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50 years ago, Vietnamese forces launched the Tet Offensive

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Just before the end of January 1968, South Vietnam’s communist guerilla force, the Viet Cong, launched an unprecedented offensive in coordination with the North Vietnamese Army that would change the course of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive saw the VC and the NVA attack all of South Vietnam’s largest towns and cities — bringing a war that had been mostly confined to the countryside into the streets of metropolitan cities.

With a combined force of 85,000 soldiers and guerrillas, the objective was to take over the cities, destroy political and military targets, and provoke a popular uprising all over South Vietnam.

The offensive would be a battlefield failure for the communists; the general uprising they had hoped to provoke didn’t happen, they didn’t hold on to a single town or city that was seized, and the Viet Cong was effectively wiped out as an independent fighting force.

But it would prove to be a political and propaganda victory. American and international news crews had broadcast the shocking images and scenes from the war right into US living rooms. They were a stark contrast to what the public had been told — that the communists were losing and that the war could be over soon.

Public opinion began to change, and attitudes toward the war became negative. Here’s what happened during the Tet Offensive:

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