the war. It occurred in the Ia Dang Valley and was a serious defeat to North Vietnamese forces. After the battle the North Vietnamese and the NLF forces decided to change strategies. They decided that they only way to win was to fight when they wanted to.
They began hit rapidly, with surprise if possible, and get out as soon as they had entered to avoid casualties from American forces. The success of the Ia Dang Valley battle convinced General Westmoreland that his strategy of attrition was the key to a United States victory. General Westmoreland then ordered the largest search-and-destroy operations of the war in what was called the “Iron Triangle”, a Communist stronghold northeast of Saigon. These search-and-destroy missions were intended to find and destroy North Vietnam and NLF military headquarters but in the end failed to rid Communist forces from the area. By the time 1967 had come around the ground war in Vietnam had become a stale mate. Americans would attack Vietnamese installations, kill some people, and go home.
The Vietnamese would then attack American installations, kill people, and go home. This caused President Johnson and McNamara to increase the intensity of the air war being fought in Vietnam. For some time the Joint Chiefs of staff had been trying to get more bombings for quite some time and they thought that this was a good excuse to press for it. But there were already signs showing that intensified bombing would not do what it was intended to. In 1966 the U.S. successfully bombed a North Vietnam oil filed which destroyed 70 percent of their fuel reserves, this, however, did not affect the fight that they put up.
Civilian casualties were also a factor of the air war in Vietnam. People who planned escapes for civilians tried to avoid populated areas, but when you try to people during a time that more than one-hundred and fifty thousand sorties per year were flying and bombing things civilian casualties were really hard to avoid. These casualties caused tensions both in the United States and other places in the world. In 1967 the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, declared that no more “major military targets” were left. With fear of Chinese and Soviet Union support to North Vietnam, The United States Defense Department had to admit a stale mate in both ground and air.
This finally happened after an enormous amount of Vietnamese property had been destroyed. In 1967 North Vietnam and the NLF decided that it was time to go all out and do as much damages as possible to the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. They planned what was called the Tet Offensive hoping that the casualties and destruction they were planning to inflict would alter the mood of the war in the United States. In December 1967 North Vietnamese forces attacked and surrounded a U.S.
Marine base Khe Sahn. General Westmoreland ordered to have the base held at all costs. To make sure that the base wasnt taken under North Vietnam control Westmoreland dispatched 50,000 U.S. Marines to hold the base. This move weakend the line to the South and was what the NLF strategists had hoped would happen.
The main force of the Tet Offensive then began January 31, 1968, at the start of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. This was unsuspected because the U.S. thought that the fighting would stop for a few days like it normally did for celebration. Most of the South Vietnamese troops had gone home on leave and in many areas U.S. troops were at stand-down. Almost simultaneously nearly 85,000 NLF troops attacked almost every major city and province capital across South Vietnam.
Even the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, which had been thought to be invulnerable, had been taken over and held for eight hours before U.S. forces could regain control of it. It took Unites States forces three weeks to get rid of the 1000 NLF soldiers in Saigon. The bloodiest fighting of the war happened in the Imperial capital of Hue. South Vietnamese officers were assasinated for associating with American forces. After more forces arrived nearly all the NLF sympathizers were murdered.
United States Marines and paratroopers were ordered to search for NLF soldiers and sympahtizers. The thing that killed the most people though was the shelling that took place upon the city. All the architecual treasures of Hue were flattened and nearly 100,000 people were left homeless. The Tet Offensive lasted untill the fall of 1968. When it was over North Vietnamese and NLF forces had suffered a small amount of losses.
The U.S. Department of Defense estimated that nearly 45,000 North Vietnamese and NLF soldiers had been killed, most of the casualties were NLF soldiers. Although it was covered up for almost a year, a horrifying event struck the U.S. public. During the Tet Offensive American forces in May had destroyed and entire village called My Lai killing 500 unarmed civilians, mostly women and children.
After the Tet Offensive, General Westmoreland stated that the enemy was almost defeated and requested 206,000 more troops to come in and help finish the job. The success of the NLF in the Tet Offensive affect the publics mood about the war and showed how deep the roots of Communism were in Norht Vietnam. It also showed how costly it was for America to stay in Vietnam. Many wanted closure and were hoping for withdrawl from the war. President Johnson rejected General Westmorelands request for more troops and replaced as the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam with Westmorelands deputy, General Creighton Abrams. President Johnson also decided not to run for re-election in 1968.
Republican Richard Nixon ran for president and was elected saying that he would bring “peace and honor”. After Vietnam many people wondered what the U.S. had accomplished. Most say that if the U.S. hadnt tried to prevent a Communist Vietnam much worse of things may have occured.
Others still believe today that the Vietnam war was not Americas fight and that it was a waste of money, time, and most importantly American soldiers.