25th Anniversary of the 1968 Tet Offensive

25th Anniversary of the Tet Offensive

Brooke ReBarker

 

25th Anniversary Patch left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in 1993.

Characterized as the turning point in the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive began in January of 1968 and caused the death of thousands American soldiers in 1968 alone. The Tet Offensive was set of organized attacks by the North Vietnamese Army on South Vietnam. Many of the individuals who served in this war came home to an American that only wanted to forget the war and most individuals wanted to forget their experience in Vietnam as well because of the trauma they endured. This mindset led to Vietnam Veterans pushing themselves away from support groups and the like to escape their experiences instead of sharing and bonding with others who had had the same experience. The 1993 was an important year in the history of American memory because in all forms of memory, including individual and public, anniversaries are a way to honor something symbolic and bring people to remember together. We have anniversaries for individual, beautiful things such as weddings but we also have anniversaries for public tragedies such as 9/11 or Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination. Not only are anniversaries important to us but the “big” anniversaries such as the 25th and the 50th mean more to us than any other years. They mean more to us because they are markers of milestones and symbolizes that the event or memory should have something more done for it since it has made it to this symbolic number.

The 25th anniversary of the Tet Offensive was memorialized in the Sandusky Register newspaper on Monday, February 1, 1993. The author of this article described a commemoration event that occurred in Chicago with 500 veterans joining together to remember this very violent and unexpected set of attacks. The event was held over the weekend of January 30, 1993 because this is the day the Tet Offensive began in 1968 named because of the Vietnamese New Year. Even though this was not an event with thousands and thousands of people it included veterans who experienced the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and allows these soldiers to find each other and remember their shared experiences so they are able to support each other. The article explains the stories of three men: Ken Penn, Joe Kostyk, and Dick Murray, and where they were at on January 30th, 1968 [4]. Mullen explains how these men were all stationed in different areas during the Tet Offensive and still may not know each other, they were all present of the 25th commemoration of this event and they each have to chance to share their stories with others who have gone through the same thing. The importance of the 25th anniversary is that there is a specific event that can be remember on a specific date that could be celebrated each year as a symbol of the Vietnam war in itself. There are memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial but these two statues are material sites that people can visit to remember those who fought on any day of the year and they are examples of material memory. The anniversary of the Tet Offensive sets aside a single day to be remembered and it is s significant event that is especially important to those who experienced it. The article includes the significance of the 25th anniversary in a quote from one the veterans at the gathering Ken Penn. The article includes “’I got to thinking that this year, being the 25th anniversary of Tet,’ Penn said, ‘the whole Tet experience must hold special meaning to a whole lot of veterans. This was the turning point of the war after all’” [4]. This first-hand account of the importance of remembering the Tet Offensive extenuates the fact that the 25th anniversary has made the veterans reflect on it because 25 is such a symbolic year of remembrance [4].

Sandusky Newspaper February 1993.

Another newspaper called the Daily Breeze included an article written by Mitchell Landsberg that reflected on the year 1968 as a whole in 1993. As a result, there was a large mention of the Tet Offensive because it occurred in the beginning of the year and “The message it sent was than an American victory in Vietnam would only come at an enormous price. Many American decided it was a price they would not pay. After that, the year seemed to lurch from one shock to the next” [2]. The importance of marking the Tet Offensive does not only jumpstart the remembrance of the entire year of 1968 but it also reflects on this very violent attack that many label as the point in time when American knew that we would lose this war. This article was written in 1993 and the author recognizes this by including “25th anniversary. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1968, if years can be said to have anniversaries…Enough time has passes to give the year some historical perspective…And with Bill Clinton’s election as president, it’s a good time to think about what it means that a generation forged in the rebellion of that year has—incredibly—become the Establishment” [2]. This is reflective of the significance of 25 years passing and that the generation that represented the chaos of 1968 is now representing the country. The author of this article points of that 25 years gives people time and space to forget the bad memories of 1968 for just a little while but now is the time to reflect as enough time has passed. A Vietnam Veteran is included in this article and states “I think that year left a scar that now, 25 years later, is just being healed” [2]. The 25th anniversary is especially important to these Vietnam Veterans who served in the war in 1968 because it provided enough time for these veterans to want to open up about their experiences and still be able to remember them. The gathering of 500 Veterans in Chicago is an example of partial memory because as mentioned in the first article each veteran has a different memory of where they were with the Tet Offensive first began in January of 1968. They have all come together to share their stories and to mourn the loss of their fellow soldiers on the 25th anniversary.

The last example of the remembrance of the 1968 Tet Offensive is an article published in the Virginia Pilot in 1993 by K.C. Jacobsen and the article is formatted as a letter to the President. This article recognizes that it has been 25 years since the Tet Offensive and Veterans still feel like they are not home from the war. He writes “This year is the twenty fifth anniversary of the 1968 Tet Offensive, a watershed in the Vietnam war. I think it would be a fine thing if you, our Commander and Chief, also declared it a ‘Year of Homecoming’ for the Veterans of Indochina” [1]. This letter represents that the memory of the Tet Offensive needs to be recognized because the Veterans are ready to remember instead of forget so the nation should be ready to remember as well. The 25th anniversary initiated this spark on the journey to remember the Tet Offensive in the future including this year in the 50th anniversary. Those who were present in Vietnam still fight to remember this important moment in the war to this day and their family members will carry on this remembrance.

 

Sources

[1] Jacobsen, K.C. “Dear Mr. President, It’s Time For a Real Vietnam Homecoming.” UNC Chapel Hill Libraries, The Virginia Pilot, June 6, 1993, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/0EAFF66C8A8AC0F2?p=NewsBank.

 

[2]Landsberg, Mitchell. “1968-Troubled Year Was One to Remember– or Forget.” UNC Chapel Hill Libraries, Daily Breeze,  April 21, 1993, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/1126A6E3E11D10E8?p=NewsBank.

 

[3] “Patch, Commemorative Tet Offensive 25th Anniversary.” Virtual Vietnam Veterans Items Left at the Wall | Patch, Commemorative Tet Offensive 25th Anniversary | VIVE 17371, http://www.vvmf.org/items/4406/VIVE17371.

 

[4] “Sandusky Register Newspaper Archives, Feb 1, 1993, P. 6.” NewspaperArchive.com, February 01, 1993.  https://newspaperarchive.com/sandusky-register-feb-01-1993-p-6/.

 

[5] “U.S. Involvement in The Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive, 1968.” Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State.  https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/tet.

2 thoughts on “25th Anniversary of the 1968 Tet Offensive”

  1. I thought you made a good point, at the very end, when you stated that the 25th anniversary of the Tet Offensive was the marker signifying the Vietnam vets readiness to remember and be healed. Consequentially, part of “being healed” is being accepted. A potential area of interest would be, “Did the vets, after 1993, feel more welcome in the U.S.?” The answer to that question, I think, really would shape how they process the 50th anniversary this year.

  2. Your post was very interesting because it was related to my post. The Tet Offensive forced people in the United States to come to terms with what was really happening in Vietnam. During the battle and the battle of Khe Sanh it was the height of media coverage of the war. I wonder if the “healing” process continues now 50 years later. Is America finally ready to help and accept the vets and the stories that they have?

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