Central Question: How significant is the Tet Offensive in the overall narrative of the Vietnam War?


Eddie Adams, Vietcong shooting prisoner cropped

The Tet Offensive has become enshrined as THE turning point of the American war in Vietnam. The shock of “Tet” did cause many Americans to rethink the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. The textbooks also argue that the war after Tet was characterized by little more than a wind down of American involvement. In doing so, however, all of the texts ignore the policies of pacification and counterinsurgency that characterized U.S. military thinking from 1968 to 1973. Such omissions distort and oversimplify the story of Vietnam in such a way as to make it difficult for students to understand the relationship of the Vietnam experience to the history of American involvement in the rest of the world, both before the Vietnam War and in events since.

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