A Half Century Since the Tet Offensive

 

Fifty years ago, if the US had been in command of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese military, short of telling them to surrender, the US could not have ordered a more disastrous course than what was ordered by Hanoi.  Over strenuous opposition within the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese People’s Army, hardliners in the Hanoi regime won out over moderates and ordered a surprise nation-wide offensive throughout South Vietnam that would lead to popular uprisings and the toppling of the Vietnamese government.  Now many North Vietnamese and Viet Cong officers realized this was military madness, but waves of arrest of North Vietnamese officers in 1967 broke the back of the military resistance to this plan.

Timed to occur during the truce for the celebration of Tet in Vietnam at the end of January 1968, the offensive met with bloody defeat.  The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese incurred, between January and September of 1968, 100,000 casualties, of which about half were fatalities.  The offensive played into the American strengths of heavy fire power, complete command of the air and rapid troop movements.  The ARVN units stood and fought and there were no popular uprisings.  The Viet Cong was finished as a strategically important factor in the War, with the remainder of the War being largely a conventional conflict.

The Tet Offensive was a clear military victory for the US and its allies.  How a military victory of such a magnitude was transformed into a political defeat will be the subject of another post.

 

“[The Tet Offensive] failed because we underestimated our enemies and overestimated ourselves. We set goals which we realistically could not achieve.”
Tran Van Tra, NVA General, writing in 1978

 

 

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Published in: on February 5, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on A Half Century Since the Tet Offensive  
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Hill 875

Charles J. Watters

Medal of Honor

On January 17, 1927  Charles Joseph Watters first saw the light of day.  Attending college at Seton Hall, he made the decision to become a priest and went on to Immaculate Conception Seminary.  Ordained on May 30, 1953, he served parishes in Jersey City, Rutherford, Paramus and Cranford, all in New Jersey.

 

While attending to his priestly duties, Father Watters became a pilot.  His longest solo flight was a trip to Argentina.  He earned a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating.  In 1962 he joined the Air Force National Guard in New Jersey.  A military tradition ran in his family with his uncle, John J. Doran, a bosun’s mate aboard the USS Marblehead, having been awarded a medal of honor for his courage at Cienfuegos, Cuba on May 11, 1898.

In August 1965 he transferred to the Army as a chaplain.  At the age of 38, a remarkably advanced age to be going through that rugged course in my opinion, Father Watters successfully completed Airborne training and joined the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the Sky Soldiers.  In June of 1966 Major Watters began a twelve month tour of duty in Vietnam with the 173rd.

Chaplain Watters quickly became a legend in the 173rd.  He constantly stayed with units in combat.  When a unit he was attached to rotated to the rear, he joined another unit in action.  He believed that his role was to be with the fighting units serving the men.  Saying mass,  joking with the men, giving them spiritual guidance, tending the wounded, Chaplain Watters seemed to be everywhere.   PFC Carlos Lozado remembered decades later that when he lacked the money to buy a crib for a new-born daughter Father Watters sought him out and gave him the money.  The word quickly spread in “The Herd”, as the 173rd was called, about the priest who didn’t mind risking his life with them, a reputation sealed when Father Watters made a combat jump with the troops during  Operation Junction City on February 22, 1967. (more…)

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hill 875  
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