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JAMES R. ARNOLD
TET OFFENSIVE 1968. TURNING POINT IN VIETNAM

1968

10 January Westmoreland orders US pullback to positions closer to Saigon.

20 January Siege of Khe Sanh begins.

23 January North Korea seizes USS Pueblo.

29 January Tet holiday ceasefire begins for Allies.

30 January Communists launch premature attack in I and II Corps areas.

31 January Nation-wide Communist offensive begins.

8 February NVA tanks overrun Lang Vei, outside Khe Sanh. Elsewhere, VC/NVA hold only Saigon suburbs and Hue citadel.

13 February Gallup poll reports 50 per cent disapprove of Johnson's handling of the war.

17 February Record weekly total of US casualties set during preceding seven days; 543 killed, 2,547 wounded.

18 February 45 cities and bases shelled but only four ground attacks.

21 February COSVN orders a pullback and return to harassing tactics.

24 February Hue's Imperial Palace recaptured.

27 February CBS's Walter Cronkite tells nation that negotiation is the only way out of the war.

1 March US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara replaced.

10 March New York Times reports Westmoreland wants another 206,000 men.

12 March Eugene McCarthy wins 42 per cent of vote in New Hampshire Democratic primary election.

16-20 March Gallup poll finds more doves than hawks for first time.

20 March NVA pressure against Khe Sanh diminishes.

22 March Johnson announces Westmoreland will become Army Chief of Staff in mid-1968.

26 March Johnson's special advisers report country has lost confidence in war and that US should disengage.

31 March President Johnson announces partial bombing pause, willingness to negotiate and decision not to run for re-election. 16 April Pentagon announces a gradual policy change to return ARVN forces to the forefront of combat, the origin of 'Vietnamization'.

3 July Westmoreland replaced by Abrams.

1969

8 June First US troop withdrawal announced.

1972

30 March Communists launch first nation-wide offensive since 1968. Much hard fighting. Backed by US airpower, ARVN wins out.

1973

29 March Last US troops withdraw.

1975

30 April NVA tanks spearhead capture of Saigon. South Vietnam surrenders.

1982

11 November Vietnam veterans memorial opens, healing the still-divisive scar of war.

WARGAMING THE TET OFFENSIVE

For wargame purposes we may consider the three phases of the Tet Offensive: 1, the diversionary siege of Khe Sanh; 2, the surprise assaults; 3, the responses. In all three phases the end-game is important to both sides. The NVA/VC must attempt to recover as many bodies and weapons as possible, whereas the Americans and ARVN must rescue and evacuate their casualties.

The charts and campaign rules set out below are not designed for any specific set of rules and should be compatible with most commercially and privately produced sets. Nor are they to be seen as unalterable. In some circumstances, where research or scenario constraints dictate, they will need some minor alterations.

Khe Sanh combat base was besieged prior to the Tet Offensive. It may well have been a diversion to draw reserves away from the real objectives. The siege became mainly an air and artillery battle punctuated by several major NVA ground attacks. The defenders sent several patrols outside the base perimeter.

The Tet assaults did not come as a complete surprise everywhere. Intelligence had shown a large NVA build up in late 1967. However, the sheer scale of the offensive did come as a shock. Most, but not all, of the South Vietnamese units were at between 25 and 50 per cent of their effective strength through personnel being granted leave during the truce period. Thus the initial assaults met with varied resistance depending on the strength and state of alertness of the defenders. Since most targets in the initial stages of this offensive fell on the ARVN-held areas, some special rules are helpful for wargamers attempting realism in their scenarios. A dicing system can be used to determine the average strength of ARVN units. Note that the designation 'D10' is used for a die numbered 1 to 10 (some are numbered 0 to 9, in which case treat the 0 as 10). These dice are also called percentage dice and are the only type to be used in these rules.

Table 1: AVRN strength

Strength of unitD10 roll
30 per cent1
40 per cent2-3
50 per cent4—5
60 per cent7-8
70 per cent9
75 per cent10

A morale dicing system for units can also be used:

Table 2: Morale

Morale grade D10 rollVC/NLFUSMC
ARVNNVAMainLocalUS
Poor1--1--
Average2-61-61-52-61-51-4
Fairly good7-87-86-77-86-75-6
Good998-998-97-8
Elite10101010109-10

Desertions were an additional problem that affected some ARVN units. However, these were not as widespread as some sources would have us believe and it certainly did not match up to the mass defection expected by the Communists. For most wargame purposes the desertions should be accounted for before the game begins. There is obviously no need to tell either side that there have been desertions - you can let them find out for themselves after the plans have been drawn up. Thus deserters can be as much a hindrance to the NVA/VC players as to the ARVN, as they are misidentified, spring ambushes and generally confuse the issue. A wargame rule might be that, once all the defending ARVN have been allocated their defensive positions, a die roll is made for each:

Die Roll Modifiers
Section NCO present +1
M-16 armed unit +1
Platoon sergeant present + 2
Platoon officer present + 2
Alone (night) -2
Alone (day) -1

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