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The Battle of Khe Sanh

The History and Legacy of the Major Battle That Preceded the Tet Offensive During the Vietnam War
Narrated by: Scott Clem
Length: 2 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
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Publisher's Summary

By the end of 1967, with nearly half a million troops deployed, more than 19,000 deaths, and a war that cost $2 billion a month and seemed to grow bloodier by the day, President Lyndon Johnson's administration faced skepticism regarding the Vietnam War. 

Regardless, by then, both sides were preparing to take the war into a new phase. General William “Westy” Westmoreland, commander of American forces in the theater, planned an aggressive strategy to send forces into Laos and Cambodia to sever the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” and other lines of supply.

However, unbeknownst to the Americans, the North Vietnamese were planning their own major and hopefully decisive campaign for early 1968. This would come in the form of the Tet Offensive, a coordinated surprise assault on many key locations throughout the conflict zone. 

Key to both sets of plans was an American base in the extreme northwest region of South Vietnam, close to Laos. It was a part of a chain of US and ARVN (South Vietnamese military) bases designed to screen the South from direct invasion by the North. This base bore the name of a town at its location, Khe Sanh. A long siege punctuated by shorter, bloodier encounters developed in the early days of 1968. 

Shortly after the battle, a massive coordinated Viet Cong operation - the Tet Offensive - briefly paralyzed American and South Vietnamese forces across the country, threatening even the American embassy compound in Saigon. Although American soldiers didn’t lose a battle strategically during the campaign, the Tet Offensive made President Johnson untrustworthy and historically unpopular, to the extent that he did not run for reelection in 1968.

By then, Vietnam had already fueled the hippie counterculture, and anti-war protests spread across the country. At the end of the decade, Vietnam had left tens of thousands of Americans dead, spawned a counterculture with millions of protesters, and destroyed a presidency.... More was yet to come.

Nearly 50 years after the fighting, the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive continue to inspire impassioned and occasionally bitter debates among historians, military officers, government officials, veterans, journalists, and the public at large. Perhaps the only proposition to win universal agreement is that the fighting at the start of 1968 represented a significant turning point. The conflict in Vietnam would continue for years, but it would never be the same.

The Battle of Khe Sanh chronicles one of the most controversial battles of the war and the effects it had on both sides.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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