The campaign — one of the largest of the Vietnam War — led to intense fighting and heavy casualties in cities and towns across the South.
While battles raged for more than a month in some places like the city of Hue, the Tet Offensive was from a strictly military standpoint a defeat for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Yet the campaign had a profound impact on the U.S. war effort, stunning leaders in Washington and leaving the American public questioning their country’s involvement in the overseas campaign.
In this Feb. 20, 1968, file photo, a motorized cart, called a "mule," carries wounded U.S. Marines from battle areas to a first aid station near the University of Hue. U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines were struggling to crush the remnants of North Vietnamese forces in Hue's Citadel. (AP Photo/Al Chang, File) In this Feb. 19, 1968, a South Vietnamese soldier fires a machine gun into burning buildings in northeastern Saigon, Vietnam, where Viet Cong forces occupied several city blocks during the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Dang Van Phuoc, File) In this Feb. 1968, file photo, a unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment U.S. Marines, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue's imperial palace after a battle for the Citadel during the Tet Offensive. The Marines reported heavy casualties in street fighting in the ancient capital city of Vietnam. (AP Photo/File) In this early 1968 file photo, a South Vietnamese soldier takes a position on a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File) In this Feb. 21, 1968, file photo, a hospital corpsman holds a plasma bottle in one hand and clasps the hand of the seriously wounded U.S. Marine with the other as the wounded leatherneck is carried by comrades to an evacuation plane at the Marine base at Khe Sanh, central Vietnam. The Marine was wounded in a North Vietnamese artillery attack. (AP Photo/Rick Merron, File) In this early 1968, file photo, South Vietnamese forces fire on enemy positions in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File) In this early 1968 file photo, South Vietnamese troops hold a position in the Saigon area during the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File) FILE - In this Feb. 22, 1968, Lance Cpl. James Avella or North Bergen, N.J., left, fastens the stars and stripes to a telephone pole near the south wall of Hue's Citadel, Vietnam. Sgt. Greg Pratt of Ojai, Calif., follows. The Marines of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment took their south wall objective after fierce fighting and heavy casualties. (AP Photo/John Lengel, File) In this 1968, file photo, U.S. soldiers carry the bodies of U.S. troops who were killed by revolutionary armed forces on a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency, File) In this Feb. 23, 1968, file photo, a U.S. Air Force transport plane drops supplies during a low-level pass over the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. In foreground is a sandbagged bunker on the base's perimeter. The planes avoid landing because of frequent Communist shelling. (AP Photo/John Sneider, File) In this Feb. 1, 1968, file photo, South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive. The photo showed the war's brutality in a way Americans hadn't seen before. Protesters saw it as graphic evidence that the U.S. was fighting on the side of an unjust government. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)