The Tet Offensive
The Tet Offensive
On January 30, 1968 (the Vietnamese New Year, or Tet), the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong launched a major offensive against U.S. troops and their allies, fighting them even in the streets of downtown Saigon. The United States and the South Vietnamese repelled the attackers and lost only about a tenth as many soldiers as the Communists, but the offensive was a tactical success for the North Vietnamese because it proved that they would never give in and that they might launch an attack anywhere at any time.
In March 1968, Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection (he was eligible to do so under the Twenty-Second Amendment because he had served less than two years of Kennedy’s term). The leading Democratic candidate was the enormously popular Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had served in his brother’s cabinet as attorney general. Kennedy had spoken out on the issue of Vietnam, calling for a negotiated settlement. When he was shot by an assassin after the California primary election, the Democrats lost their best hope of keeping the White House. Republican Richard Nixon, promising that he had a secret plan to end the war, was elected in a close contest against Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey.
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