Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Tet Offensive-Lunar New Year-The Year of the Monkey-Vietnam 1968


1968- Chinese Year of the Monkey

At 3:00 in the morning on January 31, 1968 after having announced a 7-day ceasefire to celebrate the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, the North Vietnamese People's Army (PAVN-People's Army of North Vietnam) and the Viet Cong launched ferocious and coordinated attacks on 100 cities throughout South Vietnam catching both the ARVN and US forces completely off-guard.

Some historians on both sides have recorded that the offensive began "in the early hours" of January 31 while others say it began on the morning of January 30. Like everything else about the War in Vietnam-very little agrees. Numbers rarely, if ever, jibe, and viewpoints, naturally, are different. Americans say they "won" these battles from a military standpoint. Many agree. The North Vietnamese say they "won" from a political and psychological perspective. Many agree. So, let us begin our retrospective in agreement of those memories. 

Even today, 48 years on, however- some American veterans lament  that they could have "won" the war had the politicians kept their noses out of it. They say they were "close to winning". But the Tet Offensive cost both sides tremendous losses of life, enormous catastrophic injuries and the devastation of a land by the atrocious bombings of US B52 bombers laden with enough explosives to exceed all that was dropped during the entire length of World War II. Two factors that played into the pressure on US forces were that the leaders back home were painting a picture of success while the military leadership had their focus on one spot-Khe Sanh, where heavy fighting had been taking place for a month. 

The White House and Department of Defense had it wrong. The MACV Commander Westmoreland took the enemy's bait by throwing all he had into Khe Sanh. This was to be the diversion away from what was about to occur.

The men on the ground were left wide open. But through sheer survival instinct and the help of relentless air support, they pushed back the NLF, VC and North Vietnamese forces.

The surprise attacks, although eventually repelled, would force public opinion of the war over the cliff and expose the weaknesses and vulnerablities of the world's most powerful military.

Consequently-winning truly became a matter of opinion.

Out From the Jungles, Into the Cities

Up until now, the war had mainly taken place in the jungles and swamps, villages and farms where the NLF (National Liberation Front) guerrillas had their main support bases. Seizing the element of surprise- coming out of the jungles and launching the attacks on the eve of the Lunar New Year- NLF forces attacked heavily populated cities in the South that had a significant American military presence. Because Vietnamese travel to their homes for the holiday, guerrillas arrived in cities such as Hue and Saigon in small groups of twos and threes undetected. Disguised as peasants, refugees, and ARVN soldiers on holiday leave they slipped into their positions. Caches of weapons had been staged well ahead of the attacks, often smuggled in secretively:
"Taxis carried chrysanthemums into Saigon for the Tet market. Hidden underneath them were AK-47s. The people supported the revolution. They helped us-we were able to penetrate the security in the city. We changed our clothes and carried fake identity documents. The people of Saigon hid us in their homes." a 
But did they? Or was it exhaustion from war that made them compliant?

Tet had traditionally been a time of truce, even during the war years, but in 1968 the duration of the celebrations had not been established. Although it was reported that US troops were on full alert and due to US policy that the security of major cities was under the protection of the ARVN, there were still only a few hundred American troops on duty in Saigon the night before the attack began.

Two US Military Police aid a wounded fellow MP during fighting in the US Embassy compound in Saigon, January 31, 1968, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive. A Viet Cong suicide squad seized control of part of the compound and held it for about 6 hours before they were killed or captured. [AP Photo/Hong Seong-Chan]#

While the embassy compound was under assault so were the Presidential Palace, the government radio station, the headquarters of the ARVN chiefs of staff and even General Westmoreland's own compound at Tan Son Nhut airbase. 

The offensive proved to be a bold yet failed cause. In its mission to wrest control of major population centers from the US, ARVN, and their allies, the NLF had hoped, maybe assumed, that the local populations would rise up against the foreigners, join the NLF and win back their country. However, by the time of Tet, at least in the view of many historians, the South Vietnamese had lost their desire for revolution. After decades of war, decades of lack, death, devastation, illness and degradation- the Vietnamese people were numb. They were incapable of joining the "enemy". They were simply not able to join the Americans. Tet brought the war to a stalemate. Couple that with the known corruption within the GVN leadership and the horrors had truly caused their own default.

Even the Buddhists who, at one time, had rallied against the GVN (Government of Vietnam) were silent. Their leader, the unreservedly anti-American Tri Quang, sheltered silently and escaped with his life when the Americans pulverized the An Quang pagoda where the NLF had set up a post.

A large section of rubble is all that remained in this one block square area of Saigon on February 5, 1968, after fierce Tet Offensive fighting. Rockets and grenades combined with fires laid waste to the area. An Quang Pagoda, location of Viet Cong headquarters during the fighting, is at the top of the photo. [AP Photo/Johner]#  

In those early morning hours of January 31, 1968- NLF troops-an estimated 84,000 of them, had attacked almost every important American base and every town and city of South Vietnam. One after the other, cities in the Delta- My Tho, Can Tho, Vinh Long, Rach Gia, and Ben Tre were on the defensive as ARVN fought to protect their headquarters. Then in II Corps it would be: Nha Trang, Qui Nhon, Tuy Hoa and the American's big base at Cam Ranh Bay. Dalat, a resort town frequented by Vietnamese generals and home to the ARVN military academy came under ferocious attack. But, finally, in I Corps, when the North Vietnamese regulars joined the NLF there was the fiercest fighting. Enemy mortars and rockets rained down on Danang and shut down the air base. An air base from which most tactical airstrikes were launched. Then Phu Bai and Chu Lai and down the coast to the ROK (Republic of South Korea) bases. In Quang Ngai city and other places, they opened jails and released thousands of prisoners.

In the old provinical capital of Hue, NLF troops joined by North Vietnamese regulars easily mowed down the ARVN defense forces and marched right into the city occupying the university, the central market and all other important military and civilian entities.

Walter Cronkite's Summation of the effects of The Tet Offensive

Coming Up...More on the TO

Glossary: NLF (National Liberation Front), VC (Viet Cong-Communists), GVN (Government of Vietnam/South), ARVN 
(Army of the Republic of Vietnam/South), PAVN (People's Army of Vietnam/North), Tet (Chinese/Vietnamese New Year). *Most Vietnamese are ethnic Chinese.

a Tong Viet Duong, guerrilla fighter with the NLF in Saigon. From:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Battle of Khe Sanh January 21, 1968


Like all there is about the American War in Vietnam, facts are sketchy with regard to the strategic Battle of Khe Sanh

The 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh was the longest, deadliest and most controversial of the Vietnam War, pitting the U.S. Marines and their allies against the North Vietnamese Army. Both sides have published official histories of the battle, and while these histories agree the fighting took place at Khe Sanh, they disagree on virtually every other aspect of it.a

On the morning of January 21, 1968, the Battle of Khe Sanh was launched in Quang Tri Province in northwestern South Vietnam. The battle raged until 8 April 1968, although fighting continued straight into July of that same year. The question of "who won?" continues to be debated by military historians and veterans on both sides. One commenter responded to the question with "The American B-52s won the battle of Khe Sanh". And so it goes.

Fierce fighting had been ongoing in the area around the 17th parallel where, in 1954, the Geneva Accords had designated the dividing line between North and South Vietnam. It was an 
area of significant strategic importance. Neither side was willing to hand it over. Combat offensives by the PAVN (People's Army of Vietnam) in and around the area as early as 1967 were regarded by the Americans as minor activities in the border regions. This would change as hostilities increased.

The base at Khe Sanh contained an enormous munitions depot. And this was the main target of the PAVN forces. They struck with ferocity and demolished the huge cache, wiped out the runway and damaged some aircraft.

The American military command in South Vietnam nicknamed the defense of the base at Khe Sanh Operation Scotland. The combatants were elements of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force (MAF), 1st Cavalry and 7th Air Force along with forces from the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) and two to three division-size elements of the PAVN.

Loading bombs onto B-52 in Guam

A Brief Background on Khe Sanh 
Khe Sanh was a US garrison base in South Vietnam since 1962. Its importance was because of its geographical position. By 1968 there were 6,000 Marines based there. The base was located at the westernmost end of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and allowed for unimpeded access to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The PAVN placed great importance on capturing Khe Sanh and surrounded the base with a reported 20,000 men. Their advantage was that they had the base surrounded and had positioned large artillery guns in Laos, which were out of range of US artillery at Khe Sanh.

It was believed that the PAVN wanted to repeat their victory against the French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (link). American forces did, however, have the advantage insofar as being in control of the high ground (unlike the French). The Americans also had total air supremacy. The attacks on Khe Sanh were part of the North's plan to attract attention away from the enormous build up of PAVN troops amassing for the launch of the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive, arguably, was the final blow against allied forces in the war. (We will begin our coverage of Tet in upcoming posts).  The battle for Khe Sanh was just the beginning.

Khe Sanh and the military outposts around it were under constant mortar, artillery, ground and rocket attacks. During the battle, a massive aerial bombardment campaign nicknamed Operation Niagra was launched by the US Air Force. Over 100,000 tons of bombs and napalm were dropped  (equivalent in ferocity to 5 Hiroshima atomic bombs) by aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marines. In fact, Westmoreland, Commander (MACV) petitioned Lyndon Johnson for permission to use tactical nuclear weapons. He was refused. 

In March of 1968 (a month after the beginning of the Tet Offensive) an overland relief effort was launched. This effort was nicknamed Operation Pegasus. 

On June 19, 1968 another initiative was begun, the evacuation and destruction of the Khe Sanh base by the Americans- it was nicknamed Operation Charlie.

The history of the battles in and around the Khe Sanh valley are numerous. There is much to know about the area's strategic importance to both the Americans and the North Vietnamese. The Americans had a perfect position from which to monitor the North's activities such as the movement of troops, supplies and ammunition on the Ho Chi Minh trail right on the Laotian border. Much treasure was utilized and lost. Many, many lives were sacrificed and/or damaged in some way. There is much debate as to who was the victor, if there could be such a thing. But, the numbers we have found speak for themselves:

American Casualties
Americans Killed
Americans Wounded
Americans Missing
Americans Captured

These figures can and will be disputed ad infinitum. But they are accurate, according to our research. We are always open to comments, corrections and further material.

In Memory of all who fell
and all who suffer still

US Marines Battle of Khe Sanh January 1968 (click link)

Interactive Timeline View (PBS) (click link)

Khe Sanh Veterans Home Page (click link)

a from

Sunday, January 19, 2014

South Korean "Blue Dragons" and the Massacre at Ha My Village, February 25, 1968 Part III

South Korean "Blue Dragons" Murder Villagers (click Link)

South Korean Children at Vietnam Memorial

May the children in today's world somehow find the strength to pull us together instead of pushing us apart. We must all- everywhere across the globe- find ways to resolve our differences without violence.

Peace and Love can be the only weapons today.

In Memory of all who perished in 
Ha My Village
February 25, 1968
The Year of the Monkey

Friday, January 17, 2014

South Korea "Blue Dragons" and the Massacre at Ha My Village, February 25, 1968 Part II


South Korea "Blue Dragons" Murder Villagers (click link)

The marble with paintings of lotuses, covering the original memorial statue in Ha My, Vietnam.

The backside of a memorial statue, set up in 2000, of villagers who died in the 1968 Ha My massacre, showing the names of the youngest victims, some of whom were unborn babies who didn’t have names.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

South Korean "Blue Dragons" and The Massacre at Ha My Village, February 25, 1968 Part 1


Back in July of 2012, while researching for our Facebook page and this blog, we came upon the most astounding series on a South Korean blog. Rather than waste any time describing or explaining it, we will let the story speak for itself. It is mind-numbing and tragic. This series tells the story from the perspective of those who experienced it all first hand. Just today we received permission from the publisher, Hankyoreh Media Co., and we wish to thank them for their willingness to share this 3-part series about the massacre of Ha My Village in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam on February 25, 1968. -Ed.

South Korean 'Blue Dragons' Murder Villagers (click on link)

Rest in Peace Pamithoa

Sunday, January 05, 2014

ROK: The Republic of South Korea and the Vietnam War


In our research of the ROK (Republic of South Korea) engagements in the Vietnam War, we discovered three very important things that cropped up in all the sources we studied: 1) Korean military was very tough, 2) Korean military was there for economic reasons, and 3) there is is still much anxiety among Koreans and Vietnamese vis a vis the presence of those from the Republic of South Korea during the war.

On the one hand, we read that President Syngman Rhee, the much-revered president of South Korea offered to send troops.  Then we find that the US requested South Korean troops and attached a great deal of financial incentive to the South Korean leader. In fact, ROK troops were offered bonuses upon completing their service. Many would report it was more money than they had ever seen. Some described these soldiers and marines as mercenaries. The debate continues to this day. Some young South Korean soldiers volunteered to fight in Vietnam to get away from their abusive superiors who were often known to exceed their charge by brutally beating recruits.

"These soldiers (left) are from the 'Paengma' (White Horse) Infantry Division. During the Vietnam War, South Korea was the recipient of great financial benefit, through U.S. military contracts and U.S. government aid to the Korean Army: Between 1965 and 1970, the USA gave the ROK $927 Million for its efforts in Vietnam. The great expansion of the Korean economy in the 70's and 80's also had its roots in the business it made during this war: The economic gain from the war in Vietnam alone was $380 Million by the end of 1968: This represented 16% of total receipts of foreign funds and 3% of the Korean Gross National Product. The Korean Army in Vietnam, however, was notorious. The U.S. commanding general, General Creighton Abrams considered the Korean Army in Vietnam 'a barbarous, over-paid-for mercenary force'. He estimated that it cost the U.S. taxpayers $400,000 in aid for every enemy combatant the Korean Army killed." a

What is interesting, as a footnote, is that North Korea's communist government was active in support of North Vietnam with funds and soldiers. So, in the context of the war in Vietnam- the two Korea's were still, essentially, warring with one another- this time on foreign soil and against other Asians.

There is photographic, written, eyewitness, and film evidence of various aspects of the South Koreans who fought alongside the US. That evidence includes both vicious assaults on civilians and saving their lives. This was a feature of the war that can never be overlooked. All combatants were involved with- if not more than just witness to- atrocities. The photo below was posted on our Facebook page. Although we made no attribution, it was assumed by many- including us- that these were American soldiers. The truth is, these are South Korean soldiers.

South Korean soldier (Ang Sang-Byung) of the 30th Regiment of the Baekma
Division rescues children during the Battle of Diem Can on November 27, 1967
The war in Vietnam involved numerous other nations including Thailand, The Philippines, Iran, Spain, Great Britain (on a humanitarian level via Oxfam), Australia and New Zealand. Although many of these nations, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, rarely get mention- they were involved. In our continuing effort to explore the depths of this war, we will plow forward with information that we uncover. Meanwhile, we look forward to comments, contributions, corrections, photos, etc. Our comments are monitored although we do allow for Anonymous contributions that we deem publishable. Think twice, post once.

Thanks to Lt. Colonel Edward S. Marek, USAF (Ret.) for permission to link to his outstanding website. His "Talking Proud" blog is a thoroughly researched history of US military facts and figures with plenty of photograps and links. We offer you his page on the ROK troops as an adjunct to our coverage. It is excellent.

Koreans Rock-Solid in Vietnam (link)

In Memory of Those Who Died

Attributions: a photo and quote from