Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 09:27 (GMT+7)
The Party and President Ho Chi Minh’s clear-headed strategic direction during the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising

In our people’s resistance war against the U.S. imperialists, for national salvation, there were resounding victories as turning points demonstrating the Party and President Ho Chi Minh’s clear-headed strategic guidance. Among which, the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising was one of the most outstanding events.

The 1968 Lunar New Year went down in national history as a symbol of Vietnamese people’s wisdom and mettle. Collected data help us more comprehensively and accurately assess lessons on the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising to apply to the current cause of building and safeguarding the Homeland.

First, our Party and President Ho Chi Minh made an exact evaluation of the enemy, seized the opportunity, and opportunely mapped out creative, sound ways of fighting. The “local war”, conducted by the U.S., was aimed at defeating the South’s revolution within 25-30 months. This strategy would be conducted in 3 phases, with two strategic counteroffensives. It was anticipated that the 3rd phase would completely destroy our permanent force and continue the “pacification plan” in the South. Between 1966 and 1967, the US troops launched the two strategic counteroffensives in which the latter was larger than the former, while intensifying the destructive war against the North. However, the results of their strategy were disastrous. The consecutive defeats of the two strategic counteroffensives broke the pincer-movement warfare (search and destroy, and pacification), which reduced the U.S. and Saigon puppet regime to passive defence. In the North, the enemy’s escalation of destructive war suffered heavy losses and failed to stop the supporting resources from the North to the South. That deepened disagreement, worsened political, economic, social difficulties within the U.S., and undermined its status in the international area.

In the meantime, we always took and broadened the initiative, laying siege to bases and townships, stepped up the fight in municipalities. On the diplomatic front, we gained a lot of achievements, pushing the U.S. and Saigon puppet regime’s troops into the state of being isolated. Under the Party and President Ho Chi Minh’s leadership, Southern military and people partially defeated the U.S. “local war”, made by its greatest military efforts, pushing it into dilemma. Carefully assessing the balance of power at that time, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission realized that the strategic opportunity had come. After analyzing the both sides’ situations on the battlefield, our Party and President Ho Chi Minh affirmed: “…grounded in the motto of enduring struggle, we must mobilize and concentrate the forces of the whole country, spare no efforts, abolish the enemy’s schemes, achieve decisive victory in rather short time; while being prepared to defeat the enemy in case the war was prolonged or escalated across the country”. In December 1967, under President Ho Chi Minh’s direction, the Politburo was convened to lay down strategic guidelines and decided to launch the General Offensive and General Uprising with a view to dealing a thunder-like blow to the US will of aggression. Following the guidelines, the 14th Plenum of the Party Central Committee issued the Resolution on launching the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising: “concentrating military and political forces to the utmost; resolutely and continuously attacking the enemy’s most vulnerable targets; absolutely keeping the secret factor; resolutely resisting and breaking the enemy’s counterattacks and hunting them to the last for the sake of ultimate victory”. To this end, we must launch military and political attacks to gain and maintain the strategic-and-campaign-level initiative in main battlefields.

Second, setting out sound guidelines and correct, creative, daring strategy. Grounded in the guidelines, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission assigned the General Staff to develop the strategic plan in 1967-1968 Winter and Spring which must include large-scale fights to annihilate a large number of the enemy’s troops, liberate the people and intensify the fight in urban areas. With the military as the main force to destroy the enemy, we also stepped up political struggle and agitprop among the enemy troops, gradually taking the control of municipalities and neighbourhoods. After discussing with leadership and commanders of battlefields and localities, the Politburo decided to combine general offensive with uprisings, annihilating and dispersing a vital component of the US and Saigon puppet regime’s military forces, toppling Saigon governments at all levels, changing the balance of power in our favour.

To achieve the above-mentioned goals, we mainly carried out attacks and uprisings in cities, especially in Saigon, Danang and Hue. Municipalities are the enemy’s headquarters and reserves of technical equipment and communication and transportation means as well as the places where their air force and navy’s facilities are located. In those places, we used elite special forces (rangers, commandos), combined military attacks with mass uprisings, military operations with political struggle in both rural and urban areas. The timing of attacks was a surprise to the enemy, which fell on the eve of 1968 Lunar New Year’s Eve. This is a really sound, creative, daring strategy.

To sum up, selecting combat directions, key battles and combat strategies made the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising the most strategic offensive ever during the resistance war against the U.S. imperialists, for national salvation. It is a really creative, unique feat in our Party and President Ho Chi Minh’s strategic thought and an exemplar of commanding revolutionary warfare.

Third, opportunely, accurately directing and closely combining offensive with uprising for the sake of victory. On the night of 30th and 31st of January, 1968 - Lunar New Year’s Eve, Southern military and people simultaneously rose up and attacked the enemy across the region in 4 cities, 37 townships and hundreds of towns. 4 Army corps commands, most of the division commands, airports and logistics facilities of the enemy were struck. A number of the attacks shook the US leadership and the world, such as the ones on the US Embassy, Independence Palace, General Staff of Saigon Army, Saigon Radio Station, and the 25-day control of Hue city. Offensives coordinated by Southern Delta’s armed forces and people destroyed most of the enemy’s hamlet, commune and region level governments, rears and bases. The 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising was the largest and most intense wave of offensives at that time in the history of resistance war against the U.S. imperialists, for national salvation. While the U.S. and Saigon puppet regime’s forces and their allies’ remained over 1,200,000 troops, equipped with a large quantity of modern military assets, stationed in solid defensive bases, Southern military and people attacked on their dens and obtained the most impressive ever victories.

The 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising dealt a heavy blow to the US-Saigon puppet regime’s administration, dispelling their illusion and forcing them to face the fact that for the first time in the US history, its army could be completely defeated in a war. The one who was afraid of a prolonged war was the United States, not Vietnam. The people’s war posture allowed us to fight the enemy even in the place seen as “inviolable” by them. The initiative, timing and selection of space belonged to us. That general offensive shocked the entire US society. In most of the states of the U.S., there appeared waves of protest against the war in Vietnam. Many of the US politicians called for a reconsideration of the US policy for this war. The US President’s cabinet witnessed a deep disagreement. US President Lyndon B. Johnson summoned a meeting of the “most knowledgeable figures”. After two long sessions of discussion, most of them agreed on the end of escalation of the war against North Vietnam and measures to escape this war.

On March 31st 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson decided to unilaterally stop the bombing campaign against North Vietnam, to initiate negotiations with us, and not to run for the second term of presidency. That could be seen as a public admission of failure of the US “local war” strategy. Apparently, the US leadership’s will of aggression was sapped. However, the U.S. still had wicked intentions as they withdrew their troops but in fact remained their stay, and then shifted to “de-Americanization” and “Vietnamization” strategies.

The 1968 General Offensive and Uprising won a massive, comprehensive victory of strategic importance, making a fundamental change in the complexion of the war. The enemy was reduced to defensive strategy across the whole battlefield, while the balance of power changed positively in our favour. Evaluating the results of the 1968 Spring General Offensive and Uprising, the 15th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (from the 28th to the 31st of August, 1968) reaffirmed: we made a new change in the complexion of the war, creating new strategic offensive, new forces and possibilities. We were in an upswing in victory and strength and had sufficient forces to defeat the US in any situations”. That was an accurate, strategic judgment of our Party in the resistance war against the U.S. imperialists, for national salvation.

Sr. Col., Associate Professor Tran Nam Chuan, PhD

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