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1968 in the Vietnam War
←1967 1968 1969→
Cholon after Tet Offensive operations 1968
Cholon after Tet Offensive operations 1968
Location Vietnam
Result The American war effort in Vietnam peeks in 1968 as the American public support takes a huge hit after the Tet Offensive
Anti-Communist forces:

 South Vietnam
 United States
 South Korea
 New Zealand
Cambodia Khmer Republic
Laos Kingdom of Laos
Republic of China Republic of China

Communist forces:

 North Vietnam
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Viet Cong
Cambodia Khmer Rouge
Laos Pathet Lao
 People's Republic of China
 Soviet Union
 North Korea

US: 549,500
Casualties and losses
US: 16,592 killed
South Vietnam: 27,915 Killed

1968 in Vietnam started with an attack on January 1. Despite a January 1 truce the North Vietnamese and their Vietcong allies attacked a number of bases and at the end of January launched the infamous Tet Offensive. Although militarily the operation was a huge failure for the Vietnamese communists on the home front the American public was shocked by the images they were seeing on their TVs.

Reflecting this public outrage the media made a number of iconic news stories including Peter Arnett quoting an unnamed US major as saying, "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.", Eddie Adams' iconic image of South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan live execution of a Vietcong operative and Walter Cronkite's report to honourably exit Vietnam as the war was lost. This negative impression forced the Americans into the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam.

US troop numbers peaked in 1968 with President Johnson approving raising of the maximum number of Americans in Vietnam to 549,500. 1968 was the most expensive in the Vietnam war with the American spending US$ 77,350,000,000 (US$ 483,697,310,000 in 2010) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with the 27,915 ARVN soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed. The deadliest week of the Vietnam War was February 11-17, 1968 during which 543 Americans killed in action, and 2547 were wounded.



2009 head shot of Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone was an American soldier in 1968[1]
January 1st

Vietnamese violate New Years truce during the New Years Day Battle of 1968. Present among the Americans were future writer Larry Heinemann and future film director Oliver Stone.[2][1]

January 23 -January 24 1968

Battle of Ban Houei Sane was a battle of the Vietnam War that began on the night of 23 January 1968, when the 24th Regiment of the North Vietnamese 304th Division overran the small Laotian Army outpost at Ban Houei Sane.[3]

January 24 − March 1

Operation Coburg was an Australian military action during the Vietnam War. The operation saw heavy fighting between the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) and North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong during the wider fighting around Long Binh and Bien Hoa.[4]

January 21 – April 8

Battle of Khe Sanh was conducted in northwestern Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The combatants were elements of the United States (U.S.) III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), elements of the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and two to three division-size elements of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN).[5]


Tet Offensive

Dead Vietcong soldier lies spread eagled in some grass in front of the embassy
Dead Vietcong soldier killed during the First Battle of Saigon
January 31

At half-past midnight on Wednesday morning the North Vietnamese launch the Tet offensive at Nha Trang. At 2:45 that morning the US embassy in Saigon is invaded and while they couldn't gain entry it was held until 9:15AM.[6]

January 31 – March 7

The First Battle of Saigon fought during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War was the coordinated attack by communist forces, including both the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, against Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.[7]

January 30 – March 3

The Battle of Huế was one of the bloodiest and longest battles. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam and three understrength U.S. Marine Corps battalions attacked and defeated more than 10,000 entrenched People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF, also known as, Viet Cong) guerilla forces.[8]


February 1

During South Vietnamese action following the first day of the Tet offensive General Nguyen Ngoc Loan is captured on film executing a Viet Cong prisoner by American photographer Eddie Adams. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph becomes yet another rallying point for anti-war protesters. [9]

February 6 - February 7

The Battle of Lang Vei was a battle of the Vietnam War fought on the night of 6 February 1968, between elements of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the United States-led Detachment A-101, 5th Special Forces Group.[3]

A young child, 12, in uniform with a grenade launcher standing in rubble
This twelve year old ARVN Airborne trooper with M-79 grenade launcher accompanied the Airborne Task Force Unit. The young soldier has been "adopted" by the Airborne Division.
February 7

International reporters arrive at the embattled city of Ben Tre in South Vietnam. Peter Arnett, then of the Associated Press, writes a dispatch quoting an unnamed US major as saying, "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." [10]

February 18

During the week of February 11-17, 1968 the record for the highest US casualty toll during one week was set. The record coming off after the Tet Offensive was 543 Americans killed in action, and 2547 wounded.[11]

February 27

Walter Cronkite reporting after his recent trip to Vietnam for his television special Who, What, When, Where, Why? Gives a highly critical editorial and urges America to leave Vietnam"...not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."[12]


March 10 – March 11

Battle of Lima Site 85 was a battle of the Vietnam War. The site was located at Phou Pha Thi, Laos.[13]

March 16

US ground troops from Charlie Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division (the Americal Division) rampage through the hamlet of My Lai killing more than 500 Vietnamese civilians from infants to the elderly. The event would remain buried for more than a year.[14]

March 31

President Lyndon Johnson delivers his Address to the Nation Announcing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and Reporting His Decision Not To Seek Reelection. The speech announces the first in a series of limitations on US bombing, promising to halt these activities above the 20th parallel.[15]

Black and white portrait of Clark Clifford
Clark Clifford serves as the United States Secretary of Defense when America troops in Vietnam peek at 549,500
March 31

United States Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford gets the President to authorize 24,500 more troops on an emergency basis, raising authorized strength to the Vietnam War's peak of 549,500, a figure never reached.[16]


April 8 - May 31

Operation Toan Thang I was a US and ARVN operation conducted between 8 April 1968 and 31 May 1968 in the Vietnam war. Toan Thang, or "Complete Victory", was part of a reaction to the Tet offensive by forces allied with the Republic of Vietnam designed to put pressure on PLAF (Vietcong) and PAVN (North Vietnamese Army) forces.[17]

April 19 - May 17

Operation Delaware was a military operation of the Vietnam War in the A Shau Valley. The A Shau Valley was an important corridor for moving supplies into South Vietnam and used as staging area for attacks. American and South Vietnamese had not been present in the area since the Battle of A Shau, when a Special Forces camp located there was overrun.[17]


May 5

May Offensive was launched in the early morning hours of 4 May, in which communist units initiated PHASE II of the Tet Offensive of 1968 (also known as the May Offensive, "Little Tet", and "Mini-Tet") by striking 119 targets throughout South Vietnam, including Saigon.[18][19]

May 10–12, 1968

The Battle of Kham Duc was the struggle for the United States Army Special Forces camp located in Quang Tin province, South Vietnam. The Kham Duc special forces camp was occupied by the 1st Special Forces detachment consisting of U.S and South Vietnamese special forces, as well as Montagnard irregulars.[20]

Black and white image from the rear of a plane showing a landing strip littered with damaged aircraft
The final plane evacuating men after the Battle of Kham Duc
May 12 – June 6

The Battle of Coral-Balmoral was a notable series of significant actions fought in May and June 1968 during the Vietnam War, between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and communist forces, north-east of Saigon.[21]

May 13

The first US and North Vietnamese delegations meet at the Paris peace talks to discuss American withdrawal. [22]


October 8

Operation Sealords was launched on October 8, 1968, and was intended to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines in and around the Mekong Delta. As a two-year operation, by 1971 all aspects of Sealords had been turned over to the South Vietnam Navy.[23]

October 31

President Johnson announces a total halt to US bombing in North Vietnam.[24]


Blurry Gun camera photo shows a North Vietnamese MiG-17-fighter.
Gun camera photo shows a North Vietnamese MiG-17-fighter
November 5

Richard Nixon wins the 1968 presidential election in America. The results of the popular vote are 31,770,000 for Nixon, 43.4 percent of the total; 31,270,000 or 42.7 percent for Humphrey; 9,906,000 or 13.5 percent for Wallace; and 0.4 percent for other candidates. [25][26]


December 1968 to May 11, 1969

Operation Speedy Express was a controversial United States military operation of the Vietnam War conducted in the Mekong Delta provinces Kien Hoa and Vinh Binh. The operation was launched to prevent NLF (Viet Cong) units from interfering with pacification efforts and to interdict lines of NLF communication and deny them the use of base areas.[17]

December 12, 1968 – March 9, 1969

Operation Taylor Common was a search and destroy operation conducted by Task Force Yankee, a task organized force of the 1st Marine Division, during the Vietnam War. The objective was to clear the An Hoa Basin, neutralize the North Vietnamese Army's Base Area 112 and develop Fire Support Bases (FSBs) to interdict Communist infiltration routes leading from the Laotian border.[17]

Year in numbers

Armed Force KIA Reference Military costs - 1968 Military costs - 2010 Reference
 South Vietnam ARVN 27,915 [27]
 United States US Forces 16,592 [28] US$ 77,350,000,000 US$ 483,697,310,000 [29]




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