Vietnam Time

1/29/2018 3:12:38 PM

Exhibition hightlights victory of 1968 Tet Offensive in Hanoi

(VNF) - Entitled The Epic of the 1968 Tet Offensive, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the victory of the campaign, is being held in Hanoi from January 26th.

Commando Ba Mu (whose real name is Do Van Can) disguised himself as a rubber latex collector to fool the enemy. He used a tricycle to transport weapons to serve the South Vietnam liberation forces 50 years ago, during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

That tricycle is on display at the exhibition that will run until the end of February at the Military History Museum of Vietnam, 28A Dien Bien Phu Street.

The tricycle what Commando Ba Mu used to transport weapons to the battlefield. (Photo: VNA)

The exhibition displays more than 300 images, documents and objects. Ba Mu’s tricycle is one among many objects showcased to the public for the first time.

It is divided into three parts: devotion for the battlefield, the historical turning point and echoes of the epic. They depict the determination of Vietnamese people and soldiers in fighting for peace and liberation.

“The Military History Museum of Vietnam organised the exhibition with the aim of asserting the historical magnitude and significance of the general offensive and uprising in 1968,” said Nguyen Xuan Nang, director of the museum.

“During nearly two months of attack and insurrection, the Tet Offensive 1968 marked a strategic turning point for the resistance war against the U.S. and its allies. It caused the U.S. a ‘sudden shock’, disrupting their strategic plan, shaking the White House, the Pentagon and all of the U.S. and forced President Johnson to deescalate the war and agree to sign the historic Paris Peace Accord. The victory also helped lead to the liberation of southern Vietnam and the unity of the country in 1975.”

Visitors at the exhibition. (Photo: hanoimoi.com.vn)

“The 1968 Tet Offensive affirmed the outstanding, visionary leadership of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh,” said Nang. “It promoted patriotism, national pride and the will to overcome all difficulties to fulfill the task of building and protecting the country.”

TURNING POINT OF THE WAR

The 1968 Tet Offensive, also known as the Mau Than General Offensive, was among one of the largest campaigns during the two-decade-long American War in Vietnam.

Images of battles raging in major cities across the South were broadcasted all over the world, most memorable was perhaps the siege of the American embassy in central Sai Gon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

The offensive shattered the illusion, one carefully crafted by the Johnson administration that the end of the conflict was near. “We have reached an important point where the end begins to come into view,” proclaimed Gen William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in Vietnam in November 1967.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam People’s Army of (VPA) and their southern brethren the National Liberation Front (NLF) were making preparation for the largest military mobilisation of the conflict until this point.

Vietnamese national liberation forces’ objectives were set to lure major regiments of the U.S. army to the border area between Vietnam and Laos to create opportunities for NLF units to infiltrate large cities and gear up for the general offensive.

Two VPA soldiers on a charge during a battle along Route 9. (VNA/VNS Photo Luong Nghia Dung)

A new theatre of war was in the making with Khe Sanh chosen as its highlight. The base’s strategic location along Route 9 allowed American forces to survey and recon movements on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to block VPA infiltration from Laos and to serve as an anchor for the defences south of the DMZ.

Khe Sanh was built on a former fort, a relic of the old French Indochina colonial empire. The outpost was equipped with an airfield and formerly served as an outpost for U.S. Special Forces. By the time the VPA artillery shells were falling on the base in deafening thunder on January 21st, 1968, Khe Sanh was a marine base heavily reinforced by 45,000 soldiers with artillery and air support.

The siege of Khe Sanh marked the first large-scale battle of the conflict, which the VPA had actively avoided due to American superior air support and firepower. The VPA committed three divisions: the 304th, 320th and 325th in the siege of Khe Sanh, a battle which many newspapers drew a comparison to the famous siege of the French Dien Bien Phu fortified camp that ended the First Indochina War.

The 1,500 tons of artillery and mortar rounds, 90 per cent of the whole base’s entire stock was lost, the explosion continued for another 48 hours after. The base’s airfield also sustained heavy damage by artillery fires.

By the end of the battle, the U.S. had dropped some 32,000 tons of bombs and ordnance in the arena.

But the VPA was determined. Despite the heavy bombing, the siege tightened around the base. Meanwhile, other offensives were taking place the entire central part of the country with liberation forces in major towns and cities including Hue and Quang Tri took arms against American forces.

In addition to Quang Tri and Dong Ha, the battle of Khe Sanh allowed the VPA and the NLF to weaken American forces stationed in Hue, the former royal capital city which hold great strategic and symbolic value, setting the stage for national liberation forces to reclaim the city.

By the time Khe Sanh made the headline of major newspapers around the world and came under the spotlight of US politics, the Tet Offensive preparation was completed. the National Liberation forces were ready to stage the largest military offensive throughout the South in both rural areas and major towns and cities, a campaign that many historians later believe it was the turning point of the American War in Vietnam./.

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