Vietnam War: Escalation and Withdrawal through rare photographs, 1968-1975

Heavy fighting ensued for three weeks, some of the most brutal in Hue. Westmoreland claimed victory as no city was lost and thousands of casualties were inflicted on the attackers.

In fact, the Viet Cong lost so many soldiers that the PAVN then took over most of the war's operations. However, the Tet offensive was a great strategic advantage for North Vietnam and its southern followers. US And the losses of the ARVN were greater, and the fighting generated thousands of refugees which further destabilized the South. M

Most importantly, as a result of the massive surprise attack and photographs of Saigon, the American press and public began to challenge the Johnson administration's assurances of success and question the value of an increasingly expensive war.

At the same time as the Tet Offensive, the Siege of Khe Sanh underscored the image of the war as an endless, costly and pointless struggle. From January 20 to April 14, 1968, 30,000 to 40,000 NVA forces surrounded 6,000 US Marines and ARVNs at the remote mountain outpost of Khe Sanh in the northwest corner of South Vietnam.

Using artillery and airpower, including B‐52 attacks, the United States eventually broke the siege and forced the NVA to withdraw. In late June, however, the Marines left the base to adopt a more mobile form of fighting in the DMZ area. Once again, a major engagement has left seemingly intangible results.

In March 1968, Johnson decided that the U.S. in Vietnam. The size of the effort has become as big as can be justified. Westmoreland and JCS President General Earl G. Inspired by Wheeler's request for 206,000 more men, the president asked his new Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, for a full policy review.

Johnson's sentiment that a threshold had been reached was confirmed when the "wise men," a group of outside advisers, including former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and senior politicians such as General Omar Bradley, recommended against further increases.

The president only authorized 13,500 more troops and explicitly informed Thieu and Qu that their forces would have to fight more. He then announced on television on 31 March 1968 that the United States would restrict the bombing of North Vietnam and negotiate a negotiated settlement with Hanoi. Johnson also revealed that he would not run for re-election.

Meanwhile, war broke out in South Vietnam. More than 14,000 Americans were killed in action in Vietnam in 1968, the highest annual U.S. war in the war. The worst American war crime of the conflict occurred on March 16, 1968 (although it was not disclosed to the press until November 6, 1969) when American infantrymen killed nearly 500 irresistible civilians, including children, in the village of Mai Lai.

In April and May 1968, the largest ground operation of the war, with 110,000 US and ARVN troops, targeted Viet Cong and NVA forces near Saigon. Peace talks began in Paris on 13 May but were immediately stalled. On 10 June 1968, General Creighton Abrams succeeded Westmoreland as MACV commander.

In the fall Abrams began to shift American strategy from attrition to a greater emphasis on joint operations, peace zone security, and what was called "Vietnamisation", that is, preparing the ARVN to do more fighting.

When Richard M. Nixon became president in 1969, the U.S. The war effort remained at large, but the original decision to de-escalate had already been made. Nixon attributed his political victory to voters' hopes that he would somehow end the war.

He and his chief foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, rejected the American withdrawal. With ground warfare deadlocked, the new administration increasingly switched to aerial bombing and covertly extended aerial warfare to neutral Cambodia.

The White House publicly announced the first withdrawal of 25,000 US troops in June and declared Vietnameseization effective. In fact, South Vietnam's armed forces continued to be plagued by problems.

To reinforce the South, the administration leaked serious threats of "go for break" air and naval strikes on the North - possibly including nuclear weapons. Kissinger also began secret meetings with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris to arrange for a diplomatic breakthrough.

The morale and discipline of American troops declined in 1969 because of the futility of ground warfare and the decline of the U.S. military. The beginning of the comeback became more apparent.

In May, after ten days of intense fighting, infantry from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile) took a ridge in the A Shau Valley, which they dubbed Hamburger Hill. After fighting valiantly and suffering significant losses, the troops were bitter when the site was soon abandoned.

The inability to see progress, and the awareness among soldiers that politicians were leaving the war back home, helped undermine military effectiveness. The simple survival of his twelve-month tour of duty became the sole inspiration for many soldiers. Incidents of disobedience, rebellion, fatal attacks on officials, drug use, racial tensions and other serious problems increased.

Faced with growing public discontent, the slow pace of Vietnameseization, and diplomatic frustration, Nixon boldly sent American units to Cambodia in April 1970. US military leaders had long complained about the sanctuary that neutral Cambodia provided to Viet Cong and NVA forces.

This Cambodian incursion lasted until the end of June and provided some strategic advantage, but it also led to intense controversy and demonstrations by the anti-Vietnam movement in the United States, which seemed to be an extension of the war in another country. US troops continued to be outnumbered by the end of 1970 with only 334,600 in the South.

Nixon stuck with that in 1971. Responding to domestic critics, he continued to order American troops home, leaving only 156,000 by December. To support Vietnameseization, heavy US airstrikes against communist supply lines in Laos and Cambodia continued, and so-called protective-response attacks hit military targets north of the demilitarized zone and near Hanoi and its port city of Haiphong.

Strategic air support continued, with the heaviest coming in March during the South Vietnamese offensive in Laos. Codenamed Lam Son 719, this operation culminated in a confused retreat by the ARVN which further spoiled the perception of Vietnameseization.

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